The week prior to the kids returning to school found me with an itchy, red face thanks to some hotel soap.   Thus, there went the final Summer Bucket List activities, since although I am not really a vain person, I do draw the line at going out in public with calamine lotion on my face.

No need to frighten the children.

So, while the kids enjoyed not being dragged around the great outdoors again the hours they missed playing Minecraft while breathing fresh air, I finally clicked that Kindle icon on my laptop.

I was not disappointed.

Since I have several good reads to recommend in this post, I will keep the review as brief as possible.   All can be considered to be in the Romance category; with the final one being a tad more steamy.    As it's title suggests... but, also a good example of Never Judge A Book By It's Cover (Title) too.

Twin Peaks ~ Tracie Banister

Forensic accountant Sloane Tobin and kooky pet psychic Willa may have the same face, but that’s the only thing these identical twins have in common.
How she can read the hearts and minds of animals has always been a mystery to Willa, and her rotten luck with men is equally baffling. When she meets Brody, the handsome rose expert hired to save her grandmother’s garden, she’s instantly smitten, but why does he keep sending her mixed signals? Does he return her feelings, or is their attraction all in her fanciful head?
Unlike her twin, Sloane has zero interest in romance. Her passion is her job.... But will her plan to climb the corporate ladder be thwarted by difficult clients, her co-worker-with-benefits, or – most surprisingly of all – her own sister? And how’s she supposed to stay focused on the drama at work when her childhood friend, Gav, moves in next door and the spark between them becomes impossible to ignore?
To get what they both want, can Willa and Sloane band together and rely on each other’s strengths? Or will their differences drive them apart once and for all?

First of all *heavy female sigh*  Gav.   Ah, Gav won my heart in an instant.

I think the best compliment I can give Banister, aside from simply thoroughly enjoying her lively story, is that I really wanted to know these characters in real life.    Aside from the great characters, the plot that enough realism and twists to hold my interest; I truly just enjoyed getting to know these characters and was sad to leave them when the final word was read.   Not to mention the adorable dogs.   A comic book artist love interest AND some playful pups, and a whole lot of love in the air?   The final scene unfolding in a magical garden setting?

The Right Design ~ Isabella Louise Anderson

Interior designer Carrie Newman could not have envisioned a more perfect life for herself. She had a great job doing what she loved, wonderful friends, and a close relationship with her sister and brother-in-law. Add in an amazing man who she’d hoped would soon become her husband, and her life was perfect. Until one devastating decision ruins her relationship and changes the course of her life.

Determined to make a new start, Carrie leaves Texas and heads to Palm Beach to pick up the pieces of her shattered and broken life. The last thing she expects is to find herself attracted to her first client at her new job—Brad Larson, who has proven himself time and time again to be cad.

But there’s something beneath the surface of Brad’s arrogant exterior that keeps her craving more of him—something almost sweet that Carrie can’t seem to resist.

Is Carrie ready to take another chance on romance?

Immediately upon reading this cover excerpt, I felt I had to read this book to know Carrie's decision.   I instantly felt a connection to her character, before ever reading more than the synopsis and just Had To Know how it all turned out for her.   Perhaps that I have had my own personal shocking moment similar to Carrie, which caused my life to take an abrupt turn.    In my case, as you know, it all turned out so much better than fine, and I desperately wanted the same for Carrie.   Obviously I won't give away her ending.

Reading the book only confirmed the connection I felt with Carrie.   Much like her, I was unsure of Brad at first.... which again was so eerily similar to the path I once walked.  The situations described as the story unfolded felt very real and genuine.    The light and easy tone of the book (although I might have liked a first person narrative to connect with Carrie even deeper) made it the perfect read for the end of summer.   You won't have to have had a similar experience in your life to relate or enjoy this romantic tale, as both characters are so very real and likeable, you'll be drawn into their story easily. 

The Dom Games - Rachel Robinson

Ten submissive women. One billionaire dominant. Three months competing for his “affections.”
One winner takes all.
 Dominic Reed, heir to an oil fortune, has spent his entire adult life perfecting his dark hobby. With little control in every other area of his manicured life, he finds his release as a dominant. With more money than he knows what to do with, he creates a TV show: The Dom Games.
This year is different than the past seasons, this year Dominic will be the star. He wants a forever submissive.
Before last month Kayla Parchet thought the word submissive only referred to dogs. Fresh out of college with a business degree that is scrap paper, she needs to get an Ivy League masters degree to pursue her dreams. When Kayla is accepted to be one of the ten, her world takes a dark turn as she competes against women who live the submissive lifestyle for enjoyment. Can she hold on to her dreams long enough to win the competition and ten million dollars? Or will she get sucked into Dominic’s twisted world?
Only a few whips and canes stand between Kayla and the future she’s always desired.
 Lights, camera, sex…

Okay, so this one was a bit ahem.... harder... to decide to read.   Personally, novels that are too sexually explicit, particularly with regards to BDSM like the 50 Shades sort, is not really my thing.   So I was a bit hesitant to pick this one up.  However, I have read all of Rachel's other novels in the Navy Seals line and thoroughly enjoyed every single one.   Robinson is a very good writer and it's hard to resist her well drawn characters.   So, I took a chance --- much like Kayla. 

While the premise of the story might seem utterly ridiculous to many, because honestly WHO would ever agree to such a thing??!!!    Quite honestly, in this world today, the answer is MANY.   Especially with money on the line.  Thus, if you abandon any negativity towards the plot and keep an open mind, what follows is actually a really great story.    I will be honest and say that I didn't feel that this was one of the strongest love connections that Rachel has written, but that might be due to my own biases.   They seemed too opposite to me to ever come to a place of mutual agreement.  Kayla is definitely NOT a submissive, and I wasn't so sure that Dominic truly could give up the lifestyle in terms of forever.   Still, I enjoyed their story very much.    Rachel has written in a captivating manner, much like the excitement of an actual reality TV show, that easily captures the reader immediately.... and proves quite addictive as well. 

The sex is not over bearing in this novel -- it's much, much less the focus than in other BDSM novels.    Not even overtly explicit, but almost more clinical in the sense that it describes the scenes that are being filmed, but in an almost detached, spectator kind of way.  It's more the Emotion that is captured, than the sexual nature.  

If you can suspend any negative thoughts or prejudices, you may be surprised to find that you'll enjoy this story.  It's definitely a twist on the erotica theme.  

 I have been absent quite a bit this holiday season.   I think more than any other absence here on the blog.   However, it is because I have been doing more reading lately.    Whenever I find myself rather uninspired to WRITE, I know it's because I have not been much of a READER lately.   So I've been enjoying various novels and several bottomless teapots of tea over this Christmas season. 

Which means more reviews will appear, but as I usually discover, more actual writing too. 

Happy reading readers!