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The Eve of Our September by P.R. Keys $ FREE

From the Jacket Copy:
Edythe Jamison, a young debutante of the 1920s, has been pining for Henry Barton Jr. ever since he rescued her from embarrassment. But her thoughts of him are just a fantasy. She’s convinced that he would never be interested in a girl like her.

Henry, a newly licensed attorney, is not ready to settle down with any girl just yet. But his wants are quickly put on hold the day he is found alone in a room in a very compromising position with Edythe Jamison. Much to his consternation, he is joined in a shot-gun wedding to Edythe.

Edythe desires a loving romantic marriage, but Henry demands a marriage of convenience and separation. But when Edythe decides to remove herself from under Henry’s thumb, Henry quickly realizes that Edythe is the woman that he always wanted.

If Henry can get over his inflaming jealousy that erupts over his beautiful wife, and convince her he wants a real marriage, things will be fine…he hopes. There is the pesky issue of his family’s dark secret that complicates his life all the more, and threatens to rip the two apart.

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Roar by Cora Carmack $ 2.99

From the Jacket Copy:
New York Times bestselling author Cora Carmack’s young adult debut: Roar.

In a land ruled and shaped by violent magical storms, power lies with those who control them.

Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. Long ago, the ungifted pledged fealty and service to her family in exchange for safe haven, and a kingdom was carved out from the wildlands and sustained by magic capable of repelling the world’s deadliest foes. As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora’s been groomed to be the perfect queen. She’s intelligent and brave and honorable. But she’s yet to show any trace of the magic she’ll need to protect her people.

To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora’s mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He’ll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in the very thing she lacks—storm magic. And the people selling it? They’re not Stormlings. They’re storm hunters.

Legend says that her ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. And when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage.
She might not have magic now, but she can steal it if she’s brave enough.

Challenge a tempest. Survive it. And you become its master.

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Nevernight by Jay Kristoff $ 2.99

From the Jacket Copy:
Nevernight is the first in an epic new fantasy series from the New York Times bestselling author, Jay Kristoff.

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, a sixteen year old Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic — the Red Church. Treachery and trials await her with the Church’s halls, and to fail is to die. But if she survives to initiation, Mia will be inducted among the chosen of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the only thing she desires.

Revenge.

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Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton $ 1.99

From the Jacket Copy:
After the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity–and unearths a family secret hidden since the revolution…

Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba’s high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country’s growing political unrest–until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary…

Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa’s last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth.

Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba’s tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she’ll need the lessons of her grandmother’s past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.

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Dear Jasmine Guillory,

I have your first two books on my TBR but haven’t managed to read them yet. The Wedding Party is book three in your loosely connected series but it stands alone just fine. I didn’t have any trouble jumping in here.

Maddie and Theo are both best friends with Alexa, the heroine from The Wedding Date, who is planning her wedding to Drew. Maddie will be a bridesmaid and Theo a “bridesman” and this will mean they’ll have to spend a lot more time together than usual. This is a problem because Maddie and Theo Do. Not. Get. Along.

Except, Maddie gives Theo a lift home after his birthday party one night, there’s some impressive dance moves and then they’re doing the horizontal tango. It’s so good that the next time they see each other they end up in bed together again. And so it goes until Maddie and Theo decide to just let their affair play out and run its course – within certain rules.

“Rule one: no one can tell Alexa.”

He set his coffee on his bedside table and got in bed next to her.

“Hasn’t that always been the rule? Did you think I was going to burst into Alexa’s office Monday morning and say, ‘Lex, guess what? I’m sleeping with your best friend!’?”

She pictured the look on Alexa’s face if he did that and had to grin.

“If we’re going to make rules, we might as well spell all of them out,” she said.

He leaned against the headboard and picked up his mug.

“Good point. What’s rule two?”

“This ends with the wedding. Maybe by then we’ll have gotten it

out of our systems, and we can go back to ignoring each other.”

He nodded.

“I can accept that. Anything else?”

“Rule three: no dates, just this.”

He tilted his head and smiled at her.

“What does ‘this’ mean?”

He knew what she meant. She gestured at the bed.

“This.”

“All of these rules sound good to me. Anything else?”

“Just … one more.” She brushed her hand over his hair. “Rule four: we only see each other when we’ve been with Alexa. We’re doing this because we have to, not because we want to.” She let out a moan as he sucked her nipple into his mouth.

He rolled her over so she was now underneath him and pulled back. Oh God, why did he stop?

“You get four rules, I get one: no sleeping with anyone else,” he said. “I don’t like sharing.”

Maddie pulled him back down to her.

“I’m an only child. I’m not a big fan of sharing myself.”

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out what happens from there. The plot falls out in fairly predictable ways. Both Maddie and Theo have career things going on as well; in Maddie’s case she is tapped on the shoulder to audition for a fashion makeover show for formerly homeless or underprivileged women to help them get job-interview ready and Theo (he’s the press secretary for the Mayor of Berkeley, California) is working on a statewide pre-K campaign. Those things were fairly interesting and gave the book some extra colour; I do enjoy me some competence porn. I did think it was odd that Maddie defaulted to “the hostess of the show has to be a bitch” when the setup made me think of Queer Eye or Say Yes to the Dress – when everyone is really kind and helpful. Maybe I don’t watch the right shows?

