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Isabella Jolie

Book Recommendations

American Queen by Sierra Simone

American Queen Book ReviewA brilliant, poetic, modern re-telling of King Arthur’s story with a whole lot of kink thrown in.

I’m behind the curve on this 2016 release. I got it on a BookBub deal, and when I finished American Queen, I was blown away. It’s a damn good book. And it’s a freaking cliffhanger which I did not pick up on. I had to go and immediately buy American Prince and American King. And, because I’m a whack job, I flipped to the back of the third installation, American King, to double-check for an HEA before reading page one of American Prince.

Maybe that wasn’t the right approach, but it’s a King Arthur re-telling so a completely warranted double-check. Besides, I learned my lesson with The Nightingale. Had I pre-checked that ending I could have saved myself hundreds of pages traversing mountains and concentration camps. I digress.

American Queen opens with a bride walking down the aisle with bite marks from the best man on her thighs. An awestruck groom awaits her with her panties in his pocket and his bite marks on his best man’s neck. Let all that sink in. And immediately, the question becomes, how did they get there?

Ash, Greer and Embre form the deepest love triangle I have ever read. A heartfelt triangle I cheered for. I love how Simone shares their love story by piecing together their history with first person points of view. I’ll admit that by the third book, I was a bit like – okay, I know what happens here. But, all in all, she leverages first person perspective in a brilliant and effective manner so the reader understands each and every twist and turn that delivers these three individuals to all of their fateful days. Plural because clearly three books mean that one wedding can’t be the only fateful day.

Did I mention kink yet? Because holy mother of all things holy, this series packs it in. Sierra Simone might have earned her place as my all-time favorite writer of sexy scenes that will cream anyone’s panties. Clearly, this is a MMF romance, but she’s packing even more with doms and subs and delightful torture. If you love sexy scenes, then this one’s a strong recommend.

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Book Recommendations

Accidental Rebel by Nicole Snow

Accidental Rebel Book ReviewAccidental Rebel packs intrigue and action into a heart-warming love story. This is my first book from Nicole Snow and I will be reading more.

When Miller Rush and Gwendolyn meet, the attraction is instantaneous. Only, he’s on the run for his life. She doesn’t know his whole story, but she knows somethings not on the up and up. She falls for his two kids first and decides he must not be all bad. Her mother pushes the two together with a sly yet less than subtle hand.

The whole situation provides a great set-up and there are definitely on-the-edge of-your-seat moments and places you won’t be willing to put your book down. On the whole, it never gets too dark, too gory or too scary. I’d classify it as a light romantic suspense, although I notice because of Miller’s military background, and the inclusion of other military characters in the story, it’s categorized as a military romance.

Miller describes Gwen’s Mom as being “around fifty.” Now, I’m pushing fifty (not there yet, thank you) and I have to say, if my daughter came to me with two pre-loaded TEN year old grandchildren, there’d be a part of me that was like “Now wait a minute. I am not old enough to be the grandma of a TEN year old.” And May, her Mom, kind of sounds like my kind of woman.

In my mind, I like to think of May as being in her early to mid sixties. Just my personal preference. Maybe that’s because my daughter is TEN. But, to Snow’s credit, she never says May’s age. And it’s also possible she is the age I want her to be, and she just looks so damn good Miller underestimated her age. We’ll go with that.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.

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Book Recommendations

Perfect Strangers by J.T. Geissinger

Perfect Strangers Book ReviewUnexpected and anything but an ordinary romance, Perfect Strangers by J.T. Geissinger will leave you asking, “wait? what just happened?”

Seriously, this is one wild, mind-bending ride. Definitely not your typical romance, and I think whether or not it has an HEA is debatable. It did not leave me with the warm and fuzzies.

Perfect Strangers is reminiscent of The Dirty Ones by J.A. Huss in that at the end, you have to pause and think through what exactly happened and what’s real and what’s not. Only, J.A. Huss provides a solid HEA.

