Monday, November 12, 2018

When A Duke Loves A Woman by Lorraine Heath

Rating: ★★★ | Sins For All Seasons #2 |320 pages | Avon | Historical Romance | 8/21/2018

The Sins For All Seasons series follows a family of illegitimate siblings trying to rise above their station in society as outcast. I was excited to read  When A Duke Loves A Woman because it features Gillie Trewlove, an 29-year-old Victorian woman who is doing just fine running her bar and doing her best to make her impoverished Victorian neighboorhood a better place.

Gillie's daily routine is shaken up when she rescues the Duke of Thornley from a violent mugging on her front steps and (reluctantly) nurses him back to health and agrees to help him find the runaway bride that has led him to the seedy underbelly of London. Gillie and Thorne from two different worlds but the more time they spend trying to find the missing bride, the deeper their feelings become.

This book was middle of the road for me, and I think it's because this book kept setting up and then quickly resolving the conflict/tension. First,  Gillie nurses Thorne back to health who, due to his injuries can't leave her flat. That plot abruptly ends and then they start looking for his missing bride--then the bride shows up and breaks things off with Thornely dismantling the tension with half the book left. The characters spend the rest of the book pursuing each other and there is an obligatory ball, but I wanted more conflict.

With that said it had an enjoyable ending that had some of the emotional impact that was blurbed on the cover. Lorraine Heath never lets you forget the lacks of rights for women in Victorian England. I was also surprised (slight spoiler) that we never find out who Gillie's parents are or why she was abandoned. Maybe it will come up in other books?

I am all for books with non-traditional historical heroines and want to see more in Romancelandia.  As for this series, I'm curious enough to see how the background characters in this book come together in book 3.

I like how the silver lettering on the print cover is holographic.  Also--and yes,  I know photography can be limited-- I think Avon missed out on a chance to do something different with this cover. Gillie is described as having a pixie cut (but she does wear a wig at one point) and Thorne wears glasses and has a cane for part of the book. Those additions would have made a more interesting cover.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Great Bones by Lynn Ames

Rating: ★★★ | 258 pages | Phoenix Rising Press | Contemporary Romance | 03/27/2018

Rachel Wallach’s career as a romance card writer is flourishing even though her own romantic life is DOA. Rachel is ready to give up on finding love all together but Goldie, her feisty grandmother, has other plans. Goldie hires matchmaker-in-training Julia Spielman, to secretly matchmake Rachel and we basically get an Emma / Matchmaker Crush situation.

This book reminded me a lot of a Hallmark movie (I mean...except you people get to exist), I could almost hear that music they play during humorous awkward moments in the back of my head. The characters are drawn in broad strokes and it has a pretty low heat level; you get the chaste-est kiss at the end and that is it.

I go back and forth on this book. The romance didn’t spark for me, Julia and Rachel don’t actually spend much time on the page together so it was hard to root for their romance. On the other hand, I read this during one of those weeks when it felt like the world was on fire and it’s a well written and easy book to climb back into and not worry about heavy stuff coming up.

I admit it’s not great that this blog is coming on 5 years and this is the first f/f romance we’ve reviewed. One of my goals next year will be to read more of it. This author typically writes romantic suspense, so I’d be curious to check out her other books.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Secrets and Lies by Selena Montgomery

Rating: ★★★ +.5 | 384 pages | Avon | Romantic Suspense |  Release Date: 12/26/2006
Stealing an ancient manuscript from an eccentric South American antiquities collector should be an easy task for expert “recovery specialist” (okay, thief) Sebastian Caine. But when he stumbles across a murder scene he finds himself teaming up with ethnobotanist Dr. Kat Lyda and they discover century old secrets that could change the world.

I was so excited when Avon sent a Selena Montgomery in the most recent Avon Addicts package. As many of you reading this blog know, Selena Montgomery is the pen name of Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. I’m not much of a romantic suspense reader but this book pulled me in with a high stakes adventure through the fictional country of Bahia. It sort of reminded me of The Da Vinci Code but instead of a Girl Friday we get fully developed female characters and a true romance.

