Monday, December 28, 2020

Review: Her Wicked Marquess by Stacy Reid

Her Wicked Marquess by Stacy Reid
Series: Sinful Wallflowers, Book 2
Publisher: Entangled: Amara
Genre: Historical Romance 
Her Wicked Marquess cover
ISBN: 9781682815205
Release Date: December 29, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Entangled
Stacy Reid Reading Order

Miss Maryann Fitzwilliam is too witty and bookish for her own good. No gentleman of the ton will marry her, so her parents arrange for her to wed a man old enough to be her father. But Maryann is ready to use those wits to turn herself into a sinful wallflower.

When the scandal sheet reports a sighting of Nicolas St. Ives, the Marquess of Rothbury, climbing out the chamber windows of a house party, Maryann does the unthinkable. She anonymously claims that the bedchamber belonged to none other than Miss Fitzwilliam, tarnishing her own reputation—and chances of the dastardly union her family secured for her. Now she just needs to convince the marquess to keep his silence.

Turns out Nicolas allows for the scandal to perpetuate for his own reasons… But when Maryann’s parents hold fast to their arranged marriage plan, it’ll take a scandal of epic proportions for these two to get out of this together.

Nicholas St. Ives, Marquess of Rothbury, is a man on a mission. He plays the feckless rake, making his way into the inner circles of those who raped and caused the death of the girl he once loved so that he can exact his revenge. Nicholas has accounted for every contingency…except Maryann Fitzwilliam. The clever and outspoken wallflower seems to be using his name to start a scandal in order to avoid marriage to a horrible man. From the first Maryann and Nicholas are drawn together. But between her unwanted fiancé’s determination to possess her and Nicholas’s quest for revenge, there’s no way the two of them can be together…is there?

Stacy Reid mixes the dark and the light beautifully in Her Wicked Marquess. Nicholas and Maryann charmed me from the start and that charm never faded. I loved the sparks that flew between them instantaneously. The (seeming) rake and the spirited wallflower? That kind of pairing is catnip to me. What I loved most about their relationship is that Reid gave it space to grow and develop. I adored watching them become friends before they fell in love. Nicholas would never be one to cage Maryann; he encourages her to be who she really is, even though society would turn their noses up at the pair of them if they could. Their secret nighttime encounters brought a smile to my face and I adored their teasing banter. The sexual tension that simmers underneath it all is delicious and I enjoyed watching them lose the battle to resist one another. Nicholas and Maryann see one another for who they really are and Reid crafts their love story so wonderfully that you can feel how good a match they are down to your bones.

There’s no false drama in Maryann and Nicholas’s relationship, which I really appreciated. The obstacles are in the form of Maryann’s detestable suitor and the revenge plot. I won’t say how either plotline plays out but the former made me shudder in parts and the latter broke my heart. Nicholas is caged to the past because he failed someone he loved. Reid makes his need for vengeance and the guilt he carries understandable, which is why him trying to hold himself back even as he falls in love with Maryann is a believable obstacle. Though no depictions of sexual assault are portrayed on the page, they are discussed so I want to provide a trigger warning in case it’s needed. It’s a hard balance to have heavy topics such as this mixed with humor and light, but Reid does both perfectly while giving the more serious storyline the respect it deserves.

Her Wicked Marquess is the second book in the Sinful Wallflowers series but it can easily be read as a standalone. I did enjoy the meetings between Maryann and her friends and found myself particularly intrigued by Ophelia, who I desperately hope is next in line for her happily ever after. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Maryann and Nicholas’s story. Stacy Reid’s love stories always sweep me away and Her Wicked Marquess is no exception.

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, December 27, 2020

Review: Fairy Godmothers, Inc. by Saranna DeWylde

Fairy Godmothers, Inc. by Saranna DeWylde
Series: Fairy Godmothers, Inc., Book 1
Publisher: Zebra
Genre: Contemporary Romance with Fantasy Elements 
Fairy Godmothers Inc cover
ISBN: 9781420153149
Release Date: December 29, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

If love is the source of all the magic in the universe, and the town of Ever After, Missouri, is the epicenter of enchantment, then the locals are in dire need of a reboot. At least according to resident fairy godmothers Petunia, Jonquil, and Bluebonnet. Their solution? Blow a bit of fairy dust in the direction of those in need of romance… What could possibly go wrong?


Lucky Fujiki’s first name is a cosmic joke. Her luck is so bad, even the number seven steers clear of her. But when her adorable godmothers ask for a favor, Lucky can’t say no. After all, it’s just a little one—to save the world’s magic. Lucky can already feel the bad juju waiting to strike. And her mission is even worse than she imagined: to promote Ever After as a wedding destination by faking a marriage to her first love and long-time ex, Ransom Payne—he of the Embarrassing Incident that neither of them will ever live down…


Ransom Payne has spent years building an impressive new reputation for himself, and now his godmothers want him to pretend to wed the one girl he’d like most to forget? Sure, weddings in Ever After could be a huge boon for his chocolate business, but risking more up-close-and-personal time with Lucky? Considering the stakes, it’s a curse he’ll have to bear, at the risk of being humiliated—or perhaps, bewitched…

Saranna DeWylde puts her own fresh and fun spin on fairytales in Fairy Godmothers, Inc. I desperately wanted to love this fairytale-loving rom com, but the story ended up being a bit of a mixed bag for me. I almost didn’t finish the book because the first half wasn’t my cup of tea at all but I’m glad I stuck with it because the story finished strong and I enjoyed the world DeWylde created.

Lucky’s name feels like a terrible joke. Her luck isn’t your average level of bad – it’s preternaturally awful. But when her beloved godmothers ask for her help, Lucky ventures to Ever After, Missouri, to fake a wedding and put Ever After on the map as a wedding destination. The only problem is the groom is her ex. She and Ransom have a history of things going catastrophically wrong when they try to get together and “The Incident” was the final straw that broke their relationship. Though sparks fly upon their meeting again, other things begin to fly as attacking mutant cherries. The hard part for me is that both Lucky and Ransom are decent people so watching terrible things happen to them isn’t enjoyable or funny. The first part of Fairy Godmothers, Inc. seems to be a series of disasters as Lucky and Ransom reconnect, fall back in love like there was no time apart, and everything felt shallow. If we were given any history besides their failed attempts at sex or the overblown “Incident” perhaps the insta-love when they re-meet would make more sense. This is the point where I almost stopped reading as everything felt unfunny, shallow, and over-the-top.

I’m glad I didn’t stop reading because in the second half of Fairy Godmothers, Inc. the book finds its feet. Lucky and Ransom’s relationship is tested as they have to make themselves vulnerable, face their fears, and take risks. It isn’t easy and the course of true love doesn’t run smooth, but I liked that they had to work for their happily ever after rather than have their fairy godmothers wave their problems away. There’s heart in this part of the book and the characters grow in an organic manner, learning about love, sacrifice, and acceptance; modern fairytale themes for an adult audience.

The town of Ever After is a fairytale world come to life. The titular fairy godmothers, Petunia, Bluebonnet, and Jonquil, are determined to bring love back to Ever After, as love powers the town’s magic and that magic is fading. Love in all its forms is at the heart of Fairy Godmothers, Inc. and that made me smile. DeWylde’s twists on fairytale characters also charmed the heck out of me. I loved exploring Ever After and seeing beloved characters in new forms and I definitely want to explore this adorable town and its endearing residents even further. So while I had mixed feelings about Lucky and Ransom’s story, I cannot wait to see what Petunia, Bluebonnet, and Jonquil have in store for their other charges!

