Saturday, May 29, 2021

Review: One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Genre: Female/Female New Adult Contemporary Romance with Paranormal Elements 
One Last Stop cover
ISBN: 9781250244499
Release Date: June 1, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there’s certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures.

But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on the train.

Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile, showing up in a leather jacket to save August’s day when she needed it most. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old school punk rocker. She’s literally displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things, after all.

Romance, mystery, and finding family all come together in One Last Stop. Casey McQuiston’s sophomore novel brings a bit of magic to the New York City subway as August falls for a mysterious woman who has somehow slipped through time and is stuck on the Q line.

August comes to New York City looking for home. She’s a little lost, lonelier than she ever would admit, and somehow manages to find roommates who become family. Myla, Niko, and Wes, along with their neighbor, Isaiah, and the crew at the pancake place August works at become family and are my favorite parts of One Last Stop. From Myla’s blazing energy to Niko’s kind and knowing soul to Wes’s grumpy and scared heart to Isaiah’s patience and fabulous drag persona, everything about the people who become August’s family grabbed my heart. These folx came alive on the page and their vibrant personalities endeared them to me and made me miss them whenever they weren’t in a scene.

At the heart of One Last Stop are August and Jane. August has been a loner for so long it breaks your heart and I enjoyed watching her come into her own over the course of the story. Jane is a mystery I don’t want to spoil by delving into too deeply. She’s displaced in time, having somehow gotten stuck on the Q line since sometime in the 1970s. Jane is both porcupine and marshmallow. She will fight anyone who is bigoted or a bully but she also is tender at unexpected moments. The mystery of how she got stuck is just one of the many things you learn about her over the course of the story and I liked watching August peel back her layers. Their romance is solid, but for me it was one of the least interesting things about the book and I never felt truly invested. The chemistry just wasn’t there and I know McQuiston can deliver chemistry (Myla and Niko? Fantastic chemistry).

I’m torn on rating One Last Stop because there are a lot of things I like about it. McQuiston’s lyrical prose captured me at times and the love and support between August and the family she made grabbed my heart and didn’t let go. But the first half of the book was incredibly slow and if I hadn’t loved McQuiston’s debut novel so much I might not have stuck with this one. It did pick up in the second half but I still finished the story thinking I liked specific things about it a lot more than the book as a whole.

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, May 28, 2021

Review: Neon Gods by Katee Robert

Neon Gods by Katee Robert
Series: Dark Olympus, Book 1
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Erotic Contemporary Romance with D/s and Paranormal Elements 
Neon Gods
ISBN: 9781728231730
Release Date: June 1, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Society darling Persephone Dimitriou plans to flee the ultra-modern city of Olympus and start over far from the backstabbing politics of the Thirteen Houses. But all that's ripped away when her mother ambushes her with an engagement to Zeus, the dangerous power behind their glittering city's dark facade.

With no options left, Persephone flees to the forbidden undercity and makes a devil's bargain with a man she once believed a myth...a man who awakens her to a world she never knew existed.

Hades has spent his life in the shadows, and he has no intention of stepping into the light. But when he finds that Persephone can offer a little slice of the revenge he's spent years craving, it's all the excuse he needs to help her—for a price. Yet every breathless night spent tangled together has given Hades a taste for Persephone, and he'll go to war with Olympus itself to keep her close…

A woman desperate to escape. A man who is only supposed to be a myth. A bargain that will become more than either could have imagined. Welcome to the world of Neon Gods, an insanely hot and surprisingly fun retelling of the Hades/Persephone myth. Katee Robert swept me off my feet with this decadent romance filled with seriously hot love scenes and a romance that is so sweet it made me melt.

Hades has spent his life in the shadows but Persephone brings light into his life. She’s not the biddable, sunshiny socialite she portrays in public. Beneath the mask is a bright, energetic woman whose passions match his own. And while Hades may have the image of being the fearsome king of the lower city, beneath all that lies a generous, marshmallow heart that made me melt. He’s growly and protective, she’s not one to take any shit from him, and the two of them have crackling chemistry. Their banter made me smile and the way Hades cared for Persephone made me swoon. I loved their romance so much I absolutely hated to put Neon Gods down.

