“Perfect. Perfect. Perfect.” That viral sound clip was the first thing that came to mind when I closed this precious gem of a book.
I read The Bodyguard on a plane ride back to Texas after spending a week in Colorado. Set on a Texas ranch, it was the perfect coming home novel.
Hannah is an Executive Protection Agent (a bodyguard) and she’s been hired to protect the household-name celebrity Jack Stapleton. Oh yeah, and he’s also the sexiest man alive. Literally.
The best way to protect “the principle” in this scenario? To act as his girlfriend. The more time they spend together, the harder it is to keep professional boundaries…
…and the harder it was for me to pace my reading because I couldn’t put this story down! It was a full sprint! I was sad when it ended because that meant I couldn’t keep living in this world with Hannah and Jack.
Center’s books are auto-reads for me and this one is no exception. I absolutely loved it!
I loved it so much that I decided to create an embroidery of the cover art. It was extremely fun crossing my two passions of reading and embroidery.
These five recommendations come with a sweetness (and maybe like a poblano pepper level of spice) guarantee. Ones that not only will you love, but can feel confident recommending to your mother, too!
Summer isn’t over yet- at least not in Texas. We are still well within our stretch of 100+ degree days and there’s currently no end in sight.
If you’re looking for a light, lovey book to help take your mind off of these hot days, keep reading!
I present to you five romance books I’ve read and loved in 2022:
Now, I’m not one to typically reach for the spiciest reads and definitely not someone who’s interested in dark romance. No shade to those that are, but I prefer love stories with a little more sweetness than spice.
I’m a huge fan of Abby Jimenez. No surprise here, I loved her latest novel Part of Your World. It’s spectacular. It’s sweet. It’s funny. It gave my heart a hug. She has such a talent for crafting stories that are full of humor and fun, yet still carefully carry heavy life topics.
Pick this one up and prepare to laugh and feel a twinge in your heart. You can’t go wrong with any of her titles, so while you’re adding this one to your cart go ahead and grab another like The Friend Zone or The Happily Ever After Playlist. There will be no regrets.
Hannah is an Executive Protection Agent (a bodyguard) and she’s been hired to protect the household-name celebrity Jack Stapleton. The best way to protect “the principle” in this scenario? To act as his girlfriend. The more time they spend together, the harder it is to keep professional boundaries…
…and the harder it was for me to pace my reading because I couldn’t put this story down! It was a full sprint! I was sad when it ended because that meant I couldn’t keep living in this world with Hannah and Jack.
Center’s books are auto-reads for me and this one is no exception. I absolutely loved it! Along with Jimenez, you can’t read just one of Center’s books. So while you’re picking up this one, go ahead and grab some of her others like How to Walk Away or What You Wish For.
This one took me by surprise! Posten was a new author to me and when I read the synopsis of The Dead Romantics, it immediately reminded me of the 2005 movie Just Like Heaven, starring Reese Witherspoon. I knew I needed to read this ghostly love story!
Florence Day is a ghostwriter for one of the most well-known romance writers of our time. But, after a terrible breakup, she no longer believes in love and is having an all but impossible time writing to meet her upcoming deadline.
Oh yeah, and she can see ghosts. Just like her dad.
She travels home after her dad has passed away to find the ghost of her editor. Both are confused as to why and how he’s died. Not only that, but there is some unfinished business that has her second guessing everything she knows about love.
This story was so refreshing and creative! It’s a fast, summer read that will leave you feeling hopeful!
This was a case of star change! After initially reading this book, I gave it four stars. I completely enjoyed it! My opinion grew even stronger after I had the opportunity to discuss the book with our book club!
After discussing the intricacies of the plot and characters, I realized that I loved this book so much more. It’s light. It’s fun. It’s parent-trappy, but there are other complexities within it that make it so full. While other romantic comedies center on sexy, strapping men, Solomon was very intentional about creating a story around normal people with normal bodies and normal struggles.
During our book club chat, she expressed that although this is a romance, she didn’t quite agree with the ‘romcom’ label it was getting. This is a precious, light, and fun story, but it’s presented with such refreshing normalcy!
Emily Henry is such a skilled storyteller. She has an incredible talent for building sweet love stories that make you swoon. I love that when summer comes around, I can count on a romance story that will give me little flutters in my heart.
Such was the case for Book Lovers! Nora is a literary agent- a fantastic one to boot. Charlie is a sharp editor with little room for admiration. While on a sister trip to small town Sunshine Falls, Nora keeps running into- of all people- Charlie! Their past encounters have them at odds, but as they get to know each other in a new light, they may be rewriting their story.
Henry’s stories are essential summer reading. If you haven’t read my favorite of hers, People We Meet on Vacation, go ahead and add to cart! You’ll be happy you did!
