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.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Review: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
Series: The Kiss Quotient, Book 1
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9780451490803
Release Date: June 5, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases--a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn't help that Stella has Asperger's and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice--with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can't afford to turn down Stella's offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan--from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but crave all of the other things he's making her feel. Their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…

The Kiss Quotient is a lovely romance that is by turns sexy and sweet. Helen Hoang’s imaginative spin on Pretty Woman charmed me thanks to its wonderfully unique characters. Stella captured my interest from the first. She’s a brilliant econometrician and her honest love and joy for her work was endearing. But Stella is also deeply vulnerable in ways that broke my heart. She feels her Asperger’s impedes her love life and she worries that she will never be good at relationships. Thus Stella embarks on a quest to become better at sex and relationships by hiring an escort to teach her what she wants to know. Michael is the perfect mix of sweetness and sensuality; definitely a swoon-worthy hero. He’s kind, loving, patient, and he sees Stella for the wonderful woman that she is. I really liked that Michael had his own vulnerabilities as well, though I feel like it’d spoil the story a bit to give away his background and his reasons for becoming an escort.

The attraction between Michael and Stella is instantaneous and the sexual tension was fun to watch build. But the best part of the story (for me) was watching Stella and Michael learn more about one another. Ms. Hoang isn’t afraid to let her characters be flawed and their lives messy and that’s what truly makes The Kiss Quotient special. There’s a level of emotional honesty and realism mixed into the fantasy that really captured my attention and had me rooting for Stella and Michael.

Stella and Michael are the heart of The Kiss Quotient, but it’d be shameful if I didn’t mention Michael’s wonderful family. His sisters and cousins are all vibrant characters and the only downside of meeting them is I desperately want their stories (especially Quan’s). I finished The Kiss Quotient a well-satisfied reader, but I cannot wait to see what Ms. Hoang has in store for Michael’s cousin Khai in The Bride Test.


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, May 29, 2018

Review: The Chateau by Tiffany Reisz

The Chateau by Tiffany Reisz
Series: The Original Sinners, Book 9
Publisher: 8th Circle Press
Genre: Erotic Thriller
ISBN: 9781548681951
Release Date: June 5, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

As the Jack-of-All-Wicked-Trades for a secretive French military intelligence agency, Kingsley Boissonneault has done it all—spied, lied, and killed under orders. But his latest assignment is quite out of the ordinary. His commanding officer’s nephew has disappeared inside a sex cult, and Kingsley has been tasked with bringing him home to safety.

The cult’s holy book is "Story of O," the infamous French novel of extreme sado-masochism. Their château is a looking-glass world where women reign and men are their willing slaves. Or are they willing? It’s Kingsley’s mission to find out.

Once inside the château, however, Kingsley quickly falls under the spell cast by the enigmatic Madame, a woman of wisdom, power, and beauty. She offers Kingsley the one thing he’s always wanted. But the price? Giving up forever the only person he’s ever loved.

Working for a secret branch of the French military by day and seducing a number of women by night may be enough to occupy some men, but not Kingsley Boissonneault. No assignment, no assignation can fill his mind enough to rid him of the dreams of Søren, the love he can never get over. Until, that is, he’s tasked with going undercover and rescuing his commanding officer’s nephew from a sex cult run by the mysterious Madame. Madame’s world is like nothing Kingsley has ever seen. In the château, the women rule and the men serve. And as Madame’s brand of sadism feeds Kingsley’s soul, he’s faced with a choice: he can have everything he’s ever wanted, but the price is giving up forever the beautiful monster who haunt his dreams.

The Chateau is an interesting, evocative read that’s a fantastic mix of dark and light. Kingsley’s journey through the looking glass and into Madame’s world is filled with surprises, erotic adventures, and masochism. The château is a sort of reverse Story of O where the women rule and the men serve them in every way. In many ways it’s a lovely world, with warmth, humor, and sensuality. Madame is a sadist and a master at mind games, and she’s an interesting, well-developed character. It’s easy to see why Kingsley is fascinated by her and why he’s taken with the other women in the house. Whether or not the world Madame has created is what it seems or if there are darker elements at play, I’ll leave readers to discover. I will say that nothing is ever simple and straightforward when you’re playing with characters this clever and I loved the twists and turns Kingsley encounters over the course of the story.

