They were the Three Amigos: Duncan Holloway, Imogen Swan and Corey Szabo. Two young boys with difficult lives at home banding together with a cool girl who didn’t mind mucking through the mud on their hikes.
They grew up to be Duncan Holloway, activist, CEO and face of the popular River Rain outdoor stores, Imogen Swan, award-winning actress and America’s sweetheart, and Corey Szabo, ruthless tech billionaire.
Rich and very famous, they would learn the devastating knowledge of how the selfish acts of one would affect all their lives.
And the lives of those they loved.
Start the River Rain series with After the Climb, the story of Duncan and Imogen navigating their way back to each other, decades after a fierce betrayal.
And introduce yourself to their families, who will have their stories told when River Rain continues.
This series was started with the help of you, my readers, during the pandemic crisis of COVID-19. The first book in this series is free, a gift to my Chicklets for their loyalty and support over the years, and a project we all banded together to produce during a challenging time. Thank you for years of kindness and encouragement. I hope you enjoy what we built together.
Please note: This book is a love letter to my readers, a project we worked on together, and as such, for the time being, will only be available right here on my website. In time, I will put it on vendors to be made available widely, but now, it’s just for you.
Title : After the Climb Author : Kristen Ashley Series : River Rain #1 Format : ebook Page Count : unknown Genre : Contemporary Romance Publisher : Indie Release Date : April 4, 2020
Reviewer : Micky Rating : ★ ★ ★
Micky’s 2.5 – 3 star review
It’s been a while since I’ve given a new KA release a chance and this freebie caught my eye. Side note: I was once a fan of KA but grew out of her writing style and alpha males but I still like some of my old favourites. AFTER THE CLIMB engaged my interest quickly with a story that was all about second chances, one of my favourite tropes.
I’m not going to rehash the story for you but I am going to explain what worked and what didn’t work for me. Character-wise, I liked the two main characters a lot and this fact carried me to completion of the book. I liked the family but how KA wrote the family I will return to. The male MC was not an alpha, and the ‘babes’ were kept to a minimum. I think the blending of the family that was central to this story, was fun but also somewhat unrealistic. The second chance romance was kind of lovely and light.
Now to the writing, having read so many KA books, I do know what I am getting into but unfortunately, what happens for me, is that the writing style stops me from sinking into the story. The robotic (thank you, Hollis) dialogue style that follows a unique KA formula does not float my boat.
But he looked how he looked. And he did what he did.
There’s a lot of these nonsensical statements along the way which I think is supposed to be endearing, but I have lost my love. Back to how the family was written, the family together were chaos but the dialogue with the family together was a disaster. I read numerous pages again and again, to try and grasp what was going on. Everyone was so humourous, everyone was so quippy.
All the above said, this wasn’t an awful book. I’m actually interested in future characters because it was a good story but whether I have to chops to throw myself back into the writing remains to be seen.
From the USA Today bestselling author of The Friend Zonecomes an adorable and fresh romantic comedy about one trouble-making dog who brings together two perfect strangers.
Two years after losing her fiancé, Sloan Monroe still can’t seem to get her life back on track. But one trouble-making pup with a “take me home” look in his eyes is about to change everything. With her new pet by her side, Sloan finally starts to feel more like herself. Then, after weeks of unanswered texts, Tucker’s owner reaches out. He’s a musician on tour in Australia. And bottom line: He wants Tucker back.
Well, Sloan’s not about to give up her dog without a fight. But what if this Jason guy really loves Tucker? As their flirty texts turn into long calls, Sloan can’t deny a connection. Jason is hot and nice and funny. There’s no telling what could happen when they meet in person. The question is: With his music career on the rise, how long will Jason really stick around? And is it possible for Sloan to survive another heartbreak?
Title : The Happy Ever After Playlist Author : Abby Jimenez Format : eARC/finsihed copy Page Count : 400 Genre : contemporary romance Publisher : Forever/ Little Brown UK Release Date : April 14, 2020
If you read THE FRIEND ZONE, you know that Jimenez’s writing is compulsively readable and nigh unputdownable. So why I decided to pick it up at nine PM on a work night and stay up almost until midnight to finish and then write this review.. well, it wasn’t a decision, I just lived it. I don’t regret it now but we’ll speak later as to how I feel in the morning.
