Alyssa Cole

Review: When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

02:18


Title: When No One Is Watching
Author: Alyssa Cole
Genre / Themes: Thriller, Racism, Gentrification 
Release date: 01 September 2020

Author's links: Website / Twitter / Goodreads

My rating: 2 Stars

Blurb 

Rear Window meets Get Out in this gripping thriller from a critically acclaimed and New York Times Notable author, in which the gentrification of a Brooklyn neighborhood takes on a sinister new meaning…

Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighborhood seems to change every time she blinks. Condos are sprouting like weeds, FOR SALE signs are popping up overnight, and the neighbors she’s known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community’s past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour and finds an unlikely and unwanted assistant in one of the new arrivals to the block—her neighbor Theo.

But Sydney and Theo’s deep dive into history quickly becomes a dizzying descent into paranoia and fear. Their neighbors may not have moved to the suburbs after all, and the push to revitalize the community may be more deadly than advertised.

When does coincidence become conspiracy? Where do people go when gentrification pushes them out? Can Sydney and Theo trust each other—or themselves—long enough to find out before they too disappear?

Review

I have enjoyed many of Alyssa Cole's romances and was curious to try her thriller debut but unfortunately it didn't work as well for me as I had hoped for. 

In this book Alyssa Cole has focused on topical issues in the American society - gentrification (in NY specifically), racism, police violence. It's goes in some dark places, both in present times and in history, with unflinching honesty and this is the element of the story I liked the most. 

I appreciate the premise of the book but I  felt the execution was far from perfect. The first part was too slow, too descriptive - we get to meet the MCs and see the attraction between them from the start; there are separate incidents happening in their neighbourhood but they didn't create the tension I  expect from a thriller.

We get a detailed presentation of some lesser known, even completely forgotten, history of Brooklyn and I quite like it but at the same time it felt heavy handed to me, like history lesson, not a book of genre fiction. 
 
The first half read like very much like a depressing litfic about two people going through rough times. I didn't feel a connection to either of the MCs and found their romance lackluster. Their relationship did have a prominent place in the story and as a romance reader this didn't bother me, what bothered me is that I was not convinced these two are good for each other.

The thriller aspect picked up in the final 35-40%, so much so that it went into wtf territory, too much was happening, some of it pretty unbelievable. I am willing to suspend believe in most of the romantic suspense and thrillers I read, I would have done the same here. But the first part of the book felt so realistic, more facts than fiction indeed, and then the final section of the story came completely at odds with it. 

The ending was totally anticlimactic and made no sense. We also got some loose threads that remained unresolved. Overall, it was a frustrating read for me. I would not recommend it but I have also seen lots of praise for it, so it might work better for other readers.

Add on Goodreads / Buy on Amazon 


Jessie Mihalik

Review of Chaos Reigning by Jessie Mihalik

02:16

Title: Chaos Reigning (Consortium Rebellion #3)
Author: Jessie Mihalik
Publication Date: 19 May 2020
Genres: Sci-Fi with Romance Elements

Author's links: Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads

My rating: 4 Stars


Blurb

Interplanetary intrigue and romance combine in this electrifying finale to the Consortium Rebellion series.

As the youngest member of her High House, Catarina von Hasenberg is used to being underestimated, but her youth and flighty, bubbly personality mask a clever mind and stubborn determination. Her enemies, blind to her true strength, do not suspect that Cat is a spy—which makes her the perfect candidate to go undercover at a rival House’s summer retreat to gather intelligence on their recent treachery.

Cat’s overprotective older sister reluctantly agrees, but on one condition: Cat cannot go alone. Alexander Sterling, a quiet, gorgeous bodyguard, will accompany her, posing as her lover. After Cat tries, and fails, to ditch Alex, she grudgingly agrees, confident in her ability to manage him. After all, she’s never found a person she can’t manipulate.

But Alex proves more difficult—and more desirable—than Cat anticipated. When she’s attacked and nearly killed, she and Alex are forced to work together to figure out how deep the treason goes. With rumors of widespread assaults on Serenity raging, communications down, and the rest of her family trapped off-planet, Catarina must persuade Alex to return to Earth to expose the truth and finish this deadly battle once and for all.

