A Curious Woman by Jess Lea

I picked up A Curious Woman by Jess Lea on an impulse. I was looking for something different and was struck by the book’s description of quirkiness and fun. I’m down for a good rom-com and I am always curious about a new author from Ylva Publishing.

Bess Campbell is learning to live a grounded grateful life. She has an off the grid tiny house, a handful of chickens and a job she absolutely loves at a hip and zany museum of oddities. Bess is a total hipster who lives her life quoting self-help mantras. She is a ray of positivity and light, with a heart of pure gold.

Margaret Gale is Bess’s direct opposite. Margaret is stern, rigid and has guarded herself against everyone in her small seaside town. She is an outcast whose past is shrouded in gossip and rumors. Margaret comes across very cold and unforgiving but really has built a fortress around herself not to let anyone hurt her again.

These two are thrown together when Bess’s boss and Margaret’s rival, Leon is murdered. Everyone in Port Bannir immediately thinks Ms. Gale is the killer and is ready to pin it on her. Bess comes to Margaret’s defense and they begin a journey of uncovering who done it in this sleepy small town.

What I liked about this book is 100% about Bess and Margaret. They were fascinating characters and their interactions together were delightful. The murder mystery was interesting but nowhere near as gripping as the romance. I wish there had been more of it. I’m hoping that this is a series where we get to see Bess and Margaret take on the bad guys again. For Jess Lea’s first book I thought she produced an amazing debut. She is definitely an author whose works I will be reading again.

3.75 out of 5 stars

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Pretending in Paradise by M. Ullrich

I love a good fauxmance. Hence the word good! If this troupe is done right, in the end, you have a delightful romance. What I really love about the whole fake girlfriend scenario is you have these tricky moments that both parties have to navigate to “prove” that their love is the real deal. M. Ullrich brings the heat every book she writes but this one took a lot of skill to pull off. Why? She gave us two characters that were not easy sells. What I mean by that is both characters had their flaws, big personality traits, you as the reader don’t automatically pull for them, its actually quite to opposite.

The gist of the story is you have Caroline Beckett, a PR specialist, who comes into a new job with an internet travel company, straight into a problem she needs to fix quickly. Her problem is travel blogger Emma Morgan and her on the side hookups while at destinations she is reviewing. So throw these two together in Miami while Emma reviews an exclusive couples only resort and Caroline keeps an eye on the wily blogger.

This one is a slow burn, you have two characters that resent being put in the position they are in. Therefore they resent being in the same room together. These ladies did not hit it off at all. I am here to tell you in the first few chapters you are going to wonder how this is a romance. It was not looking good my friends. These two have a lot of personalities and they are going to clash, I had to wince a few times. As the story progresses these two find their footing, common ground and begin to look through a new lens. The rocky start morphs into more slowly and you the reader are right there for it all.

This is a great read by M. Ullrich. I always expect so much from this amazing author and she has yet to let me down. A fantastic read that will not disappoint.

4.25 out of 5 stars

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Love to the Rescue (A Rivers Community Romance #5) by Radclyffe

I am always looking for an amazing romance story. Capture my heart, invest me in their story, give me tension, a bit on anguish and a whole lot of delicious spellbinding dialogue. I want that from every book I read. I know a lot to ask, but when I come across one it’s like hitting the lotto. Picking up a Radclyffe book, you are guaranteed it’s going to be good, but this time, this one is great!

Brody Clark is headed home. She signed up to partner with her co-workers, keeping the trio together for a new venture. With little friends and not much to speak of in the way of a personal life this former Army medic didn’t even ask where to move was to when her team asked her to join. The unexpected twist she didn’t account for was the transfer would be bringing her back to the one place she ran from. Growing up, Brody had it hard. Her mother was addicted to drugs, sold her body for income and passed away to young. Brody was taken in by her friend, Flan and lived with the Rivers family through high school. Brody spent her teenage years always in the background quiet and steady but never really knowing her true value. After a late night accident, she left Flann and her new family joining the military and never returning to the one place that held so much of her past.

Dr. Sydney Valentine has come home as well. Val grew up with the Rivers too. She was the wild rich party girl during her teenage years always chasing Flan and whoever else caught her fancy. This teenage reputation is one this veterinarian would rather forget. Back in her home town to assist her injured mentor, Val is confronted with her past, as well as revealing who she really is.

Brody and Val have chemistry for days. Goodness, gracious these two sizzle page after page. Where this book really shines is in the romance department. It is front and center and is just so damn good. An easy five-star book and one I can’t wait to read again. Radclyffe always delivers a good book this just happens to be one of her great ones.

5 out of 5 stars

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The Do-Over by Georgia Beers

Georgia Beers is one of my favorites. She has a beautiful writing style that captures both the imagination and the heart. You can count on Beers to give you a quality well-paced book each and every time. Pretty amazing, right?

Easton Evans is coming off a divorce. Not a messy one, but one of mutual respect, positive interactions and co-parenting their seven year-old daughter. Easton married her high-school sweetheart and after years of marriage finally admitted to herself, her husband and close friends that she was a lesbian. When we meet Easton she is working through her guilt of a failed marriage, parenting an unruly adolescent and grappling with a corporate merger that has left her the bad guy to her new sales staff. When the company bigwigs ask her and the other managers to attend conflict resolution, Easton has no choice but to attend.

