What is it with Jenny Frame and writing the sweetest of romances…
What was the book about? Workaholic Trent isn’t looking for love. She had it once and let it go, so she has no inclination of letting her heart get broken again. When her cousin dies in a horrific accident, she is left to care for his two young children.
In walks nanny extraordinaire Wendy, with her boho style and her loving nature. She’s perfect for the children but could she also be perfect for Trent? But Trent doesn’t do love? And certainly not with an employee… right?
Featured Tropes: Opposites attract/ Butch-femme/ Boss- Employee/ Ice Queen/ Instant Family/ Age-Gap/ Oh the sex!
Book Strengths: Firstly, Someone to Love is the sequel to Unexpected and I was excited when I heard Jenny Frame was writing this book. As much as this book is from Trent and Wendy’s point of view, we still get to have moments from Becca and Dale from book one. And those two were as amazing as ever and really shone even in their limited page time. Dale… #swoon.
Trent is the epitome of an ice queen, with her crazy work ethic, emotional walls and her lack of friendliness but on the inside, she is a loveable puppy. In the first book, I was not her biggest fan, but in this book, she really made up for it. Watching as her walls come down and she embraces family life was terrific.
My heart broke for the kids, Alice and Noah. They went through so much, especially Alice. What a tragedy losing their Dad, but Wendy really helps Trent and the kids learn to be a family, one that she ultimately wants to be part of.
It’s just one big bundle of love in this book!
Book Weaknesses: I felt the pace of the book went up and down a little bit and I felt the epilogue could have had more, but if there is a third book with Trent and Wendy, then I’ll retract that comment.
Character Chemistry: Wendy and Trent had chemistry in spades. It oozes off the page, and the sex scenes were just damn hot… Especially the last one! Steaming hot!!! Especially the butch-femme dynamic Jenny frame writes so well… it made everything sexier.
Heat Rating: 4
Wrap up: A sweet, sexy romance that will make you feel all the feels this Christmas!
Great banter, very sexy scenes and some memorable lines…
What was the book about? Kinsley Scott doesn’t believe in love, which doesn’t stop her from being a successful romance author under the name Laurel Lake. Grace Harper is a fan, and also happens to be Kinsley’s roommate Leah’s childhood best friend. When her cheating girlfriend breaks her heart, Grace, needing a change of scenery, accepts Leah’s invitation to spend a few days (or more) at her place in Philadelphia. She soon finds out her idol isn’t all she seems to be on social media and in her writing. Kinsley and Grace are polar opposite. So of course they fall in love, without realizing it.
Featured Tropes: Enemies to Lovers
Book Strengths: I didn’t expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. I mean, it looked fun and sweet, and it’s all that, but I was also caught by surprise at how well-written it is. The characters are fantastic, both the MCs Kinsley and Grace, but also Leah and her boyfriend Liam, and the mothers. On top of the very sweet romance, there are very funny scenes, and very sexy ones too.
Book Weaknesses: There are a few irritating moments, so much miscommunication I wanted to shake Grace and Kinsley (mostly Kinsley) at times.
Character Chemistry: The chemistry between Grace and Kinsley is huge, so much so that for a rather long time, they mistake their feelings for pure lust. Neither is looking for a relationship (Kinsley because she abhors relationships, Grace because of her broken heart) so it makes sense. But for chemistry to be this gigantic, there has to be love, right?
Heat Rating: 4
Wrap up: Sunsets and Shades is my first book by Erica Lee, and I’m looking forward to reading more. It’s a delightful and deceptively light romance.
What was the book about?: Elite operative Domino is no stranger to peril and impossible situations. Trained all her life to be just as comfortable fighting terrorists as mixing with the gala crowd, she is proficient at playing any role necessary to accomplish her objective and believes the cause justifies the means. Her latest assignment is to investigate—potentially kill—journalist Hayley Ward due to her possession of an illegal recording of a murder. This will test more than her skills, ingenuity, and courage, because this time she faces the ultimate dilemma: a choice between loyalty and love.
Featured Tropes: Action, adventure, enemies-to-lovers
Book Strengths: Imagine you’re sitting in the cinema, popcorn conveniently located so there’s no need to take your eyes off the screen. The movie is an action adventure James Bond-ish secret agent kind of thing where for 120 minutes you suspend reality so entirely that you totally accept shoot-outs, shoot-ups, shoot-stuff, blowing-up of buildings, cars, people, anything really, hot women, women who speak every language every spoken, jumping off buildings, cars, bridges, anything above ground level, and sex in places that people should probably reconsider having sex in, and all the while, you’re thinking, “Oh my God. This is freaking awesome.”
