Friday, October 15, 2021

The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling

The Ex Hex
by Erin Sterling
Published September 28, 2021 by Avon Books

New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hawkins, writing as Erin Sterling, casts a spell with a spine-tingling romance full of wishes, witches, and hexes gone wrong.

Nine years ago, Vivienne Jones nursed her broken heart like any young witch would: vodka, weepy music, bubble baths…and a curse on the horrible boyfriend. Sure, Vivi knows she shouldn’t use her magic this way, but with only an “orchard hayride” scented candle on hand, she isn’t worried it will cause him anything more than a bad hair day or two.

That is until Rhys Penhallow, descendent of the town’s ancestors, breaker of hearts, and annoyingly just as gorgeous as he always was, returns to Graves Glen, Georgia. What should be a quick trip to recharge the town’s ley lines and make an appearance at the annual fall festival turns disastrously wrong. With one calamity after another striking Rhys, Vivi realizes her silly little Ex Hex may not have been so harmless after all.

Suddenly, Graves Glen is under attack from murderous wind-up toys, a pissed off ghost, and a talking cat with some interesting things to say. Vivi and Rhys have to ignore their off the charts chemistry to work together to save the town and find a way to break the break-up curse before it’s too late.

5 Stars

Witches, ghosts, and curses gone awry, that's what makes a spooky romance fly. Okay fine, that was cheesy. The Ex Hex, though, is absolutely amazing. I laughed a lot, loved the comradery, and absolutely ate up the romance scenes. Vivi was just nineteen when handsome, infamous Rhys Penhallow broke her heart and she wished upon him, with vodka soaked feelings, a curse. Curses don't work though and Penhallows can't be cursed, at least that was the belief until now. When Rhys returns to town after nine years he thinks he'll swoop in and swoop out, no one the wiser, but he and Vivi run into each other immediately and sparks...and

I cannot get over how much I loved this book. Like, I knew it was up my alley, but this book was just impossible to put down. I can't say enough good things about it. It's fast, but the characters and setting are still well developed. We know Vivi. We know Rhys. We even know a bit about all the secondary characters. Penhallow is totally fleshed out, as cute as a Halloween town can get. On top of it, there's witchy magic and enemies-to-lovers romance? Give me more. I loved how much I laughed, I definitely blushed a little bit, and I rooted for every character every step of the way. I could read this book ten times in a row and not get bored, I could read 500 extra pages, and I 110% need Gwyn's book to exist. It's just that cute, that good, and that well done.

Y'all, my most anticipated read of October did not disappoint. In fact, it lived up to all my expectations and then some. The hype around this one is totally real and I cannot recommend picking this one up before the spooky season is over. I have all the emotions about this book.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

When Sparks Fly by Helena Hunting

When Sparks Fly
by Helena Hunting
Published September 21, 2021 by St. Martin's Press Romance

Running the Spark House, a hotel/event space that has been in her family for years, has been Avery Spark’s lifelong dream. After years of working hard and making personal sacrifices, Avery and her two younger sisters have turned the Spark House into the premier destination in Colorado Springs. Avery is living her best life—she works with her sisters and loves every minute of it, she has a great group of friends, and she lives in a fantastic condo with her best friend Declan. She might not have any love in her life, but she's happy.

But everything comes to a screeching halt when Avery is in a car accident, leaving her immobile for weeks. After nearly losing Avery, Declan insists that he will be the one to take care of her while she recovers. However, as Declan becomes Avery’s caretaker, lines begin to blur.

Avery and Declan have been best friends since college and always had an attraction to one another, but when she ended up dating his best friend, Sam, they successfully stamped down any feelings they may have ever had for one another. Now, as Declan and Avery spend more time together, they each begin to wonder what would’ve happened if she'd dated him instead of Sam. What starts as a friend helping out another friend turns into foreplay and, before they realize it, they recognize how deeply they care for one another. But when things get serious their past threatens to destroy everything they have built.

4 Stars

Hello, Helena? Please contact my girlfriend and have her set up cute long distant-ish dates at parks.

