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.

Float Plan

It seemed like a good idea at the time…

Anna and Keane are both running away from their lives. They both have been run through the gristmill by recent tragedy, and are trying to pick up the pieces and put themselves back together.

Keane wasn’t part of Anna’s plan. But neither was Ben’s death. And now she feels overwhelmed and abandoned and rudderless. An able seaman, willing to help her sail to Puerto Rico free of charge seems like a godsend. Soon, sharing her tiny space with him doesn’t seem weird. Soon, she looks forward to his cheeky grin and it no longer fazes her when he grabs the Capt. America mug for his morning coffee.

Keane is dazzled by Anna. By both her self-effacing beauty and her vulnerability. By her grit and her determination. He has his own demons to fight, but he would gladly spend the rest of his days watching sunsets with her. And when Anna finally begins to deviate from the course set by others abd sail where her heart longs to go, he hopes she’ll want him by her side.

I loved loved loved this story about second chances, finding the bottomless well of courage to face the hard days, climbing through your grief and carving your own path.

Seven Days in June

Their love story deserves a second chance…

Being a grown woman and a single mom, and competently handling your shit on a daily basis doesn’t leave much space in your life for finding love. Especially when the only love you ever really believed in gutted you during a tsunami like obsession that only lasted for seven days and happened fifteen years ago. Especially when you have to battle the demons of your debilitating illness.

When Shane walks into Eva’s life again, the doubts and struggles of her past come roaring back to life. He is the one shining joy and agonizing betrayal she cannot forget. He broke her and doesn’t deserve her forgiveness- much less a redo. But they are still drawn to each other as if they are magnetized. They still strike sparks off each other with a single loaded glance.

Shane has spent fifteen years trying to escape himself. He has spent fifteen years running from the one jubilant moment he had with Eva. He has spent fifteen years self-medicating with alcohol. His addiction is a crutch he is finally conquering, and he sees every decision he made leading to this rare love story.

Whether they are ready to lay down their burdens in each other’s arms, to treasure the acceptance and solace they find in each other, will be the ultimate test.

There are so many things I love about this book:

  1. The incisive, insightful summaries of personal struggle and redemption.
  2. The unflinching portrayal of rising like a phoenix from the debris of a destructive, soul-stealing childhood.
  3. The uncanny truths about mothering in the 21st century.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“Girls are given the weight of the world, but nowhere to put it down. The power and magic born in that struggle? It’s so terrifying to men that we invented reasons to burn y’all at the stake, just to keep our dicks hard.”

“Maybe they’d always be disasters- but couldn’t they support each other and grow together? No one was perfect! And maybe that was what real, adult love was. Being fearless enough to hold each other close no matter how catastrophic the world became. Loving each other with enough ferocity to quell the fears of the past. Just fucking being there.”

Talk Bookish to Me

Everyone grows up eventually…even college boyfriends.

Talk Bookish to Me was a perfect escape about second chances.

Kara and Ryan were inseparable in college- that couple nauseatingly wrapped up in each other and joined at the hip. The tied with a bow, rose colored glasses couple everyone else was envious of. But they were young, and life got in the way. They couldn’t keep doubt and mistrust from intruding on their relationship – and they are both still nursing the wounds from their mutual meltdown.

Kara still hates Ryan with the fire of a thousand suns. He broke her trust and shattered her heart. And now he’s standing on front of her – miraculously the groomsman in her best friend’s wedding. She wants to thrash him with the roundkick of all roundkicks. But she wants to lean into the crook of his neck and feel his arms around her too. And her competing desires make her grumpy and mean.

When a disaster named Duke strikes, Ryan and Kara become victims of forced proximity. Kara offers up her space because she is trying to help her best friend and keep the momentum and inspiration going so she can meet the deadline for her new romance book. The coincidence of Ryan’s sudden appearance and the banishment of her writer’s block is not something she wants to examine too closely.

The charge between them is inexorable and they can’t ignore it. If they choose each other again, there’s a very definite possibility that their secrets will drive them apart again. Is the heartache and surrender worth it?

