Sunday, October 14, 2018

Review: Consumed by J.R. Ward

Consumed by J.R. Ward
Series: Firefighters, Book 1
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Romantic Suspense
ISBN: 9781501194900
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
J.R. Ward Reading Order

Anne Ashburn is a woman consumed…

By her bitter family legacy, by her scorched career as a firefighter, by her obsession with department bad-boy Danny McGuire, and by a new case that pits her against a fiery killer.

Strong-willed Anne was fearless and loved the thrill of fighting fires, pushing herself to be the best. But when one risky decision at a warehouse fire changes her life forever, Anne must reinvent not only her job, but her whole self.

Shattered and demoralized, Anne finds her new career as an arson investigator a pale substitute for the adrenaline-fueled life she left behind. She doesn't believe she will ever feel that same all-consuming passion for her job again--until she encounters a string of suspicious fires setting her beloved city ablaze.

Danny McGuire is a premiere fireman, best in the county, but in the midst of a personal meltdown. Danny is taking risks like never before and seems to have a death wish until he teams up with Anne to find the fire starter. But Danny may be more than a distraction, and as Anne narrows in on her target, the arsonist begins to target her.

From the creator of the bestselling Black Dagger Brotherhood, get ready for a new band of brothers. And a firestorm.

I’ve always found J.R. Ward’s books to be compulsively readable, so it’s no surprise that I was eager to dive into her new Firefighters series. Consumed sets the stage for what looks to be an interesting series of flawed heroes and heroines on the front lines of danger. It’s also a story I have a difficult time putting a rating on.

Let’s start with Anne Ashburn and Danny McGuire, our main couple. They’re smart but reckless, brave but deeply flawed. Danny is spiraling throughout most of this book (until he’s not) and I did like the level of realism Ms. Ward shows regarding the toll being a firefighter takes on a person. Anne isn’t exactly a likeable heroine, but – though it may sound strange – that’s one of the things I liked best about this book. Heroines like Anne are few and far between compared to their male counterparts and it was actually refreshing to see a heroine who is wounded, angry, and sometimes scared. Anne came into her own over the course of Consumed in an organic way and it was easy to become invested in her story. As for the romance, I highly recommend reading the two “Wedding from Hell” prequel novellas (“The Rehearsal Dinner” and “The Reception”) before starting this book. It’s no spoiler to say that Anne and Danny start out the book in love, but obstacles (some realistic, others that felt manufactured) keep the romance spinning its wheels for a lot of the story until the adrenaline rush of the finish.

Danny and Anne’s aren’t the only points of view in Consumed. There’s also that of Tom, the New Brunswick fire chief and Anne’s brother, and Vic Rizzo, a fellow firefighter from a different station. It’s not uncommon for Ms. Ward to have multiple points of view in her books and Tom’s scenes had the benefit of fleshing out the world and the Ashburn family, adding interest to the story, and generally making sure that I will stay on the edge of my seat, waiting for his book. As for Vic, he is probably the most likeable character in this book (aside from Anne’s awesome boss and Soot the dog), but his scenes don’t add much and I’m assuming they were included because he’ll be central to future books.

After an explosive beginning, Consumed slows down a bit, hitting its stride about three-quarters of the way through. A mystery stemming from Anne’s first case as an arson investigator builds over the course of the story. I enjoyed the danger and suspense and by the end I couldn’t put the book down, only to feel a bit disappointed that things were left hanging. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in future books, but the way things ended made this book feel a bit unfinished. Because this is the first book in the series, there’s a lot of world building and introductions. I was intrigued by the messy, hanging-by-a-thread firefighters even though they definitely aren’t your typical swoon-worthy protagonists. Most of them are presented as damaged with unhealthy coping mechanisms and a bizarre disdain for anyone even slightly younger than them (the last of which I only included because it felt shoehorned in repeatedly). They also tend to all talk alike, which makes sense on the one hand but on the other I feel like something is missing without defined voices. And it’d be remiss of me not to mention the scenes with the firefighters in action. It is clear Ms. Ward did her research and it shows really well, adding realism to the story.

Consumed is intriguing and flawed, just like its hero and heroine. On its own, I had some issues with the book but I think as the series goes on I will like it better as part of the whole. As it stands, Ms. Ward’s singular writing style pulled me in and I will definitely be back for more.


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, September 24, 2018

Review: A Rose in the Highlands by Heather McCollum

A Rose in the Highlands by Heather McCollum
Series: Highland Roses School, Book 1
Publisher: Entangled: Amara
Genre: Historical Romance
ISBN: 9781726414654
Release Date: September 24, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Entangled

1684, Scottish Highlands

Englishwoman Evelyn Worthington is resolved to build a school for ladies in her brother's newly purchased Scottish castle. But when she arrives, not only does she find the castle scorched by fire, but a brawny Highlander bars her entry.

Clan chief Grey Campbell would rather die than see his family home, Finlarig Castle, fall into English hands, so Grey must win the battle of wills with the beautiful Sassenach who flashes a bill of sale before him.

When the war between Evelyn and Grey escalates, passions flare. But outsiders have their own plans for Finlarig. After secrets are revealed, and muskets are lit, the fates of the Campbell Clan, the school, and a possible future for Grey and Evelyn are in as much jeopardy as their lives.

