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From The Blog
June 23, 2017
5 Reasons You Should Listen to Audiobooks
Nicole Leapheart
June 23, 2017
A Definitive Ranking of Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson Books
Maggie Boyd
June 22, 2017
10 Dirty Football Terms You Didn't Know Are Legitimate
LizLincoln
June 22, 2017
Love on a Deadline in Liora Blake’s Second Chance Season
Janet Webb
June 21, 2017
A Bisexual Reader’s Romance Wishlist
Cerestheories
Showing posts by: Sahara Hoshi click to see Sahara Hoshi's profile
Tue
Jun 20 2017 1:00pm

Games: A Gateway to Romance

Source: Shutterstock

Long before HD television and the rise of video games whose graphics you can actually tell apart, I fell in love with the love of a Playstation 1 game. I believe it was elementary school/beginning of junior high that a much-loved game (by me, not necessarily critics), came out called Fantasy VIII. Up to this point, I had read American Girl, Dear America, Sweet Valley High, Babysitter’s Club and more. They brushed around the concept of romance, but Final Fantasy VIII was the first time I actually got to semi-live the romantic story.

Let me be clear, this game is absolutely bonkers with a really incoherent plot. Basically you play a broody, not-quite douchey but almost there hero named Squall. Squall goes to a military academy, things happen and he eventually meet Rinoa, the manic pixie dream girl who later turns out to be a sorceress. The two have a great meet-cute where she forces him into a waltz and then disappears. It was a great cut scene. Long story short is that evil sorceresses (mainly just one) are screwing things up, somehow time travel/body transitioning is involved, eventually you get an airship and it kind of all goes from there. The ending leaves a lot to be desired, there’s some arguments to whether the hero is dead, but if you watch the ending credits there are a ton of hints that he’s not. (It’s clearly a happily for now).

[Read more...]

Thu
Jun 15 2017 3:05pm

Julianna Keyes’ My Roommate’s Girl Explores Dark Pasts and Second Chances

My Roommate's Girl by Julianna Keyes

Aidan and Aster are an unlikely pair in the beginning of Julianna KeyesMy Roommate's Girl. Aidan is a college student who has been given a second chance at life in the form of a second-chance type program at Holsom College. He’s been able to keep up everything by working at the school library participating in the mandatory extracurricular of frisbee baseball and keeping his head down. All this changes when he moves off campus and meets his roommate, Jerry, and titular roommate’s girlfriend, Aster. What begins is mainly an obsession with Aster where Aidan makes some unsavory moves to make a connection between him and Aster happen.

It’s hard to talk about this book and avoid spoilers because there is so much going on. The first third of the book is very heavy on Aidan’s perspective but later goes to the back and forth. The back and forth between hero and heroine perspectives is classic Keyes as evidenced in her Carina Press Time Served series and her independently published Burnham College series. Aster does serve as a solid foil to Aidan’s initial obsession, namely she’s not what he expected. Aster has actually served time in prison, shares a background of an unreliable mother and a drug addicted father. Meanwhile, Aidan’s parents are stuck in an endless loop where Aidan’s father gambles precious items away and his mother puts up with that behavior. Both protagonists are in the second-chance program. Aster for her arrest, Aidan for his court appearance after committing grand theft auto on a bait care. As a result, the two share a connection and background that goes beyond attraction.

[Read more...]

Mon
Jun 12 2017 12:00pm

First Look: Gena Showalter’s The Darkest Promise (June 13, 2017)

The Darkest Promise by Gena Showalter

Gena Showalter
The Darkest Promise (Lords of the Underworld #13)
HQN Books / June 13, 2017 / $ 22.99 print, $11.99 digital

Cameo’s story has been a long time coming. As the one of two, female Lords of the Underworld, the lady of Misery finally gets her chance at a happily ever after. Fans were initially betting on Torin and Cameo ending up together in part due to earlier sex scenes as well as their confirmed status of dating. However, Gena Showalter is a tricky one and quickly paired up Torin with heroine, Keeley, while leaving Cameo on the market. Having Lazarus as her HEA is not a huge surprise to readers, however. The last few books consisted of steamy scenes between Cameo and Lazarus as they navigated the many realms of the Paring Rod, an ancient artifact that sucks an individual in, body and soul. The start of The Darkest Promise shows Cameo getting ready to take another trip through the Rod in order to relive the happiness that she gained with Lazarus.

