Winning Her Over (BigLaw Romance 1) by Alexa Rowan

29414017Brenna Nakmura left the corporate world behind to train as massage therapist. It cost her fiancee but she loves her job and doesn't regret her choices despite how hard it is to make ends meet while getting her small business off the ground. Every job matters and she won't do anything endanger the referrals she gets, even if her newest drop-dead handsome client is extremely attractive and wants to invite her for a coffee afterwards she won't cross that line. Turning down his invitation to dinner is a few weeks later when they unexpectedly bump into each other again is much harder to do, especially when it is clear that neither of them have stopped thinking about each other.

For the last 8 years Calvin Wilcox has been un-waveringly focused on making partner as his late father's lawfirm. He is on the verge of finally reaching his goal but suddenly he is much more interested in trying to persuade Brenna to date him, despite the fact that she has little spare time and the live in different cities.  Cal's persistence, charm and a willingness to spend a lot of time on commuter shuttles, soon convinces Brenna to take a chance on him despite the fact that they are both incredibly busy and live in different cities. He holds himself back however, intentionally keeping things outwardly casual, which leads him to act in a unthinkingly hurtful manner.

I thought Rowan did a great job building up and then resolving the tension over Brenna's professional ethics. I loved how realistically  conflicts caused by their long-distance relationship was handled. I really felt for Brenna as she is torn between growing her business and unconsciously responding to Cal's unvoiced desire that she be available when he was around. It was a small moment, but that highlighted for me the hidden costs of their relationship, that comes back to bite them later, when the all the resentments and expectations of their not-quite-serious-relationship finally bubble over.  I thought Cal's grovel was great as was Brenna's simultaneous but confusing feelings of frustration and softening she feels towards him as she receives each gesture.

Winning Her Over was very charming and insightful debut, and I would be happy to read more Alexa Rowan in the future.

 

I received a review copy of Winning Her Over from Alexa Rowan's publisher Jasmine Press.

 


May RT Review Round-Up

I'm a a semi-reviewing hiatus right now. I've been really tired recently, so instead of staying up reading books or using my time to write reviews I've mostly been sleeping.  I'll be back to reviewing soon, as I am starting to feel a little less tired. I've read some really great books last month before I crashed to sleep, so hopefully I'll have the energy to review them here in the next couple of weeks.

These are my most recent reviews for RT (June issue):

Beta Test by Annabeth Albert: 2nd in #Gaymers series. Enemies to Lovers.

A Fighting Chance by Shannon Stacey:  2nd chance at love.

Driftwood Point by Mariah Stewart  Big Misunderstanding almost derails everything.


April RT Review Round-up: Level Up by Cathy Yardley & Love of the Game by Lori Wilde

Level Up by Cathy Yardley: Every so often I'm assigned a book for RT that I actually already own but hadn't read.  Level Up was already on my TBR based on twitter recommendations by Courtney Milan and  Bree Bridges on twitter.  The book exceeded my expectations.  I found it fun and honest.

Love of the Game by Lori Wilde:  I didn't love, Love of the Game nearly as much.  It was somewhat charming and had some really nice moments.

 


A Gentleman's Position by K.J. Charles

Charles-k-j-a-gentlemans-position-society-of-gentlemen-3I have been eagerly anticipating this romance since we were first introduced to Lord Richard and his trusted valet David Cyprian. Richard is the linchpin around whom all the Ricardians revolve.  The Ricardians (bisexual, gay or transgender) all look out for one another, protecting each other from those who would happily send them to the gallows for their orientations, preferences and predilections but it is Richard who sets the standards,  provides the listening ear or chastising word if needed and sees that the Ricardians problems are solved.  

David Cyprian however is really the person who makes it all happen.  Officially as valet he makes sure Richard always looks flawless but unofficially he the person that pays the bribes, gathers the illicit information and makes sure Richard has absolutely everything in his life go smoothly. He is the rogue with all the connections, who fixes the problems before Richard even has any inkling of them. He is incredibly proud of how far he has risen in life, but has not risen so far that he doesn't know how to work on the street.  

