Saturdays are usually crazy hectic at our house. We run our girls to different activities, choir, karate & other social events and then often head out ourselves in the evening. This Saturday I had a great excuse to stay in my PJs all day as my youngest daughter was feverish but recovering from a mini-bout of flu. She wanted company but not conversation so I sat next to her and read novella after novella. I enjoyed an eclectic but solidly good mix.
I started my morning with Play With Me by Alisha Rai. It is really book 1 in the Bedroom Games triology but the romantic arc in this first novella is satisfying & hopeful enough that it can be read as a stand-alone. Tatiana and Wyatt were each other's first lovers. They had a passionate seven year relationship that broke down dramatically for lots of reasons that carry little weight anymore. When Tatiana's newly discovered brother makes a horrible mistake, stealing in desperation from Wyatt's casino, she rushes to intervene. This short is heavily in the erotic side of erotic romance, but I really loved the romantic turn in the last half, when Wyatt and Tatiana surface from their lust-filled night to untangle their feelings for each other and explore if they want more from each other than a one-night reunion now that they can play as equals.
Blizzard Bliss by Kelly Maher was written and published during Storm Jonas and it was a delightful sexy little story. Two co-workers are finally able to break the ice and get together after months of secretly crushing on each other. When Cecilia is stranded in DC, Rory offers her a place to stay. The story is sweetly flirtatious as they go out sledding together and share kisses in the snow. There is not a lot of tension in the book because it is clear fairly early on that they both like each other and just needed an excuse to get to know each other outside of work. I would love read more books related to this one, as there were a lot of intriguing hints to deeper backstories.
Next, I read Tessa Dare's latest Spindle Cove story, Lord Dashwood Missed Out. Miss Nora Browning grew up loving Dash, the wild orphaned boy-next-door, that was her brother's best-friend and her quiet comfort after his unexpected death. When he unexpectedly and cruelly dashes all her hopes, treating her abominably during her first season, then departs without notice on five-year cartographic mission, Nora pours all her disappointment and frustration into a pamphlet titled: Lord Ashwood Missed Out. The pamphlet becomes hugely popular with young overlooked misses and Nora refashions her life around writing and speaking for young women, finding new purpose and passions through it. She is on her way to Spindle Cove for a speaking engagement when she unexpectedly runs into a livid Dashwood, who has just recently returned to England to find his reputation in tatters. A series of storm-related travel mishaps strands Nora and Dash together in a frigid gamekeeper's hut, where they have to confront all their hurt feelings and searing attraction. When Nora fails to arrive in Spindle Cove, Dare reunites several previous heroes in a comedic quest to rescue the missing visiting authoress. The last few chapter's bordered on mad-cap ridiculousness and farce but remained grounded through the sincerity of Dash and Nora's conflicted feelings for each other.
After finishing these three novellas by mid-morning I struggled to find another book to read. I started and abandoned several good books after a few chapters because I wasn't in the right mood before sinking into K.J. Charles' A Fashionable Indulgence. The first book in her new Regency-era series is about the son of political radicals that is plucked from his working-class life by his domineering aristocratic grand-father. His cousin recruits a friend and consummate dandy, Julius, to help Harry learn how to dress and navigate high-society. It started out very strong but I had a niggling feeling that I was missing something. I did some googling and discovered that Charles had released a short-story set before the first book. The short-story is not a prequel, but did offer just enough backstory on Richard Vane and the Ricardians that I feel more secure in returning to A Fashionable Indulgence after reading it.
The Ruin of Gabriel Ashleigh is a enemies-to-lovers story. Ash is the somewhat hapless, unloved youngest son of a Duke. He loses his whole fortune in one very ill-advised night of gambling against Francis Webster, a long-time enemy of his older brother. He is contemplating suicide or fleeing to the France when Webster summons him. Unexpectedly Webster offers him an opportunity to win back his fortune. The tension and conflict in this face-off was fantastic. I loved how slowly Ash comes around to realizing what Francis really wants from him and how long he has wanted it himself. I am very glad I went back and read this as I adore enemies to lovers.
These four novellas were really very different but they were just what I need to read yesterday.