Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Review: Dead Girl Running by Christina Dodd

Dead Girl Running by Christina Dodd
Series: Cape Charade, Book 1
Publisher: HQN
Genre: Suspense
ISBN: 9781335144362
Release Date: April 24, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N
Christina Dodd Reading Order

I have three confessions to make:
1. I've got the scar of a gunshot on my forehead.
2. I don't remember an entire year of my life.
3. My name is Kellen Adams...and that's half a lie.


Girl running...from a year she can't remember, from a husband she prays is dead, from homelessness and fear. Tough, capable Kellen Adams takes a job as assistant manager of a remote vacation resort on the North Pacific Coast. There amid the towering storms and the lashing waves, she hopes to find sanctuary. But when she discovers a woman's dead and mutilated body, she's soon trying to keep her own secrets while investigating first one murder...then another.

Now every guest and employee is a suspect. Every friendly face a mask. Every kind word a lie. Kellen's driven to defend her job, her friends and the place she's come to call home. Yet she wonders--with the scar of a gunshot on her forehead and amnesia that leaves her unsure of her own past--could the killer be staring her in the face?

Everyone has secrets and no one knows that better than Kellen Adams. To say that her life has been turned upside down more than once would be an understatement. But Kellen is a survivor. And for the first time in longer than she can remember, she has a shot at finding home when she takes the job of assistant manager at the Yearning Sands resort. Only on the very day that her bosses leave on vacation a dead body appears on resort property and it’s clear the victim had been murdered. Now everyone around her is a suspect – from the staff to the guests – and Kellen has to put the pieces of the puzzle together before her new home turns into something from a horror movie. And is it the stress of tracking a killer that’s bringing old nightmares to the forefront of her memory or are there more sinister elements at play? Kellen can’t be sure, especially when a potentially vital year of her life is missing from her memory…

Dead Girl Running is a fantastic thriller that kept me up way too late reading. Christina Dodd is in top form in her first Cape Charade novel. It’s an engrossing, evocative, pulse-pounding page-turner.

Kellen is a stellar heroine. She’s been through absolute hell, almost lost herself in the process, and survived horrors that would break most people. She’s not exactly superhuman, but she is an incredibly strong character. I admired the way she built her life back up from the ashes and fully came into her own over the course of the story. She’s got a spine of steel and the visible scars she carries are no match for the emotional ones, but she’s a kind, fascinating character. I loved uncovering the pieces of her past alongside Kellen and my only real problem with Dead Girl Running is that I have to wait for the second book because holy cow, the information Ms. Dodd reveals about Kellen only makes me want to know more.

Mystery and murder abound at what would otherwise be the idyllic Yearning Sands. I’d be doing a disservice to readers to reveal much of the plot because this is a thriller and the excitement comes from looking for clues and watching events unfold. Suffice it to say that there are a few mysteries and they’re well-crafted and interwoven without the book losing its focus. There are also multiple players in this game and Ms. Dodd does a great job of fleshing them out and bringing the world of Dead Girl Running to life. The story itself starts off with a bang and continues to move at a good pace, building intensity until you absolutely cannot put the book down.

Dead Girl Running is the first book in Ms. Dodd’s Cape Charade series and I absolutely cannot wait for more. While this book easily stands alone, fans of Ms. Dodd’s will enjoy the loose ties it has to her Bella Terra Deception and Virtue Falls series. Whether you’re an old fan of Ms. Dodd’s or are diving into her work for the first time, Dead Girl Running is a captivating suspense novel that will leaving you begging for more Cape Charade stories.


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 22, 2018

Review: Murder Takes the High Road by Josh Lanyon

Murder Takes the High Road by Josh Lanyon
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: Male/Male Contemporary Romance/Mystery
ISBN: 9781459293595
Release Date: April 23, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N
Josh Lanyon Reading Order

Librarian Carter Matheson is determined to enjoy himself on a Scottish bus tour for fans of mystery author Dame Vanessa Rayburn. Sure, his ex, Trevor, will also be on the trip with his new boyfriend, leaving Carter to share a room with a stranger, but he can’t pass up a chance to meet his favorite author.

Carter’s roommate turns out to be John Knight, a figure as mysterious as any character from Vanessa’s books. His strange affect and nighttime wanderings make Carter suspicious. When a fellow traveler’s death sparks rumors of foul play, Carter is left wondering if there’s anyone on the tour he can trust.

Drawn into the intrigue, Carter searches for answers, trying to fend off his growing attraction toward John. But as unexplained tragedies continue, the whole tour must face the fact that there may be a murderer in their midst—but who?

For any book lover, a tour through Scotland where you get to meet one of your favorite authors sounds like a dream vacation. And so it would be for librarian Carter Matheson…if only his ex, Trevor, and Trevor’s new boyfriend weren’t on the same tour. Still, Carter is determined to enjoy the trip, even if it kills him. And it just might. Because this tour destined for the home of famed mystery author Vanessa Rayburn is taking a potentially deadly turn. A fellow tourist has died under mysterious circumstances and the whispers are flying. Suddenly Carter can’t help but put on his amateur sleuth hat. Everyone’s behavior is suspect, even Carter’s mysterious and attractive roommate, John…

Strangers brought together by chance, mysterious deaths, gossip, and a cast of quirky characters far away from home all come together to form a cozy mystery in Murder Takes the High Road. Strains of Agatha Christie float through this tale which was enjoyable, but was missing that ineffable Josh Lanyon spark.

Murder Takes the High Road is a bit difficult for me to review and I spent over a month mulling it over because I don’t really have much to say about the story, either positive or negative. Ms. Lanyon is an excellent writer so this isn’t a bad book by any means. But it unfolds slowly and the sizeable set of characters Carter either chooses to or is forced to interact with aren’t very interesting. They’re like pieces in a chess set, moving across the board that is the mystery and are only of interest when they serve the plot. Because most of them are expendable (in the classic murder mystery way), I didn’t care much about their actions and I was much more interested in scenes with just Carter and John. From strangers to lovers, their romance is one I loved watching unfold. Carter is still dealing with the fallout of his breakup with Trevor, but John is no rebound for him. They have excellent chemistry and I loved them together so much that I really hope there is a sequel to this book because I’d love to learn more about John.

Murder Takes the High Road features an interesting mystery, one that’s slow to build but the payoff is worth it. The mystery does take up more page time than the romance, which isn’t a problem per se, but it did leave me wanting more. I’m a big fan of Ms. Lanyon’s work, so I can’t help but compare this book to others of hers that had more energy and drew me into the story more. Still, Murder Takes the High Road is a solid story and if you’re craving a Christie-type tale this book will serve you well.


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 16, 2018

Review: Hot and Badgered by Shelly Laurenston

Hot and Badgered by Shelly Laurenston
Series: The Honey Badger Chronicles, Book 1
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: Paranormal Romance
ISBN: 9781496714343
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

It’s not every day that a beautiful naked woman falls out of the sky and lands face-first on grizzly shifter Berg Dunn’s hotel balcony. Definitely they don’t usually hop up and demand his best gun. Berg gives the lady a grizzly-sized t-shirt and his cell phone, too, just on style points. And then she’s gone, taking his XXXL heart with her. By the time he figures out she’s a honey badger shifter, it’s too late.

