Love Ain’t Nothing But Love | Romance Picks

This week has dragged a bit, hasn’t it? I’m blaming it on the very warm weather we’ve been having. Nothing like some sticky weather to get you in the mood for a romance novel, am I right? Okay. Maybe that transition sucks, but here I am. It’s been a summer of love for me. My reading routine is generally all about romance as a palette cleanser, a dependable mood booster but I find myself craving them more than ever lately. (It’s true. I came home from seeing Magan last week, after finishing Bad News Cowboy by Maisey Yates on the plane and all I wanted to do was pick up another one.) Here’s to falling in love with love – ♥

The Beekeeper's Ball by Susan WiggsThe Beekeeper’s Ball by Susan Wiggs (Harlequin MIRA; 6/24/14) — I don’t read a TON of historical romance but I would like to think a series like Bella Vista Chronicles is the perfect entry into this book category. Isobel is in the midst of building a cooking school on the property of her childhood home when journalist/writer Cormac turns up to write the biography of Isobel’s grandfather, Magnus. While Isobel and Cormac’s story serve as one part of The Beekeeper’s Ball, Magnus’s memories from WWII (retold for that biography) fulfill the second as his colorful and heartbreaking past link past and present. I love the idea of a family learning about their history. With an enchanting setting and an emphasis on second chances, this book is definitely sweeter than honey. (As of right now, I don’t see any announcements for another book in this series but I hope there will be one. The Apple Orchard was great too.)

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Never Too Late by Robyn CarrNever Too Late by Robyn Carr (Harlequin MIRA; 4/1/15) – Clare (a recent divorcee starting over), Maggie (currently in a rut within her marriage), and Sarah (the single sister in the shadows) are the main gals starring in this reboot of Never Too Late (originally published in 2006). When Clare ends up seriously hurt in a car accident, her “seize the moment” mentality intensifies and she finds herself dating, making amends with old friends, and diving into new work. Her bond is her sisters is key to moving forward, especially when life continues to be bumpy. Never Too Late suffers from feeling a bit old-fashioned and drags in some places but Clare’s story is well-supported with tales of her sisters trying to refresh their own lives as best they can.

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Kiss Me by Susan MalleryKiss Me by Susan Mallery (Harlequin HQN; 6/30/15) — Admittedly, it was strange to read a Fool’s Gold love that doesn’t spend much time there but it was also refreshing and a reminder that FG is more about the kind community and not about the town. City girl, Phoebe, as a help to her best friend, agrees to attend an accidentally planned cattle drive in the wilderness with absolutely no experience. She finds herself in the company of brooding, quiet Zane and suddenly this whole trip has gotten a bit interesting. Zane is not easy to get to know and Phoebe is unable to hold back her quirks — talking to wild animals, making up funny stories, and pretty much being all kids of adorable. It’s been so long since Zane has had fun that it takes him some time to warm up to Phoebe, especially since this time in nature is meant to be a lesson for his ex-stepbrother, not alter his own life. You can always expect sexy and sweet with a sprinkling of lively supporting characters from  Mallery. Kiss Me was no exception.

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Bad News Cowboy by Maisey YatesBad News Cowboy by Maisey Yates (Harlequin HQN; 7/28/15) — Every since I read Part Time Cowboy, I’ve found myself a little bit obsessed with Yates. You know it’s good when you’re practically drooling before you start a book. Kate has always been more into riding horses than falling for guys but it’s like one day she just turned around and Jack — best friend to both her brothers and someone who’s always treated her like a little sister — is looking pretty good. Pretty good enough to be very curious about. And Jack, for his part, never wanted to cross Kate’s brothers and certainly never thought he would be fantasizing about Kate. Hello, forbidden romance! Both Kate and Jack discover they not only have common histories (and insecurities) but insane, insane chemistry. I loved this too because Kate is a virgin but she’s not afraid to say what she wants, and watching as she became more confident with this side of herself was such a bonus. Best of all — nothing about Yates’ stories feels formulaic, and the gender roles that have certainly been exhausted in this genre don’t seem to exist — resulting in one refreshing romance novel. (Can we have more independent ladies in these books, please?) It was also, quite possibly, the sexiest.

