Monday, December 31, 2018

Black Romance Novellas

I finished off my romance reading year with these two novellas featuring Black characters. I think we can forget there is so much diversity within capital D  Diversity and these two novellas showcase the diversity in Black romance with each character being from a different part of the diaspora.

Former exotic dancer Cinnamon “Cin” Bradley danced her way through graduate school and now that she has her degree she’s ready for her second act. With her mother and infant daughter by her side, she’s got everything--including the eye of Landry Augistin, the handsome Creole landscaper working on her new house.

I just gobbled this book up! CCJ delivers another fabulous romance with a great heroine, sweet romance and just a touch of heat. I especially loved how she subverted the single mom/ stripper trope. Cin’s conflicts could easily be about her being a single mom and a former stripper but she’s proud of those things and accepts them as part of herself. There was no slut-shaming and both our hero and heroine visit a strip club together.

This novella is both the first book in the Sweet Heat novella series and a  2.5 in the Connecticut Kings series. I do feel like I was missing some background (like the details of Cin’s ex) but it worked on its own and I can’t wait to go back and read the other books. - ★★★★

I double clicked on this galley so fast when Avon included it in their Avon Addicts digital package. 

When work relocates Likotsi Adelele, Advisor Most High to the Prince of Thesolo, back to New York City the last persons she expects to run into is  Fabiola, the Instagram Instaphoto model and jewelry maker who stole her heart with one swipe and then ghosted her after their two perfect dates.

They spend the day together ticking items off Likotsi's to do list and through flashbacks, we learn that Fabiola's ghosting wasn't what Liktosi thought. I enjoyed this novella, it's filled with whimsy and romance and, like many of Cole's romances, manages to be politically salient. My only complaint is how short it was and it felt like everything had to be crammed in. I'd say this romance is perfect for beginners but I'm not sure this novella functions well on its own. It works more as a companion to A Princess in Theory than a standalone novella like Hints of Spice. If you don't understand Likotsi's backstory it's hard to fully understand a lot of the references. - ★★★+.5

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Coffee Shop Romances: Small Town Secrets and Delivered Fast

I love a good coffee shop--comfy seating, drinks in warm mugs, ambient conversation  and that lingering smell of fresh coffee. It’s the perfect setting for a romance and this week I read two novellas about coffee shop owners who fall for the person delivering their baked goods.

Lisa “Sully” “Sullivan may not have grown up in the small southern town of Sea Port but she’s made a place for herself as the owner of Sully’s, the town’s only coffee shop. She especially looks forward to her weekly deliveries from Bria, the cute baker’s assistant who always brings her something sweet. Bria’s been secretly pining for Sully too and when Sully asks her out their happily ever after feels inevitable. But it could all be over before it starts when a decades-old small town secret threatens to pull them apart.

I super enjoyed this novella. I love Jackson's small town of Sea Port , it is a majority Black small town and has everything you want in a fictional town; festivals, quirky local businesses, a gossip-y knitting club...a female-only illegal speakeasy.  As you do. But it’s not all so quaint. We check in on the characters from previous novellas who have shall we say...have other interests. Jackson is a master of blending kink with sweet.

Small Town Secrets is everything the title promises. and brimming with sweetness and love in all its forms. I can’t wait to read more from Jackson. - ★★★  

In Delivered Fast we travel across the country to Portland, Oregon where 35-year-old Chris O’Neal, the broody emotionally distant owner of the vegan coffee shop The People’s Cup, can’t stop thinking about Lance Degrassi the sunny extroverted college student who delivers his weekly baked goods.

The set up for these two novellas sound very similar but I had a completely different reaction to this one. I wanted to like this book since Albert is rec’d a lot and Jess gave a positive review to another one her books but this story just didn’t do it for me.

I found it boring and couldn’t invest in the relationship. The story is told in first person which is usually my jam but it’s only from Chris’s POV so I had no idea why Lance would be attracted to Chris or what was going on in his head. Chris spends so much of this book sad and brooding alone. Lance is shown to have a richer life with dreams and goals he is working towards. I wish we could have followed him around.

