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.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A Duke By Default by Alyssa Cole

Unrated | 320 pages | Avon | Contemporary Romance  | 07/31/2018 
Portia Hobbs is done being messy. She is the "New" Portia; no more hook-ups, drunk nights and job hopping. What better way to start over than taking an apprenticeship in Scotland with world-class sword maker.Tavish Mackenzie? Tavish likes things the way they are and isn't up for Portia's social media hijinks, but when Portia unearths a Mackenzie family secret she just might be the only one who can turn this reluctant swordsman into a dashing duke. #swordbae.
There is so much good in this book. I liked the setting of a Scottish armory and how social media savvy Portia has to convince Tavish-- who is analog and traditional--into embracing new media.  Tav and Portia's attraction turned romance felt natural; they play off each other well and there is quite the chemistry. Halfway through the book, there was even a bit of "My Fair Ladying" as Portia helps Tav adjust to being a duke (look, the book is called  A Duke by Default, okay. It's not a spoiler it's in the title). Also like Portia, I also find myself being scarily close to thirty and wondering what I'm doing with my life. So that was. . . fun.

The book also dives into entails, ADD, gentrification, social media, and family drama. Which is to say for all the good there is, there is just too much going on in this book. It was hard to focus and really savor the romance or the character's growth, but Cole's clever world-building and snappy dialogue might make it a great pick for new readers to romance.

Check out the  audio review on  AudioFile  Magazine

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

 Rating: ★★★ + .5 | Release Date: 06/30/18 | Contemporary | 336 pages | Berkley

I know this book needs no introduction, I’m not sure how it’s doing sales wise but the publicity for this book in and out of the romance community has been staggering.

Autistic econometrician Stella Lane’s parents want her to finally settle down but she is not sure she’s girlfriend material, so Stella hires escort Michael Phan to give her a few girlfriend lessons; but in the end, they both get schooled in matters of the heart.

Fake relationships have been my jam lately and I enjoyed this book overall, Stella was an entirely unpredictable character and  Hoang did such a great job developing the character of Michael and building his backstory. I did have a few side eye moments about how little nuance there was about the industry of sex work and sexual harassment in the workplace  This didn’t take away from the overall story but it did give me pause

I listened to part of this on audio and was kind of meh on it, I thought the narrator's performance of  Michael made him sound meaner than he came across in the text.

It was just announced this was going to be a movie and I formerly submit they cast Luce James Lee from this season of The Bold Type as Michael. I believe he’s biracial like the character in the book.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Cover Reveal : Runaway Girl by Tessa Bailey

This year I discovered Tessa Bailey and I'm excited to participate in the cover reveal for Bailey's Runaway Girl. Click below to see the full cover....

Saturday, September 1, 2018

8 Romances on Our Fall TBR

These fall romances are full of sugar, (pumpkin) spice and everything nice !

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Shimmy Bang Sparkle by Nicola Rendell

Rating: ★★★★★ | 320 pages | Montlake Romance | Contemporary | 08/21/2018 

Two jewel thieves road trip across the desert to pull the biggest con of their career in this modern-day Wild West heist.

Nick Norton should know better; fresh out of prison this former mechanic turned bartender (with a bit of a gambling problem) should be keeping his head down and his parole officer happy, so of course the first girl to catch his attention, Stella Peretti, is a member of an  infamous band of female master jewel thieves.

I think this might be my first romance with blue-collar protagonists. These aren't  Ocean's-level glitzy thieves. They are a little rough and tumble, each of them scraping by the best they can. Stella and her crew are robin hood thieves with big dreams and empty pockets. They steal for the greater good and don't take much for themselves, which is why they are ready to pull their biggest con yet and walk away from the life. Until an accident leaves Stella running the job solo, with nowhere else to turn she recruits Nick back into the game for ONE LAST JOB.

I like that this book had grown-a** characters (heroine is 34, hero is 40),  and Rendall provides just the right amount of motivation to make you want to root for the thieves even if the execution is plot dumped.

The score in this novel is a balding, over the top  "Rich-kids-of -Instagram" Sheikh-bro, which I could see as being problematic but I also felt like this was some sly jab on the popularity of rich Sheikhs that populate Romanceladia

The way this book ends was totally unexpected and I think Rendell set up the perfect amount of conflict. Fans of anti-heroes with hearts of gold and punchy dialogue will enjoy this show-stealing novel.

This book was published by Amazon's romance imprint and I'm not sure what they were going for with the cover. It's very generic and doesn't embrace the fun, rough and tumble West Coast vibes this book is putting down.

Nicola Rendell, welcome to my auto-buy list!

Indecent Exposure by Tessa Bailey ( The Academy #2)

Trigger Warning: Sexual Assualt

Rating: ★★★ +.5 | 353 pages | Contemporary | Avon | The Academy #2 | 1/30/2018
When 25-year-old Irish gold medalist markswoman Katie McCoy is invited to teach a workshop at the NYPD academy she sees it as an opportunity to finally let her hair down. She’s got a few items to check off on her to-do list while in America and none of them include falling for Jack Garrett, the charming New Yorker with rom-com hero good looks--especially when it turns out he is one of her students.

