Tag Archives: Aidee’s Review

Review: Blacklisted by Jay Crownover

Blacklisted by Jay Crownover
Contemporary romance released by Forever on October 27, 2020

Blacklisted by Jay Crownover book coverDr. Presley Baskin has always lived a quiet, calm life. Unfortunately, nothing about her life in Loveless, Texas — especially not the wild, rowdy, and impossibly close-knit Lawton family who’ve claimed her — is quiet or calm. Which is how loner Presley finds herself roped into patching up local bad boy Shot Caldwell against her better judgment. Presley wants nothing to do with the dangerous, brooding leader of the local outlaw motorcycle club. But when someone starts stalking her, Shot is the only person she trusts to help. Plus he owes her one . . .
Palmer ‘Shot’ Caldwell has always known his life isn’t made for relationships. At least until shy, secretive, Presley reluctantly pulled a bullet out of him. He’s oddly protective of the pretty doctor, so when she comes to him for help, hard-hearted Shot suddenly realizes there’s nothing he wouldn’t do to keep her safe.

I have not read a motorcycle club romance in a few years, so I was curious how this one would go. On the one hand, it was fairly easy to familiarize myself with the various family and friends of both of the main characters, and the plot and its conflict did not rely heavily on events in earlier books. On the other hand, the way mental illness is used in this book left me troubled after I finished it, which is why I delayed writing a review for this book. I’m also ethically uncomfortable with how a medical examiner is in a long-term relationship with the president of a motorcycle club by the end of the book, and this is clearly not a cuddly motorcycle club (like Rhenna Morgan’s Men of Haven). Presley is the medical examiner in the novel, and Palmer “Shot” is the motorcycle club president. Presley’s growth is perhaps best seen in how she stops retreating from good things in her life as the book progresses–she also stops retreating from bad things, which maybe isn’t a great development. Shot is more difficult to explain, partly because it felt as though he already knew he loved Presley from the beginning of the book, based on the little inner asides in his voice scattered throughout the book; his character arc is that he is willing to commit to Presley and express his feelings verbally. I wasn’t necessarily satisfied by these arcs, or the general plot. Continue reading

Release Day Review: Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews

Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews
Urban fantasy released by Avon on August 25, 2020

Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews book coverAs Prime magic users, Catalina Baylor and her sisters have extraordinary powers—powers their ruthless grandmother would love to control. Catalina can earn her family some protection working as deputy to the Warden of Texas, overseeing breaches of magic law in the state, but that has risks as well. When House Baylor is under attack and monsters haunt her every step, Catalina is forced to rely on handsome, dangerous Alessandro Sagredo, the Prime who crushed her heart.

The nightmare that Alessandro has fought since childhood has come roaring back to life, but now Catalina is under threat. Not even his lifelong quest for revenge will stop him from keeping her safe, even if every battle could be his last. Because Catalina won’t rest until she stops the use of the illicit, power-granting serum that’s tearing their world apart.

I really enjoy this series, and I really enjoyed this book. This book is the sequel to Sapphire Flames, and does a good job of not presuming the reader is familiar with the world or characters. However, things will make much more sense if you’ve read, at least, Sapphire Flames–you should definitely read all of the previous books, but you don’t have to. Also, there is a decent amount of on the page violence in this book, so if that makes you uncomfortable, this isn’t your book. Catalina is savvy, confident, ruthless, and loves her family deeply. She’s also trying not to become like her paternal grandmother, who does not have a good track record as a decent human being. The love interest is Alessandro, and while he doesn’t narrate any part of this book, we get a good sense of him from how Catalina describes their interactions and how the other characters react to him. In many ways, he is like Catalina, but without a supportive family or friends, and he’s changed from how he was in previous books. I keep mentioning Catalina’s family because they’re just as important as Catalina to the way the story unfolds, both in this book and over the course of the series. The only thing I didn’t like about this book is its ending, which is a bit of a cliffhanger. Continue reading

Review: Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha

Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha
Urban fantasy romance released by Tor Books on July 28, 2020

Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha book coverNina is an information broker with a mission—she and her team of mercenary librarians use their knowledge to save the hopeless in a crumbling America.

Knox is the bitter, battle-weary captain of the Silver Devils. His squad of supersoldiers went AWOL to avoid slaughtering innocents, and now he’s fighting to survive.

They’re on a deadly collision course, and the passion that flares between them only makes it more dangerous. They could burn down the world, destroying each other in the process…

Or they could do the impossible: team up.

