Opening Hearts, by Iona Findley

opening hearts

Grade: D

Doing it at: 55%

Catnip: First Comes Baby; Firemen; Mature Adult Decisions; Bad Writing; Free!

Shame Scale: This book wasn’t even scandalous but I feel shame anyway, the writing is not great.

Book Description:

Pregnant and alone at 35!

Jessalyn O’Donnell returns from her best friend’s wedding with a surprise of her own. She knows how it happened — three sex-filled nights with a smokin’ hot guy, known only as Sam — but she has no way to get in touch with him.

When smokejumper Sam Ricci returns to his hometown after the annual firefighting season ends, he has no plans for fatherhood. His lifestyle is too risky, and he loves his job — almost as much as he loves women. Everything changes when he runs into Jessalyn again and discovers her plans for single parenthood.

Sam doesn’t want to be tied down. Jessalyn would rather go it alone than deal with an absent husband. So why, when a twist of fate brings them together again, does it feel so right?


If you’re a long-time (aka four months) reader of My Book Shame you might know of my quest to find the perfect bar baby book. A book that incorporates all the elements of my favorite Heart song with lots of doing it and a happy ending. I was already let down once this year, but still got my hopes real high for Opening Hearts.

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Hope is always the first mistake, like John Cusack says in the seminal teen film Say Anything: “If you start out depressed everything is a pleasant surprise.”

Opening Hearts was not good.

Our story starts with Jessalyn having a shitty day, running late for everything, and then finding herself waiting two hours late for a gyne check up and discovering she’s late for something else all together. Jess is pregnant after a three-day cruise ship fling with Sam, who works as a fire jumper. Good start story, the writing was already a little weak but points for her baby daddy being an actual stranger.

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Scorched, by Jennifer Armentrout

scorched

Grade: B+

Doing it at: 56%

Catnip: Hate to Love You; Strong Female Lead; Firemen; Actual Real Life Problems; Pool Boner; All the Feels

Shame Scale: This book addresses some serious issues in a realistic and grown up way, it’s essentially a Real Book. So no shame.

Fantasy Cast: Garrett Hedlund; Bella Thorne

What Do We Taste Like?: Sugar and liquor

Book Description:

Sometimes life leaves a mark…

Most days, Andrea doesn’t know whether she wants to kiss Tanner or punch him in the gut. He is seriously hot, with legit bedroom eyes and that firefighter body of his, but he’s a major player, and they can’t get along for more than a handful of minutes. Until now.

Tanner knows he and Andrea have had an epic love/hate relationship for as long as he can remember, but he wants more love than hate from her. He wants her. Now. Tomorrow. But the more he gets to know her, the more it becomes obvious that Andrea has a problem. She’s teetering on the edge, and every time he tries to catch her, she slips through his fingers.

Andrea’s life is spiraling out of control, and it doesn’t matter that Tanner wants to save her, because when everything falls apart and she’s speeding toward rock-bottom, only she can save herself.

Sometimes life makes you work for that happily ever after…

Cleone: We adore Jennifer Armentrout, and eagerly read everything she gives unto us as quickly as we can get our hands on it. Scorched was no exception. I gave it to myself as a present after reading The Book That Mustn’t Be Named.

Mary: Plus, this one has a really cute cover. I’m a huge proponent of buying books solely based on the cover art.

C: Andrea and Tanner are the best friends of couple Sydney and Kyler (we aren’t going to talk about the name Kyler), from Frigid, and have an antagonistic relationship. Andrea has had a crush on Tanner since her freshman year — he’s very dreamy — and he literally didn’t know she was alive until two years later. She’s floundering a little, trying to decide where her life will take her as adulthood looms, dealing with some anxiety that she’s not doing a great job of acknowledging, and partying too much. Like way too much, Andrea can’t seem to have a few drinks without it leading to A Lot of drinks. ALOT

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M: Andrea felt like someone I would want to hang out with (when she wasn’t blackout drunk). At one point, she’s planning a night with her best friend Sydney, and she describes my perfect night:

I could get one of those cheese and meat platters. And I could also get a slew of hot guy movies – movies with Theo James and Jude Law and Tom Hardy and other hot British dudes. Were all of them British? I didn’t know. Their voices were hot and that was all that mattered.

C: We can have that exact night, bae, name the day. Summer sausage and English sausage.

M: I know my calculus. U + Me = Us  ❤

C: When the four friends decide to spend a week together at a cabin in West Virginia, things with Andrea and Tanner start to take a turn for the romantic. Tanner is very charming, and picturing a hot fireman with a flat top and aviator glasses was a lovely way to spend an evening in my backyard.

“Eventually,” I nudged her arm and grinned. “Because while I know I’ll look damn good in a police uniform, just imagine what I’d look like in a suit.”

His lips tipped up at the corners and he spoke in a voice only I could hear. “If I wanted you, I’d have you.” What in the holy hell hotcakes?

