I received a complimentary ARC of this book from the author but all opinions provided are my own.
I love it when the male lead is secretly devoted to the female from the beginning of the story—it makes a nice counterpart to all of the female-driven unrequited love stories (including my own awkwardly-sweet & fiercely-held crushes over the years). And while Levi Hunt of Kate Meader’s Good Guy would never admit to having had feelings for his best friend’s widow since the moment he first saw her, it’s the truth.
It’s also what makes his feelings for her now so complicated.
Good Guy feels like a return to the Kate Meader that I know and adore. Less angsty than her two most recent releases but still plenty of substance. Levi and Jordan Cooke, the heroine, face hard-hitting dilemmas but the book is tempered by fantastic humor, banter, and chemistry.
Also hockey drama and the return of Meader’s sensational characters from previous Chicago series. *Hey, Luke and Remy! Hey!*
Levi’s the newest-oldest-rookie on the Chicago Rebels hockey team. Sports media outlets want to know all about the former Green Beret, & Levi doesn’t want to spill the deets. But he finds it hard to resist Jordan, who’s trying to make her journalistic mark in the Chicago hockey market. Her (temporary) boss has made her a proposition: use her connection to Levi to get the scoop on him & get ahead in her career.
It’s not as callous as it might sound. Levi doesn’t exactly wear his emotions on his sleeve so Jordan has no idea about his feelings for her, and don’t we all use our connections to network for jobs/social lives/etc? But still that conflict between caring about Levi—even when it’s reluctantly—and doing her job saturates Good Guy and makes for some intriguingly uncomfortable questions/moments. (There was at least one moment where Jordan’s reporter instincts had me feeling like maybe she wasn’t being the most sensitive, but I kind of like that, now).
Also raising the stakes? The fact that Jordan is a woman and in a profession where women are regularly discriminated against and judged in ways that men are not. I loved seeing Meader tackle this topic and show how even the most well-meaning of men can get it twisted sometimes.
Good Guy has a lot to offer its readers, but maybe the best thing about the book is Levi himself. He’s known for keeping his emotions contained & that makes it all the sweeter when we get to read what he’s thinking & see how he softens toward Jordan, the irrepressible redhead he’s crushed on for years. He’s lovely and deserves all of the HEAs.
Q: I've never been to a hockey game and I've been to an ice skating rink maybe 5-6 times?, but I like a good hockey romance novel. Are there are any sports you love to read about?
I received a complimentary ARC of this book via Netgalley but all opinions provided are my own.
It’s been a while since I’ve read a mystery-thriller where a secondary character is murdered and the hunt for his killer does not guarantee—and likely will not include—a romantic Happily Ever After (HEA). What I did feel assured of in reading Jane Harper’s The Lost Man was a resolution to the mystery—an answer to the questions that had been assailing me from the first pages—and it hit me with the force that Harper likely intended.
Harper is a stand-out mystery-thriller writer, and The Lost Man is devastatingly powerful, a whodunit where the focus is pretty small—a household of family members and three employees—and the stakes are proportionately higher: the killer of Cameron Bright is someone they all know. Someone they still eat meals with. Someone who mourned at the funeral.
The expansive, isolated, brutal Australian outback is the setting for this story and the place of Cameron’s death. A beloved member of his community, Cameron is found dead on a sweltering hot Australian afternoon at the Stockman’s grave—the site of a local myth/ghost story. Initially his death looks to be suicide, but questions abound, and Cameron’s semi-estranged brother Nathan can’t help but try to answer them.
Harper is a stellar mystery writer and here she writes so intimately. Family secrets are exposed. Family grief is complicated by the weight of their shared drama. And someone in the house—someone who has been mourning Cameron’s death—is the same person who left him to die an extremely painful death at the Stockman’s grave. All the while we learn about this family, Harper is turning the screw tighter, heightening the tension.
For me, that’s the real thrill of Harper’s books: how exquisitely she captures her characters and their setting. You feel like to come to know them, even if there are some parts of their story you’d like to shy away from. And like Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone, which blew me away earlier this year with Hannah’s absolutely incredible descriptions of the great wild, Harper portrays the Australian outback fantastically. It’s dangerous and beautiful. It’s a place where rules apply and people are punished by not following them, but the rules have been adapted by living in a place where most people wouldn’t/couldn’t.
