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

Party Favors by Erin Mclellan

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary

Three…

Amanda Ellis knows three things: she’s tired of doing what’s expected of her, she hates her job at her family’s business, and the last thing she wants to do is attend her parents’ boring New Year’s Eve ball with a date her mother picked. A few days of fun with her online best friend is exactly what she needs to ring in the New Year on her own terms.

Two…

Wren Rebello is impulsive and always ready for fun. A last-minute girls’ getaway sounds like the perfect way to spend New Year’s. But even Wren isn’t prepared for the spark of attraction she feels when she meets Amanda in person for the first time. Good thing Wren loves popping Amanda’s cork.

One…

After days spent sharing end-of-year resolutions and the one bed in their cottage, the clock strikes midnight and the ball drops on their time together. As Amanda and Wren go their separate ways, they leave new resolutions unfulfilled. Is there enough New Year’s magic left to turn their online friendship into real-life love?

Review

Amanda Ellis, heir to a disco ball empire, if finally meeting one of her best friends, Wren Rebello, in person. Amanda has always done what her parents expected of her. Date this person, do this job, and act this way. For the first time she is able to be herself with Wren.

As they spend the New Years together, Amanda finds herself inexplicably attracted to everything about Wren. They were a little awkward at first, and it took talking via text to break the ice between them, but once that ice broke? *fans self* … ya’ll .. they were scorching together. A large portion of this book focuses on their sexual relationship and exploration of that relationship. It made my heart beat quickly and my cheeks flush red. These two women together were intense!

Mixed in with all of the sex, was a relationship that grew leaps and bounds. Wren encouraged Amanda to be herself and to leave the disco ball heir title behind her. Amanda had a whole life outside of her family that she wanted, but she never had the courage to pursue it until she had friends who saw her vision and pushed her to follow her dreams.

This was a great New Years themed read that had quite a bit of spice!

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Jeremiah by Jayce Ellis

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary

Jeremiah Stewart’s sexuality is no one’s business. Not that he’s hiding it. When—if—he finds the right one, he’ll absolutely introduce him to Mom. But a late-night brush with a sexy stranger in too much lip gloss has him rethinking nearly everything…

To Collin Galloway, direction is a four-letter word. Sure, he hates his job, he hates living with his parents and he really hates watching everyone move on without him. But he doesn’t know what he wants to do, long-term, and he won’t figure it out by thirsting over Jeremiah, the superhot, superintense paramedic who is suddenly everywhere Collin looks.

When Jeremiah’s faced with losing all he’s worked so hard to build, he reluctantly accepts Collin’s help. They’re both determined to stay professional…which works about as well as either would imagine. But Collin only does closets with clothes, and Jeremiah has to decide if he’s finally found the one worth bringing home to Mom.

Review

I loved a previous book by Jayce Ellis and I fully expected that I would love this one as well. Jeremiah was a good read, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t a memorable read for me.

Jeremiah, a paramedic and still slightly closeted, is figuring life out. He’s facing a potential lay off and finding a new job, but in the process, he stumbles across Collin Galloway in the elevator in his apartment complex. As repayment for helping Collin get his friends home safely, Jeremiah gets help brushing up is resume.

Their attraction between them is clear. It burns steadily and grows the more they get to know each other. What I liked was their stay-cation. I feel like we got to know more about them while they explored DC and explored each other *wink* in the hotel room.

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Demons Do It Better by Louisa Masters

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary

I work for Lucifer. Only, it’s not as cool and satanic as it sounds.

The truth is, I’m an admin assistant who applied for a job that sounded kind of interesting and ended up working for the Community of Species Government. I’m the only human in the office, and basically I ride herd on a team of rambunctious shifters and demons.

I also spend a lot of time avoiding Gideon Bailey, the demon I had a one-night stand with right before I took this job. He hates me, and I really want to avoid being murdered. But I’ve been offered a promotion that will mean working with him, so we’re both going to have to get over it.

Plus, people are going missing. Pregnant people. And the word is that someone is dabbling in genetic experimentation. Putting a stop to that is more important than the sexual tension Gideon and I have been ignoring… isn’t it?

Review

Why didn’t I read this book sooner?! This was such a fun read.

