Thursday, March 31, 2016

REVIEW: "Act Like It" by Lucy Parker

Act Like It
For Ages 18+ (Language, Sensuality)
Contemporary Romance

Carina Press -- November 30, 2015
Ebook, 199 pages
Read in March 2016
Purchased from Amazon

Goodreads -- Author Website -- Publisher Website

RATING: 4.25 STARS

SUMMARY
This just in: romance takes center stage as West End theatre's Richard Troy steps out with none other than castmate Elaine Graham

Richard Troy used to be the hottest actor in London, but the only thing firing up lately is his temper. We all love to love a bad boy, but Richard's antics have made him Enemy Number One, breaking the hearts of fans across the city.

Have the tides turned? Has English rose Lainie Graham made him into a new man?

Sources say the mismatched pair has been spotted at multiple events, arm in arm and hip to hip. From fits of jealousy to longing looks and heated whispers, onlookers are stunned by this blooming romance.

Could the rumors be right? Could this unlikely romance be the real thing? Or are these gifted stage actors playing us all?


THEMES AND TROPES
Actor Hero, Actress Heroine, Enemies to Lovers, Pretend Relationship

READING CHALLENGES
2016 Pick Your Genre Reading Challenge
2016 New To You Reading Challenge

MY THOUGHTS 
I picked up Act Like It after seeing a ton of people raving about it over on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.  I am picky about the contemporary romances I read, but I couldn't resist that many people's recommendations and the fact that it told the story of a fake relationship between two stage actors that quickly becomes real.  And I am very happy that I tried this book because it was an entertaining, emotional, and poignant romance with two richly drawn protagonists and a fascinating cast.

Lainie Graham is performing in a successful run of a West End play in London.  She recently ended a lengthy relationship with a fellow cast member and isn't really interested in pursuing another romance so soon.  But, things change when the bigwigs at the theater decide a publicity stunt is needed to alter the public persona of the star of the play, West End bad boy Richard Troy.  So it is determined that Richard and Lainie will pretend to be dating in order to improve his reputation.  What no one expects is for the fake relationship to become something much more to both participants.

I love a good pretend romance story so I was predestined to enjoy this book.  What I really liked was how Lucy Parker took this popular trope and made it feel fresh.  Lainie and Richard's characters are slowly revealed through their interactions with each other and the people around them.  Lainie has the rep of being the sweet girl next door and, while that is true, she also has a backbone so she isn't afraid to speak her mind.  I also enjoyed her geek references and how her kind nature helped bring out Richard's sweeter side.  And Richard...ah, I do love a cranky hero with a secret heart of gold.  I thought getting to know his past was key to understanding him and I also enjoyed seeing how he used his experience with Lucy to become a better person.

Besides the romance, I thought it was fun to read about the inner workings of the London theater industry.  People in the public eye have always been fascinating to me and I enjoyed the elements where the author showed how that type of life affects a love story.  There are many side characters in this book that helped enrich the world and offer parallels for the protagonists.  I particularly enjoyed meeting Richard's agent and Lucy's family.

Act Like It was a cute and surprisingly emotional romance between two characters that I really ended up liking.  There is a lot of hype around this book and I think it is definitely worth it.  I look forward to reading more of Lucy Parker's contemporaries in the future.


FAVORITE QUOTE
“Men in particular,” he went on, stating the loathsome truth, “are given a fair amount of leeway in the public eye.”

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

REVIEW: "Duke of My Heart" by Kelly Bowen


Duke of My Heart (Season for Scandal, #1)
(Season for Scandal #1)

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

Forever -- January 26, 2016
Mass Market Paperback, 368 pages
Read in March 2016
Library

Goodreads -- Author Website -- Publisher Website

RATING: 4 STARS

SUMMARY
Captain Maximus Harcourt, the unconventional tenth Duke of Alderidge, can deal with tropical storms, raging seas, and the fiercest of pirates. But he's returned home from his latest voyage to find a naked earl—quite inconveniently deceased—tied to his missing sister's bed. And he has only one place to turn. Now he's at the mercy of the captivating Miss Ivory Moore of Chegarre & Associates, known throughout London for smoothing over the most dire of scandals.

