Tag Archives: romance

PRESS RELEASE: Harlequin Plus Subscription Service

I am so excited to be able to share this amazing news from Harlequin, that a brand new streaming service for romance readers is now live! Below you will see the official press release, as well as a trailer and more. Enjoy all you romance fans out there!


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Romance Fans, the Subscription Service You Have Been Waiting for Is Here!

New York, NY, January 11, 2022

Harlequin, the world’s leading publisher of romance novels, launches Harlequin Plus, a unique subscription-based service designed for fans of romance. A convenient, high-end app and website, Harlequin Plus subscribers will have access to a curated entertainment experience, where each month, romance experts will select and refresh content across the digital platform. A subscription to Harlequin Plus provides users with four entertainment options, including curated bundles of new book releases, an ebook library, romantic movies, and casual games.

“We’re excited to offer a variety of Harlequin content and complimentary entertainment all in one place,” said Brent Lewis, Executive Vice President and Publisher, Harlequin Brand Group. “Fans of romance looking for an uplifting experience are sure to find it within this relaxing and beautifully designed digital platform.”

Harlequin Plus subscribers will have access to:

  • Book bundles: Each month, subscribers can select either an ebook bundle received instantly or physical copies delivered to their homes. Book bundle themes are curated monthly and they offer titles from bestselling authors, seasonal collections, and TV/movie tie-ins. Book bundles will also include titles from across Harlequin’s nine imprints and eleven category romance lines.
  • Ebook library: Free access to the ebook library, with 10-15 new books refreshed every month.
  • Movies: A selection of romantic movies, updated monthly.
  • Games: Fun games that offer relaxing entertainment, with new additions each month.

“Harlequin is proud to continue our reputation as a digital innovator in publishing,” said Eleanor Elliott, Senior Director of Digital Capabilities. “The release of Harlequin Plus is a major milestone for us, our authors and our entertainment partners, and I’m proud to work with the team to bring joyful entertainment to romance fans.”

Harlequin Plus is available in the U.S. at the cost of $14.99 per month. Subscribe to Harlequin Plus directly on HarlequinPlus.com or through in-app purchase on iOS devices in the Apple App Store and Android devices on Google Play.

For more information about Harlequin Plus and to sign up for a free seven-day trial, please visit HarlequinPlus.com.

Read, watch and play with Harlequin Plus!###

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About Harlequin

Harlequin (Harlequin.com) is a leading publisher of commercial fiction and narrative nonfiction. The company publishes more than 100 titles a month, in both print and digital formats, that are sold around the world. Encompassing highly recognizable imprints that span a broad range of genres, the publisher is home to many award-winning New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling authors. Harlequin is a division of HarperCollins Publishers, the second-largest consumer book publisher globally, with operations in 17 countries and 16 languages. For more information, please visit Harlequin.com. Follow Harlequin on Facebook: @HarlequinBooks, Twitter: @HarlequinBooks, Instagram: @HarlequinBooks and on TikTok: @HarlequinBooks

https://www.harlequinplus.com/shop/index.html

Love at First Spite by Anna E. Collins Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A mission to get revenge on her cheating ex-fiancee turns into a sudden romance she could have never seen coming as interior designer Dani begins to fall for the architect at her firm while building a spite house in author Anna E. Collins’s “Love at First Spite”.

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The Synopsis

In this delightful, breezy romcom, interior designer Dani decides to get revenge on her cheating ex the only way she knows how: by building a spite house next door.

They say living well is the best revenge. But sometimes, spreading the misery seems a whole lot more satisfying. That’s interior designer Dani Porter’s justification for buying the vacant lot next to her ex-fiancé’s house…the house they were supposed to live in together, before he cheated on her with their realtor. Dani plans to build a vacation rental that will a) mess with his view and his peace of mind and b) prove that Dani is not someone to be stepped on. Welcome to project Spite House.

That plan quickly becomes complicated when Dani is forced to team up with Wyatt Montego, the handsome, haughty architect at her firm, and the only person available to draw up blueprints. Wyatt is terse and stern, the kind of man who eats his sandwich with a knife and fork. But as they spend time together on- and off-site, Dani glimpses something deeper beneath that hard veneer, something surprising, vulnerable, and real. And the closer she gets to her goal, the more she wonders if winning revenge could mean losing something infinitely sweeter…

The Review

This was such a charming and witty romance novel. The author struck just the right amount of chords to draw in readers that enjoy narratives that blend equal amounts of romance with humor. Right off the bat, the friendship and bond that Dani shares with characters like Iris and her cousin Mia were so wonderful to see explored not just as a secondary storyline, but as an important aspect of Dani’s character as a whole. 

What stood out to me aside from the amazing chemistry between Wyatt and Dani and their character developments overall was the sheer depth of emotions the author explored with these characters. From the hilarious banter Dani had when dealing with her ex to the vulnerable moments when Wyatt let her see the real struggles he has in his personal life outside of the firm and the way they each evolved over time, this novel gave readers a truly engaging and well-rounded view of what a true romance should look and feel like. 

The Verdict

A beautiful, entertaining, and heartfelt romance, author Anna E. Collins’s “Love at First Spite” is a must-read novel of 2022! This women’s fiction and romance novel were so beautifully crafted, and the author did such a wonderful job of making the reader feel immersed in the novel’s world. From vibrant settings and relatable characters to an emotional connection to the romance brewing between these two protagonists, this is a book romance and women’s fiction fans will not be able to put it down. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Anna E. Collins is a Seattle-area author who writes stories about the lives and loves of women. Once upon a time she was a teacher, and she has a master’s degree in educational psychology. LOVE AT FIRST SPITE is her first novel.

Buy Links: 

BookShop.org

Harlequin 

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Books-A-Million

Powell’s

Signed Copies through Third Place Books 

Social Links:

Author Website

https://www.instagram.com/aeccreates/

https://www.facebook.com/aecollinsbooks

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Here is a Q&A From Author Anna E. Collins

Q&A with Anna E. Collins

Q: Love at First Spite is your debut novel. Tell us about your journey to get here.

A: I started writing full-length fiction twelve years ago when my kids were little as an escape from the eating/sleeping/changing diapers rut. Initially, it was just a fun experiment, but my perception of my writing as merely a hobby really transformed when I got into PitchWars in 2017. It was a sort of recognition that I had something worth cultivating, and it also introduced that most crucial aspect of a writer’s life – the writing community. I learned so much from that – about the writing and editing process, about querying, about persistence, and about the importance of not going at it alone. I didn’t sign with my agent (Kimberley Cameron of Kimberley Cameron & Associates) through PitchWars though, but from a cold query about six months later. 

At that point I was writing exclusively women’s fiction. We went on sub with the book that Kimberley signed me on in 2018 and then with another one in 2019, and for a long time nothing happened. We had lots of rejections – polite and complimentary ones, yes, but still rejections. I think this is something authors don’t often talk about, but it happens to most of us. You have to develop a thick skin and always write the next thing.

So, 2020 arrived, I had two books on long-term sub, I had written yet another WF manuscript, and was considering my next project. With Covid shutting everything down with no end in sight, I needed a change, so I decided to try my hand at writing something more light-hearted. Said and done – with the cheerleading of my writing group (also closest friends) spurring me on, Love at First Spite was born. Turns out some flirty banter and revenge shenanigans were exactly what my writerly quarantine year needed!

As luck would have it, I actually ended up signing my two WF books with a smaller press at the end of 2020, and shortly after that, Graydon House acquired Love at First Spite and set a publication date that would make it my debut. And here we are!

Q: What inspired this story?

A: I keep a running list of ideas for stories that I add to whenever I see or hear something that strikes me as interesting, or when I read about a topic that seems off-beat or unusual. Often, a title relating to the topic will come to me first, so I’ll jot down that and a brief line about it. In this case, I had read an article about spite houses around the world probably a year or so prior, found the lengths some people go to for revenge fascinating, and consequently made a note of it on my list. The exact words were “The Spite House – building a building to get revenge.” That was it – no genre, no characters, nothing. When I decided I wanted to write a romcom, this title stood out to me in my list as I could easily picture the pettiness required for such a build being ripe for comedic situations. It’s over-the-top right away as far as revenge goes, which seemed like a good place to start.

Q: What research did you do for this book?

A: I’m neither an interior designer nor an architect like my two main characters, so I obviously had to do some research into what day-to-day life might look like in those fields. I also researched zoning laws for the city where the story takes place, fence regulations, construction terms, house building processes, common neighbor disputes (there are some pretty colorful ones on the internet), video surveillance systems, and how to tuft figures out of wool. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things, but that’s at least a general overview of my search history during that period of writing.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: Currently, I’m wrapping up a second romcom that I can’t currently talk about, while also finishing copy edits for my first women’s fiction title, These Numbered Days, which will be out some time in spring/summer 2022. And brainstorming my next project, of course. Always brainstorming!

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And now, here is an Excerpt from “Love at First Spite”

Chapter 1

My white dress trails me as we make our way across the small clearing to where the others are waiting. The heavy fabric rustles against the ground, a few leaves catching in the hem, but I ignore them, concentrating instead on what’s ahead. All eyes are on me. 

“Are you sure?” my cousin Mia asks at my elbow. My partner in crime. 

I glance her way. I’m nervous, but I don’t want to be, and the simmering excitement in her expression reassures me. This is the right choice. 

“Hundred percent,” I say. 

She smiles and squeezes my hand. “You’ll rock this, I know it.” She lets go and steps away to assume her position with a wink. “See you on the other side.” 

Then it begins.

I take off at a sprint. The paintball arena is at least a football field in size and strewn with steel drums, crates, and sandbags. A few larger structures in the middle resemble a small-scale Old West town complete with porches and a saloon sign. The guys Mia and I’ve been teamed up with run that way, while she and I head for the trees along the sides. The large pines tower stoically above the fray, and I choose one of the largest trunks for my first cover.

“Did everyone else go the other way?” I call out to Mia but get no response. Wasn’t she behind me? 

I peer around the trunk only to catch the whisp of her braid beneath her helmet as she dives for shelter by a tree trunk twenty yards in front of me. 

“Don’t be a baby, Porter,” I chastise myself, before following her. It’s a thirty-minute game of most-hits-win, so she’s got the right idea: it’s go time. 

