Sunday, June 24, 2018

Book Review: Herons Landing - A Small-Town Romance (Honeymoon Harbor Series) by JoAnn Ross

Herons Landing: A Small-Town Romance

Honeymoon Harbor Series

by JoAnn Ross

Mass Market Paperback: 496 pages

Publisher: HQN (May 22, 2018)

There’s no place to fall in love like the place you left your heart

Welcome to Honeymoon Harbor, the brand-new, long-awaited series by beloved New York Times bestselling author JoAnn Ross, where unforgettable characters come face-to-face with the kind of love that grabs your heart and never lets go.

Working as a Las Vegas concierge, Brianna Mannion is an expert at making other people’s wishes come true. It’s satisfying work, but a visit home to scenic Honeymoon Harbor turns into a permanent stay when she’s reminded of everything she’s missing: the idyllic small-town charm; the old Victorian house she’d always coveted; and Seth Harper, her best friend’s widower and the neighborhood boy she once crushed on—hard. After years spent serving others, maybe Brianna’s finally ready to chase dreams of her own.

Since losing his wife, Seth has kept busy running the Harper family’s renovation business and flying way under the social radar. But when Brianna hires him to convert her aging dream home into a romantic B and B, working together presents a heart-stopping temptation Seth never saw coming. With guilt and grief his only companions for so long, he’ll have to step out of the past long enough to recognize the beautiful life Brianna and he could build together.

My Rating:

Favorite Quotes:

“On our first date, she cited all this damn research claiming vegans lived nine years longer than meat eaters.” Jarle’s teeth flashed in a grin in his flaming red beard. “After a week of grazing, I decided that her statistics might be true, but that extra time would be nine horrible baconless years.”

Dottie’s going to love dressing you. I swear to the Goddess that woman’s goal in life is to get every Northwesterner looking like a unicorn vomited out rainbows.

Jarle tends to fall in love with every good-looking single woman who comes into the pub. I think it’s the Viking in him. So far he hasn’t carried any off, and doesn’t harass them, just admires from afar, so I figure putting all that emotion into his cooking helps improve business.

You make him work for it, sweetheart. A woman’s gotta let her man know from the beginning that he’s going to have to do his share in a marriage. We women shouldn’t have to do all the heavy lifting.

My Review:

I was a bit conflicted on how to rate this slowly developing and character-driven small-town tale of second chances.  Being the first in a series there were lots of characters to introduce and considerable background and history to cover about the quaint little community and a long-standing feud between two of the early families that continued to inhabit both ends of the social ladder.  The premise was relevant and interesting, and the storylines were meticulously detailed with the tones alternating between amusing, heartbreaking, and realistic with a few hot licks of sizzling sensuality to take some of the edge off the over-serve of sorrow and angst.  The characters were likable, endearing, and admirable, but the story tended to stall on occasion due to the rather repetitive and tiresome retreading the young widower’s grief and inability to move on.  Despite my personal pet peeve toward angst, I look forward to returning to the characters living in this unique little enclave while hoping for a lighter beat in the next installment.

Empress DJ

About JoAnn Ross

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author JoAnn Ross has been published in twenty-seven countries. A member of Romance Writers of America’s Honor Roll of bestselling authors, JoAnn lives with her husband and three rescued dogs — who pretty much rule the house — in the Pacific Northwest. Visit her on the web at

Friday, June 22, 2018

Book Review: One and Only (Bridesmaids Behaving Badly #1) by Jenny Holiday

One and Only 

(Bridesmaids Behaving Badly #1)

by Jenny Holiday 

Miss Responsibility meets Mr. Reckless

With her bridezilla friend on a DIY project rampage, bridesmaid Jane Denning will do anything to escape - even if it means babysitting the groom's troublemaker brother before the wedding. It should be a piece of cake, except the "cake" is a sarcastic former soldier who is 100% wicked hotness and absolutely off-limits.

Cameron MacKinnon is ready to let loose after returning from his deployment. But first he'll have to sweet talk the ultra-responsible Jane into taking a walk on the wild side. Turns out, riling her up is the best time he's had in years. But what happens when the fun and games start to turn into something real?

My Rating:

Favorite Quotes:

She was talking fast and ending declarative statements with question marks— sure signs she was stressed. Elise always sounded like an auctioneer on uppers when she was upset.

The words job list practically gave Jane hives. Elise had turned into a total bridezilla… But, oh, the job list. The job list was like the Hydra, a serpentine monster you could never get on top of. You crossed off a job, and two more sprouted to take its place.

