If you can believe it, we’re almost halfway through the year! 2021 has been a bit of an unpredictable ride so far, but the new romances have been very, very solid. So I thought I’d take a minute to look back on some of my favorite 2021 releases – so far.
In case you’re wondering, I’ve reviewed 140 romance novels that have released in 2021. That’s (43) 5-star reads, (49) 4-star reads, (35) 3-star reads, (11) 2-star reads, and (2) 1-star reads. I’ve also had at least 20 DNFs, though I haven’t talked about those yet. I probably will at some point, lol.
As I browsed through my Best of the Month lists, certain books immediately jumped to the top of the list. The intense, addictive The Brit is probably my favorite dark read of the year – though there have been some stellar mafia romances, including Ruthless Creatures and Mafia Bride. I’ll be reading the followups to both of those books in the coming days, so we’ll see if the sequels manage to knock either book off of this list. Twice Shy and Make It Sweet top my list of lighter reads, though both pack an emotional punch that keeps them at the top of the pack. My favorite angsty reads are definitely From the Embers and Ever After Always, both of which feature second chance at love stories (though neither is a second chance romance, lol). When it comes to sexual tension, The Perfect Catch and Forbidden undoubtedly lead the way.
There’s a little bit of everything on this list! I’ve included my book review for each book below, as well as links to Amazon for easy addition to your collection. I’m looking forward to whatever the second half of the year brings, because there is sure to be some good stuff on the way!
Oh. My. God. This book is just… wow. You’re either going to really love it or really hate it; there is ZERO in between with this one. And while there are things in here that should’ve tanked this romance for me, there was no stopping my love of this book. It’s just twist after dark and delicious twist; a completely, unquestionably unpredictable ride from start to finish. This is the kind of book where every page is important, because there is just SO MUCH going on, and it’s an intricate dance from loathe to love for this couple. The cat and mouse game got to me at times, and this antihero would truly terrify me if I ever met him in person, but… that doesn’t mean I didn’t love this messy, addictive, and DARK mafia romance.
Normally I’d give some storyline details here, but you don’t really want me to do that. Go into this one blind; I did, and I do not regret it. Just know that this is dark and steamy, twisted and messy, with characters who are flawed and broken to their cores. This is not an easy or average kind of love; it’s poisonous and often toxic. There are acts of extreme violence punctuated by soft, tender moments of intense intimacy, and the contradictions throughout will keep you on your toes. I never, ever knew what to expect, and that is seriously all part of the fun. If you’d told me the plot and some of the conflicts ahead of time, I would NOT have read this. No question. On paper, there are elements to this story that are a complete turnoff to me, but they somehow didn’t do anything to decrease my love for this couple – even if they had me wanting to throw my Kindle sometimes. But fair warning: this is not a love story for everyone. And I think it goes without saying that the storyline is just riddled with TRIGGERS of all kinds.
Are you still with me? Good, because this is well worth a read.
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.
Want to know what I did the SECOND I finished this book? Grabbed the first two books in the series, because this was OUTSTANDING. It’s a love letter to marriage, best understood by those who’ve been in one, but no less powerful if you haven’t. It’s difficult and heart-wrenching, raw and real, and the progress this couple makes is so powerful. The storyline probably won’t be for everyone, but the journey is absolutely worth it – especially because of how good you’ll feel by the end. This may have been my first time reading something by this author, but it was just the beginning of my love for her work.
The story follows Freya and Aiden, a married couple who have been together for over a decade. Their once-solid relationship seems to be crumbling, and things have gotten so bad that all communication has broken down. Aiden doesn’t realize that his marriage is even in jeopardy until his wife packs his bags. It’s a startling wakeup call that makes him a little desperate to put the pieces back together. But no matter how much love there is between them, there’s no fixing this marriage until all of their cards are on the table. When a family vacation forces Freya and Aiden to come together, they realize that they’ve got to put in a whole lot of work if there’s any hope of a future for them.
