Before I Ever Met You

Before I Ever Met You by Karina Halle

4 stars!

“Where there’s a will there’s a way.”

Before I Ever Met You is an office romance between twenty five year old single mother Jackie and recently divorced forty one year old Will. Will had returned to Vancouver after his divorce, in which his wife slept with and got pregnant with another man. Jackie came back home to her parents with her son Ty after her ex was put in jail. Ted, Jackie’s father, works with Will and gets Jackie a job as Will’s assistant.

Right away Jackie and Will feel a pull toward each other. But with a 16 year age difference and a boss and employee relationship between them, both are hesitant to take the plunge. The more they work together, it becomes clear the attraction is strong, one of them just needs to act on it….

“I’ll call you Dream Girl, cause that’s what you are to me.”

Who knew Karina Halle could put out a sweet romance! Normally Karina does the angsty and emotional reads, but this was a wonderful Cinderella story. It was unlike anything we have seen from her before! I loved Jackie and will equally, both pulled at my heart in their own way. I now desperately want to watch Bridesmaids because Jon Hamm was the inspiration (and I don’t like Mad Men, don’t kill meh!). This book basically made me feel better crushing on older hot men, because I am only 2 years older than Jackie is in this book. So thank you Karina for making my older men crushes seem a little bit more attainable!

Honestly, this is easily one of Karina’s best contemporary reads, the characters were relatable and I wanted them both to find their happily ever after, with Cinderella and Prince Charming. This hits two boxes for tropes people love, single parent and office romance. What are you waiting for??? Go and get it!!!

“The heart is nothing if not resilient.”

ARC provided by author in exchange for an honest review

Midnight Target

Midnight Target by Elle Kennedy

4.25 stars!

What a thrilling, action packed ride!!

Midnight Target is about Cate, the daughter of a famous mercenary. When she was seventeen she met her father, and while he would do anything to protect her, he doesn’t want her in the same life as his. Cate has since dropped out of a college and become a freelance photographer. She’s working for a reporter on a story in South America when she captures something dangerous on film, and then finds her life in danger.

Cate’s father comes to save her, along with one of his coworkers Ash. Cate can’t stand Ash after he rejected her advances on his years ago, leaving her humiliated and alone. Cate isn’t happy to see Ash, but he’s hopeful they can at least be friends. With tensions high and a criminal psycho after them all, things get rough and heated.

I’ve really only read Elle Kennedy’s Off Campus series, along with her MM books and Erin Watt; I hadn’t picked up any of her Killer Instincts books before. But I love her writing style and trusted she would deliver a good story and a fulfilling read. This book was such a fun and fast paced read. It reaches almost 450 pages and didn’t feel long at all, it just flew by! Technically this is the eighth book in the series, but it can be read as a standalone. I personally can vouch for this because this was my first time reading this series and I was able to navigate the novel easily, even with all the background players.

Despite this being about a couple that cannot be together (due to age difference in the beginning and daughter of the boss issues) there was only mild angst. I prefer a bit more, but it fit the tone and theme of the book. I really liked spitfire Cate and southern boy Ash, the two just made sense, even when they were friends only. I wish things had progressed a bit faster for the two of them, but enjoyed it very much once they did.

The best part about the book though? The surprise MM plot mixed in between Liam and Sully. That was my favorite aspect of the book, I found myself waiting impatiently for their POVs because I just wanted MORE. Elle Kennedy is amazing in general, but when she writes MM I want to use the worship hands emoji all the time.

Once my reading schedule opens up a bit more, I know for sure I will be going back and reading other books in the Killer Instincts series ASAP! And if you haven’t you should too!

Copy for review provided by the publisher

Next to Never

Next to Never by Penelope Douglas

3.75 stars!

“That’s the hardest thing about being a parent. Living through heartache, bearing your struggles, learning the hard lessons the hard way, and enduring years of climbing a wall only to fall back down and have to start all over again . . .”

Next to Never opens with Quinn, the younger sister of Jared and Madoc, two characters from the Fall Away series. Quinn is seventeen and doesn’t know her path in life, she does what her parents want, but she wants to find something she’s passionate about. Randomly, Quinn receives a romance book from Canada, no return sender listed. As she reads, she begins to realize this story might not be fiction at all, and connected to her life….

“We could say we were young and stupid, but that excuse only lasts so long before you realize that you were selfish and just really big assholes.”

I spent the first part of the book extremely confused:

I had a lot of trouble figuring out who was married to whom, who was blood related or not, and just keeping track of names in general. I think this book really could have used a family tree diagram to follow in the beginning of the book. Once I got the hang of things it became easier to read but I honestly still don’t know a lot of which kids belong to whom…..

