2019 Book #102 – Forever My Duke by Olivia Drake

51200dkZwOLTitle: Forever My Duke
Author: Olivia Drake
Date finished: 12/31/19
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: December 31, 2019
Pages in book: 384
Stand alone or series: #2 in the Unlikely Duchesses series
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Hadrian Ames, the Duke of Clayton, needs a bride. He even has the perfect one picked out. That is, until he meets the lovely, free-spirited Natalie Fanshawe. She’s the opposite of what a man of his high rank should desire in a wife—an outspoken American who has never even set foot in a London ballroom.

But Natalie doesn’t have time to be swept off her feet by a handsome duke who must be a spoiled scoundrel like every other British lord. And she couldn’t care less about Hadrian’s title. After all, it’s not as if he actually worked to attain his wealth and status. He surely can’t understand what it’s like to be a busy woman, planning to open a school while trying to reunite a six-year-old orphan with his English relatives. Nevertheless, Hadrian launches his campaign to win her heart. Can the utterly delightful American beauty ever find a way to love him…despite his being a duke?

My rating:  3.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I had also read the first book in this series, The Duke I Once Knew, and I wanted to read the next one in the series. I liked this book ok – it was a good romance read but it wasn’t my favorite. I got pretty frustrated with Natalie and how much stock she was putting in Hadrian saying he loved her. The words can be important but she was going to go all the way back to America just because he didn’t say the words, while it was pretty obvious from his actions that he did love her. Some of the conversations / interactions I thought were a little stilted / awkward. It was a sweet story though. I loved Leo’s character and his connection to Hadrian and his childhood. I really enjoyed the side characters in this novel too, they were especially entertaining. I’d still say that I’d recommend this one, though it wasn’t my favorite.

Link to author website

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2019 Book #99 – The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams

51dpRyRbquL (1)Title: The Bromance Book Club
Author: Lyssa Kay Adams
Date finished: 12/27/19
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Pages in book: 352
Stand alone or series: First in a planned series (Bromance Book Club series)
Where I got the book from: Edelweiss
NOTE: I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

The first rule of book club: You don’t talk about book club.

Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott’s marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him.

Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.

Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville’s top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it’ll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife.

My rating:  3.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I had read a sample of this book in the recent Buzz Books sampler and enjoyed it, though I didn’t originally request it to review because I didn’t love how closed off Thea was in the first couple chapters in the book. And while reading the whole book was consistent with that initial impression I had, I’m still glad I read it. I liked a lot of things about this book. I thought it was really interesting that there were chapters from the book club book they were reading interspersed in the novel – I thought that added an interesting parallel to the story. And I loved Gavin’s devotion to his wife and his twin girls – it was so endearing and he was so consistently loyal. I also loved the banter between Gavin and the rest of the guys in the book club – their antics were hilarious and I can’t wait to read more about them in the next book(s). All of that being said, there were also parts of this book that I found very frustrating. I hated how quick Thea and Liz were to vilify Gavin. I understand that he had done (likely many) things wrong but at the same time, it takes two people to be in an argument but it also takes two people to solve it. I just felt like Gavin was consistently trying so hard and Thea just did everything she could to push him away. It frustrated me so much that Thea didn’t want to fight or try to fix her marriage when really the main issue was just them being able to communicate appropriately. Overall I still enjoyed the novel and I’m glad that I read it but there were definitely parts that frustrated me.

Link to author website

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2019 Book #98 – Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn

51Roxy5neELTitle: Love Lettering
Author: Kate Clayborn
Date finished: 12/26/19
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Kensington Books
Publication Date: December 31, 2019
Pages in book: 320
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

In this warm and witty romance from acclaimed author Kate Clayborn, one little word puts a woman’s business—and her heart—in jeopardy . . .
 
Meg Mackworth’s hand-lettering skill has made her famous as the Planner of Park Slope, designing custom journals for her New York City clientele. She has another skill too: reading signs that other people miss. Knowing the upcoming marriage of Reid Sutherland and his polished fiancée was doomed to fail is one thing, but weaving a secret word of warning into their wedding program is another. Meg may have thought no one would spot it, but she hadn’t counted on sharp-eyed, pattern-obsessed Reid.
 
A year later, Reid has tracked Meg down to find out how she knew that his meticulously planned future was about to implode. But with a looming deadline and a bad case of creative block, Meg doesn’t have time for Reid’s questions—unless he can help her find her missing inspiration. As they gradually open up to each other, both try to ignore a deepening connection between them. But the signs are there—irresistible, indisputable, urging Meg to heed the messages Reid is sending her, before it’s too late . . .

