Monday, September 30, 2019

Review: Archangel’s War by Nalini Singh

Archangel’s War by Nalini Singh
Series: Guild Hunter, Book 12
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy
ISBN: 9780451491664
Release Date: September 24, 2019
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Nalini Singh Reading Order

Wings of silver. Wings of blue. Mortal heart. Broken dreams. Shatter. Shatter. Shatter. A sundering. A grave. I see the end. I see…

The world is in chaos as the power surge of the Cascade rises to a devastating crescendo. In furiously resisting its attempts to turn Elena into a vessel for Raphael’s power, Elena and her archangel are irrevocably changed…far beyond the prophecy of a cursed Ancient.

At the same time, violent and eerie events around the world threaten to wipe out entire populations. And in the Archangel Lijuan’s former territory, an unnatural fog weaves through the land, leaving only a bone-chilling silence in its wake. Soon it becomes clear that even the archangels are not immune to this deadly evil. This time, even the combined power of the Cadre may not be enough…

The Cascade has reached its peak and the final battle is here in Archangel’s War. At the heart of it all is the Archangel Raphael and his angel-made consort, Elena Deveraux. Everything in the previous eleven Guild Hunter novels has led to this: a battle for the world’s survival waged against a seemingly invincible enemy – Lijuan, the Archangel of Death.

If you’ve read Archangel’s Prophecy (and you absolutely should before starting this book), then you know that the events in that story changed Raphael and Elena. How, I cannot say without spoiling the book. Unfortunately, there’s a lot in this book I cannot write about without spoiling it. I will say that I enjoyed watching the build up to battle, seeing Elena and Raphael discover what the Cascade has done to them now and how they might use it against Lijuan. And make no mistake, Lijuan is coming. Her power is dark and cruel, fascinating to read about in its horror. The Cadre alone may not be enough to stop her, even with all their Cascade-born talents.

Archangel’s War brings all the major players in and I enjoyed their interactions. Nalini Singh has created a vast and varied cast of characters and all of their personalities are unique and well-defined. It brings depth to this world and is a consistency that’s much needed when the Cascade plays havoc with the rules of power and change. Everyone has a role to play and fans of the series will undoubtedly be delighted that most of the past heroes and heroines get some page time in this story.

About a third of Archangel’s War is devoted to battle scenes and how much you enjoy this will depend on personal taste. I don’t personally love long, drawn-out battles – even though the action keeps moving – but for Ms. Singh to do any less would be a disservice to the characters and the threat she has been building over the course of the series. At times I felt like things got repetitive, but again, I could understand the logic of it. I did feel like a few things were rushed at the end regarding supporting characters new and old (again, spoilers so I apologize for the vagueness), but I hope to see these plot points played out in future books. And while the stakes have never been higher, I never really felt the tension. Never felt that the characters I loved most were in danger, a direct contrast to how I felt reading Archangel’s Prophecy. This is a pity, but I definitely don’t want to indicate that I didn’t like the war sections of this book. Even though they’re not my personal favorite and I had some niggling issues, Ms. Singh’s writing never fails to suck me in.

Archangel’s War is a satisfying ending to a complex storyline that has spanned twelve books. I always enjoy time spent with Elena, Raphael, and their loved ones, and this time was no exception. Now, with the war over, I cannot wait to see where Ms. Singh takes the Guild Hunter series 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.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Review: Archangel’s Prophecy by Nalini Singh

Archangel’s Prophecy by Nalini Singh
Series: Guild Hunter, Book 11
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy
ISBN: 9780451491640
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Nalini Singh Reading Order

Midnight and dawn, Elena’s wings are unique among angelkind—and now they are failing. The first mortal to be turned into an immortal in angelic memory, she’s regressing. Becoming more and more human. Easier to hurt. Easier to kill.

Elena and Raphael must unearth the reason for the regression before Elena falls out of the sky. Yet even as they fight a furious battle for Elena’s very survival, violent forces are gathering across the world. In China, the Archangel Favashi is showing the first signs of madness. In New York, a mysterious sinkhole filled with lava swallows a man whole. In Africa, torrential monsoon rains flood rolling deserts. And in Elena’s mind whispers a haunting voice that isn’t her own.

This time, survival may not be possible…not even for the consort of an archangel.

Archangel’s Prophecy is a ticking time bomb, and I mean that in the very best way. It’s a tense, exciting thrill ride and author Nalini Singh doesn’t hold back as the Cascade picks up steam and threatens the very heart of the Guild Hunter series: Elena Deveraux.

Elena – strong, powerful, Hunter-born mortal turned angel – and her indescribably powerful mate, the archangel Raphael, are facing something more frightening than they ever could have imagined. Elena’s wings are failing, her immortality regressing, and nothing can stop it. The haunting voice of an archangel lost to sleep prophesizes Elena’s doom. Elena isn’t one to go quietly, which is one of the many reasons I adore her, and Raphael definitely won’t let the woman he loves more than life itself fall without a fight. Their love is as strong as ever, even as their nerves are stretched to the breaking point. I desperately wanted to know what was happening to Elena. I hated having to put down Archangel’s Prophecy because I loved and hated watching her struggle. It’s rare that authors can keep me guessing, but Ms. Singh manages it.

Even with her wings failing and mysterious things happening to her body, Elena doesn’t have time to take a breath. After her brother-in-law is nearly decapitated, it’s clear that her sister and niece are in danger. Elena can’t – won’t – lose another member of her family and she’ll fight for their safety to her last breath. I found this case to be both interesting and tragic, but I admit the most exciting part of the story was watching Elena fight through the changes in her to unravel the mystery.

Archangel’s Prophecy is the eleventh book in the Guild Hunter series and you should definitely be familiar with the world before jumping in. This is not a book to be missed, but fair warning: it ends on one hell of a cliffhanger. I’m thankful I can dive right into Archangel’s War because with everything that happened at the climax of the book (too many spoilers to talk about) I would have gone mad waiting to find out what happens next. Ms. Singh knows how to up the stakes and I’m on the edge of my seat as I prepare to dive into Archangel’s War.


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

Monday, September 23, 2019

Review: Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory

Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory
Series: The Wedding Date, Book 4
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9781984802217
Release Date: October 1, 2019
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Vivian Forest has been out of the country a grand total of one time, so when she gets the chance to tag along on her daughter Maddie’s work trip to England to style a royal family member, she can’t refuse. She’s excited to spend the holidays taking in the magnificent British sights, but what she doesn’t expect is to become instantly attracted to a certain private secretary, his charming accent, and unyielding formality.

Malcolm Hudson has worked for the Queen for years and has never given a personal, private tour—until now. He is intrigued by Vivian the moment he meets her and finds himself making excuses just to spend time with her. When flirtatious banter turns into a kiss under the mistletoe, things snowball into a full-on fling.

Despite a ticking timer on their holiday romance, they are completely fine with ending their short, steamy affair come New Year’s Day…or are they?

Royal Holiday is a Hallmark Christmas movie waiting to happen. It’s a picturesque bit of fantasy that’s blessedly low on drama and high on sweetness.

Vivian Forest is a social worker with a clear love of her job and the people she helps, which won me over immediately. Vivian rarely does things for herself, so when her daughter, Maddie, talks her into taking a vacation to England where Maddie has been asked to dress a member of the royal family, Vivian packs her bags and is along for the ride. I loved seeing someone as hardworking, kind, and generous as Vivian get to sit back and enjoy herself. But life as the guest of royalty isn’t all tiaras and scones. There’s also the Queen’s sexy private secretary, Malcolm Hudson. Malcolm is the picture perfect version of a holiday fling. He’s handsome, sweet, and I seriously envied the private tours he took Vivian on.

