The Heiress Gets A Duke (2021)

by Harper St. George
ASIN/ISBN: 9780593197202
Publication: January 26, 2021
Series: The Gilded Age Heiresses #1

Evan Sterling is the Duke of Rothschild. Along with the new title, he also inherited his father’s debt. To fix his estate and settle his debts, he will need to wed an heiress. Luckily for him, his mother has found him the perfect duchess, Violet Crenshaw. However, it isn’t Violet he wants but her older sister August. Knowing her sister is unwilling to go through with the betrothal, August sets out to rid Evan of the notion while unaware that he has his eyes set on her.

The first half is by far my favorite as the chase between Evan and August ensues, and passion sparks between them. In the second half, the book slows down a bit to provide an opportunity for August and Evan to better connect–it does drag a bit in the middle. August begins to realize she is not immune to what she believed in other girls to be the silliness of love, and Evan realizes he’s never wanted a wife until August. They are well-matched.  August is unlike many women of her time: business savvy, an independent thinker, and unafraid to speak her mind. One of my favorite parts is when she introduces herself to Evan and extends her hand for a handshake rather than offering it to him palm down for a kiss.

Evan was more, and better, than I expected. He is a pretty face with a fancy title, but he also loves a challenge, especially the one he finds in August. His dire financial needs are reason enough to bypass her wishes against an arranged marriage, but he respects her and wants her to want him too. I fell for him when he was adamant that he had no desire to change her and fully supported her endeavors. Evan and August are two characters who complement each other well. Their views are certainly ahead of their times, at least regarding the role of women.

While I did not particularly like Mr. and Mrs. Crenshaw, the love between siblings August, Violet, and Maxwell was a highlight. It’s nearly enough for me to want to read the next two books. It was refreshing to have Violet and August get along so well, both confiding and supporting each other when the suggestion of a betrothal is made. Maxwell’s role here is minor, but he made me believe in brotherly affection in historical romances again. He doesn’t just protect his sisters but value them beyond what their marriages could afford the family. Their affection for each other is clear, especially as they band together against the arranged marriages. I love when siblings all love each other.

The plot was simple with its focus on August’s attempts to dissuade Evan from pursuing a betrothal. At times it was repetitive with her constant refusal, but I thoroughly enjoyed the book with much of it due to the chemistry between August and Evan. It was well on its way to a 4-star review when the third act inserted unnecessary obstacles. Even as it appeared, I was still holding out for an ending that would make my heart explode, but instead, it fizzled, right along with that 4th star. I was disappointed in the HEA I got when I was hoping for passion and groveling. The book held so much promise, but I was left unsatisfied.

Heart & Seoul (2021)

by Jen Frederick
ASN/ISBN: 9780593100141
Publication: May 25, 2021
Series: Seoul Series #1

**I received a copy of the book from the author and publisher through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Growing up and wishing she looked like those around her, Korean adoptee Hara Wilson is very much removed from her Korean culture despite her mother Ellen often trying to engage her with it when she was younger. After the death of her adoptive father, she surprises even herself when she decides she wants to visit Korea. On the search for her biological parents, Hara also finds an unexpected romance along with messier than expected familial ties.

I like Frederick’s novels for tugging at my emotions and for the most part, the book does this. The beginning especially struck a chord with me as Hara related her relationship with her adoptive father and lacking a sense of belonging in a place she says likely “doubled the Asian population when her mom adopted her.” I cannot identify with Hara’s experience as an adoptee, I can only try to understand her story and this ended up often being through the lenses of being perceived as “other” while growing up Asian in a predominantly white community. In some ways, I could empathize with wishing to look more like those around her and pushing aside her culture. This aspect of the book was particularly well done, making the impetus for Hara’s trip to Korea a believable one when her search for identity is a greater pull than she realizes.

Like in her other novels, Frederick gives us a smart and strong protagonist in Hara Wilson. Her introspection throughout the novel displays growth, from being someone who particularly keeps to herself to becoming more vocal about who she is and what she wants. The question of her “Koreanness” was particularly thought provoking, although it left me unsettled at the amount of times her identity was questioned. It was interesting to see the answer evolve and the answer Hara chooses to accept as her own.

