Bikers

Review: Ride It Out by Cara McKenna

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Title: Ride It Out (Desert Dogs #4)
Author: Cara McKenna
Genre: Romantic suspense, Bikers
Release Date: 19 Sept 2017


Author's links:
Add on Goodreads


My rating: 3.5 Stars


Blurb

There’s a new deputy in town, and she’s a law unto herself. 

Jeremiah Church is still aching for justice to be served after his father’s murder. Though the killer has been caught, the authorities are no closer to knowing why the Churches were targeted—and if the family’s still at risk. When Miah receives an anonymous letter hinting at a darker conspiracy, he decides it's high time he seeks justice on his own terms, with the help of his fellow Desert Dogs. 

Patrol Deputy Nicki Ritchey is new to Fortuity, and hoping to make a clean start for her and her son. Involved in the Church’s case, she's kindled a friendship with Miah that's evolving into something more. But Miah is crossing lines with his personal vendetta, and Nicki’s attraction is making it tough to tell right from wrong

Review

This was a long-awaited but fitting end to a great romance suspense/crime series which I enjoyed a lot. I've loved Miah all through the series and was so happy how it all turned out for him in the end. It was a struggle, not what he planned or expected but oh, so worth it and happy making.

We kept getting glimpses of his characters throughout the series and we got more insight into his character in the novella, Drive It Deep, his brief but passionate affair with Raine which left him shattered.

I loved Miah's character arc, the change of perspective he underwent. He was a man with a plan, girlfriend-marriage-kids and things were not happening for him for various reasons.

His grief felt real, his loss of direction felt real to, his desire to desire to get his life back on track felt real. And his relationship with Nicki, from friendship to love felt real and easy to relate to.

Nicki was a back female deputy, newcomer from the big city to the small, mostly white Fortuity. She was divorced single mom, as far away as possible from Miah, yet she was the perfect fro him. They stated as friends, helping each other through grief and Miah's sense of hopelessness.

Ii liked how the story was very much grounded in everyday life. They had to put efforts to make their relationship work and it was not because of their own feelings/insecurities but because life was happening around them and they had obligations and responsibility. They couldn't leave everything and just be together, it was a lot more complicated for both of them In the midst of a murder investigation which concerned them both they had to take time to be together.

I liked how the intimacy between Miah and Nicki took place, tentative, exploitative at the beginning, always open and honest. I felt Miah's claustrophobia was better handled in Drive It Deep, while here it seemed to easily 'cured'. Still, I very much enjoyed the intimacy between them.

I loved seeing the rest of the gang and the story had the sweetest epilogue. I don't need marriage and kids in every romance but here they were fitting considering Miah's character.

On the whole, I can recommend the whole Desert Dogs series as a well crafted, smart and sexy contemporary romance with a side of crime plot series. And do not miss the prequel novella about Miah and Raina which is not a romance per se since they don't end up together but it's an intense, emotional story about passion and love and well worth a read!

Purchase links: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iTunes / Kobo

Author Interview

New and Debut: Lynn Turner

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I'm happy to welcome on the blog Lynn Turner, a debut #ownvoices author whose interracial contemporary romance, BETWEEN YOU AND ME is coming September 20th, 2017.


Meet Lynn

1. Tell us about yourself and why did you decide to become a romance writer?
Thank you so much for this spotlight, Ellie! I’ve wanted to write for as long as I can remember. I have a serious case of wanderlust (probably because my family moved so much when I was a kid), so my mind is always someplace else, dreaming up people and places. My only completed work, until now, was a rip-off of Huckleberry Finn that I wrote when I was twelve. The protagonist was a scruffy, mixed-race tomboy (spitting image of me) who’d nicknamed herself “Sketch,” because she loved to draw. My dream of becoming a writer stuck with me through my years obtaining a STEM degree, and after I had my two little humans. One day, I sat down to give it another try, and a love story came out. I’m hooked! Romance has so many subgenres that I’ll be busy for quite some time.

