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.

If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary

Eighteen-year-olds Ruben Montez and Zach Knight are two members of the boy-band Saturday, one of the biggest acts in America. Along with their bandmates, Angel Phan and Jon Braxton, the four are teen heartbreakers in front of the cameras and best friends backstage. But privately, cracks are starting to form: their once-easy rapport is straining under the pressures of fame, and Ruben confides in Zach that he’s feeling smothered by management’s pressure to stay in the closet.

On a whirlwind tour through Europe, with both an unrelenting schedule and minimal supervision, Ruben and Zach come to rely on each other more and more, and their already close friendship evolves into a romance. But when they decide they’re ready to tell their fans and live freely, Zach and Ruben start to truly realize that they will never have the support of their management. How can they hold tight to each other when the whole world seems to want to come between them?

The Review

If This Gets Out was a good read. If you’re a fanfic reader, you’re going to love this novel so much. It was easy to read. The dialogue flowed well, there was a lot of it (I LOVE DIALOGUE and LOTS of it, it’s my jam). I could picture the hotels they were at, and I could see them performing on stage.

Ruben and Zach make up half of the boyband Saturday. Saturday is touring through Europe and trying to deal with the stress of their fame and the pressures of being teenagers on the edge of adulthood.

Throughout the tour, Zach and Ruben become closer as they deal with the drama of Angel and toeing the line around Jon because his father is management. It’s easy to be free and themselves around each other. But the closer they got; the further apart management pulled them.

Their first kiss, and everything after was so … sweet. A lot of the romance happened off-screen to fit the YA Adult sphere. Their kisses and little touches between them? I lived for it. There were times they couldn’t keep their hands off each other and I was all, yes please, can I get more of this? Because it was just that good.

Drama happened (of course) and the boys tackled it together. They truly were a family and cared for each other. That was a special bond, and I was glad to see it strengthen over the course of the book.

Spicy rating? Two out of Five

Get your copy here

Lying with Lions by Annabel Fielding

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary

Edwardian England. Agnes Ashford knows that her duty is threefold: she needs to work on cataloguing the archive of the titled Bryant family, she needs to keep the wounds of her past tightly under wraps, and she needs to be quietly grateful to her employers for taking her up in her hour of need. However, a dark secret she uncovers due to her work thrusts her into the Bryants’ brilliant orbit – and into the clutch of their ambitions.

They are prepared to take the new century head-on and fight for their preeminent position and political survival tooth and nail – and not just to the first blood. With a mix of loyalty, competence, and well-judged silence Agnes rises to the position of a right-hand woman to the family matriarch – the cunning and glamorous Lady Helen. But Lady Helen’s plans to hold on to power through her son are as bold as they are cynical, and one day Agnes is going to face an impossible choice.

The Review

For anyone who reads my reviews, you know I love historical fiction. Throw in a little gothic intrigue? *chef’s kiss* I live for lush, descriptive, elegantly flowing storylines. It’s easy to get lost in the world and emotions of the characters.

While Lying with Lions had those elements, I found myself losing track of what the story’s purpose was. There were moments I got so invested in the new direction the story was going, and then a new chapter would pull me in a completely different direction.

What I liked (and kind of disliked) was the span of time the story occurred over. It was YEARS that zipped by. We did get to see the evolution of Agnes and her position in the Bryant family. I liked seeing her grow into someone bold and someone who could stand on her own with authority. Her intelligence is what drew me in further.

Lady Bryant, there had always been an element of mistrust. Slowly it unfolded in her political aspirations and how far she would go to ensure her wants were put first. That goes hand in hand with how she treated Agnes. Their relationship wasn’t as balanced as Agnes saw it as.

The romance aspect of this was mostly fade to black. I’d give it a one out of five on the spice scale.

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Waiting for Liz by Angela C. Kelly

Waiting for Liz by [Angela C. Kelly]

Three out of Five Stars

Summary

Angela is twenty-nine and living what looks like a comfortable life in a Midwestern college town: she has a home with her adoring long-time partner, a circle of good friends, a recently acquired degree, and a job that uses it. But everything isn’t as lovely as it looks.

Slowly a soul-level unravelling is occurring within Angela, without her knowledge or consent. Each destructive self-sabotaging choice brings her closer to the kind of destruction that ultimately makes room for new growth in a person’s heart.

Enter Elizabeth. Though Angela claims to have paid little attention when they are first introduced, Elizabeth — Liz — eventually consumes her every thought, much like the drugs she and her wife have begun to use to mask the growing rift in their relationship. When Angela decides to call her partner’s bluff and invite this new “hot young plaything” to help them patch things up, a decades-long story of pursuit, addiction, love, and growth begins.

