Thursday, December 31, 2015

THEME THURSDAY: Politics in Romance

This is part of a feature where I focus on a specific theme (or trope) that I have found in my years as a voracious reader/blogger.  I love finding commonalities between my favorite books and how that helps define me as a reader.

Please note this is not meant to be a comprehensive list.  I am just picking a few examples of this trope.  So, if you have a favorite example of this theme, let me know about it in the comments.  I'm always on the lookout for more books to be added to my wishlist.

These are books that feature politics as part of the plot or have politicians as characters.  I am not really a fan of politics in the real world, but I enjoy seeing it utilized in romance novels.

The Heiress Effect (Brothers Sinister, #2)
The Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan -- I gave it 5 stars.
Historical Romance -- Victorian England
Miss Jane Fairfield can’t do anything right. When she’s in company, she always says the wrong thing—and rather too much of it. No matter how costly they are, her gowns fall on the unfortunate side of fashion. Even her immense dowry can’t save her from being an object of derision.
And that’s precisely what she wants. She’ll do anything, even risk humiliation, if it means she can stay unmarried and keep her sister safe.
Mr. Oliver Marshall has to do everything right. He’s the bastard son of a duke, raised in humble circumstances—and he intends to give voice and power to the common people. If he makes one false step, he’ll never get the chance to accomplish anything. He doesn’t need to come to the rescue of the wrong woman. He certainly doesn’t need to fall in love with her. But there’s something about the lovely, courageous Jane that he can’t resist…even though it could mean the ruin of them both.

Never Desire a Duke (One Scandalous Season, #1)
Never Desire a Duke by Lily Dalton -- I gave it 4 stars.
Historical Romance -- Regency England
A secret from his past holds the key to their future...
A Marriage Beyond Hope
Lady Sophia has long been estranged from her husband, Lord Vane Barwick, the Marquess of Claxton, whose rumored list of amorous conquests includes almost every beautiful woman of the ton. Yet a shocking encounter with him in a crowded ballroom—and a single touch—are all it takes to reawaken her furious passion for him. But how can she trust the man who crushed her dreams and took away the one thing she wanted most?
A Love Beyond Reason
Lord Claxton has never forgiven himself for the youthful mistake that ruined his marriage to Lady Sophia. Now, after nearly a year abroad, the reformed rogue vows to win back the only woman he's ever truly loved. He'll do whatever it takes to prove he can be the honorable husband she deserves—and the passionate lover she desires. As the snowdrifts deepen outside their ancestral home, can they rekindle the flame that burned so bright and find a new path to forever?

Sweet Disorder (Lively St. Lemeston, #1)
Sweet Disorder by Rose Lerner -- I gave it 4.25 stars.
Historical Romance -- Regency England
Nick Dymond enjoyed the rough-and-tumble military life until a bullet to the leg sent him home to his emotionally distant, politically obsessed family. For months, he’s lived alone with his depression, blockaded in his lodgings.
But with his younger brother desperate to win the local election, Nick has a new set of marching orders: dust off the legendary family charm and maneuver the beautiful Phoebe Sparks into a politically advantageous marriage.
One marriage was enough for Phoebe. Under her town’s by-laws, though, she owns a vote that only a husband can cast. Much as she would love to simply ignore the unappetizing matrimonial candidate pushed at her by the handsome earl’s son, she can’t. Her teenage sister is pregnant, and Phoebe’s last-ditch defense against her sister’s ruin is her vote—and her hand.
Nick and Phoebe soon realize the only match their hearts will accept is the one society will not allow. But as election intrigue turns dark, they’ll have to cast the cruelest vote of all: loyalty…or love.

First Lady (Wynette, Texas #4)
First Lady by Susan Elizabeth Phillips -- I gave it 3 stars.
Contemporary Romance
The beautiful young widow of the President of the United States thought she was free of the White House, but circumstances have forced her back into the role of the First Lady. Not for long, however, because she's made up her mind to escape -- if only for a few days -- so she can live the life of an ordinary person. All she needs is the perfect disguise...and she's just found it. As an entire nation searches for her, the First Lady teams up with an infuriatingly secretive, quietly seductive stranger and two adorable little orphaned girls in need of a family. And all together they head out across the heartland chasing their own American Dream -- on a wild journey, adventure, and glorious rebirth.

