✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 5 ⭐️ Review: Melanie Harlow’s Tempt, a Cloverleigh Farms romance ✍🏻

Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

“You’re my north, south, east, and west, Millie Rose. You ground me, you guide me, you inspire me..”

With Cloverleigh Farms Next Generation, it began with Winnie and Dex, next-door neighbors, grumpy-sunshine single dad romance in Ignite. Then, Melanie Harlow treated us to Ellie and Gianni in Taste, a surprise pregnancy, forced proximity, adversaries-to-lovers style romance. After that, friends to lovers, fake relationship was our catnip in Hutton and Felicity’s Tease. And now, Harlow has treated us to the piece de resistance of the newer books of her wildly successful Cloverleigh Farms crew, Tempt

From the beginning of this story, I was bought and sold on Zach and Millie. By my estimation, this is one of a few steamy stories in Harlow’s brigade of small-town heroes and heroines. Zach and Millie are delectable, as they struggle to find their happy ending in the face of an age-gap, Zach’s son as Mille’s ex, and living across the nation from each other. Honestly, through much of it, it seems hopeless for these two, mostly the proximity and the reconciliation of Zach and his son, Mason. But, have no doubt, Melanie Harlow juggles these issues well, while offering up a huge helping of spice. By the end of this book, my heart was so full of the journey that Zach and Millie took to find their happy ending. Tempt is my favorite Melanie Harlow story this year, and it is my favorite of the newest of her series. 

What did Harlow do well with Tempt?

For one, she juggled the difficulty of Zach’s reconciliation with his son, Mason, Millie’s ex. She crafted Mason and Millie in such a way that you don’t have any need for their reconciliation. Instead, she creates a barrier between Zach and Mason from the beginning that makes it difficult for the reader to believe Millie and Zach will find their happily ever after. It’s this plot tactic that keeps her readers engaged. Thankfully, at just the right moment, Harlow makes her story “right” between these two men, creating a way for her main characters to come together. 

Secondly, Harlow utilizes spice to bridge the gap between Zach and Millie’s ages and their proximity to each other. It reminded me a bit of one of my favorite movies, Same Time Next Year, as they meet up to reconnect and grow their relationship. Again, it’s secretive, so it lends a bit of suspense to Harlow’s story, captivating her readers.

Thirdly, Zach’s journey is complex. Millie is much like her sisters, amenable to most people. You can’t help but adore the McAllister sisters. Their relationship as sisters also adds a layer of adoration to their characterizations. But Zach is the grit and darkness of Tempt. He’s made choices that act as roadblocks to any potential relationship with Millie. This too adds to the drama of Harlow’s book, creating the angst that draws her readers through the story. When he finally has his epiphany about how he wants to live his life, that’s where the magic of Melanie Harlow’s writing shines. The last couple of chapters of the book along with her bonus epilogue reminds me of the moment when you eat a tart candy that makes your mouth ache. The same happens to her readers as they finish Tempt because they smile so big at the beauty of Zach and Millie’s ending.

In a nutshell, it was a pleasure to read Melanie Harlow’s Tempt. Once I started to read it, I couldn’t put it down, wanting to know that Millie would finally find a man who loves everything about her. Tempt is the read you want for your quiet days during this Thanksgiving holiday.

In love and romance,

Professor A

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 4 ⭐️ Review: Tia Louise’s For Your Eyes Only ✍🏻

Overall Grade: ⭐️

Tropes: workplace romance; forbidden romance; virgin FMC/heroine; troubled billionaire hero

One of my favorite things an author can do is take a complicated character, one who acts in villainous ways, and turn them into heroes. I’m not talking about an anti-hero, although it’s possible to call Tia Louise’s Trip one. In For Your Eyes Only, Louise has moved him from a self-serving man to one who falls deeply for his FMC, Gia, and acts selflessly to protect her. Gia and Trip in this story are chapter after chapter of pure spice. In fact, that tends to be Tia Louise’s calling card in the world of romance. Yes, she gifts us complicated renderings of her heroes and heroines, but really her wheelhouse is bedroom steam…or wall steam…or counter steam. This also tends to be the catnip of many a romance reader.

