Meet Me in Madrid by Verity Lowell

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3 Stars

Summary

In this sexy, sophisticated romantic comedy, two women juggle romance and career across continents.


Charlotte Hilaire has a love-hate relationship with her work as a museum courier. On the one hand, it takes her around the world. On the other, her plan to become a professor is veering dangerously off track.

Yet once in a while, maybe every third trip or so, the job goes delightfully sideways…

When a blizzard strands Charlotte in Spain for a few extra days and she’s left with glorious free time on her hands, the only question is: Dare she invite her grad school crush for an after-dinner drink on a snowy night?

Accomplished, take-no-prisoners art historian Adrianna Coates has built an enviable career since Charlotte saw her last. She’s brilliant. Sophisticated. Impressive as hell and strikingly beautiful.

Hospitable, too, as she absolutely insists Charlotte spend the night on her pullout sofa as the storm rages on.

One night becomes three and three nights become a hot and adventurous long-distance relationship when Charlotte returns to the States. But when Adrianna plots her next career move just as Charlotte finally opens a door in academia, distance may not be the only thing that keeps them apart.

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Review

Charlotte Hilaire lives a busy life as a museum courier. She travels from museum to museum, country to country. It sounds much more exciting than it can be. She sticks to a tight schedule and never has the time for anything fun.

When a blizzard in Spain delays Charlotte’s return to the states, she finally has the chance for fun. Except the fun leads her in a place she wasn’t quite expecting when she meets up with former classmate, and crush, Adrianna Coates.

The heat between the pair combusts over the span of the three days Charlotte is stuck in Spain. They spend more time in the bedroom than outside of it. As time passes, they find themselves calling and wanting to see more and more of each other, even when facing the distance.

In an effort to become closer to each other they both take the chance of turning their careers in different directions to make it possible.

What I really liked? How smart Charlotte and Adrianna were and how they admired that aspect in each other. I love when there are characters who are themselves and they have little geeky things they get excited about.

Also the steam factor. I hoped with the portrayal of a long-distance relationship there would be video chat and phone sessions. I wasn’t disappointed. The buildup to them meeting up with each other in persona again was exciting.

There were a few flat spots where I felt things just dragged a little too much for my liking. Some of the secondary characters I just, felt weren’t needed or were an after thought. There was a lot of angst and judgment in the workplace that while is prevalent in the academic world, I like my romance with a little less angst. So if angst is your thing, you’ll find it in this novel for sure.

 

 

Read an Excerpt Below

 

The car arrived with the luggage while they were still flirting and deliberating in the kitchen, the cava as yet unpoured. Hearing the buzzer, Adrianna had reluctantly thrown on a robe and slippers and run down the three flights, leaving Charlotte still leaning on the counter to contemplate what came next.

“I’m putting your very nice suitcase in my room,” a breathless Adrianna said as soon as she closed the apartment door behind her. “It won’t fit in the study.”

It would have fit in the study. But it fit a lot better in the bedroom.

“I’m out here,” Charlotte informed her. She had taken the bottle and glasses and resituated herself on the living room sofa. If it had been in the States, the long, upholstered couch with its plethora of throw pillows would have sat smack-dab in front of a flat-screen TV. This one, by refreshing contrast, faced a wall of tall, arched casement windows looking onto mostly sky and a distant cityscape punctuated by the city’s numerous church towers. Today the potted trees and summer furniture on the neighboring balconies were coated with an inch or two of velvety snow.

What sun there had been was already dimming.

Adrianna was surprised, but certainly not disappointed, to find Charlotte curled up at one end of said sofa, glass in hand, taking it all in just as she herself liked to do at sunset.

“It’s beautiful,” Charlotte said. “Doesn’t look like any place else I’ve been.”

“Sure doesn’t.” Adrianna sat down close beside Charlotte. Encouragingly close, she hoped.

Charlotte filled Adrianna’s flute with pale bubbly and raised hers in a wordless toast. Their glasses clinked.

“What are we drinking to?” Adrianna asked.

“Bank closures and oversold hotels?” Charlotte replied with a laugh and a gulp. Her legs were folded under her and as she went to set down her glass, she slipped into Adrianna’s shoulder, not seeming to mind at all when Adrianna leaned into her and caught her eye.

“If you’d have looked at me like that in school, I’m not sure what I would have done,” Charlotte said.

“I can’t promise I never did,” Adrianna admitted. “Especially there at the end.”

“You were definitely shopping around at one point, as I recall. Like a freshman for new classes,” Charlotte said. “Least that’s what it looked like from where I stood.”

“I was a train wreck,” Adrianna said solemnly. “My ex cheated on me with someone I cared about and I was worried to death I wouldn’t get a job—and interviewing cross-country practically every week while I finished the last chapter of my diss. Those days seem incomparably easy, yet completely impossible when I look back. But I fucked things up with a lot of people and I hate thinking about it.”

“Your heart was broken,” Charlotte said, reaching for the cava. She’d stopped looking at Adrianna but her voice conveyed empathy.

Had someone broken Charlotte’s heart? Adrianna wanted badly to know.

“And I did that to others in return,” she said.

