The Sisters Sweet by Elizabeth Weiss

Book Cover

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Random House, The Dial Press

Date of publication: November 30th, 2021

Genre: Historical Fiction

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

A young woman in a vaudeville sister act must learn to forge her own path after her twin runs away to Hollywood in this richly immersive debut about love, family, and friendship.

Leaving was my sister’s choice. I would have to make my own.

All Harriet Szász has ever known is life onstage with her sister, Josie. As “The Sisters Sweet,” they pose as conjoined twins in a vaudeville act conceived of by their ambitious parents, who were once themselves theatrical stars. But after Josie exposes the family’s fraud and runs away to Hollywood, Harriet must learn to live out of the spotlight—and her sister’s shadow. Striving to keep her struggling family afloat, she molds herself into the perfect daughter. As Josie’s star rises in California, the Szászes fall on hard times and Harriet begins to form her first relationships outside her family. She must decide whether to honor her mother, her father, or the self she’s only beginning to get to know.

Full of long-simmering tensions, buried secrets, questionable saviors, and broken promises, this is a story about how much we are beholden to others and what we owe ourselves. Layered and intimate, The Sisters Sweet heralds the arrival of an accomplished new voice in fiction.

First Line:

A young woman is pacing up and down the front steps of my house, her briefcase bouncing against her knees

the sisters sweet by elizabeth weiss

When I first got the invite to review The Sisters Sweet, I wasn’t too sure if I wanted to read it, let alone review it. But, I read the blurb, and one word jumped out at me “Vaudville.” It was that word that convinced me to read this book. Now that I’ve read it and have had some time to sit on what I have read, I am kind of “meh” about The Sisters Sweet. I have neither good nor bad feelings towards it. Just “meh” feelings, if that makes sense.

The Sisters Sweet is two stories, well three if you count Harriet talking to the Vanity Fair reporter after Josie died. The first story is about Harriet, her relationships with her parents, uncle, cousin, and various men that come and go in her life. The second story is about Josie and Harriet’s parents and their choices in their lives. I didn’t exactly like that there were two separate plotlines. I could have done without knowing about Maude and Lenny’s backgrounds. But it was there, and it did add depth to the story.

The first plotline in The Sisters Sweet follows Josie and Harriet’s rise to vaudeville fame and their ultimate crash when Josie takes off in the middle of an act. After that, the book focuses on Harriet and what her life was like after Josie left. Harriet was left to clean up the mess Josie made and become a daughter who would never disappoint her parents or overbearing uncle. Harriet is living a double life, though. She was partying with her cousin, sleeping around, and drinking way too much. It was a matter of time before everything came crashing down. But at what cost?

The second plotline centers around Maude, Lenny, and their years before the girls. As I stated above, I didn’t think that exploring the traumas, highs, and lows they had before the twins would help. And it didn’t. I could have cared less about Maude, her accident, and her uneasy relationship with her sister’s husband. I also didn’t care about Lenny, his early years, or that he was a lush. It did nothing to change my mind about how horrible they were (and yes, they were awful parents).

The Sisters Sweet was a medium-paced read. That complimented the flow very well. There was some lag in the middle of the book, but it didn’t take away from reading.

I wish there had been more scenes with Josie in them. While she wasn’t likable, I would have liked to see what was going on in her mind. After escaping from her parents, she became almost a footnote in the book. The author detailed her life through the press and movies. I feel that she could have become more personable if she had more of a presence in the book, and it would have made some of the ending scenes a bit more believable.

I did feel bad for Harry. She was the overlooked child because everything centered around Josie. She was the one who was hurt the most when Josie took off. She also had to be strong and had to be an adult at such a young age. I did think that she would go down the same road as her mother (unwed mother), but I was glad when the author decided not to do that. Instead, Harry became a dutiful daughter during the day and a party animal at night.

I was not too fond of Maude and Lenny. They were selfish people and awful parents. Maude was a selfish woman who couldn’t show affection to her children. Later in the book, Lenny is a drunk who puts Harry in situations that no teenager should have been in.

I was very interested in the historical fiction angle of The Sisters Sweet. But, I felt that the book swept over some of the more important historical events. Those events would have added an extra depth needed to the book.

The end of The Sisters Sweet confused me a little. I understood that the entire book was Harry telling the reporter “her” story. But it wasn’t clear about exactly what happened when the reporter left. I have a hunch that it was what I thought it was.

I would recommend The Sisters Sweet to anyone over the age of 16. There are sexual situations, violence, and mild language.

