Five Great Romance Novels To Read This Winter (or Anytime!)

One thing you may not know about me is that I am an avid reader.  I have been known to read 4-5 books a week, but I haven't been able to do it lately.  I prefer reading to watching TV or movies. And there is only one book series I have ever read that I think translates better on TV than the book. (Starz kills it with Outlander and even though I love the books, I think the show is better.)  I tend to stick to the romance genre and like a story with a happily ever after.

The winter months can leave me in a funk.  And I love nothing more than to cuddle up with a warm cup of coffee or hot chocolate and a good book for the night.  If you are looking for some great reads to get lost in and enjoy, I have a list of five that I have read and love, along with reviews for them.  I would love to know if you have read any of these or if you try them and love them as much as I do!

If you only read one book on this list, let this one be it.  (But really, I want you to read them all!) I don't even know how to begin to describe my feelings for Hopeless!  I'm not sure there are enough words to describe how passionate I am about this book.  I think every person who loves to read needs to read this masterpiece.  Colleen Hoover with Hopeless has absolutely changed the way I read books.  It is the standard for which I grade every other book with and nothing has yet to compare for me.  Ever.

Hopeless starts by introducing Sky, a teenage girl who has been sheltered her entire life.  I'm talking seriously sheltered, no cell phone, no computer or internet access and absolutely no TV, but surprisingly she harbors no resentment towards her mother for this lifestyle.  Her only friend is leaving to study abroad in Europe just days before she is slated to begin her first day ever at a public school.

And let's not forget about Holder, upon being introduced, you learn he is the ultimate good looking, seriously, bad boy with a shady past and a great sense of humor.  He is passionate yet you find yourself just as frustrated with him as Sky, not understanding his ever present mood swings.  I was constantly racking my brain trying to figure out what made him tick, what set him off.  Does he care for Sky or has whatever he keeps hidden from his past ruined him?

Sky and Holder have a strong connection and intense feelings neither one can deny nor do they seem capable of facing them.  Colleen's writing links you emotionally with Sky, she allows you to feel and experience everything Sky does.  There were times I found myself laughing out loud, not just a chuckle but genuine laughter.  Then in a matter of a couple of pages real tears were running down my face!  This story is an emotional roller coaster and you don't even see the falls, twists and turns that Colleen throws at you!  I can tell you I was shocked as all the details of this story poured out and the pieces of the puzzle were put together.  This is a tragically beautiful story about first love, finding yourself and confronting the demons of your past.  Sky and Holder's story invoked so many consuming thoughts and feelings. This is not just a book, but a journey.  The companion book, Losing Hope, is equally as good.  You might as well go ahead and read it too.

As you sit and think on your life, no matter what your age, there are bound to be times that you regret. There are also things that happen, that are horrible at the time, but now you can see the good that actually came from it.  It doesn’t mean that you like what happened, but at least you can now look on that time or choice without bitterness.  When Life Happened is a book that truly made me sit and think about those times in my own life, because no matter what, life moves on from good and bad regardless of the emotion we feel at the time.

Parker Cruse is bitter. She is angry and she is a little insecure.  You see her ffiancĂ© cheated on her with her sister.  And not just her sister, Piper is her identical twin, and was her best friend and her other half.  How is anyone supposed to move forward with that hanging over their head?  And to make matters worse, Piper is moving back to her small town and her mother wants nothing more than for Parker to forgive, forget and move on.  The icing on the cake is that while Piper is super happy, pregnant and in love with her rich, successful ex, Parker is unemployed and just moved out of her parents house across the street.  How could her life get any worse?

Gus Westwood is a successful electrician and is married to a smoking hot wife.  The problem?  His wife is never home and he is sick of her job being more important than him.  As fate would have it, Rags, his wife’s dog, ends up in his neighbors yard.  But Parker is not just any neighbor.  She is funny, carefree and gorgeous.  But Gus would never cheat on Sabrina, he loves her too much, right?  When Sabrina hires Parker to be her “domestic assistant”, will Parker and Gus be able to keep it together?  Or will Parker have to give up her title as President of the “I Hate Cheaters Club”?

