Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Book Review: The Wagging Tails Dogs' Home

By Sara Steven

The annual dog show is looming, a crucial event when it comes to fundraising and ensuring the volunteers can continue the brilliant work they do.

But their trusted newspaper reporter, who always includes them in his weekly column, is retiring, only to be replaced with a city-slicker named Darryl. And Darryl, as Ginny soon learns, has no interest in articles he deems 'below him'.

Not one to take no as an answer, Ginny becomes determined to get him to meet the dogs themselves. One look at their cute faces and they'll worm their way into his heart.

But what Ginny doesn't anticipate is that Darryl might be more open-hearted than he seems. And inviting him to the dogs' home might be the best decision she ever made – even if she doesn't realise it at first! (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

I loved this dogs’ home! I used to have aspirations of running my own no kill animal shelter decades ago, and it felt like I could live vicariously through the various characters who play a major part in doing all they can to save dogs who might otherwise not have a home, or a chance at a good life. We discover that Ginny has a rocky road that led her to the dogs’ home, soon becoming her salvation in working on finding her own way to a good life–former past relationships aside. Which is why it’s so hard to trust Darryl, a man who seems insistent on ruining the reputation of her employer, potentially leading to a difficult time in adopting out their dogs.

At first, I didn’t blame Ginny for feeling that way. One minute, Darryl is completely against writing a column to highlight the dogs’ home. He’s rude and arrogant. But then, he seemingly has a change of heart. A complete one-eighty. I’m so glad Sarah Hope, the author, included that observation from Ginny’s perspective, because it really helped to explain just how confusing Darryl’s behavior could be. Later, the reader learns what is really going on and why Darryl is acting the way he is, but it’s still hard for Ginny to let go of past hurts that really stem from before Darryl. 

One of Ginny’s coworkers points out how at times, we need to forgive and give people the benefit of the doubt, and when Ginny begins to do that, not only is she learning more about Darryl, she’s learning more about herself, too. There were so many sweet moments between the two characters, also including the adorable dogs, too–like Luna! I love Luna’s quirks and tendencies that really made her such a great canine character. When Sarah Hope describes the way that Luna likes to flop down and not move until she receives attention, I could easily visually see that in my mind. It’s a really nice, unique touch.

There are some definite obstacles in the way of romance here–Ginny’s past, Darryl’s too–that create a few walls and barriers between them. I enjoyed getting to learn more about them and discover the ways they work on trying to get around their obstacles, while also learning the ins and outs of what it takes to run a successful shelter. I enjoyed The Wagging Tails Dogs’ Home immensely. A definite five-star read!

Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US * Amazon UK

Sarah Hope has been dreaming up stories ever since she was a child. She remembers many a family stroll along the beach when she’d daydream about her next adventure story, and dreamt of one day becoming an author. Sarah writes romance novels with a Happy Ever After endings, and her latest series, Wagging Tails Dogs' Home, was published by Boldwood in 2023. Sarah lives in Central England with her two children, her dog, Lacey and a bunny named Ruby.

Visit Sarah online:
Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Visit all the stops on Sarah's blog tour:

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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Spotlight: That Summer Feeling

Garland Moore used to believe in magic, the power of optimism, and signs from the universe. Then her husband surprised her with divorce papers over Valentine's Day dinner. Now Garland isn’t sure what to believe anymore, except that she’s clearly never meant to love again. When new friends invite her to spend a week at their reopened sleepaway camp, she and her sister decide it’s an opportunity to enjoy the kind of summer getaway they never had as kids. If Garland still believed in signs, this would sure seem like one. Summer camp is a chance to let go of her past and start fresh.

Nestled into the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains, Camp Carl Cove provides the exact escape Garland always dreamed of, until she runs into Mason—the man she had a premonition about after one brief meeting years ago. No matter how she tries to run, the universe appears determined to bring love back into Garland’s life. She even ends up rooming with Mason’s sister Stevie, a vibrant former park ranger who is as charming as she is competitive. The more time Garland spends with Stevie, the more the signs confuse her. The stars are aligning in a way Garland never could have predicted.

Amid camp tournaments and moonlit dances, Garland continues to be pulled toward the beautiful blonde outdoorswoman who makes her laugh and swoon. Summer camp doesn’t last forever, but if Garland can learn to trust her heart, the love she finds there just might. 

Purchase That Summer Feeling.

“Shimmering with sun-soaked magic, That Summer Feeling has everything I love about a summer romance—swoons, humor, and that irrepressible hope that a great love is not only possible, but inevitable.”
—Ashley Herring Blake, USA Today bestselling author of Astrid Parker Doesn’t Fail

"A celebratory ray of sunshine... I loved this world of big accomplishments, found family, and dizzyingly fierce love."
—Amy Spalding, author of For Her Consideration

"At times achingly sweet, and at others delightfully steamy, this friends-to-lovers journey had me hooked from the first page. Summer camp has never been this sexy."
—Erin La Rosa, author of For Butter or Worse

Credit: Provvidenza Catalano
Bridget Morrissey lives in Los Angeles, California, but hails from Oak Forest, Illinois. When she’s not writing, she can be found coaching gymnastics or headlining concerts in her living room. 