Additionally, if you’ve read Jimenez’s debut, you know that going into this one is going to be emotional. The events of the first book in this universe, events that directly change Sloan’s world, are a lot. And we open up two years after that event and Sloan is.. not doing well.
While we eventually get to a place where there’s a new love interest and there’s flirting and connection and sweetness, the grief doesn’t poof disappear. I really appreciated the balance that the author had between taking steps to move on — initially nothing to do with the romance — and the hesitations, the relapses, the moments that required her to pause and step back. It felt natural and not overblown and also heightened the intensity of the romance because this powerful connection had a counterweight of.. not sadness but maybe appreciation? Hard to say. But the early chapters? I devoured. I delighted.
Later there is some drama with an ex, the record label, a harsh tour schedule, and other than a few blips, I thought all the speed bumps were pretty acceptable. If you’ve read any rockstar romances, you probably won’t be too surprised with how it plays out, but this one is more wholesome than most, mostly because the characters themselves are pretty wholesome excellent humans. That said, I’m not quite sure I buy the big confessional but, again, it’s what you do in a rockstar romance, and it makes for great cinematic-dramatic style romance so, hey, whatever man. The ending is also hella cheese but HEAs are what it’s all about and it’s literally in the title, so.
So, yeah, smooth sailing all the way through? Maybe not. I can’t quite decide if this was on par with THE FRIEND ZONE or if the former was a little better, but this was still a really fun read, with characters just zany enough for comic relief (Kristen), supportive found-family friends, swoony love, a heaping portion of emotions and feels, a dog, and a big time second chance at love — not with the same guy, of course, but a second chance nonetheless.
This is definitely going to be a hit.
** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
Micky’s 4 star review
Devoured in 24 hours and compulsive reading are my first thoughts on finishing THE HAPPY EVER AFTER PLAYLIST. This story had all the highs and crushing lows, so get ready for a roller coaster ride that had me gripping onto the safety bar.
The Sloan that we met in THE FRIEND ZONE was brought to life in this story, a shadow of her former self and still understandably stuck in a complex grief pattern of one significant date of loss to another. The grief element of this book was well written but it didn’t overwhelm the narrative; it was balanced so well. The serendipitous meeting of Tucker, the dog, Sloan and then Jason was absolutely fun. I got so wrapped up in their virtual meet cute and then their real life one.
I got lulled, lulled into chemistry for days, banter (much of which came from Kirsten) and the gorgeous newness of a relationship. So that when the rot and angst crept in, I wasn’t ready. The second half of the book had more serious tones and it was gripping but tough reading. I will say no more to the plot because you just have to read this.
I have exited the book reinforcing my fandom of Abby Jiminez’s writing and character creations. I feel like I want to go back and read these two books back to back soon because I just haven’t had enough. You are definitely going to want to read this.
Thank you to Little Brown for the finished review copy.
When your nemesis also happens to be your fiancé, happily ever after becomes a lot more complicated in this wickedly funny, lovers-to-enemies-to-lovers romantic comedy debut.
Naomi Westfield has the perfect fiancé: Nicholas Rose holds doors open for her, remembers her restaurant orders, and comes from the kind of upstanding society family any bride would love to be a part of. They never fight. They’re preparing for their lavish wedding that’s three months away. And she is miserably and utterly sick of him.
Naomi wants out, but there’s a catch: whoever ends the engagement will have to foot the nonrefundable wedding bill. When Naomi discovers that Nicholas, too, has been feigning contentment, the two of them go head-to-head in a battle of pranks, sabotage, and all-out emotional warfare.
But with the countdown looming to the wedding that may or may not come to pass, Naomi finds her resolve slipping. Because now that they have nothing to lose, they’re finally being themselves–and having fun with the last person they expect: each other.
Title : You Deserve Each Other Author : Sarah Hogle Format : eARC Page Count : 368 Genre : contemporary romance Publisher : G.P. Putnam’s Sons Release Date : April 7, 2020
Reviewer : Hollis Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★
Hollis’ 4 star review
I wavered a bit in the actual ranking of this read because despite how much this made me laugh, moreso in the latter half but even in the beginning, this wasn’t always a.. nice story. This enemies-to-lovers (who-were-already-lovers aka affianced) romance errs very much on the side of OTT. Sometimes ridiculous, sometimes mean, sometimes (mostly) immature. There’s a definite almost-real-hate edge to this and that makes it hard to read, makes the characters hard to like, even as you can see, through Naomi’s POV (our only POV) that she hates that she doesn’t love Nicholas the way she once did. That she can be irrational, petty, self-absorbed. And that so can he.
