Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Cream of The Crop by Alice Clayton

Rating: ★★★+.5 | 9 hours 55 minutes| Contemporary | Galley Books| Release Date: 7/12/2016
Natalie Grayson is a lot of things; Marketing goddess. Cheese Lover. Manhattan It Girl. At size 18 she’s not afraid to take up space and is confident in everything she does ...except when it comes to Oscar Mendoza, the smoldering owner of Bailey Falls Creamery at the Union Square farmers market. Oscar represents a country girl fantasy Natalie would never admit to but when her advertising firm gets an account in Bailey Falls, Natalie exchanges her Manolo Blahniks for a pair of work boots to give small-town life a chance.

I’m so mad I’ve been sleeping on this series. Just about everything in this book worked for me. Natalie Grayson is officially one of my favorite romance heroines, I feel like I could follow her around for another whole book. Clayton developed her character perfectly and Olivia Song’s lively narration just brought it all together. I’m sad to see Song only did a handful of audiobooks and hasn’t done anything in the past few years. She is excellent.

My only gripe is how our hero Oscar was handled. These books are all first person POV from the heroine so it is harder to get a sense of the hero’s perspective but I feel like Clayton made it work in Nuts and not so much in this one. Oscar came off as an obtuse charmless jerk who didn’t seem to have any awareness of how other people's feeling but he got away with it because he was hot. Oscar has an ex and I hated how he seemed to enjoy seeing his ex go after Natalie. He made Natalie do all the emotional labor to make their relationship work. I also don’t think we got enough of Oscar’s backstory, it’s implied multiple times he’s not white and I hate that we never get specifically where he is felt a little exoticizing on Clatyon’s part because his ethnicity is focused so much on his physique.

Clayton delivers another snappy, energetic and hi-jink filled romcom but I wish she'd put more thought into her hero.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Mini Reviews: Kindle Unlimited Novellas!

Looking for some items from Kindle Unlimited? Check out these two novellas for satisfying romance quick reads!

Be Mine: A Valentine's Day Novella by Savannah J. Frierson
One of my favorite things about indie romance is that it allows authors to subvert the conventions of traditional romance and try new things. When I saw this Valentine’s Day novella with a 32-year-old heroine who finds herself the object of desire of her three roommates I decided to give it a one-click. Frierson tells a sexy, feel-good, indulgent story in under a hundred pages as Ingrid, our heroine, suddenly has three very different men eager to cherish and please her. This was a fun read but I’m not sure (for lack of a better word) reverse harems really work for me. As they say on Wicked Wallflower podcast, I like there to be some “sword crossing” and the men to be emotionally invested in each other as they are to the woman. - ★★★ + .5 

On Pointe by Shelly Ellis
I was so excited when Ellis announced these novellas about a dance studio because I took dance classes in high school and loved going to the studio. In On Pointe dance instructor Bina MacLaine finds herself falling for the school’s newest hip hop instructor---who happens to be her former student. This is my second Ellis novel and I really enjoy her writing style, she manages to build a romance, realistic internal and external conflict into a compact story that moves. There is an overarching story about the future of the dance studio going in the background so I would suggest reading these in order to get the full story.  -★★★

Sunday, April 28, 2019

32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter

Rating: ★★★ +.5 | 352 pages | Contemporary | Amistad (Harper Collins) | 6/8/2010

Ever since Davie Jones was a child she’s wanted a Sixteen Candles-style romance and a Jake Ryan of her very own. But John Water’s endings don’t happen to poor dark-skinned outcasts in the deep south--so Davie Jones sets out to get it for herself. 

This Sixteen Candles send up manages to be a combination of a romance novel, that 90’s brand of African American Women’s fiction and like a dash of M.F.A storytelling. I enjoyed following along on Davie's journey as she leaves her small southern town to remake herself. She doesn’t always make the best choices but I was really rooting for her and liked that she was finding a family of her own. I had a much harder time with the romantic pairings, I just could not root for any of the relationships in this book.

32 Candles is an enjoyable read with a complicated heroine navigating the messiness of life and coming out the other side. I’ll admit, I haven’t seen Sixteen Candles (and at this point will probably have a hard time watching from a modern day context) but I think fans of John Waters will find a little something more in this book.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Mixtape: A Love Song Anthology edited by Laurelin Paige

I 1-click a lot of .99 romance anthologies…but I don’t ever seem to read them. When I saw my pre-order for Mixtape pop up I decided to sit down and read the anthology cover to cover. In this anthology each short story is based around a song; there were a lot of bops but also a few flops.