Her latest adult novel, THAT SUMMER FEELING, is now available. Her last two adult romances, A THOUSAND MILES and LOVE SCENES, as well as her first two YA novels, WHAT YOU LEFT ME and WHEN THE LIGHT WENT OUT, are also currently available. (Bio adapted from Bridget's website.) 

Visit Bridget online:
WebsiteTwitter * Instagram

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Thursday, May 25, 2023

What's in the (e)mail


The Second Chance Store by Lauren Bravo from William Morrow (NetGalley)
Faking Christmas by Kerry Winfrey from Berkley (NetGalley)
We Could Be So Good by Cat Sebastian from Avon (NetGalley)
Jobs for Girls with Artistic Flair by June Gervais from Viking (NetGalley)
Maybe Once, Maybe Twice by Alison Rose Greenberg from St. Martin's Press (NetGalley)
Sweeten the Deal by Katie Shepard from Berkley (NetGalley)
The Wake-Up Call by Beth O'Leary from Berkley (NetGalley)
Cutting Teeth by Chandler Baker from BookSparks (print)
Friends Don't Fall in Love by Erin Hahn from St. Martin's Press (NetGalley)
Canary Girls by Jennifer Chiaverini from HarperCollins (print)
Your Lonely Nights Are Over by Adam Sass from Penguin (NetGalley)
Who We Are Now by Lauryn Chamberlain from Dutton (NetGalley)
The Homewreckers by Mary Kay Andrews from St. Martin's Press


The Stepson by Diane Saxon from Rachel's Random Resources (NetGalley)
Accidentally in Love by Danielle Jackson from Berkley (NetGalley)
The Flatmate by Gemma Rogers from Rachel's Random Resources (NetGalley)
All Grown Up by Catherine Evans from Rachel's Random Resources (ebook)
Long Time No Sea by Portia MacIntosh from Rachel's Random Resources (NetGalley)


How Can I Help You? by Laura Sims from Putnam (NetGalley)
A Likeable Woman by May Cobb from Berkley (NetGalley)
Someone You Trust by Rachel Ryan from Gallery (NetGalley)
Perfectly Nice Neighbors by Kia Abdullah from Putnam (NetGalley)

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Jenifer Goldin makes a name for a book giveaway

Introduction by Melissa Amster

I'm pleased to introduce Jenifer Goldin today. We connected over Instagram  and her debut novel, Anonymous Mom Posts, sounds like so much fun that I was excited to feature it at CLC. The synopsis gives off a Desperate Housewives vibe. When Jenifer sent me her bio, I was floored as we have a common thread, since she has worked with kids who have cochlear implants and those are relevant to my family. What are the odds?!? She also told me that her daughter recently had her Bat Mitzvah and my daughter is having hers pretty soon. I enjoyed learning more about Jenifer and I know you will too. She has one copy of Anonymous Mom Posts to share with a lucky reader!

Jenifer Goldin, a Miami native, graduated from the University of Florida and Gallaudet University. An audiologist by trade, Goldin specialized in pediatric cochlear implants. However, writing has always been her passion. Some of Goldin’s stories reveal her truest emotions, and sometimes her emotions are just the jumping-off point for a fictional tale. Her favorite books always go beyond storytelling and shine a light on the human experience. Goldin now resides in Atlanta with her husband and two children. Her debut novel, Anonymous Mom Posts, launched on April 1, 2023.  

Visit Jenifer online:
Website * Facebook * Instagram 


Will anonymous social media posts expose the secrets of a picture-perfect community?

Laura Perry is fed up with the snarky attitudes of the moms who post on the Hamilton Beach Moms' social media page. She hopes the new anonymous posting feature will remind this community they are here to support each other. She enlists her friend, Gabriella, to be a co-moderator. While Gabriella is intrigued by the page, she wonders if the virtual interactions are doing more harm than good. She and Laura hatch a plan to organize an in-person fundraising event, hoping to help the moms connect in real life.

But, as the moms start to reveal their secrets anonymously, irreverent comments pour in, and the page ignites with controversy. With the in-person event approaching, will one mom's plan for revenge bring the entire community to the brink?
(Courtesy of Amazon.)

In one sentence, what was the road to publishing like for you? 
It pushed me to get out of my comfort zone, be brave, and take chances. 

How is Laura similar to or different from you? 
I also like to fix everyone's problems and I am willing to give second chances to people who don't always deserve it. 

If Anonymous Mom Posts were made into a movie, who would you cast in the leading roles?
Laura- Reese Witherspoon
Julie-  Lisa Kudrow
Maggie-  Courtney Cox
Indira- Mindy Kaling
Gabby- Jessica Alba
Isabell- Nicole Kidman

What is the last movie you saw that you would recommend? 
Air. Anyone who grew up in the 1980s will enjoy the nod to our youth combined with such an inspiring story. I couldn't stop dancing in my seat to the music!

What is the funniest thing one of your kids did recently? 
Perform in the school play, on stage, in front of 500 people, with his fly down. OY!

What is your go-to summertime family activity? 
Summer baseball, swimming, and BBQs. 

