The Hummingbird Sanctuary by Erin Zak

The Hummingbird Sanctuary
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Published: 4/12/22

Olive, Harriet and Eleanor are best friends. They are also the owners of The Hummingbird Sanctuary, an idyllic resort in Colorado for women. The women love each other but Olive’s control freak tendencies and overspending are causing issues. The arrival of a reporter who is doing a story on the sanctuary and her two friends turns the women’s lives even more upside down.

I love every last thing about this book. The story is told from three points of view, which I really enjoyed. I love to get into the mind of the characters I’m reading about. Harriet or Hattie, as she prefers to be called, is a force of nature and my favorite character in the book. She has been a player for a long time, but things have begun to shift, and Judy arrives at the perfect time. After Olive’s husband’s death, opening the Hummingbird Sanctuary becomes her primary focus. She is a self-described pain in the ass and a complete control freak. She has a secret that’s tearing her apart. And then there’s Eleanor. She’s the resorts marketing director, she’s classically beautiful. After having her heart broken years ago, she wants nothing more than to find happiness.

These three women are more than best friends, They’re family. It doesn’t matter how much they argue or how much they may disagree, the love they feel for each other is a constant. The arrival of the reporter and her friends threatens to tear them apart. Olive, Eleanor and Hattie are all well- crafted characters. Erin Zak does a wonderful job of developing these characters and they all evolve so beautifully throughout the story. The secondary characters of Mabel, Judy and Sunny are fabulous.  I would happily read a story featuring any of these as a main character.

This is my favorite Erin Zak book. I love how she featured lesbian, bisexual and ace characters. It’s so refreshing to see a book with so much representation. I really want to be friends with these women. I want Hattie to cook for me, I want to do some meditating with Olive to calm her down and, frankly, I just want to swoon over Eleanor. I recommend you book a stay at The Hummingbird Sanctuary as soon as possible.

An ARC was received from Bold Strokes via NetGalley for an honest review.

Something Between Us by Krystina Rivers

Something Between Us
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Published: 4/12/22

Kirby never expects or wants to see Quinn again. So, when they run into each other at Pride, nine years after Quinn stomped on her heart, Kirby is less than thrilled. In a city as big as Chicago, they start running into each other a lot. Fate seems to be trying to give them another chance if Kirby can open her heart again to Quinn.

This is a very good debut novel. Krystina Rivers uses her personal experience of being in the military during Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to bring us a captivating, second chance romance. I was invested almost immediately. I felt for Quinn, who wanted nothing more than to make amends for the decision she made to break up with Kirby to protect her career. And I felt for Kirby, who wanted to protect her heart from Quinn, the only woman who she ever allowed herself to love.

The two meet in 2008 and that time frame is told in flashbacks. Their relationship is idyllic and the two are truly soulmates. Flashbacks are hit or miss for me but they were really well done in this story. Without them, I wouldn’t have had such a sense of how much love the two shared and how truly devastated Kirby was by Quinn’s decision. Second chance romances are one of my favorite tropes when done well. And Something Between Us was done very well. I look forward to reading more from Krystina Rivers. She is a new author with a bright future.

An ARC was received from Bold Strokes Books via NetGalley for an honest review.

 

Behind Her Eyes by Melissa Tereze

Behind Her Eyes
Published: 3/20/22

Things are not going well for Abi. She has nowhere to go and ends up across from the restaurant she has always dreamed of working at. Victoria, seemingly has it all. She owns her own restaurant, Adley’s and has more money than she could ever spend. When Victoria drops her purse and Abi returns it to her, she’s so grateful she lets the down on her luck woman stay at her guesthouse. A chance meeting ends up changing both of the women’s lives forever.

Melissa Tereze does a phenomenal job of writing age gap romances, but she also excels at bringing two people from different economic backgrounds together who seemingly have nothing in common. Abi and Victoria are another one of those couples who shouldn’t work, yet they do. Professionally, Victoria, is one of the most famous and successful chefs in England but her personal life is a dumpster fire. Her marriage is over, and her daughter isn’t speaking to her based solely on a rumor spread by an ex-employee. Abi may be financially down on her luck but Victoria is just as lost. Victoria may think she’s the one helping Abi, however, she soon realizes that Abi is the one helping her. Abi helps her to laugh again and to feel alive just by being there for her to talk to.

I really like this book and these characters. Abi is sweet and so smitten with Victoria, before she’s ever met her. She realizes how much more there is to Victoria than just her beauty and success. They really get to know each other and find that they are more alike than either could have imagined. I adore Abi but I’m a bit in love with Victoria. I can’t imagine inviting a stranger to live in my guest house. Actually, I can’t imagine inviting most of the people I know to invade my space. Victoria has such a beautiful heart and doesn’t give it a second thought. You can call it a good deed or you can call it destiny. Whatever, you call it, you won’t want to miss out on another fabulous read from Melissa Tereze.

