Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Book Review

Grade: A+

I have a problem – when people tell me a book or a movie or a show is amazing it prompts an almost immediate need to not read or watch it. This is not a smart response – and I know that. But that was the response I had to this book. And I was wrong, and I admit it. I wish I wasn’t always late to the party but…if I wasn’t I wouldn’t be me. And that is a lot of what this book is all about.

This was, undoubtedly, my favorite book of 2019.

I won’t rehash the plot, because you really just need to read it. I will say, however, that I would like to be a part of a world where Ellen Claremont did become president after Obama. And where the first family was from such a richly, diverse background. Where hope and love are the legacy the president and her family leave behind. In a world of ugly politics, the Claremont-Diaz crew, clearly live what they show to the world. And Alex and Henry are the kind of people I want to see splashed on the covers of tabloids. People who want to make a difference, not just because it plays well with the press but because it will make a difference.

Alex and Henry’s love story is engrossing and beautiful. We don’t need detailed sex scenes to get a sense of their passion for each other. Their texts and e-mails are the stuff of legend. Henry truly has a poetic soul and it adds so much to the story.

I think, overall, that this book is about coming in to your own and finding your way. Understanding that the path you started out on, isn’t always the one you are going to end up on. Casey McQuiston created such beautiful fully developed characters in this story that you feel lost when the book is over and you don’t have them in your life anymore.

For me, this book is one you should not miss.

Read it for yourself and then get back to me so we can discuss it in horrifying detail.

Henry + Alex 4 Ever!

If you want to buy this book, because you are also late to the party like me! You can get it on Amazon.

History, huh?

Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn

Book Review

Grade: A

M-I-S-T-A-K-E – is what it would be to not read this book.

That was the code Meg snuck into the wedding program for Reid Sutherland. meg is an artist who focuses on hand lettering – she is much in demand for her skills particularly in making custom planners. Her life took off after the New York Times profiled her as the “Planner of Park Slope.” Reid Sutherland is a quantitative analyst on wall street who was set to marry his boss’s daughter. Reid is quiet and very focused on math. He comes across as formal and maybe a little snobbish. I think of him very much as a Mr. Darcy type – but maybe without the arrogance and condescension. When Meg met Reid and his former fiance to go over the final version of the program – she knew this was not a match made in heaven. One year later, Reid comes to find Meg and ask her about the coded message in the program. This sets the two of them on a path to finding each other – and maybe themselves.

Meg is a really amazing woman. She moved to NYC after a personal trauma – to restart her life. In the course of that she manages to overcome her fears and build a successful business. When Reid re-enters her life she is at a crossroads – her roommate and best friend is moving out, after months of gradual distance between them and she has a strong artistic block. Meeting Reid and looking at things from a new perspective helps her unblock creatively – and emotionally. Meg starts out the book as extremely non-confrontational and avoids any and all arguments. With Reid she learns to let go and finds herself as a person and an artist.

Reid has been keeping a pretty major secret through all of this. His secret complicates their lives in ways Meg could have never envisioned.

The writing and story here are beyond wonderful. It is a beautiful, honest look at personal growth with an incredible side of romance and love. I also adored the descriptive elements about Meg’s lettering. Can I buy one of her planners, like yesterday??

Reading this on an e-reader may have done the overall book a disservice, however. I am guessing the print edition may have more beautiful lettering elements that weren’t present in the e version, but I wish they were!

A fabulous read.

I received this as an ARC for free, but these opinions are all my own!

Buy this book on Amazon

The Lineup by Meghan Quinn

Book Review

Grade A-

When was the last time you laughed out loud at a book? I don’t mean giggled, I mean laughed until you cried? That was this book for me. Dottie is awesome – but Jason. Oh. My. Word. Jason. I think we all need a little Jason Orson in our lives, or maybe a lot of Jason Orson. He does have the best ass in baseball afterall.

