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.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Romance Shelfie #5

It's been a while since I've done one of these and this time I'm going to include the books I've recently acquired from the last Avon Addicts package and a few ebooks finds!

Avon Addicts

The Wicked and The Wallflower by Sarah Maclean
This is next on my TBR

A Scandalous Deal by Joanna Shupe
I'm excited to read this after listening to Shupe on the Wicked Wallflowers podcast

The Good Luck Sister by Jill Shalvis
This is a novella from Shalvis' women's fiction novel

The Academy Series by Tessa Bailey
I'm reading this series now

The Rogue by Katharine Ashe 
I gave these extras away already and I'm excited to start this series myself.

E-reader Finds! 

Most Eligible Bastard (Billionaire ?) by Annika Martin 
I liked Martin's Mafia Prince series and picked this freebie up. I'm a little confused because the version on my Kindle calls it Most Eligible Bastard but on Amazon, it's currently listed as Most Eligible Billionaire. =

Make Me Stay by Amari Avan
This is a KU pick that was suggested to me by the algorithm. The heroine in this swirl romance is deaf.

Delivered Fast by Annabeth Albert 
Albert was having a .99 sale on Amazon and I liked this one because the age difference reminded me of one of my favorite m/m books Fast Connection.

Catalysts by Anna Zabo 
I heard Sarah Maclean talk about Zabo's Syncopation on the Wicked Wallflowers podcast and this one was a freebie on Zabo's website.

Love on The Highlight Reel  by Christina C. Jones
Another KU pick, it's been a while since I read a sports romance

Started From A Selfie by Nicole Falls
Another KU pick, this one about a sex blogger.

Roller Girl by Rebecca North
This romance gets recommended a lot for queer romance that isn't m/m and it was only .99!

Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn
This is a best seller at the Ripped Bodice and it was on sale for 1.99! 

Permanent Ink by Avon Fale and Piper Vaughn
Look, if you tell me a book by two authors I've heard good things about it .99, I'm going to one click it. 

Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett
I don't know much about the diversity efforts in the mystery community but I do know this book has been sweeping at awards so I had to one click it when it went on sale.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

An Affair With A Spare by Shana Galen

Rating: ★★★ | 320 pages | Sourcebooks Casablanca |The Survivors #3 | Historical | 07/02/2018 

Rafe Beaumont, a charming and seductive former special ops soldier matches wits with Collette Fortier--a French assassin's daughter determined to find a set of codes to free her father and start a new life. Rafe and Collette circle each other in the midst of a busy London season and while they both know not to trust the other they find themselves fighting a pull they are unable to resist
This installment of the Survivor's series felt...different from the previous books in the series. It starts off with the same upbeat humor and comical situations as the previous two; when we are introduced to Rafe he is haplessly running and dodging female pursuers in a scene that is dynamic and as great flow. But as Rafe and Collette try to friend-zone each other while trying to pry each other secrets from one another, it just didn't capture me.

Towards the end of the book, I was a bit surprised when the character of Thomas Gaines an escaped former slave turned business owner shows up. I guess it's kind of jarring because I hardly come across black characters in Regency romance and I was getting rep sweats. I was wondering how the characters were going to react, was someone going to say something cringe-y ?

And sure, this character mostly exist to help the hero and heroine get to their HEA but...at least he didn't die. I wonder if he will get his own book or novella

With all the said I thought this book had a classic romantic ending but it won't go down as the most memorable in the series.

Minor spoiler alert: Gaines helps Collette and her father get passage to America, which seemed to take away from the HEA for me because it's like yeah, go to America with all the slavery. But that'sjust a fact of history I guess. Also, the mentions of America being uncivil and savage felt a bit... off.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Mini Reviews: British Romances on Kindle Unlimited

I got a free 3-month Kindle Unlimited subscription and I’m going to town! I like KU because I can dabble with self-pub authors. Here are two of my recent KU reads, which both happen to take place in England.