Thanks to Jenifer for visiting with us and sharing her book with our readers.

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

Giveaway ends May 30th at midnight EST.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Spotlight: Someone Else's Bucket List

My dying wish is for you to finish my bucket list. I refuse to die without knowing this list will be completed. And I refuse to die without knowing my family will be okay . . .

Jodie Boyd is a shy and anxious twenty-something, completely unsure what to do with her life. Her older sister, Bree, is an adventurous, globe-trotting, hugely successful Instagram influencer with more than a million followers. She’s the most alive person Jodie knows—up until Bree’s unfathomable, untimely death from Leukemia. The Boyds are devastated, not to mention overwhelmed with medical debt. But Bree thought of everything—and soon, Jodie is shocked by a new post on her sister’s Instagram feed.

The first of many Bree recorded in secret, the post foretells a jaw-dropping challenge for Jodie: to complete Bree’s very public bucket list. From “Fly over Antarctica,” to “Perform a walk-on cameo in a Broadway musical,” if Jodie does it—and keeps all Bree’s followers—a corporate sponsor will pay off the staggering medical debt. If she gains followers, the Boyds won’t be the only ones to benefit. It’s crazy. It’s terrifying. It’s impossible, immoral even, to refuse. So, despite the whole world watching, Jodie plunges in, never imagining that in death, her sister will teach her how to live, and that the last item on the list—“Fall in love”—may just prove to be the easiest. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Purchase Someone Else's Bucket List.

Someone Else’s Bucket List takes a poignant look at how the bonds of sisterhood can shape our lives.”
—Namrata Patel, author of The Candid Life of Meena Dave

“I loved Someone Else's Bucket List. It begins by breaking your heart then takes you by surprise by becoming uplifting and utterly galvanizing. Best of all, though, it's a stirring celebration of the power of sisterhood!” 
—Matt Cain, author of The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle

Someone Else’s Bucket List is a moving story about Jodie and Bree, two devoted sisters who each take extraordinary measures to help the other. Author Amy Matthews’s keen portrayal of grief and loss keeps the reader rooting for Jodie as she pushes out of her comfort zone to fulfill Bree’s dying wish. This life-affirming tale reminds us that happiness is possible if we find the courage to reach for it.”
 —Jamie Beck, Wall Street Journal bestselling author

Photo by Sia Duff
Amy T. Matthews is a novelist and academic who also writes under the names Amy Barry and Tess LaSue. A former Chair and long serving board member of Writers SA, she is currently a Senior Lecturer and Discipline Lead in Creative Writing at Flinders University and an Associate Member of the JM Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice. She lives in Australia and can be found online at her website, FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.  .

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Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Audrey Bellezza & Emily Harding's new twist on an old a book giveaway

L to R: Harding and Bellezza; Photo by by Monika Normand

Today we are pleased to welcome Audrey Bellezza and Emily Harding, who are celebrating the publication of their debut novel, Emma of 83rd Street. It is a modern day retelling of Jane Austen's Emma, set in Manhattan. Thanks to Gallery, we have THREE copies to give away!

Audrey Bellezza is a two-time Emmy-nominated TV producer who has spent over twenty years writing, developing, and executive producing nonfiction television shows for a number of networks and streaming platforms. Audrey lives in New Jersey with her husband and two children. Visit Audrey on Twitter and Instagram.

Emily Harding is a writer and TV producer whose work has appeared on numerous networks and websites. When not hunched over her computer working on her bad posture, she can be found losing another game of Monopoly to her husband and two kids. Visit Emily on Twitter and Instagram.

Visit Audrey and Emily at their website and on their joint Instagram page.

Beautiful, clever, and rich, Emma Woodhouse has lived twenty-three years in her tight-knit Upper East Side neighborhood with very little to distress or vex her…that is, until her budding matchmaking hobby results in her sister’s marriage—and subsequent move downtown. Now, with her sister gone and all her friends traveling abroad, Emma must start her final year of grad school grappling with an entirely new emotion: boredom. So when she meets Nadine, a wide-eyed Ohio transplant with a heart of gold and drugstore blonde highlights to match, Emma not only sees a potential new friend but a new project. If only her overbearing neighbor George Knightley would get out of her way.

Handsome, smart, and successful, the only thing that frustrates Knightley more than a corked whiskey is his childhood friend, Emma. Whether it’s her shopping sprees between classes or her revolving door of ill-conceived hobbies, he is only too happy to lecture her on all the finer points of adulthood she’s so hell-bent on ignoring. But despite his gripes—and much to his own chagrin—Knightley can’t help but notice that the girl next door is a woman now…one who he suddenly can’t get out of his head.

