The Return Of Rafe MacKade by Nora Roberts
April 1, 1995
Ten years after disappearing from Antietam, Maryland, the bad boy has returned. Cleaned up and successful now--and still dangerously good-looking--Rafe MacKade sets the town on fire, and tongues wagging.
Lovely newcomer Regan Jones is intrigued--what kind of man could cause this sort of talk? She's just about to find out....
Nora Roberts and I have a history. A long history of torn covers and hidden novels. She pretty much started my romance reading journey, changing me from a sci-fi nerd to tearing off romance novel covers so my Daddy wouldn’t find the books and kill my young, perverted ass.
I have read so many of her books, I’m like a walking NR encyclopedia. I’d find them at garage sales and buy anything with her name of them.
But… it’s been years since I’ve read something from her. Years. And I randomly came across The Return Of Rafe MacKade, so I jumped on it. Because… why not? Not many authors can write male characters like my girl Nora. And when the universe tells me to buy a book, I usually listen.
The story revolves around two characters, Rafe and Regan. Rafe is one of four brothers, known around their small town and no-good bad boys. Their momma died when they were young, and their Dad did what he could to keep the farm above water. The boys were always getting arrested, fighting at bars, stealing cars, you name it. No one expected any of them to mount to anything, and never did they.
After Rafe’s dad dies, he decides he’s done with the small town life, the spiderweb of gossip, and he needs a place where he isn’t one of the MacKade boys. He packs up and…disappears.
Fast forward a decade and Regan finds herself getting away from the fancy silver spoon life, the big city, and fat bank accounts of her parents… and settling in a teeny town. She sells antiques and decorates houses, lives a simple life, and relies on no one but herself. Then one day she hears talk of the infamous Rafe MacKade coming home to his brothers (which are now a lawyer, a farmer, and the town Sheriff.)
Rafe buys this creepy, haunted house and needs help decorating it with the correct period pieces. They meet. Sparks fly. Clothes come off. They have a business and personal relationship, and they’re the talk of town. Good, sweet Regan is shacking up with bad boy Rafe…whodathunkit?
The story has some danger, so ghostly encounters, lots of caveman tactics, and hot (and a bit flowery) sex scenes. The MacKade brothers are freaking awesome – full of punching, laughing, alpha maleness that you seriously can’t get enough of. It’s a very typical Nora Roberts story, but fuck me, I loved it. The characters were fascinating, and you finish this book wanting to read the next three back to back just so you can get more of these delicious brothers.
So, yes, all four are now sitting on my Kindle and I’ll be binging on a childhood favorite author the next couple days, and maybe revisiting some of my old favorites. (Speaking of, do you have any Nora Roberts favorites? I love all of her Ireland series, especially the band family one. Or, the lighthouse witch series. The boat building brothers series… God, I could go on and on. Let me know if there’s a series I should check out!)
The Coincidence Of Coconut Cake by Amy Reichert
Published by Simon & Schuster July 21, 2015
Genres: Women's Fiction, Romance
Length: 7 hours and 32 minutes
YOU'VE GOT MAIL meets HOW TO EAT A CUPCAKE in this delightful novel about a talented chef and the food critic who brings down her restaurant—whose chance meeting turns into a delectable romance of mistaken identities.
In downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Lou works tirelessly to build her beloved yet struggling French restaurant, Luella’s, into a success. She cheerfully balances her demanding business and even more demanding fiancé…until the morning she discovers him in the buff—with an intern.
Witty yet gruff British transplant Al is keeping himself employed and entertained by writing scathing reviews of local restaurants in the Milwaukee newspaper under a pseudonym. When an anonymous tip sends him to Luella’s, little does he know he’s arrived on the worst day of the chef’s life. The review practically writes itself: underdone fish, scorched sauce, distracted service—he unleashes his worst.
The day that Al’s mean-spirited review of Luella’s runs, the two cross paths in a pub: Lou drowning her sorrows, and Al celebrating his latest publication. As they chat, Al playfully challenges Lou to show him the best of Milwaukee and she’s game—but only if they never discuss work, which Al readily agrees to. As they explore the city’s local delicacies and their mutual attraction, Lou’s restaurant faces closure, while Al’s column gains popularity. It’s only a matter of time before the two fall in love…but when the truth comes out, can Lou overlook the past to chase her future?
Set in the lovely, quirky heart of Wisconsin, THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE is a charming love story of misunderstandings, mistaken identity, and the power of food to bring two people together.
Awwww, this story! I’m not even sure how I found it, to be honest. It could have been some random recommended read by Amazon, or maybe I noticed it scrolling through Goodreads and saw a cake on the cover and automatically clicked, because… well, cake. But I am SO glad I did.
