Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Review: A Yuletide Kiss by Sabrina Jeffries, Madeline Hunter, and Mary Jo Putney

A Yuletide Kiss by Sabrina Jeffries, Madeline Hunter, and Mary Jo Putney
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: Historical Romance 
A Yuletide Kiss cover
ISBN: 9781496731296
Release Date: September 28, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Sabrina Jeffries Reading Order

The reigning queens of Regency Romance return with another delightful Christmas collection of three sparkling holiday romances, as stranded travelers find merriment, mistletoe, and holiday romance awaiting at a quaint country inn…

The Unexpected Gift by Madeline Hunter

Jenna Waverly has closed her inn, anticipating a blissfully quiet Christmas, until a snowstorm brings the first of several strangers to her property. Lucas Avonwood, as charming as he is secretive, is on a mission to track down a scoundrel, but the inn’s lovely owner is giving him a more compelling reason to stay…

When We Finally Kiss Good Night by Sabrina Jeffries
When Flora Younger first met Konrad Juncker, she thought she’d found her match, only to have her hopes dashed. Konrad is now a famous playwright whose plays Flora has secretly panned in reviews. But a chance meeting in a secluded inn may help them rewrite this star-crossed romance…

When Strangers Meet by Mary Jo Putney
Kate Mcleod is shocked to find that her fellow guest in the snowbound inn is the dashing soldier who may or may not be her husband. Daniel Faringdon barely remembers that long-ago night when he rescued her from disaster, but the desire they discover now will be impossible to forget, or to ignore…

“When We Finally Kiss Good Night” (Duke Dynasty, Book 4.5) by Sabrina Jeffries
Years ago, poet Konrad Junker swept Flora Younger off her feet…then disappeared without so much as a goodbye. They’ve crossed swords the times they’ve met since then, but now, stranded at an inn during a snowstorm, Flora and Konrad finally have a chance to reconnect and see if the spark that was once between them still burns hot.

“When We Finally Kiss Good Night” is such a treat. Konrad’s long-held secret – playing the role of playwright of what are actually the Duke of Thornstock’s plays – has held him back from taking a wife and starting a family. He’s at a crossroads when he meets Flora at the White Rose Inn, and though it’s easy for him to fall for her all over again, the problem he has still remains.

It’s easy to like Konrad and Flora. Konrad is always ready to lend a hand and he has a good heart and a sense of humor. Flora is sensible and kind, willing to pitch in and not take herself too seriously, and though she was hurt by Konrad in the past she works through her problems. The two of them suit each other well and it was easy to fall into their romance. I loved the Christmas cheer Sabrina Jeffries infused in this story. From bringing traditions together to Christmas songs and merriment, this was a heartwarming story. Add in a sweet second chance romance with just a dash of spice and it’s easy to see why I found “When We Finally Kiss Good Night” to be a perfectly delightful holiday romance.

“The Unexpected Gift” by Madeline Hunter
Innkeeper Jenna Waverly is looking forward to a few days with no guests and only two servants on-hand. It’s a respite she looks forward to all year long. Then a fierce snowstorm happens, bringing her a houseful of stranded travelers. One of those travelers is a seriously ill man. Lucas Avonwood is flirtatious when feverish, so heaven help her when the man recovers…

“The Unexpected Gift” is a sweet romance. It was easy to adore Jenna – she works hard, takes care of others, and doesn’t have a moment’s hesitation of stretching what she has to take in a group of strangers in a storm. I liked her practical nature – more so because her burgeoning relationship with Lucas allows her the chance to dream of more. Lucas is a mystery at the start of the story. He’s a man on a mission, but what that mission is I’ll leave for readers to discover. Lucas is determined but honorable and when Jenna’s life becomes tangled up in his hunt, he searches for a good solution. The result is a bit too rushed and not quite believable for my taste. I liked Lucas and Jenna together so I was all for Madeline Hunter finding a solution that would give them their happily ever after (even one so speedily developed). However, it felt like Hunter took a few shortcuts to wrap things up in a tidy bow. If there had been a bit more development to make things believable it would have been nice.