It’s messy af. But it went from uncomfortable, weird, but still funny, to sweet, heartbreaking, and hilarious. And there was a moment at the end, where we relive something, something the reader wasn’t privy to until that moment, and I was just.. gah. The little tendernesses (is it a word? it’s a word now), the slow build up to this possible-maybe reconciliation, was gorgeous, but that scene? Wow. I have a feeling this will be one I reread and love when I do.
That said, I’m not going to say this’ll be for everyone. It almost wasn’t for me (see aforementioned uncertainty of ranking). I think some readers won’t want to tough it out in the beginning, which is valid, but I think if you can move past the antics, you will see some of the underlying issues, and then you can appreciate the one-up-manship. Or maybe you’ll only see it in hindsight. But outside of their relationship, there are also external elements that have soured things, of which family, friends, and career all play a role. This isn’t a one-note story about a couple who has drifted apart only to overlook real issues and earn an HEA. There is growth, there is understanding, there is communication. All while still being feisty and funny. Sure, it does go from one extreme to another but.. it works. Or, rather, it worked for me.
This read went from a “hm, I don’t know, it’s funny, but..” to “wow, I can’t wait to relive this all again”. So there you are. Definitely a debut to keep an eye on if it sounds like your thing and I will totally pick up what Hogle puts out next.
** I received an ARC from Edelweiss and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
The first rule of book club: You don’t talk about book club.
Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott’s marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him.
Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.
Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville’s top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it’ll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife.
Title : The Bromance Book Club Author : Lyssa Kay Adams Series : Bromance Book Club (book one) Format : eARC Page Count : 352 Genre : contemporary romance Publisher : Berkley/Headline Eternal Release Date : November 5, 2019/January 30, 2020
Reviewer : Hollis/Micky Rating : ★ ★ .5/ ★ ★★ ★
Hollis’ 2.5 star review
What, in concept, should be such an excellent take on a second-chance/save-the-marriage romance, with manly men learning to navigate the pitfalls and stumbling blocks of their relationships from romance novels, really only 100% succeeds in concept form.
The author throws us right into the thick of things. The story opens up with the hero on a bender because, after a month of silent treatment following a devastating reveal from his wife, he’s finally walked out. They are headed for divorce. But don’t despair! The wise yet comedic ensemble to the rescue!
“Men are idiots. We complain that women are so mysterious and shit, and we never know what they want. We fuck up our relationships because we convince ourselves that it’s too hard to figure them out. But the real problem is with us. We think we’re not supposed to feel things and cry and express ourselves. We expect women to do all the emotional labour in a relationship and then act confused when they give up on us.”
Honestly, they were the best part. But mostly Mack.
“You hear the voice, too?“ “It’s your subconscious. At some point in this process, every one of us have had to fight a British aristocrat in our brain that identifies things we would otherwise prefer to ignore.“
The problem I think, for me, is lack of context and foundation. Which I think in theory is what the author was going for. We didn’t know who these characters once were, and why we should be sad about their current state, because they’ve lost themselves (or, really, the heroine has). They have changed, faked their way through happiness, and more, until they — she — reaches her breaking point. But conversely this worked against the story — again, probably only for me — because I didn’t.. care as much? And also I found neither of them really had a leg to stand on. But, I mean, I’m not married, so what do I know?
Nothing on Earth is as strong as a woman who’s good and fed up.
The heroine’s biggest point of contention is that she feels betrayed by her husband for not seeing how much she has changed since they met. How many parts of herself she’s sanded down, or swallowed, for the sake of their family and his career. He doesn’t see all the ways she has faked living, and loving, the past few years of their relationship. But, I mean also, she throws it in his face and yet she’s also never said boo about any of it. Whereas the hero, okay yes didn’t react all that well, but every time he tried to reach her, to make up, she would push him away or shut down. I didn’t blame him for some of his frustrations. And this went back and forth for a while, with her seriously punishing him beyond where I think the limit should’ve been, and then I guess we’re meant to forgive her because it’s all been a symptom of her childhood and resulting insecurities and expectations..? Whatever. Again, this might have worked if I had.. cared.. more.