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Thanks for stopping in! If you leave me a book recommendation below,
I promise you a fantastic day! 😉

A fork in the road | Taylor Jenkins Reid’s newest

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen I think back on a decision crossroads, I always go back to  the first big decision I ever made: where to go to college. If I hadn’t chosen my small liberal arts college near the beach, I wouldn’t have been kicked out and forced to go somewhere else because that college was in debt. Sure, I got to sample two very different college experiences because of this occurrence but this rarity shifted so much for me. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have made the friends I did, met my husband — all of which in many tiny twists of fate led me to Magan and the start of this blog and a whole other series of events that might not have happened. If my one college application hadn’t gotten lost in the mail, maybe I would have went away to school with my best friend and we’d still be close now. Or maybe after all that, I would still be here, relocated to an apartment outside of Manhattan, married to a student from the last graduating class of that defunct college. Maybe it would have all turned out the way it has. Or maybe somewhere, in some other universe, I’m an English teacher in a small town in New Jersey, married to my high school boyfriend.

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

MAYBE IN ANOTHER LIFE by Taylor Jenkins Reid was published on 7/7/15 by Washington Square Press/Atria Books; 352 Pages.

It’s hard to say, but here I am, anyway, sharing Maybe in Another Life — another thoughtful, and wonderful story from Taylor Jenkins Reid. Reid is an author who is always forcing me to evaluate my own life and my decisions — whether its marriage, friendship, or finding comfort in the fact that not everyone has their life figured out when they hit their 30s. In her books, life isn’t about perfection or moving forward safely, it’s about the messy, difficult things that bring us closer to people and push us apart — that make us like ourselves, and make us dislike ourselves a little bit too. It’s so rare to find people that let their walls down, and gladly share their imperfections so it’s a relief to find books like Maybe in Another Life stripped down to the unhappy, sloppy parts without becoming melodramatic. Instead, in Taylor’s books, you find a confidante, someone familiar and questioning just as much as you are.

At 29, main character Hannah is feeling lost. After moving from place to place, she’s finally headed back to California — to her best friend, and who knows what other possibilities. Maybe a second chance with her ex. Hopefully a new job and a place to live on her own. Instead of following along as Hannah goes left or right, readers see Hannah living out two sides of her own story: one where she leaves a party with her ex, Ethan, and another where she leaves the same party with her best friend, Gabby. Where would these parallel circumstances converge? How would my heart take it when I couldn’t decide which life was actually better over the other? Though each story takes a different path, the similarities are there: Hannah’s love of cinnamon buns, the distance she feels from her parents and sister, and, most importantly, her affection and bond with Gabby. I don’t say this about a lot of books (and I wish I did) but Maybe in Another Life is a subtle but solid ode to best girlfriendship in a way I haven’t experienced in a long time. When nothing makes any sense, Gabby is Hannah’s constant and it’s the best love story I could ever imagine.

Fate, love, lust, responsibility, how we take care of each other and take care of ourselves: it’s all rolled up in this riveting and charming story with a special Taylor twist. No matter what road you find yourself on, Maybe in Another Life is a necessary companion for your next adventure.

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I also loved this Q&A that Taylor did with Marie Claire.

Small town lovin’ | Redemption Bay by RaeAnne Thayne

Redemption Bay by RaeAnne Thayne

Redemption Bay by RaeAnne Thayne was published by HQN Books (Harlequin) on June 30, 2015. 384 pages.

If this beautiful cover doesn’t inspire you to check out Redemption Bay by RaeAnne Thayne, here are 5 reasons you should try it out the next time you’re in the mood for some small town romance:

1. You will fall in love with the town as much as you will fall in love with this couple. Sure, small towns rule the romance genre but Haven Point has water, gelato, boat races, and people who are willing to bet a $1000 on homemade cookies for charity. If this place was real, I would be booking a summer vacation there pronto.

