Romance

Tools of Engagement (Hot and Hammered #3)

Tools of Engagement (Hot and Hammered #3)

By: Tessa Bailey

Blurb:

Hair, makeup, clothing, decor… everything in Bethany Castle’s world is organized, planned, and styled to perfection. Which is why the homes she designs for her family’s real estate business are the most coveted in town. The only thing not perfect? Her track record with men. She’s on a dating hiatus and after helping her friends achieve their dreams, Bethany finally has time to focus on her own: flip a house, from framework to furnishings, all by herself. Except her older brother runs the company and refuses to take her seriously.

When a television producer gets wind of the Castle sibling rivalry, they’re invited on Flip Off, a competition to see who can do the best renovation. Bethany wants bragging rights, but she needs a crew and the only member of her brother’s construction team willing to jump ship is Wes Daniels, the new guy in town. His Texas drawl and handsome face got under Bethany’s skin on day one, but the last thing she needs is some cocky young cowboy in her way.

As the race to renovate heats up, Wes and Bethany are forced into close quarters, trading barbs and biting banter as they remodel the ugliest house on the block. It’s a labor of love, hate, and everything in between, and soon sparks are flying. But Bethany’s perfectly structured life is one kiss away from going up in smoke and she knows falling for a guy like Wes would be a flipping disaster.

Review:

I felt a lot of emotion while reading Tools of Engagement. I’m not a type-A personality, but I think just about everyone can relate to the anxieties and pressure that Bethany put on herself. Especially with the prevalence of social media, that desire to present a perfect façade is ever-present. It doesn’t bother me most of the time, but Tools of Engagement perfectly hit the feelings when it does.

As we’ve seen in the previous two books, Bethany always seems to have things together. Her appearance is perfect, her home is continuously ready for a photo shoot, and she knows exactly what she wants to do with her life. Only, it turns out she’s a constant ball of nerves and anxiety. Bethany over analyzes everything and second-guesses herself at every opportunity. It’s exhausting to read, let alone live.

Wes is a former bronco rider who has found himself in New Jersey taking care of his niece. He’s younger than Bethany, and it borders on the age difference I’m uncomfortable with, especially since he’s in his early twenties. His life has given him experience that others of his age don’t have, though. He doesn’t plan to stay, but it’s clear, even before he and Bethany get together, that he’s not going anywhere.

You saw their reaction to each other in the previous book, and it was obvious that they were attracted to each other, even as they traded verbal barbs. When Bethany finally gains the courage to strike out on her own, away from her brother’s company, Wes joins her immediately. There’s a lot of chemistry here, and they brought out the best in each other.

Tools of Engagement, like the other books in the Hot and Hammered series, was very emotional. The main characters were fleshed out and well written. There weren’t many supporting characters, so I’m not sure if there’s going to be a book after this one, and if that’s the case, this is a high note to end a series on.

4/5

Crazy Stupid Bromance (Bromance Book Club #3)

Crazy Stupid Bromance (Bromance Book Club #3)

By: Lyssa Kay Adams

Blurb:

Alexis Carlisle and her cat café, ToeBeans, have shot to fame after she came forward as a victim of a celebrity chef’s sexual harassment. When a new customer approaches to confide in her, the last thing Alexis expects is for the woman to claim they’re sisters. Unsure what to do, Alexis turns to the only man she trusts—her best friend, Noah Logan.
 
Computer genius Noah left his rebellious teenage hacker past behind to become a computer security expert. Now he only uses his old skills for the right cause. But Noah’s got a secret: He’s madly in love with Alexis. When she asks for his help, he wonders if the timing will ever be right to confess his crush. 
 
Noah’s pals in The Bromance Book Club are more than willing to share their beloved “manuals” to help him go from bud to boyfriend. But he must decide if telling the truth is worth risking the best friendship he’s ever had.

Review:

Alexis is a survivor of sexual assault. You met her in a previous book when she came forward to accuse her celebrity boss of the assault. This is about a year or so later, and she’s come a long way. During this time, she’s made a best friend in Noah. They were able to bond over their geeky hobbies and the fact that they both lost a parent young.

Pretty much since the beginning of their relationship, Noah has had a crush on Alexis, but he doesn’t want to destroy the relationship they already have to pursue something more. She is the best friend he’s ever had. They’re almost codependent, and it feels like they’re already in a romantic relationship without the sex.

