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WhiskeyintheJar Romance

Romance book talk, reviews, recipes, and dog pictures

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Guest Reviewer at:  Reading Between the Wines book club

Currently reading

Nothing to Fear (Final Hour Book 2)
Juno Rushdan

Kyraryker’s quotes


"She thought it over, but couldn’t see any immediate loopholes other than the threat of her inner slut emerging, and she could darned well control that little bitch."— Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Reading Update: Page 1

Nothing to Fear (Final Hour Book 2) - Juno Rushdan

Monday nights call for key lime cookies and romantic action :)

 

Nothing to Fear by Juno Rushdan purchase link

 

Key Lime Sugar Cookies recipe

I added lime juice to the sugar to roll the cookies in for more of a tart taste. Delicious!

 

The Bewildered Bride by Vanessa Riley

The Bewildered Bride (Advertisements for Love Book 4) - Vanessa Riley

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.

 

Adam and I had been kicked out, were running for our lives, and the morning sun hadn’t even risen.

 

Ruth and Adam had a whirlwind romance that had them going to Gretna Green to get married. Adam hasn't been completely honest about who is and plots involving his uncle stealing money that have him in danger, so before they can fully enjoy their happily ever after, evil snatches it away.

 

Fourth in the Advertisements in Love series, The Bewildered Bride gets the story rolling right away, almost too quickly for me. I haven't read the others in the series and for the first twenty or so percent I felt like I was missing some background or key information. There is some lying by omission going on from Adam and he isn't completely honest about how much danger his uncle is, leaving Ruth in the dark in a way that completely hamstrings her. I felt even more lost than Ruth with the plot about Adam's evil uncle, I'm wondering if there was some information about this in the previous book or if Adam and Ruth's relationship starts there, as they're getting married when we first start the book. The middle was a still a bit muddled for me but towards the end, the author untangled everything to make things clearer.

 

I have to believe the good in him. He did not take me to Gretna Green just to have at me. We married. I was a bride. I was loved.”

 

The star of the show was definitely our heroine Ruth. Since no one in her family ever met Adam, they don't believe she was married, making her family having to rescue her from a brothel and then delivering a baby nine months later, a dark mark on her reputation. Ruth's mother and sister don't believe her story about marrying Adam either, letting their friends say hurtful things to Ruth. I felt for her and her pain was palpable on the pages, it was just the construction of the story plot that I couldn't completely get on board with.

 

On their way back from Gretna Green, they are attacked by men possibly sent by Adam's uncle and it ends up where Adam thinks Ruth is dead and Ruth thinks Adam is dead. Ruth doesn't have any proof that she was married to Adam and Adam has a tough road to travel before he can get back to being in control of his own life again. This is a great set-up for some drama but when our hero and heroine meet back up again, Ruth doesn't recognize Adam (the first time because she doesn't have her glasses on). Adam proclaims some weak excuse for not telling her and for the vast majority of the story, we have Adam lying to Ruth again and some unreliability that she can't recognize him. I just didn't feel the romance between the two.

 

Ruth was a strong and heartbreaking character with all she had to deal with, while I felt like I couldn't connect with Adam and his lying. The evil uncle plot was a bit hard to follow but the author did a great job of portraying the emotional and historical feel of the times; classism and racism. I could have missed some information starting with book four, if you're a reader of the series you'll definitely want to read this for Ruth and if you're starting here, be prepared to maybe be as bewildered as Ruth.

Reading Update: 20%

The Bewildered Bride (Advertisements for Love Book 4) - Vanessa Riley

Rainy cloudy day here, perfect for reading and a crock pot meal

 

The Bewildered Bride by Vanessa Riley purchase link

 

Crockpot Ranchero Chicken recipe

Added green chilies, extra cayenne, and spicy guacamole. Ate mine in a bowl but bf did tacos with sour cream and loved it.

 

Monday napping

Her Deadly Secrets by Laura Griffin

Her Deadly Secrets - Laura Griffin

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.

