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Resort to Love by Priscilla Oliveras review over at Love in Panels

I accepted Suzanne's invitation to join the Love in Panels Review team.  I will be reviewing one or two books a month for them. 

Ever since RT announced that it will be closing, I've been trying to figure out it I wanted to join another group venture or just write for myself.  This is the best of both worlds. I have total freedom of what I choose to review for Love in Panels, and I get to support a review blog I respect. 

 

I'll always link to my reviews here too, but I hope you add Love in Panels to your  bookmarks!

 

 


The Cybernetic Tea Shop by Meredith Katz

43. The Cybernetic Tea Shop by Meredith Katz. #RomBkLove rec D17 STEM.(f/f ace)Globe-trotting AI-mechanic Clara falls for Sal, a Tea-shop running robot, one of the last of her kind.Emotional story about grief, trust, routines & new beginnings. #ttr #bkbrk https://t.co/z27avygN0v

— Ana Coqui (@anacoqui) June 3, 2018

Meredith Katz The Cybernetic Tea Shop  steaming cup and saucer with a pile of gearsClara is a gifted programmer and AI-tech, whose highly-coveted skills facilitate her nomadic lifestyle. With wanderlust always spurring her to move on and try living and exploring a new place, she never gets too comfortable or attached, always ready to pack up and move on. 

Sal on the other hand has bound herself to her Tea Shop, seeking to live out her beloved owner's wish that it celebrate 300 years in operation.  She is one of the last remaining true AI's, created before the manufacture of sentient and sapient AIs was outlawed.  Having outlived her original owner by centuries, she struggles to remain operational, to adjust to the ever-changing world, to survive the increasingly frequent acts of vandalism and not simply sink into nostalgia and melancholy. Her life is one of routines, and the safety of the familiar.

I loved the gentleness of this story, the time it spends on the quiet moments, the companionship that grows into affection and love.  I was swept away by it and the way they took care with each other, determined as they are not encroach or override each other's wills and desires.

There is plenty of meaty science-fiction content to sink one's teeth into, and I loved the world building but most deeply this story was about all the little things that go into slowly falling in love and wanting the best for our partners.

I am thankful for Ruby Lang's mention of this story on #Rombklove Day 28. I will be looking to read more Meredith Katz in the future.

 


Loving the Secret Billionaire by Adriana Anders

Shirtless Man putting on a flannel shirtA scrappy pre-k teacher is a political underdog running against a slick incumbent.  She is doggedly trying to make a difference in her city, taking the bus to far flung neighborhoods to campaign after a full-day of work, when meets Zach Hubler. Zach's overgrown yard and dark house are not a likely prospect but it is the only house on the block without her opponent's sign in its yard.  Zach is charmed by Veronica and takes an interest in her campaign.

When better campaign materials and hordes of volunteers start circulating around town Veronica is baffled until a stray comment by one of her new supporters, prompts her to return to Zach's doorstep and learn who he is really is.

I enjoyed this novella but I am not quite sure what to make of depiction of blindness, While Zach is portrayed as being incredibly confident and independent, the way Veronica responded to his blindness, becoming hyper-aware of all the non-verbal communication she needs to verbalize or her wonder at his ease in navigating the world through the accommodations he has in place felt off and a little bit weird, like she has never previously interacted with a blind person.

"I couldn't nod at the little questions, couldn't play things off with a shrug. Conversation with this man involved commitment. It was frightening and refreshing."

But despite side-eyeing that I really enjoyed Zach and Veronica's backwards and text-filled courtship, it was delightfully awkward and hesitant as Veronica struggles against her curiosity and chemistry with Zach and the certainty that he is being less than honest with her.  I loved how Zach's inexperience challenged Veronica to be more assertive and explicit in her requests and desires, unable to rely on him knowing what should be done.

The reasons Zach is so reclusive and secretive are mercifully not directly tied to his blindness but we don't have much more explanation for it. The book is centered on Veronica and on her race for City Council and how Veronica responds after Zach's intervention radically altered the City Council's dynamics on her behalf.

This novella first appeared as a short story, titled Grassroots in the first of the Rogue Series of Anthologies, Rogue Desire. I enjoyed the story in both its forms, and the romance is not substantially altered as most of the expanded word count goes to develop that campaign plotline a little further and to introducing Veronica's best-friend and campaign manager, O'Neal Jones, who is the heroine of the follow-up novella "Loving the Wounded Warrior" . If you missed Rogue Desires, and are a fan of Anders' Blank Canvas stories, and you enjoy underdog stories or love virgin heroes, check out Loving the Secret Billionaire.

 

I received an ARC of both "Rogue Desire" and "Loving the Secret Billionaire" for review consideration.


