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.


CONNECT WITH SHELLY ELLIS

AUTHOR SITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOODREADS | AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

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.”