Friday, March 24, 2017

seriously romantic: a perfect gentleman by candace camp

graeme parr, earl of montclair, has always been a perfect gentleman, at least until his wedding night where he behaves like a total jerk to his young bride. he is upset and angry because her father has forced him into this marriage, and when he tells abby that he intends to never consume their marriage, that he has no respect for her or her father's way of capturing husbands, he doesn't realize how he is shattering her illusions. because his truth is that he is in love with someone else, but for his family's sake, he has been forced to marry for money. so abby and her father can keep the title they've paid for, but they can't take anything else from him. he has nothing left to give.

abigail thought he was her knight in shining armor. saving her from a life with an overbearing, tyrannical dad. she had no idea what machinations her father employed behind her back. and when she realizes that her husband isn't the man she thought he was, she runs away, first to the continent, and then to new york, and ten years pass before they see each other again.

when abby returns to london, she knows she's going to have to get graeme's attention somehow. he's too proud to just seek her just out of curiosity. it takes a while to get graeme to come round, but once they are able to have a private conversation and lay their cards out on the table, it's clear that there is an attraction between them that sparks wildly out of control when they are in the same room together. and that indulging in that attraction will fulfill graeme's need for an heir and abby's longing for a child. they cling to those excuses, even as they find that they don't wish to be apart from one another.

when abby's life is endangered on more than one occasion, graeme brings her into his home. they also start working together on figuring out whether or not his father really was guilty of robbing his charity. that particular piece of intelligence is what abby's father used to blackmail graeme into the marriage. watching graeme and abby's relationship deepen over their desire for each other and to solve the mystery is a delight. these two characters are so clearly in love with each other, that the fact that it takes them so long to realize, verbalize their love to each other is a little frustrating. but they get there, and it's so worth it.

also, i am so excited for the next book in this series, both helen and james are great secondary characters in a perfect gentleman. and it makes perfect sense that they'd be paired together and i can't wait.

**a perfect gentleman will publish on march 28, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/gallery, threshold, pocket books in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

seriously romantic: a small town bride by hope ramsay

in a small town bride, there is no reason that we should like amy lyndon. it's not a crime to be rich, but the level of entitled is appalling. and when a fight with her dad ends with him cutting her off because he's tired of supporting her it's hard to be upset on her behalf. until you realize, that he's only cutting her off because she isn't marrying the guy he's picked for her. and that's kind of gross.

but amy lyndon is plucky and stubborn and smarter than she realizes. because soon enough she's got a job working the grounds at the local resort. even though her boss, dusty mcneil, thinks she's just another rich bimbo. but when he realizes that she's actually in a desperate situation and he sees how she works hard and finds ways to succeed at building a new life for herself outside of her family's sphere of influence, he can't help but change his mind about her.

this is one of those small town romances where everyone knows everyone, and they all have an opinion about it. i'm a city girl at heart, and these kind of romances can feel so stifling to me. in real life i hate when everyone knows my business. so i often feel a lot of resentment on the characters' behalfs when there is a lot of small town busybody meddling.

on the one hand, i can see how it can be charming. on the other hand, i'm totally horrified by how all these people feel like it's okay to stick their noses where they don't belong. but amy and dusty are used to it. and even as everyone in town warns them to stay away from each other, they can't. because he respects that she's trying to build a new life for herself. because that is what he has been trying to do for himself for years. and the fact that they have each other's backs, that they believe in one another when no one else gives them the benefit of the doubt is pretty special.

watching these two figure it out in spite of the whole town's interference is uplifting. this is a sweet, feel good romance.