[Read more...]

Mon
May 15 2017 3:30pm

First Look: Penny Reid’s Dating-ish (May 16, 2017)

Dating-ish by Penny Reid

Penny Reid
Dating-ish (Knitting in the City #6)
Penny Reid / May 16, 2017 / $5.99 digital 

Penny Reid’s Dating-ish is the latest in her Knitting in the City series. The story focuses on Marie, a journalist and character who’s kind of been in the background for most of the series. The book focuses on Marie’s dating life and quest for love, with a twist. Turns out the date she goes on is actually a test for a study to develop AI that can provide companionship. Enter Matt, a robotics researcher who typecasts Marie in a group of women that are “all the same.”

The meet-cute is more like a meet-fail, there’s no sexual tension or sexy hatred going on here. Matt comes across as a jerk. He’s also Marie’s friend, Fiona’s neighbor. If your friends are warning you about a guy you’ve got to stay away. The relationship develops more as a tenuous friendship that evolves into a romantic relationship. Marie’s recovering from her last breakup and Matt isn’t the most touchy-feely guy. Marie is writing an article regarding the idea of romance/robotics and Matt is working on his project, so they quid pro quo each other into helping each other. Probably the best part of this book is seeing how the friendship evolves into a relationship.

[Read more...]

Wed
Apr 19 2017 9:30am

10 Predictions for Kresley Cole’s Wicked Abyss

Wicked Abyss by Kresley Cole

Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark series has more than 15 books spanning a variety of timelines, and with a long running series where multiple plot points intersect, they don't necessarily connect in the order readers expect. Published on April 25, Wicked Abyss is the latest foray into the IAD world. Many readers have been surprised that the last two IAD releases focused on new, never-before introduced characters. As a result, some of the plotlines of earlier books have questions left unanswered. In Wicked Abyss, it's my hope that Cole will bridge the gap of one specific book, MacRieve. At the end of MacRieve, we were left with a werewolf paired with a mate who did not react well to him. In the books since, we've gone further into the fey and demon realms. I am interested to see if Wicked Abyss is a transition book that ties together the fate of Munroe and his mate and launching off the action we saw in Shadow’s Seduction while still delivering the signature Cole worldbuilding IAD fans love. With that in mind, I present you with 10 predictions for Wicked Abyss:

[Speculate with us!]

Sat
Mar 18 2017 2:00pm

Death, the After Life... and Romance?

Firstlife by Gena Showalter

The main rule of the romance genre is an HEA—happily ever after. It’s surprising then, how the genre deals with death. A number of novels use the threat of death as a plot device—looking at you, romantic suspense. However, when death isn’t a threat, but part of the whole of the story, the romance takes a different turn.

Let’s look at Gena Showalter’s Firstlife, its sequel Lifeblood just came out. The point of this novel lies on a choice of where you go after you die. Does heroine Tenley choose Myriad, the Dark realm, or Troika, the Light realm? Being a YA heroine, she is, of course, very important to both main factions in the plot. What’s interesting, however, is that while most everyone around her contemplates and hinges their lives on which realm they’ll choose after they die, Tenley doesn’t. There are a lot of conflicts and plot twists that I could spend the whole article going into but suffice to say, Tenley focuses on the here and now, at least while she’s alive. Showalter toys with the idea of one death becoming not the end but rather the desired beginning all humans hope to achieve (suicide is out though) which makes the novel’s concept so interesting.

(Spoilers for J.R. Ward's Lover Unbound ahead)

[Read more...]

