Jessie Mihalik

Review: Eclipse the Moon by Jessie Mihalik

02:30

Title: Eclipse the Moon (Starlight's Shadow #2)
Author: Jessie Mihalik
Publication Date: 12 July 2022
Genres: Sci-Fi Romance

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

My rating: 3 Stars


Blurb

Kee Ildez has been many things: hacker, soldier, bounty hunter. She never expected to be a hero, but when a shadowy group of traitors starts trying to goad the galaxy’s two superpowers into instigating an interstellar war, Kee throws herself into the search to find out who is responsible—and stop them.

Digging up hidden information is her job, so hunting traitors should be a piece of cake, but the primary suspect spent years in the military, and someone powerful is still covering his tracks. Disrupting their plans will require the help of her entire team, including Varro Runkow, a Valovian weapons expert who makes her pulse race.

Quiet, grumpy, and incredibly handsome, Varro watches her with hot eyes but ignores all of her flirting, so Kee silently vows to keep her feelings strictly platonic. But that vow will be put to the test when she and Varro are forced to leave the safety of their ship and venture into enemy territory alone.

Cut off from the rest of their team, they must figure out how to work together—and fast—because a single misstep will cost thousands of lives.

Review 


This second installment of the series gives us space adventures galore but I was underwhelmed by the romance.

The romance conflict hinges on the heroine lusting after hero but thinking he is avoiding her while he is avoiding her because her is attracted to her but feels he can't protect her the way he has too. It is messy and based on a very antiquated sense of chivalry and obligation which was difficult for me to reconcile with the hyper modern space world the story is set in.

I feel the Valovians with all there psychic powers and paranormal abilities are similar to Nalini Singh's psys which I don't mind in principle but the similarity did stand out to me.

I liked Varro for the most part though his sense of guilt and failure over impossible tasks he set to himself became too much. It made sense initially but then it became annoying as it happened over and over again.

Kee was nice enough, a bit your stereotypical hacker girl - a bit wild, a bit loner, smart but not as physically strong as her teammates which made her insecure. In her personal relationship she felt she was too much to her lover - too forward, too emotional (things she has been told by previous partners) and that made her guarded and worried that it would be the same for him.

They kept getting to try to be together only to be pulled apart either by cuircustmace (they are amid a wild chase with the bad guys in space) or by their own feelings of guilt / sense of obligation.

While I enjoyed and was fully invested in the suspense and adventure elements of the story, I felt the romantic arc was unevenly paced. It is not closed door romance but the sex scene (explicit) only happens after 90% mark. I would not describe it as slow burn but rather as a kind of delayed gratification and didn't work for me. Out of the blue we get some domination/submission dynamic thrown in - it honestly felt like Kee and Varro became different people, not the characters I have followed along in the story so far. The romance didn't flow smoothly for me, too many elements in it didn't fit with each other. Of course, this is all subjective interpretation but it's how I read it and why I didn't enjoy it as much as I wanted to.

I have come to realize that Jessie Mihalik's book are more about the space adventures than the romance but when I find the romance unevenly paced and not convincing, I don't know if I will continue with this series. Depends on the MCs, I still might give the next book a go.

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Contemporary Romance

Review: For You & No One Else by Roni Loren

02:30

Title: For You & no One Else (Say Everything #3)
Author: Roni Loren
Date of publication: 5 July 2022
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Author's links:

My rating: 4 Stars



Blurb 

She has the perfect life…and it’s a perfect lie.

Behind the careful fa├žade, she’s struggling:

To feel like she fits in. To find her true voice.

Now, finally, she’s ready to start living her own story.

Eliza Catalano has the perfect life. So what if it actually looks nothing like the story she tells online? As a therapist, it’s part of her job to look like she has all the answers, right? But when Eliza ends up as a viral “Worst Date Ever” meme, everything in her Instagram-filtered world begins to crumble.

Enter the most obnoxiously attractive man she's ever met, and a bet she can't resist: if she swears off social media for six months, Beck Carter’ll teach her the wonders of surviving the "real world." No technology, no dating apps, no pretty filters, no BS.

It seems like the perfect deal—she can lay low until her sudden infamy passes, meet some interesting new people, and maybe even curate this experience into a how I quit the online dating racket book along the way. But something about Beck’s raw honesty speaks to Eliza in ways she never expected. She knows he’s supposed to be completely hands-off…but as complex feelings grow and walls come tumbling down, rough-around-the-edges Beck may be exactly what Eliza needs to finally, truly face herself—and decide who she really wants to be.


Review 

This is the final book in the current series of moving and emotional contemporary romances that are not afraid to tackle heavy subjects. This is how I discovered Roni Loren, my first book of hers was The One You Fight For from her series The Ones Who Got Away who focuses on lives of school shooting surviours finding HEA year later.

This current series though lighter in tone, also explores serious issues - mental health, disability, depression and suicidal ideation, childhood and adult trauma.

I appreciate how the author treat her characters with care and empathy and doesn't exploit their issues for sensational value only. Mind you, I am speaking from an outsider's perspective here and can't say how ownvoices readers would feel about these series. I would definitely recommend checking more reviews and especially CWs before picking any of the books.

