Royals by J.V. Speyer

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3.5 Stars out of 5

Summary

Two uncles from vastly different worlds. One orphaned child. Will a conspiracy that bridges an ocean somehow build a family, or will state secrets keep Eric and Dan apart forever?

Eric is a genius. He’s a professor of environmental studies at an Ivy League university, an inventor, and one of the most respected scientists in his field. He doesn’t think about his birth family much, and the feeling is mutual – or he thinks it is, until a call from a local hospital throws his carefully ordered world into chaos.

Dan has seen and done a lot in his time as an Army Ranger. Thrown into civilian life by an injury, he’s happy to work for Five Star Security doing what he does best – until he gets a call from his hometown with devastating news.

His beloved older brother, Chris, has been killed in a car accident, along with his bride, Selene. Custody of their amazing four-year-old daughter has been left not to Dan, with whom all three were close, but to Selene’s younger half-brother, Eric – a man Dan has never met and who didn’t bother showing up for the wedding.

Review

 

            This was a fast, escapist type of read. Think old school Harlequin vibes. Some of the details didn’t quite make sense, but I’m a sucker for secret royalty so it didn’t bother me all that much.

            Eric, a law professor at an Ivy League school and estranged from his family, has his world shook up when he’s informed his sister and her husband were killed in a car accident and he is the chosen guardian of a niece he didn’t know he even had. Eric also has a secret he’s kept from the people in his life in Boston. He’s a prince, who fled his country after scandal in his youth.

            Dan, who was active Ada’s life and a bodyguard, doesn’t understand why out of all people to leave Ada with Eric was chosen. He hates Eric on sight for the fact that he has the capability of taking Ada away from Dan. Also, why with Selene’s family? He knew that her family was horrible. That’s why she moved so far away from home.

            Eric was too much of a nice guy at times and it bordered on fake. Dan was a bit too angry in the beginning and then a quick snap of the fingers and he was attracted to Eric. Andreas and his aide, there were a little over the top.

            However, I liked the way Eric and Dan worked together to take care of Ada. They focused on her safety and happiness. I liked the forethought Eric had when he fled from Corvia and started his own life in the US. He was strategic and found a way to live his best life. Eric did his best to be better than the royal family and he was. This is why I could see Dan being attracted to Eric. He got to see who Eric truly was outside of his family.

            If you are a fan of dialogue, like me, you’ll enjoy reading this. There was a lot of talk between characters, but it was easy to follow and pushed the plot along at an even pace.

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Gingerbread Mistletoe by Amy Aislin

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary

The last thing Jeff wants is to spend time with the man who totaled his car—the one he spent years restoring with his late father. But if he wants to resurrect his childhood town’s annual outdoor hockey tournament, he’s got no choice.

The last thing Mika wants is to work with the guy who took off right after the accident, without ensuring he was okay. And working together on organizing Jeff’s proposed tournament sounds like a complete nightmare. He’s got enough on his plate after surviving cancer.

Sparks fly as they’re forced to work together, but is that enough for them to set their differences aside and pull off the tournament in only two weeks? Or will they prove to be immune to the magic of Christmas?

Review

Gingerbread Mistletoe is the second installment in Amy Aislin’s Lighthouse Bay Christmas series. Jeff’s is aimless over the holidays and finds himself back in his hometown of Lighthouse Bay. He didn’t think he’d run into the actor who he had gotten into a wreck with in Los Angeles, Mika. Mika is in Lighthouse Bay, recuperating from illness, but is fully immersed in the inner workings of the town. He’s the heartbeat behind the holiday market and Jeff needs his approval to start the hockey tournament he remembered from his childhood back up.  

            I’m a sucker for holiday themed romances. It was fun to revisit Lighthouse Bay and catch up with the characters from book one and to see Mika’s redemption story. I had such a dislike of him in the first book, I was surprised that he quickly became one of my favorites. He was charming, sweet, and kind to everyone he crossed paths with, even when he was beyond busy with making sure the market ran smoothly.

            Jeff, I felt his character in my bones. It’s hard to know what to do with yourself when you go from busy beyond belief to endless time on your hands. I liked seeing him give back to his community and the enjoyment he got out of it. He may have been a businessman, but he was giving. The way he wooed Mika, oh it was adorable. I knew what he was doing with the first inflatable Christmas yard decoration he sat out in Mika’s parents’ yard. He kept at it, even after he got his man.

            I had fun getting lost in Lighthouse Bay and in the joy that the holidays bring.

