Meet Me in Madrid by Verity Lowell

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3 Stars

Summary

In this sexy, sophisticated romantic comedy, two women juggle romance and career across continents.


Charlotte Hilaire has a love-hate relationship with her work as a museum courier. On the one hand, it takes her around the world. On the other, her plan to become a professor is veering dangerously off track.

Yet once in a while, maybe every third trip or so, the job goes delightfully sideways…

When a blizzard strands Charlotte in Spain for a few extra days and she’s left with glorious free time on her hands, the only question is: Dare she invite her grad school crush for an after-dinner drink on a snowy night?

Accomplished, take-no-prisoners art historian Adrianna Coates has built an enviable career since Charlotte saw her last. She’s brilliant. Sophisticated. Impressive as hell and strikingly beautiful.

Hospitable, too, as she absolutely insists Charlotte spend the night on her pullout sofa as the storm rages on.

One night becomes three and three nights become a hot and adventurous long-distance relationship when Charlotte returns to the States. But when Adrianna plots her next career move just as Charlotte finally opens a door in academia, distance may not be the only thing that keeps them apart.

Add Meet Me in Madrid to your Goodreads!

Review

Charlotte Hilaire lives a busy life as a museum courier. She travels from museum to museum, country to country. It sounds much more exciting than it can be. She sticks to a tight schedule and never has the time for anything fun.

When a blizzard in Spain delays Charlotte’s return to the states, she finally has the chance for fun. Except the fun leads her in a place she wasn’t quite expecting when she meets up with former classmate, and crush, Adrianna Coates.

The heat between the pair combusts over the span of the three days Charlotte is stuck in Spain. They spend more time in the bedroom than outside of it. As time passes, they find themselves calling and wanting to see more and more of each other, even when facing the distance.

In an effort to become closer to each other they both take the chance of turning their careers in different directions to make it possible.

What I really liked? How smart Charlotte and Adrianna were and how they admired that aspect in each other. I love when there are characters who are themselves and they have little geeky things they get excited about.

Also the steam factor. I hoped with the portrayal of a long-distance relationship there would be video chat and phone sessions. I wasn’t disappointed. The buildup to them meeting up with each other in persona again was exciting.

There were a few flat spots where I felt things just dragged a little too much for my liking. Some of the secondary characters I just, felt weren’t needed or were an after thought. There was a lot of angst and judgment in the workplace that while is prevalent in the academic world, I like my romance with a little less angst. So if angst is your thing, you’ll find it in this novel for sure.

 

 

Read an Excerpt Below

 

The car arrived with the luggage while they were still flirting and deliberating in the kitchen, the cava as yet unpoured. Hearing the buzzer, Adrianna had reluctantly thrown on a robe and slippers and run down the three flights, leaving Charlotte still leaning on the counter to contemplate what came next.

“I’m putting your very nice suitcase in my room,” a breathless Adrianna said as soon as she closed the apartment door behind her. “It won’t fit in the study.”

It would have fit in the study. But it fit a lot better in the bedroom.

“I’m out here,” Charlotte informed her. She had taken the bottle and glasses and resituated herself on the living room sofa. If it had been in the States, the long, upholstered couch with its plethora of throw pillows would have sat smack-dab in front of a flat-screen TV. This one, by refreshing contrast, faced a wall of tall, arched casement windows looking onto mostly sky and a distant cityscape punctuated by the city’s numerous church towers. Today the potted trees and summer furniture on the neighboring balconies were coated with an inch or two of velvety snow.

What sun there had been was already dimming.

Adrianna was surprised, but certainly not disappointed, to find Charlotte curled up at one end of said sofa, glass in hand, taking it all in just as she herself liked to do at sunset.

“It’s beautiful,” Charlotte said. “Doesn’t look like any place else I’ve been.”

“Sure doesn’t.” Adrianna sat down close beside Charlotte. Encouragingly close, she hoped.

Charlotte filled Adrianna’s flute with pale bubbly and raised hers in a wordless toast. Their glasses clinked.