Persephone ran to the lower city to escape an engagement to Zeus she knows would be deadly. Hades has been out for revenge ever since Zeus murdered his parents thirty years ago. The two of them come up with a plan: Zeus likes the pretense that Persephone is untouched so Hades will “tarnish” her. What follows is actually an exploration of her desires and it was sizzling hot. Hades enjoys public escapades but no matter what they’re doing he always makes absolutely sure that it’s what she wants. Their kinks align and consent is at the forefront so everything about the erotic scenes is incredibly hot. It’s the heart of the Hades/Persephone romance that grabbed me, but damn the sex scenes were utterly delicious.

I adored Neon Gods from beginning to end. Hades is definitely up there on my list of favorite heroes. The fact that the dark and sexy lord of the Underworld has got the gooiest center imaginable just knocked my socks off. And Persephone, who sees beneath masks and who has an honest and caring heart that has survived the politics of the upper city, is his perfect match – the queen to his king. Their romance is one of equals and it made Neon Gods incredibly addictive. I also loved the world Robert created for the Dark Olympus series. While there’s a certain paranormal element to the isolation of Olympus, overall it’s set in a human realm. The Thirteen are not gods, but rather humans who possess a title and inhabit a role. It’s a fascinating world and I cannot wait to learn more about it in the next Dark Olympus book, Electric Idol.

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, May 23, 2021

Review: Undercover Duke by Sabrina Jeffries

Undercover Duke by Sabrina Jeffries
Series: Duke Dynasty, Book 4
Publisher: Zebra
Genre: Historical Romance 
Undercover Duke cover
ISBN: 9781420148589
Release Date: May 25, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Sabrina Jeffries Reading Order

Along with his stepsiblings, Sheridan Wolfe, Duke of Armitage, is determined to finally solve the mysteries behind the suspicious deaths of their mother’s three husbands. Tasked with investigating a possible suspect, Sheridan finds himself in dangerous proximity to her captivating daughter, Vanessa Pryde. But still haunted by a tragically lost love, the duke is resolved to resist the attraction—and avoid any “scheming” husband-hunters. Besides, lovely Miss Pryde seems utterly smitten with a roguish London playwright…

Vanessa thinks a little scheming may be in order—for it’s Sheridan she truly has her sights, and her heart, set on. Her theatrical flirtation is intended only to break through his business-like demeanor and guarded emotions. And as Sheridan’s jealousy becomes aroused, the two soon find themselves propelled into a scheme of an altogether different kind, involving a pretend engagement, a secret inquiry—and a perhaps not-so-secret leap into true love…

The last of the Dowager Duchess of Armitage’s children meets their match in Undercover Duke. Sheridan and Vanessa are both characters who intrigued me in previous Duke Dynasty books so I was eager to dive into their story. With this book Sabrina Jeffries has penned a solidly entertaining romance and a satisfying wrap-up to the overarching Duke Dynasty mystery of who murdered the Dowager Duchess’s three husbands.

Sheridan Wolfe, Duke of Armitage, is determined not to fall in love. He’s known heartbreak and he doesn’t want to feel that kind of pain again. But with his sister-in-law nearing the end of her pregnancy, the task of questioning his half-brother’s aunt about the mysterious deaths plaguing their family falls on him. Sheridan needs a way to get the woman to talk to him and the opportunity is presented to him by his half-brother’s cousin, Vanessa Pryde. Vanessa wants to catch the eye of a rakish playwright and she wants Sheridan’s help making the man jealous. Pretending to court Vanessa will put Sheridan in a good place to question her mother. The only problem is, the longer he’s around Vanessa the more difficult it is to resist her. And there’s one thing he doesn’t know: it’s actually him Vanessa has set her sights on.

Undercover Duke works because Vanessa and Sheridan have an easy chemistry that makes them work as a couple. They complement one another perfectly and though there are secrets and mix-ups worthy of a Shakespeare play in this story, I trusted Jeffries to bring everything together, which she did. It was easy to fall into Vanesa and Sheridan’s romance and the smooth rhythm of their story made it a great comfort read. The other storyline – that of who murdered Sheridan’s mother’s husbands and why – finally comes to a conclusion in this book. I enjoyed watching the pieces of the puzzle come together was satisfied by how everything played out. All in all, I greatly enjoyed Undercover Duke; it has likeable leads, solid chemistry, and a fast-paced romance with just enough mystery to tie everything together.

