EE Ottoman

Mini Reviews and Reading Recap #13

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A long overdue set of mini reviews and reading recap. Work has been too intense over the past few months and I have fallen behind both on my reading and blogging.

A Summer for Scandal by Lydia San Andres

I lovely historical romance set on an imaginary Caribbean island in the early 1900s. It features two MCs who are rival writers under pen names. I loved the strong strong, independent, modern heroine. They made a nice match with hero though he came off as weaker, more confused and uncertain. The story is very atmospheric and you could literally feel the heat coming off its pages. It's fun and relatively low on angst with emphasis on women's issues. hero needed to do more groveling to heroine and to his best friend from make up for his awful behaviour before. I wish his father's mistakes were more strongly condemned. I could see it a movie - the heat in the area at all times, the turn of XIX c fashion, the buildings the scenery - very present without being overly descriptive.
4 STARS

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Tikka Chance on Me by Suleikha Snyder

This has been a pure awesomeness in a bite size. My first by this author and it won't be my last for sure. 
It's a very sexy and intense story with a cinnamon roll hero in disguise and an active, adventurous Asian heroine

This novella is all about the choices we make, obligation, loyalty and following your dreams, taking chances at being happy, loved. Both MCs felt like real - messy, making mistakes but ultimately good people. 

Lots of sexy times where consent is central, never implied but alwasy explicitly discussed, something that I appreciate so much.
5 STARS

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The Craft of Love by EE Ottoman
This is a sweet m/f historical romance with a trans MC. It's quiet, low on heat and angst, high on kindness and happy-making. I loved the mutual respect the MCs had for each other as professionals. The story is rich on historical details on blacksmithing and embroidering. We get a strong feminist heroine who genuinely cares about other people and their well being. At the same time she someone who is focused on her profession, proud of it, striving after the same respect and acknowledgment the other craftsmen out there get. 

I very much liked how fundamental for the love relationship was the friendship between the hero and heroine. Both had things in their past making them hesitant to fall head fast in love but they slowly built trusty and intimacy which made them feel comfortable and happy to be together. 

HFN ending and to be honest, I wanted more resolution from it, but it still felt fitting to the characters and overall quieter nature of the characters. 
4 STARS
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Reviews

Review: Fireworks by Sarina Bowen

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Title: Firework (True North #6) 
Author: Sarina Bowen
Genre/Themes: Contemporary romance
Release Date: 13 Nov 2018

Author's links: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads

My rating: 4 Stars


Blurb

Skye Copeland is on paid leave from her broadcasting job after accidentally drawing a pecker on the traffic map.

Let that sink in. Like it’s her fault the traffic pattern created a perfect schlong?

Skye isn’t laughing. She needs this job. And that’s the only reason she’s willing to chase down a story in her least favorite place—that hell on earth known as Vermont.

A quick trip. In and out. Much like - never mind. She can sneak into the town that once tried to break her, get the story and slide back into the good graces of her producer. Easy peasy.

But things go sideways the moment she steps over the county line. Her stepsister is running from a violent drug dealer. And the cop on the case is none other than Benito Rossi, the man who broke Skye’s teenage heart.

His dark brown eyes still tear her apart. And even as she steels herself to finally tell him off after twelve years, the old fireworks are still there.

Things are about to go boom.

Review

This is the next installment in the True North series and it's a small town romance mixed with second chance at love with heroine returning to her hometown.
Benito and Skye's story has an easy, natural flow, though I was not a fan of the childhood/young adulthood flashbacks. The felt the narration style and the omniscient 3rd person POV clashed with the rest of the story. I liked the perspective their added to the present-day relations between the MCs (the supporting cast) but not the way it was presented. 
Benito is close to perfect as any romance hero can be in my eyes – caring, loving, fighting the good fight (a police officer going after drug dealers), loyal to his friends and family.
The heroine was more complex, there a bigger internal conflict with Skye –  having to do with her past, her job, her future as a whole. I’m conflicted about her view of her own sexuality but I would say is demisexual, just doesn’t know the word for it. Either way, he is patient and supportive and I love him for standing by her but also giving her time/space to figure things out.
Overall it's a light-hearted, easy read despite touching on some heavy subjects as poverty, abuse, broken families, drugs
Loved catching up on the Rossis and the Shipleys, loved the small town sense of community and support. It could be just wishful thinking of everyone running a successful business in a small town without a single financial care in the world, but it’s a wishful thinking that makes feel good and happy and that’s why I read romance. Sometimes I am all about the darkness and drama, other times good people getting good things works perfectly for me.
CW for crooked cop, verbal (sexual) abuse

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Ainslie Paton

Mini Reviews and Reading Recap #12

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Tinsel in a Tangle by Ainslie Paton

This is a sweet low-heat holiday novella. Nice but I expected more. I liked the cinnamon roll kind of hero – a geek with a bit of rough exterior but with the most caring heart. A lively, bubbly sort of heroine who tries to please everyone and needs help going after what she wants for herself. One office Christmas party gone wrong. It’s perfectly nice story but too low on conflict, too tame and just skimming the surface of a potential love connection.