Malcolm and Vivian are both in their fifties, know their own minds, and generally avoid manufactured drama, which I liked. Vivian’s time in England is the stuff of dreams, from picturesque walks on royal grounds to a private visit to the V&A and more. I adored being whisked away from reality by author Jasmine Guillory and was happy to suspend disbelief and enjoy the ride. Malcolm and Vivian’s love story glides with relative ease, keeping with the overall lighthearted tone of the book. I think it had potential to be more than a fluffy read had Ms. Guillory delved more deeply into both characters. It’s a pity, because Vivian and Malcolm both hinted at rich and interesting histories, so I would have loved to see them better fleshed out. And as much as I like a sweet read, I will say that Royal Holiday edged into saccharine territory more than once. Someone laughing or giggling on almost every page (most of the time for reasons I couldn’t understand) for the first three-quarters of the book was distracting and made me wish for tighter editing. But even with these issues, I think Royal Holiday is the kind of warm and cozy book you’d want to escape with on a cold winter’s night.


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

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Review: Wrapped Up in You by Jill Shalvis

Wrapped Up in You by Jill Shalvis
Series: Heartbreaker Bay, Book 8
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9780062897787
Release Date: September 24, 2019
Source: Author
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Jill Shalvis Reading Order

It’s love. Trust me.

After a lifetime on the move, Ivy Snow is an expert in all things temporary—schools, friends, and way too many Mr. Wrongs. Now that she owns a successful taco truck in San Francisco and an apartment to call home, Ivy’s reinvented life is on solid ground. And she’s guarded against anything that can rock it. Like the realities of a past she’s worked hard to cover up. And especially Kel O’Donnell. Too hot not to set off alarms, he screams temporary. If only his whispers weren’t so delightfully naughty and irresistible.

Kel, an Idaho sheriff and ranch owner, is on vacay, but Ivy’s a spicy reason to give his short-term plans a second thought. Best of all, she’s a tonic for his untrusting heart, burned once and still in repair. But when Ivy’s past intrudes on a perfect romance, Kel fears that everything she’s told him has been a perfect lie. Now, if only Ivy’s willing to share, Kel will fight for a true love story.

Wrapped Up in You has everything I’ve come to expect from Jill Shalvis’s books: endearing characters, funny banter, friendship, family both blood and made, and a romance that will make you smile and sigh. Kel and Ivy’s story was a joy to read from beginning to end.

After years of hard knocks, Ivy Snow is determined to reap the success of her hard work by putting down roots in the Bay Area. Her Cow Hollow taco truck is incredibly popular and she’s finally in the black and almost ready to put a down payment on a brand new condo. I loved Ivy’s spirit, her determined attitude, her capacity for love, and the vulnerabilities she tries to hide from others. She keeps pain and secrets close to her chest, preferring to focus on the here and now and not let others know the hard times she’s been through, thanks primarily to her brother. If there’s one thing Kel O’Donnell hates, it’s lies. The Idaho sheriff/cowboy has been hurt badly, physically and emotionally, and he doesn’t like secrets. But even though he can tell Ivy is hiding something, he can’t help but want her. She’s sassy and strong and oh-so-tempting. Getting her to trust him, to learn it’s okay to lean on someone, is hard work but it’s worth it. The two of them light up the page and their banter made me smile over and over again.

Kel’s time in San Francisco is supposed to be temporary, but that isn’t the biggest obstacle to his and Ivy’s happily ever after. Trust is hard earned and easily broken for both of them and neither likes being vulnerable. But they prove that love is worth the risk and it was easy to root for them every step of the way. Of course, they do need the help and support of their friends and family. A host of past (and hopefully future) Heartbreaker Bay heroes and heroines make an appearance in Wrapped Up in You, bringing the love and laughter I so enjoy in Ms. Shalvis’s books. If you’re a fan of this series, you’ll enjoy visiting beloved characters. If you’re new, strap yourself in and prepare for an irreverent, heartwarming story with a romance that’s both sweet and spicy. It’s the perfect holiday read to enjoy all year long.


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

Review: Arctic Heat by Annabeth Albert

Arctic Heat by Annabeth Albert
Series: Frozen Hearts, Book 3
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: Male/Male Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9781335008091
Release Date: September 23, 2019
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

A lasting connection needs more than simply surviving a winter together—they’ll have to outsmart danger, let down their defenses and open their hearts.

Owen Han has a fresh lease on life—he’s kicked cancer’s ass and is roaring through his bucket list. The former investment banker hopes to find his next challenge in Alaska, volunteering alongside park rangers and fulfilling his childhood dreams of snowy winters and rustic life. Of course, those dreams did tend to feature big strapping mountain men in vivid detail…

Ranger Quilleran Ramsey would like to be anywhere other than dealing with newbie volunteers. And really, the only thing he needs less than a green volunteer “partner” is the flirty attentions of a buff city boy who doesn’t look ready to last a week, let alone an Alaskan winter. They’re all wrong for each other, even if Quill’s traitorous body enjoys the flirting more than it should.

As the weeks pass, the two snowbound men give in to temptation. But can their seasonal romance last until spring? For them to have a future together, each will have to trust the other…while hoping that the harsh elements and omnipresent dangers don’t destroy what happiness they’ve found in the moment.

Owen Han has a new lease on life after surviving cancer. He’s making his way through his bucket list, determined to live his life for himself while he discovers what he really wants. His latest stop is volunteering alongside park rangers for the winter in Alaska. The gorgeous vistas are nothing to sneeze at, but the real beauty is his partner: stoic Ranger Quill Ramsey. Owen would never want to be in a relationship with someone buried as deeply in the closet as Quill, but sharing a little body heat never hurt anyone, right?

Annabeth Albert proves that the warmest of personalities can win over even the most guarded of hearts in Arctic Heat. Ms. Albert’s third entry in the Frozen Hearts series is a slow burn romance that will melt your heart by the end.

Owen has a sunny personality and a determination to win people over that made me smile. He’s the opposite of Quill, a quiet, authoritative ranger who struggles with his attraction to Owen. Quill has had a host of negative life experiences that have impacted him and it’s easy to understand why he struggles to keep his relationship with Owen professional even while the sizzling attraction keeps drawing them together. I liked Quill a lot; his shyness, loneliness, and vulnerability called out to me and I was looking forward to seeing him find joy, companionship, and love with Owen. I liked that Owen was bold and sexy and brought Quill out of his shell, though at times Owen seemed to lack patience and empathy. It’s understandable in a way because his life prior to their meeting was vastly different from Quill’s. Neither man is perfect, but their flaws make them interesting. Their romance is slow burn, which is both good and bad. On the one hand it felt like they really got to know one another, on the other the book did move at a glacial pace for the first half of the story.

The life of an Alaskan park ranger is as important to the story as the romance and the research Ms. Albert did really shows. Quill and Owen’s duties, the beauty they see, and the dangers they face are fascinating. All in all, I enjoyed Arctic Heat. I struggled with the slow pace in the beginning, but Owen and Quill’s happily ever after at the end felt earned.


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: Seduction on a Snowy Night by Madeline Hunter, Sabrina Jeffries, and Mary Jo Putney

Seduction on a Snowy Night by Madeline Hunter, Sabrina Jeffries, and Mary Jo Putney
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: Historical Romance
ISBN: 9781496720283
Release Date: September 24, 2019
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Sabrina Jeffries Reading Order

This winter, steal away with the reigning queens of Regency Romance…to a surprise snowstorm, the comfort of a blazing fire, and the heat of a lover’s kisses…

A CHRISTMAS ABDUCTION by Madeline Hunter

Caroline Dunham has a bone to pick with notorious rake Baron Thornhill—and a creative plan to insure his undivided attention. Yet once in close quarters, she finds herself beholden to their smoldering connection…

A PERFECT MATCH by Sabrina Jeffries
Whisked away from a wintry ball by the officer she knew only through letters, Cassandra Isles struggles with her feelings for the commanding Colonel Lord Heywood. For he, secretly a fortune-hunter, must marry for money to save his estate—and Cass, secretly an heiress, will accept nothing less than love…

ONE WICKED WINTER NIGHT by Mary Jo Putney
Dressed as a veiled princess, Lady Diana Lawrence is shocked to discover that the mysterious corsair who tempts her away from the costume ball is the duke she once loved and lost. Now snowed in with Castleton at a remote lodge, will she surrender to the passion still burning hotly between them?

