Saturday, December 31, 2022

Review: A Murderous Persuasion by Katie Oliver

A Murderous Persuasion by Katie Oliver
Series: A Jane Austen Tea Society Mystery, Book 2
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Mystery 
A Murderous Persuasion cover
ISBN: 9780593337639
Release Date: January 3, 2023
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Phaedra Brighton has her life all figured out—she has a profession she enjoys, a wonderful (if exasperating) cat, and a cozy carriage house on the grounds of her aunt's inn. She needs no Captain Wentworth to sweep her off her feet (though, she would not mind a Mr. Darcy).

But when Aunt Wendy decides she is selling Laurel Springs Inn, Phaedra faces losing her beloved home. In a last-ditch attempt to drum up more business, Phaedra convinces Wendy to host an immersive Persuasion-themed murder-mystery weekend. It is a fool proof plan to draw attention to the establishment in the hopes of saving it.

Until make-believe becomes reality and one of the participants winds up dead.

With more suspects than she knows what to do with, Phaedra finds herself on the hunt for a killer once again. But with time running out, Phaedra quickly realizes that with this investigation, there will be no second chances.
When Phaedra Brighton planned a Persuasion-themed murder mystery week, she never expected the “murder mystery” part to be literal. When a guest of her aunt’s inn winds up dead, Austen scholar Phaedra trades in her bonnet for a deerstalker cap and gets sleuthing in A Murderous Persuasion. Author Katie Oliver’s second Jane Austen Tea Society mystery is entertaining, has plenty of suspects, and enough Austen touches sprinkled to delight Janeites.

Phaedra is trying to convince her aunt to keep from selling her inn, but she has to compete with low business and a very persuasive realtor. Having a guest murdered on the grounds also doesn’t help. I enjoyed watching Phaedra connect the dots while juggling a potential suitor, some slight family drama, and a house full of suspects. There are many people who had a reason to see the deceased dead and I liked learning all the motives as Phaedra tried to figure out whodunit. Oliver keeps all the plates Phaedra has spinning moving in an organic manner for the most part and I enjoyed seeing the puzzle come together. This is Phaedra’s second outing as an amateur sleuth, but you don’t have to have read Pride, Prejudice, and Peril in order to enjoy this book. All in all, I really enjoyed this cozy mystery. The characters are entertaining, the mystery satisfying, and the Jane Austen references delightful.

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 30, 2022

Review: The Bookstore’s Secret by Makenna Lee

The Bookstore’s Secret by Makenna Lee
Series: Home to Oak Hollow, Book 6
Publisher: Harlequin Special Edition
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
The Bookstores Secret cover
ISBN: 9781335724403
Release Date: December 27, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Harlequin

A temporary pit stop…or a forever homecoming?

Aspiring pastry chef Nicole Evans is just waiting to hear about her dream job, and in the meantime, she goes to work in the café at the local bookstore. But that’s before the recently widowed Nicole meets her temporary boss: her first crush, Liam Mendez! Single dad Liam has always kept his life—and his heart—closely guarded from Oak Hollow gossip. Will his simmering attraction to Nicole be just one more thing to hide…or the stuff of his bookstore’s romance novels?

Widowed pastry chef Nicole Evans is temporarily back in Oak Hollow with her daughter while she regroups and waits to hear on the jobs she’s applied for. Liam Mendez is a divorced dad who now owns a book shop with a bistro. He needs a pastry chef, she has time to spare, so it’s a perfect match. It doesn’t hurt that they both had crushes on each other when they were younger. But the longer they spend time with each other, the more they and their children start to feel like a family. The only problem with that is Nicole’s time in Oak Hollow has an expiration date on it. But does it have to be that way?

The Bookstore’s Secret is a sweet second-chance romance. This was my first foray into Makenna Lee’s Home to Oak Hollow series but it was easy to fall into the rhythm of the small down. I liked the characters, setting, and romance but I admit I wasn’t wowed by the book. It followed a standard formula and felt like it, nothing jumping off the page or exciting me. Nicole was hurt by her husband and his voice is one she’s still listening to in her head. She’s focused on having what she sees as an important career because of it. Liam was hurt by his ex-wife and wants someone to choose him before their career. He also has a secret he’s very careful to not let out. The obstacles aren’t huge, the drama is low-stakes, and the characters are all vanilla. This isn’t a bad thing, as a nice formulaic romance is still enjoyable. So even though The Bookstore’s Secret didn’t knock my socks off, I still recommend it for anyone looking for a comforting romance with nice characters and a picture-perfect happily ever after.

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 17, 2022

Review: Witcha Gonna Do? by Avery Flynn

Witcha Gonna Do? by Avery Flynn
Series: Witchington, Book 1
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Paranormal Romance 
Witcha Gonna Do cover
ISBN: 9780593335215
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Could it possibly get any worse than having absolutely no magical abilities when you’re a member of the most powerful family of witches ever? It used to be that I’d say no, but then I keep getting set up on dates with Gil Connolly whose hotness is only matched by his ego. Seriously. I can’t stand him. Even if I also can’t stop thinking about him (specifically kissing him) but we’re going to pretend I never told you that part.

So yeah, my life isn’t the greatest right now, but then it goes straight to the absolute worst hell when I accidentally make my sister’s spell glitch and curse my whole family. And the only person who can help non-magical me break the spell? You guessed it. Gil the super hot jerk.

Now we have to work together to save my family and outmaneuver some evil-minded nefarious forces bent on world domination. Oh yeah, and we have to do all that while fighting against the attraction building between us because I may not be magical, but what’s happening between Gil and I sure feels like it.

Witcha Gonna Do? is a paranormal romp that’s tons of fun. Avery Flynn kicks off her Witchington series with a romance that’s light on its feet.

Tilda Sherwood is the only non-magical member of a supercharged magical family. She runs her family’s social media accounts and – most recently – has been set up on a number of bad dates with her archnemesis, Gil Connolly. Okay, archnemesis may be a bit strong but things keep going wrong whenever Tilda is around Gil. Then she accidentally curses her family and the only person she can turn to for help is the man she doesn’t want to want as much as she does. Gil has his own reasons for helping Tilda and not all of them are on the up-and-up. But the more their lives become intertwined the harder it is for either Tilda or Gil to remember why they should resist the pull between them.

Tilda is blunt, funny, and likeable, making her a cheerful presence on the page. She may not be able to wield magic, but there’s more to her than her lack of magical abilities. Her family is powerful beyond measure and when she accidentally curses them she has to quickly undo it before others learn of the problem and take advantage of it in order to bring the Sherwoods down. Gil isn’t as open as Tilda but he’s had to be guarded. His magic is the kind that amplifies desire, making him and his family targets of the shadowy Council. Gil has a plan to save his family and doing so puts him in Tilda’s path. I understood why Gil kept his secrets and also why he couldn’t resist Tilda’s charm. I loved watching the two of them work together. The pages of their story flew by because of their energy and I was rooting for their romance every step of the way.

Witcha Gonna Do? introduces readers to the Witchington world, where witches, unicorn shifters, and more are as common as can be. There’s a world of possibility in this witchy universe and I’m very much looking forward to diving deeper in future books. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Tilda and Gil’s tale. It’s full of quirky, magical mayhem and I can’t wait to see what the Sherwood family does 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.

