Secrets of the heart

Bride in Secret by Serenity Woods

I can safely say that this third book in Serenity Woods’ Bay of Islands Brides series is my favourite thus far – I absolutely loved the story which had me hooked from the very first chapter. But the reasons why I loved it… I don’t want to go into as I don’t want to spoil the story and trust me, this book is best read going in blind because there are some major events, big shocks and a whole lot of love!!!

Bride in Secret is a beautiful story about the trouble that secrets can get you into – even if these secrets are kept with the best of intentions. Roberta and Angus have been secretly attracted to each other ever since they first laid eyes on one another two years ago but neither of them have tried to be anything more than friends. But when a night in Las Vegas leads to some unexpected consequences, the real possibility of forging a relationship comes to the forefront. I absolutely adored Roberta in the first two books and I was thrilled to learn so much more about her in the book. And Angus is the biggest sweetie ever and his role as town doctor and Elliot’s best friend made for some very interesting scenes.

Without a doubt, Bride in Secret is my pick of the theee books released so far in this series. But with three more books still to come, I’m definitely keen to read Elliot’s book as he is the Goldsmith family member that intrigues me the most.

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Caught – hook, line and sinker

Fresh Catch by Kate Canterbary

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Like so many readers out there, I have an incredibly long TBR and a whole heap of one-click authors … and I tell myself that I won’t add any more … and I yet again I broke that promise … but OMG I am so glad I did. Kate Canterbary is an author so many of my book buddies – and other authors I love – have raved about and I kept saying I would get around to reading her books. An opportunity came up to read her most recent release, Fresh Catch, and so I thought why not?!? And I’m so very very glad I did.

When I discovered this was an mm romance I was thrilled – since this is one of my all time favourite tropes. And the story of Silicon Valley billionaire Cole and lobster farmer Owen is nothing short of fabulous. Despite their differences, at the heart of this story is two guys who are desperate for love and yet neither feel deserving. Kate weaves a story that not only highlights some important social issues …

“Eventually, there’d be a time when we led with curiosity rather than assumptions about sexual identity, race, faith, ability…all of it.”

but also brings to life to absolutely gorgeous characters in Cole and Owen – two men who you feel like good friends by the time you are done with the story. Their quirks are loveable, their personalities authentic and the the love that blossoms is one that is such a joy to watch. Add to this a small town with characters you won’t to know more about (and thankfully we will get to know more about Annette and Jackson at the end of the month!!) and Fresh Catch is one story that I’m sure to read again. I also have to mention the chapter titles and definitions because these totally helped to make the story … plus who knew so many boating terms could have such great innuendo.

Well it’s safe to say I’ve found myself another one click author – and I’m off to binge read ALL the books because I just cannot get enough of Kate Canterbary!!!

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Fresh-Catch-Teaser

Finding your voice

Archer’s Voice by Mia Sheridan

W O W 😮😮😮 There are no words for the absolute brilliance of this book. I saw a number of people talk about and recommend Archer’s Voice by Mia Sheridan in the space of 24 hours last week and I just had to find out for myself why it popped up in different places, mentioned by so many different people. And only having read the blurb and taking the word of some book buddies, I one clicked and decided to take a chance … and I’m so very very glad I did.

Archer’s Voice is a story best read with no prior knowledge of the plot, the characters…anything! So I won’t mention those things but I will tell you how this book made me feel… it helped me to appreciate the things that so many take for granted, it made me laugh, it made me smile and it definitely made me cry 😢. This story has all the elements that make an ideal romance – from awe-inspiring characters, a gripping plot line and an underlying theme that will burrow into your soul.

This is a book you definitely need to make time for. Let Mia Sheridan weave her magic with words and feelings that will stay with you long after her story is over.

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Amazon/Goodreads rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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Learning to love yourself

The Ground Beneath Our Feet

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You know you’ve connected with a book when you’re in tears, messaging the author with all the praise in the world … The Ground Beneath our Feet by Leslie McAdam is that book for me. The story of Jessica and Mikey is so much more than a curvy woman and a fit man, of a lawyer and a veterinarian… this story will make you confront some harsh truths about the way society views women and in particular, what a “perfect” woman should look like. The inner voices and self criticism Jessica has is something that I really identified with – which was actually a very emotional and cleansing experience for me. I love a book that pushes me emotionally and this is one that definitely did that.

I don’t wish to spoil the plot line and key themes too much because they are something that are best experiences first hand by reading the book (and I could never do them the kind of justice Leslie does anyway). So instead I’ll tell you that this is a book that might make you feel uncomfortable, this is a book that will either resonate with you or will feel so far removed for your life experiences that you just won’t “get it”… and know that anything you feel is fine. That’s the point – one which both Jessica and Mikey have to come to terms with – until you learn to love yourself, to own your past, to own your body, to own the person you are right now… you can’t possibly be ready to let anyone else in.

