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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

An Unseen Attraction
K.J. Charles
There's Only Been You
Donna Marie Rogers

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

On fire heroine

An Extraordinary Union - Alyssa Cole

She was Ellen Burns, and she was going to help destroy the Confederacy.


I'm wait late to the party on this one but, oh yes, do I agree with the majority of you all, this is my highest rated book of the year. Our heroine Elle definitely is the stand-out character, the hero Malcolm was very overshadowed in the beginning but began to shine brighter in the middle and end. Working on behalf of the Union in a ring of spies called the Loyal League, Elle is placed in a southern senator's household as a mute slave to gain and pass on as much information as she can. Malcolm spies for the Pinkerton Agency and is currently posing as a Union soldier. Malcolm is immediately drawn to Elle, a bit insta-lust, but what saves their romance from my personal dislike of insta, is Elle's thoughts and feelings. When they first meet, Elle is a slave and Malcolm a Union soldier but even after their undercover roles are revealed, Elle is a black woman and Malcolm a white man in 1862 America.


[...]one wrong word from him and she would lose her life, whereas his sex and skin color inoculated him from harm at her hand.


I've complained many times about forced angst or conflict in stories contrived to keep heroes and heroines apart, yeah, nothing forced here. The author deeply provides us with Elle's thoughts and emotions about the danger of having feelings for Malcolm. This is shown not only personally, the immediate bodily danger to Elle and the personal stake she has in the Civil War but also outwardly, the encompassing work they are doing for the Union and the importance of the information they have to pass on. In beginning notes I took, I mentioned that the heroine was crotchety, which I appreciated because the heroes always get to be the surly ones fighting the romance and struggled with because of personal thoughts of just accept this sexy awesome dude already. As the story went on though, the author does such an amazing job putting you in the historical context, place, and time, and it becomes felt how the stakes are very real for Elle. This isn't a light falling in love but a hard hand gripping leap of faith.


“Help me to understand,” he said. He was still asking of her when he should be giving, but he didn’t know how else to proceed.

“We don’t want revenge, Malcolm.” She looked at him like he was the densest bastard to ever walk the earth. “We want life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, just like any damned fool in these United States is entitled to so long as he isn’t Black or Red. So you can keep your outrage. All I can do is try to make a difference.”


This didn't have a lot of overall reaching Civil War tidbits dropped in, it is more of an immediate spotlight on how networks of spies could gain knowledge and help their side and one take on how a women in Elle's position could have fallen in love. I don't often mention how a character's emotions and thoughts help set the time period for me but Elle was a huge component for placing me in the story. The clothing, atmosphere, incidentals, and society were all there, too. Tied into the spying for information battle and danger, was some awesome ironclad ships and blockade talk. This may seem like a weird thing to get excited about but this is why I read historicals, to get little nuggets of information to gain knowledge and understanding with a feel of the time.


This was who she was when she was allowed to be free from fear.


Malcolm didn't quite leap off the pages for me, due to spying being a waiting game for info at times there was some slowness, and I would have liked some outer happenings (more big Civil War happenings going on, more of the Loyal League people, structure, and happenings). I know this is first in series, so maybe some information was held back about the Loyal League but in a contrarily way (I complain a lot about first in a series syndrome and how authors focus too much on setting up characters for future books) I could have stood for more character presence from ones that will star or appear in future installments in the series. Secondary characters gave without stealing the show, this "little" line from Mary: “I was just worried, is all,” she said, adjusting the ragged lace trim on Elle’s sleeve. “You remind me of my daughter sometimes. She had eyes just like yours . . . Caffrey sold her down South to pay off a debt. Every time I look at you, I wonder if she gonna grow up to be as pretty as you. And I hope she won’t.”

"I hope she won't", devastating. There was also Timothy, who Elle feared his judgement about her relationship with Malcolm but he informs her that he is part Seminole and a host of other characters that show that "kind" people can participate and be blind to atrocities.


This book made the list of several best of 2017 lists and I completely see why. The historical richness is great, there are some awesome emotional and thought provoking on fire comments/commentary, and the consequences, angst, and attraction between Elle and Malcolm are felt, but read this book for Elle. Her anger and underlining pain give way to such a well of strength; she's the heroine you want to read about, hope you're a little bit like, and inspire to be.


