Review: Playing House by Ruby Lang


Author: Ruby Lang
Genre/Themes: Contemporary romance, architects/city planners
Release Date: 12 Aug 2019

Author links: Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads

My rating: 4 Stars


Romance blossoms between two city planners posing as newlyweds in this first in a bright new series by acclaimed author Ruby Lang

The last thing Oliver Huang expects to see on the historic Mount Morris home tour is longtime acquaintance Fay Liu bustling up and kissing him hello. He’s happy to playact being a couple to save her from a pushy admirer. Fay’s beautiful, successful and smart, and if he’s being honest, Oliver has always had a bit of a thing for her.

Maybe more than a bit.

Geeking out over architectural details is Oliver and Fay’s shared love language, and soon they’re touring pricey real estate across Upper Manhattan as the terribly faux but terribly charming couple Darling and Olly.

For the first time since being laid off from the job he loved, Oliver has something to look forward to. And for the first time since her divorce, Fay’s having fun.

Somewhere between the light-filled living rooms and spacious closets they’ve explored, this faux relationship just may have sparked some very real feelings. For Oliver and Fay, home truly is where their hearts are.


This s a delightful novella about two city planners re-building their lives and falling in love in the meantime. I have read the previous series by this author, Practice Perfect, and I really enjoy her voice and writing style - direct, somewhat abrupt but really fitting to the characters and the stories she tells. 

I liked both MCs here quite a lot. Fay had all the professional success but her personal life was in shambles as she was trying to navigate her it as a new divorcee. Oliver was in more fraught situation than her since he had neither personal, nor professional success (in his own eyes, at least). 

I liked how they got together, the pretense which gave them the freedom to be themselves and to do the things they wanted but under normal circumstances would be hesitant to try. I also love the personal growth they undergo, on their own and while being together. The conflict felt real and it forced them to re-evaluate a lot of things about themselves and what they want their lives to be in the future. 

The story had great secondary characters, Oliver's brother really stood out and I'd love to read his story some day. hey both have complicated relationships with their families.

As a minor drawback, the story was too short and last quarter felt rushed, I would have loved to see more of Fay and Oliver together, adjusting their lives to the new direction they chose for themselves. It feels especially relevant for him because he did make profound changes to his life/future plans.

Add on Goodreads / Buy on Amazon 


Things I Liked This Week


It's been a long, albeit slow week at work but we are experiencing a prolonged summer heat wave, that feels never-ending, so I have been all sweaty and irritable and it doesn't look like things will improve any time soon. 

Amidst the scorching heat that kills my ability to enjoy anything, I have found two videos I want to share with you in my semi-regular Things I Liked This Week post. 

First is this video of making mirrors, it' pretty mundane but for someone like me with not very good understanding of physics and chemistry, it looks fascinating, like a magic trick almost. I found it on pace Explorer make account on Twitter which is dedicate to space exploration and science. I don't don't know that much about either but find them interesting and a nice diversion from the pressure of everyday life, so I immediately followed that account, as one does :)

How Mirrors are Made

This video reminded me about another one which I saw last month, before I started this, and I wanted to share it here because it absolutely deserves it. It's a video of the Italian jewellery artist Pablo Cimadevilla making a gold ring. For those of my readers, my husband is a jeweller, and I have always loved jewellery but because of him I have become more interested in the hows and whys of making jewellery. It turns out that it's much more complicated than it appears on the surface. 

Making a gold butterfly ring: 

You can follow the artist on Facebook or Instagram for more of his work. 

Contemporary Romance

Review: Insider by Rebecca Crowley


Title: Insider (London Phoenix #1)
Author: Rebecca Crowley
Genre /Tropes: Contemporary romance, journalist investigation
Release Date: 22 August 2019

Author's links:

My rating: 3 Stars


ER doctor Grace Reilly thrives on patching up her patients, propping them back on their feet and sending them home healthier, yet emotionally she feels flat on her back after being deceived by her ex-boyfriend. She’s shelved her malfunctioning romantic radar, possibly forever. But she’s not opposed to no strings attached sex, especially when she meets the brooding and enigmatic Oren Brody. Even better? After giving her a mind-blowing orgasm with no reciprocal expectations, he vanishes as mysteriously as he appeared.

Six months ago Oren Brody and his brothers, Asher and Ebon, bought the London Phoenix newspaper to save the esteemed daily from bankruptcy. They need a big scoop or a budget shortfall could shut them down. A confidential tip about corruption and potential medical malfeasance points Oren toward St. Hilda’s Hospital – the same hospital where his mother unexpectedly died after a visit to the ER for a pounding headache. He needs answers, and Grace seems to be the key. He’d tracked her down hoping she could be a source. Seducing her was accidental, but he finds himself unable to ignore their zinging chemistry and he doesn’t really want to.

