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: A Princess for Christmas by Jenny Holiday

A Princess for Christmas by Jenny Holiday
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: October 13th 2020
Links: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

From USA Today bestselling author Jenny Holiday comes a modern fairy tale just in time for Christmas about a tough New Yorker from the other side of the tracks who falls for a princess from the other side of the world.

Leo Ricci’s already handling all he can, between taking care of his little sister Gabby, driving a cab, and being the super of his apartment building in the Bronx. But when Gabby spots a “princess” in a gown outside of the UN trying to hail a cab, she begs her brother to stop and help. Before he knows it, he’s got a real-life damsel in distress in the backseat of his car.

Princess Marie of Eldovia shouldn’t be hailing a cab, or even be out and about. But after her mother’s death, her father has plunged into a devastating depression and the fate of her small Alpine country has fallen on Marie’s shoulders. She’s taken aback by the gruff but devastatingly handsome driver who shows her more kindness than she’s seen in a long time.

When Marie asks Leo to be her driver for the rest of her trip, he agrees, thinking he’ll squire a rich miss around for a while and make more money than he has in months. He doesn’t expect to like and start longing for the unpredictable Marie. And when he and Gabby end up in Eldovia for Christmas, he discovers the princess who is all wrong for him is also the woman who is his perfect match.

I was SO excited about Jenny Holiday’s Christmas romance – I’ve enjoyed Jenny’s books in the past and I always look forward to holiday books during the Christmas season. A Princess for Christmas is literally Hallmark movie level, except much more steamy, which I will never complain about. This Christmas romance between a European princess who’s trying to save her country from financial downfall and a New York City taxi cab driver who’s taking care of his orphaned younger sister is sweet, fun, and flirty. It wasn’t PERFECT for me, but I still enjoyed my time reading it. If you’re looking for a romance to pick up this holiday season, definitely give this one a try!

Leo Ricci is trying to make ends meet providing for his sister and himself after the tragic death of their parents. He drives his cab all around NYC, and as luck would have it, while driving his sister back home, the Princess Marie of Eldovia asks for a ride to an urgent meeting. Leo doesn’t have time to drive an uppity princess across the city, but he can’t resist a damsel in distress. And he can’t resist the job or the money Marie offers him in exchange for taking her around the city to meetings she needs to save her country.

The first half of this book is adorable. Leo, his sister Gabby, and Marie go on little NYC touristy adventures so that Marie can experience what the city is all about. They are the cutest little group and I really enjoyed all the banter between them. Leo is grumpy but joins in on the fun, Gabby is a pure delight, and Marie is a little awkward but once her frost has thawed out she embraces everything.

The second half of the book takes place in Eldovia, where Marie’s family reigns. I found this second half to be a bit slow and dragged out – this is the main reason I can’t quite give this four stars, even though it’s close. The book felt too long because of this drag and I wanted to fast forward through all the politics and get to the romance. But other than that, this book was still entertaining and gave me all the cozy winter vibes I was looking for. If you’ve ever imagined what a Hallmark Christmas movie would be like as a romance book, A Princess for Christmas is literally it. It almost made me wish Eldovia was a real place that I could go to during Christmas!


lacey


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Review: Out of Love by Jewel E. Ann

Out of Love by Jewel E. Ann
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: September 27th 2020
Links: EbookPaperback • Goodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review

Conspiracies. Corruption. Serial killers.

You name it—I’m fascinated by it. My mom always blamed my overly curious and highly suspicious mind on my dad.

My incredibly overbearing dad.

Mr. No One Is Good Enough For My Daughter has been terrifying my dates since I turned fifteen.

College is my chance to be free from his control and date any guy I want.

I’m absolutely certain he would hate Slade Wylder—almost as certain as I am that I do too.

Since when have I shied away from trouble?

Slade fascinates me. He lives in a house I’m certain is haunted. His dog is trained as well as any guard I’ve ever seen. Rumor on campus is that he deals drugs. It would explain a lot.

