This definitely had a The League series by Sherrilyn Kenyon vibe, scifi/space opera/warring factions, if you liked that series, you'll want to give this one a go.
This was a debut and I felt like I could tell with how the overall story needed to be tightened up more. This was first person pov by the heroine Ada and while I enjoyed her voice and character, there was too much talk of going through the motions of menial tasks. 20-50% and around the 70% mark, my eyes glazed over a couple times. I just thought the fat needed to be trimmed and the story tightened up.
This was very much a first in the series with the world building and setting up of plot threads, like I said, I enjoyed Ada's character but her love interest, Loch, was only a pencil sketch to me. Not having his pov probably added to this but only hinting at and introducing the Genesis Project plot, instead of investing some time on it, kept me from fully knowing his character.
Ada and Loch spend a lot of time together and their attraction is very much a part of the story but at the same time, not really the focus. Their attraction and relationship never matured enough for me to feel it was solid and therefore wasn't very emotionally investing for me.
The strength here was the setting up of plot threads, warring Houses, modifying human DNA, faked death, political intrigue, teasing of future romance couples, and what, I'll intelligently, call space stuff/atmosphere.
The writing has a smoothness and, like I said, there are some intriguing threads set-up, that I'm on board for reading the second in the series.
I finally admitted to myself that I don't have the mental or emotional energy this year to do the Romancies. I went through a reading slump that lasted longer than any I've ever had since I started blogging/talking books online (~2009). I think I accepted too many ARCs and got too far away from my "themed months" that helps to keep me reading a mixture of sub-genres and older and newer published. I also think reviewing ARCs has turned too much into PR work for me, personally. I joined Instagram (wonderful people on there and probably the most "positive" vibe) and adding just that one more social media account seemed to drain my energy. Anyway, the big wake-up call was missing out on Halloween Bingo on BookLikes, I love that community game! I think I have 19 ARCs left to review and then I'm taking a big step back from ARCs.
I wish everyone a happy, healthy, joyful, and copious amounts of reading time in the New Year :)
Clicking on the book cover takes you to my review or GoodReads book page if I didn't.
Top Ten Contemporary Romances
*I count any book I read in the year, regardless of publishing date
Why were the attractive ones always criminals?
This has a definite The League series vibe by Sherrilyn Kenyon to it.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
“There’s no should when it comes to what we feel. There aren’t scientific laws when it comes to the human heart.”
With a little inspiration from The Breakfast Club, the Union of Rakes series introduces readers to five boys in detention, identified with similar-ish personalities from Breakfast Club movie characters. My Fake Rake stars “the brain”, Sebastian, and Lady Grace, the woman he has become friends with as they both frequent a library. Grace has always been an outsider as she gets labeled a bluestocking for her interest, love, and study of amphibians. She has a big crush on another member of the library, Mason, a naturalist and a plan gets concocted to have Sebastian play the rake hitting on Grace in public, thus drawing Mason's attention and waking him up to the idea that Grace is desirable. However, as fake relationships are wont to go in romanceland, Sebastian and Grace find their “fake” feelings are very real.
Reptile or human, you were guaranteed to make a cake out of yourself when mating season arrived. No, that wasn’t fair—to reptiles.
As a child of the '80s, I was very excited about the Breakfast Club inspiration but it turned out to be a very faint one. We get a brief prologue introducing the five boys but no scenes with them all together bonding. Only one of Sebastian's friends from the group is shown throughout the book, giving readers a hint of the emotional connection between those two but not the group, as the other three only make a brief appearance towards the end. I, personally, felt like this could have a been a fun theme strung out throughout the book and gave readers an intimate and male friendship angle. Grace has a couple scenes with a female friend and she seems to have bonded with her romance reading maid (I can't be the only one wanting her to have her own story!) but I felt secondary character emotional additives were mostly missing and the five detention boys bonding angle could have fulfilled this.
He was also poor as a churchmouse, which, unfortunately, meant that he hadn’t the financial means to court anyone.
