Saturday, December 31, 2016

simply looking back at 2016

i don't know you guys. princess leia died. so did mr. seaver. and mrs. brady. and prince. and george michael. and bowie. and muhammed ali. and so many others. it's the circle of life right. people are born. people live their lives. and then they die. but this year the deaths cut a little deeper. it's like 2016 took the best cultural memories of my childhood and threw them in a disposal, shredded them to bits, so that i cling to crumbs, remembering what i can. holding on to the best moments. holding on to a piece of a song. 

personally, 2016 was fine. nothing particularly horrible happened to me personally. there was the summer of gossip which i quite enjoyed. but then. everything took a turn. 

the world has always been a place where light and dark co-exist. but in the fall, as the elections neared i felt that darkness creep in closer. and on november 8th, it felt like midnight. 

i will always remember sobbing in the shower that night. when i knew in my heart that what i hoped was impossible was true. that our country was doomed to call a man president trump, and that he was someone so unworthy. how could we deserve this as a country? how could so many people hate and believe that their hatred is something just? i am not a hateful person, i find it exhausting. even now i don't hate those people, but they scare me, they wound me. 

i keep hoping that our darkest days are behind us. but i have nothing to pin those hopes on. maybe it's just faith. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

seriously romantic: soulbound by kristen callihan

we first met adam and eliza may in evernight where they were locked in a battle of wills. soulbound is the next chapter of their story, and picks up not long after they were separated by will thorne and st. john evernight in order to fulfill a deal with mab, the fairy queen. eliza may has been living with mab, and she finds she doesn't quite like it. it's as if she's traded one form of captivity for another. when mab's brother mellan comes calling, and eliza is informed that he is her intended groom, she is especially horrified. she knew mellan in her life in the colonies, she worked for him a while, and she is not interested in renewing that particular acquaintance.

when eliza discovers that mab has been holding adam captive and torturing him, she finds that in spite of her feelings for him she can't just leave him behind. adam knows that eliza hates him. which is the ultimate irony because he knows that she is his soulmate, and that without her heart freely given he is destined to live out his life cursed by mab. when he first took eliza captive, he did so without thinking. because she was the perfect match for his soul. he never considered how she would feel about his actions. how she would struggle to forgive him, to accept anything from him. because he didn't follow through on what she had been promised. and because he never explained himself.

this time around adam opens up. he explains that he was once a templar knight, one who had taken a vow of chastity and who refused to succumb to mab's fairy charms. and so she cursed him, but this curse was modified by the angel augustus, who gave him the ability to create life from death in a sense, as well as the ability to see the lights of a person's soul so that he might find his soulmate and cast off mab's curse. when he saw eliza may for the first time he had been cursed for seven hundred and twenty eight years. his time was running out and he was afraid to let her out of his sight.

when he learns of eliza's history, how her ancestors were not only fairies, but were also slaves, he understands how badly he erred in his original actions. and once they share more and more of their past with each other, adam and eliza begin to understand how much they need one another. how being together means everything. how being together means that one of them has to give up everything, even life. and they figure out how much their love is worth fighting for.

as the series has progressed the novels have gotten more and more deeply emotional. the love stories resonating more. and this really works. adam and eliza are meant for each other, once they start actually communicating and figuring this out it's wonderful.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

something from the archives: escapade

this is a quick little one-parter i wrote, probably in response to an episode. do you guys know that i have a mix tape i created based on my emotions following one of the season finales? ok, well you know now because i just told you how crazy i was about this show. it feels like this was all written a lifetime ago.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

strictly literary: heartless by marissa meyer

i loved the lunar chronicles, marissa meyer's sci-fi based retellings of cinderella, little red riding hood, rapunzel, and snow white. her latest novel, heartless, is at once similar and different. it has the most in common with fairest, levana's origin story. except this is set in a version of victorian england, in neverland, somewhere beyond the looking glass. and we get the story of cath pinkerton, whose destiny is to be the queen of hearts. 

how do you make an unsympathetic character, a villian really, someone to root for? in fairest, meyer gave us a deeper understanding of what the lunatic lunar queen's issues were, but didn't really make her someone we ever really wanted to root for. it's different with cath. even knowing how she ends up, you still root for a different outcome. and why she so fully becomes the queen of hearts with a penchant for offing people's heads makes so much sense after you read this story. 

the wonderful thing about lewis carroll's alice's adventures in wonderland and through the looking glass is that they are an embarrassment of riches in the source material department. and meyer also adds in a dash of poe's the raven, and that darkness really works here. the wonderful thing about literature is that everything is connected, you look at things in a new way and you discover new meanings. by taking carroll's characters in the time before alice tumbles through the looking glass we get to see why it is they end up becoming who we know them as. this world that is at once familiar and unfamiliar allows us to understand these characters more fully. we already know them, but this is a way to learn them anew. really it's quite wonderful.

and the tragic love story. the appeal of jest and how cath gives her heart to him, for him. it's all so swoonworthy and just so well done. of course she has no choice but become the queen of hearts. in spite of everything, this is where she is meant to end up. and that inevitability is probably the ultimate tragedy in this story. she tries so hard, she fights the good fight, and even as her choices doom her, there isn't really a different choice to make. if she doesn't go through the door she fails herself too. she loses either way. by the end, we see a cath that becomes the person she feared becoming--a caricature of her mother, except now she has all the power. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

seriously romantic: the rule maker by jennifer blackwood

the characters in the rule maker have a lot going on. zoey is an up-and-coming interior designer who is looking to advance her career and loves a big job. ryder is a snowboarder who's broken leg has put his career on pause and has left him flailing. especially since his older brother, jason, also recently suffered a severe injury that left him paralyzed. zoey and ryder also have some history, since after spending one night together he basically ghosted her.

when jason hires zoey to redesign his latest acquisition and puts ryder in charge of the day-to-day handling of the project, all those things come to a head. zoey is still angry with ryder for how he disappeared after they slept together, and ryder is conflicted? okay, i'll be honest, i still am unclear on ryder's behavior and feelings about the whole thing. did he only intend their one night to be a one night? at certain points it does, but then he admits that he left zoey that night because jason was injured and then he was caught up in the fallout and then his own injury. so he has some valid excuses. in the end i suppose they are both behaving like irrational twenty-year-olds and since this technically a new adult novel, i'll give it to them. this is written like most new adult novels are, with the labeled alternating povs, but the plot just feels like a contemporary romance, so i'm not sure that this needed to be a new adult romance.

anyway, zoey and ryder figure their weird relationship out. basically they start communicating like adults and leave some of the teenage drama behind. the last obstacle to their relationship is a little over the top, but it's resolved in the end and everyone gets a happily ever after.

