Review: Passion

Review: PassionPassion (Passion Quartet, #1) by Lisa Valdez
Series: Passion Quartet #1
Published by Berkley on July 5, 2005
Genres: Historical
Pages: 332
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: This book was a roller coaster for me. At times I almost laughed at the sex scenes, but by the end of the book, I loved this story. When written, this book was groundbreaking in the erotic historical arena.

THE STORY: in London’s Crystal Palace, Passion Elizabeth Dare meets a stranger, and the two engage in a sexual encounter. A widow, Passion finds her desires awakened after a loveless marriage. She agrees to continue to meet while she is in London, believing that no one will be hurt by these secret and anonymous encounters. Mark Randolph Hawkmore, Earl of Langley, cannot stop thinking about the mysterious woman he meets at Crystal Palace. At the same time, his “real” life is falling apart as he is being blackmailed into marriage. Mark is determined to free himself from those scheming against him. As Passion and Mark get closer emotionally in their secret relationship, their real lives are destined to collide and perhaps destroy everything.

OPINION: By the end of this book, I loved this story. I’m glad I persevered through the story because, at times in the beginning, I almost gave up on the book. But as the emotional connection between the characters grew, I began to love the story more. Mark and Passion first come together purely physically, but an emotional connection quickly grows between them.

As the reader knows more than either of the characters, the collision course they are on is quickly revealed, and thus there is tension in how the characters will become aware of the troubles that they are facing.

Passion is incredibly lovely as a person. I wanted her to be more selfish, but I understood her choices even if I had done something differently. Mark is damaged, and he is completely undone by Passion. By the end of the book, he has changed and is willing to do the right thing even if it would hurt him.

I’m so glad I gave this book a chance because I had heard it was bonkers. Yes, there are things that I had just to accept and move past, but on the whole, this book was emotionally engaging, and I really was surprised by many of the twists of this book in a good way.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is some bananas stuff in the sex scenes that I have questions about anatomically. Readers who are not able to put some implausible things aside to enjoy the story should probably pass on this one.

CONNECTED BOOKS: PASSION is the first book in the Passion Quartet. (Note that the author only wrote the first two books of the promised quartet).

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: One Hot December

Review: One Hot DecemberOne Hot December (Men at Work, #3) by Tiffany Reisz
Series: Men at Work #3
Published by Harlequin Blaze on November 22, 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 224
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: This book was enjoyable, but I wanted a little more of the “off-screen” conflict on the page. Overall, I enjoyed it, and while the beginning didn’t work as well for me, the story and characters were great in the last half.

THE STORY: Veronica “Flash” Redding is quitting her job working for Ian Asher’s family company. Six months ago, the two hooked up for one night, and Ian dumped her. Flash has decided to leave her job as a welder and lean into being an artist. Flash determines that leaving is the last part of her revenge for being dumped. Flash leaving actually benefits Ian, who couldn’t have a relationship with a woman who worked with him. Now that Flash is no longer an employee, Ian intends to win her.

OPINION: This book was mixed for me. The beginning, where the setup was done, was a bit tiresome, and I believed that I wasn’t going to like this book at first. But the story began to pick up about a quarter of the way in. This book had much more setup than the first two books in the series, as this couple had a history.

I really loved Flash. She was clearly drawn in this story, and I appreciated that she was standing up for herself and knew what she wanted. She has a complexity that I didn’t expect. Indeed, I especially loved her relationship with her neighbor and how Flash began to open up to Ian.

It took me longer to have any liking for Ian. He is pretty opaque in the beginning. But as the story progresses, his qualities are made clear, especially as he defends Flash and their relationship. I think that is why I had problems with this story in the beginning. He hides rather than openly defends as the story begins. He evolves, and I like him more as it is clear how much Flash means to him.

I also very much appreciated the positive representation of religion, especially the depiction of Hanukkah and Jewish and Catholic characters. This ends up being a great December holiday romance.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is a category romance and thus is shorter, things happen much quicker, and a bunch of things happen “off-screen.”

CONNECTED BOOKS: ONE HOT DECEMBER is the third book in the Men at Work series. The series is only very loosely connected; thus, this book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: Her Naughty Holiday

Review: Her Naughty HolidayHer Naughty Holiday (Men at Work, #2) by Tiffany Reisz
Series: Men at Work #2
Published by Harlequin Blaze on October 18, 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 224
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I loved this book. Clover and Erick are so incredibly sweet together, and yet, at the same time, the book is really hot. The story merges really hot with small-town sweet so well.

THE STORY: Clover Greene is tired of her family haranguing her about her lack of a romantic partner. This year she is hosting Thanksgiving and needs a fake boyfriend to attend with her. Her teenage assistant suggests her own father, Erick Fields. There is something between Clover and Erick, although neither has acted on it. Suddenly there is much more than a charade for the benefit of Clover’s family. Erick agrees to play the role but is certain that everything between them should not be pretend.

