Getting Dirty – Rachael Stewart

Welcome back everyone, as you can probably tell I’m in a massively busy review period. I mean, 3 reviews and a wrap up post in one week?! What have I gotten myself into?

I had a bit of a slow start to reading this one without the travel time to and from work but that’s going to be normal for me this yr now that I’ll be working from home more. I ended up finish this off on my flight to Perth which I think was 4 hours well spent.

Like many of Rachael’s books this was marketed as an erotica, yet it didn’t feel like one to me. Yes, there was explicit sex scenes. Yet the sex felt like it was a part of how Ash and Coco shared their feelings and emotions.

The way Rachael made this happen was how she included both Ash and Coco’s thoughts and feelings before, during and after those encounters. By adding that depth to the sex it felt like it had its place and really added to the story in a meaningful way rather than just to add some spice.

Another thing that’s consistent across Rachael’s novels is a message she’s trying to convey. They could be about domestic and family violence, addiction or any number of themes. For Ash and Coco, I felt the themes of trust and communication in relationships.

Although I also got a sense she was including how money, power and social status can impact and define relationships. Including those between family and friends. It was a powerful reminder that these simple things that we often take for granted can make or break relationships.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this review, on Monday I’ll be reviewing Of Night and Dark Obscurity by Nicola Italia. Continue to read further down to find out about the author and any extra giveaways available.

Author Bio

Rachael Stewart adores conjuring up stories for the readers of Harlequin Mills & Boon and Deep Desires Press, with tales varying from the heart-warmingly romantic to the wildly erotic.

Despite a degree in Business Studies and spending many years in the corporate world, the desire to become an author never waned and it's now her full-time pleasure, a dream come true. 

A Welsh lass at heart, she now lives in Yorkshire with her husband and three children, and if she's not glued to her laptop, she's wrapped up in them or enjoying the great outdoors seeking out inspiration.

Giveaway - Win an e-copy of Getting Dirty by Rachael Stewart (open internationally)


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1

Perfect Match – Zoe May

Welcome back everyone, after the bit of a slump I got myself into with the previous read I can say I’m back into my normal reading habits.

I’ve taken advantage of a few hot days where I couldn’t really go out and do much (damn that heatstroke!) and stayed inside, where it’s cool to read. I’m not sure if this book should sit at 4.5 or 5 stars since I’m not sure if the previous one had me in enough of a slump that this felt amazing.

Regardless, the themes throughout the book are so positive and speak to experience and learning from mistakes that I loved it. The pacing throughout was consistent, well thought out and gave us a very clear heading when we had quite a jump in the timeline.

It felt like every character in this book had a reason for being there. With the focus of the book being online dating, this tended to revolve around how people meet, how you can get to know someone, how our past shapes our behaviours and so many little things in between.

For those suffering the dating scene of the 21st century I feel like this is something they should read. Love can happen in the most unlikely of places and with the people you least expect. For me, when my step-mum suggested I go on a date with a 30 yr old accountant she works with (I was 21 at the time) my reaction was along the lines of “ewww! I don’t want to date an old, boring accountant!” I ended up meeting him briefly at my dad and step-mum’s housewarming and eight years later we’re going strong!

The main message I felt came through with this story was to give people a chance and take care of yourself first before looking to add someone to that mix. Being happy with yourself is something that’s so important but overlooked so much in our technological age so I’m so happy Zoe was able to include that in such a great way.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this review, next week I will be reviewing Forbidden by Tracy Cooper-Posey and Julia Templeton. Continue to read further down to find out about the author.

Author Bio

Zoe May lives in southeast London and writes romantic comedies. Zoe has dreamt of being a novelist since she was a teenager. She worked in journalism and copywriting before writing her debut novel, Perfect Match. Having experienced the London dating scene first hand, Zoe could not resist writing a novel about dating, since it seems to supply endless amounts of weird and wonderful material!

Perfect Match was one of Apple's top-selling books of 2018. It was also shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists' Association's Joan Hessayon Award, with judges describing it as 'a laugh out loud look at love and self-discovery - fresh and very funny'.