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I haven’t read anything by this author but I’ve heard so many wonderful things about her novels from the podcasts I listen to. And I’m very glad I was able to read this one first specifically. This book was a love letter to journaling, art, and calligraphy all tied into one wonderful love story about a mathematician and an artist. Meg was so wonderfully endearing and charismatic. Her journey to self-empowerment in this novel was wonderful to see first hand. And Reid was so vulnerable and heart-wrenchingly perfect as a hero, his devotion and love for Meg was evident in the novel as it progressed and their relationship and chemistry really leaped off the page. Their love story and how it developed by walking the streets of New York and looking at hand-painted signs was a great idea. The writing is so beautifully done, it’s almost lyrical in how the characters and their stories are written. And decorative journaling is very on trend right now so the book is very well timed. Some pieces of the book weren’t an exact right fit for me. Overall though I really enjoyed this book a lot, it was extremely swoon-worthy and a wonderful read. I would definitely recommend it!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2019 Book #96 – The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

513hfhxyrMLTitle: The Sun Down Motel
Author: Simone St. James
Date finished: 12/21/19
Genre: Fiction, thriller, suspense
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: February 18, 2020
Pages in book: 336
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: BookBrowse
NOTE: I received this book for free from BookBrowse in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Something hasn’t been right at the roadside Sun Down Motel for a very long time, and Carly Kirk is about to find out why in this chilling new novel from the USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate New York, 1982. Viv Delaney wants to move to New York City, and to help pay for it she takes a job as the night clerk at the Sun Down Motel in Fell, New York. But something isnʼt right at the motel, something haunting and scary.

Upstate New York, 2017. Carly Kirk has never been able to let go of the story of her aunt Viv, who mysteriously disappeared from the Sun Down before she was born. She decides to move to Fell and visit the motel, where she quickly learns that nothing has changed since 1982. And she soon finds herself ensnared in the same mysteries that claimed her aunt.

My rating:  3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I’ve heard so much buzz about this author with their recent books so I was excited to see their new release come up on BookBrowse. I don’t know if it was just timing but this book was really hard for me to get started with. There’s always so much to do get ready for Christmas and between that and my work schedule I was having a lot of trouble carving out time to read. Once I got into the story though, I really enjoyed the plot line. The parallel between the two different time periods was really interesting and added to the overall story plot. I really liked Carly’s character and her little menagerie of friends she collected upon her arrival into Fell. I thought the author did a great job of really dragging the reader down into that spiral of obsession that happens when you become completely enveloped in a mystery. Vivian’s spiral into obsession was really well written and really jumped off the page. Comparatively, some of the other emotions of the story fell a little flat to me. I’m not sure if it’s because I had to keep jumping in and out of the story but some of the emotions weren’t as lively as I thought they could have been. Overall the creepy/horror factor was definitely there though and I ended up really enjoying the story. I would recommend reading this one, it was an exciting read and really interesting story.

Link to author website

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2019 Book #90 & #93 – Don’t Close Your Eyes and Don’t Breathe a Word by Christie Craig

Title: Don’t Close Your Eyes & Don’t Breathe a Word
Author: Christie Craig
Date finished: 11/19/19 & 12/1/19
Genre: Romantic suspense
Publisher: Forever
Publication Date: August 28, 2018 & November 5, 2019
Pages in book: 480 & 424
Stand alone or series: #1 and #2 in the Texas Justice series
Where I got the book from: Publisher/Author
NOTE: I received this book for free from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Don’t Close Your Eyes: 
Annie Lakes has had the same recurring nightmare for years. Her heart pounding in her chest. A panicked voice, begging her to run faster. Her own bloodcurdling scream. But now Annie is starting to realize it’s more than just a bad dream. She’s starting to remember things about the night her cousin Jenny disappeared all those years ago. Things that make her believe her family was involvedand what they’re hiding is much worse than she ever imagined. But she can’t unravel this alone. She needs someone she can trust, someone like sexy Detective Mark Sutton ….
Mark has seen enoughtoo muchto assume that Annie’s story is a dead end. It turns out that her family is hiding some killer secrets. A long time ago, Annie was just an innocent little girl who saw something she shouldn’t. Now she’s a target, and Mark’s running out of time to protect the woman he’s starting to fall for. But how does Mark face off against a murderer who just may be someone Annie loves?
Don’t Breathe A Word: 
Police detective Juan Acosta doesn’t only carry scars on the outside. He’s filled with guilt and anger ever since his undercover job led to the murder of those he loved the most. Now he’s living for one thing: revenge. That is, until Juan meets his beautiful new neighbor.
Vicki Holloway prides herself on being capable and independent, but her life is turned upside down when her sister Sara is killed by an abusive ex. Fearing for the safety of her niece, Vicki and the little girl go into hiding…resurfacing in Texas with new identities.
Juan finds his once-frozen heart thawing around Vicki, but he knows she’s hiding something. Juan needs answers, but Vicki isn’t talking. She has to keep her secrets if she wants to keep Bell safe, which means resisting her growing feelings for the sexy, scarred man next door. But when Juan’s quest for justice brings danger to her door, divulging the truth might be the only thing that keeps her alive.

