Monday, December 31, 2018

The Year of Devouring Romance

For my personal series-a-month challenge, I ended up reading a bunch of romance! And man, it felt good to get back into this genre in 2018. I haven't read as much of it, it feels like, in recent years. And I don't know why???? I'm going to make 2019 the year of ALL THE ROMANCE. Anyway, this isn't all that I read but I talked about all the rest. And you should really get on these books if you haven't already!

NOLA Nights
do you like:
*queer characters
*fat MCs
*guys who tell Dad Jokes really well
*women who aren't afraid to ask for what they want
*erotic-ish romance

then this series is for YOU!

Forbidden Hearts
if you love books that:
*make you cry
*make you feel ALL THE FEELINGS
*have queer characters
*have a family that will destroy you with their secrets and pain
*have very warm and loving romances, albeit angsty ones
*have complicated! relationships!

then what are you waiting for? GET ON THIS SERIES, PLEASE.

True North
if you like:
*found and blood families
*grandpas who are very cheeky before coffee
*gruff and grumpy guys who aren't assholes
*frank discussions about addiction, dreams, money, sex, relationships, etc.
*people who will fight for those they care about and not take any shit
*virgin! male! in! romance!
*apple orchards

then you should really check out Sarina Bowen's series because it is so GREAT. There are more books in it, but I decided to just show my favorites. :D The first book, Bittersweet, is freeeee as an ebook!

The Wallflowers 
if you're a fan of:
*historical romance
*funny characters!
*brooding and rough-and-tumble men
*ladies snatching up husbands that will ~save~ them (being cheeky, I just love that this was all about husband-hunting. LOL)
*sex positivity
*women who aren't afraid to break free from the bonds of society

then you need to try Secrets of a Summer Night! It's not my fave, which is why I left it off, but the series on the whole is SO GOOD.

Also, I really need to talk about the Beyond series by Kit Rocha (a coauthor duo) because I haven't done it yet even though I read most of the books in the first third of the year. It's super queer, super good, and super erotic. And the first book, Beyond Shame, is forever free as an ebook! I love them so much.

Did you read any romance books this year? If so, what have been your FAVORITES? I need all the recs! :)

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Four Good Books That You Really Need to Read

There are some books I forgot to talk about! BECAUSE I JUST FORGET DUE TO LIFE. So here are a few damned good stories I read this year that you also need to read. Just trust me on these ones, okay? 😁


Title: Speak Easy, Speak Love
Author: McKelle George
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release Date: September 19th, 2017!

Find it on Goodreads.

My Review!
I ADORED this book! I’d read another retelling of Much Ado About Nothing not too long before I read this one. And I’m going to compare the two because they are different styles and both of which have appealing qualities. But this one just climbed its way into my heart and wouldn't let me go. A big part of the reason this one just worked for me was the setting! I mean, the 1920s prohibition era? YES PLEASE. I love that historical time period. I thought the mix of it + this kids being part of a bootlegging operation and bar was really interesting. And another part of the reason was the characters themselves. I loved them all so much. I DID ship a secondary couple way more than the actual MCs, Beatrice and Benedick, but I still liked these two as well. And I just adored the banter and friendship between all of them. They were seriously what made this book so fantastic! Also fun fact, I’ve never actually read Much Ado, but I’m here for any and all Shakespeare retellings. :D
Rating: 4.5 Paw Prints!

Title: The Poppy War (The Poppy War, #1)
Author: R.F. Kuang
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: May 1st, 2018!

Find it on Goodreads.