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: The Truth About Dukes by Grace Burrowes

The Truth About Dukes by Grace Burrowes
Series: Rogues to Riches, Book 5
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Historical Romance 
The Truth About Dukes cover
ISBN: 9781538700334
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Robert Rothmere is hiding a past no duke should have endured, but he's not hiding it well enough. Sooner or later, his enemies will learn that he spent years locked away at a private asylum. To get their hands on his wealth, they'll try to send him right back to his worst nightmares. If Robert is to foil their schemes, he needs to marry a perfectly proper, blessedly boring, deadly dull duchess, immediately – and he knows exactly which quietly delightful lady he'd love to entrust with that role.

Lady Constance Wentworth has cultivated a reputation for utter forgettability. She never speaks out of turn (in public), never has a daring thought (that she admits aloud), and never comes close to courting scandal . . . as far as anybody knows. Her path crossed Robert's years ago, though, and she's never forgotten the extraordinary lengths he traveled to keep her safe when she hadn't a friend in the world. She longs to be his demure duchess…but little does he know that to marry her would be utter madness.

The intriguing, complicated, gorgeously written Wentworth family is back in The Truth About Dukes. Every Grace Burrowes protagonist I’ve read about so far has had a complex past, which is something I quite enjoy. In Robert’s case, he’s an epileptic who was caged in a private asylum by his father. The horrors of that place and the experiments inflicted on him have left their mark and even after his brother (who had believed him dead) found him, Robert locked himself away in their home. He’s slowly coming out into the world, but there are those who would use him being an epileptic against him in order to further their own agendas. I liked watching Robert come into his own over the course of the story. He’s helped by Constance who is definitely his perfect match.

Constance Wentworth grew up in poverty with an abusive father. Her brother becoming first a successful, wealthy banker and then finding out he’s a duke changed her life forever. Constance has secrets she keeps even from her own family. When she was younger she fled home and came to work at the asylum Robert was kept at. The two formed a bond back then and it springs immediately to life when they are reunited over a decade later. I loved Robert and Constance together. They have an easy chemistry that shows on the page and they simply flow as a couple. Their romance is understated – perhaps a bit too understated for a romance novel – and I wish Burrowes had shown rather than told some of the bits about their bond forming in the past. Yet even with it being understated I simply adored Robert and Constance as a couple. There’s little drama and a lot of heart which makes it easy to fall into their story.

Constance and Robert are at the center of The Truth About Dukes, but there are plenty of supporting characters with their own points of view. Their siblings all see fit to discuss among themselves and interfere (with the best of intentions, of course) in Robert and Constance’s lives. Then there are multiple plots. One I cannot reveal without spoiling the story as it deals with Constance’s past. Not to be too vague, but this was a plotline that started out well, then ended up feeling like it wasn’t as well executed as it could have been. Then there’s the matter of villains using Robert’s epilepsy against him for their own reasons. It’s a plotline with potential but falls apart a bit at the climax. There are a few too many lucky breaks, characters changing how they act to satisfy the needs of the plot, and events taking place off-page for me to be fully satisfied with the story. Still, I really enjoyed reading The Truth About Dukes even with these flaws. I wavered for a long time on how to rate the book because I had so many niggling issues but I weighed this against how much I enjoyed Burrowes’s writing, the characters, and the Constance/Robert pairing. I land on the side of recommending this book, but if you’re new to the series I urge you to read the first and fourth Rogues to Riches books, My One and Only Duke and A Duke by Any Other Name, in order to fully appreciate the family dynamics and the main plot of The Truth About Dukes.

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, December 7, 2020

Review: Archangel’s Sun by Nalini Singh

Archangel’s Sun by Nalini Singh
Series: Guild Hunter, Book 13
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy 
Archangel's Sun cover
ISBN: 9780593198124
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Nalini Singh Reading Order

The Archangel of Death and the Archangel of Disease may be gone but their legacy of evil lives on—especially in Africa, where the shambling, rotting creatures called the reborn have gained a glimmer of vicious intelligence.

It is up to Titus, archangel of this vast continent, to stop the reborn from spreading across the world. Titus can’t do it alone, but of the surviving powerful angels and archangels, large numbers are wounded, while the rest are fighting a surge of murderous vampires.

There is no one left…but the Hummingbird. Old, powerful, her mind long a broken kaleidoscope. Now, she must stand at Titus’s side against a tide of death upon a discovery more chilling than any other. For the Archangel of Disease has left them one last terrible gift…

The war has been won but battles still rage on in Archangel’s Sun. In the wake of the war that rocked the entire world, Titus, Archangel of Africa, has been fighting a seemingly never-ending battle against a newer, more intelligent strain of reborn. He and his people need help, but with the Cadre few in number and all of them stretched to the breaking point, there is no one to help him. No one but the Hummingbird.

For much of the series Sharine – also known as the Hummingbird – has been lost in her own world more often than not. She’s beloved by all of angelkind, but she’s not exactly who you’d think of first when battling the reborn. Lately Sharine has been awakening and though she is an artist and does have a tendency to get lost in her own world, there’s more to her than most know. She’s an Ancient, though seems so young and of the world that she isn’t called one. I loved watching Sharine find herself over the course of this story. Though she wasn’t to blame for shattering all those centuries ago, she carries such guilt for not being fully present for her son, Illium, or the other angels she has effectively adopted. I loved Sharine’s huge heart and warm nature. Her conversations with Illium and Aodhan in particular warmed my heart (and made me want those two to be each other’s HEA more than ever). I also loved her sass, which was a surprise to everyone. She has more knowledge and power than most could dream of and I hope we see much more of her in books to come for it feels like we’ve only scratched the surface of a character whose depths are unfathomable.

As for Titus, he is one of my favorite Guild Hunter heroes so far. The archangel with the booming voice and marshmallow heart pretty much made me swoon. He’s a fearsome warrior, powerful and dangerous as only an archangel can be. Yet he’s also a younger brother with four older sisters who aren’t afraid to tease him. I can’t count the number of times Titus made me smile. And his heart is as vast as the continent he rules and cares for.

Titus and Sharine are endearing and well-drawn characters and there’s something about them that just “clicks.” Titus doesn’t treat Sharine like she’s fragile and she isn’t impressed by his power; after all, Shaine has had a child with an archangel, is a second mother to another, and is best friends with a third. Sharine and Titus made me smile and sigh, but even after weighing it in my mind I did feel like their romance was a little rushed. I liked where they ended up, but based on their journeys it might have felt more organic and earned if it took two books to get to that end point.

Sharine and Titus are the heart of Archangel’s Sun and I could read about them for books on end without getting bored. Their banter made the book snappy, but it’s definitely not all fun and games for them. The threat of the more intelligent reborn is a real and present danger for most of the book. Nalini Singh doesn’t skimp on the action at all and the fights are plentiful. I loved how Sharine, Titus, and his people worked together to figure out how to defeat a threat that feels like it has no end.

Archangel’s Sun entertained me from beginning to end, mostly due to the fantastic characters. I hope we get to return to Africa in future Guild Hunter books because there were so many of Titus’s people who I would love to learn more about. I struggled a bit with rating this because I enjoyed reading it so much, but I was definitely left with unanswered questions (ones that don’t feel intentionally left open) and a slight feeling of being rushed in the romance. Still, I truly adored Titus and Sharine and I can’t 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.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Review: The Pearl by Tiffany Reisz

The Pearl by Tiffany Reisz
Series: The Godwicks, Book 3
Publisher: 8th Circle Press
Genre: Erotic Contemporary Romance with Paranormal Elements 
The Pearl cover
ISBN: 9781949769166
Release Date: December 1, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

When Lord Arthur Godwick learns his younger brother is up to his bollocks in debt to Regan Ferry, owner of The Pearl Hotel, he agrees to work off the tab…in her bed. Soon the handsome but troubled Arthur discovers he's a pawn in an erotic game of revenge--and nothing, including his lover, is what it seems.

