Saturday, January 30, 2016

UPCOMING RELEASES: February 2016

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.

2/2
Kings Rising (Captive Prince, #3)
Kings Rising (Captive Prince #3) by C.S. Pacat (M/M fantasy)
I am on pins and needles waiting to see how this trilogy will end!

Stars Above (The Lunar Chronicles #0.5, 0.6, 1.5, 3.1, 3.6)
Stars Above (Lunar Chronicles #0.5, #0.6, #1.5, #3.1, 3.6) by Marissa Meyer (YA fantasy)
I always want more in the Lunar Chronicles world.

The Hunter (Victorian Rebels #2)
The Hunter (Victorian Rebels #2) by Kerrigan Byrne (historical romance)
I loved the first book in this series (The Highwayman) and ready to find out more about the mysterious assassin, Christopher Argent.

A Gentleman's Game (Romance of the Turf, #1)
A Gentleman's Game (Romance of the Turf #1) by Theresa Romain (historical romance)
I really enjoyed the prequel novella to the series (The Sport of Baronets) and am intrigued by the horse breeding element.

The Unforgettable Hero: A Playful Brides Story
The Unforgettable Hero (Playful Brides #4.5) by Valerie Bowman (historical romance)
Love this author so I'm definitely excited to read this.

Clockwork Heart (Clockwork Love, #1)
Clockwork Heart (Clockwork Love #1) by Heidi Cullinan (M/M steampunk)
An auto-buy author for me plus I am always in for steampunk!

Highland Spitfire
Highland Spitfire by Mary Wine (historical romance)
I've been wanting to read more Highlanders lately plus I read a fabulous review of this over at Addicted to Romance.

Brotherhood in Death (In Death, #42)
Brotherhood in Death (In Death #42) by JD Robb (romantic suspense)
Duh!  It is Eve and Roarke!

Winterwood (Rowankind, #1)
Winterwood (Rowankind #1) by Jacey Bedford (fantasy romance)
I've been into fantasy romances lately and I don't think I can resist this story of a cross-dressing pirate in an alternate Great Britain.

2/9
The Gladiator's Temptation (Champions of Rome #2)
The Gladiator's Temptation (Champions of Rome #2) by Jennifer D. Bokal (historical romance)
I'm trying to expand my historical reading and ancient Rome sounds like it will be an intriguing setting for a romance.

These Vicious Masks (These Vicious Masks, #1)
These Vicious Masks (These Vicious Masks #1) by Tarun Shanker (YA paranormal)
This is being promoted as Jane Austen meets the X-Men so I am in!

Blackhearts
Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman (YA historical)
The story of how Blackbeard became the infamous pirate?  I'm sold!

2/11
Jockblocked (Gridiron, #2)
Jockblocked (Gridiron #2) by Jen Frederick (NA contemporary)
I still need to real the first Gridiron book, but I am definitely interested in this NA sports romance.

2/15
Getting Him Back (Ethan & Wyatt #1)
Getting Him Back (Ethan & Wyatt #1) by K.A. Mitchell (M/M contemporary)
The blurb of this book clicks all my buttons: one hero moving on from an ex, a grouchy fellow student, and a steamy tutoring date.

How the Cookie Crumbles (Bluewater Bay, #12)
How the Cookie Crumbles (Bluewater Bay #12) by Jamie Samms (M/M contemporary)
Always ready to hang out in Bluewater Bay again!

2/16
A Convenient Engagement (Countess Scandals, #1)
A Convenient Engagement (Countess Scandals #1) by Kimberly Bell (historical romance)
Debut with a pretend engagement and a Scottish setting.

2/23
Tycoon
Tycoon (The Knickerbocker Club #0.5) by Joanna Shupe (historical romance)
I really liked Shupe's Wicked Deceptions series and I am happy to see that her next series is taking place in Gilded Age NYC.

Lady Bridget's Diary (Cavendish, #1)
Lady Bridget's Diary (Cavendish #1) by Maya Rodale (historical romance)
I love the idea of a group of Americans inheriting a title plus this book has a girl next door theme.

Fighting Dirty (Ultimate, #4)
Fighting Dirty (Ultimate #4) by Lori Foster (contemporary romance)
I've been wanting to try Lori Foster for awhile since Quinn loves her books so this sounds like a good way to start.

Along Came a Rogue (The Secret Life of Scoundrels, #2)
Along Came a Rogue (The Secret Life of Scoundrels #2) by Anna Harrington (historical romance)
I liked Harrington's debut (Dukes Are Forever) so I am ready to see what else she can do plus it has a best friend's sibling plot!

