By Any Other Name: Lauren Kate

She’s finally getting the promotion she’s been working for. But her success hinges on her ability to guard one of the biggest secrets in the publishing world.

Their meet cute is not cute. As far as she’s concerned, he’s arrogant and condescending and aloof. And whether or not she finds him attractive is immaterial. She’s already engaged. And he’s a liar.

But he writes books that are things of beauty. Books that speak to her heart and have shaped her life. But now the one writer who will make or sink her career has writer’s block. Even though she is hurt enough, and angry enough, to cast him into purgatory, she knows she has to thrust her feelings of betrayal aside and get him to deliver a manuscript.

Lanie and Noah have messy lives and loose ends. They have the weight of a monumental deception between them. But they also have tulips. And walks in the rain. And train rides with odiferous lunches.

I absolutely adored this sweet, sassy rom-com! It features a complex hero who is in touch with his feelings, and able to articulate them. It features a heroine who finally empowers herself to seek out and fight for the life and the sense of personhood that she wants and deserves. It features two unforgettable characters navigating the challenges and losses that have shaped them.

Plot: 5 Stars
Characters: 5 Stars
Steam: 1 Star

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Christmas in Rose Bend

Nessa has too much going on in her life to fall in love with the hot carpenter…..

My Review

The past doesn’t really stay in the past. It influences everything we are…..

When Nessa and her orphaned teenage half sister head to Rose Bend courtesy of a posthumous legacy from their father, their relationship is rocky and full of landmines. Nessa is trying to pick up the shattered pieces of her life — her career is a fractured mess and she feels rudderless. And even though she wants to run her hands over Wolf’s sexy scruff and broad shoulders when she meets him, any relationships are taking a backseat to her self-imposed hiatus.

Wolf is captivated by Nessa’s confidence, curves, and the sadness he can see in her eyes. She tries to hide her struggles from the world, but he has demons of his own, and feels an immediate connection.

Wolf is determined to give Nessa a glimpse of the magic that is Christmas in Rose Bend. They bond over sleigh rides, cookie decorating and tree lightings. And every moment they spend together emphasizes their inability to stay away from each other.

As Wolf tells her, they are the same – two people desperately pushing others away, afraid to let others see beneath the surface, dirty street fighters who find each other irresistible.

I absolutely adored this contemporary holiday romance about two people who have been battered by the world finding their way back with each other.

This made me laugh out loud like a hyena, swoon over all the lumberjack vibes, and tearily connect with the characters’ struggles. This was my first book from this author – but it definitely won’t be my last!

Plot: 4 Stars Characters: 5 Stars Steam: 5 Bonfires

My favorite quotes:

“I know. My man bun and my Yoda-like tendencies annoy you.”

“We’re two people finding ways to push others away, so we’re not hurt. So they don’t dig below the surface and glimpse who we try so f***** hard to hide, afraid they might not like who they see. We’re dirty street fighters, you and me.”

“It’s all a case of mind over matter. You shouldn’t mind because they don’t matter.”

“Hope can be a dangerous thing, can’t it? Sweet and beautiful one moment, cruel and ugly the next.”

“War is … hell. On the men and women who serve and put their lives on the line for us, for our country. On their families, who sacrifice and have to wait at home not knowing if they will ever see their husbands, wives, daughters, sons, mothers or fathers again. They’re heroes, too, and it’s unfair that those soldiers are sometimes the martyrs, as well.”

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Must Love Cowboys

These sexy cowboys will knock your socks off!

4.5 ⭐️

I loved these two modern cowboy romances!

Must Love Cowboys features a librarian heroine- one of my fave tropes😍😍😍- and a dyslexic hero who seeks her out for reading lessons.

Beau has muddled through his entire life. He avoids things like text messages and contracts and anything that will reveal his learning disability. When his brother decides to move away, Beau is forced to address the issue he has buried for so long.

Alice agrees to tutor Beau if he’ll tutor her in return. She needs to learn to flirt so she can find her HEA. All of her friends are settling down with their sweethearts and starting families and she feels like her life is on eternal hold.

