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.


Historical Romance

Mini Reviews and Reading Recap #10

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I finished two historicals by Joanna Shupe in the past few weeks - A Daring Arrangement and an ARC of A Notorious Vow (out on Sept 25) - books 1 and 3 in her new Gilded Age series.

A Notorious Vow
A historical romance with a deaf reclusive hero, and a virgin noble heroine as MCs. I liked the disability rep (I have no experience with deafness myself, so I'm speaking from the position of an outsider), we see the deaf hero in a position of privilege and how the support and the good financial situation helped him and provided him with opportunities to succeed despite being deaf. Still, there was a poignant plot element revealing the vulnerability (in legal and purely personal sense) of deaf people at the time.

I loved the hero but I was not the biggest fan of the heroine. He was interesting, smart, caring, loving and I enjoyed following his character journey. She, on the other had, she was very much the meek, clueless virgin heroine we so often see in historical romance. It took a while for her to stand up for herself and to act with more confidence and determination and by the end of the book I had much more respect for her.

My main complaint was that the villains felt like caricatures of evilness rather than real people. Her her parents, his cousin, they were over the top in their villainy and lacked nuanced and character development. 3.5 stars

CW for scenes of violence and abuse in mental hospital, ableist language (that got challenged on page). 

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A Daring Arrangement
I loved this fun fake engagement romance. And it was all because of the heroine who was, bubbly and energetic, doing everything for love, daring, spontaneous while also having moments of self doubt and insecurity. 

The hero was rather interesting too - successful and smart, bon vivant, not ashamed of how much money he makes and he spends freely and with abandon. He does everything to help the heroine while trying in vain not to fall for her.

Like book 3, I found the villain here to be too villainous though there was more background and motivation to his actions.

The story gives us interesting reflections on the change of morel values, with the heroine coming to realise that there might not be just one and only true love.

There was a lot of action and plot twists towards the end which I quite enjoyed. I loved seeing the excess and glamour of the Gilded Age all through the story.

Overall, this was an interesting and very engaging historical romance with a wonderful heroine and a most caring hero. 4 stars

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I'm finally giving up on Stripped by Zoey Castile. I left it at 60% a couple of weeks ago and I'm not motivated to finish it. I was drawn to the premise of a Latina school teacher and a male stripper getting together but the book didn't deliver. It's told in dual POV first person present tense and it felt juvenile and flat. Both characters were in their late 20s and were going through some sort of of early mid-life crisis. While we got some insight as to why he was starting to feel dissatisfied with his job and his life in general, her total loss of control over life was never properly explained. I needed to see more of their motivation.

I hated the subplot with her school principal, it was silly and didn't add anything important to the story. On the plus side, I liked the hero, his band of stripper brothers and their interactions were quite entertaining, I also found the relationship between the heroine and her best friend interesting but that was not enough to save this for me. 

Currently reading: Rebel Hard by Nalini Singh, contemporary m/f romance with Indian MCs, arranged marriage. I have some minor quibbles but it's mostly good so far, very romantic.


Ada Harper

Mini Reviews and Reading Recap #9

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It's been a couple of weeks since I did my last Mini Reviews and Reading Recap post. Life has been busy but I did read some great books and here are my reviews of them.

A Conspiracy of Whispers by Ada Harper


What a great sci-fi/dystopian romance! I don't reach much SF but some friends on Twitter were raving about it so I decided to give it a try.

It depicts a futuristic world with genetic engineering and fertility/reproduction issues (CW).

I enjoyed the story a lot, both the twisty thriller/royal coup plot and the romance arc. Both leading characters had powerful presence and together with the supporting cast made their world vibrant, diverse and memorable. This is very heroine-focused story and Olivia was an amazing character and had me rooting for her to succeed from the very start. She is a wonderfully drawn, complex, a prickly assassin who can be deadly for her enemies and loyal to her friends. I loved her growth and opening up to caring about others and allowing herself to ask for help. 

Hero is the most kind and caring partner but also a deadly warrior like her. I loved his devotion to his family (his support for his sister who is the Empress) and his people. His love for Olivia was a thing of beauty. There was so much care and consideration and respect for her boundaries. He was patient and supportive and in total awe of her strength and skills. 

I liked how the author weaved together a story of fated mates, mixed with complex issues of fertility, consent, agency and choice. I absolutely love the idea of the mating bond not necessarily being romantic, it's the strong connection of support and care and understating between any two people (On a side note, I would have loved to see the bond Galen had with his best friend and if/how it was affected after the romantic and sexual bond between him and Olivia happened).

