Stevia! Stevia! Stevia!

What’s sweeter than sugar & won’t increase your blood sugar?...STEVIA!

What has zero calories & zero carbs?...STEVIA!

What’s an herb & been used as a sweetener for 1,500 years? Again…STEVIA!

Stevia is good for our sweet tooth in many ways than just taste. I learned this from my naturopaths, Dr. Harold ( and Dr. Mercola (

But not any stevia will do. You have to use the liquid kind with glycerin. 

Powdered stevia that looks like table sugar is chemically-processed with maltodextrin & other chemicals. You might as well just use sugar. Ok, maybe I'm slightly exaggerating. But you get my point about the chemical souped-up process of the crystallized form. Right? 

                                    Powdered stevia                                 Granulated Sugar

Stevia may be good for us. But the problem many have with stevia is that bitter aftertaste. If it doesn't taste good, it's not gonna fly. 

I've tried both the solid & liquid forms. I found that it’s the alcohol that's the problem. The alcohol base of the liquid stevia is what gives it that bitterness. So make sure that the liquid stevia you buy is made with glycerin. The one I frequent (NOW Liquid Stevia brand) uses vegetable glycerin instead. 

Read the ingredients label. Some stevia products are actually a mix of stevia & other sweeteners. Tricky, tricky.  I tell you. 

I use stevia for baking & for my tea & coffee. It takes some getting used to. The taste & proportion. A little drop can go a long way. One cup of table sugar equals 1 teaspoon of liquid stevia. 

You'll get the hang of it though. Try it. I'll share my recipes with you.

BLOG REVIEW: Hell or High Water by Jerrie Alexander

32yo Child Protection Service enforcer escapes from her kidnappers the second-time around when a black-clad man riding a motorcycle saves her. And then disappears.

What heroine doesn’t know is that her mysterious savior is her old college boyfriend who’s back in town after a long stint with the Navy SEALs. It’s been 10 years since they last saw each other & the sparks are definitely still there.

Yet heroine keeps her guard up. He hurt her tremendously 10 years ago when he chose his Navy SEAL career over her and she doesn’t want another heartbreak. Her resolve to keep her distance from him soon crumbles when his bodyguard duty over her has them spending much

time together. When her best friend gets kidnapped, the life & death events make them assess their relationship. 

This was my first Alexander book & I was hooked from the first page. The action-suspense kept me on my toes. It wasn’t so much that it was unpredictable or unique. The culprits were easy to spot. The wrongs being done to the women weren’t gruesomely depicted. But we get the idea of how bad the intentions the kidnappers had. What made it suspenseful was the writing. It flowed well & kept my interest going as if I was watching it on screen. 

The romance was balanced well with the suspense. We saw Hero & heroine struggle with their second chance together while trying to follow the trail to the kidnappers. The romance focus was on the present & their questionable future. Their past was briefly mentioned & didn’t take away from our understanding & involvement of their current relationship. I liked that Hero & heroine acknowledged their immaturity in the past & the change they've gone through since. It was a brilliant bridge of the mistakes of their past romance & what brought them together now. It made it easier to forgive Hero’s choice of leaving heroine for his military career. It made his hesitation to demand anything from her now understandable too. He knew that he hurt her then & he couldn't make up for it. What truly mattered was what happened to them from now on. Their romance wasn’t written to be angsty, even though it sounds like it should’ve been poignant. The maturity of Hero & heroine made it easier to acknowledge their past (mistakes & all) & figure out their present without resorting to dramatics or manipulation. They both went into their current relationship knowing the stakes. Both knew there was love between them but the question was their willingness to fight to keep it this time around. I liked how things unfolded towards the end. The stress of the kidnapping served to move things along.  The sexual scenes reflected their passion for each other. We don’t know much about anybody else important either one were involved with in the past decade (except for some sex-based flings Hero had). Neither were pining away for each other. Yet neither met anyone else that they connected with in the same way. 

The secondary characters (3 mutual college friends & heroine's best friend) added to our understanding of the main characters as individuals & their past relationship. We get to know each one a bit. I'm the most intrigued with the amnesiac friend & his special connection with heroine's best friend. Hoping their story will come out soon.

I recommend this book

Beauty Uncovered by Andrea Laurence

Temporary secretary heroine finally entices scarred & very private software mogul Hero out of his office. He is very surprised at how differently she reacts to his massive scars & becomes more comfortable with her. As attracted as she is to him, heroine is cautious about having an affair with another boss. But as Hero increasingly lets her into his life, her feelings for him outweigh her caution. He is still, however, closed off to the rest of the world. The question of what kind of future they hold together with Hero as an extreme recluse becomes an issue. 

I began reading this Laurence book with quite a bit of excitement. A boss-secretary romance with a scarred & mysterious Hero. And a mid-30s virgin, to boot. Heroine is friendly & even flighty & is working hard to get Hero out of his cave, so to speak. Good beginning. But gradually plateaued once they got together. It was missing the emotional intensity that I like to see in the main characters. Hero was definitely enamored with heroine. But I wonder if it’s because she’s the only woman who didn’t cringe at his face & was attracted to him. Heroine also cared for him. 