The deliciously deviant Godwicks are back in The Pearl. Author Tiffany Reisz takes the eldest Godwick son and his lover on a journey of submission and self-discovery that is a fantastic mix of sizzling eroticism and honest emotion.

I adore Arthur. He loves his family, but he’s the black sheep of the Godwicks in that he’s not as frivolous (as he sees them) or insatiable as the rest (comparatively speaking – he’s still blazingly sensual). The twenty-one-year-old has an old soul and a maturity beyond his years. He’s preparing to start training as a Medical Support officer in the Army, but before that he has to get his youngest brother out of debt to the owner of The Pearl, Regan Ferry. When he agrees to work off Charlie’s debt in Regan’s bed, submitting to her every desire, it unlocks something in both of them. Arthur has kept his submissive desires a secret but with Regan he’s free to be himself. I loved that he desired to both protect and serve; he’s a dreamy mix of dependable hero and dirty sub.

Regan wasn’t born to wealth; she had to sell herself in marriage to an older, controlling man in exchange for the security she desperately desired. She made her choice, but sacrificed much to do so. She’s closed off even to herself at times, but I loved her as much as Arthur. She’s a young widow who has survived a horrible man and I wanted to see her find herself again. She resists falling for Arthur and her reasons are ones I will leave readers to discover.

Regan and Arthur’s journey is decadent and emotional. At the center of it all is art and Ms. Reisz’s knowledge and passion for the subject shines through as it does in all the Godwicks stories. This time it’s female artists who are the starting point for Regan and Arthur’s fantasies. And though The Pearl spends more time grounded in reality than the first two Godwicks books, that doesn’t mean the fantasy elements disappear. If you’re familiar with the Godwicks series then you won’t be surprised that the ghost of Arthur’s great-grandfather, the wickedest Godwick of them all, has a role to play in Arthur and Regan’s story. The interfering spirit is as unsubtle as ever and he’s a true delight.

The Pearl captivated me from beginning to end. Regan tugged on my heartstrings and was a heroine I was happy to root for. Arthur just plain melted my heart and I loved that he wore his on his sleeve. He and Regan made a fantastic couple and I cannot wait to enjoy their story again and again and again.

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

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Review: Playing with Trouble by Amy Andrews

Playing with Trouble by Amy Andrews
Publisher: Entangled: Brazen
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Playing with Trouble cover
ISBN: 9781649370181
Release Date: November 30, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Entangled

From pro rugby player to...manny?

Australian rugby pro Cole Hauser has had enough of speculations about his future post-injury. So when a football buddy puts his house in America at Cole's disposal, he jumps at the chance for some peace and anonymity. The plan is perfect—until he discovers he's roomies with a woman who knows how to wield a nail gun and her kid. Awesome. Not.

Single mom Jane Spencer is supposed to be spending four weeks alone in the wilds of Colorado rehabbing a house that’ll put her business on the map. Instead, her time is overrun by her four-year-old and a grumpy, too-sexy rugby dude whose only goals are to watch ESPN and brood. Awesome. Not.

When, surprisingly, McHottie offers to get his ass off the couch and help Jane out with Finn, she’s hesitant. But before she knows it, Cole is knee-deep in kid activities during the day and they’re both fighting their simmering attraction at night.

Anything between them can only be temporary - their time together is short and Cole lives on the other side of the planet. It should be easy to say goodbye, right? Wrong. It doesn't take long for them to realize they've borrowed a whole lot of trouble.

But trouble never felt this good.

Cole Hauser came to Credence, Colorado to lick his wounds after a career-ending injury. The former pro rugby player had just been signed to play under his dream coach for the Sydney Smoke when a car accident changed his whole plan. Now he’s travelled to the other side of the world with no plans other than to rest and recuperate in his friend’s empty home. Only the home isn’t empty. Jane Spencer is a single mother and professional restorer tasked with a project that will put her company on the map. It’s bad enough her ex bailed on his time with their son, now she has to juggle an active four-year-old and a rogue chameleon with intricate, time-consuming work. The last thing she needs is a too-sexy-for-words rugby star distracting her. Except rather than lounge around, Cole offers to help her with daycare. And if watching him with her son isn’t enough to melt her heart, when she and Cole are alone in the evenings other things begin to melt. Jane can’t begin to calculate the number of complications falling for Cole would bring, but sometimes lust and love can’t be denied…

I don’t know how she did it, but in Playing with Trouble Amy Andrews delivered a book that’s both totally adorable and seriously sexy. Cole has physically been through a lot and mentally is still struggling to imagine a life without playing rugby. All he wants to do at the beginning of this book is brood, but Jane and her son, Finn, throw his plans right out the window. The kid wraps Cole around his finger almost immediately and how could you not be charmed by the vibrant little boy (or his escape artist pet chameleon)? Cole and Finn’s bond will absolutely melt your heart. Cole knows what it’s like not to have a father and he and Finn just click from the start. And Jane’s love for her son, her worries, and her absolute determination to make sure he knows he’s loved and cared for are equally heart-melting. Normally I’m a little “meh” on adorable children popping up a lot in romances but in Playing with Trouble it works and is important to the story.

Sweet parts aside, let’s get to the sexy. Jane and Cole have sizzling chemistry that no amount of Jane telling herself she can’t give into temptation will deny. I enjoyed the simmering sexual tension, but when things boil over Playing with Trouble is spicy good fun. Living on opposite sides of the world isn’t the biggest obstacle they face, but I trusted Ms. Andrews to make it all work in the end. Every bump in the road is worth it as Jane and Cole come to know each other and I loved how they just fit as a solid unit.

Playing with Trouble is a standalone novel but it is connected to both Ms. Andrews’s Sydney Smoke Rugby and her Credence, Colorado series. If you haven’t read either, it won’t hamper your story, though admittedly not having read the Credence, Colorado series I’m now eager to dive in because I liked the town and its residents so much. In Playing with Trouble Amy Andrews blends humor, heart, and heat perfectly to deliver an entertaining story that’s worth enjoying again and again.

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

Friday, November 27, 2020

Review: When a Rogue Meets His Match by Elizabeth Hoyt

When a Rogue Meets His Match by Elizabeth Hoyt
Series: Greycourt, Book 2
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Historical Romance 
When a Rogue Meets His Match cover
ISBN: 9781538763568
Release Date: December 1, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Elizabeth Hoyt Reading Order

Ambitious, sly, and lethally intelligent, Gideon Hawthorne has spent his life clawing his way up from the gutter. For the last ten years, he's acted as the Duke of Windemere's fixer, performing the duke's dirty work without question. Now Gideon's ready to quit the duke's service and work solely for himself. But Windermere tempts Gideon with an irresistible offer: one last task for Messalina Greycourt's hand in marriage.

Witty, vivacious Messalina Greycourt has her pick of suitors, so when her uncle demands Messalina marry Mr. Hawthorne, she is appalled. But Gideon offers her a devil's bargain of his own: protection and freedom in exchange for a true marriage. Messalina feigns agreement and plots to escape their deal. Only the more time she spends with Gideon, the more her fierce, loyal husband arouses her affections. But will Gideon's final deed for Windemere destroy the love growing between them?