I loved how honest this is. It takes two people to make a marriage work, and love is not enough to keep things going. Freya and Aiden are both genuinely good people who love each other – and I’m talking about the kind of deep love that only comes from years spent getting to know someone. I felt for both of them, and I really appreciated that neither one was “at fault” for bringing them to this point. They’ve both got things they need to work on, and they’ve let those things spiral out of control, but there’s nothing that’s insurmountable. The build in intimacy is a thing of beauty, and the author does an excellent job showcasing that. There’s a subtlety that works, and I loved all of those quieter moments. It’s the kind of slow burn that’s necessary, building back up the emotional connection before things turn physical – though there are plenty of sexy moments on the way there. I was lucky enough to receive an early copy via NetGalley and am voluntarily leaving a review of this marriage in trouble romance.
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.
Phenomenal – a tense, sexy, intimate treat. Walker might just be my favorite MQ hero EVER. And that’s saying something, because she excels at writing alpha heroes with gooey marshmallow centers. I absolutely ADORED this grumpalicious hero; he’s a beast of a man on the outside, but so, so SWOONY once you get to know him better. This couple’s chemistry leapt off the page, and I loved the focus on intimacy. These two realize that there’s no way they can be together, so it’s a torturous slow burn that highlights the emotional connection. It also subtly ties three series together in a way that is sure to delight longtime fans – as will seeing Walker finally find his HEA. We’ve been teased by this broody bachelor for years, and his love story exceeded my expectations.
The story follows Walker, a baseball player who has lost his love of the sport. It’s no secret that he’s one of the most hated men in baseball, and that does nothing to improve his mood. Walker is quick to lose his temper and has a shell that’s tough to crack, but behind his intimidating persona is a kind, caring man. When the team decides that it’s time for Walker to clean up his image, he’s sent to work with Kate. She doesn’t back down when Walker gets surly, and even helps him smile again. But the team has a very strict no fraternization policy, so crossing the line would jeopardize both of their careers. As feelings develop and attraction increases, it becomes impossible for Walker and Kate to keep things strictly professional.
When this hero was announced, I snuck a peek at some of the books in my collection to refresh my memory. And refresh it did! Walker has had memorable cameos in several books, and I’ve been intrigued every time he’s been on the page (this is still definitely a standalone). He lived up to every expectation that I had for him – never has a hero been so completely smitten with a woman. I loved his singular focus on Kate, his sweet side paired with his intense alpha vibes, and his vulnerability. I just loved him, plain and simple. The two together make this an angsty, sexy read. While this still has the humor that I love about MQ’s work, it’s definitely got a forbidden feel that adds a level of tension. I had moments when I was frustrated by the situation and thought this take-charge hero would’ve done more, but that’s all part of the story. The growth in intimacy was my favorite part, and that was highlighted by some sizzling, emotional scenes. This had me absolutely HOOKED from start to finish, and I loved every minute of it. I was lucky enough to receive an early copy (then purchased it for my collection), and am voluntarily leaving a review of this forbidden romance.
I loved every minute of this, from the heartbreaking prologue, to the near-constant sexual tension, to the absolutely SWOONY conclusion. I knew this was going to be something special when I was holding back tears within 5 minutes of reading, and that turned out to be completely true. The immediate ZAP of connection between these two was just the start of the palpable chemistry between them. It’s sexy and intense, but also an excruciatingly slow burn, and I loved the push/pull dynamic. Isabel and Aiden are both fierce and strong, with vulnerabilities that leave them raw and exposed. Their chemistry was electric from the start, and it slowly simmered into something really beautiful by the end.
The story follows Isabel, the spitfire of a woman that we’ve met in previous books in the series. Though this will definitely read as a standalone, those who have been following the series will appreciate the truly great family moments. Isabel is the most stubborn, strong sister of the bunch, and she rarely lets anything get under her skin. But when a former fighter takes over ownership of the gym Isabel works at, it throws her completely off-balance. Ten years her senior, Aiden is a retired athlete whose poster graced Isabel’s teenage walls. She’s always felt a connection to him, but that’s nothing compared to how she feels once they meet in person. The problem? Aiden is a widower who is just trying to make a peaceful life for his daughter. And being near Isabel is anything but relaxing.
There’s seriously nothing sexier than a big, brute of a man who is so completely gentle around his daughter. Aiden is probably one of the kindest, most caring heroes I’ve read about, and the contrasts between his profession and his personality are positively swoon-worthy. I absolutely loved him. And Isabel is his perfect match; they are so similar in certain ways, yet vastly different in others. The found family element and shared heartache are strong elements here, as is the endless sexual tension. This is my favorite kind of slow burn, where the intensity is there from start to finish – but lines aren’t crossed until the perfect moment. I just devoured this, completely engaged in the relationship from start to finish. And it wraps the series up with a tidy little bow, while also leaving me wanting more. I was lucky enough to receive an early copy (then purchased it for my collection), and am voluntarily leaving a review of this forbidden romance.