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Callisto 2.0 by Susan English

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary: 

She had to travel beyond the planet to discover her true self. Will she find the courage to walk through the doorway to a new future?

Shambhala Space Station, 2097. Solitary physicist Callisto (physics, after all, is a jealous mistress) never accepted conventional wisdom. So when she’s recruited to work on faster-than-light technology by a beautiful and mysterious older woman, she eagerly accepts the career opportunity at the women-only research station orbiting Earth’s moon. But her enthusiasm suffers when her first discovery is unexpected heartbreak.

Throwing herself into work on a problematic warp drive prototype, Calli blossoms in the utopian female community that shows her love and acceptance for the first time in her life. But when a twisted conspiracy, a disingenuous affair, and a disastrous betrayal test her place in this unique environment, the brilliant scientist must dig deep to find her moment of truth.
Will Calli embrace her destiny in an unexplored cosmos?

Callisto 2.0 is the transformative first book in the Shambhala Saga feminist science fiction series. If you like compassionate characters, deep-space intrigue, and hopeful visions of the future, then you’ll adore Susan English’s cosmic adventure.

The Review

Callisto, a physicist, is recruited to live and work on the Shambhala Space Station. Her area of study isn’t common and finding a position that encourages her to research warp technology is like a dream come true. Working with an all-woman crew, that hypes each other up and pushes each scientist on board to do their best work, is a eutopia of sorts. While there is competition to do your best work, there isn’t any undercutting nastiness or discrepancy is pay or standing. All women have equal footing and the cattiness you would expect to find is nonexistent.

In this first book, the reader is adjusting to the Shambhala Space Station. Each character we learn about has an essential function to keeping the station going. The majority of this novel, we follow Calli through her first weeks working and the excitement of finding a career she loves. It’s a slice of life all the way until the last fifty or so pages. This is where you get to see the little seeds of dissent from citizens outside of the space station. I wanted there to be more conflict that what was presented. Calli made a disastrous mistake, but there seemed to be little consequence. The end pages, we finally get a clear idea of what this series is going to be about and I wish there would have been a little more direction earlier in the novel.

The science in this novel was easy to follow, but there were a few moments that had me bogged down in all the terminology used. It was essential in understanding Calli and all of her colleagues and because of that, it didn’t bother me.

If you are looking for romance, there are brief moments off it, but it is not the driving force behind this book. The science and discovery are the stars here.

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Friends by Nora Phoenix

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary:

Coulson is straight. So why was he checking Seth out?

Seth is an out and proud Secret Service agent. When he’s asked to assist the FBI on the investigation into the presidential assassination, he meets FBI agent Coulson.

Coulson is straight, or so he says. Seth has no reason to doubt that, not even when they become close friends.

Until he finds himself checking Coulson out a little too closely—especially certain over-sized body parts—and Coulson doing the same to him. For someone who’s straight, Coulson shows a lot of interest in Seth’s dating life, his preferences, and his hook ups. Could it be that he’s not so straight after all?

Meanwhile, every discovery they make in the investigation leads to even more questions. Who killed the president and how did they manage to pull it off? And more importantly: are they done killing…or will more attacks follow?

The Review

After the assassination of the President, Seth and Coulson are set to work together for their respective agencies. Seth is with the Secret Service and Coulson is with the FBI. There is something about them that clicks, making it easy for them to work together. They are friends and the longer they work together, the stronger their bond becomes. They push each other to use their strengths while working and they are there for each other in their off hours.

            Seth was out and proud, he didn’t let his job force him into the closet, and I loved a character like him. He lived his life how he wanted to live it and didn’t let his sexuality hamper that. Which is how life should be! He had all these career goals, and nothing was going to stop him.

            Coulson hadn’t considered a relationship with a man before. The more time he spends with Seth, the more interested he becomes. It’s hard not to fall in love with someone like Seth. They have fun with each other, even when they aren’t doing anything but spending the evening on the couch. You don’t find that with just anyone. Yet there they were.

            The action in this one was not as intense as in book one. It picks up at the assassination of the president and we’re given a glimpse into the investigative process and a little background on the agencies that are involved. I loved seeing Seth’s mind work through all the information he came across. Coulson was the perfect complement to Seth’s process. Coulson didn’t let anyone discredit Seth either. Which melted my heart just a little bit.

            The chemistry between them was off the charts, even before they acknowledged their romantic feelings for each other. Probably one of my favorite scenes was the scene Set realized how deep his feelings were for Coulson from the help of his family. That scene is what I immediately thought of while sitting down to write this review.

