Hotel Queens

By Lee Winter

The blurb from the publisher…

Ice meets fire in this opposites-attract lesbian romance, as layered, sassy, and smart as its characters.

Over one long night at a bar in Las Vegas, two powerful hotel executives meet, flirt, and challenge each other—having no clue they’re rivals after the same dream deal.

Brilliant ice queen Amelia Duxton is a hotel vice president who thrives on control, truth, and efficiency. She’s in no mood for love or the mess it brings. All she wants is to buy the coveted Mayfair Palace—a massive deal that could finally help her land the CEO job in her family’s hotel empire.

Fiery Kai Fisher is charming and chaotic and renowned for closing ambitious deals. Her sights are set on snatching the Mayfair Palace out from under the nose of her hated arch rivals, the Duxton family.

But when secrets emerge and everything starts to fall apart, how can either of the warring women win—especially when they’ve just met their match?

My thoughts…

Lee Winter has done it again; she’s produced another exceptional book! Hotel Queens is a complex romantic tale rich in detail, dimension and satisfaction. Winter, as per usual, gives her readers an engaging and compelling story that is very hard to put down.

Winter threads this story with one of lesfic readers’ most favorite tropes—the ice queen. She excels in storytelling that is driven by dynamic characters with frosty exteriors; it’s no wonder readers are so drawn to her books. She’s a master at creating characters with bad-ass reputations and complex personalities. She often places her “queens” in executive roles, giving these strong, formidable women a place to strut their stuff. Hotel Queens follows suit and does not disappoint by providing readers with an intriguing and enthralling story.

Winter’s books always shine because she does the leg work; she does her research. She knows all the nuances of her characters and the worlds in which they inhabit. Most notably, though, she conveys all of this to her readers quite readily. Readers understand what motivates her characters, what drives her characters and what gives them pause. Winter gives readers appreciable characters that are sound and cogent. Bottom line, her character development is outstanding and the storytelling thrives because of it.

Main character Amelia Duxton holds the role of ice queen in this suspenseful, plot twisting romance. She is seen as a cool, measured and detailed-oriented math genius with an analytical mind meant for business. She is a bit introverted and repressed, yet she exudes nothing but confidence as she runs her family’s European hotel chain, employing a calm and predictable leadership based on numbers and facts. The universe will do as it pleases, though, and decides to conspire against her, ultimately delivering a whirlwind of chaos in the form one named Kai Fisher.

Kai, the other lead in this entertaining romance, is a delightfully charming character that adds a whole other level to the story. Winter refers to Kai as a “fire ice queen,” and her persona certainly adds an intense and compelling dynamic when paired with Amelia, the traditional ice queen. Their chemistry is off the charts; the push and pull between them is fantastic. Together the two make for entertaining and engrossing reading.

Kai is a marketing manager and deal maker for an upscale New York based hotel enterprise. She’s known in the industry as The Closer and knows how to make things happen. She has a fiery temper and can be quite unpredictable, something Amelia is not. However, there’s something captivating about Kai and Amelia can’t stop thinking about her. Maybe it’s Kai’s charisma and charm, or maybe it’s her sharp mind and her intuitive nature. It’s hard to say for sure, but either way, Kai has the beauty and brains to hold Amelia’s attention.

If you are a Swan Queen fan, then you’ll love this book. It has a fantastic Regina Mills vibe to it that readers can appreciate. If you aren’t familiar with the Swan Queen fandom, but enjoy well-written stories full of engaging characters, romance, suspense and intrigue, then this book will surely delight. Centered around ice queens and business executives, the storytelling is just plain fabulous. Hotel Queens is top-shelf and I highly recommend it.

Strengths…

  • Well-written
  • Intriguing, dynamic characters
  • Superb pacing
  • Suspense is nicely executed
  • Fantastic character development
  • Clever and witty dialog

An except from Hotel Queens…

As she entered the Prohibition Bar, Kai’s head whipped around the tables, seeking her quarry. The room comprised Roaring Twenties-themed paintings, a barman in suspenders and a pin-striped shirt, and a few assorted customers sitting around.

Damn it. Would it be too much for Nedal al-Hamadani to sit in one place for longer than ten minutes? With a disappointed sigh, Kai slid onto a bar stool, summoned the bartender, and ordered a Negroni.

An hour later, she was debating whether to call it a night when a woman entered. Kai stilled as she recognized her immediately.

It was her. The commanding, “ I own the whole damn universe” guest from the lobby.

With an appraising eye, the woman slowly took in her surroundings, as if she were cataloging the room. There was such a stillness to her.

Kai’s breath caught.

The woman slid onto a bar stool two down from Kai, somehow making that graceful despite how high the seats were.

With a long index finger, the woman tapped the counter once. Her pronounced tap was sharp, and the flick of her wrist allowed Kai a glimpse of her watch. A vintage Gallet.

A Gallet. She drew in an impressed breath. Kai’s weakness was luxury watches, and this one was as divine as it was rare.