I needed a light-hearted romance and I was so excited to have an ARC of When Sparks Fly handy on the my Kindle. Helena is a fantastic romance writer and this standalone was just what I was looking for. I admit, there are some scenes that I understand could be problematic depending on perspective of the reader and it is worth knowing that in advance prior to starting. The main female character is involved in an accident and while recovering she and her roommate and friend begin a friends-with-benefits type relationship. While I noted those scenes as a bit murky, they did not take away from the read for me and I acknowledge that some readers will see them as fine and others will not.

Declan is your classic millennial a-hole. He has parental-issues, is famous for his hookups, and he harbors very apparent feelings for his female best friend and roommate. He lashes out, sees things in black and white, and can be difficult. Avery is your classic millennial successful female. She's single, has made success on her own, and her best friend is a male. Add in a car accident, some serious groveling, and a quarantine-style stuck inside together scenario and you have a friends-to-lovers romance. There isn't a lot of meat to the story, to be honest, but the minimal angst, fun chemistry, and attraction acknowledgement was enough to keep me entertained. When Sparks Fly is a cute romance that I recommend for readers looking for a quick-read that ends with all the feel-good feelings.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

For Love or Honey by Staci Hart

For Love or Honey
by Staci Hart
Published September 21, 2021

When the devil comes to town, you have to meet him head-on.

Which is exactly what I did when Grant Stone rolled into our small Texas town, driving a sports car I could fit in the bed of my truck, wearing a suit as black as his soul. He’s here to acquire mineral rights to half a dozen farms in town.

And there’s no way he’s getting mine.

I don’t make deals with the devil.

So when he challenges me to show him the small town ropes, my motivation is the prospect of seeing him make a fool of himself. He might have an angle, but if he thinks he can finagle me into endangering my bee farm, he’s got another thing coming.

Until the line in the sand is washed away.

My farm in danger. A town in upheaval. A man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

And me in the middle.

When the devil comes to town, you have to meet him head-on.

And when he sneaks into your heart, he’ll only break it.

5 Stars

Oh my lanta, I loved this book! For Love or Honey is my favorite kind of enemies-to-lovers romance with plenty of laughter, lust, and angst. Is there an L word for angst? Plus, it takes place in a small town where everyone knows everyone and drama takes just two seconds to reach your mama. Jo is your classic small-town girl, destined to live there forever and cursed by some small town charm. Grant is the opposite, with no real home, no real family, and a pile of money calling his name, he's just there to get signatures on the dotted line and head on his way. He's faced challenging people before, but none like Jo and the game she sets out to play with him.

There's bees, Wrangler jeans, and a whole lot of farm town hilarity as Jo and Grant go head to head to prove to one another the value of signing or not signing the docs to allow fracking on the Blum family property. These two have instant chemistry, even with all the threats they toss at one another. It's more like for love AND honey or bee stings. Grant bends to Jo, giving his best cowboy show, but along the way he falls for her and she for him. Unfortunately, like we all love in a good romance, there's a but in there and things take a turn for the worse as the secrets come out. My word did I get wrapped up in this book and of course, it's Staci, so I cried like a baby as I read. Like all of Staci's books, For Love or Honey has the most relatable characters, but for some reason I just loved this one a little bit more. I loved the Blum family history sprinkled into the romance, I loved Grant finally realizing there's more to life than money and proving oneself, and even more so, I loved true small town atmosphere Staci pulled off. Every character mattered, we got to see some of our favorites from past reads, and the drama absolutely peaked thanks to that small town feel.

For Love or Honey is an instant winner for me and it will proudly sit on my shelves and be read repeatedly. This one just feels so good.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish

The Other Passenger
by Louise Candlish
Published July 20th 2021 by Atria Books

It all happens so quickly. One day you’re living the dream, commuting to work by ferry with your charismatic neighbor Kit in the seat beside you. The next, Kit hasn’t turned up for the boat and his wife, Melia, has reported him missing.

When you get off at your stop, the police are waiting. Another passenger saw you and Kit arguing on the boat home the night before and the police say that you had a reason to want him dead. You protest. You and Kit are friends—ask Melia, she’ll vouch for you. And who exactly is this other passenger pointing the finger? What do they know about your lives?

No, whatever danger followed you home last night, you are innocent, totally innocent.

Aren’t you?