When readers come into the scene, Sebastian already has feelings for Grace but he's not an heir and his father disapproves of his anthropological studies, making him feel that he could never support Lady Grace as she would deserve and keeping him from declaring his feelings. Grace has focused all her attention on Mason and though she occasionally sees Sebastian in more than a friend light, until she starts spending more time with him, she never consciously considers it. Grace's changing feelings for Sebastian started popping up pretty quickly but the acknowledge, push away, and “Oh, Sebastian could Never feel that way about Me” goes on for far too long and drags down the pace of the story. There was something external or missing outside forces that made this story a little dull. I liked the outline but there was some spark and emotion missing that made this hard to pick back up. The focus lasts too long on Mason when Grace keeps saying how much she likes Sebastian and the only thing keeping them apart is her thinking he couldn't possibly like her back, even when she points out times he seems jealous and they have intimate moments that should make someone who is brave in going against the grain and fairly self-aware, ask even covertly “Do you like me?”.
She realized at that moment that scholars didn’t just read, they knew things, naughty things.
Sebastian being an introvert and shy but working to be a rake provided some sweet moments but these two seemed to be forced into cross-purposes when in contrast their personalities probably would have figured it out much quicker. Sebastian and Grace's relationship with their family, Grace's friendship with her maid and other lady, and the group of five, felt too faint to gain any emotion from. Rothbury (one of the five detention club boys and possibly “the princess”) was the only secondary character that I felt pulled his weight and gave something to the story, his friendship with Sebastian helped flush Sebastian's character out.
Shouldn’t someone take an interest in her on the basis of who she was, rather than who they believed her to be? Yet that was precisely what she had done, and couldn’t help but feel some regret that she’d set her sights on someone who needed to be shown—by another man—that she was worthwhile.
The beginning and Breakfast Club inspiration excited me but the middle dragged and failed to animate the characters and their relationship, there were also some obvious points that the author wanted to make and when you personally agree with them, want them stated and they still feel jarring and take you out of the story, they probably weren't woven in naturally enough. The ending failed to recapture the spark I lost and while I think this series still holds promise, My Fake Rake was a slow start.
But, bloody hell, pretend or no, his kiss would haunt her to the end of her days.
Sunday brunch-ing, at home because it’s -somethingbs temp outside.
Hero and heroine form a friendship through meetings in the library
Ridiculously easy and quick to make and loved the light sweet fresh basil peach taste.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Ivy has been on her own since she was sixteen but lately, she wants to put some roots down. She's slowly starting to warm up to her group of friends and the new guy Kel, is catching her eye.
Kel is on leave from his job as a sheriff after being betrayed by one of his cops. When his cousin introduces him to Ivy, he's instantly attracted to her and her spicy tacos.
Ivy and Kel have family drama and they're both scared to open up but they just can't stay away from each other.
She wanted him. Quite badly, if her racing pulse meant anything. He was so . . . what, exactly? Steady? Tough? Intense and yet somehow easygoing, not to mention also extremely easy on the eyes?
Eighth in the Heartbreaker series, Wrapped Up in You gives a little bit of a crossover with Kel from the Animal Magnetism series. I haven't read any other books in Heartbreaker and that might have hurt some of the emotional connections I was missing. Characters that were stars from previous books, acting as secondary characters here, were never overwhelming to me as a newcomer but I never fully felt the friendship between the women and Ivy or a emotional familial connection between Kel and his cousin. Kel and Ivy spend the majority of the time together and are the focus, which works for highlighting their relationship, but it hurt my feeling their connection to the world Shalvis has created.
Kel's background in Idaho and all the drama that went down there happened away from this book and his utter lack of desire to return to what was his home gave more of missing piece to his character for me rather than emphasizing his desire to stay in California for and with Ivy and his family. His family drama with his mother also felt tacked on as I struggled to get a sense of Kel, let alone his secondary family members and their relationship.
I connected with Ivy's character more, her family drama and relationship with brother provided some end of story angst. I would have liked more scenes with her and her friends to get more of a feel and emotional connection to why she suddenly wanted to put down roots in this city (as a new reader to the series, something that continuous readers might have a better feel for).
