2023 “BHM” List of Black Romance Authors

Hi friends! It’s that time again! As you know the Smithsonian Heritage Month posts stopped working a few years ago so since then I’ve been posting lists of authors for most of the Smithsonian Heritage Months. I’m really excited to offer this updated and IMO extended list for 2023, and hope you all find a new author to love.

I compiled this list through the past year, so my apologies if there are any errors. Also, if you know of anyone to add, please let me know. (Or as always if someone wants to be removed from the list, let me know and I’ll be happy to do so.)

Happy reading!

Maybe Every Book Limecello Read in 2022

The subject kinda says it all but … like look – my life is a mess. I know in early January I was still recovering from surgery. (Which … 😐 stay tuned ….) I can’t recall what all I did – I’d thought it was February but also now I think it was January 2022 that I watched Schitt’s Creek in a week, and watched both seasons of Ted Lasso in something like 3 days. (I miss having Netflix access T_T) … and you do what you gotta do when your free trial of Apple TV is ending. 😜

I also don’t know the status of the HarperCollins strike – I think they’re in the process of negotiations? I also know there were a lot of suggestions/tips as to how to support the union. I truly didn’t have the bandwidth to check who published what from what I read – nor did I add “grades” this time for the same reason. Definitely I support the union though and don’t consider this reviewing or promoting – although I think the stikers said they weren’t asking for reviewers to stop? I’m not a good source for all this though – there are various places you can check.

ANYWAY. I truly don’t know how complete this list is … I also re-read a lot last year. And not just that, but I’d read the same book over and over. Especially audiobooks. As usual, the asterisk before the title means it’s a re-read. The “x#” after a book means how many times I read it in a row this time. I don’t think it’s all the books I read but it’s about as comprehensive of a list as I can get now.

January
*Crave by Evelyn Sola x2
*Indigo by Beverly Jenkins x7
*Vivid by Beverly Jenkins x4
*The Satin Sash by Red Garnier

February
Loverboy by Sarina Bowen
*Night Hawk by Beverly Jenkins x3
*The Taming of Jessi Rose by Beverly Jenkins x3
*Exorcising Sean’s Ghost by Beth Kery
Studfinder by L.B. Dunbar
*Ante Up by Christina C. Jones x6
Evil Twin by Kati Wilde
*Crave by Evelyn Sola
Black Pearl the Prequel by Tiffany Patterson
At Her Command by Joey W. Hill

March
*Black Pearl by Tiffany Patterson
*Aaron’s Patience by Tiffany Patterson
Destiny’s Embrace by Beverly Jenkins x3
Takeover by Evelyn Sola Mar 9
The Storm’s Whisper by T. A. White
*Pulling Doubles by Christina C. Jones x2
*Getting Schooled by Christina C. Jones x2
*Mr. Vega by Xyla Turner x3
*Tempest by Beverly Jenkins x2
*Destiny’s Embrace by Beverly Jenkins x2
The One Who Got Away by Cynthia Eden
Ghost of a Chance by Cynthia Eden
Say I Do by Cynthia Eden

April
Scandal Between the Sheets by Brenda Jackson
Stranded With the Tempting Stranger by Brenda Jackson
Subordinate Position by Delaney Diamond x2
Counting on Cole by Cynthia Eden
Sunshine by Robin McKinley
Mama’s Boy by Avery Flynn
What Happens on Vacation by Brenda Jackson x2
Cross My Heart by Cynthia Eden
Chase After Me by Cynthia Eden
Pretend You Want Me by Cynthia Eden
Crossing the Line by Cynthia Eden
What He Wants for Christmas by Brenda Jackson
Impromptu Seduction by Stephanie Nicole Norris
*Let Me Love You by Alexandria House
Roman Will Fall by Cynthia Eden
Intimate Seduction by Brenda Jackson x2
Her Naughty Suitor by Stephanie Nicole Norris
*I Think I Might Love You by Christina C. Jones
The Heart You Break by Cynthia Eden
Secrets of the Tycoon Bride by Emilie Rose
Tempted By You by Stephanie Nicole Norris
No Escape From War by Cynthia Eden
Don’t Play with Odin by Cynthia Eden
One Christmas Wish by Brenda Jackson
A Catalina Cove Christmas by Brenda Jackson
Anonymous Acts by Christina C. Jones
*Equivalent Exchange by Christina C. Jones x2
Perfect Fit by Brenda Jackson
Deadly Sexy by Beverly Jenkins
Sexy/Dangerous by Beverly Jenkins
*The Satin Sash by Red Garnier
*Exorcising Sean’s Ghost by Beth Kery

