Merry Inkmas by Talia Hibbert

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“…Princesses like no-strings sex just as much as the next girl.”

Oh, friends, please pick this one up for the holiday season! It was so heartwarming, so atmospheric, and brought me so much joy to read! I loved both protagonists, I loved the wintery setting, I loved the Christmas tattoo shop, and I completely recommend this one with my entire heart. And now I need to go and read everything by Talia Hibbert.

This is an ownvoices novel, starting a Black woman that is working as a barista in a coffee shop part-time while she goes to college. And she has a regular customer who makes her pretty weak in the knees with his flirting, even though nothing ever comes from it. That is, until one night, before closing, and Bailey’s friend John comes in, who is homeless and cold. She is trying to warm him up, when her boss comes out of the back and acts like a complete jerk, until the mystery man witnesses it all and takes action.

“Boring guys finish last,” she corrected, pushing the completed forms back to him. “Nice guys finish anywhere they want. Especially when they look like you.”

Cash is a white tattoo artist, who knows how needed a helping hand can be. He not only takes John under his wing, but also offers Bailey a new job at his tattoo shop. Even though they are completely drawn to each other. Bailey and Cash both haven’t had easy lives growing up, and they have such a realistic bond and attraction to each other, and it makes it completely impossible not to root for them. Especially when Cash invites Bailey to his mom’s for Christmas, since she would be all by herself. But Cash has a policy; he only will date a woman for ninety days before he calls it quits, because he refuses to truly ever let anyone in.

“Funny; he’d been a hell of a lot more charming when she was just serving him coffee.”

But the romance in this is seriously perfect. This book is only a tiny bit over two-hundred pages, but I think I was smiling, or crying, or smiling and crying on every single one. This book is funny, this book is swoon-worthy, and this book has so many important themes; from Cash and Bailey starting an interracial relationship, to Bailey also being plus sized, to it also staring a homeless, queer character, to showing that the terrible things that happen to us in the past do not have to dictate what we become in the future, to really celebrating abuse survivors (from physical abuse to neglect), this book is a damn gift to the world. I also think this story has a main character on the autism spectrum, but it doesn’t say the word(s) on page.

Overall, this was just a treat to read. And this epilogue? 11/10. This story was just so sex positive and steamy, so funny and so endearing, so enthralling and so un-put-downable. And Bailey is the female protagonist I’ve always wanted, she’s strong, and brave, and so empathetic! Ah, this book just had it all; I only wish it was longer! This is the best holiday romance I’ve ever read, and I hope you all pick this up this holiday season.

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Content and trigger warnings for talk of cancer, talk of past domestic violence, talk of past child abuse, and talk of past statutory rape.

#Smutathon TBR | Round Two

#Smutathon is hosted by Lainey and Riley, AKA: my two faves! And this next round is starting tomorrow! You all know I love Romance and Erotic books, so I couldn’t resist participating again! And this rounds challenges? Perfection! ❤❄


➽ Enemies to Lovers


Anything You Can Do by R.S. Grey


Friends Spouses with Benefits


The Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke #1) by Tessa Dare
Buddy read with Julie from Pages and Pens! ❤


➽ Fake Relationship


The Matchmaker’s List by Sonya Lalli
ARC – February 5th, 2019 by Berkley Books
Buddy read with Amy at A Court of Crowns and Quills! ❤


➽ Slow Burn


Killing Sarai (In the Company of Killers #1) by J.A. Redmerski


➽ Forbidden


Wrong to Need You (Forbidden Hearts #2) by Alisha Rai


➽ Different Worlds


The Queen and the Cure (The Bird and the Sword Chronicles #2) by Amy Harmon


➽ One Night Stand

99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne
ARC – January 29th 2019 by William Morrow
(This might be a stretch, but I need to get this read in  December! Shhhh!)



Okay, friends! That’s my TBR for #Smutathon! I’m not sure if I will be able to get to all of these, because I also have another buddy read for a fantasy book on the 14th, but I hope to get to many, because I am in such a romance mood! Please, let me know what you plan on reading if you are participating! And I’m wishing you happy reading always! ❤❄

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The Unrequited by Saffron A. Kent

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“It was beautiful and right. It was wrong and ugly, just like the earth beneath my feet. It was tragic and ecstatic. It was everything I’d hoped love could be.”

