Book Reviews

Book Review: The Story of Our Secrets, by Shari Low

The Story of Our Secrets,

by Shari Low

Publication: Boldwood Books; November 2, 2021


Colm O’Flynn was loved by his close circle of family and friends, however his death came too soon for everyone to make peace with their past.

Shauna, his second wife, adored him. But one night she broke their marriage vows, and didn’t get time to ask Colm’s forgiveness.

Jess was the first Mrs O’Flynn. Her heart is set on someone new, but will the last one night stand she shared with Colm come back to haunt her?

Colm’s best friend, Dan, is recently divorced. Can he take a second shot at happiness if it means betraying the one person who always had his back?

What no-one knows is that somewhere out there Colm left messages that could set them free to start over again.

Can divine intervention help them find Colm’s last wishes before it’s too late to love again?

*My Review*

I have read and reviewed several of Shari Low’s novels on my blog over the years and was very eager to get started on The Story of Our Secrets, although I am running way behind! Colm O’Flynn died of a brain tumor in 2016 leaving behind his wife Shauna, their young daughter, and two older sons from his previous marriage. Also in his close circle were his ex-wife Jess, his best friend Dan, and Dan’s wife (and Shauna’s best friend), Lulu. Fast forward to 2021 and we learn where everyone is in their lives now that Colm is gone. Told in alternating POVs by Colm and Shauna, we discover all of the things Colm wanted to say before dying and all the ways his close-knit group has or hasn’t moved forward since his death.

This is a tough one to review because I’m not sure if I want to give this 3 or 4 stars. I liked Shauna and her sense of humor, I liked Jess and the bond that she and Shauna shared, and Dan was just o.k. But tolerating the selfish and immature Lulu for the duration of this book was painful. Not just a little painful, but as in – it took me 3 weeks to read a book that would have normally taken me 3-4 hours. But the real biggie here is that I realized about halfway through that I had read this. Then thought that was impossible since it was just published. Eventually, I figured out that I had read The Story of Our Life, which is all about Colm, Shauna, and the rest of the crew. However, the only new information was the end of two marriages and some secrets.

So, why did I finish it? Honestly, because I love Shari Low and feel it completely inappropriate to DNF one of her novels. Also, I wanted to see if Shauna would ever move on with her life. I’m glad that I finished it because there were two very happy endings and also just because so much of the dialogue on Shauna’s part was very witty. But unfortunately, this is my least favorite book from this author, ever.

*Thanks to NetGalley for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Reviews, Release Blitz

Release Blitz & Review: Sealed (Willow Springs #4), by Laura Pavlov

Title: Sealed
Series: Willow Springs #4
Author: Laura Pavlov
Genre: Fake Relationship Romance
Release Date: October 28, 2021


Roman Amato is perfect on paper.
Sexy and broody and arrogant.
He’s a divorced single father, so he’s completely off-limits.
I’m not looking for anything other than a hot date to take to my sister’s wedding.
I have something he needs, and he has something I need.
The fake dating gods have shined down on both of us.
We write up a contract so everything is aboveboard.
Signed, sealed and soon-to-be delivered.
Rule number three is written in all caps…
It couldn’t be more basic.
I pride myself on staying in control.
But from the moment I slip onto the back of his bike, I enter a gray area.
I despise gray areas.
This is supposed to be temporary.
Temporary is my specialty.
But Roman Amato makes it easy to want forever.

**My Review** 

Welcome to my stop on the release blitz for Laura Pavlov’s latest in her Willow Springs series, Sealed. If you haven’t had a chance to check this series out, I highly recommend it. Not only does it have a ton of sweet and sexy romance, but the glue of the series is the five young ladies that have been best friends since childhood and it is a remarkable and unbreakable bond.

This is Coco’s book, which I have been very excited about because Coco is kind of the rebel in the group of friends. She’s never felt as if she belonged in her wealthy and snobby family, going so far as to order a DNA test to verify, and she’s searching for a date to take to her sister’s wedding. However, she has already told her family she will be bringing her boyfriend “Big Sexy, ” so now she has to find the perfect guy. When she meets handsome and broody Roman, she knows she’s found the perfect guy that also has that sort of rebel attitude and definitely someone that won’t try to get all romantic with her. But both Coco and Roman quickly find themselves very interested in one another going above and beyond pretending.

I will admit that I am not typically a fan of “bringing a fake date” novels because of the dishonesty, but also because of the insecurity it conveys in the main character. However, this one not only worked for me, but I think it’s my favorite of the series so far! I absolutely adored Roman and Coco separately but put them together and it was just incredible chemistry. Roman, Coco, and Valentino (Roman’s son) together were enough to make my heart burst. This one really surprised me because I felt that Coco would be the last to fall in love and become a couple, so it made her finding her happily-ever-after all the sweeter.

From beginning to end, this really is the perfect package for contemporary romance fans, especially if you like the fake-to-real aspect. Laura Pavlov has quickly become one of my favorite contemporary romance authors and I cannot wait to read the next and final book in this series! Although I think you should read the previous books to truly understand Coco, this could be read as a standalone.

*Thanks to GMB and the author for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion!


#1 Frayed


Free in Kindle Unlimited

#2 Tangled


Free in Kindle Unlimited

#3 Charmed


Free in Kindle Unlimited


#5 Claimed – Releasing January 27



Laura Pavlov writes sweet and sexy contemporary romance that will make you both laugh and cry. She is happily married to her college sweetheart, mom to two awesome almost-grown kids, and dog-whisperer to a couple crazy yorkies. Laura resides in Las Vegas where she is living her own happily ever after.


Book Reviews

Book Review: I Have Something to Tell You, by Susan Lewis

I Have Something to Tell You, by Susan Lewis

Publication: Harper Collins: October 26, 2021


High-flying lawyer Jessica Wells has it all. A successful career, loving husband Tom and a family she adores. But one case – and one client – will put all that at risk.

Edward Blake. An ordinary life turned upside down – or a man who quietly watched television while his wife was murdered upstairs? With more questions than answers and a case too knotted to unravel, Jessica suspects he’s protecting someone…

Then she comes home one day and her husband utters the words no one ever wants to hear. Sit down… because I’ve got something to tell you…

Now Jessica must fight not only for the man she defends, but for the man she thought she trusted with her life – her husband.

