I read some excellent books in October, with two that are clear contenders for my Best of the Year list! Earlier this year, I read and adored Flawless by Elsie Silver, and I was convinced there was no way that the next book in the series would earn my love in quite the same way. Well… I guess that’s technically accurate! I loved Heartless for different reasons than I loved Flawless, but I really don’t know which I liked more. They were both exceptional romances, and I am SO excited to read more from Silver in the future.
I’m having a similar problem with The Co-op, if you can call it that, lol! Tarah DeWitt’s Funny Feelings made me absolutely SWOON earlier this year, so The Co-op had a whole lot to live up to – and it exceeded my expectations. I like to call myself a “certified second chance romance hater,” because it is RARE that one doesn’t drive me crazy, and this was the exception to that rule. The tension between these characters was delicious and engrossing, so I flew through the pages quickly. I also loved The Co-op in a different way than Funny Feelings, so I can’t wait to see what DeWitt delivers next year.
Speaking of Tarah DeWitt, I also read her debut novel this month, while impatiently waiting for the release of The Co-op. And it was really good! Rootbound also has its own vibe, with a quieter, softer tone and more focus on family and connections. It still has some great sexual tension and a hero who is easy to love, so I had no trouble devouring it in one sitting. I can see how DeWitt’s writing has grown in the time since, but I had a fantastic time reading Rootbound.
I also read Chelsea Curto’s debut this month, which was light and sexy with a distinctive voice. I loved the concept of office rivals figuring out their differences just in time for an event away from work, and the characters were both easy to like. It was also unexpectedly spicy, and had such a unique feel – while also calling back to other romances I’ve loved in the past. I read Curto’s second book this month as well, and I’m looking forward to more from her in the future.
Finally, I read Sarah Hogle’s chaotic Christmas-themed romance, which was a whole lot of fun. Hogle consistently delivers immersive, engaging reads, and this was another delight. It’s perfect for the holiday season while also featuring a soft, swoony romance – and the hero is the ultimate cinnamon roll sweetheart. I snort-laughed and smiled my way through the story, and it’s just one more example of why I adore Hogle’s work.
Here’s hoping that November brings more great reads! I’ll be focusing on finally reading the 2022 releases that have been sitting towards the top of my TBR for months, in hopes of getting my Best of the Year list put together. It’s a quieter release month, but there are still plenty of intriguing new books on the way as well.
If you missed my November 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!
“The last few threads holding him together snap before my eyes. I can almost hear the pinging of them flying apart like a popped guitar string.”
I was crossing my fingers that this would live up to the excellence of Flawless, and now I’m really not sure which book I adored more – it was fantastic! So, so good. I loved the firecracker of a heroine, who kept the moody, broody hero on his toes. She is the change he needed in his life, and it was so fulfilling to watch this sexy single dad find his happy again. The forced proximity/nanny situation ratcheted up the tension, and it ended up being a scorching hot read. A slow burn to SIZZLE for sure, with the kind of heat that makes an impact. That paired perfectly with the sweet and swoony family moments, as the heroine bonded with the hero’s son. I loved the contrasts between the more tender moments and the intensely steamy ones – it certainly puts the reader through a whole range of emotions! The hero steals the show though; I absolutely LOVED getting to know the man behind the grump, and Cade is the kind of gruff, secretly vulnerable, hero who will snatch your heart before you realize it.
The story follows Cade (38), a single dad who has always been the caretaker of his family. He grew up faster than he should’ve, married a woman he didn’t love because she was pregnant, settled into a career he didn’t choose because it was needed, and is raising his little boy alone without complaint. Cade is in need of a nanny for the summer, and the lack of control he has over the process has left him frustrated. So when his sister-in-law recommends her best friend for the role, Cade resigns himself to the situation… at least, until he meets Willa (25). Beautiful, fiery, and way too young, Willa gives Cade whiplash. She is nothing like he expected, and her slightly unhinged personality might be just the fire he needed. The attraction that sparks between them is obvious and overwhelming, but Cade has spent years repressing his own desires, so he believes that he can do that with Willa as well. But she might be the one to finally break him.
It’s a small town, single dad, age gap romance with the perfect combination of playfulness and angst. I loved that Willa falls for Cade’s son first, and she simply tolerates the grumpy man when he’s around. I loved that Cade knew Willa was going to be trouble from the start, and I loved that he was such a steady, kind, and loving hero. The tension builds until it SNAPS, and that made this an immensely addictive and engrossing read. The crackle of chemistry was compelling, and whoa boy was the spice smoldering. I remember Flawless being pretty sexy, but this was a whole other level. Loved it. There was nothing that I didn’t love, actually. While I think Cade is what made the book so engaging – he is such a lovable grump, and his jealous/possessive side worked for me – I also think Willa and Cade’s son were perfect too. The whole dynamic was great. It made me smile, it made me swoon, it made me fan myself, and it had my eyes glued to every page. Zero complaints here; this was outstanding.
