Sunday, March 3, 2024

Review: Once Persuaded, Twice Shy by Melodie Edwards

Once Persuaded, Twice Shy: A Modern Reimagining of Persuasion by Melodie Edwards
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Once Persuaded Twice Shy cover
ISBN: 9780593440797
Release Date: February 27, 2024
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

When Anne Elliott broke up with Ben Wentworth, it seemed like the right thing to do…but now, eight years later, she’s not so sure.

In her scenic hometown of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Anne is comfortable focusing on her successful career: filling her late mother’s shoes as town councilor and executive director of her theater company. She certainly keeps busy as the all-around wrangler of eccentric locals, self-centered family members, elaborate festivals, and the occasional attacking goose. But the more she tries to convince herself that her life is fine as is, the more it all feels like a show—and not nearly as good as the ones put on by her theater company. She’s the always responsible Anne, always taken for granted and cleaning up after other people, and the memories of happier times with Ben Wentworth still haunt her.

So when the nearby Kellynch Winery is bought by Ben’s aunt and uncle, Anne’s world is set ablaze as her old flame crashes back into her life—and it’s clear he hasn’t forgiven her for breaking his heart. A joint project between the winery and Anne’s theater forces both Ben and Anne to confront their complicated history, and as they spend more time together, Anne can’t help but wonder if there might be hope for their future after all.

Melodie Edwards puts a fresh spin on a Jane Austen classic in Once Persuaded, Twice Shy. Edwards brings Anne and Wentworth to the modern era but keeps the original spirit alive in this story, and I was absolutely delighted.

Anne is all business all the time, having stepped into her late mother’s shoes seamlessly and taken on the role of town counselor and theater director. Between narcissistic family members, a sweet but loose cannon assistant, dramatic actors, demanding townspeople, and a chaotic neutral (possibly chaotic evil) goose, Anne’s time is constantly in demand. Then the new owners of her former home – Kellynch Winery – come to the theater and bring the past back to haunt her. The Fairchilds’ nephew is none other than Ben Wentworth, the man Anne dumped eight years ago after being persuaded he was a bad match.

If you’re familiar with Persuasion, you’ll see all of the high points of that novel reimagined in a new way. If you’ve never read Austen’s novel, don’t worry – you won’t be lost. Edwards makes this story and its characters stand on their own. I adored the romantic angst as Anne’s reunion with Ben makes her face the past and deal with the breakup she pushed out of mind for years. Anne has become someone she doesn’t entirely recognize and it was great to see her come into her own over the course of the story. Her hurt and loss over Ben are feelings she has to contend with as well, as is the jealousy at seeing him now successful, powerful, and seemingly indifferent to her. Though the story is told from Anne’s point of view, you can easily read Ben’s emotions like you can in the original. Edwards truly captures the heart of Persuasion in Once Persuaded, Twice Shy and her skill ensures I will definitely be on the lookout for more of her work.



FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Review: Not Your Crush’s Cauldron by April Asher

Not Your Crush’s Cauldron by April Asher
Series: Supernatural Singles, Book 3
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Paranormal Romance 
Not Your Crushs Cauldron cover
ISBN: 9781250808035
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Olive Maxwell much prefers teaching about the Supernatural world to taking part in it and leaves the magical shenanigans to her two sisters. After assigning her college students a project designed to nudge them outside their comfort zones, Olive realizes she’s never once stepped a toe out of her own . . . and it’s about time that changed. Her first trip into the unknown? Moving in with her longtime crush and friend . . . tattooed, motorcycle-riding, and pleasantly pierced Baxter Donovan.

Bax Donovan, Guardian Angel not-so-extraordinaire, has acquired so many black marks on his record it looks like a Scantron test. He’s been given one last chance to keep his Guardian wings—a high-profile Assignment he knows all too well. Olive is usually as low-risk as it gets. Hell, she wrote the safety manual. But something landed her on the Guardian Angel Affairs radar, and he guesses it has something to do with the heart-pounding stunts she’s determined to check off her Dare I Docket list.

