The Kiss Quotient

The Kiss Quotient
The KIss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Black Cherry

Black Cherry
Christmas at Black Cherry Retreat by Angela Britnell

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang- Feature and Review


A heartwarming and refreshing debut novel that proves one thing: there's not enough data in the world to predict what will make your heart tick.

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases — a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn't help that Stella has Asperger's and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice — with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can't afford to turn down Stella's offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan — from foreplay to more-than-missionary position...

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he's making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic...



The Kiss Quotient (The Kiss Quotient, #1)The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang is a 2018 Berkley publication.

A real charmer!

Stella, an Econometrician, has intimacy issues, perhaps a symptom of her Asperger’s. With her mother growing impatient for grandchildren, and after absorbing an ugly comment, which took aim at Stella’s lack of sexual experience, she decides to hire a male escort to ‘teach’ her everything she needs to know about dating and sex.

Michael Phan has never had a client like Stella. She touches a part of him, he keeps barricaded, especially with clients. Her effect on him is so powerful, he agrees to give her lessons on sex and dating, against his better judgment, and breaking every single personal rule of his profession.

However, their business arrangement soon develops into something neither of them could have anticipated. Before long, Stella begins to figure in a new type of equation- love!

Okay, I’ve seen the huge marketing push for the book, and I’ve had many friends on social media and book sites fawning it. From experience I know when a book gets this level of hype it is very important to approach it with a modicum of caution. Even though I was chomping at the bit to start this one, pushing everything else to the wayside if need be, I cooled my engines and let some of the furor die down before I finally allowed myself to read it.

So, did it live up to all that publicity?

I adored this story. It’s unique, featuring a female character who struggles to find her niche in a world that embraces conformity and uniformity. I don’t have Asperger’s syndrome, but I am an extreme introvert, so I could relate to some of the struggles Stella fought to overcome. I immediately warmed to her character and hoped she would find the confidence she had buried inside of her all along.

While I didn’t know how to feel about Michael’s unorthodox occupation, I did LOVE this guy’s gentle patience. It was fun watching Stella crawl under his skin, seeing how he understood her, quirks and all, and how they managed to create a relationship with each other, as Michael slowly draws Stella out. Michael turned out to be a terrific hero, and I might have developed a secret and deliciously sinful crush on him.

That said, the book was still a wee bit over-hyped. While I understand why some felt this one was special and deserved a lot of attention, the format, at its core, is not much different from any other contemporary romance. The writing or prose didn't set it apart from any other books out there, although it is obvious the author knew her subject matter intimately.

What does set it apart is the diversity, and the boldness of placing a character with Asperger’s as a lead in a romantic comedy. The delicate balance of approaching the syndrome with respect and the gravity it deserves, while adding in humor and poignancy, is very well done. From that perspective the story is very original, unique, and refreshing!

Everything you love about romance is here: It's hot and steamy, funny, charming, emotional, and inspiring, with a lovely feel good ending.

However, this one gives voice to those rarely featured in these types of stories. I love that about this book!! I for one, applaud this new angle and approach to contemporary romance, and hope to see more books step away from the standard 'Plain Jane' tropes and branch out into new, mostly unexplored territory, in the romance genre. Books like this one could help the genre shake off a few of its hardwired stigmas and reach a much broader audience.



Helen Hoang is that shy person who never talks. Until she does. And the worst things fly out of her mouth. She read her first romance novel in eighth grade and has been addicted ever since. In 2016, she was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in line with what was previously known as Asperger’s Syndrome. Her journey inspired THE KISS QUOTIENT. She currently lives in San Diego, California with her husband, two kids, and pet fish.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Christmas at Black Cherry Retreat by Angela Britnell - Feature and Review


A festive feel-good holiday read. Highly recommended. 
What if you had nowhere to call home for Christmas? 
When Fee Winter books a winter break at the remote Black Cherry Retreat in the small town of Pine Ridge, Tennessee, it’s with the idea that the peace and quiet will help her recuperate from her hectic life as a photographer. 