Pretending He's Mine by Mia Sosa

Pretending He's Mine by Mia Sosa Promo Graphic 2I beta read for Mia Sosa so this is not a formal review. Instead I am just coming on here to remind you that Pretending He's Mine is out today. It is the second book in Sosa's Love on Cue series. I had a chance to read it months ago, and now it is your chance!

Julian Hart became an agent to help his best-friend  negotiate the shark-filled Hollywood waters. He has done his best to represent Carter and help him advance his career but it has been a difficult journey balancing being there as friend for Carter and giving him the advice he needs but might not like to hear. But their friendship has never been tested like this before.

Ashley Williamson has long lived in her brother's Carter's shadow. While he reached for stardom since childhood, Ashley had forged a different path, exploring careers, relationships, cities, looking for the right fit, the only constant in her life, her guitar. When she find herself temporarily homeless, she asks Julian if she can move in, till she has the time to find a new roommate.  Her request is not so innocent in that Ashley would love temp Julian into a less friendly/brotherly relationship into that includes sex, but she knows he won't risk his friendship and career with Carter for anything like that, or will he?

51qO-ZAMi6LIf you are fan of fake relationships that don't stay fake & best-friend's little sister is a tropes and a story about two people who dare takes risks that might upend their lives, you might enjoy Julian and Ashley's story, plus if you read Acting on Impulse, you will get to enjoy the seeing Carter and Tori try to outsmart the paparazzi  and orchestrate a secret wedding!  

 

Scroll down below for sexy excerpt from Pretending He's Mine:

 

 

PRETENDING HE’S MINE by Mia Sosa

From Chapter Seven

The next morning, my doubts return, and I chuckle at my naïveté. Because why, oh why is the simple act of making breakfast together a challenge, too?

It’s not my fault, really. Several factors are conspiring against me.

The first? Biceps porn. Holy shit, it’s a thing. When he lifts the pan from the stove, his biceps flex like thick rubber bands. If he were to hold himself above me during sex, I’d see them at close range. Up, down, swivel, and repeat.

The second factor? That apron looks fucking glorious on him. The strings are tied snugly around his trim waist, which emphasizes the nearly perfect V formed by his broad chest and shoulders. Damn, it’s hot as hell in here. I fan myself, but it doesn’t help. So when I’m sure he’s not looking, I grab the mister off the counter and spritz my face.

He catches the sound, though, and draws back. “Jesus. Did you just spray yourself with that?”

“Yeah. Why?” I pull on the collar of my T-shirt to let in some air.

He snickers, his eyes gleaming with amusement. “Ashley, that’s olive oil. You need to wipe that off.”

Great. My cheeks are on fire, and now that there’s oil on them, I just might be the first human cooking surface in existence. Swallow me whole, Mother Earth.

Shaking his head at my gaffe, he preps the waffle mix while I use a paper towel to clean myself. I should use a cleanser or something, but I don’t want to miss the biceps porn—or the apron porn for that matter. Besides, olive oil must be good for the skin.

“No blueberries, right?” he asks.

“You remember.”

“Yeah. And I remember you love strawberries, but I’m not putting them in my waffle maker. I’ll toss them on top.”

“Fine with me.”

I squeeze my fists at my sides when I discover there’s more porn. Whisk porn. He’s got a mixing bowl in one hand and a whisk in the other, and he’s beating that waffle mix like he’s its daddy.

He looks up and finds me staring at him. “Everything okay?”

I nod like a human bobblehead. “Mm-hmm.”

He transfers the mix to a measuring cup and pours the batter into the waffle maker. Then he flips it over. Oooh, it’s a double waffle maker. Fancy. Unaware that he’s the new host of my personal cooking show on the Julian Channel, he bends at the waist and wipes the metal plate with a kitchen towel, giving me a DVR-worthy view of his butt. His Nielsen ratings would go into the stratosphere every time he made that move.

“Can you wash the strawberries?” he asks.

Sure, no problem. That ass is going to get someone arrested one day.

“Ash?”

Julian’s voice snatches me out of my happy place. “What?”

“The strawberries. Can you wash them?”

I shake my head and push out my lower lip. “Didn’t you hear me? I said, ‘Sure, no problem.’ ”

He laughs. “In your mind, maybe, but not out loud.”

“Sorry. Watching you cook requires my full attention. You’re so precise, and there are so many steps.” I retrieve the strawberries from the fridge and rinse them in the sink. How do I get these thoughts out of my head? What can I do to stop myself from wanting him? I should probably confiscate his apron. That would be a good place to start.

Beside me, Julian wipes down the counter. When he’s done, he bumps me with his hip and reaches for a clean strawberry, breaching my personal space to get to it. I try to bump him back, but he blocks me with his body, lifts the fruit over his head, and drops everything except the crown into his mouth.