That. That’s the strength.
Book weaknesses: There are some elements to the novel which are dated, as it was published in 2008. But they’re generally easy to ignore and don’t impact on the plot. Also, to read this novel, you have to suspend reality and logical reasoning. Unfortunately, every now and then, the authors forgot to do that themselves and the story starts to take itself very seriously. Then it seems to shake its head, and continue on its helter-skelter tongue-in-cheek journey.
Character Chemistry: Hayley and Domino work well. Hayley is the foil to Domino’s tough edge. It’s a little ‘inst-love’ but there is reasonable motivation.
Couple of sex scenes are hot. Sex seems to leave Domino completely flummoxed. You’d think they’d have a class on that in spy school.
Heat Rating: 3
Conclusion: This novel is such a fun ride. It’s snappy and tight, and you know what? You need a bucket of popcorn when you read it.
Like snuggling under your favourite fluffy blanket on the couch
What was the book about? Reagan Cooper has been an out and proud lesbian since high school, but can’t say no when her gay best friend, Jamie Miller, asks her to pretend to be his girlfriend for his family reunion. Jamie has been there for her through everything. Plus, she’s interested in learning more about the family he never speaks of.
Living in California for eight years, Charlie Miller has been able to live authentically, but being back in her small Maryland hometown with her conservative family means going back into the closet. What she didn’t expect was to be so attracted to her brother’s girlfriend.
This particular fauxmance trope of fake girlfriend for gay best friend has been done previously. Robin Alexander’s Temporary Girl springs to mind. In Anyone But Her, the lesbian goes to a family event as the girlfriend of the gay best friend because the family of said best friend doesn’t know he’s out.
Featured Tropes: Fake-romance, closeted, homophobia family, falling for the unexpected person, coming out.
Book Strengths: Families are weird, and we’ve all got stuff in our own that when we try to explain it to other people, they generally wear a completely understandable WTF? expression. Jamie and Charlie’s family is that family. Lee does well in creating a very good opportunity for us to say, WTF? The MCs are shown with their flaws which is refreshing. There are some really good secondary characters, like the grandmother. (I want more of the Gran. She’s fabulous).
Book weaknesses: The novel is short in length, and this is probably the main weakness. There’s a slightly rushed effect that wouldn’t have occurred if another 10,000 words had been added, and therefore certain story arcs could have been further developed.
Character Chemistry: Reagan and Jamie’s best friend connection is lovely, and we believe the depth built from years of knowing each other. The event at the end pushes that friendship to its limits though, and it was interesting to see them resolve it. Reagan and Charlie have an instant chemistry, which keeps getting stoked. Fun to watch that unfold.
Heat Rating: 4
Conclusion: It’s a light, fluffy, feel good romance, with just enough tension to create a good what-if? will they? ending.
Queen of Hearts is the kind of book where all you have to do is go with the flow and allow yourself to simply enjoy it.
What was the book about?
Allyson Parker would do anything for her younger cousin Connie, even take part in the reality TV show she hopes will jumpstart her career. Ally agrees to be one of the four Queens the show begins with. Only one of them will end up being the Queen of Hearts, (hopefully) proposing to the love of her life, one of the women vying for their interest. Her competition is heiress Virginia Hazelton-Jackson, tech millionaire Rene Santos-Dumont and Pamela, Connie’s sister, a hotshot criminal lawyer in Chicago. Eighteen years older than Connie, Ally and Pam grew up together, first sharing a room then going to the same boarding school. Only college drew them apart, and they’ve always remained close. Ally, used to being overlooked in favour of her prettier and – on the surface – more successful cousin, plans on being eliminated after the first round. She’ll be more than happy to go back to her job as a helicopter pilot and the new airline she and her best friend and business partner KC have bought. However, nothing in reality TV is real and life has a way of getting in the way of the best laid plans anyway.
Featured Tropes: Rich girl – Poor girl
Book Strengths: In the About the Author and on her website, Sheryl Wright explains: “Authors sculpt their works like potters turning out everything from cheap earthenware to fine Wedgewood. While I would love to boast of the skills needed to turn out a literary masterpiece, I find I’m better suited applying myself to the craft in a more approachable way. Think of a potter at a craft fair. Someone with unique and colourful creations you can surprisingly afford to buy. That’s the author I strive to be. I live to create stories which are fresh, sometimes quirky, sometimes challenging, but always from the heart.”