May
Private Arrangements by Brenda Jackson x2
Possessed by Passion by Brenda Jackson x2
Jinx You’re It by Cynthia Eden
*Deadly Sexy by Beverly Jenkins x3
One Dance with a Duke by Tessa Dare
Love Notes by Christina C. Jones x2
Behind the Scenes by Christina C. Jones
One Night with the Wealthy Rancher by Brenda Jackson
The Edge of Dawn by Beverly Jenkins
Flagrant by Alexandria House
Technical by Alexandria House
The Edge of Midnight by Beverly Jenkins
*Topaz by Beverly Jenkins
*Night Song by Beverly Jenkins

June
Never Gonna Happen by Cynthia Eden
*Scandal Never Sleeps by Shayla Black and Lexi Blake
*Something Like Love by Beverly Jenkins x2
*The Taming of Jessi Rose by Beverly Jenkins
*Smoke and Sin by Shayla Black and Lexi Blake
*Night Hawk by Beverly Jenkins
Natural Law by Joey W. Hill
*Destiny’s Embrace by Beverly Jenkins
Prior Affair by Christina C. Jones x2
*Indigo by Beverly Jenkins
*Always and Forever by Beverly Jenkins
A Duke Worth Falling For by Sarah MacLean
Daring and the Duke by Sarah MacLean
*Scent of Darkness by Christina Dodd
We Shouldn’t by Vi Keeland

July
*Guilty Pleasures by Laura Lee Guhrke
*His Every Kiss by Laura Lee Guhrke
*The Marriage Bed by Laura Lee Guhrke
Relationship Goals by Christina C. Jones x2
*Tempest by Beverly Jenkins
*And Then He Kissed Her by Laura Lee Guhrke
Back in the Day by Katrina Jackson
*Let Me Love You by Alexandria House
And They Lived Happily Ever After by Therese Beharrie
One Last Chance by Therese Beharrie
Governess Gone Rogue by Laura Lee Guhrke
Bring On the Blessings by Beverly Jenkins
Ballsy by Elise Faber
Caught by Elise Faber
The Truth About Love and Dukes by Laura Lee Guhrke
*Dirty Player by Stacey Lynn
In Bed With Her Boss by Brenda Jackson
*Equivalent Exchange by Christina C Jones x2
Remember Ramsey by Cynthia Eden

August
The House on Blueberry Lane by Brenda Jackson
*The Serpent Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt
*Equivalent Exchange by Christina C Jones
Keep Me by Stacey Kennedy
Save Me by Stacey Kennedy
Baking Lessons by Katie Allen
*Ante Up by Christina C. Jones x2
*The Wicked Ways of a Duke by Laura Lee Guhrke
*Secret Desires of a Gentleman by Laura Lee Guhrke
*Just Friends by Delaney Diamond x2
*Suddenly You by Lisa Kleypas
Something Wilder by Christina Lauren

September
*Tempt Me At Twilight by Lisa Kleypas x2
*Wild Side by Cynthia Ayman
Love in the Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas
*Aaron’s Patience by Tiffany Patterson
*Married by Morning by Lisa Kleypas
What a Westmoreland Wants by Brenda Jackson
*Safe Space by Tiffany Patterson
Unlocked by Courtney Milan
Taking Care of Business by Brenda Jackson x2
*Bad Night Stand by Elise Faber
The Scoundrel Falls Hard by Sophie Jordan
*Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas
To Catch a Raven by Beverly Jenkins x2
Something Borrowed by Eve Dangerfield
Something Else by Eve Dangerfield
Locked Box by Eve Dangerfield
Midnight by Beverly Jenkins
Out of Control by Shannon McKenna
Ex Marks the Perfect Spot by Cynthia Eden

October
The Bodyguard Next Door by Cynthia Eden
*The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne
Bittersweet by Christina C. Jones
Billionaire’s Proposition by Leanne Banks
Cause for Scandal by Anna DePalo
Begin Again Again by Eve Dangerfield
*Scandal Never Sleeps by Shayla Black and Lexi Blake
*Winds of the Storm by Beverly Jenkins
*Something Borrowed by Eve Dangerfield
The Kracken’s Sacrifice by Katee Robert
*The Unwanted Wife by Natasha Anders
*Tempest by Beverly Jenkins
The Dragon’s Bride by Katee Robert
Not Your Shoe Size by Eve Dangerfield
*Carter’s Flame by Tiffany Patterson
*Aaron’s Patience by Tiffany Patterson x2
*The Satin Sash by Red Garnier
Maggie Moves On by Lucy Score

November
*The Unwanted Wife by Natasha Anders
*Roman Will Fall by Cynthia Eden
Frozen in Ice by Cynthia Eden
*Strictly Confidential Attraction by Brenda Jackson x2
Falling For the Ice Queen by Cynthia Eden
Ice Cold Saint by Cynthia Eden
Lover Eternal by J.R. Ward
Plus One by Christina C. Jones x2
Frosted, Whipped, Buttered by Christina C. Jones x2
Press Rewind by Christina C. Jones
Ten Dirty Demands by Laurelin Paige
Single and Ready to Jingle by Piper Rayne
*Spacer’s Cinderella by Adria Rose
Aaron’s Gift by Tiffany Patterson
How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days by Laura Lee Guhrke

