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That's What I'm Talking About

I generally review romance, paranormal and urban fantasy. I tend to pick review books that I want to read, so generally my reviews will be positive. I always give my honest opinion: good, bad, and indifferent. 


Note: on my blog I use a letter grading system. I've listed the ratings below. For sites with stars, I have listed the equivalent rating. If I didn't finish the book, I will not rate it with stars.


A+  Personal Favorite (5 stars)
A    Loved It (4.5 or 5 stars)
A-   Enjoyed A Lot (4 or 4.5 stars)
B+  Liked It A Lot (4 stars)
B    Liked It -- Recommend (4 stars)
B-   Liked It -- But I had a few small issues (3 or 3.5 stars)
C+  Liked It -- But I had issues (3 or 3.5 stars)
C    Finished It -- Liked some, didn't like some (3 stars)
C-   Finished It -- Liked a little, didn't like a lot (2 or 2.5 stars)
D    Not A Big Fan (2 stars)
E    Don’t Waste Your Time (1 star)
TW: Reading this book was like watching a Train Wreck
DNF: Did Not Finish


updated July 9, 2015

Currently reading

Can't Stand the heat
Peggy Jaeger
Grace Burrowes
A Wind in the Door
Listening Library, Jennifer Ehle, Madeleine L'Engle
Operation: Endgame (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Book 6) (English Edition)
Philippa Ballantine, Jeanne H. Ballantine, William Morris
Just You and Me (A Contemporary Romance Collection)
Fiona Miers, Caitlyn Lynch, Liz Durano, Deelylah Mullin, Cate Farren, Jacquie Biggar, Vicki Batman, Kate Richards, Brenna Zinn, Dalton Diaz, Tierney O'Malley, Desiree Holt, Nicole Morgan, Ashlyn Chase
Bitter Bite: Elemental Assassin, Book 14
Audible Studios, Jennifer Estep, Lauren Fortgang
Progress: 27 %

Review: On the Brink of Passion by Tamsen Parker

On the Brink of Passion - Tamsen Parker

Jubilee, a veteran SIGs pairs figure skater, has returned to the spotlight with new partner, Beckett. She was the SIGs four years ago with her husband as her partner, but shortly after, he suffered an untimely death. Vowing never to lose so much all at once again, Jubilee appreciates Beckett because he is hard working, dedicated, and has no desire to her friend.


Beckett missed out on the SIGs four years ago, after which his then partner and lover, Sabrina, dumped him. Finding Jubilee was a godsend, and the fact that they are favored at the SIGs after only two years together is almost a miracle. Beckett is looking forward to the competition, and everything (and everyone) that comes along with the ride. 


Through a mistake in room assignments, Jubilee and Beckett are placed in the same suite, and neither is happy. Jubilee needs her downtime and private space. Beckett needs to get laid, but the Ice Princess won’t allow him to bring anyone back to the room. So on a dare/joke, the pair decide to sleep together.


On the Brink of Passion is a wonderful, amazing story and by far my favorite of the Snow and Ice Games series. It works for several reasons, namely it punches all my yes buttons. I enjoy books where the primary couple already has a strong sense of an established, non-sexual backstory, which is especially important when characters fall deeply in love on a shortened timeline. I also love books that pull at my heartstrings, allowing me to feel the heartache and/or suffering of one/both characters, but also brings me up so high in their love. Finally, the story is well-written, lacking any side stories or distractions that detract from the ebb and flow of the book.


The romantic journey begins well before the book starts - even though neither Beck nor Jubilee recognize it. The pair meshes perfectly on ice, creating an intimacy even though they aren’t friends or lovers. This gives the book a solid foundation for which their love affair can grow. The ludicrous start, being placed in the same suite and having sex on a dare, creates a forced proximity and more intimacy, once again, even though the characters attempt to keep a distance. 


Beckett is strong and kind, funny and determined. There were times I was laughing out loud at his thoughts and actions. He had trouble with past partners and has finally found the perfect match in Jubilee. And once they break out of their standard routine and he gets inside of her mind and body, he realizes he loves her. But Jubilee is so determined for history not to repeat itself that she refuses to acknowledge the strong bond and love she shares with Beck. The give-and-take between the two pulled at my heart, causing me to become emotionally connected to the pair.


On the Brink of Passion follows Beckett and Jubilee as they go from platonic partners to lovers. Watching them grow closer, even though Jubilee is determined not to see history repeat itself, warmed my heart. Their story shares heartache and triumphs in equal measures, giving me all the feels. I absolutely adored their romance and highly recommend it to any and all.