**the rule maker will publish on january 16, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (embrace) in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, December 26, 2016

seriously romantic: properly groomed by boone brux

when joya bennett wakes up next to lincoln fisher the morning after her brother's wedding in properly groomed, she panics and runs away hoping that he'll awaken none the wiser to her absence. she doesn't expect to see him again. but she's wrong about that, and wrong about him forgetting. a few short hours later, they've both temporarily moved into her brother's home, and staying away from the man who she has pined for is going to prove impossible. especially since he's decided that he's done enough pining himself and the time for seeing where things can go between them is now.

joya and lincoln both have jobs that force them to keep off hours. she's the producer for the local morning show and he runs a restaurant. at first it seems like their hours will keep them apart, but they start to spend their days together in ways that feel so right. so when joya is offered the opportunity to do the evening news, a promotion that will change up her hours to a more normal 9 to 5 kind of day, it feels like a huge stumbling block in their relationship. playing house the way they are gives them the chance to see what a relationship between them will look like before they admit the truth to the world, and joya's protective older brother.

joya and lincoln have a ton of chemistry and the time they spend together, especially given how domestic it all is allows them to see the upside to a committed future. it lets us see how their relationship deepens and grows in a way that's really nice. i really enjoyed this one.

**properly groomed will publish on january 9, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (lovestruck) in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

seriously romantic: worth the wait by a.j. pine

worth the wait is the fourth, and likely final, installment in the kingston ale house series. even if you haven't read the other books, this story stands entirely on its own. jeremy denning has worked at the ale house for years, he loves his job, and until recently never really aspired for more. when jamie, the owner of the ale house, starts to consider a partner, jeremy finds himself coveting the role. part of him is conflicted about this, and to prove himself, jamie asks him to attend a microbrewer's conference.

jeremy finds all the chemistry and lab work beyond boring, but when his back seizes up after sitting in uncomfortable hotel conference chairs for 8 hours he seeks out a massage. grace bailey had a last minute cancellation and didn't expect much from the fill-in client. generally she doesn't spend too much time thinking about her clients. she's only taken this job in madison to hide the fact that she is being blackmailed by her almost fiancé from her family. she's feeling guilty because her terrible taste in men could cause her parents a lot of grief, and instead of talking things through she tries to solve everything herself, and goes on a man cleanse as part of that. so she's really not interested in being attracted to her massage client. besides that being wildly unprofessional, she doesn't need the distraction.

but the sparks between grace and jeremy can't be avoided. they keep running into each other, first in madison and then in chicago. when grace confesses her man cleanse, jeremy isn't fazed. he tells her he's happy to wait until she is ready. and this really is what makes the book great. the fact that the two characters are allowed to get to know each other, really talk, without just jumping into bed with each other was really nice. there are several obstacles from both of their exes that they need to overcome, and the man cleanse bit also needs to be completed, but jeremy makes it pretty clear that he's all in. and even when grace has moments of doubt, he knows just how to win her over. the wait is really what let's them develop their relationship and figure things out, and obviously it is all worth it in the end. jeremy is super dreamy, though there is a fight sequence toward the end that has me doubting the reconciliation scene just a bit, because there is no way it wouldn't have been painful to kiss and make up if jeremy had really been as injured as described.

**worth the wait will publish on january 16, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (select contemporary) in exchange for my honest review. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

seriously romantic: the sweetheart game by cheryl ann smith

the second installment of the brash & brazen series, the sweetheart game, let's us get to know summer o'keefe, private investigator/hacker/former beauty queen. when we first are introduced to summer she is spying on her new neighbor, jason parker. she suspects he might be a serial killer. or possibly an international arms dealer.

jason is none of those things. and as an ex-marine, ex-cop, turned famous author he figures out pretty quickly that summer is spying on him. he feeds her suspicions at first because he finds the whole thing funny, but eventually fesses up to what he is doing in his backyard. the weird late night trips were actually an effort to bury old taxidermied animals that formed his grandfather's collection--a longstanding family joke.

this is something of a relief to summer, because she was seriously worried that she was attracted to a serial killer. when their neighbor goes missing, somehow summer and jason end up working the case. it's summer's first field case and she can't help be enthusiastic. jason is less enthused but since he is both amused by and terribly attracted to summer he can't say no. and then he is also intrigued by the facts of the case and actively helps her with everything.

they end up being a pretty good team both on the case and in the bedroom. there isn't a ton of conflict for these two, but from the moment they co-adopted a pregnant cat it was pretty obvious that they were meant for each other. their relationship is filled with just the right blend of humor, angst and sweetness. i loved them as a couple, and i was happy to see their happily ever after.

**the sweetheart game will publish on january 10, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/kensington books (lyrical shine) in exchange for my honest review. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

seriously romantic: intense pleasure by lora leigh

intense pleasure is the fifteenth installment in lora leigh's erotic romance series, bound hearts. i've read a couple of the previous installments and this follows a similar pattern to those. if you are familiar with the series, you know that these books are unconventional romances in that there is generally a threesome of the m/f/m variety. i don't mind the threesome idea at all, and actually i prefer the storyline in intense pleasure where both guys and the woman are fully committed to one another, and of being in this relationship than the ones where it's only a temporary thing.

summer, falcon, and raeg have known each other for years. they've wanted each other for years--note that falcon and raeg actually have no interest in each other sexually, they are half-brothers, whose parents have their own unconventional relationship. a lot of the baggage the guys carry is due to their parents, their father in particular. but there are some key plot points that would be spoiled if i talked about this any further, so all i'll say is that these issues need to be resolved before the three of them can move forward in their relationship.

the ease with which everyone kind of accepts the odd relationship is a bit unbelievable. but it works in the bound hearts world, because every novel in the series expands the world further, and treats the unconventional coupling as something normal. i mean, yeah okay, occasionally someone says something, but it's shut down so quickly that you just kind of accept the situation for what it is. the brothers thing also weirds me out, but no one else seems to have a problem with it in the book, so eventually i just rolled with it.

this is a sexy, emotional read, the leads are all likable, though i have to admit i preferred falcon more than raeg. also, i'm still not clear on how raeg's name is supposed to be pronounced, is it "rag" or "rayg" or "reeg" or "rage"? i ended up going with "rayg" in my head, but now that i'm thinking this through it maybe was supposed to be "rage"? oh well. i don't think knowing how to say his name would have made me like him more. also summer does this thing at the end of the novel where she is too proud to point something really obvious out because the guys should just know it, and that whole thing felt so stupid to me. like why would you cut your nose to spite your face stupid. she was willing to walk away and let them walk away because she refused to point out something they were missing. why? the author kept trying to have her explain this, but because it is nonsensical the explanations never made any sense.

i did enjoy reading this. i just also think i've reached a point where i don't need any more books in this series. it doesn't feel like we are covering new ground. and after fifteen books, is that really that surprising?