Keeping Olive out of trouble is about to be his toughest Assignment. He’s at real risk of shattering the only Guardian Angel code of conduct rule he’s yet to break: Don’t fall in love with your Assignment. And he isn’t so sure that’s a bad thing.

If love doesn’t play by the rules, why should they?

The youngest Maxwell triplet steps out of her comfort zone and into the light in Not Your Crush’s Cauldron. Staid professor Olive Maxwell would much rather be in a corner reading a book than doing something wild and crazy. Then she assigns her students a project about stepping outside their comfort zones and realizes she hasn’t ever put a toe out of hers. Determined to change that, Olive comes up with her own list…but never expected her new roommate to tag along.

Guardian Angel Bax Donovan has wanted Olive for years but has never mustered up the courage to express it. Then he finds himself with Olive as his latest assignment and he’s soon blasted out of his own comfort zone trying to keep up with the beautiful witch.

Friends-to-lovers is a wonderful trope and April Asher shows why in Olive and Bax’s sprightly romance. The attraction between Bax and Olive has been simmering for years but they just needed that push to act on it. I thoroughly enjoyed watching these two overcome their fears and do things to break out of the rut they’re in. Out of all the Supernatural Singles stories so far this one has the lowest stakes but it’s still engaging. Bax and Olive have an easy chemistry that makes their romance fun and entertaining. They’re both likeable protagonists who need a slight shove to come into their own and I really liked their journeys.

Not Your Crush’s Cauldron is the third book in the Supernatural Singles series and to fully enjoy it you should definitely read at least Not the Witch You Wed (the first book) before diving into this one. Olive’s sisters play strong supporting roles and Vi in particular continues on the path she started in her book. I really liked seeing more of the world Asher has created and though the last Maxwell triplet has now found her happily ever after, I hope that doesn’t spell the end of this series. All in all, Not Your Crush’s Cauldron is a magical romp with a bookish witch, a tattooed angel, and a sweet and spicy romance.



FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Review: Not Your Ex’s Hexes by April Asher

Not Your Ex’s Hexes by April Asher
Series: Supernatural Singles, Book 2
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Paranormal Romance 
Not Your Exs Hexes cover
ISBN: 9781250808011
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

For her entire life, Rose Maxwell trained to become the next Prima on the Supernatural Council. Now that she’s stepped down, it’s time for this witch to focus on herself. And not think about her impulsive one-night stand with Damian Adams, a half-Demon Veterinarian who she can’t get out of her head. Neither of them is looking for a relationship. But when Rose is sentenced to community service at Damian’s animal sanctuary it becomes impossible for them to ignore their sparking attraction. A friends-with-benefits, no feelings, no strings arrangement works perfectly for them both.

After a sequence of dead-end jobs, it’s not until Rose tangos with two snarly demons that she thinks she’s finally found her path. However, this puts Damian back on the periphery of a world he thought he left behind. He doesn’t approve of Rose becoming a Hunter, but if there's one thing he's learned about the stubborn witch, it was telling her not to do something was one sure-fire way to make sure she did.

Working—and sleeping—together awakens feelings Damian never knew he had...and shouldn't have. Because thanks to his ex's hex, if he falls in love, he'll not only lose his heart—but his humanity.

Former Prima Apparent Rose Maxwell is at loose ends. No longer next line to run the Supernatural Council – a role she’s trained for her whole life – she’s determined to find what her new “thing” is. But after an equine rescue mission goes wrong, Rose ends up doing community service at an animal sanctuary run by none other than her super hot one-night stand. Damian Adams is grumpy, not in the least of which is due to a soul hex that could cause the half-demon side of him to take over should he ever fall in love. Now Rose is in his path, knocking his socks off at every turn. Neither can forget their previous encounter so what’s wrong with a little no-strings-attached fun while they work together? Nothing, except they’re clearly meant to be…

Not Your Ex’s Hexes is a sprightly and fun continuation of the Supernatural Singles series. Rose is powerful and smart, but she hasn’t yet found her place in the world after giving up the role she’s trained for. She finds it when working with Damian, however. Both rescuing animals and becoming a Hunter call to her. Damian has no issue with the former, but the latter nearly cost him everything back when he was a teenager and he doesn’t want to see Rose hurt – or worse. The two of them spar but respect each other’s strength. It was fun to see Rose find her gifts and I liked watching Damian open up and learn to find happiness again. The two of them have great chemistry and I enjoyed watching them work and play together.

