It’s only January 30th, but I feel really confident saying that Jenny Holiday’s latest release Three Little Words is one of my best reads of the year. I know, I know, this kind of enthusiastic statement is very unlike me, as I’m usually reluctant to gush (lies, lies), but this book is amazing/lovely/powerful/everything that I’ve ever wanted.
Like the rest of Holiday’s Bridesmaids Behaving Badly series, Three Little Words is set around one of the best friend’s weddings. In this case, it’s the wedding of Wendy and Noah, whose love story was featured in It Takes Two. Here’s what you need to know about this book: Chef Bennett Buchanan and model Gia Gallo are trying to get to the aforementioned wedding when they first meet, but unfortunately for them, inclement weather conditions are making that difficult.
Their first impressions of the other are less than stellar. But despite her rudeness at the ticket counter, there’s something about Gia, and despite his good-ole-southern-boy charm, there’s something about Bennett.
A road trip commences, and it’s awkward and confessional and wonderful. Gia and Bennett both come to the road trip packing big emotional baggage, and to their surprise, they find an audience in the other. But despite the things they tell each other—and their overwhelming chemistry—they’re looking for different things in the relationship department: Gia never wants to be in one, and Bennett doesn’t do “casual.”
Three Little Words is by turns hilarious (Bennett’s reaction to the food makeover shows killed me) and sad, and does both equally well; it’s inspirational and raw and hopeful, and above all, it’s heartwarming. I felt so much reading this book, and by the end of it, I already missed the characters but I was also relishing the secondhand HEA glow.
If you want a book that tells a beautiful love story--and that tells a story about people finding their way to better versions of themselves—read Three Little Words. Prepare to fall in love.
**I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley, but all opinions provided are my own.
If you’ve been reading Jill Shalvis’ Heartbreaker Bay series, Playing for Keeps is the book you’ve been (anxiously) waiting for. Sadie, a wisecracking, budding tattoo artist, and Caleb, the successful inventor/businessman she calls “Suits,” have had it out for each other since the beginning. Take cover, because anytime they’re near the other, sparks—and insults—fly. So what gets things moving in a more positive direction in this book? The sweetest stray dog, which Sadie names Lollipop, and which, in true frenemy fashion, Sadie and Caleb both want to adopt.
Sounds like we have everything we need for a heartwarming contemp. romance. But with Jill Shalvis, we get more.
Like flashes of humor, of the self-deprecating and throwing-zingers-at-the-enemy variety, that make Playing for Keeps something more than sweet. And, while I wouldn’t call this book angsty, there is some darkness, too, revealing new depths to the main characters and their road to HEA, and making it all the more satisfying when everything comes together. (That Epilogue…)
There’s an authenticity to the characters and this book—where Sadie and Caleb have come from, their successes, and the mistakes they continue to make, today—even as Shalvis is building a love story that dreams are made of.
**I received an ARC of this book via Edelweiss+ but all opinions are my own.
It's here! It's here!
I'm so excited to be part of the Book Blitz for Kate Meader's Illegally Yours. Meader has long been one of my favorite romance authors because her books fiercely embody that steamy + sweet combo romance aficionados are always talking about--and they're beautifully written, too.
Her book Down with Love, the first in this Laws of Attraction series, is on my 100 Books list (read it if you haven't already!), and Illegally Yours, the second in the series, is another stellar offering. It's so good!
Read more below for a synopsis, exclusive excerpt, The Naptime Writer Need to Know, and info about a giveaway and our author herself, Kate Meader.
Rule #1: Never fall for your client.
Rule #2: Never fall for your client’s fiercely protective, smoking hot sister-in-law.
I’m the kind of guy who believes that everyone deserves the best legal representation money can buy—which just so happens to be me, Lucas Wright. Give me your henpecked, your cuckolded, your irreconcilable differences yearning to break free! And if you’re the bad guy in your marriage, that’s cool too. Your green is as good as anyone’s.
Tell that to Trinity Jones. It’s my job to destroy her sister—the soon-to-be ex-wife of my a-hole of a client—and Trinity’s “big sis” instincts are dialed up to the max. I admire that. I admire her. But she won’t stop me from representing my client to the best of my ability.