The moment he bites into it, I sway on my feet. When he slides his tongue over his bottom lip to catch the juices, I swoon. Screw you, Julian. Screw you. But not really. What I really mean is, screw me, Julian. screw me.

From PRETENDING HE’S MINE. Used with permission of Avon Impulse. Copyright © 2018 by Mia Sosa.

 

Mia SosaABOUT MIA SOSA

Mia Sosa was born and raised in New York City. She attended the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Communications and met her own romance hero (spoiler alert: she married him). Mia once dreamed of being a professional singer, but practical considerations (read: the need to generate income) led her to take the law school admissions test instead.

 

A graduate of Yale Law School, Mia practiced First Amendment and media law in the nation’s capital for ten years before returning to her creative roots. Now she spends most of her days writing contemporary romances about smart women and the complicated men who love them. Mia lives in Maryland with her husband and two daughters and will forever be on the hunt for the perfect karaoke bar.




AUTHOR LINKS

Website https://www.miasosa.com/
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/miasosa.author
Twitter https://twitter.com/miasosaromance
Goodreads https://goo.gl/nTBnoa
Amazon https://amzn.to/2olGP6D


Who should you try? Some of my favorite WOC authors:

Last year I wrote a post breaking down the RITA finalists list against the books I happened to read the year before (2017) and looking at the list to see which books were in my TBR in order to move them up before the annual ceremony in July.  This year when the list was announced there were a few first time finalists that made me super happy (Congratulations, Alexis Daria and Priscilla Oliveras & KJ Charles) but there were so many fabulous books especially by Authors of Color that didn't final this year that at the end of day, I didn't feel a great RITA bounce.

This past month and half has been rough in Romancelandia. First were the waves of revelations of abuse and harassment in m/m, that affected a lot of readers and writers I read, then the RITAs announcement day came and went, and it just highlighted how segregated Romancelandia can be. Since then Black authors have been sharing incredibly painful stories of exclusion.  These stories are not new, but hopefully more people will hear them this time around.

At the same time my friend Jen (@jenreadsromance) had started work on website full of romance novel recommendations: https://www.jenreadsromance.com/, a place where a reader could find starter romances in many of romance's rich sub-genres. She is intentionally working on creating an inclusive list that is searchable by theme and time period. It is something I wish I had stumbled upon when I was first starting. I started by exploring my library's ebook collection first and that collection was mostly white, assembled by purchasing from the RITA finalists lists.

Eventually I left that mostly-white corner of Romancelandia behind, but not before I had developed the mistaken notion that African American and other POC simply didn't write the books I was looking for.  Instead I accepted the crumbs of having white writers who would very occasionally throw in a token or stereotypical CoC into their books, when looking for characters like me.  While I was growing bored, restless and increasingly angry with these book and I kept saying I wish, someone would write X but with POC. It took me a ridiculously long time to realize I was the problem because I was the one limiting myself. The problem wasn't that no one was writing that, it was that I wasn't looking at what POC writers were doing. The books were out there waiting for me, but I didn't know where to find them or who to ask. That was no one's problem but my own.  I had to change how I discovered books.  Some of it was organic, as I got more involved in Romancelandia, I met more PoC readers, as I followed them, I became exposed to authors and books I hadn't encountered before.  

As I moved into reviewing I became more intentional about reading outside the narrow corner of Romancelandia I had first landed in.  Some of it was unintentional, because I am not a big blog, I didn't just depend on what I saw available in Netgalley or Edelweiss, several authors that have grown into favorites approached me, sending in a review request . I am not going to pretend that my blog is this diverse wonderland but being willing to review what I buy for myself and accepting author pitches has certainly exposed me to tons of authors I would have never reviewed otherwise.

This week  has reminded how other folks might end up just not knowing about great books and great authors of color because no one in their immediate circle talks about them. I might think everyone knows who Farrah Rochon or Alisha Rai  or Beverly Jenkins is but honestly too many people don't. They might not see their books in  bookstores, they might not see them listed as read-a-likes.  Ask me how weird it was to walk into a B&N last year and have to hunt around to find just a couple of non-white authors on the shelves. So many of my faves were missing and it was a wake-up call about just how much further we need to go as industry to be inclusive despite how affirming my own twitter TL might be.

I can't fix the whole industry or those who don't actually want to read awesome books but I can talk about some of fantastic authors of color publishing right now. It is not a hardship to come up with fabulous Authors of Color to recommend, it is a hardship to stop.