As fast as my skirts allow, I jog in the direction of the rapid pops and ka-splats of active battle, paintball gun at the ready. The staff told me I’d be at a disadvantage playing in my wedding dress, and they had a good point. But then again, I didn’t come here expecting to leave in virginal white. 

I barely get my finger on the trigger before two shots in succession hit me squarely in the chest, and a green stain blooms before me. It hurts less than I anticipated, but I still freeze too long and another round easily finds my shoulder. Blue paint drips off the white lace of my sleeve. 

Oh yeah? That’s how it’s going to be? 

Something akin to glee bubbles up my chest and I let out a loud cackle. All righty, then. Shouldering my gun, I aim at the culprit—some kid a full foot shorter than me— and one, two, three splotches of paint hit his belly.

“Yeah!” I shout, as he hightails off. Adrenaline pumps through my arms. 

“Dani, over here!” Mia runs sideways behind me from the cover of a fake building to a stack of boxes. “I’ll shield you.” 

Yeah right. She already looks like she’s wrestled with a rainbow. 

I consider darting the opposite way, to a smattering of hay bales, but Mia sounds increasingly desperate. I hike up my skirts and do my best to make myself small before jumping to safety next to her. 

Back up against the boxes, I peek around the corner. “Two of them,” I say, still breathing hard. “On my mark.” I count down with my fingers and, on three, we spring out, guns leveled at opponents who don’t see us coming. I’m a vengeful angel, gliding through the sky—at least that’s what I picture until my toe catches the hem of my dress and I stumble forward into a mouthful of dirty straw. 

“Take that!” Mia shouts from a distance, accompanied by a fresh round of shots volleying through the air. 

“What the fuck?” a deep voice yells out. 

Another voice: “We’re on the same fucking team.”

I lift my face off the ground. Mia is backing up toward me, pursued by our imagined foe who’s indeed wearing the same beat-up Timberlands I spotted on our teammates earlier. 

It’s fair to say they’re about as excited to be paired with us as my taste buds are about the straw. I spit out the horse fodder and push myself up. 

“We should have never teamed up with them,” the first guy complains. “That one wants to get hit, and this one…” He gestures at Mia. 

She exhales as if he’s punched her.

“What?” I say, moving to stand between him and my cousin. “This one, what?” 

“Dude, come on,” the second guy says. “Let’s just play.” 

“Well she’s not exactly agile, is she?” guy number one sneers. 

“Ha, that’s funny.” I bob my head a few times and train my gun on him. “What do you think, Mia?” 

She appears at my side. “I think someone’s about to get pummeled.” 

His eyebrows jerk behind his protective goggles, but that’s all he manages before we shoot. 

And shoot again. 

Who needs a team? The sight of them running away is totally worth losing for.

Excerpted from Love at First Spite by Anna E. Collins, Copyright © 2022 by Anna E. Collins. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

Christmas in Rose Bend (Rose Bend #2) by Naima Simone Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

An ER nurse reeling from a shocking revelation about her father and the loss of her mother finds herself and her younger sister spending the holidays at the small town of Rose Bend, and discovering what it means to open their hearts in the process in author Naima Simone’s “Christmas in Rose Bend”, the second book in the Rose Bend series.

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The Synopsis

The holidays have never been her thing. But Christmas in Rose Bend has more than one surprise in store…

Grieving ER nurse Nessa Hunt is on a road trip with her sullen teen half-sister, Ivy, and still reeling from her mother’s deathbed confession: Nessa’s dad wasn’t really her dad. Seeking answers, they arrive in Rose Bend to find a small town teeming with the kind of Christmas cheer Nessa usually avoids. But then she meets the innkeeper’s ruggedly sexy son, Wolfgang Dennison.

Wolf’s big, boisterous family is like a picture-perfect holiday card. Nessa has too much weighed on her to feel like she fits—even though the heat between her and Wolf is undeniable. And the merriment bringing an overdue smile to Ivy’s face is almost enough to make Nessa believe in the Christmas spirit. But with all her parental baggage, including lingering questions about her birth father, is there room in Nessa’s life for happy holidays and happily-ever-after?

The Review

Now I know the new year has arrived and many people may be ready to move on from the holidays, but for me, the holiday season is the gift itself that keeps on giving, and the same can be said for holiday romances. What was so beautiful and emotional about this read was how the author managed to balance the Christmas magic that the town of Rose Bend embraced with the complex feelings and experiences both protagonists (Nessa and Wolf) have had coming into this narrative. The reader is able to connect with both characters through their shared sense of loss, whether it is the loss of a loved one physically or emotionally, and then heated and more intimate moments between the two that develop feel more passionate as a result of that shared past. 

The development of other characters was what brought a sense of belonging and togetherness to this narrative. Aside from the main characters, the way the narrative showed the rollercoaster of emotions that Nessa’s sister Ivy went through after losing her father, a man she and her sister have had very different experiences with, and the gap that has formed between the two women was so emotionally captivating and engaging that readers would be hard-pressed not to dive headfirst into this story.

The Verdict

A brilliant and sizzling romance that will heat up anyone’s holidays, author Naima Simone’s “Christmas in Rose Bend” is the perfect next chapter in the romance series. The story takes on so much more than a simple holiday romance as the story plays out though. It is a story of breaking down the barriers within ourselves, connecting the people closest to us when they need us the most, and coming to terms with our past to find a brighter future, and that is what makes this story so captivating. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today.

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

USA Today Bestselling author Naima Simone’s love of romance was first stirred by Johanna Lindsey and Nora Roberts years ago. Well not that many. She is only eighteen…ish. Published since 2009, she spends her days writing sizzling romances with heart, a touch of humor and snark.  She is wife to Superman–or his non-Kryptonian equivalent–and mother to the most awesome kids ever. They live in perfect, sometimes domestically-challenged bliss in the southern US.

Buy Links: 

BookShop.org

Harlequin 

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Books-A-Million

Powell’s 

Social Links:

Author Website

Facebook: @naimasimoneauthor  

Instagram: @naimasimoneauthor

Twitter: @Naima_Simone

Goodreads

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Here is an Excerpt For “Christmas in Rose Bend”

Nessa Hunt didn’t do Christmas. 

As an ER nurse, she’d seen the worst humanity had to offer during the holiday season. Electrocution injuries from plugging one too many Christmas lights into a single outlet. Shoppers with broken noses and blackened eyes from Black Friday fights that erupted over the newest must-have toy. Dads with busted backs from attempting to mount inflatable Frosties and reindeer-drawn sleighs on porch roofs.

And then there’d been that one memorable sex toy mishap— Santa had boldly gone where no Santa had gone before.

So, no, she was not a fan of Christmas.

Which meant the town of Rose Bend, Massachusetts, was her own personal version of hell. 

“It looks like Santa Claus just threw up all over this place!” her sister, Ivy, whispered from the passenger seat.

Now, there was a nice visual. But slowing to a halt at a stoplight, Nessa had to admit the twelve-year-old had a point. Who knew that three hours north of Boston and tucked in the southern Berkshires existed a town straight out of a Thomas Kinkade painting? It seemed almost…unreal. If any place had that everybody-knows-your-name vibe, it was Rose Bend. Brick buildings housing drugstores, boutiques, a candy store, an ice cream parlor and diners lined the road. The long white steeple of a church towered in the distance. A colonial-style building stood in the center of town, the words Town Hall emblazoned above four columns. And everything was decorated with lights, garland, poinsettias, candy canes and big red bows. Even the stoplights sported huge wreaths decked out with miniature toys and elves—and the biggest pine cones she’d ever seen in her life. 

Mom would’ve lost her mind over all this. 

The thought snuck out of the steel door in her mind where she’d locked away all wayward, crippling memories of Evelyn Reed. A blazing pain stabbed Nessa in the chest, and she sucked in a breath. Briefly, she closed her eyes, blocking out the winter wonderland beyond her windshield. 

It had been eight long, lonely, bitter months since she’d lost her mother to uterine cancer. Since she’d last heard her mother’s pragmatic but affectionate voice that still held a faint Southern accent, even though she’d lived in Boston for over thirty years. Since she’d inhaled her mother’s comforting roses-and-fresh-laundry scent. 

Since her mother had rasped a devastating secret in a whisper thick with regret, edged with pain and slurred from morphine. 

Maybe the well-meaning friends who’d advised Nessa to see a grief counselor could also counsel her on how to stop being so goddamn angry with her mother for lying to Nessa for twenty-eight years. Maybe then Nessa could start to heal. 

’Til then, she had patients to care for. Now she had a sister to raise. 

And secrets to keep. 

“Oh wow!” Ivy squealed, jabbing the window with a finger. “There’s a real town square and over there is the biggest Christmas tree I’ve ever seen! Can we get out and walk around? Please?” 

Nessa glanced in the direction Ivy pointed, taking in the square, and in the distance, a massive tree. The idea of strolling around in the freezing weather to stare at a Douglas fir wasn’t exactly her idea of fun. But when she’d agreed to make this trip with Ivy, Nessa had told herself to make an effort to connect. This was supposed to be about bonding with the sister she barely knew. 

Emptiness spread through her and the greasy slide of guilt and pain flooded into the hole. She glanced at Ivy, Nessa’s gaze lingering over the features they shared…but didn’t. The high cheekbones that dominated a face Ivy hadn’t yet grown into. The thin shoulders that had become even thinner in the last six weeks, since her father had died. 

A scream welled up inside Nessa, scraping her throat raw. Ivy’s father—Isaac Hunt—was the man who had raised Nessa until he and her mother divorced when she’d been about Ivy’s age, and then he’d been more out of her life than in it. He had named Nessa as his daughter’s guardian. He had trusted Nessa to care for Ivy, because she was his oldest daughter and Ivy’s half sister. And though she and Isaac hadn’t shared a close relationship when he’d been alive, she couldn’t let him down. And Ivy… 

Ivy had lost her mother as a baby, and now her father. Nessa knew what it was like to be alone. She couldn’t take Ivy’s sister away, too. 

Even if Ivy resented the hell out of Nessa and begrudged her guardianship with every breath she took. 

But God… Months of bearing a secret weighed on Nessa’s shoulders. And they ached. These last six weeks had been a special kind of hell. 

