Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Starting Over by Sue Moorcroft

* * *

New home, new friends, new love. Can starting over be that simple?

Tess Riddell reckons her beloved Freelander is more reliable than any man - especially her ex -fiancé, Olly Gray. She’s moving on from her old life and into the perfect cottage in the country.

Miles Rattenbury’s passions? Old cars and new women! Romance? He's into fun rather than commitment. 

When Tess crashes the Freelander into his breakdown truck, they find that they’re nearly neighbours – yet worlds apart. Despite her overprotective parents and a suddenly attentive Olly, she discovers the joys of village life and even forms an unlikely friendship with Miles. Then, just as their relationship develops into something deeper, an old flame comes looking for him...

Is their love strong enough to overcome the past? Or will it take more than either of them is prepared to give?

I have read a few books recently with strong female characters looking to overcome some horrendous event in the past. Each one is different in personality and it's fascinating to see how each one deals with the hand they've been dealt.

Tess is moving into a new cottage after breaking up with her ex. She makes quite the impression when she literally runs her car into the back of Miles' truck and needs him to tow her car to his garage so that it can be fixed. Not the best way to meet new people. Miles, known as Ratty to his friends, isn't impressed with Tess' curt behaviour during this encounter. They do wind up running into each other on various occasions through her new neighbours and so have to endure each other's company. They do eventually get closer but it takes a while to get there. Tess' previous relationship was a disaster that left her utterly shaken. Her healing has been slow; she's had no real support from her family so her new life in the country has been refreshing. This bizarre thing she has going with Ratty will do for now especially since he's not for any kind of commitment whatsoever.

I adored the English countryside setting; it looked so cozy and picturesque in my mind. The writing took a bit of getting used to at first. Moorcroft's style is different from what I've typically read in the past so I had to get a few pages in before I found its rhythm. There were a few references that I missed only because of a lack of familiarity, but it certainly didn't hinder my overall enjoyment of the novel. The pacing of the story which spans a couple of years is perfect allowing for the characters to develop in their own time. The romance between Tess and Ratty is a slow build which is kind of a rare thing in romances lately, and I preferred it mainly because after what Tess went through previously, she needed to go at her comfort level. It's heady stuff resulting from her nasty relationship/breakup with her ex-fiancé. That storyline is complicated and emotional, and on the flip side even provides some absurd moments in the present. Speaking of absurd, Tess' new friends and family are all wacky which makes them all lovable, except maybe the parents who are a bit clueless and meddlesome.

Starting Over is the first book I've read by British publisher, Choc Lit and the first by Sue Moorcroft. Reading it had me feeling as if I was transported to the English countryside and living in a quaint cottage surrounded by a loving and well-meaning group of friends. It's the perfect choice if you we want to see a heroine who's been through the wringer find that happily ever after!

~ Bel

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Stripped Down by Emma Hart Release Day Bllitz


Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00035]

What do you get when you mix a bottle of tequila, a single mom moonlighting as a stripper, and her sinfully sexy boss with an impulsive side?

Married. You get married.

Rich. Demanding. Hot. Crazy.

That was Beckett Cruz in a nutshell.

Not to mention wild, determined, dangerous, and forbidden.

He was my boss—and, after a drunken moment of insanity, my new husband.

An annulment was impossible... so was keeping him.

I was taking my daughter and leaving, determined to give her a quieter life.

But Beckett Cruz had never taken no for an answer.

And he wasn't about to take mine.

What happens in Vegas... might just keep you there.


Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon CA | Barnes & Noble | iBooks



“Beck?” I managed to get his name out just before he opened the front door. 

“Yeah?” He spun back to face me, his dark eyes unreadable. 

I turned my face to the side so I could see him fully. “You don't have to go,” I said softly. “You can stay. Only if you want to though.” 

He rubbed his hand down his face, his eyes never leaving mine, then walked back into the kitchen toward me. I stood up away from the fridge as he stopped right next to me. 

Slowly, he touched his hand to my face, his fingertips teasing my hairline. His dark gaze searched mine, and my heart jumped into my throat as the usual tingles his touch sparked danced down my neck. Then, he slid his hand into my hair, allowing the blonde strands to fall away from his fingertips. 