I’ll admit this book got me with its cover. The cover model’s pose is all sophistication and arrogance but the fun lopsided letter lets you know there are about to be some shenanigans and let me tell you there are some shenans in this book.

Mr. Trouble is your basic fake fiancée setup; British playboy heir Jarred Maloney needs a suitable fiancée to prove to his father he’s responsible enough for his trust fund. Graduate student Kinsley Wells needs money to buy her apartment before it gets turned into a condo.The two strike a deal to play engaged until Jarred gets his trust fund back...but, I think we can all guess what happens instead. I never really saw myself as someone who likes the fake engaged trope, but I’m kind of into it--it’s like the hero and heroine are pulling a mini-con but then love pulls a con on them.

This book was a short, straightforward, satisfying read that hit the spot. I’d started reading it in a waiting room and ended up getting sucked into it and totally threw my reading schedule off. Now, this book will fall apart if you look too closely at it. Our British hero and heroine do things like using the word apartment instead of flat and dollars instead of pounds. Also--and I hate to note this--but there are some typos and errors in the text, which took me out of it. I normally let it slide but for a book that had an editor, there were quite a few jarring ones. ★★★

There is this thing called Baader Meinhoff syndrome where once you notice something you notice it everywhere and I swear that is what is happening with me and Talia Hibbert. I feel like I saw her name on the AAR semifinalist list and now I see her books mentioned everywhere.

A Girl Like Her is the latest book in her new series about the small English town of Ravenswood. Evan Miller is a new-in-town blacksmith who can't stop thinking about his new neighbor, the seemingly agoraphobic town pariah Ruth Kabbah.

This book is really beloved and I can see why. It features a super sweet beta hero and an autistic heroine which we don't always see, but I’m going to be a black sheep on this book. I just could not connect with Hibbert’s writing. While I liked her characters overall, she’s much more interested in writing an emotional journey and I need a lot more external conflict. So much of the plot is confined to Ruth and Evan's apartment.

Also this book hinges a lot around what happened in the past to turn the whole town against Ruth. We find everything out piecemeal and by the time the whole story is laid out I was just kind of confused about everything. -★★★

Sidenote: I am so glad she changed the cover, the other one hints at a raunchier read and makes the hero seem hypermasculine and alpha and Evan couldn’t be farther from that. The new one above is much more representative of the book's vibe.

original cover

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Full Throttle by Erin McCarthy (Fast Track #6)

Rating: ★★★★ | 8 hours 12 mins | Tantor Audio | Sports Romance | 12/09/2013

I can’t believe how long it’s taken me to get back to this series. The Fast Track series follows the romantic lives of the men and women in the Charlotte stock car racing community. I’d started this series years ago and just never got around to finishing it.

When 32-year-old Shawn Hamby’s grandfather passes away she finds herself in one of those only-in-a-romance-novel wills where she can’t inherit full ownership of her family dirt racing track unless she’s married. With everything to lose she ropes in 25-year-old Rhett Ford--who also happens to be her best friend's brother-in-law--to marry her for six months in exchange for part of her inheritance.

I have been reading a lot of fake marriage books lately and I kind of love it as a trope. It’s such a wacky premise, but I think in this book it’s looked at more seriously. The tension and the black moment is caused by Rhett and Shawn’s guilt of lying to everyone about why they suddenly got married. Particularly because marriage is very important in Rhett’s family. Not to say this book is all dramatic, McCarthy has a great brand of humor that had me literally loling a few times when listening to this book.

There is also a super light dusting of BDSM in this book. Shawn meets Rhett at a fetish bar she is visiting on a dare but it never goes full BDSM.  It’s never fully explored or anything but it was in interesting addition to this series. There is nothing like this in the other books and I wonder if the addition of that element has to do with this book coming out around the time 50 Shades was at its prime?  

