Sunday, December 31, 2017

simply a year in review: books i read edition

i always like to look at my goodreads stats for the year. this year i read an incredible number of books, and i enjoyed so many of them.

standouts include:

warrior by karen lynch
haven by karen lynch
haven by mary lindsay
black bird of the gallows by meg kessel
by your side by kasie west
ruthless king by meghan march
defiant queen by meghan march
sinful empire by meghan march
offsetting penalties by ally matthews
the girl with the make-believe husband by julia quinn
the hot shot by kristin callihan
lord of desire by elizabeth hoyt

i could really keep going...anyway here's a snapshot view of my crazy reading stats.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

seriously romantic: earl interrupted by amanda forester

earl interrupted is the second part of the daring marriages series. robert ashton, earl of darington is more comfortable on a ship's deck than in a society drawing room. having recovered his family's fortunes on the high seas, it's time for him to return to london and make an acceptable marriage. except for all his strength and determination managing an unruly crew, speaking with delicate young ladies terrifies him and twists his tongue into knots.

miss emma st. james finds herself in difficult circumstances. about to reach her majority and in line to inherit her father's estate, her stepmother and stepbrother are trying to find a way to have her declared insane if she doesn't marry her stepbrother. so she runs away having promised to marry a stranger in america and immediately finds trouble.

rescued by robert, who has been shot, emma refuses to leave him behind when they both must seek refuge from the men who have assaulted them. this puts them in a most improper situation and in close quarters.

early on robert finds that being with emma is easy. he can speak with her. he enjoys her company. and even though he should feel pressured into marriage given the circumstances, he's genuinely happy to propose to her and isn't doing it out of societal obligations. when she says no he's actually disappointed. he needs to find a way to convince her that he isn't asking for her hand because he feels he must, but because he wants to.

there is some real drama and excitement surrounding darington's nemesis, esqueleto, and the troubles he and his sister faced as chiildren and emma's voyage to america. this regency romance takes place in a unique setting and proves to be very enjoyable. told over the same time frame as robert's sister's romance, if the earl only knew, the novel stands alone but the glimpses you see of lady kate's and lord wynbrook's relationship does make you want to add it to your tbr if you haven't already read it.

**earl interrupted will publish on january 2, 2018. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/sourcebooks casablanca in exchange for my honest review. 

Friday, December 29, 2017

strictly literary: the eighth king by matt weber

one thing that always amazes me about fantasy writers is how they build these intricate worlds, with their own geographies and whole mythologies that make them something new and different. the eighth king pulls from chinese mythology, but the world is still new and intricate and complicated.

you have to be in the right frame of mind to pick up this novel, the prose is rich, filled with wordplay. sometimes it repeats, but sometimes you need that because there is a lot of description to keep track of. keeping it all straight can be a problem, though i also suffer from mom brain and am not the most visual of readers so all that description can cause me to glaze over. but the story flows and you find yourself caught up in the battle over the orchid throne.

this isn't my usual fare, but that doesn't mean i didn't enjoy it. tenshing and datang's story is epic and adventurous and fantastical in all the right places. and if you enjoy being in this world, you're in luck, because clearly this is a story that is meant to continue.

**the eighth king published on november 28, 2017. i received a digital galley courtesy of curiosity quills press in exchange for my honest review. 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

something from the archives: say goodbye - part 52

and this is it. this is the end of say goodbye. i was so intent on preserving this somewhere for myself, though i did just recently find my original files.

i had started posting this at the beginning of the year, and with 52 parts it scheduled out perfectly. i still have more fan fiction to post, but none as long as this one. thanks for sticking it out!

if you need a refresher, you can click on the links to catch up with the story: 123456789101112131415161718192021222324252627282930,  3132333435363738394041424344454647484950, and 51.

the conclusion to say goodbye follows the jump with part 52...

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

seriously romantic: after hours by melinda di lorenzo

after hours is exactly the kind of workplace drama i adore. two strangers meet and have a steamy encounter. neither thinks that they’ll cross paths again. except they can’t stop thinking about each other. and then they realize that not only will their paths cross again, and on a daily basis, but also that their entire relationship is technically inappropriate given their respective roles at their company. 

and still there’s this chemistry that won’t stop. but being together means that one of them has to give something up. and for most of us, even fictional characters, what we do is enmeshed with who we are. giving up your job for someone is almost always a guarantee for future unhappiness. 

marc and aysia need to navigate these bumpy corporate waters, all while dodging her creepy ex-boyfriend and trying to keep their crazy sexy chemistry under wraps. i enjoyed every second of it. 

