Off Limits by Clare Connelly

Off limitsBlurb: “I want to taste you tonight.”

With chemistry this hot, it’s worth getting burned…

Billionaire Jack Grant is totally off-limits to Gemma Picton. He’s wild, deliciously dangerous…and her boss. When working late turns X-rated, it’s better than her wildest imaginings—and Gemma’s imagined a lot! But Jack has major emotional baggage, so when Gemma starts wanting to heal his heart as well as enjoy his body, she knows she’s in big trouble…

 

 

 

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Netgalley

3 stars

Whoa! This book was full of some serious graphic sexy times.  And it was nearly on the first page.  Now I love graphic sex scenes, however, and I may have said this before; there is a balance that needs to be displayed for me to like the book as a whole.  I need depth of character as well as hot lovin’.  I need intimacy as well as carnal actions.  And this book had all of that, but it was nearly too late in the story for me to start caring about the characters.  I barely finished it TBO.

The chemistry was on point.  It was a bit overused though, to the point where I was wondering what else they really had in common that would make this a lasting relationship.  GEmma knew him but he didn;t really make any effort to know her outside of work or sex. Total turn off form me as an alpha lover.

In fact, Jack Grant was a grade A dick when it came to behaving towards women.  His back story explains this a little in flashbacks but I don’t think it was enough for me to forgive him for treating them that way.  So I was already a bit salty toward him from gate.

And Gemma was a bit of a pushover when it came to pleasing her boss (pun intended) so that didn’t endear me to her character either.  She had some serious ambition though, which I can relate to in a work atmosphere. And she wore her black sheep status like a damn face tattoo, something that also moved her into the likability category for me.  So I wanted to push through and see if my mind could be swayed. Which, if an author can make me feel for the characters after I’ve already made a decision on them is a big deal for me.

And she did change my mind towards them in the end, but because it took so long for us to get THERE, it impacted my attitude towards this story in a much more negative way.  And I think I’m pretty lenient when it comes to rating so for this to happen is kind of a bummer for me.

I received this book from netgalley in exchange for an honest/unbiased review.

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Bad Princess by Julianna Keyes

Blurb:
36397594Notorious for leaping off roofs, maiming foreign royals, and that twerking incident, Brinley Cantrella of Estau is nobody’s definition of a good princess. She’s fearless and bold, not good and gracious. And after a lifetime of being told she’s unfit to be queen, wearing the crown and helping to usher Estau into a new era is the one dream she’s never dared chase.

But when her older sister abdicates the throne, all Brinley has to do to inherit the role is not twerk, not maim anybody, and definitely not get caught fooling around topless with Prince Finn, her childhood crush, the only man she’s ever loved…and her sister’s former future husband.

Finn embodies the definition of good. Tall and handsome, serious and honorable, he always does the right thing—including agreeing to marry his ex’s sister to cover up this latest scandal. Brinley has fallen down stairs, broken teeth and broken bones, but this is the first time her heart has ever been broken. She now has the crown and the prince, and on the surface, life is good—but is being married to a man everyone swears could never love her back good enough?

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My Review:
4.5 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

You guys…YOU GUYS.  I am in fucking love.  And I’m going to have to bleep that for Amazon.  But seriously, this was a LENORE book through and through.  And it was all Brinley!  OK, not all Brinley, Finian’s kind of da bomb as well…I’ll get to him.  But Brinley…oh Brinley.  She has made my girl crush list!!!!  And if you know me, that happens fairly infrequently.  But I was enamoured with her from practically the first page.  She made me laugh, she made my heart hurt, she was just everything I love in a heroine.  I was trying to tell my hubby about this book, and loving Brinley, and he was like “well yeah, she’s exactly your type of girl.  She sounds like Rapunzel from Tangled.”  Huh.  You know, he’s kind of right.  The stories of her misadventures when she was a child were just adorable…she sounded mischievous and incorrigible.  And it carried into who she was when we met her.  She was so true to herself, despite how often others tried to beat her down.  She was sassy, and bold, and hilarious, and curious, and just…AHHH!!  LOVE HER!