“Do I want to go home to my big-ass house with its cold emptiness?” he asked in a low voice. “Or go to the club where half the girls there still see me as a mountain to be conquered? Not particularly, Blondie. I'd rather stay here. Even if there will be a demand for movies and water and foot rubs from a tiny, sick person.” 

“You can.” My voice was quiet, like his. Even if my internal screams from self-preservation and vulnerability were deafeningly loud as they told me I was a fool, that he had to go, that this would never be enough for him. 

“Do you want me to?” His question was... honest. 



Like he didn't want me to answer. 

“Do I want you to stay here in my tiny house so my daughter can fall more in love with you than she already is? Not really. But...” Don't be a fool, Cassie. Don't admit you want him to stay. He's just going to hurt you. “I don't exactly want you to go either.” 

“For her, or for you?” 

“I don't want to answer that question.” 

“If I kissed you right now, would you ram your knee into my cock?” 

“I'd briefly consider it, but I probably wouldn't do it.” 

His lips twitched to the side. “You just answered the question.” 

Then, of course, he cupped the back of my head, and he kissed me. It was slow, sweet, gentle. And I didn't consider kneeing him in the balls for a single second. Beck pulled back and trailed his hand down my arm before he finally let me go. 

“I'm going home to get changed and then come back. Do you need anything while I'm gone? For CiCi? You?” 

“I don't...” I sighed and chewed back my pride. “I meant to go to the store today after work to get some stuff like bread, milk... important stuff. But now I can't.” 

“I can get it. Just tell me what you need.” 

I bit the inside of my lip, then nodded. “Okay. Let me write it down.” I walked through into the front room with him hot on my heels and grabbed the notebook and pen from under the coffee table. A few things were already scrawled down, so I added a couple more things, including more medicine. I tore the sheet off the notebook, stood, then gave it to Beck. “Let me get my wallet.” 

He grabbed my wrist, stopping me. “I'm not taking your money.” 

I lifted my gaze to his. “You can't pay for my groceries.” 

“I can and I will.” 

“You can't and you won't.” 

“I can and I will.” 

“You can't and you won't.” 

“I can do this all day, baby. I'm stubborn as fuck.” His eyes told me he wasn't lying. “And we all know I'm a brat about the word no. So, I can, I will, and I'm going to. If I can't help you by buying a measly eight items, I'm an asshole who shouldn't be allowed around other people.” 

“You can't buy my groceries,” I repeated. It was a lame argument. I was going to lose, but I'd fight until I went down. Beck's eyes twinkled as he leaned in. 

“Don't worry. If you really want to pay me back, I'll take a blow job. I imagine your lips around my cock will be a pretty good thank you.” 

My jaw dropped as he backed off with a wink. “Mouth open already, Cassie? Enthusiasm. I like that.” 

I snapped my jaw shut and glared at him. “You're a dirty pig.” 

“I know. But I've got fifty bucks that says you'll be sucking my dick by bedtime. If you don't agree...” He shrugged one shoulder, his lips curved in that dangerous smirk. 

“If you're lucky, I'll bite it.” 

“I'll take that as I'm in for a good time.” 

One more wink, complete with expanding grin, and he was gone. 

Motherfucking asshole.



By day, New York Times and USA Today bestselling New Adult author Emma Hart dons a cape and calls herself Super Mum to two beautiful little monsters. By night, she drops the cape, pours a glass of whatever she fancies - usually wine - and writes books.

Emma is working on Top Secret projects she will share with her followers and fans at every available opportunity. Naturally, all Top Secret projects involve a dashingly hot guy who likes to forget to wear a shirt, a sprinkling (or several) of hold-onto-your-panties hot scenes, and a whole lotta love.

She likes to be busy - unless busy involves doing the dishes, but that seems to be when all the ideas come to life.