--------------SPOILERS: Don’t read below if you don’t want to know the book’s details-------------

But she was also in love with her former boss & lover and grieved that relationship, which ended only 2 months before. Her flightiness seemed to extend to her ease at falling in love with men. One week after Hero fired her, she was already on guard about being tempted by another attractive male boss & thus expressed relief that her new boss was a woman. She had already prepared herself to move on, even though she was still grieving another failed relationship. It made me wonder how one-of-a-kind her love really is for Hero. I prefer my main characters to be so in love with one another that they don’t even consider anybody else around them & will deeply & extensively grieve when a separation occurs. Just one week & heroine is already considering other men. She must be the type of woman who needs to have a man in her life.

----------------------------------------------End of SPOILERS----------------------------------------------------------

Heroine was likeable. She’s not the most independent or goal-oriented woman. Yet she was diligent, fashion-conscious, & easygoing. And it might very well be because she was an easygoing person that she can quickly bounce back from grief. It’s that part of her character that aids Hero from his social fears. She confronted him about the reality of a relationship with her, which necessitates that he takes risk to be around people. I like that she gave him that reality-check. They seemed like a good match. She helps ease him out socially & he spoils her.

I moderately recommend this book.

*ARC courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

BLOG REVIEW: Beneath the Fire by Victoria Paige

21yo college student had been seeing 24yo lacrosse student Hero for 3 weeks.
They finally became intimate and he gets intense and possessive with her. As much as she likes his attention, she can't get too close to him. Heroine doesn’t want him to know about her involvement in a dangerous rescue operation.
She & her friend are planning on rescuing kidnapped girls who are part of her father’s sex-slave business. Hero doesn’t divulge that he’s masquerading as a college student to track her activities. But their feelings for each other develop & it gets harder to keep their secret from each other. How does their fledgling relationship stand when the truth gets revealed?

Not bad, not bad at all. I was skeptical at how good a 77-page romantic-suspense novella would fare. I was pleasantly surprised that the romance was there with some steamy sex scenes and some exciting rescue & car-chase scenes. The characters were fleshed out enough to hold my interest. And I found the main characters growing care for each other believable. Three weeks seemed like a short time to have fallen in love given the deceit & great stress of college and the mafia-CIA activities. But the author made me believe it. This glimpse of their romance & action-suspense whet my appetite for the next book in the series. 

I recommend this book.

*ARC courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.

Ice by Linda Howard

30-year-old daughter of small-town Maine's former mayor is hijacked in her parent's house by 2 meth addicts during a bad ice storm. She is rescued by attractive son of town's police chief who used to tease her when they were kids. The stress from being chased by the villains seemed to draw them closer together emotionally & sexually.

A substandard Howard book. The romance, suspense, plot, & dialogue were very predictable, emotionally non-engaging, & ordinary. The characters (especially the villains) were like caricatures. The romance & sexual chemistry were rushed, underdeveloped, & unconvincing. If this was Howard's 1st novel ever, I wouldn't have been surprised by it's substandard quality. But it's not so I'm baffled. Did Linda Howard REALLY write this drivel? The only good thing I can say about this book is that I learned a lot about ice storms & what to do to prevent frostbite.

I partially recommend this book for Howard fan's for comparison reasons. Otherwise, don't waste your time. Read some other Howard book.

Moving Target by Cheyenne McCray

Heroine, who's been part of witness-protection program the last 2 years, unknowingly puts her life in danger when she calls an old friend 2 weeks before testifying in court against the son of notorious Russian mafia who murdered her family.  The US-Marshall agent who she's been getting close to via regular phone calls in the last 2 years rushes to her aid.  Both eventually succumb to their strong attraction to each other in midst of getting her safe from repeated close calls on her life.

McCray knows how to write sexual chemistry in her book.  The pages sizzled with their sexy romance & even made the action-suspense part more exciting. Made for a quick read. I liked heroine's strength & survival instincts as well as alpha Hero's devotion & protection of heroine.  It was refreshing for Hero be instantly attracted to heroine when she was a size 22 . It was funny that he sounded kinda disappointed upon seeing her again 2 years later as a size 8, describing her as a "toothpick" version of the woman he fell in love with.  

I highly recommend this book.

RECIPE: DIY Granola Mix

DIY. A secret code? Brand name? 

Nope, it's acronym for "Do it yourself". 

Calling it "Do it yourself Granola Mix" just doesn't have the same verve as "DIY Granola Mix". But why call my granola DIY at all? 

Well, granola is an independent food. Yup, I said it. Independent. 

Granola is mostly baked oats with sweetener. The sweetened oats can stand on its own as a cereal. Granola becomes granola when the oats get mixed with other "stand-by-itself"(I'll be cutesy & acronym this "SBI") snacks. These SBI snacks can be anything like chocolate chips, nuts, seeds, coconut, dried fruits, candy...You name it. 

Granola can be eaten a variety of ways too. For breakfast, snack, or any other meal, really. Mixed with milk or eaten by itself. 

Granola is a fun DIY food. And that's the story.

DIY Granola Mix

  • 2 c. baked oats (Mine is from an oat cereal. But you can make your own too.)
  • 1/2 c. dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c. white chocolate chips
  • 1/3 c. raw cashews
  • 1/3 c.raw almonds
  • 1/4 c. toasted sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 c. dried coconut flakes

1. Pour all in a bowl & mix together, using big wooden spoons (or ladle or whatever handy kitchen tool)
2. Pour in a well-sealed container to keep fresh longer.


