Monday, May 16, 2022

Review: Set on You by Amy Lea

Set on You by Amy Lea
Series: The Influencer Series, Book 1
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Set on You cover
ISBN: 9780593336571
Release Date: May 10, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Curvy fitness influencer Crystal Chen built her career shattering gym stereotypes and mostly ignoring the trolls. After her recent breakup, she has little stamina left for men, instead finding solace in the gym – her place of power and positivity.

Enter firefighter Scott Ritchie, the smug new gym patron who routinely steals her favorite squat rack. Sparks fly as these ultra-competitive foes battle for gym domination. But after a series of escalating jabs, the last thing they expect is to run into each other at their grandparents' engagement party.

In the lead up to their grandparents' wedding, Crystal discovers there’s a soft heart under Scott’s muscled exterior. Bonding over family, fitness, and cheesy pick-up lines, they just might have found her swolemate. But when a photo of them goes viral, savage internet trolls put their budding relationship to the ultimate test of strength.

It’s a case of not-quite-enemies to lovers in Set on You. Amy Lea’s debut romance is fun, empowering, and refreshingly honest. I adored Crystal and her nemesis turned hero, Scott.

Crystal Chen is a fitness influencer who is determined to ignore the haters and spread the message of body positivity. I absolutely loved that she’s a curvy fitness buff whose love for the gym isn’t tied to losing weight. She’s a smart, strong, easy to love heroine who I would dearly love to have as a friend. Crystal tries to brush off the haters but it doesn’t always work because she’s only human and trolls can be cruel. I won’t spoil the journey Crystal goes on over the course of the story, but I will say that I really liked that she had to dig deep and examine her outlook toward fitness, social media, what she shares, how she feels and why, and the message she’s spreading to her followers.

Crystal doesn’t have the best luck in love and her ex left her with major trust issues. Enter Squat Rack Thief…err…Scott Ritchie. I must confess, I didn’t like Scott at first. Since this book is written in the first person, we only see him from Crystal’s point of view and at first glance, Squat Rack Thief is no fun at all. However, once Crystal gets to know Scott her view of him – and thus mine – changed. Scott is a sexy as sin fireman, but more importantly he’s sweet, funny, kind, caring, and a bit of a dork. He’s almost too perfect really, but he is such a fun hero that said perfection didn’t make him cardboard. He and Crystal move from bickering to friendship to more and it was delightful; I was rooting for them every step of the way.

Set on You is an utterly charming romantic comedy with a great message. Lea writes about all different kinds of love in this story from romantic to familial to self-love. I adored Crystal and Scott’s book and I’m very much looking to reading more of Amy Lea’s work!

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

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Review: Rules for Engaging the Earl by Janna MacGregor

Rules for Engaging the Earl by Janna MacGregor
Series: The Widow Rules, Book 2
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Genre: Historical Romance 
Rules for Engaging the Earl cover
ISBN: 9781250761613
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Constance Lysander needs a husband. Or, so society says. She’s about to give birth to her late husband’s child—a man who left her with zero money, and two other wives she didn’t know about. Thankfully, she has her Aunt by her side, and the two other wives have become close friends. But still—with a baby on the way, her shipping business to run, and an enemy skulking about, she has no time to find the perfect match.

Enter Jonathan, Earl of Sykeston. Returned war hero and Constance’s childhood best friend, his reentry into society has been harsh. Maligned for an injury he received in the line of duty, Jonathan prefers to stay out of sight. It’s the only way to keep his heart from completely crumbling. But when a missive from Constance requests his presence—to their marriage ceremony—Jonathan is on board. His feelings for Constance run deep, and he’ll do anything to make her happy, though it means risking his already bruised heart.

With Constance, Jonathan, and the new baby all together, it’s clear the wounds—both on the surface and in their relationship—run deep. But when the nights come, their wounds begin to heal, and both come to realize that their marriage of convenience is so much more than just a bargain.

A marriage of convenience becomes a real partnership in Rules for Engaging the Earl. Janna MacGregor’s second Widow Rules book features Constance Lysander, one of the three women who discovered they were married to the same man, and her childhood best friend, the Earl of Sykeston.

Constance is a smart businesswoman who has had bad luck in love. When she asks Jonathan to marry her for the sake of her daughter, she’s hoping their marriage will turn into something true and real. Jonathan has other plans. He’ll do whatever it takes to protect Constance and her daughter, but to him that means staying far away. The ghosts of his past are nipping at his heels, and he’s wounded inside and out. He’s loved Constance for as long as he can remember but he does his best to push her away rather than let himself believe he can have the love and family he craves.

Constance is a likeable protagonist, though a bit too perfect for my personal taste – there’s simply nothing she can’t do. Jonathan is a wounded hero whose bark is worse than his bite, and though he eventually became a likeable hero he’s not particularly unique or memorable. It took a while for me to get into this book; the first half is a lot of push-pull between Constance and Jonathan and though it was fine it wasn’t particularly engaging. Halfway through the story picks up and I was along for the ride. I do wish MacGregor had shown more of the childhood friendship between our protagonists as that is the foundation their romance is built on. I enjoyed the love story but seeing their history would have given the romance a bit more depth. Jonathan and Constance have a lot of obstacles to overcome, and they (mostly Jonathan) did have to work a bit to open up, learn to lean on each other, and own up to the mistakes they made in order to get their happily ever after. There’s also a villain who threatens their happiness and more who must be defeated by our heroes.

Rules for Engaging the Earl is the second book in the Widow Rules series and if you don’t mind a small spoiler from A Duke in Time you can easily read this story on its own. If you like historical romances with brooding heroes, capable heroines, cooing babies, and/or loyal dogs (Regina did almost steal the show at times), then you’re sure to enjoy Rules for Engaging the Earl.

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

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Review: When She Dreams by Amanda Quick

When She Dreams by Amanda Quick
Series: Burning Cove, Book 6
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Historical Romantic Suspense 
When She Dreams cover
ISBN: 9780593337783
Release Date: May 3, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Return to 1930s Burning Cove, California, the glamorous seaside playground for Hollywood stars, mobsters, spies, and a host of others who find more than they bargain for in this mysterious town.

Maggie Lodge, assistant to the reclusive advice columnist known only as Dear Aunt Cornelia to her readers, hires down-but-not-quite-out private eye Sam Sage to help track down the person who is blackmailing her employer. Maggie and Sam are a mismatched pair. As far as Sam is concerned, Maggie is reckless and in over her head. She is not what he had in mind for a client, but he can’t afford to be choosy. Maggie, on the other hand, is convinced that Sam is badly in need of guidance and good advice. She does not hesitate to give him both.

In spite of the verbal fireworks between them, they are fiercely attracted to each other, but each is convinced it would be a mistake to let passion take over. They are, after all, keeping secrets from each other. Sam is haunted by his past, which includes a marriage shattered by betrayal and violence. Maggie is troubled by intense and vivid dreams—dreams that she can sometimes control. There are those who want to run experiments on her and use her for their own purposes, while others think she should be committed to an asylum.

When the pair discovers someone is impersonating Aunt Cornelia at a conference on psychic dreaming and a woman dies at the conference, the door is opened to a dangerous web of blackmail and murder. Secrets from the past are revealed, leaving Maggie and Sam in the path of a ruthless killer who will stop at nothing to exact vengeance.