But he slowly pulled back and ran a thumb along her jawline. “I knew you were going to be trouble the very first moment I laid eyes on you.”
“Hello, I’ve been trying to tell you that very thing!”
Snatching her hand in his, he grinned at her, a very sexy, very naughty grin, as if maybe he thought she was the very best kind of trouble, and led her through the alley to his truck.
Ivy and Kel had an immediate attraction and they act on wanting each other pretty quickly; I think it was around 20% the question of if they're a “we” was being discussed. I personally enjoy more of a building up and thought their relationship lacked the certain fun and sexy vibe Shalvis can sometimes give her lead's relationship.
Overall, Shalvis stories are always readable but with Kel's seeing his mother cheat on his father and feelings of abandonment, Ivy's brother struggling with going straight and the slight danger element from this, and their two week romance that lead to a together forever I couldn't quite feel and believe in, this lacked the Shalvis joie de vivre that keeps me reading her books.
Cold and snowy in my part of the world, calls for salsa verde enchiladas and a romance with some holiday vibes
I highly, highly recommend this recipe. The filling will keep for a few days, I just love the taste of these!
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
August might be a duke now, but he spent two years surviving on the streets while his father was in debtor's prison. He now can't make enough money and after he acquires a prime location that has a girl's school on it, he wants to buy Strathmore Shipping. The family is in dire straits, so he doesn't foresee a problem of them wanting to sell.
Clara is used to feeling ostracized, deemed a bluestocking and therefore of ridicule, she's ran the Haverhall School for Girls. Her family's money issues have forced her to sell and now the one man to ever catch her eye, is starting to show her attention again.
He had danced with her on a dare.
A Duke in the Night starts off showing the readers how a young, trying to fit in August asked Clara to dance on a dare. The dance and conversation they share ends up leaving quite an impression on both Clara and August and many years later they both still think about it. While this one waltz was a sparking way to start the story and their relationship, hinging so much of their initial feelings for one another on it created a lack of other emotional building moments. Our leads do a good job of talking and listening to one another, August especially has great growth moments, but they didn't crackle and jump off the pages as much as I would have liked.
His eyes crinkled at the corners as he grinned at her, and Clara felt rivulets of longing run down her spine. No man had the right to look that handsome when he smiled.
Clara was a great heroine, she's a bluestocking and experiences some of the consequences (shunned for friendship and romantic relationships) of her choosing to follow her heart and teach. In order to keep her school running, she must also keep her reputation in good standing. I thought the author did a great job giving us a strong-willed, intelligent, and courageous heroine that felt true to the times and honored her with also showing the difficulties. I would have liked more scenes with her siblings to get some emotional impact from those relationships, they seemed like such a wonderful supportive family. I did think her closed off actions and emotions toward August in the middle and end lasted too long and gave a bit of a dragged on feeling.
“I don't want the woman you're supposed to be,” he said, his voice low. “I never have. I want the woman you are, and everything that that encompasses. I wanted her ten years ago, and I want her now.” He stepped closer to her, his hand coming up to toy with the ribbon at the front of her bodice. “A woman who knows her own mind. A woman who can make a man lose his. Make him do reckless things.”
The details of August's character were compelling but his background of having to survive on the streets just didn't completely emotionally come through to me; his supposed ruthlessness wasn't felt. His growth arc felt more centered on allowing his sister her agency and realizing she didn't want a quiet life of glitz and glamour. I thought his excuse for not wanting to marry, his parent's had a horrible marriage and he doesn't want to marry someone he “thinks” he loves. I think concentrating on his years of trying to survive and build his empire (workaholic) would have better served his character makeup; the whole not marrying for love theme fades away so much I almost forgot about at the end when he was still struggling with his feelings.
