Contemporary Romance

Review: The Inside Track by Tamsen Parker


Title: The Inside Track (License to Love #2)
Author: Tamsen Parker
Genre/Themes: Rockstar romance, Mental illness
Release date: 26 Feb 2019

Author’s links: Website / Facebook / Reader Group / Twitter

My rating: 3.5 Stars


Love might mean coming as you are, but staying is a different matter.

Nick Fischer is a screw-up; everyone knows it and they’re not afraid to tell him so. The only thing he’s got going for him is that he plays a reliable rhythm guitar for License to Game, and his big fat bulldog, Princess Fiona, is so ugly she’s cute.

Dempsey Lawrence is a former child star turned financial advisor, and while she’s curious about the hot mess of a man who’s her co-panelist for a presentation on financial literacy, she has no intention of pursuing anything with him. Too loud, too crass, too wild, Nick is altogether too much. Plus, he’s famous, and she is so over stardom and everything that comes with it.

Except that when Dempsey gives Nick an inch, he takes a mile, and she finds that she doesn’t mind so much. Until Nick brings the pitfalls of stardom to Dempsey’s doorstep, then all the attraction in the world might not be enough to promise a happily ever after.


This was an engaging romance between a rockstar hero with ADHD and a former child star now financial consultant with agoraphobia.

I mostly enjoyed this romance and found both characters interesting. I liked the hero and the way his ADHD was presented, especially at the beginning. His POV become more challenging to read as the story progressed though I mostly enjoyed it. I wanted some more depth, a bit more seriousness/angst if you like. He was too accepting, too easygoing, to the point that it seem he didn’t care enough. 

The romance had a well done consent, a bit of femdom and was very sex positive (there is a male sex worker as a side character who was an awesome friend in addition).

The heroine had developed agoraphobia after traumatic sexual experiences as a teen. She was in a bad family situation no real support network apart from people who worked for her in one way or another. They have become her family over time and her only close relationships. Building a life that she can manage and feeling more or less happy. He brought new light into her world, stirred things up. But also cause her a lot of stress. His star status, the attention he attracted was really bad for her mental health. I found this aspect of the story the least convincing. She didn’t leave her house but had a celebrity boyfriend who brought his bandmates and friends over (with her consent but it caused her a panic attack), put her live on stage via chat, had a stalker attack him in her house. I feel it was all too much for her to deal with. 

We see them discussing it and trying hard to balance things out but I am not convinced how they would make it work in the long term. It was a matter of compromise and they both seemed committed to it and put a lot of effort and thought into it, but in the end I feel it was all much for her to be able to deal with it.

The second half was a bit messy, too many things going on, some over the top plot elements detracted from my overall enjoyment of the story. I loved how he worked out his grand gestured with the help of his friends and how fitting it was.

Overall it was a nice romance with interesting characters where I wanted some more depth and conflict and a little less drama. I'm not fully sold on their HEA but the HFN was solid in my mind.

CW: panic attacks, stalker, breaking and entering, knife attack

Add to Goodreads / Buy on Amazon


Review: Kiss and Cry by Mina V. Esguerra


Title: Kiss and Cry (Six 32 Central Book 2)
Author: Mina V. Esguerra
Genre/Themes: Second chance romance, sports, Philippines 
Release date: 1 March 2019

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

My rating: 4 Stars


Calinda met Ramirez when she was 20 and he was 22. She was the rising star of women's skating, and he was the superstar forward of men's hockey. Her parents and coach were against their relationship, and because Calinda wanted to prove that no hot guy would ever distract her from her dream, she chose skating over him — and also avoided him all together. 

Ten years later, they meet again as gold medalists and prominent sports advocates, still single and undeniably attracted to each other. It's still not a good time for them, because Ramirez is retiring from hockey and moving back to the United States. Calinda doesn't do relationships, really, and proposes they use his final three weeks in Manila to explore what might have been, and do all the things they wish they'd done (there's a list!). Then he can leave for good, and they can both move on with their lives without this one regret.


This is a nice, easy going, low conflict romance with some angst and lots of realistic talk about sports behind its glamourous facade. I loved that we a different aspect of professional sports, one where it’s like a day job – some fame and popularity on local level, but none of the huge wealth and celebrity. status. Both MCs love their sport despite it not being the most popular in their country and they are trying to a living out of it.

The story also gives us a lot of thoughts on leaving and staying, on living in two countries and not feeling truly at home in either. The story is very atmospheric, set in Manila, we see s much of life there - the food, the local customs and everything. At the same time we get enough glimpse of Ram’s life in the US to see how the immigrant experience shapes who he is.

