Freezing the Puck – Lasairiona E. McMaster

This book contains:

  • Cheating, both with a partner and academically
  • Discovery of adoption and it’s emotional impacts on all involved.

Justin is the captain of the Cedar Rapids Racoons, studying, working AND trying to build up his career as a published author. He left Minnesota almost as quickly as he could in an attempt to get away from his past and the false rumours that isolated him throughout high school.

Savannah has recently found out that she’s adopted and because of this is trying to distance herself from her “parents”. Which means she’s desperate for a job. She’s also stuck on the things she likes, to the point that trying a new flavour for her coffee is impossible, and so incredibly phobic of planes it’s a wonder she manages to step foot on them at all.

While Justin and Savannah went to the same high school in Minnesota, they’ve somehow never crossed paths even though they’re both attending the University of Cedar Rapids and have been there for a couple of years. Once they’ve crossed paths, it’s hard to put the cat back in the bag, especially when the attraction between the two of them is so strong.

I had such a fun time reading this, especially because Savannah so clearly hated Justin, and yet he couldn’t help but be his kind, caring self regardless of how much hate she threw his way. This was especially evident when he helped her escape her family after his mum warned him that she’d just found out she was adopted and wasn’t taking it well.

And then there’s that one scene at about 75-80% of the way through the book where Justin does his big speech, and it leaves Savannah shocked. I can’t spoil it for you, but it honestly had me cracking up because of how accurate it is. It also reminded me of the Wheel of Time podcast I listen to and how they talk about communication. It just came together to create a hilarious moment for me to laugh at while on the plane to visit my mum.

When I did finish this, I was actually disappointed I couldn’t jump straight into the next book, because let’s face it, it’s been a while since I read Two for Taco’s and I somehow need more of Las’s hockey romances!

Never Too Late – T.A. Williams

This book contains:

  • Substance abuse, both recreational and addiction to the point of death
  • Depiction of a serious stroke.

Steph lives and works in London while making her way within the music industry. While her passion is for classical music on the keyboards, she knows the skill and dedication to make it in classical music is beyond her capabilities. So instead, she tried to make it as a session musician then moved onto a job as a sound technician for a recording studio for stability.

Rob on the other hand has made it big as a classical violinist soloist, and has garnered quite the reputation as a playboy. Living full time in Italy and touring the world his career is going great and he’s enjoying life to its maximum benefit.

Steph and her boss-cum-boyfriend get offered the deal of a lifetime to travel to Italy for a month to record a new-come-back album for a world famous band who’d separated a decade earlier. While the timing isn’t great, it’s too good of an opportunity to turn down, so they pack and jet off to Italy where they find themselves staying with the band.

When they arrive, they discover that recording the album won’t be as simple as they’d thought, and not just because they don’t have a keyboard player anyone.

It’d been a while between reading blurb and agreeing to take part in this tour and me actually reading the book, so I found myself a little confused as to who Steph was meant to end up with for quite a while. Then when it was apparent, I could only see it working out in a couple of ways (I was pretty close to being right) which then had me questioning how it could possibly be wrapped up properly in the short bit left of the book.

The way Steph’s life direction seemed to constantly shift depending on a variety of variable kept you on your toes and reminded me of how I’d plan my chess moves. You could make your choice based on the information available to you, but when guessing what might happen you also needed to consider all the possible ways the cast of characters might behave or actions, they might take to get us to the end goal you know needs to happen.

Partner the shifting sands of possibilities with the beautiful Italian coastline, you can definitely lose yourself in the story and the locations and just soak it in. Such a great story that had me wishing I could be with them out in the sun and relaxing with good food and wine.

Author Bio

I’m a man. And a pretty old man as well. I did languages at university a long time ago and then lived and worked in France and Switzerland before going to Italy for seven years as a teacher of English. My Italian wife and I then came back to the UK with our little daughter (now long-since grown up) where I ran a big English language school for many years. We now live in a sleepy little village in Devonshire. I’ve been writing almost all my life but it was only nine years ago that I finally managed to find a publisher who liked my work enough to offer me my first contract.

The fact that I am now writing escapist romance is something I still find hard to explain. My early books were thrillers and historical novels and I now also write cozy crime, but my first love is romance. Maybe it’s because there are so many horrible things happening in the world today that I feel I need to do my best to provide something to cheer my readers up. My books provide escapism to some gorgeous locations, even if travel to them is currently difficult.

