Sunday, March 11, 2018

A Princess In Theory By Alyssa Cole

Rating: ★★★★ | 354 pages | Avon | Contemporary / Royalty | 2/27/2018 

A Princess In Theory is a humorous and delightful  kick-off to Alyssa Cole's Reluctant Royals series. Naledi Smith has a ton to juggle between grad school, lab work and waitressing--the last thing she needs is to get caught up with Jamal, the cute guy at work who just happens to be her new neighbor.

... except Jamal isn't who he say he is, he is actually Prince Thabsio, the crown prince of Thesolo who has gone undercover to meet the girl he was bethored to as a child. Thabsio gets more than he bargained for with Naledi --- but can he tell her who he really is before it's too late ?

In a lot of ways this book was exactly what I thought it would be, but I wasn't expecting this book to be so funny ! A lot of the initial humor comes from Thabiso's early interactions with Ledi. It's this comedy of manners as he tries to be blend in as a regular American guy. It hits all the moments you want to see in a romance like this and is filled with memorable side characters.

I also like that Alyssa Cole threw in cute little expys for real life things like there is a food delivery service called "Yellow Spoon" and "Instaphoto" is a popular social media platform . I gather these are going to keep showing up in the wold of these books. I'm also pretty sure Regina's , Ledi's best friend's sister, website GirlWithGlasses is an expy of BlackGirlNerds ! I hope Regina gets to be the heroine of a book.

As you can imagine when you have a hero lying to a heroine you want a good grovel, and don't worry we get a pretty good one here.Look, I'm going to be honest,  the book didn't completely land the ending. There was an intrigue plot that popped up and was really easy to figure out. I really just wanted was more of the cute Brooklyn love story from the first half of the book.

So, if you're looking for a book that features STEM, African Royalty and female characters who are crushin' it--and you've already seen Black Panther five times--A Princess In Theory is everything you want, and that is a fact ! 

*ARC received for review

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Knocked Up Plan by Lauren Blakely

Rating: |  6/23/2017 | 302 pages | Self-Published  | Contemporary | Standalone

I’ve been reading a lot of traditionally published romance as part of Avon Addicts and wanted to break it up with something indie and a little zany so when this came through on my library holds I snapped it up.

30-year-old Nicole Powers thinks she is immune to love but she is ready to become a single mom by choice and wants her co-worker Ryder Lockhart as her sperm donor. Ryder and Nicole are the resident dating and intimacy experts at a media conglomerate and decide they’re both mature enough to forgo the clinics and stirrups, draw up a contract of their own and do things the old fashioned way.

This book is not actually as cray as I thought it would be. It turned out to be a down-to-earth, well written, funny story with a sweet slow burn romance that just kind of sneaks up on you.

I think Blakely made some really great choices with her characters, particularly with the hero. Ryder wrote a bestseller and gave seminars to men on how to date women but lost it all when his picture perfect marriage ended. Now he has had to become more of a pick up artist type. I think male dating experts are hard to capture and he could have easily come off as a creep but Blakely makes it work.

Ryder and Nicole communicate using humor and I got so many rom com vibes from this book. I’m so mad Hallmark would probably never touch it because of the plot so I need you to come through Lifetime.

Lauren Blakely originally  caught my eye as an author because some of her covers are constantly doing the most to lure readers in.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Whiskey Sharp: Unraveled by Lauren Dane (Whiskey Sharp #1)

Rating: +.5 | 1/30/2018 | 384 pages | Harlequin | Contemporary | Whiskey Sharp #1

After Maybe Dolan's older sister survives a horrific ordeal they move to Seattle for a new beginning. With the referral from their neighbor Maybe applies for a job at Whiskey Sharp, a downtown barber shop and whiskey bar. The proprietor, Russian immigrant Alexsei Petrov, isn’t sure the spirited,chatty girl with a lip ring and punk rock attitude is a right fit for his business. But two years later Maybe’s made a place for herself in the shop and and now that Alexsei’s engagement is over he wonders if she can also find a place in his heart.