2. Can you share some of your favourite books and authors?
Oh gosh, I have so many! I adore Jane Austen, and for me it doesn’t get better than Pride and Prejudice. The feminist themes, the wit, the romance…it’s all still completely relevant today. I also love Georgette Heyer’s The Nonesuch, every word (including the ones with typos) Octavia Butler has ever written, Indu Sundaresan’s books “The Twentieth Wife” and “The Feast of Roses,” and any work exploring the life of Esther from the Bible. My favorite contemporary authors right now are Lucy Parker and Penny Reid, for their amazing wit.

3. Who/what do you consider your writing influence/inspiration?
Everything. Everyone. An article, a documentary, a song, a conversation, a glimpse of a woman’s smile as she steps off a train, the scent of a man as he walks by…It’s like my brain is on high alert all the time, snatching bits and pieces from life, and stitching them together until an idea forms. And then I must write it.

4. What kind of stories can the readers expect from you (contemporary/historical/sci-fi, adult/NA/YA, etc)? 
For now, the stories in my mind are contemporary romance. As a mixed-race woman, readers can expect my stories to be inclusive; from the protagonists, right down to secondary and tertiary characters. I want my stories to reflect the world as it truly is. My work-in-progress is a dance romance about a French ballerina and an American choreographer/playwright who work together on a Broadway musical. It’s got an enemies-to-lovers feel, which I’m having fun with! In the future, I’d love to dabble in historical fiction and paranormal romance.

5. Please, introduce your latest/upcoming release. 
Between You and Me is, quite simply, a love story. It was born of my desire to see a quintessential love story the likes of which I’d seen in movies growing up, but with protagonists we don’t often see represented in epic romances. My hero, Finn, is a brilliant scientist from Seattle. His disability inspired him to invent life-changing prosthetic technology. My heroine, Emanuela, is an equally brilliant investor from New York. She believes in Finn’s idea, and the more she gets to know him, the more she is inspired to pursue her own dream. Finn may be disabled, but Emanuela hides inner scars, and he is the one who will help her to heal. It’s a long-distance romance, so expect multiple settings and lots of flyer miles!

Blurb

Love at first sight strikes Seattle Scientist Finnegan Kane at the worst possible moment, paralyzing him as he’s pitching his cutting-edge idea to powerful New York venture capitalist Emanuela Monroe…

Finn survived the crash that killed his parents when he was sixteen. Twenty years later, his smart devices are about to redefine what it means to be disabled. 

Emanuela makes dreams come true for a living, but still longs to fulfill her own. Despite Finn's stunning secret, she thinks his idea might be worth the risk...and he’s determined to show her that he is, too.

Pre-order links: Amazon / B&N

Author Bio and Links

Lynn Turner inherited her writing gene from her mother, who created fantastic tales about witches, invisible worlds and talking animals, and read them to her children at night. Lynn isn’t as great with the voices as her mother, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

She discovered romance far too young, when a mission to find a young adult fantasy title led her to historical romance. She spent hours skimming those sumptuous pages, drinking in the vivid descriptions of settings and clothes, feisty heroines and looming lords, and poetic language. (She may or may not have enjoyed the PG-13 bits too, tucking a new title beneath her pillow at night).

She enjoys character-driven narratives most, and anything that transports her someplace else. Passionate about food and travel, she features healthy doses of both in the stories she crafts. Above all, she is dedicated to writing inclusive stories that explore what it means to be imperfectly human.

When she isn’t writing, she’s traveling, dreaming of traveling, or watching old Samantha Brown travelogue videos and wishing she had her job. She and her husband share their home in California with their two extraordinary children, and hope to add a little furry one to the family very soon.


