Best of March 2020

I was kinda stingy with my 5-star ratings in March, but the books that managed to rise to the challenge were EXCELLENT, and they’re from a pretty eclectic bunch of authors. It seems like the books I was looking forward to the most let me down, and the ones that snuck under my radar rose to the top. Normally, I would share a few of the things that I liked the most about each book, but looking back at my reviews, it’s easy to see how enthusiastic I was about all of them. Therefore, I’ve included my full review for each.

Looking ahead, April brings another interesting mix of new releases and I can’t wait to get reading. Honestly, with all that’s going on in the world, there will be some releases that are pushed back – but there will also be an intriguing crop of books moved forward to accommodate all of the readers who are stuck at home. I’m already seeing a lot of shifts in the release calendar, so I can’t wait to see what’s coming up. I think we’ll see lighter books leading the way for a while, and I have no complaints about that – with my husband at home 24/7, I find it much easier to read rom coms than intense, emotional reads that require my full attention!

I’ve got some promising ARCs sitting on my Kindle right now, including the followup to The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez, the next Hot Jocks book by Kendall Ryan, as well as May releases by Helena Hunting and Jennifer Probst – with plenty of others on the way!

Hate to Love Him by J. Saman

Fair warning: this is part two of an OUTSTANDING duet, so if you haven’t read the first book, check out that review here.

This had a lot to live up to after a fantastic first half… and it did not disappoint. Filled with sexual tension and a complex relationship that evolves over time, this draws you in and holds your attention the whole way through. It’s so, so sexy with some smoking hot scenes, but pairs that with plenty of tender moments that show the growing intimacy shared by our couple. And the ending… well, I found myself looking forward to a story I didn’t expect to want, and loving how everything played out.

Since this is a duet, it’s essential that you read the books in order – this picks up right where the last one left off. Things are definitely in a precarious position for our couple – Viola and Jasper are two people who are clearly meant to be together, but their history means there are countless obstacles in their path. If it’s not Jasper’s brother getting in their way, it’s the rock star lifestyle or the attention from the media. Where the first book focused on how Viola was breaking Jasper’s heart by being his brother’s girl, this one focuses on how Jasper is breaking Viola’s heart because he can’t see that she’s his. The rest, well, you’ll have to find that out for yourself.

If you’ve read the first half of the duet – which I recommend without hesitation – then I don’t need to explain how engrossing J. Saman’s writing is. She navigates the complexities with ease and makes this a book you cannot put down. I basically devoured this in one sitting, making sure my day was free because it’s a wild, tension-filled ride from start to finish.

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Taming Hollywood’s Baddest Boy by Max Monroe

A complete and utter DELIGHT to read, I loved this from the first page to the last. It’s got one incredibly memorable meet cute, so many funny moments, and chemistry that sparks off the page. I wasn’t even expecting the forced proximity, which just heightened all of the emotions and pushed this couple to open up to each other. It’s rom com goodness, enemies to lovers tension, and swoony feels all wrapped up together.

The story follows Luca, the former bad boy of Hollywood. He’s a child actor turned Oscar-level star who burned out quickly, relying on drugs, alcohol, and women more than he should. Leaving Hollywood behind, Luca fled to Alaska, where he’s spent the last 8 years living in peaceful seclusion… until Billie shows up at his door. A production assistant who seems to have promised to bring back Hollywood’s baddest boy, Billie is Luca’s worst nightmare wrapped in a beautiful package. As they clash over their competing interests, these two somehow find themselves falling for each other.

I love all of Max Monroe’s books, so I knew this would be good – but it was even better than I expected. There was never a dull moment, and who knew Alaska would be the perfect setting for romance? The forced proximity lead to tons of dialogue, banter, and a love story that feels like it develops in real time. I devoured this baby and can’t wait to see what’s next from this outstanding writing duo.

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Down and Dirty by Kendall Ryan

The best I’ve read from Kendall Ryan in a very long time! This was sweet and sexy all at once, with a hero who will make you swoon and a storyline that’s steamy but also heartfelt. Though I’ve read part of the Hot Jocks series, I’m not caught up. This easily reads as a standalone – there are cameos from beloved couples of books past, but the heart of the story is the central couple. If you’re at all worried that this virgin hero won’t bring the same level of sexy that Ryan’s readers have become accustomed to, don’t be! Landon is so adorably sexy, has a hint of alpha but also a tender, loving side, and though he’s a virgin, he’s also no saint.

