Thursday, October 19, 2017

A Lot Like Love by Julie James

Rating: ★★★ | 274 pages | Berkley Sensation | Contemporary | 3/1/2011

Jordan Rhodes may be a billionaire heiress but she’s most content spreading her love of wine at her little wine shop in Chicago, DeVine Cellars. She can say the same for her twin brother, Kyle, who is currently serving time in federal prison for hacking into Twitter.

When FBI agent Nick McCall swaggers into DeVine Cellars and asks her to help get an FBI agent into an exclusive wine party in exchange for her brother’s freedom, she has no choice but to agree. After all what can one fake date with an undercover FBI agent possibly lead to ?

Julie James was one of the first romance authors I ever read. I enjoyed her then and nearly 4 dozen romance novels later James is still at the top of my list. She does such a good job blending romance, a crime plot, cheeky humor and snappy dialogue into an addictive readable package. Her pacing really works for me, the characters don’t usually get together until about 60% into the book, giving the relationships time to breathe and other plots to develop..

I love some good competency porn and James delivers it with Jordan’s wine business. It’s always fun when I’m done reading and feel like yeah, I could do the thing. I especially loved that Jordan wasn't a wine snob, I liked to think she wouldn't judge me for $5 box wine I got from Aldi. There is so much detail about wine tasting and wine business, at one point the characters go to a winery and I felt like I was there.

That said, I am starting to notice a little bit of formulaic-ness with how the crimes are solved and at times Nick came off as a little overly macho at times. Like, I’m sorry watching Dancing With The Stars is to effeminate for you.

There are a lot of very specific references to the show Lost in makes the book feel kind of dated.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Conspiracy In Death by J.D Robb

After taking a break from the In Death series I decided to jump back in with #9 Conspiracy In Death.

Next to book seven, Conspiracy In Death my second favorite in the series so far as it puts our heroine to the test.  Homicide detective Eve Dallas  finds herself in the twisted path of a talented serial killer who uses surgical expertise to remove organs from the poor and homeless, when others turn their backs on the less fortunate, Eve Dallas decides takes a stand and finds herself framed for murder.

In the course of the investigation Eve is kicked off the force and Robb puts Eve through an emotional ringer forcing her to show what she's really made of.  At first it's frustrating at how easily she breaks down, but as she's in the depths of her despair you start to realize how much her badge is entwined with her identity/

Robb has been building on Eve as a character since book one.. In the first few books we see her come into her role leading a team, then we watch her develop a relationship and now I think Robb is  in a place where she wants to shake things up by having the career eve has given so much to bite her back.

Susan Ericksen channels every bit of Eve's emotional journey from her grief,  to her anger. to her conviction to find justice for the dead even without a badge. A stand out in the series that will bring everyone to their limits.

  •  I started reading Holiday In Death but I couldn't quite get into it (because, 2016)  and I don't think I missed much skipping a book except it seems there is a new relationship.
  • They use some crazysauce editing that can be a bit jarring. Like androids have computer voice effects and sometimes "dream" or "remembered voices" have a faraway hazy effect. I like that it's different but I'm glad all audiobooks don't do that cause it's a bit cheesy.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Paid Companion by Nia Forrester

Rating: ★★★ + .5 | 207 Pages | Self-Published | Contemporary Romance | 3/20/2017

Wealthy socialite Blake Morgan needs a fake girlfriend for his family's annual vacation.

When  he request a model from a D.C. modeling agency, the agency's receptionist Lia Hill decides to take the request for herself. A $10,000 payout for for a week of work is is an opportunity to good for struggling artist Lia to pass up. She’s ready to look cute on Blake’s arm and lie a little to the family, but she’s not prepared to develop some very real feelings for Blake’s charming and mysterious half brother, Kevin Taylor.

I picked this romance up from Kindle Unlimited because the cover caught my eye and the concept felt very rom-com, although this book turned out to be a little more drama heavy than comedic. The romance that develops between Kevin and Lia, both of whom are aspiring artists, is sweet but the real heart of this book is Lia becoming friends with the Morgan family children, who each have enough emotional baggage to fill their private jet.

The week long Morgan family vacation is set on an island just off the coast of Miami and Forrester does an amazing job creating a sense of place. I felt like I was going on vacation every time I opened this book and it was fun to see how the other side lives with private yachts, catered meals and private islands.

