Monday, July 15, 2019

Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy


Rating: ★★  | 8 hours 4 min. | Sports Romance | Self-Pub | Release Date: 7/28/2015
I enjoy the occasional hockey romance even though my knowledge of hockey goes as far as this Chance The Rapper sketch on SNL and that Twitter thread where a Black guy discovered hockey. I was scrolling through Audible and just started listening to everything on my accounts and Him just fit the mood I was in for some reason.

Ryan “Wes” Wesley and Jamie Canning were inseparable during their summers at an elite Lake Placid hockey training camp, until an incident the summer before they go off college break their bond. Now it’s 4 years later and the former best friends are spending the summer in Lake Placid--this time as coaches. The former friends relitigate their past and rekindle their friendship into something with a lot more heat,

I think a big part of my enjoyment for this book came from the audio. I’ve praised Teddy Hamilton and Jacob Morgan narrations on previous books but together they give a performance that makes this story feel lived in and real. Hamilton nails Jamie’s earnest California cool and Morgan is so good at Wes’ bristly, playboy confidence. Teddy Hamilton has a fairly young voice that I think works great for NA but I have no idea how Jacob Morgan isn’t doing ALL the books.

Going in I was a little concerned this might be a Gay For You story because in the beginning Wes is gay and Jamie identifies as straight and this book came out a few years ago when that kind of thing was common. However, this book doesn’t go into that and Jamie gets a full story about discovering his sexuality and eventually identifying as bisexual.

There are a few microaggressions in this book I wish had been handled better. At one point two of the teen players are fighting and use the racial slur for Asian people and a slur for gay people. Wes reprimands the boys, but they don’t treat the racial slur as having the same gravity as the gay slur. Also, there is a glib comment about the pro hockey team being in hot water for not being diverse enough that kind of rubbed me the wrong way.

I probably don’t need to tell anyone reading this review to check out Sarina Bowen or Elle Kennedy because they are romance powerhouses, but definitely give the audiobook a listen!


Thursday, July 11, 2019

Tikka Chance on Me by Suleikha Snyder

Rating: ★★★★ | 72 pages | Contemporary | Self-Pub | Release Date: 11/13/2018
Grad student Pinky Grover temporarily returns to her small Midwestern hometown to help run the family’s Indian restaurant and is surprised to discover the local biker gang has made themselves regulars. Everyone in town knows The Eagles Motorcycle club is dangerous including their enforcer Tyson “Trucker” Carrigan. But Pinky can’t keep her eyes off him and thinks there may be more to the brawler than meets the eye.

This is not your average motorcycle romance. Snyder does such a good job subverting and even calling out some of the problematic issues in MC romance without feeling preachy and still telling a compelling story.

The POV shifts did take me a little getting used to. Pinky’s POV is in first person and Trucker’s is in third person and as we get towards the end there is no delineation between when one starts and the other one stops. I’m seeing that switch up of POV in books more and it always throws  me off.

This is a super sexy, pop culture-fueled, bantery romp that balances both humor and serious issues in a satisfying way. If motorcycle romance makes you rage-y take a chance on Tikka Chance on Me.



Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Matchmaker's List by Sonya Lalli


Rating: ★★★ | 352 pages | Contemporary | Berkley Romance | Release Date: 2/5/2019
29-year-old Indian-Canadian Raina has met every expectation of a good Indian girl--except marriage. Raina's secretly nursing a broken heart and isn't ready for marriage but reluctantly agrees to let her grandmother start matchmaking.

Thematically I liked this book. It’s about a woman facing this giant life-changing societal expectation and at a crossroads where she has to decide whether to give in to the pressure or be true to herself and face being seen as a disappointment. I do think the pressure put on women to be married or having kids by 30 is a real thing and an interesting topic to explore but wow, the execution of it in this was so clunky and just plain weird.

This book, which originally came out in the UK last year as The Arrangements, is marketed as a rom com but I’d argue it’s not. A surprisingly large part of the book is Raina pretending to come out as a lesbian to get her grandmother off her back. Now, this could be a  type of comedy but when a scared closeted teen confides in Raina because he sees himself in her it stops being funny.

Our hero Asher is a white Canadian who is friends with Raina's best friend’s fiance only shows up in about 3-4 scenes but you could literally remove him altogether and the book would still work...which makes this book not feel like a romance to me.

The Matchmaker’s List is more of a coming of age drama than romance but the execution wasn’t a match for me.








Now, I’m going to do a rant about covers. I love illustrated covers aesthetically but most of the time they tell you nothing about what is in the book. The US cover of this book makes it look like it’s about a girl being wooed by three men when really we get through the titular “matchmaker list” in the first 20% of the book,  and the eventual love interest spends most of the book shaming her and the other half thinking she is a lesbian. He never woos her.

Also, I have yet to find an illustrated cover that tells you anything about a romance's heat level. There is no sex on the page in this book, which is what I think is the expectation of a cover like this but it is not usually the case like with The Kiss Quotient or Fix It Up.

I like Avon and Bailey but this book almost looks YA and Bailey is definitely NOT for a YA audience. 

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Writing Her In by Holley Trent




Rating: ★★ | 224 pages | Carina Press | Contemporary Romance | Release Date: 03/26/2019

When bestselling mystery writer Stacia Leonard gets an unexpected DM from Adrien Valliere, her book’s cover model, the last thing she expects is an indecent proposal of sorts. Adrien's wife, Dara, doesn’t experience sexual attraction to him so they’ve agreed to open their marriage and he wants Stacia. Stacia takes him up on the offer but she soon finds herself unexpectedly drawn to  Dara--a sheltered artist raised in a strict religious family. Dara makes Stacia feel things she’d never felt before. But with 3,000 miles between them, press watching their every turn and a boatload of emotional issues a relationship between the three of them feels impossible.

Well, it's unpopular opinion time. I've seen so much praise and love for this book but...it didn't work for me. I just found it really boring. If this wasn’t a galley I requested I might have DNF’d it. This isn’t a bad book but it’s one of those “talky books” all about internal conflict, emotional labor and communication that don’t ever work for me. I was just wanted more external conflict.

