Spell the Month in Books – February 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.

As I was putting this list of books together, I realized that 4 of the books I had chosen fall under the scope of HarperCollins. It’s not like I didn’t have other books to use for those particular letters, so in support of the striking workers, I swapped them out. I saved them for later, though.

January had been busy. My birthday is in January as is my youngest son’s. I also had a bunch of doctor appointments, including an MRI (which I was deathly afraid of but got through with some helpful relaxation pills) and other assorted tests. But we made it through and we’re on to the shortest month of the year. Where I’ll have more tests and hopefully some answers and plans.

Without preplanning it, I ended up with a Van Gogh-themed birthday. I had remarked on seeing people with their Van Gogh Starry Night Lego sets and my husband took note and got it for me. I had also made mention at some point that I was interested in going to the Van Gogh exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts but knew my husband would be bored. My youngest and family got me tickets and my son took me on a Saturday morning. Griffin has always been my kid who would hang by me to read the plaques and really take things in while my husband and oldest would go through a place and wait patiently for us at the end. He also took me out to lunch and then over to a patisserie for dessert. It was a lovely day.

Let’s get on with the books. If I have a review for the book, the title will be clickable. There is only one without a review. Also, I usually try not to use more than one book by the same author in these posts and didn’t realize until I was putting everything together that when switching out titles I added one from an author I was already using. At least it’s not the same series!

FFinding Libbie

Author: Deanna Lynn Sletten

Publication Date: September 6, 2016

Pages: 352

Genre: Contemporary Fiction


Author: C.R. Grisson

Publication Date: March 2, 2021

Pages: 255

Genre: Contemporary Romance/New Adult

BBefore Goodbye

Author: Mimi Cross

Publication Date: January 1, 2016

Pages: 400

Genre: Young Adult


Author: Nicole Edwards

Publication Date: March 26, 2019

Pages: 398

Genre: Contemporary Romance

U – Under the Dome

Author: Stephen King

Publication Date: December 12, 2009

Pages: 1092

Genre: Sci-Fi/Thriller

AAlpha’s Promise

Author: Rebecca Zanetti

Publication Date: June 25, 2019

Pages: 345

Genre: Paranormal Romance

RRaising Kane

Author: Lorelei James

Publication Date: June 29, 2010

Pages: 251

Genre: Contemporary Romance

YYou Can Run

Author: Rebecca Zanetti

Publication Date: January 25, 2022

Pages: 400

Genre: Suspense w/romantic elements

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I Support the HarperCollins Union

I wasn’t aware that the HarperCollins union was on strike until about a month after they went on strike. Maybe I’m behind the times, or perhaps I’m not alone and some of you were unaware this strike has been going on since November 10, 2022. When I found out about the strike in December, I wanted to support the workers but had gotten some conflicting and confusing information. Since then, I think I have sorted things out by following the union on social media (Instagram and Twitter) and DM’ing them with a couple of questions. At least for now. After more than 50 days with no word from HarperCollins, there has finally been word that they will be meeting at the bargaining table soon. Hopefully, things go well for the workers as they are not asking for much.

Believe it or not, the most significant bone of contention seems to be the starting salary of $45,000 a year. The union is asking for a starting salary of $50,000 a year. This, considering most of this work gets done in and around New York City seems more than reasonable. It’s also important to note that many authors, big names and small, are supporting the union and their strike. My heart goes out to new authors and those that aren’t big names, but in the long run, I’m hoping things work out for the workers and therefore the authors will have better support from their publishing team.

So what does the strike mean for readers and reviewers? Because the workers are trying their best to be heard while also knowing their problems with the publisher will negatively affect authors, they aren’t asking for a full-fledged boycott. They are not asking us to not buy the books, but they are asking us to hold our reviews and sharing until the strike is over. Which means, go ahead and buy those debut authors. Read those books from underrepresented communities. Just hold your excitement and opinions for a bit.

One of the problems I ran into is not realizing how many imprints fall under HarperCollins. At one point it was also being said that Harlequin was not falling under the strike, but later I found out they are. That’s why there have been some reviews posted by me before I found this information out. The union shared this graphic regarding the imprints under HarperCollins.

I have some ARCs from these imprints through NetGalley so instead of posting my review I let them know I am supporting the union workers and will post my review once things are resolved. The books I’ve purchased previously or have from the library that I haven’t posted my review yet are also being held until the resolution. It drastically messed with my calendar I keep, I didn’t realize how many books I read that fall under the HarperCollins umbrella. But that’s small beans in comparison to how important it is for the workers to be treated fairly.