An ARC was received from the author for an honest review.

Chasing Dreams by A.L. Brooks

Chasing Dreams
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Published: 3/16/22

Claire Pressley needs a change. She’s tired of her demanding job as a venture capitalist and trying to make her parents happy. She buys a homestead in Eagle Cove, Oregon and is set to fulfill her dream of having a guesthouse. Ruby Jordan is the sweetheart of Eagle Cove. She works at the town library and cares for animals in her spare time. Her dream is to buy the Pruitt homestead and turn it into an animal sanctuary. The same homestead that Claire saunters into town and buys. Needless to say, in the beginning Ruby is not team Claire, and she certainly doesn’t feel any sparks, nope, not at all.

A new book from A.L. Brooks is always cause for celebration. With Chasing Dreams, she has once again given us a wonderfully written book with characters who are relatable and have sizzling chemistry. I like both of these women a lot. I love a small-town girl meets big city girl story where both women try to ignore the pull, but just can’t seem to avoid the inevitable. Chasing Dreams deviates from that trope, however, because even though Claire moves to Eagle Cove from New York, the big city mentality doesn’t come with her. She quickly adapts to the small-town life, surprising herself by how much she wants to be a part of this close-knit community. She’s tired of the city, the noise and the pretentious overachievers that have been a part of her life for so long.

The supporting characters are delightful. Katie is Ruby’s friend and runs the local bar and senses Claire may be the perfect woman for her relationship averse friend. Rudy’s grandfather, Ned is dealing with the limits his advanced age is bringing about but provides Ruby with love and support at every turn. And Wayne, Ruby’s brother, who takes a job renovating the homestead for Claire and helps Ruby navigate Ned’s health issues.

This is touted as a feel-good book and it certainly lives up to that. There isn’t a lot of angst, which is something I think we all deserve after the last few years. It’s a story of women who act their age, communicate and find the right person at the right time. A.L. Brooks is one of my favorite authors. She always writes characters whose happiness I become invested in and Claire and Ruby have now joined the list of wonderful couples she has created. We are all Chasing Dreams in some form or another and you will be happy you joined Claire and Ruby as they chase theirs.

An ARC was received from Ylva Publishing for an honest review.

 

 

Thundering Pines by Rita Potter

Thundering Pines
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Published: 3/15/22
 

Brianna Goodwin and Dani Thornton find themselves running a campground together after Brianna’s estranged father leaves it to her in his will. On the surface the two women are polar opposites, the high powered attorney and the small town campground worker but appearances aren’t always what they seem.

Rita Potter did a great job of developing these characters and making them appealing and at times, frustrating. Brianna and Dani are both broken characters who have let the past affect their present and they have to change a lot about their way of thinking to be able to not let it destroy their future. Brianna has surrounded herself with people so devoid of depth and character meeting someone like Dani throws her for a loop. Dani is kind, honest and doesn’t put on airs, she is just authentically herself. She is a breath of fresh air for Brianna and someone she can talk to. The two women share their stories with each other in a way they haven’t with anyone else.

Brianna and Dani are wonderful characters. I want them to figure out their shit and allow themselves to put the past behind them and find happiness. I also, at times, want to shake them both. There was a lot of indecisiveness from both of them as to what the nature of their relationship should be. The connection they develop becomes a friendship unlike they have ever had with anyone and feelings develop that scare them both. Brianna is in a long term relationship with Caroline, who is pretentious and overly concerned with appearances. Being back in Flower Hills, surrounded by genuine people like Molly, Brianna’s childhood friend, Dani and her Aunt Helen, she begins to see how superficial her life has become.

This is a very well written book. It dragged a bit in the middle of the story and I think it could have been a bit shorter. That’s really the only complaint I have about. Rita Potter does a wonderful job of developing her characters and I look forward to reading more of her books. I encourage you to do the same.

 

 

Instead of Happy by Jamey Moody

Instead of Happy
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Published: 3/4/22

There is so much wrong with the world right now. Books are an escape for most of us, a way to relax and shut off our very busy brains. One of the many things I appreciate about Jamey Moody is that she writes her books with this in mind. She doesn’t write books filled with a lot of angst and you always know that the characters will get their happily ever after. Sometimes, that’s exactly what’s needed when the world is filled with so much uncertainty.