My Review!
This was a dark, dark book. And I like dark books; in fact, I quite love them, especially if they have characters who constantly toe the morally gray lines in life. The Poppy War was no exception. From start to end, this book is hard-hitting, challenging, and full of the gory and gruesome. But it is never in sensationalized. It is just… the simple truth of war and bad people and good people who do bad things when they aren’t going to be tried for them. It is what happens when you strip away humanity. Our main character, Rin, is beaten and pushed and honed in as a weapon because of her school and the teachers. They were preparing for another poppy war, even when everyone said it was done. That it was over. But war is never over, and throughout this story, the author takes you on a journey. And for such a long and thick book, it did not go that slowly for me. I was pretty hooked, and I was a fan of the character relationships. The friendship between Rin and Kitay, and the mentorship between her and Jiang in particular. And of Rin herself, a wildly ambitious and cunning girl who just wanted to carve out a space for herself in this brutal world. Also praise to the author for making me want to vomit. I don’t think I’ve *ever* felt that way reading a book (and if you’ve read this too, I’m sure you know the exact chapter/scene). It is definitely not a light, breezy read. But it was SO DAMNED GOOD, and I’m eagerly anticipating the sequel!
Rating: 4 Paw Prints!

Title: Dance of Thieves (Dance of Thieves, #1)
Author: Mary E. Pearson
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Release Date: August 7th, 2018!

Find it on Goodreads.

My Review!
You always hope that a new addition to a favorite series is going to top the previous books, and while this one DIDN’T (sadly), I loved it still. The Remnant Chronicles has been one of my favorite worlds for years, and I loved getting more of it. I loved the cameos of my faves (MY FOREVER AND ALWAYS QUEEN LIA), and I loved the focus on a different part of this post-apocalyptic fantasy. I also really adored the new characters. Kazi and Jase, in particular, are the two POVs. And their relationship gets a jumpstart, but it’s so fraught with peril and stubborn anger and the fact that each of them is lying about things. MY WEAKNESS. I really liked the new secondary characters too, and the way that the plot was interwoven between all the different kingdoms and places. But yeah, I don’t remember *a lot* about this? And it’s been quite a few months. So you can bet I’ll be rereading Dance of Thieves before the sequel comes out, and it’ll be worth it because I can’t give up this world.
Rating: 4 Paw Prints!

Title: For a Muse of Fire (For a Muse of Fire, #1)
Author: Heidi Heilig
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release Date: September 25th, 2018!

Find it on Goodreads.

My Review!
I was hoping to write a full review for this one, because I loved it SO MUCH, but that’s not going to happen. It is, however, one of the best fantasies I’ve read. I loved the combination of music and scripts with Jetta’s POV. I loved that Jetta’s bipolar disorder was present, but not the only part of her. (And I know some people might not agree with how mental illness is used here, but I could fully understand and relate to Jetta wanting to get rid of it and be free of her malheur, as they call it). I loved how immersed I felt in the fantasy, and how there was so much more going on than anyone expects. And I adored the characters, and their relationships with one another. I loved the way that her and her parents loved each other, so completely, and without a care for the world. I loved Leo, and how Jetta forms a friendship with him based on trust and a tentative romance. Really, I just loved so many aspects to this, and while I don’t think it’s PERFECT, per se, it’s one of my favorite reads of 2018. 
Rating: 5 Paw Prints!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Girl Power Stories

I not-so-very-recently went on a mini road trip to Chicago with my friend Theresa for an event at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville. (Dhonielle and Zoraida's Belles & Brujas tour, which was super fun!). And while we were heading home, Theresa had wondered why there were so many fantasies with patriarchal societies, why there were still so many where women are not equal to men. After all, if we can write anything, why do we resort to creating a world where the gender we choose or were born with is inherently inferior? And here's my answer:

I think there is something so uniquely satisfying about women characters rising up against the binds of their world and smashing the goddamned patriarchy.

Maybe it's a product of what our world is like, of what we're still fighting for in today's society. As a (male) coworker said to me once: it's equal now. But it's.... so completely NOT. If it were equal, a woman would be able to get voted into the highest office in the country just based on her merit and experience alone. If it were equal, women wouldn't feel burdened and terrified of speaking out against those who harm them. If it were equal, the intersections of people's lives would be better understood. And society wouldn't be so binary.

