A fast read and fun concept suitable for enjoyment year-round.


In this romance, two actors connect on the set of a Christmas movie.

In the small town of Gingerbread Falls, North Dakota, Noelle Butler is ready for Christmas. Young, beautiful, and single, she left the rat race of the city behind to open a popular cafe in her tiny, holiday-loving hometown and is determined to get first place in the window-display contest once again. But Noelle also longs for a special someone, and the Gingerbread Falls dating pool is seriously shallow…until she literally falls into the arms of Carson Stark, a doctor. Noelle and the handsome, sensitive physician quickly form a love connection, but Carson is hiding something important—will his secrecy ruin Noelle’s perfect Christmas? When the cameras stop rolling in the real-life Gingerbread Falls on the set of The Christmas Channel’s newest movie, 27-year-old working actor Carrie Murray (aka Noelle Butler) does her best to avoid Braxton Timothy, Hollywood’s biggest action star, who’s producing the film and playing Carson Stark. Carrie’s well aware of Braxton’s playboy reputation back in Tinseltown, and all she wants is to keep her head down and earn a paycheck on yet another Christmas movie, despite her own aversion to the holiday. But Braxton is persistent, and the town is tiny, so Carrie quickly finds herself catching feelings. Will she finally feel comfortable disclosing her traumatic past to a potential new lover? Mettner crafts two parallel, interdependent stories in a singular novel that’s ideal for those who can’t get enough of Hallmark movies come the holiday season. Carrie is a strong survivor and hero, an actor who doesn’t recognize her own natural talent and strives to keep a low profile despite her ripped-from-the-headlines childhood. But she lands at a crossroads when she realizes her showmance with Braxton might be the real thing. Braxton is not as well developed. He comes across as a little too perfect and evolved (not to mention he tends to explain Carrie’s own feelings to her) and gives a cutesy nickname to his own anatomy.

A fast read and fun concept suitable for enjoyment year-round.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021


Page Count: 192

Publisher: Breaking Night Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 7, 2021

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Fresh and upbeat, though not without flaws.


An earnest grad student and a faculty member with a bit of a jerkish reputation concoct a fake dating scheme in this nerdy, STEM-filled contemporary romance.

Olive Smith and professor Adam Carlsen first met in the bathroom of Adam's lab. Olive wore expired contact lenses, reducing her eyes to temporary tears, while Adam just needed to dispose of a solution. It's a memory that only one of them has held onto. Now, nearly three years later, Olive is fully committed to her research in pancreatic cancer at Stanford University's biology department. As a faculty member, Adam's reputation precedes him, since he's made many students cry or drop their programs entirely with his bluntness. When Olive needs her best friend, Anh, to think she's dating someone so Anh will feel more comfortable getting involved with Olive's barely-an-ex, Jeremy, she impulsively kisses Adam, who happens to be standing there when Anh walks by. But rumors start to spread, and the one-time kiss morphs into a fake relationship, especially as Adam sees there's a benefit for him. The university is withholding funds for Adam's research out of fear that he'll leave for a better position elsewhere. If he puts down more roots by getting involved with someone, his research funds could be released at the next budgeting meeting in about a month's time. After setting a few ground rules, Adam and Olive agree that come the end of September, they'll part ways, having gotten what they need from their arrangement. Hazelwood has a keen understanding of romance tropes and puts them to good use—in addition to fake dating, Olive and Adam are an opposites-attract pairing with their sunny and grumpy personalities—but there are a couple of weaknesses in this debut novel. Hazelwood manages to sidestep a lot of the complicated power dynamics of a student-faculty romance by putting Olive and Adam in different departments, but the impetus for their fake relationship has much higher stakes for Adam. Olive does reap the benefits of dating a faculty member, but in the end, she's still the one seemingly punished or taunted by her colleagues; readers may have been hoping for a more subversive twist. For a first novel, there's plenty of shine here, with clear signs that Hazelwood feels completely comfortable with happily-ever-afters.

Fresh and upbeat, though not without flaws.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-33682-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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