Monday, April 22, 2019

Review: The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory

The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory
Series: The Wedding Date, Book 3
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9781984802194
Release Date: July 16, 2019
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Maddie and Theo have two things in common:

1. Alexa is their best friend
2. They hate each other

After an "oops, we made a mistake" night together, neither one can stop thinking about the other. With Alexa's wedding rapidly approaching, Maddie and Theo both share bridal party responsibilities that require more interaction with each other than they're comfortable with. Underneath the sharp barbs they toss at each other is a simmering attraction that won't fade. It builds until they find themselves sneaking off together to release some tension when Alexa isn't looking, agreeing they would end it once the wedding is over. When it’s suddenly pushed up and they only have a few months left of secret rendezvouses, they find themselves regretting that the end is near. Two people this different can’t possibly have a connection other than the purely physical, right?

But as with any engagement with a nemesis, there are unspoken rules that must be abided by. First and foremost, don't fall in love.

The moment Maddie Forest and Theo Stephens met sparks flew – and not in a good way. Yet though they rub each other the wrong way, they are both best friends with Alexa Monroe. So when she needs them, Maddie and Theo put aside their differences for the sake of their friend. Except one night something happens and the simmering sexual tension that’s been lying in wait beneath their barbs boils over and Maddie and Theo wind up in bed together. Once they give into passion, it’s harder for them to resist the pull between them – especially since being in Alexa’s wedding party throws them together. Neither of them wants Alexa to find out, get her hopes up, then be crushed when Theo and Maddie inevitably break up, so they agree to a secret affair. Only the longer they spend in each other’s company, the more the two of them find out that the person they love to hate might just be the one they’re meant to love…

The Wedding Party is an enemies-to-lovers story at its finest. In Maddie and Theo’s romance Jasmine Guillory has delivered a story that’s sexy, sweet, funny, and just plain charming.

Maddie is the kind of heroine you wish were real so you could be friends with her. She’s bright, kind, funny, and loyal. She’s also a talented stylist working on building her business and I loved the peeks we got into her career. On the surface, Maddie comes off as more relaxed which is part of the reason she and Theo – a man she at first believes to be condescending – don’t hit it off when they first meet. Theo is the mayor of Berkeley’s press secretary and on the surface he’s straight-laced and unflappable. But though he’s focused and dedicated to his job, there’s so much more to him. Yes, Theo is the kind of man who makes margaritas from scratch (down to the simple syrup), but I loved that about him. I adored watching Maddie and Theo peel back one another’s layers and see that they’re not so different after all. The two of them just click in bed and out. Their slide from lust to love is seamless and simply lovely to watch unfold.

The Wedding Party is set in the same world as The Wedding Date and parts of Alexa and Drew’s story are woven through this book. But if you don’t mind some minor spoilers then Theo and Maddie’s story can be read as a standalone. The Wedding Party has all the things I enjoy about Ms. Guillory’s books: it’s fast-paced, fun, and the happily ever after leaves you smiling. Another aspect of this story that also appeared in The Wedding Date and The Proposal is that it features protagonists who are both focused on furthering their careers and each respects and supports the other’s work – I cannot express how much I love this. Every book I’ve read of Ms. Guillory’s I enjoy more than the last and I cannot wait to see what she has in store for readers.


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, April 15, 2019

Review: The Earl’s Countess of Convenience by Marguerite Kaye

The Earl’s Countess of Convenience by Marguerite Kaye
Series: Penniless Brides of Convenience, Book 1
Publisher: Harlequin Historical
Genre: Historical Romance
ISBN: 9781335635099
Paperback Release Date: April 16, 2019
Ebook Release Date: May 1, 2019
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Harlequin

A countess in name only…

…tempted by a night with her husband!


Part of Penniless Brides of Convenience: Eloise Brannagh has witnessed firsthand the damage unruly passion can cause. Yet she craves freedom, so a convenient marriage to the Earl of Fearnoch seems the perfect solution! Except Alexander Sinclair is more handsome, more intriguing, more everything than Eloise anticipated. She’s set her own rules for their marriage, but her irresistible husband might just tempt her to break them!

Alexander Sinclair, Earl of Fearnoch, is in need of a wife before his thirtieth birthday else he’ll lose his inheritance. But he doesn’t want a true marriage, so when his friend Daniel suggests marrying his ward, Alexander is intrigued. Eloise Brannagh also has her reasons for not wanting a real marriage, but she would like the freedom being a wife would offer her. When the two of them meet, they instantly get along, so what harm could there be in a marriage of convenience? None, so long as the two don’t fall in love…

The Earl’s Countess of Convenience is a slow burn romance that I found incredibly charming. Eloise and Alexander are both likeable characters and they complement each other so well that it’s easy to root for them to fall in love. Eloise is a talented designer and honestly the descriptions of fashion and fabric in this book are divine. She’s also not used to sitting around being an idle lady of the manor, so it was fun to see her awaken her new home. She also awakens Alexander, a rather stoic hero who comes to life with Eloise. Alexander’s secrets are held close to his vest, so it takes a while to unspool his motivations and the reasons why he resists the pull toward Eloise.

