F/F romance

Review: Proper English by KJ Charles

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Title: Proper English
Author: KJ Charles
Genre/Themes: Historical, f/f romance, murder mystery
Release Date: 8 May 2019

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

My rating: 4.5 Stars


Blurb

A shooting party at the Earl of Witton’s remote country house is a high treat for champion shot Patricia Merton—until unexpected guests turn the social atmosphere dangerously sour.

That’s not Pat’s biggest problem. She’s visiting her old friend, the Earl’s heir Jimmy Yoxall—but she wants to spend a lot more time with Jimmy’s fiancĂ©e. The irrepressible Miss Fenella Carruth, with her laughing eyes and lush curves, is the most glorious woman Pat’s ever met, and it quickly becomes impossible to remember why she needs to stay at arm’s length.

But while the women’s attraction grows, the tensions at Rodington Court get worse. Affairs, secrets, betrayals, and blackmail come to light. And when a body is discovered with a knife between the shoulderblades, it’s going to take Pat and Fen’s combined talents to prevent the murderer destroying all their lives.

Review 

This is a f/f country house murder mystery romance which I greatly enjoyed. It's light-hearted and fun, as much as a romance developing at the background of a murder investigation can be. It's an opposites attract kind of romance and it worked brilliantly for me.

This story works as a prequel to Think of England where we see Pat and Fen as an already established couple. I haven't read the other book yet but this didn't affect my enjoyment of Proper English in the slightest.

As usual, I found KJ Charles' writing engaging and I was deeply invested in the plot even more the murder investigation which only happened in the second half of the book. I liked both heroines who were complete opposites in many ways but who also had more things in common than one could imagine. Their romance was tender and sweet, with little angst and lots of care and understanding.
Both are strong, smart heroines and while Pat is very open about who she is, Fen is hiding her true self behind a bubbly, light-headed personality.

I liked seeing the complexity of family and other relationships and in particular appreciate the closeness between Pat and her brother. The support and care for each other without being over affectionate and while also respecting the private space of the other, giving each other room to breathe and be themselves. The pride he took in her shooting accomplishments, her concern about his well-being and her fear of losing him, all of this was deeply moving for me to read.

I notice this as a trait of KJ Charles' books, her villains seem too villainous to be real. My knowledge of history is not that detailed for me to say if people like  really existed but within the story their villainy seemed over-the-top. I had similar feelings about the villains in Any Old Diamonds, so it could be a me thing though, so don't hold it much against the book.

Overall, Proper English is a short, delightful read, marked by great attention to historical detail, interesting plot and a tender f/f romance. I'm looking forward to more stories in this world, for one Think of England is waiting for me on my Kindle and I also very much want to read the story about Pat's brother which I hope we will get at some point.

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Contemporary Romance

Review: Teach Me

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Title: Teach Me 
(There is Something About Marysburg #1)
Author: Olivia Dade
Genre / Themes: Contemporary romance, teachers
Release date: 30 May 2019

Author's links: Website / Twitter / Goodreads
My rating: 5 Stars

Blurb

Their lesson plans didn't include love. But that's about to change...

When Martin Krause arrives at Rose Owens's high school, she's determined to remain chilly with her new colleague. Unfriendly? Maybe. Understandable? Yes, since a loathsome administrator gave Rose's beloved world history classes to Martin, knowing it would hurt her.

But keeping her distance from a man as warm and kind as Martin will prove challenging, even for a stubborn, guarded ice queen. Especially when she begins to see him for what he truly is: a man who's never been taught his own value. Martin could use a good teacher--and luckily, Rose is the best.

Rose has her own lessons--about trust, about vulnerability, about her past--to learn. And over the course of a single school year, the two of them will find out just how hot it can get when an ice queen melts.

Review

This a warm hug of a book and I couldn't be happier I got a chance to read an ARC of it. Such a lovely, heart-warming, life-affirming, joy-bringing book!

I loved both MCs, each not being the typical romance MC - she is fat but there is nothing soft about her, she is confident and fierce, has a killer fashion style and np hang-ups about her body. I adore Rose and want to be her when I grow up.

Martin is softest cinnamon roll hero, unassuming and shy, quiet, carrying a lot of baggage from the past. I loved how caring he was with is daughter, with his students with heroine. Kindness means so much and at the same time is so underrated in real life and in romance.

They are both teachers and liked how much their professional life was part of the story, their dedication to their students was a joy to read. Often the professions of the MCs in romance are barely noticeable but here they had a central place in the story because they had a central place in the character's lives.

I appreciate how their romance progressed, the character development worked perfectly for me, both Rose and Martin are hesitant to start a relationship, they have their scars and we seem them getting closer with time, opening up to each other, putting an effort into being together and making it work. I liked how he stood his ground without being aggressive or pressuring her. Her big gesture was so over-the-top but also the sweetest possible apology and it was so fitting to the story and worked so well and I loved it so much. 