(And on a totally different and “fun” tangent….as I’ve just read all four books in the Giving You series I LOVED LOVED LOVED Jessica meeting all the women from the previous books – Amelia, Marie and Lucy – and the friendship she formed with them… it was PERFECTION!!!! And I’m such a fan of authors who are able to link their books like this so we can get little updates on previous couples as well as have them connect authentically with the current storyline).

I implore you to go and read this book, to fall in love with Jessica and Mikey… and I hope, fall in love with yourself a but more too along the way.

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Amazon/Goodreads rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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Hollywood meets Pity Falls

Stuck by Logan Chance

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I wasn’t sure what to expect when I read the blurb of Stuck and realised it would involve not only a Hollywood movie star but also a “step-sibling” trope … but with Logan Chance at the helm I knew that any reservations I had would be blown away by a well written story with two very appealing characters. Ethan Hale is an overnight success as a major movie star now with a few films under his belt and when his dad decides to marry a woman from a little town called Pity Falls in Montana, it seems Ethan will be getting a step sister… he just doesn’t count on this being the sassy, sweet and caring Nova Sparks.

I loved that this story told the real – and kind of depressing – side of being a big star, especially when it comes to the paparazzi and their intrusion into a famous person’s everyday life. What Ethan deals with in a day to day basis – and what so many famous stars have to deal with – I do not envy them at all!! And yet, Logan manages to portray this “uglier side” of fame with respect and authenticity, as well as getting a few laughs as well. The way Nova deals with the paparazzi as well is nothing short of awesome – it’s authentic for a “nobody” like her and it’s even a little sad when you see just how ruthless these camera-wielding, story-hungry people can be.

But at its heart, Stuck is a slow burn romance about two people who are so attracted to one another but don’t know how they can make any kind of relationship work when they are in very different places in their lives and careers. But reading the to and fro, seeing the sparks fly and the chemistry burn hot … it’s a fantastic story between Ethan and Nova, as they both come to realise exactly what is important and who is worth ending up stuck with 😉

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There is no reason to feel guilty about pleasure

All the Waters of the Earth by Leslie McAdam

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I was definitely right when I predicted that I would absolutely adore the Giving You series by Leslie McAdam, and All the Waters of the Earth just cemented this series place as one of my faves! Jake and Lucy’s story had so many fantastic elements – from a workaholic hunk to a romance author single mum, from the trials and tribulations of parenting and custody arrangements to the joy of art and nude sketching, all culminating around the notion of needing to find a work-life balance and discovering the joy in pleasure. And while the romance is still at an all time high of sexy times, intense chemistry and lots of flirting, the story is just so realistic and true to life it felt like it was a story being told to me by a friend.

I’ve mentioned in previous reviews of Leslie’s books that I love the way in which she portrays her heroines and Lucy is yet another example of leading lady who isn’t ashamed or afraid of who she is: a curvy, strong woman who has single-handedly raised her son and makes a living from doing a creative pursuit she loves (writing romance novels 😁). Lucy is the driving force behind the relationship that develops between her and Jake, and even though she has been hurt in the past, Lucy is willing to go all in with Jake…if she can convince him to spend more time with her than at work. Jake the workaholic is also another great portrayal of a main character who has genuine, realistic flaws – something I really appreciated. Reading about Jake overcoming some of his weaknesses adds a unique element to what is already a fantastic story that will have you hooked from the very first page.

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When opposites attract

The Stars in the Sky by Leslie McAdam

This story – wow 😮 It’s one of those romance novels that is so much more than a story about two people falling in love … and these are fast becoming my favourite type of romances. The Stars in the Sky gives us two polar opposites in Marie – the Democrat, vegan, environmentally friendly, tattooed woman – and Will – the Republican, ranch owner who loves his meat, his wranglers and his cowboy hat. But what makes these two different is also what makes them so damn good together and watching them fall in love was a pleasure.

Despite the story being solely from Marie’s POV, Will is a strong, dominating character who we still manage to learn so much about. And what we do discover adds him to my list of ideal book boyfriends and I now know why so many readers swoon over this cowboy. Sure he can be an a**hole (both his and Marie’s words!) but it’s the depth lying underneath that tough exterior which Marie – and all of us readers – fall for. And when you see just how he affects the strong-willed, stubborn Marie and manages to crack into her closed off heart, you know you’ve found one hell of a man.

Leslie McAdam does an incredible job of intertwining into the story quite opposing politics views without advocating for one or the other. And this is the first romance novel I’ve read that has done such a fantastic job of this. There’s no political agenda here, just a story about understanding and respecting the views of those you love. And I absolutely adored seeing both Marie and Will make compromises in their beliefs – and yep, I even enjoyed the arguments too because angry, make up sex is hot!!!!!!

This series is shaping up to be one of my favourites. And I can’t wait to read the next book with Amelia’s workaholic colleague Jake about to get taught a lesson in loosening up.