The Coincidence Of Coconut Cake is a quirky, adorable and delicious story told in third person narrative (which I’m weirdly picky about, and it’s done brilliantly, FYI.) And while I might say “read” a few times in this review, really…I listened to it.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say don’t buy this book, well…that’s not right. Buy it, but please, please, download the audio version, too. The narrator is phenomenal, so much so, I spent a while going through all of her other books and after scrolling through a ton of weird self-help and Amish books, found she did some Elle Kennedy books too and promptly downloaded those. I’m totally in love with her voice, her pronunciations, her story-telling skills. Seriously. The book goes back and forth with American, English, and some European accents and she did so good. (Plus hearing the accents is a total bonus rather than reading them in your head.)
Okay, the story. The story is focused on Lou, a chef. And Al, a British food critic who recently moved to Milwaukee. Al writes under a fake name and is notorious for amazingly harsh reviews that pretty much end up destroying one’s business if he hates them.
So, of course, when Lou finds her fiance wrapped in the arms of another woman, she had a terrible, horrible night at her restaurant fucking all sorts of food up…. which gets served to Al. Womp, womp, wompppp. Sucks to be Lou, right?
Lou and Al meet a couple times randomly, and after seeing each other at the pub, they agree to go out so Lou and show Al how amazing her city is (Al wants to get the fuck out of the cold, snowy, cow-town and find greener pastures to explore, pun intended.) They both agree to not talk about their jobs, since Al wants to stay anonymous and Lou doesn’t want to tell a stranger about her dying restaurant and failed dreams.
Their relationship is adorable. They both love food and all their dates are deliciously described. And OMG, I was hungry this entire story and probably gained five pounds in three days from the munchies it caused. Plus… who knew Milwaukee could be so cool? It was never on the List-Of-Places-For-Leah-To-Explore, but now? Now I want to wear my fancy Romeos and fly over and eat a lot of cheese curds.
The side characters of this story are half the enjoyment. The friends, the customers, the co-workers… all of them quirky in their own way, playing perfect roles to make the main characters that much more interesting, yet casting their own bright light of awesomeness.
This book was like watching an adorable romcom. You pretty much know what’s going to happen and how it’ll end, but it doesn’t matter. You love every second of it, you giggle, you snack, you smile the entire time. I will definitely listen to this book again, and think of these characters often.
Swear On This Life by Renee Carlino
Published by Atria Books August 9, 2016
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Source: Copy for Honest Review
When a bestselling debut novel from mysterious author J.Colby becomes the literary event of the year, Emiline reads it reluctantly. As an adjunct writing instructor at UC San Diego with her own stalled literary career and a bumpy long-term relationship, Emiline isn’t thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of a young and gifted writer.
Yet from the very first page, Emiline is entranced by the story of Emerson and Jackson, two childhood best friends who fall in love and dream of a better life beyond the long dirt road that winds through their impoverished town in rural Ohio.
That’s because the novel is patterned on Emiline’s own dark and desperate childhood, which means that “J. Colby” must be Jase: the best friend and first love she hasn’t seen in over a decade. Far from being flattered that he wrote the novel from her perspective, Emiline is furious that he co-opted her painful past and took some dramatic creative liberties with the ending.
The only way she can put her mind at ease is to find and confront “J. Colby,” but is she prepared to learn the truth behind the fiction?
Aw, man. “Before We Were Strangers” was a TOP top read for me last year. So when I heard Swear On This Life was coming out, I was so excited. All the early reviews were raving about how amazing and life changing the story was. I’ve read Carlino before, so I know how much her stories can settle deep inside you and consume your mind for days and weeks.
But for me, it fell a bit flat. I loved the premise of a novel being told inside the novel, and actually, the inside story was the only part I enjoyed. I liked those characters. I liked their story. They were young, and dealt really hard cards, and even in the toughest of times, they tried their hardest to prevail. They loved when they were never even showed what love was. They tried for each other when no one had ever put effort into them.
But the two real characters? I really disliked them. Neither seemed to have any redeeming qualities at all. I couldn’t connect with them and found myself wanting them to stop talking and to go back to reading the “other book”.
Plus… when they reunited? And the ending? Both so anti-climatic it was almost painful. So much build up, so much angst and tension and excitement.. and both of those parts of the book were quite unsatisfactory. I wanted their happiness and success so bad I could taste it, but neither were really celebrated.
The reviews are really amazing for the book, so I’m probably one of the only readers feeling a bit underwhelmed. So, if you like second-chance romances, especially about kids on the wrong side of the tracks who find themselves later in life… definitely give it a try. Renee Carlino is a fantastic writer, seriously. I just didn’t connect with this specific set of characters.