M: Here are some hot fireman to help you visualize Tanner:

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M: Tanner and Andrea have that really fun hate-flirt dynamic going, where they both antagonize each other because they obviously want to get naked and lick each other’s faces.

“I mean, who wouldn’t go slut-a-roo for him?”

Who indeed.

C: I really liked Andrea, even when she is fucking up she seems sympathetic, and real, like a girl you’d want to hang out with. Her best-friendship with Sidney rang true, when her best friend suspects that Andrea and Tanner are hooking up she won’t take any vague nonsense as an answer:

She gave me her best serious look.
“Don’t you dare lie to me, Andrea.”

I rolled my eyes. ” I didn’t say we didn’t do other things, but we didn’t do that”

“What other things?” A wide smile broke out across her face as she smacked my arm. “Tell me. Tell me now.”

“Stuff. Things. Use your imagination.”

She folded her arms and waited. “My imagination sucks. I need help.”

C: Andrea and Tanner banter and bicker before getting down to business in the luxe cabin, that their friends have conveniently vacated for them. Once the book hit the 50% mark it really started speeding along for me, with their relationship and with Andrea’s emotional struggles.

M: Like all our favorite Armentrout books, the dirty parts are scorching 😉

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M: Not to sound like jaded old pervs, but we read so much of this stuff that we’re often skipping right through the gravy to get back to the meat and potatoes. This book had us both hot under the collar.

C: Andrea’s anxiety, depression, and alcoholism are addressed head on, she has real life consequences as the result of her very not smart decisions. There is no quick fix, and when Armentrout is describing the feelings of panic, boredom, and ennui I felt heartbroken for Andrea. A lot of romance novels are light, and glib. The characters end up feeling a bit like paper dolls placed in a bedroom. But this felt like a true struggle, the author was clearly writing about something she was familiar with on some level, and that only enhanced the story.

M: She really manages to capture the feelings of self-loathing you have when you’re dealing with depression. And it’s the kind of horrible but functional depression that I think so many of us deal with – you appear outwardly fine, but internally you’re a wreck. I found myself really relating to Andrea and rooting for her to change her life and find happiness. I also really appreciated the fact that Tanner wasn’t the hero who saved her. She saved her self. She put in the work, and Tanner waited for her – but she wasn’t doing it for him, and wasn’t even sure that he would still be around for her when she got everything sorted out.

C: The doing it felt secondary to the story in Scorched, YES Tanner and Andrea’s HEA is the finish point of the book. However, her emotional journey and her life choices spiraling out of control  took center stage. This book gave me real feels.

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Beautiful Sacrifice, by Jamie McGuire

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Grade: A-

Doing it at: 62%

Catnip: Maddox Brothers; Firemen; Deep Dark Secret; Friends to Lovers

Shame Scale: Beautiful Sacrifice is only mildly dirty, and you could probably read most of it out loud without blushing. Low shame

Fantasy Cast: A Tattooed Josh Bowman, Emma Watson

Book Description:

Falyn Fairchild can walk away from anything. Already leaving behind her car, her education, and even her parents, the daughter of the next governor of Colorado is back in her hometown, broke and waiting tables for the Bucksaw Café. After every shift, Falyn adds to her shoebox of cash, hoping to one day save enough to buy her a plane ticket to the only place she can find forgiveness: Eakins, Illinois.

The moment Taylor Maddox is seated in Falyn’s section at the Bucksaw, she knows he’s trouble. Taylor is charming, breaks promises, and gorgeous even when covered in filth—making him everything Falyn believes a hotshot firefighter to be. Falyn isn’t interested in becoming another statistic, and for a Maddox boy, a disinterested girl is the ultimate challenge.

Once Falyn learns where Taylor calls home, everything changes. In the end, Maddox persistence is met with Falyn’s talent for leaving, and for the first time, Taylor may be the one to get burned.


Cleone: Beautiful Disaster, the book that introduced us to the Maddox brothers, was my ruining. I was already on the slippery slope, but Travis pushed me into full time romance reading. I inhaled that book, came up for air, and looked to see what Goodreads suggested I try next.

Mary: It was also the book that told me I could open up to Cleone about my reading habits. We had been tossing back and forth fairly tame book recommendations for a few weeks – A little Rainbow Rowell, some John Green, maybe some Diana Gabaldon, safe things like that. And then I remember texting her, “Well, there’s this one book I liked…. it’s a romance and a little bit trashy but…. Beautiful Disaster?” and I was met with an immediate “OH THAT ONE I HAVE READ!” That was the exact moment it changed for us. Reading soul mates.

C: Since then I’ve read all of McGuire’s books the very second that they’re released. I’m very attached to the boys and even though the writing isn’t setting the world on fire these books are addictive.