There is great supporting cast, including a gay couple and a transgender boy, whom I really liked and felt fitted well into the story/the world 

A SF romance full of lots of action and plot twists, court intrigue, ancient culture and futuristic technologies co-existing to create and intriguing and unforgettable tale of love and war. 5 Stars

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A Treason of Truths by Ada Harper
This is the second book in the series but works well as standalone too. There is intriguing world-building, lots of description on nanotechnology and bio-engineering. I liked it but felt the focus was more on the action/adventure than the romance. Lyre and Sabine both are interesting characters and there was some angst in their relationship but not enough tension/conflict. 

This story is a curios mix of futuristic world and adherence to all royal/noble traditions. We get a f/f romance set in a world where queer relationships are a part of the world in the same way as heterosexual ones are. The love scenes were tender and low-heat compared to book one.

In short this story gives the readers a fast-paced, cleverly built dystopian world, interesting MCs, some pining, some tender loving and a most glorious declaration of love at the end. 3.5 stars

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Fool Me Forever by Ainslie Paton

This is the second book in her modern day Robin Hood series The Confidence Game. This time we get the shy, bookish hero and the only woman who knows he is a con and doesn't want to have anything to do with him.

There is great chemistry between the MCs but she carries lots of baggage because of her family and his family and what they do/want in life. There is a a strong conflict at the heart of the story which leads to bot MCs reevaluating  their principles and core values. I loved how life is shown to be complex and sometimes you are faced with impossible choices. This story shows how love can make two people happy being together and what they have to sacrifice to make things work between them. 

It's an escapist fun kind of story, yet very real about relationships both love and family ones, and the choices we make that define who we are. 4 stars

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Currently reading: A Notorious Vow by Joanna Shupe, m/f historical set in New York at the Gilded Age, deaf reclusive hero, virgin noble heroine. I'm enjoying it a lot so far. It comes out on Sept 25.


Alyssa Cole

Mini Reviews and Reading Recap #8

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I haven't done much reading while on vacation but I did read some amazing stories. Here are my short reviews on the first two books in Alyssa Cole's Reluctant Royals series. 

A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole

In three words - I loved it. So fun and so much depth. Entertaining, everything I need in my romances - real, flawed characters, messy emotions, a bit (royal) drama, interesting family and friendship dynamics. There is so much to talk about in this book. Heroine discovers she has ADHD, she is not messy and flighty and unreliable but brilliant and determined. Divorced older hero who doesn't want to fall in love. No cheating evil ex, but rather an amicable divorce where they are still friends. I can't recommend it enough. I loved the female friendship, old and newly emerging ones, his family is pure gold. On top of the fabulous romance this story also presents a topical comment on immigration, gentrification, the aristocracy. I related so much to her way of expressing love  through care.Brilliant, one of my top reads of 2018!
5 stars


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A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole

I read this after book 2 but it didn't affect my enjoyment in the least (other than seeing the old Portia in not so flattering light). This is a light, fun, sort of dreamy, sweep-me-off-my-feet royal romance. I loved the STEM heroine, the prince in disguise also worked well. Alyssa Cole tells a modern-day fairy tale which the perfect feel good read. I enjoyed the details of life in New York and then in second half, all the magic and beauty (and court intrigue) of a made up kingdom of Thesolo.
I loved the female friendships in the story, both old and new. I was not happy with he way Thabiso lied to her and misled her initially but I managed to forgive him by the end.
Overall, this is a magical, fun and relaxing read which I enjoyed immensely.
3.5 stars

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*** *** *** 

Currently reading: I started Stripped by Zoey Castile but had to stop at 70% because it was not working for me and I was getting close to hate reading it. I will try to finish it in order to write a proper mini review, hopefully next week. So, now I'm reading A Conspiracy of Whispers by Ada Harper. I'm less than halfway through and I'm riveted, such a brilliant sci-fi, post-apocalyptic m/f romance. I can't wait to finish it and start the next one, A Treason of Truths. It's a f/f romance and I already have an ARC. 


Charlie Adhara

Min Reviews and Reading Recap #7

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Post vacation mini reviews. I'm behind both on reading and on reviewing but here is some books I read lately and really enjoyed.

Make Me Fall by Sara Rider

It's the second book in the series but works well as standalone too. I often read m/f for the heroes but this series is all about the heroines I love them both so much. It's enemies to lovers with some opposites attract romance. 
Nora is a germaphobe and is very particular and rules and order, all things that make it difficult to make new female friends in her 30s and to start dating again after her divorce. I loved how Eli treated her, how he cared about her, doing everything to make her feel comfortable, accepted. He loved her because of her quirks and not despite them. And she got to make friends with people who appreciated and valued her in all her complexity. Like the previous book, interesting family and friendship dynamics on top of a great romance arc. I highly recommend the series and I'm already looking forward to the next book. Out on September 24

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The Wolf at Bay by Charlie Adhara

This is the second book in m/m romantic suspense/mystery series with werewolves. It follows the same couple and you need to read The Wolf at the Door first. A bit of uneven pacing but an intriguing suspense plot and a strong romance arc + great family dynamics! I will review it in more detail closer to release date (Sept 24). I appreciate the anxiety rep and greatly recommend the series. 

