#BookReview: Saltwater Sweethearts by Christina Benjamin

Seldom Saccharine Sweet. This is the book in this trilogy about (in part) three brothers from a small Southern town where this eldest of three brothers from a small (ish) Southern town *really* started identifying with these boys. Particularly since I left my own hometown 15 years ago this summer and only rarely go back, almost always to spend time with my family there. Which is what Cole is doing here – coming back to town for his sister’s wedding. And Cole’s mom? Much moreso than in Book 1 (Palmetto Passion), here she sounds so much like my own mother I could actually hear my mother’s voice when she was speaking. Granted, my family doesn’t have any *towns* named after us, but there is a (small) lake north of Atlanta that bears my mom’s family’s name (and the road the lake is on to boot :D)

All of which to say, this book *really* felt like home in ways that few books have ever quite evoked. And yes, I know, people from other areas of the country/ world won’t get quite the same effect (even though the location of this book is a few hundred miles away from my own home region, to be clear :D), but even then – it *does* provide a pretty solid view of what family life is like for at least some in the region. ๐Ÿ™‚

Benjamin always does solid work creating mostly quick-read romances (and this one clocks in at just 180 ish pages) with heart, and this one is no different. And at this point, I’m *really* looking forward to Book 3, since at this point we know so very little about that particular brother. Oh, and if you liked the movie Sweet Home Alabama with Reese Witherspoon… well, this reader found this book to have at least some strong similarities with that tale. Which is a very good thing for this reader, since he very much enjoys that movie. ๐Ÿ™‚ With this noted, this book is very much recommended.

This review of Saltwater Sweetheart by Christina Benjamin was originally written on February 6, 2021.

#BookReview: Palmetto Passion by Christina Benjamin

Premium Presentation. This is a solid start to a new series from Benjamin, and one that does its job of telling a compelling romance, creating a new world, and introducing the remaining series leads. The romance here is a tad trope heavy (billionaire heir questioning family legacy, woman on the run), but it works well even so. Overall a solid and fairly standard-ish Christina Benjamin Young Adult Romance – meaning if you’re open to the genre at all and haven’t read her works, this is a good place to start. If you’re a fan of hers already, you’re going to like this one as well. And I, for one, am looking forward to seeing just where the stories go next. ๐Ÿ™‚ Very much recommended.

This review of Palmetto Passion by Christina Benjamin was originally written on January 22, 2021.

#BookReview: The Love Square by Laura Jane Williams

Not An Actual Love Square, But A Solid Romance. I’m a math oriented dude. The imprecision of “love triangle” has always bothered me. For those, assuming both sexes are involved, you need two bi people and a straight person, at minimum. (There *are* possible variations, but a true love triangle would have Person A in love with Person B and Person C – *and* Person B and Person C in love with both Person A *and each other*.) “Love Triangles”, in the common parlance, are actually Love *Angles*, such that two points are connected at a common third point. Similarly, for this Love Square to work, it would really need 2 couples such that each couple is in love with each other *as well as* exactly one person in the other couple. Here, we get two side by side Love Angles such that *three* points are connected at a common *fourth* point.

Math technicalities and English imprecision aside, however, this was actually a solid romance tale of finding oneself and what one really wants that put an interesting spin on the colloquial “Love Triangle” by introducing a *third* man that the common woman falls in love with. And in some fairly direct ways, it actually parallels a lot of what Padma Lakshmi said about her own “love triangle” in her memoir Love, Loss, and What We Ate. You’ve got the guy that our female lead – Penny – has an instant connection with. Then you’ve got the guy that actively pursues her and they wind up together almost via fluke. Then you’ve got the guy Penny is introduced to and has a fun time with, but who isn’t interested in long term or commitment generally. And along the way, Penny gets thrust into situations she doesn’t always have complete control of, all while still trying to discover herself after having survived cancer at a fairly early age – mid 20s. The characters are all solid and interesting, and each of the guys makes very strong points about love and what matters. In the end, if you like romance novels at all, you’re probably going to enjoy this one. And if you don’t, give this one a chance – at least it has a few more-interesting-than-normal wrinkles. ๐Ÿ™‚ Very much recommended.

