“I can read you like my favorite book, Sierra. I see you—the real you, and as much as you fight to hide every thought running through that pretty little head from me, I see it. Let me give you an example: Right now, I see how pissed you are at me.” I lower my tone. “I also see how much you want me.”
She reaches down to dig her fingers into my hand resting on her thigh. “You’re so full of yourself.”
I raise a brow, staring up at her. “Am I lying?”
“Maybe I can see through you. Maybe you’re the one who wants me.”
“Trust me, you can’t read me.”
She laughs. “Oh, but I can. Do you think I don’t notice your jealousy as much as mine? That I don’t see how you have to snap yourself out of your feelings for me? You want me as much as I want you, Maliki. The problem is you’re too chicken shit to do anything about it.”
“Too chicken shit?”
“Too fucking chicken shit.”
My lips crash into hers.
Chicken shit, my ass.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Charity resides in Indianapolis, Indiana. She grew up riding her bicycle to the town’s public library, and reading anything she could get her hands on. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, spending time with her family, or caving into her online shopping addiction.
“That’s Maliki’s thing—always wanting me to look at him, to keep that eye contact. He wants to read me—read my eyes, my heart, every emotion bleeding through me.”
Just Roommates is my first foray into Charity Ferrell’s world of the “just” heroes. It’s important for me to note that because this is the fifth book in this series of standalones. I came to this world without any prior knowledge of her Blue Beech inhabitants, and you’ll be happy to know that it didn’t affect the story in any way. Yes, there are people mentioned in the story who have other stories in this world, but Ferrell does a fine job of helping us understand the relationships between the characters. This is enough for reading Malaki and Sierra’s story.
At eighteen, Sierra, the mayor’s daughter, is attracted to the “town’s bartending heartbreaker,” Malaki. One night, when she is eighteen, she accompanies her best friend to the bar Malaki owns. Unfortunately, being underage, Malaki discovers her and forces her to leave his bar, after she puts up a bit of a fight. A couple of years later, Sierra once again shows up in Malaki’s bar, still underage. Like the first time, Malaki forces her out of his bar. On her twentiest-first birthday, Sierra goes to Malaki’s bar; this time, she is legal. Through these moments, a fraught friendship is formed.
When an unexpected event occurs in Sierra’s life a year or so later, Malaki allows Sierra to become his roommate, but their chemistry wreaks havoc on their friendship. Is Malaki attracted to Sierra like she is to him? Will he ever be someone who can settle down, or will he always be the “bartending heartbreaker?” Will circumstances outside of their relationship derail any future they might have together? These are the big questions of Charity Ferrell’s Just Roommates.
“I can read you like my favorite book, Sierra. I see you—the real you—and as much as you fight to hide every thought running through that pretty little head from me, I see it.”
Front and center to Ferrell’s book is Malaki and Sierra’s chemistry. It is clear from their first meeting in the book that sparks fly between the two of them. Even with Sierra being only an 18 year old, you cannot help but see a future for the two of them. Ferrell crafts their relationship in such a way that you can’t help but feel the tension between the two of them. When they finally act upon their feelings for each other, no one is surprised, and it makes it easy for them to fall in love quickly. It’s been developing on the page since almost the beginning of the book. As individual characters, there isn’t anything exceptional about Malaki and Sierra. To be honest, they are fairly flat characters, types of romantic heroes/heroines. It’s their coupling that makes them interesting. They are the reason the reader continues to read the story.
Charity Ferrell isn’t necessarily creating a new story with her book. Instead, she crafts plot “bumps” to compel her reader forward. Quite frankly, she throws quite a bit at Malaki and Sierra. When you finally feel that they are safe to live happily-ever-after, Ferrell twists the story, keeping her readers on their toes. It’s those twists along with their coupling that engages the reader until the end.
“She’s mine, and I’ll hand her every damn secret, every thought in my head, every move I make if it means keeping her.”
I imagine that, had I read the other “Just” books, I might have adored this story more. Without the background, Ferrell’s book is a nice read. It isn’t trying to do anything more than entertain you through the love of Malaki and Sierra. I would definitely recommend a read, especially if you’ve read Charity Ferrell’s other books in this series. Just Roommates will remind you of everything you love about Blue Beech.
Willow Aster’s Downfall is a tale of romance and woe. Set among royalty, this story illustrates the deals completed behind the scenes to ensure peace between royal houses. Unfortunately, there is a human cost to those arrangements, and that cost can be heartbreaking while also empowering.
