Book Review: Ex Appeal (Ponto Beach Reunion Book 3) by Cathy Yardley

Ex Appeal (Ponto Beach Reunion Book 3) by Cathy Yardley

A Romance published by Montlake (11/01/22)

Summary:

Vinh is on the fast track to make it big, until suddenly one of his accounts loses millions and the only one to blame is him. Or is he being set up? Locked out of the company and the accounts, Vinh will have no choice but to turn to the one person he trusts to hack the hacker, retrieve the money, and clear his name. Will she still be mad at him for breaking up with her ten years ago when her life was suddenly turned upside down or can he convince her to help him?

Emily was on track to graduate college, get a great job, and put her tech skills to use. But that was ten years ago, before her dad died, she dropped out of college to support her mother, and set aside her dreams. Now she works a tech support job, lives at home, and is barely making ends meet. When Vinh comes to her with a proposal, she wants to turn him down, but she could really use the money. She’s kept up with her hacking skills but is still angry with Vinh for the way he broke up with her all those years ago.

Keywords:

Romance, Friendship, Contemporary, Second Chance Romance, Exes, Hacker, Forced Proximity, Dual POV, Popularity, Heartbreak, Career Focused, Tech Support, Finances

My Review:

Another great Ponto Beach Reunion book! I absolutely loved the deep dive into both Vinh and Emily. They have real problems and are still not over each other. Emily is angry at Vinh for what he did. Vinh is still in love with her. The forced situation and forced proximity are the perfect setup to let this romance simmer and stew. The author is an expert at setting up situations between the main characters. 

Both Emily and Vinh are relatable and full of personality. I loved every time they were together and all the time they spent apart. I was rooting for them from the very beginning, even before I learned more about their previous breakup. 

From previous novels, I didn’t like Vinh. He seemed cold and distant and completely career-oriented and nothing more. That all changed when I read the chapters from his POV. The author truly brings him alive. 

I love capable characters who find themselves in bad situations. Emily is an excellent hacker with skills she hasn’t let get too rusty. She just got stuck living paycheck to paycheck to support her mom and their living-beyond-their-means big house that their dad mortgaged into debt to afford. There is a believable reason for all the choices Emily has made in the last ten years but as a whole the current situation she’s in is so sad. As a strong, capable, intelligent person she is stuck. She’s not just stuck in her situation; she’s stuck in her head. There are both internal and external factors holding her back and she grows so much during the course of this story. You’ll be rooting for her and for Vinh the whole time. 

This novel was published by Montlake on 11/01/2022 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 5.0

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Cathy Yardley’s Website

Book Review: The Beauty of Perhaps by Eryn Scott

The Beauty of Perhaps by Eryn Scott

A Romance Novel published by Kristopherson Press (05/02/17)

Summary:

Molly has her life together… Same dinner dates every week. Same boyfriend. Same job. Smooth and predictable. Until her boyfriend breaks up with her because she’s boring. No boyfriend, no job, and nothing holding her back from trying out some impulsivity in her life. She gets accepted for a teaching job on the remote Scottish island Lilliebrae. Will she defy her predictable-loving nature or learn to accept some adventure and newness in her life?

Keywords:

Chick Lit, Romance, Contemporary, Love at First Sight, Friendship, Scotland, Travel, Painting, Parents, Baggage

My Review:

This book felt like a coming of age for a middle-twenties protagonist – which I absolutely loved! Like a quarter-life crisis that happens post-college. It was so rewarding to watch Molly’s growth as she changed throughout this book. There was as much self-growth for Molly as there was romance, which I appreciated. It wasn’t just Molly going through growth, but also her romantic partner Gates. I was pleasantly surprised that both Molly and Gates were fleshed out and given depth as characters. They were each compelling and flawed in their own way.

I absolutely loved the setting. I was instantly transported to the island of Lilliebrae. I could see it in the picturesque views and feel it in the tone of the place and the way the local townsfolk talked and acted. At times the local brogue was a bit difficult to parse and it took me out of the story as I tried to interpret what the characters were saying.