Rhythm and Bluegrass (Bluegrass, #2)
Rhythm and Bluegrass by Molly Harper -- I gave it 4 stars.
Contemporary Romance
Bonnie Turkle, multimedia historian for the Kentucky Commission of Tourism, is dispatched to Mud Creek, a tiny eastern Kentucky town, with few prospects but many oddballs, to rescue important artifacts from McBride’s Music Hall. Now fallen beyond disrepair, McBride’s was once a jewel of the early American music scene, an intersection of the country-western and rhythm and blues circuits.
The former owner’s grandson, Will McBride, who also happens to be Mud Creek’s esteemed mayor, would like nothing more than to see the place bull-dozed in favor of a factory that will provide much-needed jobs to his citizens. But Bonnie finds evidence of a legendary musical event at the music hall and her plans to turn it into a museum put Mud Creek’s economic future at risk – not to mention the growing flirtation between the two of them. If Will and Bonnie can’t find common ground, the town’s past and future will be lost.

In Bed with the Opposition
In Bed with the Opposition by Stephanie Draven -- I gave it 3 stars.
Contemporary Romance
Armed with a sassy haircut, a sharp wit, and a personal list of rules for all life's exigencies, Grace Santiago is a fiercely loyal Senate staffer who has everything under control. At least until famous political pundit Ethan Castle walks back into her life. Grace hasn't forgotten their disastrous affair in law school, but she can't resist his bad boy charm.
When Grace learns that Ethan has been hired as a political gunslinger for the other side, her loyalties—and her heart—are torn in two. Though their sexual chemistry can't be denied, they find themselves locked in political combat. Ethan believes that all is fair in love and war, but he won't throw the election—not even to win Grace's heart. So what can a good girl like Grace do, but learn to play dirty?
Two candidates. One election. May the best man—or woman—win!

Special Interests (The Easy Part, #1)
Special Interests by Emma Barry
Contemporary Romance
Compared to love, politics is easy...
Union organizer Millie Frank's world isn't filled with cocktails and nightclubs…until she's turned into an unwitting minor celebrity. As if being part of a hostage situation wasn't traumatizing enough, now her face is splashed across the news. But Millie's got fresher wounds to nurse—like being shot down by the arrogant bad boy she stupidly hit on.
Parker Beckett will do whatever it takes to close a deal for the senate majority leader, including selling out union labor. Charming and smart on the surface, he's also cynical and uncommitted—an asset on the Hill. But something about Millie has stuck with him and when negotiations bring her to his office, Parker breaks his own rules and asks her out.
Parker can't understand how Millie has retained her idealism in a place like D.C. Millie can't believe what Parker's willing to sacrifice in order to pass a budget. But as they navigate their political differences, what grows between them looks a lot like a relationship…and maybe even a little like love.

Extreme Exposure (I-Team, #1)
Extreme Exposure by Pamela Clare
Romantic Suspense
It's been years since her child's father dumped her, and since then Kara McMillan has kept men at bay - although every day she aches more for a lover's touch. But to get that, the hard-boiled journalist must become vulnerable - a feeling she vowed never to have again.
With his dangerous good looks, charm, and power, Senator Reece Sheridan could have just about any woman he sets his piercing eyes on. But he's intrigued by only one. This Kara, this gutsy investigative reporter, has a sensuality that arouses him to no end. If she's a firebrand in print, he guesses, she must be just as fiery in bed...
But this is no fling. A sudden political scandal - and attempts on Kara's life - could very well drive them apart. Or maybe, just maybe, adversity could draw them into a bond even more intense than their steamy sexual embraces.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

REVIEW: "In the Clear" by Tamara Morgan

In the Clear (Winter Rescue #1)

(Winter Rescue #1)

For Ages 18+ (Language, Sensuality)
Contemporary Romance -- Small Town

Smashwords -- Published on November 11, 2013
Ebook, 96 pages
Read in December 2015
Purchased from Amazon


Beta Hero, Best Friend's Sister/Brother's Best Friend, Unrequited Love, Unusual Occupations

Fletcher Owens is full of secrets.

Few people know he spends his nights volunteering for a Search and Rescue team, saving lives while risking his own. Even fewer know he’s in love with his best friend’s sister. And since he’s not willing to give up their friendship for a chance at something more, that’s exactly how things will stay.

Lexie Sinclair has nothing to hide.

The zany daughter, the wacky sister, the quirky fundraiser for a children’s charity — Lexie couldn’t hide her true self even if she wanted to. So when her brother’s best friend is revealed to be a local hero, she’s determined to stand up and prove she’s ready to be more than just friends.

"For a full twenty seconds, Lexie thought the vibrator in her purse had somehow managed to turn itself on.  Again."

