The Second You’re Single by Cara Tanamachi

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

Date of publication: January 31st, 2023

Genre: Romance, Contemporary Romance, Contemporary, Womens Fiction, Chick Lit, Fiction, Humor, Adult, Adult Fiction

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

Cheerfully irreverent, bitingly funny, and filled with romantic charm, The Second You’re Single is all about navigating the most romantic month of the year, and how love always seems to arrive when you least expect it.

Freelance writer Sora Reid believes in inertia. She’s the odd one out in a close-knit family of go-getters, including her Japanese-American mom, who hints about her need to lose weight, and her soon-to-be married, overachieving younger sister, who needs her to have a date for the wedding, since a wedding party couples’ dance with their Scottish great uncle Bob simply won’t do. For Sora, minimal input, minimal expectations is the way to go. She’d rather stay at home with her insufferable neighbor and her adorable pitbull.

The one thing that disrupts her inertia: an intense dislike for Valentine’s Day. What is it with the commercial love machine? Why do we pin our hopes on one romantic day, when staying home with a package of bacon and a bottle of tequila would be way better? Sora’s been betrayed and disappointed more than once and her heart is starting to feel like her Grandma Mitsuye’s antique Japanese ceramic bowl, with its many gold-filled cracks.

When her pledge to stay single in February inspires readers to #gosolo, Sora has a responsibility to empower her readers. But relationships aren’t built to last, so it shouldn’t be that hard. Right?

Enter Jack Mann. A muscle-bound baker who looks like he lifts logs on the weekends, Sora hasn’t thought of Jack since they were in elementary school together. When they see each other at the local grocery store and the attraction hits hard, Sora knows she has to shut it down, quick. She can’t #gosolo AND get the guy. She can’t let down her readers. And relationships always end, so why should Jack be any different–even though he’s confounding all her long-held expectations of love?


First Line:

Valentine’s Day has snuck up on me like a porch pirate.

The Second You’re Single by Cara Tanamachi

When I first read the blurb for The Second You’re Single, I didn’t like it. I am not a huge Valentine’s Day fan, but I am not an all-out hater. So I sat on this invite for a while. I wanted to make sure that I wanted to read a book about a bitter woman complaining about Valentine’s Day. I was confident and glad I did because this book was nothing like I thought it would be. It wasn’t a book about a bitter woman complaining about Valentine’s Day, that’s for sure.

Before I get into the review, I want to let you know that this book has several trigger warnings. They are body shaming (multiple people shame Sora about her weight throughout the book), fatphobia (ex’s new girlfriend and Jack’s ex both make comments), miscarriage (Sora and her ex), cancer (Jack’s niece had leukemia as a toddler), cheating (both Jack and Sora’s exes cheated on them. Also Sora’s sister gets cheated on by her fiancee), bullying (Jack was severely bullied by classmates growing up, Sora experienced online bullying towards the end of the book), death of a parent (Sora’s father dies before the book starts but she is still working through grief), verbal abuse (Sora’s father verbally abused them), neglect and its repercussions (Jack’s ex), stalking (Jack’s ex), and depression (Sora). If any of these trigger you, I recommend not reading this book.

The storyline for The Second You’re Single was funny and interesting. Sora had just found out that her ex was lying to her. He was married with children….not the single DJ she was led to believe. Disillusioned with men and the holiday that caters only to people in relationships, Sora writes an article for the online magazine she works for promoting #gosolo for February. What she wasn’t expecting was how much it resonated with people. She wasn’t expecting Jack to walk into her life right as #gosolo took off, and she certainly wasn’t expecting to fall in love with him. Can Sora keep her promise to her readers about going solo for the month of February? Will she be able to keep her relationship with Jack under wraps? What about Jack’s blonde model ex-girlfriend? Will Sora be able to compete with her?

The Second You’re Single was a fast-paced, hilarious romance that takes place in Chicago. Let me clarify that it takes place in winter in Chicago. I was cold even reading this book.

The characters in The Second You’re Single were well-written. I was able to connect with all of them, even the “villains” (aka Jack’s ex and Sora’s neighbor). Some characters I wished had more page time, and others I wished were scaled back.

  • Sora—While I loved her character, I thought she was a hot mess for most of the book. I did think that she was depressed for a good part of the book, and guess what? She had reason to be. She had a tough few years with some awful things happening to her. I would have been surprised if she wasn’t depressed. She couldn’t trust her feelings when it came to Jack (because his ex was semi-stalking him), and she needed to be single until March 1st. Again, I wasn’t surprised when everything blew up in her face. But it was after that made me impressed with her. Oh, and her love of bacon. I think she and my 9-year-old would get along great. She also cut through the BS when it came to her sister. But I wish that it had been sooner.
  • Jack–Did he have his issues? He did. He comes across as too needy and a little desperate at the beginning of the book. He was also too kind to his ex. He took everything that woman did with grace and understanding; that was amazing. I also liked that he understood Sora’s situation with solo February. But I didn’t think he got how big it was until he was forced to the side and hidden away. I didn’t blame him for feeling the way he did. I would have done the same thing.

The Second You’re Single fits perfectly into the romance genre. It was a friends-to-lovers trope with a healthy dose of Instalove thrown in. I am not a fan of Instalove but I did like it in this case. Because Sora and Jack knew each other in elementary school (Sora was Jack’s only friend, and she stood up for him against bullies), Jack loved her back then. So, it wasn’t hard for me to imagine them falling for each other within a few weeks of their meeting. Oh, let’s not forget the comedy angle of this book too. I was dying laughing at the one-liners that Sora had.

The storyline with Sora, Jack, their relationship, the #gosolo challenge, and Jack’s ex was interesting. I didn’t know how anything would end except Sora and Jack’s relationship. As I said above, I thought Jack was too nice to his ex, and it did come back to bite him in the butt, big time. Their breakup wasn’t unexpected (it happens in all romances), but what was unexpected was Sora’s come to Jesus moment with her best friend (who is a therapist) after. Everything said was true, and I liked that Sora took what she said to heart. The #gosolo challenge was fun, and I could see it happening in real life (maybe it has?).

There were several secondary storylines that I enjoyed reading. There are some that I hope the author follows up on (Jack has several unmarried brothers and Sora has a sister).

The end of The Second You’re Single was your typical HEA. I was surprised at who was instrumental in pushing Sora and Jack back together. But, considering what happened and the talk this person had with Jack, I should have seen it coming. I loved seeing Sora and Jack’s changes, both together and separately. But, it was the scene on the playground that got me. I was laughing and crying at once.

I recommend The Second You’re Single to anyone over 21. There are sexual scenes and situations, language, and mild violence. Also, see my trigger warnings above.

Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Griffin, NetGalley, and Cara Tanamachi for allowing me to read and review The Second You’re Single. All opinions stated in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading this review of The Second You’re Single, then you will enjoy reading these books:

A Guide to Being Just Friends (Jansen Brothers: Book 3) by Sophie Sullivan

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

Date of publication: January 17th, 2023

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Adult, Fiction, Womens Fiction, Chick Lit, Audiobook, Adult Fiction, Clean Romance

Series: Jansen Brothers

Ten Rules for Faking It—Book 1

How to Love Your Neighbor—Book 2 (review here)

A Guide to Being Just Friends—Book 3

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

A playful and emotional romantic comedy from the author of Ten Rules for Faking It

Hailey Sharp has a one-track mind. Get By the Cup salad shop off the ground. Do literally everything possible to make it a success. Repeat. With a head full of entrepreneurial ideas and a bad ex in her rearview, her one and only focus is living life the way she wants to. No distractions.