Oren needs to earn Grace’s trust, but that’s a big ask since their first meeting began with a lie and ended with sexual fireworks. Grace has already been deceived by one lover, can she forgive and forget and give Oren a chance? 


This is the first book in a new series, the heroine is an ER doctor, the hero - a journalist working to uncover corruption in the hospital where she works.

I would describe this as an explosive start of a new series. I love this author's football series (Atlanta Skyline), one of my favourite contemporary romances of all time. I had high expectations of this series but sadly, they were not quite met. This was a nice romance but ultimately unremarkable. I felt it lacked depth, the characters were underdeveloped and some of the conflict felt forced to me. it could be just that I have come to expect so much more from Rebecca Crowley, it all appeared  lackluster to me. 

Things start off with an off-the-charts anonymous hook up between the MCs which leads to initial distrust by both of them - neither being sure the other isn’t pursuing a hidden agenda. 

They each had their baggage and were reluctant to start a relationship but it all felt forced to me. There is an irresistible chemistry between them but I didn’t particularly like the vibe ‘not-like-other girls/guys’ I got throughout the story. There attraction and deep connection happened right away and I didn’t really buy it, there was nothing to show why they were so attracted to each. I could understand his reasons to some extend but felt she was overreacting and projecting her fears onto him till the very end.

The conflict of him lying/withholding information from her was quickly overcome and then when the black moment of their break-up happened, it felt completely out of place for me. Her reaction to something he did (rather didn’t do) seemed over-the-top and completely illogical. I never got fully invested in the characters and their issues. Both of them seemed melodramatic and their reactions didn’t appear genuine to me.

I was not really convinced their relationship will work out. There was nothing major wrong in their story, it was all minor details which didn’t work for me and in the end I was not sold on their HEA.

Add to Goodreads / Buy on Amazon


Things I liked this week


Ok, I am back with Things I Liked This Week. Today I'm sharing two things which I saw on Twitter and both of which brightened my day. 

The first is the Salmon Cannon which I found totally fascinating, helping fish move over vast expanses of land. I did some reading on it and it turns out it has been around since 2014 but it passed my Twitter TL this week and put a smile on my face. I'm sharing a link to an article in The Guardian showing the viral video and explaining how the cannon works. 

The second thing I liked this week in a trailer of a romcom starring Christina Millian and Adam Demos, to be shown on Netflix on August 29. It was shared by author Nalini Singh and it's a romance set in New Zealand and it involves some home renovation project and more ... It looks really cute and I'd love to see it. 

Falling Inn Love trailer:

What did you like this week? Feel free to share the things you liked in the comments :)

Book recs

Some Less Popular Sports Featured in Romance


This list of compiled of recommendations I received on Twitter during this year #rombklove event. I have grouped together romances featuring sports that are not very popular and some rather popular in real life but conspicuously missing from romance novels.

My personal recommendations for romance romances presenting less popular sports or offering an unusual take on a popular sport, are listed in this earlier post.

Note 1: The inclusion of books/authors on the list here is not an endorsement on my part unless explicitly stated otherwise.

Note 2: The titles link to the Goodreads page for the book. The Amazon links are affiliate.

Water sports 

Diving Deep by KA Mitchell, contemporary m/m romance, diving. Currently not available for purchase

Lake Lovelace series by Vanessa North, competitive wakeboarding. Amazon

Love by the Bay series by Stephanie Kay, rec-league-Coast-Guard rescue swimmers. Amazon

Level Hands / Love Me Like a Rock / Hard Candy by Amy Jo Cousins, m/m romances, rowing. Amazon - Read and Loved

Stroke to His Cox, m/m romance short story by JL Merrow, rowing. Amazon

Swift River
series by Kristina Mathews, whitewater raft guides. Amazon

Wavehouse by Alice Kaltman, YA, surfing. Amazon

Hot Holiday Nights by Jaci Burton, m/f romance, surfing. Amazon

Pacific Blue
series by Lorelie Brown, m/f romance, surfing. Amazon

Sparks Like Ours by Melissa Brayden, f/f romance, surfing. Amazon

Extreme sports

Renegades series by Rebecca Yarros, m/f romances with X Games athletes. Amazon

Lessons in Gravity and Leaving Everest by Megan Westfield, m/f romances, rock climbing. Amazon

Gravity series by Sarina Bowen, skiers/snowboarders. Amazon - Read and enjoyed

Heartstruck by Angeli E. Dumatol. Arnis (Filipino martial art), YA contemporary m/f. Both MC and LI train and compete in the sport. Amazon

