Wednesday, July 8, 2020

A Reunion of Rivals - Harlequin Feature

Book description 

Sparks in the boardroom and the bedroom… She can’t let anything derail her passion project, Not even a second chance with the sexiest man alive… 

The deal that could bring Quinn Bazemore’s career back from the brink has one catch: she must partner up with her ex-lover Max Abbott. Quinn can’t forget the pleasure-filled summer they shared. But now she’s butting heads over business strategy with the mouthwatering marketing VP, even as their reawakened desire threatens to expose her deepest secrets… 
Author bio

Reese Ryan writes sexy, contemporary romance featuring a diverse cast of complex characters. She presents her characters with family and career drama, challenging love interests and life-changing secrets while treating readers to emotional love stories with unexpected twists.  Past president of her local RWA chapter and a panelist at the 2017 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Reese is an advocate of the romance genre and diversity in fiction. Visit her online at 
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“Morning, Max.” A wide smile spread across Dixon Bazemore’s face as they both rose to their feet and shook hands. The old man had been the owner of Bazemore Orchards longer than Max had been alive. “Good to see you, young man.” 

“You, too, Mr. B.” Molly’s instincts about the reason for the meeting had been right. Why else would Dixon Bazemore be here? Still, he asked, “What brings you to see us today?” 

“We’ll go over everything during the meeting,” Max’s father interjected. “We’re waiting for one more person.” 

Max glanced around the table. All of the members of the executive committee were present. His grand-father and father. His brothers Blake and Parker, the operations VP and CFO, respectively. Blake’s wife, Savannah—the company’s events manager. Zora, him and his father’s admin, Lianna, who was there to take notes. 

“Who are we—” 

“I’m sorry. I got a little turned around finding my way back here from the parking lot. But I’ve got your portfolio, Grandad.” 

Max snapped his attention in the direction of the familiar voice. He hadn’t heard it in more than a decade, but he would never, ever forget it. His mouth went dry, and his heart thudded so loudly he was sure his sister could hear it. 

“Peaches?” He scanned the brown eyes that stared back at him through narrowed slits. 

Quinn.” She was gorgeous, despite the slightly irritated flare of her nostrils and the stiff smile that barely revealed her dimples. “Hello, Max.” 

The good to see you was notably absent. But what should he expect? It was his fault they hadn’t parted on the best of terms. 

Quinn settled into the empty seat beside her grandfather. She handed the old man a worn leather portfolio, then squeezed his arm. The genuine smile that lit her brown eyes and activated those killer dimples was firmly in place again. 

Max had been the cause of that magnificent smile nearly every day that summer between his junior and senior years of college when he’d interned at Bazemore Orchards. 

Thursday, July 2, 2020

The Marriage Game by Sara Desai

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A high stakes wager pits an aspiring entrepreneur against a ruthless CEO in this sexy romantic comedy.

After her life falls apart, recruitment consultant Layla Patel returns home to her family in San Francisco. But in the eyes of her father, who runs a Michelin starred restaurant, she can do no wrong. He would do anything to see her smile again. With the best intentions in mind, he offers her the office upstairs to start her new business and creates a profile on an online dating site to find her a man. She doesn’t know he’s arranged a series of blind dates until the first one comes knocking on her door…

As CEO of a corporate downsizing company Sam Mehta is more used to conflict than calm. In search of a quiet new office, he finds the perfect space above a cozy Indian restaurant that smells like home. But when communication goes awry, he's forced to share his space with the owner's beautiful yet infuriating daughter Layla, her crazy family, and a parade of hopeful suitors, all of whom threaten to disrupt his carefully ordered life.

As they face off in close quarters, the sarcasm and sparks fly. But when the battle for the office becomes a battle of the heart, Sam and Layla have to decide if this is love or just a game.