When Evelyn Worthington flees England and an unwanted suitor to start a school in her brother’s newly-purchased Scottish castle, she doesn’t expect to find the castle’s previous owner to still be living there! Clan chief Grey Campbell is dark, brooding, and determined to keep his place in Finlarig Castle, which he claims was unlawfully seized by the English. Evelyn isn’t quite sure what to do about the handsome, irritating man, but she’s not about to let him ruin her future…

Get ready for an entertaining battle of wills! A Rose in the Highlands crackles with energy thanks to the excellent chemistry Grey and Evelyn have. I adored Evelyn’s spirit and her determination to set up a school where girls can learn a host of skills from reading to self-defense. She’s an intelligent woman who won’t be cowed in a time where silence and obedience were demanded of her peers. And while Grey starts out as her enemy, it’s clear these two won’t be able to resist the pull between them for long. Grey has reason to hate the English. His parents were murdered, his castle seized, and he and his family and friends were nearly killed. So even while I was rooting for Evelyn to succeed in starting her Highland Roses school, I understood where Grey was coming from in the beginning. He’s a strong, proud man, but he’s also protective and caring. He and Evelyn make a great match and I enjoyed watching them fall in love. Add in secrets, conspiracies, and a healthy dose of suspense and you have a truly well-rounded story that’s incredibly difficult to put down.

Grey and Evelyn are the heart of A Rose in the Highlands, but the residents of Killin – not to mention Grey and Evelyn’s siblings – add further life to the tale and made me look forward to more Highland Roses School books. So while I finished A Rose in the Highlands a well-satisfied reader, I’m eager to learn Scarlet Worthington’s secrets in A Rose with Thorns.


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, September 23, 2018

Review: Hot Winter Nights by Jill Shalvis

Hot Winter Nights by Jill Shalvis
Series: Heartbreaker Bay, Book 6
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9780062741837
Release Date: September 25, 2018
Source: Author
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Jill Shalvis Reading Order

Who needs mistletoe?

Most people wouldn’t think of a bad Santa case as the perfect Christmas gift. Then again, Molly Malone, office manager at Hunt Investigations, isn’t most people, and she could really use a distraction from the fantasies she’s been having since spending the night with her very secret crush, Lucas Knight. Nothing happened, not that Lucas knows that—but Molly just wants to enjoy being a little naughty for once…

Whiskey and pain meds for almost-healed bullet wounds don’t mix. Lucas needs to remember that next time he’s shot on the job, which may be sooner rather than later if Molly’s brother, Joe, finds out about them. Lucas can’t believe he’s drawing a blank on his (supposedly) passionate tryst with Molly, who’s the hottest, smartest, strongest woman he’s ever known. Strong enough to kick his butt if she discovers he’s been assigned to babysit her on her first case. And hot enough to melt his cold heart this Christmas.

It’s never a bad time for holiday cheer, especially when you’ve got a story like Hot Winter Nights to read. Lucas and Molly’s romance is funny, heartwarming, and sensual. It’s impossible not to be swept away by this sweet confection of a tale.

Molly is a fighter. She’s got grit, strength, and a spine of steel and I loved that about her. As the office manager at Hunt Investigations, she knows she’s invaluable to the team. Yet she also knows she can and wants to do more, only her boss, brother, and the other members of the team are overprotective of her, in part because of the permanent nerve damage she has in one leg. But Molly is nothing if not clever and resourceful, so when a bad Santa case comes her way, she’s determined to take it on. She knows it isn’t safe to work alone, so she talks Lucas into helping her, not knowing her boss has already ordered him to keep an eye on her. Lucas is a hero you can’t help but love. He sees and respects Molly’s skills, knowledge, and abilities and even though he’s as protective as the rest of the Hunt investigators, he supports her in her quest to become an investigator. When it comes to his attraction to her, well, the sister of his best friend is off-limits. Except close quarters make it impossible for either of them to deny the pull between them…

Both Molly and Lucas have scars – physical and mental – from their past that make them put up walls around their hearts. Though it’s obvious to readers that they’re a perfect match, their road to happily ever after isn’t an easy one because insecurities and old ghosts aren’t easily overcome. Jill Shalvis perfectly balances their internal struggles with their otherwise bright and sexy romance and I was rooting for Molly and Lucas every step of the way.

Family and friends bring additional warmth and good cheer to Hot Winter Nights and Heartbreaker Bay fans will be delighted to catch up with past heroes and heroines (though if this is your entry into this series, you won’t be lost). I adore this series with its quirky, welcoming characters and the friendships add some sparkle to the story without detracting from Molly and Lucas. The only downside to this book is that I finished it incredibly eager to read the next Heartbreaker Bay book, Playing for Keeps, and that’s not a bad problem to have.


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

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Review: Don’t Touch My Petunia by Tara Sheets

Don’t Touch My Petunia by Tara Sheets
Series: The Holloway Girls, Book 2
Publisher: Zebra Shout
Genre: Contemporary Romance with Paranormal Elements
ISBN: 9781420146288
Release Date: September 25, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Pine Cove Island is the kind of enchanting place where anything is possible…

The Holloway women each have a special gift, passed down through generations, each one a little different. Juliette possesses a magical green thumb, which makes her job managing the local florist shop a dream. She may be a bit wild, but she knows what she wants: to save enough money to buy the shop from her boss. Then in marches Logan O’Connor, more annoyingly handsome than ever, turning all her plans upside down.

Logan hasn’t been back on Pine Cove Island since he was eighteen and broke Juliette’s teenage heart. Now it turns out he’s her boss’s nephew—and will be spending his days remodeling the shop and barking orders. At her.

