Category Archives: Review

Review: Swim Deep by Beth Kery

Swim Deep by Beth Kery
*Psychological thriller with romantic elements released by Beth Kery on February 22, 2019

Swim Deep by Beth Kery Book CoverShe’d made a career out of studying light, but now she’s entered a seductive, dangerous world of shadow and lies . . .
Anna Solas, poor artist working two jobs, is swept away by Evan Halifax, his charm and his good looks, and marries too quickly for her family’s comfort. Evan takes Anna to his stunning lakeside mansion the North Twin on the Les Jumeaux estate, where she discovers he lived with his first wife Elizabeth until her disappearance and presumed death. He says they can live anywhere Anna wants to, but his explanations unravel bit by bit. Anna is increasingly uneasy, wondering what really went on in the decadent home theatre, who is watching her from the South Twin—the matching home on Lake Tahoe’s shore, and the identity of the nightmare woman who appears to her at night, whispering a message she dreads hearing. She becomes determined to uncover the truth behind Elizabeth’s life in order to save her own sanity.

Oh. My. God. You. Guys. YOU. GUYS!!! This book THIS BOOK!!! I was up until almost 5 AM reading/finishing it. I took a day off from reading trying/needing to do other things … and I was admittedly nervous because Beth Kery told me it wasn’t a romance – and you know how particular I am about my HEA. However, having read it … I saw it is a romance – just not what you might expect from Beth Kery, because it isn’t an erotic romance. Nevertheless, even if it wasn’t a romance I wanted to read this book by Beth Kery because I love her writing and voice. And I’m so glad I did. Continue reading

Team TBR Challenge Review: The Date Dare by Tara Sue Me

The Date Dare by Tara Sue Me
Contemporary romance released by After Six Publishing Co on November 19, 2018

The Date Dare by Tara Sue MeWho knew three words held such destructive power? No, not THOSE three words. I’m talking about the evil word trio that’s my own personal kryptonite, that stole my best friend, and took away the only woman I’ve ever loved:
I dare you.

I was six when Darcy Patrick moved next door.
By the time we were eight, we were best friends.

At fifteen, I gave a classmate a black eye for calling her names.
At sixteen, she talked me through asking my crush to prom.

I helped her get over her first heartbreak at nineteen.
Two years later, she returned the favor.

It wasn’t until I was twenty-nine I realized I loved her.
And because I was too stupid to do anything about it,
at thirty, I lost her for good on a dare.

Darcy Patrick is tried of watching her best friend, Elliott Taber, date the wrong kind of woman. When his latest flavor of the month walks out on him, she dares him to let her find his next date. Elliott agrees, but only after Darcy agrees to allow him to do the same.

The dare is on.

The dates take place on the same night. One is an epic fail. The other is just plain epic.

Elliott isn’t prepared for the onslaught of emotions hitting him as Darcy seemingly finds everything she ever wanted with the man he set her up with. He should be happy for her. He should leave her alone.

But he can’t.

So he makes one more dare….

This month’s TBR Challenge prompt was a short read. I tried a few category romances (the less said there the better)… then this book became available at the library, and win! I’d had it on hold because I thought the premise looked cute. In fact the blurb gives more history/detail about Elliott and Darcy’s childhood friendship than the book, almost, but … you get the gist of it. I love friends to lovers stories, and it was nice to read two characters that are so utterly comfortable not only with each other, but themselves as well. I can’t remember if I’ve read a book by Tara Sue Me before … so this one was a great start. Continue reading

Also Belated Team TBR Challenge Review: Muffin Top by Avery Flynn

Muffin Top by Avery Flynn
Contemporary romance released by Entangled on October 29, 2018

Muffin Top by Avery Flynn Book CoverThe only thing about me that’s a size zero is the filter on my mouth. I’ve got a big personality, a big rack, and a big number on the scale. And I’m perfectly fine with that.

But when some random guy suggests I might not be eating alone if I’d ordered a salad instead of a hamburger I’m shocked silent, which is a feat, trust me.

That brings us to one sexy fireman named Frankie Hartigan. He’s hot. He’s funny… And he’s just apologized for being late for our “date” then glared at the fat-shaming jerk. Next thing I know, he’s sitting down and ordering himself dinner.

I have no problem telling him I don’t need a pity date…unless of course it’s to my high school reunion next week. Oops where did that last bit come from? And what do I do now that he’s said yes?!

