Bittersweet, by Lyz Kelley: A Beautiful Addition to the Elkridge Series (Book Review)

Introducing Bittersweet

an Elkridge Novel

by Lyz Kelley

Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance, Single Parent Romance

Series: The Elkridge Series

Release Date:  August 27, 2018

Tour Hosts: Bare Naked Words

Synopsis

Cover of Bittersweet, an Elkridge NovelStarting over is never easy, but in Elkridge, Colorado, where newcomers are welcome, and friends become family, it’s possible to find yourself again.

Leza promised to return to Elkridge after she finished her FBI undercover assignment. Only the local sheriff didn’t keep his promise to be there when she returned. Now she’s searching for a way to rebuild her life.

Heath applied for the deputy position because he wanted to raise his newly-adopted niece in a small town. He’s not interested in more complications—until he meets the town’s newest resident.

Heartbroken, Leza is unable to risk having her hopes shattered again. He’s sworn to protect and serve, but Leza doesn’t want that either.

Can Heath’s single-dad charm and captivating openness heal Leza’s heart?

Click on the link below to add Bittersweet to your TBR on Goodreads!

My Review of Bittersweet

BittersweetBittersweet by Lyz Kelley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bittersweet is a beautiful story of two “lost” souls who find each other and, in doing so, begin the process of healing and becoming whole again. The theme is familiar, similar to others in the Elkridge series, and for continuity’s sake, the storylines overlap to some extent, but each book is unique, featuring interesting, well-developed characters that stay in your heart long after you’ve read the last page. And while I think Bittersweet could be read as a standalone novel, I recommend reading the series in order to fully appreciate the impact of this story and the contributions of its secondary characters to the reading experience.

Bittersweet is what I like to call a “cozy romance.” It’s warm and inviting, immersive yet easy to read. Lyz Kelly has a unique voice that infuses just the right amount of humor, heat, suspense, angst, and action to hold your interest. The reading experience itself is cozy, but the sometimes raw but always powerful emotions, plot twists, and edge-of-your-seat subplots keep you just enough on edge to keep you guessing until the end.

The Characters

Leza is a tough-as-nails former FBI agent, a survivor with a scarred body and a broken heart, looking to heal and make a home in the small town of Elkridge, Colorado – the same small town where her former lover Sam, the town’s sheriff, lost his life while investigating the same drug and sex trafficking operation she infiltrated and helped to bring down before turning in her badge for the final time.

Heath is a former Marine, scarred by the horrors of war in Afghanistan, who gave up his military career to raise his young niece, Ellie, following the tragic death of his sister. Overwhelmed by the changes in his life, struggling to make ends meet while parenting a grieving child, and studying for his new career as an Elkridge deputy, he is often exhausted, lonely, and more than a little bit lost.

Until he meets Leza, who piques his curiosity and almost immediately captures his heart.

The Conflict

Leza doesn’t want a relationship, especially with a man in uniform who could lose his life in the line of duty and force her to re-live the trauma of Sam’s death. Headstrong and stubborn, Leza is determined to make it on her own without letting anyone get too close – no matter how handsome and irresistible he is. Heath is ready to settle down and take a chance on loving Leza, and if he only had himself to worry about, he would happily do so. But he also knows he can’t risk bringing Leza fully into Ellie’s life – no matter how much he wants and needs her -until she is willing and able to stay.

Recommendation

Four Gold Stars

Bittersweet is a perfect title for this story. It is simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking. Lyz delicately balances the hope and despair experienced by all three of its main characters. She captures and beautifully portrays the excitement of new love, and lovingly conveys the humor and tenderness of a tough Marine who is fumbling–and sometimes stumbling–as an exhausted, well-intentioned, but inexperienced single parent. She also accurately and relatably depicts the devastating emotional consequences of trauma and loss, coupled with the overwhelming fear of losing again.

If you are a fan of Emily March and Debbie Macomber, you will especially enjoy the approachable, relatable novels of the Elkridge and the Lonely Ridge series – and I highly recommend you read them all. With fall on the horizon, these are perfect stories to warm you on the inside and out.

View all my reviews

Teaser photo from Bittersweet by Lyz Kelley

Buy Bittersweet

on Amazon US

Discover the Elkridge Series

This series beautifully captures the emotionally charged, complex dynamics that come with being part of any community. I hope you laugh and reach for a few tissues as the characters discover what it means to be loved, supported and accepted by the people who mean the most.

