Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
If emotionally stunning, poignant stories w/ steam are your jam please read Julie Anne Long’s Palace of Rogue series & prepare to fall in love. Often.
I’m Only Wicked with You is 3rd in the series & it’s a somewhat circuitous journey to love that had me emotionally invested—stressing at moments & swooning at the end.
When the book opens, American Hugh Cassidy, a self-made man visiting London, has recently tattled on his fellow guest at The Grand Palace on the Thames, Lady Lillias Vaughn, resulting in her being effectively grounded. Lillias, a beautiful, ice cold queen, was smoking a cheroot, something that an Earl’s daughter does not do.
The tension between Hugh & Lillias, the acrimony & the sexual attraction, is strong & both leads feel the latter’s pull even as they acknowledge the former.
But when they’re caught together, these enemies must marry unless they come up with another plan.
First, this book—like the others in the series—is full of beautiful language & humor & warmth, & also lines that bring a flush to my cheeks. Like a line about Hugh wanting to pin her down on a mattress. The lust is top-notch, urgent.
Both leads are imperfect (bc of course!); they aren’t always likable, sunshine & rainbows, & I liked that too—even if it sometimes made me a little uncomfortable (bc I have some long-held beliefs about how women “should” act that I’m still working through.)
But the nuance to them both is beautiful; also their guardedness & the ways they’re affected by the vulnerabilities in the other.
Though the wait for them to admit feelings was a little challenging for me (I could have used some more softness, earlier), the payoff is huge. The sweet moments between Hugh & Lillias are lovely & the epilogue is *chef’s kiss.*
IOWWY is powerful & sexy & I can picture Hugh & Lillias running the world & falling more in love w/ every milestone. Though the dynamic between them isn’t my fave couple dynamic of the series, the whole lot is stellar & I am a huge huge fan.
4.5⭐️. Release Date: 08/24.
Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
It’s been about a month since I read & reel-ed about Kate Clayborn’s Love at First & its shine has not diminished. I LOVE THIS BOOK, its leads, its small moments of care that also feel like big moments of care, how it made me feel.
This is a true stunner & I highly highly recommend it & her other works if you haven’t read it yet.
As a teen Will Sterling first hears & sees the girl he later realizes to be Nora Clarke standing on a balcony of an apartment in Chicago. Before he can see hi his life is blown off its hinges & he doesn’t see her again for years & years.
Doesn’t recognize it’s her until he also realizes they’re on opposite sides of a battle to determine the future of the apartment building they’ve both inherited parts of. In essence, as the book makes it clear, the apartment building is a source of joyful memories for her & the most painful for him.
THIS BOOK IS SO SPECIAL & now I’m just going to throw some moments out there I love in an effort to entice you to read it if you haven’t already:
—It’s so sexy & tender. By the end of it my feelings (and my thoughts about life!) were so soft & loving.
—Some gentle enemies to lovers hijinx.
—Will wears glasses & Nora sometimes has to adjust them for him.
—Will’s use of the endearment “baby.” I L O V E how sweet it is & their mutual awareness of the fact that he used the word!
—She’s sick & he takes care of her. She takes care of him w/ her homemade spaghetti sauce.
—Nora says “well!” when someone does something discourteous while driving. (I think that’s adorable.)
—Will actually sometimes rubs his chest in emotional response to Nora. Ahhhh.
—There’s poetry, I LOLed in at least one moment, enough steam to fog up my glasses, & a freaking romantic declaration of love.
5 HUGE ⭐️ from this Kate Clayborn superfan. Love at First is available now.
🧬 Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
After a bad day single mom & freelance statistician Jessica Davis sends in a sample to GeneticAlly, a matchmaking service that uses DNA to determine “biological compatibility” between users.
To her shock & horror Jess is *very highly* compatible with Dr. River Peña, the hot man—& also a geneticist-founder of the aforementioned matchmaking company—she’s had a couple of negative run-ins with.
She thinks he’s an asshole & his opinion of her isn’t favorable either.
But River’s worked so hard & put his reputation on the line to create this innovative matchmaking tech, so how can he ignore this result?
& after skeptical Jess loses a big job, GeneticAlly’s offer of a monthly payment for “research” encourages her to spend more time with him.
