Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Bethany Bennett’s lovely debut Any Rogue Will Do had me so excited about this new voice in historical romance. While West End Earl falls somewhat flat for me, I’m really looking forward to seeing what Bennett writes next.
Adam Hardwick has worked as a land steward for Lord Calvin Carlyle for two years. They’ve developed a close friendship, Cal even referring to his amiable, red-haired friend as Puppy.
But after Adam is attacked, Cal realizes that Adam is a woman, Phee, who has assumed her brother’s identity & the dress & mannerisms associated with men during the time so she can hide from her nefarious uncle & guardian.
Cal’s there for her, even as this development causes him to develop romantic feelings for his employee/friend. There are lots of things standing between them but can they make it work?
Kudos to Bennett for writing a sweet, beta hero who’s a good friend, a bold heroine, & an unconventional story. On balance I think Bennett writes with grace & sensitivity, & as I mentioned before, I think more great things are in our romance-reading future.
But I was disconcerted by Cal’s rapid transition in thinking regarding Phee. As Adam, Phee garners none of Cal’s romantic interest; Cal even muses on how unattractive a sister of Adam’s would have been. But basically as soon as Phee reveals she’s a woman, soon after Cal’s aforementioned musing, she becomes attractive to him. The turnaround is very quick & it just feels odd to me.
The story also goes in a very unexpected direction & while it eventually gets smoothed away, some of those vaguely rough edges took me out of the story somewhat.
I love the sweet friendship between Cal and Phee & that the story (& Bennett) are willing to be daring, but sadly West End Earl doesn’t always work for me.
3.5 ⭐️. Release date: 06/29
Thanks to Harlequin books & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided my own.
Ruby Barrett’s Hot Copy is spicy w/ several H O T scenes & feels modern & innovative in some big ways; it didn’t make me swoon as much as I hoped but it leaves me wanting more from the author.
On his first day as a marketing intern Wesley Chambers hears a coworker refer to his female boss as a c**t & awkwardly laughs in response before telling the guy he shouldn’t “say that word.”
His boss, a powerhouse named Corinne Blunt, overhears his laugh & this, coupled w/ previous negative experiences w/ men in the workplace, makes her give Wes annoying, time-sucking tasks to complete instead of the digital marketing jobs he hoped for.
But after Wes helps Corinne face challenges when he doesn’t *have* to, she realizes she might have misunderstood what happened. This is both bad & good b/c Wesley is described as a hot nerd & now she can see what a big heart he has...but she’s also his boss.
Hot Copy tries to tackle some big topics & it succeeds in some ways but falls a bit short in others. The exploration of grief is touching, as is the fact that it’s a way for them to connect. Beta hero Wesley is stunningly portrayed; I love his uncertainty, sensitivity, & desire to nurture.
I’m less enthusiastic about the portrayal of Corinne. On one hand I love her complexity—she’s smart, hardworking, & keenly aware of the power imbalance between herself & Wesley in the workplace & how that affects their personal relationship.
On the other, I grew frustrated w/ her prickliness bc it’s so pervasive. Corinne’s frequently rude to even her close friend & I was frustrated by how she responds to the crisis moment w/ Wes. She consistently comes across as inflexible & I would have loved to have seen her taking more emotional initiative w/ Wes throughout the book.
I’m all here for an adorkable beta hero w/ a novelty sock collection & a kicking ass, taking names heroine who’s soft w/ people she trusts. But I did want more emotional nuance in regards to the latter in Hot Copy.
3.5 ⭐️. Hot Copy is out today!
Thanks to Sourcebooks Casa & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
I have so many thoughts about Suleikha Snyder’s Big Bad Wolf. So many.
The first is just how excited I am to find such an emotionally nuanced, sexy shifter read that isn’t afraid to throw some punches at our current political & social climate. A novel that puts a new spin on common themes of the shifter romance—mates, violence, etc—& that features a diverse, charismatic cast of characters who are sometimes noble & foolish & reckless & devoted & anything but one-note.
Neha Ahluwalia is a junior associate at a criminal attorney firm who’s been asked to sit in on meetings for shifter & accused (& confessed) murderer Joe Peluso as they prepare for his second trial.
He’s a murderer. He’s crude. He’s abrasive. But Neha starts having uncontrollable feelings for him & vice versa. There’s a lot standing in their way, including that they’re sitting on opposite sides of the law—plus the fact that his enemies want him dead.
Like others & the blurb on the cover have said this is a dark read that’s full of big emotions—guilt & lust & uncertainty & trust. The worldbuilding is really cool & the difference in voice for each character feels special. There’s so much about Big Bad Wolf that feels special.
But the relationship arc between Neha & Joe feels a little rushed. As steamy as the book is, I wanted more conversational intimacy between the leads & more of a basis outside of physical need for Neha to initially cross her ethical boundary. In addition, the fallout for Neha’s decision is treated pretty simplistically in the novel’s conclusion, to me.
