#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. 😀 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.
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#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.
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#TwelveDaysOfRomance #BlogTour: The Five-Day Reunion by Mona Shroff

For this entry in the Twelve Days of Romance blog tour series, we’re looking at a grounded yet funny fake marriage romance… during a traditional Indian wedding week! For this blog tour entry, we’re looking at The Five-Day Reunion by Mona Shroff.

Solid Second Chance Romance. This is one of those second chance / forced proximity / fake dating types of romance tales, all combined during a five day traditional Indian wedding celebration. The angst between the two leads is palpable, and their own individual motivations are solidly grounded. The Indian family interventions – and ensuing irritating (for the characters) hilarity (for the readers) hijinx – are well done, and Shroff does well to explain the various ceremonies reasonably well in-story so that those not familiar with them can follow along and not get lost in the story, yet not so much that it becomes an academic treatise on each ceremony. Overall a fun, funny, and short-ish (220 ish page) romance that gives a solid break from reality for many, and really… isn’t that most of what we expect a book to do? Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
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#TwelveDaysOfRomance #BlogTour: His To Defend by Sharon C Cooper

For this next entry in the Twelve Days of Romance blog tour, we’re looking at a book that features both a second chance romance *and* a love angle (there are no love triangles among same-sexuality people)… with a dead man. For this blog tour, we’re looking at His To Defend by Sharon C Cooper.

A Love Triangle With A Dead Man. This is a second chance romance *and* a love triangle – except the third point, the best friend / ex-husband, is murdered in his very first scene in the book. From there, the suspense involves finding out who murdered him and why, even as our remaining two parts of the triangle work through their long-standing feelings for each other and how their relationships with the third complicated this. Overall a solid story on both the suspense and romance sides, and a touch on the shortish side at under 300 pages (which happens to be a touch on the high side of average for the genre, in my experience). Also a Solid Series Starter, for those following my reviews. 😉 I look forward to coming back to this world. Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
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Featured New Release Of The Week: Snowbound With Her Mountain Cowboy by Patricia Johns

This week we’re looking at a nearly 400 page romance with lots of secondary love stories embedded within it that reads much faster than its page count suggests. This week we’re looking at Snowbound With Her Mountain Cowboy by Patricia Johns.

Slow Burn Clean Second Chance Romance – With A Disaster. This is exactly what I noted in the title – a slow burn romance where the couple never really gets together until the very end, clean in that there is barely any kissing and certainly nothing beyond that (sorry, fans of near-erotica level steam), and featuring a couple that has been divorced far longer than they were ever married… but who neither ever quite got over the other. This one also has a few other love story tales embedded naturally within the story, all of which contribute nicely to the primary romance of the story here. Not short at nearly 400 pages, but does actually read a bit faster than other books of its length I’ve encountered. Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” including book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
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#BlogTour: Meet Me In Madrid by Verity Lowell

For this blog tour we’re looking at an interesting FF romance that dives into some areas not usually seen in romance novels, but which does have a couple of major flaws. For this blog tour we’re looking at Meet Me In Madrid by Verity Lowell.

Interesting FF Romance Brought Down By Preachy Politics And Blatant Racism. As a romance, this book works. It starts out as a “forced” (ish) proximity before turning into a bridge-the-gap, all revolving around two female academics at different points in their careers. Not for the “clean” / “sweet” crowd, as others have noted there is a fair amount of sex in the first four chapters alone. Also falls into the trap of describing both women as very buxom, which is a bit of a cop-out to my mind designed to get those of us with… “active imaginations”… more into the book. But that point is but a minor quibble. The preachy politics, and in particular the blatant racism, is the reason for the star deduction here. Let me be perfectly clear. My standard is this: If you reverse the [insert demographic in question] and keep everything else absolutely identical, would anyone cry foul? I believe this book fails that test in its characterization of its singular straight white male character, and thus the star deduction. But still, on the whole this is a mostly solid book, and thus it is *only* a singular star deducted. Fans of the romance genre generally should enjoy this one, fans of FF romances in particular will probably thoroughly enjoy this one, and it does indeed dive into areas not frequented, particularly academia and art professors. Thus, this book is recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details”, including book description, author bio and contact links, and a link to buy the book.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Meet Me In Madrid by Verity Lowell”