Ellie Reads Fiction

13 Oct 2016

Review: Documenting Light by EE Ottoman

Title: Documenting Light
Author: EE Ottoman
Date of publication: 31 Aug 2016
Genre / Themes: Contemporary romance / Trans characters

Author's links: Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads
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My rating: 4.5 Stars


If you look for yourself in the past and see nothing, how do you know who you are? How do you know that you’re supposed to be here?

When Wyatt brings an unidentified photograph to the local historical society, he hopes staff historian Grayson will tell him more about the people in the picture. The subjects in the mysterious photograph sit side by side, their hands close but not touching. One is dark, the other fair. Both wear men’s suits.

Were they friends? Lovers? Business partners? Curiosity drives Grayson and Wyatt to dig deep for information, and the more they learn, the more they begin to wonder — about the photograph, and about themselves.

Grayson has lost his way. He misses the family and friends who anchored him before his transition and the confidence that drove him as a high-achieving graduate student. Wyatt lives in a similar limbo, caring for an ill mother, worrying about money, unsure how and when he might be able to express his nonbinary gender publicly. The growing attraction between Wyatt and Grayson is terrifying — and incredibly exciting.

As Grayson and Wyatt discover the power of love to provide them with safety and comfort in the present, they find new ways to write the unwritten history of their own lives and the lives of people like them. With sympathy and cutting insight, Ottoman offers a tour de force exploration of contemporary trans identity.


Oh, that was such a sweet and tender and heart-warming story! Everybody needs love and affection and a place in the world and they have the right to it, they deserve it and when get the chance to have it, it can be beautiful!

This book is an example of why I love reading in general and reading romance in particular, stories like this one are magical and they help us see and relate to each other as human beings regardless of the differences between us. 

The romance between Grayson and Wyatt is slow going, unassuming, it takes time to develop, all this making it real. There is a strong attraction but both of them are shy, a bit insecure, coming to terms with their own selves and being with another person did not come easily to either of them. Add to this some serious real-life family/professional issues they were dealing with and connecting with another person the way they did was both soothing and taxing on them. 

The need for human connection, for acceptance especially for marginalized people, though I really feel most people have this need and most of us feel marginalised in one way or another. I loved how understated this story was, just ordinary, yet special people, struggling to find their place in life. That desire not to be alone and to have someone by your side, someone you can share yourself with, it spoke to me so much. 

My only minor quibble is that at times the messages of the story came off as too strong to the point of being didactic. I liked the easy flow of the writing, though occasionally the unfolding of the story seemed too slow, falling too much into scientific discussion of historical research rather than following the characters on their journey towards happiness/fulfillment. 

I very much liked focus the author put on the everyday aspects of life - two people meet, fall in love and slowly mesh their lives together. There are awkward moments, and setbacks and both welcome and hurtful intrusions of family but ultimately it's a story of two people dealing with being trans who find the way to be a couple, to love themselves and each other. 

Purchase links: Amazon / Publisher / Kobo / B&N

10 Oct 2016

Review: That Potent Alchemy by Tess Bowery

Title: That Potent Alchemy (Treading the Boards #3)
Author: Tess Bowery
Date of publication: 27 Sept 2016
Genre / Themes: Historical romance / Theatre / POC / Genderfluid character

Author's links: Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads
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My rating: 4.5 Stars


Is his love her safe place to land…or just smoke and mirrors? 

Grace Owens danced her feet bloody to become the finest en pointe prodigy of her generation, but the only accolade she longed for—her father’s approval—never came. Finally, broken and defeated, she cut ties and fled to London to live life on her own terms.

Now, after four years as an actress in London’s smaller theatres, a last-minute production change lands her right where she never wanted to be again. Front and center in the ballet—and back in toe shoes.

From his perch on the catwalks, machinist and stagecraft illusionist Isaac Caird can’t take his eyes off Grace. A woman who wears men’s clothing, but not as a disguise. An exquisite beauty who doesn’t keep a lover. A skilled dancer who clearly hates every pirouette.

The perfect lines of her delicate body inspire him to create a new illusion—with her as the centerpiece—that will guarantee sold-out shows. Maybe even attract a royal’s patronage. But first he has to get her to look at him. And convince her the danger is minimal—especially within the circle of his arms.

Featuring a gender-fluid ballet dancer, an amateur chemist who only occasionally starts fires, and an old rivalry that could tear them apart.


This is my first book by Tess Bowery and I loved is so much that I immediately got the previous two as well. I first heard about this series through KJ Charles who gave them great praise and made me curious to try it and now I wonder why it took me so long to come to them. 

This is a mf Regency romance set in the London theater scene but it's not all about the glamour and the actors and actresses, but also about the people behind the scene who make the magic on stage happen. I found it refreshing and really interesting to get a glimpse of the live of "ordinary"and, well, not so ordinary people in Regency London. 

