Review: Love on Tap

tl;dr: okay novel that’ll leave you more thirsty for beer than romance

The Story:

You know that feeling you get when you see characters in a TV show eating something, and suddenly you are craving it like nobody’s business? This happened to me with this book. I’m dying for some beer. I’ll probably be running out to the store later, but first, I’ll tell you about this book.

Love on Tap brings two characters together from opposite sides of the supply chain. Wyatt Montgomery needs a spectacular beer to reinvigorate his struggling gastropub in Denver, and Bec Dempsey needs some capital to fuel her craft brewery after her ex took off with the funds and her heart. After Wyatt hears some whispering about a so-called legendary brew called Zoria, he packs up and heads to the town of Antero to find it.

Once he meets up with Bec, she sends him on this bizarre quest that has him tracking down the items needed to create a new barrel of beer, and all of the suppliers in turn send him on other errands. It begins to feel a bit like a video game racked with side quests. There’s even an evil villain by the name of Threadgood, who has slicked-back greasy hair and acts like a mafia don, who also wants to lay his hands on this legendary brew.

During the events of the quest, Bec and Wyatt begin to spend a lot of time together, and one thing leads to another… Of course, since Bec feels like mixing business and pleasure is a recipe for disaster, she keeps her emotional distance. Or does she?

Technical Elements:

The plot was fine, if mediocre. I didn’t expect the direct sabotage to the Zoria from Threadgood, and honestly, it didn’t make much sense. His character was too mustache-twirly to be believable; he wasn’t a well-rounded character at all. But neither were Bec and Wyatt, for that matter. They were cardboard cut-outs, and there was a lot of “telling” rather than showing. This book uses a lot of italic asides, in order to have some sort of weird back and forth in the minds of the characters, as if they were arguing with themselves. (“Did he really think that? No, he didn’t.”)

One thing that puzzled me a little was Colin. He’s the financial backer that took off. I fully expected him to return, maybe full of regrets, throwing a wrench between the couple before they could arrive at their HEA. But no, he’s mentioned, but never appears. It felt a bit like Chekhov’s ex-lover, he was given a lot of weight in the beginning of the story, but it never pays off in a real way.

Final Thoughts:

The most vibrant thing about the book was the craft brewing aspect, which was just enough detail to get a sense of it without being overwhelming. The romance wasn’t entirely convincing, and I had a hard time buying into it. I felt like Wyatt came on really strong, almost pushing Bec into a relationship she clearly didn’t want. But if you’re in the mood to read about falling in love over beer making, then this is probably a good bet, as long as you don’t think too much about it.


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I can’t think of any other books that involve craft beer (a niche!) but for other pushy heroes, try Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Nobody’s Baby But Mine.

Review: Only Forever

tl;dr: paranormal romance with unclear mythology but interesting character arcs

The Story:

Anyone who knows me is aware of my rather myopic preferences on romance novels. I like contemporary romance. I don’t typically read any other sub genre, including but not limited to westerns, paranormal, science fiction, fantasy, and especially not historical. This also extends to other forms of media, including television and movies. I say all this up front because it colors how I feel about this book.

When I first began reading it, I was pretty surprised to find a very strong paranormal or magical element to the story, since the publisher’s description does not accurately represent this side of the story. It was glaringly obvious from the second chapter that something was afoot. There are some protestors outside of the archeological dig site that most of the book takes place at, and the leader of the protesting group shares a weird glance between herself and Sabrina, one of the main characters.

Sabrina gulped for air, realizing she’d been holding her breath for the moments she’d been trapped in the woman’s gaze. The discomfort that had enveloped her faded the farther they got from the gate, but a ghostly after-feeling remained, as if the encounter had dug up and resurrected something ancient inside her that had been buried deep eons ago.

