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.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Review: All Stirred Up by Brianne Moore

All Stirred Up by Brianne Moore
Publisher: Alcove Press
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
All Stirred Up cover
ISBN: 9781643855318
Release Date: October 6, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Susan Napier's family once lived on the success of the high-end restaurants founded by her late grandfather. But bad luck and worse management has brought the business to the edge of financial ruin. Now it's up to Susan to save the last remaining restaurant: Elliot's, the flagship in Edinburgh.

But what awaits Susan in the charming city of Auld Reekie is more than she bargained for. Chris Baker, her grandfather's former protégé--and her ex-boyfriend--is also heading to the Scottish capital. After finding fame in New York as a chef and judge of a popular TV cooking competition, Chris is returning to his native Scotland to open his own restaurant. Although the storms have cleared after their intense and rocky breakup, Susan and Chris are re-drawn into each other's orbit--and their simmering attraction inevitably boils over.

As Chris's restaurant opens to great acclaim and Susan tries to haul Elliot's back from the brink, the future brims with new promise. But darkness looms as they find themselves in the crosshairs of a gossip blogger eager for a juicy story--and willing to do anything to get it. Can Susan and Chris reclaim their lost love, or will the tangled past ruin their last hope for happiness?

Jane Austen’s Persuasion gets a modern-day remake in All Stirred Up. As both a Janeite and a lover of foodie romances, I couldn’t wait to dive into a reimagining of Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth’s love story set in the culinary world. While the result may not be as stunning as its inspiration, I still found author Brianne Moore’s take interesting and engaging.

Susan Napier’s grandfather founded a chain of restaurants that were successful and world-renowned. In the wake of his death and the passing of Susan’s mother, the Napier family is nearly in ruins. All they have left is the flagship restaurant in Edinburgh. Susan is determined to revitalize the restaurant and save her grandfather’s legacy. I loved her quiet strength and her determination in the face of numerous, frustrating obstacles. Susan isn’t perfect but she’s a good, kind woman with good business sense, a talent for pastry and sweets, and a spine of steel most don’t see. She and Chris Baker have a history and their breakup was bad. They were both young and Susan was still grieving her mother’s death when she was persuaded to leave him. Chris is understandably bitter given how things turned out, but he can’t help but be drawn to Susan once they’re both in the same city. Chris has become a famous chef in the intervening years since their breakup. He isn’t perfect either; there’s a lot of him that’s still hurt and angry. But beneath it all is a good man who is helps others where he can and who has vision and determination of his own. He and Susan simply “click,” but don’t expect a grand romance in All Stirred Up. The love story is a bit understated and lacks the passionate undertones I would have liked. The romance doesn’t really get going until the end of the book and though the history between Susan and Chris is well-established enough for the ending to be believable, a bit more zing or simmering tension would have given the romance more life.

The Edinburgh restaurant scene is highlighted in All Stirred Up and it’s where the writing shines. Ms. Moore will make you salivate with all the divine dishes described in this story. Her culinary knowledge is apparent and the descriptions of both food and locations bring the book to life. She also rounds out the story with a host of engaging secondary characters. If you’re familiar with Persuasion you’ll recognize who their classic counterparts are and I loved the depth and character motivation Ms. Moore added to Susan’s sisters. So while the romance was a bit lacking for me, I still really enjoyed this book overall. I’m a sucker for Austen retellings and Ms. Moore does a great job of including classic elements and storylines while making this book stand on its 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.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Review: Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Spoiler Alert cover
ISBN: 9780063005549
Release Date: October 6, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Marcus Caster-Rupp has a secret. The world may know him as Aeneas, star of the biggest show on television, but fanfiction readers call him something else: Book!AeneasWouldNever. Marcus gets out his frustrations with the show through anonymous stories about the internet’s favorite couple, Aeneas and Lavinia. But if anyone discovered his online persona, he’d be finished in Hollywood.

April Whittier has secrets of her own. A hardcore Lavinia fan, she’s long hidden her fanfic and cosplay hobbies from her “real life”—but not anymore. When she dares to post her latest costume creation on Twitter, her plus-size take goes viral. And when Marcus asks her out to spite her internet critics, truth officially becomes stranger than fanfiction.

On their date, Marcus quickly realizes he wants more from April than a one-time publicity stunt. But when he discovers she’s Unapologetic Lavinia Stan, his closest fandom friend, he has one more huge secret to keep from her.

With love and Marcus’s career on the line, can the two of them stop hiding once and for all, or will a match made in fandom end up prematurely cancelled?

Spoiler Alert is fluffy fanfic meets unexpected emotional depth. On the fluffy side, you have the gorgeous leading man of a Game of Thrones-type show asking out an ordinary woman after internet trolls attack her cosplay. On the less sunny side, you have two protagonists with realistic emotional baggage. Author Olivia Dade blends the light and the dark beautifully, making this a most enjoyable tale.

April is a geologist who has secretly been writing Gods of the Gates fanfic for years, mostly about her favorite ship, Lavinia and Aeneas. After years of keeping it a secret, April is finally owning her online alter ego and I loved her enthusiasm for her work and her fandom. She is also a plus size heroine and one of the things I loved most about this book is that Ms. Dade does fat rep so incredibly well. She gets how even someone who loves the way she looks can be hurt over and over, both by loved ones and hateful trolls. April is a strong, smart heroine with confidence but she can be incredibly vulnerable. She felt real, flaws and all. And her flaws are realistic ones, though sometimes unpleasant. She’s been hurt so often that when Marcus unwittingly triggers her she shuts down. But these flaws make her human and add depth; they also provided her the opportunity to grow.

