Literary, etc is an eclectic blog where we talk & review books, films, & whatever strikes our mood.
I enjoy reading parodies and when the opportunity came to review Lucy V. Morgan’s TOUSLE ME, I couldn’t pass up the chance! I’ve read a handful of New Adult books and the plots can be clichéd and the characters carbon copies of each other.
We have good character development. I adored each of Morgan’s characters in TOUSLE ME. Our main heroine is Cammibelle Hicks, who like most New Adult heroines is a virgin. She’s also shy and doesn’t think she’s beautiful. Unlike our usual heroines, she has a unique hobby. She’s a book blogger! That’s right folks and I loved how Morgan incorporated this into her novel. Then we have Hunter von Styles who is your typical bad boy, but he’s a jack of all trades. Finally we have a hero who is not only a billionaire, but an ex-rocker and an occasional cage fighter with his own secrets. Did I mention he’s British? Talk about swoon worthy! We have a few secondary characters that play a vital role including Lebron, Hunter’s personal assistant and friend. Of course we have to have a character who suffers from unrequited love and that’s Archer who is friends with Cammi. Finally, we have Enid who sleeps around and is secretly in love with Archer.
I won’t go into detail regarding what Morgan’s book is about since the synopsis pretty much sums it up. I really enjoyed TOUSLE ME! Readers of New Adult will easily recognize well known books published in the past year. Morgan cleverly uses various character names, book titles, and plot lines throughout TOUSLE ME that even a casual reader of New Adult will be able to identify. I loved how she inserted these titles. For example, there’s a Gabriel’s Wrapture for a restaurant instead of GABRIEL'S RAPTURE. There’s a pet octopus named Rule. The list could go on and on, but I’ll leave it up to you to find the hidden Easter eggs to enjoy.
If I can take a moment to talk about Morgan’s mention of book blogging…I had fun reading this aspect! As a blogger, it’s difficult at times for others to take what we do seriously and I think many of us have been in that situation where people can’t quite understand why we blog about books. I really liked how Morgan inserted the situation regarding Goodreads deleting people’s reviews and of course Hunter’s solution was one of a kind.
Overall, TOUSLE ME is an enjoyable read. At times, I felt Morgan tries a little too hard to make certain situations funny, but despite this, I had fun reading it. There are a few Britishisms that sound a bit odd when you take into account that the story takes place in America. For some, it may throw you off, but I think it’s slight that you won’t notice right off the bat. Though, I have to say, I really enjoyed how unique Hunter’s nickname for Cammi was. I can’t wait to read the rest in the series and see what’s in store in for Enid and Archer.
If you’re a fan of New Adult, you’ll enjoy Lucy V. Morgan’s TOUSLE ME. If anything, you’ll at least enjoy the unicorn.
Allie Green is a police officer looking to avenge her mother. When the opportunity to join Cross Enterprises comes her way, she knows it means revenge will be at her fingertips. Looking forward to applying for the coveted position she stumbles on the application when she locks eyes with the owner and suddenly she fights the attraction. Tristan Cross has his reasons for recruiting a police officer for undercover work with his security firm. He needs an in to save a woman from his past, but he wasn’t counting on encountering Allie. Together they fight a mutual attraction, but when Tristan helps Allie in her time of need, Allie realizes she needs to return the favor. Will they give into temptation and save the important people in their lives?
As for characterization, we have good character development. Allie is a police officer who lost her father at a young age and witnessed her mother’s rape. She’s tough and protective of those close to her. Then we have Tristan, oh boy! You’ll be smiling when he makes an appearance and of course he keeps his past a secret. We have a few secondary characters that play a role including his brother Julian and Allie’s mother. The real scene stealer? Emma! I adored her and she’s so much fun and I can’t wait to see more of her in the second book.
Narrative is first person via Allie and in many ways, this is her journey. She witnessed a terrible incident that no child should ever watch and she’s blamed herself for not stopping it. As a narrator she’s likable and trustworthy. While I’m not a big fan of first person narrative because it limits what you know, I really did like getting to know Tristan the same way Allie does. The writing is engaging and if you’re one who likes to feel the sexual tension between characters, Tristan and Allie can light a room on fire.
I debated with the rating between a three and four. In the end, I went with a three because LAYERS DEEP ends on a cliffhanger and there are still some unanswered questions mostly regarding Wright and what his fate is. Furthermore, while I really enjoyed LAYERS DEEP, the whole operation regarding saving Kendra happened too fast. We spend so much time leading up to the reason why Tristan wanted to hire Allie and when it finally happens, it was all pretty much over in a blink an eye. Also, I’m wondering about Tristan’s past with Kendra. Mostly, I’d like to know what happened that put her in the situation she was in.
I have several favorite scenes, but I loved the advice Allie’s mother gives her regarding her need for revenge especially when it comes to Tristan. I can’t help, but agree with her mother and for a moment I worried especially when you see what Tristan sets up. I won’t go into detail because I don’t want to spoil things, but all I can say is I breathed a sigh of relief and knew Tristan was worthy of Allie right then and there. I also really enjoyed Allie’s mistaken identity of the Cross brothers! The banter between Julian and Allie was great. My real favorite scene includes Allie arriving at the Cross family residence and the Flintstones references.
Overall, Lacey Silks’ LAYERS DEEP is a satisfactory read and I’m eagerly anticipating the second book in the series.
I had a lot of fun reading Anna Bloom’s THE ART OF LETTING GO and adored Ben Chambers. If you haven’t read THE ART OF LETTING GO, it’s not necessary to enjoy THE SAVING OF BENJAMIN CHAMBERS.
