Monday, June 15, 2020

Blog Blitz Spotlight: The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton

Happy release day to The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton! I can't wait to check out this historical women's fiction set in 1930s Key West.

About THE LAST TRAIN TO KEY WEST by Chanel Cleeton

In 1935 three women are forever changed when one of the most powerful hurricanes in history barrels toward the Florida Keys in New York Times bestselling author Chanel Cleeton's captivating new novel.

Everyone journeys to Key West searching for something. For the tourists traveling on Henry Flagler's legendary Overseas Railroad, Labor Day weekend is an opportunity to forget the economic depression gripping the nation. But one person's paradise can be another's prison, and Key West-native Helen Berner yearns to escape.

The Cuban Revolution of 1933 left Mirta Perez's family in a precarious position. After an arranged wedding in Havana, Mirta arrives in the Keys on her honeymoon. While she can't deny the growing attraction to the stranger she's married, her new husband's illicit business interests may threaten not only her relationship but her life.

Elizabeth Preston's trip from New York to Key West is a chance to save her once-wealthy family from their troubles as a result of the Wall Street crash. Her quest takes her to the camps occupied by veterans of the Great War and pairs her with an unlikely ally on a treacherous hunt of his own.

Over the course of the holiday weekend, the women's paths cross unexpectedly, and the danger swirling around them is matched only by the terrifying force of the deadly storm threatening the Keys.


About the Author
Originally from Florida, Chanel Cleeton grew up on stories of her family's exodus from Cuba following the events of the Cuban Revolution. Her passion for politics and history continued during her years spent studying in England, where she earned a bachelor's degree in International Relations from Richmond, The American International University in London, and a master's degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Chanel also received her Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

AudioFile Magazine’s Picks of the Best New Romance Audiobooks for Spring Listening

AudioFile Magazine is the best place to find your next great audiobook and I've always appreciated how dedicated they are to featuring romance audiobooks. Romance fans need to check out the Tease, feature on AudioFile's blog ! It is brimming with romance audiobook recommendations! 

 Today, we are sharing  AudioFile's Picks Of The Best New Romance Audiobooks for Spring Listening ---which has everything from series starters, enemies-to-lovers, and second chance romance.

C.L. Polk | Read by Moira Quirk | Recorded Books

Moira Quirk narrates a fantasy novel involving the consequences of politics. Dame Grace Hensley has the opportunity to right the course of her country, or not, but either choice will come at a devastating cost to her family. Quirk's portrayal of Grace is bright and smart, reflecting her station in society as well as her position in government.

UNDERCOVER BROMANCE: Bromance Book Club Book 2 
 Lyssa Kay Adams | Read by Andrew Eiden | Penguin Audio | Earphones Award Winner 

Gear up for a fabulous romantic comedy with returning narrator Andrew Eiden. Braden Mack, founder of the men’s romance book club in Nashville, gets dumped and gets his friend’s sister-in-law, Liv, fired in a single evening. He then desperately tries to make it up to Liv by joining her on a quest to expose her ex-boss as a sexual predator. This is a treat for fans of the first audiobook in the series and will also please those looking for an entertaining twist on contemporary romance.

Adriana Herrera | Read by Sean Crisden | Harlequin 

Narrator Sean Crisden returns in this sweet and salty installment in the Dreamers series. Priscilla Gutierrez and Juan Pablo Campos have had an on-again/off-again romance since they were teens, but, despite their explosive chemistry, they've never managed a lasting relationship. Crisden's vocal agility is evident in his subtle characterizations: Juan Pablo and Priscilla have similar accents, but Crisden delivers Priscilla's chapters with a higher pitch and stronger intensity than the more resonant, laid-back Juan Pablo. Supporting characters (many familiar to series listeners) are also portrayed in distinctive manners, creating a vivid listening experience for contemporary romance fans. 

Catherine Bybee | Read by Ariela Crow | Brilliance

Ariela Crow narrates the first in a new contemporary romance series. After a wildfire hits her secluded California neighborhood, Parker worries about mudslides causing catastrophic damage to her family's property. As a public works supervisor, Colin is tasked with overseeing the area to keep everyone safe from further disaster. Crow's performance captures the personalities of the characters and the emotional roller coaster ride they experience. 

 Lucy Parker | Read by Billie Fulford-Brown | Harlequin | 

Billie Fulford-Brown narrates a surprisingly low-key enemies-to-lovers romance that is, above all, an ode to skilled professionals doing their jobs amazingly well. Sabrina Carlton and Nick Davenport must turn their years-long rivalry into a functioning partnership--it's either that or be fired. Fulford-Brown perfectly captures the way Sabrina and Nick's relationship evolves. Each step along their path to love is noticeable upon reflection but never obvious at the time. A deeply satisfying romance between two equals, performed exquisitely. 

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey (Hot and Hammered #1)

Rating: ★★★ | 9 hours 59 min. | Avon | Contemporary Romance | Release Date: 06/11/19
This is one of those books readers either love or hate. And judging by the top Goodreads reviews a lot of people hate it. The cover designs for this series betray the raunchy, alpha male, borderline cheesy romances Bailey tends to write so, I get it but...IDK, I enjoyed this one.  

After an injury ends 28-year- old Travis Ford’s baseball career, he goes home to Port Jefferson, Long Island to drinks himself into a depressive stupor. Georgie Castle, his best friend’s 23-year-old sister and *checks notes* professional birthday party clown, wants to help Travis see he can still be the guy they all looked up to growing up. She knows she cares too much, but she’s not letting him become a failure without a fight.

Fix Her Up is truly a rom-com that is equal parts silly and steamy without any trauma as backstory. Ty. I’ve been going through a few of these illustrated romcoms and a lot of them take unexpected dark turns that this book veers from.

Bailey troped out with this book. It’s, of course, got the Best Friend’s Little Sister/Older Brother’s Best Friend but it’s also got some Small Town Romance,  Athlete Hero and even a splash of Fake Relationship. There is some of that sexist cringe that comes along with Best Friend's Little Sister but Bailey keeps it light.

This was my first Charlotte North audiobook and her voice has this Anna Kendrick-y /Zoe Deutch quality. Her delivery is chirpy and playful so I think it takes away from the agro male vibe some reviewers had with Travis. While I'm definitely adding North to my rotation, I do hate wish that Avon had used a different narrator for the next book which features a biracial Black/South American heroine. That just feels like it should have gone to an #ownvoices (literally) narrator.

I really don't know what is about Bailey but her storytelling is exactly what I want in a romance.

I don't think I'll ever forget this book because it was the last one I listened to on my commute before my state shut down for quarantine ):

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, 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.