When she ordered, the woman’s clipped, cool voice was the polar opposite of what Kai’s insides were doing.

Then she registered what the woman had ordered.

Kai lended across the vacant stool between them, smiling at this beautiful stranger, suddenly knowing exactly what to say.

“Brave woman, ordering that.”

This book is available for purchase from…

  • Ylva Publishing
  • Amazon (December 2, 2020)
  • Barnes and Noble (December 2, 2020)

Available formats…

  • Ebook
  • Audiobook (early 2021, narrator-Angela Dawe)

Thirsty Thursdays

By Elena Graf

The blurb from the publisher…

Hobbs, Maine, is gradually reopening after the lockdown. Town doctor Liz Stolz has begun a new tradition, Thirsty Thursdays, a weekly cocktail party on her deck, so her friends can socialize safely.

Architect Samantha McKinnon has recently moved to Maine to start a renovation business. Liz recommends Sam to do a bathroom remodel for the most hated woman in town, Olivia Enright—a super-rich, retired hedge fund manager whose outspoken, right-wing views have alienated everyone, especially police chief, Brenda Harrison. Meanwhile, Brenda’s budding relationship with her biracial girlfriend, Cherie Bois, is on rocky ground after the high-profile death of a black man at the hands of the police.

The pandemic has taken an economic toll on the town. Liz is keeping Hobbs Family Practice going with her own money because people are afraid to go to the doctor. Donations to St. Margaret’s have plummeted, and Reverend Lucy Bartlett wonders how they’ll pay the parish salaries and maintain the church. An impulsive kiss shakes up friendships and relationships. Meanwhile, pretentious, overbearing Olivia is pursuing Sam and trying to find her way into the tight-knit group. Will the down-to-earth, independent women of Hobbs accept an outsider who’s so different?

My thoughts…

This is the fourth full-length novel in the Hobbs series by Graf. As the series progresses, it continues to entertain and delight readers. Thirsty Thursdays employs trademark storytelling similar to any ongoing dramatic series; it utilizes overlapping story arcs and reoccurring characters, as well as new characters and new storylines. Readers can read any of the books in the Hobbs series, including Thirsty Thursdays, independently, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. The characters have rich, full backstories that enhance each book. The storytelling and character development builds and grows with each new book, giving the series layers and dimension. Together, the four full-length novels (and one Christmas novella) comprise a beautifully written and intriguing dramatic series.

I’ve reviewed several of Graf’s books and have applauded her ability to pen such insightfully crafted works featuring mature women. The Hobbs series honestly and realistically reflects women that are in their late 50’s and early 60’s. I think it’s important to give voice to this generation in lesbian fiction. Stories centered around young, fresh and vibrant lesbians starting careers and searching for love are absolutely fun to read, but it’s refreshing to see modern day issues affecting Baby Boomers and Gen Xers in lesfic, too. In my opinion, there isn’t enough representation of older LGBTQ main characters in fiction. Therefore, seeing lesbians plan for retirement or enjoy relationships with their grandchildren is a welcome sight. It is relevant and appreciated.

Graf introduces readers to some new characters in book four. Most significantly, they meet Olivia Enright, a newly settled resident of Hobbs. She adds an interesting dynamic as she tries to settle into small town life. Her transition is anything but smooth and she generates much talk during this unusual and troubling time. The world is still dealing with the Corona virus and the pandemic is hitting Hobbs hard. The election campaigns are underway and the political climate is heated. The town is struggling to stay afloat during these rough times and Olivia’s strong personality and air of superiority and arrogance is not warmly welcomed. Well-intended or not, she insists on ram-rodding herself into the middle of the tight knit group and their small town affairs. Much talk is generated as the Hobbs women bristle at her opinionated and intrusive ways. Everything is an uphill battle for her until one of their own begins to fall for her.

Olivia comes off as a bit of an ice-queen. She’s hard to like at first. She’s abrasive. She’s bossy. She’s pushy. However, as the story moves along, readers begin to sympathize with her. Do they love her? No, probably not. They do, however, begin to connect with her on an emotional level. As her backstory is revealed, they begin to see what motivates her. They begin to understand her fears and her regrets. Graf gets readers to invest in Olivia somewhere during the rising action; she shows readers through Olivia’s actions that she is a complex and intriguing character worth keeping. When a writer can run the character development 360 degrees, and keep the readers believing in the story, that is good writing!

It is interesting to see a Corona related story while still in the throes of the pandemic, but Graf does an excellent job with it. She knows how to keep things relevant and timely. She engages us with her compelling characters and their moral dilemmas. The relationships she creates with her cast of characters is most certainly enthralling. Graf has the talent to draw readers in and hold them there until the last page. Upon completion, they are left wanting more—more Liz, more Lucy, more Cherie, more Hobbs!

I would encourage readers to place Thirsty Thursdays in their “to be read” pile. It draws upon lovely threads of friendship and love, and who doesn’t need more of that in these difficult times? Additionally, Thirsty Thursdays gives readers a chance to appreciate Graf’s sound writing and solid storytelling. This is a book not to be missed!

