Sunday, February 28, 2021

Review: Air Bound by Christine Feehan

Air Bound by Christine Feehan
Series: Sea Haven/Sisters of the Heart, Book 3
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Paranormal Romantic Suspense 
Air Bound cover
ISBN: 9780515154634
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

On the shores of Sea Haven, six women touched by great loss have come together in a sisterhood strengthened by the elements—a bond each will need as new love and danger enter their lives…

For as far back as she can remember, Airiana Ridell has always been aware of her extraordinary gift. She can intuit revealing and illuminating “patterns” in the air around her, an ability which led to her placement in a secret government training facility when she was a child. But everything changed after her mother was murdered…

Airiana fled the program, but she couldn’t outrun the desperate members of a shadowy cabal who want her, who need her, who will kill to get her. Kidnapped and held aboard a ship bound for dangerous seas, her only chance for rescue is Maxim Prakenskii. He has his reasons for helping her, but he isn’t about to reveal them to Airiana. Not yet. Not as the two are drawn together as moth to flame. Not when there are so many secrets yet untold that could shatter the quaint community of Sea Haven and all who reside there.

A heroine whose talents everyone wants to possess find safe harbor in the arms of a dangerous, mysterious hero in Air Bound. Christine Feehan’s third Sea Haven/Sisters of the Heart book features Airiana Ridell, the air element with a kind heart and a spine of steel and Maxim Prakenskii, a deadly Russian agent with a target on his back.

I enjoy characters who are a mix of strength and vulnerability and Airiana fits the bill perfectly. She’s brilliant – a child prodigy governments would kill to possess. She’s also a powerful air element which makes her a force to be reckoned with. This is balanced by her tender, empathetic heart. Airiana would do anything for those she loves and she loves quickly and easily. Maxim is an air element as well and he and his brothers were taken as children and raised to be weapons. He’s rough, hardened, and completely in over his head with Airiana. He thinks he’s cold as ice but she barrels through all his walls immediately, making him want things like a home and family he wouldn’t let himself dream of. Airiana may be softhearted but she’s no pushover. Their romance is a total whirlwind (pun intended) but it worked for me because of the Prakenskii fated mates bond.

Intertwined with the love story is a whole lot of action as Airiana and Maxim are forced to escape multiple kidnapping attempts and death threats. Air Bound is fairly heavy on the fighting and danger which normally wouldn’t hold my interest but Feehan keeps the pace moving at a quick clip. There’s a lot of ugliness and evil Maxim and Airiana see but it reinforces how urgent it is they fight for good. I won’t spoil anything but there are some supporting characters they pick up along the way who broke my heart and whose interactions with Maxim and Airiana put it back together.

Air Bound can easily be read as a standalone; Feehan gives you enough of a sense of Airiana’s relationship with the women who have become their sisters in order to slide right into the series if you choose to start here. Admittedly my favorite parts of the book were seeing Airiana with her sisters. These six unique, powerful women brought together by loss are what makes this series shine and by the time I finished Air Bound I could not wait to dive into Lexi’s book, Earth Bound.

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, February 21, 2021

Review: Quiet in Her Bones by Nalini Singh

Quiet in Her Bones by Nalini Singh
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Thriller 
Quiet in Her Bones cover
ISBN: 9780593099100
Release Date: February 23, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Nalini Singh Reading Order

My mother vanished ten years ago.
So did a quarter of a million dollars in cash.
Thief. Bitch. Criminal.
Now, she's back.
Her bones clothed in scarlet silk.

When socialite Nina Rai disappeared without a trace, everyone wrote it off as another trophy wife tired of her wealthy husband. But now her bones have turned up in the shadowed green of the forest that surrounds her elite neighborhood, a haven of privilege and secrets that’s housed the same influential families for decades.

The rich live here, along with those whose job it is to make their lives easier. And somebody knows what happened to Nina one rainy night ten years ago. Her son Aarav heard a chilling scream that night, and he’s determined to uncover the ugly truth that lives beneath the moneyed elegance…but no one is ready for the murderous secrets about to crawl out of the dark.

Even the dead aren’t allowed to break the rules in this cul-de-sac.

Quiet in Her Bones is a dark, evocative thriller set on the edges of the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park. Ten years ago, Aarav Rai’s mother disappeared without a trace. Now her car has been found in the dense New Zealand bush, her bones the only remnants of the once vibrant Nina Rai. Aarav, recovering from an injury at his father’s house, is determined to uncover who in their small, exclusive neighborhood killed his mother. As Aarav digs deeper into the past the suspect list grows and the ugly secrets wealth and privacy have hid come to light.