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, May 22, 2021

Review: Joyful, Delicious, Vegan: Life Without Heart Disease by Sherra Aguirre

Joyful, Delicious, Vegan: Life Without Heart Disease by Sherra Aguirre
Publisher: She Writes Press
Genre: Health and Wellness 
Joyful, Delicious, Vegan cover
ISBN: 9781647420635
Release Date: May 25, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

We can all learn how to enjoy good health naturally at any age—and it starts in our kitchens by changing how we eat. In Joyful, Delicious, Vegan: Life Without Heart Disease, Sherra Aguirre equips readers with the simplest, most effective way to prevent or reverse heart disease, our number one killer here in the US—especially for African American women, who are on the front lines of the fight against heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses.

In this empowering guide to healthy eating, Aguirre shares her own story of reversing hypertension and other heart disease symptoms, despite a long family history; she presents current knowledge about the effectiveness of a plant-based diet in reversing disease; and she offers up recommendations from two world-renowned cardiologists who have demonstrated results with patients for many years. Joyful, Delicious, Vegan: Life Without Heart Disease guides readers in building a simple food plan around their particular needs with delicious anti-inflammatory foods and provides support for developing the habit of mindful eating. Aguirre explores ways in which choosing a vegan diet and eating consciously are compassionate acts that can positively impact many areas of our lives—and includes tips to help readers sustain results. Full of tips for success based on Aguirre’s personal experience and the experience of others, Joyful, Delicious, Vegan: Life Without Heart Disease is a source of inspiration, encouragement, and staying power for all readers.

I have mixed feelings about Joyful, Delicious, Vegan and mulled over this book for quite some time before writing a review. Let’s start with the good – Sherra Aguirre’s writing is positive, relatable, and easy to enjoy. Though I’m not a doctor there doesn’t seem to be any bad advice in this book. Aguirre tells readers what worked for her to reverse hypertension and heart disease symptoms, namely a mostly raw vegan diet. An abundance of fresh plants and an avoidance of frankenfoods in your diet is a pretty solid way to improve your health. Aguirre’s writing is empowering and may be beneficial to those who are wary.

One of the issues I had with this book is that most of the research and supporting evidence to back the author’s claims are anecdotal, not peer-reviewed, or come from controversial sources. I wish there had been more scientific claims to back up what Aguirre says. There is also a negative feeling toward Western medicine in this book which I understand in some ways but in others it’s a bit off-putting as medication is sometimes the only option people have when diet alone won’t fix things. And though Aguirre advises a mostly raw vegan diet to reverse heart disease symptoms, a good portion of the recipes in this book aren’t raw. Aguirre points out you can look online for recipes in places like Pinterest, which is true, but then why purchase this book? All in all, I found Joyful, Delicious, Vegan to be a good source for tips and tricks, but readers should take the sources provided with a grain of salt.

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, May 18, 2021

Review: Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall

Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall
Series: Winner Bakes All, Book 1
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake cover
ISBN: 9781538703328
Release Date: May 18, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Following the recipe is the key to a successful bake. Rosaline Palmer has always lived by those rules—well, except for when she dropped out of college to raise her daughter, Amelie. Now, with a paycheck as useful as greaseproof paper and a house crumbling faster than biscuits in tea, she’s teetering on the edge of financial disaster. But where there’s a whisk there’s a way…and Rosaline has just landed a spot on the nation’s most beloved baking show.

Winning the prize money would give her daughter the life she deserves—and Rosaline is determined to stick to the instructions. However, more than collapsing trifles stand between Rosaline and sweet, sweet victory. Suave, well-educated, and parent-approved Alain Pope knows all the right moves to sweep her off her feet, but it’s shy electrician Harry Dobson who makes Rosaline question her long-held beliefs—about herself, her family, and her desires.

Rosaline fears falling for Harry is a guaranteed recipe for disaster. Yet as the competition—and the ovens—heat up, Rosaline starts to realize the most delicious bakes come from the heart.

Alexis Hall kicks off the Winner Bakes All series with the fast-paced, entertaining Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake. Anyone who enjoys Great British Bake Off will delight over the delicious bakes Rosaline and her co-competitors make. And though it choux is hard to compete with that, it’s truly the characters themselves who are the star (bakers) of the show.

