Saturday, September 23, 2023

Review: Bare Essentials by Jill Shalvis and Leslie Kelly

Bare Essentials by Jill Shalvis and Leslie Kelly
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Erotic Contemporary Romance 
Bare Essentials cover
ISBN: 9780373430406
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Harlequin
Jill Shalvis Reading Order

Naughty But Nice
Lingerie model Cassie Tremaine Montgomery intends to have her revenge on the citizens of her hometown—starting with seducing the sheriff, Sean "Tag" Taggart. Tag, however, isn't cooperating. He's more than willing to set the sheets on fire with her, but he's asking for more than just sizzling sex…. He knows Cassie's not as tough as she pretends. And he knows she cares about him—even if she won't admit it. So he'll just turn up the heat until she concedes there's more between them than this red-hot passion.

Naturally Naughty
Kate Jones, the girl from the wrong side of the tracks, is home. And she's got an agenda. To get revenge on the man who humiliated her mother, Kate's going to seduce that man's son—the town's golden boy, John Winfield Jr.—and then leave him drooling in a puddle of lust. However, when she finds herself seduced by a sexy stranger named Jack, little does she guess that the tables have just been turned…

Naughty But Nice by Jill Shalvis

Cassie Tremaine Montgomery has returned home to Pleasantville with revenge on the brain. She grew up being called trashy and had unwanted advances made right, left, and center. She doesn’t expect that her first day back she’ll get pulled over by hunky Sheriff Sean “Tag” Taggart. Tag lights a fire in Cassie and the attraction is mutual. But while Cassie is fine with a no-strings affair, she isn’t keen on having a real relationship. Tag, however, is determined to make Cassie see just how good they can be together.

I’m a fan of Jill Shalvis so I was excited to dive into one of her backlist titles I hadn’t yet read. Naughty But Nice has a bold heroine and an alpha hero. Should be a simple matter of chemistry plus spice plus fun, right? Not so much. The people of Pleasantville treated Cassie and her family like garbage and sexualized her from a young age, so it’s easy to see why she doesn’t have fond memories of the place. The town she grew up in is no longer the same and Cassie’s walls slowly come down as she realizes that not everyone is out to attack her. That being said, the first half of the book just made me sad for Cassie. She was assaulted and insulted and people just focused on her looks and how desirable she was. That made even the attraction Tag felt for her less than appealing. The story did improve as it went on and I liked the friends Cassie made over the course of the story. The romance between her and Tag is heavily built on lust and was just so-so for me. I know Shalvis was aiming for deeper connection between the two but that fell a bit flat for me. Overall, Naughty But Nice was just an OK read for me.

Naturally Naughty by Leslie Kelly

Kate Jones is home and – like her cousin – wants revenge. Kate’s revenge is more specific: she wants to get back at the man responsible for a lot of her childhood hardships. However, with him gone the next best target is his son, J.J. Winfield. It’s a surprise to Kate that J.J. is none other than Jack, her one-night stand who she hasn’t been able to stop thinking about…

Naturally Naughty is a good girl going bad and it’s a lot of fun to read. Kate is known as the sweet cousin, but she’s got a lot of spice in her. The death of his father has opened Jack’s eyes to some of the problems in his family. He has a heavy weight on his shoulders trying to make things right. Kate knocks him off his feet as much as he does her. The two of them have a heaping dose of mutual attraction that no amount of good intentions can make them ignore. I liked watching them dance around each other; the sexual tension was entertaining and their chemistry made the pages fly by. I liked their happily ever after and this story definitely made me want to look for more of Leslie Kelly’s work.

Bare Essentials is a duology of two cousins needing to confront their pasts in order to have a chance at a happier future. It’s sexy, entertaining, and though it had its flaws it was overall enjoyable.

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 11, 2023

Review: My Rogue to Ruin by Erica Ridley

My Rogue to Ruin by Erica Ridley
Series: The Wild Wynchesters, Book 4
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Historical Romance 
My Rogue to Ruin cover
ISBN: 9781538726112
Release Date: September 12, 2023
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Marjorie Wynchester has always let her siblings take the lead when it comes to planning their investigations. But someone in London is trying to pass off counterfeits, and this time she's the only one with the skill needed to find the culprit. Soon, all the evidence leads her straight to Lord Adrian Webb.

Adrian is a roguish scoundrel of the first order, but he never meant to get caught up in a forgery scheme. Especially one that’s snowballed out of control. Now a blackmailer is out to ruin him, and the most alluring woman he's ever met is trying to put him behind bars.