Source: ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

I wanted humour and witty repartee and it was all here in The Marriage Game. This opposites-attract, forced-proximity romance pits Layla, a whirlwind of a personality HR recruiter against Sam, a disciplined CEO. They are like fire and water but the attractive kind that you can't help to tear your eyes away from. Returning home to San Francisco after she discovered her reality tv boyfriend was cheating on her, Layla has to restart her life and her career. Her father offers her the office space above their restaurant with the intent to renege on the lease that he had agreed to with Sam. Due to unforeseen circumstances, Sam doesn't get the message so his and Layla's first meeting does not go off well. Both are insistent on the right to be there and boy do they butt heads! When a stranger shows up responding to her dad's ad, Layla thinks it's the perfect opportunity to take the guessing game out of dating and go on these dates to eventually find someone to marry. Sam thinks it's the worst idea ever but because her father is unavailable, he agrees to chaperone these dates. They have an agreement regarding the office that is dependent on the result of these dates. Shenanigans ensue.

Layla and Sam can deny up and down in front of everyone how much they detest each other but the truth is that they're not only intrigued but rather in lust. There's so much self-sabotaging of dates and crazy run ins that I was eager for the next mess they'd land in. I truly got a kick out of Sam's reactions to her dates. He had the best zingers and comebacks that I fell a little for him. Layla, though could not be suppressed. Not only did she trudge through the dates, she actually enjoyed giving Sam grief. It's been a while since I've felt two characters challenge each other the way they did and I was so into them. Honestly, these dates just gave them an excuse to be nearby but it proves to become a conundrum for Sam who's bent on achieving his own agenda which is to exact revenge on someone who hurt his family. It's an incident that's part of his past that he has purposeful left behind but continues to haunt him. Being around Layla is a reprieve from his guilt. But when the borders he's built to separate his worlds start to break down, so does he.

The only thing that's iffy to me about The Marriage Game is the initial set up where Layla wants to oust Sam from an office space that's legally his. That scenario is flimsy and let's be reasonable, rude. Anyway, it can be easily discarded as Layla and Sam's interactions pick up steam and become this ridiculous crazy train of blind dates, meddling but well-meaning aunties and constant ribbing. I live for this stuff and The Marriage Game delivers all that and the laughs brilliantly!

~ Bel

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Take A Hint, Dani Brown (The Brown Sisters #2) by Talia Hibbert

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Talia Hibbert returns with another charming romantic comedy about a young woman who agrees to fake date her friend after a video of him “rescuing” her from their office building goes viral...

Danika Brown knows what she wants: professional success, academic renown, and an occasional roll in the hay to relieve all that career-driven tension. But romance? Been there, done that, burned the T-shirt. Romantic partners, whatever their gender, are a distraction at best and a drain at worst. So Dani asks the universe for the perfect friend-with-benefits—someone who knows the score and knows their way around the bedroom.

When brooding security guard Zafir Ansari rescues Dani from a workplace fire drill gone wrong, it’s an obvious sign: PhD student Dani and ex-rugby player Zaf are destined to sleep together. But before she can explain that fact, a video of the heroic rescue goes viral. Now half the internet is shipping #DrRugbae—and Zaf is begging Dani to play along. Turns out, his sports charity for kids could really use the publicity. Lying to help children? Who on earth would refuse?

Dani’s plan is simple: fake a relationship in public, seduce Zaf behind the scenes. The trouble is, grumpy Zaf’s secretly a hopeless romantic—and he’s determined to corrupt Dani’s stone-cold realism. Before long, he’s tackling her fears into the dirt. But the former sports star has issues of his own, and the walls around his heart are as thick as his... um, thighs.

Suddenly, the easy lay Dani dreamed of is more complex than her thesis. Has her wish backfired? Is her focus being tested? Or is the universe just waiting for her to take a hint?

