The Boyfriend Project (Boyfriend Project #1) by Farrah Rochon

This is my first Farrah Rochon book. I had high hopes because of the blurb on the cover from Kristan Higgins, who has long been one of my favorite authors. And I am happy to say that the book lived up to those expectations. 

The Boyfriend Project book cover


The Boyfriend Projects starts us off with Samiah Brooks, a high-achieving Black woman working in software at a very well-respected tech company, a company everybody wants to work for. The book doesn’t dwell on this, but we are reminded that she had to work twice as hard as the men, and then twice as hard again as the white people, to land such a lucrative and desirable position. So we know she’s good at her job, and when we learn that she has been working on an idea for a phone app, we have no doubt she could get it done if she just had the time.

The Dating Scene (in Both Senses of the Word)

The reason she doesn’t have time? Dating. It’s not going great, but there’s one guy she’s been seeing who seems okay. But when she finds out he’s two-timing her, she goes to confront him at a restaurant, only to find it’s actually three-timing and the other women are there—and somebody’s recording the whole incident. 

The video goes viral and Samiah is embarrassed, but the three women become friends and make a pact to steer clear of men for the next six months and focus on themselves. For Samiah, this means working on her app.

The New Guy

The problem with this decision? Daniel, one of her company’s recent hires. They have instant chemistry, but she is not in a place to do anything about that. And Daniel has reasons of his own (very good ones—he’s an undercover investigator) for not wanting to get involved in a relationship. But of course, that vow to stay apart doesn’t last. (I mean, we know this is a romance novel, right?) 

The Job

Samiah tries to work on the app and do her somewhat demanding job and date Daniel, and it’s difficult, but she manages it. Daniel continues his work, knowing this won’t last with Samiah because he’ll be leaving town when the job is done. Samiah of course has no idea that this is only temporary for him, but the problem for Daniel is that he doesn’t want it to be. But he has a job to do. 


I loved the resolution in the book—how he betrays her and how they both come to terms with that in a way that is very believable. I enjoyed the tech setting of the book, too (even though some of the stuff they worked on didn’t really make total sense to me, but whatever)—it’s definitely one that would appeal to fans of office romance. I also love to see characters who aren’t white (Daniel is mixed, Black and Korean) star in a book that’s achieved mainstream success. I highly recommend this for fans of contemporary romance. 

Finally in Tune Kirkus Review

I submitted my new release Finally in Tune for a review from Kirkus reviews, and although waiting for it to come back is always a nerve-racking experience, I was excited to get the one for Finally in Tune because it was actually all positive. 

The reviewer said it was “A sweet love story brimming with music and nostalgia,” where the chemistry between Casey and Adam is palpable. I’m a tiny bit worried that the word “sweet“ might mislead people (this is definitely NOT a sweet romance), but the reviewer is right—the story itself is kind of sweet. They do a nice summary of the story (it’s aways kind of fun, and sometimes disconcerting, to see someone else summarize your novel). In the summary, she mentions that Casey is almost 40, which I liked because it might appeal to the growing audience who like to read about people their age instead of twenty-somethings. 

You can see the full review here.

New Release! Finally in Tune

I’m happy to announce that the second book in the Coded for Love series is out now! Finally in Tune is Casey’s story.

Here’s the description:

Casey Washington has had well-earned success in her career as a data scientist at a start-up in Portland, but all the data in the world hasn’t made love possible for her. She’s always lamented Adam Raines, the one that got away in college, simply because the timing wasn’t right.

Adam has been able to get back to his first love, music, since his divorce. He’s happy even if life is complicated with his three kids, running his record shop with his brother, and slowly building a name for himself as a songwriter. He has no time for love, but his mind has been going back to his college days, and the woman he’s never forgotten.

When tragedy brings Casey back to Oklahoma and into Adam’s record shop, their entirely different worlds meet head on and everything is turned upside down. Adam offers to help her catalog her dad’s record collection. The energy between them is off the charts, but they both know that Casey’s time in Oklahoma is limited. Nothing real can come out of this reconnection—but they both can dream, right?

The real question is whether or not the dream can come true.

It’s available in Kindle Unlimited and for Kindle purchase or paperback purchase. 

