Friday, March 31, 2017

strictly literary: but then i came back by estelle laure

eden jones doesn't know where she was when she was in a coma. she just knows she wasn't here. she knows she saw her family. she knows that her past was closer to her than ever before. she knows that the other girl in a coma in the hospital ward was there too. and she knows that jasmine is trying to tell her something.

but then i came back is about eden's recovery. it's about how trauma changes you. it's about how one thing can change everything about you, except it can't change who you really are. she's experienced something so outside of anyone's realm of understanding. her friends, her family, they are trying, but she can't help but feel closest to jasmine, the girl still in a coma and joe the guy who holds her fate in his hands.

the book opens with eden's accident. an out of body experience told in the second person. and then we are in the during, as she comes back and figures out how to start living again. the hardest thing is figuring out her relationship with her twin brother. she's lived through something she can't share with him and in the time she was in a coma he found closeness with eden's best friend lucille. so when she does come back the relationship she shared with the two closest people in her life has irrevocably changed.

and so the connection she shares with jasmine, as someone else who has been in the in between place between life and death becomes so important. and the acceptance and understanding she gets from joe lets her feel less crazy and more grounded in the now. something she craves desperately because coming back has left her feeling disconnected, disassociated from herself, from her life. figuring things out with joe, beginning a relationship with joe, opens her back up to feeling, to living.

and inasmuch as there is pain and loss and grief and hurt and anger in this story, there is also a great amount of beauty. sometimes everything must break apart before it can be put back together. but when it does come together, it can be stronger and more beautiful than ever.

**but then i came back will publish on april 4, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/houghton mifflin harcourt children's book group (hmh books for young readers) in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

simply all about confessions of a former puck bunny - a cover reveal

Today I’m revealing the cover for CONFESSIONS OF A FORMER PUCK BUNNY by Cindi Madsen!

seriously romantic: a fare to remember by opal carew

i'd never read an opal carew book before, but when i read other people's reviews i realized that it's apparently her thing to have her books appear to be normal contemporary romances and turn out to be something unexpected. i'm pretty open-minded about the kind of romance books i read, i'm not one to go about clutching my pearls because "oh my, erotica or bdsm or threesomes or homosexuality or bisexuality." i have hard limits, like pedophilia and bestiality, for example, but i don't think those would surprise anyone.

but even though i'm open-minded, i also like to know what i'm getting myself into. and the blurb to a fare to remember barely touches what the actual romance is about. [n.b. i've noticed that the blurb has been updated on amazon to sort of hint of the actual story, but this was not the original blurb i read. the one i read actually had a different name for the main character and may have related to an earlier draft. but my point is still that i did not know what kind of book i was reading when i started reading it.] reid and stevie do have a one night stand, but then when they look to deepen their romance, reid's friend and business partner also falls for stevie and all of a sudden reid, stevie, and dylan are in a full-fledged ménage relationship. and no one is worrying about whose hands are where.

and it's kind of refreshing? so many of these ménage stories are really weird about incidental contact between the men, which never really makes sense to me, since they are basically having sex with the same woman and there's no way that works without touching. so i thought it was great that the guys were also into each other, even as they were also super into stevie. but i get that not everyone feels that way about this kind of thing, so if ménages or bisexuality are hard limits for you, then this isn't the book for you.

a fare to remember is also somewhat of an homage to an affair to remember, also known as my personal least favorite cary grant movie ever. i disagree with the ladies of sleepless in seattle (the one sort of homage to an affair to remember that i've actually ever liked).

which is to tell you that there is some high melodrama at the end of the novel that closely mirrors the story of an affair to remember and i was kicking myself for not realizing that of course this book was an homage to the movie. i didn't really pick that up at first even though i noted the title similarity. anyway, this was a quick, easy read. 

