Review: A New Leash on Love

tl;dr: story with life, loss, love, and adorable animals

The Story:

I have gotten a lot of stinkers since I started reviewing books for NetGalley. I don’t expect to be able to get access to the really amazing and established authors, but when I first signed up, I hoped to be able to read some less famous but equally good writers. Coming from fanfiction, where there are so many amazing amateur authors, it really makes you realize that not all the great writers are published. And that there are more authors than just those that wind up on the bestseller lists. The flip side of that, of course, is that sometimes published works are terrible, and not just because I didn’t enjoy them. I can fully acknowledge that some books I did not like were well-written and good; because I didn’t like them doesn’t mean they were terrible. (See my reviews for Eleanor & Park and The Royal We for books that are deserving of kudos but not my jam.)

That was a lot of rambling for me to say that my faith in my original mission of discovering amazing new writers has been restored. I loved this book. I don’t think I would go so far as to rate it as high up there as Tiffany Reisz (which, you all know, is my gold standard these days), but it was heartfelt, well-written, well-plotted, not entirely predictable, and just lovely. It had heart and lightness, it was both sad and happy at times, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Continue reading

Review: The Cartographer

tl;dr: start from the beginning of this series for a wallop of a finish

The Story:

I have found that even when a series of romance novels tends to be a collection of “standalones”, reading previous books is an asset to the enjoyment of all followups. The books build on each other, creating a universe of world-building in a small section of the world, introducing people, places, and a sensibility that carries through to the rest of the books.

So while The Cartographer is a fantastic book, with a solid arc for both characters, a rich world, and sexy smut, there’s something missing for someone that begins reading a series from the final book. However, this book is simply fantastic, and I will be going back to read the previous 5.

Continue reading

Review: Pregnant by the Billionaire

tl;dr: quick and cheesy read that’s fairly light hearted and sexy

The Story:

When Sawyer Locke experiences multitudes of setbacks trying to restore a hotel that’s been in his family for generations, likely due to his own father’s sabotage, he decides it’s time to hire a new PR team. It so happens to be the employer of a one-night stand he had that was apparently pretty great, but not so great that he called her after their night together. When they meet up again, he is game to go for another round, but Kendall is not so keen. Particularly when one of her colleagues just got fired for messing around with a client.

She doesn’t put up much of a fuss though, because she’s been really tired and horny lately. They end up embarking on a secret affair, and then Kendall finds out she’s actually pregnant from their tryst of two months before. Sawyer doesn’t think he’s dad material, of course, and Kendall is already on thin ice when her boss discovers she’s been banging their high profile client, and so Kendall cuts him off from her. In a series of sweeping gestures, they come together and decide to get engaged and have a real relationship.

Technical Elements:

The first thing about this book is that it’s totally fine. It’s a nice romance that doesn’t have much to complain about it. It’s a little cheesy. Some of the dialogue between the characters feels forced and unnatural. I felt that the absence of minor symptoms that could have been red flags for the pregnancy (sensitive nipples, etc) was unfortunate, because tiredness and sex dreams are barely the top of the iceberg, although it was nice that she didn’t just start hurling suddenly, as often is the case for accidental pregnancy stories.

My biggest complaint is that the mystery of who has been sabotaging the Grand Legacy’s construction is never truly revealed. There’s a scene between Sawyer and his father where the Mr. Locke asserts that his late first wife (Sawyer’s mother) had ties to people who were maybe on the dangerous side, but that plot is completely dropped. It seems that maybe the story will continue in another novel, but that seems ambitious for a category romance.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, this was a pretty fun read and I was engaged and interested in the two leads getting to their happily ever after. It wasn’t entirely rushed, although it could have been flushed out a teensy bit more. I would have liked more explicit flashbacks to their one night tryst, but the smut scenes we got were decent.

Find it at your local library!

Looking for more knocked up mamas? Maybe This Love by Jennifer Snow has a fun little twist on a pregnancy storyline. And there’s always the classic Susan Elizabeth Phillips novel Nobody’s Baby But Mine.


Quick Reviews Edition #1

Apparently once I am on kid-duty 24/7, my time to review books goes completely out the window. But luckily I am still able to get some reading done, so here’s a quick recap of what I’ve been reading lately.

By The Hour by Roni Loren

The second book in the Pleasure Principle series, I didn’t love it as much as the first one but still very much enjoyed it. Elle is a very complex character and it was interesting to see her arc from bitter and cold shrew into vulnerable woman in love. Many times, I see these “woman betrayed and now don’t believe in love” stories and think, really? Some time and distance from that would probably make it not that big of a deal – but Elle’s past makes her present seem wholly justified. Geez. Plus, Lane was sexy as hell.