**after hours will publish on january 2, 2018. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/kensington books (lyrical caress) in exchange for my honest review. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

seriously romantic: royally screwed by emma chase

in keeping with my need to read royal romance, i also picked up royally screwed by emma chase. this one tells the story of a different prince nicholas who falls in love with an american. he also has a prince harry stand in named henry. but this one is less of a retread of will and kate's relationship. which, honestly is a good thing. because sometimes trying to fictionalize real-life stories makes things stilted when they don't need to be.

when nicholas meets olivia hammond in her pie shop he is drunk. he is so drunk he offers her money for sex. because he is so cynical that he believes everyone has a price. olivia is cynical too, but she has her self-respect. and it doesn't matter that this prince is the hottest man she's ever seen, he still gets a face full of pie for his impudence.

he comes back the next day to grovel and beg her for a chance. because even sober he realizes he needs to spend more time with this woman. and it's not that she figures out who he is that makes her go out with him. it's when she sees the generosity of spirit and kindness that lies in his heart that makes her say yes.

and for a while, being with nick is a fairytale. but their fairy tale has a very specific end date. one that ensures heartbreak because he has to select a future bride from a short list of eligible women, and olivia is not one of them. she can't be. she doesn't meet the criteria for a future queen written into the law. and so nick must make a choice. can he put olivia and his future ahead of the crown and country he has been brought up to put first? duty and honor and responsibility have been driven into his psyche from birth.

there's some angst in this. but through it all, these characters know how much they love each other. they just need to figure out how to get past all the obstacles in their way. and the solution is kind of obvious. but it's also the kind of solution that has deep consequences, and should not be used lightly.

Monday, December 25, 2017

seriously romantic: the royal we by heather cocks and jessica morgan

heather cocks and jessica morgan are better known as the writing team behind, the fug girls, but they've also co-written some young adult novels and the royal we. a book best described as prince william and kate middleton fan fiction, with a few key differences that make prince nicholas (nick) and his american girl, rebecca (bex) fictional.

but now that harry is marrying meghan markle and the whole british prince marrying an american commoner who happens to be biracial thing is happening, i thought it was a grand time to revisit nick and bex.

as with my first reading, the first third of the book is sweet and romantic. nick and bex are friends first. and they fall in love gradually. and then his royalty and what that means takes over. and his life isn't his own. that's the reality. he doesn't have freedom. and if bex wants to be with him, she needs to accept that he comes with the weight of the future responsibility of a kingdom.

as a will and kate fan fic, the rest of the royals have stand ins too. eleanor stands in for elizabeth. freddie for harry. and freddie is the character i struggle most with in this book. any long time ready of knows that the fug girls have this running thread of harry being lovelorn for kate and in the royal we they basically pull that thread and see where it leads. i did not like where it lead at all.

and my other biggest complaint about the book is that the last third is too devoid of bex and nick being together that when they do reunite it doesn't really feel earned. they endure so much heartache and angst that it makes so little sense that they'd be past it and ready to commit to each other. and the tinge of ambivalence lingers even after the last page of the book is read.

in some ways, this isn't a conventional romance, but the romance is the heart of the story and labeling it as something else wouldn't feel right. but if you happen to be looking for some royal romance, then the royal we should definitely be on your list.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

seriously romantic: show me by abigail strom

show me, the companion book to tell me, follows hunter bryce's story. days away from going into a biosphere for eight months, hunter meets airin delaney in a bar and is drawn to her. she's mysterious and innocent in a way he doesn't expect. and she is reluctant to tell him everything because she's afraid of how he'll react, that he'll treat her differently if he knows that she's the daughter of a billionaire space scientist who has struggled with a heart condition her whole life.

when they are in a freak car accident the night before hunter is scheduled to leave, everything changes. he refuses to leave her side, even if it costs him his position in the biosphere. and when he learns who she really is, when he must face her mother, everything really does change. her mother is reluctant to let her go. she's been protecting airin from the world for so long.

so she blackmails hunter into spying on airin for her. in exchange, she promises to give him the one thing he gave up when he chose to stay behind instead of going into the biosphere, a chance to be a pilot on the first mission to mars.

he can't say no. but he feels terrible about spying on airin. so he chooses to ignore their chemistry and focuses on being her friend. but their connection is magnetic. and the pull proves irresistible. and at some point, everything is going to blow up in hunter's face. he only hopes he'll be able to explain himself to airin in a way that won't allow him to lose everything.

because he thought he wanted to be the first man on mars more than anything, but the truth is, after meeting and falling in love with airin, she means more.

**show me will publish on january 2, 2018. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/montlake romance in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

seriously romantic: when you love a scotsman by hannah howell

book two in the seven brides for seven scotsman series, when you love a scotsman, takes place in the closing months of the civil war. matthew mcenroy is at the end of his time in the union army, and he's sick of war. he wants to go back to his family and their compound. but his commitment is for another two months.

when a skirmish erupts on abigail jensen's family's property she's not sure how she feels about the help she receives from matthew and his fellow soldiers. but when her mother and father are killed and the cabin is burned down by the marauders she has no choice but to leave with them. they know of a home for women and children who have lost everything in the war.

abigail settles in nicely, offering up her medical knowledge and helping care for the children in the home. matthew can't help himself from waalking out with her. he finds her attractive, even if he's not entirely sure how far he wants their relationship to go.

for some reason abigail puts up with his uncertainty way longer than she needs to, but given the fact that she's kind of a package deal, having essentially acquired guardianship of two orphans while living in the women's home you understand his wanting to be sure.

anyway, even though it takes him a while to admit what he really wants, which is pretty obvious to everyone else, even abigail. the story is sweet and romantic even as it doesn't shy away from the terrible realities of war and the challenges facing the survivors during that time.