But what she didn’t bank on was meeting Tom Chambers and his huge, interfering yet lovable family. With them, could Fee finally experience the warmth and support that’s been missing from her own life – and maybe even find a place to call home in time for Christmas? 



Christmas at Black Cherry Retreat (Choc Lit): Celebrate Christmas in a gorgeous retreat with this heartwarming read of 2018!Christmas at Black Cherry Retreat (Choc Lit): Celebrate Christmas in a gorgeous retreat with this heartwarming read of 2018! by Angela Britnell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Christmas at Black Cherry Retreat by Angela Britnell is a 2018 Choc Lit publication.

Fee Winter has arrived at The Black Cherry retreat for a much needed break. She’s a photographer who has witnessed entirely too much while on assignment. The remote area in Pine Tree, Tennessee is the perfect, tranquil place for Fee to lick her wounds, to nurse her broken heart and spirit back to health.

However, she never planned on Tom…

Tom is a former policeman, who is working to refurbish the family retreat. Tom, too, has seen and experienced major pain and loss in his life. When he meets Fee, despite coming from vastly different worlds, he senses she is a kindred spirit.

Despite their growing attraction to each other, they must first overcome their fears of making another mistake, of experiencing pain or loss, and overcome crushing guilt.

This story is not your sweet and syrupy sort of holiday fare. In fact, the story begins a couple of months prior to Christmas. However, it certainly embodies the spirit of the season, giving hope to two people who deserve a fresh beginning.

I love to see two people who have been knocked sideways by devastating life events, find a way to fight their way out of bleak depression and pain- experiencing personal growth, first, which then enables them to look to the future with the promise of new beginnings, hope and of course, love.

No person is an island, as they say, so Fee and Tom lean on each other to heal and forgive themselves, and others. However, each of them will have to take the ultimate leap of faith if they hope to have a future together.

Running in the background of this high drama, is a personal criminal case Tom has a stake in, and the delightful interactions with Tom’s family, especially with his little niece, who is simply adorable.

The story does deal with some somber and heavy issues, but there’s plenty of southern charm and humor in the story, as well. I love a story which features more mature characters who have to deal with real adversity and cope with deep emotional traumas. When they finally step into the light, it means so much more, and is so satisfying for the reader who has taken this journey along with them.

Although this story is set against a holiday backdrop, it’s a mild reference, making this a book one can enjoy any time of the year.



I was born in the beautiful county of Cornwall in southwestern England and grew up in a small village there. I return frequently to visit family and friends but especially to savor the cool rainy weather and hot tea. After school I joined the Royal Navy and served for nearly six years. I held varying jobs from being the only woman in the staff of a sports center to arranging social engagements for the Captain of the base. My last assignment was to Denmark where I thought I would spend a wild two years in Copenhagen only to discover I was being sent to a NATO Headquarters in a quiet town on the Jutland Peninsula. I was only disappointed for a while as I met my own tall, dark, handsome stranger there - a US Naval Officer named Richard who became my husband.

That was the beginning of an itinerant life as from Denmark we went to Sicily where we had our first son. Then it was on to Monterey, California and the birth of our second son. From there we headed to Patuxent River, Maryland where we had our third son. Richard's last assignment was to London where we spent a wonderful three years. Retiring from the Navy he took a job in Brentwood, Tennessee near where he grew up. Since 2008 we are empty nesters which allows more time for my writing.

I have always been a voracious reader, even at 5 years old my school reports show a keen interest in English and very little in math - some things never change! Although I enjoyed writing in school it wasn't until 2001 that I was tempted to take a creative writing class at a local recreation center which has sparked my new career.

When I'm not busy writing I enjoy spending time with family and friends. I try to grow English flowers in the Tennessee heat and succeed some of the time. I belong to the wonderful Red Bandanas Writing Group, Jubilee Readers Book Club, and volunteer at my local library so you can see that words are important to me.

