Release Day Review: Devil in Disguise by Lisa Kleypas

Devil in Disguise (Ravenels Book 7) by Lisa Kleypas
Historical romance released by Avon on July 27, 2021

Devil in Disguise by Lisa Kleypas book coverNew York Times bestseller Lisa Kleypas returns with an enthralling and steaming romance between a Scot with a mysterious past and strong-willed lady looking for adventure—and love. 

“The devil never tries to make people do the wrong thing by scaring them. He does it by tempting them.”

Lady Merritt Sterling, a strong-willed young widow who’s running her late husband’s shipping company, knows London society is dying to catch her in a scandal. So far, she’s been too smart to provide them with one. But then she meets Keir MacRae, a rough-and-rugged Scottish whisky distiller, and all her sensible plans vanish like smoke. They couldn’t be more different, but their attraction is powerful, raw and irresistible.

From the moment Keir MacRae arrives in London, he has two goals. One: don’t fall in love with the dazzling Lady Merritt Sterling. Two: avoid being killed.

So far, neither of those is going well.

Keir doesn’t know why someone wants him dead until fate reveals the secret of his mysterious past. His world is thrown into upheaval, and the only one he trusts is Merritt.

Their passion blazes with an intensity Merritt has never known before, making her long for the one thing she can’t have from Keir MacRae: forever. As danger draws closer, she’ll do whatever it takes to save the man she loves . . . even knowing he might be the devil in disguise.

      I realized as I started reading this book I couldn’t remember what the blurb said – but I was both too lazy to go looking for it, but also I didn’t want to go looking for it because I wanted a [relatively] blank slate. And … this book made me so happy, you guys. <3 I was a little apprehensive about Merritt’s story. I remember the blurb and thinking “I’m interested but … Lillian and Westcliff were never my favorites…” (and I wondered about this being another Ravenel book instead of a spinoff…) I don’t know that I can discuss a major factor without spoilers, so I’m going to try to dance around it. However, I really hope you read this book and come back so we can discuss it.
      I have a confession to make – Lillian is probably my least favorite wallflower. And when the blurb starts out with Lady Merritt Sterling is “strong willed” I was a bit apprehensive we might be getting a mini Lillian. However, that’s not the case. We get almost the best of Lillian – and Marcus – in Merritt. Lillian and Marcus (and Evie and Sebastian) do such a wonderful job raising their children – and it was (beyond all the loveliness) I’m sure helpful that all the children had each other, growing up. Anyway Kier calls her a “wee bully” and … it’s true. She’s so affable she tends to get her way – even outrageous things people would normally never agree to. And beyond that, those being “managed” are happy about it. Merritt is the oldest sibling and she’s been a peace keeper. Being widowed, she’s also a bit older, wiser, and less constrained than many other historical romance heroines we see. (That and the fact that she has a very supportive, very powerful family and circle.)
      For Keir MacRae – look. I love me a growly, smitten, romantic hero. Throw in the fact that he’s a whisky distiller? I mean – if not for the fact that he and Merritt are perfect for each other I’d be elbowing her out of the way. I’m laughing to myself as I think about why Keir keeps a beard. You just … have to read it. (I’m a little sad we never got to see him interacting with his friends. Honestly I would not have been mad if this book was so much longer. While it’s not rushed – but I did feel in part it did end a little ~abruptly.)
      Aside from the characters, what stood out to me about this book is how sexy it is. There are definitely explicit scenes – but it’s also sensuous. Devil in Disguise is hot, romantic, fun, and honestly – at times comical, which I loved. I threw “fun” in that list – but it’s true. Keir and Merritt have excellent sex but also laugh with and at each other during sex if or when it’s called for. I found myself laughing out loud at times. I think what (also) struck me is … how much I enjoyed this book “despite” it having a lot of tropes that I’d normally say “aren’t my cuppa.” First of all, the Scottish hero. Scottish brogue in books often is just too much for me – but it wasn’t an affect here – it’s entirely who Kier is, and his dialogue just flows. Some of his sayings and terms were just so charming – and my god the man has poetry in his soul. He claims he’s this rough, uneducated, loutish type … but he’s pure romance. Anyone should be so lucky as to be wooed by a Kier.
      I was also pleasantly surprised to be wrong about an issue – as soon as this blip happens I knew there was more to X (although I definitely didn’t guess the all of it) – and I was like “ugh oh no – please don’t tell me this 😒 thing will be a huge dark moment.” I was right in that it is brought up as a roadblock – however it isn’t drawn out – Kier reacts in the most perfect way – and reassures Merritt. (Then also I just knew this other thing would happen – a bit of an eyeroll but … I was okay with it too. And there’s a fun/cute/quippy line at the end Kleypas fans will enjoy.)
      Another point … I can’t/won’t discuss without spoilers – so … *clenches fists* I really want to spill the beans but I also don’t want to but I just need to say I’m so glad to see something like this finally happen and it was so lovely and it was perfect for the characters in question – in how they handle things, and that it isn’t all easy and nice but they roll with it with grace and love. Honestly I can’t wait to see more of these characters in the upcoming books.
      This is a romance with low angst, but a lot of entertainment value. The relationship develops fast. They fall in love in a week – and Merritt even basically has the historical romance equivalent discussion of “insta-love” (my god I hate that term…) with Phoebe … and it’s handled so well. And normally I’m a skeptic like Phoebe (or – she more says you can have instant attraction or lust, but it’s not love because you don’t know each other and can’t possibly know a person that deeply in a week. And she’s right – and it’s true. But there’s the connection and I definitely could see it and believe it between Keir and Merritt. (And I love that he nicknames her Merry!)
      Just thinking about this book put a smile on my face. I know I’m absolutely going to be re-reading this book, and it’s one of my favorite in the series. Honestly my biggest “complaint” is … I was desperate for Keir to meet Gabriel and am crushed it never happened. Maybe we’ll get to see that/their interaction in the next book(s) – and I really hope so because … I think it’d be glorious.
      I read this book in a few hours, and it makes me want to re-read Devil in Winter, Devil in Spring, Chasing Cassandra … and honestly maybe even all the other Wallflower books too. Devil in Disguise  is a really lovely, well written, feel good historical romance and it’s not to be missed. (Seriously, Kleypas takes all these tropes that normally I personally would be like “ennh … >.> pass” about – and of course she makes it work. She not only makes it work, she makes it delightful.) Seriously. I need you to read it and come back so we can talk about this book. And admittedly, Sebastian is one of my most favorite romance heroes ever – so that’s definitely part of it too.
Grade: A-
You can read an excerpt here, and buy a copy here.