Also, it’s treated like a reveal in the book, but yes, the reason Blake Morgan needs to pay a model to pretend to be his girlfriend for his family is exactly for the reason you think it is.

Paid Companion is sizzling standalone romance brimming with family secrets, Miami heat and at the end of the day, a lot of heart.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Stay With Me by Alexandria House

Rating: ★★★+.5 | 194 pages | Self Published | Contemporary | 5/16/2017

After two failed relationships 30-year-old natural hair vlogger Angela Strickland is calling an audible on men. But when hotel executive Ryan Boyé swings into town for 6 months and rents out the other side of her duplex she feels an instant attraction to her new tenant that may have her reconsidering.

I had a tough time at first with this book because the characters seemed like the worst. Ryan, the self proclaimed player, came off as an obnoxious womanizer and Angela was extremely judgmental of her sisters despite the fact she had her own issues  However, once House started peeling back the layers and we get past Ryan and Angela’s sexual tension, I was into it.

 Ryan and Angela have this great interplay and lots of scenes that steam up the pages, but I just really loved how they kind of end up starting a YouTube career together. I've been lowkey obsessed with YouTube for years and I would seriously watch their YouTube channel, I think it would be cool if someone made this channel as like a viral marketing campaign.

This is the first in a series about the Strickland sisters (and possible the mother ?) and I get the feeling that this is a series that it better read in order. I’m especially curious to see how House write the romance for the spoiled, perpetual college student Nicky.

I have never actually seen myself in a romance novel or any book but this is pretty darn close:

"So I watched hours of YouTube videos, everything from Trader Joe hauls to wig reviews, until I finally crashed and burned around three that morning."
- House, Alexandria. Stay with Me (Strickland Sisters Book 1)

Monday, September 18, 2017

Lord Dashwood Missed Out (Spindle Cove 4.5)

Lord Daswhood Missed Out is a cute novella that works best if you've read one or two of the Spindle Cove novels,  our heroes get together for one more mission to rescue writer Nora Browning, who has been straneded in a snowstorm on the way to a speaking engagement. Of course it's not Nora who needs  saving but instead the man she's snowed in with, Lord Dashwood. The subject of the female ragey "I don't need a man" pamphlet she wrote after being rejected by him that basically went viral. At first glancce it seems like Nora's rage is built around a simple childhood crush that went south, but as Dash and Nora spent the night re-litigating the past you realize it's something much deeper.  Dare puts her characters in so many awkward and funny moments. . . the second hand embarrassment is real !  I was literally laughing at the way Dare turns a phrase and Eva Kaminsky's perfect timing. You won't want to miss out on this undeniably delightful and funny read that won't leave you out in the cold.

Eva Kaminsky's performance was hit or miss for me because she is a new narrator for the series. She captured the same tones Carolyn Morris used for the various heroes in the other audiobooks, but she does a very high class slightly nasally British accent for some female characters that does't always fit the down to earth style of Morris.

  • PS. Dare dropped an F-bomb in this book, that was so unexpected yet perfectly placed
  • Spoiler : This novel had an unexpected virgin hero with no trauma. So, yeah.
  • Bonus spoilers : this episode of 99pi on paper towns is relevant to interests

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Flower From The Storm By Laura Kinsale

Rating: ★★★ + .5 | 533 Pages | Avon Books | Historical Romance | 1/1/1992

I feel like there a several l seminal romance novels that I’ve leanred about in my adventures in romancelandia, and one of the big ones is  Flower From The Storm, published in 1992 and proclaimed one of the world’s "most cherished" loves stories.

Jervaulx is a mathemaically gifted but indulgent rogue who suffers a brain hemorrhage that impairs his speech and movement. Consumed by anger and violence he is sent off to an asylum to be forgotten. The only one who seems to notice the humanity that is still in him is Maddy Timms, a devout Quaker whose religious convictions,  inspire her to save him at any cost . It’s the ultimate redemption story that I can see having mass appeal, I think Maddy’s ability to see more than what th book sees as Jervaulx’s disability, iswhat propels this book to the top of many favorites list.