I really enjoyed how unique each of the other minor characters was, especially all the children! This really added to the meatiness of the novel. Solid contemporary read.

This novel was published by Kristopherson Press on 05/02/2017 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.25

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Eryn Scott’s Website

Book Review: In Her Way by Eryn Scott

In Her Way by Eryn Scott

A Romantic Suspense Novel published by Kristopherson Press (09/08/15)

Summary:

Julep is in the midst of launching her first business – a dentist’s office. Everything is going to plan until it isn’t.

Keywords:

Chick Lit, Romance, Mystery, Contemporary, Love at First Sight, Dentist, Friendship

My Review:

The characters were not that interesting. I didn’t feel very invested in them or the outcome of their relationships. I did not relate to them or care what happened to them. They felt flat and with very little depth. The main character’s thoughts were too surface level and there was too much inner monologuing and speaking directly to the reader.
I wanted more action and less telling. Even with what little was going on (there was a definitive beginning, middle, and end) I just didn’t feel engaged in the story. There didn’t seem to be much going on in the beginning half of the story and by the time the main plot was revealed, I just didn’t care. It was cliche, not very well thought out, and not very well written. It didn’t feel like there were any stakes in the first half and by the time there were stakes, they didn’t feel believable.
Kaylee and the way she was written annoyed me the most. She didn’t feel realistic. It seemed like she was the glue holding the plot together amidst this laughable romance between Andrew and Julep. I wouldn’t have finished if I wasn’t reading a physical book.
I loved the premise of the book but the execution fell far short.

This novel was published by Emlin Press on 09/08/2015 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 2.50

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Eryn Scott’s Website

Book Review: Kissing Games (Kinloch Series, #3) by Evie Alexander

Kissing Games (Kinloch Series, #3) by Evie Alexander

A Comedic Romance Novel published by Emlin Press (09/22/22)

Summary:

Valentina has worked her whole life as an actress – taking small parts and demoralizing roles alike – so she will have enough money set aside for her dream. Charlie is a bodyguard fed up with almost everyone, especially the nitwits he sometimes works for. He takes a job to protect Kinloch from the crazy Hollywood crew, meeting Valentina on the way. Opposites attract, but will that be enough to overcome Hollywood and disaster?

Keywords:

Romance, Contemporary, Standalone, HEA, Scotland, Castle, Sweet, Sex Scenes, Humor, Opposites Attract, Hollywood

My Review:

I was pleasantly surprised that this third book in the series is almost a companion novel to the second book, Hollywood Games, and some of the plot points match up between the books. I absolutely love seeing some scenes and characters and action from this new book and a new point of view. Even getting to know the main characters and side characters from book two through Valentina and Charlie in book three was delightful!

This third book doesn’t let up with the fast-paced plot and steamy scenes. The idea and main plot, just like the previous books in the series, was well-executed, simple, and clean yet there’s always something going on.

I am very drawn to the romance, the writing style, and the intriguing plot of the Kinloch Series.

If you love over-the-top dreamy protagonists – even flawed they seem so unattainable in their perfection – you will absolutely enjoy this book and this series.

This novel was published by Emlin Press on 09/22/2022 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.75

Author Bio:

Evie Alexander is the award-winning author of best-selling sexy romantic comedies with a very British sense of humor. She takes a method approach to her work, believing her capacity to repeatedly fail at life and love is what has given her such a rich supply of material for her writing.

Her interests include reading, eating, saving the world, and fantasizing about people who only exist between the pages of her books. She lives in the West country with her family.

