Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary e-ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
I know I’ve said this before but the more I read by Alexis Hall the more I’m in awe of how versatile of a writer he is.
A Lady for a Duke is just masterful, Paris Daillencourt is like being inside my own brain in some of my most anxious moments, & then Glitterland—which is being rereleased—is another emotional powerhouse.
Dark, hopeful, & hilarious by turns, it deals with the topics of depression and a past suicide attempt, among others, offering a book that I think will move & maybe resonate with a lot of readers.
At the beginning of Glitterland writer Ash meets model Darian in a one night stand that ends in a rather panicked exit afterwards. They meet again thanks to Darian’s pluck & what follows is the beginning of a relationship, as Ash starts to relax some into his mystifying connection with Darian & how Darian makes him feel.
This is not an easy, emotional read despite the moments of hope & the bursts of humor. In the end, Ash is not “cured” of his depression or totally rid of uncertainty. But he can see & feel happiness in that moment & he has found love with someone who is so generous & lovely.
So this book isn’t for everyone but, for me, it was another reminder of how much we all need & deserve love, no matter what our brains might sometimes tell us.
5⭐️. Out 01/17.
CWs: Suicide ideation. The lead refers to himself as being bipolar, depressive, & having anxiety and describes emotions relating to those. References to past cutting. The lead ceased an RX before the book began bc it made him gain weight. Reference to something being “Not like black urban. Just urban urban.”
Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary e-ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
With Ashley Herring Blake’s Astrid Parker Doesn’t Fail we’re back with the same magnetic, loving, boisterous & balanced friend group, this time watching Astrid—who feels an imperative to always seem calm, cool, & collected—take on the renovation of a beloved inn before the eyes of the inn’s family members, a tv crew…& as always, her overbearing mother.
Also before the eyes of carpenter Jordan Everwood, the same woman who Astrid had a nasty moment with at the end of Delilah’s book & the beginning of her own, about some spilled coffee & her power dress.
Astrid isn’t someone who is open easily—we see that even with her close circle—& it’s lovely watching her find that safe place to land with the person who she started off so antagonistically with.
Jordan, too, needs that safe place.
As always, my heart cheered for two people finding a home & a refuge with each other, especially when I can relate to one of them in some way (hello self-consciousnesses & fear of failure etc. it’s nice to see you again ).
This book has an interesting tension that strikes at the heart of what both women desire for themselves, heart-grabbing backstories about growing up & in the present, trying to wrestle back an identity & purpose for themselves, & that aforementioned wonderful group of friends.
The “villain” in this story feels a bit obvious & I would have liked a bigger conclusion to that whole storyline, but on the whole, this is another emotional, powerful, sensual read with a great group of characters. Can’t wait for Iris’s book!
4.5⭐️. Out 11/22.
CWs: mother’s manipulation & overbearingness, & there’s a reference to her homophobia. Jordan’s ex wife had cancer & left her soon after learning she was in remission.
Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
#SundayShelfie + Review
I recently reorganized my bookshelves, getting rid of some books I was N E V E R going to read, consolidating my two TBR shelves into one overflowing one, & making a lot more room for books I’ve loved in the rest of the bookcase.
So here she is: a reorganized bookcase with some different books at the front!
& now here’s that aforementioned review ;).
If you’re searching for thick fantasy books with romantic elements you M U S T look at the Last Binding series by Freya Marske. Book 1, This Marvellous Light, was one of my top reads of last year. A Restless Truth is a sensational follow-up & my guesses & expectations about the couple for book 3 are S K Y high.
In this book, Robin’s sister Maud Blythe is accompanying a woman holding part of the Last Contract back to England. Said woman hasn’t revealed what item in her belongings is actually the Last Contract, which is a problem when she’s murdered & someone ransacks their room.
In order to find that item, & yeah, prevent a lot of bad things from happening to Britain’s magic-possessors & probably just the world in general, Maud ropes others into helping her, including the stunning Violet Debenham.
There is intrigue galore in this book & lots of twists & turns. As Maud & Violet work together they indulge in their attraction, even as Violet struggles to really let someone in.
Not only are the world-building & the plot strong, the emotional acumen shown here is really lovely. Marske has a deftness with emotions that left me hoping these leads could go to the relationship distance.
Book 3 will likely focus on a different couple & I have my hopes for it will be. In the meantime, I highly recommend checking out these two interconnected queer fantasies, beginning with A Marvellous Light. They’re very very good!
5⭐️. Out 11/01.
CWs: one of the secondary characters that we’re presumably kinda sorta supposed to be rooting for calls another “Mediterranean gutter rat.” Violence, including murder.
Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own
Is it possible to fall in love with someone in one magical day, Alison Cochrun’s Kiss Her Once For Me poses. I don’t know about IRL but this book made me feel it, you all.
