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Book Review–Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai

My love for Alisha Rai’s writing is established. She’s one of a small list of authors on my auto-buy list (others include JD Robb’s In Death Series, anything by Anne Bishop, Seanan McGuire, or Beverly Jenkins).

Hate to Want You is the first book in the Forbidden Hearts Trilogy.

One night. No one will know.

That was the deal. Every year, Livvy Kane and Nicholas Chandler would share one perfect night of illicit pleasure. The forbidden hours let them forget the tragedy that haunted their pasts—and the last names that made them enemies.

Until the night she didn’t show up.

Now Nicholas has an empire to run. He doesn’t have time for distractions and Livvy’s sudden reappearance in town is a major distraction. She’s the one woman he shouldn’t want . . . so why can’t he forget how right she feels in his bed?

Livvy didn’t come home for Nicholas, but fate seems determined to remind her of his presence—and their past. Although the passion between them might have once run hot and deep, not even love can overcome the scandal that divided their families.

Being together might be against all the rules . . . but being apart is impossible.

The Kanes and the Chandlers were as close as families could get. Livvy and Nicholas’s grandfathers founded a grocery chain together. But when Livvy’s dad and Nicholas’s mom die in a car together, when they weren’t supposed to even be in the same state, the relationship falls apart. Nicholas’s dad somehow acquired the Kane half of the stores, Livvy’s brother is jailed for arson–burning down the flagship store, and Livvy left town.

Livvy may have quit town, but Nicholas is harder to quit. He shows up at the tattoo studio where she’s working and ignites everything she’s tried to forget.

Rai’s writing–as always–sparkles. You care, deeply, about Livvy and Nicholas. You want to know what really happened the night of the car wreck. You can’t help but be sucked in. The entire trilogy ends up being fast reading because you just don’t want to put the books down.

Livvy and Nicholas are both three dimensional, with strengths and faults. Livvy has panic attacks. Nicholas is manipulated by his father. They have their own history to deal with, and not just the years of the one-night-only rule. They each have a unique voice, and you never blur who’s point of view we’re in at any given moment.

The pacing is good. The present unrolls, introducing us to the characters and doing the heavy lifting for world building for the series. The past is unveiled tantalizing slice by tantalizing slice–both the history of the families, and the history between Livvy and Nicholas.

I highly recommend not just this book but the entire series.

 

Review Six Weeks with a Lord by Eve Pendle

Grace Alnott’s dowry comes with a condition: she must marry a lord. Desperate for money to rescue her little brother from his abusive but aristocratic guardian, she offers half her dowry in return for a marriage of convenience.

Everett, Lord Westbury, needs money for his brother’s debtors just as cattle plague threatens to destroy his estate. Grace’s bargain is a perfect solution, until he is committed and realizes gossip exaggerated her wealth. So he makes his own terms. She must live with him for six weeks, long enough to seduce her into staying and surrendering her half of the dowry. But their deal means he can’t claim any husbandly rights. He has to tempt her into seducing him.

Their marriage is peppered with secrets, attraction, and prejudices that will change everything.

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This is a great book, friends–I finished it in just over a day. I’m a sucker for a relationship of convenience that turns to romance. In 2018 with all the sexist bullshit and #metoo, I’ve also become a huge fan of enthusiastic consent. And of course, I need an independent female protagonist.

Grace is bent but not broken by her father’s will. He wanted her to marry Lord Rayner, but after everything that happened between the Lord and her maid, she wants nothing to do with him. Moreover, as leverage for her father’s attempts to matchmake Grace with Lord Rayner, he has given the Lord custody of Grace’s five year old brother Henry. The only way to get Henry back is to satisfy the condition put on her dowry–the only money she was left by her father–is to marry a Lord. So she decides upon a marriage of convenience in exchange for half her dowry. She gets the means to pursue custody of Henry, and her husband gets cash.