I went into this book blind, I didn’t really read the blurb beyond knowing Quinn was Jared’s younger sister. I didn’t know a huge part of the plot would be Quinn reading about the story of her parents, how Kat and Jase fell in love and how it affected their lives. I thought it was a beautiful love story, one of two people who just didn’t know how to get the timing right.

I do feel this book despite being from Quinn’s perspective, she was just an observer, it wasn’t her own story. Even in the present time she’s just observing what her other younger family members were doing, except for one racing instance and the end. I wish we had seen more of her in the story, but after the end I suspect there is more to come. If Quinn and Lucas get their own book I will be DESPERATE for it!

“When I come back for you, it will be forever. Tell me it’s not over.”
“I guess we’ll see.”

How to Bang A Billionaire

How to Bang A Billionaire by Alexis Hall

4 stars!

This book is the gay 50 Shades. Except I actually liked it. And I actually liked the characters. And there were no inner goddesses.

This was a book I requested on a whim, I love MM and am always curious to read more. I’m not one for billionaire romances, or BDSM but for some reason this book called to me.

How to Bang A Billionaire is about Arden, an Oxford student soon to graduate with a literature degree. He volunteers for an alumni fundraiser and ends up talking on the phone to billionaire and former student, Caspian Hart. On the phone they strike up a banter, and then Caspian comes to the fundraising dinner. There’s something there, but while Arden wants to pursue it, Caspian wants to resist.

Arden gives up hope of being with the attractive billionaire, when Caspian offers up a deal…..

“Everything was worth it for the power to give Caspian Hart just a little bit of joy.”

I really liked this book, like I said above I’m not huge on billionaires, not huge on BDSM, but this one worked! I thought Arden was such an interesting character, his outlook on life and his motivations. He’s playful and fun and up for anything. Caspian was more of a mystery, one we didn’t get to the middle of yet. I expect there will be more about him in the next book. But what we did get to know of him I liked, he just doesn’t know how to express very well.

This book wasn’t super steamy like I was expecting, and honestly I really liked that about it. It meant we could actually get some character development and get to know our players without constant sex. But there is sex! I promise. And you’ll like it. Hall just found a really great balance. And the BDSM element wasn’t as present as I thought, but I expect we will see more.

There’s no cliffhanger! I promise. I cannot wait for the next book though despite no cliffy, I want to know more about these two men. They were wonderful!

“I want to make you feel safe. And I’d make sure you never forget the extraordinary man that you are.”

ARC provided by publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Art & Soul

Art & Soul by Brittainy C Cherry

4.5 stars!

“Love openly,” my heart whispered. “Love unconditionally,” my heart begged. “Love the struggles,” my heart taught. “Love in the moment.”

Art & Soul is a young adult novel about two teens who don’t quite fit in. Aria made one mistake, and now the school is labeling her a slut and a whore. Levi is the attractive guy who just moved from Alabama, but his looks don’t match his personality, he’s a kind soul and a little bit weird. The two are neighbors and assigned an art/music project together. Levi and Aria seem to like each other, but many outside forces seem to want to keep them apart.

“Sometimes it was so easy to forget that adults were just kids in bigger bodies, and their hearts broke just like ours.”

I tried one B Cherry book years ago and it wasn’t really for me. But two friends recommended this to me so I had to try it and I am so glad I did!!! This is the first young adult novel that is written by a new adult/romance author that actually frickin reads like a YA novel!!! I’m so impressed! I found myself giggling and smiling throughout so much of this book. I’m not normally one for sweet romances without angst, but this one wormed its way into my heart.

This reminds me a little bit of a sweeter Juno, you know without all the hipsters and weird slang. I loved the main characters, I loved the side characters, I hated the mean characters. Basically Cherry did my favorite thing: SHE DEVELOPED HER CHARACTERS. AND IT WAS AMAZING!

Anyways, I really enjoyed this book. It was a little bit too sweet for me (because I don’t like sweet) but oddly, it really worked and I never rolled my eyes at it. I highly recommend if you haven’t read Cherry’s books, start with this one. I know I’ll be reading more of her soon.

“That’s the thing about the future, and the past even. They don’t exist in this moment. We only have the here and now. If we focus too much on the past or too heavily on the future, we miss out on our present desires, the things we want right now.”

The Player

The Player by Claire Contreras

4.5 stars!

“Life is short. We’re only here to chase moments. I’d rather make those moments worthwhile.”

Claire Contreras, cheers to you! This book was awesome!