We’re each going to do what feels right, but growing up in the Detroit area and having worked in as an administrative assistant in a union hall, I believe in the good unions do for workers and will stand by them whenever it’s in my power. I decided to do this post in case there are others reading this who weren’t aware of the strike or what the union is asking from us in terms of support. And please remember, I am just giving you information I’ve picked up over the last month. The best place to go for more information is straight to the source. Their social media pages have a lot of information and updates.

**Please, if you notice that I got anything wrong in this post, send me a message. I don’t want to spread misinformation. I also don’t want to inadvertently cross the picket line.

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Bad Boys After Dark: Dylan – book review

Bad Boys After Dark: Dylan
by Melissa Foster
Release Date: December 21, 2016
Book #2 in the Bad Boys After Dark series
Part of the larger Love in Bloom series
Number of Pages: 300
Contemporary Romance
Ages 15 and up
CW: grief, death of a sibling,
cheating, abandonment
Sinfully sexy bar owner Dylan Bad has a thing for needy women. He’s a savior, a knight in shining armor, and his mighty talented sword has no trouble bringing damsels in distress to their knees. Enter Tiffany Winters, a gorgeous cutthroat sports agent who looks like sex on legs, f**ks like she’s passion personified, and wouldn’t let a man help her if she were dangling from a ledge and he was her only hope. One night and too much tequila might change their lives forever. The question is, will either one survive?

While the first book in this series got its hooks into me and kept me turning the pages, this one just didn’t do it for me. I can’t seem to pinpoint what the problem was and it leads me to believe it may have been my mood more than anything else. The characters are great, their story has emotional depth and plenty of heat, and there wasn’t even a lot of pushback like I expected with the FMC being so high-powered and business oriented.

Tiffany and Dylan meet at his brother’s wedding, although she’s not actually a guest and just happens to walk into the bar they are at. But she does know Mick and his bride and falls into an easy banter/flirting with Dylan right away. She’s looking to blow off some steam, a quick wham-bam-thank you ma’am. While Dylan is not averse to those types of encounters, he’s always been on the lookout for the one he can settle down and build a life with. He feels an instant connection with Tiffany and believes she may be the one for him. Tiffany feels this, too but has never seen herself as the settling-down type. Her career takes up too much time and she isn’t really in the market to let someone in behind her walls. She doesn’t do emotional.

Dylan is very sweet and patient and understanding. I love that he understands how important Tiffany’s job is to her and that her drive and determination are part of what makes her who she is, so he’s not looking to change her. But he does want some of her precious time. Tiffany is resistant at first, but quickly finds herself craving time with Dylan and realizing that she hasn’t been letting anyone in, not even her dad and brothers. She’s determined to find a more balanced life while still going after what she wants in her career.

There are some wonderfully steamy scenes in this story, including a phenomenal phone/facetime scene that shows how hot such a thing can be while also being super intimidating and awkward. Both characters are excited and nervous and it’s just a delicious scene.

That being said, there is some language used that I felt was misogynistic and some attitudes toward certain sexual proclivities that I wasn’t on board with. Understandably, Tiffany would have a bad taste in her mouth about certain things due to what her ex-boyfriend did, but when the conversation comes up about this it seems both characters are so dismissive of alternative lifestyles. Plus, Dylan uses a term for a female body part to describe himself when he’s feeling weak more than once. It happens a lot. Too much.

So there’s good and bad with this book. Some things would have kept me from being all in on the story, as I reference above, even if I had been in the right headspace. But I also think I would have been more engaged if I had been in the right mood.

3 stars

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Rocky Start (A-List Security) – book review

Rocky Start
by Annabeth Albert
Release Date: January 12, 2023
Book #4 in the A-List Security series
Number of Pages:  311
Contemporary Romance
Ages 15 and up
CW: homophobia, military PTSD
I think I’m falling for my bodyguard co-worker. Now I need protection… from myself.

As a former SEAL intelligence officer, I’m supposed to be smart. Unfortunately, those smarts don’t apply to love. I did a nice thing and took my heartbroken fellow bodyguard out for a Valentine’s dinner. Just us bros. But my plan worked a little too well, and a night that ended with a scorching kiss has turned into the most awkward morning at the office ever. Now we’re working together as bodyguards on a remote mountain movie shoot. And we’re roommates.

I’ve never been attracted to a guy before, but something about Avery calls to every protective instinct I have. We’re not dating, but every night alone together, I fall a little deeper. It’s also Avery’s first time with a guy too, and while we’re both enjoying all sorts of new things together, I worry my heart will be broken when we return to civilization.

No matter how badly this may end, I can’t seem to stop wanting Avery. All of him. I want to see who he’ll become if he ever manages to get out of his own way. I want to be his biggest cheerleader, best friend, and the guy he comes home to. But going from secret hookup to forever after is a big ask. Are we both brave enough to take the leap?