And because of that, I think that's why you see so many patriarchal fantasies. It's so hard to live and breathe and survive in this society, and not wish it were different. It's hard, especially since the election, to feel like we're getting anywhere. It feels like, for every one foot forward, there's something else that knocks us back two. And that's especially true for women of color, disabled women, people of different genders, anyone who is marginalized. It just keeps beating us down, over and over again, with no respite.

But it's not that we can't write anything different, or that it's somehow easier to capture because it's lifeI think it's just a timeless story. The villain getting defeated by a girl who was just ordinary. Or one who was not-so-ordinary. Or girls fighting back against non-magical powers and people who just want to silence their voices. Bonus points if they can kick ass, but that's not necessary. Any woman who fights, no matter the means, is a heroine in her own right. Any person choosing themselves makes them a goddamned warrior.

Of course, I would LOVE to see more fantasies where the world is equal from the start. Where women can be Queens without needing men to give them heirs or rule by their side. Where women can tell their truths and not get shamed or killed because of it. Where marginalized people can live their truths without dying for them. I think those should be written. They ARE being/have been written. I think they're just as needed, just as important. Because sometimes it can be tiring reducing ourselves to this again and again. 

I even have one of those myself. A Rapunzel-inspired mental health exploration with a magical world that doesn't conform to the patriarchy. But the rest of mine, so far, are still set in a society that doesn't value women as much as it does men. Because through them, I want to write girl power stories that make you feel inspired and empowered. That remind you that it can be done. I want to write about angry girls who grab a sword and fight their way to the top. I want girls to be able to BE angry without having to justify themselves.

I want this classic story, all the time, in every possible way. ❤️

How do YOU feel about these kinds of books? Do you also wonder and wish for better SFF worlds? Let's talk! :)

Friday, December 21, 2018

Gods and Monsters: Muse of Nightmares

Title: Muse of Nightmares (Strange the Dreamer, #1)
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: October 2nd, 2018!
*I picked up an ARC of this at ALA Annual.

From Goodreads...
Sarai has lived and breathed nightmares since she was six years old.

She believed she knew every horror and was beyond surprise.

She was wrong.

In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep.

Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice—save the woman he loves, or everyone else?—while Sarai feels more helpless than ever. But is she? Sometimes, only the direst need can teach us our own depths, and Sarai, the Muse of Nightmares, has not yet discovered what she's capable of.

As humans and godspawn reel in the aftermath of the citadel's near fall, a new foe shatters their fragile hopes, and the mysteries of the Mesarthim are resurrected: Where did the gods come from, and why? What was done with thousands of children born in the citadel nursery? And most important of all, as forgotten doors are opened and new worlds revealed: Must heroes always slay monsters, or is it possible to save them instead?

Love and hate, revenge and redemption, destruction and salvation all clash in this astonishing and heart-stopping sequel to the New York Times bestseller, Strange the Dreamer.

My Review!
Of course I’d adored Strange the Dreamer, but I didn’t fall OBSESSIVELY in love with it like I wanted to (though a reread definitely helped with that). So I was *a bit* nervous going into the sequel, but only a tiny bit because Laini Taylor is one of my favorite authors, and I love the way that she writes. It is, sometimes, hard to grasp at first. Because her world is BIG. I mean, so big that it is not only a fantasy land, but a multi-universe world. It is about tears in the sky and dozens upon hundreds of different peoples and creatures. Weep is only a small part of it. Lazlo and the gang are only a small part of it, and that’s what they find out as they discover that their stories are connected to others in a way they didn’t even think about.

There are SO MANY characters, but it’s not hard to separate them, and to love them. Even the newcomers, who become such a huge part of this story, in such a hard-hitting way that I wasn’t expecting at all. I was hurting, y’all. Laini took what I knew about about Weep and its people and turned that on its head. But not only that, she made me love a villain who wasn’t completely villainous. She made me love a character who was cruel and vengeful, but who was just so exhausted of holding onto all of it that she made a different choice for herself. Give me the morally gray, I-do-what-I-want-even-if-you-don’t-like-it characters, the ones who maybe aren’t so bad as they seem if you tilt the light just a little.

