Hey everyone! I literally get anxiety sometimes about lines (where should the line go when it branches off, do people know I’m in line, is it okay that I’m walking forward before I’ve been officially waved up??? etc) because RULES but yes, I do enjoy romantic suspense books with rule-breaking and chases and major threats to life.
Juno Rushdan is a romantic suspense author I discovered last year and I am a big fan. Until the End features Castle Kinkade, a Dwayne Johnson-esque member of the Gray Box, an off the books government ops team, and Kit Westcott, a striking woman who funds the Outliers, a hacking group that angers government orgs like the one Castle belongs to. They’re brought together when Castle’s boss believes Kit is passing on critical info to bad people via drives & Castle witnesses someone trying to kill her.
Juno tackles big issues—past abuse, a heart problem, PTSD, murder, bioweapons—without dragging down the compelling plot. The attraction between Castle & Kit is immediate—despite what Castle & his team suspect her of—and both steamy & adorable, & the book overall is sex positive. I was caught up in the story, loving Rushdan’s storytelling and suspense finesse.
This is probably largely the result of the current political climate, but sometimes I have a hard time seeing how people with very different political ideologies, including those related to national security, can come together without losing sight of who they are. Though Juno does a fine job of showing how Castle & Kit come first for each other & how they’re both willing to re-assess when their partner pushes back, I’m still a little skeptical of how it works for this couple, especially how it relates to one Outliers project.
I enthusiastically recommend Juno’s books and can’t wait to see where this series is going next. The (very) good news is that her books are full of very attractive, very smart, & brave characters and she’s. not. afraid. to. go. there.
Until the End is out tomorrow, 05/26. Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for my complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
4⭐️. Tropes: space romance, bodyguard, different classes
Q: what’s your favorite space romance series?
Imagine the culture that allowed the Medicis to flourish, put it in space, add in some good people determined to be better than their parents, & some kissing (v. important), & voila: you have Jessie Mihalik’s The Consortium Rebellion series.
In Chaos Reigning, the last book in the series, it’s Lady Catarina von Hasenberg’s turn at bat. The youngest member of one of the most powerful Houses on Earth, Cat’s known for being charming & not terribly bright—a persona she wears in public to survive. She’s going to use that reputation on a fact-finding mission into who kidnapped her older brother. Though Cat’s got a plan, her interfering older sister Bianca hires the mysterious Alexander Sterling as Cat’s bodyguard without her consent. Will they be able to find the answers they need without destabilizing things further in the Houses?
Mihalik crafts a story that feels fresh & exciting, that I don’t think that I’ve quite read before. She seems to delight in the big & small details that constitute the Consortium, & while some of the more technical sci-fi language isn’t my fave, I respect the heck out of it because her care & attention is how new worlds are created.
Besides the top-notch world-building, I’m here for the people. Cat’s journey to seeing herself as a leader, as capable of achieving big things & as an integral part of her House and family, is heartwarming. The bond between the von Hasenberg siblings is all the more touching because of how very mercenary their parents are.
And the relationship between Cat & Alex is slow and sweet with a dirty finish, just my style, especially since there’s a bodyguard involved. A thumbs up for nice heroes, particularly when they’re invested in their romantic counterpart’s consent, repeatedly share their feelings, & aren’t scared off by the perception of their upper-class/lower-class social divide.
As much as I liked this book, there are some aspects of Cat’s story that need more deliberation. I didn’t feel like there’s ample evidence of Cat’s incompetence/lack of intelligence at the beginning of the book--to me, events like her mother’s luncheon overtly show her skillful maneuverings.
And while Chaos Reigning isn’t marketed as a romance, the relationship between Cat & Alex mostly fits the bill--but it’s also somewhat superficial if you probe too much. There’s no real sense of conflict between them (it’s all external), & more important, no real consideration of their relationship, how their insecurities and pasts might relate to being together. Shouldn’t Cat have been more suspicious of Alex’s intentions, for example, given her background and parents?
TCR is a great way to spend some time and I recommend it to anyone who wants sci-fi meets romance meets women harnessing their power. It’s not perfect, but it is really fun, original and romantic, and I can’t wait to see what Mihalik writes next.
Chaos Reigningreleases on 05/19. Thanks to the publisher & 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.