Now that I think about it, I guess this book read like a beat for beat example of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope. Lance was more of an idea than a person and it just didn’t work for me. -  .5

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Nuts by Alice Clayton

Rating: ★★ | Husdon Valley #1 | 308 pages | Gallery Books | Contemporary | 10/20/2015
 L.A. private chef Roxie Callahan begrudgingly returns to her Hudson Valley hometown to run the family dinner when her Mom gets accepted on The Amazing Race. Within a day she catches the eye of the hot farmer in town and decides to have a little fling, after all, it’s only for the summer. Right ? Right ?

I can’t believe how long I’ve let this book just sit on my shelf! This delightful rom-com has everything; a simmering romance, a small town with character, competency porn, the 2008 housing crisis (no seriously this comes up...and it works ?) and all of the food-related double entendres you could ever want.

This book is told from Roxie’s first person POV  and I loved her character and enjoyed being inside her head. She’s passionate, hard working, slightly facetious and yes a little messy as a character. At first, I thought she was kind of needlessly rude to her mom but it comes around. Leo was a great hero and I liked how Clayton was able to flesh him out even though he doesn’t have a POV. That’s always been the struggle for me with one-sided romances--the other person always feels half done.

Clayton must really do her research because I know a little bit about agriculture and the stuff in this book about Leo’s farming operation felt authentic. You find out pretty early Leo is from wealth and literally, the only way you can start an organic farming operation like the one described in this book is by being rich. The culinary aspect was detailed and done well too. I would have believed Clayton was a chef. I’ve read food books before but this is the one that made me the most hungry. I wanted to bake all the cakes.

Now, there is a reveal that comes out towards the end that I didn’t love. It just didn’t make sense that in a town that is described as gossip-y no one mentions this thing to Roxie. Either that or the entire town is somehow colluding to keep a secret from her.

The audiobook is read by Shayna Thibodeaux and she does such an amazing job. Her voice has a Zoey Deutch-like quality and her comedic delivery is spot on. Now, Sebastian York is also listed on the audiobook but it looks like Clayton only gives her hero’s POV in the epilogue so if you were getting this for York you will be disappointed.

Nuts is absolutely delicious in every way! If you’ve read this book and enjoyed it I really think you’ll love Intercepted by Alexa Martin.

I get the pun and all but the title of this book is not my favorite. It sounds weird out of context.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Duke That I Marry by Cathy Maxwell

Rating: ★★★ | 352 pages | Avon | Historical | Spinster Heiresses #3 |  Release Date: 11/27/2018
Miss Willa Reverly, the last spinster heiress, is tying the knot and she’s got the prize of the season--Matthew Addison, the recently named Duke of Camberly. Their arranged marriage is a solution to financial and status problems for their respective families but they aren’t sure what they mean to each other. Matt’s always believed in a love marriage and sheltered Willa isn’t sure she wants to be the next best thing to true love.

This book fell flat for me, there isn’t a whole lot of plot or external conflict and it I really felt like this could have been a better novella. It’s mostly Willa and Matt struggling to figure out how to make this marriage work and if they can fall in love….oh, and um, they solve a crime at about 80% of this book? I noticed each book in this series has a plot turn in the last 20% but this one felt abruptly out of place.

Also, Maxwell is still not great at writing marginalized characters--this time it’s sex workers. The epilogue tries to bring together a theme about female friendship and women being empowered but it doesn’t work if the only women who get to be seen as deserving of these things are wealthy married ones.

I happened to listen to part of this on audio and it is done by Mary Jane Wells--who also did the Duke Meets Girl series. I am really coming around to her voice. I was reading along with the audio to find my place and her narration just sparkles as she adds a bit of flair into every word. I see she does some Lisa Kleypas books, so maybe I’ll finally get to those on audio!