Contemporary Romance

Review: Completely by Ruthie Knox

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Title: Completely (New York #3)
Author: Ruthie Knox
Date of publication: 26 Sept 2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Author's links:
Add to Goodreads 

My rating: 3 stars


Blurb

Everest. If they can make it there, they can make it anywhere. Maybe even New York, where Ruthie Knox takes her charming rom-com style to new heights.

Beneath her whole “classic English beauty” appearance is an indomitable spirit that has turned Rosemary Chamberlain into something of a celebrity mountain climber. But after an Everest excursion takes a deadly turn, Rosemary is rescued by her quick-thinking guide, New York native Kal Beckett. Rosemary’s brush with death brings out a primal need to celebrate life—and inspires a night of steamy sex with the rather gorgeous man who saved her.

The son of a famous female climber with a scandalous past, Kal Beckett is still trying to find himself. In the Zen state of mind where Kal spends most of his time, anything can happen—like making love to a fascinating stranger and setting off across the world with her the next morning. But as their lives collide in the whirlwind of passion that is New York City, the real adventure is clearly just beginning. 

Review

I loved the previous book and was really excited to read this one when I learned that it will be about Winston's ex wife. We rarely get romances with older women (she is 39) and I was looking forward to see how her second chance romance was handled. Sadly, this book did not work for me as well I expected. There are some things I liked about the story and the characters but the things that bothered me outnumber them.

This is a kind of opposites attract story, where she is white, older, richer, determined to find a new direction in life, while he is of mixed origin (white/Sherpa), a bit lost and directionless after having given up on his dreams.

They meet and come together under very dramatic circumstances, surviving an avalanche in the en route to mount Everest. It affects them deeper than anyone of them thinks initially and brings them very close together in a very short amount of time. But real life is not that simple and they have to face all the challenges it poses to them actually being together in the long term.

I loved all the tidbits on Everest and Nepal, Nepalese culture, the whole climber's/Sherpa's world we get to see in this story. They did give us a rich background into Kal's (and his family) world.

Still, I felt the story is very much focused on Rosemary and her journey to her new, post-divorce self. her personal struggles overshadowed to romance. As a whole it was Rosemary and the other women (her daughter, Kal's mother, May and Allie's mother) who were at the centre of this story and not the love between her and Kal. I would have loved to see more of the main characters together, working out their issues, overcoming their pasts and exploring their growing feelings for each other. 

That said I liked a lot of things about Rosemary. She has a complicated past that has shaped her, wants desperately find herself, to get her life back in track. She acts like an ice queen on the surface, she is very human on the inside, dealing with her own fears and insecurities. She seems to be goign in the wrong direction for most of the story, trying to make a clean break with the past only to come to realise that this is not possible, your past is part of you, it shaped who you are today and can help you become a better person in the future, avoiding the mistakes you have already made.

I found Kal rather interesting but sadly his character' arc felt very underdeveloped to me. He came second to the women in the book and we only got to see bits and pieces of his personality and the motivations behind his actions.

The i-love-yous were a bit sudden, too flashy and they didn't have me convinced of the depth of feelings between the hero and heroine. Overall, I was very underwhelmed with the romance aspect of the story.

My biggest issue beside the ones pointed above, is the white saviour narrative I read into the relationship between Rosemary and Kal's mother. I got the impression it was all about the personal fulfillment and professional success of the white woman who managed to convince the troubled and misunderstood WOC to let her tell her story to the world. And this all didn't sit well with me at all.

Overall, after loving Madly so much (it's one of the best romances I've read in 2017 so far) and generally being a fan of this author's work, I found Completely rather a let-down. I expected a lot more from it but ended up not enjoying it as much as I wanted to.