The Ballerinas by Rachel Kapelke-Dale


Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: December 7th, 2021

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Contemporary, Suspense

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

Fourteen years ago, Delphine abandoned her prestigious soloist spot at the Paris Opera Ballet for a new life in St. Petersburg––taking with her a secret that could upend the lives of her best friends, fellow dancers Lindsay and Margaux. Now 36 years old, Delphine has returned to her former home and to the legendary Palais Garnier Opera House, to choreograph the ballet that will kickstart the next phase of her career––and, she hopes, finally make things right with her former friends. But Delphine quickly discovers that things have changed while she’s been away…and some secrets can’t stay buried forever.

Moving between the trio’s adolescent years and the present day, The Ballerinas explores the complexities of female friendship, the dark drive towards physical perfection in the name of artistic expression, the double-edged sword of ambition and passion, and the sublimated rage that so many women hold inside––all culminating in a twist you won’t see coming, with magnetic characters you won’t soon forget.

First Line:

You start out as potential energy and then you fall.

the ballerinas by rachel kapelke-dale

I am not a big fan of books written about ballerinas. I don’t like reading about it. So, I surprised myself when I decided to accept the review invite from the publisher. Something about the cover and the blurb called to me and said, “Read me.” Well, while it wasn’t my favorite book in the entire world, it also wasn’t my most disliked book either.

The Ballerinas is a story about friendship, ballet, and secrets that people keep. Delphine, Margaux, and Lindsay are students at a ballet school associated with the Paris Opera Ballet. Best friends, they also are rivals. Then an accident happens, and the girls each go in different directions. After 13 years, Delphine is back in Paris. But some secrets are threatening to come out. What secrets are there? What did Delphine and Margaux do 13 years ago, and why are they afraid to tell Lindsay?

The Ballerinas had dual timelines, with each told from the POV of Delphine. Usually, I don’t mind when a story goes from past to present, but in this case, it annoyed me. The storyline would switch after something significant was revealed, or something was about to happen. It could happen several times during a chapter, and honestly, it was exhausting to read.

All that switching also affected the flow of the book. It made it very choppy, and I had difficulty getting into the story. I also had a hard time connecting with the characters. The pacing was also affected by this. It was a medium-paced book, but it felt slower than it should have been.

I didn’t care for Delphine. She came across as a shallow, self-centered woman who didn’t care who she hurt to gain fame as a ballet choreographer. She 100% deserved every dressing down that she got in the book.

Margaux wasn’t much better, but I did feel bad for her. She felt so much guilt for what happened that night (the night of Lindsay’s accident) that it affected her on a personal level. She was also dealing with infertility. That was one of the more painful scenes to read. It was raw, authentic, and millions of women can empathize with her.

Out of the three, I liked Lindsay the most. She was more down-to-earth than the other two. But then the events at the end of the book happened. They left me going, “What the heck?”. It was like she had a personality change. I was left shaking my head and wondering, “Why?

There were some memorable secondary characters in The Ballerinas. Stella was my favorite, and that is because she tore Delphine a new one at the hospital. She called her out on everything, and that caused Delphine to reevaluate her life. Jock (or Jacques) was the other memorable one. He was a sleazy, skeezy jerk and deserved everything that he got coming to him. I did have hopes of his character turning out differently, but oh well.

The mystery angle of The Ballerinas was interesting. I did figure out what happened pretty early on in the book. Still, it did make for an exciting read.

There was a slight suspense angle in the book also. That happened towards the end of the book, after the incident with Jock. It wasn’t enough to get my heart pumping, but it did keep my attention. Of course, the aftermath of it was fascinating.

There are trigger warnings in The Ballerinas. They would be statutory rape, revenge porn, cancer, infertility, abortion, domestic violence, adultery, and murder. So, I would strongly suggest not reading this book if any of these triggers you.

The end of The Ballerinas was… exciting, and it was a rollercoaster. I did not see what happened with Daniel and Lindsay coming at all. That did take me by surprise. What also surprised me was how Delphine suffered zero consequences for what happened. I remember thinking to myself, “If this were in America, it wouldn’t have gone that route.” I liked the small epilogue and thought it fitted for Stella.

I would recommend The Ballerinas for anyone over the age of 21. There is mild violence, language, and sex.

The First Christmas: A Story of New Beginnings by Stephen Mitchell


Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Essentials

Date of Publication: November 9th, 2021

Genre: Christian, Religion

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

“I love The First Christmas. What a charming way Stephen Mitchell has found to tell my favorite story of all, the Nativity, character by character (I love the donkey and the ox), with wise and thrilling interludes about God, reality, truth.” -Anne Lamott

In The First Christmas, Stephen Mitchell brings the Nativity story to vivid life as never before. A narrative that is only sketched out in two Gospels becomes fully realized here with nuanced characters and a setting that reflects the culture of the time. Mitchell has suffused the birth of Jesus with a sense of beauty that will delight and astonish readers.