Midnight Soul by Kristen Ashley
Series: Fantasyland #5
Published by Kristen Ashley August 15, 2016
Genres: Romance, Fantasy
Source: Copy for Honest Review
Also in this series: Wildest Dreams
Also by this author: At Peace
Against his will, Noctorno Hawthorne, an undercover vice cop, finds himself embroiled in magic, mayhem and parallel universes. Too late, he meets an amazing woman only to find she’s destined for his identical twin in another world.
And things aren’t going real great there.
Noc is recruited to help save that world.
What he doesn’t know is his destined love resides there.
Franka Drakkar wears a mask. A mask she never takes off to protect herself in a world of malice, intrigue and danger.
When Franka meets Noc and he discovers her secrets, convinced she carries a midnight soul, having shielded herself from forming bonds with anyone, she struggles with accepting his tenderness and care.
When Noc meets Franka, over wine and whiskey, her mask slips and Noc knows it’s her—only her—and he has to find a way to get her to come home with him.
And then make her want to stay.
While I was excited to jump back into this otherworldly place with magical creatures and epic fairytale romances, I was also hesitant to bid adieu to a world that I fell for hard and fast. I mean, who seriously enjoys saying goodbye to a world and characters they have fallen in love with? Not I. But even with a bit of a resistance, I dived in whole heartedly into Midnight Soul and discovered that even villains can be redeemed and find their own HEA.
The choice of having Franka Drakkar as the heroine for the final installment of this series was a bit of a peculiar choice, in my opinion, since Franka has pretty much been that villainous bitch from the very beginning. While I enjoyed her as a villain, I personally wasn’t sure how much I would like her as a lead. But once I started reading, I grew more and more intrigued and wanted to know more about what made her such a stone-cold, black-hearted bitch. I think villains are always the most complex characters in a story and I was curious to see how many layers there were to this thick-skinned venomous woman.
“You are not one fuckin’ thing like they think you are, are you?”
“I’m exactly what they think I am.”
It didn’t take KA very long to have me in tears while I watched her break down Franka’s walls and reveal to us the reasons why Franka was so selfish, ruthless and conniving. Kristen gives you a front row seat to Franka’s hellish reality and this one particular scene left me in some serious tears. As painful as it was to see Franka be brought down so low, it’s what we (as readers) needed to see to understand why Franka needed to play the devious and malicious character. And discovering the root of all her evil wasn’t only eye-opening for me, but also for Noc and all the other main characters in this series. Their reactions were palpable and I especially loved seeing Frey’s response and reaction to discovering what had been going on with his cousin for so many years. I already loved the guy and seeing him being the protective cousin made me love him even more.
“What makes a hero is the one that’s left standing when the others are dead. Or the one that gave his life so the others could live. That’s a fuckin’ hero.”
Now what I really loved the most about the romantic pairing in Midnight Soul was that Kristen Ashley shook things up a bit by pairing a man from the “real” world and a woman from the fantasy parallel world. I think it just made more sense that Franka would end up being with a man not from her world. A man who hadn’t seen first-hand her malicious ways and didn’t have any preconceived notions about her character. Noc’s patience and steady support during Franka’s transformation is what really makes your heart flutter. He definitely shows a lot more patience than KA’s other heroes, but in Franka’s state, it’s just what she needed.
While I admired the fact that Noc took his time with Frannie (as he liked to call her because he thought that Franka sounded too harsh) and I think it was the right decision, this is where the story lost me for a bit. Compared to the other books in the series, Midnight Soul definitely moves at a much slower pace. The couples no longer have to fight evil tyrants or wicked witches, so the meat of this story was solely Franka and Noc’s romance and giving us a look at the lives of the previous couples. While I loved catching up with the previous characters and appreciated seeing Franka and Noc’s relationship evolve from friendship to love, I was hoping there would have been a greater story arc before we got to the epilogue. The story does pick up during the second half of the book and this is the part that I really enjoyed. KA kinda gives a throwback to book one by showing us Franka’s reaction to the “real” world. Yes, KA mixes things up again by bringing the fantasyland character to our world. Just like how I enjoyed reading Finnie’s reaction to fantasyland, Franka’s reactions to our world was really cute. It really makes you realize how we sometimes take for granted all the little luxurious we enjoy like a modern toilet or getting a mani and pedi.
“You don’t have a midnight soul, Frannie. Your soul is so bright, I look too close, I’d be blinded.”
