Tag Archives: Review

Review: Transpire Together by Mercy Zephyr

Transpire Together by Mercy Zephyr
Contemporary own voices romance published by Mercy Zephyr on November 14, 2019

Transpire Together by Mercy Zephyr book coverHer intimately familiar voice whispered softly in his ear, “Pretend you know me.”
Lynn Hall has a formula for success. As a child in the rural island town of Selaruk, Alaska, she ate ramen; now, she’s an aspiring accountant. The last step of her plan: Liquidate her family’s Selaruk assets for her mother, then leave those memories behind for good.
Keith Kendall’s parents threw him away years ago. Now they are gone, and Keith is back to forge a new life…surrounded by painful memories. But his favorite memory—his high school sweetheart, Lynn—just walked back into his life….Too bad she doesn’t recognize her high school girlfriend.

I read this book because it’s an #ownvoices romance and I like to give those any boost I can, which includes writing reviews. Also gender roles in romance are something I’m interested in, and I wanted to see how this novel would take on the challenge. In the interest of full disclosure, I am an effectively cis-gendered mostly-hetero lady. I say effectively cis and mostly hetero because while I am comfortable with being female I am bad at being femme, and I tend to be attracted to androgyny. (I have read exactly one (1) romance novel which featured a hero who is the exact kind of person I’m attracted to, and it is Untamed by Anna Cowan.) All of this is to say, I read this as part of an active effort to diversify my romance reading experience and learn something about the genre as a whole while, hopefully, having a good time. Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Release Day Review: Chasing Cassandra by Lisa Kleypas

Chasing Cassandra (The Ravenels Book 6) by Lisa Kleypas
Historical romance released by Avon on February 18, 2019

Chasing Cassandra by Lisa Kleypas book coverEverything has a price . . .

Railway magnate Tom Severin is wealthy and powerful enough to satisfy any desire as soon as it arises. Anything—or anyone—is his for the asking. It should be simple to find the perfect wife—and from his first glimpse of Lady Cassandra Ravenel, he’s determined to have her. But the beautiful and quick-witted Cassandra is equally determined to marry for love—the one thing he can’t give.

Everything except her . . .

Severin is the most compelling and attractive man Cassandra has ever met, even if his heart is frozen. But she has no interest in living in the fast-paced world of a ruthless man who always plays to win.

When a newfound enemy nearly destroys Cassandra’s reputation, Severin seizes the opportunity he’s been waiting for. As always, he gets what he wants—or does he? There’s one lesson Tom Severin has yet to learn from his new bride:

Never underestimate a Ravenel.

The chase for Cassandra’s hand may be over. But the chase for her heart has only just begun. . . .

This book filled my heart. It overflows with joy. I cannot contain the emotions – all positive – exploding inside me. Chasing Cassandra is a wonderful conclusion to this series. I might even like it more than Pandora‘s book, and that’s saying something. So I’ve read Lisa Kleypas since I first started reading romances in the early 00s and she’s one of my favorite authors from historical to contemporary romances. I was a bit apprehensive before reading the book, worried my expectations might be too high, as I knew it’s the last of the series, I’ve loved Tom Severin in his cameos, and I wanted so much for Cassandra to have the best happily ever after. Continue reading

Release Day Review: A Heart of Blood and Ashes by Milla Vane

A Heart of Blood and Ashes (A Gathering of Dragons Book 1) by Milla Vane
Dark adult high fantasy romance released by Berkley on February 4, 2020

A Heart of Blood and Ashes by Milla Vane book coverA generation past, the western realms were embroiled in endless war. Then the Destroyer came. From the blood and ashes he left behind, a tenuous alliance rose between the barbarian riders of Parsathe and the walled kingdoms of the south. That alliance is all that stands against the return of an ancient evil—until the barbarian king and queen are slain in an act of bloody betrayal.

Though forbidden by the alliance council to kill the corrupt king responsible for his parents’ murders, Maddek vows to avenge them, even if it costs him the Parsathean crown. But when he learns it was the king’s daughter who lured his parents to their deaths, the barbarian warrior is determined to make her pay.

