Review: First Earl I See Tonight


Title: First Earl I See Tonight
Author: Anna Bennett
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: October 2018
Length: 338 pages
Series?: Debutante Diaries #1
Genre: Historical Romance

An heiress with a daring proposal. An earl who’s determined to resist her. And a love that just might be written in the stars…

Recently jilted by his fiancée, David Gray, Earl of Ravenport is not in the market for a wife. Even if Gray didn’t have his hands full renovating his crumbling country house, it would take more than a bold marriage proposal from a headstrong young beauty to thaw his frozen heart. Gray is confident that spending a week at his ramshackle estate will change her mind about marriage, but every passionate moment he spends with her tempts him to change his…

A talented artist, Miss Fiona Hartley desperately needs her dowry money to pay off a blackmailer set on ruining her sister. The handsome earl seems a sensible choice for a husband…if only she can convince him that romance will play no part. But marrying in name only may prove difficult for Fiona. Gray can’t help but be dazzled by her genuine warmth. Yet as their feelings deepen, Fiona’s deadline looms. Will her secrets destroy them, or is true love their final destiny?

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my review

Fiona Hartley is a kind-hearted young lady who seems prone to mishaps and accidents. It seems to deter men’s interest in her. She is an incredible artist and can often see past the façade many put on for appearances.

She loves her father and sister so much that she’s willing to risk so much to save them. Someone is blackmailing her. If she doesn’t pay up, a family secret will be revealed that will ruin Fiona’s younger sister, who is just coming into her own and quite eligible on the marriage mart.

How can she pay a blackmailer with no money? So she decides to marry in order to acquire the funds she needs. Upon her marriage, Fiona’s dowry will be paid out and she can pay the blackmailer! Fiona sets her sights on David Gray, Earl of Ravenport. Fiona has considered and eliminated a number of men of the ton and has finally settled on the Earl of Ravenport, carefully selected after he was kind to her after one of her mishaps at a ball.

Gray is in need of funds himself in order to renovate his crumbling home, called the Fortress. After receiving a written proposal from Fiona, which Gray has no intention of entertaining, he invites Fiona, her sister, and stepmother to stay at the Fortress for a week in hopes that it will scare Fiona away. But Fiona isn’t like the rest of the ladies of the ton and rises to the challenges set forth.

Gray inherited his earldom when he was barely double digits. He has endured a lot of trauma from childhood and then his parents’ deaths. Now he’s essentially penniless. He is a fairly cold person and has vowed to never love. Not again. Gray’s primary goal is to renovate the Fortress for his grandmother, who is losing her sight. He wants her to see it restored before she can no longer.

It’s a marriage of convenience for both Fiona and Gray, but Fiona is determined to turn it into a love match after a while. Gray is adamant that they won’t suit, but slowly warms to Fiona.

The one glaring issue I had with the entire plot is that the blackmailer selected Fiona as the target. She was an unmarried woman who didn’t have access to any actual funds. Why not select her father, the head of the house, business, and coiffers? The explanation that he was ill won’t deter a blackmailer who is bent on ruination.

Review: This Earl of Mine


Title: This Earl of Mine
Author: Kate Bateman
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: October 2019
Length: 336 pages
Series?: Bow Street Bachelors #1
Genre: Historical Romance

In a desperate bid to keep her fortune out of her cousin’s hands, shipping heiress Georgiana Caversteed marries a condemned criminal in Newgate prison. The scoundrel’s first kiss is shockingly heated, but Georgie never expects to see her husband again. Until she spots him across a crowded ballroom. Notorious rogue Benedict Wylde never expected a wife. He was in Newgate undercover, working for Bow Street. To keep their marriage of convenience a secret, Wylde courts Georgie in public, but the more time they spend together, the more their attraction sparks. Could an heiress with the world at her feet find happiness with a penniless rake? Kate Bateman’s This Earl of Mine is a delightful start to the Bow Street Bachelors series, with witty banter, dynamic characters, and swoon-worthy romance.

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my review

Georgiana Caversteed is the eldest, born into a wealth built on shipping. She is an attractive marriage prospect, but every man balks after reading the marriage contract. It weeds out those only interested in lining their own pockets.

