Best of April 2021

April was definitely a hit or miss month, but the hits were REALLY good. I think you’ll be seeing more than one of these books on my Best of the Year list, possibly several of them. Twice Shy might just be my favorite book of the year so far; it was a swoony delight that made my heart go aflutter. I also absolutely loved From the Embers, which took me on an emotional journey. As did Falling Into Love With You, which took me from hate to love with one intensely sexy couple. I Pucking Love You and The Love Interest both proved why Grant and Loring are one-click authors for me, while Life’s Too Short was the perfect combination of charm and angst. I’ve also got one honorable mention, because the adorable The Seat Filler would’ve made this list in any other month.

May brings lots of new releases, and I’m very curious to see how the month will play out. It kicks off with MANY releases from traditional publishers, several of which I feel were mis-marketed as romance (a major pet peeve of mine). Once we get a little farther into the month, there will be releases from some of my favorite authors, including a few highly anticipated reads for me. If you missed my May Release Calendar, you can find it here – there are so many books to look forward to!

I’ve got my review for each of this month’s best books below – you can’t go wrong with any of these!


TOP PICKS

Perfection. There’s no sophomore slump here; this is delightful, distinct, and kinda delicious. I had literal happy tears spill from my eyes, and I was bawling like a baby by the end. It’s like sitting in your own personal happy place where everything is charming and romantic, full of tropey goodness, and more complex than it seems at first glance. The tone is so completely unique and swoony, with characters who are layered and a relationship that’s multi-faceted – I could not have anticipated how deep this would get, but it put me through every emotion. This slow burn is just the right kind of excruciating, going from less than nothing to simply EVERYTHING. And the dynamic? I’ve got to hand it to the author, she found yet another scenario that I have never read before – and that’s saying something. Go into this one blind; it’s much more complex than it seems on the surface, but just might be THE most romantic book I have ever read.

The story follows Maybell, a woman who is timid, insecure, and possibly forgettable. She prefers to live in her personal dreamland, thinking up different hopelessly romantic scenarios that are a million times better than real life. That all changes when Maybell inherits her great aunt’s estate, including a huge, neglected home in need of some TLC. The problem? Her co-inheritor. Wesley is the grouchy groundskeeper who cared for her aunt during her final years… and he’s also the man who is about to make Maybell’s life a whole lot more complicated.

As with You Deserve Each Other (another STELLAR read), it took me a few chapters to settle into the story and the writing, because this author has crafted a love story that feels completely unique. Our heroine isn’t always a reliable narrator and our hero is something of a mystery, so soaking in each word, analyzing each interaction is imperative. The story starts out tense, with an enemies to lovers feel that’s heightened by the forced proximity. These two have to work together to achieve their goals, and in the process, they slowly open up to each other in a way they haven’t with anyone else. This is honest, awkward, flawed, REAL love – and yet the author somehow also makes it feel like a warm hug. It’s downright SWOONY. And that ending? That’s when those happy tears kicked in. I loved this so very much. I was lucky enough to receive an early copy (then purchased it for my collection), and am voluntarily leaving a review of this heartwarming romance.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3mhP7cs
Bookshop Paperback: https://bookshop.org/a/18118/9780593085530


Well, I hope no one expects me to do anything productive today, because this kept me up reading LATE into the night. Or I suppose “morning” would be more accurate, lol! This was incredibly compelling from the first page; the kind of book that held my attention from the start and NEVER let go. I’ve never read anything quite like it. It’s a gut punch to your emotions in the best of ways, taking the reader on a slow-burning journey that tugs on your every heartstring. I was devastated right along with these characters more than once, but I also felt the glow of love when they finally found the good in life again. The build in intimacy was incredible, feeling rich and fully developed – even in a book that isn’t particularly long. And this hero? I want him for myself. He is the perfect combination of sexy and adorable, with a sweet, steady side that absolutely melted my heart.