At the center of The Chateau is the story of Kingsley finding himself again. Kingsley is a delightful protagonist. He’s young, arrogant, charming, protective, and funny as hell. He’s strong and deadly, to be sure, but he’s also incredibly vulnerable and I found the contrast appealing. Life in the château holds great appeal for him: beautiful women, the chance of a family, and a masterful sadist who can give him almost everything he needs. The almost part comes in because of Kingsley’s dreams about Søren, the former lover whose hold on him is still strong. I loved watching Kingsley learn more about himself and about his relationship with Søren over the course of the book.

The Chateau is a standalone book set in the world of Tiffany Reisz’s Original Sinners series. I haven’t yet read the rest of the books, but if I wasn’t already planning to I definitely would now because I was so intrigued by Kingsley and Søren’s relationship. Ms. Reisz is a master of pushing boundaries and mixing eroticism with emotion and charm. Her writing is always engaging, so much so that I started The Chateau late and night and read until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, only to finish the book when I woke up the next morning. So whether you’re a fan of the Original Sinners series or are new to the world, this is an exceptional ride.


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, May 17, 2018

Review: Royally Wed by Teri Wilson

Royally Wed by Teri Wilson
Series: The Royals, Book 3
Publisher: Pocket Star
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9781501160516
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Teri Wilson’s Royals series returns with this charming and witty retelling of the timeless classic MGM film Royal Wedding starring Fred Astaire.

When Asher Reed, an American classical musician, is hired as a last minute replacement to perform at the royal wedding of Princess Amelia in Great Britain, he’s hoping he can shake his recent bout with performance anxiety long enough to get through the festivities and get his career back on track. Little does he know that his life is about to change forever.

As a guest of Buckingham Palace, he knows he has no business even speaking to the princess, but he’s completely awed by her beauty and more than a little intrigued by her rebellious spirit. Still, he definitely knows he has no business kissing her silly at the fitting of her wedding gown. He’s there to perform, not cause a royal scandal. But when he stumbles upon her groom’s appalling secret, the fate of the princess and the British Crown suddenly rest squarely in his cello-playing hands....

You know those books that instantly make you happy when you read them? That’s exactly what Royally Wed is for me. I absolutely loved this sweet confection of a story; the characters charmed the hell out of me and Teri Wilson’s writing swept me away to a modern-day fairytale for a few hours.

For the first time in his life Asher Reed – considered by some to be the next Yo-Yo Ma – is having trouble playing. Considering he just agreed to fill in for the famed cellist for the wedding of Princess Amelia of Great Britain, this couldn’t come at a worse time. And that’s before you take into account that his ex and his former mentor who she cheated on him with will be there. Asher can’t afford distractions if he wants to pull himself together, and there’s no bigger distraction than the bride herself. Amelia is trying to shake her “Princess Naughty” image and save her family from being blackmailed by marrying a man she doesn’t love (and who clearly doesn’t love her). She can’t afford a scandal and falling for a handsome American cellist would be scandalous indeed…

I adored Amelia and Asher from the start. They’re lovely, charming, endearing characters who are easy to root for. They have fantastic chemistry and it’s easy to see why it’s impossible for them to stay away from one another. Sparks aside, I loved how they became friends as they fell in love; it added to their love story and gave it more depth. While they do fall in love quickly, it works in this case. I honestly had no idea how they’d get their happily ever after and I loved that Ms. Wilson kept me guessing.

Royally Wed is loosely based on the Fred Astaire classic, Royal Wedding. Of all the Royals books, this one is the least like its inspiration (save for one major plot point) but I really enjoyed the nods to the film that I spotted. As with all the Royals books, Ms. Wilson does an incredible job of updating a classic and giving it her own, fresh spin. I cannot recommend this book highly enough if you enjoy contemporary romances or simply want a pick-me-up. Royally Wed is the perfect mix of sweet and sensual, of real emotion and fairytale romance. In short, it’s simply superb.


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, May 14, 2018

Review: Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Historical/Contemporary Fiction
ISBN: 9780399586682
Ebook/Paperback Source: Publisher
Audiobook Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Audible

After the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity--and unearths a family secret hidden since the revolution...

Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba's high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country's growing political unrest--until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary...

Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa's last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth.

Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba's tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she'll need the lessons of her grandmother's past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.

Next Year in Havana is a gorgeous book. Chanel Cleeton’s writing is lush and lyrical and her love of Cuba and its people shines through on every page.

