Review: You Had Me at Hola

Review: You Had Me at HolaYou Had Me at Hola (Primas of Power, #1) by Alexis Daria
Series: Primas of Power #1
Published by Avon on August 4, 2020
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 387

FINAL DECISION: Sweet but average romance. Didn’t live up to the hype, but certainly an okay read. I enjoyed the telenovela setting, which felt fun and flirty, but the hero was a mess.

THE STORY: Jasmine Lin Rodriguez is starting the most important role of her career as the star of a bilingual romantic comedy. After a messy public breakup, Jasmine is determined to lay low until she meets her co-star, Ashton Suárez. After being dumped from his most recent telenovela, Ashton worries that he is past the prime of his career and hopes that this role will give him a chance to increase his visibility in Hollywood. Both Jasmine and Ashton have a lot of gain in this performance, so creating chemistry on screen is vital. But as the two work to improve their performance, they find out that everything between them is not acting.

OPINION: This story was enjoyable as a read, but quickly forgettable. It was a bit banal. I really didn’t get any emotional connection between these characters. Their relationship felt cold. They had sex and acted, and then there were performative lectures about how a relationship should be. But I really didn’t get much emotion or connection between these characters.

My real problem was with the hero. I really felt like he was a hot mess. And it seemed like the heroine needed to get him to act more responsibly. It seemed like he had things together by the epilogue, but I needed that before.

There were some fun and flirty moments. I enjoyed how parts of this book mirrored the telenovela/romantic comedy/soap opera format. The first part of the book is flirty and cute. Unfortunately, the story turned serious, and I didn’t like the obvious drama that pulled the couple apart. It was too contrived and didn’t work for me. Instead, the characters stayed disconnected.

There was a good book here, and it was almost good. Instead, it was just okay.

WORTH MENTIONING: I enjoyed how this book includes some episodes of the show which interacts in interesting ways with the “real” story.

CONNECTED BOOKS: YOU HAD ME AT HOLA is the first book in the Primas of Power series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.


Review: The Dark Calling

Review: The Dark CallingThe Dark Calling (The Arcana Chronicles, #5) by Kresley Cole
Series: The Arcana Chronicles #5
Published by Valkyrie Press on February 13, 2018
Genres: Paranormal, Fantasy
Pages: 318

FINAL DECISION: This book might be my favorite of the series so far. Mature and complex with the darkness of the story manifest. The penultimate book in the series sets the final conflict into motion. The relationship complexity of the triangle is well done here (and I’ve never liked triangles) and allowed me sympathy for all three characters, which I did not expect when starting this book.

THE STORY: The pace of the story picks up as THE DARK CALLING starts right where the previous book in the series, ARCANA RISING, ended (on a cliffhanger). Something sinister has arisen just as Evie is experiencing a life-changing event. Now alliances and relationships built throughout the series are threatened as more Arcana characters are eliminated from the game. (Considering the cliffhanger from the previous book, it is difficult to describe this book without spoilers).

OPINION: This is now my favorite book in the series because the characters have finally matured to the extent that I like them all. Even Evie, who has driven me crazy for most of the series. Even with the triangle, which really bothered me until this book worked for me.

In this book, the characters confront a new menace as secrets that have been kept since the beginning of the series are revealed. The book is nicely structured as well as many things are resolved and cleared out of the way, leaving the central conflict in the series left.

The time since the flash has impacted each of the characters in THE DARK CALLING, and they are more world-weary and have matured. Thus, their characters have become more complex and less teenage annoying. This book has some intriguing revelations as the story moves toward the conclusion in the next book.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is the penultimate book in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE DARK CALLING is the fifth book in the Arcana Chronicles. This series should be read in order because it is one story.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.


Review: Lady Be Wilde

Genres: Historical

FINAL DECISION: Delightful short novella about two people finding love after loss and disappointment in prior marriages. I loved the extension of the Wilde family universe, giving a happy ending to these secondary characters.

THE STORY: Lady Madeline Penshallow takes her son’s illegitimate child as her own and immediately is a widow. Lord Gilbert Godfrey Manfield is the cousin of the Duke of Lindow. The two meet at a Wilde family event, and there is an attraction, but Madeline is recovering from a horrible marriage, and Gil is recovering from losing two wives. Both are determined never to marry again, but when Madeline is threatened, Gil is determined to protect her.

OPINION: This is a very enjoyable short story/novella where two people who have been disappointed by life find something special together. The story is very sweet, and I love the relationship that develops between Gil, Madeline, and her daughter. The story has the same humor and passion that is evident in all the books in the series. It just made me smile.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a short novella that Eloisa James is expanding to a longer novella. My review may be revised after that book is published.