Who would’ve thought that the Italian playboy would have the SWOONIEST love story? Not me, I’ll tell you that. Though I’ve been loving this series so far, I was a little bit nervous about Enzo’s book, because last we saw him, he was dating a twenty-year-old and still giving smoldering looks to every woman who walked by. But he is just a big ball of adorable in this, and I loved every minute of it. The perfect combination of sweet, sass, and steam, this leads with the sexual tension before transitioning into a heartfelt, emotional read that excels at subtlety. I loved the honesty, the juxtaposition of viewpoints, and the build from (almost) loathe to lust to lasting love.
The story follows Enzo, a man from an Italian Catholic family. His parents expect him to settle down and get married sooner rather than later, and the family business is on the line. A playboy at heart, Enzo still doesn’t feel ready to get married, but he’s willing to make it happen if it gets him the business. Things don’t go according to plan with his first proposal, but they start looking up when Bianca enters the picture. A frenemy from a family with similar values to his own, Bianca is the kind of woman who stirs up all kinds of feelings in Enzo. Not the sexual kind, of course. Enzo still remembers Bianca as the quiet bookworm he knew in his teens, but she’s always known how to push his buttons. When Bianca agrees to temporarily be his wife – as long as she can try for the baby she’s always wanted – Enzo doesn’t see the harm in a business transaction between frenemies.
The friction between these two is fantastic – a bit of sexual tension that isn’t readily apparent to either character, but builds along the way. They seem like opposites on the surface, but the better they get to know each other, the more commonalities they find. I loved some of the subtler moments – the peek into married life, the strain infertility can have on a relationship, and how both Enzo and Bianca shoulder the “blame” for not getting pregnant. This has plenty of light and steamy moments, but there are some emotional ones as well. There’s a little of everything, and that’s what makes this such a great read. So, I’m happy to say that Enzo was everything I could’ve hoped for and more – a sweet, loving, arrogant man who still knows how to smolder.
I loved this SO MUCH. So very much. I always look forward to this author’s books, and this was absolutely everything that I want from her work: a delicate dance towards love, a slow and torturous burn, intense intimacy, and quiet moments that have such impact. This hero is broken in the best of ways, and I adored his journey towards loving himself again. Lucian hides the sweetest man underneath a mountain of grump, and I was so completely invested in his story. It’s sports romance done in a way I’ve never read before, Hollywood romance done with subtlety, and a second chance at life romance that broke my heart.
The story follows Lucian, a hockey star whose career ended while his body was still in prime condition. After one too many concussions, he made the difficult decision to end his career, but that’s left him adrift. A little broken and licking his wounds, Lucian has been staying with his grandmother on her estate. Isolation and avoidance have worked for Lucian – at least until Emma enters the picture. An actress who just found out that she’s been axed from her starring role, Emma has her own issues. Though the two initially clash, Emma soon discovers that the temperamental yet tantalizing man might just be hiding something extraordinarily sweet behind his stony exterior.
The first book in this series wasn’t a total win for me, so I went into this one cautiously optimistic. I’ve loved – LOVED – several of this author’s books in the past, so I was really hoping this would be good. It blew “good” out of the water. It’s quiet and slow burning, requiring a little patience from the reader, but the payoff is so worth it. I loved the intensity, the intimacy, and all of the CHEMISTRY between these two. I’d consider this to be a hot slow burn, because there were some moments that had me shifting in my seat before things even got physical. This hero is fantastic, and his raw vulnerability took the story to another level. I want more and I want it now; this was so, so good. I was lucky enough to receive an early copy via NetGalley (then purchased it for my collection), and am voluntarily leaving a review of this emotional slow burn.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: this (anti)hero isn’t all bad, and that’s what makes this forced marriage/mafia romance shine. It’s the softer, subtler moments that turn this into a love story – though there’s plenty of aggression and intensity as well. This couple goes on an emotional journey, and the author does an outstanding job showcasing the small moments that have the biggest impact. This is the ultimate slow burn, and it’s push/pull, hate/love, command/submit until the very last page. And that CLIFFHANGER? Buckle up, because it’s just getting started.