“What are we drinking to?” Adrianna asked.

“Bank closures and oversold hotels?” Charlotte replied with a laugh and a gulp. Her legs were folded under her and as she went to set down her glass, she slipped into Adrianna’s shoulder, not seeming to mind at all when Adrianna leaned into her and caught her eye.

“If you’d have looked at me like that in school, I’m not sure what I would have done,” Charlotte said.

“I can’t promise I never did,” Adrianna admitted. “Especially there at the end.”

“You were definitely shopping around at one point, as I recall. Like a freshman for new classes,” Charlotte said. “Least that’s what it looked like from where I stood.”

“I was a train wreck,” Adrianna said solemnly. “My ex cheated on me with someone I cared about and I was worried to death I wouldn’t get a job—and interviewing cross-country practically every week while I finished the last chapter of my diss. Those days seem incomparably easy, yet completely impossible when I look back. But I fucked things up with a lot of people and I hate thinking about it.”

“Your heart was broken,” Charlotte said, reaching for the cava. She’d stopped looking at Adrianna but her voice conveyed empathy.

Had someone broken Charlotte’s heart? Adrianna wanted badly to know.

“And I did that to others in return,” she said.

“You are indeed a heartbreaker,” Charlotte laughed.

“You’re one to talk,” Adrianna replied. “I can’t believe you weren’t dating your pretty little ass off—or seeing faculty on the sly at least. I don’t think I do believe it.”

“Well, you can believe it or not. I’m not saying I didn’t sleep around some. But grads and faculty were off-limits. Not out of moral approbation. I just knew it would throw me off my game. I don’t mind telling you I had tempting offers from both parties.”

Good thing Adrianna wasn’t one of those former suitors. It was so much better finding her again like this, now that they were both past the stage of perpetual heightened insecurity. Now that there was no history with Charlotte, only possibility.

Neither of them were drunk, just usefully relaxed, their inhibitions disarmed by the alcohol, their focus sharpened by the caffeine.

Adrianna set down her own near-empty glass and turned toward Charlotte.

“Let’s toast to layovers instead.”

“With what?”

“Come here,” Adrianna said, just to see how Charlotte reacted to being told what to do.

“Make me,” she replied, finishing what was left in her flute and starting to rise.

“Where are you going now?”

“I’m thirsty. Think I’ll get a glass of water…”

“Fuck the water,” Adrianna said. She pulled Charlotte back down to her for a deep, wet kiss that burned deliciously from the sparkling wine in her mouth and on their lips. Charlotte responded with a kind of unrestraint, immediately taking the lead. God did she. Adrianna suddenly seemed to feel her touch everywhere. It was one of those moments when you don’t realize how much you want something—someone—until she’s within reach. She wasn’t going to lose her second chance.

Unwritten Rules by KD Casey

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Five out of Five Stars

Summary

Zach Glasser has put up with a lot for the sport he loves. Endless days on the road, playing half-decent baseball in front of half-full stadiums and endless nights alone, pretending this is the life he’s always wanted.

The thing is, it could have been everything he ever wanted—if only he’d had the guts to tell his family, tell the club, that he was in love with his teammate Eugenio Morales. Well, ex-teammate now. When Zach wouldn’t—couldn’t—come out, Eugenio made the devastating choice to move on, demanding a trade away from Oakland. Away from Zach.

Three years and countless regrets later, Zach still can’t get Eugenio out of his head. Or his heart. And when they both get selected to play in the league’s All-Star Classic, those feelings and that chemistry come roaring back.

Zach wants a second chance. Eugenio wants a relationship he doesn’t have to hide. Maybe it’s finally time they both get what they want.
 

The Review

Zach Glasser lost the best thing in life when he left fear dictate staying in the closet. Fear of losing the sport he loves, the friends and family he’s never told, any chance of happiness with a man who had come to mean far more to him than a team mate.

Three years comes and goes but fate has more in store for Zach and Eugenio. They both get selected to play in the All-Star Classic. It doesn’t matter that it’s been years. The chemistry between them is still off the charts.

