Monday, July 15, 2019

Review: Just Love - Prescott Lane

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Just Love 

by Prescott Lane
Release Date: July 9, 2019
Genre: Standalone, Contemporary Romance

There’s two sides to every love story. The how you fell in love, and the how you fell apart.
This is ours.
The cardinal rule of friendship is you don’t mess with your friend’s sister.
That goes double when she’s his little sister.
It was just supposed to be fun.
She wasn’t supposed to end up being the love of my life.
And I definitely wasn’t supposed to break her heart.
Ainsley is a wedding dress designer. That should’ve been a warning that she’s a hopeless romantic. That should’ve clued me in that she believes love conquers all.
But there are some things that love can’t fix. I’m one of them.
She thinks love is the answer.
But love is the reason I let her go.

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Review
4.5 Stars
Rhett Bennett and Ainsley Rose have a lifetime of memories together, with Ainsley's older brother Brody relying on him to help parent her after their parent's pass away. Along with Brody's girlfriend, the four of them have been inseparable since their youth, the only rule being that they always protect Ainsley and she's always treated as the little sister. Little sisters grow up though and even Rhett, the womanizer, can't deny that he wants to know where the spark they share could go. Romances aren't always just fun though, even Ainsley's fairy tale romance ideas can't save love.

"They always say when you're in love you glow, but no one ever talks about what you look like when you lose love, when it punches you in the gut."

I picked up Just Love, fell in love with the gorgeous cover, and immediately grabbed a pile of tissues and settled in for a cry fest. Prescott Lane is one of my favorite angsty romance writers, she always knows how to pull emotions right out of me. Told from dual perspectives, Just Love follows Ainsley (A. Rose) and Rhett as they tackle the past and present of their love story that never stood a chance. Ainsley is the believer in love, fairytales, and princes that sweep brides off their feet, meanwhile Rhett believes in beautiful women, fun times, and fast flings. The rule that you never go after your best friend's sibling should hold him back, but it doesn't and we see them connect in a beautiful way before everything goes up in flames. I had absolutely no idea about the journey we were going to go on with these two, Prescott Lane totally surprised me with the twists in this. Just Love tackles difficult topics relating to love, loss, hopes, dreams, futures, and the perseverance each of those require. It's a beautiful, epic, heart wrenching story that I'm thankful I made the time for.

I will say that the dual perspective and switching from past to present was very confusing at first and I found myself having to be extra careful to check the chapter headings prior to reading. For me this took away from the reading, especially when I realized a few chapters in that I was so lost in the story that I had to start over. Once you get into the swing of things though it moves along quite smoothly, so I only deducted half a star for that small bit of confusion.

"This is the exact way we started. Are we starting over?"

Just Love is a romance roller coaster ride, the kind you line up for again and again despite the feelings it pulls from you. Prescott Lane once again delivers a passionate, heartfelt romance that readers are sure to love.
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About Prescott:

Prescott Lane is the Amazon best-selling author of Stripped Raw. She's got seven other books under her belt including: First Position, Perfectly Broken, Quiet Angel, Wrapped in Lace, Layers of Her, The Reason for Me, and The Sex Bucket List. She is originally from Little Rock, Arkansas, and holds a degree in sociology and a MSW from Tulane University. She married her college sweetheart, and they currently live in New Orleans with their two children and two crazy dogs. Prescott started writing at the age of five, and sold her first story about a talking turtle to her father for a quarter. She later turned to writing romance novels because there aren't enough happily ever afters in real life.

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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Release Day Review: Flutter - Carrie Aarons

𝐅𝐥𝐮𝐭𝐭𝐞𝐫 (ɴᴀsʜ ʙʀᴏᴛʜᴇʀs, ʙᴏᴏᴋ ᴛʜʀᴇᴇ)
by Carrie Aarons
Published: July 11, 2019
Genre: Contemporary Romance

He can’t stand her, and best believe, the feeling is mutual.
Her life is the complete opposite of what he desires.
So, why can’t they keep their hands off each other?

Forrest Nash is a smug know-it-all. With his brains, ridiculous good looks and penchant for disobeying the laws of both the police and the dark web, Fawn Hill’s resident genius is cockier than any man Penelope Briggs has ever encountered. It doesn’t help that their six-year age difference makes him completely ineligible in her eyes. Add in the fact that he doesn’t want marriage or babies, and that should eliminate him from the dating pool forever. But it doesn’t mean she can’t sleep with him. Once. Or twice. Or ten times. Against all logic, though, Forrest seems to be sneaking into her heart at the same time he’s sneaking into her bed.

