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Nov
21

Review: Enchanted by the Highlander by Lecia Cornwall

Review: Enchanted by the Highlander by Lecia Cornwall Enchanted by the Highlander Author: Lecia Cornwall Reviewer: Una Rating: A I absolutely love Ms. Cornwall’s Highland Fairy Tale series.  This latest installment, Enchanted by the Highlander, is another delightfully romantic and compelling tale. In this story, we have a retelling of Cinderella.  But like the other stories in this series, it is a fresh retelling with twists and turns that make it wholly its own fairytale.  Gillian (Gilly) has always gone along with what her sisters and father have wanted, so much so, most of the time they even speak for her.  Gilly may be shy, but she is not unintelligent.  She is actually quite observant, intelligent, and possesses the MacLeod stubborn determination. But she prefers not to make waves, so she bobs along by the directions of her family.  However, in trying to do the right thing, the family decides to marry her off to a far older man.  Sir Douglas would provide a quiet, safe, and low-key home for Gilly while she could be more of an assistant to his writings.  Unfortunately, Gilly had already lost her heart to someone she knows her family would reject. We previously met our hero, English John, in the first novel in this series, Beauty and the Highland Beast.  He was Dair’s captain of the guard and protected Fia and her sister Meggie when the village were about to burn them at the stake (if you haven’t read it yet, do so – it’s great story).  John meets Gilly about a year before she is engaged to Sir Douglas.  She had been returning from Edinburgh after unsuccessfully finding a suitor.  Upon one glance between them, the line was cast and caught.  The problem, besides that John is an Englishman, is that he is disowned by his father.  John’s tale is full of grief and heartache.  He has no plans of marriage as he feels he could not condemn a woman to life bound with a disowned, poor man. The fates of these two are sealed when Gilly, stepping out of her comfort zone, dresses up in a different costume than the one her sister Fia had picked out.  John, stunned by the beautiful and intelligent woman, shares a kiss – the kiss that changes everything.  John does not know the identity of the masked woman, but after that kiss, he desires no other. Fast forward ten months, and we find Gilly preparing for her wedding. However, things do not go...
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Nov
17

Blog Tour + Review: Citywide by Santino Hassell

Blog Tour + Review: Citywide by Santino Hassell Citywide Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: “For everyone who couldn’t get enough of Jaiden and the Queens Crew. This anthology is for you!” This introduction by the author very neatly sums up everything most fans of the Five Boroughs series need to know about Citywide. Fascinating, complex, and impossible to overlook, these originally supporting characters’ voices resonated so strongly throughout the previous stories that the notion of the series without them has become unimaginable. So, it was with an inordinate fondness and eagerness that I began reading Citywide, and ended up caring even more deeply for each and every one of them by its end. “Rerouted” As previously noted, Chris, Jace, and Aiden have been favorites of mine since they first appeared in the series, and theirs was the story in the collection I was looking forward to the most. Chris has illuminated every scene he’s been in, while Aiden and Jace have always made me crave to learn anything about them that I could. Serving as both introduction and HEA, “Rerouted” exceeded all my expectations, starting Citywide off with as hopeful a beginning as I could have wished for. “Gridlocked” Tough, judicious, and fiercely loyal, Tonya has likewise commanded my interest whenever she’s appeared in the Five Boroughs stories. While she could have been cast solely as the Queens Crew’s walking reality check, it was always evident that she was much more. As the outrageous—though equally devoted—heiress and sidekick, Meredith has evolved quite a bit since her first appearance, and made a more compelling match for Tonya in Citywide than I initially expected. While I imagined I’d enjoy “Gridlocked” primarily for the chance to get to know Tonya better, I was both surprised and very happy that the pair got the new start they did. “Derailed” As the only one of these novellas that focuses exclusively on two of the original members of the Queens Crew, “Derailed” was the most difficult for me to read. The history Stephanie and Angel share is complicated, even taking into account the intimacy of their larger group, and the battleground they’ve taken up residence on for so long is downright brutal. They know each other far too well for their story to be either sweet or pretty, and it occurred to me at the halfway point that a glass of wine or three would have been welcome. Jagged and sometimes devastating, their HEA seemed the most...
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Nov
15

