Carey Douglas has worked for home remodeling and design gurus Melissa and Rusty Tripp for nearly a decade. A country girl at heart, Carey started in their first store at sixteen, and—more than anyone would suspect—has helped them build an empire. With a new show and a book about to launch, the Tripps are on the verge of superstardom. There’s only one problem: America’s favorite couple can’t stand each other. James McCann, MIT graduate and engineering genius, was originally hired as a structural engineer, but the job isn’t all he thought it’d be. The last straw? Both he and Carey must go on book tour with the Tripps and keep the wheels from falling off the proverbial bus. Unfortunately, neither of them is in any position to quit. Carey needs health insurance, and James has been promised the role of a lifetime if he can just keep the couple on track for a few more weeks. While road-tripping with the Tripps up the West Coast, Carey and James vow to work together to keep their bosses’ secrets hidden, and their own jobs secure. But if they stop playing along—and start playing for keeps—they may have the chance to build something beautiful together…
A dysfunctional version of Chip and Joanna Gaines go on tour and need to be managed by two employees who think they’re better than each other.
🔥🔥🔥🔥 (maybe 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥) / 5 steam level
[this rating is mainly for speech used rather than action]
This book was a hard one for me. It wasn’t particularly funny by any means and the characters that you’re supposed to be rooting for didn’t really have much of a love story. The first few chapters set the groundwork for the reader to understand the empire that Carey and James are working for. This was tough for me because I thought it was pretty easy to grasp that the Tripps were indeed the Gaines’ but with a crappy marriage. I tried to push through that part assuming that the Gaines’ don’t exist in the world that Christina Lauren created- but alas, at the end of the book Mrs. Tripp makes a reference to Chip and Jo! So that theory went out the window…
The formatting is a bit like Big Little Lies (the show… because I still haven’t read the book!) where they’re being interviewed by the police about something secretive and you don’t find out what it is until the end. I would’ve been really into this storytelling technique if it paid off. I didn’t think it paid off.
Around 31% into the book I made a note that I was ready to start skimming. Instead I put the book down and read a different book and came back to this one.
I think what I struggled with the most is not rooting for Carey and James. They were more like side characters than the main characters of the novel. Carey lacked a lot of gumption and I really dislike that in a character. There was a communication issue that could have been easily avoided but was maybe necessary for the climax of the book (only if you thought of James and Carey as the main characters… which I did not and therefore didn’t find the drama necessary).
I would be wrong to not acknowledge that there is a weirdly abusive (verbal and emotional?) relationship in this book that is completely unhealthy and doesn’t resolve in a way that was pleasing for me.
Remember that awesome movie Set It Up on Netflix? This was kind of like a take on that movie but not done as well.
I will say also that as much as I wasn’t wrapped up in the love story of the book, I did like James quite a bit.
So overall this book wasn’t for me. There will definitely be readers that love this book and like the variation from other CL books. The good news is that this is the exception to the rule from me with CL books and I will happily still pick up their next book without thinking twice about it!
Suzie Samuels is the only thing standing between Clifford and his life’s work. All he has to do is change everything about her. Perception creates reality and Clifford Rutledge needs the irascible stripper to prove it. Suzie Samuels is set to prove once and for all she’s more than Short Fuse Suze, stripper for the Black Demons and renowned motorcycle arsonist. If all it takes is hard work, then Suzie knows how to work it hard. But Suzie’s scandalous spirit tests Clifford’s resolve. And Clifford’s buttoned-up bullying is driving Suzie bonkers. Can Clifford move past their differences long enough to pull off the impossible task of changing the bare lady into a fair lady? More importantly, as perceptions shift and priorities change, will he want to?