“When Strangers Meet” by Mary Jo Putney
The last thing Kate expects to find when snowbound at an inn is her long-lost husband, Daniel. The man rescued her years ago when her uncle auctioned off the grieving young woman and Daniel married her to rescue her, thinking it was a sham marriage. Except it wasn’t actually a sham and now both are curious to see if perhaps that long-ago night could have been the start of something real…

“When Strangers Meet” was the most uneven story for me. I liked the premise and how Daniel and Kate were reunited after not having seen each other for seven years. The snowbound setting allowed them to drop all pretenses and I enjoyed seeing their honest conversations as they got to know one another. Kate and Daniel have an easy chemistry and if their burgeoning relationship had been given a bit more room to develop I would have really enjoyed their romance (though no amount of page time could completely make up for Mary Jo Putney’s extreme overuse of exclamation points). However, the rush to get to “I love you” and happily ever after made the last part of this novella feel stilted and unearned. Even though I wished for more development in the love story, the scene-stealing cat and the solid chemistry Kate and Daniel had made “When Strangers Meet” enjoyable overall.

A Yuletide Kiss has three stories sure to warm your heart this winter. Jeffries, Hunter, and Putney all balance yuletide cheer with their romances in their own ways. I liked that each story was unique yet they all worked as a cohesive unit to fit the setting. Sabrina Jeffries’s installment was my favorite of the lot, but if you’re a fan of any of these authors this anthology is worth reading.

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

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Review: Mistletoe Christmas by Eloisa James, Christi Caldwell, Janna MacGregor, and Erica Ridley

Mistletoe Christmas by Eloisa James, Christi Caldwell, Janna MacGregor, and Erica Ridley
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Historical Romance 
Mistletoe Christmas cover
ISBN: 9780063139695
Release Date: September 28, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Eloisa James Reading Order

The Duke of Greystoke’s Christmas Revelry is famous throughout the British Isles for its plays, dancing, magical grotto… not to mention scandals leading to the marriage licenses he hands out like confetti.

But not everyone welcomes a visit from Cupid.

Lady Cressida, the duke’s daughter, is too busy managing the entertainments—and besides, her own father has called her dowdy. Her cousin, Lady Isabelle Wilkshire, is directing Cinderella and has no interest in marriage. Lady Caroline Whitmore is already (unhappily) married; the fact that she and her estranged husband have to pretend to be together just makes her dread the party all the more. But not as much as Miss Louisa Harcourt, whose mother bluntly tells her that this is her last chance to escape the horrors of being an old maid.

A house party so large that mothers lose track of their charges leads to a delightful, seductive quartet of stories that you will savor for the Season!

“A Mistletoe Kiss” by Eloisa James
Lady Cressida is the youngest daughter of the Duke of Greystoke and has been running the Revelry for years. No one knows that she is the brain behind her father’s infamous party; all they see is a dowdy woman no one would look twice at. No one, except Elias, Lord Darcy de Royleston…

Eloisa James kicks off the Revelry with “A Mistletoe Kiss”. Cressie is brilliant, talented, and heartbreakingly lonely. Her father has beaten her down emotionally in order to keep her under his thumb and running the Revelry. As a last straw, he’s given away her dowry and now Cressie feels like she’ll be trapped even after his death. She wants a home and family of her own, but how can she trust when Elias starts flirting with her? Elias sees Cressie for all that she is, though not at first. I liked that he fell for her as he got to know her (though it does happen fairly quickly) and he does have to prove it. More than the happily ever after, I was rooting for Cressie to break free of her father’s control. I won’t spoil what happens, but of course there’s a delightful, satisfying ending.

“Wishing Under the Mistletoe” by Christi Caldwell
It’s been ten years since Cyrus Hill has seen Lady Isabelle Wilkshire. Their last communication was her breaking off their engagement. But now that they’re thrown together at the Revelry, perhaps Cyrus has a chance to see where he went wrong all those years ago. And maybe even win back the woman who has always held his heart.

