Month: June 2020

The Ingredients of You and Me by Nina Bocci

Review: The Ingredients of You and Me by Nina Bocci

The Ingredients of You and Me was my pandemic book. Before the pandemic officially began, I’d placed my pre-order and looked forward to receiving my copy the day it was released. Fast forward to April 28 and shipping was delayed and the world was a very different place. 

By the time the book finally arrived, I’d already re-read Nina Bocci’s other entries in the Hopeless Romantics series, On the Corner of Love and Hate and Meet Me on Love Lane, and I was so ready for Parker and Nick’s story. 

From the very first pages I knew I loved the story. Bocci has a knack for coming off the starting line strong, and for Parker Adams that meant selling her successful business and discovering that change meant a creativity block for the ages. Her decision to visit her friends in the idyllic town of Hope Lake, Pennsylvania, is more of a desperate attempt to reclaim her passion and figure out what Parker Phase Two looks like. 

It also means going back to the small town where Nick Arthur lives, and that means walking headfirst into some uncomfortable truths as she learns that he has a girlfriend.

Needless to say, Parker’s story isn’t all sprinkles and spritz cookies but thankfully she has lots of friends around to help her rediscover her mojo and whip up some new recipes…but will Nick be in the mix?

Under normal circumstances (as in, not during a worldwide pandemic) I read books really fast. Too fast, really. I can devour a good book in a matter of hours, and while the pandemic provided me with more hours than I was used to, I decided to take my time with The Ingredients of You and Me

The decision to read it slowly came on page 22, when Charlotte tells Parker she can take the 3pm bus from New York and make it to Hope Lake by dinner. 

Hope Lake, you see, is a work of fiction. Nina Bocci dreamed up Hope Lake and I can imagine that she pulled in all of the small town elements she loves to create the picture perfect, Hallmark-Channel-movie-ready setting to deposit her characters and let them play. 

The only way to get to Hope Lake is by car, and like a soap opera set in the 1950s, by bus. 

There is something incredibly special about that. 

Hope Lake is a place where time seems to stand still, so I wanted to read the book like a soap opera, with a little bit each day. (Sometimes I cheated and read a couple of chapters because I couldn’t wait to see what happened next) 

I love the way Bocci allowed the story to unfold so organically. Both Parker and Nick had things that they needed to work out, and these things take time. You can’t rediscover yourself on a deadline. That never works. 

Bocci’s world is one you want to jump into with both feet. The Golden Girls are delightful and I want my own group of Golden Girls to hang out with. I want to bake with Parker and have a reason to visit Charlotte’s flower shop every day. And don’t get me started on Henry’s bookstore….

The Ingredients of You and Me is a romance story for any time of the year. It will be a great beach read just as it’s the perfect book to read when you’re spending the weekend baking. It’s the kind of book you want to get lost in, and once you’re in it you won’t want to leave. 

Click here to buy The Ingredients of You and Me

Undisclosed by Liza Gaines

Undisclosed Proves that Romance and Politics Do Mix

Undisclosed is the kind of summer romance you want to be reading right now. It has all of the thrills of a long ago summer fling, a secret child and two former lovers brought back together to help their candidate run for office. 

Gwen and Mac knew each other in college. In fact, you can say they were close one summer, but after the dog days ended Gwen disappeared leaving a very confused Mac behind. 

Almost 12 years later Gwen shows up for a job interview at a PR firm that is helping to promote the presidential candidate hoping to unseat the incumbent, only to Gwen’s shock she finds that Mac is the one she’d be working with. 

To their mutual shock, they are the best team possible to help their candidate win her way into the White House, but in the process of working together Mac discovers Gwen’s secret: A son, whose eyes are identical to his own. 

Thrilling, isn’t it? And the perfect thing to curl up with on the beach or on the couch this weekend.

Undisclosed comes courtesy of author Liza Gaines, and it’s the first installment of her Public Relations series. I love how Gaines is setting up the series. All of her characters have great depth and are interesting and witty, and it will be fun to learn more about them in future books. Not only that, but this is the first chapter in a larger story featuring Gwen and Mac, and honestly the more the merrier. Undisclosed is just the start of what will no doubt be a very successful series.

While there are any number of stories out there about secret kids from long ago flings, what I love about Undisclosed is that Gwen and Mac were as good for each other over that summer long ago as they are now, working together as a team. Mac has to decide the kind of man he wants to be, for himself, for Gwen and for his son, and it takes him a while to get there. Gwen is steadfast, confident and just as surprised to see Mac has he was to see her. (They’d been close that summer, but evidently not close enough for her to know his full name…which makes for a very tantalizing story)

Clocking in at roughly 75,000 words, Undisclosed is a fast read. Once you get going, it’s hard to stop. Those are the kinds of books I love, and I think you’ll love Undisclosed, too.

Undisclosed is available now from the following retailers:

Order Links: 


Barnes & Noble



About Liza Gaines 

Liza Gaines grew up in Michigan before moving to Virginia in 2007.  She misses her family and the Great Lakes but has otherwise fallen in love with her adopted home state.