Wed
Feb 22 2017 3:30pm

The (West) End Is Only the Beginning in Lucy Parker’s Pretty Face

Pretty Face by Lucy Parker

Lucy Parker takes readers back to the West End theater scene with Pretty Face. Introducing two new characters, Lily and Luc—the main tropes at play here are the employer-employee relationship as well as the romance between an older man and a younger woman. The “pretty face” the title refers to is Lily Lamprey. At the start of the novel, Lily is best known for her work on Knightsbridge, a campy drama series almost akin to the worst kind of HBO series. Lily has been typecast as a seductress character throughout the entirety of her career on Knightsbridge. Her dream is to make it as a West End actress, but if Luc has his way, her career would be dead in the water.

Unlike Lainie and Richard from Act Like It, the first book in the series, the contention between Luc and Lily is not one of personalities, but of opinion. Luc doesn’t think Lily can hack it in his production and, in no uncensored terms, lets his opinion be known. Unfortunately for Luc, that opinion makes its way back to Lily and the tension builds from there. What’s nice is that we don’t spend the entire novel dwelling over a he said something and she reacts in a negative way. Instead, like it or not, Lily gets the role of Queen Elizabeth I in Luc’s production and the two are forced to coexist.

[Read more...]

Tue
Sep 20 2016 3:00pm

First Look: Tamsen Parker’s School Ties (September 20, 2016)

School Ties by Tamsen Parker

Tamsen Parker
School Ties
InterMix/ September 20, 2016/ $2.99 digital

Much like Tamsen Parker's Craving Flight, School Ties  reads more like literary fiction tied with romance.  Parker works well with the affluent boarding school setting, Hawthorn Hill as well as the trope of a young student in love with a teacher. What's interesting is that the first half of the novel is really a build of sexual tension between Zach Shepard and Erin Brewster. Erin's not too much older than Zach, but there is the boundary that she is the teacher and Zach's the student. Individuals would argue that there is a great emotional gap between a teacher who is 24 and a student who is 18. However, Zach has to take on more than his share of adult issues including working to help support himself and his family. The maturity is what attracts Erin to Zach although to be honest, Zach's attractiveness doesn't hurt either.

Tamsen Parker fans will be familiar with the kink that runs through the latter half of the book. However, compared to Personal Geography or Craving Flight, the kink is toned down in terms of how much Erin and Zach go into the kink aspect. It's more of a submissive's trust Erin places in Zach and Zach takes care of Erin in the way a dominant might. However, there's not much in terms of toys or the utilization of objects such as rope, paddles, etc. Instead, there is more of a physical dominance at play including spanking and more of Zach dominating Erin through intensity and physical presence. 

[Read more...]

Sat
Sep 10 2016 12:00pm

Shift Just Got Real in Jennifer Ashley’s Guardian’s Mate

Guardian's Mate by Jennifer Ashley

I was in love with Kenderick's story in White Tiger and fell in love with polar-bear Shifter and healer, Zander in the same novel so when the opportunity came to review Guardian's Mate, I jumped at it. Guardian's Mate could easily focus on Zander's past and present outlook as he's a character with an extremely rich history. In comparison, the heroine, Rae is just coming into her own, she hasn't lived as long as Zander nor has she gone through as many events or experiences with the magic that touches both Rae and Zander's lives. 

Jennifer Ashley did something very interesting here in pairing up a young woman trying to figure out circumstances that have been thrust upon her with a world-weary man who has seen almost too much to want to create deeper connections with the world around him. Rae stands on her own as a heroine, she may not have the same life experience as her hero, but she's certainly developed enough as a character to have her own opinions and personalty. In addition, she's a bit like Zander in that she doesn't fit the typical mold of the world Ashley's created. Rae is a black wolf Shifter who has been taken in as the adopted daughter of a Feline Alpha. Rae's not sure where she fits in and the place she's most comfortable, her Shiftertown, has turned against her because she's the first known female Guardian. So take one reluctant hero, a reluctant heroine, pair them together and you've got a strong standalone installment in Ashley's Shifter series.

[Read more...]

