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

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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 fiancé 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

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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%. 

Kate Meader

Weekly Mini Reviews & Reading Recap #1

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I've decided to start doing weekly posts with mini reviews and reading recap. There is a long story behind this decision but the short version is that it will be easier and less time-consuming for me and I hope taht people will find my reviews more useful when I present them in this way. I'm still figuring out how exactly to go about this but here is my first try. 


The Chateau by Tiffany Reisz 

I kind of read this one by mistake. It's a prequel to the Sinners series which I haven't read but this was not indicated on NG at the time I got the review copy, so I had no idea when I started it. I was probably around the middle when I realised that the name Kingsley sounded familiar, so there it is. 
This story works as a standalone and it's a undownputable erotic romantic thriller. It's all about kink and mind-games and it's captivating but it did push my boundaries to the extreme and I don't think I will be reading more of the stories in this world. Some bits around pregnancy, kids and families did not make me happy. I don't feel in a position to recommend this book or not, all I can say that reading it has been an interesting experience for me. 
3.5 stars

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Hooked on You by Kate Meader 

I have a love-and-hate relationship with this series, I loved the first book, hated the Russian rep in the second, haven't read the third and was super excited about the fourth. I was looking forward to this one because the hero is divorced hockey player battling alcohol addiction who is given a second chance at his professional career and at love. The heroine is breast cancer survivor, half-Puerto Rican  I loved the chemistry them and though both were complex and interesting characters. I was not really happy about nanny-employer situation (she is part-owner of the team, he is team captain) - the professional dynamics between them seemed too contrived. I also hated the evil ex trope which was in full bloom here. Overall, it was a nice romance with some bits of depth and tenderness but in al honesty, I expected more of it. 
3.5 stars

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Thirsty by Mia Hopkins  

I loved, loved loved everything about this romance, a gangster battling anxiety tries to rebuilt his life after leaving prison. A single mom tries to rebuild her life after losing the father of her child (also a gangster). Story of redemption and second chances. It's told in first person POV of the hero which worked surprisingly well for me. It gave me an insight into his mind and created a sense of intimacy  which I appreciate a lot. There are great side characters, among them the kick-ass grandma of the heroine really stands out. I loved how this story showed the complex relationships and dynamics withing a gang, how difficult it is to leave it all behind and start anew. CW: violence, arson
5 stars


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Currently reading -an ARC of Bed of Flowers by Erin Satie, m/f historical romance. I'm 40% done and enjoying it a lot. It comes out on June 19.


Contemporary Romance

Review: What Kind of Day by Mina V. Esguerra

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Title: What Kind of Day (Six 32 Central #1)
Author: Mina V. Esguerra
Genre: Contemporary m/f romance, politics
Release Date: 31 May 2018

Author's links:
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My rating: 4 Stars

Blurb

It's a bad day for Ben. After years of earnest work, he's been fired from his job as a speechwriter for a Philippine senator. Name tarnished and bridges burned, he steps into what he thinks is a shuttle ride home, and accidentally joins a tour of his own city. 

It was supposed to be a good day for Naya. Her passion is traveling, her hobby is discovering cool things to see and do, and taking people on tours of Metro Manila is her only job right now. An extra person at the last minute isn't ideal, especially if the person is a former colleague and the subject of the day's hottest political trash fire. But work is work, and she decides to let him stay in the tour. 

She's hoping she won't regret it. He's hoping his day turns around. What kind of day could it be? Maybe the best kind.


Review 

This book was my first by Mina V. Esguerra and it won't be my last for sure. What Kind of Day is a lovely, very real contemporary romance set in Manila, a kind of fall-in-love-in-one-day adventure but quite.

I really enjoyed this story and absolutely loved both the hero and heroine. My favourite aspect was that both of them are in their early 30s and still haven't figured their lives, neither professionally, nor personally. They act like adults and take life seriously but we also see them as vulnerable, feeling unsettled, questioning their choices which I find most natural state of being.

To some extend I related to this book on a personal level, as someone who works in government in my own country thus touching a bit on politics and policy making. The way this topic was explored in the story form the different perspectives of Naya and Ben resonated with me a lot.

