ATTENTION: If you have been a victim of false advertising, you may be entitled to compensation. If you were ever hired to take care of a fourteen-year-old boy’s knee injury on a luxury ranch in the Middle of Nowhere, Utah, but that fourteen-year-old boy ended up being a tall, rough-and-tumble, muscular, one-hundred-percent all-man cowboy by the name of Rhett Jameson, you may have been put at risk for falling in love. Please seek counsel immediately.
It was supposed to be simple favor for my very important boss, Frank Kaminsky of the Salt Lake Slammers professional basketball team—go to his good friend Tex Jameson’s luxury ranch and provide personal medical care for his recently injured teenage son.
I thought it’d be a working vacation of sorts—a chance for my city-girl self to experience something I would never otherwise do—but everything is upside down, and absolutely nothing is as I thought it would be.
For one, this patient is not a teenage boy.
He’s a real-life, blue-eyed, tough-as-nails, thirtysomething cowboy who is so darn strong he looks like he could lift a car just for the heck of it.
He’s also stubborn, rude, and we don’t get along…at all.
Add in the heart-melting vision of him as a single father to the cutest little girl on the planet, and I’ve found myself in a whole different dimension of trouble.
Lust. Feelings. A whole lot of enemies-to-lovers-style complication.
Please help me. My name is Dr. Leah Levee, I am a victim of false advertising, and if I’m not careful, this Grumpy Cowboy might just be the death of me.
Goodreads Review – “What a wonderful, entertaining read from the very talented writing duo of Max Monroe, this is single dad Rhett Jameson and Leah Levee’s story and what a captivating tale they have to tell.”
Justmylovebooks.com blog – “Wow! This book has it all!”
BJ’s Book Blog – “ADORABLE!
I loved this!
The perfect city-girl falls for grumpy cowboy rom-com!”
About five years ago, a dynamic duo of romance authors teamed up under the pseudonym Max Monroe, and, well, the rest is history…
Max Monroe is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of more than thirty contemporary romance titles. Favorite writing partners and long time friends, Max and Monroe strive to live and write all the fun, sexy swoon so often missing from their Facebook newsfeed. Sarcastic by nature, their two writing souls feel like they’ve found their other half. This is their most favorite adventure thus far.
Reckless, an all-new swoon-worthy standalone romance in the Mason Family series from USA Today bestselling author Adriana Locke is available now!
My Take: (ARC Review)
We’ve gotten to know Boone a bit over the course of the series as the classic baby of the family. Seemingly allergic to hard work and responsibility, he’s having fun sowing his wild oats and floating through life until he catches a woman sneaking into his house through the window who changes everything for him.
Jaxi has the wrong address, but the two are drawn to each other regardless of their awkward first meeting. When an earth-shattering surprise upends Jaxi’s whole world, she has to rely on the charming playboy to help her make sense of everything and navigate her new reality.
This may be the slowest burning Adriana Locke book to date, but I enjoyed watching the relationship grow between Jaxi and Boone. They were cautious not to jump anything too quickly with everything else going on in their lives but they both wanted more, which made it sort of both insta love (feelings wise) and slow burn (physically).
Jaxi has not had the greatest family or romantic life so far, so it was hard for her to accept Boone’s help and trust that his feelings were real. Boone had a nice journey of growing up a little and learning to accept responsibility. He proves to his family he’s ready to be an adult, and I loved how the Mason family all came together to support Boone.
Overall it was a sweet and sexy story and I plowed through the whole thing in one night!
“How did you get in here?”
That’s not what you want to hear when you’re staring into the sea-green eyes of the hottest man you’ve ever seen. Yet I suppose it’s a fair question, considering I’m an uninvited stranger standing in Boone Mason’s kitchen.
If you think that’s bad—just wait. It gets worse.
This charming and wealthy playboy, who can’t pay his bills on time or find his way to the grocery store (but we all have flaws, right?), is sweet. Confident. Playful. He’s almost perfect. And, to make matters worse …
He’s smitten with me.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re rolling your eyes. You’re assuming this is some opposites attract situation—or that maybe we can be friends who turn into something more.
How can this be a bad thing?
Well, it’s simple. I’m not the kind of girl you fall in love with. Just to be sure, the universe reminds me of that in an unforgettable, in-your-face kind of way.
I might have broken into Boone’s house, but I won’t let him break my heart. I won’t break his either. There’s too much on the line to be that reckless.
Start reading today or read FREE in Kindle Unlimited!
USA Today, Washington Post, and Amazon Charts Bestselling author Adriana Locke lives and breathes books. After years of slightly obsessive relationships with the flawed bad boys created by other authors, Adriana has created her own.
She resides in the Midwest with her husband, four sons, and two dogs. She spends a large amount of time playing with her kids, drinking coffee, and cooking. You can find her outside if the weather’s nice and there’s always a piece of candy in her pocket.
(ARC Review) This is part second chance romance, part marriage in crisis. I like the writing style and author’s voice, and I was really rooting for the couple but unfortunately this one just wasn’t a win for me.
We start 10 years after the original relationship ended, when Tia is serving Andrew divorce papers. They thought they were already divorced but it turns out the paperwork didn’t go through. Andrew immediately feels that old spark again and refuses to sign. He wants a second chance, but it seems like Tia has already moved on. He has to prove their relationship is worth another try and they can move on from the problems they had.
The second half of the book, they’ve already agreed to try again, but it continues to go round and round in circles about the same old relationship troubles.
I think part of my problem is we’re dropped right into their relationship problems without getting to know the characters or the good parts, so it felt more like watching a stranger couple argue in front of you (awkward) rather than an emotional story that really draws you in.
I have never read a hero who needs therapy more than Andrew. He’s more committed to his secrets than he is his relationship, and his deep-seated daddy issues continue to pop up, just about every other page. He’s the one who really wanted to try again and he’s the one who immediately runs again (and again and again.)
I did like Tia quite a bit and her willingness to put herself out there even though she could have had a comfortable, easy life without Andrew. She’s strong and self-sufficient, and I loved her parents and the Chinese representation.
Tia Wang’s Wedding Planning To-Do List:
1. Find the perfect dress
2. Win her future mother-in-law’s approval
3. Divorce her not-so-ex husband, Andrew Parker
When she fell in love and married her childhood best friend on a whim in Vegas, Tia innocently thought love conquered all. Turns out, that was a crushing lie. Her world shattered as she and Andrew were torn apart by secrets and mistakes.
Ten years later, Tia has left the pain behind and carved out a new life with Mr. Perfect. The only thing standing between her and happily ever after? A divorce from Andrew.
It should have been easy for Andrew to sign his name on the dotted line. Independent, prickly, and always in control, Andrew has done everything to escape his past. But seeing Tia on his doorstep after all these years? He can’t help wondering what might have been. Andrew has never forgotten Tia and vows to fight for their relationship this time around. If he has to hold those divorce papers hostage to get his second chance, he will.
