Reviews

 

Prey for the Dead (Dead Game #2) by Susanne Leist

Contemporary supernatural romance

Mild

★★

Oasis is a small town in Florida that’s hiding big secrets. Vampires, hybrids, Watchers, Elders, and the Dead move among humans. Best friends and business owners Linda and Shana know all about the supernatural elements in their community. Battle lines are being drawn between competing groups, and they’ll need to choose a side. Linda also needs to choose between Todd and Gregg, two possessive hybrids who each want her for himself. Their love triangle undercuts the strengths in this imaginative author’s clever spin on vampire lore. Todd, Gregg, and Shana’s love interest Sam all share the habit of acting in physically aggressive and verbally explosive ways that coerce apologies from the women in order to resolve conflict, a pattern that persists throughout the story. 

 

In concept, Prey for the Dead is a fresh mix of supernatural, sci-fi, and mystery themes. Without the romantic elements, it’s a four-star read. With Linda and her two beaux as the focus, the lack of substance in showing readers why either man is a desirable forever mate combined with other jumps in the logic of the story development distract from the enjoyment of solving the mystery and savoring the adventure. Also, Linda’s and Shana’s maturity is more consistent with teens than with full-grown adults, another distraction. Ultimately, maximum enjoyment of this second entry in the Dead Game series seems to come with having read the first story, The Dead Game, which introduces this fun reimagining of the world of the undead. 

 

Reviewed by Cardyn Brooks

Self-published February 27, 2019

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Scot Under the Covers by Suzanne Enoch

Historical Romance

Scorching

★★★★★

Enoch pits a wild Highlander with a proud English lady in tale that is a fun and highly romantic read. Fans of the Wild, Wicked Highlanders will recognize Aden MacTaggert and his brothers and know that their mother’s demand that they find English brides or forfeit their inheritance is a heavy and unwanted burden for a rough and tumble Scot. Aden can’t navigate London ballroom without help and he gets it from Mirada Harris who is being blackmailed into marriage to pay off her brother’s gambling debts. Aden knows Miranda, she’s his sister-in-law, and trusts that she can steer him towards the perfect bride. He promises to teach her how to gamble so she can win back her freedom. But, as their lessons ensure it seems the greatest gamble is to their hearts. 

As delightful, charming and fast-paced as any of Enoch’s novels, this installment in the series is a sure-fire winner. Readers will respond to the characters, their laugh out loud antics and the love that grows as Enoch works her magic bringing humor and desire together.  

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by St. Martin’s Press, January 28, 2020

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A Valentine’s Book Coupling  by Trinity Blacio

Paranormal Romance

Warm

★★★

From teens to seasoned citizens, this duet of love stories offers feisty fun. In Lia Violet’s “The Cupid Crush” Lucy Addante is a librarian who starts her day wrangling youngsters with anti-Valentine’s Day attitudes that she secretly shares. Then she gets drafted into being a model for the mayor’s annual calendar fundraiser. When firefighter Mack Guerrero sees her during the photo shoot, he knows he needs to meet her. A singles event at the local library of Ville de Cougar provides the perfect opportunity to learn more about her. Lucy and Mack are both much more that they appear to be. 

 

Empty-nesters and surviving spouses Red Riding and Zack Danger explore their mutual attraction as they help organize the annual Valentine’s Day dance in Ville de Cougar while they dodge the menacing intentions of a hateful arsonist in “Cupid Hits the Local VFW” by Trinity Blacio. Zack’s secrets don’t scare Red, and her strengths don’t threaten Zack. These two interlaced insta-love stories are quick, bubbly reads. There are some sudden jumps in story development, logic, and characterization that familiarity with Violet’s Hot Heart Café series and Blacio’s Grandmas Need Loving Too series might make for smoother reads, but the novellas are fun. Love for everyone is the entertaining takeaway of these delightful tales. 

Reviewed by Cardyn Brooks

Published by Riverdale Avenue Books, February 12, 2020

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His Secret Mistress: A Logical Man's

Guide to Dangerous Women Novel by Cathy Maxwell

Historical Romance

Scorching

★★★★★

Maxwell debuts “A Logical Man’s Guide to Dangerous Women” series with an unforgettable and powerful, second chance at love romance that warms readers’ hearts. As a consummate storyteller Maxwell knows how to tap into readers’ emotions and draw them into her delectable love story where trust and passion must overcome old doubts and betrayals. It is quite remarkable that Maxwell can deliver a lush romance that takes place in only one day and completely satisfies her fans.

Fifteen years ago Kate Addison was a young actress who met architect Brandon Balfor and together they spent one incredible night together. The memory of their time is burned into their consciousness, but so is the betrayal that drove them apart. Since then, neither has been able to truly trust in anyone. Bran is a member of an exclusive club whose members despise the very thought of marriage. His only concern is his ward’s infatuation with an actress whose traveling troupe arrives in their village of Maidenstop. When he realizes the woman is Kate, he’s shocked and intent upon keeping her at arms length. But in the one day they are thrown together, Bran and Kate discovers they cannot keep their past passion from being rekindled.

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Avon, February 24, 2020

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The Unspoken Name by AK Larkwood

Fantasy

★★★★★

This book is incredible.

 

Csowre always knew she was the chosen bride of the Unspoken One and on her 14th year she would go to it, never to be seen again. But everything changed for her when Wizard Sethennai showed up to ask a prophecy of the Unspoken. What follows is adventure, betrayal and grappling with the power of gods.

 

In many ways, The Unspoken Name is a story of breaking out of abusive relationships. So many of the characters have complicated and toxic relationships, and I really appreciated the ways different types of toxicity are shown, as well as seeing them learn how to say “no” and break out of the situation that is only causing harm.

 

Larkwood’s writing is absolutely gorgeous and worked so well for Csowre’s story. It’s deeply evocative and immersive without feeling heavy or like a drag to read. The way certain scenes are set up adds to the fantasy by giving them an almost dreamy quality. The writing just has such a wonderful rhythm to it that flows beautifully and makes for an engaging, melodic story.

 

I don’t know who my favorite character is between Csowre, Talasseres, and Shuthmili but I want to protect and love all three of them. I love and appreciate the distinctly different strengths and personalities they have, as well as seeing the ways they learn to break out of manipulative cycles.

 

This truly was such an incredible story, and I cannot wait to see what happens next for these characters. Tal’s final scene has such an intriguing vibe to it, and I made such a happy noise seeing Csowre and Shuthmili get to ride off into the sunset. But things with Oranna aren’t fully resolved, and the world is changing in so many ways that I cannot wait to see the ripples and consequences!

Reviewed by Laura Fliegel

Published by Tor,  February 11, 2020

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Much Ado About a Widow by Jenna Jaxon

Regency Romance

Scorching

★★★

Lady Georgina Kirkpatrick was able to evade marriage to the odious Lord Travers, the man chosen by her tyrannical father and marry the man she loved. But, when her husband died at Waterloo, she was once again tied to an unwanted betrothal. But, fate has something else in store for Georgina. Kidnapped and able to escape the bandits, she is found by Robin Kerr, Lord St. Just, her brother’s roguish friend. St. Just is ready and able to be Georgina’s champion. He takes her and her dog aboard his ship and sails them to safety in Cornwall. While St. Just and Georgina become reacquainted, her family, her betrothed and the kidnappers are one their trail. 

This fast-paced, action-filled farce is a delicious respite from the winter blues.  Jaxon keeps the pace moving and the adventures flying which delights readers seeking more exploits then slow blooming passion. 

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Kensington, December 24, 2019

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Silk Threads, Three Tales of Passionate Japan 

by Laura Antoniou, Midori, Cecilia Tan

Erotic fiction anthology

★★★★

Duty. Cultural heritage. Family obligations. Posterity. 

Where do personal desires fit in among these tightly woven external pressures? 

 

In ancient Japan, Laura Antoniou’s Lady General Hagane Masako in “The Way of Heaven” protects Prince Yoshinake and Princess Umiko as she also defends her unconventional role in the Chrysanthemum Empire against sexist, elitist naysayers and instigators of political unrest. 

 

Midori’s “The Secret of Silk” portrays an isolated village in present-day Japan where thoroughly modern city-lover Doctor Ami Sato runs the clinic that serves an aging population of traditionalists. She’s drawn to Kansaburo, a mysterious laborer who’s hiding powerful secrets. 

 

Much like the rich cultural history of Japan, “The Bonds of Love” by Cecilia Tan begins in the past, then flashes forward into the future linked upon a continuum of evolving traditions and expectations. In the first half of the 20th century, Jiro resents being obligated to consent to an arranged marriage in order to redeem his family’s honor. More than 100 years later, Princess Ami’s resentment comes from similar objections. Fate offers her a chance for freedom to pursue her hidden passions. 

 

Silk Threads offers readers an intricate cultural tapestry of tensions between past and present, personal needs and society’s demands, what is sanctioned, what’s forbidden, and why. All three authors write with lyrical sensibilities that enchant with their sensuous word play. When Princess Ami thinks in page 153: “I had worked myself into imagining that a rope top would be all boss, with harsh words and slaps… I realized this was far better… a man willing to share something special with me…” her sentiment applies to this anthology as an emotionally intimate read that happens to include BDSM elements. 

 

Reviewed by Cardyn Brooks

Published by Riverdale Avenue Books, December 16, 2019

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Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

Dystopian Fiction

★★★★★

I was interested in Upright Women Wanted because queer librarians but I wasn’t sure what to expect because this is my first book by Gailey. What I got was excellence!

 

Ester is running away from the town where she’s grown up and where her father is one of the leaders after the death of her friend and lover, Beatriz, at the hands/order of her father. She stows away in the supply wagon the Librarians, a group of women whose job is to distribute Approved Materials across the states. But there’s more to the Librarians than Ester realizes and what follows is an adventure and the realization that Ester isn’t wrong for her attraction, nor is she alone in her experiences.

 

The moment I knew this book was going to be perfection was meeting Cye. They use they pronouns but when they introduce themself to Ester they tell her “I’m they on the road and she in town.” Ester doesn’t understand, and Cye explains their reasoning, but I understood instantly. It’s not that they’re ever “she” but for safety and to fit into role as Librarian they sometimes have to misgender themselves--and that kind of relatability had me screaming to all my friends that Cye exists and I love them and they’re mine to protect! Not that they need protection because they have a revolver and know how to use it!

 

You know when you read a queer book and you can just tell it’s by a queer author? This book feels like that. Ester does have some internalized stuff to work through because of compulsory heterosexuality and the society she’s known, but what is shown is less her struggling with her identity and more her seeing others like her living their best life and being Happy. This just felt so warm to read, even with the violence and stress of going against the accepted system.

 

I utterly enjoyed this story and really hope there’s going to be more to Ester and Cye’s story, because this is just the beginning of their adventures. I had so much fun reading this, could barely put it down, and felt so warm and welcome, at least among the Librarians. This is absolutely a hard recommend for anyone on the lookout for sapphic novella with Wild West feels and Librarians plus a romantic thread between a cis girl and a nonbinary person.

Reviewed by Laura Fliegel

Published by Tor Books, February 4, 2020

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Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

Dystopian Fiction

★★★★★

I was interested in Upright Women Wanted because queer librarians but I wasn’t sure what to expect because this is my first book by Gailey. What I got was excellence!

 

Ester is running away from the town where she’s grown up and where her father is one of the leaders after the death of her friend and lover, Beatriz, at the hands/order of her father. She stows away in the supply wagon the Librarians, a group of women whose job is to distribute Approved Materials across the states. But there’s more to the Librarians than Ester realizes and what follows is an adventure and the realization that Ester isn’t wrong for her attraction, nor is she alone in her experiences.

 

The moment I knew this book was going to be perfection was meeting Cye. They use they pronouns but when they introduce themself to Ester they tell her “I’m they on the road and she in town.” Ester doesn’t understand, and Cye explains their reasoning, but I understood instantly. It’s not that they’re ever “she” but for safety and to fit into role as Librarian they sometimes have to misgender themselves--and that kind of relatability had me screaming to all my friends that Cye exists and I love them and they’re mine to protect! Not that they need protection because they have a revolver and know how to use it!

 

You know when you read a queer book and you can just tell it’s by a queer author? This book feels like that. Ester does have some internalized stuff to work through because of compulsory heterosexuality and the society she’s known, but what is shown is less her struggling with her identity and more her seeing others like her living their best life and being Happy. This just felt so warm to read, even with the violence and stress of going against the accepted system.

 

I utterly enjoyed this story and really hope there’s going to be more to Ester and Cye’s story, because this is just the beginning of their adventures. I had so much fun reading this, could barely put it down, and felt so warm and welcome, at least among the Librarians. This is absolutely a hard recommend for anyone on the lookout for sapphic novella with Wild West feels and Librarians plus a romantic thread between a cis girl and a nonbinary person.

Reviewed by Laura Fliegel

Published by Tor Books, February 4, 2020

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The Ninja Daughter (Lily Wong #1) by Tori Eldridge

Romantic suspense/thriller

★★★★★

Lily Wong embodies the U.S. melting pot. Her mother is Chinese elite, her father is Norwegian working class, and Lily studies Japanese martial arts in addition to Chinese disciplines. She’s smart, restless and determined to help vulnerable women and children—even if she needs to work outside of the law to keep them safe. This tough vigilante is also a daddy’s girl with a more complicated relationship with her mother. Dynamic emotional range and multifaceted characterizations combined with immersive descriptions of time and place anchor Lily’s story in substantial present-day authenticity. Scenes of brutal physical confrontations flow quickly and smoothly, resulting in lots of injuries, high body counts, and multiple ethical quandaries. Add two men of diametrically opposed types as potential romantic interests with a criminal investigation that has political implications and readers get a compelling mystery that seamlessly blends provocative social commentary, family trauma, and a debate about the pros and cons of instantaneous sexual chemistry. 


Lily’s narrative voice filled with self-deprecating gallows humor is simultaneously fresh and weary. Fans of fast-paced thrillers with complicated protagonists like Kelley Armstrong’s Nadia Stafford and Zoe Sharpe’s Charlie Fox will devour The Ninja Daughter. Distinctions noted between Hong Kongers, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and other Asian ethnicities highlight cultural differences to which non-Asian people are often oblivious. The acknowledgments and author’s notes are also must-reads.

Reviewed by Cardyn Brooks

Published by Agora Books, November 5, 2019

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A Delicate Deception by Cat Sebastian

Regency Romance

★★★★

Scorching

The third of the Regency Imposters series begins when Amelia Allenby leaves her partner standing in the middle of a London ballroom because she realizes she can’t keep fooling herself and society about her “odd” fears.  For the past year she has been living in a secluded cottage on an estate in Devonshire. Suddenly she begins encountering a strange, handsome gentleman on her daily walks.  

Railway engineer, Sydney Goddard, is in Devonshire because of a request from his friend and former lover the Duke of Hereford. The duke understands Sydney’s need to quietly mourn his brother. As Sydney and Amelia keep bumping into one another a friendship forms that slowly turns to love.  However, Sydney is holding back important information from Amelia. By the time the duke arrives and the truth is revealed they have fallen in love. Can their love survive deception?