I kind of go back and forth on Emily Durante as a narrator. She is from Michigan and you can hear the Midwestern in her voice. As I've said before her Southern accents feel more Texan than Carolinian but, her male voices are just so good.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Celebrate Flag Day With These Romance Novel Covers !

Did you know today was  Flag Day ?  Whatever the flag means to you, it's time to wave it in the air like you don't care. But if you're like me and don't have a star-spangled banner lying around just download these steamy romances with American flags blowing majestically on the cover and wave them around shouting U-S-A  !

The Protector by Donna Grant - An ex-Air Force pilot and Marine captain team up to solve a kidnapping.
Prince Joe by  Suzanne Brockman - A combat hardened Navy Seal is paired with a coach to help him impersonate a visiting European prince with a target on his back.
Issued to the Bride One Navy Seal by Cora Seton - A down on his luck Navy Seal is sent to help the General's daughter run the family ranch
Damned American! by Melian Belt
A U.S. Navy Captain and Italian soldier have to team up on an undercover mission
Point of Contact by Melanie Hansesn
The father of a fallen soldier finds unexpected comfort in his son's platoon mate.
Be Not Afraid by Alyssa Cole
A pair of slaves join  the Revolutionary War in exchange for their freedom.
Her Perfect Candidate by Candace Shaw 
A Georgia senator recruits an interior designer to clean up his image
Dirty Work by Chelle Bliss and Brenda Rorthert 
An enemies to lovers romance between a Republican and Democrat fighting for the same senate seat.
Deadly Rumors by Cheris Hodges 
An investigator teams up with an FBI agent to solve a missing person's case. 

I searched hard and long for covers with American flags, if there are any I missed leave them in the comments below !  (Also, no. No I didn't write this post during the Winter Olympics and then forgot to post it.)

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Disorderly Conduct by Tessa Bailey (The Academy #1)

Rating:  | 8 hours 23 minutes | 354 pages | Avon | Contemporary Romance | 8/29/2017

This review is going to involve some ranting.

23-year-old caterer Ever Carmichael and NYPD recruit Charlie Burns had the perfect acquaintances-with-benefits thing going on. But when Ever breaks things off so she can give the NYC dating scene a serious try, Charlie isn’t ready to let her go.

I had a hard time with these characters, Ever never felt like a fully realized heroine to me but she didn't bother me nearly as much as Charlie. Charlie Burns is on some Zack Morris Is Trash level of immaturity and gaslighting. He decides to start systematically ruining Ever’s dates so she’ll come back to him. He sends his police academy friends to act creepy at a speed dating event, catfishes her on a dating site and at one point he pulls the fire alarm to ruin her date...which seriously? SERIOUSLY? We’re breaking the law now? Charlie is aggressive, manipulative and then covers it with charm and I could not even with him. Don’t get me started on how he gets into a fight with another recruit and then pushes his superior (who luckily is his sequel-bait brother) but only gets a suspension. Like, this dude literally should not be allowed to be a cop. I mean even when he does the grovel, he does it using NYPD equipment.

All that said I’m willing to give Tessa Bailey another chance because I really did like her writing style. She writes in a snappy, pop-culture dotted, 4th wall breaking, perspective-shifting first person POV that I really liked, but may bother more traditional romance readers. Her writing also just sounds really good in audio and paired with veteran romance narrators Alexander Cendese and Samantha Cook this was a delightful audiobook listen.

Book received as part of the Avon Addict program 

Thursday, June 7, 2018

A Match Made In Bed by Cathy Maxwell

Rating: ★★★ | The Spinster Heiresses #1 | 384 pages | Avon | Historical | 4/17/18

After getting caught in a compromising position at a house party with Soren York, Earl of Dewsberry, the bluestocking heiress Cassandra Howell must either marry Soren immediately or embrace spinsterhood forever. Deciding she doesn't want to give up her chance at being the lady of her own house she takes his hand, but once she marries Soren she quickly discovers everything she’s ever known about her family and her fortune is a lie.