For the sake of the business, Juliette will have to ignore their simmering attraction and work with Logan. But that doesn’t mean she has to make things easy for him. Because no one knows better than she that one tiny, perfectly planted bit of garden magic could uproot Logan’s own plans and keep him out of her way. And nothing would make her happier. At least that’s what she thinks…

Tara Sheets has the magic touch when it comes to sweet, utterly charming romances. I adored her first Holloway Girls book, Don’t Call Me Cupcake, and was pleased to find the enchantment didn’t wear off with Don’t Touch My Petunia.

Juliette has a magical connection to plants that someone with a black thumb like me envies. She’s vibrant and endearing, but she also had a vulnerable side that tugged on my heartstrings. Aside from her cousin Emma, everyone she has ever loved has left Juliette so she guards her heart fiercely. She relies on no one but herself, has walls a mile high, and is wary of change. Only someone like Logan could manage to scale those walls around her heart. Logan is the perfect hero without coming off as cardboard. He’s patient, kind, quiet, strong, and though he doesn’t take any flak from Juliette, he doesn’t scare easily when she resists change or her self-preservation instincts kick in and she tries to push him away. They have great chemistry that shows from the start as they banter and bicker, then slide into love. Their romance made me sigh more than once and there are so many sweet moments I don’t want to spoil by revealing. I really enjoyed watching them heal from the ghosts of their pasts with each other’s help and I liked them together so much that I hated having to put the book down.

A cast of lively secondary characters round out the book but never take the focus off of Juliette and Logan. I love the world of Pine Cove Island, the charm of the shops and the welcoming residents who each have their own fun quirks. I’m so glad Ms. Sheets will keep the magic going and give new Pine Cove Island resident Kat her own book because I don’t want to leave this place behind. If you enjoy sweet romances with a touch of magic, you’re sure to delight in reading Don’t Touch My Petunia.


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, September 2, 2018

Review: Hard Deal by Stefanie London

Hard Deal by Stefanie London
Series: Melbourne After Dark, Book 2
Publisher: Harlequin Dare
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9781488082658
Release Date: September 1, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

For one night only, Imogen Hargrove is a sexy spy. She’s donned a mask for the Carmina Masquerade Ball, where she hopes to catch her sister’s cheating fiancé, Daniel, in the act. But she’s the one who gets rumbled when she strays too close to her target—only to realize she’s been tailing the wrong man. A searing kiss makes her forget her mission altogether, and the mysterious stranger awakens something inside her: a burning passion she hasn’t felt since the brutal breakup of her last relationship.

Imogen is mortified to discover that the man behind the mask is her colleague, notorious womanizer Caleb Allbrook. He’s the last person she wants to get close to, and she doesn’t need another playboy in her life. But that kiss has her curious—besides, Caleb knows her sister’s fiancé and could prove very useful in digging up dirt.

She makes a deal: she’ll go on a date with Caleb in exchange for information on Daniel’s affair. But Caleb’s irresistible charm turns a casual conversation into a night of sultry seduction. Imogen knows Caleb is bad news—yet he makes her feel sexier than any man ever has. Can she pull herself away from yet another toxic relationship, or will Caleb prove there’s more to him than just sex appeal?

Hard Deal is so much fun to read. It’s both steamy and playful and the chemistry Caleb and Imogen have practically snaps and sizzles on the page.

To all the world, nothing can ruffle Imogen Hargrove. She’s smart, organized, and keeps her passionate nature tamped down. But beneath the surface is a woman who wants to live a more vibrant, sensual life. Imogen was badly hurt by her cheating ex-husband and it’s easy to see why the emotional scars she carries have heavily impacted her life. She’s a kind-hearted heroine who is easy to like, even when she makes mistakes to guard said heart. I really liked Imogen, so I was eager to see her come out of her shell. Caleb helps her do that by knocking her off her axis. He’s a swoon-worthy hero who is so much more than the playboy people know him as. Caleb is charming, good looking, and sexy as sin, but that’s only a small part of him. He made me smile with his rebellious socks and the way he could read people. But it tugged on my heartstrings to see the hidden, vulnerable part that feels unwanted and unloved by his father. He and Imogen both have ghosts in their pasts they have to overcome in order to open their hearts and have a shot at a real relationship. Yet while Imogen and Caleb have to work for their happily ever after, that doesn’t mean the road to it is lacking in fun – quite the contrary. Hard Deal is deliciously dirty and Imogen and Caleb are anything but shy when it comes to pleasure.

Hard Deal is the second book in Stefanie London’s Melbourne After Dark series but it can easily be read as a standalone. That being said, I will definitely go back and read Unmasked because I absolutely adore Ms. London’s writing. I’ve only read a few of her books, but the ones I’ve read are flirty, fun, and wholly addictive. Caleb and Imogen’s romance is no exception and I cannot wait to re-read 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.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Review: The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo by Kerrigan Byrne

The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo by Kerrigan Byrne
Series: Victorian Rebels, Book 6
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Genre: Historical Romance
ISBN: 9781250122568
Release Date: August 28, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

He is known only as The Rook. A man with no name, no past, no memories. He awakens in a mass grave, a magnificent dragon tattoo on his muscled forearm the sole clue to his mysterious origins. His only hope for survival—and salvation—lies in the deep, fiery eyes of the beautiful stranger who finds him. Who nurses him back to health. And who calms the restless demons in his soul…

A LEGENDARY LOVE

Lorelai will never forget the night she rescued the broken dark angel in the woods, a devilishly handsome man who haunts her dreams to this day. Crippled as a child, she devoted herself to healing the poor tortured man. And when he left, he took a piece of her heart with him. Now, after all these years, The Rook has returned. Like a phantom, he sweeps back into her life and avenges those who wronged her. But can she trust a man who’s been branded a rebel, a thief, and a killer? And can she trust herself to resist him when he takes her in his arms?

