Shadowed Origins (The Guardians: Book 2) by Reily Garrett

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Publisher:

Date of publication: June 3rd, 2022

Genre: Romance, Suspense, Fantasy

Series: The Guardians

Shadowed Horizons—Book 1 (review here)

Shadowed Origins—Book 2

Shadowed Passages—Book 3

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

Ashlyn has spent years hiding her ability to connect with animals, especially dogs. After escaping the clutches of her guardian, she’s determined to remain free and bring the psychopath to his knees.
The terrorist’s plan for mass annihilation and anarchy requires her talent, and he will stop at nothing to reclaim his unique and invaluable prize.
Taylor’s telekinesis and special-ops training granted him seamless passage to work with Kenner’s paranormal unit. When he rescues a young woman from the clutches of her sadistic guardian, he’s unprepared for the emotional backlash created by their connection.
Forging ahead on the narrow path of freedom dictates keeping an eye on the rearview—for death and destruction dog their every mile.


First Line:

Ashlyn never considered the face of evil taking a physical form, with a fist to match.

Shadowed Origins by Reily Garrett

I have been looking forward to reading Shadowed Origins since I finished Shadowed Horizons. I had questions from the first book that I hoped would be answered in this one. And guess what, the author answered all of my questions. The author left me with questions about Ashlyn and Keira’s older brother. But he is the focus of book three, and I am sure the author will answer those questions for me in that book.

Shadowed Origins is the second book in The Guardians series. This book is not stand-alone. You need to read book 1 to understand what is happening in book 2.

Before I get into the review, I want to throw up a trigger warning. If you have been following my blog for a while, then you know how rare it is for me to do this. The main character, Ashlyn, has been abused (in all ways except sexual) by her captor, Roth. The author includes some scenes of the verbal, psychological, and physical abuse that Ashlyn has endured. So, if this triggers you, I strongly suggest not reading Shadowed Origins.

Shadowed Origins is Ashlyn’s story. Ashlyn has been held captive by Roth for her entire life. She has spent most of her captivity trying to escape Roth, but he has always caught her. Ashlyn had her next escape planned out, and it would have ended the same way except, this time, Ashlyn had help. She was aided by a group of men with similar powers that she and Roth possessed. Ashlyn discovers her powers (she can communicate with animals) and uses that power to protect herself against Roth’s numerous attempts to take her back. She also discovers that she has an identical twin sister who shares the same powers, and she realizes that she is falling in love with Taylor, an ex-special forces op who is also telekinetic. Will Roth succeed in taking back Ashlyn? Will she be able to meet her sister? Will she find out who is funding Roth?

I liked Ashlyn. Even though Roth abused her, she still had an optimistic view of life. She tried to find ways to escape him, and she resisted him in almost every way—which caused Roth to lash out. I thought that her plan to escape him out the bathroom window would fail (Roth had given her a sedative to keep her compliant). So, I was surprised when it didn’t fail and when Taylor and his group came to her aid. From then on, I enjoyed watching her character grow to become a young woman with confidence in her abilities. She was also able to see what/form healthy relationships look like and was instrumental in bringing the two groups together. I also loved her delight when she discovered that she had an identical twin sister and her nervousness about meeting her (Keira was an unknown and in a group that Kenner, the leader, thought was the enemy). She was a fantastic character to read, and I can’t wait to see more of her in the upcoming books.

I liked Taylor also. The author didn’t make him as fleshed out as Ashlyn, but he was still a fascinating character. He did not want a relationship because the death of his wife did affect him. But he was very attracted to Ashlyn, and he was also very protective. I liked seeing him slowly realize his feelings for Ashlyn. I also liked seeing him use his powers. His telekinesis was no joke. It was also satisfying to see him eat a bit of crow when his group finally met the other group. He was a little aggressive with that group.

Roth was one evil dude. The author didn’t get into his character in Shadowed Horizons, but in this book, she let loose with him. He was a true psychopath who enjoyed hurting people. He kept human eyes in glass jars in his office, and that grossed me out. But, there was a huge twist in his plotline that I didn’t see coming and I hope gets explained more in book 3. I did feel that he got what he deserved in the end, and I loved who gave it to him!!

The plotlines involving Roth and both groups were well written. I liked how the author finally had both groups meet after so many misconceptions about each other. I also liked how they teamed up to beat Roth and his people.

The end of Shadowed Origins was pretty awesome. I liked how the author wrapped up Ashlyn and Kiera’s storylines. She introduced Logan, Ashlyn and Kiera’s older brother, at the very end of the book (well, the concept of him), so I figure the next book will be about him. She also left the plotline for who Roth was working for, and I am very interested to see where that will end up.

Shadowed Horizons (The Guardians: Book 1) by Reily Garrett

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Publisher:

Date of publication: May 13th, 2022

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Suspense

Series: The Guardians

Shadowed Horizons—Book 1

Shadowed Origins—Book 2

Shadowed Passages—Book 3

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

Fate can have many paths. Which would you choose?

Kiera’s capacity to face death stems from training, begun when old enough to wield a knife. Befriended by wolves and raised by a group of psychic men sworn to protect humanity, she now faces mercenaries intent on reshaping the world using equal talents.

Prodigious keyboard skills and innate curiosity has led Wyatt McGlauklin to invent the unimaginable. He’s long since claimed status as the top computer science geek. Little do people know, there’s much more to Wyatt.
When a blonde spitfire steps out of nowhere to prevent his assassination, his life’s direction takes an extraordinary turn where his analytical mind can’t validate paranormal phenomena.

Fate decrees Kiera find her life partner, but she learns you don’t always get to choose whom you love. Wyatt’s arrival challenges destiny as they combine forces to preserve the world as they know it.


First Line:

Each flip of the key ring around his index finger tallied another reason to quit the world of high stake’s business.

Shadowed Horizons by Reily Garrett

I have read/reviewed for Reily Garrett before, and her books are consistently good. When I got the invite to review Shadowed Horizons, I didn’t hesitate to accept. I am glad I did because this book was fantastic and excited me to continue reading the series.

Shadowed Horizons is the first book in The Guardian’s series. Usually, I’d add something about if readers can read the book as a standalone or if you need to read the previous books. But in this case, it’s the first book, so those don’t apply here.