 

 So who should you try? If you follow this blog the names I mention here should not surprise you. But if this is your first visit here:

 These are some of my favorites:

C1rYF-xYAVS._SL250_FMpng_Farrah Rochon (Contemporary & Sports Romance):  Rochon writes contemporary romance set in the south.  Most of her books take place in small town and cities not far from New Orleans. My favorite is her Moments in Maplesville Series, they are about people seeing their towns grown and change, worrying about big box stores moving in and whether they should move to bigger cities for better opportunities. The first book in The Moments in Maplesville series (which can be read as standalones),A Perfect Holiday Fling is about temporary single dad (his widowed sister is deployed overseas, so the former naval pilot moves in to take care of his nephew) and the recently divorce veterinarian he meets when they discover an abandoned cat. 

    She also wrote sports romance for Kimani, so if you are looking for football romance that are not improbably all-white check those out. She is a huge Broadway fan, so I hope one days she gives us Broadway-set romance. 

Alisharai Forbidden Heart coversAlisha Rai(Contemporary & Erotic Romance) has been on my favorite author list for a long time. I read and enjoyed a lot of her erotic romances, Serving Pleasure & Gentleman in the Street but I have adored her Forbidden Hearts series for Avon (Reviews for Hate to Want You, Wrong to Need You,  Hurts to Love You.) She tackles huge themes, creates a fantastic family saga that takes three books to resolve and left me wanting more while doing an amazing job portraying the many faces of anxiety and depression.  These people are complicated and fascinating and I loved them. So if you like angsty romance novels where lots of tropes are subverted and upended in swoony ways, check Alisha Rai's books out.

Clean breaks, a couple lays on a picnic blanket.Ruby Lang (Contemporary) writes smart, funny contemporary romances with strong female friendships and prickly heroines. I've liked each book in her Practice Perfect series better than the one before and I quite liked the first, Acute Reactions.  I loved Hard Knocks, book 2 and suddenly I got her, then Clean Breaks, and now Lang is one of those authors, I auto-buy. Most recently I simply adored her story in Rogue Acts, The Long Run.

So-sweet2-200x300Rebekah Weatherspoon's (Contemporary, Erotic Romance & PNR) Beards and Bondage series books Haven and Sanctuary start off with a bang, each of these RS-tinged contemporary romances feature the heroine surviving attempts on their lives. The openings are intense and gripping and immediately caught my attention but the meat of the books are these strong black women falling for big gruff mean that are secret marshmallows and are people they can lean and depend on.  I also really enjoyed her Sugar Baby series of novellas about a woman, Kayla, desperately trying to make ends meet, whose roommate convinces her to Sugar Daddy mixer event, in hopes of finding someone who will be happy to help pay some of her bills in exchange for a little companionship. Totally miserable at the event, she tries to hide out in side room and ends up meeting the organizer of the event, and they have to figure out how to negotiate a real relationship. This is not a trope that typically appeals to me but this series was delightful, and Kayla and Michael are adorable and I loved spending time with them as they figured out their HEA.

6a00e54ee394bf883301b7c8bf9c92970b-120wiDo you enjoy geeky heroes and heroines or raunchy stories of sexy revenge?  Well Melissa Blue/Dakota Gray writes them both! (Contemporary & Erotic Romance)  In early 2016, I read Under His Kilt, about co-workers who have fling and I ended up searching out the rest of her backlist and it so worth reading.  I  have to admit to hesitating in trying Perv when a few people on my TL started recommending it, I didn't know at the time that Dakota Gray was another pen name for Melissa Blue, and I was frankly put off my the hero's aggressive cockiness in the blurb. But I finally gave in after a good friend whose recs I trusted raved. It so fun. I am heroine-centric reader and I adored the heroine, Robyn, she is not here for the hero's shit, she is hero to teach him a lesson and it all gets very sexy and complicated.

D1wYve0bxCS._SY135_Priscilla Oliveras (Closed-door Contemporary Romance) RITA nominated debut, His Perfect Partner and its newly released follow-up Her Perfect Affair should be on your TBR if you want to read emotional romances, centered on sisterhood and family. It was such a joy to read a heroines who shared so much with me, who respond in such believable ways. These stories might be closed door but they don't lack in tension and sexiness. I am really looking forward to the third book, coming out later this year.

51qO-ZAMi6L Y648Mia Sosa writes great tropey Contemporary romances. I have really enjoyed her Love on Cue series for Avon Impulse. In the first two books she has mashed a lots of great tropes ( secret identity, vacation fling, best-friend's little sister, fake relationship) and combined them with great premises and an interesting and diverse cast of supporting characters to create highly-enjoyable romances.

Acting on Impulse features an Afro-Puerto Rican fitness trainer who has just gotten dumped on the radio by her politician boyfriend and decides to jet off for an island getaway. On the plane she meets Carter Williamson, a television star traveling incognito to an island resort after a grueling film schedule. Carter tries to make a play for Tori knowing she doesn't recognize him and when she finds out she is not happy and she puts him through his paces before she lets him into her heart.