Okay, this book isn’t going to be for everyone and I completely get that. I will go into details below, but this book has grey area cheating and it is a student and teacher (college) relationship, but, good dear Lord, the sex in this was so fucking good. Like, maybe the best I’ve read all year. So, if you’re looking for something really naughty and really graphic, then look no further than The Unrequited.

Layla Robinson is all alone at college, living by herself in a dorm on campus that has construction going on below her top tower level. But Layla also feels alone and abandoned by her family, because she fell in love with her stepbrother, and only friend, and it really tore apart the family. Yet, Layla is still obsessed with him. But soon she will have a new obsession, and that is her poetry teacher that she keeps running into without him knowing. (Seriously, if you love the character Joe from You by Caroline Kepnes, then you are going to love Layla!) Also, Layla brings up pretty much every fucking Lana Del Rey song, but I’ll be honest, that’s what this book even reads like. She compares her professor to “Blue Jeans” and I swear to God, I feel like I could hear that song in the background while reading this entire story. Another thing is that the atmosphere of this book is perfect. Like, the snowy and winter setting was expertly done, and I really wasn’t expecting that going in. And it even enhances the Lana Del Rey vibes even more.

“Before this, I was Layla Robinson, crazy in love with her stepbrother. Now, I’m Layla Robinson, crushing on her poetry professor.”

But, okay, on to the poetry professor. Thomas Abrams is a new dad, but he and his wife are having a lot of problems. Thomas thinks it is because he was ignoring her, to work on his poetry, but he is now willing to do anything to make his marriage work… I mean, besides not having sex with a student. But he has moved back to the college town they met in and has taken up a job at the college where he meets Layla, and he claims that he is doing everything to try to make his wife fall in love with him again. You know, again, besides putting his dick in other women.

But Thomas and Layla bond over their mutual knowledge about their unrequited love, and their unforgettable loneliness. Yet, they recognize their chemistry together also, and after teasing each other nonstop, they eventually start having explosive sex. And like I said above, the sex is honestly 11/10, some of the best I’ve ever read, but a lot of sus things are going on.

Layla has a lot of mental health issues, and is completely and utterly unstable, but her character was one that I really loved. Again, she and her actions are totally unpredictable, but I felt like her character was just really realistically done (besides the tattoo, what the fuck even was that?). I’m not justifying her actions, and totally understand that most of them weren’t even close to being “morally good” or whatever, but they were hella believable and made for such an enthralling tale. From her stalking, to her obsessing, to her even just liking the way Thomas says her name, I loved it all.

“Firecrackers burst over my skin at the way he said my name. As far as I’m concerned, my name is average, but his voice, the movements of his tongue against his lips, make it special.”

And even though all this wild stuff is going on in the background, the real reason I’m giving this three stars is because I didn’t really like the ending. I just feel like both Layla and Thomas completely changed who they were as characters. I almost feel like the author didn’t really know how to end this really taboo and naughty story she created, so she tried to give it a fluffy romance ending and it just didn’t work for me, because it was so different than the entire rest of the vibe of this book. Plus, let’s be real, the character of Hadley was handled really not great, especially with Thomas “forcing” her to be a mother. Not every woman is put on this planet to be a mom, and that’s okay, but I feel like Hadley (for the most part) was really shown in a negative light because of her mental illness and her wants for her own life, and I really disliked it.

“We shouldn’t look for love stories where there are none to be found.”

Overall, I wanted a really sexy book and The Unrequited delivered that and more. Also, for the record, I don’t think the sex in this book is going to be for everyone, but it was very much for me. But if you’re on the kinky side, and like dominant partners, you should totally give this a try. Seriously, this is one of my new favorite forbidden romances of all time. I never wanted to put this story down, and I’m totally going to check out more by Saffron A. Kent.

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Content and trigger warnings for a BIG power imbalance because of a student and teacher relationship, cheating, depression, suicide attempt, talk of drinking and driving, talk of grey area consent in the past, stalking, peeping toms, underage drinking, and a lot of questionable mental health representation and discussion.