I do kind of think this would have worked better for me as a novella because as a full length book it felt like a slog. I also never felt any spark between any of the characters. I felt like Stacia had more chemistry with her publicist (the hero of the next book) than Daria or Adrien. I may give another Trent book a shot, but this one was a no for me.



I Am Justice by Diana Muñoz Stewart


Content Warning: Rape and Sexual Abuse of Minors, Human Trafficking, Infanticide


Rating: ★★★ | 359 pages | Romantic Suspense  | Sourcebooks Casablanca | 5/1/2018
As far as the public knows, Mukta Parish uses her immense wealth and power to run her foundation and an elite private school for girls. In reality, the school is a cover for the activities of The League of Warrior Women--a vigilante group made up of Parish's 28 adopted children. They’ve all been saved from abusive homes and trained by Mukta to take down human traffickers by any means necessary.

29-year-old Justice Parish has been full of rage since watching her biological sister die at the hands of their abuser. He current assignment is to take down a pair of notorious human traffickers in Jordan, but to do that she needs ex-Special Forces soldier Sandesh Ross’ humanitarian charity as a cover. Unsuspecting Sandesh finds himself inadvertently tangled up in The League's secrets and with Justice Parish herself. I feel like the words on the front cover really sum this book up; He’s done with war. She’s just getting started.

There was a discussion in Romancelandia a few months ago about content warnings and I feel this book really needed one. There is a lot of brutality in this book and while the abuse isn’t overly explicit there is a lot of it and it can be fairly upsetting. I found myself having to put the book down at times because of it.

I vibed with the overall concept and character in this book but the plot didn't work for me. Munoz creates this community of interesting and complex characters but it didn't feel like she knew what to do with them. The plot often went into circles and characters had to make nonsense choices to make things work out in a specific way. The romance between Justice and Sandesh had no real spark and it felt like it was included out of obligation to the genre.

The plot of the book takes some unexpected turns at the end, you can expect a lot of revelations and twists all at once. I don't want to get into spoilers but after some of those big reveals it is hard to believe how neatly it all ties up in the last chapter.




This book  left me with a lot of questions, namely WHY IS THE BLONDE HAIR BLUE EYED WHITE GUY NAMES SANDESH ? We get nearly every character's ethnicity (even other white characters) but never his. Okay, apparently he is named after an Egyptian family friend who was named after a Bangledeshi dessert...this feels like something they should have kept in the book because it's really confusing. 

Hmmm...so it looks like Sourcebooks is re-doing some of the marketing for this series. The name of series is now Black Ops Confidential instead of Band of Sisters and book two had a title change from I Am Grace to The Price of Grace.



Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Cream of The Crop by Alice Clayton


Rating: ★★★+.5 | 9 hours 55 minutes| Contemporary | Galley Books| Release Date: 7/12/2016
Natalie Grayson is a lot of things; Marketing goddess. Cheese Lover. Manhattan It Girl. At size 18 she’s not afraid to take up space and is confident in everything she does ...except when it comes to Oscar Mendoza, the smoldering owner of Bailey Falls Creamery at the Union Square farmers market. Oscar represents a country girl fantasy Natalie would never admit to but when her advertising firm gets an account in Bailey Falls, Natalie exchanges her Manolo Blahniks for a pair of work boots to give small-town life a chance.

I’m so mad I’ve been sleeping on this series. Just about everything in this book worked for me. Natalie Grayson is officially one of my favorite romance heroines, I feel like I could follow her around for another whole book. Clayton developed her character perfectly and Olivia Song’s lively narration just brought it all together. I’m sad to see Song only did a handful of audiobooks and hasn’t done anything in the past few years. She is excellent.

My only gripe is how our hero Oscar was handled. These books are all first person POV from the heroine so it is harder to get a sense of the hero’s perspective but I feel like Clayton made it work in Nuts and not so much in this one. Oscar came off as an obtuse charmless jerk who didn’t seem to have any awareness of how other people's feeling but he got away with it because he was hot. Oscar has an ex and I hated how he seemed to enjoy seeing his ex go after Natalie. He made Natalie do all the emotional labor to make their relationship work. I also don’t think we got enough of Oscar’s backstory, it’s implied multiple times he’s not white and I hate that we never get specifically where he is from...it felt a little exoticizing on Clatyon’s part because his ethnicity is focused so much on his physique.

Clayton delivers another snappy, energetic and hi-jink filled romcom but I wish she'd put more thought into her hero.


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Mini Reviews: Kindle Unlimited Novellas!


Looking for some items from Kindle Unlimited? Check out these two novellas for satisfying romance quick reads!

Be Mine: A Valentine's Day Novella by Savannah J. Frierson
One of my favorite things about indie romance is that it allows authors to subvert the conventions of traditional romance and try new things. When I saw this Valentine’s Day novella with a 32-year-old heroine who finds herself the object of desire of her three roommates I decided to give it a one-click. Frierson tells a sexy, feel-good, indulgent story in under a hundred pages as Ingrid, our heroine, suddenly has three very different men eager to cherish and please her. This was a fun read but I’m not sure (for lack of a better word) reverse harems really work for me. As they say on Wicked Wallflower podcast, I like there to be some “sword crossing” and the men to be emotionally invested in each other as they are to the woman. - ★★★ + .5 







On Pointe by Shelly Ellis
I was so excited when Ellis announced these novellas about a dance studio because I took dance classes in high school and loved going to the studio. In On Pointe dance instructor Bina MacLaine finds herself falling for the school’s newest hip hop instructor---who happens to be her former student. This is my second Ellis novel and I really enjoy her writing style, she manages to build a romance, realistic internal and external conflict into a compact story that moves. There is an overarching story about the future of the dance studio going in the background so I would suggest reading these in order to get the full story.  -★★★








Sunday, April 28, 2019

32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter





Rating: ★★★ +.5 | 352 pages | Contemporary | Amistad (Harper Collins) | 6/8/2010

Ever since Davie Jones was a child she’s wanted a Sixteen Candles-style romance and a Jake Ryan of her very own. But John Water’s endings don’t happen to poor dark-skinned outcasts in the deep south--so Davie Jones sets out to get it for herself. 

