THE HAPPY EVER AFTER PLAYLIST by Abby Jimenez – double review!

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

Reviewer : Hollis/Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

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.

WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING by Charlie Adhara

Agent Cooper Dayton and his partner, Oliver Park, are going undercover—at a retreat for couples who need counselling. They do say the best cover story is one that’s close to the truth…

Agent Cooper Dayton is almost relieved to get a phone call from his former boss at the Bureau of Special Investigations. It means a temporary reprieve from tensions created by house hunting with Oliver Park, his partner both in work and in life. Living together in a forever home is exactly what Cooper wants. He’s just not keen on working out the details.

With a former alpha werewolf missing, Cooper and Park are loaned to the BSI to conduct the search at a secluded mountain retreat. The agents will travel to the resort undercover…as a couple in need of counseling.

The resort is picturesque, the grounds are stunning and the staff members are all suspicious as hell.

With a long list of suspects and danger lurking around every cabin, Cooper should be focusing on the case. But he’s always been anxious about the power dynamics in his relationship with Park, and participating in the couples’ activities at the retreat brings it all to the surface. A storm is brewing, though, and Cooper and Park must rush to solve the case before the weather turns. Or before any more guests—or the agents themselves—end up dead.


Title : Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
Author : Charlie Adhara
Series : Big Bad Wolf (book four)
Format : eARC
Page Count :
Genre : LGBTQIA+ paranormal romance
Publisher : Carina Press
Release Date : March 2, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Ho-ho-how great was this! For reference, I started and finished this on Christmas Eve, so. That’s why this opening line is funny to me right now.. knowing this won’t go live until March.

But back on track!

I am new to this series, having binged the first three back in the summer, but seeing this installment up for request was exciting because a) I wasn’t sure we’d get more and b) the third book was my favourite of the series so I had hoped that momentum, and track record, would continue on the up and up. And this was pretty damn great.

Frankly, Dayton, I don’t know anyone less concerned with pissing off people and wolves alike.
Careful, all this flattery is going straight to my head.”

It’s hard to know what to talk about for a series that’s a few books in but suffice it to say, if you’re a fan, you’ll still be, and if you’re keen to start a m/m werewolf shifter series and this is the first you’re hearing about it? Surprise! Go settle in for a nice binge. This one is much fun.

What the hell about him had Park seen and thought, Oh yes, anxiety-ridden loner with a temper sharper than a serpent’s tongue and a deep-seated fear of change whose longest successful relationship is with an equally judgmental cat? Swoon.

On the emotional/relationship front, this one started to worry me a bit because I thought we had come very far in book three, and some of the issues Cooper was working through felt a little bit two steps back. But. Oh but. There were some great moments to push us even further than we’d gone in book three, and with some very good rationale and reasoning, and a heck of a lot of teasing. In the best way.

It’s not you, it’s me.
Very helpful. How on earth will an evolved couple like us convincingly pretend to need counseling?

Plus? EeeeEeEeEeEe. <– this was my brain during a certain hug. That’s all I’m saying.

What do you think? Would Kyle and Andrew venture out and ask directions?
I don’t know, are Kyle and Andrew auditioning for victims one and two in a horror movie?
Kyle would. Andrew needs to keep the car running and getaway ready. For reasons.
I hate Andrew.”
That’s why we’re here.

The excuse for this particular adventure, going undercover at a couple’s counseling retreat for werewolves, was genius. Who doesn’t love the ‘pretend relationship’ trope except it’s even juicier when they are in a relationship and get forced to work through some things. Delicious. Also, I liked how Adhara introduced another element for the shifters in such a natural way. It seems to happen in each book, the total opposite of an info dump, and always relevant for the moment, not for a ‘maybe in the future you need to know this’, and it’s so perfect. The worldbuilding is so fabulous and so natural, so subtle.

Nice secret passage. Narnia’s keeping well, I assume.

So, yes, this wasn’t Christmassy at all, I’m reading it three months early, but who even cares. I had so much fun, this was sexy as hell, and also hilarious. Sometimes I wonder which I like better, the humour or the swoons (it’s both, but seriously, so funny). I can’t wait for more because with the ending of this one, this series is definitely not over.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. ** 

SHINIGAMI by Xia Xia Lake

A coming-of-age love story between an orphan and the heir of the richest family in the Land of Yamato. The human world meets the yōkai in a power struggle for the fate of Fujiwara no Hirotsugu. 