Two-people-on-the-run-together-from-a-thing is my least favorite version of romantic suspense because it involves the characters getting to know each other and falling in love in a short period of time which doesn’t feel realistic to me.

Now, I do get the sense from the author’s note that Sebastian was a beloved side character in other books so I’m curious to go back and read the other adventures. Sebastian works great as an anti-hero and his push and pull with the more altruistic Kat kept their chemistry sizzling--even though this book has a fairly low heat level by today’s standards. Montgomery perfectly weaves together a fictional history of colonialism, myth and fable for the fictional Bahia that makes the country seem real. I liked that most of the thrust of the story is returning items back to indigenous tribes, I feel like that’s not something you see a lot.

I hope with all the attention around Abrams that Avon will give her ebook covers a modern update.

*Received as part of the Avon Addicts program!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Misfits by Garrett Leigh

Rating: | Release Date: 03/16/15 | Contemporary | 277 Pages | Riptide Publishing 

Tom Fearness and Cass Pearson are a young power couple taking over London’s urban food scene. With Tom on the business end and Cass as the chef, they’ve opened five successful boutique restaurants and are gearing up for their sixth when Tom becomes infatuated with Jake Thompson, a 24-year-old down on his luck waiter with Tourette Syndrome. Cass and Tom have always had an open relationship, but Tom wants Jake for more than one night and has to figure out how to fit him into he and Cass’s hectic life.

I picked this book up because it was reced in this Twitter request from romance editor Angela James looking for an ugly cry book. Now, I rarely DNF romance novels, but this one came pretty close.

I really like the concept of this book but Leigh’s execution was just not for me. It was just pages and pages of generalized restaurant logistics and emotional angst with no plot or conflict in sight until 80%. The characters never felt fully fleshed out and lacked any interiority, I had a hard time distinguishing their motivations for doing anything.

This would maybe be a three-star review from me but I have to knock it down because there are just some weird microaggressions in this book. Like, a Spanish character is described as exotic and at one point Jake refers to himself by the r-word. I could maybe let those slide but then towards the end we get told Cass’ grandmother (who is supposed to be a sympathetic character ) refers to the Indians living in her building by a particular slur. It boggles my mind why that had to be in the book. The grandmother doesn’t even show up on the page. Like, did she want to show the grandmother is racist? I just don’t get it. It’s almost like she just really wanted to use that word.

Anyway, Misfits was a miss for me.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn

Rating: ★★★ + .5  | Release Date: 7/05/16 | Paranormal Romance | 378 Pages | DAW Books
When demon portals appear in San Francisco  Aveda Jupiter (aka 26-year-old Annie Chang) becomes the city’s resident superheroine. But when a broken ankle takes Aveda out of the game she turns to Evie Tanaka, her reluctant assistant, and longtime best friend, to take the Aveda Jupiter mantle.

I’m going to steal a line from the SBTB review of this book; Heroine Complex jumps off with Aveda Jupiter fighting a horde of rabid cupcake demons so, Kuhn lets know right away the levels of quirk you are getting into when you start this book. I’m not a hardcore paranormal person so I liked the lighter, sillier touch to the world building and Kuhn’s humor-tinged first-person narration was highly readable.

That said, the actual plot was muddled and left me with more question than answers and the romance between Evie and Nate, Aveda’s resident hulking demonologist, was lackluster. I like more relationship building in my romance and Evie and Nate go from not liking each other for years to falling in love with no real catalyst.

I can see why a lot of people like this series, it has a lot of fun action pieces but also takes time to dig into meatier mental health issues like anxiety and setting boundaries.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Duchess Deal and The Governess Game by Tessa Dare

I cringed a little when I first heard this series was about romances between untitled women and dukes but Dare makes it work. Our heroes might be dukes, but these women bring them to their knees. These fun historical rom-coms aren't afraid to bend the historical accuracy and even have a few fun anarchistic pop culture references!