And Finn!!  I felt like I understood exactly who he was and how he felt right at the beginning, even if it wasn’t overt…  But he still surprised me along the way.  And for a book entirely from the heroine’s POV, I still felt like I got to know him.  Maybe it’s that we see the contrast between them, and how this royal life had very different effects on each of them.  But there was still a spark in him.  And he had shades of beta boy in him!  He was quiet to her bold.  But he was still strong, and he knew how to support a strong woman like Brinley.  And holy fuck was he hot.  Those kisses (and more) got me all fluttery.  He wasn’t perfect, by any means…there were times I wanted to smack him.  But the way its written, I got to understand why he made certain mistakes and bad choices, and I believed in his growth.  I love him too.

For a novella, this book sucked me in hardcore and really made me feel for its characters.  I LOVE when I feel like I can get to know them so quickly, and I become invested in the story.  I saw other reviewers say they couldn’t, so I don’t know why it was different for me…but it definitely was.  I rooted for Brinley, I was invested in what would happen to her, I was completely all in on the romance, it was just perfect for me.

Honestly, the only reason it’s not a full 5 star is because I loved it so much, I wanted more.  I could have continued reading about these two characters until they grew old and died.  I’m fully serious.  This is my first book from Ms. Keyes, but it certainly won’t be my last if this is anything to go by.  Also?  As a side shoutout, there was a romantic/erotic trope gender swap (“Finn, come”) that had me laughing my ass off.  I’m not sure if it was supposed to be funny, but I don’t even care…props Ms. Keyes.

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The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

Blurb:
23309653SOMETIMES, THERE ARE NO WORDS…

The youngest of six talented sisters, Elyse d’Abreau was destined for stardom – until a boating accident took everything from her. Now, the most beautiful singer in Tobago can’t sing. She can’t even speak.

Seeking quiet solitude, Elyse accepts a friend’s invitation to Atargatis Cove. Named for the mythical first mermaid, the Oregon seaside town is everything Elyse’s home in the Caribbean isn’t: an ocean too cold for swimming, parties too tame for singing, and people too polite to pry – except for one.

Christian Kane is a notorious playboy – insolent, arrogant, and completely charming. He’s also the only person in Atargatis Cove who doesn’t treat Elyse like a glass statue. He challenges her to express herself, and he admires the way she treats his younger brother, Sebastian, who believes Elyse is the legendary mermaid come to life.

When Christian needs a first mate for the Cove’s high-stakes Pirate Regatta, Elyse reluctantly stows her fear of the sea and climbs aboard. The ocean isn’t the only thing making waves, though – swept up in Christian’s seductive tide and entranced by the Cove’s charms, Elyse begins to wonder if a life of solitude isn’t what she needs. But changing course again means facing her past. It means finding her inner voice. And scariest of all, it means opening her heart to a boy who’s best known for breaking them…

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My Review:
4.5 stars — Well I must say, I am spoiled for reading ebooks people.  Reading this hardback was HELLA HARD.  For the usual reasons — can’t eat and read, can’t read in the dark, hard to hold open.  BUT I was surprised with how much I’ve gotten used to highlighting my Kindle books.  Like, I refuse to mark up a physical copy, but there were so many beautiful quotes in this book that I was just itching to highlight.  It ended up being my number one drawback, b/c Ms. Ockler just says things in a way that really got to me sometimes, you know??

There were occasional moments in this story where I got a bit confused in the language and style, but it was extremely rare.  When I read the prologue, I was uncertain if it would be a match for me.  But once I got past it to the first chapter, I was basically sucked in for the rest of the book.  I did find that the book slowed a bit at the end and I found myself wanting to skip ahead…the pacing just didn’t work for me.  These are all reasons I’ll be rounding down, but honestly they were about the only detriment of this book for me.  Otherwise it just hit so many of my buttons.

Even though our characters are right on the upper limit of YA (I’d call it mature YA, particularly for some content), I really felt like this was a coming of age story of sorts.  And not just for our narrator, Elyse, but for Christian in the background as well.  But Elyse does go through a transformation in our story…a journey to finding her new self.  It was slower than I expected, but in some ways that made it more realistic and I was fully invested.