The story follows Eason and Bree, two people who have been a part of each other’s lives for years, though neither one would really consider themselves friends. They’re married to each other’s best friends, so they spend holidays and vacations together, forming a family unit even though they don’t like each other. Eason thinks Bree is a judgmental ice queen, while Bree believes Eason is a musician who needs to let go of his dream and step up for his family. When a double date goes terribly wrong, and both of their lives go up in flames, Eason pulls a woman from the wreckage. But he saved the wrong woman, and that will change every part of his life going forward.

I wholeheartedly recommend that you go into this one blind. The journey is all part of the process, and there are some gasp-worthy moments in here. First and foremost, it’s about finding love after loss, sparking a fire from the embers and building the life you truly want. I loved the found family aspect, the bond between Eason and Bree, and the tender moments that will get to you. It’s the kind of slow burn that takes some patience, growing just a little bit at a time – but the payoff is oh so worth it. Eason is probably my favorite part of the book, but Bree gives as good as she gets, and the two together are something really special. This is the kind of 5-star rating that never once wavered; I loved every bit of it. The only tiny criticism I’ll offer – if it’s even that – is that I’m still digesting the final act. There’s a moment that just about stopped my heart, and the tonal shift is jarring. I would’ve been perfectly happy ending the book with the warm glow I was basking in prior to that moment, but I’ve gotta hand it to the author – I didn’t see it coming. Looking back, there are countless threads that are pulled together by that moment, but it might’ve been a step too far. I don’t know. All I know is that this was outstanding, and one of the easiest 5-star ratings I’ve given in awhile. I received an early copy (then purchased it for my collection), and am voluntarily leaving a review of this emotional romance.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2PPozDv


The third time’s the charm! I was mentally prepared for this to devastate me, and that made the reading experience go much smoother. If you think I’m joking, then you clearly haven’t read this author’s first two books, lol! She is a phenomenal writer, but I found the tonal shift in her first two books to be too jarring, and they kinda wrecked me (and wrecked the books for me too, in a way). That wasn’t the case with this one; there’s a bittersweet tone to the entire book, and it’s sprinkled with heartache. This is still very much a rom com, with plenty of light and carefree moments, but you know everything is going to come to a head at some point. I loved the opposites attract dynamic; Adrian is such a workaholic that days pass by without him even realizing it, while Vanessa doesn’t take a moment for granted. Their lifestyles are completely different, but they end up being perfect complements for each other, and that was so great to read.

The story follows Vanessa, a woman who knows she has a 50/50 chance of developing ALS, a disease that has taken the lives of several women in her family before they reached the age of thirty. Knowing that, she lives every day as if it could be her last, and she’s built up a successful vlog dedicated to the cause. Though she’s very successful, Vanessa’s life seems to be one never-ending hot mess, and she would never wish that on anyone else – or bring anyone else into that (possibly temporary) life. So her world gets complicated when she becomes the guardian to a baby girl, meets a man who makes her feel complete, and finds herself falling in love against her will.

It took awhile for me to like Vanessa, because she is so focused on her death. Simple as that. I appreciate that the author wove that storyline into the whole book, but it does take a bit to wrap your head around. Adrian, on the other hand, I loved right away. He doesn’t know what hit him, and he’s completely unprepared for the whirlwind that is Vanessa. I loved the two of them together, and the quieter moments are fantastic. This author has a skill for putting her readers on an emotional journey, and this has a little of everything. The back half was really the strongest part of the book for me, which is the opposite of my last two experiences with her work. Once Vanessa won me over, I was entirely invested in their love story, and that made the ups and downs more impactful. This is a rom com with emotion, and just the kind of book I love to read. I was lucky enough to receive an early copy (then purchased it for my collection), and am voluntarily leaving a review of this heartfelt romance.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3tWHAmQ
Bookshop Paperback: https://bookshop.org/a/18118/9781538715666


Please note: this is book two in a steamy rock star duet. If you haven’t read Falling Out of Hate With You yet, you can check out my review here

Okay, well, that was kinda awesome! After reading the first half of this duet, I still wasn’t completely sold on this couple, but I was intrigued enough by their combustible chemistry to keep reading. And I’m so glad that I did. This installment was everything I hoped it would be – and then some. These two go from volatile to adorable and back again, constantly changing up the dynamic to make for a compelling, highly bingeable read. I absolutely ADORED Savage by the end; he steals the show. This rock star is brought to his knees in a big way, and this half of the story is all kinds of swoony. It’s still a pretty intense, HOT read, but there’s so much more to it than that.

