Review: A Scandalous Deal by Joanna Shupe

A Scandalous Deal by Joanna Shupe
Historical (American) romance released by Avon on April 24, 2018

A Scandalous Deal by Joanna Shupe Book CoverJoanna Shupe returns with another unforgettable novel set in the glittering world of New York City’s Gilded Age…

They call her Lady Unlucky…
With three dead fiancés, Lady Eva Hyde has positively no luck when it comes to love. She sets sail for New York City, determined that nothing will deter her dream of becoming an architect, certainly not an unexpected passionate shipboard encounter with a mysterious stranger. But Eva’s misfortune strikes once more when she discovers the stranger who swept her off her feet is none other than her new employer.

Or is it Lady Irresistible?
Phillip Mansfield reluctantly agrees to let the fiery Lady Eva oversee his luxury hotel project while vowing to keep their relationship strictly professional. Yet Eva is more capable—and more alluring—than Phillip first thought, and he cannot keep from drawing up a plan of his own to seduce her.

When a series of onsite “accidents” make it clear someone wants Lady Unlucky to earn her nickname, Phillip discovers he’s willing to do anything to protect her—even if it requires a scandalous deal…

Yes! A heroine who is an architect. Nora Roberts does something like this in a lot of her contemporary romances, but I really enjoyed Shupe’s approach to a female architect in the 19th century. The hero—Phillip–was okay for me, but compared with the heroine, he wasn’t as compelling. He’s what we would call a developer, I think; he buys up undeveloped property and builds fancy buildings. The tension between the two is twofold; Phillip wasn’t expecting a female architect in charge of his very expensive project, and they’re both madly attracted to each other but aren’t really honest with themselves or each other about what they want from a relationship. Once the hero’s history was revealed, I felt like pulling a move from Tangled and applying a metaphorical frying pan to his head—just because one woman did something bad to you doesn’t mean that all women are to be distrusted! Continue reading

Review: Savor You by Kristen Proby

Savor You by Kristen Proby
Contemporary romance released by HarperCollins on April 24, 2018

In the next sizzling romance in Kristen Proby’s New York Times bestselling Fusion series, two celebrity chefs compete in a culinary competition, but resisting each other will prove to be the greater challenge.

Cooking isn’t what Mia Palazzo does, it’s who she is. Food is her passion . . . her pride . . . her true love. She’s built a stellar menu full of delicious and sexy meals for her restaurant, Seduction. Now, after being open for only a few short years, Mia’s restaurant is being featured on Best Bites TV. To say Seduction is a wild success is an understatement. All the blood, sweat, tears, and endless hours of work Mia has put into the restaurant has finally paid off.

Then Camden Sawyer, the biggest mistake of her life, walks into her kitchen . . .

Camden’s celebrity chef status is world-renowned. He’s the best there is, and the kitchen is where he’s most at home. He can’t resist the invitation to Portland for a showdown against Mia for a new television show. Mia was in his life years ago, and just like before, he’s met his match in the beautiful Italian spitfire. The way she commands the kitchen is mesmerizing, and her recipes are clever and delicious. He’s never had qualms about competition, and this is no different. He can’t wait to go head to head with Mia. But can he convince her the chemistry they share in the kitchen would be just as great in the bedroom as well?

As Mia and Camden face off, neither realizes how high the stakes are as their reputations are put on the line and their hearts are put to the ultimate test.

There were chefs and second chance romances in this book, and it was really good. Camden and Mia have history—and not the cute kind of history. They have the I-walked-out-on-you kind of history. But not many people know about it—Camden’s sister knows, and eventually Mia’s brother learns about it, but mostly, other people have no idea why Mia doesn’t want to do a TV show with this super famous celebrity chef who is appealing to the eye. I really enjoyed how Mia and Camden talked out all of their issues—not just to work out their history, but when they stepped on each other’s feelings; they respect each other professionally and they have a network of friends/family. However, it did start to drag towards the end for me. Continue reading

SAPAHM Encore Guest Eilis Flynn Celebrates a Festival of Stars in a Year of Diversity

Hi friends! I hope you’ll join me in welcoming Eilis Flynn to ALBTALBS!! For once I didn’t include any of her other book covers because I think the focus is as it should be – on Festival of Stars and I hope you’ll find a new book to love. (I’m also super excited to have this little visit back to APAHM.) I love fairy tales and twisted fairy tales! <3 