“Wishing Under the Mistletoe” has elements of A Christmas Carol, albeit with a much happier ending. Cyrus isn’t cold and cruel like Scrooge, but having been the stablemaster’s son in love with a lady, he was very aware with their differences in station and was more focused on working and growing his coffers than paying attention to Isabelle. Cyrus is still focused on growing his business when they are reunited, but Isabelle calls out to him as always. What I appreciated about this story is that Christi Caldwell didn’t make everything Cyrus’s fault. Isabelle had her own part to play in the falling apart of their relationship. She needed to listen to Cyrus as much as he did to her. I enjoyed watching them learn from their past mistakes and open up their hearts for a second chance at love. Isabelle and Cyrus have a natural chemistry that makes their story fly by and I enjoyed it immensely.

“Compromise Under the Mistletoe” by Janna MacGregor
It’s been a year since Caroline left her husband, but her uncle has demanded that she and Stephen make an appearance at the Revelry. If Caroline wants to claim her inheritance, she must pretend to be reconciled with her husband. She strikes a bargain with Stephen, but what she doesn’t expect is to find the man she left eager to win her back.

I adore a good second chance romance and Janna MacGregor has penned a great one in “Compromise Under the Mistletoe”. Caroline had her reasons for leaving Stephen, but it wasn’t because he was a bad person. Rather, she felt like she wasn’t important to him. Stephen is hoping to win her back by finding out what he did wrong. The sparks between them burn hot the instant they’re reunited, but in order to get the happily ever after they desire both Stephen and Caroline need to work on their communication.

It’s easy to root for this couple because they’re clearly meant to be. They have great chemistry, a natural compatibility in bed and out, but they just need to learn and grow a bit in order to make a life together. I loved watching them both come to understand each other and was delighted by “Compromise Under the Mistletoe” from beginning to end.

“Mischief & Mistletoe” by Erica Ridley
Louisa Harcourt is at the Revelry to catch a title and make her mother’s dreams for her come true. There are two available viscounts who may be amenable to marrying the woman society deems utterly forgettable, but it’s brooding poet Ewan Reid she can’t seem to stay away from…

“Mischief & Mistletoe is a delight. Erica Ridley delivers a tale of rather ordinary people on the fringes of society that warms the heart. Louisa has a dowry but after the scandal sheets dubbed her dreadfully dull, she can’t seem to catch a husband. Men don’t see her…until Ewan. Ewan is known for being brooding and handsome – he’s invited to house parties everywhere for just that reason. But the poet has a secret, one that is slowly tearing at his soul. Louisa, a poet herself, is delighted to meet someone who finally understands her. I loved their interactions and how Ewan supported and believed in Louisa’s writing. Both Louisa and Ewan have good hearts, though Ewan has made mistakes in the past which may haunt him now. I was rooting for them every step of the way and found their romance to be heartwarming and utterly charming.

Mistletoe Christmas features four stories of women who won’t settle for less than they deserve, which I loved. All four stories are charming holiday romances, but they’ve got added depth with characters who take charge of their future rather than bending to the whims of society. Janna MacGregor’s installment was my favorite of the lot, but there’s something for any historical romance fan to warm your heart this winter.

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

Monday, September 20, 2021

Review: Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune

Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Fantasy 
Under the Whispering Door cover
ISBN: 9781250217349
Release Date: September 21, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Welcome to Charon's Crossing.
The tea is hot, the scones are fresh, and the dead are just passing through.

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace from his own funeral, Wallace begins to suspect he might be dead.

And when Hugo, the owner of a peculiar tea shop, promises to help him cross over, Wallace decides he’s definitely dead.

But even in death he’s not ready to abandon the life he barely lived, so when Wallace is given one week to cross over, he sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

Hilarious, haunting, and kind, Under the Whispering Door is an uplifting story about a life spent at the office and a death spent building a home.

