Scarlett Peckham’s The Rakess is an unforgettable titan of a romance and I think I’ll be unpacking it for a while.
Plot-wise, it’s about the meeting of the scandalous Rakess Seraphina Arden and the widower and single father architect Adam Anderson in Cornwall as Sera writes her memoirs and Adam works on a renovation. Sera wants Adam but not a relationship. She’s vehemently opposed to those and sends her lovers packing if she catches the slightest bit of heart eyes.
And Adam would like Sera and a relationship, but he’s dealing with the loss of his wife and his work and familial obligations, which are incompatible with a relationship with a scandalous woman.
If you’ve ever thought to yourself that women are all too often unjustly treated, that their bodies and their choices are unfairly judged, restricted, and controlled, that they are condemned for the same things that people often overlook in men, as Peckham writes, then you might appreciate this book. Because The Rakess doesn’t pull its punches and it offers a compelling indictment of so-called polite society—how it can make “cowards” of people—and a rousing and heartstirring celebration of bravery when it comes to love and making good decisions for ourselves. You know: the decisions that make us happy.
Please also read this book for its sisterhood of Sirens—devoted female friends who make use of their notoriety for the good of other women; D I R T Y bedroom scenes that were much enjoyed; and a tautly maintained level of suspense regarding how the leads could end up together. I’ve been needing a good grovel and this one delivers.
Though I did feel like The Rakess is a tad light in the conclusion—a couple of things felt rushed and needed more deliberation—everything else about this book sang to me. Absolutely soared.
CW: alcohol abuse; loss of newborn, loss of wife, imprisonment of a spouse in mental asylum.
The Rakess is out now. Thanks to Avon and Edelweiss for my complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Sophie Jordan knows how to bring the steam and that, plus the fact that her books are entertaining and eminently readable (an even more appreciated combo in the days of social distancing), made me so excited to open The Virgin and the Rogueup.
Samuel Kingston—an illegitimate son of an earl—stops at his stepbrother Warrington’s home for the night after determining that his old carousing ways no longer satisfy. There he meets the quiet, already affianced Charlotte Langley, a woman so biddable that she lets her soon to be mother-in-law walk all over her.
After taking a tonic that her sister Nora prepares for her cramps, quiet Charlotte runs into Kingston when everyone else is abed and turns into a greedy, passion-fueled, pleasure-seeking woman, basically jumping the bemused man in the library. Kingston is intrigued, to put it mildly, and for her part, Charlotte’s horrified but she also can’t stop wanting Kingston, aphrodisiac or no. But she’s ENGAGED and he’s not the MARRYING TYPE.
The chemistry between Kingston and Charlotte is at a 15 and there’s not much prep before you’re in the eye of the storm. Sweet cheese and crackers, as Judy Hopps would say in Zootopia, this one’s hot.
But I kinda have two issues with this book that all the sensuality, touching emotional overtures, and sweet sweet Epilogue didn’t quite overcome. One, I don’t like the aphrodisiac plot-line—or maybe it’s more accurate to say that I don’t like that it just puts Charlotte at a disadvantage. It has an effect on her body and decision-making that she didn’t choose or anticipate and while that didn’t seem to bother her too much, I can’t fully embrace it as a plot device.
And two, I wanted more sharing of emotions. Sophie so beautifully sets up Kingston’s pain, his loneliness, but I craved one scene where he really lays his heart on the line about how his relationship with Charlotte has soothed his heart and offered him a home. It seems like a missed opportunity, as does the lack of emotional reconciliation between the stepbrothers. I want the words!
So in the end, though this book is mega sexy and I enjoyed the heck out of it, it didn’t quite give me the emotional payoff I desired.
The Virgin and the Rogue releases on 04/28. Thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss+ for my complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
4.5⭐️. Tropes: sibling’s best friend, unofficial bodyguard, age gap, forced proximity
Wow. When I first heard that Talia Hibbert was releasing a sibling’s best friend, unofficial bodyguard, age gap, forced proximity novella I slammed my hand on a buzzer and said THAT. I WANT THAT.
Guarding Temptationimmediately sucked me in, opening after the two leads have had a naughty moment that the hero regrets. Nina’s 23 and the founder of a magazine that pushes people to think critically about politics, social matters, and human rights. Brexit has raised the stakes of the conversation and Nina starts receiving death threats from some readers who aren’t too happy with her take.
That’s the only reason she contacts James, 30, after the hook-up he regrets, despite the fact that they’ve been friends for years. She knows he’ll protect her.
This book. *stops to catch her breath. This book is so incredibly sexy. It’s a novella that packs the sexual punch of a bomb or an Idris Elba…doing anything. Do you understand?
It’s also smart and a little mad (as in angry), and I loved it because I feel some of that same anger. There’s some political commentary that will be familiar to many readers, including some frustration over the “faux woke” and white society’s stringent expectations regarding black women. How strategically they must navigate public spaces, even spaces where they’re describing being threatened.
The political emphasis in this novella is definitely secondary to the romance and fits Nina’s interests and personality, but the resolution of this aspect of the plot could have ended more smoothly. The structure of its resolution doesn’t really work for me.
