Review: The Love Hypothesis

Review: The Love HypothesisThe Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood
Published by Berkley on September 14, 2021
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 383

FINAL DECISION: This book is fun and light, like cotton candy. Even the “serious” storyline is really fluff because it lacks complexity. I liked the book, but I probably won’t remember it in a year. That being said, the book is perfect for someone looking for a fun rom-com.

THE STORY: Olive Smith is a STEM field Ph.D. candidate at Stanford. When Olive realizes that her best friend, Anh, is perfect for the guy that Olive is casually dating, Olive decides to help their romance along. Olive knows that Anh won’t make a move even after a breakup because of Anh’s loyalty to Olive. So Olive tells Anh that she has already moved on and is dating someone else. When Anh shows up at the lab when Olive is supposed to be on a date, Olive grabs the first guy she finds and asks him to kiss her. The man agrees, and Olive soon finds out that she has been kissing, Adam Adam Carlsen, a young brilliant professor, and a total jerk. Surprisingly, he also agrees to keep up the fake relationship facade telling Olive that he could benefit as well. There is an expiration date for the ruse, but Olive can’t help but find that the fake relationship feels more real every one of those days.

OPINION: I thought this was a sweet romantic comedy. Hazelwood’s writing style is witty, charming, and engaging, and her characters are lovable, relatable, and full of personality. Rather than presenting a traditional alpha male lead who bulldozes his way into Olive’s life, Adam is respectful, supportive, and willing to listen. Overall, this book is delightful and left me feeling warm and fuzzy inside. It’s the perfect book to curl up with on a rainy day, and it is a fun and lighthearted read that made me laugh and smile. The secondary characters and their romances made me smile as well. This book also has some grumpy/sunshine vibes as Olive teases Adam out of his being too serious and makes him see himself more clearly which I really loved. I also really liked that Adam is so supportive of Olive’s work.

The negative to me is twofold. First, I really didn’t like the happy-for-now ending. I’m not sure that these two won’t break up in a year. This is true especially because we don’t really learn anything about these characters having a deep relationship. Instead, everything is funny and light. Even the serious items we learn are not really the stuff that sustains relationships. Second, the entire story was pretty shallow, and everything could be predicted from the start. There is a harassment story that was clear a mile away including how it would obviously be resolved. So while I enjoyed this book, it lacks the depth that would make me come back to re-read.

WORTH MENTIONING: The pumpkin spice drink wars made me laugh out loud.


STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Wildfire

Review: WildfireWildfire (Hidden Legacy, #3) by Ilona Andrews
Series: Hidden Legacy #3
Published by Avon on May 25, 2022
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 405

FINAL DECISION: Another great entry in the Hidden Legacy series. The story gets deeper and richer with each book, and this book has some great action sequences. Nevada and Rogan’s story is just about done (with the exception of the transition novella), and it is clear things are shifting towards Catalina.

THE STORY: Things are changing for Nevada Baylor. As she is applying for her family to be recognized as an official House, she is becoming more known among those in the magic world. She now has more enemies and also some men who are interested in a strategic marriage. None of these make her current lover, Rogan, happy. Nevada isn’t happy either because her new client is Rogan’s ex-fiancée, whose husband has disappeared. Nevada and Rogan also continue their investigation into the large conspiracy attempting to upend the magical hierarchy.

OPINION: This is such a great series. Every book so far has managed to exceed my expectations. There is so much action, adventure, and heart in these books. I loved how the story managed to balance the romance, the suspense/action, and the humor.

We get to learn much more about the secrets of the Baylor family as those characters take on a larger role in this book. This book completes the trilogy about Nevada and Rogan’s romance and “mostly” resolves the overarching storyline. There are some loose ends, but the story is overall satisfying. It can be seen as the end of “Season 1” of the series.

One of the biggest developments in this book is that we get to know Nevada’s ruthless grandmother, Victoria Tremaine, who has been trying to abduct/take control of Nevada as Victoria is the last Prime in the House of Tremaine. There is such complexity to this character who could have been an evil caricature.

As Nevada and Rogan are together and in love, there are some complexities that are set as possible obstacles and dangers, but I really loved that I never questioned the depth of Nevada and Rogan’s relationship. The two really work things out in such an adult way. They talk about their challenges and never really doubt one another.