This was so emotionally impactful. Here were all of these characters who fought and bled and lost, but who decided to live and love anyway. Here were characters who were so broken that they didn’t know how to put themselves back together again, but they did it because they had so much more strength than they realized. I was so invested in all of them, even the ones who were on the outer edges of my radar, even the ones who made stupid choices and fought against being a better person because it was all they knew. And the relationships between them all were just so genuine and deep, complicated and full of past mistakes and pain. I was pulled along mostly because of them and their fire.

But oh my god, guys, the nods to her Daughter of Smoke and Bone series? I was SCREAMING. WHAT GENIUS! WHAT MAD GENIUS! I didn’t know if I’d catch them because it’s been so many years since I finished the series, but omg nope. I got them, and I died. DIED. And all it made me want to do was be back with my babies. With the story that made me fall in love with Laini’s writing in the first place. I want more to this world, to these universes. I want all of the characters to meet and team up, and I want to explore more of it, fall in love with NEW people. I’m just gonna start sending Laini prayer emojis to get new series. I’m sure she won’t mind, right? Gah. I loved Muse of Nightmares so much. I need more. *sobs*


Thursday, December 20, 2018

My Favorite Episodes from Season 3 of Brooklyn Nine-Nine

On the whole season 3 is really great, but I don't love it as much as the second. There are still so many laughs and sweet, emotional moments. But some of the storylines just weren't my favorite. Here's to my best-of list!

8. Bureau (episode 22)
Captain Holt x2! The squad taking on Figgis and breaking into the FBI to steal a file. Some good stuff here!

7. Into the Woods (episode 6)
*source credit*
(I really tried to find a gif of the cuddle, but I couldn't *sobs*)

Jake wants to give Terry a good weekend, so the two of them + Boyle head up to a cabin, and it IS A DISASTER. But they have a great cuddle together and end up having fun, too. Amy enlists Gina's help for a presentation, and y'all like, I love their relationship. It's something that builds up every season, and it's so genuine, even when they don't agree or like each other. But omg the best part was Holt and Rosa having a secret cry in his office. I forgot how much they go through together, and it just gives me even more feels remembering how fabulous he was about Rosa coming out as bi. And how they have that strong connection being queer. *sobs*

6. Yippee Kayak (episode 10)
*source credit*

Jake forgets to get Charles a present, so he enlists the help of Gina to go shopping on Christmas Eve, but then Charles invites himself along, and now they're hostages in a robbery at the store. I loved watching them take down the criminals. And when Terry said, those are my people in there!" I got all the feels. "The squad is my family, and I'll always protect my family." 😭😭 And omfg that ending when Gina got her flamethrower moment? D E A D.

5. The Cruise (episode 13)
*source credit to The Game of Nerds*

Doug Judy is back at it, folks, and Jake is determined to catch him this time! AND JAKE AND AMY SAY I LOVE YOU FOR THE FIRST TIME! And Holt does something really wonderful for his sister because even if he doesn't understand or care, he'll do anything for someone he cares about. SO MUCH EMOTION. I CRY.

4. Halloween, Part III (episode 5)
*source credit: LP Entertainment/Pure Fandom*

I still have more love for part II, but this one was amazing in the fact that Amy outsmarted all of them and made Jake and Holt realize that they were being assholes to her. She deserved better from both of them in that episode, and they recognized that, and I'm SO glad she stole the crown. GO AMY SANTIAGO!

