Friday, November 29, 2019

Black Friday Readathon Rainbow Book Stack Challenge #BFRaT

Welcome Black Friday Readathon  (#BFRaT) participants! How is the reading going? It's time to show off your rainbow book stacks to be entered to win a Libro.Fm audiobook. Libro.Fm is a great resource for audiobooks and it allows you to support a local indie book store!

Share a picture of your colorful book stacks! Leave your images in the comments below or on Twitter/Instagram with the #BFRAT to be entered to win . They don't have to be ROYGBIV rainbows and you can snap a pic with your phone or but together some images online.

Prize Rules
1. You must be a signed up participant in the Black Friday Readathon
2. Winner will be chosen at random and  announced on November 30

Here are some of my Romance book stacks:

Here is a rainbow collage of some of my favorite covers of books with gay, lesbian and bi characters:

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

To All The Books We Never Reviewed

When Jess and I started blogging in 2011 we made a point to review every single book we read...or at least we thought we had, until we discovered there were a few romances we'd never reviewed!

Jess's Books

Hot Island Nights
Backstory : Back when we started the romance blog, indie romance was on the rise and Sara Mayberry's Her Best Worst Mistake was everywhere. It was a self-published follow-up book to her traditionally published Hot Island Night. Now I'm a completionist--so before I read  Her Best Worst Mistake  I wanted to read book one. I remember enjoying this book about a proper English rose who bails on her society wedding and runs away to the coast of Australia in search of her birth father, but gets caught up with a rugged Australian. I remember this was how I learned about Pimms and I remember the hero had a real tragic backstory. I did start Her Best Worst Mistake and just forgot to get back to it. 

Why I never Reviewed It: I used to write my reviews in OneNote and IDK what happened but it deleted all my notes and I never had the heart to rewrite it.

A Rogue By Any Other Name and How To Disgrace A Lady
Backstory:  When I first started reading romance I was in between jobs and just reading different samples and chapters from the library trying to figure out what the big deal was. The first two I read in full were a Rogue By Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean and How to Disgrace a Lady by Brownyn Scott because they were highly rated on Overdrive. I'll admit I did not care for A Rogue By Any Other Name. I thought it was boring and the heroine was just trapped in the house most of the time. I was almost ready to give up on this whole romance thing until I read How to Disgrace a Lady. It was a short historical where the hero is hiding out at a house party and falls for a bookish wallflower. It piqued my interest and I think I liked that it didn't take itself to seriously, there was humor and a sword fight. Plus the ending has kind of a brick joke.

Why I Never Reviewed Them: Well....I didn't think I'd ever be a romance reader and by the time the romance blog started, it has been about two years since I read them.

The Spymaster's Lady 
Backstory : My intro to romance was the Smart Bitches Trashy Book Podcast and in the early days this book was constantly being recommended. I read it on audio and, to be honest, I wasn't always a fan of narrator Kristin Potter but this book showed her amazing range. The book is about a blind French female spy who crosses path with a group of high-ranking British spies. They take her into custody and together they move from France to England to deliver a secret message and I was really fascinated by this book that was SO FAR from the ballroom. There is an infamous bathtub sex scene and this book is also infamous for the heroine hitting her head and being able to see again--cause you know you can't have a HEA with a disability. The heroine is 19 and the hero is 26, which I fond a little jarring but whatever. My enjoyment of this book was buoyed when I went to a panel with Joanna Bourne. She became a writer after retiring and she isn't one for all the sentimentality you sometimes see in the romance community.  She was matter-of-fact and down to earth which sometimes I appreciate

Why I Never Reviewed  It : I didn't finish the book. I had about 45 minutes left in the audio and honestly, the plot started to confuse me and I wasn't loving the whole heroine getting "cured" aspect. I borrowed it from the library and my time ran out.

P.S This book has a hero centered and heroine centered cover, which I find interesting.

K.E.'s Books

Backstory:  In 2013 I traveled for work and found I got a lot of solid reading done in the hotel room in the evening. One night I was browsing through Overdrive for something escapist and picked up Harlequin's Royal Babies Vol. 1. I chose this story, read it in one sitting and then never really thought about it again. This was in my pre-romance reading days, so I didn't even know what Harlequin Presents were. I think it I originally thought the collection was short stories. I've read other Yates books without even realizing she wrote one of the first Harlequins I ever read.