The one wrinkle in David and Richard's relationship is that while Cyprian is beyond devoted to Richard & Richard trusts him like he trusts no other their mutual attraction has become impossible to ignore. While David is more than willing enter into a liaison with Richard, Richard is resolute to never importune someone in his employ (unlike his father, who used and abuse anybody under his power). Their facade of mutual indifference crumbles completely in the aftermath to a surprise death-bed summons from Richard's estranged mother. 

Once their mutual attraction is no longer something they can ignore, Richard ends up hurting David while trying not to hurt him and as a result he is deprived of David when he and the Ricardians need him most.  Richard must convince David to return and if they all survive, help him figure out how they can be together.

I loved this romance. I usually avoid boss-employee/servant-master romances for all the reasons for all the same reasons Richard wants to avoid one. KJ Charles however has a great handle on the issues of consent, agency, dignity and the nature of partnership that are such a large stumbling block in their relationship.  I loved how hard it was for Richard to unbend, and realize he was wrong. Richard has to eat a lot of humble pie, and comes truly appreciate and recognize all that he has taken for granted in David. David also grows, setting boundaries and demanding Richard truly see him and value him. He is able to demonstrate that his love is not servile even if he is Richard's servant.  

Charles exploits the intimacy of David's role as Richard's valet to explore the anguish of denial and build sexual tension but the biggest loss they feel when they are apart is for each other's companionship. I loved that despite the deep chasm between them, it is the absence of their easy relationship, the effortless conversation, that wrecks them both. 

Like all the endings in the Society of Gentlemen series, I believe in David and Richard's love and felt hopeful for them despite having a great awareness of the many risks they continually face.  Charles also provides a great pulse pounding and satisfying conclusion to the overarching series plot. I highly recommend this whole series.

I received a review copy via NetGalley from the publisher Loveswept.  A Gentleman's Position by KJ Charles will be available starting April 5th.


Frederica by Georgette Heyer #TBRCHALLENGE

Heyer_0002This is my third Heyer and I enjoyed it just as much as the previous two I read. It is so much fun to recognize tropes and romance character archetypes, that I have seen in many later romances.  The Marquis is behaves like many later billionaire care-taking Alphas, discovering his ability to care and love for someone other than himself as he tries to love an independent woman who doesn't fall at his feet or dangle after him.

Frederica Merryville is the story of a managing young woman of small fortune who has declared herself a spinster at twenty-four. Frederica the eldest sibling, has been raising her younger siblings since the death of her mother.  With her father's death she was able to take control of the family finances and engineer a way to bring her siblings to London. She plans to launch her beautiful younger sister Charis into high society in hopes of securing for her a comfortable marriage.  She appeals to a very distant relation, Vernon, the Marquis of Alverstoke, in hopes that he might help them.

The Marquis of Alverstoke circulates at the very top of Tonnish society.  A thirty-seven, Vernon is confirmed bachelor and a flirt, he has no time or attention for people who bore him, including clingy mistresses, and his demanding sisters. He prides himself in his selfishness and cynicism. Curiosity and boredom inspire him to visit Frederica, and Vernon ends up charmed and inspired by the fresh chaos of her household (she has two rambunctious younger siblings and a very large dog) to maliciously trick his sister into sponsoring the Merryville sisters and pose as their guardian.

For most of the novel, Frederica is blind to how the Marquis has slowly been falling in love with her, while his friends and family are struggling to understand why he would act so uncharacteristically, mistakenly believing him to be infatuated with Charis. I loved that he falls in love with Frederica slowly, recognizing her intelligence, and sense of the ridiculous.  His love for Frederica opens him to new relationships and he develops an independent relationship with the two younger boys, Jessemine and Felix, enjoying getting to know them for their own sakes. He is also develops a growing concern for his loyal secretary's future prospects. Frederica

5133AnbAYBL._AA300_I was bored to tears like the Marquis by the romance between Charis and Endymion and I could have skipped this whole subplot except that it is the trigger that wakes Frederica up to the fact that she has been living vicariously through her sister and enabling her worthless brother Harry to shirk his responsibilities. Her anger at and awareness of how misplaced her efforts have been is the push she needs to realize that she is worthy of grabbing at her own happiness.

