Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary e-ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
I’m on the decidedly wimpy side of the angst-meter but when my book bestie Kim @bookbruin said the magic words about Abby Jimenez’s upcoming release, Yours Truly—EPISTOLARY ELEMENTS—I decided to snap it up.
What did I think? Per my usual experience reading this author, I thought the book was exceptionally written & funny but the angst goes a *smidge* too far.
There’s pretty much always a moment with this author’s work where I think: this additional bit of angst isn’t necessary .
But with that being said, this story is adorable & sweet & I so enjoyed watching too lonely ER doctors who have been burned by love & start off with big dislike on the heroine’s part turn to friendship via letters & emails & calls & then to a fake dating sitch & then to love.
The overall story is lovely, not to mention how funny some of the lines are. One of them in particular really cracked me up.
I also love the anxiety rep, the care they take with each other, how hero Jacob consistently puts himself out there for Briana & how much she tries to protect his peace of mind & comfort.
Jacob running to the cafe toward the beginning of his relationship with Briana just so he’ll have phone service for her call is stunning & Briana is a powerhouse of a lead.
So in the end, this is quite a book. I think there could have easily been less angst & that would have been preferred by me personally. But this is a wonderful story of two people falling in love & choosing to be together.
4.5⭐️. Out 04/11.
CWs: Cheating ex. Brother & ex. Brother on dialysis. Kidney failure. Anxiety. Former miscarriage. Reference to postpartum depression.
Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary e-ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
A single parent chef + a smartass businessman temporarily down on his luck & back in the hometown he left as soon as he could.
On paper that combo speaks to me.
But sadly Kosoko Jackson’s A Dash of Salt & Pepper didn’t live up to my hopes, offering a story of growth & some steam but also one that doesn’t lay solid enough groundwork for the arc of the relationship or of one of the lead’s change of heart.
What I think Kosoko Jackson does compellingly in this romance though is portray a titanium-strength friendship between Xavier—said businessman—& his BFF Mya, & give some insight into why Xavier why wears his glib armor.
While A Dash of Salt & Pepper doesn’t totally work for me—I found myself skeptical of where the story was taking me—there are still things to appreciate here—including that adorable cover & the dislike to love premise that always has me sitting up & paying attention.
3⭐️. Out 12/06.
CW: loss of job, possible failure of business, a joke about JonBenet Ramsey.
Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary e-ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
With Ashley Herring Blake’s Astrid Parker Doesn’t Fail we’re back with the same magnetic, loving, boisterous & balanced friend group, this time watching Astrid—who feels an imperative to always seem calm, cool, & collected—take on the renovation of a beloved inn before the eyes of the inn’s family members, a tv crew…& as always, her overbearing mother.
Also before the eyes of carpenter Jordan Everwood, the same woman who Astrid had a nasty moment with at the end of Delilah’s book & the beginning of her own, about some spilled coffee & her power dress.
Astrid isn’t someone who is open easily—we see that even with her close circle—& it’s lovely watching her find that safe place to land with the person who she started off so antagonistically with.
Jordan, too, needs that safe place.
As always, my heart cheered for two people finding a home & a refuge with each other, especially when I can relate to one of them in some way (hello self-consciousnesses & fear of failure etc. it’s nice to see you again ).
This book has an interesting tension that strikes at the heart of what both women desire for themselves, heart-grabbing backstories about growing up & in the present, trying to wrestle back an identity & purpose for themselves, & that aforementioned wonderful group of friends.
The “villain” in this story feels a bit obvious & I would have liked a bigger conclusion to that whole storyline, but on the whole, this is another emotional, powerful, sensual read with a great group of characters. Can’t wait for Iris’s book!
4.5⭐️. Out 11/22.
CWs: mother’s manipulation & overbearingness, & there’s a reference to her homophobia. Jordan’s ex wife had cancer & left her soon after learning she was in remission.
Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary e-ARC and the publisher for the complimentary hard copy. All opinions provided are my own.
