Charlie Adhara

Review: Wolf in Sheep's Clothing by Charlie Adhara

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Title: Wolf in Sheep's Clothing (Big Bad Wolf #4)
Author: Charlie Adhara
Genre / Themes: Shifters /Murder mystery
Release date: 2 March 2020 

Author's links: Website / Twitter/ Goodreads

My rating: 5 Stars

Blurb

Agent Cooper Dayton and his partner, Oliver Park, are going undercover—at a retreat for couples who need counselling. They do say the best cover story is one that’s close to the truth…

Agent Cooper Dayton is almost relieved to get a phone call from his former boss at the Bureau of Special Investigations. It means a temporary reprieve from tensions created by house hunting with Oliver Park, his partner both in work and in life. Living together in a forever home is exactly what Cooper wants. He’s just not keen on working out the details.

With a former alpha werewolf missing, Cooper and Park are loaned to the BSI to conduct the search at a secluded mountain retreat. The agents will travel to the resort undercover…as a couple in need of counseling.

The resort is picturesque, the grounds are stunning and the staff members are all suspicious as hell.

With a long list of suspects and danger lurking around every cabin, Cooper should be focusing on the case. But he’s always been anxious about the power dynamics in his relationship with Park, and participating in the couples’ activities at the retreat brings it all to the surface. A storm is brewing, though, and Cooper and Park must rush to solve the case before the weather turns. Or before any more guests—or the agents themselves—end up dead. 

Review 

This is the fourth book in the series following the same couple who have already gotten together and now we see them navigating being in a relationship, something none of the MCs has much experience with while simultaneously investigating another criminal case involving werewolves.

This story is well written and the suspense plot is very engaging. I liked how atmospheric the setting was, we get a strong sense of the place where the story is set, a picturesque mountain retreat, simultaneously isolated and lush, dangerous both for humans and werewolves,

Oliver and cooper went undercover into a couples' retreat for werewolves. and were forced by te circumstances to talk through a lot of the things between them. On top of the close quarters, they got caught in a brutal storm deep into a murder investigation. I liked seeing them opening more with each other, talking about their fears and doubts. They get the chance to learn more about teir partner but also to discover new things about themselves. 

The issues they faced in their relationship felt real to me - (self)-doubt, are you good enough for your partner, do you want to same things in the long term. And all this ad the added bonus of one of them being a werewolf in a world were werewolves existed but few humans knew about them.

Among of the strengths of the book for me was the inclusivity of the world it created - we see m/f, f/f and m/m couples. I also liked the way PTSD and anxiety were presented in the story. Most of all I liked how Oliver and Cooper's love was show as caring and protecting your partner. This resonated deeply with me.

This is shaping into a great rom suspense series and I can't wait to read the next book with more of Oliver and Cooper's adventures coming out in 2021. 

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Book recs

10 Enemies to Lovers Romances

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Next post in my series of posts with 10 romances on a specific topic/trope. This time I am focusing on one of my favourite tropes, enemies to lovers. I love it because of the high tension it provides and for the journey the characters have to take to get their HEA. 



1/ Headliners by Lucy Parker - True enemies and professional rivals though he has harboured a secret attraction to her for ages. Forced to work together to save their careers they become friends than lover (after a heart-felt and sincere apology on his part). 
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2/ Luck of the Draw by Kate Clayborn. God, the tension here, the pure hatred he had for her and her desperate desire to atone for the past and the hurt she caused him and his family. I absolutely love it.
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3/ Hard Knocks by Ruby Lang. Not so much enemies as finding themselves at the opposite sides of the line - she is a doctors warning against head injuries in hockey, he is hockey player standing up for his sport. In the end they discover thy have much more in common than it seems at first glance. 
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4/ The One You Fight For by Roni Loren. This one is heart-breaking. He is the brother of the school shooter who changed their lives forever, she is a surviour of the shooting which took her younger sister's life. They are the two unlikeliest people to get together, and yet they do, overcoming doubts and anger and regret. My favourite in the series. 
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5/ Something Human by AJ Demas. They are warriors in opposing camps. They come from two different worlds. They help each other, they care for the other and feel for each other and ultimately, make each other happy. 
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6/ Pansies by Alexis Hall. A bully romance like no other. One of the MCs was part of a group of boys who bullied the other MC in school. And he just discovered he is attracted to men. Not a promising start of their relationship. Lots of anger, hurt and pain to deal with before they get their HEA.
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7/ Never Loved by Charlotte Stein. Another bully romance but wow, did the author manage to make me care for the (former) bully. It’s a heavy read but very moving at the same time and relatable, real people with real issues, nothing is black or white and people are growing and changing. 
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8/ Burn Down the Night by Molly O’Keefe. Heroine kidnaps the hero who is a biker wanted by the authorities and his former biker brothers. Lots of tension, some real fear for one’s life, the highest stakes to save your loved ones. 
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9/ Behind the Mask by Carolyn Crane. He is the notorious criminal she is after. Neither knows this when they meet. There is passion and anger and fighting the bad guys and falling in love amidst chaos. 
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10/ Fool Me Forever by Ainslie Paton. On the surface he is everything she despises but he is also the only one that can help her. A tumultuous relationship that shakes them both to their cores and makes them re-evaluate their views of themselves and the world. 
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Honourable mentions: 
I want to give a shout-out to two YA fantasy romances that are gorgeous and feature MCs who are enemies in the truest sense of the word. They hate and chase each other for most of the stories and their getting together is just glorious, pure magic! 