Penelope Briggs is one bossy, obnoxious woman. With three young children, a calendar full of school drop-offs and sports, and enough emotional baggage to fill an airplane, this widow is definitely not what Forrest Nash is looking for. And yet, he can’t get enough of the maddening bombshell. But as their hook-ups become a constant, so does his involvement in Penelope’s life. The things he swore he never wanted, love and kids, seem to be the only things on his mind. And when an attack from his part of the cyber world threatens her safety, he’ll have to admit his feelings for the woman he’d do anything to protect.

What started as a convenient friends-with-benefits situation is quickly growing wings. Even if both parties are trying hard to ignore the flutter.
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Review
4 Stars
Carrie has a knack for making you feel all the things when you read and Flutter is just another example of that. The drama in Flutter is true to real life, touching on dating after the loss of a partner, being a single mom, family arguments, age gap, and your usual small town gossip. Forrest Nash is the genius of the Nash brothers, his tendencies to be socially awkward have landed him the spot of being the one most oft picked on, the one they don't take serious, the one they don't see settling down. He may be a cop, one everyone trusts, but he's always been the younger guy. His feelings have been bottled up for too long though and a friends-with-benefits situation puts him in the position of falling for the woman least available. Penelope is the do-it-all single mom, she doesn't let anything hold her back, even when her heart just wants to mourn the loss of her husband. She doesn't have time for feelings, especially not for the handsome as sin, sarcastic Forrest, but he keeps doing the unexpected. What starts as quickies when they can soon turns into this gray area of dating, but when Forrest is put on a sensitive security job it's no surprise that the genius in everything but feelings let's things explode.

I wasn't sure I'd like Forrest, he is so cocky and always sarcastic, but like always Carrie shows us the heart within the characters. He's a good guy, really a teddy-bear, he's just been stomped on so often. I felt for him and, like everyone, I cheered when Penelope finally gave him a chance. Penelope presents herself as strong all the time, rarely letting anyone in, so it makes for really entertaining reading when it's the awkward Forrest who finally sees the real her. These two run hot and cold, their arguments as epic as their lust-filled encounters. That means the first 60% or so of the book is just us really getting to know the characters and I must admit, I enjoyed that. There's no insta-love, these two have known each other forever, but there is chemistry that gets built upon until there's no denying that the two belong together.

A classic small-town romance, Flutter has just the right amount of contemporary drama to make it a winner for me. I loved the mix of sexy and sweet that Carrie Aarons blends together, it kept me engaged and just like Penelope did, I fell for Forrest too. The Nash Brothers series has been such a nice escape for me, these books make you feel just enough and they make you believe in sweet fairy tale romance. I highly recommend this series, and Flutter especially, if you're looking for romance and characters with a lot of heart.

About the Author

Author of romance novels such as The Tenth Girl and Privileged, Carrie Aarons writes books that are just as swoon-worthy as they are sarcastic. A former journalist, she prefers the love stories of her imagination, and the athleisure dress code, much better.

When she isn't writing, Carrie is busy binging reality TV, having a love/hate relationship with cardio, and trying not to burn dinner. She lives in the suburbs of New Jersey with her husband, daughter and Lab/Great Dane rescue.
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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Review: Violent Ends - Jessica Hawkins


Violent Ends (White Monarch #2)
by Jessica Hawkins
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Published: June 18, 2019

I had a life, love, and future to give.
Until my enemy took a wife.

The devil has a name, and it’s Cristiano de la Rosa. On my wedding day, he was the last man I expected to see standing at the altar. He wants to make me his queen. His brother wants to rescue his princess.

Getting Cristiano to lose control becomes the name of the game, and the stakes are life and death. But as truth and lies blur, loyalty is tested, and our chemistry threatens to reach the melting point, the prize grows less clear. Either freedom no longer means what I think it does, or Cristiano is as devious as everyone says, and he’s mastered the art of playing my mind.

All I know for certain is that nothing is certain. And all you need to know? This is a love story.
But even love stories have to end.
  
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Review
4 Stars
Taking place immediately after Violent Delights, Violent Ends follows Natalia as she enters Cristiano's world as his bride. With terrible rumors about the Badlands in her head and a hurting heart from Diego's betrayal, Natalia is unprepared for the men, women, and children who make up Cristiano's followers. Are they there by choice or by force? Natalia does't know, but she must accept she's there for now. Whether she'll use it against him or embrace the desire she has for the devil himself is yet to be determined.

"Like a crown, black lace turned me from eager bride to cartel ruler."

I am well aware that I am the worst with reading the middle books in a trilogy or longer length series. I get way too excited to know more and then I always find myself shocked that I don't have all the answers at the end. I either need to stop reading them or wait till they all release. The good news is, Violent Ends doesn't suffer what many middle books suffer from. It is, essentially, an entire novel with a true beginning, middle, and end. Yes, it ends on a cliffhanger, but it also progressed the story along quite well, taking us from a more meek Natalia to a heroine with a bit more bite. I still didn't love her always, she can be dense, but I did appreciate that Jessica Hawkins put her into a situation to make her open her eyes a little. Cristiano continues to be the bad boy we all love, only he's not so bad, he just looks it, tastes of it, and talks like it.

