Thursday, April 27, 2017

Roadside Assistance by Marie Harte

Rating: ★★★ | 384 Pages | Sourcebooks Casablanca | Contemporary | 9/6/2016 

When business owner Cynthia Nichols stomps into Webster's Garage to tell the mechanics off for parking  cars  in her parking lot, she immediately catches the attention of all of the body shop "bad boy" mechanics. Foley Hamilton  immediately calls dibs and what starts out as a fun casual game of cat and mouse between Foley and Cyn might just be the real thing...that is if their friends and family don’t get in the way first.

Cynthia Nichols is that unconventional romance heroine they warned you about. She’s in her mid-thirties, independent, running her business and at 6 feet tall and size 24 doesn’t have the body of your typical coquettish romance heroine. She’s dealing with a traditional Italian mother who wants her to start a family and "blue collar badass" Foley isn’t exactly what her mother has in mind. I thought it was great how Harte doesn't play the I Want Grankids lightly, it shines a light on how Cyn's mother's comments about weight and her relationships are starting to  become verbal abuse.

I’m not sure if I really believed the chemistry between Cyn and Foley though. They start to implicitly trust each other and I’m not sure why especially since Foley makes some weird comments about her weight in the beginning that really upset her. Also the ending gave me whiplash, we go from the Foley in an  intense emotional situation to Cyn in an intense emotional situation and then a smash cut to a  light hearted  party that seemedto only exist to introduce the characters of Harte's new series.

That said I'm still in for the next book, which about Foley's roommate / best friend Sam. I think what draws me to this series is the sense of community, it’s subtle but this Seattle metro area  is so well developed. I love seeing how all the past characters interact with each other.


I really hate this cover...

Monday, April 24, 2017

Strong Signal by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell

Rating: ★★★★  | 229 Pages | Self Published | Contemporary | 2/15/2016 

25-year-old Kai Bannon is what you might call internet famous. Millions of adoring subscribers tune into his Twitch stream for game reviews, funny commentary….and occasional shirtless dancing. But most of his online performance is just that. A performance. IRL Kai suffers from severe anxiety and hasn’t left his Philadelphia apartment in two years. His solitary lifestyle works for him, but then he starts exchanging messages with deployed Army mechanic, Garrett Reid. When their relationship goes offline to IRL, Kai can't hide his flaws behind a screen anymore.

Kai lives in an online world that will seem realistic to anyone who, ahem like me, has dabbled into the world of internet famous people. The authors capture the culture of internet fame so well, like this bit early on when Garrett decides to Google Kai:

Kai + Twitch + Fallen World Online brought up Pinterest pages, a Tumblr called FuckYeahKaiBannon, and fan pages on various social media websites. The number of people who were using his face as an avatar on their own Twitter accounts was alarming - Erickson, Megan. Strong Signal (Cyberlove Book 1) (p. 17). Megtino Press. Kindle Edition.

See that Tumblr account ? I have seen that Tumblr account.

My biggest hurdle with this book is that I had a real hard time believing the "meet cute". It's not believable that someone like  Kai would  respond to an e-mail from another player upset over something that happened in a MMOPRG. It seems like someone with as much internet fame as Kai would have written him off as a troll and ignored him.

There is something refreshing about how down to earth the heroes in Strong Signal. One of my nitpicks about mainstream romanclandia is that it seemingly takes place in an alternate world where characters in their mid-twenties are running the world. Garrett’s not some special ops army war hero, he’s just a guy who joined the military out of high school and whose biggest fear is being unemployed once he leaves the Army.

Believe it or not this review just barely scratches the surface of this book, there is plenty of drama going on as the characters try to fit into each others lives.  Hassell and Erickson have have created complex, modern characters for a truly 21st century story that is #couplegoals.


I am mildly fascinated by mediocre white boy internet celebrity so in my head Kai is a mix between a lower level Pewdiepie, Troye Sivan and IDK maybe these one of these British guys who randomly make videos shirtless for no apparent reason.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

New Cover, Who Dis ?

