OPENED UP by Eva Moore – Review and Giveaway

Opened Up banner

Title: Opened Up
Series: Exposed Dreams #1
Author: Eva Moore
Genre: Sexy Contemporary Romance 18+
Release Date: May 2, 2018
Cover Designer: Render Compose
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39854198-opened-up

Blurb:

Payroll
Purchase Orders
Peanut Butter Cups

Not necessarily in that order…

Sofia Valenti dreams of a life spent designing beautiful homes for the family business. But as her to-do list can attest, that dream is still far away. Stuck doing office work for Valenti Brothers Construction and stress eating her weight in chocolate, she wants more than hand-me-down responsibilities. When her father, Dom, signs up the whole family for a reality TV show, Sofia sees a chance to grab the spotlight for her dream. What she doesn’t count on is the sexy head contractor knocking down her ideas and her barriers like it’s demo day.

Adrian Villanueva has spent his life on the outside looking in. When Dom talks retirement, Adrian sees his chance to finally buy his way into the company he helped build. He’s certainly not going to let the inexperienced designer daughter with expensive taste and mouthwatering curves stand in his way. Ignoring his old crush on Sofia the girl will be easy. He’s had a decade of practice. It’s the appeal of Sofia the woman that threatens to bring him to his knees.

When hidden attraction flares into open desire, they must decide if a chance at love is worth giving up on a lifetime of dreams.

blog_review

Intense and real

There’s a lot to unpack. First, I like the fact that the characters are deeply rooted in reality, that you can easily identify a friend, a family member, even yourself in place of Sofia, Adrian, Dom, Jo, the Shahs, etcetera. Eva has infused her characters with their unique sets of talents and insecurities in a way that is relatable to the readers. She has always been able to that with her books. Her heroines are often women who are besieged by self-doubt, even as they strive to gather strength to overcome them on their own. Sofia is one such heroine with her issues about her body image and her desire to have more control over her position in the family business.

Adrian as the hero is a good foil for Sofia. He is consistently on her side even as he has his own ambitions he wanted fulfilled. He is a great son, a supportive boss, and a considerate lover. What I like is that he is not without fault. His machismo sometimes comes out to play to the frustration of Sofia as she gets that from her father already.
I like the main characters in this book. I also like the inclusion of diverse supporting characters. My heart goes out to Adrian’s mom and her fears. I’m glad that was resolved in the end. On the other hand, I am not enamored of Sofia’s parents. Maybe they will be redeemed in the upcoming books, but right now, I am not simpatico with Dom and Jo.

Lastly, the “reality show” backdrop is fantastic and all the construction discussions and terminologies are fascinating. I don’t know anything about home renovation, I don’t watch it, but Eva made it easy to keep up with the narrative.

A good read, Opened Up deserves its place in your TBR.

Teasers:

Giveaway:

Enticing Giveawaya Rafflecopter giveaway

Author Bio:

Headshot long.jpg
Winner of Cherry Adair’s Finish The Damn Book Contest 2017, Eva Moore writes sweet and sexy contemporary romance, after leaving a career in the classroom to raise her daughters. Opened Up is the first book in her new Exposed Dreams series, set in the world of home renovation reality TV. Eva now lives in Silicon Valley, after moving around the world and back, with her college sweetheart, her three gorgeous girls, and a Shih Tzu who thinks he’s a cat. She can be found most nights hiding in her closet/office, scribbling away, and loves to hear from the outside world. You can find her at www.4evamoore.com.

 

Social Media Links:

Facebook Author Page: www.facebook.com/4evamooreauthor
Facebook Friend Page: www.facebook.com/4evamoore
Facebook Group: www.facebook.com/groups/FriendsForEvaMoore/
Twitter: www.twitter.com/AuthorEvaMoore
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/authorevamoore
Instagram: www.instagram.com/authorevamoore

Excerpt:

“Well, babe, I gotta say, more money always sounds good to me.”
Ugh. It’s like he does it without even thinking. She passed him the paperwork and pointed to the pertinent sections.
“I just started going through this. Give it a read-through, and tell me if you see any red flags. I’m going to refill my coffee.”
She needed a minute to calm her swirling thoughts, and sitting in a small room with a man who simultaneously generated a low-level buzz of attraction while also making her want to punch him in the stomach was not helping. His proposal had stunned her, and she’d not responded well. She pulled down another mug out of force of habit and filled it before topping hers off as well. She added one sugar and a healthy dollop of cream to his, fake sugar and cream to her own.
All done, but nowhere near ready to return, she braced her hands on the peacock granite countertop, stretched her arms long and dropped her head between them. She lengthened her spine and took a deep breath, aiming for some of the peace she’d felt when she’d dropped into a yoga class with Brandy.
Change itself was nothing to fear. So what if most of the changes in her life had been awful? That didn’t mean these changes were going to be bad, too. She could handle whatever needed handling. She’d managed before, and she could do it again. And she was absolutely full of crap. She was three seconds from panicking, and her deep-breathing exercises were getting trapped in her clenching throat.
“Hey, are you okay?” Adrian’s deep, husky voice skittered up her spine, leaving a trail of goose bumps that didn’t subside when she jumped and squealed.
Why did this man have the power to make her feel like a twelve-year-old girl? She spun to face him, only to find that he’d invaded the space she’d cleared and was reaching for her shoulder, as if to steady her. She backed away swiftly, bumping into the counter and rattling the cups. Remembering why she’d come to the kitchen in the first place, she handed him the coffee she’d made him, being careful not to scald herself with a brush of his fingertips. She could pick apart the ridiculousness of her response later.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” She retreated into a sip of her own fortifying mug.
He mirrored her sip and stepped back as well. Message finally freaking received. Good.
“You know how I take my coffee?” He grinned as if this detail somehow meant something special.
“I know everyone’s coffee order. Have you not noticed who keeps the lists for meeting coffee runs? Or who is constantly being charged with stocking the kitchen? Or did you just think a magical caffeine fairy came in at night and brought lattes to all the good little boys?” She tried once again to take him down a peg while setting him straight. She couldn’t have him thinking that she’d been watching him, paying attention to his personal preferences. Even if she had.
Once again, her sarcasm flew right over his head. He raised the contract in his hand and held it out to her.
“Listen, I tried to read through this, but it might as well be written in Latin. Can you walk me through the specifics?”
“I just got it myself. Give me a day or two to really pick it apart, and I’ll fill you in.”
“Thanks, angel. That sounds good.” He tossed the contract on the break room table, supremely confident, coffee in hand.
She’d wager he hadn’t even heard the “Sure thing” she’d managed through clenched teeth. How could she be so attracted to someone who pissed her off so royally?
Good thing he didn’t know, or he’d be insufferable.

 

Hosted by Enticing Journey Book Promotions

OPENED UP by Eva Moore Cover Reveal and Excerpt

opened up_cover reveal banner

Title: Opened Up
Series: Exposed Dreams #1
Author: Eva Moore
Genre: Sexy Contemporary Romance 18+
Release Date: May 2, 2018
Cover Designer: Render Compose
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39854198-opened-up

Blurb:

Payroll
Purchase Orders
Peanut Butter Cups

Not necessarily in that order…

Sofia Valenti dreams of a life spent designing beautiful homes for the family business. But as her to-do list can attest, that dream is still far away. Stuck doing office work for Valenti Brothers Construction and stress eating her weight in chocolate, she wants more than hand-me-down responsibilities. When her father, Dom, signs up the whole family for a reality TV show, Sofia sees a chance to grab the spotlight for her dream. What she doesn’t count on is the sexy head contractor knocking down her ideas and her barriers like it’s demo day.

Adrian Villanueva has spent his life on the outside looking in. When Dom talks retirement, Adrian sees his chance to finally buy his way into the company he helped build. He’s certainly not going to let the inexperienced designer daughter with expensive taste and mouthwatering curves stand in his way. Ignoring his old crush on Sofia the girl will be easy. He’s had a decade of practice. It’s the appeal of Sofia the woman that threatens to bring him to his knees.

When hidden attraction flares into open desire, they must decide if a chance at love is worth giving up on a lifetime of dreams.

Teasers:

OU Answer

OU Tom Hardy

OU Trust Me

 

Author Bio:

Headshot long.jpg
Winner of Cherry Adair’s Finish The Damn Book Contest 2017, Eva Moore writes sweet and sexy contemporary romance, after leaving a career in the classroom to raise her daughters. Opened Up is the first book in her new Exposed Dreams series, set in the world of home renovation reality TV. Eva now lives in Silicon Valley, after moving around the world and back, with her college sweetheart, her three gorgeous girls, and a Shih Tzu who thinks he’s a cat. She can be found most nights hiding in her closet/office, scribbling away, and loves to hear from the outside world. You can find her at www.4evamoore.com.

 

Social Media Links:

Facebook Author Page: www.facebook.com/4evamooreauthor
Facebook Friend Page: www.facebook.com/4evamoore
Facebook Group: www.facebook.com/groups/FriendsForEvaMoore/
Twitter: www.twitter.com/AuthorEvaMoore
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/authorevamoore
Instagram: www.instagram.com/authorevamoore

Excerpt:

“Well, babe, I gotta say, more money always sounds good to me.”
Ugh. It’s like he does it without even thinking. She passed him the paperwork and pointed to the pertinent sections.
“I just started going through this. Give it a read-through, and tell me if you see any red flags. I’m going to refill my coffee.”
She needed a minute to calm her swirling thoughts, and sitting in a small room with a man who simultaneously generated a low-level buzz of attraction while also making her want to punch him in the stomach was not helping. His proposal had stunned her, and she’d not responded well. She pulled down another mug out of force of habit and filled it before topping hers off as well. She added one sugar and a healthy dollop of cream to his, fake sugar and cream to her own.
All done, but nowhere near ready to return, she braced her hands on the peacock granite countertop, stretched her arms long and dropped her head between them. She lengthened her spine and took a deep breath, aiming for some of the peace she’d felt when she’d dropped into a yoga class with Brandy.
Change itself was nothing to fear. So what if most of the changes in her life had been awful? That didn’t mean these changes were going to be bad, too. She could handle whatever needed handling. She’d managed before, and she could do it again. And she was absolutely full of crap. She was three seconds from panicking, and her deep-breathing exercises were getting trapped in her clenching throat.
“Hey, are you okay?” Adrian’s deep, husky voice skittered up her spine, leaving a trail of goose bumps that didn’t subside when she jumped and squealed.
Why did this man have the power to make her feel like a twelve-year-old girl? She spun to face him, only to find that he’d invaded the space she’d cleared and was reaching for her shoulder, as if to steady her. She backed away swiftly, bumping into the counter and rattling the cups. Remembering why she’d come to the kitchen in the first place, she handed him the coffee she’d made him, being careful not to scald herself with a brush of his fingertips. She could pick apart the ridiculousness of her response later.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” She retreated into a sip of her own fortifying mug.
He mirrored her sip and stepped back as well. Message finally freaking received. Good.
“You know how I take my coffee?” He grinned as if this detail somehow meant something special.
“I know everyone’s coffee order. Have you not noticed who keeps the lists for meeting coffee runs? Or who is constantly being charged with stocking the kitchen? Or did you just think a magical caffeine fairy came in at night and brought lattes to all the good little boys?” She tried once again to take him down a peg while setting him straight. She couldn’t have him thinking that she’d been watching him, paying attention to his personal preferences. Even if she had.
Once again, her sarcasm flew right over his head. He raised the contract in his hand and held it out to her.
“Listen, I tried to read through this, but it might as well be written in Latin. Can you walk me through the specifics?”
“I just got it myself. Give me a day or two to really pick it apart, and I’ll fill you in.”
“Thanks, angel. That sounds good.” He tossed the contract on the break room table, supremely confident, coffee in hand.
She’d wager he hadn’t even heard the “Sure thing” she’d managed through clenched teeth. How could she be so attracted to someone who pissed her off so royally?
Good thing he didn’t know, or he’d be insufferable.

 

Hosted by Enticing Journey Book Promotions

My Year in Books: Best of 2017

When you read Romance, all four seasons are seasons of love. As the song asks, “How do you measure a year in a life?” I measure in books. This year, Goodreads tells me I’ve read 208 books so far. Will probably end with 215. It’s a good number, but way below my average before I started writing. It will probably go down even more in 2018 as I plan to write 2 books and a novella. One thing won’t change, though. I will always be reading. I need to.

On to the list. I have loved so many books this year. These below are some of those I gushed about in 2017. I rated them five stars, posted about them in social media, and recommended them to as many people as I could.  Many of these were not published this year, but I only read them for the first time in 2017. Some are rereads. All are amazing.

January: My first five-star rating of the year wentromancing the beat to a craft book: Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes. I used it extensively when I revised Boracay Vows to get it ready for pitching. I have this in both ebook and paperback. I’ve since recommended it to my writing group.

devil in spring coverFebruary: The best new book of the month for me was Lisa Kleypas’s Devil in Spring. The Wallflowers is my favorite of her many series of books and seeing Marcus, Evie, and Sebastian again made me really happy. Pandora and Gabriel held their own. My short Goodreads review read: “Lisa Kleypas did it again. Gabriel and Pandora, Sebastian and Evie – they all made me laugh, cry, love, and learn. It’s unputdownable.”

March: I feasted in books this month. My friend Eva Moore released her debut novel Someone Special and I loved it. I said in my review, “This story is so real to me. Like I’ve met these people in real life. Eva made them come alive for me. The situations and emotions are things I myself have been in and felt. This book is not just about the romance between Dani and Nick, but also about friendship and community.

If there was a book I gushed over the most, it has to be Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game. I put it on hold at the San Antonio Library in November, but I didn’t get it until March. That’s how long the queue was for this book. When I got it, I devoured it in a couple of hours and immediately wanted to reread it. I posted about THG on OSRBC, I friended Sally Thorne and joined her fan club The Flamethrowers. I’ve since gotten my own digital and paperback copy. Now if only I can get it signed by Sally, my fangirl-ing will be complete. My review reads, “Five glowing stars. I am so envious of Sally Thorne for writing this outstanding first novel. This book is fresh and young, and utterly delightful. Josh and Lucy are fantastic characters, their chemistry is electric. I adore their conversations. I’m always antsy when they weren’t talking. I didn’t want the book to end. I want to read more. One of my new favorites.”

Another great find in 2017 is Katy Regnery’s The Vixen and the Vet. I was looking for Beauty and the Beast retellings to prepare for the live action movie and this came up on my search. It was also OSRBC’s New School Book of the Month in March. As with Sally Thorne, I also friended Katy on Facebook, became one of her Katy’s Ladies, and received a signed copy of The Vixen and the Vet. This was my review: “5 stars. A perfect 10 stars, if possible. This has to be one of the best romance novels I’ve ever read. Will definitely be on my Top Ten. I couldn’t put it down once I started. I cried and cried. Great writing.”

April: I read 26 books in April and I rated 6 of them 5-stars. That’s a fantastic percentage.

Nora Roberts’s Born in Fire was OSRBC’s Old School BOTM for April and I reread all three books in the series. I rated Fire and Ice 5 stars, Shame 4 stars. My reviews were long so I won’t repeat them here, but this is a highlight: “Even though this was a reread for me, I savored every word as if I was reading it for the first time. This book proves why Nora Roberts is my most favorite romance writer ever.”