And speaking of Marcus… *sigh* He has one of the softest hearts I’ve ever read in a hero and I just loved that about him. He’s been deeply hurt by people who should have loved him so he doesn’t let many come close. He plays the part of the handsome and sweet but incredibly dim actor and few see beneath the surface. Marcus is caring, considerate, and goes out of his way to make sure others are comfortable… He’s almost too perfect but that marshmallow heart just got me. It was sometimes hard to watch Marcus’s feelings get stepped on when he accidentally triggers April. But those ups and downs also helped him as he slowly comes out of his shell. He’s not happy where he’s at, but he’s afraid to let the real Marcus be seen. I was rooting for him every step of the way and I loved Marcus’s journey. From opening up about his dyslexia to watching his fanfic writing develop to following him as he decided how he wanted to shape his post-Gods of the Gates career, his personal journey kept me engaged.

The romance is the heart of Spoiler Alert and it was entertaining, though not my favorite part of the story. Marcus and April have instant chemistry once he stops playing a role and captures her interest. I liked them together and of course I wanted them to get their happily ever after, but I personally found their character growth to be more engaging. The obstacles in their path are primarily internal and though I won’t spoil the third act drama, it’s safe to say readers will spot it coming from the very beginning. Whether or not you find this satisfying is really a matter of personal taste.

Secondary characters round out Spoiler Alert wonderfully well. I enjoyed Marcus’s costars and would love to read about most of them. In particular, I cannot wait to see what’s in store for Marcus’s irrepressible best friend, Alex. All in all, I really liked Spoiler Alert; it’s sweet and fluffy but can pack a punch in unexpected moments.

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 4, 2020

Review: Brass Carriages and Glass Hearts by Nancy Campbell Allen

Brass Carriages and Glass Hearts by Nancy Campbell Allen
Series: Steampunk Proper Romance, Book 4
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Genre: Steampunk Romance 
Brass Carriages and Glass Hearts cover
ISBN: 9781629727370
Release Date: October 6, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

A steampunk retelling of Cinderella.

Emmeline O'Shea is determined to save the world—single-handedly, if necessary. A strong voice for societal reform, she is the natural choice to deliver a key speech at the end of the International Shifter Rights Organization's week-long Summit in Scotland.

But when a death threat arrives at Emme's home, she is immediately placed into protective custody, watched over by none other than her personal nemesis, Detective-Inspector Oliver Reed. The two have crossed paths many times, with disastrous results, but now they will have to work together in order to reach the Summit before midnight of the last day in order to ensure legislation is passed to protect the Shifter community.

As unseen enemies close in around Emme and Oliver, they struggle to reach Edinburgh by any means necessary, only to find Emme's vindictive stepsister, Oliver's vampire brother, and a dangerous political minefield awaiting them in Scotland.

Even more difficult is their own refusal to admit that the fiery animosity that once burned between them might be turning into the heat of romantic passion. Could a straitlaced policeman determined to uphold the law and an outspoken activist willing to break the rules ever find true love? Or will all their dreams shatter like glass when the clock strikes midnight?

A heroine determined to fight for what’s right. A hero assigned to protect her. Danger, romance, and a clock ticking down to midnight all blend together wonderfully in Brass Carriages and Glass Hearts. I adored this action-packed steampunk romance and its stellar characters, clever inventions, and oh-so-addictive world.

I can’t imagine Emme not winning anyone over. She’s courageous, kind, and determined to fight for what is right, no matter the personal cost. As Spokeswoman for the International Shifter Rights Organization she has the opportunity to give the closing speech right before the end of a summit where legislation to protect shifters is up for a vote. Only someone is determined she not live to make that speech. Enter Detective-Inspector Oliver Reed, Emme’s nemesis and the man who has arrested her more than once. Oliver agrees with Emme’s mission – he’s a good, logical person and his best friend is a predatory shifter, after all – it’s her disruptive ways he doesn’t agree with. No matter how often they’ve come into conflict, the simmering attraction between Emme and Oliver cannot be denied. So when he’s assigned to be her bodyguard and make sure she gets to Scotland in once piece, neither of them can hide their feelings any longer. Their romance seems to be fated (especially since their closest friends are all paired up) so I didn’t mind that they fell in love rather quickly; it goes with the Cinderella theme.

What I found most interesting about Brass Carriages and Glass Hearts is how well Emme and Oliver worked together. They may have been adversaries in the past, but they both want the same thing. And to get to Scotland, they must overcome obstacles at every corner. Between Emme’s evil stepsister, Oliver’s vampire brother, death threats, kidnappings, and more, I wasn’t sure at times how our protagonists would make it. Thankfully they have allies old and new who add warmth and depth to the world. Fans of the series will delight in seeing past couples play supporting roles and there is a new character I found totally endearing who fills several Cinderella roles.

Though Brass Carriages and Glass Hearts has many nods to a beloved fairytale, it does fully stand on its own. I do recommend reading at least the first book in the series (Beauty and the Clockwork Beast) before starting Emme and Oliver’s book. You should be familiar with the wonderful world Nancy Campbell Allen has built before jumping headfirst into a story of steampunk, shifters, vampires, and more that does not offer a primer. I’ve adored every book in this series and this one does not disappoint. My only quibble is that there is a lot going on in this book and a few things felt rushed because so much was packed in (namely the storyline involving Oliver’s brother). Even with that issue, I enjoyed this story overall. I adore the way Nancy Campbell Allen blends fairytale and steampunk to create a world that is wholly unique. I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next!

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