Firstly, can I take a moment to talk about the cover? I’m totally digging it and I really think it reflects Ben and what he stands for. Secondly, ah, Ben! He was loads of fun in THE ART OF LETTING GO and I loved how his relationship with Lilah began. In THE ART OF LETTING GO, we find out Ben and Lilah met at her office Christmas party, but we don’t know exactly how the introduction occurred. THE SAVING OF BENJAMIN CHAMBERS answers this as well another important question regarding a particular gift Lilah gives Ben.
What I really enjoyed about SAVING BENJAMIN CHAMBERS is getting to know a side of Ben we didn’t know. One of the reasons I dislike first person narrative is that it limits us to what another character is thinking and we have to rely on the narrator and trust that person to give us the complete picture. I’m also not a fan of novellas or books written in another character’s point of view because a lot of the information of the first book is often recycled. Here Bloom gives us an original story and it was a real treat getting to know Ben. He spends 9 months waiting and hoping to find Lilah and it was so much fun reading the journey!
I wish I could go into detail about my favorite scenes, but I don’t want to give any spoilers. Let’s just say, I really liked the scene when Ben first spots Lilah. It’s easy to understand how and why she didn’t recall Ben. It does say a lot for Ben to keep an eye out for the woman who captured his interest and when he finally sees her again, you’ll be cheering (even if you’ve read LETTING GO and know the story). You’re heart will go out to Ben when you realize how unhappy he is with his life and we all can associate with him in that aspect.
If you’re a fan of New Adult, you really need to check out Anna Bloom’s THE ART OF LETTING GO. Feel free to read THE SAVING OF BENJAMIN CHAMBERS before LETTING GO or after, either way I believe you’ll have a great time getting lost in Bloom’s world.
Toni Aleo’s BLUE LINES is the fourth book in her Assassins series. If you haven’t read any of the books in the series, I don’t think it’s necessary to do so to enjoy BLUE LINES. Just keep in mind that Aleo does revisit past characters and touches upon past events, but no big spoilers that will impede you from enjoying the books at a later date.
I wasn’t sure how Aleo was going to redeem Erik because he’s a jerk of the first order and I admit to wanting to strangle him. Let me give Aleo a high-five for redeeming him when I didn’t think it was possible.
Character development is a little weak and I think it’s because we’ve known that Piper has a crush on Erik. It’s been said more than once in the previous novels and so I think it takes out a bit of the magic in meeting characters. Despite that, I loved Piper! She’s the free spirited Allen daughter and jumps from job to job. No one in her family takes her seriously and I don’t fault her for keeping things to herself especially keeping quiet about her pregnancy. I really liked that she wasn’t going to be dependent on a man to help raise her child and isn’t afraid to let Erik know how she feels. I mentioned wanting to strangle Erik and even though I wanted to, once you know his personal history, it is easy to be sympathetic towards him. Although at times you want to shake some sense into him. Erik was interesting because he’s had a difficult childhood that makes him not want to fall in love. I most enjoyed getting to know Erik and what makes him the person he is. We have a few secondary characters that make an appearance and they are past characters. I most particularly enjoyed getting to know Phillip a little more (he’s Erik’s best friend and teammate).
Narrative is third person and typical of Aleo’s writing. It’s been such a treat seeing her writing improve. My only real compliant is how Aleo handles Erik’s contract renewal. By the time Erik meets with Elli (readers familiar with the series know Elli is now co-owner of the team and married to the team’s captain) she knows about the pregnancy. I’m not going to go into details about it because I don’t want to give spoilers, but if Erik suspects it is because of Piper, no doubt you will too. It’s never resolved in terms of Erik’s suspicions and one has to assume that Elli would be professional and wouldn’t let personal politics factor into her decision.
What I really enjoyed about BLUE LINES is the relationship between Piper and Erik and how it develops. Plus I like how family is important to Erik and adored how he’s willing to sacrifice his own personal insecurities to make Piper’s relationship with her family a little smoother. In many ways, BLUE LINES is a marriage of convenience story and I do enjoy those because I love seeing the characters surprise at falling in love.
If you like your bad boys bad to the bone, you’ll love Toni Aleo’s BLUE LINES. Now I’m anxiously anticipating Phillip’s story.
E.L. Farris’ I RUN is an emotional journey as one woman tries to outrun her personal demons from the past and raise a family.
As far as characterization, we have good character development. Sally is our main character and she’s married and a mother to three children. She’s been struggling since the accident and it’s easy to like her. There’s some personal trauma that she’s been trying to remember and yet can’t. Then we have her husband William who at times comes off as passive and I’m still trying to wrap my mind around him and what he thinks of Sally. We have a variety of secondary characters who play a vital role including Sally’s mother who is a first grade bitch. Then we have Sally’s friend Beth who has cancer and is always there to listen to Sally.
Narration is first person and it makes sense since this is Sally’s story and journey. She’s a trustworthy narrator and your heart will break for both little and adult Sally. At times, I wanted to shake her to say that she’s doing more harm than good, but I then realized Sally needed to do things the wrong way in order to get on track. Her personal worries will become your own and it’s easy to identify with her frustrations. How many times have we questioned friendships and what people think of us? Sally is broken, there’s no question about it and she has chosen running as way to escape. We see her struggle trying to get back into running after her accident to her obsession with running more and more miles. It’s easy to criticize what she’s doing, but when everything comes together regarding her past, the running makes sense. If I can make one note, it’s that sometimes it was difficult to distinguish adult Sally from Little Sally, but it does become apparent as you read a scene.