Worked Up by Tessa Bailey


From Publisher:

Factory mechanic Duke Crawford just wants to watch SportsCenter in peace. Unfortunately, living with four divorcee sisters doesn’t provide much silence, nor does it change his stance on relationships. But when a fellow commitment-phobe stumbles into his life, getting him good and worked up, he can’t deny his protective instincts.
Samantha Waverly’s brother just put her in an impossible situation. The only way out? Marry huge, gruff, gladiator look-alike Duke—for show, of course. She doesn’t make promises—she knows too well how easily they can be broken—and this is no exception.
As the blistering attraction between them grows, the lines around the no-strings relationship blur. But Duke and Samantha’s marriage is only for show…or is it?
Source:  Advance Copy from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review.  

Hmm, what to say about this one?  As always, Tessa writes sex so steamy your hair frizzes.  Holy smokes.  Author and model BT Urruela recently did a live reading of a chapter of this book on Facebook and he was blushing his way through - it was fantastic!  

My problem is Bailey's trend to write the whole I can't breathe without you thing.  The insta-love so strong that you feel like you'll wither and die without the other person.  It's disturbing to me.  I know some of you love it and it doesn't keep me from reading the books, so I will shut up about it now.  :-)

All that said, I think it's hilarious that Tessa wrote a book about one of her PMBs (Pouty Man Bear for those unfamiliar with Tessa).  And it's great that there's some variation o the standard muscley gorgeous hero we usually find in romance and erotica.  Duke is not your standard hero.  He's a big, brush, evil gladiator.  

If you love the big, bad, bearded guys, Worked Up is definitely for you.  If you like sex so hot you need a walk-in freezer, check out any Tessa Bailey book.  She generally writes 'em as bossy, demanding, dirty talkers, so if those are your fantasies, check her out.  If those are your triggers, stay away.  

Bottom Line?  Tessa Bailey.  Read her.  

~ Shel

Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Peek In The BiblioBin #213

Welcome to our Stacking the Shelves post! Stacking the Shelves (or as we like to call it, A Peek in the BiblioBin) has been created by the folks at Tynga's ReviewsIt's a way for bloggers to share what books they've won, received for review, purchased, borrowed from the library or friend, received as a gift, grabbed off the bookshelf, etc.

For Review:

Overexposed (In Focus #4) by Megan Erickson

Just Friends by Monica Murphy

Roman Crazy (The Broads Abroad) by Alice Clayton and Nina Bocci

The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

Off The Bookshelf:

A Promise of Fire (The Kingmaker Chronicles) by Amanda Bouchet

Friday, August 26, 2016

South of Sunshine by Dana Elmendorf

* * * *

What is Kaycee willing to risk for the sake of love? 
And what will she risk for acceptance?

In Sunshine, Tennessee, the main event in town is Friday night football, the biggest party of the year is held in a field filled with pickup trucks, and church attendance is mandatory. For Kaycee Jean McCoy, life in Sunshine means dating guys she has no interest in, saying only “yes, ma’am” when the local bigots gossip at her mom’s cosmetics salon, and avoiding certain girls at all costs. Girls like Bren Dawson.

Unlike Kaycee, Bren doesn’t really conceal who she is. But as the cool, worldly new girl, nobody at school seems to give her any trouble. Maybe there’s no harm if Kaycee gets closer to her too, as long as she can keep that part of her life a secret, especially from her family and her best friend. But the more serious things get with Bren, the harder it is to hide from everyone else. Kaycee knows Sunshine has a darker side for people like her, and she’s risking everything for the chance to truly be herself.

South of Sunshine was one of those books I noticed on the library's display shelf because of its cover. But underneath the endearing title and picturesque cover is a troubling story about how denying your true self can be destructive.

Kaycee is in her senior year of high school and itching to get out of her small town so she can drop the pretence. She has dated guys but mostly to deflect attention away from the fact that she really likes girls. This is a community that hasn't met the 21st century yet. Their narrow minds about different ethnicities and homosexuality keep Kaycee in the closet. When Bren shows up at the high school she's like a shiny, exotic new toy. She's automatically different because she's part Hispanic and she also happens to be gay. Kaycee feels a strong pull towards her but tries her best to deny any of it. 

