Book Review: One Touch More by Mandy Baxter

Because I’ve done a fairly good job of scheduling ahead, it hasn’t been noticeable, but I haven’t written a blog post for about 2 weeks. There was a road trip, a visit from my mom, and some other things that kept me off the computer. However, with Nanowrimo getting ready to happen and my lack of self control when it comes to requesting books on NetGalley, I not only need to get some more posts up, but I also need to start reading more books. November’s theme? Book time management.

One Touch More

I received an ARC of this novel from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

One Sentence Synopis
An undercover marshal trying to find a big name drug lord becomes involved with local drug dealers and the hotel assistant manager who helps them to keep her brother out of prison. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
Talk about a strong start. I was pulled in right away with this one, intrigued by Tabitha’s situation and excited for the interaction between her and Damien. Though I don’t read a lot of romantic suspense, I do like danger in a novel once in awhile, and this one brought it. I was on the edge of my seat through most of this book, especially towards the end when things got crazy.


Things That Made Me Go Hmmm
I didn’t get a clear picture of Tabitha until the end, and I’m not sure if that was due to lack of description or if I just had an image from the start that didn’t match up with the one later in the boom that described her as edgy.

I never agree with heroine’s who are attacked, but then don’t want their attacker to get hurt. Maybe I’m just a horrible person, but if I were on the verge of getting raped and someone saved me and started punching my attacker, the only reason I’d stop that would be to make sure I got a few kicks in.


The Romance Factor
Though not insta-love, Damien and Tabitha’s relationship seemed to move fast. Yet somehow, the author was able to add enough emotion for it to seem realistic. 4/5

The Steam Factor
The sexy times were not as frequent as I thought they’d be, but they were intense when they did happen. 4/5

Final Thoughts
The intensity kept up through the whole book and ended up being a very entertaining read. There were some gritty themes, but the romance still held its own.

How Forever Feels by Laura Drewry

Sometimes you just need a sweet romance that doesn’t put your hormones in overdrive. NetGalley suggested I read this one since I’d read and liked its predecessor, and I think it’s safe to say that Laura Drewry is definitely a go-to for a mild contemporary that still delivers on the feels.


I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

One-Sentence Synopsis
A game developer reunites with his ex-sister-in-law only to discover he still has feelings for her, despite the fact that he’ll have to choose between her and his family. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
I love an awkward hero, and Jack is awkward, not only because he has long held feelings for Maya, but because he knows his family wouldn’t approve. While this type of family dynamic annoys me, I thought Jack’s reasons for being loyal to his family were solid, and his backstory only made him that more likeable.


The catty woman in me liked how Maya unwaveringly and unapologetically referred to her ex’s new fiance as Skank through the entire book. It cracked me up and felt all too real.

Things That Made Me Go Hmmm
I hated Will (the ex) and I didn’t like Stella (Skank), and I think that speaks to just how well the author put me into Jack and Maya’s mindsets. There are moments when both have a redeeming quality, and other than being Will’s other woman, Stella wasn’t a bad person. But I appreciated that the author didn’t try to make me like either one of them.


There’s a huge amount of exposition at the beginning in the form of Maya telling her friends the backstory of her and Jack. I prefer stories to unfold over time, as scenes like this often feel forced as a way to bring the reader up-to-date.

The Romance Factor
Not only is this a sweet, slow burn romance, but it’s one that has to overcome a lot of obstacles. Even though the two admit their feelings early on, there’s a lot more at play than the “Does he/she love me” conflict. 5/5

The Steam Factor
As I said before, sometimes you just want romance. While there are a few sexy times, the scenes aren’t detailed or scandalous. 2/5

Final Thoughts
This series is cute, and while sometimes fun, it doesn’t shy away from some of life’s real challenges when it comes to romance.

Irresistibly Yours by Lauren Layne

Lauren Layne is on point this year with two new series: her New York’s Finest series and the Oxford series, which is a spinoff of the Stilleto stories and features characters from the same world. I said in an earlier post that I had a hard time getting into the glam of the world, but Stiletto must have prepared me well, because I loved this book.


