Monday, December 31, 2018

Black Romance Novellas

I finished off my romance reading year with these two novellas featuring Black characters. I think we can forget there is so much diversity within capital D  Diversity and these two novellas showcase the diversity in Black romance with each character being from a different part of the diaspora.

Former exotic dancer Cinnamon “Cin” Bradley danced her way through graduate school and now that she has her degree she’s ready for her second act. With her mother and infant daughter by her side, she’s got everything--including the eye of Landry Augistin, the handsome Creole landscaper working on her new house.

I just gobbled this book up! CCJ delivers another fabulous romance with a great heroine, sweet romance and just a touch of heat. I especially loved how she subverted the single mom/ stripper trope. Cin’s conflicts could easily be about her being a single mom and a former stripper but she’s proud of those things and accepts them as part of herself. There was no slut-shaming and both our hero and heroine visit a strip club together.

This novella is both the first book in the Sweet Heat novella series and a  2.5 in the Connecticut Kings series. I do feel like I was missing some background (like the details of Cin’s ex) but it worked on its own and I can’t wait to go back and read the other books. - ★★★★

I double clicked on this galley so fast when Avon included it in their Avon Addicts digital package. 

When work relocates Likotsi Adelele, Advisor Most High to the Prince of Thesolo, back to New York City the last persons she expects to run into is  Fabiola, the Instagram Instaphoto model and jewelry maker who stole her heart with one swipe and then ghosted her after their two perfect dates.

They spend the day together ticking items off Likotsi's to do list and through flashbacks, we learn that Fabiola's ghosting wasn't what Liktosi thought. I enjoyed this novella, it's filled with whimsy and romance and, like many of Cole's romances, manages to be politically salient. My only complaint is how short it was and it felt like everything had to be crammed in. I'd say this romance is perfect for beginners but I'm not sure this novella functions well on its own. It works more as a companion to A Princess in Theory than a standalone novella like Hints of Spice. If you don't understand Likotsi's backstory it's hard to fully understand a lot of the references. - ★★★+.5

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Coffee Shop Romances: Small Town Secrets and Delivered Fast

I love a good coffee shop--comfy seating, drinks in warm mugs, ambient conversation  and that lingering smell of fresh coffee. It’s the perfect setting for a romance and this week I read two novellas about coffee shop owners who fall for the person delivering their baked goods.

Lisa “Sully” “Sullivan may not have grown up in the small southern town of Sea Port but she’s made a place for herself as the owner of Sully’s, the town’s only coffee shop. She especially looks forward to her weekly deliveries from Bria, the cute baker’s assistant who always brings her something sweet. Bria’s been secretly pining for Sully too and when Sully asks her out their happily ever after feels inevitable. But it could all be over before it starts when a decades-old small town secret threatens to pull them apart.

I super enjoyed this novella. I love Jackson's small town of Sea Port , it is a majority Black small town and has everything you want in a fictional town; festivals, quirky local businesses, a gossip-y knitting club...a female-only illegal speakeasy.  As you do. But it’s not all so quaint. We check in on the characters from previous novellas who have shall we say...have other interests. Jackson is a master of blending kink with sweet.

Small Town Secrets is everything the title promises. and brimming with sweetness and love in all its forms. I can’t wait to read more from Jackson. - ★★★  

In Delivered Fast we travel across the country to Portland, Oregon where 35-year-old Chris O’Neal, the broody emotionally distant owner of the vegan coffee shop The People’s Cup, can’t stop thinking about Lance Degrassi the sunny extroverted college student who delivers his weekly baked goods.

The set up for these two novellas sound very similar but I had a completely different reaction to this one. I wanted to like this book since Albert is rec’d a lot and Jess gave a positive review to another one her books but this story just didn’t do it for me.

I found it boring and couldn’t invest in the relationship. The story is told in first person which is usually my jam but it’s only from Chris’s POV so I had no idea why Lance would be attracted to Chris or what was going on in his head. Chris spends so much of this book sad and brooding alone. Lance is shown to have a richer life with dreams and goals he is working towards. I wish we could have followed him around.

Now that I think about it, I guess this book read like a beat for beat example of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope. Lance was more of an idea than a person and it just didn’t work for me. -  .5

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Nuts by Alice Clayton

Rating: ★★ | Husdon Valley #1 | 308 pages | Gallery Books | Contemporary | 10/20/2015
 L.A. private chef Roxie Callahan begrudgingly returns to her Hudson Valley hometown to run the family dinner when her Mom gets accepted on The Amazing Race. Within a day she catches the eye of the hot farmer in town and decides to have a little fling, after all, it’s only for the summer. Right ? Right ?

I can’t believe how long I’ve let this book just sit on my shelf! This delightful rom-com has everything; a simmering romance, a small town with character, competency porn, the 2008 housing crisis (no seriously this comes up...and it works ?) and all of the food-related double entendres you could ever want.