Mon
Jul 25 2016 2:30pm

First Look: Erin Watt’s Broken Prince (July 25, 2016)

Broken Prince by Erin Watt

Erin Watt
Broken Prince (Royals #2)
EverAfter Romance / July 25, 2016 / $14.99 print, $4.99 digital

Broken Prince picks up where Paper Princess left off, Ella has flown the coop away from Royal Palace and it's up to Reed Royal and his point of view narrative to help pick up the pieces and make sense of what is rotten in the Royal family. 

It's a nice surprise to get things in Reed's perspective, however, his change of heart over how much he was anti-Ella for most of the first book is a bit surprisng. The nice thing about this series is that Erin Watt has left a lot of room for shocking and almost unbelievable plot twists to happen. I'm not going to say who or what happens, but by establishing the soap opera tone early on in Paper Princess, Broken Prince can get away with a bunch of twists and plot shifts that would almost kill the suspension of disbelief in other novels.

[Ever after?]

Thu
Jul 21 2016 2:30pm

It’s Alive! Can Frankenstein Be Sexy?

One Night Steined by Daisy Harris

Editor’s Note: Yes, we know technically it should be Frankenstein’s Monster, but the terms have become interchangeable in the modern usage of the creature originated by Mary Shelley and for the purposes of this post, we’ll just use the term Frankenstein.

So let me clarify that we are not talking about zombies in this post, we’re talking about Frankenstein, patchwork people and people generally engineered or put together. The difference between a Frankenstein character and a zombie? The Frankenstein character has full use of his or her mental faculties, he or she does not eat the flesh of the living and finally, he or she has been brought to life or pieced together in some way.

[Not quite monster making...]

Tue
Jul 19 2016 9:30am

First Look: Nalini Singh’s Rock Wedding (July 19, 2016)

Rock Wedding by Nalini Singh

Nalini Singh
Rock Wedding (Rock Kiss #5)
Nalini Singh / July 19, 2016 / $5.99 digital

I feel that a lot of readers including myself, were inclined to dislike Sarah's character based on the brief glimpses we had in the other books where we saw Sarah and Abe's messy divorce. In Rock Wedding, the reader gets a glimpse of addicted Abe from Sarah's point of view. The reader also gets to see how Sarah picks herself off the ground and goes from victim to victorious in her own right as a business owner. 

As I read the provided ARC (advance reader copy) I messaged Nalini Singh saying that this book is both beautiful and breaks my heart. There are a lot of issues dealt with in the book including: addiction, loss of a infant, divorce, domestic abuse and homelessness among others. What differentiates Rock Wedding from the previous installment Rock Redmeption is that most of the issues have happened in the past so rather than dealing with a man who has his demons calling him head on like Noah, Abe has had actual treatment for his issues so he can confront them in healthy situations such as exercise. The point I'm trying to make is that there is a lot less angst in Rock Wedding and more reflection on where the characters have been and where the characters are going.

[Rock on...]

Fri
Jul 15 2016 9:30am

Waiting on the Beast: 5 Books to Read Until You Can See Emma Watson as Beauty in Beauty and the Beast

Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

With the upcoming release of a live action Beauty and the Beast, a lot of readers, including myself, are thrilled with the casting and the development but not so thrilled about having to wait a little more than half a year for it. As a result, I’ve rounded up some beastly and beautiful reads for readers impatiently waiting for Emma Watson to grace our screens.

1. Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

A really unique take on who is beautiful and who is beastly set in a domed city of Yuan. The heroine Isra is meant to be a human sacrifice destined to bring prosperity through her death. The hero, Gem is a captive in Yuan who up till now has been fighting to save his people, the Monstrous from complete decimation due to starvation. Not so much of a retelling as it is a take on the fairy tale, Of Beast and Beauty is a dystopian tale that questions what does it really mean to be beautiful?

[To help satisfy your hunger...]

Mon
Jul 4 2016 11:00am

Indie-pendence Day: Summer Indie Spotlight featuring Wylde, Frost, and More!

Bad Boy's Baby by Sosie Frost

It’s my turn to take the helm and talk about some great indie releases, some that are currently out now and ones that you should keep an eye on in the future.