This book has everything-- marriage of convenience, angsty scarred hero, Shakespearean insults, Fake News...a Batman situation. What’s a Batman situation? You know, it’s that thing where a brooding super rich dude randomly wanders the night doling out vigilante justice because of reasons.

Severely disfigured by the war, the Duke of Ashbury has given up on anyone truly loving him and just needs a convenient wife and heir. When hotheaded seamstress Emma Gladstone comes knocking on his door he offers her a marriage deal she can’t refuse.

The only Dare I’ve read is A Scot Ties The Knot and this one felt very different, the tone was more joke-y and the world she created was a little sillier around the edges. I liked how Dare eschewed historical accuracy in favor of telling a fun story.

Mary Jane Wells is the narrator for this series, she’s got little bit of Minnie Driver in her voice and delivers an intentional and plucky performance that works for most the book but her voices for men and children need some work. Her Ashbury, in particular, comes off as sinister and snippy. - ★★

Chase Reynaud is a rakish rake just raking it up when a series of sudden unexpected deaths makes him the immediate heir to a Dukedom --and the two Bebe’s Kids orphans entailed with the title. With every governess in town run off by the two girls, Chase’s last hope is Alexandra Mountbatten, a part Filipina part American orphan who is in need of some quick cash.

If I had to compare, I think I liked this book better than The Duchess Deal. Dare’s managed to pack in a lot of themes and plots in a fast-paced story that never stops moving. She tackles identity, found family, grief and emotional angst in a way that just worked. But don’t get me wrong, the romance between Alexandra and Chase is center stage and manages to be both a slow burn and super sizzling--their Belligerent Sexual Tension could give Sam and Diane a run for their money.

I think Wells does a better job with the male voices in this book and I did notice Alexandra's voice is a little softer and feminine than in The Governess Game. Although the voice she chooses for one of the orphan girls is straight up demonic sounding.

The Governess Game is a high spirited and heartwarming romance sure to delight any romance reader. - ★★

Me, waiting for The Wallflower Wager

Sunday, September 30, 2018

September Romance Book Haul !

Here are all the books I've acquired this month

Used Books
One of my favorite used bookstores is McKay Used Book in Manassas, Virginia. When I first graduated from college and was super unemployed  I'd go there every few weeks to find new reads. It is probably the place that sparked my initial interest in romance because they have shelves and shelves of romance.

I don't always make it back there when I'm in Northern Virginia but I decided to stop in a few weeks ago. I could spend hours picking through their romance shelves but I only had about 45 minutes and these are the books I picked:

Reign of The Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh 
I saw this in the YA section and snagged it. It's a fantasy about necromancers.

When A Scot Ties The Knot by Tessa Dare
This is one of my favorite Tessa Dare books and one I thought I might want to do a re-read so I picked it up.

After Midnight by Teresa Medeiros 
I told Jess to pick out a paranormal romance for me to read and this one about vampires sounds intriguing.

Drive by Sidney Bristol
I love a good car-related romance

To Catch A Stolen Soul by R.L. Naquin
This is a Carina press romance about djinn

Catherine and The Pirate by Karen Hawkins
This one was quite a used bookstore find! In the early 2000's Avon released a line for teen readers called Avon True Romance. These books have been put out of print for quite some time and while a few are still available as ebooks this is not one of them. I first learned about these from this Book Riot article.

Avon Addict Box 
It's always a fun day when a box from Avon arrives! It was rainy the day it arrived and I was afraid of water damage but most of the books came out just fine.

THE DUKE'S DAUGHTER by Megan Frampton
THE LADY IS DARING by Megan Frampton
POLARIS RISING by Jessie Mihalik
KILL THE QUEEN by Jennifer Estep

I think my next read will be Secret and Lies by Selena Montgomery, aka Stacey Abrams--who could be the first Black female governor in the US.