Publisher: Carina Press

Guest Review: One Summer Weekend by Shannon Stacey

Posted August 27, 2019 by Tracy in Reviews | 1 Comment

Guest Review: One Summer Weekend by Shannon StaceyReviewer: Tracy
One Summer Weekend by Shannon Stacey
Series: Cedar Street #1
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: August 5, 2019
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Point-of-View: Third
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 106
Add It: Goodreads
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Series Rating: four-stars

Best friends. A fake relationship. And only one bed.

New York Times bestselling author Shannon Stacey delivers the feel-good beach read you’ve been waiting for.

Noah Stafford loves his life—his happy, single life. So what if he made up a fake girlfriend to stop his boss’s matchmaking? He kept things close to the truth—Carly really does have long, sexy legs and a killer sense of humor. She just happens to be his best friend. His wicked awesome and completely platonic best friend.

But now his boss is having a destination wedding, and Noah is expected to attend…with Carly, his girlfriend.

Carly Randall has no interest in living out a rom-com plot. But Noah is her best friend, so she agrees to help. Still, once they arrive on Cape Cod, she can’t explain the sudden butterflies she feels when he looks at her that way. Or why she doesn’t mind when Noah’s hands stray a little south of her back.

What happens on the Cape stays on the Cape.

Except not really, not at all, and once their sexy faux-cation is over, Noah and Carly return to a reality where everything’s changed. Going for it would mean risking their friendship…but forgetting how good they were together just isn’t an option.

One summer weekend is the story of Carly and Noah who are best friends. Noah has been working at an architectural firm and very much enjoys his job. Unfortunately his boss, Tom, keeps trying to fix him up with his soon to be sister-in-law. Noah is sure that the soon to be sister-in-law is pretty and nice, but he’s positive that if he goes out with her he will have one foot down the aisle. That’s not something he wants. What did he do? He lied to his boss. He ended up telling Tom that he already had a girlfriend and I know you’ll be shocked when you hear that he said it was Carly.

Carly has no idea that Noah has been lying to his boss and saying that she’s his girlfriend. Noah finally comes clean to her because it’s Tom’s wedding weekend and his boss expects Noah’s girlfriend to be in attendance. Of course he does. Carly says no at first, but then she realizes that this means a lot to Noah and so she agrees to go as his girlfriend. When they get to Cape Cod they are of course in the same room, in the same bed, and with playing girlfriend/boyfriend they end up kissing. One thing leads to another and they’re having sex. Neither one of them is prepared for the emotions that this invokes in them. Can they remain best friends when each of them aren’t sure how they now feel about the other person?

This was a pretty cute story, I have to admit. I absolutely love Carly and Noah’s relationship. They were such good friends and knew each other so well and their love for each other came through. They had been friends for so long that they truly did love each other they just weren’t in love with each other. Or so they thought. 🙂

Stacey has a great way of bringing friends together and I think this friends to lovers story was a good one. I very much enjoyed reading it, and would definitely recommend it if you’re just looking for a short fun read.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5


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Joint Review: The Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker

Posted May 23, 2019 by Rowena in Reviews | 2 Comments

Joint Review: The Austen Playbook by Lucy ParkerReviewer: Holly & Rowena
The Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker
Series: London Celebrities #4
Also in this series: Pretty Face, Making Up (London Celebrities, #3)
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: April 22, 2019
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 352
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2019 GoodReads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
Series Rating: four-stars

In which experienced West End actress Freddy Carlton takes on an Austen-inspired play, a scandal at a country estate, an enthusiastic search for a passion outside of acting…and the (some people might say icy*) heart of London’s most feared theater critic.

*if those people were being nice

Freddy Carlton knows she should be focusing on her lines for The Austen Playbook, a live-action TV event where viewers choose the outcome of each scene, but her concentration’s been blown. The palatial estate housing the endeavor is now run by the rude (brilliant) critic who’s consistently slammed her performances of late. James “Griff” Ford-Griffin has a penchant for sarcasm, a majestic nose and all the sensitivity of a sledgehammer.

She can’t take her eyes off him.

Griff can hardly focus with a contagious joy fairy flitting about near him, especially when Freddy looks at him like that. His only concern right now should be on shutting down his younger brother’s well-intentioned (disastrous) schemes—or at the very least on the production (not this one) that might save his family home from the banks.

Instead all he can think of is soft skin and vibrant curls.

As he’s reluctantly dragged into her quest to rediscover her passion for the stage and Freddy is drawn into his research on a legendary theater star, the adage about appearances being deceiving proves abundantly true. It’s the unlikely start of something enormous…but a single revelation about the past could derail it all.