(The author notes that some of her characters were based on real life people:  Elle was based on Mary Bowser, Malcolm by Timothy Webster, and Robert Grand by Robert Smalls. There was also a reference guide of books the author used for research in the back. Historicals with history! Give me more historicals like this)

Top Ten Recommended

Divided up into Contemporary, Historical, and I have no idea (Fantasy usually) here are the lists of some of my friends' top ten favorite books. I tried to query friends that were younger and older than me, who's favorites were the same and different sub-genres than me, and have been reading romance for years and just started. I'm really pleased with the variety of recs that came out of this. 


Apologies for how long this took me, whew, it was way more work to get the information organized and formatted in a way that was readable. I also wanted to make it printable for people that didn't want to have to keep returning to my post. 


Thanks to everyone again for the time and effort they took to send me their top reads, whether it was 20 books because they just couldn't cut it down to ten or simply author names because they enjoy their whole backlist. Can't wait to dive into this list :)


Contributors to the list (click on names to go to their Goodreads page or BookLikes:








Fani loves angst


Grace Cieleen




Ivy Deluca


Julie Whiteley


Jilly Mac


Linda Hilton


Meme Reads Love




Nadene(Totally Addicted to Reading)






Sonya Heaney











Comments after rec are from contributor.



Not able to Categorize

(Without reading the books, I couldn't decide if they were leaning more Hist or Contemp, usually fantasy or sci-fi in this category.)




Anastasi, Jess - Damage Control (Syfy romance)


Bardugo, Leigh - Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom


Cashore, Kristin - Graceling


Clare, Cassandra - City of Bones series


Clarke, Cassandra Rose - The Assassin's Curse series of 2 books (Fantasy, YA)


Coe, Cara - The Hidden Princess


Coe, Cara - The White Forest


Cook, Nickolas - Alice in Zombieland (romance is secondary in this book but I love Ali and Cole)


Derr, Megan - Tournament of Losers


Devan, Grace - Radiance 


Feehan, Christine - Burning Wild (Jake is everything)


Harrison, Thea - Dragon Bound


Harrison, Thea - Kinked


Lane, Jex - Captive


Mafi, Tahereh - Shatter Me


McBride, Belinda - The Tenth Muse


McFarland, Caitlyn - Dragonsworn series of 3 books (NA, syfy/fantasy)


Meade, Rachael - Vampire Academy (plus the series as a whole)


Meyer, Marisa - Cinder (plus the series as a whole)


O'Neill, Morgan - The Thornless Rose (Favorite time travel)


Owens, Robin D. - Heart Quest


Pacat, C.S, - Captive Prince


Peters, Elizabeth - The Vicky Bliss series (Borrower of the Night, Street of the Five Moons, Silhouette in Scarlet, Trojan Gold, Night Train to Memphis, The Laughter of Dead Kings. I enjoy the Amelia Peabody books, but I liked Vicky's adventures better.)


Roberson, Jennifer - Sword Dancer (and sequels) (Scifi/fantasy with an unusual dose of romance and two utterly unforgettable characters.)


Rowling, J.K. - Harry Potter (all)


Saenz, Benjamin Alire - Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (these guys stole my heart)


Shannon, Samantha - The Bone Season (plus the series as a whole)


Singh, Nalini - Angel's Blood (whole series)


Singh, Nalini - Psy Changeling series (there's too many books from the series that I like but each book is always close to 5 stars)


Smith, R. Lee - Land of the Beautiful Dead  (Urban Fantasy/Dystopian? Hard to categorize but a story that stayed with me long after I finished it)


Sparks, Kerrelyn -  Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon


Spencer, Wen - A Brother's Price 


Untamed, JanJan - The Doomsday Papers


Wright, Suzanne - Feral Sins (only this one of the series, the others eh)





(I typically consider this any story taking place from 1950ish to present times.)




Aaron, Celia - Blackwood


Alers, Rochelle


Anders, Natasha - The Unwanted Wife


Ashley, Kristen - Rock Chick (only this one of the Rock Chicks I couldn't get through the rest of her series too repetitive)


Ashley, Kristen - Sweet Dreams (one of her best IMO)


Ashton, Avril - (Watch Me) Break You


Ayala, Rachelle - Playing for the Save


Barry, Emma, & Turner, Genevieve - A Midnight Clear


Black, Incy - Hard to Forget (R. suspense)


Bette, Kimberly A. - Held


Bowen, Sarina - The Year We Fell Down (NA, sports)


Bowen, Sarina, & Kennedy, Elle - 2 recs for Him and Us (LGBT, M/M, NA, sports) (read this twice in four months and am not against another reread)