Wes Jansen never did understand the fuss about relationships. With a string of lackluster first dates and the pain from his parents’ angry divorce following him around, he’d much rather find someone who he likes, but won’t love. Companionship, not passion, is the name of the game.

When Hailey and Wes find each other in a disastrous meet cute that wasn’t even intended for them, they embarrassingly go their separate ways. But when Wes finds Hailey to apologize for his behavior, they strike a friendship. Because that’s all this can be. Hailey doesn’t want any distractions. Wes doesn’t want to fall in love.

What could possibly go wrong?


First Line:

Salad paid the bills. At least, it was supposed to.

A Guid to Being Just Friends by Sophie Sullivan

I’ll admit this; I didn’t read the blurb when I accepted the invite from St. Martin’s Press. I saw the title and the cover (in the widget email they sent) and made my decision from that. To be clear, I rarely accept books based on the title and/or cover. So, I was a little hesitant when I saw it next on my reading schedule. But, once I realized what series this book was a part of, I was excited to read it.

A Guide to Being Just Friends is the 3rd (and final) book in the Jansen Brothers series. While readers can read this as a standalone, I recommend reading the first two books before picking this one up. I recommend this so you, as a reader, can understand some of the relationships discussed in this book.

There are some trigger warnings that I want to warn you about in this book. Hailey (the main character) is fresh out of an emotionally and verbally abusive relationship. In one scene, her ex tries (and stress tries) to verbally abuse and manhandle her, but Wes stops it. Wes’s parents are divorced, and Hailey’s family is dysfunctional (her parents love each other and ignore her). If any of these triggers you, I recommend not reading this book.

A Guide to Being Just Friends is a medium to fast-paced book that takes place entirely in San Verde, California. The pacing of the book fluctuates during it.

As mentioned above, A Guide to Being Just Friends is Wes and Hailey’s love story. Hailey has just opened a restaurant that only serves salad (By the Cup) and is focused only on getting it off the ground and making money. She has no room for a relationship or wants one after what her ex-boyfriend has done to her. Wes couldn’t agree more with her. He is still dealing with the wounds of his parent’s divorce and has been on several not-so-great first dates. All he wants is companionship. So meeting Hailey and developing feelings for her was not part of his master plan (the same goes for Hailey). While being in a relationship is not in the cards for either of them, they will settle for being just friends. But their feelings grow, and being just friends is starting to sound not so great. Will Hailey and Wes wake up and see that the person they want the most is standing in front of them? Or will they forever be just friends?

I like going into a book and knowing at least one of the characters. For me (and I don’t know about you), it made connecting with the other main characters easier. I also liked seeing a different side of that character than what was portrayed in other books.

  • Hailey: I liked her. She was super focused on getting her business off the ground and wouldn’t let anything or anyone distract her. She was also one of the sweetest people in the book and didn’t deserve the treatment she got from her parents, ex-boyfriend, and Ana. I also liked that she overcame all the self-doubt and self-esteem issues that her ex gave her. Of course, since this is a romance, I wanted to shake her when it came to Wes. But I understood why she was holding herself back.
  • Wes—I was talking about him in the above paragraph. I liked seeing little glimpses of him in the previous two books. I did have a view of him from what I read. So it was nice for that view to be expanded and for how he acted explained. Wes had a lot on his plate, a lot of pressure from his father and Ana (the CEO of a company he’s trying to buy). Plus, he had awful luck on the relationship front. The blind dates the author showed were horrible. I did like his character growth, though. By the end of the book, he wasn’t afraid to do what was right for him (and yes, that involved Ana and her meddling ways!!)

The secondary characters were interesting. They should be since they were all previous characters in the other two books. A couple of new characters were introduced (Hailey’s cousin and her group of friends), and I hope the author decides to create another series in this world. I would love to see some of those people get their HEAs!!

A Guide to Being Just Friends fits perfectly into the romance genre. I liked that this romance took months to ignite and just as long to get off the ground. I love those types of romances. They seem more genuine, and (because I am a weirdo) I can picture them lasting in real life.

There is sex in A Guide to Being Just Friends. But it isn’t graphic. The author sets the mood, starts the sexual encounter, and ends the chapter. The next chapter is the following day with a satisfied hero and heroine. I am a fan of smut and graphic sex scenes, but sometimes it is nice to let my imagination do what it does best. And it did its best in this book. Also, there were only a couple of sex scenes.

The main storyline is Wes and Hailey’s romance. As I said, the author made this into a slow-burn romance, and I liked it. She also made it as realistic as possible. Hailey and Wes went through what I considered the usual ebb and flow until everything exploded. There was only one thing that I disagreed with: Ana. She was a vindictive, nasty person. What she did to Hailey (and let’s not forget what she tried to do) was pretty low.

Several secondary storylines enriched the main storyline. The secondary storyline that stands out to me the most was the landlord raising the rent on the apartments and shops where Hailey had her business. I loved how the author kept me wondering what would happen there and then melded it into the main storyline. It was perfect!!

The end of A Guide to Being Just Friends made me an emotional mess. I cried during the big reveal scene. I was mad because of what Hailey assumed was happening between Ana and Wes. I was happy because that assumption wasn’t true. And the epilogue. It was freaking perfect!!! I couldn’t have asked for a better epilogue than that.

I would recommend A Guide to Being Just Friends to anyone over 21. There is language, mild violence, and very mild sex scenes. Also, see my content warning above.

I want to thank St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Griffin, NetGalley, and Sophie Sullivan for allowing me to read and review A Guide to Being Just Friends. All opinions stated in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading A Guide to Being Just Friends, then you will enjoy reading these books:

All Hallows by Christopher Golden

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of Publication: January 24th, 2023

Genre: Horror, Holiday, Halloween, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Historical, Thriller, Mystery, Adult Fiction

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

With the 80’s nostalgia of Stranger Things, this horror drama from NYT bestselling author Christopher Golden follows neighborhood families and a mysterious, lurking evil on one Halloween day.

It’s Halloween night, 1984, in Coventry, Massachusetts, and two families are unraveling. Up and down the street, horrifying secrets are being revealed, and all the while, mixed in with the trick-or-treaters of all ages, four children who do not belong are walking door to door, merging with the kids of Parmenter Road. Children in vintage costumes with faded, eerie makeup. They seem terrified, and beg the neighborhood kids to hide them away, to keep them safe from The Cunning Man. There’s a small clearing in the woods now that was never there before, and a blackthorn tree that doesn’t belong at all. These odd children claim that The Cunning Man is coming for them…and they want the local kids to protect them. But with families falling apart and the neighborhood splintered by bitterness, who will save the children of Parmenter Road?

New York Times bestselling, Bram Stoker Award-winning author Christopher Golden is best known for his supernatural thrillers set in deadly, distant locales…but in this suburban Halloween drama, Golden brings the horror home.

All Hallows. The one night when everything is a mask…


First Line:

In the woods behind Tony Barbosa’s house, the autumn leaves screened out so much daylight it seemed like dusk had already arrived.

All Hallows by Christopher Golden

This isn’t easy to admit, but I am a giant baby in reading or watching anything horror. Take, for instance, the new series on HBO Max, The Last of Us. I was sitting with my husband and oldest daughter, and whenever something scary would come on, I would cover my face with a blanket and tell them to tell me when it was over. That is how I felt reading All Hallows. I wanted to cover my face and wait until it was all over, but I couldn’t. This book scared the living out of me!!