She was so damn tired. 

Inhaling a deep breath, Nessa forced herself to push past the soul-deep ache. 

She could do this. 

One of the first things she’d had to learn when entering the nursing field was how to compartmentalize hurt, grief and anger. Not allowing herself to be sucked down in a morass of emotion. If she hadn’t acquired that skill, she wouldn’t have been any good to her patients, their families, the doctors or herself. So what if some people called her Nurse Freeze behind her back? She got the job done. Besides, as she’d learned— first, when her father left the family; second, when her ex had traded their relationship for a job in Miami; and third, when her parents died—loving someone, caring for them, was a liability. Feelings were unreliable, untrustworthy. Parents, lovers, friends, patients—everyone always left. Only fools didn’t protect themselves.

And her mother hadn’t raised a fool. 

“Let’s wait on that,” she said, answering Ivy. “We need to find Kinsale Inn first and get settled. Then maybe later we can come back and do the tourist thing.” 

“Right.” Ivy dropped against the passenger seat, arms crossed over her chest. The glance the preteen slid Nessa’s way could only be described as side-eye. Paired with the curl to the corner of her mouth, Ivy’s expression had gone from wide-eyed excitement to Eff you, big sister in three-point-five seconds flat. “In other words, no.” 

“Did I say no?” Nessa asked, striving for patience. She’s a grieving preteen. You can’t bounce her out of your car. CPS frowns on that. With the mantra running through her head, she tried again. “Check-in at the inn was at twelve, and it’s now one thirty.” She hadn’t expected to hit so much traffic leaving Boston. Or to take the wrong exit halfway to the Berkshires and have to retrace her route. “We need to make sure they still know we’re arriving. The square and the tree will be there in a few hours.” 

“Uh-huh.” Ivy snorted. “And as soon as we get to the inn, you’ll find another excuse not to do anything. Especially with me. It’s not like you wanted to come here anyway.” 

“First off, kid, I’m not the kind of person who does anything she doesn’t want to do. Second, if I give you my word, I mean it. And third, what does ‘especially with me’ mean? Who else would I be up here with?” 

“Whatever,” Ivy muttered. 

Nessa breathed deep. Held it. Counted to ten. Released it. Then tried again. “Is this how the next month is going to be? You angry and me taking the brunt of it? Because I have to tell you, we could’ve done this dance back in Boston without carolers and hot chocolate stands.” 

“Don’t pretend like you did this for me. You don’t even like me. This is all for your guilt over Dad’s letter. Fine with me if we go back to Boston. I don’t care.” 

Nessa tightened her fingers around the steering wheel, not replying. Anything she said to Ivy at this moment would only end up in an argument. That’s all she and Ivy had seemed to do since the funeral. Nothing Nessa did could make Ivy happy. 

And as much as Nessa hated to admit it, there was some truth to Ivy’s accusation. Because a part of her—Jesus, she hated admitting it even to herself—didn’t like Ivy. Was jealous of her. For having more of Isaac’s love. For having him when Nessa hadn’t, even when she’d needed him. 

Even though Nessa had called Isaac Hunt Dad all her life, he was more or less a stranger to her…just like the silent, stiff twelve-year-old hunched on the seat next to her. He’d been an absentee parent since his divorce from her mother sixteen years ago, and Nessa had met her half sister maybe five times before their father died from pancreatic cancer. Hell, she hadn’t even known he’d been ill until the final time he’d ended up in the hospital. She hadn’t even had a chance to say…what? Goodbye? Where the hell have you been as a father for sixteen years? Why didn’t you love me as much as you loved your other daughter? 

I love you. 

Dammit. Damn damn damn

She fisted her fingers to keep from pounding the steering wheel. 

So yes, guilt had pushed her into taking a previously unheard-of short-term leave from the hospital. It’d goaded her into going up to Ivy’s school and letting them know the girl would be missing the last two weeks before Christmas break to take an extended vacation. 

She swallowed a sigh, and as the light changed, pressed on the gas pedal. A tense, edgy silence filled the car. Nothing new there either. Nessa snuck another look at the girl, noting the sullen expression turning down Ivy’s mouth and creasing her eyebrows into a petulant frown. 

Maybe their time in Rose Bend would give Ivy her smile back. Or at least rid Ivy’s lovely dark brown eyes of the sadness lurking there. 

And maybe Santa really did fly around the world. 

Yeah, Nessa had stopped believing in miracles and fairy tales years ago. Better Ivy learn now that life dealt shitty hands, and you either folded or played to recoup your losses. 

Soon, they left the downtown area and approached a fork in the road. As she turned her Durango left onto a paved road bordered by trees… 

“Oh wow,” Ivy breathed. 

“Good God,” Nessa murmured at the same time, bringing her vehicle to a halt in the driveway that circled in front of the huge white inn. 

Oh, Mom. You would’ve so loved this. 

A short set of stairs led up to a spacious porch that, according to the brochure, encircled the building. The wide lower level angled out to the side, with the equally long second floor following suit. The third, slightly smaller story graced the building with its dormer window, and a slanted roof topped it like a red cap. A broad red front door with glass panes along the top and dark green shutters at every window—and, damn, there were a lot of windows—and large bushes bordering the front and sides completed the image of a beautiful country inn. But it was the wreaths and bows hung on the door and walls, and the lights that twinkled along every surface, that transformed the building into a fairyland. A Christmas fairyland. 

Excerpted from Christmas in Rose Bend by Naima Simone. Copyright © 2021 by Naima Simone. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

The Secret of Snow by Viola Shipman Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A woman working as a meteorologist in California must return to her hometown in Michigan after losing her job to an AI at her local station, and must confront her past and reclaim her popularity as a meteorologist in the public eye while also finding an unexpected possibility for romance in author Viola Shipman’s “The Secret of Snow”.

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The Synopsis

When Sonny Dunes, a So-Cal meteorologist who knows only sunshine and 72-degree days, has an on-air meltdown after she learns she’s being replaced by an AI meteorologist (which the youthful station manager reasons “will never age, gain weight or renegotiate its contract.”), the only station willing to give a 50-year-old another shot is one in a famously non-tropical place–her northern Michigan hometown.

Unearthing her carefully laid California roots, Sonny returns home and reaclimates to the painfully long, dark winters dominated by a Michigan phenomenon known as lake-effect snow. But beyond the complete physical shock to her system, she’s also forced to confront her past: her new boss is a former journalism classmate and mortal frenemy and, more keenly, the death of a younger sister who loved the snow, and the mother who caused Sonny to leave.

To distract herself from the unwelcome memories, Sonny decides to throw herself headfirst (and often disastrously) into all things winter to woo viewers and reclaim her success: sledding, ice-fishing, skiing, and winter festivals, culminating with the town’s famed Winter Ice Sculpture Contest, all run by a widowed father and Chamber director whose honesty and genuine love of Michigan, winter and Sonny just might thaw her heart and restart her life in a way she never could have predicted.

The Review

Such an engaging and memorable read. The balance found between the humorous character interactions and the emotional character growth really highlighted a great character arc overall not just for the protagonist both those closest to her. The setting and tone of the narrative really were perfect, because they captured the magic of winter without focusing intently on the holidays themselves, showing how there is distinct energy and feeling that this time of year can bring. 

To me, the standout of this novel was the equal parts romance and equal parts emotional personal growth. The harmonious way the author delves into “Sonny” and the woman behind the public figure was so incredible to read, as the author truly explored the psychological and soulful journey the protagonist went on while also highlighting this blooming romance that she and Mason found with one another, becoming a very healing and hopeful message for readers.

The Verdict

A brilliant, engaging, and hopeful journey of love in all its forms, author Viola Shipman’s “The Secret of Snow” is a must-read winter read of 2021. With captivating characters and entertaining storylines that will harness the magic of winter for fans of cozy winter romances, this is one novel that readers will want to binge read before the end of the year. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Viola Shipman is the pen name for Wade Rouse, a popular, award-winning memoirist. Rouse chose his grandmother’s name, Viola Shipman, to honor the woman whose heirlooms and family stories inspire his writing. Rouse is the author of The Summer Cottage, as well as The Charm Bracelet and The Hope Chest which have been translated into more than a dozen languages and become international bestsellers. He lives in Saugatuck, Michigan and Palm Springs, California, and has written for People, Coastal Living, Good Housekeeping, and Taste of Home, along with other publications, and is a contributor to All Things Considered.

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Here is an Excerpt from The Secret of Snow

“And look at this! A storm system is making its way across the country, and it will bring heavy snow to the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes before wreaking havoc on the East Coast. This is an especially early and nasty start to winter for much of the country. In fact, early models indicate that parts of western and northern Michigan—the lake effect snowbelts, as we call them—will receive over 150 inches of snow this year. One hundred fifty inches!”

I turn away from the green screen in my red wrap dress and heels.

“But here in the desert…” I wait for the graphic to pop onscreen, which declares, Sonny Says It’s Sonny… Again!

When the camera refocuses on me, I toss an adhesive sunshine with my face on it toward the green screen behind me. It sticks directly on Palm Springs, California.

“…it’s wall-to-wall sunshine!”

I expand my arms like a raven in the mountains taking flight. The weekly forecast pops up. Every day features a smiling sunshine that resembles yours truly: golden, shining, beaming.

“And it will stay that way all week long, with temperatures in the midseventies and lows in the midfifties. Not bad for this time of year, huh? It’s chamber of commerce weather here in the desert, perfect for all those design lovers in town for Mid-Century Modernism Week.” I walk over to the news desk. The camera follows. I lean against the desk and turn to the news anchors, Eva Fernandez and Cliff Moore. “Or for someone who loves to play golf, right, Cliff?”

He laughs his faux laugh, the one that makes his mouth resemble those old windup chattering teeth from when I was a girl.

“You betcha, Sonny!”

“That’s why we live here, isn’t it?” I ask.

“I sure feel sorry for the rest of the country,” says Eva, her blinding white smile as bright as the camera lights. I’m convinced every one of Eva’s caps has a cap.

“Those poor Michigan folk won’t be golfing in shorts like I will be tomorrow, will they?” Cliff says with a laugh and his pantomime golf swing. He twitches his bushy brows and gives me a giant wink. “Thank you, Sonny Dunes.”