But it doesn’t explain why he saves me from my darkest moment.

It doesn’t explain why I can’t stop thinking about him.

And the explanation I finally discover is far more dangerous than any rumor.

Leela and Hunt are determined to keep each other at arm’s length, which should be easy enough for two intelligent adults with reputations to uphold. The problem is all logic is lost when it comes to a passion that refuses to be ignored.

I have been such a huge fan of Jewel E. Ann’s ever since I read Look the Part and fell head over heels in love with that book and her writing! So I was crazy excited to read a new romance, this time set in college, with a good dose of suspense, and with plenty of twists and turns. I enjoyed Out of Love so much – the romance is engaging and fascinating. I enjoyed the main characters Livy and Slade, I LOVED Slade’s dog, and the college, new adult vibes were so much fun. I also didn’t realize this until halfway through the story, but Out of Love is a spinoff of JEA’s previous Jack & Jill series, featuring Livy’s parents and her aunt. Now I want to go back and try that series out!

Livy Knight is a bit of a wild child. She’s lived with her overbearing, overprotective father and now that she’s alone in college, she’s going to make the most of her freedom. It’s the start of a new school year and in one of her classes is the school’s biggest enigma and loner, Slade Wylder. There are rumors that he’s a dangerous man, but that doesn’t stop Livy from trying to get close to him, and his German Shepard Jericho. And luckily for her, Slade and Jerry live just down the street from her in an old, haunted firehouse.

I adored Livy and her feistiness! She never let Slade’s asshole ways get to her. And he can be a JERK. They fall in love a bit too fast for my liking, but I always enjoyed anytime these two characters were in a room together, because sparks flew. Slade and his strange job are a mystery to Livy, though it is fairly easy to predict what it is. The last third of the book is where all the craziness happens and everything starts to come together. I enjoyed the suspenseful aspect of this book, but I do have to say I loved the regular, college romance part just a liiittle bit more.

Overall, this is a great standalone if you want your new adult romances a little more exciting and with some action. The writing is great, the characters are fun, and again, I loved Slade’s dog so much! I don’t know why we don’t have more romance books with animal sidekicks, because they always steal the show.

*Trigger warning for sexual assault/attempted rape in Chapter 4


lacey


Out of Love is a standalone spinoff of the Jack & Jill series

Reading Order: Jack & Jill series

#1 ~ End of Day: EbookPaperbackAudible • Goodreads
#2 ~ Middle of Knight: EbookPaperbackAudible • Goodreads
#3 ~ Dawn of Forever: EbookPaperbackAudible • Goodreads


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Review: The One That Got Away by Karina Halle

The One That Got Away by Karina Halle
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: September 20th 2020
Links: EbookPaperbackGoodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review

Ruby Turner was never meant to be mine.

When I first met her she was a fresh, young American sports journalist trying to find her footing in a new life abroad. She was the one interviewing me for an article, yet I wanted to know more about her. She captivated me.

But she went home with Marco that night.
My agent.
My brother.

And I did what I could to pretend I was fine with it. After all, I’m Luciano Ribeiro. As the captain of Real Madrid, and Portugal’s National Team, it’s my job to be cool, calm, and collected, not easily rattled.

Only what I felt for Ruby over time, shook me to my very core. It made me do things I never imagined I would do.
It started with a stolen kiss in the middle of the night.
It led to a passionate tryst.
It created a burden of guilt that I had to carry, as Ruby came in and out of my life until she left for good, leaving her mark on me.

Now, seven years later, she’s back.
She was the one that got away.
I don’t think I’ll let her go this time.
But I might not have a choice.
Because my heart still belongs to her.
And her heart might belong to my brother.

I’ve been wanting a book for Luciano since he was first introduced in The Forbidden Man. We knew he’d loved and lost, and now we finally get his second chance romance in The One That Got Away. And even though he’s a spinoff character, this book still holds perfectly fine as a standalone, so if you’re in the mood for an angsty, second chance, soccer romance, you’ll want to give Luciano and Ruby’s book a try!