From the beauty of the writing, to the romantic story that swept me off my feet, to the humor of this magical family & couple together, & just overall the evocativeness of the settings & the emotions. Bam. Total heart engagement.
Last Christmas Eve artist & animator Ellie gave aspiring bakery owner Jack her heart after meeting on a day of random snow when most of the city was shut down. The very next day Jack gave it away.
One year later Ellie has the chance to ask Jack about it all when she inadvertently poses as Jack’s brother’s fiancée at a family Christmas get together.
So Ellie is fake engaged to Jack’s brother & the stakes for all of them are big. Especially since she feels like she can’t tell Jack that the engagement is fake.
There’s demisexual rep, anxiety rep, a big whopping second chance, some deception & a grovel, & a lovely lovely story about two people finding their person.
There’s only one thing/s that bothered me *dun dun dun*. That would be the conflict. I felt like one of the leads was a bit hypocritical—or maybe just not as understanding I thought they could be—but I was the only person who thought this . All of the characters are firmly on the side of one person so YMMV .
But three cheers for beautiful romances that make me feel the love & the wonder of love & snow days.
4.5⭐️. Out 11/01.
CWs: emotionally manipulative mom; absent dads & in one case, infidelity. Jack is married when they first hook up & she doesn’t tell Ellie this.
Thanks to the publisher for the complimentary hardcopy ARC and the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary e-ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
#OneWordThreeTitles challenge + review
I saw this challenge on @bookbruin’s gorgeous feed recently & thought it would be a good chance to use “stars/star” and feature a recent thick sci fi read: Emery Robin’s THE STARS UNDYING.
#multitasking ;) .
The blurb calls this “a sweeping, spectacular space opera inspired by the lives & loves of Cleopatra & Julius Caesar” & I feel like that’s most of what you need to know .
At the beginning of the book Gracia is trying to take control of her planet & wrest the title of Oracle from her sister. She uses a visiting Commander of the Empire to help her do it.
But let’s not forget the Commander’s lieutenant, religious tensions in the Empire, & questions of sovereignty, all of which add more drama to the provocative & compelling story.
As previously mentioned this book is thick & I loved that for us all. The storytelling is great & the author tells a story that both had me thinking & absorbed in the plot twists, particularly the big revelation & the secrets of our unreliable narrator. The engagement between sisters always had me on the edge of my seat.
But I will admit to occasionally being confused. The book kind of jumps in & then there are moments when the other characters allude to something without spelling it out. I guess that really helps ramp up the mystery of it all but I wanted to find my footing a bit more .
THE STARS UNDYING is a dense, often magnetic read but there are moments when I plodded through a bit. Still, a great read that I don’t think I’ll forget.
4.5⭐️. Out 11/08.
[ID: three books & a red prayer plant are arranged on a table. At the top left is The Brightest Star in Paris, top right is the plant, bottom left is The Stars Undying, & bottom right is Written in the Stars.]
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
You’re a Mean One, Matthew Prince by Timothy Janovsky totalllly surprised me. There was so much to be delighted about in this New Adult novel & I shall enumerate it below in hopes of convincing you to give this one a try:
The tropes. Money difference, hate to love, fish out of water, only one bunk bed. All wrapped up in a male male holiday romance that had me singing “all I want for Christmas is you.”
A rich guy who’s kinda rude & undergoes a transformation of the heart after he’s cut off by his parents & sent to live with his grandparents.
Mental health rep. Matthew Prince Jr. has generalized anxiety disorder & experiences panic attacks on page. When he does, the other lead Hector Martinez helps calm him.
I didn’t fall in love with Janovsky’s first book but I’m so glad I gave this one a shot because it was everything I could have wanted. The hate to love arc is wonderfully rendered, with both leads not being at their finest coupled with assumptions they both make, & then a moment of kindness & realization that turns things sweeter between them.
This one hit me emotionally on several levels & offers so much holiday goodness.
5⭐️. Out now!
CWs: Generalized anxiety disorder. Parents aren’t the most supportive or involved.
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the complimentary e-ARC and the publisher for the complimentary finished copy. All opinions provided are my own.
If I’m looking for soft & cozy Roan Parrish is always a good bet & the title of this upcoming release--The Rivals of Casper Road—(not to mention those adorable FREAKING PUMPKINS on the cover!!) sucked me in.
Give me all the fall stuff.
This ended up being everything I said in the first paragraph: soft, cozy. Sweet. Pumpkin-y ;).
The basic set-up of this one is that after suffering a big heartbreak Bram Larkspur has moved to Garnet Run, Wyoming, home to some of Parrish’s other beloved characters.
His new neighbor is prickly Zachary Glass, a stiff, reserved type who has won the neighborhood Halloween decorating competition several years in a row.