**a fare to remember will publish on april 4, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/st. martin's press in exchange for my honest review. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

seriously romantic: crazy for you by rachel lacey

emma rush has loved ryan blake forever and always. and in crazy for you, she finally decides that the time has come to take a leap. ever since she lost her entire family before she turned 20 she's been in a holding pattern. she wants to get a degree in landscape architecture and design, she wants to own her own landscaping company, she wants to be with ryan blake and she wants to jump off a cliff with him by the end of the summer.

ryan's best friend was emma's brother. and he promised to look out for her. and how can he break a promise to his dead friend? even if it's what emma wants, even if it's what he wants, the fact remains that a promise is a promise. but when emma calls his bluff and threatens to see other people, ryan can't stand back any longer. and once he stops holding back, there's nothing to stop the love and the passion and the sweet friendship that emma and ryan share from blooming into a full-blown relationship.

but emma is leaving at the end of the summer. she's got dreams to chase and ryan doesn't want to be the one to stop her. and he doesn't want to hold her back. and he promised her brother he'd stay away. so realistically speaking, once ryan gets over his hang-ups he and emma should be okay. he does pull the idiotic romance male lead thing and tries to make all of emma's decision for her in her best interests. which goes as well as you'd expect it to. but once he and emma manage to start communicating again, they find that the kind of relationship magic they share is a rare gift. one worth holding on to.

this is another solid entry in the risking it all series. we also get to see a little bit more of jess and mark who will feature in can't forget you the final book in the series. and what we've seen hints at a very emotional finale to the series. i can't wait!

**crazy for you 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.

release week blitz: simply all about crazy for you


Author: Rachel Lacey
Series: Risking It All, #2
On Sale: March 28, 2017
Publisher: Forever
Mass Market: $7.99 USD
eBook: $6.99 USD

The second book in Rachel Lacey's irresistible contemporary romance series about three foster brothers who return to their hometown to open an extreme sports business, perfect for fans of Kristan Higgins, Rachel Gibson, and Jill Shalvis!


Emma Rush can't remember a time when she didn't have a thing for Ryan Blake. Haven's resident bad boy is just so freakin' hot-with tattoos, a motorcycle, and enough rough-around-the-edges sexiness to melt all her self-control. Now that Emma's over being a "good girl," she needs a little help being naughty . . . and she knows just where to start.

Before Emma's brother enlisted in the military, he made Ryan promise that he would protect her from everything--including himself. When her brother doesn't come home, Ryan needs to turn his screwed-up life around to honor his pledge. But he knows he's still not the right kind of guy for someone as sweet as Emma. Only he can't stop wanting to be with her. Wanting her. Falling in love with a good girl may be the craziest risk this bad boy can take . . .



Ryan Blake held a bottle of Maker’s 46 in his right hand, a tumbler in his left. With a flick of his wrist, he tossed the bottle. It flipped once before landing back in his grip, top down, ready to pour. He filled the tumbler, set a napkin on the bar, and placed it in front of the brunette on the other side. 

“Bourbon, neat.”

“You’re good.” She picked up the glass and tipped it in his direction. “Not what I was expecting in this little bar in the middle of nowhere.”

“I try,” he said with the friendly, semi-flirtatious smile he always used on single ladies seated at his bar. She wasn’t wrong. The usual clientele at The Drunken Bear had little use for fancy liquor or bartending tricks, but the trio in front of him were tourists looking for a good time, and he’d see that they had one.

“You were just about to tell me about this tattoo.” She placed her hand on his biceps, fingering the eagle he’d had inked there after he flew this coop ten years ago.

“That’s right.” He shifted backward so that her hand slipped to the countertop. He encouraged flirting—it led to better tips and made the night more interesting—but this chick was getting a bit too friendly, considering the diamond band on her left ring finger. “This one was for spreading my wings. Thought I’d fly far away, and yet, here I am back in Haven.”

“You’re from here then?” one of the other women asked, shamelessly ogling the tattoos on his arms while giving him an eyeful of cleavage.

“Born and raised. Moved around a lot, but I can’t seem to shake this place. It’s in my blood.” Once upon a time, he’d been hell bent on getting as far away from this sleepy North Carolina mountain town as possible. Spent the better part of a decade drifting from place to place, taking with him only what he could carry on his bike. Funny how things came full circle. He picked up an empty pilsner glass another patron had left behind.


