Review: More Than Hate You

Review: More Than Hate YouMore Than Hate You (Reed Family Reckoning, #7) by Shayla Black
Series: Reed Family Reckoning #7
on November 9, 2021
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 302

FINAL DECISION: I liked the interactions between the characters, but the plot just didn’t work for me. Too much insta-love, and I needed more of this story to give it a higher rating.

THE STORY: Sebastian Shaw takes business very seriously and is determined to take care of a deal for his boss — even if it requires him impersonating a friend to find out what is going on with the O’Neill business. When he discovers a business in turmoil, he also finds Sloan, the youngest daughter, who is earnest and trying to keep things together. As Sebastian begins to fall for Sloan, things become complicated.

OPINION: There were parts of this book that I really loved. When Sloan and Bas are on the page together, their chemistry crackles with intensity. I even really liked that she is furious at him and twists him into knots at every turn. What I didn’t like was how the plot was integrated into the story. The couple spends way too much time apart. The crisis moment is too abrupt, and the resolution is even more “magic fix.” I wanted to like this one because the characters were great and had such great potential, but the plot was too jerky, and the happy ending was not earned in any way.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book contains deception and lying, which really turned me off for the first part of this book, but then the book takes a turn.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MORE THAN HATE YOU is the seventh book in the Reed Family Reckoning/More Than Words series. This book can be read as a standalone, although characters from the series appear here.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.


Review: More Than Possess You

Review: More Than Possess YouMore Than Possess You: A More Than Words Novella by Shayla Black
Series: Reed Family Reckoning #6.75
Published by Dark Nights on September 28, 2021
Genres: Contemporary

FINAL DECISION: This was a thoroughly enjoyable novella. It was quick and dirty, but I liked the characters, and the situation of falling for one’s best friend is a great trope.

THE STORY: Hayes Elliott has been best friends with Echo Hope since second grade. Now graduating from college, she has decided to lose her v-card. Since she doesn’t have someone in mind, she turns to their mutual friend.  Hayes is having none of it. He’s not going to let her get hurt and tells her that he will do the job himself. On a trip to Maui, Hayes begins to realize that Echo is a beautiful woman. Although he doesn’t intend to follow through on having sex with Echo, Hayes finds that he is having trouble resisting the woman, who is also his best friend.

OPINION: I enjoyed this novella. The story is short, but I got a real sense of these characters and their relationship. The setup worked really well, and the long-time relationship between these two was evident thus, I really believed that they could turn into a quick love story — because they always loved one another. The novella did as advertised. It is in the world of the series but isn’t involved in all the complex relationships; thus, it operates as its own story. There is a twist towards the end that I particularly enjoyed because it fits so well with the characters.

This was a really good friends-to-lovers story because it nails the most important moment in that trope to me — the “my friend is desirable to me” recognition.

My only complaint was that I didn’t need the epilogue and, in this case, might have liked the story better without it.

WORTH MENTIONING: Xavian Costa, the hero of MORE THAN DESIRE YOU (Book #8), is the buddy who offers to “take care” of Eden’s virginity “problem”.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MORE THAN POSSESS YOU is book 6.75 in the Reed Family Reckoning/More Than Words series. This book is a standalone as the main couple is not related to the family, but the family members make a significant appearance in this novella.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Book Lovers

Review: Book LoversBook Lovers by Emily Henry
Published by Berkley on May 3, 2022
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 377

FINAL DECISION: Just okay for me. I didn’t really connect with the characters, and while I liked the overall situation, I quickly got tired of the sister’s story as she was one-dimensional. I know a lot of people like this book, but it was pretty boring for me.

THE STORY: Nora Stephens is a literary agent. She keeps running into Charlie Lastra, an editor. Their first meeting was certainly not a fairy tale, but when both end up in Sunshine Falls, North Carolina, they keep running into one another. While neither expects this to be a romance novel, there is something happening between the two.

