Christmas Eve Cowboy – ARC review

Christmas Eve Cowboy
by Diana Palmer, Delores Fossen, and Kate Pearce
Release Date: September 27, 2022
Publisher: Zebra              
Number of Pages: 272
Source:  ARC from NetGalley
Contemporary Romance/Holidays
Ages 14 and up
CW: cheating, parental death, cancer
Headlined by the legendary storyteller Diana Palmer, this Christmas, the best kind of trouble comes in threes: Three bestselling authors. Three stories of holiday romance. And three rugged cowboys who are ready for love—whether they know it yet or not.

Snow is falling, and when it comes to love, so are these rugged, gorgeous cowboys, in a romantic holiday collection from three bestselling authors . . .

FBI agent Thomas Kincaid Jones has soured on love and Christmas, but Annalisa Davis could change all that. Except the lovely nurse isn’t looking to get involved with someone whose job requires a gun on his hip. And Tom has a case to solve that has nothing to do with love. Yet the spirit of the holidays just might spark a lifetime connection . . .

In Christmas Creek, Texas, folks go all out for the holidays, but Sheriff Calen Jameson is too busy commiserating about cheating exes with his best friend, Emmy Kendrick. Calen always thought their bond was too precious to risk, yet maybe it’s time to start making some changes . . . by firing up the heat with Emmy.

Lucy Smith thinks Santa has outdone himself when Caleb Erickson shows up at her B&B. In high school, Caleb was oblivious to her crush. But while they wait out a snowstorm, he’s discovering she may be the gift he never knew he wanted.

Once again, I am tempted by an ARC of a compilation with a favorite author and an author whose writing doesn’t align with my reading preferences. As I learned to let myself do, I skipped that author’s story in this book. It’s better for me and the author that I do it that way. But, as you may know, I’m a huge fan of Kate Pearce and could not pass this up. To follow are my reviews of the other two stories in this book.

Christmas Creek Cowboy
by Delores Fossen

This is a new-to-me author although her name is so familiar I was shocked I hadn’t read any of her books before. I don’t know if this short story is a kick-off of a new series for her, but it sure could be. This is a sweet friends-to-lovers tale. Calen and Emmy have been friends forever and were even engaged to people who were good friends themselves. A little too good of friends, which brings us to a year later when Emmy and Calen are the subjects of pitying looks and gossip on the anniversary of the day their engagements imploded.

This couple is very believable. I was rooting for them to give in to their desires. Of course, there was a lot of them not wanting to ruin their friendship, but chemistry eventually wins out. On top of them trying to figure out their relationship with each other, there are bags of old undelivered mail discovered in Emmy’s attic and some of the letters could have huge ramifications for the senders and/or recipients. Including Calen and Emmy.

If this is the start of a series, I would love to see how these letters end up affecting the other townspeople. I’m a huge fan of the Christmas season, so a whole town named after things to do with the holiday seems like fun to me. The only thing I wasn’t crazy about was the intimate scenes. It almost seemed as though the author was not comfortable writing them? Seems odd since she has such a vast library of published work. But since I haven’t read her other books I don’t know if she usually does behind closed doors stories. I ended up thinking this story would have been better off leaving those scenes off the page.

~ 4 stars
Ages 13 and up
CW: cheating, death of parents

Coming Home for Christmas
by Kate Pearce

How can you go wrong with this story? Snowed in, brother’s best friend, unrequited lifelong crush, grumpy/sunshine. This story was just what I want in a Christmas romance.

Caleb’s truck breaks down just as he rolls into town, but before he can make it to his father’s ranch. Nobody is around as they are smack dab in the middle of a blizzard so he makes his way over to the local B&B, the establishment his best friend’s grandmother owned. Only Caleb is not aware that his best friend’s little sister Lucy now runs the place. Poor Lucy, the year has been full of bad weather leading to canceled bookings. Her first year as the proprietor of her grandmother’s beloved B&B and she is afraid she’s not going to be able to keep the doors open much longer if her luck doesn’t change.

Lucy and Caleb are so great together, at least once Caleb thaws out. Lucy is always wanting to help others and makes a point to show a brave face to the world when it comes to her own troubles. Caleb can see through that tough exterior and makes sure to show Lucy that she is worth the time and effort that so many seem to not give her. At the same time, Lucy helps Caleb to navigate the tough relationship he has with his father so both Caleb and his father can learn to show the love and respect they have for one another.

This is a sweet holiday romance with some fire and butterflies thrown into the mix. The perfect short story for the upcoming season.