The Bops

Say It First by Nikki Sloane (m/f)
Friendship sparks when Hollywood actress Anna Douglas connects with her former classmate, NASCAR driver Jamie Campbell, over Facebook. After a year of texts and phone calls, the reunited classmates go on a Hawaiian vacation together; but neither is sure how to move from friendship to something deeper. This story was like a breath of fresh air. Sloane takes themes from the titular Sam Smith song to create a sweet slow burn romance that is equal parts swoony and sexy. I thought it was a fun touch that the movie the heroine is in is a film version of Sloane’s Blindfold Club series. - ★★★★

Broken Hallelujah by Sierra Simone (f/f)
In this angsty, emotionally intense, scorching BDSM story an ex-Marine is forced to confront the woman who shattered her heart so badly she faked her own death. Told in the past and present this story was totally unique and unlike anything I’ve read before. I didn’t listen to the song as I was reading it but re-listening to it I can totally see where Simone was going. takes place partially in the city I currently live in. - ★★★★

Say Yes by Elle Kennedy (m/f)
When the maid of honor swipes right for a one night stand the day before the wedding it doesn't go as planned. I liked how instead of writing a story based on her song, Always on My Mind by Willie Nelson, Kennedy uses the song in the story as something to connect the hero and heroine. This was a zippy rom-com with fun twists and turns. - ★★★★

Toothpaste Kisses Xio Axelrod (m/m)
I’ve been meaning to read Axelrod forever and this is a lovely story about a lawyer starting over in a new city, who unexpectedly falls for the young Belgian artist who makes the art for his office. This story brims with hope and whimsy. We only see the characters together for the last half and I would straight up read a full book about these characters. - ★★★★

Lush by Marni Mann (m/f)
When sex club owner Pepper spots Bale, the mysterious man who rocked her world for months and then left with no trace, they have one last erotic night together. What she doesn't know is their meeting was part of his job, he wants to tell her the truth but that would mean blowing up his entire life. This story was so well done and highly intriguing, Mann doesn't spoon feed and gives you just enough information to put a plot together with only a few scenes. - ★★★★

The Mid-Tempos

Wild Pitch by Rebecca Shea (m/f)
In this second chance romance, a college student gets unexpectedly snowed in with her high school crush who ghosted her when they graduated. I don't think Shea quite nailed the short story format. This didn't feel so much like a cohesive story, but like a scene from something half-finished. I also thought the hero was kind of a jerk for walking away from the heroine with no explanation "for her own good". Blerg. - ★★★

Think I’m in Love by Leslie McAdam (m/m)
Kim, Shane and Randy have been best friends forever but right before Kim goes off to study abroad Shane asks Kim to marry him. This leaves Randy feeling bitter because he knows deep inside Shane isn’t in love with Kim but with him. Again, this story was okay, if not a little cloying. It also felt a little No Bisexuals. Now, this story ends with Shane and Randy together and having to tell Kim the engagement is over...Kim is the heroine of McAdam’s main series. I think this was a nice way to write an original story and still tie into an already published book. - ★★★

Moment of Truth by Veronica Larsen (m/f)
I don't really have much to say about this story about a man who has to attend the wedding of his childhood crush. I thought the song inspiration, Say You Won't Let Go by James Author, fit the theme but the actual plot required some suspension of belief. - ★★★

Kiss Me by Lynda Aicher (m/f)
This is the last story in the collection and it felt more like a fizzle than a bang. A recently fired woman goes home with the man who just fired her. I get the feeling this story would maybe mean something more if I read the other books in the series. - ★★★

The Flops

Guys My Age by Saffron Kent (m/f)
This story opened the anthology and honestly, it bothered me so much I almost DNF’d the entire anthology because of it. In this road trip romance Dean, a 32-year-old prosecutor is traveling across the country with Fallon, the 18-year-old college student he’s loved since he was a teenager and she was A CHILD. I think there are authors who could make this age gap work but this book was a mess and this 32-year-old man says things like this:

"....Love is watching you go to prom with your douchebag of a boyfriend and going so crazy, so fucking insane with jealousy, I cornered that sixteen-year-old boy and threatened him to stay away from you. That’s what love is, Fallon.”

And enjoys some good old fashioned patriarchy while comparing himself to pedophiles:

....Uncaring of the fact that somehow, I’m betraying Simon, Fallon’s dad. Uncaring that maybe I’m similar to those men who I put away for preying on the innocent. Uncaring that if a man like me, much older, jaded and more cynical, tried something like this with my sister, I’d kill him with my bare hands.