A Wedding On Bluebird Lane

unrated | 11 hours 12 minutes pages | Kensington | Contemporary Romance | 5/29/2018
You know, I don't read that many contemporary romance novels and reading A Wedding On Bluebird Way was like getting a nice flight of contemporary romance. The small southern town of Serendipity, Texas is the backdrop for the biggest social event of the year, the wedding of heiress Savannah Loving and Dr. Chance Worthington. Or at least it was the biggest wedding of the year until Savannah bolts in the middle of the ceremony, setting the stage for four different love stories.

In the first romance Bluebird Inn owner Felicity Patterson, a widow with a history of hard knocks, loses a ton of money and business after the failed wedding. Her only guest left is Tom Loving, a retired soldier and amateur ornithologist who wants to help bring bluebirds back to Bluebird Way (yeah, this is real convenient) but after a lifetime of heartache can Felicity allow herself to let Tom in.

This was one of my favorites. Wilde has a really breezy writing style and creates backstories and obstacles for her characters that motivate the choices they make. I really want more romances with heroes and heroines in their 40s.

Meanwhile, runaway bride, Savannah Loving, speeds out of Serendipity only to be stopped by Officer Hank Evans, who has recently returned to Serendipity. He agrees to let Savannah hide out in his condo in Dallas and as Savannah embraces the impulsive and reckless side of herself she's been she decided to take a chance.

The third story was kind of meh for me, it was bout Savannah's brother looking for a second chance with the girl he left behind. It's more of a New Adult contemporary. This the story felt sort of inevitable, but it was still a satisfying romance.

In the final love story, the ex-groom lends a helping hand to the frazzled wedding planner ...and her precious twin daughters. I'm not usually one for plot moppet children and this romance moved really fast but there was no doubt some chemistry between the hero and heroine.

Each story had varying heat levels, Loving Hailey by Stacey Keith was probably the warmest.

I'm not really sure how these collections are curated and edited but the way they blended together was a little clunky and I feel like there were missed opportunities for crossover moments, and I see that Janet Dailey passed in 2013, so I'm kind of curious if someone else is writing for her? Or is this an unpublished story of hers?

Also on the meta side, I liked that two prolific authors, Lori Wile, and Janet Dailey, were paired with two authors who appear to be prominently indie. I feel like I got a feel for each writer and can't wait to dive into their backlist.

Susan Bennet has her hands full on the audio.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Coming in From The Cold by Sarina Bowen

Rating: ★★★  | 208 pages | Self-published (formerly Harlequin) | Contemporary | 5/1/2014
A few weeks ago my power went out and I decided to read a few pages of each of the um...literally hundreds of books I had on my Kindle Paperwhite and Coming In From The Cold was one that took my attention. I've had this book forever, Bowen is one of the first romance authors I ever read and made me really see the potential of the New Adult genre.

During a winter snowstorm in rural Vermont, Willow Reade finds herself stranded on the road with the smooth-talking Dane “Danger” Hollister, a professional alpine skier. Their chemistry is immediate and they agree to one hot night together but neither of them are prepared when it turns into so much more.

Bowen is still one of my favorite romance storytellers but Coming in For the Cold kept me in the cold. This book was originally a Harlequin e-exclusive and reads very much like a condensed Desire or Blaze.

I was kind of so/so on the romance. I loved Willow and wanted all the best for her. The men in her life keep dragging her down but she never lets it get to  her and keeps on keepin’ on and doing what’s best for herself. I was rooting for her.  On the other hand, I could not with Dane. To get into the details I’m going into mild spoiler territory so…

*spoilers, ahoy!*

At about 40% into the book Willow finds out she is pregnant and Dane freaks out because there is a chance he might carry the Huntington's gene (the name of the disease is treated like a reveal but you can tell pretty early what it is). He's watched all his family die from it and he’s never told anyone about it and he gets mad at Willow for being pregnant when he’s really mad at himself for what he may have passed on. I was so frustrated that he wouldn’t explain to her why he was so upset she was pregnant.

