We Hunt the Flame (2019)

by Hafsah Faizal
ASIN/ISBN: 9780374311544
Publication: May 14, 2019
Series: Sands of Arawiya #1

To feed her village, Zafira dons the cloak of the Hunter to bring back meat from the Arz, a forest that ensnares all those who enter it…but Zafira returns time and again. Nasir is the Sultan’s assassin, loyally killing by request to gain his father’s approval and to protect those he pretends not to care about. Their paths cross when Zafira is tasked with retrieving a magical object to return magic to Arawiya and Nasir is sent to retrieve it from her.

It took a few false starts before I was finally able to get past the first chapter. The first part of the book is an introduction to our characters and Arawiya. Faizal creates a complex world, providing tales of its creation as well as background on events that led to the current state of the land. It was a bit slow for me but quickly picked up when Zafira sets out to retrieve the magical object. In the second half, as the search begins, the book becomes a lot more interesting; this is where all the fun starts. I couldn’t put it down after that.

Amidst the battle between good and evil is the struggle over one’s identity, and this was the more interesting fight (although not as exciting). Zafira and Nasir both have deeply held fears of not being accepted for who they are. Zafira pretends to be a hunter because she cares for her people but her good deeds wouldn’t be enough to save her if it is discovered that she is a woman. Nasir has not known love since his mother’s death. He’s been corrupted by his father who instilled in him that compassion and love are weaknesses that can only hurt him, so he hides them instead. Nassir isn’t necessarily looking for redemption as much as he is seeking acceptance for who he has become. In donning these disguises for the world, Zafira and Nasir also begin to lose parts of themselves. The journey to find the magical object presents both of them with the opportunity to choose who they want to be. Is it the disguise they wear or is it who lies underneath? Or, can they be both?

I enjoyed the novel. With the loss that many of the characters already faced, Faizal was able to beautifully capture the emotions associated with those losses into words, at times making it feel like she put my own feelings of loss onto the page as well. I found Zafira to be an admirable individual, and I really wanted to give Nasir a hug–someone, the man needs a hug! I look forward to We Free the Stars, which will be released on January 19, 2021. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping it will be similar to the last half of We Hunt the Flame.

Romance Interlude 1.6

With the holiday season here, this one is a Christmas edition. This might be blasphemous but I’m enjoying these a lot more than the Christmas movies that have been churning out. Obviously they’re a lot steamier but I swear that isn’t the reason why I’m enjoying these more. Hahaha. For some reason Hallmark and Netflix movies have not been hitting the mark for me lately.

Please share any holiday reads you enjoyed or are hoping to read! I’m trying to really sink my teeth into more holiday reads to get into the spirit of the month.


Exes and Ho Ho Ho’s (2018)
by Pippa Grant
ASIN: B078YWF7TM
Publication: January 11, 2018
Goodreads Summary

One Liner: Man unexpectedly meets the one he let get away and refuses to let it happen a second time.

This is a Pippa Grant novel in warp speed. It starts off with a woman forced to dress as a Santa and it’s pretty hilarious. It has her signature humor and romance. I needed this to be a lot longer! A little more angst, some more groveling…and, y’know, 300 more pages to make it a full-length novel would have made this an even better read. It was a fun read!


A Very Bossy Christmas (2020)
by Kayley Loring
ISBN: 9798697547427
Publication: October 21, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: No official series name but a related book is coming out for Valentine’s Day

One liner: Boss asks administrative assistant to pretend to be his fake girlfriend over the holidays.

The book is relatively short at around 250 pages but this works well in its favor. There is no fluffing around, and the story takes off fairly quick. I loved the banter between Declan and Maddie. Declan can come off egotistical and some of the stuff he says are turn offs, but he is actually a bit insecure. He has it pretty bad for Maddie, and Maddie finds him just as attractive. There’s a surprise third narrator and those were probably my favorite chapters. This was another fun read for the holidays!


Charm School Christmas Karma (2019)
by Lynn Carmer
ASIN: B0819GF464
Publication: November 19, 2019
Goodreads Summary
Series: Charm School #4.5

One liner: Artist accidentally bids on and wins a date with the officer who has a giant crush on her.