To “help” Georgiana in her misfortunate single-tude, her lecherous cousin Josiah tries to force himself on her. Georgiana won’t be played like a fiddle and forced to marry her narcissistic and slimy cousin so that he can gain her father’s holdings and gamble and drink them away like he did his own finances. Instead, she decides to marry a condemned prisoner…and then become a widow the following morning.

There’s just one problem in her plan. The man from Newgate that she marries works undercover for Bow Street and the crown. Benedict Wylde is trying to help restore the family coiffures after his late father left them with many gambling debts. MANY. Clearly a conflict already, in more ways than one, because Ben certainly plans on staying alive!

Ben is well known as a rake and on the fringes of polite society, brother to the Earl of Morcott and recently returned from the Napoleonic War.

Georgiana is a headstrong and knowledgeable young woman. She is smart in finances, business, and the shipyard. When it comes to relationships, men, and love she is at a loss. While she may be a lost cause, Georgiana’s mother has high hopes of becoming high society and settles on using Georgie’s younger sister to do so.

But now Georgie is in a sticky situation. And Ben a bit too. Their marriage is valid and binding. It provides the solution that Georgie needed, but Ben has no need to be married, nor does he want a wife. It is fairly well-known the dire financial straits the Wyldes are in. In some ways, Georgie can’t outrun the curse her father has left her with.

I loved the interesting path that led Georgie and Ben to one another and the friendship they build. Of course there is attraction and chemistry and heat, and along the way they both come to terms with loving the other.

Review: How to Love a Duke in Ten Days


Title: How to Love a Duke in Ten Days
Author: Kerrigan Byrne
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: August 2019
Length: 440 pages
Series?: Devil You Know #1
Genre: Historical Romance

These men are dark, bold, and brave. And there is only one woman who can bring them to their knees…

Famed and brilliant, Lady Alexandra Lane has always known how to look out for to herself. But nobody would ever expect that she has darkness in her past—one that she pays a blackmailer to keep buried. Now, with her family nearing bankruptcy, Alexandra strikes upon a solution: Get married to one of the empire’s most wealthy eligible bachelors. Even if he does have the reputation of a devil.


Piers Gedrick Atherton, the Duke of Redmayne, is seeking revenge and the first step is securing a bride. Winning a lady’s hand is not so easy, however, for a man known as the Terror of Torcliff. Then, Alexandra enters his life like a bolt of lightning. When she proposes marriage, Piers knows that, like him, trouble haunts her footsteps. But her gentleness, sharp wit, independent nature, and incredible beauty awakens every fierce desire within him. He will do whatever it takes to keep her safe in his arms.

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my review

***Trigger Warning: The opening scene of this book is a graphic rape scene.***

Lady Alexandra Lane is a young woman who experienced unspeakable trauma. It makes her uneasy around men and causes her to refuse the idea of intimacy or marriage. Her secret is one that many victims keep, and in the time period especially remains unspoken. Now, however, her secret could be revealed – and worse done – by a blackmailer.

She has the best of friends in Cecilia and Francesca. Together the three form The Red Rogues. Without them, Alexandra might not have survived her past. The trio are such great ladies and fantastic supports for one another. They would do anything for one another.

Piers Atherton, Duke of Redmayne, is a scarred man physically and emotionally. He presents this persona to the ton, but he is so much more. He is a sexy protector. He is hell-bent on revenge after his fiancé dumped and duped him. He is drawn to Alexandra. She is a strong and independent woman despite her past. With the threats of her blackmailer hanging over her head, Alexandra seizes a solution to her current and future problems.

The two marry and embark on the archaeological dig of a lifetime. For Alexandra, it is a dream come true and she is in her element. Unfortunately, the intimate parts of their marriage must wait on the expedition after some things go a little wayward between them – and while a killer is out to get them!

Review: The Earl Next Door


Title: The Earl Next Door
Author: Amelia Grey
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: May 2019
Length: 294 pages
Series?: The Cavensham Heirresses #5
Genre: Historical Romance

Adeline, Dowager Countess of Wake, is all on her own after her husband’s sudden death. The good news? Losing him allowed her to find herself. Finally, Adeline is free to do, go, and be as she pleases. She cherishes her newfound independence and is not looking for another man to wed. But seeking out a new lover? Well, that is a whole ’nother story. . .

