#BookReview: Second Chance Summer by Poppy St James

Sometimes You Find Yourself By Accident. Let’s be perfectly upfront: I don’t have one qualm whatsoever in telling you right here, right now that by the end of this book, the couple is together and everything is awesome. *THIS IS A ROMANCE BOOK*, and therefore this is a given. ๐Ÿ˜€

With that out of the way, this was actually a fun and fast one, reading seemingly much faster than its near 300 page length would generally suggest. It is fairly low angst, as much as that can be said of a romance featuring someone running from their life and another person trying to recover from his. It is utterly steeped in small town Southern charm, even if rooted in Texas (where they somehow think they are different from other Southern towns – you’re not, and football is as much a god anywhere in the rural South as it is in Texas ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). And it has all of the requisite fish-out-of-water / good ol’ boy hijinx. The one thing it doesn’t have, which some romance fans will hate and others love, is that there is little more than kissing in this book, even as the couple is shown in bed overnight together. So for those “sweet” / “clean” romance types, this one is for you. If you *have* to have sex in your romance books… just know up front this one isn’t that. It was a great read regardless of that point, and a solid way to pass a couple of hours on a long summer day. Very much recommended.

This review of Second Chance Summer by Poppy St James was originally written on June 22, 2021.

#BookReview: In A Jam by Cindy Dorminy

Sweet Home … Well… Er… Georgia. This was a sweet and fun yet angsty look at small town Southern life mostly through the eyes of a woman who was raised as a damned Yankee. Being a native Georgian and actually having lived in Leesburg – home of Luke Bryan, Buster Posey, and Phillip Phillips and County Seat of Lee County, where the *real* Smithville, Georgia is located – I can testify personally that the small town life depicted here is pretty damn realistic. (And if you can’t tell from the pair of D’s I’ve already used, I can also testify from the side of being a bit of a black sheep/ outsider in these realms, despite arguably having a *deeper* connection to Southern History than many I’ve encountered in these real-life small Southern towns. ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

But you’re not reading this book for reality. You’re reading it for hilarity. And if you like the style of Southern rom-com ala Reese Witherspoon’s Sweet Home Alabama, you’re going to enjoy this tale. It’s got plenty of fish out of water hilarity as this Yankee tries to learn Southern speech and customs. It’s got the crazy old lady hilarity. It’s got the zaniness of various family / friends / neighbors oddballs and their connections. And yes, it has a bit of heat (though nothing more than heavy kissing “on screen”, for those that care about such things – either direction) and a lot of savory.

Overall, a solid “homemade” jam that has a deeper profile than many might expect, but hits all the notes it has to hit to be beloved by many who appreciate what it is. Very much recommended.

This review of In A Jam by Cindy Dorminy was originally written on June 5, 2021.

#BlogTour: What Happens In Miami by Nadine Gonzalez

For this second entry in the Slide Into Summer Romance Blog Tour Series, we’re looking at a sizzling Miami romance that takes us all over the city while telling a tale of mystery and romance. For this blog tour, we’re looking at What Happens In Miami by Nadine Gonzalez.

Here’s what I had to say about it on Goodreads:

Sizzling Miami Romance. This is an incredible tour of Miami through the eyes of a megastar – who wasn’t always – and a struggling artist. As the two come together, we see most sides of Miami from its glittering glitz of the mega-famous to the down-in-the-dirt seediness of its struggling working class – and everything in between. Gonzalez does remarkable job of showing the breadth of the hispanic community’s lives in that city – and tells a solid tale of mystery and intrigue while building what is ultimately a romance novel. All tied up in less than 200 pages, making this a solid July 4th vacation read no matter what your plans for the weekend may be. Very much recommended.

Below the jump, an excerpt and the publisher information! ๐Ÿ™‚
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#BlogTour: Talk Bookish To Me by Kate Bromley

For this blog tour we’re looking at a book that maybe shouldn’t work as well as it does – and yet, it truly does. For this blog tour, we’re looking at Talk Bookish To Me by Kate Bromley.

