Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Book Review: Bagging Alice (Babes of Brighton Book 3) by Laura Barnard

Bagging Alice 
(Babes of Brighton Book 3) by Laura Barnard

Amazon US / UK / CA / AU

Head on over to Laura's Facebook and Instagram pages (below) to enter her HUGE giveaway!


Alice is used to taking photographs for a living – not having intimate pictures of herself posted for all the world to see, thanks to a disgruntled ex-boyfriend. Now her clients are canceling appointments, and she’s almost out of cash. What else could go wrong? Oh yeah, her roommate has scarpered leaving Alice completely out of luck.

Enter Tom ‘man-whore’ Maddens. Having disappointed his father one time too many, he moves to Brighton, ready for a new start. And where better to begin it than in Alice’s newly-vacant spare room? And if he tries to seduce her at the same time? Well he’s just living up to his reputation, isn’t he?

But then he didn’t bank on actually falling for her. Will his reputation as a commitment-phobe put a stop to any sparks between the pair? Or can Alice put aside her trust issues and take a leap of faith for Tom?

My Rating:

Favorite Quotes:

Suddenly it dawns on me. What the hell am I doing with this tool? I'm only twenty-six and I'm acting like he's the last Neanderthal on the planet. I can do so much better.

But this woman doesn’t like me. I could tell it the moment she laid eyes on me. Bernice Shuttlecock. That’s right. Her surname is shuttlecock. And she insists on everyone calling her Mrs Shuttlecock. Every time I say it I can’t help but get a stupid grin on my face and have to literally bite my tongue to stop from laughing. Maybe that’s why she doesn’t like me?

He lays down on the pebble beach and immediately starts posing like Zoolander, pouting his lips ridiculously… ’‘What? You don’t like my blue steel?’ he asks, as if genuinely offended.

‘So, do you have any Irish in you?’ he asks… ‘Do you want some?’ he asks, throwing his head back on a chuckle.

Who knew I’d ever imagine Tom ‘Manwhore’ Maddens being a keeper? I suppose stranger things have happened. Like dinosaurs.

When you look at us on paper we’re opposites, but when you put us together we’re forced towards each other like magnets.

My Review:

This was a fun and saucy tale, I have enjoyed reading the two previous books featuring this irreverent group of friends living in Brighton, they got into and up to the most ridiculous antics.  Alice had self-esteem problems and devastatingly poor taste in men and learned the hard way about revenge porn.  Snap, that was a new one for me as well.  So dear Alice had learned not to trust her judgment when she found herself attracted to her sexy new roommate Tom, a known sex machine in her group of friends.  Tom was a blindingly handsome, cocky, thoughtless, and arrogant womanizer who was well known for his sexual skill set.  Tom also proved hard to resist and more so when he brought home a cute but trouble-making puppy.  The characters were endearingly flawed, foul-mouthed, and entertainingly quirky; yet with real-life problems.  Written in my favorite dual POV, the storylines were well balanced between angst and levity while dealing with career, family, and relationship issues.  I’m curious to see what Ms. Barnard does next with this vibrant group of friends.  

Empress DJ

Although a standalone, if you'd like to check out the first two books in the Babes of Brighton series here they are:

Excess Baggage (Book 1) -

Love Uncovered (Book 2) -

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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Book Review: Christmas Camp by Karen Schaler

Christmas Camp
by Karen Schaler

Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

From the screenwriter of the Netflix Original viral hit, A Christmas Prince, comes another heartwarming holiday story about a beautiful Grinch who’s determined to get her dream job even if it means spending a week at a Christmas Camp where she discovers an unexpected love.

Haley Hanson’s idea of the perfect Christmas is escaping to the Caribbean to work so she can avoid all the traditional Christmas distractions. Over the years, she’s sacrificed her personal life to climb the corporate ladder at a prestigious Boston advertising agency. Now she just needs to land a coveted Christmas toy company account to make partner. But first, her boss, Larry, thinks she needs a holiday attitude adjustment, so he ships her off to a Christmas Camp at Holly Peak Inn to help her find her Christmas spirit.

