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.

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The Beautiful Things Shoppe by Philip William Stover

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary

Moving to eclectic New Hope, Pennsylvania, and running The Beautiful Things Shoppe is a dream come true for elegant and reserved fine arts dealer Prescott J. Henderson. He never agreed to share the space with Danny Roman, an easygoing extrovert who collects retro toys and colorful knickknacks.

And yet here they are, trapped together in the quaint shop as they scramble to open in time for New Hope’s charming Winter Festival.

Danny has spent years leading with his heart instead of his head. The Beautiful Things Shoppe is his chance to ground himself and build something permanent and joyful. The last thing he needs is an uptight snob who doesn’t appreciate his whimsy occupying half his shop.

It’s only when two of New Hope’s historic landmarks—each as different as Danny and Prescott—are threatened that a tentative alliance forms. And with it, the first blush of romance. Suddenly, running The Beautiful Things Shoppe together doesn’t seem so bad…until Danny’s secret threatens to ruin it all.

Review

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with this book. I hated the beginning of this book. I almost DNF’ed it, that’s how much I didn’t like the beginning of this book. The enemy shopkeepers, forced to work together, just was written in a way that made me HATE Danny and Prescott. The way Danny and Prescott spoke to each other, just why? It made me angry. I would never treat anyone the way they treated each other.

But, I was one book away from meeting my reading goal for the year and I had invested a good amount of time trudging through the first 30% of it, I was determined to finish it.

I’m glad I did.

As soon as they got over themselves and started to get to know each other as the collectors they were, I liked them as characters. Prescott had gotten to know the people of New Hope and had fallen in love with the town. Danny found himself listening to Prescott as he sold his antiques and he started to understand Prescott.

They were complete opposites. Danny liked the vintage, toy, oddball collectibles. Prescott searched for historical pieces. They ended up working together, along with the town, to save two historical landmarks of New Hope. Of course, small towns means interfering do-gooders, pushing Danny and Prescott together. Which I loved!

Now, don’t expect a fiery romance scene in this book. But there were some toe-curling kisses exchanged and some very sweet moments between Danny and Prescott. I got a little teary eyed at how sweet they were.

So, like I said, love/hate. I detest the beginning 30% of this book but loved the last 50% of it.

To be released January 26, 2021

The Love Study by Kris Ripper

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary

Declan has commitment issues. He’s been an office temp for literally years now, and his friends delight in telling people that he left his last boyfriend at the altar.

And that’s all true. But he’s starting to think it’s time to start working on his issues. Maybe.

When Declan meets Sidney—a popular nonbinary YouTuber with an advice show—an opportunity presents itself: as part of The Love Study, Declan will go on a series of dates arranged by Sidney and report back on how the date went in the next episode.

The dates are…sort of blah. It’s not Sidney’s fault; the folks participating are (mostly) great people, but there’s no chemistry there. Maybe Declan’s just broken.

Or maybe the problem is that the only person he’s feeling chemistry with is Sidney.

Review

When I saw The Love Study I grabbed this book up to read and review without hesitation. There aren’t enough books out there that feature nonbinary characters as a love interest.

Declan, always introduced to new people as, “This is Declan, he left his boyfriend at the alter” doesn’t have the best dating record. When he meets Sidney, a YouTuber with an advice show, an opportunity jumps him in the face. Sidney will arrange a series of dates and his report of how those dates went would be featured in Sidney’s YouTube show The Love Study.

What I enjoyed about the dates? Each date was so different from the one before it. Then, of course, we figure out why the dates weren’t as successful as they could have been. Declan is attracted to and has chemistry with is Sidney.

When they finally get together, it was the sweetest thing ever. There were moments I had the cheesiest grin when they would spend time together. Sidney was an introvert, through and through, which I related to so much. I’m good with spending moments of quiet with another person and I’d be content with that. You don’t really get to see introverts portrayed the way Sidney was and I was all about it.

The banter between all the characters was so much fun. Like, the Marginalized Motherfuckers? LOVED them in all their messy goodness. I could see why their friendship had survived for so long.

There were a couple of issues I had with The Love Study. I couldn’t picture either Sidney or Declan at all. It made me crazy not being able to picture them in my head as I was reading. Then the conflict towards the end, it left me with a meh feeling.

Overall, this was a good read. Would I recommend it to other readers? Yes! We need more diversity and this was refreshing and easy to get lost in!

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Hairpin Curves by Elia Winters

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Four out of Fives Stars

Summary

Megan Harris had hopes of seeing the world, but at twenty-five she’s never even left Florida. Now a wedding invitation lures her to Quebec…in February. When her ex-friend Scarlett offers to be her plus-one (yeah, that’s a whole story) and suggests they turn the journey into an epic road trip, Megan reluctantly agrees to the biggest adventure of her life.

A week together in a car is a surefire way to kill a crush, and Scarlett Andrews has had a big one on Megan for years. The important thing is fixing their friendship.

As the miles roll away, what starts as harmless road-trip games and rest-stop dares escalates into something like intimacy. And when a surprise snowstorm forces Megan and Scarlett to hunker down without the open road as distraction, they’ve got a bigger challenge than making it to the church on time: facing the true nature of their feelings for each other.

Review

Megan and Scarlett used to be great friends, now? Not so much. Megan felt left behind as Scarlett moved from Florida for college and life. When Juliet invites them to her wedding in Quebec, they reluctantly agree to road trip their way from Florida to Quebec.