Review: Sweet Tea and Sympathy by Molly Harper

Review: Sweet Tea and Sympathy by Molly Harper Sweet Tea and Sympathy Author: Molly Harper Reviewer: Jen Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Margot Cary’s life just fell apart. Hoping for a partnership with the elite event planning firm she’s given ten years of her life to, Margot finds herself fired and blackballed after an event for the upper crust of Chicago implodes with dramatic flare. Her only option for help is her estranged birth father’s family back in Lake Sackett, Georgia. Margot’s mom left Lake Sackett and her first husband behind when Margot was three. She remarried and her step-dad adopted Margot when she was four. Margot knows nothing about her biological father’s family. Sweet Tea and Sympathy is everything I hoped for in Ms. Harper’s new Southern Eclectic series. On the “woman’s fiction” side of contemporary romance, the book is first and foremost the coming-of-age tale of Margot. Having lived under the constraints of her mother and step-father for years, Margot doesn’t know how to relate to her southern relatives. Moving to Georgia allows Margot to blossom and grow in ways she never would have expected. The story works because Margot doesn’t show up in Lake Sackett looking down her nose at her southern relatives. She has questions and harbors hurts, but she doesn’t let those prevent her from swallowing her pride and taking up Aunt Tootie’s offer for help. She doesn’t let stereotypes and small town politics keep her from getting to know her family, and realizing she genuinely enjoys being around them. While she’s used to upper-crust, she doesn’t complain about her living quarters or jobs. It all works because deep down, Margot is a beautiful, caring person, with a bit of an edge and a lot of snark. She takes each day as it comes, and although she’s working hard to get out of Sackett, she doesn’t resent the need to be there. Sweet Tea and Sympathy is also a slow burn, sweet romance. She does find a hot widowed dad, which raises some eyebrows when she’s seen in Kyle’s presence. While the lovin’ is not the major focus of the book, the romance is a huge part of who Margot becomes. I love their sweet walks and sexy kisses, but mostly it’s their honest friendship that makes it all work. In the end, I found myself utterly engrossed in Sweet Tea and Sympathy. The story is a gentle romance, but also Margot’s story of finding herself. I laughed out loud in...
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Nov
14

Review: Christmas in Kilts Anthology

Review: Christmas in Kilts Anthology Christmas in Kilts Authors: Terri Brisbin, Lavinia Kent, Bronwen Evans, May McGoldrick, and Lecia Cornwall Reviewer: Una Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Christmas in Kilts is a delightful collection of historical Christmas-themed novellas all featuring brawny Scots.  It is a lovely collection, and I enjoyed this anthology immensely.  I look forward to reading it again this season.  Please continue to see my thoughts on each of the anthology’s offerings, listed in order of appearance. “A Highlander’s Hope” – This story was intriguing. A warrior from a clan and another clan’s harlot find love and hope. Iain has been widowed for five years – a marriage that was arranged for the benefit of his clan.  However, as much as his chieftain would like to arrange another marriage, Iain wants love.  Robena is the village “lady”.  Though she plies her services by her own choice, this is the only life she feels is available to her.  She does have a favored client – one that makes her feel more woman than service.  The complications and heartache that Iain and Robena need to overcome seem almost impossible.  Thankfully Christmas is full of miracles.  I liked this tale though Robena is almost as hardheaded and determined as Iain.  (B+) “A Highland Christmas Wager” – I love Lecia Cornwall’s Highland Fairy Tale series.  In this story, Meggie MacLeod is the heroine as she tries to shelter from a fierce winter storm with her grandmother, some clansman in the home of the Laird that stole her virginity.  The characters in the story are delightfully varied.  In this series, the stories tend to be loose retellings of popular fairytales.  In this one, I’m still working to figure out the fairytale, but loved how she wove the Twelve Days of Christmas into the story.  It’s little Easter Eggs like this that delight and add a special element to these beautifully crafted love stories.   (A) “A Scot for Christmas” – In this story, Dougray has decided to remarry.  Though the loss of his first wife still cuts, he knows he needs to fulfill a deathbed promise to his father as well as provide much needed heirs.  In this endeavor, he invites several friends to his hunting lodge for a few weeks of fun before proposing marriage.  Unbeknownst to him, his best friend reluctantly brings his younger sister, Emma, who insisted she join the party.  Her desire before embarking on a lonely life as a spinster is...
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Nov
8

