Christmas

Review: A Wedding One Christmas by Therese Beharrie

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Title: A Wedding One Christmas 
Author: Therese Beharrie
Genre/Themes: Holiday romance
Release Date: 19 Nov 2018

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

My rating: 4 Stars


Blurb

Of all the weddings in all the world, Angie Roux had to be mistaken for a bridesmaid in this one.

Caledon, South Africa, is supposed to be just a stop on the way to Christmas in Cape Town, part of Angie’s long-avoided homecoming. She never expected to star in a bizarre comedy of errors, but here she is: convincing a handsome stranger to be her fake boyfriend for the day. 

Ezra Johnson, the handsome stranger in question, turns out to be a pleasant distraction from both the wedding and thoughts of her first family Christmas without her father. And he seems to loathe weddings just as much as she does. He’s the perfect temporary companion.

But a lot can happen in twenty-four hours. Including a connection so strong it tempts them both into thinking of something more permanent

Review 

This is my second book by this author and just like the first one, I found it very enjoyable and lovely, overall. This one is, as you can guess by the title, a Christmas romance and as such it's full of feels and holidays spirit.

The hero and heroine are two people running from their past who meet by chance at a Christmas wedding and form a strong connection based on sharing secrets they haven't told anyone about before.

This is s quiet, introverted story, very much focused on inner conflict. I have to admit it felt a bit heavy at times - the guilt and self-recriminations both MCs feel are not easy to swallow but they both need to work through their emotions before trying to be with someone, start something romantically. There was lots and lots of inner turmoil and I had to put down the book a few times but it was fitting for characters. They are two ordinary people, albeit rather sensitive and caring about the others, who carry a lot of baggage from their past mistakes. WE see them  trying to stay optimistic, to take a chance and trust their hearts and go after that HEA they both want so much.

The story has the loveliest, epilogues, one full of holidays warmth and happiness.

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Contemporary Romance

Review: Best of Luck by Kate Clayborn

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Title: Best of Luck (Chance of a Lifetime #3)
Author: Kate Clayborn
Date of publication: 27 Nov 2018
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Author's links:
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My rating: 5 Stars 

Blurb

Winning the lottery is the biggest ticket to freedom Greer Hawthorne’s ever had. 

Until her best friend’s brother comes to town . . . 

Greer Hawthorne’s winning lottery ticket doesn’t just bring her wealth, it also means her chance at a long-postponed education. She’s finally on the cusp of proving to her big, overprotective family that she’s independent—until a careless mistake jeopardizes her plan to graduate. Lucky for her, there’s someone in town who may be able to help . . . 

Alex Averin plans to show up for his sister’s wedding, then quickly get back to his job as a world-renowned photojournalist. But when gorgeous, good-hearted Greer needs an assist with a photography project, he’s powerless to say no. Showing Greer his professional passion ignites a new one, and rouses instincts in Alex he thought he’d long set aside. 

Can a ceaseless wanderer find a stopping place alongside a woman determined to set out on her own . . . or are Alex and Greer both pushing their luck too far?



Review 

Best of Luck by Kate Clayborn is the last book in the Chance of a Lifetime debut series for the author and it is such a worthy ending to a brilliant series. I absolutely love everything about it – it’s an embodiment of everything I love in contemporary romance and shows how much value there is the this kind of stories – ordinary everyday people struggling with different issues trying to find their place in the world and someone to share their life/love/world with. 

Mental health issues are explored throughout the series and they take central stage here too. Alex is suffering from panic attacks and anxiety and we follow him on his journey of figuring this out and finding a way to deal with it – starting with acknowledging the problem and taking up therapy. 

Greer has a chronic illness and it’s probably the first heroine I have read dealing with this. It shapes a lot of her life and is present in her interactions with her friends and family. There is a certain freedom in her early relations with Alex when he doesn’t know about her health issues. 

I like how the author shows the full complexity of the MCs lives – we see them as professionals and as friends and as sons/daughters/ and siblings. 

The story explores the practical aspects of making the relationship between Alex and Greer work – he travels a lot for his work and has just started treatment for his mental health issues, she is the process of graduating college and building a life on her own where she is. 