As well as writing, Zoe enjoys walking her dog, painting and, of course, reading! She adores animals and if she's not taking a photo of a vegan meal, she's probably tweeting about the dairy industry. She is half Greek and half Irish and can make a mean baklava. Zoe has a thing for horror films, India, swimming, hip hop and Radiohead. She has an encyclopaedic knowledge of handbags having spent several years working in fashion copywriting and could probably win Mastermind if this was her specialist subject!

A Stolen Christmas Kiss – a collection of short stories

I was asked to review this book as part of Zoe Ann Wood's collection of book bloggers. I decided to give it a read because I do love a Christmas romance, so having 8 short ones sounded pretty cool.

I'm going to review Zoe's short story first, and in more depth because I wouldn't have read it if it wasn't for her. But that doesn't mean I didn't love the others! I'll also add, I had a hard time trying to pick a favourite. So hard in fact, I never ended up picking one!

Give me Snow and Mistletoe

I think the first thing we need to acknowledge with this story is that cyber stalking is very much a thing we’re all guilty of having done at some point. So it’s no surprise that both Eva and Noah participated in some light cyber stalking before a meddling grandmother conspired to get them on a date before Christmas comes.

I found myself laughing at some of the antics that happened while also feeling like the openness of the characters would never happen in real like. But hey, that shouldn’t get in the way of a sweet, short Christmas romance story! You know it’s going to be a bit faster than normal coz it’s a short story. It just wouldn’t work otherwise.

My only disappointment was the epilogue not giving me a description of the final local. That’s probably because I love reading those kinds of descriptions and love it when it can be described vividly. But that’s nothing compared to the rest of the book and purely a personal thing, nothing against the story.

Melting Mr Grinch's Heart

I was a little hesitant about this story, but I ended up quite liked it. I’m with Amelia that Grinch’s should be made to love Christmas, so her battle to get Samuel to love Christmas is something I can totally relate to. This goes into my top 4 short stories for this collection.

Christmas of Second Chances

Sandra and Nick are more mature than most romances but at the same time, so sweet! It’s even a second chance romance! How many of those do you see? This goes into my top 4 short stories for this collection.

Christmas Chicken Ballad

Who falls in love with their best friends’ brother? Well, in this case it’s a big issue and the younger brother is pursuing his older sisters’ best friend. The fact that he’s a hot, bass guitarist for a successful band makes things a bit easier doesn’t it? This goes into my top 4 short stories for this collection.

Cruise Ship Christmas

When you go on a singles cruise you probably think you’re gonna hook up with some other cruiser’s yea? You don’t expect to fall for the staff and see a whole different side to a cruise while avoiding your family. This goes into my top 4 short stories for this collection.

Nipping at your Nose

I think this was my actual favourite story out of all of them. If I could have had this in a novel length story, I would totally read it. The way Austen and Zach immediately connect, but not necessarily on a sexual level is great. The way it develops was so sweet and so on point that I wanted more.

Santa Beastly

As sweet as this story is, I just didn’t buy into it at any point. I was left disconnected and left thinking that it was completely implausible. I find I can’t connect with a story if it’s not plausible. For me, it just didn’t quite make it.

On the Christmas Market

After losing her parents, it’s probably not the best idea to be jetting off to Slovenia. Especially at Christmas time with a group of seniors. The instant attraction and appreciation between Evie and Keller is amazing. But it’s their intellectual conversations that challenge each other that really makes this story. Although there’s some good lessons that can be learned from this short story.

Give Me a Christmas – Zoe Ann Wood

Welcome back everyone, after Monday’s sad story that didn’t end as I was expecting I’ve gone back to a sweet romance.

I wasn’t expecting was for Iris to be so normal. By that I mean, she has a regular teaching job, she gets by but isn’t making millions and she’s working towards her career dreams. This type of character just didn’t add up to me when the blurb said she had a billionaire ex-boyfriend.

Normally in romances if billionaires are involved, they are dating each other, or the whole point of the story is that they unexpectedly get to know someone regular and end up together. You don’t normally find stories where there’s already history with the ex!