A powerful lucid dreamer meets her match in a cynical PI in When She Dreams. Amanda Quick takes readers back to the dazzling world of 1930s Burning Cove, where glamor once again masks more sinister intentions.

Maggie Lodge is a writer who works for the advice columnist Aunt Cornelia. When her employer is blackmailed, Maggie is on the case and hires former detective turned private eye Sam Sage. The two click from the start, even though Sam is skeptical about lucid dreaming and Maggie is wary of trusting anyone after someone she trusted nearly committed her to an asylum. A case of simple blackmail turns deadly when someone is murdered and Sam and Maggie are drawn into a web of lies, showmanship, drugs, and deceit. The longer they investigate, the higher the chance that someone will target them.

I always enjoy a trip to Burning Cove, but you don’t have to be familiar with the series in order to enjoy Maggie and Sam’s book. Quick brings the world alive and I love the contrast of glitter and grime, the shimmering theatricality that masks dark deeds. Maggie and Sam are easy to like; both have been hurt in the past but work past it to open up to each other. They slide into their love story seamlessly and though I do wish there was a bit more emphasis on the emotional connection between them, I still enjoyed their romance overall. The mysteries they have to solve are satisfying and Quick takes you on an entertaining journey there. For me, the backdrop of the world she has created is the star because it’s so dang fun. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading When She Dreams. The atmosphere, period obsession with dreams, psychic phenomena and the like, and the entertaining protagonists with solid chemistry and a satisfying romance that made me smile all come together perfectly.

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, April 25, 2022

Review: Highland Justice by Heather McCollum

Highland Justice by Heather McCollum
Series: Sons of Sinclair, Book 3
Publisher: Entangled: Amara
Genre: Historical Romance 
Highland Justice cover
ISBN: 9781649371669
Release Date: April 26, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Entangled
Heather McCollum Reading Order

As the new chief of Clan Mackay, Gideon Sinclair knows the importance of maintaining order at any cost. To keep the conquered clan in line, Gideon must mete out ruthless justice or risk losing their precious new peace. But from the moment he meets Cait Mackay—aye, from the moment the sweetness of her lips captures his—all of Gideon’s careful objectivity is well and thoroughly compromised.

Cait knows that kissing the brawny Highlander is a dangerous game. It was bad enough she picked his pocket to feed the children in her care, but sometimes a desperate woman must disguise her crimes any way she can. Only her act of deception has made things worse… Because one kiss with the Highland’s most brutal chief leaves her breathless and out of her depth.

Now Gideon must choose between his duty and his heart when his lovely thief is accused of treason against the king himself.

The Horseman of Justice learns that not everything is black and white in Highland Justice. Gideon Sinclair was raised to believe things are right or wrong – no in between. He believes in law, order, and has no room for messiness. Cait Mackay knows nothing but messiness and complications; her life is lived in shades of grey. When the two cross paths there’s bound to be an explosion.

Gideon is a good man at his core, but his role in life was so drilled into him by his father that he has a hard time seeing the whole picture. As the new chief of Clan Mackay, he’s doing what he thinks is right to bring peace and wellbeing to his people but it’s clear from the start he’s missing some things. Cait opens his eyes to the messy reality of the world they live in. The survivor of an abusive marriage who now takes in orphans, Cait will do whatever it takes to see her children survive and thrive. She’s strong, smart, and determined – an easy heroine to like. I enjoyed watching her get past Gideon’s walls and to make him question what he’s always known. Gideon, in turn, is someone Cait can rely on. She’s self-sufficient but it’s wonderful that he can be there for her as an equal partner. The two of them just fit and watching them fall for each other was lovely.

Both Gideon and Cait are tested with the arrival of King James. Plots are afoot and both get mixed up in ways that could get them killed. How things work out I’ll leave readers to discover for themselves but suffice it to say that author Heather McCollum gives our protagonists a completely satisfying happily ever after. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Highland Justice. Cait and Gideon are both more than others think of them and it was a delight to see them realize it. I am very much looking forward to seeing what McCollum has in store for the youngest Sinclair, Bàs.

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, April 23, 2022

Review: All the Duke I Need by Caroline Linden

All the Duke I Need by Caroline Linden
Series: Desperately Seeking Duke, Book 3
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Historical Romance 
All the Duke I Need cover
ISBN: 9780062913661
Release Date: April 26, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

She’s a duchess in all but name
Philippa Kirkpatrick has been raised at Carlyle Castle by her doting guardian, the Duchess of Carlyle. Preoccupied with the succession of the dukedom and the duke’s health, the duchess has left the estate in Philippa’s hands—and Philippa is determined not to let her down.

He's not a duke at all…
The arrival of a new estate steward should be a relief, but instead it threatens to upend everything. William Montclair is handsome, brash, and scandalously bold. The horrified duchess wants to sack him on sight. Philippa is just as shocked…but also, somehow, charmed.

But could he be her hero?
Carlyle cannot be her home forever, but Philippa is determined to leave it in good hands. She means to teach Will how to run the estate properly and love Carlyle as she does. The more time she spends with Will, though, the more she likes him… trusts him…even loves him. Unfortunately, she’s also more and more certain that Will is keeping secrets that could break her heart.

The mystery of who will inherit the Carlyle dukedom is solved in All the Duke I Need. I was entertained by Philippa and Will’s story from beginning to end, thanks to the excellent chemistry between the leads.

After her father married into the Duke of Carlyle’s family, Philippa Kirkpatrick was adopted by them and raised by the dowager duchess after her father and stepmother’s death. She’s had a front row seat to the search for the heir to the dukedom. Meanwhile, Carlyle estate needs a new steward, but the man hired for the job is nothing like she imagined a steward should be. William Montclair is a brash, bold American whose blunt tongue raises the dowager duchess’s hackles. But Will is also dedicated, hardworking, and determined to repair and modernize Carlyle. He and Philippa lock horns once in a while (especially as she tries to help him not get fired by her grandmother), but mostly their banter made me smile. There’s an effortless chemistry to their interactions thanks to author Caroline Linden’s writing. It was easy to become lost in their story and watch them fall in love. Both are likeable leads with good hearts, quick wit, and senses of humor – how could you not be swept away by them?

I wavered on how to rate All the Duke I Need because I adored the romance and the family dynamics at Carlyle. Philippa’s love for her adoptive family warmed my heart and the way Will just fit at the estate made me smile. However, there were some elements of the story that felt rushed and underdeveloped. Will’s relationship with his brother, Jack, and their family’s shipping business never felt fully realized. And then there’s the resolution to the missing heir storyline. I’m treading carefully to avoid spoilers and I will say that I liked where Linden took us with this plot. However, it was rushed, left me with questions, and the book ended so abruptly I thought I was missing some pages. So while I thoroughly enjoyed All the Duke I Need overall, I felt like a few more chapters would have taken this book from very entertaining to fantastic.

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, April 17, 2022

Review: Go Hex Yourself by Jessica Clare

Go Hex Yourself by Jessica Clare
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Paranormal Romance 
Go Hex Yourself cover
ISBN: 9780593337561
Release Date: April 19, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

When Reggie Johnson answers a job ad in the paper, she’s astonished to find that she’s not applying to work at her favorite card game, Spellcraft: The Magicking. Instead, she’s applying to be an actual familiar for an actual witch. As in, real magic.