In what I can only assume was daring at the time, Kinsale writes Jervaulx POV from the POV of someone who has suffered a brain hemorrhage, creating what could be seen as an unreliable narrator. When other characters speak the dialogue is written as gibberish and it allow readers to feel the frustration that Jervaulx deals with on a daily basis. In the future I can’t wait to check out the audiobook and see how Nicholas Boulton narrates this.

I think it’s worth noting that this romance has an Alpha hero—a Duke at that--who has essentially lost all his agency. He becomes dependent on Maddy and relies on her to help him escape the ssylum and prove to the world he’s not a madman.

With that said I did have an issue with about  20% of this book, because as Jervaulx fights to prove his worth, I feel like Maddy’s identity got lost. In the end she gives up all of her convictions in service of Jervaulx, some of which she is tricked into doing. And while the ending was dramatic and bough the story full circle,  I don’t think  Jervaulx gave up as much as Maddy in pursuit of his own redemption. 

I found the addition of Jervaulx’s friends (including a lazy churlish vicar and reliable military man) provided some much needed humor. Do they seriously not get books ? Inquiring minds.

There is something about older roances that give them a different tone from modern ones. The dialogue felt more drenched in colloquiliams, most of which I understood thanks to context clues. I was afraid the use of Quaker Plain Speech was going to make this difficult to read but it flows nicely.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Midnight Action (Killer Instincts #5)

*Trigger Warning - Sexual Assault, Abuse and Violence in Paris

Noelle, The viscous queen of assassins and consummate ex-solider-turned mercenary Jim Morgan have been making each others lives hell for nearly twenty years.  When an enemy from their past contracts Noelle to assasinatet Morgan, they team up up to take out the threat and are determined to get each other out of their systems--once and for all. Morgan and Noelle become the ultimate action couple as their antagonistic relationship heats up in that "I better make sure my windows are rolled up when listening to this audio book" kind of way.

Snaps to Kennedy for writing smart, attractive, talented and lethal people over the age of 35. Morgan and Noelle are at an age where they are learning to make peace with the things they've done, and their intense path to romance plays out the only way I think it can, which isn't always pretty.

 Kennedy builds layers in her novels;from her brilliantly detailed  storylines , complex villains and fully realized side characters. We get multiple story arcs (including a M/M one) and she just knows how to work a narrative, she teases out future books while making sure the characters are still present in the current one. I can't help but to imagine what choices she'd make if she was doing straight thrillers and didn't have to give her characters a HEA. Like I would legit want a series all about Noelle or Morgan and all the adventures they've been on.

Audiobook narrator Allyson Ryan  has unbelievable consistency with all the voices in this series,  her sultry and cool voice for Noelle is one of her standout performances.

While I get that Kennedy doesn't focus on "origin" stories for her characters  I feel like we are missing something in Noelle's storyline. We never find out exactly how she went from a sweet rich girl in Paris to an infamous assassin. I feel like this might get explored in later books though.

A non-traditional romance featuring tried and true anti-heroes, Noelle and Morgan's second chance romance and scorching hot relationship will leave all others behind.


So it's revealed that Morgan has a daughter and she is the heroine in the 8th and most recent book, so I wonder if  this is going to lead into a another round of the series ? Because on Facebook four years ago Kennedy said widow Holden McCall was getting his own book and I see it hasn't come out yet, so tell me there are more of these coming !

The Audiobook cover for this is just terrible. I mean Morgan is in his forties and Noelle is in her late 30s. . . I can only assume the cover has the younger version of them on it. Also the book cover, which is posted above, looks real weird below the model's waist. What is going on ?

In this book Jim Morgan admits that he isn't great on the business side and he even does some awkward HR and hiring in this book and I wonder if this is why THE COMPANY OF MERCENARIES HE RUNS DOESN'T HAVE A NAME ?? I DON'T UNDERSTAND THIS .  . EVEN NOELLE CALLS HER TEAM OF LADY-ASSASSINS "THE CHAMELEONS" HOW CAN HE NOT HAVE A NAME FOR IT ????? HOW DO YOU FILE TAXES ???

