Saturday, March 14, 2020

Mini Reviews: Purple Covers !





IDK why all the romance novels I happen to read last month had purple covers....


Sweet Talkin’ Lover by Tracey Livesay 
To get promoted at her company Caila Harris must find a reason to shut down the company's low performing co-packing plant in the small town of Bradleton, Virginia. But Bradelton’s mayor, Wyatt Asher Bradley, isn’t letting the town’s livelihood close without a fight. Professional enemies-to-lovers is actually one of my favorite tropes since reading Buns but I was so out on this book because I could not with the hero. Wyatt came off spoiled and overly privileged. He spends the entire book lying and scheming instead of IDK….actually doing his job to save the plant. Caila felt a little pretentious and fell a little flat for me. I felt no spark between the two and to top it off there was no good grovel.

It didn’t help that the audiobook narrator, Nicky Walker, uses such a broad Southern accent that made Wyatt (and all the Bradleton residents) sound like cartoons. - 


Advanced Physical Chemistry by Susannah Nix

25-year-old Penny Popplestone is swearing off men...that is until she learns Hottie Barista aka Caleb, the barista she buys coffee from every day, has a crush on her. 

JenReadsRomance read all the RITA nominated books last year and I think she sums this book up perfectly; it feels like someone telling you their pedestrian love story and not like a romance novel. We only get Poppy’s POV and something about the way Caleb was constantly objectified didn’t sit right with me. It was like all he had to be was hot for us to like him. 

That said I did like Nix’s voice, her close third-person works for me. We really get inside Penny’s head. But yeah….I can’t really see what it is about this book that made it so RITA worthy. Nothing about it felt particularly exceptional? - ★ +.5

Not The Girl You Marry by Andie J. Christopher
Much like the heroine in Advanced Physical Chemistry the heroine in this book, event planner Hannah Mayfield, has also sworn off men. Except Hannah needs a boyfriend to prove to her boss she believes in love for a promotion. She decides to use  Jack Nolan, a journalist she connected with at a bar. But what she doesn’t know is Jack is using her to write an article about how to lose a girl. Yes, this is a gender-swapped How To Lose A Guy in Ten Days send up and...no, it doesn’t translate well.

This book starts with a very personal forward from Christopher about her own struggles with dating and identity--it’s clear she left some blood on the page in this book. Hannah legitimate dating insecurities make the whole Jack-being-a-jerk-to-get-rid-of-Hannah come off as more cruel than funny.  There's also no reason why Hannah wouldn’t just tell Jack she needs a fake relationship for promotion. Hannah is an on-page feminist and it makes no sense she would allow her boss to even give her that kind of ultimatum anyway. In the end, (mild spoiler) she quits because she realizes its wrong. Don’t even get me started on the implausibility of Jack working for a website that would pay him to write an article about how to lose a girl?

January LaVoy gives an all-star performance on the audiobook, her voice has so much range. I think I'll skip the second book but I’m curious to check back into to see what kind of romance she’s writing for this catholic priest character… - 



In both Sweet Talkin’ Lover and Advanced Physical Chemistry, the male characters are referred to as their Job Titles Hottie. Is hottie a thing we’re still doing? I know Grey’s Anatomy did it back in the day but even then they were McSteamy and McDreamy and not hottie ? IDK, I don’t like it.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Romance Shelfie #7


I've been pretty good about my e-book buying, but at the end of 2019/ start of 2020 there were just too many good sales to pass up ! If you want to catch all the best romance deals I highly recommend following The Book Queen's Twitter account.
A Duke A Dozen by Shana Galen
Galen is a popular author around here! Jess has reviewed a few books in this series but I went ahead and picked this one up because it has an older heroine.

American Love Story by Adrianna Herrera
I couldn't pass up the .99 flash sale on this romance that just won a Ripped Bodice Award.

Royally Screwed by Emma Chase
I've wanted to read an Emma Chase book forever. This entire series went on sale for .99 each but this is the one that appealed to me the most. Plus the audio is on Scribd so I can do "hybrid" read.

