The Kiss Quotient, Helen Hoang

**Review**

The Kiss Quotient, Helen Hoang
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
When I finished reading The Bride Test in May, I immediately added The Kiss Quotient to my June BOTM box. I have zero regrets.

The Kiss Quotient was hot, steamy and pretty much perfection. I mean, I read it in less than 48 hours. Couldn’t put it down.

As in The Bride Test, the main character is autistic. Hoang’s writing brings a face and emotion to a topic and population that we often forget feels and loves as deeply as the rest of us. She removes the stigmas and delivers real, raw human emotion.

If you love a good, solid romance with LOTS of steam and deep, important topics, I cannot recommend Helen Hoang’s books enough.

Pretty Revenge, Emily Liebert

**Review**
Pretty Revenge, Emily Liebert (7/27/19)
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
There are few things I love more than suspense novels that have strong characters and stories. The ones that don’t rely on suspense to steer the plot.

Olivia/Kerrie and Jordan/Jordana were robust, strong and deeply flawed characters. The revelations of their history was perfectly tied together and laid out.

I didn’t know who I was rooting for more. I wanted them both to “win” and come out on top.

As with most suspense novels, the ending came fast and furious and I wanted more. All the best books leave me wanting more because I’ve connected with the characters.

Thank you to Gallery books and NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Summer of 69, Elin Hilderbrand

**Review**

Summer of ‘69, Elin Hilderbrand

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is the first Elin Hilderbrand book that I’ve read and honestly, I’m mad at myself for waiting this long.

I absolutely adored this book and family. I saw a bit of myself in Kate, Jessie, Blair and Kirby. Through Hilderbrand’s words, I felt their story come to life.

Summer of ‘69 is a beautiful story that wholly embodied what I imagine the late 1960s to be like. And while I’ve never been to Nantucket, I feel as though I can say I’ve been now.

I have a huge Elin Hilderbrand TBR stack and I’m ready to dive in.

The First Mistake, Sandie Jones

**Review**

The First Mistake, Sandie Jones

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I won’t lie, it took me a hot minute or hour to get into this book. There was quite a bit of set up before the first big “ahhh! What?!” moment.

In the beginning, I was annoyed with Alice. By the time we got to Beth’s story, I liked Alice a bit more. Beth? Girl. I wanted to shake some sense into her.

Once I got to the second part, I couldn’t put this book down. It is a solid suspense novel with a few predictable twists and one I didn’t see coming.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Summer I Met Jack, Michelle Gable

**Review**

The Summer I Met Jack, Michelle Gable

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I can’t decide if I want this to be more truth than fiction.

The life Gable imagines for Alicia Darr was so robust and real. I felt as though I knew her. The portrait her words painted was both beautiful and a little tragic.

Alicia was a worldly woman with a justifiably cynical view of reality, yet she allowed herself to be vulnerable to a man that didn’t have her best interests it needs in mind. With every page, I wanted to leap in an shake her. Surely she saw who he really was?!

I received a copy of The Summer I Met Jack from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Excuse me while I go research everything there is to know about Alicia and her relationship with JFK.

My Lovely Wife, Samantha Downing

**Review**
My Lovely Wife, Samantha Downing
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Phew. That was intense. Not too many twists but enough to keep me hanging on to every page.

I’m still processing that epilogue. It left me feeling a bit like Verity did… not sure who I trust.

I will say that My Lovely Wife made me feel a lot better about my marriage. At least we aren’t … no spoilers.

6.4.19 InstaShortie – Heart First

Late again. Always, always late. My mother is going to kill me!

I silently cursed myself. I knew I didn’t have time to curl my hair, but I did it anyway. It just fell so much softer when it was curled; my platinum blonde hair framing my face perfectly. I could have skipped the dramatic smokey eye, but the shimmery purple made my blue eyes glow. I could have simply thrown my hair into a messy bun, slipped on my favorite Vanderbilt hoodie and a pair of jeans. My makeup could have been more natural and less dramatic. Of course, I didn’t need a stop at Starbucks. Caffeine was necessary, but it was entirely possible for me to make my own rather than standing in a line to order a six buck latte.