This is the fourth book in Jamey’s Lovers Landing Series. The story begins with main characters Courtney and Jennifer moving in together after Courtney moved to Houston. The characters met and fell in love before the story at their mother’s resort. Jennifer has two sons, Preston, who is 11 going on 35 and Mason, age 9. When my partner and I got together, my two sons were 4 and 6, and she stepped right in and became their other mother. The relationship Courtney developed with Jennifer’s sons reminded me so much of those early days. This isn’t just a love story between Courtney and Jennifer, it’s also a love story between the two women and their sons.

Jennifer and Courtney are a solid couple. Despite their age difference, they fit into each other’s lives seamlessly. They don’t suffer from the misunderstandings that come from not communicating. Both of the women realize how lucky they are to have found that person that makes everything better and they do the work to make sure the nurture their relationship. The conflict in the book comes from another teacher and the way she treats Courtney. It only serves to bring Jennifer and Courtney closer.

Jamey Moody is one of the best writers of feel good lesbian romances. She creates characters that are relatable and likable. They make their way into your heart and you just want them to have their happily ever after. In a world where things are out of control and every day seems to bring a new level of uncertainty, escape with Jennifer and Courtney and give yourself a few hours to relax and embrace love.

Champagne Problems by Addison Clarke

Champagne Problems
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Published: 3/10/22
A Moonflower Cove Romance

Emily Crawford is in her final year in the MBA program and is excited to take the Women and Sexualities in Literature with Professor Sophia Beachamp. She doesn’t expect the icy reception she receives from the professor, despite hearing that she was a bit on the bitchy side. Sophia doesn’t understand why a business major would take her class and take a spot away from an English student. It isn’t long before Sophia regrets her judgement, not only is Emily the best student in her class, she sparks feelings in Sophia that she hasn’t had for a very long time.

Sophia Beauchamp has been my favorite character since State of Grace, the first book in Addison Clarke’s Moonflower Cove series. Sophia’s fierce protectiveness of her friend Alexis endeared her to me immediately, not to mention the wicked sharp tongue and sexy French accent. I am so happy that Addison gave us Emily and Sophia’s story. Emily may be much younger than Sophia, but she has a maturity that comes from her less than stellar childhood. She has wonderful friends but until Sophia comes into her life, she doesn’t have that person who puts her first and protects her at all costs.

Sophia may have been in Moonflower Cove for a while, but she didn’t have a group of friends. She fled France for a fresh start and left her family and failed relationships behind her. Emily not only gives her a love unlike she has ever experienced, she gives her a set of friends who welcome her into their group and give her a family. Not to say that I loved Sophia all of the time. She had some moments where I wanted to shake her a bit because she kept things from Emily that were pretty significant. Since this is a backstory, we already know that Emily and Sophia overcome that speed bump in their relationship and are one of the most stable couples in this idyllic lesbian mecca.

I really like the way Addison Clarke writes. She obviously has a great deal of affection for these characters and it’s contagious. She has a wonderful way of making them relatable, lovable, yet still flawed and striving to better themselves. I want to visit Moonflower Cove and hang out with the many lesbian couples who make the town home. I want to listen to Sophia say French words to me and I want to meet Emily, make her my friend and give her a big hug. I encourage all of you to visit Moonflower Cove. You will want to go back again and again.

An ARC received from the author for an honest review.

Exclusive by Melissa Brayden

Exclusive
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Published: 3/15/22
A big break leads to an unexpected connection.

Skyler Ruiz has had enough of covering small town news After years of flailing, her big break finally comes in the form of a reporter position in San Diego. She gets to be close to family and friends and she will be working with her idol and crush, Caroline McNamara. Carrie isn’t exactly welcoming to the new reporter but when she realizes that Sky is more than just a pretty face, their relationship takes an unexpected turn.

My love affair with lesbian fiction started with Melissa Brayden. I devoured all of her books and haven’t looked back. Whether it’s the love I felt for Brooklyn and Jessica in Kiss the Girls or the empathy I felt for Isabelle Chase in Eyes Like Those, her characters always find a way into my heart. And I can now add Skyler and Carrie that list. I adore Skyler. She has such an intense drive to succeed but isn’t willing to compromise her ideals to make that happen. She is goodness personified and can’t understand Carrie’s aloofness when she first arrives at the station, considering how kind Carrie is to everyone else.

When Carrie starts opening up, Sky, couldn’t stop herself from falling if she tried. Carrie isn’t just her crush, she’s someone Sky admires professionally. This story is told from Skyler’s point of view, so we know a lot more of what she is feeling as the story progresses. I would have liked to have gotten more about Carrie’s backstory but through her interactions with Skyler, we are witness to her insecurities and vulnerability but also to how kind and compassionate she is. Carrie and Skyler are wonderful for each other and I really enjoyed their story.

