2020 Book #84 – A Season of You by Emma Douglas

Title: A Season of You
Author: Emma Douglas
Date finished: 11/15/20
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Pages in book: 298
Stand alone or series: #2 in the Cloud Bay 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:

In A Season of You by Emma Douglas, it’s Christmastime in the quaint island town of Cloud Bay, where love is always in season…

Will Fraser has believed in love at first sight since the day he first laid eyes on Mina Harper five years ago. There was only one problem: She was happily married. Then, when Mina’s husband was killed by a drunk driver, Will figured she’d want nothing to do with a guy who owns a whiskey distillery. So he’s kept his feelings locked away, knowing that not even a Christmas miracle would be enough to melt Mina’s heart. . .

Mina believes her days of true love are behind her. Since losing her husband she’s kept to herself, content to do her own painting and stay out of the limelight that comes with her famous family. But when, after a freak accident, Will comes to her rescue, Mina can’t quite get him out of her mind. As curiosity turns into a fling during Cloud Bay’s first Christmas Festival, she finds it harder to convince herself that her feelings for Will are just mistletoe-inspired. Could Mina be ready to lay the past to rest and finally admit that what she really wants for Christmas—and forever—is Will?

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 really loved the cover on this book – I should’ve realized it was centered around Christmas but I didn’t til I was already into the book. It was a great book to start getting me into the festive spirit with the holidays coming up! The Christmas contests that they participated in were super fun sounding. The characters in this book were good, Mina was a little self-destructive for me and Will definitely set himself up for failure with putting a time limit on the relationship, but they had a sweet enough romance. I think one of my favorite parts of the book was when Angie got her just desserts and got in trouble with her Dad because she was being a big big butt head. The book overall was sweet if a little cheesy for me. There was a good build up of tension but I had trouble getting into the story. I did love the Christmas festivities piece of it though! Good seasonal read.

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

2020 Book #82 – One Night at the Lake by Bethany Chase

Title: One Night at the Lake
Author: Bethany Chase
Date finished: 11/9/20
Genre: Women’s fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: June 18, 2019
Pages in book: 289
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 tragedy on a hot summer night at a lake house forever alters the lives of two best friends—and the man they both love. But the truth isn’t as simple as it appears in this intricate novel of love, friendship, betrayal, and forgiveness.

Leah has been waiting for this moment a long time: Her boyfriend, Ollie, is taking her to his family’s home on Seneca Lake for a week of lazy summer bliss, boating, and barbeque. The couple have been together four years, and Leah is convinced that Ollie is finally going to pop the question. Leah can’t wait to share the joyous news with her best friend, June, who is joining them on their getaway, and whose presence will make everything feel more real.

Seven years later, the moment June has been dreading has finally arrived: Her fiancé, Ollie, is taking her to his family’s lake house. But this is not an ordinary visit to an ordinary place; it is a house haunted by June’s long-buried memories of her lost friend Leah—and the connection that appears to remain between Leah and the man for whom June’s love is as deep as her grief.

Alternating between the two women’s vibrant voices, One Night at the Lake is an emotional novel that explores a complex tangle of friendship, loyalty, and betrayal, all driving toward one question: Can love overcome what happened on that hot summer night?

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 had read another book by this author before and really liked it – and though I am very behind in reading this one, I have been looking forward to getting to it. I really enjoy this author’s books so much, they are so raw with emotions and have such genuinely written relationships in them. I loved the dual points of view in this book – switching back and forth with the past and the present and between Leah and June. I also thought this book dealt so well with grief and how it affects people, especially those who go through traumatic events like those in the book. I was hooked on this book from the start – I didn’t want to put it down and even when I had to I felt like my thoughts were still trapped inside the book. I loved the portrayals of relationships in this book, not only of romantic relationships and the interplay between the participants of those but also within strong friendships, siblings and also child-parent relationships. The characters in this book were very well written, I thought the plot and especially how the plot was approached was super, and I would definitely recommend this one – it was a great read!

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

2020 Book #77 – The Code for Love and Heartbreak by Jillian Cantor

Title: The Code for Love and Heartbreak
Author: Jillian Cantor
Date finished: 10/25/20
Genre: Young adult
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Publication Date: October 6, 2020
Pages in book: 215
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 contemporary romcom retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma by USA TODAY bestselling author Jillian Cantor, there’s nothing more complex—or unpredictable—than love.

When math genius Emma and her coding club co-president, George, are tasked with brainstorming a new project, The Code for Love is born.

George disapproves of Emma’s idea of creating a matchmaking app, accusing her of meddling in people’s lives. But all the happy new couples at school are proof that the app works. At least at first.

Emma’s code is flawless. So why is it that perfectly matched couples start breaking up, the wrong people keep falling for each other, and Emma’s own feelings defy any algorithm?

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 was very interested in reading this book based on the description, and I haven’t read as much young adult lately. This book was the perfect amount of nerdy for me, I loved Emma’s character. I was a little worried it might end up being too angsty (young adult can be hit or miss for me), and while it was a little angst-ridden it was just a reasonable amount for me. I think part of the reason it worked so well is that Emma’s character is doesn’t connect to her emotions in the same way as others. She seemed like she might be autistic since she was very literal, didn’t really understand social interactions, and had trouble identifying emotions in others. I thought the author’s portrayal of her was really well done and genuine. I loved all the nerd talk with coding (which I’m not familiar with the terminology on but could still get in the spirit) and the competitiveness of the competition. The romance plot line was a bit of a miss for me but I know it was kind of following along the lines of a classic plot line.  It just felt confusing with the switch on who liked who all the time. The other characters in the book didn’t feel as fleshed out to me as they could have but I did really like to varied cast of characters. It was a cute read and I enjoyed it though I wouldn’t say it was my favorite. I’d still recommend it though – it was a good book!

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

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 #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