I nod, my hands on my hips as if I’m a Price Is Right model and not a meteorologist.

“Martinis on the mountain? Yes, please,” Eva says with her signature head tilt. “Next on the news: a look at some of the big events at this year’s Mid-Century Modernism Week. Back in a moment.”

I end the newscast with the same forecast—a row of smiling sunshine emojis that look just like my face—and then banter with the anchors about the perfect pool temperature before another graphic—THE DESERT’S #1 NIGHTLY NEWS TEAM!—pops onto the screen, and we fade to commercial.

“Anyone want to go get a drink?” Cliff asks within seconds of the end of the newscast. “It’s Friday night.”

“It’s always Friday night to you, Cliff,” Eva says.

She stands and pulls off her mic. The top half of Eva Fernandez is J.Lo perfection: luminescent locks, long lashes, glam gloss, a skintight top in emerald that matches her eyes, gold jewelry that sets off her glowing skin. But Eva’s bottom half is draped in sweats, her feet in house slippers. It’s the secret viewers never see.

“I’m half dressed for bed already anyway,” she says with a dramatic sigh. Eva is very dramatic. “And I’m hosting the Girls Clubs Christmas breakfast tomorrow and then Eisenhower Hospital’s Hope for the Holidays fundraiser tomorrow night. And Sonny and I are doing every local Christmas parade the next few weekends. You should think about giving back to the community, Cliff.”

“Oh, I do,” he says. “I keep small business alive in Palm Springs. Wouldn’t be a bar afloat without my support.”

Cliff roars, setting off his chattering teeth.

I call Cliff “The Unicorn” because he was actually born and raised in Palm Springs. He didn’t migrate here like the older snowbirds to escape the cold, he didn’t snap up midcentury houses with cash like the Silicon Valley techies who realized this was a real estate gold mine, and he didn’t suddenly “discover” how hip Palm Springs was like the millennials who flocked here for the Coachella Music Festival and to catch a glimpse of Drake, Beyoncé or the Kardashians.

No, Cliff is old school. He was Palm Springs when tumbleweed still blew right through downtown, when Bob Hope pumped gas next to you and when Frank Sinatra might take a seat beside you at the bar, order a martini and nobody acted like it was a big deal.

I admire Cliff because—

The set suddenly spins, and I have to grab the arm of a passing sound guy to steady myself. He looks at me, and I let go.

he didn’t run away from where he grew up.

“How about you, sunshine?” Cliff asks me. “Wanna grab a drink?”

“I’m gonna pass tonight, Cliff. I’m wiped from this week. Rain check?”

“Never rains in the desert, sunshine,” Cliff jokes. “You oughta know that.”

He stops and looks at me. “What would Frank Sinatra do?”

I laugh. I adore Cliff’s corniness.

“You’re not Frank Sinatra,” Eva calls.

“My martini awaits with or without you.” Cliff salutes, as if he’s Bob Hope on a USO tour, and begins to walk out of the studio.

“Ratings come in this weekend!” a voice yells. “That’s when we party.”

We all turn. Our producer, Ronan, is standing in the middle of the studio. Ronan is all of thirty. He’s dressed in flip-flops, board shorts and a T-shirt that says, SUNS OUT, GUNS OUT! like he just returned from Coachella. Oh, and he’s wearing sunglasses. At night. In a studio that’s gone dim. Ronan is the grandson of the man who owns our network, DSRT. Jack Clark of ClarkStar pretty much owns every network across the US these days. He put his grandson in charge because Ro-Ro’s father bought an NFL franchise, and he’s too obsessed with his new fancy toy to pay attention to his old fancy toy. Before DSRT, Ronan was a surfer living in Hawaii who found it hard to believe there wasn’t an ocean in the middle of the California desert.

He showed up to our very first official news meeting wearing a tank top with an arrow pointing straight up that read, This Dude’s the CEO!

“You can call me Ro-Ro,” he’d announced upon introduction.

“No,” Cliff said. “I can’t.”

Ronan had turned his bleary gaze upon me and said, “Yo. Weather’s, like, not really my thing. You can just, like, look outside and see what’s going on. And it’s, like, on my phone. Just so we’re clear…get it? Like the weather.”

My heart nearly stopped. “People need to know how to plan their days, sir,” I protested. “Weather is a vital part of all our lives. It’s daily news. And, what I study and disseminate can save lives.”

“Ratings party if we’re still number one!” Ronan yells, knocking me from my thoughts.

I look at Eva, and she rolls her eyes. She sidles up next to me and whispers, “You know all the jokes about millennials? He’s the punchline for all of them.”

I stifle a laugh.

We walk each other to the parking lot.

“See you Monday,” I say.

“Are we still wearing our matching Santa hats for the parade next Saturday?”

I laugh and nod. “We’re his best elves,” I say.

“You mean his sexiest news elves,” she says. She winks and waves, and I watch her shiny SUV pull away. I look at my car and get inside with a smile. Palm Springs locals are fixated on their cars. Not the make or the color, but the cleanliness. Since there is so little rain in Palm Springs, locals keep their cars washed and polished constantly. It’s like a competition.

I pull onto Dinah Shore Drive and head toward home.

Palm Springs is dark. There is a light ordinance in the city that limits the number of streetlights. In a city this beautiful, it would be a crime to have tall posts obstructing the view of the mountains or bright light overpowering the brightness of the stars.

I decide to cut through downtown Palm Springs to check out the Friday night action. I drive along Palm Canyon Drive, the main strip in town. The restaurants are packed. People sit outside in shorts—in December!—enjoying a glass of wine. Music blasts from bars. Palm Springs is alive, the town teeming with life even near midnight.

I stop at a red light, and a bachelorette party in sashes and tiaras pulls up next to me peddling a party bike. It’s like a self-propelled trolley with seats and pedals, but you can drink—a lot—on it. I call these party trolleys “Woo-Hoo Bikes” because…

I honk and wave.

The bachelorette party shrieks, holds up their glasses and yells, “WOO-HOO!”

The light changes, and I take off, knowing these ladies will likely find themselves in a load of trouble in about an hour, probably at a tiki bar where the drinks are as deadly as the skulls on the glasses.

I continue north on Palm Canyon—heading past Copley’s Restaurant, which once was Cary Grant’s guesthouse in the 1940s, and a plethora of design and vintage home furnishings stores. I stop at another light and glance over as an absolutely filthy SUV, which looks like it just ended a mud run, pulls up next to me. The front window is caked in gray-white sludge and the doors are encrusted in crud. An older man is hunched over the steering wheel, wearing a winter coat, and I can see the woman seated next to him pointing at the navigation on the dashboard. I know immediately they are not only trying to find their Airbnb on one of the impossible-to-locate side streets in Palm Springs, but also that they are from somewhere wintry, somewhere cold, somewhere the sun doesn’t shine again until May.

Which state? I wonder, as the light changes, and the car pulls ahead of me.

“Bingo!” I yell in my car. “Michigan license plates!”

We all run from Michigan in the winter.

I look back at the road in front of me, and it’s suddenly blurry. A car honks, scaring the wits out of me, and I shake my head clear, wave an apology and head home.

Excerpted from The Secret of Snow by Viola Shipman. Copyright © 2021 by Viola Shipman. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

Mistletoe Season (The Carolina Girls Book 2) by Michelle Major Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Two former friends turned enemies find themselves back in each other’s lives years later, and a shared bond and goal forces them to examine what they truly mean to one another in author Michelle Major’s “Mistletoe Season”, the second book in The Carolina Girls series.

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The Synopsis

Spend the holidays in Magnolia, North Carolina, where two lonely hearts find exactly what they need for Christmas.

Angi Guilardi needs a man for Christmas—at least, according to her mother. What she really needs is to grow her fledgling catering business. Partnering with Magnolia’s Firefly Inn holds promise, but when her mother falls ill, Angi’s drawn back to the family restaurant. Balancing work and her eight-year-old son, there’s no time for romance… until Angi runs into Gabriel Carlyle.

Temporarily helping at his grandmother’s flower shop, Gabriel’s plan isn’t to stick around, especially after he runs into Angi, one of his childhood bullies. Sure, she’s all grown up and gorgeous now, and when they find themselves under the mistletoe, their chemistry is undeniable. But it’ll take more than a Christmas miracle for Angi to break through the defenses of Gabriel’s well-guarded heart and find a love built to last.

The Review

The tension between the two protagonists was palpable as the story began. The way the author explores the past these two characters share with one another and the impact their families have had on them as well was so intriguing and engaging and made the impact of their growing romance that much more meaningful. The pain of their pasts both tougher and individually elevated their character arcs to new heights and allowed the reader to feel connected to their emotional states overall.

The small-town vibe and history of the characters and area really made this story what it was. The intimate moments between the protagonists and the holiday romance felt much more alive due to the connected way the town and its citizens interacted with one another, and the connection each protagonist had to the wellbeing and overall happiness of Angi’s son brought out the best of each of them, making this such an emotionally-investing narrative.

The Verdict

A memorable, hopeful, and well-written holiday romance, author Michelle Major’s “Mistletoe Season” is the perfect read for romance fans this winter. The world-building and character development the author captured here in this narrative was entertaining and emotional all at once, and the twists and turns their relationship takes will keep readers on the edge of their seats. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

USA Today bestselling author Michelle Major loves stories of new beginnings, second chances and always a happily ever after. An avid hiker and avoider of housework, she lives in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains with her husband, two teenagers and a menagerie of spoiled furbabies.

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Here is an Excerpt from “Mistletoe Season”

1

ANGI GUILARDI LET herself out of Il Rigatone, the restaurant her family had owned in Magnolia, North Carolina, for the past thirty years, and locked the door behind her. It was nearly eleven at night, and a brisk December wind whipped down Main Street. Although she should be wearing more than a white button-down, now stained with smatterings of red sauce, Angi welcomed the gust of air. At least it blew away the smell of sausage and tomato paste that clung to her like a barnacle.

Scents that seemed to be infused into her at this point, bringing back memories of years of a childhood spent in and out of the restaurant. It had been a long day, so she needed a shower and a glass of wine in equal measure.

