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Book Recommendations

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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Book Recommendations

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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Book Recommendations

Broken Knight by LJ Shen

Book ReviewA beautiful story with many layers. It’s rare that the love stories of secondary characters take a central role in a book. In Broken Knight, the love story that had my eyes welling up with tears was not of the hero and heroine, the football player and wallflower, but Knight’s adoptive mother and father.

Rosie, Knight’s adoptive mother, battles cystic fibrosis. Knight struggles, along with his family, as she bravely fights and eventually succumbs to the disease. Some of the most heartfelt and poignant chapters in the book are written from Rosie and Dean’s perspective. Dean is Rosie’s husband, and Knight’s adoptive father.

Knight and his childhood best friend Luna share a motto for life – Ride or Die. Dean and Rosie impart heartfelt meaning to the motto inscribed on the treehouse trunk. If I ever need to plan a funeral, I’m hunting LJ Shen down because girlfriend does it right. One of my favorite lines from the book: “She wanted you to remember that she had a good life and that she expects nothing less from you.”

Knight and Luna

Both Knight and Luna suffer emotional pain from their birth mothers not wanting them. Luna remembers her mother walking away, and I believe that would pack it’s own brand of pain. But both Luna and Knight found loving, supportive, amazing adoptive mothers. Nevertheless, they both struggle with a void.

I do recommend this book, and I did enjoy it. However, some aspects of Knight and Luna’s love story I found to be a stretch. For example, I can buy maybe one or two girls lying about a guy sleeping with them when he didn’t. But fifteen or twenty? That’s not highschool girl behavior. And at some point, some girl is gonna be honest with her BFF and at the very least, there would be some suspicion on campus regarding his claims. And why lie to Luna and throw it in her face? I had trouble understanding his logic if he really was holding out for her.

In general, I’m not a huge fan of teenagers falling in love for always, and that might be part of my skepticism. I think the case could be made these two grew a lot in the book, but still would benefit from a lot more growing. But, I guess if these two can buy a place in Venice Beach where they can hear the ocean when they’re both UCLA students……well, the world is their oyster.

I do love how Luna stands strong and forces Knight to face his alcohol and drug issues. The fact she was strong enough to stand up to him and to leave him if needed, well, that’s enough to make it believable these two will share a forever love as strong as Dean and Rosie’s.

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Book Recommendations Fave Authors

On Dublin Street by Samantha Young

Book ReviewTouching, emotional, heartfelt journey with all the feels. Don’t let the cartoon cover fool you – this is an erotic romance that won’t leave you disappointed.

Joss loses her family at a young age, and then her BFF one year later. The sudden loss of those that matter most leave her putting up walls. Samantha Young paints a realistic portrait of a young woman crippled by tremendous, sudden loss.

Braden, her Scottish hero, might be too perfect for words, but he’s exactly what Joss deserves and needs.

The secondary characters in this book are well developed and lead you into the next books in this series. I read through all of them quickly, and when I finished the series, I was sad. It had that feel of saying goodbye to friends you’ve grown to love.

There’s actually a novella that follows up with On Dublin Street. It shows Braden and Joss years later, and I love it. Joss is a writer, and in this novella, she dreams up what life would have been like had she never met Braden. It’s a little version of sliding doors, but it also shows these two eons later into their marriage. Once you read On Dublin Street, I definitely recommend this novella because it’s a phenomenal epilogue.

On Dublin Street had me crying at the end. Don’t worry, it does pack a happily ever after. But this is one of those books where the plot has surprises and watching the relive painful experiences and grow hits home in unexpected ways.

Another little thing about this series that I love is that it takes place in Edinburgh, Scotland. Edinburgh happens to be one of those cities I’d move to in a flash if I could get my head around visas. Samantha Young brings her hometown to life in this series.

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Teardrop Shot by Tijan

Teardrop Shot Teardrop Shot threw my emotions for a deep arch and delivered a satisfying swoosh of the net at the end. I originally picked this book as it seemed like a light-hearted friends to lovers sports rom com. Teardrop Shot is so much more than that.

I’ll be honest – I wasn’t sure I was going to finish this book at first. Charlie has this annoying habit of asking random questions when nervous or anxious.  So, she says things like, “Why do we set the toilet paper vertical instead of horizontal?”.

In real life, I’m the bitch who would probably walk away making a mental note to avoid ending up at a bar with this weird chick.   And I almost closed this book. But, I didn’t.  And I’m so glad. In this book, she has friends – warm, funny friends from “camp” – who help us see she has some endearing qualities.

And then she meets Reese Forster, who is an NBA player she has a massive crush on. Which of course triggers all kinds of anxiety. I love the way Tijan handles the celebrity crush and his reaction to her and her evolution from seeing him as a star to a guy to her everything. He’s a dream guy.  He’s the only character in the book to answer her questions.  He gets her.

Watching their friendship unfold and listening as they begin to share their pain makes their love feel real.  He has an alcoholic brother and parents who couldn’t cope.  She has an ex fiance who she took care of for five years before his dementia became so severe she had to walk away.  Tijan does an incredible job of letting us feel and understand the pain from their past.

This is the first Tijan book I’ve read, and I’ll definitely be reading more.

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Book Recommendations Series

If You Dare by Shantel Tessier

If You DareDark, tangled, mesmerizing romantic suspense. A modern day twist on Bret Easton Ellis’s “Less Than Zero”, “If You Dare” gives new meaning to the phrase ‘the ties that bind’.

The whole tale reminds us that the evils of a big city can also run rampant in a small town, especially when rich high school kids with uninvolved parents are let loose in Rovers and Beemers. “If You Dare”, the third and final book in the Dare series from Shantel Tessier, unmasks the secrets of this dark and sordid romantic suspense.