This Sixteen Candles send up manages to be a combination of a romance novel, that 90’s brand of African American Women’s fiction and like a dash of M.F.A storytelling. I enjoyed following along on Davie's journey as she leaves her small southern town to remake herself. She doesn’t always make the best choices but I was really rooting for her and liked that she was finding a family of her own. I had a much harder time with the romantic pairings, I just could not root for any of the relationships in this book.

32 Candles is an enjoyable read with a complicated heroine navigating the messiness of life and coming out the other side. I’ll admit, I haven’t seen Sixteen Candles (and at this point will probably have a hard time watching from a modern day context) but I think fans of John Waters will find a little something more in this book.


Saturday, April 13, 2019

Mixtape: A Love Song Anthology edited by Laurelin Paige




I 1-click a lot of .99 romance anthologies…but I don’t ever seem to read them. When I saw my pre-order for Mixtape pop up I decided to sit down and read the anthology cover to cover. In this anthology each short story is based around a song; there were a lot of bops but also a few flops.

The Bops

Say It First by Nikki Sloane (m/f)
Friendship sparks when Hollywood actress Anna Douglas connects with her former classmate, NASCAR driver Jamie Campbell, over Facebook. After a year of texts and phone calls, the reunited classmates go on a Hawaiian vacation together; but neither is sure how to move from friendship to something deeper. This story was like a breath of fresh air. Sloane takes themes from the titular Sam Smith song to create a sweet slow burn romance that is equal parts swoony and sexy. I thought it was a fun touch that the movie the heroine is in is a film version of Sloane’s Blindfold Club series. - ★★★★

Broken Hallelujah by Sierra Simone (f/f)
In this angsty, emotionally intense, scorching BDSM story an ex-Marine is forced to confront the woman who shattered her heart so badly she faked her own death. Told in the past and present this story was totally unique and unlike anything I’ve read before. I didn’t listen to the song as I was reading it but re-listening to it I can totally see where Simone was going. Also...it takes place partially in the city I currently live in. - ★★★★

Say Yes by Elle Kennedy (m/f)
When the maid of honor swipes right for a one night stand the day before the wedding it doesn't go as planned. I liked how instead of writing a story based on her song, Always on My Mind by Willie Nelson, Kennedy uses the song in the story as something to connect the hero and heroine. This was a zippy rom-com with fun twists and turns. - ★★★★

Toothpaste Kisses Xio Axelrod (m/m)
I’ve been meaning to read Axelrod forever and this is a lovely story about a lawyer starting over in a new city, who unexpectedly falls for the young Belgian artist who makes the art for his office. This story brims with hope and whimsy. We only see the characters together for the last half and I would straight up read a full book about these characters. - ★★★★

Lush by Marni Mann (m/f)
When sex club owner Pepper spots Bale, the mysterious man who rocked her world for months and then left with no trace, they have one last erotic night together. What she doesn't know is their meeting was part of his job, he wants to tell her the truth but that would mean blowing up his entire life. This story was so well done and highly intriguing, Mann doesn't spoon feed and gives you just enough information to put a plot together with only a few scenes. - ★★★★


The Mid-Tempos

Wild Pitch by Rebecca Shea (m/f)
In this second chance romance, a college student gets unexpectedly snowed in with her high school crush who ghosted her when they graduated. I don't think Shea quite nailed the short story format. This didn't feel so much like a cohesive story, but like a scene from something half-finished. I also thought the hero was kind of a jerk for walking away from the heroine with no explanation "for her own good". Blerg. - ★★★

Think I’m in Love by Leslie McAdam (m/m)
Kim, Shane and Randy have been best friends forever but right before Kim goes off to study abroad Shane asks Kim to marry him. This leaves Randy feeling bitter because he knows deep inside Shane isn’t in love with Kim but with him. Again, this story was okay, if not a little cloying. It also felt a little No Bisexuals. Now, this story ends with Shane and Randy together and having to tell Kim the engagement is over...Kim is the heroine of McAdam’s main series. I think this was a nice way to write an original story and still tie into an already published book. - ★★★

Moment of Truth by Veronica Larsen (m/f)
I don't really have much to say about this story about a man who has to attend the wedding of his childhood crush. I thought the song inspiration, Say You Won't Let Go by James Author, fit the theme but the actual plot required some suspension of belief. - ★★★

Kiss Me by Lynda Aicher (m/f)
This is the last story in the collection and it felt more like a fizzle than a bang. A recently fired woman goes home with the man who just fired her. I get the feeling this story would maybe mean something more if I read the other books in the series. - ★★★


The Flops

Guys My Age by Saffron Kent (m/f)
This story opened the anthology and honestly, it bothered me so much I almost DNF’d the entire anthology because of it. In this road trip romance Dean, a 32-year-old prosecutor is traveling across the country with Fallon, the 18-year-old college student he’s loved since he was a teenager and she was A CHILD. I think there are authors who could make this age gap work but this book was a mess and this 32-year-old man says things like this:

"....Love is watching you go to prom with your douchebag of a boyfriend and going so crazy, so fucking insane with jealousy, I cornered that sixteen-year-old boy and threatened him to stay away from you. That’s what love is, Fallon.”

And enjoys some good old fashioned patriarchy while comparing himself to pedophiles:

....Uncaring of the fact that somehow, I’m betraying Simon, Fallon’s dad. Uncaring that maybe I’m similar to those men who I put away for preying on the innocent. Uncaring that if a man like me, much older, jaded and more cynical, tried something like this with my sister, I’d kill him with my bare hands.





Your Everything by K.L Kreig (m/f)
This story made me really mad for two reasons:

1. It’s another older man who fell for an underage girl and now that she’s of age he feels like he somehow now deserves to have her. The hero and heroine are both working for the heroine's evil father’s company and basically, we're supposed to be rooting for this woman who was emotionally manipulated by her father  to be emotionally manipulated by the hero.