This picks up right where Falling Out of Hate With You left off, so it’s 100% necessary to read that first. While I didn’t love everything about that portion of the love story – the love is largely absent – this references so many events from that and reframes them to advance the story. I loved all of the threads that were woven in, and everything that I disliked about that part became essential to making this half great. The focus is primarily on the reality TV show that Savage and Laila are a part of, and the new dynamic between them.

Initially, I still had a few doubts about this. Laila and Savage make the transition from loathe/lust to love in the blink of an eye, but there are still major communication issues between them. They’ve chosen to ignore the red flags that have popped up along the way. But the author is fully aware of that, and it all comes to a head later on. It’s still a mega STEAMY installment, but the focus is on establishing the emotional connection and finally digging deeper. That’s without a doubt the best part of the book, and the contrasts between the two parts of the story are striking. If you’re in the mood for a wild, sexy, intense ride, then this duet is well worth a read. I received an early copy and am voluntarily leaving a review of this intensely sexy love story.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3hQqS2Z


A truly FANTASTIC, outlandish, and romantic back half more than makes up for the slow start on this one. We’ll talk about that slow start in a minute, but I’ve gotta talk about my love of Tyler and Muffy first. These two are the quintessential quirky couple, and their love story is SO FUNNY, offbeat, and smile-inducing… plus it’s got some stellar sexual tension. Once I got a better feel for the story, I really fell for these two, and the back half was so, so good. It’s low angst, playful, and 100% unique. Prepare to laugh often while reading this heartfelt rom com, because there’s no way you won’t fall for this couple once you get to know them.

How do I explain the plot without sounding like a crazy person? I don’t think I can. Essentially, the story follows Muffy and Tyler, two semi-friends who had a not-so-sexy hookup a few months ago. While they had started to get close in a semi-friendly, semi-flirty way before the encounter, the hookup had our playboy hero running scared. Tyler’s got way too many sisters to ever want a real relationship (he doesn’t need one more woman in his life), so hooking up with someone he genuinely enjoys spending time with complicates matters. So does the fact that he hasn’t been able to “get excited” ever since, whether he’s alone or with someone else. When Muffy needs a plus one to a vaguely described event, Tyler jumps at the chance – he’s hoping that figuring out where he went wrong will make everything right in his world again. But he’s got no idea what he’s in for.

So let’s talk about that slow start. There are two things that kept me a little detached at the beginning, so it took longer than usual to love this. One, the book opens with Tyler trying (unsuccessfully) to hook up with a puck bunny or two, and I wasn’t sure that I liked him for awhile. That was definitely NOT an issue later on. Two, this isn’t as much of a standalone as it thinks it is. I’ve read pretty much everything she’s written in the last couple of years, but this connects to a series from 2018-2019, and my memory of that is foggy. I felt like maybe I missed the start of Tyler and Muffy’s love story, and if you’re not at least vaguely familiar with the characters from her older series, then you might get overwhelmed at times. Once I settled into the story a bit, that was no longer a problem.

So how does this still get 5 stars from me? Because the rest of the book was that good.

I absolutely LOVED Tyler and Muffy together after around the 30% mark, and then it was just a fantastic read from then on. Tyler is positively SWOONY, and I loved the way he lifts Muffy up. There are some great moments of building up Muffy’s self-esteem, connecting on a deeper level, and realizing that you need to love yourself before you’ll be ready to accept love from someone else. That’s what makes this such a great read. Yes, the comedy is plentiful and I laughed frequently, but it’s those heart-melting moments that sealed the deal for me. This is also pretty steamy later on, with lots of sexual tension and so much chemistry. I’m ready to dive back into the series now, and look forward to what looks to be happening next. I received an early copy (then purchased it for my collection), and am voluntarily leaving a review of this very quirky comedy.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3dEyT9o


Another wholly unique, chemistry-filled, SWOONY love story from this author! This couple’s meet cute was just a little bit magical, and that bantery goodness kept the magic alive throughout the book. Their relationship has a little of everything, from grumpy/sunshine to student/professor to optimist/realist. I loved the opposites attract vibe, and I absolutely adored this couple together. It’s apparent from their first interaction that Emmett and Fiona are PERFECT for one another – even if their journey to happily ever after is a rocky one. The sexual tension was INTENSE at times, but the sexy, swoony moments made it all worth it. I can always count on this author for storylines that feel distinctly different than the norm, and this is another great one.

