Sunday, 4 November 2018

First Earl I See Tonight by Anna Bennet


Recently jilted by his fiancée, David Gray, Earl of Ravenport is not in the market for a wife. Even if Gray didn’t have his hands full renovating his crumbling country house, it would take more than a bold marriage proposal from a headstrong young beauty to thaw his frozen heart. Gray is confident that spending a week at his ramshackle estate will change her mind about marriage, but every passionate moment he spends with her tempts him to change his…

A talented artist, Miss Fiona Hartley desperately needs her dowry money to pay off a blackmailer set on ruining her sister. The handsome earl seems a sensible choice for a husband…if only she can convince him that romance will play no part. But marrying in name only may prove difficult for Fiona. Gray can’t help but be dazzled by her genuine warmth. Yet as their feelings deepen, Fiona’s deadline looms. Will her secrets destroy them, or is true love their final destiny?


What a delightful read! Fiona needs a marriage of convenience, David needs money, but is too honourable to take part in Fiona's harebrained scheme. He's sure hosting her at his estate will scare her off - as it did his previous fiancee - but somehow sharp-eyed Fiona sees beyond the cracks to what's really important.

I loved the attention to little things in this book - Fiona's love of drawing, David's perceptive grandmother, the sisterly bond between Fiona and Lily, the realisation on both sides that this was a marriage that both wanted for more than the convenience. I especially loved the lack of unnecessary angst - yes, there are some tense moments, but these are two wonderfully practical people who, upon further machinations of the blackmailer, independently realise this and don't blame the other.

An extremely enjoyable historical romance.

Four and a half stars

I received an ARC from St Martin's Press

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Tunes (and Troubles) by KC Enders

What’s more cliché than falling for a guy in a band or pining for the one who got away? Find out in TUNES by KC Enders, a Beekman Hills novel where a no-strings spring break fling turns into something more for Gracyn George and rocker Gavin Keller. Fans of A.L. Jackson’s STAY, DRUMLINE by Stacy Kestwick, and authors Jiffy Kate & Winter Renshaw will love this spicy and angsty second-chance romance.

Title:  Tunes
Author: KC Enders
Release Date: October 1, 2018
Publisher: Self-published
Series: Beekman Hills #2
Genres: New Adult Romance
Word Count: 73K
Format: Paperback & digital


What’s more cliché than falling for a guy in a band?

A no-strings fling is all it was meant to be for Gracyn George. Sun, sand, sex, and then move on. That was before he strummed his way into her life. Each note leaving a tingle in her spine, their lasting melodies burned into her memory.
What’s more cliché than pining for the one who got away?

Gavin Keller has sacrificed far too much to chase after the girl who snuck out in the middle of the night and left him wondering, What if …

No matter how high his star rises or how many sold-out shows he plays, he ends each concert scanning the audience for her.

What was supposed to be temporary becomes a longing neither is willing to let go. After months of trying to move on, can they sync the tunes in their hearts?

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If Murphy applied his law to a relationship, this would be the result. This is a story of missed connections and misunderstandings, of two people who shouldn't have met but who somehow keep finding their way back to each other. Overall I found this a cute story, especially the first half. The second half I felt was too bogged down by angst and distrust.

I especially wish that *some people* would face actual consequences for their actions. Even in the #metoo age, I understand why Gracyn might not report blatant sexual harassment (even though the repercussions of not reporting drive a large part of the plot), but the harasser seemed to get off pretty much scot-free. I know this is similar to what happens in reality, but this is fiction dammit and I want vindication!

Also, warning for a downer ending. It was bittersweet to the extreme, but I felt it was over-foreshadowed and under-developed. It could've had more impact is all I'm saying.

Three stars

I received an ARC from Barclay Publicity; all opinions are my own.

I also received book 1 - Troubles - these books stand alone, but what starts in Troubles, ends in Tunes, and once I read Troubles I absolutely had to know how Gracyn's story ended.