Your Everything by K.L Kreig (m/f)
This story made me really mad for two reasons:

1. It’s another older man who fell for an underage girl and now that she’s of age he feels like he somehow now deserves to have her. The hero and heroine are both working for the heroine's evil father’s company and basically, we're supposed to be rooting for this woman who was emotionally manipulated by her father  to be emotionally manipulated by the hero.

2. This story does not have a HEA. The end is a cliffhanger that leads into Kreig's book The Black Swan Affair. The story ends with the hero running away from the heroine and this formula is not in line with the other stories in this anthology. To me it doesn't meet the romance requirements and I don’t think Laurelin Paige, the editor of the collection, should have included it.

All I Want by Mara White (m/f)
This story literally broke my brain. At first, I hated it but now it just absolutely boggles me. Mara White’s bio says she writes forbidden love stories but dis tew much.

In this story we meet Marilyn, a married woman who secretly goes to shady bars to have unprotected one night stands so she can get pregnant since her much older husband is infertile. Because you know that is the only way to get pregnant if your partner is infertile and besides, the only thing you can get by having unprotected sex from total strangers is pregnant. *sarcasm*

Anyway, one night Marilyn picks up a random hitchhiker, they have sex in an order that is not sanitary and the next morning she wakes up and knows she’s pregnant so she walks out. Then there are some time skips, the kid grows up and is a perfect child that likes to eat salad and watch his mother paint for 6 hours because...of course he does. Then at the very end when the kid goes to college and Marilyn's husband dies she reunites with the hitchhiker and he seems totally fine with having a son no one told him about and they...end up together? There was a lot of WTFery in this story but I actually made a note that said WTF at this line about the son:

“He knew by heart the story of how his mother had seduced a stranded and unsuspecting hitchhiker to conceive him. He found it troublesome, and at the same time, extraordinary. It was an epic origin story he sometimes shared with close friends

Why would you tell this story to your child? Marilyn essentially cheats on the person the son would have known as his Dad. And why would the son tell other people??

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Romance Shelfie + Apollycon Book Haul

I am not usually a book buyer but so far this year I've acquired quite a few books digitally and in print.  Last week Jess and I went to Apollycon and I somehow managed to come back with more books than I took with me!

K.E 's Apollycon Haul

Ruled by Elle Kennedy 
This is one of my highest rated romances and I had a total mind blank and forgot to take it with me to ApollyCon! It's okay though, Jess went to the signing and had Kennedy sign a matching bookmark for me.

Into The Blue by Chanel Cleeton 
I loved Fly With Me and can't wait to start this one!

The Marriage Contract by Katee Robert
Katee Robert ended up not being at Apollycon and since it would actually cost me money to return this book to Amazon I'm holding onto it. The most recent book in the series is a Rita finalist so I plan to read it.

Nightchaser by Amanda Bouchet 
I haven't read much sci-fi romance and this one sounds intriguing. Bouchet was so nice when I met her.

The Corner of Forever and Always by Lia Riley 
At Apollycon I chatted with Riley about being an Avon Addict and about a coffee shop in her book. She was so nice and took this book off the display and gave it to me.

Wild by Sophie Jordan
This was in my final Avon Addicts box so I brought it along to be signed

Signed by Marni Mann
Her story in the Mixtape anthology left me wanting more so I picked this up. Her husband seemed super supportive and was at her table acting as a great publicist.

Josh and Hazel's Guide To Not Dating by Christina Lauren.
I didn't think I'd meet them but an hour before the signing ended they had literally no line. I rushed out to got this but the on-site store had sold out of books. However, Christina Lauren's publicist, Kristin, was very nice and tipped me off more were coming and made sure I got one!

Dusk Til Dawn by Andie J. Christopher
I loved her interview on Wicked Wallflowers and I am so excited for her new book. Plus, she brought her dog along.

Steadfast by Sarina Bowen
I went to see if I could just get a bookmark signed and she told me I could purchase the copy of Steadfast she had on display! She was so nice about it and we even chatted about having the same clear credit card that is always getting lost. I can't remember anything book-ish we talked about but it was a pleasure meeting her and narrator Tanya Eby.

Kindle Shelfie

It Started With A Shelfie by Nicole Falls
On Pointe and Her New Groove by Shelly Ellis

I saw this great deal on Twitter for a 2 month Kindle subscription for .99 so I loaded up on some titles.

Writing Her In by Holley Trent
I requested this on NetGalley and didn't realize I'd been approved so I'm catching up. I believe it is f/f/m romance.

Mixtape Anthology
I've already read this and have a review coming soon!