As Emma’s best laid plans collide with everyone from hipster baristas to meddling family members to flaky playboy millionaires, these two friends slowly realize their need to always be right has been usurped by a new need entirely, and it’s not long before they discover that even the most familiar stories still have some surprises. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

"Fans of Jane Austen: meet Audrey Bellezza and Emily Harding. Our beloved Emma returns in this fresh, utterly charming, feel-good retelling of an enduring classic. Whip-smart, pitch-perfect, and newly minted."
—Julie Valerie, author of Holly Banks Full of Angst 

“The best romantic comedy I’ve ever read. A sparkling take on Emma that would make Jane Austen proud.”
—Lauren Layne, New York Times bestselling author of Made in Manhattan

What were the easiest and hardest parts about writing a book together? 
Emily: In a roundabout sort of way, the hard bits ended up being the easiest because we did it all together. When we first decided to tackle a retelling of Emma, we did it to keep each other sane, so the decision was simple. Once it was finished and things started happening, it could easily have become overwhelming, but the fact that we were going through it together meant every issue, every revision, was shared. 

Audrey: I completely agree. And I’ll just add that writing this book together allows us to share all our successes, false starts, ups and downs, and milestones with each other. We have someone else to lean on. What a gift. If it’s deadlines or rough patches to get through with a revision or amazing news about our book, we get to experience all of it together.  

What sets Emma of 83rd Street apart from the other Emma adaptations out there?
Audrey: Our Emma is set in Manhattan’s Upper East Side and we draw from many of our own personal experiences having lived there for years. 

Emily: So many. And Emma is such a timeless character, she fits into a modern setting really well.  Honestly, I think that’s what makes her so special, and every adaptation of her story unique. Yes, she’s self-absorbed and spoiled, but she’s also a young woman trying to find herself. She’s confident and independent, and learns the depths of her humility and kindness over the course of the novel. Most women who have navigated their twenties can relate to that, regardless of time period or location. 

Audrey: Can I just add, the more Emma adaptations there are out there, the better! 

If Emma of 83rd Street were made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles? 
Audrey: This is such a great question because the way that we wrote the book together was to cast it first so we were both on the same page, then start writing. 

Emily: Because we both come from a TV background, we did full casting sheets for each character, so we would always go back to reference. I think this is one of those parts that should have been hard but ended up being so easy. Also so much fun. I also think it’s so fun for the reader to imagine their own perfect cast too, so I don’t want to give ours away! 

Which TV series are you currently binge watching?
Audrey: Daisy Jones and the Six on Amazon Prime, based on the novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid. You never know what will happen when you adapt a book to television, but all the parties involved did an amazing job bringing this book to life. The rock-n-roll angsty love story exceeded my expectations and the casting was perfect. Also, on Amazon Prime, there’s a new series called Jury Duty that cracked me up. I stayed up way too late finishing that one! 

Emily: And then you told me to watch it and I stayed up way too late finishing it! Honestly though, Jury Duty is such a great show and now I’m recommending it to everyone too. Another series on Prime that I binged is The Power. It’s based on Naomi Alderman’s fantastic 2019 book. I’m crossing everything that we get a season two.  

What is something you are looking forward to this summer?
Audrey: I’m most looking forward to this book launching and honestly anything that has to do with promoting the book! Also I’m counting down the days until summer break so I can sit at our community pool or head down the shore and finally get to my TBR list. Most importantly, my sister is expecting a baby and I cannot wait to meet my niece. 

Emily: Yes, the book launch! It feels like we’ve been keeping this secret for ages–I’m excited for it to be out there and to discuss all our favorite plot points with readers. 

If we were to visit you right now, what are some places you would take us to see?
Audrey: What a fun question! We’d walk into town only half a mile away and stop at my favorite bakery for some banana bread, maybe hit up the art store, our wonderful local bookstore, then grab a drink and dinner at one of the restaurants. This is basically what I do with my family most weekends!

Emily: I’m down in Dallas now, and it’s honestly become one of my favorite cities so I’d love to show it off. We’d probably start down in the Bishop Arts District where we’d grab some pizza at Eno’s and maybe a print or two from We Are 1976. And while I’d love to then head Downtown to see the museums (which are fantastic), I’m afraid my kids would insist on taking you on a hike around White Rock Lake to search for snakes. I’m sorry, but they’re obsessed.

Thanks to Audrey and Emily for chatting with us and to Gallery for sharing their book with our readers.

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

Giveaway ends May 29th at midnight EST.

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Monday, May 22, 2023

Book Review: The Memory of You


By Sara Steven

A gorgeously uplifting story about memories, storytelling, love and friendship, about the journeys we take and the people we meet, what we remember and how there are some things we can never forget. Alex would like to believe she’s a woman who has it all. Or that’s what she tells everyone, including herself. But this is far from true. Actually she’s on the cusp of losing her home, her dream career as a writer is in tatters, her ex won’t speak to her, and her mother’s gone forever. But then a chance meeting with a stranger named Hope gives her the opportunity of a lifetime, when Hope jokes that perhaps Alex should take over her job in a café while she goes travelling. Just at that moment, it sounds like the answer to all her problems. So Alex persuades Hope to let her step into her shoes for a month. She brushes away Hope’s attempts to explain about the café, instead demanding to know more about the owner Tom . But she should have asked to know more. Because the ‘Wrong Order Café’ isn’t like anywhere she’s ever been before. And Alex’s life is about to change forever… (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Lately, I’ve been blessed by unique storytelling, and The Memory of You fits that description and then some! It’s not everyday a reader gets to experience such interesting perspectives when it comes to love, loss, and navigating change. But that’s what I felt I got when journeying through Alex’s world. She is the type of character who might be dealing with a lot, but on the surface, no one would ever know it. So much of that is a defense mechanism brought on by personal pain. While the world sees her as an accomplished author who has her life in order, only she feels she knows the truth.