Baby of Shame by Julia James

Burned-out heroine has been taking care of her illegitimate young son & emotionally-unavailable father who recently died after a long illness the past 5 years. She gets hospitalized after a car accident & is further traumatized with her son being taken away from her by a suspicious social worker who thinks she's a drug addict. She feels even worse when her son's wealthy father tries to take full-custody of their son after he finds out about his existence from the social worker. Both Hero & heroine have major trust issues stemming from their own upbringing as well as miscommunication from their 1 passionate night together 5 years ago. 

I loved this James' book.  It had a wonderful romance & sizzling chemistry & love scenes. It pulled my emotions dramatically. I found myself in tears a few times. The misunderstanding & miscommunication between Hero & heroine was so great that I wondered how they could ever come to even like or trust each other again.  James weaved the story well. It was interesting to see the character development throughout this short book. I sympathized with both as their childhood experiences explained how they interpreted events that happened & why they responded the way they did to each other. I really liked how Hero groveled for heroine's forgiveness. It was believable & touching.

I highly recommend this book.

DETAILED REVIEW: More Than This by Jay MacLean

18yo hot-shot athlete Hero takes care of 18yo heroine on her prom night, after she caught her boyfriend & best friend in the act. He and his good friends help her enjoy the evening despite being betrayed.

Her romance crisis is nothing like the trauma she experienced the end of that long night when she comes home & her whole family has been murdered by a burglar. 

Hero & his family take her in as she deals with her losses & her uncertain future. She & Hero spend inordinate amount of time together & their attachment to each other deepens. Yet they don’t make any official commitments to each other & are careful about their physical intimacy. She’s trying to figure out her new life & he gives her the space she needs. As college looms ahead, does it push them to finally make a commitment? Or will it give them more reason to put their relationship on hold?

This book deals with young romance in the midst of great losses. I liked how it balanced the development of Hero & heroine's romance while heroine deals with the major changes in her life. It starts right away with lots of drama. And it's these losses and life changes that heroine deals with throughout the book. I liked how MacLean handled heroine’s multiple losses. We see her go through different ways of dealing with them. It wasn’t rushed & her romance was Hero wasn’t portrayed as the cure. Her relationship with Hero was connected to how she was handling her losses & her new life without her loved ones. Their romance was a gradual process as a result.  Hero was her rock through all of it. Sure, he blew up at times but he apologized & the rest of the time it was all about heroine & making sure she was feeling supported & cared for by him. He made me sigh a few times. He was the perfect boyfriend who wasn’t her official boyfriend. Hero did a lot of showing of his love for her than telling. 

------------------SPOILERS: Don't read below if don't want to know the book's details------------------

And he didn’t have to since they had no commitment of any kind, having just met the night her family was killed. He had his promising future as a college or pro baseball player right there for the taking. But even his valuable baseball career took second place to her. He didn’t have to wait for her sexually either since he had other willing female volunteers & even heroine tried to push their physical intimacies further. Yet he’d stop as much as it pained him. It was both due to his love for her & his character. He was over his man-ho days & he wanted just her. Forever. And he was patient enough to wait for her to grieve, find herself, & be willing to commit to him. 

------------------------------------------------END SPOILERS-----------------------------------------------------------

The sex scenes were not explicit. There were more descriptions of their foreplay than the consummation. By the time they got fully intimate, their emotional connection was firmly established so explicit sexual details weren't needed. 

I recommend this book.

*ARC courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.

DETAILED REVIEW: Love Unscripted by Tina Reber

27yo actor Hero runs inside 27yo heroine's bar and she helps him hide in there to
escape his rabid fans & the papparazi in the small town where they're filming his new blockbuster movie.
He's impressed at how different heroine is from most women he knows. She’s never seen any of his movies and isn't awed by his celebrity status. She treats him like an ordinary person & gives him the privacy he’s been lacking. Their relationship unfolds slowly as both carefully weigh the consequences of being involved in the public eye. Their feelings for each other intensify when they finally make the choice to be together.
This was quite a thorough romance detailing what's involved in dating a famous celebrity. We get details about how the nosy papparazi & obsessed fans invade the privacy of the Hero and heroine & try to cause ruin for their relationship with lies & innuendos. Heroine is a non-celebrity and not the average 27yo woman. She’s a savvy multi-business owner who has supportive friends & not awed with fame. She’s been hurt in other relationships & doesn’t trust men easily. Hero is more trusting than her. It was clear to him how heroine is with him for himself and not his status or wealth. He constantly reassures her by word & deed how she’s the only one for him. But outside forces (i.e., old lovers, wanna-be lovers, the papparazi) impinge on their relationship & constantly tries to put doubt in the trust their building with each other. It manages to work its way in & I like how Hero & heroine pull their heads together to work things out. There was a moment towards the latter part of the book when their crisis hit its zenith. It was poignant & I got teary-eyed because of the damage that was being done to both of them. I could feel their love for each other & the distance the crises was pulling them apart. Her friends support & even tough-love became the glue that otherwise would’ve broken them up. 