I gather that some readers had an issue with a lack of on-page sex in The Wedding Date. Those readers will be pleased to know that The Wedding Party changes things up. There’s a fair amount of sex, to varying degrees of explicitness throughout the story, though I hasten to add the scenes are at the tamer end of the sexual description spectrum.

I enjoyed The Wedding Party well enough when I was reading it even though it was fairly predictable. However, it was a book that was pretty easy to put down and didn’t inspire any great urgency in me to pick up again.

There was a lengthy scene where Alexa was wedding dress shopping and it was pretty boring. Maybe I’d have been more interested had I read the first book in the series (I doubt it, but it’s possible) but it didn’t advance the plot and I just didn’t care enough. I love wedding dresses – Say Yes to the Dress is great but it’s a visual thing for me. Reading about it? Not so much.

I didn’t hate The Wedding Date but I didn’t love it either. It’s not particularly memorable or revolutionary but it was enjoyable enough. When I was reading, it rated around a B-. But given how easy it was to walk away from, maybe that should be a C+?

Regards,
Kaetrin

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More Than A Crush by Chelsea Maria $ 0.99

From the Jacket Copy:
Her

He asked me to tutor him in the eleventh grade. That was the first time my young heart fell out of rhythm. By senior year, we were best friends, and my unconditional love for him had awakened. By the time we finished college, I experienced my first heartbreak.

He’d chosen another. Someone that wasn’t me.
He’s still my best friend. I love him. All I need is for him to love me the way I’ve always loved him, but now I’ve embarked upon another problem…

I’m falling in love with someone else.
Is it too late for us? Why can’t he see me? See that I’m the only woman who can love him efficiently.

Him

The first time I laid eyes on her; time stopped. I vowed to never let her go and accepted the tormenting role of being her best-friend. I wanted to be her lover.

I courted others unwillingly, because she sought men that weren’t me.
She’s the air that I breathe. No one else compares to her.
Am I invisible? Why can’t she see me? See that I’m the only man who can fill her hollow places.

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The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers $ 1.99

From the Jacket Copy:
The acclaimed modern science fiction masterpiece, included on Library Journal’s Best SFF of 2016, the Barnes & Nobles Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog Best Books of 2015, the Tor.com Best Books of 2015, Reader’s Choice, as well as nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Kitschie, and the Bailey’s Women’s Prize.

Follow a motley crew on an exciting journey through space—and one adventurous young explorer who discovers the meaning of family in the far reaches of the universe—in this light-hearted debut space opera from a rising sci-fi star.

Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman who learned early to keep to herself, she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain.

Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn’t part of the plan. In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other. To survive, Rosemary’s got to learn how to rely on this assortment of oddballs—an experience that teaches her about love and trust, and that having a family isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the universe.

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Obsessed By Darkness by Autumn Jordon $ 0.99

From the Jacket Copy:
Chase Hunter, the youngest member of the elite U.S. Marshal C.U. F. F. Team, heads an operation on a college campus where a new drug is sweeping the campus and has caused multiple deaths. Chase’s own demons surface and he fights to determine when to trust his gut and when to obey orders, especially when it comes to their number one person of interest, the studious, pretty Emma Lewis.

Chemistry graduate student Emma Lewis’s roller coaster ride begins when she discovers a fellow student dead, inciting the police to probe every aspect of her life. When new student Chase Hunter arrives on campus, he quickly becomes her emotional rock and Emma finds herself falling for him- until she learns his interest in her was all a lie.

A murderer’s plans change as the heat on campus rises and Emma becomes the target of the psychopath. When she goes missing, will Chase find her in time?

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Her Forbidden Love Match by Theresa Paolo $ FREE

From the Jacket Copy:
Will a decades old rivalry end the love of a lifetime?

When a family tragedy struck, Ella Moretti left college behind and returned home to her small town of Willow Cove. She had only planned on staying for a few weeks, but seven years later she’s still working in her family’s restaurant and living with her grandfather. Ella is used to putting others before herself, but when a handsome stranger sits next to her on a bus ride home, she wonders what life would be like if she put herself first.

After a long miserable day of travel, to stay with a grandfather he only met a few years ago, Lucas Prescott is instantly taken by the gorgeous brunette sitting next to him. It’s not until the next day that he learns their grandfathers are embattled in a decades old rivalry that threatens to keep them apart.

Neither wanting to betray their family, they start a secret love affair, but when the past resurfaces, and old feuds refuse to stay buried, Ella and Lucas have to decide if their forbidden love is worth the consequences.

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This is Metzger’s usual fun and mayhem with a bewildered hero, who often sticks his foot in his mouth, trying to keep up with all the madness into which the heroine plunges him. Courtney Choate, Viscount Chase is a pure man. If a woman should save herself for marriage, then why shouldn’t a man. Plus he saw the heartache his beloved mother suffered because of his rakehell father as well as how his childhood nurse was abandoned by her husband. He decides he’s going to be a better man. But that doesn’t mean that the ton understands this. To them, he’s beginning to look a bit odd and rumors are swirling about his manhood. To keep them at bay, he decides to hire a young woman to play his mistress, a young woman he plucks from the street one snowy night who’s just lost her position as a governess for not arriving on time.