I liked this book a lot. For me, the story was much more enjoyable than the first one in the series. Jack and Katie’s love develops primarily over two weeks and Bailey makes it believable. Katie is an inexperienced virgin and Jack is something of a manwhore but it never felt cliched or like he was talking down to her because of her inexperience. I also think Bailey handled the instructor/student part of their relationship fairly well.

This book does take kind of a dark turn as we dig into why Jack drinks so much and why he’s never been able to connect with other women he's dated.

While I do like this book  I just do not get this fictional NYPD police academy. They seem to have no rules about anything. Even though I think Jack would make a better cop than the last hero, he is constantly drinking. Like at the Academy. Before he is about to handle a gun. And people seem to know about this but don't talk about it...It just feels like something that should get you kicked out.

Also, at one point they have sex in the bathroom of a restaurant. A Mexican restaurant. Like, Katie makes a point of saying she puts her purse on the floor and like people are coming in and out and... I’m sorry but that is really disgusting to me.

I think Bailey’s writing works so well in audiobook format and I was disappointed to see this is the only book in this series that doesn’t have an audio version. I wonder if it’s because they’d have to find someone to do a good Irish accent?

Also, lol, love this photo from Bailey's Insta of the cover model holding the book:

Disturbing His Peace by Tessa Bailey (The Academy #3)

Rating: ★★★ +.5 | Release Date: 05/22/18 | Contemporary Romance  | 7 hours 37 minutes 

Police Lieutenant Greer Burns, nicknamed The Grim Reaper by his police recruits, has kept a brick wall up his entire adult life, but he hasn’t been able to keep out his attraction to his brother’s roommate Danika Silva--who is also one of his new recruits.

I swear, this fictional NYPD Academy must be an Internal Affairs nightmare.

I’ve really struggled with the premise for this series and I wasn’t looking forward to this book. I didn’t like the power dynamics of the whole lieutenant/recruit thing and  I side-eyed a lot of how Danika is put on probation for not following protocols while her male roommates get away with breaking worse rules in other books.

But gosh darn it to heck, Bailey got me in the end and I enjoyed this romance. The characters of Danika and Greer are developed so well and I liked how their relationship unfolded. I think what Bailey does so well is creating characters who have most of their life together but have emotional gaps for their partners to fill. In the book, Greer needs someone that tells him he doesn't have to be perfect and break up his self-imposed solitude and Danika needs someone to tell her she doesn’t have to do everything for her emotionally dependent family.

I did this on audio and let me tell you, narrator Jacob Morgan has the perfect deep and gravelly romance hero voice. At first, I thought his affect was kind of flat but it actually fits the stern lieutenant and there are a few moments where he really brings out his performance. Lola Canela also does a great job and I love her voice--I don’t know if her Colombian accent for Danika was real or not but, she also had to do a few lines in an Irish accent and did an admirable job. These two flowed well together and kept their characters consistent. It didn’t feel awkward going from the male POV to the female.

The Academy books work really well as a series (though I could go without the first one) they flow together nicely and I love how the friend group develops along with the relationships, it makes the world feel more realistic.

That is if you can get past the whole reckless cops thing.

*Received as part of the Avon Addicts program

Monday, July 30, 2018

Virgin In The City by Alex Riley

Rating: ★★★ | Contemporary | Self-Published | 06/11/2018

I have been hearing about Alex Riley from the ladies on the Scandalicous podcast (BTW, where are new episodes ????) so when I saw his on Kindle Unlimited I decided to give it a go. I was taken in by the punny cover and didn’t read the synopsis or anything but this book turned out to be a lot of my romance catnip.

Our heroine Pepper is the ingenue to end all ingenues. She just moved to the big city from her small town to make and sell cute crafts on the internet. Her new neighbor, UFC fighter Teddy, has just bought her building and has decided he’s going to be taking care of his naive new neighbor. By the way, this book should really be called Virgins in the City because both our hero and heroine are virgins. So yeah, fighter trope and virgin hero trope? That’s my jam.

In her review of  Stay Close, Jess noted that Alexa Riley books are all about “insta-love, over-the-top, sweet, and cheesy love stories that don’t take all year to read" and that is exactly what this book is all about.  They don't waste time with last names or even naming the city but got right down to the romance. Overall I enjoyed this book, I like all of the characters and it was a great quick palate cleanser between books.

I know Alexa Riley dabble in some barely legal heroines and while this book doesn’t explicitly have that (no ages are mentioned) I do kind of side-eye Teddy asking Piper where her parents are when he first meets her and how we hear a lot about how young she looks. I just don’t personally understand the appeal of the super young looking heroine.

This is my first Alexa Riley and I’d totally be open to reading them again. I’ve never quite been able to get into Harlequin’s category romances, but this book hits all of those marks with a younger and more modern sensibility.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Day of The Duchess by Sarah MacLean

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

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

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

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