It's November book reviews time! And our #PHSBookReviews team had another corking collection of reads for us to add to our TBR piles.
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A Wedding One Christmas by Therese Beharrie
Of all the weddings in all the world, Angie Roux had to be mistaken for a bridesmaid in this one.
Caledon, South Africa, is supposed to be just a stop on the way to Christmas in Cape Town, part of Angie’s long-avoided homecoming. She never expected to star in a bizarre comedy of errors, but here she is: convincing a handsome stranger to be her fake boyfriend for the day.
Ezra Johnson, the handsome stranger in question, turns out to be a pleasant distraction from both the wedding and thoughts of her first family Christmas without her father. And he seems to loathe weddings just as much as she does. He’s the perfect temporary companion.
But a lot can happen in twenty-four hours. Including a connection so strong it tempts them both into thinking of something more permanent…
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Gwessie
We have here two tormented souls, both terrified of what they're about to do, yet deep inside them, something is urging them to face their demons, and it's about time they do!
What they don't realise is that they both need that last little push and in an accidental bump into each other's lives, they can be the other's catalyst, if only they are brave enough to dive in together and never let go.
This enchanting story with a beautiful rollercoaster of emotions from deep despair to hilarity and high jinks. From a coffee for two, to Santa and his elf, not to mention a very unique wedding and an equally determined elderly uncle! I love this book very much and most definitely highly recommend it to all; a sweet happy ever after which is very much fought for.
In reading we discover so very much about our hero as well as our heroine, he's worried that he won't be accepted; not realising that he wasn't the one lacking. Our heroine fears taking on the role that her mother did, not realising she is more than strong enough to face her own demons. I must admit that the description of where her parents grew up sounded beautiful; I've not seen or heard much about Cape Town and it definitely sounds like somewhere I'd like to visit!
One of my favourite scenes is the improv nativity! I won't spoil it but I was in fits of giggles imagining it as I read it. Also, the end before our sweet epilogue; our lovers stubborn to the last, but admitting the truth to each other, definitely had me grinning like a loony.
Better Not Pout by Annabeth Albert
One hard-nosed military police officer.
One overly enthusiastic elf.
One poorly timed snowstorm.
Is it a recipe for disaster? Or a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for holiday romance?
Teddy MacNally loves Christmas and everything that goes along with it. When he plays an elf for his charity’s events, he never expects to be paired with a Scrooge masquerading as Santa Claus. His new mission: make the holiday-hating soldier believe he was born to say ho-ho-ho.
Sergeant Major Nicholas Nowicki doesn’t do Santa, but he’s army to his blood. When his CO asks an unusual favor, Nick of course obliges. The elf to his Kris Kringle? Tempting. Too tempting—Nick’s only in town for another month, and Teddy’s too young, too cheerful and too nice for a one-night stand.
The slow, sexy make-out sessions while Teddy and Nick are alone and snowbound, though, feel like anything but a quick hookup. As a stress-free holiday fling turns into Christmas all year round, Teddy can’t imagine his life without Nick. And Nick’s days on the base may be coming to a close, but he doesn’t plan on leaving anything, or anyone, behind.
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Frankie
This is what the PHS reviews is all about, being introduced to new authors and books that become must read favourites. Better Not Pout is a wonderfully seasonal story about two people who couldn’t be more different, literally they are like chalk and cheese. One is feeling the strain from a lifetime in the military, he is awaiting retirement and longing for the peace it will bring, while the other is a constantly happy young man, full of life and the joys of the festive season and wanting love.
Nick, a Sergeant Major in the military after a lifetime serving his country, is now counting down the days until his retirement but he has just one more duty to perform; he must step in and be Santa.
Nick is tired in body and soul, he can’t wait for his retirement he needs time to breathe, but he is also a brilliant officer who never fails to do his duty so he dons the red suit, after all it is for a good cause. Which is when he meets too chirpy and happy elf; Teddy MacNally. Teddy is instantly attracted by the big brooding officer – who wouldn’t be? He sees what others miss and that Nick is sad and lonely and he’s determined to bring the gruff Major some Christmas happiness. When they are snowed in together over Christmas, they both reveal what’s going on in their heads and give into their it mutual attraction for one and other.