I really like Lauren Dane, when I first started reading romance she was one of the few white authors including heroines of color into her series and I really liked the interview she gave on Smart Podcasts, Trashy Books about female friendships in romance but, woo, this romance just did not work for me. Dane had this tendency to have these dense emotional internal dialogues that straight up bored me at some moments.

I love some good competency porn and was  really hoping for some rich details about how this whiskey bar and barber shop operates but the barbershop is treated somewhat incidentally. We don’t know how or why Alexsei decided to open the shop or get into how the other employees feel about this workplace relationship. In fact as I’m re-reading the ARC for the review I realize they never even mention Maybe having a barbershop license or why she can cut men’s hair.

What almost turned this book into a DNF for me was the conflict between Maybe’s psychotically emotionally abusive father. For some reason the book doesn’t reveal Maybe’s sister’s entire backstory until 43% so I won’t say too much, but basically her  Dad is mad at Maybe for taking her older sister away from them. He was just straight up evil to Maybe and there are several scenes of him being verbally abusive towards her and after a while it wasn’t enjoyable to read and the scenes never lead to anything.

All that said Dane does deliver on what she preaches about female friendships, there is a lot of female characters checking in on each other and  Maybe and her sister have a great relationship but I think Dane is more interested in her character’s deep emotional inventories as a writer than I am as a reader.

The first book in the Whiskey Sharp series went a little sour for me and not in a good way.

*ARC received from NetGalley

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Irresistibly Yours by Laruen Layne (Oxford #1)

Rating: ★★★ +.5  | 8 hours 4 minutes  | Loveswept | Contemporary | 10/31/2017 | Buy Now !

Irresistibly Yours is a quintessential New York City romantic comedy ! Oxford magazine's  sports section only has room for one editor, so it's veteran NYC playboy sports writer  Cole Sharpe versus the pint-sized plucky Penelope Pope, whose had to work twice as  hard to prove she's just as good as the guys.

To be perfectly honest I have a tendency to avoid romance novels about office romances and journalists. The former because I'm always sure half of what happens in these offices would be sexual harassment IRL and the latter  because I majored in journalism and can pretty confidently say there is now way these freelance sports writers could afford Manhattan apartments by themselves and sure, Jan a print magazine is going to expand in this day and age.

Okay, so with that said on Book Riot's new When In Romance podcast they talked about how some of the best romantic comedy is being written in romance novels and we need to make room on this shelf for Lauren Layne, because when Penelope and Cole get thrown a curve ball and find themselves working side by side; their shared love of sports turns into a tricky office romance with a a humorous cast of co-workers and  amily making sure they don't strike out !

I know nothing about  The Sportsballs, but Penelope an Cole Sharpe passion for sports is infectious. It was fun seeing them interact with the rest of the Oxford crew and the book starts off with a ton of tension but the plot sort of comes and goes. Still, I'd  I jump back into this world when I need something fresh, light and fun.

This is a character driven story and audiobook narrator Lucy Malone is all about it. Penelope is described as small and enthusiastic and Malone's voice for her is perfect. Malone had her work cut out for her because Oxford is a spin-off  from Layne's Stiletto series so there are a ton of former characters for Malone to differentiate and she nails it. I can't wait to check out more of her work.

An entertaining home run for fans of messy and complicated romance that isn't a afraid to bring it with the laughs.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

A Duke in Shining Armor by Loretta Chase

Rating: ★+.5 | 388 pages | Avon | Historical | Difficult Dukes #1  | Buy Now !

Voted Most Boring Girl of the Season 7 years in a row, the bookish, bespectacled 26-year-old Lady Olympia Hightower was looking spinsterhood right in the face before the Duke of Ashmont  asked her hand in marriage. She should be ecstatic on her wedding day but instead she finds herself drunk and jumping out the window with the best man (for lack of a better term) Hugh Ancaster, Duke of Ripley right on her heels.

Ripley’s plan is to accompany Lady Olympia to  a safe place where she can work out her bridal nerves, but mishap and misadventure follow the pair as they take an impromptu trip up the English countryside. Lady Olympia experiences passion she's never felt before at Ripley's most innocent touch and  Ripley is terrified to find himself falling in love with his best friend’s bride.

