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.