My Rating: A, Loved It

Originally posted at That's What I'm Talking About

Review copy provided by Netgalley

#Audiobook Review: Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs

Burn Bright - Patricia Briggs, -Penguin Audio-, Holter Graham

With Bran away, Charles is charged with looking after his pack. Danger strikes close to home, endangering the Wildlings, lone wolves who are too wild to be part of the pack, but remain under Bran’s protection. Unable to reach Bran, Charles and Anna are left of save and protect the Wildlings while trying to uncover who within the pack is a traitor.


While Burn Bright is the continuation of Charles and Anna’s story, the series on whole is deeply connected to its sister series, the Mercy Thompson series, and this story takes place following and refers to the events in Silence Fallen. Bran remains away after helping Mercy escape her captors in Europe, but lied about his location to Charles. So when things go sideways and Bran is unreachable, Charles begins to suspect more is going on than a random attack on isolated wolves.


I mostly enjoyed the story as it alternates between Anna and Charles’ POVs, revealing bits and threads that begin to show something larger happening around the pack. The series is at its best when Anna and Charles are in sync, working together to solve a bizarre mystery. And although Charles and Anna work separately for a bit, the trust and love they share makes the pair much stronger than the individuals. And watching them try to figure out who is attacking the Wildlings while trying to understand what secrets Bran has hidden for them to uncover was exciting and engrossing. We meet several new characters that I hope turn up in books down the road.


Unfortunately, there is one part of the book that really bothered me, even though I tried hard to understand why Ms. Briggs would have included it. Specifically it has to do with the relationship between Bran and his foster daughter, Mercy, who doesn’t even make an appearance in the story. Anna and Charles discuss the bond between Bran and Mercy, and the impacts to Bran’s own mating bond with Leah. The implications are upsetting and disturbing, and I feel there was no reason to include it. However, I did enjoy learning more about Leah (later in the book) and her motivations. It made her character more relatable and three-dimensional.


The story is narrated by series-veteran, Holter Graham. I have always enjoyed his performances, although I felt sometimes he had a stereotype-Native American accent for Charles. However, in Burn Bright, Mr. Graham changed up his voice for Charles quiet a bit. So much so, that it sparked a big discussion among my friends on Twitter. While the change was distracting at first, it didn’t take me too long to settle into the new voice and enjoy the performance. Overall his voices remain solid and character appropriate, adding in a touch of emotion when needed.


In the end, I enjoyed finally getting back to Anna and Charles after a three-year break. It doesn’t seem like the story was as strong as previous tales, but that may have more to do with the shift away from the Fae, giving the book a transition feel. The story builds upon what I love most about this series - the dynamic between Anna and Charles, their bond and love. I liked getting more about Leah; I liked understanding her and her feelings a bit more. The Wildlings piece was interesting, and I hope well see more of them in future titles. 


My Rating: B 

Narration: B 


Review copy provided by Penguin Random House Audio

Review: As the Devil Dares by Anna Harrington

As the Devil Dares - Anna Harrington

In an effort to seek the approval of his deceased father, Robert has spent the past two years planning for the chance to be part of Winslow Shipping and Henry Winslow’s partner. The catch: Robert must find a husband for Winslow’s unruly daughter, Mariah, aka the Hellion.


Mariah grew up without her mother, at her father’s side at the docks and shipyard. She knows Winslow Shipping inside and out and hopes to run the family business someday. But her father wants Mariah to be a proper lady, and instead seeks to find a partner outside the family. She’ll do everything she can to foil Robert’s plans to marry her off and take the company for himself.


As the Devil Dares is a fun story with an enemies-to-lovers romance. Robert and Mariah are at odds from the start - both vying for her father’s attention and a piece of Winslow Shipping. Each is running from their own demons, having solid reasons for wanting to hold Winslow’s favor. But placing Robert in charge of Mariah’s season and finding her a husband creates a forced proximity with hilarious consequences. Mariah does everything she can to go along with the plan, while simultaneously working against the idea of marriage.


As the pair spends time together, they start to get past their ambitions and see true natures beneath rough exteriors. They learn about one another, finding commonality in the death of a parent. Both are motivated and can appreciate the drive of the other. However, as all good stories go, mistakes made prior to their friendship developing come to light, causing conflict and drama. While it was obvious from the start that the conflict would occur, Ms. Harrington weaves a solid and entertaining story that kept me engaged. 


In the end, I enjoyed this third story in the Capturing the Carlisles series. Ms. Harrington has become a must-read author for me. I love her unconventional, strong-willed women who defy their time and go after what they want, and As the Devil Dares is another delightful example. Mariah and Robert are the perfect pairing, finding true love after learning to be friends then lovers.