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Currently reading: A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole. I finished A Duke by Default last week and immediately went back to read book 1. They are so much fun and I'm enjoying them immensely. I will review them together in the next Mini Reviews and Reading Recap post.

Book recs

What to Read: Pirate Romances

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I haven't read any pirate romances, well except Peter Darling by Austin Chant which is a trans retelling of Peter Pan and which I absolutely love. Here is what my Twitter friends came up with when I ask for romances with pirate MCs. Some are older historicals (which might have some problematic aspects). There are also somemore recent romances across different subgenres (queer retellings, steampunk).



Guardian Angel (Crown Spies #2) and The Gift (Crown Spies #3) by Julie Garwood

Gentle Rogue (Malory-Anderson Family #3) by Johanna Lindsey


The Captain of All Pleasures  Sutherland #1) and The Price of Pleasure (Sutherland #2) by Kresley Cole

The Captain’s Lady by Jo Goodman 

The Pirate Lord (The Lord trilogy #1) by Sabrina Jeffries and Deborah Martin


The Charm School (Calhoun Chronicles #1) by Susan Wiggs

The Pirate Prince (Ascension Trilogy #1) by Gaelen Foley

The Regency Pirates series by Jennifer Ashley

Never Trust a Pirate (Scandal at the House of Russel) by Anne Stuart 

Memoirs of a Scandalous Red Dress (The Bachelor's Chronicles #5) by Elizabeth Boyle


Blow Me Down by Katie MacAlister, swashbuckling romcom

Iron Seas series by Meljean Brook, steampunk pirate romance.

The Windflower by Laura London


Her Pirate from the Past: A Time Travel Romance by Caro Carson 

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo, YA fantasy loosely based on The Little Mermaid


Queer Pirate Romances

Branded Ann by Merry Shannon, f/f pirate romance

Peter Darling by Austin Chant, trans retelling of Peter Pan

The Sublime and Spirited Voyage of Original Sin by Colette Moody, f/f pirate romacne

Kidnapped by the Pirate by Keira Andrews, m/m pirate romance


On a Lee Shore by Elin Gregory, m/m pirate romance

Ransom  (Royal Navy #1) by Lee Rowan, m/m pirate romance (although the pirates are the bad guys and our heroes are officers in the Navy)

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee, historical YA, out in October 2018. I believe the heroine is on the ace spectrum.


Some Goodreads lists with pirate romances

Historical Pirate Romances

Best gay Pirate/Sailor Romances

Pirate/Swashbuckling Romances

____________

Note: The book titles are Amazon affiliate links. The series titles link to the first book in the series. 

Comedy

Review: Dr. Strange Beard by Penny Reid

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Title: Dr. Strange Beard (Winston Brothers #5)
Author: Penny Reid 
Publication Date: 30 July 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Humor, Romance

Author's links: WebsiteTwitterFacebookGoodreads
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My rating: 4.5 Stars


Blurb

Hunches, horse races, and heartbreak

Ten years after Simone Payton broke his heart, all Roscoe Winston wants is a doughnut. He’d also like to forget her entirely, but that’s never going to happen. Roscoe remembers everything—every look, every word, every single unrequited second—and the last thing he needs is another memory of Simone.

Unfortunately, after one chance encounter, Simone keeps popping up everywhere he happens to be. . .

Ten years after Roscoe Winston dropped out of her life, all Simone Payton wants is to exploit him. She’d also like some answers from her former best friend about why he ghosted her, but if she never gets those answers, that’s a-okay. Simone let go of the past a long time ago. Seriously, she has. She totally, totally has. She is definitely not still thinking about Roscoe. Nope. She’s more than happy to forget he exists.

But first, she needs just one teeny-tiny favor . . .

Review 

I have been a fan of Penny Reid and her books ever since I read her first Neanderthal Seeks Human back in 2012. The spin-off of the Knitting in the Cities, the Winston Brothers have become one of my all time favourite romcom series.

Every time I think I couldn't like her characters more and she comes up with another great, unique hero or heroine. I never thought I would care so much about Roscoe but by the middle of his book he was there together with Cletus and Drew, as one of my favourite heroes in this series.

He is such a gentle sweetheart through and through. His love for Simone is everything. Add his relationship with his family (older brothers and sister) - admiration, gratitude, respect - and he is pretty much perfect in my eyes. This book brought me so much happiness (after a great deal of angst).

