Review: Like Cats and Dogs: Based on the Hallmark Channel Original Movie by Alexis Stanton

Like Cats and Dogs

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Laura is drifting through life. Spencer has the next decade perfectly planned. Laura loves her dog Frank. Spencer pampers his cat Mozart. Both humans have nothing in common, but when there’s a mix-up with a vacation rental house, they’re suddenly stuck together. At first, they fight like cats and dogs. Yet they can’t deny that opposites definitely attract. Can they find a way to share a roof without driving each other crazy…or falling in love?

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Source: Netgalley          My Rating: 4½/5 stars

Laura isn’t exactly unhappy with her life, but she isn’t dancing on cloud nine either.   With two weeks away from “real” life in an idyllic location with nothing but her camera and little dog, Frank, Laura is hoping to find some clarity, some direction.  She’s tired of simply drifting through life and is ready to make some hard choices related to her future.  Unfortunately, the rental agency has made an incredible error, and Laura and Frank’s idyllic location is marred by the presence of the single-most uptight human in the history of ever.

Spencer has two weeks to write his dissertation.  With his rigidly planned and scheduled life, two weeks is exactly the amount of time he needs, and then he’ll move on to the next step of his life’s plan.  With nothing but his laptop, his perfectly written and arranged notecards, and his cat, Mozart, Spencer is ready to check off the next item on his life’s to-do list.  Unfortunately, his peace and solitude have been brutally interrupted by the loudest, messiest human God has ever created.  And, she has a dog!

Though they have both reached out to the rental agency to correct the egregious error in scheduling, it quickly becomes clear, there isn’t going to be a satisfactory resolution to their shared dilemma.  With nothing to do but learn to live with one another, Laura and Spencer, Frank and Mozart embark on the most exciting, frustrating, and surprising two weeks of their collective lives.  To be sure, there are some huge obstacles to overcome, not the least of which is the intense attraction Laura and Spencer feel towards one another despite being vastly different people. 

Over the course of two weeks, both the longest and shortest of their lives, both Laura and Spencer are forced to face some hard truths about their respective lives.  Laura is done drifting, she is done being spontaneous and somewhat reckless 24/7, and she’s ready for a new challenge.  Spencer learns the value of not planning, of indulging in a bit of bad from time to time, and of taking the time to really enjoy the moment.  For both Spencer and Laura, trying something new, moving beyond their comfort zone is somewhat terrifying, but with the support of one another they find they can soar when they learn to look at things, at life, from the other’s perspective.

The Bottom Line:  Seriously, y’all, I requested this book without knowing a thing about it simply because it’s another based on a Hallmark Channel movie book.  I so love these books!  They are light, fun, entertaining, guaranteed HEAs that just make me smile.  Laura and Frank are immediately likeable while Spencer and Mozart, as they were designed to do, were a bit tougher to like.  As the story unfolds and Laura and Spencer learn more about one another, through good and bad experiences, I found myself totally crushing on these two and rooting for their HEA.  In all, this is an easy breezy read with just enough drama and heat to be totally appropriate for the Hallmark Channel and any reader age 13 and above.

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Excerpt: Why HIM? by Rie Warren

If you believe in romance . . .
 
I don’t want to know his full name.
I don’t even want his phone number.
In fact, the only thing I want from Jude is the filthy hot sex the masterful hung stud delivers on a weekly basis.
He’s way too young for me . . . and much too good at fulfilling my every dirty desire.
He definitely isn’t supposed to show up one morning on my doorstep with an offer I can’t refuse.
Now he’s in my life on a daily basis, and I can’t shake him no matter how hard I try.
 
He’s absolutely unsuitable.
She’s everything he knew he wanted from the first moment he saw her.
 
A book full of filthy sex and beautiful tortured romance. Why Him? is a standalone novel with a tear-worthy HEA, no cheating, no cliffhangers, just all yes. Keep the fan handy, you’ll need it.

Excerpt from Why HIM?

On my knees in front of Jude, I sucked his cock. I greedily serviced him. I loved it. His smell. His taste. The long thick stretch of his dick plunging in and out of my mouth. 

It was seedy. Vulgar. Dirty. All the things I’d never been before, and it was … liberating. 
I let my saliva swill all over his huge cock because I knew he liked it sloppy. But that was as far as my concessions went. This was my time.
“You look so hot, there on your knees, your face stuffed full of my cock.” His coarse words drifted down to me, and his hands—such big hands—cradled the sides of my head.

 

I moaned at his crude praise, but I wanted to make him unable to speak altogether. Unable to think of anything but coming down my throat.