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole (The Loyal Leauge #1)

Rating: ★★★ | 03/28/2017 | Historical  Romance | 263 Pages | Kensington | Amazon 
An Extraordinary Union tells the story of Elle Burns, a free black women who uses her eidetic memory to spy for the Union Army. Her latest mission sends her undercover as a house slave in a Confederate senator’s house where she quickly becomes tangled up with Malcolm McCall, a Scottish Pinkerton posing as a confederate soldier. Elle and Malcolm's forbidden relationship heats up through stolen moments on stakeouts and secret nighttime rendezvous that often get interrupted by horse chases and other nonstop action. 

I didn’t quite know how a historical interracial relationship would come off in a romance novel but Cole makes it work. Malcolm and Elle find out their true identities early on and Cole carefully lays out the power dynamics and real danger of interracial relationship as they become closer.

Slavery can be a tricky thing to portray in romance and Cole takes the time to give agency to the other household slaves Elle encounters, sprinkling in little bit of knowledge about how much the Confederate Army depended on slaves and how slaves sometimes used that dependence to help their advantage.

I live in Richmond, Virginia where this book takes places and I tried to take my copy on a little tour.

Mary Browser, the woman that Elle is based on, was actually a spy in Jefferson Davis’ house...which is near my job and right down the street from my favorite lunch cart. The house looks so small and inconsequention now, surrounded by a big hospital system. It’s so crazy to think about all the history that happened there.

Then I went to Brown’s Island. Brown's Island is where all the outdoor concerts happen but during the Civil War it was where ammunition for the confederate army was produced. Information about ammunition and cannons is the kind of information Elle and Malcolm smuugle to the Union Army.  Brown’s Island is  alsosurrounded by the James River, where some of the biggest action at the end of the book takes place.

While on Brown's Island I saw this statue called The Headman dedicated to African American boatmen, much like house slave Mary's husband in an Extraordinary Union.

I’d never done the Civil War tourism thing before and it is interesting to see how Richmond, the former capital of the confederacy, handles the Civil War tourism. While we definitely have the confederate statue issue there were no confederate flags for sales in the gift shops or even surrounding the Jefferson Davis house. In fact, I saw a lot of information about slavery in the gift shop and they even sell shirts with Frederick Douglass quotes. Granted this may have something to do with the fact that their CEO is a black woman.

Anyway, Extraordinary Union is an extraordinary historical romance about fighting for your own life, liberty and pursuit of happiness when the whole world is against you. 

It looks like in the next book, A Hope Divided, the hero is in a Civil War prison camps ):

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Fall In Love : 7 Fall Romances You Don't Want To Miss

Summer days have drifted away but that just means these cozy fall romances are on their way !

East In Paradise by Tif Marcelo (Sept. 4th)
Raise a glass to the second book in the Journey To The Heart series, this time an ambitious entrepreneur and Army reservist's vineyard reality show fauxmance might just become the real thing.

Blood Guard by Megan Erickson (Sept. 12th)
Vampire romance is making a comeback, yo !

Acting on Impulse by Mia Sosa (Sept. 19th)
Keep the summer vacation vibe going a little longer with this vacay  romance about a personal trainer and movie star falling in love and sweating it out in sunny Aruba.

All I Want for Halloween by Marie Hart (Sept. 26th)
A Halloween romance ! Our heroine's mysterious masked suitor from  turns out to be a fallen from grace reality show star.There are so many Halloween puns in the synopsis for this book.

A Tiara Under the Tree by Carolyn Hector (Oct. 1st)
When a beauty queen's gaffe becomes a viral internet meme, a bad boy business mogul steps in to help her take back her crown.

Shock Jock by A.M. Madden (Oct. 4th)
An erotic shock jock, crowned the King of Romance by his listeners, can't actually figure out his own love life. Or as I will be calling this book; Sexy Frasier.

Third Son's A Charm by Shana Galen (Nov. 7th)
What better job for a former solider than as a bodyguard to an independent lady ? Book one in a series about a band of brothers settling back into society,  I kind of want to read this book based on the punny title alone.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Midnight Pursuits by Elle Kennedy (Killer Instincts #4)

Rating: ★★★★ | 9 hours 34 minutes | Signet | Romantic Suspense | 4/1/2014

Things are about to cool off for Morgan's mercenaries.