OPINION: This book took a completely different path than I expected. There is something wonderful between Clover and Erick from the first moments they are on the page together.

This story had real depth and complexity that I didn’t expect. Clover is a woman who owns her own successful business, and while she has family problems, Erick respects her, and the two talk. The adultness of the romance here was so special as I enjoyed the two getting to know one another.

I expected more gimmicks in this story, but it felt like a book that takes the trope and makes it more real rather than bananas. This is a small-town book but updated with really hot moments between Clover and Erick. At the same time, Clover finds out things about herself in the relationship, especially that she can

There is also quite a bit of humor in this book as Clover and Erick have witty conversations and funny moments together.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a category romance, and thus, it is shorter and much more direct than a long-form romance. Sometimes a book like this is exactly what I need. I can finish it in a few hours and the story has a great pace that keeps the pages turning.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HER NAUGHTY HOLIDAY is the second book in the Men at Work series. This book is only slightly connected with the first book in the series, as the couple there is mentioned here. This book can be read independently of that book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Her Halloween Treat

Review: Her Halloween TreatHer Halloween Treat (Men at Work, #1) by Tiffany Reisz
Series: Men at Work #1
Published by Harlequin Blaze on September 20, 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: Sexy and very hot, the romance here is really sweet, which makes an interesting contrast and definitely not what I was expecting. Very enjoyable and easy to read. I finished it quickly in a couple of hours.

THE STORY: Joey Silvia is back in Oregon after discovering that her boyfriend of two years was actually married. Joey is heartbroken and angry, and her best friend tells her to find a guy for fun to forget about the cheater. When Joey gets to her family’s cabin, she discovers Chris Steffensen at work. Chris and Joey went to high school together, and her brother’s best friend is now an incredibly hot handyman. Joey decides that the boy who gave her her first kiss is a great way to get over a broken heart. But Chris has had feelings for Joey for years and wants to be more than the rebound guy.

OPINION: This book begins with a bang in both ways. The story has great energy. What I really enjoyed about the book is how what is a sweet relationship between these two is punctuated by hot, hot scenes. The story of two people who knew one another in high school meeting again after ten years and having a hot “temporary” relationship just worked here.

The conflict here is best expressed by Joey’s brother, who gives her the advice that the good guys should not be used for rebound relationships but kept for relationships that matter. Ultimately, Chris and Joey are just so perfect together that it messes with what Joey feels she needs after her messy breakup.

I really enjoyed this book. It isn’t as deep or complex as a long romance, but this book is a great category romance. Fun and engaging, with great characters and a conflict that is resolved at the end.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a category romance, so it is on the shorter side, and everything happens quickly.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HER HALLOWEEN TREAT is the first book in the Men at Work trilogy.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Hana Khan Carries On

Review: Hana Khan Carries OnHana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin
Published by Berkley on April 13, 2021
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 348
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: I almost DNF’d this book at about 55% because the book seemed more interested in Hana’s family restaurant, her radio career, her visiting relatives, and just about everything except the romance. I continued reading, and it got somewhat better, but too much about her and not enough romance for me. The final quarter of the book was great the characters and story came together well. I might try it again with my expectations in check.

THE STORY: Hana Khan is balancing a lot is things. Her family restaurant is on a decline just as a new competitor is opening in the neighborhood. She has an anonymous podcast about her life and an online friendship/relationship with a follower. She is trying to establish a career in radio broadcasting but worries about the compromises she may be making. And the owner of that new restaurant is a man that she can’t seem to forget.

OPINION: I liked a lot about this book, but I expected a romance and got women’s fiction instead. Perhaps my mistake, but the book’s blurb emphasizes the romance, which is not true in the book itself. Enough about that.

I thought the book depicts well Hana’s life and community. I enjoyed learning about her as a character,¬† and I thought she and the other characters had integrity and real identity in the story.

Because I wasn’t interested in Hana so much as the romance, I almost gave up on this book about 50 percent in. The romantic interest is introduced by then, but they have almost no page time. The last third of the book is much more focused on the romance which I really enjoyed, but there was too much other stuff to get through to enjoy that part. The final 25 percent of the book was really good. The plot and the characters fell together so well. I wish the setup had been better, but I really enjoyed that final piece. Indeed, I was prepared to give the book three stars (others might enjoy it much more) but pushed it up once the final acts of the book were done.

Hana and Aydin’s relationship was really enjoyable in the last half of the book, as they are the focus, and I loved how respectful they are to one another, how Aydin listens to Hana and how things are resolved between them.

I remain ambivalent about his book. I might try this book again after understanding the balance between Hana’s journey and the romance. The ending was so good that I might like it better next time.

WORTH MENTIONING: For readers who are interested in Hana’s journey rather than romance, this book is well-written and explores many contemporary issues of race, religion, immigration, gender, and a woman establishing herself.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HANA KHAN CARRIES ON is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Miss Moriarty, I Presume?