Another element that sets this story apart from most historical romaines in that both hero and heroine are people of colour and race issues feature somewhat prominently in the story. That and gender identity issues. All this was explored in a plot involving some magic stage effects, one bet and some secret plans being stolen and it made one intriguing, tender and real love story.

I liked the author's writing style, the story flowed smoothly and there is a neat balance between the intensity of the romantic plot and intrigue of the suspense plot.

Both main characters, Grace and Isaac were outstanding. He reads a beta to me, something not represented often enough in romance and I (and Grace) found him completely irresistible. He is caring and loving and persistent without coming off of domineering or patronising. He is fascinated by Grace and absolutely open to being with her on her own terms. I loved his reaction to her uniqueness, his willingness to try new things, meet the challenges she posed, it all built the ground for the intimacy she so feared, yet craved.

As I said Grace is unique in many ways, an actress, a ballet dancer, and overall amazing, extra-ordinary human being. I found her fascinating and I loved the way the author presented her gender-fluid nature - the doubts and fears, the determination to be true to oneself, the courage it took to share this with a lover. It was interesting and beautiful though I think there was room for more in-depth exploration of this issue.

This is a very character focused story and it had everything I love in a good romance - initial hesitation, slow getting to know each other which leads to moments of tenderness and true intimacy. The romance followed the gradual growth of mutual attraction into love and desire to share one's life with the that special other person.

It short, this is a wonderful historical romance done with a lot of thought and care about the details. Definitely a recommended read!

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / Kobo / iBooks

7 Oct 2016

Review: The Trouble with Mistletoe by Jill Shalvis

Title: The Trouble with Mistletoe (Heartbreaker Bay #2)
Author: Jill Shalvis
Date of publication: 27  Sept 2016
Genre / Themes: Romance / Small town / Animals /Christmas

Author's links: Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads
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My rating: 4 Stars


If she has her way ...
Willa Davis is wrangling puppies when Keane Winters stalks into her pet shop with frustration in his chocolate-brown eyes and a pink bedazzled cat carrier in his hand. He needs a kitty sitter, stat. But the last thing Willa needs is to rescue a guy who doesn’t even remember her ...
He’ll get nothing but coal in his stocking.

Saddled with his great-aunt’s Feline from Hell, Keane is desperate to leave her in someone else’s capable hands. But in spite of the fact that he’s sure he’s never seen the drop-dead-gorgeous pet shop owner before, she seems to be mad at him ...
Unless he tempers “naughty” with a special kind of nice ...

Willa can’t deny that Keane’s changed since high school: he’s less arrogant, for one thing—but can she trust him not to break her heart again? It’s time to throw a coin in the fountain, make a Christmas wish—and let the mistletoe do its work ...


Jill Shalvis is my favourite author when it comes to sweet and sexy small town romances. And her Holiday stories always leave me at a happy place. This one was no different.

I still need to read the first book this new series but starting with the second one was no mistake either. It was so much fun and full of all the warm feeling and cosiness and friendship and the good of humanity in general that I associate with Christmas time. What made me really happy about this story that it did use the Christmas theme (strongly and with a touch of humour) without overdoing it. We don't get the perfect happy biological family but rather the right circle of friends and loved one who stick for one another through bad times and good ones and make the Holidays really special.

The heroine, Willa, was just adorable. Quirky and insecure, dealing with the consequences of a rough childhood by caring for everybody (humans and animals alike), going out of her way to help others, to bring joy and happiness in their lives.

The hero, Keane, like all Ms Shalvis' heroes, was close to perfect. He did have to make up for past mistakes but his present behaviour more than compensated for his carelessness in the past. He is working man and despite having a family unlike Willa. he was just as lonely as her.

I loved the character growth both of them had to go through in the story. There was a sort of reversal of roles which I found refreshing. She started as someone looking for love and long-term commitment while he was convinced he was no relationship material. Somehow along the road she ended up with doubts about her ability to be with someone for the long haul (she did think she wasn't good enough and that made me so sad) and he developed the idea that building a home with her and spending his life here with her was the right thing for him.

The chemistry between Willa and Keane was great and the love scenes - smoking hot. There was the usual circle of great friends (hers in this case) and their interactions both playful and concerned - were nicely done and fun to read.

There will more books in the series coming soon - a novella, One Snowy Night by the end of 2016 and a full-length novel, Accidentally on Purpose, early 2017 and I can't wait to read them both.

Purchase links: Kindle / iBooks / Nook / Paperback / GooglePlay / Kobo / BAM

4 Oct 2016

Review: Sparking the Fire by Kate Meader

Title: Sparking the Fire (Hot in Chicago #3)
Author: Kate Meader
Date of publication: 27 Sept 2016
Genre/themes: Contemporary romance, firefighters, Hollywood

Author's links: Goodreads / Website / Facebook / Twitter
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My rating: 3.5 Stars


Actor Molly Cade, America’s fallen sweetheart, finally has her shot at a Hollywood comeback with a dramatic new role as a tough-as-nails firefighter that promises to propel her back to the big time and restore her self-respect.