In this version, we see the world through the eyes of a Whitmanesque ox and a visionary donkey, starry-eyed shepherds, and Zen-like wise men, each of them providing a unique perspective on a scene that is, in Western culture, the central symbol for good tidings of great joy. Rather than superimposing later Christian concepts onto the Annunciation and Nativity scenes, he imagines Mary and Joseph experiencing the angelic message as a young Jewish woman and man living in the year 4 bce might have experienced it, with terror, dismay, and ultimate acceptance. In this context, their yes becomes an act of great moral courage.

Readers of every background will be enchanted by this startlingly beautiful reimagining of the Christmas tale.

First Line:

It was snowing again as they arrived, the man and the girl. They had been on the road for six days, traveling fifteen miles a day except when she felt too unwell to continue.

the first christmas: a story of new beginning by stephen mitchell

When I agreed to read and review The First Christmas, I didn’t know what exactly I decided to review. I thought I would read a book about The First Christmas from the blurb that the author told from the POV of an ox and donkey. Then I reread the blurb and saw that the author would tell it from the ox and donkey and Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the wise men. At that point, I had already downloaded it from NetGalley, so that I couldn’t change my mind.

I did think that The First Christmas was an imaginative retelling of Christ’s birth. But, honestly, I could have done without the interludes in between each chapter. Not that they added insight (because they did), but I thought it dragged the book in parts. I didn’t care about the historical information behind each chapter. I also didn’t care about the “what ifs.” As I mentioned, I thought it made the book drag in places.

My favorite chapters were the ones with the Ox and the Donkey. They were two different animals with different views on the stable and the visitors. Those two chapters made me smile because animals are so innocent and pure. I liked the donkey’s history behind seeing angels. I did get a little laugh out of that.

The author did an excellent job of bringing this book to life. Each character had an individual voice and personality.

The First Christmas is not a book that I would usually read, and I probably will not read again. But, saying that, it was an interesting read, and I did enjoy reading it.

I would recommend The First Christmas to anyone over the age of 13. It is a clean book (no sex or swearing).

Heard It in a Love Song by Tracey Garvis Graves


Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: November 9th, 2021

Genre: Romance, Contemporary

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

Layla Hilding is thirty-five and recently divorced. Struggling to break free from the past—her glory days as the lead singer in a band and a ten-year marriage to a man who never put her first—Layla’s newly found independence feels a lot like loneliness.

Then there’s Josh, the single dad whose daughter attends the elementary school where Layla teaches music. Recently separated, he’s still processing the end of his twenty-year marriage to his high school sweetheart. He chats with Layla every morning at school and finds himself thinking about her more and more.

Equally cautious and confused about dating in a world that favors apps over meeting organically, Layla and Josh decide to be friends with the potential for something more. Sounds sensible and way too simple—but when two people are on the rebound, is it heartbreak or happiness that’s a love song away?

From the bestselling author of The Girl He Used to Know comes a love song of a story about starting over and second chances.

First Line:

Layla Hilding smiled at the man standing next to her.He gave her a thumbs-up and she flashed the peace sign back at him.

heard it in a love song by tracey garvis graves

I will admit that I mainly chose to review this book because of the cover. It reminded me of Daisy Jones and The Six. I didn’t even read the blurb (which isn’t like me). I clicked on the link and downloaded the book. Again, not like me. Then I read the blurb and thought, “Well, I think I’ll like the book?” Guess what, I did!!

Heard It in a Love Song is a story about second chances. Layla is fresh off a divorce from a man who didn’t appreciate her and put her last. Enjoying her newfound independence, Layla isn’t quite ready to date again. But there is one man who has caught her eye. Josh, one of her student’s father. Josh is separated from his wife of almost 20 years, and he is still trying to figure out where his marriage went wrong. Layla and Josh strike up an unlikely friendship which slowly morphs into a friendship with potential. But both Layla and Josh are reexamining their lives, and that includes their relationship. What will happen? Is their relationship a rebound? Or is it the real thing?

Heard It in a Love Song started slow and maintained a medium pace throughout the book. I enjoyed it because if the book had gone any faster, then the whole vibe would have been ruined. There was no lag in the book. Overall, it was an excellent smooth read.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Layla and Josh’s storyline being interrupted being either Layla or Josh’s memories. It annoyed me at first, but I understood why the author did it as the story went on. She wanted to show the mistakes that Layla and Josh made in their previous relationships and show their progress in the relationship with each other.

One of my favorite things about this book is that the author didn’t force Layla and Josh’s relationship. It progressed from friendship to lovers naturally. I loved the phrase “friends with potential.” That perfectly summed up what their relationship was.

I also liked that the author included the bad with the good. So, you got a good feel for Josh and Layla’s exes. I wasn’t a big fan of Liam (I called what happened right from the start), but I liked Kimmy. She seemed like a nice person who grew apart from her husband. I do give her some credit, she did try at the end, but at that point, Josh was like, “Sorry, but no.