The push and pull between Natalia and Cristiano continues in Violent Ends. The chemistry between them is the hottest flame, but years of hate and sorrow continue to be barriers between then. These two play the longest game of cat and mouse as they attempt to push one another to their breaking point, or in Natalia's case, Cristiano wants to see her give in to her true desires. Violent Ends takes us into the Badlands, into the devil's bed, and out into the streets where human traffickers hold the power. I really appreciated Cristiano's backstory finally being revealed to us, while it was obvious he wasn't quite as nefarious as Natalia thought, it was still a big blank spot for the character development. Jessica Hawkins gives us many of the answers we were left asking after Violent Delights, specifically why the path they must travel down is this one. Of course, it wouldn't be a novel about Mexican cartels if there wasn't more suspense, drama, and action, so yes, more questions arise by the last page.

While Violent Ends isn't your typical middle read, it still leaves you with that desperate feeling for more. Readers only have to wait until November to read the final installment of White Monarch and by then we'll all know which side is the right side. Are you Team Diego or Team Cristiano? I'd say right now, I'm 100% with Cristiano and his band of merry men.


AUTHOR BIO

Jessica Hawkins is a USA Today bestselling author known for her "emotionally gripping" and "off-the-charts hot" romance. Dubbed "queen of angst" by both peers and readers for her smart and provocative work, she's garnered a cult-like following of fans who love to be torn apart...and put back together.

She writes romance both at home in New York City and around the world, a coffee shop traveler who bounces from café to café with just a laptop, headphones, and a coffee cup. She loves to keep in close touch with her readers, mostly via Facebook, Instagram, and her mailing list.
 


Review: Dear Wife - Kimberly Belle

Dear Wife
by Kimberly Belle
Published: June 25, 2019
Genre: Mystery Thriller

Beth Murphy is on the run...

For nearly a year, Beth has been planning for this day. A day some people might call any other Wednesday, but Beth prefers to see it as her new beginning--one with a new look, new name and new city. Beth has given her plan significant thought, because one small slip and her violent husband will find her.

Sabine Hardison is missing...

A couple hundred miles away, Jeffrey returns home from a work trip to find his wife, Sabine, is missing. Wherever she is, she's taken almost nothing with her. Her abandoned car is the only evidence the police have, and all signs point to foul play.

As the police search for leads, the case becomes more and more convoluted. Sabine's carefully laid plans for her future indicate trouble at home, and a husband who would be better off with her gone. The detective on the case will stop at nothing to find out what happened and bring this missing woman home. Where is Sabine? And who is Beth? The only thing that's certain is that someone is lying and the truth won't stay buried for long.

Review
4 Stars

Beth has been preparing for this day, she has hidden away money, she has plotted her routes, and she has left the past behind her. She knows he will follow though, that at some point he will find her.
Sabine is missing, there are no clues left behind and the police have little to go on. Her husband seems desperate to find her, but Sabine's future plans are very different than the ones he thought they shared and the police soon suspect foul play.
Detective Marcus has a lead and he won't let it go, he'll find Sabine and along the way discover who this mysterious Beth is too.

What a read! Dear Wife is the first female led thriller I have ever read that didn't feel like a domestic drama. Beth is a fascinating character with a compelling story, I could have easily read an entire book about her escape from her abusive husband and the new life she creates for herself. Sabine's story, though missing, is told from the perspective of others and tells a tantalizing story of a secret life. Her husband, Jeffrey, desperate to find her and yet angry at the things he uncovers. Marcus, a detective on a mission, lets everything in his life slide as he seeks the missing woman. The stories are similar and also contrasting; we only know one thing, Beth and Sabine are from the same town and both are no where to be found. Are they the same woman? And if they are different, why are women going missing from Pine Bluff?

Told from three character perspective, Dear Wife is a fascinating thriller that dives into the minds of three people each uniquely affected by the case of missing Sabine. I was absorbed into this story, even the initially confusing character POV changes couldn't slow me down. I needed my questions answered immediately. Kimberly Belle effectively delivers a story about a woman on the run from a terrifying marriage and another missing from a marriage that, from all perspectives, seems to be at a dead end. Beth is willing to do whatever it takes to stay hidden, she has planned out every detail, she finally has the control. Jeffrey is, at first, the bereft husband, willing to play detective himself to find the Sabine he realizes he doesn't know anymore. He soon morphs into every shifty-eyed man you see on the television that every housewife calls foul play on. And Detective Marcus, he treats his ideas like a dog with a bone, but nothing is as it seems with him. I loved how we are given the stories of each right away, each is laid out so tidy that when something comes in to break up the narrative we thought we knew it feels like a shock.