I loved the meet cute and the idea of meeting someone on the worst day of your life and having them quite unexpectedly make it a much better day for you. I also loved how the romance acknowledged there is such a thing as bad timing and sometimes people need time to sort some things, their romantic feelings included, on their own before entering a relationship. The attraction was there from the start but it was not really a love at first sight. Neither Nay, nor Ben was really looking for a relationship, the change of attitude happened naturally, over time, along with other choices they had to make regarding their lives.

I found the flow of the story smooth and the writing was fun and engaging, we get to see a lot of Manila in this story (somewhere I have never been) and it felt good, like going on a trip and making new friends. It's a feel-good romance which I greatly recommend.

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

Author Interview

New and Debut: Hudson Lin

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Monday if the time to introduce new/debut authors on my blog. Please, welcome Hudson Lin, author of m/m romance. Her debut, Inside Darkness, m/m romance with ownvoices Asian rep comes on June 11. Come meet the author and learn more about her upcoming book.




Meet Hudson

1. Tell us about yourself and why did you decide to become a romance writer?
There’s something powerful about being seen, being accepted, finding someone who loves all your strengths and flaws. Especially if you don’t fall into the beautiful, popular, and charming categories. Especially if you’ve lived life on the fringes of society, if you’ve been rejected and told you’re not welcome.
Romance gives people a place to belong. Even if the rest of the world pushes you away, there is at least one person who wants you. I want that for people like me, so I write that for people like me. Be it LGBTQIA+ people, or people of color, or people who pass as “normal” but really aren’t (using whatever definition you’d like), I believe in the idea that every single person deserves the happily ever after they want.
Happily ever afters don’t always happen in real life. But they do in romance.

2. Can you share some of your favourite books and authors?
Finn Marlowe is one of the first m/m romance authors I encountered. I love her novel A THREAD OF DEEPEST BLACK; it’s one of the few books I’ve reread multiple times. It’s a paranormal, kinky romance about shifters, the battle between our responsibilities and our morals, and the dark places of our hearts. Angsty—totally up my alley. I also like NOT HIS KISS TO TAKE, a contemporary romance, also with some kinky elements, and a strong hurt/comfort theme.
Tanya Chris is another of my favorite authors. She writes contemporary romance, some more tame and feel good, others hardcore kinky—I love both types! DEEP UNDER is a hardcore kinky short story about a cop and the guy he pulls over for speeding. MERGE AHEAD is a contemporary romance about a call center manager and his new boss. Both stories had me hooked from the first sentences.
‘Nathan Burgoine writes paranormal contemporary romance and urban fantasy. I love his TRIAD series about supernatural beings forming triads to pool their powers and protect each other. He strikes the perfect balance of action, emotions, humor, and sexy that make his stories a joy to read.
Vanessa North is another one of those emotional, angsty storytellers who sprinkle a liberal amount of kink into her tales. (Are you beginning to see a pattern in my tastes here?) THE DARK COLLECTOR is a short story, contemporary, kinky, about someone who finds a second chance at love. I bawled my eyes out while reading it.
Lastly, but certainly not least, AJ Cousins writes contemporary romances featuring real people dealing with real life struggles. Her BEND OR BREAK series is full of characters who are flawed, make bad choices, learn from their mistakes, and try to be better the next time around. When I grow up, I want to write like AJ. 

3. Who/what do you consider your writing influence/inspiration?
A lot of my writing comes from my own life experiences, big philosophical questions I’ve wrestled with, places I’ve been to. Sometimes writing feels like therapy to me, a way for me to get down on the page stuff that is floating around in my head. If I can navigate the story to a happily ever after while I’m at it, all the better!

4. What kind of stories can the readers expect from you?
I write adult contemporary romances that feature:
· LGBTQIA+ characters
· Racially diverse characters
· Real life struggles that lead to…
· A significant amount of angst
· Food. Lots of food.

5. Please, introduce your latest/upcoming release.
My debut novel is INSIDE DARKNESS, which comes out June 11th! It’s about a humanitarian aid worker learning to cope with PTSD and an ambitious Asian American journalist struggling against systemic racism.

Blurb


He’s come in from the field, but the darkness has followed him home.

After a decade as an aid worker, Cameron Donnelly returns home jaded, tired, and with more than just a minor case of PTSD. Plagued by recurring nightmares but refusing to admit he has a problem, Cam quickly spirals into an alcohol-infused depression, and everyone around him is at a loss for how to help.