I’ve been reading Sophie Jordan’s historical romance novels since 2010, but she didn’t become an auto-buy for me until her contemporary Devil’s Rock series. The third book, Fury on Fire, is my favorite. “Five red-hot stars. For me, Fury on Fire is the best of the three Devil’s Rock books so far. Both North and Faith are such great characters. I felt so much for North and what he had gone through inside the prison. I like it that although the attraction was there from the start, they didn’t act on it until later. I also liked that there was no heavy external conflict and that the HEA was not drawn out.”

I didn’t read Susan Elizabeth’s Phillips’s Nobody’s Baby But Mine when it was OSRBC’s BOTM in July 2015. I don’t remember why and I regretted that I hadn’t read it sooner. It was wonderful. Here’s my review: “5 Lucky Charms-flavored stars. Susan Elizabeth Phillips is a genius. She has the gift of making me laugh out loud and cry like my heart is breaking. All of the characters in Nobody’s Baby but Mine are wonderful. Jane, Cal, Lynn, Jim, Annie, Ethan, Kevin – they’re all great, crazy but in a good way. I really enjoyed this and would recommend it to romance readers looking for happy books with substance.”

Nalini Singh’s backlist is daunting, especially her Psy/Changeling series. I wanted to read her so bad I decided on her Rock Kiss series as my entry into her world. The second book, Rock Hard, is my most favorite of the four books. I said, “Five rock-hard stars. This is the kind of books I want to be able to write – characters like Charlotte and Gabriel, who have strengths and flaws, who grow up in the course of the book; stories about real people in today’s world, who experience pain, joy, victories, failures; and stories of friendship, family, and love. Rock Hard has all of these. It has humor, conflict, and heart.”

I didn’t discover Lorraine Heath until OSRBC made Texas Destiny its Book of-the-Month in June 2015. I’ve been collecting her books ever since. I wanted to read in order so I started with the Scoundrels of St. James before going into the Scandalous Gentlemen. Oh boy, was I rewarded for my patience when I finally reached The Duke and the Lady in Red. This is easily one of my Top 25 favorite historical novels of all time. “Hurts so good. Five heartrending stars. I’m still ugly crying up to now. I’ve been warned about this book. It’s going to make you cry, my friends said. The feels! I can’t express how amazingly this romance novel breaks my heart and yet put it back together again. Avendale, he is so flawed, yet so heroic. Rose – what a heroine, a swindling angel. And Harry. He was the best part, the heart of the book.”

May: This was the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and I prioritized those authors whose heritage could be traced to the biggest continent and largest ocean in the world.

Sherry Thomas is a new-to-me author in 2017, but I quickly fell for her fluid use of the English language. “Five sumptuous stars. Delicious is the first book by Sherry Thomas that I’ve ever read and if this is any indication of her style of writing, I’m sure I’ll read more. Her voice is unique, the hero and heroine are not your typical characters in historical novels. She’s 33, he’s 37. She’s a cook, he’s a politician. More than her atypical characters, there’s the way Ms. Thomas lays out the scenes. All your senses are engaged, especially when she described food. I swear, my mouth was watering at the thought of eating madeleines. I could feel the sweat on my face while I was reading the bathtub scene. The book made me cry three times. And, at the very end, it made me smile so big. It deserves all the luscious stars I could give it.”

I’ve been reading Alisha Rai since when she was still self-publishing. Her first book under Avon is probably her best. “Five stars. I’ve read Alisha Rai’s work before and her books have always been sexy, but this series, I believe, has the most depth. She expertly laid out Nico and Livvy’s second-chance love amidst their shared complicated family history. This book would always score high for me due to the multicultural characters. That it delivered in the storytelling was a big bonus. I cried, I smiled, I blushed, I felt for all the characters. As a writer of multicultural contemporary romance, I would look to this work as a model of how a book of the sub-genre can be told well.”

Also in May were rereads of After the Night and Sarah’s Child by old school favorite Linda Howard and The Best is Yet to Come from Indie Goddess Bella Andre’s new Summer Lake series.

“Sarah’s Child is one of my most favorite romance novels, one I reread every Mother’s Day. Sarah and Rome are such memorable characters, their story so, so affecting. I love Sarah for her strength. She is self-sacrificing without being a martyr. For all that Rome is such a difficult character, I could never hate him, especially that he loved and cared for Sarah in his own way, and he did change in the end. I also loved the secondary characters- Max, Marcie, and Derek. They provide a good balance of humor and support into the seriousness of Sarah and Rome’s relationship. I cry at the same exact places, every single time. I adore this book. I consider it one of Linda Howard’s best works ever.” After the Night: “This is one of Linda Howard’s steamiest books, but there’s also humor and mystery. One of my favorites of her books.”

The Best is Yet to Come was the first ARC I received from Bella Andre for being a member of her VIP Street Team. She used my review in a graphic to promote the book during the launch. “Five sweet stars. I love the sweet, small town, reunion story of The Best is Yet to Come. There’s real conflict, but Bella did not make it so heavy that you’ll feel depressed while reading it. I appreciate that I could like and dislike Sarah at the same time. I understood her internal struggle and fears. I like that Calvin is strong yet can admit to weaknesses and mistakes. What I liked the best is feeling as if I’m part of the world that Bella is building in Summer Lake. I’m excited for this new series. It has all the elements that I love in a contemporary romance- family, friendship, community, and love. It made me smile and tear up. There’s a freshness and depth to Bella’s writing here.”

