2020 Book #56 – Kiss My Cupcake by Helena Hunting

Title: Kiss My Cupcake
Author: Helena Hunting
Date finished: 8/9/20
Genre: Romantic comedy, contemporary romance
Publisher: Forever
Publication Date: August 11, 2020
Pages in book: 369
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
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:

Blaire Calloway has planned every Instagram-worthy moment of her cupcake and cocktails shop launch down to the tiniest detail. What she didn’t plan on? Ronan Knight and his old-school sports bar next door opening on the very same day. He may be super swoony, but Blaire hasn’t spent years obsessing over buttercream and bourbon to have him ruin her chance at success.
From axe throwing (his place) to frosting contests (hers), Blaire and Ronan are constantly trying to one-up each other in a battle to win new customers. But with every clash, there’s also an undeniable chemistry. When an even bigger threat to their business comes to town, they’re forced to call a temporary time-out on their own war and work together. And the more time Blaire spends getting to know the real Ronan, the more she wonders if it’s possible to have her cupcake and eat it too.

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.

I have been really enjoying Helena Hunting’s novels lately so I was excited to get a chance to read her new release! And I also thought this book sounded interesting from the plot synopsis – plus the cover is so cute. And the story was definitely adorable – it was very fitting with the subject matter, super sweet. The plot was very cute, a little corny, and overall really light and easy to read. The story didn’t fit with Hunting’s other novels that I’ve read lately – it was way less steamy than the other books I’ve read of hers. It was still really sweet though and I really enjoyed it. Blaire’s business model was amazing. I would 100% go to this café if one existed near me. Cupcakes and cocktails – how can you go wrong! And all of the themed events and fun ideas she came up with, I loved everything about her business!

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

2020 Book #53 – Incognito Ex by Geri Krotow

Title: Incognito Ex
Author: Geri Krotow
Date finished: 7/24/20
Genre: Romantic suspense
Publisher: Harlequin Romantic Suspense
Publication Date: August 1, 2020
Pages in book: 288
Stand alone or series: Silver Valley P.D. series #8
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:

When she is targeted by a vicious mobster

A past love is her only hope

When a Russian gangster targets Coral Staufer, she is desperate for help. Coral stumbles across an undercover agent none other than the man she loved and lost, Trevor Stone. Trevor will risk anything to stop her from becoming a mob casualty…even risk his career to protect Coral. But when their past love reignites, their entire mission—and very lives—are at stake.

My rating:  1.5 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. Also be sure to check out my blog tour post on the book!

I thought this book sounded interesting from the plot synopsis so I thought I would try it. And it was a fine book but it really just didn’t end up being for me. I struggle a lot with second chance romances, especially ones where the couple has already been married and divorced. I just find it so sad that they’ve missed out on so much time because they’re so pig-headed and stubborn that they can’t just communicate with each other. Some of the other things I struggled with this book on were also related to that – their chemistry and the build up to their first intimate moment just felt forced to me but I think it was because I was already so against their story line. This book had a wide cast of characters too and I always struggle with jumping into a series, especially in this case with the 8th book. This book really just wasn’t for me personally but it wasn’t a bad book. I really love Harlequin overall and that the different Series categories always deliver exactly what you’re looking for in an easy to read package.

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2020 Book #51 – The Highlander’s Princess Bride by Vanessa Kelly

Title: The Highlander’s Princess Bride
Author: Vanessa Kelly
Date finished: 7/19/20
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: Zebra Books
Publication Date: October 31, 2017
Pages in book: 432
Stand alone or series: Improper Princesses series Book#3
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:

In Vanessa Kelly’s enchanting series, three young women descended from royalty overcome their scandalous beginnings to win the hearts of the ton’s most eligible men . . .

The illegitimate daughter of the Prince Regent might be expected to pursue various dubious professions. Actress, perhaps, or artist’s model. Even courtesan. Victoria Knight, however, has become a governess—a respectable choice, until she travels to Scotland to meet her new charges. The younger brothers of Nicholas Kendrick, Earl of Arnprior, aren’t children at all. They’re brawny, wild Highland men. As for the Earl, he’s handsome, guarded, and far too compelling . . . especially for a woman hiding a dark secret.

Nick needs a proper teacher to transform his unmarriageable brothers—and a sensible,
straight-laced wife for himself. Miss Knight seems to fit the bill on both counts. But he soon discovers there is more to Victoria than he thought. It’s not just her notorious origins, or the danger that’s followed her all the way to Scotland. It’s the fiery loyalty beneath that sedate façade. This, the real Victoria, is the woman Nick is starting to desire so desperately. And what an earl wants, he’ll use every seductive means to get . . .