Feelings resurface, stronger and more complex than ever. But Tia and Andrew have more than Mr. Perfect between them. Can they overcome past mistakes to forge a future together, or will new threats ruin their second chance at forever?
‘Give Love a Chai’ is a full-length contemporary romance, and can be read as a standalone. Book #2 in the Common Threads series, Seduction in the City World, Penny Reid Book Universe.
Still, I put on some lip balm before I could think too much about why and opened the door. Andrew sat by the little island in his kitchen, hands gripping a beer.
I had never seen him drink alcohol before. Unlike pretty much everyone that I knew, he had been very intentional about not engaging in underage drinking. It made me sad to think about all of the changes that I missed, moments that I had expected to be part of if he hadn’t pushed me away.
Now, I was getting angry. I held on to that anger. Anger was easy. Anger had carried me through the first few months after he had betrayed me, especially when I was railing against the world in those awful days in the hospital.
Oblivious to my anger, he looked up. “You still smell like those fruity Lip Smackers you used to love, Ting.” His gray eyes roamed over me. A single dimple flashed at me, as his lips tugged to one side.
I couldn’t believe he still remembered my fondness for Lip Smackers. I had been using them since I first immigrated to the United States from China and discovered them in the aisle of some supermarket. I was the only person over the age of ten that still used them, but I was loyal to what I liked. Unlike Mr. Cool in front of me. “I don’t go by Ting anymore. It’s Tia now.”
“When did you decide that?” Andrew asked, unfurling himself to standing. His six feet two inches of muscles towered over me. The large kitchen suddenly felt small. Andrew the man had a presence that overwhelmed me in a way that Andrew the boy had never.
“Almost ten years ago when I needed a fresh start. I wanted a name that helped me to fit in,” I said, daring him to say anything.
His only response was the tightening of his shoulders. I couldn’t tell if he was reacting to my dig about a fresh start, or to me changing my name after years of him encouraging me to keep my given name. When we first met twenty years ago, we had bonded over not fitting in. As much as he told me “screw them” when our classmates made fun of my foreign-sounding name, my faint accent, or squinted their eyes while saying “konnichiwa” despite my protests that I was from China, I had cared too much. My name was the part of me that was the easiest to change.
“Okay, Tia,” he started, letting my name roll over his tongue, as if testing how it felt. “Why are you here?”
I looked into his face, so achingly familiar that I could have drawn his features from memory. I let myself feel the full weight of sadness, bitterness, and regret wash over me. Andrew Parker was my past, an anchor that I hadn’t even realized was holding me back. I needed to move forward now.
In a voice that sounded stronger than I felt, I said, “I want a divorce.”
About Nanxi Wen
Nanxi Wen thought she was going to write the greatest historical novel. Turns out, her characters decided that they want to be in the 21st century with modern plumbing, online shopping, and reality TV shows. Her first book comes out in February 2021 – Give Love a Chai.
She lives in New England with her husband and two clingy monkeys (aka toddlers). When she is not despairing over word count, she enjoys reading, snacking, drinking coffee, sitting by the fireplace, hanging out with friends (far apart and with masks) and daydreaming.
This is a sweet and straightforward mature romance. There is little to no angst, so perfect if you don’t like conflict.
Dawn is happy working in her yarn shop, she’s not really looking for love after her divorce to her longtime husband & the father of her children. Her former high school crush, Mike, has recently returned back to Chicago after 30 years away and they reconnect after a chance encounter. Dawn is facing some health issues so she’s not sure she should start anything, but Mike isn’t willing to give up so easily.
Their romance was sweet and soft and I enjoyed watching it unfold. Dawn had a huge crush on Mike in high school but he rejected her because she wasn’t cool enough. It was nice watching her get her shot as an adult.
However, I think it could have benefitted from some conflict, there’s really none. It was just a little boring; they meet, they reconnect, they fall in love. There was no pull for me to keep reading, I found I didn’t care much what happened since there was nothing to resolve.
Dawn Botstein is doing just fine after her divorce, thank you very much.
She’s got her yarn store to run, her house to herself for the first time in her life, and no use for men anymore. That is until the hottie silver fox who walks into her store turns out to be her old high school crush—the guy who rejected her 30 years ago.
No way is she going to lose her head over him this time, no matter how well he wears that salt-and-pepper lumberjack beard. Okay, so he’s the opposite of her ex in every way, and his attention gives her a thrill she thought she’d never feel again. She’s not risking her heart again.
Mike Pilota is having a mid-life crisis.
Only instead of buying a red sports car he can’t afford and dressing like a 25-year-old who’s time-traveled from the 1990s, he quit his job after his second divorce to move closer to his recently widowed mother.
He didn’t expect to run into Dawn again, but as soon as he lays eyes on her he’s utterly smitten. So he sets out to make up for past mistakes and prove he can be the kind of man she deserves.
But is it too late for second chances? Or will these two lonely hearts find a way back to each other?
‘Mad About Ewe’ is a full-length contemporary romance and can be read as a standalone. Book #1 in the Common Threads series, Seduction in the City World, Penny Reid Book Universe.
I’d received the notification a week ago but still hadn’t responded. I’d just left it hanging there, unanswered. Ignored.
Out of spite? Perhaps a little. After he’d rejected me yet again, I had to admit I enjoyed the thought of Mike getting a taste of that same rejection for once. I liked to picture him sitting at home, futilely checking his notifications day after day, waiting for a reply that would never come.
I wanted him to know that I wasn’t desperate for his attention and would not be begging for treats like a pet Labrador. I couldn’t care less whether I ever spoke to Mike again.
Of course, it was just as likely he’d forgotten he even sent the request by now. There was no reason to assume he was in any way invested in my response.
I couldn’t imagine why he’d sent it in the first place. Why now? Why would you send a friend request to someone you’d brushed off?
I hadn’t even realized Mike was active on Facebook, which was probably just as well. It had saved me from years of pathetic cyberstalking. And it would be pathetic to be hung up on a man you’d had a childish crush on thirty years ago.
Good thing I wasn’t.
I’d meant what I’d said about being done with Mike Pilota. Finito. Over and out. So long, and thanks for all the fish.
So it was annoying in the extreme when I walked into The Old House Pub and saw him sitting next to Angie. My steps, which had been confident and quick as I entered the bar, faltered as I recognized him.
How? Why? What the blazing hell was Mike doing here?
My eyes narrowed as they homed in on my best friend, the obvious answer to all my questions. She must have recruited Mike for her reunion committee. And I could guess why.
It was clearly some misguided attempt to force another reunion between me and Mike in the hopes that, against all odds, this time sparks would finally fly, and he’d realize his secret attraction to me which he’d been repressing all these years.
Did I mention Angie was a bit of a fantasist?
Obviously, there was no way any of that would happen. The far more likely scenario was that Mike and I would try our level best to ignore each other’s existence while pretending there was no lingering awkwardness between us.
