Sunday, March 24, 2019

Review: In a Badger Way by Shelly Laurenston

In a Badger Way by Shelly Laurenston
Series: The Honey Badger Chronicles, Book 2
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: Paranormal Romance
ISBN: 9781496714374
Release Date: March 26, 2019
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Petite, kind, brilliant, and young, Stevie is nothing like the usual women bodyguard Shen Li is interested in. Even more surprising, the youngest of the lethal, ball-busting, and beautiful MacKilligan sisters is terrified of bears. But she’s not terrified of pandas. She loves pandas.

Which means that whether Shen wants her to or not, she simply won’t stop cuddling him. He isn’t some stuffed Giant Panda, ya know! He is a Giant Panda shifter. He deserves respect and personal space. Something that little hybrid is completely ignoring.

But Stevie has a way of finding trouble. Like going undercover to take down a scientist experimenting on other shifters. For what, Shen doesn’t want to know, but they’d better find out. And fast. Stevie might be the least violent of the honey badger sisters, but she’s the most dangerous to Shen’s peace of mind. Because she has absolutely no idea how much trouble they’re in…or just how damn adorable she is.

Buckle up, because In a Badger Way is one wild ride. It’s an energetic, outrageous, wholly unique read thanks to Shelly Laurenston’s exuberant shifters.

Stevie MacKilligan, the youngest of the three MacKilligan half-sisters, grabbed my attention in the first of the Honey Badger Chronicles, Hot and Badgered. She’s a genius and the way her mind works is fascinating, which would be enough to entertain me, but she’s also kind and caring. One of Stevie’s biggest problems is that she panic shifts into a two ton badger/tiger. Oh, and she just happens to be terrified of bears…and lives in a bear neighborhood. One type of bear who doesn’t terrify her? Pandas. They’re just so cute! And none is cuter than panda shifter Shen Li. Shen, tasked to guard Stevie’s friend and teenage prodigy Kyle, is used to geniuses and for the most part is unfazed by the MacKilligan craziness. Shen made me smile more than once. He’s protective, calm, and (yes) so cute that I could happily read about him all day (and totally wanted to see more of his panda side). A genius with an anxiety disorder and a roll-with-it panda? They’re a perfect match. I adored them together and thought they made an interesting, sweet, and sensual couple, which made it easy to become invested in their story. The one downside of In a Badger Way is that I felt like I didn’t get quite enough time with Stevie and Shen. There are so many characters and points of view that I felt parts of Stevie and Shen’s relationship development were sacrificed in favor of other plots and characters.

In a Badger Way has a lot going on, but Ms. Laurenston keeps all the balls spinning in a way that only a truly talented author can. Stevie’s personal journey and her romance with Shen were my favorite parts of the book. But there was also an intriguing plot involving someone experimenting on shifters that I would have loved to delve deeper into. Not to mention the overarching series storylines involving MacKilligan family dynamics, a truly menacing assassin, appearances from a boatload of secondary characters from Ms. Laurenston’s Pride series, and more. I haven’t yet read the Pride books, but I liked the characters I met well enough and am sure fans of that series will be thrilled to check in with some past heroes and heroines. You don’t have to have read the Pride books in order to follow along, but I do recommend reading Hot and Badgered before starting Stevie and Shen’s story.

In a Badger Way is funny, over-the-top, and highly entertaining. I loved Stevie and Shen together and I just can’t get enough of the MacKilligan sisters (I’m seriously excited to see what Ms. Laurenston has in store for Max). If you’re looking for a vibrant paranormal romance that’s out of the ordinary, you can’t go wrong with In a Badger Way.


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, March 17, 2019

Review: No Other Duke But You by Valerie Bowman

No Other Duke But You by Valerie Bowman
Series: Playful Brides, Book 11
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Genre: Historical Romance
ISBN: 9781250121677
Release Date: April 30, 2019
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

SINGLE LADY SEEKS DUKE

Lady Delilah Montebank has her marital sights set on the Duke of Branville. There’s just one problem: he barely knows she exists. But no matter, she’s got a plan to win him over with her charm, her wit—and perhaps the love potion she has in her possession wouldn’t hurt her cause…

Lord Thomas Hobbs, Duke of Huntley, thinks his best friend Delilah’s quest to become a duchess is ridiculous. He’s always said he’d rather give up all the brandy in London than commit to one person for life. Besides, he knows that Delilah’s love potion can’t possibly win over Branville…since she accidentally gave it to him instead. But perhaps this is the excuse he needs to show her he’s always loved her…

Delilah can’t believe she gave the potion to the wrong duke. Then again, Delilah could do a lot worse than win the hand of her handsome best friend. Could it be that the right duke has been before her eyes all along?

