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Looking for Readers! I want YOU!!!

… >.> To review. I’ve never done a throwback post but – hee. Time for that always yes? Also I put a lot of work into the below.

What am I looking for as a starting point for a reviewer? I listed a number of “sources” for you to look into. Here: the reviews I’ve posted on this site are a great indication. I also actually have a general format – more guidelines than hard rules, but mostly I do NOT want plot summaries or book reports. That’s what the blurb – and you know, actually reading the book is for.

If you’re interested, contact me. We’ll talk and hope it’s a good fit. Got questions? I’d love to hear from you. If you’re not interested – do you have a friend who might be? Share the love!

Thanks – and let’s do this!!! 😀

ETA: Guest reviewers welcome! <3 [Seriously, I have enough ARCs and requests to drown me. And you. And you too in the back. Let’s make EVERYONE happy! More reading! More reviews! More love!] 😉

Shout Out to Cynthia Sax and Cathy Pegau for “Saving” ALBTALBS + A Sale!

Hi friends! Oh my gosh have I got a lot to say – but I’m not really in a place to do it – literally and figuratively. I’m also typing this flat on my back so excuse any typos please.

For a number of years I’ve been dealing with [hacking?] issues. Oftentimes the site bandwidth would exceed my monthly allotment, and I was able to “boutique” buy an extra gig or two to tide me over. The policy changed (without word or notice >:( ) so I had to upgrade my hosting plan, instead of leaving ALBTALBS down for the rest of the month. (And ideally preventing it from happening over and over.)

So … upgrading costs money. Which I don’t have. [More on that later…] And I decided to offer advertising space again at a discount. I’m offering ad space for $10/month if you buy three or more months. If you want to buy a full year I’m willing to discuss an additional discount. Otherwise, each ad space is $15/month for now.

I run the ad as a widget, so people will still see it even if they have adblockers installed on their browsers. Each image can also be linked to anywhere on the web you want it to go.

Because of Cynthia Sax and Cathy Pegau, I was able to offset some of the costs of bringing ALBTALBS back online, and I am so pleased and grateful. They deserve this shout out, and for their ads to be highlighted. 🙂

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: The Lonely Drop by Vanessa North

Karen’s review of The Lonely Drop by Vanessa North
Contemporary m/m romance published by Vanessa North on July 7, 2014

Ten years ago, best friends and soccer buddies Nick Hana and Kevin Dorsey were inseparable—until Kevin put the moves on virginal Nick on the eve of their college graduation. Not wanting to be just another notch in Kevin’s bedpost, Nick turned him down and “lost” his new phone number.

A chance reunion brings the two together again, and the attraction and caring are as strong as ever. Cocky, gorgeous Kevin makes it clear he still wants Nick, but Nick needs more than he thinks Kevin can give. A slow dance and a snow storm give them a chance to clear up the misunderstandings of their past, but can one night of passion bridge ten years of silence?

I was really excited when I got comfort reads in the group challenge, until I realised that I would actually have to decide on one book. For about a week on my way to work I thought about what makes a comfort read for me:

Friends to Lovers – without a doubt my favourite trope, the longer the friendship the better, people who’ve known each other for six months or less don’t qualify- that’s just foreplay.

Ideally at some stage the couple have been briefly slightly romantically entangled, so we know that they’re attracted to each other.

Distance, there has to have been some distance, ideally time and geography related between the initial attraction and the ‘real deal’ – how else will they realise that it is actually the real deal?

The Road to True Love is Paved with a Few Wrong Turns, and by this I do actually mean misunderstandings. Now, the romance classic of the great misunderstanding is not something I usually like, but in a really good friends to lovers story our couple have usually been the victims of youthful lack of communication, so there is a history of it. That is very important, our couple have been getting it wrong for a while. The misunderstanding will result on one, and occasionally both , of our couple breaking out of their learnt relationship behaviour and telling it like it is.

Those are the three main things I need to make a romance a comfort read, I also like one of my main characters to be involved with food, or teaching (I’ve not come across one yet where there is an actual cookery teacher but this would be amazing).

I do have one no go, that is no cheating- by that I mean that once the couple are on the way to being a couple they aren’t involved with other people.

