Spell the Month in Books – June 2023

My inspiration for my Spell the Month in Books posts came from Reviews from the Stacks, where they host a monthly linkup on the second Saturday of every month. Although I don’t follow their timeline of posting or really join any linkup, I believe in giving credit where credit is due. I saw several different bloggers participating and that led me to their posts.

We were busy around here in May. Or at least much more active than the last few months. Partly because I’m getting better and better every day, partly because the weather is getting nicer. Mother Nature loves to mess with Michigan. I know the weather is crazy all over, but the Midwest has always gotten her mood swings. We had frost warnings less than a week ago. Now we’re into the high 80s and even touching the 90s. I can’t keep up!

I finally got my kitchen floor. That was a crazy ride. We changed our mind about the initial flooring we had chosen because of some consistent bad reviews. Picked something else out and loved it, but found that every single piece had something called mill cut or saw cut marks? I don’t remember exactly. Fine if it was intermittent, it adds character. But we actually thought it was a bad batch and took it back because it was completely covering every piece. Wanted to exchange it but the guy who worked in that department was very rude about it (the gentleman doing the return was a sweetheart and obviously thought there was something wrong with it too since he took us back to that department to go through more boxes) and talked to us like we were dumb so we took our return and left. I found something I equally loved elsewhere, but I really hate this process. I just want it to be magically done and something that I like without me having to spend money, make decisions, or do the work.

The Motor City Comic Con was a couple weeks ago and we ended up going up there on Friday so my husband could get some of his Funko Pops signed. Our youngest and family met us up there so I got to hang with the granddaughter and daughter-in-law while the guys spent a LOT of time in line. It was a long and tiring day. But we got to meet some great people. The guys were specifically there to get signatures from voice actors on Star Wars: The Clone Wars. (Ashley Eckstein – Ahsoka Tona, Matt Lanter – Anakin Skywalker, James Arnold Taylor – Obi-Wan Kenobi) I realized Matt Lanter was also from Timeless and Star-Crossed, two shows that were canceled too soon in my opinion, so it was cool to meet him. It was my first time at a comic con and we all learned a lot for next time. Kirsten, Hazel, and I even got to meet Sean Gunn while the guys were standing in the very long line for Ashley Eckstein.

Did you know there is an organized group of Star Wars fans that goes around to different cons and other events in costume? There are different battalions for different regions. They were truly the highlight of the day for me, and I think the same could be said for Hazel and Kirsten. We walked by so many times and each time Hazel would get excited. We took tons of pictures, but I included only a few. Their Jawa tried to steal my Jawa backpack, no surprise. IYKYK. The stormtrooper came over and settled things. It was so funny and we all loved them being true to their characters.

Alright, I’ll stop going on. I told you it was busy around here! Another short month so not many books here. Clicking on the title will take you to my review, they are all books I rated highly.


Author: Sawyer Bennett

Publication Date: July 20, 2021

Pages: 300

Genre: Contemporary Romance/Sports

UUntil You Loved Me

Author: Brenda Novak

Publication Date: July 25, 2017

Pages: 384

Genre: Contemporary Romance

NNatural Born Charmer

Author: Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Publication Date: February 6, 2017

Pages: 385

Genre: Contemporary Romance/Sports


Author: Kristen Callihan

Publication Date: July 13, 2021

Pages: 376

Genre: Contemporary Romance

I know you can’t really see it in these pictures, but Hazel’s little outfit has little Grogus all over the shirt. Plus there were little shorts under the skirt that had Grogu on them. There’s even a hair tie that matches the green of the skirt. So cute! I was actually the only one in my family not wearing a Star Wars shirt.