That was my game plan anyway. Mike could do what he liked.
Gathering a deep breath, I forced my feet to carry me to the table where Mike and Angie were seated. There were six chairs, and I set my sights on the one farthest from Mike.
Angie spotted my approach immediately and called out a greeting. Mike looked up, and our eyes caught and held for a charged second before I forcibly tore my gaze away to pin my best friend with an accusatory glare. Angie grinned back at me and shrugged, as if she knew exactly what she’d done wrong and didn’t care one bit.
Before I could claim the chair diagonally across from Mike, he leapt to his feet. “Here, you probably want to sit next to Angie,” he said, and held his own chair out for me.
I had no choice but to accept his offer at that point without looking like an ill-mannered ingrate. Mumbling my thanks, I draped my purse over the back of the chair and sat down.
To my consternation, Mike took the seat right next to me at the head of the table. He was so close our knees brushed as he scooted his chair forward, and I jerked my legs away from him as if I’d been zapped with electricity.
“It’s good to see you again,” he said in that warm, gravelly voice that used to make my limbs quiver like a gelatin mold on a mechanical bull. Fortunately, I was completely over my childish infatuation with him, and therefore impervious to his sexy man voice.
I looked up to find him smiling at me, his lips curved invitingly and framed by his neatly trimmed beard, and my heart gave a little involuntary jump in my chest.
Perhaps I wasn’t quite as over Mike as I’d hoped.
About Susannah Nix
Susannah Nix is an award-winning author of contemporary romances featuring smart women and swoony men, including the Chemistry Lessons series of romcoms about women who work in STEM fields and the Starstruck series of movie star romances.
Susannah resides in Texas with her husband, two ornery cats, and a flatulent pit bull. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, cooking, knitting, watching stupid amounts of television, and getting distracted by Tumblr. She is also a powerlifter who can deadlift as much as Captain America weighs.
(ARC Review) Man, I loved this book. Returning to the Winstons always feels like a family reunion, but with family you actually like. It’s a hug from a friend you haven’t seen in awhile or snuggling under a blanket when it’s just a little chilly. By that I mean, it’s comforting. It’s warm. It’s delightful.
Cletus and Jenn are finally getting married, but things go terribly awry at their engagement party. There’s a dead body, but who’s to blame? Cletus has to use his resources as only Cletus can to find the true killer when his beloved is considered a suspect.
This series is supposed to be cozy mystery style, so first of all I was genuinely intrigued to find out whodunnit, while I had suspicions I really wasn’t sure and my guess was only half correct. I will say, I’m not sure it can really be categorized as a cozy mystery any more because it is Steamy. Very very steamy. I was happy for Cletus and Jenn, my goodness. High five.
I cried a little at the ending, I was so happy. I just love these characters and the world the author has built so, so much and I will take a million spinoffs. There will never be enough Winstons and Green Valley for me!
The Devil is in the details . . .
Cletus Byron Winston wishes to marry Jennifer Anne Donner-Sylvester (aka The Banana Cake Queen) posthaste! He’s spent the last year wanting nothing more than for the celebrations to be brief, libations flowing, and BYOB (bring your own blueberries). His future mother-in-law has other plans, plans his intended has been willing to indulge, much to Cletus’s chagrin. Therefore, so must he. To a point. But truth be told, he wouldn’t mind if the meddlesome matriarch disappeared, at least until the nuptials are over.
On the night of Cletus and Jenn’s long-awaited engagement party, just when the surly schemer is of a mind to take matters into his own hands, a shocking event upends everyone’s best laid plans and sends the small hamlet of Green Valley into complete disarray. The final months leading up to Cletus and Jenn’s matrimonial bliss are plagued with chaos and uncertainty. Will Cletus and Jenn finally make it to the altar? Or will murder and mayhem derail their happily-ever-after?
And most importantly, who done it?
‘Marriage and Murder’ is the second book in the cozy mystery series Solving for Pie: Cletus and Jenn Mysteries. It is best read after Winston Brothers #3, ‘Beard Science’ (which can be read as a standalone) and Solving for Pie: Cletus and Jenn Mysteries #1, ‘Engagement and Espionage.’
“Here.” Cletus suddenly appeared, looking devilishly handsome in the dim light and seemingly all put back together—like we’d been in here holding hands instead of. . . ANYWAY.
He held out my underwear. His eyes were bright even in shadow, and I could see they were half-lidded as they lazily trailed over me. He looked at me like he was hungry, and I was dinner. Despite all the encore orgasms I’d just had, the effect hit me right between my legs.
I wondered what he was thinking, watching as he licked his bottom lip and drew it into his mouth. Was he just as insatiable for me? And if so, was he okay with that?
Tearing my eyes away, I pulled on the lace and fixed my skirt, telling my body to settle down. We were getting married for hootenanny’s sake!
Cletus cocked his head to the side while I smoothed my hands down the red fabric, working to get a hold of all this raging want always coursing through my veins whenever he was near. Maybe it was because he was my first, and I guess, my only. Was that why I felt so crazed for him all the time?
“Miraculous,” he said.
I surmised he meant the dress. “Right? The wrinkles are hidden, if there are any. It’s ’cause they ruched the outer fabric at the seams, see?” I turned to the side to show him the seam, and he stepped forward as though he were going to investigate.
Instead, his hands cupped my face and tilted my chin back. He stared at me with a vibrant intensity I felt all the way to my fingertips. “No, Jenn. Not the dress. You.” Cletus gave me a soft kiss, ending it by gently nipping my bottom lip. “You are my miracle.”
I sighed. And I smiled. And I felt like I was walking on a cloud instead of in four-inch heels, which was also probably something of a miracle. “You say the sweetest things.”
“I think you mean, I say the truest things.”
I laughed, and he kissed my forehead. He held me there, in the dark with his lips pressed to my forehead. “I love you so completely, with every cell in my body. I wonder sometimes if I’d cease to exist—just evaporate or disappear—if anything ever happened to you.”
“No.” I anchored my hands to his wrists and squeezed. “Don’t think like that. We’ve got our whole lives in front of us. There’s nothing anyone can—”
Three bangs in quick succession pierced the quiet moment, and not a second later Cletus had me on the ground beneath him, covering my back with his body.
“Gunshots,” he whispered in my ear. “From the parking lot. Don’t move.”
Meet Penny Reid
Penny Reid is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today Best Selling Author of the Winston Brothers, Knitting in the City, Rugby, and Hypothesis series. She used to spend her days writing federal grant proposals as a biomedical researcher, but now she just writes books. She’s also a full time mom to three diminutive adults, wife, daughter, knitter, crocheter, sewer, general crafter, and thought ninja.
(ARC Review) I was immediately interested in this as the plot is described as a role-reversal modern retelling of Grease. We’ve met Roxy through the previous books and I was excited for her story.