Sam, a human, unknowingly applies for a job with the Community of Species Government which is very much not human. It turns out to be one of the best decisions he’s made though. He’s found a family with the group he works with and he enjoys his work again. Turns out, the guy he hooked up with a couple nights ago? Well they now work at the same agency and he’s a lot grumpier at work then he was in the bedroom.

What did I love about this book? Sam’s personality. He might be a short fella, but he is larger than life. He’s sarcastic, witty, and the kind of person I would love to be friends within real life. He keeps you grounded and makes sure you don’t get too big of a head lol.

Then the shift in Sam’s character. I don’t want to give too much away, but I loved this twist and then the resulting events afterwards. Gideon, a demon who is hot as hell, finally melts just a bit towards Sam.

This book is definitely here to establish the bigger storyline. Pregnant people going missing, genetic experimentation involving both humans and members of the community. The case hits close to home, once Sam learns more about where he came from, and it pushes them to work harder to find out how save these people.

What I wish there was more of? A little more resolution. I felt like the story had just got started and then it was over.

Give this book a try. I’ve already scooped up the second in the series because I need more of these characters in my life!

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Royals by J.V. Speyer

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3.5 Stars out of 5

Summary

Two uncles from vastly different worlds. One orphaned child. Will a conspiracy that bridges an ocean somehow build a family, or will state secrets keep Eric and Dan apart forever?

Eric is a genius. He’s a professor of environmental studies at an Ivy League university, an inventor, and one of the most respected scientists in his field. He doesn’t think about his birth family much, and the feeling is mutual – or he thinks it is, until a call from a local hospital throws his carefully ordered world into chaos.

Dan has seen and done a lot in his time as an Army Ranger. Thrown into civilian life by an injury, he’s happy to work for Five Star Security doing what he does best – until he gets a call from his hometown with devastating news.

His beloved older brother, Chris, has been killed in a car accident, along with his bride, Selene. Custody of their amazing four-year-old daughter has been left not to Dan, with whom all three were close, but to Selene’s younger half-brother, Eric – a man Dan has never met and who didn’t bother showing up for the wedding.

Review

 

            This was a fast, escapist type of read. Think old school Harlequin vibes. Some of the details didn’t quite make sense, but I’m a sucker for secret royalty so it didn’t bother me all that much.

            Eric, a law professor at an Ivy League school and estranged from his family, has his world shook up when he’s informed his sister and her husband were killed in a car accident and he is the chosen guardian of a niece he didn’t know he even had. Eric also has a secret he’s kept from the people in his life in Boston. He’s a prince, who fled his country after scandal in his youth.

            Dan, who was active Ada’s life and a bodyguard, doesn’t understand why out of all people to leave Ada with Eric was chosen. He hates Eric on sight for the fact that he has the capability of taking Ada away from Dan. Also, why with Selene’s family? He knew that her family was horrible. That’s why she moved so far away from home.

            Eric was too much of a nice guy at times and it bordered on fake. Dan was a bit too angry in the beginning and then a quick snap of the fingers and he was attracted to Eric. Andreas and his aide, there were a little over the top.

            However, I liked the way Eric and Dan worked together to take care of Ada. They focused on her safety and happiness. I liked the forethought Eric had when he fled from Corvia and started his own life in the US. He was strategic and found a way to live his best life. Eric did his best to be better than the royal family and he was. This is why I could see Dan being attracted to Eric. He got to see who Eric truly was outside of his family.

            If you are a fan of dialogue, like me, you’ll enjoy reading this. There was a lot of talk between characters, but it was easy to follow and pushed the plot along at an even pace.

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Learned Behaviors by Jayce Ellis

Learned Behaviors (Higher Education, #1)

Four out of Five Stars

Summary

Two single dads meet at the office where it’s hate at first sight in this new series from acclaimed author Jayce Ellis.

Sending his daughter off to college is the proudest day of single dad JaQuan Reynolds’ life. Everything took a back seat to raising her—including his career. He has no idea what comes next, but his newfound freedom is quickly curtailed by a crash deadline at work and the uptight, hovering presence of consultant Matthew Donaldson. He’s surly and insufferably sexy, and Jaq’s ready to check him out and write him off—right up until a work assignment forces them together.

Every day. From now until Thanksgiving.

Work and fatherhood have been Matt’s whole world for years now, ever since his marriage ended. His eldest son is getting hitched over Thanksgiving weekend, and he’s not going to let a work deadline get in the way of celebrating with his family—not this time. The hours aren’t a problem, but the executive assistant on the project might be. Jaq’s sexy voice makes Matt yearn for things he let go of a long time ago.