I enjoyed reading about Layla’s musical past. I knew all the songs she was singing at the risk of dating myself. I also enjoyed the lyrics for the song she sang with Brian towards the end of the book. I wish that I could hear someone sing it in real life.

The end of Heard It in a Love Song was what I expected it to be. I loved that everyone (except for Liam) got their HEA.

I would recommend Heard It in a Love Song for anyone over 21. There is sex (not graphic) and mild language.

Home for a Cowboy Christmas by Donna Grant


Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Paperbacks

Date of publication: October 26th, 2021

Genre: Romance

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

The most wonderful time of the year has arrived for this cowboy in New York Times bestseller Donna Grant’s newest novel, Home for a Cowboy Christmas.

Tis the season—for everyone except Emmy Garrett. She’s on the run after witnessing a crime. But when it becomes clear that trouble will continue following her, the US Marshal in charge takes her somewhere no one will think to look–Montana. Not only is Emmy in a new place for her protection, but now, she’s stuck with a handsome cowboy as her bodyguard…and she wants to do more than kiss him under the mistletoe.

Dwight Reynolds left behind his old career, but it’s still in his blood. When an old friend calls in a favor, Dwight opens his home to a woman on the run. He tries to keep his distance, but there’s something about Emmy he can’t resist. She stokes his passion and turns his cold nights into warm ones. When danger shows up looking for Emmy, Dwight risks everything to keep her safe.

First Line:

Light flashed behind Emmy’s eyelids, the rocking of the SUV lulling her.

Home for a cowboy christmas by donna grant

I have mentioned this in other posts, but Donna Grant is one of my absolute favorite authors to read. I have read nearly all of her Dark Kings, Reapers, and Heart of Texas series. I say that because there are a few books that I haven’t read in each series. I also want to read all of her other series (there are so many: click here to take a look). So when I saw that she had another series starting, I knew that I needed to read it.

Home For a Cowboy Christmas had a pretty straightforward plotline. Emmy is on the run. She is the star witness in a murder trial that will unmask a local businessman as a Mafioso. Being in witness protection hasn’t helped her because of a leak within the Denver marshalls. That leak caused her almost to be killed, but she was saved just in time by another marshall, Dalton Silva. He takes her to his friend in Montana. Dwight is an ex-military/FBI/Homeland Security who is now a rancher, and he agrees to keep Emmy safe as a favor. But, he wasn’t prepared for the feelings that Emmy stirred up in him. But danger has made its way to Montana, and it is a matter of time before Emmy’s past catches up with her. Will Dwight be able to keep Emmy safe until the trial? And will they act on the sparks between them?

Home For a Cowboy Christmas was a fast-paced book. This book started fast and kept the pace up for the entire book. I had a small amount of anxiety reading it because I didn’t know when or where Orso would show up. I loved it!!!

I liked Emmy and thought that her reactions to everything that she went through were perfect. When the entire backstory (how she witnessed the murder) was revealed, I felt awful for her. She was lonely, and when Joe (the mob boss) extended an invitation to one of his intimate dinners, she jumped at it. The horror of witnessing the execution and her bravery in going to the DA gripped me. I connected with her on so many levels.

I loved Dwight. He was the real deal. He also understood what Emmy was going through and offered her his support. His backstory was very similar to Emmy’s, except his trauma came from missions in the FBI/Homeland Security/the military. I loved his outlook on life and how he dealt with his trauma. He was the right person to protect Emmy.

Let’s talk about Dwight and Emmy’s romance. I am not going to sugarcoat it, but there was Instalove. Dwight was head over heels for Emmy the minute they met. But Emmy, well, she was attracted to Dwight, but she was also dealing with PTSD and a hitman, so telling Dwight that she loved him wasn’t a priority. She had to get through all that stuff first, and I loved that the author wrote it that way. Dwight respected that and gave her space, which made me internally cheer. He wasn’t pushy or demanding a return “I love you.” It was one of the best romances that I have read to date.

The bad guys (Tony, Joe, and Orso plus the dirty marshalls) were genuinely evil incarnate. I did like that the author showed Joe as a human being, though. He had marriage problems (wife was in and out of rehab, infertility issues) and was trying to build his Mafia presence back up in Denver. But don’t let my liking that he was shown as human fool you. He was evil, as were the other three. While their plotline was resolved, I am curious about what happened to the dirty marshalls and who the leak was. Nothing was mentioned about it, except there was an investigation.

The end of Home For a Cowboy Christmas was action-packed and full of surprises. I was a little mad at how Orso found Emmy. I wanted to reach through, shake the chatty woman, and tell her to shut up. But, in the end, everyone got what they deserved.

There is a short story in the same universe/area that Home For a Cowboy Christmas. It is Cady and Zane’s love story. Not going to get into it, but it was a cute story. Cady was a firecracker, and Zane, well, he needed to get that chip off his shoulder. But everything ended well.