A boy who is just becoming a man crawling his way out of a mass grave, barely clinging to life is not how you would think a great romance begins. But Kerrigan Byrne’s Victorian Rebels are anything but ordinary. The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo captivated me from the start as a teenage Lorelai rescues a broken young man with no name, no past, no memories. She gives him a name – Ash – and shows him kindness, gentleness, and love for the first time in his life. And when he’s torn from her, he takes a piece of her heart with him. Flash forward twenty years later and Ash is back, only now he’s the Rook, a man who has known nothing but blood, pain, and cruelty for years. The Rook wants to claim her for his own, but is there enough of Ash left for Lorelai to trust her heart to a pirate?

Lorelai is an incredibly endearing heroine. She’s grown up with an abusive monster of a brother and an indifferent father, but her strength and spirit shine through. She’s gentle and kind and loves rescuing and healing injured animals. How could she not melt your heart? Despite all she’s been through and the toll it has taken physically and emotionally, Lorelai never cowers. She’s got a spine of steel and she’ll need it to take on the Rook. Lorelai is the only good thing in the Rook’s life and he doesn’t want to let her go. Their romance is reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast and I adored watching Lorelai bring her Ash back out into the light. Don’t get me wrong – the Rook has plenty of reasons to be angry. But even at his darkest, it’s clear he loves Lorelai and I couldn’t wait to see him come into his own so they could find happiness. Ms. Byrne excels at delivering grand, passionate romances and Ash and Lorelai’s is no exception. I loved the emotion that leapt off the page; it kept me reading until I couldn’t keep my eyes open no matter how hard I tried.

A hunt for treasure with only the scarred remnants of the Rook’s dragon tattoo as a guide complements the romance perfectly. There’s action, danger, discovery, and betrayal and everything combines into a wonderfully satisfying tale. The treasure hunt also pushes our hero and heroine into the path of beloved characters who may hold the key to the Rook’s past. I was thrilled to revisit past Victorian Rebels characters and the multiple relationships woven into the book absolutely made my day when reading it. If I seem incredibly vague, it’s because I don’t want to spoil the story for readers who want to discover the Rook’s identity on their own.

The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo is a gripping, emotional, sensual love story. Lorelai and Ash have fantastic chemistry and I loved every bit of their romance. My only complaint is that I finished their book wanting more of Ms. Byrne’s Victorian Rebels. This series is like catnip to me – I simply cannot get enough of Ms. Byrne’s dark and dangerous heroes and the strong women who love them.


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, August 21, 2018

Review: Magic Triumphs by Ilona Andrews

Magic Triumphs by Ilona Andrews
Series: Kate Daniels, Book 10
Publisher: Ace
Genre: Urban Fantasy
ISBN: 9780425270714
Release Date: August 28, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N
Ilona Andrews Reading Order

Kate has come a long way from her origins as a loner taking care of paranormal problems in post-Shift Atlanta. She's made friends and enemies. She's found love and started a family with Curran Lennart, the former Beast Lord. But her magic is too strong for the power players of the world to let her be.

Kate and her father, Roland, currently have an uneasy truce, but when he starts testing her defenses again, she knows that sooner or later, a confrontation is inevitable. The Witch Oracle has begun seeing visions of blood, fire, and human bones. And when a mysterious box is delivered to Kate's doorstep, a threat of war from the ancient enemy who nearly destroyed her family, she knows their time is up.

Kate Daniels sees no other choice but to combine forces with the unlikeliest of allies. She knows betrayal is inevitable. She knows she may not survive the coming battle. But she has to try.

The final battle is here. Everything the Kate Daniels series has been building up to comes to a head in Magic Triumphs, culminating in an awesome display of magic. Authors Ilona Andrews have perfectly balanced cinematic action with intimate, personal moments, resulting in a wonderfully satisfying story.

From her near-loner beginnings in Magic Bites to now, it’s been a hell of a journey for Kate. She and Curran have a family – both of blood and of their own choosing – that stretches wide across Atlanta. They want peace for their loved ones and safety for their son, but that’s not possible with Kate’s father, the godlike Roland, casting his shadow over the land and people Kate has sworn to protect. And when an ancient and powerful enemy comes to her door and the Oracle sees fire and blood in the future, Kate knows that she’s now in the countdown to the battle that could cost her all she holds dear.

Kate is as kickass as ever. She’s fierce, powerful, loving, and sometimes entertainingly out of her depth as mother to the rather unique (and scene-stealing) Conlan. Even with the stakes being so high, with the intensity that builds to a screaming point as you worry over the fate of beloved characters, Ilona Andrews never loses sight of the personal moments. It’s those moments that make Magic Triumphs a stand-out story. Don’t get me wrong – Ilona Andrews’ worldbuilding is seriously top-notch. The battles are epic, the threats intriguing, unique, and powerful, and the various relationships, alliances, and politics Kate has to maneuver are intricate. But for me it was the personal moments that locked me into the story, that reinforced who and what Kate is fighting for.

