Book Review: Off the Hook by Laura Drewry

After a run of books that had a fair amount of violence and dark themes, it was really nice to just kick back with a cute, sweet novel that still had enough emotion to keep it interesting.


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

One-Sentence Synopsis
A woman trying to get a fishing resort to sell to the development company she works for finds that her assignment is a little more than she bargained for when she comes face to face with her ex-husband. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

To the Middle of Nowhere
Kate is a career woman, determined to work her way up in the development business, so her assignment to the Buoys seems like just another deal she has to try and get, while also helping to clean the place up so it’s ready for her boss. Not a big deal since she has no attachment to the current owners, right? But things take a turn when she comes face to face with the man she was married to for five days in Vegas ten years before.

Surprise Guest
Liam never thought he’d see Kate again after he ran out on her and then sent her divorce papers. Despite the connection they’d had, Liam’s main goal was to play baseball, and there was no way he could let a woman get in the way of that. But over the years, he’s tried to find more information about her, a difficult feat considering she has a low internet profile. When she shows up to his family’s lodge, working for the enemy, the situation is a little more than he bargained or was prepared for.


Getting to Know You…Again
I was a little unsure of how I was going to like this one at first. Second chance romances are hit and miss for me, and the premise of a quick marriage gone wrong in Vegas a decade ago seemed like a stretch. But the story unfolded slowly and sweetly, and I bought easily into the fact that Kate and Liam could still have a connection after so much time had passed. It helped that they didn’t just fall into bed and love right away. Don’t get me wrong, I love the swoony stuff. But the fact that their feelings re-emerged naturally and over a period of time made the whole thing more realistic.

Brothers Will Be Brothers
There’s also the close-knit family dynamic that seems to be a staple of small town romances. Liam and his two brothers are carrying on their father’s legacy by running the Buoys with their friend Jessie, a woman their father had hired before he’d passed away. Seems fairly cliched, so it came as a surprise when it’s revealed that their father wasn’t actually a good person. This dynamic is what brings the brothers together, and though they obviously love each other, they still clash. I kind of loved the fact that they didn’t hesitate to beat the crap out of each other as a way to work out arguments.


There were still cliches, of course, but they make the story work. Kate gets to know the brothers and Jessie, and she finds herself having a harder time doing her job when her feelings for Liam and her new friends surface.

The Romance Factor
The conflict comes in the hurt that Kate still feels over being abandoned and the reasons Kate and Liam have for not wanting to get involved again. Those reasons eventually dissolve, but not before some real heartache when sacrifices are made. I won’t give it away, but I felt that the romance was only enhanced by the fact that Kate and Liam had changed and grown as people during the time they were apart. 4/5

The Steam Factor
The sex rode a line between R and PG-13, so not super steamy, but sweet and slightly titillating. In the context of the book, it was perfect. 3/5

Final Thoughts
Though I’m not sure in which direction the author is going to take this series, I’m thinking we’re going to get the other two brothers’ stories, and I already have guesses who they’re going to end up with. This first book laid a good foundation and got me hooked on this family. It also makes me want to go spend a weekend at a fishing lodge in the middle of nowhere.

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.

Book Review: The Care and Feeding Of an Alpha Male by Jessica Clare

A few personal notes: I’ve been taking zumba and yoga classes. It feels kind of insane, like I’m not the kind of person who should be taking either (even though I know that’s a fallacy). Either way, I’ve been kind of sore, but I’m definitely getting stronger. However, since my current focus is fitness, my writing time has taken a bit of a hit. I figure everything comes and goes in cycles, so I just need to ride this one out until the next one happens.


One-Sentence Synopsis
A high class woman in a small town falls for one of the guys from the wrong side of the tracks, despite the fact that they previously hated each other. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Better On Her Own
Beth Ann is trying to prove that she can live life on her own terms. She has her own business, she’s no longer with her cheating ex, and despite the fact that the whole population of Bluebonnet (who are honestly a bunch of a-holes) thinks she should get back with the ex, she refuses to lose her independence.