Chase develops a playful, witty and swoony-worthy romance between Lady Olympia and Ripley that was a joy to read. Chase doesn’t write super spicy so she has to find other ways to develop her relationships which really appealed to me. I like the impromptu road trip aspect in a Regency because it creates  so many obstacles for the characters. Finding clothes, food and board without planning ahead is a lot harder during the Regency era.

Shout out to Chase’s attention to historical detail, in the back of the book Chase has a bibliography explaining a few aspects of the book including the special licensees you needed back in the day to get married in a house and not a church. They are such small details that I wouldn’t have thought to question but I appreciate her pointing them out.

I imagine the rest of the books in this series will follow Ripley's friends, known as the Dis-Grace’s (who seem like lowkey Regency-era Paul brothers)  but Chase is also weaving in some other background plotlines so I think this is a great series to get in the ground floor of while it's just starting. 

A Duke in Shining Armor is a great kickoff to a new series with  a charming romance and a dash of good old fashioned mischief and mayhem.

*Book received as part of the Avon Addicts program

Thursday, February 1, 2018

A Week To Be Wild by JC Harroway

Rating: ★★★ | 320 pages | Harlequin | Contemporary | 02/02/2018 | Pre-order now !

It's an anything goes heated power play between  Libby Nobel, a successful marking guru and her newest client the perilously wealthy Alexander Lancaster. They can't deny they are a perfect fit in business but can they throw pleasure into the mix ?

A Week To Be Wild is a fast paced high powered wild romp as Libby and Alex's week of wild hook ups and sexy games escalates into something that sounds a lot like love.

This book is a part of Harlequin's new Dare line that push [es] the boundaries of sexual explicitness and features  "grittier heroes and anti-heroes". It seems like Harlequin is trying to catch up to  indie romance's edgy contemporary romance game.

Alex Lancaster is not your stereotypical Harlequin billionaire,  he doesn't command boardrooms in a suite and tie,  he's a tech geek who goes to work in jeans and gamer t-shirts. Libby is a an alpha female heroine and has as much physical desire for the hero as he has for her; in a way that's overtly sex positive.  I've only sampled a few Harlequin categories and one Blaze (which this line is essentially replacing) so I can't speak to whether the explicitness was eyebrow raising, but there were a lot more F-bombs that I expected to be in a Harlequin.

I'm up for reading more from this line, I mean one book is going to have a Motorcycle Club hero. What I'm most shocked about ? The Dare line is open to first person POV. Whaaat ?!

A new category to check out... if you dare.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Mature Content by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell

Rating: ★+.5 | 8 hours 15 minutes | Self-Published | Contemporary  | Buy Now !

Everyone loves YouTube drama and rival vloggers TrashyZane and BeauStar have been throwing shade all over social media. Beau doesn’t see the value in Zane's hungover on-camera rants about his personal life and Zane thinks Beau’s bland brand of  positive-affirmation-gay  is completely false.

And he’s right.

The always happy and plucky Beau Starr is an image created by Beau and when he shows Zane who he really is  they click in more ways than one. But being together could do some serious damage to their YouTube brands and they have to keep their relationship secret while dodging  fans, drama channels and an ex-con.

Hassell and Erickson have created a ton of  compelling characters in the Cyberlove world and Zane Brody  tops them all. Zane's an unfiltered extrovert with a punk rock sensibility who spends a lot of this book delivering some serious hairography with his shoulder length locks. He challenges Beau's ideas about queerness and they tackle gay respectability politics in a way I haven't  seen before.  When I first wrote this review I noted that Zane has more development than Beau and I wonder if  it's because Hassell identifies a little with Zane. In a blog post  Hassell describes his younger  online self as being a "messy bitch" on  Livejournal  with drunken "rants about my family and people I was in relationships with" which sounds a lot like Zane's channel.