A lovely and determined woman discovers there is more to the lethal and cunning man she’s married than she thinks in When a Rogue Meets His Match. Strains of Beauty and the Beast flow through Messalina and Gideon’s story and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Elizabeth Hoyt excels at creating captivating heroes who start out morally ambiguous at best and Gideon is a perfect example. The dark and brooding man fought his way out of the gutter and is obsessed with money and power. He’s been a fixer for Messalina’s evil uncle for years and he wants to be his own man, but the duke offers him something he can’t resist: Messalina’s hand in marriage. Messalina is beautiful, clever, and has captivated Gideon for years. She also hates him. But the two strike a bargain that promises Messalina freedom for herself and her sister – something she wants so desperately she’ll deal with the devil to get it.

Messalina is an open book and I liked that about her. She’s clever and kind but she also becomes aware how blind she has been her whole life to the lives of those less fortunate than her. Gideon, whose past will break your heart, opens her eyes to reality. Gideon is a hard man and he can be ruthless, but there’s a softness to him that not even he realizes exists. Gideon wants Messalina’s connections into society and he doesn’t hide his ambitions, but growing up as poor as he did makes it all make sense. Ms. Hoyt doesn’t mind shining a light on the hardships normally glossed over in historical romance (though the book doesn’t linger there) and I thought the reality woven into the fantasy made the book stronger. I loved peeling back the layers of Gideon’s character and found him incredibly compelling. The sexual tension between Gideon and Messalina is palpable from the start and I loved it. Their love story isn’t a smooth one but every obstacle in their path was worth overcoming. Their romance developed organically and was ultimately wonderfully satisfying.

When a Rogue Meets His Match is the second book in the Greycourt series and it’s much more focused than the first book, which I really liked. We truly meet the Greycourt family in this story and what a fractured, messy family they are. I’m looking forward to seeing what Ms. Hoyt has in store for Messalina’s sister and brothers. This book did leave me with some unanswered questions, but they’re mysteries I expect to be solved in future stories. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed When a Rogue Meets His Match. Gideon was a fascinating hero and Messalina his match in every way. Their romance was sensual, engaging, and kept me happily entertained for hours.

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, November 24, 2020

Review: The Awakening by Nora Roberts

The Awakening by Nora Roberts
Series: The Dragon Heart Legacy, Book 1
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Genre: Fantasy 
The Awakening cover
ISBN: 9781250272614
Release Date: November 24, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

In the realm of Talamh, a teenage warrior named Keegan emerges from a lake holding a sword—representing both power and the terrifying responsibility to protect the Fey. In another realm known as Philadelphia, a young woman has just discovered she possesses a treasure of her own…

When Breen Kelly was a girl, her father would tell her stories of magical places. Now she’s an anxious twentysomething mired in student debt and working a job she hates. But one day she stumbles upon a shocking discovery: her mother has been hiding an investment account in her name. It has been funded by her long-lost father—and it’s worth nearly four million dollars.

This newfound fortune would be life-changing for anyone. But little does Breen know that when she uses some of the money to journey to Ireland, it will unlock mysteries she couldn’t have imagined. Here, she will begin to understand why she kept seeing that silver-haired, elusive man, why she imagined his voice in her head saying Come home, Breen Siobhan. It’s time you came home. Why she dreamed of dragons. And where her true destiny lies—through a portal in Galway that takes her to a land of faeries and mermaids, to a man named Keegan, and to the courage in her own heart that will guide her through a powerful, dangerous destiny…

A realm of magick is closer than you think in The Awakening. Nora Roberts kicks off her Dragon Heart Legacy series with a lush and lyrical fantasy. At its core is a woman coming into her own in lands quite far from her Philadelphia home.

Breen’s life is dull and her personality mousy in a way that doesn’t suit her at all. She grew up with a mother who made her feel inadequate, who shepherded her into a career that isn’t a good fit, and she’s working as hard as she can to make ends meet. The only reason Breen’s spirit hasn’t been completely squashed is because she’s made a family of her own with friends who support and believe in her. When Breen discovers that her long-lost father left her millions she never knew about, she – with the help of her best friend, Marco – quits her job and decides to take a trip to Ireland to find herself. As she does this, her dreams become increasingly fantastical. And there seems to be a silver-haired man who keeps appearing wherever she is. In Ireland, the magickal becomes all the more real when she finds herself in the world of Talamh, a place where the Wise, the elves, the fey, and more live. A place that holds a deeper connection to Breen than she ever could have dreamed. And a place where Breen may be the key to the light holding back the encroaching darkness…

Ms. Roberts really does an amazing job of bringing her worlds to life. Even before heading to the land of the fey, The Awakening is dreamy with its picturesque locations. The Ireland of Ms. Roberts’s stories is always gorgeous and welcoming and the places Breen and Marco travel in this book are no exception. And once Breen begins to unlock her destiny, we’re treated to a magickal world that’s fascinating and makes me want to learn more. I adored the world building in this story, but hesitate to say too much for fear of spoiling the discovery for others.

The Awakening is a fitting title for this book as it truly is about Breen awakening her true self. Breen has been shoved into a box that doesn’t fit her for most of her life and her journey slowly brings out the woman she truly is. It’s an organic growth that I loved to watch and though she has “awakened,” I cannot wait to see what she becomes by the end of this trilogy. Breen is the heart and soul of this book, but she’s not alone. Her human friends, Marco, Sally, and Derrick, are so full of love and caring they melted my heart. I wanted them to be real just so I could be friends with them. In Talamh there are all sorts of supporting characters whose destinies are sure to intertwine with Breen’s own. The most intriguing of them all is Keegan, a man who chose to pick up the staff and sword when destiny called at too young an age. Keegan isn’t what you’d call warm and cuddly, but then he has had no reason to be. He’s a good man, but it’s a heavy burden he carries, protecting and leading Talamh in the battle against the darkness. He and Breen clash repeatedly, but their chemistry is palpable when they share the page. And since this is Nora Roberts, I will note that this book isn’t a romance, though what does unfold is hopefully the beginning of a love story.

The Awakening is gorgeous and engaging, but it’s just the beginning of a larger story. The first leg of the journey has great character development and delightful world building. The only downside is that when the book ended I wanted to keep going, to delve further into this world of witches and dragons, of visions and magick; a world where those of the light must pull together to fight the encroaching dark and the villain who would destroy them all.

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, November 15, 2020

Review: Kissing Lessons by Stefanie London

Kissing Lessons by Stefanie London
Series: Kissing Creek, Book 1
Publisher: Entangled: Amara
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Kissing Lessons cover
ISBN: 9781649370846
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Entangled

Welcome to Kissing Creek, where everything has a romance-themed pun for a name and love is lurking around every corner…

Audrey Miller doesn’t believe in happily-ever-after, so she is definitely living in the wrong town. But she’s never getting out of Kissing Creek, because playing pseudo-mom for her younger siblings doesn’t leave time for much else. She’ll do anything to make sure they don’t end up stuck like she is, working as a barista in a college town, serving Pink Passion mochas with Chocolate Smooch donuts.

Then Ronan Walsh, a new young professor and walking cliché, right down to the elbow patches on his blazer, steps in for a coffee and into her life. She knows his type—intelligent and charming, yet sweet as a cinnamon roll, the sort of man she’s inevitably attracted to but is always out of her league. So why does someone like him have any interest in a worker bee with no future?