Perfect Strangers kind of does, if you stop and think it through. I don’t want to give too much away, because the power of the book is in being surprised by the end. I will say that for our heroine, Olivia, no matter how you choose to interpret the ending, I suppose she has her best ending possible.

In terms of sex, Geissinger delivers. I’d say that she’s a touch above the “average” amount of sex in an erotic romance, pushing Perfect Strangers into a level four on my happy vagina scale.

Overall, I do recommend this book. Maybe not when you are jonesing for happy, happy, but when you are up for something a little different with a splash of reality. Geissinger provides some great author quotes throughout her novel, and she’s clearly a Hemingway fan. I personally love the quote about any good author acknowledges that death is a part of life. That’s paraphrased, but it fits for this novel.

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Perfectly Adequate by Jewel E. Ann

Perfectly Adequate Book Review

Perfectly Adequate scores another home run for Jewel E. Ann. The story drives home the point that not all love has storybook perfection, but sometimes less than perfect is just as important and valid.

Dorothy, our heroine, is an Aspie, someone diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. She approaches situations and life differently than the average person. Not wrong, different. She falls on the rarer side of the human spectrum.

Certain aspects of her personality wouldn’t fulfill all of say, my needs, but somehow she’s exactly what Eli needs. Eli is a single Dad, dumped by his ex-wife, his first and only love. The whole story serves as a great reminder that we’re all different for a reason, and even the most unique of us can find someone out there that’s a perfect fit.

Perfectly Adequate serves as a love letter to those on the far end of the human spectrum. Those perceived as different or too unusual or weird. Different does not equal wrong. Bi-polar, depression, ADHD, autism, aspie – it’s all human.

There are a boatload of occurrences that feel Hollywood-contrived to keep the love story on course, such as perfectly timed stomach viruses and reunions in on-call rooms. Of course, the flip side is if a freak running accident didn’t occur, Dorothy and Eli’s story might have fallen together without the need for cosmic interventions. All told, Perfectly Adequate delivers plot twists that keep you turning the pages of this heartwarming rom-com. 

The ending gave me pause. I have many divorced friends, and I can’t imagine any of them saying “oh yeah, I’m moving across the street from my ex and his girlfriend.” Or the flip side, a girlfriend saying, “oh yes, I’m thrilled your ex is moving across the street.” But, in a way, the ending wraps up hammering into our head the point that Dorothy sees only what the rest of us should see. And a person as wonderful as Dorothy can bring the best traits out in others.

Dorothy focuses on what’s best for the kid. She is full of light and love, and in so many ways, the best of humanity. 

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Book Recommendations

Love on the Hudson by K.D. Fisher

Love on the Hudson Book ReviewLove Is Love Is Love. David and Nick’s poignant and heartfelt love story reminds of this in KD Fisher’s touching debut novel.

The two are neighbors, childhood friends and high school lovers. David has a supportive family and he’s openly gay. Nick’s father represents the worst of humanity, a judgemental hateful bigot, and therefore Nick remains closeted. He attempts a heterosexual marriage. Interestingly, he foregoes college to appease his father, and he had a football scholarship. This piece surprises me, because the stereotypical bigot would pump his chest at having a college football player son.

David moves away to Chicago and only comes home when his father has a stroke. In Love on the Hudson, we see the two fall in love as adults and watch Nick struggle with the difficult and emotional decision to come out to his family and face his father’s hate. As a parent, I can’t imagine turning away from one’s child over a choice he has made. But, in truth, even when Nick was endeavoring to be the perfect son, his father was a horrid parent.

This story is the love story of two men. And let me just say, my lady parts tingled. KD Fisher does MM right. The sexual tension and energy between these two vibrates the pages.

There is a deeper story within these pages. It speaks to the divisiveness of the world we live in. How, even in a progressive state, provincial small-minded views exist and thrive. And for what reason? To make weak individuals feel stronger and better about themselves? Is that really what it comes down to? Because an open-minded, intelligent and rational being doesn’t feel the emotional need to force his beliefs on others or to openly foster hate for those that don’t act in a preferred manner.