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An Island in the Sun – Kate Frost

This book contains:

  • Discussion of miscarriage and the lasting emotional impacts
  • References to drug use and addiction
  • Depiction of and discussion around absentee parents, being a mother and having a career and the impacts this has on individuals’ mental health and their relationships with others
  • Lost pet.

Tabitha is a songwriter who also pet sits around the world constantly travelling from place to place to take on pet sits. Since leaving a difficult relationship after suffering a miscarriage, she’s moved from place to place hoping to heal.

Raff is the son of a wealthy couple and up until recently, lived in London. Thanks to a difficult relationship with his parents, he comes to Madeira while his parents are meant to be travelling hoping to get a couple of weeks respite before needing to figure out his next move in life.

Tabitha arrives in Madeira to begin her latest pet sit for a wealthy couple heading off on holidays for a couple of weeks. On her first night after they’ve left, she’s woken up to the sound of someone in the house. Unsure of what she might find the last thing she expects is Raff claiming to be the son of the homeowners. The son they never so much as mentioned once in the time Tabitha spent with them.

Tabitha has only a couple of weeks to sort out what to do with Raff, what to tell the homeowners, and whether she’s going to try and reconnect with an old friend while she’s on the island.

While I didn’t enjoy every moment of this books, I believe that was done purposely as you’re not meant to like Raff all that much when he first arrives. He’s impulsive, drinks and appears to be a bad influence on others to the detriment of everyone around him and them. Those moments that I didn’t like were the exact moments that were created to portray him in that manner and it’s expertly executed.

Once you piece together all the little pieces however, there’s moments of profound sadness, happiness, hurt and longing. All emotions that I’m sure all of us can relate to. The way each and every character is relatable either to ourselves or someone we know is amazing and a skill not many writers have.

Continue to find out more about the author.

Author Bio

Kate Frost is the author of several bestselling romantic escape novels including The Greek Heart, and The Love Island Bookshop. She lives in Bristol and is the Director of  Storytale Festival, a book festival for children and teens she co-founded in 2019.

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Dreams Come True at Glendale Hall – Victoria Walters

This book contains:

  • References to a relationship broken up by parents
  • Financial stress.

Lorna Ferguson is the middle child of her family and shares a dream with her older brother, Adam, to turn a local art-deco home into a B&B. Like a lot of people, Lorna is also plagued by doubts when things don’t quite go just right although she tries to stay optimistic like Adam.

Unlike the other Glendale books I’ve read, this one felt more like a self-worth and confidence kind of story rather than a romance. Yes, there were elements of romance in it, but the story felt like it more heavily rotated around Lorna and Adam doing up Dove House into a successful B&B.

We go from the house coming on the market again, purchasing the house and then all the drama’s that come with renovating such an old house back into its prime and ready to open as a business.

The biggest thing that I noticed with this one compared to previous books in the series is the style in which it’s written. All the others felt like it had a natural flow, super relatable characters (even if they were more relatable to people I knew rather than me personally) and realistic problems cropping up.

But this time, a lot of the conversations felt a bit stilted and forced, and the biggest financial setback shouldn’t have even been a setback unless the insurance industry in the UK has completely deviated to how Lloyd’s first established it back in the 1800’s (sorry yes, I work in Insurance and Finance designing the training for teams so I know very well what is and isn’t covered by insurance).

While I understand writing it that way to increase the drama, my work brain wouldn’t shut up and let me enjoy the twist. Instead it was shouting at me how wrong it was. And I completely acknowledge that insurance in the UK may be different enough to here in Australia, but this was a fairly basic part of insurance that I’m pretty sure wouldn’t be different… At least, not based on people I’ve spoken to in the industry.

But, if you don’t have that level of insurance knowledge you’ll have a great ride following the highs and lows of setting and setting up Dove House to be a great B&B with a side of just there romance that is super sweet and turns into the happy ending we all know we want.

Two for Tacos – Lasariona E. McMaster

This book contains:

  • Mentions of a cheating ex.

Kenzie and Austin are the main character this short novella, however some of the other Snow Pirates do make an appearance, along with some character’s who’ve been mentioned and will star in the upcoming Cedar Rapids series (coming soon).