The story follows Violetta, a young woman (19) who was raised in America by fiercely traditional Italian family members. She’s aware of the contrasts between the two cultures, but considers herself to be a true American – independent with her own future ahead of her. That all changes when the “king” comes for a visit. Santino (33) is of that traditional world Violetta has only witnessed from the sidelines, and he is both feared and revered. So when Santino claims Violetta as his bride and announces that the wedding will take place immediately – or her family will die – that causes the most extreme of culture clashes. Suddenly, Violetta is forced to accept that her life is no longer her own.
I’ll admit: I was a little terrified of that blurb, but I also love a good mafia romance with JUST the right level of darkness, so I couldn’t resist giving this a try. Well, now I guess I’m locked in for three books, because this was engrossing and immensely devourable. The slow burn was the perfect amount of excruciating, the sexual tension set this book on FIRE, and Santino’s underlying compassion was everything. This couple is at the heart of every page once the story gets going, and the proximity made this such a rich, impactful read. I couldn’t put it down, and there was zero chance that I was going to sleep without finishing.
Am I worried about where this is headed next? Yes. I knew going in that the darkness and style of steam might be too much for me. For Santino, violence is a form of foreplay, and I’m betting we haven’t seen anything yet. The steam is definitely not for the faint of heart, but it matches this couple, so I’m willing to step outside of my comfort zone. Santino is not all bad, Violetta is not all good, and their relationship is not all black and white. The author has left some serious breadcrumbs along the way, and I can only guess where this is headed in the next installment, because that cliffhanger threw everything off-balance once again. I cannot wait to dive in. I received an early copy and am voluntarily leaving a review of this intense, dark romance.
THIS is how you do second chance romance! It’s a trope that I tend to avoid, but every once in awhile, I’ll read one that will just absolutely knock it out of the park – like this. It’s deeply romantic, with the perfect amount of angst, longing, and tender moments. The sexual tension and unending love are present in every scene, and the tiny snippets of filthy flashbacks give this some serious HEAT while remaining a slow burn. I loved the quick dialogue, the obvious affection between these two – and the suspenseful storyline just ratcheted everything up another notch. Everybody could use a husband like Cope; he completely melted my heart.
This follows Serena and Cope, two people whose love story should’ve lasted a lifetime. They were young and a little reckless when they got married, but their bond was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of connection, and neither one could see a future without their partner in it. Unfortunately, they both have dangerous jobs, and standing back while the one you love puts themselves in harm’s way is not an easy thing. They weren’t strong enough to work through those issues the first time around, so they’ve spent the last four years apart… though neither one has made any real effort to move on. And they’re still married. So when Cope is assigned as Serena’s bodyguard at her first major surfing competition, it brings them back into each other’s lives, and those dangerous jobs are front and center.
While this is more suspenseful than the romance I’ve been reading lately, that really worked for the storyline. It’s Serena and Cope’s jobs and insecurities that tore them apart the first time, so it makes sense that they’d be at the forefront of any potential reconciliation. I adored the intensity of their love, from the brokenhearted banter, to the sizzling chemistry, to the obvious devotion. And the steamy scenes are smokin’ hot while showcasing their shared intimacy. This is free from any OW/OM drama, and I have zero doubt that both Serena and Cope missed their partner every day they spent apart. The angst comes into play because there isn’t an easy solution; if there was a simple way to move forward, they would’ve done that already. This whole story put me through my paces emotionally, because it’s got a little of everything. But I was wholeheartedly rooting for these two to move forward, and their reconciliation seriously gave my heart some flutters. I was lucky enough to receive an early copy and am voluntarily leaving a review of this marriage in trouble romance.
This antihero? Holy wowza, he is overwhelmingly INTENSE in the best of ways. An undomesticated alpha with a raw intensity that will keep you turning the pages, this antihero is loyal, lovable, and completely unforgettable. Every scene this couple is in together is SCORCHING, even when they’re fully dressed. The author was not lying when she said that this book is her hottest and dirtiest yet. I’ve read sixteen of her books now, so the level of steam doesn’t usually surprise me, but WOW, this couple has the kind of chemistry that cannot be ignored. I personally would’ve liked the steam to be taken down a notch or two, but the style fit perfectly with this particular couple, there’s no denying that. If you’re looking for an intensely sexy ride that will pull you in and hold your attention all the way through, this will definitely deliver.
