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

ARC August 2020 Reading Challenge Sign Up Post!

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Woo Hoo! ARC August is here again, and I can’t wait to dig into some of my backlog and my upcoming releases. I still have wayyyyy too many ARC’s from the past FOUR years (jeeze) that I never got a chance to read, plus I have some great titles coming up in August! I’m not only doing ARC August this month but I’m also trying to get Bingo in the Ripped Bodice Summer Romance Bingo, so most of the ARC’s I’ll be reading this month will be romance. For those of you that don’t know, ARC August is a month-long reading challenge hosted by Read.Sleep.Repeat. and the only participation requirement is reading ARC’s! I participated in this reading challenge for the last five years (20152016, 2017, 2018, and 2019), and every year this reading challenge has helped me be super successful and productive. I hope to continue the productivity with this challenge this year since I have so much to read! I was a little worried that it wasn’t going to happen for 2020 but I am so happy to participate again. The bingo last year was so fun and I was hoping it would be repeated this year but I’m glad just to have the challenge to participate in again this year!

So here is the list I’m going to be working off of for this year’s challenge:

August 2020 ARC’s 

-The Love Scam by MaryJanice Davidson
-Kiss My Cupcake by Helena Hunting
-Here To Stay by Adriana Herrera
-Wednesdays, Walks and Wags by Melissa Storm

Backlog ARC’s

-Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay by Jill Mansell
-Nothing Like a Duke by Jane Ashford
-One Night at the Lake by Bethany Chase
-A Season of You by Emma Douglas
-A Better Trust y Valerie Joan Connors
-Lies by T.M. Logan
-29 Seconds by T.M. Logan

And that’s my plan! I’m looking forward to a lot of the books I have lined up for August and I can’t wait to get to reading!

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.

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

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

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 #21 – Outfox by Sandra Brown

Title: Outfox
Author: Sandra Brown
Date finished: 5/15/20
Genre: Romantic suspense
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: August 6, 2019
Pages in book: 448
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 the #1 NYT bestselling author: After a thirty-year search for a serial killer, FBI agent Drex Easton becomes a suspect’s next-door neighbor — but can he navigate a shocking series of twists and turns to track down the truth?
 
FBI agent Drex Easton is relentlessly driven by a single goal: to outmaneuver the conman once known as Weston Graham. Over the past thirty years, Weston has assumed many names and countless disguises, enabling him to lure eight wealthy women out of their fortunes before they disappeared without a trace, their families left without answers and the authorities without clues. The only common trait among the victims: a new man in their life who also vanished, leaving behind no evidence of his existence . . . except for one signature custom.
 
Drex is convinced that these women have been murdered, and that the man he knows as Weston Graham is the sociopath responsible. But each time Drex gets close to catching him, Weston trades one persona for another and disappears again. Now, for the first time in their long game of cat and mouse, Drex has a suspect in sight.
 
Attractive and charming, Jasper Ford is recently married to a successful businesswoman many years his junior, Talia Shafer. Drex insinuates himself into their lives, posing as a new neighbor and setting up surveillance on their house. The closer he gets to the couple, the more convinced he becomes that Jasper is the clever, merciless predator he’s sought–and that his own attraction to Talia threatens to compromise his purpose and integrity.
 

This is Drex’s one chance to outfox his cunning nemesis before he murders again and eludes justice forever. But first he must determine if the desirable Talia is a heartless accomplice . . . or the next victim.

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 read this book as part of Bout of Books 28.

I have always really loved Sandra Brown’s books, though some I’ve liked more than others. This was a fairly solid suspense but I thought there would be more to the plot twists. I didn’t especially love the big plot twist at the end, I thought it was a little bit of a let down. I still overall liked the story though and, for most of the book, I didn’t want to put it down. There were a couple of parts where the pacing grew a bit slow but overall it didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the book. I read this book with a couple work girlfriends and we read and discussed the book. Overall I liked the book but I can’t say it was my favorite, definitely not my favorite of Brown’s (which is of course Deadline in case you didn’t already know). I think it’s still worth the read but if you’re going to only read one of Brown’s books in life, read Deadline.

Link to author’s website

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

 

Bout of Books 28 Update – Day 7 & Wrap Up

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I’ve participated in the Bout of Books reading challenges in the past few years and I’m usually able to get a good amount of reading done – I’ve found it’s a great way to help me focus on reading and have concentrated reading time. I was especially excited for this month’s Bout of Books since 1) I have a lot of time to relax at home right now (welcome to the pandemic) 2) I had a pretty bad reading slump this year and didn’t read for almost two months so I’m looking forward to diving into some great reads and 3) work this year has been intense so I was more eager than ever for some relaxation time!! I got a good amount of reading done this week and it was great to spend some time focused on the blog and participating in the challenges.

First let’s do my Day 7 (Sunday) update on reading.

Update

Sunday

Time spent reading: (Approximately) 2.5 hours
Number of pages I’ve read today: 146 pages
Total number of pages I’ve read: 1,412 pages
Books read: Started Salvation Station by Kathryn Schleich
Challenges: I did tweet about Sunday’s challenge which was just a stretch goal challenge!

