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.”

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Review: So Wicked

tl;dr: it was confusing in some ways and still confusing in many more ways

The story:

So Wicked is the third in a series of so-called Bad Behavior novels, although I think “nonsensical behavior” may have been more apt. Marshall and Alexis run into each other at the bar that Marshall is opening, with the financial backing of her ex-husband that she abandoned, along with her infant daughter, 6 years before. Marshall has a visceral reaction to seeing her again, and lets loose in a string of profanities that could turn a gal’s hair white. But sparks fly between them, and leads to something more. So far, interesting premise, right?

Spoilers follow, because I don’t think I can fully explain the bizarre trajectory of this novel otherwise.

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Review: Sweet Escape


The Story:

Sweet Escape begins nearly immediately after Sweet Dreams. With Polly off to Paris for her pastry-making class, sister Hannah is left behind to manage the bakery, and to hopefully continue to keep Wild Child on the upswing since the donut/eclairs hybrid that Polly invented boosted them into some minor fame. With CEO Luke Stone off in Paris with his fiancée, Evan Stone is left to manage that family business, but the next youngest Stone brother is keeping a secret: the fact that he will need to have surgery on his heart, getting a replacement valve, within the next 4-5 months. He doesn’t want anyone to know because he’s worried that Luke will come home and displace him yet again.

Of course, what else are two family-business stand-ins to do but fall for each other? Neither of them want anything serious, but of course their hearts betray them. Hannah bids on Evan at a bachelor auction that she’s catering, and suddenly they have 3 dates to go on, and all of that quality time together leads them to some canoodling in the Napa Valley.

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Review: Burn

tl;dr: weak heroine but great whodunit

The Story:

Someone is setting fire to an array of buildings set along the Riverfront district in Ridgefield, Connecticut, and it’s a veritable who’s-who of whodunits. That’s where the story begins, between a quivering real estate developer with a past and a handsome firefighter with a hero complex.

Chloe is trying to forge ahead with her career as a real estate wunderkind, flipping old abandoned warehouses into useable spaces with businesses on the ground floor below modern condominiums, revitalizing old with new. (An apt metaphor for her life.) Unfortunately, the building that is her current project goes up in flames, and she is considered a person of interest as all the evidence points to arson. Ryan was on the scene for the fire, and he’s training to be a fire inspector or something, so he is abreast of all the evidence that paints Chloe in a not so great light. Also, when he meets her, despite their immediate attraction, she’s pretty skittish and his spidey sense is alerted that she needs saving.

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Review: Sleeping Giants

tl;dr: fresh and new science-fiction tale that’ll have you on the edge of your seat

The Story:

Dr. Rose Franklin stumbles on a giant hand in her youth, an amazing discovery that she’s delighted to study later on, in her career as a physicist. The story that embarks from there covers a lot of ground.

The story is framed by an unnamed narrator, whose identity is a mystery, and that mystery is brought up again and again by the people that he interviews. There are so many characters, I don’t know if I can name them all. There are a few key figures here, though, and they all have their own individual arcs within the larger story.

(Minor spoilers ahead.)

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Review: Scarlet

tl;dr: intriguing second part but more cliffhangers abound

The Story:

Scarlet is the second book in The Lunar Chronicles series, taking us to France, where we are introduced to a bit of a Little Red Riding Hood-themed story. Scarlet Benoit is looking for her missing grandmother when meets up with Wolf, a street fighter who seems to have a lot of wolf-life qualities, including razor-sharp teeth, yellow-green eyes, and a fierce howl. Scarlet believes her grandmother has been kidnapped, and her estranged father all but confirms it when he shows up at her home, tearing apart her house looking for something.

Meanwhile, Cinder escapes from prison with the help of Captain Creswell Thorne, who is basically Han Solo, since he is a smuggling space pirate who thinks he is irresistible to women. Cinder is reluctant to finish her directive from Dr Erland, who wants her to join him in Africa in order to plan how they are going to overthrow Queen Levana. Emperor Kai has dispatched all of his army to look for Cinder, and so she’s on the run, and realizes that Michelle Benoit, Scarlet’s grandmother, may have the answers that she’s looking for about her past.

Scarlet discovers that Wolf is more animalistic than she had guessed, but he’s torn between loyalty to his genetic makeup and this strange pull towards this girl. After a tense showdown between Wolf and his pack, and also the Lunar thaumaturge that controls them, Scarlet, Wolf, Cinder, Creswell, and their ship with Iko’s chip inside of it, collide in France.