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Review: Chasing Your Tail by Kate McMurray

Chasing Your Tail by Kate McMurray
Series: Whitman Street Cat Café, Book 3
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Chasing Your Tail review
ISBN: 9781728214603
Release Date: December 6, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Head to Brooklyn’s Whitman Street Cat Café: the coffee is strong, the desserts are delicious, kitten cuddles are never out of stock—and finding love is guaranteed.

Pastry chef Brad Marks is the new hot thing at the Whitman Street Cat Café; he makes tasty treats for both the human and feline guests at the café. All the patrons love him, and freelance writer Lindsay Somers understands why; five years ago, she was smitten by his charms too—until Brad broke her heart. Lindsay is happy with her new gig at a trendy weekly magazine, but when her boss assigns her to do a story on the cat café, she's thrown back into Brad's orbit yet again…

Return to the Whitman Street Cat Café, where the cats are cute and the new pastry chef even cuter in Chasing Your Tail. Brad Marks is tired of cooking what others want, so when the opportunity arises to have creative control of his own kitchen, he takes it. Cooking treats for both humans and felines may not be what Brad had in mind when he went to culinary school, but the café is a fun place to be. And then Brad runs into his ex. Lindsay Somers is none to happy when her friend hires Brad to be the café’s new pastry chef. Brad broke Lindsay’s heart and she has no interest in opening herself up to that kind of hurt again. But now that she can’t avoid him, it’s hard for Lindsay not to fall under Brad’s spell again. The question is, will she be able to trust him in a way she never could before?

I love a good second chance romance, but I had mixed feelings about Brad and Lindsay’s. I loved Brad. He’s a sweetheart with boatloads of charm and a talent for choux that will make you drool. I was incredibly invested in him, particularly in the question of whether he’d adopt the adorable cat who clearly adored him. Brad never got over Lindsay and she over him, but the romance was a bit frustrating, mostly because of Lindsay. Lindsay’s parents’ acrimonious divorce did a number on her and though she fell hard for Brad in culinary school, she was quick to accuse him of cheating and cut ties. To say Lindsay has a hard time trusting would be a massive understatement. Kate McMurray showed why Brad and Lindsay worked as a couple but the push-pull from Lindsay grew tiresome as the book went on. It went on for so long I really felt bad for Brad and can’t imagine why he didn’t cut his losses. The happily ever after did come and it was cute, but I wish more effort had been put into it on Lindsay’s part.

As always with the Whitman Street Cat Café books, the feline characters are sure to grab your heart. McMurray definitely made me wish I could visit the café for both the treats and the cats. I also really enjoyed the friendships between the various characters. These two things, more than the romance, are what kept me reading Chasing Your Tail. So even though I struggled with Lindsay’s character, I still liked quite a few things about this book and would enjoy another visit to the cutest fictional café in Brooklyn.

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.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Review: The Reluctant Countess by Eloisa James

The Reluctant Countess by Eloisa James
Series: Would-Be Wallflowers, Book 2
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Historical Romance 
The Reluctant Countess cover
ISBN: 9780063139572
Release Date: November 29, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Eloisa James Reading Order

Giles Renwick, Earl of Lilford, has never made a fool of himself over a woman—until he meets Lady Yasmin Régnier. Yasmin is ineligible for his attentions in every way: not as a wife, certainly not as a mistress (she is a lady!), nor even as a friend, since they vehemently dislike each other. Her gowns are too low, and her skirts are dampened to cling to admittedly lovely thighs. She loves to gossip—and giggle.

She isn’t dignified, or polite, or even truly British, given that her father’s French ancestry clearly predominated. Not to mention the fact that her mother had been one of Napoleon’s mistresses, a fact she makes no effort to hide.

So what—in heaven’s name—possesses him to propose?

And what will he do if she says yes?

A lady with a scandal in her past is not the woman for Giles Renwick, Earl of Lilford. And yet he can’t keep his eyes off Lady Yasmin Régnier, whose smiles and dress provoke him at every turn. What happens when desire overrides an earl’s proclaimed wants? Readers will find out in The Reluctant Countess.

I’ve been a fan of Eloisa James’s writing for well over a decade, but I struggled with Giles and Yasmin’s tale. Yasmin is a charming heroine; she’s kind, honest, and it’s admirable how she keeps her head high with all the garbage thrown at her by people. People make assumptions about her character because of her mother’s affair with Napoleon and because of how a teenage Yasmin was taken advantage of. It broke my heart and made me want to see her get her happily ever after.

The man Yasmin desires like no other is Giles. Our hero is, well, not as appealing as Yasmin. He is struggling to do his best by an increasingly demanding, bratty sister whose faults he keeps excusing. Even worse, he judges Yasmin. I have no problem with a main character who starts out like a jerk and then grows, but Giles spent way too long being stupidly jealous and criticizing how Yasmin dressed or acted. He wanted her, but he also wanted to change everything about her so that other men wouldn’t desire her. This went on for too long for me to ever be satisfied with the romance and I finished the story feeling like Yasmin deserved so much better.

The villain of the story, Giles’s sister Lydia, takes up way too much page time. She hates Yasmin with a passion and does her all to keep her brother and Yasmin apart. She’s irritating to the extreme and the explanations for her behavior along with the end result with her plotline are utterly unsatisfying. The fact that Giles kept excusing her and Yasmin kept forgiving and helping her left a sour taste in my mouth.

I like James too much as a writer to say The Reluctant Countess is all bad. Yasmin’s friendship with Cleo (of How to Be a Wallflower) and Merry (of My American Duchess) was delightful. And it would be criminal of me to write about this book and not mention Yasmin’s grandfather. The duke is the kind of loveable soul you wish were your own grandparent. So despite The Reluctant Countess not being my cup of tea, I am still very much looking forward to the next Would-Be Wallflowers book. Yasmin’s irreverent friend the Duke of Huntington promises to be a much more appealing hero.

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, November 27, 2022

Review: Well Traveled by Jen DeLuca

Well Traveled by Jen DeLuca
Series: Well Met, Book 4
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Well Traveled
ISBN: 9780593200469
Release Date: December 6, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

A high-powered attorney from a success-oriented family, Louisa "Lulu" Malone lives to work, and everything seems to be going right, until the day she realizes it’s all wrong. Lulu’s cousin Mitch introduced her to the world of Renaissance Faires, and when she spies one at a time just when she needs an escape, she leaps into the welcoming environment of turkey legs, taverns, and tarot readers. The only drawback? Dex MacLean: a guitarist with a killer smile, the Casanova of the Faire… and her traveling companion for the summer.

Dex has never had to work for much in his life, and why should he? Touring with his brothers as The Dueling Kilts is going great, and he always finds a woman at every Faire. But when Lulu proves indifferent to his many plaid charms and a shake-up threatens the fate of the band, Dex must confront something he never has before: his future.

Forced to spend days and nights together on the road, Lulu’s interest in the kilted bad boy grows as he shows her a side of himself no one else has seen. The stresses of her old lifestyle fade away as she learns to trust her intuition and follow her heart instead of her head. But when her time on the road is over, will Lulu go with her gut, or are she and Dex destined for separate paths?

Lawyer Lulu Malone has been killing herself to try and make partner. Frustrated and exhausted, everything goes wrong one day and Lulu quits her job in a most spectacular fashion. She’s at a crossroads and her cousin, Mitch, has the perfect idea: travel the Ren Faire circuit with The Dueling Kilts. Lulu adapts to her new life on the road faster than she could have imagined, thanks to the help of her new friend Stacey and the friendly guys in the band. But there is one thing about her new life that throws her off (aside from being banned from computer and cell phone usage): guitarist Dex MacLean. Dex is the bad boy of the Ren Faires with a girl (or two or three) at every stop. He’s handsome as heck but shallow… Or is there more to him than meets the eye?