“A Christmas Abduction” by Madeline Hunter
Caroline Dunham’s family once owned a famous racehorse-breeding farm, but their luck has been spiraling downward for years. It’s the last straw when she learns that Adam Prescott, Baron Thornhill, has done something unforgivable to a member of her family. What’s a woman to do when she has no options? Abduct the lord in question, of course. Except this supposed villain is nothing like she expected…

“A Christmas Abduction” started out a lot of fun, mostly due to the chemistry between Caroline and Adam. Caroline has had enough and is determined Adam will do right by her family and Adam is anything but your typical hostage. I liked watching Adam start to care for Caroline and her friends, enjoyed seeing him work hard alongside Caroline. As for Caroline, I respected how hard she worked and her loyalty to others, her strength in holding her family afloat. That being said, the romance left me wanting a bit. Given what Caroline believed of Adam, her attraction to him and the way she gave into it made the love story feel a bit stilted and rushed. Added to that, the ending was tied up so neatly that it was not entirely believable. Still, “A Christmas Abduction” is an enjoyable story and Madeline Hunter’s writing keeps things moving along at a quick clip.


“A Perfect Match” (Duke Dynasty, Book 1.5) by Sabrina Jeffries
Colonel Lord Heywood Wolfe has come to a ball to warn his best friend’s sister, Kitty, that one of her suitors is a villainous fortune hunter with a dark past. One thing leads to another and Heywood ends up abducting Kitty and her cousin, Cass, and taking them to his family home for the holidays in order to protect them. Kitty is an heiress and Heywood needs funds to restore the estate he inherited, so she should be the one he’s courting. Except he can’t take his mind off of Cass, the intelligent beauty who is his perfect match in every way…

“A Perfect Match” was my favorite novella of this anthology and the reason I picked it up in the first place. Sabrina Jeffries brings Christmas cheer and charm with her story of a soldier in need of a fortune and a secret heiress who will only marry for love.

Heywood and Cass sparkle, their chemistry wonderful and their back-and-forths made me smile. Cass has sworn her family to secrecy about her being an heiress and she’s been burned in the past by fortune hunters. So even though she’s quickly falling for Heywood she doesn’t want to reveal she has money and risk not finding a man who wants her for herself. I adored Cass and Heywood and was rooting for their happily ever after. The only thing that detracted from the story was a turn in attitude from Heywood at the end, one that was out of character and seemed forced in to add drama. It’s a pity, because otherwise “A Perfect Match” is a fun, aptly-titled story with two protagonists I adored and a cast of supporting characters who made me smile.


“One Wicked Winter Night” (Rogues Redeemed, Book 3.5) by Mary Jo Putney
After exploring the world for years, Lady Diana Lawrence has decided to return home to England. The only thing she’s wary of is running into the man who was the reason she so quickly took to exploring all those years ago. On the night of her cousin’s masquerade ball she meets a dashing corsair who tempts her in a way she hasn’t been tempted in a long time. Of course, it’s none other than Anthony Raines, Duke of Castleton, the man she loved and lost. It’s clear the attraction between them has never died, but is that enough for them to take a risk at opening their hearts for a second chance at love?

I love a good second chance romance so I was eager to dive into this story of a duke who wants to marry for love and the intrepid explorer he never got over. I liked that Diana was older than Anthony, that she was worldly and well-traveled, had an adventurous spirit, and knew her own mind. I also really liked that Anthony accepted and loved Diana for who she was, unreservedly and without any alpha male posturing. The two of them had a lot of promise and their sense of humor charmed me. However, partway through “One Wicked Winter Night” the story took a turn and I was flabbergasted by both Anthony and Diana’s stunning lack of maturity. I won’t spoil the story, but Anthony’s way of securing Diana’s attention was childish and her response to it was reckless and irresponsible. It left a sour taste in my mouth and the two of them didn’t have enough chemistry to overcome it. And because it was so distracting, I must point out that Mary Jo Putney’s overuse of exclamation points did not help her characters seem more mature (truly, the sheer quantity was alarming!). Still, fans of the Rogues Redeemed series (which I have not read) might enjoy this story more than I did. Previous heroes and heroines play strong supporting roles and that will undoubtedly mean more to people invested in the characters.


Seduction on a Snowy Night has its ups and downs with a bit of unevenness in tone in each of the stories. Being snowed in plays a part in each story and close quarters helped with the accelerated falling in love timelines the novella length necessitates. If you’re a fan of any of these authors it’s worth picking up this anthology. I particularly enjoyed Sabrina Jeffries’s “A Perfect Match,” but there’s something for every historical romance lover in Seduction on a Snowy Night.


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, September 21, 2019

Review: No Judgments by Meg Cabot

No Judgments by Meg Cabot
Series: Little Bridge Island, Book 1
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9780062890047
Release Date: September 24, 2019
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

The storm of the century is about to hit Little Bridge Island, Florida—and it’s sending waves crashing through Sabrina “Bree” Beckham’s love life…

When a massive hurricane severs all power and cell service to Little Bridge Island—as well as its connection to the mainland—twenty-five-year-old Bree Beckham isn’t worried . . . at first. She’s already escaped one storm—her emotionally abusive ex—so a hurricane seems like it will be a piece of cake.

But animal-loving Bree does become alarmed when she realizes how many islanders have been cut off from their beloved pets. Now it’s up to her to save as many of Little Bridge’s cats and dogs as she can . . . but to do so, she’s going to need help—help she has no choice but to accept from her boss’s sexy nephew, Drew Hartwell, the Mermaid Café’s most notorious heartbreaker.

But when Bree starts falling for Drew, just as Little Bridge’s power is restored and her penitent ex shows up, she has to ask herself if her island fling was only a result of the stormy weather, or if it could last during clear skies too.

Real world issues meet fluffy romantic comedy in No Judgments. I wanted to like Meg Cabot’s first full-length Little Bridge Island book. And perhaps you can make a rom com set against the backdrop of a potentially devastating hurricane work, but it doesn’t in this story. In another setting, the quirky inhabitants of Little Bridge Island would be fun to read about and I did like most of them. Plus, any animal lover would be won over by the cuteness of the pets that threaten to steal the show (toothless Gary for the win).

Bree Beckham is the star of No Judgments and unfortunately she’s also its biggest weakness. She’s moved to Little Bridge Island for a fresh start and is determined to do everything on her own. This would be great, except Bree is, well, TSTL. She lacks basic common sense, makes poor decisions, is stubborn over the most ridiculous things, and honestly would not have survived this story if not for the rest of the cast. What Bree does have going for her is a big heart and a love of animals. Her take-charge attitude when it comes to seeing to abandoned pets’ needs warmed my heart. But it’s overshadowed by her often immature attitude and stunning lack of common sense. Her love interest is Drew Hartwell, her boss’s nephew and rumored town playboy. Drew is good looking and patient, but is kind of a cardboard hero. The thing that stands out the most about him is his love of dogs and his hilarious choice of dog names. Drew and Bree’s love story was pretty standard and enjoyable, but I can’t say it pulled me in.