The Snow Pirates are in Cedar Rapids for a “friendly” pre-season game which means Kenzie is going along as the team Physio, and Austin has some business in town so tagged along as well. At a date night dinner for Kenzie and Austin, some of the Snow Pirates crash their dinner. Then of course some of the Cedar Rapid team members come into the restaurant and a bet ensues that leads to the drama of the novella.

I pre-ordered this coz I knew it’d be good and boy was a right.

For just 71 pages, there was enough intensity, drama and of course sexy time to be a classic Las story. Of course I was a little upset that Kenzie’s fantasy didn’t get played out, or at least the answer given coz I’m super curious and now I gotta hope the Cedar Rapids series give me the answers I want.

After the Party – A.K. Ritchie

This book contains:

  • Descriptions of family violence and the aftereffects
  • Descriptions of potential alcohol abuse
  • Descriptions of the effects of drug abuse.

Peyton is a family violence survivor who escaped her situation to Toronto. She’s a great writer who reviews and discusses local punk bands in her spare time. While she’s confident, happy and expressive in her writing, it’s doesn’t translate to how she interacts with others, even when they seek her opinion.

The story follows Peyton as she begins to find her feet in Toronto after leaving her abusive family home. While she’s involved in a relationship, her confidence is no better than it was when she left home, however, with the new friends and professional growth she’s making, this slowly changes.

As it changes, Peyton is faced with new challenges that she needs to learn to navigate. And we get to join her on this journey.

While I don’t often read books that are fiction, and this has an element of romance to it, I definitely place this more in the fiction pile than romance pile.

Rather than the core of the story being about Peyton finding love, it’s about her finding herself, growing and becoming the woman she was destined to be. The slow and gradual growth that we get to follow along over the course of a few months is realistic and draws you in.

There’s nothing sudden about what changes for Peyton, but it’s also obvious enough that you know it’s inevitable. So, when it happens, you get this feel-good moment, alongside some other little things that happen that just felt right as well.

I enjoyed the fact that it brought to life the impacts domestic violence can have on the individuals involved as well as those around them, not to mention the discussion of how drugs and alcohol effect people. And of course the daily struggles of trying to find your place in the world, leave your mark and be successful.

Hideaway in Iceland – Victoria Walker

Anna is a hot shot PR professional based in London, she knows who she is and what she’s worth and she makes sure things go to plan. Being a strong, independent woman; she’s capable of facing off any challenge to make her life the best it can be.

Ned has just left the boyband he’s been a part of for the past decade and he’s figuring out what to do with his life now. Leaving behind everything he’s known before; he’s taking the time to figure out how to navigate life and relationships without a team of people and his bandmates there to support him. All the while trying to keep out of the paparazzi’s way.

Anna and Ned run into each other at the wedding for one of Ned’s ex-bandmates while still in the UK. After the events surrounding the wedding, both Anna and Ned find their way to Iceland where they bump into each other again.

When the chance encounters continue to happen, they decide to explore the attraction they both feel. Over the span of a few months, with a few bumpy points along the way, they figure out exactly what it is they’re feeling between themselves.

I had such an amazing time reading this. The descriptions of Iceland and Reykjavik were so magical I just wanted to hop on a plane to visit.

As I was reading this, I got the sense that Rachel and Jonas had had a book of their own prior to Anna and Ned’s story, and I was right. So, if you do like these fairly sweet but emotionally complex romances set in beautiful scenery, then you might like that (judging by how much I liked this book). While you don’t need to read Rachel and Jonas’ book to enjoy this, if you like to read a series in order, just be aware that this isn’t the first book in the series.

While there were a few things that I confused me (Brun and Olafur for instance, took me ¾ of the book to realise they were two different men!), overall I just had a great time enjoying the romance in a beautiful location.

Continue to read further down to find out about the author.

Author Bio

Victoria Walker has been writing romantic fiction since a visit to Iceland in 2014 inspired her first novel. As well as writing, she spends her free time dressmaking, knitting and reading an inordinate amount of contemporary romance, occasionally punctuated by the odd psychological thriller and saga.

In the past she has worked as a cinema projectionist, a knitting and sewing tutor and has owned a yarn store, all things which will no doubt appear in her books if they haven’t already.