He has eidetic (situational) memory and it was not something I am familiar with but I feel Penny created a compelling, multifaceted character where his mental illness is just one aspect of him - something that he has to deal with all the time but it doesn't define him. He is a professional, a loyal brother and friend and most of all, totally and absolutely in love with Simone. And he is a virgin!

Simone is a young Black woman, childhood friends with Roscoe, someone who is not looking for love. After avoiding each other for years, she finds herself in love with Roscoe, it was sudden and not at all welcome at first and following her as she realises and gives in to her feelings, is such a treat. 

The plot was intense, especially towards the end. I find the mystery/thriller aspects on her stories a bit over the top but I can suspend my disbelieve this time since everything that happened helped show off the characters and their growth.

There is a cute epilogue though I wanted to see more of Roscoe and Simone living as a couple, navigating the changes in their lives.

Highly recommended read, one of the best in the series for me, a bit melancholic, a lot tender and showing the biggest, greatest,all encompassing love story.

PS: I can't wait for Billy's story! We got a glimpse at him and he is everything I have expected him, to be. Now I have the highest expectations of his book which can't come soon enough.

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / Kobo / iBooks / Smashwords


M/M romance

Mini Reviews and Reading Recap #6

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Vanilla Clouds by Roe Horvat

Fluffy m/m contemporary set in Sweden. I love Roe's writing and the strong European feels of his stories. This one was sweeter, less intense and agnsty than his previous books and while I liked it OK, I missed the depth of feeling and intensity that I have come to associate with his books. Online relationship turning into an offline romance was at the heart of this book and I liked the premise a lot, a variation of friends to lovers. I found the ways the guys finally met in real life really disturbing. It felt stalkerish and I had a hard time forgiving one of them for misleading and outright lying to the other. I did believe they had genuine feelings for one another but felt that way he approach the situation was wrong. Things worked out for them in the end and their HEA feels true but I couldn't quite overcome the discomfort these couple of scenes caused me. 3 stars

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Surprise Baby, Second Chance by Therese Beharrie

This is a marriage in trouble romance, closed door sex scenes, my first by this author. I love seeing established couples overcoming issues and making things between them work in the long run. This was a very emotionally intense read, very character focused. I had to take a break before finishing it and it was all worth it. It's own voices anxiety rep, there is panic attack happening on page as well two grown up people dealing with the problems in their relationship, facing past trauma head-on. There is a lot of honest and difficult talk in this romance and could very much relate to the idea that you can love someone with all your heart and still find it difficult to share your deepest fears. Well worth a read! Reminds me a lot of Snow-kissed by Laura Florand which is the most heart-breaking romance I've ever read. 3.5 stars

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Last week I also finished Dr. Strange Beard by Penny Reid (out on July 30) and I loved it so, so much. It's one of my favorite in the series. I will be reviewing in depth next week. 


Currently reading A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole (Out on July 31) and it's so much fun. I haven't read the previous book (yet) but this works pretty well as standalone and I will probably start A Princess in Theory right after I finish this one. 


Argentina

Review: The Gaucho's Lady by Genevieve Turner

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Title: The Gaucho's Lady (Los Caballeros #1)
Author: Genevieve Turner
Genre: Historical romance, ranchers

Author's links:
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My rating: 4 Stars

Blurb

After a self-imposed exile in Argentina, Juan Moreno is ready to return home to California, wiser, wearier, and a widower. But the night before his departure, a wealthy landowner’s daughter appears in his simple room with a gun and demands that he kidnap her.

Eliana Suarez never wanted to leave home; the pampas are deep in her blood. But when her cruel father insists she marry a man even crueler than he is, she must flee. Luckily for her, one of her father’s gauchos is leaving Argentina—and only if she can convince him to take her along, will she be saved.

Juan never could resist a lady’s desperate appeal and soon they’re racing to Buenos Aires, barely two steps ahead of their pursuers. They’ll have to deal with outlaws, anarchists, and her father’s fury in their flight to freedom and safety. But no matter how fast they run, they can never escape their growing attraction… and their own hearts. 

Review

This is my first book by Genevieve Turner and my first historical set in Argentina/California in 1905. I loved everything about it - the  easy and twisty flow of the story, the engaging plot and writing, the depth of characterisation and and the interesting supporting cast. The author plays with a bunch of tropes making me examine my own attitude towards them. It'a mix of virgin heroine, forced proximity, road trip (sort of), cinnamon hero. It's a very character driven story and I loved both the hero and heroine and found their character journey (both literal and metaphorical) really interesting and empowering.

On the surface Eliana is this sheltered rich girl with no experience of real life and no direction in life, and she starts with the only goal to run away from an arranged marriage. Yet, what we discover,  is her inner strength and determination which came as a surprise to herself and to Juan who admired her for that. She comes to realise what she wants from life and finds the strength and words to articulate it clearly. He acts a teacher to her in a way, helping her find herself, but at the same time this provokes him to re-examine his own moral grounds and opinions and see some truth about his own character. I loved how different aspects of freedom of choice and consent (in sexual and other situations in life) were presented in the story.