While he battles to find his own path, Hirotsugu finds solace in a boy who will become his secret friend, then his salvation, and then as they become adults together, the love of his life.


Title : Shinigami
Author : Xia Xia Lake
Series : Takamagahara Monogatari (book two)
Format : paperback
Page Count : 352
Genre : LGBTQIA+ historical fiction/fantasy
Publisher : indie
Release Date : October 1, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3.75 (rounded up) star review

I’m going to be honest. I have very different feelings for the first half of this book vs the latter half. The first half details the life and experiences of Hirotsugu as he grows up as the heir to one of the wealthiest, and respected, families. In contrast to those around him, particularly his family, he’s very aware, and almost ashamed, of the divide that separates him from the poor, and this is reinforced by a chance encounter with a young beggar. A chance encounter that happens not just a second time, but a third, thus sparking a friendship that would turn into a great love.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The first half of this journey is very heavy on the historical elements, the traditions, the myths; if you love world-building, if you love losing yourself in cultural descriptions, you will be overjoyed with the author’s research and attention to detail. I’ll admit that while I did follow along (and had a handy glossary, along with chapter header definitions to help out), I wasn’t as engrossed by the history as I was the characters. So while I wasn’t bored, I wasn’t fully immersed or on the edge of my seat in the early chapters. It was easy to put down, even with the magical elements and the mystery surrounding this presence that ran parallel to the narrative.

Also I made the mistake of speculating a theory or two to a friend who had read this already and boy was I wrong. But hey, I’m owning up to it. I recommend you try and throw some guesses around, too! Ahem, anyway..

And then the second half of the story happened and it was sweet and lovely and all of a sudden I was punched in the gut with feels and this time I was putting down the book so I could finish crying. Which I did.. twice. I definitely felt the strength of these characters near the end, the events felt more high stakes, with the added element of some melodrama to really get those emotions flowing. As a bonus, much is revealed that is only teased throughout, and while some subsequent actions felt rushed or maybe a little unrealistic, you still feel it. It still hurts. And you’re still blown away.

Readers who pick up the book one, KOGITSUNE, might be surprised, and confused, when they follow it up with SHINIGAMI only to realize it isn’t a direct continuation. And does, in fact, happen long after the events of book two. But by the time you get to the end of this book, you’ll understand why it’s important, and necessary, to read first. So go do that now.

Overall, this is an experience unlike one I’ve read before. It’s detailed, rich in history, magic and myth and folklore, it’s about a forever love between two young men, and so much more. And it’s not over! There’s more to come. I cannot wait to see how these stories progress in book three.

BOOK OF ORLANDO by Laura Lascarso

Henri has a policy of not interfering with human affairs—he’s a courier of souls, no more, no less—until he happens upon a boy who reminds him there is goodness and light amidst the sorrow.

Orlando is in a vulnerable situation when Henri intercedes on his behalf and initiates the bond between them. Despite being punished in the past for similar transgressions, Henri finds himself getting more entangled in Orlando’s life over the years, doling out “justice” to those who mean to harm his beloved friend.

In time, Orlando ages into a beautiful young man with agency all his own, and he harbors desires only Henri can satisfy. But there are grave consequences for the mortal and divine when they consort with one another, and the gods will have their sacrifice.

The first of a trilogy, Book of Orlando is a work of adult, erotic fiction. It contains violence and moral ambiguity.


Title : Book of Orlando
Author : Laura Lascarso
Series : Mortal and the Divine (volume 1)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 358
Genre : paranormal / erotica
Publisher : indie
Release Date : February 7, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

I am not sure where to begin with this one.

I want to impress upon you how this isn’t quite like any other paranormal you’ve read; sure, you might be familiar with the usual angels and demons in your fantasy, but this is something new. Are you tired of the same old immortal bloodsuckers, sparkly or otherwise? Lascarso’s got you covered. Want all that and for it to be hot and.. well, scorching hot? Yep and yep.

I find writing this review impossible, and have written and deleted innumerable iterations of this, because I was trying to detail the story and give nothing away and that is just not happening. Everything feels like a spoiler, everything feels like I’m saying too much and ruining the surprise. And that’s the last thing I want to do.