Downfall tells the story of Eden and Luka. Eden is the daughter and princess of Farrow. Luka is the oldest son of King Titus of Niaps. From their early teenhood, they have been arranged to be married. Sent off to college, Eden and Luka finally meet, and Luka makes it clear to Eden that he is unhappy with their arrangement. He does everything in his power to humiliate her. Unfortunately, on a threat by a neighboring country, Luka and Eden are forced into their marriage earlier than originally expected. Out of obligation, Eden follows the plans of the families, but Luka makes it difficult. On the day they are married, an outside threat wreaks havoc for her family, and she is sent away with Luka and his family sooner than planned. During this time, Eden’s daily experience is difficult because Luka acts both interested in her and cold to her, confusing her. When a tragedy strikes her family, Eden must return home. Will she and Luke ever find her happy ending, or is Eden doomed to an unhappy marriage?
I picked up Willow Aster’s book in the evening on a Saturday night. Thinking I would only read for a couple of hours, I found myself engaged in her story. Downfall is the type of book with a story that compels the reader forward. I couldn’t put it down because I needed a happy ending for Eden. There is something so heavy about her experience in this book. Through all of the insult and, quite frankly, bullying, she maintains her sense of self. Even in her broken moments, Eden is a beacon of strength. Given the way in which she is treated as a pawn, it would seem impossible for her to maintain steadfast to her ideals, but she does so. And it’s inspiring.
In contrast, I was not a personal fan of Luka. Honestly, Aster writes him as an indulged, whiney lothario. You need to know that there is cheating in this book. While some would say that, given the arranged marriage aspect of the story, cheating seems permissible. In the context of Downfall, it can be painful. At least it was for me. Luka’s personality switches so often in the story that it takes most of the book to accept him as a partner for Eden. One minute, he acts as though he adores her. The next minute, he detests her and bullies her. While I wanted to read to the end for Eden’s happy ending, I also read for Luka’s change, for his growth. One of my favorite types of heroes is the ones who seem unredeemable who find redemption. Thankfully, Aster spares us heartache, and Luka’s growth becomes the second best part of her story.
This story is also a story of suspense. As is the case with most stories about royalty, there intrigue and pole-positioning for power. The dealings among royals are scattered throughout Luka and Eden’s story. It works as a tool to twist the plot in different directions. Thankfully, Eden’s family is the buffer to the torment of the story. Her brother, Jadon, is one of my favorite people because he offers her refuge when she needs it.
With the current popularity of bully romances, Willow Aster’s Downfall evokes a bully romance for royalty. That’s how I read it because, before Luka can fall in love with Eden, he makes her life exponentially difficult simply because he can. At times, I found my stomach clenching and tears wetted my pillow for Eden. I hoped for a happy ending for her because she endures much and is everything you love about a heroine: stalwart, fearsome, innocent, and loving, even when her hero treats her poorly. I’m excited for the other books in this series of standalones. I think Aster’s telling of a royal tale is just what the romance doctor ordered.
How many of us play a part? We look at various situations and make assumptions about the types of behaviors and reactions necessary for that situation. When we do this, however, we move further away from our organic self and closer to the expectations of others. This can cause problems: we can struggle to “be real,” and we can set up walls against people we’d like to know better. This is the truth behind Stella Weaver’s Sticking to the Script.
I hate putting labels on books, but I know readers want to know the “type” of book. Stella Weaver’s book is an MM romantic comedy of sorts. It tells the story of Dr. Ken Miles and Steven Thompson. Steven is the VP of finance for Cipher Systems, a security firm. He accompanies his friend, Elizabeth, a colleague of Dr. Miles, to a retirement party. Elizabeth introduces Steven and Ken, and Steven is instantly drawn to him while Ken looks disinterested and acts socially awkward. Steven notes that Ken looks as though he is “putting on” a persona but doesn’t think anything of it.
On the contrary, Dr. Ken Miles finds himself attracted to Steven. He feels as though Steven sees the real him. This both unnerves him and attracts him to Steven. What Steven and Ken don’t know is that the other man is looking for a long-term relationship. Steven has tried the momentary dalliances, while Ken has made work a priority that he has had very little time for relationships. Additionally, while Steven identifies as gay, Ken identifies as bisexual. At first, Steven doesn’t realize this, and he fails to see Ken’s attraction to him. Thinking he is asking Steven on a date, Ken views them as dating, while Steven believes they are hanging out as friends. After some confusion, the two finally recognize their attraction to each other and begin to act upon it. Unfortunately, complications arise, and the future seems uncertain for their coupledom. Will Dr. Ken and Steven find their “happily-ever-after?”