The new job has a few perks - great room and board, excellent pay, and she's apprenticing to a powerful witch. Sure, the witch is a bit eccentric. And sure, there was that issue with the black cat Reggie would prefer to forget about. The biggest problem, however, is warlock Ben Magnus, her employer's nephew and the most arrogant, insufferable, maddening man to ever cast a spell.

Reggie absolutely hates him. He's handsome, but he's also bossy and irritating and orders her around. Ben's butt might look great in a crystal ball vision, but that's as far as it goes. But when someone with a vendetta targets the household, she finds herself working with Ben to break a deadly curse. Apparently, when they're not fighting like cats and dogs, things get downright...bewitching.

When Reggie Johnson answers a job ad, she thinks she’s applying to work for her favorite card game, not be a familiar to a witch. Magic isn’t real, of course, but Dru is paying her more than she could ever dream of and she’s a sweetheart, if slightly delusional. The only downside to this new job is Dru’s nephew, Ben Magnus. The man is insufferable and though it’s sweet he loves his aunt, the fact that he’s feeding into her believing in magic is just another mark against him.

Except magic is real and her employer is really a two-thousand-year-old witch. And her nephew? He’s a five-hundred-year-old warlock who’s an outcast even among their own kind. But when a curse strikes the Magnus home Ben and Reggie will have to work together. And close quarters means it’s harder for both to pretend they’re not falling for each other.

Go Hex Yourself is an enjoyable paranormal rom-com. Other reviewers have pointed out that it feels like thinly-veiled Reylo ff (Rey/Kylo Ren fan fiction) and I definitely can see that. That being said, the Reylo vibes were my favorite part of the book. Ben is an outcast even though he’s an incredibly powerful warlock. Beneath the fearsome surface, however, is a lonely man with deep wounds. Reggie sees past the layers to the protective, caring man beneath. Ben’s pretty easy to become attached to; he’s grumpy, yes, but desperately in need of love and it’s hard not to be drawn to him. He’s there when Reggie needs him and bonds with her on a number of levels.

Reggie had a hard childhood and the only person she can depend on is her best friend, Nick. Because of said childhood, Reggie has an obsessive need to organize and control her environment. She doesn’t believe in magic when she answers Dru’s ad, but unfortunately the first half of the book drags something awful because it takes so long for her to become a believer. Go Hex Yourself hits its stride when Reggie finally realizes magic is real and spells, curses, etc. can be discovered through her eyes. Her romance with Ben has a good amount of tension and when things heat up, Jessica Clare delivers on steam. I was rooting for these two every step of the way, even when things were hard for them.

A cast of quirky supporting characters rounds out Go Hex Yourself. I enjoyed the world Clare created; witches and warlocks who are thousands of years old have a way of behaving that is sometimes unpredictable. I would love to learn more about the familiars (aside from being their master’s battery source and pupil) and Penny, Reggie’s new friend, in particular. I had mixed feelings about Go Hex Yourself because the first half of the book didn’t grab me, but ultimately I enjoyed the resolution and I hope Clare plans more books set in this world.

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, March 29, 2022

Review: How to Be a Wallflower by Eloisa James

How to Be a Wallflower by Eloisa James
Series: Would-Be Wallflowers, Book 1
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Historical Romance 
How to Be a Wallflower cover
ISBN: 9780063139527
Release Date: March 29, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Eloisa James Reading Order

Miss Cleopatra Lewis is about to be launched in society by her aristocratic grandfather. But since she has no intention of marrying, she visits a costume emporium specifically to order unflattering dresses guaranteed to put off any prospective suitors.

Powerful and charismatic Jacob Astor Addison is in London, acquiring businesses to add to his theatrical holdings in America—as well as buying an emerald for a young lady back in Boston. He’s furious when a she-devil masquerading as an English lady steals Quimby’s Costume Emporium from under his nose.

Jake strikes a devil’s bargain, offering to design her “wallflower wardrobe” and giving Cleo the chance to design his. Cleo can’t resist the fun of clothing the rough-hewn American in feathers and flowers. And somehow in the middle of their lively competition, Jake becomes her closest friend.

It isn’t until Cleo becomes the toast of all society that Jake realizes she’s stolen his fiercely guarded heart. But unlike the noblemen at her feet, he doesn’t belong in her refined and cultured world.

Caught between the demands of honor and desire, Jake would give up everything to be with the woman he loves—if she’ll have him!

How to Be a Wallflower is completely charming. It’s bright, fun, fast-paced, and sweet with a nice dash of spice. In Jake and Cleo’s romance, author Eloisa James has kicked off her Would-Be Wallflowers series with a love story that will leave you smiling.

Cleo Lewis has spent her life following her mother and the broken hearts left in her wake. Cleo is a sharp, smart businesswoman who is more interested in growing her company, Lewis Commodes, than she is in marrying. In London for the Season to bond with her grandfather, Cleo is determined to make herself into a wallflower. She visits a costume emporium, intent on ordering unflattering dresses, but manages to not only invest a new business but thwart a brash American as well! Jake Addison is furious at having lost a business deal, but that anger is quickly replaced by his fascination with Cleo. It’s not long before his course has shifted and his new aim is to win the heart of the woman who is his match in every way.

Cleo and Jake are too cute for words. Cleo is unconventional and no-nonsense, which I liked. Jake is her perfect match; a blunt businessman who appreciates Cleo’s mind as much as he does the rest of her. Jake made me smile with how quickly he fell head-over-heels for Cleo. I loved that he didn’t question it, wasn’t bothered by the depth of his affection, and was willing to do what it took to win Cleo over without ever pressuring her. I’ll leave it to readers to discover how he does, but the interesting sartorial choices, the breakfasts and brandies…all of it was a joy. Their romance sparkles, the banter between them made me grin, and I loved how straightforward they were about their desires. I liked that James made them friends as well as lovers, and it was impossible not to be delighted by them as a couple.

How to Be a Wallflower is the first book in a new series but fans of James’s My American Duchess will love revisiting the heroine of that book as Merry is Jake’s best friend (though reading Merry’s book is not a prerequisite to fully enjoy this one). James also introduces new potential protagonists in this book that have me incredibly eager to read more Would-Be Wallflowers stories. Jake and Cleo’s romance is bright, honest, sensual, and sweet – the perfect escape read.

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, March 19, 2022

Review: So This Is Ever After by F.T. Lukens

So This Is Ever After by F.T. Lukens
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Genre: Male/Male Young Adult Fantasy Romance 
So This Is Ever After cover
ISBN: 9781534496866
Release Date: March 29, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Arek hadn’t thought much about what would happen after he completed the prophecy that said he was destined to save the Kingdom of Ere from its evil ruler. So now that he’s finally managed to (somewhat clumsily) behead the evil king (turns out magical swords yanked from bogs don’t come pre-sharpened), he and his rag-tag group of quest companions are at a bit of a loss for what to do next.

As a temporary safeguard, Arek’s best friend and mage, Matt, convinces him to assume the throne until the true heir can be rescued from her tower. Except that she’s dead. Now Arek is stuck as king, a role that comes with a magical catch: choose a spouse by your eighteenth birthday, or wither away into nothing.

With his eighteenth birthday only three months away, and only Matt in on the secret, Arek embarks on a desperate bid to find a spouse to save his life—starting with his quest companions. But his attempts at wooing his friends go painfully and hilariously wrong…until he discovers that love might have been in front of him all along.

