Review: Wicked as Seduction

Review: Wicked as SeductionWicked as Seduction (Wicked & Devoted Book 5) by Shayla Black
Series: Wicked & Devoted #5
on March 15, 2022
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 354
Goodreads
four-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: I really loved the relationship between Trees and Laila in this one (although I found the sexual assault victim portrayal less than convincing). There is a lot of suspicion in this one, but Laila is a survivor and fighter, which I enjoyed more than other women in this series. As this book ends on a cliffhanger, my final decision really rests on how the second book ends.

THE STORY: Forest “Trees” Scott is a tech wizard and new employee at EM Security who is tasked to watch over Laila Torres and protect her from the men searching for her and her sister. Laila has been in a brutal situation for years and knows that men are nothing but takers. She is also determined to escape from him and get to her sister because she doesn’t trust Trees or anyone. The two are at odds, but also there is a hot attraction between them despite what either wants.

OPINION: This story is intense. Trees is protecting Laila from the cartel that is looking for her. At the same time, she is trying to escape and forge her own path. Trees is definitely a good match for Laila. He is the kind of guy people trust with people and things important to them. He understands Laila’s problems even as he pushes her. But he always understands what “no” means.

The action and pacing of this book was really good, and I kept turning pages to find out what happened. I have read the previous books in this series and this book covers the entirety of the two books in Tessa and Zy’s story so things seem to go so much faster. That kept the story moving quickly and because I knew part of the story (dealing with Zy and Tessa) it allowed me to focus on the emotional connection between Laila and Trees which grows as the book progresses.

The only thing I am not sure about the dealing with Laila’s severe sexual abuse in this book. The subject just seems so serious, and I sometimes felt that it was a plot device rather than a real character issue for Laila. However, I’m not willing to make a final decision on the issue because things become more emotionally compelling towards the end of this book. The conclusion of the cliffhanger might move this storyline forward.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is part one of the romance between Trees and Laila. It ends on a cliffhanger and is meant to read in combination with the second book in the series WICKED AND FOREVER.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WICKED AS SEDUCTION is the fifth book in the Wicked & Devoted series. This book is Part 1 of the romance between Trees and Laila. This book can be read apart from the series; although there is an ongoing story this book overlaps with the others in the series, and thus a reader can start here.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

 

four-stars

Review: The Southern Side of Paradise

Review: The Southern Side of ParadiseThe Southern Side of Paradise by Kristy Woodson Harvey
Series: Peachtree Bluff #3
Published by Gallery Books on May 7, 2019
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 387
Goodreads
four-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: I really liked the relationship between the mother and her daughters. I thought the flow of the story worked well, and I especially enjoyed Ansley’s story. However, the plot of the book was too predictable. I had figured out Emerson’s storyline from start to finish by page 40. Ultimately, the whole thing was fine, but the obviousness of everything diminished this book for me a bit.

THE STORY: The story of a widow and her three adult daughters. Ansley Murphy’s life has changed as she reunites with an old lover she has never forgotten. Old secrets, however, have the possibility of upsetting what appears to be happiness in the family. Emerson, Ansley’s youngest daughter, has gotten engaged to her high school sweetheart. Yet, her career in Los Angeles conflicts with her romance and again threatens the relationship. This is the story of a family and the complexities and realities of relationships and life.

OPINION: I liked the book’s main storylines with Ansley and Emerson. Both had some complex issues.

Ansley is involved in a relationship with the man she loved years ago. There are secrets that she and Jack have kept from Ansley’s daughters. The romance between them is messy, and I did enjoy how the book turns from easy answers to the mistakes made in the past. My complaint is that some completely unnecessary outside drama bumped up the emotional complexity. Rather than going deeper into the emotions, the book turns to easily anticipated “surprises” that seem out of place in the depth of emotions.

I appreciated Emerson’s story as well, although it took way too long for the obvious ending to work out, and I felt disappointed that it took so long to get there. I liked the interaction with the sisters, and I did enjoy the overlaps between Emerson and Ansley’s stories.

I thought that the final quarter of the book was really well done. The emotion was there. As things wound up I began to think that perhaps I really did need to read the other books in the series to feel as invested in the story as I needed to.

Perhaps ultimately, there was both too much drama and not enough connection and emotional depth in this book. It is the kind of book that I enjoyed reading. The ending was especially a good payoff emotionally.