When Life Happened, is an amazing book.  It is about exactly what the title says, life.  We all think we have control in our lives, and to a certain extent maybe we do, but sometimes life just happens and there isn’t anything that can save us from it.  This book completely made me laugh, cry and think long and hard about things in my own life.  It has some subjects like cheating in it that might make some people uncomfortable, but I still think you should read it.  It is honestly, one of the best books I read last year.

I know, I know.... this is really two books, but you truly can't read one without the other.  They are just so good!

I first fell in love with N.A. Alcorn when I read Avoiding Amy Jackson.  She had me laughing so much in the book that I knew people thought I was mad while I was reading it.  I wasn't completely sure what to expect when I opened Forget, because I knew it took a more serious tone and I just wasn't sure how I would feel about it since she is so amazing at writing comedy.  However, I knew that it had gotten some really great reviews and I just had to read it. I opened this book while sitting on the beach and was immediately sucked into the story from page one.

Brooke Sawyer, AKA Little Wing, has one of the most beautifully written stories I have ever read.  It is heartbreaking, of course, but aren't all of our lives full of some sort of drama and heart ache?  The first chapter is a letter that Mille, Brooke's grandmother, wrote her as she is dying of cancer.  Millie knows that Brooke needs to start living for herself and not for others and so she sends her to Paris for a month, the day after her funeral, with a bucket list of items to cross off. On day one in Paris Brooke attempts to sneak a picture of a hot, french man to send her BFF and to say it was a "flashing" disaster is an understatement.  However, she meets Dylan Bissette in the process and her journey in Paris begins with one of the best "meet-cutes" ever.

I swear, I will never look at sharpies again without thinking of this book. Brooke and Dylan start an amazing romance in Paris.  They have so much fun together and I am happy to report that I still found myself laughing at their antics in the book, regardless of the more serious undertones.  Lindsey, one of Brooke's best friends is a lot of fun and I love when she makes appearances and forces Brooke outside of her comfort zone.  Jamie, her other best friend, that happens to be a guy is back in LA. You really don't get to know him well as they exchange texts and phone calls, but I gather he is a nice guy too.  I know that Jamie and Brooke have an unbreakable bond with some sort of major history, but I don't know the details yet.  I am sure he has something that is going in the background that I can't see yet that is affecting Brooke and her decisions in this book.

The book is quite a journey and I don't want to give a lot of details away because I love to read them first hand myself.  I will tell you though that the end of the book really leaves you with a cliffhanger. And even though I really want to be pissed off at some of the characters, I am really holding out hope that everything will be explained in the next book and will end with a fantastic HEA.  The storyline and plot in this book is really amazing and you shouldn't miss out just because you don't like a cliffy. So read it anyway and fall in love with this book and characters like I did.

I have been unable to do what the title of the first book suggests, the book is unforgettable.  I loved the characters and I loved the writing.  I was hooked from page one of that book and experienced so many emotions while reading.  To say my heart was broken at the end is an understatement.  And then I had to wait 5 LONG months to get a conclusion.  It was pure torture and I am pretty sure that Nat (the author) stayed off social media to avoid stalkers fans like me.  Once Blur arrived on my Kindle, I wanted to start reading immediately.  However, I was a little scared and anxious.  What if my heart couldn't take it?!?!

Blur begins exactly where we are left hanging in Forget.  Super hot Dylan and his band the Careless Cockups are in L.A. to begin their debut album.  Brooke and Dylan are both in for a shock when they realize they will be working together.  But the biggest shock for Dylan, Brooke is engaged to Jamie.  I could feel Dylan's heart shatter and his blinding rage.  And I really, really wanted to be pissed at Brooke.  But, I couldn't bring myself to hate her.  She has so many demons and secrets that I knew there was a good reason for her actions, even if I wanted to slap some sense into her.

After the initial shock of working together is over, they give a good effort and hating each other, trying to be friends and just pissing the other off.  But is so pointless.  Bright Eyes and Little Wing have so much chemistry, I am surprised my Kindle didn't spontaneously combust.  They can fight their feelings all they want, but these two are a match made in literary heaven. Even though I figured out the secret that Brooke has been keeping from everyone, I loved the journey to get there, though my heart was ripped to shreds multiple times.  Anyone reading it can see Brooke's agony and that she does not want to hurt anyone.  She only wants to protect those that she loves and ends up hurting herself in the process.  Thank God for Millie and her words of wisdom.  Her humor and letters of advice were priceless.  This story is a poignant, beautiful, redemptive story.  It fully displays how words, actions and love can affect a person.  Prepare yourself for a wonderful, emotional roller coaster and enjoy the ride this book will provide.