I enjoyed Ty and Grace and Skyler’s aunt, who provides her the love her mother has always been too busy to give her. And what a treat it was to Emory and Sarah from Melissa’s book, Heart Block. Melissa Brayden’s books have always been a source of comfort, like seeing a friend you’ve lost touch with but can pick right up where you left off. They have always made my heart happy and this one does the same.

An ARC was received from Bold Strokes Books via NetGalley for an honest review.

 

Missed Connection by Stephanie Shea

Missed Connection
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Published: 2/25/22

Avery Dimaano just wants to go home. After a disastrous vacation that began with her getting dumped and concluded with her ingesting way too much alcohol, she just wants to get back to the safety of her job at Gia and the comfort of her friends. She doesn’t plan on spending 14 hours on a flight with Kyla Logan, telling each other stories of their lives, holding hands through turbulence and sharing one hot kiss as they leave each other at the airport, seemingly forever. No, Avery didn’t plan for Kyla but who can plan for moments that change your life forever.

Kyla Logan is a travel influencer, jetting around the world taking photos for her socials and mostly avoiding her strained relationship with her mom. After meeting Avery, she can’t stop thinking about her. When Avery reaches out to wish her a happy birthday, a friendship forms, with both trying to ignore their underlying attraction.  Avery needs to be in San Francisco for her best friend’s wedding. She might as well go a few weeks early and see Avery. As fate would have it, an accident at Avery’s apartment forces her to leave for a few weeks and Avery is more than happy to share her rental with her. Of course, the fact that there is only one bed won’t cause any issues at all.

We met Avery in Chef’s Kiss. She is Jenn’s best friend and HR manager at Gia, Jenn’s restaurant. Stephanie Shea gives us characters in Kyla and Avery, who are both struggling with family issues and their undeniable chemistry. While Avery is the “straight” woman in this story, she is the stronger of the two and less afraid of the connection. Avery knows what she wants and doesn’t care if she should be freaked out by being attracted to a woman for the first time. I love Avery’s strength and that she doesn’t experience gay panic. It is what it is and why would she deny herself something that feels so right.

Kyla and Avery have an intense chemistry but what I love even more are the moments of calm that they find with each other. They really are each other’s person. The supporting characters are all wonderful and it was great catching up with Jenn and Val. There are a lot of family dynamics is this book and those characters were vital in showing us how Ky and Avery came to be the women they are and how their views of relationships were formed.

Stephanie Shea is such a phenomenal writer. She writes books that have this beautiful, almost poetic cadence while creating characters that are relatable and endearing. When I think I possibly couldn’t love any characters more than Jenn and Val, she brings Avery and Kyla into my life. With every book, I become more of a groupie.  I’m certain if you read this or any of Stephanie’s books, you will agree she has a special talent and is one of the best writers in our community.

An ARC was received from the author for an honest review.

 

Beyond the Blue by TJ O’Shea

Beyond the Blue
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Published: 2/17/22
A wonderful debut from TJ O'Shea

Mei Sharpe is a widow after the death of her husband of 30 years. It’s been two years but she is just going through the motions and not really living. When she meets Lt. Morgan Kelly, Mei can’t deny that some outside forces may be at work. Morgan is tasked with heading up a newly formed cold case division, which is housed in the basement where Mei works in the morgue. The two women form a friendship after they begin having lunch together every day and start spending time together outside of work. There is something there that goes beyond friendship, if Mei can only find the listen to her heart.

This is TJ O’Shea’s debut novel, and I am looking forward to seeing more from her. I really enjoyed it and the characters were wonderful. They are both strong women who have suffered so much grief. I always love reading a story where characters overcome pain to find happiness. I appreciated that Mei’s gay panic didn’t last too long. It’s understandable that a woman who had never thought she would be attracted to a woman and who was married to a man for so long, would freak out a bit when she realized she had feelings for a woman. It didn’t take her long to move past it and for that I was happy.

Morgan is really a ray of sunshine who comes into Mei’s life and lights it up. Mei is very proper and serious while Morgan loves to laugh and have fun, which is something Mei didn’t realize was missing in her life. Everyone needs a Morgan, someone who is goodness personified, someone who doesn’t take herself too seriously and someone who shows care and concern to everyone she encounters.

There have been so many wonderful debut novels released lately in the lesfic community. I am going to add TJ O’Shea to the list of impressive debut authors who we can expect great things from in the future. I highly recommend giving this book and this new author a read.

ARC provided by Bella Books via NetGalley for an honest review.