One of the first things I figured out when I started reading genre romance is that romance novel covers and readers speak to each other in their own visual language. Readers can pick out their favorite subgenres just by looking at the covers.  A solid background with a single object ? Screams erotica. Adirondack chairs on a porch means it's time for a small town romance, lush gowns with that signature clutch? That means it's time to travel to Regency England.

Every now and then I'll come across a book (usually a Harlequin) with a  re-issued cover that is suddenly saying something totally different than it's previous cover . Usually this new cover  can completely change how the book is perceived and how it fits into current trends. Here are a few that caught my eye:

Maya Banks

Erotica got a big mainstream boost after the 50 Shades phenomenon. Minimalist, clean text cover became synonymous  with the genre. So  it's no wonder  Maya Banks "cheesy" Harlequin titles and covers were re-issued to reflect the trend.

Caitlin Crews and Maisey Yates

Nothing screams steamy, fun and indie romance like a black and white image with bold colorful text. I think Harlequin Presents got the message when they swapped out their signature logo and serious dudes for more a fun more contemporary look. I also noticed they play up the USA Today Bestseller, something I see on a lot of indie and small press novels.

Elle Kennedy

 You just know Kennedy's Midnight series when you see it. I'm talking  strong powerful models and bright san serif text. So in 2017 when  Harlequin re-issued Kennedy's Silhouettes  they looked  a little familiar.  Again they've minimized the Harlequin branding. 

Victoria Dahl

Victoria Dahl's original Tumble Creek  covers looked fun and flirty but when the mid 2010's rolled into town, covers were all about the abs. And not just abs. . . active abs ! This trend was probably popularized with Jaci Burton's Play by Play. When HQN re-issued this series they gave them an up close and personal ab-tastic makeover.

So what have I learned ? Well, it seems to me like romance novel covers are moving more toward minimalism. Images are simpler with no props, text is aligned with just a few key colors and so much san serif and kerning. Also the models on the cover look like they are having more fun.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Back To Your Love by Kianna Alexander

Rating: ★★★ +.5 | 352 Pages | Sourcebooks Casablanca | Contemporary  | 4/4/2017
Imani and Xavier’s high school romance felt like true love, but when Imani goes to Georgia for college they can’t hold on to their spark and drift apart. A decade later Imani is coming back home to open her dermatology practice and Xavier isn’t letting Imani get away this time. But Imani's got secrets now and if she were to say yes she could ruin Xavier's race for city council.

I’m starting to think rekindling romances are becoming my new jam. I like how the hero and heroine's shared history means we don't have to sit through the getting to know you parts. This romance isn’t clean or anything but it is just such a sweet romance. From Imani’s family to the kids Xavier counsels this books full of characters who love each other in all meanings of the word

This book takes place in Raleigh, North Carolina and just has an amazing sense of community and world building, I was not surprised to discover Alexander was a southern belle herself, like there is a scene where Xavier orders a lunch with a Cheerwine which is such a regionally specific beverage.

Oddly,  Imani and Xavier felt less like Millennials and more like Gen Xers. It's specifically stated that the characters are 10 years out from high school making them 29-30 at most, but they talk about listening to Mary J Blige at school dances, it just feels like an older reference. Also, Xavier refers to the 21-year-olds helping run his campaign as youngsters, and look I refuse to believe any Millennial trying to unseat an older incumbent wouldn't use social media to their advantage. It was just weird.

I do want to talk about how this book is being marketed. This book is without a doubt a black romance but it's not necessarily being marketed that way; it's cover blurb is by Kristin Higgins and a lot of the ad copy refers to Alexander as a mainstream author. Now, I've read both indie black romance and Kimani and I was curious how this would strike the balance and it really leans more towards the indie black romance side. This book definitely has some unapologetic blackness to it. There are no explanatory commas but I do think there are enough context clues if someone isn't familiar with everything going on.

Back To My Love is a contemporary friends to lover romance with it's share of drama and politics stirred up with a spoonful of  southern sweetness.