For Butter or Worse by Erin La Rosa

For Butter or Worse is a tender, sweet, yummy love story about two people who must work together although they hate each other.

You would think Nina Lyon, a premier chef who owns a restaurant and appears on a cooking reality show called The Next Cooking Champ would believe she has it all, but unfortunately due to her snarky, degrading co-host Leo O’Donnell a businessman whose family owns a chain of Italian restaurants her life is miserable. Yes, their chemistry on the show is one of the reasons for its popularity, but their rivalry towards each other has no boundaries. And when Nina decides Leo has gone too far embarrassing her on live television, she decides to quit the show, to the horror of Leo, the producers and the live audience.

But when Nina and Leo find out that not only do fans think they are secretly dating, but love the idea, Nina’s publicist Tom has the brilliant idea for the two of them to fake a romance in order to get the most out of the publicity this has caused and will help both their brands which could use a bit of a push. Nina wants to barf. Leo sees dollar signs.

So, with the help of Tom who plans their dates and comments on the social traffic which occurs as the two of them try to love each other while despising each other, both begin to see benefits of the romance. They even begin to slightly soften about each other.

What they did not ever think would happen is that they might actually like each other a great deal which confuses both of them. And when you add a hunky ex who suddenly reappears, you have a disastrously funny recipe for a wonderfully crafted love story in For Butter or Worse.

Thank you #NetGalley #HQNBooks #ForButterorWorse #ErinLaRosa for the advanced copy.

The Last to Vanish by Megan Miranda

The Passage Inn is an upscale hiker’s paradise in North Carolina near Appalachian trails. The views and hiking paths are extraordinary. People come from all over to hike, take in the small town and listen to the folklore of the town’s people of Cutter’s Pass. You see, the town and the inn have quite a history. For the people who live there, it is more of a curse as they always get tourists who think they can solve its secrets.

And mysteries they are. Over the years, a few hikers have just disappeared, starting with a group of hikers named the Fraternity Four who together all went missing over ten years ago and not one body has ever been discovered. Then another hiker disappeared and another. The town had been quiet for a while until three months ago when Landon West, a journalist researching the missing hikers disappeared. He has not been found and the tourists are once again coming to the town in full force.

Abilgail Lovett has been the manager of the Passage Inn for years after showing up one day looking for a job. Although she has lived there a good amount of time, she still does not feel like she belongs. Quite frankly she feels like an outsider who is not allowed to learn the secrets of the town. Curiosity is not her friend in a place where everyone holds what secrets they have to themselves. And as the manager of the inn where the missing hikers stayed, she feels like no one will give her the answers she is looking for. Because of this, Abby has always felt as if nothing really added up when it came to the disappearances.

But when Trey West, Landon West’s brother comes to look for his missing sibling she can’t help but take him up on his offer to help him find clues as to his vanishing. As Trey and Abby begin to find clues, which make no sense, they find no one wants to listen to their theories, including the sheriff. Abby is warned to stop digging. But she can’t and when she discovers shocking revelations as to what happened years ago, she could possibly she could become the next missing person. All she ever wanted was to feel as if she was part of this small town. But perhaps the town will eat her up and spit her out because she now knows the truth.

In true Megan Miranda style, with a thrilling mystery to solve and a shocking conclusion to digest, you are immediately sucked into the story starting on the first page. With twists and turns galore, The Last to Vanish is an epic thriller and wonderful read.

Thank you #NetGalley #Scribner #TheLasttoVanish #MeganMiranda for the advanced copy.

Wish You Were Gone by Kiernan Scott

From the outside, Emma Walsh, her husband James and two teenage children, Kelsey and Hunter look to be the perfect happy family. The children are smart, they are well-off thanks to the success of the elite PR firm James and his partner Darnell started years ago. Emma is content taking care of the family, but…

What is not known and is hidden from their friends is they all live in fear of James. He drinks and he’s abusive. The more he drinks, the more he escalates. Fear is the underlying emotion in the house when James comes home, never knowing just what will set him off.

As she sees her children’s lives deteriorate from his constant mistreatment, Emma decides she has to divorce him. She sets up a meeting with him at a restaurant before a company party to tell him. But James never shows up. Irate, Emma skips the party and goes home seething.

