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BOOK REVIEW: The Friend Zone (The Friend Zone #1) by Abby Jimenez

BOOK REVIEW: The Friend Zone (The Friend Zone #1) by Abby JimenezThe Friend Zone (The Friend Zone #1)
by Abby Jimenez
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

A slow burn, hilarious and heartwarming romantic comedy that Tessa Bailey calls "a romance for the ages!" from the New York Times bestselling author of Yours Truly.

Kristen Peterson doesn't do drama, will fight to the death for her friends, and has no room in her life for guys who just don't get her. She's also keeping a big secret: facing a medically necessary procedure that will make it impossible for her to have children.

Planning her best friend's wedding is bittersweet for Kristen -- especially when she meets the best man, Josh Copeland. He's funny, sexy, never offended by her mile-wide streak of sarcasm, and always one chicken enchilada ahead of her hangry. Even her dog, Stuntman Mike, adores him. The only catch: Josh wants a big family someday. Kristen knows he'd be better off with someone else, but as their attraction grows, it's harder and harder to keep him at arm's length.

The Friend Zone will have you laughing one moment and grabbing for tissues the next as it tackles the realities of infertility and loss with wit, heart, and a lot of sass.

Review:

The Friend Zone absolutely destroyed me.  This was a freezer read, and I was definitely not prepared *hiccup sobs*.  Yet, I adored this story.  Even though it had the miscommunication trope in spades.  And that’s because these characters shined so brightly.  They felt so real to me and the story played out like I was watching a movie in my head.

“What? I haven’t gotten laid since last year. And this shirt smells incredible.” I dipped my nose back inside the neckline. “Like testosterone and cedar. And did you see him washing those dishes? He looked like Mr. February in a sexy firemen calendar. Guys like that are the exact reason why my grandmother always told me to wear clean underwear in case you get into a car accident.”
She shook her head. “I swear to God you’re a man.”

Josh and Kristen’s meet cute was absolutely memorable.  And then the next time they ran into each other I was laughing hysterically.  Both of their best friends were getting married, and their chemistry was instantaneous.  Josh was the best man, and Kristen was the maid of honor.  Yet Kristen had a boyfriend.  They had to play nice and keep the drama low.  Even while sparks kept igniting between them.

I reminded myself that she was taken. The good ones always were.

I loved Josh, he was my favorite character in this book!  He was a firefighter who was previously a Marine.  So his smart mouth, huge heart, and seductive ways definitely put a spell on me.  And I loved how he had no problem helping Kristen out.  He had 6 older sisters and they trained him well haha.  Plus the fact that Kristen’s dog, Stuntman Mike, loved him just sealed the deal.  Dogs are always the best judge of character!

I thought about how he’d given me his French toast earlier, and I had to clutch my heart through my dress.
“You okay?” he asked, watching me squeeze my chest.
I nodded. “Yeah.”
It’s just that you’re perfect, and my heart hurts.

Kristen, was the queen of sarcasm and I loved the relationship she had with her best friend Sloan.  So it made me happy that she made another connection.  To Josh.  Their friendship formed so easily.  And while Kristen had a boyfriend, she couldn’t deny the attraction she felt towards him.  How much she liked to hang out with him.  But, there was a huge but.  Josh wanted to have a huge family.  And Kristen’s future didn’t allow her to have children.  So she knew she couldn’t have a future with Josh.

“You know what I like about you, Josh?”
“My way with small, vicious dogs?”
I snorted.

As someone who suffered from something very similar to Kristen, I still got upset with her.  She wouldn’t even give Josh the choice of them.  And that’s because she kept her medical issues a secret from him.  So that made Josh create explanations in his head, for why she treated him the way she did.  And it made me so upset.  I got her struggle.  On such a deep soul shattering level.  But keeping those secrets and playing hot and cold with Josh made me want to shake her.  Hard.  Especially when Josh’s heart was being ripped to shreds!  This book was filled with the ultimate miscommunication trope.

