Tag Archives: 2020 Review

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: The Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan

The Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan
Historical romance released by Courtney Milan on September 22, 2020

The Duke Who Didn't by Courtney Milan book coverMiss Chloe Fong has plans for her life, lists for her days, and absolutely no time for nonsense. Three years ago, she told her childhood sweetheart that he could talk to her once he planned to be serious. He disappeared that very night.

Except now he’s back. Jeremy Wentworth, the Duke of Lansing, has returned to the tiny village he once visited with the hope of wooing Chloe. In his defense, it took him years of attempting to be serious to realize that the endeavor was incompatible with his personality.

All he has to do is convince Chloe to make room for a mischievous trickster in her life, then disclose that in all the years they’ve known each other, he’s failed to mention his real name, his title… and the minor fact that he owns her entire village.

Only one thing can go wrong: Everything.

There’s a lot I want to say about this book, and I probably won’t cover it all, but I want to first say I liked it. I think you will too.​ ​So this is how I (it) started with The Duke Who Didn’t: this book is ridiculous in the best possible way. Lighthearted and fun. A delightful confection of a book. (I was about 30% in?​ when I wrote that.​) And then just before 50% there was a literal jaw dropping moment and I had to put the book down. Just to take a few moments. Honestly I should probably sit and think about this story more, but then I’ll get too in my head and afraid I’ll mess up what I ought to or need to say … (which would actually be very fitting with these characters) – so I’ll just go with what’s off the top of my head now and let it go.​ (Although I wrote that bit two days ago.) There were definitely laugh out loud moments, and a lot to enjoy. I don’t want to get it wrong, but it’s my review so there “is no wrong.” Let’s go. ​

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Release Day Review: Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews

Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews
Urban fantasy released by Avon on August 25, 2020

Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews book coverAs Prime magic users, Catalina Baylor and her sisters have extraordinary powers—powers their ruthless grandmother would love to control. Catalina can earn her family some protection working as deputy to the Warden of Texas, overseeing breaches of magic law in the state, but that has risks as well. When House Baylor is under attack and monsters haunt her every step, Catalina is forced to rely on handsome, dangerous Alessandro Sagredo, the Prime who crushed her heart.

The nightmare that Alessandro has fought since childhood has come roaring back to life, but now Catalina is under threat. Not even his lifelong quest for revenge will stop him from keeping her safe, even if every battle could be his last. Because Catalina won’t rest until she stops the use of the illicit, power-granting serum that’s tearing their world apart.

I really enjoy this series, and I really enjoyed this book. This book is the sequel to Sapphire Flames, and does a good job of not presuming the reader is familiar with the world or characters. However, things will make much more sense if you’ve read, at least, Sapphire Flames–you should definitely read all of the previous books, but you don’t have to. Also, there is a decent amount of on the page violence in this book, so if that makes you uncomfortable, this isn’t your book. Catalina is savvy, confident, ruthless, and loves her family deeply. She’s also trying not to become like her paternal grandmother, who does not have a good track record as a decent human being. The love interest is Alessandro, and while he doesn’t narrate any part of this book, we get a good sense of him from how Catalina describes their interactions and how the other characters react to him. In many ways, he is like Catalina, but without a supportive family or friends, and he’s changed from how he was in previous books. I keep mentioning Catalina’s family because they’re just as important as Catalina to the way the story unfolds, both in this book and over the course of the series. The only thing I didn’t like about this book is its ending, which is a bit of a cliffhanger. Continue reading

Review: Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha

Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha
Urban fantasy romance released by Tor Books on July 28, 2020

Deal With the Devil by Kit Rocha book coverNina is an information broker with a mission—she and her team of mercenary librarians use their knowledge to save the hopeless in a crumbling America.

Knox is the bitter, battle-weary captain of the Silver Devils. His squad of supersoldiers went AWOL to avoid slaughtering innocents, and now he’s fighting to survive.

They’re on a deadly collision course, and the passion that flares between them only makes it more dangerous. They could burn down the world, destroying each other in the process…

Or they could do the impossible: team up.

