Only Work, No Play

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After two years of taking care of her heartbroken father, Evie needs a new start. Leaving the States and following her sister to Australia to work as the personal assistant of rugby star Xavier – The Beast – Stevens seems like the right kind of distraction.
Tall, muscled and devilishly handsome, Xavier is the lov’ em and leav’ em kind of guy. He never forgets a girl’s name because he never bothers to remember it in the first place.
Evie soon realizes that being Xavier’s assistant is a 24/7 job; the man seems unwilling to even set an alarm for himself.
As she watches him move from one woman to the next, Evie is glad that her heart is safe from his attention. After all, she’s a far cry from the size zero models he usually takes to his bed.
But soon being around Xavier doesn’t feel like a job, and seeing him walk around his apartment half naked all the time isn’t helping either. Evie knows that giving in to her attraction will lead to heartbreak, but when Xavier starts treating her as more than just his assistant, resisting his charms seems like an impossible task.

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I have read nearly all of Cora Reilly’s romance novels, but this was the first time reading one that was not a mafia romance story. Only Work, No play is a sports romance novel that is set in Australia!!! As if I didn’t want to travel there badly enough already, lol.

Xavier is a pretty decent guy in private. He is the star of the best rugby team in Australia, and flaunts his wealth, privilege and star status in public, and in the bedroom.  But I could relate to him anyway. Xavier is a very private man, who plays up to the media as a rugby star in order to benefit the team and control the media’s prying into his life, to some extent. He gives money to non-profits privately, is an insanely loyal friend, a fantastic brother and would do anything for his family.

Evie is incredibly self-conscious about her weight and size, as most of us women are. She is especially so because she is surrounded by professional athletes every day, both at work and at home. I was glad to see another plus size lead character in a romance novel. And even happier that Xavier was not attracted to her despite her weight or because of her weight. He couldn’t have cared less about her physical looks, because they fell in love over a shared sense of humour, shared (nerd!) interests and an abundance of snark.

I did feel like this book finished rather abruptly. The majority of the time the author was bringing the hero and heroine together and once there relationship had become established as a girlfriend-boyfriend one for a couple of months, the story ended. Even in the epilogue, they are still a new couple of less than one year. A lot of romance novels end that way so I don’t know why it bothered me so much, but it did this time around. Regardless, Only Work, No play is absolutely a book I know I will read again.

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My Secret Valentine (2018)

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A young woman takes advice from the notes that are left by a mysterious “Handyman” when a sales rep arrives with plans to buy her family’s winery.

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My secret Valentine is a 2018 Hallmark film set around – you guessed it Valentine’s Day. It stars Lacey Chabert (as Chloe) and Andrew Walker (as Seth).

I watched this movie for the first time and fell in love so I of course had to share it. Its a short, sweet movie with romance, family and good friends, and just a little cheese. I enjoyed my evening in on the couch, snuggling, eating chocolate and watching romance unfold. There were definitely a couple of moments when I could be Chloe!

Watch the trailer here! I promise, the acting is better than than the trailer makes it out to be.

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I Owe You One

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From #1 New York Times bestselling author Sophie Kinsella, an irresistible story of love and empowerment about a young woman with a complicated family, a handsome man who might be “the one,” and an IOU that changes everything

Fixie Farr has always lived by her father’s motto: “Family first.” But since her dad passed away, leaving his charming housewares store in the hands of his wife and children, Fixie spends all her time picking up the slack from her siblings instead of striking out on her own. The way Fixie sees it, if she doesn’t take care of her father’s legacy, who will? It’s simply not in her nature to say no to people.

So when a handsome stranger in a coffee shop asks her to watch his laptop for a moment, Fixie not only agrees—she ends up saving it from certain disaster. Turns out the computer’s owner is an investment manager. To thank Fixie for her quick thinking, Sebastian scribbles an IOU on a coffee sleeve and attaches his business card. But Fixie laughs it off—she’d never actually claim an IOU from a stranger. Would she?

Then Fixie’s childhood crush, Ryan, comes back into her life and his lack of a profession pushes all of Fixie’s buttons. She wants nothing for herself—but she’d love Seb to give Ryan a job. And Seb agrees, until the tables are turned once more and a new series of IOUs between Seb and Fixie—from small favors to life-changing moments—ensues. Soon Fixie, Ms. Fixit for everyone else, is torn between her family and the life she really wants. Does she have the courage to take a stand? Will she finally grab the life, and love, she really wants?