Don’t even get me started on the part where Dane gets  Willow’s doctor friend to secretly test him to see if he even has the gene and when Dane finds out he doesn’t have it he freaks out, calls the doctor friend a bitch and then gets so angry he has to be sedated. Sorry, dude there isn’t a big enough grovel in the world.

I listened to part of this on audiobook, Joe Arden and Maxine Mitchell were both good although I think Mitchell had a little something extra, she’s been added to my go to list of romance audiobook narrators.

Actual image of me trying to figure out if this is a Pepe and Stella cover

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Kimani Romance : Going Out In Style

Like most of Romancelandia I was sad to hear that Harlequin was discontinuing the Kimani line. It was an easy one-stop shop to find books by and about women of color. Whenever #CoverThursday would roll around I couldn't wait to hop on Twitter and see the new Kimani Covers because have you ever noticed how stylish the covers are?

I mean how many other category romances have men rocking green pants?

Not to mention the bold patterns

And the little details like nail polish that matches the model's dress polish

And the shoe game

And straw hats

These are just the 2018 covers! Do you have any favorite Kimani covers? Leave them below!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Book Tour: Pushing Thirty by Necole Ryse

Today we're hosting Pushing Thirty by Necole Ryse and sharing Ryse's playlist for the book. This book caught my eye the moment I saw it because well, I am also...pushing thirty. Scroll down to see Ryse's playlist and snap this book up while it's currently on sale for 1.99!

Pushing Thirty Playlist

29-year-old viral TV blogger Zaahira Ramsey has it all, except peace. She’s built a fortress of protection around her heart as big as her coily hair. But when Chris Samuels enters her life, ready to unpack everything she’s been carrying, will she put up a fight? Or will the scrappy know-it-all fold under the pressure?

Camille Downing has lived most of her 29 years in the shadows of other people. As a top-notch executive assistant, she makes the impossible possible while taking none of the credit. But when she meets flashy and outgoing Jemel Jones, he makes her question why she’s been constantly selling herself short. Can she let go? Or will he push her too far out of her comfort zone?

Terry Baldwin can’t even. With three kids under her belt at 29, and a husband who acts like child number four, she’s slowly losing her mind. With her family falling apart at the seams, Terry decides to get a job. Can she be a full-time employee and mother? Or will the weight of adulting finally send her over the edge.

Grab your copy of Pushing Thirty today for only $1.99!
(limited time only)

Available on:


Necole Ryse was four years old, when she triumphantly wrote her ABC's on the hood of her grandmother's brand new Volvo.

Alive and well, Necole has since authored The Birthright Trilogy, available wherever books are sold on the interwebs. When she's not writing, she's weeping into a stack of unfinished manuscripts, abandoning exercise regimens, scolding innocent children in libraries, or listening to other people's conversations.

She enjoys live-tweeting, Criminal Minds marathons, and all things Harry Potter. You can find her on the Internet. All the time. Everyday.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Intercepted by Alexa Martin

Rating: ★★★ +.5  | Playbook #1 | 308 pages | Berkley | Contemporary | 9/11/2018

When Marlee Harper catches her NFL wide receiver boyfriend cheating she calls it quits on the whole "football girlfriend" life to do bad all by herself. Unfortunately, she can’t fight her attraction to the team’s enticing new quarterback, Gavin Pope. But how can she be with Gavin when it means going back to the role she triumphantly walked away from?

I liked a lot about this book. Martin’s writing really works for me. It skews a nice line between women’s fiction and contemporary romance. Marlee’s 1st person POV is snappy, fast-paced cheeky and is easy to sink into. Although, there were times when I wished she would take the quippy-ness down a notch--particularly the parts where Marlee is constantly talking in hashtags.