I would recommend Home For a Cowboy Christmas to anyone over the age of 21. There is sex, violence, and language.

Nanny Needed by Georgina Cross


Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Bantam

Date of publication: October 5th 2021

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

A young woman takes a job as a nanny for an impossibly wealthy family, thinking she’s found her entre into a better life–only to discover instead she’s walked into a world of deception and dark secrets.

Nanny needed. Discretion is of the utmost importance. Special conditions apply.

When Sarah Larsen finds the notice, posted on creamy card stock in her building’s lobby, one glance at the exclusive address tells her she’s found her ticket out of a dead-end job–and life.

At the interview, the job seems like a dream come true: a glamorous penthouse apartment on the Upper West Side of NYC; a salary that adds several zeroes to her current income; the beautiful, worldly mother of her charge, who feels more like a friend than a potential boss. She’s overjoyed when they offer her the position and signs the NDA without a second thought.

In retrospect, the notice in her lobby was less an engraved invitation than a waving red flag. For there is something very strange about the Bird family. Why does the beautiful Mrs. Bird never leave the apartment alone? And what happened to the nanny before her? It soon becomes clear that the Birds’ odd behaviors are more than the eccentricities of the wealthy.

But by then it’s too late for Sarah to seek help. After all, discretion is of the utmost importance.

First Line:

The children are chattering.

Nanny needed by georgina cross

I love psychological thrillers. So when I read the blurb for Nanny Needed, I knew that this would be a book that I would enjoy.

Nanny Needed is a story about Sarah. Sarah is living with her boyfriend in New York City and barely making ends meet when she finds a flyer in the lobby of her building. The flyer is for a nanny position in a very affluent area of NYC. Throwing caution to the wind, Sarah decides to apply and gets hired, much to her surprise. But she soon regrets her decision when she finds out her nannying position isn’t what it seems. What is going on in the Bird house? What secrets is Mr. Bird trying to keep from coming out? And how does Sarah figure into everything?

Nanny Needed is a fast-paced book, but it does start slow. There is some lag towards the middle of the book, but it was expected. With what happened and Sarah’s state of mind, I wasn’t surprised by it at all.

I liked Sarah. She started the book as overwhelmed but happy. When she saw the flyer for the nanny position in her lobby, she thought it was a sign, and she was thrilled that she hit it off with Collette. After signing NDA’s and agreeing to a 3-month trial, she realizes what her job would be. Then everything hits the fan. I don’t think that I would have dealt with everything as well as Sarah did. She had some fantastic coping skills (in hindsight, I am not surprised).

The thriller angle was interwoven with the mystery angle, and they were both very well written. There were a few twists in the plotline. One twist I saw coming and called it the minute that Sarah interviewed for the job.

The other major twist, I didn’t see coming, and I was floored. I had to take a break to process what I read. That is how insane the twist was!!

The end of Nanny Needed was almost anti-climatic but perfect. I enjoyed that it not only ended the way it did but there was practically no resolve when the twist was revealed. I will say, without getting into spoilers, that I understand why Stephen did what he did. I would have wanted to know too, but what it cost everyone was almost too much. And poor Sarah!!!

I would recommend Nanny Needed to anyone over the age of 21. There is language and mild violence.

The Brightest Star in Paris by Diana Biller


Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Griffin

Date of Publication: October 12th 2021

Genre: Romance, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Paranormal, France, Ghosts, Doctors

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

In Diana Biller’s The Brightest Star in Paris, love is waiting; you only have to let it in.

Amelie St. James, the prima ballerina of the Paris Opera Ballet and the people’s saint, has spent seven years pretending. In the devastating aftermath of the Siege of Paris, she made a decision to protect her sister: she became the bland, sweet, pious “St. Amie” the ballet needed to restore its scandalous reputation. But when her first love reappears, and the ghosts of her past come back to haunt her, all her hard-fought safety is threatened.

Dr. Benedict Moore has never forgotten the girl who helped him embrace life again after he almost lost his. Now, he’s back in Paris after twelve years for a conference. His goals are to recruit promising new scientists, and, maybe, to see Amelie again. When he discovers she’s in trouble, he’s desperate to help her—after all, he owes her.

When she finally agrees to let him help, they disguise their time together with a fake courtship. But reigniting old feelings is dangerous, especially when their lives are an ocean apart. Will they be able to make it out with their hearts intact?

First Line:

The Palais Garnier was three days away from dress rehearsals.

the brighest star in paris by diana biller

When I started reading The Brightest Star in Paris, I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that I had met Amelie and Benedict before. As the book went on and the story unraveled, that feeling intensified. Then Alma was introduced, and I went, “Ooooh, that’s where I remember Ben from!” What book was it? The Widow of Rose House. It took me almost to when Alma came to Paris (with Sam and the rest of the family) to realize that.