Journalist Tyler Ang met Cam on a reporting assignment in Kenya, and their first encounters were rife with hostility and sexual tension. Back in New York, their paths continually cross, and each time, Cam’s brokenness reminds Ty more and more of his own difficult childhood. Letting Cam in goes against Ty’s instinct to live life autonomously, but the damaged aid worker manages to sneak past his guard.

Their relationship is all sharp corners and rough edges, and just as they’re figuring out how to fit together, a life-threatening accident puts it all in jeopardy. If they want a future together, both will have to set aside their egos and learn to carry each other’s burdens.

Purchase Links: Publisher / Amazon / iBooks / B&N / Kobo


Author Bio and Links

Hudson Lin was raised by conservative immigrant parents and grew up straddling two cultures with ofttimes conflicting perspectives on life. Instead of conforming to either, she has sought to find a third way that brings together the positive elements of both.

Having spent much of her life on the outside looking in, Hudson likes to write stories about outsiders who fight to carve out their place in society, and overcome everyday challenges to find love and happily ever afters.

When not engrossed in a story, Hudson knits, drinks tea, and works the 9 to 5 in the beautiful city of Toronto, Canada.

Crime mystery

Review: Object of Desire by Dal Maclean

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Title: Object of Desire
Author: Dal Maclean
Genre: M/M romance, crime thriller
Release Date: 22 May 2018

Author's links:

Add on Goodreads

My rating: 5 Stars


Blurb

Tom Gray is one of the world's top models–an effortless object of desire.

Self-contained, elusive and always in control, he's accustomed to living life entirely on his own terms.

But when Tom comes under suspicion in the gory death of his employer, his world spirals into chaos.

Someone's framing him. Someone's stalking him.

And as old secrets come to light, Tom finds his adversary always one step ahead.

Will Foster is the only man Tom trusts to help. But Tom brutally burned all bridges between them two years before, and Will paid a bitter price.

If he wants to survive, Tom must prove his innocence to Will–and to the world.

Review

This is Dal Maclean's second book and it is set in the same world as Bitter Legacy which ironically I read after this one and ended up loving them both very much and eagerly looking forward to the next book she will write. 

Object of Desire has a strong HFN ending and a moving second-chance love story developing at the background of solving a complicated and rather brutal crime mystery. I feel at the times the mystery plot took over and the romance came second but I feel it fitted the narrative. This is a very compelling read, full of twists and turns (I couldn't figure who the murderer was until the very last pages).

I admit there  was a moment when I thought there was no way for Tom to end up with the man he loved and only knowing the book was a romance and there must be some sort of HEA/HFN saved from going insane,

I loved Tom, through whose POV we get the story. He is a stunning good-looking young male model whom everyone desires but who is also jaded and emotionally distanced. He was angry and resigned and somewhat misanthropic, using sex as distraction to avoid examining his true feelings. He was definitely hard to love at times, but that is the kind of romance hero that I very much like to read about. He appeared callous, too undecided and letting others guide him and determine his life for him. There is a deeply hidden vulnerability and emotional fragility in him and I loved how he managed to sort out through all the manipulation and secrets and find the right direction for himself.

The love interest in this story is Will, former police detective, now working as private investigator. We see him almost exclusively from Tom's POV, so that we got a rather biased view of him. Will appeared strong and hurt and determined and loyal and I couldn't help but root for him to get his HEA. 

The writing is exquisite, the mystery is expertly crafted and the romance extremely satisfying. There was no big grovel scene but rather a simple, confident one where Tom shared his plans and confessed his love but was determined to be himself from now on, regardless whether his man took him back or not. It was all about growth and change and becoming better, more open, more honest with oneself and the others. Highly recommended read!

Buy links: Amazon / Smashwords

Contemporary Romance

Review: Making Up by Lucy Parker

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Title: Making Up (London Celebrities #3)
Author: Lucy Parker
Genre / Themes: Romance / Show business
Release date: 28 May 2018 

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

My rating: 4 Stars

Blurb 

Once upon a time, circus artist Trix Lane was the best around. Her spark vanished with her confidence, though, and reclaiming either has proved…difficult. So when the star of The Festival of Masks is nixed and Trix is unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight, it’s exactly the push she needs. But the joy over her sudden elevation in status is cut short by a new hire on the makeup team.