**intense pleasure will publish on january 3, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/st. martin's press in exchange for my honest review.


Thursday, December 22, 2016

something from the archives: spectrum - a without color epilogue

after i finished without color i felt the urge to peek in on the characters several years down the road. this is a standalone chapter that gives us once last glimpse of the liz and michael from this particular alternate universe.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

seriously romantic: a shot with you by teri anne stanley

the second book in the bourbon boys series, a shot with you, focuses on brandon morgan, the workaholic uptight brother. forced to go on vacation by his family, he ends up on a tour of a tequileria while at a stop in puerto vallarta, mexico, and there he meets a girl. lesa ruiz has been longing to leave her home in nowhere mexico for years, but she promised her mother on her deathbed that she would watch out for her father and their tequila distillery, and so she's been trapped ever since. 

meeting brandon feels like a dream come true, especially when he proposes a business partnership between their distilleries. lesa's father wants her to check things out before he commits to anything, and so she gets to go to the blue mountains of kentucky and achieve her dream of traveling the world. she wants this deal to work, because she knows it will finally set her free from the life she's led so far. 

the problem is that she really likes brandon. and he is clearly a homebody. he has two enormous ill-behaved dogs. here's my maybe unpopular opinion: i really dislike it when pets are major characters in romance novels. and maude and mabel are really obnoxious gross-sounding big dogs and i am actually terrified of big dogs so i literally cringed through every scene they were in. i much prefer it when there are pets that i can ignore in my romance reading. 

anyway, lesa and brandon need to reconcile her itchy feet with his need to be a good homeboy. spoiler alert: there's no real reason why these two crazy kids can't work it out. they were a really sweet couple and i enjoyed their story. 

**a shot with you will publish on january 9, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (lovestruck) in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

seriously romantic: the trouble with dukes by grace burrowes

megan windham belongs to a large complicated family who have something like 10 books between them, and this one happens to be the first i've read. and while it is possible to read it as a standalone, since technically megan belongs to the original duke of moreland's brother's side of the family and this is supposed to be the kick-off to a new spin-off series. it's the kind of thing where having the background knowledge might make this book more satisfying or at least less confusing.

i have never read a grace burrowes book before, so i was incredibly at sea when the windham brothers were in a room together. i couldn't keep any one of them straight. and while clearly they were behaving in character, the novel presumed a familiarity with their habits that i did not share, so i was less amused about spending time with these characters and more interested in spending time with megan and hamish, the titular troublesome duke of the trouble with dukes. granted one could argue that moreland was also troublesome, but it's pretty clear from the start that hamish machugh is the one causing trouble.

he's recently arrived from the peninsular wars, and rumors abound about his insubordination, his ruthlessness in battle, his abandonment of his troops, and on top of all that he is a scot. society dubs him the duke of murder a play (on his actual title that was murdoch). (actually when murdoch and moreland were in a scene together with other characters or were being discussed by other characters i had to think really hard about who was who. the names are pretty similar.)

here's the thing, megan and hamish fall in love from the start. like there's no bickering, there's no drama about their feelings for each other. megan is being blackmailed and she trusts hamish to handle it. and he does. and when the blackguard who is blackmailing her threatens to derail their happiness at several turns he figures out a way to put him in his place, while megan finally stands up to her bully, who is actually the worst.

if you have read the windham novels from before, it's probably really delightful to be back in this world. this is a big nosy family where the male characters behave like interfering old ladies and the women are the rational masterminds behind it all. megan's sisters are likely to be the subjects of the next novels in the series, and our introduction to each of these is well-done, though i am hoping that youngest sister arwen is next, as she was my favorite. i wonder if her entanglement with colin machugh will be explored or if her story will go in another direction, since her sister landed his brother. but those two characters had some interesting chemistry and it would be a shame if they couldn't be together.

**the trouble with dukes will publish on december 20, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of forever (grand central publishing) in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, December 19, 2016

simply kicking off a release week blog blitz: the trouble with dukes by grace burrowes

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: The Trouble with Dukes
Author: Grace Burrowes
Series: Windham Brides, #1
On Sale: December 20, 2016
Publisher: Forever
Mass Market: $7.99 USD
eBook: $6.99 USD
Add to Goodreads


This first novel in a new Regency series from USA Today bestselling author Grace Burrowes is a spinoff of her highly popular Windham series.

THEY CALL HIM THE DUKE OF MURDER...

The gossips whisper that the new Duke of Murdoch is a brute, a murderer, and even worse—a Scot. They say he should never be trusted alone with a woman. But Megan Windham sees in Hamish something different, someone different.

No one was fiercer at war than Hamish MacHugh, though now the soldier faces a whole new battlefield: a London Season. To make his sisters happy, he'll take on any challenge—even letting their friend Miss Windham teach him to waltz. Megan isn't the least bit intimidated by his dark reputation, but Hamish senses that she's fighting battles of her own. For her, he'll become the warrior once more, and for her, he might just lose his heart.

Listen to chapter 1 of the audiobook!

AUTHORS LOVE THE TROUBLE WITH DUKES!

The hero of THE TROUBLE WITH DUKES reminds me of Mary Balogh's charming men, and the heroine brings to mind Sarah MacLean's intelligent, fiery women... This is a wonderfully funny, moving romance, not to be missed!” —Eloisa James, New York Times bestselling author of My American Duchess

Grace Burrowes writes from the heart--with warmth, humor, and a generous dash of sensuality, her stories are unputdownable! If you're not reading Grace Burrowes you're missing the very best in today's Regency Romance!” —Elizabeth Hoyt, New York Times bestselling author

Sexy heroes, strong heroines, intelligent plots, enchanting love stories...Grace Burrowes's romances have them all.” —Mary Balogh, New York Times bestselling author

“THE TROUBLE WITH DUKES has everything Grace Burrowes's many fans have come to adore: a swoonworthy hero, a strong heroine, humor, and passion. Her characters not only know their own hearts, but share them with fearless joy. Grace Burrowes is a romance treasure.” —Tessa Dare, New York Times bestselling author

“THE TROUBLE WITH DUKES is captivating! It has everything I love in a book--a sexy Scotsman, a charming heroine, witty banter, plenty of humor, and lots of heart.” —Jennifer Ashley, New York Times bestselling author of The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie

EXCERPT

In Which a Scotsman Learns There Is No Way to Avoid a Dukedom...

“I don’t want any damned dukedom, Mr. Anderson,” Hamish MacHugh said softly.

Colin MacHugh took to studying the door to Neville Anderson’s office, for when Hamish spoke that quietly, his siblings knew to locate the exits.

The solicitor’s establishment boasted deep Turkey carpets, oak furniture, and red velvet curtains. The standish and ink bottles on Anderson’s desk were silver, the blotter a thick morocco leather. Portraits of well-fed, well-powdered Englishmen adorned the walls.