Wyatt Fox, resident daredevil at Engine Co. 6, needs a low-key job to keep him busy while he recovers from his latest rescue stunt. Consulting on a local movie shoot should add just enough spark to his day. Especially when in struts Molly Cade: the woman who worked his heart over good, and then left him in the Windy City dust.

Their story is straight out of a script: irrepressible, spunky heroine meets taciturn, smoldering hero. But these two refuse to be typecast, and when the embers of an old love are stoked, someone is bound to get burned


This is my first book by this author. It's book 4 in the series and reading the previous ones can probably make the enjoyment of this one even bigger, but I quite liked it just the same.

It is a very lively, fast-paced romance with a great cast of supporting characters. The prologue was stunning - sizzling hot and mysterious, the perfect lead into what is to come in terms of romance in this story.

I have to admit that Hollywood romances don't always work for me. Often I find them too far fetched to feel real/plausible. This one had some of that, but it was mostly fun, and sexy with just a touch of drama. And it had Wyatt, who was such a joy to read - alpha, broody and silent, simply irresistible.

Molly was interesting too, she came off as independent and strong, but at the same time she often acts like a diva - spoiled and demanding, careless of what other people's needs and desires. 

What started as playful and carefree five years ago, became much more serious and meaningful for both characters at the present moment. Yet, it was nearly impossible for them to actually be together and all the drama ensued. It was good that they loyal (and absolutely hilarious) friends and siblings interfered to 'help' them.

On the plus side, I loved the romance and the strong chemistry between Wyatt and Molly, the way they tried to resist the attraction between them in order not the hurt the other one, and the way they succumbed to their desires and made their relationship work and be beneficial for everybody.

On the flip side, I have to say that some of the jokes fell flat and sometimes I felt the writing dissolved in a colloquial style that did not fit the story. Some overused cliches took away some of my enjoyment of the story but overall, it was rather good, very sexy contemporary romance.

Purchase links: KINDLE | NOOK | IBOOKS | KOBO

29 Sep 2016

Review: A Change of Heart by Sonali Dev

Title: A Change of Heart
Author: Sonali Dev
Date of publication: 27 Sept 2016
Genre/themes: Contemporary romance, India/USA

Author's links: Goodreads / Website / Facebook / Twitter
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My rating: 4.5 Stars


Dr. Nikhil 'Nic' Joshi had it all—marriage, career, purpose. Until, while working for Doctors Without Borders in a Mumbai slum, his wife, Jen, discovered a black market organ transplant ring. Before she could expose the truth, Jen was killed.

Two years after the tragedy, Nic is a cruise ship doctor who spends his days treating seasickness and sunburn and his nights in a boozy haze. On one of those blurry evenings on deck, Nic meets a woman who makes a startling claim: she received Jen’s heart in a transplant and has a message for him. Nic wants to discount Jess Koirala’s story as absurd, but there’s something about her reckless desperation that resonates despite his doubts.

Jess has spent years working her way out of a nightmarish life in Calcutta and into a respectable Bollywood dance troupe. Now she faces losing the one thing that matters—her young son, Joy. She needs to uncover the secrets Jen risked everything for; but the unforeseen bond that results between her and Nic is both a lifeline and a perilous complication.

Delving beyond the surface of modern Indian-American life, acclaimed author Sonali Dev’s page-turning novel is both riveting and emotionally rewarding—an extraordinary story of human connection, bravery, and hope.


This is Ms Dev's third book and I have loved the first two with the second, The Bollywood Bride being my favourite. I have to say now that I have read A Change of Heart, it's a serious contender for that #1 spot in my heart. Ms Dev is definitely becoming a favourite author of mine.

All three novels are loosely connected, each telling the story of a character we met in the previous book but they work perfectly well on their own.

Ms Dev gives a look at life of Indians in the US and India through a beautiful but painful love story, that can only happen when broken souls meet and help each other heal.

I have to admit this story started slow for me and I had a somewhat hard time getting into it but once I was in the story, I couldn't put the book down. Unlike the previous two books here we have the romance mixed with a strong suspense/criminal plot. Like them it's a powerful character driven story with a slow growing romance, with an emphasis on personal growth and change and how one deals with disaster and moves on with their life.

Both Nic and Jess are broken in very similar, yet very different ways. It seems that she has moved on but in her interaction with Nic she sees that she is as stuck in the past and in her own pain and suffering as he is. You see two people who have suffered great losses trying to deal with that, they stumble forward, they fall, they make mistake but with the silent, almost intuitive support of the other they do manage to forge a way forward for themselves.

This is not a love triangle but there is a strong third person present in this romance, Jen, Nic's death wife and having notes from her diary at the top of each chapter worked well in connecting everyone and everything that happened to them.

Ms Dev is a master storyteller and she creates a captivating which moved me in so many ways (I've never highlighted so many passages in any other book on my Kindle). It will stay with me for a long time and I heartily recommend it to any romance readers looking for a mesmerising story, masterfully narrated.

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / Kobo / BAM / IndieBound

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