No Other Duke But You is a delightful Regency romp with charming Shakespearean twists. I adore a good friends-to-lovers romance author Valerie Bowman hit all the right notes for me with Thomas and Delilah’s love story. It’s sprightly, sweet, and melted my heart more than once.

Delilah is a completely endearing heroine. She has a sunny nature, a kind heart, and a quiet vulnerability that tugged on my heartstrings. She’s not elegant or refined, which means some people (her horrible mother in particular) look down on her and make her feel like she’s less than the wonderful young woman she is. Delilah’s biggest fault is that she can’t see what’s right in front of her nose – namely that her best friend, Thomas, is in love with her. Thomas is kind and generous and he’s long avoided the matchmaking ways of his friends because he’s head-over-heels in love with Delilah. I adored Thomas and he made me melt with the way he saw and loved Delilah for who she is. I won’t spoil the story, but I will say how he shows Delilah he loves her makes him an absolutely swoon-worthy hero. I did feel a bit sorry for him and normally it’s a big pet peeve of mine when characters don’t just talk to each other about their feelings, but it worked in this story. The romance between Thomas and Delilah made me smile and sigh. Obstacles, schemes, and matchmaking gone awry don’t stand a chance when you have two people as well-suited as they are. They’re genuinely sweet and make such a lovely pair that I didn’t want to put the book down because I liked them together so much.

No Other Duke But You pays homage to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, complete with a play, mismatched lovers, a love potion, and some nighttime hijinks. It’s a fun spin on a classic and it works because of the cast of characters’ spirited natures. Most of the Playful Brides heroes and heroines play roles big and small in this book, which is sure to please fans as this is the final book in the series. No Other Duke But You reminds me exactly why I fell in love with the Playful Brides series to begin with: it’s a warm, energetic romance with characters you’d want to be friends with and a love story that will make you smile.


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.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Review: Baking for Keeps by Jessica Gilmore

Baking for Keeps by Jessica Gilmore
Series: Big Sky Hathaways, Book 1; Bachelor Bake-Off, Book 4
Publisher: Tule Publishing
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9781946772213
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Tule Publishing

Lacey Hathaway has it all -- a job she loves as a local radio DJ, a home with her adored, eccentric aunt and, best of all, a community after a childhood traveling with her musical parents. So what if her life is a little too safe? Marietta is everything to Lacey. Not only is she helping to organize the Bachelor Bake-Off and filming a documentary about the process, she’s also volunteered her brother as a Bachelor. But, when her brother backs out, Lacey has to find a last-minute replacement. And who better than her aunt’s lodger, gorgeous – if taciturn – Zac Malone?

Zac’s not exactly community-minded. In fact, he makes it clear that the sooner he’s out of Marietta the better. But when Lacey persuades him of the powerful impact the Bake-Off funds will have on local children, he decides to give it a go. On one condition. If he has to learn to bake, so does disaster-in-the-kitchen Lacey. Desserts aren’t the only thing heating up, and as the attraction flares and Zac makes plans to leave, Lacey’s beginning to realize that maybe there is a world beyond Marietta’s borders after all... if she’s brave enough to take that step.

Baking for Keeps is sweet as pie. In Lacey and Zac’s story, author Jessica Gilmore has delivered a truly charming, feel-good romance that is sure to leave you smiling.

Lacey has a sunny personality that I absolutely adored. After a rootless childhood spent travelling with her musician parents, Lacey Hathaway yearns for stability. Putting down roots in Marietta has been all she’s ever wanted, so she’s content with her life. That is, until Zac Malone comes to town and challenges her perspective. Zac’s a loner by choice and his childhood has made him skeptical that Marietta could be as caring a community as Lacey claims it is. But even though he wants to do the job he came to Marietta to do and leave, knowing how much Harry’s House could mean to a child means he can’t turn down Lacey’s plea to participate in the Bachelor Bake-Off.