I hope you enjoy reading my work as much as I enjoy writing it so sit back, make yourself a cup of tea and enjoy a break from everyday life.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

The Janus Witch by Michael Scott Clifton- Feature and Review + Giveaway

Genre: Paranormal Urban Fantasy / Romance Publisher: Book Liftoff Publication Date: September 1, 2018
Number of Pages: 372 pages


Malice vs Love
A beautiful witch, a member of a murderous coven, is torn from her medieval world and transported to East Texas. The passage leaves her with no memory of her previous life. She falls in love with a young pediatrician, but her dark past threatens to reassert itself…and make her a threat.


The Janus WitchThe Janus Witch by Michael Scott Clifton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

And now for something completely different-

Tressalayne is a member of a murderous witch coven, under the rule of the ruthless, Morganna. Morganna and her coven have left devastation in their wake often enough, which is why obsessed witch hunter, Robert Lockstone, is determined to end them.

When the witches are ripped through a time portal they are pulled away from Medieval times, and are thrust forward into present day, East Texas, with Lockstone hot on their trail. Their little trip through time, lands them in the hospital, where Dr. Lucas Beckett is Tressalayne’s attending physician. After running afoul of the hospital administration, Lucas takes the lovely witch away to recover, falling completely under her spell in the process.

This is Clifton’s second novel and there are no signs of the dreaded sophomore jitters. This story has everything you would want in a fantasy/romance. Evil characters, adventure, intrigue, moral dilemmas, and a unique love story that could be doomed from the start. The author did a very good job with characterization, and the writing is quite descriptive. The pacing is brisk, but at times the flow was too frenetic, leaving too little time for emotional responses to the events as they transpired. Other than that, this is an engrossing tale, very vivid, lush and suspenseful!!

This book is a nice change of pace for me. I haven’t delved into the paranormal, fantasy genres in a long time, but recently found myself drawn to them again. I’ve been searching for imagination and creativity, along with a compelling storyline that will take me into another realm, challenging me in different ways. This book did all those things, reminding me to branch out and enjoy a little bit of everything the book world has to offer, and to do it more often.

4 stars



This book is filled with magic, intrigue, excitement, and fantasy. Michael Scott Clifton is a truly gifted author.  -- Teresa Syms, Readers’ Favorite
This novel was an absolute page turner with action and great character development. I enjoyed every minute of it. I'm excited for the next work by Mike Clifton. -- Bronwyn Pegues, Librarian, Longview Public Library
“Michael Scott Clifton weaves and casts a magical spell in his fantasy romance The Janus Witch. A must read for any Fantasy Romance, Urban Romance, or Paranormal Romance enthusiast!" -- Ranay James, Author of The McKinnon Legends: A Time Travel Series
A continuous flow of witchery and energy that kept this reader captivated until the end. -- The Electric Review, 5-Star Review

Michael Scott Clifton, public educator for over 38 years as a teacher, coach, and administrator, currently lives in Mount Pleasant, Texas with his wife, Melanie, and family cat, Sadie. An avid gardener, he enjoys all kinds of book and movie genres. His books contain aspects of all the genres he enjoys...adventure, magic, fantasy, romance, and relationships. He has been a finalist in a number of short story contests. Clifton’s fantasy novel, The Conquest of the Veil, won a First Chapter Finalist award. Professional credits include articles published in the Texas Study of Secondary Education Magazine. Clifton’s latest book, The Janus Witch, the July Book Cover of the Month, is a featured book on the We Love Indie Books website. Currently, Clifton is completing Book I of The Conquest of the Veil, which will be released in March 2019. He can be reached at
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Friday, December 7, 2018

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: The Christmas Story: The Book that Inspired the Hilarious Classic Film- by Jean Shepherd



A beloved, bestselling classic of humorous and nostalgic Americana—the book that inspired the equally classic Yuletide film.
The holiday film A Christmas Story, first released in 1983, has become a bona fide Christmas perennial, gaining in stature and fame with each succeeding year. Its affectionate, wacky, and wryly realistic portrayal of an American family’s typical Christmas joys and travails in small-town Depression-era Indiana has entered our imagination and our hearts with a force equal to It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street.

