Q: how close are you to the ocean? I’m about 6.5 hours away from Charleston or Hilton Head, SC, the beaches we’ve taken our kids to the most.
The blurb! The cover! The premise (workplace enemies to lovers)! You could have colored me intrigued by Angie Hockman’s Shipped & it ended up being a cute, zippy read that fell a *little* short of my high expectations.
Henley Rose Evans, marketing manager for a cruise line, is up for a promotion. The problem is that her nemesis Graeme Crawford-Collins, the man who once accepted praise for something she came up with, is also up for the same position.
The second problem is that both Henley & Graeme will be on the same cruise trip as they travel throughout the Galápagos Islands. Afterwards they’ll craft proposals for improving customer experience on that line & their boss will base his promotion decision on who is most successful.
With sparkling descriptions of the setting, a heroine with a big growth arc, & a hero who, despite what the heroine initially thinks, is a “kind” person (my secret kryptonite), Shipped has a lot to delight. There are bursts of humor & moments when women save the day, even bringing down a nasty villain.
But there’s one aspect of Henley & Graeme’s journey to love that rubs me the wrong way, & though it’s a blip in the scheme of things it doesn’t reflect 100% well on the hero to me. & honestly I would have also enjoyed seeing the hero in a truly embarrassing moment because the heroine has a few incidents of unintentional public humiliation while the hero is all too often Mr. Charming/Mr. Capable. But that’s probably just me 🤣.
All things considered, this is a fun, non-steamy, relatively gentle, enemies to lovers read in a setting that really comes alive.
references to abuse of someone close to heroine.
4 ⭐️. Shipped is available on January 19, 2021. Thanks to Gallery Books & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
️Q: what’s the most unusual shifter romance you’ve read? Mine is this series--it has centaurs!
G. A. Aiken/aka Shelly Laurenston is all too willing to go there. The books I’ve read of hers are bananas, w/ ferocious “unlikable” likable heroines, crass language, & bold storylines, & it’s an altogether entertaining free for all.
The Princess Knight is the second book in The Scarred Earth Saga, this one focusing on Gemma Smythe, a necromancer war monk & sister of the blacksmith queen Keeley.
Gemma’s a brave & sometimes reckless warrior who frequently gets into shouting (& physical) matches with her sister/queen & kinda hates Amachi warrior Quinn, a centaur whom everyone else is alternately charmed & irritated by.
I did want more physical chemistry between Gemma & Quinn *throughout* the novel but this is another thrilling/fun to read/visceral explosion of a fantasy with romantic elements that I recommend to anyone wanting something unforgettable.
4 ⭐️. If this enemies to lovers sounds good to you definitely start with the first in the series: The Blacksmith Queen. The Princess Knight is out 11/24. Thanks to Kensington Press & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Sophie Sullivan’s Ten Rules for Faking It wasn’t quite what I expected going into it. I enjoyed this book, its sweetness, its occasional humorous moments, its strong female friendship, & how sensitively it was written, but I also didn’t expect it to revolve *so much* around the heroine’s self-described severe social anxiety.
The heroine Everly’s anxiety is referenced in the blurb. But I do want to be clear that that is actually a really big part of the book—of the plot & of Everly’s arc.
At the beginning of Ten Rules radio show producer Everly Dean gives an accidental on-air tirade about her cheating ex. People are interested in the story.
Her boss, Chris Jansen, who secretly has feelings for Everly but who’s also determined to re-locate back to NYC once he gets the okay from his boss dad, decides to turn lemons into lemonade. He proposes that Everly do a bachelorette kinda thing: she’ll go on dates with carefully selected men & eventually choose one as winner, all the while documenting her experiences for the radio station blog.
Everly agrees because her Ten Rules of Faking It suggests that it would be a good way to get out of her so-called comfort zone. & why would the hero even propose this idea? Chris knows his professional plans & while he wants Everly, he also wants her to “be happy.” (He also wants to bring in ad money.)
Watching Everly & Chris move from people who barely talk to close friends who support each other & offer understanding is quite heartwarming. I love how he recognizes signs that she’s experiencing anxiety & over the course of the book, how he assures her that she’s strong & someone he wants & wants to be with.
