Sunday, October 2, 2022

Review: Kiss of Steel by Bec McMaster

Kiss of Steel by Bec McMaster
Series: London Steampunk, Book 1
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Steampunk Romance 
Kiss of Steel cover
ISBN: 9781402270277
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Honoria Todd has more secrets than most people and she's hiding them in Whitechapel. Blade is the master of the rookeries and agrees to protect her, but at what price?

Most people avoid the dreaded Whitechapel district. For Honoria Todd, it's the last safe haven as she hides from the Blue Blood aristocracy that rules London through power and fear.

Blade rules the rookeries-no one dares cross him. It's been said he faced down the Echelon's army single–handedly, that ever since being infected by the blood–craving he's been quicker, stronger, and almost immortal.

When Honoria shows up at his door, his tenuous control comes close to snapping. She's so...innocent. He doesn't see her backbone of steel-or that she could be the very salvation he's been seeking.

Kiss of Steel is a luscious, dark, evocative romance. Bec McMaster’s alternate universe steampunk London is fascinating and the characters are unique and well-drawn. I was sucked into Honoria and Blade’s story from the first page and by the time I was done I was craving more of this world.

Honoria Todd was raised on the edge of Echelon society, where blue bloods rule. Six months after the murder of her father, Honoria is barely scraping by trying to keep herself and her siblings alive. Their home now is in the dangerous rookeries of Whitechapel, where rogue blue blood Blade is king. Dark and dangerous, Blade is no fool and he knows Honoria is hiding something from him. No one lives in the rookeries without his protection, and she has it – but the cost may be more than either are willing to pay.

Honoria is stubborn, smart, and willing to do almost anything to save her brother and sister. She doesn’t want to accept Blade’s help, but she has no choice. Blade was born in the gutter and infected with the craving against his will. He’s a rogue blue blood the Echelon would love to see stamped out. The two of them should have nothing in common, but they click from the start. There’s serious chemistry between Blade and Honoria that heated up the page and I loved the tension between them. All Blade wants to do is protect his people and live his life with the family he’s made, but there is no peace in this version of London. Blade is dangerous, near the edge of a violence he can’t control, but he’s got a good heart and cares deeply for people. I loved peeling back the layers of his character. Honoria has secrets of her own that have put a target on her back and I liked seeing her learn that she could count on Blade. She learns to accept help but that doesn’t mean she isn’t ready to stand and fight. They have powerful enemies hunting them and I liked that McMaster kept me guessing as to how things would work out.

Kiss of Steel is the first book in McMaster’s London Steampunk series and it definitely made me eager to read the rest of the series. I don’t want to say too much about the plot because part of the joy for me in reading was in the discovery. The world Honoria and Blade live in is dark, bloody, and they have to fight to survive. It’s also a world of tight bonds that melted my heart. Interwoven through it all is the world McMaster created which was interesting and unique. I loved learning about the craving, blue bloods, thralls, and more. I thoroughly enjoyed Honoria and Blade’s book; the romance was steamy and satisfying, the action intense, and the world engaging.

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

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Review: When Life Gives You Vampires by Gloria Duke

When Life Gives You Vampires by Gloria Duke
Series: Slaying It, Book 1
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Paranormal Romance 
When Life Gives You Vampires cover
ISBN: 9781728257440
Release Date: October 4, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Single (plus size) vampire, desperately in search of a life.

Twenty-five year old Lily Baines is used to waking up hungover, overweight, and underemployed. Waking up with fangs? Not so much. But when a little light necking has more serious consequences than she ever imagined, Lily's determined to get to the bottom of it, or die (again) trying.

Tristan hadn't meant to turn Lily―it's against vampire law―but now that she's here, they need to team up to save both their hides. They strike an uneasy truce, fending off other vampires, Lily's work-rival-turned-slayer, and her mother's tone-deaf romance and fitness advice...all while Lily faces down her insecurities about the fact that she lives in a diet-obsessed world with a body that will never age, never die, and never change.

Falling for her maddeningly gorgeous sire? Easy. Surviving an ancient vampire Master determined to see her twice-dead? Piece of cake. But can Lily ever truly learn to love the woman she'll be forever more?

