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 The writing good as were the historical references.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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Review: Luck of the Draw by Kate Clayborn

I did something completely out of character before starting this book, or should I say I DIDN’T do something. I didn’t read the book summary *gasps* I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever started a book without reading the blurb. But boy am I glad I didn’t. I felt like Ms. Clayborn was giving me little gifts at every revelation. Woah, relationship of convenience (my favorite trope); ooooh monosyllabic hero, SEXY AND BROODY I love it.

This book was so much more than I expected. Based on the lovely title and charming cover I expected a light-hearted, fluffy romance. Aiden, a shy, sometimes grumpy paramedic and Zoe, a type-A-all-the-way lawyer with a guilt complex were equal parts damaged and lovable. Don’t get me wrong, this story had some hilarious and sweet scenes (COCKTOBER – I’m still laughing) but the core story focused on two people who had lived through heartbreaking tragedy and grew by learning to love each other.

The relationship that developed between Aiden and Zoe wasn’t in any way eclipsed by the beautiful friendships Zoe has with her gal group. Occasionally secondary characters try to take over the plot. Not so in this book. Zoe’s strong ties to her best girlfriends highlighted her maturity and independence. Adult friendships are complicated and Ms. Clayborn didn’t shy away from difficult conversations or confrontations as the characters demanded it.

As a disclaimer, the characters in this book don’t always say the right thing. They get angry, mean, petty but they’re always real. Emotions are messy, people are messy, and most of all, love is messy. If you’re looking for a fantasy, picture-perfect romance novel, you won’t find it here. If you’re looking for a sexy contemporary romance with relatable characters and a believable love story, this one is for you!

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

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Review: Claiming His Hidden Heir by Carol Marinelli

Let me just put this out there. This book surprised me in a really good way. The book was far more about the maturing of the relationship between billionaire playboy Luka and his straitlaced personal assistant Cecelia than any crazy baby stuff.

Cece and Luka were both flawed people with difficult childhoods and I felt real emotional depth from both of them. I was actually most impressed with Luka’s character. I have very, very little patience for playboys but by the middle of the book I actually rooting for him.

The ending was a little problematic for me. Cecelia blamed herself entirely for keeping the pregnancy from Luka and Luka blamed her too. I won’t spoil anything, but I believe Cecelia had decent reasons for keeping the pregnancy news from Luka. I know both characters changed and grew as people throughout the story but I think the emphasis on Cecilia’s transformation made it seem like Luka didn’t need to change or grow (which he absolutely did).

Another problem was how quickly everything was resolved at the end. I know the author has strict page limit but I feel like the balance of the book was off in some ways. It was very detail heavy at the beginning and the ending felt rushed in comparison.

Overall, I was very happy with my first Harlequin Presents novel! Sometimes you’re just in a secret baby mood, am I right?

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#UniqueRomance – Painted Faces by L.H. Cosway

Now if you follow me on Instagram (you totally should, we have awesome romance discussions!) you probably know about my favorite hashtag in Romancelandia: #UniqueRomance

What qualifies as a unique romance?

What is a “unique” romance? I mean, Romancelandia is a vibrant and beautiful place. I’ve read literally thousands of romance novels and they’re all different in their own respects. It takes a true original to stand out in my mind. A few of these novels are unique in ways that I think should be more main stream, but many of them just have interesting plot devices or different (in the best way) heroes or heroines. Basically, these are my unicorn reads. Everyone might not like unicorns – and I am going to warn you right now, these books are not for everyone – but sometimes you need a different perspective about love and the people in our world. I love that these books provide a safe place to explore those perspectives.

So follow along with my picks using the hashtag #uniqueromance and add your own! 📚♥️ I am always looking for my next unicorn read.

So below I am featuring all of my unique romance posts! I will update as I post. Enjoy!

