The Honey – Don’t List by Christina Lauren

the honey don't list

arc review

official blurb
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…

my blurb!
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.

2 out of 5
 🔥🔥🔥🔥 (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!

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Shelf Awareness (Green Valley Library #4) by Katie Ashley

shelf awareness

 

official blurb
After catching her husband in a compromising position, the last thing that Finley Granger wants is to enter the insanity that is the dating world. She’s dealing with enough upheaval: she’s quit her job as a journalist in Atlanta to start over as a librarian in the backwoods town of Green Valley, Tennessee. But her grandmother has other ideas. When GramBea teams up with her sister, Dot, and their best friend, Estelle, Finley finds herself surrounded by a trio of well-meaning yet incredibly bumbling matchmakers. In spite of their efforts, there’s only one man she’s curious about, and that’s Zeke Masters, the library’s volunteer IT specialist. Sure, he’s 6’4”, impossibly built, ridiculously good-looking, and gets her nether regions tingling. However, it’s the tingle of her journalist spidey-senses that holds her attention most as she wonders why he’s on sabbatical from Seattle. Is he on lam, or on the run from a bad relationship? As Finley finds herself reluctantly drawn to the gorgeous IT guy, she can’t help but wonder: should she indulge in a little rebound fun with the mysterious Zeke – or has she finally met her match?

arc review

2.75 out of 5 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 out of 5 steam level

Ah! Can you believe this is my last Smartypants Romance to review?!  I think the grand total was like eleven books.  Ready to dive into this one? Let’s do it! Ps. If you are looking for a book with LGBT characters, there is a background character in this book who you will love!

what i liked
This book features a tall heroine! I know quite a few people who keep running lists of books featuring tall heroines.  She is 5’9″ and he is 6’3″ if that helps anyone out there! (I know the official blurb says 6’4″ but I’m looking at the book right now when it says 6’3″).
I liked a lot of the pop culture references in the book! I’m a sucker for a Meg Ryan reference.
Do you like the Golden Girls? If so, you will really like the trio of older women who Finley moves in with.
I liked the overall premise of the book, it was really interesting, as I read the first chapter, it mirrored pretty closely another Smarypants Romance book (Stud Muffin).

what i didn't like
There were some repetitive paragraphs in this book.  I did get an Advanced Readers Copy so there is always a chance that these could be changed and updated before publication.
I had some issues with the dialogue.  This was actually the first book where I noticed that the dialogue wasn’t flowing well for me.  I can’t exactly place my finger on the issue other than to say that I looked up the author to see how many books she had previously written.
A lot of scenarios in the book were really predictable from the first sentence in the chapter.  You could tell where it was going to go, and in most cases it was going in a over-the-top direction.  For instance, Finley and the Ben Wa balls (who puts them in for the first time and then goes to work?!) Or Finley and her first date.  Basically there were a lot of scenes that I could see coming and were written for the hilariously awkward factor, but I never laughed.

while reading you should
Listen to any of these songs mentioned throughout the book:
-Sexual Healing by Marvin Gaye
-Somebody to Love by Queen
-We Will Rock You by Queen
Watch: Twilight and/or The Mummy (trust me, it’ll make sense as you read the book)
Extra points for watching the briefly mentioned Sleepless in Seattle

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Oopsie Daisy by Iris Morland

oopsie daisy

arc review

official blurb
You know when you meet your new professor, and he ends up being the same man you had a one-night stand with three months ago? Okay, maybe not. Let me explain. I hadn’t intended to sleep with my professor. I might be known as the impulsive, prankster daughter in my family, but I’m not insane. I just wanted to have some fun in Ireland at my sister’s wedding, and maybe lose my virginity, too. When I met Lochlann Gallagher at a pub one night, I couldn’t resist him. He was hot, Irish, and entirely set on seducing me. One unforgettable night under the sheets with him, and my V-card went up in smoke. Well, that night had one itty bitty consequence because Lochlann totally made my eggo preggo. And if this story isn’t crazy enough, Lochlann is not just my baby daddy: he’s now my professor and my advisor for grad school. Somehow we have to figure out a way not to reveal this rapidly gestating secret while resisting the explosive attraction between us.Except there’s just one more complication to this story: I think I’m totally falling for my baby daddy. Oopsie daisy.