Brockmann, Suzanne - Get Lucky


Brockmann, Suzanne - Gone Too Far


Carr, K. - Home


Carr, M.C. - Birdie


Carter, Chance - Royal Engagement


Chauhan, Anuja - Those Pricey Thakur Girls


Christine, Lee - In Safe Arms (R. suspense)


Clayton, Alice - Wallbanger (great romantic comedy)


Cole, Alyssa - Let It Shine


Cole, Kresley - 2 recs for A Hunger Like No Other


Cole, Kresley - Dark Needs at Night's Edge


Cole, Kresly - Demon From the Dark


Craig, Christie - Shut Up and Kiss Me


Crusie, Jennifer - (pretty much anything, her brand of romance ensnares me)


Crusie, Jennifer - 2 recs for Bet Me (longtime perennial re-read)


Cullinan, Heidi - Carry the Ocean


Fitzpatrick, Huntley - My Life Next Door


Foster, Melissa - Tru Blue


Frost, Jeaniene - 2 recs for Halfway to the Grave (I wish this series had never ended, whole series)


Frost, Sosie - Beauty and the Blitz


Gerard, Cindy - Into the Dark (R. suspense)


Gerard, Cindy - To the Brink


Gibson, Rachel - Truly, Madly, Yours


Green, John - Fault in Our Stars


Grey, Autumn - Breaking Gravity (naughty but tortured teacher romance, NA)


Griffin, Laura - Beyond Limits (R. suspense)


Haddon, Mark - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time


Han, Jennifer - To All the Boys I've Loved Before


Harkins, M.K. - Intentional


Harmon, Amy - 2 recs for  Making Faces (when I need a good cry)


Harvey-Berrick, Jane - The Education of Sebastian and The Education of Caroline


Hazard, Alessandra - Just a Bit Ruthless


Henry, Lisa - The Island


Higgins, Kristan - Catch of the Day


Hoover, Colleen - Hopeless


Hoover, Colleen - It Ends With Us


Hoover, Colleen - Ugly Love


Howard, Linda - 2 recs for Mr. Perfect (favorite romantic suspense) (although I'm very pissed off at LH at the moment, I couldn't leave this one off the list)


Hype, Jenn - Simply Crazy


Jackson, Brenda - Westmorelands


James, Julie - Just the Sexiest Man Alive


James, Julie - Something About You


Janzen, Tara - Crazy Hot


Jenkins, Beverly


Jones, Darynda - First Grave on the Right - (I love this whole series, it mostly revolves around the same couple)


Kelly, Brynn - Edge of Truth


Kennedy, Elle - Fragment


Keplinger, Kody - The DUFF:  Designated Ugly Fat Friend


Kinsella, Sophie - Confessions of a Shopaholic (even if in new installments Rebecca has gotten on my nerves with her refusal to learn from her past I still over the first in the series)


Kinsella, Sophie - Finding Aubrey


Kleypas, LIsa - Smooth Talking Stranger


Lanyon, Josh - Death of a Pirate King


Laurenston, Shelly - The Beast in Him (PNR/Shifter, just funny and one of her best)


Layne, Lauren - Walk of Shame


Llosa, Mario Vargas - The Bad Girl


Loch, Kathryn - Haunted Heart


Lyga, Barry - I Hunt Killers series


Malone, Lily - So Far Into You (chick-lit)


Manning, Sarra - You Don't Have to Say You Love Me


March, Meghan - Beneath this Mask and Beneath these Scars


McAvoy, J.J. - That Thing Between Eli & Gwen


McDonald, Jeanne - Compass


McKenna, Cara - Willing Victim


McKinley, Brooke - Shades of Grey


McLean, Jay - More Than This


McNaught, Judith - Perfect


Nelson, Latrivia S. - Dmitry's Closet (both series)


Nelson, Latrivia S. - Ivy's Twisted Vine


Pace, Pepper - Stranded!


Park, Jessica - Flat Out Love


Phillips, Susan Elizabeth - Dream a Little Dream


Phillips, Susan Elizabeth - 2 recs for Kiss An Angel


Phillips, Susan Elizabeth - Match Me If You Can


Powell, Liz - Hunted


Rai, Alisha - Hate to Want You


Ray, Francis


Reed, Jamie - Burning Emerald


Reed, Jamie - Fading Amber


Reed, Jamie - Living Violet


Reid, Penny - 2 recs for Beard Science


Reid, Penny - Neanderthal Seeks Human (when I need that touch of awkward/funny)


Rinyu, Beth - Thursday Afternoon


Robbs, J.D. - 2 recs for In Death series (because- Roarke! futuristic)


Romig, Aleatha - Consequences (whole series)