The fact that Finn seems to have grown up since they were together feels like a good thing. Iris is constantly surprised by it and struggles to accept that he’s being genuine. Which is totally understandable.

Zoe does an amazing job of drip feeding us bits and pieces of their past which kept me hooked. I wanted to know what happened between them, why did they break up, how long were they together for, is the dispute with the parents really as bad as it’s made out to be, how will Finn react when he finds out etc etc etc.

I was left hanging to the end to get all my questions answered. Although Zoe kept you on the line by answering one or two questions at a time, while raising more. I wasn’t left feeling like it was a rush to answer all the questions at the end, but I was still kept hooked.

I’d say this is one of her better sweet romances, and I think that comes down to her maturity as a writer developing now that she’s got a few books published in this genre. I feel like (and I’m not a writer so I don’t know for sure) it’s easier to create the right kind of drama in a paranormal romance compared to a sweet romance. So I can understand why it took Zoe a few books to find that groove and settle into it.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this review, next week I will be reviewing A Deal with her Rebel King by Michelle Styles. Continue to read further down to find out about the author.

The Good in Goodbye – Lasairiona E. McMaster

Welcome back everyone, after that slightly odd Christmas “romantic comedy” last week we’re back to Lisa Miller! Remember her from Intimate Strangers?

I feel like I need to go into some spoilers with this review, so if you don’t want spoilers, make sure you skip that section!

We pick up Lisa’s love story with AJ like a month and a bit after she had to leave him back in the US. She’s discovered something pretty life changing and she’s coping with it pretty well until tragedy strikes. Luckily, she’s home in Ireland so she’s got her childhood best friend and her parents with her to help her through this time. Not to mention a few new friends she makes in this book.

Overall, it felt like this story had a different feel to it than the first one. The first one was very much a romance, whereas this one felt more serious and addressed a few sensitive topics. Mental health, unplanned pregnancies, trauma, heart break, moral choices and various other topics. And I’m not sure it does it very well.

It felt like it was trying to address too many things and ended up losing it in a few places. Most of the book was great! I felt connected almost all the way through. But the last couple of chapters just didn’t feel right for the characters.

The choices made felt like they’d been done to create drama rather than to honestly have the characters develop further. I feel like I want to read the next book to see if it kinda corrects those issues. But at the same time, I’m also worried it might go further down the path of not feeling natural.

SPOILER TIME! DON’T FORGOT TO CHECK OUT THE REST AFTER THE SPOILERS!

AJ having bipolar feels like something that should’ve come out in the first book. Putting it here makes it feel like it was a “o what’s a way we can add in mental health awareness? This works!” and bang it went in. I’m not trying to say it wasn’t portrayed well. I just feel that setting it up a bit more in the first book would’ve worked better. Specially coz AJ said the Docs could tell Lisa everything when he was in the hospital and there was no mention of bipolar meds then. Just feels a little bit contradictory to me.

Lisa’s thought processes towards the end of the book bugged me as well. I get grief can do strange things to our minds, but to decide you don’t want to be with your guy as soon as he’s on the place home feels a little bit out of left field. Given how into open and honest communication they’re into, surely she’d talk to him about her concerns?

Finally, that last bombshell of Ana’s feels like it should be a set up. If the start of the next book isn’t a “we did this to see how you were coping” kinda thing then she’s like the most insensitive person ever! I mean. Lisa lost her baby at 12 weeks old. Why would you feel it’s OK to turn up on her doorstep claiming to be 12 weeks pregnant when she has little to no support system around her and she’s barely coping as it is? #horriblefriendmoment #shitfriend

I don’t know why I did that, but it felt appropriate.

WE’RE PAST THE SPOILERS NOW!

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this review, next week I will be reviewing Give me a Christmas by Zoe Ann Wood. Continue to read further down to find out about the author.

