2020 Book #72 – In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren

Title: In a Holidaze
Author: Christina Lauren
Date finished: 10/11/20
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: October 6, 2020
Pages in book: 334
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:

One Christmas wish, two brothers, and a lifetime of hope are on the line for hapless Maelyn Jones in In a Holidaze, the quintessential holiday romantic novel by Christina Lauren, the New York Times bestselling author of The Unhoneymooners.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but not for Maelyn Jones. She’s living with her parents, hates her going-nowhere job, and has just made a romantic error of epic proportions.

But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world—the snowy Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born, along with two other beloved families. Mentally melting down as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple plea to the universe: Please. Show me what will make me happy.

The next thing she knows, tires screech and metal collides, everything goes black. But when Mae gasps awake…she’s on an airplane bound for Utah, where she begins the same holiday all over again. With one hilarious disaster after another sending her back to the plane, Mae must figure out how to break free of the strange time loop—and finally get her true love under the mistletoe.

My rating:  4.0 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.

I absolutely love these authors – I’ve just loved so many of the books they’ve written in the last few years. And this one was no exception, it was so enjoyable! A mix of the movie Groundhog Day and the Christmas holiday, this book has so much to enjoy. An extremely zany cast of characters really brings this book to life and gives the reader lots of feelings about family traditions and spending holidays with loved ones. There was a lot of emotion evident in the text, which is characteristic of a CL novel, but the characters felt a little immature to me for the ages they actually were (26 and 30). There were so many things I liked about the book but there were some pieces of the plot that just didn’t work for me. The whole “fight” at the end of the book felt a little melodramatic to me. And the “grand romantic gestures” didn’t necessarily seem that grand. But it was still a great read and one that I really enjoyed. The authors really brought to life the heady feeling of new love / new relationships. This was a great read and I would recommend it! Perfect holiday read – and I really hope they make it into a Christmas movie!

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

2020 Book #70 – Mirror Image by Sandra Brown

Title: Mirror Image
Author: Sandra Brown
Date finished: 10/5/20
Genre: Romantic suspense
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: January 7, 2020 (re-published; originally published in 1989)
Pages in book: 442
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Publisher
NOTE: I received this book for free from the 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:

The crash of a Dallas-bound jet isn’t just a tragedy for TV reporter Avery Daniels; it’s an act of fate that hands her a golden opportunity to further her career. But it also makes her the crucial player in a drama of violent passions and deadly desires.

After plastic surgery transforms her face, Avery is mistaken for the glamorous, selfish wife of Tate Rutledge, the famous senatorial candidate and member of a powerful Texas dynasty.

As she lays helpless in the hospital, Avery makes a shattering discovery: someone close to Tate planned to assassinate him. Now, to save him, she must live another woman’s life — and risk her own.

My rating:  3.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I have been a big fan of Sandra Brown for awhile now. As many know, I loved her book Deadline (great plot twists!) and have enjoyed others too. I was excited to read one of her older backlog novels that was being republished. This one was a little outlandish. Plane crash, mistaken identity, reconstructive facial surgery to the wrong person’s face, political assassination, family secrets, etc. There’s just so much going on in this book it’s crazy. And there were some problematic things because it was an older novel, but honestly not as many problematic things as I expected there to be. Romance novels from older time periods sometimes can have some cringe-worthy items but this seemed to hold up pretty well considering it’s been 30 years since it was written. The ending also happened kind of fast for me, for how long it took us to get through the majority of the plot it felt a little disappointing to have it wrap up so quickly. I still enjoyed the novel but it wasn’t my favorite of this author’s (which will likely always be Deadline).

Author’s Website

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2020 Book #67 – Tools of Engagement by Tessa Bailey

Title: Tools of Engagement
Author: Tessa Bailey
Date finished: 9/25/20
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: September 22, 2020
Pages in book: 367
Stand alone or series: #3 in the Hot and Hammered series
Where I got the book from: Edelweiss
NOTE: I received this book for free from Edelweiss and the 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:

In Tessa Bailey’s latest rom-com, two enemies team up to flip a house… and the sparks between them might burn the place down or ignite a passion that neither can ignore! 

