<i>Shacking Up</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Shacking Up: Exclusive Excerpt Helena Hunting "Oh God. I’d like to experience his not polite all over this condo." <i>The Untamed Vampire</i>: Exclusive Excerpt The Untamed Vampire: Exclusive Excerpt Kate Baxter "The wild wolf inside him howls for her..." <i>Falling for the Billionaire Wolf and His Baby</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Falling for the Billionaire Wolf and His Baby: Exclusive Excerpt Sasha Summers "Black skirt that hugged an amazing ass and killer legs." <i>Once Bitten</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Once Bitten: Exclusive Excerpt Heather McCorkle "The gentle nips at my neck grew harder."
From The Blog
April 25, 2017
Kristan Higgins & Lexi Blake E-Deals!
Heather Waters
April 25, 2017
The Greatest Love Songs Don't Exactly End Happily
Laura Lee Guhrke
April 21, 2017
Mariana Zapata and the Art of the Slow Burn
Jen Wattley
April 20, 2017
Cover Thursday: Exclusive Reveal from Donna Grant
Team H & H
April 20, 2017
The Real Life of a Dominatrix in Jenny Nordbak’s The Scarlett Letters
Nicola R. White
Showing posts by: cerestheories click to see cerestheories's profile
Wed
Apr 12 2017 9:30am

First Look: Lenora Bell’s Blame It on the Duke (April 18, 2017)

Lenora Bell
Blame It on the Duke (Disgraceful Dukes #3)
Avon / April 18, 2017 / $7.99 print, $5.99 digital

Lenora Bell’s third novel, Blame it on the Duke, follows in the pattern she set with her first two—a witty, tropey, sexy romp. In this installment, however, she’s given us a meaty subplot to chew on: the spectre of mental illness.

Nick Hatherly is “lost” in a bet made by his father. The “winner” is Lady Alice Tombs, a skilled linguist who wishes to travel to India before marrying anyone. She has been actively discouraging any suitors with awkward, often off-putting, conversation since the time that readers met her in How the Duke Was Won. Her parents, particularly her social-climbing mother, are determined to marry her off as soon as possible, thus the bet and ensuing betrothal. Nick is a self-described rake, determined never to marry or sire any children. His father isn’t the only member of his family to go mad, you see. At one point, he walks Alice down a gallery of family portraits and describes all the ways his ancestors have descended into lunacy.

On the surface, we see the couple that doesn’t want to marry and doesn’t want to fall in love. If that’s a dynamic that pleases you, look no further. The couple goes so far as to write up a contract that states the exact terms of their marriage: no children, Alice gets to go to India, Nick gets to stay in London, they will have one month of “training” before Alice leaves, during which time Nick will be faithful to her.

[And then she comes back, right!?]

Wed
Apr 5 2017 2:00pm

Adriana Anders’ Blank Canvas Series: “Dark, Smart, and Full of Heart”

3 Defining Characteristics from Adriana Anders' Blank Canvas Series!

Debut author Adriana Anders’s Blank Canvas series has popped up on my radar several times lately. Gorgeous covers with tattooed skin and provocative taglines. Rave reviews and tattoos… Wait, I already mentioned the tats. They’re important, though! These darker stories haven’t been my go-to in the last year or so because I’ve been burned by heroes that I felt were controlling and abusive. Does this sound like you? Well, have no fear: these books are the dark romances you’ve been waiting for.

Under Her Skin by Adriana Anders

The Ink

This post is based entirely on the first two books in the series, Under Her Skin and By Her Touch. They both take place in the small town of Blackwood, Virginia and feature one protagonist who lives in the town and one who comes to town seeking the help of the local dermatologist, who specializes in tattoo removal. In both cases, the tattoos were involuntary, though both characters have voluntary tattoos as well.

I have some ink. I chose it and I love it. I drew it on my skin for weeks before making it permanent. The idea of being inked against my will is horrifying. In Under Her Skin, Uma has been tattooed by an abusive boyfriend. The tats are all over her body, saying crude things like “mine” and “bitch.” She starts the book completely incapable of looking at her own body. In By Her Touch, Clay was inked ON HIS FACE by the sadistic biker who discovered his undercover cop identity.

