Meant to Be Yours (Happily Inc., #5) by Susan Mallery – Excerpt and Feature

Publisher: HQN Books

Publication Date: October 22, 2019

Genre: Romance, Contemporary

Amazon

In Happily Inc, love means never having to say “I do”…

Wedding coordinator Renee Grothen isn’t meant for marriage. Those who can, do. Those who can’t, plan. But she never could have planned on gorgeous, talented thriller writer Jasper Dembenski proposing—a fling, that is. Fun without a future. And the attraction between them is too strong for Renee to resist. Now she can have her no-wedding cake…and eat it, too.

After years in the military, Jasper is convinced he’s too damaged for relationships. So a flirtation—and more—with fiery, determined Renee is way too good to pass up…until his flame becomes his muse.

Renee is an expert at averting every crisis. But is she finally ready to leap into the one thing that can never be controlled: love? “

I am SUPER excited to feature Meant to Be Yours by Susan Mallery today on my blog! When I was a teenager, a friend and I had it all planned out that we were going to be wedding planners together. That did not work out but it is still so fun to think about. So when I saw the synopsis for this, I knew I wanted to feature it and hopefully soon read it! Plus that cover is GORGEOUS!

“It might just be okay,” wedding coordinator Renee Grothen murmured softly to herself as she surveyed the wedding reception. She wouldn’t risk admitting everything had turned out as planned until the last guest had left, but four and a half hours in, things were going really well.

Jim and Monica Martinez were a sweet couple with a fun firefighter theme for their big day. There was a long tradition of firefighters on both sides of the family and plenty of cute touches in the wedding and reception.

Monica’s dress laced up the back and instead of white ribbon to cinch her gown, she’d used bright red. The centerpieces were ceramic boot vases painted to look like firefighter boots, filled with red, orange and yellow flowers. There was even a walk-through fountain at one end of the reception area, created with fire hoses, a pump and a lot of engineering.

Renee walked around the perimeter of the indoor reception space, looking for problems. So far, so good, she thought with cautious optimism. The cake had been cut, the bar service was about to end and the tone of the party had faded from raucous to comfortably tired—exactly as it should. With a little luck, things would wrap up on time and without a crisis. This was Monica and Jim’s day—Renee wanted it to be as perfect as possible. While she always took care of her clients, she tended to unleash her mother bear instincts for her special couples and Monica and Jim certainly qualified.

She spotted Pallas Mitchell, her boss, walking toward her. It was nearly ten on a Saturday night and Pallas, a pretty brunette only recently returned from maternity leave, yawned widely. When she spotted Renee she held up her hands, palms up.

“What can I say? I’ve been home with an infant. These wild late-night hours are going to take some getting used to.”

“No one’s judging,” Renee told her. “As I said at seven, at eight and again at nine, go home. I can handle this. You’re barely back and you need to give yourself time to adjust to the schedule.”

“You’ve been running things for nearly six months. You need a break.”

In truth, Renee was a little ragged around the edges, but she’d loved handling Weddings Out of the Box while Pallas had been gone. She’d enjoyed the challenges each unique wedding presented and watching all the details fall into place on the big day.

“I had lots of help,” Renee pointed out. “Hiring college students on summer break was a good idea.” And what they’d lacked in experience, they’d made up for in energy and enthusiasm.

“Now that I’m back, things can return to normal,” Pallas said, covering another yawn.

“Go home,” Renee urged. “Please. I can handle things here. I promise.”

“Okay. I will. Thanks. Don’t you dare come in tomorrow.” Pallas’s voice was firm. “For once, we don’t have a Sunday wedding. Enjoy the break.”

“I will.” Renee would probably pop in to do a little paperwork, but she wouldn’t stay long. “Are you coming to The Boardroom on Monday night?”

In a wedding destination town, the rhythms of the residents were determined by weekend weddings. Happily Inc’s workweek started on Wednesdays as the businesses geared up for the dozens of nuptials that occurred in multiple venues. Which meant the town’s Friday night was actually on Monday.