Sebastian, known for unconventional romance, once again succeeds in giving readers a thoughtful, lovely romance filled with intriguing characters (especially the memorable secondary characters), passion and fine storytelling. It is the flawed characters, with their inner demons and powerful emotions, that turn them into three dimensional people readers care about. Fans of Sebastian’s novels and new readers will relish this new romance.  (Avon, Dec.)

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Avon, December 10, 2019

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Song of the Risen God (The Coven #3) by R. A. Salvatore

SciFi fantasy with romantic elements

★★★★

This concluding installment of The Coven saga of secular versus religious zealotry works as a stand-alone and begins with dangerous discoveries made by warrior monks Brother Thaddius [sic] and Sister Elysant. What they unearth while exploring the Southern Wilderlands sets a cascading series of cataclysmic events into motion, leading to an ultimate showdown between mortals and gods. A prologue and three parts lay out separate story threads about powerful witch Aoleyn, exiled King Aydrian, imprisoned Egard, and assorted groups of refugees, priests, politicians, and warriors with conflicting motives, ethical quandaries, and agendas. Incorporating an engagingly distinct blend of ancient mythologies, and SciFi and fantasy elements like magical gemstones, dragons, shape-shifting, elves and knights, Song of the Risen God is reminiscent of Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, and it’s somewhat biblical in the scope of its ideas. It also evokes shades of a sinister, truly powerful Wizard of Oz. 


Threads about annihilation and manifest destiny are woven among recurring themes of menacing interpretations of the gold standard of expectations from false gods and their empty promises. The narrative pacing is brisk, especially in the immersive hand-to-hand combat scenes and massive battle sequences. Believable characterizations, meaningful dialogue, strong world building, and noticeable organic inclusion of women as powerful authority figures and respected leaders make this saga a memorable read. Sometimes muddled and abrupt transitions between scenes and points of view barely distract from this story’s many strengths. Heroic people who are working together for the greatest good for all despite the daunting odds against their success anchors Song of the Risen God.

Reviewed by Cardyn Brooks

Published by Tor Books, January 28, 2020

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Grand Theft N.Y.E by Katrina Jackson

Contemporary Holiday Romance

★★★★

Mild

I adore Cleo. I would recommend reading this book for her confidence and panache alone, though the chemistry is especially off the charts between her and Robert.

 

Cleo is a long-time grifter with her sister and a small crew who has never been caught. One night when she’s set to steal from a rich white man she meets Robert Shimizu, a powerful Asian man who immediately interests her. Robert catches her leaving the party and takes her home where a several-hour-long sexfest follows. The next morning she hightails it out, taking Robert’s Jag and watch, but leaves her thong for him to remember her by. Six months later they run into each other again, and the chemistry between them hasn’t dimmed at all.

 

This was such a fun NYE read and I’m looking forward to Alex meeting her matches, per acknowledgments, but I love her and her dynamic with Cleo so much. I screamed at the epilogue seeing Kierra, Monica and Lane from Pink Slip and especially adored Kierra not-so-subtly checking Cleo out.

 

This was a fun, sexy read that I definitely recommend if you’re looking for something fun and quick to brighten the end of 2019.

 

Reviewed by Laura Fliegel

Self-published, December 31, 2019

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Every New Year by Katrina Jackson

Contemporary Holiday Romance

★★★★

Mild

This is such an achingly sweet story of two people who love each other but keep missing the time to confess their feelings. In a lot of ways, they get in their own way because of insecurities and a lack of communication, but the way they finally find their way together is so worth the angst and stress that lead to this moment. 

 

Plus, I am so, so excited for the rest of this series cuz I love the other characters so much already. Katrina’s books are always abundant with strong friendships and the many forms love can take, and this absolutely does not disappoint on that front. I want all their friends to have their own happy endings, and it was so wonderful seeing Candace and Ezra get their own—after 18 years of mutual pining!!

 

Reviewed by Laura Fliegel

Self-published, December 31, 2019

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Anyone But a Duke by Betina Krahn

Historical Romance

★★★★

Scorching

Sarah Bumgarten’s father made a fortune in Nevada mines and her mother has high hopes that, like her sister, Sarah will snag a titled English husband. But after a public humiliation, Sarah runs off to Betancourt, an  abandoned country estate owned by Arthur Graham, the Duke of Meridan, her sister’s brother-in-law. Sarah is happy in the countryside where she can be content living with her collection of animals and rebuilding the neglected estate until the duke returns after a six-year absence. 

Rebuffed by Sarah’s sister in favor of his brother, Meridan ran off to distant lands where he could continue his naturalist studies. He is no longer  the shy young man Sarah recalls. Imagine his shock when he finds the sister of the woman who spurned him living in his home? Sarah’s energy and determination are infectious and soon she and Meridan are working together to keep his unscrupulous uncle from stealing Betoncourt and in the process they  are falling in love.

Though some readers may find Meridan’s adventures a bit incredulous, most will enjoy the sweet love story brimming with delightful subplots and  engaging characters. Krahn knows how to deliver a deep sigh romance that lifts readers’ spirits and brings a smile to their heart.

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Kensington, November 26,  2019

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The Art of Theft by Sherry Thomas

Historical Mystery

★★★★

Mild

The always-original Thomas delivers her fourth Lady Sherlock mystery. Charlotte Holmes, a woman of great intelligence, uses logical deduction to solve murder and missing persons’ cases under the guise of her “brother” Sherlock. She is now poised to uncover the secret behind a priceless painting; a case she never would have gotten involved in if it wasn’t for her compatriot Mrs. Watson. Charlotte has taken a respite from detective work to help her sister set up her household when Mrs. Watson’s insists they aide her old and dear friend, an Indian maharani. Soon Charlotte and Mrs. Watson are on their way to the Chateau Vaudrieu outside of Paris    where they cream of society have gathered to celebrate the Yuletide. They are to locate the Van Dyke and retrieve a cache of hidden letters without anyone taking note. Charlotte cannot pull off the heist alone. She calls on her old friend and new lover, Lord Ingram and sister, Olive and Stephen Marbleton. They quickly ascertain this case goes beyond blackmail and that their nemesis, Moriarity, is involved. 

Fans of the series are sure to delight in Charlotte and friends return as they join in the quest for the stolen letters meeting old friend and filling in gaps with their knowledge of the rest of the series. Thomas’ prose is powerful and well crafted, the plot elegant, the backdrop richly detailed and the characters’ growth fascinating.  Readers will enjoy watching Charlotte grapple with her feeling for Ingram while putting her efforts into ingeniously solving a crime. It will be difficult to have to wait for the next installment in this exciting series.

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Berkley, October 15, 2019

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The Prince of Broadway by Joanna Shupe

Historical Romance

★★★★

Scorching

Shupe’s Uptown Girls are quite unconventional ladies, each bent on finding their own path to independence and happiness; especially Florence Greene. Florence boldly glides through the doors of the all male casino owned by Clayton Madden. Clayton rose from poverty to millionaire and no woman will get in his way. As he watches Florence walk though his casino, gambling and winning, he is intrigued by her every move and wonders what has driven her to seek out his establishment. Florence desires nothing other than to open her own casino where women can wager and who better to teach her then Clayton.  Clayton realizes Florence maybe the key to his wreaking his revenge against her father, the man who destroyed his family, so he agrees to be her mentor. Thus begins a heated game of one up-manship and seduction. Though Florence has no desire to marry and forfeit her independence to a man, she is not an innocent. She believes they can have an interesting relationship with no strings attached. But their little games lead to sizzling encounters, voyeurism and even a salacious painting before Florence and Clayton realize they’re gambling with their lives and their hearts. 

Shupe’s fans will devour this sexy, smart, fascinating romance with two independent characters simply meant to play off one another. Though there are no secret motives, they each lay out their cards at the beginning of the story, readers will keep turning the pages just to see how their lessons progress and to take part in their witty battle of wills and words.  Some may find Florence a bit too modern while other will cheer her on to winning her every desire; still every reader will admire Florence’s courage and Clayton’s desire not to change the woman he loves.

Reviewed by Amy Alessio

Ulysses Press, December 15, 2019

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Build Your Own Christmas Movie Romance By Riane Kong

Interactive Contemporary Romance

★★★★

Scorching

The cover of this fun Choose Your Own promises that readers can Pick Your Plot, Meet Your Man and Create the Holiday Love Story of a Lifetime. This unique work delivers with a story offering multiple choices at every turn. Readers can decide whether or not to tell their mother the heroine will be missing Christmas dinner.

The tongue-in-cheek extends to plot points, as well, as heroine Chrissy hates Christmas and does not want to return to her mother’s candy cane farm to celebrate. Her ex-boyfriend’s name is Cole, and at one point Candace Cameron Burre appears to offer directions when the heroine is in danger.

Nick enters the scene, and readers have to make choices about him and whether she’ll choose him or a seemingly reformed Cole. Scenarios range from normal to zany and pull heavily from tropes and Hallmark movies as the author pokes fun at holiday romance in a loving way.

Saving the heroine from thin ice by using candy canes is one fun scenario readers may find themselves enjoying. There are many choices, possibly too many at times, including song titles, and readers could read this multiple times with very different experiences. This extends to endings, which do not always follow the traditional happily ever after. Readers willing to put in the work to make all the choices will find plenty of funny surprises.

This would be a fun gift for those who love holiday stories in print and on the screen.

Reviewed by Amy Alessio

Ulysses Press, December 15, 2019

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The Highlander’s Christmas Bride by Vanessa Kelly

Historical Romance

★★★

Scorching

Following a business meeting with the Earl of Riddick, widower Logan Kendrick, recently returned to Scotland from Canada, agrees to escort Donella Haddon home for the holidays. Donella was known as “The Flower of Clan Graham” for her beauty and wit until a broken betrothal left her humiliated. She fled to a convent, but the religious life was not for her. What should be a simple task becomes complicated when they are attacked by would be kidnappers. Donella declines  to tell Logan why she is the target of the abductors. She claims her family will handle the situation. Initially Logan is infuriated by Donella’s stubbornness, but he warms to her when she befriends his son.

 

Though they begin to slowly trust one another they still keep secrets that threaten to tear them apart. Add an insane mother, a former lover, gossip and a scandal from the past to the plot and readers have  a tale that is at times compelling and at other times confusing and seemingly purposeless. Still Kelly’s fans of the Clan Kendrick series will enjoy the witty dialogue and seeing Logan find love.

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Kensington, October 29, 2019

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A Lady’s Past by A. S. Fenichal

Historical Romantic  Suspense

★★★★

Scorching

Those seeking a romance with a cast of passionate characters, a well developed plotline with mystery overtones, humor and sensuality won’t be disappointed with Fenichal’s latest. Diana St. Cloud escapes from a French prison after months of torture and watching her parents die. Jacques Laurent finds her wandering on a road in England and decides to deliver Diana to The Everton Ladies Domestic Society where she will be safe. Jacques has had his fill of treacherous women. After leaving Diana, he puts her out of his mind, until they cross paths when he realizes she is working as a  scientist’s assistant. 

As a woman, Diana had not been allowed to fully pursue her interest in the sciences, but she has knowledge that could shift the balance of the war.  Having been betrayed before and fearing she will be branded a traitor, Diana trusts no one. However, Jacques believes her and offers his help. Neither expects to fall in love, but their desire thrusts them into danger as the French will do anything to reclaim Diana and her information.

This lively tale is part spy thriller, part romance and all intriguing. Readers will savor the pacing and the interesting historical details as they watch a pair of wary protagonists fall in love and save England. A fun and engrossing read.

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Kensington, November 19, 2019

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All I Want for Christmas is a Werewolf by Liana Brooks

Contemporary Paranormal Romance

★★★★★

Flirty

Art gallery worker Del hates the holidays. After being abandoned at a young age, and thriving now even after being homeless during periods of college, she just wants to escape to a beach. Or get a dog. When a friendly black dog finds her on the beach before it runs into a house, she follows it to try and find its owner. Instead, she realizes she has entered the home of Rafe, her hot and mysterious colleague.

Rafe takes her to a food truck, comments on how she needs to eat better, and Del realizes she hasn’t been as invisible as she thought. She sees the beautiful art he collects, enjoys his cooking, and realizes he too loves werewolf shows as she does. She falls in love even before she realizes it.

Rafe helps her avoid handsy but wealthy client Vietti more than once, but the client’s pursuit of Del veers into stalkerdom. One night when she is walking home from a gallery show, she realizes the client asked two men to follow her, trying to learn her address. She wonders what to do, not wanting to lead them to her apartment, but she has some canine help. 

She finds herself accepting another date with Rafe. She tells him her secrets about her past, and she thinks he tells her his, but after one rainy night when she has help escaping Vietti again, she realizes Rafe is more even than she hoped he’d be. 

Sexy flirting takes this fun novella beyond sweet romance and readers will have no trouble imagining hot Rafe from the shirtless descriptions. The art details and fun inclusion of minor character Maureen who likes to force the holidays on her co-workers add color and fun. Del’s growth from a loner with high walls to a loving, accepting girlfriend, is a well-written arc to follow in a delightful holiday romance. Fans of Vicki Lewis Thompson and Janet Chapman may enjoy this author, too.

Reviewed by Amy Alessio

Published by Inkprint Press, December 3, 2019

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Secrets of the Chocolate House by Paula Brackston

Paranormal Historical Fiction

★★★★

Mild

Brackston follows The Little Shop of Found Things with another captivating time travel novel that sends Xanthe from present day England to 1605 to rescue her former lover, Samuel. Xanthe and her mother have been working to turn a profit in their antique shoppe when a chocolate pot begins calling Xanthe giving her a vision of Samuel in prison. Though she has been trying to settle into life in the 21st century, she quickly realizes she will have to return to the 17th century to set things to rights. Xanthe follows her vision to a chocolate house and discovers Samuel is being held by Benedict Fairfax. Trying to free him draws Xanthe into the political turmoil of the time, an era when Catholics were persecuted; where danger and betrayal lurks around every corner.  As her abilities are tested, Xanthe will discover her true destiny and her most dangerous adversary. 

Brackston’s latest is a true feast for time travel readers who may well make comparisons to Outlander due to setting and some similar circumstances. Yet, Brackston’s novel stands on it’s own merits; a well told story that cleverly incorporates history, romance and danger into a fast-paced tale well worth reading, though more enjoyable if you have read the first in the duet.

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by St. Martin’s, October 22, 2019

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The Prince of Broadway by Joanna Shupe

Historical Romance

★★★★

Scorching

Shupe’s Uptown Girls are quite unconventional ladies, each bent on finding their own path to independence and happiness; especially Florence Greene. Florence boldly glides through the doors of the all male casino owned by Clayton Madden. Clayton rose from poverty to millionaire and no woman will get in his way. As he watches Florence walk though his casino, gambling and winning, he is intrigued by her every move and wonders what has driven her to seek out his establishment. Florence desires nothing other than to open her own casino where women can wager and who better to teach her then Clayton.  Clayton realizes Florence maybe the key to his wreaking his revenge against her father, the man who destroyed his family, so he agrees to be her mentor. Thus begins a heated game of one up-manship and seduction. Though Florence has no desire to marry and forfeit her independence to a man, she is not an innocent. She believes they can have an interesting relationship with no strings attached. But their little games lead to sizzling encounters, voyeurism and even a salacious painting before Florence and Clayton realize they’re gambling with their lives and their hearts. 