He was having trouble imagining Jane as a girl. She seemed like the kind of person who had been born thirty years old.

Gia was gorgeous. Jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Jane was used to it— it was like she’d had exposure therapy or something— but when you were meeting Gia for the first time? Well, just hope you weren’t simultaneously operating any heavy machinery.

Gia started humming the wedding march but morphed it into the theme from Jaws as Elise approached the bar.

My Review:

I greatly enjoyed this humorous and sexy tale but it wasn’t all cotton candy and marshmallow fluff as the author skillfully wove in some insightful and thoughtful observations about the military, family drama, the cruelty of gossip, self-concept, anxiety, addictions, and PTSD.  I adored her complicated and quirky characters with my favorite being the geeky yet staid and responsible Jane who was a devotee of cosplay, Comicon, and all things Xena.  The storylines were adroitly paced, consistently engaging, pleasantly entertaining, and cleverly amusing with sizzling hot licks of sensuality between the two main characters.  This was my first Jenny Holiday read, an experience I plan to habituate.  

Empress DJ

About the Author: 

Jenny Holiday is a cunning Slytherin who is constantly being told she's unduly optimistic. This year, after realizing she had accidentally put "hero makes late-night grilled cheese sandwiches for heroine/other hero" in three books, she started doing it on purpose. When she's not writing, she's probably having porch wine with her neighbors and enjoying having gardened. Follow her @JennyHoli on Twitter, @holymolyjennyholi on Instagram, and find other fun stuff at

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Book Review: The Cottage on Lily Pond Lane (Part 1 - New Beginnings) by Emily Harvale

The Cottage on Lily Pond Lane

Part 1 - New Beginnings

by Emily Harvale



Amazon US / UK

Mia Ward is amazed to be told she has inherited her great-aunt Matilda’s thatched cottage in the tiny seaside village of Little Pondale – especially as Mia didn’t know she had a great-aunt Matilda.

She’s even more astonished to discover she’ll only inherit the place if she actually lives there for one year. Mia’s a city girl at heart, not to mention she’s afraid of water, so the fact the cottage backs on to a sandy beach, is not, in her opinion, a bonus.

But Mia’s struggling to pay her rent since being fired for inappropriate behavior at the office party, and her boyfriend’s also dumped her. When her best friend, Ella and Ella’s brother, Garrick offer to help her move and settle in, Mia decides to see this as a new beginning.

It may also be the start of an exciting adventure because now Mia wants to know just who, exactly, was great-aunt Matilda. And she’s determined to find out. But it soon becomes clear that someone is trying to make sure Mia doesn’t stay in Little Pondale….

My Rating:

Favorite Quotes:

She felt about as welcome to the south coast of England as the German Luftwaffe had been in the Second World War.

They're all so twee I half expect a beautiful princess, together with seven vertically challenged men, singing songs and carrying pickaxes, to march down the York stone paths.

The closest you've ever been to a tree is sitting on a wooden chair.

Oh deary me. I'm talking ten chickens at a time, aren't I?

Justin Lake? He's the local baker and his buns are the best for miles around. And I don't just mean the buns he bakes… He's in one of those male stripper dance groups in his spare time.

We're all fairly certain the grandmas of those three young bucks spent the night under the same blanket, if you get my drift.


My Review:

New Beginnings was a fun, light, and engaging start to a new series.  I flew right through this first installment and am eager to delve into Part 2, Summer Secrets, next.  The characters are highly likable and people I would enjoy spending time with.  The storylines are well-written, amusing, and pleasantly entertaining with a bit of a mystery as to exactly who Mia’s long-lost Auntie and sudden benefactor really was.  I’m enjoying their discoveries as well as the transitions the city girls are facing by moving into a well-appointed thatched cottage in a rural seaside village with Llamas, no cell reception, and a gossipy housekeeper who spins superstitious tales of witchcraft and has a pet white rat named Prince Gustav.  What fun!  

Empress DJ

Now get ready for Part Two:

Amazon US / UK


Escape to the seaside village of Little Pondale with Part Two of this heart-warming and romantic, four-part serial.

Mia Ward was amazed to inherit her great-aunt Matilda’s thatched cottage in the tiny seaside village of Little Pondale – especially as Mia didn’t know she had a great-aunt Matilda. She was even more astonished to discover she’d only inherit the place if she lives there for a year.