Seven years ago, Ruby and Luciano first met when Ruby arrived in Europe to create a new life for herself, starting with interviewing soccer players for her fledgling blog. With her luck, she gets five minutes with rising star Luciano Ribeiro, and they feel a connection from the moment they meet. Unfortunately, Ruby has already accepted a date with Luciano’s brother/agent Marco right before their meeting. So Luciano steps aside, even though he knows that Ruby should be with him, and their angsty, years-long romance begins.

Going into this, I expected a second chance romance that starts during the present day. So I was surprised when we start the book seven years ago and when our main characters first meet and fall in (forbidden) love. This did change up the dynamics for me and made it feel less like a second chance romance and more like any normal romance, albeit still a little forbidden and soccer related. Ruby is an interesting heroine – she begins the book doing something I would never have the guts to do, which is leave everything and everyone behind to start a new life in a completely different country. For that, I admired her, but I do have to say I grew frustrated with her reasons for not being with Luciano. I was hurting for these two but also wanted them to get over themselves and get back together.

It’s very much an up and down kind of emotional roller coaster with The One That Got Away. I COULD NOT put this book down – I finished it in a day, needing to know how the romance finally works out. If you love romances with a ton of push and pull, you’ll enjoy Ruby and Luciano. And if you loved some of Karina Halle’s past romance like Love, in English and The Forbidden Man, we get some lovely cameos with our favorite couples!


lacey


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Review: Playing With Fire by L.J. Shen

Playing With Fire by L.J. Shen
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: September 15th 2020
Links: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
Source: I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review

A broken boy on the path to destruction.
A scarred girl without direction.
A love story carved in secrets, inked with pain and sealed with a lie.

Grace Shaw and West St. Claire are arctic opposites.
She is the strange girl from the food truck.
He is the mysterious underground fighter who stormed into her sleepy Texan college town on his motorcycle one day, and has been wreaking havoc since.
She is invisible to the world.
He is the town’s beloved bad boy.
She is a reject.
He is trouble.
When West thrusts himself into Grace’s quiet life, she scrambles to figure out if he is her happily-ever-after or tragic ending.
But the harder she pushes him away, the more he pulls her out of her shell.
Grace doesn’t know much about anything beyond her town’s limits, but she does know this:
She is falling in love with the hottest guy in Sheridan U.
And when you play with fire—you ought to get burned.

As soon as I read the blurb for Playing with Fire and realized that L.J. Shen was releasing a new adult college romance, I was intrigued. I love college romances and I was so curious to see her write one! I’m happy to say I ended up enjoying Playing With Fire so much – it’s fun, sexy, and emotional. It’s a frenemies to lovers romance between two broken, lonely people who find love and solace in each other.

Grace has scars on her face and body from a terrible fire. She became an outcast after her accident and in college she is still antisocial. She comes across the bad boy of the school while at work at a taco food truck, and they do NOT get along. When they become coworkers, the banter and chemistry ignites. They reluctantly become somewhat friends (which is why I have to say their relationship is a frenemies kind) and I really enjoyed all the quips and teasing – it was a light-heartedness that was very much necessary with all the pain and heartbreak the main characters also experience. The romance is a bit slow but I loved how the relationship developed between Grace and West. Theirs is not an easy romance, but it’s one that’s worth the wait!

It took me a bit to get into this book in the beginning, but West and Grace grew on me soon enough. I really liked their connection, the banter, and the push/pull of the romance. These two frenemies are forced into close proximity while working together at a taco food truck, which I thought was so fun. There are emotional and heartfelt moments as they connect over their traumatic pasts and current loneliness. (I almost cried when we find out West’s tragic past. It. Is. Heartbreaking.) This was an emotional ride with plenty of ups and downs. I’m glad we got a college romance from L.J. Shen, and if you’re a fan of hers, you’re sure to enjoy this newest standalone of hers.


lacey


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