Her First Christmas Cowboy (Four Corners Ranch) – book review

Her First Christmas Cowboy
by Maisey Yates
Release Date: October 1, 2021
Publisher: HQN books
Book #0.5 in the Four Corners Ranch series
Number of Pages: 55
Kindle Edition
Source:  Amazon Pre-Order
Contemporary Romance/Holidays
Ages 16 and up
CW: off page drug talk and killing

Christmas surprise delivery—an outlaw on her doorstep!

When rodeo cowboy Clayton Everett stumbles into a cabin in the woods—injured and on the run—he doesn’t expect to be rescued by an angel. But Tala Nelson might be exactly that. She’s the softest thing he’s ever seen, and she makes his heart, scarred by a lifetime of hardship, beat just a little faster.

Small-town schoolteacher Tala knows she should fear the man dressed all in black who looks like an outlaw from a Wild West movie, but she doesn’t. As she cares for Clayton, she discovers he’s a good man and no outlaw at all. In fact, he could be the hero of the story.

Tala’s never had anyone to celebrate the holidays with, but as Christmas draws closer, she wonders if this could be a season of firsts with her cowboy—first kiss, first love, first forever… 

Have you ever noticed that some authors get on a trope and seem to stick with it for quite a few books in a row? With Maisey Yates, I’ve noticed she’s been writing a whole lot of virgin main characters and age-gap stories. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, both are tropes I enjoy. It’s just something I realize a lot of authors tend to do. Which, I guess, is understandable when it comes to the authors that write a lot of books in one year.

I guess you know now that one of the characters in this story is a virgin. There’s a bit of an age-gap, but not anything huge.  But Clayton definitely has a lot more life experience than Tala. Not that she’s naïve. She’s had her own hardships and hurdles to overcome.

This is a very short introductory book to a new series by this author. It does its job of giving the reader the lay of the land for this new section of Oregon, not far from our beloved Gold Valley and Copper Ridge. This story has me intrigued about how this ranch, a town unto itself, is run and what kind of relationship the different families on the ranch truly have with one another.

3.5 stars

**Note: I feel I should state that this is a very short story. I love this author and pre-order pretty much all of her books. But, in this case, I feel as though it was overpriced (I paid $2.99). That’s a hard thing for me to say as I believe authors work very hard and deserve to be paid for that work. Yet I felt it had to be said due to the length of this story.

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TTT: Halloween Freebie

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. There is a new topic each week for bloggers to join in with their own top ten. If you’re looking for some new or different book blogs to read, hop on over to her site and check out some of the links.

So I had this great idea for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday. I decided to list out my favorite Stephen King books since this is, after all, a Halloween post. Guess what…I actually already did that for a TTT two years ago as my Halloween freebie. Well, I can’t argue with a great idea.

I really didn’t have anything else planned so I’m just going to link to that post here. It figures that I haven’t been doing many Top Ten Tuesday posts due to having issues thinking up what I want to post for the subjects, and when I do it’s something I’ve done before.

Happy Halloween fellow readers!

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Game Changer (Game Changers) – book review

Game Changer
by Rachel Reid
Release Date:  October 22, 2018
Publisher: Carina Press
Book #1 in the Game Changers series
Number of Pages:  334
Kindle edition
Source:  MCL
Contemporary Romance/Sports
Ages 17 and up
CW: homophobic language

New York Admirals captain Scott Hunter takes his pregame rituals very seriously. In this case, it’s not just a lucky smoothie he’s craving—it’s the man who made it.

Pro hockey star Scott Hunter knows a good thing when he sees it. So, when a smoothie made by juice bar barista Kip Grady precedes Scott breaking his on-ice slump, he’s desperate to recreate the magic…and to get to know the sexy, funny guy behind the counter.

Kip knew there was more to Scott’s frequent visits than blended fruit, but he never let himself imagine being invited back to Scott’s penthouse. Or kissed with reckless abandon, never mind touched everywhere all at once. When it happens it’s red-hot, incredible and frequent, but also only on Scott’s terms and always behind his closed apartment doors.