Leo Magasiva: disgraced wizard of special effects. He of the beautiful voice and impressive beard. Complete dickhead and—in an unexpected twist—an enragingly good kisser. 

To Leo, something about Trix is…different. Lovely. Beautiful, even though the pint-size, pink-haired former bane of his existence still spends most of her waking hours working to annoy him. They’ve barely been able to spend two minutes together for years, and now he can’t get enough of her. On stage. At home. In his bed.

When it comes to commitment, Trix has been there, done that, never wants to do it again. Leo’s this close to the job of a lifetime, which would take him away from London—and from Trix. Their past is a constant barrier between them.

It seems hopeless.

Utterly impossible. 

And yet…
Review 

I love the previous two books in the series and have been looking forward to reading this one for what feels like ages. It's another fantastic contemporary romance set in the world of performing arts (she is an airelist, he does stage make-up) I enjoyed a lot about this story but I also had a couple of minor issues with it.

This is a second-chance enemies to lovers story. I liked the tension between the MCs and how they came together, first just as colleagues working on the same project, then as roommates and finally as lovers.

Trix is a great heroine, we get to meet her in the aftermath of her escape from a verbally abusive and manipulative relationship. We see the whole process of her going back to herself, regaining her confidence and professional ambition, re-learning to trust her judgement and to rely/be more open with her friends. It was a difficult journey that i found so easy to relate to at times - she had panic attacks and anxiety peaks, she made mistakes at work and it too her a long while to finally being able to discuss her issues with a psychologist. And in the midst of this painful journey back to herself, she fell in love

Leo too, was at a bad place when they met - he was dealing with some heavy stuff, professional problems, personal issues with his sister (two of them made their own family). They were like archnemesis for years after being very close (and in love with each other) in school due to a misunderstand caused by someone else. While I usually hate misunderstandings as the root of the conflict in romance, it worked for me here because it happened when they were teenagers and they both overreacted.

I liked Trix and Leo together, the support, the admiration for what the other can do professionally. It was so important, it made all the difference from her previous relationship.

Now, there were two scenes that I found unpleasant and which affected my overall enjhoyment of the story. Minor spoiler ahead!

The first is the opening scene where a fellow performer vomits all over the heroine and then they proceed to talk with a couple of people, including the hero, for a while before they get the chance to shower. It was weird and yucky, definitely felt unnecessarily prolonged.

While I found this scene simply annoying, the other one was more problematic. The heroine woke up to the hero painting/applying make-up to her body while she was still asleep. It was not sexual for either of them but it made me feel uncomfortable. She woke up worried, disoriented, not knowing what as happening and the hero not seeing anything wrong about his action was not Okay for me.

I absolutely loved the epilogue - we get a glimpse of Trix and Leo as a couple a few years down the road and it was perfect for them and made me so happy.

Despite the abovementioned two troubling scenes, I quite enjoyed the book and highly recommend it. It was a touching story about dealing with manipulation, self-doubt and leasrnng to trust yourself and others again.

Purchase link: Amazon

Author Interview

Friday Favourites with Dal Maclean

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It's time for my Friday Favourites post and today I'm very excited to welcome Dal Maclean, author of m/m crime mystery romance, on my blog. Her second book, Object of Desire, was just released and it's a compelling murder mystery with strong romantic elements (and HFN ending!) which I absolutely adored. Read on to get to know Dal better and learn more about her book. 


Friday Favourites
I’m going to be completely useless at this because I don’t do absolutes well. I just don’t have ‘a favourite’ in most things. So please bear with me while I waffle?

1. Favourite place: Uuuum. This isn’t a good start. I’m shuffling because I don’t have one exactly. It depends? I love London and New York. Anywhere in the US really. Oxford. Singapore (specifically Raffles - yowser). The Dordogne in France. Sydney. Laos. Java. Hong Kong. Tokyo’s brilliant. Or my garden. My garden would be the easy choice.

2. Favourite food and drink: squirming in agony. Ummm. At this second, oranges and dark chocolate. And drink… I’ll go with cocktails of any description.