Review: Bayou Born by Hailey Edwards

Review: Bayou Born by Hailey Edwards Bayou Born Author: Hailey Edwards Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Bayou Born is the first title in Ms. Edwards’ new Foundling series. This urban fantasy is the stuff dreams are made of, people. I…can’t even start to explain. Edwards does a beautiful job of unraveling the world she created and I really don’t want to give anything away—or take away the reveals 🙂 The humor in this book KILLED ME. *ded* “‘Playing beard for your covert meeting beats sitting around the house under a magnifying glass.’” “Well, that answered my question. Wrap his hips with animal pelts, pass the man a club, and Cole would be a Neolithic dream come true. Good thing I wasn’t sleeping much these days.” With other terms like lady-junk, birth cannon—along with a bajillion others I didn’t mark—I spend a good amount of time trying to not do a spit-take while reading this smart and sexy title. In reading Bayou Born, I got a great introduction to Luce and her coterie—and I can’t wait to read MORE. This first title merely whet my appetite for more of the Foundling series. My Rating: A, Loved It About the Book: Her beginning may be our end . . .  Deep in the humid Mississippi bayou, a half-wild child is dragged from the murky waters. She has no memories, no family and is covered in mysterious markings. Adopted by the policeman who rescued her, Luce Boudreau follows him onto the force, determined to prove herself in the eyes of those who are still suspicious. However, there’s more of a battle ahead than Luce could possibly imagine. She may be an orphan without a past, but no one – including Luce herself – could ever be prepared for the truth of her dark, powerful destiny . . . Release Date: October 17, 2017 Publisher: Piatkus Books Series: Foundling #1 Genre: Urban Fantasy Format(s): paperback (336 pages), e-book Book Source: Publisher/NetGalley Purchase Info:...
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Nov
3

Review: Third Rail by Santino Hassell

Review: Third Rail by Santino Hassell Third Rail Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Beginning just after Interborough, and supplementing the numerous hints scattered throughout Concourse, this quick, sexy collection of shorts is the perfect precursor to the sixth book in the Five Boroughs series, Citywide. Having been charmed by Chris way back in Sunset Park, and left scrambling for whatever details I could glean about both Aiden and Jace after being officially introduced to them in First and First, I’m absolutely thrilled to be able to experience this part of their journey through Third Rail. These three have always been favorites of mine, and I couldn’t have been happier when it was hinted that they’d have their own HEA. Sweet and a little bit shy, Chris has always revealed a significant amount of insecurity in himself that felt unfinished on the perimeter of others’ stories. In contrast, Aiden and Jace’s narrative might have been self-contained, if not for the realization that they, too, have more to experience in the wake of a sexual intersection with Chris. And although I’ve fallen for quite a few of the characters throughout this series, I want these guys to find their way very, very much. Easily read on one sitting, Third Rail requires little investment for the insightfulness its bound to contribute to the series overall. And while it might be fun on its own, it really does belong within the context in which it was intended. Each of the Five Boroughs stories has affected me in different ways, and I’m proud to have them on my physical bookshelf, as well as in other formats. This delightful offering from the author is a much-appreciated gift that shouldn’t be ignored. My Rating:  A, Loved It About the Book: Christopher Mendez has always known his sexual identity had a swerve. No straight guy would have low-key lusted after his childhood best friend, right? Unfortunately, a combination of insecurity and overall lack of game has prevented him from further exploring his sexuality. That changes once he agrees to participate in a photoshoot for a queer dating app and meets Jace Fairbairn. Jace is beautiful, fey-like, and in an open polyamorous relationship with his gorgeous linebacker-looking husband Aiden. Once they set eyes on Chris, they’re instantly in lust and determined to broaden his sexual horizons. But what’s supposed to be a straight-forward sexual encounter gets complicated once a one-night-stand has repeat performances, and Jace and Aiden begin...
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Oct
30