I can only hope for a chance encounter with someone like Hope! At first, Alex sees what Hope has to offer as a potential lifeline, but when she experiences the Wrong Order Café, that outlook changes. The Café doesn’t apologize for incorrect orders. In fact, there are many reasons it’s encouraged, and those reasons stir up a lot of deep emotion within Alex. Which only serves to scare her off. It is so much easier to compartmentalize and keep everyone at arm’s length, and that includes her past and her memories. The Wrong Order Café and its inhabitants don’t enable that kind of behavior at all, only bringing everything she’s tried to keep hidden from even herself to the surface. 

Something Alex reflected on a lot is how her recent writing didn’t showcase emotional depth. I think I have that same issue within my own writing, so I could totally relate and identify with that sentiment. Given what she’s been through, I could also understand why that was. Slowly, the Café changes her and opens her up more, which is shown in her experiences with the people who either work or visit there, as well as in her outlook towards her own writing and that of others. 

I think one of the biggest things I appreciated about The Memory of You is how it shines a light on dementia in a unique way. I don’t know if a place like the Wrong Order Café exists in real life, but it really should. There is hope and living beyond a diagnosis. I loved Alex’s story–it was a well-deserving five-star experience!

Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase Links:
Amazon UK * Amazon US

Samantha Tonge is the bestselling and award-winning author of over 15 romantic fiction titles published by HQ, and most recently Aria. Her first book for Boldwood, Under One Roof, was published in February 2022 and her move to Boldwood marks a broadening of her writing into multi-generational woman’s fiction. She lives in Manchester with her family.

Visit Samantha online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

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Friday, May 19, 2023

Book Review: Kiss the Sky

By Sara Steven

Rose Calloway thought she had everything under control. At twenty-three, she's a Princeton graduate, an Academic Bowl champion, a fashion designer and the daughter of a Fortune 500 mogul. But not everything comes easy.

When Rose's fashion line is in peril, she plans an unconventional solution to save it. Making matters more intense, she agrees to be in a relationship with her "godly" college rival, Connor Cobalt.

At twenty-four, Connor Cobalt bulldozes weak men. Confident and smart-as-hell, Connor vows to help Rose outside of the bedroom and inside. But melting this ice queen is a challenge no one has been able to succeed at.

And now they're living together. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

I’m familiar with the Addicted series from the two authors who created this story, and having read about Rose and Connor already, I was super excited to learn more and dive deeper into their unique relationship. It’s interesting, because the Addicted series highlights Rose's younger sister, Lily, and the sexual addiction she struggles with. Rose is the complete and total opposite. She is completely closed off and does not want to engage in relationships–sexual or otherwise. Getting intimate with people makes her uneasy and insecure, a struggle she deals with on a daily basis, due to the bond she has with Connor.

Connor might be more confident in the bedroom, but he is just as analytical and at times, as cold as Rose can be. It’s obvious that for both characters, it’s a defense mechanism–so much so, that Connor has declared he can’t love anyone. Not even Rose. Love is intangible and frivolous to Connor. It’s the type of attitude he witnessed growing up, but in his mind, it makes the most logical sense. Even with that sort of declaration, though, it’s obvious that Connor would do anything for Rose, and vice versa. I really loved this couple. I think so far, they are my favorite couple!

An opportunity for a reality television show throws a wrench in everyone’s plans. It leads to trust issues and unwarranted tests on this couple’s relationship. There are so many boundaries that Connor wants to cross, and deep down, Rose wants that too, but is it safe? Whose heart will get broken? 

The continual push and pull between Rose and Connor was electric! I’m glad for the work Connor has to put in to lower Rose’s defenses, and even more glad that out of everyone, aside from her sisters, it’s Connor that Rose leans on in times of chaos. The heat between them–ooh boy! Those particular scenes were super hot! I loved the snark factor in the dialogue between them. It really made for a super fun, sexy experience.

Thanks to Berkley for the book in exchange for an honest review. Purchase Kiss the Sky here.

More by Krista and Becca:

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Thursday, May 18, 2023

Kristyn J. Miller plays by the a book giveaway

By George H. Miller IV
We're pleased to introduce Kristyn J. Miller today to celebrate the recent publication of her debut rom-com, Seven Rules for Breaking Hearts. This looks like a fun story and we're sure you will enjoy it. Thanks to St. Martin's Press, we have THREE copies to give away!

Kristyn J. Miller is an author and freelance editor with a background in both social media management and archival work. She grew up in Southern California, where she spent summers escaping to Catalina Island with her husband and friends, but these days she lives in Maine. She has a B.A. in literature from University of Redlands and is working on her M.A. in history and museum studies at University of New Hampshire. 