The Player is about Warren, a talented soccer star who plays in the United Kingdom. He comes to New York on vacation and on family business where he meets Camila. Camila is from a family that fell from grace and she took it hard. Now she works for a non profit and can’t afford much, but she works hard and knows what she wants in life.

Warren is used to women falling all over him based on his looks and celebrity status. So when he pursues Camila and is shot down, he’s genuinely surprised, but still eager to go out with her. Camila is unsure of Warren, his fame and his fortune. She doesn’t want to tame the player, she’s tried that before and failed. But there’s something drawing them together, and they can only fight the attraction for so long.

“If you’re at the other end of the chase, it would be impossible for me to be disappointed.”

I honestly was hesitant to go into this book, and yet at the same time I was intrigued. I’m not a big fan of the whole hot guy cover trend, and was worried this book was going to be all hot and no plot. That wasn’t the case here, we got a sweet and touching story with some very emotional and poignant moments thrown in.

This book pulled and yanked at all my emotions, at first it was hard to think a player like Warren was serious about Camila, but as the book went on I found myself a believer in change. There’s always something thrilling about seeing the player settle down, and I loved the way Warren fell for Camila. The attraction between the two of them was so charged, you could feel it coming off of the page.

I loved Camila as a heroine, she was quiet yet strong. She had to work hard for what she had and didn’t back down easily. She was also cautious, which I respected. It was so refreshing to read a romance where the heroine doesn’t follow at the heroes feet two seconds after meeting him. And I have mad respect for Camila (and Claire) for that.

If you want to read something explosive, filled with tension and longing, this is the book for you.

“I’d give up my career to chase moments with the right woman.”

How to Date A Douchebag: The Failing Hours

How to Date a Douchebag: The Failing Hours by Sarah Ney

5 stars!

“Not everyone has a broken wing that needs mending, Violet. Maybe this guy isn’t worthy of your special brand of caring.”

Zeke Daniels isn’t just a douchebag; he’s an a**hole.

^^^From the blurb itself, this man was a D. I. C. K. But oh, how when you peel back the layers you see what he truly was.

While I read and enjoyed the first book in this series, The Studying Hours, I went into this book with literally no expectations. And it completely blew me away. I mean, immediately after reading I went online and ordered a paperback, that’s how much I loved it!

The Failing Hours is about Zeke and Violet. Zeke is the grump jerk on the wrestling team who needs to be tutored. His bad attitude has gotten him into hot water with his coach, and coach begins making Zeke jump through hoops to remain on the team. Violet is the timid tutor who spends her time in the library. When she first meets Zeke she’s so unbelievably intimidated by him and the dark cloud surrounding him, she doesn’t want to be his tutor. But the more time they spend together, they both see there is more behind what they look like on the outside.

“He swears too much.
He isn’t nice.
He isn’t sweet.
He isn’t kind.
Or generous with words. Or affection.
But he’s reliable. Dependable. And he was there for me.”

This was a book I picked up as a side piece. Yup that’s really as bad as it sounds. It’s the book i chose to read in situations where it was inappropriate to read paperbacks or kindles in front of others. I was sneak reading it on my phone/ipad. The first 20% was actually pretty slow for me, and Zeke was SUCH AN ASSHOLE I didn’t know if I would like it. I mean, he was a special brand of mean. BUT once I got about halfway this lovely book was no longer a side piece but my top choice and I devoured the last half of it.

Asshole heroes are always hard for me to like, because they never seem to be regretful or tend to walk all over the heroine. But that’s not the case here. Zeke was damaged from a childhood of neglect, and my heart friggin BLED for him the entire book. I legit just wanted to give him a giant hug the entire book. And Violet, though she may be quiet and stutter, she is no one’s doormat. I admired her resilience and strength with all she faced in her life, and the fact that she was firm in the fact that whomever she ended up with respected her.

An emotional read, I found myself sighing, laughing, and tearing up when reading this book. Sarah Ney placed herself among my auto-buy authors with this book. Woman stepped up her game with this book and I find myself in awe of her talent. I am so excited for the next book!!!

“But you’re not jaded—not like me. I’m a beautiful mess. You’re just beautiful.”

A Thousand Letters

A Thousand Letters by Staci Hart

4 stars!

“I told her now or never, and that mistake would haunt me until the day I died.”

Persuasion by Jane Austen is one of my all-time favorite books. EVER. So when I heard Staci Hart wrote a modern day version of that, I was intrigued. But what really made me read this book? Hart’s Facebook memes. I’m not even kidding, she posts the most hilarious stuff on social media, so I had to see how this woman with a sense of humor could write an emotionally intense novel.

