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review 2020-08-02 18:59
A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby by Vanessa Riley
A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby - Vanessa Riley

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Widowed Patience Jordan is fighting to gain control of her son and home after a nefariously opportunistic Uncle Markham sends her to Bedlam. On a night she is sneaking out of her former home, her late husband's cousin, Busick Strathmore, the Duke of Repington, storms the gates and takes his legal position of being Patience's son's guardian.
Busick is trying to heal and keep his own secrets after being injured at Badajoz and hiring a young beautiful nanny for his new ward doesn't seem like a good idea in a house now full of ex-soldiers. He knows all about Markham and his fiendish ways and is set on finding his cousin's widow.
Patience and Busick will have to learn to trust if they're going to find love again.

It was a universal truth that no matter her background, face, or charms, a widow in possession of a fortune would be targeted for theft.

First in the Rogues and Remarkable Women series, this drops the reader right into Patience's struggles and life. I couldn't help feeling I was missing some introduction novella or prologue. I wish I could have gotten even a few scenes with Patience and her first husband to get a feel for their relationship and the troubles that seemed to plague him. I think this could have filled out the Uncle Markham villain storyline more. We also miss Markham sending Patience to Bedlam, how she became friends with Jemina (a character that is by her side constantly throughout the story), their escape from Bedlam, and how Patience gets saved/involved with the Widow's Grace. Lady Shrewsbury, the leader of the Widow's Grace, could have also been utilized, explained more. All the threads I mentioned seem vastly interesting but the reader comes into the story when all that has passed and I missed out on the depth of experience with Patience for them. Coming into the story when we do, left me at sea for a while but there was still a sense of undertaking that drew me in.

They dragged me, the mistress of Hamlin Hall from this place, from Lionel.

Our heroine Patience is originally from Demerara (modern day Guyana) and was brought to England by marriage. Her late husband, Colin, seems to have struggled with depression, lack of willingness to endure slights given overtly and covertly to Patience due to her mixed heritage, money issues, and a conniving Uncle Markham. They have a son, Lionel, but Colin abandons Patience in the country side. Patience's father left a trust for any offspring she may have and when her son turns a certain age, he will receive four thousand pounds, this money seems to be the catalyst for Markham conspiring against Colin and trying to dispose of Patience.

Our hero Busick is a soldier who fought and was injured in Badajoz, an injury that he tries to hide how badly affected him. He grew up with Markham and is aware of his villainous nature. In a structural choice, not seen often, Patience's pov is first person while Busick's pov is third. They each have their own chapters and until the end at some spots, the pov's are separated by chapter breaks. This helped me greatly in maintaining the flow of the story with the switching povs. I favor third person, so Busick's povs were easier for me to follow but Patience still was the better flushed out character because of more detail and emotion given to her personality and struggles.

“What’s not possible? For me to love or for me to love you?”

These two had some playful moments but overall I felt they were lacking chemistry and some heat. I like open door romances and sexually intimate moments on the page, this had some kissing but would definitely be categorized as very low heat, in regards to intimate scenes on page, this lack could have definitely affected how I felt about this. I also thought Patience not revealing her identity to Busick didn't ring true and was just keep some angst in the story. Patience actually returns to character and deals with this fairly quickly but what came before still felt forced and dragged out. These two had to deal with Markham issues, a possible ghost (seriously, why was this story thread put in there when it amounted to nothing??), and Lionel not liking pap milk and wanting milk (if I never have to read the words “pap milk” again, it will be too soon) for the majority of the story that their developing feelings weren't showcased enough for me.

There was no denying it. He was my beloved, and I was his.

There were some intriguing side characters, Busick's friend Viscount Gantry and his separation from his wife, who is also from Demerara, Patience's friend Jemina and her amnesia, and Lady Shrewsbury the leader of the Widow's Grace that look to have enough story to get books of their own. I missed having been with Patience on some of her past experiences and I would have liked more romance between her and Busick but this did have some venture and mystery that kept me reading.

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review 2020-07-28 17:33
Something To Talk About by Meryl Wilsner
Something to Talk About - Meryl Wilsner

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Jo was a childhood actor who is making the transition to director and about to take on a new tv show. When a moment on the red carpet with her assistant Emma has gossips wondering if there is more between them, she goes with her standard “no comment”, not wanting anything to jeopardize her career.
Emma is an aspiring director herself and getting to work for Jo has been a dream come true, even when she has to keep her childhood crush she had on Jo a secret. Jo's her boss, there's an age difference, but Emma can't help but think she isn't the only one having feelings that go beyond friendship.

