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Greetings! It’s almost a new month, and we have some excellent opportunities for advertisement in March, including some new options!

So are you publishing a new book or novella, or part of a boxed set?

Maybe you have nifty editorial services or would be an ideal copy editor?

You want to reach an audience of marvelously smart and discerning readers? Let us talk!

We have four-week spaces starting at $50.

We have weekly spaces starting at $50.

We can work with your time frame and budget, so don’t be afraid to email me and ask.

Also: when you book with us, you’re dealing with me personally (hi!). I manage the ad server and can help you with custom proposals, design services, and more. So please email me if you’ve got questions or ideas!

If you’re looking to reach your audience via our newsletter, we have newsletter options as well. For example, are you part of a discounted boxed set, or is a book of yours on sale? Would you like to reach our books on sale audience? We have a new Books on Sale Package that might work perfectly for you.

In addition to our Books on Sale newsletter, which goes out on Fridays, we have a special dedicated page that collects our books on sale posts for the past week. The featured book would appear on that page, and in the Friday newsletter as well.

Currently my book is the sample placeholder, but that space is available for several upcoming weeks. Please email me if you’re interested for details and requirements!

Why advertise with us?

Well, if you’re here already, you know that you and many thousands of other like-minded, romance-reading and things-knowing people hang out here daily.

In fact, here some stats:

  • In the last 30 days, SBTB has received over 510,000 page views from over 215,000 visitors.
  • Our traffic is up over 22% from last year – so our community continues to grow. (Hi, y’all! Thank you for hanging out with us!)

But, hey, you don’t have to take my word for it. Have a look at this tweet from Melanie Moreland, who made my day:

Just wanting to give a shout out to the team at @SmartBitches We have choices when selecting where and when we advertise. They are extremely helpful If you are a reader, website with lots of resources https://t.co/zP4t6muzy8

— Melanie Moreland (@MorelandMelanie) February 16, 2018

If you’d like a custom proposal within a specific budget, I’m always happy to work with you – just !

And, as always, thanks for being here and for being part of Smart Bitches.

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F The Man in the Black Suit

by Sylvain Reynard
December 19, 2017 · Argyle Press
Romantic Suspense

I was all excited to read The Man in the Black Suit. It’s a jet-setting, glamorous romantic suspense set around the art world, and if you wrote all those things on a piece of paper and put it under a propped up box, you’d have yourself an effective Elyse trap.

The first part of the book was good, really good, but the last third went completely off the rails and enraged the hell out of me.

The book opens in Paris where Acacia Santos works as a concierge at an exclusive hotel. She reflects that:

Being a concierge was in some respects like being a detective. One had to solve problems, find things, and on occasion, locate people.

Good thing Acacia has all those skills because she’s about to be thrown into an international art-theft intrigue.

Christina and I have the same reaction

Acacia is filling in for one of the other concierges, Marcel, who was attacked outside the hotel and is in a coma. One of their most exclusive guests, Nicholas Cassirer, is not happy to learn of this. Nicholas is something of a mystery to the hotel staff. He stays in the penthouse, he wants to work exclusively with Marcel, he only wears black suits, he has a security staff that’s kinda scary, and he has a scar on one side of his face.

One day Acacia is delivering something to his room when she sees what she believes is a stolen painting. She notifies the authorities and sets off an explosive chain of events.

But of course it’s not what it looks like. Nicholas is really a rich man from an old-money family who is pretending to be an international smuggler in order to find the art thieves who murdered his sister during a burglary. OF COURSE HE IS.

Marcel was helping him keep up that guise (unknowingly) when Nicholas’s enemies attacked him trying to get information. Now they are after Acacia, and because this is a romantic suspense, Acacia agrees to help Nicholas find the art thieves by flying all over the world in a private jet and eating amazing meals and wearing designer shoes that I can only fantasize about. Why does Acacia need designer shoes, bags, and scarves? Because sometimes she poses as Nicholas’s assistant, other times as his mistress, and either way she has to look the part. This is a unapologetically glamorous book.

The end goal is to find out who financed the theft that killed Nicholas’s sister, and if possible, get his family’s art back. Acacia talks about just wanting her life to go back to normal, but TBH, if I was laying on a beach in Greece wearing a bikini that looked amazing on me and there was a gorgeous, mysterious guy sunning next to me, I wouldn’t be too eager to get the mystery solved.

I feel compelled to mention that Acacia has a cat and when they were about flee Paris (and I assumed someone would sack her apartment because that’s what happens in these books) I had a lot of anxiety about what would happen to the cat. Luckily the cat is fine. The cat stays with a friend.

So I was loving the first two-thirds of this book super hard. It was all my catnip. Then everything took a turn for the worst.

Now, the reader is told from the beginning that Acacia is hiding a secret. We also know that she’s Brazilian and Jordanian, and that she sends her mom money in Brazil. She’s also been trying to lay low.

Then, in Dubai with Nicholas, Acacia sees her dad…who is a Jordanian arms dealer. He promptly kidnaps her.

Turns out her father is a fundamentalist Muslim, a terrorist, and an abusive man, and Acacia and her mother fled him years ago and went into hiding. He somehow recognizes Acacia despite not having seen her since she was a child, and he loses it because she’s been living with a Jewish man (it’s mentioned in passing that Nicholas is Jewish).