The storyline for Shadowed Horizons was interesting. Wyatt is a tech genius who a group of bodyguards is protecting with paranormal abilities. After being attacked by another group with similar paranormal abilities, he is taken to live with that group. During that attack, Wyatt meets Keira, a beautiful blonde warrior who can open portals and communicate with animals. Hiding him in their safe house is the only rational thing to do, but neither Wyatt nor Keira expected the sparks between them. Wyatt continues to work on his project, and Keira makes some discoveries that rock her world. She has an identical twin sister being held by an evil psychopath who tortures her. Another group, similar to hers, is also operating with the same end game: stop the psychopath. Can Kiera and her group save her sister, stop the psychopath, and ally with the new group? Will Kiera and Wyatt give in to their attraction? More importantly, will Kiera’s adoptive brothers allow her to have a relationship with Wyatt? And will they be able to save Ashlyn, Kiera’s twin?

I liked Wyatt. I felt he dealt with learning about paranormal abilities very well, considering how he found out. I also liked how he dealt with Kiera’s overprotective brothers. He was able to diffuse some pretty tense situations with humor. As for how he was with Kiera, I loved it. He didn’t quite know how to deal with her at first (she was a little pushy) and was a little awkward with her.

I liked Kiera. She was headstrong and knew what she wanted. She also had a penchant for practical jokes (the portals going to women’s dressing rooms was funny). Her paranormal ability (communicating with animals and opening portals) was intriguing. I liked that the author explained what she could do and how she met her wolves. I loved her scenes with Wyatt. She wanted him, and she would have him, regardless of what her brothers said. I was laughing out loud at the scenes where she asked different brothers about sex.

The bad guy, Roth, was a growing presence in the book. I liked that the author didn’t give too much away about him, only that he was collecting people with paranormal abilities and using them as mercenaries. I liked the mystery around why he was doing that and who he was. Nothing was answered about him, just that he was holding Ashlyn captive, and he was this very nasty, very evil person. I am looking forward to seeing more of him in the upcoming books.

The secondary characters, including the people from the other group of paranormals, rounded out the book. I liked seeing the guys’ different paranormal abilities and how they used them. I hope they get their books (along with their HEAs).

The paranormal angle was well written. The author kept me glued to the book with each ability uncovered. They fascinated me. I liked how they used their abilities to not only protect Wyatt but to fight Roth. I didn’t particularly appreciate that they immediately attacked the other group they found in Wyatt’s mansion or didn’t even bother to try and see who they were. They could have been allies, but no, the boys decide to fight them. That is my complaint about that (hopefully, the author will fix it in book 2!!).

The romance angle was ok for me. I liked the attraction between Wyatt and Kiera, but it didn’t progress beyond that. By the end of the book, I wanted more than a few stolen kisses between them. But, on the other hand, it was very refreshing to have a romance novel where the main characters weren’t having sex.

Something caught my attention when the author brought it up, and then she didn’t address it again. Nicholai (the head of the group and a precog) said that Kiera had a fated mate, and Wyatt wasn’t it. It was brought up again later in the book and then dropped. But I need more answers!! Does that mean that Kiera’s fated mate is still out there? Or was Nicholai wrong, and it was Wyatt all along? I hope that it gets explained more in the other books.

I had mixed feelings about the end of Shadowed Horizons. While I liked what I read, I hated that nothing was resolved, and had more questions than answers. Also, I didn’t particularly appreciate that it ended on somewhat of a cliffhanger. But that cliffhanger did its job, and now I have to read book 2!!

I would recommend Shadowed Horizons to anyone over 21. There is language, violence, and sexual situations.

Starry-Eyed Love (Spark House: Book 2) by Helena Hunting

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

Date of Publication: May 10th, 2022

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction

Series: Spark House

When Sparks Fly—book 1 (review here)

Starry-Eyed Love—book 2

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

Charming, hilarious, and emotional, Starry-Eyed Love is Helena Hunting at her very best!

Having just broken up with her boyfriend, London Spark is not in the mood to be hit on. Especially not when she’s out celebrating her single status with her sisters. So when a very attractive man pays for their drinks and then slips her his number, she passes it right back to him with a ‘thanks, but no thanks’. As the business administrator for their family’s event hotel, the Spark House, London has more important things to worry about, like bringing in new clientele.

As luck would have it, a multi-million-dollar company calls a few months later asking for a meeting to discuss a potential partnership, and London is eager to prove to her sisters, and herself, that she can land this deal. Just when she thinks she has nailed her presentation, the company’s CEO, Jackson Holt, walks in and inserts himself into the meeting. Not only that, but he also happens to be the same guy she turned down at the bar a few months ago.

As they begin to spend more time together, their working relationship blossoms into something more. It isn’t until their professional entanglements are finally over, that London and Jackson are finally ready to take the next step in their relationship. But between Jackson’s secretive past and London’s struggle with her sisters, London must question where she really stands – not just with Jackson, but with the Spark House, too.


First Line:

“One more round?” I tap my empty margarita glass.

Starry-Eyed Love by Helena Hunting

London had just broken up with her boyfriend when she was approached by a charming (and attractive) stranger at a bar. Turning him down, London thinks nothing of it. Fast forward a couple of months, and London is working on bringing in a new client as a sponsor for her family’s hotel. To her surprise, the stranger that she had rejected was the company’s CEO. The attraction between them is instant, but both are determined to keep things professional until after the auction. After the auction, all bets are off. As London and Jackson start dating, they need to navigate Jackson’s secrets and London being overwhelmed with her job. But, when a secret from Jackson’s not so distant past rears its head, it could cost them everything.

I loved London. I understood why she initially didn’t take Jackson’s number at the beginning of the book. She tried to get over her ex and didn’t want a rebound relationship. Sidenote: Very refreshing for an author NOT to have a romantic lead ping-ponging between men. Anyway, back to London. I also loved her reaction to realizing who Jackson was when she gave the presentation. I was laughing during that. But she also did annoy me. She didn’t want to confront Avery about hiring people to help. She walked in on half a conversation and immediately low keyed flipped out on Jackson (not that he didn’t deserve it—he did, but calling herself the “other woman” when he was clear that he wasn’t in a relationship with Selene was a little dramatic). But that made her more relatable.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure if Jackson liked London until about halfway through the book. His reasons for turning her down were valid, but he kept blowing hot and cold. He also kept ignoring good advice from people close to him until it exploded at the auction. But, the way he tried to win London back tugged at my heartstrings.

I want to mention that I wouldn’t say I liked how Avery was portrayed in the book. She went complete Bridezilla at the end. That went against how she was described in book 1. I wasn’t a big fan of that.

I also wasn’t a fan of Selene or how she was written. I figured what her role in Jackson’s past was, but I thought her arc would go a different way. I wasn’t a fan of how she treated London or how mad she was at Jackson. She was the one who wasn’t responding to texts or answering calls. And what she said to him on the terrace was unbelievable. But, I do like how she did try to make things right with London at the end.