Not even if my chemistry with Trinity is undeniable. Not even if we can’t keep our hands off each other. Not even if she injects life into a heart assumed to be long dead.
Because when faced with a choice between love and duty, the job will always win—or at least that’s what I thought before I met Trinity . . . and suddenly conflict of interest never felt so right.
This ebook includes an excerpt from another Loveswept title.
I smile at the last couple of women who are signing up for the Whiskey, Women, and Song mailing list.
“So, only women at these things?” one of them asks.
“Think of it as a safe space, a place for women to meet and not feel the pressure to be on all the time.”
“I like the idea,” her friend says as she writes down her email address. “As long as it’s not filled with lawyers.”
Her friend cackles and they walk out the door laughing.
Wow, this has been a really positive experience. Good people, even with the “mistaken identity” snafu at the beginning, a brand of shade I’ve been living all my life. I’m smiling as I turn, eager to share my good vibes with someone.
One minute he was talking to Aubrey, the next, the air is a void I feel like a punch. What the hell is wrong with me?
It’s just a hot guy. There are lots of hot guys. And this one is the wrong, hot guy. Too gorgeous and too much trouble and--
Thank the gods, he came back.
“Thought you skedaddled out of here.”
“No, you didn’t.” He lifts the case of half-empty bottles onto the dolly and secures it with the bungee cord I use. “Ready?” He’s already dragging my wares into the corridor.
I follow, noting how quiet it is in the office. We pass a couple of open doors with people at desks, heads down, poring over depositions or whatever lawyers pore over at seven in the evening. But other than them, no one is around to watch our departure.
Lucas calls for the elevator.
The air crackles with possibility. I’m suddenly very nervous.
The doors open and we step inside. Lucas situates the dolly and then he backs me up against the wall before the doors have closed. His eyes burn into me, branding me with sensual purpose.
“We’re goo—” His mouth descends on mine. We’re goo. I’m goo. A hot, melting puddle of neurons and blood vessels and other things that make up my weak, weak body.
I’m not good at being kissed. I don’t enjoy being on the passive end of a smooch, so I do what any modern woman who hasn’t gotten any in a while would do:
I eat Lucas’s face off.
I can’t help it. One touch of his mouth to mine and it’s a flame to kindling. My lips take on a life of their own: greedy, grasping, gimme-all-the-sugar. He moans at the contact of our tongues and that moan sets off vibrations throughout my body. Every cell is on fire.
We’re both fighting for supremacy here, neither of us willing to surrender. It’s war. It’s brutally beautiful. How wonderful to feel so well matched with a kiss.
I’m ready to see how well we fit in all the other areas. His chest to mine, our hips rocking together, that moment when he sinks inside me, deep and true. I need it so badly I can already feel it. I want to feel everything with this man after so long sublimating my needs to others.
Seems we’re on the same page. We both go for the respective ass grab, and this simultaneously mutual move shifts something. Separating, we laugh into the kiss.
It’s a lovely moment that I’ll never forget. But it breaks the spell and twists it into something else, something deeper as we stare at each other for a long, ultracharged moment.
“Wow,” he murmurs.
The elevator doors open. Aubrey is on the other side, her cat’s mouth curving into a grin. Neither of us has pressed the button to escape this floor.
Lucas hits twenty-five and smiles at Aubrey. “Take the next one, princess.”
He’s back to kissing me before the doors close.
I know there are a million reasons not to do this. I can only think of the one reason why we must: I need Lucas Wright more than I’ve ever needed anything.
I need something for me. Someone who sees me, if only for a sparkling star-filled moment. I expect I’ll fall back into sanity, but hopefully, not too soon.
THE NAPTIME WRITER NEED TO KNOW.
There’s a lot that I love about romance novels, but one thing is that for all their HEA, they’re also not afraid to tackle the more complicated parts of our lives: the sadness or hardships that we’ve carried with us and that make accepting a HEA difficult. We see that in Illegally Yours, and it lends authenticity to the characters, especially Lucas, who can come across as a little over-the-top.
Lucas Wright is a divorce attorney, partner and friend to Max, whom we met (and fell in love with) in Down with Love. He’s British and outrageous. He’s a sexy charmer who can sometimes appear unrelenting in his attempt to entertain. But he’s also kind and sensitive and haunted.