I truly did love both Elyse and Christian.  I felt like they had many layers, and I loved the way their romance developed.  But in a lot of ways that was a very secondary plot line.  The main focus is on Elyse finding her voice, and in the goings on of Artigatis Cove (the bet, the town development, the regatta, the mermaid parade, etc).  And what made this story TRULY shine for me was the diverse cast of secondary characters…they were just all so different.  While the whole story is from Elyse’s POV, I really felt like this was a bit of an ensemble book.  It wasn’t just about her developing relationship with Christian, but about her relationships with everyone she meets that summer.  From her observations of the adults, to her “aunt” Lemon (who was just perfection in a kooky way), to Kirby and Vanessa and the friendships she forms there.

BUT, the absolute standout relationships were with Christian and his little brother Sebastian.  Those moments stole the whole book for me.  And I’d like to say it was Sebastian that stole it, but it was the trio together: Sebastian, Christian AND Elyse.  I LOVED the way they interacted.  I loved the way Christian loved his brother.  I LOVED how adorable and incorrigible and perfectly six years old Sebastian was.  I loved what he taught Elyse.  I just loved EVERYTHING about every moment that involved these 3 together.

I loved all the little storylines that helped to further the story about losing one’s “voice” and the different ways that can happen.  It was really effective, without being obvious or preachy.

I LOVED the little nods to both the original fairytale as well as the Disney version (mostly in character names or boat names).

And I LOVED feeling like I got a glimpse of Trinbagonian life.  I loved the little bits of slang I learned.  I desperately want to visit the twin islands now.  And maybe learn how to wine.  I loved the diversity that Elyse represented, and I felt like it was done authentically.  It was a perfect fit for my diverse retelling challenge this month.

So yeah…I’m glad I made the exception from my strictly ebook reading diet to throw this one in the mix…it was so worth it, and I will definitely be watching out for more books by Ms. Ockler in the future.

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Jacob’s Ladder: Gabe by Katie Ashley

Blurb:
36287261As the lead songwriter for Jacob’s Ladder, the last thing Gabe Renard needs is a debilitating case of writer’s block. After years of meaningless one night stands, he’s finding it hard to pen the love-filled ballads the label is requesting. In an effort to clear his mind, Gabe takes his jeep off-roading in the North Georgia Mountains. When a wrong-turn leads to him getting stuck more than just creatively, he’s forced to call for help. To his surprise, the “Ray” who has been sent by Hart Wreckers to his aid is actually “Rae”—a sexy-as-hell spitfire in a pair of tight-as-hell jeans. The combination of Rae’s sassy mouth and rocking body might be the inspiration Gabe needs. But for the first time since becoming a rock star, his advances have been shot down.

Reagan Hart has never been a fan of musicians. In fact, just the mention of one might cause her to throw a tire tool. Her disgust for them started when she was just eight and her mother ran off with a traveling country singer, and it only worsened when at seventeen, her rocker boyfriend knocked her up before blowing out of town. As a single mother taking care of her family’s collision business, Rae doesn’t have time for hook ups, much less a relationship. And if she did make time, a musician would be last on her list, even one as good-looking as Gabe Renard.

Can Gabe find the words to prove not only to Rae, but himself, that she’s the only one for him?

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My Review:
2.5 stars — I received a free copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

I’ve never read a book by Ms. Ashley, and I have a feeling we are just not a match.  It happens.  I do believe she’s a very popular author, so take my review with a grain of salt.  From what I could tell, this appears to be a spin-off book of another series of hers, so for fans I’m sure this is much anticipated!  I just can’t help but be sucked into celebrity stories, so that was my draw and the reason I requested.  Especially celebrities that fall in love with “normal” people.