Strengths…

  • Well written
  • Interesting, likable characters
  • Intriguing storyline
  • Nicely paced
  • Timely and relevant

This book is available from…

Available formats…

  • Paperback
  • Ebook

Lucky

By Kris Bryant

The blurb from the publisher…

Winning the lottery is the best thing that’s ever happened to Serena Evans. Gone are the days of living paycheck to paycheck. On her own and fully funded, Serena’s excited to open Pet Posh Inn. She can’t imagine a more fulfilling dream than caring for and being surrounded by animals. 

Gabrielle Barnes can’t understand why anyone would dump millions of dollars into a pet daycare, but if she wants to prove herself worthy of a partner position at Arnest & Max Architecture, she’s going to have paste on a smile while designing the ridiculous waste of space.

Serena’s kindness and big heart draw Gabrielle in, but her stubbornness drives a wedge between them. As the design builds, so does their attraction.

Was Serena’s luck really about money, or is she about to get lucky in love?

My thoughts…

Lucky is shaping up to be another winner for Kris Bryant, earning her closely to 4.5 stars in reviews on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble since its release in June. That’s not a real surprise to anyone familiar with Bryant’s work; she’s a talented writer. She’s garnered quite a readership over the course of her career. Her books not only speak to readers, they earn her a multitude of awards.

I enjoyed Lucky. There are quite a few nice things going on inside its pages. The storyline is an intriguing concept; it’s always fun to imagine winning the lottery and living your days out in your dream life. Serena puts readers right there with this story. No one deserves a cool 42 million more than her. She’s had to pinch and save her whole life, not to mention take care of her younger sister and their sometimes MIA mom. Serena is easy to like; she’s warm and friendly in a girl-next-door kind of way. Readers are drawn to her shy vulnerability and her tender, caring heart.

Readers find Gabrielle to be a good contrast in this sweet romance; she is Serena’s opposite in many ways. Even though they are both hardworking and independent young women, they come from very different backgrounds. Gabrielle has always enjoyed a comfortable life surrounded by a loving, stable family. Growing up with a strong support system has granted her the ability to blossom into a successful and confident woman with a promising career in a competitive architectural firm. Her responsibilities are much different than Serena’s; she needs to only take care of herself and manage her busy career. She has little time for anything else—that is until she meets Serena.

Serena and Gabrielle fit together nicely in this story. Their romance has a natural chemistry. Readers find them sweet and adorable together. However, the secondary characters are what really adds the charm to this romance. They help pull the romance together with their entertaining interruptions and nosey intrusions. It’s all in good spirit and fun, though. In fact Rosie, Gabrielle’s best friend, is one of my favorite meddlesome friends. Her spot-on observations and witty remarks add so much to this story. I wouldn’t have minded more scenes with her; she is a gem.

Bryant is a seasoned romance writer; she knows how to plot and plan a lovely romance. However, there are points in the storytelling that I feel are a bit “thin.” The storyline regarding Serena’s mom leaves readers wondering what happened; they feel left out of the loop. The sub-plot is wrapped up with not much scene time. Considering that her mom is a big part of her backstory and the source of all her invisible wounds and baggage, it seems reasonable that there should have been more of a window into their contentious split. Readers would have no doubt cheered Serena on as she stood up to her mother in a compelling scene. It would have definitely pushed the narrative and shed light on their parting in ways readers weren’t granted access. Now readers are only left to fill in the gaps and imagine how it all played out.

All in all, Lucky is a sweet romance. I would recommend it to readers that enjoy comfortable contemporary romances. It’s definitely one lesfic readers can lean back and savor. It’s the perfect read for a lazy day.

Strengths…

  • Entertaining
  • Delightful secondary characters
  • Imaginative story arc
  • Likable and engaging leading ladies

This book can be purchased from…

Available formats…

  • Paperback
  • Ebook
  • Audiobook

The Flaw in Our Design

By Monica McCallan

The blurb from the publisher…

Olivia Carver’s life in Lake Cabot, New York is simple. That’s how she likes it, even if she can’t stop the town she loves from being overrun by wealthy tourists each summer. When she’s not working at her family’s paddleboard shop or spending time with her lovable but infuriating brothers, she puts her energy into writing professionally, a dream that has yet to materialize.

Valerie Maycomb used to summer in Lake Cabot with her family when she was younger, until school and planning for her future became the driving forces in her existence. For the first time in years, following her college graduation, she’s spending a few months in the small, lakeside town she loved as a child. All she wants is a little time to decompress before law school in the fall and maybe even strike up the courage to talk to a woman.

A chance meeting at the lake opens up the possibility of a summer romance, with the explicit understanding that it can’t become something more. Olivia’s not built for falling in love, and Val needs to keep her eye on the prize of a successful career. But neither of them can deny the attraction, and summer quickly takes on a life of its own.

