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Fix Her Up (Hot and Hammered, #1) by Tessa Bailey

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Abandonment, depression, emotionally abusive parent, talk of divorce

“You have to fight for what you deserve. What you want is no more or less important than what anyone else wants.”

Holy shit, friends… This might be the best damn romance I have read all year so far. When everyone said to go listen to the audiobook and then never gave an explanation why, I finally understand. It’s so good, so steamy, and definitely the first time my spouse has ever saw me listening to a sexy read on audiobook. What an experience for the both of us! Don’t let this cover fool you, this book is too hot to trot and I’m still quaking. For my first Tessa Bailey read, it hit the ball right out of the park!

We follow two main characters who grew up in the same small town together. But after five years have past, one of them returns home, they both realize that maybe you just need someone who really believes in you to make a brighter, happier future.

Georgette Castle – 23-year-old clown, an actual birthday party clown, and the youngest or “the baby” in her whole family, and you better believe that they have no problem letting her know they never take her seriously.

Travis Ford – 28-year-old, who’s newly retired professional baseball player, due to an injury. But after moving back to his hometown, he’s struggling now more than ever.

Both Georgie and Travis want to be taken seriously by everyone around them. So the two of them come together to strike up an agreement, a friendship agreement, that start with a few meals, some deep cleaning, and one broken fireplace. But all of these things can lead to so much more and soon a fake-dating act is sprung! Travis wants to look more wholesome so he can land a job that brings him back to baseball. While Georgie wants everyone to see her as more than the comedic relief.

“We’re not about cutting people out of our lives. We’re about refusing to accept anything less than what we deserve. About realizing that we’re all important here despite mistakes or bad relationships or lackluster careers.”

And of course, sex is completely out of the question especially once Travis finds out she’s a virgin. Sparks fly, it becomes hard to keep hands to themselves, yet Travis doesn’t want to be the stepping stone to Georgie’s sexual awakening. Meanwhile, Georgie knows she’s different from Travis, wants different things, things Travis doesn’t want to give her. All of this mixed together, I was on cloud-nine, from the angst all the way to watching the chemistry ignites flames between these two characters. Watching these two figure out their attraction and discovering how strong their pull was to one another, absolutely priceless!

Let me just say, I was screaming for every time Travis would say ‘babygirl.’ Most people would find it very cringey with how often it was said, but I was living for it. The entire time I was constantly reminded of Derek Morgan and Penelope Garcia from Criminal Minds and how deep their connection is. It also made me super soft because my own partner uses that nickname to show endearment. So I was wrapped in some deep feelings and felt my own little flame in my chest burn while reading this book.

“You . . . accept me. Exactly as I am. But you still change me for the better.”

Overall, I can understand why many readers had issues with this book. I see you, your opinions are valid. However, this book was perfection and this was something that I ultimately needed to help bring a little light back into my life, right now. I loved the dirty talk, I loved reading how both characters viewed one another, and the fake-dating was so good! This was my very first Tessa Bailey, gotta say, color me impressed because now I need to read more by her. I have no idea why I put this off for so long!

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Serpent & Dove (Serpent & Dove #1) by Shelby Mahurin

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Content\Trigger Warnings: Toxic relationships, sexual content, anger issues, death, murder, talk of torture, poisoning/drugging, forced marriage, talk of a female sacrifice, scene of implied sexual assault/rape, trauma/PTSD, violence, physical assault

“I was no one’s sacrifice. Not then. Not now. Not ever.”

I can’t believe what I just read. I laughed, I crying, I cringed, and I nearly ripped my book in half reading, devouring this book. Honestly, this was everything I needed to keep me out of a terrible reading slump and this book might be the most polarizing book that I have read thus far in 2019. There was so much good, there was so much bad, but overall, I loved reading this book and I think I’m finally ready to share my thoughts on Serpent & Dove.

Our tale follows our main character, Lou who’s a witch on the run from her coven, forsaking magic and living off whatever she could steal. However, due to a series of unfortunate events, she lands in the hands of the Archbishop and a Chasseur by the name of Reid Diggory who becomes Lou’s newest protector and husband. With the war between the church and the witches on the horizon, Lou is faced with the most difficult choice she’ll ever have to make in her life and love makes fools of us all.

I loved Lou as a character right from the very beginning. She’s very cunning, incredibly intelligent, she has so much sass, and I was living for every moment with her. I also really loved how Lou’s scent was cinnamon and how it ties back to her love for cinnamon rolls. It just made me truly happy. What I connected most with Lou was the way she hid the scar on her neck. It clenched my heart in such a hard grasp and I couldn’t stop yelling at the pages “I understand!” I also really loved her friendship with Coco. Just from what you read in this book, the amount of love and the fierceness of the desire they each have to protect one another is just a friendship after my own heart. I’m a firm believer of protecting your loved ones with a large amount of loyalty, fierceness, and love; their friendship added ten years onto my life. Speaking of Coco, I’m obsessed with her! I truly wished we had received greater detail of Coco because she is such a bright flame in this book. She’s a blood witch and the way she fights just catches my breath every time.

I also really enjoyed the magic system in this book. Lou is a Dame Blanche witch which means their magic comes from the land and with their magic coming from the land there must always be balance. So if you take something then you must give something back for what you’ve taken. For example, if Lou wanted to unlock something then she would have to break a finger or there’s a scene where a witch is burning at the stake and to easy the witch’s pain, Lou took the pain away by transferring the pain to herself and her own body. You also have Coco who is a Dame Rouge witch or a blood witch and for the magic she does, everything requires blood. So that could mean Coco pays the price with her own blood or she may require the blood from an animal or another person. For example, in the beginning to keep track of Lou and Bas during a heist she required a drop of blood from each of them. There were so many other moments where we really get to see the magic system at work and I truly loved every moment.