Saying goodbye to characters is always hard but Kristen Ashley does a magnificent job in telling Franka and Noc’s journey to happily ever after; and delivers one hell of a send off for the rest of the Fantasyland couples by giving us one of my favorite ever KA epilogues. While Midnight Soul might have started on a slow note for me, Ashley solidly delivers a fitting ending for a series that I have grown to love in such a short period of time. As always, KA kills the epilogue and really left me satisfied and happy for all the characters in this series. She also gives us a taste of a budding romance that I’m hoping she’ll eventually turn in to a novella. For fans of this series, this is a do.not.miss.read.
~ ~ Excerpt ~~
“You need to leave,” I declared.
His brows drew together a moment before his expression showed clearly that comprehension had dawned.
Sadly, comprehension might have dawned but he didn’t leave.
He crouched by the bed and offered in a soft voice, “You need me to carry you to the other room so you can have a bit of privacy?”
He thought I needed a chamber pot.
What was happening to my face?
The heat I felt in my cheeks could be nothing other than me blushing.
I didn’t blush. I’d never blushed. Not even when I’d set about seducing my first lover at age sixteen.
I needed to be quit of this man as soon as possible.
“No…I…do…not,” I bit out.
“Sure?” he asked kindly.
“I need you to leave, Noctorno,” I used his full name in an effort to irritate, something that worked if the flare in his eyes was any indication, “so Josette can prepare me. We’re away to Kristian’s this morning.”
Another drawing of his brows before he asked, “What?”
“After my toilette, Josette and I are to my sleigh so we can begin our journey to my brother’s home.”
His eyes got bigger as his mouth inquired peculiarly, “Are you high?”
“No,” I answered his ridiculous question unnecessarily, “Indeed, I’m low. As you can see since I’m lying abed.”
For a second he just stared at me.
Then he threw his head back and burst into loud, deep, beautiful laughter.
I wanted to throw something at him.
Unfortunately, in my current position, this was not an option open to me.
“I fail to see what’s amusing,” I noted.
He controlled his mirth only to mutter, “I’ll explain it later.” He went on more distinctly, “Frannie, you’re not goin’ to your brother’s today. Or tomorrow. Or until you’re fit. Then, maybe Valentine will spirit you there, or whatever the fuck that’s called. But for the foreseeable future, your ass is in that bed and you’re resting so you can heal.”
Who did he think he was, telling me what I would or would not do?
“As you’ve determined,” I began, “this is not the first time I’ve been in this condition so I do believe that I know best what I’m capable of and…”
I stopped speaking because he came slightly out of his crouch so he could put his face into my face and he was no longer looking mirthful.
He was looking angry.
“That was when you had no one lookin’ out for you but that’s not the case anymore. So this is how it’s gonna be,” he announced.
He then, to my shock, irritation and outrage, announced how it was going to be.
Like he had the right to tell me how it was going to be!
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Reaper's Fire by Joanna Wylde
Published by Berkley August 9, 2016
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Source: Copy for Honest Review
Also by this author: Reaper's Property
The club comes first.
I’ve lived by those words my whole life—assumed I’d die by them, too, and I never had a problem with that. My Reaper brothers took my back and I took theirs and it was enough. Then I met her. Tinker Garrett. She’s beautiful, she’s loyal, and she works so damned hard it scares me sometimes . . . She deserves a good man—one better than me. I can’t take her yet because the club still needs me. There’s another woman, another job, another fight just ahead.
Now she’ll learn I’ve been lying to her all along. None of it’s real. Not my name, not my job, not even the clothes I wear. She thinks I’m nice. She pretends we’re just friends, that I’ve still got a soul . . . Mine’s been dead for years. Now I’m on fire for this woman, and a man can only burn for so long before he destroys everything around him.
I’m coming for you, Tinker.
Tinker just may be my favorite Wylde heroine yet! She’s amazingly adorable and takes family and friendship very seriously.
Reaper’s Fire is the sixth book in the Reaper’s MC series. If you’ve made it this far, you know a few things.
1 – You should have a decent idea of where the story line heads.
2 – You already know Wylde has a wicked talent at balancing drama, humor, humanity and steamy romance.
3 – You’ll already be planning on one clicking this baby and you don’t really need me to try to sell it to you. So, I’ll widdle my thoughts down to these:
While Reaper’s Fire starts off fairly sad, Wylde eases it with cute and quirky humor. Especially between Gage and Tinker. Their flirting and growing attachment made me smile (I’m a huge sucker for some good flirting). As did the interactions between Tinker and her friends. They were very human and very fun.
My only issue with Reaper’s Fire is that some issues were left unresolved. I imagine it’s because they will play a role in future books, so I’m not all together bummed by this. It really makes me look forward to the next book, but at the same time…I was ready to see a certain someone go down.
So, maybe this isn’t my favorite of all the Reaper’s book, but it has my favorite heroine. I’ll take that as a huge win!