Friday Favorites – 7/23/21

I was going to do a whole post about sisters, but since I had a baby shower to go to last night and didn’t have this post ready to go before that, I’m typing this up at the last minute. And let’s face it, sisters are a complicated subject. I love both of mine, but you know what I mean if you happen to have sisters. I just don’t have time to get into all of that, lol.

The reason I was going with sisters for my Friday Favorites is because my baby sister is in Michigan visiting. It’s a super quick visit because she’s the mom of 3 (a 6 year old and twin almost 4 year olds) and has left them back in California in order to be here for her best friend’s baby shower. Which means I really haven’t had much time to visit her. So today the family (my brood, our mom, my brother’s 2 youngest, our aunt & uncle that are local) is getting together to visit with her now that the baby shower hullabaloo is over. That’s why instead, I’m going to say that visiting is my favorite for this Friday.

Full disclosure: I was 12 years younger and probably 20 lbs lighter in this photo. Not to mention our big sis and I still both dyed our hair and had much less grey. That’s my big sister (Gina), little sister(Katie), and me.

I’m quite the introvert, though most people who don’t understand what an introvert and extrovert are don’t realize this fact. I am flat out exhausted after being at that baby shower, which was super chill and non-traditional, and I was sitting at a small table with two people I’m really comfortable with. I have a socializing hangover today, for sure. My social issues have only gotten worse over the last year, of course. Yesterday was my first time at a restaurant in well over a year, and I sat outside on the patio.

Anyway, my point is that today I get to visit with my little sister. She is almost 9 years younger than me, the baby of the four siblings. She hasn’t been to Michigan since Griffin’s grad party in 2016. I’ve never had the opportunity to meet her twins yet! I’m excited to hear more about them. I can’t wait for her to meet her my grandbaby, her first great-niece. Hopefully the weather holds out (we’re all meeting at a park) and we can just enjoy catching up.

No, visiting isn’t really a favorite thing of mine. But visiting with specific people at specific times can be. Sometimes. When I prepare myself. Usually…

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Assigned (Navy SEALs of Little Creek) – ARC review

Assigned
by Paris Wynters
Release Date:  July 22, 2021
Publisher: Tule Publishing
Book #3 in the Navy SEALs of Little Creek series
Number of Pages:  199
Kindle Edition
Source:  Tule Publishing ARC
Contemporary Romance/Military M/F
Ages 16 and up
Read 7/19/21

After two of his buddies found love through the military’s matchmaking program, Lucas Craiger decides to give it a shot. He’s not necessarily looking for love, just companionship and a kind, reliable stepmom for his young son. When he’s assigned to his high school sweetheart who shattered his heart, his plan for an uncomplicated relationship becomes acutely complicated.

Riley Thompson signed up for the matchmaking program because she needs a fresh start—and the health insurance. She desperately wants to build a life with a man where her autoimmune disease doesn’t define her and she can prove herself. But being matched with Lucas isn’t the new beginning she wanted. He’s the love of her life she let go when she was first diagnosed.

Lucas is determined to make the most of this second chance with Riley, but when his custody battle heats up, his new marriage isn’t the only relationship in jeopardy.

This series is really so much fun. I don’t mean that in a way to say it’s a laugh a minute, because it’s not. There are always serious issues going on along with the love story. But the camaraderie of the SEAL team and their significant others is a joy to read. Regardless of the premise being very fictional, the author gets me to believe and to go all in when it comes to the military’s Issued Partner Program (IPP).

It’s frowned upon in the IPP to participate if you are in it for health insurance (or any other monetary type of gain), so Riley hides the fact that is exactly why she signed up. Then she gets matched with her high school boyfriend, her first love. The man she broke up with to spare him from feeling obligated to take care of her once she got her diagnosis. Now she has two reasons to hide her medical condition. On top of that, she finds out Lucas has a son and, although the split was amicable, his ex is not happy about Riley coming back into his life and starts threatening his custody rights. Now she really feels she cannot let anyone know she’s sick in case the ex finds her to be unfit to be left alone with the boy. It’s a mess.

Lucas is a wonderful father and carries a lot of guilt for not always being their for his son due to the demands of being a Navy SEAL. He also puts a good portion of the blame for his divorce on his own shoulders because of the crazy lifestyle his career demands. He’s hoping by bringing a spouse into his life through the IPP they will know in advance what they’re signing up for and the relationship can build from there. Of course, he doesn’t expect to be matched with his first love.

There is a lot to work through between Lucas and Riley, and that’s hard to do when neither is being fully up front about their past. That lands more squarely on Riley’s shoulders, but Lucas’ attitude doesn’t really help either. The respect and love they have for one another shines through and, due to their wonderful chemistry, they can’t help but rekindle old feelings. Lucas is so patient and accepting once he knows (most of) the truth. But they both still have their moments, always having their defenses up so as not to get hurt again.