[Read more...]

Fri
Mar 24 2017 1:00pm

5 Iconic Phoebe and Cole Moments from Charmed

Charmed's Phoebe x Cole

Now that you’ve had some time to stop dancing about in anticipation of the Charmed reboot, it’s time for a rewatch. Or a first watch, if you missed out on all the campy, soapy, witchy fun back in the late 90s/early 00s. Charmed is primarily about the relationship between the sisters, BUT the ‘ships added a lot of drama to the show. Everyone has their favorite pairing and I happen to have a controversial fave: Phoebe and Cole.

Phoebe and Cole meet in the beginning of Season 3, when he’s posing as an Assistant District Attorney to steal the sisters’ Book of Shadows. The Book of Shadows is their magical tome in which all family spells are recorded. Eventually, we discover that Cole is actually the demon Belthazor, and he’s a real bad dude. In his human form, he’s really hot and charming though. He falls in love with Phoebe and their relationship is dark and difficult and pretty much what made me a paranormal romance reader. So bear with me as I list my top 5 episodes featuring the Phoebe/Cole ‘ship.

The Meet-Cute

The Honeymoon’s Over
Season 3, Episode 1: 

This episode is mostly about Piper and Leo getting in trouble with the Powers That Be for their taboo relationship. The Freak of the Week situation involves a court that’s populated by a demonic judge, public defender, bailiff… etc. The audience both meets Cole and discovers his demonic nature in this episode, but Phoebe doesn’t know that part yet. Mostly they just engage in flirty banter and an awkward calf-grab.

[Read more...]

Tue
Mar 14 2017 9:30am

First Look: Alyssa Cole’s An Extraordinary Union (March 28, 2017)

An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

Alyssa Cole
An Extraordinary Union (The Loyal League #1)
Kensington / March 28, 2017 / $15.00 print, $9.99 digital

“They risked their hearts and their lives. For freedom. For justice. For love…”

Alyssa Cole’s An Extraordinary Union is the first in what promises to be a riveting series. In this novel, Elle Burns is a former slave turned spy for the Union during the Civil War. The year is 1862, the setting Virginia. Elle meets Malcolm McCall, a Scotsman turned Pinkerton detective. I read the first few chapters in small bites, absorbing details as Alyssa painted a scene rich with details of time, place, and societal norms. Once I hit the main spy story, however, there was no stopping.

Setting an interracial romance during the Civil War is a risky undertaking, but Alyssa has handled it with aplomb. Drawing on her experience writing about the Revolutionary War and the Civil Rights movement, she’s given us a story that reflects the complexities of being both a patriot and an agitator for change. Despite the government- and society-sanctioned abuses suffered by her race (and her own family) Elle is a woman who loves her country and is willing to give her life in service to making it a better place. I cannot think of a person more patriotic than she, and knowing that the character is based on a real woman made me read parts of the story with tears in my eyes. (I cheated and read the Author’s Note before the rest of the book.) Elle is my new favorite heroine. She has an eidetic memory, but she’s also capable of making connections and acting in roles that others wouldn’t stand.

[Read more...]

Mon
Mar 6 2017 10:30am

Who Will Replace the Billionaire Romance Hero?

After a lengthy time on top (ha), it appears that the Billionaire Hero may be losing favor with the romance-reading population. I’ve read a bunch of the billionaire books, everything from the alpha dom types to the tech geniuses, and I agree with Romancelandia. Time for a change! So, who’s next?

Nuts by Alice Clayton

The Earthy Types

Farmers. Construction workers. Artisan cheesemakers. Men who work with their hands and have a connection to their work. These men provide so many opportunities for sensory description: the smell of baking bread, the smell of fresh cut hay, and the fascinating play of light and shadow over well-defined muscles. Who better to replace the workaholic billionaire hero than a man who appreciates hard work and the pleasure to be found in creating something?

Supporting Evidence:

Alice Clayton’s Hudson Valley series – So far, we have one book about a cheesemaker and one book about a walnut farmer. Clayton’s signature laugh-out-loud romantic comedy stylings combined with heroes at your local farmer’s market? Yes, please.