I’m in love with you.
The impulse hit me so hard and fast, I didn’t even see it coming.
I’m so in love with you.

The emotions in this book choked me.  There was a part of this story that made me sob, multiple times.  There were pages that went by, and I couldn’t stop the tears.  My heart was ripped to shreds and was then shattered into a million pieces.  I was so mad and hurt with how something played out.  Yes it was real life.  But ugh.  It was so hard. So be prepared and keep tissues nearby.

“I promise to love Stuntman Mike and slay your spiders, and keep you from getting hangry.”
Now I was laughing through tears.

While my heart was elated for the ending of this story, it was also bittersweet.  And I still found myself crying tears of pain.  So while I closed this book with a smile on my face, it hurt to get there.  And I’m still thinking about what happened long after I closed the book.  It’s been a long time since a book has wrecked me this badly.  While I plan on reading every single book by Abby Jimenez, I can’t binge all of her books in a row.  My heart has to heal from this story first.

BOOK REVIEW: In the Weeds (Lovelight #2) by BK Borison

BOOK REVIEW: In the Weeds (Lovelight #2) by BK BorisonIn the Weeds (Lovelight #2)
by BK Borison
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

A grumpy farmer and a no-nonsense social media influencer have another chance at love in this charming romantic comedy.

Evelyn St. James isn’t the kind of woman you forget. Beckett Porter certainly hasn’t. One incredible weekend in Maine, and he’s officially a man distracted. He’s not unfamiliar with hot and heavy flings, but Evie wove some sort of magic over him during their tumble in the sheets. He can’t stop thinking about her laugh. Her hand pressed flat against his chest. Her smiling mouth at his neck.

So when she suddenly appears on his farm as part of a social media contest, he is…confused. He had no idea that the sweet and sexy woman he met at a bar is actually a global phenomenon. When Evie disappears again, Beckett resolves to finally move on.

But Evie, who has been feeling disconnected from her work and increasingly dissatisfied with life online, is trying to find her way back to something real. She returns to the last place she was happy: Lovelight Farms and the tiny town of Inglewild. And it has absolutely nothing to do with the hot farmer she spent two incredible nights with.

Review:

In the Weeds was a second chance romance set in an adorable small town.  I fell in love with these characters in Lovelight Farms, and was so happy Beckett got his own story.  This opposites attract, slow burn, forced proximity warmed my heart.  And I was so happy to be back with these characters I adore.

I look at her and all I seem to do is want.

Beckett worked at Lovelight Farms, and when he was away at a conference had a two night stand with Evelyn St. James.  Evelyn was a social media influencer, who oversaw the contest in the previous book.  After their awkward moments together, I couldn’t wait to see what happened next.

“I want more,” I tell her— another confession— my hand slipping down between us to brush the soft skin just below her belly button. “I want everything.”

This story started out with flashbacks from the past that were steamy.  We got to see how Evelyn and Beckett met, and how easily they clicked.  It was effortless when they were around each other.  And then we jumped back into the present, and Evelyn had lost her way in the world.  When her bestie asked where she was last happy, and it was Lovelight Farms, Evelyn booked a trip back there.  And crossed paths that same day with Beckett.

I don’t want to be her friend. I want to be more. I want us to be the people we were when we were away from everyone else. I almost say it, biting down on the inside of my cheek to keep the thought to myself.

I adored Beckett.  He was the strong, yet silent type.  The one you could always count on.  He was loyal.  Trustworthy.  And had the biggest heart ever.  But he was also that man who walked into a room and just made you sigh out loud.  Plus with a gaggle of kittens crawling on him, it was impossible not to adore Bennett.  Yet with Evelyn back, Beckett had a standoffish attitude.  And I got it.  This woman left him without a word.  Twice.  And it felt like he was waiting for her to do it again.

But that’s the thing about happiness, I guess. You can show whatever you want to the world and not feel a lick of it inside yourself.