Sexual tension was good & sex scenes not detailed. We get a good dose (& at times, an overdose) of the ordinary things in the main characters lives. It made it realistic albeit long (thus the 400+ page book total). It was told from heroine’s POV that was more descriptive & not conversational in style. There were a few times when the dialogue and writing seemed banal & there was an overuse of the word “snickered”. Aside from that, this book was good.

I recommend this book.

The Italian Boss's Mistress by Lynne Graham

Tall & dowdy-dressing financial account expert is shocked to realize that her perfect-fantasy man she gave her virginity to after just meeting each other at her company party the night before is actually her boss whom she openly criticized. Playboy Hero won't accept that all they have is a 1-night stand & seduces her into changing her mind. They have a secret office affair. Heroine knows that Hero only does short-term flings & plans to end it soon when she gives her resignation & travels to France. Her plans come sooner than expected when Hero cancels their lunch plans & instead takes his gorgeous girlfriend out to lunch.

This has Graham's writing formula that works for me: good romance/dialogue/pacing/emotional involvement, likeable characters, & sizzling sexual chemistry & love scenes. Heroine wasn't a doormat but was docile at times. She was aware of it & attempted to be more assertive with Hero, although her way of asserting herself sometimes was in secret (i.e, not informing Hero of her plan to quit her job at his company & travel to Europe). I liked that she didn't accept his marriage demand after he found out she was pregnant. She was already planning on raising the baby by herself because she wouldn't take him in her life without love. I liked Hero's realization & admission of his mistakes (i.e., not breaking up with his girlfriend sooner & instead making heroine think he was only using her while his girlfriend was away). He was contrite & I believed in his promise of fidelity. 

I recommend this book.

When Seducing A Duke by Kathryn Smith

Heroine confesses to rake-turned-recluse Duke that she is the masked lover he's been having a secret rendezvous with. Hero is upset with her confession because he knew her identity & preferred that they keep engaging in their pretense. This way he's not openly breaking his promise to her now-deceased father to not touch her. As much as they care for each other, Hero thinks marrying her is a bad idea. He doesn't want to damage her already-shaky reputation with his formerly disreputable past. But heroine is as determined to prove him wrong. 

I enjoyed this Smith book. It was well-written & well-paced. There's a lot of depth to Hero & heroine & their romance. Hero is a true reformed rake. He was an admittedly wicked womanizer who treated the countless women he slept with without honor or respect. He was deeply ashamed about his past & was in a way punishing himself for it in the present. He became a recluse out of shame & fear of regressing. He also became a self-sacrificing, disciplined, & caring man who's willing to surrender his happiness for heroine's sake. Heroine had inner strength & loved without grudges. She was not a doormat by any means. She loved Hero but was not willing to give up her life & hide from society like him. She knew it would eventually ruin their marriage. I liked how she faced problems directly & wisely & didn't run from them. 

Emotional pull of book was great. There were poignant, angtsy, & tender moments. Sexual chemistry & sex scenes were erotic & well-detailed. 

I definitely recommend this book

RECIPE: Caramel Agave Popcorn

Popcorn. A good snack for movie watching and works well for reading too.

So, popcorn.

Not getting you excited? Okay. How about caramel popcorn?


What's great about caramelized food is the flavor it adds to the main ingredient. In this case, boring old popcorn gets more pizzazz with a bit of sweetener added to it.

The problem is the sugar. Caramel is typically sugar heated up slowly & blended with milk. Then you get the gooey, sweet goodness that is caramel.  I try to stay away from cane sugar as much as I can. Agave is one alternative sweetener. It's much lower on the glycemic index than cane sugar & it gives a good-enough faux caramel flavor. Maple syrup also has a good caramel-like flavor & can be used instead of agave.

Here's the recipe:

Caramel Agave Popcorn (serving size about 3 cups)

  • cooking oil
  • 1/2 c. popcorn kernels
  • 1/8+ c. agave syrup (add more if preferred)

1. Add enough oil to coat the whole bottom of your pot.
2. Heat oil on high heat. Add 2 corn kernels & cover with lid.
3. When the corn kernels pop, add 1/2 cup corn kernels. Cover again with lid.
4. Lower to medium-high heat. Shake the pot a few times to make sure the bottom popcorn don't burn.
5. It's done when the popping sound slows down to about every 3 seconds.
6. Drizzle agave syrup over the popcorn & carefully blend until popcorn evenly coated with agave. Add more agave syrup if want it sweeter.

Enjoy it. Let me know how you like it.

Desired Afflictions by C.A. Harms

College freshman heroine tries to avoid long-ago crush Hero when she sees him at his fraternity party. She continues to struggle with the traumatic effects of being raped by his cousin 6 months ago. Hero pursues her & doesn’t understand her resistance to him until her best friend & her boyfriend(his frat brother) clues him in on what his cousin did. The truth makes Hero feel more protective over heroine & they start their romance. But his cousin’s harassing texts to heroine shakes her up. Does it manage to shake up their burgeoning relationship as well?

This novella was hard to follow. It alternated between the POVs(point of views) of Hero, heroine, & her cousin. Often it was hard to figure out who was speaking & who was responding. Or if it was a thought or a spoken word. I found myself going back quite a few times & re-reading the passages because I felt lost. 

