Bring Along the Mistletoe | 2015 Romance Wish List

I’m giddy with excitement to present my first HOLIDAY POST OF 2015. Whew! I’ve been preparing for this for twelve months. Well, kind of. We have about a week to go before Thanksgiving so I thought it was safe to talk about holiday romances. (I swear on Santa’s sleigh I’ve only listened to two Christmas carols so far — one accidentally.) With the end of year getting super busy with presents, parties, and good cheer, there’s nothing like relaxing with a quick read that keeps you interested and relaxes you. (They are especially great when paired with sparkly wine or some hot cocoa.)

First, a glimpse at the two I’ve sampled so far:

Christmas in Mustang Creek by Linda Lael MillerChristmas in Mustang Creek by Linda Lael Miller (9/29 from HQN Books): Charlotte is back home in Mustang Creek for good, and she’s surprised to find her ex, Jaxon, there too. The surprises don’t stop coming with the mysterious Mrs. Klozz, who has been taking care of Charlotte’s ailing aunt. For a cute story about second chances and true holiday magic, Christmas in Mustang Creek is sweet and sure to get you in the mood for a beautiful home cooked meal with only the best sweets. (Seriously, the menu in this book is fit for royalty.)

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Evergreen SpringsEvergreen Springs by RaeAnne Thayne by RaeAnne Thayne (9/29 by HQN Books): A single dad with two kids; a doctor who is so used to taking care of everyone else that sometimes she forgets about herself. This is what holiday dreams are made of. Cole and Devin have that opposites attract vibe, and this story is so much about how the spirit of the holidays uplifts the most downtrodden. I love how the town of Haven Point bands together to help their own (even those least likely to be joiners), the holiday traditions (peppermint cotton candy!), and the all around kindness expressed in this book. It’s everything I’d want a holiday romance to be — complete with a hot spring and a tree from the middle of the woods.

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And now, a few romance picks I’m curious about:

2015 Holiday Romance Picks

9/29: Marry Me at Christmas by Susan Mallery

10/20: Wrapped in Red two stories by Nana Malone & Sherelle Green

10/22: Christmas Ever After by Sarah Morgan

10/27: Bring Me Home For Christmas by Robyn Carr

11/1: A Copper Ridge Christmas a novella by Maisey Yates | Love, Lies, and Mistletoe by Jennifer Snow

11/11: A Cowboy Under the Mistletoe by Vicki Lewis Thompson

11/17: A Cold Creek Christmas by RaeAnne Thayne

12/1: A White Wedding Christmas by Andrea Laurence


Whew! Are we in the spirit? Just in case you might possibly need a few other suggestions, I had a blast throwing together a similar post last year. Happy reading, shopping, loving, and romancing! Until next time! – e

Give Me Your All & Nothing Else | Romance Short List

I borrowed the title of this post from a Selena Gomez song (Hands to Myself). I’ve been obsessed with new releases from her and Demi Lovato lately. They are both sexy and confident and strong, and both new albums reflect that. I’m not sure how natural of a segway this is into ROMANCE NOVELS but I’m going to pretend it was seamless. I finished a heavy-ish book the other night (I Crawl Through It by A.S. King) and I already felt my brain begging me to jump into a romance next. I’m still sorting through what’s next but before then I wanted to make sure I talked about a few of the others I’ve read recently. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a big fan of the romance roundups.

♥

Hold Me by Susan MalleryHold Me by Susan Mallery (Harlequin HQN/April 28, 2015): It’s always a comfort to head back to Fool’s Gold and the most memorable part of diving into Hold Me was the sister relationship forming between Destiny and her half-sister, Starr. Being that Destiny had an unstable upbringing, she doesn’t have much confidence in her “parenting” skills as her sister’s guardian for the summer and I liked watching them figure each other yet. It can’t be easy for someone like Destiny who is so used to jumping from one job to the next to help someone she barely knows feel settled. Despite the sister storyline, we have Destiny and and Kipling — a guy who is ready to settle in Fool’s Gold for good and even opens a bar for “the men”. (Um, this lead to some very, very funny scenes.) Their relationship was very unconventional as far as Mallery’s usually go and while I definitely enjoyed it, a little more growth and built would have made their pairing more solid for me. Always worth checking out what Mallery is up to. I can’t wait for the Christmas book!!

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Taking the Heat by Veronica DahlTaking the Heat by Victoria Dahl (Harlequin HQN/July 28, 2015): In my eyes, Dahl can do no wrong. In Taking the Heat, she pairs a hunky male librarian and an advice columnist (confident on the outside and the opposite inside) together. I loved reading about Veronica answering notes from those who needed help, and how Gabe’s gig at the library was so much about improving the tech aspects of the place. From the tiniest details, Dahl concentrates so much on the backstories of her characters, making everything that much more enjoyable to read and even sexier when this couple starts to get closer. I always know to expect major sizzle in every single book she writes. Taking the Heat was no exception. And not only are the two characters trying to navigate their feelings for each other, both are in a position where they need to find the strength to stand up to their parents about where they want their life to go. So relatable, and so so great.