Dear Wife is a made up of a series of twists and turns, leaving the reader unable to guess what is truly going on between our three main characters. While I guessed at a few things, I predominately found this thriller to be an engaging and unique read with plenty of surprises. Kimberly Belle is an incredible writer and I loved her take on the classic missing wife story. It's always the husband, until it isn't.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Pages for Pride: Red, White & Royal Blue - Casey McQuiston

Red, White & Royal Blue
by Casey McQuiston
Published: May 14, 2019
Genre: NA, Contemporary Romance, LGBTQ+

A big-hearted romantic comedy in which the First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends...

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

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Review
5 Stars
I need a lifetime supply of Kleenex and a trophy that says Best Book of 2019 to give to Casey McQuiston. My heart now has a space carved out that belongs to Alex Claremont-Diaz and Prince Henry Windsor, to Red, White & Royal Blue, to all of us readers left in a puddle of tears caused by this beautiful, poignant story. Not only is this book an incredible LGBTQ+ enemies to lovers romance, it's also the book you didn't even know you needed in our present political climate. I didn't even know I needed it and now I can't shut up about it. I said it in one of my Instagram stories, I wish I had this book in my hands when I was 18 and preparing to vote for the very first time. I wish I had all the thoughts I have now in my head, but at least I've got them now, and hey a Presidential election is on the horizon.

"History, huh?"

Cute, funny, and full of heart, Red, White & Royal Blue follows Alex Claremont-Diaz, son to the President of the United States, as he is forced to befriend Prince Henry Windsor, Prince of England to be exact, at least for the media. Alex is the Mexican-American first son to the democratic FEMALE President and he has high hopes of joining the political world alongside his mother. He sees the title President in his future, but that won't happen as long as he is considered the enemy of the Prince of England, which he really is. Prince Henry Windsor, who we shall now just call Henry, is the quiet, arrogant, well-dressed grandson of the Queen. He is charity events, forced smiles, and a media golden child, at least to Alex. When they're forced to hang out in order to put the media storm to rest they discover that they have quite a bit in common and soon their alliance forms into a friendship. Their friendship leads to some startling discoveries for Alex, like he's bisexual, and some timid sharing from Henry, a closeted gay thanks to familial and societal expectations. What started as a laugh-out-loud story of forced friendship soon became a story of heartbreak, hope, and humanity as Alex and Henry explore their blossoming desires for one another. Their romance is told through in person-interactions, texts, phone calls, and the best emails I have ever read. It's an authentic story about two young men discovering their identities and figuring out the shape and direction of their futures, all with an ocean and several titles between them.

"Whatever, fine. Henry is annoyingly attractive. That's always been a thing, objectively. It's fine."

Casey McQuiston created an entirely new world in Red, White & Royal Blue. Sure, it's America and England, but it's a world with diverse leaders who desire to make positive changes, who truly fight for the people. Alex and Henry know their position and their families' position in the public will make their relationship, their identities, more difficult to embrace, and yet Casey creates for them a world in which they recognize there is strength and power in owning it. Their friends and families, and employees, come from diverse backgrounds, have various heritages, and love freely. Many are out and proud, many wear that culture proudly, Alex and Henry have just not yet found their footing among them. I loved the secondary characters in this novel just as much as I loved our two main heroes. Speaking of secondary characters and world building, I am obsessed with the character interactions in this book. The relationships felt fluid and natural, there is no stilted dialogue. The characters speak and think like their age, their humor is spot on, and the romance is fresh and new feeling. The language, the prose, all of it just made this book that much better for me. I could live in these pages and I mean that quite sincerely, snotty sobbing and all, this book holds a story I want to live and I'm thankful Casey McQuiston gave me the opportunity to do so with her words.

"Straight people, he thinks, probably don't spend this much time convincing themselves the're straight."

Royal romance, politics, and everyone writing about their heart and their tears? Not normally my cuppa tea. I saw the reviews for this though, they were darn good, and one of my closets friends said it was a must-read for my June Pride reading challenge, she also included it was her favorite for the year, so I picked it up and now I do not want to put it down. For the six hours I read this book I sincerely believed every single character was a real person in my life. I was either crying, making heart eyes, or preparing to go fight alongside them. Red, White & Royal Blue took me on the cutest adventure ever and my emotions were not prepared for all the adorable, painful, and realistic moments in is pages. Not only do I wholeheartedly recommend this novel, I also think it should be a must read. It's important, while also being the feel-good story we need.

About the Author
Casey McQuiston grew up in the swamps of Southern Louisiana, where she cultivated an abiding love for honey butter biscuits and stories with big, beating hearts. She studied journalism and worked in magazine publishing for years before returning to her first love: joyous, offbeat romantic comedies and escapist fiction. She now lives in the mountains of Fort Collins, Colorado, with a collection of caftans and her poodle mix, Pepper. Red, White & Royal Blue is her first novel.
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