I almost threw in the towel in that point, because I do not enjoy paranormal romance, particularly since I didn’t think it was supposed to be one. But let me be clear–this is a paranormal romance, with some sort of Celtic mythology about soulmates. This mythology is not explained very well, and actually, the author spends more time discussing the archeology setting than the paranormal premise of the novel, which is that Sabrina, despite being married to Dominic, is one half of a soulmate pair with Ian, her husband’s best friend.

The push and pull between the two soulmates was executed well, and the anguish they feel about having to stay apart is palpable. It dragged on for a very long time, though, and I felt like the impetus for them finally coming together was somewhat out of character for how Dominic is supposed to be (logical, hardworking). The jealousy and hurt feelings by everyone made sense, even for the other people on the dig who weren’t directly related, since it affected the whole environment to have hostilities between people who had leadership over the group.

In general, the characterization was mostly good, but I think that the similarities between Ian and Sabrina, and then between Dominic and Meggan, could have been a little more obvious, with more time spent on that than yet another sex scene that didn’t serve to further the plot. I also felt that the story maybe could have benefitted from some kind of prologue, maybe giving some explanation into the soulmate thing, giving a clear mythology to extrapolate the rest of the story from.

The conclusion was good, and left a fitting bookend to the story that was satisfying, leaving the reader able to imagine the new normal for all the main players.

Technical Elements:

I found the smut to be too crass and explicit. I’m not a huge fan of certain crude words for body parts, and this book was overloaded. There are 321 instances of the f-word. It was pretty gratuitous at times. A little can go a long way.

Some of the writing was also a little awkward, where some sentences weren’t as clear as they could have been. Example:

Dominic’s comments fisted Ian’s hands at his sides, but he held his anger in check.

Now, I know that the author here intends to describe how Dominic’s words caused Ian to feel anger, and therefore tighten his hands into fists, but the way it’s written here is as if comments could become sentient, grab hands, and manipulate them. There were a few of these scattered around, phrasing that I had to read and reread before I understood what they were supposed to mean.

Overall, I felt like the book could have done with some trimming of excess to make it a little tighter. I also felt like some themes were introduced in early chapters and completely dropped until the end; for example, Sabrina’s adventurousness in bed and Dominic’s preference for more straight-forward sex. In the entire middle of the book, it’s a non-issue, and I think that would have been a good way to show the divide between Sabrina and Dominic, and emphasize the similarities between Sabrina and Ian, but instead, it’s a non-issue until the very end. Even the growing chasm between the newlyweds isn’t apparent until the author points it out, instead of slowly introducing it over time, because all of a sudden, Dominic has no time for Sabrina anymore.

Final Thoughts:

I didn’t hate this book. That doesn’t sound like a glowing endorsement, but considering that I really dislike paranormal romance, and even more so that I didn’t feel like the mythology was well-explained at all, it’s a fairly positive reaction from me. Someone who enjoys Celtic mythology and adultery plots would probably really enjoy this, especially if they have a high tolerance for highly explicit (bordering on pornographic) smut. There were a lot of interesting interactions between characters, but I needed more. More explanation, more nuanced plot development, and maybe less sex. (Did I just type that? First time for everything, I guess.)


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Looking for another book that contains adultery and a character named Megan? Try The Girl on the Train which is definitely NOT a romance. [Read my review!]

Review: The Saint

tl;dr: and in the beginning, there were Søren and Nora; and it was good

The Story:

Generally, when I begin a book, I don’t want to know anything about it, especially if it’s a book by an author that I enjoy. I already know that, no matter what the subject or plot, I’ll probably like it, and I like to go into a book or movie as completely untarnished by blurbs and descriptions as much as possible. But when I began this book, I immediately had to find out a crucial plot element of the story: the fate of Søren. The opening chapters quickly lead me to believe something terrible had happened to the beloved priest, and I had to know–for good, or for ill–if he was alive or dead.

I’ll let you decide whether or not you want to solve that mystery before you press on, there are several Goodreads questions and answers on the page for this book that come right out and spoil that little mystery for you. With it out of the way, I was able to stop stressing and enjoy the rest of the book. Which was glorious.