My thought…

The Flaw in Our Design is a lovely romance filled with beautiful lessons on life, love and loss. McCallan knows how to develop clever, witty characters that have so much charm and appeal. Her ability to create unique and quirky small town settings is what really sets her stories apart. She thrives at building interesting and dynamic places for her characters to come together, grow and challenge one another. This book definitely has all of that and more. The Flaw in Our Design is, without a doubt, another success for McCallan.

Val and Olivia’s love story is filled with tenderness and discovery, shining a light on so many things for them. Each character learns something new about themselves through their summer fling. Val learns that she’s created goals that don’t matter much to her, just her family, and she’s brave enough to stand up for herself and those she loves. Olivia learns that, no matter how hard one fights it, love can’t be stopped; it will come when you least expect it, filling your heart in ways nothing else can. Together they ultimately discover that summer flings can last well beyond summer.

I enjoyed both Val and Olivia. They are both well developed and fleshed out. Though their relationship starts out as just sexual, it develops into something with real substance. Readers can relate to them. Most importantly, however, they come to care about them. Readers see them as having something real, definable and dynamic. They have something that is aspirational, for sure.

McCallan makes good use of her secondary characters in this story, too. She uses the relationships between her main and secondary characters to push and challenge the main characters. These relationships drive the character arcs in intriguing and compelling ways. The special-and often pivotal-moments between these characters are beautifully and poignantly scripted. They are just so well done. It is delightful to see.

The Flaw in Our Design is a solid romance. It is well written, compelling and engaging. It’s narrative is fresh and youthful. It’s a pleasurable read from start to finish. Lesbian contemporary romance readers won’t want to miss this one.

Strengths…

  • Compelling characters
  • Interesting small town setting
  • Nicely written
  • Easy to read

A little sample from The Flaw in Our Design…

“…I haven’t seen you running around with Val lately,” Olivia’s father said.

“Yeah,” Olivia said. He could lead her to water, but he couldn’t make her drink.

“Well, I miss seeing her around. It’s been great to see what she’s done both for the rental hut and Bean There. She’s a little bit of a business whiz, that one.”

Add it to the list of things Val was amazing at, though Olivia wasn’t going to go into detail with her dad on the others.

“Seems like she’s heading off at the end of the summer?” he asked, carrying the bone-crushing weight of the conversation alone on his broad shoulders.

At the mention of Val, Olivia had already drawn inward. She pretended like she was only thinking about her now because her dad had mentioned her when, in reality, Val was never far from Olivia’s mind. “Yep. To Chicago for law school.”

“Casts a little bit of a dark cloud over the summer?”

Olivia kicked her legs out from the shack and let them thud against the wooden panes. “Yep.”

He focused his attention out toward the lake. “You know, I always thought it was interesting how the best stories have the most conflict. Do you ever think about that with your writing?”

“In what way?” she asked, following his lead and watching the undulating waves. It made it easier, somehow, to not look into his knowing green eyes while they talked.

He shrugged, like this was the first time he’d ever considered the idea and was just spitballing. She knew him far better than that, but she let him go on anyway. “I mean, it wouldn’t be much of a story if nothing happened. If no one sacrificed anything. If no one learned from their mistakes.” He paused and threw a pebble sitting on the counter out onto the beach before adding, “I guess it wouldn’t be a story worth telling at all.”

“Is that what you think about when you’re telling a story?” she asked, turning the conversation back on him.

“All I think about is how I can best torture you guys,” he said with a mirthful laugh. When he finally settled down, he said, “But that’s the gist of it. The little moments that are strung together to become something more, something worth telling again, are because they teach us. Maybe it’s about the world. Maybe it’s about ourselves. Either way, we’re transformed by learning it. And as hard as it is to go through, transformation doesn’t happen without conflict in its many forms.”

She sulked like a temperamental teenager and started to roll the rock back and forth in her hands again. They were both too smart to pretend they didn’t know what this conversation was really about. “What if I don’t want to be transformed?”

He turned toward her then and gave her a lopsided smile that made her feel protected and warm, even if she didn’t love his next words. “I hate to burst your bubble, Jelly Bean, but I think you already have been. The question now is: How do you want this story to end?”

This book is available from…

Available formats…

  • Ebook

Aspen in Moonlight

By Kelly Wacker

The blurb from the publisher…

When art historian Melissa Warren inherits three of her grandmother’s paintings that have captivated her since childhood, she sets out to discover more about the little known artist and the locations of the mysterious landscapes. Her search takes her to the Colorado Bear Conservancy and the artist’s great-granddaughter, Sula Johansen.

Sula is reluctant to help Melissa, but their instant chemistry is impossible to ignore. Sula is torn between falling in love and hiding the truth about who and what she really is. Of course, if Melissa paid closer attention to minor details—like the fact that Sula enjoys nibbling berries off the vine, is unusually strong, and consumes way too much honey—Melissa might not be in for the shock of her life.