Megan packs her scrap book and polaroid camera, hesitantly ready to see what she’s been missing out on. Even with ground rules, Scarlett manages to surprise Megan with her thoughtfulness in planning stops that Megan might enjoy.

I liked that we eventually got to find out what split Megan and Scarlett apart and upon learning those reasons, they were able to address it and move forward in their budding relationship. They both complimented, and challenged each other. Their chemistry and attraction to each other grew with each stop they made and I loved it.

Their romance was a slow burn that grew in intensity. There were a few moments that had me fanning myself lol. I was a little surprised by the boldness of Scarlett at first, but then I can’t see Scarlett being any other way but bold, even in the bedroom.

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Better Than People by Roan Parrish

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary

It’s not long before their pet-centric arrangement sparks a person-centric desire…

Simon Burke has always preferred animals to people. When the countdown to adopting his own dog is unexpectedly put on hold, Simon turns to the PetShare app to find the fluffy TLC he’s been missing. Meeting a grumpy children’s book illustrator who needs a dog walker isn’t easy for the man whose persistent anxiety has colored his whole life, but Jack Matheson’s menagerie is just what Simon needs.

Four dogs, three cats and counting. Jack’s pack of rescue pets is the only company he needs. But when a bad fall leaves him with a broken leg, Jack is forced to admit he needs help. That the help comes in the form of the most beautiful man he’s ever seen is a complicated, glorious surprise.

Being with Jack—talking, walking, making out—is a game changer for Simon. And Simon’s company certainly…eases the pain of recovery for Jack. But making a real relationship work once Jack’s cast comes off will mean compromise, understanding and lots of love.

The Review

Simon has severe anxiety. Jack has a broken leg. Who would have known that this would turn out to be the perfect combination? It’s hard to pinpoint why I enjoyed their story. Every time I sat down to read, I was left feeling hopeful and happy.

An app, PetShare, is what brings these two men together. Simon can’t have animals at home, his gran has allergies, but animals are the only things that make him feel calm. Jack is the first person Simon wants to be more than a ball of anxiety around. He finds himself feeling easy and comforted when he’s around Jack.

The steadily form a connection with every walk Simon takes Jack’s pets on. Their attraction grows the more they get to know each other. And their chemistry? Off the charts. Simon may live in a world full of anxiety, but with a few touches or well-timed words, Jack was able to Simon away from the overwhelming anxiety. He helped Simon feel free and he didn’t judge him.

Their romance, oh, it was intense. For someone who feels so deeply, it would only make sense that Simon would be as reactive as he was. Jack soaked in all that Simon had to offer, and wasn’t afraid to show him more.

They grew with each other, never leaving the other behind.

I could relate to both Simon and Jack. There is so much of my life that is ruled by anxiety that it’s hard to do what people find as ‘normal’. It made me crave finding someone like Jack who would understand. Maybe that’s why I loved their story as much as I did. Simon got his happy ending and made me feel like I could get mine as well.

 

To be released August 2020

 

Just Like That by Cole McCade

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Summary

Summer Hemlock never meant to come back to Omen, Massachusetts.

But with his mother in need of help, Summer has no choice but to return to his hometown, take up a teaching residency at the Albin Academy boarding school—and work directly under the man who made his teenage years miserable.

Professor Fox Iseya.

Forbidding, aloof, commanding: psychology instructor Iseya is a cipher who’s always fascinated and intimidated shy, anxious Summer. But that fascination turns into something more when the older man challenges Summer to be brave. What starts as a daily game to reward Summer with a kiss for every obstacle overcome turns passionate, and a professional relationship turns quickly personal.

Yet Iseya’s walls of grief may be too high for someone like Summer to climb…until Summer’s infectious warmth shows Fox everything he’s been missing in life.

Now both men must be brave enough to trust each other, to take that leap.

To find the love they’ve always needed…

Just like that.

Review

Just Like That is a story of one man finding himself years after a profound loss and another that is learning who he wants to be.

Summer Hemlock is fresh out of university trying to find his career, he didn’t expect to land back home in Omen, Massachusetts. He secures a position teaching at Albin Academy boarding school, directly under the man who he fosters a crush on while he was a teenager, Professor Fox Iseya.

At their first meeting, Professor Iseya has little faith in Summer’s abilities. I hurt for Summer in these moments, because it felt like Professor Iseya was tearing him to pieces and didn’t even care about the damage he was doing. Summer acted out, in a moment of bravery, and kissed his childhood crush. From that action, the entire course of the school year changes.

A daily act of bravery, Summer gets a kiss from Professor Iseya. The kisses turn into something more and hold a different meaning to them both. Summer whittles away at the walls Fox had put up since the passing of his wife. Fox allows himself to feel something other than nothing and they get lost in each other in the process.

The steam factor on this one I’d give a four out of five. Each scene was intense, full of passion that had been so tightly bound for so long, it was explosive once they were together. A May/December romance, featuring workplace, desk top sex? Woo, I was not expecting that.

Why did this get a three out of five stars? For me, I was expecting so much more. There was so much focus on Fox, with only a brief moment when Summer figured out what he wanted in life. I wish there would have been more to their relationship. I was left wanting, but still satisfied with the resolution of the story.

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