Jason and Dottie went to college together, but didn’t really know each other back then. Dottie had an enormous crush on Jason during that time, but never acted on it. Jason didn’t know Dottie even existed – not out of some level of ego or arrogance, he just didn’t notice her. Fast forward ten years and circumstances bring Dottie and Jason together in the form of her making a donation to Jason’s charity. The donation was due to a miscommunication between Dottie and her assistant, but ultimately led to Dottie winning a date with Jason that she is too embarrassed to participate in.

To say that Jason and Dottie don’t immediately hit it off would be a gross understatement. Dottie refuses to be charmed by Jason. Jason is totally caught off guard by Dottie and immediately surges into overdrive to drive her nuts. Jason has #nofilter, no shame, and an over abundance of self-confidence and charm. He is one hell of an optimist an a seriously hard working guy. You honestly can’t help but love him. He is completely over-the-top.

Like the two main characters, this story doesn’t pull any punches or come with many surprises. You can 100% see where the drama between the two is going to come from extremely quickly. And even though it isn’t a surprise, it is extremely painful to watch it coming and happen. You so so so so so want it to stop – but you know it isn’t going to happen.

Overall – I loved the characters and the writing. This book is seriously funny and irreverent. If you love hot men who are basically a big teddy bear with no filter – you too will love Jason. You will also love his love for Dottie.

Now if only I had his recipe for potato salad!!

If you have read other books in this series you will appreciate the return of those characters and see where the series might be headed in the future. If you read the Locker Room (which is free on Kindle Unlimited and I also loved) there will come a point in this book where you perhaps scream, as I did, DAMN YOU MEGHAN QUINN. Only to flip the page, sighing with relief and say – you sneaky stink!!! I see you Meghan. I see you.

Loved this story – and I think you will too!

Reindeer Falls Series by Jana Aston

Book Review

Grade B+

It’s Christmas … and anything is possible at Christmas. Have a little faith in the magic.

This holiday season brings you three wonderful stories about three sisters whose family and small hometown are maybe a little over-the-top obsessed with Christmas. The Reindeer Falls series combines small town romance with Christmas cheer and some seriously modern sexiness. I enjoyed the heck out of all of these stories – and the best part – you can read them for FREE via Kindle Unlimited!

 ReadMy rating:1 of 5 stars2 of 5 stars[ 3 of 5 stars ]4 of 5 stars5 of 5 starsPreview

The Boss Who Stole Christmas is a workplace romance between middle sister Holly Mistletoe (yeah, that really is her name). Holly is extremely attracted to her boss, but feels his is a jerk and a serious Grinch. Nick is seriously in to Holly, but seems very cognizant of workplace boundaries and power differentials. Their story is seriously cute and funny.

If You Give A Jerk A Gingerbread is the second story in the series, but runs along the same timeline as the first book. Ginger Spice (again – these poor kids), is a talented baker competing on a Food Network show competition being filmed in Reindeer Falls. One of the competition is Keller James, celebrity chef. Keller and Ginger instantly fall for each other – and you can see why. They are both passionate about food (particularly baking) and seem to fit together perfectly. Their story is fun and if you are Food Network fan, completely within the realm of possibility.

The One Night Stand Before Christmas is the last in the series – and it is my favorite. I Noel Eve (oh my goodness) is a community program organizer for Reindeer Falls and seems like someone you completely want to be BFFs with. Teddy is just as awesome. Their meet cute – is just about perfect. I loved that Teddy was instantly smitten with Noel and just went along with the ride.

Overall, these stories feature some serious insta-love, but in a very believable and relate-able way. None of the sisters are shy or insecure about themselves or their love of Christmas, their hometown, and each other. I also appreciated the way their various counterparts appreciated their attitude, smarts, and abilities. Is there anything sexier than a man who supports the woman in his life and lifts her up? I don’t think so.

These stories are sexy, feel-good, funny and a perfect quick holiday treat. Overall I think the three books together – make one full story so do yourself a favor and read them all!

Want to buy them or read them for free in Kindle Unlimited? You can get them all on Amazon.