Arriving at the charming mountainside inn, Haley meets the owner’s handsome son, Jeff, and feels an instant spark, but resists the attraction, refusing to be distracted from her goal of doing all the required Christmas tasks as fast as possible so she can get back to work.

At first, Haley struggles with all the traditional Christmas Camp activities. It’s not until she finally allows herself to slow down, live in the moment, and let Christmas back into her heart, that she begins to grow closer to Jeff. But when he finds out Haley’s come up with a plan to help his dad save the struggling inn while he’s been trying to convince his dad to sell it, their relationship takes a serious holiday hit. Now it will take the magic of the season to bring these two hearts together.

My Rating: 

Favorite Quote:

Since she traveled a lot to visit her clients, she took pride in the fact that she never checked any bags, going with the philosophy that there were two kinds of luggage, carry-on and lost.

My Review:

I enjoyed this mild and sweet holiday storyline of a female workaholic named Haley. The writing was insightful and finely tweaked with those humorous and thoughtful touches that kicked the narrative up from good to cleverly exceptional. The main character of Haley wasn’t exactly a grinch but a mild female version of Scrooge. She was exceptionally driven and prone to be selfish and thoughtless in what she said and did in her eagerness to get accounts and make partner. She worked all the time and didn’t make time to relax, date, or socialize outside of work. She wasn’t vile, just obnoxiously ambitious and work-obsessed. Her boss staged a covet intervention as “a holiday attitude adjustment,” by sending her to “Christmas Camp,” an inn with traditional activities geared to bring families together during the holidays. This is one of those rare books that is chaste enough for my elderly mother’s Sunday School book club and Hallmark Channel wholesome, yet still entertaining to me. My favorite character in the story was the exceptionally clever Max - the Wonder Dog, whom I believe was largely responsible for Haley’s transformation.
  I was provided with a review copy of this sweet tale by HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours.

Empress DJ

About Karen Schaler

Karen Schaler is a three-time Emmy Award-winning storyteller, author, screenwriter, journalist and national TV host. She has written original screenplays for Netflix and Hallmark and Lifetime Christmas movies. Her travels to more than sixty-five countries as the creator and host of Travel Therapy TV inspired Christmas Camp. All of Karen’s stories are uplifting, filled with heart and hope.

Find out more about Karen at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Book Review: Love in Catalina Cove by Brenda Jackson

Love in Catalina Cove

by Brenda Jackson

Mass Market Paperback: 480 Pages

Publisher: HQN; Original edition (November 1, 2018)

In her brand-new series, Brenda Jackson welcomes you to Catalina Cove, where even the biggest heartbreaks can be healed…

In the wake of a devastating teen pregnancy that left her childless and heartbroken, Vashti Alcindor left Catalina Cove, Louisiana, with no plans to return. Now, over a decade later, Vashti reluctantly finds herself back in her hometown after inheriting her aunt’s B and B. Her homecoming gets off to a rocky start when the new sheriff, Sawyer Grisham, pulls her over for speeding, and things go downhill from there.

The B and B, a place she’d always found refuge in when it seemed like the whole world was against her, has fallen into disrepair. When a surprising benefactor encourages Vashti to reopen the B and B, Vashti embraces a fresh start, and soon old hurts begin to fade as she makes new memories with the town—and its handsome sheriff…

But some pasts are too big to escape, and when a bombshell of a secret changes everything she thought was true, Vashti is left reeling. With Sawyer and his teenage daughter determined to see her through the storm, though, she’s learning family isn’t always a matter of blood—sometimes it’s a matter of heart.

My Rating: 

Favorite Qu

Scott isn’t the only guy I’ve loved that let me down. Therefore I can’t be one and done. I’m two and through.

Ms. Gertie would also butt heads all the time with Sheriff Phillips, all generations of them, and was quick to remind them that she delivered them into the world and would have given them an extra whack on their rear end if she’d known they would grow up to be power-grabbing men.

My Review:

Oh what a tangled web vile and duplicitous snobs can weave just to save face.  I enjoyed this cleverly knotted and intriguing tale, it progressed slowly yet I enjoyed every little twist and turn. The ending may seem far-fetched unless you understand the social influence and structure of small-town living, then it becomes all too plausible.  The storylines were easy to follow, engaging, deliciously spiced, and pricked my curiosity. I am itching to uncover more about the secondary characters Ms. Jackson was taunting me with – she is such a clever tease!  I was enamored with her large and varied cast and am primed for return trips. 