This edition of A Christmas Story gathers together in one hilarious volume the gems of autobiographical humor that Jean Shepherd drew upon to create this enduring film. Here is young Ralphie Parker’s shocking discovery that his decoder ring is really a device to promote Ovaltine; his mother and father’s pitched battle over the fate of a lascivious leg lamp; the unleashed and unnerving savagery of Ralphie’s duel in the show with the odious bullies Scut Farkas and Grover Dill; and, most crucially, Ralphie’s unstoppable campaign to get Santa—or anyone else—to give him a Red Ryder carbine action 200-shot range model air rifle. Who cares that the whole adult world is telling him, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid”?

The pieces that comprise A Christmas Story, previously published in the larger collections In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash and Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories, coalesce in a magical fashion to become an irresistible piece of Americana, quite the equal of the film in its ability to warm the heart and tickle the funny bone.


A Christmas StoryA Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Christmas Story by Jean Shepard – narrated by Dick Cavett- is a 2004 RH audio publication. (Read from the book, published in 1983)

I knew the movie, which we have all seen ad nauseum every Christmas, was based on a book, but I’d never read it. The movie version is adorable, but I’ve seen it so many times I can almost quote it verbatim. I decided to stop watching it for a while because it was in danger of losing all its charm, due to the marathon showings of it on television.

But this year I caught myself thinking about holiday movies, the ones I watched growing up and the ones my kids loved, and the way television has burned me out on some of my favorites. So, this year I decided to read more Christmas themed books instead of watching the same movies over and over. But, when I stumbled across this book in audio format on Scribd, I couldn’t resist. I figured it would be a new way to experience an old favorite. However, I was taken aback when I discovered this book was not exactly family oriented.

The book is really like a set of related vignettes or a collection of short stories. Some have described them as essays. The Christmas themed story about the Red Ryder BB gun is super short and made me wonder where all the other parts were.

Have no fear! The ‘major award’ episode is here, as well as many other popular scenes from the movie, just not in the order I was accustomed to. The Bumpus’ family is described in full detail – something the movie doesn’t address-leading up to a different version of the holiday feast which was stolen by their dogs, but one that is equally madcap.

So, yes, I was able to enjoy a favorite holiday story in an all new way which was very refreshing and so much fun. Dick Cavett did an amazing job with the narration, and the book provides some background information which gave me a new perspective on some scenes in the movie version.
The book is just a funny as the movie, but just in case you have never read it, it should be noted the language can be moderately strong in some places, with adult themes and is not for younger children.

For me the book has a stronger feel of nostalgia and is even a little poignant on a few occasions. Shepard’s deadpan wit and folksy humor are juxtaposed against the adult man living in ‘modern’ day New York and the boy growing up in Indiana in the depression era. He has perfect, pitch, tone, and timing! He is occasionally wistful, with a little family tenderness managing to seep out, as well. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this book today. It is very short, and only took a few hours to listen to the entire book.

If you love the movie, then you really must check out the book. I recommend trying the audio version, if you get a chance.



                                                     ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Raised in Hammond, Indiana, Jean Shepherd went on to work in the steel mills and was a veteran of the Army Signal Corps before entering the arts. In the 1950s, he began a long career as a radio personality telling stories of his youth, commenting on current topics and performing silly songs. While at WOR-AM in New York, he also broadcast live night club acts from the Limelight in Greenwich Village. He wrote for Playboy and other magazines. His articles were published in a series of books including "The America of George Ade", "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash", "Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories, and Other Disasters", "A Fistful of Fig Newtons" and "The Ferrari in the Bedroom". During the 1970s, he did two series of humorous programs as well as several American Playhouse (1981) episodes for PBS. In 1983, he wrote his first feature film, A Christmas Story (1983), putting together many tales of his semi-autobiographical character "Ralphie". A sequel, "My Summer Story" (aka It Runs in the Family (1994)) was made in 1994.


