{audiobook} Subversive (2020)

by Colleen Cowley
ASIN/ISBN: B08GYLTKNZ
Publication: September 27, 2020
Series: Clandestine Magic Trilogy #1

Book review

Narrated by: Leanne Woodward
Release date: June 23, 2021
Length: 11 hrs and 57 mins

**I was provided access to the audiobook through the author. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Peter Blackwell returns to his former hometown Ellicott Mills to serve as the town’s resident wizard, an omnimancer to help with illnesses or other problems that may arise in the town. Requiring an assistant, he manages to steal Beatrix Harper from her current place of employment (against her wishes). Although initially adverse to the idea, Beatrix agrees to help him, not realizing that helping Peter will require her to break the law because he didn’t exactly return home to just be an omnimancer.

I’ve gushed about the Clandestine Magic Trilogy as being one of my favorite trilogies in 2020. It was about time for a reread it when I found out about the audiobook. I don’t typically listen to audiobooks because I’m picky about narrators, and audiobooks take longer than if I read the book myself. I don’t mind audiobooks as rereads though. I immensely enjoyed the audiobook Subversive.

Subversive is the perfect blend of everything I love: historical fiction, fantasy, and romance. As a student of political science, I thought Cowley captured perfectly the distribution of power as it relates to women’s rights and those without magic, or typics. Those with magic hold an inordinate amount of authority as compared to those without magic and women have fewer rights compared to men. Wizards and men try to maintain their power by ensuring women remain without it. This serves as the backdrop to Peter’s return to his hometown and his employment of Beatrix. The reread reminded me why Beatrix and Peter make the perfect duo and remain one of my favorite couples.

While I initially listened to the audiobook at its normal speed, I eventually increased it to 1.1x its normal speed. Because I usually talk fast, this was a perfect speed and sounded more natural to me in both pace and tone. Once I got comfortable with the speed, it was easy enough to enjoy the narration. Through Leanne Woodward’s narration, Cowley’s magnetic storytelling comes to life. Woodward is the perfect narrator, and I don’t think I would have been able to finish the audiobook had I not liked her narration. Her enunciation is perfect, and her voice is clear. Characters are distinguished through different voices, which I liked a lot. Even with multiple female characters, each voice is distinct from the other so it’s easy to tell the individuals apart. For instance, Beatrix’s voice sounds closer to the narrator whereas Beatrix’s sister Lydia has a softer voice and is higher in pitch. Aside from the voices, I especially enjoyed the variation in intonation to exhibit an array of emotions. One of my favorite displays of this is when Beatrix first realizes what Peter has planned for her.  Woodward’s anguish as Beatrix called to me and broke my heart just like when I first read it.

I hope Leanne Woodward remains the narrator for the rest of the books. I already have Radical, book two in the trilogy, lined up as my next listen.

Good Luck Charm (2018)

by Helena Hunting
ISBN: 9781538760154
Publication: August 7, 2018

One of the most difficult parts of second chance romances is how the feelings you used to have betray you when you see one another again. It’s over, maybe it’s been a long time or maybe it was just moments ago, yet just the sight of the other person can stir your heart, your memories. Unbidden. Ethan and Lilah are caught in this position when, after eight years, they finally see one another again. When they broke up, it wasn’t because love disappeared. It was due to circumstances. He was away at college and headed for a professional hockey career, and she was still trying to finish high school to be with him. He was an ass and broke up with her over the phone–yes, that needed to be said–then ceased speaking to her again. Even after eight years, no one else has ever fit, or felt, quite right. This is their potential second chance.

When I first read Good Luck Charm, I was disappointed because I disliked the trajectory of the storyline. The romantic tension was immediate, and it was obvious feelings were still there. They moved on with their lives or at least tried, but a single touch was still enough to ignite a spark.  I wanted more of the chase, a lot more groveling, and then a happily ever after that made up for a failed first time. I got one out of the three. At first, it was infuriating on my part. I wanted him to suffer some more but what was the use of the chase and groveling if she already knew she still loved him–to have him suffer of course, but she loved him enough not to do that. Argh! I couldn’t stop thinking about the book. It was as though I didn’t really give it a chance to be better.