The thing that bugged me the most about this book is all the mean girl drama between Marlee and the football wives. So much of the book is grown women acting like clique-y high schoolers because of a man. Every other scene I’d be like:

The audiobook narrator, January LaVoy, is excellent and I hope she gets to do the whole series because I would listen to it just for her.  Her Marlee voice reminded me a lot of the actress Amber West (who I totally imagined as Marlee). Each one of January's voices is on point and her ability to code switch depending on the character’s race is uncanny.

Monday, November 12, 2018

When A Duke Loves A Woman by Lorraine Heath

Rating: ★★★ | Sins For All Seasons #2 |320 pages | Avon | Historical Romance | 8/21/2018

The Sins For All Seasons series follows a family of illegitimate siblings trying to rise above their station in society as outcast. I was excited to read  When A Duke Loves A Woman because it features Gillie Trewlove, an 29-year-old Victorian woman who is doing just fine running her bar and doing her best to make her impoverished Victorian neighboorhood a better place.

Gillie's daily routine is shaken up when she rescues the Duke of Thornley from a violent mugging on her front steps and (reluctantly) nurses him back to health and agrees to help him find the runaway bride that has led him to the seedy underbelly of London. Gillie and Thorne from two different worlds but the more time they spend trying to find the missing bride, the deeper their feelings become.

This book was middle of the road for me, and I think it's because this book kept setting up and then quickly resolving the conflict/tension. First,  Gillie nurses Thorne back to health who, due to his injuries can't leave her flat. That plot abruptly ends and then they start looking for his missing bride--then the bride shows up and breaks things off with Thornely dismantling the tension with half the book left. The characters spend the rest of the book pursuing each other and there is an obligatory ball, but I wanted more conflict.

With that said it had an enjoyable ending that had some of the emotional impact that was blurbed on the cover. Lorraine Heath never lets you forget the lacks of rights for women in Victorian England. I was also surprised (slight spoiler) that we never find out who Gillie's parents are or why she was abandoned. Maybe it will come up in other books?

I am all for books with non-traditional historical heroines and want to see more in Romancelandia.  As for this series, I'm curious enough to see how the background characters in this book come together in book 3.

I like how the silver lettering on the print cover is holographic.  Also--and yes,  I know photography can be limited-- I think Avon missed out on a chance to do something different with this cover. Gillie is described as having a pixie cut (but she does wear a wig at one point) and Thorne wears glasses and has a cane for part of the book. Those additions would have made a more interesting cover.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Great Bones by Lynn Ames

Rating: ★★★ | 258 pages | Phoenix Rising Press | Contemporary Romance | 03/27/2018

Rachel Wallach’s career as a romance card writer is flourishing even though her own romantic life is DOA. Rachel is ready to give up on finding love all together but Goldie, her feisty grandmother, has other plans. Goldie hires matchmaker-in-training Julia Spielman, to secretly matchmake Rachel and we basically get an Emma / Matchmaker Crush situation.

This book reminded me a lot of a Hallmark movie (I mean...except you people get to exist), I could almost hear that music they play during humorous awkward moments in the back of my head. The characters are drawn in broad strokes and it has a pretty low heat level; you get the chaste-est kiss at the end and that is it.

I go back and forth on this book. The romance didn’t spark for me, Julia and Rachel don’t actually spend much time on the page together so it was hard to root for their romance. On the other hand, I read this during one of those weeks when it felt like the world was on fire and it’s a well written and easy book to climb back into and not worry about heavy stuff coming up.

I admit it’s not great that this blog is coming on 5 years and this is the first f/f romance we’ve reviewed. One of my goals next year will be to read more of it. This author typically writes romantic suspense, so I’d be curious to check out her other books.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Secrets and Lies by Selena Montgomery

Rating: ★★★ +.5 | 384 pages | Avon | Romantic Suspense |  Release Date: 12/26/2006
Stealing an ancient manuscript from an eccentric South American antiquities collector should be an easy task for expert “recovery specialist” (okay, thief) Sebastian Caine. But when he stumbles across a murder scene he finds himself teaming up with ethnobotanist Dr. Kat Lyda and they discover century old secrets that could change the world.