“You are indeed a heartbreaker,” Charlotte laughed.

“You’re one to talk,” Adrianna replied. “I can’t believe you weren’t dating your pretty little ass off—or seeing faculty on the sly at least. I don’t think I do believe it.”

“Well, you can believe it or not. I’m not saying I didn’t sleep around some. But grads and faculty were off-limits. Not out of moral approbation. I just knew it would throw me off my game. I don’t mind telling you I had tempting offers from both parties.”

Good thing Adrianna wasn’t one of those former suitors. It was so much better finding her again like this, now that they were both past the stage of perpetual heightened insecurity. Now that there was no history with Charlotte, only possibility.

Neither of them were drunk, just usefully relaxed, their inhibitions disarmed by the alcohol, their focus sharpened by the caffeine.

Adrianna set down her own near-empty glass and turned toward Charlotte.

“Let’s toast to layovers instead.”

“With what?”

“Come here,” Adrianna said, just to see how Charlotte reacted to being told what to do.

“Make me,” she replied, finishing what was left in her flute and starting to rise.

“Where are you going now?”

“I’m thirsty. Think I’ll get a glass of water…”

“Fuck the water,” Adrianna said. She pulled Charlotte back down to her for a deep, wet kiss that burned deliciously from the sparkling wine in her mouth and on their lips. Charlotte responded with a kind of unrestraint, immediately taking the lead. God did she. Adrianna suddenly seemed to feel her touch everywhere. It was one of those moments when you don’t realize how much you want something—someone—until she’s within reach. She wasn’t going to lose her second chance.

The Grim Assistant by Jodi Hutchins

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Four out of Five Stars

The Summary: Postal carrier and amateur surfer, Samantha Diaz, lives an uncomplicated life. Well, other than helping her sister with childcare, crushing on her unavailable customer, Lauren Brennan, and catching as many waves as possible before hurricane season begins. Suffice to say, she isn’t looking for much more, but when Lauren invites her to a monthly game night at her house, Sam happily agrees.

When Sam sets out on an early morning surf, the last thing she expects to do is die, but a sudden thunderstorm thrashes offshore, creating a riptide that steals Sam’s life. She awakens to a snarky woman named Margo speaking cryptic nonsense. Not only does she claim to be one of the many Grim Reapers, or Grims, in the world, Margo makes Sam an offer: she’ll bring Sam back from the dead, as long as she becomes Margo’s temporary assistant. Sam accepts but soon realizes the deal was too good to be true, and the consequences she faces may be worse than the death she dodged.

The Review

Samantha Diaz, a postal carrier and amateur surfer, likes the life she’s got. She works, looks out for her sister and nephew, surfs in her free time, and has a bit of a crush on one of the residents living on her postal route. Sam’s morning surf doesn’t go as expected when a freak thunderstorm rolls in that creates a riptide that pulls Sam under to her death. When she wakes up on in the hospital, the last thing she expects is for a random woman named Margo to be spouting information about Grim Reapers. Margo offers Sam a deal, become her assistant or pass on to wherever it is the dead go. Sam accepts the offer and enters into a world she never expected.

First, Grim Reapers are my jam! Like I immediately related this to the television series Dead Like Me. It’s got a dark, witty humor to it that I LOVED. The Grim Assistant. Margo is such a sassy ‘boss’, I started reading it more like she and Sam were on equal footing. They worked together to help lost souls move on. It was done tastefully, and it didn’t shy away from the fact that it isn’t only ‘good’ people who die that need help crossing over.

The relationship between Sam and Lauren felt very organic. They had been flirting with each other over as they swapped books, which omg my little nerdy heart loved. They moved slowly, they fought the urge to move quickly, and then they gave in. *happy sigh*.

With all the good, there is bad that no doubt has to happen. Sam’s secret Reaper status being discovered by the higher ups, Lauren finding out that Sam’s big secret and having to come to terms that there is more to this world than what meets the eye. I did get annoyed by Lauren’s reaction but that’s because I’m so pro-Reaper I couldn’t help myself.

What’s even better is the fact that there’s going to be more in this series!! I’m so looking forward to the next book.

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Rough Terrain by Annabeth Albert

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Four out of Five Stars

The Summary: The camping trip from hell may be the first stop on the road to happily-ever-after in Rough Terrain, the final book in Annabeth Albert’s critically acclaimed, fan-favorite Out of Uniform series.

Navy SEAL Renzo Bianchi has a soft spot for Canaan Finley, and not only because the man makes a mean smoothie. He’s the first guy to get Renzo’s motor revving in a long time. But when he agrees to Canaan’s insane charade—one all-access fake boyfriend, coming right up—he never expects more than a fling.

Creating a hot Italian SEAL boyfriend to save face seemed like a good idea…until his friends called Canaan’s bluff. Now he’s setting off into the woods with the very man who inspired his deception, and Canaan is not the outdoorsy type. The sparks are already flying when a flash flood separates them from their group, leaving Renzo and Canaan very much trapped…very much alone in the wilderness.