There’s a lot going on in No Judgments and none of it is developed well. Sexual assault, family secrets, and mother issues are all thrown in and the way each of these storylines played out was unsatisfying. The first is the most frustrating of all because it’s a very real, relatable issue that is not handled well at all. And though it’s a minor moment overall, I really struggled with Bree’s characterization of an intellectually disabled young man as “slow.” It’s 2019 and we can expect authors to do better. There are also too many convenient coincidences in this book that make suspending disbelief an almost Herculean task. And as I mentioned before, the looming presence of a possible Category 5 hurricane doesn’t go with the fluffy tone of the book. The casual attitude and the way the characters ride through the storm are so wildly different from my experience, friends’ experiences, and what I’ve seen on the news, but I will admit I’m no expert so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

The animals are the best part of No Judgments and I can’t count the number of times they made me smile. The residents of Little Bridge Island were also so warm and welcoming (even Bree’s sometimes grumpy boss, Ed) that the town won me over and in a less dramatic setting they would have been a delight. Ms. Cabot’s writing did keep the story moving along at a quick clip and the secondary characters (human and animal) were charming enough to bump it up a star. But if you’re looking for a heroine you can root for, well-developed characters and plotlines, and a consistent tone throughout the story, you should probably look elsewhere.


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: Strangers She Knows by Christina Dodd

Strangers She Knows by Christina Dodd
Series: Cape Charade, Book 3
Publisher: HQN
Genre: Romantic Suspense
ISBN: 9781335016614
Release Date: September 17, 2019
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Christina Dodd Reading Order

I have three deadly problems:
1. I've seriously offended a maniacal killer.
2. I just had a bullet removed from my brain.
3. My new daughter is growing up too fast--and she's in the line of fire.


Living on an obscure, technology-free island off California means safety from the murderer who hunts Kellen Adams and her new family… Or does it? Family time becomes terror-time, and at last, alone, Kellen faces a killer playing a cruel game. Only one can survive, and Kellen knows who must win…and who must die.

The Cape Charade series comes to a thrilling conclusion in Strangers She Knows. Christina Dodd knows how to up the tension and I was seriously questioning how Kellen Adams, survivor and soldier she may be, would survive and protect her husband and daughter from the vicious and clever Mara Phillipi.

It has been three years since Kellen had a bullet removed from her brain and she’s still recovering and working on restoring a full range of motion to her hand. She’s not in peak condition when her husband, Max, suggests they head to a remote island off the California coast to hide out while the authorities hunt Mara. On top of that, her daughter Rae is in full pre-teen hormone swing, so a remote island with no technology isn’t always a peaceful place. Max is sure they’re safe on the island, but Kellen knows Mara better than anyone else. The serial killer will never stop hunting her and Kellen needs to be prepared.

The isolated locale and a very small number of unusual characters brings a tight, tense atmosphere to Strangers She Knows. I can’t say much about the book without spoiling it because the entertainment is watching the ongoing game of cat-and-mouse between Mara and Kellen unfold. I loved that Ms. Dodd didn’t make it easy, kept me guessing how things would work out, and didn’t make Kellen superhuman. She’s a strong yet vulnerable heroine with a big heart and powerful reasons to defeat the psychopath hunting her family. I devoured this book in a day because I had to know how it would end.

Strangers She Knows finishes the Cape Charade series perfectly. I highly recommend reading Dead Girl Running and What Doesn’t Kill Her before this book to get the history of the characters and the relationships. But even if you want to jump right in with this book, you’re sure to enjoy this tight, tense thriller.


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

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Review: The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier

The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier
Series: Warrior Bards, Book 1
Publisher: Ace
Genre: Fantasy
ISBN: 9780451492784
Release Date: September 3, 2019
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

Eighteen-year-old Liobhan is a powerful singer and an expert whistle player. Her brother has a voice to melt the hardest heart, and is a rare talent on the harp. But Liobhan's burning ambition is to join the elite warrior band on Swan Island. She and her brother train there to compete for places, and find themselves joining a mission while still candidates. Their unusual blend of skills makes them ideal for this particular job, which requires going undercover as traveling minstrels. For Swan Island trains both warriors and spies.

Their mission: to find and retrieve a precious harp, an ancient symbol of kingship, which has gone missing. If the instrument is not played at the upcoming coronation, the candidate will not be accepted and the kingdom will be thrown into disarray. Faced with plotting courtiers and tight-lipped druids, an insightful storyteller, and a boorish Crown Prince, Liobhan soon realizes an Otherworld power may be meddling in the affairs of the kingdom. When ambition clashes with conscience, Liobhan must make a bold decision—and the consequences may break her heart.

Enter a world of warriors and bards, of mortal kings and uncanny creatures in The Harp of Kings. Juliet Marillier’s writing has a lyricism to it that never fails to draw me in and I found myself spellbound by this story.

Since childhood Liobhan has wanted to become one of the elite Swan Island warriors. Now she and her brother Brocc have that opportunity. As trainees, they wouldn’t normally be sent out on missions, but their skills as bards make them the perfect spies when the mystical Harp of Kings is stolen. Alongside two senior warriors and a fellow trainee, Dau, Liobhan and Brocc make their way to the kingdom of Breifne. There they must suss out secrets from courtiers and druids, fend off royal bullies, and uncover the machinations of Otherworld beings, all while learning to become a team and strengthen their weak spots.

Liobhan is a heroine who is easy to like. She’s vibrant, skilled, loyal, kindhearted, and hardworking. She’s also young, vocal, and sometimes reckless when she follows her heart, but I liked that she wasn’t perfect and I could see how she will continue to grow over the course of the series. Brocc too is an endearing character. He’s quieter than his sister, more aware of his fears, but his talent as a bard is unparalleled. Brocc is unknowingly on a journey to come into his own and his path is one I’m still thinking on days after finishing this book (for reasons I won’t spoil). As for the third main character, Dau isn’t immediately loveable. He comes off as arrogant and is determined to win a spot on Swan Island at all costs. I knew there had to be more to him, and Ms. Marillier did not disappoint. I loved peeling back the layers of Dau’s character. He’s the most complex and wounded of the three and there were times his story brought tears to my eyes. Though each of the three main characters has a satisfying story arc in The Harp of Kings, I look forward to seeing how they mature and progress and how their relationships change in the next book.

The Harp of Kings is the first book in the Warrior Bards series and can easily be read as a standalone, but if you like Ms. Marillier’s Blackthorn & Grim trilogy you’ll be delighted to find out this series is set in the same world. I’m a huge Blackthorn & Grim fan, so I must confess that as soon as I read the character list in the beginning of the book and discovered that Liobhan and Brocc were Blackthorn and Grim’s children I was automatically invested in their fates. I loved the nods to the prior trilogy and even though I enjoyed The Harp of Kings on its own merits I still desperately hope we travel to Winterfalls in future Warrior Bards books.

The Harp of Kings has intrigue, fights, magical quests, and otherworldly action aplenty. The pages of the book practically flew by and I hated it whenever I had to put it down. I finished this story a well-satisfied reader, but there is a bittersweet quality to it that makes me hope the wait for the next book won’t be too long.


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: Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore

Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore
Series: A League of Extraordinary Women, Book 1
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Historical Romance
ISBN: 9781984805683
Release Date: September 3, 2019
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

England, 1879. Annabelle Archer, the brilliant but destitute daughter of a country vicar, has earned herself a place among the first cohort of female students at the renowned University of Oxford. In return for her scholarship, she must support the rising women's suffrage movement. Her charge: recruit men of influence to champion their cause. Her target: Sebastian Devereux, the cold and calculating Duke of Montgomery who steers Britain's politics at the Queen's command. Her challenge: not to give in to the powerful attraction she can't deny for the man who opposes everything she stands for.

Sebastian is appalled to find a suffragist squad has infiltrated his ducal home, but the real threat is his impossible feelings for green-eyed beauty Annabelle. He is looking for a wife of equal standing to secure the legacy he has worked so hard to rebuild, not an outspoken commoner who could never be his duchess. But he wouldn't be the greatest strategist of the Kingdom if he couldn't claim this alluring bluestocking without the promise of a ring...or could he?