Of the three suitors Grace finds, Lord Everett is the only reasonable candidate, so she marries him. He negotiates a six week period in which he plans to seduce her into giving him her half of her dowry so he can pay his brother’s debts.

I love the evolution of the relationship. Everett falls first, which is a lovely change, and his honoring of the deal that he not claim any rights–that she must make the first move–is very hot. The slow burn between the two of them is well done, and the reader gets easily caught up in it.

The dialogue reflects that evolution as well. Grace starts off more reserved around Everett. Her experiences with Rayner have deeply affected her view of the aristocracy and she doesn’t trust him. She’s counting the days until she can leave at the beginning. But over time, she opens up and begins to let her guard down, and as she does so, the dialogue reflects that shift. On Everett’s side, what start out as calculated approaches turn genuine. It also stays consistent with other historical novels I’ve read, where the dialogue is period-appropriate, but not stilted.

I do not have a degree in Victorian England, but as a reader nothing jumped out at me as an obvious anachronism. From my perspective, Pendle has a strong grasp on her time period.

The secondary characters could be a little more fleshed out and that the resolution of the story was a bit fast for me. But those are very minor complaints.

 

Six Weeks with a Lord is available for pre-order. It will be published on 6/25

 

Review: Rogue Hearts

I recieved a copy of Rogue Hearts in exchange for an honest review.

Rogue Hearts is the fourth book in the Rogue series.

From high office to the heartland, six brand-new romances about #resistance for readers who haven’t given up hope for a Happily Ever After…

In Her Service by Suleikha Snyder

U.S. Vice President Letitia Hughes has one thing that’s hers and only hers: her relationship with much younger Secret Service agent Shahzad Khan. When push comes to shove, what will take precedence: political ambitions or protecting their hearts?

In Her Service was one of my favorite stories in this anthology. I wish Letitia Hughes was the VP already. It’s 2020-2024 in this story, and Hughes and the president (also a woman!) are cleaning up the mess of the administration that came before them. But in private, Letitia has Shahzad, a man devoted not just to protecting her body, but to loving her. I adore a  forbidden romance, especially when there’s a power dynamic as well, and it’s great to see the woman as the more powerful one in a m/f story.

In Her Service also has plenty of hot sex as well as heart.

Run by Emma Barry

Public defender Maddie Clark doesn’t want to be a candidate for the state senate—but she’s running. Her high school nemesis turned campaign advisor Adam Kadlick shouldn’t be back home managing campaigns—but he is. They definitely should avoid falling for each other—but they won’t.

Another favorite story. Maddie and Adam have this great slow burn of a relationship. The evolution of Maddie as a candidate is done in a deft, believable way. When it comes out that Adam was planning to return to LA, it breaks the burgeoning relationship, and Adam has to work to repair it. Meanwhile, Adam is struggling with the decision of whether or not to go back to LA or to stay in Montana. The story has depth and it’s easy to root for Maddie and Adam.

The Rogue Files by Stacey Agdern

Reporter John DiCenza wants to go back. To New Jersey, to his life, the hockey team he covers, and the fanbase he’s proud to know and support. Back to before he had the Rogue Files, documents rumored to be the final nail in President Crosby’s term.

Journalist Sophie Katz wants to move forward. Toward her new TV show, and a life where the stories she tells will make a difference. She needs the Rogue Files and the story behind them to get there.

But when life comes at them, John and Sophie realize that the true story behind the files is standing up for the truth right where you are.

John and Sophie have history, but neither wants it to get in the way of the story. John has the information but is tired of looking over his shoulder, and Sophie wants to expose the corruption in the files. The story is good, although a bit disjointed at times.

Coming Up Rosa by Kelly Maher

When her mother’s health crisis forces Rosa Donnelly back to her hometown, she crosses paths with her former crush, and town goldenboy, Ian Stroman. Ian’s shine is even brighter thanks to his advocacy work to fight inhumane government policies. However, their past hurt sand a current business threat may spike their chance at happiness.