I loved how natural Jackson and London’s romance was. It wasn’t a week of them banging like rabbits and deciding that they were in love. Instead, their relationship grew over a couple of months. It was beautiful to watch that. Even the fight (and Jackson’s “betrayal”) was natural, as was the breakup and reconciliation. I loved it!!

The sexual chemistry that Jackson and London had was instant. And like their romance, it was allowed to grow. The author conveyed so much with a kiss or a touch. The sex scenes were just graphic enough, but enough left unsaid so that I could use my imagination.

The go green/auctions/hiring of Spark House storyline was well written. I liked how the author tied Jackson’s experiences with his parents into his passion for green living. There was a lot of technical jargon that I didn’t understand (or care to google), but it didn’t matter to me. That was a tiny blip in an otherwise terrific storyline.

The end of Starry-Eyed Love was excellent. I’m not going to get into it, but I was wowed with what Jackson did. It was the perfect ending for the book.

I would recommend Starry-Eyed Love for anyone over 21. There is mild language, mild violence, and somewhat graphic sex scenes.

The Summer Place by Jennifer Weiner

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Publisher: Atria Books

Date of publication: May 10th, 2022

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, LGBTQ+

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of That Summer comes another heartfelt and unputdownable novel of family, secrets, and the ties that bind.

When her twenty-two-year-old stepdaughter announces her engagement to her pandemic boyfriend, Sarah Danhauser is shocked. But the wheels are in motion. Headstrong Ruby has already set a date (just three months away!) and spoken to her beloved safta, Sarah’s mother Veronica, about having the wedding at the family’s beach house on Cape Cod. Sarah might be worried, but Veronica is thrilled to be bringing the family together one last time before putting the big house on the market.

But the road to a wedding day usually comes with a few bumps. Ruby has always known exactly what she wants, but as the wedding date approaches, she finds herself grappling with the wounds left by the mother who walked out when she was a baby. Veronica ends up facing unexpected news, thanks to her meddling sister, and must revisit the choices she made long ago, when she was a bestselling novelist with a different life. Sarah’s twin brother, Sam, is recovering from a terrible loss, and confronting big questions about who he is—questions he hopes to resolve during his stay on the Cape. Sarah’s husband, Eli, who’s been inexplicably distant during the pandemic, confronts the consequences of a long ago lapse from his typical good-guy behavior. And Sarah, frustrated by her husband, concerned about her stepdaughter, and worn out by challenges of life during quarantine, faces the alluring reappearance of someone from her past and a life that could have been.

When the wedding day arrives, lovers are revealed as their true selves, misunderstandings take on a life of their own, and secrets come to light. There are confrontations and revelations that will touch each member of the extended family, ensuring that nothing will ever be the same.

From “the undisputed boss of the beach read” (The New York Times), The Summer Place is a testament to family in all its messy glory; a story about what we sacrifice and how we forgive. Enthralling, witty, big-hearted, and sharply observed, this is Jennifer Weiner’s love letter to the Outer Cape and the power of home, the way our lives are enriched by the people we call family, and the endless ways love can surprise us.


First Line:

For forty years, the house had stood, silvery cedar and gleaming glass, on the edge of the dune, overlooking the waters of Cape Cod Bay.

The Summer Place by Jennifer Weiner

Ruby has announced her upcoming marriage to her pandemic boyfriend. This throws her family into a tailspin. When the dust settles, lives will never be the same. Can everyone and their relationships survive what is going to happen?

I wasn’t a big fan of how the author wrote this book and almost DNF’d it a couple of times. The author took us down memory lane with all of the characters. If there were two POVs and it jumped from past to present, I would have been fine. But every single character. Nope. By the time the author was able to bring everyone to a single plotline (the wedding), I was struggling.

I wasn’t a fan of the characters either. I know that the author was trying to make them more realistic but having them all cheat (at one point or the other) or make them do stupid things (like sleeping with a guy to get money for an abortion that didn’t happen) was just too much. The only one I liked was Sam, and his arc was excellent.

I also wasn’t a fan of a total recap of the pandemic during the book’s first half. I lived it; I know what happened. I didn’t need it shoved down my throat. But I get why the author did it. She wanted to show how pandemic relationships got serious, and they soured just as fast.

I loved Ronnie. She was feisty, and she intensely disliked the Pond People. Every time I saw those words, I giggled. She also gave up so much for her kids. So much that they didn’t understand or care. So, when she got that news in the middle of the book, my heart sank, and I began a countdown before she told Sarah and Sam.

I also loved Sam. His journey to self-discovery was one of the better storylines. He didn’t cheat, and he loved his wife. He was raising his stepson alone after her death. There was a point in his storyline where I did wonder about him. I wondered if he was asexual until he discovered hobbit fan fiction and then realized something about himself. His journey from then on was one of the best things about this book.

I was not too fond of Sarah. Instead of talking to Eli and asking him what’s up, she chose to go the other path. She ASSUMED that he was cheating on her and used that as the reason to get her apartment. When she hooked back up with Owen, I rolled my eyes. I could see where this was going. But, I wasn’t expecting it to end the way it did. That surprised me.

I was on the fence with Eli. Like Sarah, I didn’t understand why he didn’t call Rosa and ask her what he was assuming of her. I laughed when he had Ari try to lift the toothbrushes and got the wrong one. I could think, “Well, at least he knows for sure about that one.” But, he was so involved with what was going on with him that he didn’t see what was going on with Ruby or Sarah until it was almost too late.

I didn’t blame Rosa for doing what she did when she found out she was pregnant. She had no clue that it would backfire the way it did. I got why she was embarrassed to face Eli. But to read her side of that weekend was a little disappointing. I expected more from her since Eli remembered her as this vibrant, sensual woman.

I liked Gabe, but I wish he had been more open with Ruby about getting married. I get that he was a go-with-the-flow guy, but this was almost too much. He should have told Ruby that he didn’t want to get married and ended it. Then that would have made what happened next much more palatable to me.

Ruby was alright. She was used to getting what she wanted when she wanted it. So, when she wanted to marry Gabe, she went for it. I did feel bad for her when she finally realized she couldn’t marry Gabe. I would have done the same thing if I were in her shoes.

The end of the book was alright. I liked how everyone came together, and I got misty-eyed when the author recapped what had happened in the year since that night.

I would recommend The Summer Place to anyone over 21. There is language, mild violence, and mild sexual situations.

That Cowboy of Mine by Donna Grant

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

Date of publication: April 26th, 2022

Genre: Romance, Suspense, Contemporary, Western, Mystery

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

Is he an enemy?