I really enjoy this author’s voice and writing style but this was not one of my favourite books of hers. 3 stars


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Sin and Ink by Naima Simone


I had great expectations but this story didn’t quite work for me. I’m here for all the angst and they can’t be together because heroine was married to hero’s brother who died but wanted more depth of the story and more character development. There were lots and lots and lots intense erotic scenes, a bit much for me, and not enough other things. I understood the lust and pining but wasn’t on board with the animalistic comparisons all the time. It really bothered me the way her love/sex life with her dead husband was presented as lacking in comparison with her time with the hero. Why make her discover her wild side when she was happy and satisfied with her first lover/romantic partner/husband? 

I didn't like his family for their lack of support, his mother came off a caricature image of evil and hate and I didn’t appreciate that at all.

There was little character/plot development for most of the story – just lust and lots of regrets and guilt. Things picked up in the last quarter of the story but it was not enough to save the story for me. They got their HEA but I wanted to see how their relationship will affect those around them. 2 stars


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Never Sweeter by Charlotte Stein


I was reluctant to pick this up despite all my friends really loving because it’s a former bully redemption story and I wasn’t sure the author can pull it off. And she did in a spectacular way! I don’t think I have seen another male character do so much, including emotional labour, to make amends and redemption.

The story is very emotionally intense, the physical violence the heroine suffered from the bullies in her past is truly horrific. The story worked for me because I saw the former bully is a cinnamon roll hero at heart who truly regrets his behaviour and wants to be and do better. The author managed to convince me of the sincerity of his regret and I could understand the heroine forgiving him.e

Emotionally charged, painful, story but ultimately hopeful which what I value the most in romance. High heat level. Multidimensional characters. The hero’s vulnerability, his insecurity about his body, her own view of herself being fat really stood out for me. It was all about building trust and both characters moving from their past selves and getting to feel comfortable about who they are now and about the happiness and satisfaction they feel when they are together. 

The dark moment was terribly dark, for a moment I was worried they won’t be able to come back from it but the HFN was perfectly fitting for their relationship. 5 stars
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I also finished Fireworks, next book in the True North series by Sarina Bowen. I quite liked it despite some minor issues. And we got to catch up on the rest of the Shipleys and Rossis siblings, so that was fun too. I will review it closer to release in November.

Currently reading A Summer for Scandal by Lydia san Andres, historical m/f romance set on a fictional Caribbean island. Heroine writes naughty serial under a pen name, hero is a writer too. I'm only a couple of chapters in and it grabbed me from the start.

Historical Romance

Review: Band Sinister by KJ Charles

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Title: Band Sinister 
Author: KJ Charles
Genre/Themes: Historical, MM romance
Release Date: 11 Oct 2018

Author's links: Website / Twitter / Facebook Group / Goodreads

My rating: 5 Stars


Blurb

Sir Philip Rookwood is the disgrace of the county. He’s a rake and an atheist, and the rumours about his hellfire club, the Murder, can only be spoken in whispers. (Orgies. It’s orgies.)

Guy Frisby and his sister Amanda live in rural seclusion after a family scandal. But when Amanda breaks her leg in a riding accident, she’s forced to recuperate at Rookwood Hall, where Sir Philip is hosting the Murder. 

Guy rushes to protect her, but the Murder aren’t what he expects. They’re educated, fascinating people, and the notorious Sir Philip turns out to be charming, kind—and dangerously attractive. 

In this private space where anything goes, the longings Guy has stifled all his life are impossible to resist...and so is Philip. But all too soon the rural rumour mill threatens both Guy and Amanda. The innocent country gentleman has lost his heart to the bastard baronet—but does he dare lose his reputation too?

Review 


This story is such a delightful queer historical romp made up of fun and fluff and gorgeous writing. There are none of the murders and gore we have come to expect in KJ Charles' romances, just a nasty broken legs and some alluded beating in the past. What we get is the same wonderfully complex and morally dubious characters . 

It's the story of Guy and his sister Amanda, both discovering the hellfire club Murder and falling in love. I loved the MCs, as well the supporting cast of diverse characters. Amanda was awesome, often eclipsing even Guy and Philip and she is the kind of female representation in m/m romance that I want to see more often, not to say always. 