My thoughts…

I was very surprised to learn that this was Wacker’s first full length novel. This book doesn’t read like it was written by someone with a short list of published fiction. It reads like it it was penned by an author with a well cultivated resume. The storytelling is imaginative and engaging. The descriptions are splendid. The language is fluid and magnificent. Wacker is impressive; she knows how to bring the words to life in 3D technicolor.

The story involves something I typically don’t gravitate toward or read—shapeshifting. The concept seems, for lack of a better word, strange. It’s a subject and sub-genre that’s never really caught my attention or held my interest. This book, however, despite talk of hamask and she-bears, engaged me from the start. I wasn’t familiar with any of it and it didn’t matter. Wacker pulled me in and held me there with her lovely storytelling; I was captivated. She writes with such grace and intelligence. Her word building is finessed marvelously, giving the story depth and dimension. It truly highlights her talent as an imaginative and descriptive writer.

Both of the leading ladies are compelling, interesting and completely likable. They stand on their own, yet compliment each other quite nicely. The romance between them is tender, sweet, and yes, believable. My favorite scene underscores Wacker’s ability to sell this love story and make it not only believable, but charming. It’s when Sula realizes she can trust Melissa and their love for one another. She shapeshifts into her bear form and Melissa embraces who she is without judgement. She sees her and accepts her with complete love and tenderness. She is in awe of her beauty and magnificence as a she-bear. It is really a very lovely and touching scene.

This book was a wonderful surprise for me. I would absolutely encourage readers to pick this book up and indulge in its well written and imaginative prose. Wacker is a talented writer and I look forward to reading more from her.

Strengths…

  • Well written
  • Imaginative
  • Compelling
  • Descriptive
  • Beautiful use of language

A little sample from Aspen in Moonlight

Sula pointed to the letters on the table. “Somehow this all seems significant where we’re concerned.”

“What do you mean?”

Sula stared at the ceiling as if she might find the words she was looking for floating around in the rafters. “This might sound crazy, but it’s like we have a predisposition for one another.”

“That sounds so clinical. I’d like to think you were attracted to my intelligence and good looks.”

“Oh, I was! I mean, I am. Don’t get me wrong,” Sula said, the sudden intensity of her gaze unexpected. Her eyes flashed like glowing embers in a fire, reminding Melissa of the first time she saw her. Sula continued. “Your intelligence and good looks are only part of what I find so very attractive about you. You teach me things, and you make me think. You make me laugh, too. A lot. And I love that we have shared interests. You’re fascinated by so many of the things that are important to me. Nothing’s been the same since we met, Melissa. And I just keep thinking about how Ursula’s paintings brought you here and that our great-grandmothers knew each other—”

“Were lovers,” Melissa said gently.

“Yes, lovers…” Sula shifted her gaze to the letters. “It feels like we were supposed to meet.” Sula turned her head, and when their eyes locked, Melissa’s insides quivered, an achingly sweet sensation.

“It sounds like you’re talking about fate.”

“I suppose I might be.”

“Do you believe in it?” Melissa asked, narrowing her eyes at Sula, surprised at the unexpected shift to metaphysics in their conversation.

“I didn’t use to. But I might be reconsidering. How about you?”

“I do.” Melissa answered without giving it a second thought…

This book can be purchased from…

Available formats…

  • Paperback
  • Ebook

The Set Up

By T.B. Markinson

The blurb from the publisher…

Can a weekend change your fate?

As soon as Rory Price’s plane touches down in Britain for her two-year work contract, she has big plans to see and experience everything she can. The one thing that isn’t on the twenty-seven-year old’s agenda is a relationship.

Tell that to her matchmaking British friend who sets Rory up on a coffee date on her first full day in the new country. 

Imogen Wright doesn’t want any more complications in her life. The only thing she’s considering committing to is adopting a dog. 

Their blind date starts off disastrous, but there might be more than meets the eye. 

Will the two headstrong women continue to clash, or will they see what’s so obvious to their matchmaking friend?

Best-selling lesbian romance author T.B. Markinson, has written a touching and quirky novella about finding love when you least expect it. Read it today!

My thoughts…

The Set Up is a wonderfully developed and completely charming romantic novella set in the lovely boroughs and neighborhoods of London. It is told in first person from Rory Price’s point of view. Rory is an American that has been temporary transferred to London for work. She is eager to take advantage of every opportunity the city has to offer, including reconnecting with her old friend Jane. When she goes to meet Jane for coffee at a nearby cafe, she quickly realizes she isn’t the only one meeting Jane for coffee. Quirky and well-intentioned Jane has taken it upon herself to do a little covert matchmaking.

Jane, in her infinite wisdom and superior matchmaking skills, believes that Rory is the perfect match for her ex girlfriend, a native Londoner named Imogen Wright. As attempts to get the two ladies on board with her grand plan begin to fizzle, Jane puts her acting skills to work and fakes an emergency call, telling the two she must rush to the ER asap. Before she departs, though, she convinces Imogen to play tour guide for Rory for the day. Though hesitant, Imogen agrees and the two plot out a walking tour of sorts.