Boxing / Wrestling / MMA

A Fighting Chance by Shannon Stacey (novella). Amazon

Knock Out by Michele Mannon, m/m contemporary. Amazon

Dirty Boxing by Harper St George and Tara Waytt, m/f erotic romance, MMA.  Amazon

Showing Him the Ropes by Christa Tomlinson (m/m professional wrestling). Amazon

The Secret Heart by Erin Satie. This historical has a hero that is a bare-knuckle boxer. Amazon (It's free at the time of posting)

Submission Moves by Camilla Sisco is set in the US with an MMA fighter for a hero. Amazon

Below the Belt by Sarah Mayberry, m/f romance, heroine is a boxer. Amazon

Making Him Sweat, Taking Him Down, Driving Her Wild by by Cara McKenna writing as Meg Maguire about boxers. Amazon 

Willing Victim by Cara McKenna, m/f romance, hero is an MMA fighter. Amazon

Bad Neighbor by Molly O'Keefe, m/f romance. Amazon - Read and enjoyed

In Her Corner by Vicki Essex, m/f romance with MMA fighter heroine and her coach is the hero. Amazon

Memphis by Ginger Scott's is about a boxer who trains at the heroine's dad's gym. Amazon

Champion’s Heart by Piper Huguley is a Great Depression Era historical romance with black characters, including a boxer hero. Amazon

Let It Shine by Alyssa Cole, m/f historical set in 1960s, hero is a boxer. Amazon - ($0.99 at the time of posting)

Field and Track

Love on the Run by Zuri Day, female track and field Olympic & collegiate athlete and  male sports management agent. Amazon

Winning Ruby Heart by Jennifer Lohmann. Heroine is a disgraced Olympic athlete who takes up running ultra marathons. Amazon

Love at First Run by Angel C. Aquino, m/f romance, #romanceclass. Amazon

The University of Gatica series by Lexy Timms, track and field heroines. Amazon (Free at the time of posting)

There's Something About Sweetie by Sandyha Menon. Sweetie is a fat girl who runs track, her LI Ashish plays basketball. Amazon

Cars and bikes

Fast Track series by Erin McCarthy, m/f romances, MCs are NASCAR drivers. Amazon

Ride with Me by Ruthie Knox m/f romance about a long distance cyclist. Amazon - currently not available for purchase

Holeshot by M.A. Parker, m/f romance, motocross. Amazon

Cat by Freya North about a sports reporter covering Le Tour de France. Amazon - only used copies

Hard Driving series by Audra North, race car drivers. Amazon


Clang by E. Davies, m/m contemporary romance. Amazon

The Master Will Appear by L.A. Witt, m/m romance. Amazon

Introducing Mr. Winterbourn by Joanna Chambers, m/m historical romance, both MCs are fencers. Amazon

Lord Carew's Bride by Mary Balogh, m/f historical romance. Amazon - only used copies available

Heart Duel by Robin D. Owens, m/f paranormal romance. Amazon

A Rational Arrangement by L. Rowyn, fantasy polyamory mmf romance. Amazon


Game of Love by Ara Gregorian, m/f romance. Amazon

After Wimbledon by Jennifer Gilby Roberts, m/f romance . Amazon

Courting Carlyn by Melissa Chambers, m/f romance. Amazon


Once Upon a Player by Agay Llanera, m/f romance, college volleyball. Amazon

Playing with Seduction by Reese Ryan, heroine is a volleyball player. Amazon

The Cowboy Meets His Match by Sarah Mayberry, which features a female saddle bronc rider.  Amazon

Act Your Age by Eve Dangerfied. The heroine’s on a roller derby team. Amazon

Pride, Prejudice, and Curling Rocks by Andrea Brokaw, YA retelling of Pride and Prejudice, curling. Amazon

Settle the Score / Hustle Play by Tara Frejas is a duology of two short stories featuring a female basketball player & a male cheer squad member. Amazon

Settling the Score by R.S. Gray, m/f romance, heroine is a football player, hero is a swimmer adn they meet at the summer Olympics. Amazon

Romancing the Kicker by Catherine Lane, f/f romance about the first female kicker in NFL. Amazon

Ainslie Paton

Review: The Mysterious Stranger by Ainslie Paton


Title: The Mysterious Stranger
Author: Ainslie Paton
Genre: Contemporary romance, Doomsday cult, Con artists
Release Date: 27 Aug 2019

Author's links:

My rating: 5 Stars


For Rory Archer, going deep under cover with her best friend Zeke Sherwood to bust a doomsday cult was a way of making up for her unprofessional behavior after a relationship breakup with her boss, Zeke's older brother.

All she had to do was act her part, find the evidence they needed to tear down the cult and help the people who'd been gaslit into joining to start new lives.

It was a far cry from the usual work she did, conning arrogant mega-rich men out of ill-gotten money to spend on deserving causes. And with Zeke by her side, it would be a blast.