Do you ever have a day that requires a good cry?  If so, pick up this book and you will ugly cry and get it out of your system.  I was tearing up and choking back tears from the prologue, but I could NOT put this book down.  I basically read it from cover to cover in one sitting.  And that is rare for me.

The story begins with Liz Carlson losing the her husband, Grady, to cancer.  Add to the pain, the chaos of raising 4 children up alone and it is no wonder Liz was ready to pull her hair out.  She is angry, sad, bitter, devastated and more, all wrapped up in a package.  I can not imagine the grief, anguish and pain losing a spouse cause someone, however, Rachel Higginson seemed to capture all of the emotions seamlessly.

The moment Ben Tyler is introduced in the story, I loved him.  Anyone that can bribe a child with Pop-Tarts to win a battle is special material.  I love that Ben never pushed Liz more than he thought she could handle, but he also didn't treat her like she was fragile.  He was the perfect balance for her and exactly what she needed, as well as the kids.  He was not jealous of Grady or made anyone feel like they could not love their Dad/Husband anymore.  He truly made the story epic.The emotions that this book evoked from me were very intense.  I could clearly see how Liz was struggling with denial, guilt, anger and more.  And if I were in her situation, I think I would react exactly the same.  It was so refreshing to read about real life situations, with characters that could be real.  Don't get me wrong, I love a good Alpha billionaire along with everyone else, but sometimes you just need a good dose of reality.

It was profound to watch Liz grow and rise from the ashes of her past and circumstances she never asked for at all.  Hands down, The Five Stages of Falling in Love is one of the BEST books I have ever read.  If you haven't read it, you are missing out on a heartbreakingly, beautiful story.This book completely blew my mind wrecking every single one of my emotions along the way.  It absolutely deserves all the attention and praise it received.

Jessica Park's talent clearly knows no limits or end.  Left Drowning is absolute perfection. Blythe McGuire, a senior at Matthews College, is struggling through every single aspect of her life.  She is plagued with the loss and grief following her parents death over 4 years earlier and desperately longs to feel anything.  One morning, unable to sleep, she has a chance encounter with Christoper Sheppard, also a senior, who secretly fights his own personal demons.  Immediately it's obvious these two individuals have a connection on a spiritual and not just a physical level.Through her friendship and relationship with Chris and his siblings Blythe begins to heal, she begins to live life again learning to breathe through the pain.  As Blythe seemingly moves forward with her life Chris finds himself struggling to keep his head above the waters of his own family's traumatic past.  Will Chris allow Blythe to rescue him or will he drown in his own pain?

Be warned...this is probably the most emotionally tense story you may ever read.  There is no mistaking Left Drowning as a fluffy, soft, feel good story.  This book is incredibly real and there is a whole lot of heavy darkness you have to journey through to get to the light.  But honestly, that's what makes it so amazing.The character development of not only Chris and Blythe but also the secondary characters was outstanding.  I had a special place in my heart for each of them because every single one was crucial to Blythe's healing and to the whole story. They're all going to make an impression on you and you're going to wish you could be a part of the family they've created.  I think its through these characters Jessica Park was able to successfully intertwine her own unique personality and sense of humor into the story, which is an added bonus!

Left Drowning is a book everyone should take the time to read.  It's about the reality of sometimes having to go through life in pain, of how some people get dealt a shit hand and don't always know how to navigate through or around their pain on their own.  It's about accepting your life has a purpose even when you cannot see it for yourself.  It's also about the life saving beauty that comes when you open yourself up to others.  It's about friendship, family and love.


Ruched Body-Con Dress: Two Ways To Style For Work or Fun

This past weekend I made plans to meet up with some fellow bloggers I met on Instagram in Greenville.  I just live up the mountain slightly in Hendersonville and I go to Greenville all the time, so it worked out perfect for us to meet on a Sunday afternoon. Plus, we thought it would be so fun to get together, snap some photos and really just talk blogging with someone else that cares as much as we do.  Our families and friends have to get tired of hearing about which bag and shoes look best with an outfit. LOL!