When Life Gives You Vampires is a paranormal romcom that has all the elements of a good read. Lily is a plus-size journalist who unexpectedly finds herself undead, Tristan is a centuries-old vampire who writes romance novels, dangers and sass abound. But though the elements were there, the execution left me with mixed feelings.

Lily is twenty-five and has some serious body image issues (to anyone who may be triggered by talk of extreme diets and/or negative body image talk: this may not be the book for you). Lily’s struggle with body acceptance is hard, often damaging, and author Gloria Duke doesn’t shy away from the fact that Lily hurts more than herself. It’s more serious and given more page time than you might expect of a romcom, but for me this was the part of the book that had the most depth and consideration. It’s not pretty, it’s not fun, but it’s relatable and realistic in a lot of ways and I was all in on Lily’s personal journey.

Unfortunately, the rest of the story is where I had issues with When Life Gives You Vampires. Tristan is an uninspiring hero. He has issues with being stuck in the past and he’s overprotective because of it, but it all falls flat. I wanted to dig deeper into his character, to see him come (un)alive on the page. And the romance…just isn’t there. Attraction? Absolutely. But the love story wasn’t believable and needed more time and attention to feel organic to the characters. As for the threats to Lily that come from her being turned into a vampire without approval, those didn’t wholly work for me. The villain of the story was a bit cartoonish and the resolution was so quick that it made me wonder what all the threats and buildup were about. I wanted more from the worldbuilding and more from the characters. There were many missed opportunities in this book but the way Gloria Duke wrote Lily’s personal journey had enough promise that I’d try her work again in the future.

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

Review: Every Rogue Has His Charm by Susanna Craig

Every Rogue Has His Charm by Susanna Craig
Series: Love and Let Spy, Book 4
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Genre: Historical Romance 
Every Rogue Has His Charm cover
ISBN: 9781516111312
Source: Publisher/Purchased by Reviewer
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

Love, intrigue, and a fresh spin on historical romance make a sexy and suspenseful mix in the latest novel in Susanna Craig’s Regency-set series—as the wife one man left behind becomes the woman he can’t live without…

Caroline, Marchioness of Chesleigh, has been married for six years—at least in name. In fact, Caro has hardly seen her husband since the early days of their union. Scarred and reclusive, Maxim wasn’t ready to trust his wife with his secrets—or his heart. Instead, he quickly resumed his life of espionage in France, believing Caro was better off alone.

When the spy who left her returns upon inheriting the Dukedom, he finds his wife is not the girl she once was. Her heart is a little harder. She’s learned to stand on her own. Yet the desire that once ignited between them burns as hotly as ever…

Now, the more Caro learns about the past Maxim tried to hide from her, the deeper their bond grows. But danger haunts her husband’s every move, jeopardizing their passionate reunion…

I adore a good second chance romance and Every Rogue Has His Charm is a wonderful one. Susanna Craig wraps up her Love and Let Spy series with an utterly engrossing love story.

An innocent mistake, a locked library, and a marriage to save a lady’s reputation – that’s how Caroline ended up wed to the mysterious Marquess of Chesleigh. Married to a stranger, Caro discovers it’s actually quite easy to grow fond of her dark and dangerous husband. But when Maxim up and leaves four days after their wedding, Caro is left on her own. Six years later she’s in Brighton when who turns up at her door but her husband! Caro is determined not to fall for Maxim again, but that’s easier said than done when the flame that burned brightly between them never went out.

Caro is bright, smart, and independent. She didn’t wither with all the whispers when her husband abandoned her. She created her own life, though it is a bit lonely. Maxim, a spy embedded in France, has returned to England to share critical intelligence. Except he keeps getting distracted by his wife. The wife he abandoned because he was terrified of opening his heart to her. Maxim screwed up badly with Caro but he wants to make it up to her. I loved watching them both come out of their shells. They are so sweet together it brought a smile on my face. They’re the type of couple who just match each other perfectly and I was easily lost in their romance.

Craig gives readers a two-for-one in this book as widowed Fanny Drummond also gets her chance at love in this book. Fanny has long been part of the Underground but when finally tasked with a mission she seizes the opportunity – and finds love along the way. Like Caro and Maxim, Fanny has been hiding her true self and she comes into her own in this story. I enjoyed her journey almost as much as I did Caro and Maxim’s.