Sosa has a new book coming out next week, Pretending He's Mine that I was lucky enough to read early (I have been beta reading for Mia for a couple of years) featuring Carter's agent and best friend Julian and Carter's little sister Ashley.

516WEHK17LL Princessintheory-hires RsAlyssa Cole has rightly has gained a lot praise for her excellent historical romances, some of my favorites are An Extraordinary Union, Let it Shine and Let us Dream and she also has fantastic new series of royal themed contemporary romances, Reluctant Royals, on the go right now, but the first series I read from Alyssa was the first book in  dystopian series, Off the Grid, Radio Silence.  That just shows you a little of the range of stories Cole is able to tell. What all those stories have in common of fantastic engaging heroines, who are bright, determined and ready to kickass.

A-Study-In-Scarlet-Women-350x525I have been reading Sherry Thomas (Historical Fiction, Mystery with Romantic Elements, Fantasy and Contemporary Fiction) for a long time. Remember that mostly-white collection of RITA finalists stuffed ebooks collection I mentioned in the intro? In it was Sherry Thomas so as a result I had the opportunity to read a lot of her historical fiction. I am huge fan of her current mystery-with-romantic elements series, Lady Sherlock. Her prose is beautiful and I adore the moral dilemmas and complications they have tackle. I really enjoyed her story in the Sight Unseen anthology which was the galactic romantic myth "The Heart is a Universe", that reminded I really need to get around to reading her Burning Sky series sometime soon.

This is just a smattering of fantastic Authors of Color. There are so many more, some with huge fan bases and others with smaller followings, I hope you find someone on this list to try.  

 

Update 4/6/2018:  I have been asked if I have some more historical romance authors to recommend

 

C1tEZX44+-S._SL250_FMpng_Courtney Milan writes really fantastic UK and American set historical romances. My absolute favorite of hers is The Countess Conspiracy, a fantastic friends to lovers story. The whole Brothers Sinister series excels at showcasing how sexy and romantic affirmative consent is. Start with the Governess Affair  and don't forget to pick up the novellas, like Talk Sweetly to Me with its fantastic black British heroine (There is a bundle that has all of them!). 

4138IRy-ZYL._SL500_SX145_Piper Huguley. I loved Piper's story in The Brightest Day Anthology a collection of beautiful historical romances by African American authors, like Lena Hart, Kianna Alexander and Alyssa Cole.  Her story there is connected to her Migrations of the Heart Series. Many of stories her stories include a strong spiritual/religious elements without being preachy, just powerful.

51TFTz2KV0L._SY346_ 513A-UBIcmL 51UqNwUj8xLBeverly Jenkins is the Slayer of Words and amazing mentor to
the current generation
 of African American historical and contemporary authors.  Her love for research and her ability to teach history through her writing is unparalleled.  The first book of hers that I read was Forbidden just blew me away. And I have loved the rest of the series that has followed, Breathless and Tempest .

51ofF1WqwOLLydia San Andres is Dominican author writing historical fiction set in the Spanish Caribbean. I really enjoyed her "Infamous Miss Rodriguez" in which a young woman trapped in engagement she does not want tries to make herself scandalous and the man tasked with saving her reputation ends up falling for her instead.  

51S44mYlkbL 51zPfcpXrTL._SY346_Jeannie Lin's Chinese Tang-Dynasty set historical mystery romance series, The Lotus Palace and the  Jade Temptress helped break me out a historical genre slump back in 2014. These stories are beautiful, suspenseful and absolutely worth your time. Also if you are a fan of steampunk make sure you don't miss Gunpowder Alchemy and the Gunpowder Chronicles series as they are one my favorite alternate history romances.

and two more recs!

These two authors are on my TBR but I haven't yet read their books but they come highly recommended and might be perfect for those looking for AOC written historical set in the UK:

  51kcbtyjaWL

and

51xEK1xADkL 5130nVJfovL I picked her Riley's The Bittersweet Bride just last month because I love widowed heroines and second chance at love stories.

 


Ivan by Kit Rocha (Gideon's Riders 3)

Gideon's Riders  3 Cover Ivan and Maricela.Maricela has everyone in Sector One at her beck and call as part of Sector One's ruling family, the Rios and while that might sounds nice, it also means that nearly everyone wants something from her. They want her time, her charity, her affection and most all her attention. Ever since she reached a marriageable age and since her brother, Gideon continues to elude matchmaking mamas, suitors are constantly buzzing around her, hoping to be the one who will succeed in winning an advantageous alliance for their family.