I received a free ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

One-Sentence Synopsis
Two competing sports writers are thrown together as co-workers, but the close proximity leads them to take their relationship beyond professional boundaries. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
The guy banter in this book is hilarious and witty without getting sexist or douchey. There are a few scenes that definitely push the boundaries of what’s appropriate in the workplace, but there are never any scenes where the guys are threatening or disrespectful to Penelope, and I liked that. I want to hang out with these guys.


Penelope is adorable and nice, but not in an annoying way. She makes a great tomboy, and I loved her quirky ability to remember sports stats.

The Romance Factor
Penelope and Cole teach a very important lesson: if you make a pact not to fall in love in a romance novel, you know there’s going to be angst. Okay, so that’s a bit meta, but that one scene spoke volumes and just heightened the rest of their foreplay and (lack of) communication. 4/5


The Steam Factor
Again with the foreplay. Cole and Penelope trying to stick to a weekends only agreement only made it steamier, and the sex scenes were blush inducing. 4/5

Final Thoughts
Maybe it’s because the Stiletto series warmed me up, but I loved spending time in the Oxford world and can’t wait to see what happens to the rest of the guys. Layne keeps getting better and I can’t wait to see what she brings to 2016.

Delayed Penalty by Sophia Henry

The Chicago Blackhawks took the Stanley Cup this year. And yes, I realize that was several months ago, but I thought mentioning it would be appropriate for a book that centers around a hockey player. I’m kind of ambivalent towards the Blackhawks. My team is the Detroit Red Wings, and even when they have a rough season, they’re still my favorite. For this reason, I was happy to see that the author of this book, Sophia Henry, is a fellow Wings fan.

Delayed Penalty

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

One-Sentence Synopsis
A college student takes a job tutoring and translating for a Russian hockey player, and though she finds herself insanely attracted to him, she’s held back by her fear of abandonment. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
I will pretty much give any hockey book a chance, because hockey. I enjoyed that the heroine, Auden, was a hockey fan. There was a lot of college nostalgia for me in this book, including Canadian bar trips and all Michigan mentions (since Michigan will always be my first home).

I thought the writing flowed well, and Auden’s voice as a 20-something felt genuine, as did the dialogue and banter between her and Alexsandr. Alexsandr’s Russian dialect and accent came across to my reader’s ear, and not every author can do that well. Also, and this is going to sound like a really silly thing to like, but it’s mentioned that Alexsandr has false teeth, and while that’s not necessarily a sexy thing to talk about, it’s a great detail considering that hockey is a rough sport and most players have lost teeth to the ice.

ice hockey falling

Things That Made Me Go Hmmm
I wanted to like Auden, I really did. Even though she sometimes had a selfish, “all about me” attitude, I wanted to give her a chance, especially because I remember my own “all about me” phases in college. Unfortunately, she just didn’t do it for me, and there were a few reasons. Sure, she was angsty about things, all of which her understandable, but there were aspects of her life that didn’t jive for me.

For instance, she’d been cut from the soccer team, but she talks in a few sections about how good she is at soccer. When someone is cut from a team, I automatically think it was because they weren’t good enough, so when she talked about being good, it left me wondering what the story behind that was. Because not knowing just made me think she was too full of herself to understand that she wasn’t as great as she thought she was.

There was also a lot of things going for Auden, and while it’s fine for a character to have several aspects, talents, hobbies, etc.,it’s hard to keep track when they all come to the forefront. Besides the soccer thing, Auden was also asked to join a band who heard her singing karaoke (though there’s a whole section where the band isn’t even talked about, and I sort of forgot about them until they showed up later). Then you find out that she started a foundation to help underprivileged kids. Then you find out a weird secret about her family. Multiple guys want her. She treads the line of “all about me” so much that at points, I forgot she even had a tragic backstory.

ice hockey reaction

The Romance Factor
This one gets an RF of 3/5. While there were some parts that were sweet, and I liked the parallel angst Alexsandr and Auden had going for them, I felt the leap from antagonizing each other to suddenly adoring each other was too quick. I wanted more conflict between them, hence more foreplay. There was a heavy dose of conflict that showed up later that brought about some delicious angst, but it also gave Alexsandr a hint of douche.