He turned at the familiar voice to find Emma Rush standing there, one hip propped against the bar, and he damn near dropped the glass. Emma’s trademark ponytail and jogging pants were nowhere in sight. Tonight, her blond hair cascaded over her shoulders in shiny waves, her blue eyes sparkled at him from behind a tasteful—yet sexy—amount of makeup, and her red top was tucked into a pair of jeans that fit her like a glove. He swallowed past the sudden dry- ness in his throat. “Hey, Em. What brings you out tonight?” 

“Girls’ night,” she said with a smile, gesturing to her friend Mandy, who stood by the door talking on her cell phone. Emma slid onto an empty barstool. “I wasn’t expecting to see you.”

“I’m still here a few nights a week.” His new business venture—Off-the-Grid Adventures, an extreme outdoor sporting facility he’d opened with his good buddies Ethan Hunter and Mark Dalton six months ago—was finally bringing in enough income that he soon wouldn’t need to bartend to pay his rent. “What can I get you?”

“Untapped amber ale, please.” She watched while he filled a frosted mug. “Thanks.”

“My pleasure.”

She lifted the mug to her lips and took a long drink. “Damn, that’s good,” she said with a happy sigh, setting it on the bar.

“Always been more of a pilsner guy myself.” He tried not to stare as she licked froth from her upper lip.

“Hi, Ryan.” Mandy stepped up to the bar beside Emma. He leaned back, tearing his gaze from Emma’s lips. “Hi.”

Emma turned to her friend with a smile. “Ready to get a table?”

“Yep,” Mandy said. “Have fun, ladies.”

“We will.” With a wave, Emma walked off after her friend, and damn, those jeans cupped her ass like perfection. No doubt about it, Emma looked hot tonight. And his thoughts were way out of line. He’d promised Derek he’d look out for his little sister, not drool all over her.

“Your girlfriend?” the brunette at the bar asked, eyebrows raised as she sipped her bourbon.

Ryan cleared his throat and dragged his eyes away from Emma. “Just a friend.”

“Mm-hmm.” The brunette gave him a look that said she didn’t believe him.

He turned to check on his patrons at the other end of the bar, but his attention was once again diverted by Emma— or rather, the preppy-looking businessman she was talking to now. Ryan couldn’t make out their conversation, but the guy wore an irritatingly smug smile, and Emma didn’t look at all happy to have bumped into him.

Ryan moved down the bar, chatting and pouring drinks as he went, all the while keeping an eye on Emma. She was deep in conversation with the businessman, although the guy seemed to be doing most of the talking. Emma smiled and nodded. She glanced up and met Ryan’s gaze, rolling her eyes at him with a smile while her companion kept on talking.

Next thing Ryan knew, the guy had slung an arm around her shoulders, gesturing wildly with his free hand while Emma subtly edged away from him.

Ryan was around the bar and across the room before he’d even realized what he was doing. “Everything okay over here?”

Emma shrugged out from under the guy’s arm, but her smile wasn’t nearly as warm or genuine as the one she’d given Ryan a few moments ago. “Yep.”

“We’re fine,” Obnoxious Dude answered. “Who are you?”

“Ryan Blake. And you are?”

“Tristan Farrell.”

“Tristan and I are . . . old friends,” Emma said.

By old friends, Ryan assumed she meant former flames. And since she clearly wasn’t enjoying his company, it was time for Tristan to leave. Ryan crossed his arms over his chest and stared him down, waiting for the loser to get the message. It didn’t take long.

Tristan backed up, his eyes darting toward the front door. “Well, it was great seeing you, Emma. Take care.”

“You, too.” She watched as Tristan left the bar then turned to Ryan. “Forgot how much I dislike that guy.”

“He hassling you?”

Her eyes rounded. “No! Just talking my ear off, really. Sorry to distract you from your duties at the bar.”

