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.
Ok so the plot of Rachel Lynn Solomon’s The Ex Talk is pretty different from the movie While You Were Sleeping. But also I was reminded of that goodness because:
✅enemies to lovers
✅ heroine is tied so strongly to memories of her father
✅ heroine’s life is in a state of suspension
✅ the approachability of the narration. Remember how good Sandra Bullock’s voiceover is? It’s so home-y.
✅ deception plot
The Ex Talk gave me some good feelings.
Shay Goldstein grew up loving public radio & when her boss gives her the chance to be a host she jumps on it even though she’ll be required to (1) host with her enemy, Dominic Yun & (2) lie to viewers that she & Dominic dated briefly.
Their program The Ex Talk is largely about relationships that have ended & she & Dominic will use their fake dating turned fake break-up as part of the show’s premise.
Dominic is more reluctant to do the show but caves in the end.
What could possibly go wrong? Especially when the two start realizing that the other isn’t so bad after all.
I love how straight-up of a beta hero Dominic is. How they’re both imperfect; he’s occasionally annoying & she’s realistically at times self-absorbed & not always sugar sweet. The steam. The deep convos—I felt like this couple really got to know each other. The age gap—Shay’s the oldest. How many times he says the wrong thing & then apologizes. The meditations on grief & Shay’s moving conclusions about it.
But I’ve gotta say, the overall deception plot bothered me. Probably because I’m wary about those in general; probably because there’s so much lying in & related to US politics right now that I’m a little sick of it tbh. But also, I just really don’t want people associated with the news to lie—even though Dominic & Shay’s show was more of a human interest-related show it seems to cross some not-so-small ethical lines for me.
The Ex Talk is fun, it’s sensitive, it’s authentic. It wrestles with grief & honesty & loneliness & also portrays petty fights over the best sound booth. ALL THINGS CONSIDERED it is a breath of FRESH AIR (get it?!).
4.5 ⭐️. (Might be a little high--I waffled a little--but I’m feeling what I’m feeling this morning.) The Ex Talk releases on 01/26/21. Thanks to the author for my free copy which I won in a giveaway. All opinions provided my own.
Thanks for joining me on my blog tour stop for Jane Igharo's Ties that Tether!
(For an #ownvoices review, you might check out Jite’s @now_booking. She's one of my favorite reviewers & I appreciated her insights on this book in particular.)
One night Azere Izoduwa acts impulsively & has a one night stand with a handsome stranger. Then she learns that said stranger is her new co-worker. *Then* she learns that she’s pregnant & she’ll have to inform her Nigerian mother (of Edo heritage), a woman who strictly upholds the traditions & behaviors of their old village & demands that Azere do the same, that the father of her illegitimate child is white.
Jane Igharo’s Ties that Tether compellingly & thoughtfully considers Azere’s predicament: after having immigrated to Canada when she was 12, she’s tried to take on aspects of Canadian life & culture while also respecting & honoring her Nigerian history & culture, the latter of which often seems to necessitate that she act in specific ways her parents dictate.
Not only does she feel a need to have her mother’s approval; Azere lives with the deathbed promise she made to her father, to not marry a white man. To make her life & family with an Edo man.
But against these pressures & wants Azere weighs her attraction toward the father of her baby, Rafael Castellano, who grows more enticing.
I really enjoyed this book, how Igharo portrays Azere’s conflict between her family, her own fears about the erasure of Edo culture from her life, & her feelings for Rafael. Also lovely? Writing a hero & heroine who are imperfect but who respect one another, who offer forgiveness & grace to each other.
I was a little less enamored with how quickly their feelings seem to develop for the other, his deception plotline, & a love triangle aspect of the plot which detracts somewhat from the central romance arc for me—although it is nicely related to Azere’s internal conflict.
All things considered, I really enjoyed this debut. Sensitive heroes, sensitively rendered conflicts, characters who grow, plus some steam=a giant yes please.
a difficult labor, including a placenta complication.
3.5⭐️. Ties that Tether is out today. Thanks to Berkley Publishing & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Adriana Herrera is becoming one of my fave contemporary romance authors. Her books sweep me off my feet & the hero of her upcoming release Here to Stay is so heart-grabbing, the heroine so inspiring, that I wanted more than one Epilogue. Or for the Epilogue to be longer. I just wanted more .
Julia del Mar Ortiz is very close to her family but she moved to Dallas from NY so that she could support her boyfriend. & then he broke up with her.
In the time since she’s thrown herself into her rewarding job as Program Director for the philanthropic arm of a major department store. Now she wants to make friends, specifically with other former NYers in her work orbit.
Unfortunately that includes Rocco Quinn, the gorgeous analyst who’s come to assess her company & determine what can be jettisoned before it goes public.
As Julia discovers, Rocco is secretly a big mushy marshmallow. Despite his confidence & sometimes performance of confidence, she notes that he’s also occasionally shy, uncomfortable, etc & in each of those moments my heart is as touched as hers. Rocco’s never had someone take care of him the way that he feels compelled to take care of others (cue the tears ).
And Julia is fantastic. She’s brave, confident, into fashion, & as she reveals to Rocco, passionate about her role in providing safe spaces for children who are undocumented immigrants and/or have parents who are. Throughout the romance Julia has to learn how to negotiate fighting for herself & making a potential compromise for a beloved.
I kinda wanted more specific introspection on the ethicality of them pursuing a relationship when so much is on the line, but otherwise their relationship plays out beautifully. There’s a lot of yearning, a lovely slow burn, & it’s ultimately super sexy.
Add to all of this a nuanced & often loving portrayal of family life (especially Julia’s Dominican mother & Puerto Rican father), humor, & shared bonding over Queens, & Here to Stay gives me nearly everything I could ask for.
Here to Stay is out on 08/25. Thanks to @harlequinpublicityteam & Netgalley for my complimentary copies of the book; all opinions provided my own.
Give me that HEA, please.
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