Hi friends! Today we welcome Amy Craig who wrote a truly lovely post for ALBTALBS <3 Her book A Winter Rose just came out yesterday (July 28, 2021 – yes! A post in real time at ALBTALBS! Put this on your calendar! 😉) This is her first time guesting at A Little Bit Tart, A Little Bit Sweet, so show her some love!
On A Winter Rose
The first time someone “published” my writing was middle school. Everyone in my class wrote a poem, submitted their poem to an anthology, paid a fee, and received a paperback copy. When I received my copy, I read my friend’s poems, reread my poem, and knew we’d been had. The anthology was a total scam that preyed on doting parents and ambivalent kids.
A few years later, my high school teacher asked me to write a piece for the National Council of Teachers of English. I flashed back to middle school, but I sat in the cold computer lab and pecked out a story using terms from my beginning ballet class, bad French, and a perseverance theme. I won recognition, but my teacher’s encouragement stayed with me through college and years of professional doubt.
When The Wild Rose Press accepted A Winter Rose, I dedicated the novel to my teacher. My grandma claimed the first indie publishing dedication, but my teacher roared into second place.Continue reading →
New 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.
You can read an excerpt here, and buy a copy here.
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 Wizardhere. And isn’t the cover of Bright Familiar so pretty?! <3
He 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 →
Hi friends! It’s release day for the fabulous Jeffe Kennedy! She’s written in a number of [sub]genres, and high fantasy romance is one where she shines. She very generously offered to be part of the blogiversary and have a giveaway, so I figured her release day was the perfect timing! (Timing being 😅 something that I struggle with when it comes to blog posts.) ANYWAY! The Golden Gryphon and the Bear Prince is out today, and we’ve got an exclusive excerpt of it to share with our A Little Bit Tart, A Little Bit Sweet readers! <3 I hope you enjoy!
A Legacy of Honor
Crown Prince Astar has only ever wanted to do the right thing: be a credit to his late father’s legacy, live up to his duties as heir to the high throne of the Thirteen Kingdoms, and cleave to the principles of honor and integrity that give his life structure—and that contain the ferocious grizzly bear inside. Nowhere in those guiding principles is there room for the fierce-hearted, wildly free-spirited, and dizzyingly beautiful shapeshifter, Zephyr. Still, even though they’ve been friends most of their lives, Astar is able to keep Zephyr safely at arm’s length. He’s already received a list of potential princess brides who will make a suitable queen, and Zephyr is not on it.
A Longtime Obsession
Zeph has wanted the gorgeous, charming, and too-good-for-his-own-good Astar for as long as she can remember. Not that her longing for him—and his perfectly sculpted and muscular body—has stopped her from enjoying any number of lovers. Astar might be honorably (and foolishly) intent on remaining chaste until marriage, but Zeph is Tala and they have no such rules. Still, she loves Astar—as a friend—and she wants him to at least taste life before he chains himself to a wife he didn’t choose. There’s no harm in him having a bit of fun with her. But the man remains stubbornly elusive, staving off all of her advances with infuriatingly noble refusals.
A Quest to Save the World
But things change when a new terror threatens the Thirteen Kingdoms. Following prophecy, Astar and Zeph—along with a mismatched group of shapeshifter, warrior, and sorceress friends—go on a quest to stop a magic rift before it grows beyond anyone’s ability to stop. Thrust together with Zephyr, Astar finds himself increasingly unable to resist her seductive invitations. And in the face of life-and-death battles with lethal monsters, he begins to lose sight of why having her, just once, is such a terrible idea…
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~ Zeph beelined to the fire, standing as close as she could without igniting her fancy skirts. “I like Castle Elderhorst. Suddenly I’m a lady!”Continue reading →
Hi friends! So we’ve had a lot going on in the world, but we’re trying to truck along! Therefore, I’ve got another post for you to celebrate Blogiversary, and would everyone to welcome back Nicole Flockton! It’s also release day for her! Shelter for Cerise is out today so everyone also wish Nicole a very happy release day!
What was your favorite book as a child? Hmm my favourite book. I’m not sure I had one but I had a favourite author. I read a ton of Enid Blyton books. I love the concept of toys coming to life and living independently. And what is your favorite book now? Hmm that’s a toughie. There was one book I used to read every year it’s a book called Fortunes by Vera Cowie. I need to get it out and read it again. It’s been a while since I’ve read it. It’s about an auction house and an ugly duckling heroine getting it all in the end.
If you could create any movie mash up – which films would you combine? (Why?) Oh you ask the tough questions! Okay let me see. Let’s go with National Treasure and The Mummy. I’d love to see Nic Cage take on some mummies while hunting down the mother lode of treasures.