This is an easy to read and enjoyable story, the journey the characters take for their HEA is one we’ve seen before, but Ms Albert's witty and moving writing gives this a new classic feel. I loved this from page one; it is a fun, sexy and heart-warming story.
As Good as the First Time by K. M. Jackson
True to its name, the small southern town of Sugar Lake is a sweet place to visit—and you might even want to live there...
With her big-city career and relationship in sudden free fall, Olivia Gale isn’t sure where she belongs. So when her help is needed at Goode ʼN Sweet, the family bakery in Sugar Lake, she jumps at the chance to indulge her pie-making hobby while getting her life back on track. Olivia’s not looking for any distractions. Even if the boy who once left her without a word is now a grown man with intriguing secrets—and the same tempting hold on her heart...
A firefighter and single dad, Clayton Morris is trying hard to fix his past mistakes. He thought he was doing the right thing by leaving Olivia—and now he’s sure he has nothing to offer the accomplished woman she’s become. But ignoring the sparks between them is impossible.
And as unexpected surprises and hard choices endanger their fragile reunion, they’ll have to decide which direction to take if they want to find the road back to love...
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
I've been a fan of K. M. Jackson's writing for a long time - her heroines are funny and feisty and her heroes hot and kind - so I was delighted to read the first book in her new Sugar Lake series, As Good As the First Time.
I think one of the things that I really loved about this romance, was how real the characters seemed to me; and Olivia in particular. Liv has had a pretty terrible day - she lost her job, her boyfriend broke up with her, and now her aunt's not very well - so escaping to Sugar Lake to help with the aptly named Goode 'N Sweet family bakery couldn't happen at a more perfect time. Her relationship with her sister and the way that the two of them snipe at each other made me laugh and also think about the bickering with my own sisters.
And her hero Clayton is just delightful. He's smart and intelligent and a fireman (#swoon) and also a devoted single father. The way that Jackson balances the growth that the individual characters go through separately, with their blossoming revisited relationship seems so true to life. Whatever changes happen in our lives, have to happen through inner and personal growth, and I love the fact that she doesn't just put them in a relationship and make that solve all of their issues.
A delightful read, and one for the keeper shelf!
Braced by Stacy Gail
I missed you, and I needed to see you again.
And that’s the last thing Lilah Ledbetter wants. She’s been down that road with Finian Brody, and she’ll be damned if she’ll let him hurt her again—no matter how hot he still makes her burn.
You deserve better, and I want the chance to give you better.
Epic truck sex should never be followed by a broken heart, but that’s exactly what Fin gave Lilah, all those months ago. Nudging her into a job at Green Rock Ranch is hardly the way to make amends, though her body doesn’t seem to get the message.
Tell me you want me, Lilah. Say it.
Heaven help her, she does. Avoiding Fin when they’re working together is next to impossible. He’s still arrogant as hell, but there’s something different this time around. He’s changed. But so has she.
Feel all of me with all of you, sunshine, and know this is where you belong.
Fin might be sure they belong together, but Lilah will have to bury the past before giving Fin—and love—a second chance.
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Rachel
Braced is the second book in the Brody Brothers series. I would describe this story as a second chance at love. Lilah Ledbetter is nursing a broken heart. She has been in love with Fin Brody for as long as she could remember. One night, things get heated between the two and Lilah ends up giving her virginity to Fin. The night ends badly with Fin saying some unforgivable things to Lilah. Wrecking their friendship, and destroying the trust she has in him. Regretting his action, Fin now has an uphill battle to try and win back the love and trust of the person who always got him. With Lilah bracing herself against heartbreak, is it too late for Fin to win back everything he’s ever wanted?
I thought this book was amazing! I’m not a fan of western romances, but this one managed to hook me in. I thought all the characters were written really well and I particularly enjoyed the pairing of Lilah and Fin. I like how their romance was not some flash-in-the-pan romance; that it had been developing for a long time.
Knowing this I had a greater sympathy for Lilah who was devastated by Fin’s rejection. I have to admit that I was glad that she didn't forgive him right away - which for me made the story realistic. I came out of this story feeling angry, happy, sad, hopeful, satisfied. Overall, I highly enjoyed this story and highly recommend this. I cannot wait to read more from this series.
The Billionaire's Legacy by Reese Ryan
‘Just for tonight.’