So This Is Ever After is the most fun book I’ve read in a long time. It’s Dungeons & Dragons meets Merlin but with the most kind, beautiful (but sometimes clueless) teenagers as heroes. Author F.T. Lukens hooked me from page one and I devoured the book in one sitting. It’s a fast-paced, original, funny tale with a whole lot of heart.

What happens after you defeat the big bad? Well, that’s where our story begins. Arek and his band of adventurers defeat the Vile One in a fight scene that goes hilariously wrong (magical swords evidently don’t come pre-sharpened). After that, Arek is crowned interim king so that no one can claim the throne while they rescue the real heir to the throne. Except it turns out she’s dead…which means Arek is now king permanently. Going from peasant to prophesied hero to king in less than a year is more than enough to throw off the seventeen-year-old, but then he finds out that he has to soul bond with someone before he turns eighteen or he’ll die. Great. Arek has three months to find a soul mate, but the person he loves, his best friend and mage, Matt, doesn’t feel the same way…or does he?

Arek has a good heart, but that doesn’t mean he’s perfect. He has his blind spots but does his best nonetheless. After taking the throne, he does his very best to take care of everyone around him. His fellow adventurers, the bard Bethany, the rogue Lila, the knight Rion, and the warrior Sionna, are all well-crafted, endearing characters in their own right. Each has a distinct personality and they fit together as a made family like a dream. They never expected to become leaders, but they rise to the challenge, each using their own strengths to bring a scarred kingdom back to life. I loved their interactions with one another. Arek trying to secretly woo each of them was a comedy of errors, but I loved that it deepened the bonds between them and made them all more open with one another. And then there’s Matt. Matt is Arek’s best friend and the love of his life. Arek dreams of confessing his love to Matt but believes that his mage doesn’t feel the same. Of course, Lukens makes it clear from the start that these two are meant to be, but the course of true love never does run smooth. This is a best friends-to-lovers tale that earns the happily ever after.

So This Is Ever After is a gem. It’s sweet and funny and earnest; just thinking about the book makes me smile. The fantasy kingdom of Ere and its inhabitants were delightful, but it’s the core six characters that really make the book sing. And of course, the romance that made me smile and sigh. I adored this book from beginning to end and I cannot wait to read more of F.T. Lukens’s work!

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, March 14, 2022

Review: Sadie on a Plate by Amanda Elliot

Sadie on a Plate by Amanda Elliot
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Sadie on a Plate cover
ISBN: 9780593335710
Release Date: March 15, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Sadie is a rising star in the trendy Seattle restaurant scene. Her dream is to create unique, modern, and mouthwatering takes on traditional Jewish recipes. But after a public breakup with her boss, a famous chef, she is sure her career is over—until she lands a coveted spot on the next season of her favorite TV show, Chef Supreme.

On the plane to New York, Sadie has sizzling chemistry with her seatmate, Luke, but tells him that she won't be able to contact him for the next six weeks. They prolong their time together with a spontaneous, magical dinner before parting ways. Or so she thinks. When she turns up to set the next day, she makes a shocking discovery about who Luke is…

If Sadie wants to save her career by winning Chef Supreme, she’s going to have to ignore the simmering heat between Luke and her. But how long can she do that before the pot boils over?

Forbidden romance in the food world takes second place to delicious dishes in Sadie on a Plate. Amanda Elliot takes readers on a journey through food in this delightful story as our titular heroine comes into her own by putting her heart and soul on a plate.

Sadie’s career has nearly tanked thanks to her jerk of an ex-boss when she lands a spot on the famous TV show, Chef Supreme. Sadie dreams of having her own restaurant where she can show that Jewish food is more than latkes and lox. Her creative, modern spins inspired primarily by Ashkenazi Jewish food were fantastic to read about. The care and attention Elliot gave to showing more Jewish cooking than is usually depicted in the media (and how and why Sadie’s creations differed from kosher cooking) made my heart sing. Elliot’s descriptions made even a die-hard vegetarian like myself salivate over Sadie’s plates (yes, even the chicken feet). The Chef Supreme competition is sure to delight any foodie and I absolutely loved getting to know Sadie’s fellow competitors (especially Kaitlyn, Kel, and Nia).

Sadie’s biggest obstacle is herself; she battles against negative self-talk but comes into her own over the course of the story. Sadie is messy, in a relatable way, and her imperfections make her as appealing as her stellar talent in the kitchen. She’s quirky, honest, and real; I enjoyed watching her find her confidence personally and professionally. She makes mistakes a lot, but she never gives up even when she wants to, which I respected.

A meet-cute on a plane with a fellow chef turns out to be not-so-cute when Sadie finds out her sexy seatmate is the newest Chef Supreme judge. Luke is an endearing hero, one I wish we could have seen more of (though his absence makes sense in the context of the story). To call this a romance is a bit of a stretch, though Luke and Sadie do get a happily ever after. The romance is in the background as Sadie and Luke can’t really interact too much else they’d ruin the integrity of the competition (and likely their careers). I would have loved to have gotten Luke’s point of view. He’s weighed down by the demands and expectations of his famous chef father who wants Luke to follow in his footsteps, cooking fancy French food with prices that make it largely inaccessible to the public. Luke would much rather be cooking his spin on the Korean food his halmoni made. The way Luke (and really, almost all the chefs except for Vanilla Joe) talk about their food light up the book. When someone is passionate about a subject it comes through and draws you in.

Since Sadie on a Plate is told in the first person and is really about Sadie’s journey, Luke and the love story take a back seat which may or may not bother you depending on reader preference. Even if I wish I could have gotten Luke’s point of view, I still really enjoyed Sadie on a Plate overall. Elliot made the competition as thrilling – perhaps even more so – than any you would see on Food Network. I loved Sadie and her fellow competitors, the romance with Luke made me smile, and the dishes that were served up could have leapt right off the page.

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

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Review: Hook, Line, and Sinker by Tessa Bailey

Hook, Line, and Sinker by Tessa Bailey
Series: Bellinger Sisters, Book 2
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Hook Line and Sinker cover
ISBN: 9780063045699
Release Date: March 1, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

King crab fisherman Fox Thornton has a reputation as a sexy, carefree flirt. Everyone knows he’s a guaranteed good time—in bed and out—and that’s exactly how he prefers it. Until he meets Hannah Bellinger. She’s immune to his charm and looks, but she seems to enjoy his… personality? And wants to be friends? Bizarre. But he likes her too much to risk a fling, so platonic pals it is.

Now, Hannah's in town for work, crashing in Fox’s spare bedroom. She knows he’s a notorious ladies’ man, but they’re definitely just friends. In fact, she's nursing a hopeless crush on a colleague and Fox is just the person to help with her lackluster love life. Armed with a few tips from Westport’s resident Casanova, Hannah sets out to catch her coworker’s eye… yet the more time she spends with Fox, the more she wants him instead. As the line between friendship and flirtation begins to blur, Hannah can't deny she loves everything about Fox, but she refuses to be another notch on his bedpost.

Living with his best friend should have been easy. Except now she’s walking around in a towel, sleeping right across the hall, and Fox is fantasizing about waking up next to her for the rest of his life and… and… man overboard! He’s fallen for her, hook, line, and sinker. Helping her flirt with another guy is pure torture, but maybe if Fox can tackle his inner demons and show Hannah he’s all in, she'll choose him instead?

