Thanks to the author for the complimentary e-ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Recently I was bookstagram influenced to try Tracy Sumner’s historical romances. If you’re a Kerrigan Byrne fan, if you like oomph & drama & intensity & steam, you might want to check out The Wicked Wallflower.
Lady Philippa Darlington is a woman with a plan & when that plan doesn’t work, she’s a woman with a backup plan. She is sneaky & brave & refuses to be cowed. She also has pants feelings for her brother’s close friend & business partner & altogether unsuitable hottie Xander Macauley.
Xander basically tries hard to resist. & then when he gives in—finally—they nearly sex themselves into beautiful oblivion.
The Wicked Wallflower isn’t about subtlety IMO. As an example, characters (even secondary) are often described as beasts or brutes etc. Sometimes—like in those cases—it feels excessive to me. But I also appreciate it when it comes to aspects of the leads’ dance together—the descriptions of the temptation & passion & the lovely bewildering majesty of falling in love & being in love.
4⭐️. Out now!
CWs: reference to child abuse; violence. Also the book makes note of certain items the hero imports from the American colonies—“He imported the very best from the Carolinas.” This gave me a squeamish feeling given America’s history of slavery.
Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary e-ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
I’ve found one of my new fave ways for the brother’s best friend trope to develop: basically the siblings just wait & watch the slow burn happening before their faces & by the end THEY are the ones trying to move things forward.
Spoiler alert: that’s what happens in Chloe Liese’s If Only You.
This contemporary sports romance featuring two pro athletes, both of whom want &/or need an image overhaul, is a lovely slow burn with a round of secondary characters who also had me feeling the love.
If Only You is about people deciding to be something else & the decisions they choose to make to do it. It’s also a story about true friendship, great hugs, patience, & unconditional love (of the friend & partner variety).
There’s a lot of pining, the hero Sebastian gives off lots of “I don’t deserve her” energy, & a heroine, Ziggy Bergman, who’s tired of sitting at the kiddie end of the table, literally, & wants to be acknowledged for the person she currently is.
I love that message & that idea.
If you’re looking for a book where the feelings are on the table (even if the pining itself is hidden from the other lead), where the characters make space for others’ authenticity, check this one out. I will admit, that same earnestness doesn’t always come across as natural to me in the dialogue, but for the most part, I love how openly this book shares its feelings.
This is a really sweet, lovely book with a reforming bad boy & a reforming ultra good girl, & just lots of love all around.
4.5⭐️. Out now!
CWs: Sebastian’s dad left him & he has trauma surrounding his ultra-critical stepfather & emotionally negligent mom. Ziggy is autistic & describes how she experiences social interactions. Sebastian experiences pain & is diagnosed as having Celiac’s Disease in the book.
Thanks to the author for the complimentary e-ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
* brother’s best friend
* snowed in romance
* secret crushing
* smoking hot sex around a Christmas tree
Eliza McLane’s Santa, Baby serves up a hefty dose of Christmas romance magic, blending steam, pining, respect, & care effortlessly & offering something sweet & IMO super sexy. Wow-ie.
Actor Nick Andersen arrives at his new job only to find when he arrives that he will actually be starring as Santa in an adult film directed by—& co-starring—his best friend’s quiet but also fascinating sister Holly Caine.
Holly blends into the background when it comes to family life but at work she’s the one making the decisions. Including shutting down the film they’re making when a big storm is about to roll in.
But when she & Nick are snowed in—with the cameras still there & that delicious chemistry flaring between them—well, the show must go on. [insert any song lyric about Santa Claus coming here.]
This novella offers so much good stuff: a love story that feels believable, MCs who offer understanding and empathy to each other, and a big gesture of support; so much sexiness & heat; a fast-moving story that doesn’t skimp on the feels.
The dynamics with her family fall a *bit* short for me but otherwise Santa, Baby is sensational. It’s so much fun & gives a lot of heart to hold onto too.
4.5⭐️. Out now!
CWs: Reference to negligent parents, depression. Reference to views of conservative parents & those same parents make Holly leave their house when she shares that she works in the adult film industry.
Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary e-ARC and the publisher for the complimentary hard-copies. All opinions provided are my own.
If you’re in the mood for a brother’s best friend romance, you long for those days you studied learned Greek mythology in school, & you are a creature who thrives on secondhand pining, you should check out Amanda Bouchet’s A Curse of Queens.
Though it’s book 4 of the Kingmaker Chronicles this book focuses on a different couple & I don’t think it’s necessary to read the series from the beginning (although obviously there are advantages to doing that).
This book finds healer & sister of the King, Jocasta, “Jo,” quietly longing for a love & a home of her own & still hurting from being rejected by her brother’s best friend Flynn when she was 18.
For his part, Flynn has big feelings for Jo which he will not share or act on because of his tremendous fear since losing so many of his loved ones.
Luckily for us, Jo & Flynn decide to go on a mission to save the royal family that takes them adventuring across the kingdom & sea, to places no other mortals dare go.
Jo has to really fight for Flynn & throughout the book she becomes the leading lady of her own life—to borrow a quote from Hannah of Tessa Bailey’s Hook, Line & Sinker.
Filled with lots of potential danger, acts of bravery, & finally…kissing & declarations, A Curse of Queens is a captivating fantasy with heart & thrills that ends with an intriguing set-up for the next book (which I’m guessing will focus on a different couple).
This fantasy romance offers first class adventuring-writing with pockets of sweetness & it was a lot of fun.
4.5 ⭐️. Out 10/04.
