Buddy Read: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Check-In at the ~Midpoint (43%)

Teresa: OK So I was really nervous to start this book. The hype was real!

Juliana: I actually hadn’t heard that much about it when I decided to order it; someone had posted on Bookstagram and the summary immediately intrigued me. But you’re right—after already purchasing it, I saw it’s even one of the June Book of the Month selections!

T: I heard about it when Berkley announced a new author because I am always looking for diverse reads and I loved that the author also has Autism. I work with people with disabilities so I knew this would be up my alley

J: That is also what immediately drew me in when I read the summary; very unusual to have a hero or heroine on the Autism spectrum and I thought that, if done well, this could be a truly insightful and touching read. I also loved the premise—that Stella is taking control of her sexuality and her romance life (or lack thereof) by embarking on this venture and hiring an escort.

T: I agree! I think she is SO brave and extremely relatable. I know that a lot of women have a hard time in the bedroom, especially with a one night stand. I was as mad as Michael about her previous sexual experiences but I don’t think they’re all that uncommon even for people without disabilities

J: Very true, which as you said, makes it so relatable. I was actually just talking with my friends the other day about this topic and one of them told me about what a novel experience it was recently being with a guy who kept checking in with her and was so clearly attuned to her needs and desires. I also love how Hoang has been able to mix such steamy and sexy times with some truly laugh out loud moments—can we just talk about the lesson plans for a second?!

T: I was dying!!! The miscommunication was priceless. I was cracking up when he realized she had no idea he was upset or hurt by her clinical list. The performance reviews at the end of every task!

J: Right, to her, it seemed so logical and well-planned, whereas to him, that made it cold and unfeeling. Which I get: “Hand Job Lecture and Demonstration” and “Hand Job Practice,” followed by a “Performance Review” could definitely be a mood killer and given that he is already somewhat emotionally invested in their relationship, it’s a big reminder that this is a transaction and she hired him.

T: Yup he doesn’t like to be reminded of their transactional relationship anymore. ALSO, can we talk about how Hoang made Michael likable? Because I don’t like manwhores as a rule and prostitution is pretty much the ultimate in that category AND he talked about how he had a bunch of sex when he was younger. Yet… I love him so much! I love the way he relates and understands Stella. Also, I looked up the actor he supposedly looks like (Daniel Henney) and he’s so damn sexy.

J: LOL I looked him up immediately too!! And YES, Michael is so gentle and sweet, and really attuned to Stella. Hoang was smart in making his cousin, Khai, whom he grew up with, be on the autism spectrum; even though he doesn’t know that Stella is also, it makes sense that he’s able to be intuitively more patient and kind with what he just sees as her social awkwardness.

T: So, shit had hit the fan, Stella and Michael need to talk immediately for my peace of mind. I am so excited to see what happens next!

J: I know—we chose the worst cliffhanger chapter to pause on!! Back to reading … can’t wait!

Final Wrap-Up

Juliana: So: wow. This was such a fantastic book, I kind of don’t even know where to start. I finished it with one of those stupid-silly grins on my face that I couldn’t get rid of and I think I fell asleep that way. After our mid-point check-in I had to read the rest straight through and stayed up until I finished; it was just so good!

Teresa: Agreed! If we hadn’t had a mid-point check-in this would have been a one sitting read for me. Honestly, I am a little surprised I loved the book as much as I did. The premise isn’t one I am big on, as I mentioned before, prostitution is usually a romance no-go for me, and the hype about this book was a little overwhelming so I had sky-high expectations. Luckily, Hoang is a genius and this book checked all of my romance reader boxes. Ditto on the silly smile!

J: I didn’t have the potential-disappointment factor, since I didn’t really have any expectations, but what I was unsure of going in was how much of a romance it was. It’s not a mass market paperback and so I didn’t know what mindset I should have. Fortunately, it delivered on all fronts on the romance side, but I also think it could attract mainstream non-romance readers … granted, it has more sexy times than the average “mainstream” fiction, but I’m definitely not going to complain about that (the chemistry was SIZZLING!!).

T: The chemistry and sexual timing was perfect. I agree that this was a lot of sex for a mainstream audience. I loved it. I think each sexual encounter (idk what else to call it!) furthered the character’s emotional connection or furthered the plot in some way and that is what I look for in a great romance novel. I worry that a mainstream reader would get caught up in the graphic parts and not see the beauty of the character’s sexual connection.

J: I think you hit the nail on the head—I completely agree with the progression, and “regular” readers could be caught off guard if they’re not used to it. I think that’s why it’s all the more fascinating that it was chosen as one of the Book of the Month selections; I doubt they’ve ever chosen one of our types of romance books before, and I’m curious to see what the reaction will be. For me, The Kiss Quotient delivered on all romance fronts: fantastic leading pair, real character development for both, laugh-out-loud moments, great supporting cast, really sweet and romantic exchanges, and terrific chemistry. I honestly don’t think there’s a single thing I would change about this book.

T: I hope people go into this book with open minds because that is what a book of this caliber deserves. Hoang tapped into so many important aspects of the human condition with both Michael and Stella. The fact that she was able to portrayed such beautifully flawed characters and a well constructed and believable happily ever after was awe inspiring. I was overjoyed, charmed, and delighted by The Kiss Quotient and the fact that I have to wait until May of 2019 for the next book is cruel and unusual punishment. I loved this book and I want to recommend it to all my friends regardless of genre preference.

J: [Stepped aside for a moment to do just that!] I completely second that; I feel like this could be one of those romance books that challenges people’s (horrible and unfair) impressions about the genre. And I love that it’s being done through such a strong heroine who is on the Autism spectrum. I cannot WAIT for Khai’s story next year, where we’ll get to see some of the same struggles, but through the male perspective. All I can say to everyone is: read this book!