December
Bad Kitty by Cari Quinn
Personal Protection by Tiffany Patterson
Captured by Beverly Jenkins
Ship Wrecked by Olivia Date
Takedown by Evelyn Sola
Takeoff by Evelyn Sola
Downfall by Evelyn Sola
Make Me by Evelyn Sola
*Wonder by Christina C. Jones
A Very Krampus Holiday by Katee Robert
*Spacer’s Cinderella by Adria Rose
*Exorcising Sean’s Ghost by Beth Kery
The Rancher’s Return by Brenda Jackson

It’s kinda funny/sad. You can kinda tell when I was depressed and in a slump. (When I’m really depressed there’s no reading at all. But also sometimes when I’m depressed it’s more reading. So … >.> levels?) As always, I apologize if there are any typos and such. And if you want more information/potentially any thoughts I jotted down, you can check my GR.

My apologies also for any DYAC typos.

Aidee’s List of Books Read from January to June of 2022

This list may have less romance than usual, but paradoxically more fluffy romance (think aliens and mythological creatures). It is, as ever, not in chronological order or any order denoting preference for particular books. Titles preceded by an asterisk are rereads; you may recognize some old favorites by this point. And this time, it is completely my fault this particular list is so incredibly late.

*Servant Mage by Kate Elliott
Grey Magic by Jeffe Kennedy
Love Notes by Christina C. Jones
*The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi [audiobook]
*Head On by John Scalzi [audiobook]
Sweep in Peace by Ilona Andrews [dramatized audiobook]
One Fell Sweep by Ilona Andrews [dramatized audiobook]
Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews [dramatized audiobook]
Sweep of the Blade by Ilona Andrews [dramatized audiobook]
*Harbinger by Wen Spenser
The Dating Playbook by Farrah Rochon
Entreat Me by Grace Draven
The Brush of Black Wings by Grace Draven
The Art of Deception by Stephanie Burgis
The Light Within by Grace Draven
Wildfire Griffin by Zoe Chant
Showstopper by Regina Kyle
Boyfriend by Sarina Bowen
Lucky in Leather by Holley Trent
Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold
Extent by H.E. Trent
Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold
Resurrection by Karina Bliss
Redemption by Karina Bliss
A Deal with the Elf King by Elise Kova
The Grief of Stones by Katherine Addison (audiobook)
The Assassins of Thasalon by Lois McMaster Bujold (audiobook)
Kiss Hard by Nalini Singh (audiobook)
Where the Drowned Girls Go by Seanan McGuire
Spelunking Through Hell by Seanan McGuire
Not Your Average Hot Guy by Gwenda Bond
Knot of Shadows by Lois McMaster Bujold (audiobook)
The Physicians of Vilnoc by Lois McMaster Bujold (audiobook)
Thorn Bound by Stephanie Burgis
Good Neighbors by Stephanie Burgis
The Tyrant Alpha’s Rejected Mate by Cate C. Wells
The Heir Apparent’s Rejected Mate by Cate C. Wells

Team TBR Challenge Review: The Autumn Ballad

Here are two [synopses] of the series:

The story of a witty young girl named Qiu Yan and a cold-faced duke named Liang Yi, who goes from battling each other with wits and boldness to understanding and accompanying each other.

Qiu Yan is the least favored eldest daughter of the Qiu Manor. She managed to reap happiness step by step relying on her own efforts and wisdom. (From MyDramaList)

Or

As the eldest daughter of an influential scholar and Vice Minister of Works, Qiu Yan (Qiao Xin) ought to have been highly favored within her family. Alas, as the daughter of her father’s concubine, the favor Qiu Yan should have received often went to her younger sister, Qiu Min (Kabby Hui). Often overlooked and frequently mistreated, Qiu Yan’s only chance of escape from her less-than-fortunate life comes in the form of an arranged marriage. Unfortunately even that goes awry at the last minute, leaving Qiu Yan an object of scorn and mistrust.

Determined to clear her name, Qiu Yan takes on the investigation herself; but she isn’t the only one looking into the case of her newly departed husband. As head inspector of the government’s investigative agency, Duke Liang Yi (Jeremy Tsui) is determined to uncover the truth. Often crossing paths with Qiu Yan, the two form an unlikely friendship, which works out advantageously for both, as the closing of their case gets them both what they want most. But the fates that tie Qiu Yan and Liang Yi together aren’t finished meddling just yet.

When her family is threatened by an unexpected accusation, Qiu Yan and Liang Yi must work together once more, to save her family from ultimate disgrace. As they work to clear her family’s name, the sparks that often fly between them eventually ignite a much bigger flame. But can love blossom in the midst of a major family crisis?

