Tag Archives: TBR Challenge Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Team TBR Challenge Review: The Vampire’s Cursed Kiss by Kristen Painter

The Vampire’s Cursed Kiss (Shadowvale book 2) by Kristen Painter
Paranormal romance released by Kristen Painter on June 24, 2019

Shadowvale isn’t your typical small town America. The sun never shines, the gates decide who enters, magic abounds, and every resident bears some kind of curse.

Vampire Constantin Thibodeaux was cured of his sun “allergy” when he moved to Shadowvale. Now he runs the local bookstore, which is really just a sideline to filling his own library. Books, unlike people, are far more forgiving of his prickly nature. But he doesn’t care if people don’t like him. He is who he is. And he’s happy. Well, he’s content. Okay, he’s…fine.

Sprite and all around party girl Andromeda Merriweather loves her carefree life – or at least she did until her sister cursed her into a magical time out. Thankfully, she’s just been set free by a totally hot, but kind of grumpy vampire. Too bad this handsome grouch now holds the key to her freedom, something she’ll only get if he agrees to abide by the rules of her curse.

Constantin isn’t interested in the terms and conditions Andromeda gives him, until he needs her to be his temporary girlfriend to shut his brother up. Then Constantin agrees. But what happens after a surprisingly fun evening creates brand new problems for both of them. Sure, two opposites can attract, but will that attraction last? Or are they both too cursed to give love a chance?

I adore paranormal romance (PNR). Now, I started reading romance when I was a young thing, maybe 11 or 12. I cut my teeth on Harlequin and Silhouette category romances, dipping my toes into the waters of historical romance. Think Bertrice Small, Judith McNaught, and Johanna Lindsey. I also read horror and especially loved the now defunct Twilight: Where Darkness Begins imprint. Sprinkled in were SFF books by Anne McCaffrey, Robin McKinley, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Douglas Adams. It’s no wonder that when I stumbled across PNR in the late 90s that I read almost everything in sight. PNR can be a wonderful blend of SFF, contemporary romance, and horror. It’s amazing!

I  purchased the fist two books in Kristen Painter’s Shadowvale series because I was going to be traveling and was loading up my kindle with  books that would be quick reads. A friend had recommended Kristen’s books, and these two seemed like they would make great car reading. I know I read the first book in the series, The Trouble With Witches, but for whatever reason, The Vampire’s Cursed Kiss sat on my kindle until recently, when I was dealing with vaccine brain and once again needed something light to read. Continue reading

Team TBR Challenge Review: Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert

Act Your Age, Eve Brown (The Brown Sisters #3) by Talia Hibbert 
Contemporary romance published by Avon on March 9, 2021

Eve Brown is a certified hot mess. No matter how hard she strives to do right, her life always goes horribly wrong – so she’s given up trying. But when her personal brand of chaos ruins a wedding, her parents draw the line. It’s time for Eve to grow up and prove herself – even though she’s not entirely sure how…

Jacob Wayne is always in control. The uptight B&B owner expects nothing less than perfection from his employees, so when a purple-haired tornado of a woman applies for his open chef position, he tells her the brutal truth: not a chance in hell. Then she hits him with her car – supposedly by accident.

Now his arm is broken, his B&B is understaffed, and the dangerously unpredictable Eve is fluttering around, trying to help. Before long, she’s infiltrated his work, his kitchen – and his spare bedroom. Sunny, chaotic Eve is his natural-born nemesis, but the longer these two enemies spend in close quarters, the more their animosity turns into something else…

Act Your Age, Eve Brown is a great conclusion to The Brown Sisters trilogy (I reviewed Get a Life, Chloe Brown here and Take a Hint, Dani Brown here). This book delivers the same funny, sexy beats as the prior books in the series. Eve and Jacob quickly develop this beautiful relationship where they can be themselves with each other and not second guess how they’re coming across or put up a front. It’s just lovely (and super hot!).

(Note: Please read the Author’s Note at the beginning of the book for content warnings.) Continue reading

[Belated] Team TBR Challenge Review: I Think I Might Love You by Christina C. Jones

I Think I Might Love You (Love Sisters Book 1) by Christina C. Jones
Contemporary romance released by Christina C. Jones on April 25, 2019

Jaclyn Love is a magnet for trouble – it seems to follow her wherever she goes.

Unfortunately for Kadan Davenport, she also seems to be a magnet for him – even after a disastrous first impression that leaves him – literally – black and blue.

Jaclyn is busy trying to find some sort of balance, and Kadan is just trying not to get swept up in the chaos.

In a small city like Blakewood, it’s hard to avoid each other… especially when each additional encounter makes them wonder if they really want to.