Hook, Line, and Sinker is friends-to-lovers romance at its finest. Tessa Bailey returns to the small fishing town of Westport, Washington and pairs up music-loving Hannah Bellinger and king crab fisherman Fox Thornton. The result is a fast-paced, engaging romance that will make you smile one moment and tug on your heartstrings the next.

Fox broke my heart. The handsome relief skipper is used to his good looks attracting women and the razzing he gets from everyone in Westport. But beneath the carefree surface is a deeply wounded man with low self-esteem. Toxic masculinity and oversexualization from a young age have chipped away at how he sees himself. He doesn’t think anyone – even those he loves the most – will ever take him seriously and doesn’t try because of that. But he’s a kind man with a huge heart and a sharp mind who is so easy to fall for. I loved that Hannah saw him, got beneath the surface, and wouldn’t compromise. She wouldn’t let Fox devalue himself and she fought for him and for what they could have. Hannah is at a crossroads in her life when she comes to Westport. She sees herself as supporting actress material, but not leading lady. Just like she does for him, Fox sees Hannah for all that she is. He supports her, urges her to step out from the shadows and into the sun, putting her skills and talents to use. I loved watching both of them come into their own over the course of the story.

Separately, Hannah and Fox are great characters. But together they’re absolute dynamite. There’s a lot of push-pull between them, but it makes sense and Bailey makes every bump in the road to happily ever after worth it. Fox and Hannah have fantastic chemistry; their banter made me smile, the sexual tension was sizzling, and the way they supported one another captured my heart. I loved every page of Hook, Line, and Sinker, from the zippy text messages to the unexpectedly sweet moments to the spicy bedroom scenes to the heartbreaking and heartwarming character development. I cannot wait to revisit Hannah and Fox again and again and again!

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

Monday, February 21, 2022

Review: The Lady Tempts an Heir by Harper St. George

The Lady Tempts an Heir by Harper St. George
Series: The Gilded Age Heiresses, Book 3
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Historical Romance 
The Lady Tempts an Heir cover
ISBN: 9780593197240
Release Date: February 22, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Tall, dark, and brooding—to say that American Maxwell Crenshaw stood out in the glittering ballrooms of London is an understatement. He vowed never to set foot in England again, but when a summons from his father along with an ultimatum to secure his legacy has him crossing the Atlantic for the last time, reuniting him with the delectable Lady Helena March, he can’t deny the temptation she presents. Or the ideas she inspires…

Lady Helena March is flirting with scandal. Instead of spending her time at teas and balls in search of another husband, as is expected of a young widow, Helena pours her energy into The London Home for Young Women. But Society gives no quarter to unmarried radicals who associate with illegitimate children and fallen women, and Helena’s funding is almost run out. So when the sinfully seductive Crenshaw heir suggests a fake engagement to save them both—him from an unwanted marriage and her from scorn and financial ruin—Helena finds herself too fascinated to refuse the sexy American.

As their arrangement of convenience melts oh so deliciously into nights of passion, their deception starts to become real. But if Max knew the true reason Helena can never remarry, he wouldn’t look at her with such heat in his eyes. Or might the Crenshaw heir be willing to do whatever it takes to win the one woman he’s never been able to forget…

A fake courtship feels all too real in The Lady Tempts an Heir. Sparks flew between Max and Helena in the last Gilded Age Heiresses book so I was delighted to see the final Crenshaw fall for the independent widow.

If Max thought that being male would prevent him from being subjected to the same pressure to marry as his sisters, he was wrong. If he doesn’t fall in line and secure the Crenshaw legacy, then his father will derail his sister’s current project. Max doesn’t want to be pressured into marriage, but he needs to buy time to protect his sister’s work so he decides to propose a fake engagement to Lady Helena March. Helena is a widow who cares deeply for others. She’s trying to secure funding for The London Home for Young Women, but her own father is pressuring her investors to pull out because it’s “unseemly” for Helena to be associated with unwed mothers and their children. Max’s proposal seems to be the perfect solution to her problem. But what starts as a mutually beneficial fake relationship quickly becomes real.

Helena and Max are easy to like both individually and as a couple. They’re well-matched, smart, kind characters who stand up for what they believe in. Max truly listens to Helena and doesn’t dismiss her ideas or plans, even if they come into conflict with his own. He isn’t perfect, but he learns and becomes an even better person over the course of the story. The two of them support one another and I loved that. They have excellent chemistry and no matter that they believe this courtship is temporary, it’s clear for all to see that they’re falling in love.

Love, however, may not be enough for Max and Helena to get their happily ever after. Both have established lives on different continents, and Helena carries a secret that has her pulling back from Max. I was rooting for them every step of the way and I loved how author Harper St. George handled Helena’s secret. St. George really made her characters consider what it would mean for them and that made the love story all the stronger. I adored The Lady Tempts an Heir – the Crenshaw siblings and their partners are all a delight to spend time with – and I cannot wait to see what St. George has in store for her next American heiress!

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

Monday, February 14, 2022

Review: A Perfect Equation by Elizabeth Everett

A Perfect Equation by Elizabeth Everett
Series: The Secret Scientists of London, Book 2
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Historical Romance 
A Perfect Equation cover
ISBN: 9780593200643
Release Date: February 15, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

How do you solve the Perfect Equation? Add one sharp-tongued mathematician to an aloof, handsome nobleman. Divide by conflicting loyalties and multiply by a daring group of women hell-bent on conducting their scientific experiments. The solution is a romance that will break every rule.

Six years ago, Miss Letitia Fenley made a mistake, and she’s lived with the consequences ever since. Readying herself to compete for the prestigious Rosewood Prize for Mathematics, she is suddenly asked to take on another responsibility—managing Athena’s Retreat, a secret haven for England’s women scientists. Having spent the last six years on her own, Letty doesn’t want the offers of friendship from other club members and certainly doesn’t need any help from the insufferably attractive Lord Greycliff.

Lord William Hughes, the Viscount Greycliff cannot afford to make any mistakes. His lifelong dream of becoming the director of a powerful clandestine agency is within his grasp. Tasked with helping Letty safeguard Athena’s Retreat, Grey is positive that he can control the antics of the various scientists as well as manage the tiny mathematician—despite their historic animosity and simmering tension.

As Grey and Letty are forced to work together, their mutual dislike turns to admiration and eventually to something...magnetic. When faced with the possibility that Athena’s Retreat will close forever, they must make a choice. Will Grey turn down a chance to change history, or can Letty get to the root of the problem and prove that love is the ultimate answer?

One passionate mathematician plus one aloof viscount equals an entertaining second installment in the Secret Scientists of London series. A Perfect Equation is an enemies-to-lovers tale with endearing characters, romantic tension, and the odd hedgehog or two. In other words, it’s the perfect formula for an engaging read.

Letty is a brilliant mathematician who is preparing to compete for the Rosewood Prize. She doesn’t need distractions, but her best friend has left her in charge of Athena’s Retreat – a secret club for female scientists. It’s hard enough making sure the place doesn’t burn down without adding the maddening distraction of Viscount Greycliff, with whom she shares responsibility for the club. Letty has isolated herself from all but her family and her best friend. She was hurt six years ago and the scandal that resulted from that betrayal made her retreat behind a shell. She’s sharp and cynical, but beneath all that lies a romantic I wanted to see get the happily ever after she so deserves.