I was so excited when Avon sent a Selena Montgomery in the most recent Avon Addicts package. As many of you reading this blog know, Selena Montgomery is the pen name of Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. I’m not much of a romantic suspense reader but this book pulled me in with a high stakes adventure through the fictional country of Bahia. It sort of reminded me of The Da Vinci Code but instead of a Girl Friday we get fully developed female characters and a true romance.

Two-people-on-the-run-together-from-a-thing is my least favorite version of romantic suspense because it involves the characters getting to know each other and falling in love in a short period of time which doesn’t feel realistic to me.

Now, I do get the sense from the author’s note that Sebastian was a beloved side character in other books so I’m curious to go back and read the other adventures. Sebastian works great as an anti-hero and his push and pull with the more altruistic Kat kept their chemistry sizzling--even though this book has a fairly low heat level by today’s standards. Montgomery perfectly weaves together a fictional history of colonialism, myth and fable for the fictional Bahia that makes the country seem real. I liked that most of the thrust of the story is returning items back to indigenous tribes, I feel like that’s not something you see a lot.

I hope with all the attention around Abrams that Avon will give her ebook covers a modern update.

*Received as part of the Avon Addicts program!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Misfits by Garrett Leigh

Rating: | Release Date: 03/16/15 | Contemporary | 277 Pages | Riptide Publishing 

Tom Fearness and Cass Pearson are a young power couple taking over London’s urban food scene. With Tom on the business end and Cass as the chef, they’ve opened five successful boutique restaurants and are gearing up for their sixth when Tom becomes infatuated with Jake Thompson, a 24-year-old down on his luck waiter with Tourette Syndrome. Cass and Tom have always had an open relationship, but Tom wants Jake for more than one night and has to figure out how to fit him into he and Cass’s hectic life.

I picked this book up because it was reced in this Twitter request from romance editor Angela James looking for an ugly cry book. Now, I rarely DNF romance novels, but this one came pretty close.

I really like the concept of this book but Leigh’s execution was just not for me. It was just pages and pages of generalized restaurant logistics and emotional angst with no plot or conflict in sight until 80%. The characters never felt fully fleshed out and lacked any interiority, I had a hard time distinguishing their motivations for doing anything.

This would maybe be a three-star review from me but I have to knock it down because there are just some weird microaggressions in this book. Like, a Spanish character is described as exotic and at one point Jake refers to himself by the r-word. I could maybe let those slide but then towards the end we get told Cass’ grandmother (who is supposed to be a sympathetic character ) refers to the Indians living in her building by a particular slur. It boggles my mind why that had to be in the book. The grandmother doesn’t even show up on the page. Like, did she want to show the grandmother is racist? I just don’t get it. It’s almost like she just really wanted to use that word.

Anyway, Misfits was a miss for me.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn

Rating: ★★★ + .5  | Release Date: 7/05/16 | Paranormal Romance | 378 Pages | DAW Books
When demon portals appear in San Francisco  Aveda Jupiter (aka 26-year-old Annie Chang) becomes the city’s resident superheroine. But when a broken ankle takes Aveda out of the game she turns to Evie Tanaka, her reluctant assistant, and longtime best friend, to take the Aveda Jupiter mantle.

I’m going to steal a line from the SBTB review of this book; Heroine Complex jumps off with Aveda Jupiter fighting a horde of rabid cupcake demons so, Kuhn lets know right away the levels of quirk you are getting into when you start this book. I’m not a hardcore paranormal person so I liked the lighter, sillier touch to the world building and Kuhn’s humor-tinged first-person narration was highly readable.

That said, the actual plot was muddled and left me with more question than answers and the romance between Evie and Nate, Aveda’s resident hulking demonologist, was lackluster. I like more relationship building in my romance and Evie and Nate go from not liking each other for years to falling in love with no real catalyst.