Source: ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review, Netgalley

The second book in The Brown Sisters series introduces us to the sassy, brazen and highly ridiculous Dani who livens up any space that she's in. She's intoxicating which is exactly how Zaf feels about her. The two of them work in the same building - she a professor, he a secruity guard - and when a video of him rescuing her during an emergency drill gone wrong goes viral, they're instant superstars. Couple goals, baby! They decide to egg it for what it's worth so they pretend to date, playing it up to the gawkers to gain publicity for his youth program, Tackle It. As a former rugby player who's been through his own fair share of emotional turmoil, he espouses the importance of mental health especially in young boys whom society tells it's wrong to show emotions. A relationship, even a fake one is untested territory to Dani who likes to avoid commitment. 

Talia Hibbert writes the BEST banter! Zaf and Dani flirt, bait each other and toss out quick retorts which amuses and keeps things lively. There's not a boring moment when these two have the most insane chemistry! Dani is straight up confident in her sexuality and her desires, and Zaf is equally honest. Attraction aside they do approach the concept of relationships differently, in part due to their personal struggles. Zaf suffers from anxiety but has developed ways to cope. I liked how Hibbert demonstrated the way his anxiety manifests showing that it differs for everyone. I was awed by how she had Dani be so patient and supportive through this because Dani isn't one to put someone ahead of herself. After a bad experience she vowed never to compromise for anyone ever so the fact that this vivacious person could be so quiet during one of Zaf's episodes and just be present with him is one of the little things that makes Hibbert's characters so lovable. Zaf's sensitivity and insistence on being in touch with his emotions is the anti-alpha move and I am all for it. Dani's effusive embrace of her femininity and sexuality makes her one of the most appealing characters I've ever read. Seriously, Dani and Zaf breathe new life for relationship dynamics. I'm not giving anything away here but let me just say that the ending is super sweet and shows how much they evolve.

Talia Hibbert is an enigmatic writer. I love how she phrases things, sets up situations and takes quirky to new levels. Though it's only the second book of hers I've read I know for sure that I can never know what to expect from her or her characters. Take A Hint, Dani Brown is genuinely hilarious, sexy and aspirational. It's good-feel vibes through and through.

~ Bel

Friday, June 26, 2020

I Was Told It Would Get Easier by Abbi Waxman

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Squashed among a bus full of strangers, mother-daughter duo Jessica and Emily Burnstein watch their carefully mapped-out college tour devolve into a series of off-roading misadventures, from the USA Today bestselling author of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill.

Jessica and Emily Burnstein have very different ideas of how this college tour should go.

For Emily, it’s a preview of freedom, exploring the possibility of her new and more exciting future. Not that she’s sure she even wants to go to college, but let’s ignore that for now. And maybe the other kids on the tour will like her more than the ones at school. . . . They have to, right?

For Jessica, it’s a chance to bond with the daughter she seems to have lost. They used to be so close, but then Goldfish crackers and Play-Doh were no longer enough of a draw. She isn’t even sure if Emily likes her anymore. To be honest, Jessica isn’t sure she likes herself.

Together with a dozen strangers–and two familiar enemies–Jessica and Emily travel the East Coast, meeting up with family and old friends along the way. Surprises and secrets threaten their relationship and, in the end, change it forever.

Source: advance copy in exchange for an honest review

If there ever was a book that I needed to speak to me this summer it's this one! While it's not a revolutionary topic - that of mother-daughter relationships - it's brilliant and witty in displaying the harrowing minefields that come with said relationship. The story itself made me feel as if the author had shadowed me taking notes on all the ups and downs of my day. 

As a high-powered attorney Jessica's worked hard to make a good life for her and Emily. She's thrived in her career and enjoys mentoring other women to be as successful as she has been. However, as she's achieved so much professionally she's also lost touch with her daughter. Emily knows her mother loves her but feels she has to compete with her career to get her attention. She's also feeling a little lost at the moment not knowing exactly where she fits in especially with all this stress of choosing a college.

While Jessica and Emily had their occasional issues connecting, I found empathy for both of them. I felt solidarity with Jessica for all that she was trying to bridge that divide with Emily. Waxman is amazing at spacing and timing the dialogue. She'll have the mother-daughter duo either mirroring each other's thoughts or going in opposite directions with their way off assumptions about the other. It's comedic gold as it shows how much they in fact do have in common and think alike even if they're awkward in each other's company. They're essentially blundering their way through this trip, hashing out their quarrels while also dealing with new complications at work and school. This will make for a memorable trip indeed!