Juan is my favourite kind of beta hero - strong and ready to act but ultimately caring and respectful of Eliana's wishes. In a way both of them bring the best in each other and it's something that i loved about their relationship. 

The story tackles an issue that's extremely topical all over the world, but in the US especially - immigration and exile. There is a scene of Eliana  being kept in adetention centre at the border and refused entry in the US, which might be difficult for some readers. As an Eastern European myself who is still living in her hometown, I'm in the position of an outsider but still found this very heart-breaking. I found her reflections on living in exile and making a new unfamiliar place your home very poignant and touching. 

I highly recommend this romance to anyone looking for a different historical read - compelling, empowering, moving, topical. This is an unforgettable journey from Argentina across the ocean to California, from being alone and on the run to settling down and building a home and family. 

Purchase links: Amazon / Kobo / B&N

Book recs

What to read: Romances with Publishing Professionals

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The creation of this list was prompted by a conversation on Twitter where a friend asked if there was a romance where the MCs are models who meet at a book cover shoot. Sadly, I don't this romance exits right now, at least no one suggested one, but I hope someone will write it for us soon. In the meantime, here are the recommendations I gathered for romances where the MCs are involved in publishing in way or another - writers, editors, audiobook narrator, college professors who teach writing classes. If you don't see your favourite book on this list, please message me and I will add it. 

Personal recommendations

Glitterland by Alexis Hall, m/m contemporary romance, one of my favourites by this author and one of my favourite romances in general. One of the MCs, Ash (A. A. Winters) is a writer. Review

Wanted, A Gentleman by KJ Charles - (m/m historical romance) Teo publishes The Matrimonial Advertiser and also writes Gothic romances, including erotic ones, under a pen name. Review

Unfit to Print by KJ Charles, another historical m/m romance, this time one of the MCs writes and sell pornogrpagic materials. Review

One and Only by Jenny Holiday, m/f romance, the heroine is YA Fantasy writer as heroine. It's light-hearted and fun. Review

Real Kind of Love by Sara Rider, lovely contemporary romance centered around introverted heroine who is an audiobook narrator. Review

Book Twitter recommendations 

Talk Me Down by Victoria Dahl - m/f contemporary romance, the heroine writes erotica

Ruin of a Rake by Cat Sebastian, m/m historical romance, one MC is a writer in secret

Wallflower trilogy by Maya Rodale, m/f romance, the heroine writes the Wallflower historic novels based on her life 

The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata, m/f romance, the heroine becomes a book cover designer

My Secret Fantasies by Joanne Rock, contemporary m/f romance, the heroine writes erotic stories

A Summer for Scandal by Lydia San Andres, m/f historical romance, the heroine writes a scandalous serial and the hero pens a dishy column. 

Wicked Quills series by Eva Leigh  historical m/f romances which feature writers; the last one features a writer of erotic fiction. 

Original Sinners series (queer romances) by Tiffany Reisz has a writer/editor relationship in the first book and the writer is central to the series.

Learning to Fall by Mina V. Esguerra, contemporary m/f romance, the heroine is a book blogger and artist/aspiring cover designer. 

The Professor by Charlotte Stein, erotic m/f romance, student-teacher romance in a writing class

Sweet as Sin by Inez Kelley, m/f romance, the hero is a YA author

Bookmarked by Piper Vaughn, m/m romance, one MC is a reclusive author & other is an indie bookstore owner 

Smut by Karina Halle, contemporary m/f romance, the MCs are two college students teaming up to make bank on erotic romance. 

Explicit by Roxy Sloane, erotic m/f romance, the hero is a writer and the heroine is his new editor. (It's free at time of publication of this post)

Suddenly You by Lisa Kleypas, historical m/f romance, the heroine is a novelist heroine, the hero is an editor

Stud in the Stacks by Pippa Grant, m/f romance, the hero is a romance blogger/librarian 

Letters from Cupid by Ari McKay, m/m epistolary romance, both MCs are English professors, one in creative writing, 

Playing the Part by Robin Covignon, contemporary m/f romance, the heroine is romance writer who teaches an actor how to be romantic

Melt for You by J. T. Geissinger, contemporary m/f romance, the heroine is a copyeditor, the hero - a rugby player 
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Here are some online resources for more romances where the MCs are writer or involved in publishing in some way. 

Goodreads list of historical romances where hero/heroine is a writer

List of LGBTQIA historical romances with scholars, Booksellers, Playwrights, Bluestockings, and Journalists

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Note: The book titles are Amazon affiliate links. I have also included links to my reviews of the books I've read (reviewed). 