Scott needs Kip in his life, but with playoff season approaching, the spotlight on him is suddenly brighter than ever. He can’t afford to do anything that might derail his career…like introducing the world to his boyfriend. Kip is ready to go all-in with Scott—but how much longer will he have to remain a secret?

Sometimes I actually remember to jot down where I get a book recommendation. This is one of those times. The downfall of this is that I see how long I waited to get around to reading something that I saw a recommendation for. Trust me on this one…if you like romance and hockey, don’t put this book off. Back in January 2020 (yep, almost 2 years ago) I saw a Twitter thread that had me writing this book down. I didn’t take meticulous notes, but it seems like @kkielyauthor had asked for recs and this book was mentioned by @JenReadsRomance. At the time I still hadn’t even started listening to the Fated Mates podcast, of which Jen is one of the hosts. Now, almost 2 years later I know to trust when Jen recommends a book. I’ve read many that were recommendations from the Fated Mates podcast. I figured I need to get to this one since I am most definitely a hockey romance super fan.

Scott and Kip have such wonderful chemistry from the very start. There is something shy and innocent about the way they meet. The way they go about building their relationship is very sweet. Unfortunately, some of that innocence and sweetness has to do with Scott being in the closet due to his career. I think you can imagine where the conflict comes in with this story.

Kip is amazingly calm and understanding with Scott. Not so much because Scott is a sports idol in their city, but because Kip realizes very early on that what they have together is special. He understands how coming out can and will impact Scott’s career. But how much secrecy can Kip handle? After a while, it’s no fun to be someone’s secret.

For Scott’s part, there is an intense inner struggle. He doesn’t seem to be ashamed of being gay, but he’s been without a traditional family his whole adult life. His hockey teams, fellow players and coaches, have been his family since he was a teenager and lost his mom. This has made it extremely hard for Scott to find anyone he can talk to about his sexuality. Kip makes him want to change all that, but there is a lot at risk.

There are parts of this story that are totally heartbreaking. Scott is hurting and not sure how to handle things so he shuts down. Kip is hurting and trying so hard to wait things out, but it’s turning him into an introverted and unsure person when he was always more extroverted and somewhat confident in himself. Of course, this being a romance, there is the guaranteed HEA for this couple. And they both deserve that happiness.

I’m very much looking forward to reading more in this series. The author does a beautiful job in writing the highs and lows both. Plus, I can always do with more hockey romances in my life!

4.5 stars

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When Stars Collide (Chicago Stars) – book review

When Stars Collide
by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Release Date:  June 29, 2021
Publisher:  William Morrow
Book #9 in the Chicago Stars series
Number of pages:  384
Source: MCL
Contemporary Romance/Sports
Ages 17 and up
CW: sexual harassment, stalking, emotional torment

Thaddeus Walker Bowman Owens, the backup quarterback for the Chicago Stars, is a team player, talented sideline coach, occasional male underwear model, and a man with a low tolerance for Divas.

Olivia Shore, international opera superstar, is a driven diva with a passion for perfection, a craving for justice, too many secrets—and a monumental grudge against the egotistical, lowbrow jock she’s been stuck with.

It’s Mozart meets Monday Night Football as the temperamental soprano and stubborn jock embark on a nationwide tour promoting a luxury watch brand. Along the way, the combatants will engage in soul-searching and trash talk, backstage drama and, for sure, a quarterback pass. But there’ll also face trouble as threatening letters, haunting photographs, and a series of dangerous encounters complicate their lives. Is it the work of an overzealous fan or something more sinister?

This is the emotional journey of a brilliant woman whose career is everything and a talented man who’ll never be happy with second place.  Tender and funny, passionate and insightful, this irresistible romantic adventure proves that anything can happen…when two superstars collide.

It’s been 4 years since I’ve had the pleasure of reading a Chicago Stars book, and that’s way too long. I have high hopes that the author will continue this series again since there were a lot of fun new characters added to the roster in this story.