I didn’t get far enough into the book for an accurate steam rating. I feel confident from the subject matter saying that it was at least 3+
The premise of this book is supposed to be a take on My Fair Lady. Yes, please…sign me up! Unfortunately the heroine and I just couldn’t seem to bond. I’ll start by saying the heroine in this book is a stripper working at a club called the G-spot. She had some tie in with Jethro Winston (from ____) and had joined a rival motorcycle club of the Iron Wraiths (called the black demons). If you’re a still tracking with me, then you’re about 7% into the book. She doesn’t see a way out of the life she has but thinks of herself as better than most of the other strippers there. I love the idea of a my fair Lady retelling but this premise was a bit much for me. I quickly realized I wasn’t the right reader for this book.
How do you know if a risk is worth taking? If you knew, there wouldn’t be any risk. Following a disastrous appearance on a televised baking show, Sophie Copeland is certain things can’t get any worse. Several calamities later, Sophie finds herself in Green Valley, Tennessee with no plan, no place to stay, and no prospects. But at least she has a temporary seasonal arrangement with the famed Donner Bakery. And that’s something, right? It’s not permanent, and it’s not a home, but it’s still something. Enter Joel Barnes, a Green Valley mystery, wrapped in rumors, and a whispered connection to the local notorious biker gang. Joel’s got a name for being bad news, but he also has an apartment for rent. Intrigued by the dichotomy of Joel’s reputation and sexy southern pull, Sophie can’t help but be tempted, even though she knows—given her (bad) luck—she should stay far, far away. . . Yet as everyone knows, without risk, there’s no reward.
🔥🔥🔥🔥 out of 5 steam level
The steam level is a four. There are *I think* two sex scenes and both take place after he 75% mark. They can be easily skipped if the steam level is too high for you!
Okay this Penny-verse book was a lot of fun to read. It had what I was looking for: a quirky and sassy heroine, strong female friendships, LOTS of overlapping scenes with the Winston brothers (specifically Cletus and Jen but also Beau). It also featured overlap of other main/side characters from the previous Donner Bakery series! (Tempest and Joy!)
There was a lot of baking in this, which I am all here for! After just finishing the most recent series of The Great British Bakeoff, I needed to get my fix in still and this did it! Where are my GBB fans?!
Now remember how I haven’t loved the whole biker gang being a main plot point in a lot of these spin off books- it was featured in this book but done really well!
I think this might’ve been the longest smartypants romance I’ve read yet- in fact I’ve read some Goodreads reviews mentioning the length. I wasn’t bothered by it! I was enjoying the ride even if it slowed down my books read for the month!
The humor in this book was so enjoyable to me… I mean, wanting to start a bakery called Yeast Affection?! Haha!
This is a debut book for this author and I will definitely read more in the future!
Where does this take place in the Pennyverse? I think it takes place after the last Winston Brothers book- but perhaps it is after Dr. Strange Beard.
This book would be great to read over the fall and winter!
There are a LOT of songs mentioned in this book so here are a few that you can add to your playlist while reading this book:
-Wake me Up Before You Go Go by Wham
-Africa by Toto
-Take Me Home Country Roads by John Denver
– Rumours by Fleetwood Mac
-Motownphilly by Boyz 2 Men
Watch: a Paul Newman movie… specifically Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
If that movie isn’t your style you always have the option of watching 2 Fast 2 Furious (which, let’s be honest, is my choice out of the two for sure)
*This title releases Nov 12, 2019
Jack Nolan is a gentleman, a journalist, and unlucky in love. His viral success has pigeon-holed him as the how-to guy for a buzzy, internet media company instead of covering hard-hitting politics. Fed up with his fluffy articles and the app-based dating scene as well, he strikes a deal with his boss to write a final piece de resistance: How to Lose a Girl. Easier said than done when the girl he meets is Hannah Mayfield, and he’s not sure he wants her to dump him.Hannah is an extremely successful event planner who’s focused on climbing the career ladder. Her firm is one of the most prestigious in the city, and she’s determined to secure her next promotion. But Hannah has a bit of an image problem. She needs to show her boss that she has range, including planning dreaded, romantic weddings. Enter Jack. He’s the perfect man to date for a couple weeks to prove to her boss that she’s not scared of feelings. Before Jack and Hannah know it, their fake relationship starts to feel all too real—and neither of them can stand to lose each other.
