Monday, November 20, 2017

Blog Tour: Holiday Wishes

We're getting closer and closer to Christmas which means reading even more Christmas romances! It's one of my favourite parts of the holiday - bonus if I can curl up in front of fireplace with a peppermint (or spiked) hot chocolate. I love when I can find a good novella or short story with a holiday theme and I was happy to come across Holiday Wishes by Jill Shalvis. I only just read my first Heartbreaker Bay novel recently (another Christmas one, of course, and you can read my review here) but really enjoyed the group of friends I met. So, I was happy to get to know another couple better in Holiday Wishes.

Here's the synopsis:
It’s Christmastime again in Heartbreaker Bay!
When Sean O’Riley shows up at the Hartford Bed & Breakfast for his older brother’s bachelor weekend, he’s just hoping to make it through the weekend. What he’s not expecting is to come face to face with the woman he lost his virginity to a decade ago—a woman he’s never really forgotten.
The last time Lotti Hartford saw Sean, she told him she loved him while he said nothing. Now, ten years later, she’s just looking for a good time. For once, she wants to be the wild and free one, and Sean – the good time guy – is the perfect candidate.
But as the weekend continues, Sean realizes that after a lifetime of being the hook-up king, he’s ready to find happily-ever-after, and he wants it with Lotti. But will she open her heart to him again? As Christmas sweeps through the little B&B, he can only hope love and magic are in the air.
I feel like I say this all the time in my Christmas book reviews but this novella didn't beat you over the head with holiday spirit. Well. That's not strictly true. I think sometimes these books actually capture the spirit Christmas is supposed to have, what it used to have. You know, the sort of cheesy being surrounded by friends and family and spending time with each other instead of the things you felt you had to buy each other kind of feeling. In the case of Holiday Wishes, it was so lovely seeing how much Sean and his friends care for each other and how close they were. They had made their own family and I loved that.

I'm a big fan of second chance romances (do you ever wonder sometimes why your favourite tropes are your favourites? Am I trying too hard to psychoanalyze myself?) so I really liked that Sean and Lotti knew each other when they were teenagers. I'm proud of Lotti for standing up to Sean and not falling back into his arms just because he was there. Of course, I was also frustrated that she didn't give him a fair enough chance to explain that he had changed. She just couldn't believe it. But then he starts to show her how he changed and oh how he worked to woo her. It was really sweet.

I absolutely loved the setting of the novel. I guess I'm a sucker for quaint hotel/B&B set stories too (I adored Nora Roberts' Inn BoonsBoro novels and someday I will stay at the real Inn!). I also liked that Lotti was running her own business and had a lot of pride in it. 

Holiday Wishes is perfect for you if you want a sweet hit of Christmassy romance this holiday season. Jill Shalvis has written a pretty good (but not great) novella. It can stand alone but I think it might be nice had you read Sean's brothers novel. All in all, I'm glad to have read it but it wasn't a romance that totally knocked my Christmas-themed socks off.

About the Author
New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold and visit her website,, for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.

Connect with Jill
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Buy Holiday Wishes
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*An eARC was provided by the publisher, HarperCollins, for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Friday, November 17, 2017

Review: Bad at Love

I've been reading Karina Halle for a long while now and I'm thrilled that she's been writing more contemporary romances lately. She is one of the best at writing romances that are realistic, heartwrenching, sweet, sexy, and funny. It sounds like a tall order but she does it well! Bad at Love had all of those elements and was a really enjoyable read.

Here's the synopsis:
She's bad at love, but he's even worse...
Marina is hot, blonde, and wickedly smart, but when it comes to men? She's hopeless. Between her quirks and her lack of filter, there isn't a man in Los Angeles that will stick around after the third date.
Her handsome, charming friend Lazarus has the opposite problem. Everyone wants to be his girlfriend, but he gets bored and moves on quickly.
There's only one way to figure out why neither of them has cracked this love thing-- they'll date each other. On paper, it's the perfect experiment. But in reality, things between Marina and Laz get complicated quickly.
They might be bad at love, but they are even worse at being friends.
The main characters in Bad at Love were really interesting. Their career paths were ones that I definitely hadn't read about before. Marina is a beekeeper and Laz fronts a Depeche Mode cover band and is an Instagram famous poet. They're both still working hard to make it in their respective careers which I could identify with as I'm about the same age they are.