Dirty Letters by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward

Book Review

Grade: A

We all have light and dark inside us, love. We try to hide the darkness from others because we’re afraid it will scare them away. But your dark doesn’t scare me, Luca. It only makes me want to hold your hand and be your light until you can find your own again. That’s what people do when they’re in love. I won’t always be able to give you your light back, because sometimes you need to find that within yourself, but I’ll stand by your side and hold your hand in the dark so things aren’t so scary.

This book gave me ALL THE FEELS. It was so beautifully and thoughtfully written. I am a sucker for an epistolary romance, but this one was cream of the crop, top of the line, just wonderfulness. Griffin and Luca are true soul mates. Truly – the lengths that Griffin went through to support Luca and understand her NOT fix her – were inspiring.

The story contains such an honest and open look at anxiety disorders and healing. The authors never try to “fix” Luca or have her miraculously cured of her anxiety. It shows her working through it and the damage it does to herself and her relationships. Griffin, who has his own issues, loves Luca for who she is – including the anxiety. He support and understands, but doesn’t enable or try to fix. There relationship is really amazing and should give hope and inspiration to others who might suffer from the same level of anxiety – or who have a partner with anxiety.

I really adored this story and all that went with it. It was sweet, funny, sexy as hell, and beautifully written.

I received an ARC of this story in exchange for this review – but the opinions expressed are entirely my own!

Want to buy this book? (and you totally should) You can buy it on Amazon!

Defending Everly by Susan Stoker (Mountain Mercenaries #5)

Book Review

Grade B+

This book was just the right blend of action, romance, and sexiness. I particularly loved that Everly is a badass in her own right and doesn’t need to rely on Kannon – but gets to choose to. She is a police officer and a member of the SWAT team. Even though Ball starts out by insulting her pretty strongly – he quickly backtracks to a different position as he gets to know Everly. Ball is really one of the good ones. He is honest, kind, hardworking, and has a strong desire to do the right thing – always. He lets everly be Everly and supports her instead of trying to control her. He uses his past as a learning experience. He even admits at one point that he let his past hold him back and make him better instead of using it to grow. Seriously. Where can we find more men like Ball?

I also really appreciated the way the author shows us Everly’s teenage sister Elise. Instead of giving us just a snapshot of a moody, 2-Dimensional teen, she gives us the full picture of a teen facing the challenges she’s facing with the trauma she’s been through. I also appreciated the honesty that the author uses in talking about the importance of therapy and the impact on not just the victim but those around them.

This was my first book by Susan Stoker – but now I am anxious to read more! What is the betting that the bartender at the Pit is Rex?

I received this book as an ARC, but all these opinions are my own. As well as the fact that I’ve already downloaded the other books from the series….

Want to buy this book? You can get it on Amazon!

Night of the Scoundrel by Kelly Bowen

Book Review

Grade: A

Content Warning (Spoiler): Child Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Violence, Personal Loss

I have been WAITING for this book for so long. Like so long. Why do I so adore these irredeemable bad boys? This is the story all Kelly Bowen fans have been waiting for since the first time we encountered King, I believe in Duke of My Heart.

King is such an intriguing character. His back story was such a mystery and his motivations even more so. Here he meets his true match in Adeline Archambault. Adeline is equally as fascinating and mysterious as King. They are such a matched pair – in skills, life, and experience. They both fully accept each other as they are – without seeking to change each other. Their instant attraction and love – is utterly believable and maybe understandable because of their backgrounds. Like recognizing like.

King has had one heck of a difficult life. He is patently not a good person. But he isn’t bad either. He has been portrayed as ruthless and utterly disinterested in anything that doesn’t directly benefit himself. In this book, we see that while he certainly is a ruthless businessman, he is also a protector. While he keeps most at a distance, of those he is close to he protects with fierceness and loyalty that they themselves may not recognize.

Adeline is somewhat of a robin hood – or justice-bringer. She has not had an easy time of it either. She encounters King for the first time as she is trying to bring justice to someone else. King is utterly at ease with her skills and persona. She, in turn, is totally secure in herself and her past. You can see that being together brings Adeline and King so much peace. Even there temporary separation at the end isn’t overly dramatic – there is no begging or pleading. Just sadness and acceptance and a lot of regret on King’s part.