"Because once again, just like I did last night and like I've done for all these years of denial, 
I think if I ignore it, it doesn't exist. That's what I have to do to survive this town."
~ Kaycee, p. 174

Reading this book was both maddening and eye-opening. Thank goodness Kaycee is a charming and sweet kid, otherwise this read would have been harder. Sunshine is a judgmental town, superficial to the core. You know it's bad when the churches are segregated and then there's segregation within the church based on social status. Here, within this dysfunction, is where Kaycee has to come to terms with who she is. No wonder her head and her heart are a mess! Religious bigotry is one of my few triggers. I can't ever grasp how any institution that should stand for love and caring can be so cruel to those who are at their most vulnerable. The town's bigoted attitude about anything they're unfamiliar with had me in a foul mood so imagine my surprise when Kaycee's mom and her best friend take the story in a different direction by making important revelations! It taught me an invaluable lesson that I don't always know where someone's fears stem from. It's easy to assume that intolerance can be boiled down to ignorance but those two showed me that there's more to that theory. 

"I remind myself that God loves me ..."
 ~ Kaycee, p. 123

That passage from self-awareness to self-acceptance can be intimidating depending on the level of support that is available. Elmendorf wrote Kaycee's gradual coming out so beautifully. She also gives us a glimpse of what coming out means to a teen - the joy it can bring, the toll it can levy, the love it can let in but also the weight of disappointment and hurt when someone you love refuses to acknowledge your truth. I hate that anyone has to even go through this simply because they want to be true to who they are. And it's unfair to have that person carry the guilt for anyone's lack of acceptance or understanding. When it comes to LGBTQ novels, I find it's the coming of age ones like this that I respond to the most. Therefore, I'm so glad I picked up South of Sunshine.  

~ Bel

The Aftermath by R.J. Prescott


Cormac "The Hurricane" O'Connell's star is on the rise. Billed as the most promising young boxer of his generation, his new career is taking him to places he never dreamed. But O'Connell only needs one thing in life: his wife.

In her final year of college, Em cannot follow him around the world but together they make it work. Just when everything they ever wanted is on the horizon, the past resurfaces to haunt them, and O'Connell realizes that justice might not be a part of his happy ever after. He couldn't protect Em once before, but in the aftermath of the hurricane, he will make sure that never happens again.

Source:  Advance Copy from Publisher in exchange for an honest review.  

We met O'Connell, Emily and the gang in The Hurricane.  The Aftermath really is just that.  It's told from O'Connell's point of view as he deals with the fallout and emotional aftermath of everything that happened in The Hurricane.  I'm staunchly anti-spoiler, so feel free to read my review of The Hurricane here without fear.  

O'Connell is trying to deal, but he's got so much anger and fear and guilt.  God, the guilt.  If you've been around the blog for a while, you know I'm all about the bromances in books and this series delivers.  This ragtag group of fighters are family and they are awesome.  They rally around O'Connell as he continues to make it as a championship contender.  They rally around Emily to be there when O'Connell can't.  

And just like in The Hurricane, O'Connell is swoon-worthy.  Check this out:

Wrapping my arms around her tiny waist, I haul her in for a kiss.  The way that some guys kiss their long-term girlfriends or wives is an absolute travesty.  A kiss should never be routine, like saying hello or good-bye.  Kissing the person you love should be sign language for the soul.  It should say I love you, I need you, and I'm happy to see you or sorry to see you go.  If you can't kiss like that, you should really keep your fucking lips to yourself.

Seriously, why aren't guys like these real?!  No one can ask why we love our fictional boys after reading that.  Or how about this:

God, sometimes it's like she reached into my chest and held my heart in her hand, just to remind me why it belonged to her.

R.J. Prescott is killing me!  She had better write Liam's story and Kieran's and Tommy's and Earnshaw's!  And Danny could find himself a good woman through all these stories too.  Just sayin'.  Truth be told, I want Liam's story first.  The hints we got in The Aftermath about Liam's story were my favorites and I can't wait to read all about it!  

Anyway, if the smoking hot cover wasn't enough motivation for you to buy this book, well, you're crazy, but also, I'm telling you the story is also great.  


Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Hurricane by R.J. Prescott


Emily McCarthy is living in fear of a dark and dangerous past.  A gifted mathematician, she is little more than a hollow, broken shell, trying desperately to make ends meet long enough to finish her degree.