Let’s start out on a personal and a positive note! This will be the last belated review – no more late TBR Challenge reviews from Limecello in 2021 after this! … >.> Which also I think this is supposed to be my last scheduled one for the year? Never mind that though. 🙃 Now! This book! I’m so glad I read it! I’ve already recommended it on social media. I own the ebook – but I actually just listened to the audiobook, and it’s fabulous! (The story is too of course – the narration is great too and there’s … one scene that I think really made it for me – but we’ll get there.) I fudged a little bit because Christina C Jones isn’t entirely new to me. I discovered her last year and have blown through a lot of her backlist. And listened to some of her books over and over [and over and over and over and over] already. Continue reading

“Not” TBR Challenge Review: A Brother’s Price by Wen Spencer

*Editor’s Note: I don’t normally do this but this was submitted by Aidee on July 21, 2019, and it was supposed to be a TBR Challenge Review. Obviously I have no idea which month/topic now and … *crawls under a rock* so – my apologies to Aidee, and Wendy the amazing organizer of the annual TBR Challenge, and other participants. [It also seems there are two blurbs/back cover copies, and they have sufficiently different information, so I’m adding both.]

A Brother’s Price by Wen Spencer
Fantasy romance released by Ace on July 5, 2005

A Brother’s Price by Wen Spencer book coverOn an alternate Earth, where the population is ninety percent female and a man is sold by his sisters to marry all the women in a family, Jerin Whistler is coming of age. His mothers are respected landed gentry, his grandfather a kidnapped prince, and his grandmothers common line soldiers blackballed for treason, trained by thieves, re-enlisted as spies, and knighted for acts of valor. Jerin wants to marry well, and his sisters want a husband bought by his brother’s price.
~*~*~*~
In a world where male children are rare, a man is a valuable commodity—to be sold to the highest bidder…

It isn’t easy being the oldest boy in a house run by women—especially for Jerin Whistler. The grand-matriarchs of his clan are descended from soldiers, spies, and thieves. That’s partly what’s kept their family alive in the wilderness. But it also means Jerin’s doomed to marry the girls next door—a fate he’s convinced is worse than death. But Jerin gets in even worse trouble when, in the process of a daring rescue, he falls in love with a royal princess who’s as high above his station as it’s possible to be.

Ren knows that Jerin is too far below her class to be an appropriate match for her and her royal sisters. But then she hears rumors of a long-held Whistler family secret—one that might provide a way for them to finally be together. Unfortunately, she still has four sisters to convince. And that’s before Jerin even comes to the capital—where simmering political tensions will threaten not just their love, but all their lives…

I’ve read this book more than once, but didn’t read it when it was first published in 2005. I wasn’t into romance at the time, and while this book has a healthy amount of court intrigue and is set in an alternate universe, a step sideways from ours, it focuses on the romantic relationship between Jerin and Ren, and to a lesser extent, Ren’s sisters. As the cover copy makes clear, this is a world where men have multiple wives, but it is a matriarchal society, not a patriarchal one. The cover image, I’m told, is misleading. I mostly enjoyed this book, though upon thinking about it for the review, I noticed somethings that left me feeling slightly uneasy. Continue reading

Team TBR Challenge Review: Crave by Evelyn Sola

Crave (Clark Family Book 1) by Evelyn Sola
Contemporary romance published by Evelyn Sola on March 2, 2020

Sandra
Before THAT night, the over the top party and the cake incident, I spent Saturday nights with girlfriends, lamenting my life over margaritas.
I wasn’t ready for Jacob Clark. He was sin and dark edges, wrapped in regret. He was my Kryptonite. His words oozed over me like warm honey. His dark eyes pricked my soul, and his touch….those fingers set my skin on fire.
Of course he was too good to be true. And before I could wipe the icing off my greedy lips, I was walking away.
So, why was he invading her dreams?

Jacob
She was the remedy to everything. Until my family, my past, provoked me.
I made one little scene, and Sandra walked away without a word, despite our mind-blowing connection.
When I finally barged in on her life again, she told me she didn’t want me. I told her in her pretty face she did. She more than wanted me.
Remember the ache? When I’m with her, it goes away.
If she wants a chase, I’ll give her one.
Who knows? When I catch her, I might never let go.

[So … late is better than never, right? 😅] The way I think about this book is: what if you met your perfect match on the worst night of their life? While it wasn’t the worst night of Jace’s life … he’s reacting to it still. I actually listened to the audiobook – it’s narrated by Mari and Troy Duran. I’ve listened to other books Mari narrated before, but Troy was new to me, and *fans self* his voice, y’all. Anyway. This book! I’m glad I stuck with it because at first glance, the hero is not very “hero material.” … But we quickly find out why – and it’s such a great, sexy contemporary. I’m also a major sucker for a smitten hero. Another bonus is – the dogs! Zeus (a bull mastiff!) and Lady (a poodle). Low key the detail and attention to the dogs is what kept me initially reading/listening when I might’ve DNF’d otherwise. So many authors write a dog into their books and just never mention them again. Not the case here. And also, once we got into the actual story with Jake and Sandy, I was hooked. Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: The Princess Knight by G.A. Aiken

The Princess Knight (The Scarred Earth Saga #2) by G.A. Aiken
Adult High Fantasy released by Kensington on November 24, 2020

Gemma Smythe dedicated her life to the glory of battle. With her fellow War Monks, she worshipped the war gods, rained destruction on her enemies, and raised the dead when the fancy took her. Until her sister Keeley became the prophesied Blacksmith Queen, and Gemma broke faith with her order to journey to the Amichai Mountain and fight by Keeley’s side.