Why I never reviewed it: Like Jess said above, I didn't think I knew how to review romance novels. Also, I'd literally forgotten I'd even read this. If I hadn't remembered it being in a Royal Baby collection I might have never found this book again. It is also a super-tropey with an uber-alpha-kidnap-you-and-take-you-to-my-country hero that turned me off.

Backstory:  I can't believe it's almost been two years since this book was the talk of Romancelandia! I read this for book club while I was also in the Avon Addict program so I was just doing a lot of "assigned" reading at the time and this got lost in the shuffle.  I did enjoy this book, I actually laughed out loud at a few parts which is rare for me. This is one of the few books I think about revisiting.

Why I Never Reviewed it: Partially laziness but also because I felt like Jess' review said everything I would say and there were so many reviews about this book out there that I didn't think I had anything to add.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Buns by Alice Clayton (Hudson Valley #3)

Rating: ★★★★★| 9 hrs 59 min | Contemporary | Simon & Schuster | Release Date: 5/23/2017

In 2011, before I’d become a reader again my co-blogger/sister Jess and I were having dinner and I was high-key annoyed with her because she would not shut up about how Twilight fanfiction writers were repackaging and selling their fanfiction Little did I know that one of those authors, Alice Clayton, would go on to write one of my favorite romances of 2019. Oh, and also one of those authors was a little known writer named EL James...and Christina Lauren

When I’d started this series I had forgotten Clayton was one of these authors but from my research (read: Googlefu), it seems like while her Wallbanger series is re-released Twilight fanfiction the Hudson Valley series is original fiction. I’m still not sure how I feel about people making money off fanfiction but it seems more acceptable now than it used to be.

Buns was the perfect conclusion to this rom-com series about three best friends who are hardworking and passionate in both their professional lives and love lives.

Our heroine in Buns is Clara Morgan, a world-renowned hotel rebranding expert who is one knock out job away from becoming a partner at her firm. Clara heads to Hudson Valley to work her magic and bring Bryant Mountain House, the failing Catskills resort, into the 21st century but Archie Bryant--the owner’s son--refuses to let her have her way.

Oh, and like...the hotel has really good hot cross buns at Easter so...hence the name.

The enemies to lovers trope doesn’t always work for me but what I liked about this one is that from the very beginning both the characters and the reader know why they are “enemies”. Also because the nature of their rivalry is purely professional it doesn’t feel like whiplash when their attraction sparks.

Everything Clayton is doing in this book just absolutely works for me. Her humor is broad and silly that got a few chuckles out of me. Clara is the confident, intense, hot-headed heroine who gets developed perfectly as she learns to lean on other people. Archie was more of a reserved with her own baggage but I thought he was the perfect match for Clara. Of all of the heroes in the Hudson Valley series, I think he got the best development. Also, I don’t know what it says about me but I really like books with heroine grovels.

Clayton’s ability to write competency is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. She really gets into the nitty-gritty of the character’s careers and hobbies in a way that makes you think she’s coming at it from her own experience. There was a tweet thread by a romance influencer about she didn't need there to be scenes of characters jobs in romance but I think Clayton is a master at weaving the character’s job into the romance in a way that is satisfying.

Also, shout out to the audiobook narrators for this series, they’ve all be great and added something unique to the series. Buns narrator Elizabeth Louise gave an energetic performance as these two professionals spared their way to a HEA. She also did an uncanny job mimicking the voices of the previous narrators.

I was kind of sad to see this is the last book Clayton published but I’ll be on the lookout for what she does next.

My Black Friday Readathon TBR #BFRAT

The Black Friday Read-a-thon is taking place this Friday!  This read-a-thon was created by Amber at Du Livre and  I'll be co-hosting on this blog, along with Jess on Books and Sensibility and Alyssa from Mocha Girls Read If you haven't signed up there is still time to sign up on Du Livre's blog.

On Black Friday I'll probably be making my way from Northern Virginia back to Richmond, but here are some books I'm hoping to tackle.

I'm not a very fast reader so I've decided to focus my e-reading on novellas and shorts. I noticed a lot of Black indie romance authors putting out holiday shorts so I've decided to dive in.

A Tale of Two Cities: A New Years Eve Novella by Alexandra Warren
Frosted Whipped Buttered by Christina C. Jones
Cherish & Gather by B Love
The Hook Up Christmas and The Thanksgiving Game by Phyllis Bourne

I'm also going to finish these two books:

Tristian Strong Punches A Hole in The Sky by Kwambe Mbalia
I'm about 50 pages into this one already.

This is How You Lose The Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
I'm listening to this on audio and whatever I don't finish I'll read in print.

