Saturday, November 18, 2017

In His Corner by Alexandra Warren

Rating: ★★★★ | 263 Pages | Self-Published | Contemporary | 10/20/2017 | Buy Now ! 

When sends journalist Bella Stevenson to write a profile of heavyweight boxing champion Princeton “Prince” Lattimore she instantly sees beyond his invincible fighter exterior and soon becomes the object of desire.

That’s right, it’s time for journalist sleeps with her source….which is a trope I hate in everything except for romance for some reason ? And honestly I’ll give it a pass in this book because Bella and Prince don’t form their relationship until after her article about him is done.

With equal parts humor and passion Princeton and Bella’s chemistry is undeniable, they are a couple you will root for to the end. Princeton has a rough life but Warren creates a warm inviting friend group in the background where their relationship can grow and mature. I wouldn’t read too much about what happens in this book before reading it because there are some twists and turns that you could get spoiled for.

Earlier this year I did MMA romance week where I read a books about combat sports and I was excited to read Warren’s take on it. I liked that she confronts some of the brutality and violence of the sport with Princeton’s abusive former boxer dad (Also yes, yes, his name is Kingston) but also in Bella’s desire for Princeton to retire soon because of CTE. I love that more romances are including real life consequences, it makes the books feel modern but doesn’t take away from the sport.

In His Corner
is a heartwarming romance about resilience, family and love with as many hard hits (both literally and metaphorically) as super sweet moments.

On her blog Warren mentions not having an age for the characters. I originally saw them both at around 25-ish but at one point Prince talk about things not being like they were in his early twenties so I’d say Prince is maybe 28-ish and Bella is 31 ?

Archer's Voice By Mia Sheridan

Rating: ★★★ | 11 hours 5 min | Forever/Self-published | Contemporary | 12/17/14 | 

I've been reviewing on this blog since 2015 and  I've never read  New Adult, a subgenre I generally define as a first person contemporary romance novel with characters between the ages of 18-25  that features tragic backstories, intensely felt emotions plus a deluge of internal and external conflicts---which is exactly what I got from Archer's Voice. But it also feeds into the "escape to a small town" trope which I think gives it immediate cross over appeal.

After witnessing  the brutal murder of her father Bree gets in the car and drives to the last place she remembers her family being happy--Pelion, Maine. The small lakeside town is a respite and during a chance encounter Bree runs into Archer Hale, the town outcast  who lost his family in a tragic accident that also stole his voice. Both Archer and Bree are fluent in sign language; for the first time in a long time someone can hear Archer's voice and the secrets he's been holding.

Heartfelt and hopeful, Archer's Voice features  a non-traditional hero, not just because he can't speak but because he's been isolated for years with only his schizophrenic uncle; making him naive and anxious, and you guessed it. . . a virgin hero. Of course he bides his time doing stone masonry which makes him super built, cause you know. . .romance novel.

Structurally this book caught me off guard.A large portion of the book is Bree's POV and  we only get Archer's POV from when he was a child. So, when adult Archer's POV is thrown in it's jarring and that's particularly true in an audiobook.

Speaking of audio, Emily Durante just has a VOICE for New Adult. It's this young endearing girl-next-door voice that is  a fit for a girl in her early twenties.   Kris Koscheski is a new to me narrator and he knows how to add an affect  to his tone when he's voicing a child. He only does a few chapters, but I'm intrigued enough to see what else he's done.

A New Adult for those who doesn't think New Adult is for them.

I saw the paperback cover that Forever is set to release in 2018. It looks like an expy of Collen Hoover's  exploding flower covers.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Little Bit Country by Debbie Macomber

Rating: ★★★ | 5 hrs. 19 min | Harlequin Audio | Contemporary | 07/07/2015 

I’ve been meaning to read a Debbie Macomber so I randomly checked out this audiobook from my library's Overdrive  I quickly realized that while the audio was released in 2015 this book actually came out in 1990. It’s old school romance time, ya’ll ! I mean...I guess. Is 1990 old school ?

Anyway, this is more like it:

Rating: ★★★ | 189 pages | Harlequin Books | Contemporary | 03/01/1990

24-year-old children’s librarian Rorie Campbell is making her way to a writing conference when her car breaks down on Clay Franklin’s  horse farm. With no hotel in the tiny country town she stays on the farm with Clay and his teenage brother, Skip, until her car is can be repaired. In the span of one night Clay and Rorie develops feelings for each other---which is too bad since Clay’s engaged to another woman.

Honestly, this book was kind of vanilla  but also for some reason also kind of endearing towards the end ? IDK, it’s rough out there in the world right now and it’s nice to see someone get an HEA. Clay’s fiancee aside, their biggest hurdle is that Rorie is a city girl and Clay is from the country. You know this because they tell you every 30 seconds. Believe me there are lots of things to nitpick, especially with  the weird teenage brother who was a borderline moppet with some questionable ticks. I could seriously get into some crazy theories about what was going on with him.