 

3.5 stars
🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 out of 5 steam level

 

what i liked
I read this book very quickly and laughed quite a few times throughout. A lot of double chuckles happening… You know, “haha!” I really enjoyed the writing style, it was conversational – and that’s my favorite kind of narrator!  I feel like I could read one thousand books with this kind of narrator and not get tired of it.

what i didn't like
The storyline became a bit stressful to me at times, because of the whole secret baby. That involved some secret keeping, and some poor communication. Being pregnant right now with my third, there were some pregnancy inconsistencies that were obvious to me but would probably not be obvious to the everyday reader. Overall the novel was too steamy/dirty talky for me, but it is marketed as a steamy romantic comedy!

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Stud Muffin (Donner Bakery #2) by Jiffy Kate

20190718_DB02_Stud Muffin_Kate_KDP_FINAL

 

arc review

 

official blurb
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?

3 out of 5

🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥  out of 5 steam level (I had a hard time deciding between 4 and 5 steam level here if that helps anyone!)

 

what i liked
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!!

what i didn't like
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!

 

while reading you should
Listen to: Loretta Lynn
Bake: cupcakes
Do- turn down the invitation for your high school reunion. Seriously… Nothing good will come from going.

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Sticking to the Script (Cipher Office #2) by Stella Weaver

20180715_CO01_Sticking to the Script_Weaver_KDP_FINAL

arc review

official blurb
Steven Thompson had a bad year. A string of mean, kinky (the alarming kind, not the good kind), and crazy dating debacles combined with a boss who appears to be experiencing male-prenatal-psychosis means Steven’s stress levels are high. They’re so high, he’s decided to quit dating and focus instead solely on his job. Until he meets Dr. Ken Miles. Doctor Ken Miles is having a fantastic year. His hard work is paying off in a big way… professionally. But his social life? Not so much. Until he meets Steven Thompson. Steven isn’t so sure about Dr. Miles, but Ken is one hundred percent certain about Mr. Thompson. And even though both men know full well that the key to getting what you want out of life is hard work, they can’t seem to make them—together—work. Will they ever get on the same page? Or just keep sticking to the same old script?

TRIGGER WARNINGS:
sexual assault (including description of flashbacks) & stalking

Looking for lead character in the LGBT community? This book is for you!

2 out of 5

🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 out of 5 steam level

Well, this book was stressful for me to read.  A lot of that had to do with trigger warnings – and I really shouldn’t have finished this book.  But alas this is why reviews are important and trigger warnings can help other people!
I did like this book better than Weight Expectations, which is book one in the Cipher Office series.
I loved Stephen in the book and how earnest Ken was.  It’s fun to see where these books all end up fitting within the timeline of the other books! (For instance, this book overlaps and precedes the majority of Kat’s book in Knitting in The City #7 – Marriage of Inconvenience).
I still enjoy the character overlap in these Smartypants Romances! It’s so fun to visit with old fictional friends and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of that! I can’t wait to read the next one in the SmartyPants line up!
In addition to the issues with trigger warnings, the steam level in this book was way too high for me.  It also featured too many lines about “sticking to the script” which I found to be both repetitive and corny.
Lasly, Ken was sooooo unlikable towards almost every other character and only nice to Stephen. Which is fine-ish but I find to be problematic overall.

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He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not by Iris Morland (The Flower Shop Sisters #2)

he loves me he loves me not

 

official blurb
I’ve always lived my life by the rules. Unlike my two sisters, I’m the good one. The responsible one. Going outside my comfort zone is when I wear red lipstick before five PM. That comfort zone of mine? It’s smashed to smithereens on a wild night in Las Vegas when I met—and married—Liam Gallagher. After one shot of tequila, then two, then too many to count, a good girl’s rules tend to disappear. And so do her panties, and her bra, and various other articles of clothing when she’s with an Irishman who knows his way around a woman’s body. Now my husband wants us to stay married. For six months. He says it’ll be worth my while. Considering our chemistry underneath the sheets, I can’t say that he’s wrong.
Liam isn’t safe, though. Liam definitely isn’t comfortable. He’s like the male equivalent of wearing red lipstick in the daytime all wrapped up in an irresistible, dangerous package. Yet this stubborn Irishman isn’t about to let me go, drunken Princess Bride-themed Vegas wedding or no. Now I have to decide if I’m brave enough to break the rules for love.

my blurb!
After drunkenly getting married in Vegas, two people decide to keep up the facade for 6 months, fooling everyone around them…maybe even themselves.