Visit Kristyn online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


Margo Anderson is sworn off commitment. Alongside her best friend Jo, she runs a viral podcast featuring rules for hooking up without catching feelings. So when Jo surprises her by deciding to get married and takes up a sponsor’s offer to host an all-expenses-paid wedding trip on Catalina Island, they have the whole internet to answer to.

In a scramble for content to appease their disappointed listeners, Margo cooks up a social experiment: break all her own dating rules, just to prove that it’s a bad idea. And she’s found the best man for the job in the groom’s best friend and her old high school nemesis, Declan Walsh. He may be easier on the eyes than Margo remembered, but he’s sure to be as smug and annoying as he was before. There is no chance Margo will ever catch feelings for him…until she does.

The more time they spend together through cake tastings and wedding party activities, Margo can’t ignore their obvious spark, and she may actually be enjoying getting to know Declan. But can she let go of the rules to let him in?
(Courtesy of Amazon.)

"A fresh take on modern romance." 
~ Lauren Blakely, #1 New York Times bestselling author

In one sentence, what was the road to publishing like for you?
Kind of a whirlwind—one minute you’re waiting for something to happen and the next you have ten different things happening and you’re scrambling to keep up, but it’s all very exciting. 

What were the biggest rewards and challenges with writing Seven Rules for Breaking Hearts?
The biggest challenge was tackling the influencer aspect of the story. I haven’t lived that whole lifestyle but I wanted to put a realistic spin on it, so I ended up doing a lot of research, listening to podcasts I wouldn’t normally listen to, and so forth. 

The biggest reward was getting to write about one of my favorite places. Hopefully it will offer a little glimpse of Catalina to readers who might not be able to visit!

If Seven Rules were made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
This is always a tough one for me! Especially with Declan being a redhead—there aren’t a lot of recognizable actors who fit into the right age range. Margo compares him to Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) in-text, but I’m aware that Sam isn’t a natural redhead and he’s also in his forties. I’d really love for both Margo and Declan to be total unknowns. 

What is the last book you read that you would recommend?

The Bodyguard by Katherine Center completely hooked me. Outside of romance, I also recently got around to reading Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo and couldn’t believe I hadn’t read it sooner. I love the whole dark academia vibe. 

What is a rule you have for your own life?
It’s really important to me to stick to my word, especially when it comes to helping others. I hate the thought of promising to do something and then not following through. 

If we were to visit you, what are some places you would take us to see?
I moved to Maine last year, so I’m still doing a lot of sightseeing myself, but some of my favorite places I’ve been so far are the Orono Bog Walk and the antique shops in Wells, Maine. Also, keeping in theme with islands: Mount Desert Island is popular for a reason! It’s stunning and so different from the coastlines I grew up with in Southern California. 

Thanks to Kristyn for chatting with us and to St. Martin's Press for sharing her book with our readers.

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

Giveaway ends May 23rd at midnight EST.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Sara and Melissa Talk About...Mental Health

We've been running a column series (for over three years now!) to get more personal with our readers. This month, we're talking about mental health in honor of May being Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental health has been featuring more in novels lately and we definitely appreciate it. 

We're always open to topic suggestions, so please don't hesitate to share those in the comments. We'd also love to know if you can relate to anything we've said or hear your own thoughts on the topic. So don't be shy. :) We look forward to getting to know you as much as we're letting you get to know us. You can find our previous columns here, in case you missed them. 

Sara Steven:

I was raised in a way that did not support one’s mental health. I don’t place blame for that. It was based on the generational belief that you had to “tough it out” or “suck it up.” I wasn’t aware of anyone in my family ever seeking help through therapy. Or, relying on meditation, exercise, medication, or any of the other methods that someone can lean on in times of stress and chaos. Most of my own baggage would often get swept under the proverbial rug, never to be seen from again, yet always there, lurking beneath the mental fibers of my being. I never felt comfortable to “talk it out” or share my feelings. I never saw value in it.

I think when an individual has that type of mindset, control sets in. If I can have control over my surroundings, over my own choices, over my life, over everything, in general, it means less room for stress and chaos. It means never having to deal with fallout. But, as with most things in our world, there is so much one cannot control. Sometimes, s%&$ happens, and when I’m faced with a situation that feels like it’s out of my realm of control, I completely spin out. 

A good example of this had been during a time of health complications for me, which happened to coincide with the pandemic. Early 2020 brought on mystery ailments and despite numerous testing, my doctor(s) had no clue what was wrong with me. I had immense pain that traveled down and through my right arm, into my hand/fingers. I had a burning sensation in my upper right back which looped around, under, and into my right armpit, extending into the right side of my chest. Broken capillaries spread out along my upper right abdomen, and to this day, no one knows what caused it or why it’s there. I’m sure that won’t be discovered until I’m gone. I lost strength in my right leg and right foot, my cadence changing when I’d walk or run. My father noticed it one day while we were out for a hike–the way my foot appeared to turn in a bit, almost pigeon-toed. There were visual cues that went beyond the physical ones that no one could see, but even then, I was a medical mystery.