My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren

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ARC provided by the publisher via Gallery Books in exchange for an honest review.

“I wonder whether I’m single not because I haven’t met the right person yet, but because I’m not the right person yet.”

Okay, at this point I know I sound like a broken record, but Christina Lauren is such a hit or miss author for me. And I honestly feel like their releases alternate between me loving and me feeling “meh” about. Sadly, My Favorite Half-Night Stand ended up being a story that was very “meh” to me. It wasn’t believable, I was never really invested, and never in a million years would I want to date the main character.

So, the basic premise of this book is that there is a close-knit group of friends who all work sort of together. But they constantly hang out outside of the workplace, and they really are their own little found family. Oh, and they are all supposed to be super smart and super unlucky with dating. Yeah, it gave me Big Bang Theory vibes which is never a good sign. But anyways, they all need dates to this big event (which doesn’t even happen in the book, by the way) so they all download a dating app.

And this book does have a lot of multimedia, because we get to see these friends text and be in group chats with one another. But I will say, these people aren’t that much older than me, and really have a hard time understand basic internet lingo when they talk to each other. Real talk, my grandma memes better than these thirty-year-olds. But anyway, I should tell you all about the group of friends.

“…no matter how objectively pretty she is, Millie Morris has always been off-limits. But mostly I think she’s been off-limits because she’s never shown any particular interest in any of us.”

Basically, Millie helps all four dudes with their dating profiles. Including Reid, the guy who she considers her best friend, but who she slept with at the very beginning of this book. And basically, the guys don’t think that Millie’s profile is up to snuff, even though she literally wrote theirs for them. So, she makes another one, that’s more edgy and sexy or whatever, and she gets matched with Reid. And sends him something that she feels like will make it obvious that it is her, you know, instead of just telling him, and she basically catfishes him for the entirety of the book. And yikes, it was not enjoyable to read.

Millie’s actions are read apologetically because she has had a hard home-life growing up, and has essentially run away from it. She doesn’t talk to the guys about her past, or what is going on back home, but she feels like she can be open and honest with Reid while pretending to be this other woman. Which in and of itself is gross, but then later in the book, she actually reads what he has written to her aloud to other people. It is so gross, and I honestly disliked Millie throughout this entire book. Therefore, it was really hard for me to root for this relationship, because Reid deserved a hell of a lot better.

Overall, this just wasn’t for me. Which is actually funny, because Reid and I have similar jobs, which I was so damn hyped about when I first started this one. Sadly, that was the only thing I ended up being hyped about. And I’m so bitter that we didn’t get to see Obama in this, after this party announcement that was the reason the entire book premise started! Also, catfishing is never cool, but especially to your best friend and someone you’re having sex with. I will say that most of my friends who have also received ARCs of this one, have really loved it. So, maybe take this review with a grain of salt, but I just really didn’t like it. But I hope if you pick it up that you will enjoy it more than me! Happy reading!

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Content and trigger warnings for catfishing, loss of a loved one in the past, talk of cancer, diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, and some questionable comments about people’s physical appearance.

 

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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“I am finishing up dinner with my family and my fiancé when my husband calls…”

Do you ever read a book and know that you’re reading it at the exact moment in your life when you needed to read it? Because that is me with One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I know a three star rating doesn’t seem that high, but the message of this book spoke louder to me than maybe any other book this year. The universe really lined up for me with this one.

The basic premise of this story, that I’m sure you all have heard many times before, is that it is about a girl who fell in love at first sight, freshman year of high school, with a boy and she ends up marrying him. They grew up together in a very small town in Massachusetts, but together they traveled the world and set up home base in California. She thought she was living the happiest life that she could, until he goes missing in a helicopter crash and is presumed dead.

She then moves back to her small hometown, and begins to run her family’s bookstore. And two years after the love of her life was lost, she falls in love with a boy she has also known almost her entire life. And for the first time in a long time, she is happy. That is, until the missing husband is officially declared alive.

Emma – The woman torn between two men.
Jesse – The missing husband.
Sam – The fiancé.