Still, this novella is a thing of beauty. It’s trope catnip, it’s competence porn, it’s fantastically sensual (see above paragraph), JAMES IS AN ABSOLUTE DREAM, and I loved it.
Guarding Temptation is out today. Thanks to the author for a complimentary copy. All opinions provided are my own.
After finishing Amy Harmon’s Where the Lost Wander I had a lump of feelings sitting in my throat. This book beguiled me, pulling me in to a story about love and loss and love again both while reading it and in the months since. I haven’t forgotten it.
It’s 1853 and Naomi May is a young widow accompanying her large family to Oregon. The book opens with a group of Native Americans attacking Naomi’s party and Naomi watching as people she loves and has traveled with are struck down until it’s only her and her baby brother left.
From there, we’re taken back even further to the past, to the beginning of the journey west when Naomi meets John Lowry, the white and Pawnee man she was immediately drawn to but who resisted her efforts to befriend him—and more—every step of their trip.
Where the Lost Wanderis an immersive experience, from the creaking of the wagon trains to Naomi’s mother’s wise words and the interaction of her loving, large family, to the tentative efforts of Naomi to reach out to John—known amongst Native Americans as Two Feet—and his efforts to box her out.
And the independent, feminist, loving Naomi has her own challenges, particularly those experiences that occur on the journey west. Her stunning resilience gives the book more vibrancy, and her relationship with John—their determination to reach each other—the staying power of a contemporary classic.
WTLW is out on 04/28. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for my complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Sarah Hogle’s You Deserve Each Other kept me on my toes. Part grenade explosion, part tender re-connection, this book had me wondering what bad things happened to a once-in-love couple and if they’d make it back to each other even as my insides danced with laughter.
At the beginning of the book Naomi decides that she’ll do whatever it takes to get her fiancé Nicholas to break off their engagement. She’s started measuring her love for him in percentages and they’re not favorable.
To her shock, Nicholas has the same intentions and it turns into an all-out war to infuriate/annoy the other into saying I don’t and never will.
Sarah Hogle’s writing style is a dream and THIS IS A ROM COM which means it’s funny as hell. Once Naomi and Nick start letting their walls down, things turn from a shrapnel-flying battlefield to sweet, meaningful gestures and the sexual explosion we’ve all been waiting for. Kaboom.
But in general the whole lovers to enemies to lovers trope is a somewhat difficult one for me. Think about it: the author has to show so many different dynamics and make you feel each one. In this case, Hogle skillfully transforms them from enemies back to lovers but I had a harder time understanding and accepting the transition from lovers to enemies in the first place (& why Nicholas would make a decision he makes on the way back). Hogle gives some explanations but ultimately I wasn’t 100 percent convinced by their journey.
You Deserve Each Other is a madcap romance and I could have grabbed some popcorn, I enjoyed the show so much. Though there are some things about Naomi and Nicholas’s story that didn’t entirely convince me, the humor of it is a joy and so are their moments of vulnerability. After all, we probably don’t identify with butchering our own bangs out of spite but we *might* identify with not always being our best self; the frustrations of interfering relatives; and the butterflies that come with finding the person who sees you and loves you.
You Deserve Each Other is available now. Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for my complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Like many of you I’ve changed the genres I’ve been seeking out during the pandemic because my emotional state already seems a bit wobbly. I've read Abby Jimenez’s The Friend Zone and, since that book had me in knots, I was kind of dreading this one tbh, especially at this moment in time. But for much of the book The Happy Ever After Playlist is a freaking delight, crackling with humor and devotion of all kinds, giving me enough drive to get through the heavy parts because I knew there would be even happier stuff on the other side.
We met Sloan in The Friend Zone, where she encouraged her BF Kristen to accept true love and where she suffered the tragic loss of her own fiancé. Set two years later, THEAPopens with her stuck in a pretty stagnant state. A dog—someone’s lost pet—helps pull her out of it.
Sloan eventually learns that the dog’s owner’s name is Jason and he’s a musician currently traveling in Australia, and before she knows it they’re texting and then eventually, finally meeting in person.
Even when Jimenez has held my heart crushed between her fingers I’ve never doubted her characters’ love for each other. It sings. It dances. In this case, I felt Jason’s love like it was a tangible thing & that made what was to follow a little easier to bear. This book is INTENSELY romantic and gives me some major flutters.
As much as I appreciated how THEAP is lighter in angst than I had anticipated, I was kinda surprised that Brandon—and Sloan’s feelings about moving on from him—didn’t take up even more of the story. There’s also a scene with Jason when he’s initially processing that her fiancé died and his reaction is a little off-putting. To be clear, Sloan is definitely devastated by Brandon’s loss but I expected even more introspection, maybe even more guilt, about dating someone new...although maybe I’ve just read too many books like that and that’s just my problem ;).
There are a couple of things about the plot that I was somewhat resistant to but overall this book is a joy...with some heartache thrown in. It’s sooo funny—there’s one line from Kristen I’ve been wanting to share with people so badly haha—and I stan a creative, talented couple who care about their careers...and making it work with someone very special.
I felt the love in this one, people!
The Happy Ever After Playlistreleases on April 14th. Thanks to Forever Pub & Grand Central Pub for my complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.