Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Review: The Singular Mr. Sinclair by Mia Marlowe

The Singular Mr. Sinclair by Mia Marlowe
Series: The House of Lovell, Book 1
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Genre: Historical Romance
ISBN: 9781516105977
Release Date: July 17, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Lord and Lady Chatham were blessed with five sons and only one daughter. But when it comes to Caroline, one is more than enough…

Caroline is about to embark on her third Season and her parents fear she’ll be permanently on the shelf if she fails to make a match this time. Unfortunately for them, that is precisely what Caroline wants! Curious and adventuresome, Caroline longs for a life of travel, excitement, and perhaps even a touch of danger…

If only she can remain unmarried until she turns twenty-one, Caroline will inherit her grandmother’s bequest and gain her freedom. It’s not a staggering amount, but it’s enough to fund her dreams without a husband’s permission. She has her future all planned out—until Lawrence Sinclair appears on the scene…

Intense, intriguing, and handsome, the man reminds Caroline of a caged lion. In fact, the more she knows of him, the more questions she has. And when she learns how dangerous he really is, he may just become her new fascination—the one she can’t resist…

The Singular Mr. Sinclair is a true delight to read! Reformed rakes and silver-tongued rogues make for fine heroes, but there’s something about a slightly awkward hero that just grabs my heart. Lawrence charmed me from the start and made me smile. He isn’t a dashing duke, but rather a self-made man whose position as heir to an earldom is tenuous at best. He’s not someone most ladies would fawn over because he’s not suave or witty, but they’d be missing out because he’s a smart, honorable, kind, loyal, and strong man. He’s also unabashedly head-over-heels for Caroline from the very start and that just made me melt.

Caroline may have grown up in the heart of the ton, but she longs for a life much different than the one laid out for her. She’s determined to see the world and she’ll even flirt with an unsuitable gentleman if it undermines her parents’ plans to marry her off before she comes into her inheritance and can take off on her own. The one thing Caroline never planned for was Lawrence. He needs her help if he’s to fit into society, but there’s something about her brother’s friend that knocks her just slightly off-kilter and she senses that there’s more to him than meets the eye.

The Singular Mr. Sinclair has a slightly slow pace, but I was charmed enough by the characters that I didn’t mind. Caroline and Lawrence’s romance develops organically and there are just enough obstacles that I was curious to see how they would ultimately end up together. Caroline and Lawrence would be enough to make this a satisfying read, but the addition of Caroline’s brothers filled out this story nicely and made me look forward to more House of Lovell books. The Singular Mr. Sinclair was a joy to read and by the time I finished the book I was excited to read more of Mia Marlowe’s 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.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Review: I Want Candy by Susan Donovan

I Want Candy by Susan Donovan
Series: Bigler, North Carolina, Book 2
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary Romance I Want Candy Cover
ISBN: 9780312536220
Source: Publisher
Blue Ribbon Rating: 4 out of 5
Original Review Link
Book Purchase Link

Candace Carmichael enjoyed living the high life until the Florida real estate market crashed. Suddenly out of a job and in debt up to her ears, Candy has no choice but to return to her hometown of Bigler, North Carolina. The adjustment is anything but smooth, yet despite the constant stream of disasters there’s one bright spot to Candy’s return; Sheriff Turner Halliday. Turner is an old friend of Candy’s, but the sparks that fly between them are totally new. Candy would love to see the sexy sheriff out of uniform, but two things are holding her back; first, Turner’s a widower who still wears his wedding ring and second, Candy has no intention of staying in Bigler permanently. Will Candy and Turner be able to let go of their pasts and create a future – together – unlike any either had ever dreamed of?

I WANT CANDY makes me say “I want more of Susan Donovan’s books!” The bright and fun sequel to CHERI ON TOP has humor and heart to spare, making it a delightful read. Candy and Turner are characters who thought they had it all together, but clearly their lives aren’t as figured out as they thought they were. It was a joy to watch them learn what they wanted out of life, whether it was the ability to move on and find love again or learning that it was okay to find a new dream when the old one failed. Ms. Donovan had me cheering for Candy and Turner to get together, but more importantly, she had me eagerly turning the pages of I WANT CANDY to see how the two protagonists developed over the course of the story.

I WANT CANDY is a tasty treat from start to finish. Candy and Turner are a couple you can root for and the oftentimes zany residents of Bigler will make you chuckle. Fans of contemporary romance with a healthy dose of comedy are sure to enjoy I WANT CANDY.