Every Rogue Has His Charm has danger, intrigue and a lovely romance with a hero and heroine who are easy to root for. I adored this book from beginning to end. If you’re new to the Love and Let Spy series, you can easily jump in here. And if you’re a fan, then the epilogue featuring the matchmaking General Scott is sure to put a smile on your face. I loved Maxim and Caro’s story and I can’t wait to read it again!

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

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Review: The Rivals of Casper Road by Roan Parrish

The Rivals of Casper Road by Roan Parrish
Series: Garnet Run, Book 4
Publisher: Harlequin Special Edition
Genre: Male/Male Contemporary Romance 
The Rivals of Casper Road cover
ISBN: 9781335724205
Release Date: September 27, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Harlequin

He’s in it to win it

Until he falls under his neighbor’s spell.

Bram Larkspur’s rugged, sexy looks belie his fear of all things horrifying. But as Casper Road’s newest resident, he’s excited to join the annual Halloween decorating contest. The competition is keen, especially from six-time champion, architect Zachary Glass. But when enigmatic Zachary sparks a prank war, it’s game on—until one sizzling kiss turns these rivals into allies. Now only one thing scares Bram: how quickly he’s losing his heart to Zachary.

A prank war between two neighbors turns out to be something special The Rivals of Casper Road. Roan Parrish returns to Garnet Run in this sweet Halloween-time romance of finding your heart and home.

Bram is a sweetheart who sees the best in people. After having his heart broken, he made his way far from everything and everyone he ever knew and finds himself in Garnet Run. He quickly fits into his new neighborhood, but the one person who isn’t immediately won over is his neighbor, Zachary Glass. Zachary is a man who likes routine, order, and everything as he thinks it should be. He’s the six-time winner of the Casper Road Halloween decorating contest and there’s no way this newcomer is going to break his streak. Though Parrish never explicitly states it, Zachary appears to be neurodivergent and is stressed when things don’t go how he plans. He’s also a man who is very alone and convinced no one will stay with him. His wounds broke my heart and even though he makes mistakes with Bram, I was looking forward to seeing him get his happily ever after. Bram’s gentleness and understanding help Zachary branch out and Zachary’s straightforward honesty makes Bram feel safe. Their romance is engaging and the happily ever after heartwarming.

The Rivals of Casper Road is the fourth book in Parrish’s Garnet Run series but it can easily be read as a standalone. Fans of the first three books will delight in revisiting their favorite characters and seeing what they’ve been up to since their happily ever afters. I liked the friendly residents of Garnet Run and how they filled out the world Parrish created. There are some campy moments in this story (and some flaws in the more adorable moments of creating shelters for feral cats), but overall I found it a comfortable read with imperfect characters whose flaws make them all the more interesting. I finished Zachary and Bram’s story a satisfied reader and I’m looking forward to catching up on the Garnet Run books I’ve missed.

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 18, 2022

Review: The Duke's Rules of Engagement by Jennifer Haymore

The Duke's Rules of Engagement by Jennifer Haymore
Series: The Lions and the Lilies, Book 1
Publisher: Entangled: Amara
Genre: Historical Romance 
The Dukes Rules of Engagement cover
ISBN: 9781649372918
Release Date: September 27, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Entangled

Some matches are made in hell…

Joanna Porter loves being one of London’s hottest up-and-coming matchmakers. But her heavenly vocation is about to turn into a nuptial nightmare—thanks to the Duke of Crestmont. He’s as handsome as he is insufferable and obsessed with all things proper. Matching him would cement Jo’s status as England’s greatest matchmaker. Except, of course, the impossible-to-please duke refuses all of her most eligible ladies…confirming his status as a complete and utter pain in her petticoats.

The Duke of Crestmont can’t believe he needs a matchmaker—let alone this spitfire of a woman whose kissable mouth and dancing, impertinent gray eyes tease him ruthlessly. But the people of his estate are counting on him to find a duchess. A proper lady with a flawless pedigree and immaculate deportment. So why can’t he stop himself from wanting his pert, lively matchmaker…instead of the perfect duchess?

Now the entire ton is watching as this determined, audacious matchmaker takes on the most powerful man in London in USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Haymore’s lively new Regency romp. And this show might just be the most outrageous one yet…

Rule number one of being a matchmaker? Never fall for your client.