The Austen Playbook is the fourth book in Lucy Parker’s London Celebrities series and it follows Freddy Carlton as she falls head over heels in love with the last man she ever thought she’d catch feelings for. J. Ford-Griffin is a critic who has given her some harsh reviews for her work in different plays so when she signs on to do an interactive play on his home ground, she’s not thinking about him at all…until he’s the only thing that she’s thinking of.

J. Ford Griffin is busy. He’s busy trying to get a movie off the ground but is getting pushback on that and with his family’s spending rising and not enough money coming in, he’s doing everything he can to make sure that they don’t lose their family property that has been in the family for ages. The last thing he needs is an attraction with an actress but Freddy Carlton keeps showing up around his property, in his thoughts and before he knows what’s what, Freddy Carlton is the woman he wants to be his forever.

Rowena: This was a really quick read for me and I really enjoyed it. Freddy and Griff were a wonderful couple and I really enjoyed their romance. What did you think, Holly?

Holly: This is my first book by Parker. Even though it’s book 4 in the series, it was the perfect standalone. I actually thought it was book 1 until you mentioned the others. I really liked the romance, though it took me a little bit to settle into the story. I’m not sure if it was my reading mood or the book itself, but the first 1/3 of the book was kind of slow. Still, I really liked Griff and Freddy. They were cute together. I loved how grumpy Griff was.

Rowena: I’m glad to see that you liked it. All of the books in this series can be read as standalones but I like that Lucy Parker has grouped them together since they all take place in the same world.

Yeah, I really liked watching Freddy and Griff grow closer and closer. I liked that their attraction was organic and it wasn’t one of those insta-love stories. We saw them get to know each other and I felt their connection throughout the entire thing so I was a happy camper.

Holly: Yes, it was great how they started as sort of enemies, became friends, then that turned into more. The progression felt true and natural, and I really liked how Freddy’s naturally sunny attitude worked on Griff.

I didn’t love all the theater drama. That’s not really my style. Every time Sadie came on page I wanted to punch her. I was sad she didn’t get her comeuppance.

Rowena: Yeah, Sadie needed to get punched in the face a time or two. So did Nick. The theater stuff was okay for me, we didn’t get enough of it to make me bored or anything. I was really invested in both Freddy and Griff, together and apart. I wanted Freddy to find the backbone to stand up to her father and I wanted Griff to figure out how to keep his family’s financials afloat without selling his soul. I liked seeing them really grow into their own and I loved that finding themselves, helped them grow together so all around, I just really liked this one.

I also really liked Charlie and loved that he finally found his purpose in life as well. So much good stuff in this one outside of freaking Sadie and stupid ass Nick. I heard that Nick is going to be redeemed in his own book (which I’m assuming is going to be with Freddy’s sister) and that’s good to know since I heard that Nick was named after our blogging friend Nick from The Infinite Limits of Love. 🙂

This book gets 4 out of 5 stars from me. What about you?

Holly: Don’t even get me started on Nick. I’m not sure he can be redeemed. I’m sorry for our friend Nick, because he’ll forever be Nick the Dick to me. haha

I was invested in Freddie’s personal growth and Griff’s determination to save his family. Though I’ll be honest, I don’t see why he didn’t hire a marketing manager for his parents. That bothered me. With direction they could have made quite a bit of money.

Charlie was wonderful. I really hope we get a book for him.

I’m going to give it 3.75.

Rowena: Nick the Dick….hahahahahaha. Girl, I’m crying. I have faith in Lucy Parker’s abilities. Just you watch.

Final Grade

Holly: 3.75 out of 5
Rowena: 4 out of 5

London Celebrities

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Guest Review: Freedom to Love by Susanna Fraser

Posted April 12, 2019 by Tracy in Reviews | 1 Comment

Guest Review: Freedom to Love by Susanna FraserReviewer: Tracy
Freedom to Love by Susanna Fraser
Series: Freedom to Love #1
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: January 5, 2015
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Point-of-View: Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Historical Romance
Add It: Goodreads
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Series Rating: four-stars

Louisiana, 1815

Thérèse Bondurant trusted her parents to provide for her and her young half-sister, though they never wed due to laws against mixed-race marriage. But when both die of a fever, Thérèse learns her only inheritance is debt—and her father’s promise that somewhere on his plantation lies a buried treasure, if she can find it before her white cousins take possession of the land.

Then British officer Henry Farlow, dazed from a wound received in battle outside New Orleans, stumbles onto the property. Thérèse insists he stay with them to recover, and he is quickly captivated by her intelligence and beauty. Thanks to her care, he is back to full strength just in time to fend off an attack by her cousin, inadvertently killing the would-be rapist.