~5 stars
Ages 14 and up
CW: death of parent

4.5 stars

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

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A Thousand Miles – book review

A Thousand Miles
by Bridget Morrissey
Release Date:  June 1, 2022
Publisher: Berkley
Number of Pages:  366
Contemporary Romance
CW: cancer death, paternity issues
Ages 14 and up
After a decade of silence, Dee and Ben reunite for a road trip they once promised to take. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Dee Matthews is the cohost of the smash-hit podcast Did I Forget To Tell You?, where she interviews family, friends, and past lovers. Nothing is off limits, except for one man (known on the show only as Name Redacted) who happens to be her high school best friend Ben. During their senior year spring break, Dee and Ben took a road trip to visit Ben’s grandma. They buried a time capsule in her backyard, pledging to return in ten years to open it. Then their friendship fell apart in spectacular fashion. They haven’t spoken to each other since.

Ben Porter’s life since that moment has been unexciting but comfortable, until his grandma reveals a family secret that flips his whole world upside down. Her dying wish is for him to stop doing what is safest and go after what he really wants. He starts by showing up on Dee’s doorstep with every intention of fulfilling their long-ago promise. Despite her reservations, Dee can’t say no. This trip could be her chance to give her listeners the Name Redacted interview they’ve been begging for—and finally put her unresolved feelings for Ben to rest.

As the miles fly by, Dee and Ben’s friendship reignites. But the closer they get to reaching their destination, the more apparent it becomes that their attraction to each other cannot be ignored. Their last adventure ended in disaster, and they’re about to find out if any hope of a future together is in the rear view mirror.

Such a touching second chance romance. This story delves into what happens when the best of friends have a misunderstanding and lose out on 10 years with each other. But what if they should have missed those 10 years together, what about their lives would be different if they had never been torn apart? Both Dee and Ben love the place their lives are at now, there’s just something missing…each other.

There are always two sides to any story of falling out between friends. Ben and Dee were young and scared when they took their friendship to a place that was well beyond being friends. Both reacted out of fear, both made mistakes, and here we are 10 years later with neither having any luck with love. Even with all of that baggage, somehow they fall right back into their old rhythms when they are alone together again. Their chemistry just works. It’s right and it works.

The way they both will lash out now and again because of past hurts, yet realize what they have done and address the issue, made their journey a joy to read. Two kids who weren’t ready for what their relationship could be are now adults with the maturity to stay and hash things out when needed.

This story made me feel good and hopeful while also giving me all of the warm fuzzies I love in a book. There’s even a different take on the one-bed trope that I love and it does not disappoint. All around a great reading experience.

4.5 stars

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Her Cowboy Prince Charming (Four Corners Ranch) – book review

Her Cowboy Prince Charming
by Maisey Yates
Release Date: September 1, 2022
Publisher: HQN books
Book #1.5 in the Four Corners Ranch series
Number of Pages: 65
Contemporary Romance
Ages 15 and up
CW: death of parents
Their one night of passion changes everything, but is a fairy-tale ending possible with her cowboy prince?

Tired of being alone for the holidays, tomboy Jessie Granger decides to make her debut at the annual Christmas masquerade ball. In a gorgeous dress and mask, she meets a handsome masked stranger, and they spend one passionate night together. And just like Cinderella, she even leaves a shoe behind. Neither expect to see one another again…until Jessie realizes it wasn’t a stranger at all but her brother’s best friend and her unrequited crush, Damien Prince.

Jessie knows Damien isn’t looking for anything serious, especially something that would put his relationship with her family in jeopardy, but her youthful crush is feeling more and more like something real. As the sparks between them continue to grow stronger, can they survive falling in love with the one person they were never supposed to touch, or will the other shoe drop this holiday season?

This story is short, sexy, and emotional. I was invested from the start and enjoyed the Cinderella fairytale aspects of the book. Jessie and Damien have great chemistry, but the awkwardness that comes with realizing what they had done was also spot on. Because this is such a short story, the hemming and hawing wasn’t dragged out in any way. These two already had history, albeit in a different capacity than lovers. This helped the speed of everything make sense.

In a brother’s best friend scenario, the main characters often fear the brother/friend getting mad and losing that relationship. That was the case here, but I appreciated the way things played out between Damien and Levi. It was so adult and mature, showing that Levi is level-headed and thinks things through. It’s not hard to see why he was such a good role model for his siblings when they were left with nobody to finish raising them.

I tend to enjoy this author’s novella-length stories a lot. She can get wordy, but not so with these short stories.

4 stars

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Dark Lover (Black Dagger Brotherhood) – book review

Dark Lover
by J.R. Ward
Release Date: February 19, 2005
Publisher: Penguin Group
Book #1 in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series
Number of Pages:  419
Paranormal Romance
Ages 15 and up
CW: sexual assault, murder, violence,
police brutality, misogyny
In the shadows of the night in Caldwell, New York, there’s a deadly turf war going on between vampires and their slayers. There exists a secret band of brothers like no other-six vampire warriors, defenders of their race. Yet none of them relishes killing more than Wrath, the leader of The Black Dagger Brotherhood.