Hair, makeup, clothing, decor… everything in Bethany Castle’s world is organized, planned, and styled to perfection. Which is why the homes she designs for her family’s real estate business are the most coveted in town. The only thing not perfect? Her track record with men. She’s on a dating hiatus and after helping her friends achieve their dreams, Bethany finally has time to focus on her own: flip a house, from framework to furnishings, all by herself. Except her older brother runs the company and refuses to take her seriously.

When a television producer gets wind of the Castle sibling rivalry, they’re invited on Flip Off, a competition to see who can do the best renovation. Bethany wants bragging rights, but she needs a crew and the only member of her brother’s construction team willing to jump ship is Wes Daniels, the new guy in town. His Texas drawl and handsome face got under Bethany’s skin on day one, but the last thing she needs is some cocky young cowboy in her way.

As the race to renovate heats up, Wes and Bethany are forced into close quarters, trading barbs and biting banter as they remodel the ugliest house on the block. It’s a labor of love, hate, and everything in between, and soon sparks are flying. But Bethany’s perfectly structured life is one kiss away from going up in smoke and she knows falling for a guy like Wes would be a flipping disaster.

My rating:  5.0 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.

I had read the second book in this series and really enjoyed it so I was interested in reading this newest release. A 5star review is rare for me but I loved absolutely everything about this book. Bethany & Wes’s chemistry BURNED up the pages of this book. And they’re banter and quick zings at each other were off the charts entertaining. I couldn’t stop smiling and laughing the entire time I was reading this book. And Wes struck a personal note for me because, like Bethany, I also deal with a lot of anxiety, and Wes’s calm demeanor and unwavering acceptance were so very appealing to me. I haven’t always related to the “book boyfriend” concept but my gosh Wes was everything that I need! I immediately wanted to start reading this book again the second I finished it, that’s how wonderful it was. I liked the previous book I’d read in the series (Love Her or Lose Her) but I LOVED this book. I am going to be reading more by this author, that is for sure. I would highly recommend everyone go out and read this book, you’ll thank me later!

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

2020 Book #66 – The Glass Queen by Gena Showalter

Title: The Glass Queen
Author: Gena Showalter
Date finished: 9/22/20
Genre: Young adult, fantasy, fairy-tale retelling
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Publication Date: September 29, 2020
Pages in book: 415
Stand alone or series: #2 in the Forest of Good and Evil series
Where I got the book from: NetGalley/Publisher
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley and the 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:

Once Upon a Time meets Game of Thrones in book two of New York Times bestselling author Gena Showalter’s magical, romantic dark fantasy series, in which the fairy tales we know and love are prophecies of the future. Welcome to the Forest of Good and Evil, where villains may be heroes and heroes may be villains…it all depends on who you ask.

Ashleigh Ansklelisa may be called the Glass Princess due to her weak heart, but Saxon, king of the Avian, knows she is more dangerous than broken glass, in this Cinderella retelling that sweeps readers into the magical land of Enchantia, filled with treacherous enemies, unexpected allies, forbidden love, and dangerous magic! Can destined lovers find their way to each other, or will evil win the day? Everything changes at the stroke of midnight as one determined princess fights for her legacy, her love, and the crown that is her destiny.

My rating:  4.25 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.

I thought the premise behind this book sounded pretty interesting, and since it’s the second in a series I decided to read the first beforehand also (The Evil Queen). I read both around my birthday and I am so glad that I did! These were great stories and were just perfect for me. I love fairy tale retellings and these were SO GOOD. I liked the first book in the series a little better just because I loved Everly’s character, but The Glass Queen was also excellent. I’m not sure if the author was influenced by her friend Kresley, but there are ALOT of things in both these books that remind me of Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series. The Glass Queen reminded me a lot of Thronos’ story from Dark Skye combined with both main characters stories from Dreams of a Dark Warrior. And the oracle Noel reminds me almost too much of Nix. Which isn’t a problem for me because I adore that series. There was obviously less steam because these are young adult and not romance but there was still great tension and chemistry between the main characters. I loved all the world building and details, and I can’t wait for the next book to come out! I’d definitely recommend this series!