Every time I read an Annabeth Albert book I end up with a new favorite couple from her. I swear, if push came to shove, I wouldn’t be able to pick a favorite. But when the story is fresh in my mind, that’s the couple I’ll pick. Malik and Avery are currently holding that spot.

This story starts with a really good look at the type of person Malik is; kind, smart, empathetic, and accepting. Avery is harder to get a read on. He’s young and eager, but also a bit all over the place. What starts as Malik being a friend to Avery turns into Avery showing his immature side which turns into a super compelling scene of self-discovery for both characters. Once that tilt in the story comes, it comes fast. No slow burn for these two. It seems Malik may have always suspected he is pansexual, but he’s only dated cishet females. Avery comes from a household that has a definite touch of toxic masculinity and has never even let himself think about what his sexuality might be. Of course he’s straight! Nothing else is acceptable for his family that is often in the public eye. This one evening turns everything on its head for both Avery and Malik.

Malik is so patient and understanding with Avery. As is everyone that comes into their sphere while they’re on location doing security for a movie. They are off the beaten path, in a world of their own, with only one hotel room to share. Slowly, Avery starts overcoming the internalized homophobia he’s picked up through the years of being an NFL player’s son, then a Navy SEAL. Malik wasn’t expecting to fall for his co-worker, but he’s much more accepting of his feelings from the very beginning. His only problem is Avery’s hot and cold behavior. Malik has such wisdom when it comes to Avery’s fears and he is Avery’s biggest cheerleader and support system. It’s such a lovely and beautiful thing.

Once Avery starts accepting himself, at least in the privacy of their hotel room, he is just as tender and loving with Malik. He is so appreciative of the care Malik takes with him, be it with their meals or in bed or just relaxing in front of the television, and he wants to give that same care back to Malik. Avery grows a lot in this story. He not only comes out to his family, but first he had to come out to himself. What a wonderful story.

5 stars

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Bad Boys After Dark: Mick – book review

Bad Boys After Dark: Mick
by Melissa Foster
Release Date: June 22, 2016
Book #1 in the Bad Boys After Dark series
Part of the larger Love in Bloom series
Number of Pages: 248
Contemporary Romance
Ages 16 and up
CW: grief, death of a sibling,
emotional abuse
Everything’s naughtier after dark…
Amanda Jenner is done being a boring-man magnet and has finally taken control of her love life. As any smart paralegal would, she’s researched the hell out of how to seduce a man. She’s waxed, primped, and ready to put her newfound skills into action–and a masquerade bar crawl is the perfect venue for her solo coming-out party.

Entertainment attorney Mick Bad lives by two hard and fast rules. He never mixes business with pleasure, and he doesn’t do relationships, which makes the anonymity of a masquerade bar crawl the perfect place for a onetime hookup.

Amanda thinks she’s hit the jackpot when she bags a tall, dark, and sinfully delicious masked man–until she discovers the man she’s made out with is her off-limits boss. Mick’s already crossed a line he can never uncross, and one taste of sweet and sexy Amanda has only whet his appetite. When Mick offers to give Amanda a lesson in seduction–no strings, no regrets, and for goodness’ sake, come Monday, no quitting–the tables turn, and Mick’s totally unprepared for the lessons this sweet temptress provides.

This story has it all. It’s sexy while also being sweet. Mick is really protective of Amanda. They’ve been working together for years and holding a torch for each other. Neither has given the other any indication of those feelings, making their steamy anonymous meet-up hotter. Once Mitch realizes who he’s with, we see that sweet side come out in full force. *swoon*

Amanda and Mick make a deal when the truth of their identities is fully revealed…a deal all romance readers know will never work the way they think it will work. It goes from just one night to get it out of their system to a whole long weekend they dub Amanda’s Sex Adventure Weekend. Mitch feels he cannot ever have a meaningful or lasting romantic relationship. Things that happened in his past with his family have left a bitter taste in his mouth and he never wants to hurt anyone the way his mom was hurt. Instead of seeing all the ways he’s not like his father, he fixates on how he can hurt those around him. Amanda is screwing that all up and Mick doesn’t know up from down anymore.

While Amanda is quite naïve in many ways, once she dives into this thing with Mick her inner vixen comes out. It’s amazingly sex-positive and I was all in for her explorations into her wants and needs in the bedroom. Their chemistry is off the charts. Amanda feels that, but because of her lack of experience she’s not sure if that’s just her. Mick admits things are fire between them, better than ever before, but he’s still adamant that he’s not meant for a relationship. He’s infuriating and I appreciate that Amanda calls him to task when need be.

I read this story after a big disappointment with this same author. I went in hoping it would be a solid read as I usually expect from her, a kind of palate cleanser. It ended up blowing my expectations out of the water. I loved this book.

4.5 stars

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