The Boardroom, a local bar, hosted game nights on Mondays. Board games ruled and tournaments were heated and fun as friends crushed each other at everything from Candy Land to Risk.

Pallas shook her head. “I’ll admit to being a bit of a worrier. When we went a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t stop thinking about Ryan. He’s only five months old. It’s too soon to leave him at night.”

Renee held in a smile. “Sure. I get that.”

“I know you don’t, but thank you for pretending. Have fun for me, too. Oh, Jasper’s back, so tell him hi, if you think of it.”

Jasper was back? Renee hadn’t heard. She liked knowing he’d returned from his big book tour. Not for any reason in particular, she amended hastily. Sure, he was nice, but there were a lot of nice guys in the world. There was just something about Jasper. Maybe it was because in addition to being good-looking and just a little dangerous, he wasn’t a forever kind of guy.

“I saw that!” Pallas grinned. “I totally saw that. You did the predatory smile thing I was never good at. You want to use him for sex! Did I know this?” She stomped her foot. “Did this happen while I was on maternity leave? What else went on while I was off having a baby?”

Renee laughed. “You’re reading way too much into my smile. I’m happy he’s home from his book tour. That’s all.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Jasper and I are not involved. I doubt we’ve had more than a three-sentence conversation.”

Not that it took many sentences to ask Your place or mine? And while the description of predatory was nice, it gave her too much credit. Would she stalk him and pounce? Not even on her best day. Would she say yes if the man asked? She smiled again. Oh, yeah, she would. Definitely. Okay, probably. If she was feeling brave. Because while she worked her butt off to give her couples their perfect happily-ever-after day, she knew it was never going to happen for her. Those who could—did. Those who couldn’t became wedding planners.

Avoiding relationships might be the smart choice, but it was also a lonely one. She knew Jasper was into the long-term, monogamous, not-serious kind of thing and she was pretty sure she could handle that. Assuming she was his type and he was interested. They could have some laughs, lots of sex and walk away completely unscathed in the heart department. Where was the bad?

“There’s something going on and you can’t convince me otherwise,” Pallas said. “You have depths. I’m very impressed. Okay, use Jasper and then tell me the details because hey, he’s got to be great.” She yawned again. “I’m such a lightweight. I’m leaving now.”

“Good night. Hug Ryan for me.”

“You know I will.”

Pallas walked out of the reception hall. Renee continued to circle the space, looking for any forgotten handbags or phones, and noting how long it would take the cleaning service to return the huge room to order. Doing her job and not thinking about the fact that Jasper was back—that was her.

A loud whoop got her attention. She turned and saw three teenaged guys running through the fountain at the far end of the big, open room. Each of them jumped, trying to touch the arc of water dancing overhead.

The younger brother, she thought as she made her way toward them. And his friends. No doubt they were bored after so many hours with not very much to do. Regardless, she was not going to have them disrupt the reception when it was so close to being over.

As she approached the running, jumping teens, she saw both sets of parents, along with the bride and groom, still dancing. They swayed in time with the music, oblivious to the fountain and the idiots messing with it. Then several things happened at once.

The younger brother started an extra long run toward the fountain. Jim let go of Monica and spun her out the length of their arms. Monica bumped her mom, who stumbled a little. Dad grabbed Mom, moving all of them closer to the fountain and the younger brother running, who had to swerve suddenly to avoid them. As he swerved, he lost his balance and slipped, tumbling into the fountain mechanism. One of the hoses broke free, wiggling and spraying water everywhere.

Renee saw it all happening and knew there was no way she was going to allow her beautiful bride to get soaked. She lunged for the hose, caught it and held it tightly against her chest as the bride’s father rushed to turn off the water to the hose. It took only seconds, but by then the entire fountain had spilled over and Renee was drenched, shivering and had water up her nose even as she wondered if she looked half as ridiculous as she felt.

The new Mrs. Martinez hurried over. “Renee, are you all right?” She turned on her brother. “How could you? This is a wedding, not a water park.”

Aware that end-of-wedding exhaustion could easily lead to emotions spiraling out of control, Renee quickly faked a smile.