Honey badgers are survivors. Brutal, vicious, ill-tempered survivors. Or maybe Charlie Taylor-MacKilligan is just pissed that her useless father is trying to get them all killed again, and won’t even tell her how. Protecting her little sisters has always been her job, and she’s not about to let some pesky giant grizzly protection specialist with a network of every shifter in Manhattan get in her way. Wait. He’s trying to help? Why would he want to do that? He’s cute enough that she just might let him tag along—that is, if he can keep up…

Ever since her mother died, Charlie Taylor-MacKilligan’s biggest job has been to take care of her sisters. Easier said than done and that’s before you take into account the three sisters’ no-good father who is constantly screwing up their lives. Charlie has never been able to rely on anyone, but all that changes when she falls – literally – into Berg Dunn’s life. Berg is a grizzly with a heart of gold and it’s in his nature to protect. After their initial meeting, he can’t get the gorgeous woman with a gun out of his mind. Charlie doesn’t like accepting help, but to protect her sisters she’ll do anything and her father’s latest “scheme” has landed them in more danger than before. And though she believes her family is cursed and doesn’t want to bring that kind of disaster down on the seriously cute Berg, she’s about to learn that this determined grizzly will do anything to capture her heart.

Hot and Badgered is totally bonkers, and I mean that in the very best way. It’s bright, loud, and wholly unique with a ton of zany characters who practically jump off the page and a slow-burn romance that made me smile.

I absolutely loved Berg. He’s big, strong, and protective, but he’s also so damn gone over Charlie that he made me melt. As for Charlie, she’s equally strong and just a bit crazy (partly due to being half honey-badger, partly because…well, take a look at her family). I loved watching Charlie and Berg slowly fall in love. I sighed and smiled as Charlie learned she could lean on Berg, that he understood sibling love and loyalty (he’s a triplet), and that he and his family could take on the MacKilligan crazy and keep rolling. Charlie and Berg’s romance slowly built over the course of the story and it was lovely to watch unfold.

I loved every moment with Charlie and Berg, so for me the one downside of Hot and Badgered is that they did at times feel pushed out of their own story. Max and Stevie (Charlie’s sisters) are every bit as important to the story as Charlie. They’re wild, over the top, interesting characters and I can’t wait to read their books. Max and Stevie added a lot of humor to the story, but they were a whole lotta personality and they did sometimes seem to drown out Charlie and Berg, who were the relatively calm voices. And while Hot and Badgered is the first book in the Honey Badger Chronicles, this series is a spinoff of Shelly Laurenston’s Pride series. As I haven’t read that series, the sheer amount of Pride characters popping up pulled me out of the story a bit, especially when it felt like some cameos were shoehorned in. Perhaps if I had an emotional attachment to the characters I wouldn’t have felt that way, so if you’re a Pride fan you might feel differently than I.

The plot of Hot and Badgered is pretty much impossible to talk about because there are so many storylines and characters that there’s no real way to summarize it. Multiple storylines, at least one of which looks to be a series-long arc, action, danger, and a ton of colorful characters keep the book moving at a breakneck pace. In the hands of a lesser author, this book would have spun out of control, but Ms. Laurenston deftly juggles everything in a truly inspiring way. This was my first foray into Ms. Laurenston’s work and I will definitely be coming back for more. If you’re looking for a paranormal romance that’s unique, Hot and Badgered definitely fits the bill.


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 15, 2018

Review: The Earl in My Bed by Stacy Reid

The Earl in My Bed by Stacy Reid
Series: Rebellious Desires, Book 2
Publisher: Entangled: Scandalous
Genre: Historical Romance
ISBN: 9781986680998
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

For years, Daphne Wentworth, Countess Carrington has loved her powerful, enigmatic husband, despite the fact that they married under less than ideal circumstances. But no more. Finally at her breaking point, Daphne intends to create a scandal so big, her austere husband will have no choice but to divorce her. Except everything goes awry when he surprises her with the last thing she expected.

Sylvester Wentworth, Earl of Carrington, has returned to London for one reason—to seduce his wife. After a near-death experience, he is in need of an heir and means to make his marriage a real one. To his shock, though, his wicked, beautiful countess wants the exact opposite, and he must now do everything possible to entice his countess to stay forever.

Sylvester and Daphne haven’t had an easy marriage. Six years ago they met and had an instant connection; one that was spoiled when Daphne’s father threatened to ruin Sylvester’s sister unless the earl came to heel. Since their fateful wedding, Sylvester has pretty much ignored Daphne, and the love she had for him has given way to a desperation to break free from the holding pattern she’s been in for years. Daphne is determined to court a scandal so big her husband will be forced to divorce her. There’s just one hitch in her plan: her husband doesn’t want a divorce.

Having recently escaped an assassination attempt, Sylvester believes it’s time to do his duty and beget an heir. Only Daphne isn’t exactly prepared to welcome him with open arms. For the first time, Sylvester is seeing past his own anger to truly look at Daphne. And he’ll have to do some heavy wooing if he wants to keep the wife he’s only just realizing is his perfect match.

I love good second chance romance and The Earl in My Bed fits that favored trope fairly well. Daphne and Sylvester have been in a strange freeze for the past six years – married, yet not. Sylvester is the only man Daphne has ever craved, but I loved that she didn’t just fall into his arms when he decided he wanted to be her husband in truth. Sylvester has his reasons for having been cold toward Daphne for years. Her father’s machinations nearly cost his sister her life and that’s not something a sibling can look past. Did I want to shake Sylvester for placing blame on Daphne? Of course. But Stacy Reid does a good job of balancing his flaws with strengths. Sylvester is fighting hard to abolish slavery in all British territories, risking his life in the process. He’s not a good husband at the beginning of this story, but he is a good man which means you want to see him succeed. I enjoyed the fact that Sylvester is self-aware enough to realize that he has royally screwed up with Daphne. She’s a kind, patient woman who has reached her breaking point because of him. Their romance in is slow to build, mostly because there’s so much distrust and hurt. I liked that the love story unfolded organically, that Daphne and Sylvester got to truly know one another before things heated up.

The Earl in My Bed is the second book in the Rebellious Desires series, but it can easily be read as a standalone (though it was lovely to get to see Georgiana and Rhys again). I always get caught up in Ms. Reid’s writing and this story was no exception. I finished this book looking forward to what scandals the next Rebellious Desires book 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.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Review: The Good Luck Sister by Jill Shalvis

The Good Luck Sister by Jill Shalvis
Series: Wildstone, Book 1.5
Publisher: William Morrow Impulse
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9780062463616
Release Date: May 1, 2018
Source: Author
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N
Jill Shalvis Reading Order

After a difficult few years, Tilly Adams is ready for life to start going right. Though she has a case of first-day nerves teaching art at the local community college, she knows it isn’t anything a few snuggles from her rescue puppy won’t cure. Until she sees Dylan Scott again, her one-time BFF and first love sitting in the front row.

Dylan knows he should’ve left well enough alone, but when he sees Tilly living her dream, he can’t help but make contact. Ten years ago, he left Wildstone and everything in it behind, including Tilly. He had his reasons, but now he wants her back in his life, anyway he can get her.