Locked in a battle with rising passion and a will matching her own, Annabelle will learn just what it takes to topple a duke…

Evie Dunmore blends fact and fiction together beautifully in Bringing Down the Duke. Like a good many women throughout history, Annabelle Archer is a scholar with an unsupportive family. She’s dependent upon her cousin, who works her until she is about to drop. When the chance to attend Oxford on a scholarship arrives, Annabelle snatches it. In return for the scholarship, she must support the women’s suffrage movement. It sounds simple, but the reality of what suffragists were up against shows just how extraordinary these women were. Annabelle’s work for the cause throws her in the path of the Duke of Montgomery, a man who is considered to be cold as ice. Sebastian inherited a dukedom at the age of nineteen and the burden of responsibility and the role he has played in politics for so long has made him almost an automaton. Annabelle sparks something long buried in him and, likewise, he sparks long-buried passions in her.

The romance between Sebastian and Annabelle is slow to build, and I admit the beginning of the story dragged a bit until the characters and romance started to develop. But once it got going, I adored Bringing Down the Duke. Annabelle is no stranger to passion, but she is very aware of the risks it brings. And Sebastian, a duke with the ear of Queen Victoria, is a man who cannot afford to follow his heart. Class differences mean something in this book; they’re not trivial obstacles to be batted out of the way. As much as I was rooting for Sebastian and Annabelle, I enjoyed the dose of reality that threatens to keep them apart. I liked that they had to work for the happily ever after, that marriage between a duke and commoner wasn’t something they took for granted, and that reputations, unplanned pregnancies, and politics aren’t concerns to simply be tossed aside.

Bringing Down the Duke kicks off the League of Extraordinary Women series and introduces four very different, very interesting women who all have their own reasons for joining the suffragist movement. I adored Hattie, Catriona, and Lucie, and I cannot wait to see what Ms. Dunmore has in store for them. Between the fight for women’s rights and the admission of women at Oxford, there’s enough (incredibly interesting) history in Bringing Down the Duke to keep it grounded in reality while the romance has just enough fantasy to keep the book light on its feet.


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 26, 2019

Review: The Blacksmith Queen by G.A. Aiken

The Blacksmith Queen by G.A. Aiken
Series: The Scarred Earth Saga, Book 1
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: Fantasy Romance
ISBN: 9781496721204
Release Date: August 27, 2019
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

The Old King Is Dead

With the demise of the Old King, there’s a prophesy that a queen will ascend to the throne of the Black Hills. Bad news for the king’s sons, who are prepared to defend their birthright against all comers. But for blacksmith Keeley Smythe, war is great for business. Until it looks like the chosen queen will be Beatrix, her younger sister. Now it’s all Keeley can do to protect her family from the enraged royals.

Luckily, Keeley doesn’t have to fight alone. Because thundering to her aid comes a clan of kilt-wearing mountain warriors called the Amichai. Not the most socially adept group, but soldiers have never bothered Keeley, and rough, gruff Caid, actually seems to respect her. A good thing because the fierce warrior will be by her side for a much longer ride than any prophesy ever envisioned…

The Blacksmith Queen is a fantasy tale brimming with potential. A cheerful, caring blacksmith heroine, a staid but true centaur hero, witches and warriors, elves and dragons, battles and betrayal…there’s a lot in G.A. Aiken’s first entry in the Scarred Earth Saga that is of interest. With a bit more order, development, and breathing room this book really could have been engaging. Unfortunately, the actual story is choppy and overwrought.

Caid and Keeley have enjoyable chemistry, but their romance felt like an afterthought tacked on at the end, which was a pity. Keeley is a fun heroine who is loving, protective, and strong. She comes from a large and boisterous family and she tends to them all. Caid, in turn, is the calm in the story, a serious warrior who gives the audience a breather from the constant noise of the supporting cast. And the supporting cast does take up a lot of space in the book, but not in a way that felt organic to world building. There are dozens of viewpoint changes – not all of which felt necessary – and at times the plethora of oversized personalities detracted from the plot.

I admit I almost stopped reading The Blacksmith Queen because the first part of the book felt like a lot of flash and bang that didn’t have much substance. However, around the halfway point things take a turn and the book gets interesting, even if it doesn’t always make sense. I generally don’t put spoilers in my reviews, so unfortunately I have to be brief and vague. This is the kind of book where you just have to roll with whatever happens and believe the entire realm will agree with what they’re told without question or it all falls apart. For my part, the longer I think about it, the more I question the world and the barely-defined rules it operates on. Given their circumstances, there is no way the main villain could plot, arrange, and accomplish even half of what they did. The entire concept of the prophesy, the backing competing forces gain…none of it seems to hold weight. Even in fantasy literature, there needs to be a whisper of believability.

While reading The Blacksmith Queen I spent a lot of time feeling like Dennis in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. So why two stars instead of one? Well, for all its flaws there’s something compelling about this world. I want to learn more about the Scarred Earth centaurs, I want to see what happens to Keeley, and I want to discover what happens next in this bizarrely entertaining saga. So while I felt the story lacked development, what is there on the surface is interesting and holds enough promise that I want to learn more. And sometimes that’s enough.


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

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Review: How to Love a Duke in Ten Days by Kerrigan Byrne

How to Love a Duke in Ten Days by Kerrigan Byrne
Series: Devil You Know, Book 1
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Genre: Historical Romance
ISBN: 9781250318848
Release Date: August 27, 2019
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

These men are dark, bold, and brave. And there is only one woman who can bring them to their knees…

Famed and brilliant, Lady Alexandra Lane has always known how to look out for to herself. But nobody would ever expect that she has darkness in her past—one that she pays a blackmailer to keep buried. Now, with her family nearing bankruptcy, Alexandra strikes upon a solution: Get married to one of the empire’s most wealthy eligible bachelors. Even if he does have the reputation of a devil.

LOVE TAKES NO PRISONERS

Piers Gedrick Atherton, the Duke of Redmayne, is seeking revenge and the first step is securing a bride. Winning a lady’s hand is not so easy, however, for a man known as the Terror of Torcliff. Then, Alexandra enters his life like a bolt of lightning. When she proposes marriage, Piers knows that, like him, trouble haunts her footsteps. But her gentleness, sharp wit, independent nature, and incredible beauty awakens every fierce desire within him. He will do whatever it takes to keep her safe in his arms.

How to Love a Duke in Ten Days a heartbreaking, evocative read. It’s a tale of survivors, strength, healing, and love. Kerrigan Byrne has a talent for penning vivid, lush romances that suck me right in and this book was no exception.

I want to start by giving a trigger warning: Alexandra is a rape survivor and the night she was raped is depicted in the prologue. The assault, the pain, the invisible scars she carries and how her life was changed forever are all central to the plot. It tore at my heart and I teared up at least once over the course of the story. I appreciated the way Ms. Byrne handled sexual assault and the impact it has on survivors. Alexandra is brilliant, strong, loving, and vulnerable and she grabbed my heart. I wanted her to find happiness with Piers, the so-called “Terror of Torcliff.” Piers’s scarred visage and brute strength turn off many, but not Alexandra. I loved that his strength was matched by softness, that he was someone she could lean on. The two of them have fantastic chemistry. Scenes between them fairly crackle with energy and they’re a perfect match in every way. I adored their wit and banter; I’m hoping they show up in future Devil You Know books because they can be so much fun together.

Piers and Alexandra each have their own reasons for wanting to marry even though they’re practically strangers. And once they’re wed, their histories mean that trust isn’t easily given. Their romance has its fair share of obstacles and setbacks while their burgeoning bond is fragile. There were a few times I wanted to shout at Piers, to make him see what he’s missing, but given his past experiences his blind spots are understandable. How to Love a Duke in Ten Days isn’t an easy read, emotionally speaking. But there’s beauty and hope in Piers and Alexandra’s romance and I loved that.

How to Love a Duke in Ten Days is the first book in the Devil You Know series and it also introduces the Red Rogues, Alexandra and her two best friends. Alexandra, Cecilia, and Francesca’s friendship is as important to the story as the romance. Their bond, their pure love and support of one another is a treasure. Each of these strong, vibrant women is compelling in their own unique way and I cannot wait to read Cecilia and Francesca’s books.