There is one book in my library that ticks all these boxes ( and several more)  and it can’t be surprising that I have read it probably more than any other romance novel, certainly in recent times.

 

The Lonely Drop. And here’s my thoughts on the book:

Nick is glorious character, secure in his beliefs and sexuality. Raised by a hippy vegetarian single mum he now owns The Lonely Drop, a bar and restaurant. He’s good to his employees and in the ten years since he’s seen Kevin he’s had relationships but none of them work. Although Nick has put Kevin to the back of his mind we all know that Kevin is ‘that guy’, the one he measures everyone else against.

Kevin is less distinct, and if I have a criticism this is it, The Lonely Drop is told from Nick’s POV, and while we understand the reasons behind him not making contact for ten years, Kevin’s motivation is not totally clear. Kevin’s life has been molded by his Dad, that much we do know.

Kevin ends up in the Lonely Drop as he’s looking at a potential business venture, and while restarting their friendship, Nick gives in to his desires when Kevin asks for one night. We’re in Nick’s head, and when  he thinks “I can’t give you only one, without wanting to give you every one,” in response to Kevin’s request you can see why he feels that this is going ot be a bad idea.

At 77 pages this is a short read, but trust me when I say that there are books with three times as many pages that can’t compete with the level of emotion that The Lonely Drop delivers.

Grade: A

The Lonely Drop is  free read, and is available at Amazon UK here and US here

SWHM Guest: Beverly Jenkins on Apache Warrior and Prophet Lozen

Hi friends! I’m beyond excited to welcome super star author Beverly Jenkins to ALBTALBS with a guest post for Smithsonian Women’s History Month (SWHM).

Lozen is my right hand … strong as a man, braver than most, and cunning in strategy. Lozen is a shield to her people.”

This quote, attributed to the great Apache War Leader Vicotorio describes his sister, Lozen, remembered by the Apache as a kick ass warrior and one of the most powerful medicine people in tribal history. She was born in the late 1840s into the Warm Springs band of the Chiricahua Apache who made their home in the mountains of what is now New Mexico. Some historians believe Lozen means, “Little Sister”, while others say Lozen is a war title given to a person who steals horses during a raid. Regardless of what her name means she is a legend. At a young age, she eschewed the traditional female lessons of basket making and child care to ride horses and learn to fight. She also vowed never to marry. As she grew older, she was as good with a knife as she was with a rifle. She was also a formidable horsewoman. During her coming of age spirit quest, Useen, the Apache Creator God gifted her with not only the power to heal wounds, but the ability to sense the enemy; a sixth sense that would prove invaluable in the Apache fight to remain a free people.

In 1861, Victorio led his people away from the San Carlos reservation and its horrible living and the Apache Wars began. The Chiricahua were among the last Native Americans to take up arms against the US government, and Victorio, with his sister Lozen at his side, eluded capture for years. At one point, the band reached the Rio Grande but the horses refused to enter the fast-moving waters. so Lozen plunged her horse in first, forced it to swim and the other mounts followed. She stole horses from the camps of Mexican soldiers, single-handedly led a group of women and children across the desert, and during the wars her abilities as both healer and shaman were called upon constantly.

During the summer of 1880, their band was fleeing an ambush by the US Army when a Mescalero woman went into labor. Lozen stayed behind to help with the birth while her brother and the others rode on. Vicotorio and seventy- eight braves were eventually captured and killed. The Apache believe had Lozen been with him to do her ritual sensing of the whereabouts of the soldiers he would have gone undetected. In the ritual, she would face the sky, raise her arms above her head, cup her hands and pray. She’d then move in a circle until she felt tingling in her hands and her palms turned purple. The strength of the tingling indicated both the direction and distance of the enemy. Many are convinced that had it not been for her successful predictions the US Army would have conquered the Apache years earlier.