The Brightest Star in Paris isn’t officially part of a series but is connected to The Widow of Rose Haven. If it were part of a series, it would be book 2. It also could be read as a standalone. While the Moore family is a large part of the book, they do not take it over. Instead, the focus is on Amelie and Benedict, with the Moores’ staying in the background.

The plotline for The Brightest Star in Paris was fast-paced and well written. There was very little lag. The only lag that I noticed was right after Amelie’s collapse on stage. It didn’t last long, only about a chapter, and didn’t derail the book. Instead, it gave me a moment to collect my thoughts and prepare myself for what the rest of the book would bring.

I will admit, I didn’t know much about Edwardian Paris when I started reading The Brightest Star in Paris. I didn’t know about the invasion, the thousands of “rebels” that were killed, or the rebuilding that went on afterward. I was alternately shocked and in tears by what Amelie went through and what she did to survive. To see her gradually break free of the constraints that she put upon herself was a wonderful thing but heartbreaking at the same time.

I don’t remember much about Benedict from The Widow of Rose House, only that he was a surgeon in the Civil War and came back sick. Now, when they said ill, I thought it was a physical illness. Instead, the author painted a picture of a teenager who went to war and returned with PTSD. The author wrote about what happened to Benedict and how he dealt with his PTSD (which wasn’t a thing back then). He was right to say that Amelie saved his life the day she met him. Later on in the book, he became the rock that Amelie leaned on when her world shattered.

I liked Amelie, but I did wish that she let Benedict in sooner than she did. Or at least told him about what her sister’s father was trying to force her into doing. Her seeing ghosts and communicating with them did come as a surprise, but I did like that she didn’t freak out (much) when she realized that they were dead. She resolved two of her ghosts’ issues, and the third ghost decided to tag along with her. There was a neat twist to that plotline that I should have seen coming. Instead, it surprised me, along with Amelie, and it made so much sense.

There is romance in The Brightest Star in Paris. That romance was Amelie and Benedicts. Of course, Amelie almost messed it up, but the way she resolved it was pretty awesome!! This was a second chance romance, and I thought it was super sweet.

The end of The Brightest Star in Paris was pretty good. The author was able to resolve all of the storylines in a way that I liked. She also hinted at another book with either Benedict’s foster brother or younger sister (well, perhaps both??). I can’t wait to read that book!!

Not Your Average Hot Guy (Not Your Average Hot Guy: Book 1) by Gwenda Bond


Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Griffin

Date of publication: October 5th, 2021

Genre: Romance, Paranormal, Contemporary

Series: Not Your Average Hot Guy

Not Your Average Hot Guy—Book 1

The Date from Hell—Book 2 (expected publication date: April 5th, 2022)

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible |B&N |WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

A paranormal romantic comedy at the (possible) end of the world.

All Callie wanted was a quiet weekend with her best friend. She promised her mom she could handle running her family’s escape room business while her mom is out of town. Instead a Satanic cult shows up, claiming that the prop spell book in one of the rooms is the real deal, and they need it to summon the right hand of the devil. Naturally they take Callie and her friend, Mag, along with them. But when the summoning reveals a handsome demon in a leather jacket named Luke who offers to help Callie stop the cult from destroying the world, her night goes from weird to completely strange.

As the group tries to stay one step ahead of the cult, Callie finds herself drawn to the annoying (and annoyingly handsome) Luke. But what Callie doesn’t know is that Luke is none other than Luke Morningstar, Prince of Hell and son of the Devil himself. Callie never had time for love, and with the apocalypse coming closer, is there room for romance when all hell’s about to break loose?

From New York Times bestselling author Gwenda Bond, Not Your Average Hot Guy is a hilarious romantic comedy about two people falling in love, while the fate of the world rests on their shoulders.

First Line:

“Hmm.” My mother puts her hands on her hips and inspects the waiting area with a slight frown.

not your average hot guy by gwenda bond

I knew I would like this book from the minute I read the blurb. I have been having a stressful couple of weeks, and I needed a book to make me laugh. And oh boy, did this book do that.

The synopsis for Not Your Average Hot Guy was pretty simple. Callie was left to run her mother’s escape room business for a weekend while her mother went out of town. Everything was supposed to go smoothly until the first group showed up. They turn out to be a cult who steals a grimoire, kidnaps Mags and Callie, and summons a demon. That demon turns out to be Luke Morningstar, the son of Lucifer Morningstar and Lilith (yes, that Lilith). What does that cult want? Well, they want to bring about the apocalypse….which Callie is against. So when Luke offers his help, Callie doesn’t hesitate to accept it. With the clock ticking, Callie and Luke rush to stop the cult. But Luke has a secret plan that he didn’t mention to Callie, and his growing feelings for her are threatening his goal. Will they be able to stop the cult from starting the apocalypse?