It's a special thing when a book strikes a chord with you and helps to make sense of those tumultuary moments. In my case it's been cathartic. Laughing along with Jessica and Emily, and also at myself while showing me things in a new light, I felt reassured that someone else gets it. Gaining new awareness was an unexpected and welcome benefit of reading this novel. There were a few times when I wished I could jump through the pages (or my Kindle, in this instance) and yell, "Me too, sister!" because wow, Waxman totally nailed all the jumbled up emotions, questions and insecurities that arise throughout the ever-changing dynamics between mothers and daughters. With clever dialogue and humour, IWTIWGE is entertaining summer reading, for sure!

~ Bel

Friday, June 19, 2020

The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon

USA Today bestselling author Farrah Rochon launches a new series about three young women who become friends when the live Tweeting of a disastrous date leads them to discover they've all been duped by the same man.

Samiah Brooks never thought she would be "that" girl. But a live tweet of a horrific date just revealed the painful truth: she's been catfished by a three-timing jerk of a boyfriend. Suddenly Samiah-along with his two other "girlfriends," London and Taylor-have gone viral online. Now the three new besties are making a pact to spend the next six months investing in themselves. No men, no dating, and no worrying about their relationship status . . .

For once Samiah is putting herself first, and that includes finally developing the app she's always dreamed of creating. Which is the exact moment she meets the deliciously sexy, honey-eyed Daniel Collins at work. What are the chances? When it comes to love, there's no such thing as a coincidence. But is Daniel really boyfriend material or is he maybe just a little too good to be true?

Source: ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Samiah is horrified when a public boyfriend-gone-bad encounter turns viral but on the plus side, she comes away with two new friends, London and Taylor. Their friendship makes the humiliation worth it as it's a new experience for her to have friends when she's devoted most of her attention to her career these past few years. As a POC in a competitive tech industry, she has to go the extra mile to prove that she deserves her seat at the table. Her work, her professionalism and her choices are met with more judgement than for most people. As she's continued to thrive at work she's finally, with the encouragement of her new friends, feeling brave enough to work on her own personal project. The three of them agree to swear of men for a while so they can focus on themselves. Samiah's supposed to be focused on her side project but with Daniel, the latest hire now in the picture, her attention is divided. Daniel is great. He's pleasant, considerate, easy on the eyes and appears to be several levels up from her previous jerk of a boyfriend. He's interested in Samiah as well but he has his own agenda at the company and it may affect her work. Getting involved with her would put himself and his secret at risk and also pose a major risk for both of them professionally and personally. So is it worth it?

Reading books featuring WOC who are the full package brings an immense feeling of pride. It's reassuring to know they're out there and that those stories can be inspiring, insightful and entertaining. Samiah, London and Taylor are vibrant, smart, bold and successful. The honesty that's laid bare in how Samiah carries her achievements and feels the extra weight of responsibility is something that POC and WOC feel all the time, no matter their line of work. That continual burden to prove that they deserve their achievement is not an imagined thing. Not only that, but also how a POC/WOC responds when issues arise in the workplace is mentally exhausting. Advocating for oneself becomes an exercise in how to speak up without creating discomfort or offending others, lest one be seen as a "troublemaker". Any reader unfamiliar with this will get a glimpse through Samiah's interactions at work.

As for Samiah and Daniel ... yeah, they're good together. They've met their perfect match in each other and sparks fly every which way. As it's a workplace romance and they tiptoe around the boundaries adding a bit of extra sauciness now and then. 

The Boyfriend Project was my first time reading Farrah Rochon and I certainly like her style. Set in Austin, a city that I've visited once briefly and am rather obsessed with, I liked her references to locations in and outside of the city. Samiah has a few surprises up her sleeve and that's one of the many things I liked about her character. Pick this one up for your next read!

~ Bel