 

Pulling off him, I let his cock snap up to his incredible abs. Then I licked all around the thick base, mouthing him, kissing him where his male scent was the strongest. His tight black curls tickled my nose, and I closed my eyes, inhaling deeply. 

 

My hands caressed along his deep pelvic grooves then across to the rod of his flesh I anchored down so I could continue my wet kisses all over the thick slick shaft. When I reached the purplish cap, I hummed as I lapped another drop of preejaculate onto my thirsty tongue. Then I drove my head up and down, just slightly, taking more of his cock inside with each pass.

 

Jude’s body was phenomenal, the only blemish on his huge frame a long scar on one knee. I’d never had my hands on so many big smooth muscles. And the slight mat of black fur on his chest . . . well, there was just no way I’d ever mistake him for a boy again. 
Jude was a man, all man. 

 

And the most magnificent part of him? His cock. The thick cylinder of flesh was hefty, heavy, covered in a network of veins that pulsed angrily the more I sucked him. The broad head seeped more precum than I’d ever encountered, a tasty snack.
I giggled wetly, popping him out of my mouth. 
“Somethin’ funny?”

 

I loved how he started drawling when he was extremely turned on. Loved how his beautiful blue eyes flashed darkly. Loved how his face became harsh in the low evening light of the room. 
He levered his cock away from my mouth, but that was okay, I’d just go after his balls. 

 

Which I did, pursing my lips around one meaty testicle while mumbling, “Nothing funny at all. I love your cock. Love your taste. Love your smell, Jude.”
A breath hissed between his teeth as I worshipped his full sac. The two orbs were heavy, virile with cum. I gave him a lustful wet ball bath, my head wedged between his brawny thighs. I stroked him at the same time, twisting my palm over the slick head every so often. That always made him flinch and twist and groan my name. What he thought was my name anyway. And at those times I wished I’d told him the truth just so I could hear his dirty praise directed at me, Cady. 

 

“Goddammit, Catherine. Gotta fuck your face now. Lemme fuck your face.” His words swirled together in a rough combination. 

 

I grew even hotter, slicker between my thighs, and my drool dribbled down to my swaying breasts.

 

I looked up at him and nodded.

 

 

Rie is the badass, sassafras author of Sugar Daddy and the Don’t Tell series–a breakthrough trilogy that crosses traditional publishing boundaries beginning with In His Command. Her latest endeavors include the Carolina Bad Boys, a fun, hot, and southern-sexy series. 
A Yankee transplant who has traveled the world, Rie started out a writer—causing her college professor to blush over her erotic poetry without one ounce of shame. Not much has changed. She swapped pen for paintbrushes and followed her other love during her twenties. From art school to marriage to children and many a wild and wonderful journey in between, Rie has come home to her calling. Her work has been called edgy, daring, and some of the sexiest smut around. 
You can connect with Rie via the social media hangouts listed on her website. She is represented by Saritza Hernandez, Corvisiero Literary Agency
 
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Review: A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder (Book #1: A Countess of Harleigh Mystery) by Dianne Freeman

A Lady's Guide . . .Frances Wynn, the American-born Countess of Harleigh, enjoys more freedom as a widow than she did as a wife. After an obligatory year spent mourning her philandering husband, Reggie, she puts aside her drab black gowns, leaving the countryside and her money-grubbing in-laws behind. With her young daughter in tow, Frances rents a home in Belgravia and prepares to welcome her sister, Lily, arriving from New York—for her first London season.  No sooner has Frances begun her new life than the ghosts of her old one make an unwelcome appearance. The Metropolitan police receive an anonymous letter implicating Frances in her husband’s death. Frances assures Inspector Delaney of her innocence, but she’s also keen to keep him from learning the scandalous circumstances of Reggie’s demise. As fate would have it, her dashing new neighbor, George Hazelton, is one of only two other people aware of the full story.  While busy with social engagements on Lily’s behalf, and worrying if Reggie really was murdered, Frances learns of mysterious burglaries plaguing London’s elite. The investigation brings death to her doorstep, and Frances rallies her wits, a circle of gossips, and the ever-chivalrous Mr. Hazelton to uncover the truth. A killer is in their midst, perhaps even among her sister’s suitors. And Frances must unmask the villain before Lily’s season—and their lives—come to a most unseemly end . . .

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Source: Netgalley          My Rating: 4½/5 stars

When you’re the Countess of Harleigh, even the widowed Countess of Harleigh there are certain things that are expected of you.  You are expected to be a proper lady, you are expected to participate in society, and you’re expected to fully and financially support your extended family.  You are not expected to refuse funding, you are not expected to leave the family estate, you’re not expected to live alone with just your young daughter, and you’re certainly not expected to get yourself involved in mystery.