Overall – I loved this mostly bittersweet and ultimately happy story.

I received an ARC of this story – but these opinions are my own. This one goes on the keeper shelf for sure. LOVED it. As a side note – it could certainly be read as a standalone – but you won’t get the full level of awesomeness if you haven’t read some of Kelly Bowen’s other stories.

Want to buy this book? (And I seriously hope you do) You can get it on Amazon.

The Royal Bodyguard by Lindsay Emory

Book Review

Grade: B-

Perfect princesses exist only in fairy-tales. Humans wear tiaras, my darling. Humans who deserve love and forgiveness, just like everyone else

I guess I’ve been on a Royal Romance kick lately!! This sub-genre of romance can be seriously hit-or-miss for me. This book falls in the entertaining, but imperfect category.

Caroline eloped with a race car driver. She was exiled from her family and stripped of her royal title. When her husband died in a crash, she further separated herself from everything by hiding from the world. Caroline has a very complicated history with her family – and a lot of secrets. Including her job as a reporter and her previous role as a gossip columnist whose primary role was talking about her own family.

Hugh is a body guard with the royal police. He was Caroline’s bodyguard 10 years ago – until he asked to be reassigned. Caroline had developed feelings for Hugh and wanted to act on them. Hugh chose honor over love.

From what we are told, Caroline seems to have gone in to something of a downward spiral after that event. Hugh stayed the course as a bodyguard, building his skills and reputation. They are brought back together again when Caroline’s sister’s ex-fiance (who had reportedly killed himself) suddenly reappears in her life.

There is a LOT going on in this book. Like a lot. Royal intrigue plots, unrequited love, personal loss, action, adventure, the list goes on! I think a little judicious editing might have narrowed things down a bit. I also think that some things that happened in this story are designed to set the stage for the next stories in this series -rather than putting the focus on this book. I am a series junkie – but things like that tend to make the focal story a little unwieldy and scattered.

I also wanted a little more development of the relationship between Hugh and Caroline. Obviously their past history explains a lot of their present connection, but they don’t spend much time getting to know each other either. A point that is made by Caroline’s sister – but isn’t really fleshed out. I think there was so much else going on – that there wasn’t time for that.

The ending was totally and completely anticlimactic. Like totally. I actually still feel like -really – that’s it? I felt that way about everything that happened in the last 25% of the book. That being said, I did enjoy the story and was invested in what was going to happen. But I felt like there was so much going on that the story didn’t have a lot of focus. Without focus, I wasn’t able to develop a lot of depth of connection to the characters.

If you like royal romances – this is a great book for you. It will remind you of Emma Chase’s Royally Series. Or a very grown-up Princess Diaries. As a side note – the sexy-times in this book are definitely fade-to-black, so this might be a good transition book for a young-adult reader.

I received this book as an ARC from NetGalley – but these opinions are all my own!

Want to purchase this book for yourself? You can get it on Amazon.

The Princess Problem by Christi Barth

Book Review

Grade: B-

Who you think you are isn’t always who you are meant to be.

Kelsey and her sister are ready to take New York City by storm! Finding out she is the long lost princess of a small European country is not in those plans. It turns out Kelsey was kidnapped when she was three months old while her family was on vacation. She was ultimately raised by a loving set of parents in America. When she applied to be a part-time teacher in New York she was fingerprinted and BAM her birth family is able to find her, because they never stopped looking. She is found by a member of the royal protection detail – Elias. Elias’ father was a former head of the royal protection detail and was on duty when Kelsey (Princess Valentina) was kidnapped. It has been his life-long mission to find the lost princess.