The heart and soul (heh…) of the book is Hara’s search for her identity. I wish the book had kept to this theme. Surprisingly, I could have done without the romance subplot–this is coming from someone who loves romance in just about everything. I could have also done without the additional drama that overpowers Hara’s overall journey toward the end of the novel. When the book took a turn for the dramatic and started to feel more like a Korean drama, my interest in it wavered and I enjoyed it less–this is also coming from someone who adores her Korean dramas.

The author’s acknowledgment was especially poignant to me, explaining that this story is just one narrative and not necessarily representative of every adoptee’s story. I hope that when reading this, and other books as well, readers take this into consideration. While there may be overlapping themes, remember that we each also have our own narratives.

Heart & Seoul is a good book, but those expecting a full blown romance might be disappointed as well as those who are expecting more soul searching. On the other hand, readers who like Korean dramas in their books may enjoy Heart & Seoul.

**I was excited to see the mention of Korean drama Signal (2016). It’s one of my favorite Korean dramas. It’s a mash of the movie Frequency and the television series Cold Case. It’s on Netflix but you can also find recaps at Dramabeans. It’s such a good drama and I needed to mention it.**

Happy Endings (2021)

by Thien-Kim Lam
ASN/ISBN: 9780063040847
Publication: May 18, 2021

**I received a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Trixie is an independent sales rep for an adult toy company but has hopes to open her own boutique. While hosting a bridal party in a friend’s restaurant, she runs into her ex Andre. Not only is he bartending the event, but he also happens to be co-owner of the restaurant. Although still on bad terms, Trixie and Andre both decide it is in their best interest to team up to continue holding joint pop-up events. She needs to be the top seller to win a $10,000 prize to open up her boutique, and he needs to make more money to help the restaurant get out of the red.

Despite my conflicting feelings about second chance romances, I couldn’t stop myself from reading Happy Endings.  The storyline sounded interesting, and there was a diverse set of characters. Trixie is Vietnamese American and originally from New Orleans, but she is now living in DC. Her best friends–the Boss Babes–are strong, independent women from diverse backgrounds. Andre is Black, and those he includes in his family circle are the aunties and uncles he grew up around. They’re a diverse bunch as well. And the food…I loved the mention of food from pho to collard greens to kimchi. Additionally, the book is sex-positive. Trixie not only loves what she does, but she also teaches sex education classes.

While I gravitated toward the book for the biracial romance and the promise of diversity, I was extremely frustrated with the central conflict that led to Trixie and Andre’s past break up. It’s one of my most despised tropes. When the multiple reasons for their breakup come to light, it still didn’t help temper my feelings because communication is key. It was severely missing from their relationship in multiple ways. Groveling would have helped a lot to bring me around to liking Andre but, alas, there was hardly any of it. Additionally, there were several things he did that led me to believe the two of them getting back together was not the best outcome.

I wished the writing had been more descriptive to evoke the images of such a beloved neighborhood or the aroma and taste of the delicious food Andre concocted. This also extends to the feelings Andre and Trixie had for one another. I never felt the emotions as much as was told about them.  I might have been more open to the second chance had the writing evoked a sense of longing between the characters to support them getting back together, which would have helped push my niggling doubts aside. Additionally, the book is a fair length but felt long-winded at times. There was a lot to like about the book, but the delivery fell flat.

Hot Heir (2018)

by Pippa Grant
ASIN/ISBN: B07GBC345Z
Publication: August 31, 2018
Series: The Royals #3

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Cover Design: Lori Jackson
Photo: Wander Aguiar


DESCRIPTION

If I’d known he had dimples, I never would’ve agreed to marry him.

Some people are born for parenthood.

Not me.

But I’m about to get it anyway, since there’s no one else who can take care of my wild child baby sister. I’m supposed to be spending my days running a flight adventure company with my best friend, but instead, I’m inadvertently getting myself into trouble, just trying to do the right thing and keep her out of trouble, to the point that it’s clear I cannot do this on my own.

But who else would want to help us?

Turns out, my biggest enemy.

Mr. Tall, Dark, and Cranky just inherited a country, but in order for Amoria to crown him as King—you know, that job they give to people with no more demanding qualifications than flared nostrils, proper manners, and a taste for crumpets—he needs a wife. Now. Obviously the only person he would ask is as irresistible (and desperate) as me.

And I see no better way to prove I’m ready to take care of my sister than to wear the crown of a queen. No one’s ever found fault with royalty, and hey, the job comes with round-the-clock security.