I also want to take a moment to appreciate how some of these characters are morally grey. Characters like Reid and Lou are both morally grey who struggle between what’s right, what’s wrong, and everything in between. I love morally grey characters and how they respond to the events and the world around them. It makes them more relatable and it truly allows room for fear and shock because as the reader we can see ourselves and our own actions in a morally grey character over a character who’s painted in black and white. One character named Ansel. He’s a Chasseur “in training” and we see so many amazing points and those morally grey characteristics coming out. Those characteristics really come through when Lou disappears and Reid is lost in his own inner turmoil. Even though he is a Chasseur, he boldly states multiple times how Lou is his friend and how he doesn’t care if she’s a witch because he’s seen her personality and true character in the times where it counts. Ansel is a precious cinnamon roll who needs to be protected and I would give up my soul for him.

“Our lives reflect our hearts.”

With all of this good, of course there will be flaws. Before I truly get into the problematic material, if you have read and finished this book then I definitely recommend checking out the video made by Jeese at Bowties & Books. They have a lot of good points, address a lot of the issues, and a lot of my own thoughts align with the things they have to say. Now, onto the issues!

As much as I love a lot of the things in this book, my biggest issue is the lack of Indigenous representation and the poor way the culture and history is represented. It’s no secret that I take a lot of pride in my Native American heritage and I even tried to convince myself that maybe I was just being overly sensitive and just need to recognize that this is a fantasy world, but the bottom line is that no effort or attempt was made to do research or include actual Indigenous people who had their land historically stolen. This book puts a heavy emphasis on how the land was stolen from the witches and how a long time ago foreign countries came to the land of the witches and stole their land by force, hunted them down and killed them, and colonized their land. The whole entire thing made me extremely uncomfortable because even today a lot of people forget that foreign countries came and invaded the United States, stole the land from the Indigenous people, wiped out many tribes in the colonization of the United States, and what remaining tribes there are now live on reservations. So in my opinion, if you’re going to write about history that actually happened then there should have been research, there should be actual representation of the culture and the history that you’re pulling from, and there should be more inclusion of characters that are from that culture.

My other top issue is the way Reid treats Lou a lot of the times. Reid gets very possessive and clingy of Lou and the situations that really draw attention are the scenes where he has his hands on her and adds enough force that it’s described as a tight grip, but not to the point of physically hurting her, followed up by giving her commands which then get looped back to them being husband and wife. There’s also a moment in the book when Reid gets bothered by Lou hugging a character, by the name of Pan, for hugging too long even though they’re long time friends. While Reid and Lou do have many moments that are sweet and endearing, seems like they’re becoming closer, and let’s be honest that sex scene was 11/10, but Reid has severe anger issues and has used his anger openly towards Lou that has caused her to flinch in response and there was a really weird, uncomfortable scene with Lou concerning consent and marriage. All of this mixed together spells for toxic behavior and a relationship that clearly needs improvement.

There were many other things that had irritated me or made me cringe, but those were the two biggest issues I had with this book that I can’t stop thinking about. And I think it’s important that we recognize and acknowledge these things so they can be corrected and fixed in future books to come.

“There are some things that can’t be changed with words. Some things have to be seen. They have to be felt.”

Overall, I think I’m the odd one out with this book. Since this book has released, it has become a very polarizing book. I know so many friends who have hyped this book and I have a couple friends who ‘dnf’ this book, and odd enough, I fall smack dab in the middle with it all. There were things that I loved and things that I found very problematic with this book, but I still enjoyed my time reading this book and I don’t have any regrets. And I think no matter where you fall with this book, your thoughts and opinions are valid. I did buddy read this book with a wonderful friend and she had an amazing time reading this book. I think my critical reading came through and hindered my reading experience a bit, but I firmly believe you can read a book with problematic material and still enjoy your reading experience. So I liked this book. Isn’t wasn’t terrible and it wasn’t super outstanding, it was a book that made me want to keep reading with it’s fast pace. I think if you’ve been debating on picking this book up, I say go for it!

Buddy read with Kayla from Books and Blends | Her Review ❤️

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No Tricks, Just Treats by Tijan, J. Daniels, Helena Hunting, and Tara Sivec

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Toxic relationships, cheating, stalking, manipulation, mental abuse, drug addiction/drug abuse, alcohol abuse, talk of infertility, death/murder, graphic violence, implications of an eating disorder, body shaming.

Four love stories all wrapped up and bound in a deliciously fall book. Full of sweet moments, thrills, chills, and will leave you screaming.

Dearest readers, I truly wish I had loved this book as much as I did when I first picked it up. When I saw this book, my heart flew right out of my chest with the thought of some fall romance, let alone in a bind-up of four stories. Sadly, I’m disappointed, un-amused, and quiet frankly, I never want to pick this book up ever again. I wish I could have loved this bind-up, but this book just wasn’t for me.

Like with every bind-up, whether for graphic novels or books, I like to do a spoiler free breakdown (to the best of my ability). This breakdown will include all four stories, a brief description of the short story, my thoughts and rating of each story.

🍁 Fallen Crest Nightmare by TIJAN – ⭐⭐

Sam, Mason, and the rest of their gang enter a fun Halloween-themed weekend with pumpkin carving, a girls’ night out, and a haunted house―until things take a turn into something far more sinister than they could have expected…
Description from GoodReads

If you like a spin-off on the movies Scream, Sorority Row, and The Nightmare on Elm Street all mashed together, then this is a story you’re going to want to read! Sadly, this wasn’t quite my cup on tea. The biggest issue I had with this story was the “date rape” scene in this story. It was horribly cringey because all the girls were too drunk, drinks kept appearing at their table, and the main character of this story definitely had indications of being drugged, and the theme of the main character being drugged was a common theme throughout the rest of the story from that point. This story just didn’t sit right with me. I would have been fine if this story just stuck with the stalking element, but I was cringing by the end of this story.

🍁 So Much More by J. DANIELS – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Four couples from Alabama reunite on Halloween for an evening of thrills and chills. Between haunted mazes, sexy stolen moments, and good old-fashioned trick-or-treating, this Halloween promises surprises, shocks, and maybe even love for all.
Description from GoodReads

Out of all the stories in this book, this is probably my favorite of them all. I loved seeing all the diverse couples and reading about how each couple interacts with their lovers. I also loved how there was infertility representation in this story. I especially loved the way the character with infertility expressed her feelings and you really got a feel for the emotions she was having. The only thing I didn’t like was how the news was broken to the character with fertility struggles. I feel like it was a round-bout way of telling her and for myself, I would want to be told directly by my friend or in-law and not through someone else. That’s just my own two cents and with my own personal fertility issues. Overall, I really loved this story and it ended on such an endearing note!