Now Mia and her friends, Ella and Garrick are embracing village life. Garrick’s also embracing someone in The Frog and Lily, so Mia turns her attention to one or two of her sexy, single neighbors. But great-aunt Matilda remains an enigma and Mia’s still determined to discover who she was.

When Mia’s mum, Lori arrives, she’s eager to see what the summer has to offer. There’s the Kite Festival, the FĂȘte, the Frog Hill Run, but what really appeals to Lori, much to Mia’s horror, is the Midsummer Night’s naked bathing in the pond at Frog’s Hollow.

As sweltering days surrender to sultry nights, love is definitely in the air. And when an incident means Mia has to face her greatest fear, help arrives from a surprising source. But one thing is clear... someone is trying to make sure Mia doesn’t stay in Little Pondale...

Author Bio – 

Having lived and worked in London for several years, Emily returned to her hometown of Hastings where she now spends her days writing... and chatting on social media. Emily is a Member of the SoA, a PAN member of the RWA and a Pro Member of ALLi. She's an Amazon bestseller and a Kindle All Star. Emily loves writing and her stories are sure to bring a smile to your face and a warmth to your heart.
Emily says, "I write about friendship, family and falling in love. I believe in happing endings." When she isn't writing, she can be found enjoying the stunning East Sussex coast and countryside, or in a wine bar with friends, discussing life, love and the latest TV shows. Chocolate cake is often eaten. She dislikes housework almost as much as she dislikes anchovies - and will do anything to avoid both.

Social Media Links –

Book Review, Giveaway: RAINY DAY FRIENDS (Wildstone #2) by Jill Shalvis

Starting over was her plan. Getting derailed by secrets wasn’t...

A Wildstone Novel
Jill Shalvis
William Morrow/Harper Collins

Following the USA Today bestselling author of Lost and Found Sisters comes Jill Shalvis' moving story of heart, loss, betrayal, and friendship

Six months after Lanie Jacobs’ husband’s death, it’s hard to imagine anything could deepen her sense of pain and loss. But then Lanie discovers she isn’t the only one grieving his sudden passing. A serial adulterer, he left behind several other women who, like Lanie, each believe she was his legally wedded wife.

Rocked by the infidelity, Lanie is left to grapple with searing questions. How could she be so wrong about a man she thought she knew better than anyone? Will she ever be able to trust another person? Can she even trust herself?

Desperate to make a fresh start, Lanie impulsively takes a job at the family-run Capriotti Winery. At first, she feels like an outsider among the boisterous Capriottis. With no real family of her own, she’s bewildered by how quickly they all take her under their wing and make her feel like she belongs. Especially Mark Capriotti, a gruffly handsome Air Force veteran turned deputy sheriff who manages to wind his way into Lanie’s cold, broken heart—along with the rest of the clan.

Everything is finally going well for her, but the arrival of River Brown changes all that. The fresh-faced twenty-one-year old seems as sweet as they come…until her dark secrets come to light—secrets that could destroy the new life Lanie’s only just begun to build.

My Rating:

Favorite Quotes:

I’m giving up on getting a bikini body, so pass the butter, please. Grandma says the good Lord put alcohol and carbs on this planet for a reason and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let Him down.

But after Kyle had passed away, some things had come to light. Such as the fact that he’d hidden an addiction from her. A wife addiction. It’d gone a long way toward getting her over the hump of the grieving process.

Most of my wrinkles are from laughter, except for these right between my eyebrows… These are my ‘WTF’ lines and those suckers are deep, all given to me by our family dinners.

I’ve moved on to pizza delivery guys because at least I know they have a job, a car, and pizza… Fifty percent of marriages end in divorce. One hundred percent of pizza deliveries end in happiness.

But the important thing here is to remember to practice self-care in times of stress. Take a walk, paint a picture, murder someone, burn the body, and clean up the crime scene.

Despised is a little strong. It implies that I’d unplug your life support to charge my iPhone, so I save that word for things like chia seeds, infomercials, and slow walkers in the aisles of the grocery store.

My Review:

I giggle-snorted my way through this delightful and crisply written tale.  The writing was top-notch and the storylines were well-crafted, cleverly amusing, and totally engaging.  I adored every single quirky character who were each provided with unique issues and peculiar traits.  Ms. Shalvis’s keen wit and sharply honed levity were smoothly woven into the narrative with a stunning level of skill and agility.  I have come to cherish Jill Shalvis and her adorable characters.  

