Anthology

Spotlight on Rogue Acts - Anthology of Resistance Romances

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Rogue Acts is the third book in a series of anthologies (which will continue to be released in the future) where romance authors come together with love stories about resistance and politics. 

It was released over the weekend and I'm very happy to welcome today on my blog some of the authors included in this edition of the anthology. They were kind enough to share some of their favourite resistance/political romances. 

Recommended resistance romances


Zoe York writing as Ainsley Booth:
Emma Barry's Private Politics (book 2 in a series, but can be read alone) was a resistance romance ahead of its time. A whistleblower, the blogger who helps her, and a sweet, heady connection that unfurls between them--this is a story that resonates strongly in 2018, with themes of hope and fearlessness in the face of corruption. (Emma was a contributor to the first two Rogue anthologies as well, and in some ways, my fangirl status is how we ended up working together.)

Stacey Agdern:
My favorite resistance romances involve extensive gloms of long (but completed series).

Both Nalini Singh and the writing team of Kit Rocha have managed to meld romance and the subtle build towards revolution. In Nalini Singh’s Psy Changeling series and Kit Rocha’s Beyond Series, a reader is able to follow the spark of resistance, the slowly evolving alliances and the belief that change is necessary…and the characters involved are the ones to create it. Each book takes one step further in the journey, and they are a joy to those who love political science, and romance novels. 

Ruby Lang:
Yours Forever by Farrah Rochon Attorney Matthew Gauthier, scion of the family for which the small town of Gauthier, Louisiana, is named, has just filed to run for state senate in District 12. Tamryn West is a history and women’s studies professor chasing down information on the town’s status as a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Yours Forever does offer glimpses of Matt’s campaign, but Rochon also infuses the book with a sense of place and history—specifically black history. The book serves as a reminder of the deep roots of African American political resistance, while also being a smart, generous, and witty portrayal of two people who love their community, and believe in the importance of civic participation.

Molly O’Keefe:
Alyssa Cole’s The Loyal League series (An Extraordinary Union and A Hope Divided) set during the American Civil War with characters risking their lives to end slavery as soldiers and spies for the North. Every character is complicated and brave, the plots are heart-stopping and the causes are righteous. This is an amazing series telling stories we don’t often hear. I love every word.
Another series that I love that - that isn’t exactly political but does in every book tell the stories of characters we don’t often hear from is Santino Hassell’s Five Buroughs series. Each story, rich in gritty real-life detail makes me feel hopeful and passionate about change and people.


Blurb


When resistance turns to action, love always wins. Seven new romances for readers who love as hard as they believe.

Make You Mine by Molly O’Keefe
Jay Schulman has come to his breaking point and he has a choice to make: walk away from his best friend and love of his life. Or take a chance and make her his.

Personal Audition by Ainsley Booth
Camilla’s living on her ex’s couch, working a few more weeks on a contract before she can leave the city and head west to pursue her comedy dreams. Elizabeth is the last woman she’d expect to get tangled up over—so what harm is a one-night stand? Or a second date?

Brand New Bike by Andie J. Christopher
Jake Lieberman is incensed that billionaire Michael Garcia is going to join the president's council on technology. But when the tech mogul unexpectedly agrees to defend himself on Jake's podcast, sparks fly and the two men decide to team up inside the bedroom--and possibly out.

Cover Me by Olivia Dade
Elizabeth Stone has no health insurance. No savings. No one to turn to when she finds a lump on her breast…except James Magnusson. Even during his doomed first marriage, James considered Elizabeth a special friend—one he had to keep at a safe distance. Now he’s free, and she needs him...but will they finally have the chance to be together, only to have everything torn apart?

The Long Run by Ruby Lang
A Harlem stalwart is reluctantly drawn to the cheeky gentrifier who moves in across the hall, but can she forgive his opposition to her bid for a space in the building?

Never Again by Stacey Agdern
Actor Sam Moskowitz has an overdeveloped sense of social justice and strong feelings for preschool teacher Deb Taubman. Deb adores Sam but doesn't trust him (or their chemistry) enough to let him into her life. In the wake of anti-Semitic attacks, they're drawn closer together, but will their newfound closeness be shattered when the secret he’s been keeping is revealed?