I am going to be upfront with the trigger warnings in this book. I wasn’t expecting a couple of them, and they left a bad taste in my mouth when I realized what was happening. The triggers are child sexual abuse (not graphic, but a couple of scenes that describe a victim’s emotions), racism (overt and subtle), domestic violence, cheating, bigotry, and homophobia. If any of these triggers you, I recommend not reading this book.

The plotline for All Hallows was exciting but all over the place at first. Halloween has come to a Massachusetts town, Coventry. While kids are out trick or treating, the individual families are fracturing. Add to this, there are kids in the neighborhood who don’t belong. They are dressed in old-fashioned costumes and are begging people to let them in their houses. Why? They have escaped from a being called The Cunning Man and are running from it. But not all is what it seems, as the hours count to midnight and long-held secrets are uncovered. Who are these children? What do they want? Will The Cunning Man get them? Or is everything they told a lie? What horrors are in store for the families that took them in?

All Hallows has multiple main characters; writing a short blurb on each is impossible. So, I am not in this review. It would make this review go on forever; we all know people don’t like it.

The main characters in All Hallows were well-written and fleshed out. Each character brought a fresh perspective to what was happening in that neighborhood that night. I loved seeing the same events from different eyes.

As for the secondary characters, some of them felt a little flat. While they did provide some needed filler in the storylines, I couldn’t connect to some of them. And that made it impossible for me to care when certain things happened in the book (like Donny Sweeney’s semi-redemption arc).

All Hallows fit perfectly in the horror genre. The author did a great job of making me want to cover my eyes during parts of the book. This would have been a great book to release around Halloween because, well, the book is set on Halloween afternoon/night.

The storyline with The Cunning Man and the displaced kids was unique. The author did take me for a ride with that one. I was expecting one thing to happen, but a neat twist in the storyline had me shaking my head and saying, “No way.

The storyline with the neighborhood relationships fracturing was, again, well written. The author didn’t do a massive deep dive into the people he featured during that night, but it was deep enough to know that this was beyond what neighbors act like, especially in 1984, when neighborhoods were tight. I was seven in 1984, and I remember my neighbors being like second parents. If we (my brothers and I) were outside playing, someone was always out with us. Like in the book, the neighbors treated Halloween like a party for the adults, and we kids would go around the neighborhood trick or treating, barely supervised. You can’t do that these days, which is sad.

The end of All Hallows was interesting. While the author resolved things, only some were, if you understand. There were a few storylines that I had questions on that were left up in the air. Also, there were no happy endings. People died and were hurt; the end was maybe three days later. Everyone involved was still processing what had happened. There might be a book two because of the last couple of scenes. I would love to see Vanessa, Chloe, and possibly Julia get revenge!!

I recommend All Hallows to anyone over 21. There is language, violence, and no sex (some light kissing). Also, see my trigger warnings.

I want to thank St. Martin’s Press, NetGalley, and Christopher Golden for allowing me to read and review All Hallows. All opinions stated in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading All Hallows, then you will enjoy reading these books:

The Devil You Know (Detective Margaret Nolan: Book 3) by P.J. Tracy

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books

Date of publication: January 17th, 2023

Genre: Mystery, Fiction, Suspense, Thriller, Crime, Mystery Thriller, Contemporary, Adult

Series: Detective Margaret Nolan

Deep into the Dark—Book 1

Desolation Canyon—Book 2

The Devil You Know—Book 3

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

LAPD Detective Margaret Nolan returns in The Devil You Know, the next book in the series where P. J. Tracy “seems to have found her literary sweet spot” (New York Times Book Review).

Los Angeles has many faces: the real LA where regular people live and work, the degenerate underbelly of any big city, and the rarified world of wealth, power, and celebrity. LAPD Detective Margaret Nolan’s latest case plunges her into this insular realm of privilege, and gives her a glimpse of the darkness behind the glitter.

The body of beloved actor Evan Hobbes is found in the rubble of a Malibu rockslide a day after a fake video ruins his career. It’s not clear to Nolan if it’s an accident, a suicide, or a murder, and things get murkier as the investigation expands to his luminary friends and colleagues. Meanwhile, Hobbes’ agent is dealing with damage control, his psychotic boss, and a woman he’s scorned. But when his powerful brother-in-law is murdered, he and Nolan both find themselves entangled in a scandalous deception of deadly proportion that shakes the very foundation of Hollywood’s untouchables.


First Line:

The ocean was singing in the hushed undulating tones of low tide on this still, damp night.

The Devil You Know by P.J. Tracy

While reading this book, I realized I need to read more mysteries that are only mysteries. I read romance, paranormal, and horror mysteries but never just plain secrets (if that makes sense). So, I was eager to read The Devil You Know. While I liked the book (and the story), I needed clarification during parts of the book. I don’t particularly appreciate being confused when I am reading. That did make for a less-than-ideal reading situation for me.

The Devil You Know had an exciting plotline. Detective Nolan has been assigned a disturbing case. A famous actor has been discovered dead in a rockslide. The death is suspicious because the day before, he had been the subject of a deepfake video that ended his career. Within a few days, the top executive where that actor worked is found murdered. The person that links the actor and the executive: the agent representing him and his family ties to the executive. It is up to Nolan to determine if the actor was murdered, committed suicide, or died in an accident. While doing that, she is assisting in the murder investigation of the executive. What Nolan finds out is so earth-shattering that it will shake her to the core. What does she find out? Who was willing to frame a well-liked actor in a deepfake video? Why? And how is the executive’s death connected to it?

The Devil You Know is the 3rd book in that Detective Margaret Nolan series. While readers can read this as a standalone, I recommend reading the books in order. Some parts of the book made me scratch my head because I didn’t know the backstories.

The characters in The Devil You Know were well-written, but I felt a certain disconnect with them. If I had read the first two books, I would have understood more about Nolan’s background. I also would have understood more about some of the secondary characters.

  • Detective Nolan—I liked her. She was smart, and she worked well with others. But there was also a sad element to her character. I feel it was because of her brother’s death (which is linked to another secondary character). She also emphasized with the victims’ families and, weirdly enough, the murderer. I loved seeing her process of finding out who the murderer was.

The Devil You Know fits perfectly in with the mystery genre. I loved the red herrings that she put out!! Talk about distracting, and I did feel bad for those two women (as vile as they were). The author kept me guessing until the end.

The storyline with Detective Nolan, the actor’s death, the deepfake, and the investigation were wonderfully written. The author had me double guessing if it was an accident (because of testimony from his friend/hostess of the party). Even when it was determined a murder (and no, not a spoiler, the detectives figured it out fairly early), I loved watching the investigation turn to suspects. There was another murder (with the same MO) and the revelation of the murderer. I was shocked at who it was because I didn’t see it coming. I also did feel bad for that person because of the trauma that person endured. But still, no excuse. Oh, and let’s not forget the deepfake. That was the cherry on top of this whole investigation. Once they figured out who it was, it was all downhill.

The storyline with Detective Nolan, the executive’s death, and the investigation were as wonderfully written as the first investigation. The author kept this one more under wraps than the other investigation. But still, I liked seeing how the detectives investigated it in tandem with the actor’s murder. There was a twist to that plotline that wasn’t revealed until the very end of the book. One that made me go, “Holy crap.” Because whoever went to jail for his murder didn’t kill him. The real killer’s identity stunned me.

The storyline with the agent, murders, his relationship with the movie star, and then his murder did take me for a ride. For the longest time, I thought the same thing Detective Nolan did. He did it and covered it up. Of course, there were a few red herrings sprinkled in that storyline. The big twist in that one was how the detectives figured everything out. I won’t say what, but he was a pretty intelligent guy for doing what he did.

