Tag Archives: Review

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

Review: Second Time Around by Nancy Herkness

Second Time Around by Nancy Herkness
Contemporary romance released by Montlake Romance on July 24, 2018

Second Time Around by Nancy Herkness Book CoverKyra Dixon, a blue-collar girl from the boondocks, is dedicated to her job at a community center that matches underprivileged kids with rescue dogs. When she runs into Will Chase—Connecticut blue blood, billionaire CEO, and her old college crush—she’s surprised that he asks a favor from her: to be his date for his uptight family’s dreaded annual garden party. If his parents don’t approve, all the better.

Kyra’s not about to say no. It’ll give her a chance to be oh-so-close to her unrequited love. What begins as a little fling turns so mad hot, so fast, that Kyra finds herself falling all over again for a fantasy that won’t come true. How can it? She doesn’t belong in Will’s world. She doesn’t want to. But Will does want to belong in hers.

All he has to do now is prove it. Will is prepared to give up whatever is necessary to get what his heart most desires.

I’ve really enjoyed a number of Nancy Herkness’s romances, especially the Wager of Hearts series. I also liked the novella Second to None, the first story in the Second Glances series. Second chance romances are my jam, so a combination of these things piqued my interest. And of course even with all the annoyances of ugh billionaires … I still do like the ones that make sense, and Second Time Around handles the wealth aspect really well. I have to admit that I read the book more than two weeks ago, so the details are a bit fuzzy. I liked the book, but I didn’t love it. It’s definitely a solid read, but not my favorite from Nancy Herkness. I am excited about the rest of the series though, and see what character(s) get their stories next. (Hopefully not the ex-fiancée though, because ugh.) But that being said, I really liked Kyra and Will. Continue reading

Review: Counting on a Countess by Eva Leigh

Counting on a Countess by Eva Leigh (London Underground book 2)
Historical romance released by Avon on March 27, 2018

Book CoverFor a shameless libertine and a wily smuggler in the London Underground, marriage is more than convenience—it’s strategy . . .

Christopher “Kit” Ellingsworth, war veteran and newly minted Earl of Blakemere, buries his demons under every sort of pleasure and vice. His scandalous ways have all but emptied his coffers . . . until a wealthy mentor leaves him a sizeable fortune. The only stipulation? He must marry within one month to inherit the money. Kit needs a bride and the bold, mysterious Miss Tamsyn Pearce seems perfect.

Husband hunting isn’t Tamsyn’s top priority—she’s in London to sell her new shipment of illicit goods—but she’s desperate for funds to keep her smuggling operation afloat. When a handsome earl offers to wed her and send her back to Cornwall with a hefty allowance, Tamsyn agrees. After all, her secrets could land her in prison and an attentive, love-struck spouse could destroy everything.

But when an unexpected proviso in the will grants Tamsyn control of the inheritance, their arrangement becomes anything but convenient. Now, Kit’s counting on his countess to make his wildest dreams a reality and he plans to convince her, one pleasurable seduction at a time.

I’m a fan of strong historical heroines who aren’t afraid of stepping outside of gender norms and building either the lives they want or the lives they need to have due to circumstances. When I read the description of Counting on a Countess I was thrilled! The description hit many of my sweet spots. The heroine has a unique job. Check. The heroine plans to keep on doing what she does even after she marries. Check. Both the hero and heroine are looking for a marriage of convenience. Double check. I was less thrilled about the reasons for the trope, but was willing to roll with it.  Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: Natural Enemies by Roan Parrish

Natural Enemies by Roan Parrish
Contemporary romance released by Monster Press on April 17, 2018.

Natural Enemies by Roan Parrish Book CoverWhen opposites attract, love blooms in unexpected places.

Buttoned-up botanist Stefan Albemarle has felt like an outsider his whole life. As a result, he mostly keeps to himself—makes it easier not to notice that no matter how he tries, people think he’s a know-it-all and a snob.

Freewheeling urban gardener Milo Rios has worked hard to get where he is, and he’s passionate about his job at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. He can get along with almost anyone, but no one has ever made him care enough to stick around.

When Stefan and Milo meet on Milo’s tour of the Botanic Garden, it’s hatred at first clash. But hatred quickly turns to lust as Milo shows Stefan how exquisite it can feel to lose the control he’s clung to for so long. As Stefan’s mask begins to slip, Milo sees a deep vulnerability in the prim academic. Once he’s experienced Milo’s world, Stefan can admit that he wants more from life than professional success. If they can work together, Stefan and Milo just might be able to cultivate the future they both yearn for.

I actually have several favourite tropes, but enemies to lovers moves from 1st to 2nd depending on my mood! Natural Enemies came to my attention because a friend read it, and said it was lovely. I had resisted read Roan Parrish’s work because one of her earlier books really did not work for me. But as second chances is also one of my favorite tropes it seemed churlish not to try again.

This book knocked me out, I haven’t read a romance in a while that made me feel so happy. Continue reading

Review: Iron and Magic by Ilona Andrews

Iron and Magic by Ilona Andrews
Urban fantasy released by NYLA on June 26, 2018

Iron and Magic by Ilona Andrews Book CoverNo day is ordinary in a world where Technology and Magic compete for supremacy…But no matter which force is winning, in the apocalypse, a sword will always work.

Hugh d’Ambray, Preceptor of the Iron Dogs, Warlord of the Builder of Towers, served only one man. Now his immortal, nearly omnipotent master has cast him aside. Hugh is a shadow of the warrior he was, but when he learns that the Iron Dogs, soldiers who would follow him anywhere, are being hunted down and murdered, he must make a choice: to fade away or to be the leader he was born to be. Hugh knows he must carve a new place for himself and his people, but they have no money, no shelter, and no food, and the necromancers are coming. Fast.

Elara Harper is a creature who should not exist. Her enemies call her Abomination; her people call her White Lady. Tasked with their protection, she’s trapped between the magical heavyweights about to collide and plunge the state of Kentucky into a war that humans have no power to stop. Desperate to shield her people and their simple way of life, she would accept help from the devil himself—and Hugh d’Ambray might qualify.

Hugh needs a base, Elara needs soldiers. Both are infamous for betraying their allies, so how can they create a believable alliance to meet the challenge of their enemies?

As the prophet says: “It is better to marry than to burn.”

Hugh and Elara may do both.

Iron and Magic is an urban fantasy with elements of romance set in the same world as Ilona Andrews’s Kate Daniels series. It is a story of redemption and a marriage of convenience with main characters who are not easy; I read this book 2 or 3 times before sitting down to write a review because I couldn’t get enough of it. For those who are not familiar with the Kate Daniels series, Hugh is a character who has done bad things in service to the big bad guy, but who has been exiled and now needs to figure out who he is and what his values are when he’s not serving the big bad guy. A lot of Kate Daniels fans do not like Hugh, but enough of them were interested in Hugh’s story that what started out as an April Fool’s joke turned into this marvelous novel, for which I am very grateful. Because of certain events in this book, it is not required that you read all of the Kate Daniels books, although it does help to know just why Hugh is despised by so many people. Before going any further, I must warn you all that this is a very violent, graphic book; there is a lot of blood and gore and while I wouldn’t go so far as to call this a steamy read, the sex is explicit. Both Hugh and Elara are intense characters, and Hugh has a lot to deal with, but Andrews manages to fit this in as well as move the book into the overarching plotline of the Kate Daniels world. Continue reading

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