Knowing they will find no justice in the law, the trio flees. Henry risks being labeled a deserter, but more than duty compels him to see the sisters to safety, and Thérèse comes to rely on Henry for more than protection. On their journey to freedom, they must navigate another new territory—love. But when they arrive in England, an unexpected inheritance puts their newfound commitment to the test.

Henry Farlow is a British officer who was injured in battle.  He was left there after the battle, everyone presuming he’s dead. He manages to leave the field where the battle took place and finds himself at a plantation.  He comes across a woman and a girl who are digging in the lawn.  They take him to the house and take care of him, but they want him to leave asap.  Unfortunately, despite the fact that the plantation house belonged to their father, it doesn’t belong to them.  Their father has died and left it to a nasty relative.  Unfortunately that relative shows up while the trio is there.  He’s drunk and when he tries to take advantage of Thérèse’s sister, Jeannette – who’s a slave, Henry protects her and accidentally kills him.  Then the three of them are on the run. Henry must make it to a fort to prove he’s not a deserter.

Thérèse’s father was a plantation owner but Thérèse’s mother was his mistress and a seamstress.  She is cuarterona (someone who is ¼ African descent) but she’s also Native American. Though Henry doesn’t care and starts to fall in love with her, she’s not sure what their future looks like.  They decide they’ll make their way to Canada, where slaves are free, and start a life.  With Henry and Thérèse pretending to be married, and Jeannette their slave, it puts them in close quarters.  Henry and Thérèse start to fall in love, but how can they be together when interracial marriages are illegal?

Right when they think things are looking up for the trio, they head to England to deal with Henry’s parents (to prove that he’s alive) and then they’ll head back to Canada to start their life.  Once they get to England, however, they find that Henry’s life will never be the same, which means Thérèse’s won’t either.

I really loved the first part of this story.  I loved Thérèse and Jeannette and their determination to make a better life for themselves.  I really liked Henry and his honor.  The trio’s journey was fraught with danger and I was completely sucked in.

Then they got to England. I wish I could say that even that part was wonderful, but I personally think it got boring.  It was definitely more personalized because of Henry’s family and how they dealt with Thérèse, but I started to dislike Henry a bit and it just wasn’t as good as the first part of the book.

Despite things changing for me in the second half of the book, it was still good.  I’d still definitely recommend this as it was well written and kept my attention.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5


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Review: Never Deal with Dragons by Lornenda Christensen

Posted February 18, 2019 by Holly in Reviews | 2 Comments

Review: Never Deal with Dragons by Lornenda ChristensenReviewer: Holly
Never Deal with Dragons by Lorenda Christensen
Narrator: Leslie Bellair
Series: Never Deal with Dragons #1
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: July 22, 2013
Format: Audiobook
Point-of-View: First
Genres: Paranormal Romance, Fantasy
Pages: 209
Length: 7 hours and 40 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
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Series Rating: four-stars

Consoling a sobbing dragon and serving pig buffets are just part of the job for Myrna Banks. Working for a mediation firm, it's her job to get humans compensated for damages caused by the dragons who now rule. But her "typical" day is interrupted by Trian Chobardan, an old flame who sneaked out of her bed two years ago, taking her heart and a handful of classified documents with him.

Myrna would love to show Trian the door, but he's been sent by North America's reigning dragon lord for help negotiating a truce with a powerful rival to avert war. Myrna agrees to help, even though she'll be stuck with Trian as a partner.

As the two work together, Myrna finds Trian to be surprisingly supportive—and still irresistibly attractive. Though her brain tells her not to forget his betrayal, her body feels differently. When they learn the enemy dragon lord is planning something no one could have imagined, Myrna has to learn who she can trust before she loses not only her heart, but her life.

Never Deal with Dragons is the first book in Lorenda Christensen’s Never Deal with Dragons series. This was an impulse grab from the Audible Romance Package. It’s currently $1.99 for Kindle. It grabbed me from the start. Leslie Bellair narrated and did an excellent job. She made it easy to fall into the story.

Myrna works for a mediation firm in a post-apocalyptic future society where technology has basically been wiped out and dragons rule the earth. She settles disputes between humans and dragons. When her ex stole some sensitive documents from her a year ago, her fast-track to the top career came to a screeching halt. Now she’s stuck working as assistant to an incompetent creep, with no end in sight. She isn’t too happy to see her ex when he shows back up. Especially when she realizes he’s really the head of security for the Dragon in charge of North America – a position he held when they were together, though she didn’t know it. That isn’t the only thing she didn’t know…Trian is hiding a pretty big secret. One he never wants her to find out…

I really liked Myrna. She was strong, competent and full of snark. The world was really interesting and drew me in right from the start. These aren’t dragon shifters – they’re actual dragons who only have one form. They were accidentally created in a lab during World War III (yes, 3). They’ve risen to the top of the food chain and now rule in seven different territories. While I enjoyed the fresh take on an old theme, I did struggle a bit to catch up. The world felt very much like our own today, except there was a lack of technology – including electricity, etc. While we were told about this, I didn’t really see evidence of it in the writing. In that case, I believe it was a tell, not show. Still, I can’t deny I was interested in finding out more about the world and how humans and dragons learned to co-exist.