The story follows Natalie, a woman whose life ended when her fiancé disappeared the day before their wedding five years ago. She’s been adrift ever since – celibate, depressed, and often suicidal. Then Kage enters her life. He’s mysterious, fiercely sexy, and incredibly scary, because he just reeks of bad news. But the chemistry between them is undeniable, and Kage has zero problem stating his intentions: he wants her. Natalie is confident that spending time with Kage is a terrible, terrible idea, but he’s brought her back to life in a way that she did not think was possible, and that’s got to count for something.
There are some incredible moments in this book that just took my breath away. I loved Kage from the start, and I never ever questioned his desire for Natalie. He’s not a good man – he’ll openly admit that – but I loved the vulnerability that laid beneath his rough exterior. Those tender moments are what made the book for me, even when it was the intensity that pulled me in. I didn’t always love the particular brand of steam in this one, but this is a truly unique couple, and the dynamics were absolutely fascinating. I loved the progression – how we see Natalie bloom and come alive again; how we see Kage turn from monster back into man. And I loved the dark humor that’s present throughout. There were small things along the way that bugged me, but nothing that took away from this pulse-pounding love story. It’s an intense, addictive ride – not light, easy, or tame, but wholly captivating. I received an early copy (then purchased it for my collection), and am voluntarily leaving a review of this steamy romance.
I made the mistake of underestimating how much I was going to enjoy this, and ended up reading WAY too late into the night because of that. I absolutely loved it! This slow-burning, subtle romance is deeper and richer than I anticipated, with a somewhat somber tone that just works for the story. It’s as much about Hollywood and family dynamics as it is about romance – but the romance is definitely the star. I adored the hero, a man who does nothing but prove himself to be a fantastic guy throughout, despite his past behavior. And the chemistry? Is the kind that every film director WISHES their actors had. The writing style makes this feel like a movie come to life, and I could envision every scene. So don’t start this before bed, or you might end up having a sleepless night – like me!
The story follows Sloane, an actress whose personal and professional lives both seem to be crumbling. Her character just got killed off an under-appreciated TV show, her ex just wrote an album describing her every fault, and she’s just taken a producer job that feels a lot like pity. Every member of Sloane’s family has some kind of role in the movie that she’ll be working on, and the starring role probably should’ve been hers. But they hired the one man Sloane despises – a former co-star who almost made her leave the business. When Sloane worked with Joseph five years ago, she saw the darker side of Hollywood, and it’s not an experience that she’d like to revisit. But as the two start spending more time together, it quickly becomes apparent that he’s not that guy anymore. And Sloane might just like the man he is now a little too much.
This book is going to work best for those who love a slow burn (closed door) romance, a mysterious hero, and an insight into the intricacies of Hollywood. I loved all three aspects equally, so that made this one captivating read. We only get Sloane’s perspective, and I wouldn’t call her the most reliable narrator, so the story gets more layered and nuanced as it goes on. Even without Joseph’s side of the story, his vulnerability and sweet side shone through. I loved his personal growth (recovered alcoholic), and their chemistry was magnetic. We also get some fascinating peeks at Hollywood, which made this feel so authentic. There was probably a little too much focus on family dynamics for me, but that’s mostly because I wanted as much Sloane and Joseph as I could get. Those two had me completely hooked, and I devoured this in one sitting. I received an early copy and am voluntarily leaving a review of this Hollywood romance.
Releases on June 22nd!
I’m not even going to tell you how late I was up reading this, but let’s just say that it was an unexpected swoony DELIGHT, and I couldn’t stop reading. Learn from my mistakes; clear your schedule and spend the day with this outstanding debut. It’s the kind of immersive, intelligent read that hooks you in from the start and keeps you smiling throughout. I loved the playful enemies to lovers vibes between these two, the forced proximity, and all of the banter. And for a “clean” romance, there was all kinds of sexual tension throughout, snapping at the perfect moments. Add in some serious summertime feelings that make you feel like you’re on vacation, and this was just my kind of read.