But Cat can’t explain why she’s the perfect person to infiltrate hostile territory without revealing secrets she’d rather keep buried. . . .

Review 

This is the final book in a series of SF stories. The series is billed SF romance but in my opinion all three books are rather SF with romantic elements. There is a HEA in every book but the romance comes second to the futuristic world and the suspense plot. I was unpleasantly surprised by this in the first book but I took up the next books with adjusted expectations with regard to the romance and I enjoyed them much more. 

This is the story of the youngest sibling, Cat, and it started with a rather unusual trope for SF, fake relationship and it did work well to create romantic tension, but it was over all too brief to add real depth to the romance. We moved to the the chase and fighting and travelling through space, trying to save the world and it was an amazing adventure till the very end. I loved how strong Cat was, how she masked her true self behind a bubbly socialite persona. She had to take the lead, to reveal her physical strength and sharp mind and was plagued by doubts and insecurities.

Alex was a great hero too. He loved Cat, saw through her mask and appreciated her strength, boosting her self-confidence, absolutely loving her for who she was. 

Ultimately this is an action-packed, fast moving story with many twists and turns galore. I liked the well drawn side characters and the cameo of the Cat's siblings. The world building worked well for me, there might be gaps here and there but overall I found it consistent and developed enough to make it easy and fun for me to follow the characters’ adventures. 

I would recommend the series with the caveat that it’s more of SF adventure with a bit of romance than proper SFR. 

Add on Goodreads / Buy on Amazon

Historical Romance

Review: The Sugared Game by KJ Charles

07:14


Title: The Sugared Game (The Will Darling Adventures #2)
Author: KJ Charles
Genre/Themes: Historical, MM romance, Mystery
Release Date: 26 Aug 2020

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

My rating: 4.5 Stars
Blurb 

It's been two months since Will Darling saw Kim Secretan, and he doesn't expect to see him again. What do a rough and ready soldier-turned-bookseller and a disgraced shady aristocrat have to do with each other anyway?
But when Will encounters a face from the past in a disreputable nightclub, Kim turns up, as shifty, unreliable, and irresistible as ever. And before Will knows it, he's been dragged back into Kim's shadowy world of secrets, criminal conspiracies, and underhand dealings.

This time, though, things are underhanded even by Kim standards. This time, the danger is too close to home. And if Will and Kim can't find common ground against unseen enemies, they risk losing everything.

Review 

I liked the first book in the series just OK but thoroughly enjoyed this one. We get to see more character development here, both for Will and Kim but also for Phoebe and Maisie.

The suspense plot is engaging and kept me guessing to the very end. I had great fun following Will and Kim on their journey to figure out the mystery together. The final part of the story was action packed, very movie-like with a very high death toll (something that can be consider a staple of KJ Charles' romances :)

I admit I wasn't a big fan of Kim in the first book, rather,I didn't like the way he treated Will - the lack of trust and outright lies really bothered me. In this book I got to see more of the reasons for him acting the way he did and this helped me understand him better. 

Will was just great as a partner of Kim and as a friend to Maisie and Phoebe. His moments of doubts and sense of loneliness and unworthiness felt real and made me very emotional. 

I liked how Will and Kim acted like adults with regard to their relationship. It was not an easy thing for both of them to put into words what they felt/wanted, they made their fair share  of mistakes but they were open and willing to talk, to ear  each other out and ultimately they stood by each other when it mattered. 

The story ends with a HFN ending, a promise to try, a hope to make things work, to build something good together. There were no easy solutions, some hurts are too deep to heal overnight and this is OK. 

On a side note, the Bright Young Things are a big thing in this story and they are as insufferable as you can imagine (I fell down a rabbit hole reading about them in Wikipedia :).

In short, this was a lovely read on all levels and highly recommend it!

Note (16.09.2020) I have added a clarifying note to my review on GR under a spoiler tag and I encourage you to read it before picking this book.

Add on Goodreads / Buy on Amazon 

Contemporary Romance

Review: So Forward by Mina V. Esguerra

03:00

Title: So Forward (Six 32 Central Book #3)
Author: Mina V. Esguerra
Genre/Themes: Sports romance, Philippines 
Release date: 15 July 2020

Author’s links: Website / Goodreads / Twitter / Facebook

My rating: 3,5 Stars

Blurb 

Colin Valerio has been performing practically all his life. From national team figure skating, to underwear modeling, and now posting (shirtless) selfies daily for his adoring audience. Many don’t know though that at 29, he’s quietly earning his MBA degree—that is, if he can fix his final paper. It’s got too much heart, not enough business.

