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Shygirl: Reading After Midnight

I will read anything I can get my hands on. Seriously.

 Most books I read are reviewed for Harlequin Junkie, but I'll have an occasional independent or author requested review that I'll post.

Currently reading

Nine of Stars: A Wildlands Novel
Laura Bickle
Primal Heat: A Paranormal Shapeshifter Werejaguar Romance (The Shadow Shifters)
A.C. Arthur

Heartening Holiday Friends-to-Lovers Story

The Holiday Gift and A Cold Creek Noel (The Cowboys of Cold Creek) - RaeAnne Thayne

“You are my oldest and dearest friend, Chase. Our friendship is one of the most important things in my life.”
He wanted to squeeze her hand, to tell her he agreed with her sentiments completely, but he didn’t dare to touch her again right now.
“Ditto,” he said gruffly.
She drew in a breath that seemed to hitch a little… “That’s why I have to ask you not to kiss me again.”

There’s so much to love about a solid friends-to-lovers story and no one can write it as sweet as RaeAnne Thayne can. The Holiday Gift–as you can tell by the title–was holiday-themed, set in picturesque Pine Gulch, Idaho. One of my favorite places to ‘visit’ at Christmas.

 

There are certain authors’ holiday books I look forward to each year and that definitely includes RaeAnne Thayne. Her stories always have just the right amount of seasonal joy balanced with romance and family issues to keep things interesting. Genuine characters and honest emotions ruled the pages in this particular story, with our main characters fighting to hold onto their solid friendship as they explored the possibility of a love match between them.

 

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Blake's Baba Yaga Spinoff Series Is A Winner So Far!

Dangerously Charming (Broken Riders Novel, A) - Deborah Blake

Dangerously Charming was an exciting beginning to Deborah Blake’s newest series in which a former Rider, filled with guilt and a penchant for saving damsels in distress, went on a trek through the Otherworld with a cursed mom-to-be. Sounds interesting, right?

‘This was what he wanted. To be with Jenna, to help raise her baby, to keep them both safe through days filled with sunlight and laughter and nights full of passion. Gods help him, the lonely Rider wanted to be lonely no longer. Too bad it was impossible.’

This Broken Riders series is a spinoff of Blake’s popular Baba Yaga series and follows each of the three former Riders on their new journey now that they are no longer immortal. While these books are able to stand alone, I honestly think it would be best to have read the Baba Yaga series–at least book three, Wickedly Powerful–before settling in here. It will explain everything that the Riders went through and why our hero Mikhail Day was in his self-imposed exile at the beginning of this book.

 

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Classic Shalvis (Holiday) Fun

One Snowy Night - Jill Shalvis

“Does Christmas always have to suck so hard?” she whispered.
He looked at her for a long beat and then slowly shook his head. “No. Not always.”
They stared at each other some more and then…he kissed her.

One Snowy Night is the newest release from Jill Shalvis in her entertaining Heartbreaker Bay series. Just in time for the holidays, we’ve been gifted with a steamy romance that will make readers laugh as much as they sigh contentedly.

 

This was classic Jill Shalvis. If you’ve read any of her work before, you know she uses a nice dash of humor to make her characters come alive and to make their sometimes tough situations more bearable. And while this was a really short novella (I seriously want more of Max and Rory in the future!!) it was big on emotion and that undeniable connection our main characters had been trying to overlook for over a while.

 

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A Pivotal Installment in the Guild Hunter Series

Archangel's Heart - Nalini Singh

Cupping the back of her head, he pressed his jaw to her temple. “No one will take my Elena from me. I’ll destroy the world before I allow that to happen.”
“You’re scary, Archangel,” his hunter whispered, shifting back to face him with a tear-wet face that nonetheless held a smile. “But I want to dance with you anyway.”