Even though I knew why Marina and Laz were bad at love and what was going to happen by the end of the book, I was still completely drawn into their story. The people who say romances are boring or terrible because they're so predictable obviously haven't been reading the right romances. Halle writes the right kind of romances. They're sweet but steamy. They're dark but light. Some have more elements of one than the other but they're always balanced perfectly. It's one of the reasons I keep coming back to Halle's books again and again and again.

In fact, dark and light played a big part in this story. Marina is all light and sunshine and honey whereas Laz is dark and brooding and a bit mysterious (I think it's the poet/musician persona). At one point someone (it might have been Marina's best friend Naomi...maybe?) mentions how Marina and Laz really balance each other because neither is fully dark or light. Marina has her shadows and Laz can be a goofball too. It was so perfect and really shows how right the two of them are for each other.

There's more to the story than just Marina and Laz finally figuring out how they feel about each other. They each have issues and, because they're such good friends (which, by the way, I'm really glad they were friends for so long before they started "dating"), both Marina and Laz aware of the other's issues. However, they're each still holding back and part of their relationship building is fully letting down those walls and allowing the other to fully see who they are and help the other to move past their...demons, shall we say. It was really interesting (and a bit heartbreaking) to read but I was rooting for the two of them the whole way.

Bad at Love was another wonderful read from Karina Halle. I was really glad I got the chance to read it and get to know Marina and Laz (even though my heart was being broken in some parts). Definitely get your hands on this one if you like romances that have a little bit of everything and are well-written!

Meet Karina 
Karina Halle is a former travel writer and music journalist and The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today Bestselling author of The Pact, Love, in English, The Artists Trilogy, Dirty Angels and over 20 other wild and romantic reads. She lives on an island off the coast of British Columbia with her husband and her rescue pup, where she drinks a lot of wine, hikes a lot of trails and devours a lot of books.
Halle is represented by the Root Literary and is both self-published and published by Simon & Schuster and Hachette in North America and in the UK.

Connect with Karina
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Stay up to date with Karina by signing up for her newsletter here

*An eARC of this novel was provided by the author in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Review: The Boyfriend Swap

I love Meredith Schorr's books and, I'll be up front and honest, I love her, too. Over the past few years, I've read all of her novels, have met her in person twice, and have emailed and messaged her countless times. I might be a bit biased but if you know me you'll also know that I'll be honest with my review even though I consider Meredith a friend. So when I say I adored The Boyfriend Swap it's because it really is another fantastic read from Schorr.

Here's the synopsis:
Is Christmas really the most wonderful time of the year? New Yorkers Robyn Lane and Sidney Bellows aren’t so sure.
Robyn has always dated struggling creative types. For once, her parents would love her to bring someone with health insurance and a 401(k) to their Chrismukkah celebration. Her actor boyfriend doesn’t qualify. While across town, Sidney’s professional life already belongs to her parents. She’s an attorney at her father’s law firm and she works tirelessly to keep her love life private. If she brings her lawyer boyfriend to their annual Christmas extravaganza, her parents will have the wedding planned by New Year’s Eve.
A mutual friend playfully suggests they trade boyfriends for the holidays. The women share a laugh, but after copious amounts of wine, decide The Boyfriend Swap could be the perfect solution. This way, Robyn can show off her stable attorney boyfriend and Sidney’s high-society family will take no interest in her flakey actor beau.
It’s a brilliant plan—in theory. In practice—not so much. When Will turns out to be the boy-next-door Robyn crushed on hard throughout her teenage years, and Sidney’s family fawns all over Perry like he’s an Oscar-winner rather than a D-list wannabe, one thing is certain: The Boyfriend Swap might just change their lives forever.
The Boyfriend Swap is full of Schorr's trademark (yep, I'm calling it a trademark) humour and heart. She manages to create characters that I always want to be best friends with and are so totally realistic. None of her heroines are perfect and some are far from it. Sidney, for example, is a real piece of work. She's tough, always needs to be in control, and is actually pretty difficult to like. But there's a certain something in her that has the reader hoping she'll redeem herself by the end of the novel (you'll just have to read it to find out if she does). Robyn, on the other hand, is the "good girl," a point that's driven home when it's revealed that it was Will who came up with her high school nickname of Snow White. I will say that I found Robyn to be a touch too much like Kim, Schorr's heroine in her Blogger Girl series. I love the series and Kim so I loved Robyn but they are definitely very similar characters. Maybe it's just because they're both sweet, smart, sassy women. Nothing wrong with that, right?