As I tore through the pages of The Lost Man, I was reminded again and again of how talented Jane Harper is, how she makes the world her characters inhabit come alive in a fierce/dramatic/unputadownable way, and how I am not meant to live in the Balamara region of Australia. At all.
Q: Do you have a favorite thriller-mystery writer? One of my other favorites is Tana French. You have to read her if you haven’t already!
Content Warning below:
Rape. Physical & emotional abuse.
This article. I’m a sucker for any article featuring colorized historical photos, and this one’s particularly interesting to me: the 1903 Romanov Costume Party. It’s fascinating how the colorization makes the subjects—the Czar and czarina and others—feel more modern. Check out those clothes and jewels!
This baby. Baby #3 is starting to move more and more, and I’m loving the Elaine Benes-style dancing going on in there. Other baby news: we’re finding out the baby’s sex in August; Sam is really excited for a sister (but not a baby brother) and it’s probably best for all parties concerned that Raymond does not understand what’s coming; maternity jorts are the best jorts of any jorts.
These flowers. I know I’ve talked about our flowers before, but in between my last Things I’m Loving post and this one, our zinnias have exploded. While Daniel and I have planted flowers before, it’s never been to this extent, and never on a piece of property that felt really like ours (I'm totally ignoring that we have a mortgage). The colors are beautiful, and I love seeing butterflies and bees stop by for a snack.
This book. I reviewed it here, but in case you missed it, here’s the Amazon link. This m/m romance is truly special. Read it, please!
This recipe. One day you might accept that you will never have the wrist dexterity to flip a pancake successfully. Then you will also remember that there is something called a waffle, and you happen to have a waffle maker. I've been using this recipe except I add a little vanilla, and I've been feeling like a champ.
These tomatoes. No one ever talks about how vigilant you have to be when it comes to picking these fruits. First of all, there’s the ripeness factor. Then there are the animals, which love to take nibbles with their ferocious little teeth, nibbles you don’t always initially see because they’re on the underside of a deceivingly beautiful curve of fruit. It’s a waiting game of epic culinary proportion but oh my are they worth it. I love to eat them sliced and sprinkled with salt, or turned into bruschetta and lovingly dumped on top of French bread.
As always, you can find me on Instagram to see more of what I'm loving/reading.
I received a complimentary ARC of this book via Netgalley but all opinions provided are my own.
I hate feeling like I’m not liked, and that self-consciousness often makes me try harder, which makes me resent myself for feeling like I have to try when the little article in the back of Glamour says that by this age I shouldn’t care what people think…
That horror show was just a glimpse into my occasional thought process. I know a lot of women who feel like they need to always be liked—like there’s something wrong with them if they aren’t—and that’s why it’s sometimes such a relief to read a heroine whose number of GAF’s is severely limited.
Freya Stewart de Moray of Elizabeth Hoyt’s Not the Duke’s Darling is on a quest. She’s a spy for a group of women known as the Wise Women, ancient protectors of women in Scotland and England. Her current spy job is finding out what leverage they can wield against Lord Randolph, a man championing a revised Witch Act which will target women like the Wise Women.
Freya has no time for bitter enemies, including Christopher Renshaw, the Duke of Harlowe, whom she considers responsible for the tragedies in her family. Or the blasted attraction she feels for him, despite everything. Or for the other ghosts of her past, including her childhood best friend, Messalina. Etc. Etc.
Christopher refers to Freya’s “prickliness,” and that seems as good a word as any other. She’s also brave and smart and (eventually) willing to admit her mistakes, and that growth on both lead’s part was something I loved about this book. It’s about what they can let go of and what they can grab onto, and Hoyt writes their redemption arcs swimmingly.
Also? Hoyt takes passion to another level in her books, and this one is earthy and cheek-flushing in the best of ways. Trust me on this: there’s nothing polite about how she writes sex scenes, even if it is 1760 England at a fancy house party.
Not the Duke’s Darling has the grit and sensuality that I’ve come to associate with Hoyt’s work. It also has the female empowerment that I crave; there’s no way in hell that Freya will settle for anything, and that just might include marriage to Christopher (TBD. Read the book).
This historical has the octopus-like feel of a book setting up the rest of the series: there were a lot of characters & storylines here, but I have high hopes that the mysteries beginning to percolate in my head will be solved soon. Please God.