So, there you have it!
My top five romance recommendations- of the summer, of 2022, in general. You won’t regret any of these sweet reads!
Have you read any? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think!
Okay, okay, top five-star recommendations for the first half of 2022! I’ve done the vetting, so you don’t have to! Whether you’re looking for something sweet and sappy or criminally thrilling, there’s a five-star book for you on this list!
For me, this is more than just a stack of books I enjoyed. It’s a stack of memories throughout the first half of this year. I can look at each of these books that had a profound impression on me and recall where I was during that time- physically and emotionally. That’s a sign a story has really stuck with me.
While you’re here, be sure to check out my other recommendations here!
So, without further adieu, here are 13 five-star books I’ve read in 2022!
I’ll Be You by Janelle Brown was one of my most anticipated reads of the year. I’m glad I didn’t have to wait long to get my hands on it! Identical twins? Hollywood child stars? Mysterious cult disappearance? It’s a read that will keep you turning pages!
If you’ve never read any of Abby Jimenez’s books, start with this one! This is the fourth book of hers that I’ve read and it’s now my favorite. Trust me when I say that is SAYING SOMETHING. She is a master crafter of stories that discuss hard topics that are well balanced with humor and love. This one will have you feeling all of the emotions!
If you’ve spent any time on this blog or my Instagram page, you know I love Elin Hilderbrand. Her latest summer read is perfect! A medley of characters working to revive an old hotel with a bad reputation in order to gain sought after notoriety from an anonymous online hotel reviewer. I LOVED everything about it, especially the resident ghost, Grace. She had me laughing constantly. Pick it up for a sunshine escape wherever you are!
It takes a LOT for me to give a thriller five stars these days. The more of them I read, the harder it becomes for me not to guess the ending. If I can figure it out, it’s not getting five stars. This one earned all of my praises! I ripped through it in a day, couldn’t put it down, and the ending had me in shock. This one has gone surprisingly under the radar and I’m not sure why. It’s fantastic!!
“Perfect. Perfect. Perfect.” were the words I used to describe the read. I am a huge fan of Katherine Center’s. She’s talented, genuine, and intentional with crafting her stories. Once again, an auto-buy author for me doesn’t disappoint. In fact, this is my new favorite of hers.
It’s rare that I choose to pick up a non-fiction self-help book and even more rare for me to give it five stars. I don’t think it’s happened until now. I listened to this book on audio in a day and then immediately purchased a hard copy so I could reread and annotate it. It is filled with logical reasoning for implementing positive habits and breaking bad ones. Absolutely enlightening!
I’ll start by sharing this is the second book in a series. You can find the first Finlay Donovan book HERE. If you’re familiar with Finlay, then you know how funny and quirky she is! She’s finally gotten herself out of being wrapped up in murder for hire, but now someone is out to kill her ex-husband. I have LOVED following this series!
The Night Shift was a wonderful 90’s crime thriller! On New Year’s Even 1999, four employees at a Blockbuster Video were attacked and only one survived. Fifteen years later and in the same town, there’s been a similar attack at an ice cream shop. The lone survivor of the first attack must relive that terrible time in order to help detectives solve this case.
Shadows of Pecan Hollow is looking like it may be my favorite read of the year. It took ahold of me and I felt like I was living through the gritty experiences of the main character, Kit. This is a book that carries some really hard topics, but it’s one that has stayed with me the entire year. If you read one book from this list, let it be this one.
Poignant, reflective, contemplative. Those are all common descriptors of Serle’s writing, but this one was special to me. There are lines of advice in this book that hit me square in the face. Set within the gorgeous scenery of Positano, Italy, One Italian Summer had me crying, laughing, and hopeful.
Told from the perspective of a young Maddie Sykes, this is a story of women standing up for what is right in a post-war tobacco industry. When Maddie sees unsafe and unethical practices in the town’s tobacco plant, she sets on a mission to expose the truth. But, the truth doesn’t come without costs.
Oh, wrap me up in a cuddly blanket and give me this book! It is cozy, joyful happiness with a refreshing dose of reality. The coworkers to lovers trope, the imperfections in personality, and the humor that Solomon brings in this book makes me want to read it again for the first time!
Competing with Shadows of Pecan Hollow for favorite book of the year is Lessons in Chemistry. This historical fiction centers on a female scientist who becomes the nation’s first on-air cooking host. Through educating and empowering her audience of primarily women she breaks the status quo on more than one occasion and refuses to fit into the mold of homemaker.
If you’re looking for the buzziest read of the summer, you’ve found it!
It’s no secret how much I love Elin Hilderbrand novels. Take a look at my Instagram page and you’ll quickly realize how much I love her work.
I once met her while on a beach in St. John, USVI! I felt like I was living in an Elin Hilderbrand novel at that moment!