In the beginning, he’s not a member of the Bromance Book Club, but he’s friends with several of the members and always hanging out with them. They spend most of their time with him trying to get him to join so he can get out of the friend zone. There were several good moments with the book club that I enjoyed. Listening to them explain toxic masculinity and push to form healthier relationships with each other were some of the book’s best parts. By far, my favorite scene was when they were at the spa. I laughed soooooooo hard.

The big conflict in the book was Alexis’ family drama.

BEWARE SPOILERS AHEAD

Alexis was raised by a single mom and never knew her dad. She didn’t feel like she needed to know him, even though there was a part of her that wanted a family. One day a woman comes into her café and tells Alexis that she’s her sister. Then the real bombshell, their father is dying, and he needs a kidney. I knew as soon as this happened, Alexis was going to give him the kidney. The man did not deserve it. He’d known about her for three years and hadn’t attempted to reach out. He’d sent flowers when Alexis’ mom had died, but that was it. Now he was asking for a kidney. The rest of the family wasn’t any better. The sister was weird, and the brother was a dick. That plotline was the worst part of the book, and I’m taking away a whole star because of it.

I could never be a romance heroine because there is no way I’m giving a long lost relative a vital organ. Other people in my life have first dibs on that shit. Alexis was nice and was supposed to learn to stand up for herself, and she kind of did, but not in something as huge as organ donation. It was disappointing, but I’m petty. If you aren’t, you might not care.

Alexis and Noah were a cute couple, but there was a lot of angst since there was no getting to know you period. I liked seeing the other members of the book club, but there were a few things that I didn’t like about Crazy Stupid Bromance. However, the spa scene alone is worth reading the book for.

3.75

Side note: The geeky references were clearly written by someone who knew some of nerd culture, but not enough to make the type of references that were made. There was always something just a bit off, not in a way that can be pawned off on a creative license. There weren’t many of them, so it didn’t hurt the book’s quality. It was just something I noticed.

A Rogue of One’s Own (A League of Extraordinary Women #2)

A Rogue of One’s Own (A League of Extraordinary Women #2)

By: Evie Dunmore

Blurb:

Lady Lucie is fuming. She and her band of Oxford suffragists have finally scraped together enough capital to control one of London’s major publishing houses, with one purpose: to use it in a coup against Parliament. But who could have predicted that the one person standing between her and success is her old nemesis, Lord Ballentine? Or that he would be willing to hand over the reins for an outrageous price—a night in her bed.

Lucie tempts Tristan like no other woman, burning him up with her fierceness and determination every time they clash. But as their battle of wills and words fans the flames of long-smouldering devotion, the silver-tongued seducer runs the risk of becoming caught in his own snare.

As Lucie tries to out-manoeuvre Tristan in the boardroom and the bedchamber, she soon discovers there’s truth in what the poets say: all is fair in love and war…

Review:

I was two-thirds of the way through this book before I started liking it. It was well written, and I enjoyed parts, but it didn’t live up to the previous book.

Lucie, the heroine, was not very likable. She was dedicated to the Cause to the detriment of everything else. She was furious, and rightfully so, but several times she lashed out at people who didn’t deserve it. She also wasn’t as smart as she was described.

Lucie maneuvered things so that her people were in an incredible position to change things, but instead, she wanted to burn it all to the ground in one move. It wasn’t until I was two hundred pages into the book that she finally realized the position she was in. I want to say she wasn’t thinking long term, but she was, so it was frustrating that she didn’t in this one area.

Maybe I’m too critical of her. I wanted to like her, but her stubbornness, and often time’s meanness, pushed me away. She was resistant to anything that wasn’t her way.

Tristan was your usual rogue rake. He was ridiculously handsome, tortured, and had hidden depths. He was also very privileged, and it took him several moments of that being blatantly pointed out before he realized just how much. His own life was difficult, so it was hard for him to see how much better it was than others.

There were several things I thought A Rogue of One’s Own did very well, specifically, Tristan’s moments of realization. It also seemed very well researched when it came to the suffragette movement. I liked how the book ended, as well. It allowed the couple to be together without Lucie abandoning her convictions. They were a nice couple, in the end, and I intend to read the next book in the series. I’m less excited about it than I was previously, though.