Links for more information:

Book Review: Hollywood Games (Kinloch Series, #2) by Evie Alexander

Hollywood Games (Kinloch Series, #2) by Evie Alexander

A Comedic Romance Novel published by Emlin Press (04/04/22)

Summary:

Kinloch Castle is in desperate need of money and every day there seems to be something new to fix. On top of those worries, Rory isn’t sure Zoe feels the same about him and of course, Rory’s mother still doesn’t like her. Zoe wants to help Kinloch and the perfect luck of an opportunity presents itself when Hollywood star Brad wants to film his next movie at the castle. The only problem is that Zoe’s had a crush on Brad since she was a teen and the man is an insufferable Hollywood star. Can Rory put up with the man and his entourage long enough to save the castle or will his temper get the best of him?

Keywords:

British Humor, Comedy, Romance, Scotland, Castle, Earl, Sex Scenes, Steamy, Cabin, Family, happy Ending, Dual POV, Hollywood, Star, Movie, Braveheart

My Review:

I read this book as fast as the first one in the series. Even though the two main characters had fallen from enemies to lovers in the previous book, the author does an excellent job of keeping up tension between the two romantic leads. Much like the first book, the author has the romance beat structure down solid and the pacing is still excellent. Every scene was satisfying from beginning to end. The climax felt real and well integrated into the plot of the story and the ending was very satisfying.

Hollywood Games is even more absurd and laugh-out-loud than the first book. The idea and main plot are well-executed, simple, and clean yet there’s always something going on. It’s a fast-paced book where the slowest parts are the steamy scenes!

I loved all the characters from the first book and enjoyed reading about the new characters that Brad brings with him to Kinloch. The Hollywood people seem ridiculous but very realistically Hollywood!

This novel was published by Emlin Press on 04/04/2022 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 5.00

Author Bio:

Evie Alexander is the author of sexy romantic comedies with a very British sense of humor. She takes a method-approach to her work, believing her capacity to repeatedly fail at life and love is what has given her such a rich supply of material for her writing.

Her interests include reading, eating, saving the world, and fantasizing about people who only exist between the pages of her books. She lives in the West Country with her family.

Links for more information:

Book Review: Please Fall for Me (The Brotherhood Series) by M. W. McKinley

Please Fall for Me (The Brotherhood Series) by M. W. McKinley

A NA Romance Novel published by M.W. McKinley (11/16/21)

Summary:

“A brilliant smile takes over his face right before he leans in and kisses me with so much emotion, I can taste each unspoken word of love he sends my way.” (Kindle 78%).

Lei has decided to follow his band Brotherhood to NYC but he’s worried that this was the wrong decision. He has to leave behind his grandmother just as he finds out she has a heart condition. Brotherhood is without a drummer and the guy filling in, Felix refuses to join the band. Lei and Felix both feel an instant attraction for each other before Lei arrives in the states, but Felix doesn’t want to disappoint one more person in his life.

Keywords:

Love, Band, Bassist, Artist, NYC, England, Farewell, Bandmates, Best Friends, Brothers, Family, M/M, Disappointment, Addiction, Drummer, College

My Review:

First Reviewed through Reedsy Discovery.

I really appreciate it when an author creates a world in a series where, over the course of multiple novels, multiple characters’ stories are told. The common thread between the books in this series is the band: Brotherhood. I love reading multiple stories and multiple narratives in a linear timeline throughout the series. I also really love reading the dueling POVs between Lei and Felix in this book.

Much like book one of the series, Please Fall for Me features two main characters with very compelling backstories that will pull you in emotionally. Both Lei and Felix have complex personal lives apart from each other before they meet. I love all the little details about each of their pasts and personalities. There are many rare small glimpses into the personal lives of the characters that one would miss in real life but the author is able to highlight. These subtle insights through setting, dialogue, and actions reel you in as a reader as if you’ve been invited to watch something private and amazing going on between and within Lei and Felix.

Each scene is carefully crafted using all the senses so much so that I felt fully immersed as I read. The details about music, musicianship, and addiction felt so real to me. I empathized and rallied behind the characters.

The relationship – friends to lovers – was very touching. Brotherhood and its members are so wholesome and loving to each other. I absolutely loved every interaction between roommates and band members Rob and Lei.