I recently read her latest novel, The Hotel Nantucket, and it was a slam dunk! If this post doesn’t convince you to pick up your copy, know that it’s been at the top of the New York Times Best-Sellers list for hardcover fiction for weeks! If you need a sweet escape read, already know and love Hilderbrand’s work, or are actually packing your bags to head to the beach, this title needs to be on your list!
Here’s the synopsis:
Fresh off a bad breakup with a longtime boyfriend, Nantucket sweetheart Lizbet Keaton is desperately seeking a second act. When she’s named the new general manager of the Hotel Nantucket, a once Gilded Age gem turned abandoned eyesore, she hopes that her local expertise and charismatic staff can win the favor of their new London billionaire owner, Xavier Darling, as well as that of Shelly Carpenter, the wildly popular Instagram tastemaker who can help put them back on the map.
And while the Hotel Nantucket appears to be a blissful paradise, complete with a celebrity chef-run restaurant and an idyllic wellness center, there’s a lot of drama behind closed doors. The staff (and guests) have complicated pasts, and the hotel can’t seem to overcome the bad reputation it earned in 1922 when a tragic fire killed nineteen-year-old chambermaid Grace Hadley. With Grace gleefully haunting the halls, a staff harboring all kinds of secrets, and Lizbet’s own romantic uncertainty, is the Hotel Nantucket destined for success or doom?
FIVE STAR REVIEW
I’m sure glad Elin wrote a guide to Nantucket at the back of this book because after reading The Hotel Nantucket, I just want to experience it all!
This book is filled with comfort, escape, and entertainment. I loved the passion and personalities of each character, but especially fell in love with Grace, the resident ghost.
There’s so much to love about Lizbet, Edie, Chad, Mario, Mrs. English, and Xavier. Hilderbrand crafted such a developed melody of characters. They worked together so well, not only to establish and run an immaculate hotel, but to bring the reader along for the ride. They’re an entertaining staff that I could have read so much more about!
I had several theories throughout the book and enjoyed being both right and wrong!
If you’re a Hilderbrand fan, there’s no doubt that you’re going to love every second of this novel.
You can purchase The Hotel Nantucket at the links here:
This was a Five Star read, which means that I’m pairing it with a Five Star cocktail!
Below are the steps to make the drink that has taken over my summer: The Strawberry Basil Margarita
A little sweet with the perfect grounding of basil, this drink is perfect for these long hot days! You can make it by the glass or scale it and make it by the pitcher. This is one that would be so easy to serve at a summer gathering like a book club!
3 oz. tequila
½. oz. agave
2-3 sprigs of basil
Juice from half a lime
Sparkling or mineral water
Pour tequila, agave, and lime juice into a blender
Add strawberries and the basil sprigs
Blend until you have a juice consistency
Pour over ice
Top with sparkling or mineral water
Garnish with basil sprig
This drink is TASTY! Plan ahead if you’re hosting, because your guests will be asking for more!
As the summer season approached, Austin and I searched for a vacation destination that would be the perfect place for our family to come together and relax. We knew we wanted to head to the Rocky Mountains, but where?!
After some intense searching, we landed on Idaho Springs! A town, honestly, I’d never heard of. It was established as a mining town in 1859, at the beginning of the Colorado Gold Rush. Idaho Springs is about an hour west of Denver and is the perfect place to enjoy the mountains without feeling like you’re in a commercialized mountain town. It was the perfect place for a quiet family retreat!
The Ultimate Summer Guide to Idaho Springs, CO
We took an early flight out of DFW directly to Denver. We landed in Denver at 7am GMT! After quickly orienting ourselves with one of the largest airports in the US, we found our way to the correct parking lot and picked up our rental car for the week. We chose a new route for car rental and went with TURO, instead of a traditional renting company.
TURO is essentially Airbnb for cars. Through the app, we were able to search by location, set filters on what we were looking for, add listed cars to favorites lists for later comparison, set our pickup location for the Denver airport, and easily book through the app.
It’s a real person who owns the car and depending on pickup/drop off directions, you may even get to meet them! It was a much less stressful experience than booking through a rental company and this process ensured we actually got the car we booked. It was cheaper, too! We booked a Lexus GX 2020 for about $170/day. We’ll definitely be utilizing TURO on future trips!
Safeway- it’s the only grocery store in town! Of course, you could head to Denver for larger stores, but this grocery store had everything on our list and an expansive pharmacy section. You’ll be more than set to purchase all of your groceries once you get to town. Pro tip: Make a rough grocery list before you even get on the plane! It made being in a new environment and shopping in a new store a lot more streamlined and kept us on track, so we could get in and out.