If I could use one word to describe Farris’ I RUN it would be: wow. It’s heartbreaking and painful at times to read, but nevertheless it’s engrossing. Farris has a unique ability to make you reflect about your own life as well as the scenes you’ve just read. Overall, you can’t help but feel sorry for both little and adult Sally. You’ll cheer, cry, and agonize with them and the decisions they make. If you walk away with anything after reading Farris’ I RUN is that you probably know a Sally and they are looking for someone to offer them support. In I Run, Sally’s support doesn’t come directly from the people you think should be there to help her, but instead she struggles with her own painful memories with the help of a therapist. I can only hope that William realizes how awesome Sally is.
If you’re looking for a book where the heroine overcomes her past and is able to recognize what love means, then E.L. Farris’s I RUN is your book. Please note: there are references to abuse and if you’re sensitive to that subject matter this may not be the book for you. Read a few reviews and if you can download a sample before reading.
Sylvain Reynard’s GABRIEL'S REDEMPTION is the highly anticipated final book in the Gabriel’s Inferno series. The series was originally conceived as two books, but Reynard changed his mind after readers pleaded for a third. If you haven’t read the series, I do recommend you read the first two books before proceeding to REDEMPTION because Reynard does revisit past characters and gives you character backgrounds that will leave you lost otherwise.
Before I proceed to the review, I want to say, that it pains me to give this book the rating I do, because I adored GABRIEL'S INFERNO and really enjoyed GABRIEL'S RAPTURE. Alas, I’m in the minority that didn’t enjoy GABRIEL'S REDEMPTION.
What I did like was the softening of Gabriel in a particular scene involving an orphanage and being called Superman by the children. I really liked seeing Gabriel out of his element and finally putting the past regarding Maia away. I just adored seeing Julia presenting at Oxford. I cheered for her as she delivered her first paper and high-fived her when she was able to handle her own regarding Christa and her questions. I do believe we needed this scene in order for Gabriel to realize how amazing Julia is in the academic world when given a little space.
Ultimately, what didn’t work for me was how clichéd GABRIEL'S REDEMPTION was. Julia doesn’t want a baby and wants to focus on school, but Gabriel wants one. I’ll leave out what happens so you’re not spoiled, but I’m so disappointed because I understand Julia’s worry. It’s one I’ve had for her since she married Gabriel because I know women in academia having children and how it postpones a lot for them. Several good friends got pregnant during their final coursework for the PhD and several years later still aren’t done. So my worry for Julia is perfectly justified and I know she’ll have a good career regardless of the outcome, but I wanted so much more for her. I wanted Gabriel to want more for her too and in the end, I was disappointed. The first two books in the series left me emotionally drained and I cared about the fate of each character, but midway through GABRIEL'S REDEMPTION, I couldn’t summon the energy to care. Also, Reynard attempts to give closure to every character. So if you’ve been wondering what happens to Simon or Natalie, you’ll get closure, but the way Reynard works them into the narrative, it’s not related to Julia and Gabriel’s story. While it’s nice that he goes back to tie up lose ends, I feel at times that like real life some answers aren’t known and that’s the beauty of life. Furthermore, there are still some unanswered questions regarding a few characters. I have a feeling Reynard will be revisiting Paul in his next novel.
In the end, I just feel GABRIEL'S REDEMPTION was lackluster. It read like a long epilogue that just wouldn’t end. Julia and Gabriel fight, she locks herself in the bathroom, make up sex ensues, and repeat this scene a few more times. I know newlyweds have sex, but Reynard has these two fornicating left and right that I’m surprised Julia can even walk the next day much less get out bed. At one point, Gabriel is impatient because Julia announces she’s menstruating and while he understands, he’s busy counting down the days to sexy time. I’m surprised he doesn’t have her menstruation cycle memorized. I know readers asked for a third novel, but in this case, I do feel that an epilogue or a novella would have been more than fine.
Die hard Gabrielites will no doubt love GABRIEL'S REDEMPTION. If you’re unsure about picking this up, I recommend reading a sample first and maybe a few reviews in order to determine your interest or borrow a copy from a friend.
By now you know I can’t resist a historical romance and when I read the synopsis to Rebecca Thomas’ novella and saw that it involved a female character disguising herself as a boy, my interest was piqued.
As for characterization, we have good character development within the confines of a novella. Ally Lockwood is feisty and isn’t afraid of hard work. She disguises herself as the son of a blacksmith and is biding her time before she can leave the country. The reason? She’s been accused of stealing from the Earl of Linford and when she comes face to him in her disguise she knows her time is up. Then we have Quentin who has just left the Navy and is going home to visit his family before leaving to the US. He’s honorable and very much a proper gentleman. I really liked him! All he wants to do is help Ally, but she doesn’t want it. Of course we have to have a villain and that’s Linford. He’s really difficult to like even if Thomas attempts to rectify the situation involving him.
While I liked Thomas’ THE BLACKSMITH'S SON, I still have a few unanswered questions. But first, I was disappointed in how quickly the false accusations against Ally were resolved and Linford leaves much to be desired. Sure we’re given a glimpse into how he treats his horse and how he reacts to Quentin, but I wanted more. Quentin has this guilt regarding his sister and her past relationship with Linford and yet there’s nothing to feel guilty about. Now for the unanswered questions, I feel a little more background regarding Ally and what she was doing in Linford’s employ was needed. Thomas gives a little information and I’ve gone back to that section several times, but I still am not exactly sure what Ally’s position was. Was she a companion to his sister? If so, wouldn’t her sudden disappearance raise concerns? The whole accusation against Ally was a bit far fetched, but necessary if we want her hiding her identity. Also, I just don’t understand why Ally didn’t Quentin’s offer of help and instead just decides to run away from him.