Friday, January 29, 2016

REVIEW: "Forbidden" by Beverly Jenkins


Forbidden
(Old West #1)

For Ages 18+ (Language, Sensuality)
Historical Romance -- Post-Civil War America

Avon -- Published on January 26, 2016
eARC, 384 pages
Read in January 2016
Received from Edelweiss

RATING: 4.5 STARS

THEMES/TROPES
Self-Made Hero, Cook Heroine

SUMMARY
Rhine Fontaine is building the successful life he's always dreamed of—one that depends upon him passing for White. But for the first time in years, he wishes he could step out from behind the façade. The reason: Eddy Carmichael, the young woman he rescued in the desert. Outspoken, defiant, and beautiful, Eddy tempts Rhine in ways that could cost him everything . . . and the price seems worth paying.

Eddy owes her life to Rhine, but she won't risk her heart for him. As soon as she's saved enough money from her cooking, she'll leave this Nevada town and move to California. No matter how handsome he is, no matter how fiery the heat between them, Rhine will never be hers. Giving in for just one night might quench this longing. Or it might ignite an affair as reckless and irresistible as it is forbidden . . .


FIRST LINE
"Wearing the blue uniform of the Union Army, Rhine Fontaine tethered his horse to the post and surveyed the charred piles of rubble of the house that once anchored the largest plantation in the county."

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

I have been wanting to read Beverly Jenkins for a long time so I ecstatic to receive an eARC of her newest release, Forbidden.  And it was an amazing reading experience!  I definitely understand why she is so highly regarded in the romance community and I am anxious to read more of her work.

Rhine Fontaine is the son of a slave and her owner and has a light enough complexion to pass as White.  After the Civil War, he decided that, in order to achieve his dreams, he had to Pass and was able to build a successful business in Virginia City, Nevada.  Eddy Carmichael was born free and is ready to go for her dream which is to own a restaurant in San Francisco.  Unfortunately, on her journey, she gets taken advantage of and winds up walking alone in the desert.  Her life is saved when Rhine and his business partner, Jim, come across her.  Eddy is still determined to head to San Francisco as soon as she earns enough money, but, while she is waiting, her relationship with Rhine becomes much more serious than either of them thought possible.

I just loved the characterization of both Rhine and Eddy.  It is easy to understand why Rhine would make the choice to Pass like he did and his growing feelings for Eddy force him to really think about what he wants in life.  He used his position in the city to help the Black community whenever possible and never made them feel like they owed him anything.  I would describe Eddy as resilient and a realistic dreamer.  I applauded her continued efforts to improve her life though she also took the time to appreciate what she already had.

Eddy and Rhine's romance was very sweet and made them rethink their future plans.  Their chemistry is off the charts and I reveled in every scene that had them bantering back and forth.  Forbidden romance is always fun for me to read and Beverly Jenkins takes the trope and runs with it.  I liked that both of them had to be willing to make sacrifices in order to achieve their happily ever after so that the stakes were even higher for the romance to succeed.

I also loved the worldbuilding Beverly Jenkins did on Virginia City especially her depiction of the Black community.  I knew nothing about this city and its illustrious history and I felt like I learned so much.  The other city inhabitants were all given vibrant personalities and many had little story arcs of their own.  There is an absolutely adorable side romance between Eddy's boss and the town doctor that had me squealing with happiness.

Forbidden was a unique, lush historical romance that had me reading late into the night.  Beverly Jenkins's writing style really works for me and I can't wait to read more.  I am definitely excited to see where Beverly Jenkins takes this series next.

FAVORITE QUOTE
"Do you always insult women with knives in their hands?"

Thursday, January 28, 2016

THEME THURSDAY: Musicians 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.


Image result for musician
MUSICIANS IN ROMANCE
This is a collection of romances where one of the main characters plays a musical instrument successfully.  For the purposes of this list, I am not including singers.

Enchanted (Medieval, #3)
Enchanted by Elizabeth Lowell -- Ariane plays the harp. [5 stars]
Historical Romance -- Medieval Scotland
Simon the loyal has vowed never to love, for love makes a warrior weak. His arranged marriage to a beautiful Norman heiress would be duty and no more. But more than duty stirs his blood when he first sees Ariane. She has known only coldness from men and a betrayal so deep it all but killed her soul. Wanting no man, trusting no man, speaking only through the sad songs she draws from her harp, Ariane comes to Simon an unwilling bride. They wed to bring peace to the disputed lands, but marriage alone is not enough. Simon must teach Ariane passion, she must teach him trust. And both must surrender to the sweet violence of love′s enchantment. . .or die.