This is a wonderful start to what I hope will be a great series. The book deals with several issues that might be uncomfortable for some readers, and the authors have provided content warnings on their site for those issues. Generally, this is an intense book. It is set in a dystopian future on Earth where society has collapsed and is run by dangerous entities with a firm hold on everything, including technology, medical research, and information of any kind. The main characters in this series are broken down into two teams. On the mercenary side, there’s Knox and his team, who are hiding out from the big bad entity because they refuse to follow orders to kill innocent people anymore. There’s a slight hitch with that plan, which is why they end up collaborating with the mercenary librarians (which the authors described as Murder Ladies in one tweet). Nina is the leader of the mercenary librarians, and their mission is to help all the normal people trying to survive in this dystopian world. Nina is a problem solver; if you put her in a hard situation, she will figure a way out of it without sacrificing the people she holds dear and get what she originally wanted. Part of this is preparation, but the rest is thinking on her feet and thinking outside the box. Knox is a planner, and he is less used to thinking outside the box. This is the cause for a lot of the conflict between Nina and Knox, along with secrets neither of them is aware of at the beginning of the book. Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: Once Upon a Rose by Laura Florand

Once Upon a Rose by Laura Florand
Contemporary romance released by Laura Florand on January 26, 2015 

Once Upon a Rose by Laura Florand book coverShe stole his roses.

Fleeing the spotlight, burnt out rock star Layla—“Belle”—Dubois seeks refuge in the south of France. That old, half-forgotten heritage in a valley of roses seems like a good place to soothe a wounded heart. She certainly doesn’t expect the most dangerous threat to her heart to pounce on her as soon as she sets foot on the land.

He wants them back.

Matt didn’t mean to growl at her quite that loudly. But—his roses! She can’t have his roses. Even if she does have all those curls and green eyes and, and, and…what was he growling about again?

Or maybe he just wants her.

When an enemy invades his valley and threatens his home, heart, and livelihood, Matthieu Rosier really knows only one way to defend himself.

It might involve kissing.

I’ve been hoarding this book for a moment of true need. Or at least, that’s how I’m explaining why it took me this long to read this book, considering that it’s been in my virtual TBR pile for a very long time. It was, as with other Florand books, lush, funny, and richly layered both in terms of plot and characters. I guess you could loosely describe this as a beauty and the beast retelling, in so much as we have a really grumpy love interest who has a very soft heart–Matthieu, and a love interest who is beautiful, kind and curious–Layla. But because this is written by Florand, it is more than that. It is a musician who inherits a house in France, and steps into a family involved in the perfume industry who are collectively going through some growing pains. Continue reading

Release Day Review: A Touch of Stone and Snow by Milla Vane

A Touch of Stone and Snow (A Gathering of Dragons Book 2) by Milla Vane
High fantasy romance released by Berkley on July 21, 2020

A Touch of Stone and Snow by Milla Vane book coverMilla Vane returns to a world of kings, magic, and passion in her exhilarating A Gathering of Dragons series, as a great alliance forms to stand against an evil warlord intent on their destruction.
Danger lurks in the western realms. The Destroyer’s imminent return has sent the realms into turmoil as desperate citizens seek refuge—but there’s no safety to be found when demons and wraiths crawl out from the shadows. Even Koth, a northern island kingdom left untouched by the Destroyer a generation past, is besieged by terrors spawned from corrupt magics.
When Lizzan leads the Kothan army against these terrors, only to see her soldiers massacred and to emerge as the only survivor, she is called a coward and a deserter. Shunned from her home, Lizzan now wanders in solitude as a mercenary for hire, until she encounters a group of warriors seeking new alliances with the northern kingdoms—a group that includes Aerax, the bastard prince of Koth, and the man who sent her into exile.
Though they were childhood friends, Aerax cannot allow himself to be close to the only woman who might thwart his treacherous plan to save their island realm. But when a goddess’s demand binds them together, Lizzan and Aerax must find a way to overcome their painful pasts. Or there will be no future for the western realms…

A quick note before diving into this review: one of the main characters is an alcoholic, and Vane does not hide this.