Empress DJ




New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jill Shalvis writes warm, funny, sexy contemporary romances and women’s fiction. An Amazon, BN & iBooks bestseller, she’s also a two-time RITA winner and has more than 10 million copies of her books sold worldwide.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Book Review: JUST ONE TOUCH (Oh' Tequila #3) by CA Harms


by CA Harms 

is LIVE!

Oh' Tequila #3 Series / NA Contemporary Romance 

Available on Amazon & KU from Limitless Publishing

I should have known this would happen...

Nothing about my Fraternity was ever simple. Parties, tequila – tons of tequila – and wild souvenirs from our kind of crazy.

Never, and I do mean never, did I expect my brother’s girl to target me in a midnight prank. A prank that backfired and left me squealing in pain.

Have you ever seen those shows, the ones that say the “dirty deed” sent you to the ER? Well, I went to the ER and yes, my manhood was involved. Let me just say, I gained absolutely no pleasure from it. Unless, of course, you consider that sweet nurse who treated me.

The problem? She hated me...and I had no idea why, but I wasn’t willing to let her walk away until I figured it out.

Emelie was feisty and I’d never felt the type of excitement I did after spending only five seconds in her line of fire. I was gonna enjoy this...way more than I should, and I knew it.

She saw, she conquered, and I was defeated. 
All it took was just one touch and oh, what a ride it was.




“Ethan,” I said, holding a tiny bear between my fingers. “Buddy, are you hungry?” I was practically begging my son to pay attention to me and stop idolizing the man who held him.

I held the bear closer and kind of shook it in between him and Clayton where he was still staring. Please just eat the thing and give us all something new to focus on.

“Ethan,” I said his name once more, and before I could register what was happening, Clayton wrapped his lips around the tips of my fingers and consumed the teddy graham. “Num num,” he said to Ethan, yet he was looking at me. “That’s yummy.”

My Rating:

Favorite Quotes:

Corbin and I grew up in a town called Morehead, Kentucky. My parents were older before they’d decided to start a family, and they said after they had us, they knew they were done.

I’m not even sure if you’d call us friends. More like we were stuck in the same car for eleven hours and I had to count to ten a whole bunch of times and remember that I’m not the prison type.

My Review:

I have relished every cleverly amusing installment of this series.  CA Harms has a wicked sense of humor and I adore her brand of sassy levity, spirited banter, and naughty hijinks.  The storylines were sweet, heart squeezing, and relevant while the characters were endearing and adorable.  I needed a fun read and this quick and engaging read was more than timely.  

Empress DJ


C.A. Harms is an avid romance and mystery reader. She's always had a love for books, getting lost in writing and storytelling even as a young girl. She enjoys happy endings and HEA love stories. 

She lives in Illinois and enjoys spending time with her husband and two children. She holds an addiction for Starbucks White Chocolate Mocha’s and KitKat when she should really be focusing on water and maybe a fruit or two to make herself feel less guilty, but that feeling quickly passes...thankfully. 

She is easy going, fun, and although she may seem like one of the quiet ones at first, you just wait until she gets to know you better...that quietness changes, fast.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Book Review: A Sin Such as This by Ellen Hopkins

A Sin Such as This

by Ellen Hopkins

Paperback: 384 pages

Publisher: Atria Books (May 29, 2018)

In this gripping follow-up to Love Lies Beneath, #1 New York Times bestselling author Ellen Hopkins’s “fabulous, sex-filled masterpiece of mystery and romance” (Library Journal, starred review), beautiful, wealthy Tara Lattimore’s story continues when her sinful past threatens to derail her current marriage—and her sanity.

Tara thought she was finally settling down when she married the handsome Dr. Cavin Lattimore. Just as she was willing to overlook his gambling habits, she discovers his secret meetings with Sophia, his gorgeous ex-girlfriend and his son Eli’s occasional girlfriend. Life gets even more complicated when Tara’s niece, Kayla, starts hooking up with Eli. In a matter of weeks, Tara has reluctantly gone from rich, single San Francisco professional to Lake Tahoe housewife managing her niece’s whiplash moods, while resisting her stepson’s tantalizing sexual advances.

Adding to the family drama is her younger sister, Melody, who’s having a serious marital breakdown, which means she might know something about her husband Graham and Tara’s brief dalliance years ago. As Tara’s fragile trust in her family teeters, timed with the arrival of certain people from her past, she also can’t shake the feeling that someone’s watching her. Baiting her.