Shupe’s fans will devour this sexy, smart, fascinating romance with two independent characters simply meant to play off one another. Though there are no secret motives, they each lay out their cards at the beginning of the story, readers will keep turning the pages just to see how their lessons progress and to take part in their witty battle of wills and words.  Some may find Florence a bit too modern while other will cheer her on to winning her every desire; still every reader will admire Florence’s courage and Clayton’s desire not to change the woman he loves. 

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Avon, December 30, 2019

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The Art of Theft by Sherry Thomas

Historical Mystery

★★★★

Hot

The always-original Thomas delivers her fourth Lady Sherlock mystery. Charlotte Holmes, a woman of great intelligence, uses logical deduction to solve murder and missing persons’ cases under the guise of her “brother” Sherlock. She is now poised to uncover the secret behind a priceless painting; a case she never would have gotten involved in if it wasn’t for her compatriot Mrs. Watson. Charlotte has taken a respite from detective work to help her sister set up her household when Mrs. Watson’s insists they aide her old and dear friend, an Indian maharani. Soon Charlotte and Mrs. Watson are on their way to the Chateau Vaudrieu outside of Paris    where they cream of society have gathered to celebrate the Yuletide. They are to locate the Van Dyke and retrieve a cache of hidden letters without anyone taking note. Charlotte cannot pull off the heist alone. She calls on her old friend and new lover, Lord Ingram and sister, Olive and Stephen Marbleton. They quickly ascertain this case goes beyond blackmail and that their nemesis, Moriarity, is involved. 

Fans of the series are sure to delight in Charlotte and friends return as they join in the quest for the stolen letters meeting old friend and filling in gaps with their knowledge of the rest of the series. Thomas’ prose is powerful and well crafted, the plot elegant, the backdrop richly detailed and the characters’ growth fascinating.  Readers will enjoy watching Charlotte grapple with her feeling for Ingram while putting her efforts into ingeniously solving a crime. It will be difficult to have to wait for the next installment in this exciting series.  

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Berkley, October 15, 2019

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Someone to Remember by Mary Balogh

Historical Romance

★★★★

As always Balogh creates a lovely, well-paced story that puts romance and family at the forefront. Fans of the Westcott series will adore the latest addition, though those unfamiliar with the Westcotts may become tangled up in the family dynamics. Balogh’s novella unfolds beautifully as she brings secondary characters into the spotlight.  Since the hints at the end of Someone to Honor, readers have been hoping that Matilda Westcott and Charles, Viscount Dirkson, would get their story and now in a sweet, tender, well-crafted tale, they do.

Matilda appears to be content as her mother’s caretaker. In reality she often ponders what would have happened if her short time with Charles had ended differently.  When Matilda tries to persuade Charles to get to know his illegitimate son, Gill, now her nephew-in-law by marriage, she opens a Pandora’s Box. Charles is now part of the extended Westcott family, and therefore she faces him at many family gatherings.  Matilda discovers Charles is no longer a rogue and he recalls her as the young woman who was his sweetheart. It is lovely to see how they slowly come together to rekindle a youthful devotion and find a new love.

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Berkley, November 5, 2019

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The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Feminist Near-Future

★★★★★

When I read The Handmaid’s Tale over 20 years ago, I really didn’t know what to expect except that it was a feminist near-future alternate reality.  I grabbed it as my book to read on a flight from NYC to Barcelona, during which I intended to sleep after my in-flight glass of wine. Instead I read the whole book in one sitting.

 

The same thing has happened with The Testaments (except I wasn’t on a cross-continental flight).  I just could not put it down, and was sneaking off to read it every chance I got, and it is a long book (432 pages). I wished it was longer.

 

The Testaments is the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, which I am sure Atwood wrote as a result of so many people asking what happened to Offred once the show started airing on Hulu. And while The Testaments is a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, Offred doesn’t even appear in it, and yet the story moves forward quite brilliantly.

 

The Testaments weaves together three different threads – the memoir of an Aunt, whom we soon realize is Lydia (which gives us her backstory, which is fascinating); the story of a teenager who lives in the free world but whose parents are rebels, and the story of another teenage girl inside Gilead who is just becoming aware of how constrained her life is.  They all come together in some surprising ways, and yes, you do find out what happened to Offred’s baby, who is now 15.

 

I was afraid the book would seem heavy-handed, or that the feminist politics would be out of date, but this is unfortunately a perfect book to read in this age of gaslighting and #MeToo, as we, as a society, are forced to re-examine the roles expected of women.

Reviewed by Lori Perkins

Published by Nan Talese/Random House, September 10, 2019

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Brimstone (Metals Trilogy #1) by Justine Rosenberg

Sci-Fi fantasy adventure with romantic elements

★★★★★

Hot

In a world where religious dogma and generations of entrenched superstitions endorsed (or outlawed) by the House of Tong and the House of Imrakis dictate the rules of daily engagement between humans, knights, wraiths, geomancers, and every other sentient being in their domain, Ava Sandrino has risen from the ashes of multiple betrayals. Her unapologetic determination to thrive and to prosper generates heat in her relationships with friends, foes, and business colleagues. Life moves in somewhat predictable ways for her until she crosses paths with a being named Sariel, who’s on the run from enslavement. This meeting puts him and Ava in danger from Captain Ezra Shaw. Their love triangle includes almost everything except typical outcomes. 

Justine Rosenberg’s often lyrical prose conveys the details of hardscrabble circumstances and gritty environments as sociopolitical observations about human trafficking, xenophobia, and dogmatic indoctrination. With conservative nods to steampunk, Brimstone incorporates familiar references to the Americas, and lira currency with SciFi and fantasy elements of other inhabited worlds and magical powers. These strange places, beings, and abilities are essentially recognizable, but fresh spins examine popular tropes from unexpected angles. Ava’s story organically evokes subtle parallels with American slavery, Mengele’s experiments, the Tuskegee syphilis study, and other similar atrocities. 

Poetic music and water themes recur and contrast sharply with the characters’ pragmatic focus on survival. Brimstone is a thrilling adventure, a mystery, and an unconventional romance. As the intricately structured first installment of a series that shows substantial promise, it delivers storytelling satisfaction and reader anticipation for the next segment of Ava’s journey. 

Reviewed by Cardyn Brooks

Published by DartFrog Books, Nov. 1, 2019

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Angel in the Devil’s Arms by Julie Anne Long

Historical Romance

★★★★

Scorching

Angelique Breedlove and Delilah Hardy are the owners of The Grand Palace on the Thames, the establishment Lucien Durand has chosen as the place to plan from which to launch his revenge.  Everyone believes Lucien, Viscount Bolt, has been dead for years. It’s common knowledge that he fell into the Thames 10 years ago, but he knows he was pushed and he’s back for vengeance. Lucas was fortunate to have been picked up by a ship sailing to China and in the intervening decade he has built a profitable shipping empire. Suddenly he appears at their door carrying half of a mystery coin. Angelique, wary of men, would gladly throw him out, but he’s reserved their most expensive suite.  She allows him to stay and they become friends. As Lucas plots, their friendship blossoms into love. It becomes obvious he will have to choose between love and hate before he can be free to truly give his heart to the woman who deserves his love. 

Readers will discover a gem in this funny, sweet, tender, sexy and emotional read. Long creates a refreshing, smart, tough, yet vulnerable heroine in Angelique and a fascinating man in Lucas: a truly swoon-worthy hero. She sparks the romance with strong dialogue and heated chemistry that makes the pages sizzle in your hands. Readers will savor this tale and be awaiting the next in the Palace of Rogues series.  (Avon, Nov)

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Avon, October 29, 2019

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Cartier’s Hope by Jodi Thomas, Celia Bonaduce and Rachael Miles

Western Romance Anthology

★★★★

Mild

The 1859 Christmas Ball at Dallas’ fables St. Nicholas Hotel is the colorful setting for this triptych of western romance novellas.

 

 Jodi Thomas leads the way with One Night at the St. Nicholas, Cody Lamar arrives in Dallas intent upon winning the heart of heiress Jacqueline Hartman and the parcel of land that is her dowry. Instead he mistakes servant Katie Macleod for his intended bride and instantly falls in love.  Meanwhile Jacqueline meets Nate Ward, a Northern actor falsely accused of being a notorious outlaw. When Nate is taken into custody, Jacqueline realizes she has fallen in love and with Cody and Katie’s help she’s going to find a way to set Nate free. 

In Birdie’s Flight, Bonaduce introduces Irish immigrant Birdie Flannigan, a seamstress altering a gown for wealthy patron, Charlotte Quigley. Charlotte has no desire to marry Captain Newcastle, her father’s choice for a son-in-law. Instead she enjoys the Sheriff’s company, while Birdie pines for Newcastle. When Birdie has the opportunity to attend the ball she glimpses the possibility of love and a future with Newcastle, but first she must face her past. 

Ranger Asher Graham is to escort Eugenie Charpentier to her destination in the Texas wilderness through Dallas in The Spirit of Texas, Mile’s addition to the anthology. The friendship that forms between them in tested when they enter the hotel and the world of high society could destroy their newfound love.

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Kensington, October 29, 2019

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Cartier’s Hope by M.J. Rose

Mild

★★★★★

Scorching

The fabled 41 carat French Blue, better known as the Hope Diamond, is the centerpiece of Rose’s sparkling gem of a novel about a determined female journalist, a revenge plot, stolen jewels, and the mystery surrounding the Hope Diamond. Rose has carefully researched 1910 New York, a place where corruption runs rampant as immigrants struggle to make it in their new homeland and women fight for their rights to gift readers with a colorful portrait of the era. Then she delivers an exciting mystery with a strong love story. Feminists can take to heart too. The plot that swirls around Cartier and the diamond, as the tale takes unexpected twists and turns until the very end, will mesmerize readers.  Cartier’s Hope is another example of Rose’s remarkable storytelling and the perfect blend of history, mystery and romance. 

Vera Garland endeavors to make it in a man’s world as an investigative journalist, known as newspaper reporter Vee Swann.  When her article about illegal abortions shoots her to the front page, she realizes her star is on the rise. To keep it there she intends to get the “scoop” when the renowned French jeweler, Cartier, opens his New York City store and the Hope Diamond is revealed. Not only will she prove her abilities as reporter, but she will have revenge on the man responsible for her uncle and father’s death.  Vera’s investigation into Cartier’s suspect marketing practices leads her to the jeweler’s assistant, Jacob Asher. From Jacob Vera learns of the many women who wear “paste” copies of their jewels and she begins to ponder the probability that the Hope Diamond is a fake. But, Jacob is not as he seems and Vera is plunged into a mystery that threatens her plans, her love and her future.

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Atria, January 28, 2020

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The Duke’s Stolen Bride by Sophie Jordan

Historical Romance

★★★★

Scorching

Scandal doesn’t scare Marian Langley, but seeing her family reduced to penury does. She decides that to save them she will become a courtesan, but to do that she needs a tutor in the art of seduction. Who better then the hedonistic Nathaniel, Duke of Warrington?  Nathaniel loves his carefree life, but it can get boring. Teaching Marian would be a unique experience. So he accepts her proposition with her proviso that theirs will be a business arrangement. 

 

From the moment the lessons begin the sexual chemistry between them is impossible to ignore and falling into bed and in love becomes quite possible. However, when a spurned suitor discovers their arrangement and attempts to blackmail Marian into marriage, Nathanial realizes he can save Marian if they marry in haste.  This is no marriage of convenience, but one of passion and they are happy until their nemesis returns. Marian and Nathanial seek a way to rid themselves of the villain and free themselves from past insecurities to find their HEA. 

The Duke’s Stolen Bride is a delightful installment to Jordan’s Rogue Files and though the plot is simplistic and the romance reads more like a novella then a full length novel, Jordan’s fans will be thrilled to finally get Marian’s story. There are enough threads left hanging to pique reader interest and to hint at what might come next; keeping readers on their toes eager for the next chapter).

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Avon Oct 22. 2019

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The Princess Plan by Julia London

Historical Romance

★★★★

Scorching

A foreign prince, a trade deal, a murder, a gossip sheet and a scandal are the elements London turns into one of her best romances. Judge’s daughter Eliza Tricklebank has fought her way back from humiliation and heartbreak to attend a ball at Kensington Palace to welcome Sebastian Chartier, Prince of Alucia. Sebastian is in England in hopes of brokering a trade deal and to find an English bride. He barely notices Eliza. It is only after his secretary is murdered that circumstances thrust them together. Eliza is a spinster caring for her blind father, not a woman seeking adventure, but when a note about the killing is sent to Eliza’s home, she is drawn into the mystery. The contents of the note are published in a scandal sheet published by Eliza’s friend. Sebastian arrives on her doorstep demanding answers and is swiftly thrown out. However more encounters bring them together and a mutual respect, based on intelligence and honesty keep them closer. Soon they realize there is much more to their relationship than friendship and sleuthing. Yet, is it ever appropriate for Sebastian to marry a commoner?

With the charming characters and a mystery subplot, London lures readers into a truly delightful romance. Filled with humor and sensuality, a quick pace and enticing dialogue, readers will feast on London’s enchanting romance. 

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Avon, November 18, 2019

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The Mackenzie Clan Christmas by Jennifer Ashley

Historical Fiction

★★★★

Mild

Oh, how we love the Mackenzie Clan and Ashley brings them back in a holiday encore  that combines the entire previously published novella, A Mackenzie Christmas Gathering and a new short story A Mackenzie Yuletide. It’s so wonderful to see our favorite characters return and watch their children grow in touching stories that prove how family bonds and love are at the heart of the holidays. 

In A Mackenzie Yuletide the family gathers at their Scottish estate for Christmas and New Years. They need to find the gifts for one another. Both Ian and his son James   want to find a necklace as a gift for Beth. As they try to locate the piece of jewelry, they must also find out why a ghost has begun haunting the estate. There’s fun, a mystery or two and love of family and tradition. 

A Mackenzie Clan Gathering sees the family gathering to celebrate Hart’s birthday. But a robbery puts a damper on the celebration when a fortune in artwork is found to have been stolen. They will do whatever they must to reclaim their possessions. Meanwhile Ian is wondering if there is someone who can cure him of his “madness.” The family pulls together to not only catch a thief, but help Ian see he’s perfect the way he is. (Berkley, Oct)

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Berkley, October 29, 2019

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A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier

Historical Fiction

★★★★★

Mild

Though it’s 1932, 14 years after WWI ended, Violet Speedwell still mourns her fiancé and her brother. The 38 year-old spinster is one of  the surplus women whose loved ones were killed in the war. She barely manages to survive on her meager typist salary, subsisting on little food and less emotional support.  An opportunity to do some charity work for the Church opens a door for Violet. As a borderer guild member she embroiders seat and kneeler covers for Winchester Cathedral. Among the women in the guild is exuberant Louise Persel and the serious Mrs. Biggins. Yet all of them, especially Violet, have a place in the group. Their work is beautiful and appreciated. Life takes on a new meaning and for this “lost generation” healing begins. Violet gets up the courage to ask for a raise, go on a holiday and take solitary walks. She  starts to believe in the possibility of love and her ability to seize what life has to offer.