It's a second chance love story where the MCs are in their 30s and get together in some sort of belated fight for independence, some sort of revenge, of taking back control over her life that was taken from them 10 years ago. In reality though, this is just the continuation of their love story that started all those years and they never stopped wanting to be together. 

It's deeply romantic but both acting very practical on the surface. I loved how neither of them wanted to force the other person to shape their whole life around you. I appreciate the open discussions of consent and the respect the MCs showed each other.

I felt the story lost some momentum around the middle but in the end it all worked well. I absolutely loved how simple and ordinary his grand gesture was, how fitting to both of them. Their love was not an easy solution of a difficult life situation. The practical difficulties of being together were not glossed over but rather discussed between the MCs and a solution was found that worked for both of them.

Light-hearted, yet with some unexpected depth, this is a lovely sports romance and I highly recommend it to everyone. 

Add to Goodreads / Buy on Amazon

Historical Romance

Review: Any Old Diamonds by KJ Charles


Title: Any Old Diamonds
Author: KJ Charles
Genre/Themes: Historical, MM romance
Release Date: 30 Jan 2019

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

My rating: 3 Stars


Lord Alexander Pyne-ffoulkes is the younger son of the Duke of Ilvar, with a bitter grudge against his wealthy father. The Duke intends to give his Duchess a priceless diamond parure on their wedding anniversary—so Alec hires a pair of jewel thieves to steal it. 

The Duke's remote castle is a difficult target, and Alec needs a way to get the thieves in. Soldier-turned-criminal Jerry Crozier has the answer: he'll pose as a Society gentleman and become Alec's new best friend.

But Jerry is a dangerous man: controlling, remote, and devastating. He effortlessly teases out the lonely young nobleman’s most secret desires, and soon he’s got Alec in his bed—and the palm of his hand.

Or maybe not. Because as the plot thickens, betrayals, secrets, new loves, and old evils come to light. Now the jewel thief and the aristocrat must keep up the pretence, find their way through a maze of privilege and deceit, and confront the truth of what's between them...all without getting caught.


Any Old Diamond is a historical m/m romance with a twisty plot and a kinky romantic relationship between the MCs that I expected to love but ended having mixed feelings about it. I really struggled with the first part of the story and had to put it a way for a bit before I continued with it. While I liked the second part much better it was not enough to make the book a success for me.

We have a morally dubious jewel thief and an aristocrat who is cut off by his father and ostensibly seeks revenge getting together but I didn't feel the romantic connection between them. Things between them started based on lust and the enjoyment of the kink they shared. But it never felt more than that - Alec seemed grateful that someone appreciated his kink and didn't shame or beat him up for it (unlike previous lovers) and Jerry didn't show much feelings at all in the first half. I didn't feel anything beyond the purely physical connection between them. Jerry had no regrets about who he was and what he did, he was self confident and self assured but didn't strike me as a villain or a sociopath really.

Halfway through the story there is a major plot twist that I appreciate plotwise but it also did'nt feel natural, especially with regard to Alec whose POV we get throughout the story. I understand the suspense and keeping it a secret from everyone, the reader included, but it felt out of character for Alec. For me it seemed that after that twist we had both MCs being completely different from we had come to see from them. I'm all for character development and change but this felt abrupt and too sudden to be convincing.

I had an issue re consent in some of the sex scenes, especially the angry against-the-wall sex towards the end. It read more like an assault than a consensual mutually enjoyable sex. Furthermore, it is the last explicitly described sex scene in the book, what followed was mostly kissing and fade-to-black scenes and that only added to my discomfort about that scene. 

Another scene which I found problematic is where on of the MCs outed the other as gay. It was done in a fit of anger and while I understand why the character acted this way, there was a very lackluster apology for it after that. The reaction of the outed person was also problematic for me since he didn't stand up for himself but rather felt he deserved it because he had lied previously. He took the blame believing his own behaviour had provoked the other person to do act so aggressively (he used the same excuse for making sense of the violent angry sex that followed soon after). 

All this makes we wary of believing in the HEA for these two characters together.

On the plus side, I loved the writing, the plot was full of twists and turns which I enjoyed and the side characters were great (yes, Susan Lazarus, I'm talking about her).

Overall, this was not the book I expected and while I like some bits in it, overall, it didn't work for me. Still, I'm curious about Templeton's story and plan on reading it when it comes out.

Add to Goodreads / Buy on Amazon 

Flickr Images