The Accidental Newlywed Game (Boots and Bouquets) – book review

The Accidental Newlywed Game
by Jaci Burton
Release Date:  June 28, 2022
Publisher: Berkley
Book #3 in the Boots and Bouquets series
Number of Pages:  336
Contemporary Romance
CW: talk of cancer
Ages 16 and up
What happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas, when one night out turns into a wedding that neither newlywed can remember, from New York Times bestselling author Jaci Burton.

Wedding planner Honor Bellini is in Las Vegas for a work convention when she runs into her sister’s ex-fiancé, Owen Stone, who’s also in town for his craft brewery business. They’re both glad to see a familiar face from home…until a night of drinking leads to waking up in bed together—and a marriage certificate from a wedding that neither of them can recall.

Horrified, Owen suggests an immediate annulment. Honor agrees, but when they spend the day together, their chemistry is overwhelming. Plus, Honor has a flash of memory of their steamy wedding night, and she definitely likes what she remembers. They decide to wait before cancelling the whole marriage thing, though they both head back to Oklahoma determined not to tell anyone at home what happened in Vegas.

The problem is, Honor and Owen can’t seem to stay away from each other—or keep their hands off one another. The longer they keep their secret, the harder it gets to deny how they really feel. Even worse, this huge secret has the potential to hurt someone they both care about. They need to get an annulment before this accidental marriage turns into love.

It cannot just be me that has noticed I now have a different lens when it comes to pregnancy in books. Ever since the Dobbs decision overturning a person’s right to make decisions about their bodies here in the US, anything to do with pregnancy hits differently. That being said, this book was published in June just days after that decision, meaning the author had no way of knowing when this went off to her publisher what would be happening. Not that I know her mind either way, but it has been making me wonder if these authors would have used different phrasing for certain scenes, or even gone a whole other way.

So that all being said, it may be obvious that there were things in this book that put me on edge. Honor and Owen get drunk married in Vegas and decide the easiest way to remedy the situation is to get an annulment…unless she’s pregnant??? What difference would that make? They aren’t, at this point, even claiming to be in love. They both are stating it was a huge mistake. Owen is Honor’s sister’s ex-fiancé. He took off on Honor’s sister days before their wedding. (I won’t put any spoilers in case you haven’t read her sister’s book, The Best Man Plan, yet, but it is all worked out and everyone is now friends. There were reasons and they were good ones.) It’s not 1950 and they don’t come from the types of families that may expect marriage if there is a baby. It just didn’t make sense to me when there were a thousand other snafus the author could have used to delay their annulment other than waiting to see if Honor would have her period. I would be reading along enjoying the story, and there would be a reminder that this is what they were waiting for and it would just annoy me and take me out of the story.

When it came to Honor and Owen interacting, spending time together, and falling in love, I enjoyed this story. When the outside influences came into the picture, a possible baby, her family’s reaction to the marriage, and their wishy-washy decisions with each other, the story would lose me.

All and all I had fun with this series as a whole. This book ended the series on a bit of a flat note, though. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as good as the others.

3 stars

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Never Fall for Your Fiancee

Never Fall for Your Fiancée
by Virginia Heath
Release Date: November 9, 2021
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Book #1 in The Merriwell Sisters series
Number of Pages: 368
Historical Romance
Ages 13 and up
CW: cancer death
The first in a new historical rom-com series, a handsome earl hires a fake fiancée to keep his matchmaking mother at bay, but hilarity ensues when love threatens to complicate everything.

The last thing Hugh Standish, Earl of Fareham, ever wants is a wife. Unfortunately for him, his mother is determined to find him one, even from across the other side of the ocean. So, Hugh invents a fake fiancée to keep his mother’s matchmaking ways at bay. But when Hugh learns his interfering mother is on a ship bound for England, he realizes his complicated, convoluted but convenient ruse is about to implode. Until he collides with a beautiful woman, who might just be the miracle he needs.