Yet the woman Maddek captures is not what he expected. Though the last in a line of legendary warrior-queens, Yvenne is small and weak, and the sharpest weapons she wields are her mind and her tongue. Even more surprising is the marriage she proposes to unite them in their goals and to claim their thrones—because her desire for vengeance against her father burns even hotter than his own…

I am extremely all over the place about this review. First of all, let me say that I enjoyed reading A Heart of Blood and Ashes very much. I could not put the book down. I read until 5 AM and was like “ok I need to get some sleep…” And anyway I finished reading it in less than a day. Upon finishing it I immediately went to check when the next book was out – and was like “!!!” If you like high fantasy romances, I think you’ll very much enjoy this book. I do want to say though – I think people have labeled it “dark” and … it definitely fits that, for the heroine. It is a cruel harsh world, and the “civilized” societies don’t mean people act better. At all. (Although for this book the setting is mostly traveling across plains – there’s a lot of action.) I’m happy to answer any questions you might have, and I think a good starting place would be the content warnings on Milla Vane’s page.
 
As stated, this is a dark adult high fantasy romance which means there are situations and circumstances that will disturb some readers. The world itself, the mythology contains violence – it isn’t described but it’s matter of fact there. The hero and most of the other main characters are barbarians. Here it just means their social [niceties] differ from ours. The heroine has suffered deeply as well. It’s a very harsh, matter of fact world that is trying to recover being decimated by “the destroyer” – with the threat of his return. I think part of it was separating my social expectations and adjusting to how that world operates. There are still universal things that are not okay, of course – but what Maddek and Yvenne find acceptable and normal differ from what we generally would.

Continue reading

Review: Moonlight and Whiskey by Tricia Lynn

Moonlight and Whiskey by Tricia Lynne
Contemporary romance released by Loveswept on March 12, 2019

Moonlight and Whiskey book coverWhen life gives you curves, you gotta learn how to rock them.

Successful businesswoman Avery Barrows likes her dips and curves, but she’s sick of the haters telling her that she should be ashamed of her body instead of embracing it. Determined to send them a big f*** you, Avery resolves to cut loose during a girls’ trip, hightailing her quick-mouthed, plus-sized self to New Orleans. So, what’s a smart woman with a little extra gotta do to get laid in this town?

Not much if you ask Declan McGinn, the lead singer of BlackSmith. Tall, dark, and tattooed, with a body made for sin, Declan prefers his women as curvy as his guitars. Avery’s sharp tongue and keen mind makes him want her even more.

As they burn up the sheets, Avery and Declan realize this is no one-night (or even one-week) stand. But for all of her bluster, Avery isn’t sure she can handle any more rejection. Besides, Declan has demons of his own. Now Avery has a choice to make: play it safe, or place her trust in the hands of a man who’s as tempting as the devil himself.

Way back in February a friend suggested I might want to read an upcoming debut novel because the main character is a self-proclaimed fat girl who loves her body and flips the bird at anyone who thinks she’s anything less than sexy. As a fat girl myself, I jumped on the chance to read this book for ALBTALBS. And then dropped off the face of the earth for six months for complicated life reasons. But life has started to untangle itself so here I am with my review of Moonlight and Whiskey

** TW/Spoiler: Avery endures episodes of fat shaming, and Declan’s relationships with Avery and his bandmates are various shades of dysfunctional due to past trauma.

Continue reading

Release Day Review: Aurora Blazing by Jessie Mihalik

Aurora Blazing by Jessie Mihalik (Consortium Rebellion #2)
Science Fiction Romance published by Harper Voyager on October 1, 2019

Aurora Blazing by Jessie Mihalik book coverTo save her brother and protect her family’s future, a powerful princess must join forces with a dashing man from her past in this thrilling space adventure, the second novel in the Consortium Rebellion trilogy.

As the dutiful daughter of High House von Hasenberg, Bianca set aside her personal feelings and agreed to a political match arranged by her family, only to end up trapped in a loveless, miserable marriage. When her husband unexpectedly dies, Bianca vows never to wed again. Newly independent, she secretly uses her wealth and influence to save other women stuck in dire circumstances. Information is power and Bianca has a network of allies and spies that would be the envy of the ’verse—if anyone knew about it.

When her family’s House is mysteriously attacked, Bianca’s oldest brother, the heir to House von Hasenberg, disappears. Fearful for her brother’s life, the headstrong Bianca defies her father and leaves Earth to save him. Ian Bishop, the director of House von Hasenberg security—and Bianca’s first love—is ordered to find and retrieve the rebellious woman.