When Tilly agrees to design the logo for Dylan’s new helicopter touring company, it’s business only…until she finds herself falling into his arms once again. Can she possibly open her heart back up to the only man who’s ever broken it? But soon they’re both realizing the truth—love always deserves a second chance.

The Good Luck Sister is a great pick-me-up read. I adored Tilly and Dylan as teenagers in Lost and Found Sisters, so I dove into their story, eager to see what they’d be like as adults.

It’s been ten years since Dylan left Wildstone, breaking not only Tilly’s heart but his own. Now he has returned and the pull between them is as strong as ever. Tilly is understandably wary of letting Dylan in again, but he’s patient and determined to win her trust back. Both of them are a wonderful mixture of strength and vulnerability. They’re also incredibly fun and have great chemistry. The result is a romance that draws you in and I defy you not to root for these two to get their happily ever after.

The Good Luck Sister moves back and forth between Dylan and Tilly’s past and present and the flashbacks might just be my favorite part of the story. Tilly and Dylan were best friends as teenagers and the way that they supported one another grabbed my heart. Dylan grew up with an abusive father and Tilly suffered the devastating loss of her mother. Both of them carry scars that broke my heart, but I absolutely loved how they cared for and encouraged one another. Even though Dylan eventually leaves to make his way in the world and to push Tilly to seize her own chance, it’s clear that these two were always destined to find their way back to each other.

Dylan and Tilly are the heart and soul of The Good Luck Sister, but the supporting cast adds a wealth of humor to the story. Dylan’s friends Penn and Ric are delightful (and I’d love to read stories about them) and fans of Lost and Found Sisters are sure to enjoy an update on Quinn (now pregnant and absolutely zany) and Mick. And of course Tilly has a kooky dog who threatens to steal the show more than once. Jill Shalvis writes some of the funniest four-legged friends out there, so how could I not fall in love with Leo, aka Napoleon (as in complex)? All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed The Good Luck Sister. It’s a fast-paced, charming read with entertaining characters and a romance that will 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.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Review: Baking Lessons by Katie Allen

Baking Lessons by Katie Allen
Series: Off Guard, Book 2
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9781488081156
Release Date: March 12, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Leah loves everything about her bakery—the heavenly smells, the satisfaction of feeding people and, of course, unlimited cookies. The only thing she doesn’t like is her uptight landlord’s daily visits. Sure, the man’s drop-dead gorgeous, but for someone with an insatiable taste for treats, he’s anything but sweet.

Army vet Hamilton knows he comes off as rigid. He just can’t seem to bite his tongue around Leah—he might be a virgin but he can imagine a dozen better ways to use his mouth. But when the woman he considers absolutely delicious is threatened by an unwanted admirer, Hamilton intervenes, captivating Leah with his softer side.

Now the man Leah couldn’t avoid is swiftly becoming the one she can’t resist. Unrelenting temptation soon overwhelms them both, leading to an indulgence in everything they’ve been craving. But when past actions bring a fallout neither imagined, they’ll be forced to confront whether their affair is half-baked—or something to savor forever.

Baking Lessons is fricking adorable! It’s sweet and fun and sexy all rolled into one.

Leah is a talented baker who is as sweet as the treats she makes. She may tweak Hamilton’s nose as often as she can in the beginning of the story when he’s merely her uptight landlord, but she also can’t resist feeding him. She’s a friendly, funny heroine with boatloads of charm and a good heart. Not to mention her baking skills will make you wish her shop was real. As for Hamilton… Katie Allen made me sigh over him. He’s sexy, intelligent, protective, and incredibly sweet (I know I keep using that word, but it fits this book and its characters perfectly). He’s also so precise in every way and I adored it, even though I could see why Leah wanted to good-naturedly mess with him. But beneath his formal and Thor-like exterior is a socially awkward man who truly has difficulty with things being messy. Leah is the first person he’s ever wanted to “get messy” with, and I loved that she (1) worked to understand him instead of trying to change him and (2) helped him feel safe enough to move out of his comfort zone with her.

The first half of Baking Lessons flies by as Leah and Hamilton tease, flirt, and get to know one another. I can’t count the number of times the two of them made me smile and the way they fell for one another felt organic. There’s no false drama, no game-playing and it was incredibly easy to root for Leah and Hamilton to get together. Once the sexual tension boils over and they hit the sheets (and the shower, the stairwell, etc.) Baking Lessons gets seriously steamy. When Ms. Allen turns the heat on high the book is still fun, but I felt like some of the momentum of the first part was lost. I also kept hoping we’d see more of Hamilton’s background and that we don’t is a missed opportunity. Even with these few quibbles, I adored Hamilton and Leah and their romance was a delight. I’ve never read Ms. Allen’s books before, but now I will definitely keep an eye out for her work.


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

Monday, March 5, 2018

Review: Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs

Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs
Series: Alpha & Omega, Book 5
Publisher: Ace
Genre: Urban Fantasy
ISBN: 9780425281314
Release Date: March 6, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

They are the wild and the broken. The werewolves too damaged to live safely among their own kind. For their own good, they have been exiled to the outskirts of Aspen Creek, Montana. Close enough to the Marrok's pack to have its support; far enough away to not cause any harm.

With their Alpha out of the country, Charles and Anna are on call when an SOS comes in from the fae mate of one such wildling. Heading into the mountainous wilderness, they interrupt the abduction of the wolf--but can't stop blood from being shed. Now Charles and Anna must use their skills--his as enforcer, hers as peacemaker--to track down the attackers, reopening a painful chapter in the past that springs from the darkest magic of the witchborn…

Charles Cornick is less than thrilled to be left in charge of his father’s pack while Bran is away, but when the wildlings – the werewolves too broken to live safely even among the Aspen Creek pack – are attacked, the Marrok’s absence becomes an even bigger problem. For Charles and Anna are about to discover that the attack on the wildlings isn’t random, isn’t a crime of opportunity. There’s dark magic at play and the clock is ticking. Charles and Anna must use all their power to unravel a plot that could tear the heart of those they hold dear.

Burn Bright is part mystery, part fairytale, part action-packed adventure. It’s imaginative and interesting, as one would expect a Patricia Briggs story to be. I adore Charles and Anna and they are as solid as ever, so any time spent with them is time well spent.

Burn Bright keeps Charles and Anna closer to home and I loved getting to see more of their pack, the interactions among members, and the internal politics. Also, the fact that the newest attack against werewolves is in the heart of the Marrok’s territory gives the threat an added intensity. Characters we know and care about are in danger and it made me incredibly eager to jump into this book’s mystery. The one downside of this story is that – after the initial attack – it does take a while for momentum to build. At times the book seems to meander into side stories, but keep with it because Ms. Briggs makes sure the climax packs a punch. I likely had a death-grip on my book for the last quarter of the story – it was just that exciting. I wish I could say more, but I want to avoid spoilers since every detail plays into the resolution of the mystery.