Dillon Young is proud that she inherited her aunt’s ranch. The problem: someone is trying to run her off and is willing to do whatever it takes. Strange, dangerous things keep happening. Dillion suspects her no-good neighbor and fellow wealthy rancher Hank Stephens. Never a man to get his hands dirty, he sends others to get the job done. So, when the irresistible Cal Bennett is found passed out drunk on her property, Dillion is on high alert. Until someone takes a shot at her and Cal springs to her rescue. When the hard-bodied, no-nonsense-talking cowboy points out that she may need some help, Dillion is inclined to reluctantly agree.

Or a lover?

Waking up on a stranger’s property with a shotgun in his face is not Cal Bennett’s idea of a good time. Never mind that the woman on the other end of the barrel is one of the most fiercely beautiful women he has ever seen. Things get more interesting when he finds himself shielding her from flying bullets. It’s clear that this smart, savvy woman could use a hand and he is all too happy to lend any part of his body she requires. His proposal: pose as lovers until they find out who is after her ranch. As the danger rises and secrets are revealed, the passion explodes between them. There is no turning back.


The distinct sound of metal snapping loudly before cracking back into place jerked Cal awake.

That Cowboy of Mine by Donna Grant

That Cowboy of Mine is the love story between Cal and Dillon. It is also a mystery/thriller/suspense that had me glued to the book. It also helped that I enjoy reading books from Donna Grant.

The plotline was interesting. Cal is woken up by the sound of Dillon cocking her rifle to shoot him. A bull rider, who didn’t get on the circuit, he had decided to drown his sorrows at a local bar. He has no clue what he did or how he ended up on Dillon’s land. But, when he saves her from bullets, he is instantly embroiled in a plot to drive Dillon from her land. Determined to protect her, Cal hatches a plan to pose as her new lover and stay with her at the ranch until everything is sorted out. But, that proves to be hard when secrets are unearthed, and the attempts on Dillon’s life grow. Can Cal and Dillon solve the mystery of why these things are happening? Can they figure out who is behind it? And most importantly, can their love survive what will be revealed?

Dillon annoyed me for about 90% of the book. I liked her, but man, she was quick to jump to conclusions about Cal. There were points in the book where I wanted to shake her because she was that irritating. But, as I said, I liked her. She cared about her ranch, and she wasn’t willing to sell it.

I liked Cal. He was on the up and up with Dillon, even if she didn’t trust him. Of course, what happened the night he was drunk did make me slightly suspicious of him. Also, his relationship with the person who was determined to get Dillon’s property made me raise my eyebrows a little. But, he was determined to help Dillon, even after she made him leave her property. I wasn’t expecting how far he was willing to go, though.

The villains in That Cowboy of Mine were despicable and evil. They wanted power and wealth and would do anything to get it. The main bad guy was more willing to get his hands dirty (killing people), while the second bad guy did have reservations, at first, about what bad guy#1 was doing. But he lost those towards the end of the book and was just as evil as bad guy#1. But there was a 3rd bad guy that came out of nowhere. I was beyond shocked when he just popped up towards the end of the book.

The mystery genre was well written. I did feel that the author stretched out the plotline (why did the bad guys want Dillon’s land). But that feeling went away when the author added two twists to the story. One was why the bad guys wanted the land, and the other was the surprise 3rd bad guy who just appeared out of thin air. That added some extra kick towards the end of the book.

The suspense angle of the book was terrific. I found myself growing anxious and wondering what would happen to Dillon next. The author was able to draw out the events and keep me on edge for the entire book. I loved it!!!

Westerns are my guilty pleasure, and this one didn’t disappoint me. I could have used a few more scenes on the ranch, but I was happy with what the author portrayed.

Since this is a contemporary romance, I expected the sex scenes to be hot and graphic. I wasn’t disappointed. Cal and Dillon had an electric connection that came off the pages. My only complaint was this book took place within a week, so you know that means Instalove. Not a fan of Instalove. But besides that, I enjoyed that angle of the book.

The end of That Cowboy of Mine was fantastic. I loved how the author resolved all the plotlines. Of course, there was some suspense involving Cal, but that also worked itself out. The epilogue was cute, but I did roll my eyes at what Cal’s mother kept asking.

I would recommend That Cowboy of Mine to anyone over 21. There is graphic sex, moderate language, and moderate violence.

Rules for Engaging the Earl (The Widow Rules: Book 2) by Janna MacGregor

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

Date of publication: April 26th, 2022

Genre: Historical Romance, Romance, Historical Fiction, Regency, Regency Romance

Series: The Widow Rules

Where There’s a Will—Book 0.5

A Duke in Time—Book 1 (review here)

Rules for Engaging the Earl—Book 2

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

Get ready for lost wills, broody dukes, and scorching hot kissing all over London.

Constance Lysander needs a husband. Or, so society says. She’s about to give birth to her late husband’s child―a man who left her with zero money, and two other wives she didn’t know about. Thankfully, she has her Aunt by her side, and the two other wives have become close friends. But still―with a baby on the way, her shipping business to run, and an enemy skulking about, she has no time to find the perfect match.

Enter Jonathan, Earl of Sykeston. Returned war hero and Constance’s childhood best friend, his reentry into society has been harsh. Maligned for an injury he received in the line of duty, Jonathan prefers to stay out of sight. It’s the only way to keep his heart from completely crumbling. But when a missive from Constance requests his presence―to their marriage ceremony―Jonathan is on board. His feelings for Constance run deep, and he’ll do anything to make her happy, though it means risking his already bruised heart.

With Constance, Jonathan, and the new baby all together, it’s clear the wounds―both on the surface and in their relationship―run deep. But when the nights come, their wounds begin to heal, and both come to realize that their marriage of convenience is so much more than just a bargain.


First Line:

Only one person in the entire world had the power to make Jonathan Eaton, the Earl of Sykeston, push everything aside and ride like the devil over the fields at breakneck speeds to reach her.

Rules for Engaging the Earl by Janna MacGregor

I have a master list of books where I know there will be a book two, and I want to read book 2 (if that makes sense). The Widow Rules trilogy is on that list, and I had been waiting impatiently for Rules for Engaging the Earl to be published. I didn’t think that I would get the ARC, so I planned to buy it once it was published. When I got the email from SMP asking to review it, I was thrilled, and obviously, I said yes. I am glad that I did because this book was excellent!!

Rules for Engaging the Earl is book 2 in The Widow Rules trilogy. Unlike other books in series/trilogies, readers can read this as a standalone. The author does a great job of going over the backstory and quickly summarizing the plotline of book 1. So go read without being afraid that you will be lost.