Although it’s not set in stone, I’m hoping to release book 3—Sujata’s story—at the end of the year, or early next. 

Take a Hint, Dani Brown (The Brown Sisters #2)

I really liked Talia Hibbert’s first novel, about this book’s titular character’s sister Chloe, so I’d been looking forward to reading this book. One problem: I’m in a terrible reading slump and haven’t been able to read a romance in a very long time. But then I read another romance for a book club, and it reminded me how much I like romances. So I pulled this one off my nightstand and picked up where I’d left off over a year earlier. And I enjoyed every bit of it from then. 

Dani is a PhD student focusing on … to be honest, I don’t remember. It’s feminist and I think English-related and I loved reading about it even though it never stuck in my head. I loved that she’s a hardcore researcher/academic and semi-worships another academic who’s coming to a conference Dani is prepping for (they’re going to be on a panel together, and this is Very Exciting but also Intimidating). 

Zafir is a former professional rugby player who quit after going through a traumatic family event. He’s currently working as a security guard at Dani’s building while running his own charitable rugby organization that helps boys with rugby and also learn to manage their emotions to be more generally solid people.

After a fire drill where Zaf appears to rescue Dani, someone snaps a picture of them together and some social media buzz occurs, which inspires Zaf’s niece to convince him to ask Dani to start a fake relationship in order to keep the buzz up—and help his rugby organization in the process. 

Neither of them knows the other one has the hots for them, but that’s where things stand. Dani agrees to the fake relationship but makes it clear it is fake and temporary, because she has zero interest in a real relationship. She doesn’t have time or patience. Zaf, on the other hand, is a romantic at heart and very much would prefer a real relationship, but he’ll take what he can get if it will help his group. 

I mean, we all know this is a romance and what that means. But of course it’s the journey that’s unknown and interesting. Although we do get both points of view here, I feel like this is more Dani’s story than Zaf’s, because she has the most changing to do for the happy ever after to happen. Zaf has to work very hard to help her see that the experiences she’s had in previous bad relationship are not the only possible experiences. But Dani is stubborn (and very focused and intense in her work, which I actually loved reading about), so it’s not easy. 

But of course they do figure things out. Along the way there’s some spicy stuff and great emotional upheaval, and it’s all great. If you liked the first of the Brown Sisters book, definitely check out this one, but it also totally works as a standalone. 

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

It has been a while since I’ve read a romance novel, due to a horrible reading slump I’ve been in. So I’m actually kind of lucky that my romance writers group is had a summer book club that read this book, and since I’m on the board I felt like I had to participate. So I actually started Book Lovers, but pretty quick, I was sucked in and read it in a decent amount of time. 

Book Lovers book cover

Nora is badass literary agent with one client who’s a massive star in the world of fiction. Charlie is a well-known editor who rejected Nora’s superstar client’s last book. Nora never quite forgave him for that. But that book blew up, and now Nora’s sister Libby wants to do a sister’s getaway in the town where the book was set. Nora’s shocked when she runs into Charlie in this relatively obscure town. He’s helping out with his family’s business—the town’s bookstore, which also happens to be the only place with internet. So naturally Nora spends her days there. You can’t exactly be a cutthroat literary agent and not actually work. 

One of the things I loved about Nora is her vulnerability. Despite the fact that she is tough in her job and therefore does great work for her clients, she has never fully recovered from her mom’s early death. This, and the fact that she had to parent teenaged Libby when their mom died, makes her super protective of Libby, feeling constantly like she needs to take care of her. This is despite the fact that Libby seems mostly fine. She’s married and has two kids with a third on the way, and her husband is an upstanding guy who Nora adores, too. The protectiveness Nora feels isn’t necessarily 100% appreciated by Libby, but they are truly close and I love how they work through things and Nora finally understands her sister better. 

I’ve heard some people say this isn’t really a romance novel, presumably because of how important the Libby storyline is, but this seems wrong to me. Because the whole book is Nora and Charlie circling each other until the finally get together even though they both have very good reasons it can only be temporary. It is a romance because they do figure it out in the end. That’s the only real requirement of a romance—the HEA or at least the HFN. Subplots are fine, and so Book Lovers fulfills that requirement. 