WORTH MENTIONING: Spoilers! Characters in this book are involved in cheating (although off the page), and relationships don’t last through the end of the book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE SOUTHERN SIDE OF PARADISE is the third book in the Peachtree Bluff series. This book can be read as a standalone. I have not read the others in the series and did not feel like I missed anything as to what was happening in the story — except by the end, the book began to feel like a wrap-up, and I knew that there were some emotional moments that I was missing because I hadn’t read the other books in the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

 

four-stars

Review: Wicked and True

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: Wicked and TrueWicked and True: Zyron & Tessa Part 2 (Wicked & Devoted, #4) by Shayla Black
Series: Wicked & Devoted #4
on March 23, 2021
Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads
four-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: Sexy and action-packed story. I got exactly what I wanted from the story — with one exception. I was annoyed by Tessa’s actions which started the trouble with the couple. Ultimately, I was pleased that the book acknowledged her mistakes. And the couple is hot. Fun book.

THE STORY: The second part of Zy and Tessa’s story. Zy is trying to uncover the mole at the company and is now given two choices — his friend and the woman he has fallen for. Tessa is confronted with a choice that no woman should have to make, threatening her new relationship with Zy.

OPINION: The setup in the first book explodes in this book as all the tightly wound parts of the story explode in an action-packed story. Zy and Tessa are a good couple. He is protective and she really needs protection from some of her dumb choices! At the same time, she is a good person that goes with her heart rather than thinking through her choices.

This book begins with things really moving between Zy and Tessa. Then things fall apart quickly as Tessa has to make a choice that tears them apart. That was the part that bothered me about this book. She just makes a stupid decision. It annoyed me because the decision just didn’t make sense. However, I’m glad I continued with the story because she acknowledges the flaw in her reasoning by the end. While I wish she had realized it earlier, I did appreciate that the book acknowledges the mistakes that both she and Zy make in the story.

The story is really hot, and there is even quite a bit of hot angry sexy tension between Zy and Tessa in this one. Other than my complaint about Tessa’s decision-making, I really enjoyed how the story built tension and let the action play out in the story.

The book reads really fast, and everything gets resolved with Tessa and Zy by the end — although there are lingering storylines that continue with the next couple in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book’s timeline overlaps with the other books in the series so if you read them in order you already know more about the romance of One Miles and Brea and get a preview of Trees and Laila.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WICKED AND TRUE is part two of the story of Zyron and Tessa and is also the fourth book in the Wicked & Devoted series. This book should only be read after WICKED AS LIES since it is really one story. While this two-part story is part of the Wicked & Devoted series, these two books (making one story) can be read apart from the series as a whole.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

NOTE: I originally received an eARC of this book in order to provide a review. I did not review this book until after its publication and after I had purchased my own copy of this book. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

 

four-stars

Review: Blood Moon

Review: Blood MoonBlood Moon (Kate Burkholder, #13.5) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #13.5
Published by Minotaur Books on April 26, 2022
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery
Pages: 64
Goodreads
four-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: The story was a bit suspense rather than a true mystery and it ended up making me smile. I love it when Kate and John get to do an investigation together even when it is a small slice of life.

THE STORY: Kate Burkholder, the Chief of Police in Painters Mill gets called out late at night when a man is attacked by something that defies description. Kate and John track the creature during the night as it wreaks havoc on Painter Mill.

OPINION: The story here is pretty thin, but it is a bit scary, suspenseful, and ultimately fun. I love these small little interludes because the stakes are pretty low compared with the big novels. Kate can be funnier. She can take John along with her just because. The story here is exactly the type one might expect that a Chief of Police for a small town would confront — when not dealing with multiple murders as in the main novels!

WORTH MENTIONING: For fans of Kate and John, I would read this story just for the last scene alone.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BLOOD MOON is book 13.5 of the Kate Burkholder series. This is a very short story/slice of life and it is not necessary to read the rest of the series for this although there is not much here except meeting Kate and John and having a small mystery solved.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Kiss Hard

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: Kiss HardKiss Hard (Hard Play, #4) by Nalini Singh
Series: Hard Play #4
Published by Tka Distribution on May 3, 2022
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 329
Goodreads
five-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: Absolutely lovely story. Lacks high drama but instead is about two people navigating a new relationship with one another. I adored Daniel and Catie and am amazed that Singh was able to develop a completely different type of relationship in the Esera family. Highly recommend.

THE STORY: Daniel, the youngest of the Esera clan, is — of course — amazing at rugby and is ready to make his own name apart from his brothers. Catie River has been around the Esera family for years (she is the sister of Ina from CHERISH HARD). Through their teenage years and continuing to today, Daniel and Catie have a “frenemies” relationship. When Daniel’s profession and reputation are threatened, Catie agrees to a temporary fake relationship to distract the public. The time the two begin to spend with one another, however, begins to bring forth emotions for one another neither expected to deal with for one another.