Because this is no make-over story, and I think Frankie is using me for something. I just have to figure out what…

I actually read this book a few weeks ago, so bear with me if I mess things up. However, it’s stayed with me, and this book is the reason why I read a number of Avery Flynn’s other backlist titles. These Hartigans though – there’s something about them. However [November’s] challenge prompt was “cover love” and! While this isn’t one of those immediately eye catching covers, or eye poppingly (bad) ones … what I love about it is its simplicity, and the fact that there actually is a plus sized woman on the cover. I know we’ve all talked about problems where the models on a book cover are nothing like the characters in the book. And before authors start running in here with “well actually” … yes I also realize authors have varying levels of control in [traditionally] published books. With all that out of the way … I think this is a really great contemporary romance! Onward! Continue reading

Team TBR Challenge Review: A Daddy Sent by Santa by Susan Carlisle

A Daddy Sent by Santa by Susan Carlisle
Contemporary category romance released by Harlequin Medical on October 16, 2018

A Daddy Sent by Santa by Susan Carlisle Book CoverWhen a small-town mom…

Falls for a big-city doc…

Nurse Lauren Wilson is used to doctors coming and going in her Oklahoma town — and doesn’t expect prestigious Boston doc Paxton Samuels to be any different. Until they’re snowed in together and their sensual tension reaches boiling point! But knowing Paxton is due to leave after the festive season, can Lauren risk giving him her heart and her little boy a daddy for Christmas?

This book was in my physical TBR pile and I received it in a book subscription box. I did not finish this book. I read a little past the halfway mark then couldn’t take it anymore. I would be hate-reading if I kept going. I underlined more and more sentences in disgust? Outrage? Disappointment? All of the above? These characters and story did not work for me. Continue reading

Very Belated Team TBR Challenge Review: Roaring Midnight by Colleen Gleason

Roaring Midnight by Colleen Gleason
Paranormal romance released by Avid Press on June 18, 2013

Roaring Midnight by Colleen Gleason Book CoverAmid the glitzy age of Jazz, when gangsters and bootleggers control the cities, there lies another, more insidious threat….the undead.
Macey Gardella is a typical young woman of the Roaring Twenties: she works a job, has her own flat, and loves to dance the Charleston. But when a mysterious man named Sebastian Vioget informs her she belongs to a family of vampire hunters, Macey is stunned and disbelieving.

Yet, strange and frightening things begin to happen, and when Macey comes face-to-face with one of the fanged creatures, she has no choice but to believe Sebastian. And when she learns his own soul depends on her willingness to carry forth the family legacy and hunt the undead, Macey capitulates and joins the fight.

As she begins to learn about her new calling, Macey encounters a handsome newspaper reporter known as Grady–who seems to know more about vampires than he should. And when he begins to ask too many questions, she has to juggle her strong attraction to him with the need for secrecy.

Slipping into speakeasies and sampling bootlegged whiskeys, dodging gangster gunfire and trying to keep her nosy landlady from finding the stakes in her flat, Macey Gardella must navigate through a world of stunning violence, passionate romance, and dark betrayal…

I have been reading Colleen Gleason’s books ever since I was lucky enough to hear her speak at the 2007 RWA Nationals conference. I snapped up her first two Gardella Vampire Hunters novels and became an immediate fan, following her writing into every genre she has written. She’s one of the few authors I’ll purchase even if I don’t have time to read her new releases right away. Which is how I found myself pulling out Roaring Midnight from my TBR pile for the September TBR Challenge. Continue reading

TBR Challenge Review: Exorcising Sean’s Ghost by Beth Kery

Exorcising Sean’s Ghost by Beth Kery
Contemporary erotic romance re-edited and re-released on July 16, 2017 by Beth Kery

Exorcising Sean's Ghost by Beth KeryFrom the New York Times Bestseller Beth Kery comes this sizzling contemporary romance suspense, now re-edited and re-released after former publication by a previous publisher . . .

Belle is forced to mourn in secret after her lover, U.S. Attorney Sean Ryan, is murdered in a terrorist plot. When she has an irrational, intense sexual response to the mysterious stranger Jack Caldwell, Belle wonders if it’s due to delayed grief for Sean. Sean was the only man she’d ever responded to so completely, after all.