The book is full of wisdom and Nora’s perspective on things:

That’s the thing about women. There’s no good way to be one. Wear your emotions on your sleeve and you’re hysterical. Keep them tucked away where your boyfriend doesn’t have to tend to them and you’re a heartless bitch.

She’s not wrong. 

If you’re curious how these two overachievers can make things work, check this book out. 

Long Overdue Update

It has been a crazy long time since I’ve posted on here. It’s been so long that I even missed mentioning the release of my first book, It’s Technically Love, in October of 2021. I released that book on Kindle Unlimited and in paperback on Amazon. Unfortunately, it did not resonate with an early reader, and they felt the need to give it 2 stars, the only rating. So it’s been completely dead in the water since then. No one wants to read a 2-star book even if it’s free. So thanks a lot, somewhat evil reviewer person. Kirkus gave it a much more favorable review [] (not without critique, but it wouldn’t have been a 2 if they’d given a rating). 

It’s Technically Love used to be called Programmed for Love, but my cover designer (of all people) pointed out that that sounded dark, or at least could be interpreted that way, which does not fit the book. Dark romance is a thing that I sometimes forget exists. Here’s the cover:

It's Technically Love book cover

I’ve been holding off on doing anything to fix the 2-star situation because it’s my only romance out. When you do promotion in romance, you really want multiple books, because if somebody likes the first one they read, they’ll check out your other stuff, too. Otherwise they’ll forget about you by the time you release something new. But the rating situation is fixable. Basically, I’ll have to give it away for free and then I’ll get some more reviews that should bring it up. I’m releasing #2 this fall, so I think I will promote both after the release and see if I can get in a better position. I originally was going to wait until I release #3 because I was planning to work on that one after finishing #2, but I had to reprioritize one of my YA books because of topical time-sensitivity. So I’ll just see what I can do with the two and work on #3 as soon as I can. (I actually have ideas for two more in the series, but haven’t even started either, even though # 3 is on draft 1.5.)

You may be wondering what is coming in the fall. That would be Finally in Tune, a second chance romance featuring Casey, Theresa’s friend from It’s Technically Love, and Adam, Casey’s friend and crush from college who was already married when they met. Casey comes back to her home state to take care of her parents’ house and she and Adam are shocked when they’re paths cross again—and this time they’re both single. Of course, the big question is if they can make it work, with Casey’s aversion to career-destroying romance and living 1500 miles away, and Adam’s complex family situation. Here’s the cover (I love this thing):

Finally in Tune book cover

I’m excited to get this one out into the world. I think it’s a stronger book than the first. I’ve got feedback from my last beta reader as of a couple days ago, so it’s just a matter of making a few changes and then it’s ready to send off to my editor. I have a September 5th deadline with her and will definitely make that, and I think she has about a 1-month turnaround (though honestly I don’t remember for sure). I will most likely be releasing it in November, possibly October. 

One last thing: I’ve been in a terrible reading slump and have hardly been reading any romance at all. But my romance writers group is having a book club this Tuesday with Emily Henry’s Book Lovers, so I read that and was reminded how I love good romance, so now I’ve picked up Take a Hint, Dani Brown again, which I’d started a long time ago, and I’m enjoying it again. I hope this reading slump will go away. It’s a drag. But anyway, look for a review of Book Lovers here soon!

The A.I. Who Loved Me (The Hive #1) by Alyssa Cole

The A.I. Who Loved Me book coverAlyssa Cole is a seriously diverse writer, in the sense that she writes so many different types of books. Contemporary romance, historical romance in different time periods, sci-fi romance, and she’s even written a psychological thriller. I personally find this really admirable.

But on to the book I’m reviewing. The A.I. Who Loved Me, the sci-fi romance I mentioned, is a very unusual book, which I’ll get to later. It’s set in the not-too-distant future where artificial intelligence is fully integrated into home automation. All appliances have AI capabilities and each home has a built-in chat-bot, basically. The systems can detect emotional and physical traits in the home’s inhabitants and so on.