After her brother’s death, Lozen rode with her uncle, the 90 – year old Chief Nana, and eventually the formidable and ghost like Geronimo. While with Geronimo, she added messenger and negotiator to her duties, and was often sent to broker peace and to barter for supplies with army representatives. When Geronimo finally surrendered on September 4, 1886, his band had been reduced to fifteen men, fourteen women, and six children – one of the women was Lozen. She and the others were shipped in cattle cars to Florida where they joined previously captured and removed Chiricahua, but conditions were so terrible and the public so outraged by them, the Apache were moved to Mount Vernon Barracks, Alabama. This warrior woman, who’d fearlessly spent her life fighting to preserve her people’s freedom died there of pneumonia, and was buried in an unmarked grave.

History may have forgotten Lozen, but the Apache, especially its women, have not.

Lozen is referenced in Ms. Jenkins’ novel Breathless. (Sorry, I couldn’t find an image of her that’s in the public domain.) 

BreathlessA strong-willed beauty finds herself in the arms of the handsome drifter from her past, in this second book in the sizzling series set in the Old West, from USA Today Bestselling Author Beverly Jenkins

As manager of one of the finest hotels in Arizona Territory, Portia Carmichael has respect and stability—qualities sorely missing from her harsh childhood. She refuses to jeopardize that by hitching herself to the wrong man. Suitors are plentiful, but none of them has ever looked quite as tempting as the family friend who just rode into town…and none has looked at her with such intensity and heat.

Duchess. That’s the nickname Kent Randolph gave Portia when she was a young girl. Now she’s a stunning, intelligent woman—and Kent has learned his share of hard lessons. After drifting through the West, he’s learned the value of a place to settle down, and in Portia’s arms he’s found that and more. But convincing her to trust him with her heart, not just her passion, will be the greatest challenge he’s known—and one he intends to win…

Have you read Breathless? Did you know about Lozen? Do you have a favorite female historical figure? We’d love to hear your thoughts! <3 [And remember to say “hi” to Beverly Jenkins!!! Eeee!!!] 

Review: Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas

Devil in SpringDevil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas
Historical romance released by Avon on February 21, 2017

An eccentric wallflower  . . .

Most debutantes dream of finding a husband. Lady Pandora Ravenel has different plans. The ambitious young beauty would much rather stay at home and plot out her new board game business than take part in the London Season. But one night at a glittering society ball, she’s ensnared in a scandal with a wickedly handsome stranger.

A cynical rake  . . .

After years of evading marital traps with ease, Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent, has finally been caught by a rebellious girl who couldn’t be less suitable. In fact, she wants nothing to do with him. But Gabriel finds the high-spirited Pandora irresistible. He’ll do whatever it takes to possess her, even if their marriage of convenience turns out to be the devil’s own bargain.

A perilous plot  . . .

After succumbing to Gabriel’s skilled and sensuous persuasion, Pandora agrees to become his bride. But soon she discovers that her entrepreneurial endeavors have accidentally involved her in a dangerous conspiracy—and only her husband can keep her safe. As Gabriel protects her from their unknown adversaries, they realize their devil’s bargain may just turn out to be a match made in heaven . . .

​Oh. My. God. You guys. So, Devil in Winter is one of my most favorite Lisa Kleypas novels – and probably one of my favorite romances across the board. So. When I learned there was a novel about Sebastian and Evie’s son … well. The anticipation was great. I have to say, Devil in Spring lived up to the hype. I haven’t read many historical romances the past few years, but after reading this one, I think I need to get back on that horse. Definitely I need to catch up on books one and two of the Ravenels series. (Cold-Hearted Rake, and Marrying Winterborne). Reading Devil in Spring made me happy. I read it in a few hours. I picked up the book and read until I got too hungry, grudgingly ate breakfast, and then went back to reading until the end. I already know I’ll be re-reading it. In fact, I read this book in print which should tell you something, because I’m pretty sure that literally I last read a print book in 2013. (It’s also why I’m not quoting anything –  because I didn’t mark pages.)​

Lady Pandora Ravenel is a delight. Truly she’s so self-deprecating, bright, fun, and lovely. Her splendid wry sense of humor … she’s someone you want to be friends with. (I wouldn’t mind being her either, really…) I loved her indomitable spirit. A tragic incident in her past has dictated her entire life, but despite that she does her best not to let it control her. In fact, she’s been cheeky even since that event. (No spoilers!) I loved how she “gravely” informs Gabriel that she’s “barely house broken.” I loved that Pandora warns Gabriel she walks in circles, which she actually does … and then most importantly, that he finds it charming! Pandora is so much herself, but she also takes into account the wants of others. She’s caring even while fiercely independent.

Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent​ is such a good guy. (But then what else would you expect from someone who grew up with Evie as a mother? And of course we all knew that Sebastian would be a wonderful father, once Evie settled him down.) Gabriel had been certain he wanted the perfect society wife. Not to love, but to take her place at his side as the future duke and duchess. Gabriel has always been very aware of the responsibilities – both current and future. He’s blessed and knows that he’s been blessed in life. I didn’t love the (to my mind minor) “proclivity” of his – it felt a bit as if it was trend jumping in romance world, but hey, maybe. It also did fit the narrative, so that made it ultimately ok with me. ​He’s always been image and socially conscious, and has seen how his father’s past affected both his father and him. Nevertheless, Gabriel gets to know Pandora quickly, and is just so taken with her. He’s smitten, and loves her desperately. He loves her more than she loves him, and is okay with it. [And real world nod – that’s what Joe Biden says about him/his relationship with his wife Jill! <3]

​I have to say that I wasn’t sure on the marriage, initially. The meet cute, as it were, and both characters reluctance. Pandora’s reluctance carries through, but Gabriel becomes “pro-marriage” very quickly. Specifically, pro-marriage to Pandora. He’s captivated by Pandora, but the instant attraction/want/need on his part was a smidge too much for me. ​However, I did really appreciate Pandora’s resistance to the institution of marriage. She has extremely valid concerns, and Gabriel understands them. There are a few times where he wants to argue with her, but realizes he can’t because she makes extreme sound and logical points. Gabriel’s acknowledgment of that won him major points. He also works to reassure Pandora that he wants her to remain her own person – as much as he can. I also liked the host of social issues Ms. Kleypas incorporated into the story so skillfully. The setting and time period were very important.

Now, another reason I accepted Gabriel being taken so quickly is because he has ample reason to adore Pandora. Of course duty and responsibility is a big part of want to marry her – but it’s not the reason. I loved that both families gave them an out. No matter the scandal, neither family wants their loved one to suffer for the rest of his or her life. That both Gabriel and Pandora were given a choice was so important. Not only does Pandora’s cousin (and family) want the best for her, you get the sense that Sebastian and Evie would’ve put a stop to things if they felt Pandora would have been miserable. Of course their initial concern is for their son, but they also care about their future daughter-in-law. Not just for her as a potential addition to the family, but as a person in general.

The “courtship” is condensed into a weeklong visit, but it’s described in detail, and Gabriel and Pandora get to spend a lot of time together.​ I really appreciated that Gabriel and Pandora got to know each other a bit before agreeing to the marriage. I loved that Gabriel, who has never really had to work for the attention or affection of the opposite sex found himself in such a foreign situation, desperately trying to convince Pandora that she wants to marry him. Or at least should. He’s charming, sweet, and a little devious. After all, no son of Sebastian’s would be entirely good. (Or of Evie’s either, because she’s got quite the naughty streak too.)

​Speaking of Sebastian and Evie, I loved their scenes – that they open the book, but don’t dominate it. They’re the parents everyone wants … or the couple everyone wants to be. Gabriel also knows that he was lucky to have them. It was so nice to read a book populated by good characters. Ones who appreciate what they have, and thankful for it. Pandora also appreciates the love and support that she has now from her family.​ And that both characters have families that are so understanding they allow the lovebirds to have time alone, to get to know each other, and fall in love. And when Evie tells Pandora about the fox cubs. I’m pretty sure if you look carefully, you can still see where my heart was ripped out and bleeding on the floor.

​It isn’t ​all just romance and emotion spilling everywhere – there’s a lot of humor too. Pandora’s “facts” – her willingness to tease both Gabriel and herself. (Her noting she can’t marry Gabriel because people will think she’s shallow.) All of Gabriel’s antics to capture Pandora’s attention. I loved that her mind never stopped and was everywhere all at once. I can relate perfectly. Gabriel also doesn’t get angry or arrogantly demand her focus – he appreciates the challenge that is his new wife. And more than meets it.

