Secrets in a Small Town by Nicole Stiling

Nicole Stiling’s debut novel Secrets in a Small Town is a dynamic romance meets mystery that keeps you on your toes yet smiling page to page. No worries with this one, you won’t be scared to turn out the lights but you will be enchanted and thoroughly entertained.

Savannah Castillo is the town manager of a sleepy little community of fewer than 1,500 people. She picked this small town specifically because it was an ideal place to raise her daughter, Eliana. Savannah is 100% an ice queen. She lets no one, other than her little one, close to her. This control fanatic is disturbed by the sudden onslaught of mysterious gifts. They arrive at her office and home at all given times with no sender to be found. The gifts start increasing in frequency as well as becoming more and more threating. Savannah thinks she can handle this on her own until her assistant goes over her head and involves the one person Savannah wants to avoid more than anyone, the chief of police, Micki Blake.

Micki loves working in Winter Valley. She was worried when she left the hustle and bustle of the city she would be bored. Come to find out she likes the slow pace of small-town life. The only thorn in her side is that the town manager seems to loathe her for reasons she can’t quite grasp. Micki takes Savannah’s attitude in stride and throws it right back at her needling the uptight town manager whenever she gets the chance. You really can’t rule this lighthearted good-natured police chief. When Micki’s friend and Savannah’s executive assistant, Chloe, brings the gift situation to Micki’s attention, the chief is bound and determined to help her abrasive nemesis.

Nicole Stiling can write a damn good book that is for sure. My mind is still boggled a bit that this is a debut novel. It really has a good flow, the plot is dynamic and the dialogue reads very natural. From the very first page, I was drawn to the story and the main characters. As caustic as Savannah was at times I still liked her and Micki is just a main you are immediately drawn to. There were enough twists and turns in who the stalker might be that I was guessing to the end. I will definitely be reading what Nicole Stiling has to offer next.

4.25 out of 5 stars

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Falling by Kris Bryant

The premise for Falling really drew me in. I don’t have a fear of flying but every single time I go through a takeoff, I hold my breath. Not my favorite thing when the plane goes at breakneck speed and launches itself into the air. Totally just shuddered. This book has so many emotions running through it. The beginning is intense and gripping. There is sorrow, pain, doubt but there is also the sweetest romance. This book is by far Kris Bryant’s best work. She nailed every aspect of this book and it is every bit worth the 5 stars of this review.

When we meet Shaylie Beck she is having a crappy day. A long meeting, late flight, sucky seatmates that spend hours making out but she is almost home. Almost. Shaylie takes a last minute bathroom break before the plane begins to descend. That is when all hell really breaks loose. You got it, worst nightmare moments as the plane begins to break apart and head for a crash landing in the forest of Colorado. Shaylie is one of the few survivors.

Piper Cole isn’t on the plane, but her heart is. Her fiance and best friend/business partner are flying home from a business meeting in New York. She lost everything that night when the plane went down. Devastated and alone, Piper trudges on with work as Yoga studio owner but she wants answers as to why the plane went down.

Piper and Shaylie meet in grief counseling and immediately strike up an easy friendship. They become a lifeline for each other. Piper is processing her sadness and pain while Shaylie is going through survivors guilt and learning how to really live. Don’t think this book is the ultimate bummer because it is anything but. While you do witness all their emotions they are both amazing characters that really become endeared to your heart. I absolutely adored their friendship and rooted for the romance the whole time. The supporting characters that are in this book are also written marvelously and really make the book extra special.

This is a story you don’t want to pass on. A fabulous read that you will have a hard time putting down. Maybe don’t read it as you board your plane though. This is an easy 5 stars!

5 out of 5 stars

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The Road to Madison by Elle Spencer

I fell in love with Elle Spencer’s writing style after I stumbled open Casting Lacey. Such a fun read with a fabulous push-pull dynamic between the two leading ladies, it really had that something special that makes a book memorable. The Road to Madison is no different, this book will break your heart, make you smile and have your fingers crossed that true love wins in the end. A damn fine read!

When we meet the two main characters Madison Prescott has just buried her father. This is a man she despised with her whole being. She is standing by his grave glad that he is gone and can no longer control her life. Ana Perez picks that exact moment, graveside, to reappear fifteen years later. Ana and Madison were childhood sweethearts. Star crossed lovers from a different class, madly in love but torn apart by the cruelness of George Prescott and the power and influence he yielded. In Madison’s dreamworld, once her father was out of the picture, she could reclaim the love the heart of the girl she once let go. The only problem is Ana’s heart has never healed and she has never forgiven Madison for turning her back on their future.

Elle Spencer weaves a tale of full of sadness, remorse but one filled with those little moments that make you have the flutters. Her characters are well developed, the dialogue is seamless and natural, you really get thrown right into Madison and Anna’s world. You feel what they feel. This book grabbed my attention and had me turning the pages through the night. A delightful story that I thoroughly enjoyed. I cannot wait for the next adventure Elle Spencer takes me on.

