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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Charlie Adhara

Review: Thrown to the Wolves by Charlie Adhara

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Title: Thrown to the Wolves (Big Bad Wolf #3)
Author: Charlie Adhara
Genre / Themes: Shifters /Murder mystery
Release date: 01 April 2019

Author's links: Website / Twitter/ Goodreads
My rating: 4.5 Stars
Blurb

Agent Cooper Dayton is going to meet his boyfriend’s werewolf family. Unarmed. On their turf. 

And he’s bringing his cat. 

When Agent Cooper Dayton agreed to attend the funeral for Oliver Park’s grandfather, he didn’t know what he was getting into. Turns out, the deceased was the alpha of the most powerful werewolf pack on the eastern seaboard. And his death is highly suspicious. Regardless, Cooper is determined to love and support Park the way Park has been there for him. 

But Park left him woefully unprepared for the wolf pack politics and etiquette. Rival packs? A seating order at the dinner table? A mysterious figure named the Shepherd? The worst is that Park didn’t tell his family one key thing about Cooper. Cooper feels two steps behind, and reticent Park is no help. 

There are plenty of pack members eager to open up about Park and why Cooper is wrong for him. Their stories make Cooper wonder if he’s holding Park back. But there’s no time to get into it…as lethal tranquilizer darts start to fly, Cooper needs to solve the mystery of the alpha’s death and fight for the man he loves—all before someone else dies.

Review 

This is a great ending of a highly intriguing series. The three books follow the same couple, Agents Dayton and Park and here we finally meet the Parks on their own turf and learn a lot more about the world of the werewolves.

I loved both romantic arc and the further development of Cooper and Park's relationship and the suspense plot which kept me on my toes till the end. I was not very happy with Park keeping so many secrets from Cooper putting in a very difficult, potentially dangerous situation. I wished he trusted his partner and lover sooner but I also understand his reluctance to reveal his past, a past he is deeply ashamed of and regrets. 

We get the see the wolf pack with its complicated dynamics through the eyes of Cooper and just like him, I felt lost initially but I enjoying discovering the next bit and the next and next about Park's family and friends/enemies.

For the the story ends with a solid HEA while also leaving room for more cases for the agents to work on. 

Overall, i enjoyed the whole series and found it very atmospheric and intense, captivating romance with an intriguing suspense plot. I'm here for more stories set in this world if the author chooses to write them. Or for any other stories she might write.

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Contemporary Romance

Review: The Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker

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Title: The Austen Playbook (London Celebrities #4)
Author: Lucy Parker
Genre / Themes: Romance / Theatre actors / British
Release date: 22 April 2019

Author's links: Website / Twitter / Goodreads

My rating: 4.5 Stars


Blurb


Freddy Carlton knows she should be focusing on her lines for The Austen Playbook, a live-action TV event where viewers choose the outcome of each scene, but her concentration’s been blown. The palatial estate housing the endeavor is now run by the rude (brilliant) critic who’s consistently slammed her performances of late. James “Griff” Ford-Griffin has a penchant for sarcasm, a majestic nose and all the sensitivity of a sledgehammer.


She can’t take her eyes off him.


Griff can hardly focus with a contagious joy fairy flitting about near him, especially when Freddy looks at him like that. His only concern right now should be on shutting down his younger brother’s well-intentioned (disastrous) schemes—or at the very least on the production (not this one) that might save his family home from the banks.

Instead all he can think of is soft skin and vibrant curls. 

As he’s reluctantly dragged into her quest to rediscover her passion for the stage and Freddy is drawn into his research on a legendary theater star, the adage about appearances being deceiving proves abundantly true. It’s the unlikely start of something enormous…but a single revelation about the past could derail it all.


Review 

This story is such a wonderful addition to the London celebrities series. Fun and entertaining but also exploring the complexity of family relationships, together with a look behind-the-scenes of the theatre/TV world and it's not as glamorous as it appears on the surface.

The romance came second at times but all those other scenes really helped show the true colours of the MCs (and the side characters).

I'm a fan of Lucy Parker's writing and this was no exception - engaging, subtle, sarcastic humour that works so well for me. This whole story was very atmospheric both of the English countryside f the whole mansion-owning family in financial trouble. I also very much liked the parallel love stories from the past so closely interwoven with Freddy and Griff's romance in the present day. .

Grumpy misanthropic heroes are my catnip and it made me happy to see this one paired with a bubbly, light-hearted, fun-loving heroine. I really appreciate her journey to asserting her selfworth and finding value in doing the things she enjoys (comedies and musicals), rather than the things others view as worthy (high-end drama plays). I can't stress enough how important and satisfying it was seeing this, anything that brings you joy is worthy and good.

I also love the element of caring about others that was really prevailing in the story. Griff cared deeply for his family, Charlie did too in his own way. Freddy wanted the freedom from her family's legacy and expectations but she also cared people for her family and didn't want to see them hurt.The villains got their due in the end but it felt well deserve with no malice and spite.

In short, I loved everything in this story - the romance, the mystery, the theatre/celebrity world, the family feuds and secrets and past love affairs. Highly recommended read!

PS: I just have to say how much I  loved the proposal scene, it was ridiculous and over-the-top and didn't go according to plan at all, yet it was perfect for Freddy and Griff.


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Alyssa Cole

Review: An Unconditional Freedom

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Title: An Unconditional Freedom (The Royal League #3)
Date of publication: 26 Feb 2019
Genre: Historical romance, the Civil War 

Author's links: Website / Twitter / Goodreads

My rating: 4.5 Stars

Blurb

Daniel Cumberland’s uneventful life as a freed man in Massachusetts ended the night he was kidnapped and sold into slavery. To then have his freedom restored by the very man who stole his beloved’s heart is almost too much to bear. When he’s offered entry into the Loyal League, the covert organization of spies who helped free him, Daniel seizes the opportunity to help take down the Confederacy and vent the rage that consumes him.