Ms. Kleypas does a masterful job at writing dynamic, nuanced characters that are strong, but not overbearing. They stand for themselves, but don’t bulldoze others. Nor do they have to. They’re human, and caring, emotional, loving, argumentative, difficult, and perfect as characters. ​​There were scenes that almost made me cry, but in the span of a few pages, I was snort laughing. Ms. Kleypas runs you through the gamut of emotions in Devil in Spring. I’m not a “huggy” person, but when I finished the book I considered hugging it. Because it was just so wonderful. Expectations met. Mischief managed. ​I can’t wait for the next story … but in the mean time, I’m definitely re-reading Devil in Spring and catching up on the Ravenels series.

Grade: A

You can read an excerpt here or buy a copy here (the mass market paperback is currently only $4.98!) or the kindle copy here.

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

Silent in the GraveBabs’ Review of Silent in the Grave (Book One of the Lady Julia Grey series) by Deanna Raybourn
Historical fiction with romantic elements released by Harlequin on December 19,  2006

“Let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave.”

These ominous words are the last threat that the darling of London society, Sir Edward Grey, receives from his killer. Before he can show them to Nicholas Brisbane, the private inquiry agent he has retained for his protection, Sir Edward collapses and dies at his London home, in the presence of his wife, Julia, and a roomful of dinner guests.

Julia is outraged when Brisbane visits and suggests that Sir Edward has been murdered. It is a reaction she comes to regret when she discovers the damning paper for herself, and realizes the truth. Determined to bring her husband’s murderer to justice, Julia engages the enigmatic Brisbane to help her investigate Edward’s demise, following a trail of clues that lead her to even more unpleasant truths, and ever closer to a killer who waits expectantly for her arrival.

I’ve had Deanna Raybourn on my radar and to-read list for awhile. Most recently I was looking forward to her new Veronica Speedwell (adventurous heroine!) series after I heard her describing it on the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books podcast. After checking my library, I’m on the waiting list for A Curious Beginning but Silent in the Grave was available so I started the Lady Julia Grey series. (I love Overdrive—free ebooks to read in just a few clicks!)

The book starts with the death of Lady Julia Grey’s husband (it’s in the blurb so I’m not spoiling anything!) and the introduction of Nicholas Brisbane, the hero(?). The whole story is told from Julia’s perspective. The story was pretty slow going to me for the first third to half as Julia is in the one-year mourning period for her husband, trying to figure out her next steps after her mourning ends, and fighting her natural instincts to rebel against society’s rules and misbehave.  A discovery in her husband’s office leads her back to Brisbane and chasing a murderer.

Brisbane, an investigator, is a complicated dude and reluctant to include Julia in any search. He definitely seems like he’s trying to protect Julia from himself and from trouble. Some of his background is revealed in the story as well as difficulties he’s facing. He fights his attraction to Julia and is “trying to do the right thing”.

If you’re looking for hot romance with sexy times and a HEA (happily ever after) in book 1, this isn’t for you. But I definitely sense an intense, angsty (OMG, will they or won’t they?!), budding romance in progress—just not getting there anytime soon. They don’t discuss their feelings for each other but there are some longing gazes and one interlude that’s not explicitly described.

My favorite part of the story was the secondary characters. Julia’s family, her butler Aquinas, the pets, and Monk were delightful. I love stories with big families and in addition to being big, Julia’s family is super eccentric and interesting. Her father seems incredibly unconventional for the time period and it was great how disappointed he was with his well-behaved children. He wanted more craziness! Julia’s sister Portia is awesome. I like the simultaneous acceptance of her relationship from most of her family while acknowledging challenges they faced (unfortunately similar to what they could face today).

I enjoyed this book especially as events started working towards the conclusion. The mystery was satisfactorily resolved and nice and twisty. Deanna Raybourn successfully steered me towards several possible murderers before the dramatic reveal.  I read book 2 of the series and am reading book 3, Silent on the Moor. It reminds me a lot of C.S. Harris’ Sebastian St. Cyr series as far as the historical setting, mystery plot, and a potential romance.

Grade: B

You can read an excerpt here or buy a copy here.