*My Review*

Let me start by saying don’t be misled by the blurb because it’s misleading. This was a great novel about lawyer Jay and her barrister husband Tom. Jay is called to represent a man, Edward Blake after he is arrested for murdering his wife. Everything is very unclear and honestly, it seems to be a hasty arrest, but Edward is arrested for tying his wife to a bed and smothering her. All the while, Jay is still trying to recover from her husband Tom’s indiscretions a few years prior, and just as she thinks she may have a grasp on it, he has something to tell her. I won’t mislead you like the blurb, his “something” has nothing to do with Edward Blake’s case, so don’t go into this thinking something that’s not accurate. And FYI, this isn’t a spoiler, it’s irrelevant. 

I won’t lie, this seemed like the longest book ever. Honestly, that seems the norm lately. But seriously, whereas I usually finish a book in 2-3 hours, this took at least 5. Jay is representing Edward and with help from her investigative team, she is trying to discover other suspects and cause for releasing her client. Meanwhile, her home life is completely falling apart. Not only has she been deceived multiple times, it seems that all of her friends are mutual friends of her and her husband so they want things to work themselves out. At times, I found myself frustrated with Jay’s complacency, but after I thought about it, I realized that she had no singular friends that were not also friends with her husband. 

This one had all kinds of twists and turns and then at about 82% things seemed to be resolved, however, I knew some kind of twist was coming. I will say that I knew what the twist was, however, I wasn’t sure how it would be presented. And then….. The ending came…. Susan Lewis is a new to me author but I have decided that she must have a dark and twisted side in order to be able to finish a book like that. 

What the hell happened??? 

I Have Something to Tell You had me hooked from page 1. I felt that it dragged out a bit too much and the ending absolutely infuriated me, but overall, this was a great read. Despite my anger at the ending, I give this a sturdy 4 stars!

*Thanks To NetGalley and Harper Collins for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Book Reviews

Book Review: The Mother’s Fault, by Nicole Trope

The Mother’s Fault,

by Nicole Trope

Publication: Bookouture; October 15, 2021


I am cooking spaghetti, his favourite, while he plays in the garden. But when I look up, he’s gone. I call the police, my hands shaking so much that I hit the wrong digits twice. ‘My son is missing.’

When the police turn up, I’m trapped in the web of my lies.

I have hidden the truth from eight-year-old Riley, my little boy who loves climbing trees and always has scraped knees. I have hidden my secret from everyone.

Riley knows his father is dead but he has no idea why. He doesn’t know his dad’s real name, and there are no pictures in the house. Not a single person knows what happened eight years ago.

I love my son more than anything but the truth is, I have always feared for him. When the first gift arrived in our mailbox, wrapped in blue paper with silver stars, I realised I was right to be afraid.

Now, I can see the question in the detectives’ eyes. Am I a mother with a missing child or a mother with a lot to hide? I need them to save my son – but how much can I tell them without losing him forever?

**My Review**

O.k., so this book was a bit exhausting honestly! So much happens and it seems to go on forever, but here goes. Beverly is a single mom to her eight-year-old son Riley and has just broken up with the seemingly wonderful Ethan because she felt they were getting too close. So you realize pretty early that she has some serious secrets. Then someone starts leaving gifts in the mailbox for Riley, that grow each day in value. Beverly thinks that it’s Ethan trying to buy his way back into their lives. Then we realize that her elderly neighbor Sam has an uninvited house guest living with him and Riley has gotten too good to be true new teacher at school. Then Riley goes missing.

What I loved about this book is the endless number of times I was completely surprised. I can’t count how many times I said out loud, “what the hell?” From the variety of points of view in this novel, it slowly became more and more clear what the big secrets were, but when I thought I knew what was going on, I was completely wrong.

What I disliked was the pacing. It took me days to get into this book, whereas, I usually start and finish a book in a few hours. The first 40-50% is painfully slow, however, I had seen such good reviews I decided to stick it out and see what all of the fuss was about.

Once things started getting more exciting, I found myself more addicted to continuing the book but, in the end, it ended up feeling like a B-rated Lifetime movie. The premise was silly, the surprises started getting silly, and the perfect ending made no sense after everything else.

Now, I am not hating on you if you like to indulge in the B-rated Lifetime movies and if so, you will enjoy this book. For me, the best I can give this is 3 stars because it was too slow and too far-fetched.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Bookouture for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Reviews

Book Review: Transylvania’s History A to Z: 100 Word Stories, by Patricia Furstenburg

Transylvania’s History A to Z: 100 Word Stories,

by Patricia Furstenburg

Publication: August 23, 2021


In Transylvania’s History A to Z, a collection of 100-word stories sprinkled with breathtaking photographs, Patricia Furstenberg uses the confining rules of the 100-word story form to stirringly capture Transylvania, Romania’s historical and geographical region.

Transylvania’s unspoiled natural beauty, its tumultuous history, and the people who touched it are depicted in this book.
Written as snapshots, tall tales, and descriptive narratives, these 100-word stories are the espresso of creative writing.



**My Review**

I am so happy to bring you my review of the latest masterpiece by Patricia Furstenburg, Translyvania’s History A to Z: 100 Word Stories. I have read and reviewed a great deal of Patricia’s books ranging from childrens books to a novel about Marines, their service dogs, and their time serving in Afghanistan. Not that I was surprised, but this book was just as wonderful as everything else I have read of hers. 

The layout of the book consists of short, 100-word stories telling about a time, place, person, or group of people in Transylvania’s history. After each story is a historical description of what the story was about, the setting, and/or the time period. Lastly, Furstenburg has included beautiful photographs at the end of each story to add that visual element of understanding about what she was writing about. The writing and language are beautiful, yet challenging as she includes words and sayings from the various historical time periods. Although each story is short, they are thought-provoking and command your attention and concentration in order to truly understand what she is trying to say. 