Hamish felt as if he’d walked into an ambush, as if these old lords and knights were smirking down at the fool who’d blundered into their midst. Beyond the office walls, harnesses jingled to the tune of London happily about its business, while Hamish’s heart beat with a silent tattoo of dread.

“I am at your grace’s service,” Anderson murmured, from his side of the massive desk, “and eager to hear any explanations your grace cares to bestow.”

The solicitor, who’d been retained by Hamish’s late grandfather decades before Hamish’s birth, was like a midge. Swat at Anderson, curse him, wave him off, threaten flame and riot, and he still hovered nearby, relentlessly annoying.

The French infantry had had the same qualities.

“I am not a bloody your grace,” Hamish said. Thanks be to the clemency of the Almighty.

“I do beg your grace’s—your pardon,” Anderson replied, soft white hands folded on his blotter. “Your great-great aunt Minerva married the third son of the fifth Duke of Murdoch and Tingley, and while the English dukedom must, regrettably fall prey to escheat, the Scottish portion of the title, due to the more, er, liberal patents common to Scottish nobility, devolves to yourself.”

Devolving was one of those English undertakings that prettied up a load of shite.

Hamish rose, and for reasons known only to the English, Anderson popped to his feet as well.

“Devolve the peregrinating title to some other poor sod,” Hamish said.

Colin’s staring match with the lintel of Anderson’s door had acquired the quality of man trying to hold in a fart—or laughter.

“I am sorry, your—sir,” Anderson said, looking about as sorry as Hamish’s sisters on the way to the milliner’s, “but titles land where they please, and there they stay. The only way out from under a title is death, and then your brother here would become duke in your place.”

Colin’s smirk winked out like a candle in a gale. “What if I die?”

“I believe there are several younger siblings,” Anderson said, “should death befall you both.”

“But this title is Hamish’s as long as he’s alive, right?” Colin was not quite as large as Hamish. What little Colin lacked in height, he made up for in brawn and speed.

“That is correct,” Anderson said, beaming like headmaster when a dull scholar had finally grasped his first Latin conjugation. “In the normal course, a celebratory tot would be in order, gentlemen. The title does bring responsibilities, but your great-great aunt and her late daughter were excellent businesswomen. I’m delighted to tell you that the Murdoch holdings prosper.”

Worse and worse. The gleeful wiggle of Anderson’s eyebrows meant prosper translated into “made a stinking lot of money, much of which would find its way into a solicitor’s greedy English paws.”

“If my damned lands prosper, my bachelorhood is doomed,” Hamish muttered. Directly behind Anderson’s desk hung a picture of some duke, and the old fellow’s sour expression spoke eloquently to the disposition a title bestowed on its victim. “I’d sooner face old Boney’s guns again than be landed, titled, wealthy, and unwed at the beginning of London season. Colin, we’re for home by week’s end.”

“Fine notion,” Colin said. “Except Edana will kill you and Rhona will bury what’s left of you. Then the title will hang about my neck, and I’ll have to dig you up and kill you all over again.”

Siblings were God’s joke on a peace-loving man. Anderson had retreated behind his desk, as if a mere half ton of oak could protect a puny English solicitor from a pair of brawling MacHughs.
Clever solicitors might be, canny they were not.

“Then we simply tell no one about this title,” Hamish said. “We tend to Eddie and Ronnie’s dress shopping, and then we’re away home, nobody the wiser.”

Dress shopping, Edana had said, as if the only place in the world to procure fashionable clothing was London. She’d cried, she’d raged, she’d threatened to run off—until Colin had saddled her horse and stuffed the saddle bags with provisions.

Then she’d threatened to become an old maid, haunting her brothers’ households in turn, and Hamish, on pain of death from his younger brothers, had ordered the traveling coach into service.

“Eddie hasn’t found a man yet, and neither has Ronnie,” Colin observed. “They’ve been here less than two weeks. We can’t go home.”

“You can’t,” Hamish countered. “I’m the duke. I must see to my properties. I’ll be halfway to Yorkshire by tomorrow. I doubt Eddie and Ronnie will content themselves with Englishmen, but they’re welcome to torment a few in my absence. A bored woman is a dangerous creature.”

“You’d leave tomorrow?” Colin slugged Hamish on the arm, hard. Anderson flinched, while Hamish picked up his walking stick and headed for the door.

“Your pugilism needs work, little brother. I’ve neglected your education.”

“You can’t leave me alone here with Eddie and Ronnie.” Colin had switched to the Gaelic, a fine language for keeping family business from nosy solicitors. “I’m only one man, and there’s two of them. They’ll be making ropes of the bedsheets, selling your good cigars to other young ladies again, and investigating the charms of the damned Englishmen mincing about in the park. Who knows what other titles their indiscriminate choice of husband might inflict on your grandchildren.”

Hamish had not objected to the cigar selling scheme. He’d objected to his sisters stealing from him rather than sharing the proceeds with their own dear brother. He also objected to the notion of grandchildren when he’d yet to take a wife.

“I’ll blame you if we end up with English brothers-in-law, wee Colin.” Hamish smiled evilly, though he counted a particular few Englishmen among his friends.

A staring match ensued, with Colin trying to look fierce—he had the family red hair and blue eyes, after all—and mostly looking worried. Colin was soft-hearted where the ladies were concerned, and that fact was all that cheered Hamish on an otherwise daunting morning.

Hope rose, like the clarion call of the pipes through the smoke and noise the battlefield: While Eddie and Ronnie inspected the English peacocks strutting about Mayfair, Hamish might find a peahen willing to take advantage of Colin’s affectionate nature.

Given Colin’s lusty inclinations, the union would be productive inside a year, and the whole sorry business of a ducal succession would be taken care of.

Hamish’s fist connected with his brother’s shoulder, sending Colin staggering back a few steps, muttering in Gaelic about goats and testicles.

“I’ll bide here in the muck pit of civilization,” Hamish said, in English, “until Eddie and Ronnie have their fripperies, but Anderson, I’m warning you. Nobody is to learn of this dukedom business. Not a soul, or I’ll know which English solicitor needs to make St. Peter’s acquaintance posthaste. Ye ken?”

Anderson nodded, his gaze fixed on Hamish’s right hand. “You will receive correspondence, sir.”

Hamish’s hand hurt and his head was starting to throb. “Try being honest, man. I was in the army. I know all about correspondence. By correspondence, you mean a bloody snowstorm of paper, official documents, and sealed instruments.”

Hamish knew about death too, and about sorrow. The part of him hoping to marry Colin off in the next month—and Eddie and Ronnie too—grappled with the vast sorrow of homesickness, and the unease of remaining for even another day among the scented dandies and false smiles of polite society.