Yes, I could have been on time. But if I had, I wouldn’t have met him. And that would have been a tragedy. I might have missed everything.

His blue eyes wouldn’t have pierced my soul when he turned around to excuse himself after bumping into my bag. That sweet smirk might never have been tossed my way. I might never have known how hot his skin would feel against mine.

“Lonnie,” he said, offering his hand. I took it and held on for just a bit longer than was necessary. I did not want to let go. “Lonnie Rhodes.”

“Quinn Smithson,” I replied and smiled. His hand still warm and tight around mine. I’d never been one to fall for the cliche of love at first sight, but as I studied  his face, I knew there was something about him. It called to me like a favorite song playing in the background. Subtle. Sweet. Transformative.

He dropped my hand. Disappointment rushed through me.

“Let me buy you a coffee.” He winked, and I couldn’t say no.

“Not necessary, but thank you.” I felt the flames rise in my cheeks. I willed myself to get it together. I ordered my Americano and followed him to the side of the counter.

I checked the time on my phone. It was almost nine. Mom was definitely going to kill me. Or, at least harass me for hours on end about my inability to follow a schedule or read the time.

“Late?” He asked. His eyes sparkled as he gazed at me. It was if he were drinking me in, memorizing my face. The feeling was intoxicating.

“Yeah,” I said and nodded. “It’s my dad’s fiftieth birthday.”

I couldn’t take my eyes off his face. Everything about him was perfect. The way his chestnut brown hair fell in his eyes, the way it curled subtly at the ends. His sharp jawline and cheekbones. Those soft, kissable lips made me want to know what they might feel like pressed against mine. Electricity flowed through my veins at the thought.

“Where’s the party?” He asked.

“In Franklin,” I answered without thinking. “That’s where they live.”

“Fancy,” he said. “What’s a Franklin girl doing slumming in East Nasty?”

I laughed. It was a question my own mother often asked. “I like living away from the pomp and circumstance of old money.”

It was half true. I did like the calmness of the suburb my parents lived in. But the big houses and perfectly manicured lawns were suffocating. Mom’s house was practically covered in plastic. My brother and I were never allowed to touch anything. The house was always immaculate. Pristine. Much like the images of our family my mother plastered all over Facebook.

When I told her I was moving to East Nashville, she’d nearly vomited on her Tory Burch boots. Her nose turned up at the name as she spat it back at me. Though, that reaction was not nearly as bad as her response to my chosen profession. She couldn’t wrap her head around my desire to work and live in an area known for its crime and low incomes. Mom had never once stepped foot in my apartment, always insisting I come to them. I was fairly certain my mother had never been south of the airport, despite spending her entire life in Nashville.

“Hmm.” His lips vibrated. “‘Maybe I should have let you buy my latte.

“Next time,” I offered.

“It’s a date.” His smile spread across his face.

My Apple Watch buzzed on my wrist. Mom was calling for the hundredth time this morning. I help up a finger and mouthed an apology before turning my back to him and answering the phone.

“Hey, Mom,” I said casually as if I weren’t aware of the fact that I was supposed to be somewhere.

“Where are you?” She hissed. I could hear my dad in the background telling her to calm down.

Oh, Dad, you know better. I silently scolded him. My mother didn’t understand the meaning of calm down and bristled at the suggestion she do so.

“I’m at Starbucks right by the interstate. I’ll be there in half an hour.”

“You were supposed to be here an hour ago.” The annoyance in her voice crept through the phone. I pulled it away from my ear.

“Mom, I told you it be there at nine. It’s just now nine. I’ll see you soon. Love you. Bye!”

I hung up before she could argue and returned my attention to Lonnie. Suddenly, I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay and talk to him. Let his eyes hold me captive. I could get lost in them. For a moment, I did. I dove heart first into the ocean blueness and allowed myself to drown in the possibilities they held.

“Gotta go?” He asked and handed me my latte.