How about…no.

Leia and I feel the same way.

First of all, even if we aren’t talking about how shitty and reductive it is to make Acacia’s Muslim father a terrorist who hates Jewish people, this whole section is just shoe-horned into to the story. It doesn’t further the plot in any way. It just gives the narrative a stereotyped, offensive character who creates an opportunity for Acacia to be physically hurt and for Nicholas to save her.

Okay, now I am going to talk about shitty and reductive it is to make Acacia’s Muslim father a terrorist who hates Jewish people.

What the actual fuck?

Tom agrees with me.

This is racist, reductive, lazy characterization. It’s completely unnecessary in GENERAL and also unnecessary TO THE REST OF THE BOOK. It’s offensive. There’s no reason for any of it except to be offensive.

It pissed me off. Here I am enjoying my heroine trying on some fucking Hermes scarves and having great sex with this mysterious dude and swimming in giant infinity pools and THEN THIS SHIT SHOWS UP.

FUCK THAT.

UGH.

My reaction

The story lured me in with glamour and intrigue, then it got racist and terrible. I am so mad right now just thinking about it. I finished the book, thinking maybe it would turn around, maybe the cat would be the one to fix all this racist crap, but no. It went to hell, and stayed there.

So yeah, The Man  in the Black Suit starts out great, then turns super fucking problematic. No, thanks.

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This HaBO request comes from Starlight Archer, who wants to find this really cute sounded royal romance:

I’m on the hunt for a book that I sampled a couple years ago.

From what I recall, it’s a modern day Sports/Royalty mashup. Our hero is a competitive tennis playing British prince, while our heroine is a young plucky American gal (who has potential to become a fashion designer). She’s visiting Wimbledon and working in the tea tent.

They meet when she delivers his tea, and he gets a good luck kiss from her right before his match. I think she’s staying with her artistic auntie during her visit, and her overly worried father is overly worried about her from the far side of the pond.

And that’s as far as I got. With the announced nuptials of Britain’s funnest prince, I think now would be the perfect time to give this a read…if I could only find it again.

Man, I want to read this one.

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All for You

All for You by Laura Florand is 99c at Amazon! This is the first book in the Paris Nights series and I know Florand is an auto-buy author for many who love contemporary romances. Readers enjoyed the friends to lovers romance, but found the heroine’s indecisiveness on what she wanted caused the book to drag.

Some crushes aren’t meant to be.

When her older brother’s best friend left to join the Foreign Legion, eighteen-year-old Célie moved on to make a life for herself as a Paris chocolatier. Now, five years later, the last thing she needs is another man to mess up her happiness.

Let alone the same man.

But five years in the Foreign Legion is a long time for a man to grow up, and a long time to be away from the woman he loves.

Especially when he did it all for her.

Half strangers, more than friends, and maybe, if Joss Castel has his way, a second chance…

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The Unlikeable Demon Hunter

PODCAST RECOMMENDED: The Unlikeable Demon Hunter by Deborah Wilde is 99c at Amazon! Thien-Kim Lam recommended this book on a previous podcast episode and said it was really fun. If you’re a fan of Buffy, you might want to check this one out.

Bridesmaids meets Buffy with a dash of the seven deadly sins.

The age-old story of what happens when a foul-mouthed, romance impaired heroine with no edit button and a predilection for hot sex is faced with her worst nightmare–a purpose.

Ari Katz is intelligent, driven, and will make an excellent demon hunter once initiated into the Brotherhood of David. However, this book is about his twin Nava: a smart-ass, self-cultivated hot mess, who is thrilled her brother is stuck with all the chosen one crap.

When Nava half-drunkenly interrupts Ari’s induction ceremony, she expects to be chastised. What she doesn’t expect is to take her brother’s place among the–until now–all-male demon hunters. Even worse? Her infuriating leader is former rock star Rohan Mitra.

Too bad Rohan’s exactly what Nava’s always wanted: the perfect bad boy fling with no strings attached, because he may also be the one to bring down her carefully erected emotional shields. That’s as dangerous as all the evil fiends vying for the bragging rights of killing the only female ever chosen for Demon Club.

Odds of survival: eh.

Odds of having a very good time with Rohan before she bites it: much better.

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The Offer

The Offer by Karina Halle is 99c at Amazon! This is a standalone contemporary romance, though some characters have appeared in previous books. I’ve enjoyed Halle’s writing, though I have yet to read this one. There are some class differences that readers liked, but some felt the pacing needed some work. It has a 3.8-star rating on Goodreads.

She thinks he’s an arrogant playboy.
He thinks she’s an uptight prude.
But he’s about to make her an offer she can’t refuse.

Nicola Price used to have it all – a great career, the perfect boyfriend, an excessive shoe collection and an apartment in one of San Francisco’s best neighborhoods. But when she gets knocked up and her a**hat boyfriend leaves her high and dry, Nicola’s perfectly crafted world comes tumbling down. And stays that way.

Now, Nicola is the proud single mom to a five-year old daughter and living a giant lie. She can barely afford their apartment and all the men she dates run when they hear she comes with a child. She’s struggling and scared – and nowhere near where she thought she’d be at age thirty-one.