Available as a 6-book series or as individual titles on Amazon.com

Meet Lyz Kelley

Award-winning author Lyz Kelley resides in a small community in Colorado with her husband and several four-legged family members. She’s a disaster in the kitchen, a compulsive neat freak, and tea snob, a lover of board games, gardening, and painting.  She loves writing about strong women who have endured challenges and the men who enrich their lives.

A healing love is at the heart of her book series. Creating wounded yet amazing characters—discovering what drives them, frightens them, heals them, makes them laugh—is what gives her joy. Lyz is pleased to share that joy with her masterfully written stories.

To keep tabs on her newest releases, connect with Lyz by signing up for her newsletter at LyzKelley.com. Members receive a copy of Unmistaken and learn about thoughtful giveaways, Members may even get the opportunity to receive advanced reader copies. Check out LyzKelley.com for more information.

Follow Lyz

Website: https://www.lyzkelley.com/index.html

Newsletter Sign Up: www.LyzKelley.com

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YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQFoD1TFtfhff2Hb1f1iBcw

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/60669260-lyz-kelley

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Lyz-Kelley/e/B01N4AYJUL/

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/lyz-kelley

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Dirty Rich Cinderella Story – A Sexy New Standalone Romance from Lisa Renee Jones

Book cover, Dirty Rich Cinderella Story by Lisa Renee Jones

I’m LOVING this sexy new standalone from Lisa Renee Jones…

Dirty Rich Cinderella Story

by Lisa Renee Jones

Release Date: May 23, 2018

SEDUCED FOR A NIGHT. TAKEN FOREVER.

With only nine months left at Stanford, and despite being top of her law school class, Lori Havens takes leave to care for her sick mother. That means she juggles three jobs, the best of which is a researcher for novelist and syndicated columnist of “Cat Does Crime,” Cat Summer.

One evening after finishing up her work at Cat’s apartment building, Lori has an encounter with a sexy stranger and does something out of character. She goes home with him. The night is perfect, he’s perfect, wealthy, powerful and from out of town. Morning comes, and despite their connection, Lori leaves before he finds out she’s far from the equal he believes her to be. She’s not a charity case and she’s not after his money. She will make her own. In other words, she leaves before her prince charming finds out she’s no princess.

Flash forward a few months, Lori’s mother is healing, and Cat’s husband, Reese, has merged his firm with another and Lori lands an internship there, with school credit and scholarship money. Everything is falling into place. That is until fate reveals a wicked twist of events and Lori walks into a conference room to find her new boss, Cole Brooks, one of the partners, is her one-night prince charming. One sizzling shared look across a boardroom, and it’s clear: this man is not done with her. It’s not long before Lori is informed that she’ll be working high profile cases with her one-night prince charming which will require long nights and travel, starting immediately.

A photo and quote from Dirty Rich Cinderella Story by Lisa Renee jones

BUY DIRTY RICH CINDERELLA STORY

Amazon US ➜ http://mybook.to/DRCinderellaAmazon

B&N ➜ http://bit.ly/2EW2bNs

iBooks ➜ https://apple.co/2HysnmE

Cover Photo and Promo Banner for Dirty Rich Cinderella Story by Lisa Renee Jones

My Review – 4.5 Stars

If you’ve read my previous reviews of Lisa’s work, you know that Sean, from the Dirty Money series, is at the top of my heroes list. With Dirty Rich Cinderella Story, Cole Brooks nearly knocked Sean off his pedestal, but not quite. He’s everything I love in an alpha male—gorgeous, powerful, determined, intelligent, charming, and rich; but he’s also thoughtful, generous, and full of integrity. He’s confident, but not arrogant or selfish. He’s also slightly conflicted and possessive, which adds dimension to his character. He’s the whole sexy hero package. I wanted more of him.

