#BlogTour: Talulah’s Back In Town by Brenda Novak

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a fairly standard Hallmarkie type romance. For this blog tour, we’re looking at Talulah’s Back In Town by Brenda Novak.

Here’s what I had to say on the review sites (Goodreads, Hardcover.app, TheStoryGraph, BookHype):

Fairly Standard Hallmarkie Type Romance – And There Is Absolutely Nothing Wrong With That. This is one of those fairly standard Hallmarkie type romances that meets up with a touch of Runaway Bride with real-world type complications, particularly in a small town. There is even a minor *hint* of danger (without ever really feeling too suspenseful, more as a touch of “spice” than anything). In other words, those – not even that arguably *millions* – who read romance books and/ or watch Hallmark movies as pure, mostly light, escapism… hey, this book is *exactly* in that vein and thus will be *exactly* what you’re looking for. For those who don’t like such tales… well, again, this *is* that type of tale. So don’t leave a 1* review because it didn’t exactly break any new ground or because it had some sex scenes and cursing and such. I’ve already told you pretty well *exactly* what to expect here, so the fact that you’re reading this particular review means that you can’t say *no one* warned you. I have! ๐Ÿ˜€

But again, for the millions – *and millions!* (to channel a bit of The Rock) – who want some romantic type drama complete with all that this entails… welcome home. Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
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#BookReview: Play To Win by Jodie Slaughter

Extreme And Pervasive Racism Mars Otherwise Spectacular Second Chance Romance. Ok, white dude claiming racism on a book that features few white characters – none of whom are portrayed kindly, fwiw. So let me explain up front: My standard for detecting bigotry is to flip the demographics. If it would then be considered bigotry, then it is bigotry in the original form as well. Here, we have several characters both primary and secondary openly inquiring if a particular local small business is “black owned” or not, all throughout the text. Now, if a book that barely had any black characters had a bunch of white characters asking if a particular local small business was “white owned” or “straight white man” owned… there would be HELL to pay in certain segments of society. Thus, by the standard I stated above, the racism here is quite clear. As it happens frequently throughout the text – including the aforementioned extremely few white characters being portrayed as racist caricatures – it is also pervasive, though you’ll either have to read the book yourself or take my word for that.

Beyond the racism though, this is truly a *spectacular* second chance tale. One that many, no matter their demographics, will deeply understand – particularly those who grew up in the lower echelons of wealth and/ or in the small town rural South, as I did. The motivations for all of our characters here… well, many of us have seen similar shit within our own families, if not directly within our own lives. So truly, kudos, Ms. Slaughter, for staying so *real* and yet also providing a few hours of solid escapism.

While others may claim that the motivations for the separation were “unclear”… no, they weren’t. You just may never have been close to a similar point in your own life, and may not have felt just how close you yourself could have been to making such a boneheaded decision. Even in my professional adult life – not just my initial years in the trailer park – … I’ve been closer to this than most ever realized, and I remember *that* as much as I do my trailer park years, really moreso.

Now, a word for the “sweet” and/ or “clean” crowd that wants anything beyond a peck on the cheek to be completely off screen or at least “behind closed doors”… yeah… apparently Ms. Slaughter doesn’t know how to write that kind of tale, at least not based on the now two books (after Bet On It) I’ve read from her. Instead, as with Bet On It, this is active, in your face (literally, in the case of the characters’ faces ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) damn near erotica level sex. So if Ron White / Wanda Sykes type comedy isn’t your thing… you might want to avoid this one, as this gets *so much worse*.

Another thing to like here, and that I mentioned in Bet On It as well, is just how *normal* Ms. Slaughter shows modern Southern living to be, here including even up to casual acceptance of GSM (Gay and Sexual Minorities, a truly inclusive term that doesn’t need constant modifications ever few years) / “LGBT+” people and even couples. While so many tales try to show some level of hostility or animus to such people or any other divergence from lily white WASPy types, Ms. Slaughter’s small town embrace of these characters of some of their own shows the modern South I too grew up in quite realistically and quite well, and for that she is to be commended.

Finally, again, if you can get past the blatant and pervasive racism (or perhaps if you even agree with it), and if you don’t mind the damn near erotica level sex scenes… this really is quite a strong tale and quite well told, given the above caveats. Very much recommended.

This review of Play To Win by Jodie Slaughter was originally written on July 9, 2023.