Note: My review was written for Romance Junkies and is cross-posted here with permission from Romance Junkies.

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, July 8, 2018

Review: Playing Dirty by Amy Andrews

Playing Dirty by Amy Andrews
Series: Sydney Smoke Rugby, Book 6
Publisher: Entangled: Brazen
Genre: Erotic Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9781640635494
Release Date: July 9, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Sydney Smoke star recruit Kyle Leighton can’t believe the best sex of his life was just a one-night stand. He didn’t even know her name… Until she shows up at the locker room two weeks later and he connects the dots.

Val King. Oh shit.

Coach has one hard and fast rule: Never, ever date (much less f*ck ten ways to Sunday) his daughter. And not only did Kyle break that rule, but he wants to break it over and over again. In the shower. Against a wall. On every flat surface in his home.

But the coach and his daughter share more than just DNA. Their issues run deep and fooling around with her could widen the family chasm.

And get Kyle benched for life.

So why can’t he stop thinking about her? Flirting with her? Suggesting they date for real and damn the consequences?

The first rule any player for the Sydney Smoke learns is this: Stay away from the coach’s daughter. That’s all well and good for newly-traded hotshot Kyle Leighton. He’s come to be coached by Griffin King and no woman would ever take precedence over rugby. Only when Kyle goes to a bar and has a blazing hot one-night stand with the mysterious Val, he has no idea that she’s the one woman in all of Sydney he’s supposed to stay away from. One mistake like that could jeopardize his career – not to mention Val’s already strained relationship with her father. It’s clear to both Val and Kyle that they should stay away from one another. Except some passions burn too hot to ignore…

Playing Dirty is smoking hot and a whole lot of fun. Where can I put an order in for one of Amy Andrews’s Sydney Smoke players? Ms. Andrews has a gift for penning insanely hot athletes who are seriously sexy, incredibly talented on the pitch and in the bedroom, and yet they’re never full of themselves. In other words, the whole team is made up of perfect book boyfriend material and Kyle Leighton is no exception. Kyle is talented, fun, and has a big heart. He isn’t flawless and it drove me nuts when he made decisions in Val’s interest without talking to her, but when he makes mistakes they’re made with good intentions and a kind heart. Val is a blast to read about and I’ve been looking forward to her story from the very first book in the series. Like Kyle, she’s a funny and kind protagonist and it’s easy to adore her. She and Kyle have a red hot romance that made the pages of Playing Dirty fly by and I was rooting for them every step of the way.

Kyle and Val’s romance shines, but there’s an equally important secondary plot in Playing Dirty that will just tug on your heartstrings. Val carries a lot of hurt buried not-so-deep beneath the surface and it’s due to her relationship with her father. She desperately wants her father’s love, but there’s so much grief and guilt in their past that Griff can’t see past to give it to her. Kyle, the outsider in this situation, gets involved because he can’t bear to see Val hurting. The result is a messy, emotional journey that’s intertwined with the romance and I loved it.

Playing Dirty is the sixth book in the Sydney Smoke Rugby series but it can easily be read as a standalone. Every book in this series is a great mix of humor, heat, and heart and Kyle and Val’s story is no exception. I adored Playing Dirty and by the time I finished it I was grinning like a loon (it doesn’t hurt that Ms. Andrews’s heroes excel at incredibly fun, over-the-top displays of affection). I can’t wait to see what Ms. Andrews has in store for readers in the next Sydney Smoke book!


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.

Review: Off the Grid by Monica McCarty

Off the Grid by Monica McCarty
Series: The Lost Platoon, Book 2
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Romantic Suspense
ISBN: 9780399587726
Release Date: July 3, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

A team of Navy SEALs go on a mission and disappear without a trace--they are The Lost Platoon.

Investigative reporter Brittany Blake may have stumbled upon the story of a lifetime in her search for her missing brother. When he seemingly disappears overnight, she refuses to accept the Navy's less-than-satisfying explanation. She begins her own investigation, which leads her to top-secret SEAL teams, covert ops, and a possible cover up…

John Donovan is having trouble biding his time, waiting for his Commanding Officer to figure out who set up their platoon. John's best friend and BUD/S partner, Brandon Blake, was one of the many lives tragically lost in the attack against his team. When Brandon's sister, Brittany, tracks John down, looking for answers, he realizes that she may be their best bet--or bait--for finding out who is targeting SEAL Team Nine.