Pretty much over the last couple of weeks we have been on a group message discussing everything from how to grow our following to raising kids.  We have laughed and vented our frustrations.  And even on Saturday night while I was shopping for some pieces, I was sending photos for advice.  I never thought that blogging would bring two wonderful ladies into my life that live so close to me, but I am so thankful!  There is a photo of us together at the end of this post, along with links to their sites.  If you aren't already following them, you need to start!

I was so happy to shoot these photos with them, even in the freezing cold! In fact, I almost had to cancel because we got an ice storm in Western NC and trees were falling everywhere.  I may or may not have thrown a little hissy fit to get my husband to remove two trees from my driveway so I could get there.  FYI, they were baby trees....no biggie. ;-)  

I have been eyeing this Leith ruched dress for a long time.  I happened to pick it up during the Half Yearly Nordstrom sale after Christmas.  They also have a version that is sleeveless, which is probably even more versatile and you could wear it year round.  I love the side ruching on it because it just flatters every figure.  And the tulip wrap hem is so cute.  It adds a fun twist to a basic dress.  Knits are so comfortable too, and since I wear dresses all the time, that is a big deal to me.  (This dress runs TTS.  I am wearing a small for reference.)

My first look I added a cream, tan and grey ruana wrap.  I picked this particular one up at Belk, but it is not available online anymore.  I actually got it in the person, so def try to get it at your local store. I have linked a solid option that I think is perfect with this as well. It is super soft and stays on your shoulders well, which is important to me.  I paired it with this fun tan handbag and booties that accent perfect against the grey. 

The next look is super simple but super fun!  I added this pink fur coat and black over the knee boots.  Yeah, I was feeling a little extra, but the coat is so warm and cozy!  And I just love a pink and grey combo.  I think this fur coat adds an element of class and whimsical at the same time.  It feels kind of vintage to me as well, which I love.  Did I mention it was freezing?  The OTK boots and coat were also beneficial in helping me feel my legs and toes again!  

Even though I have only styled this dress two ways for this post, honestly, the sky is the limit here.  If you want to see more options, I would love to style it in other ways for you.  Do you have a favorite look today? I would love to know.  I love to create these looks for you and can't wait to see which you look you prefer the most!  Head to my last Instagram post or comment here. 

Jessica, Michelle and me attempting some cute pictures!  Do yourself a favor and follow these two!


Work Wear: Navy Pleat Front Trousers

You know what day it is?  Hump Day!  That also means its Work Wear Wednesday!  My job as a Marketing and HR Manager requires that I dress professionally every day.  Most days I tend to opt for a skirt or dress because I just love them and I think they are more comfortable.  But occasionally, I love to wear pants, especially ones like these!

I have been eyeing these pleat front trousers at Nordstrom for a while.  They are around $55 and even though it is not a terrible price, I just couldn't justify the expense when I wasn't sure I would wear them a lot.  But a couple of weeks ago, I picked them up from the Half Yearly sale for a steal!

What makes these pants exceptional in my mind is that they have small pleats that are very flattering. The styling on these is very classic and I think they are a great piece to add to any wardrobe; especially if you have to wear professional dress every day but want to look cute.  They will also transition from day to evening really well with just a change of a top or changing your shoes and accessories. Additionally, they have pockets, which I love when I wear dress pants.  And the big thing?  They are elastic waist!  Yes, please!  These trousers meet all the requirements for me.

Unfortunately, the navy is almost out of stock at the sale price.  However, they have a gorgeous green pair marked down.  And they have them in khaki and black too!  I love these so much and think I will wear them all the time, so I will be getting the other color options as well!

I have paired them with a basic flare sleeve tee that I picked up at the Loft for a steal!  The great thing about this tee is you can dress it up or down and it really looks great with everything.  And right now it is on a final sale for $8!  It also comes in a blush pink color that would look just as fab with the navy pants.  My heels are a couple of years old, but I have linked some that I actually like even better with a block heel.  This bag can be carried or has a removable strap.

Do you wear work wear a lot too?  Do you prefer dresses or pants?  I would love to know if you like this content and post, leave me a comment on my last Instagram post.  Have a great week, friends!