Her saving grace comes in the form of a tall, handsome and wealthy Scotsman Bram McGregor, the older brother of her friend Linden. Bram understands a thing or two about pride, so when tragic circumstances place Nicola at rock bottom, he offers them a place to live in the apartment complex he owns. It’s pretty much the perfect deal, so as long as she doesn’t mind living beside Bram, a man that, despite his generosity, seems to antagonize her at every turn.

But nothing in life is free and as Nicola gets her feet back on the ground, she discovers that the enigmatic playboy may end up costing her more than she thought.

She might just lose her heart.

Those McGregor brothers are nothing but trouble…

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Love, Loss, and What We Ate

Love, Loss, and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi is $1.99! This is a memoir focusing on cooking and food influences. Many of my friends enjoyed this memoir, though I haven’t read it. But reviews on Goodreads said that after reading this, it changed their thoughts on Lakshmi for the worse. Have you read this one?

A vivid memoir of food and family, survival and triumph, Love, Loss, and What We Ate traces the arc of Padma Lakshmi’s unlikely path from an immigrant childhood to a complicated life in front of the camera—a tantalizing blend of Ruth Reichl’s Tender at the Bone and Nora Ephron’s Heartburn

Long before Padma Lakshmi ever stepped onto a television set, she learned that how we eat is an extension of how we love, how we comfort, how we forge a sense of home—and how we taste the world as we navigate our way through it. Shuttling between continents as a child, she lived a life of dislocation that would become habit as an adult, never quite at home in the world. And yet, through all her travels, her favorite food remained the simple rice she first ate sitting on the cool floor of her grandmother’s kitchen in South India.

Poignant and surprising, Love, Loss, and What We Ate is Lakshmi’s extraordinary account of her journey from that humble kitchen, ruled by ferocious and unforgettable women, to the judges’ table of Top Chef and beyond. It chronicles the fierce devotion of the remarkable people who shaped her along the way, from her headstrong mother who flouted conservative Indian convention to make a life in New York, to her Brahmin grandfather—a brilliant engineer with an irrepressible sweet tooth—to the man seemingly wrong for her in every way who proved to be her truest ally. A memoir rich with sensual prose and punctuated with evocative recipes, it is alive with the scents, tastes, and textures of a life that spans complex geographies both internal and external.

Love, Loss, and What We Ate is an intimate and unexpected story of food and family—both the ones we are born to and the ones we create—and their enduring legacies.

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These two HaBOs are from Sarah (not our Sarah):

These are the two very first romance novels I ever read. I grew up on a mission base in South America, and found a bunch of old Harlequin paperbacks in the oldest house on the base one day exploring. It was around mid to late 90s, but the books were from either the late 70s or 80s. I managed to sneak two away under my shirt and hid them for years from my parents ( like a porn stash but..literary…kinda).

The first was about a woman in Los Angeles, whose car breaks down during a storm. She manages to get to the mansion of a wealthy man throwing a party. I think he is a producer, or some kind of Hollywood executive. Basic premise is they get together. I think she is made into an actress, but can’t completely remember. I remember her being a redhead and he is kind of taken by her right away.

The other was about a woman who shows up in the Outback. I believe she’s American and the hero is an Aussie. There are kids involved, and she nearly leaves but the hero stops her before she leaves the new family she creates, yada yada yada. It had the tone of out of touch American woman shows up Down Under to break up a family and learns her place kinda vibe.

This seems real vague and I really thought I remembered more about them, but I guess 20 years kind of takes its toll. I mean, they were old, and are probably hella problematic. I remember the relationship in the first one being that way. The man was really controlling, and despite trying to make her an actress I believe he gets really pissed when other people actually show her attention.

I’ve tried to find them online but have had zero luck and want to reconnect with my smutty smutty past. For a long time it was just me and those shady Harlequin books, making it through some very sexually repressed years.

These might be tough to identify, but I have faith in all of you!

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Happy Monday (or Tuesday when you read this, I guess) everyone. It’s time for The Bachelor.

There’s a massive ice storm going on outside right now, one that’s projected to cause widespread power outages, so earlier today I messaged the other Bitches to let them know that there was a tiny chance I’d miss tonight’s episode and they’d have to pinch hit. I got the following replies:

RHG: If nominated, I will not run. If elected, I will not serve.

Sarah: Holy shit, I think this is another two hour episode.

RHG: They’re all two hour episodes.

Sarah: That’s uncharitable.

Amanda: There aren’t enough incentives in the world to make me sit through another episode.

Fortunately while my drive home was dicey, we haven’t lost power. Although, to be honest, sitting silently in the dark would be more entertaining than listening to Arie talk. I could light a candle and do shadow puppets with Dewey.

So anyway, tonight’s episode is what’s known in Bachelor lingo as “hometowns.” That means we’re down to four women and they all have to foist Arie on their poor families.  For the record, the families agree to this ahead of time.

Now, on with the show!

First up, Arie visits Kendall in her hometown of Los Angeles. Kendall takes Arie to a warehouse full of…taxidermy. Kendall collects taxidermy, and as she gets to plan their date she decides they’ll be mounting taxidermy rats. Normally I’d be creeped out by this, but as a follower of The Bloggess, I’m pretty eh. It does freak Arie out, which is delightful. Anyway, they dress up the rats as a bride and groom.

