Tag Archives: Grade C

Insanely Belated Team ALBTALBTS TBR Challenge Review: The Sea King by C. L. Wilson

The Sea King (Weathermages of Mystral Book 2) by C. L. Wilson
Fantasy romance published by HarperCollins on October 31, 2017

He wasn’t supposed to choose her…

Seafaring prince Dilys Merimydion has been invited to court the three magical princesses of Summerlea. To eradicate the pirates threatening Calberna and to secure the power of the Sea Throne, Dilys vows to return home with a fierce warrior-queen as his bride. But politics has nothing to do with unexpected temptation.

She didn’t dare wed him…

A weathermage like her sisters, Gabriella Coruscate’s gentleness exemplifies the qualities of her season name, Summer. Yet her quiet poise conceals dangerous powers she cannot begin to wield. Better to live without excitement, she reasons, than risk her heart and lose control—until an irresistible Sealord jolts her awake with a thunderclap of raw desire.

Until evil threatens everything they hold dear…

When pirates kidnap Summer and her sisters, Dilys begins a desperate quest to save the woman he loves. Only by combining his command of the seas with the unleashed fury of Summer’s formidable gifts can they defeat their brutal enemies and claim the most priceless victory of all: true love.

I’ve been on what was an epic quest of reading adult high fantasy romances. It started over the summer, and it’s still going on low-key, but over the summer I read something like 100. And let me tell you, it wasn’t an easy task because there simply aren’t that many. (As compared to other romance sub-genres.)  Authors – take note: there is a ravenous readership just dying for high fantasy adult romances!  There are some such books though, and C. L. Wilson’s Weathermage Series perfectly fits the bill.

First though, I have a confession to make. I read this book back in September. I received an ARC even earlier but … that’s another story. I have this thing where especially with high fantasy romances, I want to read the entire series in one go. Clearly, the Weathermage series is not yet complete. However, I made an exception for this series, and am pleased to be able to inform you that each book can stand alone. Also that you should read these books, especially if you’re a fan of (high) fantasy romances. Continue reading

What We’ve Been Reading in 2017

Hi friends! I always like to know what people have been reading, and more importantly, what they recommend. While this isn’t exactly that … (those posts come in reviews and later), this list and our grades should give you some sort of indication. This time, you’ll get a comprehensive lists from me, a general list from Babs, and Karen’s highlights.
 
I’d love to know if you’ve read any of these books and what you thought of them! [I’m also as usual it seems like treading through quicksand, so we’ll see how we go with links.]
 
I also want to note, Babs put me to shame with her organization. While I then also separated my books out by month, I can’t speak to accuracy of timing. Especially since you know, I was loopy for most of it.
 
As a refresher, this is the basic ALBTALBS “Grading Scale.”
A = OMFG BEST BOOK EVER – LOVED IT. LOVED IT AND IT MADE ME LOVE EVERYTHING.
B = Really great book. You should read it.
C = Good book. Average, enjoyable read.
D = It was good, but there were some problems, or the reader had [significant] issues with certain aspects.
F = this was not a good book. I am angry I read it.
DNF = Did Not Finish (Either the book was truly that terrible, or I wasn’t in the mood, or whatever else. I just didn’t finish.)

TBR Challenge Review: Boys and Toys by Cara Lockwood

Boys and Toys by Cara Lockwood
Contemporary romance novella released by Cosmopolitan Red-Hot Reads from Harlequin on July 15, 2014
Boys and Toys

Every girl has a goody drawer.
Sex toy party hostess Liv Tanaka has a collection. Vibrating purple rabbits, cherry-flavored edible underwear, flavored oils… Hey, wearing a leather corset and stilettos (while selling dildos) pays the bills. Just don’t tell her very conservative parents. Because if they discovered Liv’s sex-toy-selling “Asian Elvira” alter ego, her parents would disown her.
So far, Liv’s doing a bang-up job of keeping her two worlds separate…until Porter Benjamin shows up at her party. Tall and too-tasty-to-resist Porter, who works for her father. Porter, who wants Liv to host a party just for him.

