It was truly a great reading month for me, and many of November’s releases made an impact. I read my fair share of holiday novellas in honor of the season, but it was the deeper, more nuanced books that left a lasting impression. You’ll likely see several of these books on my Best of the Year list, and that’s saying something, since it’s already December!
Two dark and steamy mafia romances kept me hooked through wild reads. The Enigma was almost more brutal and shocking (AND steamy) than The Brit, and that’s a tough act to follow. In contrast, Savage Hearts showed a different side of mafia romance, and I loved the softer, unique feel. Both were excellent additions to phenomenal series.
On the lighter side, I absolutely loved two sexual tension-filled rom coms. A Not So Meet Cute was a tense and sexy treat, easily one of my new favorites from Meghan Quinn. The Pact was also fantastic, and I loved the new twist on a Vegas wedding romance. I always expect great things from both authors, but these two books were so, so good.
Finally, I read two layered books that paired moments of lightness with heavier themes. The Fastest Way to Fall was such a feel good, low angst read, but it also tackled some difficult subjects in a way that felt real and authentic. Totally Folked also had its lighthearted moments, but the overall topic of self-worth and overcoming your past also remained a focal point.
Looking ahead to December, it’s a quieter release month because of the holiday – but still a strong one! I’ve already read two excellent, very, very different romances, and there are several other exciting ones on my TBR. I’ll also be wrapping up my search for the best romances of the year, sampling all of the books that sound like they might fit the bill. If you missed my December 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!
There’s a reason why I’ve been one-clicking J.T.’s books without hesitation for years, and she just keeps getting better and better. I never know where the story will lead, but I’m always eager to hang on for the ride. This series has been blazing hot and immensely compelling, so this had a lot to live up to – and it exceeded all expectations. It might’ve even surpassed the other two books in the series. Going in, we knew absolutely nothing about either main character, and that made this an epically unpredictable adventure. I had zero idea what I was getting into, and that meant it was a fun, immersive read. This one plays up the dark humor, the banter, and the seriously smokin’ chemistry. I laughed out loud as often as I fanned myself over the steam. I LOVED this couple together, and the first half just flew by for me. Things get heavier and tenser as the story progresses, and the intimacy escalates along the way. It’s the perfect addition to a stellar series, approaching the mafia trope from a different direction. I loved every minute of it.
The story follows Riley, a woman whose life is turned upside down when she discovers that her estranged sister is dating a mafia boss. While the sisters haven’t been close for years, Riley agrees to take a trip and meet Sloane’s new guy. She had no idea what she was getting into. It’s not long before Riley realizes that she’s in way over her head, and there’s a Giant Hot Dangerous Stranger following her every move. The man is fierce and intimidating, obviously up to no good, and yet… strangely appealing. There’s just something about him that calls to Riley, and he seems equally confounded by her. As the two continue their strange interactions, things take an unexpected turn.
Now, I’m not gonna spoil the book for you. I think most of us expected Diego to be the next antihero, but let me say that I was NOT disappointed by Malek. He is soooo not what I was expecting, and I loved seeing the different sides of him. While this feels very much a part of the same series, this particular story has a completely different feel than the others. It’s J.T. at her best, with some softer, subtler moments and an antihero who is obviously bad, but… not. These two are fantastic together, and I loved going in blind. I want to tell you all the things that I loved about Malek, but I also don’t want to give the story away, so I’ll tell you that he is a fascinating man and leave it at that. This book also makes the series as a whole richer and stronger; sure, it can technically be read as a standalone, but you don’t want to do that. It also opens up some interesting paths for future books in this world, and I. AM. READY. Buckle up, because this is a sexual tension-filled, unpredictable read.
Don’t let that cute cover fool you – this is SMOKIN’ HOT, with sexual tension dripping from every page. I was HOOKED from the start, and I devoured it at an alarming rate, even for one of Quinn’s rom coms. And this IS a rom com, albeit a very tense and steamy one. I loved the playfulness and humor of the story, the interactions with our hero’s brothers, the vibrancy of the connection, the push/pull, and sizzle of chemistry. This workaholic alpha doesn’t know what hit him – our heroine is bold and proves herself to be strong and stubborn too. Their connection is absolute FIRE, and I loved the friction between them. It’s a hot slow burn from strangers to enemies to lovers, and I was all too happy to hold on for the ride.
The story follows Huxley, a guy who is married to his job. There’s never been anything more important in his life than work, especially since he’s in business with his brothers. So when a deal seems to be slipping through his fingers, Huxley lets loose a few lies in an act of desperation. He claims to be engaged with a baby on the way, when that couldn’t be further from the truth. Unsure how to handle the predicament he’s gotten himself into, Huxley’s guard is down when he meets an unusual woman. Lottie meets Huxley while wandering through a rich neighborhood (looking for a rich husband, as one does), and she’s also feeling desperate. The two discover that they might be able to help each other out, and that’s the foundation of their not so meet cute. But as the two spend time together, their clashes begin to escalate – and there seems to be a fine line between love and hate.