Eloise and Alexander may have agreed upon a marriage of convenience, but they still have to convince society that they’re wildly in love, which means close quarters. And close quarters plus simmering attraction equals danger to their agreement. I will admit, I did at times get a tiny bit frustrated with the push-pull between Eloise and Alexander. I did grow weary of Alexander’s “I want you, but I must resist because of [secret reason],” but that’s personal preference. That aside, I found Alexander and Eloise to be a charming couple. There are some genuinely sweet and delightful moments and gestures that made me smile and the ending was definitely worth the wait. The Earl’s Countess of Convenience is the first book in Marguerite Kaye’s Penniless Brides of Convenience series and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the quartet (I’m particularly intrigued by the possibility of Eloise’s aunt and uncle getting a 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.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Review: The Rose by Tiffany Reisz

The Rose by Tiffany Reisz
Series: The Red, Book 2
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Erotic Fantasy Romance
ISBN: 9780778307921
Release Date: April 16, 2019
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

On the day of Lia’s university graduation party, her parents—wealthy art collectors with friends in high places—gift her a beautiful wine cup, a rare artifact decorated with roses. It’s a stunning gift, and one that August Bowman, a friend of her parents and a guest at Lia’s party, also has his eye on. The cup, August tells her, is known as the Rose Kylix, and it’s no ordinary cup. It was used in the temple ceremonies of Eros, Greek god of erotic love, and has the power to bring the most intimate sexual fantasies to life.

But Lia is skeptical of August’s claims of the cup’s mythology and magic—after all, he’s a collector himself, and she suspects he just wants to get his hands on this impressive piece of art. So he dares her to try it for herself, and when Lia drinks from the Rose Kylix she is suddenly immersed in an erotic myth so vivid it seems real—as though she’s living out the most sensual fantasy with August by her side…

Realizing the true power of this ancient and dangerous relic, Lia is even more wary of giving it up, though August insists it is only safe with him. He’s willing to pay the full value of the cup, but Lia has another type of trade in mind. One that finds them more tangled up in each other—and in fantasy—than either was prepared for.

Myth and magic mix with eroticism and exploration in The Rose. In Lia’s story, Tiffany Reisz has delivered a fast-paced, uninhibited sensual journey that’s feminist, sex-positive, and oh-so-much-fun to read.

Lady Ophelia Anne Fitzroy Godwick is no ordinary young lady. She’s a lover of Greek mythology, which she incorporates into her tapestries. She’s also inherited her family’s wild streak and their business acumen, for she’s a madam who has been running an escort service for the past few years. Lia’s mix of daring and vulnerability endeared her to me and I was eager to follow along on her journey. At her university graduation party her parents gift her with an ancient artifact known as the Rose Kylix. It’s a gorgeous gift, but according to collector August Bowman, it’s also highly dangerous. The kylix was used in the temple of Eros and it can bring your sexual fantasies to life. Curious but skeptical, Lia allows August to guide her and together they set off on an erotic adventure like no other. They journey through various myths and I loved how Ms. Reisz wove their fantasies, keeping the base myths but turning them into something erotic and enjoyable. Women tend to not fare well in Greek myths and legends, but Lia and August change the narrative and turn their lusty adventures into a positive experience for both.

Lia and August’s forays into famous myths are a lot of fun, but I was also drawn to the romance between the two. August is not simply a collector with a passion for the past, though I’ll leave it to readers to unwrap August alongside Lia. I adored the banter between the two of them and their shared love of Greek mythology made for fascinating conversations. Most of all, it was the quiet, emotional moments really grabbed me. The two of them make a fantastic pair and it was fun to watch them fall in love.

The Rose is the sequel to The Red, which starred Lia’s mother, Mona. If you don’t mind minor spoilers you don’t have to have read Mona’s book in order to enjoy Lia’s (though you would be missing out on a devilishly good time). Whether or not you’ve read The Red, you are sure to love any scenes that feature Lia’s parents. Mona and Spencer are hilarious, bawdy, and loving parents and they light up the page whenever they appear. I desperately hope Lia’s brothers get books if only to see these two again.

The Rose is a breath of fresh air with its characters who joyfully embrace their sexuality and the story’s open, positive view of sex workers. Ms. Reisz never fails to deliver a unique, interesting read and The Rose is no exception. I really hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of the Godwicks, for their love of art and literature and the way it’s incorporated into their stories just takes their books to the next level.


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, April 13, 2019

Review: Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett

Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9781534425149
Release Date: April 16, 2019
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo
Jenn Bennett Reading Order

Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.