In the end I didn’t really like either character that much.  Don’t get me wrong, they both had great moments, but in general I just couldn’t empathize with either.  And oddly, the sweet moments felt inconsistent with the other moments where Gabe seemed like a huge egotistical self-absorbed entitled dick, and Rae seemed like an overreacting irrational witch with a b.  I think I’m just not meant to read books about characters with volatile emotions.  I also tend to prefer more subtle characteristics, occasionally they felt like caricatures if that makes sense.  Just a bit too over the top and didn’t strike me as completely realistic.  Or maybe it’s just that these are not the type of people I would want to hang around with.  Again, this is really just a personality conflict between me and the story.  Won’t necessarily be a problem for others.

There were a few moments where I really felt the chemistry between Gabe and Rae and it worked for me.  I LOVED the scene where they were baking brownies, and everything that happened afterwards (other than the overreaction).  But that was about it for me.  The book felt very sex focused.  I didn’t really feel the falling in love part as much.  I didn’t swoon over the comments that Gabe made, quite the opposite…which is probably why the steamy stuff didn’t really work as well for me.  Again, just not a good fit.

One thing that actually really surprised me is that I LOVED Rae’s son Linc.  I’m not a kid person usually, but he came across sweet, but still a realistic 9 year old.  I loved how he colluded with Gabe, and I really loved some of the scenes at the end (especially the first epilogue).  Rae’s sisters also seemed pretty cool, as did her Aunt Sadie.  And while I’m not interested in reading any more in this series, Eli intrigued me.  I’m sure fans of this author will look forward to his story.

I will note that my advanced copy was LITTERED with mistakes, it did not read like a final copy.  And while ARCs aren’t always the final copy, this felt *quite* rough.  There is the possibility that after sending out the ARCs, the author sent this to a proofreader and the final copy will be more polished.  But I feel like that’s unlikely.  So if this kind of thing really bothers you, proceed with caution (maybe try the sample).

So yeah.  I know this seems like a really bummer review.  I was kind of bummed.  But it wasn’t a horrible book, it just wasn’t a me book.  It wasn’t a book I devoured.  And it wasn’t a book where I fell in love with my main characters, which I kind of need to truly enjoy a book.  But it was also not awful by any stretch, hence the rounding up.  It really was mostly just a case of the reader not matching up with the author’s writing.  I hope others have more luck.

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Merrily in Love by Melissa West

Blurb:
36313195The Littleton brothers are as much a part of Crestler’s Key as the sun and surf, living the single life without a care. But love has a way of changing even the most determined bachelor’s mind . . . 

Brady Littleton has left his reckless youth behind to become a man his brothers can count on. When the family dive shop needs to expand, he’s got the answer: buy the Christmas shop next door. Except the retiring owner’s goddaughter, Kylie Waters, has come back to town. She was Brady’s first kiss—his first everything—and she doesn’t want to sell. He’s got a solution to that too. Whoever makes the most sales by Christmas Day can take over the shop, fair and square.

Kylie resolved to put the youngest, wildest Littleton brother out of her head when he abruptly ended their relationship years ago. But the steady, gorgeous man he’s become is impossible to ignore. Especially once reminiscing leads to a kiss as hot and heady as mulled wine. Their deal means that one of them is going to lose out on a dream…unless Christmas Day brings the gift of a sweet, surprising second chance…

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My Review:
3.5 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

This one had its ups and downs for me, but I finished it with a smile on my face, and shed a few tears (well, more than a few, but I’m blaming PMS for the overreaction), so I’m calling it a win.

Both Kylie and Brady spent a lot of time aggravating me.  But I also felt for both of them.  Kylie with her fear of abandonment issues.  Brady with his over the top sense of guilt when it came to his family.  So while I wanted to smack them for some of the decisions they made, and how long it took for them to grow, I also felt for them and how their past and choices had scarred them.

And even as aggravating as they both were, they were also really endearing!  They could be really sweet, and some of the moments when they were together actually had me sighing in happiness and swooning.  You can’t go wrong with swooning.