Troubles is what I'd call your standard romance - two people with their own problems, they meet and fall in love, but past experiences get in the way. It's a decent read, but I found it a tad predictable and the leads unmemorable, if nice enough. I loved how Aiden helped Lis study but I would've liked to get a better feel for him as a character.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Rebel Hard by Nalini Singh

This book is all I ever wanted and more.

Nayna is an accountant. She enjoys romance novels. She wants to travel and see the world. NAYNA IS ME. Well, not entirely. I've moved out of home and I'm not part of the Indian community, but I am the good-girl, younger daughter who never went wild. Let's settle on Nayna resonating with parts of me I've never dreamed I'd get to see in print.

And RAJ. Oh goodness, Raj sounds delightful. He knows what he wants and he wants Nayna - but not enough to trample on her dreams or her needs. True, he does screw up, in a very Darcy-like way, but he also apologises heartily, again in a very Darcy-like way, and makes sure it doesn't happen again. Also, the book doesn't shy away from noting the P&P similarities at the time, which soothes the Romance-lover in me.

This is a wonderful story about two very different people trying to reconcile different dreams for the future while juggling family expectations and sibling drama galore. This could be an entire <em>season</em> of the masala dramas the parents love so much.

While I love Nalini's paranormal series (Guild Hunter and Psy-Changeling), I've come to appreciate her contemporaries because they never rely on a big mis to create drama or a deus ex to get to a happy ending. With Rebel Hard and the preceding Cherish Hard (admittedly, awkward names), Nalini proves you don't need a tragic past or traumatic event to cause romantic tension. The Rock Kiss series were all about the past holding people back; the Hard Play books are all about the future.

This reads well as a standalone, but even better in tandem with Cherish Hard as the two run in parallel

Five joyous stars.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Ocean Light by Nalini Singh

Some long-running series feel like the author is just ringing it in. Swap out the names, fuzz some of the details, publish.

This is not one of those series. This might be book #17, but it is a valuable and enjoyable continuation of a story that started way back at book #1. The characters are unique, the romance is sweet, and the overarching story arc never feels stale. Do both characters feel almost too perfect to be true? Maybe. There's not a huge amount of growing for each to do - the conflict is more external than internal, but it all makes sense in context.

It's not a great place to start the series - try book #1 Slave to Sensation or book #16 Silver Silence (if you want to skip 15 books of delicious romance, your loss) - but anyone who has been following the Psy-Changeling series must read this book.

Four stars.

Monday, 1 October 2018

Strong by Kylie Scott

From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Kylie Scott comes a new story in her Stage Dive series…

When the girl of your dreams is kind of a nightmare.

As head of security to Stage Dive, one of the biggest rock bands in the world, Sam Knowles has plenty of experience dealing with trouble. But spoilt brat Martha Nicholson just might be the worst thing he’s ever encountered. The beautiful troublemaker claims to have reformed, but Sam knows better than to think with what’s in his pants. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to make his heart fall into line.

Martha’s had her sights on the seriously built bodyguard for years. Quiet and conservative, he’s not even remotely her type. So why the hell can’t she get him out of her mind? There’s more to her than the Louboutin wearing party-girl of previous years, however. Maybe it’s time to let him in on that fact and deal with this thing between them.

**Every 1001 Dark Nights novella is a standalone story. For new readers, it’s an introduction to an author’s world. And for fans, it’s a bonus book in the author’s series. We hope you'll enjoy each one as much as we do.**


Martha Nicholson is not a nice person. She's pushy, selfish, and doesn't know when to keep her snarky opinions to herself. Fans of Kylie Scott's Stage Dive series will remember her as the villainous jealous ex from book #1, Lick and those who read her brother's book (#4, Deep) may have noticed her striking sparks off the band's stalwart bodyguard Sam.

At long, long, last, Martha gets her turn in the spotlight. She's back in town and determined to make good - but none of her plans involved that sexy bodyguard she can't keep her eyes - or mind - off.