A few days ago, I gave Good Luck Charm a second chance, and I was well-rewarded this time around. Because I was wrapped up with what I didn’t get, there were things I missed that I caught this time, moments that hadn’t stuck out to me before. I better understood Lilah’s mixed emotions and her struggles as well as her concerns over her new relationship with Ethan. The story isn’t just about getting a second chance but ensuring the second chance would work. The HEA here required more time to work toward because second chances carry with it new and old fears, new and old expectations. For their love to win, Ethan and Lilah would have to face each of this head-on. They needed to work through the problems that could lead to their eventual downfall if not heeded early on. Although Hunting didn’t give me more groveling, she provided patience and understanding. She provided maturity and well-needed introspection.

I enjoyed Good Luck Charm much more this time, changing it from 3 stars to 4 stars. Like Ethan and Lilah, it wasn’t about my lack of affection for the book; that was very much present even if I didn’t realize it. I had a chance to set aside elements I wanted in a second chance romance, choosing to look at the pieces already there, and watched as they fell into place. Did I wish the chase was longer? Yes. Did I still want more groveling? Yes. But, I was also able to appreciate it for its own merit. Some books deserve second chances; I’m glad I gave a second chance to this second chance romance.

Love Her or Lose Her (2020)

by Tessa Bailey
ASIN/ISBN: B07QN8SRR3
Publication: January 14, 2020
Series: Hot & Hammered #2

I liked the premise of the story, and it is immediately engaging as the book begins with Rosie miserable while on the job. When a customer attempts to hit on her, it’s the catalyst to a life-altering decision to leave her husband–something that has been a long time coming. What are you supposed to do when your relationship ceases to be what it used to be, nor does it seem to be growing in a positive direction? What do you do when communication halts? Rosie sees this as her only choice while Dominic feels blindsided even though it hasn’t escaped his notice that their relationship isn’t how it used to be or how it should be.

With dual points of view, Rosie describes a relationship where she’s lost herself and her dreams. Her life is monotonous, which isn’t something she necessarily seems to mind, except that the person she loves is closed off and doesn’t make her feel loved anymore. From Dominic’s perspective, Rosie is the only woman he’s ever loved, but he is withdrawn and can’t seem to fulfill the role he thinks he should be doing. Like Rosie, he is aware their relationship is different but doesn’t know how to break the cycle. In each of their chapters, it is exceedingly clear that 1) the sex remains fantastic and 2) love for the other person has never ceased. The true culprit? A lack of communication contributed to the breakdown of the relationship. Unfulfilled dreams and somewhat unwarranted self-expectations place further strains in a once passionate relationship. Being that it’s a romance novel, the question isn’t whether there will be a HEA but how they will arrive there. It’s heartbreaking on multiple levels to see a relationship break down but there’s always hope when individuals are willing to try. And that’s what Rosie and Dominic do, they try.

While I wanted to lay all the blame on Dominic, I appreciated the realistic portrayal of the relationship where the fault is not one-sided; it takes two. Because individuals become too preoccupied with their own needs, they may forget their partner’s needs. Rosie and Dominic are receptive to each other and put in the effort once they are allowed to share how they feel. The book emphasizes the theme that love can serve as a foundation, but it needs to be nurtured to remain structurally sound. I’m not sure exactly how I felt about how their relationship problems were resolved. I was disappointed with how some of their problems were resolved and how quickly they were resolved, especially their last problem and its resolution, which seemed to sweep things under the rug more than anything else.

Love Her or Lose Her is the type of story that encourages readers to reflect on their relationships and examine if they’re doing enough for their relationship and their partner. Or, it could just be me because I certainly did a lot of thinking. I like when romance novels provide me with these moments of contemplation. Bailey effectively presents a story that addresses the essential role communication plays in a relationship and how crucial it is to try to understand a relationship from the other person’s perspective. While the first half was engaging, the second half started to slip with the relationship problems solved almost too easily.

Romance Interlude 2.13

Look at me venturing into (sub)genres I don’t normally read! They’re not exactly hard hitting suspense novels, but a few months ago I probably wouldn’t have wanted to read any at all. Anyhow…on to more ranting and less actual reviewing. Sorry.