Everly’s increasing willingness to be vulnerable with others & to, as she notes, come to terms with who she is, anxiety & all, is beautiful. I have anxiety & that line about self-acceptance stopped me in my tracks.
Perhaps my biggest issue with the book has to do with the conflicts. The first conflict feels so sustained to me & then shortly after it was resolved the other popped up, & the pacing of those felt somewhat emotionally frustrating to me as I was reading it.
Also, I thought it was odd that therapy is only suggested for Everly once, & very obviously ignored on her part. It seems strangely included to me—not to mention that I see a lot of value in therapy itself.
This book has some moments that really touched me, & I think it has a lot of good things to say. But execution-wise, it isn’t always my cup of tea.
3.5 ⭐️. Ten Rules for Faking It is out on 12/29. Thanks to St. Martin’s Press & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Fashion this or that:
High heels or flats
Jeans or dress
Novelty tee or button down
Rebecca Zanetti’s Driven is a series stand-out with crackling chemistry & a mystery that kept me guessing.
Angus Force, disgraced former FBI agent & now head of a top secret ops group, can’t get over the idea that the serial killer who killed his sister is still alive. Even though all signs indicate that he died years ago.
Another fact about Angus: he doesn’t like psychiatry, & Dr. Nari Zhang, the psychiatrist paired with their misfit team, alternately turns him on & pushes his buttons.
Then bodies start turning up, their murders looking similar *and* different in some ways to those committed by the serial killer Angus chased & killed, & Angus and Nari have to decide if it’s worth losing their careers, their lives, to follow through with Angus’s idea that the dead serial killer is actually still alive, murdering new people.
I’ve been following the vaguely combative relationship between Angus & Nari for books now & I couldn’t wait to see how it played out in Driven.
This book an is sexy 🥵. Let me just get that out there. I had the sense while reading that there are also quite a number of those scenes & I’ll be honest, I didn’t hate it.
The mystery is intriguing & I did that cute thing while reading where I suspect multiple people of being vicious murderers . Driven is high-octane with lots of thrills & by the end of it, I wanted Angus & Nari to go on a vacation.
But I will admit to some unease regarding Angus’s drinking, which is also something that previous books have set up. It’s lessened considerably in Driven but there’s still the threat of him returning to that place.
Admittedly, I’m coming at this book with a background of family alcoholism but I wanted Angus to address it head-on in some meaningful way, instead of characters, including the heroine, speculating about his drinking & dancing around it.
But overall this is a great read with a strong heroine I really liked—one who refuses to just fall in line—quite a lot of steam, & endearing secondary characters.
4 ⭐️. Driven is available on 01/26/21. Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Within the first chapter of When a Rogue Meets His Match I knew Elizabeth Hoyt had my number.
A lean, fighting machine of a hero who’s frequently described as having glittering black eyes & who is a so-called bully man for a Duke; said hero can’t help but watch & appreciate our heroine Messalina & want her even though she loathes him...I didn’t stand a chance, okay?
Gideon Hawthorne uses violence to do the Duke of Windmere’s dirty work & to collect debts. Raised in St. Giles he’s since made a fortune & plans on using Messalina to help win over aristocratic investors in his business ventures. It only helps that he’s long wanted her, the Duke’s niece.
Messalina has always believed the worst of her Gideon. It doesn’t help matters when her uncle threatens her into marrying him. But she begins to see Gideon in a new light now & again, which confuses her & makes her question her decision to leave him after securing enough funds to provide for herself & her sister.
In case I didn’t make it clear, this hero really does things for me. From his physical description to his mannerisms to his big feelings for Messalina which he doesn’t immediately recognize as love. Of course you love her, you adorable deadly fool.
But the “mysterious task” the Duke has given him in exchange for “giving”Messalina to him in marriage & Gideon’s own so-called manipulative nature could ruin everything.
I love how Hoyt explores class differences w/ a working-class hero trying to force his way into an unreceptive aristocratic class & how Messalina tries to help him. How he and their marriage make her realize things about life for those in each class. How she & their marriage make him realize how to show & express love.
Like in the other Hoyt books I’ve read, the characters (esp the males) are often gray & willing to contemplate stepping over the line into black. There’s quite a lot of violence in this book.
But the violent antihero with a secret mushy heart really worked for me 🤣.