The story follows Henley (like the shirt) and Graeme (like the cracker), two coworkers who have only ever met via video conference. While they’ve been working – and sparring – with each other for over a year, they really only know the basics about each other. So when they discover that they’re competing for the same promotion and a cruise to the Galapagos will determine their fate, it throws everything off-balance. After meeting Graeme in person, Henley soon realizes that he’s not the guy she thought he was, and that may prove to be a major distraction.
Told exclusively from Henley’s point of view, the reader is left with doubt about how these two really feel about each other. Think The Hating Game or You Deserve Each Other (two of my all-time favorites), which unravel a little bit at a time. The writing style is easy to devour, and you’ll be pulled in right away. Honestly, I started reading this before bed just to get a feel for the vibe, and, well, I finished before I went to sleep… sometime in the morning, lol. It’s light and easy with some poignant moments, touching on serious subjects like sexual harassment and abuse while still feeling very much like a rom com. And you’ll want to visit this tropical paradise before the book is over, because the setting plays a major role in the story. Plus, Graeme is kinda the ideal book boyfriend – a Midwestern sweetheart with a little bit of alpha intensity, who is loyal, loving, kind, and seriously swoony. It’s an all-around great read, and I am absolutely looking forward to more from the author.
So, confession time. When I started reading this, I thought I was in for a steamy, easy, palate cleanser of a read. I’ve only read one other book by this author, and it was a sexy good time – but didn’t leave me wanting more. Well, then I started reading this one… and found myself up past 3 in the morning, wondering just how late I could stay up and still function at work. I LOVED it. So much bantery goodness, so much chemistry, and all of these little lines that had me cracking up. It got better with every chapter, building on the initial “predictable” rom com feel and taking things up a notch. And it was SEXY. Let’s call this one a hot slow burn, because the tension between these two was palpable.
The story follows Paige and Oliver, two people who work in different departments of the same chain of hotels. They ran into each other at the hotel bar one night, and found themselves sharing one steamy evening together. It was never really a problem, because they don’t work together on a regular basis… that is, until a promotion sends Oliver right into Paige’s orbit. Though it’s been four years since their night together, all of those memories come rushing back to the surface when they go on a two-week business trip. And while it’s easy to say that they can keep things professional, actually following through on that becomes next to impossible once they get to know each other better.
I loved the playfulness of this, and the fact that these two don’t just immediately jump back into bed together. There’s all kinds of delicious tension, and the build in intimacy makes the payoff that much better. It’s steamy, fun, low angst, and just what I like in my rom coms. There was one steamy scene that wasn’t to my personal taste, but it lasted all of two pages and that’s really the only thing I didn’t love about the book. It was excellent from start to finish, and the snap of tension was a thing of beauty. There’s one scene where I went from having all of the warm and fuzzy feelings to taking in a shocked breath along with one of these characters. I was 100% invested in this relationship from start to finish, and I loved its hidden depth. I’ll definitely be checking out more from this author now – this was fantastic. I received an early copy via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review of this workplace romance.
Truth? I passed on this book – HARD – the first, second, and possibly third time that I read the blurb. It’s deceptively vague, and I had visions of every other problematic, friends with benefits, new adult “romance” that I’ve read in the last few years, and I was NOT interested. Then a book buddy mentioned that both characters still have their v-cards… and that blurb suddenly took on a whole different meaning. This is so very different than what I expected, so very different than any other new adult romance that I have read, and so very entrancing. Once I settled into the story, I was IN, and there was no stopping my love for this couple.
The story follows Bennett, a college student (21) who has loved Aspen (23) since the day he was born. Their love has evolved over the years, but it has never wavered. And while their bond has the makings of an epic love story, it has started to feel more like a tragedy. Complicated family dynamics made Bennett wary of officially crossing the line from friends to lovers, so he set rules to their relationship years ago. But Aspen has held onto the hope of more for years, and now she’s reached her breaking point. The reality that he could really, truly lose Aspen has made Bennett a desperate man, and he knows that it’s time to give in or give her up.
While I typically shy away from childhood friends to lovers romance because there always seems to be OW/OM drama and eye-rolling teenage angst, these two are so obviously in love with each other that there was nothing and no one that would come between them. I absolutely LOVED their bond; it is rock solid in some ways, yet ready to break in others. The tension is palpable from start to finish, as is the genuine connection. I get why the blurb is so deceptive now: this love story is unlike any other that I have read. It’s sweet, sexy, angsty, and unexpected. Bennett is the only thing standing in the way of this happily ever after, and that was seriously frustrating at times. I felt for both characters throughout, and their journey to forever is all kinds of messy. It’s also completely devourable, and I found myself eagerly anticipating what would happen next. Bennett and Aspen’s love story gave me butterflies, made me want to scream – and it had me hooked the whole way through.