🍁 Getting Down by Helena Hunting – ⭐⭐⭐

Ruby Scott wants to have a party! With the help of her best friend Amalie―and Amalie’s fiancé’s budget―the two of them throw a Halloween-inspired fund-raiser. But no event goes off without a couple of hitches.…
Description from GoodReads

This has two perspectives, one from Ruby and the other from Amalie. Out of all the stories, this story has the most intimate and sexy scenes in it. It’s a real good time and there’s some really hilarious moments in here. My biggest issue with this series is mostly with Amalie and her fiance. Amalie comes off as easily manipulated and in honesty, her whole engagement comes off as a toxic relationship of abuse. There’s a lot of moments of Amalie being body shamed, there’s a few scenes where you could consider that she has an eating disorder, there’s scenes of the fiance being overly possessive of Amalie where he actually starts to hurt her or causes her discomfort, and so forth. It’s just wasn’t a good time. However, Ruby and Bane’s relationship was a joy ride! All I have to say is Catwoman, Batman, and the supply closet. And this amazing quote!

I’ve shared the size of Bane’s cock with her. I’ve mentioned my new religion: the Church of Bane Cock. I’ve written sonnets about how beautiful it is. Not really, but I’ve made up a couple of limericks.

🍁 The Pumpkin Was Stuffed by Tara Sivec – ⭐⭐

The Holiday family is coming together for Halloween. As Sam and Noel prepare for their upcoming life with a new baby, their crazy family and friends pull out all the tricks and treats and jack-o’-lanterns to make sure this ghostly holiday is one to remember…or, will it turn out to be one they’d rather forget?
Description from GoodReads

Okay, let me grab my glass of wine for this. Let me start off by saying this, clowns. Clowns galore. If that’s you’re thing then you’re going to love this story, but as someone who has a bad association with clowns, this is not something I wanted to read about. My second issue was with the aunt. At first, I had no problem with this character until the scene where everyone was putting together the wedding goody bags. The fact that the drug addiction and abuse is so bad with this character that drugs got put in all the goody bags including the bags for the children just blew my mind. That was the point where I wanted to put this book down and never pick it up again. I don’t mind stories with a crazy and chaotic family, but the aunt diverts all attention away from the story. The only saving grace this story had for me was the ending. I think the ending brought a little happiness back into this story.

As an overall, I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone who isn’t familiar with these authors. Mostly due to the fact that this whole book feels like you’ve had to read other series that lead into this book. If you’re someone who is going into this book and you’ve never read anything by any of these authors, it’s really easy to tell that these characters have been established in past series. And just to clarify, it’s not that this book was bad or anything, I just don’t think this was the right book for me to read. I personally struggled with trying to get into this book, to find reasons to care about the characters, and there was just so many moments I couldn’t stop cringing at. But please, take my opinion with a grain of salt because this is my first time ever reading something by any of these authors.

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War by Laura Thalassa

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🌻 Pestilence (The Four Horsemen, #1) – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Trauma/PTSD, war themes, graphic violence, death, loss of a loved one, grief, decapitation, talk of rape/attempted rape, sexual assault, assault, animal cruelty/death of animals, loss/death of a child, and much more!

“Miriam Elmahdy’s Guide to Staying the Fuck Alive: (1) Bend the rules—but don’t break them. (2) Stick to the truth. (3) Avoid notice. (4) Listen to your instincts. (5) Be brave.”

They came to earth—Pestilence, War, Famine, Death—four horsemen riding their screaming steeds, racing to the corners of the world. Four horsemen with the power to destroy all of humanity. They came to earth, and they came to end us all.

Miriam Elmahdy has suffered enough tragedy, enough trauma in her life. Each day is a game of survival and scavenging for anything that is bound to help keep her safe. It also helps to have five rules to make sure you stay safe and make it through the day. Until War descend upon her village and suddenly she becomes his main target. Now she’s thrown into a strange whirlwind of life at War’s camp and he’s suddenly claiming she’s his wife. Now thrown into a new game of survival, how will Miriam pull through all of this blood shed? And more importantly, can War find peace and will love prevail from all the bones and ruin?

Dearest reader, I truly thought I was going to fall in love with this book. It’s with a heavy heart that I have to say I have never been more disappointed, more horrified, more furious than I have with any other romance book. Between my dearest friend (who buddy read this book with me) and myself, I definitely appreciate and liked this book more than her. However, my heart is so heavy because I truly wanted to love this book more than Pestilence.

“Oh man, step one is some asshole claiming you’re his wife, and step two, shit suddenly gets real.”

Year 13 of the Horsemen. After Pestilence fell at the hands of love, War has descended upon the Earth and is here to deliver judgment. His course is set of Jerusalem, New Palestine and that’s where he encounters Miriam. Miriam has lost everyone and everything she cares most about. Now on the day she decides to go out to scavenge for materials and parts, she will face a bigger challenge than she’s ever has to before. Facing off with War, Miriam quickly realizes she’s in over her head and now she’s been taken prisoner. Before long, War is claiming she is his wife and is desperately trying to court her. Only Miriam is having none of that. Miriam does anything she can to say the lives of innocence, but she’s just one person trying to stop the chaos War delivers to mankind.

Once again, it was incredibly easy to fall in love with War. I stated this in Pestilence, but I will stated it again here. If you go into this book knowing who War is, what his purpose is, and know that he has only ever experienced the worst desires of humankind’s hearts then you’ll have no trouble at all falling in love with War. He’s a tall, rippling muscular, olive skinned man with dark hair and wears dark eyeliner. What more could you want?! Oh yeah, he also has the power to raise the dead and I’m living for the necromancy! What I loved most about War was he had never truly experienced the kindness and love of humankind before. He had never witnessed someone who would defy all odds to save others over themselves nor has he ever experienced the softness a human heart can hold. He has only ever found hate and evil intentions in the hearts of the majority of humankind. However, in this book we see War learn about the softness of a human heart, experience love, grow a conscience, and learn what it means to lose something you hold dear to your heart. I really loved his character development and I thought he was a well developed part of this book.