 

Archangel’s Heart brought fans a more in depth look into the inner workings of the Cadre as well as shedding some light on Elena’s heritage. This might not have been the most action-packed installment in the Guild Hunter series but I think it will be pivotal to the future for our favorite group of hunters, angels, and vampires.

 

The world behind the Guild Hunter series is one that is complex and which constantly grows with each new book Nalini Singh releases. Now I know that fans have been waiting for certain couples to have their turn and that it might upset some readers where this is primarily about Raphael and Elena again. I personally thought it fit the situation they all found themselves in with the Cadre being called to meet in neutral territory.

 

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Holiday Romance With Surprising Emotional Depth

Miracle on 5th Avenue - Sarah Morgan

What fun! I’m really loving Sarah Morgan’s From Manhattan with Love series and Miracle on 5th Avenue was a great addition. Not only did it have the perfect amount of holiday warmth, but we also got to watch as two people with polar opposite personalities fell reluctantly head over heels in love.

“Your honesty scares me. It’s going to get you into trouble.”
She gave him an impish grin. “I’m planning on it. I’ve written my letter to Santa, confessing that I intend to be a really, really bad girl this Christmas.”

This has been such an enjoyable series so far and I’m glad that Eva and Lucas’s romance was everything I had hoped it would be. I like a good opposites attract story so this fit the bill for sure. Eva turned out to be just as bubbly, savvy, and as hopeless a romantic as I figured she would be from the previous books. But what surprised me and what added more depth to her perky character was her grief over the loss of her grandmother.

 

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A Touching Story to Remember

Three Amazing Things About You - Jill Mansell

There are way more than three amazing things about this book. Actually, too many to count! Jill Mansell has written an absolutely charming tale about several people whose lives all intersected in spectacular and astonishing ways. With her trademark hints of humor and emotional integrity, this proved to be a touching story to remember.

‘Don’t be sad that it’s over, be glad that it happened.’

I adore Jill Mansell’s writing style. She has a way of spinning a story that is lush with intriguing characters and filled with their honest reactions. Never has that been more true than with Three Amazing Things About You. I will admit that it took me a little while to get the gist of who each person was and how they related to the story overall (there were a lot of characters) but once I did I couldn’t put this book down. I found their individual situations all equally interesting and when they started crossing paths with one another, it made things even more compelling.

 

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Romance, Mystery & Folklore in this Holiday Novel

Named of the Dragon - Susanna Kearsley

Named of the Dragon was an interesting novel that pulled in elements of romance, mystery, and even Welsh legends to create a moody Christmastime story that was truly unique.

 

‘Not that I’d ever promised her I’d be her son’s protector, but part of me was beginning to think he might actually need one. Because dragons, I knew, came in all shapes and sizes.’

It’s honestly a little difficult to explain Named of the Dragon. It was a modern day story, but legends, history, and dreams/nightmares became wrapped up in our lead character’s life to the point that she had a hard time determining what was real. Having read some of author Susanna Kearsley’s previous work, I think this type of story is where she excels. I liked getting tangled up in her books where the lines are blurred between reality and the dreamworld. For me, it keeps things exciting and holds my attention completely.

 

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A Stunning, Powerful Novel--But It Might Not Work For Everyone

Small Great Things - Jodi Picoult

Small Great Things was a powerful, gripping story of racial injustice told from three very different points of view: the nurse accused, the public defender, and the white supremacist father. And let me just that it was an eye-opening experience that will stick with me for a long time.

‘People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.’ –Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

Wow. This was my first time reading Picoult’s work and what a way to begin, with a book based around such a controversial subject as racism. I know it will be uncomfortable for some readers as they delve into Ruth, Kennedy, and Turk’s story. Especially with how emotionally-charged people currently are about this issue. But I think Picoult did a fantastic job painting a picture of each character’s life, their views, their background, and even the different options they had (or didn’t have) based on race. It felt real and very raw, to the point that I had to cringe a few times with some of the personal experiences the characters had.

 

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A Hallmark Channel Movie in the Making...