I bought In the Clear after hearing about it on the DBSA podcast and knew it was the perfect read for a cold Sunday afternoon.  The story focuses on twins, Lexie and Sean, and their lifelong friend, Fletcher.  Fletcher is hiding two big things from his friends: 1) he has a secret life as a member of a Search and Rescue team and 2) he has a huge crush on Lexie.  Things get complicated when Lexie finds out the truth about what Fletcher does on his time off and she starts to rethink her friendship/relationship with him.

I thought this book was just adorable!  It involves some of my favorite themes in romance and handles them with care.  I loved reading about how much Fletcher cared for Lexie yet he had a legitimate reason to be hesitant to try anything romantically with her.  I thought the evolution of Lexie's feelings for Fletcher to be realistic and well-written since it is obvious from the beginning that there is some tension there.

Fletcher is one of my favorite types of heroes: shy, a bit on the nerdy side, and super sweet.  I applaud the author for showing that a beta hero can still take charge and still retain his genuine nature.  Lexie, at first, seemed like she would be the stereotypical quirky pixie heroine, but it is quickly shown that there is much more to her than just being cute and wacky.  I especially enjoyed reading the scenes where she gets frustrated with the way everyone expects her to screw up in an adorable rather than taking her seriously.

In the Clear is a little on the short side (page length-wise), but I think the novella format works well for the plot.  I would have liked a few more pages of resolution though that won't keep me from recommending and re-reading this book again.

For as long as he could remember, Lexie had a habit of buying herself rabbit food and then proceeding to eat most of her companions’ side dishes, never aware of her wandering fork. He usually ordered extra of the things she liked for that reason—she had no idea he didn’t actually care for chocolate cake.

1. In the Clear
2. Off the Map

Goodreads -- Author Website

Amazon -- B&N -- Kobo -- All Romance -- Smashwords

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


A list of new releases that grabbed my attention for the coming month. As always, release dates are subject to change.  All titles link back to Goodreads.

The Millionaire Upstairs
The Millionaire Upstairs by M.J. O'Shea (M/M contemporary)

The Professor and the Smuggler
The Professor and the Smuggler by Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon (M/M historical)

Tied to Trouble (Gamers #3)
Tied to Trouble (Gamers #3) by Megan Erickson (M/M contemporary)

Listen to the Moon (Lively St. Lemeston #3)
Listen to the Moon (Lively St. Lemeston #3) by Rose Lerner (historical romance)

Heir to the Duke (The Duke's Sons, #1)
Heir to the Duke (The Duke's Sons #1) by Jane Ashford (historical romance)

How to Rescue a Rake (Book Club Belles Society, #3)
How to Rescue a Rake (Book Club Belles Society #3) by Jayne Fresina (historical romance)

The Dirt on Ninth Grave (Charley Davidson, #9)
The Dirt on Ninth Grave (Charley Davidson #9) by Darynda Jones (urban fantasy)

The Score (Off-Campus, #3)
The Score (Off-Campus #3) by Elle Kennedy (NA contemporary)

Bookishly Ever After (Ever After, #1)
Bookishly Ever After (Ever After #1) by Isabel Bandeira (YA contemporary) 

Ravishing Ruby (Bound and Determined, #3)
Ravishing Ruby (Bound & Determined #3) by Lavinia Kent (historical erotica)

Her Every Wish (The Worth Saga #1.5)
Her Every Wish (Worth Saga #1.5) by Courtney Milan (historical romance)

The Heir and the Spare
The Heir and the Spare by Emily Albright (NA contemporary)

Happily Ever Ninja (Knitting in the City, #5)
Happily Ever Ninja (Knitting in the City #5) by Penny Reid (contemporary romance)

Feverborn (Fever, #8)
Feverborn (Fever #8) by Karen Marie Moning (urban fantasy)

My American Duchess
My American Duchess by Eloisa James (historical romance)

Duke of My Heart (Season for Scandal, #1)
Duke of My Heart (Season for Scandal #1) by Kelly Bowen (historical romance)

Jilting the Duke (The Muses' Salon, #1)
Jilting the Duke (The Muses' Salon #1)  by Rachael Miles (historical romance)

Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins (historical romance)

The Knave of Hearts (Rhymes With Love #5)
The Knave of Hearts (Rhymes with Love #5) by Elizabeth Boyle (historical romance)

Staked (The Iron Druid Chronicles, #8)
Staked (Iron Druid Chronicles #8) by Kevin Hearne (urban fantasy)

Monday, December 28, 2015

REVIEW: "Dukes Prefer Blondes" by Loretta Chase

Dukes Prefer Blondes (The Dressmakers, #4)
(Dressmakers #4)

For Ages 18+ (Language, Sensuality)
Historical Romance -- Victorian England

Avon -- Published on December 29, 2015
eARC, 384 pages
Read in December 2015
Received from Edelweiss


Class Differences, Brainy Hero, Scandalous Heroine, Witty Banter

Biweekly marriage proposals from men who can't see beyond her (admittedly breathtaking) looks are starting to get on Lady Clara Fairfax's nerves. Desperate to be something more than ornamental, she escapes to her favorite charity. When a child is in trouble, she turns to tall, dark, and annoying barrister Oliver Radford.