T: I second that statement! Hoang is an instant favorite author and I know she will do the topic justice. Also, dibs on Quan!

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Review: Ocean Light by Nalini Singh

Fans of the Psy/Changeling Series have been waiting for the isolated water changeling clan BlackSea to give up their secrets for YEARS. Finally, finally Ms. Singh gives us what we want in Ocean Light. Of course, BlackSea doesn’t just reveal all its secrets, you learn more and more throughout the book and every new detail is delightful and well-researched.

Bowen Knight, head of the Human Alliance was not a hero I was particularly enamored with. I was mildly intrigued to read his story, but I was more excited to find out about BlackSea. Of course, Ms. Singh changes my mind almost immediately. I fell in love with the gruff but deeply caring Bowen and his devotion to the maternal water changeling Kaia. Kaia is fierce but damaged and watching Bowen hold on to her with both hands was the highlight of the story. He changes and grows as a person to be worthy of his generous and loving mate. She, in turn, faces her deepest fears for her alpha lover.

Throughout the story, we learn more about the Human Alliance and meet many new characters I am hoping will have an impact further in the series arc. The balance between fun everyday life activities, high octane adventure, and sweet yet sexy romance was absolutely perfect. Every time I open a new Nalini Singh book I know to expect breathtaking world building and a delightful story that leaves me on the edge of my seat. Ms. Singh never fails to surprise and delight me. Now, as always, I wait with bated breath for the next couple to be revealed.

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

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Review: Ain’t She a Peach by Molly Harper

Molly Harper is a new to me author but I absolutely could not resist the bright cover and fun synopsis. Diving into the book, I was super excited because I was instantly in love with Ms. Harper’s writing style. The characters were funny, the town was quaint, the accents were great. I was especially enamored with the quirky, rainbow-haired, Frankie. She shined as a coroner who talks with her dead people and loves her job. When the surly new sheriff and apparent former one night stand of Frankie’s enters the picture, I was all in.

Unfortunately, the book veered off course with me from there. I was disappointed that Frankie’s relationship with Eric seemed like more of an afterthought in the story arc. Not by choice, I was more invested in Frankie’s relationships/dynamics with everyone else in her family and town than I was with her romantic relationship with Eric.

Frankie was a multidimensional character with flaws, a weird dynamic with her parents, and lots of baggage. I am glad she worked through many of them through the course of the novel and grew personally. I wish there had more of a happily ever after with Eric than a happy for now. I am sure we will get more of her story in the next book because we got lots of information about her cousin Margot, the heroine of the first novel.

I am now fully invested in the town and the characters so I will probably read the rest of the series. The dialogue was witty and I laughed at the antics and banter many times. I wish there had been much more romance and a more focused story line.

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

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Review: The Gunslinger’s Vow by Amy Sandas

I personally believe there isn’t enough western historical romance being published right now. I miss the days of Johanna Lindsey characters exploring a young American west. Ms. Sandas is filling a huge void with her new series and I could not be happier with the results.

The pros: Ms. Sandas is really good at writing truly heroic heroes. Allow me to explain. Malcom was a single man and a gunslinger at that but at his heart, he was a good man. In my opinion, he went above and beyond for Alexandra. After his initial crustiness, Malcom is unconditional in his support of Alexandra. Alex is bold, fun, and confident. She followed her heart back to Montana and I was with her the whole way.

The cons: Alexandra did have some TSTL moments (too stupid to live) which are off putting. I realize we needed some of those plot points to move the story forward and create a situation Malcom couldn’t grouch his way out of. But honestly, running away without telling her fiance? Getting stranded without any money or clothes? She should have probably been a little more concerned than she was. Luckily, Alexandra more than made up for it in other ways.

Overall, this is everything you want in a western. It was light enough to read easily, but had heart and soul. I wish we had learned more about her friends! I’m excited to read more about their stories heading west.

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

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Review: In Bed with the Beast by Tara Sivec

Disney princesses and strippers don’t seem like a natural combination unless you have some kind of fetish… or if you’re a rockstar romance writer like Tara Sivec.

I’m just going to put this out there – In Bed with the Beast is every quiet, romantic book nerd’s ideal romance novel. I absolutely adored the simmering compatibility between Beast, the monosyllabic bouncer, and Belle, the librarian/aspiring stripper/random fact master.

The best part of this book? It’s laugh out loud funny and witty. This book demands that you put aside the stress of everyday life and enjoy a hilarious and whimsical tale about a woman looking for the fairy tale and a man who doesn’t think he can give it to her.

Ms. Sivec sneaks so many excellent Easter eggs for both Disney princesses lovers and book lovers. In Bed with the Beast is satirical, fun, sexy, and as in all fairy tales… I’m sure Beast and Belle will live happily ever after.

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

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Review: Hurts to Love You by Alisha Rai

This was my first Alisha Rai novel and I think I made a mistake. I should have read this trilogy in order. Many romance novels stand alone, even well within a series. This book did stand alone, technically, but I felt like I was late to the party (or wedding as it may be) and missed introductions.

My favorite part of this book was the way Gabriel viewed Evangeline. His descriptions of her butt (large), and back (with a cute roll of fat), made me wish all characters in romance novels were described with reverence to their “flaws.” I think when you truly love someone, especially when you are in lust with them, as Gabriel is with Evangeline at the beginning, every part of them is cute and sexy. It made both characters so relateable and accessible on many levels.

The unrequited love/lust in this novel pulled at the heartstrings and the complex family dynamics were beautiful. I love the diversity that was explored in this novel and the soap opera vibes. I’m looking forward to reading the first two novels. Highly recommend.

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

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