Lust isn’t on the schedule, and neither is longing. But as the weeks go by, Matt and Jaq are forced to reevaluate their plans…and discover that even the most tight-knit of families can make room for one more.

Review

This was the first novel I’ve read by Jayce Ellis, and I loved it! I’ve got all the rest of Jayce’s novels on my wishlist.

JaQuan Reynolds is a dedicated, hardworking, young single-father. At 35 he’s dropping his daughter off for her first days of college and finding out who he is outside of fatherhood. He loves his job, but being thrown head first into a time crunch with a partner company to release a line of home goods for Black Friday, it’s stressful.

What JaQuan didn’t factor in was Matt and how, smart, determined, and undeniably attractive the man was. Matt is a little too married to his job and it shows in his family life. He almost doesn’t get an invitation to his son’s wedding, his daughter doesn’t talk to him about her personal life, and his ex-wife has little faith in him when it comes to anything besides work.

What I loved what how distinctive JaQuan and Matt were. I could hear their voices in my head as I read, and oh my, it felt like fingertips dancing down my spine. I was in the office they worked in, on campus with their girls and at Matt’s son’s wedding. I could picture their daughters, Jaq’s mother like they were my family. The secondary characters, were strong, independent women. I don’t think we get that enough in books. They were just as important to Jaq and Matt’s storyline as their interactions were. Ellis paints a vivid picture with her writing.

JaQuan, while younger than Matt, taught Matt more about the important things in life. Your family, friends, and individual happiness is more important than the whir of work. Someone is always there to take your place at work, but not with your family.

The chemistry between Jaq and Matt *fans self* oh from the moment they laid eyes on each other I could feel the heat. They may not have liked each other all that much in the beginning, but the more they worked together the more intense their feelings became. I do wish there was a little more to the romance scenes.  

I’m going to go see which book I’m going to buy next!

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Feel the Fire by Annabeth Albert

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary

When their career paths bring two high school sweethearts together again, the forest isn’t the only thing ablaze…

Fire behavior specialist Luis Riviera goes where his job takes him. But when he’s assigned to an arson investigation in Central Oregon—the place he left his broken heart twenty years ago—he’s afraid of being burned all over again.

Tucker Ryland had planned to join his first love, Luis, in LA after high school graduation, but life got in the way. Now a fire management expert and a divorced father of teen twins, Tucker’s thrown for a loop when he finds himself working side by side with his Luis, now all grown up and more intriguing than ever.

Though consumed by a grueling fire season and family responsibilities, the two men discover their bond has never truly broken. Tentative kisses turn to passionate nights. But smoking sheets aside, old hurts and new truths stand in the way of this time being the start of forever.

Danger lurks everywhere for Central Oregon’s fire crews, but the biggest risk of all might be losing their hearts. Don’t miss the Hotshots series from Annabeth Albert: High Heat, Burn Zone and Feel the Fire.

The Review

Luis Riviera goes wherever he is needed as a behavior specialist. Going back home to Central Oregon was not what he expected. Going to Central Oregon means he will come face to face with his childhood love, Tucker Ryland.

Tucker, divorced and father of twins, didn’t expect to meet Luis Riviera, but when he does his heart beats faster and his breath catches in his throat. The attraction they had in their youth banked until it ignited again.

What I absolutely loved is Tucker Ryland is a demisexual character. Do you know how many books I’ve read in the past five years with representation of a demisexual character? One. This book. As a demisexual I connected so much to Tucker. He needed a connection with a person before they would become lovers. He had that with Luis and it was a connection that didn’t dissipate after all those years. It was honest, real, and intense.

The chemistry between Luis and Tucker, oh boy, as soon as they saw each other there were sparks. Luis listened to Tucker, made sure he was comfortable and enjoying himself. It felt as though Luis cherished Tucker, and that was everything. I’m a sucker for friends to lovers storylines, but through in a second chance romance? It just hits the spot for me.

Tucker’s boys were great! There were times that had me cackling at times with their matchmaking shenanigans. It was nice seeing how they took to their dad’s new relationship and accepted Luis as he was.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this installment. This book can also be read as a stand-alone, but you do see characters from the previous two books in this one.