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Willow Brook Road by Sherryl WoodsWillow Brook Road by Sherryl Woods (Harlequin MIRA/ September 29, 2015): My first book from Sherryl Woods, and while the romance aspect was great, I adored the family dynamics and main character Carrie’s motivation to find her life’s passion and go for it. Woods takes the small town gossip to a whole new level with the huge O’Brien family (who practically runs the town) and new guy Sam Winslow cannot escape their matchmaking or their friendly (really!) advice. The author also touches on pregnancy difficulties and adoption in another plotline. I liked having this parallel of a marriage facing difficulties and we read about Sam and Carrie getting closer. Willow Brook Road may favor sweet over sexy but it was certainly fun to read.

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Help! I’d love some romance recommendations for you guys. What should I add to my list next?

 

This Love Bug | Romance Short List

Did you know August was Romance Awareness Month? Me neither. (Just made it!) I found out when I was doing some research for work, but hey, it is and here we are. Three romance recommendations that eased me back into work after vacation, accompanied me on a beer crawl, and kept me company on a “me night” (along with this beer). I always will equate romance novels with relaxation and a whole lot of fun. Thanks to these for providing that! Hope you find something to add to your list today.

♥

Fighting for Keeps by Jennifer SnowFighting for Keeps by Jennifer Snow (Harlequin Heartwarming/ April 25, 2015): My first romance novel about a fighter, and I really liked it. Noah might fight for a living but he’s also focused on making sure young kids in his neighborhood have every opportunity to get a great education and support they might be missing. In the same town is Lindsay, a woman he’s been after forever. No amount of training has prepared him for her cold shoulder but when tragedy strikes and her life changes a ton, Noah is there for her. A sweet story about a woman who must finally realize she’s worth it and capable of everything, and a man who learns it’s okay to let his defenses down with the right person.

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Thrill Me by Susan MalleryThrill Me by Susan Mallery (Harlequin HQN/July 28, 2015) I’ve read my fair share of Susan Mallery books, and I can say, hands down, this one is at the top of my list. Second chance love? Give me more of this. Maya is unexpectedly reunited with the only man she’s ever been in love with for a work project. Her and Del never exactly broke up either; she ran away from him and never looked back. On the surface, both seem at ease working on a marketing campaign for Fool’s Gold but, in reality, Maya’s wondering if she should bring up the past and Del is starting to remember how great everything felt when she was around. Not only was this book about bringing two people together again, but Maya is struggling with that next step in her life. Does she want to work in Fool’s Gold forever or is there more for her out there? I was utterly delighted by these two, happy to be back in the generous and sweet town of Fool’s Gold, and gobbled this book in less than a day.

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One Wish by Robyn CarrA New Hope by Robyn Carr (Harlequin HQN/June 30, 2015): Every since I read ONE WISH, I was anxious to get to Ginger’s story. She’s a divorced young woman who lost her young child to SIDS and has now relocated to Thunder Point, working in an adorable flower shop. Robyn Carr overlaps Ginger’s story while continuing Grace’s from One Wish and I was glad for that. Grace’s story was far from over, and her friendship was so important to Ginger’s new lease on life. In this book, two people have to come to terms with their past and decide if they are ready to jump into a new adventure together. Matt makes a terrible first impression with Ginger but throughout A NEW HOPE, he certainly makes up for it. They grow to be close friends and take their next steps very slowly. I liked getting to know them a lot, enjoyed meeting a new character who will take centerstage in WILDEST DREAMS, and, once again, feeling charmed all over again by the Thunder Point citizens.

A nitpicky sidenote: I wish the ladies were featured on the covers of THUNDER POINT novels. I have no idea whose dog that is!

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♥

Nothing beats a romance novel during a stressful week, let me tell ya. Thanks for reading, and be sure to share any recommendations below!

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! 😉

Estelle: Until We Touch by Susan Mallery

Until We Touch by Susan MalleryUntil We Touch by Susan Mallery ( web | tweet )
Part of the Fool’s Gold Series.
Publication Date: June 24, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin
Pages: 384
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: PR company, small town, best friends, romance
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)

Summary: When Larissa relocated to Fool’s Gold from Los Angeles, it was for her job as a personal assistant/ company masseuse at an up and coming PR agency. She hangs out, lives near, and works with her best friends. When her mom plants the seed that she is in love with her boss a.k.a. best friend, she denies it to everyone, especially herself … until she can’t anymore.