Zac and Lacey are a case of somewhat-opposites attract and I adored their banter as they fell in love. The two of them challenge each other’s outlooks on life and each of them tempts the other to move outside their comfort zone. Their romance is soft and sweet and just about melted my heart. I’ve read Baking for Keeps twice now and both times I’ve found it heartwarming and fun. The residents of Marietta continue to be a delight and the baking show fan in me can’t help but be entertained by Zac and Lacey’s various attempts at baking. If you’re looking for a genuinely sweet romance with kind characters, a sprightly love story, and a picture-perfect happily ever after that will sweep you away for a little while, I highly recommend Baking for Keeps.


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 18, 2019

Review: Moonlight & Whiskey by Tricia Lynne

Moonlight & Whiskey by Tricia Lynne
Publisher: Loveswept
Genre: Erotic Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9781984800169
Release Date: March 12, 2019
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

When life gives you curves, you gotta learn how to rock them.

Successful businesswoman Avery Barrows likes her dips and curves, but she’s sick of the haters telling her that she should be ashamed of her body instead of embracing it. Determined to send them a big f*** you, Avery resolves to cut loose during a girls’ trip, hightailing her quick-mouthed, plus-sized self to New Orleans. So, what’s a smart woman with a little extra gotta do to get laid in this town?

Not much if you ask Declan McGinn, the lead singer of BlackSmith. Tall, dark, and tattooed, with a body made for sin, Declan prefers his women as curvy as his guitars. Avery’s sharp tongue and keen mind makes him want her even more.

As they burn up the sheets, Avery and Declan realize this is no one-night (or even one-week) stand. But for all of her bluster, Avery isn’t sure she can handle any more rejection. Besides, Declan has demons of his own. Now Avery has a choice to make: play it safe, or place her trust in the hands of a man who’s as tempting as the devil himself.

A take-no-s*** heroine, a rockin’ hero, and the city of New Orleans are the stars of the show in Moonlight & Whiskey. Tricia Lynne’s debut shows she has a lot of promise as an author – the way she writes about NOLA makes you feel like you’re really there. The city is a vivid, luscious character in and of itself and was unquestionably my favorite part of the book.

I really wanted to like Avery and there are some things I really did enjoy about her. Watching her come into her own in her professional life was fantastic and she has some body image issues that make her relatable. But aside from that, Avery is a bit much for me. She tends to go from zero to one hundred in no time flat, she and her best friend can be crass (and it takes a lot to put me off in that area), and she just felt too over-the-top all the time with very few breathers. Declan starts out the book a pretty hot hero (who doesn’t love a hero who’s a bad boy/skilled lover/kind soul?), but the deeper he and Avery fall in love, the more his demons are brought out. There’s a lot of talk of the light and the dark in Moonlight & Whiskey, especially as it relates to Declan, and sometimes I felt like I was getting repeatedly hit over the head with this particular theme.

The romance is filled with erotic moments, but once the book starts travelling down the light/dark path the passion turns into flat-out drama. There are times Avery and Declan work really well together, but I wanted something more substantial than what was given to make me believe in them as a couple given how quickly they fall in love. A lot of overused tropes start appearing as well in the latter half of the book (the big misunderstanding, pushing someone away for their own good, the heroine who is always overlooked yet two very different kinds of guys fall all over themselves for her, etc.). I don’t want to spoil the story, but many of the obstacles in the way of Avery and Declan’s happily ever after don’t feel organic. There’s a certain character’s interference in particular that just felt shoehorned in for added drama and honestly I just wanted to shake all the characters and tell them to calm the f*** down for five minutes. Call it reader preference, but for me if there’s high drama there also needs to be some balance or the characters start to seem immature and the entire reading experience is like being hit by a two-by-four.

As I mentioned before, Moonlight & Whiskey is Ms. Lynne’s debut and while I had issues with the characters and romance, there really are times in the story her writing was captivating. The way she brought NOLA to life ensures that I’ll definitely want to read another one of her books because I’m interested to see how she grows as an author.


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 3, 2019

Review: The Scandalous Diary of Lily Layton by Stacy Reid

The Scandalous Diary of Lily Layton by Stacy Reid
Publisher: Entangled: Scorched
Genre: Erotic Historical Romance
ISBN: 9781640636101
Release Date: February 18, 2019
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Entangled

Beneath Lily Layton’s sweet and charming exterior beats the heart of a vixen—one with shocking and scandalous secrets and desires. But as a genteel lady, she confines her forbidden fantasies, like those about her employer’s devastatingly handsome son, to her diary…until she loses it.