Love is Love. Hate is Hate. Love strengthens our soul and gives our life meaning. Hate corrupts and takes so much away from us all. May Love always win.

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Cocky Player by Stacey Lynn

Book Review

A pro-football romance packing heat, heart, and unexpected twists. Stacey Lynn knows how to write great sex scenes, but in Cocky Player, it’s the psychological turns stemming from Brenna’s past trauma that hooked me.

Brenna is a twenty-three-year-old virgin. The whole virgin trope isn’t my favorite, and maybe because of this, it took me a bit to get engaged with Cocky Player. I’d also JUST finished a book starring a twenty-three-year-old virgin. But, once I dove in, I found Brenna to be a complex character and an interesting study in how the mind works to protect itself after a life-threatening and horrific experience.

Connor, the Cocky Player in question, has few issues. He’s a bit of a loner and has a reputation as a player. He and Brenna don’t immediately sleep together, and this probably ends up contributing to his starting to see her as more than a hook-up. Plus he doesn’t have a strong parental figure in his life and he respects Brenna’s Dad. He ends up being a strong, sensitive and caring hero, and he sticks by Brenna and doesn’t let her push him away.

Throughout the book, both Brenna and Connor fear Brenna’s Dad. He owns the pro football team and he’s extremely protective of his baby daughter. Connor stands up to him, earning his respect, and in the end, Brenna’s Dad ends up playing an instrumental part in the success of their relationship. We don’t see too far into the future for these two, but it warms my heart to think of Connor finding so much more than a partner in life when he finds Brenna. He finds an entire family when Brenna’s parents, and by extension, her many siblings, bring him into the fold.

**ARC provided in exchange for honest review**

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Love With Me by Kristen Proby

Book ReviewA refreshing, real friends to lovers romance from Kristen Proby from her With Me in Seattle series.

Jace and Joy have been friends since undergrad. Their friendship survived his med school, her vet school, his residency and her opening her own clinic. They have a special kind of friendship. They can go a month without talking, but if he needs a plus one, he calls and she makes herself available. If she needs him, he’s there.

Through fifteen years of friendship, they’ve come to know each other’s families. They’ve supported each other through the good and the bad. So, when he’s suspended from work due to a malpractice lawsuit, she’s the first person he calls.

I love this book because it’s so REAL. When life slows down, and he takes the time to open his eyes, he realizes he wants more from Joy than a friendship, and he goes for it. Neither of them have huge drama holding them back. These are two type A individuals who have already met with success. Watching these two transition from friends to everything is a sweet ride and one worth reading again.

Work life balance becomes the monster in the room, the one they each must figure out. And how REAL is that? When Jace comes to her with a solution, I want to reach through the pages and hug him and recommend he go on Oprah because his solution is grounded and makes sense. AND his solution is the best possible option not only for his personal life, but for the hospital and for his patients.

There’s also an OB-GYN in here who mentions that people using condoms come in pregnant all the time. Love that! Condoms are great for disease prevention, but it’s always great to be reminded there are other more proven birth control methods. Education. It’s a lovely thing.

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The Day He Came Back by Penelope Ward

Book ReviewTorn apart by Gavin’s snobby, aristocratic West Palm Beach Mom, these two star crossed lovers are reunited ten years later. This second chance, rich vs. poor romance plucks at the heart strings.

About half of The Day He Came Back is a flashback to the summer the two fell in love, when she’s twenty and he’s twenty one. Her mother discovers she has breast cancer that summer, and his mother decides she will control his life.

Ten years later, Gavin returns to West Palm Beach to visit his ailing father. He’s shocked to discover his father’s nurse is none other than the woman who ripped his heart to shreds. He’s home for a month. Over that time, his brother returns home, his fiance surprises him, and he learns the real reason Raven walked away so long ago.

Authors walk a fine line when second chance lovers are reunited and there is a current lover in the picture. Penelope Ward walks the line well. There is no physical cheating. Paige has been Gavin’s rock, and he loves her. She isn’t a bitch. We can’t hate her.