So y’all know I love a good sport romance novel. They are my JAM. Add in a second-chance romance, friends-to-lovers trope? I’m about it. There’s so much diversity in this novel, like you would see on a true professional baseball team. Also, Zach has a hearing disability which wasn’t treated as a brief mention. It was present throughout the novel.

I read this when I was supposed to be napping … FYI no naps were had. I couldn’t stop myself from reading.

The way this story was told, in chunks of past and present, really worked. At first it was a little off putting because I expected the traditional one chapter past, one chapter present format. This wasn’t like that. Any time there was a shift, it was easily recognizable.

Do you need to know anything about baseball to understand what is happening here? Nope. You do get pieces of spring training, the all-star game, and activities around the club house, but KD Casey paints such a vivid picture that you don’t really need to know anything about baseball.

Now the romance … it was gooood. The way they flirted with each other in the early stages. While they were training, and when they were together during their off hours. Followed by some steamy kisses. Yes please! I’d give this a 🌶🌶 .5 out of 5 on the spicy scale

Zach’s character, he had my heart. Sure, he fell in love with Eugenio (who had me all 😍 too), but he discovered himself. I liked seeing him understand what he valued in life and the steps he was would take to get there.

Get your copy here

If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary

Eighteen-year-olds Ruben Montez and Zach Knight are two members of the boy-band Saturday, one of the biggest acts in America. Along with their bandmates, Angel Phan and Jon Braxton, the four are teen heartbreakers in front of the cameras and best friends backstage. But privately, cracks are starting to form: their once-easy rapport is straining under the pressures of fame, and Ruben confides in Zach that he’s feeling smothered by management’s pressure to stay in the closet.

On a whirlwind tour through Europe, with both an unrelenting schedule and minimal supervision, Ruben and Zach come to rely on each other more and more, and their already close friendship evolves into a romance. But when they decide they’re ready to tell their fans and live freely, Zach and Ruben start to truly realize that they will never have the support of their management. How can they hold tight to each other when the whole world seems to want to come between them?

The Review

If This Gets Out was a good read. If you’re a fanfic reader, you’re going to love this novel so much. It was easy to read. The dialogue flowed well, there was a lot of it (I LOVE DIALOGUE and LOTS of it, it’s my jam). I could picture the hotels they were at, and I could see them performing on stage.

Ruben and Zach make up half of the boyband Saturday. Saturday is touring through Europe and trying to deal with the stress of their fame and the pressures of being teenagers on the edge of adulthood.

Throughout the tour, Zach and Ruben become closer as they deal with the drama of Angel and toeing the line around Jon because his father is management. It’s easy to be free and themselves around each other. But the closer they got; the further apart management pulled them.

Their first kiss, and everything after was so … sweet. A lot of the romance happened off-screen to fit the YA Adult sphere. Their kisses and little touches between them? I lived for it. There were times they couldn’t keep their hands off each other and I was all, yes please, can I get more of this? Because it was just that good.

Drama happened (of course) and the boys tackled it together. They truly were a family and cared for each other. That was a special bond, and I was glad to see it strengthen over the course of the book.

Spicy rating? Two out of Five

Get your copy here

Lying with Lions by Annabel Fielding

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary

Edwardian England. Agnes Ashford knows that her duty is threefold: she needs to work on cataloguing the archive of the titled Bryant family, she needs to keep the wounds of her past tightly under wraps, and she needs to be quietly grateful to her employers for taking her up in her hour of need. However, a dark secret she uncovers due to her work thrusts her into the Bryants’ brilliant orbit – and into the clutch of their ambitions.

They are prepared to take the new century head-on and fight for their preeminent position and political survival tooth and nail – and not just to the first blood. With a mix of loyalty, competence, and well-judged silence Agnes rises to the position of a right-hand woman to the family matriarch – the cunning and glamorous Lady Helen. But Lady Helen’s plans to hold on to power through her son are as bold as they are cynical, and one day Agnes is going to face an impossible choice.