Tech billionaire Benjamin Bennett can’t resist a steamy weekend with Sloane Sutton—his crush on her goes way back. But when he tracks her down, she’s pregnant—with twins!
Can they find common ground…and a shot at forever?
Rated: 3 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Mercy
Benji Bennett and Sloane Sutton have known each other their entire lives. Sloane still thinks of Benji as the sweet nerdy little brother of her best friend Delia. Benji hasn’t stopped thinking about Sloane since he was that nerdy little boy with a huge crush on his sister’s best friend. Sparks fly when they bump in to each other at a wedding. Now Benji is a billionaire tech mogul and Sloane has worked years to become independent and shed her mother’s reputation. After one amazing weekend together their lives are changed forever. Can Benji ignore the town gossip long enough to see Sloane for who she really? Can Sloane see Benji as the kind honest man he is rather than the transactional billionaire she fears he’s become?
Reese Ryan does a good job of creating a story with a steady gentle flow. The character voices are consistent and play well off of one another. Benji and Sloane are truly good people with the best intentions and Ryan never loses sight of that. Readers who are looking for a warm and fuzzy feeling will love this book. Reading The Billionaire’s Legacy, is like floating down in river on a warm day. There are some twists but it’s mostly a relaxing and entertaining experience meant to leave the reader feeling good.
Spark & Change by Kellum Jeffries
Frannie’s a low-powered fae library school student, Shirl’s a shifter and shy about it. They tumble into bed and into each other’s lives in this sweetly explicit paranormal romance novelette.
Rated: 4 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Imogene
Dating can be pretty hard when you not only have to figure out if your new crush is into other girls, but also if they’re paranormal friendly. Luckily for Fae graduate student Frannie, the gorgeous shifter Shirl behind the pharmacy counter is everything that she’s been hoping for. When they’re first date starts with mini-golf and laughter, and then ends with amazing sex, things seem to be well on their way to wonderful. However, what happens when life gets in the way?
I would be friends in a second with both of these ladies! Even though we only have a novella to get to know them, both Frannie and Shirl come across as genuinely layered characters. Plus Shirl’s roommate, Derek? I LOVE them. A well written non-binary character who is not afraid to lay it on the line for their friend! To quote Derek: “I will beat you to death with a spatula” (nobody likes a vague disclaimer).
The problems that Frannie and Shirl have are not contrived. They are the things that can just happen in new relationships, and the hurt feelings (see above re: spatula) and the reconciliations feel truthful. Plus, this book is HOT! With extra points for making consent hella sexy. Wowsa! The only real fault is the lack of world building. There’s just not enough space to get to know Jeffries world thoroughly.
I would definitely be back.
Bombay Heights by Adite Banerjie
Small town girl Sanjana Kale wants a fresh start in Mumbai. A challenging job and some much needed distance from her ludicrously over-protective family could get her life under control.
Forced to team up with video game designer Ashwin Deo, who is too attractive for his own good, she finds life becoming a whole lot more complicated when he turns out to be her new neighbour. How can she maintain a professional distance with this charming troublemaker who believes in getting up close and personal?
To make matters worse, her ex tries to manipulate her loved ones to work his way back into her life. Hysterical siblings, a cantankerous client, an ex who will not take no for an answer, and a blow hot blow cold neighbour... Sanjana is sleepless in the City of Dreams! Can she do what Ashwin dares her to--create a few ripples even if it upsets her family?
Rated: 4 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Sue
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what I found so charming about Adite Banerjie’s Mumbai-based romance Bombay Heights. The plot seems entirely predictable; Sanjana, the heroine is conventionally independent and strong-minded, yet melts like a chocolate teacup at the brush of a fingertip from Ash, the male love interest, who oozes sexuality with a hint of little boy lost. Honestly, he’s the sort of bloke – so attractive between the pages, and doesn’t he know it! – any sensible woman would want to slap if they met in real life. Sanjana, of course, is much more tolerant – she doesn’t actually smack him – but she does make it clear she’s no pushover. Inevitably, they become friends and eventually something more…
And, it’s the slightly unexpected way their relationship develops and the changing dynamics within Sanjana’s close-knit family, that makes Bombay Heights an above average romance: because it’s not just a love story but also a window into an India – modern, professional, forward-looking – that challenges western stereotypes of an over-crowded, poverty-stricken, male-centric country.
