Friday, December 31, 2021

Review: It Happened One Midnight by Saranna DeWylde

It Happened One Midnight by Saranna DeWylde
Series: Fairy Godmothers, Inc., Book 3
Publisher: Zebra
Genre: Fantasy/Paranormal Romance 
It Happened One Midnight cover
ISBN: 9781420153163
Release Date: December 28, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo


Novelist Juniper Blossom has romance down to a science in her bestselling books. But she’s not about to settle for just any man—a happy ending looks different for everyone, and she needs to find the guy whose idea of forever matches her own. Try telling that to her adorable, meddling grandmothers, though. If she doesn’t find a man soon, they’re going to find one for her. Which is why Juniper has prepared for a trip home to Ever After by fibbing that her sexy, smart, sweet best friend Tomas is her fiancé! He doesn’t believe in love at all, but that doesn’t matter if they’re just pretending…


Divorce attorney Tomas Rivera is as proud of Juniper’s authorial success as she is, but that doesn’t mean he buys into her books’ premise. His career is proof enough that true love is the real fairy tale—and everyone knows fairy tales aren’t real. But he can never say no to gorgeous Juniper, and an “engagement” might move him one legal brief closer to partner at his old-fashioned firm. Yet playing the part suddenly starts to mean feeling it, especially when a kiss just for show turns up the heat between them. Is happily ever after possible for two people who aren’t on the same page when it comes to love?

It Happened One Midnight is a best-friends to lovers story with a magical touch. Saranna DeWylde’s third Fairy Godmothers, Inc. book has all the sugar and love-powered magic and mayhem I’ve come to expect from the series, but this is one novel that might have worked better as a novella.

Juniper and Tomas have been best friends since childhood. Everything about how they act screams couple, and they acknowledge they love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives together, but they’re not in love. Except with a little help from interfering…well, everybody…Tomas and Juniper start seeing each other in a new light. And once they recognize their mutual attraction it becomes a push-pull between giving into desire and standing firm on what they want. Juniper and Tomas’s problem is they want two different things. Juniper is a romance novelist who believes in love and happily ever after. Tomas is a divorce lawyer who doesn’t believe in true love or the aforementioned happily ever after. He doesn’t want he and Juniper to become like the broken couples he works with every day. Tomas doesn’t want to get married and Juniper does; both are valid. But everyone in their lives is pushing he and Juniper down the aisle; his bosses are even dangling a promotion in front of him if he gets married. The problem with this being a full-length novel is the longer things went on, the more it felt like Tomas was being bullied into love and marriage. Not wanting those things is perfectly valid and the pressure on him was so immense (especially when it came to his job) that it was uncomfortable. Yes, it’s clear he and Juniper are meant to be, and yes, he needed to come around to see all that she is to him, but it isn’t fun to see someone forced into it. The one saving grace was Juniper never pushed him to be other than he was. She was firm on what she believes and stood up for herself, but she also showed Tomas the respect of not invalidating what he believes.

As a couple, Juniper and Tomas work well and are easy to root for. They have good chemistry, their love for one another is clear. They just needed a push to go to the next step – the push being mostly bringing their lustful feelings to the forefront. It’s easy to like Juniper and Tomas, though again, I felt bad for the latter because even the town (not the residents – the town itself) of Ever After seemed to go after him because he doesn’t believe in romantic love. The obstacles are drawn out and got a bit repetitive. However, I liked the main characters and ultimately Juniper and Tomas had a satisfying happily ever after that did feel like it worked for both characters.

It Happened One Midnight is the third Fairy Godmothers, Inc. book and it can easily be read as a standalone. Juniper’s grandmothers, Petunia, Bluebonnet, and Jonquil, are as sugar-fueled and ready to interfere as ever. They’re a bit much for me at times, are a bit heavy-handed with the exposition, and their zaniness is just not my cup of tea, but that’s personal preference. Aside from the town wildlife targeting Tomas, the magical town of Ever After was as adorable as ever. I enjoy DeWylde’s spin on fairytales and it was fun to see all the popular romance tropes appear with characters who know and acknowledge those tropes.