Angela’s story winds through her past, each tale about her relationship with Liz opening up a window to times even farther past that have shaped how she connects with other people, especially those she loves. Woven through it all are threads of addiction, abandonment, shame, perseverance, joy, and love. Has she come to terms with her past? With Elizabeth herself?

The Review

Angela seems to have it all. A comfortable life with her partner and great friends. Her life has become a comfortable routine. It’s easy. She hangs on to all these things, even though her happiness has been dwindling.

In a self-destructive attempt to address the issues between Angela and her partner, they begin to experiment with drugs. Angela also finds herself enraptured with Liz. Everything she does starts to revolve around Liz and the possibility of what if?

I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I felt so many negative emotions while reading. Sadness, anger, frustration with what Angela was experiencing. And then on the other, we were given such a hard dose of reality as we followed Angela’s life.

If you have difficultly reading about drug use, this is going to be a tough one for you to read. I’ve got a bit of complicated relationship with addiction, so it was difficult to read. But, there are people who go towards drugs in the hopes that it will strengthen a relationship. The reliance that Angela developed hurt my heart.

As Angela poorly navigated so many different relationships, she steadily began to find herself and understand who she was and is as an individual. It an experience of personal growth that takes years.

Her careless and selfish nature made me so angry, but at the same time I could see she was doing whatever she could to hold on to life as she knew it to be.

Reading this? It felt like a sucker punch.

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Rare Vigilance by M.A. Grant

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary

Everything has a price. Especially the truth.

From the author of Prince of Air and Darkness comes the first in a thrilling new paranormal series.

Former marine Atlas Kinkaid knows not to ask questions about the clients he protects at the behest of the elite Whitethorn security agency. Just like he doesn’t like anyone asking about his scars—scars left by a mysterious attack that haunts his every waking moment.

Consumed by the need to find out what happened to him, Atlas takes a job providing security to Cristian Slava, the indolent—and gorgeous—son of a notorious businessman. Cristian seems to be just another entitled client, but when nights at the club turn into secret meetings and people start going missing, Atlas realizes there’s more to Cristian—and to protecting him—than meets the eye.

But the same people who are after Cristian have something Atlas desperately craves: they know exactly what happened the fateful night he was attacked—and are willing to tell him everything…

 

The Review

 

I think I’m the odd man out here, but Rare Vigilance was okay. I think I was expecting a lot more than what I got with this book. It took me awhile to read, because I kept finding myself wanting to read something else.

How would I read this series? Wait until the next book comes out then read them back-to-back. I feel like it would be more enjoyable that way.

What did I like? The idea of the vampires in this world. Vampires can eat and drink regular food, but also need blood. There’s a bond/connection that can be formed with the donor. There was history behind Cristian and his family. Things were hinted at, but we weren’t given a full picture.

There was a lot of build up for the story to end on a cliffhanger. In several ways.

I’m a fan of slow burn romances, but this was the slowest of burns. I wanted more for the relationship between Atlas and Cristian. There were hints of intense chemistry, but something about it was unsatisfying.

Then the abrupt ending. I feel like there was no sense of resolution. I really wise this would have been released as one lengthy novel instead of being split up into two.

It might be the type of book for you though. Give it a try.

Get your copy here

 

Queen of All by Anya Leigh Josephs

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary

The only interesting thing about fourteen-year-old Jena is other people. Her mother disappeared when she was a baby, and her best (and only) friend, Sisi, is not just the lost heir to a noble Numbered house, but also the Kingdom’s most famous beauty. Jena herself is just awkward, anxious, and often alone: not exactly heroic material. But when a letter summons Sisi to the royal court, both girls find their own futures, and the Kingdom’s, in Jena’s hands. Sisi, caught between the king and the crown prince, searches for a magical secret the Prince is willing to kill to keep. Jena can save her: but only if she is willing to let her go, maybe forever. It’s hard to do that when she’s in love with Sisi herself.

 

Review 

I have mixed feelings about Queen of All.

I was extremely excited to see a YA LGBTQ+ novel. Add the fact that it was branded as F/F and a fantasy world I was all about it. One of the main issues I had, was the main conflict was a little meh. There was so much build-up but by the end of the book, I was left wondering if I had missed something. What happened with the prince? Was Jena more than meets the eye like I thought she was going to be? I felt a bit lost.

Sisi and Jena are tight friends. So much so, that once Sisi is summoned to the royal court due to her rumored beauty, Jena goes with her. They take on the royal court and work together to ensure they are safe.