Continue reading

Team TBR Challenge Review: Can’t Escape Love by Alyssa Cole

Can’t Escape Love by Alyssa Cole
Contemporary romance released by Avon Impulse on March 19, 2019

Regina Hobbs is nerdy by nature, businesswoman by nurture. She’s finally taking her pop culture-centered media enterprise, Girls with Glasses, to the next level, but the stress is forcing her to face a familiar supervillain: insomnia. The only thing that helps her sleep when things get this bad is the deep, soothing voice of puzzle-obsessed live streamer Gustave Nguyen. The problem? His archive has been deleted.
Gus has been tasked with creating an escape room themed around a romance anime…except he knows nothing about romance or anime. Then mega-nerd and anime expert Reggie comes calling, and they make a trade: his voice for her knowledge. But when their online friendship has IRL chemistry, will they be able to escape love?

This book has been on my TBR pile and got bumped up in the pile after it was mentioned in a Smart Bitches Trashy Books podcast episode. And then I got to pick a novella for this month’s TBR Challenge, and I picked this book, and I only regret not reading it sooner. Reggie was first introduced to us in A Duke by Default, and the events in this novella happen parallel to those in that book. Most of the focus is on the relationship between Reggie and Gus but we do get doses of other relationships Reggie has, especially those with her sister and her parents. This is probably what I would call insta-love in terms of how the romance works, but the fact that the speed with which it’s acknowledged and the misunderstanding is also cleared up worked, and it didn’t feel rushed or forced. Continue reading

Aidee’s Second Half of 2020 Reading List

[This is Limecello here with the commentary … So first … *crawls into a whole* 😬 Aidee submitted this post on January 13, 2021. I was so sure I had formatted and posted this … but obviously not. My eye started twitching now at … just me. Ugh. My apologies to all.] Anyway, I want to highlight this is what Aidee read from July-December 2020. Anyway, without further mess from me… Aidee!