**when you love a scotsman will publish on december 26, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/kensington books (zebra) in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, December 22, 2017

seriously romantic: cowboy stole my heart by soraya lane

keeping with the cowboy theme, soraya lane's cowboy stole my heart stays in the same world as her king series, but expands the world to a new family of ranchers who will likely find love by the time the series comes to a close.

youngest daughter, mia ford is up first. when her father calls in sam mendes (not the film director even though that's who i thought of every time i saw his full name) to help with a stallion he feels is unmanageable she's livid. the horses are hers, and her father should have nothing to do with the decision-making on them. but there's a backstory there. she needs the horse to heal. it's personal for her. and even though she doesn't agree with her father's tactics, sam is good at when he does.

he's become a celebrity horse trainer for a reason. and he does work miracles with mia's horse. mia and sam have a rougher start, given the attitude they throw around at each other. but the attitude hides the sparks. but it's not long before they are giving into the chemistry between them.

sam has baggage too. and that baggage lies at the root of their commitment problems. and when he inevitably freaks out and goes into hiding he's got to do some major groveling before mia will take him back.

here's the thing. i don't always enjoy these dustups between couples because i think they are overdramatic and unnecessarily unrealistic. but i could have lived with the initial distancing that they go through. but when he comes back to talk to her and she barely listens and sends him away, i didn't like that. the fact that she then only listened to him when he did this crazy public display makes me want to die of embarrassment for the characters. even if it's fictional those kinds of moments in stories pull me out of the groove and make me cringe.

all's well that end's well, but just be aware that public groveling happens in this book. just in case it's not your thing.

**cowboy stole my heart will publish on january 2, 2018. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/st. martin's press in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

seriously romantic: cowboy up by harper sloan

the coming home series closes with clayton's story in cowboy up. unlike his siblings his isn't a second chance at love. he meets caroline at a bar outside of town. on a night where it's clear that she's looking to be bad. and he decides that he's the one who's going to be there for it. they don't exchange names, and yet, what should feel like a tawdry hookup in a motel room is something else entirely.

it's the best sex of their lives. but it's one night. and neither of them tries to find the other.

until caroline shows up at his sister's baby shower. the moment she walks in the room he recognizes her. not just as the woman in the bar, but as the woman who belongs to him. from that moment caroline is his. he proves this by saving her time and time again. once he has her in his arms this second time, he's not going to let her go. he's head over heels crazy in love with her.

and she's in love with him.

this book is dripping with love. it's in every look they share. every conversation they have. every single time they touch they combust in a flare of lust and emotion.

of the davis siblings, clayton is the strong silent steady older brother. he doesn't lose that persona here, but we are given the chance to see, to experience how big his heart is. and it's so delightful. as the closing book to the series, it was absolute perfection.

**cowboy up published on december 19, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/gallery, threshold, pocket books (pocket books) in exchange for my honest review. keep reading for additional information about the book...

seriously romantic: kiss my boots by harper sloan

quinn davis might be short and sassy and takes no prisoners as the majority owner of davis auto works and lead mechanic, but she's hiding some serious heartbreak in her past. nine years ago tate montgomery left for college, just at the end of a summer where they admitted their feelings for each other and slept together, and he disappeared. his phone was disconnected. he never came back. it was as if he'd dropped off the face of the earth. with no word, no notice, and no closure.

and suddenly he's coming home. and in kiss my boots, quinn's first reaction to that news is to let him know he can kiss her boots. but when she learns the truth behind the choices he made. she realizes there was another side to the story. and as much as their separation hurt her. he really was trying to do the right thing.

and now they have a real chance at love. in the years they've been apart they've grown up, they've changed. but one still holds true. they are still as much in love with each other now as they were then. tate has always known that quinn is it for him. she just needs a little time to believe that all her dreams are coming true. that when tate says he loves her, he means it and he's going to stay.

because the truth is, all she's ever wanted was someone to stay for her. and this is why his abandonment crushed her all those years ago. and even though it's not entirely his fault, she needs some time to let that sink in.

but when it does, she knows he means it. that this time it's quinn and tate forever.

**kiss my boots published on july 18, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/gallery, threshold, pocket books (pocket books) in exchange for my honest review.

something from the archives: say goodbye - part 51

to start from the beginning click on the links 123456789101112131415161718192021222324252627282930,  31323334353637383940414243444546474849, and 50.

part 51 follows the jump...