Through an unlikely friendship with the aging, cantankerous owner of a boxing gym, Em is thrown into the path of the most dangerous man that she has ever met.  

Source:  Advance Copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

It recently came to my attention that I somehow forgot to review The Hurricane.  Apparently, I need adult supervision, because I really liked this book and want everyone to know it!  The Hurricane is Emily's story.  It's the story of how she survived a horrific childhood and escaped to a place where she hides - not just from her past, but from her present.  She meets Danny at the diner where she waits tables.  The old guy befriends the skittish young girl and eventually offers her a job at his boxing gym.

Enter Cormac O'Connell.  O'Connell is a rough boxer who fights to burn off his anger and frustration with his mother.  He's listless and lacks focus, but when he sees Em in the diner, he knows he has to shape up to create a life for her.  With that O'Connell dedicates himself to going pro as a boxer and winning Em's heart.  But with Em's background and secrets, the path to true love is like an obstacle course.  

The Hurricane is a beautiful love story.  Not just between Em and Cormack, but a story of the coming together of a family.  The guys at the gym have always been a family, but protecting and loving Emily while helping O'Connell become a champion gives them purpose.  

But O'Connell, man, he just lays it all out there.  This is guy that is not afraid of his emotions when it comes to Em - he embraces them and goes after her, no holds barred.  

                      "I wish I knew the words to tell you how much I love you and how                      much you've changed my life.  Meeting you was like seeing the sun                      for the first time, after a lifetime of living in the dark.  I know you                        can do so much better than me, but if you'll have me, I promise to                       spend the rest of our lives fighting to deserve you."

Aww, right?!  This book is filled with touching quotes from O'Connell and the rest of the guys.  I recommend The Hurricane to all of you.  And then you have to read The Aftermath, which is told from O'Connell's point of view.  *sigh*


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

* * * * *

On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto "No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World." A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island—from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.’s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.

I have fallen in love with this book and I want everyone to know about it! When I picked it up I was told that I would love it and I knew it was true within the first few pages. 

A.J. Fikry is not an easy person to get on with. He has particular interests and specific ways of looking at things so if what you're selling doesn't fall into any of his pre-approved categories, then you'd best move on. He conveys his annoyance through sarcasm and dry humour. Sometimes it appears that he just can't bothered to relate to the modern world. Despite his oft abrasive demeanor, the locals don't mind him - he has his thing and people accept that. Then his life is literally changed overnight and thus begins A.J.'s gradual but wondrous change from a grumpy, book snob to beloved member of the small Alice Island community. I was incredibly amused by A.J.'s wit but it was his various insights through his letter writing and growing friendships that captured my heart. One quote in particular had me reflecting on my own life to see how my views have changed as I've grown older. I love that moment when a book becomes personal and impactful.

"...the things we respond to at twenty are not necessarily the same things we will respond to at forty and vice versa. This is true in books and also in life." 
~ A.J.F

A.J. is surrounded by a small but close unit of friends. There is one in particular, police officer, Lambiase whom I thought of as a gentle soul. The budding friendship between these two different personalities is one of the best things about the book. Once again, I can't stress enough how much I felt for the conversations that take place within these pages. Many of them reveal so much about human nature, oftentimes presenting things from a different angle. It's like a "hallelujah" moment whenever an author can describe things or feelings that I find are difficult to put to words. I swear there were times when I felt that Zevin described perfectly what it feels like to love someone so intensely and also to lose so much. 

In many ways, reading this reminded me of another favourite of mine, A Man called Ove. He was also a grumpy man who seemed incapable of accepting the changes that happened around him. And just like Ove, A.J. learns that there's something and someone to live for. Above all, this book embraces the passion for reading and how books can help us understand and relate to the world, something any avid reader will appreciate. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry will work its way into your soul and make a home there!

~ Bel

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Strong Side by Alison Hendricks


From Goodreads:

Their chemistry on the field is undeniable. But can they ever be more than friends?

Jason Hawkins is about to throw the biggest Hail Mary pass of his career.

If he can't turn NFL recruiters' heads this year, he'll lose his shot at the one thing he's ever been good at. But every quarterback needs a man he can count on down-field. For Jason, that man just might be the Tigers' new receiver, Derek Griffin.