My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot


Review copy provided by Netgalley

Originally posted at That's What I'm Talking About

Review: DEAD EYE by Alyssa Day

DEAD EYE: A Tiger's Eye cozy paranormal mystery (Tiger's Eye Mysteries Book 1) - Alyssa Day

Tess has lived in Dead End her whole life. Although the town is no stranger to the weird and unexplained, she’s a bit of an oddball; able to see a person’s death when coming into contact with another. She runs a pawn shop, which she is now partial owner, and genuinely loves her job.


Jack, a tiger shifter, has been away for ten years, leading the human resistance against vampires and working side by side with the Atlanteans. He recently discovered his uncle (and only family member), Jeremiah, was murdered, and after being back in Dead End for less than a day, another dead body is dumped at the door to his deceased uncle’s pawn shop. Now Jack is determined to figure out what’s going on.


I absolutely enjoyed reading Dead Eye, the first in Ms. Day’s new Tiger’s Eye Mysteries (although the book was previously released). The story is shared by the first person POV of Tess, and features Jack, one of the heroes from the Warriors of Poseidon series. There are so many delightful surprises in this one... and not at all what I expected after reading the Warriors of Poseidon. Dead Eye is filled with light-hearted humor and has a cozy-mystery vibe.


The mystery of who killed Jeremiah and what is happening in Dead End builds slowly and clues delivered sporadically. Tess and Jack do a great job of seeing the interconnected strings that tie everything together. While it’s not a surprise who did what and why by the time the master plan is revealed, it unfolds in a way that is thoughtful and interesting. 


Tess is a great heroine. She’s an “average Joe” (with a weird gift of being able to foresee a person’s death), who rises to the occasion. She finds courage when she doesn’t expect it. She’s kind and good, but has a wicked side when it comes to seeking vengeance against those who’ve done harm to innocents. Jack compliments her in many ways,  bolstering her and allowing her to be more. Their attraction is slow-burning but obvious to the reader. 


Dead Eye is a fabulous, engrossing story filled with great humor, interesting adventures, and a hint of romance that has the potential for some serious heat. I found myself cheering for Jack and Tess. I enjoyed meeting all of Dead End’s denizens, with all their quirks and flaws. The core group is solid and will look out for one another, which sets this up to be a wonderful series.


My Rating:  A, Loved It

Review copy provided by NetGalley

Originally posted at That's What I'm Talking About

#Audiobook Review: Murder's a Witch by Danielle Garrett

Murder's a Witch: Beechwood Harbor Magic Mysteries Series, Book 1 - Danielle Garrett, Tantor Audio, Amanda Ronconi

Holly, a powerful witch, has been tossed from the Haven, a secret system of living for paranormals. She’s been placed in a communal home for displaced paras, living in the small town of Beechwood Harbor. Working at a coffee shop to make ends meet, Holly is shocked when she shows up for work only to find her grumpy boss Peg murdered in the back alley. When her best friend is named as the primary suspect, Holly uses her witchy ways to get to the bottom of this mystery.


Murder’s a Witch is a fun, entertaining story. This is the first time I’ve selected an audiobook primarily because of the narrator, and I’m glad I did. I enjoyed the small-town, cozy paranormal mystery with a slight blossom of romance. Even though at first, I found the house infighting annoying, and the characters a bit over-the-top, I grew to like the residents of Beechwood Harbor. 


Holly is a bit of a mess, and she has secrets, of which we learned very little. Hopefully those answers will come in time, but the immediate mystery of who killed Peg was engrossing. I liked listening as Holly worked to put all of the pieces together. I loved the light-hearted nature of the story, watching friendships develop, seeing Adam’s genuine interest in Holly, etc. Some of the storylines were a bit cheesy - like the vampiress beauty queen, but mostly it is a good mix of fun. 


As I mentioned, I picked up this story because while it looked interesting, the narrator is one of my favorites: Amanda Ronconi. She does a wonderful job with the story, creating and maintaining unique and fitting voices for each character. Ms. Ronconi succeeds with the quirky, first-person female lead, and Holly is no exception. I’ve become familiar with most of her voices, yet never did I confuse Murder’s a Witch with another story.


In the end, I enjoyed my first visit to Beechwood Harbor. I like that there is still a lot of unknown around Holly, like why she was kicked out of the Haven system, and with town newcomer, Nick… I feel like there is more to him than meets the eye. I will definitely pick up future titles of the Beechwood Harbor Magic Mysteries with Amanda Ronconi narrating.