Of course, rules are made to be broken which is why The Duke’s Rules of Engagement is so entertaining. Jennifer Haymore spins a delightful yarn of a London matchmaker who manages to break through the walls of a duke’s heart.

Joanna Porter loves love, even though she’s never found it for herself. When the Duke of Crestmont comes to her doorstep seeking the perfect duchess, she knows this will be her most challenging client yet. The duke doesn’t want a love match, which goes against everything Jo stands for. To find him the ideal wife, Jo has to first get past the duke’s walls. The only problem with that is she soon finds herself falling for a man who could never wed someone like her.

Jo is an endearing heroine. She’s kind, determined, and just a good person you’d want as a friend. I love that she made a successful matchmaking business in Regency London and that she really worked to find the perfect partner for her clients. Matthew, the impossible-to-please duke in question, has a marshmallow heart behind his stone walls. He was hurt badly in the past and seeks to keep himself from experiencing that kind of pain ever again. He knows he needs to marry and beget an heir, but none of the perfect ladies Jo introduces him can tempt him when the matchmaker herself is so distracting. Matthew is a handsome duke, yes, but he’s also quietly vulnerable and a bit of a geek; I loved how Jo also became fascinated by his interests. The two of them simply fit, if they could ignore class differences long enough to see that they’re perfect for one another.

The Duke’s Rules of Engagement is a wonderfully entertaining historical romance and Haymore makes it easy to be swept up in Jo and Matthew’s love story. It’s not all smooth sailing for these two, but the happily ever after makes it worth it. This is the first book I’ve read by Jennifer Haymore and I look forward to reading more by her, especially if the books involve Matthew’s best friends.

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 5, 2022

Review: Holiday Heroine by Sarah Kuhn

Holiday Heroine by Sarah Kuhn
Series: Heroine Complex, Book 6
Publisher: DAW
Genre: New Adult Urban Fantasy 
Holiday Heroine cover
ISBN: 9780756416539
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Nobody loves Christmas like Bea Tanaka—so when her family visits her for a special holiday celebration, she’s beside herself with joy.

After years of chaos, questionable decisions, and flirtations with the supervillain path, Bea is finally thriving. She’s got a sweet, new gig hunting demons in Maui, she’s working hard to hone her powers, and her big sister Evie is proud of her at last. In fact, everyone is so proud of her that she can’t tell them the truth: she’s feeling lost and adrift. She and her boyfriend Sam Fujikawa are struggling to make their long-distance love work, and her powers are displaying some intriguing new elements—elements that could lead her down an evil, mind-controlling path once more.

When her family’s holiday visit is disrupted by otherworldly monsters rising out of the Maui ocean, Bea throws herself into the battle—until she’s suddenly and mysteriously transported to the perfect Christmas back in San Francisco, surrounded by her family and an excess of merrymaking.

As she finds herself trapped in the bizarre holiday rom-com of her nightmares, Bea must unravel a treacherous demon plot, save the world from unspeakable evil, and resist the siren song of a supervillain destiny. And hey, maybe she’ll find time for a little holiday cheer after all…
Get ready for a wild ride with Holiday Heroine. Christmas and kaijus go hand-in-hand in Bea Tanaka’s second outing.

After making the leap from the family nest in San Francisco, Bea is determined to show her loved ones that she is thriving in Maui. She’s determined to blend in, make no waves, and keep her dangerous powers under lock and key. Yet though she’s made a close group of friends for herself already, Bea desperately misses her boyfriend, Sam, her sister, Evie, and everyone at Jupiter/Tanaka, Inc. When her family shows up for a visit, things start to go terribly wrong. Kaiju are popping up in Maui and Bea’s powers are out of control. When she passes out only to wake up in a mysteriously perfect Christmas in San Francisco, Bea knows she can’t just luxuriate in the holiday rom-com of her dreams. She has to get to the bottom of what’s happening before she loses everything and everyone she loves.

Bea is a vibrant heroine who has tamped down on her sparkly, over-the-top personality. She’s determined to be normal, to resist her powers and the supervillain path they could potentially take her on. She broke my heart more than once because she’s dimmed her light so much. I wanted to see her be the strong, confident, rainbow disco ball of a heroine she’s meant to be. Author Sarah Kuhn doesn’t make things easy on Bea in Holiday Heroine. Our brilliant heroine still has a lot to learn about being herself and it was great to see her bumpy journey to happily ever after. I can’t say much about that journey because it would spoil the story. Suffice it to say Kuhn takes readers on a twisty paranormal adventure.