OPINION: I loved this book which somewhat surprised me because I had expected more plot in the story. Instead, this is really a character book with two people who thought they knew one another really well discovering love for one another.

Daniel is simply adorable. He is so caring of Catie that I am not surprised that she falls for him. He understands her limits and her independence and yet is supportive. His problems felt realistic and something that the youngest child in a family of overachievers has to confront. Singh walks a careful line between making Daniel strong and yet at the same time making him vulnerable and uncertain. I loved him and was not surprised that Catie could not resist him.

Catie had incredible depth and complexity in her character. I thought that Singh handled the issues involving Catie being a paralympic athlete and what being a double amputee means for a young woman involved in a romance and sexual relationship. I thought that every moment here was done with sensitivity and yet Catie is never a “victim”. She has agency and her physical condition is only one part of her.

Daniel and Catie were sweet and yet really, really hot together. I especially appreciated that the two talked through and worked through their difficulties. There wasn’t a lot of drama between them because they talked things out, were mature about their needs and desires and just acted like thinking adults.

I finished this book feeling very satisfied and with complete faith that these two are perfect for one another. I simply was amazed that Singh was able to navigate this story without the normal drama one might expect from a contemporary romance.

WORTH MENTIONING: There are some small updates for readers of the series about the other couples who make appearances.

CONNECTED BOOKS: KISS HARD is the fourth book in the Hard Play series. The romance here is self-contained and thus it can be read as a standalone. The series, however, deals with the Bishop family and thus other characters and couples from the series make appearances here.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

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

 

five-stars

Review: Incense and Sensibility

Review: Incense and SensibilityIncense and Sensibility (The Rajes #3) by Sonali Dev
Series: The Rajes #3
Published by William Morrow on July 6, 2021
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 400
Goodreads
three-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: I was very conflicted by this book. I absolutely loved the romance between Yash and India. I loved Yash as a character. But I hated almost everything else about the book. There wasn’t enough romance — which didn’t really have a satisfying ending — and I didn’t buy anything about the governor storyline. Ultimately, if the romance had a fantastic ending it might have overcome everything else, but because I wanted more from the romance, everything else about the story annoyed me by the end.

THE STORY: Yash Raje, the family golden boy, is a candidate for governor of California when an attempt to shoot him results in his bodyguard being shot instead. Yash has difficulting dealing with the aftermath. His family encourages him to get help from India Dashwood, a family friend that they trust who helps with stress management. What his family doesn’t know is that ten years ago, India and Yash had one night where they grew close before everything fell apart. Yash has spent years focusing on his political goals and hasn’t been concerned about what makes him personally happy, but seeing India again puts his desires in conflict.

OPINION: This book was ultimately a disappointment. The central relationship between Yash and India was amazing. Their history, their interactions, and the emotion between them were amazing. But everything else disappointed. First, Yash is a lousy candidate for governor of California. He apparently has no backbone and if I’m supposed to believe that he will somehow be a great governor and get his policies accomplished when he can’t tell his family that his 10 years (??!) relationship with his “friend” (who is honestly a terrible person and I have no idea how Dev intends on making her the heroine of the next book) was fake. Also, as far as I can tell, this book rests on the premise that Yash’s progressive political policies will succeed because Yash is “good” and “honest” which is belied by the fact that he is a liar and willing to live a lie about his entire life in order to be elected. Everything about his book shows me that he is immature and an idealist who really will be completely ineffectual. I think the book would have been a million times better if Yash lost the election or withdrew — because honestly, the resolution would never happen.

Now in a normal romance, I wouldn’t care about this stuff because the relationship is key and the rest tends to be fantasy anyway. However, this book’s romance is unsatisfying because everything is “resolved” in a magic turnaround in the end but readers are not given even an epilogue resolution of some of the serious impediments to Yash and India’s relationship. As such, I finished this book being convinced that India and Yash love one another but not firmly convinced that things will work out between them.

Yash’s problems with sexual intimacy are made a significant part of the story and yet nothing is really resolved by the end. The “happy ending” is so truncated as to be insufficient to counter the level of trauma. That didn’t work for me as a plotting device. If the author is making this an important issue, the resolution needed to be more prominent. The book needs to make clear that India and Yash are able to overcome this issue and have a loving relationship not tag it on in the last couple of paragraphs.

So while I absolutely adored Yash and India’s story, I can’t give this book a higher rating because the end of the story was completely unsatisfying to me. That just made me mad, because until the last page, I wanted to absolutely love this book.