Roux, Abigail - Divide & Conquer


Schlosser, Jamie - Outcast (The Good Guys)


Scott, Kylie - Play (Rocker, for those times I just want to laugh)


Shalvis, Jill - Lucky in Love


Shalvis, Jill - Rainy Day Friends (new favorite)


Shalvis, Jill - Simply Irresistible


Sheehan, Madeline - Unbeautifully


Sheehan, Madeline - Undeniable


Sheridan, Mia - Stinger


Singh, Nalini - Rock Hard


Sjoberg, Lori - Grave Vengeance (paranormal)


Smith, Maureen - The Swede


St. Pierre, Raven - The Complete Free Falling series


Swain, Shea - The Awakening of the Halo


Swain, Shea - The Binding of the Halo


Swain, Shea - Chained to the Devil's Son


Thompson, Nancy S. - Stirred


Thorne, Sally - 4 recs for The Hating Game (new favorite)


Turner, Twyla - Chasing Day series


Untamed, JanJan - The View From the Bottom


Ward, J.R. - 2 recs for Dark Lover (favorite PNR)


Ward, J.R. - Lover Awakened


Webber, Tammara - Easy and Breakable


Young, Samantha - On Dublin Street (again I adore the series however the couples change each book and Joss and Braedon are my favorite)


Zabo, Anna - Just Business


Zapata, Mariana - Kulti (it took a long time for me to fall in love with this one but once I did there was no stopping it)


Zapata, Mariana - The Wall of Winnipeg and Me (when I need that slow burn)





(I typically consider this any story taking place from dawn of humans to 1940ish)





Anderson, Catherine - Summer Breeze


Ashley, Jennifer - The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie (just love it so much)


Austen, Jane - Persuasion


Austen, Jane - Pride and Prejudice (I know, I know--but--Mr. Darcy!--Classic)


Brockway, Connie - Bridal Favors


Brockway, Connie - The Other Guy's Bride


Bronte, Charlotte - Jane Eyre


Canham, Marsha - Through a Dark Mist and In a Shadow of Midnight


Cleeton, Chanel - Next Year in Havana (women's fiction)


Dare, Tessa - Any Duchess Will Do 


Dare, Tessa - Romancing the Duke


de Blasis, Celeste - The Tiger's Woman (MY FIRST HISTORICAL ROMANCE! I will NEVER forget it. It's bodice rippery, but back in the day I devoured this book-several times.)


Donaldson, Julianne


Donati, Sara - Into the Wilderness


Duran, Meredith - The Duke of Shadows


Enoch, Suzanne - England's Perfect Hero


Garwood, Julie - The Bride


Garwood, Julie - For the Roses


Garwood, Julie - The Gift (funny and sentimental choice.)


Garwood, Julie - Ransom


Goodman, Jo - Sweet Fire


Graham, Winston - Poldark series (The 1970s BBC production of Poldark, with Robin Ellies, Angharad Rees, Ralph Bates, Jill Townsend, Clive Francis, Kevin McNally

Making Poldark, by Robin Ellis

Poldark's Cornwall, by Winston Graham

I can't rave about these enough. I watched half of the first episode of the recent BBC remake with Aidan Turner and was completely turned off. Graham served as an advisor to the 1970s version, and it was much more faithful to the books. And I'm sorry, but Aidan Turner is NOT Robin Ellis!!!!!!!)


Gracie, Anne - The Perfect Stranger


Grasso, Patricia - Desert Eden


Gregory, Lisa - The Rainbow Season (Both of these books featured ordinary people living ordinary lives, rather than dukes and kings and pirates) 


Guhrke, Laura Lee - Conor's Way


Heath, Lorraine - Always to Remember (favorite western historical)


Heyer, Georgette - Cotillon 


Hoyt, Elizabeth - Duke of Sin


Hoyt, Elizabeth - To Seduce a Sinner


Hunter, Madeline - The Charmer


Ibbtoson, Eva A Countess Below Stairs


James, Eloisa - This Duchess of Mine


Jenkins, Beverly


Johnson, Susan - Sinful


Kelly, Carla - Marrying the Captain


Kennedy, Kris - Claiming Her


Kinsale, Laura - The Shadow and the Star


Kleypas, Lisa - 3 recs for Devil in Winter


Kleypas, Lisa - 2 recs for Love in the Afternoon


Kleypas, Lisa - Marrying Winterborne


Kleypas, Lisa - Mine Till Midnight


Kleypas, Lisa - Secrets of a Summer Night


Kleypas, Lisa - 2 recs for Tempt Me at Twilight (basically the whole Hathway series is my favorite!)