  

In Chevalier’s hands this sad tale becomes powerful and uplifting. She has given voice to women too often pushed aside and forgotten. Her depiction of 1930’s England and especially these surplus women, is heartfelt, realistic and compassionate.  Some may find the pace slow, but it seems perfectly aligned with the stitch-by-stitch embroidery so painstakingly executed to create beauty out of sadness. Truly a touching and thoughtful novel for those who want to think and feel. 

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Viking, September 5, 2019

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A Lady’s Deception by Susanna Craig

Historical Romance

★★★★

Scorching

Rosamund Gorse is running away from an unwanted marriage when barrister Paris Burke mistakes her for a candidate for a governess position.  Rosamund realizes it won’t be easy to fool Paris, but she’s desperate enough to try. Paris finds his sisters’ governess intriguing, witty and intelligent. He wishes he could bring a smile to her luscious lips.  But, he understands sadness since a failed Irish rebellion weighs heavily on his shoulders.  

Paris loves his family and he believes his actions have brought tragedy to their doorstep. As Paris wrestles with his guilt, Rosamund garners his sisters’ affection with her kindness and resourcefulness in discovering ingenious ways to teach two precocious girls.  Thrust together by his sisters, Paris and Rosamund may just find the path to love and redemption. 

Craig’s charming characters will enchant readers, but it’s the girls, a ghost and a kitten that engage readers from beginning to end in a plot that whisks them away for an evening or two.

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Lyrical, October 29, 2019

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Seduction on a Snowy Night by Madeline Hunter, Sabrina Jeffries and Mary Jo Putney

Regency romance anthology

★★★★

Mild

Warm up the season with a trio of Regency novellas centering on several couples caught off-guard by a snowstorm. These talented authors utilize the trope perfectly, delighting their fans with highly romantic, swoon-worthy love stories that linger in their hearts to wonderful affects.

Hunter’s A Christmas Abduction pits a determined spinster against an infamous rake; then adds abduction, sizzling chemistry and a startling surprise or two. Caroline Dunham needs to rectify her sister’s scandalous situation and the only way to do it is kidnap the scoundrel who seduced her. Baron Thornhill is on his way to his cousin’s country home for a holiday gathering when he’s taken hostage. He refutes Caroline’s claims that he is a scoundrel, but the instant attraction between them is undeniable. Suddenly Caroline begins to wonder if she has the right man.

A Perfect Match, Jeffries’s addition to the anthology and a true charmer is a bit of a Cyrano De Bergerac tale and begins as a dashing war hero meets the woman whose letters, secretly written as his best friend’s sister, kept his hopes high during the war.  Colonel Lord Haywood isn’t dressed for a ball so he waits outside, never expecting to meet Cassandra Isles, his compatriot’s sister. Haywood enjoyed the cleverly written letters his friend shared with him and hopes to marry the writer and heiress; never knowing who actually wrote the letters. When they’re caught by a snowstorm, Haywood begins to realize that Cassandra was the letter writer. But can he forsake a fortune for love?

One Wicked Winter Night by Mary Jo Putney allows readers into the lively romance of Lady Diana Lawrence who is dressed in veils for a masquerade ball while her one-time love, Castleton, is dressed as a corsair. When he spies Diana dressed as his counterpart, he whisks her away only to get snowbound. She had loved and lost him before.  But as an older self-made woman, she knew nothing could come of her relationship with a younger man. But Castleton is far wiser than his years and when he’s given the opportunity to once more woo Diana he seizes the chance One Wicked Winter Night.

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Kensington, September 24, 2019

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Today We Go Home  by Kelli Este

Historical Fiction

★★★★

Mild

While struggling at home in Washington State with PTSD from the loss of her friend, Sarah, in Afghanistan, Larkin Bennett discovers an old diary belonging to Emily Wilson, a young woman who disguised herself as a boy to join the fight as a Union soldier beside her brother Ben. The dual narrative brings us straight into both women’s lives and the heartbreak and horror of war and the healing that needs to s take place for both women to survive. 

This sad, beautiful and meaningful story honors those who serve and those suffering from PTSD. Estes writes clearly about war and the traumas faced by soldiers, then and now.  The alternating points of view add strength to the fictional sections, but readers may find it difficult to read realistic descriptions of battles, attempted suicide, illness, nightmares and flashbacks.  This is a story that needs to be told and few readers will be able to forget the experience they share with Larkin and Emily.

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Sourcebooks, November 6, 2019

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Seduced (London Sex Club)  By Kate Allure

Erotic Romance

★★★★★

Hot

Victoria Whittingsall worked too hard to become the youngest judge ever to rise to the High Court to start a liaison with a young barrister, no matter how much she may enjoy flirting with him. Being tempted to do so makes her look at her life. 

On her 43rd birthday, she realizes her longtime relationship with the status-conscious Rupert is not satisfying her. Attempts to get Rupert to take their sex life from missionary to exciting fail, and Tori ends things with him after realizing he wants to keep her in a staid, comfortable box.  

Her friend’s invitation to a sexy club is just what she needs. Tori is scared to join in, but can’t deny that watching the groups and scenes turns her on. Allure’s descriptions of the BDSM club are among the most creative and sexy among many in this genre and readers will want Tori to join in. Happily she does, finding she can’t resist one young man in particular. They flirt heavily, and Tori agrees to text and meet him again. When they have naughty, BDSM sex, she sees what’s she’s been missing and is enthralled with the new experiences. 

Ian realizes who his new lover is hearing her talk to a friend after she leaves him.  It’s the judge he has wanted for a long time. He can’t bring himself to tell her who he is. Tori falls hard, agreeing to meet again and submit for another electric scene. After this scene, she learns who he is, and wants nothing more to do with him. She also runs into Rupert at the club, and her anger at what he hid from her adds to her desire to leave the club for good.

Ian is undeterred, He starts courting her in earnest, sending delicious candies and her favorite flowers. The descriptions of these gifts will make readers swoon, and Tori agrees to meet with him. Rupert also asks for another chance, and wanting his friendship only, Tori reluctantly agrees, only to fall more than once for his attempts to make her a slave in increasingly violent scenes. 

Ian and Tori’s path to a relationship invokes chemistry and passion, along with fun surprises for the reader. The dialogue between Ian and Tori in particular sparkles with sexy banter even in the courtroom. Plenty of humor and creative sexy scenes will make readers look forward to the next book in this series. 

Reviewed by Amy Alessio

Published by Entangled Publishing, October 21, 2019

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Beyond the Black Door  A. M. Strickland

YA fantasy

★★★★★

Mild

I feel like at its center, this book is the power of a mother’s love, but it’s also so much more than that. Kamai has always seen the black door when Soulwalking with her mother, but her mom warned her never to open it because It wanted her to open the door. When her world is destroyed, in a fit of anger and sadness Kamai opens the black door and secrets are revealed while truths are hidden from her.

 

This book means so much to me, and when I decided to read it I didn’t expect it to. I’m always on the lookout for more books with asexual protagonists, and the rep in this story is absolutely incredible. Kamai’s mother, Marin, is a sex worker and a spy, and Kamai wants to follow in her footsteps, but she’s never felt sexual attraction. For a while she feels broken because it seems like everyone else feels that way and she just…doesn’t, but finding words, validation, and community changes that for Kamai. That experience of feeling broken, trying to force those feelings, is so familiar and the relief to learn the absence of sexual attraction is it’s own kind of normal, those scenes made me cry because they’re so relatable.

 

This book is also a story of strong friendships. I love Kihan from the moment I met him and the way he cares for Kamai is so wonderful. They have such a strong bond, and the trust they develop between each other warmed my heart. I’ll admit, I hoped for romance to end up between Kamai and Kihan, but that isn’t the case, and I think in the end I’m happier that they stay platonically in love rather than things becoming romantic.

 

And the plot!! Holy crap, the twists and turns the climax took were incredible and all the ways it was built up to was so well done. The beginning was a little slow-going for me, though I was immediately intrigued by the mythology of Tain, Heshara, and Ranta as well as the concept of soulwalking. The magic of the world is so interesting and the way politics are tied to their belief system was fascinating. Plus, I love that a card game is so central and I feel like the attention to that seemingly mundane detail really adds depth to the world building. Then there are the different powers at play and the myriad truths and secrets being kept hidden or twisted to further different factions’ end goals.

 

This book blew me away. I was not prepared for the way the last third was unputdownable and I would recommend this on asexual rep alone. The romance was well done and heartbreaking in many ways (do not come into this expecting a HEA) but I especially appreciated that Vehyn’s toxic behaviors were always colored as such. I love the friendships and I would absolutely love to read more in this world, especially if it meant getting more of Kihan’s story.

 

Strongly recommend for asexual grey-a-romantic protagonist, asexual side characters, strong friendships, twisty plot, and fantastic world building.

Reviewed by Laura Fliege

Published by Imprint, October 29, 2019

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The Secret Wife of Aaron Burr  by Susan Holloway Scott

Historical Fiction

★★★★

Mild

Scott has made it her task to enlighten us about the lives of forgotten American women; none more so than Mary Emmons.  It is obvious Scott did her research into the history of the era, but mostly delving into Burr’s life. But since there is little known about Mary (we know her history as a slave, her affair with Burr and her children’s lives), Scott could “play” with the facts and embellish the story making Mary a three dimensional character.   Resilient, courageous and clever, Mary learned from a very young age how to survive the indignity of slavery. Born of a rape in India, Mary was a half/caste sold by her uncle to a wealthy French woman who made her a “pet.” She sailed with her mistress to a West Indian plantation and then on to the colonies with a sympathetic colonist. Mary found  the courage to adapt and in the end to find love and freedom, but not without sacrifice. 

Her story inspires us and many will find themselves transfixed by her strong voice as she tells us her story.  It is the first-person account that draws readers straight into this fictionalized biography. Readers will believe they know Mary and feel all that she experiences; see all she sees and know the people she encounters; especially Theodosia Prescott Burr and Aaron Burr. Scott’s portrait of Burr is fascinating. At times he is charming and at others unlikable, yet always intriguing. He meets Mary when she is brought into Theodosia’s New Jersey home  and comes with her mistress upon her marriage to Burr. Theirs is a complicated relationship filled with ups and downs. He is a powerful man, she is a slave, each will marry and move on as Mary gains her freedom and Burr pushes his political career. Scott brilliantly uses the tangled threads of history to weave her gripping tapestry and readers will be utterly fascinated as the story unfolds in Mary’s words. Kudos to Scott for an eye opening read!

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Kensington, September 24, 2019

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Human Enough  by E. S. Yu

Paranormal romance

★★★★★

Mild

I really liked this book. I wouldn’t necessarily classify this as fluff because there are several scenes of violence, prejudice, and ableism, but the relationship between Noah and Jordan is soft and sweet.

 

Noah Lau is a vampire hunter, part of the Vampire Hunter Association formally Van Helsing Agency, and he’s in a (sorta secret) relationship with vampire Jordan Cross. They’ve been together about four months and the book is told by alternating between when they met and present day. Noah has noticed the VHA investigators seem to be dispensing faulty intelligence and is worried that they may have killed vampires they shouldn’t have in the present story line. Jordan and Noah met when the vampire who turned Jordan kidnaps Noah and shows how they escape and fall in love.

 

This book has some of the best autistic representation I’ve come across--on par with Talia Hibbert and Xan West--and seeing Noah be unapologetically autistic was so wonderful and validating. There are several times he muses on masking and the things that are easy for allistic folks but aren’t so obvious to him. I really loved those parts and would recommend this story on that alone.

 

I also really loved when Jordan learns about asexuality. He was born in 1921 and the vampire who turned him didn’t give him much access to the internet so when Noah mentions the different identities, Jordan does some research of his own. Him telling Noah that he’s asexual and realizing he’s not broken resonated so deeply with me and my own experiences of realizing there’s a word for those feelings.

 

I really like the way the story was told and the conflict didn’t come from the romantic relationship. Noah and Jordan work really well together and are a great support system. I also loved Noah’s sister and how supportive of Noah she is. I do wish they’d gone more into whether Jordan is related to one of the characters, especially because they meet, but that thread isn’t explored beyond the initial wonderings.

 

Overall, this was a really good read. I loved the romantic relationship and the autistic rep, and the mystery and tension was really well done.

Reviewed by Laura Fliegel

Published by Publisher NineStar Press, Oct 7, 2019

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Xeni by Rebekah Weatherspoon

Contemporary romance

★★★★★

Hot

I swear, every book by Rebekah Weatherspoon makes me love her writing even more! Xeni is one of Sloan’s friends from Rafe and I was looking forward to her story after she announced to Sloan she got married! And this book did not disappoint! There are so many swoony moments between Xeni and Mason as they fall in love amidst a marriage orchestrated by Xeni’s recently-deceased aunt as a stipulation for their inheritance. I also loved the community Xeni finds in New York as well as the family and community she has back home in L.A. 

 

This book was so fun and sweet, and I loved the banter and chemistry between Mason and Xeni. I appreciated how neither of them want children and that isn’t seen in any way as a negative. I also love that both Xeni and Mason are openly bisexual and in no way does that cause conflict for either of them. Also, there is a VERY SEXY pegging scene! Cuz one (of many) things Rebekah Weatherspoon does really well is sex scenes; the heat could steam a car window!

 

Strongly recommended for a fun marriage-of-convenience romance between a Black confident bisexual witch and fat white Scottish bisexual man!

Reviewed by Laura Fliegel

Published by GP Putnam & Sons, December 3, 2019

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Would Like to Meet by Rachel Winter

Contemporary romantic comedy

★★★★★

Mild

Like any good rom-com, this was predictable in the most enjoyable of ways. Evie is an assistant at one of the most well known talent agencies in London, and when one of the agency’s clients isn’t delivering the promised rom-com script, she makes a deal with Ezra (aka: NOB)—during his three-month extension she will reenact famous meet-cute moments from movies to provide inspiration. When fulfilling her part of the bargain by doing a “drink spill” she meets Ben and Annette, a father and daughter who keep playing witness to her hilarious attempts of meeting the one.

 

The chapters start with scene descriptions, and I felt that was such a wonderful touch for a book about script writing. I had a lot of fun reading this because Evie was such a disaster at times, but she kept trying—and by being willing to make a fool of herself, she helped Annette build her own confidence. Annette wears hearing aids and apparently some of the parents at her school believe she shouldn’t take them out so she can be “normal,” but Evie shows her that she doesn’t have to be normal to be wonderful.

 

Another fantastic element of this book was Evie’s friendship with Sarah, Jeremy, and Maria (aka: JEMS). They are family to one another, there for each other through thick and thin. They’re helping Sarah put on her hen do before her wedding, and while Evie has selfish moments around creating new meet-cute scenarios, it’s impossible not to see how much all four love each other as they try to make Sarah’s wedding plans come together as she dreams and encourage Evie to try to rekindle her love of screenwriting. There is also a great moment where they realize they haven’t been as great being there for one another and open up and make changes to strengthen their friendship.

 

I really had a lot of fun reading this—it really felt like watching a romantic comedy. It’s definitely predictable, but that works really well for it. Even knowing some of the twists, it in no way detracted from my enjoyment of Evie’s story. Overall this was a fun read that I strongly recommend to fans of romantic comedy movies!