2. McKenzie Shaw is mayor of Haven Point, and determined to prove to her old crush/ now billionaire, Ben Kilpatrick, that this town is worth investing in (especially after some rough economic times for its citizens). McKenzie is kick ass because she cares so much for the town and its people (as a good mayor should) and she goes above and beyond to cheerlead for them. I absolutely loved her for her independence and loyalty. (Plus her background story is so different compared to a lot of the romance I’ve read.)

3. A dog friendship. Need I say more?

4. McKenzie and Haven Point aren’t the one ones dealing with a lot of curveballs this summer. Ben is not happy to be back in his childhood home and he’s not exactly filling up his free time with plans to see his mom and his family. Thayne is not easy on Ben (just like most of the Haven Point-ers) but she gives him this well-done character arc, and I was so glad to see him accept his past and gain so much more in these pagesmaking Redemption Bay a nicely balanced story.

5. I love two characters with a history. When McKenzie was young, she was best friend’s with Ben’s little sister and totally in love with Ben. He never noticed her, and because of certain events, McKenzie’s love for the guy turns to extreme hatred. Until she sees him again. This push & pull developed into one of the nicest slow burn romances I’ve experienced in awhile. You could tell the author put a lot of time and care into the details of her story, and wasn’t rushing to throw our couple together. Thayne also made fishing seem incredibly sexy. Who knew?

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The wonderful folks at Little Bird Publicity are offering up a copy of Redemption Bay by RaeAnne Thayne and a bonus gift to one lucky winner in the United States. Enter below to win! Good luck and happy summer romance! xoxo

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An early copy of this book was provided by the publisher. Thanks!

Fiction lately (and maybe for your next beach day)

[dropcap]H[/dropcap]ooray, it’s Monday (hope you had a good few days!) and also a few days before a holiday weekend. So I thought, why not share a few of the fiction titles I’ve tried out recently — just in case you are looking for something to read on your car trip, a stop at the beach, or between BBQ courses at your family or friend’s house. And with that… a return to…

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French Coast by Anita Hughes

Imagine a work assignment in France, the most stylish (and expensive) wardrobe, and an opportunity to interview the illustrious former editor of Vogue. Welcome to Serena’s fabulous life in French Coast – which turned out to be an addicting story-in-a-story, aligning our magazine writer and the editor in a tale of her youth. In the meantime, the stability Serena has been enjoying back home with loving parents and an attractive, ambitious fiancé starts to unravel. When her assignment is wrapped up, all the reader knows is that our girl will not return home the same person. For those way into fashion (like a brand names guru) and interested in unlocking some delectable mystery in a contemporary story, French Coast is worth the trip. (It goes without saying that this setting is a dream.) French Coast (St. Martin’s Griffin) by Anita Hughes was published on 4-7-15; 304 pages.

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♥

Things You Wont Say by Sarah PekkanenThings You Won’t Say isn’t an easy-breezy read, especially (and unfortunately) because there have been so many stories in the news lately reflecting the core of this plot. Jamie’s officer husband has killed a teenager while on patrol. Did her husband have a legitimate reason for pulling the trigger, was this tragedy a result of Mike’s PTSD, or was this teenager truly a risk? Is this a story of prejudice? While this story hits a bit too close to home, the author does a fine job of fleshing out the many sides of this story. It’s told through different POVs – Jamie’s, Jamie’s sister, and Mike’s ex-girlfriend. Each of these women are at a crossroads — in love, in career, in life — and it was interesting to see how their lives intertwined and how this one event directly or indirectly altered life as they knew it. As compelling as the plot was, my own reading preference hinges a lot on dialogue and less on full descriptions of what transpired. There was a lot of that in here, and, at times, the story didn’t hit me in the gut like I wanted it to. Despite that, Pekkanen reminds us of the importance of compassion, understanding, and forgiveness. Things You Won’t Say (Washington Square Books) by Sarah Pekkanen was published on 5/26/2015; 352 pages.rather be reading borrow from the library icon