The Steam Factor
This book was tame. There was a lot of sweet kissing and the hint of some heavy petting, but there was very little sex. And in the sex there was, I’m not sure if I was reading too quickly or what, but I’m not entirely sure Auden finished. Kudos for the portrayal of first time sex as awkward and uncomfortable, but the SF was only at about a 1/5 for me.

Final Thoughts
Though I can’t list this book on my favorites, I don’t think it’s a bad novel. I would have liked to see some tighter, more focused characterization of Auden, but even with the douchie bits, I really liked Alexsandr. I believe that had I read this when I was in college, I would have had the opposite opinion. Also, I like a little more sex in my romance, but I know that’s not for everyone, so tamer readers will likely love the sweet relationship between Auden and Alexsandr.

After the Kiss by Lauren Layne

When I started my love affair with Lauren Layne’s books, I had the chance to read the last two in her Stiletto series thanks to NetGalley. I liked them so much, I went back and bought the whole series, but then got sidetracked and left them on my digital shelf. I finally decided to read the first one, which kicks off this contemporary series that I imagine has a Sex and the City vibe (though I can’t say for sure, as I never watched Sex and the City).

After the Kiss

One-Sentence Synopsis
A columnist is given an assignment that leads her to pick a guy and reluctantly take their relationship to the “next level,” not knowing that the guy she’s picked is betting that she can be his quick fling. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
Glamorous characters, such as the stars of this book, take me a little while to warm up to.. But once I get my reading groove, I have a ton of fun in this world. Julie is a commitment phobe who is completely fine with dating a guy but stopping before anything gets serious. Mitch tends to get too serious, so when a co-worker bets him he can’t just hit it and quit it, he’s determined to prove himself.

There was a lot of shades of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, but that’s what made it so fun. Julie and Mitch are good together, establishing early that neither is what the other expected and falling into an ease that they don’t normally experience with other people.

10 Days

I especially like that Julie willingly embraces her own private nightmare, the boring at-home movie night, when it comes to Mitch. Though it seems like such a silly thing to fear, it’s all part of Julie not wanting to fall into that boring couple relationship that she’s watched her friend fall into.

The Romance Factor
There is some delicious angst here, and the point of view change is always so good in a Layne novel because the hero has just as many emotions as the heroine, and the reader gets to experience them all. So many feels! 4/5

10 Days 2

The Steam Factor
Julie and Mitch definitely have some sexy times, and while they’re not written in extreme detail, they’re fast and steamy and left me a bit warmish. 4/5

Final Thoughts
This series is fun, and I intend on not only reading the other one I haven’t yet read, but doing a re-read of the other two as well.

Beauty and the Billionaire by Jessica Clare

If you want to get my attention, tell me about a book with the Beauty and the Beast trope. It is my absolute favorite, and I’ll read pretty much anything based on it. When I heard about this one, I was all over it. It originally went on my Book Rewards list, but I got lucky and found a paperback copy of the first two books in the series at a bookstore in Tulsa while visiting a friend. I couldn’t resist picking them up, and I’m so glad I did.


One-Sentence Synopsis
A lonely, scarred recluse sets up an elaborate scheme to get the ghost writer he’s attracted to into his home, not expecting to have anything more than friendship with her…if that. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
This book was everything I wanted and more. Hunter is such a good “beast.” He’s nervous and angry and lonely and even when he’s yelling, you can’t help but love him. And…wait for it…he’s a virgin! I love a virgin hero! Gretchen is adorable. She’s quirky but not annoyingly so, and she’s perfect for bringing him out of his shell.

There are some funny moments between the two of them. The first time she sees him, he’s completely naked and he’s mortified because he had this idea he’d give it time before he showed her his face (that plan went down the tubes pretty fast). But she feels bad about embarrassing him, goes to apologize when she sees him outside, and somehow thinks that saying “I saw your penis!” will help break the ice. I don’t think that ploy ever works.