His Neighbor’s Education by Jane Lee Blair
1 rookie charter school teacher + 1 veteran public school teacher + an unexpected attraction and a shared alley: can it equal true love?

Purchase links: Google Play / Amazon US / Kobo / AmzUK / AmzCA 


Contemporary Romance

Joint Review: Irresistible You and So Over You by Kate Meader

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Title: Irresistible You (Chicago Rebels #1)
Author: Kate Meader
Date of publication: 14 Aug 2017
Genre/themes: Sports romance, Hockey

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

My rating: 3.5 Stars


Blurb

Hot in Chicago series author Kate Meader returns with her all new, scorching Chicago Rebels hockey series. Three estranged sisters inherit their late father’s failing hockey franchise and are forced to confront a man’s world, their family’s demons, and the battle-hardened ice warriors skating into their hearts.

Harper Chase has just become the most powerful woman in the NHL after the death of her father Clifford Chase, maverick owner of the Chicago Rebels. But the team is a hot mess—underfunded, overweight, and close to tapping out of the league. Hell-bent on turning the luckless franchise around, Harper won’t let anything stand in her way. Not her gender, not her sisters, and especially not a veteran player with an attitude problem, a chip on his shoulder, and a smoldering gaze designed to melt her ice-compacted defenses.

Veteran center Remy “Jinx” DuPre is on the downside of a career that’s seen him win big sponsorships, fans’ hearts, and more than a few notches on his stick. Only one goal has eluded him: the Stanley Cup. Sure, he’s been labeled as the unluckiest guy in the league, but with his recent streak of good play, he knows this is his year. So why the hell is he being shunted off to a failing hockey franchise run by a ball-buster in heels? And is she seriously expecting him to lead her band of misfit losers to a coveted spot in the playoffs?

He’d have a better chance of leading Harper on a merry skate to his bed

Review 

I have a love-or-hate relationship with sports romances and this one fell firmly in the first category. I have minor niggles with the story (some gender stereotyping and some slut shaming of puck bunnies which I find is the thing that most bothers me in sports/celebrities romances) but overall found it a nice, enjoyable read.

Remy is a hockey player at the end of his career, making plans for family and kids and being sort of stay-at-home dad and I loved how open he was about his dreams of having a family of his own. And I loved his parents and sisters and the way they interacted with each other presenting the model family he wanted to himself. Still, this was all in the future and right now he was very much focused on his professional career.

Harper was also an interesting, complex character, very much his opposite except for their shared passion for hockey. Her family was the total opposite of his and this has left with deep scars. I loved the dynamics of their relationship with her two estranged sisters and how they were trying to become a family.

I'm usually hesitant about of employer/employee romances because of the dynamics of power and she being part-owner and general manager of the team and him playing for that team (after she insisted on buying him) was a fraught situation for them both. She did have everything to lose and putting it on the line for him was a huge deal for her.

There was a strong sexual tension between and after the initial distrust and dislike, they started an emotionally charged affair which grew into real intimacy. The unavoidable misunderstandings happened but they talked things through a very satisfying HEA.

 Purchase Links: KINDLE | NOOK | KOBO | IBOOKS


Title: So Over You (Chicago Rebels #2)
Author: Kate Meader
Date of publication: 4 dec 2017
Genre/themes: Sports romance, Hockey

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

My rating: 2 Stars

Blurb

Three estranged sisters struggle to sustain their late father’s failing hockey franchise in Kate Meader’s sizzling Chicago Rebels series. In this second entry, middle sister Isobel is at a crossroads in her personal and professional lives. But both are about to get a significant boost with the addition of a domineering Russian powerhouse to the Rebels....

Isobel Chase knows hockey. She played NCAA, won Olympic silver, and made it thirty-seven minutes into the new National Women’s Hockey League before an injury sidelined her dreams. Those who can’t, coach, and a position as a skating consultant to her late father’s hockey franchise, the Chicago Rebels, seems like a perfect fit. Until she’s assigned her first job: the man who skated into her heart as a teen and relieved her of her pesky virginity. These days, left-winger Vadim Petrov is known as the Czar of Pleasure, a magnet for puck bunnies and the tabloids alike. But back then... let’s just say his inability to sink the puck left Isobel frustratingly scoreless.