Nalini Singh takes readers on an intriguing journey filled with twists and turns. It’s hard to guess where Quiet in Her Bones will go next because Aarav is an unreliable narrator. His mind is an even bigger puzzle than the mystery of who killed Nina. I admit I’m not the biggest fan of the unreliable narrator as it feels like sometimes the red herrings that come from it aren’t as well earned; but that’s personal preference so take it for what it’s worth. The Cul-de-Sac where Aarav grew up is small but almost everyone is a suspect. Shades of Rear Window creep up as Aarav, healing from multiple injuries, watches his neighbors, searching for clues. I enjoyed learning everyone’s secrets and Singh wasn’t afraid to dive into the ugliness hidden behind the picture-perfect exteriors. Beauty can be hiding a lot of brokenness in this book.

Aarav is an interesting protagonist, scarred from his parents’ brutal marriage, tormented by his complex feelings toward his mother, and haunted by more memories I won’t spoil. The story takes a lot of switchbacks as we journey through the mystery as Aarav’s mind seems to be deteriorating. His thoughts are scattered, which is logical for all that’s going on, but it got a bit repetitive in the middle of the book, making the story drag a bit. In those moments it was the two bright spots of unreserved kindness – Aarav’s stepmother and half-sister – that kept me going. I’m glad I did; the book’s climax was exciting, sucking me in and making it difficult for me to put it down. Singh’s lush prose makes Quiet in Her Bones stand out from the crowd and I’d recommend this book to all thriller fans.

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, February 15, 2021

Review: First Comes Like by Alisha Rai

First Comes Like by Alisha Rai
Series: Modern Love, Book 3
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
First Comes Like cover
ISBN: 9780062878151
Release Date: February 16, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Beauty expert and influencer Jia Ahmed has her eye on the prize: conquering the internet today, the entire makeup industry tomorrow, and finally, finally proving herself to her big opinionated family. She has little time for love, and even less time for the men in her private messages—until the day a certain international superstar slides into her DMs, and she falls hard and fast.

There’s just one wrinkle: he has no idea who she is.

The son of a powerful Bollywood family, soap opera star Dev Dixit is used to drama, but a strange woman who accuses him of wooing her online, well, that’s a new one. As much as he’d like to focus on his Hollywood fresh start, he can’t get Jia out of his head. Especially once he starts to suspect who might have used his famous name to catfish her…

When paparazzi blast their private business into the public eye, Dev is happy to engage in some friendly fake dating to calm the gossips and to dazzle her family. But as the whole world swoons over their relationship, Jia can’t help but wonder: Can an online romance-turned-offline-fauxmance ever become love in real life?

Can catfishing lead to love? It can when in the hands of talented author Alisha Rai. First Comes Like starts off with a modern problem and turns it into a sweet romance. Dev and Jia’s story is an excellent blend of modern and traditional that shines thanks to its incredibly charming leads.

Jia is easy to adore. She’s a social media influencer and beauty expert working toward getting her own makeup line one day. Jia’s family may say she’s “too much” but she’s exactly right as-is. Jia has a bright personality, a kind heart, and a quick mind – she’s a true triple threat you’d absolutely want as a friend in real life. When she learns she’s been catfished by someone using soap opera star Dev Dixit’s social media account she’s mortified. Between worrying what her family will say when they find out the truth and the paparazzi sticking their cameras into her business, Jia needs a quick fix and it’s Dev to the rescue.

Dev is a total sweetheart. He’s got a heart of gold and a sweet, protective, and supportive nature. Dev is raising his niece in the wake of his brother’s death and it was lovely to watch him with his family. Dev isn’t perfect but he tries so hard to do what’s best for the people he loves. It’s a testament to Rai’s talent that he doesn’t come across as too perfect. If a fake romance is what it will take to solve Jia’s problems than Dev is happy to help. And the more time they spend together the clearer it is that the two of them are simply meant to be.

Because Jia and Dev are such likeable characters it’s easy to fall into their romance. There’s an easy chemistry to them that makes the pages of the story whizz by. I liked how they simply clicked on every level, appreciating and supporting each other at every turn. There’s not much drama and very little angst in First Comes Like and that was fine by me for the most part. I do wish there had been more to the story at the end to see Jia and Dev grow more as a couple. Things felt left up in the air with their lives and professions – likely by design – but even with this issue I was still confident Jia and Dev would be able to navigate whatever obstacles came their way.