Seven years ago Elliot chose her family over her boyfriend and love of her life, Wade. Their breakup has stayed with her over the years, and she’s never been able to get over him. Now, a family tragedy has brought Wade home from his deployment and the two see each other for the first time since the breakup. Emotions resurface, good ones as well as the bad. But the two need to pull it together in order to be supportive for their family.

“He was back. He was home. And he didn’t want to see me, didn’t want me there.”

I think this book was brilliantly written, it’s not easy to take a classic story and make it your own but Staci Hart did it. I really enjoyed her take on the story, the small changes she made to make it fit into a modern setting. And with this book, we got the perspective of the guy, unlike the original novel. I found it refreshing and fulfilling to know what he was thinking along the way instead of being kept in the dark on his feelings.

I know I keep comparing the two, but since this IS based on Persuasion I’m gonna make some comparisons. In the original book, Anne was the one who made the mistake, rejecting Wentworth because of his lack of fortune and because her family expected it. In A Thousand Letters, both parties were somewhat guilty, the blame on both of them for their choices and actions. I really liked this aspect of the story, because I feel there are so many real life situations when you look back where we all could have done something differently, whether we were in the right or in the wrong.

For those who haven’t read Persuasion, this is a beautiful romance between two broken people who keep making the wrong choices. I found myself getting lost in the words, the story and the characters. I found myself wanting more from the side characters, a huge sign the characters were well developed. It’s a story that will stay with me a long time, and I cannot wait to read more by Staci Hart.

“I would never get over him. Not as long as I lived.”

Dirty Souls

Dirty Souls by Karina Halle

5 “cray cray” stars!

“When I look back at my reflection, I hardly recognize the girl staring back at me. She’s not a girl at all. She’s a woman. A wild one.”

^^^crazy in an epically good way

***First off, Dirty Souls is a continuation to Black Hearts so you must read that book first!!!! Otherwise you can read this duet on its own without reading anything before it!!***

I’m not usually a fan of dark romance, but Karina Halle has me hooked!

Dirty Souls picks up right where Black Hearts left off (so if you haven’t read Black Hearts yet stop reading this review now and go and read it). Violet and Vicente met and fell for each in the first book, and in the second hidden truths about them, and the sins of their parents come to light in Dirty Souls.

Now Vicente and Violet are caught up in a whirlwind of dangerous and insane events, and neither one of them knows if they will make it out alive.

“Your parents kept all of this a secret because they were trying to protect you.”

There’s a reason Karina Halle is one of my favorite authors, you know the special ones where you’ll read anything they write no matter what genre? It’s because she always delivers a book I can sink my teeth into, one where I fall into the story seamlessly and never have trouble getting into. I mentioned above I don’t usually like dark romance, but Halle writes it so it’s fucked up crazy and yet I don’t feel sick to my stomach or repulsed by what I am reading. I want more. Her dark romances seem to lack rules and makes her free with the plot.

Violet is such an interesting character, because she’s hard and soft at the same time. She feels things deeply, more deeply than others, and yet she can still pull herself together and do what needs to be done.

Vicente is more arrogant and intrepid than I usually like in my heroes, but strangely it just works in this book. His confidence is the perfect counterpoint for Violet and it gives her strength when she feels weak.

Even though I never finished or read some of the books attached to this (again these can be read as a standalone, I did it myself), I felt as if this book really came full circle. With the parts about the parents you can tell that what passed meant closure in their lives. And while this book completes the duet, there’s a part of me that wants to read more of this world, more about this couple and their love.

At its heart, Dirty Souls is a story of family and the journey one takes to find out who they are, who they will become.

“Vicente and I are the only things to exist. Two broken and brave people sitting on the throne of the world.”

ARC provided by author in exchange for an honest review

Goodbye Paradise

Goodbye Paradise by Sarina Bowen

5 stars!

Okay. Shut the front door. What friggin rock have I been living under that I had never heard of this book before?????

Goodbye Paradise was originally published under the title In Front of God and Everyone. Sarina Bowen is now republishing it with a new cover and title. Josh and Caleb live in a cult, the two are best friends. But Josh feels something more for Caleb, something forbidden. And when Josh gets dumped in the middle of nowhere by the cult, Caleb needs to find him.

“It’s a sin.”
“No,” he whispered, still stroking my face. “Hurting someone is a sin. Did I hurt you?”
“No.”
“Does this hurt someone else? Are you going to marry a woman, Josh? Am I keeping you from that?”
“No.”