The Amichai warriors are an unruly, never-to-be-tamed lot, especially their leader-in-waiting, Quinn. But when the War Monks declare support for Gemma’s ruthless younger sister Beatrix, the immaturity of her key ally is the least of Gemma’s problems. She has to get to the grand masters, dispel their grudge against her, and persuade them to fight for Keeley and justice. If her conviction can’t sway them, perhaps Quinn’s irritating, irreverent, clearly unhinged, ferocity will win the day . . .

Another entertaining G.A. Aiken story and great sequel to The Blacksmith Queen (read my review of The Blacksmith Queen here). My favorite parts of this book (and really all G.A. Aiken/Shelly Laurenston books) are the humor, snappy dialogue, found family, unique magic, and powerful, competent women. This is a fast-paced, action packed ride that keeps building out the world of this series. Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: The Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan

The Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan
Historical romance released by Courtney Milan on September 22, 2020

The Duke Who Didn't by Courtney Milan book coverMiss Chloe Fong has plans for her life, lists for her days, and absolutely no time for nonsense. Three years ago, she told her childhood sweetheart that he could talk to her once he planned to be serious. He disappeared that very night.

Except now he’s back. Jeremy Wentworth, the Duke of Lansing, has returned to the tiny village he once visited with the hope of wooing Chloe. In his defense, it took him years of attempting to be serious to realize that the endeavor was incompatible with his personality.

All he has to do is convince Chloe to make room for a mischievous trickster in her life, then disclose that in all the years they’ve known each other, he’s failed to mention his real name, his title… and the minor fact that he owns her entire village.

Only one thing can go wrong: Everything.

There’s a lot I want to say about this book, and I probably won’t cover it all, but I want to first say I liked it. I think you will too.​ ​So this is how I (it) started with The Duke Who Didn’t: this book is ridiculous in the best possible way. Lighthearted and fun. A delightful confection of a book. (I was about 30% in?​ when I wrote that.​) And then just before 50% there was a literal jaw dropping moment and I had to put the book down. Just to take a few moments. Honestly I should probably sit and think about this story more, but then I’ll get too in my head and afraid I’ll mess up what I ought to or need to say … (which would actually be very fitting with these characters) – so I’ll just go with what’s off the top of my head now and let it go.​ (Although I wrote that bit two days ago.) There were definitely laugh out loud moments, and a lot to enjoy. I don’t want to get it wrong, but it’s my review so there “is no wrong.” Let’s go. ​

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

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: Two Rogues Make a Right (Seducing the Sedgewicks) by Cat Sebastian

Two Rogues Make a Right (Seducing the Sedgewicks) by Cat Sebastian
Historical romance released by Avon Impulse on June 23, 2020

Two Rogues Make a Right by Cat Sebastian book coverWill Sedgwick can’t believe that after months of searching for his oldest friend, Martin Easterbrook is found hiding in an attic like a gothic nightmare. Intent on nursing Martin back to health, Will kindly kidnaps him and takes him to the countryside to recover, well away from the world.

Martin doesn’t much care where he is or even how he got there. He’s much more concerned that the man he’s loved his entire life is currently waiting on him hand and foot, feeding him soup and making him tea. Martin knows he’s a lost cause, one he doesn’t want Will to waste his life on.

As a lifetime of love transforms into a tender passion both men always desired but neither expected, can they envision a life free from the restrictions of the past, a life with each other?

The theme for this month’s TBR challenge is “family ties” and this book has a lot of those – it’s the third book in a series about one family – reading the others recommended (they are awesome!!) but not required to enjoy this one – and heroes with complicated families, in a variety of ways. It’s also a meditation on a frequently-used Regency romance trope: the couple that is mismatched, in terms of family background, one wealthy, one poor, and the accommodations they must make for each other, and their families. Here, because both halves of the couple are male, there’s another trope maybe not inverted but flipped sideways, and that is, the man who must marry in order to maintain himself in the style to which he has become accustomed. Also readers who are into hurt/comfort, and love a good sick!fic, this is a book for YOU. So much mopping of a sweaty brow, and making of soup, and reading to a cross feverish patient! Continue reading