Thursday, April 18, 2019

Review: The Girl He Used to Know - Tracey Garvis Graves

The Girl He Used to Know
by Tracey Garvis Graves
Published April 2nd 2019 by St. Martin's Press
Genre: Women's Fiction, Contemporary Romance

Annika Rose likes being alone.
She feels lost in social situations, saying the wrong thing or acting the wrong way - she just can't read people. She prefers the quiet solitude of books or playing chess to being around others.
Apart from Jonathan. She liked being around him, but she hasn't seen him for ten years. Until now that is. And she's not sure he'll want to see her again after what happened all those years ago.

Annika Rose likes being alone.
Except that, actually, she doesn't like being alone at all.

4.5 Stars
Ten years does little to extinguish the flame that burns between Annika Rose and Jonathan. Seeing each other for the first time after such a large space of time is like wrapping yourself in a warm blanket at the first sight of winter, it's comfortable, but it also brings back the painful hurt each was left with at the end of their youthful relationship. Annika still prefers her solitude and the quiet, but Jonathan reminds her of the comfort of a companion, the trust, and the difficulties that sometimes come with dating when one doesn't understand social cues quite as well as others. She's not sure he'll want to see her again, not after the past, but she wants to see him again and this time, she's willing to do the work.

For those who haven't read On The Island, Tracey Garvis Graves' debut novel, let me tell you about how even years after reading it is unforgettable. I know the characters, I know their feelings, I think of them when people ask for specific types of stories, I think of them like old friends. Sure, she's published others since then, but that book just had that memorable quality to it. When I read the blurb for The Girl He Used to Know I felt that rush of excitement, that same feeling of butterflies before getting on a roller coaster, it was an immediate feeling of I must read this book. The blurb doesn't give much away, but the line, "She feels lost in social situations, saying the wrong thing or acting the wrong way - she just can't read people." told me this would be a unique read and I wasn't wrong. I was wrapped up in this story for several hours, I couldn't focus on anything without thinking about what I had left to discover on the pages. It was an all consuming read that left me smiling through my tears.

Annika Rose is your typical female main character, she's gorgeous, she's self sufficient, she's loved and lost, but she also struggles quite a lot with social interaction. What others call weird or avoid her for is really her high functioning autism and the tools she has learned to use to cope with her inability to understand facial expressions, social cues, and body language. When Jonathan first sees her he sees her beauty and soon after her brain and, despite the difficulties he has in just befriending her, he sets his sights on dating her. It isn't easy though, Annika is used to others "babysitting" her and is unprepared for what is required of her on date nights or even in Chess Club as she moves from occasional member to a competitive teammate. She frequently runs away to the safety of her room, is often unaware or almost too aware of the looks and comments made about her, and without a diagnosis has no tools to help her in the fast-paced college atmosphere. Tracey Garvis Graves really captured the misconception many held, and may still hold, about people with autism, I felt like I really was Annika as she battled the stigma of being dumb or slow. Tracey Garvis Graves also really highlights the uniqueness of high functioning autism, with Annika being so beautiful, but also easy prey for those who recognize she is unable to understand their intention. I am so thankful this girl has a roommate and best friend that loves her and helps her and never sees her as a burden, it's absolutely one of my favorite secondary relationships I've ever read.

The romance aspect of this story is just beautiful and so unique, the novel flashes back between 1991 while the two are in college dating and 2001, ten years later, with many more life experiences behind them. These two love so deeply, when they fall they fall hard, but college-aged Annika isn't prepared to cope with adulthood and the affects of choices and adult Annika has relied so much on her coping mechanisms that starting fresh with Jonathan sounds much better that dealing with the past. There is significant character growth in the ten year gap and while I would have loved to read it all I think we get just the right amount of highlights to understand where life took the two. Each are hardened a bit by their experiences, yet the spark between them still flickers innocently like it once did.