August and Clara were both intrigued by each other and I thought it was cute how the author showed them liking the other and having moments of feeling stupid because they thought they said the wrong thing, sweet beginning relationship stages of insecurity. Angst is brewing under the surface because the reader knows August bought Clara's school and that he wants to buy her family's shipping company, the school plot I liked simmering under the surface but the resolution was left to the very end and kind of emotionally dealt with quickly. The shipping company felt more clogging up as the predictability of Clara ending up thinking August was only paying attention to her for the company.
This was a good start to the Devils of Dover series, Clara's siblings are showcased enough to entice readers to want to know more about their storylines. August was a great hero in that he actually listened to Clara and took her thoughts to heart and Clara trying to help woman in the capacity she could was lovely to read. There were some arcs that I thought clogged up more than adding, especially the villain of a man felt he was done wrong by August and we get a whole kidnapping danger but oh wait, everyone is fine. A Duke in the Night had two characters that even years later were intrigued by each other, the power of one waltz.
Sometimes my food pairings are elaborate shrimp meals and sometimes they are milk dyed green.
It’s a Monday, folks!
A Duke and a bluestocking who can’t forget about the waltz they once shared and Grinch hot chocolate.
Happy new reading week!
If you like minty cocoa, this is for you
Kaitlyn has had a long time crush on her friends' brother and when they have one too many drinks at a wedding, Kaitlyn finds out her life is going to drastically change in nine months.
Rafe was engaged young and lost his fiancee and though not a lot of people know, she was pregnant. Every since then he has tried to wall his heart off but Kaitlyn always finds way to sneak past his guard. When a baby and a fake engagement force him into opening up to her more, he begins to realize that maybe loving again is worth the risk.
And oh, she felt the current between them, strong as always, brought on by camaraderie and banter, but sustained by pure, unholy chemistry.
Third in the Angel Falls series, readers have been waiting for Rafe and Kaitlyn to finally get together. In the previous book, we saw them hook-up and All I Want For Christmas Is You starts off with Kaitlyn realizing she is pregnant from that encounter. Previous characters from the first two books in the series make appearances here but mostly stay to the side as Kaitlyn and Rafe work out their issues. Kaitlyn's troubled niece adds some extra stress to Kaitlyn's storyline and I only really liked her addition as a maybe see these character in a future book with her good-looking and nice kid math tutor.
Kaitlyn was like sunshine, offering warmth and sweetness and… hope. The scary part was that she made him wonder, what would it be like to dare to step into that light?
Rafe's issues with opening up to Kaitlyn were understandable but as I didn't get any flashback scenes with him and his previous fiancee and it was so many years ago, I never felt emotionally connected to his heartbreak. This made his reluctance and dragging feet to accept he liked and loved Kaitlyn feel kind of prolonged towards the middle and end. The whole plot of his grandmother faking a heart-attack and their fake engagement felt like going through the motions of a trope, not many funny moments or tension emotions taken out of it.
Kaitlyn and Rafe do have sweet and cute moments together but the vast majority of emotional energy from the two is Kaitlyn thinking how Rafe is acting toward and what he is doing for her is from a sense of obligation for the baby and Rafe stays in his past hurts purgatory for so long, the pace and tone of the story isn't very upbeat.
“Someone should make you feel special every single day.”
I felt like I got to know Kaityln more as a character and the heap of stresses she had on her plate, unplanned pregnancy, troubled niece, and trying to win a cookie recipe contest to help her bakery out had me feeling for her. I would have liked a couple more scenes with her and her friends to see her communicate and have her personality flourish in that way. Rafe didn't shine as brightly for me, he's a fireman but we almost never see him in that capacity or get a feel for him in that way and he has a certain cloud of moping around him. Like I said, these two did have some sweet moments together but I would have liked to have seen more of a definitive growing and marked decision to choose one another; the surprise pregnancy kind of made the decision for Rafe.
The ending added some extra angst that I wasn't sure fit the previous cozy, low-key tone of the story (obligatory firefighter in danger angst) and again helped make the decision for our couple to come together instead of showing a more emotional journey to get there. Except for holiday baking and some family get togethers, the holiday feel could have been stronger and since I'm a big dog lover, I could have stood for more cute puppy scenes. This had some checklist tropes and additives that didn't quite end up jumping out at me but this also had some quiet sweetness.