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, December 28, 2021

Review: A Scoundrel of Her Own by Stacy Reid

A Scoundrel of Her Own by Stacy Reid
Series: Sinful Wallflowers, Book 3
Publisher: Entangled: Amara
Genre: Historical Romance 
A Scoundrel of Her Own cover
ISBN: 9781640637696
Release Date: December 28, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Entangled
Stacy Reid Reading Order

Lady Ophelia Darby exists in two worlds. In one, she is the impudent, willful daughter of a powerful marquess and darling of the ton. In the other, she moves through the underworld’s shadows as songstress Lady Starlight, protected only by the notoriously wealthy scoundrel Devlin Byrne. But when she stumbles upon her beloved father’s darkest secrets, the line between her two worlds quickly blurs. Now she needs the help of the one man a lady should never trust.

Devlin Byrne stands on the edge of London society, knowing he will never be accepted. No one else knows that his obscene wealth and ruthlessness aren’t without purpose. Or that his purpose has golden-brown eyes that shimmer with mischief, the palest of skin, and a lush mouth that beckons to be kissed, and deeply. But having Ophelia is only the beginning of Devlin’s plans.

It’s undeniable that Devlin Byrne is a dangerous temptation—but just as Ophelia begins to trust him, maybe even fall for him, she discovers she’s not the only one with secrets. And his would lead her down more than just the path of scandal…

A forbidden romance between an independent lady and a notorious scoundrel causes sparks to fly in A Scoundrel of Her Own. Stacy Reid’s Sinful Wallflowers are back and more daring than ever as Ophelia takes center stage.

Ophelia has been raised with all the comforts and luxuries of her station plus she has the added benefit of loving parents. Devlin scraped, fought, and with ruthless determination went from a poverty-stricken child to a wealthy and dangerous man. They couldn’t be more different and yet, they fit one another perfectly. Ophelia is bound by society’s rules, but beneath all that lies a wild heart that clamors to be free. Devlin lives among the shadows, his life shaped by a burning need stemming from an event in his childhood. Ophelia’s openness and free-spiritedness charmed me, but it was Devlin with his yearning heart that really grabbed my attention. He’s so dangerous that the common criminal will run from his name, but he’s a complete goner when it comes to Ophelia. The more I learned about Devlin and his huge heart, the more I wanted to see Ophelia throw caution to the wind and fall for him. But their class differences are so great that not even his wealth can bridge the divide. How Reid brings about the happily ever after I won’t spoil; suffice it to say she wraps everything up in a satisfying manner.

A Scoundrel of Her Own is by turns steamy and sweet. Every secret outing Devlin and Ophelia have is filled with warm, sometimes funny moments. The open and honest way they talk made me believe in them as a couple. Underneath it all is a simmering sexual tension that is wonderful to watch boil over. Devlin and Ophelia are a match for each other in every respect. I thoroughly enjoyed watching them fall in love and forge their own path. Stacy Reid’s romances never fail to make me smile and sigh and Ophelia and Devlin’s is no exception. I cannot wait to see what Reid has in store for the next Sinful Wallflower!

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

Monday, December 27, 2021

Review: Better Off Wed by Susanna Craig

Better Off Wed by Susanna Craig
Series: Love and Let Spy, Book 3
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Genre: Historical Romance 
Better Off Wed cover
ISBN: 9781516110629
Release Date: December 28, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

She’s an avenging angel…who tempts him like the devil…

If Miss Laura Hopkins desired a husband, her beauty, brains, and fortune would make it easy to acquire one. Instead, Laura prefers to put her charms to another purpose entirely. Using the alias Lady Sterling, Laura helps young women who have been mistreated or compromised by their employers. Some might see it as theft and blackmail. For Laura, it is a small measure of justice. But while in pursuit of her latest target, Laura is unexpectedly aided by a gentleman who announces that he is Lord Sterling.

As a spy for the Crown, Captain Jeremy Addison, Viscount Sterling, has been assigned all manner of dangerous missions, though none as complicated as investigating the beguiling Lady Sterling. Forced to pose as newlyweds at the home of a disreputable earl, Laura and Jeremy forge an unexpected alliance…and a passionate connection. But can such a dangerous masquerade possibly lead to a real, lasting love?

Laura Hopkins has seen numerous women mistreated by their employers and no one ever steps in. No one, that is, until her. Donning the guise of Lady Sterling, Laura gets a small measure of justice and funds for the women who have been harmed. The one thing Lady Sterling never counted on was there being a Lord Sterling.