This isn’t my first MM book, but I haven’t read many of them. I’m always curious when an author decides to create a gay character and one who is bisexual. I’ve seen it in menage books more often than MM books. In the case of Sticking to the Script, Dr. Ken’s bisexuality causes a bit of trouble, and it tends to underscore the messiness of “looking the part”. While Ken doesn’t live closeted, what we find is he isn’t as forward with his bisexuality as he believes. This creates a “lost in translation” situation for him and Steven. I personally loved this tension because Weaver uses it to highlight how both Steven and Ken struggle to live their own truths.
Steven uses humor to distance himself from people, including Ken. He struggles with his attraction to Ken because he perceives that Ken is temporary, given his bisexuality and attractiveness. He fails so often in this story because he fails with vulnerability. It is only Ken’s love for him that finally allows him to open up to Ken and his friends. He protects himself well to a fault, and Weaver crafts him to be the person who is truly “sticking to the script” here even though she places those words beside Ken.
Quite frankly, Dr. Ken was my favorite character in this romance. Oh my goodness, he has the biggest heart, and it gets hidden by his social awkwardness. It’s adorable how he struggles to show Steven that he likes him and is dating him. It provides some of the funniest moments in the story. And he adores Steven even when Steven is mean to him. He’s protective, nurturing, and loves without conditions. And it’s so beautiful when he sees the very best in Steven, even when Steven doesn’t see it for himself. Yes, Dr. Ken is seemingly stuffy, but we find that he has an easy sense of humor. He is easily the most likeable person in this story.
Together, Ken and Steven are magic. Like most romances, these two have their growing pains, and they have to find a way back to each other. Yet, their stories are a reminder that we don’t have to “stick to the script.” We don’t need to act the part when we are in love with our soulmate. Instead, all we need to do is allow them to love us and all of our pieces, good and bad. Stella Weaver has woven a sweet tale in Sticking to the Script, one that will make you swoon all the way to the end.
Sticking to the Script, an all-new standalone in the romantic comedy Cipher Office series, from Stella Weaver is available now!
Steven Thompson had a bad year. A string of mean, kinky (the alarming kind, not the good kind), and crazy dating debacles combined with a boss who appears to be experiencing male-prenatal-psychosis means Steven’s stress levels are high. They’re so high, he’s decided to quit dating and focus instead solely on his job.
Until he meets Dr. Ken Miles.
Doctor Ken Miles is having a fantastic year. His hard work is paying off in a big way . . . professionally. But his social life? Not so much.
Until he meets Steven Thompson.
Steven isn’t so sure about Dr. Miles, but Ken is one hundred percent certain about Mr. Thompson. And even though both men know full well that the key to getting what you want out of life is hard work, they can’t seem to make them—together—work.
Will they ever get on the same page? Or just keep sticking to the same old script?
‘Sticking to the Script’ is a full-length contemporary romantic comedy, can be read as a standalone, and is book#2 in the Cipher Office series, Knitting in the City World, Penny Reid Book Universe.
Download your copy today or read FREE in Kindle Unlimited!
Stella Weaver is a reader, writer, sloppy crafter and family-woman. She’s a native of coastal northern California who now lives on the Texas Gulf coast. She’s won the much coveted #1 Mom of the Year Award and has the coffee mug to prove it.
Rian Thompson thought she joined the gym to get healthy. Little did she know she was about to add hundred and ninety pounds of swoonworthy abdominal muscles and arrogance to her life.
Every day in Rians’s life follows a predictable pattern, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She’s got a nice job, a nice place to live, and a nice family—even if they are a little wedding-zilla-ish at the moment.
She doesn’t need anything spectacular to be happy. She just needs to get healthy—mentally, physically. . . and maybe spiritually if that happens. But she’ll settle for two out of three until her sister finally gets hitched.
Carlos Davies thought his life was perfect. Little did he know it was about to be turned upside down by a woman who is not his type.
In Carlos’s mind, his life is damn near perfect. He’s got a great job, a great place to live, and a great stash of pick up lines that always work. It has occurred to him that maybe no one actually takes him all that seriously. But with these bulging biceps and thick, dark hair, does that even matter since he’s never sleeping alone?