Frances Wynn, the widowed Countess of Harleigh has decided to live her life far differently as a widow than she did as a wife.  As a wife, Frances tended to bury her head in the sand.  Oh, she knew her husband was unfaithful, but she never expected to be confronted with it so bluntly and blatantly as the night he died in another woman’s bed.  During her year of mourning, Frances made some serious decisions about her life: she was moving out of the estate home she shared with her dead husband, she would no longer indulge in her in-laws by allowing them to request more funds from her trust, and she would certainly never marry again.  With her plans in place and a solicitor willing to work for her interests, Frances moves herself and her young daughter into a modest home in London.

Unfortunately, the fresh start Frances was hoping for doesn’t quite work out according to her plans.  Within hours of settling into her new home, her past comes calling!  Only two other people know what really happened the night Frances’ husband died, and one of those two people is now her next-door neighbor, Mr. Hazelton.  What’s more, the police have also come calling regarding the manner of her late husband’s death, there have been a series of robberies among her upper crust friends, her younger sister and aunt have come to stay for the duration of the Season, AND, her greedy brother-in-law has decided to sue for access the Frances’ money!  As a proper lady of society, Frances should step away from all the scandal, all the drama and allow the proper authorities to sort it all out on her behalf.  But, that’s not the type of woman Frances Wynn, Countess of Harleigh has decided she wants to be.

With decisions made and a course set, Frances, with the help of her dogged aunt, Mr. Hazelton, her husband’s last mistress, and her best friend, begins asking questions and sussing out motives and motivations for the players in a most dangerous game.  Though she isn’t a professional investigator, Frances is smart, curious, and has access to certain levels of society the police just can’t get to.  The deeper Frances delves into the hearts and minds of men, the closer she gets to flushing out a killer, resolving nearly all her problems, and risking her own precious life. 

The Bottom Line:  I have always liked books featuring women ahead of their time and place and the Countess of Harleigh certainly fits that description.  Frances Wynn isn’t looking to cause scandal or be a scandal, but she is determined to live her life on her terms.  What I particularly liked about Frances is her willingness to admit when she’s in over her head and needs help.  Though she’s brazen and bold, she isn’t stupid and has no desire to leave her daughter alone in the world.  As a result, Frances has surrounded herself with a whole host of interesting and loyal people which are going to make for fun reading in future installments of this historical cozy mystery series.

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Review: One Summer in Rome by Samantha Tonge

One Summer in Rome

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To Rome…with love?  Mary Smith is turning her very ordinary life upside-down! She’s bought herself a one-way ticket to Rome and is ready for a summer she’ll never forget.  Men might be off the cards for waitress Mary, but within hours of arriving at the utterly charming family-run La Dolce Vita pizzeria, she’s already fallen in love with the bustling capital!  Only Dante Rossi, the mysterious (and drop-dead gorgeous) chef seems displeased with her arrival. And in the heat of the kitchen, it doesn’t take long for long-buried secrets to surface and sparks to fly…

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Source: Netgalley         My Rating: 4/5 stars

Mary Smith has never done anything adventurous!  Mary Smith has never stood up for herself!  Mary Smith has never allowed herself to be completely vulnerable, open, and honest in a relationship!  Mary Smith is going to change all of that . . . .

Rome seems like the perfect place to turn over a new leaf, to make marked changes in her life, and to finally find happiness.  One, one-way plane ticket and a bit of gumption is exactly what Mary Smith needs to start living the life she has always dreamed of, so when her boyfriend dumps her, and her wretched boss has finally crossed the line, Mary Smith is on her way to a brand-new life. 

Rome is everything Mary hoped it would be from the ancient ruins to the bustling night life to the warm, friendly people.  With a job and living space secured, Mary is ready to carve out a new, fantastic life wholly different from the one she left behind.  Unfortunately, carving takes time and Mary has a lot to learn and sort out in her new world.  Her Italian is only passable, her waitressing skills aren’t quite up to par, and the chef and lead waiter both thoroughly dislike her.  Determined, for the first time in her life, to stand on her own two feet and stand up for herself, Mary dives right in with improving her conversational Italian, she asks questions about improving her waitressing skills, and she makes every effort to be polite and kind to the two men who dislike her most. 

Only some of that effort goes her way . . .