Tara has always considered herself a tough, self-made woman after surviving a childhood defined by poverty, abuse, and neglect. For years, she suffered from the sins of others. She committed a few of her own. Now she wonders if the misdeeds of her past are about to catch up with her—and if she can ever outrun them.

My Rating:

Favorite Quotes:

Nice guy? Kill me now… A nice guy is roughly the equivalent of a decent girl. They’re like comfort food. Satisfying, but in all the wrong ways.

Worry causes wrinkles, and no one’s attracted to those.

My Review:

Mind blown!  I had actually started to panic as after another intriguing yet slow build during this well-crafted and engrossing, yet maddeningly paced addictive tale, the storyline exploded at the 97% mark and I gasped as my heart seized in fear of another heinous cliffhanger.  I was grinding my teeth, blinking hard, and ready to foam at the mouth! But, thankfully, I stumbled through an action-packed final 3% that left me so breathless I needed to read that 3% again much slower to absorb it all.  W.O.W.  Ellen Hopkins is a master storyteller who is also an evil genius and a wily minx.  Her tantalizingly twisted yet alluring characters with their shady half-truths and bewitching storylines kept me 100% engaged yet somewhat itchy throughout.  I had formed numerous wild theories of how the story would conclude but would never have dreamed up how all those little tightly woven threads knitted themselves into this finale.  My gray matter will never be the same. 

 Empress DJ

About Ellen Hopkins

Ellen Hopkins is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of thirteen young adult novels, as well as the adult novels Triangles, Collateral, and Love Lies Beneath. She lives with her family in Carson City, Nevada, where she founded Ventana Sierra, a nonprofit youth housing, and resource initiative.

Connect with Ellen

Book Review: Shimmy For Me (California Belly Dance #1) - DeAnna Cameron


Title: Shimmy For Me
Series: California Belly Dance Book 1
Author: DeAnna Cameron
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Find It On:

One passionate night. Two lost souls. A whole world of trouble.

Juggling two jobs to keep her belly dance studio afloat keeps Abby Anderson’s mind off her shattered love life—until a reawakened pain sends her into the arms of an anonymous stranger she plucks from the audience of her tribal belly dance show. No names, no strings, no romance. She tells herself it’s a harmless hookup.

Until he turns up at her day job . . .

Derek Collier, the sexy heir to the Collier media dynasty, just landed everything he’s always wanted: the publisher’s seat at the Orange County Herald. Except his first order of business is to sell the newspaper. Reeling from his family’s betrayal, his only comfort is the memory of that mysterious belly dancer and the perfect night they spent together.

He won’t rest until he finds her again.

She’ll lose everything if he does.

My Review:
To start this off, this is my first story reading about a belly dancer so it was definitely interesting and fun to envision our female lead, swaying and enchanting her audience during performances. I enjoyed the sprinkles of humor throughout the book, as well as the drama and work put into the attempts at saving the two businesses our main characters attempt to save. However, one thing I found hard to keep from my mind was the actual romance of our two main characters. It was hard for me to find true love within their story of falling in love, wondering constantly if they were confusing lust for something more. There was not enough focus on the building of their feelings for one another, and the things Abby seemed to fall in love with I found hard to understand how it would make her feel love. On Derek's end I found a severe lack of build up of love for our main character to make it hard to believe that once again, this wasn't misunderstood lust. In the end, there was enough drama in the plot to keep me turning those (digital) pages to find the conclusion of their story.

Sam Valkyrie

My Rating:

See the source image

Favorite Quote(s): 

“It was as if every nerve ending in her body was aware of him, from the citrus scent of his aftershave to the way his nostrils flared softly with each breath. Tonight he was more like the sweet, tender man she had known that first night. That amazing night that felt like a lifetime ago.”

About The Author: 

DeAnna CameronDeAnna Cameron writes contemporary romance and historical fiction, including the award-winning California Belly Dance Romance series. She loves compelling heroines who aren't afraid to break the rules, and passionate heroes who respect and cherish them. Her work has been translated into multiple languages and has been praised by RT Book Reviews, Historical Novel Review, and others.

Before turning to fiction, DeAnna worked in print journalism, writing and editing for several Southern California newspapers and magazines. She's the founder of O.C. Writers, a thriving community of authors and aspiring authors in Southern California, and an active member of Broad Universe, a national organization of women authors focused on science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

When she isn't writing, she can usually be found making jewelry, obsessing about her Fitbit steps, and counting her lucky stars. She lives with her family in Orange County, Calif.