I really enjoyed this book, and think it does a great job of following up on the action in the first book of this series. That said, you don’t need to have read the first book to be able to understand what is happening, since this is set in a different part of the world from the first book, but the relations and events explained in the previous novel and novella will be helpful here. This book is also a glorious, gritty epic fantasy romance, with fantastical creatures–even the nonmagical kind, battles, and quests. The romance in this book is a second-chance kind of a romance, with a decent splash of I-hate-you-but-still-have-feelings-dammit! Thrown in. And before I forget, there is an intelligent big cat in this book, and I always enjoy a good animal appearance. When we first meet Lizzan, she is going through a very rough patch and not dealing with it in a super healthy manner, so we get to see her work her way through that as the book progresses. Aerax is not over Lizzan at all when we meet him, and we get to see him fall more deeply in love with her. However, this is not an easy romance. Continue reading

Release Day Review: A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby by Vanessa Riley

A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby by Vanessa Riley
Historical romance released by Zebra Books on June 30, 2020

The Duke, The Lady, and A Baby by Vanessa Riley book coverCreated by a shrewd countess, The Widow’s Grace is a secret society with a mission: to help ill-treated widows regain their status, their families, and even find true love again—or perhaps for the very first time . . .

When headstrong West Indian heiress Patience Jordan questioned her English husband’s mysterious suicide, she lost everything: her newborn son, Lionel, her fortune—and her freedom. Falsely imprisoned, she risks her life to be near her child—until The Widow’s Grace gets her hired as her own son’s nanny. But working for his unsuspecting new guardian, Busick Strathmore, Duke of Repington, has perils of its own. Especially when Patience discovers his military strictness belies an ex-rake of unswerving honor—and unexpected passion . . .

A wounded military hero, Busick is determined to resolve his dead cousin’s dangerous financial dealings for Lionel’s sake. But his investigation is a minor skirmish compared to dealing with the forthright, courageous, and alluring Patience. Somehow, she’s breaking his rules, and sweeping past his defenses. Soon, between formidable enemies and obstacles, they form a fragile trust—but will it be enough to save the future they long to dare together?

This was a lovely historical romance that does not take place in ballrooms or castles. Instead, the love interests are an officer who was injured fighting Napoleon and a widowed heiress with a baby to protect. There are also women circumventing the rules to make sure they stay safe. The conflicts are layered like a nesting doll, and somewhat spoiler-y, so I can’t fully describe them. Busick (the injured officer) is methodical, protective, and for a while, stuck in the idea of getting back to the war. Patience (the widowed heiress) is isolated by her dead husband’s choices and the secrets he kept from her. She’s impulsive and protective. They’re brought together by the need to protect the baby, who is never out of sight for long. Continue reading

Release Day Review: The Dare by Elle Kennedy

The Dare (Briar U Book 4) by Elle Kennedy
Contemporary new adult romance released by Elle Kennedy on June 16, 2020

The Dare by Elle Kennedy book cover College was supposed to be my chance to get over my ugly-duckling complex and spread my wings. Instead, I wound up in a sorority full of mean girls. I already have a hard time fitting in, so when my Kappa Chi sisters issue the challenge, I can’t say no.

The dare: seduce the hottest new hockey player in the junior class.

Conor Edwards is a regular at Greek Row parties…and in Greek Row sorority beds. He’s the one you fall for before you learn that guys like him don’t give girls like me a second glance. Except Mr. Popular throws me for a loop—rather than laughing in my face, he does me a solid by letting me take him upstairs to pretend we’re getting busy.

Even crazier, now he wants to keep pretending. Turns out Conor loves games, and he thinks it’s fun to pull the wool over my frenemies’ eyes.

But resisting his easy charm and surfer-boy hotness is darn near impossible. Though I’m realizing there’s much more to Conor’s story than his fan club can see.

And the longer this silly ruse goes on, the greater the danger of it all blowing up in my face.

I devoured this book in less than 3 days. It was funny and angsty in equal measures, and did a good job of capturing college life without infantilizing the characters, which some authors can’t quite pull off. Before going further, a couple of content warnings: the book talks about revenge porn towards the end of the book, and Taylor (one of the love interests) is dealing with body image issues throughout the book. Taylor is part of a sorority, and Conor is an athlete, so there is a fair amount of drinking going on in the book. For all that Taylor and Conor’s experience of college was not like mine, I think that Kennedy did a good job of showing us how college students interact with each other and with the world outside of college. I liked seeing Taylor and Conor grow in confidence, both because of their coupledom but also because of their own separate choices. And despite how angsty this book can get, there are parts where I laughed aloud.
Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: Chaos Reigning by Jessie Mihalik

Chaos Reigning by Jessie Mihalik
Science fiction romance released by Harper Voyager on May 19, 2020

