Thanks to @readforeverpub & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided my own.
@romance.in.the.wild 's glowing review of Emily Sullivan’s A Rogue to Remember made me request it right away & let me tell you that I did not regret it. This stunning debut is so emotionally rich, the setting is sumptuous, the way it kept me on a knife’s edge until it finally tumbled into a HEA was divine.
Set largely in 1897 Italy, ARTR tells the second chance story of Lottie Carlisle & Alec Gresham, who both grew up with Lottie’s political mastermind uncle as guardian. Very close as children, they had one magical night where it seemed their relationship would become romantic & then Alec left abruptly without word.
Five years later, Alec, an agent of the crown, has come to Italy to bring the wealthy Lottie back to England before she succeeds in deliberately ruining herself. On their journey home they must wrestle with the weight of their past, shared & not, &, among other things, Alec must decide if he’s willing to take what Lottie would offer.
I’m so excited about Emily Sullivan’s talent, about these characters she’s written & how beautifully she writes their journey. On top of the aforementioned emotional mastery on display here, this book offers stellar sex scenes including one in front of a mirror 🥵 & I think that’s all I need to say about that.
I did think that one aspect of the plot could have been a little tighter but wow, what a book!
5 ⭐️. A Rogue to Remember is available on 03/09/21.
Thanks to Berkley for inviting me to join the blog blitz for the first 5⭐️ book I read this year: Megan Crane's Special Ops Seduction. Read on for my review!
Q: what’s your fave song to dance to at a wedding?
Special Ops Seduction wowed me in a big way with some of my kryptonite: an ice cold hero who can barely engage with the heroine because of his *very* reluctant feelings for her; a nuanced, standout heroine who’s a physical powerhouse & the only female on her special ops team; fake dating (!) for the job; & a pivotal sex scene that’s an exquisite mix of steam & emotion.
I ate this one up with a spoon.
Bethan Wilcox is immensely capable. She’s worked very hard for her military & special ops accomplishments & while she loves what she does, she’s also drawn a thick line between how she comes across in public & her outrageously soft, cushy home.
If Bethan is secretly decadent, Jonas Crow is—to no one’s surprise—ascetic inside & out. He’s stoic to the extreme & afraid of having good feelings, especially when they’re sparked by Bethan.
Pretending to be a fake couple for an op really shakes them up in the best possible way.
Megan Crane really has her pulse on every emotion I wanted wrung from me with this one; when I say that this ending made me happy. Well. Jonas has denied himself for so long that when he finally reaches out I wanted to cheer. Or cry. Or both.
Sexy, thoughtful, & with leads I adored, this book is practically wrapped with a bow for all lovers of romantic suspense.
Chemical warfare plot line. Also, the hero almost dies before the story begins & he didn’t want to be saved. There are flashbacks.
5 ⭐️. Special Ops Seduction is available now. Thanks to Berkley Publishing & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC & to Berkley for inviting me to be part of the blog blitz. All opinions provided are my own.
Q: what’s a series you LOVE that not a lot of people talk about?
I’ll be championing Charlie Adhara’s Big Bad Wolf series forever. It has such a hold on my heart &—as @gigireadsromance might say—my loins, & the series finale Cry Wolf gave me everything, every emotion that I associate with fantastic romance.
This series focuses on Cooper Dayton, a human, & Oliver Park, a werewolf, who are both work partners & lovers. In this particular book, they’re trying to help Oliver’s former lover & packmate Eli as someone tries to blackmail him.
I’m not usually a fan of series that focus on the same couples—once they hit their HEA I want it to be pretty much smooth sailing —but in each of these books the leads solves crimes, have hot sex, & do the emotional WORK to draw them even closer together so brava, I will read them every day of the week.
There’s a beautiful emotional arc to the series & in each book Adhara shows how each lead opens himself up more emotionally, how they they work through baggage on their own & then together, how they become the closest of friends who can go one step farther & actually say the words instead of just thinking them.
If you love:
Stony hearts that turn tender, but only for one person. It’s a hard-won sweetness that will make your heart three times larger.
A steamy (!), safe exploration of various fantasies.
you must read this series. Thank you to Charlie Adhara for an absolutely unforgettable series & a five-star finale.
5 ⭐️. Cry Wolf is available on 01/18/21. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Q: do you think that you’d be good at maintaining a lie about your identity if it was your job to do so?
A terrifying ghost dressed in white, rumored to be haunting the husband who supposedly killed her. A bedchamber door that’s mysteriously unlocked, but only for the heroine. A hero who has more secrets than coins (<—this is a purely hyperbolic statement made for effect).