[cw: memories of a child who was hanged for theft.]
4.5 ⭐️. When a Rogue Meets His Match is out on 12/01. Thanks to Forever Pub, Grand Central Pub, & Netgalley for the complimentary copies of this book. All opinions provided are my own.
Q: what’s been one of your fave non-house places to read? I love reading in cars, planes, & trains.
Book 1 in the Tales of the Blackbone Witches, A Curse of Ash & Embers is the story of a young woman’s entree into a world far away from her former constrictive family life & into one of magic & monsters.
16 year old Elodie “Dee” is unexpectedly sent away from her home to be a servant for someone she’s never met. Her mother offers no explanation & before she reaches her new home Dee learns how poorly the villagers regard her new employer, a witch named Aleida Blackbone.
Aleida has replaced Gyssha, a very cruel witch who was her “mother” & teacher, & whose legacy continues to haunt the landscape through the monsters she fashioned.
& then a warlock comes to their door, & Dee & Aleida must do what they can to get rid of the threat. If they can.
A Curse of Ash & Embers feels very much like a coming of age story, as Dee travels to the cottage on her own & must decide who she trusts & if she can trust in herself.
The world is inventive & the magic descriptions are visceral (sometimes disturbing) & engrossing. Add to this a writing style that feels personable & ACoA&E offers a story that I think many fantasy-lovers could enjoy.
There’s promise in this series but I did miss some depth, both emotionally & in characterization. I want to know more about the characters & this, coupled with the fact that the action takes place only over a matter of a few days, gives the book a slight superficial air.
But I really enjoyed what Jo Spurrier does here, & she’s a writer that I’d like to read more from.
3.5 ⭐️. A Curse of Ash & Embers is available now. Thanks to Harper Voyager for the complimentary finished copy. All opinions provided are my own.
I’ve been waiting to get my greedy mitts on S. Young’s Bound by Forever for so long, it seems. Her True Immortality series has:
✅ Thrilling worldbuilding. Fae, werewolves, & vampires in a modern setting.
✅ A keen sense of sexual tension
✅ An overarching story that links these standalones together & that helped me determine the pairing for this book in advance. I’ve been weak for these MCs for months bc
✅ S. Young takes the sunshine & the grumpy trope & puts it in a blender. The sunshine one goes a *little* dark in this romance!
Bound by Forever features Fae psychic (& possessor of other super abilities) Niamh Farren, who’s struggling after her brother was murdered by a group of witches hunting for another Fae. Now she’s a vampire killer & taking little effort to hide her tracks from the people who want to kill her or use her.
Why? Niamh is one of the keys to opening the gate that leads from Faerie to the “normal” human world.
A Fae friend hires forbiddingly grumpy Kiyo, a Japanese immortal werewolf mercenary, to be her bodyguard. But this task is made much more difficult bc Kiyo doesn’t trust her.
The chemistry between Niamh & Kiyo is engrossing & their push & pull gives me those romance thrills. Kiyo is frequently an asshole & pushes Niamh away time & time again. Then he feels remorse—because of course he can’t help but want to be close to her—& I knew at some point he was going to tumble with a giant crash *TIMBERRRRR!
S. Young has done really cool things with her world-building & Niamh & Kiyo cover its terrain like the badasses they are. I love how powerful they are, how they run into trouble & use their ingenuity & superhuman abilities to get out.
Watch out for violence & gore in this one if it’s not your thing.
If you’re a fan of paranormal romance—or if you’ve never read it before & want to give it a shot—I recommend that you start with the beginning of this series, War of Hearts. Get ready for a series that’s entertaining, sexy, & full of characters resistant to falling in love (how cute is that?).
4 .5⭐️. Bound by Forever is out on 11/17. Thanks to the author for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
If you love dark, tortured, emotionally starved heroes who eventually recognize that they’ve fallen HARD for the heroine then may I rec Kerrigan Byrne.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from her latest release, All Scot & Bothered, but I really enjoyed it, barring a couple of reservations. More on that later.
Cecelia Teague is a mathematician, spinster, & Red Rogue. She unexpectedly inherits a school from her aunt & learns that it’s funded by gambling.