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 have read a book or two in the past by Kelly and enjoyed them, and the description for this book really intrigued me. I really liked the characters in this novel. There was so much personality in not only the two main characters but also in the side characters as well. With a family full of boys there were of course a lot of hijinks, which definitely made for an entertaining read! The banter between all the characters was really great too. It just stinks that the “system” at that time was such a failure in protecting women who were victimized. Victoria shouldn’t have been harassed and persecuted the way she was but because she was a woman she wasn’t considered innocence worthy unless she had a rich husband. Crazy! Anyways – the author did a great job of developing the story line and the progression of Nick and Victoria’s relationship was really well done. There were some parts that I thought were a little slow and / or cheesy but overall this was an enjoyable romance with a great cast of characters. I’d recommend giving it a read.

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2020 Book #50 – One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London

Title: One to Watch
Author: Kate Stayman-London
Date finished: 7/10/20
Genre: Contemporary romance, romantic comedy
Publisher: Dial Press Trade Paperback
Publication Date: July 7, 2020
Pages in book: 432
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:

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Bea Schumacher is a devastatingly stylish plus-size fashion blogger who has amazing friends, a devoted family, legions of Insta followers – and a massively broken heart. Like the rest of America, Bea indulges in her weekly obsession: the hit reality show Main Squeeze. The fantasy dates! The kiss-off rejections! The surprising amount of guys named Chad! But Bea is sick and tired of the lack of body diversity on the show. Since when is being a size zero a prerequisite for getting engaged on television?

Just when Bea has sworn off dating altogether, she gets an intriguing call: Main Squeeze wants her to be its next star, surrounded by men vying for her affections. Bea agrees, on one condition – under no circumstances will she actually fall in love. She’s in this to supercharge her career, subvert harmful beauty standards, inspire women across America, and get a free hot air balloon ride. That’s it.

But when the cameras start rolling, Bea realizes things are more complicated than she anticipated. She’s in a whirlwind of sumptuous couture, Internet culture wars, sexy suitors, and an opportunity (or two, or five) to find messy, real-life love in the midst of a made-for-TV fairy tale. In this joyful, wickedly observant debut, Bea has to decide whether it might just be worth trusting these men – and herself – for a chance to live happily ever after.

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 seen so much about this book lately, and honestly I’m so glad I was able to read it. Every detail of Bea and her character was just so spot on. I loved Bea’s point that even if you love your body, you still want to be the one in control of it. I can’t even imagine the hell that Bea’s character went through with being on that awful show and having her body featured so predominantly. The overall story line was so touching, I was really moved by Bea’s story and her search for love, not only for a significant other but also for love for herself. I loved the setup of book, with the collections of news articles, transcripts of podcasts and texts through the book. And I loved how supportive Bea’s family was and how funny their interactions were with each other. Overall this book was funny, moving, and so very relatable for me and I loved it. I would definitely recommend it!

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

2020 Book #45 – Daring and the Duke by Sarah MacLean

Title: Daring and the Duke
Author: Sarah MacLean
Date finished: 6/28/20
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: June 30, 2020
Pages in book: 384
Stand alone or series: #3 in the Bareknuckle Bastards series
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:

New York Times bestselling author Sarah MacLean returns with the much-anticipated final book in her Bareknuckle Bastards series, featuring a scoundrel duke and the powerful woman who brings him to his knees.

Grace Condry has spent a lifetime running from her past. Betrayed as a child by her only love and raised on the streets, she now hides in plain sight as queen of London’s darkest corners. Grace has a sharp mind and a powerful right hook and has never met an enemy she could not best…until the man she once loved returns.

Single-minded and ruthless, Ewan, Duke of Marwick, has spent a decade searching for the woman he never stopped loving. A long-ago gamble may have lost her forever, but Ewan will go to any lengths to win Grace back…and make her his duchess.

Reconciliation is the last thing Grace desires. Unable to forgive the past, she vows to take her revenge. But revenge requires keeping Ewan close, and soon her enemy seems to be something else altogether—something she can’t resist, even as he threatens the world she’s built, the life she’s claimed…and the heart she swore he’d never steal again.

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 loved the start of this book – there was so much tension and the characters had such strong personalities right from the start. The heroine especially was a badass, I loved how violent she was, which I didn’t expect. And I loved the turnaround from the normal plot ending where Grace was the one that had to chase after Ewan and Ewan was the one in danger. The gender roles in this book were reversed in a number of different areas and it made for a really interesting story. The story went on a tad long for me, I thought there were a couple areas that felt superfluous. I think what really made this book as much of a hit for me was Grace. She was so bright – with her wardrobe and her hair and just her personality, she felt so vibrant and alive. I really enjoyed the book and I would recommend it!