Though he's unexpectedly found himself in line to inherit a dukedom, Radford's never been part of fashionable society, and the blonde beauty, though not entirely bereft of brains, isn't part of his plans. But Clara overwhelms even his infallible logic, and when wedlock looms, all he can do is try not to lose his head over her.

It's an inconvenient marriage by ordinary standards, but these two are far from ordinary. Can the ton's most adored heiress and London's most difficult bachelor fall victim to their own unruly desires?

"To begin with, he was obnoxious."

I received a free copy of this book from Avon via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Lady Clara finally gets her happy ending with Dukes Prefer Blondes, the conclusion to the Dressmakers series.  She is the beautiful daughter of an earl and the prize client of Maison Noiret.  She has had some scandals in the past, but they don't decrease the number of suitors vying for her hand.  Unfortunately, Clara is looking for someone who wants something more from life than marrying a man who only sees her beauty and money.  Oliver Radford is a barrister who is the cousin of a duke, but is part of the less than fashionable side of the family.  His intelligence has gained him prominence in the courtroom though his social skills have left him with a reputation of being obnoxious.  Oliver believes he is happy enough with his life yet can't escape the feeling of missing something.

These two had met during one childhood summer, but don't see each other again until Lady Clara reaches out to Oliver to help her find a friend's younger brother amongst a gang of criminals.  The search for Toby Coppy forces them to interact very often and the chemistry is electric.  There is also a great amount of respect for one another's intelligence which is especially important to Clara.  She has spent much of her life being pampered and sheltered to the point that she feels like she is suffocating.  Oliver doesn't treat her with kid gloves and seems to understand why she feels like she has to help find young Toby.  For her part, Clara's sharp tongue grabs Oliver's attention and he can't get her out of his head.

I have had a unique relationship with this series.  I adored the first book, but found the next two to be a disappointment.  So I was hesitant to dive back into this world especially since I had no idea what the author would do with Clara, a favorite side character.  But, I am happy to say that I found Dukes Prefer Blondes (horribly misleading title, btw) to be exactly the type of historical romance I expect from Loretta Chase.  Both main characters were complex, well-developed, and thought-provoking.  I loved the respect that they had for each other which was shown through their sarcasm-laced conversations that had me smiling like goofball in public.

The historical details were another aspect that made this book stand out to me.  Readers get to experience Oliver's work in the courtroom as well as the behind the scenes work.  There is also a great deal of time spent developing the darker sides of London including the Ragged Schools.  Much of the earlier scenes take place away from Mayfair and I could feel the desperation through the pages.  Loretta Chase also provides more details of dressmaking which has been a major part of this series.  The writing is impeccable and engrossing so I never felt like I was being lectured to, but I finished this book more aware of aspects of 1830s London than I was before.

The only reason that I am not giving this 5 stars is the fact that I felt like the action got bogged down towards the last third.  There was the big climactic action scene, but, besides that, it seemed like it was just a lot of talking around in circles.  I think this book could have benefited from just a bit more editing and refining of the plot.

Dukes Prefer Blondes gave Lady Clara the type of story I felt like she deserved.  It was sharply entertaining and supremely romantic.  It took some time to get through the story, but that is because I wanted to enjoy the details and the character development.  There is just something about Loretta Chase's writing that grabs me and doesn't let go until the satisfying ending.

"You’ve no notion how I live in the world you call a fantasy,” she went on in the same taut tone. “You’ve no idea what it’s like to spend your life wrapped in cotton wool, with all about you protecting you, mainly from yourself, because you don’t behave as they think a girl ought to do, and they believe something’s wrong with you. You don’t know what it’s like to watch your brothers go away to school and make new friends and have adventures you’ll never have, even vicariously, in books. You don’t know what it’s like to be scolded for reading too much and knowing too much – to be taught to hide your intelligence, because otherwise you’ll frighten the gentlemen away – to stifle your opinions, because ladies aren’t to have any opinions of their own, but must always defer to men.” She stamped her foot. “You know nothing about me. Nothing! Nothing!”
1. Silk is for Seduction
2. Scandal Wears Satin
3. Vixen in Velvet
4. Dukes Prefer Blondes

Goodreads -- Author Website

Amazon -- B&N -- BAM -- Book Depository -- Kobo -- Google Play -- All Romance -- Audible

Friday, December 25, 2015

TOP 10 OF 2015: Day 5 -- 2016 Releases I Can't Wait to Read

Hosted by Mindy from Magical Urban Fantasy Reads, Jaime from Two Chicks on Books, Rachel from Fiktshun, and Nancy from Tales of a Ravenous Reader!