Ivan grew up on the streets, scrounging for food and shelter most days. His uncles betrayed the Prophet by kidnapping his daughter and grandson. Although Ivan was just a child and his mother ignorant of the plot, they lost everything when their family's treachery was uncovered.  However Gideon welcomed Ivan into his elite fighting force, the Riders. His only goal in life is to live up to his father's legacy as one the sainted Riders, to restore his family's name by dying in the service of the Rios family.  But then he met Maricela and his feeling for her are not innocent adoration and making her happy makes him happy. The only problem is that his job is to keep her safe, not happy and that puts them both in danger.

I have really been loving this new series. Despite sharing a world and continuity with Rocha's Beyond series, these books have completely different kinds of conflicts and tensions.  The Rios family run a sector founded by the prophet, Fernando Rios, an opportunistic charlatan who brought stability to the region but abused his spiritual hold in residents for his benefit. His heirs have spent a generation trying to rule it without abusing the faith of Sector One's people, while trying to maintain stability and prosperity for its residents.

Princesstropes

While the O'Kanes had to deal with a great deal of political intrigue, the politics of Gideon's Riders are straight up palace/dynastic intrigue. Ever since the fall of Eden, they have responding to a  massive refugee crisis while trying to figure out who has been trying to destabilize the sector by targeting the Rios family. This is post-dystopian romantic suspense at its best. There are house parties, and balls disrupted by assassinations attempts,  & murders and in the middle of all that two people secretly falling in love, while trying their hardest not to. The novel was very hard to put down and my favorite of this new series so far.

AshwinTwitterIf you haven't tried Kit Rocha before give this series a try. I think Ivan stands well on its own, but if you want to start at the beginning, the first book Ashwin (which I reviewed last year) about a super-soldier who shouldn't have feelings, catching a terrible case of feelings for his former handler, Kora, a gifted healer who he spirited away from the military installation they both grew up in. He tried to train himself to not want her, but he can't keep away. It is on sale of .99 cents right now and you can't go wrong at that price.

I received a copy of Ivan from Kit Rocha for review consideration. You can purchase a copy at all the usual places.

 

 

 


Her Perfect Affair by Priscilla Oliveras (Matched to Perfection 2)

Her Perfect AffairCoverReview:

 22. Her Perfect Affair by Priscilla Oliveras 3/27 Friends to Lovers with complications. Rosa & Jeremy’s night together was hot but AM awkwardness turns into regrets. Both have guilt/family issues to sort out before they get on the same page. Really lovely rom. #bkbrk #rombklove

— Ana Coqui (@anacoqui) March 8, 2018

Rosa is a school librarian at the suburban-Chicago-area Catholic high school she attended as teenager and she is the Fernandez sister most invested in being the "good-girl". As a teenager she made a bad decision that haunts her to this day and that mistake makes her hyper-cautious.  But at her older sister Yazmine's wedding, she lets loose a little. After all her planning and stress, the wedding has gone off without a hitch, so she lets Jeremy, her sister's good friend who she had developed a crush on, talk her into a dance & champagne.  Having more fun than she has had in ages, Rosa doesn't want the night to end and invites Jeremy up to her room.

Two months after an awkward morning after,and embarrassment fueled brush-off by Rosa, Jeremy is happy to hear from her again, hoping that they might recover and sort things out, and maybe give dating a try. He isn't however expecting to learn that is the reason Rosa has sought him out again is that she is pregnant.  He has lots of emotional baggage about his birth-father, his absence and presence in his life and his desire to never let his adoptive father down that Rosa's news rock him to core.

The conflict in this book was so wrenching.  Rosa is having a difficult pregnancy, facing the possibility that she might lose the job she loves, so it is just so tempting to not fight Jeremy, to accept his proposal and his help, but she just can't say yes, not for any reason other than love. She sometimes draws lines in the sand that seem harsh because she is worried about caving and Jeremy pushes too hard because he is just so scared.   

I really loved how Rosa isn't willing to let them skip steps just because it would make things simpler, especially when she doesn't understand why Jeremy is pushing so hard.  Oliveras does a fantastic job depicting Rosa's close-knit middle-class Puerto Rican family and how it contrasts with Jeremy's loving but much more formal and wealthy family.  The little details of how the sisters interact were familiar, especially with how they relate to their godmother, exasperation and appreciation of her fierce love for them, sharply felt in the absence of their parents.

As someone who has been a librarian in a private Christian school, I thought Oliveras depiction of Rosa's work environment believable and her tension about how things could play out, very realistic.

My favorite part of this romance is how Jeremy and Rosa have to resolve their own drama around their families and careers even as they sort out their feeling for each other. Oliveras doesn't divorce these conflicts from each other, but they are not conflicts that are resolved in one simple encounter or conversation rather it was organic and messy and incredibly charming. 