Reviewed by Laura Fliegel

Published by GP Putnam & Sons, December 3, 2019

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A Family by Christmas  by Viv Royce

Contemporary Romance

★★★

Mild

I was immediately drawn to this book by the cute, festive cover. This is a sweet story of a single father whose daughter just wants him to be happy, and turns to local chocolatier Emma to make him some magic bonbons. When Grant goes to meet the creator of the delicious chocolates, there is a quick bond formed and they begin spending time together as he helps her make deliveries and she helps his family set up the Christmas festival booths.

 

This was a cute, sweet romance, but it felt really fast, as though things happened on a rushed timeline. I wish there had been more scenes with Cassie because she was super cute and definitely a driving force that brought Emma and Grant together. I did enjoy the familial bonds Grant has with his sister and parents, and how readily they accepted Emma into their fold.

 

Overall, definitely a sweet little read, but it felt a little rushed at times and I would have enjoyed more with the daughter and seeing the three of them create a family unit.

Reviewed by Laura Fliegel

Published by Entangled, October 14, 2019

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American Love Story, Dreamers #3 by Adriana Herrera

Contemporary Romance

★★★★★

HOT 

This is the best Dreamers book yet!! And that cover? I cannot get over the beauty and that wonderful smile!!

 

Patrice is a new professor at Cornell in Ithaca and he came to America from Haiti when he was six with his mother. He has strong activist roots as a Black man and focuses his research on things like implicit bias and being an immigrant. Almost two years ago when his best friend, Nesto, set up his food truck in Ithaca, Patrice came to help and met Easton, a white assistant district attorney whose family runs a local winery. They’ve had a relationship strong on the sexual chemistry and weak on communication, but now that Patrice is in Ithaca to stay, they start getting to know one another outside the bedroom.

 

One of the strongest things about this series has been the friendships between Juan Pablo, Nesto, Camilo and Patrice, a group of young Afro-Latinx Caribbean immigrants who have built a strong familial bond between themselves. They are each other’s support network and the people they know have their back no matter what happens. This series is also a love letter to mothers who give their all to their children. Patrice’s mother was the mistress of an influential man in Haiti, which was a big part of how they were able to get out of Haiti when political changes were happening, but she also worked her hardest to ensure her son would get the best education possible and that she’d be able to support herself and him in achieving their goals.

 

I really liked how much this book in particular looked at how inaction from people in positions of power when communities, especially Black and Brown communities, are being harmed can seem like ignoring the situation or even encouraging that harm to continue. A central part of the story is how the local cops have started “”routine stops”” that are mainly targeting Black and Brown young men, and the sheriff is afraid to do much more than slap some wrists and the district attorney, Easton’s boss, is afraid to say anything because she doesn’t want to lose the support of local law enforcement with their cases. Easton feels conflicted as he wants to speak up, but isn’t sure what to say and isn’t allowed to because of the local politics. This book, I feel, really looked at the complexity of those situations, but also pulled no punches with how those kinds of situations affect Black and Brown communities especially and negatively impact the local community as a whole.

 

At its center, though, this is a romance. I loved seeing Easton and Patrice slowly and gradually lower their walls around each other and work on communicating feelings and experiences, rather than just letting their bodies do the talking.

 

Overall, definitely my favorite of the Dreamers series and a book that really makes me think about the casual racism and implicit biases that turn “routine traffic stops” into “life or death.”

Reviewed by Laura Fliegel

Publisher by Carina Press, October 7, 2019

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The Marquis She’s Been Waiting For by Ella Quinn

Historical Romance

★★★★

Scorching

Alexander, Marquis of Exeter, comes home to find his father has died and his mother has run off with their steward. Now, he is responsible for his sister who has been raised by a governess. He needs a wife to manage his household and he needs one fast. He must return to Parliament as soon as possible. He has no time to learn how to handle his new duties. Enter Lady Dorie Calthorp, the ideal wife. But, Dorie has her own ideas. She doesn’t want to be relegated to household manager or his sister’s stepmother. She will teach Alex how to assume his role and find him a bride. Dorie believes Alex will find true love, if he has the time to woo and win a bride. The longer their lessons go on, the more Alex believes he has found “the one.” He wants to tutor Dorie in the ways of love. But, how to convince a reluctant lady?

Quinn crafts another utterly delightful, charming romance that makes readers’ hearts beat faster. The endearing characters, the whip smart dialogue and their heated lessons are just what readers need on a cool fall evening.  Though the plotline isn’t new, Quinn crafts a classic romance with panache and her fans will adore every moment as her hero and heroine fine their HEA. 

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Kensington, September 3, 2019

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To Wed a Wild Scott  by Anna Bradley

Historical Romance

★★★★

Scorching

The second novel in the Besotted Scots series is smart, sassy and fun. Take two stubborn people, add a witty dialogue and battle of wills and plenty of heat and you have a delightful, fast-paced romance that fulfills Scottish romance reader’s dreams. 

Lady Juliana Bernard, daughter of the Marquis of Graystone, should not have any difficulty finding a husband, but she has had not one, but too broken engagements because she wanted her grooms to wed women they loved. But, now she needs to marry quickly or lose guardianship of her niece, Grace.  She will keep Grace out of her villainous relatives hands at all cost. Juliana decides to find her childhood friend, The Duke of Blackmore, in Scotland and convince him into a marriage of convenience. Her plan goes awry when she discovers he’s already engaged. The only choice she has is to marry his twin brother, Liard Logan Blair. The man she believes is a wild Scot is more than she bargained for.  Logan has good reason to despise the English and taking a British bride is not his first choice. They each bring emotional baggage and secrets into their marriage, yet as they clash wills and wits they begin to view one another as equals. Both are proud, determined, protective and caring, qualities that draw them together and build a relationship and an unexpected love that help they keep their enemies at bay. 

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Kensington, September 17, 2019

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The Paris Orphan  by Natasha Lester

Historical Fiction

★★★★★

Mild

Lester sheds light on forgotten WWII events and the women who help get the news about the war back to America through the lens of their cameras. Well-researched and richly detailed, Lester’s crisp prose immediately draws readers into the story based on real life heroines who have been overlooked by history. These resilient photographers and journalists were discriminated against, yet continued to put themselves in the line of fire so Americans and the world could see the war from another point of view.  Lester tells an inspiring story that needs telling in a dual narrative of WWII and present. Two women separated by decades yet linked by a surprising connection. A book to add to your WWII library. 

Art dealer D’Arcy Hallworth has been called from Australia to Paris to handle an anonymous photographer’s collection of photos and get them ready for an exhibit. She works along with American agent John Vaigh to get the photos ready. Oddly, D’Arcy discovers images of her mother, Victoria, in many of the pictures and wonders at the mysteries of her mother’s past.  In 1942 ex-model, Jessica May is working as a photojournalist for Vogue in Paris where she meets Dan Hallworth, an American paratrooper. Jessica has been facing harassment from the military, but with the help of fellow photographer Martha Gellhorn she’s fighting the establishment, trying to get to the frontlines. Dan is able to show her where to get some amazing pictures.  Still she spends most of her time in a field hospital where she meets Victoria, Dan’s “niece.” The child, orphaned by the war and “adopted” by Dan, shows Jessica love, something in short supply. The more D’Arcy delves into the past, the more she questions everything she knew about her life. Searching for the answers will bring her closer to her mother and the realization that Dan Hallworth, Editor-in-Chief of Word Media, is not just her mother’s boss. 

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Forever, September 3, 2019

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The Spitfire  by Christi Caldwell

Regency Romance

★★★★

SCORCHING

For her fifth novel in the Wicked Wallflower series, Caldwell delivers a passionate, out-of-the box romance with a fresh plotline and original characters. This is no lightweight Regency romance, but one that brings readers into the dark side of the era and a story between mature lovers that will resonate with many.  Some may feel that the heroine is too quick to forgive, but her strength of character and both their trials and tribulations will have readers cheering them on to their HEA.

Clara Winters has left her old life as a courtesan/madam at the Devil’s Den hoping to open a music hall, The Muses, where all men and women can enjoy an evening out.  Henry March, Earl of Waterson and MP, believes he can find a way to better the lives of those in the lower classes. His fight is based on tragedy. Forced to assume the tile at a young age, Henry never had the time to enjoy his youth and after his sister’s vicious attack he has spent his life striving to make a world where no one needs to use violence to survive.  But he truly doesn’t understand what the “lower classes” face until he’s beaten and left near dead in St. Giles. Clara finds him, brings him to her home and tends his wounds. While he heals, Henry begins to see life outside the aristocracy for the first time. He enjoys Clara’s company, sparring wits and words with her. But once he heals and returns to his world, Henry is faced with a dilemma. To gain the political power he needs, he will have to sign a cease and desist letter for the Muses; destroying Clara’s dream.  

How Caldwell manages to bring them together with mutual understanding is what makes this a romance to remember.

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Montlake, September 10, 2019

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Once a Spy by Mary Jo Putney

Historical Fiction

★★★★★

SCORCHING

Putney returns to the world she knows best, espionage during the Napoleonic Wars, with a skillfully written marriage of convenience, adventure/ romance. Her unique, smart, empathetic characters leap from the pages while the fast-paced plot brims with wonderful historical details to a roller coaster ride culminating at The Battle of Waterloo. Putney never overwhelms readers with history, but uses the events to transport them straight into the romance, setting the stage for an unforgettable read.

Simon Duval recently resigned his commission as a British Intelligence agent due to Napoleon’s abdication. Coming back to England he searches for his deceased cousin’s wife Suzanne Duval. Since fleeing France, Suzanne, no longer the Comptesse de Chambron, works as a seamstress living in far less splendor then before the war. Realizing they share some of the same difficult life changes, Simon proposes a marriage of convenience since neither have expectations of love. Suzanne will be a fine companion and helpmate as he searches for his missing foster brother, Lucas. Then Napoleon escapes and Wellington calls on Simon for a special assignment--one they hope will stop the war. Simon includes Suzanne on his mission and the two head to Brussels. The dangers they face keep them close and friendship turns to passion. Most of all their newfound love allows old wounds to heal and past memories to be driven away.  As tensions mount and it appears a battle will be imminent, Simon and Suzanne must place their faith in their love to survive. 

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Kensington Books, September 24, 2019

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The Bewildered Bride by Erica Ridley

Historical Fiction

★★★★

SCORCHING

Readers familiar with Ridley’s Advertisement for Love will quickly realize there is a great deal more to her latest installment with its diverse and unique cast of characters, darker themes and great depth of emotion. Ridley shows her own growth as a writer as well as her characters’ development throughout this hard to put down love story.  Gentle readers need to beware of the violence that is incorporated into the romance, but if you are a reader searching for an intense story and not afraid to delve into an emotional abyss to come to your HEA, then this powerful tale of resilience, courage and redemption is for you. 

Ruth Croome is a Blackamoor Heiress so in love with Adam Wilky that she foregoes a traditional wedding to run off and elope. On their way home the newlyweds are waylaid and brutally attacked. Each believes the other is dead. Adam is impressed into the Royal Navy and Ruth is left in a brothel. When she is rescued, few of her friends or family believe she was ever married and that the child she bears is legitimate.  Ruth bears great shame, but holds her head high. Four years later Adam returns to have his revenge and finds his beloved Ruth and his child. It is a shock to see one another, but more surprising is that Adam is not her husband’s name. He is actually a nobleman known as Wycliffe who wooed and married her using his short name to be sure they wed for love. He also discovers how Ruth has suffered for their love both emotionally and physically from the fallout of the attack. Adam may need his revenge, but Ruth needs him to understand her and what she needs if their love has any hope of surviving. 

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Entangled, August 2019

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The Scotsman Who Swept Me Away by Hannah Howell

Historical Romance

★★★★★

SCORCHING

Howell sweeps readers away to the Maine coast in a lovely romance that captures the aura of Civil War era New England. Many of Howell’s readers may find this tale filled with more peace and calm then many of her romances, but such a fitting atmosphere for the characters that they will still be completely immersed in the story that continues the Seven Brides for Seven Scotsman series.  The finely crafted prose, dialogue and even slower pace fill readers with a joy that only Howell can create and the added bonus of family devotion and a caring for the land will resonate with many. 

On the Maine coast Mehitabel Ampleford has full control over her person and her land, except for the continual raids on her home by her greedy neighbor.  When a strong desire to see the sea again strikes, Geordie MacEnroy is glad to have the opportunity to accompany his brother, Robbie, to the coast where he can recuperate from wounds incurred in the Civil War. On their journey they encounter bullies and chase them off of Belle’s land. Belle uses her healing skills to end Robbie’s wounds and Geordie falls head over heels in love with her.  He has to convince the strong, independent woman of the power of his love, but when he does, they have to decide whether or not to stay on her land or go back to the MacEnroy home? 

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Kensington, August 27, 2019

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The Merry Viscount by Sally MacKenzie

Historical Romance

★★★★

SCORCHING

MacKenzie, known for funny, sexy Regency romps, delivers a absolutely delightful
holiday set romance that is both laugh out loud funny and tender. This well-crafted love
story has the quick pace MacKenzie fans expect, with charming and sometimes
surprising characters and the feel good HEA everyone desires. Kick up your heels and
take a chance to enjoy this holiday treat.


As the holiday season approaches the ladies of Puddington Manor’s benevolent Home are
brewing a new batch of the fine ale in hopes of selling the brew to a London tavern. It is
gong to be Caroline Anderson’s job to convince the tavern owner to make the deal.
However, she’s not successful and to make matters worse her returning coach gets stuck
and she’s forced to take shelter at Viscount Oakland’s estate. Nick St. John is her
brother’s friend and as a girl Caro was infatuated with him. When Nick opens his door
he expects another guest for his seasonal party–a wildly outrageous, very naughty party.
Imagine his stunned expression when he finds Caro on his doorstep. How can he refuse
her, but what will happen when she realizes the other ladies are of the “adventurous type”
and the gentlemen are like no one Caro has met. Caro has never seen anything like this
and instead of being completely repelled, she’s rather intrigued. Suddenly Nick sees an
entirely new side to the girl he once knew and wonders if there could be more to their
“friendship” then he ever dreamed.

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Kensington, September 24, 2019

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The Winemaker’s Wife by Kristen Harmel

Historical Fiction

★★★

MILD

Harmel (The Room on Rue Amelie) has created a touching WWII story set in the both the Champagne region of France during the Nazi occupation and the present day. The dual narrative is intriguing and gives readers a unique portrait of what circumstances can do to destroy marriages. Though the details of winemaking are fascinating, many might want Harmel’s characters to have more emotional depth and the era’s history to play a more prominent role in the unfolding tale, which may have enhanced the pacing and reader involvement. Still and all, those intrigued by the many different aspects of the war will find The Winemaker’s Wife a nice addition to their library.

It is 1940 and though they are far from Paris, the German Occupation takes its toll on the inhabitants of wine country. Newlyweds Inez and Michael of Maison Chauveau are caught up in the war when Michael begins working for the Resistance. She fears his clandestine activities will place them in danger and destroy their marriage. But, it is Celine, their Chef de Cave’s, wife who has the most to lose. Few realize she is a half Jewish.