For Zeke Sherwood, busting the cult was the easy part, even if it meant no way to feed his addiction to Frappuccinos, but surviving months, partnering the woman he'd been in love with forever would be the toughest job he'd ever signed on for. He and Rory had never been anything more than sidekicks and Zeke had given up thinking they ever would be.

But inside the cult, the truth is stranger than fiction, drawing them closer until uncertainty strips away old patterns of behavior and longing and lust bloom, bringing with them the danger of discovery and the fear that none of the new love they feel for each other is real.


This is the final book in a trilogy about a family (actually, there are more than one family involved) of con artists. I loved the previous two books but this one is by far the best for me. It blew my mind,  it's so unlike any romance I have read before.

There is an intense suspense plot, the hero and heroine go undercover into a doomsday cult in order to dismantle it. We get to see in detail the brutal abuse both psychological and physical the leader used to try to break them (and everyone else in that cult) - him through heavy labour and physical discomfort, her - through singling her out and ostracizing her. The misogyny, the manipulation and gaslighting in the cult was difficult to read at times. It was challenged by the hero and the heroine at every step, still it hit me right in the heart pretty strongly. Seeing how Zeke and Rory fought and resisted the manipulations of the cult was fascinating. I loved the strength both of them showed. And it brought them together, made them admit their attraction and ultimately act on it.

I loved the complexity and layers of the romantic relationship. Zeke's been in love with Rory forever, but she has always seen him as her best friend though she was vaguely aware of his feelings for her and stubbornly ignored them.

They way they cared for each other is what completely undid me - not the lust and physical attraction (we never get a detail physical description of them, other than both being fit and active in sports) but the care, the desire to make the other feel safe and comfortable, the constant worry of how the other one is doing when they were separated.

Zeke is a wonderful character, a master con artist who has a soft side and I loved that the author showed it to us. He needed his frappucinos and a comfy bed and was not ashamed to admit it. I liked Rory a lot too. On top of everything she is a romance reader and it showed in little details throughout the whole story.

They both were certain of their feeling but had doubts about the feelings of the other. They got together while isolated from the outside world and put under enormous pressure and this affected the very foundation of their relationship. There is a lot of exploration of self-doubt and confidence and sabotaging oneself because things seem to good to be true.

The references to Nalini Singh’s PNR series totally killed me, I didn’t catch the first one but I was right there for the next one and recognizing them made me giddy, they fitted so well into the story.

I loved some of the secondary characters as well. I read Candance as on the ace spectrum and I was scared she will be forced into a relationship/sex. The way Rory and Zeke treated her, it melted my heart.

The story also gives a poignant commentary on women’s rights and bodily autonomy, without sounding preachy. 

There was a major plot twist towards the end re the romantic relationship, I didn't expect it but it made sense seeing both Zeke and Rory voice their fears and hopes and dreams. The fine line between wishful thinking and bad timing, learning to trust yourself and the person you love/who loves you.

Overall, it's a remarkable romance and I highly recommend it.

CWs: attempted murder with drugs, physical violence, misogyny, abuse, gaslighting, manipulation

Add to Goodreads / Buy on Amazon


#NotRWA19 Recap


Over the past week I got together with some friends we organised #NotRWA19, a virtual conference on Twitter for the romance fans who couldn’t attend the RWA conference held in New York at the same time. 

It was a bit spur-of-the-moment decision on my part but with the support of the online romance community we managed to organise a 5-day event which I hope was fun and beneficial for everyone. We had a mix of romance readers, bloggers and authors participating with short/longer presentation of various topics.

In this post I have compiled the links to all the presentations made during #NotRWA19 for easy access. I will put it in my pinned tweet on Twitter for those who follow me there. 

Day 1

Ellie Reads - Tips on Book Blogging and Reviewing

Nicola Davidson - Pleasure Clubs in Victorian Englan

B.andherbooks - Most Anticipated Releases of Fall/Winter 2020

Day 2

Ekaterine Xia - SFFR and World Building as Diaspora

Ami - mini thread on HEA without Children

Dani Collins - How to Build Your Newsletter

Jennifer Carole Lewis - Body Language and Spotting Deception

Day 3

Mina V. Esguerra - Romanceclass - how it came to be and how it supports authors

Chachic - Tips for Bookstragramming

Charlotte - Depictions of Wealth and Critique of Capitalism in Contemporary Romance

Day 4

Sandra Schwab - Victorians Like You and Me

Fiona West - On Writing Cross-Culturally

Alex - Trans Romance

Day 5

Agata Weronika - on the Healing Power of Romance Novels

Rose Backlin - the Joys and Challenges of Owning a Romance Bookstore

Helen Kord - on Making GReat Rec Lists

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