Taylor is in the middle of the Maddox birth order, and we’ve been introduced to him, and Falyn briefly in the previous books where a lot of plot lines seem to converge and blow up at Travis and Abby’s vow-renewal wedding. We are going to assume that all our romance fan girls have at least read Travis and Abby’s book. If you haven’t please stop reading this review and get on it! This is mandatory new adult shame spiral reading. Falyn and Taylor meet when he comes in to the restaurant where she waitresses with his hotshot crew; the boys are dirty and cute and love her “special cherry coke.” (do they really not have cherry soda in Colorado?) Taylor tries to run some game on Falyn, but fails because she doesn’t date. Falyn has a Deep Dark Secret that is often alluded to, we guessed it pretty quickly, but weren’t mad about it being so easy to decipher.

M: We did guess it pretty much instantly. But that’s fine. It’s hard to surprise us anymore because we’re so clever.

C: We aren’t reading these books for any plot outside of the romance, lets be honest.

When Taylor comes back after Falyn’s shift to try to convince her to go out with him, because he’s not used to hearing no and the Maddox boys love a challenge, she shuts him down again. That is until her parents show up and she makes it very clear to them, to Taylor, and to the other employees – who are basically her family – that her parents aren’t welcome in the restaurant or in Falyn’s life. When Taylor stands up for Falyn, and makes her parents sneer at him, Falyn is appreciative (and thinks he is really cute) and agrees to go on just one date with him.

M: Their date is really cute. He teaches her to two-step! In my dreams, I go back to being twenty three, and I two-step with a gorgeous tattooed boy at a country bar. She has amazing self control though, because she doesn’t even make out with him. She flounces on out of the bar, all, “No sir, you can not walk me home. Here’s a peck on the cheek though.”

C: But we know no girl goes on just one date with a Maddox boy. The brothers all fall for girls and become O to the B to the S to the E to the S to the SESSED.

He slowly starts to charm his way into her affections, but the real breakthrough happens when Falyn finds out Taylor is from Eakins, IL, which is a super big giant deal and has to do with her secret. So now Falyn has to play it just right to get him to take her home with him while not giving in too easily and having him lose the thrill of the chase.

I was a little skeptical on Falyn not being able to save up enough to get to Illinois from Colorado in FIVE years of putting her tips away, but McGuire gave us some dialog about how she was constantly getting set back in her savings so I decided to just go with Taylor being her only ticket home. A hot, six pack ab’d, smart mouthed ticket to redemption. Sign. Me. Up.

M: Right? We’re talking a few hundred dollars? Why not take a bus if it’s that important to you? It just seemed like a bit of a reach to me.

C: There’s lots of cute flirting, and banter, and failing to be friends because they want to do each other and Falyn is dead set on denying herself.

M: I felt like they had the most self control out of any couple in these books. Falyn friend-zones him pretty hard, and he basically accepts it for the summer. I want to call bullshit on it, but the whole book was really cute. It didn’t have the emotion of Beautiful Disaster or the heat of Beautiful Redemption, but it was sweeter I think.

C: Falyn lives a bare bones life with all her saving up and she has an actual VCR which Taylor hooks up for her so they can hang out in her apartment and watch classic 80’s movie on tape and be adorable.

I want to watch Aliens with a Maddox boy.

M: You don’t even want to know what I want to do with a Maddox boy.

C: Eventually Falyn clues Taylor in that she needs him to take her to IL, and that she has a secret, but its not related to his baby brother like he originally feared (Travis is in hot water, remember). Taylor wants to help her — and bone her — so he is all “sure, I’ll take you home with me and introduce you to my tight knit family without knowing your ulterior motives.”

It made me worry that Taylor was a little dumb with how long it took him to figure out what was going on with Falyn’s secret. To be honest, TBH as the young folk say.

Once they’re in Eakins they finally get to driving Miss Daisy** and admit their love.

C: I wanted way more sex. We like our Maddox’s with at least 60% more thrusting. Thomas had more sex, right, Mary?

M: Girl, Thomas had doing it at 4%. He walked down the hallway, carrying Liis while still inside of her, because he couldn’t get deep enough on the couch. Thomas is my favorite Maddox. He’s all stern and gainfully employed. Can I call Thomas?

C: I’ll give you Thomas, because you gave me Tom Hardy (04/24/15).

C: Taylor does a BAD THING after he and Falyn hit a rough patch. If you’ve read Beautiful Redemption, you probably know what it is going into this book, and you don’t know if you can forgive him. We could. Maybe because we are just crazy about this band of fictional brothers with their muscles and tattoos.

M: What it is about the Maddox brothers? They do ridiculously dumb things, they wrestle and behave like teenagers, and most of them chain smoke. And meanwhile, I’m an adult lady, all

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C: Maybe we need a Maddox exception to go with our CoHo exception.

Who is ready for our last Maddox boy? Maybe twin brother Tyler can give us a wee bit more doin’ it? What say you, Jamie McGuire?

** I’m pretty sure Taylor completely neglected the condom. Very bad form, New Adult romances tend to be stellar in their representation of safe sex and slip ups are generally used as plot points to get babies all up in our book ladies.

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