Peter Reedton isn’t a particularly bold hero. As the book notes, he is not waging outright war against his enemies to make himself or the heroine happy.
Instead, the book says, he’s “subtle,” “caring.” And in the end, so romantic. I loved him so much.
Olivia Dade writes her leads in Ship Wrecked beautifully. They feel & seem real—they have charm, eccentricity, insecurity, hurts; they show uncertainty & grace; they are frustrating at times; they are loveable.
He & Maria Ivarsson—both actors on a Game of Thrones-like show—are so emotionally charismatic. I talked about Peter already & Maria is a dynamo—she stands up for herself & for Peter & tries to facilitate connections for him, something he isn’t naturally adept at doing.
The fat rep is sensational, the found family had my heart squeezing, & the ending gives me the gestures & romance my greedy heart wants.
But the book does lose a bit of momentum for me for around 10% of the end, & at the beginning Peter’s personality loses a bit of charm when it delays their relationship in an anticlimactic sort of way .
With that being said I think those things wouldn’t hurt as much with a reread, when I knew what was coming & when things were going to slow down.
In the end this lovely powerful book is really something special & I adore it.
5⭐️ . (I rounded up because since finishing, my heart has grown even fonder.) Out 11/15.
CWs: the show producers are jerks at times who have certain body and/or beauty expectations for the leads—particularly for Maria. Maria was a foster child who was repeatedly uprooted & sent to live with new families. Parental death. Former infidelity & partner abandonment.
Hi and welcome to my Blog Blitz stop for Laura Griffin's Vanishing Hour!
When a cold case in Texas leads to a sinister string of disappearances, a newcomer to the small town helps the deputy sheriff piece together the clues in this new romantic thriller from New York Times bestselling author Laura Griffin.
Corporate lawyer Ava Burch has had enough of the big city and the daily grind. She grew up with her father, who raised search-and-rescue dogs, in rural Texas and has moved to the small town of Cuervo to spend time in the dry, rugged wilderness near Big Bend National Park. When she and her dog, Huck, discover an abandoned campsite on a volunteer search-and-rescue mission, she’s perplexed, but she carefully photographs it all the same.
All Deputy Sheriff Grant Wycoff can see when he looks at Ava is a city slicker—with her designer jeans and expensive car—who has no business on a serious team made up of seasoned outdoorsmen and retired cops. But when she tells him of her discovery on the trail, he sees there’s more to her than meets the eye.
Ava’s discovery reminds Grant of the unsolved case of a young woman who went missing two years ago. As they look into the campsite further, another woman disappears under odd circumstances. With time running out, Ava and Grant must work against the brutal heat from both the Texas sun and their own electric chemistry to solve the case.
Set in the big wide open of Texas Laura Griffin’s Vanishing Hour has a sinister mystery and a satisfying romance arc with leads who are devoted to making a difference.
Ava Burch—an attorney who volunteers with search & rescue—& Detective Grant Wycoff are drawn to the same missing woman case. They discover it’s even bigger than they think, even as Grant resents Ava’s continued research into what may have happened to the women who have either mysteriously died or disappeared in their county.
Mystery-wise this one falls a little short for me. I rooted for Ava for taking on an investigation stubbornly & producing results but I didn’t feel like the detective lead was really rocking this investigation…& the mystery reveal feels a little lackluster to me for reasons I’m not going into because of spoilers.
Still, there’s a lot of tension in this one & I was really anticipating the Big Villain Reveal.
A Laura Griffin book is a good book & this one has a lot of the stuff I love in this genre including a stubborn heroine & a developing relationship with lots of push & pull from the leads with that lovely ending I’m always greedy for: a HEA. In particular Griffin captures how Ava has to re-evaluate her own past & prejudices when it comes to Grant’s demanding job & that’s done nicely.
I’m really looking forward to the next Laura Griffin book (because I always look forward to those) ;) .
4⭐️. Out now!
Please check out a trusted review for CWs.