            I loved being able to see two strong, alpha males who were amazing at their job, fall for each other.

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Hair Out of Place

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Three out of Five Stars

The Summary

Confined to a London penthouse his whole life, hardly anybody knows that happy-go-lucky Raphie d’Oro is a prince in exile. Not even his grumpy new bodyguard, Griff Thompson. But when assassins strike, Raphie is forced to flee out into a strange new world with his crush on Griff growing. It’s a race against time to get Raphie to his European home country so he can claim the throne and save his life.

Griff has to remain professional, especially when he discovers Raphie is a real-life prince, but he’s increasingly drawn to the beautiful Raphie and his mesmerising long hair. There are only so many beds they can share before the pull between them becomes impossible to ignore.

But they’re living in a fantasy. Raphie is going to be a king, and Griff is almost twice his age and going nowhere. Griff knows they have no future together, no matter what Raphie insists. However, Griff also knows he’ll do anything to protect Raphie from harm, and that includes not breaking his heart. Can he really do his duty and walk away, or will true love conquer all?

The Review

Raphie d’Oro has spent his life in a penthouse with his mother, keeping a secret that never would have been told if his father, King of Campulan, hadn’t died. This triggered a flurry of events. Relentless and entirely unlucky assassins attempt to fulfill the contract on Raphie’s life.

Griff, Raphie’s bodyguard, hadn’t expected his first day on this assignment to appear like a bad action movie. But here they were, running for their lives and on a deadline to get Raphie to claim his birthright.

What appealed to me was the nonbinary representation with Raphie. I wish there were more books with nonbinary characters. The way Raphie’s choses pronouns, his preferences of dressing, was all handled excellently. It felt natural and easily understood.

The romance between the Raphie and Griff was so-so.

With the good, comes the bad.

This read like a comedic romance, with some unbelievable plot points that I couldn’t get over. If they were on such a time crunch to get Raphie to the throne, why did they have so much time to stop for the day and get to the romancing? They wouldn’t have. Also, the assassins, while they offered more comedic relief, were not very assassin like.  I found myself skimming through some of the pages.

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Quarterback Sneak by Baylin Crow

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary:

The boundaries of our friendship are tested and lines are crossed.

RUSH: I’m in love with my best friend.

There wasn’t an exact moment when I fell for him. It was something that grew and evolved over time. He loves me back, but it’ll never be more than platonic. It can’t be because he’s straight.

Then one night he kissed me and left me with more questions than answers. The very next morning my trust was shattered by a family secret. I’d been lied to my whole life. He was by my side through it all, offering support when I needed it most.

How can I risk losing a friendship that held me together when I was falling apart?

TORIN: He friend-zoned me.

Four years ago, I gathered enough courage to kiss my best friend. What I’d hoped would be a pivotal moment that would start a new kind of relationship between us was over before it began. His world was upended, so I put my feelings aside and stepped back into my role as a friend he could count on.

He wasn’t ready then, but now it’s time to find out if he’s willing to take a chance on us being something more.

We’ve been friends, roommates and teammates, but I want him, body and heart.

Review

This was a fun, super-quick, novella-length read. I needed more sports-romances in my life, and this was recommended by another sports-romance junkie. Normally I’m not a fan of this POV (1st Person) but this one I didn’t mind it in.

Rush and Torin Hopkins are childhood best friends, who play football and have more than friend feelings for each other. Rush learns a family secret that derails their blossoming relationship. Fast forward into the end of their college football careers, they finally get their act together.

It had one of my absolute favorite moments a couple can have, the first public kiss. It just gave me all the warm and fuzzy feelings.  

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Press by Nora Phoenix

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Five out of Five Stars

Summary

Henley is off-limits for Levar. So why can’t he stay away?

Five years ago, Levar survived a terrorist attack. The bombing left its scars, but he’s picked up his life. He loves working for the vice president—who is openly bisexual—as his press secretary.

Levar can’t afford a pesky attraction that proves to be frustratingly stubborn. Worse, those highly combustible sparks are with the very last person he should be falling for: Henley Platt, a well-known reporter covering the White House.

Henley may not be Levar’s enemy, but he’s definitely not his friend. He can’t be, not when their jobs put them on opposite sides. Henley is absolutely off-limits, even when he shows his appreciation for the sexy lingerie Levar loves to wear.