A fantastic story of clashing wills and melting hearts, “The Autumn Ballad” is a 2022 Chinese romance drama directed by Ding Ying Zhou. (From Rakuten Viki)

(Today was the first time I’d ever seen the trailer… anyway.) The “prompt” for the challenge this month is “Starting Over” and I’m currently having my heart ripped out by my rewatch of The Autumn Ballad … and I think it really fits well. (The book I’m reading very slowly, Kraving Tavek by Zoey Draven, would fit well too but I have a feeling even much more angst is in the second half and I fear it turning into wangst … so we’ll see.) Anyway … it’s funny because I think I actually tried watching The Autumn Ballad a while back but the opening scene turned me off – but last week I saw more of the episode when someone else turned it on and I got hooked. Hard. I literally watched all 34 episodes in two days … so there you go. (I also literally didn’t sleep the second night which is not recommended for healthy responsible adults.) 😅 It also means I’m fuzzy on some details so a piecemeal rewatch is called for, although I’m fast forwarding through all the parts that annoyed me the first go round, so there’s that too.

I don’t know if I’ll do a good job describing things/doing it justice because I’m so in it … but here we go.

Overall, I really liked the series. Obviously, considering I binged it, and immediately turned around and started it all over again. (And am nearly done with my second watch.) That being said, I have some mixed feelings – and this time I love parts more and hate parts more

Qiu Yan/Su Yiwan (although in my opinion she never really becomes the latter) is a wonderful heroine, and I loved that she had flaws that the show just … let be. The actress (Qiao Xin) does a great job portraying the character. I’ve never seen her in anything else before, but I’d definitely watch another historical she’s in. I did feel there were holes in the plot/script where this supposedly incredibly intelligent girl was TSTL – but I didn’t know if that was due to her age or just … “lack of care” in the writing. Anyway, she’s smart, stubborn, bold, brave, petty, independent, and clueless. I don’t think she ever really understood how deeply the hero loved her until like the last five minutes. (Or last minute? Spoiler: the show blessedly ends with them reuniting, but they don’t speak – they’re like ten yards apart staring at each other meaningfully. This was one of my major hate moments.) Considering her difficult background, and how poorly almost everyone has treated her her whole life, she feels that strength is the most important thing – being bold and fearless. She doesn’t understand compromise or standing down for most of the series. Oftentimes this is a benefit, but sometimes it causes major problems. What bothered me about her/this is … for such a smart girl, how could she not understand consequences. She had such tunnel vision in the beginning. Qiu Yan has such a big heart, and is willing to help and protect her family, giving up her own wants and desires, all for family. Throw in extreme danger, burden, and ungratefulness from many of them. (This I think is a strong cultural factor.)

Liang Yi have moved into my top five heroes in C-dramas. Maybe all heroes. He’s willing to do anything, and give up everything to help the heroine. He puts his life on the line for her countless times, and even turns back on his major vengeance to help her family (because of her). He definitely isn’t perfect though. Through the first ten plus episodes he’s really an asshole to the heroine. (He thinks she’s a calculating social climber with no real redeeming qualities, and she’s trying to seduce his best friend just to be a rich lady.) Circumstances continue to throw them together though, and he sees her much more clearly, and the attraction grows. Through this he also softens. In the later episodes there are a few times we see him utterly heartbroken, and I loved that the actor (Jeremy Tsui) really went in hard with that – willing to show us an ugly cry face, actual tears, it feels like your heart is getting ripped out along with his. To the world, he’s a cruel, calculating bastard. He’s ruthless and only cares about power and clout in the imperial court. In a small part he has lost his way for his vision for justice and a better country, because at the beginning he doesn’t care any more about protecting the little people who are collateral damage when it comes to big picture change. But his motive has always been to protect and strengthen the country, and weed out corruption. (Obviously unpopular with corrupt court officials, who clearly hold a lot of control in terms of public opinion.) He’s hated and feared. And he understands it – he says he chose his own path, and walks it willingly.

As I mentioned, I hated the ending. Not just in how unsatisfactory the reunion is, but also what led to the separation. Granted I was sleep deprived but I felt it was very badly done, all the events in the last (two) episodes. They’re thrown together and nonsensical. I also don’t think I understand the purpose of it/if I’m right … it’s a shitty ass purpose that doesn’t stand up for all that was given and lost. And here we potentially have a cultural disconnect (obviously I have a much more Western view than the original target audience), and then >.> indelicately put, the whole commie message. “It’s worth giving up your everything for the sake of the country, even if/when it isn’t deserved.” I can’t think of how to describe it because I’m too angry at what I’m seeing on screen right now. Which is another thing I hated. The villain in the show wins. At the end we have this thrown in “subplot” that … well I don’t want to give spoilers, so there’s this whole thing but … the asshole who has been a thorn in the hero’s side for the entire series wins everything. He gets everything he wanted, a promotion, becomes basically the most important person in the imperial court (other than the emperor of course), his rival, Liang Yi, our hero is gone, his name tarnished …

The villain is a corrupt evil asshole. He lies and ruined the heroine’s family – causing her father’s death, and it’s only through the basically unreal machinations of the hero and heroine are her family partially restored. The villain also tortures the heroine (I’m still mad that was such a minor blip to the show), and literally ruins the hero’s life. The villain frames Liang Yi, calls him a traitor to the world, the hero’s home is sealed off, makes him become a hunted fugitive …

And for what? The villain has no purpose or goal other than “take down the hero” until nearly the end where they work together to save the country. And … we’re … supposed to believe that redeems the villain? Are you fucking goddamn kidding me? And THAT is a guy who you want having incredible power? Like … am I having a stroke here?