This was a cute one and funny as well. Sebastian Jacobs has an enormous crush on Ai Zhao, who pretends to be resistant to his charms. He’s been trying to wear her down, and she refuses to let anyone know that it’s working. Ha! They have great chemistry and Sebastian is a sweetheart who really doesn’t want to miss his shot with her.


His Christmas Cinderella (2019)
by Kate Willoughby
ASIN: B081VCPS75
Publication: November 21, 2019
Goodreads Summary
Series: San Francisco Dragons #3

One Liner: Cable car conductor on the way to a work party gets mistaken by hockey player as an Uber driver.

Storytime!! One of the first times I used a ride share, I mistakenly thought someone was my Uber driver so the setup here is at least somewhat believable. He politely informed me he was not my driver and I was able to get into the right car right after laughing off my embarrassment. BUT…wouldn’t it have been such a great story to tell if my mistaken driver had been a hot hockey player who pretended to be my Uber driver because he thought I was hot and I was going to be his forever? Hahaha. Have I read too many romance novels? Probably.

This one is short and sweet. In a span of 68 pages, Willoughby manages to create believable chemistry between leads Bailey Peng and Gideon Aguilar. I was completely all aboard this…train (indulge me here). Willoughby notes that a full-length novel may be coming for this couple so I’m excited to see what happens next.


My Fake Christmas Fiance (2020)
by Julie Kriss
ASIN: B08GJVJLTT
Publication: October 22, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: Kane Christmas #1

One liner: Company merger also requires a merger between the families involved–the kids have to get married to each other by Christmas.

This one has Hallmark vibes with the merging of two Christmas companies and the understanding that the merger will only stand if Wes and Sophie get married by Christmas. Sophie is nerdy and Wes is a player and they’re both looking for ways to get out of the arrangement, but they have chemistry and are attracted to one another when they meet again. The emails back and forth at the beginning were cringey but then I was hooked when they met one another. Wes ends up being a better guy than expected.



Romance Interlude 1.5

More high school/college romances with ample chemistry between the characters. I’ve found books by Tijan and L.J. Shen to be extra steamy (like…my glasses are fogged up from the words on this page) and infused with a lot of chemistry between the leads. Sometimes I like the male love interest and other times I’m not a fan. With the exception of Enemies, I wasn’t too big a fan of the male leads in this set of books.


Rich Prick (2020)
by Tijan
ISBN: 9781951771485
Publication: June 15, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: N/A but there are crossovers from other series by author


One liner: Bad boy falls for shy girl who has a crush on him.

Aspen is shy and used to being alone. She has a crush on Blaise, who is her complete opposite. Yes, he’s the rich prick the book is named after. Despite not being a fan of Blaise’s personality, I ended up liking it because Aspen and Blaise had so much chemistry with one another. While a complete a-hole to the other people around him, he at least managed to treat her well and they pushed one another to be better. Although it’s entitled a sports romance, sports is not a very large part of the book until the end. (Content warning: It’s not mentioned in the summary but there is mention of domestic abuse and child abuse.)

Enemies (2019)
by Tijan
ISBN: 9781951771096
Publication: December 1, 2019
Goodreads Summary
Series: N/A

One liner: Professional football player comes to aid of childhood friend (present day enemies) after tragedy strikes.

Dusty is head strong and works hard at trying to keep to herself. Stone is actually a pretty good guy despite our very first impression of him from Dusty’s perspective. He’s not an alpha jerk male so I was happy about that. (Hallelujah!) This was a good read and it was feels-inducing especially when tragedy hits. (Content warning: It’s not mentioned in the summary but rape is alluded to at the very beginning of the book and mentioned at the end.)


Playing with Fire (2020)
by L.J. Shen
ISBN: 9798680019214
Publication: September 15, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: N/A

One liner: Moody and destructive boy is drawn to the girl who tries to keep to herself because of her outward appearance.

