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WhiskeyintheJar Romance

Romance book talk, reviews, recipes, and dog pictures

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Guest Reviewer at:  Reading Between the Wines book club

Currently reading

A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby
Vanessa Riley
Something to Talk About
Meryl Wilsner
Progress: 30%
First Comes Marriage
Mary Balogh
Progress: 13%
Doctor Sleep
Stephen King
Progress: 10%

Kyraryker’s quotes


"She thought it over, but couldn’t see any immediate loopholes other than the threat of her inner slut emerging, and she could darned well control that little bitch."— Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Reading Update: 30%

Something to Talk About - Meryl Wilsner

Midweek calls for chocolate chip cookies and some “Are they?” romance trying to stay out of the public eye.
Enjoy the rest of the week, everyone!

 

Something To Talk About by Meryl Wilsner purchase link

 

 

 

The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon

The Boyfriend Project - Farrah Rochon

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

The Boyfriend Project sees three women bond together after they discover they are dating the same man and a video of Samiah goes viral of her confronting him. Professionally, Samiah and London, Taylor is still working her way there, are excelling but feel pressure to have the whole package, a significant other to share their life with. This has lead to them lowering their standards and ending up going viral on YouTube. They decide to make a pact to focus on other aspects of their lives for six months and leave off dating. Samiah has an app that she has wanted to develop and is excited to focus on that. However, a newer hire at her work, Daniel, has her wanting to break some rules.

 

And even as he told himself they were just two coworkers grabbing a bite to eat, he knew what he wanted it to be.

 

Daniel, a former Marine, now works for the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. He's undercover at Samiah's work, Trendsetters, because the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network— FinCEN, detected activity that makes them think that a hotel chain is laundering money with software developed by Trendsetters. In a joint effort with the Department of Homeland Security, Daniel is covertly working to find the employees at Trendsetters responsible for the laundering.

 

He held the driver’s side door open for her and draped an arm over the top of it. “But I should warn you, I’ve also heard that I tend to grow on people.” He winked. “Be prepared.”

 

With two people who are mentally and professionally not wanting to get involved romantically, Samiah and Daniel can't deny their potent chemistry. I thought the author did a great job setting these two up and their initial physical attraction that deepened into a friendship and eventual romantic and sexual relationship. Samiah's weakening on her no dating rule didn't quite hit as hard as Daniel's with the seriousness of fraternization while undercover on a job. I did enjoy the fullness of the characters, we don't get a ton of background on Samiah but that worked as her character's issues were more in the present. Samiah's trust issues, because of the two-timing guy that ended up bonding her with London and Taylor and her co-worker Keighleigh who tries to steal credit for Samiah's work (Keighleigh's comeuppance might feel a little therapeutic for a lot), drive Samiah for the slice of life we're reading about. We get a little more on Daniel's background and that worked to give the reader an idea of the kind of man he is, codes he lives his life by and why he wouldn't want to tell Samiah his true purpose at Trendsetters. I also have to say I would read the heck out of Daniel's parents' story as their romance sounds amazing.

 

A potent, electric charge sizzled in the air between them, a sensation so strong he felt it on his skin.

 

The beginning of the story, I thought the author worked overtime on minute descriptions that didn't so much enhance the story as slow down the pace with stuff I didn't really care about, for the most part, this disappeared as the story went on. I don't know the Austin area but I think for people who do, they'll enjoy the shoutouts to spots they'll recognize and enjoy that connection. This does have a small twinge of romantic suspense, just think more mental instead of run and gun. I found Daniel's job and the aspects of it fascinating and thought the author described enough for understanding but stopped short of text book. The mystery of Daniel when he first comes on screen, his mental dossier thoughts on co-workers he's never meet before, created an intrigue that sucked me into the story and I loved that.

 

For the first time in forever, Samiah felt as if she could relax and just …be. There was no pressure, no pretense. She could just exist in this undemanding, enjoyable place they’d discovered with each other.

 

I did think some of the tension between Samiah and Daniel was more soft than electric, they don't fight too hard to stay out of each other's presence and their relationship reminded me of Grace Burrowe's couples; they fit and click in a way that has them immediately together. Their first sex scene was hot but went a bit too quick for me. Daniel not compromising his job does put Samiah through the ringer but I thought the author did a great job giving Samiah time to process her emotions, leading to a more believable happily ever after.

 

Maybe it was time she accepted that plans changed. And sometimes they changed for the better.