“Very good, your grace. Of course you’re right. A snowstorm, some of which will be from the College of Arms, some from your peers, some of condolence, all of which my office would be happy—”

Hamish waved Anderson to silence, and as if Hamish were one of those Hindoo snake pipers, the solicitor’s gaze followed the motion of his hand.

“The official documents can’t be helped,” Hamish said, “but letters of condolence needn’t concern anybody. You’re not to say a word,” he reminded Anderson. “Not a peep, not a yes-your-grace, not a hint of an insinuation is to pass your lips.”

Anderson was still nodding vigorously when Hamish shoved Colin through the door.


Though, of course, the news was all over Town by morning.


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THE SERIES

The Trouble With Dukes, #1
Too Scot To Handle, #2

Series Page on Goodreads



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Grace Burrowes grew up in central Pennsylvania and is the sixth out of seven children. She discovered romance novels when in junior high (back when there was such a thing), and has been reading them voraciously ever since. Grace has a bachelor's degree in political science, a bachelor of music in music history, (both from Pennsylvania State University); a master's degree in conflict transformation from Eastern Mennonite University; and a juris doctor from the National Law Center at the George Washington University.

Grace writes Georgian, Regency, Scottish Victorian, and contemporary romances in both novella and novel lengths. She's a member of Romance Writers of America, and enjoys giving workshops and speaking at writers' conferences. She also loves to hear from her readers, and can be reached through her website or her social channels.

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Sunday, December 18, 2016

superbly suspenseful: in the bag by emery harper

in the bag is book two of the celeste eagan mystery series. i reviewed her first appearance (person of interest) earlier this year. and book two picks up about a month after the events of book one. and somehow celeste finds herself in the thick of another murder mystery! the way this happens actually seems to fit in with celeste's normal, so things never feel contrived.

when her best friend, levi is accused of murder and celeste is considered a possible accomplice she falls back on her sleuthing skills--mostly consisting of unrepentant nosiness--and works to clear her name and levi's. her confusing romance with detective shaw muldoon is also in play with some added complications from new suitor, suspect, possible mob guy gabriel grady, and appearances from kellen, the journalist she spent time with in person of interest.

what makes these books so entertaining is celeste's unique voice. she's funny but she's also insightful. her innate clumsiness and ability to land in the middle of a police operation is part of what drives the humor, but this also humanizes her and allows the plot to move forward. how she puts two and two together and solves the crime is well worth reading. she reminds me in many ways of a grown up and modern flavia de luce. and since i adore flavia, i have to admit that i kind of love celeste too.

**in the bag will publish on january 1, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/carina press in exchange for my honest review.


Saturday, December 17, 2016

strictly literary: frostblood by elly blake

fire and ice, light and dark battle for supremacy in frostblood, a young adult fantasy by elly blake. ruby otrera is a young fireblood, who lives with her healer mother and hides in plain sight until she is captured by the malevolent frost king's army. rescued from prison by the mysterious arcus and kindly brother titus, ruby learns to harness her firepowers in a desperate bid to destroy the frost king's throne and stop the evil that is taking over the realm.

some might feel like this story is too similar to victoria aveyard's red queen, but i think ruby is a more compelling character than mare barrow. she's a better person than mare and her struggles feel more heartfelt and genuine. there is a bit of a twisted love triangle between ruby, arcus, and rasmus, the frost king, but the truth of where anyone's feelings lies is never really in question, so it didn't drag down the narrative like so many other ya love triangles do.

and arcus was just such an interesting character, full of mystery and challenge, but charismatic too. you understand why ruby is fascinated by him. why even when he does his best to repel her, she can't stay away. you don't want her to stay away. the remaining supporting characters are well-drawn even the villians are given enough backstory so as to make their comeuppance something bittersweet. the novel closes out strongly. this is no cliffhanger ending, which i appreciate. instead the end leaves us at a new beginning, and where the saga may go, who's to say? i can't wait to find out. even though i'll probably have a long wait ahead.

**frostblood is scheduled to publish on january 17, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/little, brown books for young readers in exchange for my honest review. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

slightly silly: slingshot cops

slingshot cops is the latest motern media film--it's the supernatural, buddy cop movie you never knew you wanted. recognizing its independent, low-budget origins, slingshot cops is a fun-filled adventure. while it's entirely possible that i found this so funny because i actually know most of the people acting in this movie. my darling husband is the eastern european with the wildly varying accent.

but you can see that everyone involved is having a good time, and that makes the absurd plot of a supernatural being who steals people's senses--like actual senses, sight, touch, smell, hearing--an entertaining ride. there's political drama, relationship drama, workplace drama, and at its center is rusty sinclair, the criminal concern officer turned slingshot cop who is prepared to keep the town of woodsville center safe from fireworks and losing their senses. i may be totally biased, but if you want to support some independent filmmakers and all-around good people, check out shockmarathons.com and moternmedia.com for more information on the movies and the fun.





Thursday, December 15, 2016

something from the archives: without color - part 8

so this is it for this one, you can read the conclusion after the jump. catch up with parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 at the links.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

seriously romantic: everything his heart desires by patricia preston

everything his heart desires is the second book in patricia preston's love heals all series. the books standalone and can be read in any order without feeling like you are missing out on something. brett harris is on the verge of getting everything he's ever wanted, eveything he's worked so hard for, the only thing in his way? natalie layton and her nana.

natalie was the bane of his existence in high school. she was a dreamy slacker, a rich girl with no focus or discernible ambitions. brett came from nothing and has the chip on his shoulder to prove it. while natalie annoyed the crap out of him in high school, brett was just as annoying to natalie. the two of them gave as good as they got. fourteen years later and nothing much has changed, they're still at odds. but maybe with so much more at stake, brett's career, natalie's nana's health, they'll actually talk and listen to each other? maybe this time they'll understand where they are both coming from?

brett is the first to cave here. natalie's hurts go deeper, she is genuinely the poor little rich girl, the one you'd never imagine had so many heartaches given her position in life. brett realizes early on he misjudged her and throughout the story does his best to make amends for his bad behavior. as natalie opens herself up to brett she begins to come alive again, and realizes that coming home maybe wasn't the worst thing she could do. maybe after so many years of wandering, what she was looking for was right here all along.

it's a sweetly emotional story. the two leads have baggage they need to get over, and find their way to happiness with each other.