3. Favourite music/genre/artist/song: It depends -- again. I love bits of just about everything from classical and opera through blues to rock, pop, R& B. I probably like indie/alternative rock best though. I’ll go with what I’m listening to right now which is The Heavy who’re Indie/Blues rock. “Same Old” and ‘Short Change Hero’. But it could be a totally different tomorrow.
 -
4. Favourite movie/TV series:  I’m going to fail at this one tooooo…. TV - I love old-fashioned British mysteries and also police procedurals like Marple, Poirot, Morse, Lewis and Endeavour. Also harder core stuff like The Fall, Line of Duty, Broadchurch etc. I really love some sci-fi like Firefly. But currently I’m watching Lucifer and its oddly… compulsive. Movies - I like film noir as a whole. I love ‘The Uninvited’ (the b & w one) ‘The Name of the Rose’, ‘Presumed Innocent’, ‘My Cousin Vinnie’... I love the new Sherlock Holmes movies (the R Downey ones) and some of the Marvel stuff for pure entertainment value… I’m no use at this am I?

5. Favourite hobby besides writing, if you consider writing a hobby: I think probably gardening. It’s a mix of creativity, nurturing/science/practicality and hard work (Hey- that was actually a straight answer!)

6. Favourite books:
Argh. This is so hard. Non fiction - I read history books. One I love a lot is ‘The Time Travellers Guide to Medieval England’ by Ian Mortimer. It was such a clever concept to show not tell how alien so many aspects and attitudes of the distant past can be. I’m currently reading something that’s not history though -- “Mistakes Were Made. (But not by me)” which is a superb analysis of the lengths we go to to avoid admitting to ourselves we got things wrong.
In fiction, I read mysteries mainly – murder ones, supernatural ones. I like tension, a puzzle, suspense to keep me hooked -- something to figure out and hopefully a surprise. I’m trying to catch up on the Harry Hole books by Jo Nesbo, which everyone else read years ago. In MM, I read across the genre to see what’s up. So to speak. Theres so much great writing and story telling in MM. But if I have to choose one I think my fave MM of all time ever ever, is probably The Adrien English series by Josh Lanyon

7. Please introduce your latest/upcoming release
It’s called ‘Object of Desire’ and its set in London and in the same universe as my first and only other book to date, ‘Bitter Legacy’. But it’s not a sequel. This one is a psychological thriller/mystery/romance and its much less of a slow build than ‘Bitter Legacy’ in that the core events take place over a matter of days, as opposed to months.
The point-of-view character is a successful model called Tom Gray who finds his life beginning to disintegrate around him after the death of his female boss. And he has to turn for help to the man he cut out of his life two years before.
I'd say the book explores among other things the power of manipulation; the limited returns of celebrity, despite our idealization of it; the psychology of emotional self-protection driven by fear of vulnerability – and the hard reality that we can never be sure we truly know someone else.  Most of all though, I really hope it’s a page turner.

Blurb

Tom Gray is one of the world's top models–an effortless object of desire. Self-contained, elusive and always in control, he's accustomed to living life entirely on his own terms. But when Tom comes under suspicion in the gory death of his employer, his world spirals into chaos.
Someone's framing him. Someone's stalking him. And as old secrets come to light, Tom finds his adversary always one step ahead. 
Will Foster is the only man Tom trusts to help. But Tom brutally burned all bridges between them two years before, and Will paid a bitter price. If he wants to survive, Tom must prove his innocence to Will–and to the world.

  Buy links: Amazon / Smashwords 

Author Bio and Links
  
Dal Maclean comes from Scotland. Her background is in journalism, and she has an undying passion for history, the more gossipy and scandalous the better. Dal has lived in Asia and worked all over the world, but home is now the UK. She dislikes the Tragic Gay trope, but loves imperfect characters and genuine emotional conflict in romantic fiction. As an author, and a reader, she believes it’s worth a bit of work to reach a happy ending. Agatha Christie, English gardens and ill-advised cocktails are three fatal weaknesses, though not usually at the same time.

Her first book, "Bitter Legacy", was a 2017 Lambda Literary Award Finalist for best Gay Mystery and was chosen by the American Libraries Association for their 2018 Over The Rainbow Recommended Books List. 


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Ainslie Paton

Review: Love Coupon by Ainslie Paton

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Title: The Love Coupon (Stubborn Hearts #2)
Author: Ainslie Paton 
Genre: Contemporary romance, Roommates 

Release Date: 2 Oct 2017 

Author's links:


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My rating: 3 Stars

Blurb

How many coupons does it take to fall in love?

