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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
13

Review: Cherish Hard by Nalini Singh

Review: Cherish Hard by Nalini Singh Cherish Hard Author: Nalini Singh Reviewer: Jen Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: Seven years ago, Sailor witnessed a beautiful girl being dumped by her jerk boyfriend, but she ran out before he could get her name. He was enchanted by her beauty right then. Present day… Sailor works hard to get his fledgling landscaping company off the ground. He’s taken by surprise when he sees the woman who has been haunting his dreams for seven years. He’s even more shocked when he discovers they will be working together, closely. Ísa is working to provide a stable home base for her siblings because her “Dragon” mother spends her focus and energy on her business empire. Ísa’s mother manipulates her into working for the family company for the summer where she is to oversee the development of a new business venture, and the sexy landscaper who is integral to the designs. Overall, I liked Cherish Hard. I found the second half of the book highly entertaining and enjoyed Sailor and Ísa’s romance. However, the first half of the book didn’t flow smoothly for me. There were starts and stops. The pace was slow, and I didn’t feel a strong connection to the characters or storyline. I felt the story was going in too many directions – with Ísa’s own life (which is crazy), her best friend, the ex, her teaching job, her mom… It was hard to keep it straight. Plus Ísa was SOOOO wishy washy about her desires and feelings. It was hard to get behind her when I never was certain which direction she was going. The second half was MUCH better than the first half. It almost felt like two different books.  Overall, the story worked much better – Ísa and Sailor spent time talking to one another, time together. We got to see their friendship blossom. There was genuine emotion and a much streamlined story. I loved the pair together and how they wanted to fight for each other. In the end, I enjoyed reading Cherish Hard and continue to look forward to more books set in this wonderful world. I’m guessing the next books will take place several years ahead, as at this point, Sailor’s brothers are too young for their own HEAs. (This book should be considered a prequel to Rock Hard, Rock Kiss series #2). Now that the world is set, I have a feeling the series will only get better from here....
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Nov
13

Review: The Right Kind of Reckless by Heather Van Fleet

Review: The Right Kind of Reckless by Heather Van Fleet The Right Kind of Reckless Author: Heather Van Fleet  Reviewer: Nima Rating: B What I’m Talking About: The Right Kind of Reckless is book two in the Reckless Hearts series about best friends and ex-Marines Max, Collin, and Gavin. The first book focused on Collin. The Right Kind of Reckless is the love story of Max and Collin’s little sister Lia.  Max and Lia are star-crossed lovers, in love with each other, but unable and unwilling to tell the other because of extenuating circumstances. Did I buy the extenuating circumstances?  Mostly.  I have a habit of expecting adults to behave like adults, but the truth is they often don’t—especially when they’re carrying around emotional baggage.  Max and Lia are also on the younger, post college side of their mid-20’s. I didn’t especially like Lia.  She used to be the definition of a “good girl.”  There was some kind of serious incident in college which we can guess at, but no specific label was given, and we don’t get much detail around those years of her life. (I did not read the first book so I don’t know if the detail was there.) From what I can tell, she still is a good girl at heart, but she’s found new confidence to deal with her baggage by completely changing her persona and the way she dresses.  It never seemed to fit her no matter how hot Max thought it was.  To me, it felt like she was playing dress up. Max, tries to do the right thing by not acting on his feelings for Lia, out of respect for his relationship with Collin.  But his method for doing this is to become a manwhore.  Numbing? Yes.  Respectful? Not especially.  Max is a little lost and has some maturing to do. Still, we admire his willingness to come to Lia’s aid at the drop of a hat. What I actually liked best about the story was that most of the book was not spent trying to get them together, but how to make it work. From immature beginnings, it’s a mature place to end up. There were a few clichés along the way and rubbed me the wrong way, but not enough to put the book down. Overall, I liked it. My Rating:  B, Liked It About the Book: Maxwell Martinez I’m in love with a woman I can’t have, and there’s absolutely nothing I can do to stop myself from...
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Nov
10