I loved this sweet romantic comedy. A huge thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the chance to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Runaway Bride


This ARC was provided courtesy of Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I loved this sweet road trip romance. Kitty and Jack’s story is one about new beginnings, and the journey of self discovery that happens when you let go of guilt and regret.

When Kitty’s life falls apart, she needs to reinvent herself. Her spirit has been broken by the controlling, oppressive life she runs away from. She leaves everything behind on her wedding day when she witnesses the ultimate betrayal.

She’s hoping that her knight in shining armor isn’t a serial killer. He feeds her and clothes her. He seems relatively harmless, and his canine companion is wonderful. Jack and his pregnant dog Sandy rescue her. Jack gives her a roaming home, a new adventure, and safety and security.

Kitty begins to see herself as a strong, independent woman. She begins to confront the demons in her past. She finds love and freedom. She makes a choice- but the one man she wants to claim as her own has his own demons to battle.

This was a sweet, wonderful, slow burn romance. I loved both MCs and wanted to strangle the villains.

Meet Me in Paradise

This book was so wonderful.

It’s about the many different kinds of bravery. It takes courage to carry on, courage to step outside your comfort zone, courage to let go.

It’s about the sacrifices we think we are making for those we love, but are actually walls we are erecting for self-preservation. It’s about tearing down those walls brick by brick.

It’s about self-deception and erroneous assumptions.

Marin agrees to leave her cocoon of ten years for a sisters’ getaway. It turns into another type of adventure altogether when she meets Lucas. As he shows her around the island, she doesn’t recognize her flirty, forthright alterego. She takes risks, embraces danger, and loses her moorings.

The reason behind Marin’s solitary escape will turn her world upside down and result in an epiphany that changes her life.

Recommended if you settle in with this spectacular debut:

-A box of tissues within easy reach.
-No early morning appointments because you won’t be able to put it down once you pick it up.

Locked In Love

He ruined her life and she despises him.

This wonderful love story unfolds in the middle of a quarantine.

He’s the man Kara used to share a cubicle with– or at least a workspace. But their budding romance cost her a job she loved and now she’s unemployed. It’s all his fault, and she lays the blame completely on his shoulders. He’s the reason she’s looking for a hook-up with an overgrown slob of a fratboy. He’s the reason she feels unhinged and untethered.

To make matters worse, the frat boy hookup that didn’t happen means she’s stuck in HIS apartment building for the foreseeable future.

Rory was saddened that the work fiasco wrecked his maybe with Kara. Though she seems to hate his guts, he had reasons for staying at the company that he felt too vulnerable to share. Those reasons will become evident if Kara takes him up on the offer to stay in his apartment until the quarantine ends.

Why this book was the perfect mini- escape from the quarantine that has become a stifling cocoon:

  1. The banter and sparks between Kara and Rory sizzle off the page.
  2. She has to wear his clothes— and they smell like him. You know we’ve all stolen that t-shirt just so we could get a surreptitious sniff whenever we needed it.
  3. There is a sweet, sassy side character who will steal your heart.
  4. Rory may have an 8 pack and seem like a tiger, but he’s actually a kitten.
  5. Forced proximity. And all of the uncomfortable, arousing, impossible to ignore feelings it forces out in the open.

Ever After Always

It is very important to me that the things I read are meaningful, insightful and illuminating. When I pick up a romance novel, I want to see the portrayal of a relationship based on mutual respect- a true partnership.

Liese’s new novel is absolutely incandescent.

Aidan and Freya are in the midst of a struggle to save their marriage. Their personal vulnerabilities have become a wedge between them, and now it is imperative that they reconstruct their relationship from the ground up. The things that separate them are sleeping lions they have kept buried. They are deep-rooted issues of self-love and self-worth.

This is a story about the importance of no holds barred communication in a relationship. It’s a story about growing together instead of apart. It’s a story about what comes after the HEA- and how the real work begins once we throw the rose-colored glasses over our shoulders and accept our imperfections and those of our partner. It’s a story about tenacity, endurance and courage.

Liese beautifully tackles the mental health issues of anxiety and depression and the impact they have on a relationship. Liese beautifully tackles the commitment and strength needed to scale the walls we erect between ourselves and those we care about.

If you read one contemporary romance this year, make it this one.