This book was fun to read. I giggle snorted during the entire book (and outright laughed in certain spots. Does MaHGA ring a bell….lmao). As I mentioned in the first paragraph, I needed a book like this due to my last few weeks.

I loved Callie. Her no-nonsense attitude and, most of all, her acceptance of everything that happened to her were remarkable. Plus, she didn’t hesitate to stand up for anyone she thought was wronged, and she had an excellent snarky attitude. I loved her interactions with Lucifer, Styx, Lilith, Mags, and just about everyone in the book.

I liked Luke, but he came across as almost too wishy-washy at the beginning of the book. It was not what I expected for someone who was the son of the Devil. But, as the book went on and as his character grew, I began to understand why the author wrote him that way. By the end of the book, I was 100% on team Luke.

Luke and Callie’s romance was very quick (think a day) and very much Instalove. But instead of making me roll my eyes, I ended up loving it.

Luke and Callie do have sex in Not Your Average Hot Guy. What I enjoyed about this is that the author decided not to make a big deal of it. One chapter ended with them going into the bedroom, and then the next was them getting ready to grab (aka steal) a globe that shows what is going on on Earth in real-time.

There is so much I could cover here, but I feel it would lead to a possible spoiler. I do want to address one thing: The Harry Potter references. I am not a huge Harry Potter fan (never pretended to be), but even I thought the comments about JK were a bit sus.

The end of Not Your Average Hot Guy was pretty funny. I got a laugh over the pygmy fainting goat named Cupcake. I also loved Lucifer wasn’t done meddling in Callie and Luke’s relationship.

I would recommend Not Your Average Hot Guy for anyone over the age of 16. There is language, violence, and sexual situations.

Kissing Under the Mistletoe by Suzanne Enoch, Amelia Grey, and Anna Bennett


Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Paperbacks

Date of publication: September 28th, 2021

Genre: Romance, Historical Fiction, Anthology

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Format Read: Unedited ARC

Received From: Publisher

Goodreads Synopsis:

In GREAT SCOT by Suzanne Enoch, Jane Bansil knows she will never have a fairy-tale life. But even at three-and-thirty and well past marriageable age, though, she has to admit that the architect the MacTaggerts have hired could turn even a confirmed spinster’s head.

In CHRISTMAS AT DEWBERRY HOLLOW by Amelia Grey, Isabelle Reed has no plans to ever fall in love. Certainly not with Gate, a man who doesn’t live in Dewberry Hollow. She will fulfill her duty and help him keep his promise to have his ill grandfather back in London in time for Christmas dinner. The last thing Isabelle wants is for Gate to take her heart with him when he goes.

In MY MISTLETOE BEAU by Anna Bennett, Miss Eva Tiding is determined to cheer her widowed father with the perfect Christmas gift. Even if it means breaking into the home of the rakish earl who swindled Papa out of his pocket watch and pretending to date the earl for the Christmas season.

First Lines:

Great Scot:

Jane Basil threw the heavy blankets over her head and burrowed deeper beneath the covers.

great scott by suzanne enoch

Christmas at Dewberry Hollow

Who wanted a curmudgeon staying at their inn during Christmastide? Not Isabelle Reed.

Christmas at Dewberry hollow by Amelia grey

My Mistletoe Beau

Miss Eva Tiding’s hands were surprisingly steady, considering she was on the doorstep of London’s most disreputable rogue.

my mistletoe beau by anna bennett

I usually do not review anthologies. It’s not that I don’t like them (I do), but I find it hard to review each story. So, I surprised myself when I downloaded Kissing Under the Mistletoe. I decided to review because, honestly, I figured it was time to step outside my comfort zone (review-wise).

I enjoyed reading Kissing Under the Mistletoe. Each story was well written, with characters that left an impression on me. Plus, they were all Regency romances, which you all know that I love.

Great Scot made me smile. I had read the Wild Wicked Highlanders series, and the MacTaggert boys (and girl) had left me wanting to know what happened to them after the series ended. With this novella, I got that. I was thrilled that Jane could get her HEA with Brennan (even though it was Instalove). But what interested me more was the dynamics between Jane and the rest of the MacTaggert women. Because of Jane’s role in Amelia-Rose and Niall’s romance, I understood why she was hesitant to become close to Lady MacTaggert and the other women. But, as the saying says, it takes a village (this time all the MacTaggert women), and that village drew Jane out of her shell. In return, her blossoming caught Brennan’s eye, and that turned into a delightful romance.

Christmas at Dewberry Inn was another one that made me smile. I will admit, I was not too fond of Isabelle at first. She was rude to Gate right from the beginning. But, she grew on me, and when it was explained why she acted the way she did, I felt terrible for her. Again, this is another Instalove situation, but it was adorable how they fell in love. It was just a feel-good romance from the beginning to the end.