Review: Love on my Mind by Tracey Livesay

Love on my Mind (Shades of Love series) by Tracey Livesay
Contemporary Romance released by Avon Impulse on July 12, 2016

Successful PR executive Chelsea Grant is one assignment away from making partner at her firm and nothing will stand in her way. Her big break? Turn a reclusive computer genius into a media darling in time for his new product launch. He may have been dubbed the “sexiest geek alive” but he has no patience for the press—and it shows. Piece of cake, right? Only problem is… his company doesn’t want him to know they hired her.

After a disastrous product launch two years ago, tech CEO Adam Bennett knows the success of his new device depends on the media’s support. When a twist of fate brings the beautiful PR specialist to his door, Adam hires Chelsea to help turn his image around. Their attraction is undeniable and the more time they spend together, the harder it becomes to keep things professional.

But when Adam discovers Chelsea’s deception, will she risk everything for her career or is love the real thing on her mind?

I really enjoy a secrets story. If done well, it can add serious tension to the relationship. So when I read this blurb, I was excited. Plus, the book features an interracial couple with a POC heroine and, let’s be honest, we don’t see enough of that from the big publishers in romance.

Chelsea Grant is determined to be successful. She’s had a rough childhood with a small stint in the foster care system. She’s fought for everything she has and is on the cusp of getting the brass ring – partnership at a prestigious PR firm. She’s smart and dedicated and, even though she feels uncomfortable with the idea of lying to Adam, she also accepts it’s the only way to make partner.

In many ways, Adam was the stereotypical nerd. A reclusive, quiet introvert with few friends and an extremely love of computers and gaming. He also has a mild form of Asperger’s. He’s regimented about his routine, blunt to the point of near rudeness and has difficulty in social situations. At the same time, he’s loyal, a hard worker and has strong ethics. Adam also struggles with the ability to tell whether or not someone is lying. He’s been betrayed and hurt by people closest to him and, as a result, values honesty to an extreme. 

So we all know where this is going, right?

There were a lot of things to love about this book. First, the fact that the couple was interracial had very little focus when it came to their relationship. There is an extremely sweet and realistic moment when Adam makes Chelsea an avatar (swoon) because the video game they are about to play has few choices with her skin tone. But other than that it is simply about two people falling in love with their own baggage and lessons to be learned. Additionally, the reasons for the secret between the couple were solid and believable. I didn’t love the fact that Chelsea kept Adam in the dark but I bought into her reasons for doing so and therefore sympathized with her. The romance between the two sparks right from the beginning and I really enjoyed being along for the ride as they became closer.  

However, I do have a minor issue with the book. Adam has developed a product which will revolutionize the way we think about technology – think of the iPod. Chelsea drops in his life, manages to help him answer a couple of interview questions for a magazine and – without even googling her – Adam hires her to help him with the rest of the launch. Sorry, this isn’t going to happen. Corporate espionage is a real thing and, even though Chelsea signs a contract, there is no way Adam wouldn’t have done some research on her. This was somewhat addressed in the book but towards the end. I really felt like it should have been dealt with earlier on, especially since Chelsea is particularly vague about what she does for a living. 

Despite my quibble, this book was enjoyable. The romance was well done, the writing smooth and the characters interesting. I will definitely try this author again.

Grade: B

You can read an except of this book here or buy it here.

Mary’s Favorites of 2016

Gosh, I cannot believe it’s the end of 2016 already! Where did the year go? (Please, dear Lord, tell me the rest of you feel this way and it’s not just me!)

Anyway, I don’t always get a chance to write reviews for books I’ve read and loved, so this is a great time to do an end-of-the-year recap and share with all of you some of my favorites from 2016! There are a few so – far warning – you should hide your wallet if you don’t want to be tempted!

Infiltration (Omega Sector Series Book 1) by Janie Crouch
Romantic Suspense released by Harlequin Intrigue on December 14, 2014

The wrong place at the wrong time; that’s the only way Sophia Reardon could explain her predicament. She wasn’t even an FBI field agent and now she was being taken hostage. By her ex-boyfriend Cameron Branson. The moment Sophia walked into his undercover operation, Cameron warned her that his employers would want to break her. So keeping her by his side, pretending not to have feelings for her, was the best way to maintain his role in the dangerous organization, and the only way to keep them both safe. Because if they got their hands on her, she could expose him and his secrets. And then they’d no longer have any reason to keep her around.