Cold Secrets (2017)
by Toni Anderson
ASIN/ISBN: B01N2GB6WQ
Publication: July 31, 2017
Goodreads Summary
Series: Cold Justice #7



One liner: FBI agent Lucas Randall falls for fellow agent Ashley Chen while they pursue an international trafficking ring but Chen may be hiding something that could affect the outcome of the case.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading Cold Secrets. The topics made me uncomfortable but thankfully there wasn’t anything overly graphic. I liked Ashley and her sense of duty to protect people. I was often annoyed with the how much they disregarded her abilities despite the fact that she was assigned to the case and not the absent genius Alex. Ashley and Lucas also had great chemistry. Her backstory was done well but I don’t know how believable some of the events related to her would be.


Blind Justice (2019)
by Gwen Hernandez
ASIN/ISBN: B07P83PC9F
Publication: November 15, 2017
Goodreads Summary
Series: Men of Steele #5

One liner: Tara becomes a target after avenging her sister’s death and she’ll need Jeff the security specialist to keep her safe.

The book started off with Tara trying to capture the guy who essentially ruined her sister’s life and led her to commit suicide. Things quickly go awry when Tara becomes a target because she’s seen things she shouldn’t have. Once Tara becomes the target, unfortunately the book also drops quickly in quality. One moment they’re just colleagues and the next they can’t keep their hands off each other and then it’s definitely love. And, it’s also very complicated. It started off pretty interesting and was okay for a quick read, but I probably won’t pick it up again.


Spirit Bound (2011)
by Christine Feehan
ASIN/ISBN: B004IYIJA2
Publication: January 1, 2011
Series: Sea Haven/ Sisters of the Heart #2
Goodreads Summary


One liner: Russian undercover agent Stefan comes to New Haven to insert himself into artist Judith’s life to find information she may be holding onto for a past lover.

**I’m a bit all over the place with this one. Sorry!**
I started reading this one in January and had to put it away after the first chapter or so because I just couldn’t get into it. The pace was a bit slow. Then Stefan and Judith have instalove-we-are-mates attraction, and I just couldn’t do it to myself. After finally deciding to give it one more try, I found it to be better than my first attempt…after I set aside the whole instalove thing. But then…Stefan and his alpha maleness got to me at times. He went to extremes to protect Judith. What does he do that bothered me? **spoiler alert** He drugs her to knock her out so he can go do some assassin hunting. You see, he has lots of secrets and some trust issues because he’s never really been with anyone before or wanted to protect anyone before. Still…WTF, right?! Feehan writes well with lots of nice details. There’s some interesting things going on here with Sea Haven and the bond between the sisters–they each have elemental abilities too. One of my favorites is when they make it rain. I enjoyed the amount of detail that went into explaining how they all contributed to creating it. Then their conversations would just not be very interesting at all to me. Blythe is one of the sisters and her story is probably one I’d like to read but the others didn’t sound as interesting.

The Worst Best Man (2020)

by Mia Sosa
ASIN/ISBN: 9780062909879
Publication: February 4, 2020

Lina is a wedding planner and asked to compete to be permanently on staff for a prominent hotel group. She’s excited at the prospect, but decidedly less so when she meets the marketing team–her ex- fiancé and his brother Max–who is supposed to help make her pitch. Although Max may have encouraged his brother to leave her on their wedding day, he can’t help but be attracted to her the more they work together. Similarly, Lina starts feeling like more than just work is happening with Max.

The Worst Best Man has a trope I hate, dating an ex’s sibling. I get it. You can’t help who you fall in love with, but there’s a code somewhere that has to be followed, right? The book addresses it, and the characters have a tough time figuring out their situation, but it’s still such a messy ordeal and feels nearly incestuous. This decreased my enjoyment of the novel, but I liked Max and Lina together enough that I would forget they were almost in-laws. The problem was when I would remember out of nowhere. **shudders** My other gripe was how quickly they became attracted to each other. It’s a substantial hurdle to overcome, going from despising the guy who encouraged your fiancé/his brother to leave you to being nearly instantly attracted to him. There needed to be more time to knock over the hurdle than was given.

Despite being conflicted about their prior connection and the pace of their interaction, I enjoyed Lina and Max’s relationship, from enemies to lovers, because they were so easygoing with each other. They not only worked well together, but they had fun while doing it. The aspect I enjoyed most was how they brought out the best in each other by helping to quell negative thoughts and provide comforting words. Their relationship, which may have started with some petty moves mostly on Lina’s part, had substance to it. This was a healthier relationship than I’ve seen in most books, one not marked by possessiveness but a willingness to talk and listen. While they were great together, the passion felt subdued. I am a fan of emotional reads (Kennedy Ryan owns so many pieces of my heart that it’s not funny), and The Worst Best Man doesn’t have that. Although it didn’t make my heart flutter miles a minute, part of me enjoyed that their affection toward each other wasn’t the all-consuming kind–it was nice to breathe and not be left in a book coma.