Rules for Engaging the Earl’s plotline starts off ten years before the events of book 1. The author introduces Constance and Jonathan and lays the foundation for the rest of the book. It then goes forward ten years, and we see a different Jonathan and Constance. A decorated war hero, Jonathan had been wounded and crippled in battle. He fears an upcoming court-martial over what his commander calls “dishonorable behavior” on the battlefield. That, along with his injury, has made him a recluse. But when Constance sends word that she needs him, he drops everything and goes to her.

Constance has been embroiled in a scandal where the man she married ended up being married to two other women. Constance is pregnant and due any day to add salt to the wound. So, she tells Jonathan about her predicament and asks if he could help by marrying her. Right before their wedding, two things happen: she finds out that she is the legal wife and gives birth to her daughter, Aurelia. But she still goes through with the wedding to Jonathan.

The book then jumps to a year later; Constance lives in London with her daughter. Jonathan has left her but writes constantly. So, she immediately accepts when he asks if she would move herself and the baby to his country house. But she wasn’t prepared for what she walked into.

Jonathan is a shell of himself. He has secrets that he is determined to keep from Constance. But, having Constance and Aurelia at the manor is soothing and helps Jonathan to start to overcome his depression. He starts to question what his commanding officer has told him. But there is a twist. See, Constance has a very successful ship-making business inherited from her parents. An influential peer is slandering her business, and she is determined to battle this individual herself. Things start to get interesting when both Constance and Jonathan realize a connection between Jonathan’s commanding officer and the person trying to bankrupt Constance’s business. What is that connection? Also, will Constance and Jonathan realize their feelings for each other?

This is the 3rd review that I have had to put up, but there are a couple of trigger warnings in Rules for Engaging the Earl. Usually, I do this many over a couple of months. Anyway, the triggers that I noticed in this book are depression and PTSD. If these trigger you, I highly suggest not reading this book.

I loved Jonathan, but at the same time, I wanted to read through the book and shake some sense into him. He was in a deep depression for 85% of the book, and I got why he did some of his things. But still, it frustrated me. But once he came out of his depression and started looking into things, he was on FIRE.

I love Constance too. Throughout this book, she had to deal with so much, and she didn’t once have a “woe is me” moment. Instead, she rose like a BOSS and dealt with everything in her way. And the way she got her points across was fantastic. She had a backbone of steel, even with Jonathan.

Constance and Jonathan’s romance was super sweet to read. I liked that they were sweethearts when they were teenagers. That prologue was one of the sweetest I have read in a while. Their romance grew while they were separated after their marriage (but there was a twist). Seeing how much Jonathan cherished Constance was probably the best thing about the book. Of course, he had to go and almost screw it up, but I firmly believe a combination of depression and fear made him do what he did.

I do have to mention Jonathan and Aurelia’s relationship. Aurelia is Constance’s daughter with her first husband, and why Jonathan married Constance. I liked that the author had their relationship grow throughout the book. Jonathan’s interactions with Aurelia went from hands-off to hands-on. Plus, it helped that Aurelia called JonathanDa” from the first minute she met him. The scene where he called her “his daughter” made me so happy and brought tears to my eyes!!

There weren’t many sex scenes in Rules for Engaging the Earl. But the ones that the author wrote were amazing. I liked that Constance was very aware of what she wanted, sexually, and wasn’t afraid to let Jonathan know. I could think, “Well, at least her marriage did one good thing for her (other than Aurelia).” The author also kept the sexual scenes realistic. She had Aurelia interrupt by crying during the first one. All I could do was laugh and think, “Yup, been there.

The storyline about Jonathan, his injury, commanding officer, court-martial, and depression was well written. I liked how the author had everything tied together. I also liked how she wrote about Jonathan’s depression and PTSD. I had a feeling the CO was up to no good. Mainly because of how he treated Jonathan and his injury. My Spidey sense kept tingling during those interactions.

The storyline about Constance, her dead husband, the will, her business, and the peer trying to ruin her business was well written also. As I mentioned above, she handled everything like a boss. I did like her detective work on the ship’s damage. I also liked how she was trying to figure out why this person was doing what he was doing while figuring out her dead husband’s will.

Once I realized who the common denominator was in both of these storylines, I sat back and waited for the characters to realize it. When they did (towards the end of the book), oh boy, did the fireworks explode!!! All I will say is that the person got what they deserved.

The end of Rules for Engaging the Earl was your typical HEA. The author sets up the romance between the last wife and Jonathan’s other best friend. I can’t wait to read that book!!

I would recommend Rules for Engaging the Earl to anyone over 21. There is graphic sex, language, and mild violence. There are also the triggers I mentioned above.

Song of the Samodiva (Annika Brisby: Book 5) by Emigh Cannaday

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Publisher: Black Feather Publishing

Date of publication: March 29th, 2022

Series: Annika Brisby

The Flame and the Arrow—Book 1 (review here)

The Silver Thread—Book 2 (review here)

The Scarlet Tanager—Book 3 (review here)

The Darkest of Dreams—Book 4 (review here)

Song of the Samodiva—Book 5

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Fae

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads synopsis:

What do you call an assassin who’s had a change of heart?
A coward?
A hero?
Or Talvi Marinossian?

Just when Annika thought she and Talvi were headed off into the sunset of marital bliss, duty calls. Pushed to the limits of his moral code, Talvi must choose between the empire he serves and the woman he loves.

But first, a detour…straight into the half-demon heart of enemy territory, where Talvi enters into a perilous arrangement with the ruler of the largest kingdom in the Ellunian Empire—

His Royal Highness Crown Prince Fallon Blackwood

Sacred Son of Sinaryos

Admiral of the Royal Sinaryan Navy

Keeper of the Chimeras

And through his ancient bloodline, a direct descendant of the first demonborn dark elves.

In other words, he’s not someone you want to let down.

In no uncertain terms, Prince Fallon warns Talvi that if he can’t keep his end of the bargain, he won’t be the one who suffers the most. Taking her husband’s advice to “just be her charming self,” Annika must do everything she can to survive her stay at Blackwood Castle. Faced with deadly chimeras, a sadistic prince on the prowl, and a court whose opinion of her changes like the tides, it might take more than the song of a samodiva to win them over.

For Talvi and Annika, the stakes have never been higher.

* This final installment of the Annika Brisby series contains darker content than previous books.


First Line:

Talvi Marinossian felt a small swell of nausea rising and falling in harmony with the waves that lapped at the wooden dock below his feet

Song of the Samodiva by Emigh Cannaday

I was so excited when the author announced that there would be a book 5 in the Annika Brisby series. I was even more excited when I saw that Talvi and Annika would finally be together again. Then, my heart sunk because the author announced that she was ending this series. So, when the author sent out advanced reader copies to her team, there was zero hesitation on my end to read this book. I am happy that I did because this was probably the BEST book in this series.