Vadim has a first name that means “ruler,” and it doesn’t stop at his birth certificate. He dominates on the ice, the practice rink, and in the backseat of a limo. But a knee injury has produced a bad year, and bad years in the NHL don’t go unrewarded. His penance? To be traded to a troubled team where his personal coach is Isobel Chase, the woman who drove him wild years ago when they were hormonal teens. But apparently the feeling was not entirely mutual.

That Vadim might have failed to give Isobel the pleasure that was her right is intolerable, and he plans to make it up to her—one bone-melting orgasm at a time. After all, no player can perfect his game without a helluva lot of practice...

Review

After enjoying the first book I had high expectations of this but sadly, it left me deeply disappointed. I love second-chance stories and athletic heroines are not that common, so I was very much looking forward to reading this.

In the end what I got a very stereotypical presentation of a Russian hockey player and I honestly hated it. He came off as ignorant, speaking poor English after living in the US for years, his father had mob concoctions (of course). As an Eastern European myself, I found the jokes on the Russian language and culture not funny at all but rather insulting and done in poor taste. 

I liked the heroine initially but then the whole main conflict didn't work for me. Spoilers! She was convinced he was bad at sex because he didn't make her come the one time they had sex (she was a virgin). And him learning that made him question himself despite being know as the tzar of pleasure.
And he went on sort of a quest to prove himself to her. I really wasn't sold of heir romance. Vadim was presented as possessive, acting like she belonged to him right from the very first minute they reconnected, something I didn't appreciate at all.

As in the first novel, here some of the tension between Vadim and Isobel came from the fact that she was co-owner of the team he played for and she was trying to get a permanent position as a coach in the team.

One of the few things I enjoyed was the family dynamics between the sisters and the whole sports team atmosphere. In the end this was not enough the save the story for me. It left me angry and though I was interested in the upcoming m/m novella in the series and the story of the last of the sisters, I'm not sure I will be continuing with the series.


Coming of age

Review: Abroad: Book Two by Liz Jacobs

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Title: Abroad: Book Two
Author: Liz Jacobs
Genre/Themes: Contemporary romance, Queer, Coming of age
Release Date: 2 Jan 2018

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

My rating: 4.5 stars

Blurb

Nick Melnikov has finally done it — he’s come out.

To himself. To his sister. And to Dex, who listens, hears him, and understands. To Dex, who kisses him and shows him all that they could be, if Nick could only find the courage. It’s one thing to let yourself be open thousands of miles away from your family, but exchange student Nick is uncomfortably aware that his time with Dex is running out. Who will he be when he goes home again?

Dex Cartwell is as happy with Nick as he’s ever been, but he can’t ignore the shadow of Nick’s inevitable departure from London, back to his life in Michigan. Is it worth it for Dex to expose his heart to another doomed relationship with a predetermined expiration date? What does Dex really want for the beginning of the next chapter in his life, post-graduation?

Dex wants to turn to his best friend in the struggle to find a way forward, but Izzy Jones has her own problems. She’s got one friend in love with her, and when she turns to another for help things get twice as complicated. Izzy never wanted complicated, but life just keeps getting in the way — and sweeping her off her feet.

Then Nick’s mom and sister come for a visit, and he is forced to decide between living his truth and protecting himself from fear and change. It’s going to take a lot of courage and a few leaps in the dark if Nick, Dex, and Izzy are to find a way to live and love on their own terms.

Review

Abroad: Book One was a stunning debut and one of my favourite reads of 2017. It's sequel completes the story of Nick and Dex and Izzy and the rest of the gang and it's an equally emotional and powerfully told tale of identity and (pro)claiming your true self.

I admit I was hesitant about the choice of two main romantic arcs, (Nick and Dex', and Izzy's) and it didn't quite work for me in the first 30% of the story. I loved reading about Nick and Dex and how they come together as a couple and I also loved following Izzy's journey through figuring out her own sexuality but I felt those two plotlines didn't really mix and were happening independently of one another.

