Vicious

I’ve seen so many people raving about L. J. Shen’s books online, my favorite bloggers and favorite authors. I decided to just dive into her entire library while I have a little extra time on my hands. So many readers have made amazing edits of the Sinners of Saint and the All Saints High series – Sinners of Saint is the first series and the All Saints High is a spin-off about the children. Start at the beginning right? (Wrong, I started with Vicious, but chronologically, Defy comes first.)

Emilia LeBlanc and Baron “Vicious” Spencer have had a fraught relationship ever since they met during their senior year of high school. In an attempt to salvage any kind of friendship between the two, Emilia starts to work for Vicious, despite him being the reason she disappeared for ten years.

I have been really into audiobooks the last few months. I love being able to listen to something during my commute and while I’m sitting at my desk at work. I started this one at the start of my commute and finished it by the end of the same day – I loved it that much.

The books in this series center around the Four Hotholes of All Saints High. None of these men are saints by any stretch, and Vicious is without a doubt the worst of them. I do enjoy reading about alpha males in romance but I’ve never been into alpha assholes – until this book. He’s not a perfect character and that endeared me to him.

The books in this series center around the Four Hotholes of All Saints High. None of these men are saints by any stretch, and Vicious is without a doubt the worst of them. I do enjoy reading about alpha males in romance but I’ve never been into alpha assholes – until this book. He’s not a perfect character and that endeared me to him. And Emilia (Millie) is such a sweet character. She works hard and really cares for those she loves. But seeing her interactions with Vicious is so fascinating because she has this different side to her and it gives her a little more depth. There are layers to her and I thought L. J. Shen did a really good job portraying that.

Vicious, the book, has a few flashbacks and I really loved seeing the origin of Vicious and Millie’s relationship. It gives more meaning to their actions in the present and really shows some character growth. Like readers are definitely led to believe the worst about Vicious because he bullied Millie when they were in high school and even within the Four Hotholes, he betrayed his friends and sabotaged one of their relationships. But as Millie and Vicious get closer, you learn that there are actual reasons for what Vicious does. I don’t quite know how to put it – Vicious’s reasons, they’re not the most romantic gestures but the more you learn about Vicious, it’s apparent that he loves in a different way and he does really love Millie.

My favorite part of this book was really learning about Vicious’s character. Like I said he is not a perfect character and being reminded that real people aren’t perfect creatures and that they have true flaws, like jealousy, pettiness, vindictiveness makes the story and the characters more believable. And the chemistry between Millie and Vicious was seriously super hot. There were some steamy scenes. There was a lot to unpack in this book, and from the beginning, the plot was super interesting and just took me for a ride.

I truly loved reading this one, and I’m really glad I decided to give this L. J. Shen a shot. A five star read for me!

Doctor Dearest

I just finished reading Doctor Dearest by R. S. Grey and holy crap. It’s definitely vying for the position as one of my favorites from Rachel. The main characters, Natalie and Connor, stole my heart from the first pages and they never gave it back.

Natalie is a kickass doctor working in the Burn Intensive Care Unit. She’s been living with her older brother, Noah, through her residency, but now Noah’s traveling for work. He invites his best friend, Connor to crash in his townhouse while he’s away, one, because Connor’s getting renovations done on his townhouse, and two, Connor can keep an eye on Natalie while they live together. This would be totally fine for Natalie, if it weren’t for the fact that she’s had a crush on Connor forever. I love the older brother’s best friend trope and this book delivered on it.

Natalie’s character is one of my favorites so far. She’s this amazing, smart doctor – like a true-kick-ass-I-want-to-be-her-when-I-grow-up woman. I also really enjoyed that she started as this independent person and needed to learn to allow others to help her sometimes. That kind of growth in a character is always interesting to me because I’m similar in that I’d rather rely on myself than let anyone else help. And Connor Easton is the epitome of swoon worthy – doctor and ex-quarterback? Oh hell yes! Throughout the book he managed to balance pushing Natalie past her comfort zone and giving her the space when she needed it. He’s an alpha male that’s still respectful and I’m all here for that. These two were absolutely perfect for each other.

I can not stress enough how much I loved this book – like the pacing was perfect for me. I was hooked from the first chapter and had to restrain myself not to fly through it too fast. And the climax? That was something I had not seen coming from R. S. Grey and after reading so many of her books, for her to still surprise me? Amazing job! 

I love how realistic Rachel’s books are. Maybe not all of the things actually happen in a hospital, but Rachel writes about it in a way where it feels more realistic than other authors who might skim over the details of what a normal day looks like in the BICU, and the hierarchy of doctors and medical students. It’s pretty evident that she puts a lot of research into writing her books – Hotshot Doc and His Royal Highness come to mind, and Doctor Dearest is no exception. As a reader, I appreciate it. I get to enjoy a story from a passionate author – and I get to learn something new.