3/5

Mistletoe and Mr. Right (Moose Springs, Alaska #2)

Mistletoe and Mr. Right (Moose Springs, Alaska #2)

By: Sarah Morgenthaler

Blurb:

Lana Montgomery is everything the quirky small town of Moose Springs, Alaska can’t stand: a rich socialite with dreams of changing things for the better. But Lana’s determined to prove that she belongs…even if it means trading her stilettos for snow boots and tracking one of the town’s hairiest Christmas mysteries: the Santa Moose, an antlered Grinch hell-bent on destroying every bit of holiday cheer (and tinsel) it can sink its teeth into.

And really…how hard could it be?

The last few years have been tough on Rick Harding, and it’s not getting any easier now that his dream girl’s back in town. When Lana accidentally tranquilizes him instead of the Santa Moose, it’s clear she needs help, fast…and this could be his chance to finally catch her eye. It’s an all-out Christmas war, but if they can nab that darn moose before it destroys the town, Rick and Lana might finally find a place where they both belong…together.

Review:

I don’t put up Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving. I don’t watch Christmas movies until then either. That rule does not apply to books. I really love Christmas books and movies, but I’m not able to stop myself when it comes to books.

Mistletoe and Mr. Right was just as cute as the previous book in the series. Lana is in control of herself in a way that I will never be. She’s gorgeous and driven. She’s a huge success in her business life, but she is incredibly lonely.

Rick’s ex-wife has left him scared to get into another relationship. It’s taken him three years to be ready to date again. He gets completely tongue-tied around Lana and has been harboring a crush for her for years. It’s adorable.

They decide on a holiday romance, but you know it’s never going to last. They are everything the other has always wanted. Their second date is freaking hilarious and the best date I’ve read all year.

The book did end up being a sweet romance, so there was nothing graphic. I would also not recommend reading this unless you’ve read the first. All the previous characters are there and play a pretty significant role, as well as the town. You’d have a lot of catching up to do if you started here.

The next book in the series comes out in January, and I’ve already pre-ordered it. I did that with this book too. If Morgenthaler had written anything else, I’d be binging it all. It’s a few days early, but I’m definitely in the holiday spirit.

5/5

500 Miles From You (Scottish Bookshop #3)

500 Miles From You (Scottish Bookshop #3)

By: Jenny Colgan

Blurb:

Lissie, is a nurse in a gritty, hectic London neighborhood. Always terribly competent and good at keeping it all together, she’s been suffering quietly with PTSD after helping to save the victim of a shocking crime. Her supervisor quietly arranges for Lissie to spend a few months doing a much less demanding job in the little town of Kirrinfeif in Scottish Highlands, hoping that the change of scenery will help her heal. Lissie will be swapping places with Cormack, an Army veteran who’s Kirrinfeif’s easygoing nurse/paramedic/all-purpose medical man. Lissie’s never experienced small-town life, and Cormack’s never spent more than a day in a big city, but it seems like a swap that would do them both some good.

In London, the gentle Cormack is a fish out of the water; in Kirrinfief, the dynamic Lissie finds it hard to adjust to the quiet. But these two strangers are now in constant contact, taking over each other’s patients, endlessly emailing about anything and everything. Lissie and Cormack discover a new depth of feeling…for their profession and for each other.

But what will happen when Lissie and Cormack finally meet…?

Review:

I missed that this was the third book in a series. I could tell which couples I had missed, but their stories were never explained, so reading them out of order seems alright to do.

Lissa saw a young man killed in a hit and run. As a nurse, she tried to save him, but she wasn’t able to. She ended up with PTSD after the event. She was unable to sleep, was always jumpy, and had anxiety attacks. It was rough for her. Since the healthcare system was understaffed, they weren’t about to discharge a usually competent nurse. Instead, they sent her off to the country.

Cormac was a former military medic, now working in the small town he grew up in as a nurse. Deciding a change might be good for him; he takes the opportunity to trade places with Lissa. London is a new place for him, and he’s able to learn some things about himself and the world around him. His parts are probably the least interesting. He was an okay character, but his parts were more focused on him experiencing London.

The two exchange emails about their patients, and after a while, personal observations are included. It evolves from there. Sadly, you don’t see many of these communications. They’re occasionally referenced, but it’s more about growing feelings without seeing the reason for those feelings.

I hesitate to call it a slow burn because there never seemed to be any passion between them. It was a sweet romance. They were two people who were hurting. Who were, eventually, able to find comfort sharing with each other. It wasn’t until the end of the book when they were actually in the same physical location.

I loved the Scottish setting. The supporting characters were great. There were a lot of parts that were emotionally moving. So I cried, a fair amount. All in all, it was a lovely book.

3.5/5