The only purebred vampire left on earth, Wrath has a score to settle with the slayers who murdered his parents centuries ago. But, when one of his most trusted fighters is killed-leaving his half-breed daughter unaware of his existence or her fate-Wrath must usher her into the world of the undead-a world of sensuality beyond her wildest dreams.

This book has been on my radar for a very long time. It comes up in a lot of discussions of paranormal romance and it’s been recommended to me by various people. A couple of years ago I even purchased the book when I saw it was on sale. Well, I’m glad I finally got around to reading it because I believe I’m going to enjoy this series.

Of course, because it’s over 10 years old, there are some problematic elements to the writing. Things like police brutality and there are some elements I found to be homophobic. It wasn’t in your face so it was hard to know for sure if the author was using these elements to show how terrible certain characters are or if it was a product of how blind many of us were to such things and how we spoke 15 years ago.

That being said, there were a lot of surprises to this story. There were a few characters that I really, really, really did not like at the beginning that I ended up liking (and in one case even loving) by the end. The way the author integrated all of the characters by the conclusion of this book was genius. About a quarter of the way in I was a bit concerned about how everything would come together. There were a lot of threads to follow, not just the stories of Beth and Wrath. I was afraid it was too much, although I knew there was a lot of story building needed in the first book of a paranormal series. I quickly forgot my concerns as the author wove an intriguing tale.

Every author who writes about vampires, or any other paranormal type creature, puts their own spin on the lore. These vampires have heartbeats, are more easily killed than most vampires I’ve read about, and don’t live forever. That was something I found myself to be keen on. It added a different element to this story I wasn’t expecting.

Of course, this is also a romance and that part of the story was also delightful. In the beginning, I wish Beth and Wrath would have spent more time together. I wasn’t sure if I’d feel the payoff if they didn’t. Yet when the two of them were in the same room all of the chemistry would light up. And, although Beth was knocked for a loop by what was happening and had a ton of questions, and needed some time, she didn’t wait long to jump in with both feet and allow those that could help her to do so.

There are well over 20 books in this series, not including those still slated to be published and the books from the different spin-off series. I’m looking forward to working my way through them.

4 stars

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TTT: Books On My Fall 2022 TBR

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.

It’s already starting to feel like fall here in Michigan. At least at certain times of the day. We’re at that time of year that you may need a light jacket or a hoodie in the morning (not every morning, but some) and you’re sweating something fierce by the middle of the afternoon. But I still love this time of year. And, as you may know, I love theses quarterly Top Ten Tuesday posts where we list out what’s coming up on our TBR. So, here we are a couple of days before the official start of fall, with my Fall 2022 TBR.

The books below are all being published in the Fall of 2022 (September 22 – December 21) that I haven’t read yet. I have either an ARC or have preordered all of these books and, as you can see, it’s the time of year to read all of the holiday books! Yay!

Publication Date: 9/27/22

Best Man Rancher (The Carsons of Lone Rock #2) by Maisey Yates

Coen (Pittsburgh Titans #4) by Sawyer Bennett

The Rivals of Casper Road (Garnet Run #4) by Roan Parrish

Publication Date: 10/4/22

A Boyfriend by Christmas (The Evergreen Brothers #1) by Jami Rogers

Home Sweet Christmas (Wishing Tree #2) by Susan Mallery

Publication Date: 10/5/22

The Christmas Concierge by Beth Kendrick

Publication Date: 10/6/22

Bad Deal (A-List Security #3) by Annabeth Albert

Publication Date: 10/11/22

On the Hustle (Dating in Dallas #2) by Adriana Herrera

One Last Gift by Emily Stone

Wishing on a Christmas Cowboy (Star Valley #1) by Sara Richardson

Publication Date: 10/18/22

Built to Last by Erin Hahn

Publication Date: 10/25/22

Situationship by Marina Adair

Garrett’s Destiny (Dark Protectors #15) by Rebecca Zanetti

Merry Christmas Cowboy (Four Corners Ranch #2) by Maisey Yates

Publication Date: 10/27/22

Christmas at Belhaven Hall (The Maidens of Marbury #3) by Karla Kratovil

Publication Date: 11/5/22

Never Rescue a Rogue (The Merriwell Sisters #2) by Virginia Heath

Publication Date: 11/29/22

You Can Hide (A Laurel Snow Thriller #2) by Rebecca Zanetti

Publication Date: 12/6/22

The Key to My Heart by Lia Louis

The Midnight Realm (Chronicles of the Stone Veil #7) by Sawyer Bennett

The Sunshine Girls by Molly Fader

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