Friday night reading, snuggling in with this holiday read (look at that cute doggo!) and some puppy chow.
What is everyone else reading and snacking on this weekend?
I've never felt so seen and attacked before by a cookbook. :)
There was a great forward and introduction to how the author and cook came up with these safe and pretty easy recipes that can either be eaten in dough form or baked into cookies.
I love cookie dough, so when I saw this had 110 recipes, I was over the moon. The recipes call for heat treated flour, which you can do yourself or buy (I bought); this helps make it safer to eat in dough form.
Doggy Dough - This had applesauce, peanut butter, honey, banana, and pumpkin in it. My doggy is a big boy, so I divided it into about a cup for each serving and got 5. I froze them and gave them to him as little treats. No surprise, he loved them :) These was easy to make and no hard to find ingredients.
Cinnamon Roll Outta Bed - Along with the dough recipe, there is a Bedhead Cinnamon Bark recipe and I highly recommend making that to go along with the dough. This was easy to make, you will need heat treated flour and pasteurized eggs (you only use the whites) but every thing else is common pantry baking ingredients. I was impressed with how much this did taste like a cinnamon roll! This never made it to cookie form as I ate the dough with bits of the bark broken off into it with delight.
Other recipes I tried:
Signature Chocolate Chip - A good old standby. I ate half in dough form and baked the rest. Ooey gooey goodness that was easy and simple to make.
Coffee Toffee - I made this for my bf and he loved it. There is a dough recipe accompanying the toffee but I skipped that and just made the toffee. Instant espresso powder and molasses are two of the ingredients that go into this and the dark, rich flavor was fantastic. You will need a candy thermometer to keep things from burning.
A Hot Cocoa Holiday - A fun seasonal treat! There are two dough recipes, a hot cocoa and peppermint, I halved the recipes and made both. With the peppermint I made Pretend You're Put Together Peppermint Bark. These looked gorgeous when served to some guests and was so tasty.
Classic Red Velvet - I went ahead and baked these, maybe took a couple nibbles of the dough, and made the cream cheese buttercream frosting. Decadent and bakery quality.
If you love cookie dough, this cookbook is a must. The heat treated flour and pasteurized egg whites make things safer while not taking away from taste. The instructions are straight forward and the vast majority of ingredients are common and easy to obtain; the heat treated flour is the only one I can see more of a challenge to get. This would make a fantastic fun gift for the holidays.
Erika is a workaholic surgeon and when her father, who is also her boss, forces a two week vacation on her before an important clinical trial she is set to lead, she's not happy. Deciding to try and reconnect with her childhood bestfriend Cassie, she heads up to her hometown of Wild River.
Reed was always intrigued by his younger sister's friend Erika but she's even more stuck-up than she used to be, until he has to help her and his sister get home after a couple of drinks. Having her help on his Search and Rescue crew has brought them together but circumstances and secrets could keep them apart.
Their tattoos had been more than just words at one time and their shared history had to mean something.
First in the Wild River series set in Alaska, I thought the author did a great job transporting the reader there. There are a couple search and rescue missions that Erika and Reed go on that help set the scene and environment, also giving a good winter wonderland feel that fits the holiday title. While I thought the environment setting was well written, I struggled with Erika and Reed's relationships with secondary characters. It's at first set-up for Erika to reconnect with her childhood bestfriend Cassie, but Cassie is not around Erika for most of the book and I missed their friendship, even while this gave more time to Reed and Erika. I also thought more interaction between Reed and his friends was needed to create more of the small town vibe and give the story more life. I just generally missed secondary characters helping to round out and fill the story.
Crazy as it sounded, nothing else seemed to exist when he was holding her. Both an amazing feeling and a terrifying one.
Our leads Erika and Reed do spend a lot of time together, this definitely helped their chemistry but the middle of the book and the majority of their time is sex scenes. I thought the sex scenes did good on emotionally connecting the characters at times but, I personally, was looking for more of them outside the bedroom; I found myself skimming some of the bedroom scenes at times.