arc review

3.75 our of 5

                                                               🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 out of 5 steam

 

what i liked
I did a buddy read with Kelissa from @ksquaredreads, she also read the first book in this series (Petal Plucker).  When I was talking to her about this one I realized I didn’t laugh nearly as much in this book as I did during Petal Plucker but I still felt like it maybe rated higher for me earlier on.
I loved Mari…who I kept pronouncing as Marie instead of Mary (I was constantly correcting myself!)  I appreciated her practicality.  I loved any description that features her ex-fiance.  From him driving a prius, to his sex buttons.  (That’s not as weird as it sounds.  Okay it was still really weird but… you’re just going to have to read the book).
This book also featured one of my favorite storylines- a fake relationship.  I know, I know, there are a million books with this but it never gets old to me!!! It is a classic storytelling maneuver and you can’t change my mind! I also love when you get to observe the characters sharing a living space.  There is something about proximity that always builds the tension and it’s great!
It was good to get scenes of Dani and Jacob’s life from Petal Plucker.  While technically I believe this is a stand alone book, I still recommend reading Petal Plucker first so you can get the full experience while you read this one!

what i didn't like
I didn’t love Liam. I’m not sure why I didn’t, to be honest with you. But I wasn’t swooning for him.  The plot line was a little like Roomies– but I loved Calvin and I just didn’t share a fictional relationship with Liam.  This is a big bummer when it comes to reading romance novels – you really want to ship the characters together.
The bedroom scenes were a bit too spicy for me.  This is a 5 star steam level for vulgar word usage and high steam bedroom scenes.  It is marketed as a steamy romcom so this won’t be in the negative for a lot of readers- it was just a bit too steamy for this particular reader.

while reading you should
Listen to: When You Move by Parachute
Watch: Flower Shop Mysteries series on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries

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Petal Plucker by Iris Morland (The Flower Shop Sisters #1)

petal plucker

 

Okay this is insane that I’m writing this review right now because I read this book in April. April I tell you! But alas, I really enjoyed this book and I felt like it needed to review it.

official blurb
Confession: I, Dandelion “Dani” Wright, am twenty-six years old and have yet to be deflowered. No man has hosed my hyacinth. Fondled my freesia. Diddled my daffodil.  You get the point.  My excuse? I was too busy running my family’s flower shop and winning floral design competitions. Suddenly that whole pesky virginity thing becomes a big deal when Jacob West walks back into my life. The boy I once loved. The same boy who humiliated me when he stood me up for prom.  This Jacob is no boy, though: he’s all man now—confident, charming, and so sexy my metaphorical blossoms are getting scorched. I can almost forget I’m supposed to hate him forever. Almost. To make things worse, he’s my main competition now, since he took over his parents’ flower shop. If I give into this sizzling attraction between us, it could jeopardize everything I’ve worked so hard to achieve.  But if I’m not careful, he might not just be the first man to pluck my petals—he might also be the only man to capture my heart.

my blurb!
a semi second chance romance with rival flower shop owners.

4 out of 5
                                                             🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 / 5 steam level

what i liked
If my blurb sounded like the premise for a Hallmark movie, that’s because it should be.  But don’t let that sentence full you, this book would only be made into a Hallmark movie if the screen writer eliminated a lot of steamy sex scenes.  I can just see a Hallmark screenwriter blushing the entire time while reading this book.
Dani- short for Dandelion- was so freaking funny. I laughed out loud SO many times while reading this book.  She is also semi awkward, or rather avoids situations awkwardly so I did quite a bit of cringe reading/ reading through my fingers.
This book has a lot of flashback scenes- which I don’t always love in a book. Some books can pull it off and some just can’t.  I loved it in this case!
There’s a girl named Tiffany in this book who I was total burn-book mean-girling while I was reading it.  I feel like that’s a sign of a good book when the protagonists enemies become your enemies.
My feelings while reading this book were ALL over the map.  I would be so mad at the other lead character, Jacob, and cursing his future children.  And then I would be accepting his apology on behalf of Dani because I loved him so much.  Don’t you dare judge my complicated relationship with Jacob!!
Fun fact- there is a bonus chapter for this book that you can get when you subscribe to Iris Morland’s newsletter!

what i didn't like
Because of my complicated relationship with Jacob I couldn’t give this 5 stars.  That’s the thing about second chance romances for me, I get so upset about the origin and validity of the initial breakup that I am still holding onto that by the time they get together in the book! I know it’s irrational but that’s the truth! These characters have had YEARS to move on from the hurt, but I only read about it a few hours prior and I’m still mad!
Also Jacob’s bedroom talk was a bit too much for my liking.

Anyways, you should read this series from Iris Morland if you like a steamy romcom.  And these are STEAMY.  So prepare yourself accordingly!  If you like R.S. Grey humor and Penny Reid steam level then these books are for you!

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