Her bland-as-oatmeal existence has nothing to offer, but Ronan’s temporary teaching position is only a stepping stone on his way to somewhere else. He isn’t here to put down roots, Audrey’s roots are firmly planted—neither of them is looking for love. And maybe that’s just perfect.

But in a small town called Kissing Creek, sometimes love can be impossible to avoid…

A hero and heroine with sizeable emotional baggage and an aversion to romantic commitment have no chance against love when they live in a town called Kissing Creek. Author Stefanie London ups the charm with this cute small town without becoming cloying, but don’t expect all fluff just because Kissing Lessons takes place at locations like the Kisspresso Café.

Audrey has had a difficult life, but she maintains (outwardly at least) a positive disposition. After her mother’s death and her father’s downward spiral, Audrey dropped out of high school to raise her siblings. She’s put her dreams on hold for over a decade, worked multiple jobs, and stretches herself to the limits in order to give her four siblings a chance to grow, thrive, and eventually leave Kissing Creek. The only thing she does for herself is secretly take a night class at the local college. Audrey’s love of learning, the joy she takes in it purely for its own sake, made her sparkle. But otherwise it just plain broke my heart watching her struggle and sacrifice. To make matters worse, her father is abusive and Audrey has to shield and protect her siblings. She’s seen what love and loss can do to a person and has no interest in it. But Ronan Walsh knocks Audrey off her carefully-trod path when he first walks into Kisspresso Café. The handsome, young professor is Audrey’s idea of a perfect guy. Too bad she has no time to date…and that’s before the fact that dating her new professor would be strictly off-limits.

Ronan is on a fast-track to success and has his eyes on the prize of a teaching position at an Ivy League school. Kissing Creek is just a temporary stop so he can be near his family after his grandmother takes a bad fall. Sparks fly between Ronan and Audrey from the first, but he too has had an upbringing that makes him wary of opening his heart. All the odds are stacked against these two, and yet they can’t keep from being drawn to one another. I enjoyed Audrey and Ronan together; their shared love of learning alone could easily endear me to them. Though there are a number of heavy topics in this book, there’s a brightness to the romance (and some of the situations they find themselves in) that lifted the story up. The trivia they traded back and forth made me smile and on the whole I found their romance satisfying.

Kissing Lessons is a tough book for me to rate. I really liked Audrey and Ronan and I always enjoy Ms. London’s writing. Still, the book was slow at times and not all the heavier issues were resolved in a satisfying manner. I can’t quite put my finger on why the story dragged at times, but it wasn’t as engaging as Ms. London’s books usually are. There are ups and downs in the love story and the arguments that occurred felt natural to the characters, their histories, and their fears. All in all, I liked the main characters a lot and the more humorous moments in this story ensure that I’ll be back for more Kissing Creek romances.

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, November 5, 2020

Review: The Duke Effect by Sophie Jordan

The Duke Effect by Sophie Jordan
Series: The Rogue Files, Book 7
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Historical Romance 
The Duke Effect cover
ISBN: 9780062885456
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

She doesn’t care about love…

Despite being surrounded by her happily wed sisters, Nora Langley prefers botany to ballrooms and would rather spend a lifetime in her laboratory than consider affairs of the heart. An expert herbalist, Nora has been masquerading as her late physician father for years, dispensing invaluable medical advice. She corresponds with people all over the world, including an old army colonel. But when the man shows up on her doorstep, he is nothing like she expected—he is a young, handsome heir to a dukedom who suddenly threatens everything she holds dear.

He only cares about duty…

Constantine Sinclair arrives on the Langley doorstep in a desperate bid to save the woman who raised him, the Duchess of Birchwood … only to discover that the venerable doctor he expected is a bold and lovely charlatan. Furious at the deception, he vows to reveal her secrets. Determined to prove her skills, Nora promises to save the duchess in exchange for Con keeping her secret. Con reluctantly agrees… and soon Nora’s brilliant, headstrong ways are throwing his carefully controlled life into chaos. What happens when the rigid soldier begins to lose his grip on his heart?

Sparks fly when an unconventional young woman with a sharp mind clashes with a rigid heir to a dukedom in The Duke Effect. Sophie Jordan’s seventh Rogue Files novel is entertaining and light on its feet, though ultimately the story suffers a bit from its rushed pace.

I adored Nora and Ms. Jordan makes it easy to do so. She’s intelligent, curious, and wants to be needed. Nora learned from her physician father and she’s a gifted, learned healer who would make an excellent doctor if it weren’t for the sexist rules in England preventing women from attending medical school. Since the death of her father she has been dispensing medical advice in his name, which lands her in hot water when one of her correspondents shows up on her doorstep. Constantine is a bit harder to like at first. The colonel who finds himself as the heir to a dukedom after the deaths of his three cousins is a man of exacting character. Con grew on me as the book went on and he began to reconcile his sense of duty with his own wants, needs, and moral compass.

Nora and Con are good together and the pages of The Duke Effect flew by, which is why I was surprised to find I was three-quarters of the way through the story before the romance kicked in. I loved it when the sexual tension began to simmer, enjoyed the heightened awareness between Nora and Con, but the love story did feel incredibly rushed. If there had been another hundred pages focused on the romance it would have done the story a world of good. I felt sped through parts that I wanted to savor and the “I love yous” didn’t feel earned. It’s a pity because the romance had so much potential and what we do have in the story I thoroughly enjoyed. I struggled with rating this because I did really enjoy what I read, but I cannot deny Nora and Con’s relationship was underdeveloped. The epilogue did, however, leave me with a smile on my face and ended this book on a high note.

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

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Review: Mistletoe in Paradise by Jill Shalvis

Mistletoe in Paradise by Jill Shalvis
Series: Wildstone, Book 5.5
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Mistletoe in Paradise cover
Audiobook Release Date: November 3, 2020
E-Book Release Date: December 1, 2020
Source: Author
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Jill Shalvis Reading Order

Problem Number One – Getting There

Old childhood friends each fly separately to join their families on what’s been an annual holiday themed yacht adventure. Secret ex-lovers, Hannah and James are determined to make the best of things…

Problem Number Two – Getting Stuck.

When everyone but Hannah and James gets held up in an airport snarl, it leaves them stuck together for four days, making Hannah’s already problematic trip a whole lot harder to face. Especially because she comes bearing more than just gifts…

Problem Number Three -- Falling In Love (again)

As the former lovers try to make the best of the Christmas snafu, they soon realize that the best things in life can’t be planned and sometimes love is sweeter the second time around.

Mistletoe in Paradise is fast-paced, sensual, and heartwarming. Former best friends turned secret ex-lovers? Yes, please! Jill Shalvis puts her own spin on tropes I could gobble up like a holiday treats and adds a beach backdrop, sealing the deal on this being a great escape read.

Hannah comes off like a workaholic at first and James an adventure junky who only lives in the moment. These qualities may seem defining but it barely scratches the surface of who each of them are. I loved peeling back the layers of both Hannah and James’s characters, learning their emotional scars, and seeing how the past – particularly a terrible loss – shaped who they are in the present. It’s understandable why things went wrong for them in the past and I liked that they actually talked and worked through what they wanted, explained why they acted and reacted how they did, and built on the love that had never gone away but was just waiting to be nurtured. There are ups and downs in both romantic and familial relationships over the course of this story and I enjoyed watching how things played out. Ms. Shalvis packs a lot into a relatively short space but does it so smoothly that it’s easy to just fall into this story. Mistletoe in Paradise is a fun escapist read, but it also has humor, heart, a bit of spice, and character depth that make it a lovely, well-rounded romance.