That’s exactly what this one is. It doesn’t try to be something it’s not. It’s sweet and heart-warming, and that’s perfectly fine. More than fine, really.
Book Weaknesses: There are a few repetitions, and some inconsistencies, but not enough to take the warm feeling away.
Character Chemistry: Ally and her love interest Erin have pretty good chemistry from the start, but neither realizes it at first, because neither are in the show to win. They’re both there for personal (and different) reasons, and not really open to anything happening. Which only makes it seem even more inevitable that something will.
Heat Rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥
Wrap up: Keep Queen of Hearts for a day when you’re feeling low, or cold, or basically unhappy. It’s like comfort food. It will help.
1920’s blues, the swinging 1960’s, strong talented women with the backdrop of social change and love.
What was the book about? This book spans a couple of generations of strong black women from the early 1920’s to the 1960’s. Jobyna, Empress of Blues makes an impression on Lily that will last the rest of her life. Jobie, an aspiring singer is equally affected by DeeDee in London during the swinging 60’s. The stories take you through major social changes of the day as well as the search for each character’s sense of self, love and happiness.
Featured Tropes: Romance / Historical
Book Strengths: I love the way this book is written. You are become enthralled in the sights and sounds of each era. The 1920’s flappers, bars, blues and amazing women. I’m sure I could hear the blues playing while I was reading. Dusty Springfield was there in my mind singing “You don’t own me” loud and clear. Two pivotal eras for music.
Book Weaknesses: I was hoping for more between Lily and Jobyna and felt that their relationship deserved it.
Character Chemistry: The main characters didn’t lack for depth of feeling and there is no doubt how they felt about each other. I wish the relationship between Lily and Jobyna could have been a little fuller, but fate got in the way.
Heat Rating: 4
Wrap up: Take the time to immerse yourself in this novel and you won’t regret it. If you don’t come away from this book with wanting to hear the blues or Dusty Springfield, then I’d be surprised.
A fast-paced thriller with more than a touch of romance.
What was the book about? Since she was promoted to Vice President of International Pricing at Logan Airlines, Kay Corbett has found out that her employer and other major airlines are not playing fair. The deeper she digs, the bigger the scandal seems to be. For months, she’s been gathering proof of price fixing. Angry and worried, she’s put the rest of her life on hold, trying to decide what to do. Which hasn’t stopped her from crushing hard (albeit from afar) on Riley Bauer from the Finance department. When a project they’ve both been working on takes them to Tokyo, both women give in to their mutual crush.
Featured Tropes: Workplace romance
Book Strengths: I don’t think I’ve ever read a whistleblower storyline in lesfic before, and I really liked that. It was intricate and confusing, just as it probably was to the characters, that feeling of being in over your head. (in a good way for the reader, not so much for the characters).
Book Weaknesses: The first part of the story is rather fast-paced, with Kay, and later Riley, investigating, but then the rhythm slows down as they have to wait for the SEC to look into all the evidence they have brought.
Character Chemistry: I liked the characters from the start. While it sounds a little like instalust, they’ve been crushing on each other forever, long before we meet them. The chemistry between them is utterly believable. The author did make a strange choice, though, as the first sex scene is fade to black but later ones are not. Fade to black can be great, but if you decide to give details later on, it’s weird. First kisses and first touches are the best, they’re the ones I want to know about.
Heat Rating: 4
Wrap up: All in all, Fare Game is a very enjoyable read (with a nice cover, too), and I’ll definitely be reading more by this author.
What was the book about? Jill Fryman (Friday to her friends) is a line supervisor at a truck manufacturing plant in a small southern Indiana town. Life on the assembly line is almost as predictable as her love life. When it comes to matters of the heart, Friday always seems to be making the wrong choices. Things go from bad to worse when El, a sultry labour organizer from the UAW, sweeps into town to unionize the plant right after it’s been bought out by a Japanese firm. Sparks fly on and off the line as Jill and El fight their growing attraction for each other against a backdrop of monster trucks, catfish dinners, Pork Day USA, and a bar called Hoosier Daddy.
Featured Tropes: Enemies to lovers, Angst, Humour, Romance, small town, factory worker/union rep
Book Strengths: It is a very good story; the plot and subplot are well developed. It is written in first person, through the point of view of Jill Fryman (Friday). The main characters are two fascinating, charismatic, cultivated women who often find themselves sharing unusual, humorous situations together. The side characters are very amusing and a bit crazy, but very interesting. The dialogues are something to look forward in this book; they are witty, brilliant and sharp.
