Kay ~ BayArea BookLover

I'm a romance reader at heart but do read several other genres.

The Understatement of the Year (The Ivy Years, #3) by Sarina Bowen

The Understatement of the Year - Sarina Bowen

Michael Graham and John Rikker were best friends in middle and high school. Their friendship evolved into something more intimate but an unfortunate violent attack caused the two friends to part on bad terms. Since then, Graham has chosen to hide deeply in the closet while Rikker is open with his sexuality. When Rikker arrives onto Graham’s college hockey team, he is scared senseless that he will be outed by Rikker. As time progresses, these two men slowly and painfully work out their differences about each other and themselves.

I usually don’t care much for New Adult and was curious to see how an m/m one would be and I wasn’t disappointed. I liked this book a lot. The pain and suffering that Graham and Rikker went through felt very real and justified. There was no unnecessarily drama or fake angst. I liked the writing style for the most part and had a few highlighted quotes that I really enjoyed. The sex was also written tastefully and I think readers will enjoy the emotional connection involved. I really liked reading the characters’ journey from their uncertainties to finding confidence by the end.

Hard Time by Cara McKenna

Hard Time - Cara McKenna

I really enjoyed this one about Annie, a librarian, who takes on a job at a corrections facility where she meets inmate, Eric. There's no "prison break" here but more of how feelings and attraction grow while within the walls of a prison. 

I loved Eric! He is how a bad boy should be written! I'm tired of the over possessive, stalkerish, angry, violent, controlling men portrayed in so many romances lately. I love how Eric isn't crazy. He's protective of the people that he loves but not possessive. And he respects women and their choices. So, yeah, these qualities are so much better IMO than the pycho men so many women find attractive.

I also loved how this setting for a contemporary romance is so different and refreshing. The characters seemed very realistic and their problems were as well. Cara McKenna knows how to write characters that feel like just regular everyday people. I loved Hard Time and After Hours and I can't wait to read more.

Rachel and the Hired Gun (Men of Defiance, #1) by Elaine Levine

Rachel and the Hired Gun - Elaine Levine

I enjoyed this western historical romance. Rachel is a tough gal with a heart. Sage is a very angry wanderer who never felt like he belonged. I liked that this book started on a wagon train and eventually led to the little town of Defiance. I would have liked to read more about the hardships of living on a cattle ranch but the territory conflict and the characters' emotional struggles gave a good balance to the story instead. I am looking forward to reading more by this author. 

Home to Stay by Terri Osburn

Home to Stay (An Anchor Island Novel) - Terri Osburn

I loved the first two books in this Anchor Island series and adored Home to Stay just as much. Terri Osburn has a way of writing subtle humor, wit and sarcasm that I totally connect to. I love the small town of Anchor Island where everyone really knows your name and works together to improve the economy of the island. I also appreciate how Ms. Osburn introduces new people subtly where they actually fit into the story...unlike some books where random people are thrown without much explanation. I loved the sexy times and the romance connection and attraction the main characters had. This series has become one of my faves for small town contemporary romance and I hope many others find this wonderful gem of a series.


Thank you Kindle First for this early read!

Back to the Good Fortune Diner by Vicki Essex

Back to the Good Fortune Diner - Vicki Essex

I don’t get to read about Asian American heroines in contemporary romance so when I heard about this book on the DBSA podcast, I knew I had to pick it up...mostly due to the fact that I am Asian myself. I understood the feelings that Tiffany had about being Asian in a predominantly Caucasian town. Growing up, she had her share of jokes, teasing, stereotypes and racist remarks. This caused her to resent her family and culture and I get it. By the end she grows and embraces who she is and I can appreciate that. I give Vicki Essex much credit for bringing topics of interracial dating and racism to a mainstream contemporary romance via Harlequin Super Romance. 

ARC Review: Flying by Megan Hart

Flying - Megan Hart

Stella disguises herself and flies to different cities to sleep with random men. These exploits are hot while the reader wonders why she puts herself in these situations. As the book progresses, we learn that she has conflict with her ex-husband and her teenage son as well as issues within herself due to a tragic event that messed with her happy family. She does her best to deal with these problems but there are just times when she wants to fly off to another city to pretend to be someone else. While on a business trip, she meets Matthew as herself, without being disguised. She feels an instant connection with him and opens up about issues she hasn’t shared with anyone before which leads to the beginnings of a relationship.


