Q: who’s an underrated historical romance author you rec?
I’m a big fan of Grace Burrowes:
Unconventional, sex-positive characters.
An understated Downtown Abbey-esque style—gentle tones used to convey some tough love, insults, & drama!
Secrets! & some familial discord but the characters also possess an unbending sense of integrity & loyalty.
The Truth about Dukes focuses on Robert, a duke living with epilepsy who has decided to return to his rightful societal place.
As a child, after experiencing epileptic episodes, Robert was sent to live in a mental asylum by his father & the assumption was that he was dead. After his brother rescued him Robert spent years in his home, anxious of many things related to his terrible asylum experience.
Now, forced to act like a Duke, Robert finds an old ally, Lady Constance Wentworth, who once left her family for reasons unknown so she could be a maid at the aforementioned asylum. They had a friendship, an allyship, then but haven’t spoken since.
Like with her other books I’ve read, the love story here is touching & tender & gives me those awww feelings. Because Burrowes writes imperfect characters, her romances often feel real & approachable.
Robert & Constance are two ships on storm-wrecked seas & I love how they latch onto each other. They’re able to reveal their vulnerabilities with one another & it’s truly beautiful to me.
I did feel like there are some execution issues with this romance though, particularly some aspects of the plot & characterization that feel rushed.
Be aware too that this book is tackling the subject of how people in the 19th century might have viewed someone with epilepsy, & the reactions to Robert & his episodes are often callous, insensitive, &/or cruel, both outside of the leads’ families & within.
With TTaD Burrowes offers another beautiful tale of two characters falling in love—it’s just that some aspects of how the tale unfold don’t quite hold up for me.
the heroine felt like she had to give up her illegitimate daughter for adoption years earlier. Veiled references to the heroine’s background, including things her violent father did & forced his children to do.]
3.5 ⭐️. The Truth about Dukes releases on 11/10. Thanks to Netgalley, Forever Pub, & Grand Central Pub for the complimentary ARC (and the latter two for the finished copy, too.) All opinions provided are my own.
Q: do you think the personality traits associated w/ your astrological sign are accurate?
You have to read this book! (I added an exclamation point to make the sentence seem less demanding 🤣.) But seriously, I love this book from the first page to the last.
Alexandria Bellefleur’s Written in the Stars has everything I want: steam, laughs, & just enough emotion to make me feel alive (; ) ) AND it has the uptight/reserved + charmer dynamic between leads that I love so hard.
Elle Jones & her BFF have made names for themselves as astrologers & they’re in the process of integrating their services into a popular dating app. The guy behind the dating app—now a friend to Elle—sets her up on a blind date with his sister Darcy.
Darcy Lowell is a beautiful actuary. She’s also sophisticated & reserved & doesn’t appreciate Elle’s job or when Elle spills wine on her dress.
But after the date, after Darcy has complained to someone about how it went (& after Elle overhears her ), Darcy finds herself telling her brother that she & Elle are dating so he’ll stop with the date suggestions. & then Elle goes along with Darcy’s lie for reasons, & soon Elle & Darcy are spending more time together because this has to be convincing dammit! & feelings start happening.
What a delightful ride this book is.
The back stories are developed well; each character has her own emotional baggage & it’s convincingly & thoughtfully related to their present. There are bursts of humor throughout—this is a funny one!—& there’s also a scene where one of the leads stands up for the other with family (which I know is catnip for some of us).
The female friendships are authentic & the pacing is 100—I just couldn’t wait to read more of this opposites attract, fake dating romance that is by turns hilarious & tender.
It gave me a million warm fuzzies to see how both leads feel free to be themselves with each other.
I wanted an epilogue . But over & over again this book is wonderful & happiness-inducing & I am a B I G fan.
5⭐️. Written in the Stars releases on 11/10. Thanks to Avon Books & Edelweiss for the complimentary ARC; all opinions provided are my own.
Q: have you had any experience riding a horse / have you had a horse? We had a couple growing up & my grandparents raised minis!
Would you believe that If the Boot Fits is my first Rebekah Weatherspoon book? Probably *won’t* surprise you to know how much I enjoyed it.
A low-angst one-night-stand-was-so-good-I-want-more romance with a curvy & confident heroine & a cowboy/Oscar-winning hero, this book is a delight.
Amanda McQueen is an assistant to an actress who treats her horribly. On a night off she attends an after-Oscars party where she meets Samuel Pleasant, recent winner of an Oscar. They go back to his hotel room for a night of no-names, no-strings sex & Amanda leaves the next morning without saying bye.