Working together to come up with a plan for survival is sexier than either of them expects. But back in the real world, being a couple is bringing its own set of hazards…

The Review

Canaan Finley works at a smoothie shop that Renzo Bianchi (aka Rooster) and other SEALs like to frequent. He doesn’t only have a weakness for men in uniform, there’s more to him. He takes care of his grandfather and he’s studying to be the nurse and he sometimes fills in as a drummer for his former band when needed. When he is invited on a camping trip with those former band mates, they don’t want him coming alone. He makes up a story saying his SEAL boyfriend may not be able to make it, duty calls at any time. The problem is, he doesn’t have a SEAL boyfriend. After spending an evening with Renzo he broaches the topic to see if may Renzo wouldn’t mind pretending for the weekend. When disaster strikes, they both acknowledge that there may be something more there. But can Canaan handle being with someone in the military, who moves around when it’s needed and is deployed at moment’s notice?

Oh, ya’ll, fake boyfriend trope? Sign me up every freaking time. Add in lots of kissing? Annabeth Albert can write some intense kissing scenes. Like when I become a super amazing author, I want to write kissing scenes like hers, kind of intense. There was an intimacy Renzo and Canaan’s kisses that I feel like a lot of authors over look between their characters. That level of intimacy shows a level of trust, understanding and caring between Renzo and Canaan. I’m a sucker for it and I have no shame.

Renzo, no matter how much pride he takes in his body, he’s still insecure. It hurt knowing that there were parts of his romantic life he had been denying himself. He tried so hard to be the perfect SEAL, son, brother and I think that quest for perfection caused a rift in himself. I could relate entirely on that part (except my body is NOT a temple lol). Canaan was so gentle with Renzo and showed him bits and pieces of his life. I think Renzo needed the balance that Canaan offered him and because of that balance he bloomed.

Of course there were parts that you wanted to shake Renzo and be like, “Why are you doing this to yourself?!” But it took someone at work, which everyone should have a boss like that, who kind of woke him up to what was happening and why he was feeling the way he was.

I absolutely loved this installment of the Out of Uniform Series and I’m looking forward to Annabeth’s new series that is to be set in Alaska!! She is definitely one of my favorite authors that I recommend to everyone who reads, or is interested in reading M/M.

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All Things by Amber Belldene

All Things (A Reverend Alma Lee Mystery Book 1)

Four out of Five Stars

The Summary: A priest and a rabbi walk into a lesbian bar…

If something is unjust in San Francisco’s Mission District, the Reverend Alma Lee will face it down. She leads her vibrant church of St. Giles’ with compassion and sass. Her busy days involve match-making, meddling, and saving the city’s beloved lesbian landmark, The Carlos Club. Alma meets the intriguing Rabbi Naomi Cohen there, and she’s smitten.

Death comes to the church’s door…

When the proprietor of The Carlos Club turns up dead on the steps of St. Giles’, Naomi’s brother is the number one suspect. She needs help exonerating him, and Alma’s knowledge of the neighborhood makes her the perfect priest to solve the case. If only Alma’s ex-boyfriend, homicide detective Cesar Garza will accept her help. She still feels the pull of their old connection, but she’s convinced the sexy-smart rabbi is her perfect mate. . . Too bad Naomi is playing by different rules.

Can Alma solve the case before the murderer silences her forever?

The Review

I have to admit, the tagline is what initially grabbed my attention. “A priest and a rabbi walk into a lesbian bar…” Like, what? Rewind that and let me hear that again. Yes, that did say a priest and a rabbi walk into a lesbian bar. I’m a fan of cozy mysteries, and having a splash of a LGBTQ friendly priest piqued my interest. I needed know if if Alma was going to turn out life Father Brown (I binged the show on Netflix and find Father Brown and his clique particularly invigorating).

Alma is her own brand of priest. She’s bisexual, nosy, vegan, honest and has a crush on a lady rabbi.The story opens up at the closing of a local lesbian bar called The Carlos Club that hadn’t evolved with the community and the owner wasn’t business savvy.  Once the owner turns up dead (what’s sad is I can’t remember her name) on the church doorstep, Alma has to act. Her friend has been murdered and crawled to her church as she died.

The police focus in on the new property owner, the brother to Naomi, the rabbi that Alma is crushing on. And here comes the drama. The cop in charge? Alma’s ex-boyfriend Cesar Garza. It’s obvious he hasn’t gotten over Alma and harbors some hard feelings for her. He wants her to stay out of the investigation and safe. Someone had attempted to poison her, and that should be enough to keep her away. But it’s not.

She can’t Naomi’s brother take the fall. Not when he’s innocent. So she figures out how to use her community knowledge to find the evidence she needs to find the real killer. What was really neat about this was I was debating between two people being the murderer but I was wrong. I liked that I was wrong because most of these cozy mysteries I have it figured out pretty quickly.

The romance aspect of this was not a major plot point in this. Anything other than a kiss between Alma and Naomi ended up in a fade to black type of scene. It was fitting for the type of novel this was. There’s still a part of me that really wanted more though. Like let the Reverend get some hot lady love and don’t let her go back to Cesar like what was hinted at. Keep Reverend Alma with the ladies!

I’ll totally read more in this series though. I liked her sassy self.

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