As the morning passes, Imogen begins to take delight in experiencing the city through Rory’s eyes. Rory savors every London sight and sound with gusto. Imogen can’t help but be charmed.

By the tour’s end, Rory is a bit smitten. She finds the complicated beauty with blue eyes an unexpected delight. Ultimately, she is left wondering if her melding matchmaker of a friend is right. Are she and Imogen a good fit for each other?

Though short, this story highlights all Markinson’s strengths as a writer. She excels in fun, quirky and adorable characters, and Rory and Imogen are all of that and more. She’s also known for scripting romances that are engaging and relatable; The Set Up is no different. Rory and Imogen’s romance has that “spark” that is so necessary for a believable and compelling love story. Additionally, Markinson knows how to craft dialog that drives the story forward and enhances the storytelling. The back and forth between Rory and Imogen is clever, witty and delightful. I literally laughed out loud at some of the lively banter.

This story is a real gem. I imagine novellas are hard to write. There isn’t much room for extra characters or complicated backstory. The story arc needs to be clean and character development needs to be sound. Additionally, each scene needs to drive the storytelling in engaging and purposeful ways. That is exactly what Markinson does here with The Set Up. This lovely novella is not only entertaining, but splendidly done.

If you haven’t read anything by T.B. Markinson yet, then I’d urge you to pick up a copy of The Set Up. It’s the perfect quick read to acquaint yourself with her style. If you are familiar with Markinson’s work, then you won’t be disappointed. It’s quintessential Markinson. It’s sweet, endearing, delightful and quirky. I absolutely recommended this refreshing romance.

Strengths…

  • Quick, light reading
  • Engaging storytelling
  • Sharp, witty dialog
  • Well-crafted narrative
  • Likable characters
  • Interesting setting

A little sample from The Set Up…

“Oh, you have no idea how much goes on inside here.” I pointed to my head. “And, here.” I placed a hand over my heart.

She gulped her water.

“Why did the mention of Paris scare you away?”

“It didn’t.” When I started to protest, she added, “That’s what scared me away.”

I blinked. Then again. “I think you’re going to have to explain that.”

“I wanted to jump on a train right then with you. Knowing that did my head in.” She cupped the back of her head. “I needed time to process it.”

“Let me see if I’m getting this straight. You bailed after lunch because you want to run away with me to Paris. So instead of running with me, you ran from me?”

“Exactly.”

“That’s the nicest thing I’ve heard all day. Maybe ever.”

From The Set Up by T.B. Markinson

The book is available from…

Available formats…

  • Ebook

The Big Tow

By Ann McMan

The blurb from the publisher…

Welcome to the National Recovery Bureau, where your assets are as sacred as God’s holy word.

Vera “Nick” Nicholson is an overtaxed and underpaid attorney wasting away on the bottom rung of the gilded ladder at Turner, Witherspoon, Anders, and Tyler in Winston-Salem, NC. When a high-priced luxury car belonging to one of the firm’s top clients goes missing, Nick gets saddled with the unenviable job of recovering the vehicle—and its mysterious contents—without involving the cops. Enter Fast Eddie and his quirky band of misfits at The National Recovery Bureau, a repo agency located in a sleepy town called K-Vegas.

When Nick is unceremoniously furloughed from TWAT, she throws caution to the wind and signs on to become the newest agent of the NRB, teaming up with moonlighting third-grade schoolteacher, Frances “Frankie” Stohler. Frankie’s mortician father and beautician mother are stalwarts of the Winston-Salem community—so it’s no surprise that everyone across three counties has some connection to her family. What is surprising, however, is the Slim Jim Frankie carries in her purse and her preternatural talent for jacking cars.

Nick and Frankie’s stumbling entrée into the surreal world of asset recovery takes them on a hilarious, fast-paced, and mind-bending journey across the back roads and byways of the Tar Heel state, setting into motion a chain of misadventures that lead them both toward financial independence, cataclysmic legal jeopardy, and the discovery that true love can sometimes lurk in the most unlikely places.

My thoughts…

This book is just what 2020 needed!! It is a booster shot of fun and folly and a guaranteed gigglefest of a good time! The repo ride is so much fun; readers won’t want it to end!

Nick and Frankie are so good together; their chemistry is nothing short of extraordinary and wonderful. Romance readers long for this kind of connection between the leads. It’s clever, playful, and flirty. The tension and charisma between the main characters pushes not only the romance, but the storytelling. McMan is a master at this. She gives her readers characters that are relatable; they bond with them. The characters are fun, quirky and flawed in the most appealing ways. McMan’s dynamic character development is remarkable and her writing sings because of it. She just “gets” people and this shows in her writing.

Secondary characters are also McMan’s forte. She has the ability to create interesting and unique supporting casts. They deepen the storytelling and always make it more memorable. In fact, this ensemble of nutty characters might just be her best yet. Antigone, Sebastian, Lilah, Fast Eddie, Hugh Don and Carol Jenkins…they bring personality to the story and make it smile. She uses these characters with literary purpose, demonstrating her ability to “show rather than tell.” They immerse the readers in the local culture and all its colloquialisms, making this story beyond inviting and engaging.