Grace and West are individuals with tragic pasts that continue to haunt their present. With his anger issues and short-temper, I wasn’t a big fan of West. He was sweet to Grace and went to great lengths to protect her, but I still wasn’t quite sold on him. She isn’t exactly the meek person people think she is despite her willingness to allow people to make fun of her. Because of her scars, she tries to remain invisible. Grace is a resilient individual who speaks her mind but only those who know her get to see this side of her. I liked Grace, and as much as I wasn’t keen on West, I liked how he pushed her to ask more from life and to stop hiding.

Romance Interlude 1.4


Not My Romeo (2020)
by Isla Madden-Mills
ISBN: 9781542021883
Publication: August 18, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: The Game Changers #1

One liner: A case of mistaken identity leads to romance between a librarian and professional quarterback.

Elena mistakes Jack for the weatherman she is supposed to meet on a blind date and Jack doesn’t correct her. She’s unaware of the mix-up because she doesn’t pay attention to sports, and she also doesn’t seem to watch the news. This is especially plausible with the variety of outlets we can use to avoid all these things. The rest of the book remains as entertaining as Elena signing the NDA as Juliet Capulet. I enjoyed the book a lot and there was very little downtime. I would definitely recommend Not My Romeo.


A Lie for A Lie (2019)
by Helena Hunting
ISBN: 9781542015356
Publication: October 15, 2019
Goodreads Summary
Series: All In #1

One liner: Hockey team captain and graduate student unexpectedly meet again in Chicago after an unplanned tryst in Alaska.

The book starts of interesting with Rook and Lainey meeting on a plane, both on their way to Kodiak Island in Alaska. Somewhat isolated on the island, they give in to their attraction but Rook gets called away before too long. What happens on the island is probably the best part of the book. It’s after their accidental meeting in Chicago where the book begins to lose a bit of steam and starts jumping around. A lot of things happen in the last quarter of the book that should have been spaced out a lot more. While it was initially good, the ending was a bit disappointing because so many things happened when the book was wrapping up.


Pucked (2015)
by Helena Hunting
ISBN: 9780993800139
Publication: May 3, 2015
Goodreads Summary
Series: Pucked #1

One liner: Team captain has a one-night stand with new teammate’s sister and tries to pursue a relationship with her.

I liked how Hunting wrote Violet to be both loud and sexually comfortable with herself. She was refreshing as a main character. Her relationship with her step-brother was pretty endearing despite neither being touchy-feely. It was clear they were close even though neither particularly liked to express how much they cared about one another. It kind of bothered me a bit that Violet made these snarky comments about how not-so-smart her step-brother was, especially when he was super protective of her. While I liked reading Pucked, once things were resolved, it went on for a chapter or two too long. I felt the additional pages weren’t necessary and affected the overall experience so I had to drop 1/2 a star. Also, All In is apparently a spin-off from the Pucked series but I read A Lie for A Lie first.

Romance Interlude 1.3

I am thankful for…college campus romances. There are so many of them out there, and I am not complaining. So many are sports themed! And again, I’m not complaining. I am not athletically-gifted but I sure am glad there are romantic leads who are.


The Deal (2015)
by Elle Kennedy
ISBN: 9781775293934
Publication: February 24, 2015
Goodreads Summary
Series: Off-Campus #1

One liner: Hockey player asks music major to help tutor him in exchange for getting her crush to notice her.

I read this back in August and enjoyed it. I didn’t realize just how much I liked it until I found myself rereading my favorite parts throughout summer and into fall, even rereading the entire book more recently. Garrett ended up being this really sweet guy and I liked Hannah a lot. It was fun to see Garrett fall over his feet for this girl who didn’t really care who he was. I liked her immunity to Garrett’s charm…until she wasn’t. (I mean, a girl can only take so much swooniness.) There are several subplots but they do not take away from our central couple, instead enhancing the relationship. (Content Warning: The characters share their personal experiences with rape and abuse. A minor character we meet closer to the end is also in an abusive relationship. I didn’t expect this so it was a bit jarring at first.)