I really liked Rosaline. She’s a single mom with a precocious daughter who she does her best for. Her relationship with her parents is extremely strained but she’s got the support of her best friend (and ex-girlfriend) Lauren and I loved that relationship. Rosaline nabs a spot on Bake Expectations, a Great British Bake Off style show, and she hopes the prize money and exposure will put her on the path toward doing something she loves while still being able to provide for her daughter. I loved Rosaline’s strength, determination, and heart and her flaws made her human. I enjoyed watching her journey over the course of the story and where she ends up was incredibly satisfying.

Where Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake falters for me is the romance. The vast majority of the book Rosaline spends with Alain and it’s frustrating. I understand why she’s with him for quite some time but the red flags will be waving for readers long before they come through to Rosaline. Unfortunately the sheer amount of time spent with Alain became draining and it also meant there was not much time left for Rosaline’s romance with Harry, who I absolutely loved. Rosaline is quick to stand up for what’s right and has done an amazing job teaching her daughter to stand up against bias, but she doesn’t see the biases she herself holds for quite some time. Harry is an electrician whose poor grammar and straightforward outlook on life make Rosaline question her beliefs and the assumptions she makes. I loved Harry; he’s got a heart of gold, is patient, and is so, so kind and sweet. The romance falters only due to lack of page time and had the book been a bit longer it would have really shone.

Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake balances fluffy and fun with unpleasant realities. Hall doesn’t hesitate to take on prejudice of all sorts and though I loved that about this book there were also enough “teachable moments” that even someone like me who agrees with every one will be taken out of the story a bit by the sheet number. Still, I really enjoyed Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake overall. There were so many characters and relationships to love and when you add in the backdrop of Bake Expectations how could I not like this story? I cannot wait to see what Hall comes up with for the next Winner Bakes All story.

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, May 8, 2021

Review: Wet and Reckless by Samanthe Beck

Wet and Reckless by Samanthe Beck
Series: Private Pleasures, Book 4
Publisher: Entangled: Brazen
Genre: Erotic Contemporary Romance 
Wet and Reckless cover
ISBN: 9781640636064
Release Date: May 10, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Entangled

She’s a walking, talking disturbance of his peace…

When former Navy SEAL West Donovan trades covert ops for small-town cop, he craves calm and order. Rescuing a sexy, law-bending hitchhiker during a rainstorm raises his gut-level trouble detector—plus a few things south of his gut—into the red zone. He vows to help this particular tumbleweed find her way and keep it professional, but when she becomes his downstairs neighbor, professionalism is sorely tested. He’s got red lingerie infiltrating his laundry, sultry songs invading his bedroom, and suddenly he’s the one in need of rescue.

Aspiring singer/songwriter Roxy Goodhart ventures to Bluelick, Kentucky to outrun her latest mistake. It’s a doozy, involving a lying ex-manager, a dire lack of cash, and a teensy bit of grand larceny. Landing in the long, strong, entirely too tempting arms of the law is no way to keep a low profile while she re-builds her “L.A. or bust” fund. Taking an apartment that—oops—puts her under West… his path every day doesn’t help. Testing his impressive reserve is beyond reckless, but she’d love to test it…all…night…long.

Opposites attract in Wet and Reckless. Samanthe Beck’s fourth Private Pleasures book is smokin’ hot and tons of fun with characters who are easy to like. West is a strong, serious, by-the-book cop and Roxy is a confident, sassy musician with tons of talent and a secret that could ruin everything. At first they’re like oil and water but the sexual attraction between them is impossible to ignore. I loved the banter, the tension, and the pull neither could resist.

Roxy and West shouldn’t work as a couple but they fit together perfectly. West is straight-laced (outside of the bedroom) and protective and Roxy is outgoing in confident in ways that drive him wild. Roxy teaches West to unbend and he helps her face her problems instead of running away. Roxy’s past has plenty of heartbreaking moments and I wanted to see her find home and become the person she’s meant to be. Neither she nor West is perfect; West can be stubborn and not see shades of grey and Roxy can be impulsive and, well, reckless. But their flaws help build their characters and I loved to watch them grow over the course of the story.

Wet and Reckless is sexy as can be but it’s the characters and the heart they have that make the book memorable. This is the fourth installment of Beck’s Private Pleasures series but having not yet read the first three books I can say with confidence Roxy and West’s story stands on its own. I really liked the town of Bluelick and the people in it make me eager to read the stories I’ve missed. All in all I really enjoyed Wet and Reckless. It’s a fast-paced, sexy ride with characters who are easy to like and a romance you can root for.