Grey has lived his life strictly controlled. He has his reasons for not wanting to give into excess emotion, but Letty has a way of knocking him off-kilter. The two of them bicker over how to handle Athena’s Retreat and the dangerous, sexist men targeting it. Author Elizabeth Everett weaves the political and social issues of the era into the background of this book and it works really well. Grey is a protector by nature so it’s a war within him between pulling back and jumping forward to protect the scientists of Athena’s Retreat from harm. He has conflicting loyalties between the path he and his uncle have in mind for him and his growing understanding of the importance of Athena’s Retreat and what it means to the scientists for whom it’s a safe haven.

A Perfect Equation is a story of stepping out of what is comfortable and safe in order to shine; I loved watching Letty in particular do so. Her romance with Grey was a slow burn, but once things got going it was steamy and all together delightful. The two of them are wonderfully imperfect protagonists you can cheer for, and I finished their story a well-satisfied reader. I cannot wait to see what Everett has in store for the next Secret Scientists of London 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, January 31, 2022

Review: Good Girl Complex by Elle Kennedy

Good Girl Complex by Elle Kennedy
Series: Avalon Bay, Book 1
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance 
Good Girl Complex cover
ISBN: 9781250796738
Release Date: February 1, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Elle Kennedy Reading Order

She does everything right. So what could go wrong?

Mackenzie “Mac” Cabot is a people pleaser. Her demanding parents. Her prep school friends. Her long-time boyfriend. It’s exhausting, really, always following the rules. All she wants to do is focus on growing her internet business, but first she must get a college degree at her parents’ insistence. That means moving to the beachside town of Avalon Bay, a community made up of locals and the wealthy students of Garnet College.

Twenty-year-old Mac has had plenty of practice suppressing her wilder impulses, but when she meets local bad boy Cooper Hartley, that ability is suddenly tested. Cooper is rough around the edges. Raw. Candid. A threat to her ordered existence. Their friendship soon becomes the realest thing in her life.

Despite his disdain for the trust-fund kids he sees coming and going from his town, Cooper soon realizes Mac isn’t just another rich clone and falls for her. Hard. But as Mac finally starts feeling accepted by Cooper and his friends, the secret he’s been keeping from her threatens the only place she’s ever felt at home.

A rich college girl and a bad boy townie are a case of not-quite-opposites attract in Good Girl Complex. Elle Kennedy’s writing keeps this new adult romance flowing at a quick clip and kept me engaged, despite a plot that feels like it fell out of a teenage rom com from twenty-five years ago.

Mac is an independent twenty-year-old chafing at her parents’ restrictions. She’s already created a successful company and has no interest in going to college when she could be growing her empire. But her dad’s a congressman and her mom is all about appearances, so Mac caves into the pressure to attend Garnet College, where her perfect boyfriend also goes. Except Pres isn’t as perfect as he appears to be, as Cooper Hartley knows. Without spoiling the story, I’ll say that Cooper has it out for Pres, and with good reason. The problem is that Mac is his means of revenge, even though she has nothing to do with and no knowledge of her boyfriend’s behavior and is an independent person, not an extension of the man.

Cooper is from Avalon Bay and he’s used to the rich kids treating the townies like trash. He and his friends hate the “clones” as they call the Garnet students. But it’s clear to him pretty early on that Mac is nothing like the students who have looked down on him all his life. Yes, she’s ridiculously wealthy, but she’s smart, kind, and hardworking. Mac and Cooper have an easy chemistry that sucks you in and makes you want to forget the lies and the emotional cheating that are the rocky foundation their burgeoning relationship is built on. Despite my issues with the plot, I was rooting for these two because they’re engaging characters. Cooper is hardworking and we see enough of the injustice the clones dish out to understand his bias against him, plus there’s added childhood trauma to trigger more sympathy since his sex appeal wouldn’t be enough to balance out his initial revenge plot. There are a number of fun and sexy moments to Good Girl Complex that made me smile and sigh. I was satisfied by their romance even though I had serious issues with the beginning of it, and I do wish there had been an epilogue to show Mac and Cooper down the road.

Good Girl Complex is the first book in the Avalon Bay series but it’s only because I’ve been an Elle Kennedy fan for well over a decade that I’d consider picking up the next book in the series. I pretty much hated most of the supporting cast. Yes, they’re all young and have growing up to do, but there’s some definite meanness (a lot of it stemming from throwback plotlines that have not aged well) that turned me off. I have mixed feelings about Good Girl Complex overall. Kennedy’s writing sucked me in and Cooper and Mac were entertaining characters; I just couldn’t get on board with the basic premise and the supporting cast.

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, January 29, 2022

Review: Not the Witch You Wed by April Asher

Not the Witch You Wed by April Asher
Series: Supernatural Singles, Book 1
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Paranormal Romance 
Not the Witch You Wed cover
ISBN: 9781250807991
Release Date: February 8, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Magic-less witch Violet Maxwell wants nothing to do with alpha wolf shifter Lincoln Thorne—the man who broke her fragile, teenage heart. But when the two of them are forced by arcane Supernatural Laws to find mates, Violet and Lincoln agree to fake-date their way to a fake-mating in order to conjure themselves some time.

The joke’s on them. When old feelings make a reappearance—along with Violet’s magic—they both realize there’s nothing fake about their feelings. But there are old secrets and looming threats that could snatch away their happily ever after, again. One thing’s for sure: magic doesn’t make dating and love any easier.

In Not the Witch You Wed, April Asher brings all the hilarity and sweet, sexy moments you love in a romantic-comedy—plus a fun dose of magic—to this spell-binding new series about being sexy, single, and supernatural in New York City.

Not the Witch You Wed is a delightful supernatural romp. April Asher introduces an interesting world of witches, shifters, demons, vampires, angels, and more and it was a whole lot of fun diving into it.

Violet Maxwell is the granddaughter of the current Prima and the eldest of a Magical Triad. By rights, Vi should be a super powerful witch; instead she’s a magicless witch known as the “Maxwell Dud.” Vi is happy with her life and there are definite perks to leaving the politics and society maneuvering of being the Prima Apparent to her sister. Except a run-in with Lincoln Thorne, Alpha wolf of the North American Pack, stirs something in her. Linc broke her heart when they were teens and she’s never forgiven him, but somehow his reappearance happens at the same time as her magic starts to make an appearance. When both of them run into a problem of arcane supernatural laws forcing them to find mates, Vi and Linc agree to put the past aside and fake date in order to buy time. Except there’s nothing fake about the feelings that never died between them…

Vi and Linc are fun, likeable protagonists who are easy to root for. Linc is noble, wanting to change shifter society to make it democratic, fighting to overturn arcane laws that take away people’s choices. He’s determined to do what’s right and I liked that about him a lot. Vi has also forged a path different from the one she was born into. But the sudden appearance of magic in her is causing chaos and she’s desperate to get a handle on it. She and Linc have instant chemistry when they’re reunited after years apart, but old wounds, secrets, and the con they’re pulling get in the way. I adored Linc and Vi together and wanted to see them get their happily ever after. They’re entertaining together and also really sweet with a nice dash of spice; it was easy to fall into their romance.