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

slightly silly: riverdale, episode twenty-two: silent night, deadly night

so betty and archie kiss and reconnect with their past. hunting for the black hood and mr. svenson together. and by the way you guys, i was sooooo right. poor dumb archie was wrong last week. mr. svenson was the black hood.

i'm not sure why the eyes were different. and it's kind of a copout that the killer is this character we've only known about for three episodes. but whatever. i'm kind of okay with this story wrapping up. the black hood stuff was the least interesting part of the episode, even as it tried to build up suspense and some real clear-and-present danger.

i have to admit that i loved the stuff with veronica and her parents. and i just feel a little cheated that we still don't know what they're plotting. we can't even be sure that they've actually told veronica the whole truth. but i'm pretty sure that whatever the lodges are up to will figure more prominently in the back half of the season.

i also love that it only took her an episode to realize that she does actually love archie. and i'm sure the fact that cheryl witnessed the betty and archie kiss is somehow going to come back to bite everyone. because even though veronica and archie find their way back to one another, betty and jughead are still on the outs. and jughead is more committed to the south side serpents than ever. and betty, dear betty, might be channeling the path to righteousness. she's already toeing the line of it.

she's a lot more like her mother than she likes to believe.

this was a solid holiday episode. and kevin and josie singing "god rest ye merry gentlemen" was totally random, but since it happens to be one of my favorite christmas songs, i'm just going to allow it. also, the gift exchange at the top of the episode was hilarious, and we clearly need more reggie. he's a douchebag. but he's also funny. and sometimes these teens take themselves way too seriously.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

seriously romantic: sinful empire by meghan march

when this book arrived on my kindle i literally dropped everything i was doing and started reading. i devoured this book in one sitting. i couldn't wait to start it and never wanted it to end. that's how much i enjoyed reading keira and lachlan's story. sinful empire concludes the series with answers and thrills and passion and angst and moments of pure darkness and moments of a love so bright it rivals the stars.

what keira and lachlan feel for each other—it's so mindblowing. following them on this journey from ruthless king and seeing them both come into their own in sinful empire is just absolute perfection. everything about this series has been perfection. i have absolutely no complaints.

i can probably mindlessly gush about this for days, weeks, years, and still, i don't know if i'll be able to fully explain why this resonated so much with me. i love these characters. i love how imperfect they are. i love how together they are something more. i love how no matter the obstacles certain things remain true. i love, love, love everything about this. i love how they suffer. i love how they heal. there's so much love in this book. and it shines through all the dark and horror and evil. like a beacon. it doesn't matter how many times keira and lachlan are torn apart because how they feel about each other will keep them together.

read this series. you just have to. it's so, so good.

**sinful empire will publish on december 19, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of meghan march in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, December 18, 2017

seriously romantic: the highland guardian by amy jarecki

i think reid mackenzie just became my favorite hero of this series. i've mentioned this before but it's fascinating reading about these characters who are on the losing side of history. based on real people, the fictionalized love stories have all been fantastic. and in the highland guardian, reid and audrey's love story really has a chance to shine.

when he promises nicholas kennet that he'll watch over his daughter, reid mackenzie imagines a young girl in pigtails who he'll ship off to boarding school. what he discovers is that miss audrey kennet is a lovely young woman, all of nineteen, too old for a guardian, but given society's rules, also in need of someone to watch over her.

at first suspicious of the man who brings her tidings of her father's death, she begins to change her tune when he doesn't immediately treat her as incapable of rational thought. he respects her intelligence and gives her more freedom than she expects. but it's when he stands up for her and refuses to allow her to be forced into marriage that she really takes notice. even though his stated goal is to marry her off and have her settled and out of his hair, he refuses to take the first proposal that comes along. he wants to give her a real chance at happiness.

possibly because he knows what it is to be bound by someone else's promise. he isn't entirely free to choose his own mate. and this holds him back from freely expressing himself to audrey. even if it is readily apparent to one and all that he's totally in love with her. and she with him.

they must fight some pretty tough odds, including false imprisonment, a wild escape, a dragoon of redcoats, and the remote scottish highlands. but when audrey and reid stand together they find a way to prevail. the strength of their connection, the way they will fight to save one another says it all.

this was a very enjoyable read, combining action and adventure with a lush historical backdrop and characters who feel so real.