Evelyn felt like she could finally be herself with Beckett.  He wasn’t looking to use her fame, like so many had tried in the past.  So when she decided to take a break from social media, and found herself bunking with Bennett, I was so happy for her!  She was determined to find her happiness each day, and that thought resonated so deeply with me.  It took a little while, but when she started to open up to Beckett.  Their talks were beautiful and hopeful.

I don’t feel ready to leave this place yet. For the first time in a long time, I’m content standing still.

While both of them couldn’t stop thinking about the past, and how good they were together, in the present they made each other smile.  And they started to find that connection again.  Their moments together were heartfelt and steamy.  And just like the fist book, I adored the found family in this series.  Stella, Beckett and Layla loved one another so deeply.  I adored every single banter, squabble, and hard time they gave each other.  Because underneath was so much love.  They would do anything for the other.  So the moment in the field, I was a crying mess.

“Beckett,” I say, a little bit dazed. His name lingers in the space between us. We don’t talk about it, he’s right, but I thought that was what he wanted. “How much have you had to drink?”
“Not enough,” he says, his eyes intent on my face. “’Cause I still think about kissing you all the damn time.”

Family dinners and sisterly love, hilarious phone tree moments, cute kittens, small town drama, flashbacks that made me smile, a scene that left me terrified, a beautiful date under the stars and all the longing filled the pages.  Even though this story moved slower than the first it was impossible not to feel everything these characters did.  Yet I wasn’t the hugest fan of the conflict.  I’m super picky about miscommunication, and this one didn’t work that well for me.  Yet it ended with a happily for now that warmed my heart and I loved the grand gesture!

Maybe this is what happy is supposed to be. A person, a place. A single moment in time.

PS I still adore Stella’s calendar idea!

BOOK REVIEW: Small Town Swoon (Cherry Tree Harbor #4) by Melanie Harlow

BOOK REVIEW: Small Town Swoon (Cherry Tree Harbor #4) by Melanie HarlowSmall Town Swoon (Cherry Tree Harbor #4)
by Melanie Harlow
Purchase on: Amazon
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

Only in the movies does the Hollywood heartthrob fall for the small town diner waitress.

So when Dashiel Buckley returns to Cherry Tree Harbor for a wedding, I'm determined not to let my massive crush on my best friend's older brother hijack my good sense.

(It happened once before. Do not recommend.)

But when my hand is injured, it's Dash who steps in at the diner. The moment he realizes I can't afford to fix my car, he takes care of it. And when he hears about the way my toxic ex treated me, he refuses to let it go.

Now it's not just his blue eyes and sexy smile that have me swooning, it's the way he wants to help me. Encourage me. Protect me.

I can't resist.

Our text messages heat up. Our phone calls melt all my defenses. "Just friends" turns into "just once," and "just once" becomes a distant memory. Night after night, he warms my bed, my body, and my heart.

But it can't last.

Our dreams have us on two different paths-Dash wants the lights, camera, action of Hollywood, and I'll always be a small town girl.

If only I could be his.

Review:

Small Town Swoon was a beautiful, heartwarming story about a Hollywood actor and his little sister’s best friend back home.  She was a waitress at her parent’s diner, and it was set in a small town that had all the charm.  With memorable moments, characters that will capture your heart, steam that was fabulous, and a happily ever after that will have you crying tears of joy, I can’t recommend this book enough!

Ari had practically grown up at our house and had been like another little sister to me.
Until one day she wasn’t.

First off, this book can easily be read as a standalone, but I can’t recommend the previous books in this series enough!  You’ll definitely want to meet the rest of the Buckley brothers.  They are beyond sexy, will melt your heart, and are so swoon worthy!

His eyes scanned the photos on the wall, and he laughed. “What happened there?”
I followed his line of sight to his headshot. “Oh, that. Uh, someone broke in and vandalized your picture.”
“Just my picture?”
I nodded, pressing my lips together.