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Swooning over the Sun God

The Sun and The Moon

I’m finally getting around to reading all of Leslie McAdam’s back catalogue and I’m so excited to be reading her Giving You series. Knowing this was her first series, that the coffee shop in this first book inspired the name of her Facebook author group … it’s like I’m getting to know a bit of Leslie history as well as getting to read some amazing books at the same time. The first book in this series, The Sun and The Moon, has just blown me away. I’m actually shocked this was Leslie’s debut novel as it does not read that way at all. Already her ability to create genuine, authentic and nuanced characters is finely tuned and I have fallen in love with both Amelia and Ryan, aka the Sun God.

What makes this a stand out story is Amelia. She is flawed, she lives with depression, she has a lot of inner demons (and rules regarding sex) to battle … and Ryan is willing to do his best to support her through it all. Amelia’s self criticism and her negative and questioning internal voices are something that – unfortunately – lots of people can relate to (me included) and I loved that Leslie has portrayed a heroine like this. The issues that arise in Amelia and Ryan’s relationship aren’t the usual big dramatic events (ie: past exes, surprise pregnancy, massive fight), they are problems that occur due to Amelia battling with assumptions she has made due to her last, assumptions she makes about Ryan and the first impressions she gathers as well as the fact that something positive is happening in her life and her brain isn’t ready to accept it … especially when it seems “to good to be true”.

After saying all that, The Sun and The Moon does provide a lot of laughs, some very very hot and steamy sex scenes and a story line that will resonate with a lot of people on some level I am sure. We all deserve a Sun God, but no one more so than Amelia. And I cannot wait to read the rest of this series 😁

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A librarian named Samantha

Heels by Megan Erickson

I was thrilled when Megan Erickson announced that Bryan – an important side character in her newsletter serial turned full blown book, Boots – was getting his own book. He is the ideal anti-hero, Bryan is not a good guy but he does what he does for good reasons. And when he meets small-town librarian Samantha, you know that things are going to get interesting.

I don’t want to say too much about the storyline of this book as I’m not a fan of spoiling people and this is a book that is best experienced without too much prior knowledge – except of course that which you gain by reading Boots (though of course this book can be read as a standalone). But I do want to talk about Samantha’s her characterisation was so authentic and I really connected with her inner critic. Sam has suffered from gaslighting in her past and this has resulted in her questioning everything about herself – from her display of emotions, her everyday choices and, most of all, her appearance. And while it was devastating to read about the consequences of such manipulation, I really felt that Megan did a fabulous job with such a realistic portrayal.

Heels was everything I wanted from Bryan’s story and a whole heap I didn’t expect but was so thrilled to get. There were jaw dropping moments, hot and panty-wetting sex scenes, past demons back with a vengeance and some twists I didn’t see coming. Plus a catch up with Tara and Lance from Boots, that I thoroughly enjoyed (and for those who have read Boots, the significance of the title of my review gets a mention!!) A definite five star read!!

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The reluctant rockstar and the recovering addict

Riven by Roan Parrish

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There are not a lot of books for me that I actually don’t want to keep reading because prolonging the ending means I get to spend a bit longer wrapped up in the world created by the author and I can pretend for a little while more that the characters are real and the story is actually something that happened. Riven by Roan Parrish is a book I really didn’t want to finish – and the fact I have devastates me and I know I’ll be doing a reread of this one again before Rend comes out in November.

“If you’re looking for a prize, you ain’t lookin’ for love. Love isn’t a reward. It’s not something you deserve or don’t deserve.”
“Oh, yeah, so what is it then?”
“Fuck if I know,” he said. “But I sure as hell know what it isn’t.”

Theo Decker is the lead singer of rock band Riven and he is amazing at what he does – but, deep down, it’s not what he truly wants. Stumbling around New York late one night, he finds Caleb Whitman singing in a bar and this chance meeting brings about a connection neither of them can deny. Caleb and Theo have their own inner demons to battle – especially Caleb as a recovering addict, 12 months out of his fourth stint at rehab and hoping to not have to go back. What makes these two so good together… well it’s not only the palatable chemistry, the way they feel so comfortable around each other or the incredible sexual connection … it’s what they are able to bring out in one another… HOPE!! Hope to return to music, hope to do what they want for once, hope for a real lasting relationship, hope to start over… and it’s this sense of hope that I truly connected with. I shed some real tears as I read this story because the way in which Roan writes makes Caleb and Theo so real that I couldn’t help but feel what they felt and fall in love with them as they fell in love with each other.

“The hope on his face nearly tore me apart. Because it was all for me. This man, standing in front of me, was dreaming a dream for me, and it was humbling as fuck.”

I wish I could better put into words why I loved this book so much! It’s not just a “rockstar romance”, it’s not just a “mm romance”, it’s not even just a “romance” novel…. it’s a book that will burrow deep into your soul and take you to a place where you, too, can truly believe anything is possible. Sometimes the right book falls into your lap at the right time, and Riven has been the book I needed for what is coming up in my own life right now… and I couldn’t be more grateful!!

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