Adriana Anders

Mini Reviews and Reading Recap #5

04:33


The Wolf at the Door by Charlie Adhara
This is a debut m/m murder mystery/romantic suspense with werewolves. It was such an engaging read, twisty and kept me guessing who the murderer was till the very end. I liked the writing, it was smooth and there was an easy flow to the whole story. This story offers an interesting mix or real world + wereloves who are kept secret from the general public. I loved the narrator's POV, got to know him well and could relate to him feeling confused and awkward both in his professional and personal life. 
I wished we got more insight on the werewolves and their community though. It's the first books in a series that will follow the same couple, so in a way it was more of setting the stage than full immersion in the wereloves-human interactions. I'm excited to read the next book which comes in September and I already got the ARC, so I'm looking forward to starting it some time in August.

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By Her Touch by Adriana Anders
In two words, I loved it. I read the other two books in the series when they came out last year and I got this one soon after that but somehow it got lost in the never-ending pile of unread books on my Kindle. I finally read it this week and it's fabulous, my favourite in the series together with book one. 
I was worried about the doctor-patient aspect of the romance but I think it was handled well. It was a very emotional, dark and very hard read at times but it's captivating and unforgettable. I explores a wide range of heavy subjects - the aftermath of trauma, grieving the loss of a loved one, moving on, believing you are worth it and deserve happiness and second chance to love and be loved. 
My only minor complaint is that I wish we got a more conclusive solution re hero's PTSD. I would also have loved to see the couple in a few month's time (we get a glimpse of them in the next book, so there is that). Highly recommended read!
CW: abuse in the past (physical and psychological), cancer (in the past), loss of a loved one, grieving, PTSD, kidnapping, violence

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Real Kind of Love by Sara Rider
This is the fluffiest of fluff and just what I needed after the brilliant but heavy book I finished before it. It stars an introverted heroine (a rarity in romance I'd say) who struggles with her over-active and over-sharing/meddling family, She got into a fake relationship with the hero while camping with her family and all the fun and cute and sweet and heart-warming things happened. It eas a bit of "I'm not good enough for her, he is too perfect for me" type of conflict but it felt believable and work in the context of the story. Great family dynamics, interesting side characters and children who acted their age and I didn't find annoying at all.
There was a bit too much drama towards the end for me but it didn't take away from my general enjoyment of the story. I really, really appreciate the introverted heroine and the hero who respects her boundaries and needs for personal space and alone time. There was no magic transformation into more outgoing social butterfly for her. Rather the opposite, she became more assertive with regard what she needed/liked and the people aroudn her accepted that. Epic grovel scene and I-love-you gesture and a lovely epilogue. 

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Charlie Adhara

Mini Reviews and Reading Recap #4

04:26


One and Only by Jenny Holiday 

This is a fun romcom set around a wedding. My first by this author and I enjoyed it a lot. I was not a big fan of all the wedding stuff because our traditions a different and it all seemed so over the top for me but ignoring that, it's was a great read. An opposites attract romance between the groom's stepbrother and one of the bridesmaids. Most of conflict was along the lines of him thinking he is not good enough for her, all the while his bad boy was just a misrepresentation, a false image hiding his true self. 

I had one main issue with the book and that was a PTSD episode the hero had, and while I'm not an expert, it felt wrong to me and gave me pause. I loved the female friendship so much, liked the family dynamics as well, and the complexity of the characters which made them feel like real people. The story has the most epic grovel scene (absolutely necessary) and the loveliest ending. 

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Unfit to Print by KJ Charles

This is a m/m novella where one MC is Indian and the other is half-Black. One is a respected lawyer, the other sells book, including ones with pornographic content. It's a second chance romance of childhood friends/teenager lovers reunited later in life. There is an interesting  suspense plot that brought them together. It was a lovely story in the usual masterful and engaging writing style of KJ Charles. Still, it was too short and a rather intriguing start, I felt the last quarter was rushed and underdeveloped. Both romance arc and the suspense plot got resolved too quickly and too neatly and I was left wanting more.


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Currently reading: The Wolf at the Door by Charlie Adhara, m/m romantic suspense with werewolves. I'm almost finishing and it's such an intriguing murder mystery that I cannot put it down. I would love the see more of the romance though. 