Celebrating a festival of stars in a year of diversity

By Eilis Flynn

Like the fairy tales that kids in Western culture grow up reading and hearing about, the story of the festival of stars is one that kids all over Asia know. The annual meeting of the Weaver Princess and the Cowherder—that’s the version I knew when I was a kid growing up in Japan; you’ll find it under several different names—is a wonderful, tragic, yet hopeful love story, and I always wanted to adapt it to modern, American times. It goes like this: The princess and the cowherder meet one day, and fall in love. But because they neglect their duties in their devotion to each other, the Celestial King rules that they must be separated, with only one chance a year to get together. This is the “romance of the Milky Way,” the Tanabata, as the ancient Japanese poems refer to it, the Festival of Stars.

That kind of love is universal, and it speaks to us all, I figured. Right? So I wrote it.

When this book was originally published in 2007, it was the book of my heart, allowing me to retell the story of what I had always regarded as the ultimate romance, but set in the United States of contemporary times, taken from the Japanese folktales with which I had grown up. But I ran into a road block when I was told, and told again, that the majority of readers wouldn’t be able to relate to it because of its theme of biracialism and bigotry. Editors to whom I submitted it literally told me that Asians didn’t read (which surprised the heck out of me and possibly to the billion literate Asians out there) and thus would have no interest. In any case, when I did sell it, despite decent reviews the book sold poorly, so when I eventually got the rights to it back, I laid the book to rest, assuming it would never see the light of day again. Continue reading

SHM Pride Guest Author: Motzie Dapul on Creating the Content I Want to See in the World

We are so excited to have so many new guests to ALBTALBS for Pride month this year! Today author Motzie Dapul joins us with a beautiful post discussing two LGBTQ+ stories she has written. I’m a huge fan of romance and of comics, so when the two are combined you can’t pull me away! Please give Motzie a warm welcome! 

Creating the Content I Want to See in the World

It’s a bit odd to be talking about one’s own work when it comes to Pride, but a lot of great LGBTQ+ stories come from authors who, unable to find the kind of content they want to see in the world, create their own.

Start Here short story anthology edited by Ronald Lim and Brigitte Bautista book cover In the case of my own stories and comics, there was a list I found myself ticking off, of stories I’ve never seen in media, even in LGBTQ+ media, that I decided to create for myself. One of these things was the presence of the lesser known queer identities beyond lesbian and gay, which pushed me into writing a story between a pansexual woman and a non-binary person. Another of these things is something that’s becoming more frequently seen in media lately (in the year of our lord “20GayTeen”) is genre fiction with LGBTQ+ characters.

Which brings me to two of my works, putting F/F and F/NB fiction front and centre: Gorgeous, from the short story anthology Start Here: Short Stories of First Encounters, and BEHKomiks, a Filipino supernatural, urban-fantasy, action comics series centering on Filipino LGBTQ+ characters and their monstrous romantic partners. Continue reading

Duology Review: Reign of Shadows & Rise of Fire by Sophie Jordan

Reign of Shadows & Rise of Fire by Sophie Jordan
Young adult high fantasy romance released by HarperCollins on February 9, 2016 and February 7, 2017

Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan Book CoverDestiny and darkness collide in this romantic, sweeping new fantasy series from New York Times bestselling author Sophie Jordan.

Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok’s lost princess, has been hiding in a tower ever since. Luna’s survival depends on the world believing she is dead.

But that doesn’t stop Luna from wanting more. When she meets Fowler, a mysterious archer braving the woods outside her tower, Luna is drawn to him despite the risk. When the tower is attacked, Luna and Fowler escape together. But this world of darkness is more treacherous than Luna ever realized.

With every threat stacked against them, Luna and Fowler find solace in each other. But with secrets still unspoken between them, falling in love might be their most dangerous journey yet.

And

Rise of Fire by Sophie Jordan Book CoverLuna and Fowler have escaped the kingdom of Relhok, but they haven’t escaped the darkness. When a battle against the dark dwellers mortally injures Fowler, Luna is faced with a choice: put their fate in the hands of mysterious strangers or risk losing Fowler forever.

Desperate to keep the one bright part of her life alive, Luna accepts the help of soldiers from a nearby kingdom. Lagonia’s castle offers reprieve from the dangerous outside world—until the King discovers both Fowler and Luna’s true ties to Relhok and their influence over the throne.