After that they meet Kendall’s parents, her brother, and her twin sister, Kylie (I am not making that up). The family dog (some kind of spaniel) is adorably excited that so many people are there and is running around wagging it’s tail like mad. SO MANY NEW PEOPLE TO SNIFF OMG MUST ALSO SNIFF CAMERA MAN AND SOUND MAN OMG SO MANY NEW PEOPLE.

Both Kylie and, Kendall’s dad, Bob, tell Arie that they don’t think Kendall is ready to get married yet. Kendall herself admits to her sister that she’s not ready to be engaged. She doesn’t tell Arie that, though. She just tells him that she’s falling for him and it’s scary to be vulnerable.

So it’s not scary to walk around a warehouse full of dead things staring at you with cold, glass eyes, but it is scary falling in love with Arie. Good to know.

Next up is Tia. But before that, it occurs to me that we haven’t seen much of Chris Harrison at all this season. It’s a little concerning, frankly. In the past during almost every episode, Chris and The Bachelor would have a little chat like this:

The Bachelor: I just feel like Marlee wasn’t being genuine during our industrial paint-stripping date, you know? I worry that she’s not open to this journey.

Chris Harrison: I thirst for blood.

Good times.

But I want to know what could possibly have driven Chris back to the shadows? Is Arie that intolerable?

Back to Tia. She’s from Weiner, AR, population 716.

Proving that they just don’t give a shit, ABC shows us that they think the abbreviation for Arkansas is AK. For you non US readers, that’s the abbreviation for Alaska. Thanks to Twitter for catching that.

ABC you are the worst
Great work ABC

First Tia and Arie race cars around a dirt track. Then they go meet Tia’s family. Tia’s dad is NOT impressed with Arie and also pronounces his name “Airy.” Basically Tia’s family is worried that Arie is a lady’s man. I’d be more worried that he’d make someone lapse into a coma, but whatever.

So then Tia’s dad pulls the whole, “If you hurt her, I can find you.” which is such bullshit. Can we please discontinue this misogynist trope? Tia is more than capable of murdering Arie herself–assuming that Chris Harrison doesn’t get him first. The guy really doesn’t even move that fast. She could probably take time for a sweet tea and a pedi and then chase him down.

Then we cut to Becca K who is from Minnesota. We’re really plowing through these hometowns and I’m wondering what ABC has planned for hour two.

Becca and Arie go to an apple orchard. I bet Arie likes his apples when they’re “just mushy enough.”

Arie and Becca carve their initials into an apple tree

Honestly no one on this season has chemistry. Like, the two taxidermy rats had more chemistry than Arie and any of the women.

Arie points out to Becca that it’s important that they have the support of their families, which duh, because it’s not like Arie has a real job. “Race car driving” and reality TV will only get you so far.

Then we meet Becca’s family and their Minnesota accents warm my heart. I am among my people, ya know?

When Arie talks Becca’s mom does this “mhmm mhmm mhmm” thing over him that is Upper Midwestern Mom Code for 1. I’m not buying what you’re selling and 2. shut your facehole already.

Becca’s Uncle Gary, who stepped in when Becca’s dad died, meets with Arie alone. Uncle Gary says (more or less) that Becca’s dad died of a brain tumor, her mother has battled breast cancer, and basically this family has been through a lot and they are not fucking around right now ok? So this better be the real deal.

I love Uncle Gary.

Then Uncle Gary, who is also a pastor, asks Arie about his faith and Arie, maybe a little afraid, agrees to go to church with Becca.

Arie then talks to Becca’s mom and the “mhmm’s” come out again, but Arie has no idea what they mean. He keeps talking. Stop talking Arie.

Becca tells Arie, “You keep blowing my mind and stealing pieces of my heart.”

Finally we go to Virginia Beach, Lauren B (The Final Lauren)’s hometown. Friendly reminder, during their last date Arie stood up abprubtly and walked away from Lauren super awkwardly. The best Twitter scientists have reviewed the footage and are in agreement: Arie had to fart.

First they ride horses on the beach, then they go to a lighthouse. There’s a lot of kissing in this episode and my husband is puttering around the house chanting “juicy, wet mouth kisses” under his breath.

Click for my reaction.

So then Arie has dinner with The Final Lauren’s family, and it’s crazy awkward. At one point Arie stands up and quickly leaves the table AGAIN, dabbing a napkin on his sweaty face and neck. Dude has some serious intestinal issues.

Arie tells the camera that the biggest race he was ever in was The Indy 500 and that his nerves were at a ten. Then he helpfully adds, “that would be the maximum.” Apparently The Final Lauren’s family is more stressful than that.

Dave, Lauren’s dad, says the first impression Arie left on him was that he was selfish. Then he adds, “if he proves me wrong I’ll fucking kill him.”

I think he means proves me right but…

Show Spoiler

WELL OKAY THEN. This family is wound tight. Someone needs to break out the brown liquors.

Then Arie tells Dave, a military man, that he did a goodwill tour of Iraq with some other drivers and all of a sudden Dave loves Arie.

What was that? He’s all, “Well my first impression of you is that you’re a shitbag and I just told America I’d fucking kill you, but you went and visited some troops so now you’re good enough for my daughter.”

