Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Day of The Duchess by Sarah MacLean

Rating: ★★★ | Avon | Historical Romance | Scandal & Scoundrel #3 | 06/27/2017
Sarah MacLean has kind of been the public face of feminism in romance for the last couple of years in articles and I've been meaning to read her for years. Day of the Duchess has everything; underground ballrooms, marriage in peril, a grumpy American and some sequel bait Bachelor-ing. What’s sequel bait Bachelor-ing ? You know it’s that thing where the hero invites eligible ladies to his house to compete in a Bachelor-type competition to be his wife; but since none of them is the heroine we know he won’t pick one but at least a few of them will be in the next series.

The plot of this book has a lot of layers; I was explaining it to Jess when I was about 1/3 into the book and I think I was just rambling. This story is really in two parts; the first half was kind of like the movie Blue Valentine as we jump back and forth in time to see what lead to the estrangement of Duke and Duchess of Haven and why the duchess, Seraphina,  is back demanding a divorce. The next part involves the duchess helping the duke find a new wife, hence the Bachelor-ing. There is a lot going on in this book but I like that it’s an unconventional romance, we get to watch a married couple working out their romance instead of a whole new romance. MacLean has a riotous group of characters to accompany them including Seraphina's unconventional sisters,  the spunky contestants, and a fairly grumpy American man named Caleb.

MacLean wrote a piece in the Washington Post about the hero of this book and alpha heroes more generally in the wake of the election, but I personally had no love loss for the Duke of Haven. I never really felt the sparks between he and Seraphina and honestly, he seemed a little extra at times. I was kind of rooting for her to end up with Caleb, the American friend she wants to open an upscale tavern with...she doesn’t end up with him but I feel like we haven’t seen the last of Caleb.

I read this book both in print and audio, Justine Eyre is an enjoyable narrator she has this breezy voice but she’s not British and I can kind of hear it. It's weird, I’ve found on audiobooks I notice and get distracted by fake accents more so than I do on television. Eyre does have a good variety of voices though, there are a lot of scenes where multiple women are talking and I could pick out each voice distinctly.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Romance Shelfie #5

It's been a while since I've done one of these and this time I'm going to include the books I've recently acquired from the last Avon Addicts package and a few ebooks finds!

Avon Addicts

The Wicked and The Wallflower by Sarah Maclean
This is next on my TBR

A Scandalous Deal by Joanna Shupe
I'm excited to read this after listening to Shupe on the Wicked Wallflowers podcast

The Good Luck Sister by Jill Shalvis
This is a novella from Shalvis' women's fiction novel

The Academy Series by Tessa Bailey
I'm reading this series now

The Rogue by Katharine Ashe 
I gave these extras away already and I'm excited to start this series myself.

E-reader Finds! 

Most Eligible Bastard (Billionaire ?) by Annika Martin 
I liked Martin's Mafia Prince series and picked this freebie up. I'm a little confused because the version on my Kindle calls it Most Eligible Bastard but on Amazon, it's currently listed as Most Eligible Billionaire. =

Make Me Stay by Amari Avan
This is a KU pick that was suggested to me by the algorithm. The heroine in this swirl romance is deaf.

Delivered Fast by Annabeth Albert 
Albert was having a .99 sale on Amazon and I liked this one because the age difference reminded me of one of my favorite m/m books Fast Connection.

Catalysts by Anna Zabo 
I heard Sarah Maclean talk about Zabo's Syncopation on the Wicked Wallflowers podcast and this one was a freebie on Zabo's website.

Love on The Highlight Reel  by Christina C. Jones
Another KU pick, it's been a while since I read a sports romance

Started From A Selfie by Nicole Falls
Another KU pick, this one about a sex blogger.

Roller Girl by Rebecca North
This romance gets recommended a lot for queer romance that isn't m/m and it was only .99!

Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn
This is a best seller at the Ripped Bodice and it was on sale for 1.99! 

Permanent Ink by Avon Fale and Piper Vaughn
Look, if you tell me a book by two authors I've heard good things about it .99, I'm going to one click it. 

Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett
I don't know much about the diversity efforts in the mystery community but I do know this book has been sweeping at awards so I had to one click it when it went on sale.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

An Affair With A Spare by Shana Galen

Rating: ★★★ | 320 pages | Sourcebooks Casablanca |The Survivors #3 | Historical | 07/02/2018 

Rafe Beaumont, a charming and seductive former special ops soldier matches wits with Collette Fortier--a French assassin's daughter determined to find a set of codes to free her father and start a new life. Rafe and Collette circle each other in the midst of a busy London season and while they both know not to trust the other they find themselves fighting a pull they are unable to resist
This installment of the Survivor's series felt...different from the previous books in the series. It starts off with the same upbeat humor and comical situations as the previous two; when we are introduced to Rafe he is haplessly running and dodging female pursuers in a scene that is dynamic and as great flow. But as Rafe and Collette try to friend-zone each other while trying to pry each other secrets from one another, it just didn't capture me.

Towards the end of the book, I was a bit surprised when the character of Thomas Gaines an escaped former slave turned business owner shows up. I guess it's kind of jarring because I hardly come across black characters in Regency romance and I was getting rep sweats. I was wondering how the characters were going to react, was someone going to say something cringe-y ?

And sure, this character mostly exist to help the hero and heroine get to their HEA least he didn't die. I wonder if he will get his own book or novella

With all the said I thought this book had a classic romantic ending but it won't go down as the most memorable in the series.

Minor spoiler alert: Gaines helps Collette and her father get passage to America, which seemed to take away from the HEA for me because it's like yeah, go to America with all the slavery. But that'sjust a fact of history I guess. Also, the mentions of America being uncivil and savage felt a bit... off.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Mini Reviews: British Romances on Kindle Unlimited

I got a free 3-month Kindle Unlimited subscription and I’m going to town! I like KU because I can dabble with self-pub authors. Here are two of my recent KU reads, which both happen to take place in England.

I’ll admit this book got me with its cover. The cover model’s pose is all sophistication and arrogance but the fun lopsided letter lets you know there are about to be some shenanigans and let me tell you there are some shenans in this book.

Mr. Trouble is your basic fake fiancée setup; British playboy heir Jarred Maloney needs a suitable fiancée to prove to his father he’s responsible enough for his trust fund. Graduate student Kinsley Wells needs money to buy her apartment before it gets turned into a condo.The two strike a deal to play engaged until Jarred gets his trust fund back...but, I think we can all guess what happens instead. I never really saw myself as someone who likes the fake engaged trope, but I’m kind of into it--it’s like the hero and heroine are pulling a mini-con but then love pulls a con on them.

This book was a short, straightforward, satisfying read that hit the spot. I’d started reading it in a waiting room and ended up getting sucked into it and totally threw my reading schedule off. Now, this book will fall apart if you look too closely at it. Our British hero and heroine do things like using the word apartment instead of flat and dollars instead of pounds. Also--and I hate to note this--but there are some typos and errors in the text, which took me out of it. I normally let it slide but for a book that had an editor, there were quite a few jarring ones. ★★★

There is this thing called Baader Meinhoff syndrome where once you notice something you notice it everywhere and I swear that is what is happening with me and Talia Hibbert. I feel like I saw her name on the AAR semifinalist list and now I see her books mentioned everywhere.

A Girl Like Her is the latest book in her new series about the small English town of Ravenswood. Evan Miller is a new-in-town blacksmith who can't stop thinking about his new neighbor, the seemingly agoraphobic town pariah Ruth Kabbah.

This book is really beloved and I can see why. It features a super sweet beta hero and an autistic heroine which we don't always see, but I’m going to be a black sheep on this book. I just could not connect with Hibbert’s writing. While I liked her characters overall, she’s much more interested in writing an emotional journey and I need a lot more external conflict. So much of the plot is confined to Ruth and Evan's apartment.

Also this book hinges a lot around what happened in the past to turn the whole town against Ruth. We find everything out piecemeal and by the time the whole story is laid out I was just kind of confused about everything. -★★★

Sidenote: I am so glad she changed the cover, the other one hints at a raunchier read and makes the hero seem hypermasculine and alpha and Evan couldn’t be farther from that. The new one above is much more representative of the book's vibe.

original cover

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Full Throttle by Erin McCarthy (Fast Track #6)

Rating: ★★★★ | 8 hours 12 mins | Tantor Audio | Sports Romance | 12/09/2013

I can’t believe how long it’s taken me to get back to this series. The Fast Track series follows the romantic lives of the men and women in the Charlotte stock car racing community. I’d started this series years ago and just never got around to finishing it.