**everything his heart desires will publish on january 10, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/kensington books (lyrical shine) in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

superbly suspenseful: off the rails by jill sorenson

so i tend to be suspicious of american authors who decide to write in spanish. because a lot of the time they make stupid grammatical errors that pull me out of the story. in off the rails, jill sorenson does a very good job of using spanish language phrases, they are used realistically and she even has slang down. so color me impressed, a lot of authors mess this up and it drives me crazy. and you can just tell she's done a ton of research on mexico and the drug and immigration issues that dominate the u.s.-mexico border.

ian foster is a former border patrol agent as well as a former dea agent who is working with ice on a special case. his own actions as a dea agent have linked him to the case and he is sent into mexico to fix the problems he caused. somehow he can't stay away from the one person who made him break his cover in the first place, maría santos. he's been obsessed with her since he saved her life as a border patrol agent. and it doesn't matter how much time passes he is drawn to her.

and she feels the same way. he's the man who saved her from certain death. as impossible as their situation seems she finds that she can't stay away. and when the lead he is chasing follows the same path she believes her runaway brother has taken, there is no keeping her away from him as they navigate mexico avoiding corrupt officials, drug cartels, and random bad guys.

this is grittier than your average romance. there's suspense and danger. but at it's heart this is the love story of ian and maría. their path isn't easy. and it isn't pretty. but they do eventually find their way.

**off the rails publishes today, december 13, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/random house (loveswept) in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, December 12, 2016

seriously romantic: falling for the best man by amanda ashby

amanda ashby's falling for the best man is the nice kick-off to a category romance series. pepper, emmy, and bec are sisters who have allowed their differences to come between them. especially when it comes to their legacy from their great-aunt ivy, wishing bridge farm. homebody emmy is trying so hard to keep their great-aunts legacy in the family. she won't listen to her sisters' arguments that they should sell. and so as a last ditch effort she's started a vintage wedding planning business, using the farm's idyllic setting as a venue.

the farm is located in the tiny town of sunshine, connecticut, and emmy's got all the townspeople pulling for her to succeed, since the wedding venue business will help them out collectively. so when it turns out that the best man on the wedding that is launching this business is christopher henderson, emmy's one weekend stand that she stood up at the airport after bailing on a trip to fiji, well things get complicated.

at first it seems like emmy is behaving like a deranged person, particularly in her conviction that christopher is set on ruining the wedding. but when he finally proves himself to be a decent guy, by charming an irascible frenchman who happens to own the fifty doves that the bride has demanded be included in the service, she finally stops assuming the worst of him.

the biggest obstacle between them at first glance seems to be her need to stay home versus his need to travel. it happens to be that he is a travel journalist and he's got big plans to host a travel show in the near future. but the actual obstacles are her overgrown sense of duty and his fear of being like his father. and once they figure these things out for themselves, there's not much that can come between them. and really they are perfect for each other. (christopher is possibly the sweetest, dreamiest, most understanding leading man ever.)

**falling for the best man will publish on january 9, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (bliss) in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

superbly suspenseful: the fisher king by melissa lenhardt

in the six weeks since we last saw jack mcbride in stillwater his life has gone to shit. he's going through the motions of pretending to reconcile with his estranged wife. he's hosting his deliquent brother, eddie, and worried that he'd fallen into the same rough crowd he always does. his surly teenager is surlier than ever, even though he is the entire reason he is pretending to make things work with his soon-to-be ex. and the worst thing is that he can't spend any time around ellie yourke martin without giving away that he is head over heels for her.

the fisher king kicks off with a blazing fire, one that has also consumed two bodies. jack needs to figure out who these victims are, who murdered them, and how this all ties into the unsurpassed crime wave happening on his watch in stillwater. as in stillwater, there are several crimes being investigated at the same time. and the alternating point-of-views slowly expand our understanding of how everything is linked.

the characters and the setting are so important to the story being told. and as the darker elements of stillwater are brought into focus, some of the connections between the characters change everything. i especially enjoyed getting more of the story on eddie, because even in stillwater it seemed like there was more going on than we knew, and the fisher king definitely provides some answers.

as the novel comes to a close, a lot of things have been tied up, but the door isn't entirely closed on more stories in this world. and if that's the case, well, i'm up for reading them.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

superbly suspenseful: stillwater by melissa lenhardt

i read stillwater last year, closer to its original debut.  but since i'm going to review the sequel, the fisher king, tomorrow i thought it would be a good idea to refresh my memory. the best thing about stillwater are its exquisitely well-drawn and engaging characters, from the lead, jack mcbride; his teenage son, ethan; to minor characters, such as diego vasquez, who's mysterious appearance and disappearance remains a question mark even at the end of the novel. the town itself functions as a character too, and like an onion there are many layers to unravel before the whole truth is revealed. this book is clearly only the start of the unraveling. 

one of the things that i liked about the novel was that this wasn't just about solving one murder. we start at the scene of a crime, but this crime leads jack to discovering other criminal activity, as well as, stumbling upon a cold case. there are so many things happening and it's only jack's first week on the job. he's moved to stillwater to recover from his wife's abandonment and the subsequent railroading of his fbi career when he was suspected of murdering her himself. deciding it was best to leave dallas behind, he takes on the police chief job at stillwater, never realizing that as of day one he'd be dealing with the biggest crime wave in decades.


because stillwater had no crime rate while old buck pollard was in charge, and something about that smells pretty rotten about that to jack. the more he talks to people the more he realizes that secrets run deep in this picturesque small town. as i said before the town is almost a character of its own, but it also has strong representation from ellie yourke martin, jack's love interest. she's an upstanding citizen who has lived in stillwater her whole life. she knows everyone. and everyone knows her. and maybe they all know each other too well. 


meeting jack shakes ellie to her core, because she wasn't expecting to fall in love with anyone. she's always been unlucky in love. and she'd committed herself to revitalizing stillwater's downtown area, where she was actually the majority property holder. in the end, she proves to be a powerful ally for jack. her knowledge of the town, of the relationships between people in the town, help jack figure what's going on behind closed doors. 


in the end, the central mysteries of the story are solved and given enough resolution, but there are enough new questions remaining, and it's good to know that this will not be the last novel set in stillwater, texas. especially given the cliffhanger bombshell of jack's estranged wife's abrupt return as well as his neer-do-well twin brother's appearance toward the end of the story. you know they will play a bigger part of the next book, and i can't wait to find out what happens next.