 I've been a YouTube fan for a while and I was so excited to see it portrayed in a romance novel. I would describe the vlogging community in the Cyberlove series as more ideal than accurate. They created a world where queer vloggers and vloggers of color are the ones who get major brand deals and where being your most authentic self is the most important thing in a YouTube channel. Those things aren't necessarily true with the current state of YouTube. I loved the queer L.A. vlogging community created in this book and I hope we get to see more of it

I'm sad to be done with the Cyberlove series because it was such a fun binge reading experience.  There is a point in this book where Zane and Beau are at an outrageous party in an L.A mansion overlooking the Hollywood sign  and I was struck by just  how expansive this series is. We’ve gone from a FOB in Afghanistan to a neighborhood in Staten Island to the beaches of Santa Cruz and yet these stories all tie together perfectly with this crazy little thing we call the internetz.




Blog Tour: Harlequin January Reads

Hosted by: Lady Amber's PR

It's only been one month in 2018 and we are already drowning in books. Don't forget to check out these fun books from Harlequin this month !

Blurb: When a torrid, possibly dangerous scandal comes to Royal, Texas, Selena Jacobs is nearly caught in the middle. Until her best friend Knox McCoy ensures her safety—by moving in! Selena has loved Knox for years, but she’s never had the courage to tell him. Now the sparks she’s tried to smother burn out of control…and leave her pregnant. But with the pain in his past, will Knox finally take a chance on love…with her?
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Maisey Yates lives in rural Oregon with her three children and her husband, whose chiseled jaw and arresting features continue to make her swoon. She feels the epic trek she takes several times a day from her office to her coffee maker is a true example of her pioneer spirit.
In 2009, at the age of twenty-three Maisey sold her first book. Since then it's been a whirlwind of sexy alpha males and happily ever afters, and she wouldn't have it any other way. Maisey divides her writing time between dark, passionate category romances set just about everywhere on earth and light sexy contemporary romances set practically in her back yard. She believes that she clearly has the best job in the world.
Author Links: Twitter | Web   | Facebook | Goodreads
Buy Links:

Blurb: Former marine captain Giles Wainwright had seen his share of battles. When the military man turned multimillionaire learned he had a baby girl, he vowed to go to war to keep her. But Mya Lawson had her late sister’s last will and testament on her side and was prepared to fight for custody. Mya was only following her sister’s last wishes to have Lily raised in their childhood hometown. She’d grant Giles the visitation he was due. Yet as he dropped his arrogant stance and made Lily his priority, Mya’s guarded emotions were swayed. Giles’s offer of marriage to make them a true family was tremendously tempting. But was his proposal genuine or a bid to claim Lily forever?
Rochelle Alers has been hailed by readers and booksellers alike as one of today's most prolific African American authors of romance and women's fiction.
With more than sixty titles and nearly two million copies of her novels in print, Ms. Alers is a regular on the Waldenbooks, Borders and Essence bestseller lists, regularly chosen by Black Expression Book Club, and has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Emma Award, Vivian Stephens Award for Excellence in Romance Writing, the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award and the Zora Neale Hurston Literary Award.
She is a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., Iota Theta Zeta chapter and her interests include gourmet cooking and traveling.
A full-time writer, Ms. Alers lives in a charming hamlet on Long Island.
Author Links:
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Blurb: As the reigning queen of competitive beach volleyball, Brianna Evans wants her career to go out with a bang. And what better send-off than a signature tournament sponsored by an exclusive high-end luxury resort? But Bree’s heart could end up on the line. Her partner on the project is the irresistible man with whom she shared one perfect night in London…and never heard from again.
After great UK success, premier event promoter Wesley Adams is glad to be back on his North Carolina home turf. Until he discovers the collaborator on his next joint venture is the flawless beauty he spent an unforgettable evening with more than a year ago. Wes wants to finish what they started, but he can’t risk derailing the project or hurting Bree. And when they finally give in to their growing passion, will a terrible secret from his past and an escalating threat from Bree’s cost them their second chance?
Reese Ryan is a multi-published author of romantic fiction featuring complex, deliciously-flawed characters. She challenges her heroines with family and career drama, reformed bad boys, and life-changing secrets while treating readers to an emotional love story and unexpected twists.
Past president of her local Romance Writers of America chapter and a panelist at the 2017 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Reese is an advocate for the romance genre and diversity in fiction.
Author Links:

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Beyond Scandal and Desire by Lorraine Heath Review + ARC Giveaway !