Places to Eat:
Beau Jo’s– This was the top restaurant recommended to me before travel. We actually dined there twice! They’re famous for their Mountain Pies, which feature a large twisted crust. After you’ve finished a slice of pizza, drizzle honey on this magic crust and it’s beyond delicious!
Clear Creek Cidery & Eatery– The perfect place for lunch or dinner if you have a family that loves burgers. Although their menu is large, the burgers are what drew us in. Absolutely delicious! Definitely get the chicharones with queso as an appetizer and the cider flight. We had a blast tasting ciders!
Main Street Restaurant– We visited for breakfast and we’re blown away by the quality. With an expansive menu of pancake options and egg dishes, there’s something uniquely perfect for everyone.
The Frothy Cup– Amazing coffee any time of day. I had a traditional hot cappuccino (it was a cold day), while everyone else enjoyed iced coffees. They have a great selection of pastries too!
Edelweiss Pastry Shop– You need to make a stop here! The ladies that run the shop are having the time of their lives making delicious pastries! Chances are they’ll offer you free sugared almonds while you’re there. We stopped in on Thursday afternoon and loaded up on pastries for Friday’s breakfast. Heads Up: they’re only open Thurs-Sun!
Things to Do:
Hike St. Mary’s Glacier – This hike is rated at a moderate level and is a total distance of 2.4 miles. Get there early because it gets crowded. Don’t sleep on this trail. The views are incredible! Heads up: there is a $5 parking fee.
Drive State Highway 119 to Boulder – You can spend the majority of a day driving this highway. Gorgeous views in every direction! This route will take you through Roosevelt National Forest. This is truly one of those experiences where the journey is greater than the destination. Stop at Ozo Coffee in Boulder before turning around and driving back. On the way back, stop in the quaint town of Nederland before completing your drive. It’s a completely different experience driving the same road in the opposite direction. I was in awe!
ARGO gold mining tour – Save this one for a rainy day! This is a great way to spend the afternoon learning more about local and American history. The tour starts in the tunnel remains of the mine and walks you through the milling process in the building that still stands today. It is such a cool pieces of preserved history!
White Water Rafting down Clear Creek – Idaho Springs is well known for large Clear Creek that runs through town! People from many surrounding areas, as well as tourists, come for the water sports. If you’re looking to ~get your feet wet~ with rafting, check out this booking! Designed for beginners, this experience is also perfect for families with children!
Fly Fishing Lesson on Clear Creek – Interested in fly fishing like Austin?! This half day lesson and fishing experience is essentially all-inclusive. With a prime location on Clear Creek and an expert angler leading your lesson, you’ll learn the best techniques!
Nearby Parks and Forests:
Roosevelt National Forest – Whether you like the more frequented or less frequented parts of parks, Roosevelt has something to attract everyone!
Rocky Mountain National Park – Rocky Mountain National Park spans 415 square miles! There are over 300 miles of hiking trails for optimal wildlife viewing.
What I read:
I packed ten books for this trip. Hey, no judgement. We are a family of avid readers. You know we weren’t about to spend a week anywhere without plenty of reading options! These were the top ten books I wanted to read this summer, so go ahead and use this as a list for your next reads! While there, I read and LOVED Breathless by Amy McCulloch, The Children on the Hill by Jennifer McMahon, and The Bodyguard by Katherine Center.
You can check out these books and more of my favorite things at my Amazon Storefront!
Here’s the Breakdown of Our Trip:
Day 1: We picked up our rental car, explored downtown Idaho Springs, CO, got coffee from The Frothy Cup, ate lunch at Beau Jo’s, picked up pastries from Edelweiss Pastry Shop, shopped for groceries, and then headed to our Airbnb for the evening.
Day 2: We hiked around the Alpine Lakes in our neighborhood, spent the day leisurely reading, fishing at the cabin, and enjoying the scenery. W canoed around the lake and ate dinner at the cabin.
Day 3: We woke up early and hiked St. Mary’s Glacier. We drove to town for lunch at Beau Jo’s. Spent the rest of the afternoon and evening enjoying our time at the cabin.
Day 4: Austin and I drove State Highway 119 to Boulder. We stopped for coffee at Ozo Coffee and of course the Boulder Bookstore. On our drive back, we stopped for lunch at Busey Brews in Nederland. We spent the evening enjoying our time together at the cabin.
Day 5: We spent a rainy and VERY windy morning at the cabin. Once the weather cleared, we headed to the ARGO gold mining tour. We dined at Clear Creek Cidery & Eatery for dinner.
Day 6: We stopped downtown one more time for breakfast at Main Street Restaurant. We did a little shopping along Miner Street before heading back to DEN airport.
So, there you have it! My guide to a lowkey summer mountain week in Idaho Springs! It was peaceful and restoring. There is so much to do in each season that make this destination one you’ll want to visit again!