Readers Advisory: You would think sex workers in romance fiction would be more common, but the only example that comes to mind is Thorny from Tiffany Reisz’s The Queen, which is excellent.

Fool Me Once by Katee Robert

I had high hopes going into this one because the story involves a heroine that is a gamer and has a crippling social anxiety disorder, but despite how hot and sexy the smut was, I felt like the writing was a little amateur. Part of it was that clearly some establishing plot had taken place in the previous book in the series and was not well integrated into this one. Second, the opening scenes were rough and it was hard to get a good reading on the characters until the story was well along. The hero was a bit of an enigma, and I didn’t really get his character except that he was apparently very muscled and cocky, and also hated his parents.

Readers Advisory: For more ladies that enjoy stereotypically male things that are on the geeky side, check out Forever Mine by Erin Nicholas.

Sugar Bowl 1-3 by Sawyer Bennett

I was blown away by the first book in the series, and I have to review them all at once because none of these works as a standalone. I will say, heavy content warnings apply for this series because it begins with a horrific rape flashback, includes suicide attempts, and there is a revenge murder plot. But holy hell, it was intriguing and I was hooked from the first page. The chemistry between the hero and heroine is also topnotch and their reluctant romance is well plotted. There are few times I’m rooting for the bad guy to be killed dead, but this time, I wanted that sucker to go down.

Readers Advisory: This is an unusual pairing, but I just finished listening to You Must Remember This podcast‘s series on Dead Blondes. Highly recommend, particularly for the last episode in the series, on Dorothy Stratten, where the commoditization of beauty is a theme of the series.

Under Her Skin by Adriana Anders

Continuing in my deep, dark romance reads, this book was incredible. Content warning for domestic abuse and rape, and very brutal at that. The thing that I most loved about this story was how the hero was physically large, but she was able to use their romance as a way to begin her own healing, as she took on a more sexually dominant role in order to take back her power. Yes, their encounters were sexy, but there was also a lot of both characters doing some personal discovery, about how they could overcome destructive cycles and move forward.

Readers Advisory: There are two other books in this series which may be a good place to start (the third comes out this summer and I have the advanced copy — EEE!)

Too Hard To Forget by Tessa Bailey

I’d had this book on hold for quite awhile after reading some early reviews that stated the sex starts off right at the beginning. That’s not exactly true, in that there is at least one chapter of set up, but while it takes awhile for the hero and heroine to move forward with their relationship, there are plenty of flashbacks to tide you over. It’s a bit of a May/December romance, with a bit of single dad thrown in. This book obviously builds from the previous 2 that came before it, but in a way that doesn’t detract from the story at all.

Readers Advisory: When it comes to a coach and a buxom blonde, is there anything else to recommend other than the classic Susan Elizabeth Phillips novel It Had To Be You?

The Undateable by Sarah Title

Is there a more perfect feminist heroine than a librarian? They have the smarts, and can be either fully comfortable in their sexuality or maybe need a little coaxing to bloom. Now, if you’re looking for hot sexy times, this book doesn’t have it, but it was a very sweet and funny story that I enjoyed. It has fake dating, librarians, and memes. What more can you ask for? I know, you can ask for more smut. Sorry. You can’t have it all.

Readers Advisory: For a sexier version of fake dating with librarians, check out Sweet Surrender by Nina Lane. Plus, the librarian is the guy and he also builds cars.

I also have a couple of full length reviews coming up for Netgalley and Author-provided reviews, so stayed tuned for those!

Review: The Wedding Date Bargain

tl;dr: sweet and sexy chemistry overrides the few technical faults

The story:

When reading the title of a book, a reader generally has some expectations about what’s to follow. But when it comes to this book, toss them. I have no idea why the book is titled ‘The Wedding Date Bargain’. The wedding is a 3 page non-event, and I don’t even know where the bargain comes from.

This is the actual story: college friends Max and Sarah reconnect after 8 years, and then reconnect AGAIN one week later. Sarah has always had the hots for Max, and the feeling is mutual. She threw herself at him in college, but apparently he has a White Knight complex and refused to tarnish her virtue, so they spend 8 years mooning over the one that got away. When Sarah ends up working for his friend Sean’s chain of hotels, she AGAIN tries to seduce him and he AGAIN says he can’t be the guy to pop her cherry, because it would give her the wrong impression or something. But when Sarah agrees, and decides she’ll find someone else to fix her ‘problem’, Max goes 110% caveman and offers himself as tribute, because he can’t stand the idea of anyone else touching her.