Miss Moore treats the crisis as though it were no more serious than a cup of spilt tea on an expensive rug. As though this sort of thing happened on the job every day. Max has never in all his life met a woman with such nerve. Her dark eyes are too wide, her mouth is too full, her cheekbones too sharp. Yet together, she's somehow...flawless. It's just like his love for her, imperfect, unexpected—yet absolutely true.


THEMES AND TROPES
Action-Adventure, Widowed Heroine, Employer/Employee Romance

READING CHALLENGES
2016 Pick Your Genre Reading Challenge

MY THOUGHTS 
Duke of My Heart is the third Kelly Bowen historical I've read and it was just as great as the other two.  This is the beginning of Bowen's newest series and, after enjoying this installment, I am looking forward to the rest of the books.

Things get going quickly in this book when the sister of the Duke of Alderidge is discovered to be missing during a ball and a naked earl is found dead while tied to her bed.  This is usually an event that would ruin a family, but, thankfully, Ivory Moore comes to the rescue.  She is known as the person who can help keep the ton's secrets hidden and solve almost any crisis imaginable.  Her initial overview of the situation is interrupted by the arrival of the duke.  The rest of the book involves these two working together to find the duke's sister and keep the family name clean while also dealing with their obvious attraction.

Kelly Bowen excels at providing fascinating and well-developed characters and that is the case in this book as well.  Max never expected to be the duke and he does not react well to his position.  He is much more relaxed captaining a ship so he leaves the running of his estate and the raising of his sister to a relative.  His sister's disappearance fills him with guilt and he has to learn how to deal with responsibility of his title.  I liked watching the journey that his character went on to feeling comfortable as the duke and as a big brother.

While Max was interesting, I thought the true star of Duke of My Heart was Ivory.  She is a person with a fascinating life and is the very definition of a capable heroine.  She has had to work very hard to get where she is and she doesn't take crap from anybody.  I liked the way that this was handled within the historical setting.  Ivory never felt like she was a modern woman in 19th century England and I appreciated that care.

I thought the romance between Ivory and Max was beautifully developed.  They go from adversaries to friends to lovers in a very natural way.  I liked the way that the situation they were in helped them get to know one another and forced them to face the fact that they could work as a couple.  It is always touchy when there is a mystery to balance with the romance and I thought it was handled well.  I was able to figure out the "big bad" early on, but I still enjoyed seeing the evolution of the mystery and how it helped develop the romance.

All in all, Kelly Bowen did a great job of providing readers with interesting characters being put in a difficult situation.  The pacing was decent and I only felt like things got slow towards the middle.  I am looking forward to more in this series especially if Max's sister gets a story in the future.

BOOKS IN THE SERIES


Duke of My Heart (Season for Scandal, #1) A Duke to Remember (Season for Scandal, #2) 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Most Recent Five-Star Reads


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

This was one of the easier TTT posts I've done since all I had to do was look at my Goodreads account and find my most recent favorites.  I am very picky when it comes to giving out five star ratings so it shouldn't be a surprise that I read some of these books almost two years ago.  Just for fun, I decided to feature my favorite quote from each book rather than just giving a brief synopsis.

Listen to the Moon (Lively St. Lemeston, #3)
1. Listen to the Moon (Lively St. Lemeston #3) by Rose Lerner (historical romance)
"I'd like a jelly mold in the shape of his arse."

Winter (The Lunar Chronicles, #4)
2. Winter (Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer (YA science fiction)
“Right now, a kiss is the going rate for near-death experiences. It's kind of a point system.”

Shards of Hope (Psy-Changeling, #14)
3. Shards of Hope (Psy-Changeling #14) by Nalini Singh (paranormal romance)
“We can decide to remain in our isolated bunkers, becoming more and more obsessed with looking inward instead of outward, or we can decide to be great together. We can decide to stagnate, or we can decide to grow. We can decide to settle for the status quo, or we can decide to reach for the stars. “Choose.”


Carry the Ocean (The Roosevelt, #1)
4. Carry the Ocean by Heidi Cullinan (M/M contemporary)
"My emotions feel loud and big. It's hard for me to keep hold of them. They weigh me down. Make me heavy and tired and overwhelmed. Sometimes I feel like everyone else is carrying a bucket of water, but I'm trying to carry an ocean."