This one, I can say, is my favourite in the series. It is a romance featuring an older heroine and a younger hero who try a friends-with-benefits relationship while she is searching offline for Mr. Right.

I liked Eliza a lot. I can't comment of how realistic her representation as a therapist but I found her relatable in her personal life - an intense sense of loneliness after the loss of her parents, longing for a long-term partner, following a specific plan in life both personal and professional.

I found the element of performance on social media and in real life relationship very interesting. She kept putting a happy face online and on dates with the goal to impress, to win people over up to the point that she forgot who she was and what made her happy.

The social media and our presence on it is becoming very noticeably present in contemporary romance but sometimes I feel it overtakes the plot. This was not the case here, mostly because she took a SM break after a non-consented video of her was leaked and went viral going viral for all the wrong reasons. And because the other MC, Beck, was very much anti-SM. The NoPho parties he took her to were interesting and certainly unconventional but they struck me as a bit juvenile. While I liked Beckham a lot, he remained a mystery till the end. He came off as confident and very much in control of his life. He appeared sure of his priorities and life goals. Until he wasn't any more. It was his relationship with Eliza that was eye-opening for him.

There is a third act break up and both parties were to blame for it. They each violated the other person's trust in a way that is hard to forgive. Still I found the groveling and forgiveness scenes convincing and could see Eliza and Beck being together, trying a relationship.

Something that I liked in the series as a whole is the great friendships. Eliza had her friends by her side at all times, talking with them helped her reconsider what happily ever after could be for her and disentangle her own happiness from what society tells you happiness should look like.

It's the epilogue that is my main issue with the story. It was so over the top, a nice wrap up to the whole series but really unnecessary here. It was too conventional for the MCs, like after all the talk about different forms of HEA, they just got the most traditional one. Yes, it took a while and they worked hard for their HEA - he got the counseling he needed and she wrote the book she wanted to write but still it undermined the whole point the story was trying to make about the possibility of alternative HEA.

With this minor complaint in mind, I still would recommend the series if you are looing for contemporary romances with complicated characters finding love where least expected. These are rich, well built stories that don't shy away from heavy themes but ultimately leave us with hope and optimism for the future.

CW: religious cult, addiction (in the past), loss of parents in car accident (in the past), embarrassing video leaked out

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fantasy romance

Review: For the Throne by Hannah Whitten

02:30

Title: For the Throne (Wilderwood #2)
Author: Hannah Whitten
Genre/Themes: Fantasy, Gods and Monsters, Romance
Release Date: 07 June 2022

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

My rating: 5 Stars



Blurb 

The First Daughter is for the Throne
The Second Daughter is for the Wolf...

Red and the Wolf have finally contained the threat of the Old Kings but at a steep cost. Red's beloved sister Neve, the First Daughter is lost in the Shadowlands, an inverted kingdom where the vicious gods of legend have been trapped for centuries and the Old Kings have slowly been gaining control. But Neve has an ally--though it's one she'd rather never have to speak to again--the rogue king Solmir.

Solmir wants to bring an end to the Shadowlands and he believes helping Neve may be the key to its destruction. But to do that, they will both have to journey across a dangerous landscape in order to find a mysterious Heart Tree, and finally to claim the gods' dark, twisted powers for themselves.

Review

This is the second and final? book in the series and I can say I enjoyed it even more than the first one. It's closely connected with the first one to the point that I felt a little lost at the beginning. Would recommend reading the books back to back or at least re-reading the first one before picking this one (if your memory is bad as mine, that is).

This is a gorgeous, lush rather dark fantasy. The plot continues right where were left at the end of book 1. We get multiple POVs, parallel journeys of the sisters to save each other thus saving the world.

The Wilderwood is there but it is changed and Red's team spends most of its time outside of it. Neve is in the Shadowland, and wow, what a place it is - dark and violent, home of Gods and monsters. It tests bonds and shows the corruptive power of magic.

I found it really fascinating both from the point of view of actions and adventures and from the point of view of getting to know Neve and Solmir (as both of them but her in particular get to know themselves better). The exploration of monstrousness, inside us and in the world at large, was really well done and very interesting to me.

The romance between Solmir and Neve is true enemies to lovers, falling for a monster. The lines who is a monster and who is not get blurred all the time, they both are, neither of them is - it is up to reader to make their mind. I really liked the romance, very intense and dramatic. They start with hating each other, there is a lot of anger and hurt, but as their journey unfolds we see a tentative trust appearing, they save each other, literally and figuratively.

Red's journey has just as many twists and turns as Neve's. Her love with Eammon is secure and only grows stronger.

Overall I liked the supporting characters though I have to admit they paled in comparison with Neve and Red.

I loved the ending which I found fitting to the complexity of the story. Everyone gets their HEA/HFN but nothing is simple. The hurts run deep and it takes time and effort for them to heal but we get the possibility for happiness, the hope for a better world and this is exactly what I read romance for.

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CW: death, blood and some gore, violence,

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