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

2020 Book #64 – The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

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Title: The Lost Apothecary
Author: Sarah Penner
Date finished: 9/13/20
Genre: Fiction, historical fiction
Publisher: Park Row
Publication Date: March 2, 2021
Pages in book: 308
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: BookBrowse
NOTE: I received this book for free from BookBrowse 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:

A forgotten history. A secret network of women. A legacy of poison and revenge. Welcome to The Lost Apothecary…

Hidden in the depths of eighteenth-century London, a secret apothecary shop caters to an unusual kind of clientele. Women across the city whisper of a mysterious figure named Nella who sells well-disguised poisons to use against the oppressive men in their lives. But the apothecary’s fate is jeopardized when her newest patron, a precocious twelve-year-old, makes a fatal mistake, sparking a string of consequences that echo through the centuries.

Meanwhile in present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, running from her own demons. When she stumbles upon a clue to the unsolved apothecary murders that haunted London two hundred years ago, her life collides with the apothecary’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.

With crackling suspense, unforgettable characters and searing insight, The Lost Apothecary is a subversive and intoxicating debut novel of secrets, vengeance and the remarkable ways women can save each other despite the barrier of time.

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.

The cover on this book looked so intriguing, as did the book description, so I was excited to get the chance to read this. This book was an interesting combination of historical fiction and a contemporary viewpoint. The plot was great – the plot twists at the end I just didn’t see coming and I really liked the overall plot line. Caroline’s character was intriguing and curious, and her growth throughout the story was wonderful to see. And I LOVED that she didn’t stay with her husband, who was a manipulative asshole. Overall this was a sweet story and I really enjoyed it, I would recommend it!

Link to author website

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

2020 Book #62 – Nowhere to Hide by Leslie A. Kelly

Title: Nowhere to Hide
Author: Leslie A. Kelly
Date finished: 9/7/20
Genre: Romantic suspense
Publisher: Forever
Publication Date: August 25, 2020
Pages in book: 382
Stand alone or series: #2 in the Hollywood Heat series
Where I got the book from: Publisher
NOTE: I received this book for free from the 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:

A cold case is suddenly too hot to handle in the second installment of the Winchester Brothers romantic suspense series from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Leslie A. Kelly.

Police officer Rowan Winchester wants nothing to do with his celebrity family’s legacy. Working with the LAPD is his way of atoning for the Winchesters’ dark and secretive past. And, right now, the last thing Rowan needs is true-crime novelist Evie Fleming nosing around the most notorious deaths in Los Angeles — including the ones that haunt his own family. To make things worse, he’s torn between wanting the wickedly smart writer out of his city . . . and just plain wanting her.
While researching her latest book, Evie suspects that a dangerous new killer is prowling the City of Angels. Now she just has to convince the devastatingly handsome cop that she’s right. Soon Evie and Rowan are working together to try to find the killer, even as their attraction ignites. But when the killer hones in on Evie, she and Rowan realize they’ll have to solve this case fast if they want to stay alive.

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.

I haven’t read anything by this author before but the synopsis sounded really interesting. I ended up really liking it! The plot line of this book was very good – there were some great plot twists included that caught me by surprise! The characters didn’t quite come to life for me but I still really enjoyed the story. The pacing seemed good to me and I like the back-story plot about a previous murder. I’d be interested to find out the resolution with that (and I’m guessing hear Raine’s story) if it was available. Overall it was a good book and I think it’s worth a read.

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

2020 Book #61 – Thick as Thieves by Sandra Brown

Title: Thick as Thieves
Author: Sandra Brown
Date finished: 9/4/20
Genre: Romantic suspense
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: August 25, 2020
Pages in book: 384
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Publisher
NOTE: I received this book for free from the 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:

In this tantalizing thriller from a #1 New York Times bestselling author, a woman uncovers lifelong secrets as she searches for the truth behind her father’s involvement in a heist gone wrong.