Trinity lives alone in her apartment, recovering from some sort of trauma. She has a therapist she sees (“sees”—she talks to her through the microphone and speaker built in to her house, rather than going anywhere). She also has a couple of good friends who come over, and she chats with her home AI, Penny, quite a bit. She has a fear of the elevator, which is related to the attack she experienced. But still, she thinks she’s doing okay. Then her older neighbor’s hot nephew moves in. Li Wei is socially awkward but infinitely appealing.

I mentioned above that this is an unusual book, and it’s not because of the story. The story is partially told through Trinity’s counseling transcripts, transcripts of other events, some unusual structured conversations Li Wei has with people, although the rest of the book is regular narrative through Trinity and eventually Li Wei.

The plot is definitely the book’s strength, with lots of questions (What happened to Trinity? Why is Li Wei so weird? etc.) that eventually get answered. It’s clear from the beginning that Trinity’s employer is maybe an evil far-reaching corporation-type entity, and we finally understand at the end.

If you are interested in AI and how it’s really going to interact with us in the future, this book shows one possibility. Plus there’s a nice romance to go along with it. Trinity and LI Wei are both likable characters, and you want to see them figure things out. I recommend this for fans of sci-fi romance in general.

Beach Read by Emily Henry

Beach Read book coverI was recommended this book by a friend who doesn’t generally read romance—but she said it was smart and interesting. And she was right. It was very good, definitely right up my alley.

January Andrews is a romance writer who’s gone through quite the rough patch and is currently in need of a completed book manuscript. What she’s got is nothing. She inherited her father’s illicit love nest when he died and she discovered he’d had a mistress. She wants to sell it, so she thinks she’ll accomplish both her goals at once: she’ll head out to the house on a Michigan lake for the summer and get it ready to sell, and hole up and write her manuscript.

January’s old college rival and crush, Augustus Everett, is a famous literary writer also experiencing a bout of mild writer’s block. He’s also her new next-door neighbor at the lake. When the two are reunited at the local bookstore/coffeeshop, it doesn’t go well. He is dismissive of her genre and offends her right away, and then, to my great amusement, she asks him:

What’s it like writing Hemingway circle-jerk fan fiction?

He doesn’t really know what to say to that.

They really don’t get along. But after they both get tricked into attending a book club that is about neither of their books, he drives her home and they warm up just a tiny bit. Then they decide to challenge each other with an odd deal: she will teach him how to write romantic fiction and he will help her lose the happy ending so she can write bleak literary fiction. They’ll help each other with lessons. January will go with Gus to his interviews with survivors of a local cult whose encampment was burned down by its leader. And she will educate him in the ways of rom-coms. What these little lessons amount to are some weird almost-dates, but they relax around each other and start really making progress on their books.

They also get closer. Each of them is damaged, though January is a little oblivious to Gus’s situation for a while (and Gus is just a little oblivious in general). But eventually all comes to light and they finally see each other clearly, leading to another satisfying conclusion.

Like my friend said, this is a smart romance with characters with great depth. It’s well-plotted and should make any fan of feminist contemporary romance happy.

Vegas Baby (Howler Sports Talent Agency #1) by Anne Shaw

Vegas Baby book coverThis series is unusual in sports romances because what ties the books together is a sports talent agency rather than a sports team of some type, but I think it works because you get exposed to different aspects of the sports world, which is interesting.

It’s appropriate that the first book is about Howler himself, the agency’s founder. Xavier Hamilton—better known as Howler for something he did in his childhood—is a successful agent in Seattle. But the book opens with him and Raina—the lawyer for the Seattle Pioneers football team—entertaining a football player named Veer and his fiancé in Vegas, Anaya. And Raina is acting like a party girl, something which surprises and amuses Howler because she’s normally uptight. Raina, Howler, Veer, and Anaya make a complicated agreement that involves Raina and Howler pretending to be happily married in order to help convince Anaya’s father that Veer going into professional football isn’t a bad idea. One thing leads to another and they end up getting married (as you do…). The opening is entirely in Howler’s point of view, which makes sense when we switch to Raina’s. Because the next morning, she has no recollection of any of it, since she’d taken a sleeping pill and gone out afterward.

