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 #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 #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

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

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

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

2020 Book #32 – The Princess Plan by Julia London

Title: The Princess Plan
Author: Julia London
Date finished: 5/31/20
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: HQN Books
Publication Date: November 10, 2019
Pages in book: 400
Stand alone or series: #1 in the Royal Wedding 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:

Princes have pomp and glory—not crushes on commoners

Nothing gets the tongues of London’s high society wagging like a good scandal. And when the personal secretary of the visiting Prince Sebastian of Alucia is found murdered, it’s all anyone can talk about, including Eliza Tricklebank. Her unapologetic gossip gazette has benefited from an anonymous tip about the crime, prompting Sebastian to take an interest in playing detective—and an even greater interest in Eliza.

With a trade deal on the line and mounting pressure to secure a noble bride, there’s nothing more salacious than a prince dallying with a commoner. Sebastian finds Eliza’s contrary manner as frustrating as it is seductive, but they’ll have to work together if they’re going to catch the culprit. And when things heat up behind closed doors, it’s the prince who’ll have to decide what comes first—his country or his heart.

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 realized after I finished my most recent read (A Royal Kiss and Tell by Julia London) that I had been scheduled to read the first book in the same series last year and just hadn’t gotten to it. I just loved the covers in this series, I have to say in both cases the covers definitely influenced me in requesting the books for review. I have to say I enjoyed the second book in the series a little bit more. However, this book was still good! Eliza was a really fascinating character and I loved her enthusiasm and how opinionated she was and just fierce. Bas on the other hand fell a little flat for me. He just didn’t feel as alive as Eliza did and the contrast between their two characters was really striking. The one thing I can say about him that felt alive were his feelings for Eliza, which I really was struck by how strong his feelings for her were and that piece really appealed to me. I thought the ending was a little rushed and there were some things that I thought should have been addressed that weren’t. Like I get the Eliza really likes him but there wasn’t hardly any discussion until like the last page that she’d be leaving behind her entire family. Overall though it was a sweet story and had a romantic (if somewhat rushed) ending. Even though it wasn’t my favorite, I’d still say it’s worth the read!

Link to author website

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

2020 Book #31 – A Royal Kiss and Tell by Julia London

Title: A Royal Kiss and Tell
Author: Julia London
Date finished: 5/24/20
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication Date: May 19, 2020
Pages in book: 384
Stand alone or series: #2 in the Royal Wedding series
Where I got the book from: Edelweiss/ Publisher
NOTE: 
I received this book for free from Edelweiss / 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:

Every prince has his secrets. And she’s determined to unravel his…

Every young man in London’s ton is vying for Lady Caroline Hawke’s hand—except one. Handsome roué Prince Leopold of Alucia can’t quite remember Caroline’s name, and the insult is not to be tolerated. So Caroline does what any clever, resourceful lady of means would do to make sure Leo never again forgets: sees that scandalous morsels about his reputation are printed in a ladies’ gossip gazette…all while secretly setting her cap for the rakish royal.

Someone has been painting Leo as a blackguard, but who? Socially, it is ruining him. More important, it jeopardizes his investigation into a contemptible scheme that reaches the highest levels of British government. Leo needs Lady Caroline’s help to regain access to society. But this charming prince is about to discover that enlisting the deceptively sweet and sexy Lady Caroline might just cost him his heart, his soul and both their reputations…

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 many books by Julia London in the past but I loved the cover on this one so I wanted to try it. I really didn’t like Caroline at first, she was so flighty and inappropriate. And full of herself! Leo too wasn’t my favorite character at first either, he wasn’t all that nice to Caroline at first but I liked him a bit better than Caroline. I was surprised at how much I ended up liking both characters by the end of the book. Both Leo and Caroline grew so much through the book, both characters were generous and loving by the end of the book. I do wish that there had been a little more detail on what happened to the bad guys at the end since they were doing such despicable awful things. And I didn’t like that the king didn’t even get rid of the advisor that was involved. Other than that the book was good, I liked the plot and the characters. It was a sweet love story and I would recommend it.

Link to author website

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

 

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

2020 Book #27 – Buzz Books Romance sampler

Title: BuzzBooks 2020 Romance Sampler
Author: Various – see below
Date finished: 5/13/20
Genre: Romance
Publisher: Various
Publication Date: May 14, 2020
Pages in book: 275

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.

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

These are the samples that are included in the BuzzBooks 2020 Romance collection – I can’t say I loved most of them, but there was a good variety of stories included. Just seemed like most of them weren’t ones that grabbed out at me personally. Anyways, here’s the books with samples included:

Romeantically Challenged by Marina Adair

The Ballad of Hattie Taylor by Susan Andersen – LOVE the cover on this one

Searching for Rose by Dana Becker

The Roommate by Rosie Danan

Meet You in the Middle by Devon Daniels – I couldn’t find this one on Amazon but I think this one was my favorite in the sampler. I really loved the dynamic between the two main characters and the story line had me interested right from the start. I’ll have to see if I can find this for review on NetGalley or Edelweiss

The Cul-De-Sac War by Melissa Ferguson

Follow Your Heart by Brenda Jackson

Paris is Always a Good Idea by Jenn McKinley

Better Than People by Roan Parrish

A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby by Vanessa Riley

Then There Was You by Mona Shroff

How to Fail at Flirting by Denise Williams

Scandalous Secrets by Synthia Williams

The Way You Tempt Me by Elle Wright

Overall I was really excited by the diversity included in this sampler. There were so many different genres and types of characters that I think there would be something that everyone would love! I was surprised by the number of stories included featuring politicians (three!) since I haven’t seen as many of those featured up until about a year ago.

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