June: Another mixed bag of new-to-me authors and reread of a favorite.

After The Hating Game, I was looking for enemies-to-lovers, slow-burn books and found Laura Florand’s Amour et Chocolat series. The second book, The Chocolate Kiss, is my absolute favorite. “J’adore ce livre. Enemies-to-lovers, slow burn, multicultural, strong characters, french pastries, hot chocolate – I love everything about The Chocolate Kiss. This book just made me so happy while reading it. I smiled, I cried, I felt for both Philippe and Magalie in their journey to love. Secondary characters were fleshed out well. The descriptions were lavish, evocative, and as decadent as chocolate. I could picture the people and the scenes in my head as I read. It’s sexy, heartwarming, magical.”

Sarah MacLean is the founder of the Old School Romance Book Club (OSRBC) and I fell in love with her books ever since I read A Rogue By Any Other Name. In preparation for the launch of The Day of the Duchess, a bunch of us reread The Rogue Not Taken. This was my review: “TRNT made me laugh, cry, and fall in love with both Sophie and King, and Warnick, and the handsome doctor, even Matthew, the footman. Engaging storytelling, snappy dialogues, great character-building- this book has all of the reasons why Sarah MacLean has become one of my favorite historical romance novelists.”

I went on vacation to the UK in June and I decided to read books set there. Lucy Parker’s Act Like It is another book recommended for those who have THG hangover. “I really enjoyed this book. There are so many funny moments and touching ones, too. I loved that the characters are multi-dimensional, not cardboard cut-outs. Lainie and Richard’s fall into love was a journey I willingly traveled with them. There were several characters introduced, but in no way did they overshadow the leads, not even Will. I loved the sparkling dialogue.”

July: Continued the UK trend, dove in to the new Sarah MacLean when I got back to the US, and finally read my ARC of Jill Shalvis’s Lost and Found Sisters which I received from her way back in March. I was also busy with Camp NaNo so I did not read a lot this month.

Multicultural romance is the genre I write in and it’s one I love to read. Melissa Blue’s Under His Kilt series hits the right notes for me. “Five kilted stars. Wonderful relationship building. Fell in love with both Victoria and Callan. And the Baird, Douglass. Just visited Scotland last week and loved it there. Obviously, Melissa Blue did, too.”

Lost and Found Sisters: “Five heartwarming stars ✨ I’ve had this book since March and I can’t believe I didn’t read it until now. It’s wonderful. It’s got everything: romance, friendship, community, and family. There’s humor and pathos. The characters are well developed and relatable. It even had the most lovable “villains”. This is a triumph for Jill Shalvis.”

Sarah MacLean’s The Day of the Duchess was excellent as expected. “Devoured it in four hours. Cried from page 2 up to p. 364. Laughed as well, especially with the suitresses. Was a monster and dog-eared pages of my favorite lines (at least 15). Groveling Haven redeemed. ❤❤❤ all the Dangerous Daughters/Soiled S’s.”

August: Another fabulous month of reading with lots of ARCs coming from both NetGalley and Edelweiss and established favorites.

Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me: “It has all the elements I love in a romantic comedy. First, it’s really funny with witty and zippy dialogues, hilarious but probable interactions and situations among characters. Second, the hero and heroine are likable and relatable with enough strengths and weaknesses to make them real. I like that Min is full-figured but wasn’t ashamed of it and didn’t try to lose weight to get her man. I liked that Cal has vulnerabilities but is also confident about himself and he really, really knew Min. I love that they tried to stay away from each other yet fate kept bringing them together. I appreciate that they got each other’s backs when it comes to defending the other against their awful families. I also like that although there are a lot of secondary characters in this book, their presence is all because of Min and Cal. I love the friendship, the cat, Elvis, even the families. I love the Stats nickname (that’s me), the cute shoes, the Chicken Marsala, and the doughnuts. This book just hits the right spots for me.”

“SEP should teach a course on character growth in romance novels and Kiss an Angel should be her textbook. Everyone in this book, from Daisy, Alex, Brady, Sheba, and Heather were different people at the end of the book from who they were at the start. The readers get to know them, feel for them, hate and care for them. They were not just names on paper, they’ve become real people. All because of the writing genius of Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I absolutely adore this book. It took me on an emotional journey I was only too willing to traverse. I laughed, I wept, I smiled, I got angry, I loved. I loved all the characters, even the minor ones like Trey, Kevin, Max, and Amelia. But, i especially loved the animals – Glenna, Tater, and Sinjun. Kiss an Angel has just become one of my favorite romance novels of all time.”

Kate Meader is another new-to-me author who I became really friendly with. I joined her fan group Kate’s Kittens and I’ve been privileged to receive advance review copies of her books from NetGalley this year. She is so versatile, writing about food, firemen, and sports with equal competence. “Five icy-hot stars. Kate did it again! She delivered another book with a delicious hero one can’t help but fall in love with, a strong heroine you can relate to, a fascinating story you enjoy following along, and fully-fleshed out secondary characters whose future books you’re looking forward to reading. Irresistible You is funny, but also addresses several heavy issues like sexism and violence against women. It’s super sexy and incredibly fun to read.”

