Bethany Bennett’s Any Rogue Will Do has so much catnip:
A fantastic opening scene where the heroine gets to live out many of our fantasies by lobbing insults at the man (the hero) who wronged her years earlier. Who’s the Paper Doll Princess now, hero?!!! It 👏🏻 is 👏🏻 so 👏🏻 good 👏🏻.
Unforgettable 🔥 scenes. I’ll just leave this here: balcony 🤭🥵.
A “managing” heroine with a strong IDGAF energy tempered by recognition that she has to play the game some to get what she wants.
A huge, brawny hero who was supposed to be a shepherd but unexpectedly became lord. He made bad decisions when he first became titled—see first point—but now he works hard for his people & is prepared to help the heroine out however he can 😉.
In short, this is such a great debut & I was impressed time & time again.
If I haven’t convinced you yet, I’ll say: it’s Tessa Dare-ish; the conflict is thoroughly built up & I love love love how the book explores standards for “ladyhood” & how women are judged for not acting like a Lady & in this heroine’s case—as the hero reveals—for acting like a Lady 🙄. There’s a fake dating situation & frank, open discussions between characters, including about sex. Oh, and a curvy heroine who has such confidence in how the hero responds to her body.
Pick this one up!
Any Rogue Will Do is available on 10/13. I think this is a tiny bit below 5⭐️ for me but I’m rounding up to 5! Thanks to Forever Pub, Grand Central Pub, & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
(Image note re: the paper doll: I printed the “A Regency Lady of Quality Dolls by Helen Page” & then watercolor painted over one bc my color printer ink is gone 🥴.)
A comedy of manners set in India, Diksha Basu’s Destination Wedding is an entertaining portrayal of a large number of nuanced personalities coming together in Delhi for a wedding.
Tina Das, a reality tv show programmer, is the main character of the novel though it frequently switches to different perspectives throughout.
Having lived in the US since she was born but having been “conceived” in India, as she says, Tina has long been aware of the challenges associated with others' responses to her dual heritage & wonders again & again if she could/should live in India.
Traveling to India with her best friend Marianne as well as her parents gives her an opportunity to explore the place her parents are from & the place she visited often as a child.
Filled with moments that are by turns moving & absurd Destination Wedding seems to celebrate humanity. The characters are flawed, they are sometimes selfish and/or oblivious, sometimes unlikable, they show love & care, & they are hopeful.
There’s only a small amount of romance here and what there is isn’t super convincing to me but that’s not the focus of the story as I see it.
Though the switches in perspective are often jarring I also appreciated seeing things from so many different points of view, from Tina & Marianne, to the former’s parents, to the driver, a matchmaker, & more.
The various narrators’s thoughts on wealth, the complexity of India beyond any stereotype, & the complexity of the people in the story, are compelling.
While there are times the book feels a little too glossy to me, I enjoyed it *&* getting to meet characters who feel real to me.
3.5⭐️. Destination Wedding is available now. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Yesterday I had planned on reviewing an incredible dystopian romance but then I read the latest Trump & climate-related headlines & unfortunately saw some loose parallels.
The sad/infuriating truth is that the Trump administration is committing egregious offenses left & right & I see too many people I know & love support him—to say nothing of the people I see at the grocery store or whose yards I drive past.
The ICE-related headlines earlier this week were particularly horrifying.
(Of course I can hate Trump & also have to contend with my own white privilege, which means—as others have said, that I get angry about these things—often without being touched by them personally—& then retreat retreat retreat into something more comfortable.)
This is a book blog/romancestagram account & I will continue to post bookish pics. Like this one. Because these books make me happy & I see so much value in what they have to say.
I agree with what others have noted: the more time I spend reading in this genre the more I think it’s working harder for us than any other.
I’ll also continue to be committed to voting this administration out in November, to examining myself for biases & privilege, to raising kids who do the same, & to supporting AOC & POC in their creative endeavors & in their Human Rights. (& in the latter in particular, I don’t want to oversell myself: I need to *act* much much more instead of just using the words.)