The Saint is the origin story of Nora and Søren. How they met, how their relationship came to be what it is. How Nora, then Eleanor, was introduced to the world of the 8th Circle, Kingsley Edge, and the Underground. Many scenes in the book are hinted at or retold in the previous 4 books, but this is the linear piece, adding in many new layers that make the story evocative, sad, and titillating, all in turns. There’s a moment, about midway through the novel, where Eleanor makes a mistake, and suddenly feels completely alone and that everyone she loves has turned their back on her. We see a vulnerable side to Søren, and how he clearly wrestled with the idea of beginning a relationship with the young Eleanor. Kingsley makes a few appearances here, but not as much as in previous books.

Reisz is able to wrest such emotions from her characters that I’m in turns laughing and weeping, and begging for more.

Technical Elements:

The story is written in a series of flashbacks, with Nora telling someone the story of her and Søren. The chapters are clearly delineated as to who is speaking: Nora, or Eleanor, and it’s clear that while both women are the same person, there are clear differences in personality between then and now. It’s an excellent framing device, and helpful when the story needs to make certain jumps forward in time, particularly in the period where she and Søren were not speaking.

“You know, no offense, but I’m not sure I believe in God.”

Søren shrugged. “Least of our worries. His existence does not depend on your belief.”

Final Thoughts:

There’s a lot of sadness in this book, maybe more so that the other books in the series thus far. Nora spends a lot of time looking back on her life thus far, seeing mistakes she made, celebrating joy in her life, and thinking over some things she maybe would have done differently. It’s very reflective. As always, I’m salivating over the next book, which I already have at the ready, waiting for my to-do list to get slightly smaller so that I can reward myself again.

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Start from the beginning with The Siren and meet Søren and Nora in a different way.

Interested in a teacher/student relationship?  Maybe with some spanking? Try Tara Sue Me’s new series starting with Master Professor. [See my review!]

Review: The Love Potion

tl;dr: chemist accidentally drugs her childhood nemesis with a love potion, sexy hijinks ensue

The Story:

Nothing makes me happier than a completely ridiculous but fun storyline in a romance novel, and this book delivers. The book opens on Sylvie Fontaine, a chemist for a pharmaceutical company, who believes she may have developed the world’s first love-inducing drug (not just lust, it also creates emotional bonds). She’s testing on rats, but she thinks it is ready for human testing, and has created some love potion-laced jelly beans with her enzymes, hoping to lure her employer in because she’s tired of slacker jerks. Luc LeDeux, her childhood mortal enemy and now a roguish lawyer, waltzes into her lab and demands that she test some water samples that he believes implicate a giant oil company of toxic dumping. Her enzyme-filled jelly beans are sitting right there on the table, and wouldn’t you know who has a sweet tooth when her back is turned?

This sets up the rest of the novel, where Sylvie and Luc attempt to fight off their growing attraction to each other, which only grows stronger as they get to know each other better, beyond the misconceptions they’ve had of each other. The reason that they disliked each other so much makes sense–Sylvie thought that he an obnoxious and arrogant womanizer, and Luc thought that Sylvie looked down on him for being poor and dirty as a kid. Over time, they both realize that they were wrong; eventually, they give in to the desire between them.

The rest of the conflict involves all the competing interests, both for the love potion once word gets out what Sylvie has been working on, and also the backlash from Luc’s investigation into the oil company’s illegal waste dumping. They don’t know who exactly is after them, but they are getting shot at and having their apartments ransacked, so they have to go into hiding. From there, they get to spend time together, developing a friendship, learning each other’s quirks, and letting sparks fly.