I enjoyed so many parts of this story – Kelsey is fun and sassy. Her sister Mallory is smart and sweet. Elias is sexy and strong. Her birth family is interesting and is set up nicely for future stories. I was extremely interested in what happened to Kelsey and in her re connection with her birth family. The issue I had with this story, is that the author focused on details I wasn’t interested in. I wanted to know more about what happened, about her family and less about her clothes. I kept get frustrated with Kelsey. She immediately leaves NYC with Elias – but doesn’t seem to concerned about contacting her parents to talk about what was happening. We hear that she and Mallory have “whispered conversations” at night about this – but really nothing more. Kelsey seems to be basically content living the whirlwind royal life and not to worried about the wheres and whys. There is a lot of talk about Kelsey having a lot to learn – and then moments where she is “shocked” or very upset to “only find out about this now” and “I should have told you sooner”s – She seemed utterly content to let the royal whirlwind take over and sweep her away. This seemed out of character for who the author wanted her to be.

I also wasn’t a huge fan of the conflict that briefly separates Kelsey and Elias at the end. Ultimately, I wish the author had spent less time telling us what Kelsey was and who she was, and more time showing us. What saved this book was the overall storyline and the secondary characters.

Its a very light, quick read, with a good lead in to future stories.

I received this as an ARC from NetGalley – but these opinions are my own.

Want to read this book? You can buy it on Amazon here.

Knox by Brenda Rothert

Book Review

Grade: B+

I don’t want perfection, Reese. I never did. I just want you.

Brenda Rothert’s heroes continue to steal my heart. Especially the ones in her Chicago Blaze Series. I have to admit, Hockey Romances are kinda my thing. If you look in my Goodreads history you will see a LOT of them. That being said, Brenda Rothert’s Hockey books deserve their own special category of awesomeness.

Knox has appeared in the other books – and I have loved his character from the beginning. Tough, gruff, and grumpy – he is a perfect target for all the other guys practical jokes. But you could really see he has a big heart underneath it all. Knox is the son of a hockey great – and has an extremely close family.

Reese went through a truly humiliating and awful scene at her wedding – where her groom decides to “clear the air” at the altar (literally in front of the priest and their family and friends) and tell her that he slept with her maid of honor (and one of the other bridesmaids). Seriously – what did he expect her to say? Oh its ok – I know you’ll be faithful to me now! Geez.

After that – she goes on her honeymoon alone. Towards the end of the honeymoon she meets Knox and they have a spectacular fling. Reese, however, needs time to rebuild herself and her life – so she won’t give Knox her phone number and leaves. Both of them know it was something special – and Knox, in particular, can’t let go.

When they come back together again Knox pursues Reese pretty strongly – but does really leave the ball in her court. They are extremely sweet together. Which made the final drama tough to get through. The final drama is what kept this from being a Grade A read for me!

Spoiler Alert!! Spoiler Ahead!!

Reese was very reluctant to pursue a relationship again after her failed wedding – she had some serious trust issues. That being said, she wouldn’t label their relationship as such – and really seemed to distance herself from having a true attachment. When you are in a relationship, for example, you would usually talk to a partner about a potential job move to another city. She definitely hid that from Knox. It also seemed really clear that she wasn’t planning to tell him at all – maybe not even until she had actually moved. They worked through it – only to be hit not long after with the whammy of Knox’s father dying. He had cancer and had been sick for a long time. Knox didn’t tell Reese about it – and she ended up finding out from the news. Not good. Reese was, very understandably, upset that Knox had never said anything to her about it. The thing was – she also made the whole situation all about her and her feelings. She seemed concerned about Knox, but didn’t call or text him at all. Obviously a complicated situation – but I still think even a single text to say she was there for him when he was ready to talk would have really been the way to go. I think the real reason Knox didn’t say anything about his dad went beyond not wanting to say it out loud – and really went in to not believing that Reese cared enough to support him and being afraid that if they went down to that personal of a level that she would freak out and run. Throughout the book, Knox is just gives and gives and gives. He is willing to pretty much give up anything and everything for Reese. I’m just not sure, even at the end, that she had the same depth of feeling for Knox. Or at least that she had been willing to let herself feel that deeply. I believe, in the end, they got there, but it was tough. I think I would have liked to see a little more recognition of that from Reese.

No matter what – I loved this book ! Sign me up for more Brenda Rothert books – especially more Chicago Blaze books!!!

Want to read this book? You can buy it on Amazon here.