I always, ALWAYS look forward to new books by Quinn, and I went into this one blind. It’s the start of what I sincerely hope is a brand new series, and I loved the vibe. It’s got tons of humor and great family connections, as well as the sexual tension that Quinn has been ramping up with some of her newest releases. This book is seriously fan-worthy at times, with a torturous slow burn that borders on scorching. Huxley and Lottie have zero problems with their chemistry – it’s their communication that could use a little help. I loved watching this workaholic discover that he’s got a jealous, possessive side, and it rears its ugly head many times. Their path to love has bumps along the way, but I SO appreciated that the vibe remained (mostly) light throughout. It’s certainly not as angst-ridden as some of Quinn’s other romances, which means that cute cover is not inaccurate… this just isn’t your momma’s rom com, lol. I was lucky enough to receive an early copy and am voluntarily leaving a review of this steamy fake relationship romance.
“She’s toxic. But to me, she’s a balm. And I’m fatal. But to her, I’m life.”
Whoa boy, this was a lot to handle – and I absolutely LOVED it! I completely ignored real life for two straight days and just dove into this immersive, intense, hot, violent, and exhilarating read. I don’t know how she does it, but Malpas has somehow made me love books that contain things that I hate. As with the fabulous The Brit, if you’d told me the storyline ahead of time… I wouldn’t have been interested. And I was nervous about the intensity of the first few steamy scenes in this, particularly some of the boundaries that are pushed. But I was absolutely engrossed in the story, and the mental games swimming beneath the steam had me turning the pages at an alarming rate. This couple is like a blazing inferno – burning hot and passionate; fueled by lust, grief, and a connection that ties them together even when they want nothing to do with each other. The push/pull, cat and mouse game between them was utterly addictive, and my eyes were glued to every scene, taking in every nuance and subtle shift in the relationship.
Do you need to read The Brit before starting this? Yes. Definitely yes. Not just because it’s a great book, but because the characters live in the same world, and the storylines interconnect. The two books have very different vibes – this one is less mafia and more head games with LOTS of steam – but they both have the same kind of intensity and storylines that become action-packed along the way. This also ends on a major CLIFFHANGER that ties the series together, so I recommend that you read in order. I honestly have no idea what we’ll get in the third book, but you’ll definitely be seeing more of these characters.
The story follows Beau, a woman who has lost herself. A former cop, Beau was once a rising star in law enforcement. After the death of her mother, a detective, Beau has lost her trust in the justice system – and lost her desire to live. She’s been struggling through the fog of depression and grief for the last two years, and it doesn’t seem like anything can pull her out of it. Until Beau meets a man. A mysterious, enigma of a man. All of Beau’s instincts are telling her to run from James, but he provides an escape from the depression… and that is all kinds of appealing. Desperate to feel something other than grief, Beau ignores the red flags that pop up all around James, and lets herself be pulled into his orbit. But she has no idea what she’s getting herself into.
One of the best things about this book is that even though I read (and loved) The Brit, I still had zero idea what to expect from this. The one-of-a-kind, layered storyline had me completely hooked, and it took so many unexpected turns along the way. It’s MEGA STEAMY, with boundary-pushing scenes and flawed characters who complement each other perfectly. James and Beau’s broken pieces fit together in a way that is compelling and unique, and the endless tension between them kept me riveted. I felt so invested in their relationship, and James makes for quite the antihero. This complex romance ties in with a brutal and suspenseful storyline, and the combination made this 500-page book fly by. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart, but if you made it through The Brit unscathed, then The Enigma will leave a lasting impression. It’s not a book that I’ll be forgetting anytime soon, and book three cannot be here soon enough. I was lucky enough to receive an early copy and am voluntarily leaving a review of this steamy, dark romance.
Easily this writing duo’s best release of 2021, this green card marriage romance is both hilarious and hot. It’s got some sizzling chemistry, and this couple is GREAT together. The further I got into the book, the more I loved it – this leads with the lust before slowly transitioning into the love, and the hero at the heart of it definitely won me over. I’ll openly admit that I was exceedingly disappointed in The Bet, the introduction to the Winslow Brothers, and I was not looking forward to the sequel. A group of fortyish, commitment-phobic brothers was not at all appealing to me, and I went into this with some serious hesitation. My doubts were quickly and thoroughly put to rest – this was EXCELLENT.
The story follows Flynn, a 41-year-old guy who is happy living the single life. He has no plans to ever marry, and he’s perfectly content to remain a bit of a mystery to everyone. But when Flynn meets a sexy stranger in Vegas, she is a whirlwind. Only hours after meeting Daisy (29), Flynn finds himself proposing a no strings attached, green card marriage to help the Canadian woman stay in the country. Neither one really thinks beyond the moment, and it’s not long before they’re giving into their lust. Except… there are always strings attached in a marriage, and certainly one that the couple will need to prove authentic to the government.