Tiffany Reisz’s Men at Work series – I already wrote about these books and my absolute love for them, so I wasn’t going to list them here, but… seriously. These books. You should read them.

Sarina Bowen’s True North series – As a Vermonter, I’m biased, but let’s just say that Bowen’s hunky flannel-wearing farmer lumbersexuals are just what romance needs right now.

[Read more...]

Wed
Mar 1 2017 4:00pm

The My Monster Boyfriend Comic is the Paranormal Romance You’ve Been Waiting For

Smut Peddler: My Monster Boyfriend

Last time, on Smut Peddler Presents… *cue swirly flashback screen* We talked about an anthology of dirty comics made by a whole mess of talented ladies!

This week, we’ll catch up with the ladies (and some new ones!) as they launch a brand-new anthology of dirty comics called Smut Peddler Presents: My Monster Boyfriend. In a special encore, we’ll also going to give a couple of paragraphs to Yes, Roya, a comic first made available when Iron Circus Comics was Kickstarting this anthology.

First things first. CHECK OUT THAT COVER.

Is that not the cover of every paranormal romance novel ever? Pouty lips, glowing eyes, ripped shirt… giant horns, pointy ears…  Let’s be honest, I bought this book for the cover. Good marketing, Iron Circus Comics.

Next up: Stats!

  •  222 pages
  • 10 stories
  • Full color!
  • Lots of weird shit, with stories so diverse you don’t even know what you’re looking at sometimes! (I am not even exaggerating.)

I bought this in PDF and read on my iPad, since it’s in full color and some of the artwork simply needs a bigger screen. I really valued being able to zoom in on some of the panels because the artwork is quite lovely.

My Monster Boyfriend is an erotic comics anthology unlike any other. 220 pages of cute monster boys. Robots, demons, aliens and spirits, with their human and not-so-human lovers, in ten incredible stories by comics' best and brightest. … Hold on. It’s about to get weird.

[There are monsters inside!]

Sat
Feb 18 2017 2:00pm

First Look: Megan Frampton’s My Fair Duchess (February 28, 2017)

My Fair Duchess by Megan Frampton

Megan Frampton
My Fair Duchess (Dukes Behaving Badly #5)
Avon / February 28, 2017 / $7.99 print, $5.99 digital

Fun Fact: Megan Frampton is the former community manager of Heroes and Heartbreakers—we now love being able to talk about her historical romances!

As you might suspect, My Fair Duchess, the latest in Megan Frampton’s Dukes Behaving Badly series is a retelling of the classic My Fair Lady. Yes, there’s a makeover and a reluctant man overseeing the education of the plucky young lady. The real hook, however, is an inversion of the governess-artistocrat trope. I loved it.

Our heroine, the newly-minted Duchess of Blakesley, is an anomaly. She becomes a duchess due to an old forgotten ruling in her family line that allows any direct heir to inherit, not just the most closely related male. A note at the beginning of the novel should clear this up for you in case you are thinking “oh come on, that’s not a thing!” (It was a thing in one family, one time.) Having been raised by servants in the country while her father allows the duchy to languish, Genevieve is woefully unprepared for the role. She needs a new wardrobe, training in estate management, an entire new staff, and the confidence to pull off the demeanor expected of a duchess.

[Read more...]

Thu
Feb 2 2017 10:30am

First Look: Cat Sebastian’s The Lawrence Browne Affair (February 7, 2017)

The Lawrence Browne Affair by Cat Sebastian

Cat Sebastian
The Lawrence Browne Affair
Avon Impulse / Feburary 7, 2017 / $1.99 digital

Cat Sebastian’s second male/male regency novel is a beautiful story about the ways in which we can make ourselves better for those we love. With echoes from The Thomas Crown Affair (as the name would suggest) and Beauty and the Beast, Sebastian weaves a tale that manages to be sad, hopeful, and thoroughly satisfying.