If the day is just too humid and you are in a grumpy mood, I suggest picking up a Fool’s Gold book. It’s a scientific fact that it raises your spirits!

Truthfully, Until We Touch isn’t my favorite Fool’s Gold book. It was far too repetitive with some of the details and I thought our main man, Jack, had to step up his penance game at the end of the book. (This is the first time I’ve seen a hero in one of these books act like a total asshole. Fact.) But, despite that, I definitely enjoyed getting caught up in all the happenings in the town (a new football program at a nearby college!) and reuniting with some of the characters I’ve met in past books.

And there’s nothing like two best friends not realizing they have the hots for each other when they, indeed, have the hots for each other.

Larissa is a gal who is generous with her time and her ability to help people, and I had to laugh out loud at so many of the causes she roped Jack into just because she could not say no. (An owl, people! An owl.) Even though, Jack makes it known he’s not an emotional guy (tragic past) he can’t help but give into her. She finds the cause, and he fronts the money (or the space). These two have an interesting dynamic, and proclamations of love were a bit anti-climatic but I still found their “courtship” super sweet and sexy and fueled by other surprises.

I can’t pick up a Fool’s Gold book without daydreaming about moving to a similar town. Sure, it’s small and there’s a ton of meddling but everyone looks out for each other and it always seems the possibilities for happiness (career, friendship, love) are aplenty.

Until We Touch plucked me from my unhappy place and welcomed me into a MUCH better one.

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Susan Mallery Appreciation Day + Evening Stars Review/Giveaway

Susan Mallery Appreciation DayYay! Welcome to Susan Mallery Appreciation Day, celebrating the romance writer who got me back into the romance genre a little over two years ago! I’m happy to spread the love and share a review of her latest, Evening Stars. (Spoiler alert: it’s really good.) To Susan, thanks for all the fun and I look forward to more sweet and sexy moments in your books!

MalleryEvening Stars by Susan Mallery ( web | tweet )
Part of the Blackberry Island series. (For reference I did not read Book 2.)
Release Date: February 25, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Pages: 368
Target audience: Adult romance
Keywords: sisters, mother/daughters, old romance, moving forward
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)

Summary:  At thirty, Nina is tired of having to take control of everything like her Peter Pan syndrome mother and her younger sister, Averil, who she is always fighting with. When Averil returns to Blackberry Island for an undisclosed amount of time, escaping a life that should make her happy but doesn’t for some reason, everything starts to hit the fan. Add in two mysterious men from Nina’s last, an antique store hanging by a thread, and an unexpected treasure and this family is forced to make some decisions about their futures and their connection to one another.

You have to be the queen of your own life.

This is a theme in Evening Stars, and I loved it. While Mallery’s latest does give a reader a great fill of romance, this book is really about different generations of women in one family owning their mistakes, taking responsibility for their futures, and finding the confidence to stand by their decisions and accept happiness.

The truth is it can be downright annoying for the people in your life and for yourself when you just cannot make a decision. Why are you unhappy in your career or your marriage? Why can’t you reevaluate the roles with the people in your family and just lean on each other? When people are stuck in this purgatory of indecision, there are a lot of repetitive excuses, actions, and conversations until someone decides to take the plunge and move forward. Nina, Averil, and their mother, Bonnie, ping pong between past and future a lot during Evening Stars but it only helps them to breakdown their weaknesses and discover what it is that they need.

Nina and her family own an antique store on Blackberry Island, and it was one of my favorite settings in the book. I get so caught up in places in books that need a little TLC and it was great to read about the progress of the store once they made a new hire, and even after a certain, unassuming painting makes a big splash. This painting catapults Nina and her family into unexpected conflict and it was a great catalyst, as it brought many truths to light.

Evening Stars does switch POV between Nina and Averil, who is taking a break from her marriage and trying decide what she needs to make her life feel more fulfilled. Her and Nina fight like cats and dogs because they continue to go back to the big sister / little sister dynamic and fail to really grasp on to some kind of friendship. It was interesting to see them work through this, and this is what I like about the Blackberry Island books over the Fool’s Gold series — we get a better glimpse into familial relationships and fuller pictures of the characters.

In addition to all the above, Nina is balancing a romance with a surprising guy from her past (he’s super suave and charming) and the return of her first love, who totally broke her her heart. It’s rare to see this kind of pseudo-love triangle (I say this because it was very calm and not like she was actively going between the two. It was more emotional.) in a novel like this and I was very curious how Mallery would wrap it up. (Unsurprisingly, there was one guy I was rooting for the whole time.)

Evening Stars was definitely full of high drama but it was well-balanced by a cute puppy, relatable insecurities, that awesome antique store, and the adorable community of Blackberry Island.

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The lovely folks at Harlequin are providing a copy of Evening Stars to a U.S. or Canadian resident! Be sure to enter below!

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