I can see why a lot of people like this series, it has a lot of fun action pieces but also takes time to dig into meatier mental health issues like anxiety and setting boundaries.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Duchess Deal and The Governess Game by Tessa Dare

I cringed a little when I first heard this series was about romances between untitled women and dukes but Dare makes it work. Our heroes might be dukes, but these women bring them to their knees. These fun historical rom-coms aren't afraid to bend the historical accuracy and even have a few fun anarchistic pop culture references!

This book has everything-- marriage of convenience, angsty scarred hero, Shakespearean insults, Fake News...a Batman situation. What’s a Batman situation? You know, it’s that thing where a brooding super rich dude randomly wanders the night doling out vigilante justice because of reasons.

Severely disfigured by the war, the Duke of Ashbury has given up on anyone truly loving him and just needs a convenient wife and heir. When hotheaded seamstress Emma Gladstone comes knocking on his door he offers her a marriage deal she can’t refuse.

The only Dare I’ve read is A Scot Ties The Knot and this one felt very different, the tone was more joke-y and the world she created was a little sillier around the edges. I liked how Dare eschewed historical accuracy in favor of telling a fun story.

Mary Jane Wells is the narrator for this series, she’s got little bit of Minnie Driver in her voice and delivers an intentional and plucky performance that works for most the book but her voices for men and children need some work. Her Ashbury, in particular, comes off as sinister and snippy. - ★★

Chase Reynaud is a rakish rake just raking it up when a series of sudden unexpected deaths makes him the immediate heir to a Dukedom --and the two Bebe’s Kids orphans entailed with the title. With every governess in town run off by the two girls, Chase’s last hope is Alexandra Mountbatten, a part Filipina part American orphan who is in need of some quick cash.

If I had to compare, I think I liked this book better than The Duchess Deal. Dare’s managed to pack in a lot of themes and plots in a fast-paced story that never stops moving. She tackles identity, found family, grief and emotional angst in a way that just worked. But don’t get me wrong, the romance between Alexandra and Chase is center stage and manages to be both a slow burn and super sizzling--their Belligerent Sexual Tension could give Sam and Diane a run for their money.

I think Wells does a better job with the male voices in this book and I did notice Alexandra's voice is a little softer and feminine than in The Governess Game. Although the voice she chooses for one of the orphan girls is straight up demonic sounding.

The Governess Game is a high spirited and heartwarming romance sure to delight any romance reader. - ★★

Me, waiting for The Wallflower Wager

Sunday, September 30, 2018

September Romance Book Haul !

Here are all the books I've acquired this month

Used Books
One of my favorite used bookstores is McKay Used Book in Manassas, Virginia. When I first graduated from college and was super unemployed  I'd go there every few weeks to find new reads. It is probably the place that sparked my initial interest in romance because they have shelves and shelves of romance.

I don't always make it back there when I'm in Northern Virginia but I decided to stop in a few weeks ago. I could spend hours picking through their romance shelves but I only had about 45 minutes and these are the books I picked:

Reign of The Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh 
I saw this in the YA section and snagged it. It's a fantasy about necromancers.

When A Scot Ties The Knot by Tessa Dare
This is one of my favorite Tessa Dare books and one I thought I might want to do a re-read so I picked it up.

After Midnight by Teresa Medeiros 
I told Jess to pick out a paranormal romance for me to read and this one about vampires sounds intriguing.

Drive by Sidney Bristol
I love a good car-related romance

To Catch A Stolen Soul by R.L. Naquin
This is a Carina press romance about djinn

Catherine and The Pirate by Karen Hawkins
This one was quite a used bookstore find! In the early 2000's Avon released a line for teen readers called Avon True Romance. These books have been put out of print for quite some time and while a few are still available as ebooks this is not one of them. I first learned about these from this Book Riot article.

Avon Addict Box 
It's always a fun day when a box from Avon arrives! It was rainy the day it arrived and I was afraid of water damage but most of the books came out just fine.