And oh, she’s tempted. But getting involved with Porter means mixing those two worlds that Liv desperately needs to keep separate. And now Liv’s Naughty Toybox is starting to look a lot like Pandora’s box….

I haven’t read one of the Harlequin/Cosmo Red Hot Reads in a while … and it was good to do so again. (Yes I know this was published in 2014, that’s okay.) The premise drew my attention – well the cover is eye catching, but the “good girl gone bad” and the hero working for her father … a total mess too irresistible for this reader. Continue reading

Guest Review: Coming Back by Lauren Dane

Ki’s Review of Coming Back by Lauren Dane
Contemporary erotic romance released by Hachette on December 8, 2015

Coming BackMick Roberts, the newest partner at Twisted Steel’s custom hotrod and motorcycle shop, looks like a man with everything. But secretly he still craves the connection he lost when his best friend Adam and the love of his life Jessilynn walked out. Then, he wasn’t ready for the pleasure they promised. Now, things have changed.

Rich, powerful, and insatiable, Adam Gulati is used to getting what he wants. And there’s nothing he wants more than Mick and Jessi. He hasn’t seen either in over a year, but the second he sets eyes on them again his memories-and his desires-can’t be denied.

After trying to live without them, Jessi Franklin realized no one else can satisfy her like Adam and Mick. The three of them need one another-in more ways than one. It’s time to stop pretending and submit to the hunger they all share. But once they go down this road, there’s no turning back. As deeply devoted as they are, no one knows what great bliss their forbidden fantasy will find-or the price they may pay . . .

This was my first book by Lauren Dane and I would never have picked this up myself but the blurb hooked me in a way I never would have thought. I still don’t know why it caught my interest because I don’t really like ménage à trois reads, but this just did. Maybe it was the characters or how I wanted to know what’ll happen next, or maybe it’s because I’ve been reading some good ménage à trois lately. Who knows. Continue reading

Review: Winter Wonderland by Heidi Cullinan

Karen’s Review of Winter Wonderland by Heidi Cullinan
Contemporary m/m romance published by Samhain Publishing on November 10, 2015

Winter WonderlandPaul Jansen was the only one of his friends who wanted a relationship. Naturally, he’s the last single man standing. No gay man within a fifty-mile radius wants more than casual sex.

No one, that is, except too-young, too-twinky Kyle Parks, who sends him suggestive texts and leaves X-rated snow sculptures on his front porch.

Kyle is tired of being the town’s resident Peter Pan. He’s twenty-five, not ten, and despite his effeminate appearance, he’s nothing but the boss in bed. He’s loved Paul since forever, and this Christmas, since they’re both working on the Winter Wonderland festival, he might finally get his chance for a holiday romance.

But Paul comes with baggage. His ultra-conservative family wants him paired up with a woman, not a man with Logan’s rainbow connection. When their anti-LGBT crusade spills beyond managing Paul’s love life and threatens the holiday festival, Kyle and Paul must fight for everyone’s happily ever after, including their own.

Warning: Contains erotic snow art, toppy twinks, and super-sweet holiday moments. Best savored with a mug of hot chocolate with a dash of spice.

Well, reading a Christmas book while on holiday in the South of France may not sound like a great idea, but weather aside, lying on a beach was at lest as good as reading this by a roaring fire – which would really be its natural habitat. Continue reading

Guest Review: Secret of a Thousand Beauties by Mingmei Yip

Ana’s Review of Secret of a Thousand Beauties by Mingmei Yip
Historical fiction released by Kensington on November 25, 2014

Secret of a Thousand BeautiesSet against the vibrant and intrigue-laden backdrop of 1930s China, Mingmei Yip’s enthralling novel explores one woman’s defiant pursuit of independence.

Spring Swallow was promised in marriage while still in her mother’s belly. When the groom dies before a wedding can take place, seventeen-year-old Spring Swallow is ordered to become a ghost bride to appease his spirit. Under her in-laws’ protection, she will be little more than a servant, unable to know real love or bear children. Refusing to accept her fate as a “bad-luck woman,” Spring Swallow flees on her wedding day.