“Monica, it’s fine. Don’t worry. Keeping you and the rest of the wedding party dry was my only concern.” She glanced at the water draining onto the floor and realized part of the fountain was still pumping out water. That couldn’t be good. If she couldn’t get everything turned off, she was going to have to call in one of those companies that took care of disasters like flooding. “Really. It’s no problem.”

“You’re dripping and the water’s rising. My dad went to find the main shutoff.”

Renee wrung out her hair and hoped her makeup wasn’t too badly smudged. Then she realized the water level in the reception hall was indeed climbing and hoped Monica’s father found the shutoff soon.

She was just about to go help him when he returned.

“All turned off.” He glanced at the mini flood. “Sorry about this.”

“It’s fine,” Renee lied, her tone soothing, because that was part of her job. To pretend all was well even when they needed to be figuring out how to build an ark.

The rest of the guests were heading out. Nothing like the threat of an unexpected flood to get people moving, she thought, trying to find the humor in the situation.

“I’m so sorry,” Monica told her as she held her dress out of the water and slipped out of her shoes.

“Don’t be. You had a wonderful wedding and reception. Why don’t you and Jim start gathering your things? I have a spare set of clothes in my office. I’ll get changed, then help you make sure you have everything.”

As she spoke, she noticed the water seemed to have settled at about the six- or seven-inch level. Yup, she was going to have to call someone. No doubt she would be here all night. Oh, joy.

“I’m really sorry,” Jim said. “We thought we’d planned for every contingency.” He glared at his new brother-in-law. “Except for stupid.” He turned back to her. “Let us know the cost of cleanup. We’ll pay for it.”

“Thank you. I think the deposit should take care of it but I’ll let you know if there’s a problem. Now if you’ll let me go get changed, I’ll be back with you in ten minutes.”

Monica nodded.

Renee slipped out of her shoes and walked through the ankle-deep water. When she reached her office upstairs, she carefully closed the door behind her before undressing, then slipped on jeans and a T-shirt. Not exactly professional, but she wasn’t going to worry about that right now. Before she returned to her bride and groom, she looked up the local disaster cleaning service. The number was in her files, but wasn’t one she had had to use before.

They picked up on the first ring.

“Happily Inc CleanUp. This is Hilde. How can I help you?”

“Hi. I’m Renee Grothen at Weddings Out of the Box. We had a firefighter wedding tonight with a big fountain. There was an accident with one of the hoses and now our main reception hall is flooded.”

There was a pause. “Um, did you say firefighter wedding? Never mind. How much water?”

“About six inches.”

“That’s a lot.”

“It was a big fountain.”

“Give us thirty minutes and we’ll be there.”

“Thank you.”

Renee hung up, gave herself a second to catch her breath, then headed back to deal with the bride, the groom, the flood and anything else that might happen tonight. Because with a wedding, it was always something.

Excerpted from Meant to be Yours by Susan Mallery, Copyright © 2019 by Susan Mallery, Inc.. Published by HQN Books.

SUSAN MALLERY is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of novels about the relationships that define women’s lives—family, friendship, romance. Library Journal says, “Mallery is the master of blending emotionally believable characters in realistic situations,” and
readers seem to agree—40 million copies of her books have sold worldwide. Her warm, humorous stories make the world a happier place to live. Susan grew up in California and now lives in Seattle with her husband. She’s passionate about animal welfare, especially that of the two ragdoll cats and adorable poodle who think of her as mom.

Wanting to Love You by Erin Rylie Cover Reveal

I am so excited to be sharing with you the cover reveal for Wanting to Love You by Erin Rylie!

Look at it! Just look at it! It’s so beautiful! I know I don’t usually post romance but I’ve read the first book of this series and it was so much fun! And this one sounds just as good!