The Setup (2020)
by Meghan Quinn
ISBN: 9798684487699
Publication: September 10, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: Baseball Romances

One liner: Meddling moms set up their college-aged kids who are both athletes at the same university.

The book started out really good. Initially irritated with his mom, Lincoln becomes more enamored with Indie the longer he hangs out with her. Indie, on the other hand, remains insistent about not starting a relationship and concentrating on soccer despite their mutual attraction. That’s also why they seem perfect for each other–they’re both focused on their athletic careers. I loved Lincoln and as much as I liked Indie, I could not get past how unhealthy she was for him. I also disliked the multiple time jumps at the end of the novel. This is a book that I would have given a higher rating but aspects of Indie’s character and the ending just wouldn’t allow me to give it. (Just thinking about it is sort of bringing my mood down. I liked the beginning so much.)

**Quick note: I Hate You and I Promise You don’t seem to fall into an official series but both take place at the same university with leads that show up in the other’s book. They can be read as stand-alone but just know you’ll see cross-appearances.


I Hate You (2019)
by Ilsa Madden-Mills
ISBN: 9781085802116
Publication: August 20, 2019
Goodreads Summary
Series: N/A **

One liner: After a public break-up, exes realize they aren’t over each other.

While I enjoyed it when I was reading it, I couldn’t remember much of it after. I needed to skim it again to recall what happened, which isn’t really a good thing especially since I read it so recently. Despite liking each other, Blaze and Charisma are commitment phobic. This gets revealed as we learn more about them on their way back to each other, going from lovers to enemies to friends to lovers again. The book was good but I’m not sure this is one I would read again. It had its moments but nothing that made my heart ZING!!! I do like Madden-Mills’s writing and will likely be reading more from her (obviously…see book below…hehehe).


I Promise You (2020)
by Ilsa Madden-Mills
ISBN: 9798694398961
Publication Date: October 8, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: N/A **

One-liner: Quarterback finally finds the girl he’s been searching for since freshman year but neither makes a good second impression on the other.

I liked that Dillon wasn’t necessarily this smooth talking playboy, although he is most definitely a playboy. When he finally meets Serena again after three long years, he’s pretty much all in but still gives her space to figure out if this is what she wants. I’m happy to announce he is not an alpha male that grunts and pulls Serena every which way he pleases. (Woohoo!) Serena’s still getting over a bad breakup and is hesitant to get into a relationship. Her quirk is that she spouts random facts–I know more about Oreos than I ever really wanted to know. As her Nana says, “it grows on you.” I can’t say the book left me with zings but it was an entertaining read that helped passed the time.

Romance Interlude 1.2

This was an unplanned “heart eyes-sending so much love-squee!” books by Pippa Grant post. This was especially fun with quirky characters and unexpected crushes (on my part…hahaha). If you’re looking for rom-coms with ridiculousness-infused plots that will make people stare at you for laughing a tad too loudly, Pippa Grant novels should be on your list. While these can be read as stand-alone, which is how I read them, you will see recurring characters here and there.


Real Fake Love (2020)
by Pippa Grant
ISBN: 9781940517865
Publication: September 3, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: Copper Valley Fireballs #2

One liner: Woman asks ex-fiance’s friend to teach her how to not fall in love but things backfire.

This is my first book by Pippa Grant, and I did not know what I was getting myself into. It is ridiculously funny! I had to reread the beginning just to make sure I didn’t accidentally skip a few pages because I had to ask myself a few times “did this really just happen?” I liked Henri a lot because she is a book geek and in love with being in love. She is quirky and full of heart. Luca is prickly at first but when Henri starts breaking through his exterior, you get to learn a lot about why he hates love. It’s an opposites attract, fake dating novel that had my heart fluttering at the end. Unfortunately, I think this also set the bar and I couldn’t help comparing the subsequent books I ready by Grant.


America’s Geekheart (2019)
by Pippa Grant
ISBN: 9781940517506
Publication: March 31, 2019
Goodreads Summary
Series: Bro Code #2

One liner: A misogynistic tweet to the wrong person leads to fake dating but real falling in love.