Minerva Merriwell has had to struggle to support herself and her two younger sisters ever since their feckless father abandoned them. Work as a woodcut engraver is few and far between, and the Merriwell sisters are nearly penniless. So, when Hugh asks Minerva to pose as his fiancée while his mother is visiting, she knows that while the scheme sounds ludicrous, the offer is too good to pass up.

Once Minerva and her sisters arrive at Hugh’s estate, of course, nothing goes according to his meticulous plan. As hilarity and miscommunication ensue, while everyone tries to keep their tangled stories straight, Hugh and Minerva’s fake engagement starts to turn into a real romance. But can they trust each other, when their relationship started with a lie?

I picked up this book after getting an invite to read an ARC of the second book in this series. Since that book isn’t being released until November, I figured I had time to read this one first. You know how I like to read a series in order. Plus, I’m a fool for the fake relationship trope.

Both Minerva and Hugh are endearing characters from the start. Minerva is hard-working, pragmatic, caring, and bold. Hugh tries to wear the façade of a scoundrel, but he’s actually extremely thoughtful and kind and has been growing weary of the life of a bachelor. The problem Hugh has with settling down has nothing to do with whether or not he wants to have a spouse and family, it has to do with him not thinking he’d be good at family life because of mistakes his father made. In his mind, it’s in his genes to be a cad and he would never want to hurt a wife and/or children by giving them a good life only to turn around and yank it from them later. For a smart man, Hugh is rather an idiot.

Minerva and her two younger sisters were left to fend for themselves when Minerva had just turned 19, and have been pinching pennies and scraping by ever since. It’s kismet when she runs into Hugh, who not only helps her out of a jam but hires her to help him out of a jam. There is a spark between the two of them from when they first meet on the street that only grows when they move out to his estate in the country and cohabitate in his country home…albeit with his staff, her sisters, his best friend, and others. But still, now we’ve thrown forced proximity (another favorite of mine) into the mix and the connection grows.

For most of this story, there is an underlying affection between Minerva and Hugh, no matter that they try to act as if they are just acting their parts in Hugh’s convoluted story. It’s at a sweet but low simmer. The story flows nicely and there’s no denying the couple should be together for real. That all ramps up in the last 25% of the book. That’s where I found myself tearing up and feeling the angst and longing Hugh and Minerva are going through. Then things get crazy, but rather fun, as Hugh’s house of cards starts to fall.

I’m certainly glad I have the next book already in my arsenal. I’m looking forward to all of the sisters getting their HEAs. While my socks weren’t knocked off, this is a wonderful and solid read.

3.5 stars

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Friday Favorites: A Flashback – 9/9/22

In hindsight, I realize I should have just done an appreciation post for this whole series for one of my Friday Favorites posts. But since I’ve already did a Flashback post on book one from this series, I’ll continue on this way…for now anyway.

If you’re a regular around here, you probably heard me raving about the Whiskeys before. It’s really one of my favorite contemporary romance families. They all seem rough and even a bit scary on the outside, but each and everyone in the bunch has a gooey center. They’re fiercely protective and highly moral. While they love having fun, family and friends come before all else no matter what.

Even if you’re not interested in reading the vast Love in Bloom series, I cannot recommend The Whiskeys offshoot of the series enough.

You can find my original post from April 17, 2017, here. My updated version, edited only for grammar, spelling, and formatting, is below. I’d also like to note that it’s been too long for me to add any accurate content warnings, yet I do remember that the MFC had a lot of past trauma so please proceed with caution.

Truly, Madly, Whiskey
by Melissa Foster
Release Date:  April 10, 2017
Publisher:  World Literary Press
Book #2 in The Whiskeys: Dark Knights at Peaceful Harbor
Part of the larger Love in Bloom series
Number of Pages: 345
Contemporary Romance
Ages 16 and up
Eight months is a long damn time to have the hots for a woman who keeps a guy at arm’s length. But Crystal Moon is no ordinary woman. She’s a sinfully sexy, sass-mouthed badass, and the subject of Bear Whiskey’s midnight fantasies. She’s also one of his closest friends.