I won't be going into details of the story because the plot is suspenseful and dramatic and I feel would work better to go into it blind. I found the first part really funny, light-hearted while things a more serious turn in the second half. 

Guy is a virgin hero discovering the possibility for love, affection, friendship, in a way he is having his whole world turned upside down and his journey of self-discovery and world-discovery is a pleasure to follow. He is the embodiment of quiet strength and resilience, appearing meek and bland on the surface but full of fire and life and curiosity. 

Philip is basically noble bastard hero who becomes aware of his own position of privilege and falls for the least likely man. He gets to teach Guy a lot of things, to open his eyes and turn upside down his beliefs and principle but he also learns a lot from Guy. His relationship with Guy makes him re-examine and re-evaluate his own position and principles in life. I'd say they both bring out the best in each other and that is what makes their relationship so special in my eyes. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the secondary plot with Guy’s sister – she did steal the show in the early pages of the book and was a delight to read throughout. She is his opposite – outgoing, adventurous, taking risks, not a virgin! And I loved seeing the beauty in their difference and how being one or the other doesn’t make you less deserving of HEA. 

There are many discussions on social norms and propriety and how false all this can be and how much more satisfying it can be to follow your own counsel and not public opinion. At the same time there is a dose of reality with all the hardships lack of money and the possibility for earning one’s living. It’s a theme common of KJ’s books – a privileged character comes to realise their own privilege and respectively see the marginalised/underprivileged situation of the other MC(s). 

In short, this a very entertaining diverse queer romance with great MCs and fascinating supporting characters. It has a similar feel to The Henchmen of Zenda - fun and light-hearted while still tackling serious social and moral issues under the guise of adventures and humour. 

Highly recommended!

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Carla de Guzman

Mini Reviews and Reading Recap #11

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Rebel Hard by Nalini Singh

I love her Psy-Changeling series but her contemporaries have been a hit or miss for me. This one was on the hit side, I'm happy to say. It’s modern arrange marriage romance of sorts set in the Indian community in New Zealand. The story is full of cultural and everyday details about the community and the tension between tradition and modern values/desire for freedom which cause the main conflict in the story. I’d say it’s a kind of an epic love story, one about choice and freedom, loyalty to oneself and one's family. I liked seeing how immersed in the community/their families both MCs are. And I absolutely loved them both. 

Nalini Singh tells a moving story about how one’s dreams can change because one’s circumstances change. It’s about finding a way to make things work, about trust and compromise which are at the centre of any relationship. Breaking free is not a goal in itself, it's a means to achieve happiness and when being with another person is what makes you happy, you two work to give each other that freedom and that connection and support.

It’s a past paced story, rich in details and ultimately one big celebration of love (it features multiple wedding, mostly Indian style ones but also one non-Indian beach wedding). And it has a fabulous ending full of love and quiet happiness. 

Highly recommended read! 5 stars

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How She likes It by Carla de Guzman

This a romanceclass title (a community of Filipino authors who write romance in English, and also the readers of these books) and my first by this author. It was absolutely lovely. I enjoyed everything about it - older successful CEO heroine, younger single dad hero, one night stand and then he ends up working as her assistant. Great fat rep in the heroine, awkward, a bit clumsy giant of a hero. It's practically my catnip and I loved the romance arc, the way they dealt with the power imbalance between them, them being at different stage sin their lives and yet, complimenting each other. Tense, dynamic story, lots of reflections on family/friendship dynamics. 

A bit of the evil ex trope which I didn't particularly like. I could understand his resentment and conflicting emotions re the mother of his child, yet she was continuously presented in negative light and judged for her (non-traditional) choices. Unlike the heroine who made her own non-traditional choices and was applauded, admired by the hero for them. 

Still, this is a very intense, compelling but also down-to-earth contemporary romance. I loved that it allowed for the heroine to be determined, business savvy, in control and professionally successful while the hero was still finding his way professionally, happy and satisfied to be a father, not focused on professional success so much. 4 stars

I already have If the Dress Fits, an earlier romance in the same setting, and I want to read it as soon as possible.

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I just finished Best of Luck by Kate Clayborn and I’m lost for words to express how much I loved it. It’s the perfect ending to a great series of contemporary romance. It releases in November and I will be reviewing it in detail closer to release date. For now, I will only say that Kate broke my heart with these books and put it back together in a most delicious way. I just can't recommend this series enough.

Currently reading: Band Sinister by KJ Charles and it’s such a fun, feel-good historical romance, a romcom, I dare say and I’m having so much fun with it. It releases on Oct 11 and I will review it properly soon.


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