Thursday, February 28, 2019

Book Review: California Girls by Susan Mallery

 California Girls
by Susan Mallery

Amazon US / UK / AU / CA
B&N / iBooks

Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: MIRA; Original edition 

The California sunshine’s not quite so bright for three sisters who get dumped in the same week…

Finola, a popular LA morning show host, is famously upbeat until she’s blindsided on live TV by news that her husband is sleeping with a young pop sensation who has set their affair to music. While avoiding the tabloids and pretending she’s just fine, she’s crumbling inside, desperate for him to come to his senses and for life to go back to normal.

Zennie’s breakup is no big loss. Although the world insists she pair up, she’d rather be surfing. So agreeing to be the surrogate for her best friend is a no-brainer—after all, she has an available womb and no other attachments to worry about. Except…when everyone else, including her big sister, thinks she’s making a huge mistake, being pregnant is a lot lonelier—and more complicated—than she imagined.

Never the tallest, thinnest or prettiest sister, Ali is used to being overlooked, but when her fiancé sends his disapproving brother to call off the wedding, it’s a new low. And yet Daniel continues to turn up “for support,” making Ali wonder if maybe—for once—someone sees her in a way no one ever has.

But side by side by side, these sisters will start over and rebuild their lives with all the affection, charm and laugh-out-loud humor that is classic Susan Mallery.

My Rating:

Favorite Quotes:

Finola, we have models in the building. Tall, skinny, hungry models. They’re starting to look feral and turn on each other. I’m convinced it’s the smell of bacon.

… she alternated between trying to figure out a plan to win Nigel back and wondering if she could find a few anthrax spores to send him in the mail.

Finola told herself they weren’t deliberately cruel, they were just young and thoughtless. At least she hoped they were because otherwise the next generation was going to be a disappointment.

My Review:

I fell into this irresistible story and didn’t want to come back out.  Susan Mallery has extraordinarily strong word voodoo. I was fully invested and right beside them or sitting in a corner watching as they bantered and argued.  The storylines were deftly written and cleverly crafted with ample servings of levity and curiously addictive conundrums.  Each character was uniquely compelling and so enticingly well drawn I could easily identify them in a police line-up.  The mother was heinously shallow and possessed all the warmth and nurture of a rattlesnake and whose self-involvement was second only to her eldest daughter, Finola, who was a complete narcissist, although Finola had the wittiest quips of anyone.  I adored Ali and Zennie, although my favorite character was the sweet and thoughtful Daniel and was totally besotted with him by the end of the book.  Sigh, I want to clear off my TBR and only read Susan Mallery stories for the rest of my life.  

Empress DJ

About The Author

#1 NYT bestselling author Susan Mallery writes heartwarming, humorous novels about the relationships that define our lives-family, friendship, romance. She’s known for putting nuanced characters in emotional situations that surprise readers to laughter. Beloved by millions, her books have been translated into 28 languages. Susan lives in Washington with her husband, two cats, and a small poodle with delusions of grandeur. Visit her at

Connect with Susan

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Book Review: Hottie Lumberjack by Tawna Fenske

Hottie Lumberjack

 by Tawna Fenske

When Mark Bracelyn lumbers into Chelsea Singer’s cupcake shop with an axe, she’s poised to hit the panic button. But he fixes her door, praises her buttercream, and sends her skittish heart pounding like a hammer on a hollow log, so he can’t be all that scary. Chelsea’s sure there’s a gooey marshmallow center under Mark’s tough outer shell, though admittedly she’s been wrong before.

Mark may look like a grungy lumberjack, but he’s also the wealthy part-owner of Ponderosa Luxury Ranch Resort. The lone Bracelyn heir to avoid a childhood of fancy boarding schools, he stays hidden behind the scruffy beard and battered truck. But something else separates Mark from his siblings, and keeping his guard up means keeping his secret—and his family.

When someone threatens Chelsea and her daughter, Mark becomes their personal protector. When he’s not watching her back, he’s watching the rest of Chelsea’s body and warning himself not to touch. With danger mounting, they bond over phallic cupcakes and bizarre bunny behavior, while Mark battles his surging attraction. Can a sweet-toothed mountain man and a cautious single mom escape their histories, or will their hearts land on the chopping block?

My Rating:

Favorite Quotes:

For some reason I just assumed he has a dog. He looks like the sort of guy who’d have a Rottweiler or maybe a blue ox named Babe.