First Rule of Hook-Ups by Nina Crespo
I purchased this because Crespo was going to be at Apollycon but I either missed her or didn't see her.

London Celebrities
I could not pass this deal up. For 2.99 you get all three books in Lucy Parker's series.

Be Mine by Savannah J. Fierson
Review coming soon for this multicultural m/m/m/f novella!

But Wait There's More

I also acquired The Matchmaker's List by Sonya Lalli for book club and I won Rafe by Rebekah Weatherspoon on Twitter.

I also picked up these cute magnetic bookmarks made by Wonton In A Million from Michaels Arts and Crafts!

Jess' ApollyCon Haul

When You Are Mine By Kennedy Ryan
I picked this book up at a used book sale before Ryan was nominated for a RITA. It's the first in her Bennett's series.  After meeting her and hearing all the buzz I wanted to go back and get a copy of Longshot but her line was long, so I'll have to check it out on Kindle.

Roomies By Christina Lauren
I did not think I would get to meet them at ApollyCon because of how big they are! But I was able to get a ticket plus their line opened up. I choose this one because it's going to be made into a movie with a Latino hero.

Winterblaze by Kristen Callihan
I enjoyed the first book in this series and since I started the second one, I grabbed the third one so I can get a jumpstart on the series. It's a nice blend of paranormal and historical.

Midnight Target and Midnight Action by Elle Kennedy
Killer Instincts is one of my favorites suspense series and Kennedy seemed excited to talk about this series and how Midnight Action (Which is my fav) was controversial among her fans.

Extreme Honor and Hidden Impact By Piper J Drake
Extreme Honor was a freebie on the swag table and I grabbed Hidden Impact beforehand because I need to find a new suspense series before I catch up on the Killer Instincts series. Drake is pretty smart and had a stamp for her signature!

Novelly Yours Candles, Cliffhanger - Sandalwood is one of my favorite scents!

Next Year In Havana  by Chanel Cleeton
After hearing Chanel Cleeton talk about this book on Smart Podcast, Trashy Books and seeing it chosen for the Reese Witherspoon Book Club, this was an easy book to suggest during my short stint at a bookstore.

Storm and A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kremmer
Storm was on sale and I had to pick up Curse after seeing all the YA blogger buzz.

Girls With Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young
Program Series Variant Covers
This looked like an interesting Handmaid's Tale inspired book. Suzanne Young had pictures of the variants covers for The Program series that looks amazing

Needless to say, I've put myself on a book buying ban for the next few months,  but tell me, what new and exciting books are in your shelfie?

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

We're Going To Apollycon 2019

On Saturday the bloggers behind Romance and Sensibility will be at ApollyCon ! This will be our first big romance event. This is a huge event and the organizers really have it down pat! I can't wait to get books signed by Elle Kennedy, Brigid Kremmer, Kristien Callihan and maybe Christina Lauren? If you're going we hope to see you there !

- Kat and Jess

Saturday, March 9, 2019

The Whole Package by Marie Harte

Rating: ★★ | 352 pages | Contemporary | Sourcebooks Casablanca | Release Date: 1/29/2019
When Vets on the Go!, retired Marine Reid Griffith’s moving company, get some unexpected good press, Naomi Starr sees them as the perfect client for her new PR firm. She wants to keep it professional since mixing business and pleasure caused her some trouble in the past, but when she meets Reid there is an inescapable instant attraction!

I went on a journey with this book. Marie Harte wrote some of my favorite contemporary romance novels so when I first picked up this book I was excited to be back in her world. The dialogue was snappy, the characters were ambitious and complex, Harte’s knowledge from her own time in the Marines shone but then….this book turned into a giant clunker.

There were just all these weird side storylines that bloated the story and never get fully resolved. We have the poorly executed mentally ill mom plotline, family drama, ex-boyfriend drama, work drama, abusive pasts,  oddly aggressive middle-aged man bullies and then they foil a robbery? There are also just so many characters. I’m not sure why we have to meet every mover they hire and get the tedious intricacies of how they work with another mover. I looked it up, none of these movers get their own book and most don’t even have much dialogue.

I was also really irked at just how poorly the inclusivity in the book is executed. It felt like every minority character had a point where they turn to this cishet white man and verbally tell him that they are black or gay or a lesbian. We then get Reid saying he doesn't care they are a minority (which I think is supposed to make him look like a good guy but saying you "don't care" someone is a minority is literally the least you can do )  and then we never hear from that person again. I  also think it was extremely tone deaf make your one explicitly Latinx character end up being a criminal.

I wanted to like The Whole Package but it left a bad taste in my mouth.

*Received for review from NetGalley