In the city of Soochow, Spring Swallow joins a community of renowned embroiderers. The women work for Aunty Peony, whose exquisite stitching once earned her the Emperor’s love. But when Aunty Peony agrees to replicate a famous painting–a lucrative assignment that will take a year to complete–betrayal and jealousy emerges within the group. Spring Swallow becomes entangled in each woman’s story of heartbreak, even while she embarks on a dangerous affair with a young revolutionary. On a journey that leads from the remote hillsides around Soochow to cosmopolitan Peking, Spring Swallow draws on the secret techniques learned from Aunty Peony and her own indomitable strength, determined to forge a life that is truly her own.

Secret of a Thousand Beauties by Mingmei Yip is the story of Spring Swallow a young Chinese woman who comes of age in the tumultuous 1930’s in and around Peking. Chinese culture is in flux, Western missionaries are ever more present, revolutionaries are stirring in the mountains and universities but old cultural traditions and social norms are not yet forgotten. I requested this historical novel (it is not a historical romance) because I was intrigued by the setting, and time period. Last year when I struggled to find historical romances to enjoy, I found the most success the farther I moved from England and the Regency. Jeannie Lin’s The Lotus Palace and Jenn Bennett’s Bitter Spirits were two of my favorite books last year. Continue reading

Review: A Bride for the Season by Jennifer Delamere

Cheryl’s Review of A Bride for the Season by Jennifer Delamere
Historical Romance released by Forever on November 25, 2014

A Bride for the SeasonLucinda Cardington doesn’t care that she is close to being “on the shelf.” She has more serious pursuits in mind and is perfectly content to leave dreams of romance to silly young ladies like her sister. Yet when her sister places herself in a compromising situation with London’s most scandalous bachelor, the entire family’s reputation comes perilously close to ruin. Suddenly Lucinda is in the limelight . . . and in need of a husband.

James Simpson’s rakish ways have finally caught up with him. Snared in a scandal that for once is not his doing, he is forced to do the honorable thing and offer marriage to the lady. But her father won’t agree to a dowry unless James can also find a suitable husband for the lady’s elder sister-quiet, reserved Lucinda Cardington. As James gets to know the vibrant, charming, and passionate woman behind Lucinda’s shy exterior, he comes to the distressing realization that he doesn’t want her in anyone’s arms but his own . . .

The third book in The Love’s Grace Series, A Bride for the Season is a sweet romance with strong Christian themes. Delamere captured the Victorian setting beautifully. The story was well paced from the start and never lost momentum.

Lucinda considers herself a godly woman, one who hopes to live a solitary life in the future, enabling her to focus on her faith and her charitable work. However, she often participates in what would be considered scandalous behavior for the time period. She goes on unchaperoned outings with her sister’s husband to be, unconcerned about proprieties especially if he is indulging her love of photography. Lucinda even shares a kiss with her brother-in-law to be. In other stories, I would not find this bothersome, but with a heroine that is often described as godly and upstanding, I find it difficult to reconcile her behavior.

James will one day inherit a property from his great aunt which will require a substantial amount of money to maintain. It is for this reason his marriage to Emily, Lucinda’s younger sister, must be profitable. Wanting his eldest daughter married, Lucinda’s father makes Emily’s dowry contingent upon James finding a suitable husband for Lucinda. It is for this reason he searches out Lucinda and often tempts her with an opportunity to put her photography knowledge to use.

As these two characters become friends, their attraction for each other grows. There are several touching moments where James encourages Lucinda to stand up for herself. But in the end, there were just too many things that didn’t work for me, the ending especially.

Grade: C

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

TBR Challenge Review: Afterburn by Sylvia Day

Afterburn by Sylvia Day
Contemporary erotic romance novella released by Cosmo Red Hot Reads from Harlequin on August 15, 2013

The realization that Jax still affected me so strongly was a jagged pill to swallow. He’d only been part of my life for five short weeks two years ago. But now he was back. Walking into a deal I’d worked hard to close. And God, he was magnificent. His eyes were a brown so dark they were nearly black. Thickly lashed, they were relentless in their intensity. Had I really thought they were soft and warm? There was nothing soft about Jackson Rutledge. He was a hard and jaded man, cut from a ruthless cloth.

