Monday, January 27, 2020

Sweetest Scoundrel by Elizabeth Hoyt (Maiden Lane #9)


Rating: ★★★+.5 | 328 pages | Hachette | Historical Fiction| Release Date: 11/24/15
Every year I make a goal to read my shelf and I started off 2020 with Sweetest Scoundrel, a book that has been sitting on my shelf for 5 YEARS! It came in a Fresh Fiction box subscription and I’ve just been holding on to it.

Eve Dinwoody, the bastard half-sister of the villainous Duke of Montgomery, takes her job managing her brother’s funds seriously. When she notices the outrageous spending of Asa Makepeace, the owner of Harte’s Folly pleasure garden, she decides to camp out there to do the bookkeeping herself. Eve’s always lived a quiet life of solitude but soon she can’t help but develop feelings for the rakish theater owner and his larger than life world.

Sweetest Scoundrel ticks of some standard historical romance tropes but Hoyt heaps on her particular brand of angst. Seriously, this book has everything; fatal theater sabotage, multiple undercover spies, a runaway-slave-turned-bodyguard and a Jeffrey Epstein style sex ring. I feel like all of the melodrama is Hoyt’s brand and I’ve come to expect it but sometimes it’s so much that it’s hard to take it all seriously.

The sensual, slow burn romance between Eve and Asa was full of undeniable chemistry. I liked that neither of them were titled and that Eve wasn’t traditionally beautiful. It was also a nice subversion that Asa was the one who had to learn about work/life and sacrificing for Eve.

I read Maiden Lane #7 a few years ago and the world of this series feels very connected. While the romance in Sweetest Scoundrel ends in an HEA, there are other parts of the plot that end on a literal cliffhanger. Since I already have two under my belt, my plan for 2020 is to go back and read this series from the beginning so I can get the whole picture.


Tuesday, January 21, 2020

My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren


Rating: ★★+.5  | Gallery Books | Contemporary  | Release Date: 12/04/2018

I was browsing Overdrive and decided it was finally time to read my first Christina Lauren. I’ve always wanted to read them but I really wish I hadn’t started with this one because it did not work for me. I just couldn’t buy into this story.

29-year-old criminologist Millie Morris and her circle of friends decide they need dates for an upcoming event and join a dating app as a group. Tired of criticism of her profile, Millie creates a secret profile with a fake name and connects with one of her friends--neuroscientist Reid Campbell. To add more complications she and Reid have been sleeping together in secret. So, yeah this book is mostly the heroine Catfishing the hero.

The whole time I was reading the book I kept repeating this Vine in my head:


There was just no reason why any of what happened had to happen. Reid and Millie didn't  have a reason they couldn't just be together. Them already sleeping together is barely an issue in the book.

There was a point in this book where I thought to myself; oh, they’re all just a bunch of dumb dumbs. When Millie talks to Reid in the dating app she says stuff about herself that he already knows and Reid is just like “oh, wow Millie, this girl on the dating app likes the same movie you do, also lost her mom, also has a younger sister and also works at our university”. Also, they are using the dating app to find dates for an event. HOW DID SHE THINK THIS WAS GOING TO END ???

I know the heat levels in Christina Lauren books vary but for a book called My Favorite Half Night Stand the heat level was pretty low. I actually think that was a disservice to this book since Millie only notices her feelings for Reid after they start sleeping together.

Another reason I chose this book was for the audiobook narrating duo of Deacon Lee and Shayna Thibodeaux. I loved what Thibodeaux did in Nuts by Alice Clayton but in this book, her voice sounded a little too matronly and midwest-ish for a West coast professor. I thought Lee did a better job overall, particularly with the voices for the all-male friend group. I think he picked up on cues about the characters to add to the narration that Thibodeaux didn’t. There are some e-mail and IM sections but not so much that it makes the audiobook difficult.

But I’m not totally writing off Christina Lauren. While I didn’t get this story it didn’t make me so mad that I wanted to chuck the book in a fire. I liked their writing style, there were some interesting things about emotional availability and their books truly feel like rom-com movies in book form.


 


Saturday, January 18, 2020

Romance and Sensibility By The Numbers

It's that time of year where we crunch the numbers from the books we've reviewed on this blog in 2019. We keep track using a review tracking spreadsheet in Google Sheets and turn it into an infographic on Canva. This isn't indicative of all our reading because the YA / Adult blog has its own stats and there are books we've read that haven't been reviewed.




Publisher Breakdown


37% Indie/Self Pub*
26% Harper Collins
17% Penguin Random House
9% Simon & Schuster
4% Sourcebooks
2% Hachette
2% Kensington
2% Macmillan

*indie/self-pub incluces Zach Prown and Prosaic Press

Imprint Breakdown
17% Avon

15% Berkley

4% Carina

4% Gallery

4% Casablanca
2% Amistad
2% Atria
2% Voyager
2% Jove
2% Forever
2% Crimson
2% Dafina

Retailer Breakdown
19.5% Kindle Unlimited

17.3% For promotional purposes

13% Scribd

10.8% Amazon.com

6.5% Fountain Bookstore
6.5% Libro.fm
4% Public Library
4% Netgalley.com
4% Audible.com
4% Edelweiss.com
2% Barnes & Noble (BarnesandNoble.com)

Diversity
32% Romance Novels Feature Two POCs

Everything about these numbers feels pretty accurate to our 2019 reviewing. In 2018 I was in the Avon Addicts program and it skewed the 2018 number of print books and historicals higher.  I also think it is interesting that a large chunk of our books were self-published. I don't think I could have predicted that when I started this blog, but self-pub authors are doing so many interesting things.

We don't set out to read a certain quota of diverse books but I'm glad we have so many more books with POC heroes and heroines. The LGBQA number went up by 5% but I'd like to focus on adding in more #ownvoices. - K. E Hamilton