 

The importance of women having female friendships was wonderfully put on display here, having shoulders to lean on, understanding and connection to personal struggles and triumphs, someone to push you, and friends to laugh, eat, and drink with. The creation of the HashTagGoals Boyfriend Project also did a good job of setting up future books in the series, I can't wait to read London and Taylor's stories. Most importantly this also showed how while the romance enhanced Samiah's life, it wasn't the be all and end all of it. Samiah and Daniel had a sweet friendship that built to a sexy romance and I had a great time getting to read about it.

30%

The Boyfriend Project - Farrah Rochon

Only the romance genre would get me to google "Treasury Department's Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence" during lunch. This is really good so far, budding/building women's circle of friendship, mysterious and sexy hero, and plot that feels like a slow burn to me. This will have me taking a second glance at any new people at work and wondering if they're a former Marine who is now technologically hunting down someone laundering money :)

Reading Update: Page 1

The Boyfriend Project - Farrah Rochon

Obvious I finally made it to the grocery? Fresh veggies and romance.

Good food, laughter, strength, and love to you all this Sunday :)

 

The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon (This Tues!) pre-order link

 

Thai Peanut-Chili Chicken recipe

Easy but takes time, love this one 

 

 

 

 

Dream Maker by Kristen Ashley

Dream Maker - Kristen Ashley
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Dream Maker is the start of a new series but characters from the author's previous series, Dream Man and Rock Chick (some Chaos) heavily feature in it. I've read books in Dream Man but none in Rock Chick, I was able to hang in there in regards to who was who and connections but barely. If you're completely new to Kristen Ashley, this probably isn't where you should start.

One could say I was correct in my concerns about Daniel Magnusson. I didn’t know if he was toxic. But he was a bossy damned alpha. And meddling.

If you're not new to Ashley, you'll recognize her writing style but with some tweaking. Danny speaks in full sentences but “Babe” and a controlling nature that make Ashley heroes a love them or hate them, was still evident in the character. Evie was the klutzy nerd that makes her adorable to the hero and because of how forced and jammed in it felt at times, she super duper cares about the environment (she drives a Prius and wears shoes from recycled bottles!) in what I think was probably added to make her seem more Millennial/Gen Z. Evie broaches pushing back at Danny's controlling nature, he's a “commando” so he wants to run the show in regards to protecting her, but Danny ends up pretty much doing what he wants. There's insta attraction between the two and I think all the “babes” and whispered talk was supposed to be the evidence for these deep feelings. I can't say these two left a lasting impression on me.

“Mac is no fool. This isn’t about you sorting my shit. It’s her setting me up to sort yours.”

Lottie, Evie's friend, set-up Danny with Evie and told Evie Danny was sleeping his way through Denver because he was having a hard time emotionally. However, Danny sees how crappy Evie's family treats her and then reads a text message that shows how much danger Evie is being put in because of her brother and he thinks Lottie put them together to help Evie. The plot involving Evie's brother, drugs, and danger was supposed to be the continuing thread throughout the book but it never gets filled out enough and gets ignored for the majority of the time in favor of Evie and Danny whispering at each other in short sentences that “Ooh that must have meant something, they really care about me!”. The suspense plot felt ignored, was slow, and never filled out to create any semblance to a plot.

“I’m a little scared, Danny,” I admitted.
“I am too,” he surprised me by saying. “But you’re worth the risk.”


The whole series gets laid out, Evie was set-up with Danny through Lottie and we learn that three other women that Evie works with at the strip club and she realizes are her friends, are lined up and paired off with Danny's friends and co-workers. There isn't any surprise or suspense in who the couples will be in the coming books. There was a couple that interested me but the utter lack of plot in this has me very tentative to try another in this series.

These people. These crazy, kindhearted people.

Evie felt like a fully formed character but Danny's background was absent and it left his character a bit vapid. Evie gets kidnapped twice and their first sex scene is after Danny was shot and was previously in a lot of pain. There's enough of Ashley's tried and true elements that previous readers could find enjoyment and enough tweaking that it could bring in new readers, for me, I really just needed more plot.

Reading Update: 20%

Dream Maker - Kristen Ashley

Starting the new Ashley, prepared for a wild ride :)

 

Stay safe and strong this weekend, friends.

 

Dream Maker by Kristen Ashley purchase link

 

Irish Lemon Pudding recipe

Definitely add the powder sugar and whip cream to sweeten this one up

 

Real Men Knit by Kwana Jackson

Real Men Knit - Kwana Jackson

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

Four boys from different makeups and ethnic backgrounds, brought together by their shared need of, first and foremost, a home, but probably more so the love that that the seemingly irreverent single Black woman had given them.