The subdued feelings, however, play well into Lina’s character. Lina is dedicated to her job and possibly even loves it, but I’m not sure because she doesn’t seem to express joy over it as much as she is dedicated to doing a good job. She is petty, which makes for some funny situations especially when her family is in the picture, but she is mature when it counts–seeing your ex and the cause of your breakup calls for a lot of maturity and restraint. It’s this latter ability that forms the basis of her character arc. She displays a lot of emotional restraint, while Max is the opposite. He’s very willing to take chances on what he feels, but he’s also patient, allowing Lina the space she needs to make her decision. Max isn’t perfect, which makes him all the more likeable. His insecurities often hinder his potential, but Lina reinforces how wonderful he is. He might be the worst best man, but they’re well-suited for each other.

Additional highlights in the book include Max and his heart-to-heart talks with best friend Dean. I enjoyed their bromance. Friends should be supportive like Dean. At one point, Dean lets Max crawl into bed with him, and it was too cute. Lina and her family are also fantastic. Natalia is fierce and ready to back up Lina at any moment. She’s awesome!

The Worst Best Man didn’t sweep me off my feet, but it didn’t have to. With characters who complement each other so well, it was easy to support the main romance, even if I wasn’t on board with the “dating an ex’s sibling” trope.

Romance Interlude 2.12


Air (2016)
by L.B. Gilbert
ASIN/ISBN: B01LYND5D7
Publication: November 28, 2016
Goodreads Summary
Series: The Elementals #2


One liner: Werewolf Connell tracks down Air elemental Logan because he thinks she stole his ability to shift but there is more going on here than expected.

Air was completely unexpected. Gilbert presents a paranormal romance between a were and an elemental, a human imbued with the power of air. Connell is an annoying alpha male, with his whole “you’re my woman, I must claim you” deal. I liked Logan immediately for being badass. She doesn’t just get mad, she also gets even. The mate concept is present here but at least there’s some questioning of whether they’re imagining it or not. It’s also just executed a lot better. I tried to overlook it, and for the most part I did since I liked the storyline more than in the book below, but it still sat there in the back of my mind, taunting me. (Gilbert and Lereoux are the same person. Different names just signal the level of steam. I really wished Air had been the one with more steam…heh)


Eat You Up (2019)
by Lucy Lereoux
ASIN/ISBN: 9781942336635
Publication: November 15, 2019
Goodreads Summary
Series: A Shifter’s Claim #2

One liner: Werewolf Dmitri unexpectedly finds his mate Nina while they’re both on a plane to Boston.

Dmitri is another alpha male (ergh…) and he becomes a caveman around Nina. He smells Nina when she boards the plane. BAM! He knows they’re mates and meant to be. They have a one night stand almost immediately except Dmitri refuses to let it be a one night stand because they’re supposed to be together forever. A lot more things happen since Dmitri is there to steal a necklace and the job ends up being a bit more than he bargained for. Dmitri and Nina have a lot of chemistry but their relationship reminded me why I stayed away from paranormal romances for a long while–two people meet and they’re meant to be because they’re soulmates. There’s no getting to know period, it’s just we’re meant to be and end of question. This whole idea of mates and knowing immediately that they belong together is one that I enjoyed when I was younger but now I need a bit more substance to the relationship before it becomes forever. It wasn’t enough for me to stop reading the book, but it was just always there in the back of my mind. I was not a fan of how it ended.


Night Revelations
by Godiva Glenn
ASIN/ISBN: B07PN6PZYJ
Publication: January 15, 2018
Series: Night Wolves #1
Goodreads Summary

One liner: Werewolf Damon meets werewolf Charlotte during a job and brings her back to be part of his pack because she doesn’t have one.

The book is slow. Charlotte’s character is very timid and also bland. She doesn’t do much but worry about her role in the pack–makes sense since she is the newbie here–and wonder whether Damon likes her or not. Damon keeps giving mixed signals–which frustrated me–so she starts a relationship with someone else. I couldn’t blame her for trying to move on, and she seemed to genuinely like Wyatt, who had no problem making it known he was interested. I dislike these love triangles and didn’t know the book would have one. It wasn’t entirely bad but would have been fine without it. The book has a predictable storyline. It’s really just a new adult novel with a paranormal disguise. I gave it the three stars because I’m glad it ended the way it did.