As if happens, Mary isn’t the only one struggling.  The family-owned pizzeria she works for is in the thick of a popularity contest that often determines their income for the next year.  A new pizzeria has opened and is threatening their business.  With nothing but good intentions, Mary sets out to help the family shake things up and get themselves right back in the running of the competition.  With her newfound confidence, Mary delights in offering suggestions, baking new items for the menu, and seeing the fruits of her labor being received favorably by the family and customers alike.  On the personal side, Mary finds herself dreadfully attracted to the chef who dislikes her and feeling complete compassion for the lead waiter who finds himself in a most dangerous situation.  Emotionally, Mary is on something of a roller coaster ride, but it becomes a most liberating experience which allows her to reconcile with the demons of her past and move forward towards a bright future. 

The Bottom Line: As promised, One Summer in Rome is a sweet read that will leave you smiling.  Mary is a kind, generous soul who has had something of a difficult life.  With change on her mind and courage in her heart, Mary leaves all she has ever known for the unknown.  What I particularly liked about this read is the fact that Mary’s new life isn’t a given.  She has struggles to deal with, obstacles to overcome, and very real emotions to manage.  In many ways, stepping into her new life is the best education Mary has ever received.  She learns that being vulnerable isn’t always bad, many people who seem happy on the surface have very real internal struggles of their own, and those who are angry and bitter may be trying, in their own way to reach out and ask for help.  While it may seem as if there is too much happening in this read, it really comes together quite nicely and all the loose are tied up nicely in the end.  What’s more, it isn’t just Mary who finds her HEA, but multiple characters!  In all, this isn’t necessarily a light, easy breezy read, but it is a quick read with engaging characters and just enough drama to keep you interested.  The heat level is relatively low and totally appropriate for the characters and story line.

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Mini-Review: X Marks the Spot by Opal Carew

X Marks the Spot

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Abi has been in love with Del for years, but they never got around to acting on their mutual attraction. And then she met and married his best friend, Liam.  But when Abi and Liam’s marriage falls apart, Abi decides to take control of her life and find her happily-ever-after with Del. So when they’re all staying in a country inn for her brother’s wedding, Abi decides to slip into Del’s bed and seduce him…except she accidentally ends up in Liam’s instead.  Liam never stopped loving Abi, and he plans to use every blazing hot trick in his book to keep her in his bed…even if it means sharing her with Del.

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The Bottom Line: For a very long time, I have maintained, I know what I’m getting into when I read an Opal Carew book.  I know not to expect high literature, or something vastly and greatly new and exciting, but I have finally gotten to the point where I want something at least a bit different.  The last several books I have read by Carew have been the same basic plot and format with slight variations in setting and character names.  Yes, the sexy bits are still spectacular and fun to read, but I feel like I can skip over all the other bits because I already have the formula memorized.  Yes, this all makes me very sad because I have long been a fan of Carew and supported her writing.  While I am in no way revoking my support, I think it is simply time to take a break and come back to Carew the next time I need a quick, easy dose of naughty and nothing much beyond that.

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Review: Grounds for Remorse (Book #2: A Tallie Graver Mystery) by Misty Simon

Grounds for RemorseNo more cheating . . .  Best friends Tallie Graver and Gina Laudermilch both seem to spend a lot of time around urns. For Tallie, they’re part and parcel of the family business, Graver’s Funeral Home. Even though she’s traded ashes for dusting with her own cleaning business, she still works part-time for her folks and lives above the funeral parlor. For Gina, they’re the vessels that contain her heavenly brew at her coffee shop, Bean There, Done That. And both women are learning that owning a business can make finding time for romance challenging.  But when Gina’s new beau turns out to have a wife, who barges into the coffee shop to take him home, she can’t contain her bitterness and loudly threatens to poison his cup or boil him in vat of coffee. So when Mr. Wrong turns up dead at the bottom of a staircase inside Gina’s locked home, she finds herself at the top of the police’s suspect list. Tallie needs to sweep in to save her friend. But she’ll need to watch her step, or she may go from being a funeral home employee to becoming their next client . . .

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Source: Netgalley          My Rating: 4/5 stars

Tallie Graver’s best friend, Gina is about as unlucky in love as they come!  She thought she had met and dated every loser in the tri-county area, but this latest guy is a special kind of loser!  When his wife bursts into Gina’s coffee shop and makes a scene, Gina is certain she’s seen it all.  Unfortunately, she hasn’t seen it all and what she sees next will land her in jail and in need of her best friend, Tallie.

In a small town with a limited police force, and with her best friend as the primary suspect, Tallie sees it as her duty to solve the crime at hand.  To the sheriff’s continued aggravation and displeasure 😊  It doesn’t Tallie more than a hot minute to figure out the deceased was a rat bastard with at least two wives, a horde of girlfriends, and about as much business sense as a goose.  He wasn’t a good person and Tallie isn’t about to let his run of awful continue by seeing Gina in jail for his murder. 