 

Instead of romance or women's fiction, I think this story falls under what I'm going to call community fiction; what a perfect time to read this. Jesse, along with his adoptive brothers, Lucas, Noah, and Damien came from different experiences and walks of life but found family in each other when their foster mother, Mama Joy, adopts them. As families are want to do, they love hard but also stretch, tear, and need mending. When Mama Joy suddenly passes away, the four brothers have to decide what to do with her shop, Strong Knits. Jesse is considered the wastrel of the group but he's the only one who doesn't want to sell, he wants to run the shop.

 

The tan knight and the used-to-be-man of her dreams, and there he was walking out his last night’s stand while she was cleaning his kitchen like a broke-down Cinderella.

 

Kerry grew-up around the Strong family as she found peace and comfort with Mama Joy at her knit shop. Jesse was always the brother that caught her eye the most but his womanizing and frittering ways kept her away. Kerry's recently obtained her degree in children's counseling and art therapy but not having a full time job yet, she still worked and helped out at Strong Knits. When Jesse announces he wants to try and keep Strong Knits going, she volunteers to help him out. Their relationship starts out rocky as both have strong protective instincts but their shared love of Mama Joy and Strong Knits connects them on a deep emotional level and heated glances have them wanting to connect in other ways.

 

She knew his strengths, but worse, she knew his weaknesses.

 

The natural flow of the writing welcomed me into this story and if you told me Strong Knits and all these characters where actually real places and people I'd believe you, there was a realness to this that will pull you in emotionally. There is a part of me that wishes we could have gotten a flashback or opening scene with Mama Joy and the boys. I missed “seeing” her with them but the author does a really good job of having the reader “feel” her through the brothers, which in turn I suppose also helps the reader feel Mama Joy's stark absence. I also would have liked more background on Jesse to help me get a feel for him too. I think it was around the mid-point when we learn some about what led to him entering the foster care system. Jesse just didn't feel as tangible to me as Kerry's character, she was more filled or flushed out. Kerry takes the lead in the story more than Jesse, even though I would still say the community is the overreaching star. Kerry struggling with what she wants to do, work with children and keep Strong Knits open but also make money, was a conflict I think a lot could relate to. There was also the clash of Kerry's feelings for the “bad boy” Jesse and not wanting to end up feeling stupid and hurt, which I know a lot can relate to.

 

Decisions must be made, and it was time for him to finally step up and take his place once and for all to be the type of Strong brother that Mama Joy always wanted him to be.

 

There was conflict, emotion, and turmoil swirling around and in Kerry and Jesse's relationship but, for the most part, it's in the underling of the story fabric; this story is subtle depth. Their falling in love, especially from Kerry's side, seemed to mostly be already in place from their childhood and I missed going through some of that emotional heft with them. I also felt like it wasn't until around the 70% mark that there was significant movement towards each other and the romance part of the story. However, because of the background these two had with each other and their chemistry and friendship, I really did believe in their relationship and that they would have a happily ever after.

 

Jesse felt his heart slam against the wall of his chest as everything in him and every part of him seemed to move forward at once to meet her.

 

What made this story special to me was the way the author integrated not just secondary characters but a whole community. The author didn't “tell” me how Jesse and Kerry felt about Strong Knits, she made me feel it through the after school program importance to a boy in the neighborhood, the Old Knitting Gang, and various other seemingly innocuous moments and characters that were woven throughout. I wouldn't call this a heavy or light story, just one made up of all those moments. There's talk of gentrification but also amazing lines like this when Kerry contemplates the man her friend Val seems to be thinking about taking home for the night: The way he’d gone in on those wings had her skeptical about his technique. It could be either very good for Val or an altogether disaster.

I'm still laughing about this line. The ending was very abrupt but as this is obviously going to be a series, I guess a down the line or epilogue could infringe on the series timeline. This writer's style, tone, and depth will have me looking up other books by her and I can't wait to snatch up Jesse's brother's books when they come out (there's a firefighter brother!). If current events have you down, this is the book you need to pick up to restore the love.

 

Noah stepped in, his smile bright as he admonished the crowd for their tears. Sounding every bit like a little Mama Joy, he told them, “Drink up, stitch well,” and then he looked at his brothers when he said, “Love hard and live in the moment, not in the past.”

Reading Update: Page 1

Real Men Knit - Kwana Jackson

Improving my Monday with cheese filled dinner rolls and a contemporary romance. I might have to cover up with an afghan to complete the comfort trifecta.

 

Real Men Knit by Kwana Jackson pre-order (May 19) link

 

Garlic & Herb Cheese Bombs recipe

 

Reading Update: 5%

Doctor Sleep - Stephen King

What mattered was they were never getting out. He was safe. That was what he thought then. Of course, he also thought he would never take a drink, not after seeing what it had done to his father. Sometimes we just get it wrong.