Next Year in Havana travels back and forth between past and present, the story told through the eyes of Elisa and her granddaughter Marisol. In 1958 Elisa is part of the Havana elite, the daughter of a wealthy sugar baron. She’s kind, smart, and far stronger than many would give her credit for. Elisa isn’t flawless; she’s young, passionate, and makes mistakes, but she’s got a good heart. Through her eyes we see the multiple sides of a Cuba rapidly being torn apart. Not only is Elisa’s brother, Alejandro, part of a student revolutionary group working for a democratic Cuba, Elisa falls in love with Pablo, a revolutionary with close ties to Castro. As her world begins to crumble around her, Elisa’s eyes are opened and she begins to question everything. Her journey is beautiful and sad, but also hopeful. I admit I only have a passing knowledge of Cuban history and politics, and I really enjoyed learning more (and being lead to research more) as I read this story. Ms. Cleeton does a fantastic job of weaving fact and fiction.

In 2017, Elisa’s granddaughter Marisol travels to Cuba to spread her grandmother’s ashes. Marisol’s journey is both similar and different to Elisa’s and I was equally captivated by both. Marisol is a journalist who is eager to see the Cuba she’s heard of in her grandmother’s tales. Life in post-revolutionary Cuba is a culture shock for the Florida-raised Marisol. She learns what Cuban life is really like for everyday people and I enjoyed watching her start to question her own beliefs and become invested in the welfare of Cuban people as she never had been before. Marisol is a genuinely lovely heroine and a great stand-in for an American reader. The revolution, its aftermath, and the effects both positive and negative politics has had on the Cuban people is an important subject and it’s important to note that Ms. Cleeton treats these real-life matters with the weight and respect they deserve.

Internal and external conflicts abound in Next Year in Havana, but the book has a smooth, lovely flow to it. The characters are all well-developed and I cared about Elisa and Marisol’s friends and loved ones. It would be remiss of me not to mention the love stories, because the Elisa/Pablo and Marisol/Luis romances were captivating. All in all, I highly recommend this book. Chanel Cleeton’s writing is phenomenal and I cannot wait to read about Elisa’s sister, Beatriz, in When We Left Cuba.


FTC Disclosure: I received the ebook/paperback editions 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.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Review: I Flipping Love You by Helena Hunting

I Flipping Love You by Helena Hunting
Series: Shacking Up, Book 3
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9781250183972
Release Date: May 29, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

SHE’S GOT CURB APPEAL. HE’S A FIXER UPPER…

Rian Sutter grew up with the finer things in life. Spending summers in the Hamptons was a normal occurrence for her until her parents lost everything years ago. Now Rian and her sister are getting their life, and finances, back on track through real estate. Not only do they buy and sell houses to the rich and famous but they finally have the capital to flip their very own beachfront property. But when she catches the attention of a sexy stranger who snaps up every house from under her, all bets are off…

Pierce Whitfield doesn’t normally demo kitchens, install dry wall, or tear apart a beautiful woman’s dreams. He’s just a down-on-his-luck lawyer who needed a break from the city and agreed to help his brother work on a few homes in the Hamptons. When he first meets Rian, the attraction is undeniable. But when they start competing for the same pieces of prime real estate, the early sparks turn into full-blown fireworks. Can these passionate rivals turn up the heat on their budding romance―without burning down the house?

I Flipping Love You is the perfect beach read. It’s light and fun with a cast of bold personalities and a sexy romance that’ll leave you with a smile.

I’ve heard a lot of great things about Helena Hunting’s books, so I came into I Flipping Love You with fairly high expectations. Confession time: I didn’t like this book when I started it. At first, I found Pierce to be shallow and arrogant, Rian to be a flat character, and the comedic moments weren’t funny to me at all. It wasn’t bad, but the advertised romantic comedy felt more like one of those forgettable romcoms you keep on in the background and forget two minutes after it ends. That being said, I’m so glad I stuck with this book because I ended up thoroughly enjoying it.

After the first third of the book, I grew to care about Pierce and Rian and I loved peeling back the layers of their characters. While he is cocky, Pierce shows himself to be a wonderfully sweet hero with a good heart and a sense of humor. He’s a patent lawyer who wants to get out of the family business but is worried about disappointing his father. It’s clear Pierce is more suited to doing renovations than he is filing patents and I could see why he was so determined to prove that he could make his new career choice work. As for Rian, she is a brilliant and fun heroine whose family history has made her wary of trusting anyone other than her twin, Marley. Her father conned people out of millions before he and her mother abandoned Rian and Marley, leaving them a pile of debt. The two of them have had to work their way up from nothing and now their dream of flipping houses is about to become a reality. Rian’s biggest dream is to buy back and renovate their grandmother’s mansion in the Hamptons and I was rooting for her all the way. Of course, her dream and Pierce’s lead them to be in competition over properties, which leads to some fun moments.

