Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
The other day I wrote a review about a story that featured a hero with some mental health challenges related to the death of a parent. In my review of that book, I talked about the incomplete way that the author of that story handled that challenge. I noted that other authors in the genre were making strides at magnifying these challenges and handling them with a care that feels necessary in our times. In writing that, I didn’t know that I would be confronted with just such a situation in Sarina Bowen’s Waylaid, the next story of her True North series, a series that has stolen my heart and made me rabid for future books.
Waylaid follows Daphne Shipley. If you’ve read any of the other books, then you know that Daphne’s experiences in those other books have been fairly fraught. She’s ambitious and lacks the warmth of her twin, Dylan. She outs her sister in a way that makes for one of the series’ most uncomfortable moments. Basically, Daphne isn’t the easiest character to love. However, as we find in romance, much of that colder or abrupt exterior hides vulnerabilities and insecurities. It usually takes the hero, in this case, to unravel the heroine’s guardedness.
In Waylaid, that hero is Rickie, a character we’ve met in Dylan’s story, Heartland. Now, Rickie is interesting because, with him, what you see is what you get, or at least that’s what it seems. Rickie is Dylan’s roommate/landlord/friend, and he’s decided to spend his summer working at the Shipley homestead. What is most interesting about Rickie is he cannot remember six months of his time during his tenure at the US Tactical Academy. During this time, we find that he met Daphne and made plans for a date, but he never showed up. Therefore, Daphne doesn’t fully trust him, and Rickie doesn’t know why she avoids him even though he can tell that she’s as attracted to him as he is to her. As the story progresses, Bowen crafts a winding tale that reveals the secrets of Rickie’s past while drawing Daphne and Rickie together.
What Sarina Bowen has done with Waylaid is nothing less than fantastic. For one, Rickie’s characterization is handled with the care that I had missed in the book I mentioned at the beginning of this review. Rickie is incredibly self-reflective and insightful, yet he’s wrapped in this flirty, playboyish package. At first, it makes sense that “good girl” Daphne would find him physically attractive but emotionally offputting because he’s so bold in his flirtation with her. You can’t help but want to warn Daphne off from him. However, as Bowen develops his character’s journey, you realize that there is weight and sincerity in his interest in Daphne. Bowen develops these graded levels in his character, and it makes him one of the most exciting characters in the True North series, in my opinion.
Now, while Daphne is seemingly a difficult character to love, she was kindred for me. I too am a person who has a hard exterior, so to speak. However, it hides a soft underbelly of vulnerabilities. I connected with Daphne’s journey as she learns to lower her walls around Rickie. They are truly suited to bring out the best in each other. At the beginning of the story, it makes for some fireworks of attraction; however, as Bowen deftly draws their story, she shows us how they complement and fulfill each other. Daphne, like her siblings, becomes this layered character who needs to rectify the wrongs of her past in order to find peace in her future.
Waylaid has elements of suspense and small-town romance. The struggles of her characters include sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and the idea that the past doesn’t have to define the present or future. And Sarina Bowen handles these messages with the gravity and care that they deserve. Honestly, I didn’t think that Waylaid could be one of the top reads of this series, but I think Daphne and Rickie have taken the second spot of my favorites of the series. The connection, the story, and their journeys steal a little piece of your heart through to the very end of the story.
In love and romance,
Jasinda Wilder has revealed the cover for The Parent Trap!
Releasing August 13, 2021
He was my worst enemy. He spent every waking moment devising fresh new ways of torturing me. No one has ever been able to make me cry like Matthais Bristow: my twin brother’s best friend, and the person on this planet I hate most.
Then, he left for college and I was free of him. For ten blessed years, I was free of his torture.
Now, he’s back, and he owns half of the family business I spent my entire life preparing to take over.
Is this going to be a new round of his old favorite game, Make Delia McKenna Cry, or are am I to believe he’s actually come back with good intentions?
Cover Designer: Okay Creations
Meet Jasinda Wilder
NEW YORK TIMES, USA TODAY, WALL STREET JOURNAL and international bestselling author Jasinda Wilder is a Michigan native with a penchant for titillating tales about sexy men and strong women. Her bestselling titles include ALPHA, STRIPPED, WOUNDED, and the #1 Amazon and international bestseller FALLING INTO YOU. You can find her on her farm in Northern Michigan with her husband, author Jack Wilder, her six children and menagerie of animals.