CONNECTED BOOKS: LADY BE WILDE  is book 0.55 of the Wildes of Lindow series. This novella directly from MY LAST DUCHESS and is indeed a sequel that resolves Madeline’s story in MY LAST DUCHESS. While it is not necessary to read MY LAST DUCHESS to enjoy this story, reading it will give a fuller picture of Madeline’s story.

STAR RATING: I give this book four stars.


Review: My Last Duchess

Review: My Last DuchessMy Last Duchess (The Wildes of Lindow Castle, #6) by Eloisa James
Series: The Wildes of Lindow Castle #0.5
on October 27, 2020
Genres: Historical
Pages: 260

FINAL DECISION: I loved this novella. The story of the Duke and Duchess of Lindow and how they met and fell in love was precisely the book I needed. Sweet and sexy and fit exactly within the Wildes of Lindow series.

THE STORY: Hugo Wilde, the Duke of Lindow, has been somewhat unlucky in love. His beloved first wife died, and then his second wife ran off with a golden-haired count and abandoned Hugo and their children. Having obtained a divorce, Hugo needs to find another wife for his children’s sake. He sees Ophelia, Lady Astley, a widow with a daughter, and immediately knows that she is the one for him. But Phee doesn’t want to remarry or take care of other children, so she rejects Hugo. But perhaps Phee isn’t ready to give up Hugo when he continues his search for a wife.

OPINION: This book works well, especially with the characters being established in the series. Hugo is enormously caring as a father, and this novella makes clear that his only concern in finding a wife is to have a woman who can help his children. On his own, he would be happy not to marry again. He isn’t even caring so much about having a woman who can be a mother, but rather his youngest daughters need someone who can help pave their way through society. Hugo’s practical reasons for marriage are quickly undone when he meets Ophelia. Like all the Wildes, Hugo is profoundly emotional and loving. The passion and devotion I loved with his children are clearly presented here.

Ophelia is strong and unwilling to fall for Hugo when they meet. She is satisfied with her life. She is independent and happy with her daughter. She had a good marriage and doesn’t feel the need to take on a brood of children or another man.

One thing I loved about his book is how the expectations for marriage by both Hugo and Ophelia are undone as the attraction, both physical and emotional, grows between them. Their relationship is sweet, funny, and so wonderful that I loved their story.

WORTH MENTIONING: I also loved that we get to see the Wildes heroes and heroines as children, and they are as amusing and naughty as they are as adults.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MY LAST DUCHESS is a prequel to the Wildes of Lindow Castle series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.


Review: Blame it on the Billionaire

Review: Blame it on the BillionaireBlame It on the Billionaire (Blackout Billionaires #3) by Naima Simone
Series: Blackout Billionaires #3
on January 9, 2020
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 224

FINAL DECISION: This was my favorite of the series. I really liked these characters. The story was over the top, but it felt well within the expectations for series romances. I enjoyed this one and would reread it.

THE STORY: During a blackout, executive assistant Nadia Jordan takes the chance on a secret one-night stand with her crush, the owner of the company she works for, billionaire Grayson Chandler. Things explode, however, when Grayson is trying to avoid his matchmaking mother and sees Nadia and claims her as his fiancee. The two are soon involved in a fake relationship that seems awfully real.

OPINION: This book is short and sexy, and the trilogy’s best. The main characters are both nice people who quickly fall for one another. I thought the motivations for having the fake engagement worked in this one. I absolutely adored Nadia in this book. There is a beautiful scene where she tells Grayson that he is worthy of love which elevates my opinion of this book.

The book is filled with tropes: rich guy/girl from the wrong side of tracks, boss/secretary, fake engagement, Cinderella, and probably plenty more that I didn’t note. The story has energy because the layered tropes work in this book in a way that they didn’t for me in the prior two books in the series.

Admittedly, reading this book requires suspension of disbelief on many of the plot points, but that is not unreasonable for a category romance that takes place in fewer pages and thus is compressed. There is only one terrible character that makes an on-page appearance in this book, and luckily, she is quickly off the page. This book also managed to tone down the disapproving parents. These ones aren’t nearly as terrible as others in the series.

This book just felt right to me. What is a similar story feels more complex than the others in the series, with the rough edges filed off and characters that I really liked.

WORTH MENTIONING: All three books in this series are iterations of almost precisely the same story. This one is the best of the three. The family is less terrible, and the couple seems really decent.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BLAME IT ON THE BILLIONAIRE is the third book in the Blackout Billionaires series. The book can be read as a standalone because while the books all occur at the same place and time, there is no overlap of characters (except for a brief wrap-up in this book).

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.