Under the Whispering Door is beautiful and sad; a bittersweet, captivating adventure that begins at an ending.

Wallace Price is not a nice person at the beginning of this book. He’s a coldhearted workaholic who hasn’t really lived his life when he dies at forty. When Mei, his reaper, takes him to Charon’s Crossing to meet the ferryman who will help him cross over, Wallace’s afterlife changes forever. Hugo Freeman helps people come to terms with their death and crossing over. He runs a tea shop and keeps company with Mei and his ghostly grandfather and dog. The Freeman family – those born and adopted into it – sparks an awareness in Wallace that perhaps all that he had spent his life focusing on wasn’t what was important. Wallace’s journey had me glued to the pages of Under the Whispering Door. His growth delighted me and I loved that it wasn’t too late for him to become a good, caring person. Hugo is his guide, his friend, and perhaps something more. The ferryman has an innate goodness that shines on the page and his empathetic, kind nature was like a warm hug.

Under the Whispering Door isn’t the kind of book I would normally pick up, but I’m so glad I did. TJ Klune’s prose is beautiful and engaging. Klune balances tragedy with hope and his version of what happens after death and before the hereafter is imaginative and interesting. I cried buckets over the course of this story and I imagine many readers will as well. Death is, after all, a sad topic. But there isn’t just sadness in this book. There’s humor and heart and all that makes life worth living. This is a story that grabs you by the heartstrings and doesn’t let go. Love, loss, and the stages of grief are hard topics and Klune just nails it when it comes to addressing hard topics while keeping the story hopeful. I loved that I couldn’t predict where this story would go and I stayed up far too late because I had to know what would happen next.

Under the Whispering Door has scenes that address all manners of death, including suicide. There are also scenes depicting depression, PTSD, and raw grief. Readers sensitive to any of these topics should be warned. If these things do not trigger you, I highly recommend reading this book, even if it’s not your usual fare. Klune’s strange and wonderful world will break your heart and put it back together 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.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Review: A Song of Flight by Juliet Marillier

A Song of Flight by Juliet Marillier
Series: Warrior Bards, Book 3
Publisher: Ace
Genre: Fantasy 
A Song of Flight cover
ISBN: 9780451492821
Release Date: September 21, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

A young warrior who wields both the power of her music and the strength of her sword faces a grave threat in this enthralling historical fantasy.

Bard and fighter Liobhan is always ready for a challenge. So when news arrives at Swan Island that the prince of Dalriada has gone missing after an assault by both masked men and the sinister Crow Folk, she's eager to act.

While Liobhan and her fellow Swan Island warriors seek answers to the prince's disappearance, the bard Brocc, Liobhan's brother, finds himself in dire trouble. His attempts to communicate with the Crow Folk have led him down a perilous path. When Liobhan and her comrades are sent to the rescue, it becomes clear the two missions are connected--and a great mystery unfolds.

What brought the Crow Folk to Erin? And who seeks to use them in an unscrupulous bid for power? As Liobhan and Brocc investigate, it will take all their strength and will to continue pursuing the truth. With the safety of their loved ones in the balance, the risks they must take may cost them everything.
The Warrior Bards trilogy comes to a stunning conclusion with A Song of Flight. I was swept away from the very first page by Juliet Marillier’s writing and hated every interruption that pulled me away from Liobhan, Brocc, and Dau’s final adventure.

The threat of the Crow Folk continues to grow both in the human realm and in the Otherworld. When Alou, the prince of Dalriada, disappears after an attack by masked humans and the Crow Folk, the Swan Island warriors are called in to find out what happened. Though the incident occurred in Winterfalls, Liobhan's home, she is prevented from going on the mission as it’s too close to home. Her brother, Galen, is Alou’s bodyguard and was injured in the fight. Forced to remain on Swan Island, Liobhan continues her work training a new warrior. Liobhan being forced to stay behind (before she is inevitably drawn into the search as the plot threads tie together) is interesting as it shows new sides to her. Training someone else, having to work to create a bond with someone, brings out the mature and understanding side of Liobhan and it was interesting to see her settle in and find her place on Swan Island when she’s not in action. Liobhan’s partner, Dau, is sent on the mission to find out what happened to Alou and it takes him to interesting new places. I adore Liobhan and Dau together but seeing them apart actually showed the strength of their bond.