So, suffice it to say that this book deals with trauma, agency, sexual discovery, consent, assault, and abuse, but is also sweet, tender, sexy as hell, and so much more. Orlando is the sassy sweet brat you never knew you wanted to read about, Henri is the epitome of a gentleman demon, and their connection, their love, is everything. The world around them, the magic and the immortals, the age old grievances and the blood, is fascinating, complex, and dark.

I need book two, like, now.

** I received an ARC from the author (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

THE ONE FOR YOU by Roni Loren – double review!

The highly-anticipated fourth book in Roni Loren’s unforgettable The Ones Who Got Away series.

She got a second chance at life.
Will she take a second chance at love?

Kincaid Breslin wasn’t supposed to survive that fateful night at Long Acre when so many died, including her boyfriend—but survive she did. She doesn’t know why she got that chance, but now she takes life by the horns and doesn’t let anybody stand in her way

Ashton Isaacs was her best friend when disaster struck all those years ago, but he chose to run as far away as he could. Now fate has brought him back to town, and Ash doesn’t know how to cope with his feelings for Kincaid and his grief over their lost friendship. For Ash has been carrying secrets, and he knows that once Kincaid learns the truth, he’ll lose any chance he might have had with the only woman he’s ever loved.


Title : The One For You
Author : Roni Loren
Series : The One Who Got Away (book four)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date : December 31, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis/Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

Well, we’ve come to the final book in this story. This series was one I had such huge expectations for, and I’m not quite sure why. There have definitely been emotional moments, multiple in each book, because the topic of grief and guilt surrounding surviving a school shooting is just so real. This is a tough subject and, really, so much of it, in each book, has been done so well. Not every couple, or romance, always worked for me, and the same applies to this final book, but overall I like that Loren took the risk to tackle something like this.

Will it be a series I recommend or reread? The latter, no, the former, maybe? I think it’s worth exploring for readers and, I mean, if you want feels and angst, there’s plenty. Also it offers up HEAs for survivors who have taken back their lives after going through something horrific. No matter the details, that’s worth respecting.

I think, out of all of them, this may have been my favourite of the series as far as the couple went. I won’t say it is without some of the same pitfalls or irritations found in other contemporary romances, but for the most part I love how these two fit. I didn’t love some of the revisionist history near the end, the cutesy bow on the already-solidified happy ending, so that did sour things a little, but the ending itself was pretty strong and powerful and was a nice chapter to close on the overall story for these four women.

These books weren’t my first experience with Loren and while this wasn’t quite a homerun series for me that I thought it would be, I would definitely pick her up again.

** I received an ARC from Edelweiss and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


Micky’s 4 star review

THE ONE FOR YOU was a strong finale to this series that I have enjoyed overall. For me, this final book was as enjoyable as the first book, my other favourite in the series. It has been good to see completion of all the characters from Long Acre and catch up on those from previous books.

This story took some getting into for me. I liked the storyline immediately, both the characters of Kincaid (who I’ve liked from the other books) and Ash were engaging but I found the pacing off initially. It picked up some speed of execution around the 30% mark and then I didn’t look back.

Kincaid have both a second chance and friends to more thing going on. Both these elements were complicated, their friendship however was lovely and that was their safe place. I enjoyed the slow build of chemistry and how these two came together. However, all elements of their relationship remained complex.

Ash was a bit of a contradiction in characteristics at times which was fun. On the one hand, supporter, passive and on the other, ready to punch someone in defence of Kincaid and dominant in other ways. He felt unpredictable and I liked that. The story of these two had a predictable feel but it didn’t stop my enjoyment. However, we did get some twists from the past that I didn’t see coming and found pretty jaw dropping. There were some lose ends to parts of this story that I wanted a bit more of like Ash’s parents.

The full circle of this story and the four books was like finishing a long journey. I was pleased to get to the destination but I enjoyed the scenary along the way. I’ve enjoyed the topic of a high school shooting affecting people in the long term as a back drop to this series, it’s felt pretty unique in the genre.

Thank you to Sourcebooks for the early review copy.

LAST LIGHT by Claire Kent

It only took four years for the world to fall apart.

Now the last member of my family has died, and I’m forced to travel across what’s left of three states to find the only people I know left alive. To survive, I’ll have to salvage food and supplies and try to avoid violent men who’ve learned they can take what they want by force. The only way I’m going to make it is by trusting Travis.