What I loved about each story and description is the relevance that Transylvania’s history holds even today, regardless of where you live, race, ethnicity, and so on. For example, in one of the stories we hear the voice of a young woman who cannot be with the man she loves because of being from different clans or religions. Another is about a charismatic man getting people to “jump on the bandwagon” to migrate east to a better land. There is another about a leader hearing of a different land that he wants to acquire, yet is unable to pay for any land so he takes it by force. One that particularly stood out was about 2 skeletons found and modern DNA being able to match them as relatives who died fighting one another.

Any of these sound familiar in modern times? 

Besides the commonalities between these stories and modern times, I thoroughly enjoyed the historical snippets about Transylvania’s history. Furstenburg details a time and place that I really knew nothing about, with the exception of Vlad the Impaler, so I was delighted in everything I learned about the language, war, and geography of the area. This was a fabulous and quick read, yet it’s a book you can revisit and continue to enjoy the fictional stories while learning more about Translyvania. I highly recommend this to lovers of language and history and have already thought of numerous people that are difficult to buy for that this would make a unique and interesting holiday gift! 

Purchase Transylvania’s History A to Z: 100 Word Stories on Amazon!

Book Reviews

Book Review: The Leftovers, by Cassandra Parkin

The Leftovers,

by Cassandra Parkin

Legend Press; October 1, 2021


The Leftovers is a story about sexual power and consent, the myth of the perfect victim, and a dark exploration of the things we do for – and to – the ones we love.

Callie’s life is spent caring for others – for Frey, her client, and for Noah, her brother. When a tragic car accident shatters her family, she’s left alone with her mother Vanessa. Vanessa’s favourite child was Noah; Callie’s favourite parent was her dad. Now they’re stuck with each other – the leftovers of their family – and they’ll have to confront the ways they’ve been hurt, and the ways they’ve passed that hurt on to others.

*My Review*

When I was working towards my degree in Psychology, I often had professors assign fiction novels for us to read and then write a paper about it, put together a group project, or something like that. The Leftovers is a perfect novel for such circumstances and is one of the rawest examples of psychological fiction that I have read.

The novel is based around Callie who works as a live-in caregiver two weeks per month and then lives at home with her father the other two weeks per month caring for her mentally ill brother, Noah. During her two weeks on, she works together with Josh in providing 24-hour care for a young adult man, Frey, whose illness is never actually labeled. We learn that Frey is non-verbal, very routine-oriented, and has numerous issues with cleanliness and tactile issues such as touch (possibly somewhere on the Autism Spectrum). Callie’s brother Noah is the life of the party that the entire family adores, but struggles determining reality from fantasy hears voices, creates people and situations that are not there (possibly Schizophrenia). Callie and Noah’s parents have been divorced for many years and Callie has not had a relationship with her mother until there is a tragic accident and they are suddenly forced together.

Told entirely from Callie’s point of view, you come to realize that she isn’t the most reliable narrator as the novel goes back and forth between her childhood, her life leading up to and then caring for Frey, and then the present. It doesn’t take long to realize that things aren’t right. There was emotional abuse when she was a child, a laundry list of family issues, and slowly we begin to see that Callie’s quiet and caring nature is a bit off somehow. Despite knowing that things aren’t right, there are some moments that were truly shocking and uncomfortable. Even worse, the ending is incredibly ambiguous, leaving you to wonder what comes next for Callie, Frey, and Josh.

I gave this novel a 4-star rating on Amazon in spite of the uncomfortableness of the plot simply because of Parkin’s writing. Whether it was an inward memory, a conversation between characters, or even an exchange of glances between characters – everything was so amazingly descriptive that I felt I was right there witnessing it in real-time. I was frustrated with a recent book that I read because at the end of the novel I realized I had no idea what the main character looked like. After reading this, I feel like I can see Callie’s fingertips as she was passing a piece of a jigsaw puzzle to Frey. I can picture Noah sitting on the rooftop when anxious and hear Callie’s calm, quiet voice trying to calm him. I can see Callie’s mom dropping her hand at the zoo when Callie was small and trying to share her excitement with her mom, and I can feel her rejection.

The Leftovers certainly won’t leave you smiling with a warm and fuzzy feeling, but I feel that it’s worth reading to experience Cassandra Parkin’s way with words. She painted a picture from beginning to end that, although the picture wasn’t a happy one, will stay with me for quite some time.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Legend Press for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion

Book Reviews, Release Blitz

Release Blitz and Review: That Girl, by Jennilyn Wyer

Title: That Girl
Series: The Montgomerys #1
Author: Jennilynn Wyer
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Release Date: October 11, 2021
That Girl is the winner of the Chesapeake Romance Writers 2021 Rudy Award for Romantic Suspense and a Contemporary Romance Writers 2021 Stiletto Finalist!

I was that girl; the one from a broken home who lived on the poor side of town. He was that guy; NFL football quarterback and Mr. Popular. He told me he would never leave. He lied. Now he’s back. But I’m not that girl anymore.
Aurora St. Claire is that girl. The one who excels at academics. The one from a broken home who lives on the bad side of town. The one with an alcoholic mother who couldn’t care less if she existed. The one with an abusive older sister who would give her bruises instead of hugs. The one who keeps to the shadows, trying not to be seen.
Sometimes the best families are the ones you create, not the ones you are born into. Aurora never knows what a true family is like until she has one suddenly thrust upon her at the age of eighteen. It takes a single revelation from a stranger to change her life forever.
Then, JD Hallstead comes barreling into her life. He is everything she never thought she wanted, but everything she craves. That is, until the day he destroys her and leaves her heart to burn to ashes in his wake. What is the adage? The flip side of love is hate. Well, her hate burns bright, and it has a name: Jackson Dillon Hallstead.
JD Hallstead is that guy. The one who is Mr. Popular and Quarterback King of Highland High. The one voted class president and most likely to succeed. The one who girls go crazy over and guys want to be. The one with a controlling, abusive father who will go to any lengths to keep his son in check. The one with the secrets.
Aurora is the girl JD has secretly crushed on for years. It takes a friend’s tragic death to bring Aurora and JD together. It takes JD’s secrets to tear them apart. Aurora tells JD everybody leaves. He promises her he never will. 
He lied. 
Now, JD will do anything, fight anyone, give up everything, to get Aurora back. Aurora said JD broke her heart. Who better than him to put it back together?
But the thing about secrets is that they always come back to haunt you. The question is: How far will JD go to protect the woman he loves before those secrets destroy them all?
Reader’s WarningThat Girl is an enemies-to-lovers, second chance romance with scorching heat that will melt your Kindle and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing what will happen next. It takes place after the conclusion of Broken Butterfly, Fallen Brook Series, Book 3. Even though the book can be read on its own, fans of the Fallen Brook Series will love seeing some of their favorite characters return! That Girl touches upon topics that may be triggering to some readers such as flashbacks to an attempted sexual assault, child neglect and abuse, and violence. The story also contains foul language and sexual content. Any sexual intimacy between the main characters is consensual. For these reasons, the book is recommended for readers aged 17+.