A dedicated reader, Liza often has her nose in a book.  She also enjoys cooking, baking, knitting, and watching terrible science fiction movies with her husband.  Their small farm in Fredericksburg, Virginia is home to an ever-expanding menagerie that currently includes three dogs, five cats, two horses, and three goats. 

Connect with Liza: 




There’s Nothing Wrong With Liking Romance Novels

I remember the first “romance” novel I ever read. It was my junior year and I was working at my university bookstore. I’d quickly established myself as a book “expert” so I was taken away from the cash register and given a spot in the book department, where I ordered bestsellers and law outlines. 

I loved that job. 

A little known secret about the paperback book industry is that when books don’t sell and they pass their return date, they must be “destroyed”. To a book lover, this was a nearly impossible task. Their destruction meant tearing off the covers and mailing them back to the distributor as proof that they were no longer saleable, and then the books themselves were thrown away. 

(Psst, dear reader: I never threw them away. I took them home.)

It was in one of these “destroyed” books that I discovered a novella by Nora Roberts called “This Magic Moment.” Published years before, the story appeared in one of Roberts’ re-released anthologies. 

I knew who Nora Roberts was, of course. I ordered the bestsellers and Roberts was always at the top of the list. My boss used to roll her eyes and shake her head at the number of “T&A” books on the shelf (“As if these will ever sell around here”), despite the fact that her college roommate put herself through grad school writing romance novels, which were always in demand. 

What captured my attention about “This Magic Moment” was not that it was a romance, rather it was a book about a magician. And I’d seen enough David Copperfield television specials to know that I loved magic. So I read it, and I loved it. 

Soon I realized that I could look up any kind of subgenre and there would always be a romance category for it. From broad to obscure, they were all there. 

Love Grey’s Anatomy? Try medical romance.

Love Highlander? Try – you guessed it – Scottish Highlander romance novels.

Does BDSM make you blush? There’s a whole category full of very specific subcategories featuring all the spankings you can handle.

The point is that you can find anything you want to read about in the romance genre, and for many readers it’s less about the romance-y parts and more about the story. 

(Yes, it’s exactly like the expression “I read Playboy for the articles” and I know someone who writes for Playboy so I can say without hesitation that this is possible)

This concept translates to any number of fandoms. Even sports.

Like readers, fanboys and fangirls and fans of any genre, sports fans are the same way. I know, because I spent a decade working in college athletics and sports were (and are) my life. 

What I noticed while sitting in the stands during games is that there are any number of reasons why people like sports. For some, it’s a pure love of the game. For others, it’s the statistics and being the one to beat on trivia night at the pub. Some people like the atmosphere of a game. (I dated a guy who hated sports – I know, I know, it was a huge mistake – but he loved to tailgate at USC football games) There are the groupies who want to hook up with athletes, and then there are autograph seekers. The list goes on. 

For romance readers, it’s the same thing. There are any number of reasons why romance readers love the genre. It can be an escape from reality, the promise of the Happily Ever After, the slow burn relationship that melts your heart or the blush-worthy toss in the sheets. (Or in the barn, in the car, in the kitchen, in the Red Room, on the desk, in the museum…yeah, you get the picture)

The point here is that people enjoy things, from romance novels to sports to painting to any number of hobbies, for their own reasons. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter why you like what you like. What matters is that you like it. That’s your personal choice and you don’t have to explain it or apologize for it. 

For me, it’s all about the story itself, and the promise that I can finish the book and not be completely upset that things didn’t work out. These days I need the HEA, but the romance takes a back seat to the story. I think that’s what I love about Gabriel’s Inferno. Sylvain Reynard could have written that book and called it “fiction” and no one would think twice. Sure, it has the elements of a love story, but it could pass as fiction just as easily. 

I love vampires, and it just so happens that some of the best vampire stories on the market today can be found in the Young Adult and Paranormal Romance sections. (Bonus for the YA Paranormal Romance books out there, like Crave by Tracy Wolff)

Fun fact: I rarely read actual love scenes in romance books. (Yes, even in Reynard’s books, too!) I’m much more invested in the story and I’ve been known to skip over the love scenes to get to the rest of the story. That said, those love scenes are very well written and make me blush like crazy. Same with every movie with a 3+ BON on Passionflix…

Conversely, I know people who actively read love scenes over and over, like the man who returns to his village in Cinema Paradiso to discover that his mentor had stitched together all of the banned love scenes from the town’s movie theater. The point is that we read romance for many reasons. 

The advent of e-readers made reading romance easier for those of us who couldn’t read romance novels in the open. (Have you ever seen the gorgeous covers for Sylvain Reynard’s books? Try reading one on the team bus with a group of 17-23 year old guys. Yeah. Not happening) My e-reader allowed me to read whatever I liked without the need to hide the cover. 

These days I’m a lot less apologetic about reading romance novels because it’s way more normalized than it was even ten years ago, just as being able to say that I’ve been to San Diego Comic-Con every year is now a badge of honor rather than a reason to be teased for being a nerd. 

Though the media will poke fun at the romance industry from time to time, just remember that the romance genre makes up the lion’s share of the publishing industry. Laugh all you want, but the romance industry is growing stronger each and every day and I’m proud to read romance and support some of the best writers in the business.