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Book: Truth Be Told
Author: Tarrah Anders
Release Date: August 24, 2021
About the Book
They say to never mix business with pleasure and now I know why.
The place I feel most alive is in the courtroom.
Arguing. Fighting. And making sure that I always win.
I have no problem using every means necessary to get my way and get my clients released. As a criminal defense attorney, rules were made to be broken and the truth is just a matter of perspective. From my perspective, the gorgeous DA that I’m up against in court needs to be up against me in bed.
I want her and just like with everything else in my life, I’ll do anything I have to in order to have her. The attraction between us is smoldering and with just a little push it becomes a blazing wildfire.
What’s one little lie when it comes to being with someone who makes you a better man?
The courtroom is like my second home. My sanctuary. It’s the one place in the world where I know all the rules and just how to win by using them to my advantage.
Rules are important, which is why I definitely should not even consider breaking them by getting involved with the sexy criminal defense attorney across the aisle.
Maybe if we bend them just a little, just this once, it won’t hurt anything.
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About the Author
Tarrah Anders is a contemporary romance author who is all about the feels, with the twists of sexy mixed in between. Writing has always been a passion and Tarrah loves to share her words, her characters and the world that they live in with her readers. Tarrah enjoys creating characters that you can be friends with, so get ready to make some new friends.
She is originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, but living in beautiful San Diego with her family, while working in Program Management within the social work field.
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BULLETPROOF by Xavier Neal
Release Date: July 22nd
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The assignment is simple.
Don’t let the client die.
Don’t let her get kidnapped.
Don’t sleep with her.
It’s the last part that unexpectedly complicates things for me after I’m introduced to the most beautiful and brilliant woman I could’ve ever envisioned.
And it only gets worse when we have to stash ourselves away in a small town where our calculated cover is to be a recently engaged couple.
My new mission is now significantly harder.
Don’t let her hate what’s for dinner.
Don’t let anyone else make her laugh more than I do.
And, most importantly, don’t let myself actually fall for someone again.
After all, my job isn’t to love my boss’s sister.
It’s to stop an unidentified threat from taking her – or die trying.
About the Author:
Xavier Neal is a best-selling romance author who enjoys hopping from sub genre to sub genre like a game of Hopscotch she can’t resist.
In between writing, she loves to read (everything from romance to self improvement books), watch movies (old and new), eat too much Tex-Mex (her Chuy’s t-shirt collection is out of control), and watch AHL hockey games LIVE (preferably against the glass whenever possible).
She currently resides happily in Texas with her bearded husband “Lumberjack” and their two fur babies.
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Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Kendall Ryan’s The Rookie starts out strong. Her hero, Logan, is struggling with his season. After losing his temper and taking out a hockey player on the opposing team, he’s suspended and forced to work with a counselor. That counselor is our heroine, Summer. Since Logan returns home to Colorado to wait out his suspension, Summer travels to his family’s home to help him, as she has a burgeoning counseling business. Logan is not excited to see her, but his family conspires to keep Summer there. Even though Logan wants to get rid of Summer, he finds himself attracted to her. As Summer spends two weeks in his home, they grow closer and realize they want more, but their roles won’t allow it. Will they find their happy ending?
I really do like the intention behind Kendall Ryan’s Looking to Score hockey series. And even at the beginning of this story, I loved the “hate to love” motif that began it. However, there are some issues with the story. For one, and I recognize this is fiction and I have to suspend my disbelief, I struggled with Summer’s willingness to undermine her position as Logan’s counselor. I don’t think that Ryan handles the true gravity of this in her story. Summer is unprofessional and unethical. Even more, the grief that Logan is manifesting in anger is handled quickly (in one session), and that feels irresponsible even for a romance. During a time when there are many romance authors handling major issues in productive ways, I worry that The Rookie is too fluffy and inconsequential in its treatment of Logan’s problems.
Yes, there is a cute romance here. Yes, it’s intermixed with those steamy scenes indicative of a Kendall Ryan story, but I struggled with the storytelling and character development with this one. It’s uneven and feels a bit lazy.
If you don’t care about the believability of a story, then you’ll probably like The Rookie. It’s fairly light fare, and it has a happy ending. If that’s your thing, then grab this one for your weekend reading.