Former biker chick (and Jethro Winston’s ex lady friend) Roxy has managed to make a good life for herself, but still feels like she has to prove to those around her that she’s no longer the messy bad girl she used to be.
She has an almost one night stand with a stranger while on a work trip, which turned into an immediate emotional connection even though they didn’t do the deed after all. To her surprise, he shows up at her office as a new business partner. She tries to stay professional and fight her feelings, but Sanders is persistent and they can’t stay away from each other.
Sanders’ optimism is admirable and outwardly he’s an impulsive loving risk taker, but beneath his sunshiny exterior hides a lot of hurt and suppressed grief. He ends up hurting people around him due to lack of external awareness but he does try very hard to make it up to them by the end.
It’s both an insta-love and a slow burn at the same time, which is maybe why I didn’t quite feel the same connection to it as I have the previous books in the series. It was still interesting, very readable, I just didn’t quite care about what happened as much as with the others due to the insta-love. When we know they’re in love I’m ready for them to move forward, but there was a lot of slow burn fighting their own feelings.
I really enjoy this series and hopefully we’ll get Gretchen’s story! 3.5 stars
There is no such thing as luck.
Roxy Kincaid isn’t a biker chick anymore. She’s made herself more than Jethro Winston’s castoff, and she’s never going back to her old life with the Iron Wraiths. But one summer night, a charming stranger threatens to sweep Roxy off her feet. Ignoring fate and their instant attraction, she has to get back to her real life in Green Valley. He couldn’t be the one that she wants when he’s exactly the thing that could ruin everything. If only she could stop thinking about him.
Luck is everything.
Sanders Olsson is going to fix his mistakes. He’s determined to show his best friend he’s a reliable business partner not the distracted flake he’s been lately. But he has to listen when the universe brings him a sign in the form of a guarded beauty he can’t keep his eyes off. Their instant connection is almost magical but she leaves without giving him even a last name. When fate gives Sanders a second chance in life and love, he sets out for Green Valley without a backward glance.
Their summer lovin’ happened so fast but what will it take to make it last?
‘The One That I Want’ is a full-length contemporary romance and can be read as a standalone. Book #3 in the Scorned Women’s Society series, Green Valley Chronicles, Penny Reid Book Universe.
“Watch it,” I mumbled as I was steadied by strong hands on my shoulders. Then I remembered to be nice and tried to scoot to the side.
The arms held me gently in place. When I looked up, glaring pointedly, he dropped them. It was Mr. Eye Contact from across the room. A little thrill tickled the back of my knees. He was damn fine this close up. Not my taste, but definitely a certain appeal. Like, if I wanted to know someone with a yacht to “summer on,” he’d be my type.
His eyes were startlingly blue. His hair was this dark shade of blond, thick waves swept back with lighter tips that looked as though it had been bleached naturally by the sun. A smile quirked his mouth and my focus moved there. He had soft crinkles around the corners of his eyes and a natural tan that spoke of time outside.
He said something with the tilt of his head and a soft smile on his lips. I blinked away, wondering if my mouth had been hanging open catching flies as I took him in.
“What?” I yelled and pointed to my ear. The band had just started back up.
His smile grew to expose that two front teeth protruded just a little. It was a disarmingly charming flaw, like a puppy with just one floppy ear. His gaze moved over the exposed skin of my neck and shoulders under my tank top, seemingly studying the tattoos.
I wasn’t knocking my edgy looks, but I typically didn’t attract men who could have been plucked straight from an Ivy League fraternity mixer. At least the collar of his black button-up wasn’t popped. And he wore nice sneakers and jeans, not boat shoes and pink shorts. Okay, so he wasn’t preppy per se, but squeaky? Like he’d hurt my teeth to take a bite out of. He didn’t even have a beard, for crying out loud. Not to box this guy in, but guys like this did not go for girls like me. Then again, sometimes there were the guys who liked to “slum it” with the easy small-town girls from Green Valley.
Mr. Eye Contact leaned closer. He smelled like a shower after a hard workout. It was like the cleansing smell of a spring morning after working all night at the Dragon Bar. My jaw was clenched tight, thinking about taking a bite out of him again.
“Dance?” he asked. His voice had a rich and deep timbre that sent a tiny shudder down my spine.
His confidence was sexy without being overwhelming. He tucked his hands deep into his pockets and waited patiently as I took him in, studying him head to toe. There was no pressure in his question. I suspected if I said no, he’d walk away without another word. I told myself I wanted to dance alone but suddenly I wasn’t so sure. Wouldn’t it be nice to have hands on me? Wouldn’t it be an escape to just be a woman dancing with a man to good music?
Shocking myself, I realized I was interested. So I felt a zing for this man? It didn’t mean anything. It meant that my warning system wasn’t going off. It meant that I was a person who wanted to dance. It didn’t have to mean anything.
He extended his hand. I bit my lip. I was here to celebrate my hard work. It was one night before an early flight home tomorrow.
“What the hell?” I said unheard in the club.
I slid my hand into his. His hand was not the buttery-soft warmth of an Ivy Leaguer. His hand was calloused and hot. What might it feel like to have those rough palms gripping the tender skin of my hips?
He pulled me only long enough to let me pass, then he let me lead the way to the floor. As I made my way to the other dancers, I felt his gaze on my backside like the vibration of a motorcycle. I risked a glance over my shoulder. His focus returned to mine as he licked his bottom lip.
“Lord, help me,” I mumbled to myself.
Good thing it was just one night and just one dance. This guy would be way too easy to fall for. But what could one dance with a stranger hurt?
About Piper Sheldon
Piper Sheldon writes Contemporary Romance and Paranormal Romance. Her books are a little funny, a lotta romantic, and with just a little twist of something more. She lives with her husband, toddler, and two needy dogs at home in the desert Southwest. She finds writing bios in the third person an extreme sport of awkwardness.
Dewey Belong Together, an all-new enemies to lovers small-town romance from Ann Whynot, is available now in Kindle Unlimited!
My Take: (ARC Review)
First of all, I’m always always always a fan of mental health talk in romance, it’s something that’s too often overlooked when so many people are living with it. Romance should be for everyone, and everyone should be represented. There’s a lot of mental health realness which I really appreciate.
I also really enjoyed the gaming-centric plot, it’s great representation for the online gamers out there and a good look into the sexism female gamers face. I love the idea of two people meeting in the game chat and falling in love. It was a unique plot, at least one I haven’t personally read before. I’m not a gamer so can’t speak to the accuracy but it was enjoyable to read about, I never felt like I didn’t know what was going on even though I know nothing about that world.
Unfortunately, the rest of the book and the entire romance just didn’t work for me.
The premise of the book is a bunch of gamers have an in person guild meet up but everyone cancels with the exception of Wrath and Maximus, whom everyone assumes is a man. Understandably, Wrath is shocked to learn that Max is actually a woman. He’s fallen in love with Max through the game, though he didn’t think he was gay, he was willing to take a chance all for the person whom he believes he loves (love the pansexual rep!)