Well Traveled is sweetness, comfort, romance, and fun all rolled into one. I love escaping into the world of Jen DeLuca’s Renaissance Faires and this time was no exception. Lulu is tired of trying to live up to the expectations set by her family, which is why when she has a meltdown her cousin suggests a break from reality. I loved Lulu’s journey as she came into her own, melding her old self with her new. It was a delight to watch her become part of the Ren Faire family, doing odd jobs and making friends along the way. Her friendship with Stacey (of Well Played) and the MacLean family charmed the heck out of me.

In many ways, Well Traveled is Lulu’s story more than hers and Dex’s, but don’t fear that DeLuca skipped the romance. Dex seems charming and shallow and he plays into that, but there’s more to him than even his own family gives him credit for. Lulu is the first woman to treat him like a person rather than a plaything and it broke my heart a bit for him. Dex can be sweet and caring and I liked how easily he fell for Lulu. But Lulu’s time at the Ren Faire is only for a few months and the two of them live in different worlds. To make things work, they have to be willing to compromise and risk being open and vulnerable to each other.

Well Traveled was a pleasure to read. The world of Renaissance Faires is just a delight and I loved seeing it through Lulu’s eyes. The romance was understated but built as the story went on, culminating in a happily ever after that made me smile. Lulu and Dex’s story is a true comfort read and I am very much looking forward to revisiting them.

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.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Review: The Choice by Nora Roberts

The Choice by Nora Roberts
Series: The Dragon Heart Legacy, Book 3
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Genre: Fantasy Romance 
The Choice cover
ISBN: 9781250272720
Release Date: November 22, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Talamh is a land of green hills, high mountains, deep forests, and seas, where magicks thrive. But portals allow for passage in and out—and ultimately, each must choose their place, and choose between good and evil, war and peace, life and death…

Breen Siobhan Kelly grew up in the world of Man and was once unaware of her true nature. Now she is in Talamh, trying to heal after a terrible battle and heartbreaking losses. Her grandfather, the dark god Odran, has been defeated in his attempt to rule over Talamh, and over Breen—for now.

With the enemy cast out and the portal sealed, this is a time to rest and to prepare. Breen spreads her wings and realizes a power she’s never experienced before. It’s also a time for celebrations—of her first Christmas in both Talamh and Ireland, of solstice and weddings and births—and daring to find joy again in the wake of sorrow. She rededicates herself to writing her stories, and when his duties as taoiseach permit, she is together with Keegan, who has trained her as a warrior and whom she has grown to love.

It’s Keegan who’s at her side when the enemy’s witches, traitorous and power-mad, appear to her in her sleep, practicing black magick, sacrificing the innocent, and plotting a brutal destruction for Breen. And soon, united with him and with all of Talamh, she will seek out those in desperate need of rescue, and confront the darkness with every weapon she has: her sword, her magicks—and her courage…

The time has come for the final battle of good versus evil and Breen Siobhan Kelly is the key to victory. Breen’s powers have awoken, she has become the protector of light she was destined to be, and now it’s up to her to choose her fate. The Choice is the final book in The Dragon Heart Legacy trilogy and Nora Roberts brings the world of Fey and man to life in vivid color. The Ireland of Roberts’s writing is as dreamy as ever and the world of Talamh is filled with fantasy and wonder. I loved watching Breen travel back and forth between the two as she and her best friend, Marco, find the balance in between both worlds that fits them and the men they love.

The Choice follows Breen as she continues to develop her innate talent for magick and writing and to strengthen her weak points. We follow her life, her romance with Keegan that comes more to the forefront in this final tale, and see happy moments for all the characters we’ve come to love. And in the background is the threat of Breen’s grandfather, the dark god Odran, who would see all the worlds bloody and burned.

A lot of this book is building the anticipation of the battle and for a final battle of good against such dark evil, there’s surprisingly less action that you’d might expect. Whether or not this is satisfying is reader preference. I didn’t mind following a mostly pleasant journey with Breen and company, but I did perhaps expect a bit more energy and to feel the stakes that were laid out a bit more. There are dark moments and even a couple that brought tears to my eyes as Breen and all she loves have to fight to protect what’s good in every world. The conclusion of the story is satisfying and it wraps up all the main characters’ journeys in a satisfying way. All in all, I enjoyed The Choice; Nora Roberts’s writing drew me in and in the absence of Odran, Breen’s two worlds are ones I found cozy, warm, and engaging.

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, November 19, 2022

Review: Wrong Alibi by Christina Dodd

Wrong Alibi by Christina Dodd
Series: Murder in Alaska, Book 1
Publisher: HQN
Genre: Suspense 
Wrong Alibi cover
ISBN: 9781335201997
EBook Source: Publisher
Audiobook Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Christina Dodd Reading Order

Eighteen-year-old Evelyn Jones lands a job in small-town Alaska, working for a man in his isolated mountain home. But her bright hopes for the future are shattered when Donald White disappears, leaving her to face charges of theft, embezzlement—and a brutal double murder. Her protestations of innocence count for nothing. Convicted, she faces life in prison…until fate sends her on the run.

Evie's escape leaves her scarred and in hiding, isolated from her family, working under an alias at a wilderness camp. Bent on justice, intent on recovering her life, she searches for the killer who slaughters without remorse.

At last, the day comes. Donald White has returned. Evie emerges from hiding; the fugitive becomes the hunter. But in her mind, she hears the whisper of other forces at work. Now Evelyn must untangle the threads of evidence before she’s once again found with blood on her hands: the blood of her own family…

As a teenager, Evelyn Jones ran into trouble that landed her in juvie. At eighteen, she’s out and has a chance at making a future for herself. She has a job in Rockin, Alaska with a mysterious man who ends up disappearing and framing her for murder and embezzlement. Convicted for a horrible crime she didn’t commit, an accident frees Evie and sends her on the run. It’s been a decade and Evie’s isolation is about to end. Donald White, the murderer who set her up, has surfaced again and this time Evie is determined to be the hunter, not the hunted. Except someone else is on her tail, someone with vengeance on their mind.

Wrong Alibi is a twisty suspense with a heroine who is easy to root for. Evie has made bad mistakes in the past, yes, but the hand life deals her over and over again sucks and you want to see something good finally come her way. Author Christina Dodd makes her work for it. I have mixed feelings about this story. There are parts that drew me in, but it took a while to get there. I’m a longtime Dodd fan but this story lacked the pull her books usually have for me. It took me about a third of the way in for me to stop putting the book down for months at a time and it wasn’t until halfway through that the story picked up.

Evie is a survivor. She has strength and determination that is easy to admire. She’s haunted by the deaths of the mother and child Donald White killed. She also misses her mother and sister desperately but knows she cannot come out of the small fishing camp where she’s been hiding out for a decade. Until Donald resurfaces and threatens what she holds dear. Evie is determined to see Donald brought to justice, but it isn’t easy.

Zone Jameson is haunted by the death of his wife and son. He’s been isolated for the past decade but now he’s aware that the woman who murdered them – Evelyn Jones – is alive. He’s determined to get his revenge and is on Evie’s tail. What happens next I’ll leave readers to discover but it’s not very surprising.