In love and romance,
UNCOVERED (Bainbridge University #1) by Andi Burns
Release Date: July 28th
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I walk into Drip after the last of my classes has ended for the day. The cool AC feels good, and I’m glad to see friendly faces rather than just an endless sea of people I don’t know.
“So, how was your first day?” Ian asks, placing an iced caramel macchiato in front of me.
“Thanks,” I say, accepting the drink and taking a sip. “My classes were good, so far. The art program here is pretty great, so I’m excited about my painting class and my clay class. And my bio lecture was pretty standard. It was all typical first-day stuff, but everyone was really nice.”
“Good. Anyone gives you trouble, you just send them to me,” Ian nods. Bless his heart, I think he’s serious. He’s tall, but he’s lean. Built like a runner, but I’d bet my bank account, such as it is, that the only running Ian does is on a treadmill. He’s got fair skin, freckles, and strawberry blonde hair. His glasses are those thick black trendy ones I could never pull off, but he’s got that whole hot-professor look down.
He turns his attention to Mel. “How about you, Mel? Did you kick some accounting ass today?”
“Damn straight I did,” she says, stepping behind the counter and slipping on her apron. “How about you? How’s the TA life so far?”
“Exhausting,” he smiles. “Especially when you add this place in. But I love it. I’m only doing two classes for Hanna–Dr. Bergman–this semester, so things will level off, I’m sure. I just feel totally overwhelmed, but in a good way, you know?”
I totally get it. “I know exactly what you mean. The last week of my life has been a little daunting–a lot of change and new experiences, but it’s all good stuff.”
“Excellent,” he nods. “ And you know where you’re headed tomorrow?”
I smile over my eye-roll. “Yes, I know where all of my classes are. And I scoped out a study bay in the library today. Look at me, exploring uncharted waters.”
Mel clears her throat. “Don’t worry about her, Ian. She got a personal tour of campus from Ty Marshall.”
Ian nearly drops the pitcher of tea he’s holding. “Say what now?”
“It was no big deal– my tour guide was double-booked or something, so Ty took over.” I shrug as if it’s no big deal, because it isn’t one. Ok, he was sex on a damn stick, but he was just doing his job. Well, his friend’s job.
“Honey.” Ian levels me with an older-brother look, and my heart pinches. “You need to be careful with that one.”
“It won’t be an issue, I promise. It was just a tour. He had to do it. And I’m 100% positive he was not impressed by me.”
“Oh, sweetie,” Ian shakes his head. “Let’s get a few things straight. Those broody boys on the hill? The fearsome foursome who live in The Chapel? They don’t have to do anything. And they certainly don’t have to work. Each one of them is richer than sin even without their trust funds. So trust me, he was not doing his job. He was doing someone else’s. And I want to know why.”
“I told you– it was a favor. He wouldn’t say what the favor was for though.” “See? Suspicious.”
Mel’s refilling the napkin dispenser. “Calm down, Ian. My guess is he jumped at the opportunity to cover Gabe’s shift because our girl here is gorgeous. Plus, she’s new in town and knows nothing of his reputation.”
“His reputation?” I ask. Sure, he was surly, but maybe there’s more to the story.
“They’re all assholes,” Ian shakes his head. “Ok, not assholes, exactly. But they’re rich and entitled, and they don’t seem to give much of a damn about anyone but each other. They’re a tight crew. Sure, they’ll socialize. Hell, Whit deejays half the parties on Greek row. And Booker plays hockey. And, yes, I will take this moment to pay homage how fucking hot his hockey butt is. So, yea, they’re visible and everybody knows them. Part of that is because Booker’s great-great-great grandaddy founded this school. Part of that is they’re all nice to look at. But here’s the thing: they’re totally insular. It’s the four of them against the rest of the world. I don’t think any of them have ever had a long-term relationship. Not to say you can’t have some fun, but…just be careful.”
My family destroyed hers, but I can’t let her go…
Amends…they’re not mine to make, but I’ve been haunted by the memory of a shattered girl in that courtroom two years ago.
So, I tell myself I’m doing what’s right. I’ll stay in the shadows, out of her way. She won’t know I’m there–she doesn’t even know who I am. I’m just setting it up and walking away with as clear a conscience as my guilt will allow me.
But then she needs a tutor. And I’m the only one working. How can I say no?
But one coincidental meeting turns into two, and then three. And before I can stop myself, I’m falling hard for a woman I have no business wanting. The problem is, she’s falling hard for me, too.