Review: Scavenger Girl–Season of Atchem by Jennifer Arntson

Review: Scavenger Girl–Season of Atchem by Jennifer Arntson Scavenger Girl-Season of Atchem Author: Jennifer Arntson Reviewer: Nima Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Scavenger Girl is the first book in the new young adult series by the same name.  It’s told from the perspective of Una, a seventeen year old girl and member of the lowest caste in a leveled socio-economic system.  This dystopian novel is set on a planet with three moons that with their movements create five distinct seasons: Atchem, Talium, Hytalia, Toridia, and Zoetica.  The seasons correspond to the five books intended for the series. The single perspective creates a very intimate feeling with the narration.  The pace isn’t slow so much as it feels like real time, not skipping or jumping over large days or weeks. Arntson’s methodical writing style reminds me of Lois McMaster Bujold, author of the Sharing Knife series. The story is told day by day at the end of Atchem season, leading up to Talium, the dark season when the moons line up to block out the sun in a perpetual total eclipse. Nothing grows, it’s always night, and even rivers are affected by gravitational pull.  In a largely agrarian society, the ability to produce food and goods is significant. Productive farmers tend to be wealthy—if they are “citizens.” “Citizens” have standing and privilege.  They worship a pantheon of gods and approve of human sacrifice.  “Reclaimers” are those who have lost or never had a birthright.  They are not entitled to own anything, but what they can scavenge or reclaim from the castoffs and trash of citizens.  This includes their own children.  Girls reaching puberty are sold into surrogacy and slavery.  The contrast between the citizens and the reclaimers is stark, characterized by have and have-not at its basic level and graphically violent at the extreme.  That violence feels very personal since we are intimate with Una and her family.  Some sensitive readers may be triggered. At its heart, however, Scavenger Girl is a love story.  When Una has the opportunity to secure the safety of her beloved family by virtue of a betrothal to a citizen farmer, she gets to live a Cinderella fairytale—or is it?  Can she fit into this parallel culture for the sake of her family?  I have a few minor criticisms, but mostly, I was impressed.  Arntson made me remember what a teenage, real first kiss felt like.  I’ve been married 30 years so that’s saying a lot.  I read enough romance that I...
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Oct
27

Review: Blackwing by Ed McDonald

Review: Blackwing by Ed McDonald Blackwing Author: Ed McDonald Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: A What We’re Talking About: Blackwing is an intriguing and engrossing new world.  Gikany and Una were captivated by this gritty and dark fantasy world, and are eager for the next novel in the Raven’s Mark series. In this bleak world people are trying to survive the magical repercussions from war with the Deep Kings.  However the war isn’t over.  The Deep Kings may have lost the last battle but they are intent on winning the war.  The only protection the people have is Nall’s Engine – a magical weapon developed by one of the Nameless, Nall.  The engine is what keeps the Deep Kings on their side of the Misery, a desolate no-man’s land full of magical fallout.  The Nameless are like gods – powerfully immortal magical beings who are mostly absent, except when they want something.  The only difference between them and the Deep Kings is that they tend to leave the mortals alone instead of turning them into mindless slaves.  Although being a servant of a Nameless is no picnic either. Ryhalt Galharrow is our hero, though he is not a pristine one.  He was once “cream,” slang for a nobleman.  But after a mistake and a duel, he restarted himself as Galharrow – a Blackwing bounty hunter.  Galharrow is a servant of Crowfoot, one of the Nameless.  He is bound to serve Crowfoot by finding and eradicating Deep King sympathizers and traitors.  While Galharrow is returning from a bounty hunt, Crowfoot manifests to command him to save a noblewoman from his past.  But as he reconnects to his young love, he learns about a conspiracy that could enslave and destroy the rest of the mortals. Galharrow believes he is not a good man.  Maybe he once was, but certainly not now.  Unwilling to give in or give up, he fights and works to be decent and drowns himself in alcohol to forget the times when he wasn’t.  The remembered time of his youth with Ezabeth is both his sweetest memory and greatest regret.  Although it takes time to find out the gist of what occurred, it is still heart wrenching to see them reunited only to know that it is too late.  Between unearthing the conspiracy and the rekindled but doomed love, it was difficult to stop reading. Gikany and Una found Blackwing to be utterly engrossing.  The author crafted the world, the language, and the...
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Oct
25

