Review: Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne

Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: April 13th 2021
Links: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

From the USA Today bestselling author of The Hating Game and 99 Percent Mine comes the clever, funny, and unforgettable story of a muscular, tattooed man hired as an assistant to two old women—under the watchful eye of a beautiful retirement home manager.

Dazzle (n): Brightness that blinds someone temporarily.

Position Vacant: Two ancient old women residing at Providence Retirement Villa seek male assistant for casual exploitation and good-natured humiliation. Duties include boutique shopping, fast-food fetching, and sincerely rendered flattery. Good looks a bonus—but we aren’t picky.

An advertisement has been placed (again!) by the wealthy and eccentric Parloni Sisters. The salary is generous and the employers are 90 years old, so how hard could the job be? Well, none have lasted longer than a week. Most boys leave in tears.

Ruthie Midona will work in Providence’s front office, and be at the Parloni’s beck and call, forever. That’s sort of her life plan. If Ruthie can run the place in her almost-retired bosses’ absence, with no hijinks/hiccups, she has a shot at becoming the new manager. She might also be able to defend her safe little world from Prescott Development, the new buyer of the prime site. Maybe after all that, she can find a cute guy to date. All she needs to do is stay serious—and that’s what she does best.

Until, one day, someone dazzling blows into town.

Teddy Prescott devotes his life to sleeping, tattooing, and avoiding seriousness. When Teddy needs a place to crash, he makes a deal with his developer dad. Teddy can stay in one of Providence’s on-site maintenance cottages—right next door to an unimpressed Ruthie—but only if he works there and starts to grow up.

Ruthie knows how this sweetly selfish rich boy can earn his keep—and be out of her hair in under a week. After all, there is a position vacant…

This was so perfectly charming, quirky, and adorable. Basically, everything I wanted in a Sally Thorne romance. I went into this with high expectations after loving The Hating Game and actually enjoying 99 Percent Mine, and I’m happy to say Sally Thorne didn’t let me down! My heart was just so HAPPY reading this lovely story. I’m already putting Second First Impressions on my ‘best of 2021’ list!

The thing I loved most about SFI was how unique it was. It’s set in a retirement home, the heroine works there as a manager (she’s 25 going on 80, which, relatable), there are two 90-year-old residents/menaces in need of an assistant to torture, and the hero is a dorky, tattoo-artist airhead in need of some lessons in responsibility, so he takes the position.

Ruthie is like a grandma in a 25-year-old’s body who’s trying to come out of her shell of anxiety and monotony. She’s sweet but shy and doesn’t know her full potential. I loved seeing her learn more about what she wants out of life and seeing her grow to love herself. Teddy is a precious sweetheart (dare I say teddy bear) who, even though he has some growing up to do, worships the ground Ruthie walks on. And honestly, what more could I ask for from a hero? There are all these little moments and little things that Teddy does that show how hard he falls for Ruthie, how much he respects and cherishes her. Even though this book is told only from the heroine’s POV, we get to see all of that so clearly and I LOVE when an author is capable of illustrating a hero this way.

This romance is just so wholesome, funny, and precious – it was exactly the heartfelt and feel-good romance I was looking for from Sally Thorne. I know it’s hard not to compare this to THG or even 99% Mine, but I truly feel like a lot of people would enjoy SFI whether or not they loved her previous books. I literally finished it with a smile on my face. I loved it!


lacey


Other Books by Sally Thorne

The Hating Game: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
99 Percent Mine: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads


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Review: Make It Sweet by Kristen Callihan

Make It Sweet by Kristen Callihan
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: February 23rd 2021
Links: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

From New York Times bestselling author Kristen Callihan comes a charming, emotional romance about redefining dreams and discovering unlikely love along the way.

Life for Emma isn’t good. The world knows her as Princess Anya on Dark Castle, but then her character gets the axe—literally. The cherry on top is finding her boyfriend in bed with another woman. She needs a break, and sanctuary comes in the form of Rosemont, a gorgeous estate in California promising rest and relaxation.

Then she meets the owner’s equally gorgeous grandson, ex–hockey player and current recluse Lucian Osmond, and she sees her own pain and yearning reflected in his eyes.

He’s charming when he wants to be but also secretive and gruff, with protective walls as thick as Emma’s own. Despite a growing attraction, they avoid each other.

But then there’s an impromptu nighttime skinny-dip, and Lucian’s luscious homemade tarts and cream cakes start arriving at Emma’s door, tempting her to taste life again…

In trying to stay apart, they only grow closer—and their broken pieces just might fit together and make them whole.

I am such a huge Kristen Callihan fan, so when I heard she was writing a romance with a hero who BAKES, I knew I needed it in my life. (I always need more heroes who bake and cook.) So what do you get when you put one grumpy ex-hockey player with a hidden talent for baking and one actress whose character has been killed off from a successful Game of Thrones-like show? You get fireworks, banter, and one deliciously swoony romance.