Good Talk

The Romance Factor
No question, this is a 5/5 on the romance scale. Hunter’s shyness melted me. Even when he was being slightly underhanded in finding ways to keep Gretchen at his mansion, I adored him. When they had their standard romance novel falling out, it actually broke my heart. Even knowing they’d get their HEA, I was still so sad for them. Also, bonus love to the Phantom of the Opera reference in the story.


The Steam Factor
Like the first book in the series, this one has so many sexy times. Once again, though, they fit well with the story. I loved that Gretchen’s “job” involved a trunk full of erotic letters that she used in her seduction attempt. And did I mention the virgin hero? So hot! 5/5.

Final Thoughts
The minute I finished this book, I wanted to start over and read it again, and I almost did. I didn’t want this story to end. Like the first one, this one brings in characters and alludes to pairings in the rest of the books in the series. Instead of reading it again, I shelved it with the plan of picking it up at the beginning of next year for a re-read. Now I just have to get the third in the series to continue my journey through all the billionaire feels.

Stranded With a Billionaire by Jessica Clare

When Fifty Shades of Grey came out…and I was less than thrilled with it…I was kind of put off of billionaire books. Sure, I know that not all billionaires are douche canoes like Christian Grey, but it just didn’t seem like my thing.

Then I heard a conversation on Dear Bitches, Smart Authors podcast about Jessica Clare’s billionaire books. The thing that stood out to me was that the second in the series was a Beauty and the Beast trope. Which pretty much trumps any dislike of billionaires I may have had. However, I decided I would read the whole series. There are 6 books in the Billionaire Boys Club series and it kicks off with this one.


One-Sentence Synopsis
A waitress and a billionaire find themselves stranded, alone, and mostly naked at an island resort after it’s hit by a hurricane. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
This was such a fun read. Clare is on my list of top authors and I’m now crediting her with making me look at billionaires in a whole new way. Being stranded on an island with a good looking rich man? You know this someone’s fantasy…even if the heroine doesn’t know he’s rich until later. There was some Blue Lagoon nostalgia, though Logan and Bronte are adults and I wasn’t super uncomfortable.

blue lagoon

I loved that even though Bronte was attracted to Logan, she still wanted to be her own person and demanded that she be treated with respect.

The story is paced well, and even though one might argue the premise is fantastical, it’s actually believable. There’s angst, there’s feels, and there are hints of the other books in the series. I love when you get glimpses of future main characters. It leaves me wanting more.

Things That Made Me Go Hmmm
Even though I’m really good at suspending disbelief, I was slightly distracted by the fact that when they’re on the island and getting intimate that they’re doing it without having showered or brushed their teeth. It was like they were immune to body odor and morning breath.


Even though I liked both characters, there were times when Logan made me facepalm. There’s one scene in particular where Bronte has made it clear she needs to be wooed, so they have a nice date, some really nice sexy times…and then he’s like “Well, guess you’re moving in with me!” Dude, seriously? It cracked me up, so much so that in the 2nd book, when the hero of that story goes to Logan for advice, I was like “No! Don’t ask him for advice. He’ll lead you astray!”

The Romance Factor
Though he had his moments, there was something romantic about Logan going to extremes to have Bronte with him, and though the potential was there for some of his actions to be creepy, I completely bought into the fact that he just wanted to be with her. They definitely had chemistry and conflict. 3/5.

The Steam Factor
I appreciate a book that brings the erotica, brings it frequently, and yet doesn’t detract from the story itself. This is a good example of that. There were so many full detailed sexy times, but they fit perfectly with the story and contained some sweet moments. 5/5

Hot Hiddleston

Final Thoughts
Island breath aside, I really enjoyed this book, especially when it started the story in book 2. For not being a fan of billionaire stories previously, this one sucked me in and now I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

Goodreads Review: Make You Burn by Megan Crane

Over Memorial Day weekend, I finished 3 books and this was one of them. Since this was my first motorcycle club read, I pictured all of the Sons of Anarchy characters in the story. While this book was harsh, it wasn’t in the same realm of SoA at all, but it was definitely a little more than I usually enjoy. Just a warning: the hero, in my opinion, doesn’t treat the heroine very well. In fact, he very much treats her like a piece of property, and while I get that that’s part of the culture, it’s not something that sits with me as romantic. Having said that, I know other readers who would find this to be their catnip. 