The course of true love doesn’t run smooth when a hex is involved for one of the parties and I was interested to see how April Asher would make things work for our protagonists. The result is a satisfying end to the love story, but that’s all I’ll say about that. Along the way, Rose and Damian are aided by their family and friends (whether or not they want to be). I thoroughly enjoy the world Asher created with its witches, angels, demons, vampires, and more. I finished Not Your Ex’s Hexes ready to dive right into the next adventure featuring Rose’s sister Olive because I am absolutely charmed by the Supernatural Singles world.



FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Review: The Catch by Amy Lea

The Catch by Amy Lea
Series: The Influencer, Book 3
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
The Catch cover
ISBN: 9780593336618
Release Date: February 13, 2024
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

In a last-ditch effort to rescue her brand from the brink of irrelevance, Boston fashion influencer Melanie Karlsen finds herself in a rural fishing village on the east coast of Canada. The only thing scarier than nature itself? The burly and bearded bed-and-breakfast owner and fisherman, Evan Whaler—who single-handedly disproves the theory that Canadians are “nice.”

After a boating accident lands Evan unconscious in the hospital, Mel is mistaken for his fiancée by his welcoming yet quirky family, who are embroiled in a long-standing feud over the B&B. In a bold attempt to mend family fences, Mel agrees to fake their engagement for one week in exchange for Evan’s help with her social media content.

Amid long hikes and campfire chats, reeling in their budding feelings for each other proves more difficult by the day. But is Mel willing to sacrifice her picture-perfect life in the city for a chance at a true, unfiltered love in the wild?

Fashion influencer Melanie Karlsen is a fish out of water in The Catch. Author Amy Lea’s final installment in the Influencer trilogy is a mix of While You Were Sleeping and The Proposal, with Lea’s charming characters thrown in.

Mel’s brand is sinking and when a mix-up with a resort partner lands her in need of a place to stay in Nova Scotia, she ends up in Cora’s Cove at the inn of one very grumpy Evan Whaler. She’s sunshine (with a bit of bite), he’s grumpy. She’s a city girl, he’s at home in the great outdoors. All these are romance catnip and Lea makes them her own in this story. Evan is irritated with Mel at first but as you get to know him through her eyes you learn why. Evan may seem grumpy but he’s a sweetheart once you get past his guard. He also comes with a family who are big and loving when they’re not fighting with each other. For Mel, it’s not just Evan that’s a draw but his whole family. Mel is achingly lonely in a crowd and I loved watching her find her place in Cora’s Cove. She’s one who always has her guard up but among the Whalers she finally starts to let people in. It’s lovely to see her come into her own over the course of the story, to find a blend between the influencer bombshell and the unplugged Mel.

The romance between Evan and Mel is slow burn, especially since they start out at odds. They clash, they bicker, but there’s definite chemistry from their initial meeting onward. And once things heat up you can’t keep these two apart. I loved the mix of sweetness and spice in their story. Add in the Whaler family as a whole and The Catch is simply a heartwarming read.

Mel’s story is the third in the Influencer trilogy but it can easily be read as a standalone. Fans of the series will like the glimpses they get of Crystal and Tara but if you’re new to Lea’s work you can jump in here without issue. If you want to be swept away to an idyllic coastal Canadian town to enjoy a charming romance with humor and heart then The Catch is the read for you.



FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Review: The Duke’s All That by Christina Britton

The Duke’s All That by Christina Britton
Series: Synneful Spinsters, Book 3
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Historical Romance 
The Dukes All That cover
ISBN: 9781538710449
Release Date: February 6, 2024
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

A heartbreaking betrayal. A secret life. A love that deserves a second chance.