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, August 24, 2019

Review: Well Met by Jen DeLuca

Well Met by Jen DeLuca
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9781984805386
Release Date: September 3, 2019
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?

The faire is Simon's family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn't have time for Emily's lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she's in her revealing wench's costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they're portraying?

This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can't seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek.

Well Met is bright, charming, and oh-so much fun! I adore Renaissance Faires and have a lot of respect for the time and effort the actors, entertainers, vendors, and volunteers put into these events so I couldn’t resist picking up this book, hoping for a lighthearted romance with a dash of faire flavor. Author Jen DeLuca more than delivered. The cast of characters was so endearing, the faire so fun, and the enemies-to-lovers romance between Emily and Simon so entertaining that I practically devoured this book.

The life Emily Parker had planned out just crashed down around her when her sister was in a bad car accident and needed help. Even though they’re not particularly close, Emily doesn’t hesitate to pack up her things and head for the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland. And when her teenage niece wants to take part in the local Ren Faire, Emily volunteers to work as a tavern wench. It’s the kind of person Emily is – kind and always ready to dive in and help. Emily isn’t perfect, but I liked her big heart, organizational skills, and vision. She’s also someone yearning to put down roots and the town of Willow Creek and the faire cast are just what she needs. I loved watching Emily get into the spirit of the faire and to become attached to the town and its delightful residents.

The one person Emily doesn’t hit it off with right away? Simon Graham, the brooding English teacher in charge of the entire faire. Unlike everyone else in Willow Creek, Simon is incredibly straight-laced and serious. But when he gets to the faire, Simon transforms into a flirtatious, sexy pirate who dazzles. I enjoyed both the stuffy and the roguish parts of Simon and, like Emily, I wanted to see the two come together. It’s clear to see why Simon and Emily clash at the beginning. And Simon definitely is a jerk to her to start with, but Ms. DeLuca makes it clear why he is the way he is (for reasons I won’t spoil). I was yearning to see Emily muss him up some and when they were in faire mode, the two of them shone. Their banter was flirty and fun and I cannot count the number of times they made me smile. But I loved watching them come together outside their roles even more, their romance entwining with their individual character growth. Their course of true love doesn’t run smooth in Well Met, but every bump on the road to happily ever after is worth it.

A cast of caring, welcoming secondary characters bring the town of Willow Creek to life and made me wish I could live there. The lovely romance, sparkling banter, and lively background all made Well Met the perfect pick-me-up when I really needed it. I adored Emily and Simon’s story and I cannot wait to read more of Ms. DeLuca’s books.


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 19, 2019

Review: Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews

Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews
Series: Hidden Legacy, Book 4
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Urban Fantasy
ISBN: 9780062878342
Release Date: August 27, 2019
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Ilona Andrews Reading Order

In a world where magic is the key to power and wealth, Catalina Baylor is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, and the Head of her House. Catalina has always been afraid to use her unique powers, but when her friend’s mother and sister are murdered, Catalina risks her reputation and safety to unravel the mystery.

But behind the scenes powerful forces are at work, and one of them is Alessandro Sagredo, the Italian Prime who was once Catalina’s teenage crush. Dangerous and unpredictable, Alessandro’s true motives are unclear, but he’s drawn to Catalina like a moth to a flame.

To help her friend, Catalina must test the limits of her extraordinary powers, but doing so may cost her both her House–and her heart.

Return to a world of magic and power, where politics are as important as breathing and bloodlines matter above all. In Sapphire Flames, Ilona Andrews delivers all the action, adventure, banter, and simmering passion I’ve come to expect from the Hidden Legacy series.

Catalina Baylor is a Prime and Head of her House, but she’s also young and finding her way. She’s clever, strong, and has learned from the best. But she’s still forging her path in this book and I liked watching her start to come into her own. It’s not easy. The grace period that prevents other Houses from attacking hers is coming to an end and Catalina is still an unknown quantity to most Primes. The case she takes on – tracking a powerful killer most Primes wouldn’t mess with – shows Catalina’s heart, integrity, skills, and general badassness. I loved learning how she thinks things through and seeing her find confidence in the powers she has suppressed for so long.

Danger lurks around every corner and there’s no way Catalina can fight evil alone. She needs allies, and none are better than her family and friends. Their magic is fascinating and their characters are all unique, fun, and endearing. They add heart to the often political and violent world of Primes and I couldn’t adore them more. And if you think I’d forget Catalina’s most important ally – or is it enemy? – you’d be wrong. Alessandro Sagredo, handsome, powerful, wealthy, playboy…assassin? Catalina’s teenage crush has grown into a mysterious and dangerous man with secrets I cannot wait to uncover. What his role is, I’ll leave readers to discover. But I will say I did enjoy the chemistry he and Catalina had. The two of them strike sparks, but the emotional component of their potential romance did feel a bit rushed. Still, I look forward to seeing how they develop as a couple over the next two books.

Sapphire Flames kicks off a new trilogy set in the world of the Hidden Legacy series. There’s a new plot that will presumably continue through the series and quite a few interesting developments I look forward to watching unfold. There is a lot going on in this book and a few things (that would be major spoilers to talk about) felt rushed. However, I take this book as a third of a whole story so I expect things will develop better in future books now that the initial groundwork has been laid. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the beginning of Catalina and Alessandro’s journey. They’re fascinating characters in a unique world spun by two masters of the craft. I can’t wait to see where Ilona Andrews takes them 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, August 4, 2019

Review: The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai

The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai
Series: Modern Love, Book 1
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9780062878090
Release Date: August 6, 2019
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Rhiannon Hunter may have revolutionized romance in the digital world, but in real life she only swipes right on her career—and the occasional hookup. The cynical dating app creator controls her love life with a few key rules:

- Nude pics are by invitation only

- If someone stands you up, block them with extreme prejudice

- Protect your heart

Only there aren't any rules to govern her attraction to her newest match, former pro-football player Samson Lima. The sexy and seemingly sweet hunk woos her one magical night... and disappears.

Rhi thought she'd buried her hurt over Samson ghosting her, until he suddenly surfaces months later, still big, still beautiful—and in league with a business rival. He says he won't fumble their second chance, but she's wary. A temporary physical partnership is one thing, but a merger of hearts? Surely that’s too high a risk…

The Right Swipe is a fantastically fun, sexy, uplifting story of finding love in the modern age. Alisha Rai knocks it out of the park with her first Modern Love book, balancing flirty fantasy with deeply emotional, very real world issues.

Rhi is my favorite kind of heroine. She’s intelligent, strong, successful in her career, and has a huge heart. She’s worked hard to make her dating app one of the most successful in the country and to make her company the best and most diverse. This is no easy feat for a black woman in a white male-dominated field. Rhi’s had to work ten times harder than her rivals and I was cheering for her professional success. I loved Crush – heck, I want to work there. I was also rooting for Rhi to find love with Samson. But she has been badly burned personally and professionally by someone she trusted and because of this she has built walls to protect herself. It’s not easy for Samson to get her to give him a second chance after he ghosted her (for reasons which make sense) but Samson is pretty impossible to resist. The former linebacker is a total swoon-worthy sweetheart. Kind, sexy, handsome, and not always smooth – how could I not be charmed? He’s a good man to the core, one willing to walk away from a stellar career in defense of a friend, a man who drops everything to care for a loved one…he’s the picture perfect example of a hero without being cardboard perfect. Samson and Rhi have fantastic chemistry. They made me smile, sigh, and cheer for them every step of the way. Though they plan on keeping things strictly physical, it’s clear to all that they’re a perfect match in bed and out. And as a side note, if anyone thinks explicit consent can’t be sexy, they absolutely need to read this book.