Review + Blog Tour: Kill Game by Cordelia Kingsbridge

Review + Blog Tour: Kill Game by Cordelia Kingsbridge Kill Game Author: Cordelia Kingsbridge Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Given that I had mixed reactions to the only other title I’ve read by this author, I was eager to give this new series a try—and I’m extremely glad that I did. From its quick-witted characters to a villain that I found myself sympathizing with on occasion to a plot that kept me guessing the entire time, Kill Game had everything I adore in a good suspense story. Although I did develop a particular fondness for Dominic, I liked both he and Levi a great deal. This isn’t the first time I’ve read a story involving a detective and a bounty hunter, and, while there was certainly the familiarity of strong dislike giving way to an improbable compatibility, nothing felt tired or overdone about either character. Chasing down a serial killer forces them to reexamine their own lives, more than their opinions of one another, and I enjoyed being so drawn in by the evolution of each man so far. With Levi on the verge of an engagement to his long-term boyfriend, and Dominic disinterested in any relationship whatsoever, the author incites a more thorough examination of each character than would be possible if there was a rush to an immediate HEA. Whether it’s addiction, moral ambiguity in the absence of guilt, or the pitfalls of allowing affection to devolve into a kind of currency, there’s a lot to consider here. The use of dual narrators in this case not only allows readers to get to know the characters more thoroughly, but proved to be an effective means of sharing their perceived culpability. One of the things I liked best about Kill Game is that, while the attraction between Dominic and Levi is undeniably there, this story is all about the suspense, rather than romance. Just as the killer exists between the law and “justice,” neither Levi nor Dominic seem likely to solve the mystery on their own. In fact, they make bigger strides when the lines get blurry, which kept the narrative as a whole from becoming predictable. Throughout the story, I examined and discarded plausible suspects, sometimes more than once, and was still delightedly second-guessing myself by the end. Already, Seven of Spades looks to be an exciting, well-written series, and I’m happy to watch it unfold from the very beginning. Likable and imperfect, Dominic and Levi are a great match for one another,...
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Oct
23

Review: Hold Her Again by Shannon Stacey

Review: Hold Her Again by Shannon Stacey Hold Her Again Author: Shannon Stacey Reviewer: Jen Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Ava and Jace were a perfect match; young and in love with big dreams of marriage, a family, and a country-music singing career. However, that all ended the night Jace left Ava behind and headed to Nashville with a solo singing contract in hand. Now Ava has spent the past five and a half years trying to make a life for herself and getting over the one man who held and then broke her heart. Meanwhile, Jace has spent the same time becoming a music sensation with only one regret: walking out on Ava. Hold Her Again is another delightful (and probably my favorite) holiday-themed romance novella from Shannon Stacey. The night that Jace walked away to make it big was the night that Ava gave up on all of her dreams. Right from the start of the book, I was all “Team Ava”, and I couldn’t conceive of any situation that would put the pair back together. There is absolutely no doubt that Jace made the wrong choice five and a half years ago, and Ava’s hurt is deep. But Ms. Stacey puts together a genuine reconciliation that had my heart beating faster and brought a few tears to my eyes. It is hard to get over that kind of soul-deep hurt, but it is equally difficult to show honest regret and prove the apologies are sincere. Ms. Stacey won me over with small gestures, while simultaneously moving the couple closer together over a short period of time. And it works because it is obvious this couple never stopped loving one another. “The connection between them was still strong, and she thought of it like an invisible tread that was slowly darning the hole he’d left in her heart.” Ava and Jace have that true love that lasts because they are “meant to be”, and after time, they realize second chances are worth the risk. While Hold Her Again has a Christmas-themed setting, it’s a wonderful gift to give yourself any time of the year. Second-chance, feel-good romances are a weakness of mine, and Hold Her Again is a wonderful fit. My Rating:  A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: Ava Wright isn’t happy to see her high school sweetheart rolling into their hometown a few weeks before Christmas. He’s only come back to bury his estranged father, but there’s no way she’ll be...
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