🔥🔥🔥🔥 out of 5 steam level
This book started off really strong for me. Reading the Author’s Note at the beginning of the book- you got a taste of why the author started out writing this book to begin with. In this case the author wrote specifically about being biracial and dating what the difficulties she faced with that. Being biracial myself, I was really excited to read this book – you know I’ve mentioned one of the coolest things about reading the romance genre is getting to read characters that are more like me on the pages of a book! Well… it was a short lived excitement- as I dove into the pages I found the main character to be someone who constantly brought up race. Constantly. My interpretation while reading was not that the people around her were constantly judging her race necessarily, or that she didn’t fit it. But rather that she was unable to move on from periods in her life where she was judged. I just really needed her to go to therapy… but that wasn’t supposed to be the takeaway in the book.
Remember the movie How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days? Well this book is basically a rip off of that movie if you switched the gender roles and made the guy the jerk and the girl the one who needed to stay in the relationship. Reading about a douche guy who I’m supposed to be rooting for, just didn’t work for me. I rolled my eyes so many times in the beginning and got so tired of “private parts” references… seriously.
If you didn’t know it, I’m not into nicknames in books. It VERY rarely works for me… I think the only time I can remember it working for me was in With This Heart by R.S. Grey. Well in this book he immediately starts calling her Duchess… and then later explains because she’s propper/classy. These are not words that I would ever use to describe her. In fact part of the whole entire storyline is that she is using him to be taken more seriously at work because she’s known as a bachelor party event planner instead of a classy event planner…
I could go on and on but why? This book was rough. In the end, I decided to DNF this book because life is too short for books you’re not enjoying (and I’ve been pushing through WAY too many bad books right now).
It’s hard to get revenge without getting a rap sheet. After Tempest Cassidy walks in on her husband banging her high school nemesis, her whole world gets turned upside down. She goes from being known as the Duchess of Muffins to the town crazy. Her new MO: revenge. Eventually, Tempest grows weary being arrested. Yet what choice does she have? If she’s not angry, then she’s simply . . . sad. Just as she decides to get her life back on track, in walks Cage Erickson, the new bouncer at the local strip club. He’s scary-handsome and the polar opposite of her ex. She’s attracted to him, but she’s not looking for a rebound. He’s attracted to her, but he’s not looking for a serious relationship. So, they agree to be friends. But when lines get blurred in the friend zone, will they both get burned? Or will it be a TKO?
🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 out of 5 steam level (I had a hard time deciding between 4 and 5 steam level here if that helps anyone!)
I liked our leading lady, Tempest, a lot and her struggles were real. I felt her anger and identified with her quick temper. I mean I’ve never been in jail or burned someone’s clothes in my driveway, so I guess identify is a strong word. But I was so angry with her and her situation that I felt like I could identify with her.
I liked getting to see more of Hank in this book. You also get some Jenn overlap (Tempest works at one of Jenn’s bakeries!). This bakery book (compared to the first one) featured a lot more baking and it made me want to make ALL of the cupcakes!!
Let’s talk about our leading man. Cage. Cage, Cage, Cage… I didn’t love his chapters. He had a repetitive mindset. His sexual innuendos got old. Like really old. I could start a sentence and roll my eyes until I got a headache. It just seemed like I could have removed quite a few of his chapters and still have gotten the gist of the story.
My biggest problem was that Tempest still seemed to be pretty darn attached and hurting from her first love while still realizing she was in love with someone else. Someone could tell me this is realistic but even if it is, I didn’t like reading about it that way.
Overall, it was a quick read in the SmartyPants Romance series!
Listen to: Loretta Lynn
Do- turn down the invitation for your high school reunion. Seriously… Nothing good will come from going.