Kira had no idea that meeting up with her boss and mentor Ollie at high priced lawyer Brock Logan's house would turn her life upside down. As private investigators hired by Logan's firm to help find information on their current trial involving a surgeon supposedly killing his wife, they've been working around the clock. Ollie claims he's found out something that will win the trial but before he can tell Kira, a masked and hooded man murders him.
Jeremy is just getting off a plane after a botched mission and wanting some rest and relaxation but Wolfe Security needs him on another protection case. Protecting lawyers seems easy but when Jeremy gets assigned to Kira he knows he's in trouble.

What had started as a straightforward PI job had spun out of control, and Kira felt as though her life had been hit by a tornado.

This is second in the Wolfe Security series but easily read as a standalone, you'll recognize some Wolfe Security members but the author takes the reader on a completely new murder case. The murder mystery is more of the focus than the romance, the lead detective on the case, Charlotte Spears, gets multiple povs throughout the story. This helped to develop and involve the reader in the murder case but definitely took time away from the romance. Kira was a fun heroine to follow along with at times, with her, somewhat, unconventional job as a PI. I struggled with her stubbornness and frustration with her protection detail, though. Her boss and friend Ollie was murdered right in front of her and she is obviously in danger because of what she might know or have in her possession but she still tries to skirt Jeremy and others assigned to her safety. She defers to them later in the story but in the beginning, it wasn't so much showing me how independent Kira was as how foolish she was.

This was going to be a hell of a case, Jeremy had suspected it the instant he'd seen the client, and it had taken about two minutes alone with her to confirm his suspicions. This woman was headstrong and sneaky as hell.

For being a lead, Jeremy wasn't a character that I felt I got to know well. We get some canned former military, PTSD, alpha, and still struggling with last mission that went wrong, background but I had no idea who this guy really was. He seemed nice, smart, and capable but five minutes after finishing the book I could never pick him out of a lineup. As the story seemed more focused on the murder mystery, Kira and Jeremy's relationship development was severely lacking for me. Their first kiss felt completely adrenaline fueled than deeper attraction. I appreciated how the author kept Jeremy focused on his job, as lives were on the line, but it also made Kira's seemingly bewilderment as to why Jeremy wanted to keep things professional even more glaring.

Her bossy voice turned him on, which was the dead-last thing he ever planned to tell her, bit it was true.

Towards the middle, the case meandered a bit and then the end had a bunch of information revealed fast, which gave a bit of anti-climatic feel. There was also some details added, multiple scenes of people having to stop talking because something like a coffee pot was too loud and secondary character traits like Logan being an alcoholic, that felt useless, unless Logan and others show up in the series again. I think romance readers will miss more romance and relationship development and murder mystery readers will miss a more gritty and whodunit feel. The writing is good and the outline is there but the details and relationships that make a story memorable for me were missing from this one. Wolfe Security still has some bachelors and I'm going to look forward to more romance to go along with their gun toting. 

Reading Update: 20%

Her Deadly Secrets - Laura Griffin

Today feels like such a Thursday, aka not Friday. A spin on a classic sandwich with a side of murder and mayhem.

 

Her Deadly Secrets by Laura Griffin purchase link

 

Blackberry Bacon Grilled Cheese recipe

I used turkey bacon and I’m telling you, the way the blackberry, jalapeño, and Swiss combines is heavenly. So quick and easy to make but tasty af

 

 

Highland Jewel by May McGoldrick

Highland Jewel: A Royal Highlander Novel - May McGoldrick

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.

“Cinaed Mackintosh is my sister Isabella’s husband. I can’t let you do it. I’ll not let you kill him.”

Highland Jewel is the second in the Royal Highlanders series that follows three women. In the first, readers learn that Isabella's husband was killed by British soldiers as they ransacked their house thinking it was a den of traitors. While the first is more of an after the fact, this story brings us back to the beginning and follows Isabella's sister Maisie. We learn about the build up to the impetus that led to the three women (the daughter of Isabella's husband) having to run for their lives. While I wouldn't say it would be absolutely necessary to read the first before this one, like I said, this story gives us the background story glossed over in the first, having knowledge about Cinaed (Isabella's love interest) would certainly help as the connecting thread between the series is not only the women's connection but the tumultuous time period in Scotland and how Cinaed is tied up in it.