The ex-wife is really not great and I’m not sure I like how she was written. We’re being told over and over that she is a wonderful person and everyone loves her and yadda yadda yadda. But all we’re show, through most of this story, is her being unreasonable and jumping to conclusions without speaking with Lucas about her concerns. Every other sentence out of her mouth is a threat. How is that what is best for their son? It’s baffling and really threw me off. I know the author was going for the conflict that was needed. But the arc of the character didn’t make sense to me.

That being said, I still enjoyed this book and didn’t want to put it down. Riley’s insecurities about her health and being a burden, and Lucas’ insecurities about his poor upbringing, both tugged at my heart. I love the emotions and connections the author puts into these stories.

4 stars

**I received an ARC of this book courtesy of the publisher. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and given freely**

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Sweet Talking Rancher (The Millers of Morgan Valley) – ARC review

Sweet Talking Rancher
by Kate Pearce
Release Date: July 27, 2021
Publisher:  Zebra
Book #5 in the Millers of Morgan Valley series
Number of pages:  336
Kindle Edition
Source: ARC from Net Galley
Contemporary Romance/Western M/F
Ages 16 and up
Read 7/11/21 to 7/12/21

Everyone in rancher Danny Miller’s life wants to know how he feels about his teenage flame returning to Morgan Valley. Danny wishes he knew. After the disastrous ending of their relationship, and Faith’s choice to leave town all those years ago, Danny’s rebuilt his life without her. But he’s about to have a very practical reason for needing her in it again–despite the very impractical desire she inspires once he lays eyes on her…

Faith McDonald hadn’t planned on returning home, but with her dad retiring, her help is needed at the family veterinary practice. She’s hoping that by now, folks have forgotten what happened between her and Danny–even if the two of them never can. With a mystery infection decimating the Miller cattle, she and Danny soon find themselves on the same side for the first time in forever. There was a lot of trouble in their past, but the good parts never really flamed out, including their intense attraction. And their shared determination to cure the cattle might just lead them to a healing of their own–and a whole new
all-grown-up future…

Every time I think I can’t despise the Miller patriarch any more, I read another story about one of his kids and learn more about his lifetime of deception. To be honest, he has done some atoning over the years. But he does his atoning in a roundabout way and never seems to apologize for the wrongs he has done along the way.

The depths to which their parents went to keep Faith and Danny apart when they were teens, and going through one of the most devastating times of their lives, is hard to fathom. Especially when it comes to Faith’s parents because they seem so loving and kind and thoughtful. Because of what happened to them all those years ago, and the half stories they’ve gotten about each other, they have a long road to travel. But what’s great about both of these characters is they try really hard to forgive and not judge. They both know people change a lot from the time their teenagers until they’re established adults.

More than Faith, Danny’s story just breaks my heart. While Faith got every opportunity to follow her dreams (outside of her romantic dreams) and build the life she wanted, Danny was held back at every turn until he was well into his 20s. And even then, there were many stipulations put on what he could do when since he was part of running his family’s ranch.

Obviously, from what I’ve said so far, there are a lot of serious issues for these two to work through. That doesn’t mean there isn’t fun and lightness to this story, too. The author strikes a wonderful balance between the joy and angst. There’s a bit of a side story that was great that I would have loved to see expanded. It doesn’t detract from this story that it’s not expanded, but I would have really loved for the particular couple to have gotten their own book.

As usual, Kate Pearce kept me fully engaged and turning the pages.

4 stars

** I received an ARC of this book courtesy of the Net Galley and the publisher.  All opinions expressed in my review are my own and given freely. **

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In the Middle of Somewhere (Middle of Somewhere) – book review

In the Middle of Somewhere
by Roan Parrish
Release Date: July 10, 2015
Publisher:  Monster Press
Book #1 in the Middle of Somewhere series
Number of pages:  416
Kindle Edition
Source: Amazon Purchase
Contemporary Romance M/M
Ages 17 and up
Read 6/27/21 to 6/30/21

Daniel Mulligan is tough, snarky, and tattooed, hiding his self-consciousness behind sarcasm. Daniel has never fit in—not at home in Philadelphia with his auto mechanic father and brothers, and not at school where his Ivy League classmates looked down on him. Now, Daniel’s relieved to have a job at a small college in Holiday, Northern Michigan, but he’s a city boy through and through, and it’s clear that this small town is one more place he won’t fit in.

Rex Vale clings to routine to keep loneliness at bay: honing his muscular body, perfecting his recipes, and making custom furniture. Rex has lived in Holiday for years, but his shyness and imposing size have kept him from connecting with people.

When the two men meet, their chemistry is explosive, but Rex fears Daniel will be another in a long line of people to leave him, and Daniel has learned that letting anyone in can be a fatal weakness. Just as they begin to break down the walls keeping them apart, Daniel is called home to Philadelphia, where he discovers a secret that changes the way he understands everything.

You guys know I love a story that is set in my home state of Michigan. Over the last year I have discovered Roan Parrish and found that I also love her stories. Put the two together and it’s magic for me. But I think it will be magic for anyone who enjoys a heartfelt love story about two people finding happiness and acceptance.