*My Review* 

Welcome to my stop on the realease blitz for Jennilynn Wyer’s That Girl. I have to admit that I’m sort of fan-girling right now because I adore her books. Did you read the Fallen Brook series? Let me start by saying that if you didn’t, you can still absolutely enjoy this book! I will admit that it’s been awhile since I read the series so I wasn’t sure who everyone was in the book, but I still devoured this one. 

Do you ever read books, even those that are meant to be New Adult and ask yourself, “where do I find that guy?” Prepare yourself for J.D. Goodness, considering he came from such a horrible home, this young man will completely steal your heart! J.D. goes for the unpopular and basically overlooked girl, Aurora, in high school. He promises her the world and leaves her so we want to hate him, right? Five years later, he’s back and it’s obvious that his feelings haven’t changed – but he has his work cut out for him. 

If you haven’t read Wyer’s books before I will say this. She attributes a lot of adult emotions and expression of emotions onto teenagers and/or young adults. But you know what? It works. None of her characters have perfect, happy lives. Shit happens that would destroy a lot of people, but her characters always have a huge and amazing network of friends. I have learned over the past year that I am completely addicted to her novels and am also jealous of her fantasy group of friends and family. Her characters are completely put through the wringer, but there is always someone waiting on the sidelines to pick them up and help them piece it all back together. 

I truly can’t discuss the plot very much without spoilers, but I will give my only criticism. Based on That Boy and subsequent books, at about 91% in this book I was thinking that this was going to be a cliffhanger/series. I was o.k. with that because I love this author’s series, however I was wrong. There was all sorts of chaos going on and then it suddenly wrapped up in the last 2% of the book. I felt a disconnect almost as if she decided at the last minute to not make it continue to a second book. Everything possible went wrong and then it was a happy package. 

Nevertheless, please note that’s my only criticism and that anything this author writes, I completely adore! I loved That Girl and cannot wait for the rest of The Montgomery’s series!

*Thanks to the author and GMB for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion!

PURCHASE LINKS – $2.99 until November 11!
(Reg. price $3.99)

Free in Kindle Unlimited

Also available:

The Past
I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is ending up with people who make you feel all alone. – Robin Williams
Have you ever had one of those days where your anger caused you to do something really dumb? Like, monumentally stupid and so incredibly counterproductive to how you try to live your life that you would sell your soul for a do-over? That, in a nutshell, is what my day has become.
Sitting cross-legged on the nicely manicured grass of the town’s cemetery, I clutch the torn, ratty cardigan tightly around my shoulders and hunker down. If I raise my knees up and bend over, I can create a warm pocket of air between my legs by draping the thin sweater over my head and exhaling a warm breath.
I hate being cold. It reminds me of all the times Mom neglected to pay our electricity bill and our power would be subsequently shut off for weeks at a time. Mom has… had a habit of neglecting to do a lot of things like that. Her lack of parental responsibility went beyond not paying the bills to keep the electricity on and the water running in our apartment. She also forgot to buy groceries most weeks.
I have too many memories as a child of going to bed hungry, of spending countless nights shaking uncontrollably on the single, bare mattress that served as my bed. No sheets. No covers. Nothing to help warm me up on the long, dark nights of winter when the temperatures outside would drop below freezing.
On the flipside, I don’t mind the heat of summertime—the resulting sweat as it drips down my neck, my back, the side of my face at the dip of my temple. I can tolerate those sensations. But not the biting shivers that the cold brings. The violent way one’s body shudders, trying to warm itself up. Sweat, I can wipe away. Trying to stop my teeth from chattering is futile. It sucks. The damp grass below me, soaking into the denim material of my jeans, isn’t helping either. It just makes me colder and is another reminder of who I am and where I come from.
I’ve gotten very good at figuring out ways to stay warm, especially on cool, September afternoons like today. An early cold front moved through yesterday, dropping temperatures by twenty degrees. The winters here in Highland, North Carolina are unfortunately worse. When I’m not at school, there is really nothing much I can do to escape the frigid cold that winter brings unless I’m able to sneak into a gas station or a fast-food bathroom and run the hand dryer for a few minutes.
As much as I hate being cold, I’m better off out here than at home. I would gladly sleep out in the middle of a blizzard if it meant I never had to go back there. I hate home even more than I hate being cold.
I trace the block letters on the flat, one-by-two-foot concrete slab in front of me. The ones that spell out CAMERON BOLLINGER—my best friend since I was five.
Cameron and I grew up right next door to each other in the shitty, rundown apartments that no one in their right mind would ever want to live in if they had a choice. Drug deals in the middle of the parking lot are still a common daily occurrence, as are what seems like monthly police raids.
“Hey, Cam,” I say as I pull on a few weeds that have sprung up around his headstone.
Ripping off the foliated leaves of a cat’s ear dandelion, I pinch off the stem to one of the yellow flowers. It’s ironic that something most people consider to be an ugly, unwanted garden pest has flowers that look like a cheerful sunburst and emit a sweet aroma.
If I were to wax poetic, I would say that Cameron is… was much like a dandelion’s flower. At first glance, the rough, crinkled leaves are broad and ugly. But if you take the time to look closer, you will see that the weed is quite beautiful. The plant is hardy and resourceful. It blooms bright yellow flowers that have velvety-soft petals. Unlike the bitter, unpleasant stench of ragweed, a dandelion’s fragrance has hints of citrus and rose. 
Placing the dandelion on top of Cameron’s headstone, I look down at the bruised knuckles on my right hand; they are slightly swollen and sore. I flex my fingers a few times, somewhat mesmerized at the stinging, cramping pain that follows.
“I’m so tired, Cam. And I’m angry. So very angry at her for taking you away from me. Angry at you for leaving me here by myself. Angry at him for not stopping you that night.”
It’s been a little over two months, and the pain of losing my best friend is just as strong as the night Cam’s mom called to tell me that he had been hit by a drunk driver on his way home from a party.
The drunk driver was my mother. The impact with Cam’s car sent both of their vehicles careening into a light pole. Cam was killed on impact. I was told my mother died shortly after paramedics arrived on scene.
I found out later that Cam had also been drinking and driving. That pisses me off to no end because he never drank, especially during football season. Cam was a defensive cornerback for our high school football team, and he took his training seriously. He was good enough that last year during our junior year of high school, college scouts had been eyeing him. He had so much to look forward to, a bright future ahead of him.
Unlike Cam, my mother’s prospects of having a better life were next to zero. She knew no other existence than the one at the bottom of a vodka bottle. The fact that she would be reckless and careless enough to get behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated doesn’t surprise me. Mom would come home most nights, stumbling drunk and barely coherent. It was a normal state of being for her. And she wasn’t one of those happy drunks, either. Nope. My mother was a mean, nasty drunk. Add in an older sister who would rather hit me than hug me, and a father who split town when I was two years old—let’s just say my home life had much to be desired.
When the accident that killed both Cam and my mom happened, I had just turned eighteen, so was considered an adult in the eyes of the law. Thankfully, Child Protective Services didn’t get involved because I was ‘of age.’ Mentally, I had already been an adult for a very long time.
Growing up fast happens when you live in an abusive, broken home.
The day after Cam’s funeral, his mom packed everything up and moved out of their apartment. Part of me wanted to beg her to take me with her. She had always been more of a mother to me than my own.
Some days I wish so badly to run away from this town and never look back. Highland, North Carolina has its fair share of small-town charm and neighborly people, but those people tend to gloss over and ignore those of us who live across the proverbial train tracks. And as much as I would love to leave Highland in search of greener pastures, so to speak, I can’t. Not yet.
See, here’s the problem. I’m smart. And being smart means that I know running away would be stupid. And I’m not stupid. I have a plan, and that plan involves finishing high school and graduating. I’m lucky enough to be districted to the top high school in the state, even though I live in the decrepit part of town located just on the outer fringes of Highland.
There are too many opportunities at Highland High for me to pack my stuff and walk away—as much as I would love to. If I can just hold on for another nine months, keep my head down, keep studying hard, I’ll graduate as Valedictorian. I’ll have accrued about two years of college credits from all the AP exams I’ve taken since ninth grade. And my one hope, the goal I have been working toward and fighting so hard for, is to get a full ride to Duke. Our school’s guidance counselor tells me that I have a good chance of that happening. And then I’ll finally be able to leave this godforsaken place that has shown me nothing but misery and pain.
I lean over and kiss Cam’s headstone, the cold, gray concrete causing me to shiver. “I’ve got to get to work,” I tell him.
I have to be at Ruby’s Diner soon for my five-to-ten shift. My meager income as a waitress is the only thing that’s keeping the lights on in the apartment I still share with my sister, the water running, and food on the table. Not that peanut butter, a loaf of bread, and instant noodles are anything to write home about, but at least I’m not starving.
I wince when my sore hand protests as I lift myself off the ground. I have a feeling that I’ll be using my left hand a lot at work tonight. The discomfort I feel puts a tiny smile across my face. I don’t like receiving attention in any form, and I definitely do not like to be noticed.
I used to be bullied a lot in elementary school and junior high because of where I lived and who my mother was. Cam tried his best to protect me, but he couldn’t be with me every second of every day.
Things settled down once we got to high school and Cam was on the football team. No one messed with the football players or their friends. It didn’t matter anyway. By the time I hit second grade, I had developed a thick skin and an almost impenetrable wall around my heart.
I became hardened to the stupid name-calling and daily taunts that greeted me as soon as I walked into the school building. I developed survival skills and learned how to defend myself. A shove into a locker while walking down the school hallway didn’t faze me. I had it so much worse at home from both my mother and my sister. The immature crap flung at me at school was nothing compared to what I had to live through at home every day of the week.
Over the years, I also got particularly good at blending into the background and sticking to the shadows. So just imagine the scandal I created an hour ago in the student parking lot at school, when seemingly meek, quiet me punched JD Hallstead in his too-gorgeous-for-his-own-good face.
Excerpt from That Girl, Chapter 1, copyright 2021 by Jennilynn Wyer
#2 Wanderlost – Releasing February 22
Jennilynn Wyer is the winner of the Chesapeake Romance Writers 2021 Rudy Award for Romantic Suspense and a two-time Contemporary Romance Writers Stiletto Finalist. She is an author of steamy and emotional Young Adult, New Adult and College, and Contemporary Romantic fiction. She lives with her family in the Gulf States, is married to a Brit, and you can usually find her in her favorite reading spot, e-reader in hand, with the latest romance novel. Her Teen and Young Adult books are written under the pen name of J.L. Wyer. She is an active educator, researcher, and environmental scientist who enjoys lecturing, teaching, and sharing her love of science with students and the public. Her Fallen Brook High School YA Series under the pen name, J.L. Wyer, was inspired by readers who wanted their teenagers to be able to enjoy the characters and story. The YA series is the result and is a reimagining of the adult Fallen Brook Series suitable for a teenage and YA audience aged 15+.

Book Reviews

Book Review: A Way Back to Happy, by Olivia Spooner

A Way Back to Happy, by Olivia Spooner

Publication: Aria; September 16, 2021

About: Sometimes you have to fall apart so that you can start again…

After five years stuck in the wrong marriage, 33-year-old Emma is finally free. Her husband has moved out, her son Freddie is making friends, and her parents are finally trying to stop micro-managing her life.

On a celebratory night out with her three best friends, Emma meets Finn. Young, dimpled and irresistibly Scottish Finn. Between landing her dream job, stolen moments with Finn, and precious time with Freddie, Emma is happier than she has ever been.