**a small town bride will publish on march 28, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/grand central publishing (forever) in exchange for my honest review. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

seriously romantic: holding fire by april hunt

holding fire is the second book in the alpha security series, but it's really not necessary to read the first book in the series to understand what is happening in this one. trey hansen hooks up with elle monroe when he meets her in a bar in thailand. the morning after he wants more time with her, but she wants to run. she's not interested in a relationship, she's leaving thailand anyway.

when all hell breaks loose elle and trey get separated and she manages to give him the slip. that's when trey learns that the woman he slept with is the very woman he has been hired to protect. tracking her down to new york, he meets up with her again, only she's not that happy to see him.

it turns out that elle's estranged father, a u.s. senator running for re-election, was the one who hired the protective detail. when he demands she attend a gala, in spite of the danger to her, trey is furious. he's even more furious when he realizes that elle intends to be escorted by another member of her protective detail. he does not let elle win that battle. during the gala elle is once again targeted and trey takes her into custody, removing her from the party and taking her with him to the alpha security compound, hidden in the mountains of virginia. once they finally have some time to themselves, without being trapped by gunfire or mysterious abductors, trey and elle decide to try having a casual relationship.

the thing is that trey is sick of casual. he's been there, done that. he wants something real. and he thinks that he and elle have a shot at it. but elle is hiding something big from him. she had a serious car accident that resulted in damage to her ovaries and means that it is likely she'd never be able to have children. she knows that the future that trey envisions for himself includes kids, his mother and sister both make a point of telling her he's bought a big house with extra rooms. and she wants to fill those extra rooms with kids, but she can't and she doesn't want to deny trey the chance to have the big family that he's always dreamed of. never mind that there are other ways to have children: ivf, surrogacy, adoption, are all possibilities here, but the characters never consider this.

but since this is ultimately a problem that is solved without the characters needing to consider all the alternate scenarios and have an adult discussion about it, i suppose we needn't dwell on it either. things between trey and elle can't remain casual, because they are so head over heels for each other. once they start communicating, they figure it out. luckily they manage to do this while figuring out the group targeting elle. i can only imagine the next book in this series tackles charlie and vin's story, and honestly i can't wait. i'd like to see more of the alpha security team.

**holding fire will publish on march 28, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/grand central publishing (forever) in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, March 20, 2017

superbly suspenseful: concealed by kate serine

concealed is the second book in kate serine's dark alliance series, and even though i eventually figured things out, it's one of those books that should be read after book one in the series. this is like an episode of alias, with the dark alliance serving as the secret government agency, in this case they are connected to the knights templar and are a global organization, and the illuminati are the sd-6 like bad guys.

this story also picks up a lot of threads covered in the first book, so it was definitely harder to follow or in some cases care too deeply about certain plot points. that being said, as a romantic suspense, this book did a good job of both ramping up the action and the sexual tension. jack and maddie's love story spans years, and there are reasons and secrets that make things difficult for them.

working closely and keeping their hands off each other doesn't really work. but in order for things to work between them, jack needs to fill maddie in on his past, especially since it seems to be catching up to him in a spectacular fashion. but by letting her in, letting maddie get to know him, it's possible that jack will finally be able to lay some of the ghosts from his past to rest. and then he and maddie have an amazing future to look forward to.

someone who should be taking a lesson from jack and maddie's story is will asher, their commander. a woman from his past, claire davenport, has reappeared and has been digging into the dark alliance and their missions. she has diagrammed out a whole chart full of information on the dark alliance and the illuminati in her quest to learn more about will. it might get her killed, and will wants to keep her safe. and i suspect the next book in this series will be about the impossibility of keeping her safe and in the dark.

**concealed will publish on march 28, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/kensington books (zebra) in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

strictly literary: the tea girl of hummingbird lane by lisa see

what i love about lisa see's novels is how well-researched they are. the level of detail she provides about little known chinese ethnic minorities and their way of life is impressive and totally engrossing. in the tea girl of hummingbird lane, see explores the akha people who inhabit the remote mountains that grow the tea leaves used in teas around the world.

the story begins in the early 1990s and takes us through to the present and explores the changing world. when the novel opens you'd have a hard time believing that it wasn't the middle ages, the akha are that far removed from society and technology. in one harrowing scene we learn about the akha beliefs about childbirth and the terrible sacrifices they make when they believe that something has gone wrong. this is a pivotal scene in the novel, it's horrifying not just too the reader, but to our narrator, girl or li-yan. that event pushes her to explore other options than the one defined for her by her parents.