The quest to bring Donald White to justice and clear Evie’s name is at the center of Wrong Alibi and it works fairly well. It takes a while for things to get going, which was a pity. Once it does, I was engaged. But there are other plot threads that appear at the end of the book and the number of points of view gets a bit crowded. At least one of the minor plots could have been eliminated because it strains credulity even for fiction. I don’t want to spoil the story by going into more detail. Suffice it to say that Wrong Alibi wasn’t quite my cup of tea. It’s slow in beginning, then speeds through character and relationship development in the end. There are a lot of things skipped that could have been built on to make the characters, overall story, and burgeoning romance feel stronger.

FTC Disclosure: I purchased the audiobook and received the EBook 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, October 29, 2022

Review: Some Dukes Have All the Luck by Christina Britton

Some Dukes Have All the Luck by Christina Britton
Series: Synneful Spinsters, Book 1
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Historical Romance 
Some Dukes Have All the Luck cover
ISBN: 9781538710401
Release Date: November 8, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

Ash Hawkins, Duke of Buckley, no more wants to marry than he wants a stick in his eye. As the owner of a gaming hell, he is all too aware the odds of a happy marriage are against him. But raising his three rebellious wards alone is proving more than he can handle. He needs to find someone who stands to benefit from a marriage of convenience as much as he does. Someone logical, clinical, and rational. And in a stroke of luck, he quite literally stumbles over just such a woman.

After years of ridicule for being more interested in bugs than boys, Bronwyn has accepted that she’ll never marry for love. Her parents, however, are threatening to find her a husband. Bronwyn doesn’t need any scientific research to show her Ash has secrets. But his proposal would give her the freedom to continue her entomology research and perhaps finally get published. Just as long as she can keep her mind on her work and off his piercing eyes, broad shoulders, and wicked, wicked tongue.

A marriage of convenience between two strangers quickly becomes something more in Some Dukes Have All the Luck. Christina Britton whisks readers back to the Isle of Synne for the Synneful Spinsters series and I, for one, could not be more delighted.

Bronwyn is an entomologist who grew up with parents who only saw her as a pawn to increase their social standing. She’s been beaten down but not broken and her quiet strength was on full display. She broke my heart more than once, thinking that she was unworthy of love. I yearned for her to see how worthy she was just on her own and cheered as she found her confidence. Chance brings her into the path of the Duke of Buckley. Ash is at loose ends. His three wards run off all their governesses and though he tries to keep himself separate from them in order to protect them, he loves them dearly. He wants to find a wife to care for and guide them and Bronwyn seems perfect. Ash may be misguided in his thinking, but he’s as easy to adore as Bronwyn. He cares deeply for his family and I loved that he immediately supported Bronwyn’s interests and work. Ash carries guilt and scars he thinks means he needs to be an island, but it’s clear from the start that he’s meant to be on Synne with Bronwyn, Regina, Nelly, and Eliza.

The romance between Ash and Bronwyn is sweet and sensual. The two of them are well-matched from the start and I liked how they supported one another. Britton made it easy to fall into their romance and the pages of Some Dukes Have All the Luck practically flew by. I adored this story and I hope to see Bronwyn’s friends and fellow Oddments find happily ever afters of their own in future Synneful Spinsters 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.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Review: Archangel’s Resurrection by Nalini Singh

Archangel’s Resurrection by Nalini Singh
Series: Guild Hunter, Book 15
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy 
Archangels Resurrection cover
ISBN: 9780593198162
Release Date: October 25, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Nalini Singh Reading Order

For thousands of years, the passion between Alexander, Archangel of Persia, and Zanaya, Queen of the Nile, burned furious and bright, seemingly without end. But to be an archangel is to be bound to power violent and demanding. Driven by its primal energy, Alexander and Zanaya fought as fiercely as they loved, locked in an endless cycle of devotion and heartbreak. It is only Zanaya’s decision to Sleep that ends their love story.

Eons later, the Cascade of Death wakens them both. The passion between them a flame that yet burns, Alexander and Zanaya stand together in one last battle against the ultimate darkness. But even a warrior archangel cannot win every war. Alexander’s scream shatters the world as Zanaya falls, broken and silent . . . only to rise again in a miracle that may be a devastating curse. For is it truly the Queen of the Nile who has been resurrected?

Only one thing is clear: This is the last beat of their passionate, angry dance. The final song for Alexander and his Zani…

What happens when love isn’t enough to keep two angels together? That’s the question in Archangel’s Resurrection. Archangels Alexander and Zanaya have loved each other for millennia, their passion as furious as their breakups. It’s an endless cycle of love and heartbreak until Zanaya Sleeps, leaving Alexander alone. Now a Cascade unlike any other wakes Zanaya and Alexander is there. That eons have passed makes no difference in their love, but they can’t continue on like they have always done. For this time is their last chance to get it right.

Nalini Singh delivers a love story of two stubborn souls who have to learn from their past in order to make a relationship work. I absolutely loved seeing Alexander and Zanaya from youth to present. They are Ancients and their history is vast and complicated. It was a delight seeing Alexander as a young angel; how he learned, formed friendships that lasted through time (including that with Caliane). Zanaya, though centuries younger than her love, has just as long and storied a history. I was delighted by the first half of the book, getting to see their pasts and just the sheer history of their lives. They are millennia older than the angels we’ve come to know and love and I was fascinated by the worldbuilding Singh did. Both Zanaya and Alexander have a different perspective from the other angels we’ve seen so far.

Whether their love can survive is never a question for Alexander and Zanaya. It’s if they can live with each other. The natural repellant that comes from two archangels being in such close quarters is not their only problem. They clash as fiercely as they love and now, in the present, after Zanaya is deeply wounded in battle it has come to the final chance for the lovers. They have to work at their relationship; sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not. No matter how stubborn they both are, I liked that they worked for their happily ever after. They own up to their faults and learn to grow. And through it all is a core of love that shines bright.

There’s a darkness lingering in the background thanks to the aftermath of Lijuan’s reign of terror, but that comes second to the love story. I won’t spoil the overarching plot except to say it’s OK but not incredibly exciting if you’ve been reading the series. For me personally, I’ve had about as much of Lijuan as can hold my interest and I’m more than ready to move toward something new. I was far more interested in the new characters we meet who are near and dear to Alexander and Zanaya. And I definitely enjoyed getting a different take on the archangels and their nature from the perspective of two Ancients. I finished Archangel’s Resurrection a well-satisfied reader and I’m very much looking forward to seeing where Singh takes the Guild Hunter series 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.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Review: Partners in Crime by Alisha Rai

Partners in Crime by Alisha Rai
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Contemporary Romantic Suspense 
Partners in Crime cover
ISBN: 9780063119468
Release Date: October 18, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Mira Patel’s got a solid accounting career, good friends, and a whole lot of distance between her and her dysfunctional family. All that’s missing is a stable romantic relationship. Armed with a spreadsheet and professional help, she sets out to find her partner in only legal activities, but much to her matchmaker’s dismay, no one is quite right.

Including Naveen Desai, the very first match she unceremoniously rejected.

Lately Naveen’s been too focused on keeping his sick grandfather’s law firm afloat to think about love, and he’s stunned when Mira walks back into his life to settle her aunt’s affairs. He’s determined to keep things professional…though it’s impossible not to be intrigued by all of the secrets piling up around Mira.

If getting back together with an ex is a bad idea, getting kidnapped with one is even worse.