I went back and forth on putting a trigger warning on this book. I ultimately decided to do it because what was discussed was disturbing. My trigger warnings are mentions of child pornography, deepfake videos, drug use, and alcohol use. If any of these triggers you, I highly suggest not reading this book.

The end of The Devil You Know was okay. The author wrapped up the first two storylines, and I thought they were over. But then the author tacked on that final chapter that blew everything about the second murder out of the water. It was indeed a twist that took me by surprise.

I would recommend The Devil You Know to anyone over 21. There are language, violence, and sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warnings.

I want to thank St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books, NetGalley, and P.J. Tracy for allowing me to read and review The Devil You Know. All opinions stated in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading The Devil You Know, you will enjoy reading these books:

Son of the Poison Rose (Kagen the Damned: Book 2) by Jonathan Maberry

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

Date of publication: January 10th, 2023

Series: Kagen the Damned

Kagen the Damned—Book 1 (review here)

Son of the Poison Rose—Book 2

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Dark Fantasy

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

Son of the Poison Rose marks the second installment of New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Maberry’s epic, swashbuckling Kagen the Damned series.

The Silver Empire is in ruins. War is in the wind. Kagen and his allies are on the run from the Witch-king. Wild magic is running rampant everywhere. Spies and secret cabals plot from the shadows of golden thrones.

Kagen Vale is the most wanted man in the world, with a death sentence on his head and a reward for him—dead or alive—that would tempt a saint.

The Witch-king has new allies who bring a terrible weapon—a cursed disease that drives people into a murderous rage. If the disease is allowed to spread, the whole of the West will tear itself apart.

In order to build an army of resistance fighters and unearth magical weapons of his own, Kagen and his friends have to survive attacks and storms at sea, brave the haunted wastelands of the snowy north, fight their way across the deadly Cathedral Mountains, and rediscover a lost city filled with cannibal warriors, old ghosts, and monsters from other worlds. Along with his reckless adventurer brothers, Kagen races against time to save more than the old empire… if he fails the world will be drenched in a tsunami of bloodshed and horror.

Son of the Poison Rose weaves politics and espionage, sorcery and swordplay, treachery and heroism as the damned outcast Kagen fights against the forces of ultimate darkness.


First Line:

“Repel boarders!”

The cry rang through the ship, tearing Kagen from a dream of his family dining all together, the air filled with conversation and laughter and the smell of the Harvest feast.

Son of the Poison Rose by Jonathan Maberry

I love a complicated fantasy book that takes you down a road you didn’t think it would go. That was what I liked about Kagen the Damned and what I hoped that Son of the Poison Rose would do. This book not only delivered on that expectation but also exceeded what I expected.

Son of the Poison Rose takes place in a complicated but similar world to ours. It was a medium-paced book for about 85%, but it picked up steam towards the end. With how this book ended, any other pacing would have made it impossible to read and retain the information (fast) or made it so dull that people would DNF it after the first few chapters (slow).

Son of the Poison Rose starts shortly after the events in Kagen the Damned. Kagen is determined to discover what happened to his brother, Herepath, to make him turn into the Witch-King. He is not alone in his journey and is aided by his best friends, Tuke and Filia. Their journey takes them from the frozen north to the jungle to uncover secrets left undiscovered for millennia. This book also follows Ryssa as she tries to come to terms with the sacrifice of her lover, Miri, to the god Cthulhu; Mother Frey, as she sets in place a plan to take back the empire; the Witch-King and his cronies dealing with countries that oppose him, and the last two Seedlings, Desalyn and Alleyn, as they try to keep their identities in place and not become Garvan and Foscor, the Witch-King’s children. Enemies are made, countries are destroyed, and alliances are forged as people come together to battle the Witch-King forces. When the dust settles, who will be on top? Will Kagen find out what happened to his brother? Will Ryssa accept Miri’s death? Will Mother Frey get results from everything she’s been doing? Will the Witch-King triumph over his enemies? Will Desalyn/Foscor and Alleyn/Garvan keep their identities?

Son of the Poison Rose is the second book in the Kagen the Damned series. This book cannot be read as a stand-alone book. It will help if you read the first book to understand what is happening in this one.

The characters (primary and secondary) in Son of the Poison Rose were all wonderfully written. The author didn’t write these characters to be loved. These characters got under your skin and sat while you tried to figure out their next move. They were complex and had issues brought to life in the book. The author also didn’t hesitate to kill or maim primary and secondary characters.

  • Kagen—I wasn’t sure what I would get with him when I started reading Son of the Poison Rose. Finding out who the Witch-King was had badly shaken him at the end of Kagen the Damned. I mean, he had found out that his brother executed 2 of his siblings, their parents, and the entire royal line except for the twins. I would have been in shock too. But he didn’t dwell on it much. Instead, he decided to do something about it. He went north to recruit people to his cause. He discovered that magic had reawakened the world in terrifying ways. And he went to a kingdom avoided by other countries to try and find out how to defeat the Witch-King.
  • Ryssa—She didn’t get much page time in the book. But, man, it was intense when the author squeezed her in. She was evolving into something more than herself, something that even the Witch-King feared. I cannot wait to see what she will do in Book 3.
  • Mother Frey—Again, the author gave not much page time to her in the book. And, as with Ryssa, it was explosive when she was in the book. She reminded me of Varys in GoT (with her hands in everything). She manipulated events and people. Plus, she was a tough old bird, and I loved her!! Again, I can’t wait to see what she’ll bring in Book 3.
  • The Witch-King—He was vicious. His bringing in of the monks and turning people of various villages into undead, and allowing his enemies to find and be killed by them highlighted that to me. But I also got the feeling that he was losing power. There were scenes where he talked about killing Kagen, but after everyone left, he cried. That felt like his “real” personality was breaking through. I am curious to see what he will do after what happened in his tower. And I got some insight into why he targeted the Silver Empire.
  • Desalyn/Foscor and Alleyn/Garvan—All I have to say is those poor children. They witnessed so much (like their eldest sister’s rape and murder), and they were forced to do things no children should do. Like, beat each other with a rod when they touched. I did like how Lady Kestrel helped him in the end (she realized what was being done to them was awful). Again, I can’t wait to see where their characters will go in Book 3.

Before I get interrupted or forget, this is a long book. It has 704 pages. So you must read it in more than one sitting. It took me several days to read Son of the Poison Rose.

Son of the Poison Rose fits perfectly into the fantasy and horror genre. If I did have to get technical, this could be shelved as a dark fantasy. But since I’m not getting technical, fantasy, it will be.

I will only take the time to outline some of the main storylines in the book. It would make this book tediously long. I will briefly summarize what I thought of all the storylines. They were insanely good, and I couldn’t get enough of them. Even the little snippets of what was happening in the world once the magic was released were unique. My only complaint was that I thought the author drew the undead/pyramid scenes out toward the end of Kagen’s storyline. But it served its purpose, and I can’t wait to see what will happen in this world now!!

There are some major trigger warnings in Son of the Poison Rose. There are explicit scenes of child abuse, graphic violence, gore, self-mutilation, and sexual situations. If any of these triggers you, I recommend not reading this book.

The end of Son of the Poison Rose was a cliffhanger. Usually, I’m not too fond of cliffhangers. They annoy me, but they do their job. I am invested in these characters, and I need to read book 3 to see if there will be any resolution.

I recommend Son of the Poison Rose to anyone over 21. There is explicit violence, language, and sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warnings.


If you enjoyed reading Son of the Poison Rose, you will enjoy reading these books:

The Rom-Com Agenda by Jayne Denker

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

Date of publication: January 10th, 2023

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Adult, Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Adult Fiction, Womens Fiction, Chick Lit

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

A Most Anticipated Romance by PopSugar!