Cabin in the Woods
So when Colt comes to “rescue” her when she’s lost in the woods, her first reaction is to be pissed about it, which in turn, irritates Cole. In fact, because the two don’t like each other in general, it just makes him want to goad her more. This plan puts them together for a weekend under the pretense that the can’t get out of the woods due to the weather flooding the river. Which isn’t true, it’s just Colt’s way of teaching her a lesson…but you can guess what ends up happening.

Sex: The Gateway to Love
It doesn’t take long for the two of them to realize they don’t actually hate each other. Sure, they have a lot of sex, but they actually start an emotional relationship too. Beth Ann doesn’t care that Colt’s family is known as white trash, and Colt is the only one who seems to support Beth Ann’s need for independence. The story isn’t so much about them getting together, it’s about them dealing with the town’s reaction and overcoming their own issues to be together.

Lessons From Carrie Underwood
If you read my review for the first book in the Bluebonnet series, Beth Ann is the one who encouraged her friend to get revenge on the guy who hurt her. At the start of this book, I felt as if she might have been vicariously living through Miranda. Beth Ann, though assertive and independent, is way too nice when it came to her cheating scum of an ex who continues to stalk her and try to get her back. She doesn’t go back, but she shows him moments of kindness, which is way more than he deserves.

Stand By Your Man
I liked Beth Ann, and though I can empathize with her being nicer to the residents than they deserved,  it kind of bothered me that she didn’t always stick up for Colt when someone talked disparagingly about him. She wasn’t trying to hide him, but she failed to say anything in his defense when someone talked about him being white trash or said he wasn’t good enough for her.

The Romance Factor
I loved the romance in this book, especially when it came to Colt. When things get rough and he thinks he’s going to lose her, Colt’s emotions were what really got me. I also loved that he punched her ex. 5/5

The Steam Factor
This one is super spicy and takes it to those places that don’t always make their way into romance novels…in great detail. 6/5


Final Thoughts
The relationship picked up fast, but there was still conflict, so I didn’t mind the lack of “getting together” foreplay. The residents of Bluebonnet are largely a bunch of putzes, but the main characters are great, and to some extent, are all misfits of their small town populations, which makes the series so enjoyable.

Book Review: The Girl’s Guide to (Man)Hunting by Jessica Clare

Our local library recently got Hoopla, an app that lets you check out media using your library card. I browsed some audiobooks and found several by some of my favorite authors, which means more entertainment and things to listen to during various other activities. This was the first one I decided to try out.


One Sentence Synopsis
A woman with a bad reputation in her small town attends an outdoor survival class in order to get revenge on the guy who gave her that reputation. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Friends Let Friends Get Revenge
Labeled the town slut due to something she believes Dane did, Miranda is thrilled to have finally found a job that will allow her to get out of the town she’s come to hate. As she’s preparing to make her exit, she finds out Dane is back in town, and her best friend puts ideas of revenge in her head. After all, she’s leaving, so what could it hurt? I loved that Miranda had a good girl and bad girl side that warred with each other, waffling between wanting revenge and not wanting to hurt Dane like she’d been hurt.

Probably not this extreme…and with less clothes…

Not the Man He Used to Be
Dane has changed since high school. He’d left to play hockey, but after he’s accused of sleeping with the manager’s wife and kicked out of the league, he finds his true calling in wilderness survival. The one thing that hasn’t changed, though, is his crush on Miranda. When he sees she’s signed up for the survival class, those old feelings come back.

Easier Not to Talk About It
The two of them see the past very differently, mostly because neither knew what actually happened. Miranda has believed for years that Dane was responsible for the videos. Dane didn’t even know about them and couldn’t understand why Miranda’s mother wouldn’t let him talk to her when he called to explain why he’d left town so abruptly to go play hockey.  So much could have been solved with a little communication, but then we wouldn’t have had all the romping in the woods. Probably a good trade-off if we’re talking entertainment value.