Aside from obvious things like no cell phones or Internet what stood out about this older romance is  the super implicit heteronormativity  and strictly enforced gender roles. There is no subversion here. And it’s not even in the story, it’s also in the writing. All the young female characters are described as girls and as being young and pretty  while all the male characters are described as men with wrinkles and crow’s feet--which are seen as attractive. We actually never get an age on Clay, I’m guessing he is probably 30 at the youngest while Rorie is specifically stated as being 24.

Audiobook narrator Karen White did a good job with accents for all the country folk, rhough she has a mature voice that doesn't quite fit the characters. She does the Julie James audiobooks too so I was familiar with her.

All that said I am still in awe of the scope of Debbie Macomber’s career. I had to do some digging to figure out when this book came out because she has written literally a bajillion books and quite a few are constantly re-packaged and re-sold as something else.  This story, A Little Bit Country has been repackaged three different ways, in fact my library has this story in two different versions. With all that variety I think I may dip into another Macomber when I need a palate cleanser.

So….this book ends with this scene of Rorie looking at a picture of Clay's dead parents:

Setting her cup aside, she reached up and threw both arms around Clay’s neck. Gazing into his eyes, she brought his mouth down to hers. Perhaps it was her imagination or an optical illusion—in fact, Rorie was sure of it. But she could have sworn the elegant woman in the photograph smiled.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Third Son's A Charm by Shana Galen

Rating: ★★ |418 p. | Sourcebooks Casablanca | Contemporary | 11/07/17 | Buy Now !

Ewan Mostyn has only ever felt useful in the midst of war, where he served with a sort of gentlemen's special ops team. With the war over he is just a disowned third son working as a bouncer, that is until a desperate duke hires him to keep his daughter Lorraine away from her beloved-- who happens to be Mostyn's smooth talking cousin.

Third Son's A Charm is an energetic battle of the wills as Lorraine and Ewan try to make it through the London Season, from dawn to dusk from operas to balls.

Ewan is more than happy to keep his cousin from Lady Lorraine, because he's still carrying the emotional scars from when he was bullied and kicked out of school for his reading disability that we now know is dyslexia. But you know people back in the day were ready to ostracize and torture anyone who was different.

Let's face it when it comes to historical romance we are buying into a fantasy version of the past, a lot of the times we don't always talk about the unfortunate and complicated (so complicated) ideas of that time period. I do however wonder if it's easier for romance writers to re-litigate how those who had disabilities were historically treated. I think dipping into this pushes back the veil just a little on the fantasy historical world. I also appreciate that Ewan doesn't need to be "fixed" to get his HEA.

Lorraine is a plucky heroine and I liked her tenacity. She's extroverted, energetic and isn't afraid to talk about her curiosity in the opposite sex. Lorraine also has a bit of anomaly when it comes to parents. In Regency romance, with all the inheriting and entailing, often the parents are either dead or the mom's super marriage minded or there is a jerk dad but Lorraine's parents were in a loving relationship and are working to build their broken marriage.

A delightful and surprising read. If you think historical that takes place in the ballroom aren't for you think again. This is how you do a ballroom   !

Okay, so this book opened my eyes to how little I know about the Napoleonic War. Like I was seriously head-scratching at all of the countries and locations that were involved. I need some background. Does Dan Carlin have an episode ? (I promise I'll stop referencing Podcast in my post.)

For some reason the name Lorraine really stuck out to me. It's not a Regency name you hear that often.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Our Audible Romance Package Recs

Audible recently announced its brand new romance package, which allows Audible members unlimited access to select romance audiobooks for an additional $6.95 and 14.95 for non-members. Audible certainly seem to have the romance community's varied tastes in mind because the audiobooks are separated by popular tropes, subgenres and yes, steaminess level

First Impressions

I sort of expected this to be like the Kindle Unlimited of audio and that's what I got, there are lots of indie and smaller press romances. However there is no way to sort by rating or release date, so discovery is difficult. What I didn't expect was the large range of Harlequin categories and the great picks in the YA section. I do wonder how much momentum Audible can keep up with when it comes to the catalog.

With that in mind here are some Romance and Sensibility Approved recommendations:

Our Recommendations

The Outlaws Series by Elle Kennedy
I gave 4 stars to this out of control, raunchy and gritty romance about those who survive in the wasteland of a post-apocalyptic America. -K.E

Killer Instinct Series by Elle Kennedy
This action packed, thrilling and intricately plotted series follows a group of dangerous mercenaries and the team of lethal women they are paired with. An auto by series for me.

Covent Garden Cubs Series by Shana Galen
This fun romance series from Shana Galen follows a family of the ton that keeps getting mixed up with a Covent Garden street gang. - K.E

audiobooks included
in the package have an
"R" in the corner
Exclusively Yours by Shannon Stacey
In this introduction to the  Kowalski Family A hollywood reporter spends a week with  a reclusive writer and his family in the woods - K. E

Playboy Pilot by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward
Fun and surprising--after meeting in airport bar Kendall and Carter set off on a globe hopping vacation, that will bring this playboy to his knees. Features to fan favorite narrators.