Now pawns in each kingdom’s political game, Luna and Fowler are more determined than ever to escape and build the life they’ve been dreaming of. But their own pasts have a tight hold on their hearts and their destinies. Luna must embrace the darkness and fire within her before she loses not only Fowler but the power she was destined to inherit.

The world is a fucking garbage fire, and it’s only gotten worse … which is why I’ve mostly been reading adult high fantasy romances. In fact it’s something I started more than a year ago, and the situation has only gotten more dire (in every sense). There is a lot more YA high fantasy romance than adult, and I think that’s a shame. In my opinion adult high fantasy romance is a huge untapped market I wish more authors would jump into. Anyway – I’ll read YA high fantasy romance when the characters are close to adult or act as if they are adults in their world. I’d say a 17 year old and a 19 year old traveling across a continent alone facing incredible danger counts. (Especially when they’re considered marriageable age and many others in that world their age already have children, etc.) I also figured, knowing Sophie Jordan wrote (writes?) romance, there would be something in there for me. And I was right.

I have a tendency to glom fantasy romance series – even more than other romance subgenres, so as soon as I finish one book I jump into the second, and oftentimes forgot where one ends and the other starts. (Which I don’t consider a real problem since so many are series …) I read both books in one day. I found the world building really interesting, and actually hope there will be some sort of novella, or vignette offering a follow up because I so want to know what else happens.
Continue reading

Debut Author Eve Pendle Dishes British Inside Jokes

Hi friends! Today we have Eve Pendle guesting with us, and her debut book Six Weeks with a Lord was released on June 25th! Congratulations, Eve, and thank you for visiting us!

Five jokes in Six Weeks with a Lord that only British readers will get

I love historical details, but I also like to make little puns and jokes in my stories that refer to modern things, to delight the diligent reader. When you read Six Weeks with a Lord, you’ll easily catch the jokes about how many Dukes there are in London and the endless puns on Grace’s name. But there are more!

British readers will see in six weeks with a Lord some little jokes that they’ll wonder whether they’re deliberate. The reference will be just a little bit obscure. So I’m going to tell you about some here and hopefully American and other non-UK readers will be able to share the joke. Though bearing in mind that if you have to explain a joke, it’s not that funny. Please expect very mild spoilers. Continue reading

SHM Pride Guest Author: Alyssa Linn Palmer on Alberta’s GLBTQ2S+ History, and Me

We continue our Pride Month posts by welcoming another first time guest Alyssa Linn Palmer. I’m especially excited to welcome Alyssa because she’s Canadian, as am I, even though I live in the States these days. Welcome, Alyssa, it’s great to have you here!

Alberta’s GLBTQ2S+ History, and Me

Two young children on a tricycle, one on the seat, one on the handlebars

The author before she knew how life would change

There were times when I thought that nothing would ever change.

I knew I was bisexual from quite a young age, but until I was a teenager, I didn’t have the words to articulate it. And even then, given the homophobia prevalent in the early 1990s (the Calgary Pride Parade began in 1990 and some marchers wore paper bags over their heads so they wouldn’t be identified), those words stayed silent inside me. A few very close friends knew, but that was it.

One of the first things I remember about GLBTQ in the news was in 1991, when Alberta teacher Delwin Vriend was fired by a Christian college he worked at, just because he was gay. He tried to take his case to the Alberta Human Rights Commission, but he was turned away because at that time, sexual orientation wasn’t protected under the province’s human rights code. He sued the government and the commission, and won. And then on appeal, because the provincial government was staunchly anti-gay, the appeals court overturned the decision. Vriend took the case to the Supreme Court, and that court finally ruled in 1998 that governments could not exclude people from human rights legislation based on their sexual orientation. This change was “written in” to the province’s human rights legislation at the time. Continue reading

Review: On the Line by Liz Lincoln

On the Line by Liz Lincoln
Contemporary romance released by Random House on April 17, 2018 

On the Line by Liz Lincoln Book CoverIs this man: A) a super-hot NFL player, B) the guy you’re sexting, or C) your new boss?
If you’re Carrie Herron, the answer is: D) all of the above. First, Carrie starts exchanging steamy text messages with the sexy single dad she meets in line at the grocery store. Then she lands a job as the live-in nanny for the daughter of the Milwaukee Dragons’ newest star. With any luck, she’ll be back on her financial feet before the next cosplay convention rolls around. But when Carrie shows up for work and realizes that her new boss is the guilty pleasure in her phone, she has no choice but to try to keep things professional. Oh, how would Poison Ivy handle a temptation like Seth Chamberlain?