I briefly mentioned necromancy and I have to take a pause to elaborate on why I loved this element so much! One, necromancy is such an underrated power, in my opinion. It’s not often shown in books and I have a little appreciation of necromancy because it’s one of my spouse’s favorite powers. And secondly, I went into this book expecting everything that comes with war. I knew there was going to be graphic content, there would be death and loss, and I knew there was going to be a lot happening. What I wasn’t expecting was necromancy and how the power of necromancy comes into play in this book! I loved that twist and is was one of the most pleasant surprises I encountered in this book.

Also, as a little side tangent, this is a little appreciation that we get some information on Pestilence in this book as well as another cameo of my favorite boy, Thanatos (otherwise known as the horseman, Death). All the blessings and if you can’t picture Thanatos being a sassy, no nonsense kind of guy then I don’t know what you’re doing!

“No,” I say, my eyes meeting his in the near-darkness. “Not love itself.” Everything I’ve ever loved I’ve lost. There’s no beauty in that. “It’s the power of love that I find beautiful.” It can change so many things—For better, or worse.”

Even with a lot of the good and world development this book, I still had issues with this book. In fact, I had a lot more issues with this book than I did with Pestilence. And please, even though I stated the content and trigger warnings at the beginning of this review, please use caution with this book. There is a lot of graphic content and a lot of scenes that had affected my mental health while reading this book. So please make sure you practice self-care before, during, and after reading this and be in the right head space.

The first thing I feel like I have to address is the animal cruelty/death of animals. While I won’t go into too much detail, there is a lot of talk and descriptions of aviaries being set on fire, birds being harmed, and other depictions. As someone who loves birds, is very sentimental about birds, does bird watching, and really appreciates birds and what they stand for, this was content that I didn’t want to read about. I got really emotional, I cried a few times, I had immense anxiety reading about these parts, and it was soul shattering. I never want to read this kind of content ever again.

Now that we’ve cleared that out of the way, Miriam became my first true issue with this book. Before you break out pitch forks and torches, let me explain why she became a problem character. For the first half of this book, I never really had an issue with her actions or how she was treating certain situations. Until the three-quarter mark of this book, The minute she stole Deimos, I knew the way I was going to view Miriam was going to change. Then shortly after that moment, Miriam decided to take War’s own sword and try to kill him, with his own weapon, while he was sleeping, unarmed. That was the moment I started reevaluating my view of Miriam and everything thing she had done up to this point. I say this all the time, but I will say it again; I will never, ever support characters who try to do harm to another character who is unarmed or they’re not in a situation that is life threatening. This scene was completely unacceptable and honestly, I wish Miriam’s “punishment” had been more extreme. And I say that due to the fact that War has literally done everything for Miriam. From coming to her rescue, to sparing her life multiple times, to giving her the aviaries, all the way to preventing her from dying; Miriam took all of it for granted. She used sex as a weapon to have pull and sway over War, she used love itself as a weapon to make War go against his purpose/very nature and took it away from him as a form of punishment if he didn’t do as she asked, she undermined War and his men every chance she got, she disobeyed War when he was trying to protect her from getting hurt, and there were plenty more moments than that throughout this entire book. The entire three-quarters of this book is literally Miriam doing all of this or complaining how she shouldn’t care about a horseman of the apocalypse. It was a lot to push through.

My second biggest issue of this book was the length of the book itself. As I mentioned, three-quarters was mostly the same thing happening over and over again. Miriam doing anything and everything to undermine War. However, that’s not the only issue. It takes half of the book before we even see any intimate, sexual action between War and the main heroine. There wasn’t even any sexual tension built that would encourage the reader to continue reading. You could tell there was sexual tension between the main characters, but for the first half of this book it was block after block of nothing happening. Also, the first three-quarters of this mostly camp life or War and his men rushing off to destroy another city. It become really repetitive and aside from isolated incidents that happen in certain locations, it’s the same pattern of camp life, destroy a city, camp life, travel to the next city. It’s very repetitive. We don’t actually see a distinct change in everything until a little bit past the three-quarter mark which introduces a whole new issue.

My last and final issue I had with this book is a spoiler so I will keep this as spoiler free as possible. This issue basically consists of a trope that immensely bothers me especially when it’s thrown into the end of a book. More specifically, it felt like this trope was thrown near the end of the book to help push the story forward and help the wrap up of this book. I honestly felt like this could have been thrown in sooner which could have helped with the length of this book, but it wasn’t and it was really hard to try and push through it. Even more so due to the scene that is very triggering and I will state this now for anyone who it might trigger or effect, that triggering scene consists the death/loss of a child. So beware of that! I’m very thankful I was warned about that scene because even though I knew about it going in, it made me sick to my stomach and it was incredibly hard to finish the end of this book because of that scene. I never want to read that kind of situation again. Ever.

“Loss is a wound that never heals. Never never never. It scabs over, and for a time you can almost forget it’s there, but then something—a smell, a sound, a memory—will split that wound right open, and you’ll be reminded again that you’re not whole. That you’ll never fully be whole again.”

Overall, I did enjoy this book to a certain extent and this was the hardest three stars I ever gave. I truly wanted to love this book more than the first book in this series. However, there was a lot of content that became very problematic for me and sadly, this didn’t even uphold the four stars that I wanted to give. And in all honesty, I’m not sure if I want to finish this series because of the sour taste this book left in my mouth. I really want to read the next two books especially because Death is so far my favorite out of all the horsemen, but I’m really unsure at the moment. If you do find yourself getting into this series, definitely be aware of all the content and trigger warnings, and please, be in the right head space while reading these books.

Buddy read with Kayla from Books and Blends | Her Review ❤️

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The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

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“I love him so much it’s like a thread piercing me. Punching holes. Dragging through. Stitching love into me. I’ll never be able to untangle myself from this feeling. The color of love is surely this robin’s-egg blue.”