She started toward her car, parked around the corner, but the sound of a door slamming nearby caught her attention. Downtown Magnolia rolled up the sidewalks early on a weeknight, so she didn’t expect anyone else to be out and about. She arched a brow at the woman approaching.

“Are you stalking me?”

Emma Cantrell gave an impatient snort as she moved closer. “That’s what it feels like, but it wouldn’t be necessary if you’d return my calls or answer messages.”

Angi turned to fully face her business partner—now former partner. “I’ve been busy,” she said, trying to make her tone dismissive. Instead, the words reeked of desperation.

“How’s your mom?” Emma asked gently, her annoyance with Angi temporarily put aside because, clearly, Emma was a good person. Too good for Angi to be ignoring her the way she had.

“Equally weak and ornery.” Angi dropped the oversize set of keys into her purse with a jangle. “The doctor says two more weeks, and then she can slowly begin to resume her normal activities.”

“Like running Il Rigatone?”

“We don’t know yet if she’ll ever return at the same capacity.” Angi bit down on the inside of her cheek until she tasted blood. “It doesn’t matter because I’m running it now.”

“But only temporarily,” Emma insisted. Or suggested, like saying the words out loud would make them true.

Oh, how Angi wanted them to be true.

She gave a small shake of her head. No more time for fanciful thoughts or big dreams about making her life her own. Unable to meet Emma’s sympathetic gaze, she looked across the street to the storefronts decorated in festive holiday cheer.

Colorful twinkle lights danced in the darkened window of the hardware store, and she could make out the shadow of garland wound through the sign for the dance studio. Boughs of greenery with bright red bows hung from every light post on either side of the street. Magnolia had gone all out on the holiday cheer this year.

Too bad Angi didn’t feel much of the holiday spirit. Sure, she’d gone through the motions of assembling the fake Christmas tree that had graced the corner of the restaurant’s small waiting area each December for as long as she could remember.

During a lull in customers yesterday, she and one of the waitresses had pulled out the totes of decorations from the storeroom, but nothing managed to conjure up the magic of the season. Not for her.

“I’m sorry I let you down,” she told Emma, thankful her voice remained steady. “I’ve got calls in to a couple caterers in the area to see if they can—”

“I don’t want another caterer.” Emma stepped forward. “You’re it, Ang.”

“I can’t…” She swallowed when a lump of sorrow lodged in her throat. “I should never have deserted my mom in the first place. If she hadn’t been working so much and upset about me as well, maybe the heart attack wouldn’t have happened.”

“Sweetie, you aren’t to blame for that.”

“She almost died,” Angi insisted, needing to make it clear. “Less than a year after my father. She collapsed in the restaurant’s storeroom, and I wasn’t here.”

“You were at the inn.”

“Having a grand old time, not a care in the world. My mom was fighting for her life, surrounded by employees until the EMTs got there, and I wasn’t with her. When she needed me the most—”

“Stop.” Emma held up a hand. “I remember that day, Angi. It was the McAlvey wedding, complete with the bride’s niece and her tiny Irish dancer friends pounding away on the parquet floor we assembled in the backyard. You made food for over a hundred guests. Plus lunch baskets for the Thompson reunion and their picnic at the beach. Five of the six online reviews that came from those two events mention the food being a highlight. You care a lot, so don’t pretend otherwise. Not with me.”

Emma still didn’t get it.

“I should have cared more about my mom. The way she did when I needed her. She looked so pale, Em.” Angi crossed her arms over her middle, squeezing tight. “I kept waiting for her eyes to pop open so she could start ordering me around or give me some kind of guilt trip, but she was still in the hospital bed with the monitors beeping and the smell of antiseptic permeating everything. She needs me now, and I can’t let her down.”

“What about letting yourself down? What about your happiness?”

Angi sniffed. “Doesn’t matter.”

“It should.”

“I’m sorry,” Angi said again.

She’d met Emma in the spring when the other woman bought an old mansion in town with a plan to turn it into a boutique inn. Emma had had her share of setbacks, but Angi admired her dedication to her dream. She also knew that leaving behind her old life had cost Emma her relationship with her mother.

Angi’s mom had been outspoken in the way only Italian mothers can manage when Angi walked away from the restaurant to partner with Emma on the inn. But Angi assumed that her mom would get over her disappointment. That they’d find a way to bridge the emotional distance between them. She loved her mom, even if Bianca Guilardi could be overbearing and autocratic. The willful matriarch had good intentions.

But they never got the chance to mend their fences because, a month earlier, Bianca had suffered a massive heart attack that led to double bypass surgery. In an instant, all of Angi’s plans changed.

She’d moved from her cozy apartment back to her childhood home, along with her ten-year-old son, Andrew, in order to care for her mom. She’d also stepped in at the restaurant, and in doing so, she’d left Emma in a pinch.

For that, she felt sick to her stomach with regret.

“If you can’t find someone to take care of the holiday events, I’ll still manage it,” she offered now, absently thinking about ways to clone herself.

“You can’t do both.”

“I will.”

Emma sighed. “My intention for tonight wasn’t to guilt you into more work.”

“Come on, I’m a master of guilt.”

“I know.” Emma gave her a pointed look. “That’s why I don’t want to add to it. I thought we were friends—business partners, as well. But you cutting me off as a friend is what hurts.”

Cue the remorse, Angi thought. She didn’t need anyone to lay it on her. She could do that very well for herself.

“It seems like all I’m doing lately is disappointing people. You and my mom.” She hitched a finger at the restaurant. “The staff who can tell I don’t want to be there. Andrew.”

“Wait. What’s going on with Andrew? I know you’re an amazing mother. That kid thinks the sun rises and sets on his mommy.”

Angi’s throat tightened again at the thought of her sweet, awkward, lanky string bean of a boy. He was everything to her, and now he was struggling and she didn’t know how to make it stop.

“He’s being bullied at school,” she confided. As difficult as it was to talk about, she appreciated the flash of supportive fury in Emma’s dark eyes.

“Give me the kid’s name.” Her buttoned-up friend spoke as if she were some kind of avenging angel.

“I don’t have it. Andrew won’t say anything, and his classmates are keeping quiet, as well. But he came home with a split lip and scrapes on his hands. I talked to the teacher and met with her and the principal. They said all the right things, but kids can be such jerks. Maybe if we lived in a bigger town or someplace where differences were more accepted, it would be easier for him to find his way. I hated growing up in Magnolia, and now I’m doing the same thing to him.”

Her nails dug into the fleshy part of her palms, and she welcomed the pain. At least it distracted her from the telltale scratchy eyes that foretold a bout of tears. She wasn’t going to break down in the middle of the sidewalk, even if it was deserted.

“How is it possible to hate it here?” Emma shook her head. “It’s idyllic.”

“Not for the Italian cannoli princess,” Angi muttered.

“Is that like a Midwestern Corn Queen at the state fair?”

“Not exactly. Never mind. My point is that I’m screwing up in every aspect of life. I’m sorry I ghosted you, Em. We are friends, but I didn’t want to admit that I was ditching the inn. You gave me the new start I wanted, and I can’t keep up my end of the bargain.” She let out a humorless laugh. “Here comes the guilt again.”

“I didn’t give you anything. You earned your place in our partnership, which I refuse to believe is over. At least until your mom fully recovers and we see what happens next. I’ll find someone to help with the nitty-gritty food prep and serving, but I’m going to take you up on your offer to manage things for the holidays. As long as it’s not too much. We can reassess in the new year.” She enveloped Angi in a gentle hug and couldn’t have known how much it helped. “Either way, the friendship stands.”

“Okay.” Angi couldn’t help but agree. She wasn’t ready to let go of her dream, even though she knew she had to. She dashed a hand over her cheeks. “Do you believe in Christmas miracles?”

“Not really.”

“Me neither,” Angi agreed with a wry smile. “But I sure could use one.”

Excerpted from Mistletoe Season by Michelle Major. Copyright © 2021 by Michelle Major. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

First Kiss at Christmas (The Off Season Book 5) by Lee Tobin McClain Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A preschool teacher who’s never had a first kiss meets a handsome man and his nephew, who are both grieving the loss of the man’s sister, and both must figure out if they can get past their trauma and insecurities to find a new family in each other in author Lee Tobin McClain’s “First Kiss at Christmas”, the fifth book in the Off Season series.

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The Synopsis

At 25 years old, preschool teacher Kayla Harris is embarrassed to admit she’s never been kissed. When Tony DiNunzio and his grieving nephew show up in her classroom, she can’t help being drawn to both of them. If only her insecurities-and his guilt over his sister’s death-would stop standing in their way.

As Christmas approaches, can these three come together to form a family… not just for the holidays, but forever?

The Review

What a powerful and emotional holiday romance. Tragedy marks the male protagonist of this story, putting him into the role of a caregiver to his nephew after his sister’s tragic murder. Trying to help his nephew through his loss and struggling with his own guilt, the author really did an amazing job of showcasing the emotional turmoil that a loss of this magnitude could have on a person, and the lengthy process of not only letting go of that guilt but of allowing ourselves to feel love again in the face of that tragedy was such a powerful message for this narrative.

The balance the author found with that profound theme and the more holiday romance magic of the female protagonist’s story was amazing to read. Her own struggles with the past and her desire to experience love and her first kiss was the romantic incentive the narrative needed, and the story did an amazing job of showcasing these two characters’ evolution and the way opening ourselves up to others could help with the healing process.

The Verdict

A beautiful, heartbreaking, yet truly romantic and emotional read, author Lee Tobin McClain’s “First Kiss at Christmas” is a must-read holiday romance drama. The gripping story of these two characters and their developing relationship will absolutely enthrall readers, and the magical romance that drives the narrative forward brings a harmonious tone to the more tragic circumstances of the character’s backgrounds, making this a truly remarkable read. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your own copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Lee Tobin McClain is the bestselling author of more than thirty emotional, small-town romances described by Publishers Weekly as enthralling, intense, and heartfelt. A dog lover and proud mom, she often includes kids and animals in her books. When she’s not writing, she enjoys hiking with her goofy goldendoodle, chatting online with her writer friends, and admiring her daughter’s mastery of the latest TikTok dances.

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Check Out This Excerpt From First Kiss At Christmas

1

KAYLA HARRIS CARRIED a bag of snowflake decorations to the window of her preschool classroom. She started putting them up in a random pattern, humming along to the Christmas music she’d accessed on her phone.