Scroll down to enter to win an advanced reader's copy of Beyond Scandal and Desire ! 

Rating: ★★★ | 384 pages | Avon | Historical Romance | 1/30/2018 | Buy now !

*Trigger Warning: discussion of infanticide and sexual assault

So first of all, Mick Trewlove is just about as uncommon a historical  hero name as you can get. Which is all well and good because he's no hero. Born illegitimate and abandoned he is saved by the impoverished widow takes mercy on him and a gaggle of other illegitimate children, creating the hodge podge family Mick would do anything for.

 In his thirty one years Mick has come up in the world. He's gone from collecting dust, to making bricks, to now building glorious hotels with said bricks. Now he's out for revenge on the duke who cast him aside. He wants to take everything, including the duke's beautiful young orphaned ward Lady Aslyn who has a burning desire for something she isn't sure she'll find in her fiance.

I  like a good Victorian romance novel where characters can be more than just born and bred aristocracy. Trewlove is self made, industrious and a little rough around he edges. Lady Aslyn and Mick's attraction is forbidden by society because Mick and his siblings (ahem sequel bait)  are illegitimate  and the politics of legitimacy sets up a lot of the tension in this book.

When you have a  hero using the heroine for revenge you generally want there to be a good grovel, I was waiting for it but it never quite came, but I think the devastating twist ending (slightly based on a true story) was more than enough for Mick to deserve his HEA.

Oh, a beard. Did I mention out hero has like a full on beard ? I can't say I've come across that in a historical before, and I'm actually disappointed  the cover didn't go full on Captain Beard. Also, I just could not unsee that Mick was a wealthy real estate developer who puts his names on the hotels he builds. Just throwing it out there.

Aslyn is technically engaged when she and Mick begin spending time together, and I know some readers will see this as cheating but it didn't really bother me. Speaking of Aslyn's  fiance, he could have so easily been a Disposable Fiance. He has a big drinking and gambling problem but instead of it being used as a plot device to make him a villain, it's treated like an actual problem that he needs to fight and I like that Aslyn and Mick both want to support him.

A dark side of British politics gets played out against a sweeping romance with full characters and unbeatable odds.

The next book is about Mick's adopted sister, Gillie, who is a  tomboy and tavern owner who helps an injured duke find his missing bride. GIVE IT TO ME NOW. Dat COVER

*ARC received from K.E via Avon Addicts 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Stay Close (For You) by Alexa Riley

Rating: unrated | 46 pages | Carina Press | Contemporary | 7/17/2017 | Buy Now !

Stay Close  is spin-off series featuring the daughter of the hero/heroine in , His Alone, book two of Alexa Riley's For Her series. I've heard a lot about Alex Riley from the Scandalicous and The Nerd Herd  podcast and I was curious to give her a go. . . also this was free. Going in I understood that the age gap between high school senior Penelope and the Russian bodyguard, Ivan, hired to protect her wasn't going to be my thing. But when I began to understand that Alexa Riley is about "insta-love, over-the-top, sweet, and cheesy love stories that don’t take all year to read" I got what they were doing here.

I can see why the characters went from meeting to insta-love in like a week, but I wasn't expecting it to  veer towards extreme heteronormativity where the hero is the dark and brooding strong protector (who does pull ups on a metal pole cause he's a MAN) and the heroine's best quality is that she is pure and innocent. Penelope cooking and serving Ivan breakfast (and technically lunch, why yes he joins her for lunch AT HER HIGH SCHOOL) endears her to him. She's pretty, smart and eventually decides to become a stay at home mom. It's not my type of romance, but I get it.

But see there is this one scene.

To set it up, Ivan is bringing Penelope and her twin sister back home after they snuck out. Ivan and Penelope sleep together for the first time (Ivan lives in the  guest house out back), Ivan wakes up super early, asks Penelope's mom for permission to marry her, then buys an engagement ring.