There is so much I love about this book. The humor is great. The book feels like it could be immediately put on film as there are great set pieces of action and humorous events.

WORTH MENTIONING: Some mysteries of the Baylor family’s magic talents are revealed.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WILDFIRE is the third book in the Hidden Legacy series. This book should be read in order because of the overarching storyline.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.


Review: White Hot

Review: White HotWhite Hot (Hidden Legacy, #2) by Ilona Andrews
Series: Hidden Legacy #2
Published by HarperCollins Publishers on May 30, 2017
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 416

FINAL DECISION: This series is amazing. The second book picks up right where the last book left off without losing any of the zippy nature of the plot or the adventure with the big set pieces. This book feels like a blockbuster movie with big action sequences and I love it — especially because the romance heats up here.

THE STORY: Nevada, who has been revealed as a lie detector, takes on a new client for her detective agency. Cornelius, an animal Mage, wants to find out who murdered his wife. Immediately, it is clear that Primes and the Houses are involved in either the murder or covering it up — probably both. Her investigation also brings Mad Rogan back into her orbit after a couple of months apart. It is clear that this investigation again threatens their lives and is also connected with the plot that Nevada and Rogan foiled — in part — in BURN FOR ME.

OPINION: This book is perhaps not as shockingly amazing as the first one, which introduced the world, but I loved that it puts flesh on the relationships and the overarching story. Nevada and Rogan have met, and there is certainly an attraction between them. Now in this book, the question is will they have an intimate relationship?

This is a great followup to the first book because Nevada, and us, learn more about her powers. One thing I loved is how Rogan is so supportive of her. He believes in her and knows that she can handle just about everything, even as he wants to care for and protect her. Nevada also has to confront her new realities as a player in the magic world.

The book is fast-paced and filled with plenty of adventure in the same vein as I enjoyed in the first book. We get to see plenty of new powers that different magic users have. We also get to see again the great cast of characters and plenty of new faces that populate this world. My favorite character (other than Nevada and Rogan) is Cornelius, who is Nevada’s client and I loved his story (and I hope that he might yet have a happy ending one day).

I’m glad that I have come to this series after so many books have been written. These books are like popcorn. I just want more and more. Again, I finished this book and immediately turned to the next in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: Although I loved the first book, as a romance reader, this one was a bit more satisfying (wink, wink!)

CONNECTED BOOKS: WHITE HOT is the second book in the Hidden Legacy series. This series should be read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.


Review: A Sinister Revenge

Review: A Sinister RevengeA Sinister Revenge (Veronica Speedwell, #8) by Deanna Raybourn
Series: Veronica Speedwell #8
Published by Berkley on March 7, 2023
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 320

FINAL DECISION: I tore through this book. Launching from the conclusion of the prior book, this book brings together so many elements of what I love about this series: the relationship between Veronica and Stoker, a good mystery, and plenty of supporting characters that have their own stories. Loved this one.

THE STORY: After being apart from her partner/lover Stoker for several months, Veronica arrives in Bavaria with Stoker’s brother Tiberius to seek Stoker’s help. Tiberius has received death threats over something that happened years ago amongst the “Seven Sinners,” his group of friends. Now two of his friends have been killed, and the message sender suggests that Tiberius might be next. Not knowing why he and his friends have been targeted, Tiberius intends to assemble a reunion and include Veronica and Stoker to help reveal the killer. The only task is to find Stoker (who has been out on his own since discovering Veronica’s “husband” in AN IMPOSSIBLE IMPOSTER) and convince him to join the hunt.

OPINION: I enjoyed this book so much after the tension of the prior book. Where that book was so hard on Veronica, this one felt flirty and fun even though Veronica and Stoker were dealing with their relationship for most of the book. That’s what I loved about this book. I knew that things would work out, so I just enjoyed the ride.

Another enjoyable portion of this book is learning more about Tiberius and seeing the relationship between him and Stoker develop. We also get to see more of the youngest brother Merryweather. I love the dynamic that is developing where Veronica is bringing this broken set of brothers together.

