Review: You Never Forget Your First Earl by Ella Quinn

When I first saw this book I was immediately drawn to the absolutely stunning cover. Not only was the dress and model beautiful and eye-catching, the cover was actually relevant to the story, which I love. Although this is book five in her Worthingtons series, You Never Forget Your First Earl (whew, that’s a mouthful) was my first book by Ella Quinn and, unfortunately, I am not sure I’ll pick up another one. If I had to give it a starred rating, it would get 2.5-3.

The pros: Let’s start with the positives. As I mentioned, the cover is perfect. I want it framed on my wall, it is just that pretty. When Geoffrey is courting Elizabeth based on his grandmother’s rules? He’s got the moves! He kisses both her hands and is pretty doting. I see why Elizabeth thought he was all that and a bag of chips. The writing good as were the historical references. The plot moved enough that I never entirely wanted to give up on the characters or the story.

The cons: Based on the synopsis and basically the first half of the book I kept waiting for them to get married (this isn’t a spoiler, it’s on the back cover I promise) and start their life together in Brussels. I didn’t know that their married life was only going to be the last 25% of the book or so. There was so much focus on the war and the politics at the time, which is well and good but it had no relevance on the plot. The author would spend two pages talking about writing a note or packing a bag that didn’t further any plot line or characterization. It read like filler text which is especially annoying when I really just wanted to know more about Geoffrey and Elizabeth. I felt like there was a lot of family dynamics and interpersonal relationships that could have been explored further.

More cons: Geoffrey is kind of a cold fish (and yes, I understand that is part of the plot line) the problem is, I wasn’t ever sold that he saw Elizabeth as more than a convenient partner he liked to have sex with occasionally. There was an entire week that Elizabeth was mad at him and not one time did he ask her why. He just kept living his life, occasionally thinking about the fact that she wouldn’t have sex with him and that sucked. On the other hand, Elizabeth was passive aggressive for most of the book.

Overall, this story could have been much stronger. I think both characters lacked any kind of fire and the focus on the war as opposed to the relationship with the war as a foil was distracting. It wasn’t the worst book I’ve read all year but I wouldn’t recommend it.

**I received an ARC of this book in order to provide an honest review**

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Review: Fighting for Everything by Laura Kaye

Laura Kaye has been one of my favorite authors for years. I was so excited to hear she was writing a new series centered around a fighting gym for individuals with PTSD. Starting Fighting for Everything, I was quickly reminded how well Ms. Kaye portrays mental health in her novels. Our hero, Noah Cortez, has limited hearing and sight on one side as well as Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) due to an injury he sustained as a Marine. Working with individuals with disabilities, I know that it is often the people with invisible disabilities who suffer the most because people expect them to be “normal”. Noah experiences all of this. There is no magic “cure” for mental health. Kristina’s love doesn’t “fix” his problems nor do they go away overnight or really at all.

Friends to lovers can be a difficult trope to perfect because often the character’s relationship has developed off “screen”. Kristina and Noah have known each other for years but Ms. Kaye let you in on every inside joke and intimacy. Both characters have changed throughout the years and their romantic love develops believably from their deep friend-love.

As I mentioned, this is the first book in a new series for Ms. Kaye and you can tell what a seasoned author she is. The world was neatly set up but the hero’s journey and the relationship between Noah and Kristina was always front and center. Future books and relationships were very much in the background (as I think they should be).

This book is the perfect balance of sexy, sweet, and angst. I would highly recommend to anyone looking to dip their toe into the contemporary romance genre. Ms. Kaye’s novels are always satisfying and immensely readable.

As a side note, I think Kristina and I are kindred spirits. As a resident of Arlington I just loved seeing a few of my favorite haunts highlighted. The heroine even lives in my specific part of Arlington!

**I received an ARC of this book in order to provide an honest review**

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Review: Pas De Deux by Lynn Turner

I saw this book all over Instagram and that isn’t usually enough to influence me, until read the description. A prima ballerina changing lanes to do an experimental Broadway show with a sexy, enigmatic director? SIGN ME UP. I am such a Broadway junkie. I may or may not be listening to the Book of Mormon soundtrack while I write this review (I definitely am).

Let me just say, this book was passionate, fun, explosive and I had a great time reading it. I look forward to the next novel in a world of Ms. Turner’s creation.

