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Book Recommendations

Hold On To Hope by A.L. Jackson

Hold On To Hope Book ReviewEmotional, angst-filled best friend, second chance, single Dad romance.  Hold On To Hope features the now grown-up children from the Fight for Me series.

Evan, the son of Hope from Follow Me Back, and Frankie Leigh, the daughter of Rex from Show Me The Way are the stars in Hold On To Hope.

Evan is deaf and is a heart transplant survivor. He walked away from his family and from Frankie when his own version of guilt drove him away. Three years after abandoning his family he returns with a son in tow.

Frankie Leigh has stayed, working closely with Evan’s family, heart-broken but she’s attempted to move on with her life.

There is a lot going on in this book. For two kids with such awesome parents, they’ve got some heavy emotional baggage and a lot of issues unfold. The drama keeps the reader engaged, trying to figure out what happened and wanting to see what will happen.

I absolutely love the book cover for this book, but I have to say that that model looks way better than my mental visual of Evan’s heart transplant, limited life expectancy character. But, I’ll gladly take the book cover version. Even though he looks healthy enough to complete in an Iron Man Triathlon.

If you read the Fight for Me series, which I personally loved, this book will be like visiting old friends because you get to see Hope and Kale and Rynna and Rex once more. If you like AL Jackson and angst galore, then this is a strong recommend.

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A Negotiated Marriage by Noelle Adams

A Negotiated Marriage Book ReviewA delightful and fun fake marriage trope with memorable characters from Noelle Adams‘ Convenient Marriage Series.

A Bookbub deal find, I snatched A Negotiated Marriage up one afternoon when I was in the mood for something light and easy. Ended up reading it in one sitting.

Luke is a reserved, successful businessman. To almost anyone, including Molly, he’s confident and outgoing. However, as we get to know him better, there are definite signs that he’s as insecure as the rest of us, at least on matters of personal importance. He reminds me of the kind of guy who maybe wasn’t the most popular in school, but was studious and kind.

Molly agrees to Luke’s proposed fake marriage scam because she’s just been burned by her ex and the agreement will help her business. She’s completely blind to Luke and is much more focused on portraying the wife he can be proud of to hold up her end of the contract.

I love how in several parts of A Negotiated Marriage he wanders into her bathroom to locate her wedding band to put it back on her finger, since she keeps forgetting it after her shower. In the beginning, there’s a scene where her skirt rises, and he’s staring at her thigh. Molly thinks he’s staring in a critical manner, but we the reader…oh, we know better.

The tension and passion between these two slowly ramps up after they both agree to add sex to their terms. Which, by the way, even the way Luke proposes this addition is kind of endearing. These two aren’t rip-your-clothes-off, sex-in-the-car kind of people, and the way they sometimes discuss sex hardly feels like the start of a heated romance. But, nevertheless, it’s a heart-warming love story that does pack some heat.

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Dirty Secret by Mira Lyn Kelly

Dirty Secret Book ReviewOh, how I love a Mira Lyn Kelly romance! Dirty Secret does not disappoint. This hockey romance had me flipping the pages, smiling and burning up inside.

Yes, the book may have deepened the wrinkles on the corners of my eyes, but that’s why they created thick moisturizer.

This second-chance, big brother in-the-way romance had me lusting after Vaughn. Yum, yum, yum.

Personally, I’m the kind of gal who prefers to play the sport rather than spectate. And I’m extraordinarily wobbly on a pair of ice skates, so, there you go. But, the play by play action made me think dear Mira is one serious hockey fan. Mira could be a sports commentator. And, she makes me want to take the time, with a beer in hand, to watch a game.

I loved this book because it’s down to earth. My heart went out to Natalie. I’ve seen so many siblings get lost in the throes of one sibling’s sport success. And it starts so freaking young. To want a different life, a life away from whatever that sport is…….here it’s hockey, but you can substitute soccer, baseball, tennis…..if it has a ball, it’s game. That desire for a life away from said sport is real.

Vaughn proves himself swoon worthy to the tenth degree. He’s driven, focused, level headed and he knows how to love his woman. He’s a dream athlete. He pushes himself hard, doesn’t let the mind games off the rink play with his game on the rink, and he’s a genuinely good guy. He might be slightly behind the curve on social skills, but that’s only because of his deranged hockey fanatic Dad.

Series!

Dirty Secret also paves the way for Dirty Hookup. And, I’m kind of dying to hear about what went on with Quinn and George. Not that I personally have ever had too much to drink (there’s an evil twin I try to keep locked up who does all that), but my heart did go out to Quinn when it seemed he didn’t remember EVERYTHING….   So, in a nutshell, it’s the best kind of series. Warm, heart-melting HEA and I’m completely stoked for the next book.

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Come Monday by Mari Carr

Come Monday Book ReviewCome Monday opens up as a professor student trope, then swiftly shifts into an introductory lesson on the BDSM lifestyle. Wow! Didn’t see that shift coming.

The story features Will, a hunky gorgeous professor and Keira, a twenty-seven year old student.  She put college on hold to help raise her younger siblings after her mother’s death when she was eighteen. Keira stands out from the other undergrads, as she should. She’s been through so much more than most of the others fixated on drinking and hook-ups. It’s not hard to see her creative writing professor being drawn to her.

She’s focused and driven but has difficult closing her eyes and seeing anything other than the tangible and literal. He helps her get in touch with a side of herself that disappeared with the stresses of being the glue for her family. He’s basically every woman’s dream creative writing coach, and a damn fine book boyfriend.

Will is such a good book boyfriend, I’ll probably read more of the Wild Irish series from Mari Carr so I can see him again. Keira’s backstory and her family are fully present in this novel and set the stage for the remaining books in the series that focus on her siblings.

Overall, it’s a fun, easy and sexy feel good read. Nevermind that the gorgeous professor trope feels completely unrealistic to me because after SEVEN years in college I can’t remember a single gorgeous professor, much less a gorgeous English professor, but that’s why we read romance, right? Perchance to dream.

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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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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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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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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

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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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