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I have been reading Sophie Kinsella’s work for more than a decade, and I have never not fallen in love with one of her books. I Owe You One is her more recent novel and another great story. It was so good, that I have actually read it twice, before even getting my review written!

This book has some of my favourite romantic tropes: family drama, a cast of secondary characters, and a hot wealthy man ready to sweep her off her feet.

The main character is nick-named Fixie, and this perfectly personifies her. I think it is cute and (too my way of thinking) common in British literary humour. I was reminded of the book I’ve Got Your Number (also by this author) but I still didn’t feel like I was reading the same book twice.

Now I need to point out here, the book wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. I misread the promotional blurb and thought that it said the IUD that changed everything, not the IOU. lol, the story is still amazing!

The best things about Kinsella’s stories are that you can always count on a happy ending and the story itself is fairly light. I recently read some “romances” that had me bawling my eyes out and that is not my cup of tea. With Kinsella, I know exactly what I am getting: humour, romance, entertainment and maybe a moral lesson or two!

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Not a Hero (Sons of the Survivalist #1)

Sons of the survivalist #1

In the Alaska wilderness, four streetwise boys became men—and brothers

Now the crazy ex-military survivalist who plucked Gabriel and three other boys from an abusive foster care home has died. But the sarge leaves them a final mission–to revive the dying town of Rescue.

Gabe is done with being a hero.

Wounded in body and soul, the retired SEAL simply wants to remain holed up in his isolated cabin. He sure doesn’t want to be chief of police in some defunct town. But he has his orders.

Audrey needs a place to hide

After the Chicago librarian discovers a horrendous crime, she wakes to an assassin in her bedroom. Injured and terrified, she flees, covering her trail every inch of the way. New name, new ID. New home. As Audrey learns to survive in Rescue, she begins to fall for the town…and the intimidating chief of police who protects it.

Can the shy introvert and the deadly police chief find a life together?

Despite the discord in town, Gabe is finding his own peace…with the quiet young woman who seems to have no past. She’s adorable and caring and so very lost. But how can he trust someone who lies to him with every breath she takes?

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Not a Hero is the first book in a new series by Cherise Sinclair. It is set in Alaska and features 4 alpha male hunks who stumble across their true loves.

It is the first book of Ms. Sinclair to not feature BDSM (to my knowledge). I have always been a huge fan of hers and every series or standalone that she has written to date.

This one wasn’t a hit for me though.

Audrey is every book nerd’s alter ego I think. She goes from quiet, shy, introverted librarian with little self-confidence and social skills, to a kickbutt survivalist at the heart of her newfound community in Rescue, Alaska.

Gabe was also a great character, but I didn’t warm up to him as much. He is extremely measured and controlled. And not that dominant personalities have a stranglehold on those traits, but it reminded me of Ms. Sinclair’s Dom characters so much that I found it difficult to separate him from the lifestyle.

It just felt like something was always missing in this story, and I am pretty sure that it was the BDSM. Maybe it is because I am so used to this author writing alpha male kinkster heroes that I couldn’t accept it wasn’t meant to be in this series, or maybe it is the author who cannot separate her characters from that mindset, but I couldn’t quite fall into the rhythm of this love story.

I still plan on reading the following stories, although I hope the author keeps writing her existing series as well! Maybe you will like this book more than I did 🙂

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Twisted Emotions (Camorra Chronicles #2)

camorra chronicles book 2

Nino Falcone is genius and monster. As the right hand man and brother of the Capo of the Camorra, his lack of feelings is a blessing, not a curse – until his brother asks him to marry for the sake of the Camorra.
Kiara Vitiello, cousin of the Capo of the New York Famiglia, is chosen to marry Nino Falcone to prevent war with the Camorra, but what she hears about Las Vegas makes her veins pulse with terror. After her father betrayed his Capo and paid with his life, her family thinks marriage is her only chance to bring honor to her name; but only Kiara knows she’s a faulty prize given in return for peace.
A man incapable of emotions and a woman scarred by the past – an arranged marriage with the potential to unite, or destroy…

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This was my favourite book from the author since her first one, Bound by Honor. It pumped me up for the next in the series which is supposedly coming out in April 2019. Thankfully, I don’t have a long wait until then.