THE DUKE'S DAUGHTER by Megan Frampton
THE LADY IS DARING by Megan Frampton
POLARIS RISING by Jessie Mihalik
KILL THE QUEEN by Jennifer Estep

I think my next read will be Secret and Lies by Selena Montgomery, aka Stacey Abrams--who could be the first Black female governor in the US.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Asking for It by Lilah Pace

Rating: ★★★+.5 | 336 pages | Berkley | Contemporary Romance | 06/02/2015

Trigger Warning: Rape as backstory and Rape Play

I’ve been reading a lot of romance novels this year and sometimes it can all get a little same-y. I was looking for something more boundary-pushing and when I saw this in the library I decided to give it a try.

25-year-old PhD student Vivienne Charles has harbored a secret rape fantasy for years and when Jonah Marks, a mysterious earth sciences professor, accidentally discovers her fantasy--he reveals he has the same one. Together these two strangers explore their taboo desires and it brings them closer than they ever planned.

This book was fascinating. Pace did a great job delving into the intricacies of Vivienne’s rape fantasy, while also being sure to emphasize the importance of consent, safety, and boundaries. It’s revealed early on that she was a rape victim and the book draws a  hard line between fantasy and reality. That said, the scenarios they create are still intense AF. Jonah and Vivienne go deep into their fantasy situations and get physically violent with each other

I do think Pace made a smart decision in only having this book from Vivienne’s perspective. I think a woman fantasizing about being raped reads differently than a man fantasizing about raping women. Their relationship smoothly transitioned from two people filling each other's primal needs to heart fluttery romance.

But whew, chile this book has a dark reveal at the end about Jonah’s past that was real rough and super disturbing, I was kind of questioning why Pace went there. I mean IDK, I’m curious to see where Pace is going to go with this. This is a duology and it does end in a cliffhanger and I am curious enough to see how things end for Vivienne and Jonah.

I am just still fascinated Berkley published something like this. When it first came out Pace (who is a psuedonym for another author) did a lot of interviews and there were a lot of thinkpieces about this book. I’m surprised there haven’t been other books like it since it came out.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Permanent Ink by Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn

Rating: ★★★ +.5  | 256 pages | Riptide Publishing*  | Contemporary Romance | 08/07/2017

When Jericho McAslan, owner of Permanent Ink Tattoo, takes on 23-year-old delinquent graffiti artist Poe Montgomery as his first apprentice, Poe’s presence complicates Jericho’s life in more ways than one. The attraction between them is instantaneous but Jericho isn’t sure he’ll ever be ready to cross that line--especially since Poe is 17 years younger than him…..and his best friend’s son.

I don’t feel comfortable recommending Santino Hassell books anymore and I’ve been looking for other books to fill the M/M with age gap trope that worked for me in Fast Connection.

I liked a lot about this book, all of the characters were complicated and fully realized, the vibrant (super progressive) small business community in St. Louis really popped and the stakes of Poe and Jericho’s relationship created the kind of tension that kept me flipping pages. This was literally me when they decided to tell Poe’s Dad about their relationship:

My biggest struggle with this book was Poe, I found him frustrating, immature and spoiled. He lives with his Dad, who has paid thousands of dollars in bail money for him, and instead of letting Poe face punishment his Dad gets him a free apprenticeship. He just gets so many second chances. Jericho and Poe seemed to be on two opposite ends of life and didn’t fully make sense as a serious romantic couple to me. There are some meaty side characters and I could easily see Jericho and Poe ending up with one of them.

Overall I found Permanent Ink a compelling read even if I wasn’t rooting for the main romance. Gale and Vaughn are a powerhouse writing team and I can’t wait to pick up another of their titles.

This is the part of the review where I reference an old TV show no one remembers. Jericho’s clients come from across the country to have Jericho fix their janky tattoos and it reminded me of this short lived show on A&E called Tattoo Highway that I really liked where a tattoo artist and his crew take a mobile tattoo parlor across the country to fix people’s tattoos.

P.S. This is the second romance I've read with a Nevertheless She Persisted reference. Publishing jumped on that phrase fast.