So, after all that they all go to breakfast and tell the dad about the engagement

[Dad's] attention goes straight to my finger. I make no move to cover the ring.
“Penelope,” my dad says, and I stand at attention.
“Watch your tone,” Ivan says.

I almost threw my iPad across the train. The dad gave Ivan a job, let Ivan live in his guest house and this man sleeps with his high school daughter (who still lives under his roof) and has the nerve to talk to him like this ? In his own kitchen ? Fear not, it just takes a few paragraphs for the dad to get on board but I don't know.

So yeah, this genre of book is not for me but I will say all the insta-love and  crazy-saucenes of it did keep me entertained while traveling.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The King's Man (Welsh Blades #1) by Elizabeth Kingston

Rating: ★★+.5 | 326 pages | Self-Published | Medieval Romance | 1/1/2015 | Buy Now !

After almost two years of reading romance there are still a ton of sub-genre and tropes I've yet to explore and with The King's Man I got my first taste of Medieval romance and the Girl Dressed As Boy trope. This book was recc'd on Twitter for being a good example of this trope and on that aspect it totally delivered.

Years ago when Gwenallian's fiance was killed by Ranulf Ombrier, she was set free from her marriage contract and was able to pursue her own desires; she found passion in the world of men where she dons armor, fights and leads a company of soldiers.  When she and her men come across  Ranulf,--who is on the run from King Edward and looking for redemption--they drag him back to the to win favor with the Emglish king.

I liked the unkempt nature and wildness of the Medieval time period. Gwenallian is a fierce warrior and she is doing the Girl Dressed As A Boy trope to protect her from the strict rules of English society yet all of her men follow and respect her knowing full well she is female; her sword skills even rival Ranulf who is an expert marksman

When the king forces Ranulf and Gwenllian to marry, she finds herself torn between  the non-traditional role she chose and the traditional role as lady and wife forced upon her. She finds her place in Ranulf's household and the two begin to fall in love. Some of the best parts of this book are when  Gwenllian and Ranulf are on equal footing; whether they are sword fighting or  running from thieves.

But there is a big BUT.

So, slight spoiler

In the king's court, Gwenllian struggles to mold herself into the role of a wife and lady. I gather some of what Elizabeth Kingston  is trying to do is have Gwenllian embrace female values and find them as worthy as male ones... but to me it felt like  Gwenllian never found that balance. In the end she resigns herself to being a proper lady and literally leaves  her armor behind to be Ranulf's wife. It left a bad taste in my mouth because she never seemed content with this female role. She kept wanting to hide or run when it came to domestic tasks. Yes, I get it . She's making a sacrifice for love and family, and there are hints that  Rannaulf doesn't expect her to be "like the other girls" but I don't know.

It just reminded me of Flowers From The Storm where Maddy has to leave the religion that defines her to be with Christian. It just doesn't seem fair that these heroines have to give up these very specific things that defined them to earn thier HEA and assist the hero in his redemption.

I find it an odd coincidence that HedgeHog Inc, who produced the audiobook, is Laura Kinsale's audio production company. Maybe Kinsale saw they shared the same sensibility of sacrifice in their heroines ?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

22 Of Our Favorite Punny Romance Titles

Some readers might pick up a romance novel because it has an amazing cover image, but sometimes it's hard to resist a title that's having a little pun.

Song Titles

TV Shows/Movie

Earl, Please

  • The Earl Is Mine  -  A lady escapes am arranged marriage with the help of an old friend.
  • Good Earl Gone Bad - An earl takes a gamble on his new wife who is charged with murder.
  • My Brown-Eyed Earl - a reformed earl falls for a governess with a tragic past.
  • I Kissed An Earl - A mischievous lady seeks out non-traditional earl to help find her brother.
  • Kiss The Earl -  A modern day comic book artist  is transported to Regency England.
  • This Earl Is On Fire - A sheltered woman is drawn to a mysterious man with a lost memory.

I See What You Did There

Which one is your favorite ?