Suddenly, Naveen and Mira find themselves in a mad dash through Las Vegas to escape jewel thieves, evade crime bosses, and follow the clues to untangle the mess her family left behind. As her past comes back to haunt her, Mira despairs of ever finding someone who might understand her…but maybe, over the course of one wild night, she’ll find that he’s right by her side.

What should have been a simple matter of settling family affairs becomes complicated when Mira’s ex turns out to be her late aunt’s lawyer…and that’s before the not-so-tiny complication of them being kidnapped and taken to Vegas. It’s just your average reunion with the ex-boyfriend you never stopped having feelings for…plus stolen jewels, hackers, crime bosses, and a mad dash through Sin City. Part rom-com, part romantic suspense, Partners in Crime is fast-paced and fun with energy to spare.

Mira is the kind of heroine I love. She’s smart, successful, and confident, but she has a vulnerable center she lets few see. Mira also happens to be angering her matchmaker by not making the staid and stable match she wants. Enter her ex, Naveen. The handsome lawyer is just as irresistible as she remembers, but the thought of getting close to him again makes Mira anxious. When they’re kidnapped together, however, the way the two of them click is just too apparent to ignore. Naveen is charming and smart, but like Mira he has ghosts in his past he doesn’t want to talk about. If Naveen and Mira want to make their second chance at happily ever after work, they’re going to have to open up, trust each other, and work for a future together…if they can survive the criminals hot on their tails, that is.

The action tends to overtake the romance in Partners in Crime, which is a bit of a pity because Mira and Naveen are such an engaging couple that I wish a slight bit more focus had been on the love story. Both of them have complicated relationships with their siblings I enjoyed learning more about and pasts neither is quick to open up about. Every time we got to the emotional center of these characters the story shone, more so than when the focus was on the danger and action. Their Vegas escapade is entertaining though, and author Alisha Rai keeps the story moving at a quick clip. Things did get a little overblown for my taste at the climax of the story, but whether or not readers agree will depend on personal preference in crime capers. Overall, I had a good time reading Partners in Crime. Alisha Rai’s writing is as entertaining as always, the characters are engaging, and the plot is flashy and fun.

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, October 15, 2022

Review: Season of Love by Helena Greer

Season of Love by Helena Greer
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Female/Female Contemporary Romance 
Season of Love cover
ISBN: 9781538706534
Release Date: October 11, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Thanks to her thriving art career, Miriam Blum finally has her decoupaged glitter ducks in a row—until devastating news forces her to a very unwanted family reunion. Her beloved great-aunt Cass has passed and left Miriam part-owner of Carrigan’s, her (ironically) Jewish-run Christmas tree farm.

But Miriam’s plans to sit shiva, avoid her parents, then put Carrigan’s in her rearview mirror are spoiled when she learns the business is at risk of going under. To have any chance at turning things around, she’ll need to work with the farm’s grumpy manager—as long as the attraction sparking between them doesn’t set all their trees on fire first.

Noelle Northwood wants Miriam Blum gone—even if her ingenious ideas and sensitive soul keep showing Noelle there’s more to Cass’s niece than meets the eye. But saving Carrigan’s requires trust, love, and risking it all—for the chance to make their wildest dreams come true.

Season of Love is a heartwarming story of love, loss, and the family you make. Helena Greer’s debut novel manages to give off a good amount of holiday sparkle while having its characters deal with grief.

After the death of her great-aunt, Miriam Blum returns to Carrigan’s (her aunt’s Jewish-run Christmas tree farm) to sit shiva and come to terms with her loss. It’s been ten years since she left Carrigan’s and though her beloved cousin now runs the place, there’s also a new face: Noelle Northwood, the farm’s manager who clearly doesn’t want her there. Noelle can’t understand why Miriam would ever have turned her back on Carrigan’s, nor why she cut herself off from her aunt and cousin. Carrigan’s is Noelle’s home and some fancy artist flying in to reopen old wounds for her beloved made family is not something she wants to put up with. But Miriam isn’t at all what she expected and her reasons for staying away come from a place of trauma. When the will is read and Miriam is named one of the new owners of Carrigan’s, she and Noelle have to find a way to work together.

Noelle is big, butch, and loyal to her loved ones. She’s a recovering alcoholic who has put dating on hold while she tries to protect all that she holds dear. Carrigan’s is in danger of going under and that has to be her top priority, not some gorgeous artist who is a flight risk. Miriam grew up with an abusive father who nearly broke her. She separated herself from her past and has built a life in Charleston that is safe. She doesn’t want to deal with her trauma, but her aunt’s death has forced her to come to terms with the past. Miriam is bright, talented, and smart. She’s determined to save Carrigan’s and that means she has to go toe-to-toe sometimes with her cousin, Hannah, and Noelle. Miriam and Noelle both have lessons to learn and it was great seeing them come into their own. Noelle is slow to trust and wary of being hurt. Miriam has to come into her own and stop hiding from the parts of her that need to heal.

The romance between Miriam and Noelle is often fun and flirty. The attraction is delightful and their interactions when they’re flirting are charming. There is a lot of push-pull for reasons I’ll leave readers to find out. Greer made every bump in the road worth it, however, for a happily ever after that is sweet.

There’s a lot to love about Season of Love. It made me smile that a Jewish family ran a Christmas tree farm and I loved that Greer authentically incorporated Judaism into this story. The supporting cast is also well worth talking about. Everyone at Carrigan’s is interesting and well-drawn, endearing and flawed at the same time. The only downside of this story is that it does move rather slowly, especially the first half of it. The pacing did make it easy for me to put this book down but aside from that I really enjoyed Miriam and Noelle’s story. The ending of Season of Love is warm and satisfying and I’m very much looking forward to Hannah and Blue’s 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.

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Review: Kiss of Steel by Bec McMaster

Kiss of Steel by Bec McMaster
Series: London Steampunk, Book 1
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Steampunk Romance 
Kiss of Steel cover
ISBN: 9781402270277
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Honoria Todd has more secrets than most people and she's hiding them in Whitechapel. Blade is the master of the rookeries and agrees to protect her, but at what price?

Most people avoid the dreaded Whitechapel district. For Honoria Todd, it's the last safe haven as she hides from the Blue Blood aristocracy that rules London through power and fear.

Blade rules the rookeries-no one dares cross him. It's been said he faced down the Echelon's army single–handedly, that ever since being infected by the blood–craving he's been quicker, stronger, and almost immortal.

When Honoria shows up at his door, his tenuous control comes close to snapping. She's so...innocent. He doesn't see her backbone of steel-or that she could be the very salvation he's been seeking.

Kiss of Steel is a luscious, dark, evocative romance. Bec McMaster’s alternate universe steampunk London is fascinating and the characters are unique and well-drawn. I was sucked into Honoria and Blade’s story from the first page and by the time I was done I was craving more of this world.

Honoria Todd was raised on the edge of Echelon society, where blue bloods rule. Six months after the murder of her father, Honoria is barely scraping by trying to keep herself and her siblings alive. Their home now is in the dangerous rookeries of Whitechapel, where rogue blue blood Blade is king. Dark and dangerous, Blade is no fool and he knows Honoria is hiding something from him. No one lives in the rookeries without his protection, and she has it – but the cost may be more than either are willing to pay.