I loved that Thomas gave us a headstrong female character. While Ally drove me nuts with her refusal to accept to Quentin’s help, I admire her strength. This is no shrinking violet and I liked how she wasn’t helpless. The initial scene when Quentin realizes the boy is a girl had me laughing and I really enjoyed how he handled the situation.
Overall, THE BLACKSMITH'S SON is a satisfactory read. If you enjoy historical romance and are looking for quick read, then I recommend Rebecca Thomas’ THE BLACKSMITH'S SON.
I’m a big fan of unrequited love and when I came across the synopsis to Bethany Strasser’s LETTERS FROM HOME, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to review it.
Character development is difficult in a novella because you’re limited with what you can do and Stasser gives us strong characters. Lena is a doctor in the United States Army and likes to keep busy. She can come off a little too strong and at times I didn’t like her, but it’s easy to understand why she acts the way she does. Then we have Zack who missed his opportunity to tell Lena how feels! I liked Zack and he’s honorable. He’s had to make some tough decisions, but he’s made them and is ready to move on with his life. We have a variety of secondary characters who play a role include Lena’s family. I liked her family and I really enjoyed how Strasser incorporated them into the narrative.
While I liked Strasser’s LETTERS FROM HOME, I was never shown why Lena was special. Why did Zack carry a torch for her all these years? We’re told they’ve been friends since Zack moved into the area and grew up with her brother, but we aren’t given any details regarding their friendship growing up other than Lena’s family accepted him. I would have liked that because it would have added a little more depth to their relationship. Also, we’re told they couldn’t be together because Zack is considered family. I can understand the hesitation especially since everyone knows Zack, but if he was okay to hang out with then surely he’d be okay for Lena to date? As for the premise, it’s cute and old fashioned regarding courting someone via letters. I just have to wonder how Zack really went about it. I mean Strasser does explain how the letters were set up, etc, but how much did Zack disguise of their history in those letters to Lena? Could she not have recognized the handwriting? These questions kept popping up and wouldn’t let go. Maybe in the end, Lena did know it was Zack, but didn’t want to believe it was him.
I don’t want to give spoilers, but my favorite two scenes involved both Zack and Lena. I loved the homecoming party her family gives her. Lena zeros in on a possible suspect for the letters and really liked Zack’s reaction when he realizes who it is. Then of course, the scene when Lena realizes who sent her the letters had me cheering.
Overall, LETTERS FROM HOME is a cute novella. I can easily see this being adapted for TV and maybe shown during the holidays. If you’re looking for a heartfelt romance, then Bethanne Strasser’s LETTERS FROM HOME is something you’ll want to look at.
Veronica Bane’s MARA is an intriguing tale about a group of misfits finding common ground and friendship amid social tensions in the town of Jericho.
As for characterization, it’s a bit weak, but again, it’s a novella and you can’t go into in-depth character development otherwise you sacrifice other aspects such as narrative. Our main character is Mara who has the ability to control fire and comes from a troubled past. We get to meet her brother briefly and it’s pretty apparent they have a rocky relationship. Mara does not live with him and instead went to live in Jericho with her aunt and uncle. Then we have Miyuki who can control water and unlike Mara is just coming to terms with what she can do. Other characters can control elements such as lighting, rocks, and wind. We have a few secondary characters whose role isn’t widely known until towards the end and it adds a bit of mystery to the plot.
I liked MARA, but wish it had been longer in order to fully appreciate the world Bane builds. I also feel that we are given a glimpse into the setting, but not enough and I realize it’s a novella and there’s only so much you can do, but I’m still left with questions. The most important one, why people branded as Natives (or Unusuals) were targeted and what type of trouble were they apparently causing? Why are they such a threat? I’d also like to know what happened once they were rounded up. Bane gives us an insight to their fate, but I’m still curious and I’m sure a few were able to escape. If they did, where did they go? I’d also like to know more about Mara’s personal background and her family dynamics.
Overall, MARA is fast paced and a satisfactory read. I’m not sure if Bane has plans to expand on this and make it into a series, if so it has the potential to become amazing! Fans of YA especially those who love dystopian books will enjoy Veronica Bane’s MARA. I’ll be keeping an eye out for Bane and can’t wait to see if she expands on MARA.
Sarah MacLean is one of those historical romance authors I’ve been wanting to read, but haven’t had the chance to do so. When the opportunity came to participate in the blog tour, I knew this was my chance. MacLean’s NO GOOD DUKE GOES UNPUNISHED is the third book in her The Rules of Scoundrels series. If you haven’t read the series, it’s perfectly safe to read NO GOOD DUKE without being exposed to spoilers.
As for characterization, it’s a bit weak. I do believe it has to do with the fact that this is the third book in a series and some characters are already established. Our hero is Temple (William Harrow, the Duke of Lamont) who has spent the past twelve years known as Killer Duke. He has no memory of the night he met Mara Lowe and I just loved him! Your heart will be break when you realize that at times he thinks that maybe he did do the unthinkable and ah, he’s just lovely. Then we have Mara and it’s difficult to like her. She drugs Temple, withholds information, and you’re just not sure what her overall agenda is. And when we finally get the truth you have to question if she’s telling you everything. Even though I had a hard time liking her, her best moments are with the boys at the orphanage and with Lavender the pig. We have several secondary characters that make an appearance and play a small role. Mara’s brother, Kit, is the reason why Mara has come out of hiding and let’s just say he won’t be going away quietly. Readers of the Rules of Scoundrels series will be happy catching up with past characters (ah Bourne is one that has me intrigued).