Beau and Alice’s mutual lessons quickly spiral out of control and their fake dating arrangement becomes all too real.

Plot: 4⭐️
Characters: 4⭐️
Steam: 🔥🔥🔥🔥

Big Bad Cowboy is a rivals to lovers, fake dating live story that will make your toes curl!

Maggie is always just one of the guys. But she has always had a crush on JD- the town’s golden boy and one of her best friends. Tired of trying to get his attention she decides to change tactics. She dresses up for the Halloween party like Red Riding Hood on the prowl and ensnares a hungry wolf. When the heat between them on the dance floor leads to a HAH rendezvous in a tool shed, she is both embarrassed and mystified. They keep their masks on the entire time.

Travis can’t stop thinking about Little Red Riding Hood. He can’t afford distractions- he’s trying to pay the back taxes on the family ranch, take care of his newly orphaned nephew and clean up the mess left behind by his incarcerated brother.

Maggie and Travis are thrown together when they land the same landscaping job. Maggie is drawn to him even though they are business rivals. He is drawn to her even though his time in town has an expiration date. But they are both in another relationship that has off the charts sexting.

The snafus get sorted once secret identities are revealed.

Features:
A HAH mind- blowing sex in a tool shed meet cute.

Plot: 4⭐️
Characters: 4.5⭐️
Steam: 🔥🔥🔥🔥.5

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Mistletoe Motive

The perfect Grinch vs. Buddy the Elf holiday romance with demi-sexual, spectrum and T1D representation!

THIS WAS UTTER PERFECTION.

Jonathan and Gabby’s story is the You’ve Got Mail/ Hating Game mash-up holiday romance I didn’t even know I needed. I suspected their secret identities early on and was so happy my suspicions proved to be true.

Gabby loves Christmas. And she’s convinced her surly co-worker is the Grinch incarnate. She doesn’t trust him, or his motives. She’s convinced his chief objectives in life are to antagonize and sabotage her.

But attitudes can be deceiving – and they can hide a multitude of insecurities, deeply personal struggles, and heartfelt wishes. When a kiss in the snow upsets everything they thought they knew, and looses them from their moorings, it’s impossible to take a step backward.

They are in the middle before they even know they’ve begun. Watching them tumble into complete, incandescent happiness was wonderful.

Plot: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Characters: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Steam: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

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Lizzie and Dante

Yes it broke my heart. And yes, it put all of the Humpty Dumpty eggshell fragile pieces back together again. 

Lizzie isn’t living on borrowed time. She is living on finite time. She knows her days are numbered and few, and doesn’t want to cause agony for those who love her. So, like a bird, she rests lightly. She refuses to build nests or rest in the arms of others. 

Dante is a single father enchanted by her sassy comebacks, her sparkling gaze and her open heart. Etta is his precocious, piquant, priceless daughter. A twelve year old girl desperately seeking her place in the world, who longs for a mother’s care and love.

Lizzie and Dante’s story is about making your own family. The cast of complex, conscientious friends Lizzie is surrounded by will remind you to cherish your people, and fight for them as they would fight for you. 

Lizzie and Dante’s story is about making the most of every single golden, breathless moment we are given. It is about gratitude for the fleeting beauty we find, and a celebration of the love we give and receive. 

Lizzie makes peace with the finite nature of the sands in her hourglass. She makes peace with the boundless love and acceptance she is offered. She makes peace with moments that become blessings, not stolen and plagued by guilt and regret. She embraces her fearlessness, and finally alights on her nest.

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Just Haven’t Met You Yet

First impressions are deceiving!!!

I loved this sweet romance about the deception of first impressions!

When Laura is sent to the Channel Islands to explore the perfect Meet Cute storyline, she has her own motives. She’s pursuing the origin of her parents’ love story.

A luggage mishap convinces her that her own Fated Mates lovestory is in the making. She persuades Ted to ferry her around the island in his taxi, to show her all of the magical places and help her craft her article.

Along the way, Lauren finds out that history can’t always be viewed through rose-colored glasses, love sneaks up on you and sabotages everything you thought was true, and first impressions are almost always not to be trusted.