Will their time together reveal that they’re actually soulmates?
The Soulmate Equation has so many moments that call to my heart.
☑️ A single mom who has a mommy meltdown & day to day worries & insecurities.
☑️ A hero who comes across as a jerk & isn’t the most forthcoming conversationalist who later reveals himself to be sweet & kind & lovely.
☑️ Funny one-liners that put a smile on my face.
☑️ Our heroine refers to taking antidepressants—I love that rep!
☑️ freaking amazing chemistry!
While there’s so much to love here I did have a bit of a trouble with what I’m smartly calling the “science talk.” Also the “statistician talk.” On one hand it does a lot establishing the characters’s work & interests & the plot itself; on the other, it’s just difficult for me to understand . Numbers 🥴. There’s also a plot element I kinda questioned.
But I really enjoyed this one. The enemies ⚔️ to (reluctant) maybe there’s something more to this person to lovers, the sweetness, the STEM leads, the kissing. Yes yes yes.
4 ⭐️. The Soulmate Equation is out 05/18.
Thanks to Forever Pub & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Q: what’s your fave beach?
I’m well aware that I use the word “love” a lot but something I really really love is when a hero makes little, secret gestures that reveal his feelings. That’s *especially* true when those gestures are all about said hero trying to make the heroine who’s been his mutual enemy for years happier.
If you’ve been reading Jenny Holiday’s Matchmaker Bay series you knew the Maya Mehta-Benjamin Lawson pairing was coming. In her upcoming release Sandcastle Beach they’re often rude to each other, dismissive, just all around antagonistic, & their romantic relationship eventually jumps off—and thrives on—that spicy dynamic🏻.
The fact that fighting with each other brings a special flush to their cheeks is fortunate considering that their mutual acrimony is kicked up a notch in this book by their competition to win town monies to fund their respective professional plans. For Maya, money for her almost closed-down theatre, & for Law, a restaurant.
I love how ambitious both leads of SB are, how they find a section of common ground amidst their battlefield, & how the matchmaking seniors of Moonflower Bay bring them together.
Cheers to sex scenes that are hot & funny, a compelling round of secondary characters, & a romance that kinda covers all the bases for me. It’s thoughtful, it’s steamy, and it’s got the inevitable fall of both leads without them totally losing that spicy, dancing-with-(conversational) danger spark that draws them together in the first place.
4.5 ⭐️. Sandcastle Beach is out 3/9.
Thanks to Harlequin Publishing & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Q: are you/were you “good” at first dates? My husband was only the second person I dated & I think I was probably very awkward but also I must have been cute in some way .
Last year someone’s review compared Cara Bastone’s debut to Kate Clayborn’s writing & I was there so fast. Since then I’ve loved reading more of Bastone’s work. The burn is so slowwwwwwwww, the relationships are so deeeeeeeppp, the kissing stuff—when it finally happens—is so delicious.
Flirting with Forever is another wonderful installment, focusing on 37 year old Mary Trace—a gorgeous shop owner who is the last member of her close friend group who has not found her One yet—& John Modesto-Whitford, a public defender who is very grumpy & often rude.
When they’re set up on a blind date by John’s mother, he actually says to Mary, “I thought you’d be younger”—or something like that—& Mary ends up leaving.
But after meeting again at a block party they form an arrangement whereby Mary will run John’s mother’s other date suggestions by John to get his opinion before she wastes her time. Along the way Mary realizes there’s some secret kindness in John & he realizes more than ever that he was an idiot & not very nice to her & he’s been FRIEND ZONED.
This book is a delight & the tropes keep coming & they don’t stop coming (I’ve been waiting to use Smash Mouth lyrics in a review.) There’s older woman/younger man; enemies to friends to lovers; sunshine & the grumpy; & some money difference conflict, with her having a lot more money & coming from a wealthier background than he did.
The chemistry between them is so sexy; the hero is a big grump w/ a heart of gold; & the plot is straightforward. The end started to drag a scotch for me but Flirting with Forever is another winner & I really want this series for my shelves.
4 ⭐️. Flirting with Forever is available on 01/26/21.
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: 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.
Give me that HEA, please.
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