#romanceclass

#rombklove Day 13: Unusual Sports Romances

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Unusual Sports Romances


When Ana Coqui invited me to join #rombklove 2019 I agreed with no hesitation. This online event has brought me so much joy over the past few years and has put so many books on my radar and I am excited to contribute to it.

It took me a while to come up with a topic though – I already did Beta Heroes, and Families last year. I decided to go with sports romances this year because I want to highlight romances that feature rare/not very popular sports on the one hand but also on the other, romances which deal with widely popular sports (hockey,football, etc) but in a new/unusual light.

I will start with the second group – romances featuring popular sports but focusing on other things besides the billionaire/celebrity aspects of the sport.

One such series is the Atlanta Skyline series of football romances by Rebecca Crowley. While book 1, Crossing Hearts, is an inclusive romance with Latino MCs, it’s in many ways a typical sports romance.

The next two novels and a novella take a somewhat different direction – there is the fame and fortune (not so much in the novella) but the focus is on other things – performing under pressure, making plans for life after football, we have characters moving on with their lives after professional sports.

Book 2, Defending Hearts, explores the darker aspects of fame - the hero is a Muslim player who had become a victim of a hate-crime that throws his carefully planned life off balance.

The heroine in book 3, Saving Hearts, is a former professional female footballer who stayed in the sport as an administrator. Her character highlights a whole other set of issues – female football getting less recognition and respectively funding/popularity. The hero is a goal-keeper on the bring of retirement planning his future away from the sport.

Still with the theme of football romances, I want to mention the Glasgow Lads series by Avery Cockburn. These m/m romances features MCs playing a gay Scottish football club. The books explore different issues from politics to the lives of the aristocracy in the present-day, overall I highly recommend them.

Another popular sports that features prominently in romance is hockey and a favourite of mine in this group is Him and its sequel, Us by Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen. Richly drawn stories with one gay MC and his best friend discovering he is bi. What I particularly like about this series is how their sports careers developed. Jamie who is a goal keeper in his college team, decides not to pursue a career in professional hockey but to take up coaching children instead. He still got to be involved in the sport he loves but made a choice that worked best for him regardless how it looked in the eyes of the rest of the world.

Another part hockey, part ice skating romance I want to highlight is Kiss and Cry by Mina V. Esguerra. The thing about this romance that neither of these sports is very popular in the Philippines. Neither of the MCs got the fame and fortune professional sports players in other parts of the world might get playing these sports. Yet, they were happy with what they did and were absolutely dedicated to their sports respectively.

Moving on to less popular sports, I want to mention a couple of romances. First one is Love on the Tracks by Tamsen Parker where a boyband frontman fall for a professional luger participating in the fictional equivalent of the Olympics. We get to see Rowan's dedication to her sport and how much she loves competing in it but also we get Zane who is utterly in awe of her physical strength and is proud of her success.

Still in the world of college hockey,  one of my favourite NA romance is The Year We Fell Down by Sarina Bowen. Both the heroine and hero are hockey fans and players but she is currently in a wheelchair after an incident on the ice and he has a broken leg. I liked how the story showed two sports people suffering through injury, in her case a permanent disability. And she stayed active, participated in some kind of water polo.

Just one more hockey romance, Hard Knocks by Ruby Lang. Enemies to lovers, heroine is a neurologist with family issues, hero is a hockey player, playing a mediocre team, tired of the game, trying to find his place outside hockey.

I’m always on the look out for historical romances with sports elements. There is a recent debut, Gilded Age historical, Anyone but the Earl by Irene Davis. Hero is a friend of the heroine;s brother and both a members of rowing club. I liked how this was presented in the story but it was just a hobby for them and I am looking for historicals where the MCs take up sports professionally.

A couple of sports romances on my TBR list:

Throwing Stones by Avery Cockburn which is a spin-off of her Glasgow Lads series and features..., wait for it, ... Curling :) I'm looking forward to reading not least of all because it features such an unusual sport.

Love in Straight Sets by Rebecca Crowley - m/f tennis romance. I quite like the writing of Rebecca Crowley and I hope this one will work for me too. Also female sports players are not that common as heroines in romance, so I'm looking forward to this one.

After the Gold by Racheline Maltese and Erin McRae - a figure skating m/f romance with a bi heroine with anxiety. This story seems to tick all the boxes of what I like to read in romance and I'm excited to try it soon. 