Naomi Winters will be forty–soon-ish–and she’s only been with one man. One night. One time. Long ago. She believes everything happens for a reason, and the universe spoke about Nathan Ryder. Nathan Ryder isn’t the same man who hightailed his bike out of Green Valley eighteen years ago. As a rule breaker, women are one area he acts a fool. Case in point…the local librarian. He can’t get a read on her, but she’s one risk he’s willing to take. Again. What do an eccentric librarian and a sexy silver biker have in common? More than you think. The due date on their love might not be expired after all.
🔥🔥🔥🔥 out of 5 steam level
Our main girl, Naomi, is thought to be a witch in the town. She would clarify that she is, in fact, Wiccan. And then the the whole book we will read about this one zillion times. I think the overall point was to stress that she was an outsider but I was not into the repetitiveness of this storyline.
The couple was written as a second chance romance for people in their forties-ish. But I rolled my eyes at their attraction level and the understanding of their feelings- not to mention their communication. It felt like they were still in high school and I didn’t love that at all.
You know from reading my reviews of The Winston Brothers series that my least favorite part about the books has to do with the motorcycle gang- The Iron Wraiths. This book had a lot of storyline about the iron wraiths. That was overall the biggest overlap from the smartypants universe to this book- which was a bummer for me. If you enjoyed that part about the Winston Brothers then you will probably like this book more than I did.
I got to 90% of this book and then read two other books before I finished the last ten percent- that’s how little I was invested in it.
I did like the brief snippets of seeing the Winston brothers and hearing about Bethany Winston’s effect onto Naomi’s life. I liked the side story with Naomi’s sisters and am hoping to get some more of her story in another book!
I think this book will appeal to readers who like the iron wraith storyline and who enjoy second chance romances. Overall I wasn’t the right reader for this particular Smartypants Romance. Oh well, onto the next!
Where does this fall in the Knitting/Winston timeline?
This book takes place after Roscoe’s book (Dr. Strange Beard) and potentially after Billy’s book (Beard Necessities)
The first rule of book club. You don’t talk about book club. Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott’s marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him. Welcome to the Bromance Book Club. Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville’s top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it’ll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife.
🔥🔥🔥🔥 out of 5 steam level
I recently had someone tell me they would love to be warned about the language in a novel- whether it be romance or otherwise! (For crass talk in romance novels, see the breakdown of my steam ratings on the side of my blog!) So I’ll start with mentioning that F-bombs start dropping in this book around the 12% mark.
Now I know that this book as been all over bookstagram for a book that people are loving. I obviously didn’t love it. Let’s get into it, shall we?
First of all- I read this as an ebook and there was really difficult formatting- the chapters should tell you who’s talking! But this is an ARC (Advanced Readers Copy) so that could change before publication occurs.
Early on in the book we are treated to a scene of two women attempted to take down a wall in their house. And let me just say that this scene is really insulting to women everywhere. They’re using the sledge hammer on a wall just with drywall and they’re barely getting a hole in it. I’m sorry, WHAT?! It’s drywall! You could punch it with your fist and make a hole in it!
Okay, I’m moving on from that obvious lack of research into another point. This book takes place in Franklin, TN. It is mentioned numerous times that Franklin is a small town. Franklin is not all about small town lifestyle. How many times is she going to mention this allegedly being a small town?! Seriously, I go to Franklin every year. It’s not small. Research I am telling you!
Overall this book went on too long. I really didn’t like the whole “grand gesture” part. To be fair I’m not sure that I’m ever into that storyline (with the exception of Well Met).
Lastly this book featured something that became repetitive and a bit formulaic. You get to read a chapter in the fictional historical romance that Gavin is reading… which basically foreshadows EVERY future chapter for the real life couple. That got old really fast for me.
I did a lot of laughing out loud as the men explained their romance book club. Also these men are WOKE! I love their breakdown of romance books how feminist they are! This is the definite highlight of this book and why I think so many people are raving about it! It literally tells you what is so darn amazing about this genre and why people need to stop being so judgemental about an entire genre of literature.
This is book one of a series (featuring great covers btw. The second cover was recently revealed) but I wasn’t that wrapped up in the story. I might pick up the series sometime but for now I’ll keep moving on with my TBR pile.