When my husband saw the cover of my copy sitting about, we had the following exchange:

Him: “So is that two dukes?” (This question probably says something about my recent reading habits and trends in romance as a whole, but that is neither here nor there.)
Me:  “No, it’s an earl and…”
Him: “If you say an earl and a duke…”
Me: “No, no dukes. It’s an earl and a con artist! But the earl is sort of a crazy inventor recluse. Like if Belle’s dad was sexy!”

Lawrence Browne, the Earl of Radnor, is essentially the only member left of his family, but for a son, Simon, whom he claimed as his to spare a young woman a scandal. His father and brother, the two previous Earls of Radnor, were both “mad,” so he’s convinced he is as well and lives in a small set of rooms in one tower of an estate that’s been left to collapse in ruin.  In his little tower, he invents things, including a safety fuse that has been tested through many explosions and has scared everyone in the village away. So we have one man who is incredibly intelligent, thinks he’s insane, and hides in a tower. (It’s not mentioned by name in the novel, probably because it’s 1816 and we didn’t refer to it as such, but I think Lawrence has a form of autism or agoraphobia.)

[Read more...]

Tue
Jan 17 2017 1:00pm

Smut Peddler: Naughty Comics by Women, For Women

Smut Peddler Graphic Novel

Last time I wrote about comics, I gave them a rating based upon the subjective criteria “can you read this on the train” and “how explicit is this.” This time, I’m just going to tell you: do not read this on the train unless you want some awkward pants feelings with sweaty strangers giving you creepy looks. I also suggest reading this book when not in the presence of children, your parents, etc. I DO suggest reading it with your significant other (battery-operated or human).  

Smut Peddler, aka The Best Name Ever, is an anthology of dirty comics written by an all-star team of writers and illustrators in the indie comics world. I was brought to the volume by my love for one of the contributors, Jess Fink. Her comic, Chester 5000 XYZ is AMAZING.  (It’s a steampunk sexy romance with a robot and you can read it for free here.) Chester was my first erotic comic and I haven’t talked about it much because it felt like talking about porn, which isn’t something we do in “polite company.” Erotic comics have always felt more accessible to me though because they aren’t real people, which removes the icky ethical issues that have always stopped me from enjoying porn. (This isn’t a judgment of anyone who does watch porn, as I know it’s a healthy part of many people’s sexual experiences.) ANYWAY, I’m going to tell you about Smut Peddler and if you like what I have to say, please buy the comic and support a fantastic group of female artists.

This review is based on the 2014 Edition, a thick volume in black and white that showed up on my doorstep in a completely innocuous media mail envelope. Little did my mail carrier know, subversive comics lay within! The subheading on this book is “A Superior Pornucopia for Classy Dames (and the Forward-Thinking Gentleman).” With that in mind, here we go!

[Dig in...]

Tue
Jan 10 2017 4:00pm

Where’s Sera’s Baby? and Other Questions We Have for The Day of the Duchess

The Day of the Duchess by Sarah MacLean

This post contains spoilers for all books in the Scandal & Scoundrel series by Sarah MacLean and heavy speculation on what's to come in The Day of the Duchess. 

Sarah MacLean’s Scandal & Scoundrel series is loosely based on modern celebrity scandals, complete with gossip rag columns sprinkled throughout. As with modern scandals, we readers don’t know the full story or probably even half of the story. But isn’t it delicious to speculate? Let’s do.

The next installment in the series is The Day of the Duchess, featuring the Duke and Duchess of Haven, Malcolm and Seraphina. In the first book, the heroine, Sera’s sister Sophie, pushes the Duke into a fish pond at a garden party after a very public row… after she catches him with someone who is very much not Sera. It causes a scandal that compels Sophie to dash off into the country, get shot, get married, etc. That shove is really the catalyst for the plot of The Rogue Not Taken. To say it’s memorable is an understatement.

In book two, A Scot in the Dark, the heroine, Lily, has become a friendless outcast, until she meets the Soiled S’s. Like the modern day Kardashian sisters, the Talbot sisters (Sophie, Sera, Sesily, Seline, and Seleste) fill the pages of the gossip rags in London. Sesily and Sophie in particular befriend our Lily, standing up for her during her own scandal. But where’s Sera?

Sounds like we’ll find out in The Day of the Duchess!

What We Know

[Read more...]