Nemesis (n.) 1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.
2) A person’s undoing
3) Joshua Templeman

Lucy is favored by everyone at Bexley & Gamin. She’s sweet, charming, and accommodating to everyone. Well…almost everyone. Joshua Templeman is feared and hated by everyone at Bexley & Gamin especially by Lucy Hutton. Lucy and Josh go at each other like cats and dogs until things begin to change between them. When there’s a big promotion put up for grabs between Lucy and Josh, the tension reaches a climax. Suddenly, hate seems to slowly be burning into like and Lucy isn’t too sure what to make of it.

Yes friends, I finally read The Hating Game! It seems like everyone and their mother has already read this book and I’m now catching up. But I’m so thankful that I finally did pick this book up because I’m head over heels in love with this story! Holy cow, I wish someone would have convinced me to pick this book up sooner rather than later. This is going to be a romance I’m thinking about months down the road. This book it truly that fantastic!

“Books were, and always would be, something a little magic and something to respect.”

Did I mention this book takes place in the heart of a publishing company? Well, it does! What book dragon doesn’t love a good setting where books are made and published? Actually, Bexley & Gamin is a merger between two major publishing companies that came together to prevent themselves from going out of business during hard times.

🌻 Lucy Hutton – Executive assistant to Helene Pascal, the original CEO of Gamin.
🌻 Josh Templeman – Executive assistant to Mr. Bexley, the original CEO of Bexley.

Our two main characters, Lucy and Josh, both work for the two CEOs or should I say co-CEOs of the two companies. They also happen to share a cubical right outside of the offices of their CEOs. Not only are their bosses constantly competing with one another, but there’s a high tension of competition that resides between Josh and Lucy. Constantly trying to be the fastest or trying to assert their dominance in any way they can. But the best part is throughout their day, they play these little games that challenge each other. They go back and forth insulting each other, trying to one-up the other. While they may constantly say how much they hate each other, everyone else seems to have a different idea.

However, everything begins to change when their bosses announce a big promotion and one of them has a pretty good chance at achieving it. During this time, a lot of things slowly come to light. Games ensure, highly intimate moments, and out of all of it; the two of them start to really think about all the years they’ve been together, all the work they’ve done and how much is truly enough, and their true emotions beginning to come to light. That maybe, just maybe, there was never really any hate between the two of them in the first place.

But their dynamic is absolutely fantastic! Half the time I was reading about their banter, I was choking on a drink. They way they go at each other reminds me a lot of the way my spouse and I bicker and banter with one another. It’s so funny and there’s a light energy to the book as a whole. Josh is so witty and snarky and Lucy is so sassy and she has no problem with speaking her mind. Honestly, I loved it and Lucy reminds me so much of myself.

““Truth or Dare,” he says. He always knows the exact right thing to say.
“Dare.”
“Coward. Okay, I dare you to eat the entire jar of hot mustard I have in my fridge.”
“I was hoping for a sexy dare.”
“I’ll get you a spoon.”
“Truth.””

I really loved Lucy. While I like Josh and he has his own perks, I felt completely connected to Lucy. She’s short, works extremely hard at her job, comes from a family who never had a lot of money, and she’s very caring about those around her. When Lucy threw herself in front of a certain teammate during the paintball scene, the entire time I was thinking “Oh my god, this is me. I would do this and then I would regret it the next day.” There’s also the part where she stands up for Josh and I was instantly reminded of myself because I stand up constantly for my family and friends. It was like I was reading a book about my mirror twin. There were so many moments spot on and I just truly loved Lucy. I could write a list, but I think you can see, I truly adored her character.

Josh on the other hand was a fantastic romantic lead for Lucy. His personality really balanced out Lucy and I really loved that. What stood out to me the most was the confidence Josh radiated in this book, but later on we learned that he has a lot of insecurities and body issues. I loved that we got a flipped script and we finally received a male character who shows those vulnerable sides to the person they care most about. It was absolutely heart warming. And he also said and did a lot of amazing things. I mean, that elevator scene. I’m still swooning and fanning myself!

While I really loved a lot of moments and parts of this book, I can understand why some readers may not like it as much. There’s a wedding date scene and that whole entire scene becomes very obvious and predictable. A lot through that part I felt a lot of high levels of anxiety because as the reader we can see the direction it’s heading, even though Lucy was unaware and everyone else was acting completely ignorant about the whole thing. I wish the matter had been addressed sooner because I think it’ll cause a lot of readers unnecessary anxiety.

The other thing I think a lot of readers will have issues with is Lucy constantly having issues with taller people and the book having a lot of emphasis on Lucy’s height. Now, I think the height emphasis was a little unnecessary, I can understand why Lucy would have issues with taller partners. I’m 4’11 and my spouse is 6’6 so we have a big height difference going on so I can understand the weariness. And to be honest, I’ve had my fair share of concerns with taller partners in the past and most of those issues have to do with a lot of “man-handling”. While I don’t want to get into details about that, I do understand Lucy and a bit of her panic when it comes to the idea of a taller partner. I definitely think this will be an issue for some readers just because of all the emphasis that gets placed on height and size. So that will definitely be something to be aware of.

“All I want to do is kiss you until I fall asleep. I want to slide in between your sheets, and find out what goes on inside your head, and underneath your clothes. I want to make a fool of myself over you.”

Overall, I definitely enjoyed this book. I think it might actually be one of my favorite reads of the year so far. The only true complaint I have is the cover feels underwhelming and I definitely would have liked a little more spice. But every ounce of hype you’ve heard about this book is true. I didn’t know if I was going to love this book going into it and I’m so happy that I fell in love with it! It was heartwarming, hilarious, and just something I desperately needed to read. What a captivating story, I’m completely hooked for Sally Thorne now!

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Snowbound with the Boss (Pregnant by the Boss) by Maureen Child

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Death/loss of a loved one, talk of a miscarriage, borderline stalking, anxiety

“all he saw were Kate’s eyes, and he remembered how they looked with firelight dancing in their depths.”

Kate Wells is an independent, strong, confident woman who doesn’t need any distractions in her life. She works hard for everything she has and when her boss comes to shake things up, her walls coming down aren’t the only things shaking things up. Sea Ryan is California surfing, business running, billionaire who never likes to settle. He keeps things loose and is a number one playboy. However, after coming in contact with Kate Wells, Sean is suddenly questioning everything and can’t seem to get this particular lady off his mind. Now these two stubborn and confident people will locks horns as the news of a baby slowly comes to light.