Flick Dalgetty knows what she wants and how to get it, which is why she’s about to start her dream job in Washington. Until then, she needs somewhere to crash, and Tom O’Connell’s place is her sole option. He’s a repressed, antisocial ogre…but man can he kiss.

For Tom, being around Flick is like being too close to the sun. Her untamed energy is overwhelming, and he’d spontaneously combust if he had to live with her long-term. Housemates with benefits—and an expiration date—suits him just fine. 

Then Flick gives Tom thirty coupons, each entitling him to one obligation-free activity, from bowling and bubble-bathing to morning delight, removing all the guesswork from being incompatible partners and shifting their fling into high gear.

Now the problem is their arrangement is drawing to a close, and they might be falling in love—and there wasn’t a coupon for that. 

Review

I loved the first book in the series and after a somewhat shaky start and ended up enjoying this one  too.

It's a forced proximity, opposites attract kind of romance. She is impulsive, messy and a whirlwind of emotions while he is restrained, reserved, a stickler for order and planning.

It was she who took all the initiative - pushed to become his roommate, then offered a roommates with benefits type of arrangement. Flick leaving for a job of her dreams in two months and Tom having professional plan firmly set where he is, put an expiration date on their affair. And while they were fine with it initially, slowly both get to want more from each other

My main issue is that I felt she was too pushy at the beginning,  and while I do see how it was a game they both willingly played, still it made me uncomfortable at times, her insistence for him to let go emotionally and physically when they were together might have been what he needed but I also read it as she knew better than him what would make him happy, it appeared like she was ignoring his limits, the restraints he had imposed on himself. I think his consent in a couple of sexual situation early in their relationship was not as explicit and clear as it should have been and this put me on edge.

I quite liked Tom, he was caring, and considerate. He followed the rules and expected the others to do so too but in his personal and in his professional life. Becoming a bit more spontaneous, adaptive to changing circumstances was god for him in the end though I'm not fully convinced Flick's approach to this was the right one.

In a way they both helped each other become better - he taught her a much needed control and distance in her relationship with her family, while she showed him it's ok to trust your heart and not have everything planned.

The  coupon game was fun but it did come a bit late in the story, after 50%. It gave them the safe distance to work through their feelings and allowed them to really get to know each other and fall in love.

The ending was sweet and very romantic but a bit rushed and I felt it was slightly out of character for them both. I have no doubt is was the right decision and a well deserved HEA but I wanted it to be  more fitting to their personalities as I saw them in the rest of the story. I would have loved an epilogue showing them after a couple of months living together.

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

#rombklove

#RomBkLove day 14: Family

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Family is really important for me in real life and I appreciate seeing different family dynamics in my romances. Sometimes the family is that pillar of unwavering support and strength that the hero and heroine need, in others - the family is what causes the tension between the MCs. Give me real, vibrant families who mess up but also learn and grow and change in the same way the main characters in the story. 

I will list some romances where the family and how it was presented/its role in the story has stuck with me. The families in them function in different ways but for me they are all memorable and they added a lot to the main romantic arc in the story.

I'm starting with Laura Florand's La Vie en Rose series where she explores a wide variety of family dynamics - a single (distant) parent, big loving families, sibling rivalry but also support and encouragement. She entwines her characters' stories in the larger historical context of descendants of WWII heroes (and traitors). Seeing the way the past has shaped the present and and how it affects the next generation adds a whole new layer in these romances. 

In her novella Snow-Kissed she examines a marriage in trouble which is rarely found in romance and the other novella in the series, Sun-Kissed has two older characters with grown-up falling in love. 

Alisha Rai's series, Forbidden Hearts, is a family saga type of romance. It's the complex and volatile relations between two families that lay at the center of the stories. We see revenge, guilt, childhood friends and enemies all making the romances between the MCs more than a challenge. 

Penny Reid's Winston Brothers is a series of romcoms about a a family of 6 brothers and 1 sister. I very much like how the author plays with stereotypes and readers' expectations in these books. 

Jill Shalvis also writes great families in her contemporary small-town romances. I love the banter, the true friendship, being always there for each other and at the same time not hesitating to call the other person out on their mistakes. Wilder series focuses on three brothers running a company organising mountain adventures, Cedar Ridge is another series centred around siblings which I greatly enjoyed. 