Missing children are an emergency. Always. Their little bodies are less able to regulate temperature, so they're especially vulnerable to exposure. And in a place as vast and rugged as Silver Canyon State Park, additional hazards abounded: rattlesnakes, coyotes, hundred-foot cliffs. Even the anemic little creek that Ava had been following was terrifying. A child Noah's size could drown in a bathtub.
Ava glanced up at the relentless sun that sucked moisture out of everything beneath it. She looked ahead at Huck, who trotted back and forth in front of her in his zigzag pattern. He was working the wind, as he'd been trained, tirelessly sniffing the air with his powerful nose, which could pick up anything with human scent on it, from a candy wrapper to a dropped article of clothing.
So far, nothing.
Ava checked her watch. Two long hours since she'd left the trailhead. Sweat stung her eyes, and she wiped her forehead with the back of her arm. She paused beside a boulder and dropped her pack on the dusty ground to retrieve one of her water bottles. Huck needed some, too, but right now he was intent on his work.
She took a lukewarm sip and scanned the scrub brush lining the canyon wall. Young children had a tendency to wander aimlessly until they found a place to curl up for a nap. Some would even hide from search teams, afraid of getting in trouble for being lost. So Ava had been incessantly scanning pockets of brush.
Huck halted in front of her, his nose lifted in the air. Ava froze and watched. But then his head dropped down and he resumed his zigzags. Ava tucked the water bottle away and pushed off the boulder to continue her trek.
She watched Huck, amazed by his energy. Even in this heat, he loved working, and when he had his vest on, he didn't have an off switch. As he bounded around in front of her, she thought of the other teams, especially the canine one. She was surprised they hadn't found something close to camp.
Of course, the parents had been there, which might have been a problem. Frantic parents threw off a lot of scent, which could have overpowered Noah's smell and possibly confused the dog. Also, the temperature rising in the canyon could have wafted the scent up, well above the dog's nose. Yet another challenge here was that young children didn't throw off as much scent as adults. And still bodies-ones that were either asleep or unconscious-threw off less scent, too.
So there were all kinds of factors in play, especially in a park this size.
Ava checked her watch again and sped up her pace, unable to shake the feeling of dread that had been settling in her stomach as the hours ticked by. Scanning the canyon wall, her gaze caught on something beige and triangular.
A tent? No.
A tarp. She climbed onto a boulder for a closer look. About halfway up the slope of the canyon was a sand-colored canvas tarp that had been stretched taut to create a patch of shade. It looked like a primitive fort-just the sort of thing that would attract a kid's attention, and her pulse quickened as she climbed closer. Nearing the tarp, she spied a small yellow tent tucked in the shade beneath it.
She glanced around for Huck, but he was sniffing along at the base of a rockslide.
Grabbing hold of a juniper tree, Ava levered herself onto the ledge. She ducked under the tarp and paused a moment for her eyes to adjust. The little tent was unzipped. Hope ballooned in her chest as she pulled back the flap and poked her head inside.
Her hope disappeared as she scanned the interior. No sleeping child curled up in the dimness. The air was utterly still, and everything was coated with a thin layer of dust, as though no one had been there in weeks, maybe months. A pile of gear in the corner included a cookstove, a hiking boot, and a blue bedroll with a carabiner clipped to it. Attached to the carabiner was a black key fob.
A chill snaked down her spine. Who would leave their car key out here? The fob seemed odd. Ditto for the hiking boot. Where was the other one? And where was its owner?
On impulse, Ava took out her phone and snapped a couple of pictures. As part of her SAR training, she'd learned to document crime scenes. She couldn't pinpoint why, exactly, but that was what this felt like. She ducked out and snapped a shot of the exterior. A faint bark pulled her attention back to the mission. She couldn't afford to get sidetracked, even though this place felt creepy. She put her phone away as she skimmed the surrounding area for the missing boot, or any sign of the boot's owner. She glanced up the canyon, looking for evidence of a fire pit or any other camping equipment.
A soft whimper had her turning around.