I like seeing another side to Martha. On one hand, she is older, calmer, and mostly over her ex getting hitched in Vegas. On the other hand, she's still pushy and opinionated. Though it's only a novella, she gets enough pagetime to grow and find the purpose she's always been lacking.

Sam's a bit more of a mystery, even to the last page, but he doesn't need the character growth nearly as much as Martha. He's still awesome, if not swoonworthy.

I absolutely loved jumping headfirst back into the Stage Dive world and seeing all of the characters we know and love as they've (shock, horror) gone domestic. Those moments with the band chilling and being a family are all I've ever wanted post-series.

If you are a Stage Dive fan, this book is a must. If not, it's a fun little spoileriffic interlude, results may vary. With the wealth of characters, I'd suggest starting at book #1, not here.

Five stars

I received an ARC from InkSlingerPR; all opinions are my own

Dark in Death by JD Robb

The In Death novels are comfort food - you know exactly what you're getting - serial killer with a side of Eve/Roarke romance. 

Dark in Death spices things up by a) showcasing girl power and feminine solidarity at its best and b) going meta. These murders are based on a series of in-story murder mysteries, and it's a fun look at the storytelling process as the lines between (fictional) fiction and (fictional) reality start to blur. It never gets so deep that my head started to hurt, but had some nice nods to the history of mystery and more.

I thought I'd be getting bored of these books by now but somehow JD Robb keeps me coming back for more.

Four stars

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Make Me Fall by Sara Rider

Title:  Make Me Fall
Author: Sara Rider
Release Date: September 24, 2018
Publisher: Self-published
Series: Books & Brews #2
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Page Count: 226


After losing her job, her home, and her friends in her divorce, Nora Pitts is determined not to make the same mistakes when she starts over in the small town of Shadow Creek, Washington. No more toiling away in the lab at the expense of her social life, and definitely no more men. Ever. But making friends in her thirties is so much harder than she anticipated. And when it comes to her gorgeous yet obnoxious neighbor, it’s a whole lot easier to make enemies.

Eli Hardin doesn’t have a lot of sympathy for his uptight neighbor, until he overhears her so-called new friends making fun of her un-datable status. Suddenly he finds himself volunteering for a date with a woman who’s been leaving angry hate-notes in his mailbox, and in way over his head. Because all it takes is one disastrous date with Nora for Eli to fall hard.

But falling for Eli isn’t something Nora’s ready for—not when he’s her complete opposite, and especially not when he turns out to be the best friend she’s made in Shadow Creek. But as her attraction and her feelings for Eli grow hotter, resisting him might just lead to heartbreak anyway.

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I read the first book in this series (Real Kind of Love) a few months ago - you can find the review here - and it was a solid fake romance about Eli's best friend Jake.

Make Me Fall is even better. Nora and Eli seem to have nothing in common but the fence diving their homes. He's a laidback womanizer, the co-owner of a bar. She's the uptight teacher next door.

It's a small victory when they discover the first thing they have in common is chemistry. No, not that type of chemistry, though they later have that in spades. They both studied chemistry at college, though it has taken them in very different directions.

I really loved how while they did find things to share, both of them also learnt to compromise and adjust to each other's differences - because they really are at completely opposite ends of the spectrum. I enjoyed Eli stepping up and taking the responsibility he's dodged as a matter of course, and Nora learning she doesn't have to organise everything and everyone. 

I especially enjoyed that Nora's arc was dually focussed on her relationship with Eli and her growing friendships in Shadow Creek - there's a whole host of characters screaming for their own books! I do wish her ex received some sort of comeuppance, but I suppose you can't have everything.

Overall, an enjoyable and believable opposites attract romance.

Five feel-good stars

I received an advanced reading copy from Barclays Publishing

About Sara Rider:

Sara Rider writes contemporary romance full of heart, heat, and happily ever after. She lives in British Columbia with her husband and daughters. She spends far too much time in public libraries and never leaves the home without her e-reader stuffed in her purse.