My Rating: B
Narration: B+


Review copy provided by Tantor Audio

Review: The Instigator by Stephanie Julian

The Instigator (Redtails Hockey Book 4) - Stephanie Julian

Derek “The Instigator” Flaherty loves playing hockey and enjoys his current team, the Redtails. His dream is to play in the NHL, so he works hard and is well respected. And his teammates all love him, even though they don’t necessarily see the real guy behind the laughs and good times. But that’s okay, Derek prefers to keep things casual, never allowing relationships to mess with his head or run his life.


As the baby of her family, Sophie is the good girl who does what’s asked of her. She keeps her dreams of traveling abroad to herself, rather than seeing any kind of disappointment or hurt in her family’s eyes. Working to finish her degree and putting in all sorts of hours at her dad’s bar, Sophie doesn’t have time for guys or a social life. However, when she meets Derek, she feels something stir inside of her and thinks maybe a little fun isn’t bad.


Although this is the fourth book in the Redtails Hockey series, The Instigator is a standalone romance that can be enjoyed without previous knowledge of the series. Derek and Sophie hit it off right from the start, and I love their chemistry. They are almost always in sync - whether in the bedroom or not. They are the kind of couple who clicks and can have lengthy conversations like two old friends. They also have other “lengthy” activities, and their romantic encounters are pretty smokin’.


The story moves fairly smoothly, filled with genuine emotions and conflict. I appreciate that their issues are common and real, and that they move past them together. Both Sophie and Derek each has some growing to do, and they start by admitting to themselves how they really feel. There are a few of hiccups along the way, including a couple of minor inconsistencies that took me out of the story. I also felt like some issues were brought up but not fleshed out enough - like why everyone kind of dumps on Derek being not good boyfriend material and Derek’s ex-girl friend, which is hinted as being a bad breakup. I kept expecting more details to fill in why maybe Derek is the way he is.


All in all, I enjoyed The Instigator, and really love Derek and Sophie as a couple. They are genuine and adorable. They are scared, but move forward. They learn to communicate. The Instigator is a nice paced, happy story.


My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot

Review copy provided by author

Originally posted at That's What I'm Talking About

#Audiobook Review: Down by Contact by Santino Hassell

Down by Contact: Barons Series, Book 2 - Eric London, Tantor Audio, Santino Hassell, Alexander Cendese

3/10/2018 Edited to Add: Please note, this review was written and posted prior to the occurrences brought to light in recent days (https://goo.gl/Y7WB7F). The book was read and reviewed in good faith and as presented at the time. The posting of this review in no way condones the actions of author.




Simeon and Adrián have been rivals for four years, ever since Simeon was traded from the Predators to the Barons. When the pair match up in a preseason game, the summer after Simeon came out of the closet, Adrián can’t stop himself from making jokes at the expense of Simeon’s sexual preferences. This leads to an all-out brawl, leaving both suspended for six games and forced into joint community service. Can the pair back away from their rivalry long enough to become friends? or more?


I have to admit, I struggled a quiet a bit when I first started Down by Contact. I was disappointed the story once again relied on an NFL suspension to make it work (which is what happened in the first book of the series). Additionally, both main characters come off juvenile and immature mostly because of their speech. The characters weren’t clicking for me, and I didn’t feel any sexual tension or connections between the pair like I did in the first book. But mostly, the narration didn’t work for me. I did not care for Mr. London’s voice for Adrián, nor his interpretation of Simeon, and at times couldn’t tell the difference between who was speaking. 


After taking a short break away from the story and then coming back to it, I found things turning around. As the story progresses, the characters develop and their interactions become more meaningful. I liked the play between Adrián and Simeon when they’re just being themselves. And although everything starts off as a dare and a game, real emotions surface, and I liked that the pair is accepting of what is happening. 


What shines in the story is Adrián’s self-reflection and analysis of his actions and ideals. And not just about being queer. But on being a better person. About thinking before speaking. About caring for others. His constant contemplation is thought-provoking. I enjoyed seeing him change most off all, and I’m not just taking about his sexuality. I mean how he becomes aware of his place in the world around him. 


As I mentioned above, I struggled with the narration. The narrators are the same as the prior book. Alexander Cendese, who was Gavin, is perfect for Simeon. Rough and tough, but sweet. The voice of Adrián is Eric London (who was Noah), who’s performance is way too calm for the asshole behavior of Adrián. However, as Adrián’s character changes, and the longer I listened to the book, I grew to like Mr. London’s performance more. I don’t know that he ever fit perfectly for Adrián, and he never did a great job with Simeon, but it didn’t prevent me from enjoying the story.


In the end, even though I struggled with Adrián and his narrator for about 50% of the book, he changed, and the narration was a better fit as Adrian became a more thoughtful individual. And as Simeon and Adrián developed a genuine friendship, I grew to like the pair and enjoy their story.


