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WhiskeyintheJar Romance

Romance book talk, reviews, recipes, and dog pictures

Blogger Site: WhiskeyintheJar Romance

Guest Reviewer at:  Reading Between the Wines book club

Currently reading

Desired by a Highlander (Macardle Sisters of Courage Trilogy Book 2)
Donna Fletcher
A Madness of Sunshine
Nalini Singh
Progress: 50%
Doctor Sleep
Stephen King
The Shining
Stephen King
Progress: 40%

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: 50%

A Madness of Sunshine - Nalini Singh

I’m about halfway through this and am loving how Singh has set the atmosphere and put me in the setting. Amazing writing.
Also, pleeeeease be ok Miriama!

 

A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh purchase link

 

Spice Lemon Garlic Baked Tilapia recipe

I doubled the amount of red pepper flakes

 

Secondary romance had more spark

The Secret Mistress - Mary Balogh

For quotes, comments, and deeper review - The Secret Mistress Buddy Read

I usually love Balogh, so I don't know what happened with this one. A lot of the story is spent in the heroine and hero's head and when there were scenes in present time acted out, they were dragged on.

I enjoyed the heroine, she was sheltered from growing up in the country but her naivety, openness, and honesty felt very genuine and not Mary Sue-ish. She also made friends with who she thinks the hero loves and it wasn't done in maliciousness but because she genuinely liked aspects of the woman's personality.

The hero is thought to be dull, in comparison to his wild brother, and I honestly had to agree, he did come off dull. His character didn't get colored in until towards the ending.

There was a secondary romance that had way more spark and chemistry and I wished this had been their story instead.

70%

The Secret Mistress - Mary Balogh

"Love, Edward thought broodingly. What the devil did it mean? It meant all the euphoria of romance and all the underlying but unspoken power of lust, obviously. Perhaps it had only to be believed in to be experienced. But was there any real substance to it?"

 

More quotes and comments - The Secret Mistress Buddy Read

 

40%

The Secret Mistress - Mary Balogh

"Lord Heyward, are you perhaps just a little bit stuffy?"

 

For more quotes and comments - The Secret Mistress Buddy Read

Reading Update: 15%

The Secret Mistress - Mary Balogh

Doing a buddy read with my friend Missy over on GoodReads in the Romance Book Buddy Reading group!
This has started a bit slow for me but there is potential for some great sexual tension banter.

 

The Secret Mistress by Mary Balogh purchase link

 

Mango Black Bean Chipotle Coke Chili recipe

I added six chipotle peppers to this for spice. I actually think this would make a great vegetarian chili if you just took out the ground turkey

 

 

Love Her or Lose Her by Tessa Bailey

Love Her or Lose Her: A Novel - Tessa Bailey
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.

Rosie and Dominic are childhood sweethearts who have let each other drift away from one another. When Rosie declares she's leaving, Dominic has the wake-up call he needed and he's not going to let his marriage go without a fight. It's a second chance for the Vegas' marriage and hard truths are going to have to be told and feelings expressed if they're going to have a chance.

Everything between them was dark, lustful, confusing, and . . . so far off course, she wasn’t sure their marriage would ever point in the right direction again.

If you read the first in the series, Fix Her Up, you've been waiting for Rosie and Dominic's story after getting glimpses of their simmering heat and emotions. Bailey reveals their wounds right away and the story starts with Rosie finally done with going through the emotions of her life. Dominic is on the surface caught off guard but as some of his layers are peeled back, it becomes clear that he was feeling the distance in their relationship too.

“Go, then. No one’s stopping you.”

I thought the story started off well with the hurt and pain Rosie and Dominic was feeling bubbling out from under the surface, Rosie's more overtly. Bailey typically writes her males very protective and Dominic's streak was definitely evident with what he later calls his selfish need to have her all to himself. I thought having Dominic so clearly loving Rosie and admitting to himself, Rosie, and the readers that he would do anything for her gave the tone a good underlining simmering heat. Rosie's emotions towards Dominic were more dominated by her sexual attraction to him. With every “pointed nipple” and “wet thighs” I lost concentration on the emotional angst and the story's tone slid into more lustful. Bailey is known for her strong sexual scenes and those are definitely here but for this couple, I personally, wanted teeth gritting cognitive emotion.