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Gallery Books, August 13, 2019

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One Fine Duke  by Lenora Bell

Regency Romance

★★★★

SCORCHING

Sometimes we think we know what we want and that can be very dangerous because a kiss can change everything. Miss Mina Penny knows what and who she wants; the rakish Rafe Bentley. She won’t stay in the country or allow her uncle to push her into marriage with Rafe’s somber, staid brother, Andrew, the Duke of Thorndon.  Her uncle might have chosen Drew as her husband, but she has her own ideas and she does her best to convince Drew they’re not suited. Though his brother gads about town, Drew keeps a quiet profile on their country estate. He only agreed to come to town because his uncle claims his sister is in danger. But since he’s there he believes he should look for a bride; a lovely proper young lady.   How hard can it be? After all he is a duke! But, suddenly Miss Penny appears. He hates to admit it, but she’s attracted to the spoiled miss, even though she’s infatuated with his ne’re do well brother.

Just how these two manage to find their way to one another is a joy to read. Bell crafts a sensual, sweet love story about very different people who learn to accept each other despite their flaws. Drew suffers from PTSD due to a horrific life experience and Bell handles his trauma with sensitivity and compassion.  Mina is spoiled and impetuous, and her character growth is a pleasure to see. Readers will eagerly spend a wonderful evening engrossed in this magical romance.

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Avon, July 23, 2019

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Ride the High Lonesome by Roseanne Bittner

Western Romance

★★★★★

SCORCHING

Bittern, a grand Mistress of powerful, gritty Western romance does it again; beginning The Outlaw Trail series with a deeply atmospheric, realistic story that explores the darker side of the Old West. Still, Bittner maintains the idea that love can be found in the darkest of times and allows for peace to grow in the middle of chaos. Bittner’s fans know what they want and she gives it to them in spades; history, romance and the real West!

When the wagon train she is traveling on is attacked, Kate Winters is left to fend for herself in the middle of outlaw territory. Somehow she has managed to stay alive, but she needs a horse or she’ll never make it to the nearest town.  When she comes upon a gang of outlaws hanging a cowboy, she sees the opportunity to steal a dead man’s horse. The problem is Luke Bowden isn’t dead. He’s a man bent on revenge and he can’t let Kate take his only way out of the outlaw trail.   But, since she saved his life, Luke will take Kate with him. First he has them hole up in a cave where he can safely leave Kate while he checks out the area. Kate has no choice, but to go with Luke and to trust his word that he will return. Kate learns how strong she is when she’s attacked by an outlaw and shoots him to save herself before Luke returns. Luke respects her fortitude and   Kate realizes he is a man of his word. They only have one another and it is logical they will fall in love, but can Luke give up his quest for vengeance for Kate

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Sourcebooks, November 15, 2019

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The Duke is But a Dream by Anna Bennett

Historical Romance

★★★

SCORCHING

Miss Lily Hartley and her friends devised a clever scheme--something they call the Debutante Dairies. Lily’s contribution to their publication is a column entitled The Debutante’s Revenge.  But she can’t be seen delivering her work to The London Hearsay, so she disguises herself as a chimney sweep.  She believes no one would believe she and the urchin were one and the same. However, when she’s caught in a bar room brawl, hit on the head and rescued by the Duke of Stonebridge, Eric North, it appears the jig is up. Stonebridge catches her by holding copies of Lily’s latest advice for young ladies. He realizes the lad is a lady and he’s ready to bring her to her home when he realizes she has no memory of who she is. Thus his only option is to take her to his residence, hoping she’ll remember. Lily is trying to get her bearings, but her handsome rescuer is wreaking havoc with her thoughts. He’s kind, concerned about his sister, protective and understanding. Just the man she could love. 

If you can suspend your disbelief long enough, Bennett’s second Debutante Dairies book will be an enjoyable read, but it takes a lot of to buy into this romance. From the amnesia to falling in love is a bit of a stretch, however, the tale is well written and the characters charming enough to have many keep on to the HEA.

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by St. Martin’s Press, July 30, 2019

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Waiting for a Rogue by Marie Tremayne

Historical Romance

★★★★

SCORCHING

If you enjoy a quick, fun read with lots of heat and repartee then you’ll savor Waiting for a Rogue, the third novel in the Reluctant Brides series. Though this is a stand-alone romance, it is much more meaningful if you’re already a fan of the series and understand Caroline’s protective nature towards her friends and family.  Though she has a lot of growing to do, it’s with Jonathan’s help and his constant teasing that Caroline becomes the right woman for him. Just a delight to read.  

Following a harrowing Season, Lady Caroline Rowe’s only desire is to live quietly with her elderly aunt on her family’s estate. However, a boundary dispute with her neighbor, an interloping American, forces her out of her safety zone. Jonathan Cartwick never expected nor wanted his estranged uncle’s title. The only interesting aspect of his life is Caroline; she might be infuriating, but it’s fun to play a game of wits and words with her. Caroline believes Jonathan is insufferable, but he is handsome. Caroline interests Jonathan. Why would a beautiful, intelligent young woman hide in the country and be so stubborn over a boundary line?  Then Caroline’s parents insist she marry and maybe there’s a deal she and Jonathan can make?

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Avon, , July 2 2019

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The Scoundrel in Her Bed by Lorraine Heath

Historical Romance

★★★★★

SCORCHING

Heath demonstrates the power of young love in her highly emotional third Sins for All Seasons installment. There is angst and heartbreak, youthful desire and adult passion as Heath’s story unfolds through flashbacks. But it is the depth of emotional Heath elicits from her characters and her readers that makes each and every one of her novels a “keeper.” This is Heath at her best.

When 15 year-old Lady Lavinia Kent is thrown by her beloved horse, her father orders the horse be put down, though Viv fights against it. Bastard son of a nobleman, Finn Trewlove, was left with a London baby farmer 19 years ago.  He has found work as a horse slaughterer. He helps Viv rescue Sophie and for two years she secretly meets with Finn to ride Sophie. Young love blooms, but her family ruthlessly thwarts their plans for a future. Eight years later, while Viv is working in London’s underworld to help children like Finn, when he rescues her from danger. They each have secrets that could keep them apart, but they cannot deny that their youthful love can be rekindled and burn hotter than ever if they can sort out their feelings of betrayal and anger.  

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Avon, February 2019

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The Rogue to Ruin by Vivienne Lorret

Historical Fiction

★★★★

SCORCHING

Readers of The Misadventures in Matchmaking series have been anticipating this final episode and Lorret doesn’t disappoint with a romance that incorporates several of readers’ favorite themes; enemies to lovers, a fake engagement and a delightful battle of wills. But, there is a darker and deeply emotional side to the story that will hold many a reader’s attention. Smartly written and well paced, this is a read now and keep to read again romance.

As soon as ex-boxer and business owner Reed Sterling discovers that the Bourne sisters have opened a matrimonial agency right across from his exclusive gambling Hell, he’s livid. However, he does find Ainsley Bourne rather fascinating and he’s more intrigued each time they meet wondering why she flinches when he moves his arm. Reed senses she’s experienced abuse and finds all he wants to do is protect her. Ainsley wants nothing to do with Reed and decides to begin a campaign against his business. It’s all out war until both their businesses are threatened and they must work together to find a way to save their livelihoods and their newfound love. 

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Avon, July 30, 2019

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This Earl of Mine by Kate Bateman

Historical Romance

★★★★

SCORCHING

For the debut of The Bow Street Bachelors, Bateman relies on the ever-popular trope; the secret marriage of convenience and then puts her own very special spin on this charming love story. Readers will adore the banter between the highly relatable hero and heroine as their slow burn desire spills over into deep passion. Add a mystery, centering on a plot to free Napoleon, via submarine, and you have enough suspense to keep you glued to the pages. A wonderfully diverting read.

Georgina Caverstead, shipping heiress and businesswoman, is tired of being pursued by men for her money. But without a husband she fears her greedy cousin with get his filthy hands on her fortune. To thwart him she decides to marry a condemned man; a husband with no strings attached. Benedict Wilde is undercover in Newgate when Georgina chooses him as her soon to be dead husband. The ceremony is brief, but his kiss isn’t. Imagine Georgina’s surprise when she glimpses her deceased husband across a ballroom. Now their marriage would be out in the open unless they have a pretend courtship. Georgina discovers that Benedict, though rumored to be a rake, is a man of his word. He might need money to help his family maintain their estate, but he is not after her fortune.  When Georgina discovers he’s on a case, she can’t resist helping and their passion bursts forth as a traitor’s dangerous plot unfolds. 

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by St. Martin, October 29, 2019

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Outlaw Hearts  by Amy Sandas

Historical Fiction

★★★★

SCORCHING

Looking for a classic Western romance ala Bitter, Gentry and Taylor? Look no further than Sandas’ latest Runaway Brides installment. Sandas combines the aura of the Old West with adventure, romance and a traditional plotline that has resonated with Western fans for decades. The strong hero, almost damsel in distress heroine and ruthless villain are standard fare, but Sandas infuses her characters with heart and soul leaving readers utterly satisfied with the series HEA.

Desperate to flee her abusive husband, socialite Evelyn Perkins manages to sneak out of their home and catch a train. She knows she’ll be safe if she can reach her closest friends out West. Then her train is attacked by robbers who abduct Evelyn to hold her for ransom. The moment Gabriel Sloan sees Evelyn he feels an overwhelming need to protect her. Though Gabe has his own agenda, he makes sure Evelyn, who they believe is Sarah Cummings, will be safe from harm. Evelyn has never met a man like Gabe, an outlaw with a heat of gold and she feels safer with him then anyone. But, they have to keep one step ahead of her husband’s men and Gabe’s outlaw “friends” if she is to remain safe.

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Sourcebooks, October 29, 2019

The Wallflower Wager by Tessa Dare

Historical Rom Com

★★★★★

SCORCHING

From the queen of historical romantic comedy comes a wondrous love story of an eccentric animal loving spinster and a gruff self-made nobleman aristocrat. There is so much adorable cuteness from the heroine and her menagerie (a foul mouthed parrot, a crippled dog, a goat, a bull, an otter and a hedgehog), but there is great emotional depth as Dare sensitively deals with abuse. Dare is a master at combining quirky characters with compassion and sensuality so readers can laugh through their tears and be utterly satisfied and ready to read this delicious, heartfelt romance again and again. 

Lady Penelope Campion is a self-appointed caretaker of wounded animals. When her parrot escapes, she climbs through the windows of the empty house next door to rescue her. But the under-renovation townhouse isn’t empty. Gabriel Duke, aka the Duke of Ruin, is there. Gabriel makes his fortune by taking “useless items” and turning them into gems.  Gabriel has hopes of selling the house for a high price because of its proximity to a lady of the ton. But, if she continues to walk the goat, nurse the kittens and aid the wheelchair dog on the front lawn he fears no one will purchase the home.  Penny sees Gabriel as another in need of love so she will send them away if Gabriel helps find them loving homes.  Though neither cares to admit it, there is an instant attraction between them and, as they attempt to get her menagerie adopted, Gabriel sees Penny as a kind and gentlewoman while she gets a glimpse of the lonely boy who vowed to make it out of the slums.  He begins to understand Penny’s fears and works to overcome them as she begins healing his heart.  Yet, there are still obstacles to overcome and old pain to heal before Penny and Gabriel can find happiness.  

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Avon, August 13, 2019

How to Love a Duke in Ten Days by Kerrigan Byrne

Historical Romance

★★★★★

SCORCHING

 

Byrne is a luminous star in the romance world crafting smart, sensual romances that deliver depth of emotion, a refreshing storyline and memorable characters.  The debut of The Devil You Know series captivates from the first scene to the last word.  Though gentle reads might be taken aback they’ll quickly be swept into the lives of three school friends who share a dark secret.   Byrne tackles many issues with sensitivity; from the vulnerability of a young woman, to the soul of a tormented hero. Add a powerful female friendship, a mystery with heated sensuality and even a bit of humor and you have a “keeper.”

Lady Alexandra Lane holds a doctorate in archaeology. She’s a brilliant and seemingly fearless woman except for the fact that she’s paying off a blackmailer to keep her past out of the present. She’s nearly bankrupt. When she goes to the country to help her friend out of an unwanted marriage, Alex finds the solution; marry the man herself. The Duke of Redmayne, Piers Gavin Atherson, best known as the Terror of Torcliff, is intrigued by Alex the moment he sees her calm a wild stallion. He needs to marry as part of his own schemes and when Alex proposes he wed her instead of his intended bride he can’t deny his desire. Love comes hot and fast for Alex and Piers, but danger haunts their steps as she gentles his tortured soul and he heals her mind and body with his passion. 

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Avon, August 27, 2019

The Marked Prince by M. A. Grant

Contemporary M/M

★★★★

MILD

I enjoyed The Marked Prince a lot more than The Prince of Air and Darkness. It felt less dark and grim, and I found it easier to get through. Sebastian is a half-Seelie, half-Unseelie Prince of the Seelie court and when the threat of war caused the courts to seal their borders he went to the Unseelie court because of the friends he had from Mather’s. Unfortunately because of his mixed lineage and his use of Seelie glamour he was unwelcome in the Winter Court, so Roark and Finny offer him protection if he’ll help them reclaim/rescue the defected High Prince. Sláine was sent to the Seelie court to help negotiate accords and keep the threat of war minimized, but was tricked by the High Princess and held in Thrall as a prisoner of war, and unable to reveal his true identity. When Sebastian returns to the Seelie court to rescue who he thinks is Sláine he ends up claiming the prisoner Duinne from Aoife as his personal attendant. As Duinne helps Sebastian navigate politics and social niceties in order to prevent war and equalize the treatment of lower Fae, they become close and form a bond.

 

One thing I really enjoyed is the politics in this story. I think because this story takes place at court we see more of the intrigue and machinations that go into the different end goals characters have. I especially like how it shows the Summer Court, thought to be the good fae, is full of more backstabbing and manipulation than the Winter Court, though Winter Court politics are mainly only glimpses from Sláine’s recollections.

 

The romance has a wonderful slow burn quality to it because Sebastian and Duinne have to learn to trust each other and transform the developed friendship into a romantic bond. They don’t kiss until 60% into the story and their relationship is never a point of contention for them, though it is a concern if known because Sebastian is trying to get the Seelie court on his side, and if he’s known to be consorting with an Unseelie prisoner it could undermine all his carefully cultivated alliances.

 

Overall, this was a really good read. There’s a lot of fae politics and well done world building that added new layers after Prince of Air and Darkness. I really enjoyed the romance and the way when Sebastian finally learned who was under the mask and that Duinne was Sláine it didn’t change his feelings because it was still the same person he’d fallen in love with. If you enjoy court intrigue and slow burn romances, this may be right up your alley.

Reviewed by Laura Fliegel

Published by Carina Press, August 5, 2019

 

Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

Historical Fiction

★★★★

MILD

Travel to the Cote d’Azur and glamorous 1950’s Monaco when Grace Kelly, Hollywood Princess, met and married the real Prince Rainier. Gaynor and Webb (Last Christmas is Paris) lure readers into the sunshine as everyone who was anyone in films were on their way to Cannes.  

Grace Kelly must be at the film festival, but she longs to escape the paparazzi and ducks into a small perfume shop to hide from a photographer. Sophie Duval keeps Grace safe and the women form a unique bond that lasts a lifetime. James Henderson wanted “the” photo of Grace Kelly, but he gets no help from Sophie and snaps a quick photo of her instead. Back home he just can’t seem to forget her.  When he’s given the assignment to cover Kelly’s fairytale wedding, he sails to Monaco with the wedding party, but not before sending the photo and a note to Sophie asking for a date. 

