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 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, 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.