Dash was desperately wanting to change what his next role entailed.  He was looking for something deep and emotional, yet he struggled with hiding from his feelings.  So his agent sent home to get in touch with himself.  Back home was Ari, who had been in love with him forever.  Before he left for Hollywood, there was a moment that made Ari hate him.  Or at least she tried to hate him.  Yet when she ran into him, all of her feelings came flooding back.  And that scene will have you screaming with laughter and joy!

Was it wrong that I was getting myself off while thinking about my sister’s best friend, just like I used to when she was sixteen and sleeping down the hall?
Probably. But damn, it felt good.

I loved Dash with my whole heart.  He was thoughtful, kind, and had this charisma about him that made it so effortless to like him.  And being around Ari again, they got along so well.  Their banter was fabulous.  They knew each other inside out.  So when Dash would help Ari time and again, it was so easy to fall in love with him.  Yet all of those moments felt so brotherly to Ari.  If only she knew the dirty thoughts he was having about her!  

How do you think about me?
                                                I am not sure I should answer that question.
Answer it.
                             Next level it was.
Naked.
In bed with me.
Begging for my cock.
                                                Why would I have to beg?
Because I’m not done fucking you with my tongue.

I adored Ari.  She was pure joy and made me smile so much.  Plus she had this fire in her that seemed to burn brighter every time Dash was around.  I loved that she wanted to help her parent’s diner.  And I hoped that her fabulous ideas for menu items would be seen by them.  So each time Dash was around Ari, I felt the butterflies she did.  It was impossible not to be consumed by Dash’s spell.  So when they finally did cross that line of friendship, I couldn’t stop smiling.

I put my lips at her ear. “Good girl.”

So with steamy phone sex, fabulous dirty talk, and a friends with benefits relationship, this book was so steamy.  When you mix that in with heartfelt moments like braiding hair, fixing her house, or even attending one of Dash’s brother’s wedding, sigh.  This book was so emotional too.  And I loved that we got to alternate between the two of them.

I opened my mouth to say a hundred different things—I miss you, I wish you were here, I think I might be in love with you—but nothing came out. I was too afraid I’d make things worse, not better.

While there were struggles, I loved how this book felt more light-hearted.  Yet I still cried all the tears.  There were so many happy ones towards the end, and some of those moments it was impossible not to laugh while crying tears of joy.  The grand gesture was one of the best.  And the epilogue was everything!  We got a fabulous look into the future, and it was more than I ever could have hoped and dreamed for!  We also got peeks into Dash’s brother’s lives too.  So if you love romance, definitely add this one to your list!  This book had me smiling from that first page to the last and is easily one of my top favorites from 2024!

*I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book, provided by the author. All thoughts and opinions are my own.*

 

BOOK REVIEW: Lovelight Farms (Lovelight #1) by BK Borison

BOOK REVIEW: Lovelight Farms (Lovelight #1) by BK BorisonLovelight Farms (Lovelight #1)
by BK Borison
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

Two best friends fake date to reach their holiday happily ever after in this first romantic comedy in the Lovelight series.

A pasture of dead trees. A hostile takeover of the Santa barn by a family of raccoons. And shipments that have mysteriously gone missing. Lovelight Farms is not the magical winter wonderland of Stella Bloom’s dreams.

In an effort to save the Christmas tree farm she’s loved since she was a kid, Stella enters a contest with Instagram-famous influencer Evelyn St. James. With the added publicity and the $100,000 cash prize, Stella might just be able to save the farm from its financial woes. There’s just one problem. To make the farm seem like a romantic destination for the holidays, she lied on her application and said she owns Lovelight Farms with her boyfriend. Only…there is no boyfriend.

Enter best friend Luka Peters. He just stopped by for some hot chocolate and somehow got a farm and a serious girlfriend in the process. But fake dating his best friend might be the best Christmas present he’s ever received.

Review:

Lovelight Farms was a beautiful friends to lovers romance that was so easy to devour.  The found family was everything, the storyline was adorable, and the characters warmed my heart.  This book became an instant favorite and I’m excited to binge the rest of BK Borison’s stories!