Want to know what else I’ve read in 2021 so far? Links to all of my reviews are below!
- A Co-Worker’s Crush by Piper Rayne – 5 Stars
- A Kiss for a Kiss by Helena Hunting – 3 Stars
- Anchored Hearts by Priscilla Oliveras – 2 Stars
- Bachelor Swap by Lacey Black – 3 Stars
- Back in the Burbs by Tracy Wolff & Avery Flynn – 3 Stars
- Bet the Farm by Staci Hart – 4 Stars
- Between the Lines by T. Gephart – 4 Stars
- Bombshells by Sarina Bowen – 3 Stars
- Bright Midnight by Karina Halle – 2 Stars
- Call Me Crazy by Melanie Harlow – 5 Stars
- Close Quarters by Kandi Steiner – 5 Stars
- Crave Thy Neighbor by Teagan Hunter – 4 Stars
- Crazy for You by Lea Coll – 4 Stars
- Cruel Saints by Michelle Heard – 5 Stars
- Dear Roomie by Kate Meader – 4 Stars
- Dream Spinner by Kristen Ashley – 2 Stars
- Drop Dead Gorgeous by Lauren Landish – 5 Stars
- Earn Your Extra Credit by Meghan Quinn – 4 Stars
- Ego Trip by Tabatha Kiss – 5 Stars
- Enemy Dearest by Winter Renshaw – 4 Stars
- Ever After Always by Chloe Liese – 5 Stars
- Fake by Kylie Scott – 5 Stars
- Falling Into Love With You by Lauren Rowe – 5 Stars
- Falling Out of Hate With You by Lauren Rowe – 4 Stars
- First and Tension by Tara Sivec – 4 Stars
- Float Plan by Trish Doller – 5 Stars
- For Lucy by Jewel E. Ann – 3 Stars
- Forbidden by Karla Sorensen – 5 Stars
- From the Embers by Aly Martinez – 5 Stars
- Grumpy Cowboy by Max Monroe – 4 Stars
- Hard Luck by Sara Ney – 3 Stars
- Hard to Lose by K. Bromberg – 4 Stars
- Hard to Score by K. Bromberg – 5 Stars
- He Loves Me Not by Deborah Bladon – 4 Stars
- He Said Always by Ruth Cardello – 2 Stars
- Her Reluctant Husband by Erica Marselas – 5 Stars
- Hit It and Quit It by Melynda Price – 3 Stars
- Hot Copy by Ruby Barrett – 2 Stars
- Hot Stuff by Max Monroe – 4 Stars
- Hot Under His Collar by Andie J. Christopher – 4 Stars
- How to Fail at Flirting by Denise Williams – 4 Stars
- How to Get Lucky by Lauren Blakely & Joe Arden – 5 Stars
- How to Save a Life by P. Dangelico – 5 Stars
- I Pucking Love You by Pippa Grant – 5 Stars
- Just Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane – 5 Stars
- Leave Him Loved by Harloe Rae – 4 Stars
- Life’s Too Short by Abby Jimenez – 5 Stars
- Like a Boss by Anne Harper – 3 Stars
- Like You Love Me by Adriana Locke – 5 Stars
- Lizzy Goes Brains Over Braun by Jasinda Wilder – 3 Stars
- Love at First by Kate Clayborn – 4 Stars
- Love in Moments by Scarlett Cole – 4 Stars
- Love to Tempt You by J. Saman – 5 Stars
- Mafia Bride by C.D. Reiss – 5 Stars
- Make It Sweet by Kristen Callihan – 5 Stars
- Marrying Mr. Wrong by Claire Kingsley – 4 Stars
- Maybe We Will by Melissa Foster – 3 Stars
- Mourning Wood by Heather M. Orgeron – 5 Stars
- Mr. Smithfield by Louise Bay – 4 Stars
- My Beautiful Neighbor by Piper Rayne – 4 Stars
- My Saving Grace by Melanie Moreland – 3 Stars
- My Wicked Heart by T.L. Smith – 2 Stars
- Never Got Over You by S.L. Scott – 4 Stars
- Not My Match by Ilsa Madden-Mills – 5 Stars
- Not the Marrying Kind by Kathryn Nolan – 5 Stars
- One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston – 2 Stars