To get the discussion going, I have prepared some questions for you:

1. What do you like the most in sports romance?

2. What sports would like to see featured in romance more?

3. Which of your favourite sports romances would you describe as unusual?

Historical Romance

Review: Anyone but the Earl by Irene Davis

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Title: Anyone But the Earl
Author: Irene Davis
Genre / Themes: Gilded Age historical, Rowing, Virgin heroine
Release date: 16 April 2019

Author's links: Website / Twitter / Goodreads
My rating: 3 Stars


Blurb

Octavia Sewell is on track to be the next New York heiress to marry into the impoverished British aristocracy. There’s just one problem: the Earl of Brackley is a detestable bore. Fortunately, she has a plan that will scuttle her marriage prospects once and for all, leaving her free to follow her own interests. All she needs is to convince one of her brother’s friends to go along, and she knows just which one she wants…

Set in the Gilded Age of 1896 New York, Anyone But the Earl includes…
- a scandalous text describing the reproductive process,
- a best friend to help a girl out of the trouble she’s gotten herself into,
- midnight escapades,
- meetings under assumed names,
- Victorian flower language, and
- insurance fraud 

Review 

This is a Gilded Age historical, debut by Irene Davis. It was nice overall but not outstanding. 

It started rather slow with too much descriptions and setting the stage and no real action. I liked the heroine though. She is fierce and striving after independence, desperate to escape the arranged marriage her parents (her mother, mostly) tries to force her into. We see her trying to break from tradition, led by curiosity towards life, a desire for something different than just being someone’s wife. 

Enter the hero, a friend of her brother’s from the rowing club – good looking, instant chemistry. A wealthy young businessman, but he is still very traditional re marriage and women’s place in society. I liked seeing him change and acknowledge the heroine's wishes for her/their future. 

I liked that she didn’t have everything figured out from the start, she fumbled her way towards independence and living the life she wanted for herself. There was a gradual realization of her desires, both physical and in general, her dreams of the future. 

The action picked up a lot in the second half and everyone showed their true colours and there were some pleasant surprises there. 

I had minor issues – not a sports romance really, rowing was a hobby for the hero and his friends, I just expected the sports aspect will be more central.

My main complaint has to do with the heroine’s mother and specific incident where I found her alleged behaviour deeply problematic. It was never cleared with the mother whether this is true or no, there is no discussion/apology (assuming it was true). It’s a major thing and I feel it should have been challenged in the text directly.

Overall, this is a solid historical romance debut and despite some flaws here, I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.

CW: Attempted assault/rape

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Alyssa Cole

Review: A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole

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Title: A Prince on Paper (Reluctant Royals #3)
Author: Alyssa Cole
Genre / Themes: Royals, Fake engagement, 
Release date: 30 April 2019

Author's links: Website / Twitter / Goodreads
My rating: 3.5 Stars



Blurb

The Reluctant Royals series returns with a good girl searching for the life that’s not too big, and not too small, and the bad boy prince who might be just right for her…

Nya Jerami fled Thesolo for the glitz and glamour of NYC but discovered that her Prince Charming only exists in her virtual dating games. When Nya returns home for a royal wedding, she accidentally finds herself up close and personal—in bed—with the real-life celebrity prince who she loves to hate.

For Johan von Braustein, the red-headed step-prince of Liechtienbourg, acting as paparazzi bait is a ruse that protects his brother—the heir to the throne—and his own heart. When a royal referendum threatens his brother’s future, a fake engagement is the perfect way to keep the cameras on him.

Nya and Johan both have good reasons to avoid love, but as desires are laid bare behind palace doors, they must decide if their fake romance will lead to a happily-ever-after.


Review

This is the third and final full-length novel in the series. After enjoying the previous two and getting a tiny glimpse of the MCs in this one, I was really following forward to reading it. It was nice and sweet but not as good I as expected. I liked both Nya and Johan but there was too much forced drama and not enough real conflict for me to like it more

I appreciate Nya's strength and her ability to be hopeful and feel joy despite the brutal manipulation and gaslighting she endured for years from her father. It was hard to read at times but also rewarding to see her strength in a very dire situation. It was not all smooth sailing for her, she felt lost and confused, betrayed and lonely but she forged through and never gave up. This was also true in the way she built the intimacy with Johan, she challenged herself, pushed herself to ask for what she wanted.

Johan was actually the sweetest, most caring and sensitive hero who were supposed to be bad playboy prince.  I liked his true nature which he was careful to hide from everyone but at the same time, we only hear about his shenanigans and publicity stunts but they never quite felt real to me. They only happened in the past and at present in this story we see him only on his best behaviour.

I liked seeing my beloved characters from the previous books and the new side characters we meet her was a pleasure to read too. There is an enby character coming out story which I found tender and deeply moving. 

With all the things I enjoyed in this romance, there were a lot of small details which I found annoying and which kept taking me out of the story. Nya playing that romancing simulation game even after she got into a fake engagement with the Johan and became intimate with him felt like a betrayal. I wasn't too keen of all the forced drama either. 

Overall, I enjoyed the whole series with A Duke by Default about Portia and Tavish being my favourite. If you are looking for inclusive contemporary romance that is both fun and emotional, I heartily recommend this series.

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Charlie Adhara

Review: Thrown to the Wolves by Charlie Adhara

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Title: Thrown to the Wolves (Big Bad Wolf #3)
Author: Charlie Adhara
Genre / Themes: Shifters /Murder mystery
Release date: 01 April 2019

Author's links: Website / Twitter/ Goodreads
My rating: 4.5 Stars
Blurb

Agent Cooper Dayton is going to meet his boyfriend’s werewolf family. Unarmed. On their turf. 