Rock Hard (Rock Kiss, #2)
5. Rock Hard (Rock Kiss #2) by Nalini Singh (contemporary romance)
“Smart women were his catnip.”

Magic Bleeds (Kate Daniels, #4)
6. Magic Bleeds (Kate Daniels #4) by Ilona Andrews (urban fantasy)
"I surveyed the rest of the Council and looked directly at Mahon, "Some of you know me. Some of you have seen me fight and some of you are my friends. Have your vote. But know this: if you come to remove me, come in force, because if you try to separate me from him, I will kill every single one of you. My hand won't shake. My aim won't falter. My face will be the last thing you'll see before you die." I jammed the knife into the table and walked out."

Innocent in Death (In Death, #24)
7. Innocent in Death (In Death #24) by JD Robb (romantic suspense)
“No. No, I don't believe you'd betray me with her. I don't believe you'd cheat on me. But I'm afraid, and I'm sick in my heart that you might look at her, then at me. And regret.”

Chained by Night (MoonBound Clan Vampire, #2)
8. Chained by Night (Moonbound Clan #2) by Larissa Ione (paranormal romance)
“I thought your name was Roger.”“Why the hell would you think that?”“I heard Riker call you Roger.”“Not Roger. Roger. As in affirmative. He was giving me a positive response to my order.”

Evernight (Darkest London, #5)
9. Evernight (Darkest London #5) by Kristen Callihan (historical/paranormal romance)
"Now you listen to me," Holly said with quiet conviction. "You will never touch William Thorne, nor any of his kith and kin, again. You will never contact me or interfere with my life, either directly or indirectly, again. . . You may have more power, and perhaps one day, you'll have the luck to catch me unaware. But you do not have my resolve. You come between me and mine again, and I will slice you into ribbons so slowly, it will take agonizing hours for this mortal shell you now wear to die. And when I am done, I will send you back without another thought for you. I'll do it over and over. I will not stop defending what is mine."

My Dearest Enemy
10. My Dearest Enemy by Connie Brockway (historical romance)
"I don't give a bloody damn if I never share your bed, your name, or your house -- you are still my concern. You can leave, take yourself from my ken, disappear for the rest of my life but you cannot untangle yourself from my -- my concern. That I have of you, Miss Bede, for that, at least, I do not need your permission."

Monday, March 28, 2016

REVIEW: "Magic Shifts" by Ilona Andrews


Magic Shifts (Kate Daniels, #8)
(Kate Daniels #8)

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

Ace -- August 4, 2015
Hardcover, 342 pages
Read in March 2016
Borrowed from library

Goodreads -- Author Website -- Publisher Website

RATING: 4.5 STARS

SUMMARY
After breaking from life with the Pack, mercenary Kate Daniels and her mate—former Beast Lord Curran Lennart—are adjusting to a very different pace. While they’re thrilled to escape all the infighting, Curran misses the constant challenges of leading the shapeshifters.

So when the Pack offers him its stake in the Mercenary Guild, Curran seizes the opportunity—too bad the Guild wants nothing to do with him and Kate. Luckily, as a veteran merc, Kate can take over any of the Guild’s unfinished jobs in order to bring in money and build their reputation. But what Kate and Curran don’t realize is that the odd jobs they’ve been working are all connected.

An ancient enemy has arisen, and Kate and Curran are the only ones who can stop it—before it takes their city apart piece by piece… 


THEMES AND TROPES
Alpha Hero, Alpha Heroine, Established Couple, Magic/Sorcery

READING CHALLENGES
2016 Pick Your Genre Reading Challenge
2016 Spooks, Howls, and Fangs Reading Challenge

MY THOUGHTS 
Warning!  This review contains spoilers for earlier books in the Kate Daniels series

I probably sound like a broken record player with this series by now, but wow!  These authors truly know how to grab a reader's attention and keep it until the very last page.  Magic Shifts is the eighth book in the series and the world is so perfectly created that all readers have to do is sit back and enjoy.

This installment was interesting for many reasons.  In the last book, Curran gave up his position as the Beast Lord and left the Pack.  Now Kate and Curran must adjust to their new life outside of the Pack while still dealing with Kate's accidental claiming of Atlanta.  They also have a mystery on their hands when a Pack member disappears and they are hired by his girlfriend to find him.  This, of course, becomes a situation which is much more complicated than they originally thought and they discover that their lives and the lives of those they care for are in even greater danger than ever.