Honoria is stubborn, smart, and willing to do almost anything to save her brother and sister. She doesn’t want to accept Blade’s help, but she has no choice. Blade was born in the gutter and infected with the craving against his will. He’s a rogue blue blood the Echelon would love to see stamped out. The two of them should have nothing in common, but they click from the start. There’s serious chemistry between Blade and Honoria that heated up the page and I loved the tension between them. All Blade wants to do is protect his people and live his life with the family he’s made, but there is no peace in this version of London. Blade is dangerous, near the edge of a violence he can’t control, but he’s got a good heart and cares deeply for people. I loved peeling back the layers of his character. Honoria has secrets of her own that have put a target on her back and I liked seeing her learn that she could count on Blade. She learns to accept help but that doesn’t mean she isn’t ready to stand and fight. They have powerful enemies hunting them and I liked that McMaster kept me guessing as to how things would work out.

Kiss of Steel is the first book in McMaster’s London Steampunk series and it definitely made me eager to read the rest of the series. I don’t want to say too much about the plot because part of the joy for me in reading was in the discovery. The world Honoria and Blade live in is dark, bloody, and they have to fight to survive. It’s also a world of tight bonds that melted my heart. Interwoven through it all is the world McMaster created which was interesting and unique. I loved learning about the craving, blue bloods, thralls, and more. I thoroughly enjoyed Honoria and Blade’s book; the romance was steamy and satisfying, the action intense, and the world engaging.

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 27, 2022

Review: When Life Gives You Vampires by Gloria Duke

When Life Gives You Vampires by Gloria Duke
Series: Slaying It, Book 1
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Paranormal Romance 
When Life Gives You Vampires cover
ISBN: 9781728257440
Release Date: October 4, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Single (plus size) vampire, desperately in search of a life.

Twenty-five year old Lily Baines is used to waking up hungover, overweight, and underemployed. Waking up with fangs? Not so much. But when a little light necking has more serious consequences than she ever imagined, Lily's determined to get to the bottom of it, or die (again) trying.

Tristan hadn't meant to turn Lily―it's against vampire law―but now that she's here, they need to team up to save both their hides. They strike an uneasy truce, fending off other vampires, Lily's work-rival-turned-slayer, and her mother's tone-deaf romance and fitness advice...all while Lily faces down her insecurities about the fact that she lives in a diet-obsessed world with a body that will never age, never die, and never change.

Falling for her maddeningly gorgeous sire? Easy. Surviving an ancient vampire Master determined to see her twice-dead? Piece of cake. But can Lily ever truly learn to love the woman she'll be forever more?

When Life Gives You Vampires is a paranormal romcom that has all the elements of a good read. Lily is a plus-size journalist who unexpectedly finds herself undead, Tristan is a centuries-old vampire who writes romance novels, dangers and sass abound. But though the elements were there, the execution left me with mixed feelings.

Lily is twenty-five and has some serious body image issues (to anyone who may be triggered by talk of extreme diets and/or negative body image talk: this may not be the book for you). Lily’s struggle with body acceptance is hard, often damaging, and author Gloria Duke doesn’t shy away from the fact that Lily hurts more than herself. It’s more serious and given more page time than you might expect of a romcom, but for me this was the part of the book that had the most depth and consideration. It’s not pretty, it’s not fun, but it’s relatable and realistic in a lot of ways and I was all in on Lily’s personal journey.

Unfortunately, the rest of the story is where I had issues with When Life Gives You Vampires. Tristan is an uninspiring hero. He has issues with being stuck in the past and he’s overprotective because of it, but it all falls flat. I wanted to dig deeper into his character, to see him come (un)alive on the page. And the romance…just isn’t there. Attraction? Absolutely. But the love story wasn’t believable and needed more time and attention to feel organic to the characters. As for the threats to Lily that come from her being turned into a vampire without approval, those didn’t wholly work for me. The villain of the story was a bit cartoonish and the resolution was so quick that it made me wonder what all the threats and buildup were about. I wanted more from the worldbuilding and more from the characters. There were many missed opportunities in this book but the way Gloria Duke wrote Lily’s personal journey had enough promise that I’d try her work again in the future.

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: Every Rogue Has His Charm by Susanna Craig

Every Rogue Has His Charm by Susanna Craig
Series: Love and Let Spy, Book 4
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Genre: Historical Romance 
Every Rogue Has His Charm cover
ISBN: 9781516111312
Source: Publisher/Purchased by Reviewer
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

Love, intrigue, and a fresh spin on historical romance make a sexy and suspenseful mix in the latest novel in Susanna Craig’s Regency-set series—as the wife one man left behind becomes the woman he can’t live without…

Caroline, Marchioness of Chesleigh, has been married for six years—at least in name. In fact, Caro has hardly seen her husband since the early days of their union. Scarred and reclusive, Maxim wasn’t ready to trust his wife with his secrets—or his heart. Instead, he quickly resumed his life of espionage in France, believing Caro was better off alone.

When the spy who left her returns upon inheriting the Dukedom, he finds his wife is not the girl she once was. Her heart is a little harder. She’s learned to stand on her own. Yet the desire that once ignited between them burns as hotly as ever…

Now, the more Caro learns about the past Maxim tried to hide from her, the deeper their bond grows. But danger haunts her husband’s every move, jeopardizing their passionate reunion…

I adore a good second chance romance and Every Rogue Has His Charm is a wonderful one. Susanna Craig wraps up her Love and Let Spy series with an utterly engrossing love story.

An innocent mistake, a locked library, and a marriage to save a lady’s reputation – that’s how Caroline ended up wed to the mysterious Marquess of Chesleigh. Married to a stranger, Caro discovers it’s actually quite easy to grow fond of her dark and dangerous husband. But when Maxim up and leaves four days after their wedding, Caro is left on her own. Six years later she’s in Brighton when who turns up at her door but her husband! Caro is determined not to fall for Maxim again, but that’s easier said than done when the flame that burned brightly between them never went out.

Caro is bright, smart, and independent. She didn’t wither with all the whispers when her husband abandoned her. She created her own life, though it is a bit lonely. Maxim, a spy embedded in France, has returned to England to share critical intelligence. Except he keeps getting distracted by his wife. The wife he abandoned because he was terrified of opening his heart to her. Maxim screwed up badly with Caro but he wants to make it up to her. I loved watching them both come out of their shells. They are so sweet together it brought a smile on my face. They’re the type of couple who just match each other perfectly and I was easily lost in their romance.

Craig gives readers a two-for-one in this book as widowed Fanny Drummond also gets her chance at love in this book. Fanny has long been part of the Underground but when finally tasked with a mission she seizes the opportunity – and finds love along the way. Like Caro and Maxim, Fanny has been hiding her true self and she comes into her own in this story. I enjoyed her journey almost as much as I did Caro and Maxim’s.

Every Rogue Has His Charm has danger, intrigue and a lovely romance with a hero and heroine who are easy to root for. I adored this book from beginning to end. If you’re new to the Love and Let Spy series, you can easily jump in here. And if you’re a fan, then the epilogue featuring the matchmaking General Scott is sure to put a smile on your face. I loved Maxim and Caro’s story and I can’t wait to read it again!

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

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Review: The Rivals of Casper Road by Roan Parrish

The Rivals of Casper Road by Roan Parrish
Series: Garnet Run, Book 4
Publisher: Harlequin Special Edition
Genre: Male/Male Contemporary Romance 
The Rivals of Casper Road cover
ISBN: 9781335724205
Release Date: September 27, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Harlequin

He’s in it to win it

Until he falls under his neighbor’s spell.