However, within the first few chapters, he called her a chick, mousy, and little lady. I can forgive a lot but he’s just plain rude and a bit sexist.
Max thinks of Wrath as her nemesis and his poor behavior supports that. In order to get Max’s attention, he has harassed, bullied, and sabotaged Max for the last decade. This is supposed to be the gamer equivalent of a little boy tugging on a little girl’s pigtail on the playground, but when it comes down to it, harassment is harassment no matter the intention.
When they meet and she realizes Wrath is hot, she starts to soften towards him almost immediately. He has targeted her for a full decade, ten full years, and her willingness to overlook that because he’s cute and smells good. That just did not sit right with me since he really did nothing to apologize or make up for it at the point. It felt very insta-love, but not in a romantic way. There was no build, no emotional tug, no electric chemistry, just close proximity.
The reasons behind his bad behavior are eventually explained, and while I appreciate the effort, no amount of explanation makes his behavior acceptable when we’re talking a full decade of harassment. She accepts his explanations pretty easily and starts thinking maybe she did like him and his attention all along, which just felt like gaslighting to me.
There’s also an icky questionable consent moment at a party, and an overall general unease that this is a toxic relationship.
I really wanted to love this one due to the great premise but it just didn’t feel right to me.
Librarian Maxine Peters lives her life behind the scenes. By day, she’s a buttoned-up cataloguing whiz in the basement of the Green Valley Public Library. By night, she’s secretly dominating in an online role playing game as the legendary Maximus_Damage. Her in-game persona has the skills to back up the hype. But every hero has an enemy; every saga, a villain. And by her own invitation, Maximus’ arch nemesis, Wrath, has just landed in Green Valley.
Jonathan Owen is not at all who Maxine expects when she meets Wrath face to face. Eager to leave the past in the game, Jonathan takes this golden opportunity to win Maxine’s heart. There’s just one wrench in that plan: he may have, on a few occasions, acted like a bit of a jerk online. And to his puzzlement, she has taken their fun rivalry to the level of epic dislike.
When Jonathan and Maxine are unexpectedly alone for a weekend, secrets are revealed that make love hard and hatred even harder. Jonathan quickly learns fighting his own demons will take more than one elite gamer. And Maxine, who is busy rebooting her life in Green Valley, might not be up to the task.
When real life starts to override the game, can Maxine and Jonathan find a way to make it work? Or will it be game over for this player versus player adventure?
Dewey Belong Together’ is a full-length contemporary romance and can be read as a standalone. Book #7 in the Green Valley Library series, Green Valley Chronicles, Penny Reid Book Universe.
After the group sang and twanged through a ton of damn fine bluegrass, the crowd began to thin a bit, and the banjo player declared the quartet was retiring for the evening. Max grabbed my arm and gracelessly hauled me through the audience toward the banjo player.
Our arms still linked, and with a megawatt smile on her face, she shouted, “Cletus! That was incredible tonight.”
“It was, man. You’ve got a great sound,” I offered.
Cletus looked from Max, to our joined arms, again at me, and then back at Max. I didn’t want to engage in stereotypical jealous guy behavior, but I did want to sniff out who this Cletus was to her. What had he done to earn her smiles and respect?
“Thank you,” he replied, then looked pointedly behind us. “Maxine, you seem to have misplaced the rest of your guests from your game. I suspect you noticed this, which is why you’re hanging onto this one so tightly.”
“Oh!” Max said in surprise and dropped my arm like it was a hot potato. I instantly disliked Cletus. “All the others couldn’t make it. Just him. Cletus, meet Wrath—er, Jonathan Owen from Florida. Jonathan, this is my friend Cletus Winston.”
Not one to let my manners fail me when needed, I stuck out my hand and Cletus gave it a firm shake. “Jonathan Owen, would you happen to be the same gentleman who enjoys harrying Maxine at every available turn?”
I spun to face Maxine. “You told people that about me? What else did you say, that I like to hunt people for sport?” I felt my face redden in embarrassment as I recalled the time I had also besmirched her good name to the other guild officers. I wasn’t sure what to do with the information that she was talking unfavorably about me to her friends. I felt like every time we made some progress and I got to show her more of who I really was, something popped up to remind me of her animosity.
“Wrath, calm down. Of course not. I was telling Cletus about the game, that’s all.”
“Oh, I see. That’s all,” I said sarcastically.
“It would seem to me,” Cletus said, inserting himself into our fight, “that you two need to have a tête-à-tête, but allow me to suggest not tonight. We’re fixing to take things back to my brother’s place up on Bandit Lake. Scarlet and Billy will be there singing, and I’ll have my banjo and a dulcimer. If you can sit in your own stew for the rest of the evening, you can imbibe and listen to more fine music.”
And with that, he packed up his banjo and gave Max a little salute as he left the room.
“So, feel like hitting up a party?” Max asked, almost cautiously.
I thought about it. I was mad as hell that not only did Max hate me, she had told her offline friends I was some kind of dastardly character. That being said, I didn’t want to piss her off by saying no when she probably wanted to go. Plan Seduction would suggest that I be pliable to her wishes, even if I thought she was a jerk at the moment. I hoped that this wasn’t some big rager we were headed to because being the only sober person at a party is about as much fun as watching paint dry, only the wall sometimes vomits and tries to get into your pants.
“Fine,” I answered. “Party it is, princess.” I couldn’t help poking the bear, just a little. Her eyes flashed fire, and I smiled, gesturing with my arm that she should lead the way.
About Ann Whynot
Ann Whynot has been writing stories since she was five, and always dreamed of one day being a published author. She is a voracious reader and book collector, and used book stores are her kryptonite. She also is passionate about video games, crafting, baking, laughing, and travel.
She lives with her family, dog, and two cats on the Canadian east coast, and is inspired by both the forest and sea.
(ARC Review) This was a wonderful addition to one of my favorite series in the Smartypants world. I sure do love these Erickson boys.
Vali Erickson is a typical middle child, often overlooked due to his brothers’ career choices and big personalities. He moves to Green Valley to lick his wounds after his last relationship ends spectacularly, where he meets Maggie, the sheltered, inexperienced local girl with a secret. Maggie is the local gossip columnist who’s also used to being overlooked. Home schooled, she’s never travelled far and still lives with her parents and works in their store.
She’s inexperienced due to lack of opportunity rather than a determined choice, and I really enjoyed the progression of their relationship. Maggie starts to shine when given the space to do so, and I loved watching her come out of her shell. Vali was the perfect man for her, gentle, patient, kind and caring. There’s tons of sparks between the two, and Vali guided her through her new feelings perfectly.
It’s pretty low angst, with lots of steam, heart, and a lovely HEA.
Vali Erickson is the classic middle child—misunderstood, underestimated, and overlooked. He’s fine with it. Really. The overlooked part is actually serving him well during this phase of life.