National hockey team medalist, outstanding young professional, MBA prof on leave...Lexa Lorenzo is determined and driven, and did all that by age 32. She should be her family corp’s next CEO. But she’s all business, not enough heart, and her mentor/boss/aunt wants her to be more accessible, approachable, “charming.”

As luck would have it, Lexa’s alma mater calls her in to help a graduating MBA student—and it’s Colin Valerio, fellow winter sports athlete, walking/talking ball of charm. She has the sports and business background he needs. He is a natural at all the things she’s told to improve on, and may be able to teach her a thing or two. Let the lessons begin.

Review 

This is book 3 in ongoing series but works well as a standalone. It's a sports romance with both MCs retired sports players in winter sports which are not huge in the Philippines, she was hockey player, he was a figure skater. She is a business woman in a family empire. He is an Instagram celebrity, studying business in secret.

This is a low conflict, drama free romance about two young people finding their place in the world after their sports careers were over. They are different on the surface but in fact pretty similar, they are both  living sort of double life, presenting a different persona to the world while keeping their true self deeply hidden.

The romance shows them opening up to each other, sharing hopes and dreams. It was all real and relatable, the struggle to graduate and secure a job/career doing something you are passionate about,the family pressure (parental approval, sibling friendship/rivalry). There is a cosy feel of familiarity about it which I greatly enjoyed. 

I liked both MCs a lot, I bought into their romance. But, at the same time, I wanted to see more of the sports aspect,it was very in the past for both of them and it had little to no impact on their present which felt unrealistic to me. Another thing which I wish was handled differently was the defence of his thesis.The preparation for it was a major plot point but we didn't see the actual exam and it was a bit anti-climactic. Also I was looking forward to seeing her doing a figure skating dance and felt disappointed it didn't happen. 

Despite these issues it is a solid contemporary romance which I liked a lot.

Add to Goodreads / Buy on Amazon

Here are my reviews and buy links for the previous books in the series:

What Kind of Day - book 1 - Review / Buy on Amazon 
Kiss and Cry - book 2 - Review / Buy on Amazon


Contemporary Romance

Review: Always Only You by Chloe Liese

14:00

Title: Always Only You (Bergman Brothers #2)
Author: Ainslie Paton
Genre: Contemporary romance, Autism, Hockey, Chronic illness, Grumpy-sunshine
Release Date: 4 Aug 2020

Author's links:

My rating: 3 Stars



Blurb 

Ren

The moment I met her, I knew Frankie Zeferino was someone worth waiting for. Deadpan delivery, secret heart of gold, and a rare one-dimpled smile that makes my knees weak, Frankie has been forbidden since the day she and I became coworkers, meaning waiting has been the name of my game—besides, hockey, that is.


I’m a player on the team, she’s on staff, and as long as we work together, dating is off-limits. But patience has always been my virtue. Frankie won’t be here forever—she’s headed for bigger, better things. I just hope that when she leaves the team and I tell her how I feel, she won’t want to leave me behind, too.


Frankie

I’ve had a problem at work since the day Ren Bergman joined the team: a six foot three hunk of happy with a sunshine smile. I’m a grumbly grump and his ridiculously good nature drives me nuts, but even I can’t entirely ignore that hot tamale of a ginger with icy eyes, the perfect playoff beard, and a body built for sin that he’s annoyingly modest about.


Before I got wise, I would have tripped over myself to get a guy like Ren, but with my diagnosis, I’ve learned what I am to most people in my life—a problem, not a person. Now, opening my heart to anyone, no matter how sweet, is the last thing I’m prepared to do.

Review 


This was my first book by Chloe Liese, the second in the series but stands well on its own, centered around a family of 7 siblings. I was drawn to its blurb because I like sports romances and I ma always on the lookout for diverse MCs in them and the cover showing us a heroine using a cane also drew me in. 