3. The 9-8 (episode 15)
*source credit: The Game of Nerds*

The Nine-Nine has to share their precinct, and it does NOT go over very well. It's just so fucking funny when the squad ends up outside on the roof because they get space and quiet. And that fight! HAHAHAHA. But omg I'm such a Charles. I get jealous with friend things. Or, I used to. (I'm better at it). And it's just like, he is genuinely such a good friend and he LOVES his friends and he just wants to be Jake's bestie. Damn it, Jake, let him be your bestie!! Also guest star Damon Wayans Jr. for the win!

2. Boyle's Hunch (episode 3) 
*source credit*

For that Tarantula beginning alone (I was eating a donut while this happened, and I almost choked and died, true story, I AM NOT LYING). But the rest of the episode is funny as hell too. I love the whole Boyle finding-his-soulmate-in-prison thing, and the Lady Hunch song he and Jake make up, and Rosa and Terry teaming up to solve the case of the ice cream thieves. (I'd be pissed too, Rosa). Plus it was great to see that Holt's job with the PR department can bring about change and tackle the mistakes real life police have made too.

1. Cheddar (episode 18)
*source credit to NBC*

Holt is refusing to go to Paris, and Jake just can't take that. Holt needs some time with Kevin! So he volunteers himself, Amy, and a Boyle who can't see after eye surgery to watch Cheddar for him. And oh man, does it go horribly wrong (which always means you're gonna get a bunch of laughs). But that ending was so fucking sweet, and omg the weird sexual energy between Diaz and Pimento was HILARIOUS. I don't ship them *at all* but I didn't mind them together for a time.

I'm hoping to finish this rewatch before the new season starts in January! (I'm in the middle of #4 now, eep!). What were some of your favorite episodes in season 3? Would any of these make your list? Let's talk about the best show ever! :)

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

From the Den: November Edition

From the Den is a feature to showcase the books that I don't post reviews for on the blog, whether I liked them or not. I read so many books that never make it onto The Fox's Hideaway, so I wanted a feature where I could still tell y'all about them. :)


I read the least amount of books in November than in any other month. Which was SAD, but I just got into such a rut, and I was trying to work on my Arthurian fantasy. But I still mostly liked what I read, and here's a few of them!

Finding Baba Yaga
I love books in verse, but I didn't love this. It's probably because I don't know *that much* about Baba Yaga. But still, I did enjoy it.
Rating: 3 Paw Prints!

I was honestly just really glad that this one had a slow-burn romance, that it actually gave the characters the space and time to trust and come to love one another. (It's not a pretty relationship, but it's one that works for them). But I just got so annoyed with Pestilence, his lack of concrete info, and his self-righteous attitude. I mean, it makes SENSE, but I didn't care about it. You have to give me more than the humans deserve it. We do, and so I know this tried to show that we also deserve compassion and mercy, but I don't think the execution was there at times. And man, it took me a long while to get through this book. But I liked it! I'm also curious about War's story.
Rating: 3 Paw Prints!

Beneath the Citadel
That first chapter was honestly one of the best I've ever read, and I was already like, I WILL DIE FOR THESE CHARACTERS. And I still would, but somehow this didn't quite hit me in the feels like I'd hoped it would. But I adored this group of individuals SO MUCH. Bisexual, loyal Evander. Quiet, sensitive Newt. Sharp, smart Alys. Headstrong, stubborn Cassie. Even Vesper, whom we don't come to know as well. But it was really slow at times, and this world based on these prophecies felt a little heavy-handed. And like I said, it didn't sucker-punch even when it SHOULD have. I'm still having mixed feelings regarding the ending, and I don't know. I didn't feel quite that satisfied. However, I still enjoyed the book, and I love Destiny's writing!
Rating: 3.5 Paw Prints!