Captain Jeremy Addison is a spy for the Crown. He’s also Viscount Sterling, which is why his superior has chosen him to bring Lady Sterling in in the hopes of using her talents for King and Country. What should be a relatively simple mission turns complicated when Laura and Jeremy are forced to pretend to be a married couple in order to take down a blackguard. Close quarters leads to an attraction that isn’t all for show…

A codebreaker more at home among books gets tangled up with a vigilante in Better Off Wed. Susanna Craig’s third Love and Let Spy novel is entertaining and easy to fall into thanks to its endearing main characters.

Laura is brave and bold; a good actress and a quick thinker who uses her talents to find as much justice as she can for women no one will stand for. Jeremy is a codebreaker not a field agent, but he cannot and will not leave Laura or the women she is trying to protect on their own. The two of them make great allies as they hunt for clues to bring down a slippery foe. Even better, they have good, solid chemistry that makes their romance engaging. It’s easy to fall into their romance because they’re such strong, noble characters. How could you not root for them? Each has a journey to go own and I liked watching them come fully into their own with each other.

Better Off Wed is the third book in the Love and Let Spy series but it can easily be read as a standalone. The series is tied together by General Scott, a man as determined to help his agents find love as he is to protect England. I’ve enjoyed every book in this series so far and Laura and Jeremy’s romance is no exception. I can’t wait to see who Craig (and General Scott) set their sights on next.

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

Friday, December 24, 2021

Review: Girls Before Earls by Anna Bennett

Girls Before Earls by Anna Bennett
Series: Rogues to Lovers, Book 1
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Genre: Historical Romance 
Girls Before Earls cover
ISBN: 9781250793911
Release Date: December 28, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

To survive her difficult childhood, Miss Hazel Lively relied on two things: a tough exterior and a love of books. Now, she’s realized her life-long dream of opening a school for girls. She’s hoping the wealthy families who summer at the shore will entrust their daughters to Bellehaven Academy—and help pay for less fortunate students. All Hazel must do is maintain a flawless reputation. It’s a foolproof plan…until a handsome earl strides into her office.

Gabriel Beckett, Earl of Bladenton, has had a monstrous headache since the day his teenaged niece became his ward. She’s already been expelled from two London schools, but Blade is determined to enroll her at Bellehaven Academy, where she’ll be out of his hair. If only he can convince the buttoned-up—and unexpectedly intriguing—headmistress to take a risk.

Blade makes an offer that’s impossible for Hazel to refuse, but she has one condition: the earl must visit his niece every other week. Soon, Blade discovers there’s more to Hazel than meticulous lessons. Their sparring leads to flirtation…and something altogether deeper. But the passion that flares between them poses a threat to Hazel’s school and Blade’s battered heart. They say a good thing can’t last forever, but true love? Well, it just might…

Anna Bennett has kicked her Rogues to Lovers series with a bang. Girls Before Earls is an entertaining, fun, heartwarming read with a romance that will make you smile and sigh.

As a child, school saved Hazel Lively. Her determination, love of learning, and caring heart have her now opening her own school in the seaside town of Bellehaven. To keep her doors open and take in more girls can’t afford school, she also needs the daughters of wealthy families to attend her school. Enter the Earl of Bladenton. Blade closed off his heart after it was broken by his childhood love. But now he’s in charge of his orphan niece, a bright fifteen-year-old who keeps getting herself kicked out of London schools. Hazel’s school is his last chance, but he doesn’t expect to find the buttoned-up mistress so intriguing. And Hazel, who has closed herself off but secretly desires true love, can’t resist Blade even though his station and determination to wall off his heart make him an incompatible match. I really liked the chemistry between Hazel and Blade, enjoyed how they couldn’t resist each other because they simply fit. They come alive in each other’s company and become their best selves with each other. It’s not a smooth road to happily ever after, but the bumps in the road are worth it. Their romance is sweet, engaging, and ultimately delightful.