It's a best friend's older bother romance and I loved how they were concerned about Kit’s reaction but it was never an issue. None of she/he is not good enough for you, but rather, how would this affect our dynamics as siblings and friends if we break up at some point. They have a strong chemistry but also their relationship is built of supporting each other, caring for each other, sharing their deepest secrets (things they haven't even admitted to themselves). 

Incidental queer rep in all three books, just there in the background as part of the MCs lives, and it made me really happy.  

In short, I can't recommend this book and whole series enough, just so read it! It's definitely going on my Best of 2018 list.

CW for panic attacks, anxiety, chronic illness, bike accident

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EE Ottoman

Mini Reviews and Reading Recap #13

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A long overdue set of mini reviews and reading recap. Work has been too intense over the past few months and I have fallen behind both on my reading and blogging.

A Summer for Scandal by Lydia San Andres

I lovely historical romance set on an imaginary Caribbean island in the early 1900s. It features two MCs who are rival writers under pen names. I loved the strong strong, independent, modern heroine. They made a nice match with hero though he came off as weaker, more confused and uncertain. The story is very atmospheric and you could literally feel the heat coming off its pages. It's fun and relatively low on angst with emphasis on women's issues. hero needed to do more groveling to heroine and to his best friend from make up for his awful behaviour before. I wish his father's mistakes were more strongly condemned. I could see it a movie - the heat in the area at all times, the turn of XIX c fashion, the buildings the scenery - very present without being overly descriptive.
4 STARS

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Tikka Chance on Me by Suleikha Snyder

This has been a pure awesomeness in a bite size. My first by this author and it won't be my last for sure. 
It's a very sexy and intense story with a cinnamon roll hero in disguise and an active, adventurous Asian heroine

This novella is all about the choices we make, obligation, loyalty and following your dreams, taking chances at being happy, loved. Both MCs felt like real - messy, making mistakes but ultimately good people. 

Lots of sexy times where consent is central, never implied but alwasy explicitly discussed, something that I appreciate so much.
5 STARS

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The Craft of Love by EE Ottoman
This is a sweet m/f historical romance with a trans MC. It's quiet, low on heat and angst, high on kindness and happy-making. I loved the mutual respect the MCs had for each other as professionals. The story is rich on historical details on blacksmithing and embroidering. We get a strong feminist heroine who genuinely cares about other people and their well being. At the same time she someone who is focused on her profession, proud of it, striving after the same respect and acknowledgment the other craftsmen out there get. 

I very much liked how fundamental for the love relationship was the friendship between the hero and heroine. Both had things in their past making them hesitant to fall head fast in love but they slowly built trusty and intimacy which made them feel comfortable and happy to be together. 

HFN ending and to be honest, I wanted more resolution from it, but it still felt fitting to the characters and overall quieter nature of the characters. 
4 STARS
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Reviews

Review: Fireworks by Sarina Bowen

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Title: Firework (True North #6) 
Author: Sarina Bowen
Genre/Themes: Contemporary romance
Release Date: 13 Nov 2018

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

My rating: 4 Stars


Blurb

Skye Copeland is on paid leave from her broadcasting job after accidentally drawing a pecker on the traffic map.

Let that sink in. Like it’s her fault the traffic pattern created a perfect schlong?

Skye isn’t laughing. She needs this job. And that’s the only reason she’s willing to chase down a story in her least favorite place—that hell on earth known as Vermont.

A quick trip. In and out. Much like - never mind. She can sneak into the town that once tried to break her, get the story and slide back into the good graces of her producer. Easy peasy.

But things go sideways the moment she steps over the county line. Her stepsister is running from a violent drug dealer. And the cop on the case is none other than Benito Rossi, the man who broke Skye’s teenage heart.

His dark brown eyes still tear her apart. And even as she steels herself to finally tell him off after twelve years, the old fireworks are still there.

Things are about to go boom.