Thu
Jan 5 2017 1:00pm

5 Romance Comics for Every Reader (and Heat Level!)

Fresh Romance Vol. 1

Hello romance nerds!

Supporting diverse comics is a priority for me and something I really enjoy. Lucky for me, H&H is letting me write about romance comics for you again!

Before we begin:

  • The comics are all different, but I have a thing when it comes to buying my comics digitally: I hate buying based on a pretty, colored cover and discovering a black and white interior. Because I’m your friend, I’ve given you that info up front.
  • Some people like explicit comics, some don’t. I tried to rate them based on whether or not you could read them on the train.

Fresh Romance (full color, sexiness depends on the comic)

Last time I wrote about comics, Fresh Romance had just been published and I was EXCITED. I hope some of you bought the anthology or an issue or two. If you didn’t subscribe, you may have missed the news that Emet Comics has absorbed Fresh Romance and is now publishing pages of The Ruby Equation on their Tumblr.

If you didn’t catch this comic before, it’s ADORABLE. A “cynical bored love emissary from another dimension” has to help humans fall in love to earn her wings. Her approach? Math. The Ruby Equation is written by Sarah Kuhn (who wrote the fab novel Heroine Complex) and drawn by Sally Jane Thompson. Cute art, cute story, love and feel-good vibes. Oh and it’s FREE. (They’ll be continuing the other series too as the creators are able.)

[Read more...]

Wed
Jan 4 2017 4:00pm

A Newbie’s Guide to Category Romance

(...or the somewhat initiated leading the uninitiated)

One Hot December by Tiffany Reisz

Lured by the promise of Tiffany Reisz’s trademark banter and sexytimes, I picked up her Men at Work series this fall. Not that big a deal, except that they were my FIRST category romances. (My first Harlequins that weren’t Gena Showalter or Sarah Morgan’s full-length novels.) Scared away for years by the often jest-worthy titles and very obvious covers, I pretended I was “better” than “those” romance novels. As if there are different levels of respectability in Romancelandia… Nope. Romancelandia is here for everyone. Sometimes you want to cry, sometimes you want to lust, and sometimes you want a book that’s short and easy to slip into for a few hours. My discovery? I was MISSING OUT.

What is category romance?

According to Goodreads, “Category romances are short, usually no more than 200 pages, or about 55,000 words. The books are published in clearly delineated lines, with a certain number of books published in each line every month. In many cases, the books are numbered sequentially within the line.” A pretty broad definition, which means that all sorts of stories are told within this group. Like the rest of romance, subgenres abound, but they’re captured in “lines.”

[Read more...]

Sat
Dec 31 2016 12:00pm

The Best Kisses of 2016: A Highly Subjective List

In a genre sometimes referred to as “kissing books,” picking the Best Kisses is not an easy task. It’s really fun one, though. Have you ever gone through your list of recently read books and searched for JUST the kissing scenes? If not, may I suggest you do so?

I read heavily in three subgenres: fantasy/paranormal, historical, and contemporary. I don’t really read about cowboys or bikers, romantic suspense, or inspirational. If those are your thing, I bet your list looks a lot different than mine. Thus the subtitle of this post: A Highly Subjective List.

Having read roughly 200 books this year, I limited the selection to books published in 2016. No 2015 or 2017 in this list though I DEARLY wanted to include a few. (I read Lord of Scoundrels this year, y’all. And Alyssa Cole’s Radio Silence. And Alisha Rai’s Serving Pleasure. This list goes on…)

Suzanne’s Awards for Best Kiss of 2016

[Kiss, kiss...]

Wed
Dec 28 2016 3:00pm

Not Your Typical Holiday Romances: Tiffany Reisz’s Men at Work Series

Tiffany Reisz's Men At Work Series

You know how a good book can make everything better? Of course you do. You wouldn’t be reading this otherwise. So let’s get right to the point: 2016 has had a lot of sucky moments. Holidays can have sucky moments. Tiffany Reisz’s Men at Work series? No sucky moments. (Other than the obvious pun I could make.) Teaming up with Harlequin, Tiffany Reisz has released a book in their Blaze line for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and December this year. They have done three things for me: changed my mind about category romance (more to come on that later), distracted me from my own holiday angst, and provided many hours of straight up joy.

