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.

Add TAKING THE HEAT to Goodreads | Buy on B&N or Amazon

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?


An Artist, A Puffin, and a Cowboy | A Harlequin Trio

No better way to kick off the weekend than with three hot hot hot romance novel recommendations. Go crazy, kids!


Flirting with Disaster by Victoria DahlFlirting with Disaster by Victoria Dahl ( web | tweet )
Part of the Girl’s Night Out series.
Published January 24, 2015 by Harlequin HQN
Pages: 384
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley.
Last reviewed: Looking for Trouble

I’m inspired to shove a Victoria Dahl romance novel under the nose of anyone who thinks this genre is all about damsels in distress and a sappy love story. In fact, as I started this book, all I could think is: I wonder what kind of bad ass thing Isabelle is going to surprise me with. That’s not something I typically think when I open others.

Here’s the story: Isabelle is the daughter of a fugitive, but hiding out in Jackson Hole with a new name and a new life — a life with great girlfriends and a decent career as an anatomical painter. (A cool detail, right?) She’s feeling pretty good until a U.S. marshal named Tom knocks on her door. She’s positive he is out to get her. He’s not, but even so she doesn’t completely trust him and he’s a little suspicious of her. But the questions he has about her doesn’t stop him from conveniently stopping by her place to make sure she’s locking up. Not surprisingly, as it happens in every single Dahl novel, the chemistry is off the charts, bordering out of control. I loved it, but what I loved more is how confident Isabelle is about her body and her sexuality and how she even tells Tom that it took a long time for her to get there. Why is it acceptable for guys to be open about what they want and not as much for females? So true, and also the main reason why I’m enjoying the Girl’s Night Out series so much. These girls are in charge and aren’t afraid to show it.

When Isabelle’s secret is revealed will she still have her best friends? What will happen with Tom? Victoria Dahl once again gave me a smart, suspenseful, and sexy novel; she continues to be such a fresh voice in my romance reading and I can’t wait for her next book!

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First Time in Forever by Sarah MorganFirst Time in Forever by Sarah Morgan ( web | tweet )
Part of the Puffin Island series.
Published February 24, 2015 from Harlequin HQN
Pages: 384
Format read: ARC provided by Publisher via NetGalley.

An ice cream shop, a cute seaside community, and great gal pal friendships: these are just a few of the highlights in Sarah Morgan’s latest. Once a workaholic in New York City locked in a boring relationship, Emily finds herself the guardian of her estranged sister’s daughter and hiding out at her best friend’s cottage on Puffin Island. Apprehensive about her abilities to care for her niece, Emily’s first shaky plan is to keep to herself as much as possible but finds it difficult in a sweet, nosey community like Puffin Island. There’s also the added complication of: Ryan. When a friend enlists him to “watch out for her”, she can’t deny her attraction to him or just how much she needs his support. A tad repetitive throughout, First Time in Forever was filled with aww moments between friends and neighbors and great chemistry between two characters who needed a leap. There was a little too much “but he would never want to make this kind of commitment” doubts going on especially for someone as savvy and smart as Emily but, in the end, I adored this introduction to Puffin Island and the addition layer of watching a woman and a young kind seek out balance and trust in one another.

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Part Time Cowboy by Maisey YatesPart Time Cowboy by Maisey Yates (web | tweet )
Part of the Cooper Ridge series.
Publication Date: March 31, 2015 from Harlequin HQN
Pages: 400
Format read: ARC paperback provided by Publisher. (Thanks!)

What a switcheroo! A rebellious woman returning to her hometown to start a B&B (after deciding being a therapist isn’t her thing) and a hunky sheriff who has zero sense of humor, never smiles, and never picks up on sexual innuendo… Part Time Cowboy was fun from the start. I loved the backstory, the snappy dialogue, the home improvement plans, and the crazy intense love hate relationship between Sadie and Eli. They could not stand in each other, and I don’t remember the last time I read a romance novel where the chemistry was so high and the two had no desire to be in the same room together — excerpt well, they kind of did WANT each other but they didn’t want to want each other even more. Do you get me? Good.

Did I mention there’s a cat? Yes, Sadie has a cat named Toby, who is basically her closest friend. A tough childhood inspired her to run off to anywhere that wasn’t Cooper Ridge and yet she lands smack dab in the place she could never stand with the opportunity to mend friendships, overcome her past, and start fresh in a way. Eli is the complete opposite in ways; he’s remained and served the people of Cooper Ridge but not without feeling like he carries the burden of the world on his shoulders. He needs to let go, and she needs to find forgiveness but can they help each other get to where they need to be? Not only does Yates spin a sexy story, she builds a gradual bond between the two causing them to question the boundaries they’ve built for themselves. I was addicted to the every end, and immediately added the rest of the Cooper Ridge series to my reading list.