The characters were all pretty immature. I’ve read quite a few New Adult romances & the characters might start out immature or do some immature things here & there but there’s usually some kind of maturing along the way. This one does not. The main characters & their best friends are partying, binge-drinking, & sexing it up from start to finish. There is brief mention about studying or class & visit to their parents. I don’t mind that if the focus of the story was on the romance but this was mostly about drinking, frat-parties, & hooking-up. I didn’t care for it. What’s worse is that the main character’s coping mechanisms were destructive:

------------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details----------------

Hero with his easy hook-ups (i.e., he was finger-sexing his previous lover within minutes after he had sex with heroine & broke up with her) & heroine with her binge-drinking & drunken hook-ups (Wouldn’t her drunken 1-night-stands worsen her trauma? Wouldn’t it have been like being raped again & again by these naked strangers she’s waking up with? Yet she chose to do multiple times in 6 months. I don’t get it).

--------------------------------------------END SPOILERS-------------------------------------------------------------

They may have patched up their differences by the end but these 2 still have a long road towards emotional maturity that I doubt their HEA(happily ever after). They are definitely a happy-for-right-now but even the next month of their HEA is dubious.

I hardly recommend this book as a happily-ever-after romance.  

*ARC courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.

Escaping Reality (The Secret Life of Amy Bensen #1) by Lisa Renee Jones

24yo heroine is on the run again after years of stability with her fake identity. She leaves New York for Denver based on her tattooed but anonymous handler’s cryptic instructions. It’s at the plane from New York that she meets later-20s billionaire architect Hero who she has a mutual connection. She breaks many of her social-distancing rules with him as they have an instant affair once they get to Denver. Considering that Hero is a demanding lover, he doesn’t push her much about her secrets & seem to understand her reticence. He does worry about her disappearing suddenly & tries to keep her with him as much as possible. Her trust in him grows as her uncertainty about her new situation heightens. But just as she’s about to trust him with her secrets something dangerous happens.

This is my first Jones read & I was loving it. It was thrilling & emotionally encompassing. Heroine’s POV(point of view) made it very personal & we feel her fears & passions. We sense her stumbling through the mysteries of her past & the uncertainties of her present & future. We know that she’s been hiding since she was 18 & some of her past she doesn’t quite remember. Hero is with her during a couple times when she has her physically-debilitating flashbacks. It drives his protective attitude towards her yet he doesn’t pressure her to confess it all. I like how Jones weaves questions of truth regarding all the characters along with the certainty of the strong connection Hero & heroine have with each other. We see their intimacy deepening without them knowing much about each other. Much of it is nonverbal. Their hot sexual chemistry aids much of it. Yet there’s also the tenderness, caring, and inexplicable trust they seem to have for one another. So the cliffhanger was a shocker when it came. Now I’m anxious for the next book.

I excitedly recommend this book


*ARC courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.

In Scandal They Wed by Sophie Jordan

Heroine takes on half-sister's illegitimate son as her own to keep her nephew from being adopted out since no one in her family wants him, fearing a scandal. She pretends to be a widow until her son's father's cousin visits her 4 yrs later & proposes marriage to help legitimize the boy & help them financially.  But Hero doesn't tell her that part of his motive to marry so soon is due to his recently-inherited title, which demands he marry & produce an heir soon.   Hero thinks she's still in love with his dead cousin while virgin heroine fears being caught in her lie once they consummate their marriage.

Disappointed in this Jordan book.  It's missing some elements that I usually expect & get from Jordan. Unlike  One Night With You & Sins of the Wicked Duke, this book didn't do much to engage my emotions my emotions or attention.  In fact, I was quite bored but at least not to the extent to skip pages.  The story, characterization, & dialogue were tepid.  They weren't bad...just predictable & ordinary.  All this combined to make the sexual chemistry & love scenes ho-hum. 

Slightly recommended.

Dark and Dangerous by Jeanne Adams

Strong ex-wife of vengeful drug lord is on the run with her young son from her ex-husband who wants her dead & their son with him. She is aided by FBI agent Hero who is impressed by her strength. Both have an affair in midst of running away from her ex-husband & his henchmen.

I'm baffled by the 4 & 5 star ratings because I found this Adams' book sorely lacking.  From the 1st few pages, I found my attention wandering off. I had difficulty caring about the characters & the story.  Although the writing wasn't that bad, it failed to pull me in emotionally. The descriptions, dialogue, & characters seemed contrived. The romance, sexual chemistry, & love scenes seemed out of place.  I didn't care for the aggressive heroine paired with a weaker Hero.  He just seemed so impressed & awed with her, while heroine was trying to survive & outsmart her ex-husband & play footsies with the hero on the side.  I started skipping pages because I was bored with it.

Recommended as a good sleep aid.

The Greek Tycoon's Pregnant Wife by Anne Mather

Heroine gets pregnant after having sex once with estranged husband of 5 years when he visits her to ask for a divorce so he can marry his new, parent-approved girlfriend. She's not sure when to tell him about the pregnancy & agrees to visit his ailing dad in Greece.  Once there, she encounters his disapproving & manipulative mother again & meets his new girlfriend & supposedly old fling.