Lieutenant Campbell was far too bossy and interfering for her to harbor any illusions about.

Niall is the brother of Maisie's bestfriend Fiona and comes into the picture as he rescues Maisie during a public protest that gets broken up by British soldiers. Niall was a solider in the Black Watch, so Maisie is distrustful of him at first but Niall does a sweet job of breaking down her walls. He listens to her and admires her will and mind, which her family has no idea about as they just look upon her as a pretty empty headed girl. I was a little confused by Maisie and Isabella's relationship as I thought they read to be closer in the first but here we see them as pretty distant and not knowing one another at all. Maisie purposefully keeping her actions, like starting a chapter of the Female Reform Society, from Isabella didn't competently feel true to me. As Fiona becomes the catalyst for angst between Niall and Maisie and they are kept apart, I missed that friendship, too.

The back of their hands brushed. Her fingers were cold, his hand was warm . She wondered what it would feel like to entwine her fingers with his, to absorb the heat.

The majority of the story takes place in the past, with going back to explain how Maisie is at the place she is and why she distrusts Niall. Around the 60% mark is where the story catches up and we get to the present time. I liked this as it helped fill in a lot questions I had and we get to actually see Maisie and Niall fall in love. However, I did think the romance took somewhat of a backseat to the political drama going on. The authors do such a great job melding true history with their fictional story. The intrigue with Cinaed, the Scots wanting freedom, spy rings, and a Queen, were absorbing. The placement and tie-ins with the three women are very well done and although you have to pay attention and keep some characters straight in your mind, I thought how everything and everyone was brought together was inspired.

He stared into her face, and for the first time, Maisie felt like he was seeing her, who she really was. Not the outer shell of a young and reasonably pretty woman. And she saw him too. Niall Campbell was a man who wasn’t intimidated by talk of equality or of women fighting for their rightful place in society.

This series is shaping up to remind me of Grace Burrowes' Captive Hearts and Marsha Canham's Highland, the historical intrigue can eclipse the romance at times but it's interesting and still highlighted with sweet and sexy moments. I can't wait for Morrigan's story, the daughter of Isabella's husband, and to read about her hardened heart captured by a hero.

What duty did a man owe to a king and a government that had forgotten the people, he thought. Not only forgotten. Conspired against, stealing their rights under the pretense that their actions were for the good of all. 

50%

Highland Jewel: A Royal Highlander Novel - May McGoldrick

“I can honestly say I’ve never been more impressed by a man than I was at that moment. Even more than in the Grassmarket that day.” She looked tenderly into his eyes, and he felt his heart melt a little more. “Impressed by you, Lieutenant Campbell . . . Niall.”

Perhaps she was toying with him, trying to make him forget he was angry. If she was, it was working.

She smiled. “You’re blushing.”

“I’m not blushing,” he grouched. He wasn’t blushing.

 

I had to go back and read book one, this feels a bit like Grace Burrowes' Captive Hearts and Marsha Canham's Highlands series; historical romance with some epic feel. 

Reading Update: Page 1

Highland Jewel: A Royal Highlander Novel - May McGoldrick

Trying to hold onto summer with these shrimp tacos!
I’ve heard this series has some wonderful historical threads/plots/tone, diving into both today.

 

Highland Jewel by May McGoldrick preorder link (Sept 24)

 

Tropical Shrimp Lettuce Wraps recipe

Definitely make the sauce, adds great flavoring. I loved these and will be making them again and again!

 

Conversations with the Fat Girl by Liza Palmer

Conversations With The Fat Girl - Liza Palmer

 

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.

 

My life is about never putting myself into that situation. I never call attention to myself. That is the code I live by.

 

At twenty-seven Maggie is still working at Joe's coffee shop, it was just supposed to be while she applied for jobs after college, a week away from being evicted from the house she rents, and starting to feel cracks in the friendship with her bestfriend Olivia. Her mother and sister are trying to gently push her towards a dream internship and to stand up for herself with Olivia, while all Maggie wants to do is be there for her bestfriend as Olivia lives out their highschool dream wedding and quietly lust after Domenic, the bus boy at Joe's.