I felt betrayed by my body. I’ve been physically active for years. I’ve run marathons. I never questioned my strength and mobility, not until 2020. I was convinced I had cancer. Doctors suspected a gallbladder issue. I imagined the conversation I’d have with my children when I’d have to break the news to them that I had an incurable disease. I couldn’t sleep, because I constantly researched online, trying to find the answer to what was really going on with me. I tried hard to keep up the mother and wife facade I’d had before the medical mystery, but it felt like a constant struggle. I didn’t want to talk about it because I knew I’d break down, and I couldn’t do that. Breaking down was not an option. Being vulnerable is never an option for me.

I made the decision to seek counseling in March of 2020. I remembered the Talkspace advertisements I’d seen on tv, and given the pandemic’s restrictions, it felt like the best, safest option for me. It was nerve-wracking at first–the first online Zoom meet-up with my therapist. It might sound silly, but I was nervous. I didn’t know what to expect, or what she’d want to talk about. With Talkspace, you can choose to pay extra for continual Zoom meet-ups, or you can opt for the messaging route, which I really liked, because she’d chat with me nearly every day during the week. She’d send something, then I’d send my response, and the next day, I’d find a reply waiting for me. It started with suggestions on finding ways to calm down, with breathing techniques and meditation. When we found ourselves in the meat of my health fears, she worked with me to focus on letting go of the control I sought in order to stay protected in my life. For that, we had to dig deep into my past. What I focused most on is the fact that I can’t always control what happens or has happened in my life. What I can control is how I handle and deal with it.

It was an intense, five month relationship. Later that summer, after I’d prompted my medical doctor to order up an MRI of my neck/back area based on a gut hunch, we discovered I had a disc compression indenting my spinal cord that originated from the cervical spine. I also have degenerative retrolisthesis of my C5-C6. It lends into the pain I experience on the right side of my body, with compromised nerves creating burning sensations within my skin. After receiving the diagnosis and discovering ways to minimize and live with my disc compression, as with physical therapy and other exercises, along with what my therapist suggested I do to manage the emotional and mental ramifications, I felt like I was at a point where I could continue forward without my therapist. She’d given me the tools. I felt ready to use them on my own. 

That doesn’t mean I won’t ever go back to therapy again. I know it’s always there for me. I notice such a difference in the way I live my life now. I don’t feel that helpless lack of control when I’m faced with an uncomfortable or scary situation. I don’t jump to conclusions or feel like I’m spiraling. Plenty has happened in my life since my diagnosis–my father’s cancer diagnosis. The loss of a friend. Job stressors. But I have the tools I learned in therapy to guide me through it. And knowing I can always go back helps, too. 

It’s Mental Health Awareness Month, and while I feel the label of it is a great concept to raise awareness for the importance of mental health, I think it should extend beyond a month during the calendar year. Mental health affects so many areas of life–the physical, the emotional. The relationships you have with others. The relationship you have with yourself.

Melissa Amster:

When we first chose mental health as a topic, I knew exactly what I wanted to talk about: Self Care. I feel that self care is important no matter where you are in life. People usually emphasize that it is meant for parents, but I feel that everyone should be finding ways to look after their own needs. I was practicing self care long before I had kids and I feel that it is important that my kids are practicing it for themselves, as well. In my life, I practice self care by reading (obviously), finding things to laugh about, talking/texting with friends, watching my favorite shows, listening to music, exercising every morning, taking baths, eating foods I enjoy (occasionally indulging a bit too), etc. Everyone's version of self care looks different though. 

While I know that self care is meant for everyone, I want to personally endorse Balanced Working Moms. It was started by a woman in my community who is one of the kindest and most positive people I know. She started it pretty simple, but has expanded it to coaching sessions, classes, podcasts, etc. I invited an author friend to join the Facebook group a while ago and I know she highly endorses it too. I do know that women who don't have kids have joined the group, just to find general balance in their lives. While it is geared toward working moms, there is a lot of valuable advice and information that could apply to anyone. 

I recently attended a coaching session to work through my lack of motivation and it helped get me on the right track. I still do have times where I feel unmotivated, but we focused on a few key areas and that really worked well. We came up with strategies together for finding motivation to do mundane tasks and that has made things a lot easier for me. For example, shopping feels like a huge chore for me, even when it's someplace fun. We came up with a few ideas to make the shopping trip more entertaining and/or rewarding. One way is to make it into a scavenger hunt and take a photo of something amusing or an inside joke and then send it to someone who would enjoy that photo. She also helped me figure out how to break down household chores to make them feel less overwhelming but like I accomplished something too. Having said all this, you could feel unmotivated with or without kids and there are ways to work with how you are feeling no matter what. 

I would love to hear what you do for self care. I'd also love to know what you do to work through something simple that currently feels challenging for you. Please feel free to share in the comments section! I'll be cheering you on for sure!

Tell us your thoughts on mental health. What is something you are focused on for this topic?

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Book Review: Spin the Bottle

By Sara Steven

Celeste thought she had long forgotten the sweet, citrusy kiss she shared with Travis during a game of spin the bottle. Splitting her time between her accounts office in super Instagrammable Notting Hill, and her tiny apartment in quirky Exmouth Market, modern-day life is simply too busy for men. Besides, whenever she tries to find The One, it always ends in disaster. From Tinder tragedies to trampolining tribulations, Celeste is starting to think that she's cursed.