Kathlyn Partland didn’t arrive because of a band of jewel thieves who had fallen out among themselves over a heist. One of the band boarded the same stage she was coming to London on then died after having spoken with her. Now his partners and two Bow Street Runners are convinced that Kathlyn knows where he hid the jewels. With no job and no money, Kathlyn consents to pose as Courtney’s mistress in return for a hefty sum of money and references to start her own school. The only problem is that neither Courtney nor Kathlyn realized just how much attention she would draw as his “mistress” and now her chances of opening a school are shot. No one would let a former member of the demimonde school their young daughters.

Can Courtney convince her to marry him before he kills himself with cold baths and can Kathlyn think of marriage to a man she thinks doesn’t love her? Will the rest of the jewel thieves give up trying to get the jewels from Kathlyn? Will the Bow Street runners find out who really has the loot? Can everything turn out alright by page 220? Yep, you betcha. And I laughed all the way to the end.

The opening scene of the book might put some people off. Courtney is engaged but finds out before the wedding that he is not his intended’s first. Actually not even her second or third. She treats the issue with nonchalance – she’ll be faithful to him until she’s presented him with a legitimate “token of her affection” – but Courtney is aghast at this and determined to stick to his high principles and be faithful after his marriage. Then when his former intended begins to “oh, so lightly” spread rumors about him, the ton gets the wrong idea that he might be gay. Twenty years ago when the book was written, the views of many of us were different too. No disparaging LGBTQA remarks are made but that is part of the set up of why Courtney needs to hire a fake mistress.

is presented as a high minded woman who bridles at how the man who joins her coach journey is treated by the others – though her helpfulness ends up turning suspicion on herself. She’s having a truly bad week when she and Courtney meet in the cold and snow of an icy London night and he saves her from pickpockets, rudeness and worse. She’s a bit lacking in gratitude towards Courtney then but given what she’s been through and is facing, I can understand. Courtney also has trouble at times in politely framing his questions and advice.

Then Courtney has his moment of inspiration: he needs a faux mistress and Kathlyn needs a job. Why not combine the two? Nanny is appalled but Courtney’s arguments win Kathlyn over – he will give her a years worth of a governess salary and maybe be able to finagle a reference from his mother. And he’ll throw in a new wardrobe. Yet when he begins to squire Kathlyn around and she garners the attention that he’d been hoping for, he begins to realize that she’s far superior a woman in intellect, wit and general goodness to any other woman he’s ever met. Dash it.

Meanwhile Kathlyn is under the mistaken impression that Courtney’s “war wound” will render him incapable of fathering a child but other than that, when he comes off his high horse, the Viscount is kind, courteous, handsome and a man she’s starting to fall for.

This one is as funny as I remember it being with the plot getting more complicated and intricate as it goes along. By the end, poor Kathlyn is about to be kidnapped by three different people and has a frantic Viscount tearing through London trying to find her. Of course, she ends up saving herself because she’s a resourceful young woman. There’s even a way that her future mother-in-law and that woman’s arch nemesis manage to work out that will spit polish Kathlyn’s reputation back to pristine. Okay so probably it wouldn’t have quite worked in real life but it’s good enough.

So how does Courtney convince his beloved that she is, indeed, his beloved?

He picked up the discarded violets that had been sat on, stepped on, and never set in water. Thrusting them into her hand, Courtney sank to his knees beside her sofa. “Miss Kathlyn Partland, I cannot think of anything I have ever wanted more in my entire life than to marry you.” He remembered he still had the ring in his pocket, so he pulled that out and pressed it into her hand, too. “I sincerely believe that I have but one heart, one love to give, and I have been waiting forever just to give it to you.”

“But . . . but our lives have been so different. We have nothing in common.”

“Do you love me?”

“Of course.”

“Are you a virgin?”

Blushing, she replied, “You know I am!”

“There, that’s two things in common right off. Nothing else matters, my love.”

“Oh, Courtney,” she said through tears of happiness, “you are my all-the-world.”

He sat back. “I suppose that’s better than ‘Oh, it’s you,’ but what the deuce does it mean?”

“It means I’ve spent too much time with Master Shakespeare, that’s all.”

“Blasted bookishness! Does it mean yes?”

“Of course it does, my love.”

B+

~Jayne

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Vibrant historic Yellowstone National Park comes to life in this romantic mystery about a man hiding the truth, braving the west to become something more–and the woman who must confront his deception.

A man who can’t read will never amount to anything–or so Nate Webber believes. But he takes a chance to help his family by signing up for the new Civilian Conservation Corps, skirting the truth about certain “requirements.” Nate exchanges the harsh Brooklyn streets for the wilds of Yellowstone National Park, curious if the Eden-like wonderland can transform him as well.

Elsie Brookes was proud to grow up as a ranger’s daughter, but she longs for a future of her own. After four years serving as a maid in the park’s hotels, she still hasn’t saved enough money for her college tuition. A second job, teaching a crowd of rowdy men in the CCC camp, might be the answer, but when Elsie discovers Nate’s secret, it puts his job as camp foreman in jeopardy. Tutoring leads to friendship and romance, until a string of suspicious fires casts a dark shadow over their relationship. Can they find answers before all of their dreams go up in smoke?

Dear Ms. Barnett,

Inspirational historical romances have some unusual settings that I just don’t see in standard romance books. Case in point is this series set in the early 20th century at three US National Parks – one of the best things we as a nation have done. Although this is the last book, I didn’t feel that I was lost as the recurring thread in the books is the settings rather than the characters.