I am going to declare this is was my March #TBRChallenge book in that is one of the many Heyer novels recommended to me in the last year. 


NK Jemisin's The Fifth Season (Broken Earth bk1)

612FnTYaDAL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I've been in a fantasy mood recently so I ventured out of the relatively safe world of genre romance to read the first book in N.K. Jemisin's Broken Earth series. The Fifth Season was in turns heartbreaking, jaw-dropping and thanks to its immaculate pacing, absolutely gripping. I was listening to the audiobook and it was hard to turn off the car and stop listening each morning and evening when my car rides ended. Yesterday I listened to the last fours hours all in one go because I could not stop.

The Stillness is a massive, extremely geologically active continent dotted with large and small communities, remnants of a once mighty empire whose lore on how survive the not-infrequent periods devastating climate change, known as the seasons, provide a foundation for its common culture. 

In the Stillness, the Orogenes are people whose inborn ability to manipulate geological forces makes them an object of fear to the general population. To be an unsanctioned, unregistered Orogene is to be a Raga, a monster, bearing the curse of Father Earth, facing a death sentence if discovered.  The alternative is to be a Fulcrum trained Orogene, raised from childhood into a regime of control and suppression, only allowed to express their extraordinary powers at the Fulcrum's command and under its strict guardianship.  

The Fifth Season is the extremely personal story of the making of continent wide-cataclysm in the Stillness. We enter the story through Essun, a raga, whose family has fallen apart days before the Cataclysm takes place.  When her  husband discovers his young son's orogenic powers, he kills him and leaves town with their daughter. Essun is desperately trying to track down her murderous husband and rescue their daughter. We also follow Syenite and Damaya. Syenite is an ambitious fulcrum-trained orogene who is increasingly angry and chafing under the Fulcrum's insidious control over every part of her life. Her new partner and mentor is Alabaster, quite possibly the most powerful oregene under Fulcrum control. Damaya is a young girl, rescued from her parents and brought to the Fulcrum for training. The Fulcrum is both a safe place and a dangerous one for Damaya, as she learns to control her powers. The story jumps back & forth through time till all the stories converge in moments of breathtaking clarity where what was left unexplained in one story is suddenly central and important in another. Together the story is one of immense heartbreak, grief, survival and transformation and it is only getting started.

The novel was flawlessly intersectional, deeply aware of the overlapping layers of race, class, and gender that play into the way people move in the world and respond to it. The world itself is richly developed & vibrantly diverse. The story centers on POC, including LGBTQ characters that are fully realized. It was just so amazingly refreshing to read, even if it took me through the emotional ringer, because the story is so deeply meaningful. I will be eager awaiting the release of The Obelisk Gate in August. 

 



Not a Mistake by Amber Belldene (Hot Under Her Collar #1)

Jordan Sykes is a recent seminary grad and newly appointed rector at St. Mary's who discovers she is unexpectedly pregnant. The father is her former advisory and long-time crush Dr. Dominic Lawrence.  Dominic is a rigidly correct Ethics professor, known as the priest-buster for his dedication to exposing and removing priests who sexually abuse their congregations.  The pregnancy is the result of an impulsive one-night stand just hours after her graduation. Although she is no longer his student, the technicality of it all bruises his conscience and after two months of no contact he find himself at her door, to apologize.

An apology is the last thing she wants for Dominic especially since she had just decided never to tell him of the pregnancy to spare him the embarrassment and scandal it would cause.

Belldane-teaser-3-2-300x300The story is about passion, love and consequences. Their passionate one-night stands shakes up their whole world and not just because they are expecting a baby together.   Dominic has to face the issues that have him resisting opening himself up to love and Jordan has to trust him to accept her and forgive her. The HEA is sweet and believable because Ms. Belldene does great work showing us how and why Dominic's priorities and ambitions could change so dramatically and how Jordan and Dominic can overcome together to build a life together. I found the struggles and doubts they face really genuine and I loved that despite the heaviness of some of the issues they face, the book is also genuinely funny. I was charmed by both the leads and the many secondary characters that enter their story.