The beginning of this story really had me curious as to who I would and wouldn’t like. Both main characters seemed to be not-so-kind. Turns out they are both exceedingly kind, thoughtful, smart, and humble. They’re both amazing in their field but are also very aware of the privilege their careers afford them. And they work very hard to keep in top condition.

Thaddeus is such a down to earth guy, especially for being a top-rated football player. He is respectful to all women and expects women to be respectful of themselves. While he has a career that doesn’t always work out with having a significant other and/or family, he understands being with someone like him will not be a good fit for someone like Olivia.

Olivia has always had lofty goals, and with her talent she could very well reach those goals. She’s been derailed by tragedy and has had to keep her troubles secret in order to keep her career on track. She also knows something about Thaddeus that makes doing a tour with the man very difficult for her. Thad and Olivia have it out pretty early in the book, and that distaste they have for one another eventually turns to passion.

There is an underlying mystery and threat this couple faces that draws them closer and closer throughout this story. Their chemistry just keeps building throughout and I couldn’t help but love every brush of the hand and stolen glance they had. Once things start clearing up and their lives return to “normal”, Olivia and Thad must decide if what they have is worth compromising their goals. Goals they’ve had their whole adult lives.

The heartache and healing this couple goes through was a joy to read.

5 stars

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Fake (West Hollywood) – book review

by Kylie Scott
Release Date: May 18, 2021
Publisher:  Independent/Self Published
Book #1 in the West Hollywood series
Number of pages:  260
Kindle Edition
Source: Amazon Purchase
Contemporary Romance
Ages 17 and up
CW: stalking

He walks the red carpet. She’s more familiar with vacuuming one.

When a scandal tarnishes the reputation of hot as hell A-lister, Patrick Walsh, he needs a reputation rescue, pronto.

Enter waitress Norah Peers–a nobody who’s average with a capital A. She’s available, dependable, and has sworn off men for the rest of her natural born life. In other words: the perfect match for a no-strings fake romance.

For the right amount of money, she can avoid waitressing and play the part of his dependable down-to-earth girlfriend. What she can’t avoid–dammit–is the growing steam between them.

But being hounded by the paparazzi and having her life dissected on social media is a panic attack in the making. And while Patrick might be a charming rogue on screen, in real life he’s a six-foot-two confusing, gorgeous, brooding grump, who keeps her at a distance . . . but also makes her feel like this bond between them might be more than just an act.

Being dumped on cue should be no big deal. Except being fake with Patrick is the realist relationship Norah has ever had. What’s a girl to do, but flip the script, and ask for a re-match made in Hollywood?

I did not want to put this book down. Fake fiancée, intense chemistry, sensitive characters with tough facades, what’s not to love?

Norah is a very hard-working woman. She never complains; just puts her head down and does what needs doing. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t have an active fantasy life. Yet she’s a bit out of her element when one of her fantasies asks her to help him out and be his fake fiancée. Norah has a good head on her shoulders, but even she knows this is an opportunity she cannot pass up. It’ll help her to care for her grandmother and ease so much of her financial burden, there’s no way for her to say no.

From the outside, Patrick has it all. He’s a famous Hollywood star who everyone wants a piece of. He can have any woman he wants any time he wants. Of course, all this fame comes with a loss of anonymity and privacy. After a very public relationship scandal, Patrick needs to clean up his act. The added bonus to the fake fiancée scheme is an easing of the pressure of everyone who wants a piece of him.

There is great chemistry between Norah and Patrick from the start, but the more they get to know one another the hotter their connection gets. Beneath the fire and heat are very obvious tender feelings from both parties. Both characters are afraid to open their hearts and have so much to overcome. Time and time again they prove through their actions that they care deeply. And time and time again I fall more in love with this couple.

As it always seems to be in a Kylie Scott book, the peripheral characters are just as intriguing as the main characters. This is the first in a series so I’m hoping to see some of these side characters become main characters and find their HEAs.

5 stars

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