Review

This is the next installment in the True North series and it's a small town romance mixed with second chance at love with heroine returning to her hometown.
Benito and Skye's story has an easy, natural flow, though I was not a fan of the childhood/young adulthood flashbacks. The felt the narration style and the omniscient 3rd person POV clashed with the rest of the story. I liked the perspective their added to the present-day relations between the MCs (the supporting cast) but not the way it was presented. 
Benito is close to perfect as any romance hero can be in my eyes – caring, loving, fighting the good fight (a police officer going after drug dealers), loyal to his friends and family.
The heroine was more complex, there a bigger internal conflict with Skye –  having to do with her past, her job, her future as a whole. I’m conflicted about her view of her own sexuality but I would say is demisexual, just doesn’t know the word for it. Either way, he is patient and supportive and I love him for standing by her but also giving her time/space to figure things out.
Overall it's a light-hearted, easy read despite touching on some heavy subjects as poverty, abuse, broken families, drugs
Loved catching up on the Rossis and the Shipleys, loved the small town sense of community and support. It could be just wishful thinking of everyone running a successful business in a small town without a single financial care in the world, but it’s a wishful thinking that makes feel good and happy and that’s why I read romance. Sometimes I am all about the darkness and drama, other times good people getting good things works perfectly for me.
CW for crooked cop, verbal (sexual) abuse

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Ainslie Paton

Mini Reviews and Reading Recap #12

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Tinsel in a Tangle by Ainslie Paton

This is a sweet low-heat holiday novella. Nice but I expected more. I liked the cinnamon roll kind of hero – a geek with a bit of rough exterior but with the most caring heart. A lively, bubbly sort of heroine who tries to please everyone and needs help going after what she wants for herself. One office Christmas party gone wrong. It’s perfectly nice story but too low on conflict, too tame and just skimming the surface of a potential love connection.

I really enjoy this author’s voice and writing style but this was not one of my favourite books of hers. 3 stars


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Sin and Ink by Naima Simone


I had great expectations but this story didn’t quite work for me. I’m here for all the angst and they can’t be together because heroine was married to hero’s brother who died but wanted more depth of the story and more character development. There were lots and lots and lots intense erotic scenes, a bit much for me, and not enough other things. I understood the lust and pining but wasn’t on board with the animalistic comparisons all the time. It really bothered me the way her love/sex life with her dead husband was presented as lacking in comparison with her time with the hero. Why make her discover her wild side when she was happy and satisfied with her first lover/romantic partner/husband? 

I didn't like his family for their lack of support, his mother came off a caricature image of evil and hate and I didn’t appreciate that at all.

There was little character/plot development for most of the story – just lust and lots of regrets and guilt. Things picked up in the last quarter of the story but it was not enough to save the story for me. They got their HEA but I wanted to see how their relationship will affect those around them. 2 stars


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Never Sweeter by Charlotte Stein


I was reluctant to pick this up despite all my friends really loving because it’s a former bully redemption story and I wasn’t sure the author can pull it off. And she did in a spectacular way! I don’t think I have seen another male character do so much, including emotional labour, to make amends and redemption.

The story is very emotionally intense, the physical violence the heroine suffered from the bullies in her past is truly horrific. The story worked for me because I saw the former bully is a cinnamon roll hero at heart who truly regrets his behaviour and wants to be and do better. The author managed to convince me of the sincerity of his regret and I could understand the heroine forgiving him.e

Emotionally charged, painful, story but ultimately hopeful which what I value the most in romance. High heat level. Multidimensional characters. The hero’s vulnerability, his insecurity about his body, her own view of herself being fat really stood out for me. It was all about building trust and both characters moving from their past selves and getting to feel comfortable about who they are now and about the happiness and satisfaction they feel when they are together. 

The dark moment was terribly dark, for a moment I was worried they won’t be able to come back from it but the HFN was perfectly fitting for their relationship. 5 stars
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I also finished Fireworks, next book in the True North series by Sarina Bowen. I quite liked it despite some minor issues. And we got to catch up on the rest of the Shipleys and Rossis siblings, so that was fun too. I will review it closer to release in November.

Currently reading A Summer for Scandal by Lydia san Andres, historical m/f romance set on a fictional Caribbean island. Heroine writes naughty serial under a pen name, hero is a writer too. I'm only a couple of chapters in and it grabbed me from the start.

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