Brocc, whom we last left in the Otherworld, faces the most challenging journey in this book. He’s at a crossroads with one foot in each world, not knowing what to do when it comes to his life, his family, the Crow Folk, and more. Brocc is a good man who always tries to do what’s right, even if it costs him. And it does cost him in this book. He has to make some hard choices and they may not always be the right ones. His tumultuous journey over the course of the story had me questioning what would happen next and though I won’t spoil anything I will say that Marillier gave him a satisfying ending.

A Song of Flight is the third book in the Warrior Bards trilogy and you should definitely read The Harp of Kings and A Dance with Fate before jumping into this book. Marillier brings everything together in this story and I loved the entire journey. I can’t give away anything other than the basics of the plot because it would spoil the journey for readers. This book is a puzzle and I enjoyed watching the various characters collect the pieces and ultimately see the whole picture. In addition to Liobhan, Brocc, and Dau, we get to see events from other points of view such as Galen and Alou, two characters I wish I had cause to see more of in this series. Characters big and small all have something to contribute to the overarching plot and the mystery of the Crow Folk, which was a delight. And speaking of delights, fans of the Blackthorn & Grim trilogy are sure to be thrilled to revisit their favorite characters. Blackthorn and Grim are Liobhan, Brocc, and Galen’s parents, so getting to see not only them but a few other characters from their trilogy pop up was such a treat (though you don’t have to have read that series to enjoy this one).

A Song of Flight is a spellbinding fantasy from start to finish. There’s action, mystery, character growth, and love, both romantic and familial. Add that to Marillier’s gorgeous prose and it’s easy to see why I found this book so compelling.

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

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Review: Kissing Under the Mistletoe by Suzanne Enoch, Amelia Grey, and Anna Bennett

Kissing Under the Mistletoe by Suzanne Enoch, Amelia Grey, and Anna Bennett
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Genre: Historical Romance 
Kissing Under the Mistletoe cover
ISBN: 9781250797445
Release Date: September 28, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

From the Scottish highlands, to the bustle and tussle of London, to a hotel on the outskirts of town, three unforgettable authors bring the joy of Christmas romance in Kissing Under the Mistletoe.

Great Scot! by Suzanne Enoch

Miss Jane Bansil knows she will never have a fairy-tale moment. Well past the marriageable age, she’s taken a position as a companion and is now stuck in Scotland for Christmas, alone even in the middle of the boisterous MacTaggert family. But when Brennan Andrews, an architect and cousin to the MacTaggerts, arrives to draw up plans for a new family home, Jane must decide if she will take a chance at a happily-ever-after, or settle into her small, safe life for good.

Christmas at Dewberry Hollow by Amelia Grey
Miss Isabelle Reed has no plans to ever fall in love. She has a perfectly acceptable life with her mother at the Dewberry Hollow Inn, thank you very much. But when Gate, the Duke of Notsgrave’s grandson, appears at Dewberry Hollow searching for a carving on a tree, Isabelle cannot help but get involved. But Gate’s charm and their instant attraction makes Isabelle question if she’s willing to take her chance at love once again.

My Mistletoe Beau by Anna Bennett
Miss Eva Tiding is determined to cheer her widowed father with the perfect Christmas gift. Even if it means breaking into the home of the rakish Earl of Frostbough who swindled Papa out of his pocket watch. But when the earl, Jack Hardwick, catches her in the act, they strike a deal: she’ll pose as his fiancée in exchange for the watch. Falling in love is not part of the plan—but with a little Christmas magic, anything is possible…

“Great Scot!” (The Wild Wicked Highlanders, Book 3.5) by Suzanne Enoch
The MacTaggert family has returned home to Scotland for the holidays and Jane Bansil, cousin and former companion to the first MacTaggert bride, is along for the ride. Jane is at a crossroads in her life. She was tossed out of her family home for helping her cousin elope and the MacTaggerts have taken her in even though they don’t really need her services as a companion. Jane is over thirty and has never had a suitor so it surprises her when a handsome MacTaggert cousin, Brennan Andrews, takes her breath away. The one time Jane chose risk over safety it burned her, so should she really take a risk again and open her heart to the handsome Scottish architect?