If you haven't signed up, there is still time and you can follow along on social media with #BFRaT

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Well Met by Jen DeLuca

Rating: ★★★★ | 9 hours 45 minutes | Contemporary | Berkley | Release Date: 9/3/2019
There is apparently still 14-year-old inside of me who wants nothing more than to be one of the quirky theatre kids

And she loved this book.

Going into this book I didn’t realize renaissance faires are kind of like interactive theater and I was fascinated watching the characters transform into their faire personas and put on a show. This book definitely had some issues with building stakes and conflict development but I was honestly too into it to care.

When a bad breakup leaves her humiliated, homeless and jobless, 25-year-old Emily Parker moves to small-town Willow Creek, Maryland to care for her recently injured sister and 14-year-old niece. Within the first few weeks, she finds herself roped into spending the summer as a tavern wench at the town’s renaissance faire--which wouldn’t be so bad if it weren't for Simon Graham, the faire organizer who seems to have it out for her for no reason.

This is one of those first-person single POV narratives that kind of straddles the women’s fiction line because you could almost take the HEA/romance out of it and still have a complete story. I’ve complained about those kinds of books before but this one worked for me because I was fully invested in Emily’s growth. She’s learning to re-build her self-esteem through the community and opportunities she finds in Willow Creek.

The romance aspect felt lukewarm at best. I have a hard time with enemies-to-lovers in general but especially in a book like this when it's not clear to the heroine (and because of the POV the reader too) why the hero hates her so much. Straight-laced-English teacher Simon just read like a jerk most of the time and I was resistant to his redemption. It was fun how for the faire Simon takes on the persona of the pirate Captain Ian Blackthorne that gave me some serious Killian Jones vibes. I was not at all surprised to see him show up on DeLuca’s Instagram.

The audiobook is narrated wonderfully by Brittany Pressley. IDK why I am just now discovering her because she’s got a fairly prolific backlist.

Speaking of Pressley, the last audiobook I Iistetned to by her was the YA book Hot Dog Girl, which has kind of a similar setting to Well Met. It got me thinking that Well Met would make an excellent gateway romance for older teens looking to get into the genre. There are a few sex jokes and one on-page sex scene but it’s not explicit.

Well Met
is a slightly nerdy and enchanting journey of one woman finding a home where she least expects it. I’m excited to see what DeLuca does next!

This book has one of my favorite illustrated cover designs I like how the figures have body language and how their clothing is modern with hints of renaissance so people don’t confuse it as historical.

In 2005 Katie McAllister published a renaissance romance so I’m curious to try this out!

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

Rating: ★★★ | 384 pages | Contemporary | Berkley | Release Date: 11/5/2019

This is the hardest kind of review to write because Get A Life, Chloe Brown was a lukewarm read for me. It’s not rant inspiring bad, I just don’t really have a lot to say about. Talia Hibbert is a romance writing dynamo who self-published her first book two years ago and has been amassing a dedicated fan base ever since. I have so much respect for her but this is my second Hibbert and I’ve come to the conclusion that her books are just not for me.

In Get A Life, Chloe Brown the titular Chloe Brown is a 31-year-old web designer who has a wake up call after almost getting hit by a car. She moves out of her parents' house for the first time and into an apartment building that is currently being managed by Redford Morgan, a tattooed-leather jacket-wearing-motorcycle-riding artist. A lot of reviews of this book get into Red’s deal but it’s not fully revealed until about 80% into the book so it feels kind of like a spoiler so I won’t get into it. It does add depth to his character but it felt like it came in too late in the book.

The thing I struggle with in Hibbert’s book is they turn on internal conflict and emotional literacy. There isn’t a lot of keeping the characters apart except their own emotional baggage. One of the reasons I picked this one up is because I thought the list would drive the story more than it does. Although I do like how in the end *mildest of mild spoiler* Chloe getting a life isn’t about the list but the friends she makes along the way.

The romance overall is a sweet one once they to get over their assumptions about each other and explain their emotional baggage. This is described as a romantic comedy and there is a lot of dry banter. Chloe has fibromyalgia and the representation of chronic illness isn’t one I’ve seen before in romance and I’m sure many readers will appreciate the rep.

As I was writing this review it occurred to me that this book is a lot like the Netflix show Special where a disabled man in his 30s moves out of his parent’s house and decides to get a life after almost getting hit by a car.

This is another illustrated cover I really like. It’s one of the few I’ve seen where the illustrations encapsulate the characters perfectly!

*ARC received from Avon