Emma has just been let go from her acting role as Princess Anya and is floundering. She decides to take a break from the acting world and stay at Rosemont. She comes across gorgeous, broody, reclusive Lucian, whose grandmother owns the estate. Despite Lucian trying to stay away from Emma, who is a temptation he knows he can’t resist, there’s only so much space in this estate and they come across each other again and again (with some meddling from Lucian’s grandmother Amalie), and sparks fly.

I absolutely adored Lucian and Emma. Their romance is not the easiest or the smoothest, but from the moment that they meet, there’s chemistry and an intense longing to know each other better. Lucian is struggling with his retired hockey life. Hockey is his greatest passion, but now that he’s lost it after too many concussions, he feels broken. Emma is the one bright light in his life and even though he knows her time at Rosemont is temporary, he can’t help but woo her through his delicious pastries. I was dying at all the baked goods Lucian makes Emma – I’m a Great British Bake-Off fan and I was drooling over all the food descriptions!

If you’re looking for a foodie romance that will sweep you off your feet, Make It Sweet is it. Kristen Callihan is known for her sports romances, and even though this hero is retired, fans of her Game On series will definitely enjoy this book. If you enjoyed Dear Enemy, there’s some nice cameos of that couple in Make It Sweet. Overall, I just had such a fun time reading this romance and would love some more foodie romances from Kristen Callihan!


lacey


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Review: Loverboy by Sarina Bowen

Loverboy by Sarina Bowen
Series: The Company #2 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: December 1st 2020
Links: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review

Secrets, desires, and exquisite pie. It’s all in a day’s work at The Company.

Growing up, I was the rough guy from the wrong neighborhood who couldn’t catch a break. Posy was the pampered girl I tried to impress. But I managed to steal only a single kiss before I had to skip town.

Now I’m back, and the tables are turned. Posy runs a struggling pie shop. I’m the VP of a secretive billion dollar security company.

Not that I can tell her.

There’s a murderer on the loose in New York, and he seems to spend a lot of time at Posy’s shop. I can’t let on that I’m here to bring him down before he can harm a hair on her pretty head.

Going undercover as Posy’s new barista wasn’t my idea. I don’t even drink coffee. But now I have to call her “boss,” and do everything the curvy perfectionist asks of me. I’d forgotten how much we infuriate each other, and that she somehow fills me with both irritation and desire in the same breath.

There’s nobody more skilled at stealth ops than me. I can bring this killer down. Right after I take a cold shower. And just as soon as I figure out how to make a skinny peppermint latte with milk poured in the shape of a kitten…

I could not be happier we’re getting more books in this series! Sarina Bowen did romantic suspense so well in book one, Moonlighter. Loverboy is a great addition to the series, though I’m still dying to get Max’s book. Here, we’ve got a hero going undercover at a bakery, owned by none other than the girl he used to have a massive crush on. Gunnar is such a charmer and I loved his second chance with Posy! The intrigue was great, the romance was swoony – it’s another hit from Sarina Bowen.

Gunnar works for The Company and his latest assignment is to go undercover at Posy’s Pie Shop. Little does he know that THAT Posy is none other than the Posy he used to work with at the bar her family owned, the same Posy he crushed on and kissed, and the same Posy who took the higher paying role he was working for. But since he’s good at his job, he sweeps this all under the rug to get hired as a barista, never mind that he has no barista experience. But Posy herself is desperate and is willing to take on Gunnar to show him the ropes. She has no idea he’s being hired to watch for a security threat using her bakery’s wifi.

I had so much fun reading Loverboy! The romance was great – I enjoyed Gunnar and Posy’s characters so much. Gunnar is a sweet-talker and Posy is trying to be a good but strict boss, and failing to keep her feelings in check. There’s some intrigue and action just like there was in book one, but there’s not too much that it overtakes the romance. I loved the foodie aspect of this story, since most of the book takes place in Posy’s bakery. I honestly don’t have much to complain about. It’s a feel-good romance and if you’re a fan of Sarina Bowen, I’m sure you’ll love Loverboy.


lacey


Reading Order: The Company series

#1 ~ Moonlighter: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#2 ~ Loverboy: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads


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Early Review: Layla by Colleen Hoover

Layla by Colleen Hoover
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: December 8th 2020
Links: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Colleen Hoover comes a novel that explores life after tragedy and the enduring spirit of love.

When Leeds meets Layla, he’s convinced he’ll spend the rest of his life with her—until an unexpected attack leaves Layla fighting for her life. After weeks in the hospital, Layla recovers physically, but the emotional and mental scarring has altered the woman Leeds fell in love with. In order to put their relationship back on track, Leeds whisks Layla away to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. Once they arrive, Layla’s behavior takes a bizarre turn. And that’s just one of many inexplicable occurrences.

Feeling distant from Layla, Leeds soon finds solace in Willow—another guest of the B&B with whom he forms a connection through their shared concerns. As his curiosity for Willow grows, his decision to help her find answers puts him in direct conflict with Layla’s well-being. Leeds soon realizes he has to make a choice because he can’t help both of them. But if he makes the wrong choice, it could be detrimental for all of them.