Fast forward to a short while later when she goes to Samuel’s family ranch for a wedding & sees the man she set the sheets on fire with.
Can they bridge the gaps between them & will she tell the truth about what her job is? That she’s an assistant and not quite the writer she says?
So many things about this book are so well done: the Cinderella angle, the tension between leads, their banter—this heroine is a smart ass & . Their substantive convos including about the challenges of finding the right roles in Hollywood if you’re a Black man, how important family is to them both, how freaking sexy she is & how she owns it.
If the Boot Fits is fun & steamy & obviously written by a really talented author. Really looking forward to reading more by Rebekah Weatherspoon!
4 ⭐️. If the Boot Fits is out on 10/27. Thanks to Kensington Books and Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Q: are you a true crime fan?
Manda Collins’s A Lady’s Guide to Mischief & Mayhem has been on my radar for months because I AM TRASH for romances where the leads try to solve a crime together. Add in some enemies to lovers & a working-class hero—which I’ve waxed rhapsodically about before—& this book was a pretty scrumptious affair.
A serial killer known as the Commandments Killer is targeting people in London. Newspaper owner & widow Lady Katherine Bascomb and her plucky friend Caro think they can investigate the crimes & share their thoughts in a column written with a female audience in mind.
Their column, A Lady’s Guide to Mischief & Mayhem, reveals new info about one of the crimes, indirectly leading to the firing of honorable & capable Scotland Yard Inspector Andrew Eversham off the case & the arrest of an innocent man.
Inspector Andrew is not happy with Katherine. He wants to find the real killer. He’s especially not happy with Katherine after she attends a house party & another body turns up—is it a victim of the same serial killer?
Against his wishes Andrew & Katherine will work together to find the killer. (But only if Andrew can’t manage to sneak out for his investigations without her.)
A sage, whip-smart, & engaging romance, The Lady’s Guide has a lot to offer. Katherine is a fantastic character—she doesn’t hesitate to school Andrew repeatedly on womanhood & its restrictions, she isn’t willing to accept any less than she’s due. She *definitely* doesn’t want to be with someone (maybe kiss someone?) who only wants to coddle her.
Their disagreements are frequent & I love it because differences in thinking—like those regarding women’s place—wouldn’t be easily overcome IRL. Sometimes you have to see/hear something again & again before it finally hits you. & Andrew does eventually get it.
The mystery is intriguing, there’s some steam (though I could always use more ), & I lived over & over again for the irrepressible heroine.
4⭐️. A Lady’s Guide is out on 11/10. Thanks to Netgalley & Forever Pub & Grand Central Pub for the complimentary ARC and finished copy, respectively. All opinions provided are my own.
💫 Q: what’s your fave fairy tale?
I’ll be honest: I didn’t put together all of the references to Snow White in Charis Michaels’s A Duchess a Day until after the book was over 😆. But I’m blaming that all on me/maybe a little 2020, & whether some of the references sailed over my head or not I enjoyed the heck out of this book by a new-to-me-author.
Declan Shaw, aka the Hunstman, is a mercenary who’s been falsely imprisoned. A dastardly man, the uncle of a duke, says he’ll pay Declan & have him released from Newgate...if he agrees to serve as a bodyguard of sorts ensuring that the duke’s intended, the very reluctant Lady Helena Lark, not escape before the nuptials. As she’s tried before.
While in his guise as a groom, Declan is introduced to Helena, who’s beautiful, determined, smart, & devoted to her orchard & people back home. (She literally has traveled to London with some of her 🍎.)
Readers, though he doesn’t come out & say it, Declan is pretty much immediately gone for her *double fist pumps.
But of course there are lots of obstacles standing in the way of true love 💕, including the fact that the duke needs a duchess & Helena refuses to volunteer or accept the position.
For me, the premise almost seems to share some of the things I love from what I consider my “classic” romance novel loves. Like maybe a Garwood? (Please don’t come for me if you don’t agree 🤣).
✅ A brawny hero torn by obligation & desire.
✅ A beautiful heroine who’s also eccentric in some ways, resourceful, & caring
✅ Some humor
But with a fresh, entertaining spin on it.
There are some narrative intrusions that feel a little strange to me, a joke that feels somewhat insensitive, & one of the characters seems to change his/her mind about something in a way that feels kinda sudden, but I’ll be honest: I don’t know how critically I read this one; I just enjoyed it 🤷🏻♀️ . Low angst, 🔥, sweetness, working-class hero: yes, yes, yes, & YES.