I fell in love with this story. Caleb and Josh are my new book boyfriends, even if they love each other and not me. I’ll just be the fly on the wall of their relationship like the perve I am. I thought the cult aspect made the story very interesting, because an environment like that can bring so much hate into a person’s life, and it obviously affected these two men very greatly.

This story was only a wee bit angsty, I wish it had been more. But I love my angst. Caleb also used the word baby, and while normally I don’t care for that, it felt so genuine and made my heart melt. You could feel his love and protectiveness he felt for Josh. Caleb was kind of like an alpha male, but without all the frustration. Both guys were amazing. Josh was a vulnerable man and I loved seeing him find his bravery and his strength.

This book was seriously hot, emotional at times, and swoon worthy. Make this the next book you pick up!

“My whole life I’d wished for things. But I’d never known how confusing it might be to see my wishes come true.”

ARC provided by author in exchange for an honest review

Bear, Otter and the Kid

Bear, Otter and the Kid by TJ Klune

4 stars! 
“There’s nothing like being admonished by a nine-year-old ecoterrorist in training.”

This is a book I’ve been meaning to read for a LONG time.

Bear, Otter and the Kid is the story of Derrick (Bear), a 21 year old man who is raising his younger brother on his own. Their mom left when he was 17, and it’s been just him, his brother and his best friend for a long time. When Bear’s best friends brother Otter comes home after a long time away, and Bear must face feelings he never expected.

“You want to know what it feels like to be castrated? Try having your nine-year-old brother protect you from your ex-girlfriend after you’ve told her you’re in love with a man.”

This is a book I’ve been meaning to read forever. I just couldn’t get past the horrible cover (superficial and shallow of me, I know). But I honestly think this book would sell more with a better cover. Gay for you romance is my favorite kind, mostly because of ANGST and we all know I friggin love my angst.

I really enjoyed this story, Ty the little brother cracked me up. I know I would end up with a kid like him, but mine would probably be more of a shit. Otter was pure awesome, that man was a saint. My heart felt so much for that man. He and Bear just seemed perfect together, despite how friggin frustrating Bear could be.

One thing I have to get off my chest, the excessive use of the word “retarded”. I stopped counting after 6-7 mentions. For a book that preached not using the word “fag” because it was hurtful, it really shouldn’t be using the other word so much. Maybe it’s just me, but that really makes me mad…

Anyways, I can’t wait to read the other books in this series and have more of the kid, Otter and Bear in my life.

“I’ll never understand why people just won’t let others be who they are. It’s not like it’s affecting them in any way.”

Every Little Thing

Every Little Thing by Samantha Young

4 stars!

“Vaughn Tremaine may have been a pompous, smug, wealthy, arrogant businessman who thought he was better than me, but he could also kind of be honorable when he wanted to be.”

Bailey is a successful inn owner in Hartwell, Delaware, a small and charming boardwalk town. Bailey has always had a comfortable and safe relationship with her boyfriend of ten years, until she walks in on him having sex with a younger woman. And while Bailey is upset, she’s more dismayed that she wasted so much time on the wrong man.

Vaughn Tremaine is the sexy businessman who moved to Hartwell and got on Bailey’s bad side right away. For years the two have had a contemptuous banter that had a strong sexual undertone. When something bad happens to Bailey at her inn, Vaughn is there to help her. The attraction between the two is strong, it’s just a matter of whether or not they’ll admit it to each other.

“I wish you and he would just admit you’re attracted to one another and stop acting like children at recess.”

Samantha Young is one of my all-time favorite authors, I’ll read anything the woman writes. The Hart’s Boardwalk series is a change of pace for her, but a delightful and sweet series many readers will enjoy. Bailey and Vaughn were a couple I was intrigued by when they were introduced in the previous book, and the heat between them in this book did not disappoint. There was a lot of push and pull, and some frustrating moments, but this couple is made up of two very strong people and it was wonderful seeing them fight for what they wanted.

I think one of the strengths of this series is the side characters, you really get a sense of community when you read about these people. I am dying for Emery’s book, and the books of other characters mentioned in this novel. The pacing was a bit off in this book, some very slow moments like the first book. Usually with a Samantha Young book I am able to devour it within a few hours, but this one took me a couple of days.

If you want a romance with complex and powerful characters, this is the book for you. I cannot wait to read more about this small town and all of the people in it.

“I never dreamed it could be like this between us.”

ARC provided by publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Breath of Fire

Breath of Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #2) by Amanda Bouchet

4 stars!

“You’re the shield, and I’m the sword.”

What an action packed and thrilling series!