CWs: Implied attempted rape by soldier. Violence. Death.
The beloved queen of Regency romance is back with a brand-new series perfect for fans of Bridgerton. Discover New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh’s Ravenswood series.
The handsome and charismatic Earl of Stratton, Caleb Ware, has been exposed to the ton for his clandestine affairs—by his own son.
As a child, Devlin Ware thought his family stood for all that was right and good in the world. They were kind, gracious, and shared the beauty of Ravenswood, their grand country estate, by hosting lavish parties for the entire countryside. But at twenty-two, he discovered his whole world was an elaborate illusion, and when Devlin publicly called his family to account for it, he was exiled as a traitor.
So be it. He enlisted in the fight against Napoleon and didn’t look back for six years. But now his father is dead, the Ware family is broken, and as the heir he is being called home. It’s only when Gwyneth Rhys—the woman he loved and then lost after his family banished him—holds out her hand to help him that he is able make the difficult journey and try to piece together his fractured family.
It is Gwyneth’s loyalty, patience, and love that he needs. But is Devlin’s war-hardened heart even capable of offering her love in return?
Would you believe that I had never read a Mary Balogh book before Remember Love & I’ve been reading historical romance for about 24 or so years & see her books around all the time?
(That’s a rhetorical question since I know we all have authors like that 😆).
But this book really got to me, so much so that I found myself being okay with certain things that might have given me pause if written by someone else.
Because Mary Balogh’s writing is intricately descriptive (please ask me about Ravenswood Manor & one of the leads’s siblings bc this woman has learned so much 🤣), & the story is marvelously told, & it felt very much Wharton-esque to me but with that HEA.
The premise of this book is that “before,” Gwyneth Rhys & Devlin Ware are total opposites & neighbors who have been closely linked throughout their childhoods but only because they’ve been best friends with each other’s siblings.
Secretly they’ve pined for each other, though, & they have *one day* of luxuriating in the fact that their feelings are not unrequited before it comes crashing down in heartrending fashion.
At 40% into the book, we’re fast forwarded six years & Devlin has returned home where he again meets Gwyneth, the woman he “once loved” (ok yeah whatever Devlin).
I mentioned the storytelling, but there’s a lot of other things to commend this one: the bravery of Gwyneth, who is a quiet joy & a bold joy & whom I was cheering on.
There’s introspective Devlin, who, as Gwyneth points out, feels so much even while not recognizing that in himself.
There are well-rounded secondary characters whose happiness I’m also devoted in, & an overall plotline regarding parents and hero worship that feels relatable & heartbreaking to me.
Forcing me to slow down & pay attention, to just really enjoy the immersive story of love & heartbreak & ultimately, always love, Remember Love is lovely.
4.5 ⭐️. Out now.
About the author.
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
I jumped into Sonali Dev’s The Rajes series with the final book, The Emma Project, a retelling of—you’ve prob guessed it—Jane Austen’s Emma.
Brimming with passion & vitality & with characters who feel layered, this is an interesting read that I’m still trying to pin down.
I could definitely tell that this was the final book. It has the air of things boiling up & coming to fruition over a period of time & unfortunately I do think I would have appreciated some of the pacing & structural elements more had I read earlier books.
But with that being said I found lots to appreciate about The Emma Project, newby to the series that I was.
Starting with the complex characters—even the secondary characters assert themselves & contribute to the story, whether the leads want entirely want them to or not 😉.
The family dynamics are sometimes loving, sometimes frustrating, & it’s really cool how past main characters aren’t perfect in this book just because of their once-vaunted MC status.
The Emma Project features childhood friends to lovers, 12 year age gap (she’s older), once fake-engaged to your brother, workplace romance. The sex scenes are mostly fade to black but there’s a lot of emotional intimacy here; it’s really sweet seeing how much Vansh knows Naina & vice versa—their understanding goes bone deep.
There are a lot of challenging family undercurrents in this read, including an abusive father (see my CWs) & I would have liked possibly some more time just on the development of Vansh & Naina as a couple, outside of their families. Those loom pretty large.
But this is a rich story told in a lovely, happy, & haunting voice & I would imagine a great conclusion to the series.
4 ⭐️. Release date: 05/17
Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Alexandria Bellefleur’s Hang the Moon elicits one warm fuzzy after another.
Brendon Lowell, Darcy’s well-meaning, matchmaking, dating app founding brother in Written in the Stars, is a blushing ginger romantic who enjoys watching proposal videos & crying.
When the woman he used to have a crush on as a teen, his sister’s best friend Annie Kyriakos, visits Seattle, he ends up showing her around, determined to change her skepticism regarding romance to something more positive.
It doesn’t take long before he realizes he wants to see where their very real feelings can go but his wishes are stymied by Annie’s announcement that she’s relocating to London for work.
Hang the Moon is a straightforward, pretty low angst romance that feels warm & lovely. The hero is a blushing prince w/ a talent for oral, the heroine is not going to rush into anything & I stan a woman who needs some time.
I really like Annie but in case I haven’t made it clear Brendon is the standout for me—he’s so freaking sweet & his tattoo is everything🥺.
Outside of these great leads I absolutely love the poignant story Bellefleur tells about friendships, too. About what happens when your best friend has fallen in love but you haven’t, & you’re no longer their “first” anymore. How the effort Annie makes in friendships—she’s always going the extra mile—has carried over into what she wants & doesn’t want romantically.
If you haven’t read this series yet I strongly request that you do. It’s so so good & just a delight.
4.5 ⭐️. Release Date: 05/25
Give me that HEA, please.
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