First, here’s what I had to say about it on Goodreads:

Fun Tale. Unnecessary Element In Epilogue. This was a fun rom-com full of angst and banter and miscommunications. The book-within-a-book worked, even while I’m not really a fan of the Regency style historical romances. Indeed, until the epilogue itself this was truly a fun, witty, banter-filled tale filled with heart. Even the actual endgame itself (the last 15% ish of the book, IIRC) was interesting, even as it got away from the main storyline for quite a bit of it. (Unlike some other reviewers though, I totally get why and how it worked. It isn’t a *usual* storyline in romance novels, but I’ve seen it before – and even a few times in real life.) My only issue, and it is more of a quibble since it *is* just in the epilogue, is the completely unnecessary baby. It adds nothing, and only reinforces the “you’re not a real couple unless you procreate” bigotry. (Also, not an actual spoiler – romance novel. Couple by definition ends up together. :D) Still, on the whole this book really was fun and had some interesting twists to it. Very much recommended.

Below the jump, an excerpt provided by the publisher and then the book details and buy links. ๐Ÿ™‚
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#BookReview: Saltwater Sweethearts by Christina Benjamin

Seldom Saccharine Sweet. This is the book in this trilogy about (in part) three brothers from a small Southern town where this eldest of three brothers from a small (ish) Southern town *really* started identifying with these boys. Particularly since I left my own hometown 15 years ago this summer and only rarely go back, almost always to spend time with my family there. Which is what Cole is doing here – coming back to town for his sister’s wedding. And Cole’s mom? Much moreso than in Book 1 (Palmetto Passion), here she sounds so much like my own mother I could actually hear my mother’s voice when she was speaking. Granted, my family doesn’t have any *towns* named after us, but there is a (small) lake north of Atlanta that bears my mom’s family’s name (and the road the lake is on to boot :D)

All of which to say, this book *really* felt like home in ways that few books have ever quite evoked. And yes, I know, people from other areas of the country/ world won’t get quite the same effect (even though the location of this book is a few hundred miles away from my own home region, to be clear :D), but even then – it *does* provide a pretty solid view of what family life is like for at least some in the region. ๐Ÿ™‚

Benjamin always does solid work creating mostly quick-read romances (and this one clocks in at just 180 ish pages) with heart, and this one is no different. And at this point, I’m *really* looking forward to Book 3, since at this point we know so very little about that particular brother. Oh, and if you liked the movie Sweet Home Alabama with Reese Witherspoon… well, this reader found this book to have at least some strong similarities with that tale. Which is a very good thing for this reader, since he very much enjoys that movie. ๐Ÿ™‚ With this noted, this book is very much recommended.

This review of Saltwater Sweetheart by Christina Benjamin was originally written on February 6, 2021.

#BookReview: Palmetto Passion by Christina Benjamin

Premium Presentation. This is a solid start to a new series from Benjamin, and one that does its job of telling a compelling romance, creating a new world, and introducing the remaining series leads. The romance here is a tad trope heavy (billionaire heir questioning family legacy, woman on the run), but it works well even so. Overall a solid and fairly standard-ish Christina Benjamin Young Adult Romance – meaning if you’re open to the genre at all and haven’t read her works, this is a good place to start. If you’re a fan of hers already, you’re going to like this one as well. And I, for one, am looking forward to seeing just where the stories go next. ๐Ÿ™‚ Very much recommended.

This review of Palmetto Passion by Christina Benjamin was originally written on January 22, 2021.

#BookReview: The Love Square by Laura Jane Williams

Not An Actual Love Square, But A Solid Romance. I’m a math oriented dude. The imprecision of “love triangle” has always bothered me. For those, assuming both sexes are involved, you need two bi people and a straight person, at minimum. (There *are* possible variations, but a true love triangle would have Person A in love with Person B and Person C – *and* Person B and Person C in love with both Person A *and each other*.) “Love Triangles”, in the common parlance, are actually Love *Angles*, such that two points are connected at a common third point. Similarly, for this Love Square to work, it would really need 2 couples such that each couple is in love with each other *as well as* exactly one person in the other couple. Here, we get two side by side Love Angles such that *three* points are connected at a common *fourth* point.

