Estelle: Come a Little Bit Closer by Bella Andre

Come a Little Bit Closer by Bella AndreCome a Little Bit Closer by Bella Andre ( web | tweet )
Part of The Sullivans romance series.
Release Date: February 25, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Pages: 384
Target audience: adult
Keywords: movie business, sisters, family, San Francisco
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley (thanks!)
Last reviewed: Let Me Be the One with BUY IT rating

Summary: Smith’s career in Hollywood is just about as successful as he could have hoped so when he embarks on a new project — starring in a movie that he has written himself — he’s shocked to find himself in a position where he is working just as hard to win a lady’s heart. Valentina can’t stand actors and wants nothing to do with Smith but his love for his family and his kindness is so hard to resist.

A movie set, an unexpected leading lady, a charming celebrity = Bella Andre has done it again.

His story: After years of a successful career, Smith is challenging himself in a new way. He wrote a screenplay for what he calls “the simplest of love stories” and is currently starring in it. It’s not like his normal work, he’s really putting himself out there. While his mind should ONLY be on this, his thoughts are constantly swayed by his co-star’s sister, Valentina. She’s so with it, so in charge, but totally has her heart on guard.

Her story: Valentina is a total workaholic, managing her sister’s career. When Tatiana lands a role opposite massive star, Smith Sullivan, Valentina has to be even more on her toes. Her sister’s career is about to go crazy. But Val is distracted by Smith’s looks, his talent, the sweet words of his screenplay, and even though she would like to, she can’t exactly resist just how NICE he is to her.

Who knew: A night at Alcatraz (with cupcakes) could be so utterly sexy.

The big question: Can Valentina get over qualms about dating actors? (After her mom has dated so many of them in the past.) Does Smith really have what it takes to win Valentina over?

The sizzle: Oh my god. Andre has seriously upped the sexy meter in Come a Little Bit Closer. I was totally at the edge of my seat wondering when Valentina would finally give Smith a chance, and whoa whoa whoa. So absolutely worth it, and so much more to look forward to after their initial collision.

Family matters: Something that sets Andre’s books from other romance series is the emphasis on family. Smith is really involved in the lives of all of his siblings — he’s completely supportive, and at the same time, welcoming to others he wants to bring into the fold. They are always popping up in the story, and it’s so comforting and sweet to see. At the same time, Valentina and Tatiana have such a tight bond and I liked watching how their dependence on each other changed over the course of the book. (The role reversal was a great touch too.)

Movie drama: How would you like your sister to act in a sex scene with the guy of your dreams? Mhm. Talk about a tough day at work.

Final thoughts: Another addicting read from Andre! So much fun to watch Smith wear down Valentina, and nice to see them both doing the emotional/head work to ensure they were ready to move forward with this relationship. My only qualm were some of the screenplay inserts. I loved the parallel of Gravity‘s story but there was so much prose included and movie watchers wouldn’t be seeing prose vs. hearing dialogue on a screen so I think there may have been a better way to present that. Nitpicky, a bit, I know. But seriously — Come a Little Bit Closer was sweet, tension-filled, and a lot of fun. Can’t wait for more of the Sullivans!

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Estelle: Let Me Be the One by Bella Andre

Let Me Be The One by Bella AndreLet Me Be the One by Bella Andre ( web | tweet )
Book 6 of the Sullivan series.
Publication Date: December 31, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin
Pages: 368
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: romance, sports, art, high school friends
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)

Summary: It’s been 15 years since Ryan has seen his high school best friend, Vicki. When she texts him in a panic that she needs him, he’s at her side in lightning speed and suddenly, pretending to be half of a happy couple in order to get her out of a jam. With old feelings returning at record speed for both of them, Ryan and Vicki are left to wonder if this is the second chance they both needed.

I have a soft spot for a reunion between old friends with old feelings.

In high school, Ryan and Vicki were part of separate crowds. He was the jock and she was the artist but one random day everything changes when Vicki blocks Ryan from getting hit by a car on campus. After that moment, Ryan promises to be there for her whenever she needs it and they embark a very devoted friendship. Cut to 15 years later, Vicki and Ryan have kept in touch but haven’t seen each other at all. She’s a promising sculptor, recently divorced and Ryan is a professional baseball player who has yet to find the one.