The mystery here is fun with lots of suspects. It reminded me somewhat of some of my favorite Agatha Christie mysteries — lots of suspects involving social events and plenty of deaths.

This is one of my favorites already, and I look forward to more in this series.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book resolves the conflict which ended AN IMPOSSIBLE IMPOSTER.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A SINISTER REVENGE is the eighth book in the Veronica Speedwell series. The mystery here is self-contained, and thus this book can be read as a standalone. However, this book’s overarching relationship plot flows directly from the prior book in the series, and this series is much better to read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.


Review: Burn for Me

Review: Burn for MeBurn for Me (Hidden Legacy #1) by Ilona Andrews
Series: Hidden Legacy #1
Published by Avon on October 28, 2020
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 406

FINAL DECISION: I loved this book! It felt fresh and exciting. The world-building was extensive, and yet nothing stopped while the world was revealed. This was such an exciting, fast-moving book that I finished it quickly and immediately picked up the next book in the series.

THE STORY: Nevada Baylor unwillingly takes on a case — to bring alive a powerful magic user. Nevada is then kidnapped by Connor “Mad” Rogan, a very, very powerful Prime magic user who is on his own mission to find Nevada’s quarry. Nevada and Rogan end up reluctantly joining forces. The two are involved in a very dangerous situation — not only in finding the rogue magic user but also handling the attraction between them.

OPINION: This book is a wild ride. The story is action-packed and feels like it could be a movie. The world created in this book is detailed and vibrant. The world has a historical feel as the power in the world revolves around houses that have different powerful magical traits. There are rules and types of courtesies between these houses, and also, the rules don’t apply in the same way to the magical as it does to the non-magical.

I loved the characters. Nevada is a woman of tremendous power who is just learning who she is. I was totally on board for her journey where her magic which has been hidden, is not only exposed, but also she learns that her power is far beyond what she knew about herself. She also has a quirky family filled with distinctive characters. (Her sister ends up being a heroine in later books in this series).

Mad Rogan is powerful and damaged and an incredible hero. His story begins with him being completely without conscience or boundaries, and yet he has depths that Nevada begins to recognize — even as she runs from him. He has a journey of his own which makes both characters a joy to follow in their character development.

The focus of this book is the story, and the romance is certainly present, but this is not solely focused on the romance. It is a paranormal adventure with a serious romantic plot, but it doesn’t have a typical romance arc that is done here. I really care more about the romance in all these books, and I loved how Rogan and Nevada interact, but readers should not expect romance to be the main story here.

WORTH MENTIONING: The couple’s story here is not complete. There is a resolution in the immediate plot, but there are overarching storylines, including the relationship between Nevada and Rogan, that continue over the series. FYI there is no sex in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BURN FOR ME is the first book in the Hidden Legacy series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.


Review: An Impossible Imposter

Review: An Impossible ImposterAn Impossible Impostor (Veronica Speedwell #7) by Deanna Raybourn
Series: Veronica Speedwell #7
Published by Berkley on February 15, 2022
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 334

FINAL DECISION: This was a challenging book to read because the expectations I had were disturbed. I enjoyed that the author refuses to fall into an expected template of what these books should be. Readers might be disturbed from their comfortable expectations, but that makes the series more exciting to me.

THE STORY: Veronica Speedwell and her lover/partner Stoker are asked by Sir Hugo, head of the Special Branch, to investigate whether a long-lost relative of his goddaughter is a fraud. Jonathan Hathaway was believed dead after the eruption of Krakatoa. Sir Hugo has come to Veronica and Stoker because she knew Jonathan so he hopes that she will know whether the newly reappeared Jonathan is an imposter or not. Complicating the matter is that the man has no memory of his identity and has been injured, but meets the description of Jonathan. Veronica and Stoker go to the family estate to confront the possible imposter, but she also has to confront secrets from her past.

OPINION: This is a difficult book to review without giving spoilers because all the significant parts of the book depend upon the information that is revealed during the book. Because of this, I decided to just write a list of what I loved about this book:

*Veronica is personally challenged in this book as never depicted before.

*A new villain is born.

*This mystery has plenty of drama and twists and turns.

*Stoker and Veronica have some great relationship moments here — not all of them are good.