As the wedding preparations are in full swing, James encounters Sophie and their attraction begins. How their love grows is beautifully told as it dovetails into history. You’ll honestly believe you can small Sophie’s perfume in the air and feel the warmth of the sun while reading this lavish and enjoyable novel where Grace Kelly’s friendship with Sophie is seamlessly woven into the fabric of the love story. The quick pace and lovely second chance romance is as magical as Grace Kelly’s fabled marriage. It’s a story that’s easy to savor, like fine wine, and to put on your shelf to reread on a gloomy day.  

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Morrow, July 23, 2019

 

 

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Sherwood by Meagan Spooner

Young Adult, Retelling

★★★★★

"Marian's life had been ordained when she was born a girl. But Robin Hood's life?"

 

Robin Hood is dead. It's not a spoiler, it's right there in the synopsis. While going on a secret mission where she had to hide her identity, Marian is mistaken for Robin Hood, because not everyone is convinced he is dead ... and because Marian has some kickass skills. She embraces this opportunity to do good and to be free, and it's pretty awesome. 

 

Meagan Spooner uses a retelling of Robin Hood to showcase a history of gender inequality, and to show just how much a woman can accomplish when she has the opportunity. Even if that opportunity is stolen under guise. But Spooner takes a big risk with the romantic interest in her reimagining, and it's a risk that I'm noticing not everyone is liking. But life is complex, and people are even more so. And as this story subtly teaches, we are not always who we appear to be when the layers are pulled back. Regardless, Marian has been given the freedom of choice and she's using it. End of discussion. Check it out.

Reviewed by Jennifer Castro

Published by  HarperTeen, March 19, 2019

 

In a Badger Way, Honey Badger Chronicles #2 by Shelly Laurenston

Paranormal M/F (shifters)

★★★★

HOT

This book picks back up not long after the events of Hot and Badgered and we’re still dealing with the fallout of the MacKilligan sisters’ father stealing from their Scottish uncle. This story mostly focuses on Stevie, the youngest MacKilligan sister, and her romance with Shen Li, a panda shifter that she thinks is just adorable despite usually being terrified of bears. There’s also a major plot where hybrid shifters are being kidnapped, experimented on, and being found dead--which is a concern for all the shifters, because it could lead to their discovery. Although, I’m not wholly clear on how secret shifters are because plenty marry/mate full-humans and there seem to be some full-humans in the know without direct connections to shifters...

 

This book is hilarious in the messiest of ways. There is a lot of violence, threats and off the wall comments. I really like that we see how Stevie deals with her mental health by getting therapy and medication. She is a mess and she knows it, but she’s doing the best to manage her symptoms, especially her panic disorder which can lead to panicked shifting. And for Stevie, a tiger-honey-badger hybrid, her shifted form is a Lot, even though her demeanor is closer to that of a housecat.

 

Shen is a very calm contrast to Stevie, though he’s wholly able to take care of himself. He works as protection and security, primarily for a family of jackals and specifically for their son Kyle, who has a tendency of getting on the family’s last nerves, so he’s living with the MacKilligan sisters.

 

I like that we get so many POVs with this book because there are so many characters and several plots happening simultaneously. I’m really excited to see what happens next and this book is really such a fun read, though I do recommend being aware how awful the humor is; this is definitely not a book for everyone. I also like seeing the continuation of Charlie and Berg’s relationship, the ways they’re learning to communicate better and rely on each other, especially Charlie.

 

One of my favorite aspects of this book/series is the family bonds. Charlie, Max and Stevie would literally do anything to protect each other. Even though Max and Stevie fight a lot and can be quite mean to one another, it’s also easy to see how deeply they care for one another. But the MacKilligan sisters aren’t the only family we see--which is probably for the best because their dynamic isn’t always the healthiest and definitely has elements of codependency as a result of their history. Shen has two older sisters and we see all three of them together for a few short scenes, plus some text messages, and I love the ways they care about one another and how Shen goes to his sisters for advice. And can’t forget the Dunn triplets! There’s so many different sibling dynamics and I love the different ways familial love is expressed!

 

Overall, this is such fun in the most messed up sense. “Honey badger don’t care” is a great summation of the humor this book has, but there are also great scenes of caring for each other and while romance between Shen and Stevie isn’t most emotional, it was still cute and sweet.

Reviewed by Laura Fliegel

Published by  Kensington, March 26, 2019

 

Highland Renegade (Lords of the Highlands, Book 5) by Amy Jarecki

Medieval Historical Romance

★★★★★

SCORCHING

Scottish romance fans rejoice as another Highland Lord meets his match. Unfolding during the Jacobite era, this tale of clan feuds and rebellion is filled with wonderfully colorful historical details, passion, excitement, adventure and high romance.  Jarecki spins a tale that truly captivates and brings every aspect of 18th century Scotland to life.

Though their families are enemies, when Laird Robert Grant hears Janet Cameron’s cries for help he rushes to the rescue. Robert finds Janet caught by redcoats. He grabs her and the two fly through the Highlands to escape the British. When Janet breaks her arm, Robert is unable to fulfill his promise to bring her home; instead he takes her to his family. As they come to know one another, they fall in love. But the passion between them may not be enough to overcome decades of clan feuding. Though they part ways it becomes impossible for them to forget their all-consuming love. Can they find a way to stop the feud and claim their happiness?

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by  Forever, January 8, 2019

The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves

Contemporary Romance

★★★★

HOT

At first, The Girl He Used to Know seems like a fairly unique second-chance romance featuring Annika, our heroine, who is on the autism spectrum. We watch her navigate her life and relationships in a very blunt and literal way while witnessing her mental exhaustion and a pretty fabulous support system. As I was progressing in the storyline, I thought it was a good book but admittedly was curious about the mass of high ratings it had received thus far. But then, I understood.

 

“A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong it is until it's in hot water.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

 

Yes, Eleanor Roosevelt gets some much-deserved screen time in this novel. And Annika will need her inspiration and empowerment more than she can ever know.

 

Life happens. And we learn just how much emotion Annika can access. It's dark and suffocating. It's heart-wrenching. But she is resilient. Then, tragic violence happens, and it is beyond comprehension. Annika must show everyone how capable and strong she is in light of AND in spite of the many factors that others claim hold her back. A life hangs in the balance, and thankfully, Annika doesn't overthink. She acts. You go, girl!

 

Overall, The Girl He Used to Know was an emotional and unexpected story about life, love and independence. It's about self-acceptance and pushing boundaries. It's about hope, and every person on this planet can do with a dose of that right about now. I'm so very glad I read this book. Check it out.

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by  Redhook, March 19, 2019

The Witches Kind by Louisa Morgan

 

Historical/Fantasy

★★★★

MILD

 

Set in the Pacific Northwest following WWII, this engrossing tale, filled with family secrets and magic will captivate Alice Hoffman fans.  Morgan draws on the atmosphere of the time and place to lure readers into her heartbreaking and compelling tale.  Everyone will be caught up in the lives of the strong women she has created and the bonds between mother and daughter, aunt and niece.  As the story unfolds, from before the war to afterward, the beautiful prose, twists and turns of plot and magical elements (including aliens) keep readers turning the pages.  

Aunt Charlotte raises Barrie Ann Blythe after her parents’ deaths. All the while she keeps family secrets, though she shares the fact that the women of the family have the power to make premonitions and when Barrie Ann brings home Will, a young man she marries before he ships out, Charlotte knows he will bring nothing but pain.  Will doesn’t return when the war is over, leaving Barrie Ann and Charlotte alone on their farm. The one bright light in Barrie Ann’s life in the baby girl she finds washed up on the shore; a child who shows evidence of powers. Then her husband returns bringing fear and tragedy in his wake. 

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by  Redhook, March 19, 2019

 

Play it Again by Aidan Wayne

 

Contemporary m/m

★★★★

MILD

 

Play It Again is the story of Dovid Rosenstein, a blind Jewish YouTuber, and Sam Doyle, an Irish IT employee who makes Let’s Play YouTube videos. Dovid has a twin sister, Rachel, who has been looking for Let’s Players of Dire Straits, a survival-esque game, when she comes across Sam’s YouTube channel and is immediately hooked. When Rachel tells Dovid about Sam’s channel, he quickly develops a crush from how Sam interacts with his viewers and his rambles while he plays—which leads to Dovid plugging Sam’s channel during a video, leading to a sudden influx of subscribers for Sam and changes in his entire social media experience.

 

I really enjoyed this book and loved how soft it was. There really isn’t much in the way of angst and Sam and Dovid are super adorable in their interactions. Plus, I really loved Dovid and Rachel’s interactions—their love for one another is wonderful, and I’m finding I live for great sibling bonds. At first Dovid contacts Sam to thank him for thanking Dovid for initially plugging him and then Dovid helps Sam manage his social space and learn how to monetize his channel.

 

This book really delves into what goes into monetizing a YouTube channel and creating a Patreon account, though without fully detailing all the steps. The relationship between Dovid and Sam really centers around YouTube for them, especially in the beginning, because Sam lives in Ireland while Dovid and Rachel live in Seattle. The more they talk and get to know one another, the deeper their feelings become.

 

The biggest stress-y parts of the story center around Sam’s contentious familial relationship (his parents belittle him and make him feel he has little-to-no worth) as well as a scene where Sam is hit by a car and isn’t able to contact Dovid for over a week, which raises that fear of being ghosted, especially with the long distance aspect of their friendship. I really liked that the relationship itself was never a point of contention (Rachel especially is super supportive and pokes at Dovid for his mushiness) and they’re so soft and cute together.

 

Regarding the Jewish rep, I personally really liked it. I’d seen it mentioned that it’s very incidental, and it is that. Dovid and Rachel’s names are enough to guess they’re Jewish, but it is confirmed when Dovid is in Germany for a Europe tour and talks about going to the Holocaust museum, and then later they talk about him celebrating Hanukkah. I liked how it was just a part of who Dovid and Rachel are, and in several ways it felt similar to my own relationship with my Jewish identity.

 

I really enjoyed this book and definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a soft, low-angst romance. I loved the way Sam and Dovid made their long-distance relationship work and they were utterly adorable in their interactions. I also appreciated how Dovid’s blindness is definitely a part of how he interacts with the world. I can’t speak on how good that rep is, but it read very well and had great points about accessibility and how some people had fetishized Dovid’s blindness in the past. So, yeah, definitely enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend!

Reviewed by Laura Fliegel

Published by  Carina Press, April 22, 2019

#IMomSoHard by Kristin Hensley and Jen Smedley

 

Nonfiction, Humor

 

★★★★

 

#imomsohard is a popular web series started on YouTube by Kristin Hensley and Jen Smedley. They're women, wives and moms that talk about mostly hilarious women's and motherhood issues in pure, unfiltered honesty. They show the good, the bad and the ugly, and make themselves look ridiculous on purpose so their viewers can know they're not alone on those hard days. A friend of mine introduced me to their style of entertainment when the swimsuit segment went live and I was immediately intrigued.

 

The book #IMomSoHard is a mixture of memoir, behind-the-scenes information and more laughs co-authored by both Kristin and Jen. It discusses the isolation of motherhood, the importance of having mom friends, the benefits of laughing, struggling with body image, practicing self-care and remembering how every stage of motherhood felt so that we can lend a hand as needed (with and without being asked). I hope more empowering women follow in Kristin and Jen's footsteps to bring encouragement, perspective, and laughs to the world. Check it out.

Reviewed by Jennifer Castro

Published by  HarperOne, April 2, 2019

 

 

 

The Infamous Duchess by Sophie Barnes

 

Historical Fiction

 

★★★★

 

As compelling and complex as any of Barnes romance, The Infamous Duchess, will set hearts aflutter. Barnes’ admirable heroine and charming, rakish hero are perfect match.  Add a rags to riches troupe, a jealous lover, a court case and a rake looking to reform and you have a winner!

Widowed the day after her elderly husband, The Duke of Tremaine, dies, Viola Cartwright is branded a fortune hunter. No one knows she will be using her inheritance to fund St. Agatha’s Hospital; making it one of London’s finest. Her dreams are crushed when she receives a letter from her stepson claiming the monies are his. She continues her volunteer work at the hospital where she assists in a surgery to remove a bullet from Henry Lowell’s shoulder.  Henry is the brother of chief surgeon, Florian Lowell, Duke of Redding. Known as one of the most scandalous rakes among the ton, Henry is actually seeking to mend his ways and is attracted to Viola. When he’s released from the hospital, he sends her flowers and herbs. Normally Viola would stay far away from Henry, but when her stepson initiates a lawsuit she turns to him for help. Working together to save St. Agatha’s brings them closer together and even closer to danger, but nothing can compare with the deep respect and love that grows between them. 

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by  Avon, March 26, 2019

 

 

 

Lessons From Lucy: The Simple Joys of an Old, Happy Dog by Dave Barry

 

Nonfiction/Autobiography, Humor

★★★★★

Dave Barry fans will not be disappointed! In Lessons From Lucy: The Simple Joys of an Old, Happy Dog, Barry shares all the humor, perspective and life lessons he has been gifted during his time with his dog Lucy. With seven chapters in total, each chapter shares a new lesson but Barry tends to go the long way around in revealing it. That's a good thing though. Laugh-out-loud funny and sometimes deeply thought-provoking, the lessons touch on the following subjects:

 

-be friendly

-find opportunities to have fun

-give priority time to loved ones

-let go of anger

-don't judge people by appearances

-material items won't make you happy

-be honest

 

As you can see, quality stuff inspired by the playfulness, love, and loyalty of man's (and woman's) best friend. And animal lovers, never fear. There are no sad tears in this book. Lucy is alive and well and continues to inspire. Check it out! 

Reviewed by Jennifer Castro

Published by  Simon Schuster, April 2, 2019

 

 

 

How to Marry a Highlander by Michele Sinclair

Historical Romance

★★★

SCORCHING

 

Readers will quickly realize that Sinclair’s latest MacTiernay harkens back to the classic ‘80’s romances where there is immediately lust and miscommunication is what keeps the lovers apart. All that being said, the story is well written and the love scenes are hot, hot,  hot, keeping the pace quick and the reader engaged.

Clan commander, Duncan MacTiernay is a known rake and seducer. He is checking on the McTiernay properties when he spies a beautiful woman bathing in the loch. The heat rises between them and after a steamy, nameless encounter, they part ways, never expecting to meet again.  

Adanel Mackbaythe is the daughter of a ruthless laird. She will not make the same mistake twice and fall in love only to have her father kill her beloved.  Desperate to escape her father, Adanel realizes the stranger may be her savior; if she can find him and convince him into a handfast marriage of convenience.  

 

Duncan doesn’t want an attachment, but he does want to know more about the mystery temptress. He can’t stop thinking about her and when they meet again there is no way they are not going continue their rendezvous. However, neither will tell the other of the depth of their feelings. When the truth of their trysts is revealed. their feuding clans are forced into war. Duncan believes Adanel betrayed him and his need for vengeance overrides his love for her, until he faces the fact that their love is more powerful than anger or feuds.