**the highland guardian will publish on december 19, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/grand central publishing (forever) in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

seriously romantic: can't forget you by rachel lacey

book 3 in the risking it all series,  can't forget you, is a second-chance-at-love style romance. jessica flynn loved mark dalton, but when he left her high-and-dry and enlisted in the army without a spare thought or glance back at her, she was left broken-hearted. he didn't talk to her or share anything that would have let her understand why he made the choices he did. all she knew was that he hurt her and clearly didn't feel the same way she did.

except that's not exactly true. mark has always loved jess too. she's his north star. thoughts of her got him past years of trauma and violence he experienced as a member of the special forces. coming home to haven, he loves jess still, even as he knows that the hurts he caused her are not easily healed. when a real estate deal forces them to spend more time together, the chemistry that has always sizzled between them becomes to unruly to deny.

but mark has never thought that family life would be something he'd have. abandonment and neglect were the mainstay of his childhood and back when he knew jess he was headed to the path of delinquency. it's not until he enlists that he learns to be a man. he needed to be away from haven, from jess, in order to grow up. and even still, he's so emotionally stunted that he's kind of a relationship disaster.

he expects people to leave him behind. even jess. what he doesn't understand is that when he doesn't let her in, he's pushing her away. when all she wants is to hold him close and know him. she wants to know what makes him tick. it's not an easy balance for them to strike, and how they navigate their relationship as adults is the crux of the story.

jess and mark's shared past provides a well of emotional depth for this relationship and seeing them figure out how to trust each other with their hearts makes for a satisfying story.

**can't forget you will publish on december 19, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/grand central publishing (forever) in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

seriously romantic: breaking the ice by julie cross

we first met haley and fletcher in off the ice, the first book in the juniper falls series. breaking the ice is just as satisfying and carries the same surprising depth for a young adult sports romance. clearly, that's not all it is.

fletcher and haley are both doing summer coursework for very different reasons. used to being the guy no one notices, fletcher does his best to avoid attention, having previously garnered too much of it. fletcher is one of those unfortunate people who struggle with such severe anaphylaxis that even the most innocent of interactions can result in a life and death situation. but having had his allergies used against him in the past, he doesn't share this information willingly, which makes socializing in high school a challenge. 

except haley's pencil tapping is making fletcher crazy and when he steals it from her, she finds herself thinking of him nonstop. she thinks he's cute. and she knows he's smart. and when he's not putting up walls there's this really good guy that she's aching to get to know. but fletcher with walls can be a real jerk. and even though she comes to understand why he puts them up, she also still wants to break them down. 

lucky for fletch, haley isn't the type of girl who takes no for an answer. she pushes him to share more and more of himself. and as he opens up, he starts to learn that maybe trusting others isn't the worst thing in the world. that, actually, most people out there don't have it out for him and don't want to kill him. being with fletcher centers haley in a way that she's always found difficult to maintain. and he helps her realize that there are things she can do, steps she can take to make things easier for herself. because even though she's the juniper falls princess, she is a mess of insecurities and has a hard time seeing that most of the time fletcher pulls away has little to do with her, and everything to do with his own issues. 

together they bring out the best in each other. and haley and fletch are pretty sweet and special people. i loved rooting for them to figure it all out. and i loved how things end on a realistic note for them. it's happy, but life is an uncertain thing, and it's okay to leave certain questions unanswered. 

**breaking the ice will publish on december 26, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (entangled: teen) in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, December 15, 2017

simply all about audible romance

so audible recently created a romance subscription package that i am totally in love with. i have an hour-long commute to work on one-lane country backroads and suffer from motion-induced narcolepsy (ok, i made that up, but i fall asleep in cars even if i'm driving) and listening to books helps me say alert.

since signing up for the subscription i've listened to the following three books: the theory of second best by j. bengsston, playboy pilot by vi keeland and penelope ward, and defenseless by corinne michaels.

each one is a different kind of romance, and one of my favorite things about the new subscription service is that it lets you search for books according to your mood. it categorizes by trope, by heat level, by subgenre. it's a great way to search for things, because it allows you to try new authors with minimal risk.

and because you can access an unlimited number of books per month using the service, i find myself saving my audible credits for books not included in the service. which means more books for me. and let's face it, i'm on a book reading binge.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

something from the archives: say goodbye - part 50

to start from the beginning click on the links 123456789101112131415161718192021222324252627282930,  313233343536373839404142434445464748, and 49.

part 50 follows the jump...

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

seriously romantic: only you by addison fox

the brooklyn brotherhood closes out with only you, and fender and harlow get a chance for their own very happy ending after first meeting in just once and having sparks fly. from the moment they meet again in only you it's clear that everyone in park heights is rooting for them.

but both fender and harlow have a lot of childhood baggage and mistrust to overcome on top of the differences in their backgrounds. and when fender's abusive father comes back into the picture, the trauma of abuse and neglect add some unexpected challenges to their burgeoning connection. that's above and beyond the fact that the woman fender calls mama lou, is the same woman who helped harlow's mom become a bitter and vengeful shell of herself. while louise shouldn't take the full blame, she's also not entirely innocent. and her actions did negatively impact harlow and the way she sees relationships.

for novels that take place in the city, the brooklyn brotherhood series manages to cop a small town romance feel. there are so many meddling neighbors and family members. it's nice to have such a connected set of characters because it's so easy to slip into the world that's being built around them, and maybe it's the born and bred city girl in me, but all these people getting up in other people's business makes me absolutely crazy. why can't a relationship just be about two people and not the whole freaking village?

it's a quibble and totally has to do with my own prickly personality that it gets to me so much, but it's forgivable because the relationship that blossoms between fender and harlow is beautiful and sweet and surprisingly deep. i love how they connect with each other in ways that they both find surprising. and i love how neither of them tries to deny their crazy chemistry and the attraction that keeps them coming back for more. even as they do their very best to push each other away, protecting themselves, protecting each other, the truth is, that only with each other will they find true happiness. and that's why i read romance novels.