“Neutered?” Libby scrunches up her nose and studies the other end of the rabbit. “That’s where they cut off his boy parts to make him behave better,” Mrs. Percy offers helpfully. “To make him a nice boy.” Chelsea tries unsuccessfully to stifle a laugh while Libby turns her attention to me. “Did it hurt?” “Did what hurt?” “You brought us donuts, so you’re nice,” she says. “Did it hurt when they cut off your boy parts?”

Libby cocks her head at me. “How are babies made?” Uh-oh. “Um—”“Libby.” Chelsea pulls it together and musters up a stern tone. “You know the answer to this. We have that book, How Babies Are Made.” “Well yeah, but I wanted to see if he knows.” Libby studies me like a schoolteacher issuing a quiz.

Dating a Bracelyn is like riding on the luggage carousel at the airport. It’s exciting and fun and makes you feel like you’re getting away with something insanely cool. But there’s a helluva lot of baggage there.

My Review:

Hottie Lumberjack was good fun and an irreverently amusing Romantic Comedy, which was considerably better than the cheesy title would lead you to expect.  I always enjoy Tawna Fenske’s clever wit and breezy writing style, but I revel in her delightfully titillating, smirk-worthy, and bawdy sense of humor.  The premise was entertaining and intriguing, the characters were lovably quirky and endearing, and the writing was well balanced with levity, sizzling sensuality, and engaging storylines.   

Mark wasn’t a lumberjack but like the old commercial, he could have played one on TV.  He was huge in size although underneath all that flannel was a total marshmallow and tenderhearted mama’s boy with significant issues and insecurities regarding his identity.  He may have appeared roughly hewn and was an avid fan of profanity and conversed with a terse manner of speaking, although his inner musings reflected a sharp wit and thoughtful observations.  I have always enjoyed Ms. Fenske’s amusingly idiosyncratic characters although I was fully infatuated with Mark as well as his sweet cupcake baker Chelsea - an independent and hard-working single mom to an adorable and outspoken six-year-old.  Chelsea’s delicious and unique cupcakes may have been the lure that snagged Mark’s attention first, but it didn’t take long until the sweet aftereffects migrated from his stomach to his brain, permeating his every thought, before finally making way to his massive chest to ensnare his enormous heart.  But be warned – this delicious tale was a colossal challenge to my diet.   

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

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Book Review: THE LOST GIRLS OF PARIS by Pam Jenoff

 by Pam Jenoff

Amazon US / UK / AU / CA | B&N | iBooks

Paperback: 384 pages

Publisher: Park Row; Original edition (January 29, 2019)

From the author of the runaway bestseller, The Orphan’s Tale, comes a remarkable story of friendship and courage centered around three women and a ring of female secret agents during World War II.

1946, Manhattan

One morning while passing through Grand Central Terminal on her way to work, Grace Healey finds an abandoned suitcase tucked beneath a bench. Unable to resist her own curiosity, Grace opens the suitcase, where she discovers a dozen photographs—each of a different woman. In a moment of impulse, Grace takes the photographs and quickly leaves the station.

Grace soon learns that the suitcase belonged to a woman named Eleanor Trigg, leader of a network of female secret agents who were deployed out of London during the war. Twelve of these women were sent to Occupied Europe as couriers and radio operators to aid the resistance, but they never returned home, their fates a mystery. Setting out to learn the truth behind the women in the photographs, Grace finds herself drawn to a young mother turned agent named Marie, whose daring mission overseas reveals a remarkable story of friendship, valor and betrayal.

Vividly rendered and inspired by true events, New York Times bestselling author Pam Jenoff shines a light on the incredible heroics of the brave women of the war and weaves a mesmerizing tale of courage, sisterhood and the great strength of women to survive in the hardest of circumstances.

My Rating:

Favorite Quotes:

Professor Digglesby walked back into the workshop and returned with what appeared to be feces. “We plant detonators in the least likely of places,” he added. The girls squealed with disgust. “Also fake,” he muttered good-naturedly. “Holy shit!” Josie said.

Eleanor produced a necklace with a silver bird charm and held it out. Marie was surprised. But it was not a gift; Eleanor twisted the necklace and it unscrewed to reveal a cyanide capsule. “The final friend,” Eleanor declared.