What inanimate object would you eat if it was safe to do? Why? Ohh I know a football. I mean it was made out of pigskin so it could taste like bacon. 😉
What is the first thing you learned how to cook? Do you have a go-to dish? And/or a signature dish? (What makes it so?) My first memories of cooking were helping my mum make a cake so I guess that was the first think I learned. My go to dish is what I call Sausage Pasta. Basically it’s smoked sausage, pasta, broccoli and parmesan cheese. It’s simple and quick and my kids really like it. I guess this is my signature dish.Continue reading →
From award-winning author, Ilona Andrews, an all-new novel set in the New York Times #1 bestselling Kate Daniels World and featuring Julie Lennart-Olsen, Kate and Curran’s ward.
Atlanta was always a dangerous city. Now, as waves of magic and technology compete for supremacy, it’s a place caught in a slow apocalypse, where monsters spawn among the crumbling skyscrapers and supernatural factions struggle for power and survival.
Eight years ago, Julie Lennart left Atlanta to find out who she was. Now she’s back with a new face, a new magic, and a new name—Aurelia Ryder—drawn by the urgent need to protect the family she left behind. An ancient power is stalking her adopted mother, Kate Daniels, an enemy unlike any other, and a string of horrifying murders is its opening gambit.
If Aurelia’s true identity is discovered, those closest to her will die. So her plan is simple: get in, solve the murders, prevent the prophecy from being fulfilled, and get out without being recognized. She expected danger, but she never anticipated that the only man she’d ever loved could threaten everything.
One small misstep could lead to disaster. But for Aurelia, facing disaster is easy; it’s relationships that are hard.
I was super excited to read this book and it was awesome! I found myself sitting up on the edge of my seat on the couch several times as I was reading this and it was hard to stop to do normal, boring adult stuff like stand when my Apple Watch buzzed me every hour. I was sucked into the story immediately. I got to the last 15% or so and held off reading the big battle until the next morning so I could savor it. So good; a great first read of the new year! Continue reading →
A young girl discovers a portal to a land filled with centaurs and unicorns in Seanan McGuire’s Across the Green Grass Fields, a standalone tale in the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Wayward Children series.
“Welcome to the Hooflands. We’re happy to have you, even if you being here means something’s coming.”
Regan loves, and is loved, though her school-friend situation has become complicated, of late.
When she suddenly finds herself thrust through a doorway that asks her to “Be Sure” before swallowing her whole, Regan must learn to live in a world filled with centaurs, kelpies, and other magical equines—a world that expects its human visitors to step up and be heroes.
But after embracing her time with the herd, Regan discovers that not all forms of heroism are equal, and not all quests are as they seem…
This is a poignant coming of age story, that depicts the realistic setting and the fantastical with equal, aching clarity. It is part of a series, but can be read alone, since characters from the other books in the series don’t make an appearance in this book, just a form of magic that is common to all the books and which is fairly easily explained. The cover copy describes Regan’s friendship situation as “complicated,” which I think is a bit of an understatement. Also, I felt worried for Regan at the end of the book, because I wasn’t sure how she would fit into a world that had not been easy for her before she went through the door into the Hooflands, and probably won’t be any easier for her on her return to this world. Mcguire handles topics like being intersexed, different forms of relationships, and making hard choices with aplomb. Continue reading →
Dr. 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 →
Marcus Caster-Rupp has a secret. The world may know him as Aeneas, star of the biggest show on television, but fanfiction readers call him something else: Book!AeneasWouldNever. Marcus gets out his frustrations with the show through anonymous stories about the internet’s favorite couple, Aeneas and Lavinia. But if anyone discovered his online persona, he’d be finished in Hollywood.
April Whittier has secrets of her own. A hardcore Lavinia fan, she’s long hidden her fanfic and cosplay hobbies from her “real life”—but not anymore. When she dares to post her latest costume creation on Twitter, her plus-size take goes viral. And when Marcus asks her out to spite her internet critics, truth officially becomes stranger than fanfiction.
On their date, Marcus quickly realizes he wants more from April than a one-time publicity stunt. But when he discovers she’s Unapologetic Lavinia Stan, his closest fandom friend, he has one more huge secret to keep from her.
With love and Marcus’s career on the line, can the two of them stop hiding once and for all, or will a match made in fandom end up prematurely cancelled?
All the gushing things you’re hearing about this story are true. This lovely book checks so many boxes for me—positive fat rep *check*, fandom/fan fiction as a major plot point *check*, awesome romance *check*, great secondary characters/found family *check*. If any of those things sound good to you, definitely read Spoiler Alert! Continue reading →
Created 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 →