Review: Black Tie Billionaire

Review: Black Tie BillionaireBlack Tie Billionaire (Blackout Billionaires #2) by Naima Simone
Series: Blackout Billionaire #2
Published by Harlequin Desire on August 8, 2019
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 224

FINAL DECISION: The story was just okay. It read okay as a quick read, but I would not go back to the book again.

THE STORY: During a blackout, Shay Neal ends up having a one-night stand with Gideon Knight. Shay is at the party under a pseudonym, but Gideon is furious when her identity is revealed to him. Shay is the sister of Gideon’s enemy. Determined to get his revenge, Gideon blackmails Shay into a fake relationship. Gideon’s intended revenge, however, is complicated by his very real attraction to Shay.

OPINION: This is a book without any subtleties. At times, it almost read as a parody of series romances. Everything was drawn really broad. The characters also didn’t have much depth at all. I wish the author had cut down on the drama and written from some depth of the characters. It can be done even in a shortened form.

The story was okay. I read through it really quickly, and I liked the relationship between Shay and Gideon. I wouldn’t pick this up again, and I might even forget that I read it in a month. There are really good series books and even novellas, but this isn’t one of them.

WORTH MENTIONING: Shay’s brother is just a terrible person.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BLACK TIE BILLIONAIRE is the second book in the Blackout Billionaires series. The books, however, are really standalone books with a common event (the blackout).

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.


Review: Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match

Review: Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her MatchAngelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match by Sally Thorne
Published by Avon on September 6, 2022
Genres: Historical, Paranormal
Pages: 389

FINAL DECISION: This book was clearly a risk. The entirety of it is unlike what I expect from a romance novel. Parts were intriguing and seemed to be on the cutting edge, but ultimately this book is more reading experience from the left brain rather than emotional romance so it’s not one I would be returning to read again.

THE STORY: Angelika Frankenstein wants a love match. She’s been looking for the man of her dreams, but it hasn’t worked. Men find her odd. Too clever and pretty, Angelika works with her brother on his experiments to bring men back to life. This time, she creates a project of her own. And she is successful. The perfect man who she immediately loves awakens, but things are not all well. Her creation has no memory but is determined to discover who he is. At the same time, another man comes into her life, making her question whether her perfect creation is what she needs or whether there is something lacking in inventing the ideal man.

OPINION: This book takes risks. Unfortunately, the risks don’t really work out in this case. I loved the setup for this book. The idea of a woman creating her own suitor and then things being complicated with the “perfect” man was very intriguing. But the story stalls and the triangle being constructed just didn’t work on an emotional level. I never really liked Will, and I immediately figured out the “surprise” almost immediately. I really didn’t get any of the relationships here, and the resolution took too long and wasn’t particularly satisfying at the end.

There were potions of this book that I really loved, but the whole didn’t hold together as well as I would want. Passages were great, the possibilities were great. I suppose I was disappointed because I thought that the first few chapters of this book were amazing in the concept and then nothing seemed to come of that great premise.

WORTH MENTIONING: I liked the exploration of religion here which was nuanced and complicated.


STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

Review: The Billionaire’s Bargain

Review: The Billionaire’s BargainThe Billionaire's Bargain (Blackout Billionaires #1) by Naima Simone
Series: Blackout Billionaires #1
Published by Harlequin Desire on May 16, 2019
Genres: Contemporary

FINAL DECISION: The story is well written with clear characters and conflict, but I didn’t feel that either the characters or the story were remarkable. I’ve read much better category romances. This one was a good read but not memorable.

THE STORY: Darius King finds comfort from a woman during a blackout. When the lights come back on, however, he discovers that the woman is Isobel Hughes Wells — the woman who betrayed her husband, his best friend. Darius discovers that the child is actually his best friend’s son, contrary to the rumor that she had another man’s child. So Darius decides that Isobel must marry him so that he can raise the boy as his friend would have wanted. The only problem — Darius is attracted to Isobel, and she doesn’t appear the wicked woman he thought she was.

OPINION: The story was enjoyable to read. I’m not sorry that I read it. However, it was just okay as a memorable book. I read it a week ago, and I’m already having trouble remembering what I liked about it.

I did like the setup of the story and felt the conflict that the hero felt, being torn between his own developing feelings for Isobel and his loyalty to his “family” who hate Isobel. I understood his ambivalence considering his past, so I didn’t dislike him. But I really did not like the family, which is pretty terrible. Isobel shows great strength in this story as a character.

Some of the negatives. I really didn’t like how the paternity issue was resolved. It didn’t feel like the betrayal was adequately resolved. I wanted more of the relationship between Dante and Isobel. It felt too superficial for the issues involved.

Honestly, the most memorable part of this book is the blackout, which makes the rest of the book a bit of a letdown.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a category romance in the Harlequin Desire series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE BILLIONAIRE’S BARGAIN is the first book in the Blackout Billionaires series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.