“No problem.” Keeping an eye on his patrons was part of the job, although he was probably feeling more protective of Emma right now than the situation called for.

“Right, well . . . looks like my table is ready.” She waved over her shoulder as she walked away.

Ryan headed back behind the bar, turning his attention to the trio of tourists and their mostly empty cocktails. “Any of you ladies ready for a fresh drink?”

As it turned out, they all were. While he mixed their cocktails, he allowed his gaze to roam over to Emma’s table. She was deep in conversation with her friends Gabby, Carly, and Mandy, all of whom he knew, none of whom made his gut tighten the way it did every time he looked at Emma tonight.

He had no idea where this had come from, but he had to get over it, pronto. Emma wasn’t interested in a player like him, and even if she were, she was off limits. He’d made a promise to her brother when Derek went off to war, and Ryan had no intention of breaking it.




Rachel Lacey is a contemporary romance author and semi-reformed travel junkie. She's been climbed by a monkey on a mountain in Japan, gone scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef, and camped out overnight in New York City for a chance to be an extra in a movie. These days, the majority of her adventures take place on the pages of the books she writes. She lives in warm and sunny North Carolina with her husband, son, and a variety of rescue pets.



seriously romantic: the highland duke by amy jarecki

akira ayres is a dedicated healer, even if most her patients are ready to toss her off the british isles due to her gypsy heritage, she has a duty to uphold. after a jacobite uprising, akira is helping the wounded when she comes across an injured jacobite, our titular highland duke, with a musket ball buried in his leg.

with the local lord in the redcoat's pockets, helping this man could have devastating consequences for akira and her family, but she does not hesitate. even when he refuses to tell her his name. geordie, the duke of gordon, isn't sharing his identity for akira's own safety. he's worried she'll be in greater danger if she ends up being questioned by the redcoats. and he needs her to stay safe, if only to repay her for her assistance in escaping the battlefield. it would have been disastrous for his family if he had been caught.

from the battlefield, geordie and akira travel across scotland to geordie's main seat. and the close quarters they are forced to keep heightens the sexual tension but also allows them to reach an unexpected emotional intimacy. akira is an innocent, but geordie should know better than to trifle with akira's affections. he's been married before, and has endured a humiliating and rare divorce. even if he were interested in remarrying, the petitioning he must do with the church and the royal court would make any approvals a difficult proposition. it would be one thing if he falls in love with a woman who is his social equal and could provide some political capital, but a gypsy with uncertain parentage and no money to her name is not likely to be viewed as a future duchess with any favor.

so it seems hopeless, that's a pretty tight corner geordie and akira are in. and the fact that they must navigate these relationship concerns while being chased and captured and released and re-captured by redcoats and their scottish allies make for an action-packed third act. but true love can overcome all things. and the gypsies have their own ways and traditions that might make it possible for geordie and akira to attain their heart's content. sometimes the thorniest problems are solved with the simplest solutions.

**the highland duke 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. 

release week blitz: simply all about the highland duke


Author: Amy Jarecki
Series: Lords of the Highlands, #1
On Sale: March 28, 2017
Publisher: Forever
Mass Market: $7.99 USD
eBook: $3.99 USD

Indie author Amy Jarecki makes her print debut with a brand-new series about rugged Highland lords.

She'll put her life on the line for him . . .

When Akira Ayres finds the brawny Scot with a musket ball in his thigh, the healer has no qualms about doing whatever it takes to save his life. Even if it means fleeing with him across the Highlands to tend to his wounds while English redcoats are closing in. Though Akira is as fierce and brave as any of her clansmen, even she's intimidated by the fearsome, brutally handsome Highlander who refuses to reveal his name.

Yet she can never learn his true identity.

Geordie knows if Akira ever discovers he's the Duke of Gordon, both her life and his will be forfeit in a heartbeat. The only way to keep the lass safe is to ensure she's by his side day and night. But the longer he's with her, the harder it becomes to think of letting her go. Despite all their differences, despite the danger-he will face death itself to make her his . . .