When a top secret mission goes wrong in Russia and more than half of SEAL Team Nine is killed, the survivors are ordered to scatter and go dark. Only not everyone is willing to let them stay off the grid. Reporter Brittany Blake can smell a government cover up a mile away and since this one involves her missing – possibly dead – brother, she’s not about to let it rest until she discovers the truth.

John Donovan hates being stuck in Finland, doing nothing, while he waits for orders from his lieutenant commander. And while he would like to pretend otherwise, John also can’t move past the death of his best friend and teammate, Brandon Blake. When he’s ordered to shut Brittany up – for her safety as well as the rest of his surviving teammates – it throws him for a loop. Years ago, Brandon made it clear Brittany was off-limits. But with the adrenaline rush of danger and the pull neither John nor Brittany can deny, it’s clear that some promises are meant to be broken…

I really struggled with rating Off the Grid. On the one hand, Monica McCarty’s writing is engaging, drawing me into the book and keeping the story moving at a quick clip. The action is cinematic and the overarching series question of who betrayed SEAL Team Nine and why was interesting. That being said, I struggled with the characters which kept me from liking this book as much as I wanted to.

Brittany Blake gave me flashbacks to Lois Lane (always a good thing). She’s a reporter with a sharp mind and dogged determination to get her story. She has been wronged more than once by a government cover up and her brother is one of the missing SEALs, so I did understand why she was so determined to find out what happened to the group of men she dubbed “The Lost Platoon.” That being said, Brittany’s strengths were also her weaknesses. She can get tunnel vision, which is frustrating when she doesn’t seem to fully understand – or more importantly care – that she’s putting other lives in danger besides her own. One of those lives belongs to John Donovan, the man who broke her heart five years ago. John is known for his laid-back ways, but he’s mostly intense and frustrated in this book. He definitely has reason to be, but at times it felt like his personality had melted away and we were left with a generic military hero, which was a pity. John and Brittany do have chemistry, but their romance paled in comparison to the sexual tension between two supporting characters. Added to that, Brittany and John suffer from the same problem that a lot of characters in this book do: a lack of honest communication. It’s a common enough plot device, but it’s one that I find a bit frustrating, so people who aren’t bothered by this may like their romance more than I did.

Off the Grid isn’t just John and Brittany’s story. Former SEAL Colt and his ex-wife, CIA analyst Kate are working to discover who betrayed Colt’s former team. Colt and Kate are the reason I am so invested in this series. Their chemistry is off-the-charts explosive and the pure drama keeps me coming back for more. The pain, anger, distrust, and lust practically jump off the page and I cannot wait to see if/how Ms. McCarty makes things work for these two. She definitely has her work cut out for her, because even though I got a fair sense of Colt’s history and why he acts the way he does, he definitely is cruel to Kate; so much so that I’m honestly not sure if I should be rooting for him to win her back. Whether or not he does, he and Kate livened up the book and their storyline ensures that I’ll be back for Out of Time, the next Lost Platoon book.


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, July 2, 2018

Review: Smoke and Iron by Rachel Caine

Smoke and Iron by Rachel Caine
Series: The Great Library, Book 4
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: YA Fantasy/Futuristic
ISBN: 9780451489210
Release Date: July 3, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

The opening moves of a deadly game have begun. Jess Brightwell has put himself in direct peril, with only his wits and skill to aid him in a game of cat and mouse with the Archivist Magister of the Great Library. With the world catching fire, and words printed on paper the spark that lights rebellion, it falls to smugglers, thieves, and scholars to save a library thousands of years in the making…if they can stay alive long enough to outwit their enemies.

The fight for the freedom and future of the Library is on and the stakes have never been higher than in Smoke and Iron. I didn’t think I could love the Great Library series any more than I already did, but Rachel Caine’s writing had me so engrossed in the story that I stayed up way too late reading and practically zombie-walked my way through work the next day, my biggest goal to get home and finish this book. It’s just that good.

Jess, Khalila, Morgan, Thomas, Glain, Dario, Santi, and Wolfe are locked in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with the Archivist. And as certain members of the group are completely on their own as of the end of Ash and Quill, even just surviving is harder than ever. I’m not going to talk about the plot of Smoke and Iron because doing so even a little could spoil readers’ enjoyment of the story. I will say that we get more points of view in this story as everyone is spread out and I loved getting inside the heads of more characters. The first three Great Library books made me care about them all, but the more time I spend with each member of our main band of heroes, the more they grow, the more I adore them. Khalila in particular was the breakout star for me in this book and it was fantastic to see her fully come into her own. Her brilliant mind is matched only by her quiet strength and compassionate heart and, quite simply, she rocks.