Here we’ve got a fish out of water discovering himself at Yellowstone National Park while working in the CCC. Nate has never been outside of New York City but he’s voluntold to sign up for the CCC as a way to earn money in 1933 America where so many are out of work. Hiding his secret which has shamed him since he was tossed out of school at age ten, he’s sent across country looking to work hard for his $25 a month – most of which will be sent to his family. Can he finally prove himself as a man and be more than the failure everyone has pegged him to be?

Meanwhile Elsie Brookes has lived at Yellowstone for almost a decade after her family moved west following a tragedy in which her younger sister died. Her dream has always been to teach and after this summer, she’ll almost have enough to follow her friends to college. Then her father breaks the news that there might be more money for her if she volunteers to teach some of the young men being sent to the camp as part of the government program. Elsie would love the chance to finally get enough for her tuition but the thought of teaching young men instead of young children shakes her confidence. Then she meets one promising man at the same time another man begins to take an interest in her. Suddenly a woman who has never thought a husband and family were in her future will have to choose between that and the future she’s always thought she’d have.

I can see that you had to pick and choose what parts of Yellowstone to include in the book. It became its own character in the story and it’s easy to see why it’s such a popular tourist destination. What was included made the time period come alive and remained pertinent to the plot without overwhelming it with too much extraneous detail. I liked how it was all worked into the story and we see it from both the “savages” who work there and know it well and also from the newcomers who’ve only seen bears and bison in wild west movies but who become willing to do the backbreaking work needed to keep it beautiful and fight the fires.

Like other reviewers, I thought I’d figured out who the arsonist was. Then I refigured out who it was. Then I admitted that I wasn’t sure and just waited for the revelation. It does makes sense and the clues are there. I like it when a story keeps me guessing but one which also doesn’t pull the villain out of thin air.

I also came to enjoy the secondary characters who weren’t what I expected when they were first introduced. Mary and Red are fun and serve nicely as foils for the more serious Nate and Elsie. I can also see how Mary and Elsie have been friends for so many years as they act this way. There is some tension between all the different CCC men most of whom have never met before arriving there. The addition of the layers of immigrant backgrounds and religions was also a nice touch and made these characters come alive.

Elsie and Nate are two slightly older (early to mid 20s) characters (for the period) who have both suffered losses and setbacks. Elsie has had to work hard to save her money while still watching her friends go off to college each fall. Now she doesn’t want to put off her dream any longer. She’s never dated and it’s understandable that she’s confused about her feelings. Nate has never thought he’d amount to much – and that’s certainly what his father and teachers have pounded into his head. He falls for Else but truly feels he has nothing to offer her.

I enjoyed watching their friendship form and as Elsie helped Nate unlock the issues that had kept him back. I have no knowledge about teaching methods of the day to tackle his issues but what she comes up with makes sense. Having Nate put her feelings and aspirations first helps Elsie realize just why the other man won’t be the one in her life. The romance was, however, a little quick. One minute they’re “just going to be friends” and suddenly it’s game on – so to speak.

Though this is an inspirational romance, I felt that no one was being preached at or to – neither the characters nor I as the reader. These are people who are religious but no one is out to convert anyone. Instead, the degree of faith feels natural and the inclusion never feels forced.

Thanks for including some information on the historical details including the fact that the term used for the park workers (outside of the rangers) is “savages” and that this might be offensive for some though this wasn’t your intention. I haven’t read the first two books but after finishing this one, I will be seeking them out. B

~Jayne

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A Baby Between Friends by Kathy Douglass $ 3.99

From the Jacket Copy:
They pretended to be lovers.

But there’s nothing make-believe about the baby on the way.

When Joni Danielson recruits her best friend, Sweet Briar mayor Lex Devlin, to be her fake boyfriend for a wedding, it’s a no-brainer. But their staged kisses lead to real passion—and heartbreak when Lex pulls away. Now Joni’s in a bigger bind: she’s pregnant. Can she and Lex once again fake it till they make it—to a real relationship?

There are no reviews for this but then I realized it was a pre order. It’s Monday, what can I say? The couple looks happy.

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The Do-Over by MK Schiller $ 0.99

From the Jacket Copy:
New edited version with bonus epilogue!
Arrogant womanizer, Kyle Manchester hates blind dates but when best friend, Brad calls in a favor, insisting Kyle take out his girlfriend’s sister, Kyle reluctantly agrees. Attorney Lanie Carmichael’s appearance is no surprise. She is dowdy, awkward, and dressed in so many layers she resembles a wedding cake…and not in an edible way. Her brazen attitude though, astonishes him, especially when she explains she has no interest in gorgeous Kyle. Lanie Carmichael is in love with Brad, and wants Kyle’s assistance in winning his best friend’s heart.

Kyle gradually accepts, justifying that the mystery of Lanie has sparked his natural, thirsty curiosity. As an ambitious journalist, he also can’t resist the Pulitzer worthy scoop she offers him. However, as Lanie sheds more layers, both emotionally and physically, Kyle begins to examine his life choices, and his true feelings for this enigmatic girl. With Kyle’s support, Lanie begins to unravel the secrets of her past, and the deep pain that has quietly defined her life. As they each learn more about themselves and each other, both question how a relationship built on fraudulent lies between two broken people could ever survive.
Originally published in 2014. New edited version with bonus epilogue!

I loved this book! It’s got very relatable and authentic characters. Schiller has one of those “comfortable” voices for me where her writing just suits my reading style. I recommend you pick this up.