Not the Duke’s Darling is another really great Hoyt historical, and another reminder that I need to read everything in her catalog.
4 out of 5 stars.
I received a complimentary ARC of this book via Netgalley, but this review is based off a reading of the hard-copy which I purchased for myself. All opinions provided are my own.
Let the record reflect that I would be a horrible detective. I’m overly imaginative but with no built-in set of brakes that prevent me from becoming a rabid conclusion-jumper. Needless to say, I’m not like Birdie Lindberg, teen heroine of Jenn Bennett’s Serious Moonlight and an aspiring detective who’s been exercising said detective muscles since childhood.
Birdie’s new job as a night-shift auditor at a fancy hotel presents her with her first big mystery case: the real identity of famed writer Raymond Darke. And the teen who points out this mystery to her? That’s none other than Daniel Aoki, a boy she recently had an embarrassing hook-up with & then avoided (like he was a loquacious former classmate she spotted across the grocery store on a day she wore her least flattering pair of jeans and just felt blah. Anyone else know the feeling?)
Bennett’s YA books sparkle and shine, even as they’re weighted with the subjects that make life challenging: divorce, the break-up of friendship, a bad hook-up, a previous suicide attempt, the death of a loved one. She’s tackled them all at some point or another in the three books of hers I’ve read. Her teenage main characters wrestle with their problems with a sensitivity & poise that’s admirable but doesn’t feel inauthentic or cloying.
What really makes her books special is that her characters are confident enough to be themselves. From their dress to their styling to their passions, they’re quirky, bold, & assured, & it makes me adore them. It also lends every story she tells the feeling of freshness. Case in point? Birdie is an orphaned homeschooled mystery-lover who wears a real flower behind her ear like Billie Holiday; Daniel is a hearing-disabled teen who lives in a commune with his mom & grandparents and loves magic.
Serious Moonlight is another rich, big-hearted novel from Jenn Bennett, so imbued with love for her characters and between her characters that it feels like a hug.
Q: Who is one of your favorite contemporary YA authors? I also highlyyyy recommend Julie Buxbaum.
I won a beautiful hard-copy of this book from a Goodreads contest. Thanks, Goodreads & Gallery Books!
PI Kira Vance sustains no major injuries when someone starts shooting people in the house where she’s working on a case, but her employer-mentor Ollie Novak dies. What had he just found out about the murder case they were working on, and did it get him killed?
Within hours Kira’s hired to discover the answer to those questions. Keeping her safe is Jeremy Owen, a former soldier and current bodyguard of sorts who Kira’s also dangerously attracted to.
So let’s see: so far we have an urgent mystery *ticks fingers*, danger, and a sweeeet romance plot. Everything that I needed to keep me reading Laura Griffin’s Her Deadly Secrets and finish it in one day.
Some of my friends like thrillers but haven’t necessarily made the leap to romantic suspense. Laura Griffin is a great place to start. Like Karen Rose’s romantic suspense books or Kylie Brant’s Mindhunter series, Griffin’s books are smart and gripping, plus they have kissing!
The mystery angle of Her Deadly Secrets is adeptly written, with a cast of main and secondary characters who are both knowledgeable and committed to discovering the answers behind Ollie’s murder. Griffin unravels the whodunit clue by compelling clue, as the exceptionally competent Kira and Jeremy race around the city following leads and trying to avoid getting killed next.
Although I wanted a bit more at the end, the romance plot, too, is satisfying. Griffin builds up the sexual tension between Kira & Jeremy, as mainly Jeremy tries to resist acting on the feelings between them and possibly being taken off Kira’s security. When they finally relent, it’s lovely and passionate, and has an obvious layer of “deep-like-maybe-more” underneath it all, which I am all here for. But Griffin keeps up the suspense here too: will the physical attraction and their feelings be enough to keep them together, even after the case is *hopefully* solved?
Kira and Jeremy are just the latest in a line of Griffin’s heroes and heroines who gave me the heart-eyes, and whom I hope to encounter again, the next time that someone faces danger in a future Griffin book. And I will be reading more, because Griffin writes thoughtful & sexy romantic suspense, and if I haven’t told you that enough, that’s my thing.
Q: do you think you'd like to be a PI? I actually thought to myself yesterday--at the beginning of the book--that I would, but I was reminded by the end why I couldn't/shouldn't.
Give me that HEA, please.