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Quarterback Sneak by Baylin Crow

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary:

The boundaries of our friendship are tested and lines are crossed.

RUSH: I’m in love with my best friend.

There wasn’t an exact moment when I fell for him. It was something that grew and evolved over time. He loves me back, but it’ll never be more than platonic. It can’t be because he’s straight.

Then one night he kissed me and left me with more questions than answers. The very next morning my trust was shattered by a family secret. I’d been lied to my whole life. He was by my side through it all, offering support when I needed it most.

How can I risk losing a friendship that held me together when I was falling apart?

TORIN: He friend-zoned me.

Four years ago, I gathered enough courage to kiss my best friend. What I’d hoped would be a pivotal moment that would start a new kind of relationship between us was over before it began. His world was upended, so I put my feelings aside and stepped back into my role as a friend he could count on.

He wasn’t ready then, but now it’s time to find out if he’s willing to take a chance on us being something more.

We’ve been friends, roommates and teammates, but I want him, body and heart.

Review

This was a fun, super-quick, novella-length read. I needed more sports-romances in my life, and this was recommended by another sports-romance junkie. Normally I’m not a fan of this POV (1st Person) but this one I didn’t mind it in.

Rush and Torin Hopkins are childhood best friends, who play football and have more than friend feelings for each other. Rush learns a family secret that derails their blossoming relationship. Fast forward into the end of their college football careers, they finally get their act together.

It had one of my absolute favorite moments a couple can have, the first public kiss. It just gave me all the warm and fuzzy feelings.  

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Press by Nora Phoenix

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Five out of Five Stars

Summary

Henley is off-limits for Levar. So why can’t he stay away?

Five years ago, Levar survived a terrorist attack. The bombing left its scars, but he’s picked up his life. He loves working for the vice president—who is openly bisexual—as his press secretary.

Levar can’t afford a pesky attraction that proves to be frustratingly stubborn. Worse, those highly combustible sparks are with the very last person he should be falling for: Henley Platt, a well-known reporter covering the White House.

Henley may not be Levar’s enemy, but he’s definitely not his friend. He can’t be, not when their jobs put them on opposite sides. Henley is absolutely off-limits, even when he shows his appreciation for the sexy lingerie Levar loves to wear.

When the terrorists strike again with a devastating blow to the White House, Levar and Henley lean on each other for support. The sparks become a raging fire that won’t be doused, but what happens if they’re found out?

Review

Henley and Levar are on opposite ends of the reporting spectrum. Henley is employed as the press secretary for the Vice President. Levar is a White House correspondent for a DC newspaper. The two men can’t seem to get away from each other and it’s become harder and harder to resist temptation.

These men have a somewhat shared history. Five years ago, they were both at ground zero for a terrorist bombing at a pride parade. Which hurt my heart so much. Once they’re both in DC, they have a push/pull relationship. While they’re friendly, there is a boundary that they can not cross professionally. I liked seeing them acknowledge and point out when that line was crossed.

It takes one chance moment, a peak at what Henley wears under his dress pants, that sparks the slow burn attraction into a full-fledged fire. Normally, I’m not fan of this, but oh my goodness, it worked! It wasn’t cheesy or greasy like some novels. It was just another part of Henley that Levar loved.

Their attraction, flirtation, and sex scenes *fans self* good grief. It was such a good burn. Then, there were moments they took care of each other. That was just as intensive as their sex scenes. In those moments, I could see how much they meant to each other. Hell, if you ever find someone that takes care of you like Henley did for Levar? Don’t ever let them go. It’s a rare find.

There was action and politics, yes, but it wasn’t preachy or overly graphic.

*slight spoiler incoming* 

As a history buff, it was interesting to see the similarities between JFK and a fictional President. I was on the edge of my seat, rushing right along with Henley, the Vice President and the rest of the White House staff. I could feel that urgency and terror of what just happened. Then seeing Henley come in to his own, learning that he is as good at his job as everyone thinks he is, was wonderful. I was rooting for his success! Levar, he found a way to get what he wanted and to find his happiness. I was so excited.

Would I recommend this to friends? YES!! 100 times yes!

If you are on the fence with getting this book? GET IT! If you are a fan of Tal Bauer’s writing, this is a book you won’t want to pass up. This was a fantastic read and I’m probably going to read it all over again, because Henley and Levar? Goals.  

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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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