The Right Swipe dazzles with the chemistry between its leads and a diverse, wonderfully endearing supporting cast, all of whom I would love to read about more. But this bright and charming tale also features very real issues. Rhi faces both overt and subtle sexism and racism in the workplace. She has also been traumatized by a predator in more ways than one and this book addresses sexual harassment and the #MeToo movement. Samson’s storyline shines a light on CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) in the NFL in a very heartbreaking way. Ms. Rai treats these subjects with the honesty and respect they deserve, weaving them into the story in an organic way and adding depth to the story and its characters.

The Right Swipe is a modern romance in every sense of the word. I absolutely adored the characters, banter, romance, the gentle good humor, and the edge of realism woven into the fantasy. I cannot wait to see what happens in the next Modern Love 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, August 3, 2019

Review: Conversations with the Fat Girl by Liza Palmer

Conversations with the Fat Girl by Liza Palmer
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
ISBN: 9781538715987
Reissue Date: August 6, 2019
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Everyone seems to be getting on with their lives except Maggie. At twenty-seven, she's still serving coffee at Joe's while her friends are getting married, having babies, and thriving in their careers. And now Olivia, Maggie's best friend since grade school, is getting married too. The man in Maggie's life? Well there isn't one, except the guy she has a crush on, Domenic, who works with her at the coffee shop. Oh, and her dog, Solo (the name says it all).

When Olivia comes to town and asks Maggie to be her maid of honor, Maggie is thrilled... but she can't help comparing herself to the new and "improved" Olivia. Way back then, they befriended each other because they both struggled with their weight. Now grown up, Maggie is still shopping in the "women's section" while Olivia went and had gastric-bypass surgery in search of the elusive size 2. But as the wedding nears, Olivia's seemingly perfect life starts to unravel, and Maggie realizes that happiness might not be tied to a number on the scale.

In this wonderful novel, Liza Palmer is both witty and wise, giving a voice to women everywhere who have ever wished they could stop obsessing… and start living.

Conversations with the Fat Girl is one of the most emotionally honest books I’ve read in a long time. Liza Palmer does a fantastic job of conveying body image issues, childhood friendships, and confidence in an organic, relatable way. There are parts of this story that are so raw and relatable to me that they were heart-wrenching and I absolutely loved that. Maggie is twenty-seven years old, has a master’s degree, and her life is stagnant. She works at a coffee shop and gazes from afar at the cute guy she has a crush on, afraid to put herself out there personally or professionally. I sympathized with Maggie and I yearned to see her find confidence, to break out of her comfort zone and go for what she wants.

The other big storyline in Conversations with the Fat Girl revolves around Maggie being the maid of honor in her childhood best friend’s wedding. Olivia and Maggie were a dynamic pair as teenagers, two plus size girls who were outcasts but who also were true and close friends. But after her gastric bypass, Olivia became obsessed with becoming her ideal self, which is a size two with a fairytale past she has dreamed up. Maggie doesn’t fit into the fantasy world Olivia has created for herself and again, I loved the way Ms. Palmer handles this. Maggie tries to cling to a friendship that isn’t there anymore; what is there is something sad and toxic. It’s understandable why Maggie fights so hard for her friendship with Olivia and it’s a great examination of a complex friendship that has so much history but has come to an end.

There is a lot to love about Conversations with the Fat Girl. The emotions it brought to the surface for me make this a story I will definitely remember. So why four stars instead of five? Well, I didn’t expect or want Maggie to be the perfect heroine, but her flaws did tend to grate on my nerves. She can be childish, petty, judgmental, and her attitude frustrated me quite a few times for reasons which would be spoilers. One non-spoiler example is, while I understand why she gets annoyed with her boss’s attitude in some areas, you cannot blame a supervisor for being irritated that you’re always late for work and seem to spend a good part of your shift chatting in the back room. There’s also a romance element to this story which fell kind of flat for me. Perhaps if Domenic had been better fleshed out and their interactions more developed it would have been a more interesting part to the story.

I have a soft spot for protagonists with body image issues and rarely have I seen it handled so well as it is in this story. I also found the exploration of childhood-to-adulthood friendships where two people have grown far apart engaging and relatable. Maggie did frustrate me at times and if it weren’t such an emotionally vulnerable story I might have rated it lower. But when this book shines, it shines bright and I think that’s what makes it special.


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 28, 2019

Review: Don’t Give Me Butterflies by Tara Sheets

Don’t Give Me Butterflies by Tara Sheets
Series: The Holloway Girls, Book 3
Publisher: Zebra Books
Genre: Contemporary Romance with Paranormal Elements
ISBN: 9781420146301
Release Date: July 30, 2019
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Pine Cove Island calls to her soul…

As the Queen of Impulsive Decisions, Kat Davenport has found herself without a job or a place to live. So settling on Pine Cove Island isn’t the sanest choice—meaning it’s perfect. Like the mysterious Holloway cousins, Kat has her own unique gift. In her case, it’s a knack for communicating with animals. Which makes getting hired at the local animal shelter feel like kismet. Especially when she finds a room to rent at a nearby lavender farm—complete with a sweet landlord and her brawny grandson—a guy who happens to give Kat an all-too-familiar flutter in her stomach…

Jordan Prescott isn’t back in Pine Cove to find romance. He’s here to sell the family farm, a fact that bewilders Kat. A former foster kid, she can’t understand why he’d give up his childhood home. So when the big-hearted beauty starts bringing home strays from the shelter, Jordan is suddenly her adversary. Until their fiery disagreements turn into fiery kisses…

Now Kat is falling for a man who will likely make her homeless yet again. Unless she learns how to lend her considerable powers to taming the beast lurking inside this prince…

Don’t Give Me Butterflies is a heartwarming, fun tale of finding home. Tara Sheets’s third Holloway Girls novel has all the magic and sweetness I’ve come to expect from the series plus an extra dose of adorableness from a sizeable supporting cast of furry and feathered friends.

Kat Davenport has always been looking for somewhere she’ll belong and she thinks she might have found that place in Pine Cove Island. I loved Kat’s spirit and resilience, her quiet vulnerability and her huge heart. She has the ability to communicate with animals and she’s determined to save as many as she can. Kat is a heroine easy to love so of course I was rooting for her to get everything her heart desired. But while sparks fly immediately between Kat and Jordan Prescott, the road to happily ever after isn’t an easy one. Jordan grew up on Pine Cove Island and he can’t wait to escape and it return to his life in New York. While I can’t imagine anywhere better to be than the idyllic Pacific Northwest town, Ms. Sheets does a good job of showing why Jordan is so determined to sell his family lavender farm and leave. His childhood was anything but perfect and he’s worked long and hard to make the life he has. Though Jordan can be a bit gruff, once you get past his walls he’s got a marshmallow heart that made me melt. He and Kat make a dreamy couple. They bicker, banter, and have amazing chemistry. They made me smile over and over and I adored the mix of sweetness and sensuality in their romance.

Don’t Give Me Butterflies is the third book in the Holloway Girls series, but it can be read as a standalone. One of the things I loved the most about this book is that Kat’s friendship with Juliette and Emma Holloway is every bit as important to the story as her romance with Jordan. Like Kat, the Holloway cousins have magical abilities and I loved seeing the three of them together. There’s also a bit of a mystery thrown in here, though what it’s about I’ll leave readers to discover.

A lovely romance and great female friendships would be enough to make me enjoy Don’t Give Me Butterflies, but it’d be remiss of me to write about this book and not mention the scene-stealing animals. From the graham cracker-loving Waffles the miniature donkey to a one-eyed goat to dogs and cats and more, Kat’s magical ability and her pure love of all animals shines and adds a wealth of humor and heart to this book. I adored Don’t Give Me Butterflies from beginning to end and I cannot wait to re-read it!


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

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Review: Archer by Debra Kayn

Archer by Debra Kayn
Series: Hard Body, Book 1
Publisher: Forever Yours
Genre: Romantic Suspense
ISBN: 9781455577101
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

She's on the run…
Jane Beaumont currently has in her possession: a cat, a hundred grand in cash, and a pistol. She's on her way home to Bay City, Oregon-and away from the nightmare of her violent ex-boyfriend. She'll lay low at Beaumont Body Shop, a car detailer that runs a private investigation agency in the back. The only wrench in her plan is Kage Archer: sexy, strong, and intent on protecting Jane at all costs. She's wanted Kage forever, but putting him in harm's way is not a risk she's willing to take.