Except in return for helping save my sister, Mr. I’m-Not-Sure-You’re-Even-A-Real-Prince Viktor tells me he needs the teeniest, tiniest favor. You see, he doesn’t just need help saving his crown. He needs help saving his country.

Remember when I said no one ever found fault with royalty? Try asking that question after you see your frazzled face under the front-page headline of a small country’s leading gossip mag…

Hot Heir is a romping fun marriage of convenience romance between a surprise heir and a southern hot mess, complete with the bedroom to end all bedrooms, a run-down alpaca, and that thing with the hot air balloon. This romantic comedy stands alone with no cheating or cliffhangers and ends with a royally awesome happily ever after.

EXCERPT

Taking a bullet or a knife, I can do.

But soothing a terrified, sobbing, otherwise competent woman is not something I’ve often—ever—accomplished successfully, nor have I ever found myself in many situations in which it was necessary.

I stroke her back, and gradually, they both cry themselves out.

Which is good, because seeing a chink in Peach’s armor is bloody terrifying.

“Papaya,” she says, her voice thick and wobbly, “you’re on kitchen duty for the next four weeks.”

What?”

“And if you get fired by the chef, you’ll be on maid duty. And if you get fired by the maids, you’ll be shoveling shit in the stables. And you don’t get to see Fred until your chores are done.”

I suck in a surprised breath.

Papaya gasps. “You can’t do that.”

“And if you don’t show up for kitchen duty, you won’t be going to Joey’s wedding next weekend.” She swipes at her eyes, which silences any objections I might have to keeping track of Papaya whilst Peach is away for a week. “You scared the ever-loving patootles out of me. I thought you were kidnapped. And instead, you’re here, spooking the daylights out of these poor guards who were trained on an invalid king who couldn’t even get out of his own bed to pee.”

Ah. I’m beginning to see from whom Papaya gets her creativity.

And it hasn’t escaped my notice that Peach is still leaning on me.

My knees are going quite numb from squatting, but I could crouch here for hours if that was what was required to make her feel better.

“You have two choices.” Her voice is growing steadier, more Peach-like. “You do your punishment, and we’ll find you a better outlet for all your creative energy, or we’re going to have one hell of a rough year.”

Papaya scowls. Her tears have also left her. “I don’t like those choices.”

“They’re what you’ve got.”

“I want to go home and live with my daddy.”

Peach’s entire body goes so rigid, I have to stop myself from grabbing Papaya and dangling her by the ankle for being such an ungrateful arse.

“He lost the privilege to keep you.” Peach’s voice wobbles again. “Meemaw and me and Viktor and Alexander and Samuel are what you’ve got.”

An emotion I cannot name blooms in my chest, swells into my throat, and renders me momentarily tongue-tied.

She’s just claimed us all as family.

“Get up. I want that armor shined and sparkling before it goes back where it belongs in the tower study, and don’t you dare give me any lip, or you’ll be shining and sparkling every single suit of armor in this whole entire castle if you so much as think at me wrong.”

I swallow hard, wishing my own voice were not so much more husky than I intend it to be. It seems emotions are going around. “I believe there are fifty more stored in the dungeons, my lady.”

My shirt is damp and cold where the tears from Peach’s cheek have soaked through, I’ve nearly watched a teenage girl outwit and terrify an entire team of guards who were quite ready to maim, if not outright kill her, and I’m playing parent for the first time in my life.

Being a team.

With Peach.

It’s disconcerting at best.

Irresistibly attractive at worst.

I’ve a kingdom to run. There’s no time to fall for my wife.

But I fear it might be too late.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pippa Grant is a USA Today Bestselling author who writes romantic comedies that will make tears run down your leg. When she’s not reading, writing or sleeping, she’s being crowned employee of the month as a stay-at-home mom and housewife trying to prepare her adorable demon spawn to be productive members of society, all the while fantasizing about long walks on the beach with hot chocolate chip cookies.

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REViEW

**I was provided a copy of the book by Give Me Books as part of the promotional campaign. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.** 

I’m not the biggest fan of the royal-plebe relationship trope in contemporary romances, but I’m willing to read it since it’s a Pippa Grant book. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Royally Pucked, which is technically the first book in The Heirs series but also second in The Copper Valley Thrusters series. Hot Heir is the third in the series and starts with a runaway air balloon and lots of bickering between leads Viktor, our king-to-be, and Peach, part-owner of an aviation company and guardian of her younger sister.