Story: B 

AC narration: B+

EL narration: B-


Review copy provided by Tantor Audio.

#Audiobook Review: How to Date Your Dragon by Molly Harper

How to Date Your Dragon - Audible Studios, Amanda Ronconi, Molly Harper, Jonathan Davis

How to Date Your Dragon is the initial offering in Ms. Harper’s new audiobook-first Mystic Bayou series. The book takes place in modern-day Louisiana, in a world where a limited number of humans know about the existence of the paranormal beings who live among us. The League for Interspecies Cooperation is one group who knows about the paras and is preparing for the day everyone else finds out. 


Jillian is sent to the town of Mystic Bayou by the League to study how different paranormal species and humans coexist peacefully, and catalog it so that it can be used as a guide for future towns once the general human population discovers paranormal exist. She is sent at the last minute because her boss was injured in an accident involving a unicorn. The town’s folk are generally welcoming of Jillian, most especially the mayor, Zed who is a bear shifter, and Jillian’s love interest: Bael, who is a dragon shifter and the sheriff. However, after she arrives, a few of the paranormals are murdered, putting Jillian in the middle of a criminal investigation.


Overall, I really enjoyed listening to How to Date Your Dragon. It’s trademark Molly Harper humor, but a little less snarky. Jillian is smart and kind; she can be precious and darling, but also a firecracker. And Bael is a perfect match for her (and she for him). Bael is gruff, but he cares about the residents of Mystic Bayou, something unique among dragons, making him a bit of an outcast in his family. I love how Bael just jumps headfirst into his feelings for Jillian, even if she’s a bit reluctant. 


In addition to the romance, the book features a solid mystery. Residents are being brutally murdered, something that hasn’t happened in the small town in years. I like how Bael and Jillian work side by side to solve the crimes. And then there is the aspect of the rift, about which we learned very little, but is exciting, and I hope we get more soon.


The narration from Ms. Ronconi is exactly what I’ve come to expect. She hits all the southern dialects and seems to alter her voice just right to fit high-speed Jillian and more laid-back Bael and Jed. I started at 1.25x speed since that’s what I always use for her narration; however, I needed to speed it up for Mr. Davis, and then just kept it at 1.5x speed. Mr. Davis’s narration took a little getting used to, probably because I’m so used to Ms. Ronconi going solo. I liked his voice for Zed and most of the males. The females are a bit soft. My biggest issue with his performance was the high volume of production errors where it is evident his parts were re-dubbed after the fact. It became very annoying. 


In the end, I loved listening to How to Date Your Dragon and cannot wait to see what Ms. Harper does with this wonderful new series.


My Rating: A

AR narration: A

JD narration: B+ / B- (the production issues are the only thing bringing down his rating)

Review: Devil in Tartan by Julia London

Devil in Tartan (The Highland Grooms) - Julia London

Aulay Mackenzie has only ever felt himself when at sea. In an effort to save his family’s shipping business, Aulay decides to make his first commissioned trip, taking on cargo for another, despite his family’s concerns over the risk. Barely away from port, Aulay comes across a distressed ship and offers assistance to its beautiful passenger, Ms. Lottie Livingstone.


Lottie’s clan is at the end of its rope, hoping to sell their illegal whiskey overseas, when their ship is attacked, leaving her father severely injured. Lottie’s plan to commandeer Aulay’s vessel goes smoothly, despite her attraction to its captain. However, once things start unraveling, Lottie isn’t sure she should continue with her plans.


Devil in Tartan is an enjoyable highland adventure. Taking place mostly at sea, Lottie and Aulay are forced to spend time together in confided quarters, allowing their mutual attraction to boil over and develop into a friendship. However, it’s not sunshine and roses. Aulay stands to lose everything due to Lottie’s scheme, and Lottie bears the weight of saving her entire clan from losing their homes and land. Aulay’s constant struggle between his duty, family, and his feelings for Lottie create incredible emotional turmoil and conflict.


Aulay and Lottie are both lonely souls, doing what they can for their families. But whereas Lottie sacrifices herself to keep her family together, Aulay runs away from his, not feeling worthy under his father’s roof. Yet the pair, drawn by a powerful attraction, have the time to see the real individuals beneath the layers of protective outer shell that each has built to keep themselves emotionally distant. They grow close and fall in love, even though Aulay’s hurt overshadows the love for a while. Luckily Lottie doesn’t grow bitter, and remains open and caring, allow their reunion to proceed and love to grow, even after the damage she does.