Romance Interlude 2.11

I made the “mistake” of discovering the All About Romance this year while looking at reviews of one of my favorite reads. I liked the review enough that I signed up for their Steals and Deals newsletter and have been paying ever since. (Heh…). I look forward to the newsletter daily.

Every book below was from the newsletter, which often includes reviews if the book has been reviewed on the site. With the exception of one particular book below, I’ve generally liked the books I purchased via their reviews. Check out the website for reviews!


The China Bride (2000)
by Mary Jo Putney
ASIN/ISBN: 9780345433350
Publication: August 1, 2000
Goodreads Summary
Series: The Bride Trilogy #2

One liner: Troth Montgomery makes her way to England to tell her husband’s family that he has died only to have him return from the dead.

This is my first Mary Jo Putney book but I’ve seen Putney’s name on so many novels. The book jumps between the first time Troth meets Kyle and after his death. I found myself more interested in the present timeline because I wanted to see Troth’s growth and I wanted to find out when happens when they’re reunited. While I enjoyed most of it, the ending was frustrating. Crossed wires or the lack of communication is a trope I dislike immensely and it’s rampant in the latter part of the book. Troth doesn’t know if he loves her and wants her to stay but she would like to. He doesn’t know if she loves him or wants to stay but he wants her to. They never talk to each other about it. I had to skim some of the end because I couldn’t take it anymore. I wanted to scream, “Just talk to each other!!”


The Marquess and I (2015)
by Stacy Reid
ASIN/ISBN: 9781676994459
Publication: June 1, 2016 (Kindle)
Goodreads Summary
Series: Forever Yours #1

One liner: Alasdair is looking for a wife but first sees revenge against Willow, who previously rejected his proposal for being a third son but is now dowry-less.

This is a book that’s short and sweet. It can be a bit dramatic at times but because it’s short, the scenes are not drawn out. It doesn’t take long for Alasdair to decide if he is still in love with Willow and an even shorter time for Willow to decide that she’d be okay with an affair but definitely not marriage. For my first Stacy Reid novel, I loved it. I just wished it had been longer. I look forward to reading more from Reid.


The Bargain
by Mary J. Putney
ASIN/ISBN: B004IWR3II
Publication: April 1, 2011 (Original: October 1, 1999)
Series: Regency series #1
Goodreads Summary

One liner: Lady Jocelyn Kendal marries wounded and dying Major David Lancaster to secure her inheritance but then he makes a miraculous recovery.

I didn’t know what to expect of Jocelyn. If she was just trying to get her inheritance and then be with the guy that she likes well enough, I was thinking a spoiled and unlikeable character but she wasn’t. I liked her a lot. She’s quite the spinster and when David makes a miraculous recovery, she still remains the nice person that she is. Because I liked her character, I also felt sympathy for her fear of love and relationships. I loved David’s patience with her. While Jocelyn and David are the main couple, the book also has a secondary couple in David’s sister Sally and his surgeon Kinlock. While Sally and Kinlock were interesting, I would have preferred the focus to stay on Jocelyn and David. I liked the book a lot more than I expected.


Cherished
by Elizabeth Thornton
ASIN/ISBN: B07NF564WL
Publication: January 25, 2015
Series: The Devereux Trilogy #3
Goodreads Summary

One liner: Forced to marry Leon Devereux after they are found alone together, Emily Five years after going to the U.S. to make his fortune, he returns to consummate their marriage.

**This will be a rant and will be spoiler-filled. There will be sarcasm.**

I needed something to cleanse my palate after reading this book, turning to recent favorites to try purge this from my mind. Thornton is a fine writer. The writing is fine. Parts of the book are as well, but I couldn’t get over the main plot even though I tried to remind myself of the time period. I’m completely over books like this but I kept on reading because I needed to know if it would get better. Spoiler: It doesn’t. When they’re forced to get married, Emily is 16. Leon is 10 years older than her. Her uncle okays the marriage. They don’t consummate the marriage but Leon returns a few years later for her, with the intention to do so. **Shudder** He abducts her with her uncle’s permission, and forces himself on her–they’re married, it’s okay. She gives into him. Her body, you know, had a mind of its own, as if it’s now completely okay that he sexually assaulted her. I sped through the rest of the book hoping it could redeem itself somehow–I don’t know if that could even be possible–and it doesn’t. Leon never apologizes for anything. Obviously as the husband, he has the right, and Emily just eventually gives into her fate. Yup, it doesn’t look like she’s getting out of the marriage. It also turns into a suspense story. But surprise, Leon has always loved Emily, and Emily didn’t realize that when she was younger she loved him too. The book made me so mad.