Empress DJ

About Brenda Jackson

Brenda Jackson is a New York Times bestselling author of more than one hundred romance titles. Brenda lives in Jacksonville, Florida, and divides her time between family, writing and traveling.

Connect with Brenda

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Book Review: Someday My Witch Will Come by Daisy Prescott

Someday My Witch Will Come

by Daisy Prescott
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA
Amazon AU

You know those little girls who dress up as Disney princesses in the bright, shimmery costumes and dream about their prince rescuing them?

That was never me.

In this story, it's the witch who saves the prince.

Ever since I joined the Wicked Society, my tarot readings are always about sacrifice for the greater good and martyrdom. In other words, any day now I’m going to lose something or someone I love. Evidently, my spirit guides are the ride or die types.

For years, I’ve asked the cards the same question about my crush. Will Tate Winthrop fall in love with me? The answer is always someday.

As in someday Tate will love me back.

Someday there won’t be a group of witches using dark magic to destroy our coven.

Someday I’ll stop having the same dream about a handsome prince with long blond dreadlocks kissing a woman wearing a sparkly, poofy, ball gown.

Someday my witch will come.

This is book two in the Wicked Society series of interconnected lighthearted paranormal romances with a cozy mystery twist.

My Rating: 

Favorite Quotes:

If we had to face off in hand-to-hand combat, I know I could take her. I have at least four or five inches on her in height and she’s all spindly where I’m built like a German beer calendar girl. In other words, she better not come at me unless she wants the bratwurst. Or something. And I know she can’t handle my schnitzel.

I might look like a freewheeling hipster, but beneath all of this is the heart of an old man who carries hard candy in his cardigan’s pockets and enjoys an early dinner hour.

My Review:

I don’t often read paranormal as I am far too lazy for all the world-building and endless rules, but I don’t seem to mind the extra work required to follow Daisy Prescott’s Wicked Society – a super secret supernatural society of generations of witches, which seems to include much of the movers and shakers and Who’s Who of Boston society.   This installment has them on a caper for stolen witch bones and the rather gruesome trick for their use – eww.  Family curses, a ghost, and a constipated love life were front and center.  The writing was laced with levity, banter, Sam-isms, and her humorous inner musings.  

 Empress DJ
About the Author

USA Today Bestselling Author Daisy Prescott writes romantic comedies about real love.

Her Modern Love Stories feature characters in their thirties and forties finding and rediscovering love in unexpected and humorous ways. Her Wingmen books star regular guys who often have beards, drive trucks, and love deeply once they fall. Daisy's Love with Altitude latest small town, rom-com series is set in Aspen, Colorado. Bewitched is a magical serial set in Salem, Massachusetts. Don't miss her standalone, Tinfoil Heart, a rom-com about love, letting go, and little green men.

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Saturday, October 27, 2018

Book Review: A Christmas Date by Camilla Isley

A Christmas Date
by Camilla Isley

No one wants to be single at the holidays.

Even Little Miss Grinch, Nikki, a successful and independent woman, must face her bachelorette status at the most horrible time of the year.

December is her personal version of holly-jolly hell: a merry torture made of couples kissing at every corner, forced vacation days, and an inescapable family reunion.

And when her baby sister announces she’s engaged—to Paul, the man Nikki is secretly in love with—and that he’s spending the holidays with them, Christmas starts looking bluer than ever.

Nikki can’t possibly survive an entire week trapped home as the family’s spinster. But she has no time to meet men or to try the newest dating app, she’s too busy working as a video producer for an advertising agency.

So what’s a girl to do?

Nikki has the perfect solution: to hire a fake boyfriend.

Luckily, her job gives her access to an endless catalog of gorgeous actors to choose from.

But Nikki will soon discover that keeping business and pleasure from mixing isn’t so easy, and that she might not be immune to a little mistletoe magic. Especially not when she picked out the perfect man as her Christmas date...

A fun, festive romantic comedy with lots of bad behavior and Christmas spirit. Like a creamy hot chocolate with marshmallows, you won’t want to put this deliciously hilarious novel down. Perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella, Sally Thorne, and Jo Watson.