The Folk of the Air series of fantasy romance by Holly Black, no greater enemies have ever come together as lovers than Cardan and Jude! 
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To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo, The Little Mermaid retelling where he is a pirate prince chasing the mermaids who are feared sea monsters. 

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Contemporary Romance

Review: One Night with the Sexiest Man Alive

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Title: One Night with the Sexiest Man Alive
Author: Ainslie Paton
Genre: Contemporary romance, Hollywood star
Release Date: 27 Feb 2020

Author's links:

My rating: 5 Stars


Blurb


Haydn Delany’s Hollywood star shone so brightly, even being the manager of an event he was headlining didn’t ensure Teela Carpenter would get the chance to meet him, and she was fine with that. Really, fine. Okay, it was hugely disappointing not to meet the much-admired actor come activist dubbed the Sexist Man Alive.

Until Haydn appeared inexplicably on the balcony where she stood, kissed her hand and gave her a story to dine out on for years.

That was before a raging tropical thunderstorm, an annoying car accident and ruined shoes put him in her path again. This time as her white knight.

And a one-night stand that might just last forever.

Review 

I'm a big fan of Ainslie Paton's writing and even though celebrities romances are not my favourite romance subgenre, I was excited to read this one. It ended being one of the best reads for me this year so far. I loved everything about it, the romance, the MCs, the black moment and the subsequent grovelling, the Pretty Woman vibes. It is a light-hearted (at least initially), fun and sexy with grown-up characters who acted like adults. 

I loved both hero and heroine, he was caring and down-to-Earth despite being names "the sexiest man alive" more than once. He is a genuinely decent human being, determined to use his fame and fortune for good things.

It all started with a hook-up that became a weekend leading to forever. There is lots, lots of well done consent, both of the characters going into the affair with open eyes and then falling for each other despite themselves. 

Teela was amazing, ambitious and level-headed but also open to new things, wanting to experience life to the fullest. At the same time she was not acting reckless or irresponsible. She kept her wits about and enjoyed the fairy tale. 

There were some Pretty Woman/Cinderella moments which made me happy to read. They had to navigate his wealth without making her feeling cheap or bought and it worked really well for me.  

Both Teela and Haydn refused to admit they have fallen for the other - him because he is convinced he doesn’t want a relationship, she because she wants one and is convinced it’s impossible to have it with him. 

I want to share a bit of the story that had great impact on me. He had a vasectomy because he didn’t want children and he told her that early into their weekend together. He had it reversed when he realised he wanted a relationship with her and it’s not because he suddenly wanted children, but because he didn’t want to take away her choice without even discussing the possibility of children. The issue of bodily autonomy is a hot one and I loved how it was handled in this story. 

Things turned more serious in the second half, they felt more real and relatable. There was a great grovel scene worthy of a Hollywood's sexiest man alive and their HEA left me with the biggest smile on my face. 

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Charish Reid

Review: Hearts on Hold by Charish Reid

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Title: Hearts on Hold: A Librarian Romance
Author: Charish Reid
Date of publication: 3 Feb 2020
Genre: Contemporary romance, Librarian hero, College prof heroine

Author's links:

My rating: 3 stars


Blurb 

What happens in the stacks stays in the stacks…

Professor Victoria Reese knows an uphill battle when she sees one. Convincing her narrow-minded colleagues at the elite Pembroke University to back a partnership with the local library is a fight she saw coming and already has a plan for. What she didn’t see coming? The wildly hot librarian who makes it clear books aren’t the only thing he’d like to handle.

When a tightly wound, sexy-as-hell professor proposes a partnership between his library and her university, children’s department head John Donovan is all for it. He knows his tattoos and easygoing attitude aren’t quite what she expected, but the unmistakable heat between them is difficult to resist.

And then there’s the intriguing late fee on her record. For the Duke’s Convenience… A late fee and a sexy romance novel? There’s more to Dr. Reese than she’s letting on.

John might like to tease her about her late fee, but when he teases her in other ways, Victoria is helpless to resist. Mixing business with pleasure—and oh, it is pleasure—always comes with risks, but maybe a little casual fun between the sheets is just what Victoria needs.