The Dare Series

“I Dare You,” the first book in the Dare series, introduces the Great White Sharks, a wealthy version of a dangerous powerful gang.  All are swim team members. All are wealthy. All are lethal.  The herd of eight dwindles to five.

The dark romance between Austin and Cole fills the first two books in the Dare series.   Dark mysteries unfold as the high school kids unleash their own brand of revenge on the evils in their town.

In “If You Dare,” the high school kids are now in college, in a new Texas town they don’t own.  And someone from their past has decided to change the rules of the game.

At the core of this book, another dark, twisted romance unfolds. However,suspense leads the herd in this tale of sharks.

Through a bountiful number of flashbacks we remember the sordid details of the past. The lies are so rampant, the flashbacks help.   I suspect the abundance of flashbacks means someone could read “If You Dare” and understand the depth of the story and be completely mesmerized and drawn in without reading the first two books.  However, I wouldn’t recommend it.

In order to fully understand the depravity of Cole and Austin’s relationship, I would strongly recommend reading “I Dare You” first.  “I Promise”, the second book, told from Cole’s POV, offers tantalizing insight into Cole’s tenebrious mind.   If you’re not up for the deep dive, you can skip it.  However, “I Dare You” is a must read prior to reading “If You Dare.”

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Underneath It All by Kate Canterbary

Book ReviewUnderneath It All by Kate Canterbary

A good friend told me the Walsh family series by Kate Canterbary is “really good”.   Talk about an understatement!

Matt and Lauren, the hero and heroine in Underneath It All, the first book of the series, sizzle right from the get go.  Canterbary has some of the most well-developed characters I’ve come across.  I now know Matt and Lauren better than I know some members of my family.

Speaking of family, the Walsh siblings illuminate Boston with their distinctive personalities and rip each other apart tight knit family style.  It’s easy to see how this is a series.  My friend just finished book 7 and I’m itching to start book 2.

He loves numbers and logic.  She’s the daughter of a Navy Seal and approaches her ambition of starting a new school with the discipline of a military strategist on a mission.  He’s a great guy with a mean alcoholic Dad but a strong set of siblings backing him up.  She’s on a mission, but beneath her layers she has a soft, insecure side.

Instant attraction sparks when the two first meet as architect and client.  Sex plays an enormous role in how they communicate with each other and neither have a wealth of relationship experience to pull from.  Both are workaholics attempting the elusive work life balance.  Eventually, sex doesn’t solve all communication needs and they have to find a way to talk honestly and expose what’s underneath.

This book might have my favorite epilogue – ever.  This book has it all.   Hot and sexy, strong characters, and an unforgettable love story.

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This Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

Book ReviewIt Ends With Us Book Review

A heart-rending, thought provoking, emotional journey you won’t want to end.

In one sitting I devoured It Ends With Us.  I fell in love with Lily. And Riley.  Issa and Atlas.   I wanted to know who does she end up with?   What does she choose?

I want to be careful to not give any spoilers.  This book deserves to not be spoiled.

Colleen Hoover shares with us one perspective on an abusive relationship.   One perspective on the choices a woman in such a relationship might make.

Naked Truth

My biological father was an alcoholic.  Verbally abusive.  A mean drunk.  These things I know on my own, not because my mother told me.  Because I witnessed these things later in life.   My mother left him when I was an infant.  I have a new appreciation for her choices and what she went through.

I discovered he was an alcoholic when I was sixteen.   I found him, on a sofa, passed out with an empty gallon of Jack.  So many pieces to my puzzle started to fit into place.  My mother never spoke badly about him.  I had to figure him out on my own.

I share this because it’s one of my naked truths.  Without spoiling This Ends With Us, I want to share with you the kinds of naked truths this journey will have you thinking about.  The kinds of places your mind may wander.   The kinds of understandings this novel may give you.

Recommendation

I didn’t want this book to end.  I wanted a second epilogue.  I sat up until 3am finishing this book and felt punch drunk the day after.  And I kind of want to read it again.   It’s a beautiful book and I can’t recommend it enough.

Yes, I do recommend this book.  But, I must add that I felt deeply sad for days after reading this book.   My heart ripped apart at the end, and I believe she ended the book in the best way possible, but that doesn’t mean I liked it or it’s what I wanted for the characters.  So, if you’re looking for a light, feel good read, this isn’t it.  It’s not going to leave you with the warm and fuzzies.  But, it’s a worthwhile book and an amazing romance, when you’re in the mood to take on all it entails.

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Just This Once by Mira Lyn Kelly

Just This OnceJust This Once Book Review

Friends to lovers romance of the very best kind.   And, can we take a moment to appreciate the cover?  It’s rare that a cover captures the likeness of the characters so well.  I can see the personalities of Sean and Molly.  I read this book back in 2018 and it’s stayed with me, and when someone reads as many romance books as I do, that’s saying something.

Molly’s older brother is Sean’s best friend.  They’ve known each other for ages.  Sean comes from an affluent family with high aspirations.  He dates women based on academic pedigree, hence the reason Molly’s never made it on his radar.  She’s crushed on him, but she’s the little kid sister who doesn’t AT ALL meet the criteria he’s formed for his ideal mate.  And they’re best buds, so she knows all about his criteria.

The chemistry between these two is off the charts.  When they end up living together, they can’t help but give in ‘just this once’.   Yeah, it’s a light hearted romance, but I just love these two.

This book is #3 in the Wedding Date Series.  I’ve read all of the books in this series and do recommend them.  But for me, Just This Once is the “empire of the series”.  I’ve read most of Mira Lyn Kelly‘s books and eagerly await her next release, The Dirty Secret, due out “mid-2019”.   That one is a part of the Back to You series, which I super enjoyed as well.

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