This is the return of the MM that I love – steamy, fun, easy, and playful romance. Their last few releases have been very uneven for me, so I was delighted to discover just how good this was. Flynn makes a MUCH better hero than anticipated; he’s the strong and silent type, speaking more in the bedroom than anywhere else and acting as the steady rock to Daisy’s wild storm. He calms her chaos in some *ahem* unexpected ways. The opposites attract dynamic was so fun to read, and it was easy to see how well they complemented each other. I love it when a couple just seems to FIT together, and these two were perfect. While their connection leads with the physical side of things, it’s the emotional connection that shines by the end. This was a low angst, sexy treat, and here’s hoping that the next brother’s story is just as much fun.
Such a feel good read! After the heavy storyline of How to Fail at Flirting, I really wasn’t sure what to expect going into The Fastest Way to Fall – but it was sweet, swoony, slow burn goodness. The hero is ADORABLE, and I absolutely loved the strong, resilient heroine. They have a relationship that was great to read, interacting through messages first, building a friendship, and then falling for each other along the way. And the BEST part of the whole thing? Yes, our heroine is more than curvy and the story focuses on health and wellness, but it’s not a book about shame or changing yourself. It’s about loving yourself. I loved how that storyline was incorporated, and it was the first time that I’ve read one that felt so natural and inclusive. Wes genuinely loves every part of Britta – and that includes her body.
The story follows Britta, a journalist hoping to make her big break. That opportunity comes in the form of a series of posts reviewing an up-and-coming fitness app. While Britta doesn’t want to lose weight, she wouldn’t mind feeling healthier and better about herself, which is something the app claims to offer. As she begins messaging her new fitness coach, the two strike up a connection that feels a lot like friendship. And when they meet in person, that friendship starts to feel like more. But Britta and Wes are both keeping secrets, and – while they might have felt innocent at the time – those lies of omission begin to feel like a weight on their shoulders.
Personally, I enjoyed this more than How to Fail at Flirting. The two books are loosely connected through a group of friends, but this will easily stand on its own. I suppose you could say that they have similar vibes, though this one is a lot lighter. It still tackles a few heavy subjects – like eating disorders, body image, ex drama, and addiction – but the overall feel is upbeat and uplifting. This is a true slow burn with a strangers to friends to lovers dynamic, and both characters are exceedingly likable. Wes makes such a great complement to Britta, and it was so refreshing to read about a seriously GOOD guy. I loved them together, and I was rooting for that moment when they finally crossed the line. If you’re looking for something light with depth and heart, then this is sure to satisfy. I was lucky enough to receive an early copy and am voluntarily leaving a review of this heartfelt romance.
Small town, slow burn goodness with a hero whose self-doubt made my chest ache; this is quite the series starter. I went into this with an interesting perspective – I’ve read a few of Reid’s books, but it’s been 3 years since the last time and I certainly don’t know all of the inner workings of this small town. I know many readers hated the hero, Jackson, before they even dived into Totally Folked, but he’s just a reformed playboy to me – and a very, very compelling one at that. The prequel novella, Just Folking Around, certainly left me with quite the first impression. Jackson is steady and sexy, confident some moments and breathtakingly vulnerable in others. Jackson’s playboy past has shaped him into the man he is today, and his desire to love and be loved was one of the best parts of this book.
Note: this love story begins in the prequel novella, and that is absolutely essential for your enjoyment of Totally Folked. The story would feel exceedingly slow-paced if you haven’t experienced Raquel and Jackson together first. My ebook copy included the novella at the start, but the audio version does not. Be sure you read that first.
The story follows Raquel, a bombshell of an actress who is tired of faking it. She loves acting, but everything else that goes along with it is beginning to feel tiresome. Not only does she fake it for the cameras, but she’s also been faking a relationship for the last several years. So when she returns to the small town that made a lasting impression 5 years ago, it’s a breath of fresh air… and she’s secretly hoping that she’ll run into the man who made her last visit so memorable. Jackson and Raquel have the kind of chemistry that could light a match, but he isn’t the same guy that she left behind – and he doesn’t seem overly enthusiastic about her return.
This is a series starter that WILL stand on its own, but there are a LOT of appearances from past couples and characters. I’m only vaguely familiar with the series that this spins-off from, and I had no trouble keeping up. But if I have one complaint about the book, it’s that there could’ve been more focus on our couple instead of the town itself. Longtime fans are sure to appreciate the many characters who make this a richer, fuller experience, but anyone starting out is just going to want more Raquel and Jackson. Because they were fantastic together. Their banter and chemistry had me hooked from their first interaction in the novella, and that spark of attraction is what allows this slow burn romance to truly simmer. It’s a slow, laidback pace that’s heartfelt and a little emotional, pairing moments of humor with some quiet depth as well. I loved Jackson’s backstory and he is an absolute gentleman in present day – easily one of my favorite parts of the story. His heartache and yearning had me turning the pages, and Raquel and Jackson’s happy ending felt deep and real by the end… even if more time could’ve been spent with them instead of the townsfolk. But maybe I’m just being greedy – this was definitely good.
Did you see my December Release Calendar?
It includes the 30+ December releases I’m excited about AND 200+ upcoming books that are available for preorder! Check it out here.
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