Twenty years ago in the dead of night, four seemingly random individuals pulled the ultimate heist and almost walked away with half a million dollars. But by daybreak, their plan had been shot to hell. One of them was in the hospital. One was in jail. One was dead. And one got away with it.

Arden Maxwell, the daughter of the man who disappeared all those years ago — presumably with the money, after murdering his accomplice — has never reconciled with her father’s abandonment of her and her sister. After countless personal setbacks she decides to return to her family home near mysterious Caddo Lake, and finally get answers to the many questions that torment her. Little does she know, two of her father’s co-conspirators — a war hero and a corrupt district attorney — are watching her every move.

Ledge Burnet, a rebellious teen at the time of the heist, evaded his jail sentence by enlisting in the army. Now he’s back in town to care for his ailing father — and to keep his eye on the county’s corrupt district attorney, whom he suspects was the real murderer. Although the two are bound to silence because of the crime they committed together, each has spent years waiting and hoping that the other will make a fatal misstep. But the arrival of their elusive accomplice’s daughter, Arden, who may know more about the missing money than she’s telling, sets them both on red alert. She ignites Ledge’s determination to expose the D.A.’s treachery . . . and sparks a desire he wishes to deny.

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.

I have read many Sandra Brown books in the past and have really enjoyed them (especially Deadline, which is my #1 recommendation to romantic suspense readers).  I’ve read many of her recent publications since Deadline and haven’t like any of them quite as much as my all time fave – but I have to say this one came close! The plot of this book was super – it was so well developed and consistently leads the reader in the wrong direction. I just loved the plot and thought it was so good. I can’t say I gasped out loud at the plot twist (like I did with Deadline) but I came damn close. I just felt so bad for Arden at the end, I can’t imagine how she would be unaffected by all of this. Ledge’s character was great too. He toed the line perfectly between edgy and honorable, romantic and surly. I loved his charge ahead attitude and how he was determined to face his problems head on while also protecting the people he loved. I especially loved how the author interspersed the flashbacks to fit in line with what the reader is learning about the story in the present time – it really was just so well done! I would definitely recommend this one, I thought it was great!

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

2020 Book #60 – Here to Stay by Adriana Herrera

Title: Here to Stay
Author: Adriana Herrera
Date finished: 8/28/20
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: August 25, 2020
Pages in book: 393
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:

Starting over is more about who you’re with than where you live…

Julia del Mar Ortiz is not having the best year.

She moved to Dallas with her boyfriend, who ended up ditching her and running back to New York after only a few weeks. Left with a massive—by NYC standards, anyway—apartment and a car lease in the scorching Texas heat, Julia is struggling…except that’s not completely true. Running the charitable foundation of one of the most iconic high fashion department stores in the world is serious #lifegoals.

It’s more than enough to make her want to stick it out down South.

The only monkey wrench in Julia’s plans is the blue-eyed, smart-mouthed consultant the store hired to take them public. Fellow New Yorker Rocco Quinn’s first order of business? Putting Julia’s job on the chopping block.

When Julia is tasked with making sure Rocco sees how valuable the programs she runs are, she’s caught between a rock and a very hard set of abs. Because Rocco Quinn is almost impossible to hate—and even harder to resist.

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.

I haven’t read anything by this author before, but I’ve heard a lot about her books on a couple of the podcasts I listen to and I’ve been wanting lately to read one. I liked the description on this book a lot and was excited to read it. I liked it a good amount. The hero and heroine were so passionate and lively and it really made for an interesting read. I can see why her books are so popular because even beyond the normal romance plot line there were some important issues that this book dealt with: immigration and emotional abuse being the major ones. I loved hearing about the after-school programs Julia had organized and all the information about her background and her education. She was fiercely successful and it was so great to see such a strong female character in a romance novel. Julia and Rocco also had just the most adorable nicknames and it made me melt. Some of the plot was a tad off-putting for me because the main conflict was somewhat the result of communication issues – which isn’t my favorite. Other than that though it was a really enjoyable read and I’d recommend it!