I thought overall this book was enjoyable but I had a rough start with it because I hated Soren. I don’t know what it is with the books I’m picking up lately but I hate when the hero doesn't take no for an answer and is a lying liar who lies. Soren has a son from a previous marriage and just decides not to tell Cassandra about any of that. There is even a point where he realized he hasn't made it clear to her he has a son and is just like “meh, whatevs I’ll deal with his later.”

Speaking of the son...So, Soren had a commission in Canada and had the son through a marriage to a Lenape woman. A woman who is dead because the Native and Indian women are always dead in these things.

Dear Traditional Regency Romance Authors,

Can we please have a moratorium on writing colonized women...it just never feels right. I know it can be a hard thing to balance the realities of the time with a modern mindset but I feel like rule #1 is not to use the word savage--even to show the hero defending the minority--and to maybe not constantly compare the half native child to an animal.

That said this romance does have some really sweet moments. I loved the interactions between Soren and his son and this line from Soren after he and Cass go through their unexpected married

“Life rarely meets our expectations. But sometimes, when we are lucky, we discover things are better than we could have managed.”

I just think that describes the journey of a romance novel perfectly.

A Match Made in Bed is an ultimately sweet romance, with some interesting twists and turns but I had some serious side eye for a hero I could never fully get on board with.

*received as part of Avon Addicts Program

Friday, June 1, 2018

Fire In His Blood by Ruby Dixon (Fireblood Dragons #1)

Rating: ★★★ | 11 hours 27 minutes | Self-Published | Sci-Fi Romance | 06/20/2017

Seven years ago, after dragons appeared in the sky, America reformed itself into heavily militarized compounds dotting a scorched wasteland. That’s right, it’s a good old-fashioned dragon apocalypse, ya'll.

When 25-year-old Claudia Jones gets caught illegally scavenging by the local militia, they decide to use her as dragon bait and leave her in the wastelands with instructions to figure out, um....how tame a dragon. Claudia has no idea what that even means until she catches the attention of a golden dragon and learns that the dragons are shifters and this one is a man...a man who very much wants her as his mate.

I wanted to like this book but, I'm just not into how base Dixon's heroes tend to be. I was hoping since the dragons were shifters they would be more emotionally complex than Dixon's infamous blue barbarians but the dragon shifter hero, Kael, is borderline troglodytic. He can’t remember what happened before he came to Earth so literally all he thinks about is getting and keeping his mate. I just need a little more emotional intelligence and complexities in a hero's story. Claudia was a great heroine though, she gets thrown into a bonkers situation and through it all was resourceful, tough as nails and fiercely loyal to her friends and family.

Claudia’s narrator, Noelle Bridges, originally drew me to this book, she has this slightly raspy voice that works for a character who has been through an apocalypse and she’s got a vast array of male voices. Jeremy York, on the other hand, sounded like a straight-up creeper to me. I don't know how to explain it. He doesn’t narrate a lot of sections but it was annoying enough that I ended up finishing this book in print.

This book does follow a lot of the same beats of Dixon's blue barbarians. I wouldn’t recommend this series to everyone, but if you fell for Dixon’s blue barbarians but want denser storytelling and higher stakes this might be for you.

I always thought when Ruby Dixon said she was NYT Best Selling author she meant as Ruby Dixon but apparently Ruby Dixon is the under wraps pen name of an established NYT best selling author. All this to say is my guess is that Ruby Dixon is Kristen Ashley because of the alpha heroes and I think she knows the self-pub game well enough to get covers like these designed.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Seduced By The Badge by Deborah Fletcher Mello

Rating: ★★★ | 288 pages | Harlequin | Romantic Suspense | 06/01/2018 | Pre-order 
or Purchase now at Harlequin.com Fair warning, there are some mild depictions and mentions of child abuse and assault, so proceed with caution.