**only you published on december 12, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/st. martin's press (swerve) in exchange for my honest review.

seriously romantic: the way back to us by jamie howard

book 3 in the love unplugged series, the way back to us, finds singer gavin maccormack coming face to face with the one who got away. dani didn't just get away, she disappeared completely, and when gavin sees her catering an event he's stunned.

when he runs into her again at the blackbird, the bar he co-owns and regularly hangs out in, he begins to think that maybe it's not such a coincidence. dani knows better. she knows she shouldn't let gavin get too close. she's been on the run her whole life, and there's no end to the running. she doesn't even know for sure what danger she is facing. she's just always followed her father's lead.

even knowing that she won't stay, gavin falls headlong back in love with the woman he's never forgotten. because heartbreak will be worth it for a few more seconds of happiness with her. and as she allows herself to become entwined with his life, she starts to wish for the impossible too.

we get updates on all the band members, ian and bianca and felix and jules are still going strong. and ben and rachel are still super messed up. and i can't wait to see what book 4 of this series has in store for him.

as for gavin and dani, the shoe eventually drops. but all hell breaks loose when dani is confronted with evidence that the life she's been forced to lead may not be necessary. and on a pindrop everything changes. except for one thing. the fact that she's hopelessly in love with gavin.

**the way back to us published on december 12, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/st. martin's press (swerve) in exchange for my honest review.

slightly silly: riverdale, episode twenty one: house of the devil

i don't care what people say, i still think it's the janitor. even if archie claims that it's not him. archie isn't the brightest bulb. and sure the green eyes aren't the same, but maybe the dude had contacts. or maybe he's not the black hood.

so, let's talk about the relationship drama abounding in this episode. we have f.p. and jughead, for once having a good, easy father-son relationship that is destined to go to shit when f.p. realizes how far gone into serpent business jughead is.

we have jughead cutting ties with betty in order to protect her. this after she's put it all out there on the stage for jughead in her very own serpent dance. something that she does in front of her mother, who happens to be in full serpent gear at the time.

an aside, alice cooper is one of the most perplexing characters on this show. you never know what version of her will show up. and i kind of love her when she's her most serpent self. i think that's the real alice. the other alice, the one who is all brimstone and fire and propriety feels like an act. she and f.p. had something a long time ago it seems. and whatever she and hal have going on, it's clearly nothing stable.

i know this is a show about the kids, but i am just as intrigued as to what is going on with all the adults. because there are ties and feelings and drama held back from their kids, and i want to know it all.

and then there's archie and veronica, who have been going at it like bunnies. and when poor dumb archie tells veronica he loves her, she freaks out. she's never known love. her parents don't have love. in her book it's a weakness. and veronica has always been untouchable. but she doesn't know how to tell him this. and he doesn't know how to accept that she can't speak her feelings. and so when she walks away from him, it's the right thing to do. because how can you tell someone you love them when you don't even know what it means? but this doesn't mean you don't feel anything. and her breakdown in the car is the most vulnerable veronica has been in a while.

but when you push people away, and when they finally believe you, you have to reap the consequences of that. because it's easy to fall back on relationships and feelings that are safe and familiar. and this leaves an opening for betty and archie to reconnect. this isn't something i'm particularly interested in, because i think they are not very interesting together. but i understand it. and i'm hoping that the show takes us there in a way that makes sense and leaves the door opening for the challenge that jughead and veronica bring into both their lives.

also, cheryl is still being all single white female with josie. where this is going will be interesting to see. especially since cheryl is like one step away from being dragged away in a straitjacket.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

strictly literary: sea of strangers by erica cameron

sea of strangers picks up where island of exiles left off. at sea, khya and her friends must come upon an idea that will allow them to survive the dangers ahead.

the action rarely stops, but we do get more answers to what the misireh are up to and a deeper understanding of the mythology and magic that imbues this world. because this is book two of a planned trilogy there’s still not a whole lot of resolution but i have high hopes for book three.

the relationship between khya and tessen continues to deepen, and i enjoyed the quiet moments between them, even as everything around them falls apart over and over again. what they are aiming to do feels like the impossible and yet, their perserverance, their determination makes it seem like it's within reach even as they are faced with setback after setback.