Arie asks Lauren’s mom for her blessing, and she does the same thing Becca’s mom did, which is to say, “I trust my daughter.” That’s mom code for “I think I can still talk her out of this terrible, terrible decision.”

Arie, being completely obtuse, thinks that they’ve given him their blessing.

So then, in the most exciting moment of the night, my internet goes down.

NO MOAR BACHELOR

So do I give up here and go to bed? Crack open a book and wait for my power to go out too? Go lay down in the sleet and wait for the cold to claim me?

No.

No. I am an Amazon warrior and I will not let my lack of wifi deter me from going through this “journey” for you. I will not abandon my sisters in battle. I’ve got unlimited data and a fridge full of cold brew. Let’s put this fucker to bed.

I am a mighty Amazon

We cut back to the McMansion and the titlecard lets us know that the ABC intern is at least able to figure out that Los Angeles is in CA. Good work.

Finally Chris Harrison emerges. His eyes look hollow. He is unfed. Arie talks to him about hard decisions, but we know that Chris has bided his time, playing the pipe organ beneath the McMansion, waiting for the Dark Feast to begin.

It is time…for The Dreaded Rose Ceremony.

Arie stands before the women, then mutters, “Oh God,” and walks off quickly. Arie, you gotta get that checked out man. Maybe cut out dairy for awhile?

Arie pulls Kendall aside and asks her if she’s ready to be engaged. Kendall can’t really commit to it, but says she’s falling for Arie.

For the record, Arie has told all four women tonight that he’s falling in love with them.

Then Kendall and Arie return and the scary music starts. The first rose goes to Becca. The second rose goes to The Final Lauren.

That means…

Chris Harrison appears and says, “Ladies, this is the final rose tonight.”

The final rose goes to Kendall.

Tearfully, Tia leaves the McMansion. She seems genuinely blindsided. She asks Arie why he chose to eliminate her and he doesn’t have a good answer for her.

I’m guessing Tia might be the next Bachelorette.

Then ABC announces that the next episode is airing on Sunday followed by an episode on Monday, which…Fuck My Life.

What did you think of tonight’s episode? Are you still watching?

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His Wicked Reputation

His Wicked Reputation by Madeline Hunter is $2.99! This is the first book in her Wicked Trilogy and involves a hero and heroine with a very antagonistic relationship, which many readers loved. However, some readers mentioned there was more telling than showing. It has a 3.7-star rating on Goodreads.

Gareth Fitzallen is celebrated for four things: his handsome face, his notable charm, his aristocratic connections, and an ability to give the kind of pleasure that has women begging for more. Normally he bestows his talents on experienced, worldly women. But when he heads to Langdon’s End to restore a property he inherited—and to investigate a massive art theft—he lays plans to seduce a most unlikely lady.

Eva Russell lives a spinster’s life of precarious finances and limited dreams while clinging to her family’s old gentry status. She supports herself by copying paintings while she plots to marry her lovely sister to a well-established man. Everyone warns her of Gareth’s reputation, and advises her to lock her sister away. Only it is not her sister Gareth desires. One look, and she knows he is trouble. One kiss, however, proves she is no match for this master of seduction.

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The Duke’s Bridle Path

The Duke’s Bridle Path by Grace Burrowes and Theresa Romain is 99c! This a duet of novellas and Redheadedgirl mentioned this in a previous Whatcha Reading post. She mentioned that the novellas both involve horses, if you are a former “horse girl” turned “horse woman.”

Two Regency novellas of true love deep in the English countryside….Legend says that the first gentleman a lady kisses on the Duke’s Bridle’ Path will become her true love. Grace Burrowes and Theresa Romain say it’s not that easy…

In His Grace for the Win, by Grace Burrowes, Philippe, Duke of Lavelle, has sworn off all things equestrian after his brother’s riding accident. Just one tiny problem: The woman who steals Philippe’s heart, Harriet Talbot, loves horses, and generally only notices men when they’re in the saddle. Will Philippe rise to the challenge, or come a cropper for the sake of true love?

In Desperately Seeking Scandal, by Theresa Romain, ambitious London reporter Colin Goddard follows a trail of scandal to the Lavelle seat in Berkshire, hoping to save his career with articles on how to snare a wealthy spouse. What was intended as a humorous series turns seductive, as Lady Ada Ellis, sister to the duke, uncovers Colin’s true purpose and challenges him to a battle of wits…and wills, and hearts. But if they fall in love, one of them will lose everything. Who will triumph?

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Hard-Hearted Highlander

Hard-Hearted Highlander by Julia London is 99c at Amazon! This has an element of a forbidden romance as a man is betrothed to a young Englishwoman, but falls in love with the woman’s governess. Readers say some parts took effort to get through, but found it to be a mostly enjoyable reading experience.

An indomitable governess…a brooding Highlander…a forbidden affair… 

An ill-fated elopement cost English-born governess Bernadette Holly her reputation, her unsuitable lover and any chance of a future match. She has nothing left to fear—not even the bitter, dangerously handsome Scot due to marry her young charge. Naive wallflower Avaline is terrified to wed Rabbie Mackenzie, but if he sends her home, she will be ruined. Bernadette’s solution: convince Rabbie to get Avaline to cry off…while ignoring her own traitorous attraction to him.