I Flipping Love You starts off with a lot of banter and sexual tension, but when things heat up, the book really hits it stride. Pierce and Rian fit each other perfectly in bed and out and I liked seeing them work together just as much as I enjoyed the romantic storyline. It isn’t always smooth sailing for these two; Rian has trouble letting herself trust in Pierce and there are a couple external obstacles in their way as well. But all in all, theirs is a fun, sexy romance that’s easy to become invested in once Pierce convinces Rian to give him a chance.

I Flipping Love You is the third book in Ms. Hunting’s Shacking Up series, but it can easily be read as a standalone. Pierce’s sister, Amalie (the heroine of Hooking Up), does play a small supporting role and I will definitely be reading her book because she was a ton of fun and captured my interest from the start. So if you’re looking for a book to sweep you away to the Hamptons for the summer, this sassy, sunny tale is for you.


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, May 6, 2018

Review: The Other Lady Vanishes by Amanda Quick

The Other Lady Vanishes by Amanda Quick
Series: Burning Cove, Book 2
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Historical Romantic Suspense
ISBN: 9780399585326
Release Date: May 8, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

After escaping from a private sanitarium, Adelaide Blake arrives in Burning Cove, California, desperate to start over.

Working at an herbal tea shop puts her on the radar of those who frequent the seaside resort town: Hollywood movers and shakers always in need of hangover cures and tonics. One such customer is Jake Truett, a recently widowed businessman in town for a therapeutic rest. But unbeknownst to Adelaide, his exhaustion is just a cover.

In Burning Cove, no one is who they seem. Behind facades of glamour and power hide drug dealers, gangsters, and grifters. Into this make-believe world comes psychic to the stars Madame Zolanda. Adelaide and Jake know better than to fall for her kind of con. But when the medium becomes a victim of her own dire prediction and is killed, they'll be drawn into a murky world of duplicity and misdirection.

Neither Adelaide or Jake can predict that in the shadowy underground they'll find connections to the woman Adelaide used to be--and uncover the specter of a killer who's been real all along...

Return to the dazzling world of Burning Cove, a place of fantasy and glamour…and also secrets and death. I fell in love with the world of Burning Cove in The Girl Who Knew Too Much and my enchantment with the town only deepened in The Other Lady Vanishes. The setting drew me in from the first; the flash of 1930s Hollywood stars meeting dirty secrets, blackmail, and murder is a potent combination. When you add in two engaging protagonists and an intriguing mystery then you know you’re in for a good time.

Heiress Adelaide Blake spent two months drugged and imprisoned in an insane asylum. When she’s finally able to escape, she makes her way to Burning Cove and finds work as a waitress. Though she’s careful, Adelaide’s true identity and knowledge of the experimental drugs that were being tested on her means she has to constantly be on her guard. She’s finally finding her feet in Burning Cove and her tea blends make her a success with locals and visiting celebrities alike. But when visiting “psychic to the stars” Madame Zolanda comes to town, Adelaide’s world is turned upside down. Madame Zolanda’s gruesome prediction sets off a chain of events that involve murder, blackmail, and drugs. Against her will, Adelaide is drawn into the mystery. And one of the few people she may be able to trust is Jake Truett, a former businessman with secrets of his own. The two of them will have to unravel a tangled web of secrets if they hope to live long enough to enjoy the new lives they’ve created for themselves.

Adelaide and Jake are two interesting, intelligent protagonists who are easy to root for. Adelaide has nerves of steel that I admired. She’s been through hell and has not only survived, but has built herself a new life from nothing. I adored her and was delighted to see her find happiness with Jake, a widower with more than a few secrets of his own. Jake is a clever, protective hero who fits Adelaide extremely well. They have solid chemistry and their romance was one you can cheer for.

There’s a lot going on in The Other Lady Vanishes, but Amanda Quick takes her time and sets the multiple stages and players up before drawing everybody in closer together. The story starts off with a bang, then slows down, building up the suspense again as the pieces of the puzzle are laid out then put together. I don’t want to say much about the mystery because that would truly ruin the fun, but I will say it’s well-crafted and engaging. By the book’s climax I definitely couldn’t put it down. My only complaint is that I finished the book wanting more Burning Cove stories. Ms. Quick has created an absolutely fascinating world and I have my fingers crossed in the hope she returns to this place and time again.