This is the perfect read for fans of contemporary romances by Kate Clayborn, Beth O’Leary, and Mhairi McFarlane.

Ink (7th and Main #1)

Opposites attract, workplace, slow burn, steamy romance.

Ox and Emmie should be polar opposites. She’s seen the screaming matches and melodrama between he and the banshee he’s dating. But he really is eye candy, and she’d love a reveal of his tatted physique. Her romance reads have given her a vivid imagination, and the landscape of his skin, and all of those muscles, are very intriguing.

When Ox’s banshee and he part ways, and she throws all of his worldly goods into the street, Emmie kindly lends him boxes and then provides a place to store them. And then she has an epiphany about the perfect hook to drive customers to her bookstore. She’s inherited the family business from her grandmother, and it’s in serious need of a rebranding and a makeover.

Her brick and mortar bookstore will share floorspace with a resident sexy tattoo artist.

They become business partners. And then they make a pact. No dating each other so they can make sure the business is a success.

I loved this steamy, slow burn, opposites attract, workplace romance.

The Matzah Ball

A sweet, swoonworthy enemies to lovers holiday romance!

I loved this sweet holiday romance!

Rachel Greenberg is a successful author of Christmas themed romance. She stashes all of her Christmas obsessions in her study, which is a glittering noel explosion, because she’s Jewish. To admit her fascination to her family or community would be utter sacrilege.

But Rachel’s publisher wants her to capitalize on the heritage she’s been ignoring, and embrace her own voice. They want her to write a Jewish themed holiday romance. She’s at a loss until she finds out her childhood crush turned foe is at the helm of planning a huge holiday event for Jewish singles- The Matzah Ball. She is determined to infiltrate the planning committee and use her experience as inspiration.

I’m a sucker for childhood nemesis turned irresistible love interest, and The Matzah Ball delivered!

The banter between Rachel and Jacob was fantastic, and watching him bend over backwards to show her how he truly feels was both gratifying and realistic. He groveled with amazing panache!

The cast of secondary characters and the depiction of the close-knit community was wonderful, and I loved watching Rachel fully embrace her heritage and stop hiding her chronic illness.

Under Locke

He’s not really an asshole…

What an amazing rollercoaster of fierce emotion and tangled need.

Dex is an asshole. But Iris is determined to make a new beginning. He can criticize her clothes. He can give her the meanest glower on the planet. When she overhears him calling her a useless idiot and a bitch, she decides her imprisonment under his thumb will last only long enough to add something to the measly $76 in her bank account. Then he can kiss her lily white, because she’s finding another job. One where she doesn’t have to tiptoe, or avoid looking her wildly attractive yet bastard of a boss in the eye.

And then he lets his armor crack. Sly humor, unwavering loyalty, stubborn protectiveness and irresistible hugs infiltrate her defenses. Suddenly she loves it when he mutters Ritz. When his hand curls around the nape of her neck. He’s everything her mom wanted her to avoid. He owns a motorcycle, he’s tatted up and he’s an ex-con. But he takes care of everyone around him. He’s a successful businessman. He’s addictive and layered, and gets under her skin.

She turns to him when she can’t trust anyone else, and he would sacrifice everything to keep her safe.

This is my favorite Zapata novel yet. It’s an absolutely intoxicating, unparalleled slow burn, enemies to lovers, bad boys with hearts of gold, taming of the beast. I loved every second of it.

Warning: The intimate scenes are very explicit, and the level of steam is off the charts.

The Dating Dare

Tara and Seth have an undeniable chemistry. They bond over an epic night filled with Truth or Dare, probing questions and sexually charged banter. But he’s leaving for a job abroad in a month, and she doesn’t do “the relationship thing.” 

They agree to a series of dates, with the caveat that they will not fall in love with one another. But the kisses are incinerating, the sex is the best Tara has ever had, and they have an easy camaraderie. 

What they don’t have is the courage to leave behind their emotional baggage and give their relationship a chance. And their time together has an expiration date.

I loved this sweet and steamy story. It’s about finding love when you least expect it, and finding the courage to welcome it and fight for it despite the demons of your past.

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.