Reasons to love Tia Louise’s For Your Eyes Only:

  • Spice — like 4 chili peppers of spice
  • Virgin FMC who doesn’t stay a virgin for long. 
  • Undeniable chemistry from the moment they meet
  • A twisty/turny story where her hero, Trip, sacrifices his happiness for the protection of his love
  • An epilogue and bonus epilogue that make your heart grow 
  • An underworld that adds darkness to the overall story without overpowering the beauty of Gia and Trip’s love. It also keeps you seated at the edge of your seat.
  • Gia takes control of her life and makes choices for herself, moving her from innocent to decided and strong

Tia Louise’s For Your Eyes Only is everything you expect of her as a writer and more. If you love a bit of dark romance with a huge helping of steam, grab this one quick.

In love and romance,

Professor A

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 4.5 ⭐️ Review: Meghan Quinn’s Runaway Groomsman ✍🏻

Overall Grade: 4.5 ⭐️

Tropes: spurned MMC; small-town romance; forced proximity; friends to lovers; slow burn; soulmates

I have a cavity. Meghan Quinn’s newest story, Runaway Groomsman, is the sugar that gave it to me. You’ll feel various emotions as you read this book: humor, sadness, joy, and love. The Runaway Groomsman is a textbook in romantic edging; Meghan Quinn keeps you suspended in the friendship and eventual love of Sawyer and Fallon, and you’ll thank her for making you wait. 

Why should you read this book?

  1. There is something meta about Runaway Groomsman. I mean, Sawyer is a screenwriter who needs to write a romance movie under his contract with a movie studio. As he and Fallon’s feelings develop for each other, he’s writing the things that you’re reading about him and Fallon and Sully and Joanne (Fallon’s grandparents). It feels very Inception-esque if that had a place in the world of romance. I love when writers remind us of the perils and twists of writing, and Quinn does this well in this book. 
  2. I love Sawyer’s growth in this book. He moves from being a somewhat shallow spurned man to a man who finds his purpose. He doesn’t just learn this through falling in love with Fallon. His growth comes from living in a small town such as Canoodle and through a bit of mentorship by Sully, Fallon’s grandfather. He learns what matters, and it takes him from the wreckage of his former relationship to a relationship with Fallon that feels abundant and life-giving instead of life-taking. You cannot help but come to adore Sawyer in this story. He grows wise the longer he stays in Canoodle. 
  3. Fallon is an indomitable force in Runaway Groomsman. Her story arc involves her finding someone who accepts her choices and “sees” her. If you’re sensitive to FMCs starting with a boyfriend and then ending with the MMC, then you might have issues with her. However, Sawyer and Fallon maintain boundaries and hide their attraction while she’s with her former boyfriend. Quinn actually crafts these moments in ways that have you pining for them together. It never feels untoward while Peter is in Sawyer’s life. Yet, it acts as a wrecking ball of attraction when Fallon realizes Peter’s ineptitude at accepting her choices. I thought Quinn handled their situation and Sawyer and Fallon’s subsequent fall into feelings well. This is where she “edges” her readers the most. I’m certain several of Quinn’s readers will throw their books or e-readers in anticipation of Fallon and Sawyer’s physical coupling. 
  4. If you’re a fan of small-town romance like me, this will be your favorite part of Runaway Groomsman. Canoodle is quirky and fun and the people of this town are genuine: exactly what Sawyer needs to heal and find himself. You will laugh at the names of businesses, the diner infested by Trolls, the people, and the mayor of this little town. As a California girl, I love that Meghan Quinn has situated this fictional town inspired by Idyllwild in my home state. Everything you adore about small towns is found in Runaway Groomsman.

A warning: if you’re not a fan of sweet, then Meghan Quinn’s newest romance might not be your dessert. Honestly, it isn’t overpoweringly sweet. Instead, it’s really a story about never giving up on love, whether it’s the love of a grandparent, your romantic lead, or a town. The layers of this story will win you over and leave you with the biggest smile on your face. And maybe a cavity or two…

In love and romance,

Professor A

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 4.5 ⭐️ Review: Rebecca Yarros’s A Little Too Close, book 2 of the Madigan Mountain series ✍🏻

Overall Grade: 4.5 ⭐️

Tropes: grump/sunshine; forced proximity; single mom; family reconciliation

Weston Madigan is hands-down my favorite Madigan brother. Bet. Now, to be fair, I haven’t quite met his youngest brother yet, BUT I suspect I will still adore Weston when the final story has been released. There is something incredibly romantic about a hero who is grumpy, protective, and responsible. It doesn’t hurt that he’s also handsome and well-built, but based on character traits alone, Weston is my romance hero catnip. Does he hate messes? Yes. Who doesn’t? Has he intentionally stayed away from his hometown and given his oldest brother grief in the face of the challenges of their family business? For sure. But the pain of his mother’s death coupled with his father’s actions in the wake of her death ensures his reticence at wanting to come home. However, he does, and he does so with the intent of protecting his “found family.” Yes, he’s willful and protected behind a steeled wall. Yet…yet, Weston cannot protect himself from the heroine of Rebecca Yarros’s A Little Too Close, book 2 of the Madigan Mountain series. Callie owns Weston from their meeting, and Yarros takes us on an emotional journey of second chances.

While I’ve been vomiting the beauty that is Weston Madigan, I’ve been remiss in noting the power of Callie and her daughter, Sutton. Callie’s purpose lies in breaking down Weston’s emotional walls, loving him through his foibles and helping him, on his own terms, to reconcile with his older brother. Her kindness and care along with her self-determination to give her daughter, Sutton, the best life are utilized to rock Weston’s world. Initially, they rock the bedroom, but little by little, Callie’s tenacity transforms Weston. If you’re like me, this transformation of a grumpy hero through the sunshiness of the heroine makes you swoon. And Rebecca Yarros has crafted their story arcs in ways that make you fall for their coupling. 

Adding in the vivacity and daredevlishness of Callie’s daughter, Sutton, simply adds an additional layer to the story. She provides humor, as well as a complication to Callie and Weston’s story. Even more, Sutton’s existence is why Callie forgoes her dreams of becoming a nature photographer a la National Geographic. Callie loves her life and her daughter, but for much of A Little Too Close, she lives in the shadow of her lost dream. Through her story arc, Yarros reminds her readers about the reality of dreams: that they can change as we experience life. Just as Weston is living a second chance in his birthplace, Callie lives out a past dream only to find it no longer fits. She earns a second chance, only to find that Weston is her new dream. 

Rebecca Yarros’s A Little Too Close is a steamy, emotional romance with an MMC and FMC who will engage you. Thus far, I’ve enjoyed the first two books of the Madigan Mountain series, and I’m certain Devney Perry will situate herself alongside Sarina Bowen and Rebecca Yarros in this world of family reconciliation. 

In love and romance,

Professor A

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 4 ⭐️ Review: Willow Renshaw’s Love & Kerosene ✍🏻

Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Tropes: Dead Fiance’s Brother; Forbidden; Forced Proximity; Small-town Romance; family trauma

Stylistically, Winter Renshaw’s Love & Kerosene is interesting. At the start of each chapter, a word is defined. It is probably a new word to most people, but that word sets the tone of the chapter. This action mimics the love for words found in this story. Love & Kerosene is touted as forbidden when really it’s more forced proximity than anything. As her FMC, Anneliese, and her MMC, Lachlan, live together as a means to renovate Lachlan’s childhood home, their attraction becomes undeniable. What begins as an agreement to preserve history evolves into finding each other’s soulmate when it is least expected. The angst you expect from Renshaw is here; the difficulty of Anneliese and Lachlan’s situation is another common characteristic of Renshaw’s romance too. I loved Lachlan’s journey from wanting to burn down his family home due to its representation of his familial trauma to falling madly in love with Anneliese. Even more, Anneliese’s acceptance of the reality of her relationship with her dead fiance, to her evolving attraction and interest in Lachlan draws you into her story. Lastly, Love & Kerosene has secrets throughout it, and Renshaw is careful to draw them out. One area I’d love to see Renshaw work on is her pacing. In her last few romances, I’ve noted a quick resolution to a careful plodding of story arc points. Lachlan and Anneliese’s ready acceptance of their love for each other feels rushed even though it comes late in the story. I think there were other steps that could have been taken before they decide to spend forever together. That aside, from the start of the story to its end, I was captivated by Winter Renshaw’s Love & Kerosene.

In love and romance,

Professor A

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 4 ⭐️ Review: Sarina Bowen’s A Little Too Late, book 1 of the Madigan Mountain series ✍🏻

Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Tropes: second chance romance; workplace romance; fractured family; adversaries-to-lovers

“It’s healthy to wreck an unfinished thing so you can start over and build something stronger. It’s not okay to break something just because it hurts to look at it. That’s what I did to us. I’ll always be sorry.” 

Reed and Ava, the first couple of the newest Madigan Mountain series, exemplify complicated. Sarina Bowen hits her readers hard with their second chance at romance, adversarial journey. Interestingly, this isn’t the only complicated relationship in the first book of this series, A Little Too Late. There are broken connections strewn throughout this book. Thankfully, this is a romance, so there is a guaranteed happy ending, but what is most compelling about this story is its focus on the reality of relationships: they may be fractured, but they needn’t remain that way. Most can be mended with care, tenacity, and a huge “I’m sorry.” Bowen deftly weaves this truth through her newest book. 

Here are the aspects of the book that made it a good read:

  1. After Ava and Reed’s break-up, Ava finds a family on Madigan Mountain. She compiles a group of strong, independent women to support her. This group of women provides a counterbalance to the re-emergence of Reed in her life. When the story grows heavy with the trials of their reconciliation, the reader can rest in the humor and wisdom provided by this group. 
  2. Reed’s journey is fairly typical of the overworking, ambitious MMC. He’s all work and little play (what little “play” he engages in is transactional at best). This means his journey will be the most profound, and this is true for Reed. I will say that, for me, Reed is my least favorite character in this story. There are a variety of reasons which I won’t post here to avoid spoilers, but I didn’t care much for him throughout most of the book. He redeems himself, but I wouldn’t say he’s a favorite Sarina Bowen MMC of mine. 
  3. While Reed, for me, isn’t a favorite character, Ava is. With that, though, is her book-long struggle to grow vulnerable again with Reed. If you’re looking for a quick fix for this couple, it takes most of the book for it. However, Ava is the impetus for any real change between these two. Even though she vacillates between hating and wanting Reed, her eventual openness with Reed becomes the impetus for his final change. Her forgiveness and willingness to move forward become their resolution, making her characterization much more interesting. 

Sarina Bowen’s A Little Too Late is a good emotional start to the Madigan Mountain series. Is it my favorite story from Sarina Bowen? No. Did it meet its purpose? I believe so. It provided the background necessary for the books coming from Rebecca Yarros and Devney Perry while also gifting us a complicated couple who reminds us that brokenness isn’t bad unless we don’t try to repair it.

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 4 ⭐️ Review: Corinne Michaels’s Give Me Love ✍🏻

Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Tropes: second chance romance; friends to lovers; military romance; feisty FMC; law enforcement MMC; romantic suspense

Corinne Michaels’s Give Me Love takes her readers back to Rose Canyon, the setting for her book, Help Me Remember. It follows one of the four friends of this series, Emmett, the town sheriff. The story begins where Help Me Remember left off with Emmett’s surprise marriage to his friend, Blakely. From there, Blakely and Emmett struggle to find their bearing as Emmett wants Blakely to finally agree to a divorce while Blakely works through feelings she wants to deny. Give Me Love is a cat-and-mouse chase between two people destined to love each other when one of them fears it. Will Emmett win Blakely over? Give Me Love ends in a HEA, so I’ll let you decide. 

For me, Michaels’s newest Rose Canyon story’s highlight is the rollercoaster journey of Blakely and Emmett. It’s Emmett’s patience in the face of Blakely’s fear. It’s Emmett’s attraction to Blakely and his willingness to act upon it that finally helps her overcome her worry. It’s his dedication to Blakely that makes this aspect of Give Me Love the best part of the book. For me, Emmett wins over Michaels’s readers in contrast to Blakely’s stubbornness in admitting her feelings for him. This is what won me over to this story. 

My frustration with Give Me Love is its storyline. There is a pacing issue here, one that detracts from the book. Additionally, uneven characterizations confuse and create a consistency issue for both Emmett and Blakely. In moments, when I should have felt emotionally connected to Michaels’s characters, I wasn’t, and that’s a problem for this reader. 

As far as continuing the overarching story of the Rose Canyon series, Give Me Love continues it, and I’m intrigued by and ready for Holden’s story, teased at the end of this book. 

In love and romance,

Professor A

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 5 ⭐️ Review: BB Easton’s Devil of Dublin ✍🏻

Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Tropes: fated lovers/soulmates; coming of age; dark romance; romantic suspense; childhood sweethearts; forbidden romance; mafia romance; hitman romance; anti-hero

“You are my past, you are my present, and according to a thousand-year-old lake spirit you are my eternity.”

Entering B.B. Easton’s Devil of Dublin is like entering a fun house at a carnival: cautious. Having posted the cover reveal with the blurb and other teasers, the numerous hashtags attached to this book made me think my heart wouldn’t survive. However, with every turn of the page, those feelings abated, and they clung to the compelling, emotional story of Kellen and Darby. Let me tell you why you should read this story:

  1. There is a unique voice from Easton in Devil of Dublin. There are still all the things you love about her: her irreverent wit and need to put guns in the hands of her main characters a la her Rain Trilogy. However, there is a soulfulness to DoD that seizes you. Theoretically, it shouldn’t, given the type of tropes found in this book, but Kellen and Darby are special, and they aren’t like any of Easton’s other characters. 
  2. Kellen and Darby’s love is intoxicating. Here’s the thing about them: they are safe amid unsafe circumstances. This is the genius of Easton’s book. You can rest in Kellen and Darby’s love for each other because it is endless and constant when their life situations are traumatic and disruptive. This is the safety of this book, and it draws you deeper into their love affair. Their fated love ameliorates their trauma for the reader.
  3. And this next point is probably one of my favorite parts of Easton’s storytelling: she recognizes the gap between Kellen and Darby and carefully closes it. Unfortunately, she uses traumatic experiences to do so, but it levels their relationship, creating equality that makes it easy for Darby to fully love Kellen, who needs to be fully loved by someone. This is the true beauty of their book.
  4. The prose of DoD is gorgeous. Unlike her 44 Chapters…or even Rain Trilogy, the words paint the soul of this book. “I was no longer human or demon or even fucking breathing. I was simply hers— mind, body, and cursed black soul.”
  5. Kellen and Darby’s personal journeys will steal a bit of your heart as they overcome life’s difficulties. They will do this hand-in-hand, making sacrifices for each other. And it’s the type of love affair you fall in love with in romance. 
  6. Easton’s Author’s Note and Acknowledgements are powerful. They will add knowledge that is important in our current world. 

To be honest, I didn’t expect to love B.B. Easton’s Devil of Dublin as much as I did. It’s a beautifully wrought, emotional story about overcoming the odds through the enduring love of your mate. It will fill your soul and remind you of why you love to read romance: for the HEA that acts as a salve for your soul after it’s been pummeled by the story’s truths. 

In love and romance,

Professor A

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 4.5 ⭐️ Review: Meghan Quinn’s Royally Not Ready ✍🏻

Overall Grade: 4.5 ⭐️

Tropes: grump/sunshine, opposites attract, instant attraction, orphan, some found family, return to hometown, surprise royalty

“Life changes constantly, and if you live in the past, you’re going to miss it.”

There is decadence in the physicality of Meghan Quinn’s newest romance, Royally Not Ready. Quinn flexes her chemistry-building muscle by drawing out and adding fuel to the fire of her two main characters, Lilly and Keller. This is Quinn at her best as she takes two opposites, crafting a precarious situation and an inferno of attraction between her main characters. She moves Lilly and Keller from disdain to ardor in the space of her story, investing her readers in their journey from almost the first page. The back and forth between these two is a delight, the mechanism that breathes light into a tense situation. She mixes in some suspense and intrigue along with a sweet reconciliation of a family broken apart. Royally Not Ready is quite the romance stew. 

Keller and Lilly are two sides of the same coin. They must endeavor to undertake change. For Lilly, she must learn to become royal when she was raised as an American with no knowledge of her mother’s country. And Keller must learn to leave behind the rules of his youth to become the man that Lilly needs at her side. Their exchanges at the beginning, when they are seated in opposition to each other, provide the comedic relief of the book. As they draw closer to connecting emotionally, they reach the zenith of their individual journeys almost simultaneously, drawing them closer together. Lilly reaches her character maturation before Keller, adding some emotional tension to the story. For me, their journeys were my favorite parts of the book.

My other favorite part is Lilly’s connection with her grandparents and, by extension, her mother’s country. The compassion and connection between them add another layer of emotion to Royally Not Ready. That isn’t promised early in the story, so Quinn’s ability to create trepidation in their meeting draws you into the moment’s emotion. In fact, each carefully curated moment of this book is magnetic, causing the book to be a fast read.

For me, Meghan Quinn’s Royally Not Ready is the read of the week. It has everything: humor, spice, and everything in between. It simply makes you want to read more Megan Quinn stories.

In love and romance

Professor A

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 3.5 ⭐️ Review: Sara Ney’s The Make Out Artist ✍🏻

Overall Grade: 3.5 ⭐️

Tropes: Friends to Lovers, Afraid to commit, Fake relationship/wing-woman, Never marry 

Sara Ney’s The Make Out Artist continues her Accidentally in Love series, focusing on main characters who tend to fall into love while trying to stay away from it. This is definitely the case for Elias and Molly in this Ney’s newest offering. Eli and Molly meet at a small get-together at Molly’s house. Not keen on a weekday party, Molly hides away to complete some work. She is interrupted by Elias/Eli who was brought to the party by his sister. When a woman at the party tries to hit on him, he decides to hide upstairs when he encounters Molly. He likes that she is forthright and doesn’t suffer fools. When she tries to get him to leave her alone, he decides he wants her to act as his wing woman, a protection against women who are trying to get him to ask them on dates. At first, Molly has no interest, but when her old friend, Tripp Wallace, invites them both to a function as each other’s dates, she relents. As Molly and Eli spend more time together, they realize they are more alike than different, and their situationship moves into a relationship. When Eli’s ex threatens their newfound happiness, you wonder if a happy ending is in the “cards” for this couple.

I appreciate a series that focuses on accidental love pairings, and they’ve been fairly interesting reads, but Ney’s stories, quite frankly, feel just a bit messy. Did I like Elias and Molly? Yes, for the most part. Quite honestly, I didn’t believe their chemistry until it became physical. Even then, I don’t entirely believe that they fell hard for each other in love. And I want to believe them, but for much of the story, Eli seems more attracted to Molly than Molly is attracted to Eli. Then, all of a sudden, she likes and then suddenly loves him. For me, there is a consistency issue in her character development. 

Secondly, the eventual issue with Elias’s ex- feels like an add-on, a way to add drama to the story. It doesn’t seem organically integrated or developed. It creates a “hiccup” for Elias and Molly’s future, which seems unnecessary to the story. There would have been other ways to create the tension such as the demands of Eli’s job within the context of a relationship. I would have loved to see more of this built into the story. 

Lastly, I love Molly. She saved Tripp in his romance, and I’m not sure that Ney did her justice here. Some moments are cute between these two, but Molly, with the fire of her former book, was missing that fire in her own story. 

I have to be real here. I struggled with The Make Out Artist. I’m a fast reader, and this was a bit of a slug in reading because I didn’t feel Elias and Molly’s spark until the end. It may be me and my reading interests, so if you love yourself some Sara Ney, then you may want to grab this one.

In love and romance,

Professor A