Cinder is still unsure about taking her place as the rightful ruler of Luna when she learns that Emperor Kai has accepted Queen Levana’s offer of a marriage alliance. Knowing that means Kai is as good as dead, she decides that she is going to fight.

Technical Elements:

Overall, I thought this book was well-written and well-paced, but it does not stand alone at all. Which isn’t necessarily a problem, but it’s hard to review is as a stand-alone because it simply doesn’t. This book is darker than Cinder, mostly because it alludes to rape during the scene between Scarlet, Wolf, and his brother Ran. The book is also much more violent than its predecessor, due to the nature of these wolf-human hybrids. They are bred as a weapon, and so they act as such. They are lethal, and many casualties pile up in gruesome ways.

Final Thoughts:

I’m definitely interested in continuing the series, and I thought a lot of the developments in this book were thoughtful and interesting. I really like how the stories meld together to create one narrative. The mythology of all the different fairytales are twisted together in an interesting way, and I look forward to seeing how Rapunzel fits in!

Find it at your local library!

New to the series? Start with Cinder.

Review: Sweet Dreams

tl;dr: sexy candy-maker and struggling baker have sweet, sexy times

The Story:

Polly Lockhart is at a turning point in her career. Luke Stone is an overprotective workaholic. Sound familiar? If you have read Nina Lane’s other series, Spiral of Bliss, these archetypes do seem to be nearly carbon copies of Dean and Liv. There are major differences, but overall, Liv and Polly are practically twins separated at birth, and Dean and Luke don’t fall too far from the same tree.

But let’s return to that later.

Polly is floundering both personally and professionally, dating a loser who cares more about video games than her and struggling to keep her late mother’s bakery solvent. In the months since her mother passed from cancer, Polly has been going through the motions. At the insistence of her friend, she goes out to have fun at a dive bar, and ends up making out (and puking on) a very sexy man. She thinks she’ll never see him again, but fate is never that kind in a romance novel!

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Review: The King

tl;dr: Kingsley’s journey from PTSD to BDSM is sexy, funny, and wonderful

The Story:

Anytime that I think I can’t be more in love with the characters in Tiffany Reisz’s world of Original Sinners, I’m proven wrong. The King covers nearly the same time period as The Saint, except from the vantage of Kingsley Edge. The story begins with Kingsley feeling depressed and useless, retired from his service in the French Foreign Legion, healing from a nearly fatal bullet wound to the chest, and having more money than he knows what to do with. He misses Søren, and can’t understand why they are still separated.

When they finally meet again, Kingsley is shocked to find the man he is in love with is now a Catholic priest. It feels rather like a betrayal, in a way, now that there’s a huge barrier in between them. As they rekindle their friendship, they begin something new, and Søren enlists his help in order to prevent a young Eleanor from going to jail. Kingsley is still despondent until Søren nearly pleads with him to start over, to stop drinking himself to death. And so Kingsley finds a purpose: he starts the underground club that ends up to be the 8th Circle.

It’s a bit of twisty journey to get there, including a few subplots involving a Christian fundamentalist group, some gay reorientation camps, a Russian dominatrix and a beautiful blond boy named Justin, and it all ends up moments where we left off in the previous book, with Kingsley confronting Nora at a vineyard in France in the present day.

Technical Elements:

I’m not sure if all four of the novels in the White Years half of this series use a framing device, but this one did as well. Unlike The Saint, this book doesn’t pause for interruptions back to the present, leaving the entire story of Kingsley from wounded veteran to billionaire club owner intact. Kingsley visits with Grace in order to give her something, and share about Søren’s life, and what to do if the son, Fionn, turns out to be like his biological father, the sadist. Kingsley doesn’t want Grace and Zach to fear that possibility, instead, he gives them some resources and back story, including an interesting prophecy that both Søren and Kingsley received from a domme in Italy.

Either way, I didn’t totally understand the reason that Kingsley was telling the entire story to Grace, including all the minor bits, but it is very interesting story and I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Final Thoughts:

There are two more books in the series, and I’m both thick with equal parts anticipation and dread. I wish there were infinite stories in this universe, because I am going to be sad to leave them.

Find a copy at your local library!

Tiffany Reisz has ruined me for other books, so you can start with The Siren if you haven’t already done so.

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.

Not sure if this book is available at libraries, but you can see where it is available from here.

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.)

If you’re hoping to snag this book at your library, I think you’ll be out of luck. Keep an eye on editions here, and other places you can purchase it!

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!]