This is an ownvoices story with autistic heroine who also has a chronic illness and uses a cane who works for the social media department of a professional hockey team and the hero is a lind-hearted hockey player who is a virgin and has been in love with heroine for years She is a grump who never smiles and always wears black, he is all smiles and caring and kindness. That's pretty muchmy romance catnip - grumpy / sunshine who complement each other.

I can't comment on the autism rep but I am happy to see a romance with a heroine like Frankie. She is strong an independent, has built mechanisms that help her live on her own while doing a demanding job.

Ren is lovely, kind, and gentle, a big Shakespeare nerd, essential for his team and his family. He keeps his cool on the ring and with his friends and family but gets all flustered aroudn Frankie. And I loved it. 

I absolutely loved the way he was with Frankie,supportive and caring without babying her or making her helpless in any way. At the same time, he felt too perfect, without a single weakness. Even the big conflict was all about her accepting his care and love, allowing herself to be loved the way she was.He never did anything wrong. She grew and changed in the course of the story while he stayed is perfect self from start to finish. 

Se really stood out for me. A complex character dealing with serious health issues and being underestimated and underappreciated by most people around her. She navigated falling in love and having a serious relationship for the first with the inescapable mistake from time to time.

I loved their relationship, we see a lot of them together as a couple, the changes this brings into their lives, the gradual opening up with each other. 

All that said, I also had some issues with the book. Besides the boring perfection of Ren, I felt the felt the author tried to include all the tropes and it was just too much - forced proximity, illness (hospital stay), virgin hero, confessions under the influence. This is very much a personal thing but I found some of Frankie's language and humour crass and didn't enjoy it. 

Despite these issues, I still want to read more in this series, book one h as a deaf hero and a footballer heroine and the next one is a marriage in trouble one, both sound very much right up my alley. 

CW: Hospital stay, sports trauma, medicinal drug use 

Add on Goodreads / Buy on Amazon 

Contemporary Romance

Review: One Wicked Lick from the Drummer by Ainslie Paton

14:00

Title: One Wicked Lick from the Drummer 
Author: Ainslie Paton
Genre: Contemporary romance, Rockstar, Second chance
Release Date: 18 June 2020

Author's links:

My rating: 4.5 Stars


Blurb

As the wildly exciting drummer in an up-and-coming band, Grip was at the top of Mina’s list of hot drummers to hook-up with.

She’d promised herself that after she nailed him, she’d quit her groupie life, finish her finance degree and become her own rock star.

Fifteen years later, she’s right on track, a polished professional investment advisor, her goth-look and the name she used back then a distant memory.

Except the new client in the boardroom is her old obsession, more sexy and famous than ever, and her promotion to partner depends on making him happy.

With her clothes on.

He’ll never guess who she was, so her secret was safe, until her obsession comes roaring back—and Grip remembers the one girl he could never forget.

Review 

This is the final book in a trio of standalones of contemporary deliciously tropey celebrities romances. I enjoyed a lot the first two, with the first one being my favourite. I was looking forward to the 3rd one and it turned out just as good as I expected it to be. 

It’s a second chance rockstar romance, sort of opposites attract. She was a groupie with a list of rockstars to bang, now is all prim and proper financial advisor. He is the same wild drummer, all heart and music. They meet 15 years later and BOOM! the attraction is instant and irresistible. 

I liked how they reconnect (while she keeps her true identity from him). Lots of sexy times, lots of music and I especially loved how it was presented as an integral part of his identity and his life. I liked getting glimpses of his band and best friends, the cameos of the MCs from the first two book were just perfect. Still, the story is very much focused on the MCs and their relationship, lots of inner conflict.  

What didn’t fully work for me was how she suddenly confided and sought the advice of her co-worker and not her best friend. It felt out of the blue and out of character for her but in the end it's a minor detail that didn't affected much my overall enjoyment of the story.

It's a quick, sexy read, perfect escape and reminder to let our wild side out even if it’s just once in a while. 