Geekerella by Ashley Poston
An upbeat, modern and heartwarming YA about a fangirl who falls for a
mysterious boy over text who just happens to be the star of her favorite cult tv show’s reboot.

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya MenonThe narrators have a great back and forth as Dimple and Rishi head off to a coding summer camp, Dimple is there to work but Rishi is there for her--since their parents are ready to arrange their marriage. An amazing and lively audio performance.

What do you think ? Will you be giving it a try ? We already see a ton that will be added to our TBR.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Beginner's Luck by Kate Clayborn (Chance of A Lifetime #1)

Rating: ★★★+.5 | 320 pages | Lyrical Shine | Contemporary | 10/31/2017 | Buy Now !

In this new contemporary series from Kate Clayborn three best friends buy a wining lottery ticket and split their winnings to live their dreams !

University lab technician Kit Averin is keeping her new millionaire status under wraps and uses her winnings to quietly restore an old Queen Anne style house. It’s all going to plan until Ben Tucker, a recruiter for a big materials corporation, walks into her lab offering her a corporate job out of state. Kit has no desire to go corporate and at first Ben is easy to brush off, but it turns out Ben isn’t just in town for her; he’s also caring for his injured father and temporarily running his father's salvage yard. When Ben and Kit start spending time in the salvage yard finding things for her house, their attraction is undeniable but how can they be together when Kit is planting roots in a place Ben can't wait to leave again ?

This book is a journey and I enjoyed going along for the ride as Kit and Ben balance their family responsibilities, ambitions and fears to earn their HEA.

Kit was an interesting heroine because I think she suffers from impostor syndrome which we don't always see in romance. I feel like most scientist heroines have to be ambitious and overly confident in their work and abilities because of gender discrimination, so it was refreshing to see a character who wasn't quite there yet. Also I don’t know if Clayborn has a science background but Kit's work in metallurgry and some of the other science stuff is shown with such detail it seriously made my headspin.

Filled with complex heroes and heroines, rich supporting characters and colorful small town life I think fans of Susan Mallery will enjoy this solid debut !

Now...this book is definitely a traditional romance but it is in an alternating first person so if first person is not something you like be warned.

Also, I like how Clayborn never says the specific amount of money Kit and her friends win. It leaves it open ended for the reader's imagination to determine how much money is a life changing amount of money.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

All I Want for Halloween by Marie Harte

Rating: ★★★★ | 354 pages | Sourcebooks Casablanca | Contemporary | 9/26/2017 | Buy Now !

When self-proclaimed homebody Sadie Liberato is made to attend a Halloween party she plans to stake out a corner and fill up on the food.What she doesn’t plan on is hooking up with a masked devil or punching his ex-fiancée in the face.  Sadie quickly learns her  one night stand is Harrison “Gear” Blackstone, a custom motorcycle designer who was just kicked off his own reality show by said conspiring ex-fiancée  Gear and Sadie's chemistry is undeniable but they've both been hurt by love in the past and just want a friends with benefits situation, if only it didn't feel like everyone around them wanted them fall in love.

Honestly, if I've reviewed an author twice they are already on my keeper shelf and this is another keeper. Harte  has this great way of developing round characters with rich backstories, motivations and chemistry that makes them so easy to root for. And her dialogue is on fire; the characters talk in this part joke-y/part heckling manner--trading jabs back and forth that is just so fun to read once you get the hang of it. Speaking of fun, this was the first Halloween romance I’ve ever read and it’s a really amusing theme for a book because Halloween is all about frivolity and silliness. Between all the scenes about relationship angst and DTR moments, characters are munching on candywatching scary movies and wearing silly costumes.

Sadie Liberator has to be one of my favorite contemporary romance characters ever. She's such an interesting hodge podge of tropes. Typically it's the hero who is the emotionally distant, buff, gym rat but in this case it's the heroine. The book often describes her as being more masculine, not traditionally pretty and obnoxious, which she is, but then she’s also a pastry chef and just likes to create yummy treats. I felt like she could have gone in a “I’m not like the other girls” direction but it really doesn’t.

All I Want for Halloween is filled with equal parts Halloween hijinks and romance with a few tricks but also oh so many treats.

Now, this is a standalone but it does seem like the hero, Gear, is putting together his own custom motorcycle building garage with two mechanics named Smoke and Chains (as you do) and according to Harte’s website she  has an unnamed contemporary series coming out in 2018 so I wonder of that is what it’s about...

Also, while this is a standalone this book does take place in the same town as Harte's McCauley Brother’s, Donnigans and Body Shop Bad Boys series. I spotted Cyn and Foley from Roadside Assistance and Sadie's cousin is the protagonist of A Sure Thing  so in the back of my head I was trying to piece it all together. I'm going to have to get around to all of these one day!

*Received for review from NetGalley