Burn Bright is the fifth full-length book in the Alpha & Omega series, and you should at least be familiar with the world before diving into this story. As I mentioned before, the relationships and politics of the pack play an important part in this book and that was one of my favorite aspects of it. I really enjoyed getting to see more of characters we normally wouldn’t, like Leah, Charles’s stepmother. She’s not a beloved character, but I liked getting to see a different side of her. Burn Bright is also part of the larger world of Mercy Thompson and fans of that series will likely be excited that this book is woven closely with concurrent Mercy Thompson storylines. As I have not yet read Mercy’s books, I felt like I was missing something; not enough to detract from my enjoyment of this story, but enough to be noticeable. Burn Bright did definitely make me move Mercy’s books up in my proverbial to-be-read pile so that I can go back and more fully enjoy the little things in the Alpha & Omega series I missed the nuances of.

If you’re a fan of Patricia Briggs, you definitely don’t want to miss Burn Bright. Charles and Anna are strong, engaging characters and the world Ms. Briggs has developed is – to put it mildly – seriously awesome.


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 4, 2018

Review: The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman

The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman
Series: The Invisible Library, Book 3
Publisher: Ace
Genre: Fantasy
ISBN: 9781101988688
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Never judge a book by its cover...

Due to her involvement in an unfortunate set of mishaps between the dragons and the Fae, Librarian spy Irene is stuck on probation, doing what should be simple fetch-and-retrieve projects for the mysterious Library. But trouble has a tendency to find both Irene and her apprentice, Kai—a dragon prince—and, before they know it, they are entangled in more danger than they can handle...

Irene’s longtime nemesis, Alberich, has once again been making waves across multiple worlds, and, this time, his goals are much larger than obtaining a single book or wreaking vengeance upon a single Librarian. He aims to destroy the entire Library—and make sure Irene goes down with it.

With so much at stake, Irene will need every tool at her disposal to stay alive. But even as she draws her allies close around her, the greatest danger might be lurking from somewhere close—someone she never expected to betray her…

The Invisible Library series has been hit-or-miss for me, and The Burning Page falls into the “miss” category. After enjoying The Masked City as much as I did, I eagerly dove into Irene and Kai’s latest adventure, only to find myself bored for the majority of the book.

The biggest issue I have is that neither the main characters nor the Library itself feel fully developed. I’ve been waiting to learn more about the Library and with the institution under attack by the series’ big bad, Alberich, it felt like the perfect opportunity for insight. Alas, the threat of the destruction of the Library didn’t actually add tension to the story (not once did I actually feel like Irene wouldn’t pull something out of her hat and save the day), nor did it allow readers to go below the surface of the Library’s workings. Alberich throws out some interesting tidbits and there seems to be some internal grumblings among the Librarians, but apparently any new information will have to wait to be explored in future books. As for the characters, both Kai and Vale have grown sort of stale. Kai, who charmed me in previous books, was borderline unlikeable at times and though I allow a lot of leeway considering he’s a dragon (and thus aligned with order), his stubbornness felt like he hadn’t learned anything so far. As for Vale, he still hasn’t risen above a pale imitation of Sherlock Holmes, and when you throw in the painfully awkward forced intimacy between him and Irene, I was just left wanting more. Which brings me to Irene herself. She’s the heart and soul of this series and she falls flat as a character. I don’t need my protagonists to be likeable (she is neither likeable nor unlikeable), but I do want them to be interesting. Irene has unfortunately become a rather generic sort of hero with a possible interesting backstory (presumably to be revealed in future books) who rushes headlong into danger and relies heavily on the Language.

What captured my interest about the first book in the series, The Invisible Library, was the potential in the world. Genevieve Cogman set up a world of infinite possibilities and I was so excited to see what she would do. But the possibilities are largely squandered due to a heavy reliance on the Language, which now seems to be without limits. That’s largely why the stakes feel fairly low in The Burning Page – Irene’s use of the Language seems to fix pretty much everything.

I struggled with rating The Burning Page because it isn’t altogether bad. The beginning and the end are highly entertaining and when Ms. Cogman’s writing is focused she can deliver exciting scenes. But on the whole, The Burning Page felt like it could have been a novella and nothing would have been lost. The story was treading water for most of its length and that just doesn’t make for interesting reading. Even though this ultimately wasn’t the book for me, there’s so much potential in this series that I’ll be giving the next book a shot.


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

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Review: Wanderlust by Lauren Blakely

Wanderlust by Lauren Blakely
Publisher: Audible Studios / Lauren Blakely Books
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9781977566614
Paperback Release Date: March 20, 2018
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Buy it here: Audible | Amazon | B&N

The first time I met him, his sexy British accent almost talked me into giving him my number on the spot. The second time, he nearly charmed the panties off me with his wit. Then I learned he’s the key to success in my new job in Paris. The man who tempts me into fling-worthy dirty daydreams has turned out to be my personal translator, and his accent is the hottest thing I’ve ever heard.

My mantra is simple — Don’t mix business with pleasure. I do my best to resist him as he teaches me how to converse with my co-workers, navigate the metro and order the perfect bottle of wine at dinner. But I also figure out how to tell the charming and clever man what I most want to say — that I want him to take me back to his flat — tonight.
Except there’s a catch…

***

One more assignment before I take off on my big adventure…
And it involves the toughest work ever — resisting the fetching American woman I spend all my days with. But you know what they say about best intentions. Soon, we’re spending our nights tangled together, and I don’t want to let her go. The trouble is, my wanderlust is calling to me, and before we know it I’ll be traveling the globe to fulfill a promise I made long ago.

What could possibly go wrong with falling in love in Paris? Nothing…unless one of you is leaving.

I am completely in love with Wanderlust. It’s beautiful, romantic, sensual, and fun, with a whole lot of heart. Joy is, well, joyful. She’s immediately endearing and is so lively that she practically pops off the page. She’s the kind of heroine you want to be friends with and she just plain charmed the heck out of me with her attitude, big smile, intelligence, and her love of things like pink doors, hidden angels, and red umbrellas. It’s easy to see why Griffin fell for her and she for him. Griffin isn’t just a sexy hero (though that doesn’t hurt). He’s also playful, interesting, smart, and as likeable as Joy. Like Joy, Griffin is in Paris to start fresh; only he doesn’t plan to stay. He made a promise to his dying brother and fulfilling it means his time in Paris is almost up.

Griffin and Joy hit it off from the start and their interactions made me grin. Because they’re working together (she’s a chemist and he’s her interpreter), they try to resist the pull between them, which made the sexual tension all the more delicious. Their love story is absolutely wonderful because you see them become friends first and the fall from lust and friendship to something more is seamless. When they do give in to their mutual attraction, Wanderlust gets incredibly sexy. In bed and out, Griffin and Joy are a perfect match. Their love story is bright and exciting, but that doesn’t mean it or they lack depth. Both of them are fully developed, well-rounded characters. I feel like there’s no way to do them justice in this review because I cannot adequately express how happy these two made me. Their journey is one best experienced for yourself and I defy you not to fall in love with them.

Joy and Griffin are the heart of this book, but Paris itself is every bit as important to the story. Lauren Blakely does an incredible job of transporting readers to the City of Light – not to the famous sites we all know, but to the smaller shops, alleys, and hidden treasures. Griffin is British and Joy is from Texas, and the fact that neither of them are native Parisians added to the story. I was able to fall in love with Paris alongside Joy and the sheer romance of the setting had me sighing thanks to Ms. Blakely’s writing.