The story also has incidental queer representation which I liked, together with complicated family dynamics (exes, Martin's daughter. Rose's ex-inlaws, they were all very interesting characters and had an important role in the story).

Highly recommended read!

CW for abuse in the family (in the past)

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#romanceclass

#rombklove Day 13: Unusual Sports Romances

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Unusual Sports Romances


When Ana Coqui invited me to join #rombklove 2019 I agreed with no hesitation. This online event has brought me so much joy over the past few years and has put so many books on my radar and I am excited to contribute to it.

It took me a while to come up with a topic though – I already did Beta Heroes, and Families last year. I decided to go with sports romances this year because I want to highlight romances that feature rare/not very popular sports on the one hand but also on the other, romances which deal with widely popular sports (hockey,football, etc) but in a new/unusual light.

I will start with the second group – romances featuring popular sports but focusing on other things besides the billionaire/celebrity aspects of the sport.

One such series is the Atlanta Skyline series of football romances by Rebecca Crowley. While book 1, Crossing Hearts, is an inclusive romance with Latino MCs, it’s in many ways a typical sports romance.

The next two novels and a novella take a somewhat different direction – there is the fame and fortune (not so much in the novella) but the focus is on other things – performing under pressure, making plans for life after football, we have characters moving on with their lives after professional sports.

Book 2, Defending Hearts, explores the darker aspects of fame - the hero is a Muslim player who had become a victim of a hate-crime that throws his carefully planned life off balance.

The heroine in book 3, Saving Hearts, is a former professional female footballer who stayed in the sport as an administrator. Her character highlights a whole other set of issues – female football getting less recognition and respectively funding/popularity. The hero is a goal-keeper on the bring of retirement planning his future away from the sport.

Still with the theme of football romances, I want to mention the Glasgow Lads series by Avery Cockburn. These m/m romances features MCs playing a gay Scottish football club. The books explore different issues from politics to the lives of the aristocracy in the present-day, overall I highly recommend them.

Another popular sports that features prominently in romance is hockey and a favourite of mine in this group is Him and its sequel, Us by Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen. Richly drawn stories with one gay MC and his best friend discovering he is bi. What I particularly like about this series is how their sports careers developed. Jamie who is a goal keeper in his college team, decides not to pursue a career in professional hockey but to take up coaching children instead. He still got to be involved in the sport he loves but made a choice that worked best for him regardless how it looked in the eyes of the rest of the world.

Another part hockey, part ice skating romance I want to highlight is Kiss and Cry by Mina V. Esguerra. The thing about this romance that neither of these sports is very popular in the Philippines. Neither of the MCs got the fame and fortune professional sports players in other parts of the world might get playing these sports. Yet, they were happy with what they did and were absolutely dedicated to their sports respectively.

Moving on to less popular sports, I want to mention a couple of romances. First one is Love on the Tracks by Tamsen Parker where a boyband frontman fall for a professional luger participating in the fictional equivalent of the Olympics. We get to see Rowan's dedication to her sport and how much she loves competing in it but also we get Zane who is utterly in awe of her physical strength and is proud of her success.

Still in the world of college hockey,  one of my favourite NA romance is The Year We Fell Down by Sarina Bowen. Both the heroine and hero are hockey fans and players but she is currently in a wheelchair after an incident on the ice and he has a broken leg. I liked how the story showed two sports people suffering through injury, in her case a permanent disability. And she stayed active, participated in some kind of water polo.

Just one more hockey romance, Hard Knocks by Ruby Lang. Enemies to lovers, heroine is a neurologist with family issues, hero is a hockey player, playing a mediocre team, tired of the game, trying to find his place outside hockey.

I’m always on the look out for historical romances with sports elements. There is a recent debut, Gilded Age historical, Anyone but the Earl by Irene Davis. Hero is a friend of the heroine;s brother and both a members of rowing club. I liked how this was presented in the story but it was just a hobby for them and I am looking for historicals where the MCs take up sports professionally.

A couple of sports romances on my TBR list:

Throwing Stones by Avery Cockburn which is a spin-off of her Glasgow Lads series and features..., wait for it, ... Curling :) I'm looking forward to reading not least of all because it features such an unusual sport.

Love in Straight Sets by Rebecca Crowley - m/f tennis romance. I quite like the writing of Rebecca Crowley and I hope this one will work for me too. Also female sports players are not that common as heroines in romance, so I'm looking forward to this one.

After the Gold by Racheline Maltese and Erin McRae - a figure skating m/f romance with a bi heroine with anxiety. This story seems to tick all the boxes of what I like to read in romance and I'm excited to try it soon. 