4 ⭐️. A Duchess a Day releases on 11/10. Thanks to Avon & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
🥖 Q: if you’re celebrating, what restaurant do you go to? What do you love about it?
🦞 A: My fave place in Knoxville has a huge serving of lobster Mac & Cheese & it is divine.
KD Fisher’s The Secret Ingredient made me hungry. It also made me want to travel *stares wistfully out my window .
This is one of those books that’s less plot-driven, more character & setting-focused, & reading it felt cozy & occasionally steamy—a rather nice combo IMO.
Adah Campbell has just moved to Maine to be Head Chef at a fancy restaurant. Years ago, after accidentally becoming pregnant, she left her strict, super religious home & made a life for herself and her son. Serving as Head Chef is the opportunity she needs to provide for her family & to prove that she has what it takes.
Beth Summers is the owner & baker of The Yellow House, a more casual type of establishment that privileges local food & farmers & takes food & the people it can serve through food seriously.
Trope-wise, this book is a classic: opposites attract. Grumpy & the sunshine. But I love how original it is in Fisher’s hands.
The Secret Ingredient gets points for:
Adah’s cute accent, which is pervasive throughout the book. I don’t feel like I’ve often (ever?) seen an Ozarks dialect written in a romance before?
How ambitious & competitive both women are, in slightly different ways.
Steam, including the leads sharing forthrightly what they like & don’t like.
Beautiful descriptions of Maine life (I want to go to there.)
How soft Adah is underneath her reserved exterior. She’s so earnest & I love it (give me ALL the little signs of vulnerability 🤣).
This was a 4⭐️ read for me, a touching, soft read that also touches on some tough topics.
CW: references to past verbal & emotional abuse. In the present-day Adah still has physical & emotional responses that are affected by those past events.
4⭐️. The Secret Ingredient is out on 10/27. Thanks to Harlequin Publicity Team for the complimentary finished copy. All opinions provided are my own.
A feminist sorceress fantasy with romantic elements, C. L. Polk’s The Midnight Bargain offers a compelling, timely tale of women who are forced to choose between their ability & family/social obligations, & two young women who forge a friendship & resolve to beat the aforementioned system that seeks to imprison them.
In the world of TMB, sorceresses go through a Bargaining Season wherein they are courted. On their wedding day, these women are adorned with a warding collar that suppresses their magic until after they’re done bearing children.
If women aren’t given the collar, male mages argue, spirits will be able to take over any babies they carry in the womb & be born into the material world they crave so much.
Beatrice Clayborn, a merchant’s daughter, wants to keep her magic more than anything.
She learns that she isn’t alone with this hope when she meets Ysbeta, a wealthy woman visiting Chasland with her handsome brother, Ianthe Lavan, a nearly inconceivable catch.
Ianthe comes to want Beatrice for his wife & there’s part of her that wants him too. But both of them know that accepting him, accepting him as her husband, would mean losing her magic & having it under someone else’s control.
While the romance is a nice touch & is even inspiring in some big ways, it also feels superficial in others. It’s not really the highlight of this book for me.
Instead, it’s the world-building & the premise, which feels both creative & original *&* also based on some real-world gender dynamics. After all, the tension set up for women in this book—that of pursuing self or family—doesn’t feel entirely imaginary for most women IRL, & neither does the patriarchal notion that men are entitled to have control over women’s bodies. (Haven’t we seen & heard that before?? ).
Overall, while I didn’t get entirely lost in this story, I did love its trenchant critique of patriarchy & how Polk crafts two young women—& a young man—who are willing to do what it takes to bring it all down.
4 ⭐️. The Midnight Bargain is out today. Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Q: what’s on your weekend TBR?
[Note: this romance has a deadly virus plot line.]
An energetic romantic thriller with lots of kissing & huge stakes, April Hunt’s Fatal Deception is the latest installment in her Steele Ops series & with the broodiest (to borrow from the book) hero yet.
Roman’s a former special ops who lost his leg in an incident in Africa that he hasn’t told his family about. He keeps to himself, he broods—as others regularly accuse—, & he pretty much falls into lust the first time Dr. Isabel Santiago refuses to be cowed by him.
Isabel, a virologist, wants a special love story. She also wants to find the virus that’s been stolen from her lab before it’s unleashed.
Then it *is* unleashed, in Alaska, & she & others, including her security detail which Roman is part of, have to do what they can to save people from a horrible virus that someone is deliberately infecting people with.