Huck sat beside a rock pile, his ears pricked forward and his gaze fixed on hers. Ava's heart skittered. This was his sit alert letting her know he'd found something.
"Show me," she commanded, and he sprang into action, bounding across the creek bed. She climbed down the rocks and jogged after him, frantically searching the clumps of trees. Huck darted around a giant prickly pear cactus and behind a line of mesquite trees. Amid the fluttering green leaves, she caught a flash of red.
"Please, please, please," she murmured.
Huck disappeared beneath the brush and barked. Ava spied a small white sneaker and a pudgy leg.
Huck danced in a circle, drunk on success and eager for his reward.
"Good boy, Huck! Good boy! Good boy!" She filled her voice with praise, even though her heart had lodged in her throat. The little body wasn't moving. Oh God.
About the Author.
Laura Griffin is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than twenty-five books and novellas. She is a two-time RITA Award winner, as well as the recipient of the Daphne du Maurier Award.
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
With Alexis Hall’s Paris Daillencourt’s About to Crumble we’re back with the mayhem and fun of Bake Expectations, this time with aforementioned Paris, a very anxious, gorgeous, & talented person who was signed up for the show by his roommate.
Popping with moments of humor, like the opening absurd & very naked scene & basically every moment with show host, Grace Forsyth, this book can be a lot of fun.
But much of the book is heavy as well, with Paris often being very self-critical & often self-loathing, unable to see any potential in himself or a rationale for why someone might want to spend time with him.
While part of me appreciates this very thorough consideration of generalized anxiety disorder, as other reviewers have noted it isn’t always easy to read. Partially because of this it’s a big relief when Paris eventually does seek outside help, & then there’s a real hopefulness to the story I enjoyed.
I wouldn’t really call this a romance & I think the pub has been open about that. But there is the potential for a possibly long-term, honest romantic relationship there—even if it feels bogged down for much of the book with all of the “talks” Paris & Tariq have to have.
I liked this one but it didn’t make my heart go pitter patter.
3.5 ⭐️. Out 11/01.
Please consult a trusted reviewer's list of CWs.
Thanks to Harlequin Publicity Team for the complimentary finished copy and the publisher and Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
I’ve been so excited to read On the Hustle by Adriana Herrera since someone first started listing its tropes. In the end this book really satisfies, with a “he chases her bc he’s secretly had feelings for her,” plotline & a FMC who doesn’t take shit from our demanding, authoritative hero & makes him re-evaluate some very necessary things.
Alba Duarte is such a great lead. She actually designs spaces for bibliophile-lovers (is this a real thing someone can buy for me, thanks) & when she’s given a chance for a big design in Texas while she’s visiting her BFF Julia she decides to stay there, throwing the boss she’s just given notice to—who happens to secretly have been lusting for her for years— in a tizzy.
Said boss Theodoro is soon given a chance to film a reality tv show in Texas which will one, allow him to help his business, & two, eventually allow him to win Alba over once he gets her hired to design the space he’s working on for the show.
It’s fun seeing how Theodoro opens himself up once he’s no longer Alba’s boss & how she makes him question some of the things he thought about her & his own life.
The beginning starts off really strong for me, & the steam is so good, but the ending is a little wobbly. It feels like at least one thing is wrapped up pretty quickly. There are also moments when it’s a little challenging for me to understand how Theodoro could be so cold as her boss & then magically switch a flip to someone warmer, something Alba has some issues understanding as well.
But I love the book references, how she doesn’t magically fall into his arms, how he defends her, & how the FMC is the workaholic with extreme ambition in this one.
All in all another fun, steamy powerhouse contemporary from AH.
4 ⭐️. Out now!
[ID: Jess, a white woman in a bright yellow coat with brown buttons, holds the book in front of a green tree with some red & orange leaves.]
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the complimentary e-ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
I’ve been dipping my toes into holiday romance novels so to speak & Helena Greer’s Season of Love has some winning qualities but ultimately falls somewhat flat for me.