I so loved Jonathan and his patience, understanding, and love of Annika. He puts other's expectations behind him and loves her fiercely, even when he doesn't know what to do to be there for her. I also loved how he learned to ask things of her, to explain the love, commitment, and trust he needs to make the relationship work. I think it is important to highlight that Annika doesn't know how a relationship should work, being a partner to her rather than being a caretaker is Jonathan's goal and I think the dialogue we get in this novel as they explore dating again is incredible. It felt realistic and accurate and really made me think. The two face challenges, massive challenges many of us would never dream of facing, and yet they continue to fight for themselves and for each other. My only complaint is the lack of an epilogue, while I could have read the story of these two forever I really think an ending that gives readers a reprieve from the tears would have been amazing.

Told from Annika and Jonathan's alternating perspectives, The Girl He Used to Know captures the essence of first love and the mark it leaves on you so perfectly to me. It's the story of the underdog, a romance with depth that left me in tears, it's so beautiful and yet so heart wrenching, and begging for more. Tracey Garvis Graves' The Girl He Used to Know will have a spot on my favorites shelf forever.
About the Author
Tracey Garvis Graves is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author. Her debut novel, On the Island, spent 9 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, has been translated into twenty-nine languages, and is in development with MGM and Temple Hill Productions for a feature film. She is also the author of Uncharted, Covet, Every Time I Think of You, Cherish, Heart-Shaped Hack, and White-Hot Hack, and The Girl He Used to Know. She is hard at work on her next book.

Tracey loves to interact with her readers and can be found on Facebook and Twitter. You may also visit her website at

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Release Blitz: The Mister - E L James

The Mister will sweep you off your feet...
THE MISTER, the highly anticipated new love story from #1 New York Times bestseller E L James is available now!

the mister hi res 1.22.19.jpg
London, 2019. Life has been easy for Maxim Trevelyan. With his good looks, aristocratic connections, and money, he’s never had to work and he’s rarely slept alone. But all that changes when tragedy strikes and Maxim inherits his family’s noble title, wealth, and estates, and all the responsibility that entails. It’s a role he’s not prepared for and one that he struggles to face.
But his biggest challenge is fighting his desire for an unexpected, enigmatic young woman who’s recently arrived in England, possessing little more than a dangerous and troublesome past. Reticent, beautiful, and musically gifted, she’s an alluring mystery, and Maxim’s longing for her deepens into a passion that he’s never experienced and dares not name. Just who is Alessia Demachi? And can Maxim protect her from the malevolence that threatens her? And what will she do when she learns that he’s been hiding secrets of his own?
From the heart of London through wild, rural Cornwall to the bleak, forbidding beauty of the Balkans, The Mister is a roller-coaster ride of danger and desire that leaves the reader breathless to the very last page.

Download your copy today:

EL JAMES by Nino Munoz (1)_smaller size.jpgE L James is an incurable romantic and a self-confessed fangirl. After twenty-five years of working in television, she decided to pursue a childhood dream and write stories that readers could take to their hearts. The result was the controversial and sensuous romance Fifty Shades of Grey and its two sequels, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed. In 2015, she published the #1 bestseller Grey, the story of Fifty Shades of Grey from the perspective of Christian Grey, and in 2017, the chart-topping Darker, the second part of the Fifty Shades story from Christian’s point of view. Her books have been published in fifty languages and have sold more than 150 million copies worldwide.

E L James has been recognized as one of Time magazine's "Most Influential People in the World” and Publishers Weekly’s "Person of the Year.” Fifty Shades of Grey stayed on The New York Times Best Seller List for 133 consecutive weeks. Fifty Shades Freed won the Goodreads Choice Award (2012), and Fifty Shades of Grey was selected as one of the 100 Great Reads, as voted by readers, in PBS’s The Great American Read (2018). Darker has been long-listed for the 2019 International DUBLIN Literary Award.

She coproduced for Universal Studios the Fifty Shades movies, which made more than a billion dollars at the box office. The third installment, Fifty Shades Freed, won the People’s Choice Award for Drama in 2018.

E L James is blessed with two wonderful sons and lives with her husband, the novelist and screenwriter Niall Leonard, and their West Highland terriers in the leafy suburbs of West London.