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, May 4, 2021

Review: The Lady Has a Past by Amanda Quick

The Lady Has a Past by Amanda Quick
Series: Burning Cove, Book 5
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Historical Romantic Suspense with Paranormal Elements 
The Lady Has a Past cover
ISBN: 9781984806888
Release Date: May 4, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Investigative apprentice Lyra Brazier, the newest resident of Burning Cove, is unsettled when her boss suddenly disappears. Lyra knows something has happened to Raina Kirk, and tracks down her last known appearance at an exclusive hotel and health spa. The health spa is known for its luxurious offerings and prestigious clientele, and the wealthy, socialite background Lyra desperately wanted to leave behind is perfect for this undercover job. What Lyra lacks in investigative experience she makes up for in gut instinct, and her gut isn’t happy that she’s saddled with a partner by Luther Pell, Raina’s dangerous lover, who wants to bring in someone with more experience to help.

Instead of the suave, pistol-packing private eye she expected, though, Simon Cage is a mild-mannered antiquarian book dealer with a quiet, academic air, and a cool, remote gaze. Lyra suspects that Simon is much more than what he seems, and her instincts are confirmed when they arrive at the spa and pose as a couple: Simon has a unique gift that allows him to detect secrets, a skill that is crucial in finding Raina.

The unlikely duo falls down a rabbit hole of twisted rumors and missing socialites, discovering that the health spa is a façade for something far darker than they imagined. With a murderer in their midst, Raina isn't the only one in grave danger—Lyra is next.

1930s glamour meets deadly secrets in The Lady Has a Past. The world and characters Amanda Quick has created in the Burning Cove series never fails to entertain and this time is no exception. I had a difficult time putting this book down because I liked all four leads so much and I was absorbed in the mystery.

Lyra Brazier has been an apprentice investigator for four whole days when her boss, Raina Kirk, leaves town. Lyra and Raina’s lover, Luther Pell, know Raina must be in danger. Lyra is determined to investigate and Luther knows he’s too close to the case to be objective so he sends Simon Cage with Lyra to the luxury hotel and spa Raina was headed to. Simon is an antiquarian book dealer who is more than what he seems. His closed-off personality clashes with Lyra’s vibrant openness which means, of course, they’re meant to be together. I loved Lyra’s optimism; many mistake it for naïveté but she’s sharp, knows what she wants, and can get people to talk. Simon opens up with her – it helps that she doesn’t blink at his supernatural talents. They make a solid pair of investigators and I enjoyed watching them delve into the mystery of who kidnapped Raina and why. What’s more, I enjoyed their romance. Simon is only looking for a fling when he comes to Burning Cove and Lyra has no intention of getting married. Both find more than they bargained for in each other and it was easy to fall into their romance.

Raina Kirk and Luther Pell have been background characters for most of the Burning Cove series and I have been waiting to learn more about them. The Lady Has a Past delves into the background of the East Coast investigator with secrets and the shadowy businessman with ties to the government and the criminal underworld. I love Riana and Luther together and even if I hadn’t adored Lyra and Simon (which I did) I would be invested in this book because of them. Quick takes our protagonists for a ride in this story and there are multiple layers to the mystery that I won’t spoil. Suffice it to say that I enjoyed every part of The Lady Has a Past and I look forward to revisiting Lyra, Simon, Luther, and Raina again soon.

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, May 2, 2021

Review: Like Cats and Dogs by Kate McMurray

Like Cats and Dogs by Kate McMurray
Series: Whitman Street Cat Café, Book 1
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Like Cats and Dogs cover
ISBN: 9781728214542
Release Date: May 4, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Can you fight like cats and dogs, and still be perfect for each other?

Things are getting ruff in this Brooklyn neighborhood when new veterinarian Caleb Fitch moves in next door to the Whitman Street Cat Café and gets on the wrong side of café owner Lauren Harlow. Lauren has a few things to teach the new vet on the block, and rescuing kittens is only the start…

Lauren can't ignore the fact that she is instantly attracted to Caleb, but he gets her even more riled up when he argues with her about how best to treat the cats in her care. Determined to smooth things over, Caleb comes to the rescue when a new litter of abandoned kittens is left on Lauren's doorstep, and they confront the fiery attraction that's been building between them from the start. But saving the baby kittens is only the first challenge Lauren and Caleb have to face, and when a real estate developer comes sniffing around their block, they'll have to work together, or risk losing everything…

Between the adorable cover and the promise of a romance set at a cat café, there was no way I could resist picking up Like Cats and Dogs. Kate McMurray delivered on her premise of an enemies-to-lovers romance with adorable furry friends as sidekicks, but the overall result was a bit of a mixed bag.