Bram Larkspur’s rugged, sexy looks belie his fear of all things horrifying. But as Casper Road’s newest resident, he’s excited to join the annual Halloween decorating contest. The competition is keen, especially from six-time champion, architect Zachary Glass. But when enigmatic Zachary sparks a prank war, it’s game on—until one sizzling kiss turns these rivals into allies. Now only one thing scares Bram: how quickly he’s losing his heart to Zachary.

A prank war between two neighbors turns out to be something special The Rivals of Casper Road. Roan Parrish returns to Garnet Run in this sweet Halloween-time romance of finding your heart and home.

Bram is a sweetheart who sees the best in people. After having his heart broken, he made his way far from everything and everyone he ever knew and finds himself in Garnet Run. He quickly fits into his new neighborhood, but the one person who isn’t immediately won over is his neighbor, Zachary Glass. Zachary is a man who likes routine, order, and everything as he thinks it should be. He’s the six-time winner of the Casper Road Halloween decorating contest and there’s no way this newcomer is going to break his streak. Though Parrish never explicitly states it, Zachary appears to be neurodivergent and is stressed when things don’t go how he plans. He’s also a man who is very alone and convinced no one will stay with him. His wounds broke my heart and even though he makes mistakes with Bram, I was looking forward to seeing him get his happily ever after. Bram’s gentleness and understanding help Zachary branch out and Zachary’s straightforward honesty makes Bram feel safe. Their romance is engaging and the happily ever after heartwarming.

The Rivals of Casper Road is the fourth book in Parrish’s Garnet Run series but it can easily be read as a standalone. Fans of the first three books will delight in revisiting their favorite characters and seeing what they’ve been up to since their happily ever afters. I liked the friendly residents of Garnet Run and how they filled out the world Parrish created. There are some campy moments in this story (and some flaws in the more adorable moments of creating shelters for feral cats), but overall I found it a comfortable read with imperfect characters whose flaws make them all the more interesting. I finished Zachary and Bram’s story a satisfied reader and I’m looking forward to catching up on the Garnet Run books I’ve missed.

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 18, 2022

Review: The Duke's Rules of Engagement by Jennifer Haymore

The Duke's Rules of Engagement by Jennifer Haymore
Series: The Lions and the Lilies, Book 1
Publisher: Entangled: Amara
Genre: Historical Romance 
The Dukes Rules of Engagement cover
ISBN: 9781649372918
Release Date: September 27, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Entangled

Some matches are made in hell…

Joanna Porter loves being one of London’s hottest up-and-coming matchmakers. But her heavenly vocation is about to turn into a nuptial nightmare—thanks to the Duke of Crestmont. He’s as handsome as he is insufferable and obsessed with all things proper. Matching him would cement Jo’s status as England’s greatest matchmaker. Except, of course, the impossible-to-please duke refuses all of her most eligible ladies…confirming his status as a complete and utter pain in her petticoats.

The Duke of Crestmont can’t believe he needs a matchmaker—let alone this spitfire of a woman whose kissable mouth and dancing, impertinent gray eyes tease him ruthlessly. But the people of his estate are counting on him to find a duchess. A proper lady with a flawless pedigree and immaculate deportment. So why can’t he stop himself from wanting his pert, lively matchmaker…instead of the perfect duchess?

Now the entire ton is watching as this determined, audacious matchmaker takes on the most powerful man in London in USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Haymore’s lively new Regency romp. And this show might just be the most outrageous one yet…

Rule number one of being a matchmaker? Never fall for your client.

Of course, rules are made to be broken which is why The Duke’s Rules of Engagement is so entertaining. Jennifer Haymore spins a delightful yarn of a London matchmaker who manages to break through the walls of a duke’s heart.

Joanna Porter loves love, even though she’s never found it for herself. When the Duke of Crestmont comes to her doorstep seeking the perfect duchess, she knows this will be her most challenging client yet. The duke doesn’t want a love match, which goes against everything Jo stands for. To find him the ideal wife, Jo has to first get past the duke’s walls. The only problem with that is she soon finds herself falling for a man who could never wed someone like her.

Jo is an endearing heroine. She’s kind, determined, and just a good person you’d want as a friend. I love that she made a successful matchmaking business in Regency London and that she really worked to find the perfect partner for her clients. Matthew, the impossible-to-please duke in question, has a marshmallow heart behind his stone walls. He was hurt badly in the past and seeks to keep himself from experiencing that kind of pain ever again. He knows he needs to marry and beget an heir, but none of the perfect ladies Jo introduces him can tempt him when the matchmaker herself is so distracting. Matthew is a handsome duke, yes, but he’s also quietly vulnerable and a bit of a geek; I loved how Jo also became fascinated by his interests. The two of them simply fit, if they could ignore class differences long enough to see that they’re perfect for one another.

The Duke’s Rules of Engagement is a wonderfully entertaining historical romance and Haymore makes it easy to be swept up in Jo and Matthew’s love story. It’s not all smooth sailing for these two, but the happily ever after makes it worth it. This is the first book I’ve read by Jennifer Haymore and I look forward to reading more by her, especially if the books involve Matthew’s best friends.

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 5, 2022

Review: Holiday Heroine by Sarah Kuhn

Holiday Heroine by Sarah Kuhn
Series: Heroine Complex, Book 6
Publisher: DAW
Genre: New Adult Urban Fantasy 
Holiday Heroine cover
ISBN: 9780756416539
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Nobody loves Christmas like Bea Tanaka—so when her family visits her for a special holiday celebration, she’s beside herself with joy.

After years of chaos, questionable decisions, and flirtations with the supervillain path, Bea is finally thriving. She’s got a sweet, new gig hunting demons in Maui, she’s working hard to hone her powers, and her big sister Evie is proud of her at last. In fact, everyone is so proud of her that she can’t tell them the truth: she’s feeling lost and adrift. She and her boyfriend Sam Fujikawa are struggling to make their long-distance love work, and her powers are displaying some intriguing new elements—elements that could lead her down an evil, mind-controlling path once more.

When her family’s holiday visit is disrupted by otherworldly monsters rising out of the Maui ocean, Bea throws herself into the battle—until she’s suddenly and mysteriously transported to the perfect Christmas back in San Francisco, surrounded by her family and an excess of merrymaking.

As she finds herself trapped in the bizarre holiday rom-com of her nightmares, Bea must unravel a treacherous demon plot, save the world from unspeakable evil, and resist the siren song of a supervillain destiny. And hey, maybe she’ll find time for a little holiday cheer after all…
Get ready for a wild ride with Holiday Heroine. Christmas and kaijus go hand-in-hand in Bea Tanaka’s second outing.

After making the leap from the family nest in San Francisco, Bea is determined to show her loved ones that she is thriving in Maui. She’s determined to blend in, make no waves, and keep her dangerous powers under lock and key. Yet though she’s made a close group of friends for herself already, Bea desperately misses her boyfriend, Sam, her sister, Evie, and everyone at Jupiter/Tanaka, Inc. When her family shows up for a visit, things start to go terribly wrong. Kaiju are popping up in Maui and Bea’s powers are out of control. When she passes out only to wake up in a mysteriously perfect Christmas in San Francisco, Bea knows she can’t just luxuriate in the holiday rom-com of her dreams. She has to get to the bottom of what’s happening before she loses everything and everyone she loves.