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Perfect by Savannah Kade $ 0.99

From the Jacket Copy:
The dutiful oldest daughter, Bailey Ann is the one who came home to care for her parents, but she’s never felt more lost. Always the perfect child, she did everything the right way, including giving up the boy she loved.

But Finn Malloy is back in town, too, and even he’s not sure where he stands with Bailey Ann. She once cut him so deep he never thought he’d recover. Now that she’s back, though… he can’t stop thinking about what might have been.

Once her high school boyfriend, he’s now little more than a stranger she used to love. History says they’re no good together, but the present doesn’t agree. One night with Finn and all of Bailey Ann’s perfect plans go out the window.

Will Finn ever find a way to forgive her? Can Bailey Ann let go and let herself really love him this time?

Every Belle needs a good set of china, a little black dress, and a good man. This is the first in a new series and can be read as a standalone. Grab this compelling love story and prepare to fall head over heels.

This is 99c at BN so report it and get the lower price at amazon too.

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Don’t Trust A Killer by Cynthia Eden $ 0.99

From the Jacket Copy:
To catch a killer…you have to use the perfect bait.

FBI Agent Bree Harlow is working the biggest case of her career. She’s undercover on the hunt for a killer who has murdered three women—and she isn’t going to stop until she brings down her prey. She’s scored a job at Fantasy, the hottest club in New Orleans, and she’s just caught the attention of the club’s owner, the sexy and dangerous Kace Quick. Everyone knows the guy is shady—and probably linked to every criminal activity in the Big Easy. She shouldn’t find him so attractive. Shouldn’t want to do anything but lock the guy away. After all, he is her chief suspect.

Be careful…sometimes, you can’t see the danger coming.

Kace knows there is far more to Bree than meets the eye. He isn’t a fool, and he can spot a Fed from a mile away, though he does admit that Bree is the sexiest FBI agent he’s ever seen. He lets her play her game, though Kace plans to keep his hands very far off his gorgeous new problem. Then the attacks begin. Attacks all focused on Bree. And suddenly, it’s not a game any longer because Kace isn’t about to let his FBI agent get caught in the crossfire.

To hurt a man, you have to destroy what he wants most.

Kace has a powerful enemy working in the darkness—a man who wants to destroy Kace by making him look guilty as hell. Kace is being set up for murders he didn’t commit. And now, the killer has locked onto his next victim—Bree. Despite Kace’s best efforts, he has let Bree get too close. For the first time in years, Kace cares about someone else—a fatal flaw. And the killer in the dark can’t wait to make Kace pay for past sins…The killer thinks he can hurt Bree, and by hurting her, the mighty Kace Quick will fall.

Things aren’t always as they appear…

Bree won’t be anyone’s victim. She’s not the damsel in distress—she’s the woman ready to take down a murderer. She’ll break every rule in the FBI’s precious handbook in order to protect the lover she knows is innocent. Kace is hers, and Bree won’t let anyone hurt him. She’ll catch the real killer, she’ll prove his guilt, and maybe, just maybe, Bree and Kace can stop their world from going down in flames.

Sex, murder, and lies…just another day in the Big Easy…

This may be the longest blurb I’ve ever read. Lots of good reviews but beware there’s an obsessed hero whose eyes lands on the heroine and falls for her immediately

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A jaded spy and a shell shocked country doctor team up to solve a murder in postwar England.

James Sommers returned from the war with his nerves in tatters. All he wants is to retreat to the quiet village of his childhood and enjoy the boring, predictable life of a country doctor. The last thing in the world he needs is a handsome stranger who seems to be mixed up with the first violent death the village has seen in years. It certainly doesn’t help that this stranger is the first person James has wanted to touch since before the war.

The war may be over for the rest of the world, but Leo Page is still busy doing the dirty work for one of the more disreputable branches of the intelligence service. When his boss orders him to cover up a murder, Leo isn’t expecting to be sent to a sleepy village. After a week of helping old ladies wind balls of yarn and flirting with a handsome doctor, Leo is in danger of forgetting what he really is and why he’s there. He’s in danger of feeling things he has no business feeling. A person who burns his identity after every job can’t set down roots.

As he starts to untangle the mess of secrets and lies that lurk behind the lace curtains of even the most peaceful-seeming of villages, Leo realizes that the truths he’s about to uncover will affect his future and those of the man he’s growing to care about.

Review:

Dear Cat Sebastian,

Let me be frank… as much as I loved several of your Regency m/m romances, I started to get bored with them. Since your last few books had been m/f, which I rarely read, I resigned myself to taking a break from your stories. Then someone mentioned you released the first book in a new series, historical m/m mysteries, and I could not one-click fast enough. I was so glad I did!

The blurb provides a decent setup without revealing too much, but I need to give just a little bit more detail before I discuss the book. The person whose murder Leo comes to investigate was a nosey cleaning woman. I understand why the blurb states that his boss orders him to cover it up, but really it is more complicated than that. He was sent to investigate and to cover up only under certain circumstances… to reveal those would be talking spoilers. And when I say nosey, I mean it in the most unflattering sense. The woman really loved to poke her nose in other people’s private business and a lot of people in the village could not stand her.