Overall, I enjoyed Devil in Tartan. The romance and story progress and a slow and steady pace, allowing time for both self-discovery and a deeper mutual bond.


My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot

Review copy provided by Netgalley

Originally posted at That's What I'm Talking About

Review: Fire on the Ice by Tamsen Parker

Fire on the Ice: Snow & Ice Games - Tamsen Parker

Blaze and Maisy shared three days of debauchery at the SIGs four years ago, so good that neither could forget. But it was just for fun, so they never sought each other, until they both arrive in Denver for another round of Snow and Ice Games. Picking up right where they left off, the pair shares a greedy lust, spending almost all their private time together. But each knows it’s only for the duration of the games, and real feelings aren’t an issue… right?


Fire on the Ice is the fourth tale to come from the Snow and Ice Games series. This time around, the story features Maisy, the shy, mostly closeted figure skater and Blaze, the loud and proud, polymorous short track speed skater. Blaze and Maisy are polar opposites, yet so much the same. They both work hard for the sport they love; never in the top but always close. They both are sexually insatiable and enjoy being with one another. But whereas Blaze basks in the public eye and loves attention, Maisy shies away, hoping to stay off the radar. 


I liked the pairing of Blaze and Maisy. Both have to learn to be better versions of themselves to make the relationship work. They both grow and give, and I enjoyed watching how their union developed over the short, but intense time they spent together. They both make missteps, but instead of these mistakes ending things, they help to bring the couple closer together. I also appreciate the author’s focus on the importance of strong and open communication being the key to a solid relationship.


The only real negative for me was the shear volume of graphic sex. I didn’t ever think I’d write those words, but honestly, after a while, I just skimmed the scenes because I wanted more of the story outside the bedroom. However, the scenes are not gratuitous because the couple’s sexual nature is important to the story. The sex scenes are used to show the common bond and ultimate trust each woman has with/for the other. They are used to show how the pair grows increasingly closer and intimate. But for me, it got to be too much and overshadowed the rest of the story.


Overall, Fire on the Ice is a solid story and sexy romance. I love how strongly Blaze and Maisy support one another. How mistakes are made but forgiveness is granted. How love is stronger than outside circumstances. I love seeing both grow and mature, slaying inner demons along the way. 


My Rating:  B, Liked It

Review copy provided by Netgalley

Originally posted at That's What I'm Talking About

#Audiobook Review: Thomas by Grace Burrowes

Thomas: Jaded Gentlemen Series, Book 1 - Tantor Audio, Grace Burrowes, James Langton

Thomas Jennings arrives at his newly acquired estate to discover his steward has been absent for two years, leaving his more than capable daughter, Loris, to fill the roll. However, with discontent among the staff, Thomas makes changes immediately, and now someone is causing mischief on his property, leaving the unprepared Thomas dependent on Loris’s knowledge and advice.


Loris Tanner enjoys her position as steward despite the hard work because she loves the land. She’s comforted to realize the new owner is reasonable and plans to keep her on in her role. However, neither Loris nor Thomas planned on the growing attraction that draws the pair together.


Even though Thomas is the first book in the Jaded Gentlemen series, it’s the second I’ve listened to. Now that I am familiar the author’s voice and storytelling, along with the narrator’s style and vocalization, it all fell into place. I adore Thomas and Loris. I love that both are unconventional for the time. She is a strong female who uses her smarts and wit. She’s happy running the land, doing a man’s job… and she’s mostly accepted, which is not something that would have happened. Likewise, Thomas is kind and generous. He values not only Loris’s opinions but the word of all his honorable employees. He gives Loris time and comfort, recognizing that she has been hurt and needs to be in charge of her own life. 


The narration by Mr. Langton is comforting. His voices are soothing and familiar. While none of the characters stand out, each is just different enough that every character is unique and distinguishable from the next. While he never quite comes off as a woman, his female voices are appropriate and feminine. 


Even though the story takes place only over the course of a couple months, Thomas is sweeping and almost epic in nature due to the methodical approach to both the romance and the mystery of who is behind the sabotage. I like that story gives equal footing to the romance, the mystery, and the development of the two main characters. Overall, Thomas is a delightful listen.


My Rating: A-

Narration: A-

Review: On the Edge of Scandal by Tamsen Parker

On the Edge of Scandal: Snow & Ice Games - Tamsen Parker

Bronwyn is on the U.S. woman’s hockey team at the Snow and Ice Games (SIGs). She’s earned her spot as one of the best college players. Her boyfriend since age of 14, Brody, didn’t make the men’s squad, but he’s there to support his girl… Or is he? The guy’s a jerk, always making things about himself, and Bronwyn wishes he wasn’t in Denver. 