In my opinion, Tessa Dare’s The Duchess Deal is one of the year’s best books. “I devoured this book in two hours. Had tears in my eyes from laughter beginning at Chapter One and throughout the book. Teared up in the end as well from Ash’s fears for his child. The dialogue is sharp, witty, clever, and laugh-out-loud funny. The characters were sympathetic and utterly likable. The attraction between Emma and Ash was strong from the start. Their love scenes were steamy.”

Kerrigan Byrne is another author I discovered through OSRBC. I’m looking forward to meeting her in person next year. “The Scot Beds His Wife, despite its unfortunate title, reinforces my love of the Victorian Rebels series. It has all the elements that I adored in the four earlier books – loads of angst, electric chemistry between hero and heroine, sizzling lovemaking, heart-pounding action, and most especially, the far-from-perfect and diverse characters. What Scot has more of that the others don’t is the lightness of humor balancing the heaviness caused by all the tragedies that are constantly befalling the Rebels and their loved ones.”

“The title of the book, Beautiful Lawman, refers to Sheriff Hale Walters and I love him even though he started all judgmental and tight-assed. He ended up so in love I forgive him for his early behavior. That he’s yummy and so heroic wasn’t too bad, either. But, the star of the book for me is Piper. Sophie gutted me with Piper’s struggles to be a parent to her sister Malia and her determination to rise above the desperate situation she was in when no one was willing to help because of her family history. I got emotional reading this book because I felt so much for what Piper had to go through, what she has to overcome. She was shunned, looked down upon, but she remained strong and resolute. In the end, she truly deserved her victorious happy-ever-after. Another thing I loved about this book is the hot sexytimes. Sophie Jordan’s latest works have become increasingly sensual and I’m loving the extra heat and sizzle of her stories.”

September: Feedback from Beta readers for Boracay Vows started to come in this month and I was in full revision/edit mode. There were still a few gems I managed to indulge in this month.

Lorraine Heath’s When the Marquess Falls: “Cried my eyes out. Short, but oh-so-sweet. The Marquess of Marsden was my favorite part of The Viscount and the Vixen. Reading his full story just about broke my heart. It’s not your typical HEA, but I believe he and Linnie got it in the end.”

J.D. Robb’s In Death is the longest series I’m still following and loving. Now up to fifty-five books and novellas, it remains fun and fresh. “In other In Death books, sometimes the murder mystery overpowers the love story, but not in Secrets. Here, the death is in the background, only a tool employed by J.D. Robb to show the continued growth of the relationship between Eve and Roarke. There is humor and snark, pathos (oh Summerset!), comfort, and intelligent procedural to solve the crime. There’s friendship, collegial camaraderie, community, and family. But, above all, there’s heat and so much love. Scary Roarke and Bitch Cop Eve Forever!

Katy Regnery’s Unloved: “Five heart-rending stars ✨ My eyes are swollen from the tears I shed. My throat aches from the lump that kept forming as I read Unloved. My heart is both heavy and light. I knew it was going to be angsty. I was prepared, but I still felt so emotional. Every now and then you need a book that will break your heart and piece it back together again. Unloved does that.”

October: While my editor worked on copy edits, I read.

Eloisa James’s The Beauty Tamed the Beast is one of my favorite fairy tale retellings and this month, A Kiss at Midnight became another. “A Kiss at Midnight is a funny, witty, sexy, touching fairytale with plenty of clever Shakespearean references mixed in. Kate is a delightful Cinderella, smart, feisty, feminist. Gabriel is a not-so charming prince, one who takes his responsibilities seriously. Their attraction is not quite instant, but strong nonetheless and it’s based on banter and character more than appreciation of physical attributes.”

Y’all can probably tell by now that Lorraine Heath is one of my favorite authors. I’m still slowly working on reading all her books. Sweet Lullaby is a real jewel. “This book was cry-a-minute for me. Jake is the best beta hero I’ve ever read. He has suffered so much in his life yet his capacity for love is still boundless. Lorraine Heath always writes remarkable heroes. Her male voice is truly outstanding. Reb is a good heroine. Her actions and reactions, including her confusion, are understandable. It’s not her fault that Jake was drawn better than her. Sweet Lullaby is melodramatic but I don’t mind it. Published in 1994, it doesn’t read old or dated.”

I requested Roomies from NetGalley because I’ve seen a lot of raves for Christina Lauren’s books but I haven’t read them before. Well, I appreciate being gifted the ARC because I was impressed. “This book is a great introduction to new-to-me authors and I will be adding their books to my TBR mountain ASAP. What’s admirable is that they are two writers but Roomies has one unified “voice”. You cannot tell who wrote which part. It was so seamless. The conversations flowed. The situations and the characters’ actions and reactions were all plausible. There was no suspension of disbelief. I laughed, I cried, I gushed with the romance, I blushed during the love scenes, I got angry, I sympathized. I felt everything Holland went through. That’s why I am giving Roomies all the five stars. Books that engaged all my emotions usually get the top score. Roomies deserves nothing less.”