A forced engagement to an Englishwoman is a hard pill for any Scot to swallow. It’s even worse when the fiancée in question is a delicate, foolish young miss—unlike her spirited, quick-witted governess. Sparring with Bernadette brings passion and light back to Rabbie’s life after the failed Jacobite uprising. His clan’s future depends upon his match to another, but how can any Highlander forsake a love that stirs his heart and soul?

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Indiscreet

Indiscreet by Kasey Michaels is 99c at Amazon and iBooks! This book was originally published in the late nineties. This is a romance between a ward and her sponsor if that’s your particular catnip. The hero also has some great beta vibes, despite readers say the last third of the book isn’t as enjoyable as the beginning.

Sophie Winstead: A spirited beauty with a mezmerizing figure and a perfect pout, Sophie Winstead had been well schooled in the art of dazzling gentlemen. Now with the London season just beginning, Sophie is determined to become a Lady–even if it means forgoing love to marry for wealth alone. If only her straight-laced sponsor would give her his approval-and stop weakening her resolve with his startlingly blue eyes.

Bramwell Seaton: The picture of propriety, he swore he could control the passionate appetites that were his late father’s downfall. But from the moment Bramwell takes charge of the incorrigible yet irresistible Sophie Winstead, he is driven to mad distraction. Suddenly he and his lovely ward are waltzing ever closer toward scandal, and Bramwell must resist her charms to preserve their reputations–and his heart.

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Squee Feed

by Mira Grant
May 1, 2010 · Orbit
HorrorScience Fiction/Fantasy

I’m back with another Keeper Shelf squee! If you missed my first one, I talked about my deep love of Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen and how it tapped into my feelings about how people might view me in relation to both my own and my mother’s mental illness.

While Garden Spells has magic, yummy descriptions of food, and small town gossip, we’re about to a one-eighty on this bad boy because my next squee is about Feed by Mira Grant. It’s a zombie horror novel.

Two warnings: I will be discussing death and mortality in this post if you’re sensitive to those topics. I will also spoil the shit out of this book as my love for Feed hinges on a huge spoiler.

For a quick and dirty summary, Feed focuses on the sibling duo of Georgia and Shaun Mason. They’re journalists/bloggers of sorts. Shaun is the more adventurous of the two, going out into the field to do zombie coverage. Georgia is the more sensible one. While tasked with covering a political campaign, they uncover a conspiracy regarding the undead and how they’ve come to be zombi-fied. So it’s part horror, action, and political thriller.

However, it’s not the plot that makes me love this book. It’s Georgia and Shaun. The brother/sister relationship felt so close to home, which was why the book utterly ruined me in the worst way. We’re talking full-on ugly crying, snot-bubbles type ruining.

I have a younger brother. There’s about a five year age difference. His 24 to my (current) 28 and I’m getting teary-eyed just writing this. (I’m also smack dab in the middle of my period, so I am particularly sensitive when thinking about my brother.) He is easily one of my best friends. During a rough spot in our childhood, I even took up the job of raising him. Taking him to school, cooking dinner for us, etc. We are incredibly close and though he doesn’t read my work, because the fact that his nearly-thirty sister talks about sex and sexy toys as part of work highly embarrasses him, I’m so proud of him.

And I would riot in the streets if something were to happen to him. I would burn it all down and the salt the earth.

Now, we’re going to get into some spoilers. If you read the description to the second book, Deadline, you can probably guess what happens.

Here’s the big reveal.

Are you ready?

There’s too much to hide behind spoiler tags so do NOT read any further if you don’t want to be spoiled.

Got it?

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Not kidding around here.

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Ok, here goes.

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Georgia dies. In a really awful way.

Given Shaun’s more reckless nature, I had assumed he’d be the one to bite it during the book. But as the siblings get closer and closer to figuring out some pretty hefty secrets, Georgia is shot with dart that contains the zombie virus. There is no cure on hand.

I swung back to my monitor, trying to swallow away the dryness as I heard Shaun moving behind me, taking one of the spare revolvers out of the locker by the door and loading it, one careful cartridge at a time. What was it the reports said? The dryness of the mouth was one of the early signs of viral amplification, resulting from the crystal blocks of virus drawing away moisture and bringing on that lovely desiccated state that all the living dead seem to share? That seemed about right. It was getting harder to think about that sort of thing. Suddenly, it was all just a little too immediate.

My hands were still hovering above the keyboard while my mind struggled to find a beginning when I felt the barrel of the fun press against the base of my skull, cold and somehow soothing. Shaun wouldn’t let me hurt anyone else. Not even him. Not more than I already had.

“Shaun…”

“I’m here.”

“I love you.”

“I know, George. I love you, too. You and me. Always.”

“I’m scared.”

His lips brushed the top of my head as he bent forward and pressed them into my hair. I wanted to yell at him to get away from me, but I didn’t. The barrel of the gun remained a cool, constant pressure on the back of my neck. When I turned, when I stopped being me, he would end it. He loved me enough to end it. Has any girl ever been luckier than I am?