Gin’s Tonic (2020)

by Olivia Owen
ASIN/ISBN: B085RQJYWR
Publication: April 16, 2020

Virginia “Gin” Lee’s life is turned upside after a devastating loss. Running away from what’s left of her life in So Cal and looking for a place where she can be no one instead of someone, she finds herself in small town Jasper, Colorado after nearly running someone over. Yup, it’s a “city girl looking for escape in a small town” book. This may prompt an eye roll because of the abundance of similar books but Gin’s Tonic is so well-written. I picked it up on a whim but it was the book I needed in that exact moment. It embraced me like only a comfort read could. With imperfect characters, found family, and healing, Gin’s Tonic soothed a part of me I didn’t realize needed it.

Gin is broken and aware of it. She recently takes up smoking to purposely shorten her lifespan. She considers ending her life, even attempting it at one point. Anyone in her situation–going through the motions of living while not really living at all–might act in a similar way. While I cannot relate to Gin on every level, there were things about her I identified with, making the story feel more personal in some ways. The town easily embraces her, and she finds herself becoming part of the town’s “we” rather than the no one she wanted to be. The church ladies break the typical church lady stereotypes and are a fun bunch, and Aunt May and Becca essentially adopts her into their small family.

Roman is a big brooding alpha male. He’s the silent, protective type and seems to always show up when Gin needs him most. If this was real life, I’d be a little bit terrified but it’s a romance book so, for now, let me have swoon. I’m always on the fence about alpha males and some of their tendencies but Roman’s personality and overall behavior doesn’t particularly trigger any of my alarms and eyerolls the way other alpha male characters normally do. I loved how patient he was with Gin.

It’s told solely from Gin’s perspective, which is surprising considering the majority of my romance reads alternate viewpoints of the potential couple. As much as I liked Roman and would have liked to hear his thoughts–in the beginning I was wondering when would I get his perspective–I quickly realized that I preferred it without. I liked that this was solely Gin’s story; this was her journey to healing.

I flipped back and forth on the romance. Initially, I loved it because Gin and Roman seemed to fit so well but upon rereading my favorite parts over, it was difficult to understand why they gravitated toward each other. In piecing their progression from strangers to lovers, I found I wasn’t as easily convinced the second time around. It’s attraction at first, but becomes this unexplained connection that draws them to each other. It’s attraction mingled with lust bordering on instalove but they talk about it as if it’s something more. Eventually, it could be but I don’t know if I believe it is. Of course, maybe it’s just the cynical me who comes out when I try to understand rather than simply believing. Alternatively, it makes just as much sense to say Owen just doesn’t explicitly write it. It could be the brokenness they see in each and their loneliness that connects them to each other or something but there’s no explicit confirmation. Of course, after all of that (I’m so sorry for putting you through my rant) the hopeless romantic in me still enjoyed them together.

This is Owen’s debut novel and I liked it so much. I continuously looked at how much I still had left to read every few pages because I was scared I was getting close to the end. And, I didn’t want it to just yet. While I wished it would keep going, my heart was content with the ending, epilogue included. The book leaves a lot of room to continue the stories of those connected to Gin, but I’m not sure if I’m ready to leave Gin and Roman behind just yet. I will be rereading this book many times over.

Romance Interlude 2.10


Give Love a Chai (2021)
by Nanxi Wen
ASN/ISBN: B08NS6V82S
Publication: March 18, 2021
Goodreads Summary
Series: Common Threads #2

One liner: Tia needs to divorce her husband before she can get married to her fiance.