Lord Lyon, son of the two-timing Earl of Marksworth, wishes to have a respectable, loving wife someday. When he meets the beautiful and self-reliant Adeline, Lyon is instantly smitten. But Adeline would rather have the handsome suitor in her bed than to take his hand in marriage. It’s a scandalous proposal—and one that’s hard for Lyon to refuse. Unless the fire of his passion can melt Adeline’s resolve. . .and he can find a way to be the Wickedly Wonderful Widow’s lover for all time?

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my review

This is the first book in the series and the characters are connected. The ladies featured in each book in the series and series set-up are introduced. They are a compelling group of women.

Adeline is the Dowager Countess of Wake. She is a young widow who lost her husband at sea. She isn’t in any way a traditional female of the time. Even though she is a widow, she isn’t searching for a husband as many would in her situation. She is a feisty spitfire of a thing and speaks her mind.

As the countess, she was expected to produce an heir. She was in an almost cruel and loveless marriage and forced to stay at the country estate. She has returned to London and everything has a bit of that new glimmer to it.

Adeline meets two other young widows whose husbands died alongside her own. Together, the three have decided to open a school for young girls whose fathers died in the shipwreck. There is little future for these girls and their families without a male supporting them. The three women are now quite wealthy and can fund such a venture. It is Adeline’s dream and she has all of the right things in place to fulfill it.

Except for her rude and judgmental neighbor, Lord Lyon, the Marquess of Marksworth. The opening scene of the book is like a comedy of errors. These comedic scenes cracked me up – although the characters didn’t think they were funny in the least. In fact, they were quite vexed. Lyon “introduces” himself by barging into Adeline’s home. She had just received a box by mistake. Piqued by curiosity, she tries on the sexy red stays over her gown and twirls around. Enter Earl stage left, angry and lathered, accusing Adeline of running a brothel. Talk about getting off on the wrong foot! But this sets the tone for their future encounters.

Lyon is a man who likes quiet and order to his world. He is the only son of the marquess. His father has been pestering him to marry and produce an heir for almost a decade. Lyon refuses to marry unless he falls in love. It has yet to happen. There are no women that pique his interest in a spend-a-lifetime-with kind of way. Until Adeline, who has vowed to never remarry after her terrible and abusive marriage. When Adeline opens her school, there are young girls laughing and making noise almost constantly right in his backyard.

Lyon quickly realizes he wants Adeline in his life, but she does not want to marry. He won’t accept that, so Adeline boldly proposes they become lovers. There is attraction and heat between the two and Lyon is determined to make Adeline see his side of things.

Review: Once Upon a Bad Boy


Title: Once Upon a Bad Boy
Author: Melonie Johnson
Publisher: St. Martin’s Pres
Release Date: June 2019
Length: 377 pages
Series?: Sometimes in Love #3
Genre: Contemporary, Romance

Sadie Gold is ready to take her career to the next level with the role of a lifetime. Finally, she can shake her reputation as a pretty face with more wealth and connections than talent. But Sadie is not prepared for the wild turn her own life is about to take. The man in charge of training Sadie for her most demanding role yet is none other than her first real boyfriend—the one who took her heart and ran away.

Bo Ibarra is as good-looking and irresistible as ever. Maybe even more so, now that everything once worked against them—Sadie’s pampered and privileged upbringing and Bo’s childhood in a family struggling to make ends meet—is in the past. But the future is still unwritten…and getting there, together, means coming clean about painful secrets and slashing through nasty tabloid rumors while trying to control the attraction that crackles between them. Maybe it’s finally time for them to walk off into the sunset and into a true and lasting love?

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my review

Sadie Gold has a tumultuous past with Bo Ibarra. She was head over heels in love with him as a teen. His break-up on prom night – with no explanation – stung. And now for the role of her life she must work with him under his direction as stunt coordinator.

Over the course of filming, Sadie and Bo spend a lot of time together. It is the opportunity to dig into what happened all those years ago while seeing one another in a new light. It is the perfect situation for a second chance romance and features the classic rich-poor relationship.