Link to author website

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2020 Book #41 – I Heart Forever by Lindsey Kelk

Title: I Heart Forever
Author: Lindsey Kelk
Date finished: 6/11/20
Genre: Fiction, women’s fiction
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: September 12, 2017
Pages in book: 368
Stand alone or series: #7 in the I Heart series
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:

A wedding in Manhattan…and someone’s keeping a secret.

The day her husband Alex picks up a backpack and goes travelling, Angela Clark promises to stay out of trouble and keep both Louboutins on the ground.

So when her best friend’s boyfriend confides in her, it can’t hurt to help him pick out a ring at Tiffany’s surely?

And when her fashion magazine announces major changes, being terminally late and arguing with your boss isn’t that bad, is it?

Then suddenly there’s another big secret Angela’s got to keep – and the man she loves is still thousands of miles away. As the wedding of the year looms, Angela is going to need her friends by her side as her old life looks set to change forever.

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 had requested this book a long time ago and finally got around to reading it. The book was ok, I liked some parts of it. I ended up liking it more than I expected to honestly. It reminded me a bit of Confessions of a Shopaholic series, kind of bimbo-y sounding narrator and main character. And I’m sure this is just because I hadn’t read the other books in the series but I didn’t feel all that invested in the characters, therefore the story fell apart a little for me. The plot seemed a little scattered to me, fitting with how it seemed the narrator’s mind worked but not my favorite. There were still some entertaining / funny parts but overall it wasn’t my favorite.

Link to author website

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2020 Book #38 – You Are Not Alone by Sarah Pekkanen and Greer Hendricks

Title: You Are Not Alone
Author: Sarah Pekkanen and Greer Hendricks
Date finished: 6/9/20
Genre: Thriller, suspense
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: March 3, 2020
Pages in book: 344
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:

The electrifying #1 New York Times bestselling authors of THE WIFE BETWEEN US and AN ANONYMOUS GIRL return with a brand new novel of psychological suspense, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Shay Miller wants to find love, but it eludes her. She wants to be fulfilled, but her job is a dead end. She wants to belong, but her life is increasingly lonely.

Until Shay meets the Moore sisters. Cassandra and Jane live a life of glamorous perfection, and always get what they desire. When they invite Shay into their circle, everything seems to get better.

Shay would die for them to like her.
She may have to.

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 have read other books by Sarah and Greer in the past and have really enjoyed them. And this book too was an interesting story but I couldn’t 100% get into it for some reason – I think mostly personal likes/dislikes reasons. The plot line itself was great and it has dome good plot twists at the end. But some parts of the story line were a little bit slow for me, and overall it was so sad. I felt so bad for Shay, she was so vulnerable and really just wanted to make friends. And she struggled so much with what to do. She was weirdly obsessed with the whole thing but I can understand that she identified with Amanda. Plus she saw her commit suicide, I can empathize with her wanting to understand why she had done it. Overall I liked the book but it wasn’t my favorite thriller I’ve read lately. I’d still recommend checking it out, it was a good read.

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

2020 Book #36 – A Woman Alone by Nina Laurin

Title: A Woman Alone
Author: Nina Laurin
Date finished: 6/7/20
Genre: Thriller, suspense
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: June 23, 2020
Pages in book: 336
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:

A house with the darkest of secrets.
A woman who is the only one who knows.

It’s another bright, sunny day in Venture, Illinois, the sort of place where dreams come true and families can get a fresh start. Cecelia Holmes deserves it after the home invasion that shattered her previous life. Now everything seems perfect – her high-security SmartHome, her doting husband, her sweet daughter.

Until she begins to feel spied on. Her husband doesn’t believe her. Her neighbors ignore her. So when she discovers a shocking secret about the prior occupant of their house, she feels that she has no one to turn to. And now Cecelia must face her fears alone…

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 have read other books by Nina Laurin in the past and enjoyed them, and I’ve seen a lot of media attention for this book coming out. In this world of ever increasing technology, the overarching presence and control of our technology can create and instill fear in many. And it was this fear that was developed and overtook Cecilia, to the point where she was afraid to stay in her own house. Which is entirely understandable considering her house fed her bleach at one point. The event that instigated her to move into this gated community is really the driving point behind this novel. The plot twist in this book was pretty good, though overall it was just so depressing. And gosh did I just hate Scott (Cecilia’s husband). I can’t blame Cecilia for what she did to be honest because Scott was just so shitty. And Jessica was a psycho. Overall I liked the book and the plot twist at the end upped the score for me a bit, I’d recommend giving it a try!

