I received an e-ARC of Candy Hearts by Erin McLellan in exchange for an honest review.
I read the first book in this series, Stocking Stuffers, and loved it so I was super excited for the chance to review this book. I have been in a bit of a reading slump and haven’t been able to handle more than quick novellas. This hot, sexy novella was just what I needed.
This is the story of Benji, the young mechanic with a love for lingerie, and William, the older workaholic who is finally ready for a real relationship. They meet at a Valentine’s getaway weekend Benji’s sister invited him to and sparks fly. They decide to be secret, fake valentines for the weekend so they can have some fun sexytimes and move on. The more William learns about Benji, the more he wishes they were real valentines. Benji lets William in and shows him a side of himself that he always felt like he had to hide from lovers, but he’s afraid of getting hurt again. There’s a misunderstanding. There’s a disastrous date. There’s talking and working it out and discovering real feelings.
Erin McLellan is becoming an auto-buy author for me because her books are hot, hot, hot. This series heavily features the use of sex toys, and it’s so fun and playful. I laughed out loud several times while reading this.
I give this book Five Super Steamy Stars and I can’t wait for the next book in the series. I think it’s coming this summer.
This was a good year for reading. I read more than 250 books (includes novellas) this year. And I read some amazing stuff. Here’s my top 15 in alphabetical order with blurbs and customized superlatives.
A Boy Called Cin by Cecil Wilde – A trans man and nonbinary billionaire fall in love. Superlative: Most Self Acceptance
American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera – Workaholic Food Truck Owner and emotionally guarded librarian overcome their issues to be together. Superlative: Main Characters I Want to Be Best Friends With
Band Sinister by KJ Charles – Gentle country guy sweetly seduced by citified atheist with excellent friend group, meanwhile his sister recuperates and falls in love with her doctor. Superlative: Best Primary and Secondary Romances
Bond by Piper Scott and Virginia Kelly – Second in a bananapants crazy series about dragon shifters and mpreg egg laying. Superlative: Best Food-Based Nicknames
Brazen and the Beast by Sarah MacLean – All hail the Year of Hattie! And give me more Whit! Superlative: Most Admirable Heroine
Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert – Prickly heroine living with chronic pain attacks her “get a life” list with the help of a hot ginger painter. Superlative: Best Heartbreaking Scene
Heat Stroke by Tessa Bailey – Opposites attract when two lifeguards get it on and fall in love. Superlative: Best Gentle Giant Juice Maker
Love Around the Corner by Sally Malcolm – Enemies IRL but a budding romance online figure out how to find love that lasts offline. Superlative: Best Internet Romance that Breaks Your Heart
Man vs. Durian by Jackie Lau – In a year of amazing heroes, Peter might be my favorite. Fake boyfriend becomes super real. Superlative: Most Thoughtful and Eager to Please Hero
Rafe by Rebekah Weatherspoon – Surgeon needs nanny. Sexy ginger biker comes to the rescue. Mutual attraction becomes more, and he’s also very good at the sex. Superlative: Hottest Ginger Biker Nanny
Small Change by Roan Parrish – Tattoo artist and sandwich chef fall for each other. Also includes pickletinis. Superlative: Best Flirting with Sandwiches
Teach Me by Olivia Dade – Over 40, plus size teacher is gently wooed by the single dad, also over-40 teacher who gets assigned her favorite class to teach. Superlative: Best Pursuit of Heroine
Want Me by Neve Wilder – College housemates get it on until they fall in love. Superlative: Best Use of Sex for Plot Advancement
Work For It by Talia Hibbert – Probably my favorite book of the year. I’ve already read it three times and then some. Olu and Griff are the sweetest. Superlative: Best Book with Grumpy, Sarcastic bb’s Falling in Love
Xeni by Rebekah Weatherspoon – Marriage of convenience becomes real between bisexual teacher heroine and plus size chef hero. Superlative: Made Me Blush the Most
I received an ARC of A Second Chance Road Trip for Christmas by Jackie Lau from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Jackie Lau is quickly becoming one of my favorite contemporary romance writers. Her stories are low-angst, steamy, and feature strong heroines. She deals with serious issues sometimes, but there’s never unnecessary drama between the couple. They talk about their feelings like grown ups. This was true of A Second Chance Road Trip for Christmas. It’s the second in a holiday themed series about the Wong family. Greg and Tasha were each other’s first love, first everything, high school sweethearts who broke up because of distance and immaturity. They are pushed together on a road trip and sparks fly. They get snowed in! There’s only one bed! They both feel their feelings come back and there’s a lovely grand gesture at the end before the HEA.
A few weeks ago on Twitter, I said “I just want to read about nice people falling in love and having hot sexy times.” That’s exactly what I got with this book. Greg and Tasha are nice people. They respect each other. They appreciate each other and celebrate the things that make them different. This book was charming and sweet. I loved it.
The only thing that hit me wrong was the way they so quickly went from “haven’t seen you in 15 years” to “I love you.” But maybe that’s realistic in this situation? I don’t know.
I give this book four stars. I wish it had been longer. I wanted to know more about Tasha, especially. But it was a great book. You should get it.
Now that I’m in grad school, while also still working full-time and parenting a busy four-year-old, I don’t have time to do the weekly round up of what I’ve been reading. I’m also not reading 7+ books a week. But I am still soaking up stories with happily ever afters so here’s what I read last month.
Xeni by Rebekah Weatherspoon – I reviewed this one and I still love it. I’ll probably reread it soon. Big ginger hero. Say no more.
Writing Her In by Holley Trent – I heard a lot about this book before I read it, and I enjoyed it.
A Match Made for Thanksgiving by Jackie Lau – Another nice people having hot sexy times book and a holiday novella. I loved the heroine in this one.
Let’s Get Textual by Teagan Hunter – This was a great wrong number gone right story with lots of fun texting. The hero was total book boyfriend material.
American Love Story by Adrianna Herrera – I was anxiously anticipating this book and it did not disappoint! I love this series. Gonna have to track down copies for my keeper shelf.
Happily Ever Afterlives by Olivia Waite – This was a bananapants crazy “historical”novella duo where the love interests are demons. So fun.
One Bed for Christmas by Jackie Lau – Super cute holiday novella with a giant t-rex costume and one bed. Do you need any other reason to one-click?
Stuck with You by Jay Northcote – Another one-bed, snowed-in holiday romance. I hate snow in real life but I love a good forced proximity in romance.
Lovers by Fiona Cole – I thought this one was going to be about a throuple but the m/m had the HEA. Apparently the girl gets her HEA in another book in the series. It was a little too cheating-adjacent for me.
Billionaire Unloved: Jett by J. S. Scott – I read this but I can’t really remember much about it at this point. The heroine was a ginger. I remember that.
I received an e-ARC of Xeni by Rebekah Weatherspoon from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Xeni was an excellent side character in one of my favorite reads this year, Rafe, and I was super excited to get her story. The fact that the hero is Mason from Sanctuary was icing on the cake. I love the description of Mason. He’s a big dude, burly, soft tummy, dark hair with hints of red in his beard. Which makes him a ginger in my mind and therefore he is automatically 10 times hotter. So I was fully on board with reading more about him.
Xeni learns that her aunt has left her a fortune, and the aunt was good friends with Mason. She left him some money too, but they can only get their money if they get married. So they do. There’s immediate attraction between them, and you can just feel them click as friends right away. They book follows them as they quickly fall into bed and almost as quickly start to develop real feelings for each other. But life happens and Xeni returns to California while Mason goes to his birthplace of Scotland. But they manage to live happily ever after.
And let me tell you, Rebekah Weatherspoon can write a sex scene like nobody else. I was blushing like crazy while I read this book. Xeni and Mason are fire.
I give this book 4.5 stars. It was really great. I love this Loose Ends series.
When I started reading romance again two years ago, I discovered two surprising things. One, I love historical romance, even though I’m not really a history person, and two, I fucking love dragons. Specifically dragon shifters, magical men (or women) who become dragons and bone down in human form. I enjoy other shifters, but dragons are special to me. I think it’s because the furry animal shifter books are often so serious (with exceptions, of course), and the dragon books I’ve read are full of humor and whimsy and magic. All things I love dearly. So I’ve decided to write this post to share my dragon love with the world and tell you about my favorite dragon-shifter reads.
Dragon, Actually by G.A. Aiken. This is the first dragon shifter book I read, and it kicks ass. The heroine is Annwyl the Bloody, a strong, smart, funny warrior with some vulnerability and self doubt but also unshakeable confidence. She crosses paths with Feargus, a huge black dragon, who saves her from being killed by her brother’s army. Annwyl has to defeat her brother and become Queen if she wants to live. Feargus the dragon tends to Annwyl’s wounds and sets her up to train with a very strong warrior who just happens to have hair similar to the dragon. (Yes, the dragon has hair. I was surprised too.) Annwyl is hella attracted to the warrior and kind of falling in a nonsexual love with the dragon. Realizing they are one and the same pisses her off and Feargus has to get a big grovel on to win her back. Feargus is the grumpy cinnamon roll of dragonkind. I love him. And Annwyl is a badass. This book kicks off the Dragon Kin series and I’ve read 5 of the 9 or 10 books that are out. I fell off the series as the world got too big for me to keep tabs on. I’m not here for high fantasy, just the dragon boning down.
2. Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison. This is the story of Pia, an indeterminately magical lady who gets blackmailed to steal from a dragon’s hoard. She takes a penny. The dragon in question, Dragos, tracks her down and attraction ensues. He wants to keep her immediately, kinda like a pet, but Pia is no one’s plaything. There’s excellent banter and hot sexytimes. Dragos is a huge motherfucker, like seven feet tall, and I’m all about that. Pia ends up being a shifter too and the reveal of her form is really cool. I was surprised, but I felt like I should have seen it coming. This is also the first in a series about all types of shifters and Fae and magicalness, and I’ve read a couple of the following books. There are several novellas that follow up with Dragos and Pia and I’ve read all of those. None of them match the magicalness of this book, but they’re cute.
3. Not His Dragon by Annie Nicholas. Another series starter that is funny and adorable and magical. Eoin is a hella old dragon and he has no mate. There are no lady dragons in his town. One day, he smells a lady dragon and decides that she’s his fated mate. Only problem is, this lady, Angie, thinks she’s human. Her only other-wordly quality is freakishly long, sharp nails so she owns a shifter back-scratching business. Eoin woos Angie and then drops a bombshell, telling her she’s a dragon. But will she shift? This series is funny and whimsical and there’s a Christmas story follow up about Eoin and Angie that is super cute.
4. The Forbidden Desires Series by Piper Scott and Virginia Kelly. Clutch, Bond, and Mate make up this trilogy, and they are all funny, steamy, bananapants crazy books. There’s dragons. There’s alphas. There’s omegas. There’s betas who become omegas. There’s a triad. There’s mpreg – dudes getting knocked up and laying eggs. And lots of wordplay and boning down. I’m here for all of it. I’ve read this series twice already and bought one of them on audio. I enjoyed the narrator’s voices for everyone. There’s a spin-off series as well so more dragon, male pregnancy high jinks will ensue.
These are just my favorites. I’ve read more dragon shifters, and in chasing the dragon (hahaha), I’ve discovered that some are a little doomy and gloomy for me. So if you’re looking for serious dragon romance (can you say that with a straight face?), this list is not for you. But if you want to spend some time in some goofy, magical, sexy worlds, check out any of these books. And if you ever want to talk dragon romance, hit me up in the comments or on twitter as @heaorgtfo.
I received an e-ARC of this book from the author. This is an honest review.
OMG, can a book review just be one big sigh of happiness? This book was so good. I’m going to struggle to explain how good this book was. It’s the story of Olu and Griff. Olu is struggling with depression after a forced outing and Griff is the outcast of his small town. Olu goes to the small town for the elderflower harvest and meets Griff. They meet and become fast enemies. But they keep crossing paths because Griff runs the elderflower farm. There is hate-staring and pining and wishing. Olu apologizes for being a jerk when they met, and they start to become friends. Then they hold hands. Sparks!!!! It’s a slow burn, especially for this author, and it fits the story perfectly. I was dying for these two to get together already. To just freaking kiss! And then they did! And I died.
This story is told in alternating first person POV, and it suited the story perfectly. They both had unique voices. And there were moments that were so funny. They both have sarcastic inner monologues that made me laugh. I wanted to highlight something on every page. Both men fought their feelings so hard. But they fell hard too. And the HEA was so sweet.
Now for some of my favorite things about this book. One, I loved the description of Griff. Olu thinks he’s ugly at first but then sees his beauty. He’s described as huge, a bear of a man, and he has a soft belly. I am all for softer heroes in romance. Give me a dadbod any day of the week. Cuddles for days is what I’m saying.
Second, the mental health rep was spot-on. Olu has depression and Talia (I can call her by her first name because we’re totes bff’s in my imagination) writes him in the perfect tone. She captures how depression isn’t just stealing your good moods and your capacity for feeling, it steals a part of you. It changes your you-ness. And fills you with fear that no one will accept you as you are, that you don’t deserve acceptance, that you’re just a burden on everyone. Olu had those fears. Griff had experience with being there for someone in this situation, as his mom also had depression. He accepts Olu as he is and just wants to be there for him, especially when he’s feeling less than himself.
Griff is steady and true and I loved him. I didn’t really understand why he was such an outcast. I guess being a huge, scary looking dude with a scandalous mom is enough to make you the weird one in a small town. Everyone except his best friend treats him like he’s stupid, but he’s not. He’s amazing. Do not come for Griff. I will fight you.
I give this book all the stars, 5 giant, twinkling heart eye emoji stars. I already want to read it again. I want it in print and audio. I want it painted on the walls of my house.
Basically, what I’m saying is, go buy this book right now.