His Every Kiss (Guilty, #2)
His Every Kiss by Laura Lee Guhrke -- Dylan is a composer. [3.5 stars]
Historical Romance -- Regency England
Everyone knows about Dylan Moore—his brilliant talent and his pleasure-seeking ways—but no one knows the torment that lies beneath his reckless veneer. Only one woman gets a glimpse of the forces that drive Dylan's soul, a woman who haunts his dreams and evokes his passions as no other woman ever has before.
Disgraced and destitute, Grace Cheval wants nothing to do with the seductive man who desires her. When Dylan offers her a position as governess to his newfound daughter, she knows his true intentions are dishonorable. Yet she finds this charismatic man hard to resist, and she returns his passionate kisses with a fire that matches his own. Can Dylan dare hope that this proud, spirited beauty will melt the ice around his heart?

Once Upon a Tower (Fairy Tales, #5)
Once Upon a Tower by Eloisa James -- Edie plays the cello. [4.5 stars]
Historical Romance -- Regency England
To win her love...
As an extremely wealthy laird, Gowan Stoughton, Duke of Kinross, can have any of the maidens at the ball he attends. The only problem is they are all English and Gowan is not so certain they are suitable. He is accustomed to the hard-working lasses from his Highlands, not these dainty noblewomen who spend their days drinking tea or some other such nonsense. But then he makes the acquaintance of Lady Edith Gilchrist. Utterly bewitched by the emerald-eyed beauty with lush golden locks, he knows he must have her.
He must free her from her tower...
"Edie" had the misfortune of being dreadfully ill at her debut ball and barely remembers what Gowan looks like. Even worse, she accepted his proposal the following day. Edie's only true passion is playing music—until Gowan writes a scandalous letter and stirs the most irresistible desire. Yet when they marry, Edie realizes her husband needs a lesson and locks herself in a tower. Somehow Gowan must find a way to enter the tower and convince his new bride that she belongs in his arms.

Your Wicked Ways (Duchess Quartet, #4)
Your Wicked Ways by Eloisa James -- Rees is an opera composer. [4 stars]
Historical Romance -- Regency England
Helene, the Countess Godwin, knows there is nothing more unbearably tedious than a virtuous woman. After all, she's been one for ten long years while her scoundrel of a husband lives with strumpets and causes scandal after scandal. So she decides it's time for a change -- she styles her hair in the newest, daring mode, puts on a shockingly transparent gown, and goes to a ball like Cinderella, hoping to find a prince charming to sweep her off her feet...and into his bed.
But instead of a prince, she finds only her own volatile, infuriatingly handsome...husband, Rees, the Earl Godwin. They'd eloped to Gretna Green in a fiery passion, but passion can sometimes burn too hot to last.
But now, Rees makes her a brazen offer, and Helene decides to become his wife again...but not in name only. No, this time she decides to be very, very wicked indeed.

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake (Love By Numbers, #1)
Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean -- Gabriel plays the piano. [4.5 stars]
Historical Romance -- Regency England
Lady Calpurnia Hartwell has always followed the rules, rules that have left her unmarried—and more than a little unsatisfied. And so she's vowed to break the rules and live the life of pleasure she's been missing.
But to dance every dance, to steal a midnight kiss—to do those things, Callie will need a willing partner. Someone who knows everything about rule-breaking. Someone like Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston—charming and devastatingly handsome, his wicked reputation matched only by his sinful smile.
If she's not careful, she'll break the most important rule of all—the one that says that pleasure-seekers should never fall hopelessly, desperately in love.

A Lady by Midnight (Spindle Cove, #3)
A Lady by Midnight by Tessa Dare -- Kate is a music teacher. [5 stars]
Historical Romance -- Regency England
After years of fending for herself, Kate Taylor found friendship and acceptance in Spindle Cove—but she never stopped yearning for love. The very last place she'd look for it is in the arms of Corporal Thorne. The militia commander is as stone cold as he is brutally handsome. But when mysterious strangers come searching for Kate, Thorne steps forward as her fiancé. He claims to have only Kate's safety in mind. So why is there smoldering passion in his kiss?
Long ago, Samuel Thorne devoted his life to guarding Kate's happiness. He wants what's best for her, and he knows it's not marriage to a man like him. To outlast their temporary engagement, he must keep his hands off her tempting body and lock her warm smiles out of his withered heart. It's the toughest battle of this hardened warrior's life . . . and the first he seems destined to lose.