4.25 out of 5 stars

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Cash and the Sorority Girl by Ashley Bartlett (Cash Braddock | Book 3)

This is the third book in the Cash Braddock series. I live for this series. Live. For. It! I love the paradox that is Cash. This amazing human being with her genuine spirit just pulls to me. On the flip side, she’s a drug dealer so there is there conundrum you find yourself as the reader in. It’s glorious. Totally love Cash, you get it.

In this one, Cash is still a CI for the Sacramento PD, and her handler Laurel, the detective she is head over heels in love with. Cash’s cash flow is stagnant, she wants to get back at the rival dealer that has snaked all her old clients, she has no idea what her future outside of dealing hold yet she is drawn to helping Laurel and her colleagues track down a fresh batch of bad guys. Ketamine is being used at the local university to drug and rape young women specifically at frat parties. It really hits the fan with Laurel’s younger sister, Lane is raped.

If I can say one thing about this book is that Cash and Lane’s friendship and their time together is breathtakingly beautiful and totally awesome. You really feel that bond come right off the page. Cash is there for Lane in a way not many people can understand. Of course, Cash and Laurel are amazing too. Their chemistry just pulls at you. These two have so much baggage and issues yet they get each other. Laurel is having hell with this case, her feelings of how to cope with what happened to Lane. It’s a lot but it is a great read. I desperately need the next one. I cannot say enough good things about this book. I am absolutely addicted to this series.

5 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

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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Pursuit of Happiness by Carsen Taite

I am not going to lie, I was very hesitant to pick up a book based on politics. In today’s political climate it is hard enough to read the news every day without becoming more and more depressed. I read to escape, so whether its fact or fictional politics, is that an area I want to wade into? The author is was what sold me on this one. I like Taite’s style of writing. She is consistent in terms of quality and always writes strong female characters that are as intelligent as they are beautiful.

Senator Meredith Mitchel is part of a political dynasty. Her family knows the political arena well. Being president is a dream of Meredith’s but that’s years from now. When the story begins, Meredith is fully backing another female Democrat, a senior senator from Texas who has been positioning herself for the presidency for years. A wrench is suddenly thrown in Merideth’s plan to wait out this presidential cycle. A damning scandal hits and suddenly Meredith’s name has shot to the very top of the candidate wish list. The biggest question is does she go for it, and everyone is pushing for a yes, everyone but the women she has developed the biggest crush on.

Our other main is Stevie Palmer. Stevie is a public defender in DC who avoids politics at all cost. She will testify before Congress on criminal justice reform but anything more than that is too much. Her focus is on her work and ensuring justice for her clients. Through hard work and a ton of sacrifices, Stevie has found herself in a job she loves and friends she can count on. As attracted as she is to Senator Mitchel dating a presidential nominee is overwhelming and the spotlight is blinding.

First off, yes this book deals with politics, but I would not say it is not a political heavy book. I think more than anything it makes you wish this was real life and not what we are currently living through. I really liked both characters and I thought their romance was sweet but the story needed to focus on them as much as it did on Meredith’s campaign. I felt it tilted more towards a drama than a true romance. My biggest fault with this book is that the ending was way too fast and abrupt. It felt like the pacing was off when the book was screaming for more chapters. We hit the crescendo of the story and then bam the end. I needed more and I wanted more from this book. Still good, just could have been great.

3 stars out of 5 stars

A Wish Upon a Star by Jeannie Levig

A Wish Upon a Star by Jeannie Levig is a fabulous read. This book has those little moments that pull at your heartstrings. A slow burn romance that uses tension in the most glorious way. Leving writes a balanced well-written book with characters that you just cannot get enough of. So damn good!

Leslie Raymond has had her heart shattered. The wounds are deep and extraordinarily painful she decides to move from her home in Florida back to her childhood residence in Burbank, California. This is a chance for a new beginning, a chance to heal and start fresh. What is she isn’t prepared for is her gorgeous neighbor and her amazing daughter.

Erica Cooper is a college professor and mother to Siena, a special needs child that that is on the autistic spectrum. Siena is immediately taken to Leslie and her dog. They strike up and unlikely friendship that is filled with understating, patience and kindness.

Erica and Leslie each have baggage and trust issues from previous relationships. They develop an easy friendship that builds as the story moves along. It feels real, I cannot say how impressive these characters are. They are three dimensional and are 100% relatable. Not to mention the chemistry between Erica and Leslie is out of this world.

What makes this book special is not just the two mains and their romance but how Siena and even Gus, the dog all play such an intricate role in the book. You cannot help but fall in love with them all. This is an amazing story.

5 out of 5 stars

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books                       https://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/books/a-wish-upon-a-star-by-jeannie-levig-2726-b