Ian is the last man Bianca wants to see. To evade capture, she leads him on a merry chase across the universe. But when their paths finally collide, she knows she must persuade him to help her. Bianca will do anything to save her sibling, even if it means spending time alone on a small ship with the handsome, infuriating man who once broke her heart.

As the search takes them deep into rival House Rockhurst territory, Bianca must decide if she can trust Ian with the one piece of information that could destroy her completely . . .

Bianca and Ian! Bianca and Ian! I really liked Polaris Rising (Ada and Loch), first in the Consortium Rebellion series. I enjoyed Aurora Blazing even more! It’s fueling my current obsessive reading of science fiction romances/space operas. It’s a fast paced read. Once I started reading, I didn’t want to stop!

Aurora Blazing is told I think entirely from Bianca’s point of view. You find out pretty quickly Bianca is still dealing with things that happened to her during her marriage. She’s very skillful and found ways to use some of those things to her advantage and to help other people. She’s worked very hard to make sure people watching her don’t suspect there’s more behind the socialite/House Royalty façade, including (especially) Ian. Continue reading

Redux Review: The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier

The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier
High fantasy released by Penguin on September 3, 2019

The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier book coverEighteen-year-old Liobhan is a powerful singer and an expert whistle player. Her brother has a voice to melt the hardest heart, and is a rare talent on the harp. But Liobhan’s burning ambition is to join the elite warrior band on Swan Island. She and her brother train there to compete for places, and find themselves joining a mission while still candidates. Their unusual blend of skills makes them ideal for this particular job, which requires going undercover as traveling minstrels. For Swan Island trains both warriors and spies.

Their mission: to find and retrieve a precious harp, an ancient symbol of kingship, which has gone missing. If the instrument is not played at the upcoming coronation, the candidate will not be accepted and the kingdom will be thrown into disarray. Faced with plotting courtiers and tight-lipped druids, an insightful storyteller, and a boorish Crown Prince, Liobhan soon realizes an Otherworld power may be meddling in the affairs of the kingdom. When ambition clashes with conscience, Liobhan must make a bold decision—and the consequences may break her heart.

This fantasy novel is well written but wasn’t for me. I enjoy fantasy novels and this has spies, traveling bards, druids, fairy folk, and more. I really wanted the story to work for me but it didn’t. I stopped reading just past the halfway point. I expect others might like it though.

Content warning for descriptions of past child abuse and associated trauma, current child abuse, and attempted sexual assault.

The Harp of Kings is told from the points of view of three characters. Point of view changes with each chapter. The three POV characters are around 18 years old and on a mission (with two experienced spies) for this gang of spies/warriors they’re hoping to join. Brocc and Liobhan are siblings and Dau is the third spy-in-training. Dau and Liobhan have a pretty intense rivalry among their group of trainees and they have to work together on the mission despite that. Continue reading

Release Day Guest Review: The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier

Guest review of The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier
High fantasy released by Penguin on September 3, 2019

The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier book coverEighteen-year-old Liobhan is a powerful singer and an expert whistle player. Her brother has a voice to melt the hardest heart, and is a rare talent on the harp. But Liobhan’s burning ambition is to join the elite warrior band on Swan Island. She and her brother train there to compete for places, and find themselves joining a mission while still candidates. Their unusual blend of skills makes them ideal for this particular job, which requires going undercover as traveling minstrels. For Swan Island trains both warriors and spies.

Their mission: to find and retrieve a precious harp, an ancient symbol of kingship, which has gone missing. If the instrument is not played at the upcoming coronation, the candidate will not be accepted and the kingdom will be thrown into disarray. Faced with plotting courtiers and tight-lipped druids, an insightful storyteller, and a boorish Crown Prince, Liobhan soon realizes an Otherworld power may be meddling in the affairs of the kingdom. When ambition clashes with conscience, Liobhan must make a bold decision—and the consequences may break her heart.