Providing was a no-fail way to communicate love, wasn’t it? So where exactly had Dominic gone wrong?

The author has this couple bring to light and work out their issues through therapy and puts most of their issues on differing love languages. Dominic has a bit of not feeling worthy of Rosie hero syndrome and this made him put his head down and work extra hard to provide her with enough money for security, he inadvertently blocks her out in order to provide. I liked this route the author took but thought she fell short when it came to Rosie. Rosie begins to realize that she doesn't provide or speak the love language Dominic needs and it was a nice moment to see her realize she was also a problem in the marriage but after an attempt to give Dominic what he needs, this avenue with Rosie kind of drops off and it felt like Dominic was going to go back to doing most of the work.

“I’ll do anything you ask me to do,” he said in a gravelly voice. “Except walk away.”

If you read the first in the series, you'll be happy to hear that the Just Us League is still going strong and the female relationships formed from it give readers some great women friendship scenes. I thought the obvious series baiting for Bethany and Wes, through their bantering and bickering, seemed a little forced but Bailey probably has some hot and heavy scenes planned for those two.

Love Her or Lose Her approached and picked at intricate issues of long-term relationships but Bailey's focus on heavier sexual lustful tones kept it from achieving the deep angst ridden emotional path I thought could be felt wanting to burst from this couple and personally wanted. There was a scene of Rosie and Dominic dancing in the kitchen that I thought hit what I wanted, two people who have loved each other forever but are seeing each other for the first time in many years; top-shelf emotion.

Forever and a Duke by Grace Burrowes

Forever and a Duke - Grace Burrowes
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.

“You seek to be silly?” Ellie did have a devious turn of mind, no need to take offense at the truth when the same quality kept a roof over her head.
His Grace's expression remained utterly serious. “Dukes are never silly.”
This duke was. “Good to know. Auditors are never frivolous.” Ellie shared a smile with Elsmore, which felt both silly and frivolous, also slightly dangerous.


Ellie comes from a family of scapegraces, sometimes by choice and sometimes by chance but now that she has a respectable job as an auditor at a bank, she doesn't want to do anything that could jeopardize that.
Rex is a duke that has never begrudged the large family his estate provides for but when it becomes clear that money is leaking or being siphoned off somewhere, he knows he has to do something.
Ellie and Rex are from two different worlds but as they get to know one another, they're going to realize that love doesn't let a little thing like class distinction trouble it.

Third in the Rogues to Riches series, we get the romance between two previous secondary characters. Readers of the series will remember Ellie as the no nonsense bank auditor for Quinn Wentworth (My One and Only Duke) and the duke that befriended him, Rex Elsmore, even though Quinn came from the lower classes to inherit the title. You could comfortably start the series here as even though the Wentworth family appear in some scenes, you won't feel lost as the author does a good job of incorporating them with just the right amount of background information.

What would it be like, to cast prudence out the window, and seize the duke?
I am an idiot. But was she an idiot for declining what Elsmore offered or for craving it?


I was very fond of Ellie's character, she was a tough cookie but the background on her family and how that affected her childhood gave reasoning behind it. She came from a lower class background and the author wrote in how opportunity and power can hinder people looking to make a living and provide for their family. Ellie visits her sister a couple times and we get some internal dialogue about her parents but her cousin Jack and former fiance, is where readers get great insight into why Ellie thinks and acts the way she does. I thought the author did a good job keeping Jack in the grey, even though he committed what could be seen as black and white actions (I would actually love Jack to get his own book). I thought a little more and revealed sooner information about Ellie's family would have helped make her trying to deny and push Rex away more emotional and allow readers to really sink into the angst.

Rex was the other side of the coin from Ellie, he grew-up with wealth and prestige and had nothing but love and trust for his family members. He has a couple scenes with his mother and sisters, then a few with his cousins but I wish there had a been a couple more with his immediate family, to really show the warmth between them. When he hires Ellie to audit his books, he doesn't want to consider that his family could be stealing from him and I think showing him with his family more could have provided a deeper angst between him loving them and starting to not trust them.

A duke did not become attached to a party far beneath his station.
Except...he did.