Crazy Cupid Love by Amanda Segler
If you want e-book deals I highly recommend following Sourcebooks Casablanca on Twitter. A few weeks ago they had 8 of their titles for free. This was the only one that appealed to me and sounds like a fun paranormal vibe.

The Kingmaker Chronicles
I know Amanda for DBSA loved this series and I've want to read more fantasy romance

Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole
I finally have all three!

Desperate Measures by Katee Robert
I'm a big fan of the Wicked Wallflowers podcast, where I think Roberts got the kernel that became this Disney based erotica series. I'm not really sure if I'll be into this-- but it was free so I thought I'd snag it.

Speakeasy by Sarina Bowen 
Bowen is a fave of mine and this went on sale as a bundle with the audiobook so I got both for under $4!

When Frankie Met Johnny by Xio Axelrod
I started reading this romance about a DJ when I was getting my hair done and so far so good. I've read Axelrod's short stories before and hope to meet her at Apollycon!



Monday, January 27, 2020

Sweetest Scoundrel by Elizabeth Hoyt (Maiden Lane #9)


Rating: ★★★+.5 | 328 pages | Hachette | Historical Fiction| Release Date: 11/24/15
Every year I make a goal to read my shelf and I started off 2020 with Sweetest Scoundrel, a book that has been sitting on my shelf for 5 YEARS! It came in a Fresh Fiction box subscription and I’ve just been holding on to it.

Eve Dinwoody, the bastard half-sister of the villainous Duke of Montgomery, takes her job managing her brother’s funds seriously. When she notices the outrageous spending of Asa Makepeace, the owner of Harte’s Folly pleasure garden, she decides to camp out there to do the bookkeeping herself. Eve’s always lived a quiet life of solitude but soon she can’t help but develop feelings for the rakish theater owner and his larger than life world.

Sweetest Scoundrel ticks of some standard historical romance tropes but Hoyt heaps on her particular brand of angst. Seriously, this book has everything; fatal theater sabotage, multiple undercover spies, a runaway-slave-turned-bodyguard and a Jeffrey Epstein style sex ring. I feel like all of the melodrama is Hoyt’s brand and I’ve come to expect it but sometimes it’s so much that it’s hard to take it all seriously.

The sensual, slow burn romance between Eve and Asa was full of undeniable chemistry. I liked that neither of them were titled and that Eve wasn’t traditionally beautiful. It was also a nice subversion that Asa was the one who had to learn about work/life and sacrificing for Eve.

I read Maiden Lane #7 a few years ago and the world of this series feels very connected. While the romance in Sweetest Scoundrel ends in an HEA, there are other parts of the plot that end on a literal cliffhanger. Since I already have two under my belt, my plan for 2020 is to go back and read this series from the beginning so I can get the whole picture.


Tuesday, January 21, 2020

My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren


Rating: ★★+.5  | Gallery Books | Contemporary  | Release Date: 12/04/2018

I was browsing Overdrive and decided it was finally time to read my first Christina Lauren. I’ve always wanted to read them but I really wish I hadn’t started with this one because it did not work for me. I just couldn’t buy into this story.

29-year-old criminologist Millie Morris and her circle of friends decide they need dates for an upcoming event and join a dating app as a group. Tired of criticism of her profile, Millie creates a secret profile with a fake name and connects with one of her friends--neuroscientist Reid Campbell. To add more complications she and Reid have been sleeping together in secret. So, yeah this book is mostly the heroine Catfishing the hero.

The whole time I was reading the book I kept repeating this Vine in my head:


There was just no reason why any of what happened had to happen. Reid and Millie didn't  have a reason they couldn't just be together. Them already sleeping together is barely an issue in the book.

There was a point in this book where I thought to myself; oh, they’re all just a bunch of dumb dumbs. When Millie talks to Reid in the dating app she says stuff about herself that he already knows and Reid is just like “oh, wow Millie, this girl on the dating app likes the same movie you do, also lost her mom, also has a younger sister and also works at our university”. Also, they are using the dating app to find dates for an event. HOW DID SHE THINK THIS WAS GOING TO END ???

I know the heat levels in Christina Lauren books vary but for a book called My Favorite Half Night Stand the heat level was pretty low. I actually think that was a disservice to this book since Millie only notices her feelings for Reid after they start sleeping together.