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Estelle: Looking for Trouble by Victoria Dahl

Looking for Trouble by Victoria DahlLooking for Trouble by Victoria Dahl ( web | tweet )
Book 1 in Jackson: Girl’s Night Out series.
Publication Date: July 29, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Pages: 352
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: librarians, loner, motorcycles, tattoos, family secrets
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)

Summary: By day, Sophie is a librarian in Jackson Hole, taking care of her dad, her brother, and their farm. By night, she loves to have very secretive sexy moments with strangers. Not wanting anyone in town to actually discover that side of her. Enter Alex. The last person in the world she should be attracted to or want to go out on a date with. But oops. They can have fun, but do they really have what it takes to get serious?

I love Victoria Dahl. Here’s a bit why.

Never have I read a female in a romance novel that was so sexually empowered. Sophie prided herself on looking like a good girl on the outside but, on the inside, she knew what she liked. She feared showing her sexual side to anyone who was tied to her town because she felt very strongly about keeping her reputation in check. This meant very sporadic hookups with men she’d probably never see again.

Let me say this. If you are not a fan of the love-me-harder dirty talk, Looking for Trouble might not be right for your nightcap. Sophie shocked me a little bit at first because I was not expecting her to be so direct about her sexual needs and part of me hates that I was surprised by that! Obviously, more female characters should feel comfortable enough to know what they want and express it!

Anyway. In a sort of Romeo and Juliet twist, Alex returns to Jackson Hole to reunite with his older brother and mom. Turns out his deceased dad cheated on the family with Sophie’s mom. Their extramarital escapades still haunt the small town and the two families years and years later. But Alex has no idea who Sophie is and Sophie isn’t planning to make their “thing” something frequent but this changes (!!) with feelings and fiery sex and realizations.

Not only can I count on Dahl to spice up my reading list, but she always provides such detailed histories for her characters. Why hasn’t Sophie left Jackson Hole? Why wasn’t Alex more curious about his brother and mother over the years? Can they both overcome the town gossip and the hurt feelings to make their relationship work? There’s a lot more to the story than two people falling in love. Plus Dahl introduces some great girlfriends, and I’m always a fan of those candid moments shared with gal pals.

It’s true I haven’t been disappointed by a Dahl novel yet, but I think Looking for Trouble is my new favorite.

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Add to Goodreads| Buy on B&N | Buy on Amazon | Tough to Tame by Victoria Dahl Review

Estelle: So Tough to Tame by Victoria Dahl

So Tough to Tame by Victoria DahlSo Tough to Tame by Victoria Dahl ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: September 24, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Pages: 384
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: childhood friends, cowboys, secrets
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley! (Thanks!)

Summary: Charlie moves to Jackson to escape a terrible work and romance situation, crashing into childhood crush, Walker, in the process. She can’t forget how she always wished he would look at her like she was special, and after years away from each other, is determined to show him her sexy side. Walker has his own demons but seeing Charlie again seems to distract him for them including his search for work and a sick dad.

I’m pretty sure if it was possible Victoria Dahl’s books would burst into flames if they could.

They are that HOT. Like blushworthy to the infinity power and beyond.

But the best part is underneath all the scorching bedroom scenes, she can craft a good story for both sides of the romance too. I really liked what she did here: reuniting two old friends from high school. Charlie has changed a bit since her days of tutoring Walker, and Walker, well, as Charlie likes to say he’s a walking piece of sex. He tips a cowboy hat, people! How do you resist him? I could not. True story.

Anyway, Charlie has moved to Jackson Hole for a new job in security at a resort but pretty intense problems at her previous job keep her on edge and a little self-conscious about how good she is at her job. Not to mention, she’s pretty sure something shady is going down at her new job too. Walker is kind of in a similar boat boat, searching for jobs seasonly but not doing anything he totally loves. When Charlie comes back into his life, she tries to encourage him to want more for himself but it takes a lot for Walker to understand she’s not insulting him and believes in him.

They both have a little work to do, as well as probably mentioning they want more than just a wild night in bed together every now and then. Small details. Dahl gives both stories detailed backgrounds, never missing a beat. I really appreciate that kind of attention in a romance novel. I haven’t found it super often.