First Comes Love is a series of interconnected romantic novels. However, each book in the series can be read as a standalone.

My Rating:

Favorite Quotes:

Oh, come on… You sleep in the candy shop every night, and you want me to believe you’ve never thought of tasting the candies?

If Diego was a real boyfriend, and not one paid to endure my family, I’d be dying of shame at their ill-concealed eagerness. Mom and Julia look like wolfhounds with the scent of a bone fresh in their nostrils.

“Your mom and your old crone of an aunt always complain you’re never going to find a man. But I told them how wrong they were, and bet Dora a pie you’d be married before forty, which is the new thirty.”… I’m not sure what makes me angrier: the fact that my mom openly discusses my dating life with the whole town; or that, apparently, the prize of my happiness is a pumpkin pie.

…that doesn’t justify her calling me fat and old. She’s so petty.” “I don’t remember Julia calling you fat or old.” “But she did, in female code language.” “You girls have a secret language?” “All gals do; it’s Bitchenglish.”

My Review:

My first exposure to the witty comedic style of Camilla Isley, and I am an instant fangirl.  I smirked my way through this lively and clever tale that sure, it has been done before, but this version was much more fun.  While they may have been adults, sleeping in their childhood beds seemed to harken them back to their surly teen and childish whining behaviors.  The characters were competitive, stressed to a toxic level, and nearing the obnoxious register on the pettiness scale with life-long sibling rivalries reaching a scalding level.  But what family holiday gathering isn’t complete without several meltdowns and a messy food skirmish?  It’s not even Halloween yet and I’m already in the Christmas spirit and dreaming of the heavily laden table – bring on the pie.  

Empress DJ

Author Bio – 

Camilla is an engineer turned writer after she quit her job to follow her husband on an adventure abroad.

She’s a cat lover, coffee addict, and shoe hoarder. Besides writing, she loves reading—duh!—cooking, watching bad TV, and going to the movies—popcorn, please. She’s a bit of a foodie, nothing too serious. A keen traveler, Camilla knows mosquitoes play a role in the ecosystem, and she doesn’t want to starve all those frog princes out there, but she could really live without them.

Social Media Links –







Book Review: Sergeant Sexypants by Tawna Fenske


Sergeant Sexypants
by Tawna Fenske


Bree Bracelyn doesn’t date cops. It’s a personal rule that quavers when Austin Dugan flashes his baby blues—and his badge—at Ponderosa Resort’s grand opening. Bree’s the family fixer, running the resort’s PR and her siblings’ lives with cheerful efficiency. But one thing in Bree’s past can’t ever be fixed, which is why she’s staying the hell away from Officer Hottie.

Austin’s heart tacks up a wanted poster with Bree’s name the instant he lays eyes on her. Okay, the no-cops rule is an obstacle, but not impossible for a guy ambitious enough to be a shoe-in as the next police chief. Besides, he knows Bree’s into him, whether they’re flirting over weird flatware or getting frisky in the front seat of his vintage Volvo.

As Bree and Austin bond over cupcakes and hot springs hookups, Bree knows it’s a matter of time before the skeletons in her closet topple into a messy heap on Austin’s squeaky-clean life. Is there hope for a happy ending, or will their love end up DOA? 

My Rating:

Favorite Quotes:

I’m a noble kinda guy… My sisters used to joke that I have a lousy sense of direction because my brain’s entire navigational system is made up of moral compass.

One second I’m standing there talking with him about the finer points of sunset dining, and the next second I’m polishing his tonsils with my tongue. I don’t know what happened.

I laugh at the idea of my mother having a job. “She marries rich men with commitment issues, then takes them to the cleaners when they cheat.”

I hold my breath like a teenager watching his first skin flick, praying someone doesn’t show up and change the channel.