Juliet Marillier is one of my insta-buy authors and this book just confirms why that’s the case. The Harp of Kings launches a new series, Warrior Bards. I’m not sure if it will follow the same format as the Blackthorn & Grim series (following the same set of characters; more mystery, slow burn romance) or the Sevenwaters series (a different couple in each book; very much historical fantasy romance), but I suspect it will be the former. This story also nicely intersects the two established series in this world (the aforementioned Sevenwaters and Blackthorn & Grim). If you’re new to Marillier, this book is a good place to start! Continue reading

Review: The Blacksmith Queen by G.A. Aiken

The Blacksmith Queen (The Scarred Earth Saga, #1) by G.A. Aiken
Adult High Fantasy published by Kensington on August 27, 2019

The Blacksmith Queen by G.A. Aiken book coverThe Old King Is Dead
 
With the demise of the Old King, there’s a prophesy that a queen will ascend to the throne of the Black Hills. Bad news for the king’s sons, who are prepared to defend their birthright against all comers. But for blacksmith Keeley Smythe, war is great for business. Until it looks like the chosen queen will be Beatrix, her younger sister. Now it’s all Keeley can do to protect her family from the enraged royals.

Luckily, Keeley doesn’t have to fight alone. Because thundering to her aid comes a clan of kilt-wearing mountain warriors called the Amichai. Not the most socially adept group, but soldiers have never bothered Keeley, and rough, gruff Caid, actually seems to respect her. A good thing because the fierce warrior will be by her side for a much longer ride than any prophesy ever envisioned …

I have been waiting not so patiently for this book since it was announced and I was not disappointed! I love the zaniness of the author’s Shelly Laurenston urban fantasy/paranormal romance books and am just now making my way through her fantasy romance Dragon Kin series as G.A. Aiken. The Blacksmith Queen has family squabbles and insults aplenty like the other series. To me the silliness is a little dialed down from the Dragon Kin series or the Shelly Laurenston books but the book is still funny and overall delightful! There are plenty of battles and fantastical creatures although it’s light on kissing and sexy times in case that’s something you’re after! Continue reading

Release Day Review: Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews

Sapphire Flames (Hidden Legacy, #4) by Ilona Andrews
Urban Fantasy published by Avon on August 27, 2019

I’m a huge Ilona Andrews fan and the Hidden Legacy series is probably my favorite. The writing and story pacing are just spot on. Sapphire Flames takes the series to another level and it was already fabulous before.

Fair warning—the blurb for Sapphire Flames spoils some events from the first books in the series so I strongly recommend reading the 3 full length books and one novella (Burn for Me, White Hot, Wildfire, and Diamond Fire) before reading Sapphire Flames. I’ll reference things from the blurb but try to avoid other potential spoilers. Nevada and Rogan aren’t part of Sapphire Flames but their books set up where Sapphire Flames picks up. Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: Unraveled by Lauren Dane

Unraveled (Whiskey Sharp book 1) by Lauren Dane
Contemporary romance released by Carina Press on January 30, 2018

Whiskey Sharp: Unraveled by Lauren Dane book coverThe sharpest ache comes from wanting what you think you can’t have…

Maybe Dolan has lived independent, free-spirited and unattached since leaving home at sixteen. Whiskey Sharp, Seattle’s sexy vintage-styled barbershop and whiskey bar, gave her a job—and a reason to put down roots. Cutting hair by day, losing herself drumming in a punk rock band by night, she’s got it good.

But a longtime crush that turns into a hot, edgy night with brooding and bearded Alexsei Petrov makes it a hell of a lot better.

Maybe’s blunt attitude and carnal smile hooked Alexsei from the start. Protecting people is part of his nature and Maybe is meant to be his…even if she doesn’t know it. Yet. He can’t help himself from wanting to protect and care for her.

But Maybe’s fiery independent spirit means pushing back when Alexsei goes too far. Still, he’s not afraid to do a little pushing of his own to get what he wants—her in his life, and his bed, for good. Maybe’s more intoxicating than all the liquor on his shelf…and he’s not afraid to ride the blade’s edge to bind her to him.

My TBR is massive, I don’t think I’ve read 40 new to me books in the last two years. I have reread several Lauren Danes though, so when thinking about what to read and review for ALBTALBS, this book from January of last year was the first to come to mind.

** TW/Spoiler: Maybe suffered severe emotional abuse at the hands of her parents and this is a main plot point in the first two books in the series.** Continue reading