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♥

Stay by Allie LarkinIt’s probably a good solid rule to stay away from the internet when the love of your life gets married to your best friend and you are drinking at home alone, right? Well, yeah. But we wouldn’t have a story if Van didn’t buy a German Shepard online when she was drunk and feeling sorry for herself, and I’m so so very glad she did. I stayed up all night reading Stay which included so many laugh-out-loud moments when Van is getting to know Joe (that’s the dog) and then so many heartbreaking ones as she comes to terms with grief over her mom’s death, and the change in her friendship with Peter (the love of her life) and Janie (her bff). This is a story of connections, class, humility, small joys, and hard but necessary discoveries. There’s a charming vet named Alex who is possibly Joe’s guardian angel and one of the greatest male fiction characters I’ve come cross in awhile, especially because he introduces Van to a whole set of characters including the adorable Louis — an older gentleman who, right off the bat, is rooting for our main character. Most importantly, Larkin nails how a pet folds itself into our lives and becomes a part of our family. Stay by Allie Larkin (Plume) was published on June 26, 2011; 336 pages.

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Big hugs to Cass at The Casserole Blog for gifting me this one! xo


I’m not sure if it’s only me but this year has been such a good one for books so far. Maybe my tactics are to thank for that, or maybe the universe is magically handing over the right books I need at the right moment. Either way, I’m feeling satisfied and I hope you are too. Feel free to leave some fiction book recs below! I’m looking forward to hearing them. Have a great day! – e

The first two books of this post were provided by the publishers.

The Status of All Things: It’s Complicated

[dropcap]L[/dropcap]ast Friday I was feeling pretty miserable — very down in the dumps — and I did something I rarely do. I tweeted about it. About how 2015 has not been a great year so far. The next day I deleted it. Why? Was I worried how being sad would make me look in a sea full of tweets about Muppets and books, amongst cat and sunset pictures? It’s not that. It’s more of a reminder to myself that when I’m feeling frustrated and upset, there are other places — other people — I should be turning to. The vast black hole of the internet, while it may feel like a safe place, does not compare to talking it out, a private conversation, or even being alone with your thoughts.

I think there’s this huge misunderstanding that who you are on the internet — whether you are only sharing the good stuff or a nice mix, whether you’re all in, or sporadically around — is somehow a representation of who you are all the time. It’s not totally unwarranted. These simple shared moments, especially at a time when you are feeling so low and so disconnected, are like little devils on your shoulders. Look at how much better she has it. He’s just living the dream, isn’t he?

Take Kate in The Status of All Things for example. She’s so obsessed with social media and perpetuating this perfect image — the amazing condo, her successful career, her loyal BFFs, her gorgeous and smart fiancé — to the world that’s she missing some mighty big signs. What will she share on Facebook when her fiancé calls off their wedding the night before because he’s in love with someone else? Is there even a hashtag for that? (#disaster #fuck) Unlike most humans, Kate finds herself with a second chance; she’s traveled back in time to make things right and her status updates are now wishes to be granted.

If only.

An old coworker might be the only person in my life without any social media account. Even my dad has broken down and joined Facebook. (He has yet to upload a profile picture.) This practice is so much a part of our culture; it’s hard to remember the days it didn’t exist. There’s no doubt that technology has made our lives so much easier, connecting us with people near and far (I talk to my mom in her house while I’m cooking in my apartment), but, and I’m guilty of this too, it’s also a huge distraction.

What are we missing when we pick up a phone during a dinner date with a friend? What could we have been doing instead of scrolling through a Twitter feed just because? Do we have to share every picture, tweet at every friend we see? Can we wait for an elevator without looking down at our hands? Most of all, do these images of perfection keep us from getting to know people on another level?