I just wanted to share where I’m at.
I don’t even quite know what to make of Samantha Cohoe’s A Golden Fury. I think I started with certain plot & character expectations & the book kept blowing them up. This made for a reading experience that was both captivating & somewhat disorienting & I didn’t feel like I had quite found my footing until the end.
Beginning in Normandy in 1792, A Golden Fury tells a story centered around alchemy.
Thea has long worked for & with her famous alchemist-mother Marguerite. They’re very close to creating the White Elixir & then hopefully the Philosopher’s Stone when her mother cuts her out of the process & kicks her out of their lab.
Thea has never looked to her mom for kindness but this last betrayal is huge.
On the same night that Thea discovers that her mother has figured out how to create the Elixir & the Stone, her mother seems to have gone mad & tries to murder her.
Out of other options Thea travels to meet the father she’s never met before but not before grabbing some of the White Elixir. She will make the Stone on her & cement her reputation as the foremost alchemist.
But things never go as one hopes...
Inventively plotted & featuring complex characters, A Golden Fury is intriguing. I love the focus on female alchemists, how Thea constantly rises above the narrow expectations men have for her & forges her own way again & again.
This critique likely reveals my own biases, but while I loved that Thea is often unlikeable, there are times that I find her unadmirable & hard to connect to as well. Ditto for most of the other characters, who rarely do “good” things & who live in a world that mostly feels dark & unsettling until the end--which feels a little too hopeful to be entirely believable to me.
(Just to be clear: I don’t have to like and/or admire characters to love a book but in this one the individual characters seem portrayed unevenly & I had a difficult time emotionally connecting to them & to the book itself.)
On balance, I appreciated how unpredictable this book is, how it took me for a thrilling ride that wasn’t afraid to venture into dark territory, but I also didn’t feel overly invested in any of the characters or their fates, & that's a bit of a disappointment to me.
3⭐️. A Golden Fury is available on 10/13. Thanks to Wednesday Books and Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
✨Q: how soon do you write reviews after you’ve finished a book?
🌿 I take notes as I read & usually write the review a week or so later.
I’ve seen so much buzz surrounding Rachel Reid’s enemies to lovers Heated Rivalry that when I had the opportunity to request her latest release I snapped that puppy up.
Common Goal is an age gap romance between an NHL goalie who wants to explore his long-held but never acted upon attraction to men & a younger bartender whose heart is currently preoccupied with having big feelings for a soon-to-be married man.
Eric Bennett, aforementioned goalie, is 40, divorced, & immediately captivated by Kyle Swift, bartender. But Kyle Swift sees the wedding ring Eric hasn’t taken off yet & is fully aware of how being attracted to older men has never worked out for him & decides to stay away.
It turns into a “we’ll go to a bar together & I’ll be your wingman” situation for a little while but luckily for us, Eric & Kyle can’t resist their attraction for one another & kissing commences.
Common Goal is super steamy & that made me 😄. What else did I love? How Eric & Kyle have compatible interests & actually talk about them.
But they also miss a couple of communication opportunities that always seem so easy to me (TELL HIM, the oversharer in me inwardly screams. My life philosophy = better to make someone feel awkward w/ oversharing rather than seem emotionally unavailable 🤣🤣.)
My biggest squabble with Common Goal however is that the resolution feels really rushed.
This was a 3.5⭐️ read for me. There are some things about the plot that I didn’t jump up & down for but I’m really excited to dive into Rachel Reid’s catalog. What I liked about her writing I really liked.
Common Goal is out 09/21. Thanks to Netgalley & Carina Press for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
It's release day for Mira Lyn Kelly's Dirty Rebound! Read on for a summary & review of this fun & flirty friends to lovers romance!
I care too much about Cammy Wesley to marry her…
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. But hear me out.