Four years ago, Derek nearly lost everything after being outed by his teammates.

Now he finally has a chance to get it all back as a walk-on for Eastshore College... if he can resist his immediate attraction to the gorgeous and very straight star quarterback.

An instant connection during practice leads to an easy friendship that only grows stronger off the field. Derek is convinced friendship is all it'll ever be, but a very confusing moment of impulse leaves both of them fumbling for answers about their relationship.

As curiosity gives way to passion and passion gives way to something deeper, Jason and Derek will have to tackle their own personal demons to bring home the win and earn their happy ending.

I love sports romances.  I love m/m, so to add the two together is great fun.  I pulled Strong Side off Kindle Unlimited and was apprehensive, but ended up really enjoying the story!

There are a few editing kinks, but the story itself will keep you engrossed and entertained.  Watching Griff deal with his fears and allow himself to not just move forward, but fall in love was moving.

Hawk's jouney takes some twists and turns that he handles with more grace than may be strictly realistic, but that's what we love about romances, right?  Everything is much easier when it's happening in a book.

Strong Side is a good read with some steamy sexy times and an utterly satisfying ending.  Book 2, False Start, is anxiously awaiting its turn on my TBR.  

~ Shel

Monday, August 22, 2016

Daring the Bad Boy by Monica Murphy - Amazon Gift Car Giveaway!

Hi all!  Monica Murphy - the awesome author of a bunch of adult and new adult books has a new YA out, Daring the Bad Boy!  Check out this cover!  

To celebrate, Monica is doing a giveaway here on the blog.  Enter the rafflecopter below and you could win a $5 gift card to Amazon - which is perfect, because it's selling for $3.99!  

Here's the blurb - this book sounds so good, I can't wait to read it!

Truth or Dare was never this much fun…
Annie McFarland is sick of being a shy nobody. A session at summer camp seems like the perfect opportunity to reinvent herself—gain some confidence, kiss a boy, be whoever she wants to be. A few days in, she’s already set her sights on über-hottie Kyle. Too bad her fear of water keeps her away from the lake, where Kyle is always hanging out.
Jacob Fazio is at Camp Pine Ridge after one too many screw-ups. Junior counseling seems like punishment enough, but the rigid no-fraternizing-with-campers rules harsh his chill. When a night of Truth or Dare gets him roped into teaching Annie how to swim, she begs him to also teach her how to snag Kyle.
Late-night swim sessions turn into late-night kissing sessions…but there’s more on the line than just their hearts. If they get caught, Jake’s headed straight to juvie, but Annie’s more than ready to dare him to reveal the truth.
Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains references to drinking, sexual situations, adult language, and an intense bad boy hero who will melt your heart.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

About Monica Murphy:
Monica Murphy is the New York Times, USA Today and #1 international bestselling author of the One Week Girlfriend series, the Billionaire Bachelors and The Rules series. Her books have been translated in almost a dozen languages and has sold over one million copies worldwide. She is a traditionally published author with Bantam/Random House and Harper Collins/Avon, as well as an independently published author. She writes new adult, young adult and contemporary romance. She is also USA Today bestselling romance author Karen Erickson.
She is a wife and a mother of three who lives with her family in central California on fourteen acres in the middle of nowhere, along with their one dog and too many cats. A self-confessed workaholic, when she’s not writing, she’s reading or hanging out with her husband and kids. She’s a firm believer in happy endings, though she will admit to putting her characters through many angst-filled moments before they finally get that hard won HEA.

The Season of You & Me by Robin Constantine

* * * 1/2

Cassidy Emmerich is determined to make this summer—the last before her boyfriend heads off to college—unforgettable. What she doesn’t count on is her boyfriend breaking up with her. Now, instead of being poolside with him, Cass is over a hundred miles away, spending the summer with her estranged father and his family at their bed-and-breakfast at the Jersey Shore and working as the newest counselor at Camp Manatee. 

Bryan Lakewood is sick of nevers. You’ll never walk. You’ll never surf. You’ll never slow dance with your date at prom. One miscalculated step and Bryan’s life changed forever—now he’s paralyzed and needs to use a wheelchair. This is the first summer he’s back at his former position at Camp Manatee and ready to reclaim some of his independence, in spite of those who question if he’s up for the job. 