But once Jesse comes back into Emma’s life, she realizes that she isn’t the same girl anymore. She’s 31 and feels a lot differently about her life than she did at 21. And friends, that is the real reason this book is extremely hard for me to review. I’ve never been married, and I’ve never had a partner presumed dead *knocks on wood forever*, but Emma’s life really reminds me of my own.

This book handles such an important and not talked about discussion on how you want different things at different points in your life. And, I’m being really honest here, this is something that I’m currently struggling with. I was born and raised in Michigan, where all my family still live, but I knew I never wanted to stay. After college, I moved to a big city on the west coast, I am still able to travel a lot, and I don’t have to check in with anyone. But the past few years, as I’m getting older, I’m really thinking about wanting a family, and maybe moving back to the east coast to be closer to my family (and to have seasons, I really miss seasons!) I feel like I’m probably not alone in this, but life just goes so damn fast and I’m so scared I’m going to let something pass me by, but seeing Emma be the person she wanted to be a 31, not 21, was really moving and emotional to me. Like, more emotional than any kind of sad love triangle could be. So again, this is a hard book to rate.

“People aren’t stagnant. We evolve in reaction to our pleasures and our pains.”

I did enjoy this story though, and I won’t say any spoilers, but she did get with the guy that I wanted her to pick! I will say that she does have sex with both men, during very short in-between periods, but I feel like it was done very realistically, and it didn’t bother me at all. Yet, again, it did bother many of my friends, so use caution. Also, content and trigger warnings for underage drinking, thoughts of suicide, loss of a loved one, depression depiction, grief depiction, PTSD depiction, grey area cheating, and talk of cancer.

Besides this book impacting me way more than any romantic contemporary should, my favorite part of this book was Emma’s best friend, Olive, who is bisexual, half Korean and half Jewish, and just kept proving that she was such an amazing friend who really unconditionally loved Emma. I also really loved Emma’s parents and I thought they were very realistic and heartwarming. I even enjoyed Emma’s journey with his sister, Marie, even if it made me a little sad at times. Oh, and I loved the inclusion of Marie’s twins (Emma’s nieces) who were hearing impaired and used ASL. Taylor Jenkins Reid always makes me books very inclusionary and I very much appreciate it.

“I think I’m heading into a time in my life where words and labels will lose their meaning. It will only be the intent behind them that will matter.”

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. I loved the messages of people changing and living the life they want to at whatever time in their life they want to live it. I’m sorry if I was a little too personal in this post; but if you feel similarly to the way I’m feeling, or to the way Emma felt – I promise you aren’t alone.

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Buddy read with Sue & Amy! ❤

 

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

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ARC provided by Berkley in exchange for an honest review.

“Deciding to spend your life together shouldn’t be a surprise”

I loved The Wedding Date earlier this year, and when I found out that this was going to star one of the side characters I knew I couldn’t resist putting in an ARC request. This was a joy to read, from the first page to the last. Both of Jasmine’s books have been so intelligently, beautifully, and masterfully crafted.

The Proposal is an ownvoices novel that follows a woman who is completely blindsided by a marriage proposal at Dodger Stadium. Yet, before the camera crews come in to make a terrible situation even worse, she is saved by a stranger in the stands, and his sister.

Nikole Paterson – Black, freelance journalist, and the woman who just got surprise proposed to after only five months of dating her partner.

Carlos Ibarra – Latino, pediatrician, the stranger in the stands that we already were introduced to in The Wedding Date.

And we get to see these two build a friendship, and maybe something more, after everything went down at Dodger Stadium. Neither one of them are at a point in their life where they are willing to start something new, but they have each other’s backs and prove that they are there for one another.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Nik and Carlos with my whole heart, but Nik’s friends almost stole the show for me in this novel. Dana is an actress, black, and a lesbian, and has the freakin’ cutest f/f side romance ever. Like, please, I need a full-length novel right this second. And Courtney is a cupcake shop owner, Asian, and plus sized. And I think I had a smile from ear-to-ear every time she was on the page. Seriously, Nik, Dana, and Courtney are the definition of friendship goals and it was a joy to read.