Erin Satie

Weekly Mini Reviews and Reading Recap #3

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Bed of Flowers by Erin Satie is a historical m/f, my first by the author and while it was nice, I definitely expected more.
It took me a while to warm up to the heroine and I still think her friends were more interesting/captivating than her. I did like the hero and the way he cared for his orchids was the sweetest, most endearing thing.
Bonny came as naive, self-sacrificing, defined almost exclusively by her stunning beauty which the others valued the most in her and which she also saw as her major, possibly only asset. In the end, I feel she was not too successful in her plans - she caused more problems to her family and friends, she lost the circulating library she was running. Her marriage was her major win  it was based on love and offered her a chance to help some less fortunate people around her.
This was not enough for me to love this story which ended just an Okay read for me. It had its strong moments but ultimately I expected more of it. 3 Stars 

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Behind These Doors by Jude Lucens is a queer historical romance involving a bi polyamorous aristocrat in a relationship with a married couple falling for a society journalist. It's a tender, emotional romance exploring a number of conflicts (along class lines, along making a polyam relationship work). There are lots and lots of historical details, which sometimes felt overwhelming. The romance unfolded at the background of the the Suffragette movement and the fight for the rights of women. This is  a very character focused story about a bunch of people who are so very different from each other but who love each other dearly who are trying to find a way to be together and happy despite the social norms and conventions which stand in their way.
Wonderful writing, smooth flow of an interesting story. Great debut!

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Currently reading: One and Only by Jenny Holiday. I'm only 20% in and I'm hooked. It's a romcom around a wedding where the heroine is one of the bridesmates and an YA author (this goes straight on my list with romances with bookish/writing type of MCs) and the hero is the groom's bother, ex-military who just came back from Iraq. and is the family's black sheep. 

Author Spotlight

Friday Favourites with Erin Satie

03:34

It's time for another Friday Favourites post. My guest today is Erin Satie, author of historical romances. Her latest book, and the first in a new series, Bed of Flowers, comes out on June 19 and it's a lovely romance between girl of stunning beauty but with no fortune (who is running a circulating library of sorts with her best friend) and a disgraced and disowned lord who grows orchids for sale. Read on to learn more about the author and her upcoming release. Don't miss the chance to enter a giveaway for one ebook copy of Bed of Flowers at the end of this post.


Meet Erin

1. Favourite place
Travel is one of my passions, so this is a hard one for me. Instead of giving an answer (sorry) I'll explain a little bit of my philosophy of travel.

One of my main goals in life is to always have visited more countries than I've lived years... and since I've visited 43 countries now, you can make a rough estimate of my age. I made this rule because it forces me to discover new places instead of returning to old favorites. There are so many wonderful places in the world--to be honest, I could count on the fingers of one hand the places I haven't enjoyed visiting--so much to marvel at, so much beauty.

I believe in appreciating each place for what it is. Forget about comparisons, forget about expectations. Find out what makes a place special and then soak it in. Even, and especially, home. I love the verse from Eliot's Little Gidding where he writes "We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time." -- I haven't really had a home for the past year because I've committed to a nomadic lifestyle, but I think about this quote all the time. For many of us, it's hardest to appreciate what's wonderful about home, because home is so familiar. You have to step outside to see it with fresh eyes.

2. Favourite food and drink
Vanilla pudding with some sort of a fresh fruit topping. Fresh fruit smoothies.

3. Favourite music/genre/artist/song
I'm not nearly as passionate about music as I used to be but anything by David Bowie makes me happy.

4. Favourite movie/TV series
I'm really obsessed with Game of Thrones. I started with the TV series, then read the books, and now I've got nothing but fanfic to keep me company until the show starts again, which won't be until next year. So it's a good thing I love fanfic.

5. Favourite hobby besides writing, if you consider writing a hobby
Travel, though at this point it's probably a lifestyle. Reading--and I've taken to preaching the many virtues of audiobooks, which have absolutely changed my life for the better (you can read anywhere! While doing dishes or driving!). More recently, yoga.

6. Favourite books
Oh no, how can I keep this short? So far this year I've loved The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare, Making Up by Lucy Parker and A Lady's Code of Misconduct by Meredith Duran.

I was surprised to notice some similarities between the Parker and the Dare--the thought probably only occurred to me because I read them back to back--but both romances really focus on building companionship and camaraderie between the hero and heroine. They're romantic and sexy but in both cases I'd say you believe in the HEA because the hero and heroine have become such good friends over the course of the novel. A Lady's Code of Misconduct is the best amnesia romance I've ever read and really goes to show that everything old school can be new again--it's such a classic trope but Duran makes it modern and fresh.

I really enjoyed Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick--which I read because whenever some topic keeps cropping up in the news, I'll try to search out a good book that will give me the context I need to understand what's going on. The news just isn't enough.

7. Please introduce your latest/upcoming release 
My new book is called BED OF FLOWERS. My original idea was to write a Beauty and the Beast story where Beauty has agency--you know how in most versions of the fairy tale, it's Beauty's father who accepts Beast's hospitality then steals a rose from his garden, and Beast who angered a fairy and the fairy who put him under a curse? Beauty seems like the protagonist of Beauty and the Beast but the one who grows and changes is usually Beast.