I often forgot that Lei was also a student in college while everything else is going on as there aren’t as many details or day-to-day insights into his time in classes or as a student.

Overall this book features beautiful writing and beautiful storytelling. If you’re a fan of wholesome and sweet romances, you will love this book. I can’t wait to read the next book in this series or any other book by M.W. McKinley.

This novel was published by M.W. McKinley on 11/16/2021 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.75

Links for more information:

M. W. McKinley’s Website

Goodreads

Book Review: Highland Games (Kinloch Series, #1) by Evie Alexander

Highland Games (Kinloch Series, #1) by Evie Alexander

A Comedic Romance Novel published by Emlin Press (10/15/21)

Summary:

“Zoe had never seen such perfection before. He was made by mountains, forged by fire, washed by oceans and blessed by the gods.” (Kindle Edition, 31%).

Zoe suddenly inherits a cabin in the woods near a small town in the Scottish Highlands when her great-Uncle dies. Without hesitation, Zoe leaves behind her safe life as an accountant in London as soon as her lease is up. Her childhood summer with her Great Uncle was the greatest, happiest time of her life. But the cabin isn’t the same as it was back then. It’s in less habitable shape than she remembered, with no electricity, water, and no toilet. Not to be deterred, Zoe won’t let anything or anyone get in her way of fixing it up. Rory thought the cabin would be his and his plans to fix it up before the end of the year come to a halt when he finds a surprise city woman claiming it as her own. What can he do to get her to leave?

Keywords:

British Humor, Comedy, Romance, Scotland, Castle, Earl, Sex Scenes, Steamy, Renovation, Cabin, Family, Enemies-to-Lovers, happy Ending, Dual POV

My Review:

I love books where the heroine is out of place, new, and facing a big project when she unintentionally meets the love interest in a surprising meet-cute. The odds are stacked against her succeeding and problems seem to crop up right and left (along with the handsome hunk). Highland Games really delivers exceptionally on some tried and true rom-com tropes such as Fantasy Location, Monetary Leaps of Faith, Kindly Townspeople, Shirtless Hero, Almost Losing it All, and the Central Project is a Metaphor for Their Love. This book reminded me of the Netflix movie rom-com Falling Inn Love. It’s a steamy feel-good casual beach read.

The romantic element is what makes this book so good, especially the slow buildup of the enemies-to-lovers romance that makes the eventual romance so very satisfying. After at least half the book waiting in suspense for the first kiss, the first touch, you will be rewarded with quite a few steamy sex scenes. These scenes were well written and held my attention throughout (I’m known to skim through sex scenes).

The author has the romance beat structure down solid and the pacing is excellent. Every scene was satisfying from beginning to end. The climax felt real and well integrated into the plot of the story and the ending was very satisfying.

I loved all the characters. They were all so well written. The main characters, Zoe and Rory, seemed like such amazing people, but still relatable as humans. I couldn’t get enough of both Rory’s POV and Zoe’s POV and I really enjoyed the switching POV between Rory and Zoe as they each told their side of the story. The way Zoe describes Rory, especially at first, is hilarious.

Both Zoe and Rory have a purpose outside of the slowly building romance. They each also had their own backstory that made them very compelling. I really liked how both main characters were completely independent people and didn’t need the other to complete themselves, which made their love even more compelling.

This novel was published by Emlin Press on 10/15/2021 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 5.00

Author Bio:

Evie Alexander is the author of sexy romantic comedies with a very British sense of humor. She takes a method-approach to her work, believing her capacity to repeatedly fail at life and love is what has given her such a rich supply of material for her writing.

Her interests include reading, eating, saving the world, and fantasizing about people who only exist between the pages of her books. She lives in the West Country with her family.