#BookReview: Second Chance Alaska by Jennifer Snow

Spicy Tropey Romance. Up front: If you prefer no sex/ “fade to black” sex in your romance books… this one isn’t for you. The sex in this one would get an automatic NC-17 if it was ever shown on film exactly as described in the text, even though there are only a couple such scenes in the book. That covers the spicy side of the title, but what about the tropey bit? Well, we’ve got a widower who hates his job, embraces his family legacy… but would love to leave it. He also happens to have one remaining daughter after his wife and older daughter vanished in the period before this story takes place – and yes, he does eventually get his closure on those topics within this story, thanks to cameos from other characters earlier in the series. We’ve got the small town shop owner (a book shop, in this case) who is perhaps a touch secretive about a few things… that she then learns maybe she wasn’t as secretive as she thought she’d been. And our shop owner happens to be the best friend of the missing wife… who harbors hidden feelings for our widower. So like I said, very tropey, very Hallmarkie type small town romance. If that is your jam and you either don’t mind or even actively like the higher heat level here… Snow always manages to slam these types of stories out of the park, and this one is absolutely no different. With the particular events in this book, I would actually recommend newbies start at least at the beginning of this Wild Coast series (even if you don’t go all the way back to the Wild Alaska series it spun off from, which isn’t really necessary to understand the events of this particular book). Readers who have already read the first two books were going to read this one anyway… but I’m fairly positive most will agree with me that this was another excellent entry into the series. And while it almost seems like our story in Port Serenity has finished, particularly with some of the seeming meta commentary built into this tale… that bonus novella advertised on the cover (Love In The Alaskan Wilds, a separate review for me) points to the idea that perhaps Snow isn’t quite finished with Port Serenity after all. Overall, as mentioned, a solid romance tale well told as always, and very much recommended.

This review of Second Chance Alaska by Jennifer Snow was originally written on March 21, 2023.

#BookReview: The Make-Up Test by Jenny L Howe

Academic Romance That Is Refreshingly Light On Academic Theory. Wait. A book set in Academia that *isn’t* hyper preachy about white people and/ or straight men being the epitome of all things evil and a scourge on humanity? That alone makes this work from debut author Howe quite refreshing. Now toss in a fat chick who is comfortable in her own body and who learns to stand up for herself even to those closest to her, and you’re getting *really* “out there” in terms of things that simply aren’t usually done in novels of any form, particularly romance novels released by Mega publishers. Now we’re even going to toss in *actual* academic work discussing the variations and themes of medieval literature? Wow, we’re really going on a refreshing romance journey that stimulates the brain as well as the heart! There are a few quibbles here or there with this book, but overall, ignore the people that are hating on it – this is actually quite a departure from the norm for this genre in so many ways, and thus deserves to be explored because of its originality while still being perfectly within overall genre norms. Very much recommended.

This review of The Make-Up Test by Jenny L Howe was originally written on September 9, 2022.

#BookReview: Things We Do In The Dark by Jennifer Hillier

I Refuse To Be My [Parent]. Yes, a version of the title line of this review is said in the book. And that was the moment the book hit particularly hard for me. Because I’ve lived it. Not directly, but as the child of a person that did. To be clear, it was not the same kind of abuse that my parent endured, but it *was* abuse and it *did* shape that parent in ways that have played out over the course of my own life. So at that moment, this book became very, very real for me and I could see that character’s actions as clear as day and understand them on levels I don’t often get to even in fiction.

The rest of the book, with a present day murder and blackmailing, a secret identity, a true crime podcast looking at a murder years ago and how it all ties together… was all excellently done. Other reviews complain about the backstory, but for me that was the actual story – because it shows everything that caused the person to utter the line I titled the review with. Overall a strong tale that survivors of domestic abuse may struggle with, but which ultimately should prove cathartic indeed even for them. Very much recommended.

This review of Things We Do In The Dark by Jennifer Hillier was originally written on July 10, 2022.

#BookReview: The Thimble Shoppe by Elizabeth Bromke

Generations Of Finding Oneself. In this semi-dual timeline book, we get a pair (well, more two and a half) of stories about finding yourself and refusing to settle. Through diary entries that mysteriously get texted to our female lead, we see how her grandmother struggled as a newly married wife and then later sporadically throughout her years. Meanwhile, said female lead is coming to some realizations herself… while our male lead is having a reckoning with his father and finding himself at the same time he finds himself reconnecting with our female lead. Truly a great interwoven family tale, one where the leads from Book 1 in the series – The Country Cottage – play fairly significant roles. So read that one first, but even then – both of these books are short enough that by the time you’ve read the two combined, you’ve read what is still a shortish more “normal” length novel. Thus, both are great for those times when you just need a quick escape or something that you can easily read say at a soccer game or waiting on a layover or some such. Very much recommended.

This review of The Thimble Shoppe by Elizabeth Bromke was originally written on March 5, 2022.