Chaos Reigning by Jessie Mihalik book coverAs the youngest member of her High House, Catarina von Hasenberg is used to being underestimated, but her youth and flighty, bubbly personality mask a clever mind and stubborn determination. Her enemies, blind to her true strength, do not suspect that Cat is a spy—which makes her the perfect candidate to go undercover at a rival House’s summer retreat to gather intelligence on their recent treachery. Cat’s overprotective older sister reluctantly agrees, but on one condition: Cat cannot go alone. Alexander Sterling, a quiet, gorgeous bodyguard, will accompany her, posing as her lover. After Cat tries, and fails, to ditch Alex, she grudgingly agrees, confident in her ability to manage him. After all, she’s never found a person she can’t manipulate. But Alex proves more difficult—and more desirable—than Cat anticipated. When she’s attacked and nearly killed, she and Alex are forced to work together to figure out how deep the treason goes. With rumors of widespread assaults on Serenity raging, communications down, and the rest of her family trapped off-planet, Catarina must persuade Alex to return to Earth to expose the truth and finish this deadly battle once and for all. But Cat can’t explain why she’s the perfect person to infiltrate hostile territory without revealing secrets she’d rather keep buried….

I’ve been on a science fiction kick lately, which is a bit odd for me because usually I can’t get into science fiction for various reasons. However, I knew that this book was out in the world and decided to go with what was working for my brain. This was a fun read, full of intrigue and family dynamics and a lovely romance. This is told exclusively from Catarina’s (Cat) point of view, so if close first person is not your thing, this is not the book for you. Continue reading

Review: Pregnant by the Playboy by Jackie Lau

Pregnant by the Playboy by Jackie Lau
Contemporary romance released by Jackie Lau Books on May 26, 2020

Pregnant by the Playboy by Jackie Lau book coverI’ve got a pretty great life, if I do say so myself. I made a fortune when I sold my tech start-up, and I’ve spent the years since partying, drinking, and inviting a parade of women into my bed.

I should be happy, but I feel an annoying lack of fulfillment, and there’s no way I’m going back to the work I did before.

At a friend’s party, I meet Marissa. We have hot sex against the door and agree to spend the weekend together. Just one weekend. I never expect to see her again.

Except now she’s pregnant with my baby…and I think this is the solution to all my problems. This is what will bring meaning to my life. I’m going to be a devoted father and husband.

Marissa—whose last name I still don’t know—wants me to be involved, though she rejects my marriage proposal. But before the baby arrives, I’m going to prove to her that I can be something other than a playboy.

And the rare times I set my mind to something, I don’t fail…

This was a fun read, and it didn’t feel like a rehashing of the surprise/secret baby trope I remember from my early days of romance reading. I enjoyed getting to know Marissa and Vince. This book reads well by itself, but it is part of a series, so some of the secondary character interactions will make a little more sense when you read the other books; don’t let that hold you back from starting with this book. Marissa is older than the women in Lau’s other books that I’ve read, so it was interesting to see how she dealt with her conflicts differently; Vince is younger than Marissa, but this is not a huge deal for either of them and it is not a big deal in the book. Marissa has to learn how to trust in others and herself, and Vince has to learn how to take a more balanced approach to life. Continue reading

Review: The Governess Game by Tessa Dare

The Governess Game by Tessa Dare
Historical romance released by Avon on August 28, 2018

The Governess Game by Tessa Dare book coverHe’s been a bad, bad rake—and it takes a governess to teach him a lesson

The accidental governess

After her livelihood slips through her fingers, Alexandra Mountbatten takes on an impossible post: transforming a pair of wild orphans into proper young ladies. However, the girls don’t need discipline. They need a loving home. Try telling that to their guardian, Chase Reynaud: duke’s heir in the streets and devil in the sheets. The ladies of London have tried—and failed—to make him settle down. Somehow, Alexandra must reach his heart . . . without risking her own.

The infamous rake

Like any self-respecting libertine, Chase lives by one rule: no attachments. When a stubborn little governess tries to reform him, he decides to give her an education—in pleasure. That should prove he can’t be tamed. But Alexandra is more than he bargained for: clever, perceptive, passionate. She refuses to see him as a lost cause. Soon the walls around Chase’s heart are crumbling . . . and he’s in danger of falling, hard.

This is a delightful take on the governess-nobleman trope found in rmance land, with an astronomer as the governess (Alex/Alexandra) and a duke’s heir as the nobleman (Chase). I really enjoyed Alex and Chase’s banter, and also their voices—despite some very angsty moments, they don’t take everything seriously.; they’re both logically romantic, Alex more so than Chase. There are also two children who somehow don’t turn into plot moppets. The only thing that I wasn’t entirely happy with was how quickly the conflict between Alex and Chase felt resolved. Continue reading