Hours later, Emma is woken up by her son. There was a loud crash and James is dead in the car which somehow smashed into their garage. Shocked and horrified, Emma can’t help to feel like this was bound to happen at some point. James was always a reckless drinker and driver, let alone abusive.

With the help of her two close friends, Lizzie and Grey, she attempts to rebuild her family’s life, somewhat embarrassed and guilty by the peace and relief she feels with James’s death. But there are a few things about the accident that just don’t seem to make sense. Primarily he did not have his work computer or phone on him when he died. She and both her friends debate what could have happened. And then Emma decides to call his phone thinking perhaps it’s in the house. A woman answers. Is it possible James was having an affair?

As Emma’s damaged world completely begins to fall apart, she realizes there have been many who have tried to keep secrets from her. And as the story whose timeline goes back to hours leading up to the accident, and then present day, we begin to see no one is without hidden agendas on that tragic day.

What Emma does not realize that in figuring out what happened that day could destroy friendships, dreams and lives. One thing she does know for sure. She was married to a monster.

Wish You Were Gone is a rollercoaster ride of mystery and secrets. Beginning with the realization that the best part of the story is the death!

Thank you #Goodreads #GalleryBooks #KiernanScott #WishYouWereGone for the copy of the book.

The Bodyguard by Katherine Center

Katherine Center has always been a favorite writer of mine. Her wisdom and emotional stories have satisfied me for years. But with The Bodyguard, Center seems to have found a different writing style and voice and it is incredibly entertaining! The adorable story, rooting for the underdog, quick and snarky dialogue which seems to make you fall in love with all the characters, well, most of them, is perfect. And I loved it!

Hannah Brooks looks like an ordinary no make-up wearing plain Jane who wears pants suits and cuts her own hair, (when she remembers). Someone who would not be noticed. Ever. Which is good because if you cross her, she can kill you with her bare hands, or a bottle opener which she carries on her person, somewhere. Hannah works for an exclusive Executive Protection Agency. It is an elite private bodyguard company. She is a bodyguard. A good one.

But having just lost her mother, she is told to take some time off. Something she doesn’t know how to do. Always series and by the book, Hannah does not know what the word relax, or rest even means. When she begs for a job to keep her mind off her life which seems to be suddenly blowing up on her, her boss gives her one. She says no… next. He says take it or leave.

So, Hannah finds herself as the bodyguard to a superstar, hunky, adorable, muscly actor named Jack Stapleton. But there are a few problems. Jack, whose mother is sick, and he is going home to their ranch in Texas does not want his family knowing that his off again on-again stalker, a woman who breeds corgis for a living is trying to track him down. He is not looking forward to the visit because he and his brother hate each other, and oh, he does not want his family to know he has a bodyguard, so they are to pretend to be a couple. Something which most of Hannah’s office finds delightfully hysterical.

Considering the threat level is low, and Hannah has been promised a plum assignment if she accepts this job, she agrees. She thinks she will be in an out and in Korea in days. Alas, she is wrong. As problems begin to heat up in Jack’s family and with Jack and Hannah who both could win Oscars for their acting skills, Hannah finds herself attracted to a family life she never saw or had growing up. But just when Hannah thinks she is free and clear of whatever her mind is trying to tell her, everything changes, and all is not fun and games anymore. As a matter of fact, they become deadly.

The Bodyguard is a charming story about a woman with a mind of her own, who does not care what others think of her, who takes on any challenge (even wearing a sundress), to protect her clients even if it means she could die. Along with the sassy exchanges and terrific comedic timing throughout the story, this book is a winner!

Thank you #NetGalley #St.Martin’sPress #KatherineCentter #TheBodyguard for the advanced copy.

The Edge of Summer by Viola Shipman

I have no more words left to express the beautiful and tenderness of a Viola Shipman novel. Constantly giving homage to his grandmothers, this magnificent story is about loss, sadness, trust and finding out who you are and where you came from. Set during the time of Covid with an empathetic feel we can all relate to, the tale is about the value of life, forgiveness, letting go with a bit of a mystery thrown in. Delightful!

When Sutton Douglas loses her mother to Covid, she also loses her only relative, and her unknown history of where she came from and who is her family. Her mother, Miss Mable was a hardworking seamstress whose family died in a tragic fire. Miss Mable refused to talk to Sutton about what happened or give her any information as to who her father was, or even where she came from. The only observation Miss Mable passed down to Sutton were don’t trust anybody but yourself. She also passed down her passion for sewing and her love of buttons.