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

Monday, November 2, 2020

Review: Love is a Rogue by Lenora Bell

Love is a Rogue by Lenora Bell
Series: Wallflowers vs. Rogues, Book 1
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Historical Romance 
Love is a Rogue cover
ISBN: 9780062993458
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Once upon a time in Mayfair a group of wallflowers formed a secret society with goals that had absolutely nothing to do with matrimony. Their most troublesome obstacle? Rogues!

They call her Beastly Beatrice.

Wallflower Lady Beatrice Bentley longs to remain in the wilds of Cornwall to complete her etymological dictionary. Too bad her brother’s Gothic mansion is under renovation. How can she work with an annoyingly arrogant and too-handsome rogue swinging a hammer nearby?

Rogue. Scoundrel. Call him anything you like as long as you pay him.

Navy man Stamford Wright is leaving England soon and renovating Thornhill House is just a job. It’s not about the duke’s bookish sister or her fiery copper hair. Or the etymology lessons the prim-yet-alluring lady insists on giving him. Or the forbidden things he'd love to teach her.

They say never mix business with pleasure. But when Beatrice and Ford aren't arguing, they're kissing.

Sometimes temptation proves too strong to resist…even if the cost is a heart.

A bookish wallflower meets her match in a rogue who’s good with his hands in Love is a Rogue. I loved the premise of Lenora Bell’s Wallflowers vs. Rogues series but the execution in this first novel fell a bit flat for me.

All Lady Beatrice Bentley wants to do is retire to her brother’s estate in Cornwall and work on her etymological dictionary. She’s a determined spinster, but finds herself drawn to carpenter Stamford Wright who is disturbing her peace as he works on her brother’s home. Ford shakes her composure, but Beatrice expects she will never see him again once she’s swept up into the London season – and her mother’s machinations to marry her off. However, fate has other plans for them and Ford once again enters her life. They become entangled when Beatrice inherits a bookshop that’s in desperate need of renovation. She wants to turn it into a clubhouse for her “knitting club” (a secret society of feminists working to support each other’s dreams and goals) and Ford is the only man for the job. They’re from two different worlds and Ford has seen firsthand what happens to a woman who marries someone of a different class. Both know nothing can come of their attraction, yet neither can resist the other. Thus, they follow a fairly predictable route as they fall in love. There’s nothing wrong with a good formula but it felt like the emotion required to make it compelling was missing. All the elements were there for a solid love story, yet I felt like I was floating on the surface of a good romance the whole time, never going deeper, which was a disappointment.

There’s a lot to unpack in this book and all of it has potential. The push-pull between duty and desire, characters coming into their own, an inheritance with a secret attached to it, a villainous opponent, secret relations, naughty texts, a revolutionary group of women, and more, but it all feels very surface level. Plot points dragged on, became important, then inexplicably fizzled. There are many points in Love is a Rogue where Beatrice stops and talks about being a bibliophile, and even more where she and her friends point out the sexism in society. I wanted to love the book because of this but the sentiments (ones I wholeheartedly agreed with) rang hollow. Love is a Rogue isn’t a bad book but I struggled with it because it never succeeded in drawing me in and thus the book dragged. However, I seem to be in the minority at this time so perhaps this is simply a case of a book and a reader not being a good match.

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, October 25, 2020

Review: Try As I Smite by Abigail Owen

Try As I Smite by Abigail Owen
Series: Brimstone Inc., Book 4
Publisher: Entangled: Amara
Genre: Paranormal Romance 
Try As I Smite cover
ISBN: 9781649370655
Release Date: October 26, 2020
Source: Publisher/Purchased by Reviewer
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Entangled

Alasdair Blakesley is the head of the Covens Syndicate. He shouldn't need to look beyond the witches and warlocks he governs, or his own abilities, to solve any problem. But a demon infestation means he can’t trust anyone who may be possessed. The last person he wants to ask for help is also the only person who can fix this, so he sucks up his pride and storms into her office.

And she turns him down cold.

As the owner of Brimstone Inc., Delilah’s passion is helping others with their supernatural problems. But Alasdair is the last man Delilah wants to tangle with. The infuriating man sees too much and demands even more. And did she mention the way he sets her body on fire?

Not that it matters—demons are the only things with which she cannot interfere. Too bad a higher power steps in and sends them both on a crash course of each others' pasts, presents, and futures.

How is a Christmas Carol nightmare supposed to solve his demon problem without breaking the rules she’s bound by?

The Brimstone Inc. series gets a Dickensian twist in Try As I Smite. I love the way author Abigail Owen brings together all kinds of supernatural beings, making each and every story in this series unique. And for Delilah’s story, Ms. Owen goes big.

Sparks flew the minute Delilah, the mysterious owner of Brimstone Inc., met warlock Alasdair Blakesley, the head of the Covens Syndicate. The two powerful beings clash from the start, but when widespread demonic possessions start occurring to witches and warlocks, Alasdair sucks it up and goes to Delilah for help… Only to be turned down. When it comes to demons, Delilah can’t get involved. Then someone even more powerful than the two of them sends Delilah and Alasdair on a joint Christmas Carol-type adventure. And the more the Alasdair and Delilah learn about each other, the harder it is for them to deny their mutual attraction. I loved the clashing and the simmering sexual tension in this story. Alasdair and Delilah are two strong, confident people and neither can cow the other. I also thoroughly enjoyed peeling back the layers of their characters and learning their pasts. Alasdair carries deep scars from childhood and they broke my heart. And Delilah… let’s just say learning about her mysterious abilities was worth the wait. Delilah’s past, present, and future are complicated and to say much more about this story would spoil it.

There is a lot going on in Try As I Smite, which is great, but also the story’s biggest weakness. Everything felt rushed, from the romance to Delilah’s history to other elements it would be major spoilers to discuss. If this had been a full-length novel, it would no doubt have been fantastic. But zipping through everything didn’t do the characters or the story any favors. Don’t get me wrong – I still liked Try As I Smite quite a bit. But when you go big in a story, it’s more engrossing if you also go deep, and that’s what this story was missing. But even falling short of its potential, Alasdair and Delilah’s story was interesting and entertaining. And as I am a really big fan of the Brimstone Inc. series, I’m looking forward to seeing who Delilah helps next.

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.

Review: My Last Duchess by Eloisa James

My Last Duchess by Eloisa James
Series: The Wildes of Lindow Castle, Book 0.5
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Historical Romance 
My Last Duchess cover
ISBN: 9780063036345
Release Date: October 27, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Eloisa James Reading Order

Every Duke needs a Duchess…

Hugo Wilde, the Duke of Lindow, has a drafty castle, eight naughty children—and no wife. Ophelia, Lady Astley, has a fine house, one well-behaved daughter—and no husband.

Hugo takes one look at Ophelia and loses his heart, but she doesn’t want more children or a castle. She takes one look at him and heads for her carriage.

Desperate to find a duchess, Hugo identifies an appropriate lady to woo. Yet when he meets Ophelia again, the duke realizes that he will marry her, or no one.

Now he faces the greatest challenge of his life.

He must convince Ophelia that their blazing sensuality, his exquisite castle, and his eight charming children add up to a match made in heaven.

When a duke finds his duchess, can he win her heart?

My Last Duchess was originally serialized as Wilde Denial, but has been expanded.

My Last Duchess is a delight from beginning to end! I devoured Hugo and Ophelia’s story in one sitting, unable to put it down because I was so charmed by their sparkling romance.