Just when Crystal thinks she has her life under control, scorching-hot, possessive, aggressive, and fiercely loyal Bear pushes all her sexual buttons, relentless in his pursuit to make her his.

The more Bear pushes, the hotter their passion burns, unearthing memories for Crystal that are best kept buried. But there’s no stopping the collision of her past and present, catapulting the two lovers down an emotionally charged road that has them questioning all they thought they knew about themselves.

First, I want to note that this book is listed as a standalone but I feel you would get so much more out of it if you read Tru Blue first.  In my mind, these two books are part of a series.  And, to a lesser extent, they’re attached to Peaceful Harbor branch of the Braden family from the Love in Bloom series.  Though you can absolutely read this book without having read that particular series.  Now that I have that out of the way…

This book blew me away.  I already mentioned it in my review of Tru Blue, but I love the Whiskey family.  Still, Bear Whiskey’s story far exceeded my expectations.  So often we have a hero who is the oldest sibling and took on too much responsibility for his family in order to make sure everyone else can live their dreams.  I liked having that flipped a bit with Bear filling that role while being the youngest boy and second youngest sibling.

Crystal was a lot of fun in Tru Blue, but here we get so see what she’s hiding with her snarky attitude and devil-may-care attitude.  My heart just broke for her and the scenes when she’s opening up to Bear are amazing.  I swear, my stomach was in a constant state of butterflies throughout this book.  Sometimes for the things Crystal went through growing up, sometimes for the palpable love coming off the pages between Bear and Crystal.

Once Crystal made up her mind to let Bear in, their relationship progressed at warp speed.  I do not consider this an insta-romance though since Bear had been pursuing her for 8 months.  I love that they were friends, even while he was trying to get a date from her.  He never really pushed any further than she would be comfortable with.  As much as they set each other on fire before they really started their relationship, they were also comfortable with each other.  It added a sweetness to this smoking hot story.

Bear’s understanding of his sister, Dixie, is also a wonderful element in this story.  Again, he’s not the oldest but takes on that role when sticking up for his baby sister…even when it means standing up to his father and his older brothers.  Bear will do what he feels is right, no matter what.  I love that about him.

I couldn’t find information on when the next book about the Whiskey family will be published, but I am eagerly looking for to it regardless of which sibling it focuses on.  Melissa Foster is in top writing form with these stories.

5 stars

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Book Boyfriend – book review

Book Boyfriend
by Kris Ripper
Release Date: April 26, 2022
Publisher: Carina Adores
Number of Pages:  294
Contemporary Romance
Ages 13 and up
CW: drug overdose & addiction secondary character
There are three things you need to know about Preston “PK” Kingsley:
1) He’s a writer, toiling in obscurity as an editorial assistant at a New York City publishing house.
2) He is not a cliché. No, really.
3) He’s been secretly in love with his best friend, Art, since they once drunkenly kissed in college.

When Art moves in with PK following a bad breakup, PK hopes this will be the moment when Art finally sees him as more than a friend. But Art seems to laugh off the very idea of them in a relationship, so PK returns to his writing roots—in fiction, he can say all the things he can’t say out loud.

In his book, PK can be the perfect boyfriend.

Before long, it seems like the whole world has a crush on the fictionalized version of him, including Art, who has no idea that the hot new book everyone’s talking about is PK’s story. But when his brilliant plan to win Art over backfires, PK might lose not just his fantasy book boyfriend, but his best friend. 

This book was a slow starter for me. While I love the main characters, PK and Art are very rarely shown on the page together for a big chunk of this story. They are living together and do things together, but the reader is told these things, not shown them. So it’s very hard to get a feel for their chemistry and figure out if there is an actual connection there or if PK is just romanticizing his best friend.