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Primal Instincts: Volumes 8 & 9 – book review

Primal Instincts: Volumes 8 & 9
by Nicole Edwards
Release Date: May 2023
Volumes 8 & 9 of the Primal Instincts story
(these are being released as a serial)
Erotic Romance
Ages 17 and up
CW: stalking, kidnapping, violence,
mention of suicide, torture
This is the continuing story of Journey and the men she loves; Creed, Garrison, Hawk, and Nick. Since this story was released as a serial with a new 200 – 300 page book every two weeks, I’ve decided to combine my reviews into chunks. These are the final two volumes, both released in May. The author has been keeping the price at 99¢ for the first week of publication for each volume so you have a couple days left to get the final volume at the reduced price. You can read my reviews of the volumes previously released by clicking on these links:
Volume 1
Volume 2
Volumes 3 – 5
Volumes 6 & 7

Volume 8

Talk about a roller coaster ride. Journey and the men in her life, Creed, Garrison, Hawk, and Nick, are learning to trust each other again. They are delving into the different aspects of their relationships and figuring out how all the pieces fit together.

The chemistry among all of the characters was given a chance to grow in this story. I appreciated that. And although the guys are still very much in love with Journey, they didn’t just forgive and forget. She had to do some groveling and they had to face their part in the whole debacle.

With the question of the doctored picture being put to rest, their tormentor is not done yet. There are more hurdles, but this time Journey isn’t allowed to run and she has to face things head-on. It seems they are being attacked from all sides. Once one thing gets resolved, two more pop up.

This leads us to the roller coaster I mentioned. The ending had me on the edge of my seat and had me clamoring for the conclusion. I need to see this group of people get their HEA.

5 stars

Volume 9

And so it ends.

The conflict that happens at the end of Volume 8 moves right into the beginning of this book. It’s intense. But it’s also resolved within the first quarter of the book with an overall end of the story by halfway through. Then the author gives us two epilogues. The first one is quite long. But they’re worth sticking around for.

With all of the danger and uneasiness leading into this volume, the stakes are high for everyone. I felt things were resolved in a way that seemed right for this story and without making things too convoluted, which could have easily happened. The two epilogues, especially the first one, give those of us who have taken this journey (pun intended) a look at these 5 people finally having good times without something bad waiting around the corner. It’s quite touching and it put a smile on my face.

Though Journey, Creed, Garrison, Hawk, and Nick have found their HEA I have a feeling we will see at least some of them on the peripheral of other stories. The author has promised there is a character whose story still needs to be told and I’m sure we all know it’s Rule. He’s an interesting person and his story should be a doozy.

5 stars

Now that this series is wrapped up and I can look at it in hindsight, I don’t think I prefer this method of a book release. Although there was only two weeks between each release, I felt the nature of the story and the amount of main characters would have been served better by getting greater chunks. Yet, I don’t see many people buying an over 1000 page erotic romance book so I understand the author’s decision. I ended up invested in all of the characters, but it was rough at times in the beginning. When all was said and done, I did feel the chemistry of all of the various connections. But truth be told, the bond the M/M pairings had were stronger for me than the M/F pairings. Journey wasn’t a bad character, she just didn’t resonate with me the way the other characters did.

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The Good Girl’s Guide to Rakes (Last Chance Scoundrels) – book review

The Good Girl’s Guide to Rakes
by Eva Leigh
Release Date: February 22, 2022
Publisher: Avon
Book #1 of the Last Chance Scoundrels series
Number of Pages: 384
Historical Romance
Ages 16 and up
When Kieran Ransome’s latest antics result in a massive scandal, his father issues an ultimatum: find a respectable wife or inherit nothing. But as one of London’s most inveterate scoundrels, Kieran doesn’t know any ladies who fit the bill. Or does he?

Celeste Kilburn is a society darling, beloved by influential members of the ton. But keeping a spotless reputation leaves little room for adventure and she longs to escape her gilded cage, especially with her impending engagement to a stuffy earl. When Kieran—her older brother’s best friend and an irresistibly attractive rogue—begs for her help, Celeste makes a deal: she’ll introduce him to the right social circles if he’ll show her the scandalous side of London.

In between proper teas and garden parties, Kieran escorts Celeste—disguised as “Salome”—to rowdy gaming hells, wild fêtes, and sensual art salons. As they spend more time together, their initial attraction builds to a desperate desire that neither can ignore. But when someone discovers their midnight exploits, Celeste’s freedom and reputation are endangered, and Kieran must save the woman he loves… respectable or not.