And now let’s look at how I fared for my overall Bout of Books 28 wrap up:

Time Devoted to Reading

I plan to read at least an hour Monday and Tuesday and then from there I’m hoping to read at least 3 hours a day, hopefully more.
I met the daily reading goal all of the days! Overall the pandemic really helped me since I can’t exactly go anywhere. I honestly probably would’ve gotten more reading done but I started playing a game in an app on my phone and it quickly got me addicted so I was distracted for some of the days. Overall I read over 23 hours for the challenge so I’d call that a success!

My Goals

My goals for this read-a-thon are that I’d like to participate in as much as I can: the daily posts plus reading every day. I’d really like to just focus on getting back into reading and devouring my books. My traditional busy season at work goes from January to April and it was a killer this year, especially with all the additional issues presented with the pandemic. I gave up on reading for pretty much February through the beginning of April since all I was doing was making myself more tired staying up too late reading. I’ve just recently picked up reading again and it’s been going well but I need to get back on board with my reading schedule and catch up on books I missed over the last couple months!

I was able to read every day, which was probably easier than normal since I took the second half of the week off of work.  I also participated in 5 out of the 7 daily challenges, the two that I missed were logistical issues.

Books to Read

  • Finish Outfox by Sandra Brown – Done! Review will be posted later this week
  • Read Close Up by Amanda Quick – Read and reviewed
  • Read BuzzBooks Romance sampler – Read and reviewed
  • Read Strike Me Down by Mindy Mejia – Read and reviewed
  • Read Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson – Read and reviewed
  • Read a book I own (TBD) – Skipped
  • Read Salvation Station by Kathryn Schleich – Started on last day of challenge but haven’t finished yet

Overall I thought I did super well with this challenge and made a lot of time for reading! I’m hoping to also participate in the August Bout of Books this year but that will be dependent on a few scheduling items. Either way, I had a great time this past week! Happy reading everyone!

Bout of Books 28 Update – Day 6

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Yesterday was a wonderful day! I did most of my reading for the day at night, as we spent most of the afternoon at my parents having a wonderful make up Mothers Day. Yesterday was a beautiful day for weather and it was great to spend the afternoon on the deck in the sun. So anyways my Saturday’s progress is below:

Update

Saturday

Time spent reading: (Approximately) 4.25 hours
Number of pages I’ve read today: 256 pages
Total number of pages I’ve read: 1,266 pages
Books read: Finished The Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson
Challenges: I did not participate in the challenge for yesterday – the challenge was to post a review but I was all caught up with my posts and I didn’t get to finish the current book I was reading in time to post a review.

Stay tuned for continued progress made in my next post on my Sunday update!!

2020 Book #29 – The Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson

Title: The Accidental Beauty Queen
Author: Teri Wilson
Date finished: 5/17/20
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: December 4, 2018
Pages in book: 305
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:

In this charming romantic comedy perfect for fans of Meg Cabot and Sophie Kinsella, critically acclaimed author Teri Wilson shows us that sometimes being pushed out of your comfort zone leads you to the ultimate prize.

Charlotte Gorman loves her job as an elementary school librarian, and is content to experience life through the pages of her books. Which couldn’t be more opposite from her identical twin sister. Ginny, an Instagram-famous beauty pageant contestant, has been chasing a crown since she was old enough to enunciate the words world peace, and she’s not giving up until she gets the title of Miss American Treasure. And Ginny’s refusing to do it alone this time.

She drags Charlotte to the pageant as a good luck charm, but the winning plan quickly goes awry when Ginny has a terrible, face-altering allergic reaction the night before the pageant, and Charlotte suddenly finds herself in a switcheroo the twins haven’t successfully pulled off in decades.

Woefully unprepared for the glittery world of hair extensions, false eyelashes, and push-up bras, Charlotte is mortified at every unstable step in her sky-high stilettos. But as she discovers there’s more to her fellow contestants than just wanting a sparkly crown, Charlotte realizes she has a whole new motivation for winning.

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 read this book as part of Bout of Books 28.

I hadn’t had a chance to read this when it came out back in 2018 but I had originally requested it because it sounded very interesting and the cover is so cute. I’ve never read anything by this author before but this book was great! This book was a perfect blend of Miss Congeniality, The Parent Trap, and Pride and Prejudice. There were so many great bookish references – lots of Harry Potter and Pride and Prejudice references. This is a great read for a book lover! Overall it was a really sweet story and the plot line was well constructed and implemented. I thought that the ending all wrapped up a little quickly though. There was a lot of emotional growing that Charlotte went through during the book and I would’ve liked to witness more of the confrontation / result with Charlotte and her parents and also Ginny. This book was just so fun and entertaining, I really enjoyed it and I would recommend reading it!

Link to author website

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

Bout of Books 28 Update – Day 5

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Yesterday was another great reading day. I had some work to get done in the morning but then the afternoon and evening I was able to get a lot of reading done. So anyways my Friday’s progress is below:

Update

Friday

Time spent reading: (Approximately) 4.5 hours
Number of pages I’ve read today: 284 pages
Total number of pages I’ve read: 1,010 pages
Books read: Finished Strike Me Down by Mindy Mejia, Finished Outfox by Sandra Brown (review to come next week!), and started The Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson
Challenges: I participated in the challenge yesterday on Twitter!

Stay tuned for continued progress made in tomorrow’s post on my Saturday update!!