And he’s bringing his cat. 

When Agent Cooper Dayton agreed to attend the funeral for Oliver Park’s grandfather, he didn’t know what he was getting into. Turns out, the deceased was the alpha of the most powerful werewolf pack on the eastern seaboard. And his death is highly suspicious. Regardless, Cooper is determined to love and support Park the way Park has been there for him. 

But Park left him woefully unprepared for the wolf pack politics and etiquette. Rival packs? A seating order at the dinner table? A mysterious figure named the Shepherd? The worst is that Park didn’t tell his family one key thing about Cooper. Cooper feels two steps behind, and reticent Park is no help. 

There are plenty of pack members eager to open up about Park and why Cooper is wrong for him. Their stories make Cooper wonder if he’s holding Park back. But there’s no time to get into it…as lethal tranquilizer darts start to fly, Cooper needs to solve the mystery of the alpha’s death and fight for the man he loves—all before someone else dies.

Review 

This is a great ending of a highly intriguing series. The three books follow the same couple, Agents Dayton and Park and here we finally meet the Parks on their own turf and learn a lot more about the world of the werewolves.

I loved both romantic arc and the further development of Cooper and Park's relationship and the suspense plot which kept me on my toes till the end. I was not very happy with Park keeping so many secrets from Cooper putting in a very difficult, potentially dangerous situation. I wished he trusted his partner and lover sooner but I also understand his reluctance to reveal his past, a past he is deeply ashamed of and regrets. 

We get the see the wolf pack with its complicated dynamics through the eyes of Cooper and just like him, I felt lost initially but I enjoying discovering the next bit and the next and next about Park's family and friends/enemies.

For the the story ends with a solid HEA while also leaving room for more cases for the agents to work on. 

Overall, i enjoyed the whole series and found it very atmospheric and intense, captivating romance with an intriguing suspense plot. I'm here for more stories set in this world if the author chooses to write them. Or for any other stories she might write.

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Contemporary Romance

Review: The Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker

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Title: The Austen Playbook (London Celebrities #4)
Author: Lucy Parker
Genre / Themes: Romance / Theatre actors / British
Release date: 22 April 2019

Author's links: Website / Twitter / Goodreads

My rating: 4.5 Stars


Blurb


Freddy Carlton knows she should be focusing on her lines for The Austen Playbook, a live-action TV event where viewers choose the outcome of each scene, but her concentration’s been blown. The palatial estate housing the endeavor is now run by the rude (brilliant) critic who’s consistently slammed her performances of late. James “Griff” Ford-Griffin has a penchant for sarcasm, a majestic nose and all the sensitivity of a sledgehammer.


She can’t take her eyes off him.


Griff can hardly focus with a contagious joy fairy flitting about near him, especially when Freddy looks at him like that. His only concern right now should be on shutting down his younger brother’s well-intentioned (disastrous) schemes—or at the very least on the production (not this one) that might save his family home from the banks.

Instead all he can think of is soft skin and vibrant curls. 

As he’s reluctantly dragged into her quest to rediscover her passion for the stage and Freddy is drawn into his research on a legendary theater star, the adage about appearances being deceiving proves abundantly true. It’s the unlikely start of something enormous…but a single revelation about the past could derail it all.


Review 

This story is such a wonderful addition to the London celebrities series. Fun and entertaining but also exploring the complexity of family relationships, together with a look behind-the-scenes of the theatre/TV world and it's not as glamorous as it appears on the surface.

The romance came second at times but all those other scenes really helped show the true colours of the MCs (and the side characters).

I'm a fan of Lucy Parker's writing and this was no exception - engaging, subtle, sarcastic humour that works so well for me. This whole story was very atmospheric both of the English countryside f the whole mansion-owning family in financial trouble. I also very much liked the parallel love stories from the past so closely interwoven with Freddy and Griff's romance in the present day. .

Grumpy misanthropic heroes are my catnip and it made me happy to see this one paired with a bubbly, light-hearted, fun-loving heroine. I really appreciate her journey to asserting her selfworth and finding value in doing the things she enjoys (comedies and musicals), rather than the things others view as worthy (high-end drama plays). I can't stress enough how important and satisfying it was seeing this, anything that brings you joy is worthy and good.

I also love the element of caring about others that was really prevailing in the story. Griff cared deeply for his family, Charlie did too in his own way. Freddy wanted the freedom from her family's legacy and expectations but she also cared people for her family and didn't want to see them hurt.The villains got their due in the end but it felt well deserve with no malice and spite.

In short, I loved everything in this story - the romance, the mystery, the theatre/celebrity world, the family feuds and secrets and past love affairs. Highly recommended read!

PS: I just have to say how much I  loved the proposal scene, it was ridiculous and over-the-top and didn't go according to plan at all, yet it was perfect for Freddy and Griff.


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