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

2020 Book #58 – Wednesday, Walks & Wags by Melissa Storm

Title: Wednesdays, Walks, & Wags
Author: Melissa Storm
Date finished: 8/19/20
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Kensington
Publication Date: August 25, 2020
Pages in book: 272
Stand alone or series: The Sunday Potluck Club series book #2
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:

Bestselling author Melissa Storm reunites the members of the Sunday Potluck Club—and their canine companions—in a heartwarming story of friendship and second chances.
 
In the rapidly blooming courtyard beneath Bridget Moore’s new Anchorage apartment, the signs are unmissable: spring has come. As she unpacks boxes, Bridget hopes that she too is moving forward. With her tight schedule—college, working as a vet tech, volunteering at the animal shelter, caring for her beloved dogs—Bridget strives to keep too busy to register the pain of losing her mother just months ago.

Bridget’s new neighbor, Wesley, also seems to be running from something—quite literally. He and his two energetic dogs jog by twice a day. It isn’t long before she joins him. Bridget’s fellow members of the Sunday Potluck Club encourage her to enjoy Wesley’s company, though they understand all too well how tricky it can be to navigate life after loss.

But just as nature rebounds after the toughest winter, Bridget’s friendships, both human and canine, are a reminder that love and joy go on. With each outing, Bridget is rediscovering the simple pleasures that mean so much. A warm smile, a sun-drenched evening, a waggy tail—little by little, they may help Bridget find the path to happiness again . . .

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.

I read the first book in this series earlier this year and enjoyed it – it was sweet and touching. And I enjoyed this one too, it was fine but maybe a little dull. Wesley’s inability to communicate was very frustrating and Bridget’s inability to stand up for herself was confusing. She seemed like a strong overall character but she was pretty young and had some things she needed to work through. This was a quick read and an ok story but it didn’t blow me away or anything. It was sweet and romantic though, and I loved how the four friends really come together to support each other. I would recommend it.

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

2020 Book #57 – The Love Scam by MaryJanice Davidson

Title: The Love Scam
Author: MaryJanice Davidson
Date finished: 8/15/20
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: August 4, 2020
Pages in book: 308
Stand alone or series: Danger, Sweetheart series Book #2
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:

Rake Tarbell is in trouble. When the fabulously wealthy and carefree bachelor wakes up horribly hungover in Venice, it’s not something that would normally be a problem…except he has no idea how he got there from California. Or who stole his wallet. Or who emptied his bank account of millions. Or who in the world is Lillith, the charming little girl claiming to be his long lost daughter. For the first time in his life, Rake is on his own and throwing Benjamins around aren’t going to solve his problem. Now if only the gorgeous, fun, and free-spirited woman who brought Lillith into his life was willing to help the situation…

Claire Delaney finds Rake’s problems hilarious and is not in the least bit sorry of adding to them by bringing Lillith into the mix. A pretty Midwestern girl with a streak for mischief, Claire isn’t the type to hang around with a guy like Rake. Even if he is drop-dead handsome and charming as all get-out. Even if he needs help and she has all the answers. But if this helps Lillith, she will go out of her way. And with a guy like Rake, she’s willing to bend her rules a bit for some fun.

But when adventure-filled days turn to romantic nights as they search for answers, and someone starts following them through the streets of Venice, Claire realizes she’s playing more than just a game. And maybe, just maybe, she isn’t willing to let go of Rake or Lillith just yet.

My rating:  2.75 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.

I have read more than a handful of books by this author in the past – for a while I was very into the Undead series. And I was excited to read one of her newer releases! This author has a really characteristic dry and sarcastic humor that I’ve always really found hilarious. And this book was no exception – it was full of dry wit and extreme sarcasm. Which I normally love but I just felt kind of overwhelmed by it in this book. And I think due to not reading the first book in the series I just found the plot line a tad hard to follow. And the random side rambles (while humorous) got a bit distracting at certain points. I loved Lillith’s character – she was adorable and so very entertaining. There were definitely some interesting parts and I found it to be overall entertaining but it didn’t end up being my favorite. I’d still recommend giving it a read, especially if you like other novels by MaryJanice Davidson since it’s pretty in line with her normal humor!

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