Koen, Karleen - Through a Glass Darkly


Krahn, Betina - The Book of True Desires


Krahn, Betina - The Last Bachelor


Ladd, Sarah E. 


Laurens, Stephanie - The Promise in a Kiss


Leigh, Susannah - Wine of the Dreamers (I'm not much into time travel/reincarnation,but one was slightly different. Similar, in a way, to Anya Seton's The Green Darkness. I haven't read it in a long time, maybe 20 years, so it's due to be taken off the shelf again.)


Lindsey, Johanna - Gentle Rogue


London, Julia - The Perils of Pursuing a Prince


Long, Julie Anne - The Secret to Seduction


Mathewson, R.L. - Truce


Matthews, Mimi - The Lost Letter


Marai, Sandor - Embers


Marillier, Juliet - Daughter of the Forest


Mastretta, Angeles - Lovesick


McNaught, Judith - Once and Always


Mederios, Teresa - Thief of Hearts


Morsi, Pamela - Courting Miss Hattie


O'Connell, Ellen - Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold


Osborne, Maggie - The Promise of Jenny Jones


Proctor, Candice - Beyond Sunrise


Putney, Mary Jo - Dearly Beloved (This one is controversial. A lot of readers hate it because of how it starts, but I loved it)


Quick, Amanda - Dangerous


Quinn, Paula - Laird of the Mist


Quinn, Julia - The Duke and I


Quinn, Julia - 2 recs for Romancing Mr. Bridgerton


Rasheed, Lelia - Cinders & Sapphires


Raybourn, Deanna - A Spear of Summer Grass


Shupe, Joanna - Magnate


Simmons, Paullina - The Bronze Horseman series


Smith-Saxe, Coral - Enchantment (absolutely delightful, one of my all-time favorites AND it has one of the most gorgeous covers EVER)


Spencer, LaVyrle - Hummingbird (Though I had some issues with Hummingbird, I loved the laugh out loud humor. Both of these books featured ordinary people living ordinary lives rather than dukes and kings and pirates)


Stewart, Mary - The Ivy Tree (favorite vintage)


Tavares, Miguel Sousa - Equator


Thomas, Sherry - Ravishing the Heiress


Turano, Jen 


Untamed, JanJan - The Magnificent Miss Broadway


Wallace, Bill - Buffalo Gal


Westcott, Jan - The Hepburn


White, Leslie Turner - Lord Johnnie


Woodwiss, Kathleen - Ashes in the Wind


Yerby, Frank - The Saracen Blade


An Extraordinary Union - Alyssa Cole

He’d always prided himself as a friend and ally to every man who sought equality, but was that true? Or had he imagined himself a savior instead?

Reading Update: 20%

An Extraordinary Union - Alyssa Cole

She was quiet for a long while, struggling against her warring emotions. Their brief contact had felt good, and somehow right, but anything further was out of the question. It was simple as that. It angered her that he could speak of the possibility of more so casually. But of course he could; for men like him, an infatuation with a black woman would be seen as a lark. But the ways it could ruin her were endless.

Like a sugar addiction

Paper Princess: A Novel (The Royals) - Erin Watt

Thank you to Hilda for the recommendation!


This is listed as YA and NA, which made me a little nervous along with our characters being in high school. LOL, is all I have to say to that.  Granted, I did not got to an uber rich school but this story and characters did not read like a YA, more NA. I constantly had to keep reminding myself that they weren't even in college yet, I think they read like 26ish or so. 


Very angst-y (she strips to pay her mother's doctor bills at age 15), very sexy times (heavy petting all over the place), and very drama (suicide mother, secret parking lot fighting, surprise inheritance, I want you but can't have you). Basically, this was soap opera cracktastic drama that I inhaled. When it was all over, a cliffhanger!, had me running to get the second in the series but giving some time and distance, I feel a little empty from it but it did entertain while I was in the moment. 


Some soap opera, some Cruel Intentions, and some brewing under the surface mystery. Get yourself a bowl of popcorn and wine and give yourself over to the moment. Just be prepared for a cliffhanger.

Goofy fluff

Anything But Minor - Kate Stewart

Thanks to Quirky Omega for the recommendation!


Fluffy and goofy skimming romance that was a fun little escape. He plays baseball, we get some pitches thrown to the catcher and first baseman, she's a flight instructor, we get some sexist pilots not wanting to learn from her, and a whole lot of '80s movie quotes/references with some quick cute romance. Secondary characters bring a little tiny bit of angst but this is mostly cute non-taxing escapism.