OPINION: The book is well written from a technical standpoint but it just didn’t interest me. I felt the whole thing was blah, although there were points where I kept thinking, I should like this book more. But I just didn’t. I didn’t find the story compelling at all. There wasn’t much momentum to the story, and thus, it was a hard book for me to get myself to finish.

I didn’t find Nora’s story that interesting, we don’t get into Charlie’s head to be connected with him, and I found Nora’s sister Libby annoying. I acknowledge that this book is really popular, but I guess I’m just not the audience for this one.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is one of the hot beach read books of the summer of 2022.


STAR RATING: I give this book 2 stars.



Review: More Than Dare You

Review: More Than Dare YouMore Than Dare You (Reed Family Reckoning, #6) by Shayla Black
Series: Reed Family Reckoning #6
on July 28, 2020
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 306

FINAL DECISION: I enjoyed the book, although the couple seems to be perfect for one another so quickly that I didn’t feel the tension in the book. On the plus side, the characters are really good people, mostly act in reasonable ways towards one another, and the book is hot.

THE STORY: Trace Weston has migrated from a fancy-free bachelor to a single dad. He’s been living a quiet life since getting custody of his son when his sister-in-law asks him to show her best friend, who is just out of a long-term relationship, what sex with someone who knows what he is going is like. Masey Garrett isn’t his usual type, but she immediately captures Trace’s attention, and he quickly wants more than a one-night stand.

OPINION: This was an interesting story because there really wasn’t much conflict or even a storyline. The book is intensely focused on the romance between Trace and Masey, and that’s about it. I kept expecting some plot turn, but there isn’t a typical story plot to follow. Yes, there are a couple of twists in the romance, but no real external conflict. Because of that, I didn’t really like the situation, which ended up resolving the story. I thought that this couple deserved a more positive push to their happy ending. It was a bit of a letdown.

Both Trace and Masey are really nice people (unlike some of the others in this series). There are no intense secrets or lies between the couple. So I enjoyed that aspect of the story. There was something really pleasant about reading about two people having a sweet romance between them. And there is a cute kid as well!

WORTH MENTIONING: Fans of the series will be pleased to get an update about several of the couples — including a wedding.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MORE THAN DARE YOU is the sixth book in the Reed Family Reckoning/More Than Words series. This book is less connected to the series than other books, so it is not necessary to read the other books in the series to enjoy this one.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

Review: Fifty Shades of GreyFifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades, #1) by E.L. James
Series: Fifty Shades #1
Published by Vintage on April 3, 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Erotica
Pages: 513


FINAL DECISION: I enjoyed this book as pure entertainment. It’s not particularly deep, and the characters are sometimes frustratingly dumb, but there is the spark of something there that just kept me reading.

THE STORY: College student Anastasia Steele does her friend a favor and goes to interview businessman Christian Grey. He is young, and she is drawn to him. The attraction between them is immediate and different from anything they have experienced. But Christian has secrets and erotic sexual tastes that Ana has no experience in understanding. As they begin a relationship, Ana is not sure that she can give Christian what he wants or whether Christian’s own demons will keep him from giving her what she needs.

OPINION: This book has a lot of problems that people have slammed it for, but honestly, I find something about the story compelling. I enjoyed it and thought that the story was entertaining. The story sometimes feels like an old-fashioned romance with a lot more sex. Many people won’t like Ana, who is pretty naive and helpless throughout the book. Christian, who is mysterious, controlling, and keeps secrets, is essentially unknowable to Ana. There is a lot of sex in this book as the emotional relationship between the characters is moved forward by their sexual relationship.

The book began as Twilight fan-fiction, and I see the similarities. This book has many of the same weaknesses in character as that series. At the same time, it is also immensely enjoyable as a read.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is highly polarizing, even as it was commercially successful.

CONNECTED BOOKS: FIFTY SHADES OF GREY is the first book in the Fifty Shades series. This book ends on a cliffhanger, and one needs to read all three books in the series to get the complete story.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.