Welcome to Weight Expectations, where great—and unexpected—things happen.
‘Weight Expectations’ is a full-length contemporary romantic comedy, can be read as a standalone, and is book#1 in the Cipher Office series, Knitting in the City World, Penny Reid Book Universe.
Download your copy today or read FREE in Kindle Unlimited!
My name is ME Carter and I have no idea how I ended writing books. I’m more of a story teller (the more exaggerated the better) and I happen to know people who helped me get those stories on paper. I love reading (read almost 200 books last year), hate working out (but I do it anyway because my trainer makes me), love food (but hate what it does to my butt) and love traveling to non-touristy places most people never see. I live in Houston with my four kids, Mary, Elizabeth, Carter and Bug, who was just a twinkle in my eye when I came up with my pen name. Yeah, I’ll probably have to pay for his therapy someday for being left out.
“Sharp writing, layered characters, and wonderful tension flow through this book, along with a super-swoon-worthy hero and a kick ass heroine I just love.” — Elizabeth Hunter, USA Today bestselling author
Code of Conduct, the first in the romantic suspense Cipher Security series of standalones, from April White is available now!
April White has been a film producer, private investigator, bouncer, teacher and screenwriter. She has climbed in the Himalayas, survived a shipwreck, and lived on a gold mine in the Yukon. She and her husband share their home in Southern California with two extraordinary boys and a lifetime collection of books.
Her first novel, Marking Time is the 2016 winner of the Library Journal Indie E-Book Award for YA Literature, and all five books in the Immortal Descendants series are on the Amazon Top 100 lists in Time Travel Romance and Historical Fantasy.
I was naïve to think my marriage to Luka Catano might work.
I was infatuated with him from afar…
Until I met him.
He loved the challenge of his next conquest, anyone would do…
A wife was never something he wanted.
Torturous was not a strong enough word to describe how I felt when I was in a room with Luka. Besides hating nearly every word that came out of his mouth, I also drowned with lust every time I looked at him.
At times I thought he might feel the same.
But nothing prepared me for what his family would make me become.
“You’ve outdone yourself,” he says. “Which Eden do I have tonight? Will you bite or will you purr?”
“I could ask you the same thing.”
He holds his hands out. “What do you think? Am I suitable to be by your side?”
“You clean up okay.”
He smirks and steps closer to me, pulling me flush against him. “Keep playing the cool act. I know it shouldn’t, but it gets me so hard.” He presses into me to prove his point.
“Have you been drinking already?” I frown.
“This is me stone-cold sober.”
“So there’s nothing to excuse your behavior.”
His hands go lower and when he still feels my skin, he frowns. His hands go lower still until they find material, which happens to be hugging my backside. He thrusts into me again and leans his forehead against mine.
“You don’t want to excuse my behavior. You like me best this way. Hot and salivating over you. Admit it.”
I shake my head. “You need to take a step back.”
He exhales a shuddering breath and drops his hands, stepping back. “We’re going to be late. Let’s go.”
I shiver from the loss of his hands and the chill in his voice. I can’t win with him.
I will not fall for him, no matter how charming or irresistible or famous he is. I will not be swayed by his skills in the kitchen or by his British accent. I’m going to win the Great Gingerbread Bake Off and no one is going to stand in my way. Not even Keller.
All kisses are off. I mean all bets. All bets are off. And his clothes, those are off too.
Grr, never mind. I’ll figure this out myself.
XOXO, Ginger Winter
The One Night Stand Before Christmas (Reindeer Falls #3) Release Date: November 21st
Please stop by my house and pick up your suit. If you thought I was going to run it to the dry cleaners for you after you left it on my bedroom floor, you’ve got another think coming.
Best, Noel Winter
About the Author: Jana Aston likes cats, big coffee cups and books about billionaires who deflower virgins. She wrote her debut novel while fielding customer service calls about electrical bills, and she’s ever grateful for the fictional gynecologist in Wrong that readers embraced so much she was able to make working in her pajamas a reality. Jana’s novels have appeared on the NYT, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists, some multiple times. She likes multiples.
“Welcome to Weight Expectations. Where Great Things Happen.”
The slogan for the fictitious gym in M.E. Carter’s newest book, Weight Expectations, goes far to show the “greatness” of this book. Carter’s story is an admonition, a reminder, of the need to love yourself as you are, so that we don’t become stagnant as we fail to meet impossible societal expectations. It’s that realization that we often find ourselves settling in situations because we fear trying something new and failing. This suggestion along with Carter’s craftsmanship of her heroine, Rian, a BBW, challenges her reader to be more to find the “great things” that happen in her book.