Make You Burn (The Deacons of Bourbon Street, #1)Make You Burn by Megan Crane

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Ajax returns to the home of his motorcycle club, the Deacons of Bourbon Street, after the president of the club and his father figure, Priest, dies in a motorcycle accident. What he finds his Priest’s daughter, grown up and running her dad’s bar. Sophie is torn between loving and hating the motorcycle club life, but she misses her father and struggles with both her loss and her feelings towards Ajax, who she also has mixed feelings for: a long held attraction to him and anger at him for leaving ten years prior, even though her father was the one who sent him and three others away.

This book is the first in a set of four (different authors), and I have to guess that this one was intended to offer back story and set up for an overarching mystery. After hearing a lot about motorcycle club novels and thinking I’d really enjoy them, I’m a little torn on how to feel about this one. The writing is good, but I wasn’t expecting the level of grittiness and the hard edge of the hero. You’d think after watching Sons of Anarchy, I’d know what to expect, but I never thought of SoA as a romance, and I think I might like my romances a little softer.

Sophie was great as the heroine who was both strong and vulnerable and dealing with all of her feelings surrounding her father’s death. I did feel she was a little quick to jump into bed with Ajax, but she also had some history with him, and I guess if you take her independence into account, she can sleep with who she wants, when she wants. What made the book hard to read for me was Ajax. While I think he was probably true to character, I just couldn’t get into the ultra-alpha male thing he had going on. He wasn’t just rough around the edges, he was like a sheet of sandpaper. Though Sophie stood her ground, male characters who dominate with harsh words and berating and “putting a woman in her place” dialogue just don’t do it for me.

Though I suppose there is a hard won romance between the 2 characters, I just wasn’t feeling it, so for me, the Romance Factor is only a 2/5, and that’s because towards the end I finally got some of the emotion and felt like Ajax might actually love Sophie instead of viewing her as property. The Sex Factor, on the other hand, is a solid 5/5. Readers who like it steamy shouldn’t be disappointed. There are many sexy times in this book, made only steamier by the fact that they’re sometimes in public places.

I know there’s a niche for MC romances, and as an objective reviewer, I think this was a good book. However, for my own tastes, I either wasn’t in the mood to read something so gritty or I’m just not geared for this type of romance. I’d be open to trying a few more, probably even in this series because I’d like to see how things pan out, but I’m not sure if this will every be a go-to genre for me.

View all my reviews

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

This review is going to take a different tone than my normal ones because this book isn’t a romance. I first heard about A Little Life on the podcast Books on the Nightstand. It caught my attention because of how it affected one of the co-hosts, and I was intrigued. Now, after having read it, I know she wasn’t exaggerating. This book completely wrecked my emotions.

Trigger warnings: While I want to recommend this, I need to note several triggering items contained in this book for readers who don’t wish to read about certain things. The book contains themes and graphic descriptions of the following: physical and sexual child abuse, violent domestic abuse, drug use, cutting, and suicide.


The book tells the story of four friends after they graduate from college, each with their own issues, insecurities, and plans for the future. It spans several decades and touches on each of their lives, but at the center of the story is Jude, a quiet man who has problems with his legs due to an incident in his past that he won’t talk to anyone about. In fact, Jude doesn’t tell anyone about his past, a fact which his friends try to respect even though it brings about a good amount of resentment from them.

The Story
The story jumps times, moving forward when ready to show the characters after a span of time and going back to show the details of Jude’s childhood. Though sometimes the timeline isn’t clear, the story is well written and well paced. The reader glimpses the lives of the four friends as well as several people that come into their lives later to play important roles. There is also an evolution to the friends’ core relationship. At times they drift apart or have falling outs. Other times, their relationship changes to more than friendship, and while there is a hint of romance in this book, it’s read with caution and the worry that things are not going to turn out well.

The People
The characters are multi-dimensional, but rather than show the reader the characters in one shot of exposition, the author unfolds their stories over the multi-decade narrative. This is especially true of Jude’s story. The way this is done kept me on edge and always feeling the tension and emotion in the story. I’d no sooner come to terms with one aspect of Jude’s life before being shown another aspect.