Being asked to coach the U.S. woman’s team is an honor for Ash, who loves the finesse of the women’s game. Everything is going well, except he HATES Bronwyn’s boyfriend, who makes a nuisance of himself. Ash would like to tell him to take a hike, but he doesn’t want to upset his star player, who, by the way, Ash feels deserves so much better than Brody.


On the Edge of Scandal is the third love story of the SIG games from Ms. Parker. Once again she finds a great pairing that is just a bit on the outside of the norm. It’s also the third story with a significant age difference between the two main characters. While I don’t necessarily mind it, I am getting a bit tired of reading that particular theme.


I blazed through the story, which captured me right from the start. Because Bronwyn has a boyfriend, and since Ash is her coach, the romance takes some time to develop, which is a good thing. Each genuinely cares for and about the other, with Bronwyn’s attraction falling into place after she breaks up with her boyfriend. Their story is compelling, which made for quick reading.


So here’s the thing… Ash is her coach, and even though their relationship is completely consensual, there is still a huge power dynamic in play, no matter what Ash and Bronwyn think. I struggled with their relationship, just as Ash experiences the same concerns and doubts, driving home the taboo nature of their attraction. Then there are times that Bronwyn shows some immaturity, which really strikes home the age difference and the whole coach-student/athlete concern, amping up the ick factor for me. And honestly, timing is probably part of the issue, because I read On the Edge of Scandal as the Larry Nassar trial was going on, and it really poisoned me to the impacts of a person in power abusing his athletes.


In the end, I enjoyed On the Edge of Scandal, but struggled with the coach/athlete nature of the romance. I liked the connections between Bronwyn and Ash - when they are equals. I also enjoyed Ash’s coaching persona and how much he respected his team. I appreciate that the author took time in letting the relationship play out, giving readers an epilogue that shared the couples long-term plans. But, still… he is her coach.


My Rating:  B/B- Liked It, but I had a few small issues

Review copy provided by NetGalley

Originally posted at That's What I'm Talking About

Review: Royal Ruin by Jessica Peterson

Royal Ruin: A Second Chance Royal Romance (Flings With Kings) - Jessica Peterson

Ten years ago, Emily was an honor student at big economic school in London. Her TA was none other than a prince - and a big one, as in the Queen’s grandson. Kit is enamored with Emily, but stays away because she’s his student and she has a boyfriend. However, when Emily comes to his office, a mess after finding out her boyfriend back home was cheating on her, he gives in to temptation. 


Flash forward to present day and Emily has a trendy interior design firm, that is losing money. She’s going on one last interview for none other than the Royal family. While she ends up with the design contract, she also receives a proposal from Kit to be his fake fiancée for a few months. In exchange, he’ll save her failing company.


Royal Ruin was a mixed bag for me. There were parts that I absolutely enjoyed, but there were parts with which I struggled. First the good: I loved how much Kit admires Emily right from the start. He falls head over heels not just because of a physical attraction, but he appreciates her brilliant mind and wit. They make a good team when they gel. And when the pair get real with their feelings and passion, the story is wonderful.


However… I had an issue early on with Emily and it never really went away. First, ten years ago, her world falls apart because the love of her life cheats on her… so what does she do? Uses her TA, and he still has the condom on when she talks to her BF and decides they want to work it out. My thoughts went to Rachel and Ross’s “We were on a break” - one of the worst storylines in the sitcom’s (Friends) long life. Then when time moves to present day, I felt Emily continued to make some poor decisions. For example, why hasn’t she blocked her ex from the ability to call or text her? They went through a horrible divorce, yet she still has his number in her cell. And don’t get me started on the ex storyline, which felt forced and contrived.


Then there is the Royal family. In one breath we learn how important appearances are, and in the next, they are having obnoxious family squabbles in front of strangers. And when the Queen just says “fake engagement to Emily” will solve their problems, Kit jumps to it. I had a tough time buying this.


Overall, I enjoyed reading the story, however, I did have issues. The characters felt a bit immature and both had annoying traits. It was hard for me to get behind the couple and the relationship for a long time because I really didn’t care for Emily all that much. But I did like how much Kit liked Emily right from the start - it gave some credibility to his actions. I did like the emotions written into the characters as they make the decision to break up due to their respective careers and life goals. Seeing the results of that decision was the only way for the couple to have a chance at an HEA.


My Rating:  C+ Liked It, but I had issues

Review copy provided by author.