My Mistletoe Beau had me laughing right from the beginning. All Eva wanted to do was get her Papa’s watch from Jack’s possession. See, Jack hates her father and wants to hurt him any way he can. If that means winning his watch (which was given to him by Eva’s mother), then he’ll do it. But Eva isn’t one to play fair. She suggests a wager of her own: She pretends to be his fiancee, and she will get the watch by the end of the charade. Of course, you all know how this goes, and they both fail when they fall for each other. This wasn’t quite an Instalove story, but it was a great enemy-to-lovers romance.

The book itself was a quick read. Each story was only about 8-10 chapters long. Perfect length for an anthology!!

The sex scenes in each story were hot with significant buildup. I will admit that My Mistletoe Beau was exceptional in that department. Eva and Jack’s chemistry and sexual attraction were through the roof. And when they had sex, it was incredible!!

I would recommend Kissing Under the Mistletoe for anyone over the age of 21. There is mild language, mild violence, and sex/sexual situations.

The Last Guest by Tess Little


Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books

Date of publication: October 5th, 2021

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible |B&N |World Cat

Goodreads Synopsis:

A glamorous birthday dinner in the Hollywood Hills ends with the famous host dead and every guest under suspicion in this dark, cinematic suspense debut reminiscent of an Agatha Christie page-turner crossed with David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive.

When actress Elspeth Bell attends the fiftieth birthday party of her ex-husband Richard Bryant, the Hollywood director who launched her career, all she wants is to pass unnoticed through the glamorous crowd in his sprawling Los Angeles mansion. Instead, there are just seven other guests–and Richard’s pet octopus, Persephone, watching over them from her tank as the intimate party grows more surreal (and rowdy) by the hour. Come morning, Richard is dead–and all of the guests are suspects.

In the weeks that follow, each of the guests come under suspicion: the school friend, the studio producer, the actress, the actor, the new partner, the manager, the cinematographer, and even Elspeth herself. What starts out as a locked-room mystery soon reveals itself to be much more complicated, as dark stories from Richard’s past surface, colliding with Elspeth’s memories of their marriage that she vowed never to revisit. Elspeth begins to wonder not just who killed Richard, but why these eight guests were invited, and what sort of man would desire to possess a creature as mysterious and unsettling as Persephone.

The Last Guest is a stylish exploration of power–the power of memory, the power of perception, the power of one person over another.

First Line:

We believed he had died from an overdose. There was no reason to suspect otherwise: limbs limp on the couch; pink vomit splattered across his shirt, dribbling from the corners of his mouth; the Gucci belt, the residue-stained needles – our own memories, in flashes and throbs and waves.

the last guest by tess little

When I read the blurb for The Last Guest, I was intrigued. I couldn’t wait to read a book where the mystery was laid out initially, and untangling what happened would take the whole book. Then, I read the book, and I wasn’t that thrilled with it.

The synopsis for The Last Guest was this: Elspeth was invited to her ex-husband’s, Richard, birthday party. She went only because their teenaged daughter, Lillie, was supposed to be there. But, Lillie was a no-show. Elspeth decided to make the best of it and woke up to her ex dead of an apparent heroin overdose the following day. But the police are not too sure that it was an accident and are interviewing everyone there. What happened the night of the party? Was Richard killed? Who would want him dead? Or was his death a tragic accident?

The plotline for The Last Guest was challenging to follow. The plotline went from the death to the past to the present and then back with zero lead-ins. I would be reading a paragraph that took place the night of Richard’s death, and then the next would be Elspeth sitting in her daughter’s house. It was confusing to read and frustrated me.

I couldn’t get a feel as to who killed Richard and why. Everyone at that party had an ax to grind with him. Richard was not a good or nice man. He made it to the top of the Hollywood hierarchy by being ruthless. Hell, even the octopus, Persephone, had reason to kill him. So, when the author finally revealed the details of his death, I wasn’t surprised at all.

I liked Elspeth, but her covering for Richard after he died left a bad taste in my mouth. She lied to everyone about him, including her daughter. But, as details came out about how badly she was abused, I did understand why she lied to Lillie. I didn’t know why she kept lying to everyone else. The end did little to soothe me. It seemed like it was too little too late.

The suspense angle of the book was good, but it was broken up when the book swung between present and past. A promising storyline with the housekeeper fizzled out (I wanted to know why she hated Elspeth so much).

The mystery angle was just as good but again, kept getting broken up with the book swinging between present and past.

The end of The Last Guest was a little “eh.” I understand why Elspeth decided to do what she did, but it was too little too late. I also got a little emotional with what happened to Persephone.

I would recommend The Last Guest to anyone over the age of 21. There is language, violence, and drug use.