Song of the Samodiva is the fifth book in the Annika Brisby series. You cannot read this book as a standalone. You need to start at book one to understand any relationships (except for Fallon and Novi’s) and backstories. You will be confused if you start with this book. The relationships and backstories are so intertwined that starting the series at book five will turn you off. So consider yourself warned!!

I am going to put a trigger warning up. If you have been following my blog for any time, you know that I only put trigger warnings up if I feel it needs it. Song of the Samodiva needs it. The triggers are attempted rape, rape with fingers (I wasn’t sure how to word that), kidnapping, alcohol use, drug use, and PTSD. If any of these triggers you, I strongly suggest not reading Song of the Samodiva.

Song of the Samodiva starts shortly after the events of The Darkest of Dreams. Talvi and Annika are on their way to the kingdom of Sinaryos to talk to Crown Prince Fallon. They have news that might be of interest to him. The only thing is that Fallon and Talvi are from rival kingdoms, and they DO NOT trust or like each other. The news that Talvi is so eager to tell Fallon: Dillion, the true Crown Prince, is alive and being held in the same prison that Talvi had just been released from. Fallon sends Talvi to break Dillion out of jail with a group of his subjects. To ensure that he comes back, Fallon holds Annika hostage. While Talvi is off on his mission, Annika tries her best to stay out of trouble. But trouble seems to find Annika, and it finds her in a big way. Or will she end up paying for both her and Talvi’s mistakes? And more importantly, can Talvi bring Dillion home?

It took me a minute to realize that the author brought together the characters from the Novi Navarro series and the Annika Brisby series. The way she brought them together was fantastic, and I was so happy to see Novi and Fallon together and happy. I also realized that Annika needed Novi’s perspective (along with a couple of other characters) to unravel the prophecy given at Talvi’s birth. I was super excited when it was finally revealed, and I can’t wait to see what future Novi Navarro books will do with it.

I loved how the author wrote Annika’s character for this book. She was funny, sweet, and strong when she needed to be. She walked a wire-thin line in Fallon’s court, and she did it with grace. It helped that she could sing and play the guitar like no one’s business. I did worry for her after the events at the theater. Let’s say that I thought that her and Talvi’s love story would never get the second chance that it needed.

Talvi wasn’t around for a good part of the book. After he told Fallon about Dillion, he was shipped out to rescue him with many Sinaryans’ who hated him. There was a point in the book where I wondered if he was coming back.

The plotline with Annika, Novi, and Fallon was wonderfully written. I was taken aback by how attracted Fallon was to Annika UNTIL I realized that she was part samodiva. That race of fae is inherently attractive to any/all fae. So, Fallon’s reaction to Annika (as well as the kiss/blood sharing) was very typical. What wasn’t typical was what Annika did after (not that I blamed her) or her punishment.

The plotline with Talvi and the Sinaryan Navy was just as well written when the focus was on him. I can’t say that I was surprised by what happened once the boat got to prison. I was disappointed but not surprised. Then there was nothing until the end of the book. Nothing was mentioned about any of those people with Talvi getting in trouble. I will go out on a limb and say “Maybe,” but I’m not sure.

There was a subplotline with Heron that didn’t make sense to me. I understood why the author chose to write him in, but I wonder how Heron and the other assassin will tie into the Novi Navarro series if that’s where the author is going.

The sex scenes were just as graphic as in the other books. I wasn’t expecting any less. The sexual tension that was inherent with Annika was woven into every scene.

The end of Song of the Samodiva was interesting. The author left so much open with Fallon and Novi. But she also wrapped up Annika and Talvi’s storyline (and the series) in a way that I loved!!!

I would recommend Song of the Samodiva to anyone over 21. There are the triggers I mentioned above. There is also graphic sex, language, and violence.

The Date from Hell (Not Your Average Hot Guy: Book 2) by Gwenda Bond

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

Date of publication: April 5th, 2022

Series: Not Your Average Hot Guy

Not Your Average Hot Guy—Book 1 (review here)

The Date from Hell—Book 2

Genre: Romance, Paranormal, New Adult, Contemporary

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

“The apocalyptic beach read that everyone needs.” – Alix E. Harrow, Hugo Award-winning author on Not Your Average Hot Guy

In The Date from Hell, the sequel to Not Your Average Hot Guy, New York Times bestselling author Gwenda Bond brings the journey of Callie, Luke, and their friends to a wonderful close. This is another laugh-out-loud, action-packed romantic adventure you won’t want to miss.

After saving the world and stopping the apocalypse, Callie and Luke are looking forward to a quiet, romantic weekend together. When you’re human and dating the Prince of Hell, quiet moments are hard to come by. But their romantic weekend in Hell takes a turn when Lucifer tasks Callie and Luke with chasing a wayward soul around the world. If they can prove it’s possible to redeem a soul, Lucifer will allow the two of them to make some changes in Hell.

But this wayward soul, Sean, doesn’t have any interest in being redeemed. Instead, now that he’s back on Earth, he’s decided to take a leaf out of Callie and Luke’s book and wants to find the Holy Grail. Now Callie, Luke, and their friends—and enemies—must race Sean around the globe on a Grail quest and bring peace between Heaven and Hell before they can finally (maybe) get around to that date.


First Line:

I stand on my tiptoes to slide a book with a thick black spine adorned with golden skulls – Being the Rules of the Kingdom of Hell, Vol 99 – back into its place on the shelf.

The Date from hell by gwenda bond

When I finished Not Your Average Hot Guy, I immediately wanted to read the next book in the series. That is how much I loved Callie and Luke’s relationship. I kept checking Gwenda Bond’s Goodreads and when I saw that The Date From Hell had its own Goodreads page, I prayed to the book gods that I got an ARC of this book. My prayer was answered when SMP contacted me about reading/reviewing The Date From Hell. I was so excited about reading this book. And, I am happy to report that this book more than lived up to my expectations.

The Date From Hell takes place a couple of months after the events of Not Your Average Hot Guy. Callie, Luke, and her family are almost at the end of rebuilding the escape room business destroyed by the events in book 1. Callie has also wanted to change one of Hell’s rules regarding people who commit morally gray crimes and end up in Hell. Satan surprisingly agrees when she brings that up but gives her a 3-day quest to redeem a soul of his choice. If she succeeds, he will allow the changes. But if she doesn’t, she will have to forfeit something. But, dealing with Satan is always tricky, and he wasn’t exactly honest about who the soul was and if it even wanted to be redeemed. As secrets come to light, soon Luke and Callie are fighting for more than a single soul. What is that secret that they discovered? And is it worth risking everything (including their lives) to go through with the quest?