Yes, it was Sunday afternoon, and yes, she was a loser for spending it at work, but she loved her job and wanted the classroom to be ready when the kids returned from Thanksgiving break tomorrow. Nobody could get as excited as a four-year-old about Christmas decorations.

Outside, the November wind tossed the pine branches and jangled the swings on the Coastal Kids Early Learning Center’s playground. A lonely seagull swooped across the sky, no doubt headed for the bay. The Chesapeake was home to all kinds of wildlife, year-round. That was one of the things she loved about living here.

Then another kind of movement from the playground caught her eye.

A man in a long, army-type coat, bareheaded, ran after a little boy. When Kayla pushed open the window to see better, she heard the child screaming.

Heart pounding, she rushed downstairs and out the door of the empty school.

The little boy now huddled at the top of the sliding board, mouth wide open as he cried, tears rolling down round, rosy cheeks. The man stood between the slide and a climbing structure, forking his fingers through disheveled hair, not speaking to the child or making any effort to comfort him. This couldn’t be the little boy’s father. Something was wrong.

She ran toward the sliding board. “Hi, honey,” she said to the child, keeping her voice low and calm. “What’s the matter?”

“Leave him alone,” the man barked out. His ragged jeans and wildly flapping coat made him look disreputable, maybe homeless.

She ignored him, climbed halfway up the ladder, and touched the child’s shaking shoulder. “Hi, sweetheart.”

The little boy jerked away and, maybe on purpose, maybe not, slid down the slide. The man rushed to catch him at the bottom, and the boy struggled, crying, his little fists pounding, legs kicking.

Kayla pulled out her phone to report a possible child abduction, eyes on the pair, poised to interfere if the man tried to run with the child.

One of the boy’s kicks landed in a particularly vulnerable spot, and the man winced and adjusted the child to cradle him as if he were a baby. “Okay, okay,” he murmured in a deep, but gentle voice, nothing like the sharp tone in which he’d addressed Kayla. He sat down on the end of the slide and pulled the child close, rocking a little. “You’re okay.”

The little boy struggled for another few seconds and then stopped, laying his head against the man’s broad chest. Apparently, this guy had gained the child’s trust, at least to some degree.

For the first time, Kayla wondered if she’d misread the situation. Was this just a scruffy dad? Was she maybe just being her usual awkward self with men?

He looked up at her then, curiosity in his eyes.

Her face heated, but she straightened her shoulders and lifted her chin. She was an education professional trying to help a child. “This is a private school, sir,” she said. “What are you doing here?”

The little boy had startled at her voice and his crying intensified. The man ignored her question.

“Is he your son?”

Again, no answer as he stroked the child’s hair and whispered something into his ear.

“All right, I guess it’s time for the police to straighten this out.” She searched for the number, her fingers numb with the cold. Maybe this situation didn’t merit a 911 call, but there was definitely something unusual going on. Her small town’s police force could straighten it out.


“WAIT. DON’T CALL THE POLICE.” Tony DeNunzio struggled to his feet, the weight of his tense nephew making him awkward. “Everything’s okay. I’m his guardian.” He didn’t owe this woman an explanation, and it irritated him to have to give one, but he didn’t want Jax to get even more upset. The child hated cops, and with good reason.

“You’re his guardian?” The blonde, petite as she was, made him feel small as her eyes skimmed him up and down.

He glanced down at his clothes and winced. Lifted a hand to his bristly chin and winced again.

He hadn’t shaved since they’d arrived in town two days ago, and he’d grabbed these clothes from the heap of clean but wrinkled laundry beside his bed. Not only because he was busy trying to get Jax settled, but because he couldn’t bring himself to care about folding laundry and shaving and most of the other tasks under the general heading of personal hygiene. A shower a day, and a bath for Jax, was about all he could manage. His brother and sister—his surviving sister—had scolded him about it, back home.

He couldn’t explain all of that, didn’t need to. It wasn’t this shivering stranger’s business. “Jax is going to enroll here,” he said.

“Really?” Another wave of shivers hit her, making her teeth chatter. Tony didn’t know where she’d come from, but apparently her mission of mercy had compelled her to run outside without her coat.

He’d offer her his, but he had a feeling she’d turn up her nose.

“The school is closed on Sundays,” she said.

Thank you, Miss Obvious. But given that he and Jax had slipped through a gap in the playground’s loosely chained gate, he guessed their presence merited a little more explanation. “I’m trying to get him used to the place before he starts school tomorrow. He has trouble with…” Tony glanced down at Jax, who’d stopped crying and stuck his thumb in his mouth, and a surge of love and frustration rose in him. “He has trouble with basically everything.”

The woman shook her head and put a finger to her lips, then pointed at the child.

What was that all about? And who was she, the parenting police? “Do you have a reason to be here?” he asked, hearing the truculence in his own voice and not caring.

She narrowed her eyes at him. “I work nearby,” she said. “Saw you here and got concerned, because the little guy seemed to be upset. For that matter, he still seems to be.”

No denying that. Jax had tensed up as soon as they’d approached the preschool playground, probably because it was similar to places where he’d had other bad experiences. Even though Jax had settled some, Tony could feel the tightness in his muscles, and he rubbed circles on his nephew’s back. “He’s been kicked out of preschool and day care before,” he explained. “This is kind of my last resort.”

She frowned. “You know he can hear you, right?”

“Of course he can hear, he’s not…” Tony trailed off as he realized what she meant. He shouldn’t say negative things about Jax in front of him.

She was right, but she’d also just met him and Jax. Was she really going to start telling him how to raise his nephew?

Of course, probably almost anyone in the world would be better at it than he was.

“Did you let the school know the particulars of his situation?” She leaned against the slide’s ladder, her face concerned.

Tony sighed. She must be one of those women who had nothing else to do but criticize how others handled their lives. She was cute, though. And it wasn’t as if he had much else to do, either. He’d completed all the Victory Cottage paperwork, and he couldn’t start dealing with the program’s other requirements until the business week started tomorrow.

Jax moved restlessly and looked up at him.

Tony set Jax on his feet and gestured toward the play structure. “Go ahead and climb. We’ll go back to the cottage before long.” He didn’t know much about being a parent, but one thing he’d learned in the past three months was that tiring a kid out with active play was a good idea.

Jax nodded and ran over to the playset. His tongue sticking out of one corner of his mouth, forehead wrinkled, he started to climb.

Tony watched him, marveling at how quickly his moods changed. Jax’s counselor said all kids were like that, but Jax seemed a little more extreme than most.

No surprise, given what he’d been through.

Tony looked back at the woman, who was watching him expectantly.

“What did you ask me?” Sometimes he worried about himself. It was hard to keep track of conversations, not that he had all that many of them lately. None, except with Jax, since they’d arrived in Pleasant Shores two days ago.

“I asked if you let the school know about his issues,” she said. “It might help them help him, if they know what they’re working with.”

“I didn’t tell them about the other schools,” he said. “I didn’t want to jinx this place, make them think he’s a bad kid, right from the get-go. He’s not.”

“I’m sure he isn’t,” she said. “He’s a real cutie. But still, you should be up front with his teachers and the principal.”

Normally he would have told her to mind her own business, but he was just too tired for a fight. “You’re probably right.” It was another area where he was failing Jax, he guessed. But he was doing the best he could. It wasn’t as if he’d had experience with any kids other than Jax. Even overseas, when the other soldiers had given out candy and made friends, he’d tended to terrify the little ones. Too big, too gruff, too used to giving orders.

“Telling the school the whole story will only help him,” she said, still studying Jax, her forehead creased.

He frowned at her. “Why would you care?”

“The truth is,” she said, “I’m going to be his teacher.”

Great. He felt his shoulders slump. Had he just ruined his nephew’s chances at this last-resort school?


MONDAY MORNING, KAYLA welcomed the last of her usual students and stood on tiptoes to look down the stairs of the Coastal Kids preschool. Where were Tony and Jax?

She’d informed two of her friendliest and most responsible students that a new boy was coming today and that they should help him to feel at home. If he didn’t get here in time for the opening circle, she’d tell all twelve of the kids about Jax.

But maybe his uncle had changed his mind about enrolling him.

Maybe Kayla’s mother, who was the principal of the little early learning center, had decided Jax wasn’t going to be a good fit and suggested another option for him. That would be rare, but it occasionally happened.

Mom said Kayla fretted too much. Probably true, but it was in the job description. Kayla felt a true calling to nurture and educate the kids in her care. Sometimes, that meant worrying about them.

The Coastal Kids Early Learning Center was housed in an old house that adjoined a local private school. Kayla’s classroom was one of three located upstairs, and from hers, she could see down the central staircase to the glassed-in offices. Her mother was welcoming a few stragglers, but there was still no sign of her new student.

She turned back to face her students. “Good job sharing,” she said to redheaded Nicole, who was holding out a plastic truck to her friend. “Jacob, we don’t run in the classroom. Why don’t you look at the new books on our reading shelf?”

After making sure all the kids were occupied with their morning playtime, she stepped out into the hall. If she could flag down her mother, she’d try to find out what was going on with Jax.

And then Tony came into the school, holding Jax’s hand.

Kayla sucked in a breath. Wow. He cleaned up really well.

Not that he was entirely cleaned up; he still had the stubbly half beard that made him look a little dangerous, and his thick, dark hair was overlong. But he wore nice jeans and a green sweater with sleeves pushed up to reveal muscular forearms. He knelt so Jax could jump onto his back for a piggyback ride, then stood easily, and Kayla sucked in another breath. There was something about a guy who was physically strong.

He stopped and spoke to Kayla’s mother—she’d been occupied with another parent right inside the office, apparently—and then, at her gesture, headed up the stairs toward Kayla’s classroom.

One Christmas Wish (Catalina Cove Book 5) by Brenda Jackson Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A wrongly convicted businessman finally exonerated of his wrongful conviction and a young woman raising her goddaughter and looking for a fresh start find themselves drawn together during the holidays in author Brenda Jackson’s “One Christmas Wish”, the latest in the Catalina Cove Series.