I liked Stella because she has been through a lot and doesn’t have time to put up with BS. She knows what she wants and she goes out there to get it. Unfortunately, her relationships at home are a different story. She does try to mend wounds with her ex-husband and son and we see her good attempts. But she is tortured and the reader realizes that she has to fix herself first.


As for Matthew, I didn’t really connect well with him. Sure, the sex was hot just as it always is in Megan Hart books but he seemed very selfish and suspect. There were times when he'd disappear and leave Stella waiting for hours especially when his needy ex-wife would come calling. His priorities were just not aligned with Stella's so it really urked me that he was so selfish and not understanding of Stella's needs. He also came off really shady and secretive who never gave Stella a straight answer when she questioned him. We soon discover his reasons for being so suspect but he didn’t redeem himself in my eyes.


By the end, I'm glad Stella let go of her grief, healed her guilt and made up with her son. She fixed some bridges with her ex husband and bonded with his new wife. She figured out what she wants and deserves. The ending leaves me wondering if she will continue down this path of self improvement or will her wounded cycle repeat itself.  

There's no surprise here that Megan Hart has written an emotionally driven and realistic romance with an ending that leaves me feeling conflicted. I will settle for a “happy for now” ending even though I don't quite agree with how it ended. Some readers might be turned off by this HFN ending, but if you want truthful storytelling, then check out Megan Hart. Just don’t be surprised if everything is not tied up nicely with a bow.


* ARC provided by Harlequin MIRA via Netgalley

ARC Review: Waiting on You by Kristan Higgins

Waiting On You - Kristan Higgins

Colleen and Lucas were in a serious relationship back in their high school days but conflict caused them to break up. Lucas went on to be a successful commercial builder while Colleen stayed in Manningsport, NY as the owner of the town bar. While their lives continued, they never truly forgot about one another. Family circumstances bring Lucas back to town which begins their journey on a path of second chances.


I liked meeting Colleen in the previous books and it was nice to get her POV in this one. I appreciate that she is a beautiful, confident, and vivacious, independent woman. She does have some issues with commitment due to her past with Lucas as well as her father but this doesn’t discourage her from having fun with men when she wants it.


I adored Lucas and meeting him through Colleen’s eyes. I loved how the author executed Colleen’s impression of her first glance of Lucas in high school.


“Then she saw the second guy. Her smile faltered. He looked like a Spanish pirate. Like a Romany gypsy. Like Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, and like Heathcliff, there was something about his expression that said he knew things, saw things, that he wasn't as sweet or as easy or as simple as the boy who stood next to him.”


The book switched between past and present time. I enjoyed this because we get to see how Lucas and Colleen met and fell in love. I really liked how Ms. Higgins displayed their intense feelings for each other despite the circumstances that kept them apart.

Of course, in Kristan Higgins fashion, there are some silly, funny but heartwarming moments. We also get lots of book time about a few secondary characters in the story which I felt overshadowed Lucas and Colleen at times. But I appreciate that Lucas and Colleen resolved their past relationship issues as well as some internal conflicts by the end. I look forward to reading many more books by Kristan Higgins.

Love Like the Movies by Victoria Van Tiem

Love Like the Movies - Victoria Van Tiem

I'm surprised how much I enjoyed this. Sure, it's a bit cheesy & predictable but it is also cute, fun, sweet and entertaining. If you like quirky chick lits and romantic comedy movies, you will definitely like this.

Inside (Bulletproof, #1) by Brenda Novak

Inside (Bulletproof) - Brenda Novak

This was a fun, sexy and suspenseful read. I do wish that the hero infiltrated the prison sooner. We had to wait close to 60% before he enters and when he does, there wasn't enough time to really get down and dirty within the prison world. But overall, it was an enjoyable book.

Finding Bliss?...not really

Finding Bliss - Dina Silver

If you like reading New Adult and all the turbulent events that happens to a young woman, then you will probably enjoy this. The premise of the story was good for a chick lit book but the execution was lacking. I just couldn't connect with Chloe or understand her attraction to Tyler as well as "feel" any of her pain/emotions.

The Heart of the West

Heart of the West - Penelope Williamson

This is not your typical historical western romance. I actually felt like the romance was lacking. It was more of a story about the lives people endure over the years in the harsh Montana frontier. I would have liked more focus on the main characters but received lots of random POVs instead. However, I do think readers who enjoy epic storytelling might like this.