So if you are looking for a novel that gets a little naughty (oh man) but doesn’t ditch story, So Tough to Tame would be so fun for you to check out. (Want more Dahl suggestions? I also loved Close Enough to Touch.)

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The lovely people at Harlequin have offered me a copy of So Tough to Tame to giveaway to one of you! Be sure to enter the Rafflecopter below! Good luck!

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The Big Kids’ Table: Holiday Shopping Guide Edition

Friends, I can’t believe I am writing my 12th Big Kids’ Table post right now. When I started up this idea in January, I wanted to open up my reading world to new books, even though I had found a new and lovely home in the young adult genre. For me, it’s always best for me to switch up the books that I’m reading. That way my feelings for one don’t have much of a chance of meshing into the other. Here’s where some of my “big kid reads” have come in (and the occasional dystopian too).

For December, I decided not to focus on NEW adult fiction/non-fiction releases but maybe some of the books I think deserve another mention and might be suitable for your holiday shopping needs. I have read every single book on this list and I totally stand by them.

Enjoy! And definitely let me know in the comments if you have any suggestions for me or our readers! See you in 2013!Rather Be Reading Blog Shopping Guide - The Grown Up Books

titles you shouldn’t be afraid to give mom

My mom has always been a fan of romance novels and I keep thinking of books I may want to gift her… but I’m a little uncomfy giving her ones with super sexytimes. Is that mean? I mean, my mom, for example, loves The Vampire Diaries. She also watches Parenthood where sexytimes do exist. But you know, for my heart and my sanity… here are two titles I would not think twice about giving her. (In fact, I bought her Baby Proof for Mother’s Day this year and hoped she wouldn’t think I was “telling her something.” [I wasn’t. Sometimes a book is just a book.] P.S. She loved it.)

A Fool’s Gold Christmas by Susan Mallery [ my review ] dancing, cats, two Scrooges.

Baby Proof by Emily Giffin [ goodreads ] marriage, children, happiness.

my fave grown up books of 2012

Gosh, this was a toughie. Elena from Novel Sounds surprised me with a fabulous copy of Attachments a few months ago, and I finally finished it this week. Wow. It’s the kind of book you want to buy for 10 of your friends. I love the writing style, the male POV, the inserted emails, the throwback to 1999. It’s perfect. It made me feel warm inside. (Also this book is perfect for your mom and your best friend.)

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell [ goodreads | novel sounds review ] an office setting, love at first email, mystery!

Saving Ruth has a few heavy elements — eating disorders, sibling rivalry — but the author’s voice is really refreshing and the age group is great… a kid home on her first break from college. This was a pick on Big Kids’ Table in the beginning, and I’m so glad I got a copy at the the library. While I hate dislike the term “new adult”, this kind of falls into the category and could engage a wide range of age groups.

Saving Ruth by Zoe Fishman [ my review ] a girl home from college dealing with some heavy issues, befriending a sweet kid, a dash of romance

to be gifted with a cold shower (or 2)

Let’s go back to my sexytimes comments before as in not safe for work or while operating heavy machinery or maybe even gifting to your mother. These two titles made my toes curl, but they had nice stories too. (I liked Victoria Dahl’s approach to the romance novel a bit more than Susan Mallery’s… but both will sure satisfy your desire for a solid romance novel.)

Summer Nights by Susan Mallery [ my review ] a cowboy and a librarian meet in a bar (really, sort of)

Close Enough to Touch by Victoria Dahl [ goodreads ] a cowboy and a makeup artist meet in a beautiful place

…okay seriously, I may have a thing for cowboys.

haunting + captivating

Despite slow starts with each of these picks, I got to a point where I could not put either down. So different but so well written, and so addicting.

City of Women by David Gillham [ my review ] Set during World War 2, a woman separated from her lover may be hiding his wife and children. (Warning: sexual themes.)

The Empty Glass by J.I. Baker [ my review ] A man is determined to figure out what really happened to Marilyn Monroe… and someone really doesn’t want him to find out.

bonus: YA picks for the wary grownup

You know the type I’m talking about… the kind of person who loves to read but looks down at your love for young adult literature? Just because it’s written for younger people does not mean that it is not LITERATURE. Because it really is. This list was probably the most difficult for me to make, because when I finalized it, I kept coming up with more. What do you think?

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson [ magan’s review] beautiful writing, a story about family

Endangered by Eliot Schrefer [ my review] lush setting, solid writing, mothers/daughters, bonds

The Survival Kit by Donna Freitas [ magan’s review] grief, a story about family and moving forward

The Pursuit of Happiness by Tara Altebrando [ my review ] dealing with change in a family, well-developed characters

I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloane [ my review ] the feel of a vintage YA, family, fate, etc.