Add to Goodreads | Amazon

5 Stars

I loved this book, far more than I expected to. I really thought, based on the first half, I had it all figured out, but Louise Candlish threw some excellent twists in there that had me reading late into the evening. The Other Passenger follows Jamie as he and his wife, Clare, make friends with the new twenty-something couple in their neighborhood. Kit and Melia live in envy of the wealth and home of the older couple, but they make Jamie and Clare feel younger with their drinking and debauchery. Jamie grows quite close with Kit, the two take the boat to commute to work along with two other friends, part of their River Rat crew. While he considers Kit a close friends, Jamie finds himself entangled with Melia and when Kit goes missing all eyes turn to the older man.

The concept of this book isn't new, but I think the layout and the characters were totally fresh. Jamie is older, he's recently taken a new, relaxed approach to life, and he's not who you'd expect to find at the other side of a missing person's investigation. While the affair was totally expected, what Louise Candlish did to form the suspenseful storyline was not. The cops line of questioning, the secrets, the plotting, it all kept me from truly figuring out the plot. Then there's Clare, she's absolutely brilliant, and I so loved her contribution as Jamie's partner to the storyline. Jamie was the last person to see Kit, the cops are all over him for it, and The Other Passenger takes readers into the crime with a fantastic jumping timeline.

Louise Candlish absolutely delivered with The Other Passenger and I'm so glad I got my hands on this book. It's dramatic, smart, and totally suspenseful. Very old school crime style in modern times.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

The Guilt Trip by Sandie Jones

The Guilt Trip
by Sandie Jones
August 3, 2021 by Minotaur Books

Six friends.

Rachel and Noah have been friends since they met at university. While they once thought that they might be something more, now, twenty years later, they are each happily married to other people, Jack and Paige respectively. Jack’s brother Will is getting married, to the dazzling, impulsive Ali, and the group of six travel to Portugal for their destination weekend.

Three couples.

As they arrive at a gorgeous villa perched on a cliff-edge, overlooking towering waves that crash on the famous surfing beaches below at Nazaré, they try to settle into a weekend of fun. While Rachel is looking forward to getting to know her future sister-in-law Ali better, Ali can’t help but rub many of the group up the wrong way: Rachel’s best friend Paige thinks Ali is attention-seeking and childish, and while Jack is trying to support his brother Will’s choice of wife, he is also finding plenty to disagree with Noah about.

One fatal misunderstanding . . .

But when Rachel discovers something about Ali that she can hardly believe, everything changes. As the wedding weekend unfolds, the secrets each of them hold begin to spill, and friendships and marriages threaten to unravel. Soon, jumping to conclusions becomes the difference between life and death.

Add to Goodreads | Amazon

3 Stars

Okay, I admit I really did read this in part due to the cover. I had made a joke that a ton of books were coming out that looked the same and that I'd take on reading them all. Little did I know that all of them would be about destination weddings. Those are some of my faveeee. Give me a beautiful destination, a brewing storm, and some unruly guests and I am all about it. The Guilt Trip is, no surprise, about a secret, or rather many, that are threatening to consumed each guest. The guilt in this story is like a whole separate character, a character that wants to take over.

I read The Guilt Trip in one sitting, staying up too late to witness the secrets being exposed. In a fun twist of events, I did not see the reveal coming and I definitely did not see the last 10% playing out how it did. Rachel, the person whose perspective we watch the events unfold from, appears to be trying to be the bigger person, but her own secret is threatening to come to light. Her husband, Jack, is massively angry at something, her best friend, Noah, is hinting at knowing something, Noah's wife, Paige, seems to want to egg everyone on, the bridge, Ali, is taking everything just a bit too far, and her groom, Will, is none the wiser. Throw in a pile of secondary characters, and well, The Guilt Trip unfortunately becomes a soap opera. Like a soap opera, I couldn't look away, but I admit it was too much. It got to the point that I knew all the secrets and twists couldn't possibly all be revealed, not every plot could be completed, and there was no way the book could end cleanly in the number of pages available to it. Did I keep reading though? You bet.

The Guilt Trip may suffer a bit from having just so much going on, but it's enjoyable, like a reality show about the rich but in the pages of a book. I wish the ending had given us more, it really lacked the full drawn out reveal I wanted, but I have to say I loved that I didn't see anything coming. Sandie Jones puts it all in here, so if dramatic suspense is your thing, this is the book to grab.
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