As per usual, this list is not in any kind of order. Books with an asterisk are books I’ve re-read. Continue reading

Review: Shatter the Earth by Karen Chance

Shatter the Earth (Cassandra Palmer Series Book 10) by Karen Chance
Urban fantasy/paranormal romance released by Karen Chance on February 4, 2020

Shatter the Earth by Karen Chance book coverIronically for the time traveling, chief seer of the supernatural world, time has never been on Cassie Palmer’s side. There has always seemed to be too much to learn, too much to master, and never enough hours in a day. But the tables have now turned, and the fluctuating timelines of earth and faerie are diverging, slowing time in faerie relative to earth, and giving humans an advantage for the first time in their war with the fey. It is one they desperately need, for a literal war of the worlds is about to take place.
To win, or even to survive, Cassie and her allies, the powerful vampire senator Mircea Basarab and the formidable war mage John Pritkin, will have to pull off their greatest feat yet. And find a way to become more than the sum of their parts.
[Also] The exciting continuation of the Cassie Palmer series! A literal war of the worlds is about to take place between Earth and Faerie. To win, or even to survive, Pythia Cassie Palmer and her allies, the powerful vampire senator Mircea Basarab and the formidable war mage John Pritkin, will have to pull off their greatest feat yet. And find a way to become more than the sum of their parts.
This is the next book in the Cassie Palmer series. It’s got all the things we’ve come to know about Chance’s world, and it ties up some important things that the books have been building towards. There are still some bad guys kicking around by the end, but not extreme cliff hanger levels. Cassie and Pritkin’s relationship solidifies, and Cassie continues to settle into her job.

There are explosions, violence, assassination attempts, magical mayhem galore—all the things you should expect in a Cassie Palmer novel. The fun part for me was that even though Cassie continues to be overwhelmed by her job, she also is trying to be more proactive about some of her problems, and is better able to react to all the magical mayhem at occurs. Pritkin doesn’t handle this development very well; he has a few my-lover-is-in-danger related scenes, but he eventually gets with the program and recognizes that Cassie’s ability to handle herself and others has improved. Continue reading

[Release Day] Teaser Thursday Exclusive Excerpt: Bright Familiar by Jeffe Kennedy

Hi friends! I’m super excited to share an exclusive excerpt with you on a book out in just a few hours! Yes that’s right! Bright Familiar is out July 9th! And Jeffe Kennedy is a fabulous romance writer that has so many delicious high fantasy romances especially. Incidentally you can read Aidee’s review of the first book Dark Wizard here. And isn’t the cover of Bright Familiar so pretty?! <3

Bright Familiar by Jeffe Kennedy book coverHe wanted her with consuming passion… and so did the monster within.

Lady Veronica Elal has been freed from her tower—and entered a life of servitude. It doesn’t matter that her wizard master has odd ideas about circumventing Convocation tradition and making their relationship equal. Nic prides herself on her practicality and that means not pretending her marriage is full of hearts and flowers. Besides she understands that, despite her new husband’s idealism, they face obstacles so great the pair of them could be crushed to nothing, even without dashing themselves brainless trying to fight the Convocation.

Lord Gabriel Phel has come this far against impossible odds. He was born with powerful wizard magic, the first in his family in generations. He’s managed to begin the process of reinstating his fallen house. And—having staked his family’s meager fortune to win a familiar to amplify his magic, a highborn daughter to be mother to his children, his lady, and lover—he rescued Nic in a distant land, successfully bringing her home to House Phel. Though she’s cynical about their chances of success, he’s certain they can defy their enemies and flourish. Together.

But, the more Gabriel discovers about working with the fiery Nic, attempting to learn the finer points of wizardry and marriage, the more illicit fantasies plague him. His need for Nic—and the dark cravings she stirs in his black wizard’s heart—grow daily. Though Nic has reconciled herself to being possessed by Gabriel—and indeed yearns for even more from her brooding and reluctant master—creating a new life for herself isn’t easy. Especially when Gabriel seems determined to subvert the foundation of her world. Starting with her father.