The fifth book in this series hits all the familiar beats in the Midnight series (which I know is called Killer Instincts but I kind of feel like that doesn't match the series at all. . .actually Midnight doesn't make sense either. I don't think anything specifically happens AT Midnight. . . . )  The hero and heroine are thrown together against their will , reluctantly team up and use their action movie skills to save that day, cause everyone in this series is like super professional when it comes to being a badass and taking names. Of course things parlay into slap slap kiss all while taking down a big bad who is usually a rich powerful foreign man.

Yep, It's s a formula, but it's a formula Kennedy freshens up each time.

This time, thief /assassin Juliet Mason is out for vengeance after her bother gets caught up in an international conspiracy. When her SOS is intercepted by Ethan Hayes, the youngest member of Morgan's mercenary team, the Rookie and the Vixen go up against volatile terrorists and a corrupt government in the dead of winter.

Juliet and Ethan's romance was just meh. It felt like a foregone conclusion. They weren't any real sparks and the cinematic action packed plot eclipsed their romance, which is too bad because their relationship has some interesting dynamics, at 25 years old Ethan is 7 years younger than Juliet.

Kennedy also plays with the traditional gender roles in action narratives. I mean Ethan is just trying to chillax and enjoy a peaceful vacation alone when he gets pulled into Juliet's high stakes revenge mission. He takes care of her when she's injured, Juliet seduces him first and slight spoiler. . . he's the one that ends up needing to be rescued.

It's the non-stop action, thrilling plots and world building you expect from Kennedy and a romance that's more interesting in theory than execution. Early on I wanted to read suspense because I like romances where the characters have a "missions", but I was turned off a ton of suspense because the women always needed saving or protecting. I really like that Kennedy lets the women get in on the. . . badassery ?


Monday, August 28, 2017

New Cover, Who Dis : Julie James !

 Julie James announced on her blog that Penguin is re-doing her covers, and they're starting with book two in the FBI Agent /US Attorney series.
Ever since It Happened One Wedding, James books have been all about the shoe game to a point that her newest book cover is just a shoe, so I'm not surprised to see an emphasis on the shoes.

However, I do wonder if they are trying to market the book as something other than romance. The he new cover feels like chick-lit and they've swapped out the blurb from romance author Nalini Singh to one from The Washington Post

While I like the liveliness, bright colors and movement of the new cover I'm still partial to the audiobook covers for this series. I like the fun font and city vibe!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Bared To You by Sylvia Day (Crossfire 1)

Rating: ★★★| 338 Pages | Self-Published; Berkley| Erotic Romance | 4/2/2012

When you think of an East Coast New York billionaire from a prominent family with his name on a building you of course think of...Gideon Cross.

At least Eva Trammell does. She justmoved across the country to start a new job in The Big Apple when a chance encounter with the enigmatic Gideon Cross leads her down a a path of explosive passion and high emotions.

I'm sort of on a mission to read formative romance novels that have, at various points, defined the genre and since I couldn't finish 50 Shades I decided to give this a try because it's close second. And yes, I know this is erotica and not romance but it was popular so. . .

Bared To You was soapy and over the top as I expected. The super dark parts of this novel were unexpected and  made me cringe in the way Law and Order SVU does when they say stuff you think they can't say on NBC, while other parts made me laugh like when Gideon builds a perfect replica of Eva's room in his apartment to help her feel safe ... I mean I get it but also the fact that he can do that should make you run.

Speaking of Eva feeling safe, Eva has a lot of trust and anxiety issues because of her abusive childhood. I liked that she was upfront about this and how she owns it. But honestly everyone in this book is in therapy and boy do they need it. Even down to Eva's self-destructive roommate Cary whose story-line makes me want to read the next books. Cary could have easily fallen into the gay (well, bi) best friend trope and I like that Day flipped that trope on it's head. Cary is complex and he needs Eva possibly more than she needs him.
Do I understand why this book was such a big deal ? Well . . .I'm not sure. I mean it was more readable to me than Shades. It's purely escapist but the dark abusive parts always caused me to put the book down, and while I don't usually focus on the writing part Day has this amazing way of barley using "said" and "says".

