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
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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.
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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 

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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 ?