What books did YOU read in November? Have you read any of these yet? If so, what did you think of them? :)

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

(110) Top Ten Books on My Winter TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that was started by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

This week's topicWinter 2018 TBR

I have gotten QUITE lucky regarding ARCs lately, and these ones are at the top of my list! A few from favorite authors, and a few debuts that I'm SO excited to devour. Hoping to be able to review them all in a timely manner. 😄

I still haven't finished AG's Alice in Wonderland-inspired series, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to both a) read a book I'm interested in, and b) get a short story about the devious Morpheus. Plus that cover is gorgeous! Also I've loved Emma Mills' previous two books so much that I can't wait for her next. And OF COURSE I had to preorder King of Scars. I'm going to need to read that as soon as it's in my hands, the precioussss.

2018 Release I Missed
I've wanted to read this one FOREVER, so I was really happy when it was a kindle daily deal at one point. I snatched it right up, and I'm dying to get to it!

I've got so much reading planned for this winter! What are some on YOUR list? Have you read any of these yet? Let's talk! :)

Monday, December 17, 2018

I Can't Believe I've Been Blogging for Six Years

So hey, The Fox's Hideaway turned six back in November! omg! I know I say this like every year, but I really didn't have expectations going into blogging. In fact, this didn't even start out as a book blog! I needed an outlet to talk about college stuff because I wasn't making friends with my roommates very fast, and I've ALWAYS been a writer. So I made a blog for that. But then I started reading and reviewing those books (for a giveaway, no less). I changed its name and got into the community. And the rest is, as they say, history.

These six years have seen me through some of the best times and some of the not-so-great moments of my life. It saw me through college, to the end of a long road where I left with a Bachelor's degree in psychology I don't plan on using and one friend (who I sadly haven't seen in years). It saw me through some of my worst depressive spirals, the stress of trying to get a job, and the off-and-on stress of my job now. It saw me fall down on my face and pick myself back up to try again. It saw me through it all.

I can't say I've been happy with it ALL the time over the years. I've had my moments of wanting to quit, of wishing if I'd just done a few things differently in the beginning then maybe I'd be further than I am. I've gained some of the best friends I've ever met, and I've also lost friends. I've made mistakes and subtweeted and wanted what other people have had so badly sometimes. And it hasn't always been an easy ride. So I never thought I'd reach this point of where I'm super satisfied with my place in the blogging world.

I think this year I just let go. I decided that I would keep blogging until I started publishing books (because I definitely cannot review like this if I'm an author, it would feel too weird). I accepted Past Me and all her messed-up glory and moved forward. I'm not perfect, but I try to do what I can. I just love talking about books so much, and I truly love what I do on here, even though I know my readership is down. Sometimes I feel like I'm shouting into a void where no one's listening, but I know that's not true even if my brain tells me otherwise.

I also got back into working with publishers more often, and I really didn't think I'd still be able to make contacts and receive cool ARCs, after so long of not trying and of never quite moving beyond "small blog" status. It's been so fun, but I feel really chill about everything, something that was hard for me in the past. And emailing's getting even easier to do. I've adored working with authors, too, and I plan on bringing back March Madness again in 2019. Amid all the rough moments, I've done as well as I could this year.

I don't know where I'll be next November, but it's okay, I'm just rolling with the punches. I'm going to try to post more, for sure, and that is really my only goal? Aside from interacting more within the community (and actually replying and talking to the people I follow on Twitter! LOL I'm so bad at this. I've been such a lurker since 2016). My biggest blogging dream is blurbing a book or having a review be quoted on it. But I've surpassed all of my previous expectations. And I'm so proud of myself for what I've done and what I've accomplished!

Also, thank you guys. Thank you for continuing to follow me and talk to me and comment on here. I can't tell you how often reading a sweet tweet or comment has brought me back up after I've been feeling down about the blog. This community is the reason I'm still here, and I couldn't ever leave it, even if my life changes next year. 2018 has been a fucking rollercoaster of emotions, but The Fox's Hideaway is still my safe spot, and my favorite hobby. And I can't wait to see what the new year brings for my tiny corner of the internet. <3

Lastly, a few giveaways to celebrate! I'm hosting a (international) Harry Potter-themed one on Twitter, which you can enter at here.