Lori, the heroine, is deeply conflicted as a result of personal traumas and disappointments, and as a result, she gets in her own way throughout the story. She’s quick to judge and even quicker to leap to conclusions – most of which are flawed. She wants Cole, but can’t seem to fully commit for at least 80% of the book, and it’s often frustrating (but necessary to the plot). Lori is smart, driven, and determined, but also over-reactive and stubborn. In Lori’s world, there is only black and white, no shades of gray. The disappointments of life experience influence her decisions and make her resistant to meet Cole halfway – that’s her biggest challenge as she struggles with her attachment to, and need for, Cole – the Prince Charming in her Cinderella story.

Cole and Lori are powerful as a couple, personally and professionally – their desire for each other is so hot that sparks fly off the page even before the sexy times begin. They are as intense and passionate as can be. They’re intellectual and sexual equals, and their push-pull power dynamic is fully expressed in the bedroom…and everywhere else.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story, and was delighted to see a few Walker Security favorites in the mix. Reece, Cat, Adam, and Rick always bring an element of excitement to the plot; their involvement in the story feels comforting and familiar, but also adds a little humor when it’s needed most.

The only thing missing for me in this delightfully seductive story was the element of risk and suspense that I crave in Lisa’s stories. I kept waiting for something to go horribly wrong – something that would test their relationship in a dramatic way. I won’t say I was disappointed – but I’m an adrenaline junkie and love a romantic suspense angle that builds to a dramatic conclusion (see my previous comments about Sean and the Dirty Money series!).

I may add more to this review as I give it a little more thought, but for now, just trust me, buy it or borrow it, and read it. This fairy tale is a keeper – a must for romantics everywhere.

AN EXCERPT FROM DIRTY RICH CINDERELLA STORY…

I own you.

With those words, my words, my intent in the air, and my fingers still tangled in Lori’s hair, I kiss her, a deep, possessive kiss meant to claim her, take her, make her mine, if only for this night. And she knows it too, because when my lips part hers, she pants out, “No one owns me.”

“Then, sweetheart, you’ve never been properly fucked.” I slide my hands under her jacket, settling my palms on her shoulders.

“I guess that depends on how you define properly.”

I turn her to face in the opposite direction, dragging the jacket down her arms and tangling it around her wrists, and then I lean in close. “As dirty as possible,” I promise. “And with you on my tongue, in as many ways as we both find possible.”

“Is this how you own me?” she demands. “By binding my arms?”

“As much as I’d like to have you at my mercy, sweetheart,” I say, tossing the jacket aside, and turning her to face me, “I’m selfish enough to want your hands and mouth fully available, in any way, shape, or place you so choose to use them.” I walk us backward, toward the oversized chair made perfectly for the kind of hot, wild fuck in our near future, before my hands fall from her waist. “I want to watch you undress.”

“When do you undress?” she challenges.

“We have one condom, sweetheart. Let’s make it last. Undress for me, Lori.”

Her teeth scrape her bottom lip, and for just a moment, her eyes cut, but not before I see the flicker of nerves in her stare. And right then, I know that I’ve read her accurately up to this point. I know that her control is both a necessity and a wall that protects her. I know that no one has made it safe for her to leave those things at the door. No one has ever seen her really truly naked and the only way that happens is to do exactly what I’m doing. Push her out of her comfort zone, pull her into the moment, where she forgets the walls, and lives nowhere but here in the moment. That’s the place where nothing exists but the two of us.

Her eyes meet mine again, and I see the decision in them. She’s not going to run like she did on the street tonight. She unzips her skirt and caresses it down her slender, but curvy hips. It pools at her feet, and she kicks it aside, allowing me to admire her long legs in lacy thigh-high hose, my gaze catching on the slender strip of lace in the vee of her body.

Her fingers catch on the hem of her blouse, and she tries to hide the small, inhaled breath of courage she draws before pulling it and her loose bra over her head. She tosses it and stands before me, creamy pale perfection in nothing but silk and lace, her breasts high, full, nipples puckered to a pretty pink that will soon be in my mouth. “You’re beautiful,” I say. “Come here.”

“Quid pro quo,” she declares. “I’m naked, you’re naked.”

We’re still doing the push and pull, but I don’t mind, not when my mouth is soon to be all over her body, which means her mouth will soon be all over my body. I don’t want her kneeling before me unless it’s to put her mouth on my cock. That’s not my goal, not this time, at least. It’s to own her, and that means she is so damn present, she can’t think, she can only feel. That takes trust and I decide to meet her halfway. I sit down and take off a shoe, showing it to her before setting it down.