The Review

For anyone who reads my reviews, you know I love historical fiction. Throw in a little gothic intrigue? *chef’s kiss* I live for lush, descriptive, elegantly flowing storylines. It’s easy to get lost in the world and emotions of the characters.

While Lying with Lions had those elements, I found myself losing track of what the story’s purpose was. There were moments I got so invested in the new direction the story was going, and then a new chapter would pull me in a completely different direction.

What I liked (and kind of disliked) was the span of time the story occurred over. It was YEARS that zipped by. We did get to see the evolution of Agnes and her position in the Bryant family. I liked seeing her grow into someone bold and someone who could stand on her own with authority. Her intelligence is what drew me in further.

Lady Bryant, there had always been an element of mistrust. Slowly it unfolded in her political aspirations and how far she would go to ensure her wants were put first. That goes hand in hand with how she treated Agnes. Their relationship wasn’t as balanced as Agnes saw it as.

The romance aspect of this was mostly fade to black. I’d give it a one out of five on the spice scale.

Get your copy here

Waiting for Liz by Angela C. Kelly

Waiting for Liz by [Angela C. Kelly]

Three out of Five Stars

Summary

Angela is twenty-nine and living what looks like a comfortable life in a Midwestern college town: she has a home with her adoring long-time partner, a circle of good friends, a recently acquired degree, and a job that uses it. But everything isn’t as lovely as it looks.

Slowly a soul-level unravelling is occurring within Angela, without her knowledge or consent. Each destructive self-sabotaging choice brings her closer to the kind of destruction that ultimately makes room for new growth in a person’s heart.

Enter Elizabeth. Though Angela claims to have paid little attention when they are first introduced, Elizabeth — Liz — eventually consumes her every thought, much like the drugs she and her wife have begun to use to mask the growing rift in their relationship. When Angela decides to call her partner’s bluff and invite this new “hot young plaything” to help them patch things up, a decades-long story of pursuit, addiction, love, and growth begins.

Angela’s story winds through her past, each tale about her relationship with Liz opening up a window to times even farther past that have shaped how she connects with other people, especially those she loves. Woven through it all are threads of addiction, abandonment, shame, perseverance, joy, and love. Has she come to terms with her past? With Elizabeth herself?

The Review

Angela seems to have it all. A comfortable life with her partner and great friends. Her life has become a comfortable routine. It’s easy. She hangs on to all these things, even though her happiness has been dwindling.

In a self-destructive attempt to address the issues between Angela and her partner, they begin to experiment with drugs. Angela also finds herself enraptured with Liz. Everything she does starts to revolve around Liz and the possibility of what if?

I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I felt so many negative emotions while reading. Sadness, anger, frustration with what Angela was experiencing. And then on the other, we were given such a hard dose of reality as we followed Angela’s life.

If you have difficultly reading about drug use, this is going to be a tough one for you to read. I’ve got a bit of complicated relationship with addiction, so it was difficult to read. But, there are people who go towards drugs in the hopes that it will strengthen a relationship. The reliance that Angela developed hurt my heart.

As Angela poorly navigated so many different relationships, she steadily began to find herself and understand who she was and is as an individual. It an experience of personal growth that takes years.

Her careless and selfish nature made me so angry, but at the same time I could see she was doing whatever she could to hold on to life as she knew it to be.

Reading this? It felt like a sucker punch.

Get your copy here

Strength Check by Katherine McIntyre

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary

Roxie Esposito just opened a board game café in San Francisco and should be basking in success. Instead, she’s picking out shards from her last relationship and handling her perpetually drunk mother, both of which strain her finances and fuel the need for a roommate.

Melody Roberts finally got the promotion she’d been aiming for—across the country in San Francisco. The perfect escape from her stagnant life and the toxic relationship with her now ex-boyfriend.

The moment Mel answers Roxie’s ad for a roommate, the connection between them is explosive, warm, and real—everything they’ve both been longing for. Between horror movie marathons, board game nights, and deep talks, Mel and Roxie are falling for each other hard. Except the only problem with romance is they both seem to fail every single time, and when the grenade of exes, family drama, and their own insecurities drop, neither will escape unscathed.