“James supposed he ought to want to see justice served, that if indeed Mrs. Hoggett had been deliberately harmed, he ought to want her killer found and punished. But his moral compass seemed to be poorly calibrated—he could add that to his list of invisible war wounds—and he couldn’t see any use in looking too closely into the matter.”

The cover of the book calls it a romance but, really, I cannot decide whether to call it mystery first and romance a supporting storyline, or that both mystery and romance share the page space equally. I definitely would not call it a “romance only”. Let’s call it a really good mixture of mystery and romance, and leave it at that. I think the mystery aspect could actually be characterized as a cozy mystery.

I thought James and Leo were well drawn, very interesting characters. Their relationship is just starting to take shape in this book, considering the whole story on page took place in a week (if I am not mistaken), but I did believe they had a shot on building upon what they shared in the course of the story and their understated chemistry was lovely.

James is a doctor who is still struggling with the after effects of the war. He most likely has PTSD but it was not labelled as such in that time period. He functions well enough to take care of himself and others, but there are things that set him off and cause some issues.

“Damn near everything unsettled him these days, which was the problem with having a brain that stubbornly refused to grasp that the war was over. Leo Page seemed like the living embodiment of a war that still roiled on in the dark recesses of James’s mind.”

Leo, whom his Boss pretty much saved from jail, is a spy who has worked for one of the British spy agencies since he was a teenager. Leo doesn’t really think of himself as a very ethical guy because it would not help him in the course of his work, but I will leave it up to readers to make their own judgment as to his ethics or lack thereof.

““That’s what you’re thinking of right now?” James sputtered. “Not that I’m accusing you of being some kind of intelligence agent?” “You don’t seem terribly worried about whatever it is I might be,” Page said, his eyes wide with feigned innocence, “so I suppose I’m not either. Now, onto the part where—” “No, I’m not worried. When Scotland Yard’s sudden lack of interest in a suspicious death coincides with the arrival of a man on false pretenses, a man who has some connection with, I’m guessing, Special Branch, then no, I’m not worried.””

“IT WAS ADORABLE THAT Sommers thought he was involved with anything as straightforward as Special Branch. Leo was almost touched by the man’s innocence. He didn’t run across much of that these days. Really, the man was just precious, the way his broad shoulders squared up and his affable face got all serious and fierce when he wanted to protect his friends, the way he didn’t hesitate to lay hands on Leo but kept his touch far too light to do any harm.”

I thought the mystery was very well done and I really liked that the guys actually did a decent investigation and I especially liked that James’ occasional, or more than occasional, involvement with it made sense to me .

The secondary characters were also very well drawn and a joy to read about it, especially a pair of lovely old ladies.

As always I must remind you that I am an ESL reviewer and often miss the finer points of editing, especially copy editing, mistakes. I did catch one instance in which characters’ names were switched. Whether there were more editorial faux pas remains a mystery to me.

Grade: B+

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Off Campus by Amy Jo Cousins $ 4.61

From the Jacket Copy:
Everyone’s got secrets. Some are just harder to hide.

With his father’s ponzi scheme assets frozen, Tom Worthington believes finishing college is impossible unless he can pay his own way. After months sleeping in his car and driving a pirate taxi for cash, he’s ready to do just that.

But his new, older-student housing comes with an unapologetically gay roommate. Tom doesn’t ask why Reese Anders has been separated from the rest of the student population. He’s just happy to be sleeping in a bed.

Reese isn’t about to share his brutal story with his gruff new roommate. You’ve seen one homophobic jock, you’ve seen ’em all. He plans to drag every twink on campus into his bed until Tom moves out. But soon it becomes clear Tom isn’t budging.

Tom isn’t going to let some late-night sex noise scare him off, especially when it’s turning him on. But he doesn’t want any drama either. He’ll keep his hands, if not his eyes, to himself.
Boundaries have a way of blurring when you start sharing truths, though. And if Tom and Reese cross too many lines, they may need to find out just how far they can bend…before they break.

Warning: This book contains cranky roommates who vacillate between lashing out and licking, some male/male voyeurism, emotional baggage that neither guy wants to unpack, and the definitive proof that sound carries in college housing.

Lots of drama. Might be too much for some.

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The Christmas Cookie Collection by Lori Wilde $ 1.99

From the Jacket Copy:
The New York Times Bestselling Author ofThe First Love Cookie Clubreturns to Twilight, Texas,with one brand-new story and three storiesnever before in print!

There’s a legend in Twilight, Texas. It says that if on Christmas you sleep with kismet cookies under your pillow and dream of your one true love, he will be your destiny.

Carrie, Raylene, Christine, and Flynn are all members of the Christmas Cookie Club. Each has a story to tell, and each discovers the miracles of the season and the power of love.

Carrie: Reconnects with her high school sweetheart . . .the only man she’s ever loved.

Raylene: Discovers that the daughter she gave awayat birth is living right in Twilight . . .

Christine: Has given up on love . . . until the man ofher dreams walks through her shop door.

Grace: It’s Christmas Eve and Flynn and Jesse Calloway are thrilled to be expecting a new baby. Then Flynn’s car hits a patchof ice, and Jesse must move earth . . . and heaven . . .to save her and their unborn child.

A collection of short stories rather than full books. Stories are sweet rather than sexy. Maybe the summer’s too hot anyway.