Thanks to a couple of unfortunate moments they end up as rivals for a brief moment, & then they become something else (hint: something with smooching).
This is just a fast, heartwarming read between a prickly & the sunshine one with an epilogue that ended things on an awww note.
I’m really happy that these two Harlequin releases of Roan’s just go for it & these covers make me all kinds of happy.
4⭐️. Out now!
CWs: references to former anti-Semitism & bullying. Zachary has self-consciousness and insecurities about appearance now. Zachary’s sister disappeared when they were teens. Bram was cheated on in past.
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the complimentary e-ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
I’ve been dipping my toes into holiday romance novels so to speak & Helena Greer’s Season of Love has some winning qualities but ultimately falls somewhat flat for me.
Miriam Blum is an antique upcycler who’s estranged from most of her family, including her horrible father, her mother who remains married to him, & the beloved aunt who owned the one place she felt totally comfortable, a Christmas tree farm.
At the beginning of the book Miriam’s aunt has passed & Miriam’s going to return to that farm after many years away to sit shiva. Back to the other people she loved but hasn’t had a meaningful relationship with in years, including a cousin.
But there’s a new person living on the farm, Noelle Northwood, who immediately dislikes Miriam, & Miriam’s time at home is complicated by the presence of this person who doesn’t like her but whom she’s attracted to.
There’s a lot to appreciate about this Queer romance, including Jewish rep, romantic moments on the ice, & how Miriam finds her way back home & to an old artistic love.
But in general, I wasn’t a huge fan of Noelle (whose brashness & personality might feel authentic in some ways but also gets a little off putting for me in moments) and a secondary storyline which is a little puzzling at times. Also, a lot seems to happen to Miriam personally & professionally & it’s a little unsettling how quickly it did.
Overall, there’s potential here & I can see a lot of people relating to & enjoying this sweet romance, but it didn’t really work for me.
3 ⭐️. Out 10/11.
CWs: Noelle has a tattoo of “deadly women” including Lizzie Borden & I just found that choice a bit odd. Death in the family. Difficult relationship with mother & father. Noelle is a recovering alcoholic and was drinking as a youth. Dad destroyed her paintings.
Thanks to author KD Casey for the complimentary e-ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Baseball? In real life I don’t know ya 😆. But serve it to me in bookish romance form & I am one very excited person.
KD Casey & Lauren Blakely have released another MM sports novella, Dirty Steal, & it offers a satisfying hookup ➡️ teammates ➡️roommates ➡️ lovers again arc.
Derek Miller & Adam Chason are two baseball players who hook up one night, neither of them exactly looking for something permanent. Later, Adam is traded to Derek’s team & they unexpectedly become apartment-mates. Awkward forced proximity, anyone? 🤣
These leads have a sweet & winning love story with some steam thrown in. While I didn’t feel the zip, the zest, as much in this one as I loved in the first novella, this one too is sure to please so many of us looking for that lovely trifecta of sports + kissing + novella.
4⭐️. Out now!
[ID: an ebook sits on a wooden desk. To the upper left is two orange zinnias in a vase & a red prayer plant. Centered above is a woven brown pumpkin.]
Thanks to the publisher for the complimentary hard-copy ARC & the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Jess Everlee’s The Gentleman’s Book of Vices feels so distinctive to me—it’s a MM Victorian romance set in a grim London that’s relieved by sex, friendship, genuine goodwill, & love, & all of these good things are related somehow plot-wise to the creation & publication of erotic texts written by one hero & read devotedly by the other.
Charlie Price is engaged out of what he feels is necessity. But before his wedding he decides to conduct an investigation into the real identity of a favorite Queer erotica writer—secretly a bookshop owner named Miles Montague—in the hopes of getting his autograph.
Soon after both men are drawn into a relationship that consumes them with desire, even as the “Real World” continues beating at their door.
Both men have to make difficult choices, particularly Charlie, who becomes aware of his privilege & for once wants to take a real & difficult stand for what’s right.
Everlee really builds up the suspense & the angst, & though I was frustrated for part of this plotline, by the end I was retrospectively happy about how it had all worked out as well as terribly relieved.
I love love the found family in this one & how Miles also realizes he can make new friends—that he can feel safe somewhere that isn’t home.
Though their relationship runs a bit fast for me—I felt like I was missing a little something from its arc—this is very good MM historical romance with a touching undercurrent of care & community that really warmed my heart. But also be advised this is not light reading material.
4.5⭐️. Out 11/29.
CWs: Imprisonment & death of Miles’s previous partner. Previous blackmail. References to self-destructive behavior. Shame surrounding Alma’s (Charlie’s former fiancé) pregnancy & the lingering effects of that labor. Her parents made her give up baby for adoption.
Give me that HEA, please.
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