This book is told from Roxie’s first person POV  and I loved her character and enjoyed being inside her head. She’s passionate, hard working, slightly facetious and yes a little messy as a character. At first, I thought she was kind of needlessly rude to her mom but it comes around. Leo was a great hero and I liked how Clayton was able to flesh him out even though he doesn’t have a POV. That’s always been the struggle for me with one-sided romances--the other person always feels half done.

Clayton must really do her research because I know a little bit about agriculture and the stuff in this book about Leo’s farming operation felt authentic. You find out pretty early Leo is from wealth and literally, the only way you can start an organic farming operation like the one described in this book is by being rich. The culinary aspect was detailed and done well too. I would have believed Clayton was a chef. I’ve read food books before but this is the one that made me the most hungry. I wanted to bake all the cakes.

Now, there is a reveal that comes out towards the end that I didn’t love. It just didn’t make sense that in a town that is described as gossip-y no one mentions this thing to Roxie. Either that or the entire town is somehow colluding to keep a secret from her.

The audiobook is read by Shayna Thibodeaux and she does such an amazing job. Her voice has a Zoey Deutch-like quality and her comedic delivery is spot on. Now, Sebastian York is also listed on the audiobook but it looks like Clayton only gives her hero’s POV in the epilogue so if you were getting this for York you will be disappointed.

Nuts is absolutely delicious in every way! If you’ve read this book and enjoyed it I really think you’ll love Intercepted by Alexa Martin.

I get the pun and all but the title of this book is not my favorite. It sounds weird out of context.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Duke That I Marry by Cathy Maxwell

Rating: ★★★ | 352 pages | Avon | Historical | Spinster Heiresses #3 |  Release Date: 11/27/2018
Miss Willa Reverly, the last spinster heiress, is tying the knot and she’s got the prize of the season--Matthew Addison, the recently named Duke of Camberly. Their arranged marriage is a solution to financial and status problems for their respective families but they aren’t sure what they mean to each other. Matt’s always believed in a love marriage and sheltered Willa isn’t sure she wants to be the next best thing to true love.

This book fell flat for me, there isn’t a whole lot of plot or external conflict and it I really felt like this could have been a better novella. It’s mostly Willa and Matt struggling to figure out how to make this marriage work and if they can fall in love….oh, and um, they solve a crime at about 80% of this book? I noticed each book in this series has a plot turn in the last 20% but this one felt abruptly out of place.

Also, Maxwell is still not great at writing marginalized characters--this time it’s sex workers. The epilogue tries to bring together a theme about female friendship and women being empowered but it doesn’t work if the only women who get to be seen as deserving of these things are wealthy married ones.

I happened to listen to part of this on audio and it is done by Mary Jane Wells--who also did the Duke Meets Girl series. I am really coming around to her voice. I was reading along with the audio to find my place and her narration just sparkles as she adds a bit of flair into every word. I see she does some Lisa Kleypas books, so maybe I’ll finally get to those on audio!

A Wedding On Bluebird Lane

unrated | 11 hours 12 minutes pages | Kensington | Contemporary Romance | 5/29/2018
You know, I don't read that many contemporary romance novels and reading A Wedding On Bluebird Way was like getting a nice flight of contemporary romance. The small southern town of Serendipity, Texas is the backdrop for the biggest social event of the year, the wedding of heiress Savannah Loving and Dr. Chance Worthington. Or at least it was the biggest wedding of the year until Savannah bolts in the middle of the ceremony, setting the stage for four different love stories.

In the first romance Bluebird Inn owner Felicity Patterson, a widow with a history of hard knocks, loses a ton of money and business after the failed wedding. Her only guest left is Tom Loving, a retired soldier and amateur ornithologist who wants to help bring bluebirds back to Bluebird Way (yeah, this is real convenient) but after a lifetime of heartache can Felicity allow herself to let Tom in.

This was one of my favorites. Wilde has a really breezy writing style and creates backstories and obstacles for her characters that motivate the choices they make. I really want more romances with heroes and heroines in their 40s.

Meanwhile, runaway bride, Savannah Loving, speeds out of Serendipity only to be stopped by Officer Hank Evans, who has recently returned to Serendipity. He agrees to let Savannah hide out in his condo in Dallas and as Savannah embraces the impulsive and reckless side of herself she's been she decided to take a chance.

The third story was kind of meh for me, it was bout Savannah's brother looking for a second chance with the girl he left behind. It's more of a New Adult contemporary. This the story felt sort of inevitable, but it was still a satisfying romance.

In the final love story, the ex-groom lends a helping hand to the frazzled wedding planner ...and her precious twin daughters. I'm not usually one for plot moppet children and this romance moved really fast but there was no doubt some chemistry between the hero and heroine.

Each story had varying heat levels, Loving Hailey by Stacey Keith was probably the warmest.