This review of The Love Square by Laura Jane Williams was originally written on December 18, 2020.

#BookReview: On The Wings Of Hope by Ella Zeiss

ATypical WWII Novel. In several ways, this is a typical WWII romance-ish novel, maybe of a Russian kind (ie, hard times all over the place, can be seen as depressing at times, yet ultimately a story of survival and love). In many other ways, this is a very *atypical* WWII novel. For one, it doesn’t take place in the more common Western Europe setting, but instead mostly in Soviet forced labor camps. For another, well, the whole “Soviet” thing doesn’t get seen too much in Western WWII historical fiction novels. And finally, this is actually directly based on the real-world travails of the author’s grandparents, making it the first time I’ve seen a novel of the type I myself hope to write someday. Overall truly a tremendous work, and very much recommended.

This review of On The Wings Of Hope by Ella Zeiss was originally written on November 30, 2020.

#BlogTour: The Secret Ingredient by KD Fisher


Once again we come to a Carina Adores Blog Tour, which are always awesome. Seriously, I haven’t encountered a bad book in this program yet, and I’ve found several authors doing this that have taken me to places I’d never been before – and that is always awesome. ๐Ÿ™‚

This time, we’re looking at The Secret Inredient by KD Fisher.

Here’s what I had to say about it on Goodreads:

Fun Foodie FF Romance. This is a lesbian romance where the two ladies are about as opposite as it gets – one is a trained chef working for a corporate restaurant group, the other is a legacy baker who took over and revitalized her mom’s shop. As a short romance, it works well in that it hits all the requirements of the genre (yes, including sex) and executes each solidly – but you’re not going to get the conflict and growth of a 100 page longer book. Though there are still significant, more complicated than Hallmarkie, conflicts here. Ultimately a fun book that hits all the right notes and even manages to highlight the particular region it features very well. Very much recommended.

And below the jump, a page-ish excerpt from near the front of the book (Chapter 2, IIRC):
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#BlogTour: Feel The Fire by Annabeth Albert

Welcome back to yet another Blog Tour from Carina Press, the first of two this week in as many days. Both feature excellent though very divergent tales, and we’re gonna see my own reviews of each, a couple of pages from when the characters first see each other in each, and all of the relevant details to make it really easy for you to jump over to your eBook market of choice and buy the dang books. ๐Ÿ˜€

First up, we have the most recent entry (and possibly last, if it is a trilogy?) in Annabeth Albert‘s High Heat series, Feel the Fire.

Here’s what I had to say about it on Goodreads:

Feel-Good Finale. This second-chance romance tale, seemingly the last book of this year’s Hotshots series, was a solid way to go out. It is *very* loosely coupled with the previous two books – both prior couples make cameos – but can largely be read as a standalone. Fans of the MM genre will like this one, as it contains pretty well all of the standard elements of the genre. But that actually gets to one of my quibbles with the book. One of the guys here is alternatively described as both demisexual and asexual – which are both elements of the spectrum that don’t get mentioned as much, and thus it is always awesome to see. Yet in playing too much into genre expectations, to me it felt like Albert did the asexual aspect a disservice in almost making it seem that an asexual may just turn out to be a horn dog… with the right person. Similar to a character described as being comfortably childfree winding up with a kid at the end of the tale. (Note, that is just an example – in this particular tale one of the two is actually already a father.) The other quibble? Not enough actual firefighting in this book, particularly relative to the other two books in the series. Though the jobs here are actively away from the front lines, and for what they are, the jobs seem well represented in and of themselves. Still, a solid tale and a satisfying conclusion. Very much recommended.

And after the jump, a 2 page-ish excerpt from near the beginning of the book, when one of our leads learns he is about to run into the other for the first time in many years:
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Feel The Fire by Annabeth Albert”

#HypeTrain: Hairpin Curves by Elia Winters


In this second of two weekend-bookending #HypeTrain posts, we’re switching from MM romance to FF romance and from the high-stakes world of Hotshot firefighters to a more all-too-real-for-many-of-us tale of broken friendships and a road trip.