My Review:

Going by the title and cover shot you would expect this book to be corny erotica – wrong.  It was actually a cleverly amusing and sweet romance with thoughtful and sensitive storylines and some extra fun and spicy bits as a bonus.  I adored these endearing and smirk-worthy characters.  Written in my favorite dual POV, I was enamored and fully engaged from start to finish.  I dove into the series at book three with no difficulties following the plot, although I covet more time with the other characters and am scheming to find a time machine or just possibly revamp my calendar to include extra days so I can read the earlier installments, as well as every other book this crafty wordsmith has cranked out.  But I’m greedy like that when I stumble upon treasure.  I wants them all!

Empress DJ

About the Author


When Tawna Fenske finished her English lit degree at 22, she celebrated by filling a giant trash bag full of romance novels and dragging it everywhere until she’d read them all. Now she’s a RITA-nominated, USA Today bestselling author who writes humorous fiction, risqué romance, and heartwarming love stories with a quirky twist. Publishers Weekly has praised Tawna’s offbeat romances with multiple starred reviews and noted, “There’s something wonderfully relaxing about being immersed in a story filled with over-the-top characters in undeniably relatable situations. Heartache and humor go hand in hand.”

Tawna lives in Bend, Oregon, with her husband, stepkids, and a menagerie of ill-behaved pets. She loves hiking, snowshoeing, standup paddleboarding, and inventing excuses to sip wine on her back porch. She can peel a banana with her toes and loses an average of twenty pairs of eyeglasses per year. To find out more about Tawna and her books, visit

Friday, October 26, 2018

Book Review: Painting Blue Water by Leigh Fossan

Painting Blue Water
by Leigh Fossan

Amazon US / UK / CA / AU

Katherine Ross, a struggling artist-turned-successful-businesswoman, has a life many would envy. At only thirty-one years old, Katherine runs one of the top luxury real-estate firms in Manhattan, and she lives in a fabulous loft with her dreamy husband. That is, of course, until her marriage comes to a screeching halt, forcing Katherine to face the truths she’s been burying deep within her heart. She hasn’t been happy for a long time. And her life, while glamorous, is not the life she ever wanted.

Fighting through the fog of her confusion and pain, Katherine makes the daring, or possibly insane choice to start over somewhere new. She leaves her business, her friends, and the city behind, while she ventures alone to the mountains in hopes of rediscovering her artistic roots in a place surrounded by beauty, peace, and quiet.

But life in Bluewater isn’t as simple as it may seem, and when her art career suddenly begins to take off in this unlikely setting, Katherine finds herself torn between two worlds. Does she pursue her lifelong dream and become the world-famous artist she always wanted to be? Or does she open her heart to the possibility of new dreams and a life she never imagined?

My Rating:

Favorite Quotes:
As a kid, she’d fallen in love with the mountains. She found them gloriously exotic—colossal piles of earth and trees reaching higher than the empire state building. She had imagined that the dinosaurs must be buried beneath them. That, of course, was the only way to explain their massive size.

Oh my God, are you going to turn into one of those mountain people who don’t shave their legs or armpits and who, like, hunt for their food?!

Scattered thoughts would dance in her head and team up with the heartburn, teasing her. She felt like she was on a long trip and forgot to pack something very important or like she was nearing the end of a crucial semester at school only to realize she had missed several classes and would fail her exams.

My Review:

Painting Blue Water was a slowly developed character-driven story of healing and personal growth.  It was lavishly detailed with vibrant and evocatively described scenes that smoothly scrolled through my cranium as if my gray matter were a movie screen.   The main character of Katherine was an anxious little bird with a trunk load of personal insecurities, an inability to speak up for herself, and an acid stomach as a bonus.  Wishing to start her life anew and leave her humiliating failure of a marriage behind, she uproots herself across the country to a beautiful vacation spot that was a happy memory from her childhood, with the intent to hopefully find herself again and reawaken her love of painting.  I have no artistic abilities whatsoever and envied Katherine’s talents, but more so, I coveted her ability to completely lose herself in her art.  The cast of characters was large, endearing, and small-town quirky, but my favorite was not the main character of Katherine but Eli Trust, the spry and precious octogenarian inn owner.  I adored him.

Empress DJ

Author Bio – 

Painting Blue Water is the debut novel for Leigh Fossan. A creative soul at heart, Leigh grew up with a paintbrush in her hand and went on to study the arts in Florence, Italy. While abroad, Leigh was one of the few recipients of the Coluccio Salutati Award for Creative Writing. Today, Leigh is a professional artist and her paintings are collected around the world. She lives in Colorado with her artist husband, and their young daughter, who wants to be a scientist.