PK makes some bad decisions in terms of keeping things to himself throughout this story. He not only puts himself in the position of lying to Art multiple times, but he also robs himself of being able to share some major life accomplishments with anyone let alone the person he loves. Of course, it all comes back to bite him eventually. That doesn’t happen until well over halfway through the book, and that’s when the reader is finally shown how much these two mean to each other instead of just being told.

There was a lot growing up PK needed to do, and I appreciate the journey he took. He is very scattered and immature still. He’s still super loveable as his heart is absolutely always in the right place. His insecurities hold him back and make things all the more discombobulated in his world. He creates his own chaos by trying to hide away from the hard stuff.

It’s really too bad this couple doesn’t spend more time on page together. In my mind, it would have gone from an okay book to an amazing love story.

3 stars

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Love at Meg’s Diner (The Endicott’s of Silver Bay) – ARC review

Love at Meg’s Diner
by Lara VanHulzen
Release Date: September 7, 2022
Publisher: Tule Publishing
Book #1 in The Endicotts of Silver Bay series
Number of pages: 188
Source:  ARC from publisher
Contemporary Romance
Ages 13 and up
CW: burn injuries, death by fire
She’s running from her past…
As a former firefighter, Meg Malone lives by one rule: no dating firemen. The dangers of the job are too high, and she’s already lost too much. So, she returns home to Silver Bay, California, to take over her dad’s diner, hiding her scars and pretending she’s fine. Life is perfectly routine, predictable, and most of all, safe. Until the unpredictable happens in the form of a perfectly patient, definitely intriguing fireman.

He’s chasing a future…
Chet Endicott moved to Silver Bay to escape the expectations of his burdensome family name. Intrigued by the beautiful owner of Meg’s Diner, he can’t help but want to peel back the layers she protects herself with, but no one gets under Meg’s skin. Especially him, it seems.

When they are thrown together by their mutual passion for running, Chet sees a glimpse of the fire under all Meg’s ice, and he’s determined to fan those flames. But can Meg truly trust her heart? Or will this be the fire that consumes her?

This is a sweet story about taking a chance at love. It’s about embracing those feelings when a certain person affects you in a way nobody else does, instead of running from those feelings. Turns out this new series is a spin-off of the author’s Silver Bay series, but I didn’t feel as though I was missing anything by not having read that one. The characters from that earlier series were easily integrated into this book without any confusion or overlong explanations needed.

Silver Bay is where Meg grew up. She moved away for some years but came back after a series of tragedies in her life. Now she runs the diner she inherited from her father and keeps mostly to herself. After the losses she’s been through in her life, she just doesn’t feel she can open up to anyone anymore, even her best friend. Chet is a newer resident of the town. He moved across the country and to a small town to get away from his family and expectations. Not that it’s a bad family, but he never felt he was free to be whom he wanted to be. In Silver Bay, he found his calling as a firefighter for the small town. And has been enamored with Meg who studiously avoids the man.

Circumstances lead Meg and Chet to spend time together daily, and Meg finally starts to face her demons and find a way to open up to a few people. There’s no denying this couple has a wonderful connection. I yearned for Meg to let Chet in and be open to having love in her life. Chet is excruciatingly patient and seems to understand Meg, even when she doesn’t say a word. It’s beautiful to see Meg learn to trust, not only Chet but others in her community as well.

Although Meg has a lot of hang-ups and fears, I love how the author handled the moments Meg felt she had been deceived. While there was an immediate response that wasn’t great, it fit Meg’s personality that she was able to take a step back and think things through rationally. She wasn’t afraid to tell Chet the ways she felt she was wronged. Chet, for his part, also took responsibility for the part he took in things. Not so much in how they became friends and more, but in his lack of communication at a crucial time. He didn’t negate her feelings and she didn’t try to hide her pain.

I really enjoyed this story and look forward to more stories from this small town.

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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