The Review

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve reviewed any lesfic! Strength Check was the perfect read to get myself reacquainted. Geeky tabletop board games like Dungeons and Dragons and the found family and roommates to lovers trope? *chefs kiss*

Melody, ‘Mel’, Roberts moved across the country for her career and a fresh start away from the boundaries her ex-boyfriend put her in.

Roxie Esposito runs a board game café in San Francisco and has a string of bad relationships with a little bit of a financial strain sprinkled on top. So she does what she can, and runs an ad to rent out a room.

She gets lucky when Mel is who answers her ad. They immediately click with each other.

What I really liked about their relationship that it was rooted in friendship. They got to know each other organically. Mel wanted to learn more about Roxie’s café. She wanted to know more about the games and all of Roxie’s friends and employees are happy to teach her.

Their attraction burned slowly throughout the pages. When they finally kissed? Yes, please. They had intensity and passion and it simmered in the right ways.

I liked that there were characters I could fully relate to, in all their geeky glory. It’s hard finding a story you can find a little bit of yourself in each of the characters. It left me feeling at home, because these were my people.

Pre-Order Here – Releasing September 21

Playing it Safe by Amy Andrews

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary

Donovan Bane loves playing rugby for the Sydney Smoke. And if that means he has to keep his sexuality a secret, that’s a sacrifice he’s prepared to make. At least until after he retires, anyway. He doesn’t want to be the first pro rugby player in Australia to officially come out while still playing. The team doesn’t need the media shit storm and he’d rather be known for his footy skills. Which means no dating, no relationships, no sex. Nothing but playing ball.

Until one man suddenly changes everything…

Beckett Stanton is out and proud—and not looking for a guy who isn’t. Been there, done that, complete disaster. Unfortunately, on the first day of his new job working for the Sydney Smoke, he locks eyes with Donovan Bane and he’s a goner. Big, gruff, and athletic isn’t usually Beck’s type, but for some reason this man is ticking all his boxes. And it’s clear the feeling is mutual. It’s also clear that Donovan is not out, and doesn’t plan to be anytime soon. Still, Beck can’t resist being the man to show Donovan everything he’s been missing.

For the first time, Donovan doesn’t play it safe and allows himself to indulge in things with Beck he knows he can’t have. But when their relationship gets serious, he knows he has to choose between the career he loves and the man he loves, because how can he possibly have both?

The Review

Ya’ll know I’m a sucker for a good sports romance, right? Well, this one didn’t let me down. I think I’m finally coming out of my book funk.

Donovan has plays professional rugby for the Sydney Smoke. During his time with the team, he’s kept one of the most important aspects of himself a secret. His sexuality. He didn’t want to be the first player to come out and to face the media. It would be easier to face that challenge after retiring.

He didn’t account for Beckett Stanton.

Beckett doesn’t know much about rugby, but on his first day at work for the Sydney Smoke he knows he is immediately attracted to Donovan Bane. But he isn’t sure about being Donovan’s secret. The attraction keeps calling to him though. It’s hard to stay away from Donovan when he keeps showing up.

First things first, you don’t need to have read the previous books in the series to read this one. This is book 7 in the series and the first one I’ve read. Also, if you aren’t familiar with rugby, it’s not hard to follow.

The chemistry between Beckett and Donovan was intense from the get-go. They really couldn’t take their eyes off each other. They both had a lot going on and to consider, but once they made a decision, *fans self* Donovan was such an alpha-like character and to have him want to learn from Beckett? That’s my jam. I’d rate this a 🌶🌶.5 on the spicy scale.

I loved, loved, loved the fact Beckett watched Donovan play and how worked up that got him. I too have experienced that phenomenon and seeing it written into a book was pretty awesome.

I read this one over two nights and had fun reading it. 

To be released September 6th (my bday!!)