The Date from Hell is book 2 in the Not Your Average Hot Guy series. While you could read this as a standalone book, I highly suggest reading book one first. That way, you could understand the backstories referenced in this one. If you don’t want to read the book, then I suggest reading the reviews for a quick overlook.

I loved Callie in this book. She continued to be this badass who wasn’t afraid to go toe to toe with Satan. She had no filter, which was generally hilarious but sometimes got her into trouble. The only thing I did fault her for was that she was almost too stubborn, and she seemed to like poking Soraya the Rude all the time. I loved seeing how passionate she was about redeeming those souls she felt got the short end of the stick by being stuck in Hell.

I loved that the author chose to go the route she did with Luke. While I loved Luke, I felt that he was afraid to get seriously involved with Callie from book one. The part of the book where Luke was human was huge because his feelings were more real to me. He did come across as overprotective at times, but I wasn’t surprised. His character had some tremendous growth to it throughout the book.

I couldn’t understand why the author had so much focus on Sean until the middle of the book. Then a giant lightbulb went on over my head. I got a little grumpy with Satan at that point too. That was one of the many times after the middle of the book that I got cranky with him.

The storyline with the quest to redeem Sean’s soul that morphed into a quest to find the Holy Grail was interesting. I enjoyed seeing The Guardian’s city (even if I did think that people were bloodthirsty). I also loved how the author introduced Guinevere and Arthur and how they were involved in that quest. It was an exciting way to do that part of the quest, and I loved it.

The storyline with Callie wanting to change some of the laws in Hell had a fascinating twist. I was astonished when it went the way it did and felt I should have seen it coming. But it was perfect and very fitting for Callie!!

Callie and Luke’s romance was one of the sweetest that I have read. I loved that the author took it slow with them, that there was no Instalove. Instead, their relationship was allowed to progress naturally. That alone made this book enjoyable to read for me.

There is sex in The Date from Hell, but it isn’t graphic. And, surprisingly (well, to me at least), it is Callie and Luke’s first time after dating for months.

The end of The Date from Hell was interesting. I liked the twist that the author put in there with Callie. It did make sense, but at the time, I was internally screaming, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?????

I am looking forward to reading book three and seeing where all the different relationships are and if that twist is working.

I would recommend The Date from Hell to anyone over 16. There is mild language, violence, and sexual situations/scenes.

Reputation by Lex Croucher

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

Publication Date: April 5th, 2022

Genre: Romance, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, LGBT

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

The hilarious debut novel from Lex Croucher. A classic romcom with a Regency-era twist, for fans of Mean Girls and/or Jane Austen.

Abandoned by her parents, middle-class Georgiana Ellers has moved to a new town to live with her dreary aunt and uncle. At a particularly dull party, she meets the enigmatic Frances Campbell, a wealthy member of the in-crowd who lives a life Georgiana couldn’t have imagined in her wildest dreams.

Lonely and vulnerable, Georgiana falls in with Frances and her unfathomably rich, deeply improper friends. Georgiana is introduced to a new world: drunken debauchery, mysterious young men with strangely arresting hands, and the upper echelons of Regency society.

But the price of entry to high society might just be higher than Georgiana is willing to pay …


First Line:

It all began at a party, as almost everything of interest does.

reputation by lex croucher

I was hooked on reading Reputation by the blurb. When I read the first paragraph and saw that it was a romantic comedy set in Regency England but compared to Mean Girls, I knew I needed to read it. First of all, I love romances, with historical romances being one of my all-time favorite genres. It was touted as a comedy and set in Regency England, and I was almost sold. The final selling point was that it was compared to Mean Girls. That is one of my favorite movies (even though I haven’t watched it in a while). So, I accepted the invitation to review from STP. I am glad I did because I loved this book!!

What I liked the most about Reputation was that it made me laugh. I had read this book on my drive home from MA the week of Easter. I distinctly remember that we were stuck in traffic leading up to the George Washington Bridge in New York. I laughed hysterically at some of the antics/situations that George found herself in. My poor husband had to listen to me explain was I was laughing without getting too into it (I kept it G-rated for the kids sitting in the backseat). Any book that makes me laugh like that and makes me share it with my husband is fantastic.

I LOVED George. She was such a breath of fresh air. She was a nerdy (being raised by scholars), socially awkward (from being kept isolated because of her scholarly parents), and amazingly open-minded for the book’s era. Oh, and let’s not forget clumsy. She was constantly tripping over something or spilling something. I think that she got in over her head when she started hanging out with Frances, and I disagreed with the steps she took to hang out with them. But then again, she was a teenager (18), and teenagers aren’t the most rational people (I have 2, so I know).

The romance angle of Reputation was wonderfully written. I liked that it seemed one-sided for most of the book. I also liked that George made a fool out of herself almost every time she saw Hawksley. Or that she was almost always drunk or high too. It wasn’t until the middle of the book, after she sent him the 1816 equivalent of a drunken text (a drunken note), that I saw that he liked and cared about her.

I loved that the author had LGBTQ characters and kept them in line with what the atmosphere would have been like in 1816. There was an openly gay man, a lesbian, and I believe two bisexual people portrayed in the book. I will give you some background on being gay in 1816. People had to hide, have secret societies, and if they got caught, they could have been sent to jail or worse. The author did bring that up when George mentioned to Jonathan how romantic sneaking around was, and his response was very spot on.

Race was also another thing touched upon in Reputation. Frances and Hawksely were biracial. Frances had a white father and a black mother, and Hawksley had an Indian mother and a white father. The author did have a couple of scenes where Frances’s mother was treated poorly because she was black. But, more importantly, the author didn’t portray the aristocrats of England as just purely white. Because they weren’t. The note at the end of the book explained that perfectly.

The author touched on several minor things, the most major being domestic abuse, sexual assault, and child abandonment. Frances’s mother was beaten by her father at one point in the book. George and Frances overheard, and Frances locked George in her bedroom for what I assumed was her safety. The villain sexually assaulted Frances in the middle of the book, George had an attempted sexual assault by a different character, AND she was physically attacked in a public place by the villain. As with most domestic violence and sexual/physical assault in that time (and honestly, in this time too), people swept it under the rug. But the author did a great job of showing the after-effects of it. Frances’s and her mother’s demeanor the morning after their respective assaults were dead on, as was Frances talking Jonathan from going after her attacker. I wasn’t a big fan of how the author handled the rest of it, but it was true to form again.