But probably my favorite thing in this book were the seamlessly woven important themes. There was also such a subtle, yet loud, message about how easy it is to not realize you are in an emotionally abusive relationship. And sometimes you don’t start to realize until you are completely secluded from your friends and family. Yet, it also shows that there always can be ways out, even if you have to wait a while, and that it is never too late once you realize when someone is being abusive.

There was also such a beautiful discussion about how important it is to reclaim your safety after you have been violated or felt that it was threatened. Throughout this story, we see Nik take those steps, and it just meant a lot to me, personally. I also loved how she had friends helping along the way.

The reason I did end up giving this four stars, and not five, was because I felt like Carlos acted a little questionably at the end. Trust me, it pains me to say, because I do love him so much. Yet, with the way he and Nik met, you would think that he would understand how she would react to a (quicker) repeat. I’m trying to be vague, but his actions just left me side-eyeing a little at the end, and just dampened my enjoyment overall.

Yet, I still loved this book, and I think Jasmine Guillory is such an impressive author. I can’t wait to read any and everything she writes. The romance world just needs more books like The Proposal and The Wedding Date! I completely recommend this one!


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The quote above was taken from an ARC and is subject to change upon publication.

Content and trigger warnings for public humiliation, racist comments (always in a negative light and challenged), talk of past emotional abuse, brief assault (slap on the butt), talk of past loss of a loved one, brief mention of child abuse, brief mention of past miscarriage, and pregnancy complications.

Buddy Read with Lilly, Stephanie, & Leigh! ❤

❤ I also read this for Contemporary-a-thon!

A Daring Arrangement (The Four Hundred, #1) by Joanna Shupe

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ARC provided by Avon in exchange for an honest review.

“The plan was simple. If her father wanted her to find a husband, she’d find the most outrageous man in New York, a fiancé noteworthy and unsuitable enough to land in the papers.”

Friends, I am not sure if this is because I just don’t read that much historical romance, or that I just couldn’t connect with these characters or story, but this just did not work for me. Honestly, I think I’m going to try a Tessa Dare book, and if that doesn’t work for me then I’m just going to swear off historical romances for a while. This was just so boring. Nothing happened what so ever. And I’ll admit, I picked this up because I was craving romance, so maybe the fact that the romance didn’t even start until 70% into the book made me really not enjoy it.

A Daring Arrangement is a story about a daughter of a prestigious Earl in England, who has been sent to her Aunt’s in America so that her father can escape a scandal that she has tried to create, and maybe also find a proper husband for herself. But she desperately wants to get back to England, so she finds the most unacceptable match that she can find, so that her father will maybe wish to bring her back. But she and this improper man strike up an arrangement that will hopefully benefit both of them.

Honora (Nora) Parker – The Earl’s daughter, who has found love with an artist who is very much not the match her father wants her to have. But Nora loves him so much that she desperately wants to get back to England, the quickest way possible; getting engaged to a scandalous man.

“Her father would never approve of Hatcher as a husband, a scoundrel who would bring shame to the venerable Parker name.”

Julius Hatcher – A Very successful financier, who has been unable to let go of something terrible that happened in the past. And he thinks the only way that he can try to get vengeance is to become a New York socialite, so he can uncover who ruined his life so many years ago.

And Julius starts to show Nora what it means to be improper very quickly. Yet, he also really surprises her and the rest of the New York socialites with not only his behavior, but his amazing investing tips. But Julius very quickly realizes that maybe he wants to turn this fake engagement into a real one.

But you all know this is a romance novel, so obviously romance ensues. And I really did like Julius as a character. He actually made me laugh, and I just found him quite charming in general. I never really warmed up to Nora. Like, not even the last name helped her. And I just really never felt, or believed, their romance.

Overall, this book really made me question if historical romances are just not for me. Which is probably not a good sign, but it is what it is. I didn’t hate this book, and I didn’t find it offensive or anything like that, I just didn’t enjoy it. But I hope that if you pick it up, that you’ll find more happiness between the pages.

“Life was not fair, she wanted to tell him. Falling in love with a decent man her father refused to accept was unfair. Being a woman and not having the right to decide her own fate was unfair.”

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Content and trigger warnings for talk of suicide, grey area cheating, loss of a loved one, and some misogynistic comments.