“Great Scot!” sees a quiet, bookish spinster find love. Jane has been out of place among the boisterous MacTaggert family since taking shelter with them. There’s a melancholy about Jane that broke my heart and made her feel relatable. She doesn’t think fairytales are for people like her and she would rather curl up with a book than be social. I really wanted to see Jane find love and she does with a man who truly sees her. I loved that Brennan was instantly taken with Jane, that he didn’t want her to be anything other than who she was. He’s a widower who lives a quiet life and though he loves his cousins he’s definitely tamer than them. He and Jane fall in love so quickly that even for a Christmastime novella (which usually speeds things up) it felt a bit too rushed.

If you’re a fan of The Wild Wicked Highlanders you’ll delight in seeing Jane find her happily ever after. It was nice to revisit the MacTaggerts and see how they’re doing after they’re all wed. If you haven’t read the trilogy, you can jump in with “Great Scot!” but be warned that there are major spoilers for the full-length books. All in all, I found the love story to be rushed but sweet and I enjoy any time spent with Suzanne Enoch’s MacTaggert family.

“Christmas at Dewberry Hollow” by Amelia Grey
Isabelle Reed is quite happy running the Dewberry Hollow Inn with her mother and has no need to act like a highborn lady. She’d much rather focus on making the inn sustainable rather than find a husband. But sparks fly when a man on a mission crosses her path and sweeps her off her feet.

“Christmas at Dewberry Hollow” is a story of finding love when you aren’t expecting it. Isabelle is afraid to love because as a child her heart was broken by the man she thought would be her stepfather leaving. She’s put all her energy into making the family inn a success and sometimes clashes with her mother who wants her to be more ladylike. I enjoyed seeing Isabelle’s life at the inn and how she takes care of her guests. The romance, however, left me wanting a bit more.

Gate is the grandson of the Duke of Notsgrave. He’s wealthy but aimless as he’s not the heir. His grandfather is determined to find a particular tree he had carved his and his late wife’s initials in when staying at the Dewberry Hollow Inn years ago. Gate is equally determined to help him but finding a lone tree in a forest isn’t exactly easy. He needs Isabelle’s help and the two of them are instantly drawn to one another. Gate fits in at the inn and I can see why he and Isabelle would be a good match, but there’s something about Amelia Grey’s writing that never captured my attention. The story felt flat and the romance was not believable. The characters fell in love so fast I got whiplash and I just couldn’t find it in me to become invested in this tale.

“My Mistletoe Beau” by Anna Bennett
Eva Tiding is determined to recover her father’s pocket watch, even if she has to break into a rake’s dwelling to do so. Except when she’s caught by the scandalous Earl of Frostbough, he offers her an interesting proposition: pretend to be his fiancée in exchange for the watch. But what happens when a fake relationship starts to feel all-too-real?

“My Mistletoe Beau” was my favorite story of this anthology. Anna Bennett’s writing carried me away in this delightful Christmastime romance. Eva and Jack have instant chemistry and their banter made me grin. Jack wants to appease his grandmother by pretending to be ready to settle down and the would-be-thief in his bedroom is the perfect woman to pose as his fiancée. She wants the pocket watch and will do whatever it takes to get it back. It should be a simple arrangement, except as it turns out, Eva and Jack are truly perfect for one another. I loved watching their romance grow as Jack made peace with his ghosts and Eva decided to take a chance on love. Flirty and fun, filled with endearing characters and sprightly banter, “My Mistletoe Beau” is perfect for anyone looking for a charming and warm romance.