Bo has the appearance of a rough-and-tough bad boy, but he never really was. He is a man with heart who loves his family. He grew up with so little but has become an established presence in the film industry, largely in part to his hard work. Throughout the book, Bo worked through some of his own issues just like Sadie does.

There is a topic that comes up from Sadie’s post-break up life. It is sensitive and characters react in ways I found to be a big turn-off. This plot point should have been flushed out a little bit more, but it made my heart break for Sadie and Bo, then and now.

The secondary characters add flair and fun to Sadie and Bo’s story. Bo’s nephew is the cutest thing ever! And then there are the female friendships! The girls are sweet and supportive – a great group of ladies.

Review: Christmas Angels

Title: Christmas Angels
Author: Nancy Naigle
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date: October 2019
Length: 352 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Holiday, Christmas

Growing up, Liz Westmoreland dreamed of taking over her grandparents inn located in the small mountain town of Angels Creek only for it to be sold before she ever got the chance. While browsing the internet, she stumbles upon a listing for what looks to be the picturesque inn and it’s set to go to auction. Liz places a bid, and by a miracle, wins the auction. But when she gets there she finds the property in significant disrepair.

When Matt Hardy narrowly lost the inn and property that butted his land, he just hoped it wasn’t another city slicker coming to make matters worse after the previous owners gutted the place for an art gallery. But the minute he recognized the sweet, freckle-faced girl from his childhood and heard her plans to reopen the inn, he jumps at the chance to help his childhood crush restore a place where he made so many fond memories.

While working on repairs, Liz and Matt discover her grandmother’s collection of angels in one of the cabins. When the angels start mysteriously showing up all over the inn, she begins to look at them as reassurance—that restoring the inn is what she’s meant to do. But when an accident leaves Liz feeling like she made a mistake, will Matt—and the residents of Angels Creek—be able to show Liz that she’s found a home? And possibly true love as well?

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my review

This book sounds like the script for a Hallmark Christmas movie!

Liz Westmoreland spent time growing up at her grandparent’s inn in quaint Angel Creek. It’s her dream to open one of her own just like it. One night she stumbles across what she thinks was their inn on a listing site and puts in a bid – sight unseen. She has the winning bid. What could go wrong? It’s her dream!

When Liz does arrive at the inn, she realized she should have come to Angel Creek for a visit before blindly placing her bid. Luck is in her favor, though, when she hires Matt Hardy as her contractor to renovate the inn. Except Matt has a secret about the inn: he also put in a bid! Matt’s best childhood memories were at the inn with the Westmoreland family. Matt is dedicated to helping Liz restore the inn to glory and will bend over backwards for Liz.

While the very dilapidated inn is undergoing some drastic changes, Liz tries not to stick out like a sore thumb in the small town. With Matt’s help here too, Liz begins integrating within the community and building relationships that will last – for herself and for the inn.

Even though Matt and Liz have a business relationship, Matt also has some feels for Liz. And he has some romantic competition in town!

This is a heartwarming story all around with Christmas cheer added in. And the ending gives a glimmer of who might be matched up next in this small town.

Review: Rogue Most Wanted


Title: Rogue Most Wanted
Author: Janna MacGregor
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: June 2019
Length: 371 pages
Series?: The Cavensham Heirresses #5
Genre: Historical Romance

There’s one creed all Cavensham men subscribe to: they fall in love completely and decidedly. But what happens when the woman you fall in love with swears she’ll only marry you as a last resort? 


Lady Theodora Worth needs to marry fast in order to keep her estate. It’s been her heart and home for years, and she’ll not lose it to anyone. There’s just one problem—as a woman who was raised in isolation by her grandfather, she’s completely incapable of pouring a cup of tea, never mind wooing a man. She’ll need a little matchmaking help from her sprightly next-door neighbor in order to find a convenient husband…


Lord William Cavensham’s heart was broken years ago, and since that day he vowed to never love again. But his spirited Great Aunt Stella is determined he’ll marry or not inherit a single penny from her. And she’s got just the woman in mind—her beautiful and completely hapless next-door neighbor, Thea…

Thea and Will agree there’s no sense in marrying each other. Will wholeheartedly believes he’s incapable of love, and Thea refuses to marry the first man she’s practically met. But Will may be the rogue Thea wants the most after all.