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The Synopsis

It’s Christmas in Catalina Cove, a time of promise and second chances. But when you’re starting over, love is the last thing you’re wishing for…

Vaughn Miller’s Wall Street career was abruptly ended by a wrongful conviction and two years in prison. Since then, he’s returned to his hometown, kept his head down and forged a way forward. When he is exonerated and his name cleared, he feels he can hold his head up once again, maybe even talk to the beautiful café owner who sets his blood to simmering.

Sierra Crane escaped a disastrous marriage—barely. She and her six-year-old goddaughter have returned to the only place that feels like home. Determined to make it on her own, Sierra opens a soup café. Complication is the last thing she needs, but the moment Vaughn walks into her café, she can’t keep her eyes off the smoldering loner.

When they give in to their attraction, what Sierra thought would be a onetime thing becomes so much more. Vaughn knows she’s the one. Sierra can’t deny the way Vaughn makes her feel, but she’s been burned before. With Christmas approaching, Vaughn takes a chance to prove his love, and it will be up to Sierra to decide if her one Christmas wish—true happiness—will come true.

The Review

The author immediately brought a level of intrigue to the characters with the introduction of Vaughn. His backstory and the trials and tribulations he endured to get to the point he is at in the story was so emotionally driven, and to be able to convey that in a short introduction to the character and bring those emotions to the forefront showed the depth of the author’s writing immediately. Sierra showed such strength and resilience in the face of her own tragic past and highlighted the power and heart that goes into owning our own power and our ability to fight our own battles while still having a support system.

The romance and passion really drove this narrative forward greatly. The story does incorporate a bit of holiday setting and magic into the book, but this is definitely still a very steamy and heated romance, delving into both the emotional depths of their relationship and the more intimate and sexual nature of their bond together, giving romance readers a well-rounded narrative overall.

The Verdict

A brilliant, heartfelt, and truly creative holiday romance, author Brenda Jackson’s “One Christmas Wish” is a must-read story this holiday season. For fans of passionate and heated romances with a heartwarming holiday twist, the narrative takes readers on an emotional journey that tears down two people’s barriers and ends on a fantastically emotional twist of an ending that will keep readers feeling all the feels this holiday. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Brenda Jackson is aNew York Times bestselling author of more than one hundred romance titles. Brenda lives in Jacksonville, Florida, and divides her time between family, writing and traveling.

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Here is an Excerpt From One Christmas Wish by Brenda Jackson

1

SIERRA CRANE CRINGED every time her ex-husband called. Their marriage had ended almost two years ago, so why couldn’t he get on with his life the way she had gotten on with hers? She hadn’t heard from him since the divorce and now this was the second phone call in a month.

And why did he always manage to call her at the worst time? The dinner crowd was arriving at her soup café, the Green Fig, and she was short a waitress tonight. The last thing she needed to be doing was talking on the phone to her ex.

“What is it now, Nathan?” she asked, trying to keep her voice low to avoid being overheard by the customers coming in.

“You know what I want, Sierra. We rushed into our divorce and I want a reconciliation. We didn’t even seek counseling.”

She rolled her eyes. It wasn’t as if counseling would have helped their marriage. She had put up with things for as long as she could, and had to remove herself from that toxic environment. His infidelity had been the last straw, and then there had been his total lack of sensitivity when her best friend Rhonda Andrews was dying.

“Why are we even discussing this, Nathan? You know as well as I do that no amount of counseling would have helped our marriage. You betrayed me. I caught you in the act. Look, I’m busy,” she said when she saw customers waiting to be seated. “And do me a favor and don’t call back. Our divorce is final, and I intend for it to stay that way. Goodbye.” She clicked off the phone and, for good measure, she blocked his number.

Moving from behind the counter, she assisted her staff in seating customers and taking orders. It was an hour later when the dinner rush had ended that she found the time to go into her office and work on tomorrow’s menu. The monitor screen on her desk was connected to a video camera showing the perimeters of the dining area. If she was needed to assist her staff again, she would know it.

She sat in the chair behind her desk thinking about Nathan’s call. The nerve of him thinking they could get back together. Not only had he cheated on her but he had resented all the trips she’d taken from Chicago to Houston to spend time with Rhonda in her final days. It hadn’t mattered to him that Rhonda was terminally ill and there had been so much to do and so little time left.

The main focus had been the well-being of Rhonda’s four-year-old daughter, Teryn, who’d lost her father two years earlier in Afghanistan. Without family on both sides, Sierra was Teryn’s godmother and Rhonda had made Sierra promise to take care of Teryn when the time came. Nathan, who’d never wanted children, had been resentful of that, too.

It had been one of those weekends she’d visited Rhonda in Houston and she’d returned home early to find another couple, namely her neighbors, in bed with her husband. That’s when she’d found out about his swinging lifestyle. He’d confessed it was something he had tried during his college days but thought he had put behind him…until he had discovered their new neighbors had enjoyed doing that sort of thing.

When Sierra had filed for divorce, Nathan assumed if he kept sending her flowers, calling her all the time, and showing up unexpectedly at her new residence with chocolates, designer purses and jewelry, he could wear down her resistance and she would call off the divorce. He finally saw that wasn’t happening.

An hour later Sierra left her office to return to the dining area. It was time for her only waitress on the floor tonight to take her break. Sierra had just stepped behind the counter when the sound of the bell above the door alerted her that she had a customer.

The Green Fig, which served lunch and dinner Mondays through Fridays, had been open for business for only a year. The restaurant closed every night at eight. Most of her customers were locals who’d known her grandmother and were happy that Ella Crane had passed her delicious soup recipes on to her granddaughter.

Sierra had a good staff. She’d hired Emma, who’d been a friend of her mother’s for years, as head cook and Maxine, who’d graduated from the New Orleans cooking school last year, as Emma’s assistant. Normally there were two waitresses, Iris and Opal, who handled the dining room, and Sherri took care of the take-out orders. On any given day there were more take-out orders than sit-down orders, especially during lunch.

She’d hired Levi Canady as the assistant manager. An ex-cop who’d retired early from the force due to an injury, he was also a good friend of Sierra’s father from their elementary school days. Levi was a godsend and would take over for Sierra whenever Teryn came home from school. He managed the restaurant every night except on Wednesdays. He also opened and closed for her on Saturdays, when the restaurant was open only for lunch. Whenever Teryn had gymnastics practice Sierra would help out in the café until she got home. Today was one of those days.

Sierra glanced at the door and saw Vaughn Miller walk in, dressed in a business suit. On any other man the outfit would probably look like just regular professional attire, but on him it appeared tailor-made. He was a very handsome man and looking good in anything he wore was just part of who he was.

Sierra didn’t know Vaughn personally, although they had both been born in Catalina Cove and had attended the same schools. She hadn’t had the right pedigree to be in his social circles since his family had been one of the wealthiest in town. They had come from old money, probably as old as it could get in the cove when you were a descendant of the town’s founder.

When Vaughn Miller took a seat at one of the booths, she grabbed a menu out of the rack and headed to his table. He’d come in once or twice before, but it had always been for takeout. It appeared that today he intended to dine in.

“Welcome to the Green Fig.”

He looked up when she handed him the menu. “Thanks.”

This was the closest she had ever been to Vaughn Miller and she couldn’t help noticing things she hadn’t seen from a distance. Like the beautiful hazel coloring of his eyes. He had sharp cheekbones and she liked the way his nose was the perfect size for his face and the full lips beneath it. And speaking of lips…did his have to be of such sensual perfection? And then she couldn’t miss the light beard that covered his lower jaw and how it enhanced those lips but didn’t hide the dimple in his chin.

Vaughn’s skin was a maple brown and he wore his thick black hair long. It wasn’t down past his shoulders like Kaegan Chambray’s, but it was long enough to touch his collar. To her the long and tousled hairstyle did much to highlight his French Creole ancestry.

The Creoles derived from free people of color from Africa, France and Spain, as well as other mixed-heritage descendants. Those blended races and cultures were a large population of Louisiana, and more specifically, New Orleans, Catalina Cove and other surrounding cities.

Sierra had to concur with the feminine whispers around town that Vaughn Miller was a very handsome man and a sharp dresser, yet she noted he had a definite rugged masculine appeal. Even dressed nicely in a suit, all you had to do was add a tricorne hat on his head and a loop earring in his ear and he would instantly become a dashing pirate. A look that no doubt would make his great-great-great-great-grandfather, the cove’s founder, Jean Lafitte, proud.

She knew six years ago he’d been sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Three months ago, articles appeared in numerous newspapers reporting on his exoneration and how those who were guilty had been brought to justice. He had been cleared of all charges.

“What’s the special for today?”

She blinked upon realizing she’d been standing there staring at him the entire time. Clearing her throat, she said, “Today’s special is the broccoli and cheese soup and it’s served with a half sandwich. Turkey or chicken.”

He smiled up at her and that smile made his features even more beguiling and clearly showed that dimple in his chin. “That sounds good. I’d like a bowl with a chicken sandwich.”

She wrote his order down on the pad and noticed his French accent. She recalled overhearing her parents say that his mother had been French and his father mixed French and African American, and that French had been the primary language spoken in the Miller household. She also remembered hearing while growing up he would spend his summers in France as well with his grandparents. That was probably the reason the accent was still strong after all this time.

“What would you like to drink?”

“Brown ale.”

Sierra nodded. “Okay, I’ll put in your order and get your ale.”

“Thanks.”

She turned and walked toward the kitchen. When she knew she was out of his sight and that of customers and staff, she fanned herself with the menu. Vaughn Miller had definitely made every hormone in her body sizzle.

One Christmas Wish by Brenda Jackson. Copyright © 2021 by Brenda Streater Jackson. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

Opposed Desires (Rehoboth Book 2) by Katherine McIntyre Review 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

When a woman known for her bravado and sexual casualness is confronted with a shock that brings down her defenses, the bar owner and woman that has made it a point to avoid her finds herself drawn to this new side of the woman during one fateful summer in author Katherine McIntyre’s “Opposed Desires”, the second book in the Rehoboth series. 

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The Synopsis 

Closet Romantic falling for the Hookup Queen? Never gonna happen… until one memorable vacation changes it all.

When it comes to women, Aubrey Moore believes in no-strings-attached hookups and keeping things simple. On her beach trip, her plan is clear—hit the bars and find single hotties. What she doesn’t bargain on is the phone call from her sister. Distraught, Aubrey would like to have a breakdown in private, but the one woman who’s never fallen for her slick lines takes her by surprise and blurs her simple rules.