#TwelveDaysOfRomance #BlogTour: The True Cowboy Of Sunset Ridge by Maisey Yates

For this final entry in the Twelve Days Of Romance blog tour series, we’re looking at another Maisey Yates story that is steamy.. and yet somehow also very introspective and contemplative. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The True Cowboy of Sunset Ridge by Maisey Yates.

Contemplative Steamy Romance. Wait. How can a romance novel that effectively starts off with a sex scene be contemplative? Well, you’re gonna have to trust me here… and then read the book for yourself to verify. ๐Ÿ˜€ Yes, there is hot and heavy sex here, even pretty well hate sex. So the sweet/ clean crowd… eh, maybe not for y’all. But this book also features quite a bit of solid introspection, and indeed it is this part of the book that is a refreshing change of pace to so many in the genre. At nearly double the length (380 ish pages vs 220 ish pages) of Yates’ other soon-to-release romance from Harlequin (Rancher’s Forgotten Rival, Jan 25), there is quite a bit more here, and much of it is more in the extended introspection and angst than anything else. (There are also a few more plot complications, including a fairly significant one. But really this book is about both of our leads figuring out how to clear their own heads enough to see what is right in front of them.) Excellent romance with a fair amount of cowboy to it, and a refreshing change of pace within the genre. Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#TwelveDaysOfRomance #BlogTour: The True Cowboy Of Sunset Ridge by Maisey Yates”

#BookReview: The Wedding Setup by Sonali Dev

Easy, Safe, Short Second Chance Romance. This was one of those second chance romances where you’re really not putting too much on the line giving it a chance. It is short – though its page count is not known even a week before publication, it is an easy hour or two read. So likely in the 100 ish page range, *maybe* out to 150. It is a fairly easy read too with the infamous meddling of the Aunties during a semi-traditional Indian wedding with modern flare providing much comedy and the actual romance being of the second chance, standard Hallark Movie fare variety. If you’re not deeply immersed in the Indian culture and fighting these particular battles of tradition vs modernism yourself (even though so many of us face those same battles within our own cultures, whatever they may be), this is a pretty safe read as well. Nothing overly challenging about the actual writing or the content. And a bonus for this reader, since the characters here weren’t involved in politics, the author didn’t bring her personal politics into the story here. Overall a solid introduction to this author and her *general* style, this is an easy one to take a chance on for new readers and a safe one for long time fans. Very much recommended.

This review of The Wedding Setup by Sonali Dev was originally written on January 4, 2022.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Sapphires Are A Guy’s Best Friend by Nicola Marsh

This week we’re looking at a romance tale that manages to tell three separate second chance stories all in one excellent tale that combines second chance romance with the world of high fashion. This week we’re looking at Sapphires Are A Guy’s Best Friend by Nicola Marsh.

Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

Fun Merger Of Haute Couture. Jewelry, and Second Chance Romance. This is a really fun and fairly short (barely 200 pages) look at the glitzy and glamorous world of high end fashion… which Marsh then wraps a solid second chance – in more ways than one – romance into. Solidly written such that both the business and the personal are given their fair due and are equally compelling, this is *not* one for the “clean”/ “sweet” crowd. But for those that appreciate a good amount of steam – maybe not enough for a sauna, but easily enough to set off a smoke alarm… you’re gonna like this one. Very much recommended.

#TwelveDaysOfRomance #BlogTour: The Shoe Diaries by Darby Baham

For this entry in the Twelve Days Of Romance blog tour series, we’re looking at a tale that is, at its core, essentially a Black Sex And The City. For this blot tour, we’re looking at The Shoe Diaries by debut author Darby Baham.

Essentially A Black Sex And The City. This story is essentially Sex And The City, but replacing the mostly white cast with a mostly black one and replacing the “city” in question with DC. Same shoe fetish (though possibly amplified here?), used remarkably well as a plot device in this particular case. Same big oops moment with a former flame early on, only for the book to ultimately become a second chance romance later – with an interesting interlude in between. Minor discussions of the HBCU life and the central character wanting to be much more radical as a professional journalist than the “stodgy old white men” are allowing her to be, but at least here said “old white dudes” aren’t thinly veiled racist caricatures, as so many similar novels from less talented authors have done. (The desire to be more radical is more central than the HBCU mentions, to be clear.) Overall a strong tale that will clearly play well with a couple of demographics in particular, but may not be something that will play as well in a more general audience. Still, excellent book and very much recommended.

(Also, I should note that I’ve never watched a single full episode of anything in the Sex And The City franchise and only know the *general* plot from it being in the zeitgeist so much.)

After the jump, an excerpt followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#TwelveDaysOfRomance #BlogTour: The Shoe Diaries by Darby Baham”