The main plot of the story - swapping boyfriends for the holidays - had the potential to end up being really cheesy but Schorr makes it work. Maybe because not everyone is super into the idea. Sidney has to work to convince Robyn and especially Will that it's a good idea. It proves that Sidney is a damn good lawyer and can argue her way to a win in just about anything. But, as you can imagine, it also shows the cracks in the established relationships. Schorr does an awesome job of writing these relationships so they feel realistic even in a bizarre situation.

There was a bit of an unbalance in the stories for me but that wasn't exactly a bad thing. I didn't really connect with Sidney (or Perry) but I wonder if that was to be expected. There's one line that I absolutely love from Perry when they're discussing the swap. He says to Sidney, referring to the two of them, "We're definitely the villains in this story." To me that line says that Schorr maybe knows that Sidney and Perry aren't the main reason you're still reading and that, maybe, that's ok.

I had totally forgotten that Will was Robyn's high school crush so I was pleasantly surprised by that reveal. It was sort of like a second chance romance, which is one of my favourite tropes. And Will himself? Oh my goodness, swoon. I adored him. I felt a bit like Robyn's mom did, constantly wanting to tell Robyn that I just loved him. He was smart and had interests that were all over the board. And he really seemed to understand Robyn and what made her tick.

And for fans of Christmas stories (like me!) the main portion of the story takes place over the holidays in December. There's just enough cheer to make it a holiday story but not too much that you can't read this in, say, July.

I could probably keep gushing about The Boyfriend Swap but I should probably leave a little mystery for when you read it yourself (and you will, right? You should.). I loved Meredith Schorr's latest novel and am already waiting for her next one!

*An eARC of this novel was provided by the author and publisher, Henery Press, in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest (I promise) and my own.*

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Review: Christmas at the Falling-Down Guesthouse

It's now November so it's time to promote and read all of the holiday novels! Yay! I adore Christmas and romances so Christmas romances are some of my all time favourite books. I've read a lot of bad ones over the years and some that are absolutely amazing. Three years ago I read and reviewed The Reluctant Elf by Michele Gorman, an author I really enjoy. This year Gorman published some cozier stories under the name Lilly Bartlett. She and her publisher decided that the feel-good The Reluctant Elf actually worked really well as a Bartlett novel so they've republished it as Christmas at the Falling-Down Guesthouse. To help promote the relaunch of the book I'm reposting my review from three years ago (with a few small tweaks). Enjoy!

Here's the synopsis:
Put your feet up and tuck into the mince pies, because you won’t have to lift a finger to enjoy this Christmas!
Too bad the same can’t be said for single mother and extremely undomestic goddess, Lottie.
When her beloved Aunt Kate ends up in hospital just before Christmas, Lottie and her seven-year-old daughter rush to rural Wales to take over her B&B. A picky hotel reviewer and his mad family are coming to stay, and without the rating only he can bestow, Aunt Kate will lose her livelihood.
But Lottie can barely run her own life, let alone a hotel. How will she manage to turn the falling-down guesthouse into the luxurious wonderland the reviewer expects? And could mysterious taxi driver, Danny, who agrees to help her, turn out to be the real gift this season?
As the snow sparkles on the trees and hot chocolate steams in your hand, snuggle into the delicious magic of Christmas at the Falling-Down Guesthouse.
The thing I didn't love was that the story seemed so outlandish. I couldn't understand why Aunt Kate would agree to have a reviewer stay when the B&B was in such disarray (that was an unintentional, and not very good, rhyme!). I think if the place had only been slightly messy and/or run down I could have accepted it but that wasn't the case. 

Putting that negative out of mind (I wish it had been easier to do), made the rest of the story enjoyable. I loved Lottie's daughter (I think she could be described as precocious!) and reading about their little family. Single moms (and dads) have it tough and I liked that Bartlett made sure to show both sides of that life. It's hard to raise a child on your own but the relationship between parent and child can sometimes be extra special because it's just the two of them.

And, of course, I loved the love story. Was it predictable? Absolutely. But that didn't make it any less fun to read about. Reading as Lottie and Danny learned more about each other was so great. They become strangers to friends to something more. The progression is quick but it totally made sense. It was just so sweet!

If you like humorous and sweet stories, pick up Christmas at the Falling-Down Guesthouse by Lilly Bartlett. It's a great novella to ease yourself into Christmas reading since it's not over the top Christmassy but it still embraces the spirit of the holiday.

Happy reading!

*A copy of this novel was provided by the publisher, Notting Hill Press, in exchange for review consideration.*