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.