Eesh, this is forbidding as all get out.

Also, of course it had to be Mrs.freakingMassey that starts this off, what/who I found the most disturbing from The Shining.

Held up on a reread

Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen, Marilyn Butler, Claire Lamont

Rereading this 20yrs after the first time was quite a different experience, I wish I had time to reread a lot of other books.

Catherine's nativity was more pronounced, John and Isabella Thorpe made my blood pressure rise, the Gothic satire portion didn't play as big a part as I remembered, Henry was an intuitive dear but Austen also delivered a fourth wall breaking line that killed the romance for me, and the ending felt rushed.

For quotes, comments, and a deeper discussion of thoughts and feelings: Northanger Abbey buddy read

First Comes Scandal by Julia Quinn

First Comes Scandal - Julia Quinn

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Georgiana was kidnapped by a fortune hunter but even though she managed to save herself, her reputation is in tatters.
Nicholas is called down from medical school in Edinburgh by his father who orders him to marry their neighbor and Nicholas' childhood friend, Georgiana.
It's a marriage of convenience but a close quarters carriage ride with a grumpy cat might turn it into a marriage of love.

“There is only one thing to be done,” his father said. “You must marry her.”

First Comes a Scandal is fourth in the Rokebys series but I think you could jump into the series here, it would probably be even better to read the Bridgerton series before this. Rokebys is a prequel to Briderstons and heroes from the first couple books in the Bridgerton series make an almost center stage showing in this. As much as I enjoyed seeing the heroes as little kids, it was too much. Instead of focusing on the leads of this story, the little Bridgertons got too much of the spotlight; it started to feel like a cheap trick to get readers to like this book, trading on the Bridgerton love. If you haven't read the Bridgerton series, you'd probably be bored and think a good chunk of the first half was filler.

“She doesn’t need your time. She needs your name.”

I'm a sucker for little sister/big brother's friend trope but this was a little different with neither having a hidden or long standing crush on the other and we don't get much of Nicholas and Edmund (Georigana's brother) friendship. Not getting much, unfortunately, was a problem I had for the majority of the story. I had a problem with feeling Nicholas and Georgiana were strangers, to me and to each other. It wasn't until after the 50% mark that our two get married and then it is a carriage ride to Edinburgh. However, instead of scenes of these two bonding and dialogue to provide emotional and relationship building blocks, we get pointless cat drama, medical dramas needing Nicholas, and the story just seemed to want to focus on everything but Nicholas and Georgiana.

He’d been married a day and he’d barely even kissed her. He was going to have to do something about that.

The sentence structure had a tendency to veer to shorter and this made a good amount feel choppy but even though I didn't feel engaged with the story or characters, the pace did ping pong through pretty quickly. There was also a couple times where Nicholas or Georgiana expressed themselves a certain way that felt too casual of verbiage, not creating the historical feel I tend to look for when reading this sub-genre. This was also set in the late 1700s and besides some talk of hoop skirts to visit the Queen, it was indistinguishable from Regency set romances.

She liked being near him. She liked his quiet strength, his sense of purpose. And when his hands had been on her hips, even just to help her down from the saddle, she’d liked the way it had made her feel like she was his.

Georgiana and Nicholas felt like strangers to me and therefore, I wasn't invested or felt any emotional attachment to the conclusion of their romance. If you like some slapstick humor, there were a couple scenes when they take their carriage ride that might help drawn you into the story more than I. There were couple moments where I felt a hint of the chemistry between Georgiana and Nicholas but they were so buried in the numerous insignificant scenes the author decided to add, that it couldn't save the story for me. I went into this anticipating more of a focus on exploring their marriage of convenience and instead got a grumpy cat in a hammock.

I buddy read this, for more quotes and comments while I read: First Comes Scandal buddy read
 

80%

Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen, Marilyn Butler, Claire Lamont

Henry, with the friends of his solitude, a large Newfoundland puppy and two or three terriers, was ready to receive and make much of them.

Darcy who? Henry has a Newfie puppy!

 

More quotes and comments:  Northanger Abbey buddy read

70%

Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen, Marilyn Butler, Claire Lamont

Really into that Gothic vibe with Catherine thinking General Tilney has a wife in walled off section of the Abbey. Catherine playing a wild game of guessing about lives while people watching.