Chief Justice Cassius Ramsay, an unforgiving Judgy McJudgerson, believes that the school is actually a front for kidnapping & human trafficking. In his raid of the school Cecelia adopts the disguise of The Scarlet Lady.
Our hero has very reluctant pants feelings for both women, Cecelia & The Scarlet Lady, not realizing that they are one & the same. He’s also been celibate for 7+ years & has no plans of changing that, especially because women are the worst yada yada yada & The Scarlet Lady is the worst of them all.
This book has a few things you might love-
She’s soft; he’s hard (lots of jokes we could make there).
A misogynist hero who comes to some big realizations, though I wanted them to go even further since they’re so tied up to how amazing Cecelia specifically is. What about other women, pal?
A spectacles-wearing, plump heroine who doesn’t like confrontation but stands up for herself w/ him.
The # of times said heroine stares at how his muscles move under his clothes.
But I do think there’s a convo romance could have about how the Italian Count is described, & race & ethnicity in general in this book, my overall reading of which was indirectly informed by a series of Tweets by a romance reader who had issues with a lot of the book, including how it handles the topics of misogyny & race. If you’re thinking about picking this one up I definitely rec that you read reviews written by POC.
With that being said overall for me this is mostly another transporting book written by a master at pulling heartstrings. But is anyone else hoping for a KB book w/ a heroine who goes scorched Earth on the hero for a sec?
4 ⭐️. All Scot & Bothered is out now. Thanks to St. Martin's Press & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC & finished copy. All opinions provided are my own.
This series has been my intro to Christie Craig and after really liking the second book I couldn’t wait to read cold case detective Connor Pierce’s story in Don’t Look Back.
A built, attractive police officer with commitment & guilt issues, Connor is basically asking to fall in love 🤣. Only he wouldn’t see it that way.
He’s been avoiding it since his wife divorced him, and after he killed a teen involved in a drug-dealing related shootout.
But he can’t help his attraction to Brie Ryan, an FBI agent who’s gone undercover trying to find out more about her sister’s murder.
Violent events bring them together on an investigation.
The chemistry between Connor & Brie is fun to watch & I love how Craig plays with their romantic pacing with Connor’s actions (though I do think Brie acts a bit immaturely in response.)
Brie had me cheering with her unwillingness to settle for scraps, with how she stands up for herself & her needs & wants.
The mysteries are intriguing & it was a distracting read post-election which I appreciated, but I also have a couple of issues with the book. I don’t quite understand how Brie got her FBI job—how she became exactly qualified her for the position—& there’s a moment with some sexist jokes that annoyed me.
Overall I enjoyed this one & will definitely read more by Christie Craig, but the second book is definitely my fave of the series.
[CWs: this book has quite a lot of violence & violent images. References to rape. Reference to miscarriage.]
3.5 ⭐️. Don't Look Back is out on 12/15. Thanks to Forever Pub & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
I’m a huge fan of Beauty & the Beast re-tellings & I was so excited to get my hands on Lenora Bell’s spin. Love is a Rogue is a delightful version with a heroine as the beast & the sweetest softest hero—a cinnamon rogue as I think I saw Lenora call him.
Lady Beatrice Bentley is an etymologist working on compiling her own dictionary in Cornwall. Dubbed Beastly Beatrice, she wants to be a spinster but her mother, a Duchess, has other plans.
Stamford “Ford” Wright is a naval carpenter on temporary leave who can’t help but be drawn to Beatrice.
He’s a rogue. She’s a duke’s sister with an awful nickname who was isolated from others in her childhood & is now preoccupied with her work.
Both resolve to stay away from the other but that’s hard to do when Ford must inform the Duke of some employee malfeasance & Beatrice inherits a London bookstore that just so happens to need a renovation.
What did I love about this historical? The rep—Beatrice wears spectacles & has palsy. How Lenora explores the societal constraints Beatrice & Ford face. The emotionality of the hero & how soft he is when it comes to Beatrice. The bold women we see here, members of a Knitting League that doesn’t knit.
Overall this is an enjoyable read & a cool Beauty & the Beast re-telling with a stand-out hero.
3.5 ⭐️. Love is a Rogue is out now. Thanks to Avon & Goodreads for my complimentary copy, which I won in a giveaway. All opinions provided are my own.
Give me that HEA, please.
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