2. This story does not have a HEA. The end is a cliffhanger that leads into Kreig's book The Black Swan Affair. The story ends with the hero running away from the heroine and this formula is not in line with the other stories in this anthology. To me it doesn't meet the romance requirements and I don’t think Laurelin Paige, the editor of the collection, should have included it.

All I Want by Mara White (m/f)
This story literally broke my brain. At first, I hated it but now it just absolutely boggles me. Mara White’s bio says she writes forbidden love stories but dis tew much.

In this story we meet Marilyn, a married woman who secretly goes to shady bars to have unprotected one night stands so she can get pregnant since her much older husband is infertile. Because you know that is the only way to get pregnant if your partner is infertile and besides, the only thing you can get by having unprotected sex from total strangers is pregnant. *sarcasm*

Anyway, one night Marilyn picks up a random hitchhiker, they have sex in an order that is not sanitary and the next morning she wakes up and knows she’s pregnant so she walks out. Then there are some time skips, the kid grows up and is a perfect child that likes to eat salad and watch his mother paint for 6 hours because...of course he does. Then at the very end when the kid goes to college and Marilyn's husband dies she reunites with the hitchhiker and he seems totally fine with having a son no one told him about and they...end up together? There was a lot of WTFery in this story but I actually made a note that said WTF at this line about the son:

“He knew by heart the story of how his mother had seduced a stranded and unsuspecting hitchhiker to conceive him. He found it troublesome, and at the same time, extraordinary. It was an epic origin story he sometimes shared with close friends

Why would you tell this story to your child? Marilyn essentially cheats on the person the son would have known as his Dad. And why would the son tell other people??










Sunday, March 31, 2019

Romance Shelfie + Apollycon Book Haul



I am not usually a book buyer but so far this year I've acquired quite a few books digitally and in print.  Last week Jess and I went to Apollycon and I somehow managed to come back with more books than I took with me!

K.E 's Apollycon Haul




Ruled by Elle Kennedy 
This is one of my highest rated romances and I had a total mind blank and forgot to take it with me to ApollyCon! It's okay though, Jess went to the signing and had Kennedy sign a matching bookmark for me.

Into The Blue by Chanel Cleeton 
I loved Fly With Me and can't wait to start this one!

The Marriage Contract by Katee Robert
Katee Robert ended up not being at Apollycon and since it would actually cost me money to return this book to Amazon I'm holding onto it. The most recent book in the series is a Rita finalist so I plan to read it.

Nightchaser by Amanda Bouchet 
I haven't read much sci-fi romance and this one sounds intriguing. Bouchet was so nice when I met her.

The Corner of Forever and Always by Lia Riley 
At Apollycon I chatted with Riley about being an Avon Addict and about a coffee shop in her book. She was so nice and took this book off the display and gave it to me.

Wild by Sophie Jordan
This was in my final Avon Addicts box so I brought it along to be signed

Signed by Marni Mann
Her story in the Mixtape anthology left me wanting more so I picked this up. Her husband seemed super supportive and was at her table acting as a great publicist.

Josh and Hazel's Guide To Not Dating by Christina Lauren.
I didn't think I'd meet them but an hour before the signing ended they had literally no line. I rushed out to got this but the on-site store had sold out of books. However, Christina Lauren's publicist, Kristin, was very nice and tipped me off more were coming and made sure I got one!

Dusk Til Dawn by Andie J. Christopher
I loved her interview on Wicked Wallflowers and I am so excited for her new book. Plus, she brought her dog along.

Steadfast by Sarina Bowen
I went to see if I could just get a bookmark signed and she told me I could purchase the copy of Steadfast she had on display! She was so nice about it and we even chatted about having the same clear credit card that is always getting lost. I can't remember anything book-ish we talked about but it was a pleasure meeting her and narrator Tanya Eby.

Kindle Shelfie




It Started With A Shelfie by Nicole Falls
On Pointe and Her New Groove by Shelly Ellis

I saw this great deal on Twitter for a 2 month Kindle subscription for .99 so I loaded up on some titles.

Writing Her In by Holley Trent
I requested this on NetGalley and didn't realize I'd been approved so I'm catching up. I believe it is f/f/m romance.

Mixtape Anthology
I've already read this and have a review coming soon!

First Rule of Hook-Ups by Nina Crespo
I purchased this because Crespo was going to be at Apollycon but I either missed her or didn't see her.

London Celebrities
I could not pass this deal up. For 2.99 you get all three books in Lucy Parker's series.

Be Mine by Savannah J. Fierson
Review coming soon for this multicultural m/m/m/f novella!

But Wait There's More


I also acquired The Matchmaker's List by Sonya Lalli for book club and I won Rafe by Rebekah Weatherspoon on Twitter.


I also picked up these cute magnetic bookmarks made by Wonton In A Million from Michaels Arts and Crafts!



Jess' ApollyCon Haul


When You Are Mine By Kennedy Ryan
I picked this book up at a used book sale before Ryan was nominated for a RITA. It's the first in her Bennett's series.  After meeting her and hearing all the buzz I wanted to go back and get a copy of Longshot but her line was long, so I'll have to check it out on Kindle.

Roomies By Christina Lauren
I did not think I would get to meet them at ApollyCon because of how big they are! But I was able to get a ticket plus their line opened up. I choose this one because it's going to be made into a movie with a Latino hero.

Winterblaze by Kristen Callihan
I enjoyed the first book in this series and since I started the second one, I grabbed the third one so I can get a jumpstart on the series. It's a nice blend of paranormal and historical.

Midnight Target and Midnight Action by Elle Kennedy
Killer Instincts is one of my favorites suspense series and Kennedy seemed excited to talk about this series and how Midnight Action (Which is my fav) was controversial among her fans.

Extreme Honor and Hidden Impact By Piper J Drake
Extreme Honor was a freebie on the swag table and I grabbed Hidden Impact beforehand because I need to find a new suspense series before I catch up on the Killer Instincts series. Drake is pretty smart and had a stamp for her signature!

Novelly Yours Candles, Cliffhanger - Sandalwood is one of my favorite scents!