Why, oh why, did I torture myself & read another Mather book?!...Well, it was sitting around & I couldn't resist the temptation to see if this book was better than the last 5 Mather books I read.  I was WRONG!  It was even worst than the last Mather book I read.  Where to begin...I didn't like Hero & heroine. They were both immature, impulsive, shallow, & irresponsible.  They hurled insults at each other & did not discuss disagreements like emotionally stable adults.  Hero was a mama's boy & Mather did not convince me that this changed even at the end.  And what is up with Hero's cheating-excuse of "You know I'm not a monk." & heroine just accepts it with "I know.". Additionally, Hero's reason for not disclosing the truth of whether or not he impregnated another woman when they were living together was very weak.  It just highlighted how screwed up their relationship was.  They were both easily influenced by others. Even when they both find out how they were lied to & manipulated by close family members & friends, they just accepted it without showing any kind of plan to confront these destructive people or stay away from them. I do not foresee an HEA(happily ever after) AT ALL between these 2 lust-birds. Mather could not convince me that their relationship was based on love, even at the end when they tried to iron out their Big Misunderstanding.

Read ONLY IF you're in the mood for a messed-up relationship between 2 immature people who only have sexual chemistry going for them.

The Boss' Wife for a Week by Anne McAllister

2.5-star Highly-organized & efficient office assistant is shocked to find out that her 1-day marriage 4 years ago to her boss & longtime friend (who she's been in love with for a long time) was not terminated after all. She agrees to pretend to be happily married to him for 1 week for sake of his business deal. She's also open to making their 1 week together meaningful before their divorce is finalized & she moves elsewhere.  Hero is bothered with realization that she's still his wife & has hard time putting her back in his "she's-only-my-employee" mental box after seeing her holding her lacy underwear. 

This McCallister book was ok. The romance could've been better if the time gap between their 1-day marriage & current relationship wasn't so long.  It made the main characters feelings for each other not so strong, if they both can be easily distracted & forget about their passionate night together for 4 years of constantly interacting with each other at work.  I can understand heroine's standpoint of feeling hopeless about her love for Hero. But I wasn't convinced that Hero's been in love with heroine all that time.  He seemed to only think of her as a woman when he saw her holding her lacy underwear. It seemed like a superficial attraction or lust on his part.  

I somewhat recommend this book.

"I'm not sure" Can Be Good

This blogging business can be boggling. I feel like I’m fumbling my way through it, changing my mind here and there. I changed my website domain name 10+ times, my blogging theme about 5 times, and my website appearance? Countless. I just haven’t been sure about what I’m doing.

Well, today I finally decided that I’m going to combine book reviews with my baking experiences. I’m not quite sure what the two have to do with the other. But I’ll make it work.

Uncertainty can be good. It can lead to some good ideas. Sometimes even to greater ones. I can settle for good. But I’ll aim for greater. What, don’t see what’s so great about book reviews & cookies? Well, me either. For now. But something will come up. Hopefully.

As I write this, I am fairly certain that I’ll question myself & change something again. Who knows maybe I’ll pair book reviews with rock-climbing. Wouldn’t that be something. Hey, maybe somebody can blog about that! Any volunteers? 

Really, uncertainty & changes are not so bad. They can, at the least, open up our minds to possibilities.  

Too Hot To Handle by Stephanie Tyler

Journalist & widow of missing & presumed-dead military man asks Navy-SEAL Hero for help in finding her supposedly deceased husband who just phoned her.  They give in to their instant attraction right away but Hero makes clear that he's not into emotional commitment while heroine doesn't divulge her journalist identity.

I'm not sure if this is how Tyler typically writes but it wasn't heavy on emotions.  The writing & dialogue was very matter-of-fact & emotionally dry.  I didn't connect with the main Hero & heroine nor the other 2 couples in this book.  There was sexual chemistry & descriptive love scenes with all 3 couples but it didn't engage me at all.  It was hard to get through this book since it was too distancing.  I started skipping pages towards the end just to get it over with & see if the main characters display more of an emotional connection towards the end.  Well, there were the typical "I love you"s in the very last few pages but done too nonchalantly.

Not recommended for the romance but might like the action scenes.

Forbidden Stranger by Heather Graham & Julia Justiss

Forbidden Fire by Heather Graham

Impoverished heroine works as maid for her wealthy best friend's household in exchange for schooling & living expenses. When her best friend's father dies, she & her best friend (BFF) switch identities so that her BFF can marry the man she loves but still get her inheritance. When things become more complicated than expected, heroine proposed a marriage of convenience (MOC) with her BFF's legal guardian. Due to their increasing attraction to each other, their MOC soon becomes a real marriage. But heroine still keeps her secrets from Hero. When the truth gets revealed, will heroine's fears come to pass? 

This was an average read. The biggest draw of this Graham book for me is the story's background. It was interesting to read about San Francisco before & after the big 1906 earthquake. The romance itself was average & so were the pacing, sexual chemistry, &emotional involvement of the book. Sex scenes were generalized. Characters were ok. I liked heroine's survival skills, loyalty to her loved ones, & ambitiousness. Hero wasn't very memorable. His was reactive to heroine. She made him assess what kind of life & r/s he wanted in his life. 

Seductive Stranger by Julia Justiss

23yo plain-looking heroine has been in love with neighbor & friend Hero since they 1st met 5 years ago. Wanting to push their r/s to a more intimate level, heroine takes advantage of being in London for her sister’s society debut by dressing more seductively.  Hero becomes captivated by her. But he fears losing their cherished friendship if their romance goes awry so he tells her they’ll stay only as platonic friends. Although she’s hurt with his decision, heroine is determined to experience sexual passion with him & seduces him incognito.  He becomes torn b/w his growing feelings for his best friend (the heroine) & his mysterious & sensual lover.  