Twelve Days of Christmas: A Christmas Novel - Debbie Macomber

Lighthearted and full of holiday joy, Twelve Days of Christmas was a pleasure to read. I love knowing that whenever I pick up a book by Debbie Macomber, especially if it’s holiday-themed, I’ll have fun and will be filled with the warm and fuzzies over the (guaranteed) HEA.

 

‘If kindness can alter two people’s attitudes toward each other, just imagine what it could do to change our world, one relationship at a time.’

There are several authors who I wait for each year to release a holiday book, and Debbie Macomber is definitely on that list. I look forward to the touching romance and the sense of family and community spirit that she always adds to every story. And Twelve Days of Christmas carried on that tradition. The premise behind it was a fun one, with a Scrooge-like guy unwilling to admit a certain cheerful and chatty neighbor caught his eye, and said neighbor deciding to “kill him with kindness” and post the results on her blog.

 

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A Worthy Sendoff to the Beautiful Bastard Series

Beautiful (The Beautiful Series Book 10) - Christina Lauren

The gang’s all together one last time in this fifth full-length–and final–installment of the Beautiful Bastard series. *sob* And Christina Lauren pulled out all the stops for this one. Humor? Check. Heartfelt emotions? Check. Sizzling chemistry and naughty love scenes? Check and double-check!

 

“You’re beautiful, and only half as irritating as I initially thought.”
A laugh burst out of me. “You think I’m pretty?”
“I think you’re stunning.”
I chewed my lip, watching him.
A slow grin took over his face and he finally asked, “Do you think *I’m* pretty?”
Reaching behind me, I pulled a pillow free and lobbed it at him.

 

It’s rather hard to say goodbye to this group of characters after having followed their progression since book one, Beautiful Bastard. Each novel has been a journey all on its own, but these characters were all lovingly woven into each other’s lives, with us getting glimpses of them again and again along the way. This particular installment was a true reunion. Yes, we got to watch Jensen and Pippa fall in love (yay!) but couples Will & Hanna and Niall & Ruby were a huge part of the storyline too.

 

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Cute & Cuddly Holiday Romance

Three Christmas Wishes - Sheila Roberts

“I have the perfect man in mind.”
“There’s no such thing,” Riley muttered.
“The one I have in mind for you will be,” Santa said, drawing her onto his other leg. “You be on the lookout. You’re going to find yours in quite a memorable way.”

 

Sheila Roberts poured on the holiday charm with her newest standalone romance, Three Christmas Wishes. Friends, family and all kinds of magical and amusing mayhem made this a fun story to read as we head into the holiday season.

 

If you’ve ever read Roberts’ Life in Icicle Falls series then you know that she can perfectly capture how intricate and complicated relationships are. Especially in small towns where everyone is aware of everyone else’s business. That was the vibe in Three Christmas Wishes. We had three lovely women who were at different places in life but who were all facing some type of big decision or change. And while this didn’t get down to the really tough, involved emotions they went through (it stayed on the lighter side) I could still easily sympathize along with each character and the struggle she faced.

 

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Lovely Story, But That Ending...

The Flower Arrangement - Ella Griffin

‘A flower shop…was an emotional revolving door and you never knew what would come through next–love, sadness, guilt, joy. Lara could barely cope with her own feelings. The thought of trying to cope with someone else’s was too much to bear.’

The Flower Arrangement was a highly emotional novel lush with details and full of sentimental, almost spiritual, moments. The intricate storyline was told from multiple characters’ POVs, all of whom crossed paths at some point thanks to Lara and her charming flower shop.