First Comes Like is the third book in Alisha Rai’s Modern Love series but it can easily be read as a standalone. I was delighted to revisit Rhiannon and Katrina and the strong female friendships in this book made my heart sing. I also adored Jia and Dev’s families. The dynamics can be messy, but there is love there that radiates off the page. And it would be remiss of me to talk about this book and not note that Rai treats Jia and Dev’s religions, cultures, and traditions with respect, making the characters and the world they inhabit feel all the more real. I’ve adored every book in the Modern Love series and First Comes Like 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, February 14, 2021

Review: Combustion by Elia Winters

Combustion by Elia Winters
Publisher: Cecaelia Press
Genre: Erotic Steampunk Romance 
Combustion cover
ISBN: 9781951589035
Rerelease Date: February 15, 2021
Source: Author
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo
Elia Winters Reading Order

Astrid Bailey is content living alone, balancing her career as a contract machinist with her true passion: making “felicitation devices” for her discerning female clients. The upcoming World’s Fair, with its substantial cash prize, is an opportunity for her to open the shop she’s always imagined and solve her financial woes. With questionable credentials, though, she’s unable to enter without a reputable businessman to vouch for her.

Eli Rutledge, noted watchmaker, needs to enter the World’s Fair to maintain his reputation as an innovator, but he’s fresh out of ideas. With no other options, he agrees to Astrid’s proposal, lending his good name to her scandalous invention. When construction heats up, so does their chemistry--and the complications. Astrid is unaccustomed to accepting help, especially from a privileged businessman like Eli, even if she can’t keep her hands off him. Eli is losing his fight to an attraction that could spell professional disaster and heartbreak. As the Fair date approaches, Astrid and Eli must decide how far they’ll go for the business...and for each other.

Warning: contains scandalous “product testing,” steamy f/f and m/f encounters, and gratuitous liberties with an alternative-history Steampunk London, all in the quest for happily ever after.
Combustion is a sexy and sex-positive romance that’s a whole lot of fun to read. Astrid Bailey is a bit prickly and she has reason to be. She’s known loss, grief, and has been dismissed as an inventor and businessperson because she’s a woman, not wealthy, and her devices are geared toward female clients. Astrid is a gifted inventor who dreams of owning her own shop to sell her “felicitation devices” and I wanted to see her achieve that dream. Her best shot at doing so is winning the cash prize at the World’s Fair, but to even enter she needs the backing a reputable businessman. Enter Eli Rutledge.

Eli is a watchmaker who inherited a successful business. He has the money and connections Astrid both needs and resents. He also is short of an idea of his own to present at the World’s Fair so he and Astrid teaming up is the perfect plan. Her idea is scandalous beyond measure, but the two of them go for it anyway. Eli’s edges are softer than Astrid’s and the two of them complement one another perfectly. I like that Eli isn’t dismissive of Astrid’s inventions or pleasure and it made the sparks that flew between the two of them seriously hot.

Attraction is easy, but falling in love is a lot more complicated. Both Astrid and Eli have walls up because of past wounds. Eli thinks he’s too boring for someone like Astrid and she thinks he would never want to be with someone of a different class. Miscommunication and misunderstandings threaten to derail the romance but they’re logical obstacles. I was rooting for Astrid and Eli every step of the way.

Elia Winters knows how to deliver seriously hot romances and Combustion is no exception. Astrid and Eli are not shy about testing out her inventions or asking for what they want in the bedroom (or the workroom or…). All in all, Combustion is a fast-paced, red-hot jaunt through alternate-history London. The steampunk elements are fun, the characters perfectly imperfect, and the ending made me smile.

Note: Combustion was first published in 2015 and has been revised for this edition.

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.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Review: A Lady’s Formula for Love by Elizabeth Everett

A Lady’s Formula for Love by Elizabeth Everett
Series: The Secret Scientists of London, Book 1
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Historical Romance 
A Ladys Formula for Love cover
ISBN: 9780593200629
Release Date: February 9, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

What is a Victorian lady's formula for love? Mix one brilliant noblewoman and her enigmatic protection officer. Add in a measure of danger and attraction. Heat over the warmth of humor and friendship, and the result is more than simple chemistry--it's elemental.

Lady Violet is keeping secrets. First, she founded a clandestine sanctuary for England's most brilliant female scientists. Second, she is using her genius on a confidential mission for the Crown. But the biggest secret of all? Her feelings for protection officer Arthur Kneland.

Solitary and reserved, Arthur learned the hard way to put duty first. But the more time he spends in the company of Violet and the eccentric club members, the more his best intentions go up in flames. Literally.

When a shadowy threat infiltrates Violet's laboratories, endangering her life and her work, scientist and bodyguard will find all their theories put to the test--and learn that the most important discoveries are those of the heart.