The tension snaps and crackles, sparking off the page in such a delicious way – I could FEEL the unresolved issues between these two, and I couldn’t wait for them to figure things out. As a certified second chance romance hater (but big fan of DeWitt’s work), I was both excited and nervous to dig into this one. And I ended up loving it! These two hurt each other in the past, and their present day interactions showcased the fact that neither one has let that hurt go. They’ve spent years building back up their defenses, so entering into a marriage of convenience AND trying to live together in a home under construction is… not ideal. The tension – sexual and otherwise – was palpable, and I loved peeling back the layers of what makes each character tick. I actually thought that the reasons why they separated the first time around made complete sense, so it was easy to empathize with both characters and not lament the time spent apart (too much). It was also clear that they both grew and matured in the years since, slowly changing into people who might just be capable of making it work this time around.
The story follows LaRynn, a woman who has been avoiding the property that she inherited after her grandmother passed away. While the house might be the fresh start LaRynn has been needing in her life, she also knows that it comes with a whole lot of baggage – most of it revolving around the man who broke her heart eight years ago. At 18, LaRynn and Deacon had a no-strings fling that went horribly wrong when she caught feelings. He snapped her heart in two, and it has never quite recovered. So going back to the town where it all happened is troublesome enough… and that’s not the worst of it. LaRynn and Deacon each inherited half of the property, so they’ll need to work together to move forward. And Deacon is not making things easy. Somehow, LaRynn finds herself entering into a marriage of convenience, moving in to a disaster of a construction zone, and working on a major renovation with the man who drives her crazy.
Typically, it’s the tangled history between characters that makes second chance romances difficult for me to get into. In this case, I understood why they didn’t work out at 18, and I thought that they shared equal blame for things going so awry. That made it easy to root for them to find their way back together, and the tension is one of the things that makes this story so engrossing. Having both perspectives also helped, and I could see the love buried beneath that mountain of hurt. I loved that they were slowly repairing their relationship as they worked on building a home together, and the parallels were so interesting. Their foundation was faulty to begin with, so it took rebuilding from the ground up to get them to a solid place. The forced proximity/roommates situation paired with the marriage of convenience tied them together as they fought against the bond, which just took everything up another notch. And, while I liked LaRynn, I was totally gone for Deacon. He is such a sweetheart, so much kinder and more vulnerable than he might appear on the surface. The intimate moments between them were incredibly impactful, and having such a slow burn made the emotional connection leap to the forefront. These two already know that they work in the bedroom, they just need to find a way to communicate out of it. Yet again, DeWitt navigates the complexities of a difficult relationship in an engaging and immersive way, seamlessly blending lighter moments with heavy shots of angst. I loved it!
“You’re absurd.” It comes out sounding like You’re adorable.
“You’d love it.” He grins. “Don’t lie.”
When you’re fake dating the, ah, literal Holiday Spirit, things are bound to get complicated. This chaotic, charming, one-of-a-kind story is filled with holiday fun that put a smile on my face. I’ve been a huge fan of Hogle’s work since the start, and every book is an EXPERIENCE of its own. Just Like Magic is everything I could want in a holiday romance – it’s festive and heartwarming, with a slow-burning love story that was all kinds of adorable. Our hero is the ultimate cinnamon roll; I wasn’t kidding when I said that Hall is the literal spirit of the holidays, so he is the swooniest, most adorkable, Christmas sweater-wearing, sweetheart you can dream up. Watching him experience all of the simple pleasures of life was just as endearing as watching our heroine reconnect with her family and herself. It’s the perfect kind of romance for the holidays, with a zaney, quirky storyline that is sure to fill you with holiday cheer.
The story follows Bettie, a woman who let social media stardom get the best of her. While she was once an IG darling with sponsorship offers coming from all directions, she is now penniless and hiding from the spotlight. Feeling blue as the holidays approach, Bettie is startled when a cute, cheerful guy interrupts her sulking and claims to be the Holiday Spirit, aka Hall. He says that he’s been tasked with rekindling Bettie’s love of the holidays. So when Hall starts granting Bettie’s wishes – no matter how non-sensical or ridiculous – she soon realizes that he was serious. It’s not long before things start snowballing, and Bettie finds herself claiming Hall as her fake fiancé as they spend the days leading up to Christmas with her family. But Hall is all things good and light, so falling for him is easy… even if Bettie knows he’s set to disappear as soon as joy comes back to her life.
So, yeah. The plot is pretty ridiculous, lol. You’ll need to get behind that if you want to enjoy the ride, because this is high-octane fun with one whacky thing after the next. It’s FULL of holiday humor and quirkiness, with a story that kept me on my toes. It’s got the soft, swoony feel that Hogle is known for, with everything dialed up another notch. I thought that Hall was adorable, and he really complements Bettie well. As they both grew and progressed, the romance just got richer and sweeter. Exactly the kind of rom com that I want to curl up under a cozy blanket with on a winter night, and one that I’ll definitely revisit in the future. I do think that the actual relationship development in Hogle’s first two books was much stronger, but this more than makes up for it with the humor, heart, and holiday fun.