The story follows Fiona (25), an aspiring author who came to New York City to go to grad school and pursue her dream. On a night when she’s feeling particularly alone, Fiona meets a sexy stranger. It’s clear from the start that Emmett (35) is moody, broody, and too handsome for his own good, but that only makes Fiona want to get to know him better. They spend one magical evening together and both hope that it will lead to something more, but their budding relationship is sidelined by an unexpected issue. It turns out that Emmett is actually the author who will be teaching Fiona’s writing class this semester, and there’s no way they can be together without tanking his teaching career before it even gets started.

Part of me wants to call this a slow burn to SIZZLE romance, because WOW does this get smokin’ towards the end. But the sexual tension is palpable from the start, and the forbidden nature of Emmett and Fiona’s relationship means that their every interaction is tense and filled with the promise of more. The swoony moments, though? Are everything. I loved the tender interactions the most, and the transformation of Emmett from start to finish is so fulfilling. I would’ve liked a few more sweet moments and a few less excerpts from Emmett and Fiona’s novels, but the letter-writing and storytelling are a huge part of what makes this feel so unique. It feels distinctive from the first page – yet completely like the author’s voice – which is one of the things I love most about her books. And if you’re worried about the student/teacher, age gap dynamic – don’t be. Fiona is fiercely independent and her vibrancy is what makes Emmett come alive again. It’s a little sweet, a lot sexy, and has the kind of chemistry that’s combustible.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3x17K9A


HONORABLE MENTION

This was the dose of SWEETNESS that I needed in my life! It’s cute, charming, and just a little bit sexy. I loved the slow build from strangers to friends to lovers, and somehow this author has again made a “clean” book simmer with sexual tension. This hero is almost too good to be true, and I loved his kindness, patience, and single-minded focus. Our heroine makes a somewhat unreliable narrator, but it’s so easy to see our hero falling head over heels. From the meet cute to the HEA, these two are absolutely ADORABLE together. And any reservations I had about that blurb evaporated as the intimacy between them grew.

The story follows Juliet, a 24-year-old woman who has never really been kissed. After a traumatic “7 minutes in Heaven” during her teenage years and the disastrous events that followed, she associates kissing and relationships with anxiety and fear. So when she meets Noah, a Hollywood heartthrob and the former child actor who starred in her teenage dreams… she’s not as starstruck as she probably should be. While filling in as a seat filler at an awards show, Noah and Juliet strike up a conversation that leaves the actor wanting more. And as they continue running into each other – and Juliet keeps rejecting Noah – they form a connection that starts to feel a lot like friendship with the hint of something more.

I’ll openly admit that I was a little hesitant about this blurb, though still very much interested in the story. I typically love her writing, so I dove right in – and do not regret it! This was a low angst delight with the kind of slow burn romance I love; it’s about friendship first, with subtle hints of more throughout. There’s no real “steam,” but it’s a sexy book with a whole lot of kissing, and the chemistry was definitely there. And even though we never get Noah’s perspective, I felt like I knew exactly what he was thinking along the way… even if Juliet didn’t. Noah is what makes this book what it is; he’s patient and loving throughout, entirely respectful of Juliet’s anxiety, and consistently a genuinely good human being. I loved him so much. There were maybe one or two moments when this was a little too sugary sweet, but you know what? I’m not complaining. It was exactly what I was in the mood for, and just a charming, compelling read. I received an early copy and am voluntarily leaving a review of this Hollywood romance.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/32LhN4S


Did you see my May Release Calendar?

It includes the 50+ May releases I’m excited about AND 250 upcoming books that are available for preorder! Check it out here.


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