Bella Hunt is the therapist that will be running the six-week course that Easton and her co-workers will attend. Bella knows Easton from high-school and is dreading working with her former classmate. Bella had a nightmare experience in school and struggled to endure and escape that time period. The memories of the bullying she faced are more than enough. While Bella is a well-rounded accomplished adult, you cannot help but notice that her youth left a few forever scars. When Bella realizes that Easton doesn’t remember her she decides to keep their past a secret. Why go back through those emotions is she can just endure a six-week class? One major problem, she cannot help be drawn to grown-up Easton Evans.

From the beginning, the story has flashbacks of the characters when they were in high school. You become invested in their past as much as their present. You ache for the young girls that were dealing with insecurities, one in the popular crowd, the other the object of their bullying. The chemistry The Do-Over is absolutely amazing and the high school flashbacks are perfectly written so as not to distract or confuse but to add to the plot. They brought depth to the story and gave you more insight into the present day leading ladies. This is another fabulous book from Georgia Beers.

4 out of 5 stars

Hooked on You by Jenn Matthews

Jenn Matthews’s book Hooked on You by takes you into the world of crochet with a heavy dose of romance. One of our main characters Ollie owns a craft store that offers crochet lessons. This group comes together not only to create scarves and throws but also as a support network for people that need a friendly face. The group finds that in Ollie, a 50+ year old ex-soldier that carries a ton of baggage from her time in the Middle East, her divorce and being a lesbian.

Anna, our other main character decides to find a hobby at the request of her college-aged daughter. Anna spends all of her time working as an English teacher and her kids think she needs something for herself. She decides on crochet and that takes her to Ollie. A woman she just cannot help but be smitten with.

This one was a tough one to nail down when it comes to a rating. First and foremost the book is well written. I thought that Jenn Matthews did a great job with character development and dialogue. The secondary characters add depth to the story and really make it shine. The romance felt authentic like this book could mimic a real-life love story. What holds me back a bit is that the pace was slow. I mean really, really slow and pretty heavy-handed in the crochet department. It almost felt a bit repetitive when it comes to crochet but the romance was written well enough to make up for talks of hooks and stitches.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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Listen by Kris Bryant

Kris Bryant did an outstanding job with this book. Her best work so far! Listen is so sweet and compelling you just cannot help but fall in love with the characters she has created.

Lily Croft is a 27-year-old hermit. She spends the majority of her time in her Chicago apartment with her rescued tomcat. Lily lives for math and she excels at her finance focused career. She does not interact with anyone other than basic conversations. With no friends or family, this amazingly talented woman has shut herself off from the world. Why? Lily is a child music prodigy. Leading symphonies by the time she was 11 years old. With that talent came unspeakable demands and abuse from her parents. Forced to play 24/7, Lily began to have mental health issues including social phobia. Therefore she cut everyone out of her life, including the music that she once loved so much.

Hope De’Marco is also a musician. Hope runs a grant-funded music therapy studio that focuses on children with disabilities and inner-city kids. Lily just happens to be sub-contracted to a company that is right by Hope’s studio. One evening on her way home Lily hears Hope playing and it sparks curiosity in her and draws her to the music. She continues to go by the studio to hear the pianist play again.

Hope and Lily have a charming romance. Its gentle pace has you rooting for Lily’s growth and cheering Hope’s gentleness. What Bryant really excels at with this story is letting the reader feel the emotions of Lily. You feel her anxiety rippling off the page. When she was in a social experience that sparked her anxiety you were right there with her feeling those heart-pounding emotions. You root for Lily’s growth, you are dazzled by Hope’s kindness and you are terrified for that inevitable shoe to drop. A great book that keeps you spellbound to the end. You leave this one with a massive smile on your face.

4.25 out of 5 stars

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Payback by Charlotte Mills

Oh wowzers! Payback is a solid whodunit with smart twists and turns that keep you turning the page. You are working just as hard as the detectives to keep up with this one. Charlotte Mills has written a delightful police drama filled with romance, banter, and suspense. Did I mention this book was smart?

Detective Constable Kate Wolfe has been sent to Warner, a small rural town as punishment for a screw-up. We don’t know what Kate did but it must have big enough for the brass to send her away far away from London. She super sullen about being sent away and her attitude towards everyone speaks volumes about her level of pissed off. Kate’s arrival just happens to coincide with an unexpected rash of crimes. So she might be mad but she’s also busy.

Detective Chief Inspector Helen Taylor had her time in a big city. For years she worked in Manchester but decided to leave the urban epicenter for the laid back life of Warner. While Kate is sullen and prickly, Helen is cheeky and fun-loving. She knows Kate is mad and she prods her with humor and sass until she finally chips away at the walls of the new detective. From the moment these two formidable ladies meet there is heat and attraction. How Mills writes the interactions between Kate and Helen is skillful and dynamic. It keeps you on your toes much as the crimes everyone is trying to figure out.

You really feel like you are in the investigative process of two highly skilled detectives juggling multiple cases. Often times in crime based novel the romance is a lesser part of the whole story. Not this one! Charlotte Mills does a fantastic job of balancing both the romance and crime aspects and weaving them together to make an excellent story. Not to mention there is a monster holy moly guacamole moment. Damn, I never saw it coming and that was awesome. This is a great book you will not regret picking up.

4 out of 5 stars

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