He’s in Green Valley in an effort to fly under the radar and regroup after a life-altering blow to his heart and ego. The last thing he’s looking for is a woman to warm his bed until one throws him to the mat and rocks his world.
Margaret O’Neal is an only child who has led a sheltered life. She’s used to being a wallflower. Her ability to blend into the background is what allows her to maintain her anonymity as a gossip columnist for the Green Valley Ledger.
Since the Ericksons moved to town, she’s never felt more inspired, especially with the newest addition. Vali Erickson is the definition of eye candy—devastatingly handsome with muscles for days—giving her plenty to report about.
The more Maggie observes, the more she finds herself wanting things she’s only read about in romance novels.
Admiring Vali from afar is good enough for her until their paths cross and she finds herself trying to stay afloat in uncharted territory—no labels, no promises, and WAY out of her comfort zone.
Will this arrangement be what finally breaks her out of her shell, or will her heart be a casualty of the Viking Invasion?
‘Eye Candy’ is a full-length contemporary romance, and can be read as a standalone. Book #3 in the Fighting For Love series, Green Valley Chronicles, Penny Reid Book Universe.
Standing outside the Green Valley Community Center, I’m getting a little antsy waiting for Maggie. I really hate not picking her up at her house for a date, but she insists it’s better this way. I’ve told her I didn’t care if she lived on the outskirts of town or Timbuktu, I still wanted to pick her up but she just laughed and redirected our conversation.
I have a feeling she doesn’t want to formally introduce me to her parents as the man she’s dating, especially after my one and only visit to their feed store. I guess I understand. I didn’t really make the best first impression but that’s on me. How can I redeem myself if she refuses to introduce me to them?
Maybe I need a do-over visit to the store.
Before I can formulate a solid plan, my attention is pulled to the parking lot where I see Maggie walking toward me, looking sexy as fuck. I lean back against a column and enjoy watching her come to me. She’s so striking with how she carries herself and I don’t think she even knows it. Her height and voluptuous curves paired with her long, dark hair and wide smile command the attention of everyone around her.
And she’s mine.
For now, anyway.
When she’s close enough for me to touch, I slide my arm around her waist and pull her to me. Capturing her mouth with mine, I claim it, not able to hold back any longer. Even though we made out in the parking lot of Genie’s on Friday, it’s been too long since I’ve been able to see her… touch her… taste her.
I want her so fucking much. I want to learn her body and watch her fall apart over and over. I want her to explore my body and have her way with me, any way she wants. I want so much but realize now is not the time or place for my dick to be running the show, so I slowly and reluctantly pull away.
Maggie’s lips are swollen and her eyes are dazed as she looks at me and whispers, “Wow”.
“Happy Valentine’s Day, beautiful.” I kiss her forehead, allowing my lips to linger so I can have one last taste before we walk inside.
“Same to you.” She bites down on her bottom lip, fighting back a smile as she shakes her head. I’d give anything to know what she’s thinking and to replace her teeth with my own. Those luscious lips have made an appearance in every dream I’ve had for the past week.
And as much as I want to make her come again, it’s not going to happen in the parking lot of the community center. My instincts tell me Maggie’s a virgin. Even though I don’t have a lot of experience in that arena, I know one thing for sure, I want every orgasm I give Maggie to be better than the one before.
I want all her firsts to be worth the wait because she definitely is.
“So, tell me about the jam sessions. I hear they’re pretty famous,” I say as I grab her hand and lead her to the building’s entrance, needing to distract myself so I’m not sporting a semi as we walk into the community center.
“They’ve been happening for a few years now and they’re pretty fun. Typically, they’re held on Friday nights and people from all over come to enjoy good music and even better food. You like bar-b-que, right?”
I look at her like she’s lost her mind. “Woman, I am from Texas. Of course, I like bar-b-que.”
She laughs and squeezes my arm as we step inside, where we’re instantly greeted by a friendly welcoming committee. After we get the rundown on where to find the festivities, we make our way to where the food is and Maggie continues our conversation.
“I know you’re from Texas, which is why I asked. Texas bar-b-que is very different from Tennessee bar-b-que. Some even say your version isn’t bar-b-que at all.”
I jerk away from her in shock. “Them’s fightin’ words, Miss O’Neal,” I say, laying my Texas twang on thick. “Now, take me to this high-and-mighty food so I can judge for myself.”
Thirty minutes later, I’m slumped in my chair, fighting the urge to unbuckle my belt and jeans.
“So, what’s the verdict?”
Maggie’s expression is smug and I want to kiss it right off her face but I’m too full to move right now. So instead, I give her a shrug, trying to play it off. “It’s alright, I guess. If you like that kind of thing.”
Her laughter fills the room and I’m mesmerized. It’s quickly becoming my favorite sound, second only to the sounds of her orgasm. Shit, I cannot be thinking like that right now, when I’m too stuffed to try and hide a boner.
“One of these days, I’ll fix you some Texas bar-b-que,” I vow.
She scrunches up her nose, and while the look on her face is absolutely adorable, it’s not quite what I was hoping for. “You’ve had my cooking before. Do you doubt my skills?”
“It’s not that,” she starts. “It’s just that Texas bar-b-que is mainly smoked meat, not cooked over an open flame, and you put your sauce on the side!” Her hand covers her heart to illustrate the horror of her words.
“Listen, good meat is good meat, I don’t care where it’s from. But, it’s only fair that you try my meat since I just tried yours.”
The words are out of my mouth before I realize how they sound, and when I look at Maggie’s face to get her reaction, I’m pleased to see the same dazed look from earlier. She’s also blushing something fierce, which tells me she’s just as dirty minded as I am. Well, maybe not quite as much, but close.
“Hey,” I say to get her attention.
With flushed cheeks, she meets my eyes. “Yeah?”
“You gonna take me to one of the music rooms so I can finally dance with you?”
Her shoulders relax and she gives me one of her mega-watt smiles. “Are you sure you’re up to it?”
“Absolutely. Besides, I need to burn off some of this food.”
Maggie giggles and grabs my hand, pulling me out of my chair and leading me to the first music room we find. There are five or six musicians playing some good ol’ honky-tonk music, which is exactly what I need right now.
I twirl Maggie around before pulling her flush against my body. “Let’s dance.”
And, dance, we do. We two-step, we waltz, and we even jitterbug a couple of times before we’re worn out and need to take a break.
We leave the room and enter another with a band playing bluegrass music. I’m a little surprised to see both of my brothers, along with their significant others, on the dance floor. Bluegrass is not a genre of music we listened to much back home but it’s a slow song and I completely understand the draw of slow dancing with a woman. So much so, I grab Maggie’s hand and lead her onto the floor close to my siblings, so we can join in the fun, as well.
What a sight this must be, watching three big-ass dudes from Texas slow dancing to bluegrass music in a refurbished classroom.