 Rock Courtship (Rock Kiss, #1.5)
Rock Courtship by Nalini Singh -- David is a drummer. [4 stars]
Contemporary Romance
What happens when the Gentleman of Rock decides to play dirty?
A drummer for the hottest rock band on the planet, David has a single, powerful weakness: Thea, the band's publicist and the woman who steals his breath away with her every move.
Only problem is, Thea doesn't date clients--or musicians. Emotionally scarred by a cheating ex, she's not about to risk her heart with a man who has groupies buzzing around him like flies. Even if his sexy smile ties her up in knots.
What she doesn't know is that David is a one-woman man...and he's madly in love with her. David's determined to prove he's worth the risk, and willing to court her, step by exquisite step. Thea's about to discover just how long and hard this handsome drummer can play.

Rock Redemption (Rock Kiss, #3)
Rock Redemption by Nalini Singh -- Noah is a guitarist. [4.25 stars]
Contemporary Romance
Kit Devigny could have loved rock guitarist Noah St. John. Their friendship burned with the promise of intense passion and searing tenderness…until the night Noah deliberately shattered her heart.

Noah knows he destroyed something precious the night he chose to betray Kit, but he’d rather she hate him than learn his darkest secret. All he has left is his music. It’s his saving grace, but it doesn’t silence the voices that keep him up at night. Chasing oblivion through endless one-night-stands, he earns a few hours’ sleep and his bad boy reputation.

When a media error sees Noah and Kit dubbed the new “it” couple, Kit discovers her chance at the role of a lifetime hinges on riding the media wave. Wanting—needing—to give Kit this, even if he can’t give her everything, Noah agrees to play the adoring boyfriend. Only the illusion is suddenly too real, too painful, too beautiful…and it may be too late for the redemption of Noah St. John.

Fever Pitch (Love Lessons, #2)
Fever Pitch by Heidi Cullinan -- Giles plays the violin. [5 stars]
Male/Male Contemporary Romance
Aaron Seavers is a pathetic mess, and he knows it. He lives in terror of incurring his father’s wrath and disappointing his mother, and he can’t stop dithering about where to go to college—with fall term only weeks away. Ditched by a friend at a miserable summer farewell party, all he can do is get drunk in the laundry room and regret he was ever born. Until a geeky-cute classmate lifts his spirits, leaving him confident of two things: his sexual orientation, and where he’s headed to school.
Giles Mulder can’t wait to get the hell out of Oak Grove, Minnesota, and off to college, where he plans to play his violin and figure out what he wants to be when he grows up. But when Aaron appears on campus, memories of hometown hazing threaten what he’d hoped would be his haven. As the semester wears on, their attraction crescendos from double-cautious to a rich, swelling chord. But if more than one set of controlling parents have their way, the music of their love could come to a shattering end.

St. Nacho's (St. Nacho's #1)
St. Nacho's by Z.A. Maxfield -- Cooper plays the violin. [4 stars]
Male/Male Contemporary Romance
Cooper has spent the last three years running from a painful past. He's currently moving from town to town, working in restaurant kitchens, and playing his violin for tips. As soon as he starts to feel comfortable anywhere—with anyone—he moves on. He's aware that music may be the only human language he still knows. Ironically, the one man he's wanted to communicate with in all that time is deaf.
Shawn is part of a deaf theater group at the nearby college. Shawn wants Cooper as soon as they meet and he begins a determined flirtation. Cooper is comfortable with down and dirty sex, just not people. As far as Shawn is concerned, dirty sex is win-win, but he wants Cooper to let him into the rest of his life as well.
Cooper needs time to heal and put his past away for good. Shawn needs to help Cooper forgive himself and accept that he can be loved. Both men find out that when it comes to the kind of healing love can bring, the sleepy beachside town of Santo Ignacio, “St. Nacho's” as the locals call it, may just be the very best place to start.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

REVIEW: "Radiance" by Grace Draven


Radiance (Wraith Kings, #1)
(Wraith Kings #1)

For Ages 18+ (Language, Sensuality, Violence)
Fantasy Romance

Self-Published -- Published on January 13, 2015
Ebook, 297 pages
Read in January 2016
Purchased from Amazon

RATING: 4.5 STARS

THEMES/TROPES
Alternate Universe, Action/Adventure, Arranged Marriage

SUMMARY
THE PRINCE OF NO VALUE

Brishen Khaskem, prince of the Kai, has lived content as the nonessential spare heir to a throne secured many times over. A trade and political alliance between the human kingdom of Gaur and the Kai kingdom of Bast-Haradis requires that he marry a Gauri woman to seal the treaty. Always a dutiful son, Brishen agrees to the marriage and discovers his bride is as ugly as he expected and more beautiful than he could have imagined.