What can I say? I couldn’t help searching for more by Pippa Grant. The book is almost as entertaining as Real Fake Love but I found it slower-paced. The breakout character for me here is Beck Ryder who falls pretty quickly for Sarah Dempsey, our geeky environmental engineer. If I could choose a character who would be my best friend to fall in love with, I would choose him. We’d obviously already be best friends already because he is goofy. We would have so much fun together. More importantly, he’d love me for me because that’s how he loved Sarah…except it would be me. (Yup, he was my unexpected crush. Yup, I know this was supposed to be a review but I couldn’t help turn it into how he and I would be great together. Hahaha.) I cannot gush about this book without also mentioning how I also loved the references to Firefly and Serenity. This is another opposites attract, fake dating novel and my eyes couldn’t keep from shooting hearts at Beck. Sarah is great but read this one for Beck.


Hosed (2019)
by Pippa Grant & Lili Valente
ISBN: 9781940517506
Publication: March 31, 2019
Goodreads Summary
Series: Happy Cat #1

One liner: Game developer returns home to give her sister a much needed break and meets the boy–now a firefighter–who broke her heart in high school.

I never could have imagined I would be reading about dildo football and arson at a sex toy company. This wasn’t as fun to read as Real Fake Love (and at this point, what book will be?) but the romance is nearly as sizzling and Ryan the firefighter is right up there with the rest of Grant’s male leads in his swooniness. Cassie is nerdy and just a bit awkward–I liked her.


Rockaway Bride (2018)
by Pippa Grant
ISBN: 9781940517384
Publication: June 29, 2018
Goodreads Summary
Series: The Girl Band Books #3

One liner: Rockstar kidnaps bride of the person who stole his money but gets more than he bargained for when she takes him hostage instead.

Growing up poor and raised by a single mother, Willow always ensures her mother doesn’t worry about her, choosing to live against her more daring nature. It takes Dax kidnapping her, if you could really even call it that after their roles somewhat quickly switch, to push her to embrace her true nature. I liked Willow. She was funny and genuinely kind but by no means a prude. It’s clear that she cares about the people around her. Willow’s journey resonated with me–I was even teary at a few points–because it’s about living life the way you want to, embracing who you are rather than hiding from it, and not letting people–even those you love and love you–hold you back from who are…or maybe in this case not holding yourself back for them. Also, I was wrong earlier. I think this one rivals my love for Real Fake Love, except for the ending being a bit drawn out. I laughed a lot, almost as much as with Real Fake Love.

Romance Interlude 1.1

I read romance novels like how I breathe, inhaling them for my survival. As noted in a prior post, I like the guaranteed HEA and the zings that come when our romantic leads fall in love. Romance novels also serve as a bit of a palate cleanser when I find myself in a book coma after reading my other favorites, SFF novels.

I often read several romantic titles in a week and haven’t been able to properly provide much feedback other than ratings or noting them as “read,” so decided wrap ups (when possible) might be helpful. These will be mini-reviews of books that might have made me swoon or made me shake my fists in the air and everything else in between. Be forewarned, these will probably be more gushing or griping–reactionary and maybe less review-y. I do promise to try to remain as sensical as possible.

This inaugural post is filled with bad boys, some more likeable than others.


Rock Strong (2015)
by Virna DePaul
ISBN: 9781947419629
Publication: June 22, 2015
Goodreads Summary
Series: Rock Candy #2

One Liner: Music school graduate and bad boy frontman fall for each other.

One of my favorite tropes is when opposites attract. Liam Collier is immediately attracted to the band’s cellist Abby Chan who is “different from the other girls.” (I know, I know…this one can be an *eye roll* sometimes.) He immediately tries wooing her but keeps screwing up even when he gets the girl–which pissed me off but made for good groveling. While I liked Abby, Liam only had moments–sometimes he was sweet and other times I didn’t understand what Abby saw in him. I connected with Abby’s character and didn’t mind Liam’s groveling too much. The more I think about it, the more I waver between a 3 and 4 so 3.5 it is–I really dislike Liam’s behavior. (Content warning: Cheating but it’s not over the top. I hate cheating and would likely have stayed away if I knew ahead of time.)