So anyway … looking at the plot itself/the story one would be utterly “what. the. fuck.” At least I was.

In part I guess it “doesn’t matter” because our hero chose to give things up. (I’m still not 100% clear if the hero loses his title as well – he was a marquis/the equivalent … so I don’t know if he just lost his position in court, or also the marquisate. I think we all know I’m a petty monster, so I care. Even if he doesn’t. I care. Even if he doesn’t do anything with it – he should still have it. Especially after all his contributions and sacrifices.

I also hated her third sister (Qiu Min), who is one of the main secondary characters. Seriously we could’ve had a better ending if the show had cut out her sniveling and sniffling. She spends probably a good thirty minutes of the series doing that, if not more. Beyond that though, she’s fucking evil. She absolutely never understands her older sister, and only sees her in the worst light. Real talk – and I haven’t seen this mentioned anywhere in the few reviews I’ve read… Qiu Min rapes the guy she’s interested in (Qin Xuan). The show definitely doesn’t describe it that way … but she gets him drunk, roofies him … (and also told him her sister (Qiu Yan(, who he loves, is dead, and that he should pretend she’s her sister. So.) Qin Xuan and Qiu Yan had actually been a couple, although Qiu Min has always had a crush on him. It’s a mess. And a whole thing. Other spoiler/warning: Qiu Min is raped … and a possible trope I’m noticing that I hate is … “woman is raped and turns evil.” So now she’s a sniveling brat who is also evil. (I do feel very badly for her. But god damn does she just really go hard on the “I’m going to be the worst person possible but absolutely think there’s nothing wrong with what I’m doing and everything bad is my sister.”) She does do some good which the show is supposed to make us think “well everything before was fine then” but … I’m not snowed. Note: you don’t really see anything re: the rape(s) happen on screen, but you definitely know it happens. I also hate the useless emperor.

What I loved … the romance. Even though I wanted more … what’s funny is it starts off as a love/hate – which is a trope I strongly dislike in writing. Here it works though because while each doesn’t think much of the other, they are impressed by the other person. They’re both very smart and direct, and don’t feel the need to pretend with each other or observe inane social niceties, because they don’t think much of the other person – so why bother? But it also makes things a lot easier, and they get to be exactly who they are. But as stated, as they spend more time together working to solve cases, the attraction develops. The hero starts to fall for the heroine in episode ten, in my opinion. And he changes. The furtive looks, the softening of his expression … our hero loves the heroine more than she loves him. Or at least, he shows it more. The heroine is more concerned with her own freedom once she’s in a place to consider what she wants/has saved her family (again). I’m not mad at her for that. Live your life, girl. Especially in ancient China – grab what independence you can, and enjoy life as you want it when you’re able. It’s what she ~initially thinks is the most important.

With all the censorship [rules] in China the only thing you ever see on screen is really chaste kisses … and here’s how strict/PG everything is … I was super excited to see the hero actually hug the heroine in sympathy. (Like generally in other shows other than a kiss or two the most meaningful contact is a gripped sleeve or *gasp* clasped hands.) So a comfort hug was nice to see. I also deeply enjoyed the scenes between the hero and heroine when she’s forced to be a courtesan due to her circumstances, because they get to be more affectionate than would normally be allowed. (They’re acting to throw off the villain … but it’s not all acting on the part of the hero. And he says so!) There are also a few “I love you I’m so happy to see you” hugs. Well, two. Still – it’s actually a big deal.

I also have to shout out the largely unsung (or at least not sufficiently celebrated) characters of Song Jun, Yao Gui, and Shi Xiao Xiao. (I just rewatched that one scene three times in a row and ugly cried each time.)

I’d actually thought the series was 40 episodes for some reason, so I think in part that’s why I felt so cheated by the ending. I thought we had more after 34, and didn’t even consider as I was watching how rushed/”botched” things were. Aside from the “let’s throw the kitchen sink in/at it” aspect … I felt the development of the relationship was really good, as was the lead actors’ chemistry. Seriously – the way the hero’s face softens when he looks at the heroine – his eyes light up and sparkle … it’s darling.