Author Bio

Lasairiona McMaster grew up dreaming of an exciting life abroad, and, after graduating from Queens University, Belfast, that is exactly what she did - with her then-boyfriend, now husband of almost ten years. Having recently repatriated to Northern Ireland after a decade abroad spanned over two countries (seven and a half years in America and eighteen months in India), she now finds herself 'home', with itchy feet and dreams of her next expatriation. With a penchant for both travelling, and writing, she started a blog during her first relocation to Houston, Texas and, since repatriating to Northern Ireland, has decided to do as everyone has been telling her to do for years, and finally pen a book (or two) and get published while she tries to adjust to the people and place she left ten years ago, where nothing looks the same as it did when she left.

The Dating Charade – Melissa Ferguson

Welcome back everyone, after finishing a book with a different take on the female anatomy we’re into a different take on dating.

I mean, who ends up with 6 children between two people anyway? And volunteering for them too!

I know right, that sounds completely crazy right? Especially for childless and happy me.

But seriously, I don’t understand the urge to look after kids. I’m lucky to have the urge to look after my nieces (not so much my nephews!) but they are amazing, and they come running to me whenever I come near them. So that’s easy.

What these two go through. OMG!

That’s some love dedication to those kids. And trying to date during those times? Isn’t it hard enough to date as a 30-year-old, let alone adding in the difficulty of kids?

Ok, I’ll try to be over the kids’ stuff and move onto the topics of the book.

The writing style felt like good fun. We swapped between Cassie and Jett each chapter and got involved in their thoughts, feelings and everyday actions.

It was set from like Thanksgiving (when is that BTW?) through to like Valentines Day. I don’t know if you’d classify it as a holiday romance. But it’s still got a bit of that feeling since most of the story is set in and around the Christmas period. And isn’t that all the rage at this time of the year?

Luckily it embodies everything I love about the Christmas period and just imbues you with everything you want to feel in the Christmas period. I love that feeling. But I also know it wasn’t as enrapturing as it could have been.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this review, next week I will be reviewing Naughty or Nice by Rachael Stewart.

Christmas Kisses on Hollywell Hill – Jackie Ladbury

Welcome back everyone, even though the last week’s read wasn’t solely based around Christmas, it had some Christmas moments. To make up for that we’re back to a Christmas book! Yay!

Kirsty and Jake are one of those cute couples that meet by running into each other in the supermarket. I mean, how does that even happen?!

I don’t even know how to talk about this book because one of the issues in the books, the cheating of Jake’s ex-wife, hit home to me while I was reading this. Until reading this book I’d never met anyone who’d been cheated on so the “I can’t believe someone would do that to someone else” was all hypothetical.

The emotional impact of discovering that the person you love with all your heart, who you thought loved you back, is cheating on you is incomprehensible. The lasting impact of this is what Jake is going through — the mistrust, the need to drown your sorrows and the feeling that you’re not good enough for the one you love — and we see this in how he interacts with Kirsty.

I didn’t have much left of the book when I found out about cheating and it put a whole new spin on how I perceived Jake’s actions. I went from thinking he was overreacting and being a bit of a dick, to wondering how he’d stayed so calm and could handle starting a new business and starting a new business.

Writing this review has me thinking about what I found out and I can’t help but feel horrible about that situation. I can truly say I loved this book. Yet at the same time it’s going to be tainted with that memory forever because of the emotional impact it’s had on me.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this review, next week I will be reviewing It’s Not PMS, It’s You by Rich Amooi. Continue to read further down to find out about the author.

Author Bio

Jackie Ladbury writes heart-warming contemporary and historical women's fiction that is always guaranteed a happy ever after. From spending many years as an air-stewardess and seeing that it really is love that makes the world go around, she determined to put the same sparkle and emotion into her stories. Her life is no longer as exotic (or chaotic) as it was in those heady days of flying as she now lives a quiet life in Hertfordshire with her family and two cats, spending her days making up stories and finding excuses not to go to the gym.

To find out more about Jackie Ladbury, check out her socials:

Magic Under the Mistletoe – Lucy Coleman

Welcome back everyone, after the sad story that surrounded the Christmas period we had last week, we’re moving on to a much (mostly) lighter hearted Christmas story.

Although the characters were briefly in my homeland, Australia, leading into Christmas we didn’t get to see any of the country. We join Leesa and Cary on their flight back to England. Given how Leesa was describing Cary at this point I was pretty sure it was going to be an enemy’s to lover’s trope, and I was right. But it didn’t happen in the normal way this trope plays out.