On balance Big Bad Wolf is a really exciting foray into paranormal romance & I can’t wait to pick back up with the next in the series.
4 ⭐️. Big Bad Wolf 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: what’s a series you LOVE that not a lot of people talk about?
I’ll be championing Charlie Adhara’s Big Bad Wolf series forever. It has such a hold on my heart &—as @gigireadsromance might say—my loins, & the series finale Cry Wolf gave me everything, every emotion that I associate with fantastic romance.
This series focuses on Cooper Dayton, a human, & Oliver Park, a werewolf, who are both work partners & lovers. In this particular book, they’re trying to help Oliver’s former lover & packmate Eli as someone tries to blackmail him.
I’m not usually a fan of series that focus on the same couples—once they hit their HEA I want it to be pretty much smooth sailing —but in each of these books the leads solves crimes, have hot sex, & do the emotional WORK to draw them even closer together so brava, I will read them every day of the week.
There’s a beautiful emotional arc to the series & in each book Adhara shows how each lead opens himself up more emotionally, how they they work through baggage on their own & then together, how they become the closest of friends who can go one step farther & actually say the words instead of just thinking them.
If you love:
Stony hearts that turn tender, but only for one person. It’s a hard-won sweetness that will make your heart three times larger.
A steamy (!), safe exploration of various fantasies.
you must read this series. Thank you to Charlie Adhara for an absolutely unforgettable series & a five-star finale.
5 ⭐️. Cry Wolf is available on 01/18/21. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Welcome to my blog tour stop for Denise Williams' How to Fail at Flirting! Read on for the blurb, my review, and a little about the author. Thanks for being here!
One daring to-do list and a crash course in flirtation turn a Type A overachiever’s world upside down.
When her flailing department lands on the university's chopping block, Professor Naya Turner’s friends convince her to shed her frumpy cardigan for an evening on the town. For one night her focus will stray from her demanding job and she’ll tackle a new kind of to-do list. When she meets a charming stranger in town on business, he presents the perfect opportunity to check off the items on her list. Let the guy buy her a drink. Check. Try something new. Check. A no-strings-attached hookup. Check…almost.
Jake makes her laugh and challenges Naya to rebuild her confidence, which was left toppled by her abusive ex-boyfriend. Soon she’s flirting with the chance at a more serious romantic relationship—except nothing can be that easy. The complicated strings around her dating Jake might destroy her career.
Naya has two options. She can protect her professional reputation and return to her old life or she can flirt with the unknown and stay with the person who makes her feel like she's finally living again.
Denise Williams’ debut How to Fail at Flirting had me awash in feelings when I finished it in the early hours of Sunday. This shining book offers so much—from the quirkiness of its characters to its shrewd assessment of academia to its sexiness, its sensuality, & its sweetness.
Math education professor Dr. Naya Turner’s friends tell her her volume has been lower since her last relationship—a relationship which the reader learns was abusive. Her friends make a list of things they want her to do to bring back her more adventurous side, sparking her to start a convo with the guy next to her when her friends can’t show up to their proposed night out.
Jake is a “hot nerd” & they meet over & over again while he’s in town, each of them openly not revealing personal details to the other.
But Jake has a closer connection to Naya than either of them knows, a connection that raises her stress as people discuss the worth of her department & her non-tenured position is considered possibly dispensable.
How to Fail at Flirting is smart & bold & adorkable. It turns out that while virtual school math has me all I enjoy it very much when the heroine & hero have an appreciation of numbers. I love a professor heroine, especially one who jokes with a hero about the sexy appeal of an empty email inbox.
The book’s observations about academia feel astute & also true to my own experience as a grad student & there’s a scene where one of the leads wants to take care of the other one during a bout with illness which I know is catnip for some of us.
Before you proceed with this one, know that past abuse is a not small part of the storyline, and that the ex in question does make a violent re-appearance in the story.
Also there’s a twist in here that might bother some. I thought it was handled well but wanted to mention it...very vaguely ;) .
This is one of those romances with two really nice people & I was rooting for their happiness, for everything to work out, for them to be together forever, & my heart really enjoyed the experience. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Denise Williams writes next!
4 ⭐️. How to Fail at Flirting is out now. Thanks to Berkley Publishing & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
About the Author
Denise Williams wrote her first book in the 2nd grade. I Hate You and its sequel, I Still Hate You, featured a tough, funny heroine, a quirky hero, witty banter, and a dragon. Minus the dragons, these are still the books she likes to write. After penning those early works, she finished second grade and eventually earned a PhD in education, going on to work in higher education. After growing up a military brat around the world and across the country, Denise now lives in Des Moines, Iowa with her husband, son, and two ornery shih-tzus who think they own the house.
Author photo © D&orfs Photography 2019
Thanks for joining me on my stop! You can read more of my romance reviews here or by following me on Instagram. Hope to see you again soon!
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.
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.
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.
Give me that HEA, please.
Join my mailing list.
Want to receive a weekly email with links to my latest blog posts? Sign up below!