Next I want to share some of my favourite romances with  found families. I'd say found families are by far more common in queer romance but they also happen in m/f romances. 

One such example for me would be the three heroines in Kate Calyborn's Chance of a Lifetime series. They are more than close friends, they are each other's family (their relationships with their bio families are complicated and the women give each other the love and support they need and lack from their bio families). 

I also think of the queer characters in KJ Charles's Society of Gentlemen and Sins of the Cities series form their own families. Most of them are not completely rejected by their bio families but they have to hide their true selves and who they love. They can only be themselves with their friends and can fully rely on them and this makes them a found family in my eyes. 

Nathan Burgoine creates a remarkable found family in his Christmas novella, Handmade Holidays. It's during the holidays that the lack of family hurts the most and having close friends to share your joy (and sorrow) with again and again through the years is a remarkable, precious thing. 

My last recommendation is a romance with a mix of bio and found family which I consider absolutely amazing. This is Dear Mona Lisa by Al Steward and Claire Davis, contemporary m/m romance with two older men finding love, one of them facing coming out as gay to his college-aged daughter. We see different family connections at play in this longish novella, there is hurt and pain caused by homophobic parents, but also love and support by colleagues and friends. It's very moving, both heart-breaking and heart-warming. 

I could continue with more recommendations but I'm curious to see what your favoruite romances with memorable families are. What kind of family dynamics do you enjoy reading the most?


Author Interview

Friday Favourites with Lynn Turner

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It's Friday Favourites time again and release day for Pas de Deux, my guest's Lynn Turner, second book. Read on to learn more about Lynn and her book which is ownvoices contemporary romance starring a Black ballerina and the dancer-turned-choreographer who fell for her. It's a brilliant romance which I enjoyed very much and will be reviewing on the blog next week. So, go read this book and see some mesmerising dance performances put into words. 



Meet Lynn

1. Favourite place

Big Island, Hawaii. Black sand. Giant sea turtles. Tons of little pockets of space to get lost in. 

2. Favourite food and drink 

Chocolate and wine go together like me and my pillow.

3. Favourite music/genre/artist/song

Oh my gosh, I swear this changes every day. Spotify is my happy place. Lately, I’m obsessed with anything by Banks, Labrinth, Kehlani, Alessia Cara, Andrew Belle and Alina Baraz.

4. Favourite movie/TV series 

Pride & Prejudice! The movie from 2005, the series from 1995 (hello, Colin Firth). No matter what new show or movie I fall in love with, it never seems to top P&P.

5. Favourite hobby besides writing, if you consider writing a hobby 

I’ve been drawing a lot more lately, and my proportions when drawing faces are improving. I fancy myself an artiste now. 😉 

6. Favourite books 

Oh God, this gives me anxiety in the best way, hahaha. ::takes deep breath::

Romantic comedy: 
Anything by Emma Hart, Talia Hibbert, Lucy Parker, or Penny Reid. Their stories make a fool of me in public places, laughing aloud and talking to the characters. I’m looking forward to reading A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole.

Emotional terrorism:
Kennedy Ryan, Brittainy Cherry and Jessica Hawkins. I have to take breaks as I read their stories because I drown in my feelings.

Classics:
The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer, Pride & Prejudice (SHOCKER, I know), historicals by Kathleen Woodiwiss and Beverly Jenkins. Octavia Butler’s world building in her science fiction novels makes me weep.

7. Please introduce your latest/upcoming release (what inspired you to write, what can the readers expect from it, etc.)

I am so excited to introduce Pas De Deux to readers! As the subtitle suggests, “pas de deux” means “a dance for two.” I’ve wanted to write a ballet romance for a long time but didn’t out of sheer terror because I’ve never danced and the choreography and lifestyle, while intriguing, felt so intimidating. Then one day, I watched Misty Copeland’s “A Ballerina’s Tale” on Netflix and a story slowly started to take shape in my mind. I was so moved by Misty’s journey to success, and her unique experiences as a black ballerina, that writing a black ballerina became like air for me: I needed to do it. I was also inspired by the movie, “The Cutting Edge,” because of the amazing sparring and sexual chemistry between the leads. 