Reading Update: 20%

To Tame a Wild Lady: A Duke-Defying Daughters Novel - Ashlyn Macnamara

There was something essential and elemental to watching a man perform physical labor, something that hit her as hard as a horse kicked. Instead of an explosion of pain, though, warmth blossomed inside, a flame that somehow unfurled in her belly.

Fascinated, she watched a droplet of sweat quiver at the base of Mr. Crosby’s neck until it slipped into the furrow that delineated his spine and slid down to the waistband of his breeches. For some reason, that inner flame fed on the sight and grew hot enough to scorch.

World building needed help

Betrothed - Jill Myles

Thank you to Shanelle for the recommendation!


Started off really good with a rock and hard place heroine and dark, cold, mysterious, but standing up for her hero. Has a historical feel with setting and clothing but dialogue is modern. The world building was shaky at times and there were little contradictory things (hero has short cropped hair and then hair reaches his collar and bangs in the face) throughout. Heroine grew to be TSTL with her decision making and forced lack of seeing a character for who he really was, eye-rolling. This is first person from the heroine and I again missed any insight from the hero. 

Something interesting here but felt a raw and unrefined.



Reading Update: 30%

Betrothed - Jill Myles

Seri stared into Prince Graeme’s coldly polite eyes and wanted to laugh. Revered and beloved by all, except her cold-as-a-statue betrothed. “I am Vidari,” she protested again, the objection sounding hollow even to her own ears. “I am not Athoni. By your own laws I cannot be a citizen, much less royalty.”

“The laws of the One God are irrefutable, even by royalty themselves,” Prince Graeme interjected. “I am afraid that choice is not an option.” His flat words sounded so final.

A frightened whimper slid past her teeth. “I want to go home.”

His polite, cold smile never faltered. “You are home.”

Y"so tragic it is beautiful"A

If He Had Been with Me - Laura Nowlin

Thanks so much to Paige Bookdragon for the recommendation. 



I'm 35yrs old, so I don't think I always mesh well with YA because I'm simply just older. When I was in my early teens I remember reading "Say Goodnight, Gracie" and "Don't Die, My Love", I cried and threw myself into the sadness of it all. Now some of the issues I can't help but be "ugh, get over it", "hahahahha, together in complete love and happiness from freshman year to forever" (I know it happens don't @ me), and just the general over indulgence, and scared of the newness, are kind of missed by me.


This is all first person from the heroine which is also hard for me because I like insight from other characters. I found myself more interested in the grown-ups issues, lol. I also thought some real tough issues were glossed over, there were two teen pregnancies portrayed as great gifts instead of giving them the levity they deserved, and we had a bit of a boy's love is a cure all and the key to happiness.


The ending was rushed with bombardments of events, events that felt completely contrived and manipulated for emotion; the whole "so tragic its beautiful" syndrome that has some calling Rome and Juliet a romance when it is two early teen kids killing themselves. The writing is captivating at times but manipulated emotion isn't real to me, boys and babies don't cure depression or act as a cure all, and I missed having a pov from Finn. I think I've just passed these types of books on by.

Recs are coming your way....

 Just finished sorting all the recs got into Contemp, Hist, & Fantasy/Para/I haven't read book so I don't know time period to put in. This took waaaaay longer than anticipated. Going to alphabetize, clean up the list and then you'll have all the burst your tbr recs. Soon, my friends!


Juana was the star

Flesh and the Devil (Troubadour Books) - Teresa Denys

For my comments and quotes while I read, a way more in depth look at my thoughts, Buddy Read The Flesh and the Devil

The beginning of this was really enjoyable, there was a great eerie Gothic tone that had mysteries and villains seemingly in the shadows everywhere with our young, extremely sheltered heroine Juana betrothed to a lunatic. Unfortunately, the mysteries and villains get wrapped up perfectly quickly and a lot of things happen disappointingly off-screen. 

The middle introduces new villains but again, dealt with pretty quickly and from there things kind of meander into an unceremoniously mellow with added too perfect bow moment ending. The romantic relationship between the leads started off with some heat, spark, and burn as they clashed but then in Bodice Ripper fashion the hero rapes the heroine (the author clearly writes this as rape with minimal Juana foggily in her mind thinking her body could be responding) and with not a lot of emotional growth/connection featuring later in the story between the two, I lost their beginning chemistry. 