Sean Ryan is the man, the boss, the billionaire bachelor every girl wants for themselves. He runs his own gaming company along with his brother and they’re planning on a big convention in Wisconsin for the launch of their most recent game. Enters Kate Wells. Kate Wells is a strong headed woman who runs her own contracting company. She needs to be the one in control, always. When she’s hired by the arrogant Sean Ryan, she’s has to balance doing her job and fighting the undying attraction she has for him. Now all her control is slipping through the cracks. And when a snow storm hits, suddenly, both boss and contractor are face to face with their feelings and things begin to heat up. Snowbound with the Boss is about to make you swoon with the perfect situation and outdoor setting! With these two point of views, readers will see things from both sides of the story!

Honestly, I wish we had received so much more from this book. I guess you could say I have some mixed feelings on how this story-line played out as a whole. For me, it felt too short to compact everything it wanted to do into just the 186 pages that it had. There was also some questionable responses to situations that caught me off guard and made me question some things.

One of my biggest issues with this book is how some of the situations are handled. Without going into too much detail or spoilers, there were two incidents that were extremely questionable on how they were handled. The first issue is when Sean flies back to Wisconsin to track down Kate and when he finds her, in in for the biggest surprise of his life. However, in that whole moment, Kate and Sean reaches a point where Sean grabs a hold of Kate’s arm in the heat of the argument. Now for some readers this might now have been an issue or they might have overlooked it, but for myself, that’s something I noticed and the whole thing made me uneasy. No one, regardless of gender, should be putting their hands on the other person in the middle of a heated argument. It would have been one thing if it was out of concern, but if a person is putting their hands on another person in the middle of an argument, anyone can assume that the argument is going to escalate into something physical, whether that’s fighting or getting being overly aggressive to assert dominance in the situation. Then the fact that after that situation happened; the whole action wasn’t challenged afterwards with her saying “Don’t put your hands on me” or “Never touch me like that again” just didn’t sit well with me. And then the second thing that didn’t sit too well with me is how Kate’s character was treated. Both Sean and Kate have their issues, but the way Kate’s character was treated in a certain situation was really bothersome. For the situation, I understand what the author was trying to do; use grief and loss as a way to explain why Kate is acting the way she is, but how it all played out was poorly executed. The ball is basically dropped that she’s been acting so guarded and paranoid about pregnancy is because her grief has made her form a weird ideology about it being the the baby given to her by her late husband. Once that is dropped, she has a moment of realization and then that’s it. Nothing else after that. I will also say that I thought it was incredibly inappropriate for Sean to have pushed Kate to the point of having a mental breakdown just so she would talk about her grief and her late husband. That entire scene as a whole, from start to beginning, just didn’t sit well with me. I wish both of these scenes had been handled differently or executed a little bit better.

The other thing I really wish this book did was give us a hundred more pages. This book just felt too short and lacking in detail that could have filled for at least another hundred pages. A lot of this book felt rushed and quickly thrown together where there’s key points in this book that could have used more details. I love a quick romance as much as the next reader, but I definitely think this book could have used just a little more to it.

“This was a big storm showing of no signs of ending yet – and she was glad. In fact, she’d never been so happy about being snowed in.”

Aside from those negative points, I really did like the bits of detail that we did receive. For example, I definitely appreciated the steamy moments. I wish we had a little more to them, but you could really appreciate the mood that was set between the two main characters. I also really loved the little details and how big of symbol coffee became for this book. As someone who runs off of coffee, I loved how much a hot cup of coffee meant for some of those moments between the two main characters. And the descriptions of the Wisconsin scenery, it makes me miss New Hampshire so much. It was absolutely perfect. Besides all of that, I have so much love for the fact that we have a gaming company in this book. It’s these little pieces that made me appreciate some of the elements in this book. I wish we had seen more of those because those little pieces will make some readers, like myself, all soft and sappy.

Overall, I think this was an okay read. There’s wasn’t anything too special about this book that made me invested in the characters or the story-line. I think if you’re looking for a quick romance to fly through then this will be a book you might enjoy. I definitely think if you go in wanting a good time then you’re definitely going to be disappointed just because there’s maybe three steamy scenes in this book and the rest is about the love-hate relationship and pregnancy. However, there are some lovely details that will make you fall in love with Wisconsin or appreciate the little things. I know I certainly enjoyed them and those little bits are the reason this book is a high two stars.

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Unexpected (Start Up in the City, #1) by Kelly Rimmer

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Arc given to me by HQN in exchange for an honest review.

Content/Trigger Warning: Cheating, postnatal depression, maternity struggles/infertility, anxiety, depression, passive-aggressive divorce, toxic relationships, and sex scenes (for those of the younger audience).

This review is going up the day of release (May 28, 2019), so Happy Birthday Unexpected by Kelly Rimmer!

Abby Herbert has had her life all mapped out. From the perfect job all the way to the perfect husband, she’s a girl with a plan and she intends to stick to that plan. But when devastating news shatters her dreams, she’s suddenly thrown into a whirl wind of chaos that she has no control over. Marcus Ross has been harboring not-friends feelings for his life long best friend Abby Herbert. Knowing his feelings have been one sided, Marcus has been desperately been trying to move on since their New Year’s kiss. But when he learns of Abby’s curveball, Marcus instantly jumps into the stirring pot to do whatever it takes to help and be there for Abby. With emotions and feelings running high, it isn’t long before all the rules start to break and the boundaries start to blur. And that deal struck between two good friends starts to blossom into something perilously close to something that will change their lives forever!

“No point beating about the bush on this. I hope you know I’ll support you whatever you decide, and I’ll be here for you whatever happens.”

Have I even mentioned how much I love books that have two different point of views? I really, really like books that have two point of views and we can get two different insights on the two main characters. Not only that, having two different perspectives for the two main characters allow us to really see how one or the other handle each situation or conflict with their own unique personalities. It’s a fun time and I’m always down for some really two point of view books.