Cass is expecting two months dealing with heartbreak.

Bryan is expecting a summer of tough adjustments.

Neither of them is expecting to fall in love.

Sometimes a broken heart leads to a decision that can take a person on a different course. That's what happens when Cassidy decides to escape for the summer after finding out that her college-bound boyfriend had cheated on her. Some part of her thinks she's running away but she's hoping that a change of scenery will help her forget about her ex and learn to adjust to being on her own. She heads to the Jersey Shore where her father and stepmother run a bed and breakfast. There she can make fresh new memories with her summer job as a camp counselor at Crest Haven and with her dad's family. At camp she meets Bryan who's a paraplegic. He, too, is learning to adjust after a life-changing accident. He has so much to prove to himself and others but his fears of not being as good at something he excelled at prior to his accident are holding him back. He and Cassidy get on well and end up working together often. He looks forward to seeing her because for him, it's nice to be with someone who isn't aware of his past history, and Cassidy enjoys their easygoing friendship. Until they figure out where they're headed, they'll just continue to enjoy each other's company.

"And in that moment, as she held out her hand to let the firefly loose, I realized that I didn't care whether she was in Crest Haven for four minutes, four hours, four days, or four weeks. I wanted to be in Cassidy's life, to know her, and whatever time we had, it would have to be enough."

I've read all three of Constantine's books and I've liked them all. Her coming-of-age stories feature amiable heroines along with other sensitive, sweet characters that I adore. Cassidy and Bryan are no exception. I enjoyed their flirtations and the precious moments where they confided in each other or egged each other on. Seeing how as an outsider, Cassidy started to fit in with a new group of friends who have their own history is something that every single one of us can relate to. Most importantly, family is always at the heart of Constantine's stories. There's always family to turn to; to root them, to guide them and to simply love them. 

"Mom looked dreamily up to the sky again, her face softened. 'Copping out of what? Cassidy, you're spending the summer with your father, you're not running away. You're changing the scenery. There's a difference. You're opening yourself up to new experiences. That's all, nothing wrong with that. This will be good for you.'"

The Season of You & Me, is perfect for you if you're looking for a friends-to-couple or a conquer-your-fears or a I-can-find-my-own-happiness story. It'll give you good vibes all around!

~ Bel

Here's are my reviews of Constantine's other books if you're interested, The Promise of Amazing and The Secrets of Attraction.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Peek In The BiblioBin #212

Welcome to our Stacking the Shelves post! Stacking the Shelves (or as we like to call it, A Peek in the BiblioBin) has been created by the folks at Tynga's ReviewsIt's a way for bloggers to share what books they've won, received for review, purchased, borrowed from the library or friend, received as a gift, grabbed off the bookshelf, etc.

For Review:

Pushing Perfect by Michelle Falkoff


Strong Side (Eastshore Tigers #1) by Alison Hendricks

False Start (Eastshore Tigers #2) by Alison Hendricks

Friday, August 19, 2016

Comfort Food by Sierra Riley

Comfort Food
* * 1/2

Source: This book was received from the author in exchange for an honest review.

“I can't help unless you let me.” 

“I might be alone, but at least I'm safe.” 

Martin Painter has been a recluse since his parents died when he was seventeen. Sure, he has money and a sprawling house in an upscale neighborhood, but material things can't patch the holes in his heart. When his sister drags him to a charity auction, the last thing he expects to win is a date with a handsome stranger. He can feel the attraction starting, but it's pointless, isn't it? He's better off alone. He's too awkward for a platonic "date," let alone real love.

“Do you ever wonder if you made a wrong turn somewhere?” 

Charity owner Travis Cole loves his work even if he misses the world of haute cuisine. But his charity is hemorrhaging money. He throws an auction to scrape together extra funds, and up on the auction block? Cooking lessons and a dinner with himself. He never thought the winner would be a man. And stranger still, he never expected to care so much about the soft-spoken, sad-eyed loner who won him.

“We've both got too much to lose, don't we?” 