Bella Andre and her Sullivans have become my go-to reads when I need comforting from all the chaos of life’s realities. I’m often reassured that love, friendship, and family are still some of the most important things in the world. That’s why I read romance. That’s why I love You Do Something To Me. “It’s obvious that Bella loved writing Alec Sullivan. He’s strong yet vulnerable, resolute but also unsure, tough and a softie at the same time. He’s what you want your romantic hero to be – honest about his intentions and takes great care of the heroine. Cordelia is a worthy match for Alec. She has her strengths and brings out the best in him. She helps the real him to come out. She can stand on her own but is happiest when she’s with him. I really enjoyed this sweet and sexy friends-to-lovers romance. Anytime a book makes me smile and tear up, it’s sure to get high marks.”

November: Launch month of Boracay Vows plus NaNo meant I only got to read 6 books including mine.

My author review: “Boracay Vows will always be special to me as it’s my first born. Krista has a little bit of me and Blake has a little bit of my hubby in him. The food, hats, and shoes–they’re all me. So is the female friendship. And the closeness of family relationships.”

I took time out of preparing for the launch of my debut novel Boracay Vows and writing my second novel Singapore Fling during naNoWriMo to read Cherish Hard and I consider it time well spent. “As usual, Nalini Singh tells a great love story not just between Isa and Sailor, but also between them and their friends and family. It’s a story that anyone can relate to, even though the characters might not look like them. I love that this book is multicultural and it reflects the reality of the world we’re living in right now. I adore that Isa is older than Sailor and she’s a full-figured woman with the normal insecurities, but with innate confidence as well. I love that Sailor is oh-so-sexy with a big heart. Like Rock Hard before it, Cherish Hard is a keeper for me.”

I’ve been on a Lisa Kleypas binge lately and I am enjoying it so much. On Sugar Daddy: “It’s barely a romance novel, but I loved it anyway. Lisa Kleypas has a very strong historical voice and an equally strong contemporary one. I honestly believe she had poured more of herself in this book and the rest of the Travis series. She obviously knows Texas and Texans. I’ve only been to Houston once, but after reading Sugar Daddy I feel so familiar with it I felt like I lived there during the time I was reading the book.”

December: LK binge continued.

“These days, all we see in the news are reports of sexual harassment to the point of assault–mostly made by men against women. We need a reminder that there are still men out there who cherish and protect women. One such man is the Blue-Eyed Devil himself: Hardy Cates. Next to Roarke, he’s my favorite contemporary romance Book Boyfriend. He doesn’t get a POV, that’s all Haven, but boy does he leap out of the pages of the book. Even in the first book Sugar Daddy he dominated each scene he appeared in. Lisa Kleypas must love him very much because she wrote him so beautifully. Here’s why I keep giving Blue-Eyed Devil five stars: it’s real to me. Haven and Hardy, Churchill, Liberty, Gage, Jack, etc. are not mere characters in a book. They are real people. And that’s why I love Lisa Kleypas. Because she created them and made them come alive. That is an incredible talent. I will always buy her books, even when I hate their covers.”

“Five stars. This is my third reread of A Wallflower Christmas and the time I enjoyed it the most. I actually upgraded my rating from four to five. I loved revisiting the Wallflowers and this is a great wrap-up to the series. The bonus story of Rafe and Hannah’s fall into love was well-done and I adore its development even though it’s short. The toy soldier and love letter more than made up for Rafe’s earlier boorishness with the forceful first kiss and the teacup incident. One of the best parts of this novella though is this quote: “A well-read woman is a dangerous creature.”

So, here they are, the books I loved in 2017. It was a happy reading to me the whole year long. Hopefully, it will be the same in 2018.

 

 

#Thankful – Boracay Vows

On November 21, I celebrated my birthday and the book birthday of Boracay Vows and it was awesome!

This has been an incredible year and I wouldn’t get here without the love, encouragement, generosity, and support of my family, friends, and even strangers.

My husband is a Rock Star. His belief in me is unwavering. I am not exaggerating when I say I couldn’t have accomplished this without him. He gave me the means to put this book together and have it published. Our son is my inspiration, my heart. I am grateful that at eight years old he can already prepare his own meals, otherwise he’d starve. Expert of things Stevie. Bad mommy.

I am ta novel byhankful for my book club OSRBC. They were there for me from the very beginning of this journey. Their encouragement propelled me to turn my two-pager opener into a full-length novel. OSRBC members informed me about the National Novel Writing Month and cheered me on as I pantsed my way into winning in 2016 with Boracay. They’re the first ones to pre-order my book and help me spread the word around. Best book club in the world!

My editor Linda Hill is from OSRBC. She saw me through dozens of drafts from December in 2016 all the way to proofreading in November. If there are mistakes in the book, they’re most likely things I changed after she gave the final manuscript back to me. Thanks, Linda.  Sorry, Linda. To my writer friends who are planning to publish independently, you are going to need an editor. I recommend you contact Linda ASAP.

Many of my Beta readers are also from OSRBC – Eva Moore, Rizalee, and Cecille. They’re the ones who pointed out what’s missing as well as what’s there that they loved. Thanks, ladies.

My cover designer also belongs to OSRBC. Lucy Rhodes of Render Compose was recommended to me by a common friend Leni Browne and I just marvel at how in sync we were while doing the covers. She’s in Australia, I’m in the US, but there were no barriers to our communication. Another note to my indie friends – ask me for Lucy’s contact information. You won’t regret it.