Review: The Hotel Nantucket

Review: The Hotel NantucketThe Hotel Nantucket by Elin Hilderbrand
on June 14, 2022
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 416


FINAL DECISION: This is a good beach read. It’s not particularly compelling but the different storylines keeps the book interesting. As a romance reader, I would have preferred more about Lizbet and Mario, but overall I enjoyed the book.

THE STORY: The Hotel Nantucket reopens after years of being abandoned. In 1922, a chambermaid was killed in a fire, and her spirit remains at the hotel. Purchased by a billionaire who wants the hotel to receive a coveted 5th Key by a reviewer, the hotel opens under the management of Lizbet Keaton. Lizbet, recovering from the breakup of a longtime relationship, puts together a ragtag set of skeleton staff to run the hotel. The book tells the stories of all the people at Hotel Nantucket.

OPINION: The large cast of this book made it interesting to read each individual story, but I also cared less about each character. But that makes this good as the kind of read that works for short bursts and interruptions because the story can be read in chapters and not lose any momentum.

While the “main” story is about Lizbet, there is little more in that story than the others, but that is the romance in the book. I really loved her story, and my main complaint is that I would have liked more about her and less about the other characters. There are stories about the each of the two women on the front desk, a young man from a wealthy family who takes a job cleaning rooms, the night auditor, the housekeeper, the bellmen, and, of course, the ghost.

At the same time, I did enjoy this book more than I expected. I thought that the story was engaging, although not very deep or significant. The book never leaves the surface level, but it really worked to read while sitting next to the pool.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a 35-page Nantucket travel guide in the back of this book (at least the hardcover edition).


STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.



Review: Nightwork

Review: NightworkNightwork by Nora Roberts
Published by St. Martin's Press on May 24, 2022
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 437


FINAL DECISION: Roberts has written several thief stories over the years and while this one is not my favorite of the bunch, it is still amazing. I especially liked that it focused on the hero and his story. It is a long-haul epic story, but the romance here ended up being really good.

THE STORY: Harry Booth became a thief as a child to help his mother who suffered from cancer. He honed his craft for years. As an adult, he adopted a number of identities as he continued to steal but also get a college education (in an unorthodox manner). He meets a professor’s daughter, Miranda Emerson to who he has an immediate attraction, but he also knows that she is special. Just when things seem to be changing, a man from his past wants to use him as his own tool. The danger causes Harry to purposely abandon Miranda and start a new chapter in his life. Time passes and Harry must confront his past and the man who endangers his future. [Anything more will give away the twists in the story!]

OPINION: I slowly fell in love with this one. Roberts has written many thieves as heroes, but this one so sincerely wants something small and normal that I just adored him. I especially liked that Miranda is such a great fit for him and the book eliminated much of the interpersonal angst that I had expected. Instead, this is a deep dive into the hero’s life from being a young boy to his 30s. Like many of Roberts’ stand-alone books, the romance is a significant part, but not on the page for quite a while. Everything about this book worked for me. I loved the story of how Harry begins and takes control of his life. The romance was sweet and yet not too perfect. These two have a lot to work through, but there is always the sense that the connection between them was important and lasting. I also really loved the turn that Harry’s life takes in the book. It was unexpected but made him more complex as a character.

This book has a bunch of twists and turns, and even reading reviews can give away secrets revealed. This book was definitely worth my time and immediately went into my save and re-read in the future pile.

WORTH MENTIONING: Many of the characters have flexible moral compasses…though for me, it was all in the service of an overarching good.


STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.



Review: The Duchess Hunt

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Duchess HuntThe Duchess Hunt (Once Upon a Dukedom, #2) by Lorraine Heath
Series: Once Upon a Dukedom #2
Published by Avon on September 28, 2021
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384


FINAL DECISION: I absolutely loved the hero and heroine of this book. The slow-burn nature of these two, who are so obviously in love with one another from the start, just made my heart happy. I was a little disappointed by the dark moment at the end of the book, but not enough to diminish my overall love for this couple.