Links for more information:

Book Review: Sex & Sours (The Cocktail Series Book 2) by Dani McLean

Sex & Sours (The Cocktail Series Book 2) by Dani McLean

A Romance Novel published by Set the Mood Publishing (10/05/21)

First reviewed through Reedsy Discovery

Summary:

“I learned three important lessons in that time; learn the recipe but always cook from the heart; always say f*** you with a smile, and there was nothing more impressive than someone with a kind soul.” (Kindle Edition 19%).

Tiff has been the head bartender for years. She basically runs the place. That is, until owner Henry hands over the keys and the reigns to his older brother Sam. Sam has a lot to prove after losing control of his own business back in New York. When it comes to making decisions, Sam is in total control, but he’ll have to get Tiff on board and she is definitely not a yes-person! Will their bickering be the end of the bar or will they be able to work together to save what they both love?

Keywords:

Steamy, Sex, Romance, Cocktails, Drinking, Best Friends, Dual POV, Overworked, Relationship, Acceptance, Owner, Head Bartender, Boundaries, Communication, Boss/Employee Relationship

My Review:

All throughout the first book Love & Rum, I was entranced by Tiff. She is one of those larger-than-life people that makes me yearn for my own best friend just like her. She is one of a kind, honest, true to herself, beautiful, and talented. She also has her own set of unique flaws and backstories. As an introvert, I’m in love with Tiff and her charm. I don’t want to just have a best friend like her, I also want to be her. I want to be confident in who I am, hardworking, and clever. I can also relate to Tiff and her problems, some of them growing out of her flaws and some of the outcomes of her reactions to the situations she’s thrust into. She can be a hothead, speaking her mind, even when she knows there will be blowback and I love her for this.

I absolutely love how the author is able to show bisexuality through Tiff, her relationships, and her thoughts about those relationships. As someone much closer to the heterosexual end of the spectrum, the way the author cleverly wrote about Tiff and her romantic relationships really helped me empathize. I will never truly understand or be able to sympathize because my own experience will also be lacking. Through powerfully written characters like Tiff, I can put myself in her shoes and begin to appreciate the difficulties, triumphs, stresses, and prejudices a bi person may face. That’s why characters like Tiff and books like Sex & Sours are so important.

Sam has his own distinctive personality (and POV chapters) but is sometimes overshadowed by the force of nature that is Tiff. He has his own set of flaws and is a fully fleshed-out lead interest which I very much appreciated.

The world of The Cocktail Series continues with the characters Jackson and Audrey from book one but doesn’t much advance their story as this second book is all about Tiff and Sam and their journey.

The style of this book two in the series is true to the tone set in book one Love & Rum. This romantic comedy will appeal to most romance readers who enjoy dual POV, lots of steamy sex scenes, and a happy ending.

I can’t wait to read the next novel by this author and/or in this series. Not only did I feel like I learned something, but it was also a very enjoyable book to read.

This novel was published by Set theMood Publishing on 10/05/2021 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 5.00

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Dani McLean’s Website

Book Review: Love, Comment, Subscribe (Ponto Beach Reunion #1) by Cathy Yardley

Love, Comment, Subscribe (Ponto Beach Reunion #1) by Cathy Yardley

A Romance published by Brilliance Audio (10/01/21)

Summary:

Lily always wanted to be popular. Even as an adult with a mildly successful beauty Youtube channel, the impressionable rejection by two members of the in-crowd in high school is still on her mind. She’s still proving to herself and to them in her mind that she’s made it. Her agent; however, thinks she’s hit a plateau and unless she can reach a milestone of five million subscribers, she won’t have the success of her own makeup line.

Tobin has always been part of the Nerd Herd and now capitalizes on that as part of his Gaming Youtube channel. Lately, though, he’s felt burnt out and he’s been having a hard time thinking of exciting new content. He’s just tired.

Can Tobin and Lily, after years apart, team up for some video collaborations or are they too different? Even though their current goals align – make good content, they have entirely different styles and will clash at every turn. But the internet thinks they have insane chemistry. When will the two of them realize they really do compliment each other?