When the terrorists strike again with a devastating blow to the White House, Levar and Henley lean on each other for support. The sparks become a raging fire that won’t be doused, but what happens if they’re found out?

Review

Henley and Levar are on opposite ends of the reporting spectrum. Henley is employed as the press secretary for the Vice President. Levar is a White House correspondent for a DC newspaper. The two men can’t seem to get away from each other and it’s become harder and harder to resist temptation.

These men have a somewhat shared history. Five years ago, they were both at ground zero for a terrorist bombing at a pride parade. Which hurt my heart so much. Once they’re both in DC, they have a push/pull relationship. While they’re friendly, there is a boundary that they can not cross professionally. I liked seeing them acknowledge and point out when that line was crossed.

It takes one chance moment, a peak at what Henley wears under his dress pants, that sparks the slow burn attraction into a full-fledged fire. Normally, I’m not fan of this, but oh my goodness, it worked! It wasn’t cheesy or greasy like some novels. It was just another part of Henley that Levar loved.

Their attraction, flirtation, and sex scenes *fans self* good grief. It was such a good burn. Then, there were moments they took care of each other. That was just as intensive as their sex scenes. In those moments, I could see how much they meant to each other. Hell, if you ever find someone that takes care of you like Henley did for Levar? Don’t ever let them go. It’s a rare find.

There was action and politics, yes, but it wasn’t preachy or overly graphic.

*slight spoiler incoming* 

As a history buff, it was interesting to see the similarities between JFK and a fictional President. I was on the edge of my seat, rushing right along with Henley, the Vice President and the rest of the White House staff. I could feel that urgency and terror of what just happened. Then seeing Henley come in to his own, learning that he is as good at his job as everyone thinks he is, was wonderful. I was rooting for his success! Levar, he found a way to get what he wanted and to find his happiness. I was so excited.

Would I recommend this to friends? YES!! 100 times yes!

If you are on the fence with getting this book? GET IT! If you are a fan of Tal Bauer’s writing, this is a book you won’t want to pass up. This was a fantastic read and I’m probably going to read it all over again, because Henley and Levar? Goals.  

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Don’t Cry for Me by Rachel Lacey

Don't Cry for Me (Midnight in Manhattan Book 1)

Four out of Five Stars

Summary

Eve Marlow has her eyes on the prize: a third season of her popular business makeover show, Do Over. But when her ratings take an unexpected dive, Eve needs a blockbuster new client, or she can kiss season three goodbye. She has her work cut out for her, and that’s before she discovers a litter of newborn kittens in a trash can. Now she’s desperate to find someone to take them so she can concentrate on reviving her career.

Josie Swanson had to put her kitten rescue on the back burner when she inherited her father’s bar two years ago. Since then, she’s invested all her time and energy into keeping it afloat, but despite her best efforts, Swanson’s is going under. When she gets a phone call from Eve Marlow, host of the television show Josie applied to earlier that year, the woman she’s convinced can save her bar, Josie hopes her luck has finally turned.

Eve knows what she needs to succeed, and it isn’t Josie–or her bar. There’s no denying the chemistry sizzling between them, though. Josie’s personality is as vibrant as her turquoise-tipped hair. She stirs things in Eve that haven’t been stirred in a long time, but there’s a reason she keeps her heart under lock and key. Eve stands to lose a lot more than her TV show if she lets her guard down, no matter how tempted she is to see if Josie’s love would be worth the risk.

Review

Eve is doing her best to ensure her business makeover show makes it past season two. Josie is struggling to keep her father’s bar afloat and she put her career hopes, rescuing cats, on hold. A horrible instance of Eve finding abandoned newborn kittens draws these two women together. Eve reaches out in desperation hoping Josie would take the kittens off her hands. Josie teaches her the basics. Eve ends up working with Josie to rebrand the bar and ensure its success. The more time they spend with each other, the deeper their connection grows.

            What I really enjoyed about Don’t Cry for Me was how genuine both Eve and Josie appeared to be. They were themselves from the moment we met them on page. Eve is still grieving a loss, but Josie is the first person that she connects with. Eve fights the attraction in the beginning. She has a sense of professionalism that she holds herself to. But it’s hard to resist the whirlwind of Josie.

            I’ve always wanted to read a romance where the reality show hosts falls for a ‘contestant’ on their show. There were flirty moments and stolen kisses between the two women and it was just so good. I wish we would have gotten steamier scenes between them. Their chemistry was intense, and I wanted to see more.