If you’re wondering why I’m not saying much about the plot it’s because spoilers are hard to avoid and I definitely don’t want to ruin this book for anyone. If you’re at all familiar with the Kate Daniels books (and you definitely should be before starting this story), you know to expect spectacular battles, complex plots, and multifaceted characters. It definitely wouldn’t be a finale without all the key players from past books having a role to play and getting time with Kate. Ilona Andrews has filled this world with unique, vibrant characters and I was thrilled to revisit my favorites and see how everything and everyone would come together in the end. Is Magic Triumphs absolutely, positively everything a fan of the series could want for a conclusion? Of course not. I’ve been invested in this series for over a decade and no matter how hard I tried not to, I came in with my own hopes and it’d be ridiculous to assume the authors could meet all fan expectations. But any issues I had were minor and I found this to be a supremely satisfying end to Kate’s journey. Magic Triumphs is brilliant, engaging, funny, intense, and wholly original. I cannot recommend it highly enough.


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, August 19, 2018

Review: Three-Way Split by Elia Winters

Three-Way Split by Elia Winters
Series: Comes in Threes, Book 1
Publisher: Entangled: Scorched
Genre: Erotic Contemporary Polyamorous Romance
ISBN: 9781724687715
Release Date: August 20, 2018
Source: Author
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Hannah Stewart knows what she likes, and it doesn't include relationships. She has enough on her plate with her fledgling adult novelty shop, Yes Please. But even with an arsenal of sex toys at her disposal, she's hit a dry spell—one she wishes the sexy Mitchell Fredericks would help her out with.

There's just one snag. His sexy roommate and business partner, Ben Harrington.

The last thing she wants to do is come between their friendship—even though she'd like to come between them in other ways. Instead, she comes up with a proposition for them, one that might lead to a very hot, very unexpected outcome.

Three-Way Split is a sexy as hell polyam romance with a lot of heart. Elia Winters’s first Comes in Threes book is positively scorching, but it’s the characters and the way they approach their relationships that really makes this story stand out.

Hannah is a fiercely independent owner of an adult store. She’s smart, knowledgeable, flirty and fun, but she also has very realistic struggles, insecurities, and fears. At the beginning of the story, she has the hots for both Ben and Mitchell, but she doesn’t want things to be any deeper than some very hot fun and friendship for the three of them because she’s afraid of having her heart broken. Like Hannah, Ben guards his heart closely. He’s been burned badly by an ex and though he and Mitchell have been friends with benefits for a couple of years, he won’t let things go any farther. Ben is brilliant and so charming that I couldn’t help but smile whenever he was on the page. As with Hannah, I was really rooting for Ben to open up because it’s clear he, Hannah, and Mitchell could have something special. Which brings me to the third member of the triad: Mitchell. If I had to pick a favorite character in this book it would definitely be the quietly dominant chef. Mitchell is perhaps the most openly vulnerable of the three of them; he clearly wants a relationship but is careful not to ask for more than Ben or Hannah think they can give. Mitchell isn’t perfect, but he’s pretty much everything a person could ask for in a partner, only he doesn’t quite see how special he is which just grabbed my heart.

As individuals, Mitchell, Ben, and Hannah are compelling characters. When they get together, either in twos or threes, Three-Way Split is seriously hot. A fun, sex-positive m/m/f erotic romance would be enough, but what took this book to the next level was the way it discussed polyamory. It’s not just hot times in the bedroom (among other places) and I loved the realism woven into the fantasy. As Hannah, Ben, and Mitchell become more serious, they take the time to learn more about polyamory, what it means, and how to communicate with your partners, especially when it comes to your wants, fears, expectations, and feelings. This gives the book and the love stories such wonderful depth and works perfectly with the kinky good times. The only downside of Three-Way Split is that I finished it wanting the next Comes in Threes book because I loved the characters and romances in this one so much.


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

Monday, August 13, 2018

Review: A Duchess in the Dark by Kate McKinley

A Duchess in the Dark by Kate McKinley
Series: By Invitation Only, Book 1
Publisher: Forever Yours
Genre: Erotic Historical Romance
ISBN: 9781455574278
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Miss Daphne Hayward is on the hunt for a safe, honorable husband and she has set her sights on the perfect target. She plans a full-scale seduction that will bring him to his knees, and have him begging for her hand in marriage. But when she mistakenly slips into another man's bed, the passions that quickly ignite threaten to send her well-laid plans up in smoke.

Ashton Fitzgerald, Duke of Claymore has never been for want of a willing woman in his bed and his rakish ways have become legend in boudoirs and dark corners all across London. But not even Ashton can account for the powerful desire that surges through him when a mysterious woman pays him a clandestine midnight visit. As dawn breaks, his goddess flees before he can learn her identity. Now Ashton will stop at nothing to unmask the identity of the woman who bewitched him body and soul and make her his…forever.

Daphne Hayward is determined to marry a man her brother-in-law doesn’t approve of, so she sets out to secure her future by sliding into bed with the man she wants to wed. Only she unknowingly winds up in the bed of Ashton Fitzgerald, Duke of Claymore. Their night together is phenomenal, but when each discovers who their mysterious bed partner is, they’re in for one heck of a surprise. Though she’s attracted to Ashton, Daphne has no interest in wedding a man every woman swoons over. Only Ashton isn’t about to give Daphne up so easily…

A case of mixed-up bedrooms can either lead to ruin or utter happiness in A Duchess in the Dark. Kate McKinley’s first By Invitation Only book is fast-paced, fun, and sexy, making for a perfect afternoon escape from reality. While Daphne and Ashton’s romance is definitely spicy, it’s also incredibly sweet and that’s what makes the book stand out for me. Ashton’s good looks are the least important part of his character. He’s kind, caring, protective, and non-judgmental, which makes him a really appealing hero. I was rooting for him to win Daphne over because they clearly fit. A Duchess in the Dark is a fairly short novella, so it’s a bit of a whirlwind love story, but that was fine by me. The dialogue was sprightly, the characters likeable, and the romance an excellent mix of sensual and sweet. I was charmed by Daphne and Ashton’s story and I look forward to reading the rest of the By Invitation Only series.