Continue reading

Review: Off The Clock

tl;dr: two sex therapists that have a lot to learn about love

The Story:

I don’t normally read back-of-the-book blurbs, but in this case, I did. It seemed interesting enough, and so I checked it out from the library, mostly because the blurb to the follow-up book, By The Hour, looked even more intriguing. Unfortunately, the library didn’t have that book, so, wary to purchase a book without knowing if I would like the author’s style, I borrowed this one first. And I’m so glad that I did, for a variety of reasons, least of which is that the most interesting part of the story was a complete surprise.

The first few chapters are a bit of an extended prologue where we get to know Marin and Donovan. Donovan is a doctoral student working on his thesis about aural methods of female arousal, by recording himself dictating fantasies that are supposed to be coming from the female gaze, or at least, more arousing for women than pornography, which tends to work better for men. After a week of working together on the scripts for the audio recordings, Marin and Donovan have passion sex on one of the desks in the lab. Marin doesn’t give him her real name, and she doesn’t even plan to see him again, ever. Due to a family crisis, she ends up dropping out of school and thinks that she’ll never see him again…

Continue reading

Review: The Queen

tl;dr: a totally satisfying conclusion but i selfishly want more

The Story:

The final full-length novel in the Original Sinners series is just as haunting as all the ones that precede it. After engaging in an public display of affection, Nora wants to confess to Søren about two times that she nearly came back to him during the time they were separated, since she has realized from his behavior as of late that he is likely not going to be a priest much longer.

The Queen takes us through her training by Kingsley to be the city’s most notorious Dominatrix, and navigating her joy at freedom and her pain at being without Søren, whom she still loves deeply. Eleanor is reborn as Nora, and has to prove herself when their entire kink community knows her as being the submissive of the priest. There’s even a villain, another dominatrix that uses her knowledge of the kink community as a weapon, trying to keep everyone afraid of her.

Continue reading

Review: Forever Mine

tl;dr: bland romance about superhero-loving butt-kicking girl and doctor with a secret

The Story:

Sometimes you read books that are just…fine. There’s nothing particularly amazing about them, but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why you aren’t fangirling over them because there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with it. It just…is. And that was this book.

I wanted to love it, I really did. Former cop Maya Goodwin runs a superhero fitness class that incorporates some weapons and martial arts to increase kids’ self-esteem. She loves comic books and superheroes and has a giant poster of Captain America in her bedroom.

Alex Nolan, pediatrician and hemophiliac, sees her mall demonstration and wants to incorporate some of her class stuff with his daughter, Charli, who he didn’t know existed until recently. She also has symptoms of hemophilia, and he needs to make adjustments for her. They have lust at first sight and start to fall for each other. Maya is messy and pushy and Alex is more reserved.

Continue reading

Review: Sweet Surrender

tl;dr: romance lessons bring two people together in a lovely (and dirty) explosion

The Story:

Tyler Stone is the youngest of the Stone brothers, and apparently has always been the ‘screw up’. He dropped out of college, tinkers with cars on the weekends, and spends his time partying, playing video games, and boozing, all the while taking up with a variety of beautiful women who use him for his trust fund. By the time our story starts, approximately 6 months after Sweet Escape ended, Tyler’s ways have caught up to him and he’s in danger of having charges pressed against him for taking a girlfriend’s boat on a joyride and crashing it. His father has banished him to the corporate library at Sugar Rush, which turns out to be in chaos. He’s hating life when Kate Darling literally falls into his arms, startled by his voice when she’s on a ladder reaching for a book.

If you’ve read the previous two books, you know Kate already. She’s young, but she has a severe business-like manner. She’s extremely efficient and good at her job. She gets a bit of a backstory here, but it’s almost wholly unnecessary. Raised by a single dad, who is now remarried to a woman Kate seems to like just fine; but feeling like a third wheel, she decided to move clear across the country for the executive assistant job at Sugar Rush.

Continue reading

Review: The Virgin

tl;dr: from Eleanor to Nora, a young woman finds her own power

The Story:

Readers know from the very first book in this series that Nora Sutherlin, then Eleanor Schreiber, left the man that owned her body and soul because of something. We get bits and pieces of it throughout the other books, but in The Virgin, we get the full picture. Of course, Reisz makes us wait until the very end to see how he ends up losing control, and the fragments of bone in the locker she leaves for Kingsley to find spur Søren’s other love to leave, too.

Eleanor, referred to as Elle for most of the book, escapes to her mother’s convent in upper New York state, since no men, not even priests, are allowed entry. It’s a safe haven where she is able to get herself back together from the crushing blow she was dealt that caused her to leave. The reunion between mother and daughter was so poignant and beautiful, that I full on sobbed.

Her mother cupped her face and looked her in the eyes. “Every morning for the past three years I’ve woken up and prayed the same prayer. Do you want to know what that prayer is?”

“What?” Elle asked, even though she was certain she didn’t want to know.

“Dear God, please don’t let today be the day he finally kills her.”

Continue reading