Vi and Linc are the heart of Not the Witch You Wed, but Asher introduces a world of supporting characters who not only flesh the story out but are interesting in their own right. I loved Vi’s relationship with her sisters, Rose and Olive, and ooh does Asher tease HEAs for them that have me eager for more Maxwell sister books. But I also loved Vi and Linc’s best friends and can’t wait to see more of them. Not the Witch You Wed is a zippy romance with magic, humor, heart, and a world I cannot wait to explore more.

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, January 23, 2022

Review: Lightning in a Mirror by Jayne Ann Krentz

Lightning in a Mirror by Jayne Ann Krentz
Series: Fogg Lake, Book 3
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Paranormal Romantic Suspense 
Lightning in a Mirror cover
ISBN: 9780593337752
Release Date: January 18, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Olivia LeClair's experiment with speed dating is not going well. First there was the nasty encounter with the date from hell who tried to murder her and now the mysterious Harlan Rancourt—long believed dead—sits down at her table and tells her she's the only one who can help him locate the legendary Vortex lab.

This is not what Olivia had in mind when she signed up for the Four Event Success Guaranteed package offered by the dating agency. She doesn't have much choice, though, because her psychic investigation firm works for the mysterious Foundation and Victor Arganbright, the director, is adamant that she assist Harlan. There's just one problem—no one knows Harlan's real agenda. His father once ran the Foundation like a mob organization, and Harlan was destined to be his heir. There's a real possibility Harlan has returned to claim his inheritance.

For now, however, it's a case of the enemy of my enemy is my friend because others are after the secrets of the long-lost lab. Unfortunately for Olivia, the one thing friend and foe have in common is that everyone is convinced she is the key. Her unique psychic talent is required to defuse the ticking time bomb that is Vortex.

Neither trusts the other but Olivia and Harlan soon realize they must work together to survive and unlock the Bluestone Project's most dangerous secrets before more innocent people die.

Jayne Ann Krentz brings the Fogg Lake series to a satisfying conclusion in Lightning in a Mirror. Krentz ups the paranormal activity as the hunt for the legendary Vortex lab hits its climax.

Olivia LeClair is a private investigator and aura reader who is being targeted for her supposed oracle abilities. Harlan Rancourt has spent the past five years on the run after his father’s murder but is now back to find Vortex. The two are tasked by the leaders of the Foundation to work together and find the lost lab. It’s a straightforward quest made complex thanks to various factions, all with their own agendas and paranormal skills. I enjoyed diving further into the paranormal world Krentz has built over the course of the series. There are points at which this book feels a bit like paranormal Indiana Jones which is a lot of fun. Yet despite all the action I can’t quite say this is the most exciting of Krentz’s books – there was a lot of exposition which weighed things down at times.

Harlan and Olivia are at the center of Lightning in a Mirror and I really enjoyed them both. Olivia is warm, likeable, and straightforward; she’s got talent and she uses it for good. Harlan works more in the grey area due to his talent. He cloaks his skills and uses them to hunt monsters, but he sees himself as a potential monster as well. I absolutely adored Harlan and his lack of social skills. He and Olivia click from the start and just work well as a couple, romantically and on this quest. Their love story is understated but works thanks to their easy chemistry and entertaining interactions. And though the romance is really secondary to the overall story, it was my favorite part of the book.

I can’t talk much about the plot of Lightning in a Mirror without spoiling it, but suffice it to say Krentz wraps up the Fogg Lake trilogy and the Vortex lab storyline in a satisfying manner. She does, however, leave room for more stories in the same universe and I am curious to see where she goes with this. Also, if you’re a fan of Krentz’s Amanda Quick or Jayne Ann Castle books, there are mentions of the Arcane Society and the Jones family, so perhaps we’ll see more connections in future series to the “Jayneverse.”

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, January 15, 2022

Review: Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Weather Girl Rachel Lynn Solomon
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Weather Girl cover
ISBN: 9780593200148
Release Date: January 11, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Ari Abrams has always been fascinated by the weather, and she loves almost everything about her job as a TV meteorologist. Her boss, legendary Seattle weatherwoman Torrance Hale, is too distracted by her tempestuous relationship with her ex-husband, the station’s news director, to give Ari the mentorship she wants. Ari, who runs on sunshine and optimism, is at her wits’ end. The only person who seems to understand how she feels is sweet but reserved sports reporter Russell Barringer.

In the aftermath of a disastrous holiday party, Ari and Russell decide to team up to solve their bosses’ relationship issues. Between secret gifts and double dates, they start nudging their bosses back together. But their well-meaning meddling backfires when the real chemistry builds between Ari and Russell.

Working closely with Russell means allowing him to get to know parts of herself that Ari keeps hidden from everyone. Will he be able to embrace her dark clouds as well as her clear skies?

What happens when two reporters team up to Parent Trap their bosses? Antics, friendship, and an unexpected romance. Weather Girl has an entertaining premise and its characters’ easy, low-key chemistry makes it enjoyable, but what really makes it stand out is how author Rachel Lynn Solomon addresses mental health in this romance.

Ari Abrams is a meteorologist for KSEA news and though she loves her job, her office is miserable thanks to the constant battles between her boss and KSEA’s station manager. The exes are constantly at each other’s throats, but there’s chemistry there that makes Ari think that all the love between them may not be gone. At an office Christmas party, she and sports reporter Russell Barringer decide to nudge their bosses back together. Their plotting leads to an easy friendship springing up between Ari and Russell, and it’s not long before that friendship turns into something more. Ari and Russell never quite grabbed me as a couple, but I still liked them enough to just roll with it. I particularly liked that Russell had insecurities about his looks (it’s a refreshing change of pace) and that Ari thought he was totally hot.

The romance was OK in this book but what really made Weather Girl shine for me was Ari’s mental health struggles and the sensitivity Solomon showed in addressing this topic. Ari has depression and the way Solomon writes it is so realistic and relatable that it grabbed my heart. Even though Ari has been successfully managing her depression for years, it’s not something that goes away no matter how adept you are at handling it. She feels like she always has to show a smiling face to the world, that no one could love all of her. I wanted to see her realize that she could be loved on good days and bad and I loved that Solomon gave that to her.

Weather Girl is a lovely, sometimes messy romance with endearing characters. I loved the Jewish representation in this book as well as the way different families are shown. Solomon isn’t afraid to make her characters imperfect and give them love, which I really liked. All in all, Ari and Russell’s story is an entertaining read to curl up with in sunshine or storm.

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, January 9, 2022

Review: The Family You Make by Jill Shalvis

The Family You Make by Jill Shalvis
Series: Sunrise Cove, Book 1
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance 
The Family You Make cover
ISBN: 9780063025486
Release Date: January 11, 2022
Source: Author
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Jill Shalvis Reading Order

During the snowstorm of the century Levi Cutler is stranded on a ski lift with a beautiful stranger named Jane. After strong winds hurl the gondola in front of them into the ground, Levi calls his parents to prepare them for the worst…but can’t bring himself to say goodbye. Instead, wanting to fulfill his mother’s lifelong wish, he impulsively tells her he’s happily settled and Jane is his girlfriend—right before his phone dies.

But Levi and Jane do not.

Now Levi’s family is desperate to meet “The One.” Though Jane agrees to be his pretend girlfriend for just one dinner, she’s nervous. After a traumatic childhood, Jane isn’t sure she knows how to be around a tight-knit family that cherishes one another. She’s terrified, and a little jealous. But an unexpected series of events and a host of new friends soon show Jane that perhaps this is the life she was always meant to have.