Bea is a vibrant heroine who has tamped down on her sparkly, over-the-top personality. She’s determined to be normal, to resist her powers and the supervillain path they could potentially take her on. She broke my heart more than once because she’s dimmed her light so much. I wanted to see her be the strong, confident, rainbow disco ball of a heroine she’s meant to be. Author Sarah Kuhn doesn’t make things easy on Bea in Holiday Heroine. Our brilliant heroine still has a lot to learn about being herself and it was great to see her bumpy journey to happily ever after. I can’t say much about that journey because it would spoil the story. Suffice it to say Kuhn takes readers on a twisty paranormal adventure.

I had a hard time rating Holiday Heroine because there’s a lot I love about the Heroine Complex world. Bea and her loved ones are all unique, well-drawn, endearing characters and I enjoy any time spent with them. But this book did drag for the first half as Bea – and readers – have no idea what’s happening or why. It’s only at the halfway point that things start to pick up. From there the repetition makes sense as Bea has lessons to learn, but unlike every other book in this series I didn’t have a hard time putting this one down, which was a pity. Still, even though this wasn’t my favorite Heroine Complex book I did love the way it turned out. Love in all its forms is key to this story and the way Kuhn flushed out Bea’s relationships with everyone in her life – especially herself – made this story shine.

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, August 27, 2022

Review: Accomplished by Amanda Quain

Accomplished by Amanda Quain
Series: Georgie Darcy, Book 1
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary 
Accomplished cover
ISBN: 9781250817815
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Georgiana Darcy should have been expelled after The Incident with Wickham Foster last year – at least if you ask any of her Pemberley Academy classmates. She may have escaped expulsion because of her family name, but she didn’t escape the disappointment of her big brother Fitz, the scorn of the entire school, or, it turns out, Wickham’s influence.

But she’s back for her junior year, and she needs to prove to everyone – Fitz, Wickham, her former friends, and maybe even herself – that she’s more than just an embarrassment to the family name. How hard can it be to become the Perfect Darcy? All she has to do is:

- Rebuild her reputation with the marching band (even if it kills her)
- Forget about Wickham and his lies (no matter how tempting they still are), and
- Distract Fitz Darcy — helicopter-sibling extraordinaire — by getting him to fall in love with his classmate, Lizzie Bennet (this one might be difficult…)

Sure, it's a complicated plan, but so is being a Darcy. With the help of her fellow bandmate, Avery, matchmaking ideas lifted straight from her favorite fanfics, and a whole lot of pancakes, Georgie is going to see every one of her plans through. But when the weight of being the Perfect Darcy comes crashing down, Georgie will have to find her own way before she loses everything permanently—including the one guy who sees her for who she really is.

The younger Darcy sibling steps into the spotlight in Accomplished. Amanda Quain’s modern take on Pride and Prejudice is a delight, thanks to its likeable protagonist and fun twists on Jane Austen’s beloved characters.

After the incident with Wickham Foster last year, Georgie Darcy is persona non grata with her Pemberley Academy classmates. Her brother, Fitz, is frustrated with her and is helicopter parenting from the nearby college. So what will she do to gain his trust and win back her classmates’ affection (or at least dampen their disdain)? Georgie will become the Perfect Darcy. Except it’s not as easy as it looks and her efforts seem to be hurting rather than helping. The only person willing to talk to her is band leader and all-around good guy Avery. Still, if she can keep her grades up, charm her marching band team, and distract her brother by matchmaking him with his classmate, Lizzie Bennet, then all should be forgiven, right?

Georgie is kind, determined, and a little naïve. She’s grown up in the lap of luxury and doesn’t quite see her own privilege, though she starts to learn over the course of the book. Because Georgie is a nice protagonist who was taken advantage of by Wickham, who fed on her loneliness, it was heartbreaking at times to see her iced out by all those around her when she tried so hard. I liked seeing Georgie come into her own over the course of the book. She makes mistakes, yes, but she learns from them. By her side is Avery, her incredibly sweet best friend who isn’t put off by the drama Wickham caused. Also by her side (though she can’t always see it) is her brother, Fitz. The elder Darcy is doing his best to take care of his sister and though he makes mistakes as well, I loved watching their relationship develop.

Accomplished focuses on a relatively minor Austen character but there are plenty of spins on Pride and Prejudice that will delight any Janeite. I absolutely loved Bingley being a frat boy – any scene with him is sure to make the reader smile. The references to Lady Catherine de Burgh also made me laugh. I thoroughly enjoyed Accomplished and appreciated how Amanda Quain paid homage to Austen while still creating a story and a heroine that could stand on their own.

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

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Review: The Highlander’s Tudor Lass by Heather McCollum

The Highlander’s Tudor Lass by Heather McCollum
Series: The Brothers of Wolf Isle, Book 3
Publisher: Entangled: Amara Next
Genre: Historical Romance 
The Highlanders Tudor Lass cover
ISBN: 9781649371195
Release Date: August 22, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Entangled
Heather McCollum Reading Order

Callum Macquarie would give anything to go back to the Highlands and Wolf Isle. Instead, he’s stuck circling an undefended English castle in too-tight breeches, longing for his bed and his plaid. But he has an oath to keep: to bring home the bonny Anna Montgomerie and her sister before that devil of a blaggard pirate Jundeau finds them first. Only the lass he’s come to rescue has no interest in going back to Scotland with him. Or ever.

To hell with Callum and his oath. Anna won’t step one foot in Scotland—no matter the danger. Not after what she’s left behind, and not while there’s a chance she can remain in England. But she has a plan. And the only hitch involves a braw, fiercely protective highlander who refuses to leave…and whose touch burns hotter than fire.

Now Anna and Callum are caught between the threat coming for Anna. Staying means danger. Leaving means death. And a blazing attraction that could spoil everyone’s plans.

The middle Macquarie brother finds love – if he can convince the stubborn woman of his dreams to come to Scotland with him – in The Highlander's Tudor Lass. Callum Macquarie yearns to be taken seriously by his brothers, which is why he’s determined to fulfill his sister-in-law’s request that he bring her sisters Anna and Dora home to Wolf Isle. Except when he comes upon the Montgomerie sisters, Anna beans him with a pomander. This is not the laughing, sweet woman he expected to find. Anna has fled Scotland and is now serving the young English princess, Elizabeth Tudor. She has no intention of going back to Scotland, not now, not ever. But with a pirate bent on revenge hunting for the Macquarie brothers and the Montgomerie sisters, Anna and her sister aren’t safe at Sudeley Castle. And the longer Anna is around Callum, the more she’s torn between the life she has told herself she wants and the promise of what could be between her and the handsome highlander.

Anna and Callum are both easy to like. Anna is strong and protective, determined to do what’s best for those in her care. She hasn’t had anyone she could lean on for a long time and she knows that evil can lurk even where there should be safe harbor. Callum has strong shoulders and a good heart. He desperately wants to be taken seriously by his brothers, which leads him to make mistakes, but at his heart he’s a strong and kind warrior. He shows Anna he believes in her and wants her to be free, not stifled like she is among the English lords and ladies. The two of them have great chemistry and it was easy for me to fall into their story.

Threats abound in The Highlander's Tudor Lass. There are court machinations at Sudeley, a suspicious lord bent on sweeping Anna off her feet, and the evil pirate Jandeau is always a danger. Heather McCollum weaves these threads through the romance, never taking the focus off Anna and Callum. I adored these two strong and sweet protagonists and was delighted by their happily ever after. McCollum’s highlander heroes always delight as do the women who love them. I’m looking forward to seeing what McCollum has in store for the next Brothers of Wolf Isle 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.