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my review

Thea Worth is an endearing, kind, heartfelt character. I loved her as a person. It pained me to see her making a faux pas and realizing it. How hard it was on her due to the embarrassment. She has not had the proper upbringing her peers did.

She has struggled through hard times, hard situations, and hard choices. Things no young lady should have had to endure and shoulder alone. She has run the vast estate for years as her grandfather’s mental health continued to decline to such a state he could not attend functions or leave the property. She has had no social opportunities whatsoever – not even friends. She is intelligent and independent, and lacks the social graces, but is a prize in some eyes with the Scottish estate and her inheritance.

If she can find a man to marry her before everything is swiped away from her by her vile, manipulative cousin. He is convinced – out of his own selfish motivations – in his accusation that Thea killed their grandfather and he intends to challenge the title. The fact that she’s just lost the one person most important in her life has no bearing on him. He will toss Thea out without hesitation or a backward glance. She knows the tenants and cares about them. He is only interested in the value of the land and doesn’t care one iota about the people who reside there. Thea has to protect her people and her home.

By grace, the neighboring property is owned by Stella Cavensham, a well-connected woman. She acts as Thea’s godmother and offers her assistance to the cause. The obvious order of business is obtaining a husband. The first thing on the list is her magnificent nephew, who is needing to settle down. Unfortunately, Lord William Cavensham has no intention of marrying. Ever. But if his aunt Stella asks…his arm just might be crooked correctly for a crusade down the aisle for his cherished aunt.

William carries the title of a rogue, but he is anything but. I’m not sure why that’s even part of the title. At a young age, he had his heartbroken completely. He’s carried this pain with him. He stays away from women and invests all his time running the family estates. He is integral to the family workings as the younger son, but he is Stella’s favorite, and so she plans to disinherit him if he doesn’t marry Stella.

Upon meeting, William realizes Theodora Worth is more than just a fluff of tulle on the marriage mart. She’s engaging and different. The more time he spends in Thea’s presence, his opposition to love is minutely chiseled away. Perhaps it’s worth the risk?

While intelligent, Thea’s lack of social training and the ways of the ton make her feel like she isn’t a solid marriage prospect. It doesn’t help matters that rumors are spreading about her. In the vein of support and her own selfish desires, Stella teaches Thea how to become a desirable bride.

One of my struggles reading this book was the continued angst of pitting Thea and William against one another about actually marrying. Both strangle the idea that “I can’t marry you”. Nothing stands in their way except themselves, and too much time and plot was dedicated to rehashing the same broken record with no forward momentum.

I was surprised by Thea’s choices to disregard her virtue. She seemed unconcerned with the fact of being a virgin on her wedding night. At first, it shocked me, but she didn’t have really any upbringing in societal norms. She wouldn’t have placed the same value – and fear – in being unvirtuous as another peer with proper education would.

Review: The Vintage Summer Wedding


Title: The Vintage Summer Wedding
Author: Jenny Oliver
Publisher: Carina
Release Date: May 2014
Length: 352 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Women’s Fiction

A Vera Wang dress, the reception at a sophisticated London venue, and a guest list that reads like a society gossip column are all the ingredients of Anna Whitehall’s perfect wedding that never was…

Spending the summer uncovering hidden treasures in a vintage shop, Anna can still vividly remember both her childhood dreams; the first was that she’d become a Prima Ballerina, and dance on stage resplendent in a jewel-encrusted tutu. The second was that at her wedding she would walk down the aisle wearing a collective-gasp-from-the-congregation dress.

Years ago Anna pirouetted out of her cosy hometown village in a whirl of ambition…but when both of those fairy-tale dreams came crashing down around her ballet shoes, she and fiancée Seb find themselves back in Nettleton, their wedding and careers postponed indefinitely…

Don’t they say that you can never go home again? Sometimes they don’t get it right… This one summer is showing Anna that your dreams have to grow up with you. And sometimes what you think you wanted is just the opposite of what makes you happy…

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my review

This book was hard for me to get into for quite a while. The suspenseful crumbs, in the beginning, did not work for me because they simply confounded everything for me. I finally ascertained that Anna and Seb, engaged and flat broke, return to their hometown after they’ve spent everything on the wedding of the millennium. That’s obviously not happening now!