There are so many people to thank: my sister Myrtle and future brother-in-law R.G. Gallardo; one of my forever friends Chiqui; my first boss and fellow book-addict N; my Belarusian sestra Yulia; design consultant Celeste Odono; fellow Indie writer Rainne Mendoza; reenactors of my cover concept Renee, Tiara, Chippy, Lia, and Jonathan; my ARC readers, and my barkadas UNYLACE, CPP, and Burlesque. Thank you very much. Maraming salamat.

Special thanks to Tessa Dare for her wonderfully motivatTessa Dare noteing words at the beginning of the year. She told me, “Doubt not.” Sometimes I did, but I persevered and now I’m a published author.

And now, I’m thankful.

 

 

I’m An Advanced Reader

This year, I’ve taken fangirling to the max and made friends with my favorite romance writers on Facebook. I’ve also subscribed to their newsletters and joined their reading groups. Thus, I’m one of Sally Thorne’s Flamethrowers, Kate Meader’s Kittens, Sophie Jordan‘s Sirens, and Katy Regnery‘s Ladies. I’m also a member of Bella Andre’s Street Team, Eloisa James’ Book Club, and–the one that started it all for me–Sarah MacLean’s Old School Romance Book Club. One of the privileges is getting a bead on their upcoming books, months or weeks before they go on sale in the form of Advance Reading Copy. This week, I’m putting three of these ARCs on top of my To-Be-Read pile.

 

forever nightsOne more easy job, life coach and empath Jamie Donovan promises herself. Then she’ll take a well-earned break from her booming business to properly grieve the loss of her mother and pull herself together. When that job turns out to be an ambush intervention for Las Vegas heiress Layla DeGrasso, all bets are off. But Layla isn’t Jamie’s biggest problem on her new job. That honor goes to her client’s hot as hell bodyguard, Axel. Damn those abs.

Axel Frasier is finally free from the Army and is trying to make a name for his fledgling network security firm. When he lands a promising contract at Lush, Victor DeGrasso’s crown jewel on the Vegas strip, a few quiet weeks of system analysis beckon. But a twist of events force him back into the role of bodyguard, one he swore he’d never play again. It wouldn’t be so bad if he could only keep his head on straight around his clients’ distracting life coach.

Jamie needs to move past the baggage her mother has saddled her with, while keeping Layla on track. Axel can’t afford to be distracted by lust and doesn’t trust the lure of more. Neither is ready for true love, but the nights in Las Vegas are long and lonely…

Forever Nights will go on sale on June 27, 2017.

 

director and don juan

Heiress Alice Story left her father’s company three years ago in a blaze of glory, inviting all of his employees to jump ship and join her, but only one accepted her offer: mail room clerk, Carlos Vega.

While Alice spent the next three years getting her own company off the ground, Carlos became her indispensable right-hand man — executive assistant and office manager, loyal counsel and trusted co-worker.

And all the while, they were quietly falling in love with each other.

When Alice is offered a lucrative business deal in Puerto Rico, island-born Carlos is the perfect person to accompany her on her trip as translator. But as they travel together from Philadelphia to Santo Domingo to Ponce, two unlikely co-workers will discover that their feelings for each other have grown far deeper than they ever could have guessed.

And though business-minded, proper Alice will try her very best to ignore the longings of her heart, scorching hot, insanely sexy Boricua, Carlos, has no intention of letting her go.

The Director and Don Juan is available on June 30, 2017.

 

sophie jordan the scandal of it all

It takes two to make a scandal…

What kind of woman ventures into London’s most notorious pleasure club? An outsider like Graciela, the Duchess of Autenberry, snubbed time and time again by society because of her Spanish roots. Ela longs to take a lover for a single, wild night, and within the walls of Sodom there are gentlemen to suit every forbidden taste. If only she were not so drawn to the smoldering Lord Strickland…a dangerous man who sees beyond her mask, and could ruin her reputation with a mere whisper.

Lord Strickland never permitted himself to fantasize about the sultry, off-limits lady, but then he never expected to find Ela in a place so wicked, looking for what he’s more than too happy to give. She may not be to the ton’s taste, but she suits him perfectly. First, however, he must convince her to trust in this dangerous desire—and in the promise of forever unleashed by one wild, scandalous night.

The Scandal of It All will be published on July 25, 2017.

 

From these blurbs, I can already tell I’m going to love these books. I’ll be posting my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Happy Reading to me!

 

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Photo Credits: ARC – CreativIndieCovers.com; Cover photos and blurbs – Amazon.com

 

My Name Is Maida And I’m A Bookaholic

I am not exaggerating when I say I have a To Be Read mountain–ok, fine, hill–rather than a mere pile. There are a couple of hundreds of paper books on the floor of my home library and a few hundreds each of ebooks on Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, and Nook. Add to these my membership to the San Antonio Public Library and Houston Area Digital Media Catalog and I have an unlimited access to thousands of books

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Does that stop me from buying more? Heck, no! Yesterday, May 30, was release day for some of my favorite romance authors–Lorraine Heath, Eva Moore, Julia Quinn, and Nora Roberts. Naturally, I bought them all.

new releases may 30 2017

 

Bibliophile. Book Collector.  Book Hoarder. No matter the label, that’s me. As another Bookaholic said, I’m “Addicted. Obsessed. Passionate.” about books and I’m proud of it.

 

Even stormy weather