Purchase links: Amazon


Friday Recs

Friday Recs: Romances with neurodivergent characters

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Here is the history behind this post. A few weeks ago I finished Beard in Mind, a romantic comedy (though a bit more serious that the rest of the series, I still feel it's a romcom) by Penny Reid. The heroine has OCD and I found the portrayal of her dealing with it and the way it affected her and all her relationships (with friends, family, lovers) very moving and powerful. The road to her HEA was not easy but it was particularly satisfying to see her get there in the end (my review). Prompted by this amazing book I decided to do a post with recommendations for romances with neurodivergent characters similar to my posts on crossover series and romances set around the world. I'll start with some personal recommendations and then move on the ones I got when I asked my friends on twitter for their favourite romances with neuroatypical characters. 

Just a few quick notes before I proceed with the lists themselves.

1/ All the books in this post include nuerodivergent characters, some of whom we see dealing with severe cases of mental illness, their stories might raise triggers for some readers. Please, read  the authors' notes/trigger warning for any book you are interested in reading before picking it up.

2/ I want to express my gratitude to Corey Alexander (@TGStoneButch) who helped me with the correct terminology in the field of mental illness and neurodivesity in general. It's a complicated field and I am not an expert in it by any means, so Corey's input has been invaluable. Any mistakes are my own only.

3/ Disclaimer: I use Amazon affiliates links on my blog and in this post to support my reading/book blogging. I have also included links to my reviews of the books I have read. 


Romances with neurodivergent characters I have read and love

1. Beard in Mind (Winston Brothers #5) by Penny Reid, mf romcom where the heroine has OCD. My review (it can be read as standalone but works better if you read the previous books first). My review

2. Hate to Want You by  Alisha Rai, mf where the heroine has depression. It's my first book by this author and I absolutely loved it. My review

3. Glitterland by Alexis Hall, mm romance, one of the MCs has bi-polar disorder and depression. It was my first time reading about a bipolar character in romance and I was blown away by the book as a whole. My review

4. Curio and the Curios Vignettes by Cara McKenna, mf romance, the hero has agarophobia. I love Cara McKenna's books and this is one her best in my opinion. Tender and passionate love story of a French male prostitute and an American museum worker who comes to him a virgin at 28yo.

5. An Unseen Attraction (Sins of the Cities #1) by KJ Charles, mm historical, one of the MCs is dyspraxic (possibly on the autistic spectre). It's a lovely, tender story about kindness and being oneself and two people coming together. My review

6. Mnevermind series by Jordan Castillo Price - mm speculative fiction/romance. One of the MCs is on the autism spectre. The series follows the same couple and book 2 is told entirely from the POV of the autistic character. Very powerful and moving. My review

7. Strong Signal by Santino Hassell and Megan Erickosn, contemporary mm romance, one of the MCs has anxiety and agarophobia. My review

8. Trade Me by Courtney Millan, mf romance, hero has eating disorder. It was my first time reading about a man dealing with eating disorder. My review

9. Foxes by Suki Fleet. It's a very moving NA mm romance where I read one of the MCs as autistic even though it's not explicitly said in the book. The other MC has an eating disorder. My review

10. Connection Error by Annabeth Albert, mm romance. Ex-NAVY guy with physical disability and a game designer with ADHD come together in this romance which I very much enjoyed. My review

11. Someone on Twitter reminded me about A Crown of Bitter Orange by Laura Florand. She is a favourite author and this part of her series set in the French Province and dealing with the rose farming, rose oil production and perfum making. The hero in this story has ADHD and I loved how it was portrayed. Said reader mentioned as criticism that he exhibit somewhat negative attitude towards taking meds for his condition, something I must admit I didn't catch when I read the book. 

Here are the recommendations I got when I asked Twitter.