Miriam Blum is an antique upcycler who’s estranged from most of her family, including her horrible father, her mother who remains married to him, & the beloved aunt who owned the one place she felt totally comfortable, a Christmas tree farm.
At the beginning of the book Miriam’s aunt has passed & Miriam’s going to return to that farm after many years away to sit shiva. Back to the other people she loved but hasn’t had a meaningful relationship with in years, including a cousin.
But there’s a new person living on the farm, Noelle Northwood, who immediately dislikes Miriam, & Miriam’s time at home is complicated by the presence of this person who doesn’t like her but whom she’s attracted to.
There’s a lot to appreciate about this Queer romance, including Jewish rep, romantic moments on the ice, & how Miriam finds her way back home & to an old artistic love.
But in general, I wasn’t a huge fan of Noelle (whose brashness & personality might feel authentic in some ways but also gets a little off putting for me in moments) and a secondary storyline which is a little puzzling at times. Also, a lot seems to happen to Miriam personally & professionally & it’s a little unsettling how quickly it did.
Overall, there’s potential here & I can see a lot of people relating to & enjoying this sweet romance, but it didn’t really work for me.
3 ⭐️. Out 10/11.
CWs: Noelle has a tattoo of “deadly women” including Lizzie Borden & I just found that choice a bit odd. Death in the family. Difficult relationship with mother & father. Noelle is a recovering alcoholic and was drinking as a youth. Dad destroyed her paintings.
Thanks to author KD Casey for the complimentary e-ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Baseball? In real life I don’t know ya 😆. But serve it to me in bookish romance form & I am one very excited person.
KD Casey & Lauren Blakely have released another MM sports novella, Dirty Steal, & it offers a satisfying hookup ➡️ teammates ➡️roommates ➡️ lovers again arc.
Derek Miller & Adam Chason are two baseball players who hook up one night, neither of them exactly looking for something permanent. Later, Adam is traded to Derek’s team & they unexpectedly become apartment-mates. Awkward forced proximity, anyone? 🤣
These leads have a sweet & winning love story with some steam thrown in. While I didn’t feel the zip, the zest, as much in this one as I loved in the first novella, this one too is sure to please so many of us looking for that lovely trifecta of sports + kissing + novella.
4⭐️. Out now!
[ID: an ebook sits on a wooden desk. To the upper left is two orange zinnias in a vase & a red prayer plant. Centered above is a woven brown pumpkin.]
Thanks to the publisher for the complimentary hard-copy ARC & the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary e-ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
A Merry Little Meet Cute by Julie Murphy & Sierra Simone *is* very very cute (sorry) & just an overall positive read where people support & love each other. Then factor in the steam (sex in a church, anyone?) & you have something that is wholesome & love affirming & also pretty darn dirty.
Adult performer Bee Hobbes is offered the chance to act in a Christmas Hallmark-ish movie but she has to be careful that no one realizes she’s actually adult film star Bianca von Honey.
But her costar & former boy band member Nolan Shaw recognizes her right away bc he’s a huge fan.
He keeps her secret & when the sparks finally ignite, the book went up in flames & I grabbed my fire extinguisher .
The steam in this book is stellar. But I think what really makes the book stand out for me is how much respect the leads have for each other, their total lack of judgement, their support for each other’s goals & wishes, & just how harmonious they are, in bed & out.
It really felt to me like this couple is going to go the distance.
The support didn’t just extend to the leads either. There are so many loving secondary characters, so many people rooting our precious & libido-happy leads on.
Other things I love? Their confidence & maturity, the body positivity, the bisexual rep, how you can tell how much Nolan has grown since his boy band days (but how he still likes to have fun), & the funny mix-up when the other adult film employees show up to work the Hallmark-ish movie set.
This is a great time!
4.5⭐️. Out 09/20.
CWs: a former revenge porn attempt. Some fatphobic members of porn community. Reference to a previous death. Mother is bipolar.
Give me that HEA, please.
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