When Sutton gets a letter from her mother after her death, basically telling her to let go of the past, and just move on, Sutton is heartbroken. But when she finds a hidden picture of a man in her mother’s belongings, she realizes she must try and find the answers to the questions. She feels she at least deserves this closure to become free.

So, she packs up and heads to a resort town in Michigan which has her last name, Douglas. She begins to fall in love with this wonderful community of people and the peacefulness of the landscape all the while trying to somehow piece her, or Miss Mable’s history, together. There she meets the matriarch of the community, Bonnie Lyson, who seems to take a liking? to her. Bonnie sells her a collection buttons Sutton sees, which are the exact type her mother cherished for all these years. The same buttons Sutton has continued to use in her own designs.

As she begins to let her guard down, she discovers a strength in herself she thought she never had. A trust in in those around her, and a faith in her own decisions. As she begins to put the sketchy pieces of her history together, a stronger Sutton wonders what in the world Miss Mable did not want her to find out.

And the ending is the wonderful pinnacle of a delightful and strong story of forgiveness and coming out of the dark whole on the other side.

Thank you #NetGalley #GraydonHouse #TheEdgeofSummer #ViolaShipman for the advanced copy.

Ali’s Well That Ends Well by Ali Wentworth

If you have never read a book of essays by Ali Wentworth, actress, comedian and wife of Good Morning America host George Stephanopoulos, you are seriously missing out on an enjoyable, funny, laugh out loud read. Her latest book covers her, and her families lives during Covid, which also includes her hound mix dog and obese dachshund! If that does not pique your interest, I don’t know what will!

She begins the book with an essay on she herself being one of the first people to get Covid early on when not much was known about the virus. She realized she really did have it when her hound dog who had been missing for a few days jumped on her bed and she smelled…well, nothing! She praises her husband George who slipped meals in or came to check her in hazmat gear. Her thanks to him was that in her delirium and after watching season after season of Mad Men on Netflix continuously, accused him of having an affair with one of the women characters on the show!

In another essay she explains how her family enjoyed their food tremendously during their isolation especially Carvel’s whale shaped ice cream cakes which they all relied on to keep them happy. Until the night she got a 10:00 pm call from her doctor telling her they had to talk about her cholesterol readings. The ice cream almost killed her!

But, in Ali fashion she does try to make something good out of something bad. During the family’s isolation, she discovered “clamming” a solitary sport which has now grown into an obsession for her and a not so benefit for her loved ones who now seem to eat clams continuously. She also explains how what began as a purging of her basement, turned into a sobbing love letter to her from her family and how hard it became letting her daughter go when it was time for her to move into college.

But, with all her positivity, there were some not so nice lessons which were learned. Although they hardly had contact with the neighbors around them, when Ali discovered she had Covid they supported her by dropping notes into her mailbox saying if you need anything just call. Except for one neighbor who, of course is nameless, happened to see her husband George in a drug store and called the local rag to say he was out galivanting while his wife was on death’s door. So, it seems, just like us even celebrities can have horrible neighbors!

Overall, the essays are filled with sassy, funny, make you smile stories or heartfelt anecdotes which can make you tear up. But spread throughout the book are great stories with celebrity name drops. And having met Ali, I can honestly tell you she is the same way in person, real, funny and wonderfully gossipy!

Bet on It by Jodie Slaughter

Is it possible for two anxiety ridden adults both who have emotional challenges such as social anxiety disorder and panic attacks, both who are lonely and feel they are missing out on life, but are afraid to take a step ahead out of fear, can meet and fall in love? Bet on it!!

Aja Owens has fled to Greenbelt a small town because big cities give her too much anxiety. But even in a small town she still finds some things difficult, which is where she finds herself when at the Piggly Wiggly in the frozen food section she feels the panic coming. Using the tools she has been given by her therapist she tries to calm down, but nothing seems to be working until a handsome stranger comes over to her, takes pity on her and helps her through the crisis.