So when Ryan has the opportunity to “save” Vicky from a grabby “gentlemen” on an art fellowship board and pretend they are a couple, he takes this role very seriously and insists that she moves in with him for the time being. Over Chinese food and a view of the Pacific ocean, their friendship picks up right where they left it but neither of them can ignore the SPARKS (even though they do).

Bella Andre is pure evil this time around, folks. It was absolute torture waiting for either Ryan or Vicki to finally break down and make something happen. But seriously, all the torture was worth it because Andre has written one of the best paced romance novels I’ve read in a long, long time. Vicki and Ryan both get significant time in the limelight, as they struggle with wanting their friendship to make the leap to romance and navigating their own professional lives.

I loved Vicki and Ryan’s banter, the kindness and encouragement they had for one another, and oh my gosh, their chemistry was unbelievable. When they finally broke down each other’s barriers, it was off the charts sexy and sizzling and perfect. I don’t think I’ve read a scene quite like this in a long time. (Let me just say “taxi cab” & that was just pre-gaming for the big event.)

The best part of Let Me Be the One is that Ryan and Vicki aren’t magically together after that night. She’s still avoiding her feelings while he is ready to run wild with this thing, and there’s still a lot of question marks when it comes to her fellowship and the future of his career. Would this week in their lives jeopardize their entire friendship? Was it worth it to take the risk?

Bella Andre is at her best in Let Me Be the One. She proves simplicity and two great characters make for the best romances. I couldn’t have enjoyed it more.

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Big Kids’ Table: A 2013 Overview

big kids' table - adult fiction feature on rather be reading

The LAST Big Kids’ Table of the year? What?! Unfortunately I did miss last month but I hope you’ll forgive me with today’s post. It’s been so much fun to stretch the possibilites of this feature throughou the year: getting other bloggers involved (Rachel, Hannah, Ginger, Asheley, Cassie, and Elena), completely hacked by Daphne at Gone Pecan, and probably one of my favorite posts of the year: some of my top YA authors recommending their own big kid picks!

I can’t thank everyone who was game to help me out enough… especially Cassie, Hannah, and Asheley for always being enthusiastic about this feature and always refreshing my own affection for it! Yay!

So today TODAY is the day I make the final push for some great big kid books I devoured this year!

most surprising.

Lies You Wanted to Hear by James Whitfield Thomson + The Mourning Hours by Paula Treick DeBoard

Big Kids Table Most Surprising Reads 2013

These are two super different books (divorce/marriage and family/possible crime) but I became so unexpectedly obsessed with each that I read them both in close to a day. (Different days, of course.) Both are intense, heavier reads that are paced so cleverly and keep you interested until the very end.

a recommendation that was right on the money.

Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer

book cover of Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer

I’ve never given into Cassie‘s book pushing before like I did with this one. Well-developed characters, real feelings, and a ton of charm are all encompassed in this little book (that I think a lot of our moms and best friends who are not total YA people would enjoy too). Did I mention the southern setting, a sister named Merry, high school football, and the best sounding food ever? There’s just so much to enjoy here and I’m so glad I took the time to seek it out (it was sold out at my B&N) and read it ASAP.

holy moly five stars.

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Big Kids Table Five Star Read 2013

I didn’t review this one; I’m not sure why. It’s a really long book, a total commitment but so worth it. I wanted to read it because I’m pretty obsessed with anything Kennedy but King made this book so much more. Time travel, the butterfly affect, falling in love, and how figuring out what is right takes a lot of tries. I was so emotionally moved by this book, completely re-energized about the history surrounding Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald, and totally IN this world of time travel and its many many rules.

oh la la romance.

The Perfect Match by Kristan Higgins + Three Little Words by Susan Mallery + I Only Have Eyes for You by Bella Andre

Big Kids Table Top Romance Reads 2013

After reading a tremendous amount of romance this year, it was not easy to narrow down this list. Just a quick FYI: the last two options are super sexy, super racy. And just SO fun. I really liked both the stories. (They both have heroines who have had crushes for a long, long time.) And The Perfect Match? Great combo of comedy and romance. I can’t say enough positive things about it. A lot of the times the characters in romance novels aren’t super memorable, but I felt differently about those in The Perfect Match.

feels like the first time.