MY FIRST UNIQUE ROMANCE POST! 📚💕🌈 YAY! . To start out, what is a "unique" romance? I mean, Romancelandia is a vibrant and beautiful place. I've read literally thousands of romance novels and they're all different in their own respects. It takes a true original to stand out in my mind. A few of the novels I will feature are unique in ways that I think should be more main stream, but many of them just have interesting plot devices or different (in the best way) heroes or heroines. Basically, these are my unicorn reads 🦄. Everyone might not like unicorns – and I am going to warn you right now, these books are not for everyone – but sometimes you need a different perspective about love and the people in our world. I love that these books provide a safe place to explore those perspectives. . So follow along with my picks using the hastag #uniqueromance and add your own! 📚♥️ I am always looking for my next unicorn read. . I couldn't think of a better book to start out with than @l.h.cosway 's STRAIGHT DRAG QUEEN HERO. That's right, that's not a typo. Nicholas is straight, sexy, and looks amazing in a wig. Painted Faces is a beautiful read. I can't really do it justice so I will leave the blurb in the comments. And this quote: . “I love him because he makes me laugh when I don't feel like laughing. I love him because he challenges my view of what a man is. I love him because I know I shouldn't love him and that he'll break my heart. I love him because he's a complete and total anomaly. I love him because I want to kill the sadness inside him more than I want anything else in the world.” . Do you have a favorite unique romance novel?

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MY FIRST UNIQUE ROMANCE POST! 📚💕🌈 YAY!

I couldn’t think of a better book to start out with than L.H. Cosway’s STRAIGHT DRAG QUEEN HERO. That’s right, that’s not a typo. Nicholas is straight, sexy, and looks amazing in a wig. Painted Faces is a beautiful read. I can’t really do it justice so I will leave the blurb below. And this quote: “I love him because he makes me laugh when I don’t feel like laughing. I love him because he challenges my view of what a man is. I love him because I know I shouldn’t love him and that he’ll break my heart. I love him because he’s a complete and total anomaly. I love him because I want to kill the sadness inside him more than I want anything else in the world.”

Do you have a favorite unique romance novel?

Here are a few of my favorite responses from Instagram:

romancebookjunkie – Wow totally not what I was expecting! I love when you get a book that has something completely new that you haven’t read before!

onceupon_a_bookdream – Why have I not read this book before!!!! It sounds amazing 😍

bookandablanket – I loved this one so much!😍 I’m so glad I took a chance with it. This was certainly not my typical hero

Review: The Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev

Am I in love? I think so 😍. Sonali Dev has snared me with her words and I never want this warm, fuzzy feeling to leave my soul! I don’t have a book hangover, I have a book high!

Learning about new cultures and peeking into different family dynamics is one of my favorite parts about reading. Through The Bollywood Affair, I feel like Sonali invited me into India’s rich culture through a beautiful, hilarious, and sometimes crazy love story. Mili is klutzy and caring, Samir is arrogant and lovable with a dash of damage (just how I like my heroes).

During the scene where Mili and Samir are dancing to Pehla Nasha did I pull up the song on YouTube to enhance the experience? YUP. I could practically taste the food and see the beautiful clothes Sonali described. I cannot recommend this book enough. I give it infinite 🌟 stars.

I’ll leave you with this quote: “It doesn’t matter what my life has been like, Samir. What matters is hope. If you don’t believe in a happy ending, what are you living for?”

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Review: Joanna’s Highlander by Maeve Greyson

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

I really dislike leaving negative reviews but this was not a great book for me. I will start with the best parts of this book though.

A positive of this novel was the unique premise. An entire family of Scotsmen coming to modern day North Carolina? I’m in. Totally sold. Time-travel is a tricky sub genre but I was encouraged based on reviews of Ms. Greyson’s previous work.

I was put off right from the beginning. The authors note was disruptive and a little lazy. A preface, prologue, THEN author’s note before you even get to Chapter 1? Nah. You shouldn’t need an author’s note to make any book (even in a series) a standalone. Especially once the book has already started.

The writing and characterization is jerky. Joanna seems to erupt over small and strange comments. Grant abruptly switches between flirty and self-assured to bumbling and pandering. It’s an odd combination.

The author seems more concerned with adding Scottish jargon than keeping consistent character attitudes. I got a little lost in some of the “funny” scenes.

The worst part of the book was the only true connection I could find between Joanna and Grant was sexual and Joanna’s reaction to each sexual situation was extremely annoying and off putting.

I sadly resorted to skimming just to finish this book. I adore time-travel romance but as I’ve said before, they are very difficult to get right and this one absolutely missed the mark.

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