Link to author website

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2020 Book #35 – Billionaire Boss, Undercover Affair by Kyra Radcliff

Title: Billionaire Boss, Undercover Affair
Author: Kyra Radcliff
Date finished: 6/7/20
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Dawn Hill Publications
Publication Date: March 17, 2020
Pages in book: 178
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:

Sent by her boss to break up his daughter’s engagement to his irresistible rival, Miles. Susan finds herself in trouble, she wants Miles all to herself…

Susan Johansen is efficient, ambitious and cool-headed in a crisis, which is exactly why her boss, Charles Dunlap, needs her. As the successful owner of one of the richest old money industrialist conglomerates in the world, he is under pressure of a different kind when his daughter Alicia becomes involved with internet entrepreneur Miles Middleton.

With an ego as big as his bank balance, Miles has a reputation for a string of affairs and Charles doesn’t want his daughter anywhere near him. And so, he enlists Susan, as a Trojan Horse, burying her deep within Miles’ business interests in the hope that she can sabotage his relationship with Alicia.

It isn’t long before the plan seems to be working…
Miles is missing lunches, dinners and other dates with Alicia in favour of making money and sealing deals. But it’s when he takes Susan away on a business trip and tries to seduce her that she sees him for what he really is. But now that she is close to her goal, Susan suddenly has a crisis of confidence? Is she really still working for Charles or is she now pursuing her own agenda with Miles?

As he continues to get under her skin with his continuous attempts at seduction, Susan finds that she is more conflicted than ever. And the closer she gets to completing the assignment, the greater the chances are that Miles will discover her secret.

My rating:  1.0 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 was asked to read this book in connection with a budding publication company, and I picked this title since it sounded pretty interesting. And while I think both the story and the publication have a lot of potential, I can’t say this book was a win for me personally. The conversations felt very stilted/forced. And I understand why it had to happen plot wise, but even though we hear parts from Miles’ POV we as the reader aren’t aware that he’s not actually getting married, which frustrated me. I felt so bad that Susan went through that much turmoil, but at the same time she was so back and forth on how she felt about the whole situation and that ended up frustrating me as well. The characters felt like they could have been developed a little more, especially the hero. And some of the internal narratives felt unrealistic too. I don’t know any woman who thinks to herself that her own thighs look “creamy and soft.” I think the plot just wasn’t a fit for me personally. I could tell there was some potential in the writing but it wasn’t for me.

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

2020 Book #34 – Fake Like Me by Barbara Bourland

Title: Fake Like Me
Author: Barbara Bourland
Date finished: 6/7/20
Genre: Fiction, general fiction, suspense
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: June 18, 2019
Pages in book: 355
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Publisher
NOTE: I received this book for free from Grand Central Publishing 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:

From critically acclaimed author Barbara Bourland, comes an “impressively intelligent thriller,” nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe Award, about a young painter who tracks the mysterious life and death of her role model, uncovering strange secrets that lead to the truth of her demise (Refinery29).

After a fire rips through her loft, destroying the seven billboard-size paintings meant for her first major exhibition, a young painter is left with an impossible task: recreate the lost artworks in just three months without getting caught — or ruin her fledgling career. Homeless and desperate, she begs her way into Pine City, an exclusive retreat in upstate New York notorious for three things: outrageous revelries, glamorous artists, and the sparkling black lake where brilliant prodigy Carey Logan drowned herself.

Taking up residence in Carey’s former studio, the painter works with obsessive, delirious focus. But when she begins to uncover strange secrets at Pine City and falls hard for Carey’s mysterious boyfriend, a single thought shadows her every move: What really happened to Carey Logan?

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 honestly don’t remember requesting this book so I hadn’t been eager to read it yet. However it seemed like a great book to tackle on my Maine trip! And I was surprised at how much I ended up enjoying it. The mystery piece of the plot was very interesting and the plot twist at the end was pretty surprising. Overall the book really made me consider the intricacies of relationships and how complex they are. The whole artist and art creating process added another interesting facet to the story, but it’s not necessarily something that really captures me personally. There was a lot of detail about the artistry process and I’m glad I learned a little more about it but I still didn’t love it. Some parts of the book were a little slow for me and the ending also felt ill-fitting with the rest of the story for me, but I still enjoyed the book overall!

Link to author’s website

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