I did struggle with the romance. I didn’t really feel a true connection between Myrna and Trian. I never truly understood the deep emotional connection between Trian and Mryna. They had physical chemistry, but why they loved each other remains a mystery to this reader (listener?). The second half got bogged down with a suspense plot I wasn’t all that interested in. The narrator kept me invested in the story, but I’d rather have had more of the romance (and definitely more grovel from Trian!) than we got.

Still and all, this was a light, enjoyable read. I’m looking forward to the second book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Never Deal with Dragons


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Review: On the Surface by Kate Willoughby

Posted November 26, 2018 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: On the Surface by Kate WilloughbyReviewer: Holly
On the Surface (In the Zone, #1) by Kate Willoughby
Narrator: Dee J. Adams
Series: In the Zone #1
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: April 14, 2014
Format: Audiobook, eARC
Source: Purchased, NetGalley
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 272
Length: 10 hours and 2 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
Series Rating: three-stars

NHL player Tim Hollander lost his temper one time and threw a water bottle at an abusive fan. After "Bottlegate," he's traded to the San Diego Barracudas, where he'll need to keep the bad publicity to a minimum while proving he can still compete with the younger guys on the ice.

Erin Collier is a pediatric nurse who's never seen a hockey game, but gets in line for Tim's autograph at a PR event in hopes of impressing the doctor she has a crush on. When an obnoxious fan gets pushy toward Erin, Tim rushes to defend the pretty stranger, throwing a punch in the process.

Grateful for the rescue, Erin agrees to stand by Tim during the resulting press conference and host him at a hospital charity event. Their chemistry is palpable, and soon their lives are intertwined. But Erin doubts a hockey player is capable of anything resembling a real relationship. And if Tim can't get her to see beyond what's on the surface, they'll never last longer than a single season…

I requested this book from NetGalley back in 2014 because it’s a hockey book and I love hockey romances. Then I left it languishing for all these years. I’m trying to make a dent in my TBR pile, so I bought the audiobook for my commute. This was a sweet contemporary romance featuring a hockey player and a nurse.

Tim Hollander is nearing the end of his prime in the NHL. After an unfortunate incident with a water bottle, he’s been traded from the Chicago Blackhawks to the San Diego Barracudas. After some initial frustration over the move, he decides to look at this as a fresh start. He puts his all into training and settling into his place on his new team. When a fan gets physical with a woman at his first signing event, Tim doesn’t hesitate to take the guy out. Even though it was the right thing to do, the Barracudas’ PR department isn’t happy that he’s already making trouble. They ask the woman, Erin, if she’d be willing to do a press conference to support Tim.

Erin Collier isn’t interested in hockey at all, but the doctor she’s crushing on at work is. When she sees some players signing gear outside her favorite lunch place, she figures she’ll get in good with the Doc by bringing him a signed hat. When the jerk in front of her starts making trouble and talking smack, she can’t help but call him out. She never expected him to push her down, or for sexy Tim Hollander to come to her rescue. She’s happy to help him out at the press conference. When he develops food poisoning shortly thereafter, she can’t leave him alone. They end up becoming friends and spending a lot of time together. Tim wants more from her, but Erin isn’t sure she’s interested in a relationship.

I really loved the first half of this book. The hero was super adorable and I loved how into the heroine he was. He was just an all around stand up guy. He didn’t play games or present himself to be something he wasn’t. He was just a dude who plays hockey. I loved him. The meet cute between him and the heroine was kind of fun, and I really liked watching them get to know each other.

Toward the middle of the book I started to get kind of anxious about the final conflict, then a little impatient for it. Toward the 3/4 mark the book fell apart. The angst of “I don’t want kids/Oh no, I do” was frustrating. Part of this may be my own personal feelings on the matter (WHY MUST EVERY COUPLE IN ROMANCE HAVE KIDS OT BE HAPPY!??!), but I was so ready for it to end. I wish the kids conflict hadn’t existed.

The hero was sweet and I enjoyed the romance, but that kid thing really killed a lot of my enjoyment.

Had that part been removed, I’d probably give this a 4.25. As it is, I have to give it:

3 out of 5

In the Zone


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