The story follows Rian, as she strives to lose weight and become healthier at the request of her employer. She decides to join a gym as a means to this end. This is not an easy move for her, as she has never joined a gym previously, and the experience is foreign to her. Thankfully, her trainer, Abel, along with Tabitha, the smoothie maker extraordinaire for the gym, help her attempt to adjust to this new experience. For the most part, Rian has been self-conscious of her weight for most of her life. She accepts that she is a heavier woman, but other people’s expectations and comparisons of her have made her more comfortable by herself.
Carlos is a gym rat. Like Rian, he began working out as a way to fit in with the security specialists of his employer, Cipher Systems. Even though he is a successful COO of his company, he, like Rian, compares himself to the brawny security personnel and strives to create a body that can compete. Unfortunately, there is a part of him that never believes he quite lives up to his perception of them. Therefore, he lives a highly-structured fit lifestyle.
Additionally, Carlos is not interested in relationships, given his parents’ divorce. He prefers bedding women in one-night stands or short flings. He finds a “type”: more physically attractive in the traditional sense than deep in substance. This works fine for him. Through Tabitha, Carlos and Rian meet. Rian is not Carlos’s type, yet he finds himself drawn to her intellect and personality. Yes, he finds her attractive, but, again, she isn’t his usual interest. Unfortunately, Carlos cannot seem to forget Rian, while Rian believes that Carlos would never choose a woman like her. Are Carlos and Rian destined for each other? That seems to be the question of Carter’s romance.
From the outset of this book, I fell in love. Well, at least, I fell in love with Rian. See, I absolutely connected with her self-image struggles and the way in which she girded herself up against the societal judgment regarding her weight. Her most impactful support system, her family, is actually fraught with problems because they fail to see the true Rian. Instead, they criticize her lifestyle choices and fail to provide her the support she needs to recognize her worth. I think we all see a bit of ourselves in Rian. It doesn’t matter if the problem is weight-related or some other perceived personal deficiency. At some point, we’ve felt that we simply don’t meet someone else’s expectations of us, and we make choices to remain comfortable instead of challenging ourselves to be better for ourselves. Rian’s character is the first representation of this in the book, and Carter does such a beautiful job of crafting Rian’s insecurity. Her words become the words that we say to ourselves in our own insecurities. Yet, Carter overrides those negative words through Carlos’s love of Rian.
Like Rian, Carlos also struggles with a failure to meet expectations. Yes, it seemingly looks like a body image issue. However, as his story progresses, his struggles relate to relationships. He doesn’t believe he can offer the necessary feelings for anything long term, so as Rian does with her weight and her career, he hides behind meaningless flings. Everyone around him can see the depth of his character, as Carter creates it. Yet, his lack of belief in his ability to love another person fully stunts any meaningful connections with women. Until Rian.
Through Carlos and Rian, Carter’s words find purchase in your soul. As Rian struggles to accept Carlos’s love, your heart hurts for her because Carter crafts it to be so. The truth of these two characters is challenged throughout the story through the wise words of Tabitha, Abel, and Frank. When Carlos almost misses his opportunity with Rian, Carter’s words cut at my heart a little. Thankfully, she repaired it through the wisdom of the other characters in the story. This occurs multiple times throughout the story that, once the words act as a salve, you can’t help but consider your own negative self-talk. There is so much wisdom about loving yourself and meeting your own expectations in this story that you’ll find yourself highlighting Carter’s writing like mad because it’s just so darn good.
As a professor of writing, I love ideas. In reading romance, it’s easy to feel your heart pulled into the relationship between the characters and their stories. It’s easy to read the same story over and over again and continue to fall in love with an author’s vision. Yet, there is something more profound in reading romance that has a mission: to offer a truth about life that is bigger than the romantic story. That exists in M.E. Carter’s Weight Expectations. Yes, there is a beautifully written story about two unlikely people falling in love despite their internal challenges. Yes, this romance has its requisite happy ending. And yes, there is the tension-filled climax, threatening the reader will all kinds of turmoil. What Weight Expectations has that many other romances don’t have is a reminder, a heady message of personal acceptance. Trying to meet other people’s expectations will leave us discouraged always. Instead, Carter shows us that we are wonderful just as we are, and that is truly where “great things happen.”