Serious Moonlight makes my heart sing. Romance, mystery, characters you can root for, and sparkling dialogue – what’s not to love? I found this book to be utterly irresistible and I absolutely hated whenever I had to put it down.

Birdie and Daniel grabbed my heart from the first and didn’t let go. Birdie spent the first ten years of her life being raised by her mother and eccentric aunt, but after her mother died she was raised by grandparents who sheltered her from everything. Now she is venturing out into the world, a smart, kind eighteen-year-old who may be slightly naïve, but is still an interesting, endearing heroine whose passion for mysteries is simply infectious. She’s cautious in the beginning of the story for reasons that make sense and I loved watching her spread her wings and grow as a character of the course of the book. As for Daniel…well, I absolutely loved him and thinking about him makes me smile even now that I’ve finished the book. On the surface, he’s sunshine. He charmed my socks off immediately and he’s a sweet, funny, slightly quirky hero. But there is more to Daniel than meets the eye and I loved watching Birdie pull back the layers and learn the whole of him. Neither of them is perfect, but they’re perfectly adorable together. When they team up to solve a mystery of a reclusive author meeting someone at the hotel where they both work the nightshift, they perfectly channel a younger (and far more sober) Nick and Nora Charles. The mystery storyline is fun and it allows Birdie and Daniel to grow closer so their romance develops organically. The two of them are magic together and made the pages of Serious Moonlight fly by.

Serious Moonlight isn’t all sprightly banter between teenage sleuths. There are very real mental and physical health issues present in this book. Jenn Bennett handles these realistic issues with honesty and sensitivity. She also showcases various types of family units and Birdie and Daniel’s families endeared themselves to me every bit as much as the main pair (especially Birdie’s vivacious Aunt Mona). This is also a sex-positive story, which is wonderful to see. All of these elements come together to ground the story in reality and Ms. Bennett seamlessly weaves them in with the lighter, quirkier parts of the book.

I absolutely loved Serious Moonlight. I happened to read it after a particularly trying week at work and it lifted my mood when nothing else could. Jenn Bennett’s writing is flawless, her characters vibrant and endearing, and the story is funny, heartwarming, and completely unforgettable.


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, April 8, 2019

Review: When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton

When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Historical Fiction
ISBN: 9780451490865
Release Date: April 9, 2019
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Beautiful. Daring. Deadly.

The Cuban Revolution took everything from sugar heiress Beatriz Perez—her family, her people, her country. Recruited by the CIA to infiltrate Fidel Castro's inner circle and pulled into the dangerous world of espionage, Beatriz is consumed by her quest for revenge and her desire to reclaim the life she lost.

As the Cold War swells like a hurricane over the shores of the Florida Strait, Beatriz is caught between the clash of Cuban American politics and the perils of a forbidden affair with a powerful man driven by ambitions of his own. When the ever-changing tides of history threaten everything she has fought for, she must make a choice between her past and future—but the wrong move could cost Beatriz everything—not just the island she loves, but also the man who has stolen her heart…

Chanel Cleeton’s writing simply enchants in When We Left Cuba. I was intrigued by Beatriz Perez in Next Year in Havana and I couldn’t wait to see if her story would be as engaging as she is. Spoiler alert: it is.

Beatriz is a vibrant, complex heroine full of passion, longing, and determination. After losing nearly everything when Castro rose to power, the Perez family is making a new life for themselves in Florida. Now on the fringes of high society instead of at the center, Beatriz’s mother despairs and looks to marry off her daughters and secure their futures. Only this new life and her mother’s ambitions don’t suit Beatriz at all. The idea of marriage and motherhood chafes even more than it once did in the wake of their exile and her twin’s murder. What Beatriz wants is revenge against Castro and a better future for Cuba. And when the opportunity to work for the CIA arises, Beatriz takes it. Suddenly she’s embroiled in a world of politics and espionage, her secret life taking her farther away from her family. It’s a struggle for Beatriz to keep one foot in both worlds, a fight made harder as she falls in love with a powerful man whose destiny is so different from her own.

Beatriz possesses an inner fire that makes the pages of When We Left Cuba fly by. Her struggle to claim her identity, to make the life she wants when the people she loves are pulling her in another direction was compelling. It’s not an easy road she travels, but I had a huge amount of respect for Beatriz and the hard choices she makes. I don’t want to say much more for fear of spoiling the story. Suffice it to say that Ms. Cleeton does an amazing job of blending fact and fiction, of placing Beatriz in the midst of a tumultuous point in history and bringing all facets of that era to life. Ms. Cleeton makes you care about the characters from the very first page and even if you’re well-versed in 1960s Cuban-American politics you’ll still be sucked into the story, wanting to see how things turn out for Beatriz and the people she loves.

When We Left Cuba is filled with passion, love, intrigue, struggles, heartbreak, and hope. As with Next Year in Havana, Ms. Cleeton’s writing is gorgeous and I found myself swept away by Beatriz’s story.


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 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.