The author did a fantastic job of setting the place and time, there was some inserted political talk, but my favorite was Juana's personal growth. Juana goes from being a, purposefully, sheltered naive girl to a solid capable woman and the author did a wonderful job showcasing all the bumps in the road it took her to get there.

God and Blowjobs

Chaste - Lydia Michaels
Recommended by J.D. Thank you!
Perhaps they’d always been aware of each other, but were both smart enough to know they made no sense as anything more than acquaintances in a small town.
A small town, a girl who's mother dies early in her life leaving only a masculine presence which combined with her deeply held faith has her being a 24yr old virgin, a boy who attracts women early gaining a reputation that has him being the go to for a good night, and an attraction that doesn't seem to make sense. 
The whole trope of heroine being the shy girl who loves the hero from afar and the bad boy with hidden depth who never thought he was good enough for heroine, is one I can't help but enjoy and I greatly did for the first 20%.
After years of watching him, she’d seen hidden moments where his focus drifted and his smile faltered as if he was exhausted with putting on the charm. There was no denying Kelly was a funny and entertaining person to be around, but…so much of it was a performance.
The author did a great job of giving these two trope heavy characters and giving them depth. The heroine was considered a wallflower by everyone and socially acted like that but with the hero she showed her backbone and tilted his world on edge. The hero loved women and they loved him but he kind of always wondered about the heroine (we get a few flashbacks of him talking with her highschool), wanted something deeper, but never thought he was worth more because of his early formative years of having girls only want one thing from him.
These two were so adorable in the beginning and gave me all the ooey gooey feelings.
“Would you date a virgin?”
His lips buttoned up and he looked away. “Uh, I’m a little too…I got a sweet tooth.”
She frowned. “What?”
He blew out a breath. “I like sex, love. Lots of sex. Crazy, swinging from the chandeliers, make you scream, feel it days later sex.” He scratched his head and grimaced. “I’m really not that complicated. I basically only come with two settings, hungry and horny.” He laughed and gazed away, mumbling, “If you don’t see me with a hard on, make me food. Ah, but then I start thinking about cobbler and soft peaches and…” He cleared his throat and shifted.
She didn’t know where to look, but she couldn’t look at him. Her head turned with jagged increments as she focused her stare anywhere but at him.
He chuckled. “Sorry. Maybe that was a bit too graphic on my part.”
“Sometimes waiting means more than the act,”she offered lamely. Her decision really couldn’t compete with chandelier monkey screaming antics—not with Kelly. That was for sure. And was he actually talking about cobbler or was it a metaphor? Did he do stuff with food? Jeeze, she was ignorant, but now she was really curious.
Our wallflower didn't back down around him and I enjoyed her backbone and I felt for how the hero was so vulnerable. After the beginning first half though, the heroine's virginity started to become a huge focus, religious talk featured heavily, and there was the icky "not like those other slutty desperate girls" from the hero.
“Because I’m not like other girls,” she said frowning at her lap.
“Yeah, but not for the negative reasons you’re probably thinking. I know a lot of women. You’re different, interesting. You don’t cover yourself with fancy crap and pretend to be someone you’re not. You’re honest and unguarded.”
She snorted. “We’re all guarded.”
The hero was ugh with this thinking but delightfully, the heroine would come to the defense of the women, but I got tired of the "other women are so desperate when they only want sex from me". Now, I'm not religious so I have contradictory views with Christianity, so my personal enjoyment will vary if you're of a different school of thought. The heroine is a virgin because of her faith and how she's suppose to save her "innocence" for her husband. When she is trying to date, she ends up finding out that one of her dates is a virgin, also because of his faith. What does she think? She doesn't like it, she thinks about how the hero is better because of his experience. I'm all for personal decisions but this thinking of women must remain innocent because of God but men can sleep with anything is so barfy to me, I'm just not going to enjoy a story where the whole middle talks about this. 
The second half I lost the beginning spark and building connection between the two because sex became the focus. I'm not lying when I say this book is largely about God and blowjobs. I don't know if there is a category or sub-genre labeled Christian erotica but this would fit squarely there. I honestly felt like their rushed marriage was so they could have sex, their emotional connection stops being built and felt after they are married. The ending was rushed with a bunch of little added dramas and angst. 
The first 20% was very close to building up to a 5 stars but I'm not a Christian and their emotional building and bonding was replaced with endless faith talk and sexy times, making me not the target audience and not feeling their heat in the bedroom.

Applauding author trying a different style

Retreat - Jay Crownover

His look, the way his entire face tightened in hungry, appreciative lines made me feel like something more, made me feel like I deserved to be worshiped and maybe even loved. If that was how he looked at his girl, then I never wanted to be anything else.