 

I will start off warning readers of two things. First, this did not have a traditional HEA, being that it was women’s fiction and not contemporary romance. It ended rather abruptly, with a lot still left hanging in the balance. Secondly, it was a story that might be difficult for some readers to handle. It deals mainly with various types of grief and loss, delving into some dark subject matter that could be triggers for some. (Miscarriage, loss of loved ones due to cancer and other illnesses, infidelity, drug use)

 

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A Guaranteed Good Time

The Trouble with Mistletoe - Jill Shalvis

So. Much. Fun. The Trouble with Mistletoe was a fantastic holiday romance that hit all of the bells and whistles I look for in a Jill Shalvis novel. It had humor, heart, loving but meddling friends, just enough drama to keep things interesting, and–thanks to Willa’s pet shop–lots of cute & quirky animals.

 

“You’re so beautiful, Willa.”
“Mew!”
“Quiet,” they both said at the same time, holding each other’s laughing gaze.
“I thought it was kids that were supposed to act like birth control,” he said.
Petunia actually sighed and stalked off, legs stiff, tail twitching.

 

Okay, so pretty much anything Jill Shalvis writes is a guaranteed good time. But there was something magical and sweet about how Keane and Willa fell for each other. They of course had an undeniable attraction that created entertaining sexy bantering and smoking hot love scenes. But it was the way they understood each other, having both grown up without a lot of love and support in their lives, that really sealed the deal for me.

 

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Sexy & Fun Modern Day Royal Romance

Royally Screwed - Emma Chase

“Am I supposed to curtsy or something?”
“Please don’t.” And then the dimples make an appearance. “Unless you have the urge to do it naked, then, by all means, curtsy away.”
He’s flirting with me. It’s a sweet, sliding, teasing dance, and more fun than I can remember having in a long time.

Emma Chase is back with a brand new contemporary romance series. And what a fantabulous start! This was all about a modern day royal, Prince Nicholas, as he fell in love with–gasp!–a commoner. What followed was a wonderful blend of Old World culture and rules clashing with today’s beliefs and practices. So. Fun.

 

I’ll admit that I’m already a fan of Emma Chase’s work ever since reading Tangled. (I’m a Drew-girl forever!) I have read everything she’s released to date and she’s never once let me down. So I was extremely happy when Royally Screwed met my every expectation. I’m not kidding when I say that it made me laugh too many times to count and it was sexy enough to make me blush. Who knew a proper prince could have such a wickedly dirty mouth?

 

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Lovely Collection of Regency Holiday Stories

Regency Christmas Gifts: Three Stories - Carla Kelly

Regency Christmas Gifts is a collection of three short--but absolutely lovely--Regency holiday stories. As a veteran writer, Carla Kelly obviously knows how to give us readers a stellar historical romance. What she has also done with this book, was capture the true meaning of the Season and wove that directly into each heartfelt story. The result was nothing short of wonderful.

 

‘She had made a difference in four lives, each life as God-given and important as hers, no matter their difference in station and class. This was charity of the best kind, the charity that mattered.’

 

The Lasting Gift was the first story, the longest of the three, and also my favorite...

 

Faithfully Yours was the shortest of the collection but was just as sweet as the rest...

 

Lucy’s Bang-Up Christmas was the final offering here, but it packed quite an emotional punch...

 

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One Exciting Ride!

Guardian's Mate -  Jennifer Ashley

Every time I think I’ve found my favorite couple in the Shifters Unbound series, Jennifer Ashley puts out a new book and I’m smitten with a new pairing of characters. But I think it’s going to be tough for her to beat the touching relationship between Zander and Rae.

‘…Zander didn’t heal simply because the magic compelled him to, because he did a grudging duty. He truly wanted to help people, to make them whole again. …Why then, why, was this generous and large-hearted man all alone?’

Like with all of the books in this series, you can read Guardian’s Mate as a standalone. Although, Jennifer Ashley has created such a wonderful world, I think you’ll want to read every single story. If you’re a fan of the series already, you’ve undoubtedly ‘met’ Zander the polar bear shifter-slash-healer-slash-empath before and you know his reputation for being a bit crazy. I have to say this book made me love him even more than I did before.

 

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