Iain MacInnes, Duke of Balgair, has spent the last thirteen years believing his wife is dead—until he receives word that she is very much alive and living under an assumed name on the remote Isle of Synne. He sets off with only one goal in mind: bring his wife back to Scotland where he can divorce her and expose her for the liar she is.

After a devastating deception by the man who was supposed to love her, Seraphina did what was necessary to keep herself and her sisters safe. And though she’s still haunted by the events that tore her world apart all those years ago, she’s made a happy life on Synne, surrounded by loyal friends and building a secret career as a popular author. Now that Iain has found her, however, all that is at risk.

Despite their long separation, the attraction between Iain and Seraphina still burns strong. But with so much hurt and betrayal between them, can they possibly find their way back to each other?

The Duke’s All That is a second chance romance with a lot of heart. Seraphina and Iain fell in love at a young age, but were torn apart due to lies and manipulation not long after they were wed. Thirteen years later, Iain discovers that his long-lost wife is alive and well and is determined to secure a divorce from the woman who broke his heart. What he finds is a woman haunted by the past. Seraphina has survived much and has come out the stronger. She escaped the clutches of her evil father and made a life for herself and her sisters, one far different than the gilded cage they were raised in.

It was easy for me to like both Seraphina and Iain. Seraphina is a survivor and her strength and determination made me want to see her find peace and be able to let down her guard. Iain is a strong and handsome Scotman who has his own baggage he needs to come to terms with, but he has a good heart. Author Christina Britton shows how the young couple was torn apart but also doesn’t make their reunion easy on them. They have to confront their fears, their vulnerabilities, and risk opening their hearts. Seraphina in particular has walls that are high even with those she loves and it’s understandable why. I really liked watching her and Iain together as they learned who they are now, after everything they’ve been through.

The Duke’s All That is emotional and sweet at the same time (with a dash of humor and some surprisingly touching moments brought by Seraphina’s parrot). Britton made it easy to be swept up into the personal and romantic journeys of Iain and Seraphina. If you’re a fan of the Synneful Spinsters series you’ll enjoy brief glimpses of Seraphina’s fellow Oddments, but you can jump into this one as a standalone too. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I look forward to revisiting it.



FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Review: Work It Out by Eva Siedler

Work It Out by Eva Siedler
Publisher: Entangled: Amara Next
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Work It Out cover
ISBN: 9781649376299
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Entangled

With the lead role in a huge action film up for grabs, actor Jake Newman has ninety days to get in shape. How does a man grow abs without the tabloids watching his every move? By sneaking off to a high-end health resort in his Arizona hometown to supersize his biceps…Thor style. Oh, and hope no one discovers the real reason he bailed from Los Angeles—or the teeny little health issue he’s hoping to keep from everyone.

Especially his cute, sunshiny, and absolute hard-ass new trainer.

Former gymnast Rayah Summers has poured everything she has into her desert dream: a full-service resort that helps people transform their bodies and lifestyles. But a run of bad luck has her on the brink of bankruptcy —and the Hollywood hunk with insanely sexy dimples is all that’s standing between her and disaster.

Now everything depends on her success: her future, her roof over her head, and especially her trainers—who are more family than employees. Rayah can’t afford for anything to go wrong… and no one’s able to explain why Jake Newman keeps collapsing during even the lightest workouts.

Now it’s a balance beam nightmare, with Rayah trying to keep her business afloat—all while managing her staff’s drama, keeping her celebrity client a secret, and not falling for him or his devilishly sexy grin. And it’s just a matter of time before Jake’s secrets threaten not only her dreams, but the chosen family she’s found…

Jake Newman needs to get in shape quickly if he hopes to land the next big superhero role. Rayah Summers owns a full-service fitness resort in his hometown. It’s a match made in heaven. Or it would be, if Jake wasn’t hiding a secret that could cost them both everything.

