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 Lauren 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 humorous cast of co-workers and  family making sure they don't strike out !

I know nothing about  The Sportsballs, but Penelope and 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 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.