This is a wonderful start to what I hope will be a great series. The book deals with several issues that might be uncomfortable for some readers, and the authors have provided content warnings on their site for those issues. Generally, this is an intense book. It is set in a dystopian future on Earth where society has collapsed and is run by dangerous entities with a firm hold on everything, including technology, medical research, and information of any kind. The main characters in this series are broken down into two teams. On the mercenary side, there’s Knox and his team, who are hiding out from the big bad entity because they refuse to follow orders to kill innocent people anymore. There’s a slight hitch with that plan, which is why they end up collaborating with the mercenary librarians (which the authors described as Murder Ladies in one tweet). Nina is the leader of the mercenary librarians, and their mission is to help all the normal people trying to survive in this dystopian world. Nina is a problem solver; if you put her in a hard situation, she will figure a way out of it without sacrificing the people she holds dear and get what she originally wanted. Part of this is preparation, but the rest is thinking on her feet and thinking outside the box. Knox is a planner, and he is less used to thinking outside the box. This is the cause for a lot of the conflict between Nina and Knox, along with secrets neither of them is aware of at the beginning of the book. Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: Once Upon a Rose by Laura Florand

Once Upon a Rose by Laura Florand
Contemporary romance released by Laura Florand on January 26, 2015 

Once Upon a Rose by Laura Florand book coverShe stole his roses.

Fleeing the spotlight, burnt out rock star Layla—“Belle”—Dubois seeks refuge in the south of France. That old, half-forgotten heritage in a valley of roses seems like a good place to soothe a wounded heart. She certainly doesn’t expect the most dangerous threat to her heart to pounce on her as soon as she sets foot on the land.

He wants them back.

Matt didn’t mean to growl at her quite that loudly. But—his roses! She can’t have his roses. Even if she does have all those curls and green eyes and, and, and…what was he growling about again?

Or maybe he just wants her.

When an enemy invades his valley and threatens his home, heart, and livelihood, Matthieu Rosier really knows only one way to defend himself.

It might involve kissing.

I’ve been hoarding this book for a moment of true need. Or at least, that’s how I’m explaining why it took me this long to read this book, considering that it’s been in my virtual TBR pile for a very long time. It was, as with other Florand books, lush, funny, and richly layered both in terms of plot and characters. I guess you could loosely describe this as a beauty and the beast retelling, in so much as we have a really grumpy love interest who has a very soft heart–Matthieu, and a love interest who is beautiful, kind and curious–Layla. But because this is written by Florand, it is more than that. It is a musician who inherits a house in France, and steps into a family involved in the perfume industry who are collectively going through some growing pains. Continue reading

Release Day Review: A Touch of Stone and Snow by Milla Vane

A Touch of Stone and Snow (A Gathering of Dragons Book 2) by Milla Vane
High fantasy romance released by Berkley on July 21, 2020

A Touch of Stone and Snow by Milla Vane book coverMilla Vane returns to a world of kings, magic, and passion in her exhilarating A Gathering of Dragons series, as a great alliance forms to stand against an evil warlord intent on their destruction.
Danger lurks in the western realms. The Destroyer’s imminent return has sent the realms into turmoil as desperate citizens seek refuge—but there’s no safety to be found when demons and wraiths crawl out from the shadows. Even Koth, a northern island kingdom left untouched by the Destroyer a generation past, is besieged by terrors spawned from corrupt magics.
When Lizzan leads the Kothan army against these terrors, only to see her soldiers massacred and to emerge as the only survivor, she is called a coward and a deserter. Shunned from her home, Lizzan now wanders in solitude as a mercenary for hire, until she encounters a group of warriors seeking new alliances with the northern kingdoms—a group that includes Aerax, the bastard prince of Koth, and the man who sent her into exile.
Though they were childhood friends, Aerax cannot allow himself to be close to the only woman who might thwart his treacherous plan to save their island realm. But when a goddess’s demand binds them together, Lizzan and Aerax must find a way to overcome their painful pasts. Or there will be no future for the western realms…

A quick note before diving into this review: one of the main characters is an alcoholic, and Vane does not hide this.

I really enjoyed this book, and think it does a great job of following up on the action in the first book of this series. That said, you don’t need to have read the first book to be able to understand what is happening, since this is set in a different part of the world from the first book, but the relations and events explained in the previous novel and novella will be helpful here. This book is also a glorious, gritty epic fantasy romance, with fantastical creatures–even the nonmagical kind, battles, and quests. The romance in this book is a second-chance kind of a romance, with a decent splash of I-hate-you-but-still-have-feelings-dammit! Thrown in. And before I forget, there is an intelligent big cat in this book, and I always enjoy a good animal appearance. When we first meet Lizzan, she is going through a very rough patch and not dealing with it in a super healthy manner, so we get to see her work her way through that as the book progresses. Aerax is not over Lizzan at all when we meet him, and we get to see him fall more deeply in love with her. However, this is not an easy romance. Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: Two Rogues Make a Right (Seducing the Sedgewicks) by Cat Sebastian

Two Rogues Make a Right (Seducing the Sedgewicks) by Cat Sebastian
Historical romance released by Avon Impulse on June 23, 2020

Two Rogues Make a Right by Cat Sebastian book coverWill Sedgwick can’t believe that after months of searching for his oldest friend, Martin Easterbrook is found hiding in an attic like a gothic nightmare. Intent on nursing Martin back to health, Will kindly kidnaps him and takes him to the countryside to recover, well away from the world.