Add on Goodreads / Buy on Amazon 

Here are my reviews of the previous two books in the series which I can highly recommend as well:


Contemporary Romance

Review: Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

14:00

Title: Boyfriend Material
Author: Alexis Hall
Genre/Themes: contemporary, m/m romcom, fake relatioship
Release Date: 7 July 2020

Author's links: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads

My rating: 5 Stars

Blurb

Wanted:
One (fake) boyfriend
Practically perfect in every way

Luc O'Donnell is tangentially--and reluctantly--famous. His rock star parents split when he was young, and the father he's never met spent the next twenty years cruising in and out of rehab. Now that his dad's making a comeback, Luc's back in the public eye, and one compromising photo is enough to ruin everything.

To clean up his image, Luc has to find a nice, normal relationship...and Oliver Blackwood is as nice and normal as they come. He's a barrister, an ethical vegetarian, and he's never inspired a moment of scandal in his life. In other words: perfect boyfriend material. Unfortunately apart from being gay, single, and really, really in need of a date for a big event, Luc and Oliver have nothing in common. So they strike a deal to be publicity-friendly (fake) boyfriends until the dust has settled. Then they can go their separate ways and pretend it never happened.

But the thing about fake-dating is that it can feel a lot like real-dating. And that's when you get used to someone. Start falling for them. Don't ever want to let them.

Review 


I am a long time fan of Alexis Hall and this has been one of my most anticipated romance releases of year and it lived up to my expectations and well beyond them. I loved everything about that story, the main and side characters, the romance, the growing up both Luc and Oliver go through, the humour that made me laugh out loud more than once. It's a truly hilarious story,  I can't remember when was the last time a book made me laugh so much! There are so many memorable lines in it - the dick pics jokes, Alex and Miffy (short for Clara), the CRAPP foundation, and more.

It’s a light-hearted romcom with unexpected depths of feelings. It’s mostly drama-free though some serious life issues show their heads. It’s an opposites attract fake romance that gets real pretty fast. The story is told from Luc’s POV and we get to see a messy young man find his way towards a more fulfilling life. Oliver is all prim and proper (on the surface), with a good career, seemingly in complete control of his life.  As the story progresses we see that he has his own issues, just like the rest of us. It does take him a while to accept that and the allow himself to be loved for who he is and get the help and support he needs. 

I liked the very Britishmess of the setting and characters, it shone through in every scene and it made me very happy. What I like the most about Alexis Hall’s stories in general is how real and relatable his characters feel to me. Yes, there are over-the-top moments and situations, all the more here since it’s a romcom, but at the same time it all feels real - the relationships, their fears and dreams and coping mechanisms and the things that bring them joy and frustration. We see a multitude of characters here, both straight and queer, upper and middle class, successful and struggling. All of them stand on their own, have their quirks and weaknesses and make mistakes and grand gestures. 

It's a low-heat romance with more focus on the getting the characters to talk honestly to each other than of their sexual relationship. The heart-to-hearts of Luc and Oliver were most tender ones, so much truth and feelings in simple, everyday words and actions. 

We get to meet found and bio families in all their glory and heart-break, they both can be amazing and fun and supporting but also destructive and abusive and we see it here. 

My only minor complaint is that the ending felt rushed, or I simply wanted more time with Luc and Oliver dealing with their personal issues together as a couple that loves and supports each other. 


CW: homophobia, cancer scare, gaslighting, emotional manipulation

Add to Goodreads / Buy on Amazon


Historical Romance

Review: Slippery Creatures by KJ Charles

01:01

Title: Slippery Creatures (The Will Darling Adventures #1)
Author: KJ Charles
Genre/Themes: Historical, MM romance, Mystery
Release Date: 13 May 2020

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

My rating: 3.5 Stars


Blurb

Will Darling came back from the Great War with a few scars, a lot of medals, and no idea what to do next. Inheriting his uncle’s chaotic second-hand bookshop is a blessing...until strange visitors start making threats. First a criminal gang, then the War Office, both telling Will to give them the information they want, or else.

Will has no idea what that information is, and nobody to turn to, until Kim Secretan—charming, cultured, oddly attractive—steps in to offer help. As Kim and Will try to find answers and outrun trouble, mutual desire grows along with the danger.

And then Will discovers the truth about Kim. His identity, his past, his real intentions. Enraged and betrayed, Will never wants to see him again.

But Will possesses knowledge that could cost thousands of lives. Enemies are closing in on him from all sides—and Kim is the only man who can help.