If you’re a fan of romantic comedy, R. S. Grey, or the older brother’s best friend trope, you should absolutely read this book. It was perfect! 5 stars!

Wherever You Are

I’m a little sleep deprived while I type this up, but I just finished reading Wherever You Are by Krista and Becca Ritchie and I have a lot of feelings about this book that I want to share. This was the most beautiful, perfect conclusion to Willow and Garrison’s story.

This book continues the back and forth timeline of Whatever It Takes – watching as Willow and Garrison continue to solidify their friendship while navigating the gradual slide into fame and being connected to the Hales, Meadows, and Cobalts in the past; as they navigate a long distance relationship, family and friend dynamics, and more fame.

Wherever You Are was filled with the perfect blend of love and angst. It was a perfect emotional roller coaster that I’d ride ten times over. Willow spent a lot of this book struggling to find her place. Her title as a sibling changed so much in the span of only a few years and as she drew closer to some family members, she found herself isolated from others. I can’t imagine what that must be like but she is such a courageous character (such a Gryfinndor) and she was determined to make the most of what relationships she did have. She grew into a much more confident character by the end of the book and if I was impressed with her journey in the last book, then I was just brimming with pride by the end of Wherever You Are.

Garrison also had such a journey in this book. Oh my goodness, I truly love Garrison Abbey, and this book firmly solidified him as one of my favorite characters from Krista and Becca. After removing himself from a toxic relationship with his own family, he really starts to practice a little more self-love. He learns to accept his past actions but tries to not let them affect his future as much as they used to. Plus I just love the tenderness between him and Willow, especially in the past. Willow is pretty timid when they meet and eases herself out of her comfort zone slowly. Garrison’s been thrown from his comfort zone with too much force and respects the boundaries that make her feel more comfortable. When they had a conversation about this, I swooned so much.

Both Whatever It Takes and Wherever You Are have timelines that overlap with the Addicted and Calloway Sisters series. It was so great to be able to read some of the scenes from those books in Willow and Garrison’s point of views. It makes this whole universe are a little richer. I adore the Core 6 and it’s a fresh, new perspective on their stories that I’m grateful we get years after their series ended.

I loved these two perfectly imperfect characters. A rebel neighbor who, deep down, is a good guy and protects those he really cares about. A wallflower girl next door who hides in the corner at parties but travels across the country, the globe by herself to find herself. They are both contradictions and opposites but they are also perfectly imperfect together and I am so glad that we got to read their romance. I’ve said it a lot already, but I am truly thankful to Krista and Becca for finding time in their writing schedule to share this story with their readers. I didn’t know how much I needed to read Willow and Garrison fall in love until I had these books. If I could give this all the stars in all the universes I would, but I guess a 5 star rating will have to suffice.

Love Her or Lose Her

I’m just chugging through my insanely long (and ever growing) TBR list. Love Her or Lose Her by Tessa Bailey was just recently released and I was really excited to read this one! I loved Fix Her Up, and this is the next standalone in that series. I could already feel the tension between Rosie and Dominic in that book, and now their tumultuous marriage is center stage in Love Her or Lose Her.

As mentioned in past reviews (pretty sure it was The Bromance Book Club) second chance romance is my ultimate favorite trope. Not only are Rosie and Dominic married already, but they were middle school sweethearts. Oh yeah, I may have swooned at that tidbit. I adore couples that have known each other for a long time – the intimacy in that knowledge… yeah that’s my catnip.

Anyway, after years spent together, Rosie feels their marriage has hit a wall, and it’s impossible to get around. They don’t fight, but they don’t really communicate either. The only thing they have going for them is a super hot attraction for each other, which means some super hot acts in the bedroom. Unfortunately that’s not enough for Rosie anymore and she wants a divorce. Dominic doesn’t want to leave his wife and demands a second chance. They come to a compromise – they’ll go to couple’s therapy bootcamp. It’s a little outrageous, but if Dominic isn’t willing to put in this effort, then maybe they have diverged in some way.

I really loved their marriage counselor. Not only was he a little hippy-dippy and provided some lightness to this angsty book, but I loved the points he made on how both Rosie and Dominic could be better spouses. He made them seem so organic – some times it comes off as trying to hard to me. Not the case for this book. There was also a moment where Rosie and Dominic discussed what they really appreciated about each other, and one of the things was untangling headphones and putting extra pens in backpacks. They’re such small, innocuous tasks, but I just thought it was so sweet to see the little ways they showed that they were thinking of each other. It made it seem really genuine, and not just cliche “small acts of love.”