Another favorite is Coming up Rosa. Rosa is uncomfortable in the small town she comes from, but she has to go home to support her mom. She has a lot of insecurity about how her family has taken handouts from the Stromans in the past, and Ian’s mother picking up the tab for her mother’s medication at the start of the story only reinforces that. Ian has begun to speak out about injustice in a company newsletter, just as he knows his grandfather would have. But his relatives believe his political beliefs will hurt their bottom line.

Rosa had a crush on Ian as a young woman, but he’d brushed her off. But now, he wants to win her over. The development and hiccups in their relationship are well done, and I enjoyed it immensely. I especially love the way Maher includes snippets of the company newsletter that is causing all the controversy in Ian’s life.

The Sheriff & Mr. Devine by Amy Jo Cousins

There’s a new sheriff in Clear Lake and he has Eli Devine, the town librarian, on edge. Between arguing with the town council about inclusive library programming and keeping his three grandmas from getting into trouble, Eli has enough on his plate already. He doesn’t need the imposing Sheriff Baxter to be so very . . . distracting. Luckily for Eli, John Baxter is full of all kinds of good ideas, both for the town and for one stubborn librarian in particular.

The Sheriff & Mr Devine is a sweet romance. Eli has an instant crush on the new sheriff, until he suggests that one of his aunts might be developing dementia. Meanwhile, John has plans to win over Eli.

I really liked this story, but it feels incomplete. There’s a lot of set-up, but it feels like there isn’t really a payoff. We never see the issue of the aunt’s dementia resolved, for example. Cousins sets up what looks like a great m/m romance, but it just stops. Cousins says that she plans a longer story about them, and I would be very interested to read it.

Good Men by Tamsen Parker

Laid-back Benji Park is the keyboard player for the world’s hottest boy band, License to Game. While LtG is no stranger to charity gigs, Benji’s never been what you’d call a social justice warrior. But when smart, sexy, and ruthless immigration lawyer Jordan Kennedy comes along and asks Benji for a favor, he just may change his tune.

Good Men has an excellent extended sex scene. I love the emphasis on consent, and the way Benji is willing to stop if Jordan is uncomfortable. The set-up is well done–we know where the band came from, and why Benji cares about immigration. Jordan convinces Benji, who in turn convinces the band, to play at a benefit concert. But I would’ve enjoyed a longer story with these characters.

 

I highly recommend Rogue Hearts, and I’m now interested in reading the other books in the series. Buy it on Amazon today.

Review: A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole

A Princess in Theory kicks off Alyssa Cole’s new series, Reluctant Royals.

I couldn’t put this book down. Ledi and Thabiso’s story is part modern fairy-tale (a prince in disguise) part secret identity exposed (prince? Or fuckboy?) and a hell of a lot of fun.

Ledi is a broke grad student working two jobs (in a lab and at a restaurant). She keeps getting these emails telling her she’s the betrothed of an African prince. Finally sick of deleting them, she finally responds FUCK OFF. Thabiso is the heir to the throne of Thesolo. His betrothed’s family disappeared when she was a little girl. When his assistant tracks Ledi down, he goes to the restaurant where she works to demand to know where she’s been, why her family left, and to see this woman who would dare tell him to FUCK OFF. When he arrives, she mistakes him for the new server she’s supposed to be training that night. So Thabiso becomes Jamal, and predictably fucks up, including accidentally starting a literal fire, which Naledi ends up putting out.

As Jamal, Thabiso rents the apartment opposite Ledi’s for the week that he’s in New York. She’s mistrustful at first, but things heat up between them. Thabiso knows he should tell Ledi the truth, but keeps putting it off. Ledi’s friend takes her to a fundraiser where the guest of honor is some prince from an African country–and Ledi is shocked and betrayed when she learns of “Jamal’s” deception.

That would be the end of the story, but a mysterious illness is affecting people in Thesolo, including Ledi’s grandparents. As a epidemiologist, Ledi has the qualifications to help diagnose and understand the illness. She agrees to pose as the future princess in order to help with the illness.