If I was rating this book on the last half, it would most likely get 5 stars. Alas, that is not how book reviews work. It’s not that the beginning of this book is bad, it’s just slow. As this is the first book in the series, there is a lot of information to tell about how these three men find themselves in search of respectable wives. I can only imagine the first chapter is not only set up for this book but also for the other books. I can almost forgive the fact that there is but a brief glimpse of Celeste in that first chapter. Yet we don’t see her again until the third chapter. Being as these chapters are on the long side, that is far too long before Kieran shares the page with Celeste.

Once Celeste and Kieran begin spending time together, there is a definite connection but the build-up is on the slow side. Eventually, the heat is there and this book gets spicy fast. As I said, the last half of this book is amazing. Kieran is so considerate of Celeste’s wants and needs throughout the story. Celeste, while knowing she has obligations to her family, has a hard time giving up on her dreams and takes full advantage of living those dreams with the little time she has with Kieran.

While the love story is always my favorite part of a story, this book had a lot of other things going for it. This author took care to explore how misogyny was dealt with in the 1700s by both men and women. There is representation, albeit briefly, of many different walks of life as Kieran takes Celeste on her tour of the nightlife of London. Issues of race and sexuality and all of the problematic practices are talked about in a way that is organic to the story.

I’m looking forward to watching the other two men find their HEAs. I’m hoping Dom re-finds his since I was not any happier with the catalyst to the scandal at the beginning than their parents were!

4 stars

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Taking the Heat (Jackson: Girl’s Night Out) – book review

Taking the Heat
by Victoria Dahl
Release Date: July 28, 2015
Publisher: HQN Books
Book #3 in the Jackson: Girl’s Night Out series
Number of Pages: 384
Contemporary Romance
Ages 16 and up
CW: suicidal thoughts, bullying, cancer,
parental neglect
Passion this hot can’t be faked…

All revved up for bright lights and steamy nights, writer Veronica Chandler chased her dreams to New York City. When she hit a dead end, reality sent her back home to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Saving her pride and her new gig—writing a relationship advice column!—requires some faking. No one can know the truth about her big-city flop or her nonexistent sex life. But the town’s irresistibly rugged librarian is determined to figure her out… and give her hands-on lessons in every wicked thing she wants to know.

Gabe MacKenzie’s heart might be in Wyoming, but secretly his future’s tied up in his family’s Manhattan legacy. Getting down and dirty with Veronica is supposed to give him a few memorable nights—not complicate his plans. But the thing about heat this scorching is there’s just no going back… and it might be too hot for either of them to take.

My brain makes it extremely hard to read a book when I haven’t read the previous books in a series, even when they can be read as standalones. I had no problem doing that with this book for some reason. This is a new-to-me author and I am impressed. I’m happy she has a big library for me to delve into.

Just as Gabe wasn’t sure if he was going to like Veronica, neither was I. Gabe couldn’t understand why he was drawn to her and lucky for him (and me) he gave her another chance. Veronica is vulnerable but strong, naïve but knowledgable, inexperienced but eager. She won me (and Gabe) over quickly.

Gabe and Veronica are both such kind people and mesh well together. Gabe knows how to read people and it doesn’t take him long to figure out that once Veronica gets some confidence she will be able to take on the world. He helps her build that confidence in more ways than one. This story is so sweet while being extremely hot. The attraction between these two is off the charts. Veronica wants to learn everything about having sex and Gabe wants to teach her. But not before making her squirm and educating her on delayed gratification. I honestly wasn’t expected this book to be steamy so it was a pleasant surprise.

There are a lot of lessons to be learned by both characters, in and out of the bedroom. They tugged at my heart while they were learning those lessons, but it was great to see Veronica speak up for herself in so many aspects of her life. She had to make some impossible choices but chose herself even if it meant she couldn’t be with Gabe. Ugh! The angst in some of these moments! Good thing there was a lot of humor to keep a balance.

I’ll definitely be looking to add this author to my rotation.