Honestly, the only reason it’s not a full 4 stars is that I always find it aggravating (jeez, is that like my word of the day or something?) when authors elude to something in the past, but don’t just explain it to the readers.  Like in this book, we know something happened to break up our characters, break both of their hearts, have them each blame the other, and develop some animosity.  But the author just kept teasing us with it, occasionally dropping breadcrumbs.  Eventually it was basically explained, but it’s the kind of literary technique that just makes me want to abandon a book…because I spend so much time wondering what happened, that I just want to skip pages to find out.  Not always, I do get that there are certain instances where it makes sense, but I honestly don’t understand what the point was of keeping the reader in the dark in this case.  But I’m about to get ranty about something that’s really rather small, so I’m gonna stop.

I must say, I did NOT like either of Brady’s brothers…they were kind of selfish and not understanding.  I got their worry, but they were kind of dicks about some stuff.  However, Brady’s parents were da bomb.  And Franny and Ally rounded out our fabulous secondary characters nicely.

So yeah.  Some aggravation, but a WHOLE LOT of swooning too.  I mean come on, the whole ending was one big swoonfest.  So all in all a winner.

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Just One of the Boys by Leah and Kate Rooper

Blurb:
36224817Alice Bell has one goal: to play for the elite junior hockey team the Chicago Falcons.But when she’s passed over at tryouts for being a girl, she’ll do anything to make her dream a reality…even disguising herself as her twin brother. With her amazing skills on the ice, Alice is sure she’ll fit in easily. That is, until she starts falling for one of her teammates…

Hayden Tremblay, star of the Falcons, can’t keep himself out of the penalty box. Constantly living in the shadow of his older brother, Hayden’s losing his passion for hockey. But when he gets shown up on the ice by the Falcons’ new rookie, Hayden’s determined to teach the kid a thing or two. Little does he guess that “Al’s” surprises on the ice are just the beginning…

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush title proves that wonderful things can happen when you’re brave enough to go after your dream. Dream hockey player, that is! Warning–a few locker room scenes are included.

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My Review:
4.5 stars — Well, I decided to start this one at midnight because I wasn’t quite tired yet…next thing I know it’s 5:30 am and I’m finished.  If that doesn’t tell you something, I don’t know what will.  I was sucked right in, it was very compelling for me.  If you’re a fan of Twelfth Night type retellings (and I just now realized I didn’t know how to spell Twelfth), and particularly if you loved She’s The Man, you’re probably going to love this one.  I saw some reviewers complain that it was exactly the same, but I felt that while it may have started pretty similarly, there was enough development with the characters to stand out from it.

What I find the most interesting about this read is that I wasn’t impressed with either character initially.  Alice seemed like a selfish brat, and, honestly, I could say the same for Hayden…not to mention his almost bully-like behavior.  And while a small part of me wishes they’d seen a bit more consequences for those early behaviors, I really appreciated their growth otherwise and the development of their relationship.  It kind of surprised me.  That growth even took a bit longer than I normally would have liked, but at that point I was enthralled with the hockey, their backstories, and the friendship that was developing between Hayden and Al.  And I guess it was kind of refreshing to have characters that were truly flawed, but whose growth I totally bought into.

I felt Alice’s frustration at being past over because she was a girl.  I was bummed that she was so wrapped up in what she wanted, that she didn’t even acknowledge internally that she wasn’t *really* using the deception for her brother, but for herself…and I kind of wish she’d owned up to that a bit more bluntly in the end.  But she was such an intriguing character in her own right, a true tomboy…more comfortable pretending to be her brother and feeling like she could be herself then.  I loved the struggle she had with her own identity…it really added depth.  And my heart broke for the way she’d closed herself off to emotions because of her father leaving, and how she really didn’t know how to deal with them when they came.

I felt for Hayden too!  I can’t even imagine what he was going through after the loss of his parents, but you could really feel his rage and disillusionment.  I was worried he would be a bully, but I loved how Al just got through his defenses, and then he ended up finding that true friend who he could let in.