Will Ledi leave Thabiso? Can he persuade her to stay?

This is a great book. I love that the heroine is a scientist and completely dismissive of Thabiso, who has never been treated that way before. Thabiso is three dimensional, and his feelings and guilt evolve in a sympathetic way. The illness, and the lingering questions of why her family left Thesolo create great background for Ledi and Thabiso’s story.

Ledi’s best friend Portia is a hot mess. She has issues with alcoholism, and Ledi struggles to draw a line with her. She’s the star of the follow up book, A Duke by Default (out in 2018), having sworn to turn the page. She also has a twin (in a wheelchair–yay for inclusion) with whom there are as yet unexplored simmering tensions. She’s fleshed out enough to be intriguing, and I look forward to seeing more of her.

Thabiso’s assistant Likoti is great. She’s his one real close friend who gives no fucks that he’s her prince (and boss) and calls him on his shit. She has her own off-screen adventures in NYC that are alluded to, and her dynamic with Thabiso gives Thabiso depth. I wish we saw more of her.

The sex scenes are H-O-T. I definitely squirmed in the good way more than once.

The only real weaknesses is that the illness and the mystery of why Ledi’s parents left is dealt with a bit more quickly than I would’ve liked. Ledi’s mom was the queen’s best friend and her disappearance (and Ledi’s reappearance) are a big part of why the queen interacts with Ledi the way she does. But given that Ledi’s parents are dead (she grew up in foster care) without a flashback scene or more exposition I’m not sure how Cole could’ve given us more there.

I love Alyssa Cole’s style, and am looking forward to the second book. If you’re looking for fluffy romance with great sex scenes, you should read A Princess in Theory.

Buy A Princess in Theory on Amazon

Review: Game of Hearts by Cathy Yardley

I’m a huge nerd, and it’s rare for me to find a romance with a nerdy girl/guy at the heart of the romance. Enter the Fandom Hearts series by Cathy Yardley–I’d previously read and reviewed Level Up, the first novella in the series.

Although I somehow missed book two in Fandom Hearts, this third installment still worked as a stand-alone as well as part of a series.

Kyla and her brother own a mechanic’s shop. But when Billy breaks his arm and expects Kyla not only to take up the slack but to defer her dream of staying a costuming business, she finds another solution. Jericho left town nine years ago, and has been drifting around the country doing custom motorcycle builds and mechanic work. But when Kyla asks him for help, he’s willing to go back to Snoqualmie for a short break. But the Machinists, the motorcycle club he’s been with since he left, need him too.

I loved the chemistry between Kyla and Jericho. They were both great characters, but they made each other better. The sex is well written and steamy.

The dialog is snappy, and peppered with pop culture references. As a geek, I love this series because the women are just like me and I can relate to them so well. And what good is a romance if you don’t find a way to connect with the leads?

The side characters are also well fleshed out, and even having missed a book, I was able to see the connections and get a glimpse into their backstories. I appreciate, even as a side character, that there is someone with severe agoraphobia who isn’t pitied or seen as someone to fix. There’s also a gender fluid character who is similarly just accepted as they are.

Whether as part of the series or a standalone, I recommend this book.

Buy it on Amazon

Review: Hunt Her by Elle Q Sabine

Hunt Her

When I decided to read Hunt Her, I expected I was settling in for a Vampire book. Which I was. Sort of. Sabine blends Vampire lore, Irish tales of the Sidhe (familiar to most fantasy readers as fairies), and even some Angelic mythology, throws it in a blender and comes up with something entirely new. To put the cherry on the sundae, the “vamps” are actually human women necessary for a vampire’s survival, and his very sanity.

I think this is one of the book’s biggest strengths. As someone who has been reading fantasy for three decades, I am in love with the story of the Sabine’s vampires and how what I think I know about many different groups is both right and wrong. However, as someone who has been reading fantasy for three decades, I often had to stop, force myself to step away from every assumption I have about words like “vampire” and “sidhe’ and let her do her world building. That isn’t a weakness in Sabine, but if you are also a long-time fantasy reader, you need to be open to letting Sabine change up the tropes.