Cammy’s my best friend. The one person I can’t live without. The girl with the sunshine smile, the loaded fridge, and the most awesome kid I’ve ever met. She’s also the hot AF single mom I’ve made it my mission to protect from guys like me. I won’t risk ruining our friendship by pushing for something more.
I can’t be her forever.
I’m not that guy. I’m the good time. The class clown. The hockey stud. I’m the happy for now, not the happily ever after.
I stay in my lane, but when Cammy’s ex needs a lesson, the rash overprotective part of me jumps the boards and I go from best friend to fake boyfriend in the span of a kiss. And that’s just the beginning. Because when it comes to Cammy, there’s nothing I won’t do for her.
Even if it’s guaranteed to wreck me.
I always really enjoy Mira Lyn Kelly’s books. That might sound like a generic statement but it’s not meant that way, especially right now when finding a lighthearted read to fall into sounds particularly nice.
A fun friends to lovers romance, Mira’s latest release Dirty Rebound is sweet & sexy. I love how Mira writes couples; her heroes are Devoted with a capital D & they make it very clear that they’re captivated by the respective heroine.
In this case, single mom Cammy & BFF hockey player Rux are adorable & everyone could see the romance blossoming between them books ago.
But sadly it feels like some aspects of this story aren’t developed as well as I’d like. Cammy’s attitude toward the father of her son who unexpectedly left them when she was pregnant & has returned to re-insert himself in their lives seems strangely uncomplicated. (I would think she’d still be wrestling with some negative feelings, for ex.)
An even bigger issue is how the treatment of Rux’s internal conflict & especially his turnaround feels superficial to me.
When you say fake dating, BFFs to lovers romance I’m there with bells on. But while Dirty Rebound delivers on a satisfying hero & heroine dynamic, the story itself doesn’t feel tight to me.
CW: reference to abortion.
3⭐️. Dirty Rebound is available today. Thanks to the author for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Where You Can Get a Copy
Hard core romantic, stress baker, and housekeeper non-extraordinaire. Mira Lyn Kelly is the USA TODAY bestselling author of more than a dozen sizzly love stories with over a million readers worldwide. Growing up in the Chicago area, she earned her degree in Fine Arts from Loyola University and met the love of her life while studying abroad in Rome, Italy… only to discover he’d been living right around the corner from her back home. Having spent her twenties working and playing in the Windy City, she’s now settled with her husband in Minnesota, where their four amazing children and two ridiculous dogs provide an excess of action and entertainment.
Dirty Rebound is available now! Thanks to the author for the complimentary ARC & promotional materials. All opinions provided my own.
I was really excited to talk about Stacy Reid’s When the Earl Met His Match because my response to it’s so complicated. My initial impression was that I didn’t gel well with the writing style or the plot itself & then, before I knew it, I was fascinated by the story & couldn’t wait to see what happened next.
I’ll be honest: on the technical front this one falls kinda flat for me. But also, this romance ended up being a fun reading experience for me (🤷🏻♀️ at myself).
Lady Phoebe Maitland finds herself with quite the dilemma when the “unsuitable” man she’s fallen for takes her parents up on their bribe & walks away from their relationship. Unbeknownst to anyone, Phoebe is pregnant.
Determined to do the best she can for her baby, she proposes to a cynical man she had been secretly corresponding with, Viscount Hugh Winthrop. Hugh accepts her offer for reasons of his own but he vows to never develop feelings for Phoebe because loving women = bad, something he saw in his childhood.
When the Earl Met His Match is emotional & dramatic (sometimes overly so for my taste), steamy, & heartwarming. The way that Hugh warms to Phoebe’s pregnancy gave me some good feelings. I love how bold Phoebe is & how she learns to communicate with Hugh, who is mute. Despite their conflict, they take such care of each other.
But speaking of the conflict, that’s one aspect of the book that doesn’t seem executed as well as it ought. At around 30% I noted that I couldn’t find a sense of it, though it does become apparent again soon after. Overall, though, it seems that why Hugh agrees to the marriage & their conflict could have been foregrounded more strongly & precisely.