I'm pretty sure I have book five somewhere around here. . . but if I'll ever get to it ? I don't know.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Ice Planet Barbarians by Ruby Dixon

Rating: ★★★+.5 | 04/03/2015 | Science Fiction  Romance | 188 Pages | Self-Published
Ice Planet Barbarians starts of visceral and down right disturbing as 22-year-old Georgie wakes up. locked in an alien cargo hold with 11 other women. The women fight their captors and find themselves dumped on a barren ice planet which they very quickly discover the planet is not so barren. It’s inhabitants are a small, primitive tribe of  mostly male sa-khui, the titular barbarian-like aliens. Oh and it turns out their tribe leader, Vektal, is Georgie’s fated mate.

I normally stray away from fated mate or inter-species-alien stuff , but I actually ended up enjoying this book--it kind of reminded me of a smexeier Dr. Who episode ? Dixon's use of  Georgie’s colloquial first person narration, the world (planet?) building and the survival plot really hooked me. I also appreciated the tribal nature that develops between all the women as they try and survive. As for the inter-species thing….while I could deal with the blue skin, body ridges and  horns, the tail was just a bridge too far and I chose to ignore it.

I actually only had one major problem with this book; THE ENTIRE PLOT OF THIS SERIES IS MY WORST FREAKING NIGHTMARE !**

Let me explain. At one point all the women make A Choice and do A Thing that means they can’t ever leave the ice planet. The reason this is my nightmare scenario can pretty much be encapsulated in this line:

I mean, there aren’t any toilets, but living as a barbarian? Not so bad when you’ve got a big, sexy barbarian male with you.
-- Dixon, Ruby. Ice Planet Barbarians: A SciFi Alien Romance (p. 175). Ruby Dixon. Kindle Edition.

Nope. Nope. Nope. Noppity Nope. Vektal and his sa-khui are literally living in the Stone Age--they eat their meat raw, all the native creatures on the planet wants to kill them, it’s always cold and as for this whole fated mates thing ? Yeah, there are no epidurals on a barren ice planet !  If I were one of these women I would be trying to Macgyver my way off the planet as quickly as possible. Especially since it’s hinted that there exist sa-khui on other planets that don’t live like barbarians.

Personal Nightmare Fuel aside, Ice Planet Barbarians is an intense, enjoyable, sci-fi romance with a really fun voice. In the back of the book Dixon says you can  read the books in any order and (  if you're cool with the whole trapped in the Stone Age thing) it seems like a great vacation series  for dipping in and out of !

There is novella about one of the women having twins and while the name of the novella delights me the cover….bothers me deeply.

**Okay, maybe not my worst nightmare. My worst nightmares include being eaten alive, getting kidnapped, eating a cockroach, my car falling off a bridge, being kidnapped and locked in a basement and going to work with a hair roller in but it’s in the top 5.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

New Cover, Who Dis: Whiskey Sharp edition !

Lauren Dane's Whiskey Sharp series, following the employees of a vintage-styled barbershop and whiskey bar in Seattle, made it on my 17 Books I Want To Read in 2017 list and this week I noticed this book never actually came out.

A quick check of Lauren Dane's blog revealed that the release date had been pushed back because US bookstores found the cover to be too edgy and Harlequin re-shot it. This was the result of the reshoot:

I don't hate the new cover, but I don't  love it either. I found the original cover to be more interesting to look at, the barber shop chair and perfectly manicured beard tell me something about the story. Aside from the tattoo on the heroine's arm the new one looks like an image you would find on any Harlequin series romance.

Like Lauren Dane, I am puzzled as to how a fully clothed man staring off center could be seen as edgy. I'm really stumped because Lori Foster and Diana Palmer have similar covers. Honestly, the only thing I can think of is that the booksellers had issue with  the idea that the  cover could be perceived as male / male because the model is well manicured and not in a traditionally masculine setting....which, if true is really unfortunate.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell

Rating: ★★★+.5 | 251 Pages | Intermix | Contemporary Romance | 08/15/2017

When a fight caught-on-tape lands Gavin Brawley--the notoriously hotheaded tight end for The New York Barons--on house arrest the last thing he wants to deal with is a new personal assistant. Noah Monroe is a freshly unemployed social worker who could care less about Gavin and just wants to do the job and start paying his student loans. But will Noah worm his way into Gavin's heart and bring out #DatBrawleySmile ?