Fatal Deception has explosive attraction, a super smart heroine who doesn’t back down, a lot of feelingssss, & a strong sense of suspense.
The virus plot might not be for everyone, especially right now, but Hunt keeps its devastation fairly minimal, all things considered. I did question a couple of things about the plot—specifically in regards to Isabel’s security & how involved the government would have been in the case of a virus leak—but I am obviously not any kind of expert 🤣.
In terms of their relationship, Hunt convincingly portrays the things in their past that hold them back, but I would have loved a little more more on their interpersonal issues (how he gives orders, as Isabel notes, & how she doesn’t enjoy that.) That seems like a big part of their dynamic throughout the book—& something Isabel struggles with—but it’s not really addressed at the end.
With that being said, I do love how both leads have strong personalities & how they stand up for what they want with each other, how sexy the book is, & how quickly Roman is enamored—even if he won’t admit it.
This was a 4⭐️ read for me.
[another CW: there’s an off-putting seizure joke in here—someone compares their dancing ability to one. I will be offering feedback on this when I submit my review.]
4⭐️. Fatal Deception is out on 11/10. Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Q: have you ever gone to a different country? Which one(s)?
Today I’m coming to you with the most special treat of a book: Laura Taylor Namey’s YA contemporary A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea & Tomorrow.
Told in writing that’s often lyrical, ACGGtTaT is both a story of grief & celebration as Lila Reyes copes with suffering three recent big losses & being sent away from the loving arms of her family to live in Hampshire, England for a summer.
After her beloved Abuelita dies—the woman who taught Lila how to bake—& her long-time boyfriend breaks up with her, & her best friend changes their graduation plans & moves to Africa for work instead, Lila is unmoored. Her protective, loving family decides that the best thing for her is a temporary new environment.
Lila leaves Miami, her family bakery, & her family (internally) screaming. But spending time with some of her other family in England, running the kitchen in their inn, & becoming friends with the local tea shop owner’s son, Orion Maxwell, make her see that her life & heart can follow a new map .
This beautiful book gives such love to place whether it’s Miami or England. Vivid descriptions; characters who delight in the world around them & the things they create; & food-rich scenes—mostly of Lila baking Cuban and/or English recipes—make for a sensory feast.
Lila’s confidence is inspiring & her relationship with Orion, their friendship that doesn’t stay just a friendship, is so sweet & banter-filled. While I did have a slight problem with the romantic timing of it all—esp given that Lila had just gotten out of a 3 yr relationship—her relationship with Orion moves so slowly, so gradually, that I was okay with it. And honestly, they’re so great together. So.
This lovely contemporary gave my heart the boost it needed last week. I highly recommend it & I’ll be singing its praises for a while into the future.
5⭐️. Thanks to Simon & Schuster and Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
I love how the authors Christina Lauren surprise us from book to book—from the contemplative, heart wrenching Love and Other Words to the face-sweating heat of Beautiful Bastard.
In the case of their newest release In a Holidaze, I was once again impressed by their versatility but unfortunately didn’t fall for the love story.
After an inebriated make-out session with a friend who just happens to be the brother of the man she’s had unrequited feelings for for years, Maelyn Jones asks the universe to “show me what will make me happy.”
The universe decides to make her relive her Christmas vacation, the one her family does every year with her parents’s college friends & their kids, including Theo, the aforementioned friend she kissed, & Andrew, his brother & the man she’s harbored romantic feelings for.
The question becomes: what does Mae’s happy life look like? & who is front & center in it?
Though this romance shares a basic premise with the movie Groundhog Day it feels fresh & entertaining in Christina Lauren’s hands, peppered with approachable wry & sometimes crass humor.
Mae’s a likeable heroine—she goes on a fun evolution from someone who, in her words, tries to be so careful to someone who isn’t afraid to upset the balance a bit.
Where the book falls short for me is with the brothers, both of whom come off as rather one-note for me. The brother her heart ends up truly desiring feels too perfect; I couldn’t get a sense of his flaws or that Mae could see any, & that veered a little too close to putting-him-on-a-pedestal-adoration for me.
After a sustained period of not warming to him, I couldn’t fully relax into their romance, a sensation that was made more unsettling by the unpredictability of the time travel plot itself.
With that being said, I like this book: it’s sweet, sexy, and funny. The premise is great & the writing is warm & cozy. The romance just doesn’t rock my (holiday) socks off.
3.5⭐️. In a Holidaze is available now. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Give me that HEA, please.
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