I loved getting to see this fabulous couple and how they are enjoying their newfound freedom.  They are at a point in their relationship where they are happy and know that they will be there for each other, no matter what.  They also haven't lost their trademark flirtations which provided plenty of humor to balance out the drama.
“Did you just grab my butt?” I whispered. “What?” “Curran!” “Yes?” I could hear controlled laughter in his voice. Unbelievable. I sped up. “We’re tracking ghouls and you’re grabbing my butt.” “I always make sure to pay attention to important things.”
I also liked seeing the continued growth of Kate and Curran's characters with their newest situation.  Kate did not plan on claiming Atlanta, but, now that she has, she is determined to keep it safe from her father, Roland.  What I thought was the most fascinating part of Kate's journey in Magic Shifts was her realization that she is vulnerable and that she has to be more circumspect when it comes to jumping into action.  Curran, for his part, is trying to get his feet under him while interacting with the world outside of the Pack.  He knows he can't just sit around all day and takes steps to gain employment for himself...with some entertaining results.

The larger cast of characters is just as wonderful as always.  I have a huge soft spot for Derek so I was happy to see him maintain his importance in Kate's story.  Julie's character is also growing on me and I can tell there are secrets she is hiding which will probably come up huge in later books.  And I am interested to see how Jim and Dali do as the Pack leaders.

There is much more I can say about Magic Shifts, but most of it would be squealing and fangirling so I'll just stop right here.  This series is so amazing and I continue to be impressed with its scope and its heart.  I can't wait until later this year for the next installment.

BOOKS IN THE SERIES

Magic Bites (Kate Daniels, #1) Magic Burns (Kate Daniels, #2) Magic Strikes (Kate Daniels, #3) Magic Mourns (Kate Daniels, #3.5) Magic Bleeds (Kate Daniels, #4) Magic Dreams (Kate Daniels, #4.5) Magic Slays (Kate Daniels, #5) Magic Gifts (Kate Daniels, #5.4) Gunmetal Magic (Kate Daniels, #5.5) Magic Rises (Kate Daniels, #6) Night Shift (Kate Daniels, #6.5; SPI Files, # 0.5; Psy-Changeling, #12.5) Magic Breaks (Kate Daniels, #7) Magic Shifts (Kate Daniels, #8) Magic Stars (Kate Daniels, #8.5, Grey Wolf, #1)Magic Binds (Kate Daniels, #9)

Sunday, March 27, 2016

UPCOMING RELEASES: April 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.

4/4

Getting It Back (Red Hot Russians, #3)
Getting It Back (Red Hot Russians #3) by Elizabeth Harmon (contemporary romance)
I am obsessed with figure skating so, of course, I'm interested in this series.  Book one, Pairing Off, was just nominated for a RITA too!

4/5

Luck Is No Lady (Fallen Ladies, #1)
Luck Is No Lady (Fallen Ladies #1) by Amy Sandas (historical romance)
The heroine is a math genius and uses those skills to get a job in a gambling hell.  The hero is ruthless owner of the hell.  I'm currently reading this and it is really interesting.

The Glittering Court (The Glittering Court, #1)
The Glittering Court (The Glittering Court #1) by Richelle Mead (YA historical fantasy)

I love Richelle Mead's writing style and this half-fantasy historical story sounds cool.

A Gentleman's Position (Society of Gentlemen, #3)
A Gentleman's Position (Society of Gentleman #3) by K.J. Charles (M/M historical)
This is a very popular series and this particular installment features an aristocrat and the valet he is in love with.

4/11

Secrets of a Soprano
Secrets of a Soprano by Miranda Neville (historical romance)
A fascinating sounding romance between an opera singer and the owner of a rival opera house.

4/12

The Player and the Pixie (Rugby, #2)
The Player and the Pixie (Rugby #2) by L.H. Cosway and Penny Reid (contemporary romance)
I love sports romances so, obviously, I am going to look into this story.