This unrequited & friends-to-lovers romance had some good points. Overall writing, pacing, & sexual tension were all good in this Justiss book.  Sex scenes were sizzling.  

The lower rating was due to some disturbing aspects of the story.  It greatly disturbed me that Hero had a 3-night stand with another woman while contemplating marriage to heroine, even though the “other woman” was really the heroine in disguise.  He didn’t know it was heroine the whole time he was having sex with her. It was emotional infidelity at the least. He felt guilty about it & justified it by saying heroine rejected his marriage proposal so therefore they weren’t truly involved. BUT he was still planning on pursuing marriage to heroine while having an affair with “the other woman”.  He had romantic feelings for both & was even comparing them. It was good for him that he got both women but it makes me wonder what would’ve happened if it was another woman who seduced him.  And what would happen in the future if their marriage is on shaky ground & another woman seduced him?  Would he make excuses like he did before?  
Hero didn’t strike me as a man who was deeply in love with heroine.

My doubting Hero’s love for heroine is also due to his lack of interest in heroine until he saw how good a body she had. That was the major push that made him seriously consider marriage to heroine & not her many fine character attributes.  It made him look superficial & his view of marriage shallow.  Another aspect that disturbed me was heroine forcing her r/s to Hero to change.  She overrode his clear choice to have them remain friends only by deceiving him with her seductive-other-woman disguise.  It just made her look very desperate, pathetic, & manipulative.

Catching Liam by Sophia Bleu

21yo college student is comfortable with her 1-night-stands & likes that they leave her the next morning. To her chagrin, Scottish college student Hero wants to linger & get to know her better. As fate would have it, she gets partnered with him in their new communications class & their assignment include that they get to know each other. It doesn’t take long for heroine to get him back into her bed and consider him to be integral in her life. But what will it take for her to share her big secret with him?

I got an ARC copy of this book to review. I unfortunately didn’t like it. The writing was technically ok (except for a couple misspellings). It drew me into the story & characters. However, I did not care for the heroine. From the very start, she acted like a brat & the self-acknowledged bitch that she was. She was self-centered in her relationships. She used her friends & men for her benefit. She complained about her controlling mom but acted passive-aggressive about it. She threatened independence (i.e., being cut-off from her parents’ financing all her college expenses) but didn’t act on them (i.e., getting a job or student loans). Heroine acted privileged & immature. Her big secret doesn’t excuse any of it. It would have helped though if her big secret was hinted at from the get-go (instead of almost halfway through). I might have given heroine the benefit of the doubt, or at least sympathize with her, instead of increasingly dislike her & scratching my head as to why Hero would continue to pursue this selfish & mean brat. What made the romance was Hero’s persistence in heroine no matter how she acted towards him. There was something about her that drew him & made him stand by her when things got difficult in her life. Heroine, on the other hand, was clearly in lust with him. She loved him for caring for her & supporting her. But to love him in sickness & until death? No. The ending didn’t change my mind about her happy-for-now feelings for Hero. Too bad for him.

I minimally recommend this book

*ARC courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.

BLOG REVIEW: An Heir For the Billionaire by Terry Towers

28yo hotel banquet server sees her old high-school sweetheart 29yo Hero during their 10-year high school reunion. Hero gets straight to the point about why he wants to see her again. But it takes him a little longer to inform her about his cancer diagnosis & why it’s important for him to settle things with her now. Are his emotional declarations long-lasting or are they merely part of his cancer scare? How does heroine respond to his sudden return into her life?

I’m a fan of Towers & this book reminds me why. Towers blends steamy content with quality emotional pull that gives the romance that extra edge. I should’ve really rated this book less because heroine reunited with Hero too easily & quickly, after he dumped her for his career 10 years before & dashed her hopes & dreams. But Towers managed to somehow convince me that heroine’s forgiving nature & maturity & Hero’s life evaluation & desperation was good enough reasons to get these two back together so quickly. I believed Hero’s apology as heart-felt. Heroine’s forgiveness was quick but sincere as well. These two had 10 years to grow & realize some things they wanted in their life. And things they regretted. Both had other lovers during their separation but no one signicant, especially on Hero's part. There were no big misunderstandings & they were pretty unified in their relationship. Hero’s cancer diagnosis & treatment were the complications of the story. They had a genuine romance with explicit sexual content that served to heighten their feelings for each other. The epilogue helped give us a good idea that their future together was solid.

I recommend this book.

*ARC courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.

So In Love by Karen Ranney

Daughter of French aristocrat was in forced seclusion in a French convent as punishment from her father for getting pregnant out-of-wedlock. Her father also took her newborn away from her. Heroine becomes a governess in Scotland 9 yrs later, when Hero who offers her the job to tend to his daughter. Their passionate affair is reignited but both are tiptoeing around what happened in the past, fearful of the repercussions.

Oh, boy, did I cry buckets with this Ranney book.  The drama & the writing pulled me into the story & characters.  Character development was great. Love scenes were scorching & poignant.  One thing that could've been improved, though, is the ending.  I wish heroine discussed with Hero in an in-depth, fuller detail the pain & suffering she went through because of her love for him. Hero should have groveled a lot more.