Review: Perfect Gravity by Vivien Jackson

Review: Perfect Gravity by Vivien Jackson Perfect Gravity Author: Vivien Jackson Reviewer: Una Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Perfect Gravity is the second book in the sci-fi romance series, Tether.  Overall, I liked this installment though it had a bumpy start. This book begins before the last book, Wanted and Wired, ended.  It was a little disorienting at first as I had thought it was picking up where the previous had ended.  We are given a glimpse of Angela and Kellen reuniting since their young love breakup years before.  We learn why Angela felt the need to help protect Mari and what happens to Angela after the conclusion of Wanted and Wired. Kellen is one of Heron Farad’s crew of outsiders that are working to try to make this crazy world better.  He first met Angela when they were young at a boarding-type school for highly gifted children.  It is there they fell in love.  However, though one may be incredibly intelligent progeny – nothing ever makes one intelligent in love.  Though I felt that the blame of the breakup was a bit smudged, something remained.  They still were deeply in love with each other – even after Angela married her high powered husband and became a Senator. After learning of the death of Angela’s husband, I really liked that no matter how much Kellen burned for Angela, he held himself back. Wanting to reacquaint himself with her as so many years had passed.  There was time where they obviously yearned, but also cautiously stepped around each other as they didn’t want to make a false step.  But once they are tied at the hip to protect Angela and save the world – the passion explodes.  Though Angela had suffered and come to regret ending things with Kellen, her love for him had never ceased.  But the differences in their lives pose one large complication to them being able to have a happy life together. This is science fiction that isn’t weighted down by the science, but framed and grounded in it.  I’m not always sure about the basis of the technology, but it makes sense to me.  The volatile nature of politics, shadowy conspiracies and a race to stop the end of civilization are gripping elements in Kellen and Angela’s journey. Though it was a bit of a bumpy flow, especially with a few huge twists (one that gave me a bit of whiplash), I still liked the overall story.  I enjoyed revisiting...
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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
8

Review: Skin Hunger by Eli Lang

Review: Skin Hunger by Eli Lang Skin Hunger Author: Eli Lang Reviewer: B. Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: I liked Ava a lot in the first novel in the series, Escaping Indigo, so I was eager to find out more about her in Skin Hunger. At twenty-eight, Ava’s finally shaped her life into something she truly loves—for the most part. She’s the drummer in a successful band with her best friend and owns a house she’s proud of in a city she enjoys. It would be perfect if only she weren’t in love with said best friend (and completely unavailable bandmate), Tuck. The beginning of Skin Hunger held a great deal of promise overall, and I stopped to reread one or two specific passages on the spot so I could hold on to them as the story progressed. There were several moments that were simple and pretty, and which suggested a stronger foundation for the narrative as a whole. “But it was someone’s life, or it had been, even if it was only junk now. Maybe it had been loved. Maybe it had decorated someone’s windowsill or bookcase. Maybe someone had run their fingers over it every day. Maybe it had reminded someone of something, a memory or a person or something good.” These were, by far, some of my favorite scenes in Skin Hunger, and I’d have liked to have seen more of this kind of awareness from Ava throughout. There were also several secondary characters in Skin Hunger that I enjoyed a great deal, Ava’s grandmother and cousin Zevi, in particular. Though we don’t see nearly enough of him, Zevi is warm, supportive, and strong, and I couldn’t help but be intrigued by him, even with what little we’re shown. Ava’s grandmother is just as memorable, with her guarded resilience, and it was a pleasure to witness her tentative invitation to Ava to be a part of her world. One problem I kept having while reading Skin Hunger, however, was that the single-person narration placed high expectations on Ava’s handling of her own internal conflicts. Rather than following a solid trajectory to its conclusion, they seemed centripetal, circling without a definitive attempt on Ava’s part at any sort of resolution until the very end. That’s not to diminish the importance of what Ava is going through—as Cara says, two peoples’ experiences “can’t be measured against each other. They just can’t.” But, I still couldn’t help but feel that Ava’s POV might have...
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Nov
7