Conversations with the Fat Girl is a contemporary fiction snippet of life look at how we slowly let societal expectations dictate who we become and how we think about ourselves and the strength and courage it takes to live caring and true to yourself.

 

Should it worry me that even in my fantasy, the man is getting married for love but I just don't want to be alone anymore?

 

Told in first person pov from Maggie, the casual, funny, hurts because it's true tone and style drew me in and wrapped me up in Maggie's world. Maggie's always been on the heavier side but the last couple years she's put on more weight and has been slipping into a more lonely life. With Maggie's mom and sister physically looking so different from her, it could have been a ground zero for her pain but the author created a solid family bond that while on the edges can bother Maggie, her relationship with the two ultimately give her love and support. I thought Maggie hurting because she felt lonely but thinking of her family and realizing she may be lonely but she wasn't alone was one of the best moments in the book.

 

The friendship with Olivia was for the most part at the center of the story, they bonded throughout school with being the outcasts because of their appearance but had a friendship that felt real and it was heartbreaking as the reader sees it breaking apart, before Maggie can even admit it to herself. I thought it was an honest look at how relationships grow and how Maggie feared letting go of a constant in her life. The other secondary characters that included Maggie's co-workers and Olivia's friends were at times rounded out enough to fill out Maggie's world and at others frustratingly left vague (her landlord, Cole the manager at Joe's) or caricature vapid (Olivia's friends).

 

Dominic is resting his arms on the top of the doorjamb into the bedroom. I know his mouth is moving, but I can't quite make out the words over the roaring fantasies of him standing like that.

 

I would call this more of a women's fiction than romance but we do have some back and forth and tension with one of Maggie's co-workers, Domenic. We don't get a pov from Domenic, which made some of his actions extremely frustrating as readers are left in the dark along with Maggie about his thoughts and feelings. The author adds in some clues through his body language but for the most part, he was a tough character to crack. When they are together Maggie and Domenic had cute chemistry but just don't expect a strong romance or clear happily ever after as this is solidly Maggie's story.

 

I finally see myself in the harsh light of that training room. I've convinced myself that I'm unlovable, untouchable, and invisible. But is the reality that there is someone out there for me who will know exactly what it takes to comfort me? That all I need to do is allow it?

 

This will make you laugh and hurt as Maggie's sense of humor about herself and life is appreciating and depreciating. The first half is more of learning how and why Maggie is in a rut and all the ways she's scared to get out of it and the second half has her waking up to the fact that she is not only hiding from the pain of life but also the joys. Maggie's not a flawless character, she makes fun of a woman's appearance and admits she plays the victim role at times, but Maggie and her story are about evolving and growing out of these attitudes and actions. I enjoyed the friendships she had, hurt for her, cheered her on, and hope Olivia eventually gets the courage Maggie develops. Conversations with the Fat Girl was a draw you in story and I hope everyone leaves it with a little more confidence and a little less apology attitude in their own lives.

 

What's worse than sitting here now---alone and tormented by my own safe and comfortable life?

 

50%

Conversations With The Fat Girl - Liza Palmer

I remember Kate telling me a story about when she enrolled Emily in ballet class at the Pasadena Athletic Club. Kate was told to bring Emily to class in full ballet togs so she could hop around for an hour with a former ballerina named Miss Janie. Upon their arrival, Kate was horrified to see that all the other little girls were wearing little black leotards and pink tights. Emily, on the other hand, was in pink from head to toe, including her tutu and sparkling wand. Kate turned to Emily thinking her daughter would be humiliated.

Sweetie, are you okay?” Kate asked gently.

Yes, Mommy, I'm fine,” she said. “I hope all the other girls are okay with what they're wearing.” And into class she walked, sparkling wand in the air, to greet Miss Janie.

I want to be like that. I want to be seven years old again. I want to go back to the day my confidence left me and was replaced by an apology.