But then Travis begins to pop up wherever she goes, and Celeste knows with stomach-sinking clarity that fate has finally caught up with them. Inspired by the idea of fake dating, Celeste is convinced the only way out of this mess is to call the curse's bluff. But will Travis agree to it? And how can she manage not to fall in love? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

I love when a book I’m reading makes references to other books I’ve read by that same author! I will be honest–I don’t remember much about Celeste from Bubblegum and Blazers (reviewed here), but I got the impression that she wasn’t as big of a character within that storyline. It makes a lot of sense for this story, considering how much she wants to distance herself from her past. Celeste also visits The Cake Fairies, another book by Isabella May (reviewed here), which was really great and tied in well with the central theme behind Celeste’s motivations in not going back to what her life had been like in her youth. Particularly where Travis is concerned.

I thought it was clever that a game of spin the bottle leads to potential love over twenty-five years after the fact. It was definitely a unique premise, one that haunts Celeste daily. I’d like to know if her best friend, Mel, had been part of the Bubblegum and Blazers crew or not, because I can’t recall Celeste having someone like Mel in her corner. There is a lot of lamenting on how she used to feel like she could rely on Mel, but it’s apparent time has not been good to this friendship. When Celeste lets Mel know how she feels about Travis, there is a lot of contention. Not to mention what Celeste discovers about Mel’s personal life.   

There is often a touch of mysticism within May’s stories, and there is no shortage of that here, either. Celeste is convinced that she and Travis are under a curse, one that sprouted on the same evening as their spin the bottle foray, and the only way they may have a chance of breaking the spell is to pretend to date. It starts out with both characters more than hesitant by the situation at hand, but over time, getting stuck together could be the best (or worst) thing for them. 

It was great to read about the different cultural experiences Celeste goes through, not only in the present time, but when she was young, too. I also loved the backdrop for where the story takes place. I’ve always wanted to go to London, and at some point visit Notting Hill. The story of Celeste and Travis was a fun experience, and a memorable one!

Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase Links:
Amazon UK * Amazon US

Isabella May
lives in (mostly) sunny Andalusia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the mountains and the sea. She grew up in Somerset on Glastonbury's ley lines and loves to feature her quirky English hometown in her stories.

After a degree in Modern Languages and European Studies at UWE, Bristol (and a year working abroad in Bordeaux and Stuttgart), Isabella bagged an extremely jammy and fascinating job in children's publishing... selling foreign rights for novelty, board, pop-up and non-fiction books all over the world; in every language from Icelandic to Korean, Bahasa Indonesian to Papiamento!

All of which has fueled her curiosity and love of international food and travel - both feature extensively in her romcoms.

Isabella is also a Level 4 Pranic Healer and a stillbirth mum.

Visit Isabella online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Visit all the stops on Isabella's blog tour:

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Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Spotlight and Giveaway: Summer Reading

Today we are celebrating the publication of Jenn McKinlay's latest rom-com, Summer Reading! The cover alone is putting us in a beachy mood and the story sounds enticing. Thanks to Berkley, we have one copy for a lucky reader!

For Samantha Gale, a summer on Martha’s Vineyard at her family’s tiny cottage was supposed to be about resurrecting her career as a chef, until she’s tasked with chaperoning her half-brother, Tyler. The teenage brainiac is spending his summer at the local library in a robotics competition, and there’s no place Sam, who has dyslexia, likes less than the library. And because the universe hates her, the library’s interim director turns out to be the hot-reader guy whose book she accidentally destroyed on the ferry ride to the island.
Bennett Reynolds is on a quest to find his father, whose identity he’s never known. He’s taken a temporary job on the island to research the summer his mother spent there when she got pregnant with him. Ben tells himself he isn't interested in a relationship right now. Yet as soon as Sam knocks his book into the ocean, he can’t stop thinking about her.

An irresistible attraction blossoms when Ben inspires Sam to create the cookbook she’s always dreamed about and she jumps all in on helping him find his father, and soon they realize their summer fling may heat up into a happily ever after.

"Jenn McKinlay's writing sparkles in this wonderfully beachy summer romance. A tale of family, self-discovery and love, Summer Reading is one literary escape you don't want to miss!"
—Kate Bromley, author of Here for the Drama and Talk Bookish to Me

"Pairing a snarky dyslexic chef with a sunshiny 'hot librarian guy', Summer Reading is the perfect blend of sweet, heat, and just pure fun."
—Cathy Yardley, author of Ex Appeal

"With the light touch of a whisk-you-away rom com, Summer Reading explores some of the most important relationships in our lives. The characters are fresh and beautifully drawn, and the chemistry is magic. It’s the perfect summer vacation." 
—Annabel Monaghan, author of Nora Goes Off Script

By Jacqueline Hanna
Jenn McKinlay is the award-winning, New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of several mystery and romance series. Her work has been translated into multiple languages in countries all over the world. She lives in sunny Arizona in a house that is overrun with kids, pets, and her husband's guitars.

Visit Jenn online:
Website * Facebook * Instagram

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

Giveaway ends May 21st at midnight EST.

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