I listened to Wanderlust on audio and I highly recommend enjoying the book this way. Good narrators enhance already wonderful stories and I don’t think you can get much better than Grace Grant and Richard Armitage. Grace Grant perfectly captures Joy’s spirit, but it’s Richard Armitage (also known as John Thornton, Thorin Oakenshield, etc.) whose narration is to-die-for. He not only brings Griffin to life, but his voice is like melted chocolate and makes Wanderlust an aural delight.

I cannot recommend Wanderlust highly enough. It’s an utterly enchanting story with characters you care about and a romance that makes you laugh, swoon, and sigh. This is the first book of Ms. Blakely’s I’ve read/listened to and I cannot wait to glom up her backlist!


FTC Disclosure: This book was purchased by me. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Review: Playing House by Amy Andrews

Playing House by Amy Andrews
Series: Sydney Smoke Rugby, Book 5
Publisher: Entangled: Brazen
Genre: Erotic Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9781640633902
Release Date: February 12, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Eleanor is content with her boring life—mostly. She’s even fine being the quirky sister in a bevy of beauties. So imagine her surprise when one of her brother’s Sydney Smoke mates hits on her at an engagement party. Her. The weird sister, who wears vintage dresses and prefers her books to parties.

Bodie is shocked the next morning to find the soft, sexy virgin who seduced him with corsets is his best friend’s little sister. If he could kick his own ass, he would. And two months later, she’s got an even bigger surprise for him. Now he needs to convince the corset-loving wallflower that he loves her uniqueness if they’ve got a chance at forever.

He always did love a challenge…

A shy, quirky heroine who prefers books to parties. A sexy-as-hell hero with a sweet side. A scorching one night stand that becomes so much more. Put those three ingredients together and you’ve got a recipe for a highly entertaining romance. And when you add in Amy Andrews’s fast-paced style and signature humor then it’s clear to see why I couldn’t resist Playing House.

Eleanor is such a fun heroine. She grew up on a steady diet of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer and is in love with the fashion, manners, and romantic ideals of the nineteenth century. She’s also turned her love of Victorian fashion into a profitable business, which I found to be a delight to read about. Eleanor feels like the ugly duckling of her family, but she’s so much more than the kooky wallflower she sees herself as. Bodie is immediately captivated by Eleanor and I loved that he wasn’t just taken with her looks, but showed interest in what she was passionate about. Bodie grew up with a shark of a father and between that and his cheating ex-fiancée, he’s wary of falling for someone who will turn out to simply want him for his trust fund or his status a rugby star. Eleanor is a breath of fresh air to him in many ways and it’s clear from the outset that one night with her will never be enough. I could melt with how sweet Bodie could be. He may have wealth, privilege, and good looks, but he has worked hard to become successful and he’s got a heart of gold. I was rooting for him and Eleanor to become more than simply lovers because they were such likeable characters.

Eleanor and Bodie’s story is filled with erotic moments, and it’d be remiss of me not to at least mention how hot Playing House is. But what stood out to me were the quieter moments and if I had one (minor) niggle it’d be I wish there were more of them. Bodie and Eleanor are very different, but they complement one another perfectly. I liked watching them learn about each other. And when the two of them are handed a major surprise, I really liked that they handled life’s curveball fairly well. Their road to happily ever after isn’t smooth sailing. Insecurities, pain, and heartbreak made the story feel more real and may have even had me sniffling at one point. But I knew Ms. Andrews wouldn’t let readers down and the ending of Playing House left me with a smile on my face.


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, January 28, 2018

Review: The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9780399587672
Release Date: January 30, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

A groomsman and his last-minute guest are about to discover if a fake date can go the distance in this fun and flirty debut novel.

Agreeing to go to a wedding with a guy she gets stuck with in an elevator is something Alexa Monroe wouldn’t normally do. But there's something about Drew Nichols that's too hard to resist.

On the eve of his ex’s wedding festivities, Drew is minus a plus one. Until a power outage strands him with the perfect candidate for a fake girlfriend…

After Alexa and Drew have more fun than they ever thought possible, Drew has to fly back to Los Angeles and his job as a pediatric surgeon, and Alexa heads home to Berkeley, where she’s the mayor’s chief of staff. Too bad they can't stop thinking about the other...

They're just two high-powered professionals on a collision course toward the long distance dating disaster of the century--or closing the gap between what they think they need and what they truly want…

An elevator glitch + two charming characters + cheese and crackers = one of the most delightful meet-cutes I’ve read in a long time. Jasmine Guillory sets the stage for an effervescent romance from the very first page of The Wedding Date. Alexa and Drew have instant chemistry and they’re a whole lot of fun to read about.

Alexa is a heroine who’s easy to root for and adore. She’s successful, intelligent, and kind. She’s confident in her job as chief of staff to the mayor of Berkeley, but she’s plagued by some very relatable insecurities in her personal life. When she agrees to Drew’s spontaneous request to be his date to an ex’s wedding, Alexa lets go of her inhibitions for a whirlwind weekend of fun. I was so eager to see her find happiness with Drew, a pediatric surgeon who made me smile right alongside Alexa when they first meet. Drew is a sexy, fun hero to start with, but he loses some of his shine over the course of the story. He’s not a bad hero, but because his character isn’t explored as deeply as Alexa’s is, his commitment phobia and moodiness stand out in an unappealing way a few times. I do wish we’d gotten to know his character better because it would have made the romance stronger.

The Wedding Date is a book I have a hard time rating, because there are some things I really love about the book and some things I struggled with. I loved that Alexa opened Drew’s eyes to some of the everyday struggles a person of color faces and that she, a black woman, faces in particular. Alexa’s candor adds depth and realism to what would otherwise be a fairly breezy story. I also loved that both Alexa and Drew are successful thirty-somethings with high-power, demanding careers. That they understand and support one another in their work really had me rooting for them. What kept me from falling in love with this story like I wanted to was the middle of the book. It’s disappointingly repetitive. Either Alexa or Drew flies to meet the other, they eat, have sex, and don’t talk about their relationship or what their expectations are. The same thing keeps occurring with very little change, and I wish I’d seen more of their conversations or activities outside eating, sex, and the occasional party so that I could feel more of a connection to their romance. I also had a hard time with the fact that a lot of the conflict stemmed from miscommunication or simply an unwillingness to talk to one another about a problem. I did understand why Alexa was reticent to do so (to a certain extent), but when the same patterns kept emerging, it dragged the book down. That being said, the end of the book was so sweet, so lovely that I circled back around to falling for Alexa and Drew.

The Wedding Date is Jasmine Guillory’s debut novel and I cannot wait to read more from her. Alexa and Drew have quite a few wonderful friends whose books I’m dying to read. In fact, it’d be remiss of me to talk about this book and not mention Carlos, Drew’s awesome best friend and my new book crush. Carlos is friendly, incredibly patient, and caring and I absolutely cannot wait for his book. Until then, I will definitely revisit my favorite moments from The Wedding Date because when Alexa and Drew work, their book shines.