I am eager to read Lili's story and I hope that with Oliveras' RITA nomination and the special sale price, folks take the leap and try out His Perfect Partner too, although Her Perfect Affair stands alone perfectly.

I received a copy of Her Perfect Affair from the publisher, Kensington for review consideration. 

I don't usually participate in blog tours but I do occasionally make exceptions for a very small group for books that I feel strongly about. I had already read a copy Her Perfect Affair before I was approached to host and I was happy I could agree to do so wholeheartedly.  Below you will find links to a Rafflecopter Giveway hosted by Oliveras's blog tour company along with an excerpt from Her Perfect Affair and blurbs for the first two books of the Matched to Perfection series.

 

The official blurb:

About Her Perfect Affair: 

 The Fernandez sisters have always had big dreams, and the talent and drive to pursue them. And in this sunny, spicy new series, each one will discover that success is that much sweeter when love follows . . .

Rosa Fernandez doesn’t act on impulse—she’s the responsible one, planning her career with precision, finally landing a job as the librarian at conservative Queen of Peace Academy, confining her strongest emotions to her secret poetry journal. But she’s been harboring a secret crush on dreamy Jeremy Taylor, and after one dance with him at her sister’s wedding, Rosa longs to let loose for the first time. She deserves some fun, after all. So what if she doesn’t have a shot with Jeremy, not with his wealthy pedigree and high profile lifestyle. But one dance leads to one kiss, and soon Rosa is head-over-heels . . .

The adopted son of a prominent Chicago lawyer, Jeremy has a lot to live up to—especially with his birth father in prison—the perfect example of a bad example. With a big promotion and a move to Japan in the works, Jeremy is worlds away from settling down. But sweet, steady Rosa is a temptation he doesn’t want to deny himself, at least for now. Yet when their simple fling turns complicated, everything they’ve both worked for is threatened—except the red-hot intimacy they’ve found together. Can forever really grow from just-for-now?

Add to your TBR list:  Goodreads

Available at:  Amazon  |  Barnes and Noble  |  Kobo  |  iTunes

 

 

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Hurts to Love You by Alisha Rai (Forbidden Hearts 3)

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I had this book on my e-reader for a month before I let myself read it, not because I wasn't looking forward to it but because this series has been fantastic and I really wasn't ready to say goodbye to the Chandlers and Oka-Kanes.  I came to this book full of questions and theories and Rai surprised and pleased me at every turn.

"Have you ever wanted something you couldn't have? Her heart thudded. It was like he'd peeked inside her soul and found the one sentence that described her life.

 She has the money to buy everything, but the things she wanted couldn't be bought" 

Eve Chandler was just a girl when her look-alike mother died in a suspicious accident along with Robert Kane, Livy, Paul & Jackson's father, and the extended family she knew disintegrated under the weight of grief, suspicion and animosity. Trapped at home with an bully of a father, she closed herself emotionally, putting on her best face in public while starving emotionally inside. Inspired by her brother's reconciliation with his long-time love Livy against their father, Brendan's wishes, Eve finally starts making changes in her life, ones she has longed sought to make but feared to because it would make her father notice her, like leaving her cozy position at her mother's charity to strike out on her own.

One of those rebellious choices has her researching a possible business venture by secretly picking up passengers for a ride-sharing service. Unknowingly Gabe, her future's sister-in-law's boss and close friend, has become one of her most regular customers. She hides in her over-sized hoodies, muffles her voice and pretends to be a stranger while ferrying him home after nights at the bar.  She knows how incredibly fucked up it is that she lives for the nights she arranges to be there waiting to be his ride home, but she can't stop doing it.

Gabriel Hunter has lived with secrets all his life and the weight of them get heavier and heavier each year. The heaviest right now is how much he wants Eve, yet he knows he doesn't dare cross that line. He grew the adopted son of a cook in the Kane, home. He shared much growing up alongside the Kane kids, but Eve is a Chandler and there is just too much baggage and history tying together their families, never mind a dozen years of age difference to makes it all seem like an incredibly bad idea. But when one by one members of the Kane & Chandler wedding party end up ill or delayed and Gabriel and Eve end up alone in a isolated vacation house, all those very good reasons just seem a lot less important in the face of sly smiles, tempting bathing suits and her vulnerability . While the sex is scorching hot, what killed me was the longing, the furtive hand-grazing, and all the little touches of support and affection that they share before they are ready to let anyone know how they feel about each other, including themselves.

In this series Rai gave us a highly-emotional, piercing story of a family whose secrets, nearly tore them all apart and the courage it took to rebuild it.  

No one in these books made it all the right choices, they are not perfect and I rooted for them to find happiness despite family history & dark emotional shadows. Rai's characters are so rich and layered. I loved learning their secrets and seeing them reach for a brighter future, full of love and acceptance. They will have lives full or highs and lows, times of melancholy and anxiety but they will have people who love them, holding their hands each step of the way.