As Georgia is succumbing to the virus, she’s trying to get out her last blog post. Her last paragraph utterly kills me:

Shaun I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I didn’t mean it I would take it all back if I could but I can’t I cant I I I I I I I all fading words going cant do this cant Shaun please Shaun please I love you I love you I always you know I Shaun please cant hold on everything jfdh cant do this jhjnfbnnnn mmm have to my name my name is Shaun I love you Shaun please gngn please SHOOT ME SHAUN SHOOT ME N—

Are you crying? Because I am and I’m in a Starbucks.

The book was mostly told from Georgia’s point of view, but from there it switches to Shaun and we get to see his reaction to having to kill his sister. He says the loudest thing about that moment, louder than the gunshot, was the sound of his sister’s body falling and IT’S SO SAD.

I don’t think about death often. In fact, I’d prefer not to. But reading that, it was hard not to think about my brother. Would he kill me if I were infected with a zombie virus?

Oh, undoubtedly.

How do I know?

I made him my medical proxy. I consulted him before doing it and I remember him asking, “If you go into a coma, how long am I supposed to keep you alive?”

Like, that’s the first thing he was concerned with.

“I don’t know, a year?” I told him.

And then he chastised me for taking up valuable hospital resources.

However, I don’t know if I could kill my brother if he were about to turn into a zombie. I’ll probably chain him up and keep him in a shed, Shaun of the Dead style.

Another element to my personal connection to this story is that my brother is in the military. He’s not actively deployed right now; he’s on base in the U.S. But I know that his deployment status could change in the future. I had a lot of FEELINGS attending his boot camp graduation, though the gravity of the situation was lightened by his first words to me: “Don’t hug me. The entire barracks got pink eye.”

The thought of losing my brother is a very real thing, or at least more real to me now that he’s started his military service. And, like the big sister I am, if I could lock him away in a bubble forever, I would.

Following Georgia’s death, Shaun makes sure his sister’s memory is forever remembered and that the work she did in uncovering a conspiracy would be continued. I doubt I’ll ever be face with such a tantamount situation, but I know I’d want to make sure that no one forgot how awesome of a guy my brother was.

And I’m crying again. Still in Starbucks.

Though I prefer my books on the happier scale, it’s also nice to be reminded of how blessed I am to have a brother like Zack. He gives me homemade pottery that I refuse to actually use out of fear of ruining it. He disapproves of the amount of naps I take. He gives the best hugs. And I’d move heaven and earth to make sure we grow old and cranky together instead of one of us being infected by a zombie virus.

If you’re curious, here are baby and adult versions of Amanda and Zack.

Just a couple of scamps. #NationalSiblingsDay #fbf

A post shared by Amanda (@_imanadult) on Apr 10, 2015 at 4:55pm PDT

Congrats to my brother and everything, but can we just recognize how great my hair looks?

A post shared by Amanda (@_imanadult) on May 24, 2017 at 10:33am PDT

Do you have a book you’d like to squee about? Email us! We’d love to hear about it! 

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Secrets of Seduction

Secrets of Seduction by Nicole Jordan is $1.99! This is the third book in the Legendary Lovers series and book one is on sale for $2.99. This book has a Beauty & the Beast element, though some readers went back and forth about the heroine. It has a 3.8-star rating on Goodreads.

Stunning sensuality and breathtaking romance mark this dazzling new Legendary Lovers tale from New York Timesbestselling author Nicole Jordan, where an extraordinary beauty teaches a handsome, reclusive “beast” to love again.

The most charming Wilde cousin, Lady Skye has secretly loved the enigmatic Earl of Hawkhurst since girlhood, long before the tragedy that left him scarred both physically and emotionally. When Skye learns that the celebrated hero has returned to England from his self-imposed exile to make a cold marriage of convenience, she brazenly plants herself on his castle doorstep, determined to convince Hawk that she alone is his true mate and destiny.

An elite member of the Guardians of the Sword, Hawk has vowed never again to risk the pain of loving—but that’s before he deals with the most enchanting, annoyingly persistent seductress he’s ever encountered. One night of blazing passion leaves him impossibly torn. Will Hawk choose duty over love, or will he open his heart and let Skye’s healing light penetrate his darkness?

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Twist

Twist by Kylie Scott is $2.99! This is the second book in the Dive Bar series and can be read on its own. It features a long distance crush going on and a bartender hero. Scott does a great job writing contemporaries with the right amount of humor. However, some readers disliked the heroine.

From New York Times bestselling author Kylie Scott comes the second sizzling stand-alone novel in the Dive Bar series!

When his younger brother loses interest in online dating, hot bearded bartender Joe Collins only intends to log into his account and shut it down. Until he reads about her.

Alex Parks is funny, fascinating, and pretty much everything he’s been looking for in a woman—except that she lives across the country. Soon they’re emailing up a storm and telling each other their deepest, darkest secrets…except the one that really matters.

When Alex pays Joe a surprise visit, however, they both discover that when it comes to love, it’s always better with a twist.

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Royal Pain

Royal Pain by Tracy Wolff is 99c! I thought we had featured this before either in a sale post or Hide Your Wallet, but perhaps I was wrong. It has a 3.6-star rating on Goodreads and some readers felt it was just meh. Though, if you’re looking for a fun and sexy romance with a royal element, give this one a try.