Something To Talk About had a set-up that pulled me into the story, Jo wanting to keep her private life private because of the backlash it could cause in her career, Emma not wanting to ruin a friendship and feeling too insecure to believe her feelings could be reciprocated. This brushing up and then retreating worked to pull the reader into their budding romance and created some good tension in the beginning but then the story started to spin its wheels.

Jo wasn’t sure what it was, exactly, about Emma in her office that helped her. She thought perhaps it was Emma’s sturdiness. Emma was steadfast. To have Emma there, silently accomplishing things—it made Jo’s troubles seem irrelevant.

Jo's background of childhood actor and all the issues that come with that, her coming out not being fully supported by her father, and being a woman in a misogynistic industry made her the more flushed out character to me. These layers helped explain why Jo was more closed off and how she would be tentative to share her feelings and made the angst from her believable. Emma was the character that I felt I didn't know as well. We get some scenes with her sister Avery but they never seemed to click together and the angst from Jo and Avery's relationship that develops didn't quite flow.

Maybe this wouldn’t work. Maybe saying anything was a terrible idea. But these feelings mattered now. The chance that they might be mutual mattered. Emma didn’t know what she was going to say the next day, but she had to say something.

It wasn't until around the 70% mark that I felt there was some significant movement on their physical romance and addressing it. The flow of this story made it feel less like a slow burn romance and more like unmotivated movement. We also get a forced angst moment from Emma, who at this point should know Jo better, and then at the very end we get a fairly unsatisfying “I like kissing you, guess we're doing this!”. There is one sex scene at the very, very end but otherwise there is only around three kisses from these two.

Jo with her insecurities about the age difference (14yrs between the two) and worries over impact on career made her the more flushed out and emotionally easier to connect with than Emma with her lack of more solid characterization. Their relationship took too long to develop for me and lacked some driving force, which caused the story flow to drag and stagnate. There are some issues woven in that I think many will appreciate brought up and connect with and enjoy how Jo and Emma do get their happily ever after despite them all.

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review 2020-06-16 16:21
The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon
The Boyfriend Project - Farrah Rochon

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

The Boyfriend Project sees three women bond together after they discover they are dating the same man and a video of Samiah goes viral of her confronting him. Professionally, Samiah and London, Taylor is still working her way there, are excelling but feel pressure to have the whole package, a significant other to share their life with. This has lead to them lowering their standards and ending up going viral on YouTube. They decide to make a pact to focus on other aspects of their lives for six months and leave off dating. Samiah has an app that she has wanted to develop and is excited to focus on that. However, a newer hire at her work, Daniel, has her wanting to break some rules.

 

And even as he told himself they were just two coworkers grabbing a bite to eat, he knew what he wanted it to be.

 

Daniel, a former Marine, now works for the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. He's undercover at Samiah's work, Trendsetters, because the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network— FinCEN, detected activity that makes them think that a hotel chain is laundering money with software developed by Trendsetters. In a joint effort with the Department of Homeland Security, Daniel is covertly working to find the employees at Trendsetters responsible for the laundering.

 

He held the driver’s side door open for her and draped an arm over the top of it. “But I should warn you, I’ve also heard that I tend to grow on people.” He winked. “Be prepared.”

 

With two people who are mentally and professionally not wanting to get involved romantically, Samiah and Daniel can't deny their potent chemistry. I thought the author did a great job setting these two up and their initial physical attraction that deepened into a friendship and eventual romantic and sexual relationship. Samiah's weakening on her no dating rule didn't quite hit as hard as Daniel's with the seriousness of fraternization while undercover on a job. I did enjoy the fullness of the characters, we don't get a ton of background on Samiah but that worked as her character's issues were more in the present. Samiah's trust issues, because of the two-timing guy that ended up bonding her with London and Taylor and her co-worker Keighleigh who tries to steal credit for Samiah's work (Keighleigh's comeuppance might feel a little therapeutic for a lot), drive Samiah for the slice of life we're reading about. We get a little more on Daniel's background and that worked to give the reader an idea of the kind of man he is, codes he lives his life by and why he wouldn't want to tell Samiah his true purpose at Trendsetters. I also have to say I would read the heck out of Daniel's parents' story as their romance sounds amazing.

 

A potent, electric charge sizzled in the air between them, a sensation so strong he felt it on his skin.