I'm not really sure how these collections are curated and edited but the way they blended together was a little clunky and I feel like there were missed opportunities for crossover moments, and I see that Janet Dailey passed in 2013, so I'm kind of curious if someone else is writing for her? Or is this an unpublished story of hers?

Also on the meta side, I liked that two prolific authors, Lori Wile, and Janet Dailey, were paired with two authors who appear to be prominently indie. I feel like I got a feel for each writer and can't wait to dive into their backlist.

Susan Bennet has her hands full on the audio.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Coming in From The Cold by Sarina Bowen

Rating: ★★★  | 208 pages | Self-published (formerly Harlequin) | Contemporary | 5/1/2014
A few weeks ago my power went out and I decided to read a few pages of each of the um...literally hundreds of books I had on my Kindle Paperwhite and Coming In From The Cold was one that took my attention. I've had this book forever, Bowen is one of the first romance authors I ever read and made me really see the potential of the New Adult genre.

During a winter snowstorm in rural Vermont, Willow Reade finds herself stranded on the road with the smooth-talking Dane “Danger” Hollister, a professional alpine skier. Their chemistry is immediate and they agree to one hot night together but neither of them are prepared when it turns into so much more.

Bowen is still one of my favorite romance storytellers but Coming in For the Cold kept me in the cold. This book was originally a Harlequin e-exclusive and reads very much like a condensed Desire or Blaze.

I was kind of so/so on the romance. I loved Willow and wanted all the best for her. The men in her life keep dragging her down but she never lets it get to  her and keeps on keepin’ on and doing what’s best for herself. I was rooting for her.  On the other hand, I could not with Dane. To get into the details I’m going into mild spoiler territory so…

*spoilers, ahoy!*

At about 40% into the book Willow finds out she is pregnant and Dane freaks out because there is a chance he might carry the Huntington's gene (the name of the disease is treated like a reveal but you can tell pretty early what it is). He's watched all his family die from it and he’s never told anyone about it and he gets mad at Willow for being pregnant when he’s really mad at himself for what he may have passed on. I was so frustrated that he wouldn’t explain to her why he was so upset she was pregnant.

Don’t even get me started on the part where Dane gets  Willow’s doctor friend to secretly test him to see if he even has the gene and when Dane finds out he doesn’t have it he freaks out, calls the doctor friend a bitch and then gets so angry he has to be sedated. Sorry, dude there isn’t a big enough grovel in the world.

I listened to part of this on audiobook, Joe Arden and Maxine Mitchell were both good although I think Mitchell had a little something extra, she’s been added to my go to list of romance audiobook narrators.

Actual image of me trying to figure out if this is a Pepe and Stella cover

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Kimani Romance : Going Out In Style

Like most of Romancelandia I was sad to hear that Harlequin was discontinuing the Kimani line. It was an easy one-stop shop to find books by and about women of color. Whenever #CoverThursday would roll around I couldn't wait to hop on Twitter and see the new Kimani Covers because have you ever noticed how stylish the covers are?

I mean how many other category romances have men rocking green pants?

Not to mention the bold patterns

And the little details like nail polish that matches the model's dress polish

And the shoe game

And straw hats

These are just the 2018 covers! Do you have any favorite Kimani covers? Leave them below!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Book Tour: Pushing Thirty by Necole Ryse

Today we're hosting Pushing Thirty by Necole Ryse and sharing Ryse's playlist for the book. This book caught my eye the moment I saw it because well, I am also...pushing thirty. Scroll down to see Ryse's playlist and snap this book up while it's currently on sale for 1.99!

Pushing Thirty Playlist

29-year-old viral TV blogger Zaahira Ramsey has it all, except peace. She’s built a fortress of protection around her heart as big as her coily hair. But when Chris Samuels enters her life, ready to unpack everything she’s been carrying, will she put up a fight? Or will the scrappy know-it-all fold under the pressure?

Camille Downing has lived most of her 29 years in the shadows of other people. As a top-notch executive assistant, she makes the impossible possible while taking none of the credit. But when she meets flashy and outgoing Jemel Jones, he makes her question why she’s been constantly selling herself short. Can she let go? Or will he push her too far out of her comfort zone?

Terry Baldwin can’t even. With three kids under her belt at 29, and a husband who acts like child number four, she’s slowly losing her mind. With her family falling apart at the seams, Terry decides to get a job. Can she be a full-time employee and mother? Or will the weight of adulting finally send her over the edge.

Grab your copy of Pushing Thirty today for only $1.99!
(limited time only)

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Necole Ryse was four years old, when she triumphantly wrote her ABC's on the hood of her grandmother's brand new Volvo.

Alive and well, Necole has since authored The Birthright Trilogy, available wherever books are sold on the interwebs. When she's not writing, she's weeping into a stack of unfinished manuscripts, abandoning exercise regimens, scolding innocent children in libraries, or listening to other people's conversations.

She enjoys live-tweeting, Criminal Minds marathons, and all things Harry Potter. You can find her on the Internet. All the time. Everyday.