He’s a womanizer. He’s cocky. He’s not exactly a prince. Only he technically is. Meet your new royal obsession in this addictive novel from New York Times bestselling author Tracy Wolff.

Being rich opens a lot of doors. When you’re rich and royal, those doors lead to a new bedroom every night. I should know. The tabloids call me His Royal Hotness, Prince Kian of Wildemar. Women across the world see me as a naughty fairy tale, an image I’m happy to indulge. As the spare to the heir, I’m the prince with none of the power . . . and all of the perks.

Then my twin brother is kidnapped, and suddenly I’m the one who could be king. The crown chasers start circling—and yet it’s a luscious waitress who catches my eye. With a smart mouth and the curves to back it up, Savannah Breslin is as brazen as I’d expect an American commoner to be.

But Savvy’s not interested in playing Cinderella. As sexy as she is, she’s no stranger to heartbreak. Besides, a nice guy wouldn’t drag her into all the drama that comes along with royalty. Lucky I’m not a nice guy. And, as it turns out, I might not even be her first prince. . . .

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The Rogue Returns

The Rogue Returns by Leigh LaValle is 99c at Amazon! This is the third book in the Nottinghamshire series and the previous one is FREE! Both the hero and heroine in this one are fighting over gold, which is rather interesting. If you start with this one, readers say you’ll want to devour the first two once you’re done.

THE ONLY THING LESS TRUSTWORTHY THAN A ROGUE…

Lady Helen Gladstone has siblings to protect and creditors at her door. There’s only one way to stave off disaster—to find the fabled fortune that her deceased brother buried years ago. Her experience with her lying father and gambling brother has left her able to spot a scoundrel at ten paces. Unfortunately, the scoundrel she encounters is a lot closer than that…and he’s planning to make off with her treasure.

…IS A LADY WITH NOTHING TO LOSE

After years of exile, Roane Grantham is eager to begin a new life without the law on his heels. First, he needs gold—his gold, buried one drunken night long ago. But he doesn’t count on a petite, bold-as-brass blonde laying claim to his hoard.

Forming an uneasy alliance, Helen and Roane adventure through the high peaks of England, battling treasure hunters, violent storms, and dangerous terrain. But can they escape the growing passion that lays claim to their hearts?

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Back in November, 2017, I wrote a Romance Wanderlust piece about apartments in the New York City Library branches. The response to that column convinced me that yes, we do love our castles and treehouses and our Regency estates, but what really gets the Bitches excited is being around a lot of books.

In this month’s Romance Wanderlust, we’ll explore two very different bookish hotels. As always, I’m obligated to say that I haven’t been to either hotel (sadly) and therefore this is not a review or endorsement.

The Library Hotel in Manhattan is swanky, and when I say “swanky” I mean “they leave a Belgian chocolate on your pillow every night.” The hotel is organized by the Dewey Decimal System. Starting with the third floor, the categories for the floors are Social Sciences, Language, Math and Science, Technology, The Arts, Literature, History, General Knowledge, Philosophy, and Religion. Each room is a subcategory. For instance, you can stay in Room 1100.006 (Love) or Room 500.005 (Dinosaurs) or 700.005 (Music). If you are feeling amorous, you can stay in Room 800.001 (Erotic Literature).

Needless to say, there are books in every room pertaining to the Dewey Decimal number of the room. However, as far as I could tell by looking at pictures, there aren’t very many books per room. Luckily there are more books in the lobby and in the Reading Room. The Reading Room is open 24 hours a day and always provides snacks, plus a continental breakfast and a nightly wine and cheese reception. There’s a greenhouse on the roof with more books and a bar which the hotel website describes as “trendy.” It’s expensive and has a “business casual” dress code (I’m more of a pajama person, myself), but it also has views of the city and more books. Best of all, the hotel is close to the New York Public Library!

The Library Hotel is all about theme and glamour. In contrast, The Literary Man Hotel, in Óbidos, Portugal, is all about the books. This hotel is located in a former convent. The guest rooms were once the chambers of the nuns. Some of the rooms are decorated in a modern style and others in a more traditional style. According to travelandleisure.com, there were about 45,000 books at the hotel in 2016, and at that time the owner had a goal of reaching 100,000 books. I haven’t been able to find out how many books the hotel has now, but I’m comfortable with saying “a lot.”

The Literary Man has an onsite restaurant and a bar, a very old wine cellar and onsite massage services. It’s hard for me to believe that I would ever leave the building, but it is located in a beautiful coastal medieval town that is home to a 700 year-old castle (soon to have a Romance Wanderlust entry of its very own since it is also home to a hotel). Every July the town hosts a giant medieval market fair reenactment. Some of the hotel’s books can be checked out or purchased, so you can go to the shore or the castle with your new book whenever you want a change of scene.

Based on online reviews, it looks like the Library Hotel is a nice place to stay whether you like books or not, assuming that you enjoy Big City glamour with your reading. The books add a special element to what is already a glitzy and romantic place. On the other hand, while there are many nice things about The Literary Man Hotel, the real draw is the books. The location is good in terms of walking around town, but there’s no parking. The rooms are small. Some people rave about the food and some don’t. It’s the books that make it so special!

Have you stayed in a literary hotel? If not, which of these would you want to travel to?

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