So I wanted to write a book where Beauty propels her own story forward, where she makes the choices and the mistakes that advance the plot. To be honest, the end result doesn't much resemble Beauty and the Beast. I doubt anyone would notice the parallels if they didn't look for them. But many of the key elements (like the fact that my heroine, Bonny, is staggeringly beautiful or that my hero, Loel, grows exotic orchids for a living) did start there.

In the end, BED OF FLOWERS is about a heroine, Bonny, who lives to make other people happy, who would never intentionally harm another soul, and who falls in love with the one man who her family could never accept. She's lovely and optimistic and generous, and I'm really excited about building a series around a core of female friendship and cooperation, but Bonny has to make some hard choices to get her happily ever after.


Blurb 

Bonny Reed is beautiful, inside and out.

A loyal friend and loving daughter, she’s newly engaged to her small town’s most eligible bachelor. She’s happy for herself—but mostly for her family, who need the security her marriage will bring.

An old enemy shatters her illusions.

First Baron Loel cost Bonny’s family her fortune. Now he’s insisting that her fiancĂ© has hidden flaws, secrets so dark that—if she believed him—she’d have to call off the wedding.

How will she choose?

When the truth comes out, Bonny will have to choose between doing what’s right and what’s easy. Between her family and her best friend. And hardest of all—between her honor and the love of a man who everyone wants her to hate.

Purchase links: Amazon - iBooks - Barnes & Noble - Kobo - Google Play

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Ainslie Paton

Mini Reviews and Reading Recap #2

04:20

Thrown Off Track by Tamsen Parker - a longish novella, boy band m/m romance with an interesting demi rep which I liked though it was completely different from my personal experience. This is a low-heat friend-to-lovers story where two best friends and band mates become a couple. I loved the romance arc which had some virgin feel because it was the first time for Teague to feel sexual attraction and desire. I loved how they were comfortable with each other and freely discussed their feelings, their sex lives, including a lot of explicitly stated consent. I appreciate  how considered of his giant statue Teague was, but having this said again and again every couple of pages became repetitive. He did act immature at times, jumping to conclusions but given the general turmoil of his life at the moment, I guess this was understandable.

The romance between Teague and Christian blossomed at the time when the band had to move on and each member had to start thinking about/working on a solo career. This highlighted some interesting perspectives on the life after the boy band bringing forth discussions of  popularity and making money vs making the music you love. All the characters read like real people, unique, with their own characters and quirks, no generic stereotypes of the bad boy rock star.

In short, it was an enjoyable, very emotionally charge rockstar romance which I greatly recommend. 4 stars

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One Night Wife by Ainslie Paton.  I loved this present day Robin Hood kind of romance about a con artist and a failed actress trying to a run a charity coming together. There were lots of thoughts on redistribution of wealth, on lying and deceiving the others and ourselves which i found rather entertaining to read. It's a captivating, fast moving story that offered a critical look of a society which values appearances and wealth above all. The story also showcased some interesting family dynamics which is my catnip in romance.

I loved both hero and heroine and their romance arc was fabulous. He was caring but restrained, trying to keep things between them professional, never losing sight of the business and at the same helping her/protecting her. She was totally infatuated with him while also trying to stand on her own, to prove to herself (and in a way the world that has rejected her one too many times) that she is not a failure, a quitter who gives up at first obstacle. 

I feel I got to know him and his motivations a bit better and he was definitely my favourite. Despite the lies and deliberate omissions. I loved how she came back to him on her own, after making her mind, fully aware of who he was and he was trying to do. 

Absolutely brilliant romance with an unusual premise, richly drawn MCs and supporting cast. It's the first book in a new series and I'm excited to read the upcoming books as well. 4 stars

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Bad Reputation by Stephanie London (out on Aug 4) is the second book in the series and while I loved the first, I found this one a bit messy. The story is still very much focused on the abuse and potential harm of online tools but some other conflict was thrown in the mix - employer/employee (director - ballerina) relationship, her dramatic past, a jealous co-worker. 

I liked the characters on their own and both had interesting back stories - she is an Aussie  who tried to make it in the ballet world of NY after leaving Sidney due to a professional/personal scandal. She was having a fun, uncomplicated life but never quite gave up on her dreams. He was trying to prove his worth outside his family who were a superstar power couple in the ballet world. 

I enjoyed the story and found the MCs likable but felt there were too many things going on, too many small obstacles and conflicts happening, too many subplots, all this left the main conflict underdeveloped. 3 stars

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Currently reading - To Have and to Harley by Regina Cole (out on Aug 7) - a m/f biker romance where the bad boy bikers find themselves running a wedding planning business. There were nice touches but way too much stereotyping and cardboard secondary characters, plus the heroine is getting progressively more naive and helpless, so I'm putting it on hold at 65%. 

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