*I was surprised as my opinions of different characters changed and evolved throughout the book. The complexity of the characters in this book was well done.

*This book bothered me in many ways which I enjoyed as the author is challenging the readers’ expectations.

WORTH MENTIONING: Upon finishing this book, I immediately wanted to read the next. The book doesn’t end on a true cliffhanger, but the overarching storyline is at a significant point.

CONNECTED BOOKS: AN IMPOSSIBLE IMPOSTER is the seventh book in the Veronica Speedwell series. The mystery here is self-contained, and thus the book can be read as a standalone. However, overarching character development depends upon the continuing relationship between Stoker and Veronica, and this book is so much better if read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.


Review: Get a Life, Chloe Brown

Review: Get a Life, Chloe BrownGet a Life, Chloe Brown (The Brown Sisters, #1) by Talia Hibbert
Series: The Brown Sisters #1
Published by Avon on November 5, 2019
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 387

FINAL DECISION: I loved this book. I was prepared to find it as dull as many of the cartoon-covered books that pass for romance these days but are really just women’s fiction. This book was amazing. Chloe and Red spend almost the entire book talking to one another, getting to know each other, and working through their various problems. The book is sweet and sexy and funny and so mature and adult. I have not read Talia Hibbert before and I was clearly missing something.

THE STORY: Chloe Brown takes decides to “get a life” by taking on a number of initiatives, including moving out of her family’s mansion, enjoying a drunken night out, riding a motorcycle, going camping, having meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex, traveling the world with nothing but hand luggage, and… doing something bad. Chloe takes on her goal of doing something bad by spying on her building’s superintendent Red Morgan, who paints at night half-undressed. Red, at first, thinks that Chloe is stuck up, but as he gets to know her, Red is attracted to this woman who is brave in ways that he didn’t expect. When Chloe asks him to help her complete her “get a life” list, Red cannot resist her.

OPINION: This book is simply charming, and yet it is not fluffy but rather has a substantial adult storyline. This is the story of two people who have been hurt by others having to learn to communicate with one another. While there are some rom-com funny moments, the book feels really real. In how Chloe and Red fight and hurt one another at times, it at times felt too real but so incredibly lovely in how things work out.

Both Chloe and Red are such good people. Such a book could be dull, but this book goes so deep into the relationship between these two that I as a reader was totally invested in how these two would find a happy ending together.

Chloe has fibromyalgia, lives with constant pain, and has learned to be in control as she goes through the world. Unrestrained action can lead Chloe to When Red meets her, he takes her control for being “stuck up” and thinking she is better than others. Red, himself, has been hurt by such a woman, and so he has his own guard up to protect himself. Chloe has been abandoned by others because of her disease, and so she worries about opening herself up to anyone — friend or lover.

I loved that these two have wounds that the other person both reopens and also heals. The book is about relationships and community. There is a light gloss of Chloe’s “get a life” list that she is trying to complete, but the story and her list are really about trying to create relationships, love, and community with others.

This book surprised me, and I read it so quickly because I wanted to know how these two wonderful people would work out the problems in their lives. By the end, everything is not perfect in the world, and yet a rock-solid relationship between Chloe and Red is obvious.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a plot light book. It is really about Chloe and Red’s relationship — and a cat.

CONNECTED BOOKS: GET A LIFE, CHLOE BROWN is the first book in the Brown Sisters series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.


Review: An Unexpected Peril

Review: An Unexpected PerilAn Unexpected Peril (Veronica Speedwell, #6) by Deanna Raybourn
Series: Veronica Speedwell #6
Published by Berkley on March 2, 2021
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 346

FINAL DECISION: A very “drawing room” mystery where most of the drama involves lots of events and talking with people. I enjoyed this one just a bit less than others because Veronica and Stoker feel constrained — something that they recognize themselves. However, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t think this was a great addition to the series. The mystery is good and I always love Veronica and Stoker.

THE STORY: The Curiosity Club, a social club for women who dare, is honoring Alice Baker-Greene, a mountain climber who recently died in an accident. At the exhibit, Veronica Speedwell and her partner and lover, Stoker, discover that Alice’s death might not have been an accident. Veronica attempts to get Princess Gisela of Alpenwald to investigate the death which occurred in her country. The evidence disappears, and so does the princess.