Curled under Geordie’s arm, Akira finally stopped shivering. All around them rain splashed. Everything was soaked and their little alcove smelled of horse—not a horrid smell, but not one she’d choose for her boudoir, either. If she had a boudoir.

She chose to ignore the voice in the back of her head telling her it wasn’t proper to allow a strange man to put his arm around her shoulders and offer her warmth. But there was something in the way Geordie looked at her that made her feel all warm inside and, moreover, protected. Aye, he’d been in a great deal of pain—was still in great pain—but since he roused from his last bout of unconsciousness, he’d behaved admirably. He’d brought the horse under control, figured out where they were, and formed a plan to take them to someone he could trust to provide her with an escort home.

With darkness, the air grew colder. Clutching her fists under her chin, Akira curled into Geordie’s heat. He smoothed his palm along her outer arm, his touch soothing.

When he turned his lips toward her, his warm breath skimmed across her forehead. “Try to sleep.” The gentle burr of his voice imparted all the more comfort.

But she couldn’t get too comfortable; she must to do her duty. He was still her patient. “I’m the healer. I should be telling you to do the same.”

His hazel gaze drifted to her mouth, and he grinned. 

 “Very well.” He pulled his arm away, but not before running his fingers across her back. Blessed tingles spread over her skin as if she’d been caressed by feathers. Oh, heaven help her, his touch was unbelievably sublime. If only she could ask him to run his fingers back and forth again—just one more time.

She reached for the hem of his kilt, then quickly snapped her fingers away. What had she been thinking? True, she’d applied the salve before, but that was when he was mostly unconscious and definitely before he’d put his arm around her shoulder and smiled at her like a…like a…brawny Highlander.

“Have you gone shy, lass?” he asked with a hint of humor in his deep brogue.




Amy Jarecki is a descendant of an ancient Lowland clan and adores Scotland. Though she now resides in southwest Utah, she received her MBA from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. Winning multiple writing awards, she found her niche in the genre of Scottish historical romance. Amy writes steamy edge-of-your-seat action adventures with rugged men and fascinating women who weave their paths through the brutal eras of centuries past.



Monday, March 27, 2017

seriously romantic: forever mine by erin nicholas

forever mine is book 2 in the opposites attract series from erin nicholas, and our opposites trying to resist their crazy attraction are ex-cop and risk-taker, maya goodwin, and a risk-averse, world-renowned pediatrician, dr. alex nolan.

alex first comes across maya at a demonstration for her self-defense classes. from the moment he sees her, he can't keep his eyes off her. and she notices him too. his presence is enough of a distraction that she loses focus, which is not a good thing to happen in a staged battle. and every time she runs into him it's as if their bodies have some sort of magnetic attraction because she can't keep her eyes off him. honestly, she can barely keep her hands off him. and since maya is the jump first, ask questions later kind of girl, she's ready to go all-in.

but alex isn't like that. and he has reasons to stay away from maya, even if they are hard to remember in the moment. he only recently learned that he has a nine-year-old daughter, and getting to know her and reconnecting with her mom has been his priority. introducing someone new to his daughter isn't what he is looking for. nevermind that getting to know maya makes getting to know his daughter easier. because the problem is that when he's with maya he forgets all the reasons he shouldn't take risks and it's been a long time since anyone made him want to let go like that.

alex and maya just click. he likes her friends. being a part of her life is easy. but alex needs to figure out a way to let maya into his life. and this is not so easy for him. he's so used to holding himself back, keeping his truth hidden from others. even though he knows he doesn't need to do this with maya, a lifetime of habit is hard to break. until it nearly breaks them. letting go, letting someone in is absolutely terrifying, but oh so worth the risk.

**forever mine 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. 

release week blitz: simply all about forever mine



Author: Erin Nicholas
Series: Opposites Attract, #2
On Sale: March 28, 2017
Publisher: Forever
Mass Market: $7.99 USD
eBook: $3.99 USD

The second book in New York Times bestselling author Erin Nicholas's series about three geeky girls and the hunky guys who fall for them.