For more information about E L James, visit:

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Blog Tour & Review: When We Left Cuba - Chanel Cleeton

When We Left Cuba
by Chanel Cleeton
Published April 9, 2019 by Penguin/Berkley
Women’s Fiction/Historical Fiction

In 1960s Florida, a young Cuban exile will risk her life--and heart--to take back her country in this exhilarating historical novel from the author of Next Year in Havana, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick.

Beautiful. Daring. Deadly. 

The Cuban Revolution took everything from sugar heiress Beatriz Perez--her family, her people, her country. Recruited by the CIA to infiltrate Fidel Castro's inner circle and pulled into the dangerous world of espionage, Beatriz is consumed by her quest for revenge and her desire to reclaim the life she lost. 

As the Cold War swells like a hurricane over the shores of the Florida Strait, Beatriz is caught between the clash of Cuban American politics and the perils of a forbidden affair with a powerful man driven by ambitions of his own. When the ever-changing tides of history threaten everything she has fought for, she must make a choice between her past and future--but the wrong move could cost Beatriz everything--not just the island she loves, but also the man who has stolen her heart...

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Learn more about When We Left Cuba including downloading the book club guide and more at:
5 Stars
Beatriz Perez, with her beauty and her paste jewelry, can work the Palm Beach social circuit with the best of them, but she can't pretend it's what she wants. The fake smiles, the social status marriages the American dream, it doesn't mean as much to her as the future of Cuba does. While her family feels safe, despite the loss of their home and the family's successful sugar business, Beatriz burns with anger, with a desperate desire for revenge, with a sadness that penetrates even the happiest of moments. As future Beatriz drinks a champagne of celebration and reflects on the past, young Beatriz makes the choice to risk it all, to join the CIA in the act of espionage.

"'We'll be in Havana soon,' he vows.
'We'll dance at the Tropicana,' I counter."

Chanel Cleeton does it again with When We Left Cuba, taking readers into the past with a gorgeous, sweeping historical fiction. Blending fiction and facts, the romantic tale follows Beatriz as she gives up jewels and Palm Beach fame for the secretive life of a spy. And yet, Beatriz can't hide from love, the kind of love that's forbidden, that makes her question the politics at play, the kind that could ruin her revenge plan entirely. I love love loved Beatriz in Next Year in Havana, just the small glimpses of her that we were given told us she'd be a force to reckon with and in When We Left Cuba we see just that. She's fierce, driven, beautiful beyond words, and yet she's weighed down by the loss of her home, of her life, of the future she dreamed of. Beatriz, the girl who once loved jewels and fancy dresses, now lives for revenge. Except Nicholas Randolph Preston III makes her believe in happiness, the kind she can escape to, but that she also knows she can't have, not when he's sitting in a senate seat and she is spying for a team not known for abiding by the rules. 

"There is no place for a broken heart in all of this."

Chanel Cleeton kept me engaged with the perfect blend of romance and suspense; I loved the chemistry between Nick and Beatriz, yet while I read of their stolen kisses I yearned for the reveal of secrets that would get Beatriz closer to her goal. I loved her perspective on her family's escape, of the experiences they had in Cuba, of the politics in America at the time. She is an independent, opinionated women at a time when that was frowned upon. Her passion overflows from the pages, filling me with the same desperate desire to right the wrongs in Cuba. 

"He fell in love with a socialite and has gotten a spy in return."

When We Left Cuba is a fascinating novel that takes readers back in time in American and Cuban history. Chanel Cleeton weaves fact with fiction as strong-willed Beatriz Perez romances the Kennedy-connected elite and blends with the girls vying for the attention of a wild revolutionary. Chanel Cleeton has such an incredible, romantic way with words, I could feel the bubbles in my own throat as Beatriz sipped the finest champagne and the butterflies of fear that flapped their wings inside her as she traded in family and safety for secrets. I was intrigued and entertained from the first page to the very last, Beatriz' voice becoming real in my mind as she narrated the dangerous world of espionage and told of the man who she nearly risked it all for. Suspenseful, poignant, and romantic, When We Left Cuba, and its beautiful heroine, is an instant favorite for me for 2019. I won't soon forget Beatriz Perez and her love of her home, Cuba.