Vibrantly funny, endearingly sweet, and a love letter to all things rom com, Jayne Denker’s The Rom Com Agenda is a story of two people finding love right when they least expect it.

You know how the story’s supposed to go…but love makes its own plans.

STEP 1: Find yourself
Leah Keegan is used to being alone, especially after taking care of her sick foster mother for the past year. But now there’s nothing keeping her in the sweet town of Willow Cove. It’s time to move on. Again.

STEP 2: Win back the one who got away
Eli Masterson thought he and Victoria were meant to be together until she decided to jet off to Rome for a year. Eli is determined to win her back. But how?

STEP 3: Become a romantic hero
Changing Eli’s physical appearance is easy, but to turn Eli into the sophisticated-yet-vulnerable ideal man, his girl pals force him to watch classic rom-coms. And take notes.

STEP 4: Fall in love?
Inadvertently drawn into the makeover scheme, Leah ends up being Eli’s guide through the wild world of meet-cutes and grand gestures. Even though she believes Eli doesn’t need to change a thing about himself. Even though she just might be falling for Eli . . . and Eli falling for her.

“The perfect swoony, slow burn, sentimental romantic comedy that we all deserve .” –New York Times bestselling author Jenn McKinlay


First Line:

Leah Keegan was positive she was not meant to be a superhero.

The Rom-Com Agenda by Jayne Denker

Even though I like (and love) other genres, romance is the backbone of my reading experience. I was hooked when I started reading Harlequin book of the month romances in middle school. I also love rom-com. If I am in a bad mood or feeling blah, I can turn on Netflix and find many of them. So, when I got the invite to review from the publisher, I didn’t hesitate to accept it. But I was disappointed with The Rom-Com Agenda. Not that I didn’t like it (I did). The story fell short of my expectations.

The Rom-Com Agenda is a medium-paced book set in upstate New York. Leah had returned to Willow Creek to care for her sick foster mother. Now that her foster mother passed, Leah is at a loss for what to do. She holds multiple jobs, trying to make ends meet, when she overheard a disastrous proposal and break-up. Leah meets that man, Eli, when his sister and her friends are determined to give him a makeover and goes into the shop where Leah works. Leah is welcomed into the group by everyone (including Eli) and learns that Eli is determined to win back his girlfriend. That is when the Rom-Com agenda is formed. Eli must watch every rom-com movie the girls recommend to him to become a swoon-worthy man. They hope that he will learn something from them. Leah volunteers to watch them with him, and a connection is formed. Leah starts to fall for Eli, but she knows she is on limited time. Her foster mother’s son is coming back to town to sell the house, and Leah won’t have a place to stay. So, falling in love is the last thing on her agenda. Will Eli learn anything from the movies? Will Leah have to leave Willow Creek? And most importantly, will Leah and Eli admit their feelings for each other?

I loved the secondary characters and Leah in The Rom-Com Agenda. They were fleshed out, and I did form an attachment to them. The main characters were tough to like. Well, not Leah. She was sweet and reserved. It was Eli, and I’ll explain it in his section below. Let’s say that desperate is never good and comes off poorly.

  • Leah—She was a sweetheart. I wanted to scoop her up and shield her from the bad things in the world. I also couldn’t believe how reserved she was. I get why. I’m not going to get into her backstory, but it was excruciating and affected how she thought other people saw her. She decided to help Eli because she was a kind person and knew he was hurting. I loved seeing her character grow and understand her self-worth.
  • Eli—I couldn’t stand him. He is the reason why I rated this book three stars. He came across as desperate. What he did to Victoria (his ex) was not cool. They had only been dating for maybe two months when she went to Rome for a year. What did Eli do? He proposed marriage and then refused to accept the break-up. I was like, “what the heck, dude?” When his sister and friends decide to make him over (to help him get over her), he obsesses over her. I couldn’t even with him. I wanted to smack him and say, “Helloo, Leah, idiot.” This went on for almost the whole book.

The Rom-Com Agenda did fit into the romance genre, but it was slow-burn. The author went for a more relaxed, natural feel for the romance. While I did appreciate it, I sometimes wished it moved a little faster. But, overall, it was a good fit for the book.

The storylines in The Rom-Com Agenda felt a little meh to me. I was not too fond of that pseudo-love triangle in which the author tried to put Eli, Leah, and Victoria. As I mentioned above, it came across as forced and super creepy on Eli’s end. I did like the storyline where Eli’s friends tried to help him out of his depression, but I did find it odd that they wanted him to watch rom-com instead of him diving back into the world of dating. As for the storyline with Eli and Leah, I did like that one. It was sweet to watch them fall in love (even if Eli didn’t admit it to himself and kept obsessing over freaking Victoria).

There were a couple of trigger warnings in The Rom-Com Agenda. They were the death of a loved one by cancer, mental illness, foster care, and caregiver burnout. If any of these triggers you, I recommend not reading this book.

The end of The Rom-Com Agenda was your typical HEA. I liked that Eli and Leah got their HEA. I would love to see more books in this world. There are several characters that I would like to see more of.

I recommend The Rom-Com Agenda to anyone over 21. There is mild violence, mild language, and very mild sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warnings above.


If you enjoyed reading The Rom-Com Agenda, then you will enjoy reading these books:

All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books

Date of publication: January 10th, 2023

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Mystery Thriller, Fiction, Adult, Suspense, Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Psychological Thriller, Audiobook

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo

Goodreads Synopsis:

One year ago, Isabelle Drake’s life changed forever: her toddler son, Mason, was taken out of his crib in the middle of the night while she and her husband were asleep in the next room. With little evidence and few leads for the police to chase, the case quickly went cold. However, Isabelle cannot rest until Mason is returned to her—literally.

Except for the occasional catnap or small blackout where she loses track of time, she hasn’t slept in a year.

Isabelle’s entire existence now revolves around finding him, but she knows she can’t go on this way forever. In hopes of jarring loose a new witness or buried clue, she agrees to be interviewed by a true-crime podcaster—but his interest in Isabelle’s past makes her nervous. His incessant questioning paired with her severe insomnia has brought up uncomfortable memories from her own childhood, making Isabelle start to doubt her recollection of the night of Mason’s disappearance, as well as second-guess who she can trust… including herself. But she is determined to figure out the truth no matter where it leads.


First Line:

Today is day three hundred and sixty-four. Three hundred and sixty-four days since my last night of sleep.

All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham

As a mother, I was shaken when I read the blurb for this book. How could you not be? It is any parent’s worst nightmare to have a missing child. With that in mind (and knowing there could be triggers), I accepted the publisher’s invitation for this book. I am glad that I did because this book was a great read.

Isabelle hasn’t slept since Mason, her eighteen-month-old son, was taken from his room at night. She has been tirelessly searching for him and making the rounds of tv shows and conventions to state her case. What has suffered in this past year is her marriage. Her husband has moved on with a woman who is a dead ringer for her. The police consider her a prime suspect, and Isabelle is being pushed to her limits. So, it is no wonder she accepts a true-crime podcaster’s invitation. As she interviews for the podcast, memories of her childhood resurface and cause her to doubt everything her parents had told her. What happened to Mason? Did Isabelle do something to him? Or was he kidnapped? What happened to Isabelle when she was a child?

All the Dangerous Things is a slow-starting book that takes place almost entirely in Georgia. The pace does pick up in the middle of the book. But, towards the end, is when the book picks up steam, and it doesn’t slow down until the explosive ending.

The author well wrote all of the characters in All the Dangerous Things. I loved how the author kept me guessing about the main and secondary characters.