McMan has an affection for the South (or as she’s likes to call it, “an on-again, off-again love affair”) and the detail and humor come through clearly on each page. She puts all her keen observations and “mental notes on all things Southern” into this book; the result is one fantastic piece of fiction. I wholeheartedly recommend The Big Tow; it is a book readers need to add to their collections. It is absolutely worth the money and shelf space. Don’t hesitate to buy this book.

Strengths…

  • Beautifully written
  • Engaging storytelling
  • Fantastic character development
  • Interesting and delightful characters
  • Wonderful dialog
  • Appealing plot

A little sample from The Big Tow

“If anyone had told me six weeks ago that I’d meet somebody like you, I would’ve sent them a tower of cheese.”

Cheese? “Is that a good thing?” I asked.

Frankie shrugged. “It’s what informed shoppers choose now in lieu of flowers or Candy-grams.”

“Makes sense.” I thought about it. “Pears.”

“Pardon?”

“I’d send pears. I mean . . . to the person who said I’d meet somebody like you.”

Frankie actually blushed. That surprised me. Probably because I was more accustomed to her having the upper hand in these double-entendre-laced conversations. “Don’t you like pears?” I teased.

“On the contrary. I love pears.”

“It’s said they go pretty well with cheese.”

Frankie met my gaze. “Between the two of us, we have half of a great appetizer.”

“I know.” I nodded morosely. “It’s the other half that worries me.”

“You worry too much.” Frankie slowed her car and moved over to exit the highway. “One thing at a time.”

“Is that like a twelve-step kind of thing?” I asked.

From The Big Tow by Ann McMan

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Hopeless Romantic

By Georgia Beers

The blurb from the publisher…

Teddi Baker used to believe in happily ever after. It’s why she became a wedding planner and worked so hard to make her business, Hopeless Romantic, successful. But after the catastrophe of her own marriage, Teddi loses her heart, her hope, and half of her assets. She is officially jaded, but she needs every job she can get to make ends meet. When bride-to-be Kelly Scott walks in, Teddi is ready. Until she comes face-to-face with Kelly’s sister: Leah Scott, her ex-wife’s divorce attorney. The one who helped ruin her life.

Leah Scott wears her heart on her sleeve, an odd characteristic for a divorce attorney. When her father left her stay-at-home mom with barely enough money to survive, she recognized her calling. But Leah still believes in happiness and no one deserves it more than her sister. If only Kelly didn’t insist on using a wedding planner who hates Leah’s guts…despite the unexpected and wholly unwanted chemistry between them.

My thoughts…

Hopeless Romantic is an absolutely adorable romance! It’s perfect in every way and it’s everything we’ve come to expect from Georgia Beers. She gives her readers all the feels with this one.

Beers hooks her readers with an interesting and intriguing storyline. She takes one hopelessly romantic divorce lawyer, one jaded wedding planner and then fills every room that they’re in together with the kind of heat that sets off a four alarm fire. The attraction is beyond instant and intense.

When Teddie discovers that Leah was her ex-wife’s divorce lawyer, it gives Teddie pause, but not enough to squelch her attraction. What does bring the whole relationship to a screeching halt, strangely enough, is the issue of marriage. Though Teddie loves her job as a wedding planner, and truly enjoys helping brides-to-be realize all of their wedding day dreams, she ironically has strong reservations about believing that marriage is a commitment that stands the test of time. To Leah’s dismay, Teddie would rather keep things status quo than get married again.

Hopeless Romantic is fresh and original. The plot is compelling and very engaging. Teddie and Leah, the two leading ladies, are captivating and sexy; readers are drawn to them both. They come to appreciate Teddie’s insecurities and vulnerabilities. They understand she has been hurt badly by her ex and they are sympathetic to her reluctance to put herself out there again.

Readers are easily able to relate to Leah as well. Her love for all things hearts, flowers and romance is quite charming. Her passion for romantic movies and her longing for everlasting love is beyond appealing. Lesfic romance readers become completely invested in these two characters and their love affair.

Beers is a top-shelf romance writer and her craftsmanship is on full display in this book. Her closing scene is a pure delight and could almost be described as cinematic; it is beyond creative. In fact, it’s quite possible the most adorable ending I’ve read in a romantic lesfic in quite some time. It’s guaranteed to put a smile on every romance lover’s face!

I wholeheartedly recommend this book. In a genre that can sometimes be predictable, this book is definitely not. If you are looking for a well written romance with a nice twist, then Hopeful Romantic will surely satisfy.

Strengths…

  • Well-written
  • Original and fresh story idea
  • Likable and relatable characters
  • Engaging storytelling
  • Heartfelt and tender romance

This book can be purchased from…

Formats available…

  • Paperback
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Waiting for You

By Elle Spencer

The blurb from the publisher…

Have you ever met someone and felt like you’ve known them in a thousand different lifetimes?