“Oh, good, Cletus is playing. He’s so good on the banjo,” Maggie tells me.
“You know Jenn from the bakery, right? Well, that’s her husband.” She uses her head to point in the direction of a man with wild hair, playing a banjo as if it’s the easiest thing to do. Not gonna lie, I’m kind of envious of his long beard. I’ve never been able to grow my beard out like that.
It doesn’t take long for me to get lost in the feel of Maggie in my arms again. She fits perfectly, her soft parts molding to my hard ones, and if it feels this good while we still have our clothes on, I can’t fucking wait to be this close to her while naked.
Maggie’s head is on my shoulder as we sway to the music, so she doesn’t see when Tempest waves at me. I look up at Tempest and watch as she mouths, “Have you asked about New Orleans.” Drawing my eyebrows together, I give a small shake of my head in reply. She’s obviously not happy with my answer because her eyes are now narrowed and her hands are on her hips.
Not wanting to get into it right now, I roll my eyes and sway our bodies so that my back is now facing Tempest. I’m sure I’ll pay for this tomorrow but I don’t care.
It’s not that I don’t want Maggie to go to New Orleans with us, with me, because I do. But I can’t help but wonder if it’s too soon for us. Of course, I wouldn’t have any expectations regarding the physical side of our relationship but it’d be our first weekend getaway as a couple, and to me, that’s a big deal. Road trips can either make or break a couple and the fact we’d also be with my family, as in my entire family… well, it kind of scares the shit out of me. I don’t want to pressure her or freak her out but, on the flip side, making that trip without her would fucking suck.
I will ask her, but not tonight.
Tonight, I just want to hold her in my arms for as long as she’ll let me.
About Jiffy Kate
Jiffy Kate is the joint pen name for Jiff Simpson and Jenny Kate Altman. They’re co-writing besties who share a brain. They also share a love of cute boys, stiff drinks, and fun times.
Together, they’ve written over twenty stories. Their first published book, Finding Focus, was released in November 2015. Since then, they’ve continued to write what they know–southern settings full of swoony heroes and strong heroines.
Steal My Magnolia, an all-new heartwarming small-town romance from Karla Sorensen, is now available in Kindle Unlimited!
This was a sweet and straightforward romance with low stakes and low angst. If you’re looking for a sweet, old fashioned small town romance that won’t break your heart, then I recommend this one.
To me, it suffered from the lack of conflict or external struggles. There are no outside forces working against them, there’s no obvious conflict, it’s just two people who fall in love. They worry about external conflicts but the only actual problem is that they fall in love at different speeds.
Most of the book is Grady mooning over the fact that he’s in love with Magnolia and can’t tell her. It’s pretty far into the book before feelings are even acknowledged. It’s exceptionally slow burning … but not in a way where a ton of tension builds.
I loved the first book in the series, and I’m still excited to read the next!
Life lesson from Grady Buchanan: If you’re going to fall in love with the untouchable girl in town, don’t hire her as your only employee.
Even after he bungled the interview with Magnolia MacIntyre, he knew better than to hire her. The list of why it’s a bad idea is a long one.
Her father could ruin his fledgling business.
She is completely overqualified.
And he’s attracted to her.
What does Grady do? He offers her the job.
Magnolia knew better than to take it. Normally, she’d make the safe choice, and working for Grady is anything but.
He’s new in town–and entirely too charming.
Her dad will be furious.
She hates the outdoors and working for an outdoor adventure company is not exactly the right fit.
What does she do? She says yes on the spot.
Grady and Magnolia will have to prove to everyone in their life that they’re not crazy. And prove to each other that the list of why it’s a bad idea should be tossed out the window.
For these two opposites, sometimes doing the wrong thing is exactly right.
‘Steal My Magnolia’ is a full-length contemporary romance and can be read as a standalone. Book #3 in the Love At First Sight series, Green Valley Chronicles, Penny Reid Book Universe.
There was silence on the other end. I pulled the phone away from my face to make sure I’d answered.
“Hello?” I said.
I heard a deep breath before she spoke. “Hi, I’m here, sorry.”
My head tilted to the side when I heard her voice. It was soft and low with the curling accent that I’d gotten used to in the past month and a half. But it … I shook my head … something about it made the hairs lift slightly on my arms.
“Did you mean to call my number?” I asked carefully.
Inexplicably, I found myself holding my breath waiting for her to answer.
“I heard you’re looking for help. Administrative help,” she clarified.
My head went back. “Did you?”
She was quiet for a second. “Small town,” she explained. “People talk.”
I laughed under my breath. “So I’m learning.”
It made me shake my head. The darknet had nothing on the Green Valley information pipeline. “So,” I continued, “tell me a little bit about yourself.”
“Of course.” For the second time since I picked up, she let out an audible breath. “I have my BS in Business Administration, an MBA from Vanderbilt, and other than college, I’ve lived in Green Valley my whole life.”
Scratching the side of my face, I glanced around at the horrific state of the office and tried to imagine someone with an MBA wanting anything to do with it. My face was bent in a grimace
“I’ve spent the past five years as an office administrator for my …” She paused. “For a local business, and I’m looking to change things up. Fresh start.”
I sat up slowly. “I can understand wanting a fresh start. That’s why I’m here.”
“I know. I, umm, I heard that. In town.” She stumbled slightly over her words, and I smiled. “I’m not very outdoorsy, and I know that’s what you’ll be doing, but I’m the most organized person you’ll ever meet. My label maker is my favorite accessory, and I have lists for my to-do lists. And I know every single business owner from here to Maryville.”
I laughed. “You sound like you’re already in your interview.”
She laughed too, and I grimaced when my chest tightened. It caused a strong enough physical sensation that I glanced down at my body, like it was separate from me somehow.
“I can come in and fill out an application, if you’d like,” she said.
I laughed under my breath. “If I had applications, I’d say yes.” I glanced around the mess surrounding me. “But … I’m not quite that prepared yet.”
“That’s also why you need someone who knows how to get an office up and running.”
“That’s true,” I agreed. “Can you come in tomorrow so we can talk a little bit more? Since I don’t have an application.”
“That would be great,” she said firmly. The stumbling was gone. I found myself wondering how old she was. What she looked like.
If I had a calendar, I would’ve glanced at it. But that was also buried in a stack of papers.
“How does nine sound? Do you need the address?”
“Sounds perfect,” she answered. “And uh, no, thank you. I know where to find you.”
I shook my head.
“Small town,” we said in unison. She laughed, and my smile took up my whole damn face.
“Then I’ll see you at nine tomorrow …” My voice trailed off. “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name. I’m still working on my Southern manners.”
She laughed. My chest did that thing again. It wasn’t the heavy press of panic. It was a lightening. A lifting of whatever pressure I’d been feeling before she called.
She spoke slowly, like she was thinking carefully about her answer. “You can call me Lia.”