To get the discussion going, I have prepared some questions for you:

1. What do you like the most in sports romance?

2. What sports would like to see featured in romance more?

3. Which of your favourite sports romances would you describe as unusual?

Historical Romance

Review: Anyone but the Earl by Irene Davis

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Title: Anyone But the Earl
Author: Irene Davis
Genre / Themes: Gilded Age historical, Rowing, Virgin heroine
Release date: 16 April 2019

Author's links: Website / Twitter / Goodreads
My rating: 3 Stars


Blurb

Octavia Sewell is on track to be the next New York heiress to marry into the impoverished British aristocracy. There’s just one problem: the Earl of Brackley is a detestable bore. Fortunately, she has a plan that will scuttle her marriage prospects once and for all, leaving her free to follow her own interests. All she needs is to convince one of her brother’s friends to go along, and she knows just which one she wants…

Set in the Gilded Age of 1896 New York, Anyone But the Earl includes…
- a scandalous text describing the reproductive process,
- a best friend to help a girl out of the trouble she’s gotten herself into,
- midnight escapades,
- meetings under assumed names,
- Victorian flower language, and
- insurance fraud 

Review 

This is a Gilded Age historical, debut by Irene Davis. It was nice overall but not outstanding. 

It started rather slow with too much descriptions and setting the stage and no real action. I liked the heroine though. She is fierce and striving after independence, desperate to escape the arranged marriage her parents (her mother, mostly) tries to force her into. We see her trying to break from tradition, led by curiosity towards life, a desire for something different than just being someone’s wife. 

Enter the hero, a friend of her brother’s from the rowing club – good looking, instant chemistry. A wealthy young businessman, but he is still very traditional re marriage and women’s place in society. I liked seeing him change and acknowledge the heroine's wishes for her/their future. 

I liked that she didn’t have everything figured out from the start, she fumbled her way towards independence and living the life she wanted for herself. There was a gradual realization of her desires, both physical and in general, her dreams of the future. 

The action picked up a lot in the second half and everyone showed their true colours and there were some pleasant surprises there. 

I had minor issues – not a sports romance really, rowing was a hobby for the hero and his friends, I just expected the sports aspect will be more central.

My main complaint has to do with the heroine’s mother and specific incident where I found her alleged behaviour deeply problematic. It was never cleared with the mother whether this is true or no, there is no discussion/apology (assuming it was true). It’s a major thing and I feel it should have been challenged in the text directly.

Overall, this is a solid historical romance debut and despite some flaws here, I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.

CW: Attempted assault/rape

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Alyssa Cole

Review: A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole

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Title: A Prince on Paper (Reluctant Royals #3)
Author: Alyssa Cole
Genre / Themes: Royals, Fake engagement, 
Release date: 30 April 2019

Author's links: Website / Twitter / Goodreads
My rating: 3.5 Stars



Blurb

The Reluctant Royals series returns with a good girl searching for the life that’s not too big, and not too small, and the bad boy prince who might be just right for her…

Nya Jerami fled Thesolo for the glitz and glamour of NYC but discovered that her Prince Charming only exists in her virtual dating games. When Nya returns home for a royal wedding, she accidentally finds herself up close and personal—in bed—with the real-life celebrity prince who she loves to hate.

For Johan von Braustein, the red-headed step-prince of Liechtienbourg, acting as paparazzi bait is a ruse that protects his brother—the heir to the throne—and his own heart. When a royal referendum threatens his brother’s future, a fake engagement is the perfect way to keep the cameras on him.

Nya and Johan both have good reasons to avoid love, but as desires are laid bare behind palace doors, they must decide if their fake romance will lead to a happily-ever-after.


Review

This is the third and final full-length novel in the series. After enjoying the previous two and getting a tiny glimpse of the MCs in this one, I was really following forward to reading it. It was nice and sweet but not as good I as expected. I liked both Nya and Johan but there was too much forced drama and not enough real conflict for me to like it more

I appreciate Nya's strength and her ability to be hopeful and feel joy despite the brutal manipulation and gaslighting she endured for years from her father. It was hard to read at times but also rewarding to see her strength in a very dire situation. It was not all smooth sailing for her, she felt lost and confused, betrayed and lonely but she forged through and never gave up. This was also true in the way she built the intimacy with Johan, she challenged herself, pushed herself to ask for what she wanted.

Johan was actually the sweetest, most caring and sensitive hero who were supposed to be bad playboy prince.  I liked his true nature which he was careful to hide from everyone but at the same time, we only hear about his shenanigans and publicity stunts but they never quite felt real to me. They only happened in the past and at present in this story we see him only on his best behaviour.

I liked seeing my beloved characters from the previous books and the new side characters we meet her was a pleasure to read too. There is an enby character coming out story which I found tender and deeply moving. 

With all the things I enjoyed in this romance, there were a lot of small details which I found annoying and which kept taking me out of the story. Nya playing that romancing simulation game even after she got into a fake engagement with the Johan and became intimate with him felt like a betrayal. I wasn't too keen of all the forced drama either. 

Overall, I enjoyed the whole series with A Duke by Default about Portia and Tavish being my favourite. If you are looking for inclusive contemporary romance that is both fun and emotional, I heartily recommend this series.

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