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, August 6, 2018

Review: The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
ISBN: 9781492657965
Release Date: September 18, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

The Rules of Blackheath
Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered at 11:00 p.m.
There are eight days, and eight witnesses for you to inhabit.
We will only let you escape once you tell us the name of the killer.
Understood? Then let's begin…

***

Evelyn Hardcastle will die. Every day until Aiden Bishop can identify her killer and break the cycle. But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest. And some of his hosts are more helpful than others…

Evelyn Hardcastle is going to die; that much has been foretold. But who did it? That is the question Aiden Bishop must answer if he ever hopes to be free of Blackheath. He has eight hosts – each a player on a deadly chessboard he can’t fully see. Eight different points of view, eight chances to solve a mystery before time runs out…

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is an intense, evocative, intricately-plotted tale that will keep you on your toes. From the start, I was drawn into the rich imagery of the decaying world of Blackheath, its inhabitants unique and vividly drawn. There are so many secrets in this complex mystery, so many puzzle pieces and point of view jumps that it’s no wonder our protagonist needs eight hosts to even have a glimmer of a chance at solving Evelyn’s murder.

The more you know about a mystery going in, the less enjoyable it is, so I’m loathe to say much about what happens in the story. I will say that I loved watching Aiden put the pieces of this sizeable puzzle together. It’s no easy feat, as he’s hindered as well as aided by the hosts chosen for him. In the hands of another author, this story might have been a tangled mess. But Stuart Turton has done an exceptional job of weaving together a massive number of threads to form one solid mystery. The worldbuilding in this book is fantastic and I loved that I couldn’t tell what would happen next. With so many personalities swirling about, no one can be entirely predictable. There’s also a sinister presence dogging Aiden’s steps that adds a slightly chilling quality to the story, which I enjoyed. The only thing that kept me from absolutely loving this book was the ending. When it comes to stories like these, you really have to stick the landing or it’s a bit of a letdown and while the ending was satisfying enough, it did leave me wanting a bit more. That being said, I still highly recommend The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle to anyone looking for an original, engaging mystery and I’m looking forward to seeing what Mr. Turton comes up with 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.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Review: Serendipity by Carly Phillips

Serendipity by Carly Phillips
Series: Serendipity, Book 1
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Romance Serendipity Cover
ISBN: 9780425243831
Source: Publisher
Blue Ribbon Rating: 4 out of 5
Original Review Link
Book Purchase Link
Carly Phillips Reading Order

Faith Harrington grew up in the lap of luxury and never left it…until her father being sent to prison for running a Ponzi scheme was followed up by finding out that her husband was a cheating jerk. Faith needs a fresh start, and she’s determined to get it in her home town of Serendipity where she wants to start her interior design business. Unfortunately, some people in Serendipity are putting the blame for the sins of the father on Faith. What’s more, the mansion Faith grew up in is now home to notorious bad boy Ethan Barron. What’s a woman to do? Well, when Ethan hires her to redecorate his home, a woman like Faith takes the chance. But will she also take a chance on the scoundrel who’s always sent her heart racing?

Author Carly Phillips starts off her SERENDIPITY series with a bang! SERENDIPITY is passion and fun, past mistakes and new beginnings all rolled into one.

Faith is a woman who is determined to claim her life as her own, and she’ll work her butt off to make a success of herself. Faith is beautiful, intelligent and wealthy, but what makes her a fantastic heroine is her hard work and likeability. Ethan, in turn, is a former bad boy who has returned to Serendipity to make amends and reconnect with his family. Sadly, his past makes it hard for people – especially his brothers – to see the man he has become. I flat-out adored Ethan and not only did I want him to find love with Faith, I wanted him to get the acceptance he craves. To her credit, Ms. Phillips doesn’t make it easy for Ethan. I was every bit as invested in Ethan and Faith’s individual journeys as I was in their romance.

Ms. Phillips could have easily fallen into one of the well-known contemporary romance patterns with SERENDIPITY – ex-bad boy falls for good girl/princess. But Ms. Phillips takes the best parts of that romance archetype and then spins her own unique story from here. There are twists and turns in SERENDIPITY that I didn’t see coming, and I LOVED them. I finished SERENDIPITY with a smile on my face, delighted by Ethan and Faith’s utterly charming romance. Bring on the next SERENDIPITY novel, DESTINY!

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.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Review: Destined Mate by Katie Reus

Destined Mate by Katie Reus
Series: Werewolf Mates, Book 1
Publisher: Harlequin Nocturne Cravings
Genre: Paranormal Romance Destined Mate Cover
ASIN: B005N99JFK
Source: Publisher
Blue Ribbon Rating: 3 out of 5
Original Review Link
Book Purchase Link

It’s been nearly a century since Angela has seen Knox, the man she loves. Knox is a werewolf Alpha, and she fled his embrace when she was turned into a vampire. Now a vampire friend of Angela’s has been kidnapped by a werewolf, and Angela plans to rescue her. But when she sneaks onto Knox’s land; her former lover captures her. This time, however, Knox isn’t willing to let Angela go. But will their rekindled romance ruin any chance for peace between their two species?