Ophelia is a widow who had a happy marriage to a man she both liked and loved. As a widow with wealth and the freedom to do as she pleases, Ophelia has no desire to remarry; she and her beloved daughter are happy just as they are. Then Hugo sweeps into her life, upending her calm world. The Duke of Lindow lost his beloved first wife and divorced his second unfaithful one. Now he’s on the hunt to find a mother for his eight children. Ophelia has no desire to be a glorified governess. Only when Hugo sees her, he doesn’t pursue her because she’s a good mother. Rather, it’s the blazing, instantaneous attraction that leaps between him that has him rushing out into the snow after she solidly turns him down. Hugo is a good, kind man and a loving father, but it’s his raw, masculine appeal that has Ophelia taking a second look at him. I enjoyed the passion that erupts between them instantly. What’s more, I loved the humor and plain-speaking that marked their…let’s call it unorthodox courtship. My Last Duchess sparkles with good humor and quiet sensuality, making the pages of the story fly by.

It’s clear Ophelia and Hugo are meant to be, but Hugo is going to need more than just his magnetic appeal to convince Ophelia to be his third and last duchess. Enter Louisa, Hugo’s twin, along with the eight Wilde children. The Wilde family is a boisterous group and I loved seeing them interact. Whether you’re just joining the Wildes of Lindow Castle series (easy to do here since this is a prequel) or are a fan already, it’s impossible not to adore this vibrant, loving family. Eloisa James has perfectly balanced humor, heart, and heat in this delicious story. I cannot wait to enjoy Ophelia and Hugo’s romance again and again and again!

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

Monday, October 19, 2020

Review: The Highlander's Unexpected Proposal by Heather McCollum

The Highlander's Unexpected Proposal by Heather McCollum
Series: The Brothers of Wolf Isle, Book 1
Publisher: Entangled: Scandalous
Genre: Historical Romance 
The Highlanders Unexpected Proposal cover
ISBN: 9781649370594
Release Date: October 19, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Entangled
Heather McCollum Reading Order

A lass begging to marry him might top the list of “oddest things to happen,” but Chief Adam Macquarie is desperate. And no matter how much he hates to do it, he’s not above lying to get what he wants. Starting with the fact that he just omitted the truth about the situation back at his home—where there are no women and only a handful of other people. Because he has a secret need for a wife himself, one she won’t be too happy about when she finds out.

Lark Montgomerie is thrilled the brawny chief agrees to save her from her drunken father’s machinations of wedding her off to the first fool that agrees. He’s easy on the eyes and no one can be worse than her current options. Now a new life awaits her, on an exciting Scottish isle no less, and nothing will dampen her spirits. That is, until she arrives in her new homeland and realizes more than a few things are amiss…

I’ve adored every journey to the Highlands author Heather McCollum has taken me on and The Highlander’s Unexpected Proposal is no exception. Secrets and curses have no chance against two such endearing protagonists as Lark and Adam.

Lark Montgomerie is in a desperate situation at the beginning of the story. Her drunken, abusive father is determined to sell her into marriage and she has to be wed by sundown. Rather than the fools her father has promised her to, Lark takes a chance and marries handsome stranger Adam Macquarie. Adam has his own reasons for needing a bride and Lark’s spirit, beauty, and plain-speaking appeal to him right from the start. The two are strangers, but it’s clear they’re well matched from the start. I loved the sparks between them and the simmering sexual tension.

Lark and Adam make a great match from the start. They’re both hardworking, focused, and have good hearts, but each has secrets they need to reveal in order for love to be able to grow between them. My heart broke for Lark more than once, but at every turn Adam was steadfast and honorable, which I just loved. More than anything, Lark wants to build a life based on trust with her new husband. That’s easier said than done when she arrives at her home on Wolf Isle and discovers she has married into a cursed family. The Macquarie clan was cursed over a century ago and they’re close to dying out. I won’t spoil the state of Wolf Isle, but suffice it to say Lark and Adam have their work cut out for them if they want to make their clan strong again. I enjoyed learning about the curse and watching the Macquaries figure out what it would take to break it.

Hidden dangers, possible witches, and political plots weave through The Highlander’s Unexpected Proposal and help make it an addictive read. I thoroughly enjoyed each twist and turn this story took. And if you’re a fan of Ms. McCollum’s, you’ll be delighted to learn that some of your favorite faces from the Highland Isles series play strong supporting roles in this tale. I couldn’t be happier to revisit the Isle of Mull and I hope to see more of it in future Brothers of Wolf Isle books. It would also be remiss of me to talk about this story and not mention Adam’s brothers. The four younger Macquaries charmed the heck out of me and once Lark arrives on Wolf Isle there are some nods to Seven Brides for Seven Brothers that made me smile.

I sincerely enjoyed The Highlander’s Unexpected Proposal from beginning to end. It’s romantic, action-packed, and a true delight. I cannot wait to see what Ms. McCollum has in store for the rest of the Macquarie men!

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.

Heather McCollum Book Order

Click on series title to jump to a particular reading order:

The Brothers of Wolf Isle
Sons of Sinclair
The Queen’s Highlanders
The Campbells
Highland Isles
Highland Hearts
Dragonfly Chronicles
The Guardians (Young Adult)

The Brothers of Wolf Isle

1. The Highlander’s Unexpected Proposal
Adam Macquarie and Lark Montgomerie
My Review

2. The Highlander's Pirate Lass
Beck Macquarie and Eliza Wentworth
My Review

3. The Highlander's Tudor Lass
Callum Macquarie and Anna Montgomerie
My Review

4. The Highlander's Secret Avenger
Drostan Macquarie and Amelia MacLeod
My Review


Sons of Sinclair

1. Highland Conquest
Cain Sinclair and Ella Sutherland
My Review

2. Highland Warrior
Joshua Sinclair and Kára Flett
My Review

3. Highland Justice
Gideon Sinclair and Cait Mackay
My Review

4. Highland Beast
Bàs Sinclair and Shana Drummond
My Review

5. Highland Surrender (available 10/24/23)
Hannah Sinclair and Erik Halverson
My Review


The Queen’s Highlanders

1. The Highlander & The Queen’s Sacrifice
Kerr Gordon and Maggie Darby

2. The Highlander & and The Lady of Misrule
Greer Buchanan and Lucy Cranfield

3. The Highlander & and The Counterfeit Queen
Marcus Ruthven and Cordelia Cranfield


The Campbells

1. The Scottish Rogue
Grey Campbell and Evelyn Worthington
My Review

2. The Savage Highlander
Aiden Campbell and Scarlet Worthington
My Review

3. The Wicked Viscount
Cat Campbell and Nathaniel Worthington
My Review

2. The Highland Outlaw
Alana Campbell and Shaw Sinclair
My Review


Highland Isles

1. The Beast of Aros Castle
Tor Maclean and Ava Sutton

2. The Rogue of Islay Isle
Cullen Duffie and Rose

3. The Wolf of Kisimul Castle
Alec MacNeil and Mairi Maclean
My Review

4. The Devil of Dunakin Castle
Keir MacKinnon and Grace Ellington
My Review


Highland Hearts

1. Captured Heart
Caden Macbain and Meg Boswell

2. Tangled Hearts
Ewan Brody and Pandora Wyatt

3. Untamed Hearts
Will Wyatt and Jonet Montgomery

4. Crimson Heart
Searc Munro and Elena

5. Highland Heart
Alec Munro and Rachel Brindle


Dragonfly Chronicles

1. Prophecy
Keenan Maclean and Serena Faw

2. Magick
Hauk and Merewin

3. Masquerade
Toren MacCallum and Kat

4. Surrender
Jackson Black and Kailin

5. Sacrifice
Drustan MacDruce and Anna Pemberlin


The Guardians (Young Adult)