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by  Zebra, March 26, 2019

 

 

 

Wolfhunter River by Rachel Caine

Mystery Thriller

★★★

MILD

 

The engaging series of Stillhouse Lake deals with the aftermath of Gina Royal and her two children when her husband Mel Royal has been discovered to be a serial killer. Although Mel was put behind bars and Gina (now named Gwen Proctor) was exonerated from allegations that she assisted him, life never went back to normal. Grief-stricken and vengeful families of Mel's victims, along with intrusive public judgment, created constant disruption and significant safety concerns in the lives of Gwen and her children. The first two books focus on a woman forced to become “the ultimate warrior mom” as full protective mode is required of her at all times. A lot happens, there are twists and turns galore and there is a ton of suspense. But, based on my perspective, this third book appears to segue Gwen into a variation of her familiar role in an effort to extend the life of this series. She's still a mother, still defending and protecting, but now she's being asked by others to intervene in dangerous situations because of her knowledge and courage.

 

Full of mystery and plenty of villains, Wolfhunter River possesses many of the elements fans love about this series. The ending was action packed and the many revelations associated with both new and familiar characters were quite surprising, in my opinion. Some readers will love the extra layer of suspense that comes with Gwen and her family being placed in even graver risk. Some won't. In the author's defense, the only alternative is to end the series which she obviously is not ready to do and I don't blame her. She has a real talent for adult domestic suspense and this segue was clearly well thought out. Read it and see what you think. The turbulent Wolfhunter River awaits!

Reviewed by Jennifer Castro

Published by  Thomas & Mercer, April 23, 2019

 

 

 

 

In Another Time by Jillian Cantor

Historical Fiction/Time Travel

★★★★★

MILD

 

Cantor, author of The Love Letter, crafts a beautifully written, remarkably fresh WWII story of love, courage and survival. Told in alternating viewpoints and spanning decades and the globe, this is a spellbinding tale for music lovers and romantics. Canter’s engaging characters and haunting plotline will resonate with those who are immediately pulled into a tale that seamlessly blends history and romance.  Though there is heartbreak, there is joy and Canter illustrates how indomitable the human spirit can be during the worst of times. 

In 1931 bookshop owner, Max Bessinger walks into an auditorium and is struck by the beauty of the music and the violinist, Hanna Ginsberg. Though they are from different worlds, Max pursues Hanna until they become friends and he finally wins Hanna’s heart. Over the next five years their love grows, but so does Hitler’s power. While others realize Germany is no place for Jews, Hanna is resolved to join a symphony orchestra. Even when her sister emigrates to England, Hanna stays. Max is all too aware of the danger Hanna faces, but he has a secret hidden behind a closed door, that will be Hanna’s salvation. In 1946 Hanna awakens in a field with no memory of the last 10 years.  All she has is the memories of Max and her violin. After being rescued she moves to London and stays with her sister’s family. It is her music that carries Hanna forward until she begins to uncover the truth behind the closed door and the sacrifice Max made for her safety.  

Reviewed by  Kathe Robin

Published by  Harper, March 5, 2019

 

 

 

 

The Temptation of Grace by Kristin Veyden

★★★★

SCORCHING

 

The final book of The Gentlemen of Temptation series is the ideal romance for those who crave a slow build with a great deal of character introspection and a nice, sweet love story.  Veyden knows her time period and how her characters fit into the era. Though the pacing might be too leisurely for some, it is right for the story. Many will find that understanding what the characters think and feel will add a depth they enjoy. 

 

Ramsey Scott, Marquess of Sterling, is the third owner of The Temptation Club, an odd place for a very proper gentleman. He is haunted by a long ago scandal and keeps himself far away from anything salacious. Try as she might Grace Iris Morgan is too outspoken and clumsy to be the perfect ward of a lord. She is surprised when she catches a suitor’s attention and doesn’t realize how unsuitable he is.  Ramsey sees Grace is headed for scandal and steps in to rescue her. He has no idea he is playing straight into the hands of the villain, a man who has reasons for hating the club and its owners. Ramsey and Grace are in a precarious situation where the choice is facing scandal and finding passion or playing by the rules and losing love. 

Reviewed by  Kathe Robin

Published by  Zebra, April 30, 2019

 

 

 

 

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

Mystery Thriller

★★★★

SCORCHING

 

“I wanted to surprise you,” she says. “For our anniversary.” I stare at her. My lovely wife. “It's demented,” I say. She raises her eyebrow at me. Before she can speak, I put my finger against her lips. “And it's brilliant,” I say.

 

It's a match made in serial killer heaven. Told from the unnamed husband's point of view, these two are functional suburbanites. They're the involved parents at the PTA meetings. They're your next-door neighbors. Your realtor. Your tennis instructor. Completely normal...well, except for their need to kill. And I'm not talking about running over someone with your car. I'm talking about targeted and premeditated, hands-on murder. Don't worry, all the bloody details are left up to the reader's imagination. The hunt keeps their marriage alive, and getting away with it time after time is the post-orgasmic glow.

 

“But Millicent does not put up with sh#t, period.”

 

No, she doesn't. People, watch out for this woman's wrath. Curious? You'll just have to read it yourself. It will have you changing your mind back and forth about the lesser of two evils principle. Smart and engaging, My Lovely Wife was such a fun read. This is Samantha Downing's debut novel and she is an author to keep your eye on. Check it out!

Reviewed by  Jennifer Castro

Published by  Berkley Books, March 26, 2019

 

 

 

 

A Spy’s Guide to Seduction by Kate Moore

Historical Romance

★★★★

SCORCHING

 

When Lady Emily Radstock receives a copy of The Husband’ Hunter’s Guide to London from her mother, she is furious and rushes to her sisters to vent her frustration. Emily claims she will marry “the first imbecile” she meets. From the sofa she hears “I accept.” Sir Ajax Lynley had fallen asleep and  been rudely awoken by Emily’s tirade. As a spy for the Crown he sees a false engagement to a lady of the ton as the perfect cover for his mission. He must gain entry into the homes of the aristocracy and locate paper stolen from the government, documents that could lead to war with Russia. Emily agrees to the charade that should keep her mother content, but she is too smart not to notice how Ajax disappears at certain moments and they are soon working together. Placing themselves in danger heats up the already simmering attraction between them and as they get closer to finding the stolen papers, they fall in love. But will secrets drive them apart?

 

Readers will savor the slow build of the romance between a spy and his lady that grows from suspicion to respect and love. The mystery keeps not only Ajax and Emily on their toes, but readers as well, trying to sort out a number of villains  and the many secrets that could lead to war. Enjoy the charming characters and suspense for an entertaining evening’s read.

Reviewed by  Kathe Robin

Published by  St. Martin’s Press, May 28, 2019

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Rogue Most Wanted  by Janna MacGregor

Historical Romance

★★★★

SCORCHING

 

Confirmed bachelor, William Caversham has one big problem. If he doesn’t marry, he will forfeit his inheritance from his Great Aunt Stella, who is engaged in a bit of matchmaking for their next door neighbor, Lady Theodora Worth, Countess of Eanruling.  Raised by her grandfather on their country estate, Thea knows nothing about the rules of society or courtship. When she’s in danger of losing her estate to a greedy cousin, she turns to Lady Stella to help her snag a husband. Stella believes Will would be perfect; except Thea and Will aren’t so sure. Will has been burned by love and Thea doesn’t want to marry the first eligible man she meets.  But, Thea is beautiful, intelligent, charming and kind to her tenants.  Will just might take a chance. But, first he has to help Thea locate the papers that prove she is entitled to inherit under Scottish law.  Naturally, the time they spend together leads to desire, but can they thwart her ruthless relative? 

MacGregor always crafts a well-done love story where she allows her engaging characters to take over the plot. Though there is nothing unique about Rogue Most Wanted, readers will enjoy the romance and how the characters put aside their fear of love to grab at a chance for happiness. This pleasant read will certainly fulfill many a readers desire for a lovely night’s read. (St. Martin’s. June)

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by St. Martin’s Press, June 25,2019

Lord Bredon and the Bachelor’s Bible by Mia Marlowe

Historical Romance

★★★★

SCORCHING

The premise for Marlowe’s delightful novel, along with the sexual tension, charming characters and delicious chemistry and repartee, will certainly engage readers. The tinge of mystery will easily have them overlooking the uneven pace and leave them eager for the next installment in The House of Lovel series.  

What every bachelor needs to know, a debutante’s worth, is in the Bachelor’s Bible. When Edward Lovel inherits the title of Earl of Chatham he also inherits a mountain of debts and the need for a wealthy wife. He turns to the Bachelor’s Bible for advice and culls down his list to Martha Finch. There should be no problem wooing the young lady. Then he meets her sponsor, Lady Anne Howard, the woman he loved and lost when his father sent him on a grand tour. He thought she’s wait  for him, but she married shortly after he left. When Anne’s husband died she used her inheritance to travel the globe and write about her adventures under the  pseudonym of Hester Birdwhistle. Back in England, Anne needs an income, thus she is sponsoring Martha.  

As soon as she realizes Edward is seeking Martha’s hand in marriage, Anne is wary. The old spark between them is just simmering under the surface. It becomes clear to Edward that what he wants is to protect Anne from the whispers about her husband’s death.   Meanwhile, Martha has fallen in love with Reginald Dickey, the acknowledged son of a duke. Dickey returns Martha’s love so it appears to be up to them to find a way to push Anne and Edward together while setting the rumors to rest. 

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by Lyrical, April 30, 2019

 

Supermarket by Logic

Celebrity Thriller

★★★★

 

Award-winning, Grammy-nominated, multi-talented Sir Robert Bryson Hall ll (aka Logic) brings a mysteriously, twisted story of truth and inspiration to the bestseller list. The stunning new novel debut portrays a chain of realistic events with a glorious fictional take. 

 

Supermarket is a great read for everyone with an avid sense of humor. The author, the hip-hop sensation Logic, taps into his culturally diverse artistic influences to create a world in which the main protagonist has bits and pieces of himself along with real life personas within the RATTPACK (fanbase). In an invigorating fictional narrative, Flynn, the main character, is a new supermarket recruit ready to start a new life for himself. In a town of limitation, everyone knows everyone, and everyone knows their place, but not Flynn. Flynn, caught at the scene of a crime, is pulled into a spectacular tale of heartbreak, tragedy and comedy all rolled into one in this brilliant fictional thriller. 

 

Who knew you could find everything you were ever looking for in a supermarket?

Reviewed by Caroline Perkins

Published by Simon & Schuster, March 26, 2019

 

 

American Duchess: A Novel of Consuelo Vanderbilt  by  Karen Harper

Fictionalized Biography

★★★★

MILD

Consuelo Vanderbilt was an “American Princess;” one of the heiresses who wed into English aristocracy, but she was unique in her desire to have more than a title. Married at the age of 19 to the older Duke of Marlborough, the marriage was a disaster from the moment she arrived as a tearful bride.  Though Consuelo was in love with another man, she allowed herself to be pushed into the marriage by her status-seeking mother who longed to see the family elevated to royalty.  When she arrived at Bienheim Palace to take her place as duchess, Consuelo realized she has more to do then be a brood mare; she decided she would charm British society, fight for women’s rights and find love.  She does just that; taking Winston Churchill as one of her protégés, divorcing the duke and finally marring someone she loves.

For those of us fascinated by royal weddings and marriages (and now a new royal baby), Harper’s fictionalized biography is a treat. For those who knew nothing about Consuelo, this is an eye opening biography and for those who do, Harper gifts us with a human and entertaining picture of a woman today’s reader can admire. There’s enough glamour and gossip to engage historical readers and just enough of a love story to draw romantics into Consuelo’s life.  Telling the story through Consuelo’s dynamic voice enhances the novel; allowing readers to feel they are in her heart and mind as well as walking in her shoes through history. In the end, readers might say to themselves, “what a woman!”

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by  Morrow, February 26, 2019

 

Resistance Women  by Jennifer Chiaverini

Historical Fiction

★★★★★

MILD

This is not just another WWII spy novel, but a carefully researched highly, readable, uplifting and heartbreaking story of the real women who helped the allies in Germany during WWII.  At the center in Wisconsin graduate student Mildred Fish who married economist Arvid Harnack and moved with her husband to his native Germany. The early days of their marriage were filled with gatherings that included fascinating intellectuals and students. For the Harnacks, life couldn’t have been better. Then Hitler rose to power and the Harnacks decided to stay in Germany and fight the Nazis from within. 

Mildred formed a group of women friends, The Red Orchestra, who gathered information to pass onto the Americans through Martha Dodd, the American ambassador’s daughter.  Mildred’s group included Greta Kuckoff, a friend from Wisconsin, and Sara Weilz, journalists and students who gathered information from those in power. Mildred ran her intelligence-gathering network for years before they were discovered.

Chiaverini, best known for her American-set historical fiction, has crafted a well-researched, intriguing novel depicting how a small group of women worked to bring down Hitler.  Though this isn’t a thriller in the true sense of the word, there is enough tension to keep readers on the edge of their seats (though all 608 pages), an abundance of colorful descriptions of 1930s and 40’s Berlin and nail biting tension to have them praying no one gets caught.  Chiaverini infuses her story with real and fictional characters that readers will take to their hearts. Many will find that the intense emotional will linger long after the book is done. 

Reviewed by Kathe Robin

Published by  Morrow, May 14, 2019

 

 

 

 

American Fairytale by Adriana Herrera

Contemporary M/M

★★★★

HOT

Adrianna Herrera is definitely an author to keep an eye on! American Fairytale is another sweet romance that also tackles complex issues; Thomas grapples with his white passing while feeling and being very Dominican, as well as learning money doesn’t solve everything, and Camilo takes care of his mother with depression while also trying to remain independent.

 

I love Herrera’s writing style and am definitely looking forward to more from her. The characters are complex and the book has great themes of chosen family as well as close blood-family ties.

 

Camilo and Thomas meet at a gala dinner and the attraction between them is off the charts—leading to the impulsive decision to have sex in the bathroom! When they part ways they believe there’s no way they’ll ever cross paths again, especially because Camilo is a social worker while Thomas had gotten $1,000 plates for himself and two friends at the gala. After the weekend though, with both thinking about their encounter and wishing for a repeat, Camilo is informed by his boss that they have a new donor who wants to help with renovations of a residency program in Harlem—and the meeting ends up being with Thomas again!

 

Camilo is fiercely independent and has seen what can happen when relying on someone, especially financially. One of his biggest issues with Thomas is he doesn’t want his agency compromised and he has no wish to rely on Thomas or his money. This causes them some strain because sometimes Thomas doesn’t think through consequences before using his wealth to make things go his way or what he believes is easier for those he cares about.

 

I adore the friendships and family dynamics in this book and series. You can so easily see how much impact family has on both Thomas and Camilo, and how much their mothers have influenced them. I also adore the friendship between Camilo and his best friends; Nesto, Juan Paulo, Patrice and Ayako. They are a great support network and they love each other so much. We also get to see that chosen family with Thomas, Sanjay, Heni, and Priyah, who built the company that made Thomas as rich as he is.

 

This book also has several themes of survival. Thomas had an aunt come to the states from DR to be with a guy who was abusive, and because she wasn’t English-speaking she was unable to access resources for domestic violence. Camilo’s mother had been in an abusive relationship after the death of his fat