The story follows Landon, a pro hockey player just getting his start. He’s made some great friendships, and Aubree is part of that group. She’s never shown any interest in Landon (perhaps because she’s 30 and he’s 23), but a drunken night in Vegas changes everything. Aubree freaks when they wake up married, but Landon takes it all in stride. His proposition? That he dates his wife before deciding whether to pursue an annulment. Landon’s been waiting for a real connection, and he thinks he might’ve found it with Aubree… now he just has to get her on the same page.

This was unexpectedly sweet and low angst – Ryan’s books are always steamy, but the storylines can have very different tones. Down and Dirty is a fast-paced, light read that doesn’t linger on anything heavy but still has an emotional pull. I really loved Landon, whose pursuit of Aubree was endearing and fun to read. I liked Aubree but she’s not as easy to connect to. Together they’ve got some serious chemistry and a connection that’s obvious. And, no, I had zero issues with the age gap or the contrast in their experience levels and there was no OW/OM drama at all, which is typically my biggest complaint about Ryan’s books. All in all, this was a pleasant surprise in every way and one of the best books I’ve read from her.

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Charmer by Kayley Loring

Such a FEEL GOOD, light, sweet, and SEXY read! I always look forward to Kayley Loring’s books, but I knew this was going to be a good one – and I was not wrong. It’s got a hero who may be a bit of a charmer, but he knows when he’s found the right girl. Nico is a playful musician with a playboy past who becomes the epitome of a swoonworthy hero by the end of the book. It’s the kind of read you can devour in one sitting; that will make you feel better about your day; that has such little angst that it will leave you with a smile on your face.

The story follows Nico, former child actor turned musician who has never had any trouble getting the girl – until now. He’s got his sights set on a waitress, and she has been putting up quite the fight. Kat’s a single mom who knows there’s no future for her and a musician who is constantly on the road, charms a different woman every day, and has never had a real relationship with anyone. So though she’d consider a fling (if she had time for one), she doesn’t take Nico’s advances seriously. But when he approaches her with a job opportunity, it changes the whole dynamic.

We met Nico back in Sleeper (absolutely not necessary to have read it in order to enjoy this, but a really good book), and I’ve been looking forward to his story ever since. It was obvious even then that the flirtatious musician is hiding a heart of gold, and that just became even more apparent as Charmer progressed. Loring excels at writing heroes you will fall for – they are always all about their girl, sweet and loving with a sexy side that comes out at the right moments. Nico shares some scenes with Kat’s son that will melt your heart… and also shares some steamy scenes with Kat that will set your Kindle on fire. If you’re looking for a book that’s just a light-hearted, easy read with quality writing, then you’ve found it with this.

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Changing Roles by Melanie Moreland

I’ve gotta say… this was nothing like I expected it to be, but everything I could’ve wanted. Something had me believing that this would be a heavier, more emotional read, but it is anything but. This sweet and tender (though still plenty sexy) romance has a lightness about it that pairs well with the doses of humor mixed in. Our hero is something of a lovable idiot – or at least he starts that way – who doesn’t know what hit him when he’s struck by the love bug. It’s an entertaining, truly unique read with a relationship that has an incredible amount of depth.

The story follows Liam, an actor who doesn’t mind letting others take care of him. He’s unashamed of the fact that he enjoys being pampered, so when he finds himself without a maid, he can’t wait to hire a replacement. Little does Liam know that his new live-in maid will have a huge impact on his life, quickly becoming a friend and confidant, then ultimately something more.

This caught me off-guard in the best of ways, with a hero who is not the norm, a heroine who is his perfect complement, and a relationship that progresses at its own pace. If I have one complaint about the book, it would be the pacing, but perhaps that’s just because I’ve become accustomed to things happening in a certain order within a romance novel. I was engaged in and interested by the story every step of the way, never quite knowing what would happen next, but definitely wanting to find out. Liam is such a lovable hero, and the depth of his feelings for Shelby were so, so swoonworthy. Yes, this has plenty of steamy scenes, but it’s got so much heart as well. That’s what really makes the book; it will make you smile, make you laugh, warm your heart, and hit you with just a little heartache.

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