Since all three books are 210ish pages, Reisz wisely has chosen to start the H/h out with some history. They all know each other before the story begins, so we don’t run into the insta-love or insta-lust issues that some shorter novels and novellas have. The stories take place in the same area in Oregon (near Mt Hood) and the stories have a loose common thread. Think small-town romance, but not sequel-bait. The heroes in the stories are all engaged in the construction/carpentry trade and the heroines each have their own career in which they excel. Two of the heroines also have very hands-on jobs, so it’s equal-opportunity fetishization of manual labor. Lastly, all three stories feature Reisz’s trademark witty banter, sexy banter, and hot sex.

[Read more...]

Mon
Dec 26 2016 11:00am

First Look: Amanda Bouchet’s Breath of Fire (January 3, 2017)

Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

Amanda Bouchet
Breath of Fire (The Kingmaker Chronicles #2)
Sourcebooks / January 3, 2017 / $7.99 print & digital

In the highly anticipated Breath of Fire, Amanda Bouchet does not disappoint. I had really high expectations for this book. I did a happy dance and texted photos to my husband when I received it in the mail. My expectations were so high I was almost afraid to read the book for fear of being let down. But let me just reassure you: it’s different than A Promise of Fire, but it’s SO GOOD. (Capital letters necessary.)

In the first book, we met about our heroine, Cat, and our hero, Griffin. In this book, we see their relationship deepen and develop as they shed secrets and build trust. Their relationship is beautiful. In the first book it was adversarial, but now they’re a team. The relationship is still at the core of this book and it’s a good one.

Here are a few other aspects that kept me turning pages, biting my nails, and sighing happily:

[Read more...]

Wed
Oct 19 2016 3:00pm

3 Things to Love About Susanna Kearsley

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

Ever read a book and wanted to scream from a mountaintop that everyone should read it? Yeah, me too. My favorite feeling is when I can give someone else that experience, which leads me to recommend books. My most frequently recommended book? The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. Then The Shadowy Horses and Mariana and The Rose Garden and… You get the idea.

History has all but forgotten...

In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.

Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write.

But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth-the ultimate betrayal-that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her...

While the blurb hooked me with the Outlander overtones, Kearsley’s writing is much different and the story has only surface similarities. The Winter Sea is the perfect showcase for Kearsley’s particular brand: a novel that defies categorization and incorporates aspects of time travel, romance, historical fiction, adventure, and just enough magic. I was mom to a 1 year old and working full time when I read this book. I stayed up until 2 am reading it. Let me tell you, almost nothing kept me from sleep those days. So what hooked me? What makes me recommend The Winter Sea and her other books? Let me count the ways…

[Read more...]

Thu
Oct 6 2016 9:30am

Happily Triad After in Olivia Cunning’s Outsider

Outsider by Olivia Cunning

Triads in romance aren’t all that uncommon. I’ve read them done well, and not so well. H&H has covered a bunch of them. What I hadn’t read before, until now, was an exploration of what comes after that HEA when the triad rides off into the proverbial sunset.

In Double Time, one of Olivia Cunning’s Sinners on Tour series, Trey overcame a decade-long obsession with his straight best friend to find love with the new guitarist of Exodus End (his brother’s band) and her roommate (and former boyfriend). At the end of Double Time, the three of them have overcome misunderstandings, old love, and insecurities, defining their relationship privately. Outsider, the second book in Olivia Cunning’s Exodus End World Tour series, follows the story of Reagan, Trey, and Ethan as they work to define their relationship publicly.

Given the title and the themes in Insider, the first book in this series, I expected this story to focus more on Reagan’s feelings of outsider-ness in her new band. It doesn’t. Instead, Cunning focuses on how each of the characters feels like an outsider in their own relationship. I found the dynamic fascinating and heart-wrenching. While they share a strong bond, they each have a very different background and it impacts their ability/desire to be public with their unconventional lifestyle.

[Read more...]