Another reason I chose this book was for the audiobook narrating duo of Deacon Lee and Shayna Thibodeaux. I loved what Thibodeaux did in Nuts by Alice Clayton but in this book, her voice sounded a little too matronly and midwest-ish for a West coast professor. I thought Lee did a better job overall, particularly with the voices for the all-male friend group. I think he picked up on cues about the characters to add to the narration that Thibodeaux didn’t. There are some e-mail and IM sections but not so much that it makes the audiobook difficult.

But I’m not totally writing off Christina Lauren. While I didn’t get this story it didn’t make me so mad that I wanted to chuck the book in a fire. I liked their writing style, there were some interesting things about emotional availability and their books truly feel like rom-com movies in book form.


 


Saturday, January 18, 2020

Romance and Sensibility By The Numbers

It's that time of year where we crunch the numbers from the books we've reviewed on this blog in 2019. We keep track using a review tracking spreadsheet in Google Sheets and turn it into an infographic on Canva. This isn't indicative of all our reading because the YA / Adult blog has its own stats and there are books we've read that haven't been reviewed.




Publisher Breakdown


37% Indie/Self Pub*
26% Harper Collins
17% Penguin Random House
9% Simon & Schuster
4% Sourcebooks
2% Hachette
2% Kensington
2% Macmillan

*indie/self-pub incluces Zach Prown and Prosaic Press

Imprint Breakdown
17% Avon

15% Berkley

4% Carina

4% Gallery

4% Casablanca
2% Amistad
2% Atria
2% Voyager
2% Jove
2% Forever
2% Crimson
2% Dafina

Retailer Breakdown
19.5% Kindle Unlimited

17.3% For promotional purposes

13% Scribd

10.8% Amazon.com

6.5% Fountain Bookstore
6.5% Libro.fm
4% Public Library
4% Netgalley.com
4% Audible.com
4% Edelweiss.com
2% Barnes & Noble (BarnesandNoble.com)

Diversity
32% Romance Novels Feature Two POCs

Everything about these numbers feels pretty accurate to our 2019 reviewing. In 2018 I was in the Avon Addicts program and it skewed the 2018 number of print books and historicals higher.  I also think it is interesting that a large chunk of our books were self-published. I don't think I could have predicted that when I started this blog, but self-pub authors are doing so many interesting things.

We don't set out to read a certain quota of diverse books but I'm glad we have so many more books with POC heroes and heroines. The LGBQA number went up by 5% but I'd like to focus on adding in more #ownvoices. - K. E Hamilton

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Scarlet Nights by Jude Deveraux


A few years ago, when I worked in a corporate office a few co-workers in the cubes around me discovered Overdrive and were listening to the Nantucket Brides series by Jude Deveraux.
As one of my co-workers was telling me about the plot of the book I was like "Yeah, Jude Deveraux has a ton of romance novels". There was a bit of awkward silence and I was then hastily corrected by them that it wasn't a romance...it was a mystery/thriller.

Ever since then I've always been curious what it was about Devereaux's contemporary books that pulled in people who didn't consider themselves big readers. So I finally sat down and listened to one on audio. I chose Scarlet Nights on Scribd because thee undercover element stuck out to me as I was skimming synopses.

 Michael Newland is a hardened undercover South Florida cop whose has been tasked by the Feds to find out what criminal Stephan aka Greg Anders and his con artist mother are doing in the small town of Edilean, Virginia and what devious plans they have for Sara Shaw, the small-town sweetheart Stephan wooed into becoming his fiancee. The small town of Edilean is Sara's world and Mike will protect it and her even if the town holds some of his darkest family secrets.

This book is what I expect from a legendary romance writer from the '90s, it's one of those super heteronormative books; the men are strong, smart and powerful while the women are beautiful, empathetic and witty. This book is smack dab in the middle of the series so Deveraux has built a strong community of characters and to populate the small town of Edilean.