Review

This is the first book in a new m/m historical romance series set in 1920s London. There is a strong suspense/mystery plot that the MCs are involved in and the next books are expected to follow the same couple on more adventures. 

Overall, I enjoyed the mystery plot and found both Will and Kim to be very intersting characters. I am partial to Will, I think we saw more of him, got to know him better - his past as a soldier, his present as a heir to his uncle's bookshop, left with no real support network other than a woman he recenetly made friends recenlty, his uncertain future. Kim, on the other hand, remained pretty much a mystery, I didn't get his motivation and to be honest, I found some of his actions deeply hurtful to Will. 

There is a strong chemistry between Will and Kim but they also have many issues to deal with in order to become a real couple. I was not fully convinced they would end up together in the long term. Actually, at the end of the book, they are tryng to be friends first, with a possibility for something more. I feel Kim needs to do much more to deserve Will and to earn his trust (again). I hope he can do that in the next books.

The suspense/mystery was engaging and I liked following Will (and in some way, Kim) worked to unravel it. I liked seeeing how the different characters dealt with the new times after WW1, the gradual introduction of new technology into the daily life.

There are two big side characters, both female, Will's best friend Maisie whom I loved and Kim's fiance, Phoebe, whom I had difficult time relating to. it's a fake engagement of sorts, and I appreciate her support for Kim (and his relationship with Will), she seemed superficial to me. 

In short, despite some niggles I have with this book, it's a promising start of a new series with intersting suspense plot and great characters.

Add on Goodreads / Buy on Amazon

A. K. Larkwood

Review: The Unspoken Name by A. K. Larkwood

01:39

Title: The Unspoken Name
Author: A. K. Larkwood
Genre: Fantasy, f/f romantic elements
Release Date: 11 Feb 2020

Author's links:

My rating: 4 Stars


Blurb

What if you knew how and when you will die?

Csorwe does — she will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice.

But on the day of her foretold death, a powerful mage offers her a new fate. Leave with him, and live. Turn away from her destiny and her god to become a thief, a spy, an assassin—the wizard's loyal sword. Topple an empire, and help him reclaim his seat of power.

But Csorwe will soon learn – gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due.


Review 

This is a debut diverse fantasy with f/f romantic elements which I mostly enjoyed and had no major issues with it other than the pace being rather slow at the beginning. It's an engaging, complicated story involving death cults and sacrifices, all-powerful gods and magicians. 
The story has a slower start, descriptive, understated, very much reflective of who Csowre was at that time. As the story progresses we see her grow up, completely transform herself and through trial and error become her own person. I loved seeing her complicated relationship with her mentor and saviour and master. Csorwe and her friend/enemy Tal also had a turbulent relationship which brought forth major life-altering decisions for both of them.

Csorwe was given a second chance at life but has actually become a tool for Belthandros Sethennai, with no purpose of her own. And then she had to re-evaluate everything in her life for the second time. She went on to forge a life for herself (and the woman she fell in love with). It's a slow, painful discovery of who you are and what matters for you the most. 

The story was casually queer - m/m and f/f relationships were just part of the world, actually of all the different worlds we get to visit in the story. 

It’s a debut work of this author and I am looking forward to reading more. I feel the story is opened to sequels and I am here for it. 

Add to Goodreads / Buy on Amazon

Ainslie Paton

Review: One Kiss from the King of Rock

00:36

Title: One Kiss from the King of Rock
Author: Ainslie Paton
Genre: Contemporary romance, Rockstar, Second chance
Release Date: 16 April 2020

Author's links:


My rating: 4.5 Stars


Blurb

Evie Tice won’t kiss her ex, Jay Endicott, ever again. But she wants to. Burns for it. Half the adult population of the world does, because he’s a rock god who can apparently light up the stage. She wouldn’t know. When he quit on her, she made sure to block him from her life and stick to easy breezy hook-ups.

But Jay is back, sexier than ever, with the first leg of his global tour and her brothers’ band opens for him. As their social media manager, Evie can’t avoid Jay, but she can use him, to get off and get even like he once used her.

There’s one little issue. No kissing, because if Evie kisses Jay, she’s going to fall in love with him all over again. 