The Other C-Word

The Other C-Word - M.K. Schiller

This starts off as a fun read with Marly and the consultant, Rick, in an office environment with very fierce sexual tension. There are laughable moments, cute nicknames and strong character connections. But as the book progresses, it really isn't as light as the reader would think because there are some serious issues with Marly that gives her a tainted perception about men and relationships.

I do adore Rick and how dedicated he is to Marly regardless of her tortured past. He's a gentleman and treats her with the kindness that she deserves. 

Also, the sex was hot! Just as I expected by this author who also wrote steamy scenes in The Do-Over. Rick doesn't hold back and is very considerate to Marly's needs. I look forward to reading more by this author.

3.5 Stars

Into the Still Blue

Into the Still Blue - Veronica Rossi

I couldn't be more happy with how this book ended. I trusted the author to give us a satisfying ending to this trilogy and she delivered. I'm glad to know that Aria, Perry, Roar, Soren, Brooke and everyone else are going to be ok 'In the Still Blue.' It's a new beginning and I'm so glad I was on the ride from the start

Review: The Do-Over by M.K. Schiller

The Do-Over - M.K. Schiller

Kyle is a playboy who doesn't commit and loves his one night stands with random women. Lanie is awkward, not very attractive and has low self esteem when it comes to men. She has a crush on her sister's boyfriend, Brad, and believes that she is a good fit for him...he just doesn't know yet. Kyle is Brad's best friend and Brad convinces Kyle to go out on a pity date with Lanie. Lanie's goal is to get Brad after her sister is done with him. So, on the date with Kyle, she proposes to him to help her find ways to win Brad over. With some coercion and reluctance, Kyle agrees to help her socially, physically and then eventually sexually.

In the beginning, Kyle appears to be just another womanizing douche but as we see him helping Lanie, we realize that there is a heart there. We also realize that Lanie may be socially awkward and unattractive but I love that she is a confident, badass attorney who always wins. They both have good qualities that other people seem to overlook so I appreciated that they were able to really see each other for who they are.

I was pleasantly surprised how much I liked this book because I just didn't know what to expect. But it turned out that this was an "opposites attract," "friends with benefits," as well as "let's pretend we're in a fake relationship to make the other guy jealous" trope. LOL These are always so much fun to read. I loved that this was funny and sweet with several very sexy scenes. I also loved that the author took time to build the relationship and show how the love gradually sneaked in. Besides the fun and sexy, there was a more serious side that was revealed about Kyle's past as well as Lanie's which largely played into who they are as adults. I appreciated how these issues were shared with each other after the trust was there.

Some reviews have compared The Do-Over to Tangled orWallbanger and I can say if you liked those books, you will like this one. I actually like The Do-Over just a tad bit more as the humor was not over the top like the others but more naturally fit for the story. 

I am excited to find this "new to me" author and look forward to reading more by her. I also would like to thank the DBSA podcast for recommending this book.

Keegan's Lady by Catherine Anderson

Keegan's Lady - Catherine Anderson

Wow...this was a surprise. I love historical westerns but there are only a handful of authors that I love who write this genre. Now, I can add Catherine Anderson to that list. I can say that I love her writing this genre a lot more than her contemporary romances.

I really enjoyed this book! It had love, humor, patience, family bond, sweetness, and hero tendencies that had me sighing. But this wasn't tied up nicely with a bow. These historical times had hardships and trauma so both of these characters had a lot of inner turmoil to battle and I'm glad they both grew as people by the end with the help of love. I am looking forward to reading more.

Review: Beyond Shame by Kit Rocha

Beyond Shame  - Kit Rocha

This was very interesting especially since it's an erotica/sci-fi/dystopian book. I never really read a book like this so I really appreciated the world building but I would have liked just a little bit more. 

There was a lot of SEX which didn't surprise me. The women are very free to choose what they sexually do and I'm all for ménage scenarios if executed nicely. But I do think that the sexual freedom was chosen a little too easily. It seemed like Noelle would just meet someone in Sector Four and then all of a sudden perform a sexual act to/with them a few minutes later. I would have a liked a little more build up in these types of scenes. However, this is a fantasy and erotica! So, I shouldn't harp on this too much.

Overall, this was a fun and interesting read and a good escape for readers in the mood for SMUT. I will read more of this series.