For a long time fans of Reilly, Twisted Emotions will feel like a throwback to her earlier style. Rather than a love match, Kiara Vitiello is forced to marry Nino Falcone in order to secure a period of peace between the Las Vegas and New York mafias.

Nino is a bit of a cold fish, much like the character Dante Cavallaro was in the second book. However, underneath that cold, calculating brain there is a simmering volcano of emotions, brewing from severe childhood trauma that he has yet to deal with. Slowly, Nino’s emotions break loose loose with Kiara, although he remains very emotionless in every other situation.

Twisted Emotions ended very abruptly, and I didn’t feel like the story built up to an explosive ending. It was a little bit anticlimactic other than the epilogue scene. However, that epilogue very clearly sets up the next book in the series – starring Remo – and I have a feeling that Nino and Kiara’s story will continue to unfold as secondary characters.

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Bound by Love (Born in Blood Mafia Chronicles #6)

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Nobody expected them to fall in love.
When Aria was given to Luca in marriage, people were sure he’d break her.
Aria feared the worst from a man like him.
A man without mercy.
But somehow she gained his love.
Love – a weakness a Capo like Luca shouldn’t risk.
When Aria betrays Luca by going behind his back for her family, she realizes too late that she might have lost what she’s fought so hard to get in the first place: Luca’s trust.
The trust of a man who never allowed himself to trust someone unconditionally before.
Can their love survive in a world of betrayal and death?

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Luca and Aria were the stars of the first book in this series, and now readers get to catch up with them again. Bound by Love takes place over approximately four years. It recaps many key events in previous books, telling the story from Luca and Aria’s perspectives this time around. While some aspects of this were really interesting, I grew bored during most of those moments.

From my perspective, the story really picked up when the author shared new material, but that is quite far into the book.

One thing that I really didn’t like about this book is how the author seems to be setting up war between Luca and Dante. While technically New York and Chicago have been at war for ages, NY and Las Vegas are not teaming up to take Dante’s circle down. This would be fine if the author hadn’t spent an entire book telling the romantic story between Dante and Valentina, but she did and I am just as emotionally invested in them as in Luca/Aria. Perhaps even more so.

I also detested that Aria kept making the same stupid mistakes time after time.

If you don’t mind revisiting old storylines, you will probably love this bad boy mafia romance that reads a little like a reunion. Otherwise, you might just want to wait for the next book to be released.

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A Little Submission (Collection)

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Together in one complete set, six historical Victorian romances from USA Today Bestselling author Zoe Blake.

Pleasure and pain are one in the era of Victorian romances. An essential collection from the author who has mastered the genre. USA Today Bestseller Zoe Blake is known for her explicit descriptions, creative chastisement and wickedly wanton love scenes.

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Zoe Blake is an author that I have mentioned on this blog before. She writes historical and contemporary erotica, largely focused on DD/lg or BDSM.

The titles in this collection are:

The Submission of Little Emmie

Disciplining the Maid

Penelope’s Punishment

Chosen to be His Little Angeline

The Duke’s Possession

Papa’s Little Pain Princess <this book contains aspects of sadism/masochism>

In the last couple of months I have been going through a really big kick of historical romance which is super unusual for me. I’m usually about about LEO and mafia romances. But sometimes we need to roll with the punches and broaden our horizons a little, amiright?!

This collection contains 6 historical novellas set in the 1800s of Britain. Each features a masterful male member of the aristocracy and the woman he “insta-love” falls for. They are definitely short enough to read one each evening before bed, and it is much cheaper to buy the collection on Amazon than purchase each book individually. Wish I had realized that a little sooner :/

Every story contains spanking scenes, and infantilism of a grown woman. Most of these brides have a nanny who disciplines them as well, but there is no sexual relations between the women. Check out the tag section of this post to find out more of the kink, and if this collection is right for you. I would have rated the books higher if they had been longer and a little more balanced between story and sexy times.

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Crime Lord’s Paradise (Crime Lord #4.5)

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After Gavin Pyre steps down from his position as crime lord, he and Lyla focus on picking up the pieces of their lives and creating the paradise they deserve.

Publisher’s Note: This novella intersects with book 4, Awakened by Sin, so books should be read in sequence.