Author Information: 

Chanel Cleeton is the USA Today bestselling author of Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick Next Year in Havana. Originally from Florida, Chanel grew up on stories of her family's exodus from Cuba following the events of the Cuban Revolution. Her passion for politics and history continued during her years spent studying in England where she earned a bachelor's degree in International Relations from Richmond, The American International University in London and a master's degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics & Political Science. Chanel also received her Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law. She loves to travel and has lived in the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia. 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Release Blitz & Review: Forgiven - Carrie Aarons

Forgiven by Carrie Aarons
Nash Brothers, #2

In a split-second, a car crash killed almost everything between them. Ten years later, can one accidental ride fix tattered spirits, uncertain futures, and broken hearts?
Lily Grantham has always done what she’s been told. The daughter of a senator, she grew up as the good girl of Fawn Hill, and carried that torch right on through to adulthood. Her only wild streak? Bowen Nash. She loved that boy since the day they laid eyes on each other, and it nearly ended them both. A decade later, and Lily still can’t move on. Even if Bowen has made it clear he doesn’t love her anymore.

Bowen Nash never wanted the life he’s trapped in. Destined for baseball fame and the love of his high-school sweetheart, that existence vanished in the flip of an old pickup. Now, he’s stuck in the town that produced his worst nightmare. Pretending to hate Lily Grantham guts him day in and day out. But to protect her from the ultimate secret, it’s necessary to break his own heart each time they pass on the street.

They’ve been fighting fate for as long as it’s been chasing them. And now, time is up.
4.5 Stars
Sweet, angsty, the kind of small town romance that sweeps your problems away for a little bit. Forgiven is the second chance romance that readers will read and get that finally feeling. Ten years have passed since the accident, since Bowen walked away and Lily was left with a broken heart and no reason that she can find. Bowen Nash and Lily Grantham are meant to be, but there's secrets and heartache between them that neither are prepared to face. When Lily's best friend and Bowen's brother select the two to be their maid and man of honor, it's the push they both need to face one another. As Lily starts to question Bowen's hatred of her, Bowen realizes that maybe holding onto the past isn't worth losing the girl he never stopped loving.

I have to admit, I was prepared for a sweet romance and while we got that, Carrie Aarons gave me what I really wanted, a whole lot of angst. Second-chance romances just aren't right without the characters dealing with the hurt between them and I hate when issues are resolved easily. I honestly wasn't sure these two would find a way to work out, Lily has been beat down by it for so long and Bowen had turned quite surly, but they still fit together like puzzle pieces. Lily isn't the same girl she used to be in high school, her independence giving her the ability to pursue Bowen relentlessly. And Bowen, though successful in his own way, has really allowed the past and his self hatred to hold him back. Lily's pursuit shakes things up for Bowen, he either has to run or face the music, and that felt realistic to me as a reader. It isn't easy of course, her pursuit often makes her hurt more, but it also restarts the longing in Bowen's heart. It's a kind of push and pull, but as they give in and Bowen reveals the truth they finally realize the blame should've never lied on the two of them at all.

I docked half a star due to the situation that keeps the two apart. Looking at it from their youthful perspectives, it makes sense that it's what started it all, but as adults I had a hard time believing it was viewed as serious as it was. I think the time they spent apart was so long and though I'm glad they finally faced it, it made me sort of sad for the time they lost and the built up anger that Bowen had. I might have docked more had Carrie Aarons not made them tackle the issue over the entire length of the book, allowing them to restart their relationship and strengthen their bonds once more.

Forgiven is a story of love, loss, and forgiveness and it'll tick off all the boxes for the angst lovers out there. It is the second novel in the Nash Brothers series and so far my favorite. Carrie Aarons has created a small town series with all the drama, friendships, and relationships readers' hearts could desire, plus the brothers are handsome and the girls are fiercely independent. The entire series is the kind of romance readers root for.
What Reviewers Are Saying about the Nash Brothers...
“So what do I need to do to find a quaint little town like Fawn Hill? And some Nash brothers? Because good golly Miss Molly I am in love with everything here!” -The Book Branch



Author of romance novels such as Red Card and Privileged, Carrie Aarons writes books that are just as swoon-worthy as they are sarcastic. A former journalist, she prefers the stories she dreams up, and the yoga pant dress code, much better.
When she isn't writing, Carrie is busy binging reality TV, having a love/hate relationship with cardio, and trying not to burn dinner. She lives in the suburbs of New Jersey with her husband, daughter and dog.