“So now I get a socked foot?” she teases, and I can feel a hint of her tension easing away, her comfort in her own skin begins to settle into place. I can feel her easing into me and the night, letting me glimpse the real woman, not the stranger.

And I find that I surprise myself by how much I want to know this woman, not just fuck her.

“The pants don’t come off with the shoes on,” I tell her, and by the time I’ve removed the second shoe, she’s standing in front of me, every creamy white, naked inch of her. She grabs it and tosses it.

“Now the pants,” she orders, making it clear that she’s no submissive, that she can hold her own, and I fucking love it. “Or the shirt.”

I reach for her hips and walk her between my legs. “You’ve distracted me,” I tell her, my lips brushing her belly, my tongue drawing a circle. She trembles beneath my mouth, and I glance up at her. “You’re owned when you can think of nothing but the person you’re with. Nothing but what they might do to you now, and in the next moment.” I twine the string at her hips in my fingers. “Or where they might lick, kiss, or touch.” I drag her panties down her legs and then lower my mouth to her sex, where I let my breath tease her. “Tell me to lick you,” I order.

Her fingers curl around the material over my shoulders. “No.”

I bite my bottom lip and shake my head. “That’s too bad, because I really wanted to know how you taste.” I nip her hip and when she gives a surprised yelp I lave the wound with my tongue, glancing up at her. “Do you want me to—?”

“Yes.”

“Say it, Lori…”

Photo and Quote from Dirty Rich Cinderella Story by Lisa Renee Jones

ABOUT LISA

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lisa Renee Jones is the author of the highly acclaimed INSIDE OUT series.

In addition to the success of Lisa’s INSIDE OUT series, she has published many successful titles. The TALL, DARK AND DEADLY series and THE SECRET LIFE OF AMY BENSEN series, both spent several months on a combination of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling lists. Lisa is also the author of the bestselling WHITE LIES and LILAH LOVE series.

Prior to publishing, Lisa owned multi-state staffing agency that was recognized many times by The Austin Business Journal and also praised by the Dallas Women’s Magazine. In 1998 Lisa was listed as the #7 growing women owned business in Entrepreneur Magazine.

CONNECT WITH LISA

Facebook ➜ https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLisaReneeJones

Newsletter ➜ http://lisareneejones.com/newsletter-sign-up/

Twitter ➜ https://twitter.com/LisaReneeJones

Instagram ➜  http://instagram.com/lisareneejones

Goodreads ➜ https://www.goodreads.com/LisaReneeJones

 

So Good: A Sexy, Funny Romance by Nicola Rendell – Blog Tour

 

Tour Banner for So Good by Nicola Rendell

 

 

 

 

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On the roof of a house outside Truelove, Maine, master carpenter Max Doyle looks down through a skylight and sees the most beautiful woman he’s ever laid eyes on. She’s naked, she’s gorgeous, and everything about her is perfect, down to the ball-busting tattoo of a rose that wraps around her hip. But it isn’t just any woman making his knees buckle. It’s his best friend, Rosie Madden. And as he stands there, mesmerized and precariously close to toppling off the roof, he knows he’ll never, ever be able to look at her the same way again.

Rosie can’t help but notice that Max is suddenly acting very strange—lots of long stares, totally tongue-tied, and not at all like the slightly cocky hunk she’s proud to call her best friend. She can’t figure it out, until later that night when Max rescues her from the world’s worst date, challenges her to a game of pool, and shows her just exactly what she’s got him thinking about. Repeatedly.

But life is complicated. Rosie’s cat, Julia Caesar, wants to eat Max’s dog Cupcake for an afternoon snack. A dream job threatens to pull them apart. And another glance through the skylight changes everything, one more time. Yet try as they might, they can’t go back to being just friends, because falling in love with the one you’ve always adored?

It feels so good.

Read my Review of So Good on Goodreads

Max

As I unlocked the door to my houseboat, I heard it. At first, it sounded like a duck paddling, but then I heard something else—a panting, or a gasping. For a second, it died down. It didn’t worry me, really, because the docks were full of weird noises, and boats were noisy as fuck. But I turned the deadbolt turned, the sound got louder and more frantic. Whatever it was, it didn’t sound good and it sure as hell didn’t sound like a duck. I let my work belt slide off my shoulder onto the deck, and looked down in the water, gripping the taffrail. There in the shadows, gasping, paddling, and panicking, I saw something small and wet and terrified.
​Holy fuck. It was a dog. A tiny, drowning dog.