The romance between the two was the sweet, insistent, slowly but constantly building to forever that Burrowes does so well. These two surprise each other with how much they like one another and I loved how Rex's gentle charming humor invited in Ellie even when she tried to keep him at arms length. This story only takes place across a couple weeks but their romance development didn't necessarily feel rushed. However, the ending did feel abrupt as Ellie was protesting if they could be together only a few pages before and the question of who and why Rex was losing money is revealed a bit disorderly. Nonetheless, if looking for a kind and teasing duke and a tough exterior but a strong beating heart underneath auditor, Forever and a Duke has a sweetness to it that would make a reading experience pleasurable. 

Reading Update: 40%

Forever and a Duke - Grace Burrowes

In my world, shrimp dip is a meal

Improving this Tuesday with food and a Burrowes’ historical romance.
Hope everyone is enjoying their Tuesday!

 

Forever and a Duke by Grace Burrowes purchase link

 

Hot Louisiana Shrimp Dip recipe

I used Melba toast and loved it

 

No Judgments by Meg Cabot

No Judgments - Meg Cabot

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.

After devastating events start to pile on one after the other, Bree decides to escape to Little Bridge Island, where she spent her cherished childhood vacations. She dyes her hair pink and is working on finding herself again but a potential hurricane is trying to disrupt her calm.
Fending off her mother and ex-boyfriend begging her to leave the island, Bree decides to stick it out with some locals, one who is rumored to be the local playboy. Drew's sexy looks have caught her attention before but he seems like trouble she doesn't need.
The storm and fate seem to be throwing them together as Bree gets to know him more, she's starting to want to break her no dating rule.

I had purposefully come to this island to be alone and figure out my next move. None of that had included becoming attracted to darkly handsome brooding men who were kind to dogs.

Told only from Bree's point of view, No Judgments spends a lot of time in her head. Bree thinks about how her father's death, learning the woman she calls mom is not her biological mother, and hints at a traumatic experience that involved her ex-boyfriend's friend for the majority of the first half to let readers in on plot points and reasons for Bree's character make-up. These big issues are all thought about by Bree in her head and never fully get to be flushed out as the outer issue of the hurricane getting ready to hit the island takes up most of the action part of the story.

There was some build up to the hurricane, Bree doesn't want to leave because her rescue cat Gary has health issues and she wants people to think of her as a local and not a “Fresh Water”, but the actual event of the hurricane only lasts a night and Bree basically sleeps through it. The aftermath talks about potential health hazards, lack of resources and looters, but the reader never really feels this as Bree gallivants around the island. At the midpoint in the story, Bree and Drew still had a little bit of animosity to their relationship (and one quick make-out session), due to preconceived notions about each other but Bree decides to risk life and limb to go out and see if he survived the hurricane; her emotions seemed to strongly come out of nowhere.

The second half switches to Bree and Drew trying to rescue, feed, and water animals who's owners abandoned them with the hurricane coming in and now can't get back because of a bridge washed out. Around the 60% mark is where I finally thought I could see some emotional and relationship development between the two.

I’d broken all the rules, and now I was sitting here, like an idiot, by the light of the Milky Way, eating the guy’s steaks with his happy, well-fed dogs pressed all around me, listening to him talk. God. I had it bad.

With the story being told in Bree's point of view, readers get to know her pretty well but Drew's character could have had more filling out. He seemed likable, a laid back island guy who loved dogs, but I never knew him and he felt like almost an after thought for being the main partner in a romance. This had some heavier issues, death, infertility, and sexual assault sprinkled in but they were never fully fleshed out and the tone of the story colored them with a bit too much of a cavalier vibe. Honestly, if someone asked me what this story was about, I'd say the message was “Don't judge people for leaving their animals in a hurricane”, which can be a good message but feels odd for a romance/contemporary fiction.

Reading Update: 50%

No Judgments - Meg Cabot

Skol! The MN Vikes beat the Saints!

Now I get to relax with a big ol’ sandwich and a book
Happy Sunday, everyone!

 

No Judgments by Meg Cabot purchase link

 

Slow Cooker Brown Sugar Kielbasa Bites recipe

I used turkey kielbasa and would do a bit less brown sugar as they were too sweet for me. Super yummy!