In terms of the writing style, it’s still not one that I “click with” wholeheartedly. But Reid knows how to tell a really sweet story & I really wanted Hugh to wise up so they could get their HEA.
3⭐️. Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Q: have you ever named your car?
Ok. This book is adorable.
Carter Ramsey’s an injured MLB player who’s about to be named Man of the Year. When he succumbs to peer pressure from his twin & travels to his hometown of Haven for their high school reunion, he never imagines that the first person he’ll run into at his temporary lodgings will be his former lab partner, Olive Dunn.
Everyone loves Olive. She’s capable, confident, & never met a problem she didn’t cut off at the knees. She’s also a whirlwind of energy & when she sweeps into Carter’s life—literally repeatedly barging into his home or imposing on his plans—he’s not prepared to like her. A lot.
Feelings happen, but Carter’s got a secret he’s only confided in Olive. He’s also home to *possibly* reunite with the other half of his golden high school coupledom (don’t worry about a real love triangle here!)
Yours to Keep is a consistently funny (I know, I know, does that even mean anything in reviews anymore?!), steamy read with a lot of heart. Both leads are genuinely nice people & I always love that when happens. Especially when one nice person is really drawn to another nice person & then they kiss.
Layne offers a friends to lovers story that I think will appeal to a lot of people—a pro baseball player + a high school biology teacher who seems confident in most ways, insecure in others—& she writes the ending of the book (the chapter before the epilogue) in a way that feels hopeful for their relationship but that doesn’t make either one of them entirely sacrifice their personal aspirations. & the Epilogue is 🏻.
There are some aspects of the romance that I think could have been expanded on throughout the book—like the storyline with his former high school girlfriend, which feels a little flimsy for me. Also the ending, which doesn’t seem to have as much introspection or reflection as I’d like.
But I definitely recommend Lauren Layne’s Yours to Keep for a lighthearted small town romance that kept me smiling.
4⭐️. Yours to Keep is available now. Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
I really enjoy Pamela Clare’s romantic suspense books, especially Hard Justice, which I loved. Give me (alpha) men and women saving the world any day, particularly when the books are so sweet & so steamy. But Hard Line, her latest release, falls flat for me.
The premise is that relatively new Cobra recruit Thor Isaksen is sent to Antarctica to retrieve parts of a satellite that was hacked & destroyed by an as-yet unknown entity.
The researcher asked to help him & his team is astrophysicist Dr. Samantha Park, who’s still reeling from the death of her best friend & fellow researcher.
But of course nothing is what it seems with her friend’s murder & Thor & his team have to solve the mysteries before lots of innocent people are hurt.
As always, it feels like Clare’s done the research & the plot moves quickly & with skill. The Antarctica setting added a lot to the mystery, providing many possible new challenges for the MCs to overcome. I always appreciate the steam Clare brings & enjoyed the dynamic between the sensitive alpha Thor & the brilliant but insecure Samantha.
But I have two big issues with this read. First, Samantha’s lack of confidence, which is pervasive & includes her appearance & even how she talks about her astronomy work with Thor. I didn’t see much evidence of growth in this until the end of the book & even then, as she notes in one instance, it seems largely more attributable to how Thor has made her feel instead of her own conclusions about herself.
& speaking about Thor, his efforts to show Samantha how sexy she was by using his arousal as “proof” kinda make me roll my eyes.
My other issue with this romance is how the lines are so blurred between Thor’s professional demands & his relationship with Samantha with very little introspection or deliberation about how he is blurring them. His actions & his teammate Jones’ actions make me doubt their qualifications as operatives—maybe because so much of those scenes feels surface-level to me.
I look forward to reading a future Pamela Clare book but this one just didn’t really work for me.
CW: pretty gruesome story about Thor’s wartime experience including murder. Other on-page murders.
Give me that HEA, please.
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