Review 

This was my first book by that author and was drawn to the premise of a romance between a female academic and a male librarian. There were things I enjoyed in the story but also quite a few things in it left me annoyed and disappointed.

The heroine is a Black professor in an elite private college with the all the struggles and hard work and fighting discrimination this entails. I enjoyed that aspect of the story very much. Her professional life made a big portion of who she was and I liked getting such an in-depth view of it.

At the same time her relationship with her family was hard for me to buy into. They treated her and she acted with them like she was not 34yo professional woman but rather a child that needs constant guidance and advise. The age thing in fact is something I struck me as not quite right for both MCs - most of the time they read to me as much younger than 34 and 38 respectively. His moms (birth mother and step mom) referred to him as kiddo all the time, acting like he was incompetent/unrealiable because of his ADD and this really bothered me.

The MCs start a sex pact relationship, a sordid affair, though he knew he wanted more from the start. I had no real issues with the back and forth of their relationship, the hesitancy, the doubt, it all was relatable. Still, he kept thinking she is so much better than him and I just didn’t see that big of a social difference between them, I couldn't understand his lack of self-confidence. 

My biggest issues was the character development which seemed inconsistent to me. It's minor things, starting with appearance, for example. She was described as having thick thighs and big boobs, he kept saying how soft she was and he is described numerous times as super big and tall, she calls him the Viking and then suddenly they are sparring in the gym and she is some master fighter who beats him down. Nothing until that moment suggested she was athletic in any way. And he was not just tall but described and strong and very toned, it could be me but this didn't read as accurate to me.

Then there is a whole incident with her at her parents' party that I found to be completely out of place and out of character for her. I didn't expected it, still don't see what it added to the story or to her character. 

We know the hero is a librarian but we barely learn anything about his job, why he chose it for himself, what his dreams and plans were. In contrast there is quite a lot of page time dedicated to her career (which I liked reading about). I would have preferred to get more of his professional life as well. It would have made him more real, tangible, given him substance which I found he overall lacked. 

There was a lot of going on in that story, lot of side characters with their own plotlines and in the end it felt chaotic and overburdened, lacking depth. 

These are all small things but they added up for me and took out a lot of my enjoyment of this story.

PS: A couple of librarians have noted on Twitter about something the hero does that is a cross violation of his professional ethic and irl would lead to him getting fired. I admit I missed it when I read it but after seeing their comments, I absolutely agree it was inappropriate and could have been easily avoided. 

CW: misogyny, bullying (side character), drinking-related accident

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Adriana Anders

Review: Whiteout by Adriana Anders

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Title: Whiteout 
Author: Adriana Anders
Date of publication: 28 Jan 2020
Genre: Romantic suspense, Antarctica

Author's links:

My rating: 5 stars


Blurb

Angel Smith is ready to leave Antarctica for a second chance at life. But on what was meant to be her final day, the research station is attacked. Hunted and scared, she and glaciologist Ford Cooper barely make it out with their lives…only to realize that in a place this remote, there's nowhere left to run.

Isolated in the middle of a long, frozen winter with a madman at their heels, they must fight to survive in the most inhospitable—and beautiful—place on earth. But the outside world depends on what Ford and Angel know and, as their pursuers close in and their new partnership burns bright and hot, they will stop at nothing to make it out of the cold alive.

Review

Suspense is not my to-go romance subgenre but I was interested in this one being set in the Antarctica. It’s a new-to-me setting and not very common one. I have read this author before and her books have been hit or miss to me and I am very glad to say this one was definitely of the hit variety. 

I liked both the suspense plot and the romance, they were in perfect balance and none overshadowed the other. It’s a kind of sunshine / grumpy romance and I found it to be well done and relatable. Hero is a loner scientist who is hiding from himself and the world in Antarctica. Heroine is a journey of self-discovery of her own. They get stuck together and by themselves being chased by criminals amidst the cold of the winter season on Antarctica.

I liked how the romance happened between them, the strong chemistry which he tried to resist, lots of cuddling together for warmth. And I was happy to see the physical intimacy happening only after they managed to secure a real shelter from the elements and unlike often in rom suspense, they were not in imminent danger.

I liked how their relationship progressed and how their views of each the changed as they got to know the other preson better. He no longer saw her as this bubbly, caring young woman, but also as someone who is strong and determined and loyal and he was in literal awe of her. She got to see more of him too, he really opened up to her, sharing painful stories from his past and being slightly hopeful for the future. 

The setting was very atmospheric, the harshness of the elements at the pole really stood out for me. I have never been to Antarctica or a similarly cold place and after reading this story, I don' want too.

Ooverall, this is an action-packed story with engaging suspense plot (it did go a bit over board towards the end, but I can let that slide) and a solid romance. I am definitely there for more of this series.

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