Tag Archives: TBR Challenge Review

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

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

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review/Thoughts: Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu & Waking Up With the Duke by Lorraine Heath

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
4th Century BC Philosophical and Religious Text – this version released by Road to Success/De Marque on April 3, 2020

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu book coverLao Tzu’s “Tao Te Ching”, or Book of the Way, is the classic manual on the art of living and one of the wonders of the world. In eighty-one brief chapters, the “Tao Te Ching” llods at the basic predicatment of being alive and gives advice that imparts balance and perspective, a serene and generous spirit. This book is about wisdom in action. It teaches how wo work for the good with the efforless skill that comes from being in accord with the Tao (the basic principle of the universe) and applies equally to good government and sexual love, to childrearing, business, and ecology.

The Tao Te Ching is the most widely traslated book in world literature, after the Bible. Yet the gemlike lucidity of the original has eluded most previous translations, and they have obscured some of its central ideas.

Waking Up with the Duke by Lorraine Heath
Historical romance released by Harper Collins on June 28, 2011

Waking Up With the Duke by Lorraine Heath book coverThey are masters of seduction, London’s greatest lovers …
Renowned for his bedchamber prowess, Ransom Seymour, the Duke of Ainsley, owes a debt to a friend. But the payment expected is most shocking, even to an unrepentant rake—for he’s being asked to provide his friend’s exquisite wife with what she most dearly covets: a child.

Living for pleasure, they will give their hearts to no one …
Lady Jayne Seymour, Marchioness of Walfort, is furious that such a scandalous agreement would be made. If she acquiesces, there must be rules: no kissing . . . and, certainly, no pleasure.

Until love takes them by surprise.
But unexpected things occur with the surprisingly tender duke—especially once Lady Jayne discovers the rogue can make her dream again . . . and Ransom realizes he’s found the one woman he truly cannot live without.

The prompt for this month’s TBR challenge was “old school” which I think is usually meant to be “something published 10 or more years ago” and … I went really old school. All the way back to the 4th century BC so … here we are. I’d never read it before, and De Marque was offering all these classics and such free in kindle format, and I thought “why the hell not? I’ve never read it before and have always meant to …” I mean, we’re living through a pandemic. Everything is all over the place. Including my brain. (This did nothing to help reset it.)

Tao Te Ching is eminently quotable, but I didn’t care for it. The … honestly I kept wondering if the translation I was reading was terrible. It’s not just a lot of the “poems” at the beginning of chapters really didn’t read like something written in Chinese/they took major liberties, but that was definitely part of it. And I kept getting flashbacks to the classical Chinese course I took at university (which is more equivalent to ancient Greek or Latin … and/but the characters were more like traditional characters than pictographs…) So then I kept thinking about the importance of how works are translated. And of course I had also picked this book because it was short, so I didn’t bother researching it. I didn’t read the blurb until now, and I have to say it amused me/made me >.>. I don’t think I’m wrong about my “badly translated” guess, especially considering the typos in the blurb… Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: Tiger Eye by Marjorie M. Liu

Tiger Eye by Marjorie M. Liu
Paranormal romance released by Dorchester on March 1, 2005

Tiger Eye by Marjorie M. LiuLong ago they roamed the earth —dragons, tigers . . . shapeshifters — men who wore the forms of beasts. Their world was magic. Now it is gone.But some remain . . .

He looks out of place in Dela Reese’s Beijing hotel room—exotic and poignant, some mythic, tragic hero of an epic tale.With his feline yellow eyes, he’s like nothing from her world. Yet Dela has danced through the echo of his soul and knows this warrior will obey her every command.

Hari has been used and abused for millennia. But he sees,upon his release from the riddle box, that this new mistress is different. There is a hidden power in Dela’s eyes—and with her, he may regain all that was lost to him. Where once he savaged, now he must protect; where before he knew only hatred, now he must embrace love. Dela is the key. For Dela, he will risk all.

I have a huge TBR, so large I really don’t want to know how many books I have hidden around the house or stored on my ereader. When Lime told me I could review any book from my TBR for the ALBTALBS TBR Challenge this year, I was excited. And then I froze. How do I go about choosing a book from the hundreds I own? After I stopped hyperventilating, I settled on finding a paranormal romance novel to review. I used to read a lot of paranormal romance and realized I haven’t read from this genre is a few years, and I kind of miss the over the top stories that take place in a world that’s a bit more magical than our own.

I’m a big comic book fan, and especially love Marjorie Liu’s original Monstress series. I have read almost every comic Marjorie has worked on and her storytelling is sparse and yet contains a world of meaning and action. While I started reading Marjorie because of her work in comic books, I also read her Hunter Kiss urban fantasy series. But, I had never read the series that started her career as a writer, and since I had apparently purchased all the Dirk & Steele novels, why not read her very first book. Continue reading

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

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

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: Unraveled by Lauren Dane

Unraveled (Whiskey Sharp book 1) by Lauren Dane
Contemporary romance released by Carina Press on January 30, 2018

Whiskey Sharp: Unraveled by Lauren Dane book coverThe sharpest ache comes from wanting what you think you can’t have…

Maybe Dolan has lived independent, free-spirited and unattached since leaving home at sixteen. Whiskey Sharp, Seattle’s sexy vintage-styled barbershop and whiskey bar, gave her a job—and a reason to put down roots. Cutting hair by day, losing herself drumming in a punk rock band by night, she’s got it good.

But a longtime crush that turns into a hot, edgy night with brooding and bearded Alexsei Petrov makes it a hell of a lot better.

Maybe’s blunt attitude and carnal smile hooked Alexsei from the start. Protecting people is part of his nature and Maybe is meant to be his…even if she doesn’t know it. Yet. He can’t help himself from wanting to protect and care for her.

But Maybe’s fiery independent spirit means pushing back when Alexsei goes too far. Still, he’s not afraid to do a little pushing of his own to get what he wants—her in his life, and his bed, for good. Maybe’s more intoxicating than all the liquor on his shelf…and he’s not afraid to ride the blade’s edge to bind her to him.

My TBR is massive, I don’t think I’ve read 40 new to me books in the last two years. I have reread several Lauren Danes though, so when thinking about what to read and review for ALBTALBS, this book from January of last year was the first to come to mind.

** TW/Spoiler: Maybe suffered severe emotional abuse at the hands of her parents and this is a main plot point in the first two books in the series.** Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Contemporary romance published by St. Martin’s Griffin on May 14, 2019

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston book coverWhat happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue proves: true love isn’t always diplomatic.

I’m reviewing this for the July #TBRChallenge. While it’s a fairly recent release, I feel like I’ve waited forever to read it. If unrequited love, enemies to lovers, and friends to lovers are things you like in a romance, then this book is for you. It has all of these tropes and more between one couple and it’s delightful. Pretty much all of this story worked for me. Alex and Henry are lovely main characters, the secondary characters are so compelling. I feel like I got enough information for them to be fully developed but at the same time there’s potential for other stories in this world involving these great characters. A big component of the romance between Alex and Henry is epistolary—they communicate via text and email, initially getting to know each other more then it evolves into love letters. It’s so romantic y’all. Continue reading