As soon as my dad signed me up for AOL, I became an internet junkie. I don’t deny the wonderful opportunities and awesome people I’ve met because of a click and a shared interest. But, let’s be real, sometimes the internet makes me feel awful. This lifelong journey to self-acceptance and satisfaction is hard enough before you get tangled into the Web. When does it all become too much? When does the cycle of insecurity and odd competition partnered with the hurt from tweets you can’t unsee stop? Kate gets the ultimate wake up call; she has to start dissecting her own life with all of its wrinkles instead of depending on the ultimate filter.

SHE HAS TO BE REAL WITH HERSELF.

Because, at the end of the day, knowing you could truly be there for your best friend or have the opportunity to live a happy life in real time is worth more than all the shares, likes, and favorites in the world. Right? Right. So to Instagram or not Instagram — that is the question and a good one it is. Can you still love something without abusing it? Without confusing what’s real with what’s curated? It might take some reminding but #thosenudgesareworthit.

↔

The Status of All Things

The Status of All Things (Washington Square Press/Atria Books) by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke was published on June 2, 2015.

I can guarantee you won’t be tempted to check your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. while swept up in Kate’s story of second chances, perfection, fate, and the Internet. Thoughtful and sweet, frustrating and charming, this contemporary with a sprinkle of fantasy will have you rooting for a complicated main character — who could very well be you. What don’t we see because we choose not to and what don’t we see because we’re so wrapped up in what everyone else thinks? Another winner from this duo who knows how to inject love and the complexities of friendship into their books.

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An early copy of this book was provided by the publisher. Thanks!

Why in 5: Linda Lael Miller’s The Marriage Season

The Marriage Season by Linda Lael MillerThe Marriage Season by Linda Lael Miller  ( web | tweet )
Published May 26, 2015 by Harlequin HQN
Pages: 304 | Target: adult
Keywords: remarriage, small towns, single parents, best friendship

Summary: Bex is always taking care of someone else; it’s about time she starts paying attention to the good looking single dad she keeps bumping into (whether it’s accidental or because of her best friends).

The Brides of Bliss County series is so fun because it centers around the lifelong friendship of three girls living in Mustang Creek. They all made a pact to find their happily ever afters, and now it’s Bex’s turn. Here’s 5 reasons you should toss this book into your beach bag:

  1. True friendship: Bex might be fiercely independent but she knows when she needs her girls. She also knows to be prepared for hang out time with snacks (can you imagine the darling bakery they probably came from). That’s what I call a friend. These girls know each other so well, and especially know when to call each other out on their crap.
  2. Two people just about/almost kinda ready to move on: Bex’s love, Will, died Afghanistan and Tate is a widow, raising two young boys on their own. There’s more to both of their stories (I love where Miller went with Tate’s) but as the reader, you know from the start these two can help fill the void in each of them — even they were both already established as people who embraced the detours they’ve hit, and lived satisfying lives.
  3. There’s no right way to fall in love. Miller’s a classic romance writer, and I love that familiarity but she also pushed and pulled our characters together in a way that didn’t fulfill some of the more traditional timelines in romance novels. I loved that. Definitely an emphasis on maturity, and less on drama — which fit Bex and Tate’s characters perfectly.
  4. Kids! I never realized quite how much I love having kids a part of a story like this one. You get to watch a character fall in love with more than her partner. She has to click with the kids too. Loved having these rascals (including Bex’s nephew, Josh) involved in the story too.
  5. A log cabin. Normally a log cabin would bring to mind images of Abe Lincoln, but this place was so important to this couple’s story… even if there were a little hiccups along the way.

You know you really enjoyed a trio of characters when you get choked up at the final chapter. I hope you’ll take some time to know this loyal threesome soon!

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Little Bird Publicity has provided me with one copy of THE MARRIAGE SEASON for a lucky U.S. reader. Try your luck below, and thanks to LBP for spreading the love!

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