Oliver Carlyle, Marquess of Ambrose, has finally found the perfect wife, a woman who will not hide from his dark, carnal cravings. He just needs to figure out who she is. When he has a secret rendezvous with a mysterious stranger, suddenly he starts to believe she might be the author of the diary.

He’s determined to find out who his mystery woman is…

His biggest fear—and deepest fantasy—is she may be the one woman he cannot have.

Lily Layton is a widow twice over who has never known true passion. She’s been taught that what she yearns for is wrong, but that doesn’t keep her from writing down her deepest desires in her diary. It’s a perfectly safe escape…until she loses it.

Oliver Carlyle, Marquess of Ambrose, has decided it’s time to choose a wife. But when he finds a scandalous diary, he can’t get his mind off the mysterious author. How can he pick from the debutantes and titled ladies his mother has picked out for him when there’s a woman in his home who is his perfect carnal match? And why can he not keep his gaze from Lily Layton, his mother’s companion and the one woman at the party he cannot have?

The Scandalous Diary of Lily Layton is a scorching hot read. Stacy Reid always delivers engaging stories and Lily and Oliver’s romance is no exception.

As individuals, Lily and Oliver are great characters. Together? They’re dynamite. Lily grabbed my heart from the first. She’s kind, generous, and an incredibly talented designer. She’s also the survivor of an abusive marriage. But no matter how her last husband tried to shame her and tear her down, Lily has an unbreakable core of strength. That doesn’t mean she’s invulnerable – far from it. I loved watching Lily grow over the course of the story and I was cheering for her as she fearlessly risked everything for what she wants most. And Oliver is just about the sexiest gentleman you could hope to read about. He’s incredibly sensual and has a code of honor Lily tempts him to break. They fit one another perfectly outside the bedroom as well. But it’d be remiss of me not to talk about how erotic a pairing they are. In their initial rendezvous, neither knows the other’s identity, but that doesn’t tamp down on the heat they generate. Their story is ferociously sexy and only gets hotter as the book goes on and Lily and Olvier become more adventurous.

Class differences aren’t the only thing standing in the way of Oliver and Lily’s perfect happily ever after. There’s a heavy emotional turn Ms. Reid doesn’t shy away from. And here I’ll include a SPOILER ALERT, so please skip the rest of this paragraph if you want to avoid spoilers. There is an incredibly emotional plotline through the course of this story involving possible infertility that anyone struggling with pregnancy or coping with infertility may find triggering. It’s an element of realism woven into the fantasy and my heart broke for Lily more than once. Ms. Reid handles this sensitive topic honestly and I appreciated that, though whether or not the resolution of this plotline satisfies is going to be a matter of reader preference.

The Scandalous Diary of Lily Layton is sexy as can be, emotionally engaging, and just plain fun to read. I devoured the book in one sitting because I adored Lily and Oliver and their chemistry is phenomenal. I highly recommend The Scandalous Diary of Lily Layton to anyone looking for a fast-paced historical romance with well-drawn characters, an entertaining plot, and an abundance of steam.


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 28, 2019

Review: What Doesn’t Kill Her by Christina Dodd

What Doesn’t Kill Her by Christina Dodd
Series: Cape Charade, Book 2
Publisher: HQN
Genre: Romantic Suspense
ISBN: 9781335005786
Release Date: January 29, 2019
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Christina Dodd Reading Order

One secret, one nightmare, one lie. You guess which is which.
1. I have the scar of a gunshot on my forehead.
2. I have willfully misrepresented my identity to the US military.
3. I'm the new mother of a seven-year-old girl.


Kellen Adams suffers from a yearlong gap in her memory. A bullet to the brain will cause that. But she's discovering the truth, and what she learns changes her life, her confidence, her very self. She finds herself in the wilderness, on the run, unprepared, her enemies unknown--and she is carrying a priceless burden she must protect at all costs. The consequences of failure would break her. And Kellen Adams does not break.

What doesn't kill her…had better start running.

Kellen Adams has been a victim, a survivor, and a warrior. She’s prepared for anything…except learning that she’s the mother of a seven-year-old that she never knew existed. Kellen doesn’t know what to do with her daughter, Rae, or with Max, the lover she only has fleeting memories of thanks to the bullet in her head that took her memories and left her in a coma for a year. Kellen is floundering when she takes the opportunity for what should be a simple security job. A few days away from Rae and Max may help to clear her head. But when her mission turns deadly, it’s a race through the wilderness and a fight for survival Kellen can’t afford to lose.