 

The beginning of the story, I thought the author worked overtime on minute descriptions that didn't so much enhance the story as slow down the pace with stuff I didn't really care about, for the most part, this disappeared as the story went on. I don't know the Austin area but I think for people who do, they'll enjoy the shoutouts to spots they'll recognize and enjoy that connection. This does have a small twinge of romantic suspense, just think more mental instead of run and gun. I found Daniel's job and the aspects of it fascinating and thought the author described enough for understanding but stopped short of text book. The mystery of Daniel when he first comes on screen, his mental dossier thoughts on co-workers he's never meet before, created an intrigue that sucked me into the story and I loved that.

 

For the first time in forever, Samiah felt as if she could relax and just …be. There was no pressure, no pretense. She could just exist in this undemanding, enjoyable place they’d discovered with each other.

 

I did think some of the tension between Samiah and Daniel was more soft than electric, they don't fight too hard to stay out of each other's presence and their relationship reminded me of Grace Burrowe's couples; they fit and click in a way that has them immediately together. Their first sex scene was hot but went a bit too quick for me. Daniel not compromising his job does put Samiah through the ringer but I thought the author did a great job giving Samiah time to process her emotions, leading to a more believable happily ever after.

 

Maybe it was time she accepted that plans changed. And sometimes they changed for the better.

 

The importance of women having female friendships was wonderfully put on display here, having shoulders to lean on, understanding and connection to personal struggles and triumphs, someone to push you, and friends to laugh, eat, and drink with. The creation of the HashTagGoals Boyfriend Project also did a good job of setting up future books in the series, I can't wait to read London and Taylor's stories. Most importantly this also showed how while the romance enhanced Samiah's life, it wasn't the be all and end all of it. Samiah and Daniel had a sweet friendship that built to a sexy romance and I had a great time getting to read about it.

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review 2020-06-07 15:44
Dream Maker by Kristen Ashley
Dream Maker - Kristen Ashley
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Dream Maker is the start of a new series but characters from the author's previous series, Dream Man and Rock Chick (some Chaos) heavily feature in it. I've read books in Dream Man but none in Rock Chick, I was able to hang in there in regards to who was who and connections but barely. If you're completely new to Kristen Ashley, this probably isn't where you should start.

One could say I was correct in my concerns about Daniel Magnusson. I didn’t know if he was toxic. But he was a bossy damned alpha. And meddling.

If you're not new to Ashley, you'll recognize her writing style but with some tweaking. Danny speaks in full sentences but “Babe” and a controlling nature that make Ashley heroes a love them or hate them, was still evident in the character. Evie was the klutzy nerd that makes her adorable to the hero and because of how forced and jammed in it felt at times, she super duper cares about the environment (she drives a Prius and wears shoes from recycled bottles!) in what I think was probably added to make her seem more Millennial/Gen Z. Evie broaches pushing back at Danny's controlling nature, he's a “commando” so he wants to run the show in regards to protecting her, but Danny ends up pretty much doing what he wants. There's insta attraction between the two and I think all the “babes” and whispered talk was supposed to be the evidence for these deep feelings. I can't say these two left a lasting impression on me.

“Mac is no fool. This isn’t about you sorting my shit. It’s her setting me up to sort yours.”

Lottie, Evie's friend, set-up Danny with Evie and told Evie Danny was sleeping his way through Denver because he was having a hard time emotionally. However, Danny sees how crappy Evie's family treats her and then reads a text message that shows how much danger Evie is being put in because of her brother and he thinks Lottie put them together to help Evie. The plot involving Evie's brother, drugs, and danger was supposed to be the continuing thread throughout the book but it never gets filled out enough and gets ignored for the majority of the time in favor of Evie and Danny whispering at each other in short sentences that “Ooh that must have meant something, they really care about me!”. The suspense plot felt ignored, was slow, and never filled out to create any semblance to a plot.

“I’m a little scared, Danny,” I admitted.
“I am too,” he surprised me by saying. “But you’re worth the risk.”


The whole series gets laid out, Evie was set-up with Danny through Lottie and we learn that three other women that Evie works with at the strip club and she realizes are her friends, are lined up and paired off with Danny's friends and co-workers. There isn't any surprise or suspense in who the couples will be in the coming books. There was a couple that interested me but the utter lack of plot in this has me very tentative to try another in this series.

These people. These crazy, kindhearted people.

Evie felt like a fully formed character but Danny's background was absent and it left his character a bit vapid. Evie gets kidnapped twice and their first sex scene is after Danny was shot and was previously in a lot of pain. There's enough of Ashley's tried and true elements that previous readers could find enjoyment and enough tweaking that it could bring in new readers, for me, I really just needed more plot.
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review 2020-06-04 16:58
Real Men Knit by Kwana Jackson
Real Men Knit - Kwana Jackson

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

Four boys from different makeups and ethnic backgrounds, brought together by their shared need of, first and foremost, a home, but probably more so the love that that the seemingly irreverent single Black woman had given them.