I loved, loved this book. Actually, I really like Janie Crouch in general. She writes fast-paced romantic suspense with great characters and interesting plots. This one was no exception. Cam is protective but sensitive. He knows Sophia doesn’t have any reason to trust him, and yet, he works hard to show her she can. Sophia is a smart heroine thrust into in a dangerous situation she is incredibly unprepared for. Her feelings and former relationship with Cam color her actions but they never came across as stupid or naïve. I would highly recommend this book for anyone who loves romantic suspense.

Triple Dare (The Art of Seduction Book 3) by Regina Kyle
Contemporary Romance released by Harlequin Blaze on November 17, 2015

Globe-trotting fashion photographer Ivy Nelson is home to help her family out of a jam. When she donates her services to a charity calendar, the last thing she expects is hunky firefighter—and object of all her hottest fantasies—Cade Hardesty to walk through the door. Cade is ready to get naked for a good cause, and the heat Ivy feels is anything but professional.

When a sexy dare turns into a scorching kiss, they can’t help but give in to their desires. But Cade wants Ivy in his bed for more than one night. Can the hometown firefighter convince the photographer that her wanderlust should lead her into his arms for good, or will one of them run before they both get burned?

This book was just plain fun. Low angst and lots of humor. I mean, it’s starts off with the heroine photographing the hero wearing nothing more than a sparkly g-string and a Santa hat while holding a kitten. Heaven help me, it doesn’t get any better than that! Both Ivy and Cade are likable characters and the story flows smoothly. Small town, friends-to-lovers and a nice supporting cast of characters round the romance out nicely. If you are looking to kill a few hours on a Sunday afternoon, this is exactly the book you should pick up.

Killing Trail (Timber Creek K-9 Mystery) by Margaret Mizushima
Mystery released by Crooked Lane Books on December 8, 2015

When a young girl is found dead in the mountains outside Timber Creek, life-long resident Officer Mattie Cobb and her partner, K-9 police dog Robo, are assigned to the case that has rocked the small Colorado town.

With the help of Cole Walker, local veterinarian and a single father, Mattie and Robo must track down the truth before it claims another victim. But the more Mattie investigates, the more she realizes how many secrets her hometown holds. And the key may be Cole’s daughter, who knows more than she’s saying.

The murder was just the beginning, and if Mattie isn’t careful, she and Robo could be next.

I’m a fan of mysteries and I adore dogs, so picking this up wasn’t a difficult choice. Mattie is a great character but untrusting. When she’s paired with Robo to form the first K-9 unit in her small town, it’s a real test for her – especially when they are thrown into their first case. Robo was his own character with a distinct personality. The mystery was well done and low on the angst side. An overall great read.

Act Like It by Lucy Parker
Contemporary Romance published by Carina on November 30, 2015

Richard Troy used to be the hottest actor in London, but the only thing firing up lately is his temper. We all love to love a bad boy, but Richard’s antics have made him Enemy Number One, breaking the hearts of fans across the city.

Have the tides turned? Has English rose Lainie Graham made him into a new man?

Sources say the mismatched pair has been spotted at multiple events, arm in arm and hip to hip. From fits of jealousy to longing looks and heated whispers, onlookers are stunned by this blooming romance.

Could the rumors be right? Could this unlikely romance be the real thing? Or are these gifted stage actors playing us all?

I picked this up because I have a love affair with the theater and was hoping this novel would feed my adoration. It did. Yay! Plus it used one of my absolute favorite tropes: enemies-to-lovers. Needless to say, my recommendations for 2016 would not be complete without mentioning this book. Richard starts out as a real jerk, and what I really love is that by the end of the book he’s still kinda jerky. Not in a mean way – but in a grumpy, manly way. Lucy is strong and no push over, which is the perfect foil for Richard. They were a great couple and it was lovely to be along for the ride as they got their HEA.

That’s it, folks. Some of my favorite reads from 2016. Have any of you read these? What are some of your recommendations? (My TBR list can never be too long!)