A lot of the plot is really engaging – there are twists and turns that are totally unexpected, so you’re always engaged. There are a LOT of really well written scenes too, as well as touching lines. At times things get very emotional – I found myself crying at scenes I’d already watched, and some I’ve watched over and over and over already. And seriously the “we live or die together” in episode 31 had me hugging myself. First for the lovely sentiment, but also because they FINALLY AND ACTUALLY SAID IT OUT LOUD.

I can definitely see The Autumn Ballad becoming one of my future go-to rewatch series.

You can start watching it on Youtube with English subtitles. I think they do a good job with them here.

🤦🏻‍♀️ ETA: I forgot the “new beginnings” part of this … so … the heroine escapes death a few times – as does the hero. (A few times they escape death together… <3) The other times are spoilers so I won’t go into detail, but there are definitely huge “new life begins” or “begin again” moments.

Team TBR Challenge Review: Shadow Wizard by Jeffe Kennedy

Shadow Wizard by Jeffe Kennedy
A Dark Fantasy Romance released by Brightlynx Publishing on September 29, 2022

Shadow Wizard by Jeffe Kennedy book coverSpy, manipulator, traitor… He might be her only salvation.

Lady Seliah Phel can’t escape feeling like she’s one of those fairytale princesses awakened from a long slumber—except that her life is no romantic story and there’s no happy ending in sight. Though she has her magic and she’s been rescued from the depths of madness that consumed her since adolescence, Selly finds that the years she lost aren’t so easily recovered. Everyone treats her like the child they remember. To prove something—perhaps only to herself—she’s recklessly volunteered to stave off a host of monsters with only the enigmatically alluring, cuttingly sarcastic, and probably deceitful wizard Jadren El-Adrel for company.

Jadren isn’t the heroic type. In fact, he’s not much of anything. Relentlessly groomed into a shadow of a man by his sadistic mother, he’s the perfect spy and tool, with no real will of his own. When he’s stranded in the wilderness with Seliah Phel, he figures the outcome is immaterial. Live or die, it’s all the same to him. But Seliah is a different story and she isn’t like anyone else. Though he reminds himself she’s basically a child in a woman’s body, he finds it increasingly difficult to resist her artless charms and relentless curiosity.

As their predicament goes from dire to disastrous, Jadren realizes his many failures have jeopardized Selly’s future, perhaps her very life. Far from home and trapped without resources, Selly has only Jadren to rely upon—the one person she can’t possibly trust. There seems no possibility of rescue from their friends and family back home at House Phel, so Jadren and Selly must work together to survive… if they can.

I was very excited about this book when I saw the cover copy. I had hoped that there would be more books in this Kennedy world, and while I would not have put Seliah and Jadren together, they do make a compelling couple. Following along as their relationship went from, “I hate you, but can’t stop thinking about your hair” as Sarah Wendell would put it, to love—if not a happily ever after, was engrossing. We met Seliah in the two previous books, but she has changed over time. We also met Jadren in the two previous books, but he has hidden depths. It helps that he isn’t a villain—he is an anti-hero. As a warning, this book does include descriptions of abuse and talks about PTSD, although not using that terminology. Also, this book does end on a cliffhanger and I feel like it would be generous to say that Seliah and Jadren have a HFN ending, but no one is in active danger, which worked for me in this case but, of course, your mileage may vary. And last but not least, this book picks up right where Grey Magic left Seliah, so while doable, I wouldn’t recommend jumping in to this world with this book; you might be confused and not as emotionally invested in the characters and their relationships. Continue reading

[November] Team TBR Challenge Not Review: Single and Ready to Jingle by Piper Rayne

Single and Ready to Jingle by Piper Rayne
Contemporary romance released by Piper Rayne on November 15, 2022

The girl who loves Christmas falls for the Grinch—it’s a Christmas miracle.

What started as a dumpster fire of a blind date turns into a deal.

In truth, it probably didn’t help that I showed up dressed like an elf but that’s a story for another time. Our start was rocky at best which is why it’s so frustrating that I can’t stop thinking about his sexy British accent. Or the way his chest and arms fill out his suit. Or his perfect hair with that single streak of grey at the front.

Santa likes lists and so do I, so here’s all the reasons why Andrew and I aren’t right for each other:

He’s my brother’s best friend
He’s the biggest grump I’ve ever met.
He hates Christmas.

That last one is big for a girl like me who thinks that the entire month of December should be a national holiday. So, when he calls for my help in planning his firm’s holiday party, I can’t pass up the opportunity to grow my small business. Bonus, we make a deal, and he agrees to attend three holiday events with me so I can make him fall in love with Christmas. As if I’d pass up an opportunity to make a Grinch’s heart grow three times its size.

It isn’t long until I discover Andrew has a very real reason to hate Christmas and I start to see him in a different light. That’s when the Christmas miracle begins.