For some more ideas, check out Jamie’s post on picks for a picky reader over at The Perpetual Page Turner!

And one more shout out to Anna Reads’ sister (even if she stole Anna’s Harry Potter books), who shared some grown up choices for the holidays as well.

Happy reading and shopping! (Two of my favorite things in the world!)

The Big Kids’ Table: Adult Fiction/Non-Fic Picks (8/12)

I can’t believe summer is more than halfway over already. Any minute New York is going to be decking the halls with holiday decor. (I’m not kidding.) Let’s focus on the book, shall we? Here are a handful of upcoming adult releases I discovered in the pages of Publishers Weekly. They sound like winners to me! What do you think?

Close Enough to Touch by Victoria Dahl (Goodreads)
Genre: romance Publication Date: August 28th, 2012
hy I picked it: I believe Dahl is a friend of Jennifer Echols’ & there’s a cowboy. Enough said.
GR Description: Can a city girl make it in the wild, wild West? For makeup artist Grace Barrett, Hollywood is less the land of golden opportunity and more the land of difficult divas, cheating boyfriends and unemployment. So when her great-aunt offers her a free place to stay in Jackson Hole, Grace thinks she’ll spend a little time in the sticks to figure out her life, and then move somewhere exciting to live out her dreams. But it turns out that there are a few more thrills in this small town than Grace was expecting…. Cole Rawlins is a rugged Wyoming cowboy born and bred. Yet he can’t help but be drawn to the fascinating big-city girl who moves in across from him. As they discover a sizzling attraction, it’s Grace who finds herself surprised. Cole’s the only man who’s ever dared to get close enough to see through her tough facade. And his mysterious past only makes him sexier.

Hemingway’s Girl by Erika Rubick (Goodreads)
Genre: Historical Fiction Publication Date: September 4th, 2012
Why I picked it: Hemingway, literary genius, and setting: Key West. Perfection.
GR Description: In Depression-era Key West, Mariella Bennet, the daughter of an American fisherman and a Cuban woman, knows hunger. Her struggle to support her family following her father’s death leads her to a bar and bordello, where she bets on a risky boxing match…and attracts the interest of two men: world-famous writer, Ernest Hemingway, and Gavin Murray, one of the WWI veterans who are laboring to build the Overseas Highway.

Broadway Tails by Bill Beloni (Goodreads)
Genre: theater non-fiction Publication Date: September 4, 2012
What I picked it: This is such a cute premise & I love how animals found a better life as part of the theater.
GR Description: In this heartwarming book, he tells the true stories of “throw-away” animals who came back to work with some of entertainment’s biggest names, names like Bernadette Peters, Sarah Jessica Parker, Mike Nichols, the New York City Ballet, and many more. This updated edition includes an account of Berloni’s search for the newest Sandy to star with everyone’s favorite red-headed orphan.

Losing My Sister by Judy Goldman (Goodreads)
Genre: Memoir Publication Date: October 2, 2012
Why I picked it: Siblings and emotional overload. There’s nothing like a hard hitting memoir.
GR Description: Goldman’s was an idyllic childhood, charmed even, filled with parental love and sisterly confidences. Growing up in Rock Hill, South Carolina, Judy and her older sister, Brenda, did everything together. Though it was clear from an early age that their personalities were very different (Judy was the “sweet” one, Brenda, the “strong” one), they continued to be fairly inseparable into adulthood. But the love between sisters is complex. Though Judy and Brenda remained close, Goldman recalls struggling to break free of her prescribed role as the agreeable little sister and to assert herself even as she built her own life and started a family. The sisters’ relationship became further strained by the illnesses and deaths of their parents, and later, by the discovery that each had tumors in their breasts—Judy’s benign, Brenda’s malignant. The two sisters came back together shortly before the possibility of permanent loss became very real.

She Matters: A Life of Friendships by Susana Sonnenberg (Goodreads)
Genre: memoir
Publication Date: January 8, 2013
Why I picked it: Her Last Death, by Sonnenberg, was one of the most engaging (and devastating) memoirs I ever read. Can’t wait to pick up another book by her.
GR Description: Childhood friendships, friendships with older women, friendships that play out with the passion and intensity of love affairs, the friendships between new mothers–each has its own subtleties, its own lessons that Sonnenberg examines and understands with astounding acuity. Sonnenberg’s style is investigative and ruminative; the result is candid and fearlessly observed portraits of the nuances and complexities of friendships that become universally recognizable.