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.