Strangely, the romance was only OK for me.  It’s not that I didn’t feel chemistry between them, but I was much more sucked in by their friendship, and we got to see a lot more of that than romance in the end.  That, along with needing a bit more from Xander to explain his extreme attitude (like, I sort of get his motivations, but I could have used a bit more of a resolution since it was such a big looming thing in the background), are the reasons I rounded down instead of up.  That and I will admit, there were a lot of little tiny believability flaws in this story.  But I loved everything else so much it just didn’t affect my enjoyment that much.

For me this book excels in showcasing their friendship.  I REALLY felt that chemistry.  I LOVED the way they could rely on each other and how Al was there for Hayden.

It also excels in the hockey aspect…it really showcased the sport (minus the part where they mentioned an end zone).  And as a fan of hockey, I really appreciated feeling like I was on the team.

Some other little delights: the little hints of Canada, and jokes about it; Madison was awesome; Hayden’s up and down relationship with his brother; the imperfection of Al’s family, but you could still feel the love.

So yeah.  It was a hit for me.  But I really should have known better than to start this one at midnight, especially given how much I was looking forward to it.

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The Jingle Bell Bride by Scarlet Wilson

Blurb:
36183707New York wedding planner Jessica Christie always goes above and beyond for her clients. So, stopping in Alaska to pick up the famed Jingle Bell flower for her famous client’s bouquet doesn’t seem too outrageous–until she ends up stranded there.

Matt Holden has spent the last five years since his fiancée died, living in a virtual bubble in Alaska. His research work as a botanist and assistant at the local reindeer farm keep him busy during the holidays.

But when Jessica Christie bursts into his life, all bets are off. Her stay is definitely temporary, but the feelings she ignites aren’t. Could Ms. Oh-So-Wrong actually be Mrs. Right?

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My Review:
3 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

Hmmm…well, this one started off pretty good.  I was intrigued, I thought the premise seemed interesting.  But at some point my interest waned.  And I never really got it back.  It wasn’t a bad book, but it was very very meh.  If I wasn’t reading towards a challenge and this wasn’t a NetGalley ARC, I probably would have just abandoned it in favour of something that would better keep my attention.

In the end I think I just wasn’t that enamoured with our characters.  Maybe I just didn’t quite understand what made them tick.  I just wasn’t able to fall in love with either of them.  Jessica was SOOOOO high strung, and I couldn’t understand the disconnect between her celebrity wedding planner life and her supposed dream of a bookstore.  Like they were pretty far apart, so she kind of felt like 2 different people.  I did like when she was sweet, and how understanding she could be with Matt.  And she felt very child-like at times.  I just don’t get how that child-likeness remained in the life she led.  *shrugs*

And Matt had his own good moments, but he was also kind of dismissive of certain things about Jessica, poo-pooing her job and certain aspects of her personality.  I get that that wasn’t necessarily the “real” her, but then again, it has to be somewhat her.  Just seemed kind of dick-ish.

And their chemistry was only OK for me.  It was slow slow slow, and then all of a sudden it kind of turned really fast.  And while they acknowledged that the love was fast, that just felt like lampshading…saying it was fast doesn’t discount that it was honestly unbelievably fast.

I liked the magic of Alaska though, and that atmosphere.  I enjoyed the reindeer, though I can always stand for more reindeer…as my husband said, could use more ungulates.

So yeah.  Not a terrible book by any means, just didn’t capture my attention.

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Deck the Halls by Donna Alward

Blurb:
35965582With shades of It’s a Wonderful Life, one man must face his past to find his future this Christmas.

In the last year, George’s life has drastically changed. The formerly homeless veteran now has a job he likes, a family in the residents of Darling, VT, and for the first time in years, a home. But while his present is good, he’s still haunted by the past, a past that appears shortly before Christmas when the older sister of his brother-in-arms hunts him down and finds him in Darling, working at the Ladybug Garden Center.

Amy’s looking for closure for her family after her brother’s death in the Middle East, but the serious man she finds working in Vermont doesn’t resemble the soldier she remembers from years before. This man is hardened and yet somehow fragile, too, and in her desire to find out what really happened to her brother, she learns more about George than she ever expected.

With a little Christmas magic and the whole town supporting them, can these two bruised hearts make a future together?