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This is a 128 page novella that catches us up with original couple Lyla and Gavin in the Crime Lord series. I’m pretty sure this book is the result of obsessive and persistent begging from fans, lol.

OMG. I had forgotten how completely badass Gavin is!! He is uber sexy and dark and it is overwhelmingly obvious in this instalment that Lyla is the only thing keeping him just this side of the line.

But, man! that girl has changed. She went from this annoying, facetious young woman in the introduction to the series to a fierce woman and mother, battling PTSD and poor parenting models and rising above.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story. It felt a bit like a catch-up with old friends and will eagerly await book #5.

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Defiance (Masters of the Shadowlands #13.5)

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Z’s day begins with sadness
A phone call from a dying friend leaves psychologist Zachary Grayson determined to fulfill the old survivalist’s request–a send-off that will comfort his grieving sons.

And then turns deadly
The death threat is only the beginning…because the letter isn’t a hoax. Z walks out of his office into a barrage of bullets. He can take being shot at, but when the second shot splinters the empty child-seat in his car, he’s shaken to the core. The horror of what would have happened if his little girl had been there spurs him to action.

Master Z is a Dom, a husband, a father—every instinct drives him to protect those under his care. When the police can’t catch his stalker, he must take matters into his own hands.

He must keep danger far from those he loves.
Secrecy and distance is the key. The funeral in Alaska is the perfect location, especially since Z won’t be alone. The survivalist’s sons have grown into men with lethal skills. With their help, he can trap the shooter and keep his family safe.

As long as his impetuous and all-too-observant wife, Jessica, doesn’t discover he’s using himself as bait.

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Defiance is a novella in the Shadowlands series. It serves to give an update on original couple – and fan favourites – “Z” and Jessica, and also to introduce a new contemporary romance series the author will premiere in January. I really like that she is starting her new series in this manner. Even if I wish she was writing certain other books for characters desperately in need of a HEA!

This short story is listed as #13.5 in the Shadowlands series, but I think it should also be listed as 0.5 in the new series. The style of writing is much more romance than erotica. There are sex scenes between Z and Jessica, but nothing like we’re used to seeing in the Shadowlands.

Defiance is a contemporary romance with military themes. It was enjoyable and I think it will flow well through both series, although regular readers might not be prepared for the lack of steam. Ms. Sinclair is one of the few authors I know who can take the short word count necessary in a novella and still produce a cohesive, nuanced story with character development, emotions and background characters.

There is a secondary character, DeVries, who pops up. He is from Mrs. Sinclair’s Dark Haven series. It was nice to see these universes blending again… I had a dark satisfaction throughout the story, knowing that DeVries hates the cold and got stuck working in Alaska to protect Z.

I am still devastated that my favourite author is moving away from the BDSM scene – at least in her books. However, I am looking forward to following up with these new characters in her upcoming Alaskan series. They might not be Doms, but they sure are alphas!

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The Rebel’s Secret (Ride Hard #3)

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She was determined to claim her revenge. He was determined to claim her.
 Michaela Armistead had only revenge in mind when she stepped into that frontier saloon. Disguised as a boy, she had been on her father’s murderer’s trail since the end of the War Between The States. What she hadn’t counted on was Major John Thomas Brice, commanding officer of the nearby fort, taking her prisoner!

One look at those flashing violet eyes and Major Brice knew this was one little rebel who needed to be taken in hand. He would be damned if he allowed her to continue on her dangerous quest for revenge. She needed to learn, in this part of Texas, his word was law. If that lesson came at the end of a leather strap, then so be it.

Problem was, his feisty Rebel was not going to give in without a fight!

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The Rebel’s Secret is the third and final book in the Ride Hard series. Like the others, it could be read as a standalone. They are each set on the western frontier, shortly after the end of the American Civil War.

Michaela is tracking down her mother and stepfather, both cruel people who murdered her father and conspired to murder Michaela. She is intent on avenging her family when she runs into Major Brice.

This is definitely a case of instant love, especially from the hero’s perspective. He is intent on wedding and bedding his fierce and fiesty little lady, but it takes more than a couple of spankings to tame her!

This was my least favourite book in the series. For some reason, I just didn’t click with the characters and the lack of plot development in the book itself, and the series as a whole, was irritating.

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