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: Happily Letter After by Vi Keeland & Penelope Ward

Happily Letter After by Vi Keeland & Penelope Ward
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: December 1st 2020
Links: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

From New York Times bestselling authors Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward comes a love story about taking chances and the surprises that come with them.

My love story all started with a letter.

Only it wasn’t from the man I’d eventually fall in love with. It was from his daughter. A sweet little girl named Birdie Maxwell who’d written to the magazine that I worked for.

You see, once a year my employer fulfilled a few wishes for readers. Only that column didn’t start up again for months.

So I fulfilled some of her wishes myself. It was harmless…so I thought. Until one day I took things too far.

While anonymously granting yet another of Birdie’s wishes, I got a look at her father. Her devastatingly handsome, single dad father.

I should have stopped playing fairy godmother then. I should have left well enough alone. But I just couldn’t help myself. I had a connection to this girl. One that had me acting irrationally.

Like when I showed up on their doorstep.

Happy Letter After was SUCH an adorable read! It’s endearing, sweet, feel-good; it’s exactly what I’m looking for in a single parent romance. It’s got a unique meet cute: the heroine, Sadie, comes across a letter from Birdie, Sebastian’s daughter, at her workplace. They write back and forth until Sadie decides to leave a present for Sadie, accidentally is seen by Sebastian, who thinks she’s the dog-sitter he’s hired, and starts training their new pet. It’s a little bit ridiculous but totally works in this story. I had so much fun reading about Sadie, Sebastian, and Birdie. I adored their family and this romance!

Sebastian is a widower and single father. I’m always a sucker for single parent romances and this one was such an enjoyable read. I thought it was hilarious that Sebastian thought Sadie was his new dog trainer – but luckily the lie doesn’t hold up for too long until the truth comes out. This is when our main characters start to slowly fall for each other, albeit reluctantly at first. Sebastian has Birdie to think of first, always, but he soon realizes that he can’t live without Sadie in his life and does everything he can to woo and romance her.

Your heart will melt when you read this book. Not just because of the romance, but also the sweet relationship between Sadie and Birdie, who both have lost their mothers and connect over this. Sebastian is also so swoony when he’s with his daughter too – he’s a fantastic father. I just adored this romance so much and if you love single parent romances like I do, you need to read this one!


lacey


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Review: The Wreckage of Us by Brittainy Cherry

The Wreckage of Us by Brittainy Cherry
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: October 20th 2020
Links: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Never in a million years did I think it would be Ian Parker who saved me…

I know I should stay away from Ian Parker.

But when my drug-dealing stepdad kicks me out, I have nowhere to go. Squatting in an abandoned shed on Ian’s grandpa’s farm seems like as good a plan as any.

Ian finds me there, of course, and he insists on me moving into his spare room. I should say no, but the appeal of a roof and a warm bed is too much. Not to mention Ian’s brown eyes and strong arms.

We’re nothing alike, but the spark between us is undeniable. My life is finally looking up.

Until I call the cops on my stepdad and unintentionally get my pregnant mom arrested.

Now I have to sacrifice my dreams to take care of my mom’s baby. She’s the only family I have left. Meanwhile, Ian’s band is taking off; his dreams are coming true.

Ian is my one chance at love. I just hope he doesn’t become the one chance that got away.

When I went into The Wreckage of Us, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t even read the blurb, just dove right in. But I knew, since it was a Brittainy C. Cherry book, I would get an angsty romance, and that’s exactly what I got! It’s a new adult romance set in a small town, with a heroine down on her luck and a hero who wants to chase his dreams of stardom. It’s kind of a rock star romance too, with Ian becoming a musician. If you’re a fan of Brittainy Cherry’s books, I highly recommend this one. It’s got her signature jerk hero, plenty of drama/angst, all wrapped up in a great, entertaining package. I enjoyed this romance so much!

At eighteen, Hazel has just been kicked out of her home, leaving her homeless and jobless. Her luck turns though when she’s hired on the town’s ranch, owned by Ian’s grandfather. This puts Hazel and Ian in close proximity, though to say they don’t get along would be an understatement. They get off on the wrong foot from the get-go, especially with Ian acting like the ass that he is. But slowly, as they work on the ranch each day and get to know each other better, Ian falls for Hazel and shows her he’s not quite the jerk he seems to be.