What Doesn’t Kill Her is a tense thriller that had me eagerly turning the pages late into the night. I loved Kellen in Dead Girl Running and I continued to do so as I learned more about her. She is so strong, has been through absolute hell more than once, and she never stops fighting. She has looked death in the face but what scares her most at the start of this is trying to navigate the waters of motherhood. Rae is bright, chatty, endearing, and just a fun kid. She’s adorable and Kellen can see she’s a good kid, but she’s having trouble bonding with her. Her reasons make sense and I actually liked that Kellen didn’t instantly bond with Rae, but rather we got to watch their relationship develop. We also get to see how Kellen’s relationship with Max plays out. Even though he’s caring and patient with Kellen, things can be (understandably) bumpy between Kellen and Max because he’s an incredibly loving, protective father who wants Rae to have the mother she yearns for. The romance between Kellen and Max starts out as a slow burn, but when things pick up speed it’s clear that old feelings never died. I loved watching the romantic and familial relationships develop over the course of the story.

Of course, if Kellen, Max, and Rae want to become one happy family, they all have to survive the events of What Doesn’t Kill Her. It’s difficult for me to talk about the suspense element without giving away spoilers, so forgive me for being overly vague. A race up the mountain is only the beginning of Kellen’s problems in this story. She faces multiple threats and horrible odds, is beaten, bruised, and pushed to her limits, but she never gives up. I hated having to put the book down as the tension mounted and the stakes were raised higher and higher.

What Doesn’t Kill Her is the second full-length book in the Cape Charade series and you should definitely read Dead Girl Running before diving into this book. Like its predecessor, What Doesn’t Kill Her is captivating from beginning to end. Christina Dodd knows how to make readers beg for more and – given the cliffhanger ending in this book – I am definitely on the edge of my seat as I wait to discover 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.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Review: Willful Depravity by Ingrid Hahn

Willful Depravity by Ingrid Hahn
Publisher: Entangled: Scorched
Genre: Erotic Historical Romance
ISBN: 9781640637566
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Entangled

Giles Warrington Hale, Marquess of Ashcroft, was born to do two things. Paint and rut. But lately, nobody but Miss Patience Emery has inspired him. The moment he sees her, he knows he must paint her and have her-- anywhere and everywhere.

After a lifetime of trying to appear smaller, Patience no longer cares what anyone thinks. She’s resigned herself to a life having a man in her dreams only. But when the mysterious Lord Ashcroft approaches her with a chance to act on her bold, scandalous, and depraved desires, she suddenly sees her opportunity to indulge in every wicked fantasy she’s ever had…

A lusty artist meets his match in a confident printer’s daughter in Willful Depravity. Ingrid Hahn has delivered an erotic historical romance with a lot of potential and mixed results.

One of my favorite things about this story was Patience’s self-love. She’s spent her whole life hearing that she should lose weight, that she’d be pretty if only she did, but Patience is happy with how she looks and I loved that. Her confidence only grows over the course of the story and the positivity in this book was one of its best features. Giles, the depraved marquess, is immediately captivated by Patience. It’s lust at first sight for both of them and there is plenty of enjoyable, steamy scenes throughout the book. Yet while the attraction between them is undeniable and I had no problem believing they would risk plenty to have a lusty holiday, I had a bit harder time believing in the love story part of it. There isn’t much romantic development in Willful Depravity, which is a pity. The characters tell us they’re in love, but there’s no real indication of why, aside from a physical attraction. The romance element rang false, and perhaps if the characters had been a bit more layered the actual romance would have worked better.

The road to happily ever after is not an easy one for Patience and Giles. The main obstacle is Giles’s father, whose sneering contempt definitely comes alive on the page. But the man is such a black-hatted villain that he fell flat and I didn’t really buy the somewhat clunky resolution to his plotline. There’s a lot of potential to Willful Depravity, but it did fall short on a couple of fronts. That being said, it’s not a bad book and I really liked a lot of the elements. Patience is a likeable, relatable heroine and Giles is a sexy, fun hero. With characters like that, it’s impossible not to like their story, flaws and all.


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.