Like prior female protagonists, Peach is feisty and quite a character, with some vulnerability in her. She speaks her mind and rarely is one to ever back down, making her a good match for Viktor, a former royal bodyguard now turned king. Because Peach is always annoyed by him, Viktor purposely likes to rile her up–he enjoys it a lot. He’s an honorable person and seems stern, but he’s a pretty amusing character when reading his chapters. They’re perfect together, especially as the attraction builds and they struggle with the discovery that it could be more than attraction. I wanted to like Peach’s younger sister Papaya but I couldn’t. If she could have been given more to do than just to create havoc and laughs, I think I would have found a way to understand her better. Hopefully, she’ll get a book in the future.

I expected to feel about Hot Heir the same way I felt about Royally Pucked, but, interestingly, I liked Hot Heir a lot more. It likely has to do with liking Viktor a lot more than I liked Manning. Like all her other books, Hot Heir promises hijinks and lots of laughs.

Let’s compare covers!

I’m not really into the vest and open collar shirt of the new cover. He would look better buttoned up instead. I miss the hot air balloon too. Overall, I like the old cover better. Thoughts?

New Cover
Old Cover

Hurricane Summer (2021)

By Asha Bromfield
ASN/ISBN: 9781250622235
Publication: May 4, 2021

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Welcome to my leg of the blog tour for Hurricane Summer by Asha Bromfield (April 26 – May 10). Thank you to Wednesday Books for allowing me to be part of this tour. Links to different sections are below, but also feel free to scroll on through.


DESCRIPTiON

Publisher: Wednesday Books
Age group: YA
Genres: Contemporary

In this sweeping debut, Asha Bromfield takes readers to the heart of Jamaica, and into the soul of a girl coming to terms with her family, and herself, set against the backdrop of a hurricane.

Tilla has spent her entire life trying to make her father love her. But every six months, he leaves their family and returns to his true home: the island of Jamaica.

When Tilla’s mother tells her she’ll be spending the summer on the island, Tilla dreads the idea of seeing him again, but longs to discover what life in Jamaica has always held for him.

In an unexpected turn of events, Tilla is forced to face the storm that unravels in her own life as she learns about the dark secrets that lie beyond the veil of paradise―all in the midst of an impending hurricane.

Hurricane Summer is a powerful coming of age story that deals with colorism, classism, young love, the father-daughter dynamic―and what it means to discover your own voice in the center of complete destruction.

Content Warnings (For a more comprehensive list please see Book Trigger Warnings):
abuse (physical/emotional), cheating, colorism, death, incest, sexual assault


ABOUT THe AUTHOR

Asha Bromfield - Author Photo, Copyright Felice Trinidad

Asha Bromfield is an actress, singer, and writer of Afro-Jamaican descent. She is known for her role as Melody Jones, drummer of Josie and the Pussycats in CW’s Riverdale. She also stars as Zadie Wells in Netflix’s hit show, Locke and Key. Asha is a proud ambassador for the Dove Self-Esteem Project, and she currently lives in Toronto where she is pursuing a degree in Communications. In her spare time, she loves studying astrology, wearing crystals, burning sage, and baking vegan desserts. Hurricane Summer is her debut novel.

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REViEW

**I received a copy of the book from the publisher through NetGalley as part of my participation in the blog tour. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Hurricane Summer is an appropriate title for the experience Tilla has in Jamaica while visiting her father for two months. Her hopes of reuniting with her dad and spending time with him over the summer go astray as soon as she gets there, proving once again why she feels the way she does about him. It hurt my heart to know that both she and her sister Mia waited so long to see their father only to hardly spend time with him. The father-daughter relationship was the heart of the novel but so many additional issues, including classism and colorism, piled on top of it that there was never time to fully explore each issue. The conversation Tilla has with her cousin about colorism is an especially poignant one though. This was one of my favorite moments in the book. I liked their relationship.