  • Isabelle—The plotline pulled me in two different directions with Isabelle. In one direction, I wanted to believe her, but in the other direction, I figured she did kill Mason. With her being such an unreliable narrator, it was up in the air until the end of the book.
  • Ben—He was such a sleazeball. I didn’t like him and thought Isabelle could have done better. When Isabelle was thinking about how they met and when he told her he was married, I was yelling (yes, yelling), “Stay away.” And the night of Ben’s wife’s wake, what they did outside the funeral home, blah. Again, sleazeball and my dislike of him grew as the book continued.
  • Isabelle’s mother, father, and younger sister—-I am lumping them all into one category because together, they are a whole main character (if that makes sense). Something very traumatic happens that involves all three of them and Isabelle. It made sense why they weren’t in the present-day story much. I can’t go much into what I just wrote because of spoilers.

As with any well-written book, the secondary characters did add extra depth to this book. But I wish I could have seen them from another angle (like maybe the police). It would have given me a fresh perspective on the story.

All the Dangerous Things fit perfectly with the mystery, suspense, and thriller genres. The author did a great job of keeping everything under wrap until the end of the book. I couldn’t put the book down; I needed to know what happened to Mason and when Isabelle was younger.

The main storyline with Isabelle, Mason’s kidnapping, and the investigation tore at my heartstrings. I felt Isabelle’s pain over Mason not being there. I felt her frustration over what she saw as the police doing nothing but pointing fingers at her. I even got her frustration with her sleepwalking habit. But she never once let any of those get to her. She harassed the police almost daily (even when they told her they considered her a suspect). She had insomnia because of the trauma of Mason being kidnapped. But, at the same time, she was unreliable. She made me question her because of her blackouts and sleepwalking. Plus, her not sleeping was messing with her head too.

The other storyline with Isabelle, her younger sister, and her parents was heartbreaking. It did detail Isabelle’s struggles with sleepwalking (even at seven years old). But there was something more important going on in the background. Something that I almost missed. Something that did contribute to her sister’s death and Isabelle being blamed for it. When I realized what that was, a lightbulb went off in my head. I felt so bad for everyone involved but mainly for Isabelle.

There are going to be trigger warnings in this book. The most obvious one is kidnapping. But there also is postpartum psychosis, the death of a child, and cheating. If those trigger you, I highly suggest not reading this book.

The end of All the Dangerous Things was one of the best I have read this year. I loved how Isabelle pieced everything together. I felt somewhat vindicated for her. But the author did have a few plot twists that even had me going, “What the heck?” Let’s say that I did not pity who went to jail!!

Three Things I Liked About All the Dangerous Things:

  1. Isabelle’s determination to find Mason.
  2. Isabelle’s relationship with her sister.
  3. How she figured everything out.

Three Things I Disliked About All The Dangerous Things:

  1. What happened to Isabelle when she was younger (and her being blamed too)
  2. Ben. He was such a sleazeball.
  3. The police. They were useless in this book.

I would recommend All the Dangerous Things to anyone over 21. There is language, violence, and no sex. Also see my trigger warnings.


If you enjoyed reading All the Dangerous Things, you will enjoy reading these books:

The Villa by Rachel Hawkins

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: January 3rd, 2023

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Mystery Thriller, Fiction, Adult, Suspense, Contemporary, Gothic, Audiobook, Historical, Historical Fiction

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | Alibris | Powells | Indiebound | Indigo

Goodreads Synopsis:

From New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hawkins comes a deliciously wicked gothic suspense, set at an Italian villa with a dark history, for fans of Lucy Foley and Ruth Ware.

As kids, Emily and Chess were inseparable. But by their 30s, their bond has been strained by the demands of their adult lives. So when Chess suggests a girls trip to Italy, Emily jumps at the chance to reconnect with her best friend.

Villa Aestas in Orvieto is a high-end holiday home now, but in 1974, it was known as Villa Rosato, and rented for the summer by a notorious rock star, Noel Gordon. In an attempt to reignite his creative spark, Noel invites up-and-coming musician, Pierce Sheldon to join him, as well as Pierce’s girlfriend, Mari, and her stepsister, Lara. But he also sets in motion a chain of events that leads to Mari writing one of the greatest horror novels of all time, Lara composing a platinum album––and ends in Pierce’s brutal murder.

As Emily digs into the villa’s complicated history, she begins to think there might be more to the story of that fateful summer in 1974. That perhaps Pierce’s murder wasn’t just a tale of sex, drugs, and rock & roll gone wrong, but that something more sinister might have occurred––and that there might be clues hidden in the now-iconic works that Mari and Lara left behind.

Yet the closer that Emily gets to the truth, the more tension she feels developing between her and Chess. As secrets from the past come to light, equally dangerous betrayals from the present also emerge––and it begins to look like the villa will claim another victim before the summer ends.

Inspired by Fleetwood Mac, the Manson murders, and the infamous summer Percy and Mary Shelley spent with Lord Byron at a Lake Geneva castle––the birthplace of Frankenstein––The Villa welcomes you into its deadly legacy.


First Line:

Somewhere around the time she started calling herself “Chess”, I realized I might actually hate my best friend.

The Villa by Rachel Hawkins

When I read the blurb for The Villa and saw that it was being compared to Fleetwood Mac, the Manson murders, and Mary Shelly, I was interested. While I enjoyed the book, I was disappointed by it. Mari and Emily’s stories didn’t grab me the way I had hoped.

The Villa starts in present-day North Carolina. Emily is a successful author who has been battling a mysterious illness. She also is in the process of divorcing her husband, Matt, who is as greedy as they can get. So, when her best friend, Chess (who also happens to be a best-selling self help author), suggests a girl’s trip to Italy, Emily jumps at it. Emily discovers that the villa they are renting was the scene of a murder in 1974 and where a best-selling turned cult classic novel, Lilith Rising, was written. Jumping headfirst into investigating it, Emily soon uncovers clues that show a different story than what reporters told the world. She also discovers that things are different from what they seem with Chess. What did Emily find about the murders? And what is going on with Chess?

The other part of this book takes place in 1974 in London and Italy. Mari is in a questionable (to me, at least) relationship with a singer/songwriter. Pierce, desperate to hit it big, accepts an invitation to party/work at a villa in Italy. He would be working with one of the biggest rock stars in the world. Mari and her stepsister, Lara, come along and are swept into a world filled with sex and drugs. As tension rise, Mari starts writing a book, which will become an instant bestseller/cult classic, Lilith Rises. Then the unthinkable happens, and Pierce is killed. But, all isn’t what it seems. What happened the night Pierce died? Who killed him and why?

The Villa is a fast-paced book that mostly takes place in a villa in Italy. The author did a great job of keeping the book flow as it hopped from past to present.

The main characters were what made this book a meh book for me. I found them annoying to read. Even when everything was revealed (in both timelines), I still couldn’t care.

  • Emily—I did feel bad for her at the beginning of the book. She was going through a rough patch with writer’s block and her husband wanting half of her book’s earnings. Plus, she had been very sick for a year. But I started not to like her when she got to Italy and started becoming paranoid. Plus, she was boring. The only exciting thing she did was at the end of the book. Also, and I will discuss this later in the review, I couldn’t understand how she didn’t see what was going on with her soon-to-be ex. It was pretty obvious.
  • Chess—I didn’t like her. She rubbed me the wrong way for the entire book. I think she had good intentions, but how she did things was suspicious. She did another thing that is a massive spoiler if I said too much about it. It was an enormous breach of trust to do what she did, even if her heart was in the right place. I also felt she deliberately made it so Emily could never leave her.
  • Mari—My heart freaking broke for her. I couldn’t even imagine the pain she had gone through. The what-ifs were sprinkled throughout the book, more so towards the end, and she was getting sick of Pierce’s antics. I liked that she channeled all of her rage and pain into Lilith Rising. My only quibble was that she was almost too cool with things. Does Pierce want to sleep with Lara? Sure, but only once. Does Pierce want a threesome with Noel? Sure, Mari will do it.
  • Lara—-I didn’t care for her. I felt that everything she did up to a crucial scene was to hurt Mari. It is so hard to explain what happened between Mari and Lara that summer without giving away spoilers.