Victoria lives in the Malvern Hills with her husband and occasionally her two adult children.

Two for Charging – Lasairiona E. McMaster

This book contains:

  • Divorce
  • Adultery
  • Teenage pregnancy, including father walking away
  • References to drug use (steroids).

Elliott is the coach of the Snow Pirates and has been for quite some time. After attempting to make it to the NHL, he came home in his 20s to coach and develop the next generations of hockey players. After discovering his wife was cheating on him and that she never wanted children, they got divorced leaving him in a sad apartment trying to move on with his life.

Clare is a single mum of two kids by two different fathers. While her daughter was the result of a high school pregnancy, she thought her son would be raised with his father, her husband in the picture. Unfortunately, he cheated on her with his secretary and apparently had been doing so for most of their marriage, so Clare is left just trying to keep the family running with little time for herself.

Elliott and Clare reconnect after two decades apart, and while they both seem to have an interest in the other, they each have their own reservations about when and how to proceed. As they muddle through relationships when there are children involved, they also need to cope with their individual family dramas and how to navigate those when there’s another party wanting to be included in their lives.

I’m really glad Las changed this book from Seb to Elliott. Not because I’ve got anything against Seb, just because Elliott and Clare’s story had so much depth and emotion in it that it was just the perfect ending to the Snow Pirate’s series.

I really enjoyed the flashbacks from Elliott’s perspective as it gave us insight into what happened to them in their past, even if it meant one of my guesses about what happened was wrong. While Clare had her own moments of flashbacks, I feel like I got more of an emotional understanding about Elliott from his than I did about Clare in hers.

Also, I clearly misinterpreted what Kenzie’s home was like based on the descriptions of Clare’s. Given how close it sounded like they lived, the lack of yard etc for Kenzie, I honestly thought they were in like little town houses, side by side duplex or condos (I know in my mind what I mean, in Australia we’d call it a town house or unit). Yet Clare has a full-on yard, two story house and a laundry big enough to get busy in. So clearly, I was wrong!

Overall, a great end to the season and I’m really looking forward to Two for Taco’s that comes out in December!

Hot Desk – Zara Stoneley

This book contains:

  • Depicts life after COVID-19 lockdown
  • Minor unwanted advances appropriately handled and stopped
  • Minor child custody dispute.

Alice is excited to return to work after the second COVID-19 lockdown. She’s desperate to return to some form of normalcy and gain some of her own space back. She’s the second youngest of four sisters who lived under each other’s feet until she finally moved out after uni. At which point she moved into a share house with 4 roommates, got a boyfriend who didn’t mind rearranging and disposing of her possessions and her younger sister kept helping herself to her clothes.

Jamie is a bit of a mystery to us. He sits opposite Alice every day at work, seems to irritate her no end and has questionable tastes in women.

After the second COVID-19 lockdown, We Got Designs has returned to the office. Unfortunately, they’ve lost several clients and things are tight financially now. They make a deal with another company to share their office space and have their staff job share their desks with a hot desk policy.

They’re pairing up staff to share a desk on alternate days to help reduce costs without laying off staff. For Alice, she’s been assigned to share a desk with Jamie and lose yet another bit of personal space.

My first thought is that this is THE FIRST BOOK since the COVID pandemic started that actually talked about it. While I know it hasn’t been easy for people (my city has been in lockdown for more than 260 days between April 2020 and November 2021, when I wrote this review, yes I know, major delay in writing this and releasing it, sorry!), I can’t believe that by November 2021 this is the first time any book I’ve read has mentioned the pandemic. I mean, it’s a GLOBAL pandemic that has affected million and millions of people in all sorts of unimaginable ways.

How has no book before this even mentioned masks, social distancing, forced working from home, mass deaths or just generally the way our lives have changed?

I love that the whole premise of this romance was how COVID impacted us, changed us and what we’ve learnt about ourselves and our loved ones. While I know there are lots of ways to address this, I loved how this based those learnings on something that almost all of us can relate to.

Being forced to stay at home for a period of time due to a pandemic. Isolated from everyone except those we share a home with. Not to mention the fear and panic I’m sure many of us felt during this time. It was so refreshing and I’m so grateful we’ll have at least one book out there that depicts the realities we’ve all faced over the past two years.

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