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, January 23, 2018

Review: The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
Series: The Invisible Library, Book 1
Publisher: Ace
Genre: Fantasy
ISBN: 9781101988640
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

One thing any Librarian will tell you: the truth is much stranger than fiction...

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it's already been stolen.

London's underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome before Irene and Kai do, a problem compounded by the fact that this world is chaos-infested—the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic to run rampant. To make matters worse, Kai is hiding something—secrets that could be just as volatile as the chaos-filled world itself.

Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies. And failure is not an option—because it isn’t just Irene’s reputation at stake, it’s the nature of reality itself…

Enter the world of the Library, an interdimensional organization that collects important books from as many alternate dimensions as possible. Genevieve Cogman’s debut has an exciting premise and there’s a ton of possibilities to this world, but I struggled a bit with the execution.

The Invisible Library follows the journey of Irene, a junior Librarian, as she takes on Kai, a new apprentice, and is sent to an alternate version of Victorian-era London to steal an important book of fairytales. What should be a routine mission is anything but. The world is chaos-infested, one of the side effects of that being supernatural creatures exist, including the Fae. Things go wrong for Irene almost from the start, and she catches the attention of Vale, an alternate version of Sherlock Holmes, the powerful Fae Lord Silver, and an enemy of the Library who threatens to destroy not just Irene, but the whole world.

There are quite a few things that I liked about The Invisible Library. The premise is fantastic and of course a bibliophile like myself is ready and eager to enjoy a book about people who love books. The seemingly infinite number of alternate worlds means there’s a host of possibilities to explore, and I liked how Ms. Cogman set up the powerful forces of Fae and dragons and their respective representations of chaos and order. In short (so as to avoid spoilers), all the elements of a great story are there. That being said, the story did not live up to its parts. The world building was a case of tell, rather than show. There were seemingly endless amounts of exposition that slowed the book’s pace to a crawl. The characters aren’t very well developed (not even our principals, Irene and Kai, though Kai did charm me), most likely because there was no time to do so. Everything but the kitchen sink seemed to be thrown into this story, and quite a bit of it could have been cut without impacting the narrative. Less might have been more for a first book, as I’d have liked to have delved more into the characters and the different kinds of magic.

The Invisible Library is the kind of book I struggle with rating. While I did have a number of issues with this book, I can’t say I didn’t like it. The second half of the story found its footing and the pacing did pick up. More importantly (to me, anyway), I think Ms. Cogman has a great imagination and I’m excited to learn more about the world of the Library. There’s a lot of interesting information exposited in The Invisible Library that I didn’t unpack because it’d spoil the story. Suffice it to say that – while I struggled with the writing overall – the premise has me hooked and I look forward to seeing what Irene and Kai get up to in The Masked City.


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, January 21, 2018

Review: About That Kiss by Jill Shalvis

About That Kiss by Jill Shalvis
Series: Heartbreaker Bay, Book 5
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9780062741776
Release Date: January 23, 2018
Source: Author
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N
Jill Shalvis Reading Order

When love drives you crazy…

When sexy Joe Malone never calls after their explosive kiss, Kylie shoves him out of her mind. Until she needs a favor, and it’s a doozy. Something precious to her has been stolen and there’s only one person with unique finder-and-fixer skills that can help—Joe. It means swallowing her pride and somehow trying to avoid the temptation to throttle him—or seduce him.

the best thing to do…

No, Joe didn’t call after the kiss. He’s the fun time guy, not the forever guy. And Kylie, after all she’s been through, deserves a good man who will stay. But everything about Kylie makes it damned hard to focus, and though his brain knows what he has to do, his heart isn’t getting the memo.

…is enjoy the ride.

As Kylie and Joe go on the scavenger hunt of their lives, they discover surprising things about each other. Now, the best way for them to get over “that kiss” might just be to replace it with a hundred more.

About That Kiss is a warm, funny read that’s classic Jill Shalvis. Kylie and Joe are endearing, vibrant characters and their love story charmed my socks off. Like all the Heartbreaker Bay books, About That Kiss draws you into a wonderful world of welcoming characters, making you want to pull up a comfy chair and get lost in their stories.

Ms. Shalvis knows how to write sigh-worthy heroes, and Joe definitely fits the bill. He’s strong, protective, and his love for his family shines on the page. He had to grow up fast at a young age; his father is a Gulf War vet with severe PTSD, so as a child Joe had to be the one to ensure his family was safe and fed. Hid childhood left its mark on him, and Joe is reticent to get involved with someone long-term, which is why he tries to resist Kylie. She gets under his skin like no one else, and I loved that she knocked Joe off balance a bit. Kylie also carries some scars from her childhood, which makes her wary of opening her heart. She has hidden vulnerabilities, but I was rooting for her to take a risk and open her heart to Joe. Kylie is the kind of heroine you want to have for a friend. She’s quick, funny, kind, and an incredibly talented woodworker. She also has an utterly adorable dog who threatens to steal the show more than once. It’s clear from the start that Kylie and Joe are simply meant to be. They’ve got buckets of chemistry and their banter made me grin more than once. So while they might resist the “L” word, Joe and Kylie don’t stand a chance. Their romance is bright, sexy, and sweet – the perfect combination.

About That Kiss is the fifth full-length book in the Heartbreaker Bay series, but it can easily be read as a standalone. Kylie and Joe’s friends – all part of the Pacific Pier Building crowd – add even more humor and warmth to this story. The friendships are as important to the story as the romance, which is part of the book’s charm. Everyone is perfectly imperfect and easy to adore. I finished About That Kiss a well-satisfied reader, but I cannot wait to see what Ms. Shalvis has in store for Joe’s sister, Molly.


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.

Review: Headmaster by Tara Sue Me

Headmaster by Tara Sue Me
Series: Lessons from the RACK, Book 2
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Erotic Contemporary BDSM Romance
ISBN: 9780399584503
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Lennox MacLure, owner of the RACK Academy, has sworn off the Dominant/submissive lifestyle. Years ago, his submissive, Winnie, died in a car accident following a heated argument for which he blames himself. Guilt-ridden and emotionally closed off, Lennox sees the academy as both his punishment and penance for her death.

Mariela, a dance instructor and a natural submissive, was Winnie’s best friend and longs to help Lennox move past his grief. She’s accepted that he will never see her as anything more than a friend, but she still wants to help him acknowledge what he needs. Mariela comes up with a plan of seduction, guaranteed to unleash the Dominant he’s willfully buried—but the passion they unleash could prove to be stronger than they are ready to handle.

After the death of his submissive, Winnie, Lennox MacLure turned his back on the Dominant part of himself while at the same time opening the RACK Academy as a sort of penance. He’s been living a half-life since then, but emotionally shutting himself down is getting more and more difficult when faced with his desire for the academy’s dance instructor – and Winnie’s best friend – Mariela. Mariela has wanted Lennox for years, but he’s never seen her as more than Winnie’s friend. Frustrated and determined not to lose him to despair, Mariela makes one last desperate bid to unleash Lennox’s Dom side, and the risk she takes could make or break their chance at happiness.