Ok first of all, let’s just pretend it’s still November, shall we? Because somehow this week got away from me. (Like all the other weeks and years…) Anyway. secondly, I want to say overall I enjoyed this book. I’m not at all mad I read it. That being said though, there are some things that bothered me about it. And I’m just … too crushed by endless migraines to write a real review right now. So we’re going with just the lies in the book. (ETA the November TBR Challenge “prompt” was “Lies.”)

I picked up Single and Ready to Jingle because I’ve enjoyed some Piper Rayne books in the past, and “best friend’s sibling” is one of my romance catnip tropes. The heroine is 28 (god forbid she be over 30, right?) And the hero is 34. They get matched on a dating app, and realize he’s her brother’s best friend. But the thing is – they don’t exchange actual names until the actual date. (They’d also never met prior to this first date.) As the blurb says, it goes badly. With good reason. I have to admit I’m leaning a bit towards Andrew’s side on this one because Kenzie shows up at a posh Manhattan restaurant literally in full Christmas elf getup with literal bells on.  Why… not just message you’ll be late? And change?

Both characters have a lot – a lot – of understandable baggage. I totally was okay with that. November’s TBR challenge prompt was lies … so I guess I’ll discuss the two biggest ones in the book that I remember. Continue reading

Release Day Guest Author Maya Tyler on The Meet-Cute Point of View + An Exclusive Excerpt

Hi friends! I’m excited to welcome Maya Tyler to ALBTALBS! She emailed a while back asking if anyone was interested in reviewing her newest book (look for that sometime), and I responded with “and how about a guest post too?! 😁” And here we are! Everyone give Maya a warm welcome!

The Meet-Cute Point of View by Maya Tyler

Thank you, Limecello and A Little Bit Tart, A Little Bit Sweet, for inviting me to visit on Release Day for Designed by Destiny, my 7th published title.

I embarked on my publishing journey in 2014, and I’m sure you “hear” this all the time, but being a writer—especially a published writer—was a lifelong dream of mine. I just want to write. (Think to the tune of The Flash theme song “I Just Wanna Run” because that’s what I’m humming.)

I’ve planned an “old school” release for Designed by Destiny with two book tours, additional guest posts, and several book spotlights. I want to get my book in front of as many readers as I can because it’s a great story. A classic fake relationship trope with my own personal twist. My couple have the assistance of a fairy godmother as they navigate their fake-turned-real relationship. Continue reading

Native American/First Nations/Indigenous Romance Authors

Hi friends! November is National Native American Heritage Month!

If you’re new to A Little Bit Tart, A Little Bit Sweet (ALBTALBS) I used to have guests. Now, every year I post a list. I’m so excited to have a number of new names to added this year! Most of them have been published they’re [simply] new to me – though there’s nothing simply about it. I’m thrilled to see this number growing, and more books to look into.

Xio Axelrod
Maggie Blackbird
Marcella Bell
Christina Berry
Isobel Carr/Kalen Hughes
Pamela Clare
Robin Covington
Kari Lynn Dell
Cynthia Eden
Yasmine Galenorn
T. J. Michaels
V. S. Nelson
Alex Powell
Sharon Sala
Pamela Sanderson
Cynthia Leitich Smith (YA)
Dee Tenorio
Kristine Wyllys

As always if you fall under this umbrella and want me to add you, or know someone who could/should be added, please let me know! (And on the flip side, if you want to be removed, let me know that as well.) … Also I know at least one of the authors is Canadian – but you know, North America. (I’m still not quite sure how to split or not split international authors …)

Are You Scared? (Do You Wanna Be?)

Editor’s Note: Hi friends! So Dave actually sent me this post last year 🙃 but I didn’t get it posted prior to surgery, and … well, if you’ve ever recovered from major surgery I think you know basically continuing to breathe takes all your focus and energy. Anyway. Here we are a year later, and with Halloween right here, we’ve got some “scary” book recs for you.

This post is supposed to be about a book. Specifically, a collection of gothic horror. The New York Public Library defines gothic horror as “the battle between humanity and unnatural forces of evil…with an oppressive, inescapable, and bleak landscape.” It’s the stuff of haunted mansions (Shirley Jackson), ghosts (Susan Hill), and supernatural creatures (Bram Stoker). That wasn’t this book. 

There was no sense of foreboding or dread. There were no chills or scares. But then I had to ask myself, “Is it me?” Would someone else who isn’t a fan of horror novels, comics, and movies enjoy this more? Perhaps. Or did I not enjoy it because the horrors we’ve faced for the past year and a half are far scarier than anything I could read? Perhaps. It’s for these reasons that I’ll refrain from naming the book.

But it got me thinking what is scary or frightening? What makes me turn on the lamp while reading or even makes me put down the book? It is of course different for every person. I have a friend terrified of clowns, my wife is petrified of snakes, I detest daddy-long-leg spiders aka cellar spiders. Vile long-legged ticks is what they are. But I digress. Whether it’s clowns or snakes or walking ticks we all have that thing that sends chills down our spine.