What I really enjoyed about MacLean’s NO GOOD DUKE was the premise. I’ve read my share of historicals where the hero is often accused of murdering his wife or fiancée, but it’s all speculation until the heroine comes and proves his innocence. In these novels, there’s always a reason for the death and usually a villain to play it up. Here we don’t and let me give MacLean a high-five for giving me a book that I’ve been waiting for! I just adore that we have the victim alive and well. It takes a while to get to the conflict and why Mara fakes her death, but when she does reveal everything you can’t help but feel for her because her reasons are perfectly valid. I really liked that Mara owns up to her mistakes and eventually takes responsibility for it.
I debated with the rating between a three and four. Ultimately, I decided on four based on three factors. The first has to do with the premise which I’ve already explained that I really liked. The second is that this doesn’t take place among the ton and the plot isn’t dominated by the glittering ballrooms of the ton. Don’t get me wrong, I adore historicals that feature these scenes because of the etiquette of the time and I love scenes with the hero and heroine sneaking outside for a private tête-à-tête. I most enjoyed getting a glimpse of another part of London-those featuring gentleman activities. And the final factor is the sizzling attraction between Temple and Mara.
Fans of historical romance will enjoy Sarah MacLean’s NO GOOD DUKE GOES UNPUNISHED. I’m looking forward to reading MacLean’s backlist and of course keeping an eye out for Chase’s story.
What do Elvis and drag queens have in common? Memphis! Welcome to the Heartache Motel where Elvis is immortalized and three amateur sleuths find themselves staying in a seedy motel and planning a visit to Graceland.
Anthologies are often difficult to review because you’re reading more than one novella and there’s always one or two that you enjoy the most. I’m going to review Heartache Motel a little differently from my usual style and give you my overall impression because I don’t want to give spoilers.
"Diners Keepers, Losers Weepers" by Terri L. Austin
This is the first time I read something written by Terri Austin even though I have a copy of Diner, Dives, & Dead Ends (I just haven’t had a chance to read it). I really liked “Diners Keepers” and Austin did a good job setting up the Heartache Motel and giving us our first glimpse of it. It was a pretty quick read and Austin doesn’t give any spoilers regarding the books in the series so if you haven’t read any in the series, you’ll be fine.
Overall impression: I liked Rose and Ma is such a hoot! I can only hope when I’m her age I’m half as fun as she is. Although, I should point out Stoner Joe stole the show! As for the mystery, I had my suspicions, but wasn’t sure how Austin would tie up loose ends and in the end, she surprised me with how it all comes together. I do feel sorry for Rose because she’s around all the action and even when she mentions what just happened to her, everyone around her asks not how she’s doing, but rather more about the incident she wants to forget.
Favorite scene: Rose bemoaning the lack of imitators imitating young Elvis.
Suggested playlist: It’s Now or Never, Hound Dog, and Jailhouse Rock
"Quick Sketch" by Larissa Reinhart
If you haven’t read Larissa Reinhart’s Cherry Tucker series don’t fret since this is the prequel to Reinhart’s Portrait of a Dead Guy and basically the start to the series. You can delve right in and get to know Cherry and company. If you’ve read the books then you’ll appreciate getting to know more about Cherry and what her relationship with Todd was like.
Overall impression: I enjoyed meeting more of Todd’s family and proving they aren’t the brightest crayons in the box. I’m still scratching my head at Todd being invited to play poker in Vegas because let's face it, in their relationship Cherry's got the brains (though those on Team Todd: I can see the appeal). In any event, this is my second time meeting Cherry and I adore her! I love that she went head to head with a thug regarding her sketch book and that she toyed with the idea of keeping tabs with her uncle the Sheriff in case they needed help (well more like if she got into trouble). As for the mystery, it’s not really one, but more of a sting operation to help Todd’s cousin, Bryon. I’m happy to report that all ends well for everyone involved and Cherry might or might not vandalize Graceland.
Favorite scene: Sneaking into Graceland after hours.
Suggested playlist: Viva Las Vegas, There Goes My Everything, and Just Pretend
"Dateline Memphis" by LynDee Walker
Everyone knows how much I enjoy Walker’s Headlines in Heels series and Walker doesn’t disappoint. Though this primarily focuses on Nichelle, beloved characters do make an appearance including Kyle, Bob, and Joey. If you’ve never read the series, it’s easy to understand the roles each secondary character plays plus Walker doesn’t give any spoilers regarding past books.
Overall impression: I loved that Nichelle was flying pretty much solo on this though admit to missing Grant. I really enjoyed seeing Nichelle in action and showing us how capable she is on her own. In terms of the overall mystery, I thought my suspect would be the it person, but alas Walker proved me wrong. In hindsight, had it been who I thought it was, it would have been a little too easy. I admit to a bit of fangirl giggling regarding Joey and what he does for Nichelle. Can I take a moment to talk about Kyle? I really liked how he was happy to help Nichelle and didn't even blink an eye when she asked.
Favorite scene: Darcy solving her own mystery!
Suggested playlist: Return to Sender, Devil in Disguise, and Blue Suede Shoes
What I really enjoyed about all three novellas is that they are easy to read and quite enjoyable. I’ve read anthologies with a common theme or place and there’s always something missing from the narrative. Not here. You can tell each author took great care in making the Heartache Motel and its quirky employees come to life.