Then one accident changes everything and Emma’s life is thrown into chaos. With the help of all who love her, can Emma find a way back to happy?

**My Review**

A Way Back to Happy is the debut novel by Olivia Spooner about a woman named Emma and her life right after her husband left her. Emma had planned to tell her husband Paul that she and their young son Freddie were moving out, but Paul beat Emma to the punch by telling her he was leaving, and she was thrilled. She soon gets a part-time job at a local, organic grocery store she loves and finds herself finally happy. Emma meets Finn when out with the girls one night leading to a steamy weekend and then a casual relationship with the fun-loving Finn. However, after a terrible accident one evening, everything changes.

Considering the substance and themes of this novel, the blurb above is honestly a bit cheesy in my opinion. This is a very thoughtful novel that makes you not only analyze your own behaviors but really makes you think about the people in your life that you depend on (or think that you can). Emma’s network of friends and family was absolutely amazing and honestly made me wonder the last time I read something where a character had that many people in their corner. The relationship she has with Finn starts out reckless and wild, like a woman clearly re-sowing some wild oats after a divorce, but I enjoyed how it shifted to a more controlled and responsible friendship towards the end. I can’t say I was really crazy about Finn, but I didn’t dislike him either. Perhaps his character could have been developed a little more? Emma’s friends were great, especially the hilarious and usually inappropriate Lily who added many laughs to the book from beginning to end.

This is one of those reviews where I feel as if I’m not really saying much, but it’s hard to review and go into the plot without spoiling the entire novel. I will say that despite the blurb, I was very surprised about what happened with Finn and Emma. Even more surprising, however, was the ending. Again, without giving spoilers, the ending truly came out of nowhere. The last page or so is my only criticism of the novel at all. I felt that it was rushed and abrupt and really didn’t make a lot of sense considering the behavior of her family and friends throughout the entire book. I was lying in bed and when it came to the end I shot up in bed and literally yelled, “what the hell” to my iPad. Nevertheless, this was an excellent debut as far as writing style, development, and dialogue. Emma’s story is uncomfortable at times while she deals with the aftermath of a completely avoidable accident, but it is certainly worth reading. I am excited to see what this author does in the future. I would rate this 4.5 stars but am rounding up to 5.

*Thanks to Aria and NetGalley for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest review!

Book Reviews, Release Blitz

Release Blitz and Review: Never Really Over, by Jennifer Van Wyk

Title: Never Really Over
Author: Jennifer Van Wyk
Genre: Single Dad Small Town Romance
Release Date: September 30, 2021
With one phone call, Colt’s life turned completely upside down, inside out, backwards, spiraled out of control… however you want to say it.
He was used to life not going as planned, but this little detour changed his life forever and completely terrified him. But he didn’t have time to dwell on the fact he was now this toddler’s one and only parent.
His little niece Poppy needed him and he was determined not to fail her.

But life continued to throw curve balls.
While trying to learn his new normal, Layla, his first and only love, breezed back into his life. That might have excited him, but he hadn’t counted on the fact that she’d changed over the years.
Gone was the girl he fell in love with, replaced with someone he could barely stand to be around.

Colt didn’t have time to deal with a snobby, bitter grump when he had a farm to run and a toddler to raise.
She may still be the most gorgeous woman he’d ever laid eyes on, but to him, beauty was about more than what was on the surface.
The problem was, he was starting to wonder if the new Layla wasn’t really who she was.
He tried to resist her but sometimes love is never really over.

*My Review* 

Welcome to my stop on the release blitz tour for Jennifer Van Wyk’s, Never Really Over! This sweet yet sexy novel is about highschool sweethearts Colt and Layla. Colt was happy with their smalltown farming life but Layla took off to the big city to see if there was something different for her. Twelve years later, neither are really over the other when Layla decides to return home. Colt is suddenly the guardian of his young niece, Layla gets a very chilly reception from Colt and his friends, but she presses on trying to get back into everyone’s good graces. Colt and Layla quickly realize that they never really moved on and are fighting that pull to get back together.

This book had a lot of pluses for me. I absolutely adored Colt from beginning to end and my heart melted with the way he loved and took care of Poppy. There is a perfect blend of sweet and sexy, and I also enjoyed the quick pacing. One of my favorite parts, however, was a secondary character. Childhood friend Dalton, also in the process of leaving city life and moving back home, was absolutely amazing. I loved his personality and determination from the beginning and he just got better and better. Can he have his own book about him and Bridget?

My only tiny bit of criticism about this book is the plot itself. I feel that the young couple breaking up so she can go find herself, only to return later, has been done too many times. I was breezing through some titles on my Kindle (some old and some new) and I estimated I’ve read 5-6 books with a similar plot this year alone. I understand story development but I need a book that doesn’t start with heartbreak and someone leaving. Is there another way to work a second-chance romance?

Anyway, Never Really Over is a great book with outstanding characters. This one will give you all the feels and leave you with a very warm and fuzzy feeling. Trust me that this a HEA that will leave a smile on your face!

*Thanks to GMB and the author for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest review!





Free in Kindle Unlimited


Click here to check out the author’s playlist for the novel!


Conversation continues around us, but all I see is Layla. For the first time in over a dozen years, I wish my friends weren’t around.
I could pull her out of her chair and onto my lap. She’d feel my hardening erection and I wouldn’t care because she’s the one who did it to me. I’d reach up and thread my fingers through her hair, keeping it away from her beautiful face, and pull her lips to mine.
From that moment on, we would simply exist as one.
“Colt,” she whispers, her voice a lustful combination of turned on and scared. I know the feeling.
“Yeah, baby?”
She makes a noise in the back of her throat. “Oh, shit, you called me baby. I can’t handle this.”
“Sorry. Am I overstepping?” I ask, reluctantly removing my hand from her.
“No! It’s just,” she drops her head, shaking it back and forth, “I never thought…”
“Never thought what?”
Layla’s eyes never leave mine as if she’s hoping she can still read right through me. She probably can, and maybe I should be worried about that but I’m really not. If Natalie’s death taught me anything, it’s that life is short. Yeah, I was hurt. Tim pulled me aside earlier and said point blank that I had only two choices. Either get over it because life isn’t meant to be lived holding a grudge, or live alone the rest of my life and likely have to watch her eventually with another man. He’d understood the hurt, hell, he was the first one here after she left so he saw the destruction from the beginning. The other man part isn’t what changed my mind. It was the holding a grudge part.
Natalie would have kicked my ass if she’d still been here when Layla came back. She always told me we’d find our way back, our path just didn’t look like I’d originally thought it would. And maybe that’s part of why I was holding onto that hurt. Because my plan was changed.
“I never thought we’d be able to even consider getting back to this.”
“Are you considering it?” I ask her, even though I know the answer. I need to hear it from her lips.
She watches me closely. “I am. Might be stupid, but it goes beyond consideration straight into hope. I’m hoping for this.”
I smile and give her neck a little squeeze. “I’m right there with you.”