He's not going anywhere
Kage is no stranger to the dark side of life, but he's always walked on the right side of the law. Yet when Jane expressed her interest in him years ago, he pushed her away for her own good. Now, after learning of all she's endured, Kage can't leave her side-or hide his need for her. When a frightening situation turns dire, can Kage convince Jane that the safest place to be is in his arms?

A woman on the run from an abusive ex finds safe harbor with the man who’s always loved her in Archer. Debra Kayn’s first Hard Body story is fast-paced and energetic, but I wasn’t a hundred percent sold on the characters.

Kage Archer is a man trying to break free from his family legacy. Kage can be a bit of a domineering alpha sometimes, but I liked how hard her fought to stay on the side of good when it would be so easy to do otherwise. He’s been head over heels for Jane for years, so when she comes back home, frightened and hurt, he’ll do everything he can to help and protect her. Kage pushes Jane to become her old self, something which didn’t always sit well with me with what she had been through. As for Jane…she was the part of Archer I struggled with the most. I liked that she was able to find herself again, but man did she have quite a few TSTL moments. She and her friends jumped (or tried to) willy-nilly into dangerous situations in ways I think were supposed to be comical or fierce but really came off as juvenile at best. The romance between Jane and Kage moved quickly, but Ms. Kayn did an excellent job of showing the foundation between them. Whether it works or not considering Jane’s past is really up to reader preference.

The action of Archer is fast-paced and there are various levels of bad guys to keep the suspense going. I thought Ms. Kayn did a good job of blending the action and the danger, but since I was never really attached to the characters I wasn’t glued to the story. That’s not to say Archer is a bad book – it’s not. Jane and Kage just weren’t entirely my cup of tea so I wasn’t deeply invested in their book. That being said, I was very interested in some of the side characters and I’d love to read a book about Jane’s brother.


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 7, 2019

Review: How to Forgive a Highlander by Michelle McLean

How to Forgive a Highlander by Michelle McLean
Series: The MacGregor Lairds, Book 4
Publisher: Entangled: Scandalous
Genre: Historical Romance
ISBN: 9781640638365
Release Date: July 8, 2019
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Entangled

William MacGregor will lie, spy, and happily die to protect his clan from their greatest enemy. But when he kidnaps the wrong woman, he triggers the very events he’d been working so hard to prevent. And puts everyone in danger.

Rose Thatcher will do anything to protect her lady and return them both safely to English soil. But the damn Highlander who snatched her off the docks has done nothing but get in her way. She’d love to ditch the bastard, but if they want to save their respective loved ones, they are going to have to stay together.

Somewhere along the grueling journey to Scotland, their constant bickering turns into something more. Something worth fighting for. But how can an English lady’s maid, who longs for the safe, comfortable life she had in London, find love with a Highlander who can’t wait to wipe England’s dust off his feet? If they can’t defeat the enemy they accidentally led home, they might not live long enough to find out.

Escape to the Highlands with How to Forgive a Highlander. Michelle McLean’s fourth MacGregor Lairds book is fast-paced, engaging, and easy to enjoy thanks to its charming protagonists.

Will is a hero on a mission. Not just to protect his clan from the villainous Fergus Ramsay, but to prove himself to his loved ones. Will’s eagerness to prove himself sometimes causes him to make mistakes (kidnapping Rose because he thinks she’s a spy, for example), but his heart’s in the right place so it’s easy to see why Rose forgives him. As for Rose, I defy you not to adore her like I did. She’s lady’s maid who is loyal, protective, resourceful, and brave. When her life is turned upside-down and she finds herself in a dangerous situation with only a virtual stranger she can trust, Rose doesn’t quail. She’s not invincible, but she is quick and strong and I was eager to see how she and Will would work together to save their loved ones.

A fair amount of How to Forgive a Highlander takes place on the road, which allows for Will and Rose’s romance to develop organically. I enjoyed watching them bicker then fall for one another. They are a couple who simply fit and though the romance was somewhat understated, it was still satisfying.

How to Forgive a Highlander is the fourth book in the MacGregor Lairds series, and if you don’t mind major spoilers from previous books then it can be read as a standalone. This story does wrap up the series nicely and I’m glad we got to see Will and Rose get their happily ever after. However, if you’ve read the previous book, How to Blackmail a Highlander, then you know the outcome of a good portion of the events in this book, which means the stakes aren’t as high. Still, I enjoyed Rose and Will’s story. It has a sweet romance, likeable characters, and Ms. McLean’s writing swept me away for an enjoyable 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.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Review: Unsung Heroine by Sarah Kuhn

Unsung Heroine by Sarah Kuhn
Series: Heroine Complex, Book 3.5
Publisher: DAW
Genre: Urban Fantasy
ISBN: 9780756415730
Release Date: July 2, 2019
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

Lucy Valdez is many things: fight trainer/bodyguard to superheroines, fabulous vintage fashion plate, undisputed karaoke queen at local joint, The Gutter. She is also one of the toughest fighters in all of San Francisco without superpowers. So why can't she seem to confess her feelings to her longtime crush Rose Rorick, head of the San Francisco Police Department's Demon Unit?

Well.... actually, she knows why. She's afraid Rose won't like the real Lucy, the Lucy underneath all the fabulous bravado. (She is still fabulous underneath that bravado--just in a different way.)

When a mysterious new karaoke star rises up at The Gutter and eclipses her, Lucy finds her confidence further shaken--and when strange, seemingly supernatural happenings threaten both this new star and The Gutter's very existence, she must rise to the challenge and investigate alongside Rose. Will Lucy be able to vanquish the demonic threat to her beloved karaoke haven, confess her true feelings to Rose, and reclaim her karaoke throne?

Unsung Heroine is fresh, fun, and fast-paced. It has all the quirky action I’ve come to expect from Sarah Kuhn’s Heroine Complex series plus a romance that will make you smile and sigh.

Lucy may not have superpowers, but that doesn’t stop her from being one of the most fearsome fighters in all of San Francisco. Lucy is a fantastic heroine. She’s vibrant, quick-thinking, caring, tough, has a fun sense of fashion, and she’s a local karaoke star. Beneath all of that, she’s also deeply vulnerable. She’s been hurt and guards her heart so fiercely she’s afraid to go for what she wants. And what she wants is Rose, head of SFPD’s Demon Unit. Rose is quiet, serious, strong, and a total geek. I absolutely loved Rose and I really wish we had her point of view in this story, but I’m biased because she’s one of my favorite characters in this series. Rose and Lucy are friends, but it’s easy to see they’re meant to be so much more. Lucy has her reasons for holding back and I understood them, but I was rooting for her to take a risk with Rose because I knew they’d make a dreamy couple.

Romance is only one part of Unsung Heroine – there’s also a new demon threat shaking things up. A demonic force is attacking a new talent – and Lucy’s new rival – at The Gutter. Attack confetti and possessed mic cords? It’s all in a day’s work for Jupiter/Tanaka, Inc. Evie, Aveda, Bea, and co. are on hand to help save the day and the results are quirky, fun action sequences. If you don’t mind some spoilers from the first two Heroine Complex books (the majority of this story takes place between books two and three) you can jump right into Unsung Heroine. If you’re a fan, you’ll delight in seeing all your favorites, though the focus of the story never strays from the main characters or plot. I adored seeing Evie and Aveda help Lucy not only battle demonic forces, but figure out her love life (I can’t imagine ever not having a soft spot for Aveda). All in all, Unsung Heroine was a blast to read. It’s got strong heroines, a sensual and oh-so-sweet romance, and a fantastically fun plot that makes the pages fly by.


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.