Review: Lies Jane Austen Told Me by Julie Wright

Review: Lies Jane Austen Told Me by Julie Wright Lies Jane Austen Told Me Author: Julie Wright Reviewer: Nima Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: *stands up with a little wave*  Hello, my name is Nima and I am a Hallmark romance movie addict.  I did a little jig and set my DVR when Hallmark announced thirty-three new Christmas movies for the 2017 season.  Clearly, I am not alone.  What does that have to do with a book review? I’ve always contended that romance readers love relationships and Hallmark has proved that modern consumers are not put off by a lack of steamy sex scenes.  Shadow Mountain Publishing has a series of stand alone “proper romances” which banks on this niche group’s desire, which I surmise isn’t so niche, to soak up the actual romance and all the emotion that can be extracted from a glance and holding hands. We enjoy the butterflies. Up until now Shadow Mountain’s stand-alone romances have been historical, some even based on actual couples like Henry Longfellow and Fanny Appleton (Forever and Forever by Josi S. Kilpack.) Lies Jane Austen Told Me* by Julie Wright is their first foray into contemporary romance.  It reminds me in many ways of my guilty pleasure Hallmark movies as it follows Emma Pierce, who has grown up using Jane Austen’s classics as an outline for falling in love, while she waits for the wealthy and handsome Blake Hampton to propose.  Thankfully, Wright does not try to do what other authors have done by mimicking Austen’s storylines. Instead Austen is revered, but this is Wright’s original work. Wright was smart in making her love interests into work colleagues.  That’s a relationship which requires distinct boundaries, but lots of time in each other’s company.  It also keeps it from feeling intentionally prudish. He’d come impossibly closer, yet the only contact between us was my hands on his chest and his hands on mine.  How had he done that?  How had he crossed so much distance and still made no contact anywhere else? Not to put too fine a point on it, but the lack of sexual gratification equals enhanced tension that’s delicious.  It means there is a greater focus on the actual relationship—how they communicate and interact.  Without the need for “insta-love” to justify jumping in to bed, the depth of the relationship has the time to develop in a way that’s normal in the real world. When Blake does not propose, Emma is introduced to Blake’s brother Lucas...
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Nov
6

Review: Once upon a Maiden Lane by Elizabeth Hoyt

Review: Once upon a Maiden Lane by Elizabeth Hoyt Once upon a Maiden Lane Author: Elizabeth Hoyt Reviewer: Jen Rating: B What I’m Talking About: After a case of mistaken identity, Lord Henry Blackwell identifies the orphaned Miss Mary Whitsun as Lady Cecilia Albright, the long-lost daughter of an earl, the very woman he is supposed to wed. She is welcomed by her birth mother and twin sister, and even finds friendship with, and an attraction to, her betrothed. However, after two near misses on her life, it appears not everyone is pleased with Henry’s discovery. Once upon a Maiden Lane is a sweet, standalone novella that appears to wrap up the wonderful Maiden Lane series. As a recent newcomer to the series, I only recognized a handful of the characters mentioned in the story; however, longtime fans will probably enjoy this tale even more because of it. The romance of Henry and Mary is genuine and charming, and I love how the pair so quickly become friends, attracted to each another both physically and mentally. They spend time getting to know one another while getting in a few scandalous moments when left unchaperoned. Of course, Ms. Hoyt tosses in a twist or two, keeping readers on their toes. While the events of the story would have been significantly altered if only the Countess Angrove had spoken up sooner (I did have to roll my eyes on this part), the lightness and jovial mood of the tale swept me away and made me smile. Once upon a Maiden Lane is a delightful novella for fans of the Cinderella trope. My Rating:  B, Liked It About the Book: Miss Mary Whitsun is far too intelligent to fall for the rakish charms of a handsome aristocrat. But when the gentleman in question approaches her in a bookshop, mistaking her for his fiancée, Lady Johanna Albright, the flirtatious encounter only raises more questions. Could Mary, a servant raised in a St Giles orphanage, actually be Lady Joanna’s long-lost twin sister? If so, Mary has been betrothed since birth—to the rakishly handsome aristocrat himself. Henry Collins, Viscount Blackwell, is far too intrigued by Mary to let her go so easily. He’s drawn to her sharp mind, indomitable spirit, and the fiery way in which she dismisses him—ladies simply don’t dismiss Lord Blackwell. But as Mary makes her first hesitant steps into society, she can’t help but wonder if she truly has a place in Henry’s world—or in his heart. Release Date: November...
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