Today’s book is Hairpin Curves by Elia Winters, and here’s what I had to say about it on my normal review channels:

What Happens On The Road Trip… Won’t Stay On The Road Trip. This was a fun road trip tale featuring classic road trip items, much angst, some increasingly hot sexy times through much of the back half (ish) of the tale, and, since it *is* a romance, a HEA to close. I’m not quite as prolific in the FF romance ARC scene as MF or MM, but this largely follows the standard romance format no matter the particular sexualities. (Though in my experience, MM tends to have the most sex for some reason.) If you like romance at all, this is definetly a book to try out. If you like road trip tales at all, this is definetly a book to try out. If you’re looking for a good summer read or even trapped inside (for whatever reason ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) read, this is absolutely a good book to try out. Very much recommended.

As I mentioned, this really was a fun book, and I hope you’ll be open to trying it out no matter what you normally read. ๐Ÿ™‚

#HypeTrain: High Heat by Annabeth Albert

In this first of two weekend-bookending #HypeTrain posts, we’re returning to the world of MM romances set in the world of hotshots and smoke jumpers that Annabeth Albert created a few months ago now in this second book in that series.

Today’s book is High Heat by Annabeth Albert, and here’s what I had to say about it on my normal review channels:

Less Smoke, More Fire. In this second book in a new series, we follow one of the people who was featured in the first book as he continues his recovery from events there. And the book really is more about recovery and coming to terms with limits rather than the more overt firefighting of the first book. Here we get a much more personal drama rather than being so intensely focused on the overall world of Hotshots and Smoke Jumpers as the first book was. And there is a *lot* more sex. Which fans of the genre will likely appreciate. But much less actual firefighting, though one scene in particular *strongly* evokes the real-life drama of the Yarnell Fire and the book Granite Mountain/ My Lost Brothers by Brendan McDonough or the movie Only The Brave that was based on that book. Ultimately a strong book in its own right, it manages to hold its own in this world and in this particular culture while being free to be its own entity… which is actually a large theme in the book itself. Very much recommended.

These have been my first books from Albert, and she is truly showing a solid range of overall styles here, going from intensely in the overall culture of Hotshot firefighters in the first book to a more character driven focus here. Truly impressive work, and I hope you’ll check it out. ๐Ÿ™‚

#BookReview: Undeniably Yours by Brittany Cournoyer

Slow Burn Yet Ultimately Satisfying. This is a friends to lovers book where *everyone* can see these two guys belong together… except one of them. The deep friendship is apparent from the first words of the book, and Cournoyer does a particularly good job of establishing that up front – to the level that at times it feels like this book should be deep into a series with these two characters as recurring secondary characters, rather than an apparent standalone. Ultimately it hits all the notes fans of MM romance will expect, with a fair amount of drama and fun thrown in. Very well done, and very much recommended.

This review of Undeniably Yours by Brittany Cournoyer was originally written on June 16, 2020.

Featured New Release of the Week: Under An Alaskan Sky by Jennifer Snow

This week we’re looking at a solid romance set in the wilds of Alaska. This week we’re looking at Under An Alaskan Sky by Jennifer Snow.

As I say in the Goodreads review below, this was a solid romance novel that has most everything fans of the genre will want, and is a good enough story within that lane that even those who haven’t enjoyed romance novels before might like this one. Also, a solid Hallmark movie style romance, for those into that kind of thing.

What *really* drew me to this book though was Snow’s new alternate identity. You see, last year a book came out that I described as “one of the darkest, most disturbing books Iโ€™ve read in quite some time”. That book was All The Lovely Pieces by J.M. Winchester. Which happens to be this alternate identity of the author of this Hallmark-type romance, Jennifer Snow.

So, the dichotomy intrigues me – and points to Snow/Winchester’s strength as a story teller. To get such divergent books from the same mind is quite remarkable given the fact that so many authors tend to stick to one particular genre and, usually, even one particular type of story within that genre. And thus this week I urge you to not only pick up this particular book, but also the other one – which was a Featured New Release when it released last summer to boot.

As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
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