Not a Mistake is the first book in Amber Belldene's new series about female episcopal priests called "Hot Under Her Collar." Ms. Belldene is an episcopal priest herself and her knowledge of church structure and culture shows clearly in her stories. As someone intimately familiar with how churches and seminaries operate (my husband has been a pastor for over 14 years), everything in this novel felt really familiar even though my denomination is way more conservative theologically and sexually. Clergy, pastors, priests, seminary professors all struggle with how to balance being semi-public figures whose roles rightly require a lot transparency and accountability, against the very real need for privacy and confidentiality.  I really appreciated how Belldene's characters lived in that tension and worked to make the best choices, when no choice seems quite right.


A Queer Trade by K. J. Charles

K.J. Charles has built a fascinating magical Victorian world through her numerous Charm of Magpies related novels.  I'm not completely caught up on the main Charm of Magpie books, but I couldn't resist jumping ahead to read this one because is features victorian era black hero.  A Queer Trade is the prequel to Rag and Bone which was released last week and I am currently in the middle of reading.

Crispin Tredarloe's master dies while he is away visiting family and returns to discover his master's heir have started emptying the house and have disposed of many magical papers. He is desperately searching for the paper waste man that hauled away his masters' spells before they can harm someone and expose him. This particularly urgent because Crispin Tredarloe isn't simply a magician's apprentice but an illegal warlock. If the blood magic is exposed and traced back to him, his life might be forfeit.

Ned Hall's trade might be unusual trading in paper, recycling people's old letters, and discarded notes into wrapping and packing, but it is honest work, and its freed him destitution after his family cast him out for being gay. His attraction to Crispin is quickly tested by Crispin's casual snobbishness and likely insanity.

I love how Charles's is aware of  and then layers various impediments and conflicts into Ned and Crispin's relationship, race and class differences on one end, and then give them a shared understanding of familial rejection.  I look forward to reading more about these two.


My Reckless Valentine (Lovestruck Librarians #2) by Olivia Dade

Angie's job as a library manager is jeopardy. She is one salacious display or outrageous event away from unemployment. Grant is newcomer to town, moving to Nice County to be closer to his ailing aging parents.  

Angie is in dire need of distraction, when one of Grant's suitcases flies off the roof of his car and straight into Angie's. Near-accident adrenaline, and Angie's bawdy personality overcome Grant's natural cautiousness, and sparks a road-side flirtation, that turns into dinner, and then a night of electrifying sex, that has them both wanting way more.  In the morning Grant and Angie have no regrets, just hope till they are beyond shocked to discover that his new job is to be Angie's new supervisor.

Awkwardness and dismay ensue as Angie and Grant both frantically try to create some professional distance, and cover-up their attraction so that they both can keep their jobs.  

One of the things that I love about Dade's books is how her heroes and heroines can both be essentially nice and decent people and still have terrific conflicts with each other and land is supremely hard situations.

I loved Angie -- I love that she breaks the convention of the shy quiet librarians. She is brash, outgoing and vibrant.  I loved that Grant is passionate in an unconventional way and more than anything steadfast and sincere. 

 

 I received a review copy of My Reckless Valentine from Olivia's Publisher Lyrical Shine

{Disclaimer: I beta read for Olivia, and I think she is smart, funny and writes great books and I consider her a good friend.}

 

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March RT Reviews

Knit Tight by Annabeth Albert I love knitting. I always carry a project with me and knit at every opportunity. I was equal parts wary and excited when I started reading this romance but I loved it. It got the knitting right and I found the romance very lovely and honest, especially as they struggled to make time for each other and to accept love. I will be looking for more of Annabeth Albert's work in the future.

Duty Before Desire by Elizabeth Boyce I was initially really enjoying this story. I am sucker for the rake reformed & fake relationship tropes but I ended up deeply disappointed with it.

All Chained Up by Sophie Jordan This RS-tinged romance lost all momentum in the last few chapters and ended with a deflated whimper.