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My Review:
4 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

I have never read any books by Ms. Alward before, and thus none in this series.  But I had no problems following along with everything.  I will say that if you are a fan of the series, I think you’ll love this book too as many of the other couples appear in it (and it sounds like George made appearances in many of those books as well).

This was a solid Christmas romance, with a great redemption plot.  It touches on many serious subjects, from what it’s like for returning veterans, survivor’s guilt, homelessness, and the struggle to climb out of being homeless.  I especially enjoyed that last bit, as I think we forget that there’s so much to overcome mentally and emotionally.  We really got to see how being homeless affected George’s self-esteem and his sense of self-worth.

George was a bit of an oddball hero for me.  We meet him when he’s so very damaged, and he came across quite meek a lot of the time.  Sometimes I just had a hard time getting a read on his personality outside of his damage, if that makes sense.

Amy, on the other hand, was very straightforward!  I loved how strong she was in so many things, how she wouldn’t give up on George no matter how many roadblocks he tried to put between them.  And I liked that when they would have disagreements, she never held onto a grudge, and she was quick to try to see things from his perspective and adjust her expectations.  But at the same time, she wasn’t afraid to push him a bit.  I also appreciated that she had her own bit of damage, but that she was a bit further along the healing path…not healed, but with more mental tools I guess.

All in all this was a sweet love story, with a very satisfying ending.  I was a bit bummed that there wasn’t more to the “It’s a Wonderful Life” bit that is mentioned in the blurb, but there was enough else in the story to make up for it.

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Love in the Friend Zone by Molly E. Lee

Blurb:
35683226The only thing worse than not being able to tell your best friend you’re head over heels in love with him? Having to smile and nod when he enlists your help to ensnare the girl of his dreams.

Braylen didn’t even want to go to Lennon Pryor’s epic graduation-night party, but when Fynn begs her to be his “wingwoman,” she can’t deny him. Talking up her BFF—how he’s magic behind a camera, with a killer sense of humor and eyelashes that frame the most gorgeous blue eyes in the history of forever—is easy. Supporting his efforts to woo someone so completely wrong for him? Not so much.

Fynn knows that grad night is his last shot before leaving for college to find true love. And thanks to Bray, he gets his chance with the beautiful Katy Evans. But over the course of the coolest party of their high school careers, he starts to see that perhaps what he really wants has been in front of him all along. Bray’s been his best friend since kindergarten, though, and he’d rather have her in his life as a friend than not at all.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains one epic party, complete with every high-schoolers-gone-bad shenanigan, and two best friends whose sexual chemistry is off the charts…if only they’d succumb to it.

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My Review:
4 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

I don’t know what it was about this book, but I just kind of loved it.  Was it flawless?  Nope.  But I loved all the little things that surprised and delighted me along the way.  And despite the times I wanted to smack them both, I really kind of loved both Braylen and Fynn.  They were a bit oblivious, but such is the nature of many a friends-to-lovers story.

All of the characters in this book very much felt their age.  I kind of liked that.  So often you read young adult novels and they’re just not believably 18, you know?  I don’t mind that either, but I do like variety.  And the book takes place over one night (basically), and mostly at a house party that honestly sounded like a fairly realistic house party…not that I’ve ever been to any like that.  But there were reckless decisions made, poor choices, and a lot of immaturity, but it was often in the background.  And while my poor heart hated seeing, for example, the drunk driving stunt, I realize that this happens in real life.  All this to say, this one towed the line between young adult and mature young adult, so be warned on content.

As I said above, I kind of loved both Braylen and Fynn.  I loved how authentic they both felt…towing the nerdy line without being total social outcasts (I can vibe with that).  A bit more on the innocent side of the high school spectrum.  And I loved how their passions really came into play in their personalities…I loved that Braylen’s journalistic tendancies and Fynn’s photographer tendancies weren’t just throwaway characteristics, but you could see their minds spinning in those directions occasionally (either with story ideas for Bray, or seeing shots for Fynn).