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Uninhibited Fire by Cyndi Friberg $ 0.99

From the Jacket Copy:
After a lifetime of trading passion for ambition, Doctor Emily Hillard is determined to catch a killer. Instead of being awed by her technology, the morphs pair her with the most exasperating man she has ever encountered. He’s barbaric, domineering, and unapologetically savage. She should be frightened, or at least repelled by his lack of sophistication. Instead, she finds him refreshing, and pictures herself crushed beneath his strong body as he skillfully peels away her civility.

Cruz, a panther-shifter with pyrokinetic abilities, spent eleven years as an assassin before being allowed a reprieve. He is finally enjoying some down time when a murderous rogue chooses his territory for a hideout. Now half of Alpha Colony is searching for the rogue, and Cruz’s handlers are desperate to get their hands on Emily’s prototype. Ordinarily Cruz would have ignored their threats and ultimatums, but he’s intrigued by the delectable doctor. So, he decides to show the hothouse flower what life in the wild is all about.

SCORCHER warning! This series is hotter than my other books and features scenes guaranteed to make you squirm. If you’re offended by sensual spanking, light bondage, or seriously dominant males, please choose one of my less erotic books. Either way, enjoy!

Not many reviews. One said that it was well written but the storyline wasn’t to the reader’s taste.

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Fake Christmas by Lexy Timms $ 0.99

From the Jacket Copy:
“Better to be slapped with the truth than hurt with a lie.”

Dane Prescott has everything. He’s a 35-year-old billionaire, owner and CEO of Prescott Enterprise, and married to the most gorgeous, sweetest woman in the world. He loves her even more than the day they got married. Lately though, this is a distance growing between the two of them and Dane is terrified Allyson might have had enough of high class society.

When a thunderstorm in New York forces them to change direction of their private jet, Dane hopes the unexpected Christmas weekend south will rekindle the hot-passion between them.

Except is Allyson keeping secrets from him?

Will their love be strong enough to survive the secrets she’s been hiding?

Reviews mention mistakes (which I assume refer to editorial ones) It’s on the short side.

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I’ve been rereading and reviewing Kinsale’s backlist for the past several years. (I’m only now halfway through! Man, I’m a slow reader). My Sweet Folly was already on my Kindle, ready to go. But I was feeling stressed by life and needed a treat and so decided to acquire the Kindle version of this, Kinsale’s first published romance. It’s not so much that I like The Hidden Heart better than My Sweet Folly (though I do remember having problems with the latter book when I read it). Rather it was that I remembered so little of the actual plot of The Hidden Heart that I reasoned it was *almost* like having an all-new Kinsale to read.

This ended up being something of a mixed blessing, since I found myself troubled by some elements that I probably wasn’t bothered by 20 years ago or so when I first read this (it was published in 1986). More on this in a bit.

Lady Tess Collier has been tramping around the jungles of South America with her naturalist father for the better part of a decade. Now, at 18, her beloved father is dead (her mother died years earlier), and Tess is attempting to honor his wishes that she return to England and find a suitable husband. To that end, she meets Captain Gryphon Meridon, who is tasked with taking Tess and her many plant samples back to London on his ship. He’s also tasked, by a family friend of Tess’, with staying in London and secretly vetting potential suitors for Tess. Gryf is given a powerful financial incentive, but he’s conflicted because even after just a few brief meetings, he’s half in love with Tess himself.

Gryf is a very much a tortured Kinsale hero. As a boy, he was traveling with his family from India on the same ship he now captains (and cherishes). They were set upon by pirates, and almost everyone aboard, including his parents and sisters, were slaughtered. Gryf was left to grow up with the only other survivor of the massacre, a ship’s mate named Grady. Grady is a surrogate father to Gryf and perhaps his one true friend in the world.

At the time of the attack, Gryf’s ship had been accompanied by a British warship, but it sailed away rather than engaging the pirates. That ship was helmed by a man who turned out (not so coincidentally) to be a distant relation and the eventual heir to Gryf’s family estate and title. When a young Gryf, accompanied by Grady, traveled to England and attempted to confront Captain Nathaniel Eliot and reclaim his title, he was branded an imposter. Gryf fled but was hunted down and almost killed. Since he knows he can’t prove his identity, Gryf has left his former life behind and built a new one as a ship’s captain.

Back in the present day, Gryf has serious emotional scars (understandably) and feels unworthy of Tess. Meanwhile, Tess is falling in love with Gryf, too, though she knows nothing about his true identity, his title or the fortune attached to it.

Once in London, Gryf and Tess grow closer but the machinations of others tear them apart. This sets Tess off on a disastrous union with Stephen Eliot, son of Nathaniel and absolute villain. Gryf and Tess break apart and get together several times, and usually the breaking aparts have a least a whiff of the Big Mis about them. In the middle of the book she assumes he’s read a letter she gave him when he didn’t (he tossed it overboard in anger) while he assumes that

Spoiler: Show

she is still married to Eliot, when in fact she’s gotten an annulment.

It’s hard not to think that if they just TALKED the book would be a lot shorter, which is my main criteria for calling a plot contrivance a Big Mis. To be fair, Gryf is Very Tortured, and so even talking wouldn’t magically heal his emotional wounds. But at least the reader wouldn’t have to be subject to each character’s mental musings on the false assumptions they’ve made about the other.