Travis used to fix my car, and now he’s all I have left in the world. He’s gruff and stoic and unfriendly, and I don’t really know or like him. But he’s all I have left. He’ll keep me safe. We’ll take care of each other. Until we reach what’s left of our town and can finally let go of one another.

Last Light is a standalone post-apocalyptic romance set in the near future after a global catastrophe.


Title : Last Light
Author : Claire Kent
Format : eARC
Page Count : 335
Genre : Post-apocalyptic romance
Publisher : Indie
Release Date : November 13, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

I’ve been a long-time fan of Claire Kent ever since her book ‘Escorted’ and while this isn’t a pen name the author writes under much, I jumped on the chance to read and review this one. I have enjoyed a number of post-apocalyptic stories, those with and without romance and this take did not let me down. I read this book in one sitting, I couldn’t put it down.

LAST LIGHT is carried by a cast of two, Travis and Layne. They were from the same home town, a few years after the world-changing event and having to travel to safety. All the things you might expect from this kind of setting were prevalent, no food, no power, gangs of vigilantes and increased vulnerability for women. That said, at no point was there a thread of the weakness of women, on the contrary, Layne was empowered and fierce in her own way.

This story centred on a slow growing connection and a romance to light fires. I lived for it and I loved it. I found everything about their past and presents engaging. There was a strong and detailed world in the background and a plenty of storyline to hang on to. The steam was pretty strong in this read but it fitted so well.

There were other characters that came into the story, friendlies and not-so-friendlies. There was a background of mild tension as you might imagine in a world such as this which added to the pacing of the story.

I would love to read more of this world and characters and I continue to love anything written by Claire Kent.

Thank you to the author for the review copy through netgalley.

GET A LIFE, CHLOE BROWN by Talia Hibbert – double review!

Talia Hibbert, one of contemporary romance’s brightest new stars, delivers a witty, hilarious romantic comedy about a woman who’s tired of being “boring” and recruits her mysterious, sexy neighbor to help her experience new things—perfect for fans of Sally Thorne, Jasmine Guillory, and Helen Hoang.

Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamourous family’s mansion. The next items?

Enjoy a drunken night out.
Ride a motorcycle.
Go camping.
Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
And… do something bad.
But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.

Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.

But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…


Title : Get a Life, Chloe Brown
Author : Talia Hibbert
Series : The Brown Sisters (book one)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Avon / Piatkus
Release Date : November 5, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 5 star review

The fact that this book exists makes me a little less angry that the world is a dumpster fire. Which isn’t to say that the world should continue stinking and burning, just that.. maybe this is proof we might one day be okay. Because this book? This b o o k.

She hadn’t always been like this, a tongue with a tip bitten off, her feelings squashed into box. But help and concern, even from the people she loved — even when she needed it — had a way of grating. Of building up, or rather, grinding down. Truthfully, guiltily, sometimes simple gratitude tasted like barely sweetened resentment in her mouth.

Hibbert really went there. She did it. She gave us a book that tackles chronic pain in a way that I, as a reader, don’t think I’ve seen before. Chloe Brown is a force. She hurts, every day, but more than that she’s been hurt by being left. She has walls but wants to.. not remove them but maybe install a door into said perimeter. She wants to open up, live her life; even, maybe, get one. And she wants to stop letting her physical pain get in her way; or at least stop it from being an excuse for not trying. Not recklessly, not at her own expense, but she wants to find her limits and go there. There is so much grace in giving us a character like Chloe. And I loved her so much.

We don’t have moose, Chlo. Or bears.
I’m quite certain that we do.”
We don’t.”
We definitely have bears.”
We don’t. If we had bears it’d be in the news all the time. You know, Fine upstanding British man attacked by a bear, EU to blame, Brexit now.
I’m quite certain I saw that headline on a copy of the Daily Mail the other week.

The author has also offered us a man who has been hurt, and is hurting, and yet doesn’t take that as a license to be an asshole to the world or to our leading lady. It doesn’t mean he’s a pure soft boy of total goodness, because like anyone who hurts they get low, they get scared, they maybe lash out, but he’s so self-aware. He apologizes. He makes amends. He strives to be better, to do better, and is more than just words. And that does, actually, make him as close to total goodness as one can get, I think.

The thing is, Red.. some of us have so many marginalizations, we might drown if we let all the little hurts flood in. So there are those, like me, who filter. I think you’ve noticed I filter a lot.