Breath of Fire begins where A Promise of Fire left off, and with one of Cat’s big secrets revealed. It becomes clear that Griffin and the team need more to protect their city from outside. From there they go on a quest to a wizard to tell them what they need to achieve this, and the adventure begins from there…

“It’s time to be the person you were meant to be, Cat. You don’t just have to make decisions and stand by them now. You have to live with them.”

From the first page of this book I was enthralled with the story. We get a major overdose of angst right at the beginning (much to my delight) and then things smooth out from there. I love fantasy novels so mixing fantasy and romance together is like a dream come true. My favorite parts of this book included Cat and Kato in the labyrinth, a truly thrilling part of the book.

Cat definitely matured in this book, her annoying aspects have disappeared somewhat because lots of her internal fears were resolved. She’s still strong and sassy as ever, and she has the best man alongside her. I love Griffin, he’s an excellent mix of alpha male and partner, being dominant and yet letting Cat be herself and fight. He just fights alongside her.
A thrilling follow up novel filled with action, romance and mythology. I am so ready for the third book and I wish it was out right now.

“I will always come back to you.”
…I lean forward and kiss him because he’s my hunger and my food, my thirst and my water, my air and my every breath.”

If You Were Mine

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If You Were Mine by Melanie Harlow

Review:

4 stars!

“What did it mean to love someone? What kind of power did that give someone over you? What kinds of ways could loving someone come back to haunt you.”

Claire is sick of always being at the singles table at her friends weddings. In a moment of desperation, she hires a date for her colleagues wedding. Theo is not what Claire imagined him to be, he is more attractive and charming than she presumed. What Theo and Claire both didn’t expect is the strength of the attraction between them.

But Theo has a bad family background of no one sticking around, and he doesn’t want to place that kind of trust in another person, Claire also lacks the confidence to go for what she wants. Both of them need to conquer their fears if either one wants to be happy.

“Claire had the kind of heart that was big enough to let anybody in, even me. I couldn’t let her do it.”

Melanie Harlow writes the best of fun and sweet romance. I always know when picking up one of her books I will be delighted and have a great time. The premise of this book is what hooked me and made me have grabby hands for this book. A hired man date that falls for the woman who needs him? Trapped in a cabin together for the weekend? SOLD.

What I liked most about this book was it was about two people discovering they could be so much more than the box they put themselves in. Theo’s journey was of being a good man and not following the history his of his family members, that your upbringing doesn’t define what you do. Claire was in a rut and didn’t see herself for the amazing woman she was, and while Theo helped her to that, she needed to find the confidence in herself.

Very steamy, delightful and a tiny bit angsty, this is the book you’ve been dying to lose yourself in.

“For her, I’d stay.”

ARC provided by author in exchange for an honest review

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Summary

Theo MacLeod wasn’t supposed to be the one.

 

Tall, dark and handsome suits me just fine, but the cocky grin, know-it-all attitude, and mammoth ego? No thanks. I only hired him so I wouldn’t have to sit at the singles table again. It was just pretend.

 

He wasn’t supposed to kiss me.

 

My heart wasn’t supposed to pound.

 

We weren’t supposed to spend the night together—the hottest night of my life.

 

One night turns into a snowed-in weekend away, and even the blizzard of the century can’t cool the fire between us. I can’t get enough—of his smile, of his body, of the way he makes me feel.

 

We’re nothing alike. He’s a daredevil, and I’m a nervous Nellie. He’s a drifter, and I want to put down roots. He’s an opportunist with a checkered past, and I’m a Girl Scout volunteer.

 

But none of it matters when I’m in his arms.

 

I know he’s made mistakes. I know his wounds are deep, and he doesn’t trust easily. I know he doesn’t believe he could ever be enough to make me happy, but he could.

 

All he has to do is stay.

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Excerpt:

A guy in a black leather jacket set a coffee cup down on the table and sat opposite me.

I looked over at him, feeling slightly awkward since I’d have to tell him he couldn’t sit there. He was handsome, with warm brown eyes and short dark hair, but he wasn’t Fred. “I’m sorry, I’m waiting for someone,” I said. “But I can move.”

To my surprise, he smiled confidently. “Claire, right? I’m Fred.”

I screwed up my face. “You can’t be. Fred has blond hair and blue eyes. I saw his picture.”

He laughed, almost condescendingly. “I don’t use my real picture, Claire. People are crazy.”

What? This made no sense. “I don’t understand. How can you advertise yourself with someone else’s photo? Don’t women get mad when you show up?”

He shrugged, his grin turning a little cocky. “Haven’t had any complaints so far.”