The last thing owner of the Renegades bar, Selina Beckett, expects to see on vacation is Aubrey Moore in the middle of a personal crisis. Every time they meet, they clash—whether Aubrey was picking up women at Selina’s bar or flirting to try and get her attention. Selina’s not interested in flings, cheaters, or womanizers, so she’s made a point to avoid Aubrey at all costs. But this raw, real side of Aubrey convinces her to bend those rules, just a little.

The more Selina gets to know Aubrey beyond the bravado, the more she begins to fall. But each day closer to the end of their vacation marks a return to reality—one where this entanglement between them won’t survive.

The Review

This was a gripping and heated LGBTQ-driven romance! The author shows the perfect way to balance emotional storytelling with passionate and driven relationships between two protagonists that readers can relate to and root for. The exploration of two women who only know one another’s surface-level personas and grow close after those personas are shed was such an amazing storytelling tactic, as it explores what happens when what begins as an antagonistic relationship can quickly develop into a whirlwind romance overnight. Yet it was the way the author showed how much work and baggage this kind of relationship takes to work through that made the payoff of this relationship so enjoyable.

The author’s pacing of the narrative was what really sold this story to me. The set-up between these protagonists obviously set up this feud of sorts between two very different women, and yet the pacing allowed readers to see how the layers surrounding their feud were shed and the mystery behind both of their circumstances and mindsets on relationships as a whole came to be, allowing them to find a bond and connection neither thought possible.

The Verdict

Emotional, heartfelt, and sizzling, author Katherine McIntyre’s “Opposed Desires” is a must-read romance. The book is perfect for readers missing those steamy summer romances during these cold winter months, and fans of LGBTQ narratives that give purpose and the perfect amount of romance into the story will absolutely fall in love with this story. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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Opposed Desires - Katherine McIntyre

Katherine McIntyre has a new FF contemporary romance out: Opposed Desires. And there’s a giveaway!

Closet Romantic falling for the Hookup Queen? Never gonna happen… until one memorable vacation changes it all.

When it comes to women, Aubrey Moore believes in no-strings-attached hookups and keeping things simple. On her beach trip, her plan is clear—hit the bars and find single hotties. What she doesn’t bargain on is the phone call from her sister. Distraught, Aubrey would like to have a breakdown in private, but the one woman who’s never fallen for her slick lines takes her by surprise and blurs her simple rules.

The last thing owner of the Renegades bar, Selina Beckett, expects to see on vacation is Aubrey Moore in the middle of a personal crisis. Every time they meet, they clash—whether Aubrey was picking up women at Selina’s bar or flirting to try and get her attention. Selina’s not interested in flings, cheaters, or womanizers, so she’s made a point to avoid Aubrey at all costs. But this raw, real side of Aubrey convinces her to bend those rules, just a little.

The more Selina gets to know Aubrey beyond the bravado, the more she begins to fall. But each day closer to the end of their vacation marks a return to reality—one where this entanglement between them won’t survive.

Publisher | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CAN | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Universal Buy Link | Goodreads


Giveaway

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Excerpt

Opposed Desires Meme

They reached the edge of the boardwalk, the sand and the sea stretching before them in a pale strip that clashed with the inky darkness of the waters. Something loosened in Selina’s chest at the sight. The ocean always calmed her, especially at night when most of the daytime rabble had retreated. She was used to being surrounded by people, but sometimes she preferred the solitude.

“I’m sorry for dragging you away from your friends,” Aubrey said, loosening her ponytail to run her fingers through her hair. The moonlight highlighted her deep brown strands, and the way they fell down to her shoulders made her seem a little softer than the sharp, pointed woman Selina’d come to know. She found this side of Aubrey far more alluring.

“I could’ve done this by myself,” Aubrey admitted. “I just lost my mind a little bit back there.”

“I wouldn’t have left if I didn’t want to.” Selina shrugged. “Bars aren’t really my scene.”

“Said the bar owner.” Aubrey gave her the side-eye. “Why even own one then?”

Selina swung her arms by her side, staring at the half moon overhead. It glowed with pearlescent promise, a steadiness she’d always longed for. “Spend your whole life traveling from one town to the next and you get desperate to set down roots. I wanted to create a safe space for folks like me, and I needed to stay in one place. Renegades ensured that.”

Aubrey shook her head, a throaty laugh escaping her throat. “I’ve known you for four years now, and I’m pretty sure that’s the most you’ve ever shared about yourself.”

“Well, we’re having a truce tonight,” Selina said. “Tomorrow I can go back to loathing you, and we can return to the usual witty repartee.”

Aubrey pointed at herself. “Me? Witty? Glad you think so, doll. I don’t keep track of half of the things that leave my mouth.”

“Good to know,” Selina murmured, a smile nudging her lips. The earnest note in Aubrey’s voice had her warming up to the woman far faster than she had in years. The lack of an agenda helped too. Selina slipped off her sandals to hold them in her hand, walking barefoot on the sandy shore. “Won’t the girls be wondering where you went?”

Aubrey shrugged. “They’ll assume I took someone home. It’s my MO when I pull the vanishing act.”

“That sounds pretty lonesome.” The words slipped out before she could help herself. Selina licked her lips, not knowing what to say. The salt air wove past her, caressing her senses.

“Different bed every night? How could that be lonely?” Aubrey joked, yet her voice scraped over the words like a tire crunching uneven rocks. She cast Selina a sideways glance. “Maybe a little,” she admitted, her dark eyes somber in the surrounding dark. The slight gleam from the moonlight only enhanced that sharp, vibrant beauty. This version of the woman, framed by moonlight and unguarded with her hair down, struck Selina as far more gorgeous than the sweet-talker she regularly saw at the bar.

Aubrey bent down to slide off her sneakers, and Selina couldn’t help but follow the motion. Those long legs were on full display, all corded muscle and defined calves, and the red shorts she wore showcased a gorgeous sculpted ass. Selina never argued that the woman was hot—Aubrey Moore undeniably, unequivocally raised her temperature, but she was also the exact sort of person Selina needed to avoid.

She wanted someone to settle down with. Someone who wouldn’t get bored, or cheat, or ditch her when the routine got too monotonous. Been there, done that. She’d learned her lessons well and committed them to heart.


Author Bio

Katherine McIntyre

Katherine McIntyre is a feisty chick with a big attitude despite her short stature. She writes stories featuring snarky women, ragtag crews, and men with bad attitudes—and there’s an equally high chance for a passionate speech thrown into the mix. As an eternal geek and tomboy who’s always stepped to her own beat, she’s made it her mission to write stories that represent the broad spectrum of people out there, from different cultures and races to all varieties of men and women.

Author Website: http://www.katherine-mcintyre.com

Author Facebook (Author Page): http://www.facebook.com/kmcintyreauthor

Author Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/pixierants

Author Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/authorkmcintyre

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6473654.Katherine_McIntyre

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Katherine-McIntyre/e/B00J8U4VNU

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The Christmas Wedding Guest by Susan Mallery Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Two sisters, one facing past loves, another facing motherhood, each return home for the holidays to celebrate their parent’s vow renewal, and in the process find the promise of romance in author Susan Mallery’s “The Christmas Wedding Guest”. 

The Synopsis

The last thing Reggie Sommerville wants is to come back home for Christmas. It’s only been a year and a half since her boyfriend, Jake, proposed and then broke up with her, all in one weekend, and the prospect of facing the entire town is humiliating. But when her parents reveal that they’re renewing their vows in the lavish wedding they always wanted and her mother asks her to be a bridesmaid, Reggie knows she can’t say no. No matter how much she wants to. She expected the town would be gossiping about her relationship with Jake, but she never expected to run into Toby, her first love that broke her heart all those years ago, living in town and raising his son. She always thought things between them were long over…but this Christmas is full of surprises.

Dena Sommerville has only ever wanted one thing: to have a child. But motherhood has been alluding her because she never met the right man…until she took the bull by the horns and decided to have a baby as a single mom. She knew it would be difficult and the morning sickness alone is knocking her down for the count, but she’s determined to do this on her own. So when a handsome musician checks into the inn where she works, Dena is surprised when a friendship develops. He has his own issues to work through—that much is clear. But she can’t deny there’s something between them

This Christmas, guilted into being bridesmaids at their parents’ vow renewal ceremony, Reggie and Dena Sommerville just might find the most unexpected gift of all—love.

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The Review

This was a beautiful and heartfelt romance novel for the holiday season. I’m a sucker for a good holiday romance, and the author’s perfect world-building in this little fictitious Washington town and the holiday setting really brought a certain level of man-made magic and wonder to the narrative. The exploration of how the past defines our present, overcoming our insecurities and fears, and allowing room for love in our lives were very present themes in this novel, and the imagery that this small-town setting brought along with the holiday wedding storyline made this story really shine.

What was amazing to watch unfold was the personal character growth that this amazing cast of characters showcased. The protagonists, Reggie and Dena, really were special, as their bond as a family and their very positive outlook on romance as a whole was a nice change of pace for the typical characterizations that protagonists in a romance novel will have. Toby’s very emotional background and experiences really showcased the journey he went on as well, and his struggle with his childhood and past relationship and his desire to do what’s best for his son above himself really elevated the romance that bloomed between himself and Reggie. 

The Verdict

An emotional, heartwarming, and entertaining read, author Susan Mallery’s “The Christmas Wedding Guest” is a must-read novel of the 2021 holiday season! An engaging story of romance, heartbreak, and letting go of the past to find a brighter tomorrow, this novel really will keep readers invested and add the perfect jumping-off point for the holiday romance season for readers everywhere. If you haven’t yet, grab your own copy of this spectacular read today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Susan Mallery is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of novels about the relationships that define women’s lives—family, friendship, romance. Library Journal says, “Mallery is the master of blending emotionally believable characters in realistic situations,” and readers seem to agree—40 million copies of her books have sold worldwide. Her warm, humorous stories make the world a happier place to live.

Susan grew up in California and now lives in Seattle with her husband. She’s passionate about animal welfare, especially that of the two ragdoll cats and adorable poodle who think of her as mom.

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