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 30, 2018

Review: A Duke Like No Other by Valerie Bowman

A Duke Like No Other by Valerie Bowman
Series: Playful Brides, Book 9
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Genre: Historical Romance
ISBN: 9781250121738
Release Date: May 1, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

First comes love, then comes marriage. Unless it's the otherway around…

General Mark Grimaldi has sacrificed everything for his military career, working his way through the ranks without the benefit of a nobleman's title. Now, his years of dedication are about to pay off—with an offer for a prestigious promotion to Home Secretary. There's only one condition: Mark must be married. Aside from the small matter of not actually wanting to be wed, Mark faces another troubling problem: he already has a wife.

Nicole Huntington Grimaldi has spent ten contented years in France without her husband—and without regret. When Mark asks her to return to London and play the part of his beloved wife, she sees her chance. But neither of them is prepared for news that will throw Mark's future into chaos…nor the undeniable desire they've rekindled. Maybe happily-ever-after can happen the second time around in A Duke Like No Other, the next Regency romance from Valerie Bowman.

General Mark Grimaldi, spymaster extraordinaire, has worked his way up the ranks and is now on the cusp of obtaining the promotion he has dedicated his life to achieving. There’s just one problem: his superiors want Britain’s new Home Secretary to be a family man. Given Mark’s many connections, securing a wife wouldn’t be a problem…if only he weren’t already married. It’s been ten years since his wife left him and by all accounts she’s been happily living in France. In order to convince her to come back to England and play the part of loving wife, he’ll have to give her something in return. But the bargain these two strike is more dangerous than either could know. For close quarters have a tendency to bring feelings long-buried to the surface, and neither of them wants to admit that perhaps the fairytale picture they’re painting for others is something they want to be real. Can two people used to guarding their secrets closely take a risk and open their hearts for a shot at happily ever after?

I adore a good reunion romance and A Duke Like No Other is an utterly delightful one! Valerie Bowman has a bright, effervescent writing style that never fails to charm me and I couldn’t help but fall in love with Mark and Nicole’s story.

Mark and Nicole’s whirlwind courtship and marriage crashed and burned within months after secrets came to light and old wounds tore them apart. Nearly ten years later they have both changed, but one thing remains the same: the pull between them cannot be denied. I loved the sparks that flew between Mark and Nicole from the very start. It’s clear they’re utterly perfect for one another and their back-and-forths had me grinning more than once. They’re not just smart, they’re clever, and it was so much fun to watch them dance around the attraction simmering just beneath the surface. That being said, they don’t simply fall back into one another’s arms and I enjoyed that too. They were young when they married and I liked that they got to know one another again, to build that solid foundation they didn’t have in the beginning. It isn’t easy for them to get to the “happily ever after” point. Mark has definite issues with the aristocracy due to his upbringing and family history. His feelings tend to color his judgement and it leads him to make mistakes with Nicole. And after having her heart broken once, Nicole is terrified of opening it up again, which contributes to their communication problems. But every bump in the road is worth it in the end and I was rooting for these two to make it.

The romance in A Duke Like No Other was fantastic but it’d be remiss of me not to mention the subplot involving the unexpected death of an aristocrat with close ties to Mark. I enjoy a good murder mystery and I had a great time putting together the pieces of the puzzle alongside Mark and Nicole. Mark’s career as a spy has been well-established over the course of the Playful Brides series (and his investigative skills are clear even if you’re new to the books), but this is the first time you see Nicole’s talent as an investigator. Watching them and their allies interview suspects was fun and the quest to unmask the killer added to the story without taking the focus off of Nicole and Mark. I do feel it important to note that some readers might have an issue with believability in regards to Nicole’s career that began with the Bow Street Runners and grew since then. There are certain aspects of the story that require suspension of disbelief and there are also some more modern attitudes in this book than one might expect to find in a historical romance. This didn’t bother me because Ms. Bowman’s writing style is so breezy that I was happy to go along for the ride and shrug off things that might bother me in another book, but that may not be true if you’re looking for more historical accuracy in your historical romance. Still, if you want a spirited romance with a cozy mystery on the side, you’re sure to enjoy A Duke Like No Other.


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.