I thought about a lot of things when it comes to Luka.  Things you shouldn’t think about your best friend.

Stella and Luka were the bestest of friends.  Ten years ago, Luka’s mom moved to the tiny little town where Stella lived.  And it created the most adorable meet cute!  From that moment on, they had been inseparable.  But there was always that line that neither of them would cross.  They were just friends.  Even though Stella had been in love with Luka forever.  So when Stella was forced to fake date someone, in order to save her failing farm, I couldn’t wait for the lines between her and Luka to get blurry!

But with Luka, it’s easy.  The way we touch each other, the way we breathe and move together.  It’s so easy.

I absolutely adored Stella!  She had such a kind soul, and yet she was so nervous to ask Luka to be her fake boyfriend.  Which of course he would do without a second thought!  So when the two of them announced to their tiny town that they were dating, I couldn’t stop laughing.  Small town shenanigans were at their best in this story!  And as Luka and Stella pretended to date, oh my heart I was so nervous for Stella.  She was getting everything she wanted, except it wasn’t real.  Right?

He steps back, but his hand holds against my hip, fingers slipping away with reluctance.  I look up at him in the dim light of my kitchen, and for a single breath, I see a wild, ferocious hunger. But he blinks and it’s gone. He’s my Luka again, the change so quick I think I’ve imagined it.  Brown eyes soft, smile crooked, hair a wild mess.

Luka was such a fabulous book boyfriend!  He was thoughtful, kind, and cared so much for Stella!  Yet unlike Stella, I had no problem finding all the little clues that he liked her.  So the moments when he agreed to go to ‘Thanksgiving’ with her dad, and everything else in between showing him step up….sigh.  It just made me love Luka that much more!

It’s hard to think about the consequences when his palm is warm on the small of my back, dragging up my spine.  He tangles his hand lightly in my hair and tugs gently, just once, a flash of something decadent in amber eyes when I make a small noise in the back of my throat.  He likes that noise, I can tell.  He wants to hear it again.

The tension between Stella and Luka was intense and left me desperately needing for them to do more than just have a look or a touch.  It seemed like Luka could take Stella right there in her kitchen, and then you blink and he’s back to her Luka again.  Just friends.  The will they or won’t they played out fabulously in this story!  With missed kisses, tension simmering, and pretending to date, there were so many favorite moments.  When they woke up together *fans face*, after Thanksgiving, and so many more that were deliciously steamy!

The line defining fiction and reality is obliterated.

This book also made me cry.  There were some tears here and there, but when found family became prevalent, I was sobbing my eyes out!  And then again when there was a heart to heart.  Lovelight Farms creeps up on you, and the emotions are so hard to ignore!  So if you’re looking for a friends to lovers romance, I can’t recommend this one enough.  It was steamy, heartfelt, and made me smile so much!  I can’t wait to read Beckett’s story next!

It’s hard to think of Beckett as anything other than stoic, but I recognize the shades of loneliness in him the same as me and Luka.  It’s another reason I’m grateful for this farm and the weird little family we’ve pieced together.  We’re all a little less alone.

BOOK REVIEW: Rise of the Cinder Fae (Dark Hearts Fairytale Retellings #1) by Whitney Dean

BOOK REVIEW: Rise of the Cinder Fae (Dark Hearts Fairytale Retellings #1) by Whitney DeanRise of the Cinder Fae (Dark Hearts Fairytale Retellings #1)
by Whitney Dean
Purchase on: Amazon
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

Born and raised in the forgotten and broken kingdom of Ashbury, Elora has spent years resenting the royals of Pumpkin Hollow, the kingdom that forced the fall of Ashbury and procured the town as its own.

Separated by a mysterious glass bridge, Ashbury is treated as the orphan kingdom, left to squander and starve with only the promise of protection from King Jasper, preventing anyone outside their realm from searching for the magic that lay within the ashy valleys and red skies.