When she finds herself submitting wholly to Jack’s dominant, demanding manner in bed Belle begins to live on the sharp edge of doubt and uncertainty, even to the point of questioning her own sanity. Because Belle can’t let go of the crazy, impossible idea that Sean Ryan and Jack Caldwell are one and the same man.

So I never read the original – apparently it was published in 2007 … and I’m kind of happy about that, because everything – the edits etc, were new to me. I love Beth Kery’s writing. I think she’s one of the best authors of erotic romance out there. Even if (and when – because usually it does happen) the characters do something way out there to/for me … it’s still sexy because it works for them. The hero and heroine are always so in tune, and Ms. Kery’s writing has such depth and layers to it. It’s not just the sex – it’s the emotion, the cerebral connection – the full package. The “prompt” of the month’s TBR challenge is PNR or RS … and I’d say this is … peripheral RS? I kept thinking “this is the aftermath – the ‘everything else’ that happens around and after a RS.” It’s the thinking part of it, which makes sense because Ms. Kery (also) has a background in psychology. It’s suspense in and of the mind, not so much in action – as there is a lot of that … but it takes place “off page, off screen.” Can we call this an erotic low key psychological thriller? Because that’s what I’m doing. Continue reading

Release Day Review: Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep

Kill the Queen (Crown of Shards #1) by Jennifer Estep
Fantasy published by Harper Voyager on October 2, 2018

Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep Book CoverGladiator meets Game of Thrones: a royal woman becomes a skilled warrior to destroy her murderous cousin, avenge her family, and save her kingdom in this first entry in a dazzling fantasy epic from the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Elemental Assassin series—an enthralling tale that combines magic, murder, intrigue, adventure, and a hint of romance.

In a realm where one’s magical power determines one’s worth, Lady Everleigh’s lack of obvious ability relegates her to the shadows of the royal court of Bellona, a kingdom steeped in gladiator tradition. Seventeenth in line for the throne, Evie is nothing more than a ceremonial fixture, overlooked and mostly forgotten.

But dark forces are at work inside the palace. When her cousin Vasilia, the crown princess, assassinates her mother the queen and takes the throne by force, Evie is also attacked, along with the rest of the royal family. Luckily for Evie, her secret immunity to magic helps her escape the massacre.

Forced into hiding to survive, she falls in with a gladiator troupe. Though they use their talents to entertain and amuse the masses, the gladiators are actually highly trained warriors skilled in the art of war, especially Lucas Sullivan, a powerful magier with secrets of his own. Uncertain of her future—or if she even has one—Evie begins training with the troupe until she can decide her next move.

But as the bloodthirsty Vasilia exerts her power, pushing Bellona to the brink of war, Evie’s fate becomes clear: she must become a fearsome gladiator herself . . . and kill the queen.

Fan-freaking-tastic! I would have finished this in one day if I didn’t have to do grown up stuff after I started reading. Great characters, awesome world building. Jennifer Estep got me to care about gladiators when fighting is not my thing at all—no interest in WWE, MMA, UFC, etc. But I had a running montage in my head of the fight sequences while Evie, the main protagonist, and the troupe are training and during the gladiator shows (“Are you not entertained?!” Came to my mind several times). All the best elements of action movies—this book was like a summer blockbuster movie (think of Gladiator, the Thor: Ragnarok Thor versus Hulk battle) to me, only in book form. Shifters and magic abound in this world on top of traveling gladiator troupes putting on shows for the masses. If all this sounds appealing to you, this is the book for you. Continue reading

Release Day Review: Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven

Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven
Adult high fantasy romance released by Penguin on September 25, 2018

Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven Book CoverA woman with power over fire and illusion and the enslaved son of a chieftain battle a corrupt empire in this powerful and deeply emotional romantic fantasy from the USA Today bestselling author of Radiance.

Every year, each village is required to send a young woman to the Empire’s capital–her fate to be burned alive for the entertainment of the masses. For the last five years, one small village’s tithe has been the same woman. Gilene’s sacrifice protects all the other young women of her village, and her secret to staying alive lies with the magic only she possesses.

But this year is different.

Azarion, the Empire’s most famous gladiator, has somehow seen through her illusion–and is set on blackmailing Gilene into using her abilities to help him escape his life of slavery. Unknown to Gilene, he also wants to reclaim the birthright of his clan.

To protect her family and village, she will abandon everything to return to the Empire–and burn once more.