Passion, politics and the paranormal go together perfectly in author Katie Reus’ novel, DESTINED MATE. Readers will hit the ground running in DESTINED MATE, and the fast pace doesn’t let up. Strains of the movie Underworld slink through this sexy tale. The former star-crossed lovers in this story must overcome prejudice from both species. I was fascinated by the paranormal politics in DESTINED MATE, almost as much as I was interested in the romance. Ms. Reus had me cheering Angela and Knox on, and I avidly read DESTINED MATE to see how these two would get their happily ever after. And you know they will - it’s clear that Angela and Knox are, yes, destined to be together.

Sensual, exciting and entertaining, DESTINED MATE is sure to delight fans of paranormal romance.

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.

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.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Review: One for the Rogue by Manda Collins

One for the Rogue by Manda Collins
Series: Studies in Scandal, Book 4
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Genre: Historical Romance
ISBN: 9781250109927
Release Date: June 26, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

LOVE IS THE GREATEST DISCOVERY OF ALL

Geologist Gemma Hastings has no interest in pursuing romance—and no patience for Lord Cameron Lisle, an esteemed fossil hunter who has a way of always honing in on her territory…annoyingly handsome though he may be. But when a shocking attack puts Gemma in very real danger, she may have to accept Lisle’s offers of protection. Even if that means entering into a dangerous flirtation…

Lisle was once amused by Gemma’s dedication to her work. But now that he understands how much he’s underestimated her—a woman whose beauty is matched only by her genius—Lisle is desperate to prove his respect…and prove himself worthy of her. But is he too late? A bitter rival, desperate to steal Gemma’s scientific findings, is still at-large. Can Lisle help uncover the culprit and keep her safe—forever, in his loving arms?

One for the Rogue is a bit difficult for me to review. There are some things I liked about this book. Gemma’s passion for geology and the struggles she faces to be taken seriously are what drew me into the book at the start. And I also really enjoyed the fact that Cam shared her passion and respected her intelligence. At the start of the story, it seemed like this might be an enemies-to-lovers book, but it really isn’t. Yes, Cam and Gemma are at loggerheads in the beginning over something that could have been resolved if Cam had communicated a bit better and Gemma had been a bit more willing to listen. However, a potentially huge fossil find and the threat of a bitter, sexist rival throws our bickering hero and heroine together. Add in some sexual tension and it’s clear that Gemma and Cam are going to be headed down the aisle soon. I liked Gemma and Cam together and it’s clear they fit, but still I thought their romance fell a bit flat. Part of this is due to the lack of character growth; Gemma and Cam begin and end pretty much the same and we don’t really delve deep into their characters. If this were a novella, I might have liked it more because the perceived obstacles to Gemma and Cam’s eventual happily ever after seemed orchestrated to draw out the story rather than organic problems they had to overcome.

Woven through the romance in One for the Rogue is a mystery involving a fossil Gemma discovers. I don’t want to say too much for fear of spoiling the fun, but I thought this plotline was the stronger one. Not only does Gemma have to face a jerk of a rival, there’s mystery, murder, and a tiny bit of mayhem. This is where author Manda Collins brings life to the story and keeps the pages moving.

One for the Rogue isn’t a bad book, but for me it was just an OK read. I realized after finishing this book that I had the same issues with it as I did with a previous Manda Collins book I read: the characters were likeable and the story had potential, but it dragged in places and was littered with tropes that didn’t have a fresh spin on them. I think Ms. Collins’s writing style simply isn’t for me, so others might find this story more engaging than I did.


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 7, 2018

Review: Ocean Light by Nalini Singh

Ocean Light by Nalini Singh
Series: Psy-Changeling Trinity, Book 2
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Paranormal Romance
ISBN: 9781101987827
Release Date: June 12, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N
Nalini Singh Reading Order

Security specialist Bowen Knight has come back from the dead. But there's a ticking time bomb in his head: a chip implanted to block telepathic interference that could fail at any moment--taking his brain along with it. With no time to waste, he should be back on land helping the Human Alliance. Instead, he's at the bottom of the ocean, consumed with an enigmatic changeling…

Kaia Luna may have traded in science for being a chef, but she won't hide the facts of Bo's condition from him or herself. She's suffered too much loss in her life to fall prey to the dangerous charm of a human who is a dead man walking. And she carries a devastating secret Bo could never imagine…

But when Kaia is taken by those who mean her deadly harm, all bets are off. Bo will do anything to get her back--even if it means striking a devil's bargain and giving up his mind to the enemy…

Ocean Light is pure delight! Life under the sea has not been this much fun since The Little Mermaid. Every time Nalini Singh invites readers into a new part of the Psy-Changeling world, I fall in love all over again.

Bowen Knight – the champion and effective leader of the Human Alliance – is living on borrowed time. The chip implanted in his brain to stop Psy attacks on his mind is failing and will more than likely take his brain down with it. His only shot at survival comes when he is taken to a clinic on Ryūjin, a BlackSea installation deep under the sea. Bo was an intriguing secondary character in the Psy-Changeling series and I’m thrilled that I finally got to read his story. Bo is incredibly smart, deeply caring, and protective. He also carries scars from his past that have made him all-too-aware of human vulnerability to psychic assault. His determination to protect humanity and put them on equal footing with Psy and Changelings may cost him his life, but Bo is the kind of man who will always put himself in the line of danger to protect others from harm. For so many years Bo’s focus has been on learning to defend himself and others, leaving no time for fun. That’s why I found myself smiling over and over as Bo found the playful, fun side of himself with Kaia.