Book weaknesses: Not a weakness per se, but maybe some readers outside of the US could struggle at the beginning with the local terminology. But once you get the feel of the terminology, it’s easier to get used to it and just enjoy the story.
Character Chemistry: The chemistry and instant attraction between Friday and El are palpable from the beginning. Their dialogues are engaging and very flirtatious. Their building relationship it’s a challenge, to say the least. Being on opposite sides in the work field brings us a mix of deep conversations and funny banters. The secondary characters are essential to the story; they add a very important factor to build the story.
Heat Rating: 2.5
Wrap up: It is a very good book. Ann McMan has the ability to get us involved in the story enjoying it greatly as well the characters. This is a book with very exhilarating individuals, clever dialogues, humour, an intriguing plot and a wonderfully developed romance.
What was the book about? This book can probably be read as a standalone but to enjoy it in full, I’d recommend reading the previous books first (in order). In Troubled Waters, the Black Flag crew is taking it easy on their way back to Union space (and Kay is mostly obsessed with planning her wedding to Maggie), when they get a distress signal from an alien ship. The rescue mission turns into a diplomatic mess, and Captain Magdalene Langdon has to make difficult choices.
Featured Tropes: Aliens, privateers, space opera
Book Strengths: I love how this series fits in the much larger universe that is popular sci-fi. Some things remind me of Star Wars, others of Star Trek, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Kay and Maggie had a drink on Mos Eisley or crossed path with Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect. Well, I would be surprised, but neither would be out of place.
The more I read this series, the more I like it. The crew is growing on me. Even the less important characters have some kind of depth.
Book weaknesses: There aren’t many, really. If you’re looking for romance, you might be disappointed. But if you’re looking for soft but solid sci-fi, you’ve got it.
Character Chemistry: The chemistry between Kay and Maggie is undeniable but it played a much more important part in book 1. They’re not an old married couple yet, and they never stop flirting nor having hot sex (behind closed doors, mostly), but they have this established couple feel.
Heat Rating: 🔥🔥
Wrap up: This instalment is the most intense so far, and probably my favourite. In book 2, the characters were a bit passive, as they were accused of murder and spent quite a long part of the story first waiting to be released then waiting for the investigator to prove their innocence. Also, despite the rather tragic circumstances, it often fell on the side of comedy. There’s a lot more action in this one, and it also feels more adult. Yet the humor is still there. As I said, it gets better and better.
What was the book about?: A former renowned surgeon and breast cancer expert, Liz Stolz has chosen to retire to the seaside in Maine and has taken over the family practice. One evening, she’s called back to the practice by one of her friends, the local theatre manager, to see one of his actors’ broken leg. Liz doesn’t recognize the woman at first but when she does, the surprise is huge. The actress is Maggie Fitzgerald, her first love, the woman who broke her heart forty years ago when, pressured by her family and social conventions, she left her to marry a man.
Featured Tropes: Second chance, small town, older characters, illness, mental health
Book Strengths: All the characters are layered and complex, even the smallest ones. The best part is that the MCs are older (Liz is 58, Maggie is 60) and it’s a very important part of the story. They knew each other when they were college roommates, and the changes that happened in their bodies over forty years are cleverly addressed. I also enjoyed the atmosphere the author created. It’s melancholy and languid yet hopeful.
Book weaknesses: There’s a slight slump towards the end, but it goes back on track soon.
Character Chemistry: There’s something very special about chemistry in second chance romances, especially in one where the characters haven’t seen each other in forty years. They loved each other’s bodies as young adults, will they still find them beautiful as older women? Will there still be a passion? Elena Graf makes it clear from the start that the attraction is still there and probably still as strong but she doesn’t hide anything about ageing bodies. There’s a lot of back and forth before Liz and Maggie feel comfortable again with each other, trust each other, so when they finally have sex again, the love, as well as the lust, is palpable.
Heat Rating: 🔥🔥🔥
Wrap up: I read a lot of romance novels, and while I love the sweet and idealistic ones, I also enjoy the more bittersweet stories like this one. The angst is real and doesn’t feel forced at all, not everything is going well. The story is on the realistic side. And yes, there’s a happy ending (it wouldn’t qualify as a romance otherwise), but the characters have to work for it.