What a debut! After absolutely loving Funny Feelings, I couldn’t resist checking out DeWitt’s debut novel, and it exceeded expectations. Quieter and more introspective, Rootbound is the story of a woman who (accidentally) reconnects with her estranged family, finding all kinds of love in the process. It’s got the same kind of layered feel as Funny Feelings, deftly shifting between playful, chemistry-filled moments and angstier, emotional ones. The heroine is strong and resilient, pairing perfectly with a semi-grumpy sweetheart of a hero. It was easy to see the attraction between them, and I loved that the story took its time building up the relationship before making the plunge – though there were some VERY sexy, deliciously tense moments along the way. Sure, the story has a decent number of typos and the rougher feel that you often get with indie debuts, but DeWitt’s talent shines through in a big way. I loved it!
The story follows Tait, a photographer who hasn’t quite been the same since her divorce a few years ago. The end of that relationship exposed some things that Tait hasn’t been ready to acknowledge, and she’s been stuck in limbo ever since. So when she accidentally accepts a 6-week photography assignment at her estranged father’s ranch, Tait is not looking forward to coming face-to-face with the family who abandoned her years ago. When she meets Henry, a man who has found family in her actual family, neither one is sure what to think. But as Tait and Henry get to know each other better, it’s impossible to deny that they have a connection. Henry is a selfless, loving man, and ignoring their attraction seems like just as bad of an idea as starting up something when Tait has no plans to set down roots on the family ranch.
Though Funny Feelings and Rootbound follow completely different paths, it’s interesting to see the similarities between them. Both feature compelling heroines and heroes who are SUPER swoony, loving and steady in all of the best ways. I adored Henry, and the more we got to know him, the better he got. I loved the sparks that flew between them. And I loved how the story – like Funny Feelings – seamlessly shifts between light, fun scenes and rawer, deeper interactions. The family aspect added plenty of depth, though Henry and Tait’s romance shone as well. The sexual tension was fantastic, and the slow build in intimacy felt so rich. I really don’t have any major complaints about this – I definitely noticed some technical writing issues, but they did nothing to hinder my reading experience. I devoured this as quickly as I could, and now I’m left wanting more from the author. As debuts go, this one was pretty great.
This will be a weird review, because I enjoyed it so much that a 5-star rating was the obvious choice, but I can also identify several things that bugged me – and I understand why it’s been such a polarizing read. The important thing: this was an EXCELLENT debut, and I’m excited to read more from the author. It’s not so much an enemies to lovers/office rivals romance as it is a story of what happens once two co-workers put aside their differences and finally get to know each other outside of work. It’s a slow burn to SIZZLE, with some very spicy moments along the way. And the hero is an interesting mix of modern gentleman and alpha grump, knowing the right moments to bring the heat. I loved that it surprised me several times, and the story is both familiar yet deeper and more complex (and potentially triggering) than anticipated. So this was a compelling read for me, and it easily held my interest.
Minor spoilers follow, which give context to why some readers haven’t enjoyed this. The story follows Jo, a woman who has been feuding with her co-worker for the last two years. Jo and Jack’s relationship started off on the wrong foot, and they’ve both leaned into the friction ever since. So when Jo is drugged at a local bar and Jack comes to her aid, it completely changes the way they see each other. Gone is the animosity and irritation, replaced by feelings that have gotten stirred up by Jack’s caretaking… which complicates the work trip they’ll be taking together. Away from the office and essentially on vacation, Jo and Jack see new sides to each other as they set aside their differences. And they like what they see. But both still bear the scars of past relationships, and that might get in the way of any future they could have together.
Many readers have gone into this expecting an office rivals romance, only to be disappointed by the fact that Jo and Jack spend VERY little of the book feuding. The roofie situation kinda came out of nowhere, and that sets off the heavier, more emotional undertones of this otherwise light and sexy romance. It’s rom com-adjacent for the most part (never really overtly funny), but there is also discussion of sexual assault, suicide, and other things that may be triggering to some. The spice pushes a few boundaries. You don’t really expect that from the cute cover or the blurb. There’s also a LOT of consent and modern vibes. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a good thing, but it happened so frequently that it took me out of the moment several times, and sort of extinguished the heat in a few scenes. But you know what? I loved the unique aspects of the story, and how their feuding slowly healed their broken pieces. Both Jo and Jack were reeling from the end of relationships when they met, so their bickering started from a place of hurt. Over time, that’s changed for them both, and I loved the idea that those interactions brightened Jack’s days, brought him back into the light, and shifted his thoughts. That was a definite win for me, and one of the reasons this was so easy to rate as 5 stars. It’s got “he falls first” vibes and some swoony breadcrumbs, which I love. Plus, it’s just very entertaining. I enjoyed the vibe and the plot so much that the little issues didn’t weigh me down, and I think Curto has a ton of potential. I’m excited to read more. This looks to be the start of a new series, and we got enough teases about the other characters that I’m ready to dig in. So I can’t call this anything other than a win.
Did you see my November Release Calendar?
It includes the November releases I’m excited about AND 200+ upcoming books that are available for preorder! Check it out here.
Check out this week’s new releases here.
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