This book was great, I’m just really into the way Santino Hassell  writes romance. He slowly builds sexual tension and pairs it with cutting banter. Noah, being a self proclaimed "poor kid from Queens" goes toe to toe with Gavin's surliness.  I was just waiting for a Slap Slap Kiss--although it ends up being more of a You Are Better Than You Think You Are.

Hassell  is also writing some of the most authentic portrayals of millennials I've read in romance. The pop culture references, language and world views feel modern and authentic. Like the way Noah and Gavin talk about the toxic and often problematic culture of professional football. While Gavin loves football and knows it saved his life  he’s also realizes if word got out he was bisexual and had a boyfriend his career could be over.

Authentic, heartwarming and fun Hassell’s debut football series is a touch down !

*ARC provided by Netgalley


By the way, this is so, so, so random but the fact that this book features a guy named Gavin never leaving his big house in the Hamptons reminds me of that episode of the Gavin Volure episode of 30 Rock.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Mini Reviews: Kimani Romance

To Marry A Prince by A.C. Arthur

When stylist Landry Norris  is flown  to Grand Serenity Island to dress the American fiance√© of the crown prince she finds herself  in bed with the crown prince's oldest son, Prince Kristian DeSaunters. Kristian and Landry's lust-at-first-sight romance burns quickly with very little chemistry. I got whiplash at how they went from essentially  friends with benefits to marriage (although I guess...what is says on the tin).  Arthur does a great job building the scenery, culture and history of Grand Serenity Island, a Caribbean island where the descendants of slaves created the monarchy by rebelling against colonist.  There also seems to be an intrigue plot  going on in the background as mysterious break ins and murder attempts begin to happen around the island. I have a feeling the intrigue storyline is going to follow through the series as it is never resolved in the book.  -

A Pleasing Temptation by Deborah Fletcher Mello

All eyes are on Kamaya Bordeaux as she officially becomes the last of  her 9 siblings without a wedding ring.  Kamaya doesn't have time for a relationship as she's busy managing the newest addition to her portfolio of adult businesses--a male strip club franchise. Her first franchisee is Wesley Walters an up and coming business man who was once known as "Deuce" the hottest stripper in New Orleans. Kamaya and Wesley's banter and chemistry burn up the pages. Even though our hero and heroine make their living selling sex, this novel was surprisingly heartwarming and almost spiritual as faith and family play a big role in their  developing relationship. I really loved the scenes between close knit Bordeaux family, this family has it all; a billionaire, a CIA agent, a filmmaker.  I'm totally going back to read their books ! - 

I've never really read the Kimani line before but I've just been devouring them like candy lately. I think there is the idea that these books are kinda whitewashed but they really do pick up nuances of black culture. I notice this particularly in the way they use religion, family and HBCU culture. I'm kind of sad to see this line is going to be disbanded in 2018 and I hope other publisher's pick up these wonderful authors !

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Midnight Games by Elle Kennedy

Romantic Suspense |12/29/15 | 11 hours 53 minutes 


Jim Morgan and his crew of mercenaries are in crisis. Morgan has gone missing and a kill order has been ordered against the team and not everyone makes it out alive. Enemies and friends team up and begin a globe-hopping mission to find out who is behind the fatal attack, while undercover agent extraordinaire, Isabel Roma joins the team and brings her will they/won't they romance with and ex-Navy mercenary Trevor Callaghan  to a sizzling conclusion.

Kennedy always shocks me with the amazing scope and world-building in her novels that play out in addition to the main romance. I was SHOCKED that there was an steamy and intense enemies with benefits relationship between two  characters. . . who aren't even paired up with each other later in the series.  It adds a lot more dimension to the characters and not something I've see in a lot of romance. You really have to read these in order.

Midnight Alias features lots of girl power as we meet more of The Chameleons, a group of female operatives and their dark and deadly leader Noelle. (SERIOUSLY SOMETHING HAPPENED BETWEEN HER AND JIM MORGAN AND THEY HATE EACH OTHER AND I WANT TO KNOW WHAT IT IS)

Allyson Ryan is of course a treat, she gets to show off her expanse of accents though her Australian accent might have me checking out the e-book if that character gets a book.

IsAbel and Trevor's romance has been tracking since book one and it was satisfying, but while you come for the romance you stay for the secret missions, non-stop action and banter.