In Smoke and Iron Ms. Caine weaves together multiple intricate plots, each with dire consequences. I absolutely loved that Ms. Caine constantly kept me guessing as to what would happen next and who would come out alive. I haven’t been this tense and uncertain about beloved characters’ fates since A Song of Ice and Fire / Game of Thrones. Alliances are forged and broken, trust betrayed, love questioned, and more, and I am so there for all of it. The result is a pulse-pounding read that finishes in a spectacular climax.

If you haven’t read the first three Great Library books (Ink and Bone, Paper and Fire, and Ash and Quill), then you definitely want to get caught up before jumping into this story. Smoke and Iron is an utterly enthralling read. The world of the Great Library is fascinating, the characters unique, and the action intense. The only downside of this book is that I finished it desperately wanting to know what happens next!


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, July 1, 2018

Review: Heroine’s Journey by Sarah Kuhn

Heroine’s Journey by Sarah Kuhn
Series: Heroine Complex, Book 3
Publisher: DAW
Genre: Urban Fantasy/New Adult
ISBN: 9780756414412
Release Date: July 3, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

If there's one thing Beatrice Tanaka never wanted to be, it's normal. But somehow, her life has unfolded as a series of "should haves." Her powers of emotional projection should have made her one of the most formidable superheroes of all time. And she should have been allowed to join her older sister Evie as a full-fledged protector of San Francisco, pulverizing the city's plethora of demon threats.

But Evie and her superheroing partner, Aveda Jupiter, insist on seeing Bea as the impulsive, tempestuous teenager she used to be--even though she's now a responsible adult. And that means Bea is currently living a thoroughly normal life. She works as a bookstore lackey, hangs out with best friends Sam Fujikawa and Leah Kim, and calms her workplace's more difficult customers. Sure, she's not technically supposed to be playing with people's mental states. But given the mundanity of her existence, who can blame her?

When a mysterious being starts communicating with Bea, hinting at an evil that's about to overtake the city, she seizes the opportunity, hoping to turn her "should haves" into the fabulous heroic life she's always wanted. But gaining that life may mean sacrificing everything--and everyone--she holds dear…

Heroine’s Journey is a blast to read. It’s a fast-paced, action-packed adventure coupled with a journey of growth. Add in a vibrant cast of characters, a steamy romance, wonderful friendships, a scene-stealing dog, and a to-die-for bookstore and it’s easy to see why I didn’t want to put this book down.

It’s been four years since readers last visited Jupiter/Tanaka, Inc. and the superhero duo of Aveda Jupiter and Evie Tanaka is a well-oiled machine that works for everyone. Everyone except Beatrice Tanaka, that is. Bea is desperate to convince her sister to let her become a superhero, but she’s blocked at every turn. Until Bea finds herself at the center of a new wave of demonic activity, one far different and more personal than anything she and her loved ones have ever seen.

Bea is easy to adore. She’s brilliant, bold, and a butt-kicking heroine in her own right. I loved how fast her mind moved and could understand how her brain jumped from one thing to another. But beneath her lively exterior is a young woman still feeling the pain of her mother’s death. There’s a hole in Bea she cannot seem to fill and that just broke my heart. Heroine’s Journey is an apt title because a lot of the book is Bea struggling to come into her own and defining what exactly that means. Bea is a wonderfully flawed heroine and I loved that she made mistakes because her imperfections were relatable. I was rooting for her every step of the way which is part of the reason I was glued to the book. Another reason was Bea’s friendships with Leah and Sam. Leah is an amazing best friend, a smart, creative, kind person who supports Bea but doesn’t hesitate to warn her when she’s going down a potentially dangerous path. And Sam… How best to describe Sam? He’s a sexy-as-hell mechanic with charm to spare, but there’s so much more beneath the surface. He’s as quick-minded as Bea and I absolutely adored their ongoing competition. But few people besides Bea see beneath the surface of Sam and I really enjoyed watching the layers being peeled back and exposing his vulnerabilities. He and Bea have some deliciously hot sexual tension brewing, but whether or not anything comes of it I’ll leave readers to discover.