Aghast, Gabriel swallowed against his dry throat. The image of Nic in the wedding dress she would’ve worn to marry him if she hadn’t escaped nearly crowded out his other thoughts, and he had to sternly order himself to focus. “Why do you think he did that?”

Canting her head, jaw firm, Nic gave him a hard look. “To remind me that a familiar is subject to their wizard master’s rule. Maman had raised the concern that you might not be able to restore House Phel, that I’d belong to a no-tier house with little fortune and meager prospects.” Continue reading

Team TBR Challenge Review: Spellbound by Allie Therin

Spellbound by Allie Therin
Paranormal Historial Romance released by Carina Press on July 29, 2019

To save Manhattan, they’ll have to save each other first…

New York, 1925

Arthur Kenzie’s life’s work is protecting the world from the supernatural relics that could destroy it. When an amulet with the power to control the tides is shipped to New York, he must intercept it before it can be used to devastating effects. This time, in order to succeed, he needs a powerful psychometric…and the only one available has sworn off his abilities altogether.

Rory Brodigan’s gift comes with great risk. To protect himself, he’s become a recluse, redirecting his magic to find counterfeit antiques. But with the city’s fate hanging in the balance, he can’t force himself to say no.

Being with Arthur is dangerous, but Rory’s ever-growing attraction to him begins to make him brave. And as Arthur coaxes him out of seclusion, a magical and emotional bond begins to form. One that proves impossible to break—even when Arthur sacrifices himself to keep Rory safe and Rory must risk everything to save him.

I picked this one in part because I was looking for a book with a one word title,since
that was the theme of the TBR Challenge for this month, but also because I love both paranormal romances AND old New York. So a paranormal romance in New York City
in 1925 seemed like it would be perfect . .. and it kind of was. Continue reading

~All the Books Limecello Read in 2020

… Yeah that’s not a typo. I’m seriously behind. (I mean … the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021 was just … not great. And then things got a little better, but … not that much… and this is just big picture stuff. For myself … my life is one constant migraine and I’ve said this ~summary before – “Why Am I Bleeding and Where Is This Blood Coming From?: The Limecello Story.” So anyway, I had wanted to do all these things in June but part of me also gave myself permission to just … “celebrate by not.” I did want to at least do this though – so … here we go. My list of every(?) book I finished reading in 2020. The symbols are pretty self explanatory I think. As always, the asterisk means I’m certain it was a re-read. the “x#” is how many times I re-read it that time. I am big on comfort re-reading. And the past months have IMO called for a lot of it, so yes in fact there were some book(s) I read or listened to literally five times in a row. Of course the note “♪” means it was an audiobook. Bad devices etc and being held hostage by them really led me to audiobooks since it was the only thing that could run in the background – and also some temporary loss of vision. (Scary!!)

It’s likely not exact exact – near the end of 2020 I got especially bad at logging books or ~reviewing them and rating them, so that’s why a bunch of books aren’t “graded.” As usual if you want to know more of my thoughts on the books I try to put them in GR. (Which is where I get my list from, so it’s tricky. It’s also not great at slotting in re-reads chronologically…) I do also want to say I’m a definite mood reader – so how I’m feeling can to a degree affect what I think of a book. And you can really see when things were getting rough cuz I went back to books I’d just read and listened to them over and over (and over) again.

I pointed out books I noticed are on sale – N.B. this is at the time of my grabbing the link so make sure you double check. Also those are mostly for kindle formats I believe. In case you didn’t know, Amazon changes prices on a whim – or publishers, or authors, so sometimes sales are just for 24 hours. Sometimes they’re there for a few days. YMMV. Usual disclaimers apply – the links are to Amazon because we’re an associate so if you’d be willing to kick us a few pennies, please click and buy! Thanks! Continue reading

Guest Review: When Sparks Fly by Kristen Zimmer

When Sparks Fly by Kristen Zimmer
[Contemporary F/F YA/NA romance] released by Bookouture on April 28, 2021

Britton Walsh has never had a home. After a lifetime in the care system, she doesn’t expect she’ll ever find one. But beginning her senior year with new foster parents in a new city, means starting over yet again. Tom and Cate Cahill seem okay. The hitch? Their daughter, Avery.