I had some other issues with The Hidden Heart, bigger than Big Mis cliches. I kind of hate to wade into this (and maybe I wouldn’t even bother if similar issues hadn’t come up in some of my other Kinsale rereading), but there are some situations and depictions in the book that struck me as racially insensitive. In the prologue, Tess has arrived in town after being paddled up the river by a group of natives:

“She pushed back a loose strand of ebony hair and generously informed the Indians that the jungle monsters with holes for faces were no longer in pursuit, and now that the boats had been unloaded, the men could return home in perfect safety. The relief on their faces was sadly comical. The had escorted the white woman out of Barra do Rio Negro in order to save themselves from the supernatural beasts that she had said would surely descend upon them if they hadn’t. All the way down the river, they had cast worried looks over their shoulders.”

I get that we’re supposed to view Tess as a resourceful badass here, but I was 1) disturbed by her manipulation of the natives and 2) put off by the depiction of them as childlike rubes. The whole thing isn’t even very indicative of Tess’ character; she’s not the manipulative asshole she comes off as in this instance. (Later she does trick Gryf into thinking she’s in danger so he’ll come to her rescue. But in that she just comes off as immature.)

Anyway, at this very early point in the book, I was thus already feeling uncomfortable. I was then almost immediately put off by the description of a “….naked little Negro boy.” Now, Negro wasn’t an offensive word in the time the story is set. I’m not sure it’s even technically offensive now; it’s more that it’s archaic enough to sound weird to modern ears and possibly a bit off, depending on the context. I felt like there was a barrage of people being described as “Negro” that followed, but when I did a count I was surprised that there were only five total – four of them early on while the action is in Brazil. Besides the “Negro boy”, there’s a “Negro maid”, a “Negro footman” and a “Negro gardener.” Later in London a character who actually has a name – Mahzu – is introduced as a “massive Negro” with a “cultured accent at odds with the savage tattoo on his cheek and his canine teeth sharpened to vicious points.”

So. I don’t know if I’m being too sensitive. I have had this experience before with romances that are a couple of decades old (so I’m not singling Kinsale out; it’s just her books that I happen to be rereading now, and I did have issues with Seize the Fire). It’s tricky because there are sort of multiple levels of “okay/not okay” going on from my point of view. A book set in the 19th century and written in the 19th century that used the word “Negro” wouldn’t bother me. The incident with the frightened Indians and the stereotypical depiction of Mahzu would, but I could place it all in a context that would make it less troubling to me (I happen to be reading an 19th century novel now that has a couple of unfortunate references to both Jews and Africans; I don’t love it, but, again…context).

If the book were written today, it would probably *all* bother me. Even if Negro would be the word that the hero and heroine would have reasonably used in the time, the othering of these very minor characters would grate. They’re in Brazil – presumably many people are shades of brown, unless they’re the English characters. So why single out the black ones? None of the descriptors in the paragraph above needed to specify that the characters were black. So again, if it were written today I’d be really pretty disturbed by it.

So what about the in-between – written three decades ago, when people were less sensitive than they are today, depicting a time when people were *way* less sensitive than we are today. Of course, I’m completely in favor of the sort of sensitivity I’m referring to. I just have trouble deciding how troubled or offended I should be, if I should be troubled or offended at all.

In any case, the story quickly moved onto European locations with a brief stint in Tahiti; I didn’t note anything disturbing in the depiction of the Tahitians.

(Oh, wait, one last thing – Gryf has done blockade running for the Confederacy, purely for financial gain. I wasn’t offended by that but I was a bit grossed out. Gryf is not the most moral of ship captains – he bends the rules at times – but Confederacy stuff is kind of a trigger for me.)

There were echoes of later Kinsale books in The Hidden Heart – the heroine suffering trauma to in some sense match the hero’s trauma was reminiscent of Seize the Fire (as was the shipboard setting). The dynamic between hero and heroine reminded me at times of The Dream Hunter (and Tess and Zenia have some similarities, both having spent considerable time outside England and both feeling the pressure to be the ideal English lady).

The Hidden Heart does feel like a first book in that some of the emotional underpinnings aren’t as developed as in latter books. Tess seems to recover too easily from the horrors of her marriage to Stephen. There’s something a bit elliptical about Gryf’s intense torturedness. I mean, one can fill in the blanks – obviously, the massacre of his family was an intensely traumatic event. But he doesn’t seem to have developed much in the way of coping mechanisms in the years since the event – he doesn’t have Sheridan’s (of Seize the Fire) sardonic attitude, for instance. He’s just numb until he meets Tess, and while that may be realistic (I guess?) it’s not necessarily that interesting. Also, he kind of just gets over it abruptly.

Again, comparing The Hidden Heart to Seize the Fire – I think some readers don’t like the ending of the latter book because it’s ambiguous and perhaps hard to believe in an actual HEA for these two massively damaged people. The Hidden Heart has a happy epilogue to drive home the idea that Gryf has just let it all go. On the one hand, it’s reassuring. On the other hand, it’s not as interesting (and thus maybe not as satisfying?) to me as the more realistic ambiguity in Seize the Fire.

Okay, I’ve said a lot, and some of it has been pretty critical. But I did like The Hidden Heart, quite a bit. Laura Kinsale remains one of my favorite historical romance writers, and I tend to judge her books against each other rather than romance as a whole. On that scale, The Hidden Heart is between a B and a B+. I’m interesting in rereading its sequel, The Shadow and the Star, soon. (Though that’s another book with some potentially tricky racial politics, since it features a white Ninja hero. Sigh.)

Best,

Jennie

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