This new India is epitomised by Sanjana’s father, who, initially wanted Meghna, his middle daughter, to return to her abusive husband, because of his worry ‘about what people would say if her marriage broke up’. But, by the end of the novel he apologises. ‘I should never have insisted you return.’ Instead, he says, he must step back and let his daughters learn from their own mistakes. While Banerjie’s writing was sometimes a little over-lyrical for my taste, I doubt this would be a problem for most readers. A lovely book: an entertaining and thought-provoking read.
Rafe by Rebekah Weatherspoon
All Dr. Sloan Copeland needed was someone to watch her kids. What she found was the man of her dreams…
After a nasty divorce and a thousand mile move, Dr. Sloan Copeland and her twin daughters are finally getting the hang of their new life in Los Angeles. When their live-in nanny bails with no warning, Sloan is left scrambling to find a competent caretaker to wrangle her smart, sensitive girls. Nothing less will do.
Enter Rafe Whitcomb. He’s all of those things, not to mention good-natured and one heck of a whiz in the kitchen. He’s also tall, and handsome, and bearded, and ripped, and tatted, wrist to neck.
It doesn’t take long for the Copelands to invite Rafe into their home. Just as quickly, both Sloan and Rafe find themselves succumbing to a heady mutual attraction, neither of them wants to deny. With every minute they spend under the same roof, this working mom can’t help but wonder if Rafe can handle all her needs…
Rated: 4.5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
This book has all of the fluff. It's even marketed as "featuring a large tatted, motorcycle riding ginger man, who bakes a mean bacon quiche and knows exactly how to wrangle clever six year olds while making their mom feel loved, loved, loved." Because who doesn't love a man who can bake?!
Rafe, our hero, is beyond delicious. Incredibly masculine without being toxically so, and he's a male nanny who's brilliant with children! He's perfect in every way. But for me, it's Sloan who I love the best.
This heroine is fierce. She's a renowned young black surgeon, a dedicated mother to twin daughters, and has survived a fairly toxic relationship with her ex. She's smart and funny and is balancing all of the different aspects of her life so damn well.
So both of them deserve the fluffiest of happy ever afters, and Weatherspoon delivers one that I want to wrap up in a bow and gift to anyone who's struggling with the state of the world today. Everything I needed.
Christmas Catch by Mary Shotwell
Podcast star Charlee Ridgewater aka Cheery Charlee is nearing her one millionth follower and she wants it by Christmas. Lucky for her she has a Christmas miracle planned to do just that and after wading through application after application she finds the perfect pick: bringing Christmas back to the little fishing village of Cape Sunset where they haven't celebrated in four long years. Little does she know the town Grinch is also the most handsome.
Jack Fortner is a fisherman, he pulls in the most and best catches Cape Sunset has ever seen. When he unexpectedly lost his fiancee four years ago during the town's Christmas celebrations he quits Christmas then and there. As a cornerstone of the town, Cape Sunset quits with him but as years pass the town decides that they want to celebrate again.
When Cheery Charlee shows up not only does she win the town over little by little with her charm but she starts to win the the heart of the Jack the Grinch as he begins to feel love again and appreciate Christmas.
Rated: 4 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Megan
Charlee Ridgewater aka Cheery Charlee is a podcaster with a mission and Jack Fortner is a man with a past he let's control him. An unlikely pair, yes but they both have a story to tell. Shotwell beautifully ties in real and raw emotions into the lives of Charlee and Jack. Chalree has past she avoids because nobody wants to remember the day your dad decided to leave his family and with no family left she'll do anything she can to get away from Christmas even if it means bringing Christmas back to Cape Sunset. Jack wants to forget Christmas completely because of the pain that came with it four years ago but his town is ready to have it back. As Charlee and Jack battle each other on all things Christmas they also find they share similar emotions towards those they once loved. Shotwell finds clever ways to bring these two characters together and enjoy their bickering, flirting, and passion.
Charlee has a personality and charm that you can't resist cheering for as she tries to bring Christmas back to Cape Sunset. Shotwell also shows off Charlee's vulnerabilities to make her relatable on many levels. Jack on the other hand is the rough and tough macho man you can't wait to see soften and together they draw you into the story.
