Category 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.

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Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: Brave the Tempest by Karen Chance

Brave the Tempest (Cassie Palmer book 9) by Karen Chance
Urban fantasy released by Berkley on July 30, 2019

Brave the Tempest by Karen Chance book coverCassie Palmer, chief seer of the supernatural world, faces her biggest challenge yet—her own allies! Everything’s on the line in the latest thrilling entry in the New York Times bestselling urban fantasy series.

Cassie Palmer has been chief seer of the supernatural world for a little over four months. In that time, she’s battled two gods, fallen in love with two men, and confronted the two sides of her own nature, both god and human. So it’s not surprising that she currently finds herself facing two adversaries, although they have a single purpose: to wipe out the supernatural community’s newest fighting force, leaving it vulnerable to enemies in this world and beyond.

To prevent catastrophe, the vamps, mages, and demons will have to do the one thing they’ve never managed before and come together as allies. Cassie has the difficult task of keeping the uneasy coalition intact, and of persuading her own two opposing forces, a powerful mage with a secret and a master vampire with a growing obsession, to fight at her side. She just hopes they can do it without tearing each other apart.

If paranormal romance/urban fantasy were on a spectrum, from vampires and shapeshifters being members of the mainstream society, to “the world will end if we’re exposed, but also, exploding buildings due to magical battles are a regular occurrence” then this series falls closer to the more over-the-top end of the spectrum. This series is, at the writing of this review, on its ninth full-length published novel and scheduled to have two more books released in the next year or so. And there’s a spin-off series that is up to its fourth full-length novel. So, if you’re one of those people who can’t handle reading incomplete series, I suggest that you go find something else to read for another year and then check back in on this one. If you don’t mind reading incomplete series that are over-the-top, then this is your series, and probably your book. This series is told from Cassie’s point of view, in first-person, very much in keeping with the urban fantasy tradition. What I like most about Cassie is that she’s new to her power and we’ve had to see her figure out how to wield it, and how to avoid being controlled by others who want to benefit from it. What is this power, you may be asking? Well, the cover copy doesn’t lie; Cassie is a time-traveling clairvoyant. I liked the book overall–Cassie has emotional and political conflicts–but I found myself losing track of time within the book, and I was sometimes a little overwhelmed by everything going on, much like the main character. Continue reading

Release Day Review: My Fake Rake by Eva Leigh

My Fake Rake (Union of the Rakes #1) by Eva Leigh
Historical Romance published by Avon on November 26, 2019

My Fake Rake by Eva Leigh book coverIn the first book in Eva Leigh’s new Union of the Rakes series, a bluestocking enlists a faux suitor to help her land an ideal husband only to be blindsided by real desire…

Lady Grace Wyatt is content as a wallflower, focusing on scientific pursuits rather than the complications of society matches. But when a handsome, celebrated naturalist returns from abroad, Grace wishes, for once, to be noticed. Her solution: to “build” the perfect man, who will court her publicly and help her catch his eye. Grace’s colleague, anthropologist Sebastian Holloway, is just the blank slate she requires.

To further his own research on English society, Sebastian agrees to let Grace transform him from a bespectacled, bookish academic into a dashing—albeit fake—rake. Between secret lessons on how to be a rogue and exaggerated public flirtations, Grace’s feelings for Sebastian grow from friendship into undeniable, inconvenient, real attraction. If only she hadn’t asked him to help her marry someone else…

Sebastian is in love with brilliant, beautiful Grace, but their bargain is complete, and she desires another. Yet when he’s faced with losing her forever, Sebastian will do whatever it takes to tell her the truth, even if it means risking his own future—and his heart.

Read this book ASAP! I highly recommend it for fans of historical romance. I haven’t read much historical romance this year, especially stories published by the New York / traditional publishers. If they’re like this now, sign me up for more! This book is doing a lot and I am here for all of it. There are so many things I liked, many of them just little acknowledgements or references I’m not used to reading in “traditional” Regency historical romance and I loved it! Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: The Art of Three by Erin McRae and Racheline Maltese

The Art of Three by Erin McRae and Racheline Maltese
Contemporary romance published by Avian30 on March 28, 2017

The Art of Three 24-year-old Jamie Conway has just moved to London, is starring in his first feature film, and hasn’t yet figured out how to navigate fame, adulthood, or being bisexual in public.

When Jamie hooks up with his much older polyamorous costar Callum Griffith-Davies, he sets off a chain of delightful complications, including an unexpected affair with Callum’s no-nonsense wife, Nerea.

This Rainbow Awards-winning romance features three countries, two men, one woman, and absolutely no love triangles.

I read The Art of Three for the November #TBRChallenge and enjoyed it. It was a quick, relatively low angst read for me. They’re just so nice to each other and happy to be together! I’m a fan of MMF romances and when I heard about this book, I immediately put it in my TBR list. It’s not what I’m used to reading in a MMF / ménage / poly relationship story and I liked that! Continue reading

Release Day Review: Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

Get a Life, Chloe Brown (The Brown Sisters #1) by Talia Hibbert
Contemporary Romance published by Avon on November 5, 2019

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert book coverChloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?

  • Enjoy a drunken night out.
  • Ride a motorcycle.
  • Go camping.
  • Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
  • Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
  • And… do something bad.

But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.

Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.

But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…

It’s a rare book that I can feel myself smiling while I’m reading it and this was one—in public no less! I also cried but that may not be the selling point some are looking for (more on that later). Anyway, this was an awesome read. I love Chloe and her family and Red and am excited for the next book about Chloe’s sister, Dani. And you should stop reading my review and read this book now! 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