Sosie Frost’s Football Romances

Bad Boy’s Baby, Beauty and the Blitz, Once Upon a Half-Time: A Secret Baby Romance: Sosie Frost is a new go-to author of mine. Frost has written a ton of troptaistic stories including ones about stepbrothers, a taboo romance featuring a priest and a hard-to-get bridesmaid. I really feel like Frost shines though in her sports romances starting with Bad Boy’s Baby and ending with the most recent Once Upon a Half-Time. Each book features a top of the world alpha football player who either must woo or is reluctantly wooed by his heroine. In addition, the heroines really stand on their own and are distinguished from book to book. My two favorites are Leah and Elle, from Bad Boy’s Baby and Once Upon a Half-Time as the two must be the resistors in their relationships with their heroes, Jack and Lachlan. Beauty and the Blitz on the other hand, is a woman woos alphahole story where Piper must convince Cole to stop being an asshat and basically save his career. Readers who like the trope being turned around will definitely enjoy Beauty and the Blitz and readers who love a twist will enjoy Once Upon a Half-Time. Meanwhile, Bad Boy’s Baby definitely fits in the new wave of breeding romances and features a cocky son of a gun who is hard not to love.

[More great releases ahead...]

Thu
Jun 9 2016 2:00pm

Boys and Their Toys: A Look at Guys and Gadgets in Romance

Trade Me by Courtney Milan

Isn’t technology fun? How about pairing up the technology with a book/film boyfriend like my long-time crush and possible future husband Tony Stark and his Iron Man armor? Below is a list of cool guys and even cooler tech that plays a prominent role in romance plotlines.

1. Blake and the Vortex  Watch from Courtney Milan’s Trade Me

Move over Apple Watch, Cyclone Technology has built a watch that features video chat, a timekeeping device and is a cool part of a Prince and the Pauper like story from Courtney Milan. Tina Chen and Blake Reynolds not only swap places, they literally swap lives where each has to walk a mile in the others’ shoes. What’s great about Trade Me, is that not only does it feature a diverse heroine and a hero drowning under his father’s pressure, but Tina and Blake really get a feel for one another becoming friends as well as romantic partners. I also appreciate the addition of Blake’s dad, Adam Reynolds, who is basically Tony Stark if Tony Stark had a kid, super protective, arrogant and overall having high ambitions for his son. It’s Adam who is at the same time a villain and a catalyst for change in Trade Me making the story fully-fleshed out and well-versed in the technology space.

[Tech update commencing in 3... 2... 1...]

Mon
Jun 6 2016 12:00pm

The Controversy of an HEA: Why I Like It When A Court of Mist and Fury Flipped The Script

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Necessary spoiler tag is necessary. We're talking about the HEA (Happily Ever After) of A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas, which of course comes at the end of the book so be warned, there will be spoilers! Further warning, this is not a genre romance, so expectations should be managed. 

Jenn Proffitt recommended A Court of Thorns and Roses to me last year and I devoured it in one sitting. After saving A Court of Mist and Fury—by saving I mean I waited on reading it much like a kid would save a favorite candy bar—all I can say is wow, Sarah J. Maas has managed to do something I never thought I’d love. Maas retroactively changed the happy ending given to Tamlin and Feyre in A Court of Thorns and Roses and flipped the script so that Feyre ended up in love with my favorite character in the series, Rhysand.

[Flipping the script...]

Mon
May 16 2016 3:00pm

First Look: L.H. Cosway’s Showmance (May 16, 2016)

Showmance by L.H. Cosway

L.H. Cosway
Showmance
Self-published / May 16, 2016 / $14.99 print, $3.99 digital

“I’ll always choose you first, petal,” is one of  the many swoonworthy lines courtesy of Damon Atwood in L.H. Cosway’s Showmance. I’ll preface this article by saying I have never seen Moulin Rouge, but L.H. Cosway’s writing makes me want to see it. Similar to Lucy Parker’s Act Like It, Showmance is set in London’s West End theater district where Moulin Rouge is set to play for three months.