Everything clicked into place for me when we saw all the characters interacting again. The author gave us a slice of life that is diverse and multi-layered and we got to see how difficult it is for young people to navigate through it. I really appreciated seeing life issues as they are, intersectional by nature. The relationships between the characters bring into focus all the different aspects of one's self and how they affect one and another and make us how we are. We see issues of race, religion, being queer, being an immigrant, being a young person on the verge of graduation and having to choose/figure out a direction in life all mixed together. They were all deftly explored by the author and presented with understanding and compassion.

This story stands out with the depth of human relationships presented - between lovers, among friends, within the family, with the world at large. There is no sugarcoating of the characters' struggles. Nick's anxiety felt palpable, as was Dex' anger and fear and hurt. I really liked how characters, even minor ones stood on their own and felt like real people not cardboard stereotypes (Dex' little brother and his parents, Nick's mother and sister).

This is a very emotional duology and there were aspects of that I could relate to on a personal level. It's brilliantly written, rich and heartfelt. Abroad is one of the best queer NA series I have read and I highly recommend it. 

Cat Sebastian

Review: It Takes Two to Tumble by Cat Sebastian

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Title: It Takes Two To Tumble (Seducing the Sedgwicks #1)
Author: Cat Sebastian
Genre: Historical m/m romance

Author links: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads
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My rating: 3 Stars

Blurb

Some of Ben Sedgwick’s favorite things:

Helping his poor parishioners
Baby animals
Shamelessly flirting with the handsome Captain Phillip Dacre

After an unconventional upbringing, Ben is perfectly content with the quiet, predictable life of a country vicar, free of strife or turmoil. When he’s asked to look after an absent naval captain’s three wild children, he reluctantly agrees, but instantly falls for the hellions. And when their stern but gloriously handsome father arrives, Ben is tempted in ways that make him doubt everything.

Some of Phillip Dacre’s favorite things:

His ship
People doing precisely as they're told
Touching the irresistible vicar at every opportunity

Phillip can’t wait to leave England’s shores and be back on his ship, away from the grief that haunts him. But his children have driven off a succession of governesses and tutors and he must set things right. The unexpected presence of the cheerful, adorable vicar sets his world on its head and now he can’t seem to live without Ben’s winning smiles or devastating kisses.

In the midst of runaway children, a plot to blackmail Ben’s family, and torturous nights of pleasure, Ben and Phillip must decide if a safe life is worth losing the one thing that makes them come alive.

Review

This was my first book by this author and it was fun and sweet but also a bit messy and overburdened with plotlines/minor characters that didn't get enough development.

It's a historical romance between a brooding, somewhat angry and forbearing sea captain and an easy going, light-hearted vicar who takes care of the captain's unruly children in his absence (after the death of their mother).

Ben and Phillip don't like each other a lot initially, slight antagonism and some misplaced jealousy make things between them tense but they feel great attraction to each other which, it turns, neither can or wants to resist. Their relationship is in many ways a first for for both of them (Ben's acting on his attraction to men and for Phillip it'd the first time for admitting to himself that his relationships with men are borne from more than just easy convenience).

Falling for each other meant and did bring about great changes for both of them, realization for the vicar that all his dreams for normal, simple life are not likely to happen and he found himself in need to completely re-imagine his future. The same was true for the Phillip who suddenly saw himself as a father, a lover, someone settled and living close to the people he loves.

As I said at the beginning I felt there were too many things going on and some of them were only superficially explored. I felt uncomfortable with the way the captain's marriage was presented and Ben's family is unusual and complicated but we didn't get enough details about it.

I don't always like romances with kids but I found Phillip's kids to be quite fun to follow around. Despite the convincing HEA, I kept wondering how they will manage to hide their relationship from his kids.

Overall, I'd describe this queer historical romance as a light read which I enjoyed though I expected more of it.