THE STORY: Hugh Brinsley-Norton, the Duke of Kingsland, failed in his first attempt to choose his own duchess as she was in love with another man and married him. He decides to try again, this time putting the choice to his most efficient secretary, Penelope Pettypeace. Penelope intends to pick the best match for Kingsland because she has been in love with him for years and wants him to be happy. But the duke can’t seem to care more about his possible future duchesses than he does for his secretary.

OPINION: Kingsland is a single-minded serious man. He is determined to be responsible for his legacy and his family. At his side for eight years has been his secretary, Penelope. The two have had a professional relationship. Kingsland doesn’t really believe that he has love in him and is determined to find a wife who is quiet and won’t disturb his life and work, and won’t expect much from him in terms of emotional connection. He prefers his business work with Penelope.

Penelope is efficient and strong and is definitely a match for the duke. She doesn’t have subservience in her, and I loved her. She has experienced such a difficult life, and I liked that she wasn’t hard and bitter, but instead clear-headed and had a good sense of herself.

The book handled well the “office romance” aspect of the book, and I thought that Kingsland had a modern (but completely appropriate) view of women’s roles and abilities.

This couple would definitely get five stars from me. I loved their interactions and so much of their behaviors make complete sense in the context of the novel. My only negative in his book was the “dark moment” at the end of the book that seemed somewhat contrived based on what went before. Indeed, the easy emotional resolution made it seem more like an excuse. Perhaps on a re-read, I might have a different feeling. This is definitely a book I will be re-reading!

WORTH MENTIONING: The book discusses childhood physical abuse.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE DUCHESS HUNT is the second book in the Once Upon a Dukedom series. The book can be read as a standalone although the hero has a significant role in the first book. The book also introduces the men in The Chessmen series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC of this book via Netgalley. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.


Review: The Hidden One

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Hidden OneThe Hidden One (Kate Burkholder, #14) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #14
Published by Minotaur Books on July 5, 2022
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 320


FINAL DECISION: Although I missed Kate being in her element in Painters Mill, her acting as a “private investigator” gave this book in the series a different feel as she is cut off from her resources. I also really enjoyed the personal connection she has to the story and her working out part of her past. I wish there was more Tomasetti but understand why he needed to be at a distance.

THE STORY: Chief of Police Kate Burkholder is approached by Amish elders from Pennsylvania to help with an investigation of a murder. A local man has been accused of the murder of an Amish bishop Ananias Stoltzfus. The man is not a stranger to Kate as he is someone she grew up with and has a history with. Kate finds that being a cop does not give her any privileges and her presence is not wanted by local police. The murdered bishop was a strict man and at first, the only person with a motive seems to be her childhood acquaintance. Then things become dangerous and Kate discovers that there are more secrets in Pennsylvania than she expected.

OPINION: I really enjoyed this book primarily because Kate is working out another part of her past. Although I had guessed much of what the secret was, I enjoyed how the story is played out in this book.

I think it is often hard to make a series fresh and interesting after over a dozen books. This book manages new energy by taking Kate out of her element and thus challenging her investigative skills. I wouldn’t want this in every book because I do love the characters in Painters Mill, but I was totally on board with this one.

For me, I read this book more for Kate than I do the mysteries, but this one had plenty of twists and turns. I figured out a lot of this one, but I was still on the journey as the plot followed its path.

What I really enjoyed in this book was Kate’s personal story. She finally has to confront part of her past. As readers know, Kate has a traumatic past that often impinges upon her current relationships including her live-in love, Tomasetti. Another part of her past is revealed in this book and I totally loved the story. It was complex and emotional and worked out in a way that I left the book intensely satisfied.

WORTH MENTIONING: Stay for the end of the book which will make those of us who are here for the Kate/John romance very happy.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE HIDDEN ONE is the fourteenth book in the Kate Burkholder series. Although there are ongoing relationship stories, each book, including this one is a standalone mystery. Therefore, this book can be read as a standalone. My recommendation is to read the books in order though in order to get the most out of the emotional personal story.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC of this book via Netgalley which was used to prepare this review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.