Next Year In Havana  by Chanel Cleeton
After hearing Chanel Cleeton talk about this book on Smart Podcast, Trashy Books and seeing it chosen for the Reese Witherspoon Book Club, this was an easy book to suggest during my short stint at a bookstore.

Storm and A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kremmer
Storm was on sale and I had to pick up Curse after seeing all the YA blogger buzz.

Girls With Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young
Program Series Variant Covers
This looked like an interesting Handmaid's Tale inspired book. Suzanne Young had pictures of the variants covers for The Program series that looks amazing









Needless to say, I've put myself on a book buying ban for the next few months,  but tell me, what new and exciting books are in your shelfie?



Wednesday, March 20, 2019

We're Going To Apollycon 2019


On Saturday the bloggers behind Romance and Sensibility will be at ApollyCon ! This will be our first big romance event. This is a huge event and the organizers really have it down pat! I can't wait to get books signed by Elle Kennedy, Brigid Kremmer, Kristien Callihan and maybe Christina Lauren? If you're going we hope to see you there !

- Kat and Jess




Saturday, March 9, 2019

The Whole Package by Marie Harte


Rating: ★★ | 352 pages | Contemporary | Sourcebooks Casablanca | Release Date: 1/29/2019
When Vets on the Go!, retired Marine Reid Griffith’s moving company, get some unexpected good press, Naomi Starr sees them as the perfect client for her new PR firm. She wants to keep it professional since mixing business and pleasure caused her some trouble in the past, but when she meets Reid there is an inescapable instant attraction!

I went on a journey with this book. Marie Harte wrote some of my favorite contemporary romance novels so when I first picked up this book I was excited to be back in her world. The dialogue was snappy, the characters were ambitious and complex, Harte’s knowledge from her own time in the Marines shone but then….this book turned into a giant clunker.

There were just all these weird side storylines that bloated the story and never get fully resolved. We have the poorly executed mentally ill mom plotline, family drama, ex-boyfriend drama, work drama, abusive pasts,  oddly aggressive middle-aged man bullies and then they foil a robbery? There are also just so many characters. I’m not sure why we have to meet every mover they hire and get the tedious intricacies of how they work with another mover. I looked it up, none of these movers get their own book and most don’t even have much dialogue.

I was also really irked at just how poorly the inclusivity in the book is executed. It felt like every minority character had a point where they turn to this cishet white man and verbally tell him that they are black or gay or a lesbian. We then get Reid saying he doesn't care they are a minority (which I think is supposed to make him look like a good guy but saying you "don't care" someone is a minority is literally the least you can do )  and then we never hear from that person again. I  also think it was extremely tone deaf make your one explicitly Latinx character end up being a criminal.

I wanted to like The Whole Package but it left a bad taste in my mouth.



*Received for review from NetGalley


Thursday, March 7, 2019

Cover Reveal: Hook Shot by Kennedy Ryan

We are so excited to host the cover reveal for Hook Shot by Kennedy Ryan. Hook Shot is a deeply emotional standalone set in the worlds of professional basketball and high fashion coming out on March 28th! 




KRHookShotBookCover5x8_HIGH.jpg


Divorced. Single dad. Traded to a losing squad.
Cheated on, betrayed, exposed.
My perfect life blew up in my face and I'm still picking up the pieces.
The last thing I need is her.
A wildflower. A storm. A woman I can't resist.
Lotus DuPree is a kick to my gut and a wrench in my plans
from the moment our eyes meet.
I promised myself I wouldn't trust a woman again,
but I've never wanted anyone the way I want Lo.
She's not the plan I made, but she's the risk I have to take.
A warrior. A baller. The one they call Gladiator.
Kenan Ross charged into my life smelling all good, looking even better and snatching my breath from the moment we met.
The last thing I need is him.
I’m working on me. Facing my pain and conquering my demons.
I've seen what trusting a man gets you.
Don't. Have. Time. For. This.
But he just keeps coming for me.
Keeps knocking down my defenses and stealing my excuses
one by one.
He never gives up, and now...I'm not sure I want him to.

Add to GoodReads: http://bit.ly/2RQ7p81
Audiobook Alert: http://bit.ly/2tsr7sH
Audiobook Release: April 30th
Cover Designer: Letitia Hasser, RBA Designs : Romantic Book Affairs
Photographer: Henry Lou
Enter the Giveaway on Kennedy’s FB Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/KennedyRyanAuthor/




About Kennedy


KR W Bckg Verti.jpgA Top 30 Amazon Bestseller, Kennedy Ryan writes about women from all walks of life, empowering them and placing them firmly at the center of each story and in charge of their own destinies. Her heroes respect, cherish and lose their minds for the women who capture their hearts. She is a wife to her lifetime lover and mother to an extraordinary son. She has always leveraged her journalism background to write for charity and non-profit organizations but enjoys writing to raise Autism awareness most. A contributor for Modern Mom Magazine and Frolic, Kennedy’s writings have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul, USA Today and many others. The founder and executive director of a foundation serving Atlanta Autism families, she has appeared on Headline News, Montel Williams, NPR and other media outlets as an advocate for families living with autism.


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Saturday, February 23, 2019

Romancing The Duke by Tessa Dare



Rating: ★★★ + .5 | 9 hours | Historical Romance | Castles Ever After #1 | Avon | 1/28/2014

When her father dies unexpectedly, 26-year-old Izzie Goodnight is left with only the legacy of
his popular syndicated stories and...a castle--given to her by one of her father’s fans. Izzie can work with a castle but unfortunately for her, there is a surly, recently blinded duke angsting it up inside and claiming true ownership. Izzie Goodnight and Ransome Vane, Duke of Rothbury are an unlikely pair and as they try to discover how they both ended up with ownership of the same castle they find the kind of love and acceptance they'd both given up on ever deserving.