And I loved the way they interacted with each other.  You could really feel how well they complemented one another, and how they genuinely cared for the other.  I didn’t once doubt that they were truly best friends, regardless of Bray’s secret love for Fynn and Fynn’s obliviousness.  I know some may have a problem with Fynn’s obliviousness, but sometimes people choose to see what they want to see, you know?  They convince themselves of something SO MUCH that nothing can sway them.

And can I just say that while I had to wait for it, I really did feel their “more than friends” chemistry as well?  Bonus when I actually buy the transition from friends to more.

As with many a friends-to-lovers story, this one did get bogged down in a bit of repetitiveness with the “I should tell him”, “No I shouldn’t”, “The Universe is telling me something”, “Why am I feeling this way about her suddenly?”, etc.  It happens.  It was drawn out a bit longer than I had hoped, so despite all the other things I loved, it accounts for the full star loss in my rating.  I also got a bit tired of the convenient interruptions, but at least the author tried to make them look natural, so it was kind of a wash.

But there were a lot of other little things that I really ended up enjoying.  I loved seeing the other stories weave in and out of this book.  I could totally see the setup for at least 2 other stories, and I’m so happy that it looks like I’m going to get them!  I loved that Katy was a bit more dimensional than I was anticipating.  I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop and the stereotypical mean girl crap, but I was pleasantly surprised.  Ms. Lee managed to make her “not the one” without making her completely horrible.  And I LOVED Blondie Bear, aka Randy.  He was such a strange character, but I really loved what he added to the story.  Is it too much to ask for his story as well??

So yeah.  This book was by no means perfect, but I loved it despite its flaws.  Characters I loved (including secondary ones) and who felt realistic will always put it over the top for me.

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The Perfect Couple by Ginger Scott

Blurb:
36442861The perfect couple.

Nicole Laramie and Chase Pennington would forever be called that in their home town of Rider Springs. Chase’s grandmother, Evelyn, thought her neighbors’ only daughter and her grandson were made for each other ever since the two of them were kids.

When Chase climbed a tree, Nicole climbed it higher.
When Nicole fell from her ten-speed and skinned her knee, Chase carried her home.
And when Chase took the field for Little League, Nicole cheered the loudest.

Inseparable.

Until they were strangers.

While Chase climbed the social ladder in high school, Nicole climbed the academic one. Two best friends became enemies. And when the senior class voted them MOST PERFECT COUPLE in the yearbook, it was meant as a joke.

Only Evelyn, she never thought it was funny. She thought it was fate. And she was willing to wait 10 years just to prove she was right.

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My Review:
4 stars — I received a free copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

This was surprisingly satisfying for a novella!  I’m always on the fence about standalone novellas for exactly that reason, usually they’re too short to really get you invested in the characters or to feel like you have a complete plot.  I love them for bonuses on series though.  This is a complete standalone however, and I ended it with a smile on my face.

I will say that the blurb is a bit misleading…we didn’t get to see the childhood friendship that’s described there.  Some of it, yes, but Chase and Nicole seem to have had a bit of an unusual childhood friendship.  I did love the flip through the photo album though, to fill in a few of those gaps.  To be honest, I forgot what this story was supposed to be about, so I kind of forgot they were childhood best friends until at least a third of the way through the story.

I was completely sucked in, and while I hadn’t intended to read it all last night when I started it after midnight, I found I couldn’t stop once I’d started.  I was sucked in by the interactions between our characters.  They both felt very real, and like people I would enjoy hanging out with.  Nicole was harder to pin down at first, b/c she’s described as very awkward, and I almost got the mistaken impression that perhaps she was on the autism spectrum.  But no, just socially awkward.

I loved the way Chase took care of Nicole when she was sick, and while the date kind of came out of nowhere for me, I did enjoy how the relationship developed into more.  And while I really felt Chase’s remorse in his POV, I wouldn’t have minded a more frank apology to Nicole for the way he behaved (though I might be misremembering).

And strangely enough, while the ending came a bit quick, I loved how unconventional it was!  Showed strength of character by both of them.  Would love to see an epilogue short story with these two!