ANXIETY

1. To One Hundred by Melissa Blue, mf romance, heroine has panic anxiety disorder (free on AMZ at the time of posting)

2. The Sun Still Rrises by Laura Bailo, mm romance set in Pamplona, Spain

3. Pull Me Close by Sidney Halston, mf romance, heroine has anxiety and OCD

4. Graveyard Sparrow by Kayla Bashe, ff romance, one MC has Aspergers and anxiety

5. Defying Convention by Cecil Widle, trans m/non-binary romance

6. Carry the Ocean by Heidi Cullinan, mm romance

7. Escaping Indigo by Eli Lang, mm rockstar romance (some reviews describe the anxiety representation as problematic)

8. Wrong to Need You (Forbidden Hearts #2) by Alisha Rai - mf romance heroine with anxiety/panic attacks. To be released


9. London Belongs to Me and London, Can You Wait (releasing in Oct 2017) by Jacquelyn Middleton, romance/chick-lit 


DEPRESSION

1. Broken by Nicola Haken, mm romance

2. Unquiet (Resilient Love #3) by Melanie Hansen, mm romance, one MC has bipolar disorder and depression

3. Arrows Through Archer by Nash Summer, mm romance

4. Willing Victim and its sequel Brutal Game by Cara McKenna, erotic mf romance, heroine has depression.

5. Cam Girl by Leah Raeder/Elliot Wake. MC with depression. Includes trans and NB characters; tw for vivid descriptions of prostitution and despair, but ends in a HEA.


OCD

1. Disasterology 101 by Taylor V. Donovan, contemporary mm, one of the MC has germophobia and OCD

2. Some Sort of Happy by Melanie Harlow, mf romance, hero has OCD


PTSD

1. Change of Address by Jordan Brock, contemporary mm, MC with PTSD (and a service dog)

2. To Stand In The Light by Kayla Bashe, f/non-binary romance, one MC with PTSD, another MC with ADHD and social anxiety

3. Illumination by Rowan Speedwell - rockstar mm romance, PTSD and agarophobia

4. Serving Pleasure by Alisha Rai, contemporary mf romance, hero has PTSD

5. Queen of Dauphine Street (Nola Nights #2) by Thea De Salle, mf romance, both hero and heroine have PTSD. Heroine also has anxiety.

5. The Soldier's Scoundrel by Cat Sebastian, mm historical romance

6. Down to Ash (#dirtysexygeeks #2) by Melissa Blue, mf romance, hero has PTSD


EATING DISORDERS

1. Empty Net (scoring Chances #4)  by Avon Gale, mm hockey romance, one MC has eating disorder

2. Second Position and Finding Center by Katherine Locke. Heroine has an eating disorder and anxiety, possibly more, hero is an amputee and a recovering alcoholic. I keep getting these books recommended for demi representation
 



BIPOLAR DISORDER

1. The Theory of Deviance by Rebecca Grace Allen, mf romance with bipolar heroine

2. The Bluest of Blue (#dirtysexygeeks #3) by Melissa Blue, mf romance with bipolar heroine


AUTISM

1. Shut Your Face, Anthony Pace by Claire Davis and Al Steward - mm NA/YA

2. Muscling Through by JL Merrow, mm romance told exclusively from POV of the autistic character

3. The Lawrence Browne Affair by Cat Sebastian, historical mm. One of MCs has anxiety and is on the autism spectrum (some reviews point to problematic representation of autism)

4. Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde, queer YA with M/F & and a F/F romance arcs. Taylor, the heroine in the M/F arc, is autistic and has a panic disorder

5. The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley, mf historical romance, hero has Asperger's syndrome

6. The Absence of Light by Adrienne Wilder, May-December mm romance

7. Sanctuary by Rebekah Weatherspoon, mf rom, hero with Autism

8. Win Some, Lose Some by Shay Savage, NA mf rom, hero has Asperger's Syndrome

ADHD

1. Devil In Spring by Lisa Kleypas, mf historical r\omance, heroine has ADHD

2. Beyond Surrender (Beyond series #9) by Kit Rocha, dystopian romance, heroine with ADHD (note: series cannot be read out of order)