Heroine’s Journey is the third book in the Heroine Complex series and if you’re new to the series (and don’t mind spoilers) you can dive in here. Returning fans of the Tanaka/Jupiter crowd will be delighted to revisit favorite characters and see how their lives have grown over the past four years. I loved seeing more of my favorite characters from Heroine Complex and Heroine Worship and I really enjoyed seeing a different side of the dynamics between our three superhero leads. Bea’s relationship with Evie is central to the story and the love and frustration on both sisters’ sides gave emotional heft to the book. And for some fun, Aveda’s self-appointed role as Bea’s mentor made me grin (I have a huge soft spot for Aveda).

I focused a lot on the characters of Heroine’s Journey because Sarah Kuhn’s talent for creating such amazing characters is what sticks with me the most. But it’d be remiss of me not to mention the action, danger, and mystery in the story. As with the first two Heroine Complex books, the fight scenes and the mystery of the demonic attacks are quirky, interesting, and exciting. Ms. Kuhn is brilliant at balancing popcorn thrills with more weighty storylines and I loved every bit of it. Heroine’s Journey is an engrossing story that blends the real and the fantastical perfectly. I loved every bit of it and I hope to see lots more of Bea, Sam, Leah, Evie, Nate, Aveda, Scott, Lucy, Rose, and Shruti in the future!


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.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Review: Scandal Above Stairs by Jennifer Ashley

Scandal Above Stairs by Jennifer Ashley
Series: Kat Holloway Mysteries, Book 2
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Historical Mystery
ISBN: 9780399585531
Release Date: July 3, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N
Jennifer Ashley Reading Order

A mystery of stolen antiquities has Kat Holloway setting aside her apron once again for the intrigues of the upper echelons of Victorian London

Priceless artwork has gone missing from the home of a wealthy baronet, and his wife stands to take the blame. When Kat's employer asks for help in clearing her friend's name, Kat trades her kitchen for the homes of Mayfair's wealthiest families. Soon antiques are disappearing not only from the extravagant households of connoisseurs and collectors, but from the illustrious British Museum.

As the thefts increase in frequency, Kat calls upon her friend Daniel McAdam, who has already set himself up in a pawnshop on the Strand as a seedy receiver of stolen goods. When a man is murdered in the shop, Kat must use all of her wits to see that the thieves are caught and justice is done.

There’s no rest for Kat Holloway, the most talented cook in Mayfair. Not only has her kitchen assistant quit to be married and thus left her shorthanded, Lady Cynthia has a request: she wants Kat’s help to solve a mystery and clear her friend Clemmie’s name. Valuable paintings have gone missing from her household and Clemmie’s husband is blaming her for it. One mystery begets another and another as first Kat learns that antiquities are being stolen from multiple residences, then she finds out that her friend Daniel McAdam is undercover in in a seedy pawnshop. With her curiosity piqued, Kat will have to use all her detective skills above stairs and below to uncover a mastermind willing to kill to protect his secrets.

I love falling into Kat Holloway’s world. In Scandal Above Stairs Jennifer Ashley drew me in from the start with a seemingly simple mystery that leads to something far more complex and I did not want to put the book down.

Kat is the heart and soul of the story and she’s a fantastic heroine. She’s clever, observant, loyal, talented, and kind, but Ms. Ashley keeps her from feeling too good to be real. Kat has a no-nonsense attitude, but she also draws people to her, which is how she finds herself in the middle of this latest mystery. Cynthia trusts and respects Kat, which is why she asks for her help in the first place and I love the unlikely friendship between a rather unconventional lady and an equally unique cook. The characters are what makes Scandal Above Stairs shine. Familiar characters and those newly introduced are all incredibly well-crafted and are like puzzle pieces who fit together perfectly. My favorite relationship is definitely the one between Kat and Daniel. This time around, we learn more about Daniel and the past he keeps secret. I was thrilled to learn more about him and I was excited that he opened up to Kat when he doesn’t trust most people. The romantic tension between Kat and Daniel continues to build and I’m looking forward to seeing how their relationship progresses.

Scandal Above Stairs is the second full-length book in the Kat Holloway series and it can be read as a standalone. However, for a more complete reading experience I recommend first reading the prequel novella, A Soupçon of Poison, and the first novel, Death Below Stairs, in order to get a better understanding of the characters and their relationships (Daniel and Kat’s in particular). I hesitate to say any more about this book because mysteries lose their excitement when you talk too much about them. Suffice it to say that Ms. Ashley never fails to entertain and her blend of fact and fiction, of murder and mystery is wonderful. Kat and her friends are endearing, the story moves at a quick pace, I was thoroughly entertained, and I cannot wait to read the next Kat Holloway book!


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.