Actually, he was more attractive than the photo he’d used online—more rugged and masculine, with his scruffy jaw, big shoulders, and brawny chest. Meeting the real Fred was kind of like ordering the chicken piccata and being brought the Porterhouse, which hadn’t even been on the menu.

But that wasn’t the point.

(And I’d described someone completely different to Elyse.)

“So, what, you use a fake photo to lure potential clients and then you set up the coffee meeting to check them out first?” I asked indignantly.

“Wouldn’t you?” He shrugged out of his jacket. “It’s a scary world out there.”

I crossed my arms, sitting up tall. “No! That’s a scam. I don’t like scammers.”

“No, it isn’t. I don’t take any money from them. I don’t even talk to them, I just leave.”

Frowning, I said, “That doesn’t seem right to me. These people are willing to pay you to hang out with them and probably feel bad enough about themselves already, and you just walk out without even giving them a chance?”

He shrugged. “Look, if it makes you feel any better, I’ve only walked off a job once, and that was because I thought I recognized the woman. I prefer to keep my personal and professional identities separate. That’s fair, isn’t it?”

Professional identity? He was a rent-a-date! I shook my head in disbelief. “Is your name even Fred?”

“Does it matter?”

“Yes,” I snapped. “How am I supposed to know what to call you?”

He grinned as he leaned toward me and lowered his voice. “Call me anything you want. You’re the boss.”

Was he flirting with me or making fun of me? I cleared my throat and pressed my knees tighter together. “I’d like to call you by your actual name, please. Bad enough I have to pay someone to play my fake boyfriend. I’d like something to be real, at least.”

He held his eyes steady on mine for a moment. I felt like he was sizing me up, trying to decide if he could trust me, so I stared right back without blinking. If anyone at this table was trustworthy, it was me.

“Theo,” he said quietly, his eyes dropping to my lips for the merest fraction of a second. “My name is Theo.”

There. Was that so hard? I smiled at him before picking up my latte.“Well, it’s nice to meet you, Theo.”

“What, you’re just going to believe me? You’re much too trusting, Claire. I bet people take advantage of you.”

I set the cup back down on the saucer with an angry clank. “Is your name Theo or not?”

“Shhh, it is, it is,” he said, laughing. Then he glanced over his shoulder like he was in the fucking CIA. “But I don’t give that out to just anyone. You should feel special.”

 

 

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About the Author:
Melanie Harlow likes her martinis dry, her heels high, and her history with the naughty bits left in. When she’s not writing or reading, she gets her kicks from TV series like VEEP, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, and Homeland. She occasionally runs three miles, but only so she can have more gin and steak.

 

Melanie is the author of the HAPPY CRAZY LOVE series, the FRENCHED series, and the sexy historical SPEAK EASY duet, set in the 1920s. She lifts her glass to romance readers and writers from her home near Detroit, MI, where she lives with her husband, two daughters, and pet rabbit.

 

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Mister Wrong

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Mister Wrong by Nicole Williams

3.75 stars

“Me. Matt Adams. The man who’d loved her for so long, I couldn’t remember a time when I hadn’t. Loving her had become a part of me. The defining part of me.”

Mister Wrong starts off with Matt at a wedding, but it’s not his wedding. It’s his twin brother, Jacob’s wedding. Only, Jacob is a no show, and the woman Matt has loved his whole life is about to be jilted at the alter. In a moment of insanity, Matt steps in and pretends to be Jacob at the wedding, but soon is the honeymoon and Matt needs to find a way to tell Cora the truth.

I read the blurb for this book and I wanted it right then and there! Unrequited love? Twin switch? Possible angst? You bet your butt I wanted to read this book. I loved that we got Matt’s perspective at the beginning and then switched between him and Cora, if it would have only been one POV I think it would have been harder to understand character choices, but Williams does a good job of portraying her characters motivations. This book also had a lot more steam than normal in a Williams’s book and I think plenty of readers will be pleasantly surprised by this.

This book started out strong and the pacing got a bit slower once it hit the middle. I very much enjoyed this book and think other readers will too.

“He’s the one, Cora. The real goddamn deal. Don’t let him go because you feel guilty or think you should do the right thing or anything stupid like that. Be with the person you want to be with. Stop wasting time.”

ARC provided by author in exchange for an honest review

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Synopsis

Cora Matthews grew up with the Adams boys, twin brothers and best friends who wouldn’t let anything come between them except for one thing—her. One of them became her best friend, the other, her fiancé.

She always knew she’d wind up marrying one of them, and Jacob Adams is the very epitome of Mister Right. At least he is up until he fails to show up for their wedding day. Not that Cora realizes it. At first.