            The writing was fluid, I could picture Eve, Josie, and the bar perfectly in my mind as I read. Josie’s friends were exactly like a couple of my friends and I loved seeing secondary characters like Adam and Kaia. I had fun reading their story and I was able to read it quickly. It was an escape from everything happening around me with work and class. I’m definitely going to give Lacey’s other works a read!

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Huntsman by Morgan Brice

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Three out of Five Stars

 

Summary

A grieving wolf. A hunted fox. Fated mates, thrown together by chance, and the looming threat of a fabled Huntsman who might tear them apart forever.

Fox shifter Liam Reynard is running from a killer. He uproots his life to find sanctuary in Fox Hollow, deep in the Adirondack Forest in New York.

When his car breaks down, sexy wolf shifter Russ Lowe comes to the rescue, and one touch makes it clear they’re fated mates. Neither man was looking for love, and both are still mending from past heartbreak. When mysterious fires and disappearances threaten Fox Hollow, Liam fears the killer is hot on his trail. Can he protect the town and his fated mate from the evil hunting him, or will an ex-lover’s betrayal cost Liam everything he loves?

Huntsman is full of sexy shifters, hurt/comfort, second chance love, sincere psychics, hot first responders, found family, and fated mates.

Review

I want to preface this by saying that I am normally a huge fan of Morgan Brice. I absolutely love all her work.  Huntsman was not it for me. It was an okay read, but I expected more than what I read. If you enjoy the fated-mates trope, this is definitely a book you’ll want to check out. It has a sweet romance between a fox-shifter and a wolf-shifter that is weaved throughout, action takes a backseat in this one.

Liam Reynard, fox shifter librarian, is on the run from a Huntsman. With little warning, he packs his bags and heads to the one place he can think of, Fox Hollow. A former professor offered him a job and now it’s his only hope for safety.

His car breaks down just outside of town and Russ Lowe, wolf-shifter, firefighter, and tow truck driver, comes to his rescue. From the moment they meet, sparks ignite between the two of them. Neither man put much thought into fated mates, but it seems like they are it for each other.

One aspect of Huntsman that I did enjoy was the fact that it was a shifter story, where the characters were able to live their lives out loud in Fox Hollow. I’ve had a difficult time finding shifter stories that aren’t mpreg and I was excited to see this wasn’t a mpreg story. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great mpreg stories, but sometimes you don’t want that.

Also, the secondary characters (I’m sure will also get their own books), teased Russ mercilessly because of the preternatural sniffers. It always makes me laugh and feel a little bit of second hand embarrassment for the characters.

Fox Hollow felt like a small town that I would want to be a part of, but I felt like there was something missing throughout the entire novel. Everything wrapped up too cleanly and quickly. I wanted more than what I got. 

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Ruby Run by Sam Burns

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3.5 Stars out of 5

Summary

Augustus Ambrose never planned to return to the United States after graduation. His mother’s final letter, with its dire threats about what would await if he did, had been more than enough to keep him away. But when his Aunt Grace dies unexpectedly and leaves him her ranch in the New Mexico Territory, he can’t ignore it. Grace gave him everything, and he can’t let her legacy suffer for his childish fear of his mother.

Griffith Taylor doesn’t want much. Quiet nights on the range, a big blue sky, and no rattlesnakes in his boots. He definitely doesn’t want to travel to Boston to take care of his late boss’s heir. When he lays eyes on his charge, everything changes. Not just because Augie is the best looking greenhorn he’s ever clapped eyes on, oh no.

Someone wants Griff’s new boss dead, and they’re not afraid to use forbidden magic to get the job done. Griff can handle himself in a fight, but this job might be more than he’s prepared for.

Review

If you are looking for a light-hearted, quick read with a paranormal western edge then this is the perfect book (and series) to dive in to. Ruby Run is part of the Tin Star Witches: The Witches of Ruby Gulch series, each novel written by a different author.

Griff and Augie are complete opposites of each other. Griff is a Range Witch working at the Lost Chance ranch. Augie has just inherited the Lost Chance ranch from his aunt. The journey to Lost Chance bring a lot more trouble then a city boy not being able to cut it in the west.

These two character are so cute together. Augie is unsure of himself, he knows nothing about ranching but this is the first opportunity to find a home. He can’t pass that up. Griff likes Augie just as he is, caring, kind, and perfect for him in every way.

The chemistry between Griff and Augie is instantaneous and burns brightly. There are a few spicy scenes which were great. There were some flirty scenes that just had me grinning. Griff and Augie, I just love them. This was a great read.

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