3. Flirting with Intent by Kelly Hunter, Harlequin presents rom, possibly hero with ADHD

4. Permanent Ink by Piper Vaughn and Avon Gales, mm May-December rom

5. The Love Charm by Pamela Morsi, historical mf romance, heroine with ADHD, though undiagnosed

6. A Lady's Code of Misconduct by Meredith Duran, historical rom, heroine with ADHD

7. Laugh by Mary Ann Rivers, contemporary mf romance, diagnosed hero

8. Treasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon, contemporary ff romance


Contemporary Romance

Review: Beard in Mind by Penny Reid

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Title: Beard in Mind (Winston Brothers #4)
Author: Penny Reid
Publication Date: 01 Aug 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Humour, Romance

Author's links: Website • TwitterFacebookGoodreads
Add to Goodreads

My rating: 5 Stars


Blurb

All's fair in love and auto maintenance.

Beau Winston is the nicest, most accommodating guy in the world. Usually.

Handsome as the devil and twice as charismatic, Beau lives a charmed life as everyone’s favorite Winston Brother. But since his twin decided to leave town, and his other brother hired a stunning human-porcupine hybrid as a replacement mechanic for their auto shop, Beau Winston’s charmed life has gone to hell in a handbasket.

Shelly Sullivan is not nice and is never accommodating. Ever.
She mumbles to herself, but won’t respond when asked a question. She glares at everyone, especially babies. She won’t shake hands with or touch another person, but has no problems cuddling with a dog. And her damn parrot speaks only in curse words.

Beau wants her gone. He wants her out of his auto shop, out of Tennessee, and out of his life.

The only problem is, learning why this porcupine wears her coat of spikes opens a Pandora’s box of complexity—exquisite, tempting, heartbreaking complexity—and Beau Winston soon discovers being nice and accommodating might mean missing out on what matters most.

Review

I have only two words for this book - LOVED IT. I know I often say this about Penny Reid's books but this one is definitely my favourite of all her books so far. I didn;t expect it to go in the direction it did, though by now I shouldn't be surprised by anything Ms Reid writes, but it was one tough emotional journey which I love with all my heart.

I rarely cry at the romances I'm reading but Shelly's story brought tears to my eyes more than once. It is so powerful, so raw and at the same time, tender and loving. I'd describe the novel as a story about love and family and friends and true life partners. It's a kind of enemies-to-lovers romance starting with animosity on the part of Beau and misunderstood rudeness from Shelly.

While I liked the complexity behind the easy-going, charming Beau but it was Shelley who stole my heart in this book. Her struggles with OCD, it was nothing like I have read before. I can't attest how accurate the presentation of her mental illness is (though the author includes a detailed note about it in the end of the book) but it was powerful and moving and made Shelley feel like a real person dealing with a serious mental illness in the best way she could. There is no sugarcoating, no making OCD about arranging your library alphabetically or sorting your wardrobe by colour. We see the terrible impact of this disease on all aspects of Shelley's life, and how it affects the people around her.

Beau, oh Beau, he was thee sweetest, kindest, most gentle and considerate man after he got over himself and his initial confusion and hurt over Shelly's rude attitude towards him. He had to deal with a rather nasty revelation about himself which I didn't expect and which broke my heart. It took him a while to figure out how to handle the situation and he made a mistake or two regarding this and it made it all the more real and relatable to me. We see the Winston family being their amazing selves and providing uncomnditional love and support when he needed it the most.

It was I liked how much emphasis the story placed on Beau and Shelley being truly partners to each other. The awesome sex they had was just one aspect of their relationship. Being there for each other, supporting, giving space and alternatively providing comfort and advice when needed.

I especially appreciate all the insight the author offers on friendships/ love relationships/sibling relationships - it's so rich, nuanced, colourful. We get the usual bit of crazy shenanigans though this story very much like Ashley's (though for completely different reasons) felt more serious, not dark but difficult to read at times.

I really can't put into coherent words how much I loved this story. Just go read it (it could work as standalone though I recommend reading at least Cletus' and Duane's books before it, or better add Jethro's to the mix too).

Purchase link: Amazon

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