Throughout the book, Dominic is afraid to show his emotions to Rosie, and everyone else – he’s determined to keep a stiff upper lip. He’s really pressed about this by several characters quite a bit and I really liked seeing this reminder that men can be emotional and sensitive too. They don’t have to be an impenetrable wall and neither does Dominic. And on a similar note, I loved how assertive Rosie could get. At first, she seemed tentative to rock the boat with her and Dominic, but as she went to therapy and became closer to the other women in the book, she learned to be more confident, to stand on her own two feet. Her ultimate goal was to own a restaurant, and watching make such big strides was really awesome to read.

The only parts I didn’t love all that much – Dominic’s nickname for Rosie. As much as I loved their intimacy, I still got cringe-y every time the audiobook narrator said “honey girl” in her fake Bronx accent. I was not about it. Also towards the end of the book, the communication problem really came to a head for the main characters, but I kind of felt like the whole thing was rushed. There were lots of feelings and while yes, the characters are entitled to feel someway. But the rapid pace between all the emotions made it come across as overreactions which just made it a little hard to root for someone by the end.

Tessa Bailey is the queen of the sexy scenes and this book is no exception. Despite the communication issues that Rosie and Dominic struggle through, they have super hot chemistry. When they are together, there’s lots of dirty talk and sexiness. I did a lot of fanning my face.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Rosie and Dominic did a lot of learning and growing throughout their story, and it made their romance sweeter at the end. They were stronger for their struggle and I really loved reading their journey together. Definitely recommend!

The Foxe & the Hound

Another R. S. Grey book read and done! As the title suggests, puppies are involved in this story – and as the biggest dog person in the world, hell yes, I had to read this. Also I started reading this at the same time that I had to take my own dog to the vet for minor surgery, so the timing seemed appropriate. The Foxe & The Hound is a standalone RomCom but is set in the same world as Anything You Can Do.

In this book, we learn more about Lucas’s little sister Madeleine. She does not have her life together. She’s a real estate agent albeit not a fantastic one (the only house she sold was to her brother and best friend), she dodges her landlord whom she owes a bit of rent to, and she drives one helluva clunker. But she’s just adopted a puppy, Mouse, and despite his name, he is anything but mouse-sized. And thanks to Mouse, we meet the new town vet, Adam Foxe. He is a handsome bachelor and he takes care of cute animals?! Sounds perfect to me.

As always I love the humor that Rachel injects into all her books. Madeleine is one of the funnier characters. I loved her spunk and determination to turn her life around. All the shenanigans she finds herself in or that Mouse somehow get her in were hilarious and also kind of made her into a stronger character because no matter what challenge she faced, she found a way to keep moving forward. I liked getting to see the characters from Anything You Can Do again in this book. Daisy was a great character and to see her in the best friend role for Madeleine was super sweet.

And Adam Foxe! Super hot vet. Puppy trainer. Newly single. Basically the perfect package. He has some really sweet moments in his determination to spend time with Madeleine – like taking Mouse for runs. *swoon* The chemistry between him and Madeleine is fire, and once he accepts this, he’s not afraid to push her on the attraction they share. The only thing I didn’t love about Adam was that he was kind of wishy-washy. He was burned by a past relationship and was really determined not to hop into a new one right away, but seemed to change his mind really fast and without a clear explanation as to why.

I really enjoyed this one! The Foxe & the Hound certainly has all the charm and hilarity of one of R.S. Grey’s romComs. And for animal lovers and romance lovers, definitely a must read!

Whatever It Takes

It’s release day!

I’m sure it’s already apparent but for those who haven’t figured this out – I love Krista and Becca Ritchie’s writing. I fell in love with the Core 6 in the Addicted and Calloway Sisters series, and I couldn’t get enough of the characters. The most amazing thing for me is just the amount of detail they put into their storytelling. Characters get their quirks, phrases and movements that are unique to the, and rich backstory – but it’s not just the main characters either. They put thought into the side characters. And because of this incredible world building it really creates a desire from their readers for more stories and books to be written. Such is the case with Willow and Garrison.

They pop up as side characters in the aforementioned series and in the Like Us series as well. And years ago, Krista and Becca took some time and started a web series called Whatever It Takes and posted chapters on Wattpad. While scouring their website for any extra bonus material, I stumbled upon the Wattpad story and immediately fell in love with Willow and Garrison. Unfortunately, at the time, Krista and Becca had to prioritize books that would actually make them money vs the free online story that made them nothing and so Whatever It Takes sat on Wattpad at this terrible cliffhanger. Fans resigned themselves to knowing they would at least have the Core 6’s perspective on Willow and Garrison’s story whenever they popped up.