Sing to Me (2019)
by Ketley Allison
ISBN: 9781706902706
Publication: November 14, 2019
Goodreads Summary
Series:

One Liner: Rockstar hires new nanny and fights their mutual attraction.

I’m a sucker for kids and single fathers. I immediately liked Harper (the new nanny). She made such a great first impression on me and on Rex–late for the interview and soaking wet from the rain while still unafraid to go up against a scowling potential employer who tries questioning her abilities. Rex loves his daughter a lot, which always makes my knees go weak. Rex was immediately physically attracted to her and tried fighting his attraction (well, they both do) but I would have liked some more development before he jumped into it especially because of his reasons for needing a new nanny. I liked Harper’s backstory and found it unique among the romance novels I’ve read this year. (I haven’t read very much so it might not be that unique but just my first brush with it.) Rex’s life is complicated but he sure knows how to make grand gestures.


Riot House (2020)
by Callie Hart
ISBN: 9798639801532
Publication Date: April 29, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: Crooked Sinners #1

One Liner: Campus bad boy makes claim on new girl but ends up falling for her.

I can see why it’s rated highly by readers, and I can also understand why many reviews gush about how good the book is…(here it comes) BUT I couldn’t stand male protagonist Wren Jacobi. He was supposed to be this mysterious, brooding (maybe even misunderstood?) individual. In the beginning, I didn’t mind but then it just kept going on and on. I got so irritated with his attitude that I couldn’t take it anymore. For some reason, Elodie Stillwater couldn’t help but be attracted to him. I have no idea why because he is such a d*ck. (Yup, I had to go there.) The best part of the book was the end (certainly not because it finally ended–I’m not being sarcastic either). I wish this subplot had been a larger focus of the book. I would have probably enjoyed it more. Despite my dislike of the male lead, it is well-written and I will probably pick up something from Hart again.

Coming Up Roses (2019)

by Staci Hart
ISBN: 9781082579479
Publication: August 1, 2019
Series: Bennet Brothers #1


I’m an Austen fan so you’ll probably see Austen-related titles here and there. If you’re a Pride and Prejudice fan, you may want to check out Hart’s Bennet Brothers series.  This isn’t a retelling of P&P—that’s a separate book called Pride and Papercuts—but a contemporary reimagining of the Bennet sisters as brothers, flipping genders with the exception of Elizabeth (Laney in the series).  Luke returns home after a whirlwind marriage and divorce to help revive the family business, Longbourne Flower Shop.  Luke is Lydia’s male counterpart, and this is the story of Lydia after her divorce to Wickham. 

Hart manages to remain true to Lydia’s original character.  Luke is fun, flirtatious, popular among the opposite sex, and a bit insufferable. (Sounds like Lydia, right?) Similar to Lydia, Luke is fickle in his emotions and jumps headfirst into situations without really thinking things through.  Luke is steady in his devotion once he realizes what or who he wants, and it could be argued that Lydia also has this quality—she did fall for Wickham and commit to him.  Luke puts his energy into winning over Tess, an employee of the flower shop and a former friend—yes, this is an enemies to lovers story. Unlike Lydia, Luke can recognize his foolishness and is more than willing to try to fix his wrongdoings. Luke is a more mature Lydia.

Luke is more likable than Lydia will ever be, but I never quite rooted for him—he was just okay. I would have liked a lot more bantering between Luke and Tess to build their chemistry with each other. It started to lose a bit of steam once our lead characters got together (this is both a spoiler and not a spoiler because it is a romance novel after all). I think what did it for me was that the problem that arises between our leads and its resolution is predictable.  

This is an interesting take on P&P, giving life to the other sisters, or brothers in this case. I liked the premise of the series but didn’t find this particular story to be compelling.  I liked it enough to finish reading it but it wasn’t a page-turner. If you’re a P&P fan, it is an acceptable book to pass the time, to see Hart’s take on Lydia and how Lydia potentially matures, but you’re not missing much if you pass it up.