Book Review: Mixing It Up by Tracie Banister

Manhattanite Cecily Sinclair is the host of cooking show Serving Romance where she creates gourmet French cuisine. When new CEO Devlin Hayes takes over CuisineTV with plans to rebrand the network, Cecily finds out that her show is going to change drastically, including the addition of Cecily’s former nightmare of a boss, Italian chef Dante Marchetti. Despite constantly being at odds, viewers love their chemistry together, much to Cecily's dismay. But Cecily is determined to maintain her reputation and the integrity of her show, which means getting a step ahead of Dante and Devlin with her own schemes. As she tries to figure out if she's really meant for TV or if she should take a new path, she finds herself embroiled in romantic drama with both men who drive her crazy.

Mixing It Up is a fast-paced, well-written novel that will have readers guessing until the very end. Cecily is determined to control all aspects of her life. The more curveballs that are thrown her way, the more headstrong she becomes. She is definitely one of the strongest Chick Lit heroines, but her stubbornness gets her into some trouble. So, it’s a good thing Cecily has caring friends to help her relax a bit. The dynamic between Cecily and her best friend/cousin, Dina, is fun to read because they are so different, but they balance each other out so well at all the right times. For most of the book, it’s unclear who Cecily will end up with romantically. She has chemistry with Dante and Devlin, which makes things interesting. Readers will likely root for both men at different times during the book, as well as be frustrated by both. With Cecily’s love life unclear, there’s enough work drama and family drama to keep the story moving along.

The best aspect of Mixing It Up is the author’s writing style, which is so natural and effortless, making it an easy yet compelling read. Cecily’s passion for food jumps off the pages thanks to the author’s exquisitely detailed culinary descriptions. Foodies and Chick Lit fans are sure to enjoy this entertaining read that excels in gastronomy, humor, and romance. Highly recommended!


Book Review: Regrets Only by M.J. Pullen

Book Description: At thirty-three, Suzanne Hamilton has no regrets. A successful event planner with a swanky condo in a hot Atlanta neighborhood, she’s got a close group of friends and a list of men a mile long who would happily bend over backwards to win her heart. Plus, she’s just landed the event that will take her career to the next level. Then a freak accident changes everything. Humiliated, with her career in tatters, Suzanne’s lost her business not to mention her self-respect. She’s managed, however, to retain the surprising support of her newest celebrity client: the sexy country music star, Dylan Burke. Against her better judgment, but without any better offers, Suzanne agrees to plan a wedding for one of the Burke sisters. But when she comes to realize her freak accident was anything but, her catalog of past relationships turns into a list of suspects and Suzanne must question everything―her career, her friendships, and most acutely, her own dating rules. As it turns out, she might have quite a bit to regret after all.

My Thoughts: I LOVED this book so much!! I couldn't put it down! It's charming, funny, and intriguing. Suzanne is a great heroine because she's strong and driven. She's a bit over-confident at times, but not enough to make her unlikable.  I really appreciated the twists and turns in the story that I didn't predict. They definitely kept me turning the pages! Pullen's writing style is SO captivating! The story has an element of mystery as well, which I really enjoyed. I was so surprised by who was responsible for Suzanne's accident. Dylan is described as a "sexy country music star," and he definitely is! His charm and sex appeal jump off the pages, so he's very compelling as the hero of the story. I loved the will-they won't-they between Dylan and Suzanne. This novel is the second book in The Marriage Pact trilogy. Each novel is about a different member of a group of friends. I haven't read the first book in the series, but that didn't matter when I was reading Regrets Only. Each book stands on its own. I highly recommend Regrets Only!

Rating: 5 stars


Book Review: Twin Piques by Tracie Banister

In Twin Piques, identical twins Sloane and Willa Tobin couldn’t be more different. Their personalities, the way they dress, their careers, the way they view the world and what’s important to them are always at odds. Sloane is a workaholic forensic accountant striving for a big promotion and always puts her career before her love life. Willa is a quirky pet psychic who longs for true love when she isn’t interpreting the thoughts and feelings of animals to their clueless owners. Sloane is logical, focused, determined, and unfeeling while Willa is easily distracted, emotional, slightly delusional, and overly trusting to a fault.

I can really relate to Sloane and Willa in different ways. I’m a hopeless romantic like Willa, but I can also be incredibly cynical like Sloane. I actually found myself favoring Sloane much more and rooting for her, and rolling my eyes and shaking my head at Willa. Sloane’s domineering personality is quite refreshing, especially in chick lit. Too often in this genre the heroine is the bumbling, weak character to start out and then discovers who she is and how to assert herself throughout the novel. In a way, that is Willa. But what’s great is that Sloane is a narrator as well, and varying by chapter, we get to see both of their perspectives and read the story from their very different points of view. Sloane is a very strong character from the start, and I'm drawn to her because of that. I’ve read Willa before, and she’s too familiar. I’ve even written a similar character to Willa (Marlo in my novel, True Love Way. I think Willa and Marlo would be best friends!). We need more heroines like Sloane in chick lit. But that’s not to say that I don’t like Willa. I do. I just found myself getting bored with her and reading quickly through her chapters so I could get to Sloane’s chapters. Another issue for me is that I don’t really like Willa’s love interest. He is too perfect or maybe Willa’s extreme enthusiasm for him and optimism cloud his faults and real personality. As a result, I feel like I don't know him that well. I don’t connect to him, so it's hard to invest in their romance. I have a stronger connection to both of Sloane’s guys.

Note to authors: The book’s description needs to appeal to readers and intrigue them enough to buy your book without giving major plot points away. I’m sure I’m guilty of this, but if I write another book, I’ll be more mindful of it. There’s very little mystery in the description of Twin Piques. The description gives too much away and everything “hinted” at in the description happens. There are a few unexpected moments throughout the story, but they all lead to what’s put forth in the official synopsis. There is a big surprise at the end that I didn't see coming, so I have to acknowledge that, but I would have liked more twists and turns. The over-sharing in the synopsis reminds me of what the Hallmark Channel does. They air a lot of original romantic comedies and romance movies, and in the commercials, they often show the final scene of the couple kissing. A few weeks ago, I sat down to watch Surprised by Love and right before it began, they showed the final kissing scene in a what’s-coming-up-next promo. Throughout the movie, I was hoping that scene would happen halfway through or anywhere else but the end, but sure enough, it was the very last scene before the credits. Don’t do that to me! I know the couple is going to fall in love and live happily ever after in romantic comedies and chick lit. That’s the way it works. But don’t give it all away upfront. Don’t set up who will be with who or show me how it will happen before I even start reading or watching. There’s comfort in predictability, but too much of it is a turn off.

Anyway,  I love the bond between Sloane and Willa. Even though they’re so different, I believed in their strong connection right from the beginning, and it stays solid throughout the book. They always have each other’s backs. Overall, despite some typical chick lit tropes and a middle that drags a bit, Twin Piques is a great read. Tracie Banister’s writing is on point and extremely impressive, especially in Sloane’s chapters. I like that the intimate scenes are sexy, but not described in too much detail just for shock value. There’s enough on the page and enough left to the imagination. Just the right balance. The ending of the book is unique and hilarious and pretty much perfect. I love how it all comes together.  


4 stars