- One More Time by Aurora Rose Reynolds – 4 Stars
- Oops, I’ve Fallen by Max Monroe – 4 Stars
- Out of the Blue by Kathryn Nolan – 5 Stars
- Over the Moon by K.K. Allen – 4 Stars
- Rachel, Out of Office by Christina Hovland – 4 Stars
- Rebellious by Kristy Marie – 5 Stars
- Reckless by Adriana Locke – 4 Stars
- Replay by Amy Daws – 4 Stars
- Reputation by Adriana Locke – 2 Stars
- Return to Us by Corinne Michaels – 3 Stars
- Royal Line by Carrie Ann Ryan & Nana Malone – 4 Stars
- Ruthless Creatures by J.T. Geissinger – 5 Stars
- Ruthless Monarch by Ava Harrison – 2 Stars
- Set to Music by Negeen Paphen – 4 Stars
- Shipped by Angie Hockman – 5 Stars
- So Not My Type by Amelia Kingston – 3 Stars
- Something Like Hate by Harloe Rae – 4 Stars
- Spicy Pickle by J.J. Knight – 3 Stars
- Steal My Magnolia by Karla Sorensen – 3 Stars
- Straight Up by Charity Ferrell – 3 Stars
- Sullivan by Laramie Briscoe – 3 Stars
- Surrender by J. Saman – 4 Stars
- Talk Hockey to Me by Kelly Jamieson – 3 Stars
- Tempted by Ava Harrison – 3 Stars
- The Art of Falling for You by Maya Hughes – 4 Stars
- The Belle & the Beard by Kate Canterbary – 3 Stars
- The Blind Date by Lauren Landish – 4 Stars
- The Bookworm’s Guide to Flirting by Emma Hart – 3 Stars
- The Brit by Jodi Ellen Malpas – 5 Stars
- The Devil Wears Black by L.J. Shen – 2 Stars
- The Dream Guy Next Door by Lauren Blakely – 3 Stars
- The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon – 4 Stars
- The Fourth Time Charm by Maya Hughes – 4 Stars
- The Hero I Need by Nicole Snow – 3 Stars
- The Hot Mess & The Heartthrob by Pippa Grant – 4 Stars
- The Insiders by Tijan – 3 Stars
- The Invitation by Vi Keeland – 3 Stars
- The Kiss by M. Robinson – 1 Star
- The Knockout Rule by Kelly Siskind – 4 Stars
- The Last Good Liar by Sylvie Stewart – 3 Stars
- The Love Interest by Kayley Loring – 5 Stars
- The Marriage Code by Brooke Burroughs – 3 Stars
- The Match by Winter Renshaw – 5 Stars
- The Mixtape by Brittainy Cherry – 5 Stars
- The One I Want by S.L. Scott – 4 Stars
- The Perfect Catch by Meghan Quinn – 5 Stars
- The Rebel by Kendall Ryan – 3 Stars
- The Rival by Kendall Ryan – 5 Stars
- The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary – 3 Stars
- The Seat Filler by Sariah Wilson – 5 Stars
- The Secret Bridesmaid by Katy Birchall – 3 Stars
- The Sin of Kissing You by Maya Hughes – 3 Stars
- The Spy in 3B by Nana Malone – 4 Stars
- The Strike Out by Meghan Quinn – 4 Stars
- The Summer Job by Lizzy Dent – 3 Stars
- The Sweetest Fix by Tessa Bailey – 4 Stars
- The Things We Leave Unfinished by Rebecca Yarros – 4 Stars
- The Virgin Rule Book by Lauren Blakely – 3 Stars
- The Wedding Game by Meghan Quinn – 5 Stars
- The Wicked Prince by Claire Contreras – 2 Stars
- Tie Me Down by Melanie Harlow – 4 Stars
- Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle – 5 Stars
- Twist of Fate by Tia Louise – 3 Stars
- XOXO by Deborah Bladon – 4 Stars
- Yes and I Love You by Roni Loren – 4 Stars
- You Have a Match by Emma Lord – 4 Stars
- You Know It’s Love by Jen Morris – 3 Stars
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