But finally, finally, finally, last year Krista and Becca surprised readers with a completed duet that will be released at the end of January.

Krista and Becca have shared that the book will cover parts of the original Wattpad story, when Willow and Garrison first met in high school, but would also cover future years, with Willow in college. The books are written to be read as a standalone, so even if you haven’t read the Addicted/Calloway sisters series or the Like Us series, it would still make sense. Obviously, all the series are incredible though and everyone should read all of them.

I was so lucky to have received as ARC of Whatever It Takes, and in my excitement for Willow and Garrison, I devoured the book in a day and I have many, many thoughts.

Willow Hale. This character owns my introverted soul. There were so many moments where I was nodding along to her internal dialogue thinking same girl, same. And there were also moments where I was cheering her on. She does some incredibly brave things, and as a fellow introvert, I know how hard it is to push yourself out of your comfort zone. For me, it’s mentally exhausting and frightening and it’s very easy for me to just talk myself out of whatever it is and just stay in my bubble – safe, but stagnant. My girl, Willow, throws herself way out of her comfort zone, she is so strong for it and I was really proud and inspired.

Garrison Abbey. Garrison. Abbey. I love this character. So much. He owns my lonely heart. Garrison is the baby in his family and is the punching bag to his older brothers and this on top of some not so great friends really effects his outlook on life. He wants to be left alone but is also afraid to be alone. There were so many times in this book that I wanted to give him a hug – but he’s sensitive about touch so only hugging him with consent. Garrison’s journey through this book is really what got to me. He struggles with self-worth both in the past and present. His past actions have really shaped how he views himself, and what he feels he deserves. There are good parts to his life but he doesn’t think a person like him deserves the happiness in his life. I just thought it was really important lesson in self-worth.

Any book that can really get me in my feelings like this automatically gets 5 magical stars. It’s filled with angst, so many pop culture references, and first love. I was in tears at the end of the book, dying for the second book in the duet. Krista and Becca are masters of creating in depth characters and worlds, and I’m super grateful that they took the time to tell Willow and Garrison’s story.

Anything You Can Do

The Queen of RomCom, R. S. Grey, recently announced the release date of her next book – which means it’s the perfect time for a little binge reading. I first discovered R. S. Grey in 2016 with The Summer Games: Settling the Score. I’ve read most of her books from before that and after, and I personally think she really started to hit her comedic stride with Anything You Can Do and all her books following. That was when she became a one-click author for me. So my binge starts with Anything You Can Do.

This is an enemies-to-lovers romance, but even though there is animosity between Daisy and Lucas, there is plenty of hilarity. These two were born on the same day and lived right next door to each other. For the first eighteen years of their lives they competed against each other in basically everything. They went away to colleges on opposite coasts, but have come back over a decade later, as successful doctors, both with the hope of inheriting the local practice. Of course, if Daisy owned the practice by herself, she would have won the ultimate battle against Lucas, so it’s become her mission to best Lucas at every turn.

But this is a romcom, so of course Daisy’s plans are a little outrageous and would truly, only work out in her mind. In reality, certain circumstances lead to Daisy and Lucas having to work as a team to treat their patients. The passion and focus the two characters put into their little “war” makes it clear that hate is not the opposite of love. And certainly that passion for could make for some pretty hot encounters between them. There is plenty of sexual tension in this book and they lead to steamy scenes. The desire Daisy and Lucas have for each other really shows how perfect they would be together, both for them and for the readers. I spent a good portion of the book just internally yelling at Daisy to stop fighting and give in to her feelings for Lucas.

I freaking love R. S. Grey’s writing. For any other love interests where they have actively hated each other for their whole lives, I find it hard to root for them because I would have a hard time justifying the mean things the characters did to each other before they realized their true feelings – and even more so when the story is typically told from only one characters point of view. But that’s not the case with Anything You Can Do. For the most part, the book is only in Daisy’s POV, but with some clever writing, we do get an occasional peek into Lucas’s head that, for me, made the difference and helped me understand the bigger picture. Daisy also has an awesome moment of clarity and self-reflection that really made me love her character, crazy, diabolical plans and all. I think Rachel does an awesome job of keeping the story light and funny, while also allowing for some more serious moments to help me connect with the characters!

I really enjoyed Anything You Can Do – 5 stars to Daisy and Lucas! And like I said before, R. S. Grey only gets better from here, so onward with the bingeing!