All of her plans, carefully crafted since a teen, where to get out of her hometown and be a big star. She was never coming back. She wasn’t very kind when she left, either, making returning even harder for her. No one is giving her a pass for being a mean, nasty teen – not her dad, her classmates, or others in town.

She was so high on her own pedestal, the fall was hard. Bone-jarring. She lost her job after her clients were stolen from her by her newly hired administrator. From the beginning, Anna had nothing going for her to make her a likable character. She was spoiled and condescending, with a huge ego. Seb, on the other hand, was enthusiastic about this change and their new life and lifestyle and coming back to where they as a couple started.

Being back at home, Anna encounters other characters, situations, challenges – and even a couple enemies – that bring out life from what seemed to be a cold, black heart. Slowly, she tried making the right choices and her history brings some clarity to some of the stone-cold block she was in the beginning. It is easy to understand how she became that individual. Anna’s constant strive to prove herself was one of those side-effects of her childhood. It took so much from her.

I thoroughly enjoyed the cast of characters that rounded out the book. With their new connections, Anna began to evolve. From her work in the antique shop she spent time in as a child to her hard work with the town’s rag-tag ensemble of kid dancers, she begins to come into her own element and shine.

Anna took her hand of cards – crappy as they were – and started making things work for her. Excelling where she had strengths. Despite talking about going back to London and pursuing a different life equivalent to her old one, step by step she begins to earn respect from others that then blossoms into some great friendships.

Review: Ain’t He Precious?


Title: Ain’t He Precious?
Author: Juliette Poe
Publisher: Big Dog Books
Release Date: April 2017
Length: 120 pages
Series?: Sex and Sweet Tea #1
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Novella

Welcome to Whynot, North Carolina, population 3,872. It has one stoplight, one bar, and the one-and-only Trixie Mancinkus.

Eleven years ago, Trixie graduated Harvard Law, turned down a job offer from one of the most prestigious law firms in Boston, and headed home to Whynot to open her own firm. Not only did she leave behind the big city, but she also left her boyfriend of three years. And just so we’re clear… that would be me.

So what am I doing in Whynot at this very moment? It seems Trixie needs help with a legal case and for some insane reason, she called on me for assistance. I’ve been in town for five minutes, and I’m every bit as out of place as I feel. Trixie is all sweet, southern curves to my tailored suits and high-priced haircuts. It’s a culture clash of north versus south and about the only thing we have in common is our physical attraction to each other.

But I have a new motto since coming to Whynot: When life hands you lemons, all you need is a little sex and sweet tea to make things better.

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my review

Written under a pen name, Sawyer Bennett’s first novella is sweet and endearing. A much appreciated southern romance!

Trixie Mancinkus left Boston 11 years ago, giving up *the* dream job of her career – one of Boston’s most prestigious and respected law firms. And with that also went Ry Powers, the love of her life, after only three short years growing together professionally and romantically. She traverses back home to her roots in Whynot, North Carolina – a reality Ry cannot fathom. With the birth of their young careers and their differences, there is no reconciliation or compromise. Trixie returns home to be a small-town lawyer while Ry follows his pursuits in Boston.

Now Trixie reaches out for Ry’s assistance with a high-profile lawsuit. But it’s never a good thing to tempt fate – or is it? Ry jumps at this chance. No one has compared to Trixie over the years. That spark from a decade ago is still there, but how do they move forward wanting two different futures?

I enjoyed Trixie and Ry’s interactions – the good and the bad – and their time spent with the other characters in Trixie’s life: Trixie’s meddlesome grandfather, her precious mother, and disconnected father, and a mix of siblings with just the right rambunctiousness and embarrassing questions. I would love to be a part of this family! There was a strong mesh weaving these characters into the plot without it feeling forced or out of place. It just worked wonderfully in continuing to build Trixie and Ry’s story.