Anna Bradley’s romance The Virgin who Vindicated Lord Darlington takes an intriguing walk on the gothic romance side, offering a slow burn class difference/everyone’s keeping secrets/widower’s second chance at love tale.
Cecilia Gilchrist is posing as a housemaid in Lord Darlington’s home to discover if he really is in fact the Murderous Marquess. Believed to have murdered his wife, Gideon faces malicious gossip & things really start boiling over when a ghostly apparition believed to be his dead wife starts appearing in advance of his upcoming marriage to someone who is not our heroine.
Will Cecilia solve the case? & will Gideon actually marry someone who is not our Cecilia (also remember: our heroine isn’t being honest with him ).
This secret-driven atmospheric romance is an entertaining change of pace. I love how Cecilia challenges the lordly Lord Gideon & how she’s a genuinely nice person who, as Gideon says, enlivens his world. His devotion to Cecilia & his niece is pure sweetness.
But I didn’t care for how the deception plot unravels. Cecilia shares very little about her actual life w/ Gideon & what she does share is a lie, & that doesn’t feel adequately or sufficiently corrected by the end. I didn’t really feel like he “knew her” knew her & that’s important to me.
Also, & this could just be a personality clash, I was annoyed with some of the risks she continued to take .
My reading of this one was a little uneven but I’m looking forward to trying more in the series, especially book 1, which I’ve seen great reviews of.
there’s a disturbing plot element related to the death of Gideon’s first wife. Please contact me if you'd like more info.
3.5 ⭐️. The Virgin who Vindicated Lord Darlington publishes on 02/02. Thanks to Kensington Press & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Q: which author do you have the most of on your e-reader?
Katie Reus’s books are like sugar for me. I devour them and I enjoy the heck out of the rush. Whether she’s writing romantic suspense or PNR her books give me an enticing dose of steam, drama, & entertainment.
Ancient Enforcer is her steamiest read yet & it features dragon shifter Mikael, a former general now contractor recently out of a long Hibernation & the human woman he & his brothers are currently living with as they acclimate to modern life, Avery Cortez.
Mikael is Friend Zoned with Avery with a capital FZ but he’s trying to be patient & it’s pretty endearing to see. Most importantly for my purposes he’s D E V O T E D to her & when they finally get together yikes, it’s hot.
While I can totally get behind a plot that’s a little bananas I did feel like some aspects of this one could have benefited from some more time &/or attention, & for me, the villain scenes could have been a *tad* more subtle.
But Ancient Enforcer’s fun & sexy with all of those shifter romance moments I crave & it gave me the kind of steamy escape I was searching for so *clap clap.*
3.5 ⭐️. Ancient Enforcer is available on 01/26/21. Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
📚 Q: what’s one of your top 10 (or so) reads of the year?
I really wanted to write a top ten list but of course it was difficult. Like so many others have said this year has felt so segmented; time has felt taffy-like, & there are some books I *remember* loving like Beach Read, even if it feels like I read them months ago WHEN I WAS A DIFFERENT PERSON.
I love how these lists send me into an existential crisis 😆.
So this is my list of 11 most memorable, top reads of 2020, with the caveat that I actually read so many amazing books that aren’t included here. A big hurray to all the authors who made our year better!
Cara Bastone’s Just a Heartbeat Away
Adrienne Young’s Fable
Emily Henry’s Beach Read
Charlie Adhara’s Big Bad Wolf series
Scarlett Peckham’s The Rakess
Ilona Andrews’s Sapphire Flames
Joanna Shupe’s The Devil of Downtown
Alexandria Bellefleur’s Written in the Stars
Alexis Hall’s Boyfriend Material
Talia Hibbert’s Take a Hint, Dani Brown
Roan Parrish’s In the Middle of Somewhere
Q: who are your fave historical fiction writers?
The Four Winds begins in 1921 when 25 year old spinster Elsa Wolcott, who’s denied love & acceptance by her upperclass family & feeling stifled in their home & her life, sleeps with Rafe Martinelli, an 18 year old Italian-American man.
Pregnant & summarily denounced by her family, Elsa is sent to marry & live with Rafe & his parents. Reflecting on the fact that she is not loved, still, Elsa resolves to give her baby the family & home she never had.
The book picks back up in 1934 where we learn the effects on Elsa of living in that kind of marriage & trying to keep a home & farm going. Then the dust storms & Great Depression get worse & that’s where the story really takes off.