Cyrus Warner had just as many control issues as I did, which was why we both liked to test the other’s limits and neither one of us liked to fail.

This was pretty different from the usual Crownover stories I have read and I not only applaud the author for trying something new but I really enjoyed it.

Mostly first person from heroine's pov, she's a bit cranky, has some trust issues, and been burned but I liked her tough cookie act up against our hero. Hero's a cool, straight-shooter, sexily self-assured, and wary of love cowboy who wears motorcycle boots. They played off each other well and had some hot scenes (who knew campground showers could be such a scorching sex setting). 

Hero's brothers with heroine's bestfriend feature heavily, they're stars of the next books in the series and worked great to add and round out the story. There's some mystery/action/suspense that will keep the pages turning. I thought the last 1/3 or so of the ending was slowed things way down and there were even some sex scenes I started to skim, I felt like the story dragged on a bit too much and the action and danger our characters found themselves in got fantastical and instead of feeling sad/worried, it lost me. 

Otherwise, this was a great something different and I'm definitely going to continue reading in the series.


Flesh and the Devil (Troubadour Books) - Teresa Denys

Lost the Gothic feel but a new villain has risen up and hoping for a strong finish.

For comments and quotes - Buddy Read The Flesh and the Devil

A Gentleman Never Keeps Score by Cat Sebastian

A Gentleman Never Keeps Score - Cat Sebastian

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. 

When his godfather leaves his house to him, Hartley's reputation gets banded about in less than complimentary terms. Feeling shunned, Hartley finds himself losing servants and becoming a bit of a shut-in. 
Sam just wants to see his brother and his friend Kate finally get married and when he learns Kate fears a scandalous painting of her becoming public knowledge, he sets out to find it for her. 
When Hartley and Sam meet, the spark is instant but circumstances, emotions, and life are going to give them a bumpy road. 
Hartley went utterly still as he contemplated how thoroughly ruinous this was going to be for both of them. 
Second in the Seducing the Sedgwicks, a series following along the Sedgwick brothers, this book focuses on Hartley, the brother who is deeply conflicted about how he sees trading sexual favors with his godfather for money to help his family. He doesn’t like to be touched and has a little bit of a prickly personality. Maybe because Sam was such a strong character but Hartley didn't leap off the pages for me. He's pretty self-contained and we do get a couple scenes with two of his brothers that highlight his personality but overall, he didn't grab me. 
There was no reason for Sam to be thinking of Sedgwick at all, in fact. He wasn’t even that handsome unless you had a liking for fragile-looking men with fussy clothes. 
Sam was the character that shone the brightest to me, he's a strong character but in the most gentle of ways. He has a similar shy, hidden aspect of his personality like Hartley, which due to their sexuality in their place and time is a necessity, but he also has rise to the front proclivity for, simply, caring. It is not an overdone martyr syndrome but no thought, generous, and loving way he makes his choices. The way he acts, responds, and encourages Hartley, is what make this story shine and will fill your heart. 
And while only a fool would believe that a kitchen table supper between a rich man, a black boxer, and a three-legged dog could be the beginning of something good, maybe Sam was more foolish than he thought. 
The writing showcased here is good and the ease of conversations and interactions between the main couple and secondary characters is the escape into fictional worlds above average quality that will suck you into the world. The first in the series, It Takes Two Tumble, I thought did a great job with the emotional growth in the lead's relationship, here I found that aspect lacking in the beginning. Hartley and Sam's sexual relationship develops pretty quickly, the emotional layers were a ways behind and as a consequence, I found their romance lacking. The sexual play scenes start very early and then when they do have a more solid emotional connection, I thought their sex scene was a bit short and abrupt and didn't deliver the impact (Hartley overcoming his touch issues) I was wanting to feel. The ending did provide some wonderful simple talking between Sam and Hartley that I wish had replaced some of the earlier sex scenes as I felt this showed their attraction and closeness more. 
Nobody should have that kind of power over anyone, no matter how much money they had or if they had a title in front their name. 
This story is heavily about relationships, the outer story and catalyst for getting Sam and Hartley together involving paintings is made to seem important only to be casually pushed to the background for most of the story and then a little rushed importance at the end. The secondary characters are superb (love Alf, Hartley's sort of valet) and add immensely to the story and world. This is one of the more realistic fiction romances with social issues realistically playing a role. If you're looking for a lot of action or adventure, this wouldn't be it but if you want sweet and aching emotion, you'll want to dive in.