The book started off rather interestingly with Tia in her car trying to gather the courage to serve her husband with divorce papers…again. She didn’t realize she was still married when she accepted her boyfriend’s proposal. I has hooked pretty quickly from there but it didn’t pan out to be the romance I expected. It’s established immediately that even after 10 years, both Tia and Andrew still have feelings for one another but they’ve forged different paths. The book hit so many right notes for me and yet I felt a bit distant from their relationship, like the emotional aspect of it that would make me root for them was missing. Additionally, it didn’t make sense to me that the only emotion they seemed to display was desire for each other and the pain and anger were muted. They should have been pissed some of the time rather than just still feeling like they were still in love….even if they were supposed to be. There were things thrown in at the end that were unnecessary, so I had to drop a star.


Choose Me: A Small Town Romance (2021)
by Leah Busboom
ASN/ISBN: B093MPLQBZ
Publication: May 16, 2021
Goodreads Summary
Series: Connor Brothers Book 9

One liner: Austin decides he wants to date someone he normally wouldn’t so he decides to pursue Luci, a software engineer who took his ski course.

It started out as a cute opposites attract novel with non-athletic software engineer Luci taking a ski class from trainer, ski instructor, and rock climbing instructor Austin. Austin ultimately makes the first move and before long they’re dating. Before long, he’s pretty sure she’s the one. Before long, her parents object. And before long…well, the clichés pile up and make this one a pretty forgettable book. I actually forgot I read it even though I finished it not too long ago.


Love’s Defense
by Laura Marquez Diamond
ASN/ISBN: B092SZLNFS
Publication: April 16, 2021
Series: The Thrasher Series #2
Goodreads Summary

One liner: Daniel is attracted to Stella, his dog’s new vet, but different obstacles stand in their way.

The book started off interesting but for a somewhat short book at just under 200 pages, it packs in a little too much from Stella’s fear of starting a new relationship to Daniel’s complicated family. I would have liked it to stick to one main plot and have the subplots take up less space. The dialogue also gets a bit cringey at times. The book was okay the first time around but I don’t know if I could reread it in full again.

Six Crimson Cranes (2021)

by Elizabeth Lim
ASIN/ISBN:  9780593300930
Publication: June 6, 2021
Series: Six Crimson Cranes #1

**I was provided a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.** (Loved it so much I had to purchase a copy though…just saying)

Six Crimson Cranes is a retelling of The Wild Swans that incorporates other legends such as Chang E the Moon Goddess and Madame White Snake. It reads as magical as a fairy tale with a princess, a kingdom in peril, and the deceptions of a stepmother. Lim’s descriptive prose, from the rendering of lush landscapes to the decadent food, immediately transported me to Kiata. I’ve always appreciated this nearly dreamlike quality that accompanies Lim’s novels that make them so enchanting.

After discovering her stepmother’s true identity, Shiori’s brothers are cursed and turned into cranes while she is forced to remain silent about their conditions lest she kills a brother with each word she speaks. Shiori begins as a headstrong troublemaker, used to being indulged by the family and getting her way. The curse forces her to be more thoughtful toward others while still retaining her headstrong tendencies. I appreciated that she didn’t completely transform into someone new because I liked her curious nature and willingness to stand her ground.

The sibling dynamics is another element I enjoyed. Despite their duties forcing them to spend most of their time apart, Shiori and her brothers all love one another dearly. There isn’t as much one-on-one time between her and each brother, but it’s easily discernible that her relationship with each is different, but she is cherished among all her brothers. (Being the youngest and the only girl can be so hard…hehehe.)The curse reinforces how much they love one another as they search for one another and work together to break the curse. 

The romance is both expected and unexpected. I couldn’t help but smile at the direction the book takes in terms of love interests. It’s gradual, beginning soft and subtly, seemingly not like much until a few key lines made me swoon. The book hints at a potential love triangle, and I’m hoping if that becomes the case in the next book, it is short-lived. I dislike love triangles a lot.

Lim includes a letter at the beginning noting the different tales she includes in the book. I grew up with similar tales and also watched some as wuxia movies. Familiarity with the stories does not take away from enjoying the book nor should being unfamiliar with the tales. Lim creatively weaves them effortlessly into each other, although there are a few times when just a bit too much was going on. It was fun identifying details from the various stories as well as trying to figure out how different parts would play out in the novel. Although more still needs to be done, the increase in diverse books creates positive opportunities like this one, allowing readers to not only see themselves in the books they read but also the stories they grew up with. Six Crimson Cranes is now my favorite of Lim’s novels.