The next chapters of the book are pretty entertaining, with Raina and Howler taking part in Veer and Anaya’s wedding celebration and acting happily married when they actually sort of hate each other. The background of the Indian wedding is also fun. Raina and Howler of course agree to get a divorce as soon as they’ve gotten back to Seattle after Veer has signed with the Pioneers. Once they’re back, things get complicated by something unexpected. Then we get to see them try to work through everything, which true-to-form they do with a legal contract. There are some heart-wrenching moments in the story like you’d expect in a good book, and it’s great to see how they manage to work through their differences. Both characters are deeply developed and their conflict is real but ultimately surmountable.

If you like sports romances but want something a little different than going through a team’s roster, try this one.

Get a Life, Chloe Brown (The Brown Sisters #1) by Talia Hibbert

Get a Life, Chloe Brown book coverThere’s a lot of deserved buzz around this enemies-to-lovers story. It’s set in England and features a black woman suffering from chronic pain and white troubled artist working as a building superintendent, and it’s definitely interesting and different.

Chloe is a web designer who comes from a rich family and has just moved out of her parents mansion as part of a life-improvement venture. After a near-death experience, she made a list of all the things she should do to make her life better. Things like riding a motorcycle, having a fun, drunken night out, and traveling the world with nothing but hand luggage.

Although she and Red, the building’s superintendent, constantly butt heads, she has sneakily admired him painting while shirtless. After he helps her down from an ill-advised rescue of a cat in a tree, she discovers that he needs a website for his art. She decides he can help her with some of her list, so they agree to a trade: she’ll do the site for free if he helps her “get a life” via her list.

Gradually they get to know each other and discover their mutual attraction, and things go from there. Red is a really nice guy, even though I didn’t find him as appealing as Chloe did, but that’s fine for the story. Chloe finds him very attractive, and their antics show he feels quite the same.

Overall, this is a good story featuring at least one character who’s typically underrepresented in romance (though things are starting to change). If you’re looking for a different but hot story, try this one out.

Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev

This is a followup to last year’s Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors, featuring Trisha’s cousin, Ashna.

Recipe for Persuasion book coverAshna wants to save the restaurant she inherited from her father, Curried Dreams. Her friend is in TV and convinces her to be on a cooking-with-celebrities show. She has no idea who she’ll be paired with, but it turns out to be Rico, who is both her ex-boyfriend (from high school) and a world-renowned, just-retired soccer player. Unbeknownst to Ashna, Rico arranged to be her partner in an attempt to provide some closure to their relationship and prove to himself (and her) that he’s over her. Instead, they become fan favorites and the sexual tension between them is strong throughout the book, despite the fact that Ashna pretends to not know him, which annoys Rico. The further they get in the competition, the tenser things get between them, in all ways.

Ashna has a lot of other stuff going on, too. She’s still trying to manage the restaurant, and then her somewhat estranged mom shows back up. The two of them have a very complicated relationship due to the fact that her mom, Shobi, basically left her behind with Ashna’s aunt and uncle to take care of her, while she spent her time in India working on women’s rights. She is about to receive the Padma Shri, which is an Indian national medal given for distinguished service. Shobi is an important character in the book and has a few point of view chapters, even though it’s mostly Ashna’s story. Ashna’s never forgiven Shobi for abandoning her, but she learns that there is more to that complicated story.

The story is told mostly in present time, though there are several important flashbacks to Ashna and Rico’s early days and to Shobi’s, as well. It’s told from three points of view: Ashna, Rico, and a little from Shobi. Despite the intense sexual tension throughout the book, the heat level is lower than I expected, given Dev’s previous books.

Overall, this was a good novel with lots of angst and false beliefs to overcome. If you’ve enjoyed Dev’s earlier novels, you’ll definitely like this one.

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy (Reluctant Royals) by Alyssa Cole

Once Ghosted, Twice ShyThis novella features Likotsi, Prince Thabiso’s no-nonsense assistant, who we met in A Princess in Theory. The implication in that book was that she was maybe a bit of a player, but we also know something happened to/with her while she and Thabiso were in New York City. This book tells us what, as well as rights thing.