The secondary characters portrayed in The Villa did add some depth to the plotline. But I felt that Noel and Johnnie’s characters were fillers. Same with Emily’s agent and her ex-husband.

This book was a good fit for the mystery/thriller genre. The thriller angle was very slight and mostly overshadowed by the mystery angle. If the author had expanded the thriller angle to encompass the earlier parts of the book (or even the middle) instead of just the end, I would have enjoyed it more.

The storyline with Emily, Chess, and her ex-husband made me want to gouge out my eyes. I got very frustrated because I figured out both things (the sickness and the spoiler) reasonably early in the book. I couldn’t understand how Emily didn’t figure out the illness (or even her family!!). As for the other thing, Emily did figure it out shortly after I did, but she didn’t want to admit it to herself.

The storyline with Emily, Chess, the murders, the story Emily was writing, and the villa was also frustrating. But in a good way, well, most of the time. I understood why Chess wanted to change her brand and felt that co-writing with Emily would help her. I also understood why Emily didn’t want to do it. The mystery of the murders did help break Emily’s writer’s block, and she was possessive over it. But she also saw why having Chess’s name attached to her work would be good. The villa, in both storylines, did feel very calming to me. It did help both Mari and Emily to heal.

The storyline with Mari, Pierce, Noel, Johnnie, and Lara was my favorite storyline. Mainly because I knew what was coming; I wanted to see the events leading up to it. And you know what? It was good there. It was how I figured it would be. A disorganized mess of a storyline (and that is meant in a good way) that kept me guessing. And the twist at the end of that!!! I was not expecting it.

Mari, Pierce, and Lara’s storyline made me nauseous when reading it. I was surprised to find out Mari was as young as she was (barely 19). When I did the math, I couldn’t believe Mari was under 16 when she ran away with Pierce. Lara was, too (it just occurred to me). It made me sick to think about that.

Mari’s writing of Lilith Rising was very intense. As I said above, she channeled all that rage and pain into this book. I wish it were an actual book because I would have loved to read it.

There are trigger warnings in The Villa. There is semi-graphic sex, drugs, cheating, alcohol, attempted murder, graphic murder, talk of abortion, and talk of a miscarriage. If any of these trigger you, I highly suggest not reading this book.

I wasn’t sure if I liked the end of The Villa. Emily didn’t make the right choice. But I did love the twist on the 1974 plotline. Talk about leaving the best for last!!

Three Things I Liked About The Villa:

  1. Mari. She was the most likable out of all the characters.
  2. Chess and Emily’s friendship.
  3. The 1974 storyline before Pierce was murdered.

Three Things I Disliked About The Villa:

  1. Emily’s soon to be ex-husband. He was a dirtbag.
  2. Chess. She came across as super fake.
  3. Pierce. Ugh, so many things, but see my paragraph about the Pierce, Mari, and Lara storyline.

I would recommend The Villa to anyone over 21. There is language, sex, and sometimes graphic violence. Also see my trigger warnings.


If you enjoyed reading The Villa, you will enjoy reading these books:

A Wicked Game (Ruthless Rivals: Book 3) by Kate Bateman

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

Date of publication: December 27th, 2022

Series: Ruthless Rivals

Genre: Romance, Historical Romance, Historical, Historical Fiction, Adult, Regency, Fiction, Military Fiction, Military Romance, Regency Romance

A Reckless Match—Book 1 (review here)

A Daring Pursuit—Book 2 (review here)

A Wicked Game—Book 3

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

If there’s one thing impossible for a Davies to resist, it’s a challenge from a Montgomery. . .

A teasing bet.

Shipwrecked and imprisoned thanks to an incorrect map, Captain Morgan Davies has returned to London to exact sweet revenge on the cartographer responsible for his suffering. He’s also vowed to claim the winner’s prize―three kisses―in the bet he made with his long-time nemesis, the prickly, smart-mouthed Harriet Montgomery. His incarceration has clarified his feelings for her, but convincing the infuriating woman he wants to marry her is going to be his greatest challenge yet. When Harriet’s revealed to be the very mapmaker he seeks, Morgan decides to combine revenge and seduction into one delightful package. . .

A dangerous enemy.

Harriet’s always wanted witty scoundrel Morgan, and now he’s back; as handsome and as taunting as ever. She has enough on her plate dealing with her father’s failing eyesight and a rival mapmaker copying her work to play wicked games with a dastardly Davies―however tempting he might be. But when a threat from Morgan’s past puts them both in danger, Harry discovers that she and Morgan might not be enemies at all . . .


First Line:

As he strode along Whitehall, Morgan repressed the urge to whistle a jaunty sea shanty.

A Wicked Game by Kate Bateman

I was excited when I was invited to review A Wicked Game. I had reviewed the previous two books in the series and wanted to read Morgan’s story. So, I did an odd sort of happy dance in my living room (I was dodging two kittens, two one years old and a six-year-old cat who were very curious about Mom going “Oh yeah, oh yeah” and fist-pumping). I was justified in my excitement about this book. It was the best book in the series.

A Wicked Game is the love story between Morgan Davies and Harriet Montgomery. Morgan is a Welsh naval captain who had been captured by the French for years before being freed. Harriet is Morgan’s childhood friend/nemesis. She is also the cartographer who drew the map that led to Morgan’s imprisonment. Now that Morgan is free, he is determined to win Harriet over. But that is easier said than done. Harriet is an independent woman who cares for her blind father and doesn’t trust Morgan. Add the Frenchman who captured and tortured Morgan, has eluded capture, and has been seen in London….looking for the cartographer who drew the map and Morgan. Will Morgan confess his feelings for Harriet? Will Harriet learn to trust Morgan and her feelings? Will the Frenchman find Harriet and Morgan?

I had gotten a glimpse into Harriet and Morgan’s characters in the previous two books. From what I saw, I liked them and couldn’t wait to see if they would end up together.

  • Morgan—-I don’t even know where to begin with him. As I mentioned above, I loved him in the previous two books and was looking forward to his story. It didn’t disappoint. I loved that Morgan was open about how he felt about Harriet. Even in the scenes at the ball (where he secured his three kisses), he knew he loved her. But the time spent in captivity brought those feelings more into focus. He was rare for a romance hero; he admitted his feelings pretty early on in the book and then spent the rest of the book trying to convince Harriet his feelings were genuine. That alone made this book so great to read.
  • Harriet—I liked Harriet, but there were times when I wanted to shake her. Like the night when Morgan promised her three kisses. I couldn’t believe that she thought he was joking. Harriet grew up with him. She should have known that he wasn’t playing with her. I liked that the author went in a different direction with her. Instead of making her part of the ton, she was a regular Miss who worked as a cartographer for the British government. It was an exciting change of pace from the usual Regency romances I read, and I loved it.

Several notable secondary characters added extra depth to the book. I loved seeing the characters from the previous books make appearances.

I am obsessed with Regency romance and can’t read enough of them. A Wicked Game fits perfectly into the historical romance genre. So it is a bonus when a book written in that genre is as well-written as this one was.