The biggest complaint I have is the “chronic shyness” plotline. The actual affliction is totally fine, but calling it chronic shyness makes it seem, well, stupid. Like something made up. But social anxiety is a completely real thing, and I would have liked that part to be portrayed with a slightly lighter touch. I loved how she had the anxiety attack and Luc calmed her down instead of making fun of her. That part showed me how well-suited they were to each other. I didn’t think that she needed to “prove” herself by singing in front of a crowd of people toward the end, because for people with anxiety, that would be highly triggering and traumatic.

Technical Elements:

There were a few parts of the book that were lacking for me, and most of that was from sections that went too quickly, as if they’d been a first draft, almost outline-like in quality and not fleshed out. One portion is Luc’s Big Secret (which worked here, mostly because I figured it out, and I think the reader was supposed to), and when he realizes that his brothers are also confused about their role in the Big Secret, it was in this rushed little scene that honestly didn’t need to be there, and could have been mentioned later in a conversation between Sylvie and Luc.

Some of the writing was a little heavy-handed. Stuff like Sylvie thinking to herself “I never realized how good-looking he was before,” and “Then he winked at her. God, she hated it when he winked at her. Well, truth be told, she liked his winks, and that was why she hated them.” It’s… fine, but… I think the same idea could be imparted without being so blatant. There were a few other instances that just seemed like the author was hitting me over the head with the obvious hammer. Luc thinks to himself: “No way am I falling in lo… lo…” …Really?

Final Thoughts:

Overall, though, I loved this story. I finished it in about 24 hours because I was completely sucked in to the setting of the Louisiana bayou. The conflicts and tension, while sometimes tossed about with Captain Obvious-like prose, made perfect sense. The characters acted in such a way that I completely bought their reactions and motivations. The whole cast of characters were great, with Tante Lulu being especially awesome. Gotta love an old lady with spunk and a purple Cadillac.

You should one-click this, because it’s amazing. It’s currently on sale for 99 cents! Clicking through my affiliate link gives me moolah and I hope to pass that on to my readers in the form of quality content and maybe… giveaways?

If you like books set in Louisiana, I’m going to recommend the first book I’ve ever read set there, and that’s going way back to VC Andrews’ Ruby. I read this at the tender age of 15. It has all the hallmarks of a VC Andrews book, so buyer beware.

Who else likes enemies-to-lovers? Act Like It by Lucy Parker has a wonderful enemies-to-lovers story. (Read my review!)

Review: Family Jewels

tl;dr: could not get invested into this sorta-forbidden, sorta-office romance

The Story:

Context is key in romance. I learned this from Emily Nagoski, whose book Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life [affiliate link] was eye-opening in not only a personal relationships sort of way, but also in the way that helps me explain why a romance novel works or doesn’t work for me. As far as romance novels go, the reader needs to have a sense of who the characters are, because most of the plot is driven by the emotional response to what is happening between the two characters. In Family Jewels, I couldn’t get enough of a sense of either character, and how they related to each other, in order to care about their romance.

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Review: The Mistress

tl;dr: amazing from start to finish

The Story:

I almost hate to review books that I loved. I feel like I can’t say anything besides some unintelligible squawks, babbling nonsensically about how much I loved this book and about how everyone needs to read it. I’ve been hooked on this series from about the second chapter of The Siren, and I keep proselytizing my love for it, and I’m sad to say, have gotten very few takers. (You’re all on notice.) I can’t even begin to describe my love for the characters, their arcs, their well-being. It’s a world that I under no circumstances would want to be in the middle of, but I’m enthralled by.

The Mistress picks up immediately after The Prince, where Wes, Søren, and Kingsley are all looking for Nora, who has been captured by someone, someone that Kingsley has just recently figured out has been playing mind games with them all summer. The chapters go between the three of them, plus Nora, Søren’s niece Laila, and Grace, who we met briefly in The Siren.

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Review: Master Professor

tl;dr: fascinating setting for drawn out forbidden romantic tension


There was already plenty of buzz about this book by the time I got my hands on it. And for good reason. The premise is titillating and unique, and has a forbidden romance that promises lots of sexytimes. Andie Lincoln has decided to get submissive training at an exclusive BDSM school, which is so exclusive that there are only ten spots for students. Her Hollywood boyfriend had to pull strings to get her in. Of course, her professor is sexy as all get out and things heat up between them fast.