Fans of fantasy romance rejoice! Another great book (and new series) by Grace Draven is here! I was so excited for this book I begged for an ARC! This story has great world-building and a complex romance. I enjoyed the very slow burn romance with a great payoff at the end. Azarion and Gilene are multi-faceted characters who go through a lot and grow in this story. Azarion’s mother, Saruke, and sister, Tamura, are awesome secondary characters along with traders and other clan members. Continue reading

Review: Rebel Hard by Nalini Singh

Rebel Hard by Nalini Singh
Contemporary romance released by Nalini Singh on September 18, 2018

Rebel Hard by Nalini Singh Book CoverNew York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh continues her Hard Play series with a sweet, sexy romance featuring big, fat, OTT weddings, a meddling grandma, and a too-serious hero who needs to be unbuttoned…

Nayna Sharma agreed to an arranged marriage in the hope it would heal the fractures in her beloved family… only to realize too late that a traditional marriage is her personal nightmare. Panicked, she throws caution to the winds, puts on the tiniest dress she can find, and ends up in the arms of a tall, rough-edged hunk of a man who has abs of steel—and who she manages to mortally insult between one kiss and the next.

Abandoned as a child, then adopted into a loving family, Raj Sen believes in tradition, in continuity. Some might call him stiff and old-fashioned, but he knows what he wants—and it’s a life defined by rules… yet he can’t stop thinking about the infuriating and sexy woman who kissed him in the moonlight then disappeared. When his parents spring an introduction on him, the last woman he expects is her. Beautiful. Maddening. A rule breaker in the making.

He’s all wrong for her. She’s all wrong for him. And love is about to make rebels of them both.

Nalini Singh is an evil fiend because I’m pretty sure she enjoys ripping your heart out. (Figuratively, emotionally.) … Maybe I should’ve written that “I’m pretty sure Nalini Singh is an evil fiend because she enjoys ripping your emotional heart out. Doesn’t matter – I’m not getting quoted and definitely am not aiming for that. Heh. Rebel Hard is just so cute. It’s snuggly and warm and fun and I just want to hug it. I have slightly mixed feelings about part of it, but everything really fell into place for me around 70%. I already know I’ll be re-reading this book. I also was thinking this was way more lighthearted and then you get to 82% and BAM. The book reaches out and grabs you in the feels. It’s got love, intrigue, drama, overly involved loving family (but not all good – some are shake worthy), cultural mores, a devoted hero, and a heroine just spreading her wings in her own way.  Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: The Tropic of Serpents: A Memoir by Lady Trent by by Marie Brennan

The Tropic of Serpents: A Memoir by Lady Trent (A Natural History of Dragons Book 2) by Marie Brennan
Historical fantasy published by Tor on March 4, 2014

The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan Book CoverThe thrilling adventure of Lady Trent continues in Marie Brennan’s Tropic of Serpents . . .

Attentive readers of Lady Trent’s earlier memoir, A Natural History of Dragons, are already familiar with how a bookish and determined young woman named Isabella first set out on the historic course that would one day lead her to becoming the world’s premier dragon naturalist. Now, in this remarkably candid second volume, Lady Trent looks back at the next stage of her illustrious (and occasionally scandalous) career.

Three years after her fateful journeys through the forbidding mountains of Vystrana, Mrs. Camherst defies family and convention to embark on an expedition to the war-torn continent of Eriga, home of such exotic draconian species as the grass-dwelling snakes of the savannah, arboreal tree snakes, and, most elusive of all, the legendary swamp-wyrms of the tropics.

The expedition is not an easy one. Accompanied by both an old associate and a runaway heiress, Isabella must brave oppressive heat, merciless fevers, palace intrigues, gossip, and other hazards in order to satisfy her boundless fascination with all things draconian, even if it means venturing deep into the forbidden jungle known as the Green Hell . . . where her courage, resourcefulness, and scientific curiosity will be tested as never before.

For August’s TBR challenge, I read book 2 in the Memoirs of Lady Trent series. I loved the first book, A Natural History of Dragons, and enjoyed The Tropic of Serpents. Isabella lives with locals to get close to dragons in the swamp. She’s exorcised of “evil energy” and learns secrets about swamp-wyrms, flies across dragon-infested waters, and is involved in political machinations. All great stuff and an exciting read. Continue reading