Colleen Hoover wrote a paranormal book. About ghosts!

This isn’t actually the first time I’ve read something non-contemporary from her. I’ve read her Never Never series (that she co-wrote with Tarryn Fisher), which I enjoyed. But with Layla, I really had no idea what I would be getting into. I had no idea what kind of paranormal it would be, no idea if it would be a ROMANCE, like a PNR. But as usual with all of CoHo’s books, it’s best to go in blind. And while I wish I could’ve loved this one more, the story was one that had me hooked to its pages with its suspense and mystery.

Leeds and Layla fall head over heels in love from the moment they meet. It is very much instalove between two people who feel an intensely strong connection right from the start. But a few months into their whirlwind of a romance, Layla gets shot by Leeds’ ex and almost dies. He spends weeks helping Layla recover, but ever since the attack, Layla has been different. Leeds can’t explain why or how, but he hopes bringing her to the place they first met and fell in love will wake her back up.

This book is essentially Paranormal Activity, Colleen Hoover style. Which means it’s less scary and more romance. There’s a mysterious ghost haunting the bed and breakfast that Leeds takes Layla to recover. The ghost starts to communicate with him and he thinks he’s going insane (like anyone would, right?). There’s kind of a romance but I wouldn’t call this PNR, where the romance is the focus – just a paranormal, ghost book with a little bit of romance. I sadly never connected with Leeds or Layla, never grew invested in their characters or love story, which is why I can only give this a three star rating. They fall in love so fast, and maybe if we’d gotten more time with them during the beginning of their relationship, I’d feel differently. It was a strange read but I did really enjoy the twist at the end. The mystery/suspense was what kept me reading, though at times I really wanted the story to hurry up so I could find out WHAT was happening. I liked the way the author set up the story, with alternating past and present chapters. Layla is told entirely in Leeds’ POV, which makes sense when you find out the truth at the end.

This wasn’t a bad read, but I did expect a bit more from one of my favorite authors. I wouldn’t be opposed to reading another paranormal book from CoHo – she always knows how to write a story full of twists and turns. I do wish we’d gotten a bit more at the end of this book, maybe an epilogue or something. It ends on a good note, but it did feel abrupt. If you’re curious to see how CoHo tackles a ghost story, I would say give this a try! Especially if you love a good mystery/suspense.


lacey


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Review: How to Catch a Queen by Alyssa Cole

How to Catch a Queen by Alyssa Cole
Series: Runaway Royals #1
Publication Date: December 1st 2020
Links: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

An arranged marriage leads to unexpected desire, in the first book of Alyssa Cole’s Runaway Royals series…

When Shanti Mohapi weds the king of Njaza, her dream of becoming a queen finally comes true. But it’s nothing like she imagined. Shanti and her husband may share an immediate and powerful attraction, but her subjects see her as an outsider, and everything she was taught about being the perfect wife goes disastrously wrong.

A king must rule with an iron fist, and newly crowned King Sanyu was born perfectly fitted for the gauntlet, even if he wishes he weren’t. He agrees to take a wife as is required of him, though he doesn’t expect to actually fall in love. Even more vexing? His beguiling new queen seems to have the answers to his country’s problems—except no one will listen to her.

By day, they lead separate lives. By night, she wears the crown, and he bows to her demands in matters of politics and passion. When turmoil erupts in their kingdom and their marriage, Shanti goes on the run, and Sanyu must learn whether he has what it takes both to lead his people and to catch his queen.

I have been SO excited to read this book ever since I 1) saw the cover, 2) read the blurb, and 3) saw that it was a marriage of convenience! I especially loved reading the line that says “By night, she wears the crown, and he bows to her demands in matters of politics and passion.” I sadly didn’t quite love this new Alyssa Cole as much as I was hoping to – it’s a sloooow burn romance and very heavy on the royal politics. I wanted the story to focus more on our main couple, which was why How to Catch a Queen was a bit of a struggle for me to read.

Shanti and Sanyu enter a marriage of convenience when Shanti is chosen to be Sanyu’s queen. Shanti gets to live out her dream of being a queen so she can help others and Sanyu fulfills his father’s final request to marry, despite never wanting to inherit the throne. Love is not involved in the least, and it takes quite a long time for it to develop in this romance. We focus more on Shanti’s struggles with her awful treatment from Sanyu and his subjects and Sanyu torn between tradition and what he wants for his and his country’s future.

Alyssa Cole did a fantastic job bringing this fictional country of Njaza to life, with its rich, nuanced history. But after a while, the story did feel like it was dragging, especially the romance. There wasn’t enough of the romance between Shanti and Sanyu to satisfy me, which is why I have to give this 3.5 stars instead of the 4 it easily could’ve been. Still, it was a good start to this spinoff series of the Reluctant Royals, and I can’t wait to see where Alyssa Cole takes us next!


lacey


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