In the heart of London lies Athena’s Retreat – a social club for ladies that hides their true interest: science. How could I resist A Lady’s Formula for Love when it features not one but innumerable women with vast and varied scientific interests in a time when women’s ideas were dismissed, stolen, ridiculed, and more? Elizabeth Everett’s debut has a lot of promise and when it focuses on the sharp minds and diverse characters that inhabit The Secret Scientists of London series the book shines.

Lady Violet Hughes is the founder of Athena’s Retreat. Violet is a brilliant scientist who can sometimes get lost in her work and I enjoyed her absent-minded professor qualities. She’s also the survivor of an emotionally abusive marriage and I loved watching her find confidence in herself over the course of the story. It’s clear from the start that she’s strong. After all, even though her husband spent years tearing her down she still created a place as glorious as Athena’s Retreat. But Violet is vulnerable in other respects, particularly when it comes to her desirability. It was lovely to see her appreciated mind and body by Arthur. When Violet is tasked with coming up with an antidote to a toxin being used by radicals, her stepson hires Arthur Kneland as a bodyguard. Arthur is a man haunted by death and this is his last job before retirement. Arthur knows better than to see his assignments as people but from the start Violet barrels right through his well-constructed walls. Arthur tries to be remote but Violet and her staff all quickly find their way into his heart. I loved the friendships the lonely Arthur formed. And as for his relationship with Violet…the two of them have definite chemistry. Their attraction is impossible to deny and though they want to keep things strictly physical, it’s clear there’s no way for them to prevent their hearts from becoming engaged. Violet and Arthur are likeable as individuals and their romance is easy to become invested in.

There’s a lot to like about A Lady’s Formula for Love, but there are also some missed opportunities. Athena’s Retreat is a place where people can be themselves and be supported by the group. However, though Violet is supportive of everyone her closest friends don’t do the same. I hated seeing Violet hurt by their dismissiveness and wanting to put the club above all else. Their reasoning is realistic but problematic and the latter is never discussed. I really wanted to see strong female friendships in this story and felt like Everett missed the mark a bit. Then there is the mystery of who is going after Violet’s work for the Crown. The predictability of the villain wasn’t all that bad, but the resolution of this plot given all that happened left a sour taste in my mouth. The book’s climax is messy and the false equivalencies drawn in order to resolve the plot to the heroine’s satisfaction were incredibly dissatisfying to me, the reader.

A Lady’s Formula for Love is a bit difficult for me to stick a rating on because it had big pluses and minuses for me. Ultimately, I am in love with the wealth of STEM characters enough to come down on the side of highly enjoying this book. I also could swoon over how Arthur cared for Violet and how he appreciated her for all that she was. So while A Lady’s Formula for Love was a bit uneven for me, I’m looking forward to the next Secret Scientists of London book because I think this series has a lot of potential.

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, February 9, 2021

Review: The Duke Heist by Erica Ridley

The Duke Heist by Erica Ridley
Series: The Wild Wynchesters, Book 1
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Historical Romance 
The Duke Heist cover
ISBN: 9781538719527
Release Date: February 9, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Chloe Wynchester is completely forgettable -- a curse that gives her the ability to blend into any crowd. When the only father she's ever known makes a dying wish for his adopted family of orphans to recover a missing painting, she's the first one her siblings turn to for stealing it back. No one expects that in doing so, she'll also abduct a handsome duke.

Lawrence Gosling, the Duke of Faircliffe, is tortured by his father's mistakes. To repair his estate's ruined reputation, he must wed a highborn heiress. Yet when he finds himself in a carriage being driven hell-for-leather down the cobblestone streets of London by a beautiful woman who refuses to heed his commands, he fears his heart is hers. But how can he sacrifice his family's legacy to follow true love?

An accidental abduction is only the beginning of the fun in The Duke Heist. Erica Ridley’s first Wild Wynchesters book is wonderful, filled with characters who will grab your heart and make you impatient to see what’s next for the delightful Wynchester family.

Chloe Wynchester is one of six adopted siblings who were raised by a loving baron who encouraged them to be themselves and to do what’s right. In the wake of his death, the siblings are determined to recover a very special painting from the Duke of Faircliffe. The icy duke won’t give them the time of day, but the siblings are determined to get back what Faircliffe’s father stole from them. Except their recovery plan goes awry and lands Chloe in the unexpected position of being an accidental duke-napper.