**sea of strangers published on december 5, 2017. I received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley:entangled publishing (entangled teen) in exchange for my honest review. keep reading for an excerpt and more information on the book... 

strictly literary: island of exiles by erica cameron

island of exiles brings to life a world of magic and lies, one where gender fluidity is the norm and asexuality and bisexuality are nothing remarkable. the glossary and the explanations of magic and rank are all nested at the end of the book, which if i had read the physical copy of i would have happened upon it much sooner than i did in the ebook, when i only found it because i had reached the end of the story.

there is a lot of world-building here. it's complex and detailed and maybe a little overwhelming. i'm still kind of confused by everything with tsua and osshi but i'm guessing book 2 will continue to provide answers.

at its heart, this is khya's story. realizing that what she loves most in the world is in terrible danger she pulls together a quest that will betray everything she believes about her society. working with her brother's lover, sanii, and her longtime nemesis, tessen, they come up with a daring plan to rescue her brother, yorri.

but when things go sideways, they soon learn that there is so much more to uncover about the world around them. and the battle they will need to prepare for will be more challenging and difficult than any battle they've ever faced before.

the only thing they have to rely on is each other, on each other's abilities and the bonds that tie them together. watching the bond between khya and tessen grow in strength throughout the novel is so satisfying. it's pretty clear from early on that he's totally into her, but she sees him as her enemy. i think she reacts so strongly because she knows that he is important. he's the only person to both challenge and support her unconditionally. how he does both things at the same time is impressive. he has the strength to let her be herself, and at the same time, he bolsters her in a way that allows her to shine and yet doesn't deny his strength either. their relationship is so unique and layered and i can't wait for more. luckily my review of sea of strangers is coming up shortly.

**island of exiles published on february 14, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (entangled: teen) in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, December 11, 2017

seriously romantic: dance with me by alexis daria

i really enjoyed take the lead, but i think dance with me totally topped it. i loved, loved, loved this book. natasha and dmitri are perfection together. they've been indulging in an on and off things for three years, so when dmitri suddenly starts to really be there for natasha she's suspicious.

though to be fair, she would have always been suspicious. her whole life she's been made to feel unworthy by her mother. born to a teenager who felt her life was ruined and incapable of expressing her affection in a constructive manner, tasha feels like she's second best in all things. and being surrounded by people who give off the appearance of being more successful without working nearly as hard has only added to her complex.

inadvertently dmitri has also fed into tasha's insecurities, mainly because in trying to protect himself from heartache and rejection he's made tasha believe that she isn't as important to him as she is. because the truth is, to dmitri, tasha is everything. he wants it all with her. love, passion, commitment. but he doesn't know how to express himself in a way that she would believe. and because he is holding back, he finds himself saying the exact wrong thing at the most inopportune moments.

te way these two love each other is sweet and deep and so emotional. together they build each other up. and they only need to figure out how to keep it going once they are out in the real world. everything about this story worked for me. especially the ethnic, puerto rican-ukranian bits.

**dance with me will publish on december 12, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/st. martin's press (swerve) in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

seriously romantic: hold me harder by renee dominick

when natalie lindgren returns to the ranch her family used to spend summer vacations on in hold me harder, she's not just revisiting old childhood haunts. she's reencountering the one man who she has fully submitted to,javier, the man she turned her back on because she believes that her need to submit makes her weak.

to make things more complicated the man she fell in love with after javier is also part of the wedding party that brings her back to the ranch. ryan is another man she's run from for the same reason, his desire that she submit has her running scared.

but coming to the ranch is like coming home. and natalie learns that in order to be her true self, in order to be truly happy she can't keep denying the part of her that needs to submit. with javier and ryan guiding her and working together there's a chance that she can have it all. as long as she realizes that there is strength in submission. that all these two men want most in the world is to give her pleasure.

**hold me harder will publish on december 11, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (scorched) in exchange for my honest review. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

seriously romantic: a perilous passion by elizabeth keysian

rafe seaborne, aka the earl of beckport, is determined to redeem himself after his allergies to a horse ruined a military operation in the midst of war. humiliated he abandoned society and has taken up residence on the coast determined to catch a group of smugglers and a traitor to the crown.

when he crosses paths with miss charlotte allston he assumes that he is saving her from a suicide by drowning. in truth she'd been moping by the seashore for her lost love, justin, but her eye had been caught by a scrap of something floating in the water. she was just being curious not suicidal.

but once their paths cross, it's like they can't stay out of each other's way. either he's spying on her and she catches him, or she finds reasons to track him down. and at every turn they are beset by danger, accidents, and a surprising passion.

a perilous passion establishes early on that these two are wild for each other but rafe believes he isn't free to pursue charlotte until he has redeemed himself in the eyes of society and his country, and also he needs to make things right for himself. meanwhile, charlotte is harboring a secret about her father's past that she believes will negatively affect her marriage prospects.

but as much as rafe pushes charlotte away, he comes to realize that having her as a partner makes everything better. as often as he pulls her out of a scrape, she saves his life just as often in turn. and there is no doubt that these two are tailor-made for each other.