Beautiful, popular and cool, Avery is everything Britton is not. She’s all Britton could ever ask for in a sister, or even a friend––but having survived without either for so long, Britton knows the way her heart races whenever Avery enters the room can only mean one thing…

But Avery has a secret. Something that is eating away at her and stopping her letting anyone in, least of all Britton. Will Avery’s insistence on punishing herself for a mistake in her past make Britton’s last year of high school, and finding a place to call home, impossible? Can two such different people ever find common ground, friendship, or maybe even something more?

An unforgettable new adult lesbian romance for fans of Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters, Her Name in the Sky by Kelly Quindlen, or Nancy Garden’s classic young adult coming out novel, Annie on My Mind.

New Adult novel: recommended for 17+ due to mature themes and sexual content.

Pre-pandemic I co-hosted my library’s romance book club. For June, which is Pride Month, we asked book club members to read a LGBTQIA+ book of their choosing. I selected two, one of which was The Gravity Between Us by Kristen Zimmer. It was a cute friends to lovers lesbian romance that I enjoyed quite a bit. When I heard she was publishing a second book I knew I had to read it hoping it would be as good as the first. Continue reading

Original Retro APAHM Guest Hudson Lin on Diversity 201: We Are Not a Monolith

Hi friends! If you’re wondering about the title … well, Hudson originally sent me this post in 2019. I cringe even now thinking about it. I nearly (figuratively) died when I saw earlier this year I’d totally dropped the ball, so I contacted Hudson and was graciously given permission to post it now. (I will say … in May 2019 I was recovering and re-learning how to walk again so … it wasn’t as if I was totally just not doing anything…) But I still feel terrible. So – my apologies to the wonderful Hudson Lin, and thank you!

Diversity 201: We are not a monolith
By Hudson Lin

When I think of the words Asian American, I get a very specific picture in my mind. This person has yellow skin, grew up in North America, speaks English fluently and perhaps a second Asian language. This person fits most of the mainstream stereotypes of Asians in the West. This person looks like me. 

But my mental picture of an Asian American is wrong. Because not all Asians have yellow skin, not all grew up in North America, not all speak a second language. Not all Asians are good at math and excel in school. Not all are quiet keep our heads down hard workers. Not all Asians are good at badminton.  Continue reading

Team TBR Challenge Review: How to Catch a Queen by Alyssa Cole

How to Catch a Queen by Alyssa Cole
Contemporary romance released by Avon on December 1, 2020

When Shanti Mohapi weds the king of Njaza, her dream of becoming a queen finally comes true. But it’s nothing like she imagined. Shanti and her husband may share an immediate and powerful attraction, but her subjects see her as an outsider, and everything she was taught about being the perfect wife goes disastrously wrong.

A king must rule with an iron fist, and newly crowned King Sanyu was born perfectly fitted for the gauntlet, even if he wishes he weren’t. He agrees to take a wife as is required of him, though he doesn’t expect to actually fall in love. Even more vexing? His beguiling new queen seems to have the answers to his country’s problems—except no one will listen to her.

By day, they lead separate lives. By night, she wears the crown, and he bows to her demands in matters of politics and passion. When turmoil erupts in their kingdom and their marriage, Shanti goes on the run, and Sanyu must learn whether he has what it takes both to lead his people and to catch his queen.

This book has been on my TBR pile (digitally speaking) for a while. I was hesitant to read this because Alyssa Cole often described it as a “Bluebeard” retelling, and that is not one of my favorite tales. However, I’m here to say that this isn’t a creepy or gory retelling, it is focused on the emotional structure of the story. The only tricky part for me about this book was fully comprehending Chanti’s motives, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the book and cheering at the happy ending. Plus, we meet a secondary character that is hilarious and acts as a sort of catalyst, and for fans of Cole’s Reluctant Royals series, there are cameos by a lot of characters in this book. Chanti has a lot of drive, but she doesn’t know what she’s walking into when she agrees to marry Sanyu, who is not emotionally ready to be king or husband but who is willing to learn. This book is set in a fictional country on the continent of Africa and is interwoven with the places Cole has created in her Reluctant Royals series. Continue reading