Grace imagined herself at seventeen— she had been concerned with coming-out parties and summers at the beach. She could not have navigated her way across Manhattan at that point. Yet these girls were on their own in France battling the Nazis. Grace was overcome with awe and inadequacy at the same time.

My Review:

This was my first experience reading the talented Pam Jenoff and I became an instant and ardent fan.  She has mad skills.  I was quickly immersed in her tale and so fully invested and simpatico with her characters that I found myself flinching when one was injured.  I seldom read historical fiction, as I don’t enjoy being reminded of the ignorant and concerted behaviors that oppressed women for centuries, although I will readily consider the genre when strong female trailblazers are featured.  I cannot resist a kick-ass heroine!  Such was the case with The Lost Girls of Paris, which featured everyday women who were recruited by for a specialized project within a little known agency of the British government during WWII, the SEO. I had never heard of this branch before but it was an actual section during Churchill.  After significant failures and heavy losses of male agents, Eleanor, the secretary to the SEO Director, convinced her boss to employ female agents instead, an idea that was not well received by the Neanderthals of the day but was put into place under Eleanor’s exacting eye.  The women weren’t spies and were resented and dismissively scoffed upon by MI6 and the British military, although once in place, the female’s contributions were soon heavily relied upon and invaluable, until through no fault of their own, something went amiss.  

The compelling and well-crafted storylines were fictional although well researched, impeccably detailed, and featured three strong and admirably tenacious women across three timelines but only one of which, Marie, had been an actual operative and Eleanor her feared and revered supervisor/mentor.  Marie’s story was the most poignant and perilous, and I often found myself taut with tension with my shoulders in my ears while I read.  Grace came into the story shortly after the war when she stumbled upon Eleanor’s abandoned suitcase in New York’s Grand Central station with no awareness of what she had found until much later. Grace seemed to have sticky fingers, as she pocketed not only a set of photos before replacing the bag where she had found it, she also pilfered something else later on in the story.  Grace had moxie and her own set of skills beyond typing.  It was Grace’s insatiable curiosity that led her to uncover the intriguing tale of Eleanor, the SEO, Marie, and the other women’s poignant tales of heroism and sacrifice, as well as the ultimate betrayal that led to their demise. But who had compromised their mission? The answer was heartbreaking, the premise was ingenious, and the writing was transcendent.           

Empress DJ

About The Author

Pam Jenoff is the author of several novels, including the international bestseller The Kommandant’s Girl, which also earned her a Quill Award nomination. Pam lives with her husband and three children near Philadelphia where, in addition to writing, she teaches law school.

Connect with Pam

Monday, February 25, 2019

Book Review: Fall (Montgomery Men #3) by C.A. Harms

(Montgomery Men #3)
by C.A. Harms

Amazon US / UK / AU / CA 

Knoxville Montgomery liked things his way. He kept everything simple and he was always in control. That is until a head-strong blonde stumbled into his life and changed everything. She became a challenge he refused to walk away from.

It didn’t matter how much Knoxville tried, Tinley would not give into him. She couldn’t. On the outside, she appeared to be resilient and untouchable, but her reality was a much different story.

But Knoxville would not give up. Little by little, he started to tear down her walls, and at that moment, Tinley knew. Even though she fought it with every, single fiber in her body, their outcome was fated.

She would Fall…
And all she could do now was hope he’d be willing to catch her.

My Rating:

Favorite Quotes:

Lexington Russell is my brother’s secretary, best friend to Kinsley and Shanelle, and the biggest fan of the Montgomery men. The last part was no fucking joke. Lex loved us, as in loved to get us riled up, flustered, and half-naked. Again, no fucking joke. The guy was a menace.

“I can assure you, I am not pleasant company… I’m moody and cranky at least eighty -two percent of the day.” “How about the remaining eighteen?” “I’m asleep.”

“Fancy to me is using real silverware instead of plastic.” The sad part is, I wasn’t joking.

“I don’t need you to set us up, because I’m confident I can do that on my own. I’m pretty terrific after all. I just need a chance to get him alone.” I suddenly feel a little bad for Greg. “I know a homosexual man when I see one, and he is in fact into men. If I have things my way, he’ll be into me.” Lexington wags his brows suggestively, as if I didn’t already catch on to his little innuendo.