Review: Girl Meets Class


Title: Girl Meets Class
Author: Karin Gillespie
Publisher: Henery Press
Release Date: September 2015
Length: 232 pages
Series?: Girl Meets Class #1
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Humor

The unspooling of Toni Lee Wells’ Tiffany and Wild Turkey lifestyle begins with a trip to the Luckett County Jail drunk tank. An earlier wrist injury sidelined her pro tennis career, and now she’s trading her tennis whites for wild nights roaming the streets of Rose Hill, Georgia.

Her wealthy family finally gets fed up with her shenanigans. They cut off her monthly allowance but also make her a sweetheart deal: Get a job, keep it for a year, and you’ll receive an early inheritance. Act the fool or get fired, and you’ll lose it for good.
Toni Lee signs up for a fast-track Teacher Corps program. She hopes for an easy teaching gig, but what she gets is an assignment to Harriet Hall, a high school that churns out more thugs than scholars.

What’s a spoiled Southern belle to do when confronted with a bunch of street smart students who are determined to make her life as difficult as possible? Luckily, Carl, a handsome colleague, is willing to help her negotiate the rough teaching waters and keep her bed warm at night. But when Toni Lee gets involved with some dark dealings in the school system, she fears she might lose her new beau as well as her inheritance.

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my review

My Thoughts 

This book intrigued me because I am an educator in a public school. While it was interesting how often so many of Toni Lee’s struggles are real in schools across America, one thing was solidly not: a person without a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certificate and a special ed certificate would not be hired at any campus to work with SPED students. This element of the storyline REALLY bugged me.

This book is humorous, heartwarming, and heartbreaking. The author eloquently establishes the playing field for Toni Lee and her coworkers. Clearly, from the beginning readers are supposed to root for and support her and Harriet Hall.

Toni Lee is a washed-up tennis player. After a wrist injury that changes the trajectory of her life, Toni takes full advantage of her trust fund spoiled brat status. When she is arrested, her Aunt Cordelia (who runs the family food company, which is the source of their wealth), has had enough. She stamps out this churlish, embarrassing behavior. There’s an ultimatum: keep a job that is actually challenging for a year, walk away with five million.

To Toni, that’s the easiest thing ever. Until she realizes she gets cut off while doing so. No more lush condo. No allowance. When the Harriet Hall SPED position pops up, Toni jumps at it and quickly finds herself in an unknown part of her own city she never knew existed. As much as she doesn’t want to be there, she finds her kids don’t want to be there even more. Through building relationships with these kids and the addition of a new student to the mix changes everything for Toni.

She struggles to hide her newfound reality from her friends, and her true self with her new coworkers. In the end, Toni finds a new woman beneath the layers she’s piled on and what I liked most about this new Toni was that she moved forward in life with integrity.

The book also has a focus on the naive perspective an individual can have walking into public education – and the realities Toni faced are not just at inner-city schools. I face these challenges at my school, which is too property wealthy (yet portables at every campus) that we fall under the “Robin Hood” legislation and must pay out several hundred thousand dollars to poorer districts. There are not desks from this century, and any minute you one of the crappily welded legs can go flying and drop a person (this happened to me this year) or it can bend and become a shank to any unsuspecting passerby. No air conditioning except in the office until students arrive. And that’s not even in a portable! Broken faucets. How are we supposed to promote good hygiene? Behavior students who seem to magically be placed in the exact same classes and prohibit learning from happening. Admin turning the other cheeck or pretending they don’t hear the most vital complaints and needs of teachers to make our primary job role (TEACHING!) possible. Referrals for repeat offenders deleted. Admin admitting they should have sent students to the alternative campus due to behavior, and yet continuing to do the same things and not addressing misbehavior and disruptions as serious classroom issues. Admin that are fearful of parents, so they must have a 1000% customer service role. This is education today, and Toni wasn’t making up anything in her teaching experience.

Toni encounters corruption and political agendas individuals have in public education. She finds that there are some straight jackass people who teach students. This is true. I have encountered this too, and I’m like “Why? Why are you here?”

I enjoyed seeing Toni become strong. A strong woman, a strong employee, a strong individual within her family unit. She got some class. Overall, a great ultimate feel-good read that takes some turns and requires some strong backbone.