Here are ten books that might make you stop reading and put on a Hallmark Christmas movie because the book has begun to haunt you and you need a change. Continue reading

Really Super Late Not TBR Review: on Carter’s Flame by Tiffany Patterson and The Story of Yanxi Palace.

To be honest, I had thought I had a review on hand for October … but it turned out to be not a review. And then I haven’t felt like I’ve been reading much lately. Some good books but more books that were just okay in that I wasn’t mad I read them but … I don’t know that I’d recommend them widely. I have however, but re-reading a lot of books this year … and recently began another binge re-watch of The Story of Yanxi Palace. This … very well may be my seventh (if not more) rewatch. Granted certain parts I forward through – but it’s an intensive experience.
Anyway, the October suggested prompt was “Flirting with Danger” … and I thought about it for a bit, and felt like the closest recent book I’ve read, or more accurately re-read would be Carter’s Flame by Tiffany Patterson. Although I think it’s more a straight contemporary romance than a romantic suspense. The hero is former special forces, and currently a firefighter working in the rescue squad. He meets the heroine when he rescues her from her car after a crash.
Carter and Michelle are great. Michelle is a single mother, and Carter goes all in on having a built in family. If you like really possessive alpha heroes, than Tiffany Patterson will be your new catnip. I personally love smitten heroes, so when I first discovered Tiffany Patterson’s book, I literally read her entire backlist in one go. (At the time it was a little over 30 books and I think it took me about three to four weeks.) What I like about her heroes is that they’re smitten and jealous, possessive but not controlling. They’re very “hey back off my woman, asshole” … but they don’t try to control her. For her part, Michelle “flirts with danger” because the father of her son is someone … well, it’s a spoiler but not a major factor – someone she thought she was in a relationship with, but she was actually his sidepiece. (She was only 19, he was a predator. She was vulnerable and obviously young. Thee ex provides for her son in paying for the tuition of his very expensive private school… and that’s it – however he threatens her with withdrawing that support or worse taking custody if she dates anyone else. This actually really annoyed me because it would be highly unlikely for a court to take away a child from his sole custodial parent, but it becomes a whole thing. I get the drama but I irked me. While this isn’t my area of legal practice, I know more about it than the average [legal] bear. Carter’s “flirting with danger” is pretty obvious what with running into burning buildings and such.
For the relationship itself, there’s very little danger. Like I said, Carter (and most Patterson heroes) are all in once they meet their loves/are ready for a relationship, and they will systematically destroy any barrier to it.
As for The Story of Yanxi Palace … it’s a Chinese historical drama set during the Qing dynasty. The heroine is a palace maid set on revenge, and honestly her entire life is just careening from one danger to another. She’s very bold, angry and petty in the best ways … and smart. She can’t stand injustice and is so steadfast. Yingluo is crafty but also lucky. Help comes when it’s most needed, but things are not easy for her – at all. It’s probably my favorite series ever though, so I’ve rewatched it a number of times since first seeing it. I watched it shortly after it first came out … I know Ilona Andrews watched it (I think some time in 2019 and blogged about it but for the life of me I can’t find details now…) Anyway the fact that it has a happy ending is a big part of why I like it so much. And I’ve a vengeful bitch so playing the long revenge game is something I respect. Fully.
Here’s the cover and back cover copy of Carter’s Flame if you’re interested.

Carter's Flame by Tiffany Patterson book coverI was born into a world of wealth and privilege. My birthright was to be at the helm of one of the world’s leading energy companies. But that wasn’t my purpose in life. Sitting behind a desk of a fortune 500 isn’t what gets me going. I’ll leave that life to my brothers. No. It took me years to find my true purpose. Saving lives. Walking into the depths of hell to pull out survivors. It’s what gets me out of my bed in the morning, and eventually, it’s what led me to her.
On a day that, to her, must’ve seemed like the wrong place and wrong time, is where I met my destiny. Michelle Clarke. Our worlds collided and I knew instantly that she was mine. Everything in my life up until this point has been preparing me for her.
My childhood.
The eight years I spent in special forces.
And the last six years spent as a proud member of the Williamsport Fire Department’s Rescue 4 squad.
All of it was preparation for her. And nothing, not her reluctance, not my brother, and not even her son’s father will stand in the way of what belongs to me. My job is to rescue people and put out fires, but I will set anyone who stands in our way, ablaze. I will happily pour the gasoline and light the match and set all of this shit aflame, just to ensure she is where she belongs … with me.

And if you’re interested …

Here’s a link to start you out on Yanxi Palace. From what I’ve seen of it the translations are overall quite good. This is actually my first time watching the series with English subtitles. There are a few things I’d quibble about but all told they aren’t that serious. And they’re much better than many others I’ve seen generally. (Definitely whatever was put up on Amazon Prime is some like terrible bootleg version.)

Anyway I’d love if more of you read Tiffany Patterson and watched Yanxi Palace because I have things to discuss.