Keywords:

Influencer, In-Crowd, Pressures, Videos, Youtube, Gamer, Beauty Influencer, Collab, Romance, Friendship, Popular Crowd, Contemporary, Swearing

My Review:

I love Cathy Yardley romances. I love how very contemporary they are. This book, especially, is very much contemporary as it deals with influencers on social media. I also love a good enemies-to-lovers romance trope, even though this book isn’t entirely an enemies-to-lovers cliche. What I love most about a well-written enemies-to-lovers book is how slow the buildup of the romance is, how much time it takes for the main characters to get over their prejudices against each other and ever so slowly fall in love (and oftentimes don’t realize they’re falling for each other until they have to finally admit that they are in love).

For anyone fixated on social media or interested in the day-to-day life of an influencer, this book will satisfy that craving. I like to learn something when reading casually and enjoyed the influencer-heavy descriptions and explanations and focused scenes in this book. For some, it might be overwhelming, but I really liked this theme.

The two main characters, Lily and Tobin, were relatable and likable. I loved getting to know them through each others’ eyes. Both are on the outside of popularity growing up and break into their own niche popularity through their social media accounts as adults. I, too, was part of a fringe clique in high school and related very much to Lily and Tobin’s experience in high school. It was interesting and heartbreaking to get Lily’s perspective as she experienced rejection as both a teenager and an adult.

This novel was published by Brilliance Audio on 10/01/2021 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 5.0

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Cathy Yardley’s Website

Book Review: I.C.Q.: A Novel By Og Maciel

I.C.Q.: A Novel By Og Maciel

A YA Contemporary Romance Novel published by Og Maciel (02/09/21)

First reviewed through Reedsy Discovery as an ARC

Summary:

Auggie is a senior who spends most of his spare time teaching himself coding and freelancing his skills to earn some money. He meets Clarissa online in a chat platform and quickly falls head over heels for this girl he’s never met in person.

Keywords:

High School, Epistolary, Coding, Online Persona, Self-Taught, Online Games, Computers, 90’s, Online Relationship, Romance, Pop Culture, Dating

My Review:

I was a child of the ’90s and was never into computers like the main character Auggie. He is at the forefront of coding and using home computing technology when it first came out. It’s fascinating to read books like I.C.Q because of our culture (and generation’s) obsession with technology. The home computer of the ’90s is like the personal phone of the 2000s. New and exciting and, of course, the parents just don’t get it. I could really feel Auggie’s excitement and his passion for working with computers, software development, and coding. I sympathized with him so much when his parents dismissed his work with the computer as just a hobby and not that important. Maciel really brought this relationship alive and I wished I was into coding!

The very adult conversations that Auggie has with his parents are awesome and rather fascinating. He’s levelheaded and can provide an outside – almost- perspective. With his own relationship, he is anything but objective. He gets caught up in his own feelings and emotions and reactions to the point where he doesn’t even realize that his girlfriend might also be hurt and upset. He is a great model of showing growth and communication in a romantic relationship.

I pulled out my high school love notes because of this book and they were just as sappy and romantic as the correspondence between Auggie and Clarissa in the back half of this story. The overly dramatic way they write to each is very much the essence of a high school romance. I might have rolled my eyes a few times, but reading their letters reminded me of my 17-year old self away on an adventure and constantly writing love notes to send in the mail to my boyfriend of the time. This book will bring out all the nostalgia and is very authentic to teenage drama and heartache. If you would like the nostalgic feeling of teenage love, you’ll definitely enjoy the emotion this book brings out.

The format of this novel changed a bit over halfway through and you’ll be reading those love letters for most of the rest of the chapters.

The ending was disappointing for me. It lacked a satisfying conclusion and a sense of closure for the characters and their relationship. I prefer to have a closed ending. If you’re a reader who doesn’t mind open endings, you might not be disappointed because there is a lesson learned and Auggie does express his thoughts about what happens in the end.

This novel was published by Og Maciel on 02/09/2021 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.0

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Og Maciel’s Website