In that moment I understood how badly I wanted to unravel the mystery of Jax. Bad enough that I didn’t mind how much it was going to cost me…

I know – we’re all shocked I’m writing a review. If my life stops being a death factory, we can expect more. (And what a contradictory phrase right?) That’s actually kind of how I feel about Afterburn. Meaning, I don’t know what I feel about it precisely. I think I liked it overall, but I can’t say that with confidence, and I’ve been waffling about the grade since I read it.

Gianna Rossi is a kickass heroine. She’s twenty-five, which I appreciate. (I’m so not into NA.) But also, because it makes sense for someone who has been working to put herself through school. Beyond that, she knows what she wants, and goes for it. Even if she isn’t fearless internally, she puts that face forward, which is what I think all of us would like to do. I love that Ms. Day gave her a large, and very supportive family. She’s determined and I really liked her… until midway through then I didn’t really get her. You’ll see why.

Jackson Rutledge is a really interesting hero. In fact, I don’t know (yet) that he really is the hero. By which I mean, I question if he is “heroic” or “proper hero material.” He’s in love with Gia, but he broke up with her by dropping off the face of the earth without a word to her. Also, he’s a self acknowledged asshole. Which, kudos for being self aware. That isn’t something many romance heroes are, but I haven’t seen him as a good guy. He appears to be protecting Gianna by making decisions for her, so in a way he’s an alphahole hero. He’s twenty-nine, and of course in the vein of erotic romances these days, wildly successful. In this case, I find it more believable because it’s family money. And politics. That’s where nepotism breeds.

As you see, I’m conflicted about this book. I like the writing, and I got into it, even though it’s first person. I really think Sylvia Day does a great job with this tense, despite my generally avoiding it. (I really liked her historicals, which is why I read and read her contemporaries.) My issue here is, I had thought this was an awesome story, and basically the Crossfire books made good… but then something changed, and I felt that maybe Gia and Jax were really meant to be apart, despite having loved (or even loving) each other. There’s something not entirely healthy about the relationship that made me uncomfortable.

I think I’m not convinced as to why Gia wants to get back together with Jax. She’s decided he’s bad for her and she’s moving on, and she’ll have some revenge/goodbye sex… but then she decides she wants a relationship. I felt I missed a step there. For Jax, Gia is the one who got away, and his family machinations have put her in his path. I think the fact that both don’t think this relationship can last is what bothers me. I don’t see that as a romance.

I believe Aftershock will conclude this story arc (and I really hope so). I expect I’ll re-read Afterburn at that point. I re-read when Gia and Jax meet again and hook up in Afterburn for this review, but I think that’s enough for me until I know there will be closure.

While those are my issues, and they seem numerous, I will say I really enjoy Sylvia Day’s writing style, and her characters. They’re so dynamic, and the story is so engaging. I wish more authors wrote like this, and wrote characters like this. It’s the story – as in the content that rubs me the wrong way, specifically the romantic relationships. The interpersonal ones between characters is great. I love that the hero and heroine have friends and family. (Although her heroes are generally loners.) It’s the question of whether or not the hero and heroine are good together and should be together that make the questions start swirling in my head.

For this novella, if you like Sylvia Day, I recommend you read it. In fact, I expect many of you already have. However, if you like contemporary erotic romances generally… I’d probably suggest waiting if you can until the second (and final?) part is out. I do look forward to that eagerly.

Grade: C

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

Guest Review: Beyond Valor by Lindsay McKenna

James’s Review

Beyond Valor by Lindsay McKenna
Romantic Suspense released by Harlequin on January 22, 2013

Luke Collier knows his duty. A marine corps combat medic, his job is to save lives-not satisfy his own desires. Megan Trayhern is his corpsman, but the beautiful redhead can’t be anything more. Luke has already given his heart once, and he understands the toll the corps can take on a woman, on a romance…on a marriage.