Walter Abbott fled Greenbelt years ago to live in a big city. He knows all about small town gossip and being made to feel like a loser. His parents had both been drug addicts and when they couldn’t take care of him, his grandmother stepped in. Of course, the whole town knew his story and taunted him from a young age. He began to have anxiety in social situations because he never knew what he would be facing. So, even though he loves his Gram he left for the city after college and has not returned since. Yes, he misses his Gram and the peach cobbler at the local restaurant, but nothing will ever get him to return. Until Gram has an accident and needs his help.

But when he takes his Gram to her weekly bingo game which accident or no accident, she cannot miss, lo and behold there sitting next to his Gram and talking to her no less as if they are long lost friends is the beautiful woman he helped at the Piggly Wiggly. He certainly knows the signs of a panic attack and although he did not want to embarrass her, he wanted to give her some encouragement.

Aja is shocked to see her knight in shining Piggly Wiggly armor and cannot believe he is related to the one person she is not too afraid to talk to, but to her surprise he never mentions their first encounter. Is he too good to be true? Aja, who has never won at bingo only goes for the companionship of Walter’s gram.

As they begin to get to know about each other and both awkwardly flirt, what starts out as a new friendship starts to become something more. Something neither of them knows really what to do with. And with Walter already saying he can’t wait to get back to the city, Aja decides to take this slow and agrees to go to a date with Walter to a different bingo hall because he has never won at bingo either!

After their first bingo date, and neither coming out a winner, they decide to continue going and place a bet on which of them will win bingo first, and let’s just say the prize is not money…

As their story continues and they realize they have so much in common and can feel each other’s fear and begin to understand that they are good for each other in so many ways, they still have certain obstacles which somehow, they are unable to get past. Knowing Walter will be going back home, Aja knows she can’t go with him, her anxiety too deep to go back there again. How do they proceed when it’s time to end this romance when Gram is back up on her feet again?

Bet on It is a wonderfully funny, yet empathetic look at what anxiety and stress can do to someone. And no one’s story is the same. But it hopefully will show those who suffer from this that they are not alone and if you keep at it, perhaps even if the anxiety never goes totally away, you can live a full life, by being honest with those who know you, get stronger and with that strength you can win whatever prize you dream of.

Thank you #NetGalley #St.Martin’sPress #BetonIt #JodieSlaughter for the advanced copy.

The Charmed List by Julie Abe

The Charmed List is an adorably sweet, touching young adult story about two teenagers and their families who were best friends for years until they were not. Although neither has forgotten the other the awkwardness they feel has made it difficult for them to connect again, let alone speak to each other. Oh, and to make the story more interestingly fun the families live in a secret area of town and use magic which mortals are forbidden to know about.

Ellie Kobata is awkward, with no self-confidence who believes she is non-existent to the other students where she is a soon to be senior in high school. She has one friend, a best friend named Lia who she could not live without. Lia unfortunately is mortal and knows nothing of Ellie’s secret magical life. Her best friend for years, Jack Yasuda from the magic community, suddenly ditched her for reasons she still does not quite understand, but as angry as she is at him, she still finds herself thinking about him constantly.

As their junior year comes to a close and Ellie and Lia are about to begin an exciting road trip to deliver merchandise to some of the magical shops her parent’s store services, (Lia thinks it’s just a fun road trip), Ellie has decided that she would prepare a list of items she would like to accomplish this summer to hopefully bring her out of her shell so she can have a fabulous senior year! She has made a list of 13 accomplishments she would like to succeed at even though they scare her to death. It is called The Charmed List.

But days before their adventure is to begin, thanks to Jack Yasuda, not only will Lia not be allowed to go, but she may have lost her only friend and she thinks it might be forever. To make matters worse, as punishment for what happened Ellie and Jack’s families decide that they will have to make the delivery trip together. Now she must spend time with someone she dislikes, does not want to talk to but deep down can’t seem to forget.

And just when she thinks it cannot get any worse, Jack finds her list! He offers to help, but she is mortified that he has seen some of the “activities” and makes him promise not to mention it ever again!

But as they begin the journey, they both start to see who they really are and what they have lost over their years of not speaking. They begin to understand how misunderstandings can happen and although they know they can never go backwards to what they had, you can truly move forward into a different relationship with better communicating and well, maybe a little bit of magic. Oh, and that list? Well, you’ll just have to read this “charming” book to see how it ends…

Thank you #NetGalley #WednesdayBooks #JulieAbe #TheCharmedList for the advanced copy.