**a perilous passion will publish on december 11, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (amara) in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, December 8, 2017

seriously romantic: chaos and control by season vining

when wren hart blows back into the tiny town of crowley, kansas she's not sure what kind of homecoming she'll receive. she's been gone three years and her only contact with her sister, bennie has been a series of postcards. she shouldn't be surprised to discover that her apartment has been rented out and her old job filled. but her replacement, preston charles, couldn't be more fascinating if he tried.

in chaos and control, it's pretty clear early on that wren is the chaos and preston is the control. he suffers from some pretty severe ocd. and we see how the disorder both controls him and how he uses routine and repetition to keep his anxiety under control. wren steamrolls her way into his orbit, and once she is there he finds that he likes having her there. and that somehow, in spite of her propensity for chaos, she quiets his overactive mind. and when he's with her he finds a measure of peace that he's never really known.

wren has secrets and so do bennie and preston. and there's a moment when the secrets nearly destroy everything that these characters have been building up to. but love is stronger than that. pain and hurt and anger and betrayal are the lows, but the rush of elation, the sweetness of forgiveness, the thrill of passion, those are the highs. preston and wren do their best to experience all of it.

one of the things that i really liked about this story is how it is framed. told in third person limited from wren's point of view, each chapter ends with a poem written by preston that gives us insight into his psyche. you get such a clear picture of him and where he is at emotionally. it lets us see how he sees wren, and it's perfect because so much of her time is spent describing all the little things that make preston so unique.

**chaos and control will publish on december 11, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (embrace) in exchange for my honest review.

seriously romantic: mine to save by diana gardin

sayward díaz is not your average romantic heroine, after all it's not every day your lead character is on the low end of the autism spectrum. sayward has problems reading social cues, and she's never understood the need for physical intimacy, but something about bennett blacke calls to her. and when he says she's beautiful, she's stunned to realize that he makes her feel that way.

he's a man who has been through unspeakable stress, violence, danger. and while there is a darkness that resides deep in his soul, the way he cherishes everything about sayward in mine to save is totally worth swooning over. he's a man who whose ptsd is sparked by betrayal. loving someone, giving over that much trust to another person feel unthinkable, but he doesn't hesitate with sayward. even when he knows that being with her could set off all his triggers he knows that being without her is not an option.

they just work together so beautifully.

sayward's life is at risk, her past with a columbian drug cartel has caught up to her in wilmington. and bennett will do everything in his power to keep her safe. he would lay down his life, because she is everything to him. from the moment he realizes she is in danger he keeps her in his sights. she belongs to him from that moment. and even though sayward tries to deny it, tries to fight it, the truth is she loves how he makes her feel. she knows he will always protectt her. that if she were lost, bennett would always be the one to find her.

i really loved these two leads. i loved their story, i loved how they see each other, i loved how they fall in love. my only complaint is that i've never met a columbian who'd name their kid sayward or james. i mean, i guess it's possible, but those are not at all spanish names. and they sound really weird in spanish . i loved sayward's columbian heritage, but it didn't feel entirely authentic because i kept thinking in order to have that name one of her parents had to be american. and this was a thread that i had to ignore because it was going to drive me crazy to pick at it.

**mine to save will publish on december 8, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/grand central publishing (forever yours) in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

seriously romantic: everest by s.l. scott

ethan everest is enchanted by singer davis from the moment he catches her eye across a crowded room. he wants to approach her. he wants so much more than that. and when they finally share a moment he lets himself get distracted and lets her slip out of his reach.

but she's not far from his mind, and months later when they cross paths again, he knows he needs to do everything in his power to keep her close. even though his life has been needlessly complicated and everyone is telling him to avoid entanglements.

but singer is more than an entanglement. she is his in a way no other woman will ever be. she even manages to put up with his hot and cold behavior. mainly because when she tries to leave ethan behind, he does or says something that makes it impossible for her to do that.

when tragedy strikes close to home, it almost breaks them. he worries that bringing singer into his orbit puts her at risk, and if there is anything he is unwilling to risk, it is her safety. and singer, she worries that the guilt will break him. she doesn't blame him. it's not his fault. but this is so surprisingly refreshing.

the biggest obstacles they face as a couple is actually everest's need to protect singer. because if it were up to her they'd be all in. but he has to want it too.

**everest will publish on december 7, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of s.l. scott in exchange for my honest review. 

something from the archives: say goodbye - part 49

as loose ends get tied up, catch up from the beginning at the links: 123456789101112131415161718192021222324252627282930,  3132333435363738394041424344454647, and 48.

part 49 continues after the jump...