For those of you who aren’t regular book blogger readers or otherwise haven’t come across the term “trope” before, that basically just means a classic story style, and there are lots of different ones!

I loved how practical these two are, in a way the way their relationship developed is quite like how my relationship with my partner started out. I loved how they didn’t need to be constantly talking to each other or being with each other for their relationship to develop. In the snippets of time we read about over a 12-month period it does feel like the key defining moments in their relationship.

We’re not weighed down by the everyday interactions. Instead, we can focus on those subtle shifts and changes that happen at significant times. Like when something happens in someone’s life. Seeing this from Leesa’s point of view only helped me feel more in the moment. I do like seeing how the other person is feeling, but I don’t get quite as emotionally invested when they’re written that way.

The only real downside to this story was that the dialogue felt a little bit stilted. Like when you over think the exact wording you want to say. Or when you’re trying to keep your thoughts so PC it reverts to like an 1800’s style of speech. It just didn’t feel as natural as it could have to me.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this review, next week I will be reviewing It’s not PMS, it’s You by Rich Amooi. Continue to read further down to find out about the author and any extra giveaways available.

Author Bio

From interior designer to author, Linn B. Halton - who also writes under the pen name of Lucy Coleman - says ‘it’s been a fantastic journey!’

Linn is the bestselling author of more than a dozen novels and is excited to be writing for both Aria Fiction (Head of Zeus) and Harper Impulse (Harper Collins); she’s represented by Sara Keane of the Keane Kataria Literary Agency.

When she’s not writing, or spending time with the family, she’s either upcycling furniture or working in the garden.

Linn won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award; her novels have been short-listed in the UK's Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards.

Living in Coed Duon in the Welsh Valleys with her ‘rock’, Lawrence, and gorgeous Bengal cat Ziggy, she freely admits she’s an eternal romantic.

Linn is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Society of Authors. She writes feel-good, uplifting novels about life, love and relationships.

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A Christmas Kiss – Eliza Scott

Welcome back everyone, getting into the Christmas spirit for me involves a lot of Christmas lights, heat, bars and enjoying our porch or pergola with my partner. Yet for most of the Western world it involves snow, roaring fireplaces and cold.

This book for me gave me everything I’ve ever wished for at Christmas. A small rural town, a cosy cottage, enough snow to toboggan and make snow men and of course a gorgeous dog. At some point in my future I want to spend a Christmas in a town and cottage just like Livvie and Zander do.

With both our characters running away from their pasts and coincidentally running into each other before being snowed in it gives us the perfect backdrop for a nice, cosy, romantic Christmas love story. The drama that’s in this story were quite predictable, as with many romances, yet still enjoyable.

I’m sure many romance readers out there would agree with me, when we read a romance you anticipate that there’s going to be some predictability in the story since they all tend to follow the same formula. Yet, the great part isn’t in not knowing what’s coming, it’s in how the author build the suspense, draws you into the story emotionally and then reveals it bit by bit. Eliza did this well by setting the scene, revealing bit by bit what we kinda knew was going to happen.

OK. I’ll admit. When the first twist happened, I actually thought it was going to be the other person. Yet when Eliza stopped, swapped to the other character and revealed one tiny little clue I realised my mistake in assuming which twist it was going to be. Which gave me that little bit of surprise I wanted. What more can you ask for with a romance?

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this review, next week I will be reviewing You, Me and the Movies by Fiona Collins. Continue to read further down to find out about the author.

Author Bio

Eliza lives in a 17th-century cottage on the edge of a village in the North Yorkshire Moors with her husband, their two daughters and two mischievous black Labradors. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found with her nose in a book/glued to her Kindle or working in her garden. Eliza also enjoys bracing walks in the countryside, rounded off by a visit to a teashop where she can indulge in another two of her favourite things: tea and cake.

Eliza is inspired by her beautiful surroundings and loves to write heart-warming stories with happy endings.

Check out Eliza's socials, including BookBub:

US Author Page

UK Author Page