I had a hard time rating Holiday Heroine because there’s a lot I love about the Heroine Complex world. Bea and her loved ones are all unique, well-drawn, endearing characters and I enjoy any time spent with them. But this book did drag for the first half as Bea – and readers – have no idea what’s happening or why. It’s only at the halfway point that things start to pick up. From there the repetition makes sense as Bea has lessons to learn, but unlike every other book in this series I didn’t have a hard time putting this one down, which was a pity. Still, even though this wasn’t my favorite Heroine Complex book I did love the way it turned out. Love in all its forms is key to this story and the way Kuhn flushed out Bea’s relationships with everyone in her life – especially herself – made this story shine.

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 27, 2022

Review: Accomplished by Amanda Quain

Accomplished by Amanda Quain
Series: Georgie Darcy, Book 1
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary 
Accomplished cover
ISBN: 9781250817815
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Georgiana Darcy should have been expelled after The Incident with Wickham Foster last year – at least if you ask any of her Pemberley Academy classmates. She may have escaped expulsion because of her family name, but she didn’t escape the disappointment of her big brother Fitz, the scorn of the entire school, or, it turns out, Wickham’s influence.

But she’s back for her junior year, and she needs to prove to everyone – Fitz, Wickham, her former friends, and maybe even herself – that she’s more than just an embarrassment to the family name. How hard can it be to become the Perfect Darcy? All she has to do is:

- Rebuild her reputation with the marching band (even if it kills her)
- Forget about Wickham and his lies (no matter how tempting they still are), and
- Distract Fitz Darcy — helicopter-sibling extraordinaire — by getting him to fall in love with his classmate, Lizzie Bennet (this one might be difficult…)

Sure, it's a complicated plan, but so is being a Darcy. With the help of her fellow bandmate, Avery, matchmaking ideas lifted straight from her favorite fanfics, and a whole lot of pancakes, Georgie is going to see every one of her plans through. But when the weight of being the Perfect Darcy comes crashing down, Georgie will have to find her own way before she loses everything permanently—including the one guy who sees her for who she really is.

The younger Darcy sibling steps into the spotlight in Accomplished. Amanda Quain’s modern take on Pride and Prejudice is a delight, thanks to its likeable protagonist and fun twists on Jane Austen’s beloved characters.

After the incident with Wickham Foster last year, Georgie Darcy is persona non grata with her Pemberley Academy classmates. Her brother, Fitz, is frustrated with her and is helicopter parenting from the nearby college. So what will she do to gain his trust and win back her classmates’ affection (or at least dampen their disdain)? Georgie will become the Perfect Darcy. Except it’s not as easy as it looks and her efforts seem to be hurting rather than helping. The only person willing to talk to her is band leader and all-around good guy Avery. Still, if she can keep her grades up, charm her marching band team, and distract her brother by matchmaking him with his classmate, Lizzie Bennet, then all should be forgiven, right?

Georgie is kind, determined, and a little naïve. She’s grown up in the lap of luxury and doesn’t quite see her own privilege, though she starts to learn over the course of the book. Because Georgie is a nice protagonist who was taken advantage of by Wickham, who fed on her loneliness, it was heartbreaking at times to see her iced out by all those around her when she tried so hard. I liked seeing Georgie come into her own over the course of the book. She makes mistakes, yes, but she learns from them. By her side is Avery, her incredibly sweet best friend who isn’t put off by the drama Wickham caused. Also by her side (though she can’t always see it) is her brother, Fitz. The elder Darcy is doing his best to take care of his sister and though he makes mistakes as well, I loved watching their relationship develop.

Accomplished focuses on a relatively minor Austen character but there are plenty of spins on Pride and Prejudice that will delight any Janeite. I absolutely loved Bingley being a frat boy – any scene with him is sure to make the reader smile. The references to Lady Catherine de Burgh also made me laugh. I thoroughly enjoyed Accomplished and appreciated how Amanda Quain paid homage to Austen while still creating a story and a heroine that could stand on their own.

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.