 

 

 

Reading Update: Page 1

Conversations With The Fat Girl - Liza Palmer

Weekend reading and eating! Have heard such great things about this book, can’t wait to crack the cover :)

 

Conversations with the Fat Girl by Liza Palmer purchase link

 

Salmon & Avocado sheet pan Fajitas recipe

Favorite of mine to make, easy and delicious. Highly recommend for salmon lovers

 

 

The Immortal City by Amy Kuivalainen

The Immortal City (The Magicians of Venice Book 1) - Amy Kuivalainen

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.

 

The discovery of a piece of tablet that Dr. Penelope Bryne found on the ocean floor has her claiming it is from the lost civilization of Atlantis. Trying to get funding, she gives a lecture on her findings but is made to look a fool when an audience member directs the conversation towards magic. When an Inspector in Italy emails about a gruesome murder in Venice, she flies on the first plane out of Australia when the writing and symbols decorating the murder scene match the writing on her tablet.

Alexis is known as The Defender and for thousands of years, he has tried to keep any knowledge about Atlantis from the public. As one of the surviving magicians from Atlantis, he feel it is his sacred duty. When Dr. Bryne's discovery gains attention, he immediately tries to destroy any credibility she may have but he can't ignore the feelings he has for her.

Ritual murders and long thought enemies destroyed will have Penelope and Alexis working together and also fighting the magic happening between them.

 

The Doctor and the magician eyed each other, neither moving.

 

The first in The Immortal City series, we are first introduced to Penelope who is fighting to prove Atlantis existed and trying to help an Inspector Marco with a series of ritualistic murders. The set-up to get Penelope to Venice and involved in the murders was a little loose and her involvement lessens to a degree that made it feel a bit weak. I did enjoy the secondary character of Marco and how he helped fill out the story but at times he felt more colored in than Alexis, who should be the co-star, with Penelope, of the story.

 

We learn the basics of who Alexis is, an immortal magician from Atlantis, but a solid backstory is left to around the sixty percent, where we learn a little bit about his life in Atlantis and how he was picked to become a magician. The other six magicians, with Nereus being their leader, were rounded out well and they did intrigue enough to gain some interest in their future books.

 

A man appears in my meditation, turns out to be a real-life magician from Atlantis who wants my help hunting down priests of a demonic cult,”

 

The gist of the plot is Penelope trying to help Marco translate the writing at what appears to be ritualistic murder scenes (the author gets pretty gruesome in describing these scenes) with Alexis coming in as he's been keeping tabs on Penelope and trying to figure out how the murderer could possibly know about Atlantis dark magic. There's the mystery of could it be dark priests or demons of a cult, called Thevetat that the magicians clashed with and brought down the demise of Atlantis but thought to have died there or if the killings are just supposed to scare people in a political power move. The inclusion of how Venice should be structured because of rising water levels with DIGOS and MOSE was more confusing than adding another level to the story, I thought this whole part should have been left out in favor of just going with the magicians versus Thevetat and more of a backstory to them in Atlantis.

 

We do this together, Penelope Bryne, or not at all.”

 

Penelope's character came through strong but for most of the story, I didn't have a strong feel for Alexis and this caused some lack of emotional connection between the two for me. They are said to have a destiny knot and that seemed to be more of an explanation for attraction between the two than I wanted; would have liked to have felt their growing attraction to each other more through scenes.

 

Some of the middle, forty to sixy percent, dragged for me as we didn't have much momentum in the murder mystery and rehashed a lot but then we get more of Alexis' backstory and the magical, fantasy elements were included more and it did become interesting fiction reading. Alexis and Penelope's romance felt underdeveloped to me and there seemed to be an overall polish to the story that was missing but the author has set-up a curious world with magicians, demons, and Atlantis.

40%

The Immortal City (The Magicians of Venice Book 1) - Amy Kuivalainen

“Immortal magicians from Atlantis. Atlantis. That is…” Her breath hitched as her lungs tightened. “Impossible.”

Reading Update: Page 1

The Immortal City (The Magicians of Venice Book 1) - Amy Kuivalainen

Venice, magicians, and a quest for Atlantis.

This looks to be a mystery and fantasy, can’t wait to start!