Review

I loved the first book in the series and read this one right after it, well ahead of its release. I enjoyed this one very much as well though it has a different vibe than the first. It's an over-the-top angsty second-chance rockstar romance - tropey and sexy and very moving.

Evie and Jay reconnect 10 years after a nasty breakup of what they both saw as their once in a lifetime , first and last love. They start with lots of anger, a deep grudge that is eating them from the inside. But the chemistry is there leading them making a sex pact before risking it all to be honest with each other. 

We see some bits of the rockstar world, though the main focus was on the internal conflict. There was a lot about how they have changed, who they are now and what they want. 

I was happy to see both of them as successful, happy with what they do. She has her own business, she is good at what she does and is in no way dependent o him. His success is also well deserved and this put them on an equal footing which I very much liked. 

They managed to overcome the hurt from the past (outside forces were at play back then and now they they were grown up to forgive and move on). His betrayal at present felt huge though, monumental because it was a sign he didn't know her now and that was difficult to accept/overcome. But it also prompted her to be honest with herself and let the music back in her life, this time on her own terms.

I am not happy with the reconciliation with her father and what he did, they all forgave him all too easily in my opinion, for something that affected his whole family and and in a way changed the course of their lives.

It's an intense, passionate romance that I can highly recommend. 

Add to Goodreads / Buy on Amazon

Dal MacLean

Review: Blue on Blue by Dal Maclean

00:53


Title: Blue on Blue
Author: Dal Maclean
Genre: M/M romance, crime thriller
Release Date: 24 March 2020

Author's links:

My rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb 

After three years working as a private investigator, newly reinstated Detective Inspector Will Foster still holds himself responsible for the death of an officer under his command. But he’s returned to the Met bent on redeeming himself and that means bringing down gangland boss Joey Clarkson.

Will’s prepared to put in long hours and make sacrifices for his work, even if it comes at a cost to his nascent romance with international model, Tom Gray. After all, Tom has a history of wandering but crime is a constant in London. And Will has committed himself to the Met.

But when a murder in a Soho walkup leads Will into the world of corruption, he finds himself forced to investigate his own friends and colleagues. Now the place he turned for redemption seems to be built upon lies and betrayal. And someone is more than willing to resort to murder to keep it that way.

Review

I was excited to read this book after I enjoyed the previous two in the series (all of the books work as standalones). I liked a lot of things in this one but also bothered by some, most notably misogyny and some bi-phobia that never got challenged on the page. I liked the murder mystery plot and the suspense, had some issues with the romance and the general portrayal of women.

The author has created a complex world of villains, both within the police  and in the criminal world. I am ok with having women as the villains, but when it's only them, things don't feel right to me. This was my feeling for most of the first half of the book but gradually we got to see that men can be monsters too and some women acted as good people, so I'd say some balance was achieved.

What still bothered me and I would describe it as casual misogyny is how random women (Tom’s agent, Pez’ business partner/colleague were all presented in a negative light). I found it completely unnecessary for the plot and would have enjoyed the story much more without it. 

As for the romance, Will and Tom’s relationship was pretty volatile, lots of insecurity on both sides which I could understand based on who they were and their lives so far. It's a kind of second-chance romance (they are making a new start after ending things with Tom cheating on Will). I felt that we didn't get to see them together enough, they were both too busy and not talking things through and letting their own insecurities undermine their relationship. Tom’s biphobia (Will is bi, his previous relationship with a woman was pretty important to the story) went unchallenged and I didn’t like that.

Also, there were examples of fatphobia which was totally redundant. June’s fate was bad as it was, there was no need for casually judging her for putting on weight. It was nothing aggressive, rather a careless comment manifesting a deeply ingrained understanding of being fat as something bad. I find this kind of fatphobia the most hurtful.

On the positive side, I loved the writing, loved the politics within the police, the whole element of keeping secrets and at the same doubting everyone - I found it engaging, I was never sure who the murderer was, who among Will’s colleagues was on the take.

The story deals with pretty heavy subject matter, not just the murder investigation but also child abuse and rape (all in the past and not graphic but still, hard to read at times).