At the beginning of the book, Likotsi is in New York and on vacation and has a plan for the day, in the form of a list. She’s going to visit all the places she visited last spring with Fab, a woman who she’d fallen hard for in just a few dates. A woman who abruptly and without explanation cut off contact. Likotsi’s hope is that by visiting these places, she can form new memories that will replace those she had involving Fab, and can move on.

When they run into each other on the subway, that plan is foiled. Fab invites her to go for tea. Likotsi barely says yes, but she thinks maybe she can find out why she was unceremoniously dumped months earlier. They hang out and begin making new memories in new places, which is driving Likotsi crazy, even though she can’t step away. And then, Fab reveals to the reader why she ended things. It’s a while longer before she tells Likotsi, but when she does, they are finally able to come to an understanding. And a plan for the future.

This was my first true ff romance, but I think I picked a good one—I love Cole because she writes great characters, and this one met those expectations perfectly.

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

Wrong to Need You book coverWrong to Need You is the second book in the Forbidden Hearts series, which deals with the Kane and the Chandler families and their tangled and troubled history. Sadia Ahmed is Paul Kane’s widow (she never changed her name—yay!), which makes Jackson Kane her brother-in-law. That makes for a slightly awkward pairing for sure, which both characters are fully aware of.

Sadia runs Kane’s, the family cafe that Paul ran before he died. She also works as a bartender for extra money, because the cafe isn’t doing great. She doesn’t love owning and running it. She’s been admiring a stranger who’s been coming into the bar for a while. He’s buff and has nice hands, which she thinks is weird of her to notice, but I don’t. So she’s shocked when she finds out it’s none other than Jackson, her long-lost brother-in-law. He disappeared ten years earlier after being cleared as a suspect in an arson incident that resulted in the Chandler’s grocery store burning down. But it turns out things are pretty complicated (as you’d expect in a Rai book).

Sadia’s long-time cook has left the cafe and she’s desperately in need of a chef. As soon as he learns that, Jackson sort of forces his way into the job (not in a bad way). She’s hesitant but agrees for one day, which turns into a longer-term-but-still-temporary situation. Turns out he’s a chef (who knew? Not any of his relatives). Then she, against her better judgment, offers to let him stay in her garage apartment so he’s not stuck in a hotel for the short time he’s in town. Given who wrote this book, you can guess what comes next—some hot scenes. But again, it’s not all that simple. When Jackson learns something shocking about Paul, he’s hurt and his family troubles get stirred up. And when Sadia learns the same secret, it freaks her out, too.

One other aspect of the book that’s important is Sadia’s six-year-old, Kareem. He quickly forms an attachment to Uncle Jackson and both Sadia and Jackson want that relationship to continue. But as far as the two of them are concerned, they’re both certain they’re wrong for each other. As it turns out, that’s not the case. They just have to deal with lots of emotional turmoil to realize it’s okay, and even that dead Paul is probably okay with it, too.

If you like lots of angst, complicated family relationships, and steamy love scenes, you will enjoy Wrong to Need You*. Check it out.

*One tiny caveat. The family thing with the Kanes and Chandlers is seriously complicated. I had forgotten most of it since reading the first book, which left me going, Who? What? Huh? sometimes, so I’d recommend reading Book 1 not long before reading this one.

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

Things You Save in a Fire book coverThere was a lot of buzz about this book—I saw it on several high-profile writers’ recommendation lists. So I finally bought it even though it’s still in hardback. I pulled it off the precarious stack of TBR books in my bedroom and cracked it open.

And I’m glad I did. Although it wasn’t at all what I expected. Let’s face it—a lot of romances (even exceptionally good ones) are a little fluffy. People have problems, but you wonder if maybe they aren’t overreacting just a little to be swearing off relationships for that particular reason. But in this book, I completely bought Cassie’s aversion to relationships, and I also completely bought (and loved) her aversion to all things girly. I also liked that she does not forsake everything she worked for to become some super-feminine flower at the end. She’s still her badass self.

Because Cassie is a badass. She’s a tough firefighter/paramedic who dives boldly into dangerous situations when it involves the opportunity to save someone. She’s only 5’5” (if I’m remembering correctly), but she works out and is very strong. I mean, she can dead-lift 200 pounds and do twenty pull-ups.