I am not quite ready to let go of this family,  but I am hopeful we will see some of these characters again, either in the form of a series following Sadia's little sisters to Gabe's tech-mogul sister. 

I received a copy of Hurts to Love You from the publisher for review consideration. It available at all the usual retailers, starting today.

 

 

 

 


Hot and Badgered by Shelly Laurenston (Honey Badger Chronicles 1)

    
35534548I read Shelly Laurenston's books for the loud and obnoxious heroines who get caught up in the most bonkers of plots. On that score Hot and Badgered delivered. In the first couple chapters, there is a naked dash away from assassins, a bloody escape from a sanatorium and a car chase that ends with a helicopter being downed by portable rocket launcher. The action never lets up, as the story careens from one over-the-top encounter to another.

    Charlie Taylor-MacKilligan and her half-sisters, Max and Stevie have been an unit, protecting each other from a world out to get them since Charlie's mother was killed. They put each other first and don't tolerate anyone who would seek to hurt or divide them. They tease and taunt each other to distraction but no one should confuse that for a lack of love. Charlie's least favorite person in the world is their father, incompetent scoundrel extraordinaire, Fred MacKilligan, who hasn't yet discovered a con he can't screw up. As usual Fred's machinations send trouble Charlie, Max and Stevie's way.

    Berg Dunn is a big helpful bear. Lumbering, patient and utterly smitten with Charlie from the moment she stumbled into his balcony and expertly commandeered his best gun. When he unexpectedly runs into her again a few days later, he insists on helping her and her sister find a place to hide out for a while and bring them back to the bear-inhabited NYC-suburban neighborhood he lives in. While Charlie busies herself with figuring out what kind of mess their father has embroiled himself in, Berg, quietly and persistently inserts himself in Charlie's life and does his best to get her connected to people who will protect her. He has two siblings of his own and gets what Charlie needs to do, all while making sure someone is there to take care of her at the end of the day. Charlie is a tough nut to crack, devoted to her sister and unable to believe that anyone would want to stick with her after seeing how messed up her family is, but Berg has latched on and is not planning on letting go. He gives her a community she didn't know she wanted and needed.

     I am not sure how intelligible this book will be for new readers, Laurenston drops dozens of characters and organizations from her Pride series unceremoniously into this book, but I routinely read books out of order and my first Laurenston book was 11th Pride book, Bite Me, featuring Charlie, Max and Stevie's distant Honey-Badger cousin Livy and while I was completely lost at times, the voice and humor spoke to me and before long I had gone back to read all of the rest of the Pride books. If you need to know how everyone connects and understand every jokey reference, don't start with this book. Go back and read the Mane Event or at the very least Bite Me and then circle back around to the Honey Badger Chronicles, you will get a great deal more enjoyment from the book if you are intimately familiar with Laurenston's mad cap style and her characters. I am however greatly looking forward to more zany action in future books!

 

I received a review copy of Hot & Badgered from the publisher, Kensington. Hot and Badgered will be available at all the usual vendors, starting next week, March 27, ,2018


Twice in a Lifetime by Jodie Griffin

two women look out toward the sea at a boardwalk their back to the viewer.
Twice in a Lifetime Cover

Talia lost her husband of 20 years suddenly more than 4 years ago.  She has grieved, coped and started to move on.  However on the first day at her new job as Community Liaison for the city police department, she didn't expect the sharp zing of awareness she feels when she meets her new boss, Eve.    There is recognition, wariness and undeniable interest for both Eve and Talia, and a lot of hesitation and worry about whether or not to acknowledge, let alone act on those feelings.

Griffin does a lovely job developing their romance with sweet quiet moments,full of teasing banter and humor while ratcheting up their sexual tension with brief passion-filled but interrupted interludes. Griffin really excels at building up the tension and angst around how Eve and Talia should handle acknowledging their relationship publicly and at work.  The climatic dark moment took me by surprise with its intensity. It was not out of left field as Griffin had established the threat in the background throughout the book but because other tensions had taken priority for Eve and Talia, it was shocking and surprising when it came to pass. I loved the resolution, which felt like a wonderful warm hug.

I really loved this story. It was such a breath of fresh air with which to start the year. I really connected with both Eve and Talia as older heroines.  They have history, families, baggage, fears and most of all passion. I loved the way it dealt with Talia's late in life acceptance of her bisexuality, and how she is only now exploring that part of her identity after the death of her husband. and I hope I have a chance to read much more like it in the future.

 

I received a eARC from the author, Jodie Griffin.  It will be available at all the usual retailers on Jan 22, 2018 and is already available at Riptide.