For anyone who has ever been on a road at night in the middle of nowhere Michigan, you know how right the author got the atmosphere at the beginning of this story. I will admit that Daniel was not endearing himself to me with his thoughts on my dear state. Being the city boy that he is, it’s to be expected. Just as the small up north Michigan town growing on him is to be expected.

Rex is all that I love about a Roan Parrish main character. Quiet, prickly, gruff, hard to read…with a soft and mushy inside. Rex is so darn romantic. And Daniel, having not ever had a relationship where someone actually takes care of him and gives of themselves to him, doesn’t even realize that’s what is happening at first. We eventually find out that Rex has been through the ringer himself, so he doesn’t know how to act when Daniel veers outside what he expects. Both of these characters need a heaping load of unconditional love. Daniel’s self-esteem is so low, it never occurs to him that the take-charge guy that is Rex could have doubts about himself.

Although I don’t have the same baggage as Daniel, I found myself really connecting with him. I highlighted so many of his inner thoughts as I was reading this book. Which made his screw-ups and heartaches all the more visceral for me. I wanted to protect him from his family and from himself when he let the ingrown family stuff sway his actions and attitudes.

Rex and Daniel set the page on fire with just a look, just a glancing touch. Their chemistry is amazing and beautiful. The way they fit together and compliment each other is breathtaking. As has been the case with every book I’ve read by this author, when I was finished I just had to sit and let it all sink in, all the while wondering how I can pick up another book after the amazing journey I just had in its pages.

5 stars

I can’t end this review without showing you this exchange. I believe my fellow Michiganders will get a kick out of it. Daniel is at a conference in Detroit and runs across an old friend from Philly. When his friend asks him if he’s now working in Michigan, Daniel learns about Up North…

“Yeah, up north of Traverse City. Crazy.”
“Ooh, already saying Up North. Very Michigan of you.”
“Sorry?”
“You know, Up North?”
At my vacant expression, Andre says, “Up North is the northern lower peninsula, like where you live. Of course, everyone in Michigan will make a different argument about where exactly you can draw the line that indicates where Up North begins. It can get very heated.”
I smile and shake my head.
“Fucking Michigan,” I say.

Seriously, when Daniel says, “Fucking Michigan” I started cracking up. I’m easily amused!

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Alibi (Brantley Walker: Off the Books) – ARC Review

Alibi
by Nicole Edwards
Release Date:  July 27, 2021
Publisher: Nicole Edwards Limited
Book #5 in the Brantley Walker: Off the Books series
Number of Pages: 250
Kindle Edition
Source:  ARC from author
Romantic Suspense M/M M/F
Ages 18 and up
Read 7/13/21 to 7/15/21

Travis Walker has been battling dark urges since the day Juliet Prince kidnapped his six-year-old daughter four months ago. Although Kate was returned safely, the woman responsible vanished.

When their attempts to find her keep coming up empty, Travis let his need for retribution consume him and it nearly cost him his relationship with his family. Thanks to help from Gage and Kylie, Travis came back from the brink and passed the case back where it belonged: with the Off the Books Task Force.

What they don’t know is that, despite their best efforts and repeated failures to find her, Juliet doesn’t intend to run forever. She’s coming back to Coyote Ridge to settle the score once and for all. And this time, she intends to bring Travis to his knees by taking what means the most to him.

When the unthinkable happens, Travis’s need for vengeance is renewed and he will move heaven and earth to avenge his family.

I simultaneously wanted to never put this book down and had a hard time continuing. The title says it all. Since this is NOT a standalone, you’ve already read the first four books of this series and know Travis is going off the rails. I don’t blame him. He is entitled to his rage. But I just knew there would be things happening in this story that would change everything for the Walkers and everyone else in Coyote Ridge.

As with any romantic suspense, it is extremely difficult to review this story without spoilers. But I absolutely will not spoil this story. That also means I will be extremely vague in this review. My main purpose is to tell you, the potential reader, that Nicole Edwards does in this book what she does best…hits you in the feels. Man, this story is a gut-punch.

From the very beginning I have loved Brantley. More than that, I adore Brantley and Reese together. Because they are the men behind the task force, we still get to see them a lot. But this story is very heavy on the Travis/Gage/Kylie relationship. Which makes sense since it’s the kidnapping of their oldest daughter that kicked off this task force in the first place, and the kidnapper is still out there and a major threat. There are a slew of emotions their marriage goes through in this story. The author leads them through, helping them to help each other find the light at the end of the tunnel.

Of course, we can’t forget JJ and Baz, or Trey and Magnus. Both couples do a lot of push/pull in this book. I find Trey and Magnus fun and cannot wait for Trey to get over himself and open himself up to more. Baz and JJ have a lot to work through, but it was wonderful to see JJ let herself to a bit. I’m hoping that she, or someone, helps him to push for a bit more in his situation because he is being strung along for no reason.

Listen, this book will break your heart. It will also build you back up.

5 stars

**I received an ARC of this book courtesy of the author. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and given freely**

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