I read this book for book club but I’ve been hearing about it for years because of the fandom aspect. Dare creates this enthusiastic fandom for Izzie’s father’s stories and it was so much fun. There is cosplay, LARPing, fan theories and fanfiction. While I enjoyed this book, it was not my fave Dare story. It felt like a bottle episode because we literally never leave the castle except for one page. Also, the grumpy broken, angsty duke is kind of my least favorite trope. Although his grovel is a good grovel.

This works great on audio, Carmen Rose delivers a charming narration and continues to be my go-to narrator for historical romance.





Speaking of this book taking place in one location….I kept thinking this book would work really well as a play. How are no romance novels turned into plays?

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole


Rating: Unrated| Avon | Contemporary | 

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy was a moderately paced perfect little romance to start the year off with, but I have to admit I felt like I was plunked down in the third act --- I needed this to be a full story! We take a short walk through the start, end and new beginning of the relationship between Liktosi, an international royal aide and Fabiola an accountant with a side-hustle.

They have one day together to figure out why their all-consuming love story ended. I liked that Cole explored the eclectic side of New York, the specificity was pretty intriguing. Power and money are usually pretty important in a HEA and I think Cole used this trope in a pretty powerful way.

Check out the audio review too !


Thursday, February 14, 2019

Book Spotlight: Love Grind by Shelly Ellis

 Happy Valentine's Day ! We're so happy to host Love Grind, the last book in Shelly Ellis' MacLaine Girls series. Scroll below to learn more about this book and read an excerpt.



Love Grind by Shelly Ellis

She’s used to baring it all . . . but baring her heart is a whole different story
Down on her luck and broke, Jennifer Dudley long ago traded dancing in the chorus line for swinging from a stripper pole to make ends meet. She’s hoping an offer to come back home and teach dance at her old performance academy will be the opportunity she needs to fix her life. When she moves in with and falls for a software developer with brains, a boyish smile, and muscles, she decides she might be well on her way to a second chance at success—and love. But her X-rated past may come back to haunt her, compromising her newfound happiness and hurting the ones she loves the most.

Excerpt:

Jennifer heard a knock at her car window and slowly opened her eyes.

“Ma’am! Ma’am, wake up!” a baritone voice said. “This is a private parking lot. You can’t sleep here.”

She rubbed her eyes and slowly turned to find a police officer standing at her passenger side window. A frown was on his handsome, dark face. She slowly looked around her, realizing it was finally morning. A few people were walking along the sidewalk. She was no longer the lone car in the parking lot. How long had she been sleeping?

“Is the school open yet?” she croaked dazedly.

She rubbed her aching neck. After her cross-country drive and spending the night sleeping in her car, her body felt like one big knot. Her head ached, too. She would love to crawl onto a real bed, but she had already wasted her money on a crappy motel room while driving to D.C. and a deposit on a basement apartment she now refused to rent. The next place where she spent her last bit of funds would have to be cheap, clean, but safe. She’d make sure it. Until then, she just wanted to talk to Miss Yvonne.

“Oh, my . . . oh, my God!” she heard another voice squeal, making her jump in her seat in alarm. “Jen, is that you?”

The police officer squinted at a woman who was now standing beside him. He pointed to Jennifer. “You know this person?”

“Yeah, I know her! You do, too! It’s Jen . . . Jennifer Dudley. We used to go to the Academy together. We were besties, but I haven’t seen her in years!”

Jennifer stared in bewilderment at the woman. With her sleep-addled brain still struggling to orient itself, it took her a few seconds to realize who it was.

“Oh. Hey, Monique,” she said.

Monique didn’t look like the woman Jennifer was used to seeing in the music videos; Monique’s face was a little plumper and she had cut her long hair into a chin-length bob. Now waving and smiling, Monique didn’t look like the haughty pop diva Jennifer had heard rumors that her old friend had become. Monique actually looked sweet, even wholesome in her pale pink cashmere sweater, camel wool coat, and jeans. It was a relief.

“Jen, what are you doing here, girl?” she asked as Jennifer finally opened the door and shakily climbed out.

“Coffee,” Jennifer said, shoving her fingers into her matted hair. If she couldn’t get a bed to sleep in, she needed caffeine to stay on her feet. She was too tired to put on a mask of pleasantry or to answer questions. “I need coffee. And I need to talk to Miss Yvonne.”

“Oh, Miss Yvonne doesn’t get in this early,” Monique said, walking around to her side of the car. “She doesn’t usually get to the Academy until 10 o’clock. Bina is here though. She’s usually in the office bright and early. You should come in and say hi. She’d love to see you!” Monique grabbed her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. “I can’t believe you’re here, girl!”

“So everything is okay then?” the police officer asked.

She and Monique turned to find him gazing at them expectantly.

“Oh, yeah, Justin. Everything’s fine!” Monique said, waving him off. “You can head to the station now. I’ve got this, baby. No worries. I’ll call you later.”

Wait a minute. That’s Justin? Justin Mailer?

So Monique was back with her ex from the old days. Jennifer looked at him again—at his strong jawline, dark eyes, full lips, and muscular build that was visible even in his bomber jacket and uniform. Justin had definitely gotten hotter over the years. He looked like one of the Chippendales strippers back in Las Vegas.

I’d give him a second chance too, if I were you, Peanut, Jennifer thought with an appreciative nod.

She watched as he walked back to waiting cruiser before Monique tugged her hand, drawing her attention.

“Let me take you inside. We have coffee in the lounge and croissants and bagels if you’re hungry.” She looked Jennifer up and down. “We have a place where you can freshen up too if . . . well, if you need it.”

Jennifer glanced down at her disheveled clothes as she followed Monique to the Academy’s front door. She hadn’t planned to show up for her first day like this.

But I hadn’t planned for a lot of things, she thought ruefully.

She’d wanted to arrive fresh and eager and instead she was bedraggled and dog-tired. She looked and probably smelled like a homeless person. But the instant she stepped into the Academy’s lobby, all her misgivings and sense of inadequacy faded. She gazed around her, shocked to discover that besides a few minor improvements, the school still looked the same. The same portraits still hung on the far wall along with a dozen or so additions. The same inspirational messages and words of love from the Academy’s founder, Miss Yvonne herself, were painted behind the receptionist desk. Being here was comforting; it felt like home.