Under his tutelage, she begins to learn a lot about herself and what she actually wants. Her initial questions are answered (yes, being a submissive works for her, really really works), and she begins to question whether or not her Hollywood boyfriend is really the man for her, after all.

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Review: A Bolt From The Blue

tl; dr: sweet and sexy romance that I’d love to see expanded

The story:

Even as a person merely in my early thirties, I’ve been noticing more and more than I’m older than most of the people in the novels I read. For some reason, it seems to be accepted as fact that 20-somethings are the only type of people that have interesting things happen to them, particularly in romance novels. Is that because it’s too depressing to envision people in their 40s and 50s and still unattached? Rather than depressing, we should find it hopeful–it’s never too late to find love.

A Bolt from the Blue is a ‘second-chance’ romance, since it is the second ‘love of your life’ for Hope Elliot. (See, even less depressing! Two true loves in one lifetime!) After nearly a lifetime away from the city she grew up in, Hope has to return to settle her late parents’ estate and deal with the personality clash that happens to be her sister. Things heat up–literally–when lightning strikes the house and starts a small fire, causing some damage to the house’s outdated electrical system. Hope is evidently a brazen old broad, because she wastes no time seducing Mick, the master electrician recommended to her by the first response unit. They embark on a sordid affair, one that Hope makes no secret is limited-time-only, since she fully intends to return to her home in France.

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Review: Maybe This Love

tl;dr: great story mired in awkward prose – less picky readers will love this

The story:

I hadn’t realized that hockey player romances were such a widespread phenomenon, but in the past few weeks, I’ve read 3 of them, all by different authors, and to varying degrees of enjoyment. I tend to compare most sports romance to Susan Elizabeth Phillips and her wonderful Chicago Stars series, which centers on a pro-football team and all the varying people involved in it. The thing that is particularly striking with that series is that the books don’t really need to be read in publication order. The stories stand on their own.

I think maybe that was the intention with this book too, but there were so many things I felt may have been cleared up in the previous books (which I did not read). This book uses a real hockey team (The Colorado Avalanche) but fails to ever mention which position Ben plays. (I think he might be captain, according to a brief mention of a C on his jersey. That means captain, right?) And much of the personality of the hero isn’t clearly established, leaving me to wonder if maybe his “playboy” persona is more clearly established in a previous book. He does get random calls from women on his phone a lot, but we don’t get a lot of evidence that he’s the womanizer the book claims that he is. (Particularly since they make a point to say he supports 3 children’s charities? Whaaaa…?)

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Review: Act Like It

tl;dr: enemies-to-lovers trope perfected on a London stage

The story:

When you keep hearing good things about a book from many different places, it’s usually a good sign that the book is a winner. I first heard about this title from Sarah MacLean’s romance novel recommendations list, which I’ve been burned by. (Made for You by Lauren Layne was seriously awful.) But it kept coming up in discussions, and I knew it was an enemies-to-lovers romance which is one (of many) of my favorite tropes. And happily, it delivered everything I was hoping for.

Richard Troy and Lanie Graham are an unlikely pair, mostly because Richard has a giant self-important stick up his arse and Lanie is a nearly angelic. The Powers That Be are worried that Richard’s tantrums and general bad behavior are going to sink their entire production. (Oh, did I mention they are London theater actors? LOVE IT!) So, they lump him in with Lanie, hoping some of her cherubic identity will rub off. She doesn’t want to do it at first, but she grudgingly agrees, and then ends up having a grouchy man by her side at several charity functions that she devotes her free time to. Things start to change when Lanie gives Richard a few sharp words about not being a total prick when it comes to supporting a children’s charity, words that he evidently takes to heart.

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