Lauren and Caleb rub each other the wrong way except when…well, I’m sure you can guess. I’m not the biggest fan of enemies-to-lovers but it can work when done well. Only at the beginning the sexual tension that came from Lauren and Caleb’s bickering really fell flat. Caleb is recovering from a divorce and he’s cold and extremely wary of getting hurt again. Lauren is a bit off her stride from her ex getting married and she and Caleb get off on the wrong foot. They’re hot and cold with each other and it goes on for so long that it made the love story a bit hard to believe. There’s potential there, but I grew frustrated with both of them at various points in the story. Caleb and Lauren are flawed characters and there’s a core of truth to their flaws that kept me reading. I wanted a bit more from the romance to make the ending believable but overall it was OK.

My favorite parts of Like Cats and Dogs involved the non-human characters. As someone with a rescue cat of her own it was a guarantee that the Whitman Street Cat Café cats would steal my heart. They’re adorable with their own unique personalities and I wanted to see each and every one of them adopted to a loving home. The characters’ love of animals gave Like Cats and Dogs its heart and definitely boosted my rating of this book when the romance and the side story of the evil real estate developers left me wanting more. Overall, I had mixed feelings about Caleb and Lauren’s romance but the series setting ensures I will definitely be back for more Whitman Street Cat Café books.

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

Review: A Fatal First Night by Kathleen Marple Kalb

A Fatal First Night by Kathleen Marple Kalb
Series: Ella Shane Mystery, Book 2
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: Historical Mystery 
A Fatal First Night
ISBN: 9781496727244
Release Date: April 27, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo
It’s easy to be overlooked in Gilded Age Manhattan, but the Ella Shane Opera Company’s latest premier manages to attract adoring crowds, rave reviews, and a killer who’s a real showstopper!

New York City, Fall 1899.
Ahead-of-her-time coloratura mezzo Ella Shane has always known opening night to be a mess of missed cues and jittery nerves, especially when unveiling a new opera. Her production of The Princes in the Tower, based on the mysterious disappearance of Edward IV’s two sons during the Wars of the Roses in England, concludes its first performance to thunderous applause. It’s not until players take their bows that the worst kind of disaster strikes…

Flawless basso Albert Reuter is found lurched over a bloody body in his dressing room, seemingly taking inspiration from his role as the murderous Richard III. With a disturbing homicide case stealing the spotlight, Ella can’t be so certain Albert is the one who belongs behind bars…

Now, Ella must think on her feet while sorting out a wild series of puzzling mishaps and interlocking mysteries. Yet even when sided with her aristocratic beau, does this scrappy diva have the chops to upstage the true criminal, or will this be the last time she headlines a Broadway marquee?

Opera singer Ella Shane is back in A Fatal First Night. Murder once again finds its way into the diva’s show, this time on opening night when her lead basso is found with a dead body in his dressing room.

I had mixed feelings about A Fatal First Night. It’s a story I want to love because the settings and characters are ripe with potential. However, Kathleen Marple Kalb never quite hits the mark for me. This is supposed to be a cozy mystery but – as with the first Ella Shane Mystery, A Fatal Finale – almost no time is devoted to the mystery itself. Instead, we’re treated to a sometimes roaming journey of Ella and co.’s daily lives, not to mention Ella’s very slow-burn romance with her handsome duke. If I hadn’t been expecting a mystery, this would be less of a problem, but I was left wanting on the entire mystery plot. The book itself isn’t bad and I like all the characters well enough. I do wish Kalb delved deeper beneath the surface, though. The good guys are all fairly perfect, Ella never missteps, and there’s a flatness to everything because of this.

There are things I quite like about A Fatal First Night. I enjoyed learning more about Ella’s past and seeing how she melds her Jewish and Catholic heritage. I also liked that – despite everyone pushing her to marry Gil – Ella stands her ground and is taking the time to consider what it could mean for her career. The supporting cast members are all likeable and I appreciate how accepting everyone was – I wouldn’t mind another outing with them. Hopefully in future books we can delve more into the mystery part of the Ella Shame Mysteries and more depth (and perhaps a few flaws) will come to light.

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.