What follows I’ll leave readers to discover, but the titular heist is only the beginning of the adventure for Chloe and Lawrence. Chloe has the talent of being forgettable, which is useful when she needs it to be, but heartbreaking at other times. Chloe longs to be loved by someone other than her siblings. She also desperately wants to be seen for all that she is. Chloe is quick and clever, but her hidden vulnerabilities wrapped around my heart. I wanted to see her get all that she wanted and Erica Ridley did not let me down. Lawrence truly sees Chloe. The icy duke isn’t coldhearted at all, but rather a man struggling to save all that his father destroyed. Lawrence is a flawed hero who sticks his foot in his mouth more than once. But even when he screws up you can tell he has a good heart. More importantly, he learns from his mistakes and tries to do better. Lawrence has hidden vulnerabilities and secret yearnings as well. There’s a loneliness to him that made me want to give him a hug. I loved watching both he and Chloe open up and be their true selves with each other. Though Lawrence’s mission to restore his family legacy threatens to keep he and Chloe apart, it’s clear they’re made for each other. Their friendship and romance kept me glued to the pages of their story. Ridley manages to balance sweetness with sensuality, humor with heart, and drama with character growth extremely well.

As I previously mentioned, The Duke Heist is the first book in the Wild Wynchesters series. Chloe’s siblings all play supporting roles and they are unique, intriguing characters I can’t wait to learn more about. Their absolute love for each other and the way they work as a team stole my heart. They’re the kind of family you read about and immediately want to be part of. I finished Chloe and Lawrence’s story a well-satisfied reader, but I absolutely cannot wait to see the rest of the Wynchesters find their happily ever afters!

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, February 5, 2021

Review: Much Ado About You by Samantha Young

Much Ado About You by Samantha Young
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Much Ado About You cover
ISBN: 9780593099483
Release Date: February 2, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

At thirty-three-years old Evangeline Starling’s life in Chicago is missing that special something. And when she’s passed over for promotion at work, Evie realizes she needs to make a change. Some time away to regain perspective might be just the thing. In a burst of impulsivity, she plans a holiday in a quaint English village. The holiday package comes with a temporary position at Much Ado About Books, the bookstore located beneath her rental apartment. There’s no better dream vacation for the bookish Evie, a life-long Shakespeare lover.

Not only is Evie swept up in running the delightful store as soon as she arrives, she’s drawn into the lives, loves and drama of the friendly villagers. Including Roane Robson, the charismatic and sexy farmer who tempts Evie every day with his friendly flirtations. Evie is determined to keep him at bay because a holiday romance can only end in heartbreak, right? But Evie can’t deny their connection and longs to trust in her handsome farmer that their whirlwind romance could turn in to the forever kind of love.

Much Ado About You is frothy good fun. An idyllic country town, (mostly) charming residents, books, and a handsome hero with an adorable dog? How could it not be a charming escape read?

After getting passed over for a much-deserved promotion and being stood up by a guy she thought she had a real connection with, Evie Starling needs to take a break from her life in Chicago. A month vacation in Northern England where she also gets to run a bookstore is just what the doctor ordered. Much Ado About Books is irresistible to Shakespeare-loving Evie and the residents of Alnster welcome her right away. But it’s when she saves a dog’s life that Evie gets the wind knocked out of her – literally and figuratively. Roane Robson, the dog’s owner, is a sexy farmer who tempts Evie to break her dating hiatus.

I really enjoyed that Evie and Roane’s relationship started out as friendship. Even though Roane makes it clear from the start he wants to date her, Roane respects that Evie doesn’t want to get involved when she’s leaving England in four weeks. Roane and Evie make an adorable couple and I liked them together, though the insta-love aspects did, at times, make the relationship feel shallow. The biggest drawback for me in Much Ado About You is we don’t really get to know Roane beneath the surface. He’s the perfect hero, but in a way that seems almost cardboard. He falls at Evie’s feet from the start, is handsome, charming, always available when needed for the plot, and his only flaw is he keeps a secret that causes drama that felt inorganic. I wanted a bit more depth to him and the romance but whether or not this bothers you in a beach read type story is really reader preference.

Immediately upon arriving in Alnster Evie winds herself into local life, becoming involved in everyone’s lives and loves as much as she can. There are some cute nods to Shakespeare in this story as Evie plays town problem-solver and matchmaker. I also really liked the supporting cast, especially Roane’s cousin, Caroline. It may be a little odd that a newcomer bursts into a small town and everyone listens to her immediately, but it’s cute and fun and keeps with the book’s bubbly tone. Author Samantha Young gives this story a good heart (for lack of a better way to describe it) and that kept me engaged in the story. Overall, I was entertained by Much Ado About You and it definitely made me wish I could take a trip like Evie’s.

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.