​Fully clothed, boots on, I jumped into the water off the sternside. I plunged in deep, submerged in a world of shadowy barnacle-crusted dock pilings and chains holding anchors far below. Holding my breath and looking up toward the sunshine, through the bubbles that came down with me, I saw it. No bigger than a chicken, and kicking hard. I breaststroked toward the dog, aiming to come up right below it, but the salt water stung my eyes, and I closed them out of reflex. When I surfaced, it had gotten a few feet away. It was just a tiny thing, soaking wet, sucking in terrified breaths. It doggy-paddled in circles, slipping down into the water so that only its nose was above the surface. I did one strong breaststroke, but it was in full flight-or-fight mode, absolutely fucking petrified, and it paddled away from me, slipping out of my grasp. With one more big stroke, I had it, and I scooped it up into my arms to held her up out of the water, the way people do when the hold babies in the air. I saw it was a girl, her tummy soft and much less furry than the rest of her. Her big black eyes bugged out for an instant, and then…

She went limp in my hands. Lifeless, with her feet dangling down, her tongue hanging out. Her eyes were closed. On my palm, I couldn’t feel a heartbeat where I was sure there should have been one thrumming along.

​Fuck. Fuck.

​I gave her a shake, but she dangled like a rag doll.

I held her out of the water, keeping her in a tight bicep curl over my shoulder. Carefully, I maneuvered under the jetty that led to my boat. I got a toehold on the old dock ladder, rusty and unsteady. Using one hand to climb up, and using both boots like climbing picks, I emerged from my boat’s shadow and out into the sunshine of the dock. I laid her down on her back, supporting her lifeless body. With every passing millisecond, my heart fucking broke more and more. I could not let this happen. I could not let her die. I pulled myself up all the way and knelt beside her. She was flat on her back, with no signs of life at all. Her arms were limp at the wrists, and her paws dripped onto the dry wood beneath her. Still, her tongue hung out. Still, her eyes were shut. Still, she wasn’t breathing.

Somewhere, buried deep in my memory, I remembered learning the basics of canine CPR. I felt like maybe it was in my lifeguard class when I was in high school, but I didn’t fucking know and it didn’t fucking matter. All I knew was I had to do something, and fast. So I did. I wrapped my fingers around her tiny muzzle and brought my lips to her leathery nose. I blew gently, and as I did I felt her chest swell up. I held my own breath and prayed for anything, any sign of life, but there was nothing. Lightly, with the tips of my fingers, I did compressions on her soaking wet fur. One. Two. Three. And then I did another breath. One. Two. Three.
“Come on, little lady,” I whispered, and rolled her onto her side. I gave her a few pats, firm but not too hard. She was absolutely tiny—from scruff to tail, hardly bigger than the span of my hand. I rolled her over onto her back again and gave her one more breath, all the while going through the paces of what the fuck to do if this didn’t work. I had no goddamned idea whatsoever where the vet was. Did we even have a vet? Would she survive that long? What the fuck was I going to do?

But as I started the next set of compressions, she coughed. She actually coughed, like a tiny person, a gasping choking hack, accompanied by a few mouthfuls of water spilling out onto the wood planks.

Holy shit.

I froze with my hands just above her tiny body. Her strange, buggy eyes opened up and she started panting hard.

“Hey, hey!” I scooped her up in my arms, cradling her to my chest. I could tell by the way she was so limp against me that she was exhausted. Keeping her close to my body, to keep her warm and safe, I scratched the fur at the back of her neck, her tail started to wag. But she was also shivering hard, and I didn’t like that one bit.

 

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Nicola Rendell writes dirty, funny, erotic romance. She likes a stiff drink and a well-frosted cake. She is at an unnamed Ivy and prefers to remain mostly anonymous for professional reasons. She has a PhD in English and an MFA in Creative Writing from schools that shall not be named here. She loves to cook, sew, and play the piano. She realizes that her hobbies might make her sound like an old lady and she’s totally okay with that. She lives with her husband and her dogs. She is from Taos, New Mexico.
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