Bennett brings the world of Bellehaven to life in Girls Before Earls and I loved the picturesque seaside town. The supporting cast made me smile and there are characters I definitely want to see get books of their own. I really enjoyed all the female relationships in this story, both when it came to friendships and to made families. In a lot of ways, Bellehaven and some of its residents reminded me of the TV adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sanditon, which is likely why I was so charmed by it. All in all, I adored Hazel and Blade’s story and I cannot wait to see what Bennet has in store for the next Rogues to Lovers 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.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Review: Not Your Average Hot Guy by Gwenda Bond

Not Your Average Hot Guy by Gwenda Bond
Series: Not Your Average Hot Guy, Book 1
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Genre: New Adult Paranormal Romance 
Not Your Average Hot Guy cover
ISBN: 9781250771742
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

A paranormal romantic comedy at the (possible) end of the world.

All Callie wanted was a quiet weekend with her best friend. She promised her mom she could handle running her family’s escape room business while her mom is out of town. Instead a Satanic cult shows up, claiming that the prop spell book in one of the rooms is the real deal, and they need it to summon the right hand of the devil. Naturally they take Callie and her friend, Mag, along with them. But when the summoning reveals a handsome demon in a leather jacket named Luke who offers to help Callie stop the cult from destroying the world, her night goes from weird to completely strange.

As the group tries to stay one step ahead of the cult, Callie finds herself drawn to the annoying (and annoyingly handsome) Luke. But what Callie doesn’t know is that Luke is none other than Luke Morningstar, Prince of Hell and son of the Devil himself. Callie never had time for love, and with the apocalypse coming closer, is there room for romance when all hell’s about to break loose?

Not Your Average Hot Guy is a fast and fun rom com set against the backdrop of the apocalypse. Gwenda Bond makes these two disparate things work better together than you might think, though overall I had mixed feelings about Callie and Luke’s first outing.

Callie has recently graduated from college and is back home helping her mom run their escape room business. She’s left in charge for the weekend when a Satanic cult shows up, steals a prop grimoire (which is actually the real thing), and summons the literal Prince of Hell. Luke Morningstar has been tasked with reaping the cult’s souls, but things go awry and suddenly he and Callie are teamed up and trying to stop the apocalypse. Callie and Luke are a lot of fun together. His seemingly laid-back attitude and her super trivia brain make an enjoyable pairing so I was ready to go along for the ride. The problem with them was twofold: (1) they both sounded the same so with the dual-POV it was sometimes hard to remember whose chapter I was in and (2) they both spoke and acted younger than they were supposed to be. Because of the former especially, the book fell slightly short of its premise, which was a pity.

Bond keeps Not Your Average Hot Guy hopping with all the action and I did really enjoy it even though we seemed to be moving from point to point in a way that didn’t feel wholly organic (and I can’t really say why without spoiling the story). Bond presents a lot of potentially interesting locations, both above and below, and I definitely wanted to explore them further. I struggled with putting a rating on this story because I had a lot of fun reading it, but I can’t be blinded to its flaws. At the end of the day, I found Not Your Average Hot Guy to be fast-paced, entertaining, and even with the missed opportunities there was a good amount of adventure to be had. I will absolutely be checking out Callie and Luke’s next 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.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Review: The Ballerinas by Rachel Kapelke-Dale

The Ballerinas by Rachel Kapelke-Dale
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Genre: Fiction 
The Ballerinas cover
ISBN: 9781250274236
Release Date: December 7, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Thirteen years ago, Delphine abandoned her prestigious soloist spot at the Paris Opera Ballet for a new life in St. Petersburg––taking with her a secret that could upend the lives of her best friends, fellow dancers Lindsay and Margaux. Now 36 years old, Delphine has returned to her former home and to the legendary Palais Garnier Opera House, to choreograph the ballet that will kickstart the next phase of her career––and, she hopes, finally make things right with her former friends. But Delphine quickly discovers that things have changed while she's been away...and some secrets can't stay buried forever.

Moving between the trio's adolescent years and the present day, Rachel Kapelke-Dale's The Ballerinas explores the complexities of female friendship, the dark drive towards physical perfection in the name of artistic expression, the double-edged sword of ambition and passion, and the sublimated rage that so many women hold inside––all culminating in a twist you won't see coming, with magnetic characters you won't soon forget.

The Ballerinas is a study in duality; it’s beautiful and ugly, strong and fragile, perfect and messy. Rachel Kapelke-Dale brings her world of the Paris Opera Ballet to life, showing the stunning highs, the athletic perfection, along with the cost and the all-consuming nature of ballet. At the center of it all are the titular ballerinas, women of immense power who appear fragile, women who are objectified by one and all.