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Release Blitz & Review: Bad Boy Blues - Saffron A. Kent

Bad Boy Blues
Author: Saffron A. Kent
Genre: Contemporary New Adult Romance
Release Date: April 11, 2019

Cleopatra Paige hates one thing in this world -- just one -- and his name is Zachariah Prince.

In grade school, he pulled at her pigtails. In middle school, he spread false rumors about her. And in high school, he ruined her prom.

She hates that his smirks are unfairly sexy. And she definitely loathes that his dark eyes seem to follow her everywhere. Sometimes, even in her dreams.

It doesn’t matter that he’s rich and popular or that he lives in a freaking mansion full of butlers and maids. He’s rude and arrogant, and she wants to stay as far away from him as possible.

But unfortunately for Cleo, she lives in the same freaking mansion as Zach.

Only he’s the prince and she’s the lowly maid who serves him.

Purchase Links
4 Stars
Cleopatra Paige hates Zachariah Prince almost as much as she loves the color blue. Thinking she'd never see him again she accepts a role in the housekeeping staff for his family, but it seems even three long years can't make her forget the burning hatred she has when he comes strolling back in. His sharp jaw, his dark gaze, the muscles he flexes as he steps back into power, the hate overwhelms her thoughts every moment. He hates this town, this mansion, as much as Blue hates him and yet he can't seem to stay away. He's the Prince, she's the maid, and it seems their stars are destined to cross. 

"I can feel it. That's the whole problem, actually. That I can feel it. Feel him."

I haven't read a book this sexy since, well probably since my last Saffron A. Kent read. She makes forbidden romance taste oh so good. Bad Boy Blues pulls you in with the angst, warms you up with the smut, and has you falling head over heels in love with the bully. Cleo, also known as Blue, is a driven girl who cares little about what anyone else think. Her blue hair may scream for attention, but she'd do anything to stay out of sight, especially to young Master Zach Prince. To her he's the bully, the bad buy, his good looks are just reminders of a painful past. Except, the Zach we meet in Bad Boy Blues is not the same Zach Cleo remembers. Disenchanted with his family's wealth and desperate popularity, Zach has made his own way in the past three years. He's charming, he's humble, he's regretful. He's the man that walks the line and the line in this case is that between love and hate. 

"Today she looked at me like I moved the stars. It hurt. It still does"

Cleo, though at time's immature, is a strong-willed heroine that believes in standing up for what's right. Her difficult past and recent loss has left a lasting mark on her, her heart, much like the Grinch's, has grown three sizes, even leaving room for the dastardly Zach Prince. As she interacts with him again, both as his employee and in her own bullying way, she finds that she doesn't hate him so much. I love the chemistry between these two, the hate and the lust mixing between them so much that they can't differentiate between the two. It forces them to face the past, to face their current feelings, to find a way to move forward. Saffron A. Kent writes in such a way that I felt like I was there, my feelings just as hurt as Cleo's, making me wonder if it was even possible for these two to work it out. Of course, there's those moments of redemption, the moments that make you fall for Zach, that make you see that all the hate has really done is made them orbit closer to one another, their star's paths finally colliding. It's a slow burn romance with more angst and passion that I knew what to do with.

"In love, you bleed forever.
I wonder if in hate, you bleed forever too."

Saffron A. Kent made me fall for the man who breaks hearts just by looking at you. If you love the enemies to love trope, if you like your men handsome and bullying, and if you like your heroines loyal and strong, Bad Boy Blues is the book for you. 

Author Bio

Saffron A. Kent is a Top 100 Amazon Bestselling author of Contemporary and New Adult romance. More often than not, her love stories are edgy, forbidden and passionate. Her work has been featured in Huffington Post, New York Daily News and USA Today’s Happy Ever After.

She lives in New York City with her nerdy and supportive husband, and a million and one books.

Author Links

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