I’m a fan of emotional reads. The book tugged at me right away with Tilla longing for her dad’s love, secretly hoping to repair her broken image of him. As things slowly begin to spiral downward, with hurricane warnings abound, my anxiety level increased along with Tilla’s confusion about what exactly was going on around her. Just about everything that happens, except for moments of respite with her cousin Andre who might be the only character I liked in the book, is heart breaking. I kept wondering when it would stop. The answer? Like a hurricane, it’s unrelenting. However, as it neared the end, the final few chapters didn’t have the same impact. One event in particular did not add much to the story, and I felt it was unnecessary. Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed by the ending.

One of the weaker parts of the novel is the romance. I couldn’t buy into it, and I was constantly questioning Tilla’s decisions regarding her love interest. The connection felt superficial at best, and when the word love is mentioned, I was taken aback. I couldn’t see how their limited interactions suddenly turned into love. But, the most difficult part for me was Tilla knowing the complications that would ensue from continuing the relationship yet still choosing to pursue it.

I was immersed in the book because of the writing. It’s poetic and the descriptions kept me reading–one of the most memorable being when Mia and Tilla bite into mangoes. Tilla feels a lot, and Bromfield was able to place me in Tilla’s emotional state of mind. It’s also well-paced. The plot moves along, never feeling disjointed or abrupt, despite the multitude of things that happen. I never felt the urge to jump pages or chapters to get to the end, with the exception of some of the heavier components of the book.

Hurricane Summer‘s beautiful cover hides a devastating coming of age novel about a young woman trying to come to terms with her relationship with her father while on vacation in what looks like paradise. It’s a heart wrenching novel filled with multiple events meant to break Tilly, culminating in what she decides to do: will she break, or will she overcome them? It’s a departure from the books I normally read, with a slew of triggers that pile on one after the other; it’s a heavy read. Despite the this, I did like the book even though it might not have hit all the marks for me. If you decide to read it, please be aware of the content warnings. I’ve listed them above in the book description, but I’ll include it here too: abuse (physical/emotional), cheating, colorism, death, incest, and sexual assault. Again, for a more comprehensive list, please see Book Trigger Warnings.

Hush (2020)

by Dylan Farrow
ISBN: 9781250771667
Publication: October 6, 2020
Series: Hush #1

**I was provided a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

After her brother dies of the Blot, Shae and her mom are ostracized and forced to move outside of the village.  When her dreams start to come true and the things she stitches manifests itself in real life, she begins to worry that maybe the Blot has not only taken her brother but has also cursed her.  Her search to remove the curse is cut short when her mother is murdered and the village refuses to acknowledge her account of what happened, effectively trying to silence her.  Lies are twisted into truths, making Shae question what she knows, or thought she knew, but she will not stop until she finds her mother’s murderer. 

The tone she sets at the beginning of the book is eerie and ominous but it doesn’t quite carry through to the rest of the book. The latter part of it left me more frustrated than intrigued, more exasperated than in suspense–states both largely attributed to Shae’s behavior even understandable as her behavior was. Shae is a generally likeable protagonist but has a penchant for not listening and being impulsive. (Also, don’t get me started on her crush on Ravod.) The best way I can explain this is when you’re watching a horror movie and the character does something you know will put them in danger, or worse killed.  While you should be at the edge of your seat, you’re instead sitting back and just yelling, “Why did you just do that? Don’t open the door!  Now, you’re going to die!”  That’s how the last two thirds of the book felt like: “What are you doing? Why did you just say that? Stop bumping into things!”   Again, her behavior is understandable (I need to remind myself of this) but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating or infuriating.  I guess if that was in fact Farrow’s goal, then it worked. Everything does come together at the end fairly well, maybe even a little too nicely, but it leaves you with enough questions that you’ll want to read the next installments. 

Despite my frustration, I found Farrow to be a masterful storyteller.  The strength of the book comes from the recurring theme of truth.  Farrow weaves it into the story so effortlessly.  The magic of the Bards or the gift of Telling is illusion and manipulation.  Someone with the gift can Tell a lock to become mangled so that a door can be opened but the power of the illusion, or the lie, has a limited lifespan. It will eventually revert back to its true form yet the illusion was still powerful enough to allow someone to walk through the door, essentially making a profound impact on outcomes. Ink is powerful in its ability to communicate the truth. Instilling fear in ink, in spreading words, works effectively to obscure truth.  What is the use of learning to write or learning to read when one can die from it? The sickness that comes from ink is known as the Blot, and what does a blot do but to stain and hide. It’s all so smartly done. This is the reason for my 4 stars when the story started to dip into 3 star territory.