The storyline with Morgan, Harriet, and their love story was well written. I was 100% on team Morgan and loved that he was so much in touch with his feelings. He was willing to do anything to show Harriet that his feelings were genuine.

The storyline with Harriet, the copycat, her working for the government, and the Frenchman was riveting. The author did a fantastic job of showing how Harriet did her job, mainly how she drew the maps that would end up in the enemies’ hands. The author also showed that while she successfully ran her business, it was a male-dominated society, and she had to hide behind a male identity. That led to her issues with the rival printer, and in turn, that led to the Frenchman.

This wouldn’t be a good review if I didn’t mention the sex. There are a lot of sex and sexual situations in A Wicked Game. When Morgan started collecting his three kisses, he didn’t say what type. That first sexual situation was out of this world. The other sexual situations and sexual acts were either just as good or better than that first scene. I kept thinking, “Dang, Harriet, he’s a keeper.

The end of A Wicked Game kept me on edge. The author kept me guessing what would happen with Harriet and Morgan (even though I knew they would end up together). She wrapped up all the storylines in a way that satisfied me as a reader. I hope she will write more books in this world.

I would recommend A Wicked Game to anyone over 21. There are sex, sexual situations, mild violence, and no language.


Don’t Look for Me by Wendy Walker

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: September 15th, 2020

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Mystery Thriller, Fiction, Audiobook, Suspense, Adult, Psychological Thriller, Contemporary, Crime

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

One night, Molly Clarke walked away from her life. The car abandoned miles from home. The note found at a nearby hotel. The shattered family that couldn’t be put back together. It happens all the time. Women disappear, desperate to leave their lives behind and start over. She doesn’t want to be found. Or at least, that’s the story. But is that what really happened to Molly Clarke?

The night Molly disappeared began with a storm, running out of gas, and a man in a truck offering her a ride to town. With him is a little girl who reminds her of the daughter she lost years ago. It feels like a sign. And Molly is overcome with the desire to be home, with her family—no matter how broken it is. She accepts the ride. But when the doors are locked shut, Molly begins to suspect she has made a terrible mistake.

When a new lead comes in after the search has ended, Molly’s daughter, Nicole, begins to wonder. Nothing about her mother’s disappearance makes sense.

Nicole returns to the small, desolate town where her mother was last seen to find the truth. The locals are kind and eager to help. The innkeeper. The bartender. Even the police. Until secrets begin to reveal themselves and she comes closer to the truth about that night—and the danger surrounding her.


First Line:

The sky grows dark as I drive.

Don’t Look for Me by Wendy Walker

I have had Don’t Look for Me on my TBR for a long time. I originally had gotten it as an ARC before the pandemic started. I ended up not reading it because I got overwhelmed with being stuck inside and teaching three heartbroken kids. I didn’t read anything for almost a year (until I sent my youngest back to school). So why review Don’t Look for Me now? It was two things. The first one: I decided to try and clean up any/all of my NetGalley reviews from that period (and earlier this year, yikes). If I had to pay for the book, it was all good; I’ll pay for it (which ties in with the second thing). The second: I decided to get Kindle Unlimited. The first thing I did was go through all sixty-something books and download what was on KU. And that brought me to reading and reviewing Don’t Look for Me. I absolutely couldn’t put this book down!! It was that good!!

Don’t Look for Me had two exciting storylines. One storyline follows Nicole and her quest to find her missing mother, Molly. As she digs into Molly’s disappearance, she sees similarities to another woman who went missing ten years previously. What is the connection between the disappearances?

The second storyline follows Molly, the events leading up to her kidnapping, and what happened to her afterward. Molly is drowning in guilt over her nine-year-old daughter’s accidental death four years ago. That death shattered her family, who all blamed her. The night she is kidnapped, Molly accepts a ride from a stranger with a daughter the same age her daughter was when Molly accidentally killed her. That ride leads to her imprisonment. As Molly plans to escape, she is forced to deal with her daughter’s death. Will Molly escape?

Don’t Look for Me is a fast-paced book set in the fictional town of Hastings, Connecticut. This book starts a little slow. That allowed the author to explain Molly’s backstory. Once the author explained, the book picked up the pace and didn’t slow until the explosive end.

The characters in Don’t Look for Me were not likable. I cannot stress this enough. Except for Molly, I was not too fond of any of the main characters. Each character had complex issues the author could go into without taking away from the storylines.

  • Molly—My heart broke for her. I want to clarify; she was the only character in this book I liked. She didn’t deserve the scorn and hatred of her husband and children over what happened. It. Was. An. Accident. I cannot stress this enough. I loved seeing her gradually come to terms with her child’s death and her role in it. I also liked that she resolved not to leave Alice behind when she finally escaped. Of course, she used her resources as a chemistry teacher to do something I had no idea could be done. Honestly, I wanted to google it but was afraid I would get put on some watch list….lol.
  • Nicole—I didn’t like her. Scratch that; I couldn’t stand her. The things she said to Molly during their last confrontation were horrible. She self-medicated with alcohol and sex. I figured out why she was doing that early in the book. But, as much as I didn’t like her, I did like her resolve to find Molly. Nicole had seen something in Molly’s notes that changed everything, and she was determined to bring her home. But, she was like a bull in a china shop with her investigation.
  • Jared Reyes—-He was shady AF. Right from the get-go, I didn’t like him. He was almost too helpful to Nicole. It made me wonder what he was hiding. I did think his backstory was awful. It made his dedication to his job and Chief Watkins understandable. Still, I thought something was off with him.
  • Alice—She annoyed me. No nine-year-old talked the way she did. I have a nine-year-old, and I know she doesn’t have the vocabulary that Alice did. I also thought she was very messed up. She kept bringing up Molly’s dead daughter and telling Molly how bad Molly was for causing her death. I had a WTF moment while reading that. What typical nine-year-old would say that?

The secondary characters in Don’t Look for Me added the extra oomph that the book needed. The author did a great job of having them cast red herrings all over the place.

Don’t Look for Me fit perfectly into the psychological thriller genre. I also thought it fit into the mystery genre (Molly’s disappearance).

The author amazingly wrote the storyline with Molly, her kidnapping, her family, and her youngest daughter’s death. I did not figure out who kidnapped Molly. So, when it was revealed at the end of the book, I was shocked. As for her youngest daughter’s death, I was heartbroken by how much pain Molly was in. And I was disgusted by how her husband and surviving children treated her. DISGUSTED!!! There was a point in this plotline that I wondered if Molly would have been better off staying with the kidnapper and Alice.

The storyline with Nicole, Molly’s kidnapping, and her detective work was also as well written as Molly’s. I didn’t like Nicole, but I understood she was hurting. I also understood that she felt guilt over Molly disappearing and blamed herself. I enjoyed reading about her working through her emotions and realizing that she might need help. She was a good detective. I didn’t see the twist in her plotline coming, either. That also took me by surprise.

The storyline with Molly, Alice, and the kidnapper was exciting but less interesting than the other two main storylines. Again, another twist in this book took me by surprise. I didn’t expect what happened to happen.

The end of Don’t Look for Me was chaotic. The author brought together and then closed everything storyline in the book. She did it in such a way that I was left satisfied as a reader. I loved the epilogue but didn’t like what Molly felt she had to or wanted to do. But it was a closure I didn’t know I needed until I read it.

I recommend Don’t Look for Me to anyone over 21. There is language, mild to moderate violence, and sexual situations.

I want to thank NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and Wendy Walker for allowing me to read and review this book. I got this book first as an ARC and then downloaded it on KU to read.


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