Martin doesn’t much care where he is or even how he got there. He’s much more concerned that the man he’s loved his entire life is currently waiting on him hand and foot, feeding him soup and making him tea. Martin knows he’s a lost cause, one he doesn’t want Will to waste his life on.

As a lifetime of love transforms into a tender passion both men always desired but neither expected, can they envision a life free from the restrictions of the past, a life with each other?

The theme for this month’s TBR challenge is “family ties” and this book has a lot of those – it’s the third book in a series about one family – reading the others recommended (they are awesome!!) but not required to enjoy this one – and heroes with complicated families, in a variety of ways. It’s also a meditation on a frequently-used Regency romance trope: the couple that is mismatched, in terms of family background, one wealthy, one poor, and the accommodations they must make for each other, and their families. Here, because both halves of the couple are male, there’s another trope maybe not inverted but flipped sideways, and that is, the man who must marry in order to maintain himself in the style to which he has become accustomed. Also readers who are into hurt/comfort, and love a good sick!fic, this is a book for YOU. So much mopping of a sweaty brow, and making of soup, and reading to a cross feverish patient! Continue reading

Release Day Review: A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby by Vanessa Riley

A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby by Vanessa Riley
Historical romance released by Zebra Books on June 30, 2020

The Duke, The Lady, and A Baby by Vanessa Riley book coverCreated by a shrewd countess, The Widow’s Grace is a secret society with a mission: to help ill-treated widows regain their status, their families, and even find true love again—or perhaps for the very first time . . .

When headstrong West Indian heiress Patience Jordan questioned her English husband’s mysterious suicide, she lost everything: her newborn son, Lionel, her fortune—and her freedom. Falsely imprisoned, she risks her life to be near her child—until The Widow’s Grace gets her hired as her own son’s nanny. But working for his unsuspecting new guardian, Busick Strathmore, Duke of Repington, has perils of its own. Especially when Patience discovers his military strictness belies an ex-rake of unswerving honor—and unexpected passion . . .

A wounded military hero, Busick is determined to resolve his dead cousin’s dangerous financial dealings for Lionel’s sake. But his investigation is a minor skirmish compared to dealing with the forthright, courageous, and alluring Patience. Somehow, she’s breaking his rules, and sweeping past his defenses. Soon, between formidable enemies and obstacles, they form a fragile trust—but will it be enough to save the future they long to dare together?

This was a lovely historical romance that does not take place in ballrooms or castles. Instead, the love interests are an officer who was injured fighting Napoleon and a widowed heiress with a baby to protect. There are also women circumventing the rules to make sure they stay safe. The conflicts are layered like a nesting doll, and somewhat spoiler-y, so I can’t fully describe them. Busick (the injured officer) is methodical, protective, and for a while, stuck in the idea of getting back to the war. Patience (the widowed heiress) is isolated by her dead husband’s choices and the secrets he kept from her. She’s impulsive and protective. They’re brought together by the need to protect the baby, who is never out of sight for long. Continue reading

Release Day Review: Take a Hint, Dani Brown

Take a Hint, Dani Brown (The Brown Sisters #2) by Talia Hibbert
Contemporary Romance published by Avon on June 23, 2020

Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert book cover Danika Brown knows what she wants: professional success, academic renown, and an occasional roll in the hay to relieve all that career-driven tension. But romance? Been there, done that, burned the T-shirt. Romantic partners, whatever their gender, are a distraction at best and a drain at worst. So Dani asks the universe for the perfect friend-with-benefits—someone who knows the score and knows their way around the bedroom.

When big, brooding security guard Zafir Ansari rescues Dani from a workplace fire drill gone wrong, it’s an obvious sign: PhD student Dani and former rugby player Zaf are destined to sleep together. But before she can explain that fact to him, a video of the heroic rescue goes viral. Suddenly, half the internet is shipping #DrRugbae—and Zaf is begging Dani to play along. Turns out his sports charity for kids could really use the publicity. Lying to help children? Who on earth would refuse?