“So you never said what brings you here. Why’d you decide to visit?” Monique asked as they strolled down one of the halls. Jennifer trailed behind her, looking around.

“I’m not visiting. I’m supposed to work here. Miss Yvonne hired me as one of the dance instructors.”

Monique halted mid-step. “Uh, does Bina know she hired you?”

“I don’t think so. Miss Yvonne said she wanted it to be a surprise.” Monique burst into laughter, catching Jennifer off guard. “What’s . . . what’s so funny?”

Monique shook her head as her laughter tapered off into giggles. “I’m sorry. I’m not laughing at you. It’s just . . . this is the third time Miss Yvonne has done this . . . brought in a new person without telling Bina, I mean. Bina’s the business manager around here and she’s still very Type-A.”

Jennifer nodded. She’d always remembered Bina being the organizer of their little crew, the big sister and leader. Bina always had a plan and knew how to implement it. It wasn’t surprising to hear she handled the business side of the Academy now.

“She hates it when Miss Yvonne throws her curve balls like this. She’ll be happy to see you, but don’t get offended if she’s a little put off that Miss Yvonne hired you without consulting her.”

Jennifer grimaced. Did that mean she was about to get fired before she even started her new job? She was about to ask Monique that very question when Monique turned and murmured, “Speaking of the devil . . . here Bina comes now.”

Jennifer followed Monique’s gaze and saw a curvy, model-type strolling toward them with file folders in her arms.

The years had been kind to Bina MacLaine. She looked as beautiful as Jennifer remembered, maybe more so.

“Jennifer!” Bina cried, beaming. “Is that you?”

Jennifer nodded and absently patted the bird’s nest on her head. “Yeah, it’s me!”

“Girl, give me a hug!” Bina said, holding out an arm and embracing her, crushing her file folders between them. “I’m so happy to see you! What are you doing here?”

Monique lowered her head, trying but failing to stifle her laughter. Jennifer anxiously gnawed her bottom lip.

“What?” Bina asked, looking between them, making her long curly hair sway around her shoulders. “What am I missing?”

“You might as well tell her,” Monique said, eyeing Jennifer.

Bina’s smile disappeared. “Tell me what?”



Jennifer knew there was no other way to say it or ease into it. She shrugged. “I work here now
.”

AVAILABLE ON:

AMAZON


ABOUT SHELLY ELLIS

Shelly Ellis is a NAACP Image Award-nominated women's fiction/romance author and creator of the Gibbons Gold Digger and Chesterton Scandal series. Her fiction writing career began when she became one of four finalists in a First-Time Writers Contest when she was 19 years old. The prize was a publishing contract and having her first short-story romance appear in an anthology. She has since published ten novels and was a finalist for 2015 NAACP Image Award in the Literary Fiction Category, a three-time finalist for the African American Literary Award in the romance category (2012, 2016, and 2017), and a finalist for the 2015 RT Reviewers' Choice Award in Multicultural Romance category.

She is married and lives in Prince George's County, Maryland with her husband and their daughter. Visit her at her web site www.shellyellisbooks.com.


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Monday, February 4, 2019

Syncopation by Anna Zabo


Rating: ★★★ + .5 | 295 pages | Contemporary Romance | Carina Press | Release Date: 4/19/18

Ray Van Zeller, the lead singer of Twisted Wishes, needs a new drummer and the last person he expects to walk into auditions is Zavier Demos. Zavier is a Juilliard trained timpanist--and the guy who rejected Ray when he asked him to join the band in high school. But underneath the orchestra suit and tails, Zavier is a tattooed, Dominant, Twisted Wishes fan looking to get away from drama caused by his aromanticism.

Zavier falls in perfect rhythm with the rock band and as Twisted Wishes tours across the country and deal with rumors, abusive managers and press Ray discovers he needs Zavier in more ways than he’s ever imagined.

Rockstars are one of my favorite tropes in YA and I haven’t found a romance book with this trope that worked for me until this one. The first half of the book was slow but once the characters and backstory were set up I was all in. I liked the relationship between the bandmates and I think Zabo, who is nonbinary, made a point to show the kind of relationship fans would have with a band made up of non-straight members.

Part of the reason I chose this book is that I was curious to see how a romance would work with an aromantic character. Zabo effortlessly weaves Zavier’s aromanticism, Ray’s emotional issues and their BDSM relationship into a cohesive narrative that feel emotionally satisfying even though the romantic arc doesn’t end with the typical I love yous. In some ways, I think it is a greater challenge for a writer to show a change in the relationship between two characters without having one character say I love you as a shortcut to getting there. 

Syncopation is a super sexy rockstar romance that moves to a beat all its own. These books are pretty short so I’ll probably finish the series. 




Sunday, February 3, 2019

Book Spotlight: The Whole Package by Marie Harte



I'm so excited to host this spotlight for The Whole Package by Marie Harte. Harte is one of my favorite romance authors and this book delivers everything I like about her; confident heroines, hardworking heroes, banter and family. The Whole Package is out right now. Scroll below to read an excerpt and learn more about this new series !






Synopsis: Always the caretaker, former Marine Reid Griffith wants to help his brother adjust to civilian life…and help other former servicemen. What better way to utilize their brawn, discipline, and charm than a moving company that hires veterans? But although Reid prides himself on being strategic, he certainly doesn’t plan to fall in the spotlight of one brilliant—and beautiful—PR whiz…

PR expert Naomi Starr is determined to bring Vets on the Go! into the spotlight. But when she meets Reid, it might mean breaking her rule to never mix business with pleasure. Especially once she discovers that underneath Reid’s sexy rough-and-tumble exterior is a vulnerable man who just might need what she’s got to give.