WORTH MENTIONING: Like the first book in this series, there is some discussion about rape and its emotional aftermath, but the rape is discussed rather than depicted.

CONNECTED BOOKS: INCENSE AND SENSIBILITY is the third book in the Rajas series. The story here is self-contained so it is not necessary to read the others in the series. However, this is a continuing family drama so the other books introduce and develop the family members and their relationships to one another.

STAR RATING: I reluctantly give this book 3 stars — although the romance itself would have been 5 stars with a better resolution.

 

three-stars

Review: Summer on the Island

Review: Summer on the IslandSummer on the Island by Brenda Novak
Published by MIRA on April 5, 2022
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 389
Goodreads
four-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: With plenty of drama but little real angst, this book follows three (or perhaps five) women visiting a beach island as they confront their lives and the men who have played a part in those lives. I really enjoyed the bonding between the women and the actual romance in the story.

THE STORY: Marlow Madsen, a divorce attorney, returns to the island where she spent her summers in her youth. Returning to visit her mother, Marlow is accompanied by two women friends. The three women are all at crossroads in their lives. For Marlow, her return to the island results in her finding out that much of what she believed about her family and childhood was untrue. As she questions her life, Marlow and her friends are all struggling with life, romance, and their futures.

OPINION: This is a book filled with “family” drama — although not everyone is officially part of the family. All of the main characters have dramatic turns in their stories. I enjoyed the interwoven stories. The book has a lot of drama, but isn’t really angsty and thus is a good candidate for a beach read — a page-turner that is definitely binge-able.

Marlow’s story was my favorite and definitely the dominant story in the book. Her return to the island explores her professional life, her friend relationships, her family relationships, her past, and her romantic relationships. She has determination, but I also liked her humor and her ability to recognize her own faults. Her relationship just worked for me in this book and kept me reading the book as the other stories unfold. While I didn’t take the story too seriously, I thought that Marlow’s story grounded the book and because I really liked her character, I accepted all the other stories on their face.

There are plenty of twists here that keeps the pages turning and the romance here worked for me. The characters have difficult intertwined lives and problems so everything seemed really complicated until the knot becomes untied at the end.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a great beach read.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SUMMER ON THE ISLAND is a standalone book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

 

four-stars

Review: Lightning in a Mirror

Review: Lightning in a MirrorLightning in a Mirror (Fogg Lake #3) by Jayne Ann Krentz
Series: Fogg Lake #3
Published by Berkley on January 18, 2022
Genres: Contemporary, Paranormal
Pages: 320
Goodreads
four-half-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: Enjoyable conclusion to the Fogg Lake trilogy. There is plenty of romance and light suspense in this one. Olivia and Harlan had some nice chemistry and made good partners in this one. As a longtime Krentz reader, I’m glad to see the return of connections to the Arcane Society.

THE STORY: Olivia LeClair’s experience with speed dating hasn’t gone well. First, a serial killer attempted to make her his latest victim. Then, her icebreaker question is not exactly attracting good attention from her “dates” until a mysterious man sits down at her table. Harlan Rancourt has an extremely strong psychic talent and despite questions about his true motives, he insists that Olivia help him as they search for secrets about a lost lab that may hold the answers to questions about who has been committing murders in town.

OPINION: One thing I really like about Krentz’s romantic suspense books is that they are not too dark. Instead, the book is light and infused with humor. That makes it a fun read (but not comedy or slapstick). I liked the characters, especially Harlan, who is a classic Krentz hero.

There is plenty of action and Krentz has been best in recent years by using her psychic storylines which she clearly has had an affinity for through the years. The stories have a more compelling suspense element and it appears to me that Krentz really likes these “enhanced” characters better.

This book nicely wraps up the trilogy and answers the questions that have lingered through the two prior books. I enjoyed seeing the characters meet up in the end for a satisfying ending to the series.

But my favorite part of these books is always the romance and here the romance works (although I wish there was more about the relationship than there is). There is little internal romance. Instead, Olivia and Harlan seemed matched from the start and only need to deal with the external issues for them to have a happily ever after. However, I’ve come to expect this in Krentz’s more recent stories and this one is good although at times I still yearn for her more emotional and character-centered books from earlier in her career.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book also has allusions to the Arcane books which are not necessary to enjoy this book but are recognizable for fans of that series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: LIGHTNING IN A MIRROR is the third book, and the conclusion, of the Fogg Lake trilogy. While the romance here is self-contained, this book ends the overarching storyline of the series and thus is better read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

 

four-half-stars

Review: Recipe for Persuasion

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: Recipe for PersuasionRecipe for Persuasion (The Rajes, #2) by Sonali Dev
Series: The Rajes #2
Published by William Morrow on May 26, 2020
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 464
Goodreads
four-half-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: I loved this book! The first book in the series was okay but not incredible, but this one had such emotional depth and just kept me turning pages. The interwoven stories of daughter and mother worked so well together. The balance between romance and personal growth (aka “women’s fiction”) was well developed.