THE NOBLEWOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE

Ildiko, niece of the Gauri king, has always known her only worth to the royal family lay in a strategic marriage. Resigned to her fate, she is horrified to learn that her intended groom isn’t just a foreign aristocrat but the younger prince of a people neither familiar nor human. Bound to her new husband, Ildiko will leave behind all she’s known to embrace a man shrouded in darkness but with a soul forged by light.

Two people brought together by the trappings of duty and politics will discover they are destined for each other, even as the powers of a hostile kingdom scheme to tear them apart.


FIRST LINE
"Today was Ildiko's wedding day, and if she managed not to retch on herself or a guest, she'd consider the entire event a resounding success."

MY THOUGHTS
My book radar picked up Radiance at the end of last year when I saw it pop up on many "Best of 2015" lists.  I was looking for an interesting fantasy romance so I decided to give it a try.  And I am so glad I did because this was a wonderful story full of vibrant characters and a perfectly-developed love story.

This romance takes place in an alternate universe, specifically in two neighboring kingdoms, Gaur and Bast-Haradis.  Gaur is run by humans while Bast-Haradis is run by the night-dwelling Kai.  These two species have had a tenuous relationship for many years that is finally becoming an alliance with the arranged marriage between Brishen, a younger son of the Kai king, and Ildiko, the orphaned niece of the Gauri king.

What I adored about the two protagonists was their determination to make the best of their situation and work together to insure the marriage worked.  Brishen is stubborn, protective, and genuinely cares about the people around him including Ildiko.  For her part, Ildiko is intelligent, self-confident, and hard-working.  They both have great sense of humor which is shown in the banter that starts from their first meeting.

I love arranged marriage stories and the fact that the union is between two different humanoid species was fascinating to me.  The Kai and the Gauri find each others' looks to be unappealing and this is true for Brishen and Ildiko at first.  But, because of their personalities, these two are able to look past the physical and see the great people inside.  Their relationship develops naturally from strangers to friends and eventually lovers.  I loved all the little moments that showcased their growing affection for one another.

The world building of Radiance was intriguing though I felt like it took a back seat to the romance.  I have a feeling that readers will learn more about this fantasy world later in the series so I wasn't too upset by that part.  I also liked the way the author developed the background characters with my favorite being Anhuset, a strong-willed female warrior who also is Brishen's cousin.  I am definitely looking forward to seeing what happens to Brishen and Ildiko especially with the cliffhanger scene at the end.

FAVORITE QUOTE
"You make a very handsome dead eel, my husband,”
“For a boiled mollusk, you wear black quite well, my wife.”


BOOKS IN THE SERIES
1. Radiance
2. Eidolon (Coming 2016)

READING CHALLENGES
2016 New-To-You Reading Challenge

LEARN MORE
Goodreads -- Author Website

WHERE TO GET IT
Amazon -- B&N -- Kobo -- Smashwords -- Audible

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Freebie -- Book Characters I Would Name a Pet After


Hosted by the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish.

Image result for hagrid Image result for saint bernard
1. Hagrid -- Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
I think of a large, fluffy dog when I think of this name...probably a Newfoundland or a Saint Bernard.

Brotherhood in Death (In Death, #42) Image result for tuxedo cat
2. Roarke -- In Death series by JD Robb
I think this would make a great name for a male cat.

Image result for haruhi fujioka Image result for siamese cat
3. Haruhi -- Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori
Another cat name...this time for a girl.  In the manga, Haruhi is the calm in the chaos of the Host Club and that is a good role model for cats.

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake (Love By Numbers, #1) Image result for collie
4. Calpurnia -- Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean
This would good for either a dog or a cat.  I love the classic feel I get from it plus Callie would be a good nickname.

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1) Image result for papillon
5. Iko -- Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer
I love this adorable android sidekick and think it would be a wonderful dog name.

Image result for persis across a star swept sea Image result for tabby cat
6. Persis -- Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund
I really admire Persis's determination and intellect so I would give this to a cat.

 Image result for irish wolfhound
7. Oberon -- Iron Druid Chronicles series by Kevin Hearne
If I ever got an Irish wolfhound, I would have to name it, Oberon, after druid Attitcus's best animal friend.

Darkfever (Fever, #1) Image result for german shepherd
8. Jericho -- Fever series by Karen Marie Moning
Very different and would be a great dog name.

Lover Mine (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #8) Image result for black cat
9. Xhex -- Lover Mine by JR Ward
Definitely another cat name though I think people will be confused by the spelling.

Image result for captain wentworth Image result for orange cat
10. Captain Wentworth -- Persuasion by Jane Austen
My favorite hero from my favorite Austen book.  It would make a great name for a cat.