Because twenty-five years ago, the Cinder Fae arrived. As mysterious as the magic encompassing Ashbury, the Cinder Fae bargained for their lives by promising to keep the entire realm warm with their ability to mine mountainsides into coal.

But Elora and the Cinder Fae hold a secret that could bring the end to Ashbury and the mysterious winged creatures, who, despite Elora's best efforts to pry, refuse to share where they came from or why they can't return.

In her desperation to prevent the downfall of her kingdom and the death of her beloved Fae, Elora drinks from an enchanted spring, convinced she can make the prince of Pumpkin Hollow fall in love with her and guarantee their safety.

But magic takes to give.

And Elora didn't realize her heart would be the sacrifice.

Review:

Rise of the Cinder Fae was an enemies to lovers, fairytale retelling of Cinderella.  With a fantasy twist, an arranged marriage, found family, and one horse, this book will take readers on a magical journey!  

“A marriage of convenience. How romantic.”
I curse. “Believe me, Irina. The only one this is convenient for is her.” I recall Elora’s glares and venomous insults, my jaw clicking as a fresh wave of annoyance rises and nearly drowns me. “Romance is out of the question.”

My heart was instantly pulled in by Elora.  With an evil stepmother and two evil stepsisters, who used her as their personal maid, I couldn’t help but feel for her.  She should have been a princess.  Yet instead she slept in the attic and didn’t seem to have much freedom.  So when Elora was taken in a pumpkin carriage to the ball to meet a dashing prince, I was so excited for her!  Yet this Cinderella retelling had so many fascinating elements mixed in.  There were the cinder faes, an arranged marriage, a King who was disgustingly horrific, and a future mother-in-law and sister-in-law who I absolutely cherished!

“This is twice you’ve walked away from me,” he snaps, his tone laden with irritation.
“I’m shocked you can count.”
A low growl rumbles in his chest as he wraps a hand around my wrist and tugs me backward.

The kingdom Elora was from, suffered greatly.  And as she set her sights on the prince, she hoped that she would be able to save her kingdom.  I adored that we not only got this story from Elora, but from Finnian too.  He was the dashing prince.  I loved their enemy vibes from the start.  And I loved how they both saw each other, because I just knew their growth would be fun to watch.  From the moment they smashed pumpkins together, I was smitten.  Especially during the cleaning up afterwards.  Elora and Finnian were at the start of a beautiful relationship! So by the time they were dancing where she grew up, I was in love. 

Finnian tsks. “I expected more from you, Elora. Is your only weapon that mouth of yours?”
My lower stomach tightens. “The one you keep staring at?”
I don’t turn to gauge his reaction.
  

My absolute favorite in this story was Irina!  She was Finnian’s sister, and a princess.  She was bold, hilarious and just made my heart melt with happiness.  Her taking a liking to Elora, and helping her every step of the way just made me love her that much more!  I would hope that she gets her own book too, or is super prevalent in the next book.  

The second I crossed that bridge, my life was decided.
I fell right into their trap.
What a foolish doe to graze where lions play.

While this story was slow to start, I adored the first half.  I didn’t care that it was long, I was fully absorbed and obsessed with every single word.  Yet the latter half of this story dragged for me.  Even with some interesting twists, I couldn’t help but find myself skimming from time to time to hurry it along.  Also, there were some scenes that had me questioning what the characters were thinking, like the river and small room scene.  But as the story kept unfolding, I realized that I couldn’t ever find the love I had for this story.  Which made me so sad.

“There is only one way this can end.”
I barely feel his hand on my lower back as the stars above us start to spin. “And which way is that, little doe?”
“Ruin,” emerges in a breath as the starry sky envelopes me.

This story ended with a bang, and will leave the reader excited for the next book.  While I’m unsure whether I’ll read the next story in this series, I absolutely loved how unique this retelling felt.  So if you’re looking for a spicy retelling that also has fae mixed into the story, then definitely give this one a try.  Here’s hoping you love it more than me!

*I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book, provided by the author. All thoughts and opinions are my own.*

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