Martin isn't sure he's capable of love anymore. Travis isn't sure he's capable of loving a man. But they can't deny it: there's something between them as powerful as gravity, even if it's just a desire to help one another let go of the past. While Travis teaches Martin how to cook, can they teach each other to be happy?

Comfort Food is a steamy, standalone gay romance novel with a HEA and no cliffhangers 

Source: This book was received from the author in exchange for an honest review.


I had high hopes when I received this book.  A recluse being lured out of his house by an auction-won date with a chef?   It’s an excellent recipe for romance and I was really looking forward to reading it.  Unfortunately, this particular portrayal of the popular GFY (Gay for You) trope turned me off through most of the story.

Martin was a great character.  Painfully awkward at times but still super likable and fascinating.  I also enjoyed the scenes with his sister.  Their relationship was a beautiful one to witness. 

Travis’ character was likable enough but I never once believed that he was truly attracted to Martin.  The flow of their relationship moved from awkward to friends to I-regret-hurting-this-guy-so-maybe-I should-try-to-have-a-romantic-relationship-with-him.  There was zero mention of physical attraction when Travis decided to pursue a relationship.  Their first kiss was so horribly awkward and spark-less that I was actually cheering them on to be BFFs instead of boyfriends.  And the few times they fooled around on page alcohol was involved so I had a hard time trusting or believing the sincerity of Travis’ feelings.   It all made me rather uncomfortable.    

The reason I rated this at 2 1/2 stars is because regardless of my feelings on the story itself, there is no denying the fact that Sierra Riley is a talented author.  Her writing style is very engaging and kept my attention.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to make me enjoy this particular story.

If you aren’t as much of a stickler as I am when it comes to the GFY trope then definitely check this one out.  But if you are a stickler like me then you should probably skip this one.  If you want to try out this author I would highly recommend her book, Loud and Clear.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Jackaby (Jackaby #1) by William Ritter

* * * *

“Miss Rook, I am not an occultist,” Jackaby said. “I have a gift that allows me to see truth where others see the illusion--and there are many illusions. All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain.”

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary--including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police--with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane--deny.

Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritter’s debut novel, which features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant in a tale brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre.

I did it! I finally read Jackaby and I am so happy!! This has been on my TBR pile for some time. I guess it's the cover and the idea that it has a fun take on Sherlock Holmes that attracted me to it. Once I met William Ritter at BEA16 this past May I was convinced that I had to get on this soon.

Free-spirited Abigail Rook arrives in New Fiddleham where she knows no one and has no prospects. Little does she realize that when she applies for a job as Jackaby's assistant that she'll get that adventure she's been yearning for. I liken Jackaby's personality to Benedict Cumberbatch's portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, except without the extreme social inadequacies. Yes, he's quirky and sometimes his mouth lands him in hot water (there's one scene where he unintentionally offends an Irish lady that had me laughing so hard!) but the guy means well. Jackaby, with all his oddities, doesn't even care that he's considered a weirdo. On the other hand, Abigail keeps running into people who either advise her to steer clear of his company or being that she's a woman, she's too frail for such work. There's always a jab - subtle or otherwise - about women and their roles in society and what's socially acceptable. Having no intentions of being a "proper" lady, Abigail is proud to defy these conventional norms. Her keen eye for detail and natural curiosity compliment Jackaby's general outlandish approach to their cases indicating that a career in investigative services just might be her calling. With mysterious deaths and evil afoul, there's plenty to keep them busy and on the move.

Jackaby and Abigail make an excellent team and it's their chemistry that gives the story its charm. They have the best banter and perfect comedic timing. Abigail gets Jackaby almost instantly and I got an immense kick out of seeing their interaction play out. But they're not the only amusing characters. There's also an exacerbated police officer, a ghost and a duck. Yes, a duck. You'll just have to read to find out.

The 19th century setting is a perfect place to lay out this fun, fantastical world filled with magical or mystical creatures. I enjoyed every moment I spent reading it. I'd even pause several times to share the more hilarious passages aloud to my kids and I can't wait for them to read it, too.  Jackaby is an entertaining read for all ages and I definitely recommend it!

~ Bel