Megan has her own mission. While she doles out medical care in the nearby village, she’s also gathering intel. It’s a dangerous assignment that the onetime military brat undertakes without fear. She needs to focus-and be careful-and the growing passion she feels for Luke can only put them both at risk. Honor binds them both, but the heart gives its own orders….

I was immediately interested in this story, a continuation of the Black Jaguar Squadron storyline. This book takes us to the mountains of Afghanistan, and we meet two Navy Corpsmen assigned to a combat command. They soon discover they are kindred spirits mutually haunting the other’s thoughts. The persistent danger only draws them closer together.

Megan Trayhern is a demure redhead who arrives at a Marine base near a small village. She is trained to speak the local language Pashto and gather information from the local women. A trained medic, she is eager to do her duty. She also has an unwavering desire to help people in need. After college she joined the military to fulfill her families’ tradition of service. Upon arriving at the base she is looked at as a liability by her commanding officer. Soon she changes his opinion by gaining the friendship of the village leaders’ wife, and gaining valuable knowledge of the Taliban fighters.

Luke Collier is a seasoned combat medic. He doesn’t think twice about going out on another patrol, or putting himself between a wounded Marine and enemy fire. He shares the same unwavering desire to help people with Megan. Until she had arrived he was the only medic in the area. He’s well-liked by anyone who meets him. Still he has a slightly heavy heart, since his career in the military destroyed his marriage. He prides himself as a ‘scrounger’, which means he get hard to find items better than anyone.

Lindsay McKenna doesn’t overload the front chapters with backstory. There are Black Jaguar Squadron characters in the periphery of the narrative, but this book easily stands alone. Megan and Luke rarely interact with the Marines at the base. The most significant secondary character is Mina the wife of the village leader. She is almost too courageous to be believed, even considering her rare formal education. She is unexpectedly open to Megan’s progressive suggestions.

Megan doesn’t have much time to get used to her surroundings. During the night the base comes under attack. She has to stand there in terror until Luke comes back to check on her. His calmness is soothing to her and deepens her growing attraction to him. When they aren’t in danger they mostly talk about their common views of duty and war. Their single-mindedness is only thing that takes me out of the story. Navy Corpsmen are the salt of the earth. I know this from my 5 years in the Marines. Many of them were my close friends. One thing they didn’t do was sit around all day lamenting their place in the world.

The action definitely wanes in the middle chapters as their relationship builds. Megan does have to watch as Luke goes out on patrol, but he isn’t gone long. After an attack in the village they travel with wounded children to a large Air Force Base. The carnage makes Megan retch in horror. She’s surprised to learn that Luke has the same problem. He asks her to spend the night off-base, but don’t get the opportunity until the end of the book. There are constantly hindered by the military’s rules against fraternization.

In my opinion this book suffers from the matter-of-fact dialogue from all the characters. I can forgive this of Mina, since English is not her first language. I can’t always forgive it from Megan and Luke. They come off a little wooden. This could’ve been offset by some raucous secondary Marine characters, and made the story more interesting. The lack of contrast is lessened when the action picks up. I don’t want to include spoilers, but I’ll say someone is put in a dangerous situation. The situation is then mitigated in a blazingly fast fashion that makes you forget it soon afterwards.

Our lovers finally find themselves away from prying eyes at an off-base apartment. Exhausted from their trials they put sleep ahead of lovemaking. I know it’s realistic, but it’s boring. They could’ve and should’ve tried harder. They’re romantic tension had been building for months at this point, and the first time they are truly alone they shower and pass out. Finally the next morning they (and the reader) wake up and embrace each other. The story ends with them heading back into the fold together.

Their concern for each other and everyone else does help the narrative along. I would have liked to see more in their hearts than just their aspirations. They look at each other in brief moments without allowing fantasy to enter their thoughts. This might go along with their practical nature, but I don’t think it was intended that way. Without the constant danger and taboo of their relationship, I wonder if they would be interested in each other at all. Megan and Luke could’ve run into each other on Main St. USA, and after looking each other over kept walking by.