As Jane and Levi spend more time together, pretend feelings quickly turn into real ones. Now all Jane has to do is admit to herself she can’t live without the man she’s fallen in love with and the family she has always dreamed of.

The Family You Make is a sweet story with a healthy splash of romance. Jill Shalvis kicks off her Sunrise Cove series with a story of opening yourself of to love and connections, even though it’s frightening.

Jane has been a loner as long as she can remember. She was passed around like the family burden and now is a travelling nurse, never wanting to stay in one place and wear out her welcome. Levi is a square peg in a round hole in his family and he left Sunrise Cove to break away from that feeling. Both are in the Tahoe area for the season and when they’re trapped in a gondola in the middle of a massive snowstorm, Levi finds he can’t call his family to say goodbye when he thinks he’s going to die. Instead, he tells his mother (who has long wanted him to settle down) that Jane is his girlfriend. After they survive, Levi convinces Jane to agree to the ruse for a few weeks. What happens next is a story of letting down your walls and letting love – romantic and familial – in. There’s a lot of push-pull in Levi and Jane’s romance, mostly because she’s determined to leave and protect her heart. Nevertheless, Levi’s kindness and determination and Jane’s yearning heart and caring nature mean the two of them don’t stand a chance against falling in love.

The Family You Make also features a secondary romance between Jane’s best friend, Charlotte, and Levi’s best friend, Mateo. Despite the significantly fewer number of cupcakes in this storyline, Charlotte and Mateo were my favorite of the two romances and I wish they had been given just a bit more depth. Charlotte is a survivor who doesn’t want a relationship and is always masking her attraction to her neighbor and fellow doctor by bickering with him. The two are both natural caretakers and I loved seeing them give into what has clearly been between them for some time.

As you could likely glean from the title, romance isn’t the only important type of relationship in The Family You Make. Family by blood and by choice are both important to this story. I loved Charlotte and Jane’s relationship and how much attention Shalvis gave them; so much so that I wish Levi and Mateo had been given the same space (especially given their history). Levi’s family is a complicated mess even though they love one another, and they did have tendency to take over the page a bit. Whether or not this bothers you is really reader preference. There’s also Jane’s history which broke my heart and the resolution of which is equally complicated and tugs on the heartstrings. While each of these plot lines has merit, there were a few too many extra things thrown in during the last quarter of the book for everything to feel it got its due attention. Still, The Family You Make is an enjoyable read overall. It’s got a lot of heart and the characters are impossible not to root for and adore.

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

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Review: Electric Idol by Katee Robert

Electric Idol by Katee Robert
Series: Dark Olympus, Book 2
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Erotic Contemporary Romance 
Electric Idol cover
ISBN: 9781728231761
Release Date: January 18, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

In the ultra-modern city of Olympus, there's always a price to pay. Psyche Dimitriou knew she'd have to face Aphrodite's jealous rage eventually, but she never expected her literal heart to be at stake...or for Aphrodite's gorgeous son to be the one ordered to strike the killing blow.

Eros has no problem shedding blood. Raised to be his mother's knife in the dark, he's been conditioned to accept that he's more monster than man. But when it comes time to take out his latest target...he can't do it. Confused by his reaction to Psyche's unexpected kindness, he does the only thing he can think of to keep her safe: he binds her to him, body and soul.

Psyche didn't expect to find herself married to the glittering city's most dangerous killer, but something about Eros wakens a fire inside her she's never felt before. As lines blur and loyalties shift, Psyche realizes Eros might take her heart after all...and she's not sure she can survive the loss.

In the city of Olympus, you play the game well or you’re crushed. And if you cross one of the Thirteen, well, may the gods have mercy on you. Psyche Dimitriou, daughter of the current Demeter, knows how to play a role and navigate the politics and society of Olympus. The beautiful influencer has never made a misstep…until one act of kindness makes her Aphrodite’s target. And Aphrodite’s weapon is the devastatingly handsome Eros.

Eros is, by his own admission, a monster. His mother raised him from childhood to be her blade in the night, the man who does her dirty work. He feels like his soul has been crushed; then he meets Psyche. Aphrodite wants Psyche killed, but rather than comply, Eros marries her, setting off a chain of events neither could have expected.

The Eros and Psyche myth is reimagined in the fast-paced, compelling Electric Idol. Katee Robert captivated me from the first with this sexy and imaginative take on the classic tale.

All of Olympus knows Psyche to be kind and sweet; the kind of woman who would never put a toe out of line. But Psyche is so much more than what people see. She’s smart, clever, skilled at image-craft, and wields social media with incredible skill. She’s also fiercely protective of those she loves and is a bit lonely, knowing that there is no one she can trust outside her family. Eros sees himself as the darkness to her light. He’s been raised to be a monster and has blood on his hands. He’s cold and ruthless because that’s what Aphrodite raised him to be. But she hasn’t killed his soul completely. Psyche brings out the man within, letting him be his true self around her. They have an unconventional beginning, to say the least, but I was rooting for these two every step of the way. Their chemistry is electric and the two of them burn up the sheets (and make great use of mirrors), but there’s no lack of heart to match the heat.

The threat of Aphrodite’s revenge adds danger to Electric Idol and allows a deeper look into the politics of Olympus. It’s an interesting world, one I look forward to learning more about as the series goes on. It’s also a deeply poisonous world, especially the closer you get to the Thirteen. I was captivated by Psyche and Eros’s romance and definitely kept turning the pages because I wanted to see them carve out their own slice of happiness.

For all the fun to be had with mirrors in this story, Eros and Psyche have a romance that you can believe in because they each see beyond the image the other presents. I loved how gone over Psyche Eros was and how she saw past the monster and fell for the man. Electric Idol is entertaining from start to finish and I cannot wait to see where Robert takes the Dark Olympus 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.

Monday, January 3, 2022

Best Books of 2021

2021 was…a year… and I can’t say I’m not glad to leave it behind. But 2021 did bring with it some wonderful reads and it’s pure pleasure to look back on them before I dive into an exciting new year of books. In 2021 I read 121 books, including a few re-reads that I fell in love with all over again. I tried 35 debut/new-to-me authors and discovered some wonderful authors whose backlists I cannot wait to dive into. And finally, I participated in my twelfth A to Z Reading Challenge, a fun challenge that usually leads me to at least a couple of books I might not have moved to the top of my TBR pile otherwise.

I read a number of excellent books last year, but below are my top five reads of 2021. All of the books on this list were first-time reads (and not necessarily published in 2021) because re-reads are generally books that are already favorites of mine.

Best Books of 2021

My Top Five Books of 2021

Note: The books are alphabetized by author as I love them all equally.

It Happened One Summer cover
1. It Happened One Summer (Bellinger Sisters, Book 1) by Tessa Bailey
My Review

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The Intimacy Experiment
2. The Intimacy Experiment (The Shameless Series, Book 2) by Rosie Danan
My Review

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The House in the Cerulean Sea cover
3. The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Hollywood Heroine cover

4. Hollywood Heroine (Heroine Complex, Book 5) by Sarah Kuhn
My Review

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Archangel's Light cover
5. Archangel’s Light (Guild Hunter, Book 14) by Nalini Singh
My Review

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