And then there’s kickass Trinity Jones, who is wearing a catsuit (a catsuit!!!) when we first meet her. More evidence of her kickassery: she refers to herself as “Whiskey Woman” on her business cards. Trinity's cultivating her reputation as a whiskey sommelier, a task made more difficult by virtue of the fact that the field is predominantly comprised of white men.
I adore so much about this pairing. The older woman-younger man. The practical, no-nonsense Trinity and the dramatic, extravagant Lucas.
But underneath it all, Trinity and Lucas are supremely protective and loving—and devoted to their families in ways both seen and unseen.
The chemistry between our leads is hot, hot, hot!, a state of affairs that’s certainly helped—though not limited to—the fact that their relationship is initially forbidden. And then there’s the sweetness, too; they lift each other up. There’s a solidity to their relationship that’s beautiful—for all of Lucas’s play—and that’s reinforced by the particularly lovely ending.
Illegally Yours is sooo good, folks.
BUY IT HERE.
Amazon CA: https://amzn.to/2RDdmWA
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2CwCwvN
Amazon AU: https://amzn.to/2RyxTvs
ABOUT KATE MEADER.
Originally from Ireland, USA Today bestselling author Kate Meader cut her romance reader teeth on Maeve Binchy and Jilly Cooper novels, with some Harlequins thrown in for variety. Give her tales about brooding mill owners, oversexed equestrians, and men who can rock an apron or a fire hose, and she’s there. Now based in Chicago, she writes sexy contemporary romance with alpha heroes and strong heroines who can match their men quip for quip.
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Reader’s Group | Bookbub | Goodreads | Newsletter | Amazon Author Profile
ENTER THE GIVEAWAY.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from IndieSage PR, but all opinions provided are my own.
Last year I finished a remarkable book—Marie Marquardt’s Flight Season—and then read the author’s notes, where she talked about writing a book in which people experience suffering. It’s not fun to think about suffering or talk about it. Sometimes we might shy away from the memories when we have suffered, or maybe even worse, watched someone we love suffer. Sometimes we are aware that relatively speaking, we have suffered very little, and we wonder when our something big will happen, or if it will, and if we’ll be strong enough.
Two amazing books that I’ve read more recently have focused on day-to-day suffering and both have opened my heart and eyes a little more than they were before.
I’ve seen Katherine Center’s How to Walk Away on multiple Best of Lists so I had to read it. Margaret Jacobsen has always been terrified of planes (in particular, plane crashes), so when her serious boyfriend Chip, who is trying to get his pilot’s license, wants to take her on a plane ride, it takes a little while to convince her. But convinced she is, and though she gets engaged on the flight, she’s brought back to Earth when the plane crashes.
She wakes up in the hospital severely injured, and she, like many of the other characters who knew her before, wonder whether the pre-crash Margaret is gone, and who she is now, and what her new life looks like.
I loved this fierce, funny, painful book that tackles not only the physical and emotional aftermath of the crash, but also strained family dynamics and romantic love. Margaret, the narrator of How to Walk Away is conversational and approachable, yet she (and the book itself) possesses a sensitivity and astuteness that left me stunned.
When we’re talking about suffering, there aren’t any easy answers, and we see that in Katja Millay’s YA book, The Sea of Tranquility. This book was so difficult to read at times, so painful, and it’s one that will stay with me.
Nastya Kashnikov starts at a new high school. She dresses very provocatively and does not talk to anyone by choice, including her family. Josh Bennett has a “force field” around him. He’s alone at school and home and that’s how he wants it.
Neither character wants to want someone. But they’re drawn to each other, even as they resist opening themselves up. What events happened in each other’s past, to make them the person they are today? And is the person they are today “okay”? How can they make each other happy if they’re not happy themselves?
The Sea of Tranquility is about people who hurt. The hurts they can’t hide and the ones they do.
I wanted the characters in this book to be “okay.” I wanted them to learn quickly so they could be happy, because they deserved to be happy. But this is another book about suffering, about getting to a place of happiness, and how that can be incredibly difficult and sometimes even something people fight against.
Brilliant, tender, sad, The Sea of Tranquility is a devastating and hopeful portrayal of human hurt.
Sometimes you might want to read a romance with a huge, huge jerk who falls in love.