I had mixed feelings about Work It Out. Jake is an actor with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), a disorder he wants to keep a secret – especially considering he wants to land a superhero role. The problem isn’t his medical condition – it’s that he keeps it a secret from Rayah when starting an extreme diet and exercise regime. Jake lacks some maturity which made me kinda “meh” on him as a character. He does have some cheesy charm, however, and his adorkableness could be cute. Rayah is a former gymnast who is determined to make her resort a success not only for herself but the found family she has working with her. I liked Rayah’s determination and wished we’d gotten more into her backstory and personality outside of Explosion business and her burgeoning relationship with Jake. Their romance is cute, but may be a bit campy for some readers.

Work It Out follows a fairly predictable path and it did leave me wanting a bit more. Eva Siedler wrote in some secondary characters that had a lot of potential and made me want to dive deeper into them. About three-quarters of the way through the book it really picked up the pace and that’s when I truly became invested in Rayah and Jake’s story. It’s a pity the book took so long to capture my attention because when it did I was glued to the pages. So while overall I thought Work It Out was just OK, there’s enough there that I liked that I would absolutely pick up another one of Siedler’s books.



FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Review: Random in Death by J.D. Robb

Random in Death by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death, Book 58
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Futuristic/Mystery/Suspense 
Random in Death cover
ISBN: 9781250289544
Release Date: January 23, 2024
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
J.D. Robb Reading Order

Jenna’s parents had finally given in, and there she was, at a New York club with her best friends, watching the legendary band Avenue A, carrying her demo in hopes of slipping it to the guitarist, Jake Kincade. Then, from the stage, Jake catches her eye, and smiles. It’s the best night of her life.

It’s the last night of her life.

Minutes later, Jake’s in the alley getting some fresh air, and the girl from the dance floor comes stumbling out, sick and confused and deathly pale. He tries to help, but it’s no use. He doesn’t know that someone in the crowd has jabbed her with a needle—and when his girlfriend Nadine arrives, she knows the only thing left to do for the girl is call her friend, Lieutenant Eve Dallas.

After everyone on the scene is interviewed, lab results show a toxic mix of substances in the victim’s body—and for an extra touch of viciousness, the needle was teeming with infectious agents. Dallas searches for a pattern: Had any boys been harassing Jenna? Was she engaging in risky behavior or caught up in something shady? But there are no obvious clues why this levelheaded sixteen-year-old, passionate about her music, would be targeted.

And that worries Dallas. Because if Jenna wasn’t targeted, if she was just the random, unlucky victim of a madman consumed by hatred, there are likely more deaths to come.

When the pool of potential victims is vast and the killer’s method of picking targets seems random, Lieutenant Eve Dallas and her team won’t rest. Random in Death is fast-paced, tense, and engaging. There’s no down time for Eve, Roarke, Peabody, or McNab as they try to form a profile of a killer who selects their victims at random.

The In Death series can be roughly divided into stories that are primarily case-centric and those that are mainly character-centric. This story is the former, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be invested in it. I loved watching Eve and company put together the clues to form a picture of the villain. The deaths in this book weigh heavily on Eve, as all the victims she stands for do, and to see the innocence snuffed out was heartbreaking. I really enjoyed seeing the pieces of the puzzle come together as Eve and her team (with the help of their civilian consultant, Roarke) work tirelessly to form a picture from not much. And the picture is that of a psychopath with a brilliant mind.

Even with the timeline of the cases being so tight, we still get to see the characters we know and love over the course of the story. Roarke continues to watch out for his cop, the “great house project” of Mavis, Leonardo, Peabody, and McNab moves along, some other fan favorites have a small role to play, and we get to see more of Nadine’s boyfriend, rock star Jake Kincade. You can read this book pretty much as a standalone, but you’d be missing out on the characters and relationships if you aren’t at least familiar with the series.

Regardless of whether you’re a longtime fan of the In Death series or are just looking for an interesting mystery to get caught up in, Random in Death is sure to please. With fifty-eight full-length novels in this series and counting, J.D. Robb shows no sign of slowing down – and with a mystery as solidly entertaining as this one there’s no reason to. I thoroughly enjoy every outing with Eve and Roarke and Random in Death is no exception.



FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.