Friday, December 9, 2016

seriously romantic: evernight by kristen callihan

the darkest london series continues with evernight, which essentially picks up the threads of holly and will's stories woven through shadowdance and ties them neatly together. that description sounds kind of glib, but the story of holly and will's romance is not glib. in shadowdance these two characters were deeply, devastatingly tortured and wounded. and evernight faces the consequences of the events in shadowdance head on.

will thorne is slowly turning to platinum. the clockwork heart that holly created is slowly consuming his entire being. so much so that he has nearly gone mad with anger, with the thirst for revenge, with pain. he decides to hunt holly down, and nearly kills her, but before he can touch her, she touches him. and with that one touch she heals him. as an elemental holly can manipulate metal. so she uses her power to assuage will's pain. she helps him return to sanity.

he still resents her, but in order to allow himself some succor he makes a deal, he'll stay close and protect holly from the contract that is out on her life. and she will work on figuring out a way to save him from the clockwork heart that she created. holly understands his resentment, but does manage to convey that she is not entirely at fault for what happened that long ago night. she's so traumatized by those events that she refuses to leave her home. will helps her with this too.

they become a team. and it's a slow burn. there is so much sexual tension between these two characters. as a sanguis demon (aka vampire) will is a sensual creature, and as he returns to his old self, he realizes and accepts that he has fallen for holly. holly is more tormented by what she feels. she's always been the shy, awkward one, so she doesn't trust will's feelings. she doesn't really want to have feelings for a sanguis demon, she knows that this may cause her career and her family trouble. but she falls in love with him regardless.

and then they must make the ultimate sacrifice, and it's becomes a matter of whether or not the strength of their love will be enough to let them love freely. the love and emotion between these two leads was absolutely riveting. i tore through this novel. every book i read becomes my new favorite.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

seriously romantic: reached by ally condie

i know it took me awhile, but i finally finished re-reading the matched trilogy. reached is the conclusion that brings cassia, ky, and xander's stories full circle. picking up right where they left off, they narrate the events of the rising and life after the end of the society. and we get to see the problems of a rebellion that only really signifies a change in leadership rather than a fundamental societal change. so much planning goes into the moment of obtaining power and not enough goes into how to keep it and keep the peace.

in their own ways, cassia, ky, and xander discover that fundamental change is not something easy to attain. as the poet, the pilot and the physic, they represent and are pivotal parts of the rebellion and society. the journey of self-discovery takes them to unexpected places, beyond the boundaries of the society that they knew. and they suffer loss and still find a way to survive.

in reached we finally get to see xander's point of view. as much as people might make of the love triangle, there's no real drama in it. cassia and ky are clearly meant to be together. seeing xander's perspective lets him become something more than a romantic foil. he realizes that maybe there is something for him outside of his comfort zone, and as he falls in love with someone unexpected he becomes someone different in a good way.

cassia and ky are kept apart a lot of the novel, by distance, by illness, but the story ends with them together forging a new future, living among the ashes of a new society, hopeful that what will come next will be something that allows them to forge a new ending to what should have been their story. even though to some extent the end is left open, this is certainly a conclusion to the story, and one i enjoyed.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

seriously romantic: trophy wife by noelle adams

when allison davies collins decides that she's had enough of being a trophy wife, she totally goes for it. she leaves her older, rich husband behind and only takes the clothes on her back and a few personal items. not even the lure of a big payday set up in their prenup for lasting ten years of marriage is enough to make her stay. alison has dreams that she's shoved aside to be the perfect wife. but being the titular trophy wife is not all she wants to be.

so she moves to fielding, north carolina, the small town where her grandmother had a home that she inherited when her parents passed away. while it's not much, it's a place to stay. and allison means to get back to her feet and learn to stand free without the help of a man. she has big plans, she wants to go to school and get a college degree and she wants to set up a jewelry design business. but first she needs a job that will pay enough to keep her independent.

with no actual experience this isn't something that will come easily. and even though allison is determined to do everything alone, her neighbor, rob west keeps popping up, ready with help. and as much as allison tries to refuse his assistance, soon enough she realizes that sometimes it doesn't hurt to have a little help from your friends. but it's a balancing act. she's terrified of leaning too deeply, of becoming someone else's pretty young thing.

rob doesn't see her as a pretty young thing, though he obviously thinks she's gorgeous. and rob has his own baggage—two failed marriages, a hero complex, a fear of being vulnerable—and often his baggage and allison's baggage combine into a perfect storm of insecurity for the both of them. allison is so set on doing things alone, that even when she succumbs to her attraction to rob she refuses to admit it. rob is halfway in love with allison from the get-go, but he understands that she is genuinely afraid to be in a relationship and keeps holding back his feelings because he doesn't want to scare her off. but all the holding back that both of them do gets in the way of how they actually feel. and at some point the whole thing blows up.

luckily we aren't made to suffer too much while the characters get their heads and hearts back on straight. the book spends more time developing the relationship than tearing it down, so when allison and rob finally hash it all out, the happy ending feels earned. (since this is a romance i refuse to see that as a spoiler).

**trophy wife publishes on december 6, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/random house publishing - loveswept in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, December 5, 2016

seriously romantic: worth fighting for by kirsty moseley

worth fighting for continues the story of ellie and jamie from fighting to be free. it's been three years since the events that closed out the first novel, and ellie has spent all of them hiding in europe. jamie is now out of prison and even more enmeshed in his thug life style. because he has nothing without ellie. there's no need to plan for a future when you destroyed it so utterly before it could even get started.

but when ellie's parents are in a serious car accident and she is forced to return to the states, it is inevitable that the two of them will end up in each other's orbits. moseley manages to draw this out, surprisingly. we spend a lot of time catching up with the two characters individually before we see them together again.

but ellie and jamie are too explosive to keep away from each other. when they do get back together, conveniently after ellie has broken up with her british fiancé, the sparks fly and they cannot keep their hands off each other. but the joy that the first book had is missing. they are older and more aware of how fragile love is. they are scarred. and that makes sense given everything. i still had issues with the characters' ages, i still think the author should have aged them up in the first book so that they were older here. these characters felt like 25 year olds, but they were only 21. but when i didn't sit and think about it, you know, it is one of those details that doesn't really matter. most of the time it was easy to forget how young they were supposed to be, so you could just roll with the story.

i also still struggled with how easy it was for jamie to be part of the criminal underworld, essentially running his own gang, and then turn around and give it up when it came to that. maybe i'm just scarred by years of watching general hospital and seeing how impossible it was for sonny and his associates to ever leave the business, but there is no way it is as simple as jamie makes it out to be. or as easy as the author makes it for jamie. even though there's that ridiculous showdown with jamie's rival gang, everything still happens too easily in my opinion.

but everyone gets their happy ending. so the minor quibbles are easily forgotten.

**worth fighting for will publish on december 6, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/forever (grand central publishing) in exchange for my honest review. 

simply kicking off a release week blog blitz: worth fighting for by kirsty moseley


ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: WORTH FIGHTING FOR
Author: Kirsty Moseley
Series: Fighting To Be Free, #2
On Sale: December 6, 2016
Publisher: Forever
Trade Paperback: $14.99 USD
eBook: $3.99 USD
Add to Goodreads


Here's everything you need to know about the sequel to FIGHTING TO BE FREE. My review will be posting shortly.

Sometimes in life you have to walk away . . .