When the Union Army occupies Janeta Sanchez’s small Florida town, her family’s goodwill and ties to Cuba fail to protect her father from being unjustly imprisoned for treason. To ensure her father’s release, Janeta is made an offer she can’t refuse: spy for the Confederacy. Driven by a desire for vengeance and the hope of saving her family, she agrees to infiltrate the Loyal League as a double agent.

Daniel is both aggravated and intrigued by the headstrong recruit. For the first time in months, he feels something other than anger, but a partner means being accountable, and Daniel’s secret plan to settle a vendetta and strike a blow for the Union can be entrusted to no one. As Janeta and Daniel track Jefferson Davis on his tour of the South, their dual hidden missions are threatened by the ghosts of their pasts and a growing mutual attraction—that might be their only hope for the future.

Review 

What a fantastic end to an amazing series!

These are such important books, offering a little known and an invaluable perspective on the Civil War in the US. I enjoyed all the books and with An Extraordinary Union my favourite, this comes a close second. It's a powerful character-driven story with a strong suspense elements (the MCs are al spies and agents, after all). 

I won't be giving away any plot details and I can say that it's tied with the previous in the series but works well as standalone. The whole series draws a powerful portrayal of the people involved in the Civil War and this one adds yet another layer to the grand picture.


Daniel was a broken man, set on revenged, disillusioned, hardened, one who fights for his people but ultimately he has lost hope in his country. There is so much hurt and devastation in his life, and blame, all the self-blame for having been naive and hopeful, for being weak and unable to move on. 
He was a free man with big plans for the future and he was kidnapped and enslaved and everything was taken away from him. In a way his story was one long coming back from the dead, learning to trust and to hope and dream again.
 panic attack, suicidal thoughts, anxiety. flashbacks of trauma and torture. 


Janeta was an amazing, so interesting, so unusual. She started as a double agent, determined to spy for the Confederacy. Her father was a white Cuban slave-owner and, her mother was a slave he freed and later married. She through a most difficult and transforming journey in this story. She had to face hard truths about herself and her family that she had been avoiding. She found her people in the face of Daniel and the slave they met on the road. I started disliking her and by the end I was fully on her side. 

The story has a varied cast of great side characters who brought life and richness to the story. Seeing Malcom and Elle (the MCs in book 1) in the end bought things full circle. 

Ultimately, this is a dark but hopeful story. The focus for me was not so much on the HEA but on the MCs making a choice who they want to be in this life, standing up for their to love and happiness and after all, unconditional freedom. 

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Ebook price: $9.99, books 1 and 2 are on sale at the time of posting this review: $2.99 each

Contemporary Romance

Review: The Inside Track by Tamsen Parker

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Title: The Inside Track (License to Love #2)
Author: Tamsen Parker
Genre/Themes: Rockstar romance, Mental illness
Release date: 26 Feb 2019

Author’s links: Website / Facebook / Reader Group / Twitter

My rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb

Love might mean coming as you are, but staying is a different matter.

Nick Fischer is a screw-up; everyone knows it and they’re not afraid to tell him so. The only thing he’s got going for him is that he plays a reliable rhythm guitar for License to Game, and his big fat bulldog, Princess Fiona, is so ugly she’s cute.

Dempsey Lawrence is a former child star turned financial advisor, and while she’s curious about the hot mess of a man who’s her co-panelist for a presentation on financial literacy, she has no intention of pursuing anything with him. Too loud, too crass, too wild, Nick is altogether too much. Plus, he’s famous, and she is so over stardom and everything that comes with it.

Except that when Dempsey gives Nick an inch, he takes a mile, and she finds that she doesn’t mind so much. Until Nick brings the pitfalls of stardom to Dempsey’s doorstep, then all the attraction in the world might not be enough to promise a happily ever after.

Review

This was an engaging romance between a rockstar hero with ADHD and a former child star now financial consultant with agoraphobia.

I mostly enjoyed this romance and found both characters interesting. I liked the hero and the way his ADHD was presented, especially at the beginning. His POV become more challenging to read as the story progressed though I mostly enjoyed it. I wanted some more depth, a bit more seriousness/angst if you like. He was too accepting, too easygoing, to the point that it seem he didn’t care enough. 

The romance had a well done consent, a bit of femdom and was very sex positive (there is a male sex worker as a side character who was an awesome friend in addition).

The heroine had developed agoraphobia after traumatic sexual experiences as a teen. She was in a bad family situation no real support network apart from people who worked for her in one way or another. They have become her family over time and her only close relationships. Building a life that she can manage and feeling more or less happy. He brought new light into her world, stirred things up. But also cause her a lot of stress. His star status, the attention he attracted was really bad for her mental health. I found this aspect of the story the least convincing. She didn’t leave her house but had a celebrity boyfriend who brought his bandmates and friends over (with her consent but it caused her a panic attack), put her live on stage via chat, had a stalker attack him in her house. I feel it was all too much for her to deal with. 

We see them discussing it and trying hard to balance things out but I am not convinced how they would make it work in the long term. It was a matter of compromise and they both seemed committed to it and put a lot of effort and thought into it, but in the end I feel it was all much for her to be able to deal with it.

The second half was a bit messy, too many things going on, some over the top plot elements detracted from my overall enjoyment of the story. I loved how he worked out his grand gestured with the help of his friends and how fitting it was.

Overall it was a nice romance with interesting characters where I wanted some more depth and conflict and a little less drama. I'm not fully sold on their HEA but the HFN was solid in my mind.

CW: panic attacks, stalker, breaking and entering, knife attack

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