I need to tell her who I am–I have to. But I know that the moment I do, I’ll break her. And she’ll break me, too.
Uncovered is a full-length novel with a tortured hero, a broken heroine, and an HEA. It is the first STANDALONE in the Bainbridge University Series.
About the Author:
Andi Burns writes contemporary romance infused with humor, sass, and steam. She loves a happily-ever-after as much as her characters do, and she always reads the last page of a book first, just to make sure it all turns out okay.
Andi lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two daughters. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, folding laundry, or daydreaming about her next hero and heroine.
PRIVATE PLAYER by Louise Bay
Release Date: July 27th
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“Madison,” I said as she took another mouthful. “Are you leaving me some?” I tapped the corner of my mouth. She wiped the wrong side of her mouth with her fingertip.
“No,” I said, shifting around so I had a better angle. “Here.” I leaned toward her, cupped her face with one hand, and pressed my lips against the chocolate, kissing it away.
I held her for a split second longer than I needed to, wanting to savor her warmth and breathe in the scent of orange blossom lingering on her skin before releasing her and sitting back to face my pudding. “You taste delicious.” My voice growled lower and quieter than before. “I knew you would.”
The blush that had started on her cheeks crept across her chest. Still, she stayed quiet while she took another bite—this time without leaving anything for me to taste. “You kissed me,” she said finally.
“No,” I replied. “I licked you.”
She stayed focused on the chocolate in front of her. “You’re insane,” she whispered to her spoon and shaking her head. “You can’t go around licking perfect strangers.”
“Did you like it?” I asked, shooting her a sideways glance.
“Nathan Cove, you’re incorrigible.”
The first time I meet Madison Shore, I’m greeted by her knickers. She’s upside down and trying to untangle herself from my chair at a wedding.
I get to see a whole lot more of her later that night.
The second time I meet Madison Shore is in my London office. Turns out she’s a journalist writing an article about me.
To keep control of my company, I need to convince people I’m more serious about business than my playboy reputation suggests. Madison holds my future in her hands.
Now I just need to convince the woman I took to bed on Saturday night that I’m not the player everyone thinks I am.
Note: to claim your exclusive content, email confirmation or a screenshot of your pre-order to email@example.com and you will be contacted shortly after release with a link to the content.
About the Author:
USA Today bestselling author, Louise Bay writes sexy, contemporary romance novels – the kind she likes to read.
Ruined by bonk-busters and sexy mini-series of the eighties Louise loves all things sexy and romantic. There’s not enough of it in real life so she disappears into the fictional worlds in books and films.
Louise loves the rain, the West Wing, London, days when she doesn’t have to wear make-up, being on her own, being with friends, elephants and champagne.
She loves to hear from readers so get in touch!
When it comes to life’s fun and games, always know:
What’s at stake.
When to quit.
The Bet, an all new hilarious opposites attract standalone rom com from New York Times bestselling author Max Monroe is available now!
Read my review HERE.
Wise words from…well…my fortune cookie. But wise words, nonetheless.
I just wish the Fortune Cookie People had considered how hard the whole “knowing when to quit” would be to carry out when a woman like me is gambling with her feelings.
Heart-palpitating, vageen-tingling, butterflies-in-my-belly feelings for a noncommittal, hot-as-sin player by the name of Jude Winslow.
After a crazy night where we were both pretending to be someone else, I’ve found myself immersed in the fun of the fling.
The irresistible charm.
The pleasure of being with a man like him.
Problem is, I’m positive he’s the exact opposite of husband material, and that is a serious issue for someone who is fixated on finding her happily ever after.
I know the rules and I know the stakes, oh wise Fortune Cookie.
Now I’d just like to know how close to self-destruction I have to get before I find the will to quit Jude Winslow.
Goodness knows, when your heart is on the line, you can’t ante up your bet with an IOU.
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Tell me…is it ever possible to recover from the shame of having orgasmed in public—discreetly, I think—all because of the stupid exotic dancer I hired for my sister?
Because, if not, I won’t bother sharing this with my therapist when we have our next session.
“Oh my God!” Belle yells from the stall, her feet teetering on my heels as she tries to squat and hover over the toilet. I swear, if she pees on my one and only pair of Jimmy Choos, I will hex her so hard. “Did you freaking see that guy? He bent you over backward and planted a baby in your womb through your dress, I swear to Jesus.”