Originally posted at That's What I'm Talking About

Quickie #Audiobook Review: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

A Wrinkle in Time - Hope Davis, Madeleine L'Engle

I truly enjoyed this "reread" of one of my all time favorite stories. I listened to the #audiobook with my 11-year-old daughter, who enjoyed it for the first time. The story is a wonderful blend of fantasy, hope, and adventure. While the speech and dialogue may be dated at times, the message remains timeless. The narration by Ms. Davis was excellent (my daughter gives her 5 stars). She manages to capture the wide array of emotions from joy to fear, from hopelessness to love, not only in Meg, the main character, but in each of the supporting players. She manages a large variety of voices, each fitting for each character.


My Rating: A-
Daughter's Rating: 4.3 stars


Narration: A
Daughter's Rating: 5 stars

Review: The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

The Wedding Date - Jasmine Guillory

Alexa is on her way to visit her out-of-town sister. Drew is in town for a wedding. The pair get trapped for a short time in an elevator, and they hit if off immediately. While there is definitely mutual desire, both enjoy the easy banter more than anything. So when Drew asks Alexa to be his date for the wedding, she agrees. What happens next is an intense attraction that neither is prepared for.


The Wedding Date is a cute story about two successful individuals trying to find their way through life and love. While the premise is adorable and totally up my alley, I really struggled with the characters and overall execution. For the most part, I loved Alexa. She’s real. She works hard, loves her job, has fun, and lives life. She’s smart and successful - both main characters are - so that’s why I was frustrated with the fact that both Drew and Alexa have the emotional maturity of teenagers. They have no self-confidence when it comes to relationships, and they are constantly second guessing and looking for hidden meanings in actions and words (or the absence of either). It’s exhausting. They don’t communicate at all, which I get happens in real life, but I don’t read romances to see an accurate reflection of real life. The conflict in the story was driven by the insecurities of the characters.


I was also frustrated with the amount of off-page action. And I’m not just referring to sex. Although, I have to admit, sometimes it was so behind-closed-doors that I missed the fact they even had sex. But In general, there are too many scenes like this one: 


On the way back to his apartment, they drove by the Santa Monica Pier. 


“I haven’t been there since I was a kid,” she said. “It was always so fun.” 


An SUV pulled out of a parking spot ahead of him, and he made a snap decision. 


“No time like the present.” He reversed into the spot and grabbed her hand. “Let’s go.” 


When they got back to his apartment, they were both giddy, sunburned, and exhausted.


If it was such a great getting-to-know you experience that helped the couple grow closer, why not share it with the reader? Scenes like this did nothing but aggravate me after a while.


Then comes the last 10% of the book. IT WAS PHENOMENAL! Alexa and Drew own up to their feelings and COMMUNICATE. They take risks and do something. This part of the story is full of emotion, with a strong storyline. It’s just too bad the whole book wasn’t written this way.


In the end, I enjoyed The Wedding Date, the debut title from Ms. Guillory; however, it took me a while to get through the book. Unfortunately, both main characters suffer from bad choices and a significant lack of confidence, which is what drives the conflict, something I didn’t care for. There are moments of good sprinkled throughout the story, and the last 10% or so is wonderful. 


My Rating:  C+ Liked It, but I had issues

Originally posted at That's What I'm Talking About

Review copy provided by publisher.

Review: A Trace of Copper by Anne Renwick

A Trace of Copper (An Elemental Web Tale Book 2) - Anne Renwick

Dr. Piyali Mukherji, an agent of the Queen, is on her first assignment: she is sent to a small village to determine the cause of a mysterious infection. Although she’s excited to solve the challenging case, she’s on edge because her once-fiancé is the town’s pharmacist.


Evan Tredegar never stopped loving Piyali, however the day he returned from his travels abroad, a tragic event prevented him from contacting her. When she shows up in his small town, he realizes that time cannot erase his love or passion.


A Trace of Copper is a wonderful novella set in the Elemental Web steampunk world. It’s a standalone mystery/romance, and knowledge of the series/world is not needed. The main characters are smart and witty. Ms. Renwick’s storytelling is both intellectually stimulating as well as emotionally satisfying. 


Piyali and Evan remained loyal to one another for the years he was abroad and she was in medical school, and through the mystery of the blue frog, have a means to reconnect and rekindle their love story. The romance is always present in glances and small touches, but the pair would have to push aside feelings to work on the case. But passion can only be bottled for so long when working next to the person you love. Their love story is innocent and sweet, while the separation added a flame of heat to their romance. 


Solving the medical case, as well as watching all of the other pieces of the story fall into place was exciting. I so enjoy the Elemental Web world and Ms. Renwick’s writing style! I cannot wait to read (or listen to) more! 


My Rating:  A- Enjoyed A Lot


Review copy (eARC) was provided by the author.