My Review:

I was unfamiliar with the Montgomery Men series but that didn’t seem to matter as I had no problem comprehending the story, although after reading this installment I am more than eager to pick up the first two as I am already enamored with the entire family and am quite certain I would enjoy the earlier books as much as I did Knox’s story in Fall.  Knox was a sweet treat, a sexy, fiercely protective, and thoughtful man who seemed to have the patience of a saint.  He was magnetically attracted to lovely Tinley, who didn’t put of encouraging vibes, at all.  Tinley had shut herself down following a traumatic attack the previous year and was a difficult and prickly pear to even converse with.  Knox enjoyed the challenge as much as her snark and barbs, and gradually won her over one inch at a time.  The writing was full of sizzle and sassy humor while the storylines were engaging, easy to follow, interesting, well-paced, and cast with highly appealing and well-matched characters.  C.A. Harms has been a recent discovery for me starting with her Oh Tequila series, but I have greatly enjoyed each and every one of books I that I have had the pleasure to peruse.       

Empress DJ

About The Author

C.A. Harms

I am an Illinois girl, born and raised. Simple and true. I love the little things; they truly mean the most. I may have a slight addiction to my new Keurig—oh my, that thing is a godsend. And so fast too. I have two children who truly are the greatest part of my days, and their faces never fail to put a smile on my face. I have been married to my best friend for seventeen years, and looking forward to many more. 

I am one of those authors that adore my readers. I love to hear from you. After all, it is because of each one of you that I continue to write. 



❤ One Sizzling Romance at a Time ❤

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Book Review, Giveaway: It Started With A Note by Victoria Cooke

It Started With A Note
by Victoria Cooke

Amazon US / UK / CA / AU 
 B&N/ Kobo

One lost letter. A chance to change her life!

Superhero single mum Cath always puts other people first. But now that she’s seen her son safely off to university (phew!), life seems a little, well…empty.

So when Cath unexpectedly discovers some letters written by her great-grandfather during the First World War, she decides to take herself on an adventure to France to retrace his footsteps.

Cath expects to spend her holiday visiting famous battlefields and testing out her French phrase book. What she doesn’t anticipate is that her tour guide, the handsome Olivier, will be quite so charming! Soon Cath isn’t simply unearthing the stories of the past – she’s writing a brand new one of her own, which might end up taking her in a very unexpected direction…

My Rating:

Favorite Quotes:

I never swear. Ever. But if I did, Hells Angels would blush at the words I’d choose right now.

I’d let him move in about six months ago while he got himself back on his feet, but so far he’s not displayed any signs of getting a job and moving out, and he only uses his feet to walk to the pub.

My comfy nude-coloured pants are from a multipack from the clothing department at work and the mismatched bra is a plain black jersey style. It isn’t even underwired. I could be a poster girl for ‘Agent Preventer’, the lesser-known underwear-brand-slash-birth-control guaranteed to put off even the most amorous of men.

We each get one chance at life, and if this vast number of gravestones represents something it’s how precious life is.

It’s like flying ant day in my stomach.

Being together is like pain relief, so, I suppose we need to see one another for medicinal purposes.

My Review:

It Started With a Note was a pleasantly entertaining and engaging read that hit all the feels from amusing humor to sweet romance and on to poignant and respectful remembrances that stung my eyes and put hot rocks in my throat more than once. I adored the character and become more than a bit besotted with Olivier, he was such a sweet and thoughtful man.  I want one just like him and seem to be experiencing an intense urge to wander the French countryside and stalk tour coaches in search of a hot travel guide.  I was totally cheated by my last excursion, as the guide I was assigned appeared better suited for Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley, and I don’t mean that in a complimentary way.  I scooped two new addition to my Brit Word List with over-egging - to overdo or exaggerate; and a bit of a doss – which is slang for an easy piece of work or convenient place to sleep.  

Empress DJ

Author Bio 

Victoria Cooke grew up in the city of Manchester before crossing the Pennines in pursuit of her career in education. She now lives in Huddersfield with her husband and two young daughters and when she’s not at home writing by the fire with a cup of coffee in her hand, she loves working out in the gym and traveling. Victoria was first published at the tender age of eight by her classroom teacher who saw potential in a six-page story about an invisible man. Since then she’s always had a passion for reading and writing, undertaking several writers’ courses before completing her first romantic comedy novel, 'The Secret to Falling in Love,' in 2016. 