Jennifer caught the writing bug when she was in high school, but didn’t bring her dream to life until many years later. From the Ground Up was her first published novel, and she wrote it hoping to touch just one person. Jennifer makes her home in rural Iowa with her farm boy high school sweetheart, three beautiful and amazing kids, one crazy Jack Russell terrier. Jennifer’s family enjoys visiting different parts of the United States with their camper, sitting around bonfires, and spending summers on the lake. When she’s not writing, she’s sipping coffee or iced tea with her kindle in her lap or binging on Netflix.


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Book Reviews

Book Review: Simple Man (Whiskey River Road #9), by Kelly Moore

Simple Man (Whiskey River Road #9), by Kelly Moore

Expected Publication: November 1, 2021


She ran away hard and fast to escape a reality she couldn’t face. He was forced to live life without her. Can the rift between them ever be mended? Can he learn to trust her again?

Jane took off without a word, disappearing into the night. She left behind the one man she truly loved. Her misguided thoughts wanted him to move on without her. If she couldn’t give him a child, someone else could. She left town before she knew the truth…and she’ll regret her choice when she finds out.

Ethan is a Simple Man. He knows what he wants and needs. Jane is his heart’s desire and the only woman for him. When she runaways out of the blue, he’s lost and finds himself a single father. What option does he have other than learning to live without his wife?

He searched for her for months before he finally gave up. A year later, after he’d finally figured out how to live on his own as a single dad, he sees her standing in the background during a television interview. Should he go after her or leave well enough alone?

**My Review**

Welcome to my review for the 9th book in Kelly Moore’s Whiskey River Road series, Simple Man! Book 9 picks up about a year after book 8 ends with Ethan still struggling to adapt to life without Jane and life as a single father. He has an army of family to help but he’s struggling to focus on work while also fighting off advances of the sneaky mayor, Tally. Just as he decides it’s time to really make some changes and move on, they spot Jane standing in the background on the news. When Jane snuck away from Ethan and her family, she luckily came along Eureka Springs and met Gerty. Having spent the last year barely living and just working with Gerty while missing Ethan and her family, Jane is shocked when she finds Ethan at Gerty’s for dinner one evening. She instantly knows she wants him and their life back, but will he ever forgive her for leaving? 

Oh my gosh, this one is so good!! After the way book 8 ended, I wasn’t really sure how I would feel about Jane in Simple Man. She created all of these reasons in her mind why Ethan was better off without her, left, and made a mess of things for everyone. Then she was all sad because Ethan and her family weren’t just bowing down at her feet. But all of that’s o.k. because she won me over in the end also. However, the best part of the book is the internal and external conflict regarding Ethan. I have adored his character since the very first book and have loved all of the changes he has gone through both personally and professionally. Throughout Simple Man, I found my heart breaking for him repeatedly while he fought this push and pull between his heart and his pride. He wanted her back but wanted to punish her. He wanted her back but wanted it to be on his own terms without her knowing everything. Ugggh, it was so frustrating at times, almost as bad as Wyatt was in Kentucky Rain, but there is no way not to be head over heels in love with Ethan, even when you want to smack him. 

As always with Kelly Moore’s books in this series, Ethan and Jane’s story wasn’t the only one going on. Tally, the mayor of Salt Lick (and the character that I hate the most) was a constant annoyance to everyone throughout this book. Obsessed with hooking up with and hopefully marrying a Calhoun, Tally decided to up her game with Ian after realizing there was no hope with Ethan and truly went above and beyond with her seduction attempts. I’ve never been so frustrated and aggravated while reading, but this is what makes Kelly Moore absolutely shine as a writer. The plot and character development are so good that the writing becomes incredibly real to the reader, drawing you in so much that you forget you are reading a fiction novel. 

Simple Man is one of the best things I have read in a while, and certainly in my top books for the year. It tugged at my heartstrings, it made me laugh, it made me angry, and every emotion in between. The typical banter and laughter were there, along with the mix of sexy and steamy, (there is a make-up scene that is off the charts hot), and of course – the overall theme of family being there for one another, forgiving each other, and always loving one another. This is a must-read that I highly recommend, and please don’t be intimidated by the “book 9” part if you haven’t started the series yet. Grab the first book and you will be hooked instantly, just waiting to get to this one. Kelly Moore is absolutely a favorite author of mine, but this one is special and an honor to read and review!

*Thanks to Kelly Moore for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest review!

Missed the start of this series? Check out my reviews for books 1-8! P.S. they are free right now with Kindle Unlimited!

coming homeComing Home (Whiskey River Road, #1)

A cowboy. An empty altar. Coming home is complicated.

What stopped me from walking down the aisle to the perfect man? My stupid rebel heart, that’s what. 

I loved Boone Methany with everything I had, but I wanted more than just the ranch I grew up on and training horses for the rest of my life. Leaving him on our wedding day wasn’t something I planned on. Neither was coming back to my family ranch after seven years in the military just to eat a heaping helping of crow.

I thought I was prepared to see him again. What I wasn’t ready for, was him being engaged.

Coming home is about to get mighty complicated.

stolen heartsStolen Hearts (Whiskey River Road, #2)

A thief and a single father don’t bode well. She’s snarky, and sexy which can only lead to two broken hearts.

It was a day like any other on the ranch.

Hard work and no play makes for a cranky cowboy. Needing a night out on the town left me sneaking in my father’s house like a teenage boy.  That was my first mistake of the day.