I liked the relationship dynamic between Valor and Meghan. They have a dynamic that allows for Valor’s alpha personality, and Sabine ensures that Meghan is no pushover either. Meghan has a mysterious backstory that unfolds in tandem to her search for her brother and her relationship with Valor. She isn’t going to let Valor’s arrival derail her search.

This is the first in a series, so we have many more books to come to help continue to flesh out her world. I hope the second book deals at least in part with an ending plot point of Valor’s general finding his vamp and her wanting nothing to do with him. I want to see more of them.

Her life on hold for a decade, Meghan’s ready to take it back and move forward. Valor is ready too. The Vampire Master won’t let her disappear, not ever again. Meghan doesn’t understand the dreamwalker who comes to her at night. After years of sleeping medication to subdue nightmares, she is unprepared when the handsome stranger who stood guard over her childhood returns to her dreams. Now that she’s grown, he’s intent on possession and seduction. When he shows up in her life, real and not a dream, she’s horrified . . . and enthralled. But life isn’t waiting around for Meghan to play out the traditional script of meeting, falling in love and living happily ever after. Desperate to reclaim some part of her childhood, Meghan leaves behind the man who wants her in search of her long-lost brother. But Valor is not a man who is willing to be left behind, not again. The years he spent unable to find Meghan-not knowing if she was happy, healthy or even safe-were difficult enough. He’ll find Meghan and bring her into a world she doesn’t even imagine exists, and he’ll find a way to keep her at his side-forever. Because he’s not just some man Meghan met in a library. Valor isn’t a man at all.

Hunt Her is available as an e-book and paperback everywhere, including Amazon.

Recommended Reads: So Right by Rebekah Weatherspoon

so right weatherspoon

***This is a sequel. Go here for a review of the first book in the series, So Sweet***

I absolutely loved the first book in this series, So Sweet, and I rushed to the kindle store when Rebekah announced So Right had been published.  Heads up I’m going to talk about some spoilers. If you don’t like spoilers, click the back button.

Kayla and Michael’s story continues in So Right with the adoption of two puppies, the purchase of a Miami basketball team…and a completely bungled proposal.

basketball

The last two are the central focus of the book. Michael has always loved basketball, and was on the verge of buying a team in the first book. That deal fell through, but a scandal means that the Miami team is suddenly open for sale. Miami had never been on the table, and the changes create tension between Michael and Kayla. The purchase also shines a spotlight on their relationship, including media buzz critiquing their relationship (interracial, big age difference) and criticizing Kayla for not being skinny. (There’s a moment where she’s presented with a basketball jersey clearly meant for the skinny type of woman the team’s PR was expecting).

prenup

The other, bigger, source of tension between our lovebirds is that Michael proposes by giving Kayla a prenup. She’s shaken and incredibly uncomfortable with this. Not because of the pre-nup, per se, as much as it is about the fact that Michael didn’t do the romantic proposal first. He just went straight to that. Kayla has trouble finding her voice to get into it with Michael over this, and their relationship is off balance for much of the book because of it.

 

The reasons I got into these spoilers were because while I loved So Right, I feel like the ending was rushed and things were resolved too easily. The publicity around them as a couple and Kayla’s distance over the manner in which Michael proposed were really rich topics that I think Weatherspoon could have done more with. I think that Michael’s flaw felt real, and that it was an issue worked. But I wonder if that’s something that we’ll see come up again because like after one argument everything was fine.

It’s so refreshing to see a plus-sized heroine who doesn’t get magically thin, and who is unapologetic and confident. Giving her the obstacle of public scrutiny is something that, as a plus sized reader, I want to see her deal with further, and I hope we see more of that in the next installment.

That said, I really enjoyed So Right, and am eagerly awaiting the next chapter of Kayla and Michael’s story.  4/5 stars