4 stars

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Friday Favorites: A Flashback – 5/26/23

Reading over my review for this week’s Friday Favorites: Flashback has reminded me why I fell in love with author Maisey Yates. As of late, I’ve felt a bit let down by some of her books. While I’ve noticed they’ve gotten more dour and wordy, I now realize that they have also lost some of their humor. I still really enjoy most of her stories, but not with the same consistency as before.

That being said, I still recommend this author with the caveat that you read her earlier work and not the recent books. That may change. Maybe it’s me, maybe her writing style has changed, maybe her writing still will change again. Truth be told, I have her last book (written under Maisey Yates, not the ones written under any of her pen names) but still haven’t read it since the previous few didn’t hold up to her former work and I’m afraid of being disappointed.

You can find my original post from September 15, 2017 here. To follow is the same review with updates to grammar, spelling, and formatting. I’m not including content warnings since it’s been so long since I read the book, but if you read the review it’s obvious there is content that can cause distress so procede with caution.

Down Home Cowboy
by Maisey Yates
Release Date: June 27, 2017
Publisher: HQN books
Book #8 in the Copper Ridge series
Number of Pages: 356
Contemporary Romance
Ages 16 and up
This Texas cowboy has come home to Copper Ridge to put down roots…but will he risk his heart again?

Asked where he’d be at this point in life, Cain Donnelly would have said anywhere but Copper Ridge, Oregon, living with his estranged brothers. But since his wife abandoned them, both he and his daughter, Violet, are in need of a fresh start, so he’s back to claim his share of the family ranch. Local baker Alison Davis is a delicious temptation, but she’s also his daughter’s mentor and new boss. That makes her off-limits…until she offers a no-strings deal that no red-blooded cowboy could resist.

Alison has worked tirelessly to rebuild her life, and she won’t jeopardize her hard-won independence. Especially if it also complicates Cain’s relationship with Violet. But with Cain offering a love she never thought was possible, Alison has to find the courage to let her past go…or watch her future ride away for good.

In romance novels, as in real life, sex scenes are so much better when they are also fun.  Maisey Yates never fails to give me fun.  I’ve been sitting in many waiting rooms, as of late, being the primary caregiver of a sick relative.  More than once a laugh escaped my lips in an otherwise quiet room full of sick or worried people.  Sure I felt sheepish, but I also reveled in the levity that I really have been needing in my life right now.

This story deals with some very serious issues:  Abuse, abandonment, self-esteem.  That makes the funny and/or cute scenes all the more special.  This story is not only about Cain and Alison, but also about Cain’s teenage daughter Violet. If you read the previous book, Slow Burn Cowboy, you already know Cain and Violet’s basic story.  So you know there are some deep issues that they have to deal with.  Alison is such a great sounding board for them both.  She guides Violet without pushing.  She pushes Cain because he needs to be pushed when it comes to his feelings.

Cain has so many walls up that it’s no wonder Violet didn’t realize the depth of his love for her.  Which is both surprising and not surprising at all once you find out more about his relationship with his mom and how she viewed him as a child.  When all of these realizations come to Cain (mostly with the help of Alison) it’s beautiful to read about.  There is quite a touching scene between him and Violet.

It’s always great when the student becomes the teacher.  That happens at one point with Violet and Alison and it was pretty funny.  I love that once Violet said her piece Alison just couldn’t get it out of her head.  Loved it!

Honestly, I didn’t think I was going to like Cain as much as I did.  Once those walls start to crumble I couldn’t resist the scared and vulnerable little boy who was inside. 

The one thing that kept this story from a solid 5 stars was the resolution with Violet.  It wasn’t tied up in a little bow, which I appreciated since she is still a teenager.  But once she and her dad finally opened those lines of communication things went a bit TOO smoothly. 

We meet a lot of new characters, if only in passing, in this story.  It excites me to see there’s still plenty of stories to be told in Copper Ridge.

4.5 stars

If you’ve read this story already, or plan on reading this story and want to read more about Violet, she has her own book now! Merry Christmas Cowboy came out last year and featured Violet, all grown up and getting her own HEA.

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