The second was playing hero to a damsel in distress that turned out to be no damsel at all but a sexy, snarky woman who took me by surprise.

How you ask?

I’d been a ladies man.  That is until I became a father.  My rebel days were gone. A six-year-old sassy daughter changed all of that for me.  I didn’t need the complicated messy kind of love stuff. My hands were full.

A mission into town to handle a family issue would make my life more muddled. The day I met the woman who would steal my heart.

A thief. A woman on the run.  A woman with one too many secrets.  A woman whom I had to save because if I didn’t, I feared she disappear and take two hearts with her. I wasn’t prepared for the danger she was in and the decision I’d have to make. She’d hate me for sure.

I definitely wasn’t prepared for her to leave.

three wordsThree Words (Whiskey River Road #3)

Wild at heart. One hot cowboy. A heap of trouble.

What stopped me from saying the three words Ian wanted to hear? My stubbornness that protected my heart, that’s what.

A handsome cowboy with a hot body and a sense of humor to boot, Ian Daughtry was everything a woman could ask for. He was downright pretty to look at. The day he left my world spun out of control. It changed me inside. I was no longer the sweet, innocent girl. Instead, I became the wild child desperate to feel anything but love.

Now he’s back, slipped into town unbeknownst to me. My family knew but didn’t want to tell me, afraid it would rip me apart.

I have a news flash for him. I don’t care how hot he is, he ain’t gettin’ me back. This woman has done fine on her own. But boy howdy… just seeing him he sent me in a tailspin. One that might get me in a heap of trouble.

kentucky rainKentucky Rain (Whiskey River Road, #4)

A law-abiding man, breaking all the rules and dodging love. I’ll either run her off or give her my heart.

I threw in my hat, giving up my job as a lawyer to become the one thing I swore I never would…a cowboy. I’ve lived on my father’s ranch my entire life, but never learned how to be a rancher’s son. Instead, I was urged to become an attorney by my father, who doesn’t live by the letter of the law.

Now, I’m left picking up the pieces of my life, trying to figure out who I am, and what I want. Trouble is brewing for me, I can feel it in my bones, especially when my friends-with-benefits relationship with Margret starts to feel like something more than I have to give. She deserves a better man than me.

My plan is to keep her at arm’s length. Her plan is to pull me in closer

wild rideWild Ride (Whiskey River Road, #5)

He’s a tough cowboy. She’s a wild ride and the daughter of his family’s enemy. Will they let passion win out, or will it tear them to pieces?

Noah was raised apart from his family. Now, he’s trying to fit in with the Calhouns. But fitting in isn’t always easy when you’ve been a loner. A roll in the hay with a gorgeous woman fits his lifestyle. Falling in love was never in his plans.

Molly Granger’s lived a hard, dedicated life to her father. A man she loathes but has pledged her loyalty to—at least by all appearances. Her only focus has been revenge, even at the cost of her own life. Her goal is thrown off-kilter the day she meets Noah in a bar.

The connection between Molly and Noah is raw and intense, but neither one wants to admit their attraction. A wedge forms between them when Noah finds out her father is enemy number one.

Trapped between desire and vengeance, will they find a middle ground?

Magnolia Mill (Whiskey River Road #6)

She moved to Salt Lick Kentucky to a family she never knew. Now that she’s cured, she has a second chance at love. Will she take it or will she let fear chase him away?

Jane moved from Texas to Tennessee with her twin brother Noah to a family she had never met. She was overwhelmed with the warmth she received from each one of them. She was broken and dying. They healed her physically but they couldn’t take away her inward scars. She fixed herself up, plastered on a smile, and won the hearts of the town. As mayor of Salt Lick, she had a new beginning to fulfill her dreams, fall in love. Her only problem was, she wasn’t ready to let go of her heart so easily.

Ethan York came home with his best friend, Clem Calhoun. He was a big city boy trying to manage his life on the ranch. He found his calling in life; to be a cowboy. He also fell in love with Jane the first time he laid eyes on her. Neither one of them were ready to explore their emotions. Time passed and Ethan felt like he couldn’t breathe any longer with her in his life. His new job landed them working together on projects. The fire within him was ignited. Jane pushed him away. But Ethan proved to be one persistent man, like a dog with a bone.

She was trapped behind her secrets, not willing to share them. Will she ever be able to let go and fall in love, again?

Rough Road (Whiskey River Road #7) 

Clem and Boone are the backbone of the Calhoun family. They found their second chance together many years ago after Clem left him at the altar. They’re happily married, but Clem has never been able to give Boone the one thing she feels he wanted the most.

Boone is a happy, satisfied cowboy. He adores his wife and daughter, wanting for nothing more, but to live the rest of his days growing old with the woman he loves. His life is perfect other than the teenage daughter that’s driving him nuts. His ideal life is about to take a rough road he never saw coming, and he’s not sure he will survive it.

Clem is madly in love with Boone. He’s a good husband and father. She’s one lucky lady to have such a hot cowboy. He’s protective and broody when it comes to the Calhoun’s and she wouldn’t have him any other way. Life couldn’t be any better…until she gets news that will turn her whole world upside down. Rough doesn’t even begin to describe it.

The secret she keeps from Boone may tear them apart. It will be a test of their love not only between them, but the entire Calhoun clan. Will they be able to stand together or will it finally be the one thing that rips them apart?

Lucky Man (Whiskey River Road #8)

Does she or doesn’t she? She makes my head spin. All he knows it that he wants her heart. Missy Calhoun is the youngest horse trainer and owner in the business, and she has one goal–to win the Kentucky Derby. Missy threw love aside to focus on her passion. The last thing she needs is the sexy, smooth-talking cowboy whose horse is seated in first position stealing her thunder. Or her heart. That belongs to another man. Despite the chemistry she feels with Tucker, she’s unwilling to give in to him. Things ignite when he shows up out of the blue and sees her with another man. Tucker Anderson has one thing on his mind—giving Missy Calhoun the world if she’ll let him. Her on-again, off-again attitude only makes him more determined to melt away the hurt she harbors inside. When a real threat emerges, he’ll risk his own life to give her what she wants. Will they be able to weather the storm between them or will their hearts be broken?