Reed and Erika did have chemistry and I liked how low angst most of the story was, the author did a good job of creating real world problems, Erika being a workaholic due to how her father treated her after her mother died and Reed sticking around his hometown to help his sister and mother out and search for his missing father, and how this created two different worlds that put their happily ever after in jeopardy.
And it surprised him that two people who were so incompatible on the surface could be so perfect together at the core.
There was a hint of secondary romance between Reed's sister Cassie and his friend Tank that will draw you into (along with Cassie's narcoleptic dog) wanting to read the second of the series. The main characters' relationships with secondary characters wasn't filled out enough for me and the sex scenes were a bit too abundant but Erika and Reed's chemistry and emotion was there.
“Someday, Dougal wanted her to look at him the way she regarded that last half crumpet.”
It’s December and that means I crave holiday/winter wonderland reads and this delivered on those feels I wanted :) A 4 star read that had snowflakes falling, sexual tension, and mistletoe lurking!
Full review can be read at Historical Romance Magazine
I enjoyed this story with some Easy Turtle Cheesecake Fudge
A mid-week pick-me-up/comfort Mac & cheese and book I’ve heard great things about.
Look at that little floofy pup on the cover!
One of my fav mac&cheese recipes. A smidgen salty to me but so cheesy comfort goodness.
There were worse places to find a husband than Newgate Prison.
Georgiana is desperate to keep herself, her fortune, and her father's shipping company out of her cousin Josiah's hands. Deciding that marrying a condemned convict, quickly making her a widow and gaining more power over her finances, is the best way to do this, she ends up meeting Benedict Wylde in Newgate.
A Bow Street Runner undercover as a smuggler, Benedict allows himself to be taken prisoner so that he can try and get some information out of his cellmate. With an Earl older brother trying to save the family holdings because of a father who gambled away the family fortune, he's in constant need of money. An heiress demanding he marry her but also making him sign a contract saying he can't touch her money, in the bowels of Newgate, seems almost Faustian.
First in the Bow Street Bachelors series, This Earl of Mine did a great job of hitting all the, somewhat becoming overused Regency London sights, Vauxhall and balls, and giving some new blood details like a submarine. The heroine Georgiana inherited control of her father's shipping company but reader's don't really get to see her in the roll, she spouts off nautical knowledge but for the most part, it was left to the side. Our hero Benedict is a second son who joined the Rifles and fought Napoleon, again a detail added to his character that could have used some coloring in. The first half of these two meeting and testing each other was an enjoyable warming story to fall into but the middle dragged with lack of sparks and the ending brought the focus on a Napoleon plot that never felt entwined with the characters, giving the story a lack of emotion.
“What if we don’t keep our marriage quiet?”
I thought the details of our leads was interesting, Georgiana running the shipping company and trying to fend off her cousin and Benedict having fought for the Rifles, owning a gaming hell with his friends, and now a Bow Street Runner. While the details were there, the coloring in was absent. I thought the author did a great job giving us the setting but the characters fell flat for me. If you read a good amount of Regency historical romance, you won't find much new here (except for the submarine!) and the lack of emotion breathed into the story was disappointing. There were also some plot points that didn't quite tie together; there being no prisoners condemned to die on the night Georgiana shows up, why the prisoner guard would go to Georgiana's cousin Josiah, and even some of the marriage plot of reasons given to keep it a secret and then not keep it a secret.
“I see you,” he said softly.
I usually bemoan series baiting characters but I actually thought Benedict's two friends, who are also partners in their gaming hell, could have shown up more, would have liked to have scenes showcasing their friendship and even Georgiana and her family, her sister and mother ended up feeling like caricatures. There is still no denying that the author has a very readable flow to her writing and there were moments between Georgiana and Benedict that flashed but for the most part, this felt like a shell of a story. I'll be looking for plot points that meld together better and more emotion and feeling in the next installment.