As with her first case, Tallie finds herself swimming in questions and suspects.  When the murder victim is a rat bastard, there a lot of people who wouldn’t mind seeing him dead.  What’s more, with every new bit of evidence Tallie finds the proverbial finger pointing more strongly at Gina.  With nothing left to do but dig deeper, Tallie amps up her nosiness and drags her boyfriend, Max along for the ride.  Tallie isn’t afraid to ask the hard and/or awkward questions and she certainly isn’t afraid of stirring the pot.  Where the police have to follow procedure, Tallie has only her instincts to follow and she will follow those instincts right on into Hell if it means saving Gina.

The Bottom Line:  Grounds for Remorse is all kinds of messy from page one!  Gina is in big trouble, the sheriff is none too pleased with Tallie’s involvement, and Max the boyfriend is along for the ride.  Once again, Tallie just wades into the mess and at every turn she is in another bind or more trouble with the sheriff.  In truth, it is Tallie’s interactions with the sheriff that really put this read over the top for me.  This relationship is perhaps the funniest and most contentious which makes for a far more enjoyable experience.  As with all true cozy mysteries, the plot isn’t too complicated, the big bad isn’t all that surprising, but you just don’t care because the read is so fun.  Tallie is a hot mess, boyfriend Max is adorable, the sheriff is at the end of his rope, and read is worth it from start to finish.  As this is only the second book in the series, there isn’t a ton of growth in the characters and their lives, but I have a sneaking suspicion big changes are coming in the very near future. 😊

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Review: A Summer Scandal by Kat French

A Summer ScandalWhen Violet moves to Swallow Beach, she inherits a small Victorian pier in with an empty arcade perched on the end of it, and falls in love immediately. She wants nothing more than to rejuvenate it and make it grand again – but how?  When she meets hunky Calvin, inspiration strikes. What if she turned the arcade into an adult-themed arcade full of artisan shops?  Not everyone in the town is happy with the idea, but Violet loves her arcade and business begins to boom. But as tensions worsen and the heat between her and Calvin begins to grow, life at Swallow Beach becomes tricky. Is it worth staying to ride out the storm? And can Violet find her own happy ending before the swallows fly south for the winter?

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Source: Netgalley          My Rating: 3/5 stars

Until her grandfather died and left her an apartment and pier(!), Violet knew virtually nothing about the small coastal town of Swallow Beach.  Her only real knowledge of the place comes from brief comments from her mother and grandfather; as far as Violet knows, Swallow Beach is just a place her family once lived, long before her own birth. 

In her almost thirty years, Violet has never even thought of visiting Swallow Beach let alone moving there, but when her grandfather bequeaths her a small apartment and pier(!) suddenly Swallow Beach sounds like exactly the place Violet needs to be.  With more than a bit of trepidation and a healthy does of excitement, Violet packs her van, her business, and what few personal items she can’t live without and drives off towards an uncertain future in a small coastal town. 

Swallow Beach is not at all what Violet expected!  Her apartment is one of six in a wonderful building filled with an even more wonderful mix of people.  Barty is the elder statesman, his granddaughter the feistiest of friends, and Cal is the stunningly handsome artisan across the hall.  Violet’s apartment is crazy mix of all the things she loves the most, bright color, strange decorations, and an eclectic mix of style.  Violet quickly understands her connection to the apartment and Swallow Beach isn’t through her beloved grandfather, but her free-spirited grandmother she never had the pleasure of meeting.

In addition to getting settled, Violet also has the added pressure of deciding what needs to be done with the pier.  The site is amazing, structurally sound, and just waiting for something or someone to fill the space.  As so often happens in the most unexpected of places, inspiration strikes and within days, Violet has a plan for the pier that involves herself, her business, and the work of several new friends.  Though not everyone in town is thrilled with Violet’s plan, she is determined to see her vision through.  Through it all, Violet strengthens her ties to Swallow Beach, discovers stunning secrets from her family’s past, and figures out a future wholly different from what she could have ever envisioned. 

The Bottom Line:  Thanks to a power outage, I was able to power through this read in a single sitting and while I enjoyed it while in the moment, after I let the read sit overnight, I found I just liked this read and didn’t love it.  I think what tipped the scales for me was the ending which seemed so much more dramatic, and therefore out of step, with the rest of the read.  As far as the characters go, I generally liked everyone and the part they had to play.  The friendships Violet makes, though fast, are genuine and bring so much to her life that she didn’t even realize she was missing.  To be sure, there are more than a few obstacles, but overall, the characters kept this book at three solid stars.   While the plot waned a bit in the end for me, I generally appreciated the overall writing style to the point,  I’m not done with Kat French and feel like I should give her other books the old college try!

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