 

My rating:  1.75 & 3.0  stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I had requested these because the plots sounded really interesting and I liked the availability of getting them both together. I definitely liked the second novel better. So going in order, the first book I didn’t love. For a book written in 2018 it seemed like it was written in 1990 – it felt a little outdated. The heroine has sex with the hero on the first date and then follows up with that by calling herself a slut multiple times, which I was just not ok with. She also makes some pretty  And the hero was a pretty intense alcoholic and just could not get his stuff together. Plus the mystery I found to be kind of flat, they were making a big deal out of it but then it turned out to not be that much of a thing. Although I was interested in reading until the end to find out what happened, I found the book to be dry and there were some really problematic pieces to it. Overall I did not really enjoy this one too much.

The second book I liked a lot better. The romance development between the characters felt a little rushed / underdeveloped but I liked the mystery plot line a lot better. I still felt like it was a little outdated for how recently it was published but there wasn’t as much sex-shaming as there was in the first book. The villain in this book was intensely villainous – he was a bad freaking dude and was definitely scary. The hero and heroine both had areas that I thought they could have been developed further. The climactic scene also went by really quickly – I thought it could have been drawn out a bit more. Overall though I liked this one better than the first in the series and I wanted to keep reading it.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2019 Book #88 – Not the Girl You Marry by Andie J. Christopher

51cE3ixaAmLTitle: Not the Girl You Marry
Author: Andie J. Christopher
Date finished: 11/14/19
Genre: Contemporary romance, romantic comedy
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: November 12, 2019
Pages in book: 332
Stand alone or series: First in a planned series
Where I got the book from: Edelweiss
NOTE: I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Jack Nolan is a gentleman, a journalist, and unlucky in love. His viral success has pigeon-holed him as the how-to guy for a buzzy, internet media company instead of covering hard-hitting politics. Fed up with his fluffy articles and the app-based dating scene as well, he strikes a deal with his boss to write a final piece de resistance: How to Lose a Girl. Easier said than done when the girl he meets is Hannah Mayfield, and he’s not sure he wants her to dump him.

Hannah is an extremely successful event planner who’s focused on climbing the career ladder. Her firm is one of the most prestigious in the city, and she’s determined to secure her next promotion. But Hannah has a bit of an image problem. She needs to show her boss that she has range, including planning dreaded, romantic weddings. Enter Jack. He’s the perfect man to date for a couple weeks to prove to her boss that she’s not scared of feelings.

Before Jack and Hannah know it, their fake relationship starts to feel all too real—and neither of them can stand to lose each other.

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I had read a sample of this book in the recent Buzz Books sampler and really enjoyed it. I also just love the cover. I was so intrigued with the sample of Jack and Hannah’s story, even just a couple short chapters shows the reader their explosive chemistry and banter. I loved both these characters – Hannah was wonderfully vulnerable and Jack was perfectly charming. At the same time, this plot wasn’t my favorite. They both spend most of the book lying to her which is just not my thing. I think the author tackled it in probably the best way possible but it wasn’t a good fit for me personally. Overall it was really funny and had a really sweet ending and I did enjoy the book, despite some small frustrations with the plot.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2019 Book #86 – The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

41xn3v0LgqL.jpgTitle: The Family Upstairs
Author: Lisa Jewell
Date finished: 11/4/19
Genre: Thriller/suspense
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Pages in book: 349
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Then She Was Gone comes another page-turning look inside one family’s past as buried secrets threaten to come to light.

Be careful who you let in.

Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.

She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them.

Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.

In The Family Upstairs, the master of “bone-chilling suspense” (People) brings us the can’t-look-away story of three entangled families living in a house with the darkest of secrets.

My rating:  4.75 stars out of a scale of 5

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My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I have read a couple of this author’s books in the past and enjoyed them, but this one really blew me out of the water. The twists and turns were outstanding, even the ones I saw coming and especially the ones that I didn’t. All of them really were “gasp-worthy,” I thought this was a really well done mystery. I also thought the book was really well paced. The chapters were short so it felt like the story was flying by, though there were a couple areas where I found it a little dry. Many of the characters were flawed but they were supposed to be. Henry’s character especially was intense and really mysterious – even after finishing the book I’m not sure that I trust how he portrayed himself in the chapters he narrated. Overall this was a really interesting story that absorbs the reader and keeps them engaged even after the book has ended. I really enjoyed it and I’d definitely recommend it.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page