Book Review: Reclaim by Beth Yarnall

I’m a little conflicted about this book, and because I want to write about my conflictions, this review is going to contain spoilers and possible triggers for rape. Proceed with caution.


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

One-Sentence Synopsis
An investigator and attorney team up to clear a woman of murder and end up in a complicated sexual relationship. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Sleuthing Duo
Nolan is an investigator at Nash Security who bemoans his lack of luck. After screwing up an investigation, he’s determined to prove himself. So he teams up with Lila, an attorney looking to help clear a young mother of the murder of her child. The case is weird because all evidence points to an accidental death, and yet for some reason, the woman plead guilty. So Lila and Nolan proceed down the rabbit hole to figure out what the heck is going on.

The attraction between the two is major, but Lila doesn’t want anything serious. She’s a mystery to Nolan, who knows she’s hiding things about herself but wants to know her more. All Lila wants is sex, pushing Nolan away any time he tries to get closer to her. Nolan freaks out a few times, but even when he lashes back at Lila out of hurt, she seems okay with it.


But as Lila’s feelings get stronger, she starts to realize that she wants Nolan. She just knows that when she tells him the truth about how she lives, he’s going to turn away from her. It isn’t until things get highly emotional that she breaks down and takes him to see her secret. Nolan has gone through all the possibilities of what her secret could be, but isn’t prepared for what she shows him. And truthfully, I didn’t see it coming either.

I’m going to back up here and say that the previous books were pretty heavy. Murder accusations, human sex trafficking…they were hard to read. And there were parts in this one that were hard to read too, like prostitution and rape. But the big secret seemed to be on a whole different level than the rest, and my first reaction wasn’t super positive. Lila is a major hoarder.

Now I Get It
While I first questioned how the heck hoarding was on the same level as human trafficking, I have to admit that the levity of Lila’s situation came through in the writing and the emotion of the characters. It’s easy for us to watch tv shows about hoarding and wonder why they can’t just get rid of the stuff, but it really is a mental health issue, and Lila knows it. She’s ashamed and wants to live a normal life. She just can’t. It becomes understandable why she doesn’t want to tell Nolan.

True Life
There’s also no happy wrap up here. Nolan is freaked out, and rightly so. He actually questions whether he can be with Lila when she has this problem. This doesn’t fall into the normal romance genre view of the hero who would do anything for the woman he loves, but it was so real and true and kind of refreshing. Had Nolan fallen into that standard hero way of thinking, it wouldn’t have fit with this book or with this series.

The Romance Factor
The romance part of this book was one of the things I was conflicted about. I didn’t get the romance vibe in the usual way. The vibe in this one was way more realistic and less full of breathless and sweet emotions. Nolan wants to get to know Lila and eventually she wants to get to know him, but there are obstacles for both of them. And honestly? Things don’t resolve by the end of the book. Which is actually something I enjoy in the grittier novels. There’s not a HEA, but there is a sense of hope that the characters are going to make it, or at least give it a good try. 3/5

The Steam Factor
These two are up in each other’s business almost right from the start, and for awhile, the actual case they were on seemed to be forgotten. Sexy times are hot and there’s some pretty weird foreplay, but weird is good. I thought the focus in this book was way more on Nolan and Lila’s sexual relationship than it was about the case they were on, which was a bit of a shift from the first two in the series. 5/5


Final Thoughts
I liked this book. Once I got over the unexpected twist and realized just how much conflict it was bringing between the characters, I was able to read it with the seriousness it deserved. Both Lila and Nolan were flawed. I love that feel of reality though, and the conflict was through the roof. Though not my favorite of the series, it was still a good read. I recommend giving it a read…even with the spoilers.

Book Review: Falling for Max by Shannon Stacey

This is one of the later books in the Kowalski family series, but it’s the first one I heard about and it grabbed my attention right away. Nerdy, shy hero? I am all over that! And while it definitely feels like a later book with all of the other relationships and references to past plots, I didn’t feel so lost in the history that I couldn’t enjoy the story


One-Sentence Synopsis
A waitress befriends a shy, socially awkward man and sets out to help him find a wife. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Loving the Shy Guy
Everything about this book was complete crack for me. Max is the super awkward town resident who’s somewhat of a mystery and was at one time speculated to be a serial killer (jokingly…sort of). But the truth is that he spends a lot of time on his own because he doesn’t relate to people well and has always been known been seen as odd (though it’s never stated, he seems to have Asperger’s). But over time, he’s made friends and has went out of his comfort zone to actually go out and keep himself from becoming too reclusive. And one of the things he wants to do? Find a wife and have kids. But he realizes that to get there, he needs to find someone to date first.

Collateral Damage
Tori is a graphic designer and waitress who has an instant connection with Max. Witnessing his shyness, she offers to not only help him find someone in town to date, but to also teach him how to be a little more at ease with someone in a conversation. They become friends quickly, and though Tori finds him attractive, the shock and hurt of her parents’ divorce has made her built a wall against trying to find a relationship for herself, fearful that it would end with hateful and mean words, and the last thing she wants to do is hurt Max.

Friends to Lovers
I love foreplay in my stories, but I also like a good slow burn where feelings develop naturally, and this story falls into tha category. When their friendship starts, Tori and Max really do plan on just being friends, regardless of what others seem to think when they see them hanging out together. It’s a small town, and people speculate, and they figure that once Max starts dating someone, the talk will die down.


The natural way they start realizing they want to be more than friends is well paced, and so by the time Max finally admits that he wants a relationship with Tori, there’s no feeling of insta-love.

Flaws & All
Max wanting a wife and kids feels old fashioned but it’s so sweet. His being excited to have kids thing made me melt (and I’m not even a kid person). It was also endearing, though sad, how self aware he was of his own oddness, and how happy he was to finally have a group of friends he could spend time with.

Tori frustrated me with her fear of getting close to Max, but I felt that her reasons were sound, so rather than being an annoying character who went around in circles that didn’t make sense. I completely understood where she was coming from. The fact that her mother was a horrible person kind of cemented that understanding.

The Romance Factor
Max makes such a good romantic hero, and the fact that he tries to give Tori what she wants when she says she wants to be friends with benefits, even when he knows he wants more, made me want to hug him. I mean, to be honest, I kind of wanted to hug him throughout the whole book. More importantly, I wanted Tori to hug him. 5/5


The Steam Factor
Though we get to see some of the sexy times and thoughts between Max and Tori, it doesn’t go into need-a-cold-shower territory. In fact, the sex is just as sweet as the rest of their relationship. 3/5

Final Thoughts
While I’m glad I read this book, I wish I would have started with the first book and got to know the rest of the characters and followed Max’s story up to the point he meets Tori. When I heard about this on a podcast, that seemed to be one of the things people enjoyed, that they’d been hoping he would get his own story. The good news is that I enjoyed this book so much that I figure if I go back to start at the beginning and read the whole series, I’ll be ready to re-read this one when I get to it.