I greatly recommend this book if you want a very poignant romance.

Show No Mercy by Cindy Gerard

Spunky journalist heroine, who had some emotional trauma from being kidnapped in Argentina 9 months before, goes back to Argentina for requested assignment to interview wealthy but shady American mogul.  Once again, she is rescued by tortured Hero who's trying to harden his heart against her in order to prevent further emotional loss. But heroine is very determined to make Hero care for her.  Their relationship struggles are only heightened by the various assassination/kidnapping attempts on their lives.

I didn't enjoy this Gerard book compared to the next 2 in this series.  My main beef is that heroine was clearly more in love with Hero. Hero was still suffering from trauma & loss of his tortured & murdered girlfriend. Heroine had this "I'll take whatever crumb he'll give me" approach that was really hiding her desperate need to be loved by him like the way he loved his deceased girlfriend.  Although she was strong in many ways, she appeared a bit pathetic to me in the love department.  I liked the action-suspense part. Love scenes were ok too. 

Somewhat recommended.

No Control by Shannon K. Butcher

Scarred, strong & independent heroine is actively getting her life back in order after recuperating from being kidnapped & tortured in Armenia 18 months prior. Special-Ops Hero is the one who rescued her but disguised himself as one of the terrorist team. Heroine is in danger again & faces Hero again per the orders of Hero's boss to protect her as well as find out the secret she's been keeping.

My 1st Butcher book & I was surprised at how much I liked it.  I was expecting something more gory & suspense-focused from some reviews I read about Butcher's books.  Well, this book wasn't one of them.  I loved how intense the romantic element was in this book.  Although there's a lot of action-packed suspense, the central focus was on how this alpha Hero loved the tortured heroine who seemed to hate his guts while feeling attracted to him.  The emotional depth, characterization, & plot kept this book a really speedy read for me.  The sexual chemistry & love scenes were wonderful. 

Highly recommended.

Branded as Trouble by Lorelei James

Tattoo-artist heroine has been good friends & an AA-sponsor of recovering alcoholic Hero for 3 years. She agrees to strictly date him for 2 weeks before they start having sex.  Both have to adjust to being in a sober & more-emotionally involved relationship.

My 1st James book & I was pleased.  I liked the characterization of Hero & heroine.  It shows how they've overcome their troublesome past & are working toward a healthier life & having healthier relationships.  In my opinion, this is what made the love scenes not sleazy or emotionally distant as other erotic books tend to do.  


Diablo by Georgina Gentry

The story is about an 18-yr-old daughter of Wyoming rancher is engaged to an old conniving rancher because he told her that was her dad's last wish. She gets kidnapped by scarred half-breed cowboy mercenary who's seeking revenge against her fiance for physically & sexually abusing him along with 3 others 15 yrs prior. Heroine is attracted to Hero who returns her attraction but thinks he's too ugly for her to willingly want to be with him. 

Don't know if this is how Gentry typically writes since this is my 1st book of hers but I was either bored or annoyed with this book. The characters were like caricatures. The plot very predictable. Lots of language & theme repetitions (i.e., Hero thinks he's so repulsive to women, Hero keeps on forgetting heroine's name even though he think about her constantly, villain ruminating about how he wants heroine as his wife) as if Gentry just cut & pasted. Most times the language characters used was modern & only Westernized by the words "I reckon". The only part I liked was the author's notes at the end, which gave interesting historical view of Wyoming ranchers, the Shantee rebellion, & other historical tidbits. 

Not recommended. This is my 1st book of hers but will try her other books to see if she can surpass this disappointment.

My Lord Stranger by Eve Byron

28yo virgin heroine has not seen her husband since their wedding 12 years ago when he left to make his own fortune & look for his family of origin. They don't recognize each other when Hero finally comes home without any notice. Their reunion is full of bumps as they have to manage how to live together for the first time, fill in the gaps of each other's lives in their time apart, and figure out if they have a future together. Their relationship is tried even more so by the arrival of Hero's friend's seductive sister, who knows more than she should & uses it to separate Hero from heroine.

My 1st Byron book & I was impressed! Bryon's characters have depth. The romance is built on Hero & heroine's character development. Both characters were immature in all ways when they 1st got married at 17. Heroine grew out of her impulsive, manipulative & self-centered ways to be a patient, clever, & compassionate woman. Hero began as a teen who discounted the good in his life & looked for his identity & worth elsewhere. He came back as a humbled man with regrets about how he handled his past & who now embraces the good in his life. Byron showed his character change to be realistic, deeply-ingrained, & believable. In my opinion, Hero redeemed himself from his marital infidelity & selfish neglect of heroine during their time apart. I liked that heroine was strong & became level-headed as she grew up. Although some readers have a problem with her still being a virgin at 28, I didn't. Byron showed that 1.) heroine idealized Hero for years & was willing to wait for him 2.) heroine considered taking a lover but didn't because she wasn't attracted to any other man enough 3.) heroine was able to take care of her sexual needs herself. 

This book was poignant & emotionally-involving. Dialogue was to the point & flowed well. I liked that book was written from both characters' POV(point of view). Sexual chemistry was good. Sex scenes were mildly detailed. 

Highly recommended.