Hidden Powers – Tara Lain – DNF

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No Stars – DNF

Summary

Superordinary Society: Book One

Jazz Vanessen is weird—and not just because he’s a werewolf. For most of his life, he’s felt different from his alpha male brothers and friends. Since he’s adopted, he can’t even blame it on family.

Now eighteen, Jazz meets his idol, the social activist Lysandra Mason, and her breathtaking nephew, Dash Mercury. When Dash is around, even stranger things start to happen, including Jazz falling hopelessly in lust. Not only is Jazz having visions, making people disappear, and somehow turning invisible, but somebody’s following him and threatening to reveal his pack’s secrets to the world.

Together with Dash and Jazz’s equally amazing friends—Carla, BeBop, Khadija, and Fatima—they discover the danger is even more lethal than they thought, and Jazz’s weirdness may save all their lives.
 

Review

            I wanted to like this book. I did. LGBTQ+, YA, werewolves, and intrigue, are all excellent ingredients to an adventure I want to go on.

            My main issue is no knowing anything about the characters. If you hadn’t read any of the author’s other books, you’re going to be as lost as I was. As this was the ‘first’ in a new series, I didn’t think I’d be scrambling to figure out who all these people were. It’s a very established world and if you didn’t know that, you’d get frustrated like I did.

            I also had an issue with the language used. I’m not old by any means, I’m 30, and I read YA regularly across many genres. It was off putting to me. Not even in TV shows, do writers use that much ‘teen’ language.

            Will I be reading the next in the series? No. It just disappointed me entirely.

Give it a try if you’ve read previous books by this author, you may enjoy it.

Role Model by Rachel Reid

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Five out of Five Stars

Summary

Troy Barrett has been freshly traded to Ottawa after calling out Dallas Kent during a team practice. He wants to be a better person, and the weird, scrappy energy of the struggling Ottawa team seems like the place to…well. It seems like the only place that will have Troy right now.

Fortunately the Ottawa team includes Ilya Rozanov and Wyatt Hayes, and also includes an adorable social media manager, Harris Drover. Harris is the opposite of Troy in every way: friendly, cheerful, chatty, and goofy with a booming voice, a startlingly loud laugh, and Pride pins all over his denim jacket. Definitely not the sort of person Troy would normally associate with, and yet…

Review

Troy Barrett has been punished for doing what he felt was right. Calling out a former teammate for deplorable behavior and taking a stand. He landed in Ottawa, to a failing team, trying to find his place among players he feels like are better people than he is. He keeps his guard up and doesn’t let plan on letting anyone in to see the real him.

He didn’t predict the social media manager, Harris Drover. There’s something about the man that makes Troy want to smile, be himself, and to share who he is with everyone else. Troy believes that he could be a better person.

First off, I was not ugly crying towards the end of the book. I just had a really big eye lash in my eye, and I couldn’t get it out. Also, I’m sure Reid had no way of knowing just how Troy’s storyline would tie into reality. There’s a double standard in athletics today that she addresses and does eloquently. Just because someone is an athlete, it doesn’t excuse their behavior. They are held to the same rules as the rest of us normal folks.

What I loved about Role Model was the way I could relate to Troy. He wasn’t just a fictional hockey player. There was depth to his character. There is so much I want to just say here, but I’d spoil the book. I’m trying to be careful not to do that.

Troy had hidden himself from the people in his life for so long, finally meeting people who accepted him no matter what and supported him, I could feel the freedom that Troy was experiencing.

I was proud of him, for sticking to his beliefs and challenging those around him, even when he was pretty much ousted for those beliefs. I was proud of the whole Ottawa team.

Harris was so adorable. Any time he came into a scene I ended up smiling. Then finding out he wasn’t all innocent under it all made him even better.

The chemistry between Troy and Harris was phenomenal. They gravitated towards each other. Then those romance scenes, oh my, they were good. It made my heart beat a little faster. It felt right for them in those scenes and moments.

Reid has a way of painting a vivid picture with her words, and I could see Troy, Harris, and the entire Ottawa setting clearly in my mind as I read.

To be released August 10, 2021