 

Instead of romance or women's fiction, I think this story falls under what I'm going to call community fiction; what a perfect time to read this. Jesse, along with his adoptive brothers, Lucas, Noah, and Damien came from different experiences and walks of life but found family in each other when their foster mother, Mama Joy, adopts them. As families are want to do, they love hard but also stretch, tear, and need mending. When Mama Joy suddenly passes away, the four brothers have to decide what to do with her shop, Strong Knits. Jesse is considered the wastrel of the group but he's the only one who doesn't want to sell, he wants to run the shop.

 

The tan knight and the used-to-be-man of her dreams, and there he was walking out his last night’s stand while she was cleaning his kitchen like a broke-down Cinderella.

 

Kerry grew-up around the Strong family as she found peace and comfort with Mama Joy at her knit shop. Jesse was always the brother that caught her eye the most but his womanizing and frittering ways kept her away. Kerry's recently obtained her degree in children's counseling and art therapy but not having a full time job yet, she still worked and helped out at Strong Knits. When Jesse announces he wants to try and keep Strong Knits going, she volunteers to help him out. Their relationship starts out rocky as both have strong protective instincts but their shared love of Mama Joy and Strong Knits connects them on a deep emotional level and heated glances have them wanting to connect in other ways.

 

She knew his strengths, but worse, she knew his weaknesses.

 

The natural flow of the writing welcomed me into this story and if you told me Strong Knits and all these characters where actually real places and people I'd believe you, there was a realness to this that will pull you in emotionally. There is a part of me that wishes we could have gotten a flashback or opening scene with Mama Joy and the boys. I missed “seeing” her with them but the author does a really good job of having the reader “feel” her through the brothers, which in turn I suppose also helps the reader feel Mama Joy's stark absence. I also would have liked more background on Jesse to help me get a feel for him too. I think it was around the mid-point when we learn some about what led to him entering the foster care system. Jesse just didn't feel as tangible to me as Kerry's character, she was more filled or flushed out. Kerry takes the lead in the story more than Jesse, even though I would still say the community is the overreaching star. Kerry struggling with what she wants to do, work with children and keep Strong Knits open but also make money, was a conflict I think a lot could relate to. There was also the clash of Kerry's feelings for the “bad boy” Jesse and not wanting to end up feeling stupid and hurt, which I know a lot can relate to.

 

Decisions must be made, and it was time for him to finally step up and take his place once and for all to be the type of Strong brother that Mama Joy always wanted him to be.

 

There was conflict, emotion, and turmoil swirling around and in Kerry and Jesse's relationship but, for the most part, it's in the underling of the story fabric; this story is subtle depth. Their falling in love, especially from Kerry's side, seemed to mostly be already in place from their childhood and I missed going through some of that emotional heft with them. I also felt like it wasn't until around the 70% mark that there was significant movement towards each other and the romance part of the story. However, because of the background these two had with each other and their chemistry and friendship, I really did believe in their relationship and that they would have a happily ever after.

 

Jesse felt his heart slam against the wall of his chest as everything in him and every part of him seemed to move forward at once to meet her.

 

What made this story special to me was the way the author integrated not just secondary characters but a whole community. The author didn't “tell” me how Jesse and Kerry felt about Strong Knits, she made me feel it through the after school program importance to a boy in the neighborhood, the Old Knitting Gang, and various other seemingly innocuous moments and characters that were woven throughout. I wouldn't call this a heavy or light story, just one made up of all those moments. There's talk of gentrification but also amazing lines like this when Kerry contemplates the man her friend Val seems to be thinking about taking home for the night: The way he’d gone in on those wings had her skeptical about his technique. It could be either very good for Val or an altogether disaster.

I'm still laughing about this line. The ending was very abrupt but as this is obviously going to be a series, I guess a down the line or epilogue could infringe on the series timeline. This writer's style, tone, and depth will have me looking up other books by her and I can't wait to snatch up Jesse's brother's books when they come out (there's a firefighter brother!). If current events have you down, this is the book you need to pick up to restore the love.

 

Noah stepped in, his smile bright as he admonished the crowd for their tears. Sounding every bit like a little Mama Joy, he told them, “Drink up, stitch well,” and then he looked at his brothers when he said, “Love hard and live in the moment, not in the past.”

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