More comments & quotes: Northanger Abbey buddy read

Reading Update: 15%

First Comes Scandal - Julia Quinn

My buddy read for the month, discussing the new Rokesby over in The Hopeful Readers Group on GoodReads.
A grilled cheese and historical romance for this Tuesday

 

First Comes Scandal by Julia Quinn purchase link

 

Bacon, Brie, and Apricot Grilled Cheese w/ Balsamic Reduction recipe

I used turkey bacon, loved the Brie, basil, and Balsamic reduction combo

 

Beach Read by Emily Henry

Beach Read - Emily Henry

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

January has lived her life with an open heart and rose colored glasses. Her mother's scares with cancer taught her to hide her fears while the way her parent's loving and romantic relationship taught her that outpouring happiness and love made life glow. When her father dies and a big secret is revealed, she can't manage to see only the glow in life. Her boyfriend dumps her and with her writing career in danger, January takes off to Michigan to come to terms with who she thought her father was and try to get her life back on track. When her next door neighbor turns out to be college rival and crush Augustus Everett, she winds up getting in a pseudo competition about who can write the best book in the other's genre. January's trying to come to terms with the past and she might just build a future while doing it.

 

From now on, it was the ugly truth or nothing.

 

Beach Read is a standalone contemporary that melded women's fiction and romance together perfectly. Told entirely from January's point of view, the reader is brought into her life as it's falling apart. January had a good childhood but not a perfect one, her mother had two cancer scares but the way her father showed his love for the family and constantly romanced her mother, taught January that love and happiness makes everything better. A little later in the story we learn that January's parents did have a couple month separation and it becomes apparent that while January knew there were cracks in her ideal world, she glossed them over. I liked how the author flushed out this trait of January's, not simply having her be a head in the clouds happy but having this aspect of January's develop in part to being a child who had a parent with cancer and emotionally deciding to keep in complicated feelings because you want every moment with them to be “happy”.

 

I wanted to know whether you could ever fully know someone. If knowing how they were—how they moved and spoke and the faces they made and the things they tried not to look at—amounted to knowing them. Or if knowing things about them—where they’d been born, all the people they’d been, who they’d loved, the worlds they’d come from—added up to anything.

 

The core of the story is January coming to terms with the fact that her father cheated on her mother and had a mistress, which she doesn't find out until after her father has died. The swirling emotions of January are felt, the anger, the disillusionment, and the pain. Her mother knew about the mistress but doesn't want to speak to January about it and while I liked this no easy, messy, tangle of emotions from two characters, I wish we could have gotten more from and between January's mom and her. This seemed like such an important relationship for January and it wasn't worked out enough for me. I did like how Sonya, the woman January's father had been involved with, became a fully fleshed out character and their relationship wasn't black and white.

 

The worst part of being college rivals with Gus Everett? Probably the fact that I wasn’t sure he knew we were. He was three years older, a high school dropout who’d gotten his GED after spending a few years working as a literal gravedigger.

 

I'm typically am not a fan of only one pov in a romance but it worked for me here, possibly because of the women's fiction aspect and probably because the author was able to convey Gus (Augustus) as solid, well rounded out character who's emotions I could grasp on page. From the moment January is angry at her next door neighbor grump to when Gus tells her “I lied,” he whispered against my ear. “I have read your books.”, these two sparked and burned. Their past relationship in college and how they misread each other's thoughts and feelings was a perfect bridge to January learning to look into the shadows and Gus discovering that he can bring light to the dark. I enjoyed their wit and snark that had such an ease to it; they weren't “on” for each other, it was just their chemistry. I did think at times their cutesy knee bumping while sitting felt a bit juvenile but overall I liked their friendship and that had me believing in their love.

 

I don’t need you to be Fabio,” I said, voice thick with emotion, like it wasn’t the single stupidest sentence I’d uttered in my life.

 

This had me chuckling and my eyes misting, the emotion is felt but with more of tingle and lightness, rather than diving into the trenches with it. As I mentioned, I wish we could have gotten more in regards to January and her mother's relationship and felt the same way with January and her bestfriend Shadi, who ended up feeling more like a guest star than integrated into the story. However, the relationship between January and Gus amused and attracted as they waded through their own issues and each others. If looking for a great blend of women's fiction and romance, Beach Read would be a perfect pick.

Reading Update: 25%

Beach Read - Emily Henry

I’m only 25% in and I want to say those magical words “Pre-order!” I’m not a typical laugh or cry reader and this has already had me guffaw out loud and get eyes a bit misty.

 

I’m reading through lunch!

 

Beach Read by Emily Henry pre-order (May 19th) link

 

Baked Honey Cajun Shrimp recipe

Love the flavoring of this one. I just about doubled the cajun, added avocado and rice, and made into tacos :)