Purchase links: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

2017

Best Books 2017

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I'm starting the new year with a selection of the best books I read the previous one. Looking back on 5 years of book blogging I realised I have rarely managed to keep my favourites list down to ten titles, and this one is no different. So, here is the list of my favourite 17 books I read in 2017. It's mostly new releases though there are some titles from previous years which I only got to read this past year.


Best 17 romances I read in 2017

1/ The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal by KJ Charles. I don't know why I waited so long to read this. It's a mix of historical romance and some horror tales. It's my favourtie of KJ Charles' books that I have read. So beautifully written, so heart-wrenching. In my mind it has a most deserved HEA though the underlining sadness and hurt is almost too much to bear. Amazon

2/ A Crown of Bitter Orange by Laura Florand. Another favourite book by Laura Florand. I really enjoy this series and this time we see a hero with ADHD and a heroine struggling with commitment. Both have a lot of baggage but also have loved each other since they were kids and are only now learning/trying to share their feelings with each other. Review / Amazon

3/ Under Her Skin by Adriana Anders. A fantastic debut m/f romance about a woman overcoming horrific abuse and the giant with the gentlest heart who helps her do it. Review / Amazon

4/ Pretty Face by Lucy Parker. A m/f contemporary romance set in the London theatre/TV world, age gap, opposites attract kind of romance. Review / Amazon

5/ Madly by Ruthie Knox, a m/f romance, part of a series but works as a standalone. It's an age gap story with young, artistic but also successful business woman and an older divorced man who has lost his direction in life. There is a sex list involved and some suspense plot leading to deep intimacy and true connection between two people. Review / Amazon

6/ An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole. This was my first by this author and it's an outstanding m/f romance set in the Civil War in the US. Amazing, super smart Black spy heroine and a charming white guy who is also a spy. So many feels and intense suspense. Review / Amazon

7/ Silver Silence by Nalini Signh, spin off the Psy-changling series, can be read as standalone. It's about the extraordinary psy Silver Merchant and Valentin, the alpha of a bear shifter clan. There is a secondary m/m plotline (first in ta series of over 15 books so far) and an interesting twist of the amnesia trope. Review / Amazon

8/ Abroad by Liz Jacobs is stunning debut, queer NA romance about finding oneself and one’s place in the world. Review / Amazon

9/ The Layover by Roe Horvat, debut mm romance, some angst in a forced proximity situation. I loved the powerfully presented European setting. Review / Amazon

10/ Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai. It's my first book by this author and my mind was blown. This is a m/f romance with a heroine with depression, complicated family dynamics. Review / Amazon

11/ Beard in Mind by Penny Reid. It's a romcom with some serious edge. It's part of the Winston Brothers series but works well as standalone. The author gave us a heroine with OCD, that broke my heart and a hero ready to stand by/with her. Review / Amazon

12/ Dear Mona Lisa by Claire Davis and Al Steward. I read this following the estatic praise by my most of my reader friends. It's unlike anything I;ve read before, two older MCs, one with synethesia The writing is truly mesemrising. It's a powerful story of love, despite strong homophobia. CW for death of an infant. Amazon

13/ Beginner’s Luck by Kate Clayborn. Another great debut on my best books list. This a m/f contemporary romance with a scientist heroine trying to set roots and a hero with ADHD trying to recruit her for a big corporation. This is a story about family and friends and people we love and care about. Review / Amazon

14/ Caroline’s Heart by Austin Chant. I have all the love this historical trans PNR with cowboys and witches and spells and the most gorgeous writing. Review / Amazon

15/ The Love Experiment by Ainslie Paton. This is my first book by this author and I enjoyed it a lot. It's a m/f office romance with two journalists forced to work together who go from enemies to lovers. It's about who we are, how we adapt our dreams to the changing world around us. Review / Amazon

16/ Handmade Holidays by 'Nathan Burgoine. This is a Christmas novella, following a group of queer friends as they make it through the holidays over 15 Christmases. It's very sweet, nostalgic, hopeful and poignant. Review / Amazon

17/ The Doctor’s Discretion by EE Ottoman is a trans historical romance set in 1830s New York. One of the MCs is POC, the other is trans and disabled. Theirs is a story about kindness and empathy and being human and most importantly love. Review / Amazon


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