The Four Winds makes it clear from the Prologue that it’s a story about women, & that’s what we get as Elsa tries to protect her family in TX & across the country in CA. Elsa’s story also becomes a migrant camp worker’s story. The parallels between then & now—when the rich get richer off the work & hardships of those who do the work, when politicians & police work to support the system that keeps rich white people rich—are strong.
Kristin Hannah is a masterful writer & my emotions were definitely engaged—but while Elsa & her arc are inspiring, her story also feels overtly representative in some ways, symbolic. I felt some distance from her. That feeling is underscored for me by the ending, which is well-written but which I didn’t like on a couple of different levels.
This isn’t my favorite of Hannah’s books, & I do have some quibbles, but it’s another stunning offering. I’m grateful that we have this exploration of the power & strength of women & mother-daughter relationships during one of the US’s most tumultuous moments. A story that gives hope & assurance of some kind in the good people are capable of even as it points out some of the worst acts of humanity.
4⭐️. The Four Winds is out on 02/02/21. Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Q: what’s one of your fave romance small towns?
Last week I started Jill Shalvis’s The Forever Girl, immediately had my heart squeezed by the talented hands of an Emotional Wizard, & decided that I would continue reading it another day 🤣.
Yesterday was the day & I approached it full steam ahead, both really enjoying it & determined to see this couple get their HEA.
The book opens with four friends/foster siblings gathered at the grave of the boy they lost & whom they all miss greatly.
Mazey Porter, called Maze & sometimes Mayhem Maze, also feels terribly guilty for his death, a guilt that has made her act out in certain ways & that hasn’t been helped by her fear of abandonment & of being vulnerable w/ others.
Walker Scott is also there at the grave, a man she lived with for a year when they were teens, the man she drunkenly married as a young 20-something in Vegas, the man she tries to ignore—& who does the same to her—even though she can never fully do that.
Three years of not talking later, when one of their foster siblings hatches a plan to have them all back in the same Wildstone house for a week, Mazey & Walker can’t stay away from each other. Maybe this time they can figure it out...once the truth about Mazey’s fake boyfriend/best friend she roped into accompanying her comes out, that is.
This book is hardhitting in the emotional department, from the friendships to Mazey & Walker, to another foster sibling, Cat. If you like found family then The Forever Girl might be your jam because it’s all about grabbing on tight to the people you feel are your own.
While the relationship between Mazey & Walker isn’t quite as steamy as I would like, the chemistry is there & I love how complementary they are.
That leads me to my critique of this novel—it just feels obvious to me that they belong together, that they know it too, despite what they think sometimes & say—& this plus the forced proximity & how he’s always seeking her out—I don’t know 🤷🏻♀️—the tension, the will they or won’t they, is a little weak for me.
Still, this is a really great read written by an author who knows how to play the heart like a musical instrument .
References to past abuse, parental neglect, & death of a child. There’s also an insensitive joke comparing someone’s dancing to a seizure.
4 ⭐️. The Forever Girl is out on 01/12/21. Thanks to William Morrow & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Q: what “read” percentage of a book makes you stay up to finish it? When I’m reading a romance on my Kindle & hit 65% I almost always finish it that day.
My husband wanted to watch Schitt’s Creek last night & I said sorry, my friend, I’m 81% into a thriller & I have to find out who the killer is. Especially since throughout the course of this charismatic book I suspected probably 7 different from people. (I am a suspicious reader 🤣.)
Nalini Singh’s Quiet in Her Bones is seductively creepy, much like the characters themselves. It’s got twists & turns & it all revolves around the reality that people are complicated, to put it mildly, capable of kindness & care & harm & secrets & for at least one of the people in the book, murder.
Famous writer & personality Aarav Rai is recovering from surgery at his father’s home when he receives word that human remains have been found in a Jaguar car in a forest & all signs indicate that they are those of Nina Rai—Aarav’s tempestuous & also, as he says, loving mother who disappeared 10 years ago.
Aarav is determined to solve her murder & summarily continues watching neighborhood going-ons from his window, interviewing the same neighbors who lived amongst them 10 years ago, & trying to piece together his own memories.
A carousel of suspects offer themselves up to Aarav & the reader, including his toxic father. The tension is high, the paranoia is sublime (unreliable narrator who also repeatedly refers to himself as a sociopath, anyone?), the Auckland imagery is atmospheric & used to great effect.
I have to say, while I generally stick to the HEA side of things this was great fun. In that uncomfortable, everyone-could-be-a-murderer kinda way.
4.5 ⭐️. Quiet in Her Bones releases on 02/23/21. Thanks to Berkley Publishing & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Give me that HEA, please.
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