Still they are in this situation. They go thru it together courageously devoid of malice. They come out of it with a few scratches and in love. They promise to marry after serving their country. It would be interesting to check in on them a few years down the road. I’d like to see if their love lasts after the bombs stop exploding around them.

Grade: C

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

Review: A Bride by Moonlight by Liz Carlyle

Cheryl’s Review

A Bride by Moonlight by Liz Carlyle
Historical Romance released by Avon on February 26, 2013

Royden Napier, Baron Saint-Bryce, is tall, dark, and ruthless—and on the hunt for a dangerous beauty . . .

On the eve of her escape to the Continent, bold, beautiful Lisette Colburne accepts a proposal she dare not refuse: masquerade as the future bride of the steely-eyed Royden Napier and help him solve his most dangerous case. Soon Lisette is in even greater danger—of losing her heart to the one man with the power to destroy her . . .

Estranged from his aristocratic family, the enigmatic Napier has forged a reputation as Scotland Yard’s most relentless police commissioner. He’s vowed to bring Lisette to justice—but with every forbidden kiss and every tantalizing touch, he finds himself becoming less convinced of her guilt . . . and more certain he must have her. But when danger touches Lisette, can he save her?

It isn’t often I come across a romance where the hero is an assistant police commissioner for Scotland Yard, so I was immediately intrigued. What made this book even more tempting was a lawman who blackmails the heroine into posing as his betrothed. I snapped this one up, super excited for the adventure.

Lisette Colburne is my favorite kind of heroine. She’s a feisty redhead who is highly intelligent and extremely cunning when she needs to be. But most of all, she is a survivor. At a young age, she lost everyone dear to her. Shipped off to relatives in Boston, she learned the newspaper business from her uncle. Upon his passing, she returned to her native England, seeking revenge on the one man she held accountable for her great losses. She goes to drastic lengths, posing as a man and working for a London paper, all the while tracking her foe. Sadly, her backstory is far more exciting than her current situation of a 27 year old spinster who volunteers as a teaching assistant.

Royden Napier is the kind of man who sees most everything in black and white. But when he learns his father (the assistant police commissioner before him) may not have been the most honorable of men, his outlook begins to change and Royden is forced to admit he’s had a bit of a blindspot where his father is concerned. As you would expect any detective to be, he is smart, intuitive and has an ability to read others extremely well. A man who was raised to dislike the aristocracy comes to realize they might not be as bad as he one thought.

Admittedly, this is my first Liz Carlyle book, so perhaps if I’d read those that preceded it, I wouldn’t have been as lost in the first several chapters. A large cast of characters along with unexpected point of views created additional confusion. These opening chapters, albeit integral to the story, were work to read. Not until chapter four do Lisette and Royden have their first real interaction without the distraction of other characters. But I was immediately taken with them as I felt chemistry between the two leapt off the page.

However, it wasn’t long for my excitement to wane once again. After Royden and Lisette arrive at his family’s estate, they are soon separated, each focused on the mystery at hand. Again, another large cast of characters are introduced, understandably because the estate houses many of Royden’s relatives. As a result I found myself irritated when Royden would converse with one of his many cousin’s for pages and pages and Lisette would be busy with another relative. In my opinion, there was very little romance between the two. As a matter of fact, they spend a great deal of time purposely avoiding one another.

So somewhere in the middle of this all, I lowered my hopes as the romance became more of a subplot. Also, not having read the previously released title, I felt a certain couple were given far too much attention in the opening and ending of this book. Afterwards I looked up the book released prior to this one and found these people were indeed the hero and heroine of that title. If I’d read their story, perhaps I wouldn’t have minded their appearance as much. But as I haven’t read it, I found them to be a distraction.

In the end, it was a well written story with great cast of characters and a nice little mystery. It simply comes down to not enough romance for me. A real shame since I did so enjoy Lisette and Royden.

Grade: C-

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