The Pros: Lynn Turner was a new to me author and I was very pleasantly surprised. I was completely blown away by Ms. Turner’s prose. Parts of this story made me feel like I was in a beautiful dream. Other parts were so detailed and visceral that I actually felt like I was dancing with Mina and Zach. Mina was strong and flawed and I wanted to be her by the end of the novel. Zach was such a kind hero. For all his bluster, I appreciated his devotion to and support of Mina no matter what.

The Cons: I actually felt that this book was a little too long. It was well written and Ms. Turner fit a lot in but there were a few subplots that felt superfluous. The beginning of the book starts with a countdown to the Tony’s which wasn’t really explained and wasn’t as big of a plot point as I thought was merited with all the attention that was paid to it. The big performance felt a little anticlimactic and I think it was because the pacing in the novel was off. If the book had stayed a little more focused this would have been a five star read for sure.

Overall, this was an excellent read with in-depth exploration into many cultures (French and Hispanic), and real-life problems (abuse, race-issues). I highly recommend to anyone looking for a beautiful romance with a fun cast of characters.

**I received an ARC of this book in order to provide an honest review**

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Review: A Summer to Remember by Mary Balogh

I adored this book. It always takes me a few chapters to sink into Mary Balogh’s writing style. She drives the story and her characters through their internal growth and speculation rather than than the dialogue. It’s truly, very refreshing. Don’t be intimidated by pages without dialogue. Things are happening, the book is moving forward, Ms. Balogh just doesn’t rush character development.

Staying within that theme, this story was as unhurried as a long, sweet summer’s day. Kit isn’t your average hero. He’s of medium height and described as well-built but slender. Now, I love a hulking alpha hero any day but by the end of this story I was sold on a hero that didn’t tower over our heroine. They had many cute neck nuzzling moments because they fit together so well.

Lauren is not usually my type of character. She’s reserved and a little cold, which makes her small capitulations to Kit’s outrageous dares even more satisfying. Every time I was about to write her off as too withdrawn to ever fall in love, she would surprise me. I was always impressed.

This is a true slow burn romance about two people who balance each other so well, they melt into each other as opposed to sparking. Kit’s love for Lauren was so tender it warmed my heart.

I know everyone raves about the Bedwyn series but that family was not my favorite part of this novel. They were brash and kind of mean. I am going to read the series but they were not exactly hero/heroine material in this novel (especially Freyja who was a foil to Lauren). I highly recommend this beautiful relationship of convenience story!

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Review: An Honorable Seduction by Brenda Jackson

I had such high hopes when I requested this book from NetGalley. A great romantic suspense with Navy SEALs? My catnip. Unfortunately I was disappointed in the execution, silly names, and frankly, the sex scenes.

The pros: Just as I was about to give up on this novel, the adventure and mystery aspects got better. Flipper saving the day was fun and sounded sexy. I got a satisfying HEA, unfortunately I was only satisfied because the book was over at last.

The cons: I hate to give a scathing review but this book just didn’t do it for me and it started with the sex. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy gratuitous sex scenes, graphic sex scenes, sweet sex scenes, believe me I’ve read it all. What I don’t enjoy, is comical sex scenes (in a bad way). I don’t really even know how to explain how weird it is except to leave a few quotes:

“His mind and body were in sync and a rare sexual aura was overtaking him.”

“He knew she was coming again and, dammnit to hell, so was he. Marveling at such a thing, he tightened his hold on her.” Yup, the hero just came twice in 5 seconds. I’m pretty darn positive that’s not possible.

More cons: Swan (yes that’s her real name) has three godfathers that are only distinguished by a number (Godpop 1, Godpop 2, Godpop 3) which makes everything confusing because they are all characters in the book. It made their characterization hazy at best. I need actual names please. This is a very short novel. Less than 300 pages, and we were reminded of two things, Flipper (yes, he has dolphins tattooed all over him) is a SEAL and Swan is drop-dead gorgeous. The constant talk about Swan’s beauty made it seem like she had very little depth. I have many other critiques but I will leave it

Overall, this author was new to me and maybe her writing style just isn’t for me. If you can suspend your disbelief for a while and let yourself get lost in a truly fantasy/unrealistic love story, then by all means pick this one up. If you’re looking for any correlation to real-life romance, or even relatable romance, this one is a skip.

**I received an ARC of this book in order to provide an honest review**

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