“Sadly,” I said and offered a shrug. “I am late for my Dad’s birthday party.”

We both stood there, my hand on his. He didn’t let go of the drink. I didn’t let go out his hand. I didn’t know if I could.

“I am going to hold you to that coffee date,” he said. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Quinn Smithson.”

“Likewise, Lonnie Rhodes.” His name rolled off my tongue smoothly. It made my lips tingle. Get it together, Quinn.

He offered one final smirk before heading to leave.

“Wait!” I called as I followed him out. “Don’t you need my phone number?” Even I could hear the desperation in my voice.

“You have mine,” he replied and nodded to the cup in my hand. I turned it and noticed he’d written his name and phone number on the sleeve.

I giggled and mouthed, “oh.”

Then, as quickly as he’d walked into my life, he was gone. I climbed into my Acura MDX, a graduation gift from Dad, and let my head rest on the back of the seat. I closed my eyes and images of his face appeared. I was fairly certain I’d be dreaming about him tonight.

Twice in a Blue Moon, Christina Lauren

“Have you ever seen the stars from this exact place?”

Up until that line, I was in. Tate’s character had my attention. Then Sam uttered that line from the grass under the London stars and I was gone. Swoon city. I loved literally everything about Twice in a Blue Moon … except, maybe Ian. He served a purpose, but I wanted to punch him.

This was my first time reading a book by Christina Lauren, and I gotta say I am kicking my past self for not picking one up sooner. The writing is flawless, the storytelling is impeccable and the characters just felt real. Despite being set in London and a movie set—two places I’ve never been, I felt like I was there with Tate, Charlie, Sam, Nana and everyone.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Lock Every Door, Riley Sager

**Review**

Locke Every Door, Riley Sager (7/2/19)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

That was a hell of a ride. I could not put this book down. Lock Every Door was perfectly creepy. Every page had me questioning what was happening. The ending was very satisfying.

I know this is on several Bookstagrammer’s TBRs. I need you all to read it so we can discuss.

Thank you NetGalley & Dutton for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.

5.29.19 InstaShortie – Run

Pink, purple and orange streaks burst across the sky. My hands gripped the steering wheel so tight I feared my fingers might pop off. I didn’t dare look in the rear view. What was behind me wasn’t anything worth looking back on. There was nothing fond about those memories. Nothing I wanted to take with me. Everything faded into a bleak darkness that I wished would swallow me whole.

Desperate for a distraction, I turned the radio on. Static from the preprogrammed station greeted me. The signal likely went out a few hundred miles ago. I wasn’t sure how far I’d driven, but I was certain it wasn’t far enough. I could drive all night and all day without stopping and it still wouldn’t be far enough.

I blinked. My eyes heavy from staring down an open road for hours. I didn’t want to stop, but I needed to. My eyes caught the glow of a small town on the next exit.

The neon lights sparked on and off, illuminating the vacancy sign. According to the last city limit sign I’d passed, I was just passed Cape Girardeau, Missouri. My mother had always insisted I not travel alone, but if I did, always pick a brightly lit exit with at least one franchised fast food restaurant with a name and a logo I recognized. According to her, McDonald’s and Burger King made an exit or town legitimate and less likely to attract serial killers or rapists.

This exit had neither of those. The motel I chose preferred cash and didn’t offer HBO. There wasn’t a fast food chain in sight. If she weren’t already disowning me, this moment would have solidified her decision.

“No daughter of mine,” she’d say, scolding and judging. Her mouth soured into a frown.

My only requirement was that the exit had a motel or hotel with an empty bed. This exit met that. I wasn’t staying long. Eight hours max. Six to sleep and a nice, long, hot shower.

The clerk handed me a key. An actual key; not a keycard. I couldn’t recall the last time I’d been in a hotel with a metal key attached to a hard plastic key tag. Heavy and foreign in my hands, I slipped it into the keyhole and pushed the door open.