Forever Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid + Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

Big Kids Table Best Debuts 2013

Two debuts that made my TBR a very very happy place. Both main characters in each of these books are in their late 20s (strange coincidence) but one is dealing with the sudden death of her very new husband, and the other? Career aspirations, and wondering if she will ever make it in the big city. If anyone had either of these books under the Christmas tree, they would be very very lucky people. Beautiful writing, charming characters.

man and muppets

Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones

Jim Henson The Biography by Brian Jay Jones

One of the absolute best non-fiction books I’ve ever read. I know, I know. I’m a huge Muppet fan but I truly believe people interested in the arts, pop culture, Disney fans would sincerely be touched and get a kick out of what a workaholic Henson was, how his creative mind NEVER stopped working, and the origins of so many characters we hold near and dear.

here’s to the future and you.

Big Kids Table What I Want to Read Next 2013

Claudia Silver to the Rescue by Kathy Ebel + The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum + Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Ah the hefty reading list. A burden a lot of us bring on ourselves. But that’s why we are here. A support system and the inevitable list of more books I want to make sure I get to next year. (Am I already jinxing myself?) I own the first two and I’ve heard such fantastic things about the third… must make these happen ASAP.

↔

Thanks again for all of your support with this feature! I so appreciate it and
I’m looking forward to trying out some new things in 2014!

Now dish: what adult book fits in any of the above categories for YOU?

Estelle: If You Were Mine by Bella Andre

If You Were Mine by Bella AndreIf You Were Mine by Bella Andre ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: October 29, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin
Pages:
Target audience: Adult/romance fans
Keywords: animals, big families, family secrets, unlikely friendships
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)
Other books by Bella Andre: I Only Have Eyes for You | Kissing Under the Mistletoe

Summary: Zach, a notorious playboy with no desire to settle down, finds himself unexpectedly caring for his brother’s new dog. The dog’s lack of discipline causes Zach to cross paths with Heather, a dedicated dog trainer who is adamant about keeping her guard up.

Who knew a dog named Cuddles could bring two people together?

Bella Andre has really done it again in If You Were Mine. Sure her male characters are very alpha but I was really charmed by Zach, a successful businessman who knows his way around a car. But he absolutely knows nothing about dogs and he can’t turn down his adorable niece when she asks him to take care of Cuddles for two weeks. Cuddles might be adorable but the dog is also a total terror and Zach needs help.

Enter Heather.

She’s practically a dog whisperer and feels instantly protective of Cuddles when she experiences firsthand how Zach cannot handle her at all. Begrudgingly, she decides to help him out and while it starts to work, she can’t help but be distracted by his good looks and ohmigosh, his flirting. But family drama has made Heather cautious and she knows she just can’t trust anyone right now. Especially super sweet, funny, successful, adorable Zach.

Here we get the brilliant “friends with benefits” idea. Zach doesn’t want to settle down, and Heather doesn’t want to fall in love so hey, this is the most perfect idea in the world, right?

Well, Zach and Heather are so intensely sexy together but it isn’t long before one of them starts thinking they could be something more. That this could actually mean something. Could they overcome their own insecurities and make a real relationship work? Oh, I was hoping so.

I loved watching these two fall for each other, and found it especially sweet when their dogs formed quite the bond. Plus the entire Sullivan clan is incredibly amusing, and their affection for each other just adds a whole new dimension to these books. They tease, they challenge each other, and they are so good at welcoming outsiders (especially us readers).

If You Were Mine is officially a new favorite! Rather Be Reading Buy It Icon

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Estelle: Kissing Under the Mistletoe by Bella Andre

Kissing Under the Mistletoe by Bella AndreKissing Under the Mistletoe by Bella Andre ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: September 24, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Pages: 384
Target audience: Adult/romance
Keywords: holidays, family legacies, romance, flashback
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley!

Summary: Before her family arrives for their annual holiday celebration, Mary relives the winter she met her husband and how their love story began.

The opening scene of Kissing Under the Mistletoe grabbed me right away. Mary is decorating her Christmas tree before her family arrives and is hit with the memories of each ornament she puts on the tree. It’s a great way for readers to get to know her kids (all featured in other books in this romance series) but also tells us pretty early just how much family and traditions means to her.

I totally get it. Tradition is one of the reasons I love Christmas so much too. My mom would always buy my sister and I new pairs of pajamas before Santa came (I now do this with my husband) or we’d watch the Disney parade on Christmas morning after opening presents. Small things like this make the holidays so special. And for Mary, the holidays also mark that special time, years and years ago, where she was about to end her modeling career and Jack, a handsome stranger, came into her life.