About Karla Sorensen
Karla Sorensen has been an avid reader her entire life, preferring stories with a happily-ever-after over just about any other kind. And considering she has an entire line item in her budget for books, she realized it might just be cheaper to write her own stories. It doesn’t take much to keep her happy…a book, a really big glass of wine, and at least thirty minutes of complete silence every day. She still keeps her toes in the world of health care marketing, where she made her living pre-babies. Now she stays home, writing and mommy-ing full time (this translates to almost every day being a ‘pajama day’ at the Sorensen household…don’t judge). She lives in West Michigan with her husband, two exceptionally adorable sons and big, shaggy rescue dog.
Call Me Crazy, an all-new enemies to lovers standalone romance from USA Today bestselling author Melanie Harlow is available now!
(ARC Review) I’ve loved this series so far and this was no exception. Marriage of convenience is one of my favorite tropes so I was so excited to get to read this one.
We were introduced to Enzo and Bianca’s rivalry in book two, and in this one that enemies-to-lovers relationship took front and center. Childhood nemeses Enzo and Bianca come to an agreement- she’ll marry him so he gain control over his family’s business, and in return he’ll try to give her a baby.
The heat between the two is electric from their wedding night on as they start to get to know each other as adults. Enzo in particular has a big change of heart as he gets to know his wife, and I love how sweet and caring he was.
I loved seeing our Old Man Baseball friends and their wives of course, and how Cheyenne and Blair form a friend group with Bianca.
If I were to complain about something it would be the timeline presented to get pregnant. A 33 year old with PCOS would understand you can’t just get pregnant within 3 months regardless of how much you want to. She just gave up SO quickly. Even without the PCOS that’s an unrealistic time frame. I feel like this would have made more sense if they gave it a year, not a couple of cycles. It just felt a) unrealistic and b) rushed to get to the conflict.
Overall though I loved it and thought it was a great addition to the Bellamy Creek series!
It was the perfect plan.
I needed a wife–temporarily–in order to inherit the family business.
And she needed a favor–the kind that takes nine months to deliver.
We had it all worked out, from the no-touching policy on our wedding night (her rule) to the no-falling-in-love decree (mine). She’d marry me, I’d give her the means to have the baby she’d always wanted, and one year later we’d amicably part ways with no hassle, no demands, and certainly no regrets.
After all, Bianca DeRossi and I are experts at infuriating one another–we’ve been doing it since we were kids. Trouble is, she grew up gorgeous and feisty, and she still knows exactly how to get under my skin.
And that wedding night? Well, it doesn’t exactly go down hands-free.
Then she moves in with me, and I really start to lose my mind. From her sexy little pout to her wicked sense of humor to those meatball sandwiches she makes just because she knows they’re my favorite . . . I find myself wanting to break every rule we put in place.
Our story was never supposed to end with happily ever after.
But call me crazy, I just might be in love with my wife.
Download your copy today or read FREE in Kindle Unlimited!
“So how’s your ego tonight? A little bruised, huh?”
“It’s fine,” I said, tightening the knot in my tie. “Reina obviously wasn’t the right choice for a wife. I’m glad she said no.”
Bianca started to choke on her olive. “Wait a minute.” She fanned her face and managed to swallow. “You proposed to—to—what was the little girl’s name?”
“Reina. And you’ve got no room to call someone little, Tiny.”
As I’d hoped, the old nickname drew a brief scowl from her. “We’re talking about you right now. Did you actually propose tonight? Like with a ring?”
I exhaled, regretting I’d mentioned it. “Yeah. I did.”
Her eyes lit up. “Let me see it.”
“Because you just want to rub salt in my wound.”
“For fuck’s sake, Enzo. You’re not wounded. You don’t even love this girl, you just needed to put a ring on her finger so your dad would put your name on the company letterhead.” She held out her hand. “Now give it here.”
Something told me I was going to be sorry, but I reached into my jacket and pulled out the ring box.
She took it from me and opened it up. “It’s pretty,” she said with grudging admiration. Then she squinted at it, pushing her glasses up her nose. “Did you have it engraved?”
I picked up my bourbon and took a hefty swallow. “No.”
“But it says . . .” She set the box down and pulled the ring from the velvet to examine it closer. Then she started laughing. “‘Love Always, Ricky?’”
“Give me that.” Leaning forward, I tried to swipe the ring from her hand, but she held it out of my reach.
“Just a second! I want to try it on.”
I thumped against the back of the booth, picking up my drink again and tossing back the rest of it. Could this night get any worse?
Bianca slipped the ring on her finger—it fit—and held out her hand, studying it. “So what did you say?”
“But how? Like, did you say, ‘You’re the love of my life and I want to be with you forever’ kind of thing?
”“Uh, not exactly. I didn’t want to lie to her. I just, you know, gave her the ring.” I made a grand, sweeping gesture with one hand.
“But you must have said something.”
“What difference does it make?” I asked irritably.
“Look, I’m only trying to help you. You obviously blew it tonight, and by your own admission, you need to find a Lucy for your Ricky sooner rather than later, right?”
I looked around for Lara. I needed another drink. And then a ride home.
“Right?” Bianca prodded me with her foot under the table again. “So let me help you.”
“The only way you could help me is to marry me,” I grumbled, waving Lara over. “And since that’s out of the question, this discussion is over.”
“Well, wait a minute. Who said it’s out of the question?”
I stared at her like she’d sprouted horns. “Huh?”
Bianca continued to study the ring on her finger. “I’m just thinking out loud here. But it seems to me we each have a goal, and they could both be accomplished with one simple—fake—relationship.”
I shook my head, as if to clear it, but the fog remained. “I know I’m drunk, but what the hell are you talking about?”
She sighed and picked up her martini for a sip. “I’m talking about the fact that you need a wife to get what you want. I’m willing to be that wife—temporarily, and under the strictest of conditions—if you’ll agree to give me what I want.”
I shook my head. “Oh, no. No fucking way. I see what you’re doing here. I’m not paying you to fake being my wife.”
Bianca rolled her eyes. “Give me a break, Enzo. I don’t want your money. Nor do I need it.”
“Then I don’t understand, ”I said, feeling—once again—completely baffled by a woman. “What could you possibly want that I could give you?”
The smile that crept over those hellfire lips should have been a warning. “A baby.”
About Melanie USA Today bestselling author Melanie Harlow likes her martinis dry, her heels high, and her history with the naughty bits left in. When she’s not writing or reading, she gets her kicks from TV series like Schitt’s Creek, Homeland, and Fleabag. She occasionally runs three miles, but only so she can have more gin and steak.
Melanie is the author of the CLOVERLEIGH FARMS series, the ONE & ONLY series, AFTER WE FALL series, the HAPPY CRAZY LOVE series, the FRENCHED series, and the sexy historical SPEAK EASY duet, set in the 1920s. She lifts her glass to romance readers and writers from her home near Detroit, MI, where she lives with her husband, two daughters, and pet rabbit.