In the foreground is the reclusive Damon Atwood, renowned for winning an Oscar as a young child, but has since been away from the limelight. In the background—literally—the reader meets Rose, a dance instructor/assistant to the show’s choreographer. The two strike up a friendship on the set that clearly becomes more as the story progresses. One of the main things I like about an L.H. Cosway novel is that it delivers a tried and true romance with some conflict between the characters, but the conflict doesn’t necessarily have to be over the top.

[Subtlety is key...]

Mon
May 9 2016 2:00pm

Explore the Phoenix Pack World in Suzanne Wright’s Savage Urges

Savage Urges brings us to the fifth installment in the Phoenix Pack series and is the story of taciturn Enforcer, Ryan paired with Loner, Makenna. Other paranormal romance books have explored the concept of a pack mentality versus a lone wolf figure, but in Suzanne Wright’s shifter world, Loner is actually a social status. A person is kicked out of his or her pack for varying reasons and thus carries a stigma for the rest of his or her life.

The previous installments of the Phoenix Pack series have shown humans becoming increasingly more aggressive in their stance against shifters, so a shifter without a pack is put in physical, social and emotional danger. As a result, Makenna takes her lone wolf status seriously and volunteers with a shelter that houses and helps other lone shifters. Makenna’s work literally brings her to Ryan when a teenage relative of Ryan’s, Zac, is found passed out on her doorstep.

[A most inauspicious meeting if we've ever seen one...]

Sun
May 1 2016 2:00pm

Ship Just Got Real in Captain America: Civil War—Time To Decide Your Side (Part 2 of 2)

Team Cap vs Team Iron Man Part 2 gif

Team H&H is having its own Civil War among our bloggers as two of our most die-hard superhero fans, Pen Singleton and Sahara Hoshi, take a side in Captain America: Civil War. Today they're offering up their State of the Ship for each side, but look back on their opening argument to decide your decide, as they detail what their side winning or losing could mean for the ships we've come to love in the Marvel Universe. 

Team Captain America (Pen):

In the opening argument of the #TeamIronMan post, Sahara delves into members of the team and reasons why they are on Tony’s side, including being haunted by past mistakes, much like Tony. #TeamIronMan sees this as a good thing but I see it as another reason to not be on #TeamIronMan. Tony causing the rift amongst the heroes is doing more than just pitting them against one another; he’s also jeopardizing a few of the bromances and romances amongst the teams. Our heroes splitting up when there is an imminent danger to the planet on the horizon (don’t forget Thanos is on his way!) is bad enough but the thought of these relationships falling apart causes me even more distress. Let’s check in on how Civil War may affect a few of the ‘ships I have a vested interest in. Gif via asparkshinesbright

[Let's now hear from #TeamIronMan ...]

Fri
Apr 29 2016 3:00pm

Captain America vs. Iron Man: Which Side Are You On? Part 1 of 2

Captain American #Team Cap vs Iron Man #TeamIronMan in Civil War

Team H&H is having its own Civil War among our bloggers as two of our most die-hard superhero fans, Pen Singleton and Sahara Hoshi, take a side in Captain America: Civil War. Today they're offering up their opening arguments for each side, but come back on Sunday as they detail what their side winning or losing could mean for the ships we've come to love in the Marvel Universe. 

We are about a week away from Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War and I (Pen Singleton) could not be more ready!  In case you haven’t seen any of my other Marvel posts, here’s a quick rundown of my credentials.  I have a tendency to obsess and it comes into play very strongly with the movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  I have seen most of the movies multiple times in the theater.  And, when I say multiple, I don’t mean two or three.  I saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier in the theater ten times. And, thus far, I’ve seen The Avengers in the theater twenty times. And I say “thus far” because I already have my ticket for the Ultimate Captain America Marathon on May 5, the day before the release of Captain America: Civil War.  I will be in the movie theater at 8am to watch a 15 hour marathon consisting of both previous Captain American movies and both Avengers movies before the premiere of Captain America: Civil War. So, I know a bit about these movies and have extremely strong feelings about the battle at the heart of the new movie that will pit all of the Marvel heroes we’ve seen in movies since 2008’s Iron Man against one another: Team Iron Man vs Team Captain America.

[Pick your side ...]