Review: Miss Moriarty, I Presume?Miss Moriarty, I Presume? (Lady Sherlock #6) by Sherry Thomas
Series: Lady Sherlock #6
Published by Berkley on November 2, 2021
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 336
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I loved this book because it brings a lot of loose threads in the series together. My favorite part is how the relationship between Holmes and Ingram is shown throughout the book. My favorite part of the series is the romance, which is well represented here.

THE STORY: Charlotte Holmes’s new client is none other than Moriarty, who wants Charlotte to find out what has happened to his daughter. Charlotte cannot refuse, but she wonders why Moriarty has come to her and whether she is being set up. Charlotte and Mrs. Watson travel to investigate Moriarty’s daughter’s disappearance. Charlotte’s sister and Lord Ingram investigate the clue left by the man Livia loves (who is controlled by Moriarty).

OPINION: This book ended up being completely enjoyable because the relationship between Charlotte and Lord Ingram has *finally* progressed. I freely admit that while I enjoy a good mystery, I keep coming back to these books because of the relationship between Charlotte and Ingram. Readers of the series know that there have been some will they/won’t they in the previous books, but now we have moved on to see if this relationship can actually work.

At the same time, the threat from Moriarty has become more acute. There is a lot going on in this book as various threads of the investigation are going on. Admittedly, it was hard to keep track of all these different issues, but that is part of the complexity of the story. The book demands attention which I enjoy because I want to be involved in the mystery. Thankfully, the book does explain what happened. And the story continues beyond this book, as is true with the entire series.

The mystery here has a lot of twists and turns, and the story keeps the reader guessing. I thought that once things were revealed, I appreciated the journey more. I read this kind of book again to catch what I missed the first time.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a densely packed story that really relies on the books that precede it. Not that the story directly continues from those books but rather this is a progression on the overarching storyline in the series. As a result, this book sometimes assumes knowledge about people and events from prior books. I did not mind it at all, but some readers might want to brush up on the prior books before diving into this one.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MISS MORIARTY, I PRESUME? is the sixth book in the Lady Sherlock series. Typically, because these books have self-contained mysteries, I say that the books can be read out of order, but are better read in order. This book is different. This book really should be read as part of the series because it is critical to the overarching story of the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Sleep No More

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: Sleep No MoreSleep No More (Lost Night Files, #1) by Jayne Ann Krentz
Series: Lost Night Files #1
Published by Berkley on January 3, 2023
Genres: Paranormal, Romantic Suspense
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: The story is much more suspense than romance, although I really enjoyed that Pallas and Ambrose spent most of the book together doing their investigation. I wish there were more relationship development, but I don’t expect as much of that in Krentz’s books now as I used to enjoy. The story was really good and kept me engaged until the end. Warning that this book leaves the big overarching story open for the rest of the series (what happened to the characters during the Lost Night), but the primary plot of the book is resolved.

THE STORY: Pallas Llewellyn’s life was turned upside down when she awoke at a hotel with no memory of what happened. Two other women had the same experience. The three have bonded in trying to determine what happened to them. The three have the “Lost Night Files” podcast where they investigate unusual happenings in hopes of discovering what happened to them.¬†Ambrose Drake has had a similar experience as the three women at the Carnelian Sleep Clinic. His experience was magnified because he believes that he saw a murder during his “lost night”. Ambrose connects with Pallas t get her help in discovering what happened. The two join forces to investigate what happened to them — especially because each had a significant paranormal talent arise after the missing night.

OPINION: This book has a similar theme to Krentz’s last series, Fogg Lake, but I feel that she has improved just about everything in the series. This book has more tension and drama, and suspense. My only complaint is that there really isn’t any drama between Ambrose and Pallas, so their relationship is not compelling at all. Instead, it seems obvious from their first meeting that a relationship is inevitable.

The suspense story here is well crafted as there were plenty of twists, but the twists make sense, and the foundation for them is developed throughout the story.

My favorite part of this book, however, is that Ambrose and Pallas spend almost the entire book together. It feels like a buddy book (with sex and romance, certainly). That might be what bothered me about their relationship. It feels like a book that is part of the series where the main characters already have an ongoing relationship that turns romantic. (Because I am primarily a romance reader, I prefer romance to suspense, but this book definitely leans on the suspense part). There definitely is equality between the characters and their importance in solving the mystery of the book.

Both Pallas and Ambrose are suffering from the events of their lost night and dealing with their enhanced paranormal abilities. Some of my favorite Krentz books are her paranormal ones because they have a different energy, and the book feels more engaging. The paranormal abilities give the characters quirks that they have to deal with so the characters are changing as the story develops. Pallas and Ambrose find acceptance in one another which helps their relationship during the book.

We don’t get much about the other characters who will be the focus of the other books in the series, so I’m looking forward to their stories.

WORTH MENTIONING: I loved the Easter Eggs for fans of Krentz’s universe, including Arcane and Burning Cove.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SLEEP NO MORE is the first book in the Lost Night Files.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC of this book via Netgalley to permit me 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.

four-half-stars