 

A Trace of Deceit by Karen Odden

A TRACE OF DECEIT: A Novel - Karen Odden
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.

Annabel has been working to trust her brother again after he is released from jail for counterfeiting paintings but when she arrives at his flat to find two plainclothes detectives, she knows something is direly wrong.
With her art world knowledge, Annabel could be a tremendous help to Inspector Matthew as he searches for an art thief and murderer but it's getting increasingly hard for him to put her in danger.
Suspects are lining up, plots are thickening, and buried secrets are getting revealed in this Victorian murder mystery.

“I think all our memories have a trace of deceit in them,” Matthew said, his expression regretful.

A Dangerous Duet, first in the Victorian Mystery series, introduced readers to the heroine's brother Matthew. A broody, overworked Inspector who took time and care with his thoughts and actions. I enjoyed watching him think and deduct in this continuation of the series. However, this is very much Annabel's story. Reader's come up on her as she has a sinking feeling about her brother Edwin, but as he has disappointed her in the past about turning his life around, she arrives at his flat annoyed that she is worried about him. This makes the impact of learning he was murdered hit her harder as guilt takes over. As this story is told from Annabel's point of view, readers really get into her head and I found her to be a calm, thoughtful, and intelligent heroine.

The murder mystery plot has Matthew trying to solve who and why murdered Edwin and possibly stole a painting he was cleaning. Was the murder random, was the painting the crux of the murder, or was Edwin targeted because of instances in his past? The author did a good job providing us with red-herrings: Felix is a friend of Annabel and Edwin and he gave the painting to Edwin to clean for his auction house. When it comes out that the painting could be a forgery, his reputation and livelihood are on the line. The seller of the painting, a widow, claims the painting was supposed to be a gift for her anniversary from her late husband but she is also in need of money. The step-son of the man who supposedly sold it to the widow's husband, claims it was burned in a fire and the painting has to be a forgery but if not, he wants it back; his relationship was very contentious with his step-father. Then lastly, possible enemies from Edwin's childhood school days.

I thought the author's strong suit was in providing these possible suspects and developing their reasons, slowly revealing them to the reader. This kept me guessing, involved, and locked into the mystery. Tying in and keeping Annabel involved with the investigation, through her art world knowledge, got a bit too in depth for me at times. I'm not a particular art connoisseur but others that are would maybe enjoy the name dropping and dive into paintings and painters that were popular or emerging during this time period. The author also includes some political background and tied in some real events, the Pantechnicon burning down, that helped set the period feel and gave the story more authenticity for me.

The focus of the story is very much on the art world and wadding through facts, backstories, characters, and revealed secrets to find out who and why Edwin was murdered, the romance between Annabel and Matthew is probably only around 3% of this stories focus. I was surprised, though, that the last 10% was so emotional for me, be prepared to have some of the slow, steady reveals from the murder mystery to hit you hard at the end. With the way the author hit me with this emotional writing, I was a little disappointed I didn't feel it throughout the story; the art world talk eclipsed it. Regardless, if looking for a Victorian murder mystery immersed in the art world, A Trace of Deceit delivers with meaningful red-herrings and an affecting end.
 

Help

Does anyone know how to get off the auto-follow list for newbies who sign up on BookLikes?

 

I just went to my friends list to clear off some spammers and two hours have just went by, I only quickly block the obvious ones. I've blocked 1278 accounts! I'm not sure I had more than three legitimate new followers in 2019 :/  I think it is time to admit BookLikes isn't going get a resurgence anytime soon and I'm sick of spammers on my friends' list. So if anyone remembers, please help.

 

Reading Update: 50%

A TRACE OF DECEIT: A Novel - Karen Odden

Victorian murder mystery and casserole!

Enjoyed the first in the series and excited to read about Inspector Matthew (first book heroine’s brother) now.

 

A Trace of Deceit by Karen Odden purchase link

 

Buffalo Chicken Tater Tot Casserole recipe

Creamy and the tater tot were perfect for this cold day

 

Reading Update: 50%

A Dangerous Duet - Karen Odden

His voice became quiet. “That’s really the only thing that matters, isn’t it? That two people can tell each other the truth.”