1. Siren’s Song

2. Broken

3. Awaken



"Rohaise the Red" in Upon a Midnight Dreary
The Mammoth Book of Scottish Romance

Scribbling Women and the Real-Life Romance Heroes Who Love Them


Please note: This page was written by me, so as always, please visit the author’s website for up-to-date, author-verified information as well as for information books that have not yet been included to this list.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Review: Miracles and Menorahs by Stacey Agdern

Miracles and Menorahs by Stacey Agdern
Series: Friendships and Festivals, Book 1
Publisher: Tule Publishing
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Miracles and Menorahs Cover
ISBN: 9781952560026
Release Date: October 13, 2020
Source: Author
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Tule Publishing

Sarah Goldman loves Hanukkah, and she’s thrilled to be appointed as vice chair of the Hollowville Hanukkah Festival. So when the festival is threatened with cancellation, she comes up with an idea: a new slogan and advertising campaign topped off with a metal menorah large enough to fill the center of town. But even though her heart and dreams are large, the committee’s budget constraints threaten to stop her grand plans right in their tracks.

Famous metal sculptor Isaac Lieberman also loves Hanukkah. But his vision of a perfect Hanukkah isn’t a commercial community event—it’s spending time with family, following age-old traditions. He’s not interested in the festival, no matter how many times his grandmother, his bubbe, asks him to contribute one of his sculptures.

Then Sarah comes tumbling into his life…can she change his mind about more than just the holidays?

Miracles and Menorahs is sweeter than the sufganiyot latte author Stacey Agdern has made me crave. It’s a story of hope, of not giving up, and of standing up and protecting traditions and inclusivity. Ms. Agdern excels at depicting both traditional and more modern Hanukkah traditions and the Jewish representation in this book is top-notch, which I just loved.

Sarah Goldman is Hollowville’s resident Hanukkah fairy. She’s the vice chair of the local Hanukkah festival, the kind of event I wish existed anywhere near where I lived. But the festival is in danger of being eliminated in favor of the ubiquitous red and green. Sarah has to lead the charge to fight for space for Jewish traditions to be celebrated and acknowledged. I loved her determination and strength, her positivity and her love for her community. To help save the festival she’s looking for a large metal menorah, but budget and time constraints mean most artists are turning down the commission. Enter Isaac Lieberman, Brooklyn sculptor and grandson of one of Hollowville’s beloved residents. Isaac doesn’t believe in the commercialization of Hanukkah, which means he doesn’t want to take the commission, even at the risk of disappointing his bubbe. His stance is made all the more difficult when he meets Sarah and is immediately attracted to her.

The romance is sweet but extremely understated and this is where I have to mention the snags I hit in reading Miracles and Menorahs. I wanted desperately to love this book because the message of the story is close to my heart and Ms. Agdern weaves in Jewish customs, traditions, and even kitschy fun stuff really well. However, for me this story dragged and felt like it could have been a novella. There’s really not a lot happening and the story is repetitive. There was no real tension or strong emotion to keep me invested, especially when it came to the romance. I craved a deeper emotional pull from the characters and I wish we had delved into their characters more. So this is where it becomes difficult for me to rate the story. The spirit of the book and the sentiments expressed grabbed my heart and spoke to me personally, but the actual plot stretched on for too long and didn’t really keep me engaged (there are only so many times I can be charmed reading about latkes and sufganiyot lattes). I did enjoy the residents of Hollowville and Isaac’s friends in Brooklyn; both groups added warmth and character. The result of this is I have mixed feelings about Miracles and Menorahs but the things I loved about it are rare finds in romance novels. As a result, I find myself drawn to the positive aspects more and I’m very much looking forward to the next Friendships and Festivals story.

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.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Review: The Vicar and the Rake by Annabelle Greene

The Vicar and the Rake by Annabelle Greene
Series: Society of Beasts, Book 1
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: Male/Male Historical Romance 
The Vicar and the Rake cover
ISBN: 9780369700070
Release Date: October 12, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Carina Press

As a young man, Sir Gabriel Winters left behind his status as a gentleman, turning his back on his secret desires and taking a self-imposed vow of celibacy. Now a chaste hard-working vicar, his reputation is beyond reproach. But, try as he might, he’s never forgotten the man he once desired or the pain of being abandoned by his first love.

Edward Stanhope, the Duke of Caddonfell, is a notorious rake, delighting in scandal no matter the consequence. With a price on his head, he flees to the countryside, forced to keep his presence a secret or risk assassination. When Edward finds Gabriel on his estate, burning with fever, he cannot leave him to die, but taking him in puts them both in jeopardy.

With the help of a notorious blackmailer, a society of rich and famous gentlemen who prefer gentlemen, and a kitten named Buttons, they might just manage to save Edward’s life—but the greatest threat may be to their hearts.

Childhood best friends falling in love is one of my favorite tropes so I was excited to dive into The Vicar and the Rake. Annabelle Greene’s debut shows lots of promise and it was easy for me to fall into Gabriel and Edward’s story.

Edward is a rake whose exploits have gone too far this time and landed him in trouble. The kind of trouble that has even his powerful brother scrambling to protect him. Having no other choice, Edward has to return to his childhood home, a place of nightmares thanks to his abusive father. And who should he find in his flower beds, delirious with fever? His childhood best friend, Sir Gabriel Winters. Gabriel is now a reverend, one working himself nearly to death trying to do as much good as possible in an effort to balance the scales against his hidden desires. Though it’s been years since they last saw each other, the attraction is instantaneous. There’s quite a bit of push-pull in this romance, though fortunately it’s not because either feels shame or denial when it comes to their sexuality. I liked the clash, the passion, and unfettered longing.

A powerful duke determined to kill Edward is only one obstacle in the romance as Edward’s sins come home to roost. Edward plays the careless rake and it’s not entirely a façade, but I loved getting deeper into his character. He’s more intelligent than he lets on and he has much more in him to give than he believes. He’s also deeply scarred and seeking to fill a void, which sometimes leads to destructive behavior. I enjoyed watching him become a better man, one who is the perfect match for Gabriel. Gabriel is kind and understanding, which makes him easy to like. He doesn’t let Edward walk all over him, which I respected. The two of them simply fit, but they’ll definitely need assistance in order to live long enough to get their happily ever after. Their siblings are on-hand to rescue them and I adored them. Gabriel’s sister, Caroline, is a take-charge widow determined to protect her brother’s heart from the man who could easily break it. And Edward’s younger brother, Maurice, is fascinating. The man is a puppet master, holding the strings of many in power by collecting secrets. He and Caroline make a formidable team and I would love to see them get their own book. And it would be remiss of me to write about this book and not mention Buttons, the adorable rescue cat who melts hearts and threatens to steal the show at every turn. Rounding out the story are Edward’s fellow “Beasts,” men who co-founded the Society of Beasts, a London club where gay men can simply be themselves without fear. I leave it to readers to discover the delights Edward’s friends offer, but suffice it to say that I cannot wait to see what Ms. Greene has planned for future books.

As I previously mentioned, Edward’s life is in danger and one plot begets another as a mystery arises. I loved the intrigue but did struggle with The Vicar and the Rake as the puzzle pieces came into play as they didn’t seem to quite fit. There was a plot hole and a few convenient twists of fate that nagged at me after I finished the story. Still, I enjoyed The Vicar and the Rake overall and I’m looking forward to the next Society of Beasts 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.