After thirteen years away, Delphine has returned to Paris. The former ballerina turned choreographer is eager to be reunited with her best friends, Margaux and Lindsay. Kapelke-Dale takes readers between past and present, through the blood, sweat, and tears as the students turned professional ballerinas strive to become the best of the best. The past is filled with triumph, ambition, friendship, and pain; the present with strained relationships, broken dreams, and Delphine’s desperate hope for more, though hanging over her is a secret that could ruin everything she holds dear.

The Ballerinas is atmospheric, Kapelke-Dale’s writing sucking me in even though I will admit the first half of the book is rather slow. I loved the descriptions of ballet, the beautiful and the painful moments that make up everything. The author’s love of the subject is there, even though she doesn’t shy away from the realistic moments which break the fantasy you see on stage. The objectification of women, the rampant misogyny, the imbalance of power is all given it’s due attention and it was fascinating to watch Delphine’s understanding of these topics deepen as she grows older. Even when I wondered where the plot was going, Kapelke-Dale’s writing was beautiful. Halfway through the story hits its stride and from there it’s an intense, interesting read. The characters aren’t likeable, but they’re engaging and I wanted Delphine in particular to break free and claim her power. I didn’t know where the story would take Delphine, Margaux, and Lindsay, but I was hooked and didn’t want to put it down until Kapelke-Dale spun everything together at the end.

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

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Review: Pride, Prejudice, and Peril by Katie Oliver

Pride, Prejudice, and Peril by Katie Oliver
Series: A Jane Austen Tea Society Mystery, Book 1
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Mystery 
Pride Prejudice and Peril cover
ISBN: 9780593337615
Release Date: December 7, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Phaedra Brighton is perfectly content with her life of lecturing college students, gossiping with her best friends, and dreaming of Mr. Darcy. As a young, respected (if somewhat peculiar) English professor, her expertise lies in all things Jane Austen—but she knows that the closest she'll ever get to being a real-life Elizabeth Bennet is in her dreams.

When Who Wants to Marry Mr. Darcy, a new reality TV show, starts filming at her best friend Charlene's estate, Phaedra is intrigued. And when the producer asks her to lend her Austenian knowledge as a consultant on the show, she's over the moon. But on the first day of filming, when Charlene's new husband is found electrocuted and Charlene herself is accused of the crime, Phaedra comes crashing back to reality.

With murder on the syllabus and her best friend in dire straits, there's no Mr. Darcy around to help Phaedra—she'll have to get to the bottom of this mystery herself.
Jane Austen meets Agatha Christie meets The Bachelor in Pride, Prejudice, and Peril. Perhaps this is a combination that shouldn’t work, but in author Katie Oliver’s hands it does, resulting in an entertaining cozy mystery.

Phaedra Brighton is a professor and Austen expert, perhaps best known for teaching her classes in full Regency wear. She dreams of Mr. Darcy but knows the closest thing to Pride and Prejudice in her real life is her mother pulling a Mrs. Bennet trying to see her daughters wed. When Who Wants to Marry Mr. Darcy, a Jane Austen-inspired reality dating series, starts filming at the estate belonging to her best friend, Charlene, Phaedra is offered the job as consultant. Then during filming Charlene’s husband is murdered and evidence points to his wife as the most likely suspect. Phaedra is determined to clear her friend of suspicion and find the true killer, but as someone who is more Lizzy Bennet than Miss Marple, she’ll have her work cut out for her.

Phaedra is an entertaining heroine with just enough quirkiness to make her stand out. In the usual cozy mystery way, she takes it upon herself to investigate, frustrating the local detective with her interference and putting herself in danger. I liked the nods to Austen Oliver sprinkled throughout the story and – as an admitted Janeite – these tidbits made me smile. Phaedra has a rather extensive list of suspects to choose from during her investigation – the deceased was anything but beloved. It was entertaining watching her put the puzzle pieces together while trying to juggle everything on her plate. Information is doled out as needed in order to keep things going and while I sometimes found the reveals to be inorganic in their delivery, it didn’t pull me out of the story. Phaedra’s family and friends are all interesting and I look forward to learning more about them. All in all, I really liked Pride, Prejudice, and Peril and I’m looking forward to seeing what Phaedra gets up to next!

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