Aurora Blazing Jessie Mihalik

Aurora Blazing: A Novel (The Consortium Rebellion Book 2) - Jessie Mihalik

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.

 

Lady Bianca von Hasenberg still emotionally and physically deals with the trauma her first marriage caused. Now a widow, she works to help other girls and women through her network of spies and her technological skills. When her brother Ferdinand and the von Hasenberg heir disappears, she won't be patted on the head and told to stay home by her father or their Director of Security, Ian Bishop.

Ian shut down Bianca's flirting when he was her bodyguard and even now as the Director of Security, he still doesn't think he is worthy of her, but he can't stop his protective feelings for her. Bianca manages to get information he needs and she won't take no for an answer when it comes to rescuing her brother. Ian needs to rescue the heir, keep his own secrets, and never let Bianca know how deep his feelings really go.

 

Softly, he asked, “Why do you have to fight me on everything?”

 

Second in the Consortium Rebellion series, Aurora Blazing stars Bianca von Hasenberg, the sister of the heroine from the first book, Polaris Rising. The first book gave us glimpses of Bianca as she helped her sister and a few glimpses at the tension between Bianca and the Director of Security Ian Bishop. The author makes good on the tension and slow burn she hinted at in the first. Polaris Rising was a debut and one of the complaints I had was about the story needing a lot of fat trimmed, Aurora Blazing had none of those problems, the author did a great job shoring up the story and fulfilling on the promise I found in the first.

 

The Consortium series, so far, follows two main characters threads, one has readers following one of the three major ruling houses, the von Hasenbergs. Aurora Blazing is told solely from Bianca von Hasenbergs' point of view. The second is about soldiers that were part of the Genesis Project (soldiers who were experimented on to create “super” soldiers), Ian Bishop is hinted at being tied into that. These two threads are swirled into plot threads that involve the three ruling houses conspiring, maneuvering, and possibly going to war with each other for power and resources. This creates a fun, absorbing, and intriguing space opera/scifi ride.

 

I promise I won’t ever use any of your secrets against you,” I said quietly.

 

As I mentioned, the romance is a slow burn, as in you won't see the (soft) snap in the fraying rope between these two until around 50%; the space opera aspect controls more of the attention in this series with the romance being more of a very important secondary character. I loved the dynamic and tension between Bianca and Ian, I could feel the emotion bubbling underneath. For the most part, I enjoyed how the author didn't blatantly spell out Ian's emotions but towards the end of the story, when we're supposed to get the big payoff, I felt like things were rushed. The ending sex scenes also felt out of place, they felt graphic and jarring placed at the end because the preceding 90% of story had a different tone between the couple.

 

His gaze was scorching, his eyes hot with desire. “We are not done,” he said, his voice a low command.

 

Without Ian's point of view and more of a look into his background, I found Bianca to be the stronger of the two characters. Learning about her first marriage and how her health issues causes her to lie to her family, thus isolating her even further, was heartbreaking. It was immensely satisfying to watch her not gain emotional and mental strength from what was done to her but instead use the strength that she already had but had been a bit too young to mature to. The times she refused to back down because she knew she had the skills and know-how to get the information quicker than Ian made me cheer for her even harder.

 

I was engrossed in the first half of this story and while I was locked into the space opera plots, the romance was too rushed for a satisfying payoff. I would love if Bianca and Ian got a second book as I think their story definitely supports it and the series would benefit from it. I don't know if it is due to the first person pov structure but there were at times I felt like I was only getting half the story on some things, scenes felt left out, and more background was needed. Overall, though, I found this an amazing continuation of the series and the author has dangled threads (the leak in the von Hasenberg house, the war between the three houses, and Ferdinand and his romance with the daughter of an enemy house) that I'm fully on board and can't wait for the next in the series.

Reading Update: 30%

Aurora Blazing: A Novel (The Consortium Rebellion Book 2) - Jessie Mihalik

The issue I had with the fat needing to be trimmed in the first is fixed here; much tighter story.
I’m about 30% in and loving this so far!
Slow burn couple with Tension

 

Aurora Blazing by Jessie Mihalik purchase link

 

S'mores Popcorn Balls recipe

What are the holidays without popcorn balls?? This was a fun, yummy, and easy twist on them.