Leaving Jamie Cole was the hardest thing Ellie Pearce ever had to do. Somehow, she moved on. She made a new life in a new city with a new man. So when a family tragedy calls Ellie back home, she believes all her old feelings for Jamie—the hunger, the heat, the heartbreak—are safely behind her. But the second she lays eyes on him, the intensity of their connection is as strong as ever.

Sometimes you stay and fight . . .

Jamie knows pain. He's felt it fighting in the streets, and he felt it fighting to survive in prison. Yet nothing he's experienced has been as painful as the day Ellie left—until the moment she came back. This time Jamie is determined to hold on to Ellie forever. But as much as she still loves him, she can't ignore the dark world he's now a part of. Jamie has enemies. Dangerous ones. And after seeing Jamie with Ellie, they know exactly how to take him out . . .



EXCERPT

’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Alfred, Lord Tennyson, said that in some poem in the 1800s. In my opinion, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, was full of shit.

Maybe Lord Tennyson had never truly loved someone; maybe he’d never cared for someone else more than he cared for himself, because if he had, if he’d loved someone so deeply he’d been willing to die for them, how could he have written such a horseshit line? I’m merely speculating, of course. I’m no academic, so I know nothing about the guy other than that one quote. So how then, you may ask, does my opinion so vehemently disagree with his?

Because I was in love once.

Only once.

And I lost her.

And I would give any fucking thing in the world to have never loved her at all. No, it most definitely is not better to have loved and lost.

Fuck love. And fuck Lord Tennyson.

BUY THE BOOK HERE

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THE FIGHTING TO BE FREE SERIES

1. Fighting To Be Free
2. Worth Fighting For

Series Page on Goodreads





ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kirsty Moseley has always been a passionate reader with stories brewing in her head. Once she discovered Wattpad, she finally posted a story. Seven million reads later, she self-published her debut novel, The Boy who Sneaks in my Bedroom Window, which later became a finalists for the 2012 Goodreads' Choice Awards. Kirsty lives in Norfolk, England with her husband and son.
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Sunday, December 4, 2016

seriously romantic: stroke of midnight by andie j. christopher

in stroke of midnight we meet the hernandez family, alana the eldest daughter is the responsible, dependable one. she's been picking up the slack for everyone else in the family, especially her older brother, javier, who has fallen to pieces since his acrimonious divorce. on the other hand, her flighty sister, carla, is determined to make sure alana has a little fun. it's new year's eve and it time to let go.

to get her sister off her back, alana agrees to go out. when she jokes to her sister that she hopes to pick up a stranger for one night of hot sex, she never imagines that her words would prove prophetic. but when she meets cole roberts the attraction is instantaneous and neither can resist the pull. cole has recently broken up with his long-time love so the last thing he wants is a relationship. a one night stand with a smoking hot chick sounds perfect to him.

and then things get complicated, obviously because this is a romance. it turns out that his hot chick is his buddy's little sister. and since he's in town visiting javier specifically, his path is going to cross alana's more than once, and the pull between them only grows making this one night stand veer into relationship territory awfully fast.

even though things move pretty quickly between the two leads, their chemistry is pretty amazing, so you buy it. this is an excellent escapist way to ring in the new year.

**stroke of midnight will publish on january 3, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/kensington books (lyrical shine) in exchange for my honest review. 

Saturday, December 3, 2016

seriously romantic: shadowdance by kristen callihan

i've read some reviews of shadowdance where people weren't in love with this book because of how awful the hero is to his leading lady. i'm not going to make excuses for him (ok, maybe i am), but i'm acknowledging that jack talent is completely awful to mary for a good three-quarters of the book. but he's been a jerk to her for the previous two books too, so this pattern of behavior isn't surprising.

what the book gives us is insight into how messed up jack is. how it actually kills him to be this relentlessly awful to her. that if he didn't feel so unworthy, so broken, so tortured, so guilty, so undeserving of her goodness, he would take her in his arms and never let her go. but it's been ingrained into his psyche that mary is not for him. even when her spirit calls to him. and since she's a gim, you can imagine how strong her spirit is. especially since their souls bonded when she rescued him from torture, and this bond makes it so that they are always aware of one another.

jack has been working alone since joining the sos as a regulator. but he's been charged to track down a killer and has had no luck in the two years the case has been active. when mary gets information that leads her to suspect that jack is the killer she convinces poppy to let her into the field as jack's new partner. you can only imagine how poorly jack takes this news. but there are hints of his kinder nature throughout the novel. yes he does and says terrible things, but when it really matters, when mary is in danger or overcome, jack comes to her rescue every single time. when she really, really needs his kindness he gives it.

mary can't forget the moment she found jack all those years ago. she doesn't understand why, no matter how badly he treats her, why she keeps coming back for more? what is it about jack tallent that makes him so irresistible? their connection pains her. his actions, his words, they all pain her. but she also understands how broken he is. she knows. she knows. so as the case complicates itself around them she finds that she has to trust him.

when they finally start being open with each other, when they finally confess the truths that they've been keeping from each other and bare their bodies and hearts and souls, it's achingly painful. shadowdance isn't a light and easy book. jack and mary are characters who have suffered. even in their love for each other they suffer. and honestly i love a happy love story as much as the next girl, but the ones that stay with me are the ones that overcome the biggest obstacles. what jack and mary share is more than love. it's beyond that. it's forever and it's being together and it's imperfectly, perfectly them.

i had been looking forward to the story between these two characters since they were first introduced in moonglow. and it was totally worth the wait. and i'm aching to get my hands on evernight.

Friday, December 2, 2016

seriously romantic: in your arms by shannyn schroeder

sean o'malley plays the part of a rough around the edges, overgrown man-child, bad boy. in fact, he's everything that emma long avoids when it comes to relationships. when it comes to one-night stands, however, she's a little more open to the idea of a bad boy. and when their paths cross in your arms the sizzle starts up between them immediately. except that emma doesn't get quite what she expects from sean.

he is more than just the bad boy. i mean, in some respects sean is a slacker and he is definitely a man-child, but no one has given him a reason to be different. until emma he's never wanted to try to be different. and this is the one thing i found frustrating about the novel, she wants him to be different but assumes he can't be and never really gives him the chance to prove himself. he has to fight for all of his chances. and yes, he messes up a couple of times, some with more reason than others, but he also is the one consistently putting himself out there and getting no credit for it.

when emma and sean are together though, you see why they work as a couple. the chemistry is just right. the way they fit in each other's lives is also seamless. i've never seen two characters work so hard to deny the fact that they were in an adult relationship. it was fascinating.

and when they finally make it to being on the same page, you see all the good places they can go. here are two people who were meant to be. and the author does a really nice job of developing and growing the characters both within and outside of the relationship.

**in your arms will publish on december 27, 2016. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/kensington books (zebra shout) in exchange for my honest review.