OPINION: This book has a different feel than the others in the series because the events take place where Veronica must be more constrained than normal in her investigations. For that reason, the story ends up being a bit less “big adventure” than others in the series.

The mystery is well-done, and I don’t have any complaints other than some boredom on my part by all the social and political meetings.

So what about what I really read these books for Veronica and Stoker’s relationship? I loved how these two are developing their relationship. There are adjustment issues as they try and feel out how to define their relationship. What the limits are. What the expectations are of one another.

Veronica is very skittish because she fears the loss of her independence. She has never had a real relationship and keeps men at a distance by taking control. But her relationship with Stoker requires a commitment that she is unsure how to make. I loved how their relationship issues are interwoven with the mystery. Things are not completely settled between these two, and I love it!

WORTH MENTIONING: I liked seeing Veronica and Stoker working through their new relationship after the events of the prior books.

CONNECTED BOOKS: AN UNEXPECTED PERIL is the sixth book in the Veronica Speedwell series. The mystery is self-contained and can be read as a standalone, but for me, the relationship between Veronica and Stoker is the main reason I read the series so I recommend reading in order to follow the overarching storylines.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.


Review: The Dragon and the Jewel

Review: The Dragon and the JewelThe Dragon and the Jewel (Medieval Plantagenet #2) by Virginia Henley
Series: Medieval Plantagenet #2
Published by Dell on November 1, 1991
Genres: Historical

FINAL DECISION: More historical fiction than romance, this book is a saga about the tempestuous romance between Princess Eleanor Plantagenet and Simon de Montfort, a real couple in Medieval England. I enjoyed the drama and the underlying historical drama although many readers may be put off by the actions of the characters, especially the hero.

THE STORY: Princess Eleanor was a child bride whose older husband had no intention of consummating the marriage until she was an appropriate age. Eleanor was widowed unexpectedly when he husband came to her bed. Inconsolable, Eleanor swore never to marry again and took a vow of chastity. A year after her husband’s death, Eleanor meets Simon de Montfort, a Norman knight who desires Eleanor and wants to convince her to break all those vows she made.

OPINION: First off, certain parts of this book won’t appeal to some readers. The heroine is a child when she is married off (about nine years old) and a widow at sixteen. She is then in a relationship with Simon before she is eighteen. To modern readers, this is unacceptable, but the story is based on the real-life of Eleanor, so the author can’t exactly age her up for what we now expect. To me, the book is more like historical fiction than a modern historical romance.

While much of the book is fictionalized, I really enjoyed the historical basis for this novel. The book was written in 1991, so some of its romance conventions are not used today. The hero is very alpha and, at times, treats Eleanor disrespectfully. The book takes place in Medieval England and thus, his expectations of equality is pretty much not present. He speaks about her as if it is his right to dominate her, but the fact that she will not submit to his plans and he feels that he has to woo and treat her well is better than most of the men in the story clearly feel about women. Therefore, while Simon is certainly not a modern male hero, he is better than the men of his time as depicted in this book.

Eleanor, at times, is immature and annoying, but he is very young throughout the story and has experienced much tragedy in her life. Again, compared to the other women in the story, she is likable and cares for others.

Eleanor and Simon have been depicted as a great love affair in Medieval England, and I appreciated the author’s attempts to bring these real-life lovers to life in this romance. The detail about the historical period and the palace intrigue was great, and I raced through this book even though it was almost 600 pages.

I’ve never read this author before, but this book made me want to read more of her romances based on real historical characters.

WORTH MENTIONING: THE DRAGON AND THE JEWEL is a fictionalized account of Eleanor and Simon de Montfort. While the characters are based on real people, and some of the events come from real history, the book is highly dramatized and shaped into a romance book.

Readers looking for straightforward romance will be disappointed as the heroine spends the first third of the book married to another man. The final quarter of the book is spent on political intrigue and rebellion. I thought the historical aspects were great, but those looking for romance might be disappointed.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE DRAGON AND THE JEWEL is the second book in the Medieval Plantagenet series. This book is a standalone, and reading the first book is unnecessary (I didn’t).

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.