After getting traded from Houston to Milwaukee, Seth’s having a tough time keeping his head in the game, let alone making sure that his daughter is fitting in. So if the only nanny that Madison will tolerate is a grown woman who likes comic books even more than she does . . . well, so be it. Too bad the nanny is also the gorgeous redhead Seth’s been flirting with all this time. But with Carrie’s knowing glances and kissable lips driving him wild, Seth must decide whether he’s ready to put everything on the line.

This is, as the copy says, a romance between a nerdy science teacher and a football player. The football player is a single father, with a teenage daughter. I liked this book, but I had some issues with it, which in the end kept me from giving it a higher grade. Football and geek culture got about equal amounts of attention, which was nice, and we get a decent amount of forced proximity, so if these are your catnip, this might be the book for you. Continue reading

Review: Bound To by Sionna Fox

Bound To by Sionna Fox
Contemporary Romance Released by Sionna Fox on April 24, 2018

Bound To by Sionna Fox Book CoverTake one neurotic new girl in town and one kinky neuroscientist, add sparks and a side of sexual awakening. This might hurt later.

Jolene Whitman has never left her hometown, hasn’t been on a date in six years, and when her best friend asks her to move to Boston with her, she jumps at the chance to leave her country mouse roots behind.

Starting over in a new city with one friend, no job, and her bank account bleeding out is enough to send Jolene’s anxiety through the roof. Add in a hot post-doc with a dominant streak and it could be a recipe for a panic attack big enough to send her home with her tail between her legs. But submitting to Matthew Ward shuts up the running monologue in her head like nothing ever has before.

Each night they spend together, exploring the limits of their trust, Jolene falls a little harder for the man responsible for her sexual awakening. Under Matthew’s care and control, she finds a place where she understands exactly who and what she’s supposed to be.

She knows it’s too good to last, that a man like Matthew will never stay with a woman like her. But if the cost of finding herself is a broken heart, she’s all in.

The blurb is accurate, as far as those kinds of things go, but there were certain instances in the book that caused me to enjoy this book less. Jo is jobless and scared when she first meets Matt, and when she goes out with him, she’s at a boring contract job and worried about what she’ll do for work once her contract is up. Matt is doing his post-doctoral work studying brain chemistry at the cellular level. It has something to do with how anxiety disorders have an effect, but we really don’t get into details. I liked how Jo and Matt eventually were honest with each other about what they wanted—namely, a relationship—and that Jo figured out that she needed a support network and that that was okay; I didn’t like how long that took to happen or that Jo engaged in some not so safe behaviors. I also would have appreciated some more time spent with Matt that wasn’t sexytimes. Continue reading

Guest Release Day Review: Wicked and the Wallflower by Sarah MacLean

Laura’s Review of Wicked and the Wallflower by Sarah MacLean
Historical romance released by Avon on June 19, 2018

Wicked and the Wallflower by Sarah MacLean Book CoverWhen Wicked Comes Calling . . .
When a mysterious stranger finds his way into her bedchamber and offers his help in landing a duke, Lady Felicity Faircloth agrees—on one condition. She’s seen enough of the world to believe in passion, and won’t accept a marriage without it.

The Wallflower Makes a Dangerous Bargain . . .
Bastard son of a duke and king of London’s dark streets, Devil has spent a lifetime wielding power and seizing opportunity, and the spinster wallflower is everything he needs to exact a revenge years in the making. All he must do is turn the plain little mouse into an irresistible temptress, set his trap, and destroy his enemy.

For the Promise of Passion . . .
But there’s nothing plain about Felicity Faircloth, who quickly decides she’d rather have Devil than another. Soon, Devil’s carefully laid plans are in chaos and he must choose between everything he’s ever wanted . . . and the only thing he’s ever desired.

Sarah MacLean has wrecked me. This book. THIS BOOK.

I wanted to read this book because Sarah MacLean has never let me down. One of my favorite books of all time is Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, and with that book, MacLean hooked me. Add that to the fact that I’m a sucker for a wallflower/bad boy romance, and I’m hooked. With this book, she showed me once more what love really is, or what I want it to be. In Wicked and the Wallflower we see the heroine embarrassingly announce to a room full of the ton’s biggest gossips that she has landed the reclusive Duke of Marwick. (spoiler alert: she hasn’t. In fact they’ve never met). And the man who offers to help her land him in truth becomes the man she actually wants. I LOVE this trope! Continue reading