Maya Goodwin doesn't believe in holding back. Ever. As a cop, she never hesitated to throw herself into harm's way to save someone. Even after an injury on the job forces her to retire, she's not afraid to keep risking it all to get the life she wants. With a new career teaching martial arts to kids already underway, she's looking forward to the future - and taking a chance on the unbelievably hot Dr. Alex Nolan.

Maya - daring and spontaneous - is the exact opposite of what Alex always thought he wanted. But when a nine-year-old daughter he never knew existed shows up on his doorstep, Maya is the one who helps them hold it together. With love on the line, will the guy who's always played it safe be willing to take the biggest risk of all?


Alex laughed. He liked Maya. The thought hit him directly in the gut. 

Maya smiled brightly, and he admitted that he was intensely attracted too. Now fast attraction—that he’d experienced before. But it had been a long time since even that had happened.

“I’m Dr. Alex Nolan. I’m on staff at Boston Children’s Hospital. I’m on their website if you want to look me up.”

Maya suddenly frowned. “I can’t believe I didn’t think of that.”

“Of what?”

“Googling pediatricians and finding out who you are after the mall the other day,” Maya said.

Alex raised an eyebrow. “Wouldn’t that be a little creepy?”

“Probably,” she agreed. “Maybe that’s why I didn’t do it.”

He laughed. “Well, to further decrease the creep factor, I do have a kid,” he said. “A daughter. Charlotte. We call her Charli. She’ll be ten next month. She’s very into superheroes, GR, and swords, and I know nothing about any of that. I liked the demonstration at the mall and thought I’d come check out your studio.”

“So you’re wanting to sign her up,” Maya said with a nod. “Okay, not creepy at all.”

“Uh…” Alex knew this was going to sound strange. “Actually I want to take the class myself.”

Maya frowned. “These classes won’t teach you about superheroes exactly,” she said. “They are kind of a combination of stage fighting and martial arts and self-esteem workshops.”

“I know.” He’d been on the website. Which is how he’d found out more about the studio. And where he’d stared at Maya’s photo before going in to look up more about her on the internet. Which was how he found out that her classes had won some local awards, she’d been a brilliant cop—who had not, incidentally, been fired for beating someone up—and that she regularly blogged about superheroes and their fandom and the psychology of that fandom. He’d bookmarked her page immediately. 

 “And the things you do in class sounds like the perfect bonding activity for Charli and me. I’ll take the class and then go home and teach her.”

Maya looked puzzled. “Why not just bring her to class?”

“She…” He swallowed. Charli would love Maya. Hell, if she saw Maya with those pointy-weapon-things, she’d want to be Maya. 

But Alex had only seen Maya twice, and he’d already witnessed her get hit with a Bo staff, punched in the ribs, and cut with some kind of sharp hand weapon. Which reminded him that she’d been bleeding.

He looked down, but the bleeding had already slowed or stopped. Which was what happened when a person with normal blood got cut. But Charli didn’t have normal blood. She didn’t bleed faster, but she would bleed longer—because of the genetic mutation he had passed on to her. 

He’d told her mother that Charli should be able to try whatever she wanted. But he’d also told her he’d keep Charli safe. If Charli took classes here, he would have to fill Maya and her staff in on the hemophilia and precautions and treatment… 

 “She has some special needs,” he said, cringing a little as he said it, knowing that Maya might easily jump to conclusions that were not at all correct. But it didn’t matter what she thought. This was the right thing for Charli.

But Maya didn’t even blink. “Okay,” she said. “I understand. Maybe…” But she trailed off while watching him thoughtfully without completing the sentence.

“Maybe what?” he asked. 

“Maybe I could teach you and your daughter a private Super You class.”

He was surprised at her offer, but more—he was tempted. Which meant he had to say no. The timing for meeting a gorgeous, intriguing woman couldn’t have been worse. “I think a class with lots of other people, especially kids, would be better.”


Maya was direct. He liked that. And he could return the favor. “Because you look just as good in workout pants as you do in leather.”