Humans have long been positioned as the weakest race, but Kaia Luna knows that they can be just as deadly. The BlackSea Changelings’ history is filled with harm done to them by humans and Kaia herself has experienced trauma at human hands. Upon first meeting Bo, she’s suspicious of him, but her cousin needs her assistance treating the far-too-attractive male. Kaia’s wariness doesn’t last long and I loved watching her open up to Bo. Kaia is an absolutely wonderful heroine. She’s a chef who shows her love through food and her warm, caring nature simply sprung off the page. She’s the kind of heroine you wish were real just so you could be friends with her (and not just because she makes fantastic cookies). She and Bo are a perfect fit and their romance made me smile and sigh. The proverbial ticking time bomb in Bo’s head isn’t the only obstacle they face. Bo’s a creature of land and Kaia of the sea; finding a happy medium given their lives, obligations, and deep-seated fears isn’t easy. I was rooting for them every step of the way because I liked them both so much.

Ocean Light takes readers deep into the heart of BlackSea territory and I couldn’t be happier. What I wouldn’t give to live on the Ryūjin installation with its friendly, unique characters and fascinating feats of engineering. BlackSea is different from many of the Changeling groups we’ve seen so far not only because of the variety of species, but because they’re spread out across the world. It made for a different dynamic that was fascinating and fun to see. How often would you expect to see a conversation with a whale or shark or a fight with a walrus, all in human form? Every character Ms. Singh introduces us to is intriguing and when you add in a plotline involving the missing members of BlackSea, it’s easy to see why I didn’t want Ocean Light to end.

Romance, action, and a bright, vivid world all make Ocean Light a captivating read. I read Kaia and Bo’s book late into the night until I couldn’t possibly keep my eyes open any longer, only to finish it as soon as I woke up the next morning. Ms. Singh’s writing continues to be incredibly addictive her characters never fail to grab my heart. I loved Ocean Light and I hope to see more of BlackSea soon!


FTC Disclosure: I received the e-book edition of 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, June 5, 2018

Review: Rainy Day Friends by Jill Shalvis

Rainy Day Friends by Jill Shalvis
Series: Wildstone, Book 2
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9780062448149
Release Date: June 19, 2018
Source: Author
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N
Jill Shalvis Reading Order

Six months after Lanie Jacobs’ husband’s death, it’s hard to imagine anything could deepen her sense of pain and loss. But then Lanie discovers she isn’t the only one grieving his sudden passing. A serial adulterer, he left behind several other women who, like Lanie, each believe she was his legally wedded wife.

Rocked by the infidelity, Lanie is left to grapple with searing questions. How could she be so wrong about a man she thought she knew better than anyone? Will she ever be able to trust another person? Can she even trust herself?

Desperate to make a fresh start, Lanie impulsively takes a job at the family-run Capriotti Winery. At first, she feels like an outsider among the boisterous Capriottis. With no real family of her own, she’s bewildered by how quickly they all take her under their wing and make her feel like she belongs. Especially Mark Capriotti, a gruffly handsome Air Force veteran turned deputy sheriff who manages to wind his way into Lanie’s cold, broken heart—along with the rest of the clan.

Everything is finally going well for her, but the arrival of River Green changes all that. The fresh-faced twenty-one-year old seems as sweet as they come…until her dark secrets come to light—secrets that could destroy the new life Lanie’s only just begun to build.

Rainy Day Friends is one of those books that makes me indescribably happy. It’s romantic, funny, and heartwarming all at once and the characters are sure to capture your heart from the start.

Lanie Jacobs lost her husband…and in losing him found that she was only the first of a number of wives. Anxious and off-kilter, Lanie takes a temporary job at the Capriotti Winery and is immediately embraced by the lively Capriotti family. The Capriottis don’t let Lanie hold herself apart or retreat from the world and their love, acceptance, and pure zaniness help Lanie come out of her shell and find herself again. I absolutely adored Lanie. She’s got a bigger heart than even she knows, and though she’s not perfect she’s a perfectly endearing heroine. She’s also readers’ entry into the wonderful world of the Capriottis, a family unlike any other. The Capriottis are bold and boisterous and oh-so-wonderful. They made the pages of Rainy Day Friends fly by. I loved how they tend to adopt people, welcoming them in from the start and seeing the best in them even when they make mistakes. My favorite Capriotti is, of course, Mark. The handsome single father of utterly adorable twins is a hero who will make you sigh. Mark is sexy and strong, to be sure, but it’s his love for his daughters, the way he puts them first, and the love he has for his crazy family that just pushed him over the edge and into book boyfriend material. Mark has also been burned by love and he doesn’t want to even think about getting seriously involved with someone until his girls are grown. Fate, however, has other plans and it’s easy to see that the attraction between Lanie and Mark is more than mere lust. Their romance is both sweet and sensual and I was rooting for both of them to overcome their fears and risk their hearts on a chance at happily ever after with one another.

Lanie’s life at the Capriotti Winery isn’t all smooth sailing. The arrival of the mysterious River Green leads to complications and the secrets she carries have the power to hurt Lanie. I won’t say more because that would spoil the story, but River was as intriguing to me as Lanie and Mark were. She’s also lost in many ways when she arrives at the Capriottis’ home and her journey was just as engaging as Lanie’s was. River and Lanie’s relationship was every bit as important to the story as the Lanie/Mark romance and I loved that.

Jill Shalvis is a master at mixing humor and heart and Rainy Day Friends showcases her talents perfectly. If you take just the romance or just the friendships in this book, the story is a cut above. But the Capriottis take the book to the next level, making it a vibrant, memorable tale that will warm your heart and leave you smiling.


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