As Jacob’s best man, and identical twin, Matt makes a split second decision, but one that will affect the three of their lives forever—he steps in to take his brother’s place. In front of the altar, exchanging vows with the woman he’s secretly been in love with for years.

Cora eventually finds out about the groom swap. The morning after the wedding. As if realizing she just slept with her fiance’s brother wasn’t disturbing enough, she’s forced to confront her feelings for Matt Adams she thought she’d buried years ago.

Matt’s wrong for her. In every way. But through the course of her real honeymoon with her fake husband, she starts to uncover truths both Adams brothers were hoping to keep hidden, for opposite reasons. One to protect himself, the other to protect her.

She married the wrong brother, but what if he’s been the right one all along?

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Excerpt

“So?” I crossed my arms and leaned into the banister behind me. “Did you? Like my brother?”
She sighed, turning toward the open door. “Jacob . . .”
“What? It’s a fair question.” I shoved off the banister, feeling hope and heat tangling in my veins from the look on her face, from the sound of her voice. She’d felt something for me, whether it be the most passing of crushes or something much deeper. Realizing that had me feeling drunk from something other than alcohol. “Besides, you’re stuck with me now. Won’t matter what you ’fess up to.”
Cora started through the doorway. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Grabbing the suitcases, I followed her. I wasn’t letting this go. Never. Not if she threatened death or castration or anything else. “Why not?”
She broke to a sudden stop a few feet inside the room. “Because I don’t want to focus on the past. I want to concentrate on the future. That’s not going to work if you keep asking me questions about Matt.”
There was a sharpness in her voice—one she didn’t use too often. She didn’t want to keep talking about me, which only made me want to continue talking about me. I’d struck a nerve, but I wasn’t sure how deep that nerve went.
I needed to know how deep it went. I had to know. My whole life, I’d been under the impression that Cora saw me as nothing more than a good friend and substitute brother. She cared for me, but not in the same way I cared for her.
Or did she?
“This thing with Matt . . .”
Her back stiffened.
“Was it a thing? Like ancient history? Or is it still a thing?” I closed the door and wondered why I could feel my heartbeat in my eardrums.
She kept her back to me, standing in the middle of the dark room like a lone ship on a vast ocean. “I married you.”
Yeah, she did marry me.
“But if he’d made a play for you, way back before all of this”—I waved my finger between the two of us, not that she could see it—“would you have given him a chance?”
“He never made a play for me.” Her voice sounded faraway, like she was out of reach when she was less than an arm’s length away.
“That doesn’t answer my question.” I stepped closer. “If he had? Would you have?”
Her back was moving faster from her quickened breathing. This conversation was making her uncomfortable. Why was that?
“Stop, Jacob. Enough.” She spun on me, swaying in place just enough that I reached out to steady her. She shook my hand away like it was white-hot. “I’m not going to get into another fight with you over Matt. I’m done. I picked you. I married you. What else do I have to prove?”
“That you don’t—”
“I don’t love Matt!” Her arms flung out at her sides as her voice spilled across the room. ‘There. I said it. Are you happy now? Are you happy we’ve managed to get into another argument over this infatuation you’re convinced I have for your brother? On our wedding night of all times?” She glared at me with bleary eyes. I couldn’t tell if that was from tears or from alcohol. Maybe both.
“Cora, I’m sorry.” I ran my hands through my hair, wondering what in the hell I was doing—for the millionth time that day. Deceiving her, betraying her, and now accusing and angering her. Maybe I didn’t know the first fucking thing about love. Maybe Jacob knew more about it than I did, because I wasn’t sure love was supposed to hurt as badly as this did.
“Just . . . enough already.” As she shouldered past me, I reached for her, but she shook me off. “I need to be alone.”
She slammed the front door behind her a moment later, leaving me alone with my idiocy.
“Cora,” I called to an empty room. I wasn’t thinking when I rushed toward the door after her. “Cora!”
The moment I pulled the door open, something crashed into me. It made a sharp breath rush out of my mouth as I staggered back a few steps.
My arms barely had time to wrap around her before Cora’s mouth was on mine, moving in such a way that made staying upright next to impossible. Before I had a chance to catch up to the fact that I was kissing Cora in an entirely different way than we’d kissed at the wedding and reception, her fingers were working at my belt. Quickly.
I didn’t know she’d already gotten it undone before she’d moved on to my zipper. The sounds she was making as she kissed me, the way her body felt aligned against mine, the way her mouth knew the intricate balance of submission and domination . . . one moment at a time, Cora was crushing the last remnants of my resolve. Destroying the final pieces of my views of right and wrong.