Readers can expect a journey of two damaged souls brought together by love for their art. Mina and Zack bump heads a lot, but their story is peppered with humor and little moments of recognition that were so fulfilling to write.

Blurb

It's said the artist is born of a damaged soul…

Wilhelmina Allende is a prima ballerina. When tragedy turns her beloved Paris into a gilded cage, she jumps at the chance to work with one of the most prolific choreographers she’s ever seen. But Zack’s style is way out of her comfort zone. So is his teaching method. And his humor. And his everything. He’s a charming little connard. It’s hard not to like him. Merde. What has she gotten herself into?

Zachary Coen’s first musical is opening on Broadway. Much like his life, it’s anything but conventional, so hiring Mina is simply out of the question. She’s too…classical. Too perfect. She’s all wrong for the role. Then he meets her in person and sees her cracks. Her broken pieces. How unique and beautiful each one is. And he can’t help but notice how her edges seem to fit his…perfectly.

Just when teaming up seems to be working, the monsters they’ve kept hidden threaten to rip it all apart.

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Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / iBooks 


Author Bio and Links

Lynn Turner is dedicated to writing inclusive stories that explore what it means to be imperfectly human. She is convinced she would have made a great Gilmore Girl, that writing about herself in third-person is weird, and that Colin Firth is the best Mr. Darcy (don’t fight her on this). When she isn’t writing and adulting, she’s tackling her monstrous TBR list, TV-binging, traveling, or watching old Samantha Brown travelogue videos and wishing she had her job. She and her husband share their home in California with their two extraordinary children and their sometimes cat, Bowie.


Historical Romance

Review: The Henchmen of Zenda by KJ Charles

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Title: The Henchmen of Zenda
Author: K. J. Charles
Genre/Themes: Historical, MM romance
Release Date: 15 May 2018

Author's links: Website / Twitter / Facebook Group / Goodreads
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My rating: 4 Stars

Blurb

Swordfights, lust, betrayal, murder: just another day for a henchman.

Jasper Detchard is a disgraced British officer, now selling his blade to the highest bidder. Currently that's Michael Elphberg, half-brother to the King of Ruritania. Michael wants the throne for himself, and Jasper is one of the scoundrels he hires to help him take it. But when Michael makes his move, things don’t go entirely to plan—and the penalty for treason is death.

Rupert of Hentzau is Michael's newest addition to his sinister band of henchmen. Charming, lethal, and intolerably handsome, Rupert is out for his own ends—which seem to include getting Jasper into bed. But Jasper needs to work out what Rupert’s really up to amid a maelstrom of plots, swordfights, scheming, impersonation, desire, betrayal, and murder.

Nobody can be trusted. Everyone has a secret. And love is the worst mistake you can make.

A retelling of the swashbuckling classic The Prisoner of Zendafrom a very different point of view.

Review 

This is a wonderful adventure romance in the veins of Dumas's The Three Musketeers but queer. It's fun and full of court intrigue and treason and sword fighting and an engaging romance between an older experienced gay man and a charming younger bi man

This story is a wild ride from the start. It's told form Jasper's POV, a jaded and disillusioned henchman who is loyal to his friends and the people he cares about. He is comfortable with who he is, absolutely unashamed and unrepentant about his life choices.

Rupert is dashing, vibrant, full of life and dreaming of having all the adventures. I loved how his bisexuality was very much present in the story and it was not an issue for anyone. He was a flamboyant flirt, yet he lacked experience with men and was willing to learn everything from Jasper.

I won't be going into details about the mystery plot of the story in order to avoid spoilers. All I can say it was very engaging and full of twists and turns and just when I thought I had an idea where things would go, the author took them in a completely different direction.

I find the theme of kindness and loyalty a recurring idea in KJ Charles's books and it had a central place here too. Jasper and Rupert are mercenaries yet they both value kindness and try not to do excessive harm, they don't enjoy violence for its own sake, but view it as a means to an end. They are both happy and comfortable with the lifestyle they have chosen for themselves (another common theme in KJ's books - the free to choose and shape your own life regardless of family obligations and other people's expectations of you).

And the story ends with the most perfect epilogue - love comes in various forms and the only thing that matter is for everyone involved to feel happy and satisfied, then all can be right in their own little world, and to some extend in the larger world too.

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