Next up, a box of 2019 ARCs! (US only)
a Rafflecopter giveaway
And this one is international so long as The Book Depository ships to your fabulous country. 😘

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Forbidden Hearts Series: Wrong to Need You

Title: Wrong to Need You (Forbidden Hearts, #2)
Author: Alisha Rai
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: November 28th, 2017!

From Goodreads...
Alisha Rai returns with the second novel in her sizzling Forbidden Hearts series!

He wasn’t supposed to fall in love with his brother’s widow…

Accused of a crime he didn't commit, Jackson Kane fled his home, his name, and his family. Ten years later, he’s come back to town: older, wiser, richer, tougher—and still helpless to turn away the one woman he could never stop loving, even after she married his brother.

Sadia Ahmed can’t deal with the feelings her mysterious former brother-in-law stirs, but she also can’t turn down his offer of help with the cafe she’s inherited. While he heats up her kitchen, she slowly discovers that the boy she adored has grown into a man she’s simply unable to resist.

 An affair is unthinkable, but their desire is undeniable. As secrets and lies are stripped away, Sadia and Jackson must decide if they’re strong enough to face the past...and step into a future together.

My Review!
I’m not always a fan of the brother’s/sister’s widow trope, but I couldn’t not read Sadia and Jackson’s book. Sadia is my fave fave, and Jackson is the non-cuddly teddy bear that I want in life, and oh my gooood this is the kind of slow-burn romance that just kills me with its tension and slight angst and real emotions. The two of them were a quieter kind of explosive than Livvy and Nicholas in Hate to Want You, but no less sexy.

Sadia Ahmed is just so… tired. She’s had quite enough of life’s curveballs and stress, thanks. With the failing cafe and trying to balance work and being a mother, she’s doing her fucking best. She’s got sisters she can lean on, and she’s got her bff Livvy, but it’s not the same thing. And she’s so damned proud of her independence and so stubborn that it’s hard for her to accept help. But oh, did I love her. She’s the bisexual queen of my heart. I loved her determination, and and her big heart, and how utterly she adored being a mom to Kareem. It’s just, sometimes it’s too hard, you know? She deserved to fall apart a bit, to have some time for herself, and she deserved to have good sex with whomever she wanted. Even if that someone was her late husband’s younger brother.

Jackson Kane is not good with people. He’s never been good with people. After being a bit of a loner (and introverted) when he was younger and not quite fitting in this town, it wasn’t that difficult for him to say BYE BITCH after he was wrongly accused of burning the first C&O’s store down. But he left behind people he didn’t keep in contact with, namely Sadia. And she’s angry, which is fair and understandable, and Jackson was doing his best to heal some of those old wounds. He wasn’t the best at it, but damned if he wasn’t super caring and helpful, and so totally in love with this woman. And while he wasn’t great at expressing emotions, he didn’t shy away from them. I was utterly in love with him and all I wanted was for him to be able to feel at home, even when he was never sure if he would.

If I read a part of the book I think I read right, Jackson’s probably queer too, which made me uber happy. And I LOVED the two of them together. I thought Alisha handled the trope well, and that it wasn’t too high on drama. Neither Sadia nor Jackson wanted to mess up their relationship, but they both needed to remember that they can be happy together, that they didn’t have to forsake their love because of what other people would think. Plus the romance was HOT. Oh man, I love a good alpha male, but I also loved that there was no toxic masculinity here. Jackson was just as happy letting Sadia take charge in the bedroom as he was being the dominant. And he wouldn’t boss her around, but he wouldn’t let her hurt her mental health. The two of them complemented each other SO well.

There were so many scenes in this book that just *got* me. I was outright sobbing while reading the epilogue. These two families just DESTROY me. All I want is for them to be happy forever and ever together, and it seems like that’s coming along nicely now that Livvy and Nicholas have gotten a second chance and Sadia and Jackson are rekindling a dormant love. I just want MORE of these people, especially Grandpa John!