Dani’s plan is simple: fake a relationship in public, seduce Zaf behind the scenes. The trouble is, grumpy Zaf is secretly a hopeless romantic—and he’s determined to corrupt Dani’s stone-cold realism. Before long, he’s tackling her fears into the dirt. But the former sports star has issues of his own, and the walls around his heart are as thick as his… um, thighs.

The easy lay Dani dreamed of is now more complex than her thesis. Has her wish backfired? Is her focus being tested? Or is the universe just waiting for her to take a hint?

Take a Hint, Dani Brown is a delightful read and I highly recommend it to contemporary romance fans (along with the first book in the series, Get a Life, Chloe Brown, which I reviewed here). For me this book has the perfect balance of issues to resolve but not so angsty I had to set it aside to cry at the low point. Exactly what I needed to read right now! Dani and Zafir are #couplesgoals and #swoony! Continue reading

Release Day Review: The Dare by Elle Kennedy

The Dare (Briar U Book 4) by Elle Kennedy
Contemporary new adult romance released by Elle Kennedy on June 16, 2020

The Dare by Elle Kennedy book cover College was supposed to be my chance to get over my ugly-duckling complex and spread my wings. Instead, I wound up in a sorority full of mean girls. I already have a hard time fitting in, so when my Kappa Chi sisters issue the challenge, I can’t say no.

The dare: seduce the hottest new hockey player in the junior class.

Conor Edwards is a regular at Greek Row parties…and in Greek Row sorority beds. He’s the one you fall for before you learn that guys like him don’t give girls like me a second glance. Except Mr. Popular throws me for a loop—rather than laughing in my face, he does me a solid by letting me take him upstairs to pretend we’re getting busy.

Even crazier, now he wants to keep pretending. Turns out Conor loves games, and he thinks it’s fun to pull the wool over my frenemies’ eyes.

But resisting his easy charm and surfer-boy hotness is darn near impossible. Though I’m realizing there’s much more to Conor’s story than his fan club can see.

And the longer this silly ruse goes on, the greater the danger of it all blowing up in my face.

I devoured this book in less than 3 days. It was funny and angsty in equal measures, and did a good job of capturing college life without infantilizing the characters, which some authors can’t quite pull off. Before going further, a couple of content warnings: the book talks about revenge porn towards the end of the book, and Taylor (one of the love interests) is dealing with body image issues throughout the book. Taylor is part of a sorority, and Conor is an athlete, so there is a fair amount of drinking going on in the book. For all that Taylor and Conor’s experience of college was not like mine, I think that Kennedy did a good job of showing us how college students interact with each other and with the world outside of college. I liked seeing Taylor and Conor grow in confidence, both because of their coupledom but also because of their own separate choices. And despite how angsty this book can get, there are parts where I laughed aloud.
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Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: Chaos Reigning by Jessie Mihalik

Chaos Reigning by Jessie Mihalik
Science fiction romance released by Harper Voyager on May 19, 2020

Chaos Reigning by Jessie Mihalik book coverAs the youngest member of her High House, Catarina von Hasenberg is used to being underestimated, but her youth and flighty, bubbly personality mask a clever mind and stubborn determination. Her enemies, blind to her true strength, do not suspect that Cat is a spy—which makes her the perfect candidate to go undercover at a rival House’s summer retreat to gather intelligence on their recent treachery. Cat’s overprotective older sister reluctantly agrees, but on one condition: Cat cannot go alone. Alexander Sterling, a quiet, gorgeous bodyguard, will accompany her, posing as her lover. After Cat tries, and fails, to ditch Alex, she grudgingly agrees, confident in her ability to manage him. After all, she’s never found a person she can’t manipulate. But Alex proves more difficult—and more desirable—than Cat anticipated. When she’s attacked and nearly killed, she and Alex are forced to work together to figure out how deep the treason goes. With rumors of widespread assaults on Serenity raging, communications down, and the rest of her family trapped off-planet, Catarina must persuade Alex to return to Earth to expose the truth and finish this deadly battle once and for all. But Cat can’t explain why she’s the perfect person to infiltrate hostile territory without revealing secrets she’d rather keep buried….

I’ve been on a science fiction kick lately, which is a bit odd for me because usually I can’t get into science fiction for various reasons. However, I knew that this book was out in the world and decided to go with what was working for my brain. This was a fun read, full of intrigue and family dynamics and a lovely romance. This is told exclusively from Catarina’s (Cat) point of view, so if close first person is not your thing, this is not the book for you. Continue reading