The book has a pleasant flow, the constant threat of danger and hints of the mystery kept me reading. Mike comes to town with an undercover story and I liked how Sara was genre-savvy enough to poke holes in his story and help him solve the case. Because the entire town hates Stephan aka Greg Anders,  they help push Mike and Sara into a relationship while she is still engaged. IDK if this counts as cheating? I know some people aren't fans of that in their books.  There is also a dash of "not like other girls" because Sara is family-oriented and dresses in old fashioned fabrics, plush she's not one of those high-falutin' city career ladies.

This book also has a side of crazy sauce and gets a little head scratchy. For one the title of this book is so random. Scarlet Nights is the name of a sex perfume the heroine's mom (who is also the town mayor) makes for whenever she and the heroine's dad are together? I mean it had nothing to do with the plot, so when the name drop came I wasn't expecting it.

And finally, there is this really odd part where Sara and her high school nemesis (one of those high-falutin'  city career girls) rush to help the hero who has been kidnapped. To distract the bad guys the women decide to take off their clothes,  let the bad guys see them in their underwear and then give chase? WHAT? WHY ????? It's so ...silly and it of course works but they could have done that with their clothes on ??? The men chasing women in lingerie felt like a bad rape joke.

Even though this book was published in 2010 it might not 100% hold up. A lot of the mystery revolves around an old great house which--let's face it--was a plantation. Additionally, antique tarot cards play a big part in luring the bad guys out and the characters dive a little too deep into Romani stereotypes.

Also, slight spoiler for part of Mike backstory; it's revealed that his mean Grandma got drunk one night, fell off her bike and had (what everyone says she essentially asked for) sex with a man she thought was her crush but was actually the town perv. Anyway, this is not fully explored and we never learn what really happened. It felt very uncomfortable because we never learn what really happened that night, and I just didn't understand why it was added,

The small town of Edilean and its history stuck out the most to me, so I certainly want to check out the books in this series that go back to the town's origins and tell how it was settled by Highlanders in the 1600s.

                                                    

Stephan aka Greg's mother is the villain that set the events in motion, she is known for swindling women out of money by emotionally manipulating them as a psychic. Unfortunately, something similar happened to Jude Deveraux and it looks like this book was a response to that.

Jude Deveraux is apart of Sara Wendell calls 'Holy Trinity of J" Julie Garwood, Johanna Lindsay, and Jude Deveraux. I still need a Johanna Lindsay so hopefully, I will get to that in 2020.

My Fake Rake by Eva Leigh

Unrated | 384 pages | Avon | Historical Romance | 11/26/2019 | 
Mason Fredericks is the man of Lady's Grace's dreams and while he might not notice her now he won't be able to look away when he sees her being wooed by her colleague Sebastian Holloway an anxious anthropologist she plans to turn into her perfect rake with the help of Sebastian's childhood friend the Duke of Rotherby. Seb and Grace's feelings for each other might be more real than they expected. Basically, this book is about everybody trying to get out of the friend zone.

I like a historical romance that doesn't take itself that seriously and Grace and Seb take their intense study of high society so seriously that it's played off as comedic while Rotherby plays the straight man.  It's not all fun and games though as Lady Grace also helps Sebastian manage his social anxiety and step outside the box.

The sort of overly academic nerdiness takes a back seat as Grace and Seb struggle with their true feelings. It's one of those books where if they just TALKED to each other it would save a lot of trouble.

Leigh adds layers to this "love triangle" I think it's easy in a romance novel to make the "not-hero" either wildly unfit for the heroine or a jerk, but Leigh humanizes both of the men in a way that was refreshing.

This is my first time reading Leigh and her style takes some liberties, (in the not so realistic but kind of realistic world of historical romance). I don't feel like Seb, Rotherby, and Grace could have really spent all that time alone together and the language felt too modern at times.

Leigh doesn't let her historical romance sit in a vacuum. She points out race and inequality in a conversational way and of course, Seb is a bit of a woke bae; he takes time out of the plot to explain why he doesn't smoke tobacco, why he only goes on missions that protect indigenous lands and he also makes sure he goes on expeditions that include lady scientist.

I feel like I learned about Zoey Archer debuting as a historical romance writer on the Smart Books, Trashy Podcast like yesterday and she has a growing backlist now. This book kicks off her 80's movie-inspired series about a set of boarding school boys who met in detention.


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