While their romance is growing and steaming up, Hazel is given responsibility of her newborn sister. This forces her to stay in their small town all the while Ian’s music is taking him around the world and onto the stage. I loved the angst and tension during these parts, mainly because I knew how devoted Ian and Hazel were to each other. Their love is fierce and powerful, and not even thousands of miles that separate them can break the bond they have with each other.

If you’re looking for an emotional read, Brittainy Cherry delivers in The Wreckage of Us. I was aching for Hazel and Ian as they go about their long distance troubles, but also swooning over Ian’s adoration for Hazel. Hazel is a tough, strong heroine who doesn’t give up easily, which was my favorite thing about her character. This was a solid romance with a young but everlasting love, and I would love to see the rest of Ian’s band get their stories!


lacey


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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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Release Day Review + Excerpt & Giveaway: Butterfly in Frost by Sylvia Day

Butterfly in Frost by Sylvia Day
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: August 27th 2019
Links: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

From #1 New York Times bestselling phenomenon Sylvia Day comes a hotly anticipated and passionate new love story.

Once, I would never have imagined myself here. But I’m settled now. In a place I love, in a home I renovated, spending time with new friends I adore, and working a job that fulfills me. I am reconciling the past and laying the groundwork for the future.

Then Garrett Frost moves in next door.

He’s obstinate and too bold, a raging force of nature that disrupts the careful order of my life. I recognize the ghosts that haunt him, the torment driving him. Garrett would be risky in any form, but wounded, he’s far more dangerous. I fear I’m too fragile for the storm raging inside him, too delicate to withstand the pain that buffets him. But he’s too determined…and too tempting.

And sometimes hope soars above even the iciest desolation.

IT’S FINALLY HERE!!! Sylvia Day’s next book post-Crossfire series is finally here. And while I can’t say that I loved it, I am SO happy she has a book out and that this means we have even more to come from this author.

Butterfly in Frost is a good-sized novella, not a full length book. It’s a quick, fast-paced, emotional read with the CRAZIEST twist at the end that I truly didn’t see coming. Teagan is a doctor living in Washington who works with pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. She works with Eva Cross(!) and keeps a quiet, steady life since moving away from Manhattan. Then her new neighbor moves in next door and Garrett Frost is all man, all gorgeousness, and all determined to win her heart.

I liked Garrett and Teagan’s story, but it was way too short and quick of a read. We only get to touch the surface of these characters and their issues, especially Teagan and her depression. Things progress insanely fast, romance-, sex-, and relationship-wise. I really wish we got something full-length for them because I know I would’ve loved it a lot more. The plot twist at the end though was FANTASTIC. I actually loved the twist and the way it changed how I looked at the entire story. Most of the problems I had with this book was explained with this twist, though it still wasn’t enough to make me fully love the book.

Sylvia Day can write, there’s no doubt about it. I’m still very much eagerly awaiting her Blacklist duet and praying it’ll be released soon. In the meantime, if you’ve missed Sylvia Day, I still encourage you to try this novella out.


lacey

Now here’s an excerpt from Butterfly in Frost! ❤

excerpt button

Roxy bounces on her feet with excitement. “Les and Marge sold their house.”

I blink. “I didn’t know they were selling.”

She laughs and heads toward the front door. “That’s the thing. They weren’t.”

“Wait, what?” I hurry after her as she steps outside.

I look to the right at my home, a lovingly restored butterfly-roofed midcentury, then on to the traditional house just beyond it that belongs—belonged—to Les and Marge. Including Roxy’s, all three of our homes have unique lots set between the homes that line the street and the Sound, affording us unhindered views of the water as well as exceptional privacy—all within a twenty-minute drive of the airport.

Roxy shortens the length of her stride to allow me to catch up, then glances over at me. “The day after you flew to New York, a Range Rover pulled into their driveway, and the guy inside offered them cash to close—and move out—in fourteen days.”