 

The Immortal City by Amy Kuivalainen preorder (Sept. 19) link

 

BBQ Chipotle Chicken with Mango Guacamole recipe

 

This is one of my favorite sandwiches to make. This all takes a little bit of time and effort but don’t skip out on making any of it, everything and all the flavors combine incredibly. Messy sandwich but oh so good!

 

 

The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai

The Right Swipe: swipe right on the perfect summer read of 2019 (Modern Love) - Alisha Bionda

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.

 

Rhiannon has been burned badly in the world of tech business, she decides her best revenge is to succeed. With the help of a friend, she starts her own dating app company, Crush, and wants to buy Matchmaker, one of the original online dating companies.

 

Samson ended his professional football career early in protest over how head injuries were being taken care of, after seeing how his father and uncle suffered from CTE, he has no compromise for it. Now that his uncle has died, he begins working for his aunt's company Matchmaker in a P.R. campaign.

 

Rhiannon and Samson end up having one amazing night and then a next day that, accidentally, ends in ghosting and then are brought back together through chance and some meddling. Rhiannon has trust issues and Samson has patience, in the world of modern dating these two might just find themselves in an old fashioned love story.

 

She’d been decimated before, and by someone whom she’d thought was on her side. Samson was technically a competitor, and she needed to be careful.

 

If you've read Rai's Forbidden Hearts series, you'll recognize Rhiannon as Gabe's (Hurts to Love You) sister. We know her as a tough cookie who doesn't like to dress up and has a strained relationship with her mother. Rhiannon clearly has trust issues and as you learn the backstory of how her boss, who became her boyfriend, began to become controlling, and eventually forced her out of a company she helped to build and spread nasty rumors about her, you'll understand why she's developed a harden layer. I thought Rai did a good job of giving us glimpses into her cracks, her relationship with Katrina (silent partner in Crush and friend) showed her caring and human connectivity side and the way she continuously “hugged” herself with hoodies or long sleeves. The sheer fact of how hard Rhiannon fought to be unreachable showcased her vulnerability.

 

Samson came from a football dynasty that was publicly celebrated but he lived the personal downside of what professional sports can deliver back. The way his father's personality changed and how his uncle declined through ALS and Alzheimer was sad and anger inducing, Rai did a good job of addressing how players had to fight against an employer who didn't want to admit there was a problem and accountability and a culture of “tough it out”. I did think we missed some emotional connections without getting scenes of Samson with his uncle. Samson has friends that pop in and out but there were times where he felt like he existed more in a vacuum.

 

Now what? What did one do when someone behaved badly and gave you a reasonable explanation for what motivated their bad behavior and apologized?

 

I thought the set-up of Samson accidentally ghosting Rhiannon and the surprise competitor angle worked well but even though their decision to do a P.R. campaign together gave us some cute and steamy scenes, I'm not sure I really ever bought into the why and then it is kind of left to dangle off in the end. There were some heavy topics discussed and addressed in this story, CTE, work place sexual harassment, abuse, and toxic masculinity, while I felt Rai did a good job creating a story and characters with these topics, the romance seemed to be left out in the cold.

 

He missed Rhiannon. Like she was home.

 

As a story, I give this 3.5 stars but if I were to rate it solely on the romance, it'd be 2 stars. Rhiannon and Samson have their P.R. campaign dates and then some text messaging but I didn't quite feel they had enough time together, giving me the highs of seeing and feeling them fall in love. Samson was also written to be a very patient and understanding man, which made two later half instances where Rhiannon leans into her trust issues very frustrating. I understood why Rhiannon had trust issues but by that time in the story, Samson's character warranted more trust.

 

Distrust issues stretched out too long for me and for the most part, this felt more like Rhiannon and Samson's story separately, instead of theirs together. Rai is fantastic at writing family and friendship and all the support and angst that can come from those relationships. There were some steamy sexual moments but, maybe due to feeling a weaker emotional romance connection between the leads, I thought they lacked the heat of her usual flair. I always enjoy Rai's writing and will definitely be reading the next in the series that stars Rhiannon's friend Katrina, and hoping for more of a romance feel.