Cooke's third novel, Who Needs Men Anyway? became a digital bestseller in 2018.

Social Media Links –


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Saturday, February 23, 2019

Book Review: Once a Liar by A.F. Brady

Once a Liar

by A.F. Brady

Paperback: 384 pages

Publisher: Park Row; Original edition (January 29, 2019)

Amazon | B-A-M | B & N

In this electrifying psychological thriller, a high-powered sociopath meets his reckoning when he’s accused of the brutal murder of his mistress.

Did he kill Charlie Doyle? And if he didn’t…who did?

Peter Caine, a cutthroat Manhattan defense attorney, worked ruthlessly to become the best at his job. On the surface, he is charming and handsome, but inside he is cold and heartless. He fights without remorse to acquit murderers, pedophiles and rapists.

When Charlie Doyle, the daughter of the Manhattan DA—and Peter’s former lover—is murdered, Peter’s world is quickly sent into a tailspin. He becomes the prime suspect as the DA, a professional enemy of Peter’s, embarks on a witch hunt to avenge his daughter’s death, stopping at nothing to ensure Peter is found guilty of the murder.

In the challenge of his career and his life, Peter races against the clock to prove his innocence. As the evidence mounts against him, he’s forced to begin unraveling his own dark web of lies and confront the sins of his past. But the truth of who killed Charlie Doyle is more twisted and sinister than anyone could have imagined…

“A.F. Brady delivers a knockout sophomore effort. Peter Caine has a very Patrick Bateman air about him, and the whole story sizzles with sinister madness and incessant tension right to the last page. Not to be missed.” —J.T. Ellison, NYT Bestselling author of Tear Me Apart

“A smart, nuanced and spine-chilling portrayal of a sociopath walking among us… Brady’s depth of knowledge and skillful hand make us root for him in spite of everything he may—or may not—have done. Once a Liar is a thriller you won’t soon forget.” —Wendy Walker, bestselling author of All Is Not Forgotten

“Brady is a master of intense characters and riveting storylines.” —Kaira Rouda, bestselling author of Best Day Ever and The Favorite Daughter

My Rating:

Favorite Quotes:

Claire has been living in my house for eight years, but I still can’t fully acclimate to cohabitating with another human being with her own will and own needs… I still stumble over her things, crash into her when she stands between me and my destination and I can never remember how she takes her coffee.

I realize that I am lying to myself as much as I’m lying to everyone else. I’m not in control, and I see now that I never have been. I’ve just lied so much that I believe myself.

“You, sir—” he leans forward and bores a hole in my face with his penetrating eyes “— have a monster inside of you. The only question is, can you keep it contained? That is up to you and you alone.”

My Review:

I was enthralled by this deviously clever tale of Peter Caine, a highly successful and brilliant criminal defense attorney who had become as contemptible and loathsome as the wealthy yet repulsive criminals he represented.  Peter didn’t start out that way but had become morally bankrupt, a prolific liar, a social fraud, a manipulative and narcissistic sociopath, and an atrocious human being.  He had callously abandoned his child and avoided having any type of relationship with him, seeing his mere existence as a nuisance until deciding that taking custody of his motherless child would be good for his image.  He put on a performance when required in public but he had long ago buried his emotional self and selfishly found human interactions to be an arduous waste of his energy.  But was he a murderer?  I couldn’t decide, but I really didn’t think so as he seemed too arrogant and emotionally lazy to have committed such a passionate act, although… he might well have if he felt his well-crafted persona was threatened. 

Peter was despicable and I despised him, deeply; yet the wily wordsmith known as A. F. Brady wove such a beguiling tale I was incapable of putting my Kindle down.  Her word voodoo was far too strong.  I was captivated, too invested, hopelessly intrigued, and deeply engrossed.  I couldn’t tear myself away from this cunningly contrived story and read it in a day.  The storylines were adroitly plotted, insidious sly, and quickly sucked me into the vile vortex of Peter’s inner musings.  I don’t believe I even took a full breath until the last page.  It was wicked good!

Empress DJ

About A. F. Brady

A.F. Brady is a New York State Licensed Mental Health Counselor/Psychotherapist. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Brown University and two Masters degrees in Psychological Counseling from Columbia University. She is a life-long New Yorker and resides in Manhattan with her husband and their family.

Connect with A. F.