Tue
Aug 30 2016 4:00pm

First Look: Sarah MacLean’s A Scot in the Dark (August 30, 2016)

A Scot in the Dark by Sarah MacLean

Sarah MacLean
A Scot in the Dark (Scandal & Scoundrel #2)
Avon Romance / August 30, 2016 / $7.99 print, $6.99 digital

A Scot in the Dark, the second entry in Sarah MacLean’s Scandal & Scoundrel series, follows Alec Stuart and his ward, Lillian Hargrove. Alec is the Duke of Warnick, a Scot who inherited the title after the 17 others in line for it before him died in a variety of unexpected ways. Most of them didn’t have families, so their properties and responsibilities all fell to him. Lily is one of those responsibilities, and after falling in love with the wrong man, she finds herself a pariah with no prospects.

The story begins when Alec is instructed to fix things and travels to London, finding a spirited young woman who is (justifiably) tired of men and rules. MacLean is a master of tension (she teaches workshops on it, I’m not exaggerating here), and the tension in the novel comes largely from a lack of trust between our main characters.

Alec was raised by a father who emotionally abandoned him after Alec’s English mother physically abandoned them to return to London (and then died shortly thereafter). Apparently she didn’t love her family enough to stay in the country, and Alec has spent his life either trying to win her approval or giving the metaphorical middle finger to England and wandering his Scottish estate barechested with two giant dogs for company.

[Read more...]

Thu
Aug 25 2016 4:20pm

First Look: Lenora Bell’s If I Only Had a Duke (August 30, 2016)

If I Only Had A Duke by Lenora Bell

Lenora Bell
If Only I Had A Duke (The Disgraceful Dukes)
Avon / August 30, 2016 / $7.99 print, $4.99 digitial

If I Only Had a Duke is the second in Lenora Bell’s debut series, The Disgraceful Dukes, and I loved it just as well as the first. If this is Bell’s standard, I’m adding her to my auto-buy list! This book is seriously trope-a-riffic. It’s a mish-mash of things I love and it works brilliantly! Here’s what you should know:

Bell Doesn’t Take Herself Too Seriously

Romancelandia is plagued with dukes. I mean, how many dukes can there possibly be in England in 1820? And how many single, handsome dukes in their late twenties to early-thirties? Bell has based an entire series on matching renegade dukes with equally scandalous ladies. It’s completely delicious, but also improbable, and she has a character sum it up in fantastic fashion right out of the gate.

“Handsome dukes are suchrare creatures. Rather like silvery snow leopards, one imagines. “ She stared out the window dreamily. “Crouching on remote mountaintops, taunting hunters, and then melting into the brush.”

[Renegades and scandalous women...]

Tue
Aug 23 2016 9:30am

First Look: Alexis Hall’s Looking for Group (August 29, 2016)

Looking for Group by Alexis Hall

Alexis Hall
Looking for Group
Riptide Publishing / August 29, 2016 / $17.99 print, $6.99 digital

Looking for Group, by Alexis Hall, is a geek’s dream. (Or at least this geek’s dream.) The story centers around two college (university, since they’re Brits) students who meet and fall in love while playing an MMO. For the uninitiated, MMO stands for Massively Multiplayer Online game. The game in question is called Heroes of Legend, a fictionalized version of World of Warcraft. The story takes place in two phases, first when Drew joins Kit’s guild (that’s a closed community of players) and they become involved, and later when Drew and Kit try to reconcile their real and virtual lives.

Drew has been in a very goal-oriented raiding guild for a long time and quits because he’s fed up with loot system. (Distribution of treasure/equipment). When he joins Kit’s more casual guild, he’s welcomed into a group of people who are… friendly. He’s not used to a social guild, so readers get some excellent dialogue as he opens up, starts making jokes, and bonds with a particularly well-dressed lady elf. After a good bit of one-on-one online hanging out and significant feels, Drew discovers that Solace (Kit) is actually male in real life and has a bit of a freak-out. With some help from Drew’s real-world friends (and time), Drew figures out that maybe he likes Kit regardless of his gender identity. It’s not as big a deal as he thought. Maybe he’s even gay. That’s not made into an issue, though. Labels need not apply.

[Read more...]