This book took me so long to read and I think it was because, subconsciously (unconsciously?), I wanted to delay the satisfaction a bit. Savour it. Because lowkey this book was equal parts a hilarious, swoony, delight, and also quietly devastating. Which isn’t to say those quiet moments weren’t also loud but.. the way they were handled was quiet. Carefully. Again, I’ll use the word gracefully. It made those moments pack an unexpected punch without amping up manufactured drama. It made it feel natural and real and all the more potent. And as a result I probably just needed a few more breaks than normal with this particular read but oh man was it worth it.

Throw a tantrum, if you must.
Throw a–? I’m not doing this with you.”
Doing what?
Arguing. I don’t argue with people.”
That sounds dull.”

And speaking of potent. Those swoons? Oh my god. This book was steamy af on multiple occasions but still maintained a slow sexy burn that was so delicious I have no words. None. Just (fire emoji fire emoji fire emoji).

Wait until you see the air mattress.
The what?
Well, you didn’t think I was going to fuck you on the ground, did you? I’m not a complete animal.”

If you’re looking for deletes all previous listings of what this book contains. No. Wait. If you like books, read this one. Full stop.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


Micky’s 4.5 star review

GET A LIFE, CHLOE BROWN was a read full of quirky goodness and the first contemporary romance I’ve ever encountered that has done justice to a protagonist with a chronic illness and pain issues. For this alone, it deserves all the kudos. BUT, that aside, it’s just a damn good story that swallows you up and doesn’t let go.

Chloe was a realistic heroine, the kind of woman you could identify with, mood swings and all. I’m not going to go into detail of what was wrong with Chloe, you can read that for yourself. However, she was ready to evolve as a person managing an illness, she felt it had ruled all her decisions for too long. Her journey to becoming more herself was such good reading. Chloe was full of snark, quips and a quiet, soft centre; I loved her. Her inner monologues, especially about Red, had me hooting with hilarity.

She was a caterpillar tucked into a universe-endorsed chrysalis. Someday soon, she would emerge as a beautiful butterfly who did cool and fabulous things all the time, regardless of whether or not said things had been previously scheduled.

Red was a man of integrity and goodness, there was nothing to not like. Suffice it to say, I loved him too, his patience, generosity and retorts were all the fun. These two together were fractious chemistry, burning slowly and getting on each other’s nerves.

Like maybe she was just an awkward, sarcastic grump and he should stop losing his temper around her.

The connection between Red and Chloe invited me in early on, from the tree incident (still snorting) to the camping. I enjoyed the time it took, the unravelling of feelings and intimacy and the realism of the effect of emotional baggage on future relationships.

I appreciated the storylines in this book more than I can say. Each element of these felt totally genuine from chronic illness to abuse. They were handled with research and sensitivity and this shows me what talent Talia Hibbert has, not only to include these, but to seamlessly and congruently weave this into a love story. I am an instant fan.

Thank you to Piatkus & Little Brown for the review copy.

WORK FOR IT by Talia Hibbert

In this village, I’m an outcast: Griffin Everett, the scowling giant who prefers plants to people. Then I meet Keynes, a stranger from the city who’s everything I’m not: sharp-tongued, sophisticated, beautiful. Free. For a few precious moments in a dark alleyway, he’s also mine, hot and sweet under the stars… until he crushes me like dirt beneath his designer boot. 

When the prettiest man I’ve ever hated shows up at my job the next day, I’m not sure if I want to strangle him or drag him into bed. Actually—I think I want both. But Keynes isn’t here for the likes of me: he makes that painfully clear. With everyone else at work, he’s all gorgeous, glittering charm—but when I get too close, he turns vicious. 

And yet, I can’t stay away. Because there’s something about this ice king that sets me on fire, a secret vulnerability that makes my chest ache. I’ll do whatever it takes to sneak past his walls and see the real man again. 

The last thing I expect is for that man to ruin me. 


Title : Work for It
Author : Talia Hibbert
Series : Just For Him (book four)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 283
Genre : LGBTQIA+ contemporary romance
Publisher : Nixon House
Release Date : September 3, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Goodness. I.. goodness.

So I treated myself to this book after a disappointing read, which felt good because I love supporting delightful authors, and then I ended up sorta impulsively buddy reading it with friends who also deserved a treat (also hahaha sorry guys, as always, I am the worst buddy reader), so generally everything about this read was heading towards a good time. And then I started getting sucked into this book and things got even better.