Math technicalities and English imprecision aside, however, this was actually a solid romance tale of finding oneself and what one really wants that put an interesting spin on the colloquial “Love Triangle” by introducing a *third* man that the common woman falls in love with. And in some fairly direct ways, it actually parallels a lot of what Padma Lakshmi said about her own “love triangle” in her memoir Love, Loss, and What We Ate. You’ve got the guy that our female lead – Penny – has an instant connection with. Then you’ve got the guy that actively pursues her and they wind up together almost via fluke. Then you’ve got the guy Penny is introduced to and has a fun time with, but who isn’t interested in long term or commitment generally. And along the way, Penny gets thrust into situations she doesn’t always have complete control of, all while still trying to discover herself after having survived cancer at a fairly early age – mid 20s. The characters are all solid and interesting, and each of the guys makes very strong points about love and what matters. In the end, if you like romance novels at all, you’re probably going to enjoy this one. And if you don’t, give this one a chance – at least it has a few more-interesting-than-normal wrinkles. ๐Ÿ™‚ Very much recommended.

This review of The Love Square by Laura Jane Williams was originally written on December 18, 2020.

#BookReview: On The Wings Of Hope by Ella Zeiss

ATypical WWII Novel. In several ways, this is a typical WWII romance-ish novel, maybe of a Russian kind (ie, hard times all over the place, can be seen as depressing at times, yet ultimately a story of survival and love). In many other ways, this is a very *atypical* WWII novel. For one, it doesn’t take place in the more common Western Europe setting, but instead mostly in Soviet forced labor camps. For another, well, the whole “Soviet” thing doesn’t get seen too much in Western WWII historical fiction novels. And finally, this is actually directly based on the real-world travails of the author’s grandparents, making it the first time I’ve seen a novel of the type I myself hope to write someday. Overall truly a tremendous work, and very much recommended.

This review of On The Wings Of Hope by Ella Zeiss was originally written on November 30, 2020.

#BlogTour: The Secret Ingredient by KD Fisher


Once again we come to a Carina Adores Blog Tour, which are always awesome. Seriously, I haven’t encountered a bad book in this program yet, and I’ve found several authors doing this that have taken me to places I’d never been before – and that is always awesome. ๐Ÿ™‚

This time, we’re looking at The Secret Inredient by KD Fisher.

Here’s what I had to say about it on Goodreads:

Fun Foodie FF Romance. This is a lesbian romance where the two ladies are about as opposite as it gets – one is a trained chef working for a corporate restaurant group, the other is a legacy baker who took over and revitalized her mom’s shop. As a short romance, it works well in that it hits all the requirements of the genre (yes, including sex) and executes each solidly – but you’re not going to get the conflict and growth of a 100 page longer book. Though there are still significant, more complicated than Hallmarkie, conflicts here. Ultimately a fun book that hits all the right notes and even manages to highlight the particular region it features very well. Very much recommended.

And below the jump, a page-ish excerpt from near the front of the book (Chapter 2, IIRC):
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#BlogTour: Feel The Fire by Annabeth Albert

Welcome back to yet another Blog Tour from Carina Press, the first of two this week in as many days. Both feature excellent though very divergent tales, and we’re gonna see my own reviews of each, a couple of pages from when the characters first see each other in each, and all of the relevant details to make it really easy for you to jump over to your eBook market of choice and buy the dang books. ๐Ÿ˜€

First up, we have the most recent entry (and possibly last, if it is a trilogy?) in Annabeth Albert‘s High Heat series, Feel the Fire.

Here’s what I had to say about it on Goodreads:

Feel-Good Finale. This second-chance romance tale, seemingly the last book of this year’s Hotshots series, was a solid way to go out. It is *very* loosely coupled with the previous two books – both prior couples make cameos – but can largely be read as a standalone. Fans of the MM genre will like this one, as it contains pretty well all of the standard elements of the genre. But that actually gets to one of my quibbles with the book. One of the guys here is alternatively described as both demisexual and asexual – which are both elements of the spectrum that don’t get mentioned as much, and thus it is always awesome to see. Yet in playing too much into genre expectations, to me it felt like Albert did the asexual aspect a disservice in almost making it seem that an asexual may just turn out to be a horn dog… with the right person. Similar to a character described as being comfortably childfree winding up with a kid at the end of the tale. (Note, that is just an example – in this particular tale one of the two is actually already a father.) The other quibble? Not enough actual firefighting in this book, particularly relative to the other two books in the series. Though the jobs here are actively away from the front lines, and for what they are, the jobs seem well represented in and of themselves. Still, a solid tale and a satisfying conclusion. Very much recommended.

And after the jump, a 2 page-ish excerpt from near the beginning of the book, when one of our leads learns he is about to run into the other for the first time in many years:
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Feel The Fire by Annabeth Albert”