Her eyes widened in surprise just a beat before her smile widened. “And that’s a problem?”

“It is when I’m trying to give all of my extra time and attention to my daughter.”

She studied him for a moment. “Okay,” she finally said with a nod. “And once you see the class, if you change your mind, she’s always welcome.”

Alex relaxed. “Thanks.”

 “You’re not going to feel funny taking a class with a bunch of kids?”

“I love kids,” he told her. 

“What about the tights and cape?”

“Tights and cape?” Alex repeated.

“The costume,” she said with a nod. 

“Thought the participants all helped create their own character,” he said, realizing she was messing with him.

“They do.”

“Well, there’s no way in hell I would create a character that would wear tights.”

Maya’s gaze wandered over him, head to toe, before she said, Too bad.”



Erin Nicholas is the author of sexy contemporary romances. Her stories have been described as toe-curling, enchanting, steamy and fun. She loves to write about reluctant heroes, imperfect heroines and happily ever afters. She lives in the Midwest with her husband who only wants to read the sex scenes in her books, her kids who will never read the sex scenes in her books, and family and friends who say they're shocked by the sex scenes in her books (yeah, right!).



seriously romantic: take me back by meghan march

dane and kat have one last chance to save their marriage. in take me back, they start out not at all on the same page but for one thing. in spite of all the lies and half-truths, in spite of the anger and the disappointment and loss, they want to be together.

so they take a ten-day vacation to belize to see if their marriage is something they can save. and you know it's going to take a lot of heartache before they can even decide if that's possible. these characters are hiding some pretty big secrets, from us, from each other, maybe even from themselves.

and maybe in order to find what it will take to fix things they have to break it all apart completely. every confession, every memory, every lie, every truth chips away at the walls they've built in their marriage, the walls they've built around their hearts. and this is painful, it's emotionally devastating, but it's also renewal.

but to get to that renewal they have to fight like hell. because everything falls apart. the secrets from the past become a part of their present in a way neither of them could have ever imagined. and they aren't just fighting for their marriage, they're fighting for their lives, fighting to live and love another day. and when living hangs in the balance, maybe all the other stuff--the lies of omission, the half-truths--aren't all that important.

at the end of the day, the truth held at the center of their hearts is how deeply they love one another. sometimes love isn't enough, but sometimes it is. sometimes you just have to trust in the love and everything else will sort itself out. it's not easy, especially when there is so much else they can't trust. but if they can believe in love, then maybe, just maybe things will work out. ok it's a romance novel, things work out, but you have to see how they work out. because it's so emotionally satisfying. honestly, i've read pretty much everything meghan march has published. some i've loved more than others, but this one might be her best yet.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

strictly literary: paper and fire by rachel caine

the second book in the great library series picks up about a month after ink and bone with everyone scattered to their work assignments, morgan locked away with the obscurists and thomas (it is revealed early on) held captive by the artifex in a mysterious location.

the first third of paper and fire involves jess, glain, dario and khalila putting together the clues to lead them to where thomas is being held. the second third of the book involves them figuring out how to get him out and the last third sets us up for the conclusion of the series. the action really dragged in this one, at least until the characters are all together in the roman catacombs and later when they are in the tower occupied by the obscurists.

unlike the first book where there was a lot of focus on the relationships between the characters, this book is all action with minimal character development. we do get some additional information on the characters' backgrounds, but nothing that would alter our understanding of who they are. so for me this felt very much like we were treading water, waiting for the moment where we could finally get to all the good stuff. and that last third, it's like a completely different novel.

things happen. bad things happen. and every jam our rag-tag group of heros gets out of goes further south. by the end of the book, they've all jumped out of the frying pan, straight into the fire. ash and quill will let us see what happens when it all burns down, i suppose. and even though i wasn't in love with the story, i still love this world and these characters. i want to see where they end up.