Stale cigarette smoke and old, lingering recirculated air caught my nose, I fought back the sneeze, not wanting to inhale anymore than I already had to. Flicking on the light revealed orange and mustard yellow decor dating back to well before my birth. The comforter on the bed looked as itchy as I was sure it felt. The burgundy and white floral pattern did nothing for the room.

As long as it’s free of bed bugs. I thought, adding another item to my list of requirements. It only had two and for now, that seemed like plenty.

I’d been on the road for eight hours now. Having stopped no less than four times to pee, eat or get gas. Every two hours. That’s it. I timed it as perfectly as I could with little planning.

My eyes blurred from exhaustion. The tears I’d shed hours ago had long since dried, but looking in the mirror the evidence remained. My brown eyes were highlighted by red veins and outlined with dark circles and streaked mascara.

I raked my fingers through my hair, pulling out tangles and loose strands. I couldn’t recall the last time I’d seen my natural hair color, but the familiar deep auburn shade I spent hundreds on every month dulled in the fluorescent lights. The lights did little to flatter the rest of me. My pale skin was nearly translucent under them.

In my haste, I hadn’t even packed a toothbrush, much less a hairbrush. I splashed cold water from the rusted tap on my face, attempting to wash away what makeup remained. Unwrapping the soap on the counter, I tried not to think about the feature story I’d seen on how hotels reuse soaps.

Peeling off my tank top, I tossed it into the room, careful to make sure it landed on the chair. The shower handle was just as rusted as the faucet in the sink. A burst of maroon water flowed out before turning clear. I waited another minute before pulled the  lever for the shower. My jeans landed next to my tank top, followed by my bra and underwear.

The water reached an acceptable temperature, but not nearly as hot as I’d have preferred. I threw a towel on the floor to have something soft to step on when I finished and then stepped into the lukewarm stream of water.

The hotel shampoo gave me less confidence about its freshness status, but at this point my standards had already been lowered. It lathered and rinsed, what more could I ask for? I squirted a generous amount of conditioner into my hands and worked it through my hair. At home, my conditioner was a deep treatment masque meant for less frequent use. Out of habit, I let the cheap excuse for a conditioner soak and sit on my hair while I scrubbed the rest of my body with the bar soap and Brillo pad of a washcloth.

Nothing in this motel would pass for soft or luxurious. I’m not spoiled, per say, but my job paid for four and five star hotels when I traveled.

Nope. Do not think about work. Do not dwell on the past, Vic, it’s not worth it. I scolded myself.

I rinsed my hair and pulled open the shower curtain. It wasn’t the long, refreshing shower I’d spent the last 400 miles dreaming about, but it would suffice. The white towel that I grabbed was at least very white and very clean, but it was rough and scratchy. I dried quickly and pulled the one pair of clean underwear I’d packed in my backpack and slipped them on. In addition to the underwear, I also grabbed a change of clothes and a t-shirt. I slipped on the t-shirt and laid out the clothes for tomorrow.

My hair would have to air dry, I decided. Without tools and product, it wasn’t worth attempting to use the motel’s hairdryer. Rubbing the towel over my head, I tried to tousle it dry. It would eventually settle into a mess of untamed curls.

I sat on the bed and pulled out my phone.

No missed calls or texts, but my emails and calendar notifications were too many to count. I deleted them all before going into my settings and disconnecting my work email. As tempting as it was to read the messages, I knew nothing good would come up it.

Up next was social media. I logged into my Facebook app and disabled my account without even checking the notifications. Then did the same on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Tomorrow, I’d find an AT&T store to trade in my phone and change my number. I assumed I had at least another twelve hours before anyone noticed my absence.

If they noticed.

Lying in the dark in an unfamiliar bed in a town I’d never been to brought a sense of peace. This was what I’d been working towards. A fresh start. A clean slate. No obligations. No chains. Nothing to remind me of the life I’d never wanted. Every mistake erased. A million secrets to keep.

Everything is alright. I whisper into the darkness of the car. I am safe.

I wasn’t running, I reassured myself. This wasn’t some lame attempt to grab his attention or make him miss me. This was for me. I needed this.

I’m not running away from the past. I’m chasing the future. My future.