The Debutante Is Mine (Season's Original, #1)
The Debutante is Mine (Season's Original #1) by Vivienne Lorret (historical romance)
I haven't read any books by this author, but I like the premise of a man who hates the aristocracy helping a debutante with her makeover and then falling for her.

4/16

Selfie (Bluewater Bay, #13)
Selfie (Bluewater Bay #13) by Amy Lane (M/M contemporary)
It is a Bluewater Bay book and it is by Amy Lane?  Of course, I'm reading it!

4/19

The Blacksmith's Wife
The Blacksmith's Wife by Elisabeth Hobbes (historical romance)
I haven't read a medieval romance in awhile so I'm interested in this one.

4/26

Temptations of a Wallflower (The Wicked Quills of London, #3)
Temptations of a Wallflower (Wicked Quills of London #3) by Eva Leigh (historical romance)
The first two books in the trilogy were wonderful and I think this volume will be just as amazing.  It focuses on the mysterious writer of the Lady of Dubious Quality erotic stories.

Magnate
Magnate (Gilded Age #1) by Joanna Shupe (historical romance)
The head of a steel empire and a woman with ambitions towards success in the New York Stock Exchange sounds like something I will really enjoy.

The Earl Takes All (The Hellions of Havisham, #2)
The Earl Takes All (The Hellions of Havisham #2) by Lorraine Heath (historical romance)
I'm hesitant about this one since it is about a man who disguises himself as his dead brother and falls for his brother's wife.  But, I am willing to trust Lorraine Heath with this difficult plot.

Z (Demonica, #11.8)
Z (Demonica #11.8) by Larissa Ione (paranormal romance)
I must have more Demonica in my life!

How I Married a Marquess (The Secret Life of Scoundrels, #3)
How I Married a Marquess (The Secret Life of Scoundrels #3) by Anna Harrington (historical 
romance)
An "on the shelf" heroine who has a big secret that is close to being discovered by a former spy?  I'm sold.

How the Duke Was Won (The Disgraceful Dukes, #1)
How the Duke Was Won (Disgraceful Dukes #1) by Lenora Bell (historical romance)
A debut that is getting a lot of good publicity right now and has the heroine pretending to be her sister in order to gain a duke's proposal for that sister.

The Star-Touched Queen
The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi (YA fantasy)
A fascinating-sounding fantasy with a cursed heroine who ends up in a political marriage and changes the world around her.

Friday, March 25, 2016

FRIDAY FUN: March 25, 2016

One of my favorite podcasts is NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour and my favorite segment on that show is the closing, "What is Making Me Happy".  I just love the idea of focusing on the good in a world that sometimes feels very negative.  So, I am going to try to bring some more happiness to my blog by focusing on a few things every week that have made me smile or laugh.


This uplifting duvet cover.
1. I love shopping for literature/pop culture swag so, of course, I want almost everything on this list of 22 Bewitching Items All Harry Potter Fans Will Love.  I am especially intrigued by the Wingardium Leviosa duvet cover and Lumos/Nox light switch cover.


Image result for hamilton
2. Like many other people, I am absolutely obsessed with Hamilton which also means I wait with bated breath for the #Digital Ham4Ham videos.  And this week's is one of my favorites with Lin-Manuel Miranda (Alexander Hamilton), Chris Jackson (George Washington), Daveed Diggs (Thomas Jefferson), and Okieriete Onadowan (James Madison) performing "Cabinet Battle #1" in the walk and talk style of "The West Wing" while walking around the White House.


Secrets of a Soprano
3. I love Miranda Neville's historicals and was excited to find the cover and blurb of her April 11th release, Secrets of a Soprano.  It involves many things that I enjoy in historical romance such as former lovers who are reunited and an opera singer heroine.



4. All About Romance is accepting emails from romance readers who want to review or blog for the website.  You can find the instructions and contact information here.


Fortune Favors the Wicked Because of Miss Bridgerton (Rokesbys #1) Six Degrees of Scandal (Scandalous, #4) The Winner's Kiss (The Winner's Trilogy, #3)
5. Here are a few books that are being released next week that I am interested in:
  • Fortune Favors the Wicked by Theresa Romain (historical romance)
  • Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn (historical romance)
  • Six Degrees of Scandal by Caroline Linden (historical romance)
  • The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski (YA fantasy)