Flaws and All
I liked that even though Miranda only went to the course to get revenge, she found that she enjoyed the outdoors and ended up with a stronger sense of self, despite her confusion over Dane’s attentions. Dane is actually a nice guy, but the fact that he used to be kind of a dick wasn’t glossed over. He wasn’t misunderstood. He really was just kind of a dick.

The Spoken Word
Listening to this on audiobook was definitely a different experience, one that took some getting used to.  When I read, I tend to read faster and absorb the scenes rather than picking them apart piece by piece, and the act of listening makes things feel more drawn out. It also emphasizes the fact that there was a lot of sex in this book. And that in itself, listening to someone read erotica out loud, also took some getting used to.

The Romance Factor
The romance was definitely there, but I think there was a bit of a disconnect in listening to the audiobook. I didn’t get the feels I usually do when I read on my own, though towards the end I did get a few warm fuzzies. Am I going to stop listening to audiobooks? No way. They’re perfect for multitasking. The story was still good and romantic, I just didn’t get all mushy over it. 3/5

The Steam Factor
There is sex all over the place. Hot sex. In the woods. I may have had to fan myself a few times when listening to it. Another side effect of taking it in slower than usual? I had time to dwell on the fact that the forest floor would be very uncomfortable on the knees. 5/5

Final Thoughts
Despite having to adapt to audio, this story was fun. I have the second book in paperback, so I’ll read that one normally and then resume the audiobooks for the rest of the series. Time to queue up some walking and knitting for some quality listening time.

Book Review: Leaving Yesterday by Zoe Dawson

I’m conflicted about this book. Really conflicted. There were some things I really liked and want to know more about. Then there are things that drove me nuts. Small town romances are really hit and miss for me, but this one was both depending on the chapter.


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

One-Sentence Synopsis
A wealthy woman finds herself stranded in a small town where the residents help her discover what she truly wants in life. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Side Dishes
There’s a main story that’s happening here between Rafferty (the heroine) and Trace (the mechanic hero who’s fixing her car). But it wasn’t until the end that I felt connected to them and their relationship. I was way more interested in all the side characters and their stories, some of which started in this novel and others that were hinted at. Even though I was lukewarm on the book, I really want to know what happens with everyone else.


Small Towns, Major Themes
There was a lot going on in this book, as if the author was laying a foundation and a feel for the town.  I really enjoyed the setting and the small town feel. I also enjoyed the focus on the different family dynamics and issues, especially the different forms of PTSD that were featured. Any time a novel highlights a form of mental illness, I have to give it a kudos because I think it’s an important topic that can be easily shied away from, especially in romance.

Miss Popular
Even though I thought Trace and Rafferty were a bit dull in the beginning, I got more involved in their romance and drama towards the end when their conflict surfaced. Trace was an okay character. He was doing his best to take care of his family and was the perfect blend of damaged hero and alpha male. Sadly, I really didn’t like Rafferty. I couldn’t connect with her and I was annoyed that she somehow seemed to fix everyone’s problems and everyone seemed to love her.  A few of the side characters that I liked otherwise made it a point in conversation to talk about how much they loved her and didn’t want her to leave. It didn’t resonate for me or feel realistic.


The Romance Factor
If I was going to go by Rafferty and Trace for the romance, it would probably only be a 2 because I really wasn’t feeling it until the end. But I’m giving it a point boost because I liked the other romances, even those that were just hinted at, my favorite being the one that I think is going to develop with Trace’s brother and the young Asian daughter of the local doctor.  3/5

The Steam Factor
The sexy times were fairly tame, but we knew what was going on. 3/5

Final Thoughts
Though this didn’t quite hit all of my crack buttons, I think readers who enjoy small town romances will find it cute. Parts of it were charming and many of the characters were intriguing. I’ll be interested to see how those characters work as main characters in future novels of this series.