When 32-year-old Shawn Hamby’s grandfather passes away she finds herself in one of those only-in-a-romance-novel wills where she can’t inherit full ownership of her family dirt racing track unless she’s married. With everything to lose she ropes in 25-year-old Rhett Ford--who also happens to be her best friend's brother-in-law--to marry her for six months in exchange for part of her inheritance.

I have been reading a lot of fake marriage books lately and I kind of love it as a trope. It’s such a wacky premise, but I think in this book it’s looked at more seriously. The tension and the black moment is caused by Rhett and Shawn’s guilt of lying to everyone about why they suddenly got married. Particularly because marriage is very important in Rhett’s family. Not to say this book is all dramatic, McCarthy has a great brand of humor that had me literally loling a few times when listening to this book.

There is also a super light dusting of BDSM in this book. Shawn meets Rhett at a fetish bar she is visiting on a dare but it never goes full BDSM.  It’s never fully explored or anything but it was in interesting addition to this series. There is nothing like this in the other books and I wonder if the addition of that element has to do with this book coming out around the time 50 Shades was at its prime?  

I kind of go back and forth on Emily Durante as a narrator. She is from Michigan and you can hear the Midwestern in her voice. As I've said before her Southern accents feel more Texan than Carolinian but, her male voices are just so good.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Celebrate Flag Day With These Romance Novel Covers !

Did you know today was  Flag Day ?  Whatever the flag means to you, it's time to wave it in the air like you don't care. But if you're like me and don't have a star-spangled banner lying around just download these steamy romances with American flags blowing majestically on the cover and wave them around shouting U-S-A  !

The Protector by Donna Grant - An ex-Air Force pilot and Marine captain team up to solve a kidnapping.
Prince Joe by  Suzanne Brockman - A combat hardened Navy Seal is paired with a coach to help him impersonate a visiting European prince with a target on his back.
Issued to the Bride One Navy Seal by Cora Seton - A down on his luck Navy Seal is sent to help the General's daughter run the family ranch
Damned American! by Melian Belt
A U.S. Navy Captain and Italian soldier have to team up on an undercover mission
Point of Contact by Melanie Hansesn
The father of a fallen soldier finds unexpected comfort in his son's platoon mate.
Be Not Afraid by Alyssa Cole
A pair of slaves join  the Revolutionary War in exchange for their freedom.
Her Perfect Candidate by Candace Shaw 
A Georgia senator recruits an interior designer to clean up his image
Dirty Work by Chelle Bliss and Brenda Rorthert 
An enemies to lovers romance between a Republican and Democrat fighting for the same senate seat.
Deadly Rumors by Cheris Hodges 
An investigator teams up with an FBI agent to solve a missing person's case. 

I searched hard and long for covers with American flags, if there are any I missed leave them in the comments below !  (Also, no. No I didn't write this post during the Winter Olympics and then forgot to post it.)

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Disorderly Conduct by Tessa Bailey

Rating:  | 8 hours 23 minutes | 354 pages | Avon | Contemporary Romance | 8/29/2017

This review is going to involve some ranting.

23-year-old caterer Ever Carmichael and NYPD recruit Charlie Burns had the perfect acquaintances-with-benefits thing going on. But when Ever breaks things off so she can give the NYC dating scene a serious try, Charlie isn’t ready to let her go.

I had a hard time with these characters, Ever never felt like a fully realized heroine to me but she didn't bother me nearly as much as Charlie. Charlie Burns is on some Zack Morris Is Trash level of immaturity and gaslighting. He decides to start systematically ruining Ever’s dates so she’ll come back to him. He sends his police academy friends to act creepy at a speed dating event, catfishes her on a dating site and at one point he pulls the fire alarm to ruin her date...which seriously? SERIOUSLY? We’re breaking the law now? Charlie is aggressive, manipulative and then covers it with charm and I could not even with him. Don’t get me started on how he gets into a fight with another recruit and then pushes his superior (who luckily is his sequel-bait brother) but only gets a suspension. Like, this dude literally should not be allowed to be a cop. I mean even when he does the grovel, he does it using NYPD equipment.

All that said I’m willing to give Tessa Bailey another chance because I really did like her writing style. She writes in a snappy, pop-culture dotted, 4th wall breaking, perspective-shifting first person POV that I really liked, but may bother more traditional romance readers. Her writing also just sounds really good in audio and paired with veteran romance narrators Alexander Cendese and Samantha Cook this was a delightful audiobook listen.

Book received as part of the Avon Addict program