Lindsay Hall was a high school senior when she and her friend Patty discovered peach schnapps, listened to a past-life hypnosis CD, and got an up-close look at who she once was. And who she used to love. The knowledge of her past life has always haunted Lindsay. As her ex is happy to point out, it’s gotten in the way of her relationships too. Even her teenage daughter has politely suggested that she “get the eff over it.” Except she didn’t say eff.

Ren Christopher just wants a quick break before she starts a new job in Paris. She’s just extracted herself from a not-brief-enough, drama-filled relationship. A few weeks relaxing and hanging with her old college friend Deb is just what the doctor ordered. No pressure, no expectations, and absolutely no drama.

Everything is perfect until Lindsay faints at the sight of Ren.

My thoughts…

This book is an absolute delight!! It’s the kind of book readers want to reread. The writing is top-notch. The romance is beautiful. The secondary characters are amazing. The dialog is exquisite. Bottom line—this is a book every lesfic romance reader will want to add to their collection.

Spencer sets this romance up splendidly. She feeds readers bits and pieces. She makes things seem a bit mysterious and intriguing, fueling the imagination and interest. Before readers know it, they are so engrossed in Spencer’s lovely narrative, they can’t stop.

The main characters are perfectly matched and very compelling. They have chemistry and heat. Readers immediately like them, and they like them together. They are believable and relatable in ways that are always appealing in romance novels.

Most noteworthy, however, is Spencer’s use of secondary characters. She really shines here. Spencer creates an ensemble with her characters, giving the story arc such dimension and interest. Theses characters are relatable and help facilitate a connection to the storytelling. But most importantly, they all work to drive the romance forward and bring it home.

The dialog in Waiting for You is phenomenal. It is witty, fresh and entertaining. Spencer knows how to use it to advance the narrative and the character arc. It is charming and has the ability to leave readers smiling.

The following is an exchange between Lindsay and her best friend Patty. It highlights this wonderful dialog quite nicely.

“…if you f this up, I’m going to be so mad at you because it’s damn hard to find someone like Ren, and you went and claimed her before I could,” Patty said.

“I don’t think it works that way,” Lindsay said.

“You don’t know. We might have hit it off,” Patty said.

“I didn’t claim her, Cakes. I didn’t mean for any of this to happen. It just did.”

Patty waved the comment off. “I’m kidding. She’s not my type at all. Too pretty. Too smart. My type day drinks and wears other people’s family reunion T-shirts…”

This book gets high marks from me; I highly recommend it. It is a completely entertaining and adorable romance. It’s one that lesfic readers can really enjoy.

Strengths…

  • Well written
  • Refreshing dialog
  • Lovely leading ladies
  • Original storyline
  • Fantastic secondary characters
  • Sweet, feel-good romance

This book can be purchased from…

Available formats…

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Heart Sings

By Luci Dreamer

The blurb from the publisher…

What happens when someone from Thomas’ past threatens her and her family’s future? 

When the Millers begin a new chapter in their lives, not even a year in the harsh environment of the Klondike could have prepared them for the types of obstacles they’ll face. Thomas and Rachel will need to rely on their bond like never before to overcome the threat neither saw coming. Will they be strong enough to weather the storm? And can they trust each other to make the right decisions for their family, even if it might end in heartbreak?

My thoughts…

This is a fantastic follow-up to Heart of Gold, the first book in the Heart Series. In this latest edition, readers follow Rachel and Thomas as they settle in the Sacramento Valley. After overcoming many obstacles and hardships while trekking across the Yukon, the two are finally poised to build the future they dreamed of while panning for gold during the Klondike Gold Rush. With their hard earned riches, they are able to purchase a hundred acres and start a ranch. Unfortunately, trouble finds them before they’ve even finished the first season.

Dreamer has a real talent for telling tales that are set back in time. In Heart Sings readers are immersed into the late 1800’s towards the end of the Western expansion. The grit and struggle jump from the pages. Dreamer puts readers right there, bringing them the look and feel of this period with her wonderful descriptions and fluid narrative. This all goes to providing the perfect setting and plot; one that readers can thoroughly enjoy.

The plot is quite engaging and has elements of suspense that keep readers invested. The trials and tribulations of building a homestead and ranch provide much excitement and wonder. The conflict presented is real and believable; it challenges Rachel and Thomas in compelling ways and leaves readers thoroughly absorbed in the story. Most importantly, it all lends itself to great storytelling.

I would most certainly recommend this book to readers that love a well written historical romance. The world building phenomenal; the characters expose readers to a past that is very intriguing. Additionally, Rachel and Thomas have a chemistry that readers are drawn to and find appealing. The final result is a well done novel definitely worth reading.

Strengths…

  • Well written
  • Incredible world building
  • Great chemistry between the leads
  • Interesting secondary characters
  • Believable storytelling
  • Engaging plot

This book is available from…

Available formats…

  • Ebook
  • Paperback