You can see Leigh's paintings at

Social Media Links – 

INSTAGRAM: @leighfossanauthor

TWITTER: @LeighFossan

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Book Review: Mistletoe Miracles (Ransom Canyon #7) by Jodi Thomas

Mistletoe Miracles

(Ransom Canyon #7)
by Jodi Thomas

Mass Market Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: HQN; Original edition (October 1, 2018)

A small-town Texas Christmas story, where hearts are lost, love is found, and family always brings you back home.

Griffin Holloway is desperate: the Maverick Ranch has been in his family for generations, but lately, it’s a money pit. He’d sooner marry one of his horses than sell the ranch. Marriage, though, could be a solution. If he can woo a wealthy bride, he might save the ranch—just in time for Christmas.

Jaxon O’Grady likes his solitude just fine, thank you very much. But when a car accident brings the unexpected to his door, he realizes just how much one person can need another.

Crossroads is the perfect place for Jamie Johnson: avoiding nosy questions about why she’s single, she’s happy to keep to her lakeside home. So she’s baffled when she gets the strangest Christmas present of all, in the form of a Mr. Johnson, asleep on her sofa. Who is he, and why does everyone think he’s her husband?

In this uplifting novel, three unlikely couples discover just what Crossroads, Texas, can offer: romance, belonging, and plenty of Christmas spirit.

My Rating: 

Favorite Quotes:

If they had to carry all their shortcomings in a sack, they’d both be permanently bent over.

You’re the oldest, Griff. You go first. At thirty-four, you’re about to go from ripe to rotten anyway.

“You don’t believe in soul mates?” “Sure. Mom’s found three so far. Every time she leaves a husband, she rolls back her age like rewinding the odometer on a car. I’ve heard husband number three is closer to my age than hers.”

It must have been dark. She’s not the kind of girl you’d ever be able to pick up, so that means she picked you up. What I can’t figure out is why she didn’t put you right back down.

I had so many housekeepers growing up that I started calling them by their number. I think we were on about twenty-three by the time I was in college…They must be working through the alphabet now. The ones my father doesn’t run off, my mother fires when she flies by on her broom now and then.

My Review:

I snickered and giggled-snorted at the comical descriptions and wry humor throughout this narrative, although I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy this book as I was initially appalled by the older brother Griffin’s presented plan of saving the family ranch.  He instructed his brothers of the dire condition of their finances with their only foreseeable salvation being to find and marry wealthy women within two months and using said women’s resources to save them.  Eww.  This proposed plan sounded extremely cold and mercenary, which it most certainly was, and I know this happens to varying degrees all the time across all cultures, but as a feminist, I envisioned applying a high degree of pain to a soft part of his anatomy.  Griffin was sincere in his belief of love also, eventually, being an aspect to this plan… stupid man… but that did seem to take the edge of my pique and kept me reading. 

There were actually three well-nuanced and engaging storylines occurring at the same time, with each one being quite active, highly entertaining, observantly insightful, cleverly crafted, and involved varying degrees of duplicity.  I was pleasantly surprised at how much I adored this large and vast cast of quirky characters and the real-life issues they encountered.  I need to work this crafty spinner of tales into my reading calendar with regularity.    

Empress DJ

About Jodi Thomas

New York Times and USA Today’s bestselling author Jodi Thomas has published over 30 books in both the historical romance and contemporary genres, the majority of which are set in her home state of Texas. Publishers Weekly calls her novels “Distinctive…Memorable,” and that in her stories “[tension] rides high, mixed with humor and kisses more passionate than most full-on love scenes.” In 2006, Romance Writers of America (RITA) inducted Thomas into the RWA Hall of Fame for winning her third RITA for THE TEXAN’S REWARD. She also received the National Readers’ Choice Award in 2009 for TWISTED CREEK (2008) and TALL, DARK, AND TEXAN (2008). While continuing to work as a novelist, Thomas also functions as Writer in Residence at the West Texas A&M University campus, where she inspires students and alumni in their own writing pursuits.

Connect with Jodi