Get the first book here:

Amazon

“Ten years ago, Becky Waters fled her hometown and moved to Houston, heartbroken and pregnant. After a long and contentious fight with her parents and Child Protective Services to get back the son her family stole from her, she finally has everything she’s ever wanted. Her life seems like it’s finally on the right track until the father of her child shows up, demanding to know why she hid the existence of their son from him for so many years. As old hurts are brought to the surface, the feelings Becky has fought for the last ten years return with a vengeance. Can she forgive and forget, or will she let the past ruin her chance with the only man she’s ever been able to imagine in her future?Reese Petrov has spent most of his adult life alone, licking his wounds after the devastation of a first love gone wrong. He’s focused on his career and nothing else, keeping everyone in his life at a distance. When he moves and meets his new partner at the Houston Police Department, he’s unexpectedly forced to face the one who got away. As he fights for a place in Becky and his child’s lives, a family tragedy brings him to his knees and forces him to realize that letting people in is the only way he can survive. Can he learn the lesson quickly enough to rebuild two of the most important relationships in his life?”

I’m a Montana born, Texas raised New Jersey transplant with a degree in hospitality. At 29 years old, I decided it was finally time for me to pursue my real passion in life – writing. I’ve been writing princess stories and LOTR fan-fiction since I was in middle school, so the transition into romance has been fun!

When I’m not writing, I’m reading (fantasy, sci-fi and romance are my genres) or working. I’m currently obsessed with Brooklyn Nine Nine which should tell you all you need to know about my sense of humor. 

Finally, I am 100% an old cat lady. My cats Socks and Kaz are little weirdos and I love them more than most people.

Seriously check out Erin Rylie and series! It’s a must read if you love romance!

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: April 15, 2014

Genre: Contemporary, YA, Romance

Adventure Rating: 3 Stars

| Amazon

” To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.”

I don’t normally read contemporaries, but I’m glad I picked this up! I had just read a heavier book and was in a bit of a funk over it, so this was the perfect fun, fast, cute read! It was sort of a pallet cleanser for me. And even though I had a couple of issues with it, I am still interested in reading the other books in the series!

The thing I did really like was the plot! I’m a sucker for a fake dating plot! I think they are so funny and cute and how could it not create a little va-va-voom between the characters?!

Okay the issues I have are a little sporadic. I liked all of the characters but they all had some major flaws. Maybe it’s my age (27), so I couldn’t relate anymore, I don’t know. Also, let me say, that I have had quite a few people tell me I reminded them of Lara Jean when I was in high school.

Lara Jean. She was so cute and naive. But I hated that she had a crush on her sister’s ex, Josh. Not that she did in the first place, but that she did after they broke up. Now, I don’t have sisters, only brothers, so maybe I don’t understand how she could do that. It just seemed kind of icky.

Josh. I know a lot of people liked him, but he was my least favorite character. He was kind of a schmuck, but acted like the nicest guy. Maybe he was both?

Peter. He was kind of the opposite of Josh. He was a sarcastic meanie some of the times, but he was actually really nice.

Also, I’ve got to say Margot was kind of annoying. She dumps her boyfriend so she can have fun in college. Wow. So mature…

Do y’all read contemporaries? What do you like?

*Disclaimer for CONTENT WARNING. This is so parents can make a decision. It does not necessarily reflect my personal views.

CONTENT WARNING: They are in high school so lots of sex talk and some bullying. Kissing scenes. Minor swearing.

OTHER CONTENT: Strong friendships, family bonds, forgiveness, how to navigate bullying.

*Gorgeous sign by Bookish Signs! I have a code too! Lauren20 to save on two or more items!*

White as Silence, Red as Song Review (Spoiler Free)

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Author: Alessandro D’ Avenia

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Publication Date: September 4, 2018

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

My Rating: 4 Stars

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Amazon | Books-A-Million| Barns & Noble

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Synopsis

“I was born on the first day of school, and I grew up and old in just two hundred days . . .”

Sixteen-year-old Leo has a way with words, but he doesn’t know it yet. He spends his time texting, polishing soccer maneuvers, and killing time with Niko and Silvia. Until a new teacher arrives and challenges him to give voice to his dreams.

And so Leo is inspired to win over the red-haired beauty, Beatrice. She doesn’t know Leo exists, but he’s convinced that his dream to win her over will come true. When Leo lands in the hospital and learns that Beatrice has been admitted too, his mission to be there for her will send him on a thrilling but heartbreaking journey. He wants to help her but doesn’t know how—and his dream of love will force him to grow up fast.