CWs: murder, violence, abuse and rape (including child abuse and rape, in the past), fatphobia, biphobia, manipulation, gaslighting

Add on Goodreads / Buy on Amazon

Charlie Adhara

Review: Wolf in Sheep's Clothing by Charlie Adhara

00:00

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

Author's links: Website / Twitter/ Goodreads

My rating: 5 Stars

Blurb

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

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

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

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

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

Review 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Add on Goodreads / Buy on Amazon

Book recs

10 Enemies to Lovers Romances

02:10

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



1/ Headliners by Lucy Parker - True enemies and professional rivals though he has harboured a secret attraction to her for ages. Forced to work together to save their careers they become friends than lover (after a heart-felt and sincere apology on his part). 
Add on Goodreads / Buy on Amazon

2/ Luck of the Draw by Kate Clayborn. God, the tension here, the pure hatred he had for her and her desperate desire to atone for the past and the hurt she caused him and his family. I absolutely love it.
Add on Goodreads / Buy on Amazon

3/ Hard Knocks by Ruby Lang. Not so much enemies as finding themselves at the opposite sides of the line - she is a doctors warning against head injuries in hockey, he is hockey player standing up for his sport. In the end they discover thy have much more in common than it seems at first glance. 
Add on Goodreads / Buy on Amazon

4/ The One You Fight For by Roni Loren. This one is heart-breaking. He is the brother of the school shooter who changed their lives forever, she is a surviour of the shooting which took her younger sister's life. They are the two unlikeliest people to get together, and yet they do, overcoming doubts and anger and regret. My favourite in the series. 
Add on Goodreads / Buy on Amazon

5/ Something Human by AJ Demas. They are warriors in opposing camps. They come from two different worlds. They help each other, they care for the other and feel for each other and ultimately, make each other happy. 
Add on Goodreads / Buy on Amazon

6/ Pansies by Alexis Hall. A bully romance like no other. One of the MCs was part of a group of boys who bullied the other MC in school. And he just discovered he is attracted to men. Not a promising start of their relationship. Lots of anger, hurt and pain to deal with before they get their HEA.
Add on Goodreads / Buy on Amazon

7/ Never Loved by Charlotte Stein. Another bully romance but wow, did the author manage to make me care for the (former) bully. It’s a heavy read but very moving at the same time and relatable, real people with real issues, nothing is black or white and people are growing and changing. 
Add on Goodreads / Buy on Amazon

8/ Burn Down the Night by Molly O’Keefe. Heroine kidnaps the hero who is a biker wanted by the authorities and his former biker brothers. Lots of tension, some real fear for one’s life, the highest stakes to save your loved ones. 
Add on Goodreads / Buy on Amazon

9/ Behind the Mask by Carolyn Crane. He is the notorious criminal she is after. Neither knows this when they meet. There is passion and anger and fighting the bad guys and falling in love amidst chaos. 
Add on Goodreads / Buy on Amazon

10/ Fool Me Forever by Ainslie Paton. On the surface he is everything she despises but he is also the only one that can help her. A tumultuous relationship that shakes them both to their cores and makes them re-evaluate their views of themselves and the world. 
Add on Goodreads / Buy on Amazon

Honourable mentions: 
I want to give a shout-out to two YA fantasy romances that are gorgeous and feature MCs who are enemies in the truest sense of the word. They hate and chase each other for most of the stories and their getting together is just glorious, pure magic! 

The Folk of the Air series of fantasy romance by Holly Black, no greater enemies have ever come together as lovers than Cardan and Jude! 
Add to Goodreads / Buy on Amazon

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo, The Little Mermaid retelling where he is a pirate prince chasing the mermaids who are feared sea monsters. 

Add to Goodreads / Buy on Amazon


Contemporary Romance

Review: One Night with the Sexiest Man Alive

00:00

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

Author's links:

My rating: 5 Stars


Blurb


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

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

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

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

Review 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Add to Goodreads / Buy on Amazon


Charish Reid

Review: Hearts on Hold by Charish Reid

07:59

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

Author's links:

My rating: 3 stars


Blurb 

What happens in the stacks stays in the stacks…

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

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

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

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

Review 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Add to Goodreads / Buy on Amazon

Adriana Anders

Review: Whiteout by Adriana Anders

00:00

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

Author's links:

My rating: 5 stars


Blurb

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

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

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Add to Goodreads / Buy on Amazon 

Flickr Images