Book Review: To Have and To Hold by Lauren Layne

To Have and to Hold (The Wedding Belles, #1)To Have and to Hold by Lauren Layne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ohhhh! I am positively SWOONING over To Have and To Hold by Lauren Layne!

Admittedly, I had reservations about it at the start. Seth doesn’t make the greatest of first impressions—not on Brooke and not on readers. However, his bristly, demanding demeanor in these opening scenes only makes his growth as a character that much more gratifying in the end. In terms of what I look for in a book boyfriend, the “hotel trillionaire” bit doesn’t appeal to me personally. But I will say that Seth won me over…and then some. He’s hardened, but he’s hardened for good reason. And although he occasionally makes cruel remarks—none of which I found unforgivable, btw—he knows it and owns it when he’s crossed a line.

Brooke, I loved from start to finish. Never whiny, never so obtuse that I wanted to shake her. Although she has her own reasons for being negative, she’s determine to stay on the bright side of things. Better yet, she does so without managing to be annoying.

• I loved following Maya’s storyline, and the Tylers’ friend Grant made me laugh. (I actually could have had more of him.)
• At one point in the narrative, everything comes together so perfectly that it brought tears to my eyes.
• The book successfully piques interest in the rest of the Wedding Belles and their stories.
• While the sex scenes themselves are steamy, the storyline isn’t held hostage by gratuitous coupling.

As usual, Layne’s writing blows me away. The dialogue is perfect, the conflict on point. Perfectly paced, with no parts rushed and no saggy middle, To Have and To Hold consistently surprises readers with new and compelling information Definitely a must-read page-turner for fans of contemporary romance!

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Book Review: Cream of the Crop by Alice Clayton

Cream of the Crop (Hudson Valley, #2)Cream of the Crop by Alice Clayton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 stars!

I should start with what drew me to Cream of the Crop…

The cover, obviously. It looks like one of the oddly sexy Got Milk? ads from back in the day.

But of course the name Alice Clayton pulled me in as well. I read Wallbanger from her several years ago, which still goes down as the funniest book I’ve ever read.

As for Cream of the Crop, the heroine’s inner monologue drew me into the story. She’s hilarious. From her obsession with well-made cheese to a fashion sense tending toward designer labels and showcasing her best assets, nearly every moment in Natalie’s head is LOL-worthy. Her status as a family-oriented Manhattanite and ad executive rounds out her character, as do conversations with her closest friends Roxie and Clara. Although Natalie is confident in her size-18 curves, and brazen when it comes to her sexuality, she does have moments of vulnerability that made her character more real to me.

Oscar, on the other hand, was a tad less appealing as a character. While his physical attributes seemed to be on point, at least one petty move on his part rubbed me the wrong way. Another part of his life he was too obtuse about, considering how it would affect a new woman in his life. Because he seems like a relatively smart guy, it frustrated me that he didn’t see that particular topic differently.

The only thing I didn’t just love-love about the narrative is that there was some down time and summarizing. What felt like fast-forwarding through Natalie’s time away from Bailey Falls. Those sections tempted me to skim because I craved the next moment of excitement.

All in all, Cream of the Crop registered as a fun and different reading experience. The dairy farmer’s occupation was a fun one to learn about, as was Natalie’s innovative approach to her advertising campaigns.

A light-hearted, humorous affair, Cream of the Crop earns top billing from me. I love an entertaining romantic comedy!

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Book Review: A Will and a Way by Maggie Wells

A Will and a WayA Will and a Way by Maggie Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Author Maggie Wells has a way with words. Her latest release, A Will and a Way, is no exception to the quality I’ve come to expect from her.

What I love about a Maggie Wells hero is his vulnerability. The chink in his armor. That brief flicker of insecurity or flash of doubt that reveals his humanity. In this title, for example, Will believes in fate (a refreshing character trait to find in a hero), but that doesn’t mean the object of his affection will necessarily reciprocate.

Cue Betty in her puffy coat—a style that has cycled back into favor recently, much like Betty’s own sense of self-worth.

What follows is a liberating storyline of self-discovery on the heroine’s part, which translates into finally standing up for what she wants out of life.

A change of scenery.
Holding her wandering, entitled son to a higher standard.
And, last but not least, a sexual awakening.

Cue Will in his “waffle-weave Henley.”

The dance between these two is nothing short of fun, feisty, and flaming hot. Elements such as quick-witted banter, a local nun, and office-place improprieties ramp up the title’s already unique “seasoned romance” aspect even further. As Will and Betty illustrate, vibrancy and romance have a place in all seasons of life, and it was a joy as a reader to be along for the ride.

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Book Review: Hard Silence by Mia Kay

Hard Silence (Agents Undercover #2)Hard Silence by Mia Kay

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rich characters and a compelling plot make Hard Silence a must-read for fans of romantic suspense!

Main characters Jeff and Abby will take readers on a wild, yet tender, ride. Although I didn’t remember either of them from Soft Target (it’d been a while since I read it), the duo rose to the challenge of being the manuscript’s front and center. Weeks since reading, and their story still resonates with me.

As much as I liked Jeff, Abby’s storyline is the real feature here. Daughter of a toxic mother, Abby suffers ongoing recriminations due to events beyond her control. Fear and guilt affect her ability to form new, trusting, and lasting relationships—an element of her character that made perfect sense to me considering her back story. As one with a soft spot for shelter animals, Abby’s fondness for rehabbing neglected pets won me over fairly early on. She’s a likable, selfless, and hard-working heroine.

Jeff is steady, considerate, and curious—the latter a valuable quality in his job as an FBI profiler. Nevertheless, his interest in temporary neighbor Abby goes beyond mere professional curiosity.

And when the personal and professional overlap? Well, that’s where action and emotion ramp up!

• The flickers of jealousy between the two MCs were fun for me. Even though there’s some serious stuff going on, these flashes of insecurity revealed their emotional vulnerability.
• I loved reading and learning about the villain. Hadn’t read anything quite like that before.
• Although Gray and Maggie, protagonists from Soft Target, made brief cameos in this installment of Agents Undercover, as secondary characters they didn’t overpower the narrative (which is one of my pet peeves in series with interconnected characters).

Loved it! Fresh elements and relatable, likable characters made Hard Silence a page-turner for me. For readers who like a side of sweet with their suspense, Mia Kay’s latest deserves a spot on your TBR.

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