The book opens with Cassie at an awards ceremony, where she’s supposed to get an award for rescuing a bunch of kids from a schools in a river. This goes a little wonky when the guy they send out to give her the award turns out to be someone from her past who had done a great deal of damage to her (she doesn’t tell us what he’d done, exactly, but I guessed right) and then chooses that particular moment to grab her ass while they’re behind the podium. This is not a good choice on his part, because she goes ballistic and beats him over the head with the award.

Somehow she escapes punishment from this (she rightly guesses he won’t press charges). But the city wants her to apologize to him and she refuses. So her choices are to be fired, or to transfer to a fire station far, far away. As it happens, the latter works out well because her mom has requested that she go live with her in Massachusetts. So she does, but not before getting some advice from her (female) captain:

If your captain says to run a mile, run two. If he wants you to dead-lift one fifty, do one seventy-five.

Don’t even act afraid. Don’t even hesitate. Don’t ever admit when you don’t understand.

Don’t back down from a challenge, … and if you go up against somebody, make damn sure to win. No fear! If your hands start to shake, sit on them.

New rules: Never admit to being hurt. Pain is for the weak.

Don’t have feelings.

Typical. Cassie’s captain wasn’t wrong about what she’d face as the first woman firefighter in this fire station. It’s rough. A rookie starts the same day she does and they bond a little, but she keeps her distance because she finds herself attracted to him and knows that’s the biggest risk of all for a woman firefighter. But they spend a lot of time together, both getting pranked and on more productive things like training. She faces a lot of trouble, with the pranking, the actual secret harassment from one of the guys (it takes a while to figure out which one), and her new captain being a real hardass. But eventually she earns the respect of the crew, by following her old captain’s instructions—for the most part. She doesn’t manage to quite keep away from the rookie. But then everything appears to be lost when the rookie gets injured in a fire. I won’t give away how that exactly works out because it surprised me.

If you like genuinely tough characters, especially a woman trying to make it in a male-dominated profession, then you will like this. But even if you’re just looking for a tame romance (heat-wise) with some real struggles, you should also appreciate this book. I really enjoyed it and recommend it without reservation.

Moonlighter (The Company #1) by Sarina Bowen

Moonlighter book coverI know I’ve been seriously neglecting this blog. I have been busy and haven’t read a romance lately, so I’ve had nothing to review. But I think I’m over my reading slump, so I’m going to try to do a review at least every three weeks. Starting with one from my favorite author this week.

Moonlighter is the first in a new series, but it stars Eric Bayer, who you may remember from the Brooklyn Bruisers team. His brother and father run a top-notch security company (this also featured in at least one earlier book, too) that occasionally exhibits quasi-legal behavior. While he’s off from hockey, Eric gets guilted into being a fake boyfriend on a short trip to Hawaii for one of their clients.

Alex Engels is the CEO of a big cable company that is expanding into new territory (technology-wise). She’s young and she and Eric have a bit of a history. As kids, they spent a summer together and had a lot of fun, and when they ran into each other as adults, Eric tried to talk to her and she dismissed him coldly because she thought he was hitting on her and didn’t recognize him. So it’s a little awkward when they meet again in the security company office.

This book was full of unexpected twists. The reason that she needs a fake boyfriend is because she’s pregnant by her ex-boyfriend, who hit her so she had broken up with him, and he’s going to be at the conference in Hawaii. But things get more surprising from there. The technology she’s put everything into is a smart speaker called the Butler, which is smarter than any other smart speaker out there, but more importantly, it’s also got the best security on the market. Things go a bit haywire from there, in ways I didn’t expect. It actually almost turns into a romantic suspense after the first half.

The chemistry between the two is hot, and Eric is such a great guy that you can’t help but adore him, even when his first declaration of love is quite juvenile. Alex herself is very cool because she’s worked her way up (sort of—it was her dad’s company, but she didn’t exactly start off as CEO) and she regularly has to deal with the sexism of the industry and the world in general, which she does with style.

Especially if you’re a fan of Bowen’s hockey romances, check out this new series. But any contemporary fan should enjoy it.