Class, we call those heroes alphaholes, and L. J. Shen writes them superbly. Men who snarl. Who say the cruelest, crudest things, particularly to our heroine. Who seem so close to being irredeemable that you wonder if it’s actually possible for the main characters to have a HEA.
But with Shen’s books, it is. Her books are dishy, juicy, and naughty, and I feel the perfect amount of voyeur when reading them because the characters and their lives are so alien to me.
With her latest release, The Kiss Thief, Shen tackles the arranged marriage trope. Nineteen-year-old Francesca Rossi is beautiful and accomplished and she’s dreamed of marrying Angelo Bandini for years. But in one night, her father, Arthur, head of the Chicago Outfit, promises her in marriage to Senator Wolfe Keaton, a ruthless man who has dirt on Arthur and promises to use it.
Wolfe is not a nice person, and his plans to make Francesca’s father miserable include making her miserable as well. He puts his plans into effect ASAP, and the results are truly cringeworthy.
But Francesca is warm and quirky, and before he knows it, Wolfe finds himself doing things for her that he never imagined. Is it possible for Wolfe to allow himself to care about her? And for her to let go of the love she’s had for Angelo for so many years? Also, on an entirely unrelated note, how well does vengeance go with new marriages, particularly if the person being targeted is the bride’s father?
Though I tore through the pages of The Kiss Thief, this book didn’t resonate with me quite as much as some of Shen’s other books have (i.e. Bane and Dirty Headlines), and I think it comes down to these simple facts about the characters. Francesca is 19 and (understandably) unsure about a lot of things, and this, added to other factors like Wolfe’s intense vengeance plot and the complex lover’s triangle, led to some behaviors and decisions that I wasn’t entirely crazy about (even though I also recognized that those behaviors and decisions seemed fairly realistic to the characters, given what we knew about them).
But I still enjoyed this book very much, and here’s why: The Kiss Thief is glamorous and magnetic, and I fell into the story right away. I don’t usually identify with Shen’s characters, but I’m enthralled by them and eager to see what manner of mischief is about to transpire next. They’re always unpredictable, and enticingly dramatic, and this book was no exception.
I received a complimentary copy of the book from the author, but all opinions provided are my own.
I finished Amanda Bouchet’s galactic romance Nightchaser several nights ago, and I continue marveling at it, at the worlds Bouchet dreamed up and how badass her characters are as they almost die/laugh in the face of danger/otherwise survive. If spaceships, space renegades, and sex are your cup of tea then you’re in luck, because Nightchaser has them all, packed into a wildly inventive story that offers a whip-fast thrill akin to taking off in a really fast roller coaster.
The book opens pretty dramatically: Captain Tess Bailey and the rest of her Endeavor crew are hiding out from the Dark Watch—the galactic “police force” which operates under the orders of the dictatorial Overlord—because they’ve just stolen something big. It’s a laboratory, which they’ve attached to the side of the ship. The Dark Watch isn’t happy about that, and it’s up to Bailey and her crew to see if they can survive the Dark Watch’s efforts to get it back.
This tense episode is over pretty quickly, but it sets up the questions that drive the rest of the book: what’s in the lab and why is the Dark Watch going to such lengths to get it back? And who is the real Tess “Bailey”? How did she come to be Captain and what are her ultimate aims?
With Nightchaser, Bouchet offers us an escape that feels cinematic: the detail is brilliant, the story is action-packed, the characters, particularly Tess, have a messwithmeatyourownrisk vibe that I love. These aren’t shrinking violets; I just know that there’s going to be a lot of setting the world(s) on fire in future books of this trilogy, and I’m. here. for. it. But make no mistake about it: Tess and company are up against a formidable set of opponents, and the coming confrontations promise to be difficult (and enthralling).
Though there were a few moments when I felt like the book had almost a bit too much going on—lots of strands were introduced here, and will, no doubt, be picked back up in later books—I can’t wait to see where the series is going next and what the pay-off will be.
Nightchaser is another explosive read from Amanda Bouchet. “So say we all.”*
*This phrase is from Battlestar Galactica and not Nightchaser, but it seemed fitting. (Or maybe BG is just the only other space thing I've really enjoyed, so it was just a convenient comparison.)