I may not be built like a lorry, like some people–
I prefer ‘brick shit-house’.”
–but I’ve been told I have a terrifying aura.”
Would be more terrifying you didn’t talk about auras.”

If you like Roan Parrish’s Riven series, you’ll love WORK FOR IT. Hibbert infuses this slowburn m/m romance with the same kind of mental health focus that Parrish does and she, too, does it so well. It adds layers to a story that didn’t need them, because it would’ve been good even without, but with them it’s delicious and emotional. Even better it’s a hate-to-love — in a broad sense, that is, but more specifically it’s a attracted-but-prefer-to-bicker-instead-of-bone which eases into friendship and then more. It’s not only beautiful but it’s a delight. 

How, exactly, does one say, “I assumed you would stop loving me if you found out how depressed and anxious I am,” without making it sounds as if you think the other person’s a bit of a prick?

This book steamed up my glasses, made me cry, made me laugh, made me swoon. There are passages that are angsty af as well as heartbreaking but the emotional evolution, the character growth and the challenges they face, it’s all such a perfect balance. For all the quick build of the connection, it’s equally glacial. The pacing between them is the perfect kind of slow, of cautious, of clear consent, and it’s completely and categorically hot. Also the feeeeeels.

What the fuck am I supposed to do with him if he doesn’t want tea? He’s just exhausted my social knowhow with five words.

I now realize I’ve said nothing at all about the book itself so let’s break it down :

depressed former playboy. reclusive grumpy farmer. opposites attract. age gap. size gap. wait, that last one sounds awful, I just mean one of them is Very Big and the other is Not As Big. kitchen hijinks. Soft Men (not boys, they are older, it’s great). trying a little tenderness. supportive friends. also some sheep.

This is how he wins, how he makes me all dizzy and soft: he smiles, for real, and for me.

I’m not sure that break down accomplished anything at all so instead you should just read this book.

For Christ’s sake, did he have to insult me with Scrabble words? Couldn’t he have just called me a tosser?

I will mention that in writing this review I discovered this is the fourth book of a series which does make sense considering some side characters who were woven in and out with backstory that was both briefly explained and implied, so. Maybe that’ll keep you from picking this up right away but. It definitely stands on its own. Though I may find myself working my way through the right order sooner rather than later..

THE FRIEND ZONE by Abby Jimenez – double review!

Kristen Petersen doesn’t do drama, will fight to the death for her friends, and has no room in her life for guys who just don’t get her. She’s also keeping a big secret: facing a medically necessary procedure that will make it impossible for her to have children.

Planning her best friend’s wedding is bittersweet for Kristen–especially when she meets the best man, Josh Copeland. He’s funny, sexy, never offended by her mile-wide streak of sarcasm, and always one chicken enchilada ahead of her hangry. Even her dog, Stuntman Mike, adores him. The only catch: Josh wants a big family someday. Kristen knows he’d be better off with someone else, but as their attraction grows, it’s harder and harder to keep him at arm’s length.

The Friend Zone will have you laughing one moment and grabbing for tissues the next as it tackles the realities of infertility and loss with wit, heart, and a lot of sass.


Title : The Friend Zone
Author Abby Jimenez
Format : eARC
Page Count : 385
Genre : women’s fiction
Publisher : Forever
Release Date : June 11, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Phew.

I had been prepared (warned?) by mutuals that this story was a funny bit of fun but that it would be as equally heartbreaking as it was joyful. And I’m here to confirm that for you.

I am not drunk. I’m just talking in cursive.”

THE FRIEND ZONE starts off fairly lighthearted. A snarky first-meeting between our protagonists sets the tone for their association; Kristen is in a long-distance relationship with a deployed boyfriend and Josh is recently single, and recently relocated, and, despite his attraction, not all that bothered by her unavailable status as a result.

Nothing offended me except cauliflower and stupidity.

At least not at first.

There’s something you should know about me, Josh. I say what I think. I don’t have a coy bone in my body. Yes, you’re sexy. Enjoy the compliment because you won’t always like what I say to you, and I won’t care one way or the other if you do or don’t.

Their friendship, as it can only be friendship, was a delight. Kristen is unapologetically herself. She’s not to be messed with when it comes to food, she’s witty, she’s honest, she’s out to impress no one. And Josh was just game for everything. He was sweet, understanding, gave as good as he got, and they were just so fun together. And, having not read the blurb, I didn’t really know where things would go beyond what it seemed at first glance.