Theirs is a total whirlwind romance with Mary excited to move on from her career and Jack on the brink of success for a project he’s been working on forever: a Pocket Planner. It’s very fate-like when the two manage to be in the same place at once. Jack has one more chance to get his product off the ground, and Mary is exactly the personality he needs. Totally taken with Jack, she is anxious to help but also cautious of mixing business and pleasure. Since leaving her family in Italy to pursue a modeling career, she had done that one to many times and gotten burned.

I don’t blame her for protecting her heart, but it is so difficult when Jack is just a dreamboat.

Bella Andre’s latest wraps the miracle of the season into a fairy tale of sorts. Kissing Under the Mistletoe is more sweet than sexy (and that’s an okay thing), and I enjoyed watching these two get to know each other. (They share pie on their first date; how can anything go wrong?) I liked that Mary was so supportive of Jack’s dreams, and Jack so badly wanted Mary to reunite with her parents and heal those relationships. The story does tend to drag a bit (so much story and so much time is covered in these pages) but all the feel-good moments make this the perfect book for a season of miracles and romance.

Whether you are a fan of the Sullivan series already or just starting out like me, it’s nice to have the opportunity to get to know the matriarch of this family and learn how it all began.

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P.S.  I have to mention all the love for Singin’ in the Rain from this couple. One of my favorite movies!

Estelle: I Only Have Eyes For You by Bella Andre

I Only Have Eyes for You by Bella AndreI Only Have Eyes for You by Bella Andre ( web | tweet )
Part of The Sullivans series.
Publication Date: September 24, 2013 (paperback)
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Pages: 378
Target audience: Adult / romance fans
Keywords: childhood crushes, weddings, family
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley! (Thanks!)

Summary: Sophie has had her eye on Jake since she was 5 years old, and he was always hanging around with her brothers. Twenty years later, they team up to work on a wedding together for her brother and she thinks this is her big chance to finally show Jake what he’s been missing. She’s not just the “nice” girl he thinks she is.

After months of being curious about Bella Andre’s work due to the wonderful reviews coming from Jess at Gone with the Words, I can finally say I am a convert. I picked up I Only Have Eyes for You as a repreive from a pretty heavy young adult book I was reading and a hefty biography. (Three books at once! This never happens.) And it hit the spot so perfectly that I read the entire novel over the course of a few hours.

Truth is I already had a hunch I would really enjoy this story. I am such a sucker for childhood crushes that continue through adulthood and don’t disappear. When the object of your affection is still a big part of your life, that is total romance. Sophie has loved Jake from afar for years; as the total bookworm, she’s always felt like the invisible one among her siblings and is pretty sure Jake has never noticed her as more of a sister-type. Try telling her heart that, though.

Years later, Sophie is a librarian and Jake is the owner of several pubs in town. They team up to work on Sophie’s brother’s wedding together (Jake’s also a groomsmen) and Sophie finally decides to be a little bit daring, show she’s not always the “nice” one (they call her twin sister, Lori, “naughty”) and catch Jake’s attention. Little does she know that he has noticed, he’s been noticing for years. He just thinks he’s no good for her. She deserves better, and he tries to stay as far away from her as possible.

You know what happens when you stay far away from a person, right? C’mon, you do. How about the steamiest encounter I have ever experienced in my romance novel reading? Picture this. I’m at the gym already sweating…er, glowing and Sophie and Jake are literally leaving me breathless. (In fact, I texted Jess to take a breath and tell her I was definitely dehydrated.) After a kiss that rocked my world, there’s this scene that reminds me of Baby going to Johnny’s room post-performance in Dirty Dancing. (“I’m scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I’m with you.”)

Cue the sexy. But then the heartbreak when Jake knows he can’t stay with her and he leaves. Two months later, Sophie realizes that one night stand got her pregnant and when she confronts Jake about it, after complete radio silence, he demands they get married and THIS is where the fun begins. He wants a week to prove to Sophie they should be together forever.

Deadlines in romance novels always intrigue me. I’m wondering what will be the breaking point that makes them realize they are meant to be? Jake has to prove himself to Sophie despite his own self-consciousness and she’s not so sure he actually wants to be with her because of her. Is it only about her pregnancy? I really liked watching them finally get to know each other, and let their guards down. They challenged one another (in life and in the bedroom) and I could not get enough. Plus Andre’s family dynamics are awesome. How would Jake come clean to Sophie’s protective brothers who were also his best friends?

Romance enthusiasts, check out Bella Andre! And for those of you looking to get into some romanctical reading, I’d definitely give this series a shot.

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