THE STORY: Ashna Raje is desperate to save the restaurant she inherited from her father. She decides to join a “cooking with the stars” reality show as one of the featured chefs. She ends up paired with Rico Silva, a recently retired soccer player — and her first love. When their first meeting goes viral and makes them fan favorites, Ashna has no choice but to work with Rico to save her restaurant. At the same time, Ashna also is facing the return of her mother who abandoned her and Ashna’s father and now wants to build a relationship with her.

OPINION: I really loved this book. It is more women’s fiction than romance, but the romance was good enough to keep me interested in the book (although I could have done with much more Ashna and Rico!) Ashna’s story was complicated and sad and oh so painfully real.

Admittedly, the book relies on one of my least favorite tropes — people don’t speak to one another. And yet, isn’t that often the problem that we have. We don’t speak truthfully to one another. We deflect and avoid — and so it is here.  I figured out the ultimate explanation long before the characters did, and yet, I so enjoyed the journey. These characters really reached me.

The premise of the cooking show was fun and worked as such an interesting reflection of Ashna and Rico’s relationship. I simply adored Rico and can’t wait to read more about him in the next book (as a secondary character).

The book was crowded with characters — but in a good way. I enjoyed the community of this book and how Ashna learns to see and accept that there are people who are there for her and see her as her essential self.

WORTH MENTIONING: Content warnings for rape and suicide.

CONNECTED BOOKS: RECIPE FOR PERSUASION is the second book in The Rajas series. The romance here is self-contained but there are overlapping characters in the series. This book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC of this book via Netgalley in order to provide a 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

Review: The True Cowboy of Sunset Ridge

Review: The True Cowboy of Sunset RidgeThe True Cowboy of Sunset Ridge (Gold Valley, #14) by Maisey Yates
Series: Gold Valley #14
Published by HQN Books on December 28, 2021
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-stars

 

“There were so many layers to him, and she had no idea how to dig down and get through them. Maybe there was no way. But there were these moments. Unguarded and beautiful, when she could see bits of the depth of him. And she had a feeling that not even he really wanted to see it. That he was in denial of all the things he was. And she could understand it in a way, because she didn’t particularly like to examine pieces of herself either.”

FINAL DECISION: Exactly what I needed. This is a serious emotional book about two adults who have experienced a crisis in their lives and are rebuilding. From the beginning “one-night stand” to Mallory and Colt spending time together getting to know one another’s story, I really was engrossed in the story of these two people.

THE STORY: Mallory Chance has just ended a 15-year relationship and to mark a new beginning, she goes to a bar to see if she can find the man she hasn’t forgotten about in six months. There she meets her fantasy man and they spend a single night together never expecting to meet again. Of course, he ends up being her new landlord. Colt Daniels has come to town after a tragedy had him leaving his job as a rodeo cowboy. The two are determined to keep their distance until the infant daughter of a deceased friend is left in Colt’s care and he needs Mallory’s help.

OPINION: This was an immensely satisfying book for the soul. Two good people who are making their way through life, trying to do the right thing. Failing, getting up, and moving forward. I was thoroughly engrossed in the story as I wanted to know how things worked out between Mallory and Colt.

The book starts out hot as Mallory and Colt have a one-night stand. The heat between these two carries the book through a lot of quiet moments as Mallory and Colt struggle through figuring out what this new phase of their life is and what the purpose and meaning in this life should be.

The book is emotional in a real and human way — not overwrought or unnecessarily dramatic. Instead, two humans work through their past baggage to find out how they can move forward in a productive way.

I really liked that both of these characters are strong and independent. They have needs for one another and others in their lives but they are not clingy or dependent — just human seeking connection.

This is a feel-good book that was very enjoyable and made me happy as I finished the last page.

WORTH MENTIONING: I had never read this author before but as soon as I finished this book, I purchased the rest of the books in this series to find out the supporting characters’ backstories.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE TRUE COWBOY OF SUNSET RIDGE is the fourteenth book in the Gold Valley series. The book can be read as a standalone. This is my first book by this author, and while there are other characters that appear from prior books (obviously), I didn’t feel like I had to know anything about those stories to like this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

 

four-stars