I feel like the ending wrapped up a little to neatly, but I think Kennedy did it in service of a much bigger story... which is her showing how BADASS all of her character are. You really feel like you know the team..

Side Note
I'm lukewarm on the book and audio book covers for this series, but this is one where I pefer the audio book cover. I remembe an old post I read on how females are positioned on promotional content and I think this is a nice subversion.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Playboy Pilot by Penelope Ward and Vi Keeland

9/21/16 | 7 Hours 35 Minutes | Narrated by Andi Arndt and Sebastian Stan

Captain Carter Clines, Triple C "Trip" (okay a big deal is made of this clever nickname but it's only used like three times)  is the playboy pilot and he has no shame about the flight attendants he's slept with or making  a suggestive comment or two to Kendall Sparks the pretty blonde heiress he meets in an airport lounge. Together they embark on an around the world vacation, but they can't outrun the real-life troubles waiting for them at home.

I think I grabbed this audiobook on sale based on the  kitsch title alone, I don't know what I was expecting but this book was surprisingly fun because it's mostly about Kendall and Carter having fun on their globe hopping vacation. I kept waiting to see where they would go next. The conflict was super soapy and there is even a  wacky Romancelandia will. I can't even explain it but involves babies and IVF.

Sure if you just barley squint this is one of those books were the heroine is introduced to the hero and he changes her life. We don't get any of Kendall's experiences or learn what makes her unique outside of Carter. I haven't read a lot of playboy books, but I like that Carter has to come to terms with the consequences of his past to get a happy ending.

Andi Arndt and Sebastian York are like the  Ben Affleck/Matt Damon or the Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks of romance audiobooks. At first I found Arndt's narration a little sleepy but it starts to pick up and she has this perfectly well matched cocky attitude when it comes to voicing Carter that I think really added something to Carter. York, as per usual, played it pretty straight

Wicked Mafia Prince by Annika Martin

 Dangerous Royals Romance #2 |  233 Pages | Suspense Romance | Release Date: 07/16/2016
The first book in the Dangerous Royals series really pulled me in with it’s grit, high stakes and constant twists and turns. I was so ready for the sequel but Wicked Mafia Prince was just….it has some odd choices. I mean…. it’s basically about a Russian mobster that saves a nun from a brothel and then competes with Jesus for her attention by doing things like….chaining her in a bedroom, throwing her clothes into a fire and forcing her to eat cake.

Okay, let me back up.

 22-year-old Russian mobster Viktor Dragusha is ready to take down Bloody Lazarus, the man that killed his parents and separated he and his brothers 20 years ago. As he and his brother begin to infiltrate Lazarus’s online virgin auction Viktor recognizes a nun up for auction as his ex-girlfriend, Tanechka. Which is odd because he’s pretty sure he killed her three years ago when the Russian mob made him push her off a gorge.

That’s right, it’s amnesia time, ya’ll !

So for most of this book Tanechka only remembers the last few years of her life when she was taken in by Eastern Orthodox nuns. She’s now extremely religious and very orthodox and Viktor comes off as a real psycho bully as he tries to make her remember the violent mob  assassin she once was.The only reason this book didn’t end up in the DNF pile is because the book itself seems to recognize how he treats her is wrong and towards the end she gets a bit of agency, but some of the earlier sections were real rough.

Speaking of choices at one point Martin gives Bloody Lazarus, the bad guy, a couple of chapters in which he...uses an online executive coach to help him... run the mob better ? It read as real odd and I didn’t feel like she captured the voice quite right, Lazarus has to be at least in his 40’s but he read much younger. I really didn’t understand why Lazarus’ POV was in there but in the back of the book she says that he’s getting his own book so I guess she was testing the waters.

Low in romance, high in suspense this book just left a bad taste in my mouth.

I looked more into Martin after reading this book and her best selling book is dubious consent novel about a woman kidnapped by a fugitive and she has a series called Taken Hostage by The Kinky Bank Robbers so I think some of my weirdness about consent in this book is YMMV. Clicking around I am learning  'kidnapped heroine falls for captor' is a genre I did not know existed...which explains a lot about these books.

I think I am going to finish this series (and not just because I already bought the last one for .99 a few months ago). I’d heard this book was the weakest of the series and I’m curious to see what she’ll do with the third brother who was abandoned in the woods as a child.