**I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley but all opinions provided are my own.
It’s 2019, and if there’s one historical romance writer who could take us into the future, it’s Scarlett Peckham.
Peckham writes marvelously, and I would like to laze in her books, where everything is sumptuous and luxurious—including the words themselves. She writes romance that thrills, that clutches your heart, and that’s also composed of the kind of wry, beautifully written sentences I could see adorning the stationary of my dreams.
The darkly sumptuous The Earl I Ruined is her latest offering.
There are some things that can’t be forgiven. Is finding out that the person that you love has written and distributed a poem with salacious rumors about your sexual proclivities one of them (particularly if it has the potential to kill a political deal you’ve been working on for years, ruin you, and result in your family’s downfall as well)?
That’s the question of the hour in The Earl I Ruined.
We first met Lady Constance Stonewell, sister of the Duke of Westmead, in The Duke I Tempted. Though her brother chastised her roundly for playing fast and loose with words in that book, she hasn’t quite learned her lesson, and it leads to the stuffy Julian, the Earl of Apthorp’s, ruin in this book. But she has a plan: she’ll propose, they’ll resuscitate his reputation and save his bill, and everything will be okay.
Only he doesn’t want to marry her—this, despite (or perhaps because) he was in love with her for eight years. Also complicating the matter: for the first time in a very long time, people are laughing at her again.
Can she save Julian, and make up for this decision she made, before her brother finds out? And can Julian recognize the part he’s played in this, too?
If you’re looking for crazy-sexy historical romance, try this book. And if you’re looking for a book that’s remarkably astute about its characters and human psychology, try this book again. I love how Peckham proves that sparkling and shallow are not the same thing; how there’s a strength to Constance (and the fiercely female domain she rules) that can’t and shouldn’t be ignored.
Andddddd, I love how Constance and Julian offer us a reminder that people make mistakes. Sometimes we do shitty things; sometimes for the wrong reasons and sometimes for the right. Though I did want a more direct acknowledgement from Julian of the deeper motivations behind what Constance did, I thought that overall Peckham handled what happened, why, and its deeper repercussions, stunningly.
The Earl I Ruined gave me that beautiful redemption story that I was looking for, wrapped up in a rich scandal, and enhanced by a killer sexual attraction between two characters who deserve a second chance (or maybe third or fourth).
Maybe it’s just me, but a romantic storyline that has its origins in guilt doesn’t really seem sexy to me. Or hopeful, or joyous. But that’s where I’d/we’d be wrong. Because Kate Clayborn’s Luck of the Draw deals with the unpleasant side of being human and imperfect—the mistakes that are made and the guilt and pain that result—but her story lives in the beautiful, redemptive side of that same humanity.
Luck of the Draw is a series sequel to Beginner’s Luck, a wonderful novel featured on my “100 Books” list for one day (now to be replaced by Luck of the Draw). The series begins with the plot-point that three best friends have won the lottery. Zoe Ferris, the main character of our book, says that she wanted to chase “adventure” after taking her winnings, but that’s not quite right. Instead of booking the trips she thought she’d be taking, she makes a Guilt Jar, and in it she puts the names of people who have suffered as a result of her actions—her brusqueness and irritability, her drive to put in the most hours at the law firm where she used to work.
She draws a slip from the jar, and on it is the O’Leary family, a family that took a settlement from a pharmaceutical company she represented.
Aiden O’Leary is swimming in loss, and Zoe Ferris is the last person he wants to see in his driveway. But when she asks him if there’s anything she can do to atone for what she did to his family, he says she can pretend to be his fiancée.
This isn’t a lighthearted pretend romance romp, as I’m sure you can guess from what I’ve said so far. Because the Luck of the Draw meets us where we are at. Fully human. Capable of hurting people. Capable of forgiving and being better. Of loving. And being really freaking funny.
I loved this book so much.
Mira Lyn Kelly's DIRTY BAD BOY: A Story of Two People Who Definitely Don't Like Each Other. Right? Right.
Mira Lyn Kelly has become a contemporary romance author whom I can dependably turn to for all the heart eyes, and her latest release, Dirty Bad Boy, delivered in a big way. If you’re a fan of fake romance / enemies-to-lovers / sibling’s best friend tropes, this book is for you. And if you’re not, in the words of Countess Luann, “Don’t be all, like, uncool”—give this sizzling book a shot.