Dick Cavett was born November 19, 1936) is an American television personality, comedian and former talk show host notable for his conversational style and in-depth discussions. He appeared regularly on nationally broadcast television in the United States in five consecutive decades, the 1960s through the 2000s.
In later years, Cavett wrote a column for the online The New York Times, promoted DVDs of his former shows as well as a book of his Times columns, and hosted replays of his TV interviews with Salvador DalíGroucho MarxKatharine HepburnJudy GarlandMarlon BrandoIngmar BergmanWoody AllenJohn Lennon and others on Turner Classic Movies.[1][2]

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Same Time Next Christmas by Christine Rimmer - Feature and Review


They’re each other’s Christmas present. But what about the other 364 days?

Ex-soldier Matthias Bravo likes spending the holidays hunkered down in his remote Oregon cabin. Until Sabra Bond seeks refuge from a winter storm. Now they meet every year for a no-strings Yuletide romance. But Matthias is changing the rules. This Bravo bachelor finally knows what he wants—Sabra forever. Is she ready to commit to love not just at Christmas but every day of the year?



Same Time, Next ChristmasSame Time, Next Christmas by Christine Rimmer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Same Time, Next Christmas by Christine Rimmer is a 2018 Harlequin Special Edition publication.

Matthias is planning to spend Christmas at his remote cabin in Oregon. Still coping with the effects of war, and haunted by the disappearance of his brother, he just wants some alone time. But, when he arrives, it looks as though his cabin has been broken into, and he’s caught the culprit red- handed.

Sabra made a miscalculation and got caught out in a snow storm as a result. Finding an empty cabin, she seeks short term shelter- But, then Matthias Bravo barges in pointing a gun at her.

Not the most romantic way to start a relationship!! However, moody Matthias is soon won over by Sabra who takes care of him after discovering he has a nasty leg wound. Stuck together until the storm clears, they have plenty of time to talk and get to know each other. The more they talk, the more they realize how much they enjoy one another’s company, and how badly they need human contact. However, neither of them is in a place, emotionally, to commit to a relationship. So, they agree to meet back at the cabin again for Christmas to ‘exchange gifts’, so to speak- no strings attached.

I loved the set-up for this story. Yes, it did remind me of the movie, “Same time, Next Year", but only because it has a similar premise. This story is centered around two singles who have been through an undue amount of emotional stress, from bad breakups to family deaths, to childhood to traumas. But I had to wonder if deep down they knew they were meant to be, but the timing had to be just right. Not that Matthias didn’t try to force the issue…

I thought the story had a whimsical quality to it, but at the same time it captured the emotional growth each character experienced. Naturally, we don’t all progress at the same pace, so Matthias and Sabra’s relationship has a few fits and starts, before they wind up on the same page.

It was a little nerve racking at times, though, and I started to seriously worry about this couple. But, while the journey was occasionally bittersweet, it was also a fun story, with terrific dialogue and I enjoyed seeing this couple through the various stages of their relationship.

The mood or atmosphere often shifts, as the couple grapples with life changes and uncertainty. I experienced a gamut of emotions along the way, as well. In fact, it was almost like reading a mini-saga. Of course, when I follow a couple to their ultimate destination after a long, eventful trip, I often feel like their HEA is especially poignant and satisfying, which is certainly the case here!!

This is a terrific holiday romance, as always, from Christine Rimmer. I loved this couple and the delightful theme of the story and feel the author did an amazing job with it!!



A New York Times and USA-Today bestselling author, Christine Rimmer has written more than 100 contemporary romances for Harlequin Books. A reader favorite, Christine has won Romantic Times BOOKreview's Reviewer's Choice Award for best Silhouette Special Edition. She has been nominated seven times for the Romance Writers of America's prestigious RITA award and five times for Romantic Times Series Storyteller of the Year. Christine lives in Oregon with her family.