Image result for nalini singh
1. Allegiance of Honor (Psy-Changeling #15) by Nalini Singh (paranormal romance)
Love this series and am always ready for more!

2. Heartless by Marissa Meyer (YA fantasy)
The Lunar Chronicles was fabulous and I am interested to see how the author re-imagines the Queen of Hearts.

Because of Miss Bridgerton (Rokesbys & Bridgertons, #1)
3. Because of Miss Bridgerton (Rokesbys & Bridgertons #1) by Julia Quinn (historical romance)
A prequel to the wonderful Bridgerton series?  I'm sold!!

The Winner's Kiss (The Winner's Trilogy, #3)
4. The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski (YA fantasy)
I want to know how Kestral and Arin are able to finally be together.

Kings Rising (Captive Prince, #3)
5. Kings Rising (Captive Prince #3) by C.S. Pacat (M/M fantasy)
I can't wait to see how things resolve between Damen and Laurent.

After the Wedding (The Worth Saga #2)
6. After the Wedding (Worth #2) by Courtney Milan (historical romance)
Gimme gimme gimme!!

Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels, #2)
7. Marrying Winterbourne (The Ravenels #2) by Lisa Kleypas (historical romance)
Nobody does disgruntled, self-made heroes like Kleypas.

Forevermore (Darkest London, #7)
8. Forevermore (Darkest London #7) by Kristen Callihan (historical-paranormal romance)
Finally get to see Saint take center stage.

Double Down (Lois Lane, #2)
9. Double Down (Lois Lane #2) by Gwenda Bond (YA science fiction)
More from my favorite teenaged reporter-to-be and her online "friend", Smallville Guy,

Z (Demonica, #11.8)
10. Z (Demonica #11.8) by Larissa Ione (paranormal romance)
I always want more stories set in Ione's Demonica world.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

TOP 10 OF 2015: Day 4 -- Book Boyfriends of 2015

Hosted by Mindy from Magical Urban Fantasy Reads, Jaime from Two Chicks on Books, Rachel from Fiktshun, and Nancy from Tales of a Ravenous Reader!


Shards of Hope (Psy-Changeling, #14)
1. Aden -- Shards of Hope by Nalini Singh
A cerebral leader trying to help his entire species stay sane.

Sweetest Scoundrel (Maiden Lane, #9)
2. Asa Makepeace -- Sweetest Scoundrel by Elizabeth Hoyt
A rough-talking theater owner in Georgian England.

The Shameless Hour (The Ivy Years, #4)
3. Rafe -- The Shameless Hour by Sarina Bowen
A sweet soccer player who falls for his college's biggest flirt.

Taking the Heat ( Jackson: Girls' Night Out, #3)
4. Gabe MacKenzie -- Taking the Heat by Victoria Dahl
A sexy male librarian that helps an advice columnist learn the details of the bedroom.

Trade Me (Cyclone, #1)
5. Blake Reynolds -- Trade Me by Courtney Milan
The heir to a billion dollar technology company who tries to prove he can live like a poor college student.

The Lady Hellion (Wicked Deceptions, #3)
6. Damien Beecham, Viscount Quint -- The Lady Hellion by Joanna Shupe
A reclusive genius who is terrified of his own mental state.

The Mistake (Off-Campus, #2)
7. John Logan -- The Mistake by Elle Kennedy
A hockey star that can get any lady that he wants except for the one that got away.

The Royal We
8. Prince Nicholas -- The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
The heir to the British throne who falls for a smart-mouthed American.

The Art of Sinning (Sinful Suitors, #1)
9. Jeremy Keane -- The Art of Sinning by Sabrina Jeffries
A temperamental American artist who finally finds his muse.

The Single Undead Moms Club (Half-Moon Hollow, #4)
10. Wade Tucker -- The Single Undead Moms Club by Molly Harper
A tattooed, motorcycle riding single dad that isn't intimidated the heroine's new undead status.