Since I first ventured into the world of the RACK Academy in Master Professor, I’ve been dying to read Lennox and Mariela’s story. Headmaster is filled with emotional turmoil, but there’s also quite a bit of hope to balance that out.

Lennox has been closed off for years, unable to move past his misplaced guilt over Winnie’s death. I liked that it wasn’t easy for him to come back to his whole self; the work he had to put in made his journey feel “earned,” for lack of a better word. And Lennox definitely needed to start finding himself before he was a good fit for Mariela. Though she’s loved him for years, Mariela was always stuck in the role of “Winnie’s best friend.” And though Mariela is kind, she’s no doormat that will let Lennox put in her in a sort of box. She and Lennox clash more than once over the course of the story, and their happily ever after is well earned. There are a lot of ups and downs, and sometimes I might have been frustrated with Lennox’s one-step-forward-two-steps-back, but the fast pace of the story kept it from ever dragging. And while it has plenty of angst, Headmaster isn’t all loss and discovery. There are also plenty of smoking hot scenes. Mariela and Lennox have fantastic chemistry, and things get hot.

I really enjoyed Headmaster – so much so that I read it in one sitting. And even though I had some issues with the story (namely problems popping up which are then quickly resolved off-page), I was still quite happy with how Lennox and Mariela’s romance turned out. These two had a rough journey, but the result is a strong, believable love story that was a pleasure to read.


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

Monday, January 15, 2018

Review: Down by Contact by Santino Hassell

Down by Contact by Santino Hassell
Series: The Barons, Book 2
Publisher: InterMix
Genre: Male/Male Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9780399586309
Release Date: January 16, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Two rival football players begin a game with higher stakes than the Super Bowl in this steamy romance from the author of Illegal Contact.

Simeon Boudreaux, the New York Barons’ golden-armed quarterback, is blessed with irresistible New Orleans charm and a face to melt your mama’s heart. He’s universally adored by fans and the media. Coming out as gay in solidarity with his teammate hasn’t harmed his reputation in the least—except for some social media taunting from rival linebacker Adrián Bravo.

Though they were once teammates, Adrián views Simeon as a traitor and the number-one name on the New Jersey Predators’ shit list. When animosity between the two NFL players reaches a boiling point on the field, culminating in a dirty fist fight, they’re both benched for six games and sentenced to joint community service teaching sullen, Brooklyn teens how to play ball.

At first, they can barely stand to be in the same room, but running the camp forces them to shape up. With no choice but to work together, Simeon realizes Adrián is more than his alpha-jerk persona, and Adrián begins to question why he’s always had such strong feelings for the gorgeous QB…

Down by Contact is insanely addictive! Like the first Barons book, Illegal Contact, Simeon and Adrián’s story is so compelling that you’ll want to be sure you have plenty of time to devour it in one sitting. Santino Hassell’s writing has power and passion and his characters are so vibrant that there’s no way this story won’t stick with you.

I dare readers not to fall in love with Simeon from the start. He’s so charming that he lights up the page and it’s easy to see why almost every one he meets is instantly at ease with him. In the previous Barons book, Illegal Contact, Simeon came out as gay in solidarity with his best friend and teammate, Gavin. Coming out hasn’t harmed Simeon’s reputation in any visible way, but the invasiveness of the media and the online taunting from his former teammate now rival, Adrián, is wearing on even the generally positive Simeon. Simeon isn’t perfect, but he’s a pretty perfect hero. He’s kind, generous, and has a spine of steel. He doesn’t let anyone walk over him, but he’s also willing to forgive. I absolutely loved him and couldn’t wait for him to fall for someone who’s his match.

While Simeon made me swoon, Adrián isn’t immediately endearing. And though it might sound weird to say it, I enjoyed the fact that Adrián is deeply flawed at the start, because he grew into a hero worth rooting for. Adrián is aggressive and doesn’t think before he speaks, throwing out comments he doesn’t even realize are homophobic and deeply hurtful. He also carries deep resentment toward Simeon for leaving the Predators to play for the Barons. Part of Adrián’s animosity also stems from the fact that he’s bisexual and doesn’t realize it. I really liked that Simeon was able to open Adrián’s eyes about his behavior. Adrián isn’t a bad person, which is why his change over the course of the story is organic. It was great to see him realize just what he had been saying and the impact it had. He not only starts to think before he speaks, but becomes a better, more aware person, one who is happier and more at peace with himself.

Adrián and Simeon may hate each other at the start of Down by Contact, but the former friends turned enemies have one hell of a love story. When the tension simmering between them explodes into a fistfight on the field, they’re both suspended and forced to teach teenagers how to play football. Having to put the kids first means they have to put aside their animosity, which of course leads to the barriers between them coming down. It’s clear from the start that these two have incredible chemistry and I couldn’t wait for Adrián to realize that his feelings for Simeon run far deeper than he ever could have imagined. The sexual tension between them is incredible, and when it boils over Down by Contact gets insanely hot. In bed and out, Adrián and Simeon make a fantastic couple. That doesn’t mean the road to happily ever after is an easy one. Adrián not only has to come to terms with the fact that he’s bisexual, he and Simeon have to make hard decisions about their burgeoning relationship that could impact the careers they love (and those are only the non-spoiler obstacles). Mr. Hassell makes every bump in the road worth it, because the ending of the story left me grinning.

Down by Contact is the second book in Mr. Hassell’s Barons series, but it can easily be read as a standalone (though you’d be missing out on a great story if you skip Illegal Contact). I absolutely loved Simeon and Adrián’s romance. It’s sexy and sweet, but also interesting and layered. 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.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Best Books of 2017

2018 is here and with it comes a batch of highly anticipated reads. But before I fully dive into the new year looking for some new favorite books, it’s time to take a look back at the best books of 2017. I read 138 books last year, including quite a few re-reads that I fell in love with all over again. I tried 31 new (to me) authors and discovered some wonderful authors (like Rebecca Brooks, Santino Hassell, Stefanie London, and Heather McCollum) whose backlists I cannot wait to dive into. And finally, I participated in my eighth A to Z Reading Challenge, a fun challenge that usually leads me to at least a couple of books I might not have moved to the top of my TBR pile otherwise.

I read a number of excellent books in 2017, but I did manage to narrow the list down so I could spotlight my 17 favorites of '17 – the ten best new reads and the seven best re-reads.



Top Ten Books of 2017
Top Re-Reads of 2017

My Top Ten Books of 2017

Note: My picks weren’t all published in 2017 (one is even a 1930s classic), but all were new-to-me reads for the year.
Also note: The books are alphabetized by author as I love them all equally.