EXCERPT

No way in hell his body should be so keyed up at eight-thirty in the morning sitting across from Naomi Starr.
Two days after first meeting the woman, Reid swore under his breath and subtly uncrossed his legs, growing uncomfortable. Sitting across from Naomi at her desk in her tidy little office, he took a moment to glance around.
The place fit her. Frames of local businesses accented the slate blue walls of her office. Bold, clean lines in her furniture and in the way the small room seemed to be so much bigger than it actually was indicated a woman who knew how to show her best side. And that was to say nothing of the woman herself.
Naomi sat in a navy jacket and form-fitting skirt that reached her knees. Personally, Reid wouldn’t have minded if she’d hiked the thing higher, because damn, but she had some nice legs. The understated blouse she wore under the jacket covered her from the neck down while giving tantalizing impressions of the full breasts beneath.
Sadly, Reid had always been a breast and leg man, and Naomi continued to tick off all the boxes on his “ideal woman” list.
A knock at the door interrupted them, fortunately before Reid got caught staring.
“Sorry,” her assistant apologized. “Naomi, I need your help with something that’s urgent. It won’t take long.”
Naomi frowned.
“Take care of whatever you need to,” Reid said to her and held up the decadent coffee she’d offered him. “I’m just going to nurse this for a while.” Because he needed the caffeine. Who the hell voluntarily scheduled appointments before nine if they didn’t have to?
She gave him a tight smile. “I’m sorry about this. I’ll be right back, and while I’m gone, take a look at my proposal.” She pushed a blue folder toward him.
He looked through her ideas, agreeing with the direction she intended. Yet his concentration remained on the woman who’d left, as well as the amazing cup of coffee he’d been given upon arrival.
In his office, when Reid had asked if he could get her something to drink, he would have offered her bottled water or some crap coffee from the tiny refreshment station he’d insisted they add to the office. It was a step up from car dealer coffee but several steps down from Storyville, one of his favorite coffee bars in the city. Naomi could give them a run for their money with her gourmet coffee, served in a fancy ceramic mug. He’d also noticed the spring water in the hallway in a water cooler she no doubt paid through the nose for.
Probably why her fees were a little on the high side. To him, at least. According to Evan, she had more than reasonable prices for what she offered. Her clients couldn’t say enough about all she’d done to help their businesses. The woman was a workhorse, no doubt about it. They had that in common. And, if he wasn’t mistaken, a mutual attraction.
Or that could just be wishful thinking.
She returned, appearing as poised and put-together as she’d been before the interruption. “I’m so sorry for that. A new client panicked about something we’d already agreed upon then wouldn’t speak to anyone but me about it.” Naomi shrugged. “But it’s no big deal. Now, back to you.”
He watched her saunter back to her seat, enjoying the sight. When she sat and faced him, he kept his gaze above her chin at all times.
She nodded to the folder open in front of him. “This is the proposal I’ve outlined for you. Like I said, we’ll do three months and revisit the terms. But I think this is what you need to get started.”
He glanced back down at it. “Looks solid. I wanted to ask what you thought about TV ads, too.”
“They can be expensive but worth it. I’d definitely like to see your people on television. Cash and Hector stood out on the news, because they sure as heck grabbed my attention. If I needed movers, I’d hire them from that segment alone.”
Of course she would. Cash had that kind of presence about him. Competent, protective, mission-oriented… So long as he kept his big mouth shut, they might make things work.
“Yeah, about that. I’ve had a request for an interview, a spotlight on our company.”
She grabbed a pen and pad of paper. “When did you schedule it for?”
“I didn’t, not yet. Thought I’d see what you thought.”
“Do it.” She stared at him. “From the small group I saw at your office, you’ll represent well. Now, if you’re all photogenic too, we’re golden. We know Hector and Cash look great on camera. Hector is much more charming than your brother. As appealing as your brother may be as the strong type, he’s not exactly silent. A lot of censoring in that piece the news ran on your company.”
“Tell me something I don’t know.”
Her continuous stare made him a little uncomfortable. “Something wrong?”
“Hmm. I think we need to brand you as a family company first. You and your brother, together, would really work to sell Vets on the Go!.”
“My cousin’s also a partner. We all kind of look alike, so you’d see the family resemblance.”
“Even better.” She made a few notes. “So we highlight you three, then pepper the interview with your brawny, good-looking employees. And bam, you’ve already made an impression on the hundreds and thousands of single women needing to move.”
“Now we’re targeting women?”
“Yes. And families, and veterans themselves. You have an original appeal, and not just because you’re handsome.” She flushed and hurried to add, “And by you, I mean your team and your business.”
“So I’m not handsome, then?” he asked to tease her, loving that blush.
Naomi cleared her throat and said dryly, “I think you’re well aware of your looks. My point is we use every weapon in your arsenal. You have fit, appealing employees who’ve served our country. That’s three for three. Now looking at your rates…”
She swiveled her computer monitor so he could see it. “Leo, our data guru, sent me a comparison to see who your major competitors are.”
“We went through this before we started the company,” he said.
“Bear with me.” They went over more numbers, enough to make his head spin. In certain demographics, they seemed to hit the mark, while missing entirely in others. “So you see, if you raise this rate but drop this fee, you’ll still come out even.”
“That’s if this marketing works.”
She gave him another of those penetrating looks that caused the sparks in his belly to start up and dance. “Oh, it’ll work.”
“Confident in your abilities, huh?”
“You know what, Reid? I am. Now, I’ve got the same issues as most women.” Her charming smile disarmed him. “I often wonder, does this outfit make me look fat? Is my hair the mess I think it is? Will he call like he said he would?” She smiled then turned uber professional between one breath and the next. “But one thing I’m not is deluded about my professional abilities. I won’t promise what we can’t deliver. I know how to help businesses grow and flourish, and yes, I’m damn good at what I do.”
He believed her a hundred percent. “Okay then.” He studied her right back, noticing the plump curve of her lips. The sparkle in her blue eyes.
He took his pen and signed the contract, then pushed the folder back to her, irritated that he had to work to maintain control, aware of his racing pulse. Reid was man enough to handle being attracted to a beautiful woman. Didn’t mean he had to follow his dick where it led. “But for the record, the outfit is flattering, your hair is beautiful, and if he’s dumb enough not to call back, he doesn’t deserve you.” He stood before he made a bigger fool of himself. “I’ll set up the interview with the news station and let you know.”