While Gavin loves her, his deepest love is Raven, and the only reason he has ever been with anyone else is because he’s believed Raven wasn’t available. He even says he’s glad he found Raven before he got married, because he’s not sure the outcome would’ve been any different. Meaning, he would have gotten a divorce. He understands that life is too short not to be with those you love the most. It’s a tad ironic, given his father refused to divorce his mother, a raving horrific bitch.

Weldon, his younger brother, has the biggest character evolution in the book. I’d really like to read his story. He starts out as a self-centered, spoiled adolescent. Then, we meet him as a defeated, lost alcoholic. But he sees the error of his ways and he finds a way to be close to Raven and Gavin, and to AA.

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Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey

Book ReviewFriends to lovers, best friends little sister romance that warms both your heart and girlie parts.

The illustrated cover threw me at first. I was halfway expecting another “clean” romance, a category some love for reasons that escape me. But, a good friend told me that Tessa Bailey does the sexy scenes better than any other, so I had to give it a try.  My conclusion? Indeed, she does them well.

In Fix It Up, Georgie is the youngest of three. She’s been the annoying kid sister, the forgotten child, the one who grew up having to act out and resorted to comedy to get any attention. Travis spent loads of time in Georgie’s home with his best friend, her big brother. He goes on to baseball stardom in the majors, but then an injury ends his career prematurely. He returns home depressed and lost. Enter Georgie, the girl who has harbored a secret crush almost her whole, to kick his ass back into the land of the living.

It’s not really clear why Georgie didn’t break out of her clown shell in college. It seems a vibrant, attractive girl would thrive in a college setting and that she’d definitely find some girlfriends to make her lose the salvation army store baggie clothes she’s worn her whole life. But, for some reason, she returns to her hometown of Port Jefferson after college, a stone’s throw away from Manhattan, the exact same insecure kid playing clown to garner attention.

The whole story shows how having someone in your corner can make all the difference. Georgie finds her way out of the thrift store clothes and into form fitting, flattering clothes. She gets serious about her party entertainment business. And Travis finds a new way to make a life in baseball.

It’s a small town HEA that feels more fitting in middle America than in the suburbs of Manhattan, but with a little reality suspension, you can accept the small town vision even though it’s on massively overpopulated Long Island, New York. And, I suppose, there are townships on Long Island that folks always seem to return to, after time away. If I had grown up in this idyllic town, I’d probably want to come back home too.

And Georgie and Travis’s sweet love story is one I’ll remember for a long time to come.

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Fighting Absolution by Kate McCarthy

Book ReviewA gripping and heartwarming romance from the beaches of Australia and war torn Afghanistan. This is the first book I’ve read by Kate McCarthy, but I will be reading more.

Military romance isn’t normally a genre I gravitate to but I absolutely loved this book. A friends to lover romance at heart, the story starts with a friendship between a fifteen year old girl and a seventeen year old boy. A fence divides their back yards, and she uses this fence for protection as she ever so slowly opens herself up. Each are dealing with the heartbreak of losing their only parent and facing the world alone.

He chooses the Australian army. Years later, she does too. He ends up being SAS, military elite. She’s a medic.

One of my favorite quotes from the book: “You’re barely held together with duct tape. We all are. Isn’t that why any of us join the army in the first place? You’re hoping it’s going to perform some kind of miracle and piece us back together again. But newsflash, Brooks, it doesn’t. It only makes the cracks inside us bigger.”

At one point, I had to jump ahead to the end. I need to make sure I wasn’t digging into another “Nightingale” situation. The book isn’t a walk in the park, meaning your heart is going to rip a bit along the journey, but when you close the book, you’ll have a smile on your face and you’ll wish there were more pages to read.

Friendships and minor characters play a major role. For two people with no blood family, their few friends and military colleagues are vital. Maybe that’s necessary in a story about the military? After all, who could ever forget the phrase, “Talk to me Goose!”.

Kate McCarthy‘s Fighting Absolution will have you rooting for these characters to find their absolution and cheering for them as they choose happiness. I strongly recommend this book.

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