My step falters, and Minnie gets momentarily tangled in her leash. The dog shoots me what I would describe as an irritated look, then keeps trotting forward. “That’s crazy.”

“Isn’t it? Les wouldn’t say how much the offer was, but I’m thinking it was huge.”

We march up the inclined driveway, my head tilted back to take in the houses scaling the hillside. Designed with big windows to maximize the view, the homes have a look of wide-eyed wonder. Our little stretch of the Sound used to be a secret, but with the housing boom taking over Seattle and Tacoma, we’ve been discovered. Many residences are undergoing major renovation to suit the tastes of new owners.

Reaching the road, we turn left. To the right is a dead end.

“Well, if they’re happy,” I say, “I’m happy for them.”

“They’re overwhelmed. It was a lot to happen all at once, but I think they’re happy with their decision.” Roxanne stops when Bella does, and we wait as the two dogs mark one of their usual spots on the gravel edging the asphalt. There are no curbs on the streets in our neighborhood and no sidewalks. Just beautiful lawns and a profusion of flowering shrubs.

“We all tried prying information out of them,” she goes on, “but they weren’t sharing anything about the sale.” She gives me a sidelong glance. “But they did share a bit about the buyer.”

“Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Because Mike and I both think the buyer is someone famous. A film director maybe. Or an artist. Can you imagine? First Emily, a bestselling author. Then you, a reality-TV surgeon. Now this guy! Maybe we’re sitting on the new Malibu—beachside living without wildfires or state income tax!”

The mention of Roxy’s husband, Mike, coaxes an inner smile. A New York transplant like me, he adds a welcome touch of the life I left behind to the reality I’ve since created for myself—a reality that’s just been rocked by the loss of neighbors I like.

“What are the clues you’re working with?” I ask, deciding to play along. If I’ve learned anything the past year, it’s to accept the things I cannot change. A tough task for a control freak like me.

“Les pointed out to this guy that he hadn’t even seen the inside of the house. The guy said he didn’t need to. He knew already that ‘the light is perfect.’ I mean, who would say that? Gotta be someone who’s in visual arts, right?”

“Maybe,” I agree tentatively, disquieted by the unexpected conversation. The road rises sharply before us, the incline steep enough to put a little burn in my thighs. “Doesn’t mean he’s famous, though.”

“That’s the thing.” Her words carry a note of breathlessness. “Les wouldn’t give numbers, but he did say it was crazy the guy didn’t just buy that huge compound at the end of the street. That house is listed for three and a half million!”

My mind staggers at the thought. Les and Marge have—had—a beautiful home, but it’s not worth anywhere near that much.

“I think I saw the buyer once through that big arched window in the living room,” Roxy goes on. “The blonde with him was a looker. Supermodel skinny with legs for days.”

I’m panting when we reach the top; Roxy, who hits a gym most days of the week, is not.

A quarter mile farther, there’s a street to the right leading to Dash Point. Beyond that and straight ahead, the road slopes back down and around until it’s at water level. Redondo Beach is there, as is Salty’s, a restaurant on stilts in the water with expansive views of Poverty Bay and beyond. I’m about to wax poetic about Salty’s seafood chowder when a runner dashes around the corner at a full sprint. His sudden appearance rattles me. A closer look makes me freeze midstride. My breath locks in my lungs.

There are too many things to register at once, so my mind attempts to absorb the whole man. Dressed only in black shorts and shoes, he is a visual feast of deeply tanned skin, intricate sleeves of tattooed art, and sweat-slicked, flexing musculature.

And his face. Sculpted. Square-jawed. Brutally, breathlessly handsome.

Roxy, now a few feet in front of me, gives a low whistle. “Hot damn.”

about the author button

Sylvia Day is the #1 New York Times, #1 USA Today, #1 Sunday Times, #1 Der Spiegel, and #1 international bestselling author of over twenty award-winning novels sold in more than forty countries. She is a #1 bestselling author in twenty-eight countries, with tens of millions of copies of her books in print. Visit the author at www.sylviaday.com.

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