by seeking further education than the one normally expected of girls like her, she opens herself up to new possibilities and experiences. but she starts out by making mistakes. she falls in love with the wrong man. while the akha society is generally very backwards, they are remarkably progressive about sex. they believe it is important to have sex before marriage to know if you are compatible with your partner. but you can't get pregnant. unfortunately for li-yan she does get pregnant. and her partner has gone off to try to make his fortune in order to be worthy. giving birth to a baby out of wedlock would usually mean death for the baby, but li-yan's mother is the local midwife, and she helps li-yan hide the pregnancy, deliver the baby, and helps li-yan send the baby to an orphanage.

when san-pa, li-yan's erstwhile lover, returns and they are finally allowed to marry, li-yan tries to get her baby back only to be told that it is too late, the baby has been given up for adoption to a nice american family. and since abandoning an infant is illegal, li-yan and san-pa escape to thailand to make a new life for themselves there. it doesn't go well.

in the meantime we are given glimpses of li-yan's baby, named haley by her american parents. through letters and doctor's notes and essays we get a sense of what life as an adoptee is like. what it means not to look like the rest of your family. what it means to have no sense of your ethnic background when you don't resemble anyone who is allegedly from your same part of the world. what it means to have unknowable questions about your identity and what it feels like to be afraid to ask them because you don't want to hurt the people who have raised you and love you, but who don't have the answers you need.

from the moment haley was adopted and li-yan lost all hope; their lives start on a collision course toward one another. as we move forward in time, li-yan rebuilds her life. she finds new love, she starts a new family, a new business, while knowing that there's that missing piece of the puzzle just beyond her reach. and you just want them to find one another, even while knowing that it seems so unlikely that their paths would ever cross. luckily we're reading fiction, well-written and divinely-plotted, but definitely fiction.

this is a story of mothers and daughters, of family, of self-discovery and of identity. it's a story about what it means to know your heritage and where you come from. and what it means when you don't know those things. this is a powerful story that see weaves, a beautiful one too.

and maybe there were a couple of slow spots that were mainly info dumps about tea and tea growing, but they were beautifully written. i just have no patience. i was too invested in learning about what happened to li-yan next.

**the tea girl of hummingbird lane will publish on march 21, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/scribner in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

seriously romantic: the bad boy next door by jody holford

the second novel in the kendrick place series, the bad boy next door, follows brooding detective wyatt daniels, who we met in the first book in the series more than friends.  as suspicious as ever, he somehow gets tangled up with shay matthews, the new tenant whose moving into the apartment occupied by the previous apartment manager.

shay is finally getting her life together. she's the baby of her family and has been coddled and cared for her whole life. even though she keeps making stupid mistakes requiring her family to bail her out of. so she wants to stand on her own two feet. except that she can't seem to shake her run of bad luck. nor can she escape the friendly (maybe that's not exactly the right word) detective who keeps coming to her rescue.

wyatt is actually quite grumpy about it. but he also just spent a long period of time undercover and is trying to settle back into a normal life. and he wants to be around shay. he finds her irresistible. and he wants to protect her, because you protect the people you love. and what shay and wyatt ultimately need to work through is his desire to protect her and her desire to stand on her own.

this shouldn't be as complicated as they make it, but when in the midst of an operation he doesn't disclose everything to shay, it ends up landing her in the line of fire. if you ask me she overreacts to his lies of omission, especially given his occupation, but i guess we needed wyatt to grovel for forgiveness. (okay, pet peeve, i prefer when the hero and heroine of romance novels don't have ridiculous arguments in the last 10% of the novel that are resolved by the last 5%. i prefer them to behave like actual adults who understand the basic principles of interpersonal communication, but we all have different tastes and this is my only issue with these novels because the same kind of blow up argument happened in more than friends and i didn't love it then either. otherwise, i love the characters, the setting, the writing, it's all good.)

**the bad boy next door will publish on march 20, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (bliss) in exchange for my honest review.