While slow moving in some parts, Shotwell captures a grand array of emotions that will have every reader relating to several characters and finding themselves feeling like a resident of Cape Sunset. A Christmas story to make you want to decorate!
Don't Blame Me by Kay Blake
Sometimes love’s a drug. The rush can be so addicting. All that matters is the high. Not the consequences. Not the damage left in its wake.
Adrian Robinson was a college football star, with his future all mapped out. He didn’t expect to fall for feisty Leah Hunter. Nor did he expect the destruction left in its wake when it all came to an end.
Now, Adrian’s a hotel magnate and one of the most eligible bachelors in the world. He has it all, except the one woman he has kept in his heart for years. And he’s willing to do anything to get her back.
Leah hasn’t seen Adrian since the day she was forced to pick up the pieces of her broken heart. When Leah is assigned to write a piece on him for her magazine, remnants of their torrid romance still burn like yesterday. Will the high be worth it this time? Or is it destined to crash and burn?
Rated: 4.5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Tamara
College romance, jocks, and smart girls, certainly one of my favorite genres. Smart girl and popular jock is a receipt for success and Ms Blake definitely did that.
Slowly we get to know Adrian and Leah. They are successful adults and socially in a good place, but soon we found wounded souls in both of them. Ms Blake takes us 12 years back and leads through the beginning of romantic love story between Adrian and Leah. Everything is good...until his injury and involvement of his overprotective parents. Maybe not only overprotective but manipulative and as we will find out later, violent. Their separation and (spoiler alert!) her losing her baby, made me cry, ugly tears. I cried for her loss again when we discover what really happened. I cried when she was breaking all over again...to be honest I cried a lot that evening.
Did I mention I read it in one evening/night?! Started around 9 pm and finished a little after 3 in the morning!
My heart was totally broken after an encounter with his parents at a hotel opening and I was really proud of Leah the way she handled the whole humiliating scene whit his parents. I really enjoyed the book and will definitely reread it.
His Los Angeles Surprise by Sheryl Lister
A millionaire with a wary heart...
...and a first love worth repeating.
Success couldn't make former model Alexis Armstrong forget the one who got away. When she "rents" Derek Moore at a fund-raiser to show him what he's missed, things don't go as planned.
Their sizzling chemistry reignites...with lasting repercussions. Derek wants to be there for his baby, but Alexis will only marry for love. Can he convince the stubborn beauty he's for real?.
Rated: 4.5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
I'm a sucker for a second chance romance, especially when the hero and heroine were young during their first entanglement. There's something really satisfying about seeing two adults, with different experiences in life look back on where they were and how far they've come. In some ways, it strengthens the intensity of that romantic connection, because what are the chances of them reconnecting again?
Lister's His Los Angeles Surprise is no different, and that romantic connection is intensified even further when Derek and Alexis discover that she is pregnant from their one night together.
A good category romance - in my opinion - will put you through the emotional wringer. It's something a really enjoy about the medium's ability to use its shorter word count to really focus in on the inner conflicts of its two main characters, and both Alexis and Derek had huddles to overcome. They really earn their HEA, and by the end of the novel, you can't help but be delighted for them.
Wild Child by Christy McKellen
Mixing business with pleasure…
…is a dangerous game!
Party girl Maya Darlington-Hume feels an illicit thrill when a gorgeous man walks in on her naked. When she discovers the sexy stranger is her father’s business associate and her new boss, she naughtily decides to turn up the heat—and Benedict Chivers can’t resist her for long.
Maya could lose everything if her controlling father finds out, but each encounter leaves her begging for more!
Rated: 4.5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Jill
Business starter Maya is thrilled when her new temporary boss can't seem to resist her. Eager to see how much she can play with him as he decides to play along, they start a power play in the office that ends in more than either of them bargained for.
I don't think I've ever seen such a hook right from the first sentence before. The entire first scene sucks you in, delightfully shocking and fun and doesn't let up there. I loved the premise of the book and the writing did not disappoint. Both main characters were well developed, they each had their own distinctive voices in their own POVs, and the scenes were sizzling hot.
A delightful HEA ties it all up perfectly.
What are you reading this month? Have you recently read a book you think everyone should hunt down? Let us know in the comments or join the PHS community on Social Media using #amreading And authors, if you want us to review your book, we are now open for October submissions! You can check out the guidelines here.