I already know how I’m going to die.”
How?”
Spider bite. Or being sarcastic at the wrong time.”

But this story is a lot more than snarky, sassy, when-will-they-can-they-ever times. This is hard hitting, emotional, devastating. It deals with loss, tragedy, and Jimenez’s story even skirts a certain line I am not usually on board for but, thankfully, never crosses it. Additionally, the emphasis on Kristen’s issues with fertility — which is of course emphasized as it’s a major point of conflict — was something I thought unique to the romance (women’s fiction?) world. Talk of periods, discomfort, tampons, fibrosis, IUDs.. nothing was off limits. This is not only a great bit of fun and sweetness, alongside some heartbreak, but also a book I think a lot of women will see themselves in. Feel represented by. I think that’s so fabulous.

You know, you seem too fearless to be afraid of spiders.”
A black widow killed my schnauzer when I was a kid. Embracing a lifelong debilitating fear of spiders is cheaper than therapy.”

What stops this from getting full marks is that.. I felt some things got dragged out. Same conversations, same hot and cold, same back and forth. It was a bit exhausting, too repetitive, and honestly I was pulled out of the story a bit because I just felt so bad for these fictional people. Both of them, really. It was kind of miserable for them for a while. And then of course a whole other kind of misery started but that was easier to lose myself in. No spoilers.

I hope you’re not planning on sending me flowers.”
What would you like me to send you then?”
Something practical that I’ll get use out of, like a dick pic.”

The ending was a bit of a surprise for me and I so loved it. I really did. Additionally the author’s note was an extra bit of wonderfulness and I definitely hope readers take a moment to experience that, too.

Overall, though, I’m blown away that this was a debut. It’s funny as all get out, it broke my heart, and I definitely want Jimenez to do it again. Lots of times. Will absolutely read whatever this author serves up next.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


Micky’s 4 star review

This was a generally enjoyable read that took me from a friends-to-more romance into something of an emotional rollercoaster. I did have some insight into the context before reading but I had no idea where the story was going to go until I got into it.

THE FRIEND ZONE is the kind of read that drags you into its web very easily with characters that are something memorable. Kristen was just a woman I could get behind and identify with some of her characteristics. I loved her honesty (at times), her individuality and loyalty. I was then somewhat bemused to find myself reading a love triangle element, I did not see that coming with this character.

Josh, the main squeeze of this story was also a loyal hunk of fireman who simply fell for Kristen hook, line and sinker; there was no going back but there were so many immovable mountains in the way. This man had to show endurance.

The friendships in this book are crucial and something of a side-blinding storyline. I felt shocked when the twists came and then shocked again. It didn’t make me overtly emotional but it did affect me. Ive seen this book pitched as a romantic comedy but even in the earlier parts of the book, I didn’t find it comedic. It is no less of a book for this however.

Simply put, this is an impressive debut from Abby Jimenez and I will be looking out for whatever she writes next. I slipped into her words and believed the world she created.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for the review copy.

THE UNHONEYMOONERS by Christina Lauren


Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Amy, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.

Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.

Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of… lucky.


Title : The Unhoneymooners
Author : Christina Lauren
Format : eARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Gallery Books
Release Date : May 14, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

Sadly, THE UNHONEYMOONERS was not as funny as I had hoped or had heard it was going to be. To put this into perspective : I don’t have a single highlight to quote for you. Not. one.

The first half is definitely the highlight, though, with snarky hate banter between Olive, the twin sister/maid of honour, and Ethan, the groom’s brother and best man. The circumstances surrounding their pretend relationship and forced proximity are OTT and outlandish but also kind of slapstick-funny and I enjoyed their stiff-acting and all the weird improbabilities that occur while they go on their sibling’s honeymoon. But there’s a weird element that gets introduced that I didn’t like, a shitton of gaslighting and, almost, blame for something the heroine should not have been blamed for once something is revealed, and, of course, with the climax comes a whole host of drama that explodes all over the readers’ and Olive’s faces.

That said, I really liked the supportive backbone of family that is woven throughout the story but wish we’d had more of the Torres’ and extended clan because they were fabulous.

I definitely had a good time reading this, at least up until around the midway point, but THE UNHONEYMOONERS won’t be making it onto my list of CLo favourites.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **