Mutts and Mistletoe by Natalie Cox- a 5/5 Star review!

Charlie’s least favorite time of the year, the holidays, is the worst it could possibly be this year. Not only did her long-time boyfriend cheat on her, but her apartment is destroyed and she has a concussion as a result of it. Her cousin, Jez, needs Charlie as much as Charlie needs a place to stay peacefully to eat as much chocolate in front of the tv. Jez runs Cozy Canine Cottage, a dog boarding place, out of her country home on several acres in the country. Jez needs someone to look after the dogs while she jets off to the Arctic, Charlie needs a place to stay, sounds like an easy trade. There’s just one teensy, tiny problem: Charlie is a city girl who hates dogs as much as she hates the holidays.

I was at my local library on the hunt for a fun holiday romance book when I came across a recommendation from one of my favorite authors, Sophie Kinsella (see reviews: #1  & #2 ), for this book. I figured, she knew what she was talking about when it came to fun romances as I am a big fan of hers. I was right. Mutts and Mistletoe is a funny romance that will warm a reader from the inside out. Many times I audibly gasped followed by a “Noooo!” or I laughed out loud. It is an engaging storyline with a lovable yet mischievous main character that seems to attract disaster wherever she goes. I loved the tumultuous way in which the relationship between her and Cal, the veterinarian who seems to be opposite of her in every way, grew. This is further complicated when another love interest wedges his way into the house crammed with a growing number of friends of all species.

My favorite interaction was on page 233:

“What do you know about alpacas?” Hugo asks Cal in a jaunty tone.

“They make great sweaters,” says Cal stonily.

It was tough to choose my favorite character in this book as there are several great choices. My top three were: Cal, Charlie’s father, and Malcom-the great dane. Charlie’s father was very reasonable, open-minded, and optimistic-much like my own father- which was endearing and seemed to be very good at stabilizing Charlie. In the end, Cal won my heart as I am sure he will warm the hearts of many other readers, as will all of the animals in this book. Natalie Cox did a wonderful job of assigning each animal with distinctive personalities. She also created a fun winter wonderland in a remote location with situations that would be ridiculous outside of this plot. Furthermore, the vocabulary in the writing is exquisite. There were many times that I had to put the book down to look up words such as “munificence” and “rictus” or I resorted to consulting with my logophile friends.

I would recommend this book to adult readers looking for a fun holiday romance. I would also recommend this book for animal lovers, particularly of dogs, wolves, and alpacas. Fans of the English countryside, or small towns in general, and of winter snow will also enjoy this book. There were only suggestions of sexual scenarios and there is a big scene of birthing puppies which is why I did not recommend it for an audience younger than adults. I do not remember any foul language or violence but that is not to say that there was not any in the book. If there was, it was not enough to stick out in my mind.

 

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First Earl I See Tonight (Debutante Diaries #1) by Anna Bennett-A 5/5 Star Review!

In order to protect her family, Fiona must do something unconventional: propose to an Earl.  Not just any Earl, but the angry and recently single from an engagement Earl Ravenport.  Also, their marriage needs to happen in a matter of weeks in order to save her family.  Who would possibly say no to that?

This book was fantastic! It had romance, humor, adventure and an especially heartless villain.  It also tested loyalties among the characters as well as how far one is willing to go for the ones they love. Easy and fun to read with the narratives alternating between Fiona and Gray.  It was especially hard to put down around the 75-80% mark where all of the tiny details sprinkled along the way turned into a storm (literally) of chaos where I just kept saying “no no no no no no”.  This was the part of the book that I think was the best!

Favorite character was Earl (“Gray”) Ravenport because the author was able to slowly reveal his warm, funny, and charming personality.   Initially he comes across as defensive and distant (often described in the book as “cold”) but through interactions with his grandmother and Fiona he finally warms up.

Furthermore, I enjoyed the use of the Fortress in disrepair like Gray was after his broken engagement to Lady Helena.  Yet with his grandmother as his main motivation and Fiona’s help he was able to get a lot of progress on restoring it, and himself.  It reminded me a little bit of Beauty and the Beast, without the animated furniture, in that Belle’s love for Beast was able to restore the castle (and Beast) to it’s original beauty.

Lastly, I really appreciated the use of the relationship between Fiona and her sister Lily, as well as the relationship with Gray and his grandmother.  I am fortunate enough to be very close with my sister, just as Fiona and Lily are close.  I am also fortunate to be very close with my grandmother whom is well-loved by everyone she meets, just like Gray’s grandmother.  I hope the next book in the series is about Fiona’s sister, Lily, as it seemed to have set up a conflict that could continue for her that I would like to see resolved.

I would recommend this book for adult readers who enjoy romance, especially regency romance, the strong bonds of sisterhood, and the restorative power of love.

On the other hand, I would not recommend this book for readers who may be offended or triggered by the following: graphic violence, foul language, suicide, blackmail, betrayal, gambling, prostitution, and sexually explicit scenarios.

Please note: an electronic ARC of this book was generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley for free in exchange for an honest review.

A Lady’s Escape (Everton Domestic Society Book 2) by A.S. Fenichel-A 5/5 Star Review!

Millicent Edgebrook has had plenty of experience of societal backlash from the ton. Orphaned as a teenager and sent to live with her endearing yet notoriously eccentric scientist uncle, her reputation was not off to an easy start. An indecent incident with a boy during this trying time had her feel as if she were ruined forever-all as a teenager! Therefore, she decides to make something positive out of her life and become an Everton Lady.

Ladies of the Everton Domestic Society dedicate their lives to accomplish certain tasks requested by their clients. Accompanied by a chaperone, they are to be professional at all times and get the task done efficiently. They certainly are not to be distracted. They certainly are not to be flirtatious. And they most certainly are not to fall in love with their client. But who can truly stand in the way of true love?

I enjoyed this book and it was very easy to become immersed in this environment. I enjoyed the symbolism of chess as the power play between king and queen, yet also used as a symbol of Millicent and Preston as being treated as equal players. Furthermore, I enjoyed the dog and the kitten that were rescued and became family pets. They were my favorite characters in the book as they were not only adorable characters but also another way that Preston and Millicent bonded.

This is the second book in the Everton Domestic Society, however, it can be read as a standalone. This book also references characters from the Forever Brides series but can be read even if the reader has not read those series as the author provides a brief background on each of those characters. On the other hand, I had read the Forever Brides series (see my reviews: Forever Brides #1Forever Brides #2Forever Brides #3 , & Everton Domestic Society #1) and was very happy to see those characters added into this series as it was like catching up with old friends!

I would recommend this book for adult readers who enjoy regency romances, romances that defy society standards, and romances that develop after adversity. I would also recommend this book for dog, cat, and chess lovers. However, I would not recommend this book for those who may be offended or triggered by fire, parental death, manipulation, and explicitly sexual scenarios.

Please note: an electronic ARC of this book was generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review-thanks!

The Christmas Sisters by Sarah Morgan-a 5/5 Star Review!

I know what you might be thinking, dear reader. It’s far too early to be reading a Christmas book. And I would be inclined to agree with you-it’s not even Halloween yet! However, the temptation to read another Sarah Morgan romance novel outweighed the holiday timing principles. Make no mistake: I will be reading this again during the holiday season. It was <i>that</i> charming and magical.

This is a story mostly about three sisters: Posy, Hannah, and Beth. These three sisters each have very tricky relationships with each other, with their adopted parents, and with their respective significant others. Each one is also trying to overcome their own significant hurdle in their lives but all things come back to the one fateful night that their parents died in an avalanche years ago just a days before Christmas. That night has not only impacted their lives, but also the lives of those who would come to know and love them afterwards. How can they move forward 25 years later when that night comes back to haunt them every Christmas?

Sarah Morgan is easily my favorite author (see reviews: #1#2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, & #8,). Every book she writes has characters that are authentic, complex, and hard-working. In this book, each sister handled the traumatic experience of their parents’ death differently. Yet each sister needed to rely on the other in order to overcome it many years later. Each sister had their own mountain to climb but learning to work together rather than only relying on their own self made it easier to face.

I seem to have a problem choosing my favorite character in each book Sarah Morgan writes. In this book, I choose Stewart. Stewart and Suzanne took in the three orphaned sisters and raised them as their own. Stewart is the calm yet adventurous, quiet yet funny, father figure that we honestly could all use. I found him to be incredibly endearing and entertaining.

I would recommend this book for all adult readers, regardless of the time of year, as it pulls you into the Scottish Highlands and takes you to new heights. I would also note that there is a big surprise about 70% into the book that changes everything.

On the other hand, I would not recommend this book for readers who do not enjoy or may be triggered by parental death, grief, mild foul language, or sexually suggestive scenarios.

Please note: an Advanced Reader Copy of this book was generously provided for free by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

How To Keep A Secret by Sarah Morgan-a 5/5 Star Review!

Lauren has her home and her life in England in perfect order, until one afternoon-everything becomes a disaster.

Her sister, Jenna, across the pond comes to the rescue but has struggles of her own.

Little do they know, their own mother also has secrets of her own that may tear the family apart.

Can these three find a way to work together and work though these issues?

​This book was heavy! I cried with the characters, I laughed with the characters, I felt second-hand embarrassment. Basically, this book has all of the feels and I absolutely loved it. Just when you think it can’t get worse, it often does. The images we portray are a mask for the secrets we keep. Thankfully, there is some scandal, humor, and hope thrown in to lighten the mood at times when it gets almost too dark.

​​How To Keep A Secret​ is different from the previous books that I have read from ​Sarah Morgan​, the From Manhattan With Love series (see reviews: #1 , #2, #3#4 , #5, #6#7 ) in ​the sense that the perspectives alternate from more than just the two main characters. On the other hand, this book was compares in the way that it dealt with more than one crisis at a time. But this one had four surprising crises! However, Sarah Morgan wrote this novel so fluidly that it all blended together well in a realistic “when it rains, it pours” sense. For me, it also helped with the pace. The emotions were so raw at times that I had to put the book down as the pain that each of these characters are going through is very evident. Most prominent were: grief, frustration, regret, and panic.

​My favorite character was Lauren’s teenage daughter, Mack, because she is brutally honest yet terribly insecure. I think out of all of the characters, she developed the most. She also was the source of a very pivotal surprise in the plot of which I laughed out loud in surprise then immediately felt guilty. I really appreciated that some of the perspective was told in her point-of-view as it added depth to the overall mood of the novel.

For those who may be triggered or offended: there are themes of ​grief, struggles with infertility, infidelity, mild foul language, and one graphically sexual scenario.

Please note: an electronic advanced reader copy of this book was generously provided for free by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sharing You (Sharing You #1) by Molly McAdams-DNF at 20%

DNF at 20%-unrealistic and irritating. KC runs away from her upper-class family to avoid an arranged marriage and sets up her own bakery in a small town. This comes across as justified as her groom-to-be was painted as a misogynist snob. Brody is stuck in a marriage to a vicious woman who drains their bank accounts for fun. They accidentally run into each other (literally) and the spell was cast. They both can’t stop thinking about each other, dreaming about each other, and neither have ever felt this alive. Oh, the tragedy! To me, it all felt like a modernized regency romance where she is running away from her betrothed and miraculously into the arms of the rake/rogue/duke/earl (Brody who is miserably married in this case) that cannot marry/shouldn’t marry her for whatever reason.

Also, the dialogue was so cheesy to me that it was unrealistic. Someone you have only had a five minute conversation with comes into your work and asks you to define the relationship that you don’t have yet because you’ve only had a five minute conversation? And this is shortly after “accidentally” crashing the date you were on with someone else? How is this realistic? I have not read any books by Molly McAdams before but, based off of the writing in this book, I can’t say that I would be eager to read another one anytime soon.

Please note: A physical copy of this book was generously provided through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer’s program in exchange for an honest review.

A Lady’s Honor (Everton Domestic Society #1) by A.S. Fenichel-A 5/5 Star Review!

Markus Flammel’s life is spiraling out of control. Constantly drunk to avoid confronting the grief that has haunted him the past two years since his beloved wife Emma died in childbirth, he does not even know what day it is. He has fired most of his staff in a drunken rage and his daughter has not spoken a word at the age of 2 and is being raised by the few staff members that are left. His mother hires a lady from the Everton Domestic Society to help but can she fix this pit of despair?

Phoebe cannot believe the state of Markus Flammel. She had known him as her late friend Emma’s husband but only as an acquaintance. Emma’s bright light had clearly been extinguished when she passed as her home had fallen into shambles. Determined to honor Emma’s memory, Phoebe gets to work restoring the place and the people in it. But things go a little too far when she works on restoring Markus to a sober, responsible, and dedicated father.

When I got the e-mail that access had been granted for A.S. Fenichel’s latest book, I squealed. I could not wait to get started on this book and I was even more pleased as I read when characters from her previous series, Forever Brides (see reviews: #1#2#3 ), made appearances. I love and highly recommend the Forever Bride series and each of those books can be read as standalones, which I imagine will be the same for the future of the Everton Domestic Society series. Having read those books, it was like running into an old friend. But there were brief descriptions provided in case the reader had not read those books.

Much like the previous books that I had read by her, the characters develop very well throughout the book. They are also often stubborn but with hearts of gold. Aside from that, these characters have very different personalities from the previous sets of characters. I loved how she incorporated Elizabeth, the toddler daughter, into the story and she was my favorite character as she turned out to be the glue for everyone. I also loved Honoria, she reminded me of Vladimir in the animated movie Anastasia: bubbly, intuitive, and supportive.

I would definitely recommend this book for romance readers who like to root for the underdogs. Much like the other books that I have read by A. S. Fenichel, the romance is complex yet lovely. I would recommend this book also for readers who love HEAs and overcoming large obstacles.

On the other hand, I would not recommend this book for those who may be offended or triggered by the following: alcoholism, addiction, spousal death, grief, sexually explicit scenarios, violence, and foul language.

Please note: an electronic ARC of this book was generously provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.