The Emotion
I’m holding back from saying too much because I think this book needs to be experienced for its full emotional value. However, I will admit that I cried quit a bit while reading this book, and even more after finishing it. The story was so powerful to me that I was still thinking about it the next day, and still getting emotional about it. And it wasn’t a quiet cry either. It was an all out sobfest, complete with puffy eyes the next day.

Final Thoughts
I want people to read this, but I want them to know that they’re getting into a very sad story about mostly good people. This is not a feel good book, but it does make you feel things, some good, some bad. It’s also not a quick read. It’s a long book (700+ pages) and it’s one that should be absorbed, not skimmed.

Ride Steady (A Chaos Novel) by Kristen Ashley

I was on the fence about biker romances, but I grabbed this one on NetGalley because one of my favorite podcasts, Dear Bitches, Smart Authors, have talked frequently about the crack that is a Kristen Ashley novel. I decided to find out for myself why this author was so addicting.

Ride Steady

I received an ARC of this novel free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

One-Sentence Synopsis
A biker from a broken home and a woman struggling to take care of her son on her own connect years after knowing each other in high school and try to forge a relationship through the emotional baggage they’re carrying. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
They weren’t lying when they said Ashley’s books are addictive. Here’s the thing…there were things about this book I didn’t particularly like, but I had a really hard time putting it down. It’s not a one-sitting read either. The book is long because the author doesn’t just take the story over one conflict, she takes it over the whole situation. In the story of Joker and Carissa, we not only have the angst of their romance, but we also get to see what happens when their relationship settles down and becomes good. We get to see the characters’ dynamic with other people in their life, like Joker’s friends who supported him when he was growing up in an abusive house, and Carissa’s douche canoe ex-husband. It’s easy for a story to become bogged down in different conflicts and plot lines, but Ashley seems to have a knack for doing this and doing it well.


I also liked the fact that the motorcycle club that Joker belonged to wasn’t a criminal gang, but they weren’t above taking it there (on the down low) to defend or take care of a member of their family. I also liked the character development. Joker and Carissa both evolve during the book, and the author shows this, rather than tells it, especially in the dialogue, where Joker went from ignoring pronouns, which drove me nuts, to talking in full sentences.

Things That Made Me Go Hmmm
Though I really enjoyed this book, I found several aspects of it fairly jarring. For instances, even though I’ve seen it on TV shows and in movies and have read it in other books, having the bikers refer to their women as “bitches” took some getting used to. As I mentioned before, I hated Joker’s cut off sentences, and he’s not the only character in the book to use them. It was hard for me to hear him talk in a way that didn’t sound weird. Though Carissa turns out okay, there are parts of the book where she’s super whiny and annoying. Strangely enough, she was also endearing, so I wanted to hit her, but then I wanted to hug her.

The Romance Factor
I think the only reason I’m not giving this one a 5/5 romance factor rating is because of the whole “bitches” thing, because that was hard for me to get around.


But the relationship between two broken people was sweet. There was a sense of possession at first, but Joker was mostly supportive of Carissa and wanted to see her happy. Their whole damsel-in-distress meet cute (she was stranded with a flat tire, he stopped to help her) was kind of adorable. This one gets a 4/5.

The Steam Factor
There was alot of sex in this book, but it wasn’t used as filler. It was part of the story and it was entertaining and it was definitely steamy and a little graphic. I’m giving it a 5/5 Steam Factor and noting that it also fits into the romance because of the way Joker made Carissa feel about her body (typical self conscious heroine, but rather than being over the top, this interplay was done very well and realistically and didn’t go on too long).

Scrubs - So Hot

Final Thoughts
It’s a pretty easy call…I’m definitely going to read more of Kristen Ashley’s books. In fact, while in Michigan, I found another Chaos novel at a used bookstore and grabbed it up. Her writing is addictive. Even the things I didn’t like drew me into the world she created. This one is a sweet romance with some action and a few non-romantic violent scenes to add to the more dangerous plots Joker had to deal with. I’m pretty sure this author will find a place on my must-read list.