Every time Marjorie thinks she has Adrian figured out, her assumptions turn on their head. He’s a heartless scoundrel. A loyal brother. A smooth liar. A good kisser. Er…wait… Is winning her affections just one more attempt to avoid the law? Or is it possible he’s not such a rogue after all?

The Wild Wynchesters have returned in My Rogue to Ruin and this time it’s artist Marjorie at the heart of their latest mission. Her target? Lord Adrian Webb, a scoundrel and rogue like no other. A man banished from England seven years ago, only to return and begin counterfeiting coins, preying on the Wynchesters’ vulnerable clients. Except, when Marjorie goes undercover she learns Adrian isn’t all that he seems. In fact, he’s not exactly a willing participant in this treasonous plot. Can she free him and save the day? More importantly, can she do so without losing her heart to the rogue?

My Rogue to Ruin is fast-paced and fun. Marjorie is one of the less outrageous Wynchester siblings, usually more at home in her art studio than out and about like her siblings. But lately she’s been feeling at loose ends. Her siblings are moving on, falling in love…their family is changing and Marjorie – for all that she loves her siblings’ partners – isn’t fond of change. Especially since she doesn’t know her place in this shifting world. Then a case comes along that she can finally take the lead on. Her art expertise has her going undercover to bring down a forger. And that forger is an artist who threatens to throw Marjorie off her game.

Adrian is a charming rogue, but he’s not a bad person. In fact, he’s quite a good person who has made a number of mistakes. He’s a loving brother who has been separated from his family for quite some time and he’s lonely. Marjorie brings hope and love back into his life. The two of them have sparkling chemistry that makes this book delightful. I liked that they were both clever, resourceful, and talented. They complemented one another quite well. And of course, close quarters make their slide into love quick and easy. It’s surviving the story’s villain that will be hard. Luckily for Adrian and Marjorie they have the whole Wynchester family to help them. The Wynchesters can be a bit over-the-top sometimes but in this book they didn’t overtake the main couple, which I really appreciated.

Erica Ridley’s Wild Wynchesters romances always have action, love, and family. My Rogue to Ruin is no exception and it’s entertaining from beginning to end. I finished Marjorie and Adrian’s story a well-satisfied reader and I’m very much looking forward to the final two Wynchester siblings getting their happily ever afters.

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 5, 2023

Review: A Nobleman’s Guide to Seducing a Scoundrel by KJ Charles

A Nobleman’s Guide to Seducing a Scoundrel by KJ Charles
Series: The Doomsday Books, Book 2
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Male/Male Historical Romance 
A Noblemans Guide to Seducing a Scoundrel cover
ISBN: 9781728255880
Release Date: September 19, 2023
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Major Rufus d’Aumesty has unexpectedly become the Earl of Oxney, master of a remote Norman manor on the edge of the infamous Romney Marsh. There he's beset on all sides, his position contested both by his greedy uncle and by Luke Doomsday, son of a notorious smuggling clan.

The earl and the smuggler should be natural enemies, but cocksure, enragingly competent Luke is a trained secretary and expert schemer—exactly the sort of man Rufus needs by his side. Before long, Luke becomes an unexpected ally...and the lover Rufus had never hoped to find.

But Luke came to Stone Manor with an ulterior motive, one he's desperate to keep hidden even from the lord he can't resist. As the lies accumulate and family secrets threaten to destroy everything they hold dear, master and man find themselves forced to decide whose side they're really on…and what they're willing to do for love.

Major Rufus d’Aumesty knows battle but he is wholly unprepared for the war within his own family when he unexpectedly inherits an earldom. The d’Aumestys are disasters, to put it kindly, and his uncle is constantly challenging his right to the title. His uncle’s latest scheme involves Luke Doomsday, a member of the famous Romney Marsh Doomsday clan. Except Luke becomes the ally Rufus didn’t know he needed. His secretarial skills are top-notch and Rufus begins to believe that with Luke’s help, Stone Manor may just become what it needs to be. That would be enough, but then there’s also the mutual attraction that drives both men wild. The one fly in the ointment? Luke came to Stone Manor for reasons of his own, and when the truth is revealed it could destroy everything…

Return to the gothic moors of KJ Charles’s Doomsday books, where danger lurks around every corner and love can be found if you’re willing to risk opening your heart. A Nobleman’s Guide to Seducing a Scoundrel is an entertaining adventure with secrets, danger, love, and hope.