What I liked was Jena. She took the opportunity to read and learn as much as she could. She used her plain appearance to venture around the castle unnoticed. But I feel like she got pushed into the traditional role of supporting character who is the fat best friend. Nothing irritates me more. I had so many hopes for her and was let down.

There were few LGBTQ+ elements in this. Jena does admit to herself that she has feelings for another girl, but again, her happiness here gets sacrificed.

This was just a huge miss for me. Other readers absolutely adored this novel. Check out the reviews on Goodreads, they raved about it. It just didn’t work out for me.

To be released June 9 2021

The Soldier and the Spy by Annabelle Greene

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary

A beholden man finds himself falling for the war hero he’s destined to double-cross.

Three hundred pounds for one night of protection. It’s a job offer, but it’s also a ruse. Captain Benjamin Frakes, war hero and de facto head of the Society of Beasts—a club for gentlemen who prefer gentlemen—is tempted to turn it down. But August Weatherby, the sexy, brazen stranger making the offer, has captivated him completely.

August is hardly the flush flirt he claims to be, however. An indebted man, desperate to save his infirm sister, August makes an ideal pawn for a lord eager to bring down the Society of Beasts once and for all. But August’s charge to find evidence against Frakes is at odds with his own virgin desire to entice the captain into showing him the true meaning of pleasure.

As August’s infiltration pushes him deeper into the beguiling world of delights behind the Society’s closed doors, he and Frakes discover new ways to push the boundaries of their own cravings. But with mounting pressure to complete his devious mission, August finds himself torn between the man his heart yearns for and the sister whose life depends on his betrayal.

 

Review

August Weatherby is a desperate man. His sister is ill, his debts are racking up, and he’s got nowhere to turn. Until he has an offer to help ensure his sister would remain safe and fed. He needs to infiltrate the Society of the Beasts and get ahold of evidence against Captain Benjamin Frakes to use for blackmail.

I feel like the best part of this novel was August’s character growth. He was initially a man entirely focused on his and his sister’s survival. He was willing to do everything possible to ensure they make it. As he became more involved with the Society of Beasts and got to know each of the members, things started to change for him. It wasn’t easy to betray the people that he had come to call friends.

I was expecting a little more espionage and action, but this was a little light on what I hoped for. There was a little more action towards the end of the ovel and it pulled me in and had me rooting for both August and Frakes.

Towards the end of the novel, I felt like I was finally able to understand who Benjamin Frakes was. He had been so closed off, and despite the courage he had in war, he was afraid now that he was home.

Okay, so the facts. Do you need to read the first in the series to enjoy this? Nope. Would you benefit from it? Yeah, there’s some background on some of the characters that I feel like would have made things better. Would I recommend this to other readers? If you are a historical romance reader, I’d definitely give this one a go. 

To be released April 20, 2021

The Gentleman and the Spy by Neil S. Plakcy

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary

After his father’s death Lord Magnus Dawson has more important things to think about than falling in love—like how to earn a living when all he knows is the idleness he was raised with, and the military training he received before selling his commission.

For Toby Marsh, the impetus is as great, though he doesn’t have Magnus’s family connections to fall back on. A scholarship student at Cambridge, he was forced to spend his last year in college as valet and sometime tutor to a brainless fellow student after his father’s sudden death. Now he scrabbles out a living as a freelance tutor.

Then a call from the Foreign Office brings them together. Toby disdains the idle lordling, and Magnus can’t seem to treat Toby as more than a servant. As they delve deeper into their assignment, the attraction between them grows. But can they envision a future together when so class and culture conspire to drive them apart?

The Review

Lord Magnus Dawson is down on his luck. His father has passed, but his older brother has control of the estate and he’s not offering Magnus work on the estate. Magnus is desperate for work and he stumbles into working for the Foreign Office because of his title.

Toby Marsh, who is also down on his luck. He has a degree but hates the idea of teaching, so he tutors to make ends meet. His specialty in languages and previous experience as a valet lands him a temporary job at the Foreign Office working as a valet for Magnus as they go under cover at a shooting party.

The attraction between Magnus and Toby is instantaneous. It’s got a bit of a forbidden love aspect to it that worked. Magnus and Toby are in different social classes and that is used for their undercover work.

There were parts of this that I was iffy on. What was their purpose of going undercover? I kind of lost that. Then some of the terminology got a little repetitive. I didn’t like that I couldn’t remember the purpose.

TRIGGER WARNING Scene – Toby Marsh scene message me if you want more info. I had to skim through it

What I did like was being able to see this from two separate classes and the issues that come from that. Also it was interesting to see the inner working of estates and how they work. There was detail that late me be exactly where Magnus and Toby were.

Get your copy here

 

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

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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