strictly literary: blood rose rebellion by rosalyn eves

inevitably, blood is spilled in revolution and in blood rose rebellion things are no different. there is blood, but also magic, love, loss, anger. anna arden has always believed she understood her place in the world. not that she was happy with it. growing up in a well-established luminate family, she was expected to wield magic, her bloodline promised powerful magic. but her confirmation was a disaster. and so she was raised as a barren, one devoid of magic. this would affect her social standing, and in this version of victorian london, society and it's mores are much the same as our version of victorian london.

even still she was different. she could feel magic. it called to her. and yet, something always went awry when magic was performed in her presence. it was as if she had the power to break spells, a talent that shouldn't be possible. a talent not easily explained by the teachings of luminate society.

when anna breaks the magic of her sister's spell during her debut, she inadvertently sets herself up on a collision course with the circle, luminate's society's order of government. her ability to break spells threatens the foundation spell of their magical society. the binding spell that allows the circle to control who has access to magic. to protect her, she is sent away with her grandmother to relatives in hungary. anna is both resentful of this banishment and excited to be away from the strictures of london society.

when she comes across a romani camp, gypsies, and sees that they are practicing some sort of magic, anna wants to learn more. how can these people harness magic if they are not luminate? she wants to learn more and convinces gábor, a young romani who she is drawn to, to teach her the romani's way with magic. except nothing works.

until anna is able to understand her true nature, nothing will let her get closer to magic. and she will also be a pawn in everyone else's game. there is a growing sense of unrest within luminate society. and everyone pulls at anna, demanding she take action or no action, trying to influence her in a way that leaves her with only impossible choices.

anna holds the fate of the world as she knows it in her hands. and she must decide if the risk of change is too great for action or if action is the only way forward. once she understands who she is, what it means for her to have been blessed?  or cursed n this manner, only then can she find the way forward. this ya fantasy does a great job of balancing the light with the heavy. yes, there is romance and love triangles, and jealousy, but there is also political intrigue, class commentary, and real sacrifice. anna is forced to ask and answer some difficult questions. and the only way to know if they'll come out on the right side in the end.

it'll be the only way for us to know too. because there's no way there isn't more to this story.

**blood rose rebellion will publish on march 28, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/random house children's (knopf books for young readers) in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

seriously romantic: it started with a kiss by ella quinn

the attraction between gideon, duke of rothwell, and lady louisa vivers is intense and immediate. they cross paths on horseback one morning, and without exchanging more than a glance they can't stop thinking about each other.

it started with a kiss follows gideon and louisa as they navigate their courtship and the london season and their respective families, who happen to be the ones getting in the way of things. because from moment one, gideon and louisa are pretty obviously "it" for one another. that one moment in the park and it was like their souls recognized their other half. and the more time they spend together, the more they share with each other, the more obvious it is that there is no other end to their story than love and marriage and happily ever after.

it's not all smooth sailing, of course, gideon is dealing with the consequences of his late father's descent into what society at the time called dementia, but was more likely alzheimer's disease. because his father was not in his right mind, he incurred a lot of debt and took up with a woman who's sole goal in life was to be kept in the lap of luxury. because gideon was out of the country he wasn't aware of his father's problems until after he returned to england, after his father's death. and the mess he has to clean up affects his eligibility, even though he is a duke. he is no golddigger and wants to solve these problems himself.

louisa, on the other hand, has a very determined suitor, who happens to be gideon's cousin. she doesn't realize their connection until she and gideon had already fallen head over heels, but their connection does complicate things as gideon is an honorable person and does not want to hurt his cousin. but louisa is no shrinking violet. she's not going to let gentleman's honor dictate her life choices. she wants gideon and no other. and as she is a managing sort of female, she manages her friends and family until she gets her way. it's how she gets gideon to propose in a way.

i love stories where the main characters aren't trying to figure out if they love each other, but are trying to figure out how to make sure their love can survive anything. and it started with a kiss is in this mold. there is no question that gideon and louisa love each other, but can they survive the obstacles in their way together? i mean, it's a romance, so of course they get their happily ever after. but watching them figure out how to be a team is a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours. (i found it to be a quick read.)

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

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.