Rufus is unprepared to become the Earl of Oxney but he steps up to do his duty nonetheless. Rufus is easy to adore; for all that he’s brash and has a temper he is genuinely caring and kind. He’s got a big heart and a heavy sense of responsibility which makes it hard for him to not give multiple chances to people who don’t deserve it. I loved Rufus and wanted him to be able to claim his place and take care of those around him. Luke is key to that, but he’s also potentially the key to destroying everything. Luke was a bit harder for me to warm up to. He comes to Stone Manor for reasons of his own (though if you’ve read the first Doomsday book you can likely guess) and he has a lot of built up anxiety, resentment, and pain to work through. He frustrates himself at times, which I thought was relatable and interesting.

Luke and Rufus are instantly attracted to one another and it’s easy to see why. They have great chemistry and complement one another perfectly, in bed and out. But Luke’s secrets are of course going to come out. I won’t spoil what happens but I did like how Charles handled it, making her characters confront what Luke did and the cost of it. The happily ever after felt more earned with this obstacle rather than it being there for false drama.

A host of secondary characters fill out the pages of A Nobleman’s Guide to Seducing a Scoundrel. Some of said characters are dastardly to the extreme and some had the chance to learn and grow. I liked watching some of the relationships develop between characters over the course of the story. If you enjoyed The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen then you’ll like the glimpse into the lives of Joss and Giles thirteen years later. You don’t have to have read that book to enjoy this one, so long as you don’t mind spoilers. But to skip it would be a shame because it is so good.

I really enjoyed A Nobleman’s Guide to Seducing a Scoundrel and hated to put it down. Charles’s writing drew me in, the characters were compelling, and the plot fast-paced. I waffled a bit on how to rate this for a few reasons (and forgive the vagueness as I avoid spoiling the story). There were some twists this story took near the end that felt unwarranted and took away slightly from the ending (for me). All in all, I didn’t love Rufus and Luke’s story like I did Giles and Joss’s, but I was still highly entertained from beginning to end.

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

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Review: Witches Get Stuff Done by Molly Harper

Witches Get Stuff Done by Molly Harper
Series: Starfall Point, Book 1
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Paranormal Romance 
Witches Get Stuff Done cover
ISBN: 9781728276793
Release Date: September 5, 2023
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Juggling newfound witchy powers, a house full of ghosts, and verbal battles with the handsome local librarian is almost too much for a new witch to manage. But falling in love with said librarian wasn't on her to-do list…

From the moment Riley Everett set foot in Starfall Point, magic bubbled inside of her. But with only her late aunt's journals and a cantankerous live-in ghost butler to instruct her on all things witchy—including her newly inherited Victorian haunted house—Riley seeks out a coven for sisterhood and support. The last person she expects to be drawn to is the town's frustrating, yet ridiculously attractive head librarian.

Edison Held knows almost everything there is to know about Starfall Point, but Shaddow House was always off-limits, thanks to its elusive owner. If he can convince the new owner, Riley, to let him take a peek inside, there's so much he could learn. But as he gets closer to Riley, he's fascinated by her dazzling wit and fiery spirit. Edison will do whatever he can to help Riley keep her family legacy alive, especially if it means spending more time with the captivating new witch in town.

Welcome to Starfall Point, where the houses are picturesque, the smell of fudge is piped out into the streets, and the house on the hill is very, very haunted. Riley Everett knows nothing about this when she travels to Starfall to meet the aunt she never knew existed. Then – BAM! – on the ferry ride over the magic hits and Riley learns she’s got an inheritance like nothing she could ever have imagined: Riley is now the caretaker of Shaddow House and its ghostly residents.

Witches Get Stuff Done is a cozy paranormal rom com with magic, mayhem, friendship, and found families. Molly Harper’s first Starfall Point is entertaining, fast-paced, and good fun.

Riley’s inheritance is a lot for one person to take, so what’s a witch to do? Form a coven, of course. The two women Riley is drawn to, Alice and Caroline, are delightful. I liked how the three of them clicked immediately and slid into the business of helping ghosts with ease. But her new friends aren’t the only ones Riley is drawn to. After a slightly gross non-meet cute, Riley can’t help but be captivated by Edison Held, town librarian. The two of them don’t get off to the best start, but it’s not long before they’re irresistibly drawn to one another. Like the friendships Riley makes, her romance with Edison is sweet and charming.

I struggled with rating Witches Get Stuff Done because on the one hand, I really enjoyed it. The story entertained me, I loved learning about the ghosts and the lore of Shaddow House, and I’m eager to read the next Starfell Point book. That being said, I cannot deny that the book and its characters are shallow. If you want depth of character, this isn’t the story for you. But if you want light and cozy entertainment with witchy vibes? Then you’re in for a treat.

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.