Kissing Under the Mistletoe is a bit of a mixed bag. I adored Anna Bennett’s installment and think this book is worth it just for Eva and Jack’s story. I liked Suzanne Enoch’s contribution, mostly because Jane’s quiet sadness and bookishness called to me. I haven’t read Amelia Grey’s writing before so I can’t say if this is her usual style but it simply wasn’t my cup of tea. If you enjoy fast-paced love stories with Christmas cheer, or if you’re a fan of any of these authors, there’s something for you to enjoy in this 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.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Review: Playing it Safe by Amy Andrews

Playing it Safe by Amy Andrews
Series: Sydney Smoke Rugby, Book 7
Publisher: Entangled: Brazen
Genre: Erotic Contemporary Male/Male Romance 
Playing it Safe cover
ISBN: 9781640636071
Release Date: September 6, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Entangled

Donovan Bane loves playing rugby for the Sydney Smoke. And if that means he has to keep his sexuality a secret, that’s a sacrifice he’s prepared to make. At least until after he retires, anyway. He doesn’t want to be the first pro rugby player in Australia to officially come out while still playing. The team doesn’t need the media shit storm and he’d rather be known for his footy skills. Which means no dating, no relationships, no sex. Nothing but playing ball.

Until one man suddenly changes everything…

Beckett Stanton is out and proud—and not looking for a guy who isn’t. Been there, done that, complete disaster. Unfortunately, on the first day of his new job working for the Sydney Smoke, he locks eyes with Donovan Bane and he’s a goner. Big, gruff, and athletic isn’t usually Beck’s type, but for some reason this man is ticking all his boxes. And it’s clear the feeling is mutual. It’s also clear that Donovan is not out, and doesn’t plan to be anytime soon. Still, Beck can’t resist being the man to show Donovan everything he’s been missing.

For the first time, Donovan doesn’t play it safe and allows himself to indulge in things with Beck he knows he can’t have. But when their relationship gets serious, he knows he has to choose between the career he loves and the man he loves, because how can he possibly have both?

Amy Andrews’s sexy Sydney Smoke rugby players are back in Playing it Safe. I’ve been waiting a few years for Donovan Bane to get his own story and he was so worth the wait. Donovan is a loving father (swoon) and a tough-as-nails rugby player. He’s also sweet and vulnerable in ways that caught me off guard and I loved that. Donovan has lived his life in the closet, never risking even a casual relationship with another man for fear of being outed. He doesn’t want his team or his loved ones – especially his daughter – to have to face potential backlash, trolls, slurs, and more. As much as the world has changed, Donovan knows he will still have to face hatred and he doesn’t want to deal with that plus being in the spotlight as the first out actively playing professional rugby player. Donovan figures he can wait to live his life until he retires in a few years. Then he meets the Smoke’s newest finance guy, Beckett Stanton…

The out and proud Beck has been scarred by a past relationship with a closeted man he has no desire to repeat the experience. But meeting Donovan is like being smacked with a two-by-four. The sexual tension between Beck and Donovan is out of control and what’s more, the two simply like being together. A short fling between new friends never hurt anyone, right? Except it’s clear to them both that what they have is so much more than that. Beck and Donovan have some hard choices to make to decide what is the right path for each of them and whether or not that means they can be together.

Donovan and Beck are both fun, likeable guys with good hearts. They have red-hot chemistry that is clear from the instant they meet. Donovan’s only relationship has been with his ex-wife and combined with his lack of experience he asks Beck to be his tutor. The other man is more than willing to do so and I loved the openness and lack of judgment from both of them. Their physical and emotional honesty gave Playing it Safe heart to match the extreme heat these two gave off.

Playing it Safe is the seventh book in the Sydney Smoke Rugby series but it can easily be read as a standalone. Whether you’re a fan of the series or are jumping in for the first time, Donovan’s relationship with his teammates is delightful. I adore the team Andrews has built – any time spent with them is a rucking good time.

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.