If you’re a fan of cozy mysteries, you’ll want to read Heartache Motel. Fans of Austin, Reinhart, and Walker won't be disappointed and this is a great way to dip your toes if you’re interested in reading a new author or genre. Just keep in mind, I'm not responsible if you find yourself swiveling your hips and attempting to impersonate Elvis afterwards.
Carolly Erickson’s The Spanish Queen is a fictionalized autobiography of Catherine of Aragon. Erickson recreates Catherine’s departure from Spain to England and we spend our time in Tudor court.
As a sixteen year old, Catherine of Aragon makes the journey from Spain to England but prior to her departure, Queen Isabella asks her to wear her wedding dress. Everyone around her says it will bring bad luck, but Catherine complies. Shortly afterwards, Catherine is told she’s cursed after a series of events prevent her departure from Spain. She decides to continue with her travel plans and arrives in England where she’ll marry Henry VII’s son, Arthur. Her marriage to Arthur doesn’t last long and finds herself developing a friendship with Henry VIII. She waits quietly in the wings unsure of her fate and doesn’t begin to blossom until her marriage to Henry VIII. In Erickson’s The Spanish Queen we see the birth of a queen along with her achievements and struggles.
Narrative is first person via Catherine and Erickson gives us a narrator that we can trust. It’s difficult for an author to give a historical figure an authentic voice and Erickson does a superb job. In The Spanish Queen, we see Catherine’s vulnerabilities and what her thoughts and desires are. We experience her pain at not being able to bear a son to having to contend with a jealous half sister. Erickson does gloss over a few known historical facts in this narrative. She focuses primarily on Bessie Blount and her son Fitzroy. Wolsey’s downfall is also glossed over and I got the feeling Erickson’s Catherine still viewed him as an ally instead of the man who supported Henry’s quest for an annulment. Then we have Anne Boleyn; fans of Anne you’ll want to skip this one since she’s not pictured in the best light, but you can feel Catherine’s betrayal regarding Anne. Here we are presented a young girl whose parents cannot keep her under control and Catherine councils and molds her. In the end, Anne’s portrayal is exactly what you’d expect and you can’t help but feel the sting of betrayal. It’s Henry’s portrayal that is the most interesting. He never seems to grow up and is portrayed as a boy who pouts in the corner because his wife is more successful on the battlefield than he is. It’s quite easy to dislike him and dismiss him from the narrative.
It’s always interesting to read how someone else interprets a historical figure. I’ve always had a soft spot for William Blount, Baron Montjoy because he commissions John Blount (no proof they were related) to translate Nicholas Upton’s De Studio Militari. Upton’s chivalric text would have been interest to Montjoy especially since he was made a diplomat and Upton’s book goes into detail regarding the legality of war. Heraldry and chivalry enjoyed quite a boost under Henry VIII and imagine the prominence Montjoy could enjoy by presenting such a text or knowledge to Henry. My master’s thesis was on Upton, but used Blount’s translation and that’s my personal connection to Erickson’s The Spanish Queen. I enjoyed Erickson’s portrayal of Blount even though her version isn’t exactly what I know of Blount, but that’s okay. It was still fun to have a moment of discussion with a friend about this.
What I really enjoyed about Erickson’s The Spanish Queen is the life she gives Catherine. It’s easy to like her and take her side in all matters that you want to tell her what you know of history. She also makes you pause for a bit to reflect on the historical timeline especially the way the book ends. Anne Boleyn dies a few months after Catherine and one can’t help but wonder what Catherine would have made of Anne’s fate. And yet, the narrative goes back to Catherine being told she’s cursed in a subtle way. Your heart will break for a woman who doesn’t pause for a moment to think of the possibility and yet, she endures. I wish Erickson would have addressed this in some format. I know if I had been told I was cursed and bad things happen, I would have toyed with the idea. Then again, I have to remind myself that Catherine was a religious woman and in Erickson’s book, she believes in God’s intervention and his judgment which leads to the appropriate punishment as deemed by God.
While not perfect in terms of historical accuracy, Carolly Erickson’s The Spanish Queen was nevertheless is a delightful read. Do keep in mind that is historical fiction and some liberties were taken.
We’ve all heard of Anna Anderson, the woman who claimed she was Anastasia Romanov and later proved she was fraud. The fate of the Romanovs is a heartbreaking tale and one that continues to fascinate new generations. Jennifer Laam’s The Secret Daughter of the Tsar is an intriguing tale about Empress Alexandra Romanov and her desire to have a son.
Russian history professor, Veronica Herrea, is working on a book about Alexandra Romanov. Meeting with the department chair, she’s told she must produce a high quality book if she wants tenure and the odds aren’t in her favor. Frustrated she begins to look at other avenues of research. Then she meets the mysterious Michael Karstadt who has a secret. He offers to assist in her research and Veronica isn’t sure she can trust him. When she stumbles upon a piece of information regarding Michael’s past, she begins to have second thoughts and believes she’s been duped all along. Veronica is stunned when Michael leads her to a secret about Alexandra and suddenly her world is turned upside down.
As for characterization, it’s a bit a weak, but this isn’t one of those novels that require in-depth characters; our only interest in getting to the truth. We spend an equal amount of time of time in the present with Veronica and Michael. I found it easy to associate with Veronica especially her fears regarding failure. I often felt the odd person out while working on my postgraduate degree and Veronica is that person in her department. It’s really easy to like her especially since academia isn’t as cozy as everyone thinks it may be. Then we have Michael and I had my doubts about him, but I really enjoyed getting to know him at the same time Veronica does. I won’t go into detail about his motives and leave you to make your own assessment. In the past, I loved Lena, the loyal servant to Alexandra. Then we have Charlotte who in many ways is very bland and we aren’t given much information about her. I really liked how she went from being passive to taking on a more active role. Of all three women, I liked Lena a lot, but it’s Charlotte who I feel for. Charlotte’s the one who also captures my interest the most and I do believe it’s because she’s the one we know the least about. She remains a mystery and it’s fitting that we know so little about her. We have a few secondary characters that are vital to the plot including a Russian mobster whose only interest is getting a Tsar back onto the throne and is willing to do anything for it. Then there’s Alexi Romanov who considers himself the heir apparent.