Speaking of two point of views, we have two main characters in this book. Our first main character is Abby Herbert. Abby Herbert is a professional gamer/streamer. She does a lot of her work from the apartment she shares with her best friend, but she does have a previous history of working for a publishing company before she truly committed to her gaming full time. Abby also has some serious anxiety going on with a history of depression. Not to mention, she has to have control over everything. I want to say she may have slight OCD behavior, but she’s definitely a planner and has to have little thing under control otherwise she ends up having an outburst of from frustration or has a breakdown from panic. Which is why she has her binder full of her life long dream package and of course, everything is planned from the type of guy she wants to be with, to the house they will share, and right down the amount of children running around their home. She has it all figured out and she intends to have it happen when she wants it to happen. Also, my favorite thing that is brought up from time to time in this book is Abby having a very curvy body. While it’s not actually stated or put into full details, it’s been stated she has fuller figure than the other girls in this book (and you know I’m here for diverse body rep!). And while I’m still on Abby, the one thing this girl has never compromised on has been her life long best friend, Marcus Ross. Which brings me to our second main character, Marcus Ross. Marcus couldn’t be more different from Abby. They’re as different as night and day. Marcus is a head strong, tech entrepreneur who has never had time to truly put though into wanting a life long partner. In fact, Marcus has said no to the wedding and no to the full commitment of a life term partner. No wedding and no serious relationship. In fact, everyone sees him as the type of guy who prefers to casually date, but likes his options open. If there was ever more of a Batman, this guy is it. He’s got full on daddy issues and full blown emotions for a girl who doesn’t feel the same way for him in return. However, Marcus has a lot of self-doubt and questions himself a lot of the time with making the right moves or what’s the best thing to say. But in general, Marcus is a really good guy who’s dedicated to his job, cares deeply about his friends and family, and genuinely thinks about others. Plus, did I mention his brother? His brother Lucas is a such a sassy pants and his interactions with Marcus are just the most precious moments.

Essentially, Unexpected revolved around the whole plot of this book being our one main character, Abby, ends up being told her ovarian reserve is diminishing. So Abby begins to plan to become a single a mother as soon as possible and begins trying to find the best way to getting herself pregnant. When her first two options fall short, she ends up turning to her best friend, Marcus, and shortly after a deal is struck between them. Eventually, the rules and boundaries that were established during to them agreeing to cross-over that best friends forever line end up getting broke and boundaries blur together is a messy pot of unexplored feelings.

Yet somewhere in between the pages of this book, we see the good, the bad, and the ugly. We see how these two characters interact and navigate what is most definitely a difficult and stressful situation for both of them. We also get to see a lot of their thought process, but also them reaching out to their closest, most trusted friends about their feelings. But somehow, even though this book had some great elements that I love in a romance, it fell a bit short for me.

” We can have a reset if I move out. We can get things back to normal and stay friends. It’s the smart move.”

The Good:

Okay, first the good and the things I really loved. This is probably the first romance book I ever read that hits close to home for me. Granted, there have been other books that got me emotional, but most of those were either comics or fantasy. This is the first ever romance that had me sobbing with our main character, Abby. I already liked Abby because she was a gamer (as come to learn very early on in the book), I do some serious hardcore gaming when I need it, but it became so much more than that. Between her struggles with depression, having anxiety, and then topped with fertility complications, that was it for me. I felt connected with her and I found myself rooting for her. Even as I read on, she was a very relatable character to me. So this book became a faster pace read for me once I found a way to get connected and to throw myself into the book. Also really loved that we got some LGBTQIAP+ representation. As I mentioned before, Marcus has a brother, Lucas, and he’s just great! Not only is Lucas the more playful brother, but he’s married to a chef named Austin. The moments we get interactions with Lucas and Austin or when our main characters and the wonderful pair are together, they were so wholesome and warming.

We also get some talk about postnatal depression which is the very first time I’ve seen it talked about in a romance book. While there’s no in depth conversation and there definitely could have been more talk about it, it’s handled very nicely and in very realistic way especially for why it’s an issue/concern for Abby. Not to mention this book really goes into detail of the struggles a person with fertility complications has to go through if they want to have a child. This book talks about how long the process it, talks about legal actions that have to be taken with parties involved, and even some of the financial hardships that will come during and afterwards. I was really surprised that all of that was featured, but I was also overjoyed. It’s not often books (a lot of genres) talk about serious issues that aren’t often discussed. So seeing that in this book was such a pleasant surprise. I also really liked and enjoyed the way Abby relationship with Rodger was addressed. We not only got to see Marcus calling out how abusive the relationship was, but we also got to see how her friends viewed the relationship. What made my heart smile, most about whenever this toxic relationship was brought up, was how the characters addressed Abby. Both Isabel and Marcus reassured her that she was not in the wrong and that she was the one who pulled herself out of those dark days. I loved this and how beautifully it was done. That type of love and support is always so beautiful to see and read about.

“She’s the key player in all of my best memories, and now, she’s the star of all my dreams for the rest of my life.”

The Bad:

However, even though there were many wonderful things about this book, there were also plenty of things I had issues with that made it hard to look past. For starters, I definitely don’t like the fact that both of our main characters ignored the advice of the doctor. I understand that Abby wants a baby and time is of the essence, but the fact that they weren’t willing to listen to the doctor to all the details, I mean ALL of the details in what he had to say, it felt rude, ignorant, and definitely a naive thing for both of them to do. Not to mention after they went home and didn’t even talk about what was discussed in the doctor’s office and they both went straight to Googling at home, do it yourself with a turkey baster or syringe. I don’t know if this was for comedic relief or if the author was being serious, but this whole part fell flat for me. It felt like this whole thing was counter-productive and just didn’t sit well with me. Secondly, Abby’s sex scenes felt very virgin-ish. I had a better time and a more leg crossing time with Marcus’s sex scenes than I did with Abby. The thing is, Abby is a very appealing character and the descriptions we receive of Abby, she’s a very beautiful woman. So the fact that Marcus’s scenes were the most steamy, more intimate, and more leg crossing than Abby was a bit surprising. Her scenes felt safe, they felt like there was a lot of overthinking happening from the character and the author, and half the time if felt like she wasn’t even doing anything at all because Marcus would end up dominating the whole scene in the end. I just expected more from the intimate Abby scenes and expected her to let loose a little. Speaking of Abby, there were also a lot of moments where it felt like she was being extremely immature and, in all honesty, being a real jackass to Marcus. I understand that the author was trying to show Abby’s level of anxiety and just how far it could be push or show just how desperate she needs to be in control of everything, but when it boiled down to everything, there were times where it felt like she was being a child throwing a tantrum because things weren’t going her way. But those moments she would go off the rails and be totally unfair about things to Marcus were a huge problem. For me, it almost felt like it was right on the edge of becoming a toxic relationship. Considering how well Marcus and Abby’s personalities mesh, seeing how quickly it would flip and she would go off on him made me really uneasy and uncomfortable reading. Anxiety and insecurities is one thing, but to push it to the point of toxic situation just felt like it didn’t belong in this book. Now I know it feels like I’ve only been talking about Abby, but I do have my issues with Marcus. My biggest issue with Marcus is the daddy issues. So in this book during the whole Abby and Marcus thing, we have a situation brewing with Lucas and Marcus where their father comes back into their lives by sending these Facebook messages. Of course, both Marcus and Lucas are internally struggling with how to deal with this level of stress and unease, but my true issues lie with Marcus (which will tie in with my biggest and most delicate situation from this whole book). With these issues coming up as a side situation in this book, one of two things needed to happen; (the easiest thing to do) One: Remove the whole sideline, “father coming back into the picture to reconnect with his sons” situation. OR (the more complicated thing to do) Two: Don’t allow Marcus to get Abby pregnant or become a father. These seem like the only two options because once you hit that point in the book where the two brother actually do go meet with their father…it’s a hot mess (like any type of reunion would be if you haven’t seen your parent in years) that’s followed up by another hot mess of the brothers trying to sort how they feel about everything. I wasn’t that big of a fan with how Marcus was handling the whole situation and the icy tones that were coming through that whole section with, not only how he was addressing his father and the situation, but how he was addressing his mother when he called her. Even outside of of this whole section, the “father popping back into his sons’ lives” part felt very distracting to what this book is actually about. There were times where I was wondering how it was going to play into everything and it definitely felt like a minor distraction that derailed the story-line.

The Really Bad:

With all of this being said, it’s time to lay out the biggest issue I had with this book. I have sat on this for three days now and stating this doesn’t make it easy because I did genuinely like some parts of this book…however, this is something that by the end of the book just didn’t sit right with me. Marcus and Abby shouldn’t be having a baby. Now before you come at me with torches and knives, I didn’t conclude this overnight and it wasn’t an easy choice to make. I went back through and looked at everything I marked, tabbed, noted, and wrote down just so I could weigh all the pros and cons. But after all of that, they truly shouldn’t have a baby and so many factors went into me deciding this. For starters, Abby and Marcus, both, have some serious issues. These are the types of issues that should be worked out before you decide to have a child. For starters, Abby has serious concerns especially the postnatal depression and since she has a history with depression, it felt like that should have been taken more seriously. Also, as I stated before, there were a lot of times where Abby would start an argument and it would feel like she’s acting like a child. I feel like this conflicts because how can you truly be a parent to a child if you yourself are going to act like a child as well. Not to mention, you see no sign of her looking for a therapist or a counselor for any help with her anxiety. To me that’s a huge issue because anxiety can be a very hindering mental health condition especially if it goes untreated. And considering almost every chapter that’s from Abby’s point of view it feels like she’s about to go into panic attack, have an emotional breakdown, or she’s putting herself in emotional and mental turmoil, the fact that there’s no mention of a therapist or any professional counseling make me come from a place of concern. I’m not saying it’s the answer, but I definitely think Abby needs some guidance in the right direction before having a child. Then there’s the matter of Marcus who is dealing with own issues. He’s a busy tech entrepreneur that struggles with keeping balance between his work and personal life. Then add on top of him trying to come to terms with everything that happened between his mother and father as well as him trying to reconnect with his father. That’s a lot of stress riding on him. Plus, he has to console Abby every time she tries to start an argument or causes so much turmoil that she has a break down. He’s already dealing with so much. We also have the fact that the both of them went and completely ignored a professional doctor who was giving them sound advice and genuinely trying to help our main heroine to become pregnant as safely and as quickly as possible. I have a lot of issues with this and with that whole situation being what it was, didn’t impress me at all. I understand that Abby wants everything done her way, to her pace, and on the drop of her word, but the fact she blew off the professional and then Marcus went along with her on it makes me think they’re both really naive. And even though they went home, sat on things, and then did their own research via Google, that doesn’t mean that was the smartest move for them to do and a lot of stuff on the internet is misleading. Once again, it all felt like a waste a time that could have been used in a more productive way instead of them both acting clueless and being irresponsible by not listening to a medical professional. There’s also the fact that no alternate paths to motherhood ever being discussed which is definitely a problem since there are so many other options out there for our two main characters. Abby seems to feel like if it isn’t her being pregnant then it isn’t motherhood. Not only that, but her own mother (who also suffered fertility issues) is pressuring her to settle down and breed. I’m coming to the topic as someone who wants to have kids, but can’t and I’m honestly surprise I didn’t go into a blackout rage (I’ll be surprise if anyone who is struggling with fertility complications doesn’t go into a blackout rage). With all of this being said, I truly believe they’re not ready for a baby and they shouldn’t be having a baby until they actually listen to a medical professional and have all their options before them.

Overall, I have so many mixed feelings on this book. There were some parts that I really loved and thought were the sweetest moments. On the other hand, there were parts that should have been removed or never included, parts that were frustrating and absolutely ludicrous, and then there were parts that were just absolutely awful and almost insulting. I understand romance novels are escapist. They are also capable of introducing and evaluating serious issues but Unexpected fails on all counts. I don’t think I’ll be continuing this series as this first book has stirred quite a mix of feelings. If you have read this book and plan on continuing this series, comment below and tell me your thoughts. I would love to know what you loved and didn’t love about this book and why you plan to continue on.

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

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