“What the hell is a Regency?“ “That means it’s set in eighteenth or early nineteenth century England.” “Oh, great. That sounds relevant.”
The romance novel/story within the story was sometimes fun but also a little much, too on the nose considering how meta this was already feeling with some of the discussions amongst the bros, but it also kinda proved that this author could write a historical romance and I would probably really enjoy it. Her writing seemed better suited to those passages than the contemporary ones.
“[it’s] at least a BB four.“ “Do I want to know what that means?“ “It’s our rating system for how much sex is in it.“ “But what does BB stand for?“ “Book Boner.”
So, overall, I didn’t quite love this. And definitely not to the extent I expected to.
This is on the shorter end of things reading wise, and it does move fairly smoothly, I felt like I made a lot of progress in a short time, but overwhelmingly the characters just kind of failed to live up to the potential. I adored the ensemble of dudes as a supporting cast because it was less of the relationship drama, though can fully admit they read more like caricatures for the comedic relief, and am tentatively looking forward to Mack in a starring role. But as a result of who I assume he’ll be paired with.. I have concerns.
“The point of all of all of this is to court her, Gavin. Not seduce her.” “What’s the difference?“ “It’s a fucking miracle you got married at all. The difference, is to make her want you, not prove how much you want her.“
I would definitely read on, and read more from this author, but I might suggest lowering expectations just a tiny bit. I definitely could’ve done with that before diving in.
** I received a ARC from Edelweiss and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
Micky’s 3.5-4 star review
This was such a fun concept, from the blurb to the excellent book cover. I read THE BROMANCE BOOK CLUB after reading a very heavy book and it was just the light kind of fun I needed. This is a perfect weekend or beach read but it also feels like a fresh concept.
I love to read a book about married couples and these two, Gavin and Thea had a marriage on the rocks and in deep trouble. It was the kind of marriage suffering from neglect and lacking in honesty. However, I could see from the start that there was much to salvage and I enjoyed their journey.
This is a romantic comedy at times with periods of seriousness. The guy friends in Gavin’s life enlisted the help of some regency books to teach Gavin how to woo and satisfy his wife. Everything about this aspect was hilarious and I adored how there was a second mini story within this book in the form of the regency novel he was reading.
He pulled ‘His Pissed-off Countess’ or whatever it was called from the drawer. Del took it from him and held it aloft like a preacher about to drop some gospel.
Gavin learning to change his behaviour was central to this story and he was kind of dumb but also humble and willing to change. I grew to like him and to root for their marriage. I was glad to see some wake-up in Thea too.
“It absolutely is true. A woman remembers every time a man winks at her, because we love winking. It’s like catnip. Wink at us, and we roll over and start purring. You haven’t winked at me in a long time.” “Then I’m an idiot.”Gavin slowly lowered his gaze to lips. “Because I wouldn’t mind hearing you purr.”
There was a strong sense of family in this book with twins in the middle of this marriage. There were some incredibly sweet moments between the four of them that just made me warm and cosy.
I’m really looking forward to reading more from this series and this author, she reeled me in with this fun story.
Thank you to Headline Eternal for the early review copy.
Some things are easily forgiven. Other things… not so much.
Lenny DeMaio made herself a promise: she was done. Done thinking about him. Done worrying about him. Done reaching out to a man who clearly didn’t want to be found.
Too bad no one gave Jonah Collins the memo.
Title : The Best Thing Author : Mariana Zapata Format : ebook (KU) Page Count : 493 Genre : contemporary romance Publisher : Indie Release Date : August 7, 2019
Reviewer : Micky Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Micky’s 5 star review
I devoured this book in the best way I know how, on holiday, with my full and undivided attention, just what any Zapata book deserves. THE BEST THING gave me all the things I love from my favourite Zapatas – family and friends, the slow burn build and all of the stomach-crunching feelings. What was special about this book was that it went a direction that Mariana hasn’t gone before and it worked so darn well.
This story has a split sport context of MMA and rubgy…hello…this is fine by me. What a picture was painted, I loved the home of Maio House. This book delivered on some of the best characters I’ve read from a MZ book, Lenny (Elena), Jonah, Grandpa Gus, Mo (special squidge to the stomach here) and Peter. Each of these characters had my heart and all equally, I cannot favour one over the other.