Written primarily in third person and set in the present, Secret Daughter alternates chapters with the past. Laam does a great job notifying readers of the time period and prepares you well for the change. If I have one small complaint, it’s this change and it can get annoying when you’re in the middle of a reveal only to have to wait for several chapters for it pick up. At times it does slow down the pace, but in hindsight, I really can’t imagine this novel written any other way. We have two narratives in the past and one in the present. And as for the narratives in the past, Lena’s takes place in late imperial Russia and Charlotte‘s in occupied Paris during the Second World War.
Laam does a superb job building the mystery regarding the possibility of Alexandra having had a secret daughter. It’s fascinating and even though Laam’s Secret Daughter is an alternate history, it does make one pause for a bit. Imagine if that reported miscarriage Alexandra suffered in 1902 wasn’t one at all, but fifth daughter was born when they hoped for a son? What a fantastic tale if it were true!
Fans of Russian history may want to add Jennifer Laam’s The Secret Daughter of the Tsar to their list of books to read. If you’re fan of historical fiction, you’ll enjoy this intriguing tale. Overall, I can’t wait to read Laam’s future books.
Lisa Desrochers’ A Little Too Much is the second book in her A Little Too Far series. If you’ve read the synopsis for both books then you know Alessandro doesn’t get the girl in A Little Too Far (I really hope you don’t consider this as a spoiler). I’ll be truthful, I’m team Alessandro all the way and still believe Lexie chose the wrong guy. Either way, I’m glad Alessandro got his own book because we get to spend a little more time with him.
We have good characterization and I really liked getting to know Alessandro better. In A Little Too Far, he’s reserved and there’s a good reason; he’s about to enter the priesthood and there’s a certain code of conduct. He revealed a little of his past in Too Far, but not enough to fully understand him and we get to know his background alongside Hilary. I loved this! As for Hilary, she’s vulnerable, but won’t admit it. She’s that girl who talks tough and walks with strut, but deep down inside is lost. It’s easy to sympathize with her especially when we learn about her past, but I wanted her to soften up a bit. I also wanted her to ask for help when she needed it. I understand she’s had a difficult life and her detachment regarding certain situations and how she conducts herself is her way of dealing with things. It just frustrated me a little. We have a few secondary characters that are important. There’s Mallory, Hilary’s older sister and her family. Then there’s Hilary’s boyfriend Brett and her friend Jessica.
Narrative is first person via Hilary and this is her story. We don’t need to go on a personal journey with Alessandro since he’s come to grips with his past, but Hilary needed this journey and it makes perfect sense that it’s told via her perspective. At times, Hilary and Alessandro sound older than what you find in a typical New Adult novel. If Desrochers had changed their age to early 30’s, it would have made no difference to the plot. I realize both characters have had a difficult life and had to grow up fast, hence the reason for them sounding older. Furthermore, Alessandro was almost ordained as a priest so he’s going to sound a little more mature and understands life’s problems. What I loved about A Little Too Much? The plot! I’m not saying A Little Too Far didn’t have one, but this time we get to spend time with our main protagonists and watch them fall in love. Here we aren’t told someone is perfect, but rather we get to see it and experience it. A Little Too Much has everything a New Adult novel should be: it has character growth while dealing with life and trying to figure things out.
While I really enjoyed A Little Too Much, I did have a few problems with the book. The first is regarding Brett. He was always showing up at Hilary’s auditions and she relied on him way too much. I get it; he’s managed to land several roles and the theatre world is small enough that everyone is pretty familiar with each other. I just wish Hilary had realized that he was probably stalling her career because he realized her potential and that made him feel inferior. He needed someone to need him. The second is regarding the big secret Hilary is hiding. We don’t get any indication that she’s hiding something until a little over 60% in and even then I had my suspicions. I won’t go into detail because I don’t want to spoil the big reveal, but the way it was handled and the aftermath just didn’t sit well with me.
Whereas art is featured predominately in A Little Too Far, here, Desrochers incorporates the city of New York into the story. I adored it! I’ve never been to New York City, but I could easily picture the city and that’s further proof at what a talented writer Desrochers is. If you really enjoyed the art aspect of Too Far, there is some mention of it in Too Much and of course we get to spend some time in museums.
I just adored Lisa Desrochers’ A Little Too Much! Overall, I just really enjoyed the interaction between Alessandro and Hilary. My favorite scenes involve a fake cockroach and Hilary at the youth center. When Hilary learns what the kids call Alessandro and she talks about theatre with them, that sealed the deal for me. It was this particular scene that I knew they’d be okay and I could easily imagine their future.
One of the complaints I hear from romance readers is how men real life rarely mirror men in fiction. Laurel Ulen Curtis’ A is for Alpha is a fun filled adventure about two women looking for their own fiction inspired heroes.