Laurel Matthews and Jack Hastings are ancient enemies. Since Laurel was six, to be precise. But that enmity is temporarily put on hold when Laurel’s co-worker, the boss’s son, hits on her and she finds herself in immediate need of a fake boyfriend. She doesn’t want to risk losing out on a promotion that she’s been eyeing. To her great dismay/annoyance/etc., Jack is the only person available for the ruse.
Laurel only needed Jack to pretend for one night. But Jack realizes he has his own need for a fake girlfriend; he needs to end the match-making attempts of the businesswoman whose business he’s trying to court.
He fake proposes. She accepts.
But they don’t care about each other, right? Right??????????
Make no mistake about it: Laurel and Jack are pros at the insult game. Each knows the other’s weaknesses and they play on them with great skill. More than that, Laurel remains hurt over something that happened in their past.
Mira Lyn Kelly adeptly reveals their backstory piece by piece, so that I knew what baggage each character was carrying and what their vulnerabilities were, and so I recognized the subtle ways that their relationship evolved throughout this story. The enemies-to-lovers part of their romance is really well done, but so are the sweet moments. Like Jack always playing with Laurel’s hair. *still sighing over that.*
It’s that mixture of steamy and sweet in Dirty Bad Boy that really captivated. Fireworks are great and this book is plentyyyyy hot; but it was the moments when the characters showed they felt safe being themselves with one another that really got me.
Dirty Bad Boy gave me all the good feelings. I already can’t wait to re-read it.
**I received a free copy of this book from the author but all opinions provided are my own.
“I carried a watermelon.”
As I put down Naima Simone’s Scoring with the Wrong Twin, I feel distinctly similar to Baby of Dirty Dancing fame, having her eyes opened to adventure, fun, and dirtiness (i.e. good old-fashioned grinding) for the first time. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that I’m a long-time reader and lover of romance, but this was my second Naima Simone book, and it was amazing. So amazing that concluding the book felt like returning to earth after hovering above it for a while, my cheeks blazing.
All this, despite the fact that the primary trope in this book—lying about one’s identity—is one of my least favorites, especially when a woman does it. (This gender double standard is doubtless worthy of intense psychological scrutiny). But Simone does it beautifully. So wonderfully that even as I still wanted everything between the main characters to be above-board, and I was super stressed in some instances, I still had big love for both characters.
But let’s start with the basics of this beautiful, sensual read.
Model Giovanna Cruz asks her app developer identical twin Sophia Cruz to fill in on a Sports Unlimited shoot so that she can walk in a fashion show without breaking her prior obligation. Sophia eventually accepts though she doesn’t like attention, and after being bullied in high school, she’s never felt like she measured up to her sister. In fact, she still struggles with self-esteem period, though she’s brilliant and attractive, and lots of other positive things.
Now I have to tell you about Zephirin Black, football player for the Washington Warriors, and the player “Giovanna”/Sophia is paired with at the shoot. *opens mouth and tries to speak but closes it. Tears fill eyes.** He is one of my book boyfriends now. Zephirin can’t believe how different “Giovanna” seems at this shoot, and how sexually attracted he is to her now. He offers her a temporary sexual arrangement; he’s been wounded deeply by a woman in the past, and it's hard for him to trust women he meets now, despite knowing that’s an awful attitude based on a generalization, etc., etc.
The relationship between Sophia and Zephirin is based on a couple of big lies. And yet, it’s magical.
Will Sophia’s secret come out, and will they ever be trust each other if it does? But how can Sophia keep living with the lie?
If you’ve never read Naima Simone before, I’m going to have to ask that you do that. Scoring with the Wrong Twin is the first book in her WAGS series, and it’s left me absolutely greedy for more. This book is so cute and quirky (hello, 80s movies and LOTR references), unabashedly sexy (in a major way), and unexpectedly wise. There were a couple passages in the book that I highlighted just because they were saying something special about the world.
Thank you for this wonderful book, Naima, and for Zephirin and Sophia.
Need more books for your TBR? Yes, duh! Try:
About the Author
When my toddler and infant sleep--or are otherwise engaged--I write, read, and eat lots of chocolate.