Lenny was a woman let down, let down in the biggest way. Each chapter start gave a very brief past context to the ways in which Lenny had been let down and the more that the book progressed, the more those chapters starts kicked me in the gut. Jonah was the guy, THE GUY and it’s amazing how my heart, mind and affections moved towards understanding him. This big, bumbling, shy and gorgeous creature was swoon-heaven but guess what, Lenny was a champion MMA fighter, she could totally kick his ass with a foot swipe and her mouth.
There was nothing he could do that I couldn’t fight. There was nothing he could say that would possibly hurt me. I had prepared for this.
What was it that he wanted to explain? Why had he disappeared? Why hadn’t he called me back? What hadn’t he wanted to be part of…my life? Why he’d decided to come back now?
The unexpected element of this book was thrilling to me and this aspect was written so well, my heart was warm and cozy, wrapped up in the family-ness of this book. Sorry for the vagueness but it is necessary.
This second chance story with a deep connection at the heart, was fantastic. It was written with a style that just seemed to appeal to my mind and heart. I saved the last 6% for my flight home and what an idiot I am because that epilogue had my eyes sweating on take off. That said, that epilogue was just right for me.
Betty Dawsey knows that breaking things off with Thom Lange is for the best. He’s nice, but boring, and their relationship has lost its spark. But steady and predictable Thom, suddenly doesn’t seem so steady and predictable when their condo explodes and she’s kidnapped by a couple of crazies claiming that Thom isn’t who he says he is.
Thom is having a hellish week. Not only is he hunting a double agent, but his fiancée dumped him, and thanks to his undercover life, she’s been kidnapped.
Turns out Thom is Operative Thom and he’s got more than a few secrets to share with Betty if he’s going to keep her alive. With both their lives on the line, their lackluster connection is suddenly replaced by an intense one. But in his line of work, feelings aren’t wanted or desired. Because feelings can be a lethal distraction.
Title : Lies Author : Kylie Scott Format : eARC Page Count : 195 Genre : Contemporary Romance Publisher : Indie Release Date : July 21, 2019
Reviewer : Micky Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5
Micky’s 4.5 star review
Every single thing about this read was unexpected, even taking the unusual synopsis into mind. This was a fast-paced, thrilling romance with bucket loads of story and plenty of twists. It was also consistently amusing with characters I couldn’t help but be pretty enamoured with.
What is super interesting about this story and how it starts, is that the ‘going wrong’ part of the relationship happens right at the beginning, in unholy style. So, you could almost call this a second chance kind of story but at break-neck speed. It was like a cross between a snarky, funny romance and ‘Die Hard’. Interested?
The heroine, Betty is unconventional, partly because she starts her journey with taking no more messing from Thom. She was over him, the relationship and she was empowered. Everything spiraled from there and Betty was resilient, strong but with heart. I loved her snark, her refusal to be put in a corner and I read about her with total interest.
“There’s a crack in the ceiling high above my head. Fitting, given that there’s an even bigger and even more destructive fault line running smack bam through my life. Move over, San Andreas, Thom Lange has you beat.“
Thom was definitely the character to be revealed but also I felt pretty distrustful of him, with a slice of ‘why are you so swoony’? It made for addictive reading watching these two connect for the second time. It took me time to believe in him and I understood Betty’s anger towards him.
“Thom is basically a machine. Like some killer robot sent from the future to fuck up my love life.”
Alongside the great storyline was a tangible chemistry that also made for compelling reading. Everything about this read was addictive and I read it in less than 24 hours. The twists kept coming and from 80% my jaw was dropped and I was suspicious. This story was an unusual and welcome offering from Kylie Scott who has amazed me with her ingenuity on this one.
Thank you to Social Butterfly PR and Kylie Scott for the early copy.
About Kylie Scott
Kylie is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author. She was voted Australian Romance Writer of the year, 2013, 2014 & 2018, by the Australian Romance Writer’s Association and her books have been translated into eleven different languages. She is a long time fan of romance, rock music, and B-grade horror films.
Based in Queensland, Australia with her two children and husband, she reads, writes and never dithers around on the internet.