“Uh, yeah. I saw,” I comment on the absurdly obvious. But truthfully, I didn’t just see anything. I felt his heat and his heart thrumming in his chest and smelled the undeniably intoxicating subtlety of his cologne. I felt the stretch in my muscles as he manipulated my body left and right and sideways and upside down, all while somehow managing to make the ridiculousness of a male stripper seem sexy.
The only time I could truly say I saw, I suppose, was during the out-of-body experience I had while he straddled my body in the sixty-nine position and straight up sent me into purgatory. There I was, just hovering by the ceiling of the room like Mary fucking Poppins and the kids when they go to have tea with the loopy guy, wondering if that was really my face under his superior crotch or if it was all just a mirage.
And then I had to go and fucking orgasm, like a teenage boy in the middle of a wet dream.
I shake my head to clear it again, thanking my lucky stars that, in this situation, I was at least afforded the luxury of being a woman. No boner. No jizz-filled underwear. Just a hard twist of arousal and a pair of damp panties.
“I swear he tossed you around like a rag doll!”
“Yes, Sophie,” I say, emphasizing my name instead of hers just in case any other drunken members of our group found their way in here and into another stall while I was busy with my emotional breakdown. “I’m well aware of everything Jude, the Magic Dancer was, thank you very much.”
She flushes the toilet and swings the stall door back toward herself, stumbling out into the open area and laughing hysterically at my revamp of Puff, the Magic Dragon, one of our favorite songs as kids before cynics ruined it.
I’m glad she’s having a good time, but holy hell. I’m still shaking. And once I’m certain none of the gals from our group are in the bathroom with us, I give her the cold, hard reality.
“You owe me so freaking much, it’s ridiculous.” Pretending to be the bride at my sister’s bachelorette party when I’m not even dating anyone would surely be something Dr. Winters would see as a “setback.”
“I know I owe you, I really do, but I would have died, okay? You know I would have died. And that would really complicate your use of my Costco membership, wouldn’t it?”
I snort. “Fine. But can we switch back now? Don’t you want to enjoy the rest of the evening as the bride-to-be?”
Belle shakes her head almost violently and stands at the sink to wash her hands. She waves them obnoxiously in front of the automatic sensor several times but still never manages to turn the faucet on. I lean forward and wave my hand in front of hers, bringing it to life.
For some reason, she always struggles with that.
“No way. I’ve had a great time the whole night tonight, but I didn’t realize how much better it is when no one is paying attention to me! Maid of honor is where it’s at, and I can’t go back now that I know how good it is here.”
“Are you serious?” I snap.
“Please,” she begs, pretending to pout. “I know it’s not ideal for you, but pretty, pretty please with a cherry on top, do this for me? I’ll bake you however many cookies and cupcakes and cakes you want for the next six months.”
My sister is the baked goods goddess, and she knows I can’t resist that kind of offer.
“Fine,” I grind out. “But if I were you, I’d invest in stock for flour and butter and sugar and shit because I’m going to run your ass like a factory worker.”
“Whatever you want. John’s really good with investments, so I’ll make him figure it out.”
I laugh at her drunken seriousness—it’s too hard not to—and finally pull her into a hug so I can whisper directly into her ear. “I love you, Bells. But I also fucking hate you.”
She nods. “It’s the Sage sister way.”
“Well, two out of three,” I correct, knowing that Katelynn is the least drama-associated sister of the three of us. At five years our senior, she was always more of a “Disciplinary Board” than a defendant when it came to Sage sister arguments.
“That’s true,” Belle agrees. “I’m seriously surprised at how drunk Kate’s gotten tonight. It’s a real mom’s-night-out kind of vibe.”
I roll my eyes. “Like you should talk. You’re drunker than she is.”
“Yeah, but it’s my bachelorette,” she asserts.
Immediately, I shake my head with a fake smile. “Uh-uh. Not anymore, it’s not. Thanks to you, the glory of tonight seems to be mine.”
About Max Monroe
A duo of romance authors team up under the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling pseudonym Max Monroe to bring you sexy, laugh-out-loud reads.
Max Monroe is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of more than ten contemporary romance titles. Favorite writing partners and long time friends, Max and Monroe strive to live and write all the fun, sexy swoon so often missing from their Facebook newsfeed. Sarcastic by nature, their two writing souls feel like they’ve found their other half. This is their most favorite adventure thus far.
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