I am also going to mention the child abandonment angle of the book. I felt for George, and I was so mad at her parents. They left without telling her, and she was shipped out to her aunt and uncle’s that day. After that, the only contact they had with George was a letter written to her by her father, asking for his book back. I didn’t blame George one bit for what she did after. I would have had the same reaction. It took George getting into trouble for them to come to the house, and even then, their knee-jerk reaction was to put George into a convent. I cheered (yes, literally cheered) when George’s aunt and uncle finally said, “That’s enough.” During Mrs. Burton’s speech, I cried where she reamed them out and claimed George as her own.

The end of Reputation was exciting. The author was able to wrap up all of the storylines in a way that made me very happy. George got her HEA on all ends. Several people got their HEAs too. It was the perfect ending for this book.

I would recommend Reputation for anyone over 16. Drug and alcohol use, sexual situations, mild language, rape (not graphic), and mild violence.

Summer Nights with a Cowboy (Kittredge Ranch: Book 3) by Caitlin Crews

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

Date of Publication: March 29th, 2022

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Western

Series: Kittredge Ranch

Secret Nights with a Cowboy—Book 1

Sweet Nights with a Cowboy—Book 1.5

All Night Long with a Cowboy—Book 2 (review here)

Summer Nights with a Cowboy—Book 3

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

USA Today bestseller Caitlin Crews returns with Summer Nights with a Cowboy, another emotional romance in her stunning cowboy series Kittredge Ranch….
He doesn’t believe in love…

Traveling nurse Janie Atwood has come to Cold River to uncover old family secrets and maybe, if she’s lucky, find a new home. That the gorgeous, glowering sheriff next door thinks her caring for his elderly neighbor is a nefarious scheme is a bonus. Having never been anything but a good girl, Janie finds Zack Kittredge’s simmering suspicion an excellent reason to try being a little dangerous instead…

She doesn’t believe in squandering it…

Sheriff Zack Kittredge is okay with being… intense. He takes his loner status as seriously as he takes his responsibilities to protect Cold River. And he thinks cheerful Janie might be a threat to the town. But the more he gets to know her, the more he faces the truth―she’s brighter than sunshine and he’s like a moth to her flame. When Janie suggests he could use a few charm school lessons, he surprises them both by accepting. He doesn’t need help. But it’s clear he might need her…

Because the only thing hotter than the summer sun in the Rockies is the forbidden passion that burns between them…


First Line:

Janie Atwood had never met the sheriff of pretty little Cold River personally, but she was already aware that he hated her.

summer nights with a cowboy by caitlin crews

Romances are among my top 3 genres to read. I love all types of romances: erotica, shifter, contemporary, historical, western…etc. So, when an invite for a romance novel is in my email, I almost always accept it. With Summer Nights with a Cowboy, I was already familiar with the series (Kittredge Ranch) and the universe in which the book took place. So, yes, I decided to accept it before reading the synopsis. I knew that it was about Zack and that it took place in Cold River. That’s all I needed to know before I said yes.

Summer Nights with a Cowboy is book 3 in the Kittredge Ranch series. It can be read as a standalone book, but I highly suggest (as I always do) that you read the first two books before picking this one up. The main character of this book makes numerous appearances in that series. Even better, check out Cold River Ranch for the backstories of several of the secondary characters in this book.

Summer Nights with a Cowboy’s plotline interested me. Zack is the sheriff of Cold Creek, and he takes his job very seriously. Janie is a free-spirit traveling nurse who has moved into her client’s house. Janie and Zack’s paths cross when she accidentally trips and dumps her latte down the front of his shirt. And their ways continue to cross because Zack is her client’s next-door neighbor. After another rude encounter, Janie suggests that Zack needs etiquette classes and offers to teach them. To her surprise, he takes her up on her offer. As they get to know each other better, Janie has a secret that could derail their fledgling relationship. And Zack has deep-rooted scars from his traumatic childhood. Will Janie come clean to Zack about her secret? Can Zack accept it? And will Janie help Zack heal?

I loved that the author gave Zack a book of his own. He was such a presence in the Cold River series and in his brothers’ books that I wondered if it would happen. I expected his character to be a little less rigid than what he was portrayed in the other books. But, alas, he wasn’t. But you know what, it worked for me. I loved seeing him gradually (and sometimes it was at a snail’s pace) come to terms with what happened during his childhood. I also loved seeing him happy and relaxed when he was with Janie. The only thing I disagreed with was when he warned Janie about the Halls. I thought it was not cool (mainly because of what she was looking for) and a little selfish of him. Other than that, I loved him.

Janie was awesome. She was precisely the type of woman that Zack needed. She was awkward but sweet. She also was as clumsy as heck. Throughout the book, she was constantly tripping over one thing or another. I kept thinking, “Girl, how can you do your job?” I also loved how she went about gathering information about her secret. Her interactions with Zack, her friends (via text), and the other townspeople had me in stitches.

The author thoroughly explains Zack’s childhood in the book. It was alluded to in the previous two books but never explained. All I have to say is shame on his mother. What an awful thing to subject your children to. I had some sympathy for her, but at the same time, I was outraged. Her actions caused her children to have issues that took years (and the love of a good woman) to fix. I was irritated with his father, but my irritation turned to sympathy after what his mother revealed.

I loved how the author chose to reveal Janie’s secret and how she explained everything behind it. It brought tears to my eyes and made me laugh simultaneously. Janie finally had explanations about things that her grandparents had told her.

Janie and Zack’s romance was sweet. It wasn’t HEA. Zack didn’t like Janie when he first met her. He was suspicious of her and thought she was a klutz. Janie was intimidated by Zack and his manliness (yes, laugh, but it is true), and he made her very nervous, making her clumsy. But the more they got together, the more Zack started to see her for who she truly was and started falling in love with her. The same went for Janie. Their relationship was natural and evolved as it would have in real life. Which means there was no HEA. Maybe lust on Janie’s end but NO HEA.

The chemistry that Janie and Zack had was off the charts. The author built up that chemistry and let it linger until the middle of the book when they kissed for the first time. Then, she built it back up again and let it go until they had sex for the first time. I enjoyed that the author chose not to have them having sex rule the second half of the book. Instead, it was graphic once and then mentioned or alluded to a few times afterward.

The end of Summer Nights with a Cowboy seemed almost dreamy to me. The author gave me the impression that the book was Zack looking back at how he met and fell in love with Janie (with scenes cut in with Janie looking back). The way it was written gave me that impression. I thought it was a perfect way to wrap up the story.

I would recommend Summer Nights with a Cowboy to anyone over 21. There is mild violence, language, and sexual situations/scenes.

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