Haley Whitfield and her mother Allison are big Kristen Ashley fans. When Haley voices her frustration about a date she’s just had, Allison suggests they take a vacation and Haley agrees. Before they embark on their grand adventure they make a list using the alphabet with the characteristics they want their ultimate dream hunk to be. First on the list is Alpha because the entire purpose of this trip is to find someone who is just like a Kristen Ashley hero. There’s one slight problem, Haley finds someone she really likes, but he just doesn’t fit the Kristen Ashley hero mold. What’s a girl to do? Dismissing him from her mind she and Allison head west towards California. Will Haley and Allison find their dream hunks or will they realize that some men are better left to the world of fiction?
Firstly, let me just say I really enjoyed this! I haven’t laughed so much reading in quite awhile and even though I’ve never read Kristen Ashley, I don’t feel it’s necessary to do in order to fully appreciate A is for Alpha. This is very much a love letter to Ashley and I think any romance fan will walk away appreciating their favorite romance author a little more. Secondly, if you’ve read any of Curtis’ previous novels then you’re pretty familiar with her writing style. This one is different and much more flirtatious. You can really tell she had a lot of fun writing this.
We have good character development though a few secondary characters could have had more screen time. Despite this being about Haley and Allison’s grand adventure, it really is Haley’s journey. At one point, Allison tells her it’s okay to open yourself up to love and heartbreak. I really liked Allison despite her tendency to be a little crazy. I think every woman wishes they had a different relationship with their mother and Curtis makes you take a moment to appreciate your own mother. What I can say about our main protagonist? Haley is dramatic, but you’ll love her to pieces. I don’t want to go into detail about her because I want you to know her and form your own opinion. Of course a romance novel about finding one’s dream boat has to have one! Ah, Dan Smith. Gotta love the name and Haley’s reaction to it. He’s a bit mysterious and the big question you’ll be asking is, does he fit the list? Hmmm…that is something you’ll have to find out! Secondary characters include a Tim McGraw and Zack Morris lookalike.
Narration is first person via Haley’s perspective. The writing is engaging and I’ve mentioned it was a fun read. Some of things Haley says are a bit too over the top and I can’t really imagine someone talking like that in real life, but it goes with her personality and I let it slide. What I really liked about A is for Alpha? I liked how Curtis was subtle in her writing in terms of the big reveal. I want to go detail and discuss everything about this book, but it ruins the plot and I don’t want to provide spoilers. I’ll just say: I wasn’t expecting the curveball she throws. Regarding a favorite scene, there’s too many to pick. There’s a hilarious scene involving a four wheeler and someone named Butch.
Kristen Ashley fans: you’ll will want to add this book to your to be read list since Curtis pays homage to her. Overall, if you’re a fan of romances and bemoan the lack of real life heroes, then you’ll enjoy Laurel Ulen Curtis’ A is for Alpha. Curtis has mentioned that Allison will get her own book; dare I hope it’s with Tim McGraw lookalike?
I’m a big fan of lovers reunited and having read the first book in the Assassins series,Taking Shots, I couldn’t wait to read Lucas’ story. If you haven’t read Taking Shots it’s not necessary to enjoy Trying to Score.
Lucas Brooks hasn’t been the same since Fallon Parker walked out on him and he can’t blame her; however, he can’t remember what exactly happened in the moments leading up to Fallon discovering him in another woman’s arms. Seven years later, Fallon is living in Nashville where she works for her family. That family business serves wine at the arena where the Assassins play and she’s good friends with the team owner Elli Adler. Her world is turned upside down when she learns Lucas has been traded to Nashville and when she comes face to him she realizes she has to protect her heart and son from Lucas. Lucas still loves Fallon and will do anything to win her back, but when he discovers Fallon’s secret, he knows there’s no going back. Will Fallon be able to forgive Lucas’ past mistake or will she lose everything she’s worked hard for?
Character development is good and it’s always nice to revisit past characters from another book. Toni Aleo’s Trying to Score doesn’t disappoint since Elli and Shea make an appearance. Fallon was difficult for me to like because she just can’t let go of the past! I understand her reason for being angry, but that amount of anger is not healthy for anyone. Even after she learns the truth about Lucas’ betrayal she still can’t forgive him. For the life of me, I don’t see what appeal Fallon holds for Lucas even after he finds out about Aiden. I loved that he was a no questions type of guy and just took responsibility. What I loved even more? That he was willing to give Fallon the moon as long as he got to prove his worth. We have a few secondary characters that are important including Fallon’s sister Audrey and Lucas’ assistant Levi. I really liked Audrey and she doesn’t put with anything. Levi is a bit shady and I just don’t trust him. The real scene stealer? Aiden! I just adored that little guy and you’ll love him to bits.
As for the narrative, it’s third person and it is a really nice to see Aleo grow in her writing. I enjoyed Trying to Score, but do have a few problems with the book other than Fallon. The big one is the idea of hockey fans being able to buy bottles of wine after a game has ended to take home. Most arenas stop selling alcohol at a particular time to prevent fans from being intoxicated on their way home and many don’t allow alcohol to be removed off the premises. So while the idea of a wine cellar in a hockey area might appeal to high class patrons, I’m sure they can happily get a glass while sitting in their box seats. The other has to do with the Parker family dynamics. We’re told Fallon’s father disowns her and yet she’s still allowed to work in the family business?
I debated with the rating between a three and four. Even though Trying to Score falls short, I do have to commend Aleo for her ability to write flawed characters who are able to overcome their past and see the beauty of love. I know a few readers can’t get past the idea of Fallon complaining how she gives all her money to raise Aiden and is broke, but she wears designer clothes. We aren’t told exactly how big Fallon’s trust fund was, I have a feeling Fallon’s father is paying her more than average. Which again makes me wonder about the family dynamics! Of all her heroes, I just adore Lucas and for that reason alone along with Aiden, I decided on a four.