Having already sold over a million copies in Italy, Alessandro D’Avenia’s debut novel is considered the Italian The Fault in Our Stars. Now available in English for the first time, this rich, funny, and heartwarming coming-of-age tale asks us to explore the meaning—and the cost—of friendship, and shows us what happens when suffering bursts into the world of teenagers and renders the world of adults speechless.

Plot. I was very pleasantly surprised by this book. This was pitched as the Italian version of The Fault in Our Stars. I hated that book. (Please don’t hate me!!) But let me tell you, I LOVED this book! I cried. I NEVER cry while reading. I have no idea why. I just don’t. But this had the hope that The Fault in Our Stars was missing for me. I had so many feels! And it was just a beautiful story!

Characters. Leo was actually really sweet. The way he talked about his love and the way he treated her was just unheard of in today’s time. He wrote songs and letters to her. It was seriously the cutest thing ever! And I loved how steady Silvia was there for Leo. She was always there when he fell or needed something. I also adored his teacher! What an awesome guy to get involved and to care for his students. More teachers should be like that.

Final Thoughts. This was a relatively short book, but it was beautifully written. Again, I was super surprised how much I loved this book. I normally do not go for contemporaries, I usually find them boring. But this one had some missing piece that isn’t there in other books. I loved the overall message of this book, to never give up on your dreams, but to maybe reexamine them sometimes, and make them into something better and stronger.

Happy Adventuring

*I received a finished copy from TLC book tours for an honest review! I’m on the Instagram tour for this on September 12!*

*Post contains my Amazon affiliate link*

Spoiler Free Review of Melody’s Key

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“Everyone has problems, honey. Everyone. The question is can you love each other knowing full well that there is an imperfect human being staring right back at you.”  

Book: Melody’s Key

Author: Dallas Coryell

Publisher: AsherRain Publications

Type: New Adult Contemporary Romance 

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

Description taken from Goodreads:

Tegan Lockwood’s dreams were dead, sacrificed on the noble altar of duty before they ever had a chance to live. Her entire existence was disappearing into the abyss of apathy as she labored her days away keeping her family’s struggling business alive. There would be no emotion, no color, no beauty in her life. That is, until a mysterious visitor begins to draw her out of the darkness of her past towards something that will challenge the boundaries of her world, and unlock the most deeply held secrets of her heart.

Let’s get into this adventure starting with the good stuff.  I thought it was a really cute love story. I couldn’t help but think of a Hallmark movie when I was reading it. Not in a bad way (I love Hallmark movies) but just in the way that it was cheesy but a feel good story.

I thought that the characters were relatable in the sense that they handled their problems like a normal person. Which means they handled them badly but then they crawled out of despair and kept living on. It happens to everyone. I really liked Tegan’s personality. She  sacrificed going to art school to stay and help her parents company. I liked Mason enough. He seemed like a nice guy but some of his lines were just super cheesy. Now, let me tell you, my favorite characters were Tegan’s parents. I thought they were hilarious and great parents (with the exception of Tegan’s younger sister, who was 16 and got drunk a lot, had a lot of sex, and dressed very scandalously… What the heck parents?) Anyways, I loved them. Tegan’s dad was the one who said the quote above.

Unfortunately there were things I didn’t like. For one, the writing was overly flowery and had too many adverbs. In other places, the book would just jump to a different scene. It wasn’t a smooth transition. I had to try and figure out what was going on and then just keep reading. Another thing was, Mason’s lines were way too cheesy at some points and made me roll my eyes. I get it, he’s a musician, but come on man! Speak normally! I also didn’t like that he took her to an EDM show (love that music but it’s where they were in the building) but he took her to the VIP lounge where they were offered drugs and people to have sex with. She was clearly uncomfortable but he was just like I don’t do those things but it’s normal for this industry. Um, okay, so like, why are you there?! Then they got completely plastered and called it a great night! Wow. You probably don’t even remember that night… So yeah, there were a few things I didn’t like.

My takeaway:

Cute, cheesy, contemporary romance that I liked overall.