Detective Armstrong Black and the Chicago P.D. gest a dose of Southern hospitality when Danni Winstead, one of Atlanta's best, goes undercover to infiltrate a dangerous human trafficking ring (as you do in romance . . .seriously, why is it always trafficking ?) in the heart of The Windy City. The closer she gets to a break in the case the closer she is drawn to the indomitable Chicago detective.

This is a very plotty suspense novel which is exactly my thing, Armstrong and Danni's attraction takes a back seat to Danni's deep undercover work, which was enough to keep me flipping the pages. She quickly befriends a young girl caught on the fringes of the human trafficking ring and lets herself be lured into the dangerous lifestyle. With that being said I found it a little hard to believe that everyone just believes this 34-year-old detective is a teenager. She doesn't even initiate the lie... people just assume she's a teenager. . .all the time. Who is she, Bianca Lawson ?

Danni owns this story while Armstrong hangs out on the periphery doing his investigating thing. He comes from an influential law family; his mother is a judge, his father is retired superintendent of police and his siblings are basically sequel bait who are all named after famous jazz musicians which I thought was pretty creative.

This is book one in the To Serve and Seduce series. I'm glad Mello, who was previously only published in the soon to be defunct Kimani line, has found a place in Harlequin Suspense.

Hey, cover designers! How come the heroine doesn't have a badge? I know it's a stock photo but y'all couldn't photoshop one on?

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Ashes On The Moor by Sara M. Eden

Ever since I read The Wake Up  I've been interested in the inspirational fiction genre. It's this sort of "feel-good" fiction about characters on journeys of self-discovery and redemption.  I've never gone out of my way to check out inspirational romance or books described as "proper romance" because I'm always like--what does that mean? That all other romance is improper?  I know that's not what they are saying, but still.

Our heroine Evangeline Blake is an upper-class woman set adrift after losing her entire family--save one sister--to illness. She is taken from her family estate to the small town of  Smeatly by her indifferent aunt who installs her as the new school teacher. On her own for the first time with no teaching experience and still grieving the loss of her family; Evangeline soon forms an unlikely relationship with her neighbor Irishman Dermot McCormick and his young son. Both Evangeline and Dermot are outsiders trying to prove to a town entrenched in poverty and uncertainty that together they can change the town for the better.

Ashes on the Moor is a quaint small town tale that goes pretty much how you would expect. Dermot's son is presented as being neurodivergent, something that was also in The Wake Up. Is this a common feature in inspirational fiction?

While I was reading up on "proper" or "inspirational" romance, one of the things I learned is that proper romance features feminist elements.  The more I thought about Ashes on The Moor, I realized that female empowerment and independence presented in a very broad. The focus is on women going out their own and making lives for themselves in a society where women weren't leveraged to do that.

Ashes On The Moor is a warm and heartfelt story about found family and the resilience of a community.

Check out the audio review at AudioFile Magazine

Can I just say I like the unique way inspirational romance covers present themselves? Unlike traditional romance, they generally feature period-specific dresses that appear more accurate along with warm colors and detailed backgrounds.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

6 Hot Royal Romances We Want to Crown Queen

It’s Harry and Meghan’s wedding weekend and we’ve put together a list of royal romances because...well...everyone else is doing it!

Not only is this a royal romance it’s also a mature romance. The crown prince of a fictional Caribbean island has seen his children paired off and is now looking for a love of his own. 

                          The Prince by Katharine Ashe

An exiled prince and talented portrait artist falls  for a promising female surgeon masquerading as a man in Regency-era Scotland

                           The Princess Trap by Talia Hibbert

After getting caught by the paparazzi in a compromising position, a prince and his one night stand have to play fake fiances for one year.

When Dahlia decided to live life to the fullest she didn’t think that would include carrying the baby of a prince. Which means it’s secret royal baby time.

The last thing this Baltic straight-laced modern day warrior prince expects is to fall for an intriguing American girl.

These aren’t technically princess or royalty books but each book in this humorous contemporary series about three friends reclaiming their love lives is based on fairytale princesses.