1. White Hot (Hidden Legacy, Book 2) by Ilona Andrews
My Review | Purchase Link






2. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
Purchase Link




3. On Broken Wings (Wild Aces, Book 3) by Chanel Cleeton
My Review | Purchase Link






4. Illegal Contact (The Barons, Book 1) by Santino Hassell
My Review | Purchase Link






5. Fair Game (All’s Fair, Book 1) by Josh Lanyon
Purchase Link







6. Fair Play (All’s Fair, Book 2) by Josh Lanyon
Purchase Link






7. Fair Chance (All’s Fair, Book 3) by Josh Lanyon
My Review | Purchase Link






8. Trouble Next Door by Stefanie London
My Review | Purchase Link






9. The Wolf of Kisimul Castle (Highland Isles, Book 3) by Heather McCollum
My Review | Purchase Link






10. Silver Silence (Psy-Changeling Trinity, Book 1) by Nalini Singh
My Review | Purchase Link










My Top Re-Reads of 2017


1. Rock Chick (Rock Chick, Book 1) by Kristen Ashley
Purchase Link




2. Quinn’s Hart by Cassandra Gold
My Review





3. Azagoth (Demonica Underworld, Book 1) by Larissa Ione
Purchase Link






4. Accidentally Compromising the Duke (Wedded by Scandal, Book 1) by Stacy Reid
My Review | Purchase Link






5. One Hot December (Men at Work, Book 3) by Tiffany Reisz
My Review | Purchase Link






6. Angels Fall by Nora Roberts
Purchase Link







7. High Noon by Nora Roberts
Purchase Link

Monday, January 1, 2018

Review: Death Below Stairs by Jennifer Ashley

Death Below Stairs by Jennifer Ashley
Series: Kat Holloway Mysteries, Book 1
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Historical Mystery
ISBN: 9780399585517
Release Date: January 2, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N
Jennifer Ashley Reading Order

Victorian class lines are crossed when cook Kat Holloway is drawn into a murder that reaches all the way to the throne.

Highly sought-after young cook Kat Holloway takes a position in a Mayfair mansion and soon finds herself immersed in the odd household of Lord Rankin. Kat is unbothered by the family’s eccentricities as long as they stay away from her kitchen, but trouble finds its way below stairs when her young Irish assistant is murdered.

Intent on discovering who killed the helpless kitchen maid, Kat turns to the ever-capable Daniel McAdam, who is certainly much more than the charming delivery man he pretends to be. Along with the assistance of Lord Rankin’s unconventional sister-in-law and a mathematical genius, Kat and Daniel discover that the household murder was the barest tip of a plot rife with danger and treason—one that’s a threat to Queen Victoria herself.

Murder, secrets, and seedcake all come together to form one highly entertaining mystery in Death Below Stairs. Jennifer Ashley’s first Kat Holloway novel is a delight, thanks in large part to the wonderful cast of characters.

Kat Holloway is a talented cook and I loved seeing how a Victorian-era household chef works. Yet while that’s interesting in its own right, that’s not what endeared her to me. Kat is smart, no-nonsense, and stands up for what is right, even when it might get her in trouble. She’s a clever sleuth, and when her assistant is murdered in the middle of the night, she becomes determined to find out who killed the girl and why. But a cook – no matter how quick – cannot solve crime alone, which is why she needs the help of Daniel McAdam. Daniel is a mysterious figure who puts on and sheds personas at the drop of a hat. He seems to be able to find anything at any time and I’m desperate to know more about him. What I do know so far, I absolutely adore. Even though this isn’t a romance (though it does have romantic elements), I still have to say that Daniel is a pretty swoon-worthy hero. His charm radiates off the page and the way he interacts with Kat makes me sigh more often than not. The two of them have seriously fantastic chemistry that I’m hoping will continue to develop over the course of the series.

Daniel and Kat are at the heart of Death Below Stairs, but they’re not the only interesting characters. Daniel’s son James is as charming as his father and Kat’s daughter Grace is as sweet as can be. Lord Rankin’s household staff are a bunch of colorful characters that add life and depth to the story. Every single supporting character in this book is well-drawn and adds to the tale. But though the characters are what stood out most to me in Death Below Stairs, that doesn’t mean the mystery is lacking. A not-so-simple case of murder leads to clues about a Fenian plot, one with dire implications that leads to an exciting race against the clock. Ms. Ashley seamlessly blends historical details in with fiction and the result is a marvelous mystery that’s filled with action.

Death Below Stairs is the first full-length Kat Holloway novel and readers can easily dive right in here. However, there is a prequel novella, A Soupçon of Poison, that I highly recommend reading first. It gave me a better sense going into the novel of Kat’s character, background, professional situation, and her relationships with Daniel, James, and Grace.

Death Below Stairs is an engaging murder mystery overall. Jennifer Ashley’s writing always draws me in and this story is no exception. And while I finished this book a well-satisfied reader, I cannot wait to see what Kat and Daniel take on next in Scandal Above Stairs!


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: Promise Not to Tell by Jayne Ann Krentz

Promise Not to Tell by Jayne Ann Krentz
Series: Cutler, Sutter & Salinas, Book 2
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Romantic Suspense
ISBN: 9780399585272
Release Date: January 2, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

A painter of fiery, nightmarish visions throws herself into the sea—but she’ll leave some of her secrets behind…

Seattle gallery owner Virginia Troy has spent years battling the demons that stem from her childhood time in a cult and the night a fire burned through the compound, killing her mother. And now one of her artists has taken her own life, but not before sending Virginia a last picture: a painting that makes Virginia doubt everything about the so-called suicide—and her own past.

Like Virginia, private investigator Cabot Sutter was one of the children in the cult who survived that fire…and only he can help her now. As they struggle to unravel the clues in the painting, it becomes clear that someone thinks Virginia knows more than she does and that she must be stopped. Thrown into an inferno of desire and deception, Virginia and Cabot draw ever closer to the mystery of their shared memories—and the shocking fate of the one man who still wields the power to destroy everything they hold dear.

Promise Not to Tell is a real page-turner. It’s fast-paced, interesting, and has some great twists and turns without ever losing sight of the main couple. I absolutely hated it whenever I had to put Virginia and Cabot’s story down, and quite honestly, by the end of the book nothing could have torn me away.

Virginia and Cabot were children living in a cult until one fiery night where they lost their mothers and were rescued by the local police chief. It’s been over twenty years since the fire but both Virginia and Cabot are still haunted by the past. And when another cult survivor plunges to her death after sending Virginia an urgent message with hidden clues, she and Cabot will have to team up and face the demons of their past. Without sounding too vague, that’s about as much as I can say about the plot of Promise Not to Tell without giving away anything. Jayne Ann Krentz did an excellent job of combining mystery, suspense, and romance in this story. Cabot and Virginia may not have seen one another since they were kids, but their shared experiences and invisible scars give them an instant bond and help them easily open up to one another in a way they might not do with strangers. They’re both interesting, intelligent characters and it was easy to root for them to fall in love because they just plain fit. They had an easy chemistry that came off the page and their connection – not to mention the heightened drama around them – made their fast-paced romance work really well.

Intertwined with Virginia and Cabot’s romance is the suspense plotline involving the cult that was first mentioned in When All the Girls Have Gone, though you don’t have to have read the that book in order to follow this one. Ms. Krentz delves deeper into the history of the cult and Virginia and Cabot’s time there. The past is coming back to haunt Virginia, Cabot, and Cabot’s family in a very real way. As I said above, I’m hesitant to go into much detail for fear of spoiling the story. Suffice it to say Ms. Krentz has a lot of excellent twists and turns planned for readers and I was as taken with the cult plot as I was with the romance. While the ending of Promise Not to Tell left me a well-satisfied reader, I cannot wait to see what happens in the next Cutler, Sutter & Salinas 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.