A Taste of Sweetness by Kate Alexander

Publication date: 17 July 2020
Series: A Blossom Hills Romance #1
Warnings: physical and emotional abuse

A Taste of Sweetness grabbed my attention right from the start with a scene that I think everyone can relate to – the hissing sound of an impending explosion from a soft drink bottle. Nothing like a bit of shared discomfort to get you on side from the start.

I suspect we’ve all been there – that feeling of helplessness. And when you’re driving long distance when it happens? Nothing worse than knowing that the rest of your trip will be spent in sticky discomfort! (I once sat next to a dear friend who managed to squish a little sachet of jam in his pocket as our Flight to Bali was taxiing for take-off…that flight suddenly doubled in length!! But I digress. Let’s just say I sympathised with this character and move on…)

Zoey is on the move. She has left her old life behind, with a job she didn’t care about and a controlling ex-boyfriend, to begin a new life in Blossom Hills. She will be living near her best friend and is excited to be fulfilling her long held wish of opening her own bakery.

Tyler is Zoe’s new neighbour. He has moved home to Blossom Hills after having lived in Philadelphia. But life there hadn’t been working out the way he planned, so he came home to start over, reconnect with his family and old friends, and start his own business.

It quickly becomes apparent that there is a spark between Zoey and Tyler, but Zoey wants to move slowly. Tyler is keen, but he is respectful of Zoey’s wishes and lets her set the pace.

While all this is going on, we are also being introduced to Zoey & Tyler’s family and friends. They are all well represented, with strong personalities of their own. (As the book progressed, I was having little side bets with myself and as to which character will get their own story next, but I couldn’t pick it! They are all too well developed to have one who stood out more.) The supporting cast are fun and likeable characters and I found myself enjoying the scenes where they were involved.

All is progressing nicely for Zoe and Tyler until things go a bit haywire, with Zoe being the target of some trouble. The whole town rallies around to take care of her, with Kyle at the front of the pack.

You will have to read the book yourself to find out what happens next, but when you do, you will find a well paced story with enough happy moments and funny sibling banter to appeal to most people who enjoy a happy romance story. Toss in a bit of tension from a background mystery and you have my sort of book.

I thoroughly enjoyed Zoey and Tyler’s story and I am looking forward to seeing who is next up from the Blossom Hills cast. For me, this one is a definite 5 thumbs up.

Thank you to voraciousreadersonly.com and the author, Kate Alexander, for my copy of this book in return for my honest review.

It was time to let go and say goodbye…

I’m the sort of reader that once I start a book, I feel like I’ve made a commitment to it – a promise almost. Once I start, I’m in it for the long haul. I will stick around through the good times and bad, the happy and the sad. The flawless spelling and the flawed. But sometimes, despite the best intentions, the relationship just doesn’t work out. It’s not you, book, it’s me.

I had this happen to me this week & it always makes me feel a bit guilty. I tried to stick it out, I really did. But I found myself having to read sections over a second and third time to work out who the new, unexplained, character was. Or going back over the last passage of dialogue to work out who it was that was actually talking. When I realised, I had to call it a day. I said my goodbyes and moved on. It was time to look towards the future and leave the past behind.

And I don’t know about you, but once this happens, I get kind of nervous. My next book choice will be careful, cautious, meticulous – there will be nothing blase about it! I will hold myself back a bit, reticent, reserved, taking only slow, tentative steps towards that new commitment. I won’t be pushed. The next one is going to have to have something special to make me willing to try again.

But when I do try again – and it becomes apparent that it was worth the wait – the feeling is beautiful, almost euphoric! That beautiful moment of comfort, relaxation, confidence, that comes from realising that I won’t be let down this time – it’s like a weight has been lifted off the shoulders, accompanied by the biggest sigh of relief. I know you will be safe within these pages.

And it reminds me, once again, why I will always keep going back to try again.

A Wish in Irish Falls by Jen Gilroy

Publication date: 16 September 2020
Series: Wishing Tree, #2
Warnings: N/A

A Wish in Irish Falls is set in winter in Irish Falls, a cold and snowy Adirondack mountain town in New York state. Tara is the widow of Adam, a town hero, who was killed in active duty three years ago. They met when she was 18 and she was only 32 years old when he died. He was in the army; shot by a sniper while on patrol.

Walker is new in town, standing in for the town vet, who is having some time off work to recover from illness. He too has a broken heart, as his fiancee died several years ago in a car accident.

Tara has decided that it is time to start living again and her new year’s resolution was that this year would be different. She has decided that she owes it both to herself and to Adam to not remain stuck in the past. In Walker’s case though, he is firmly entrenched in the past and not really trying to move forward at all.

When they meet they are instantly drawn to each other, but both believe that they can never love again. Each continuously reminds themselves not to feel anything for the other, as they believe their hearts belong to their deceased loves.

This is a sweet, clean story, that tugs on the heart strings. There is plenty here to create a strong emotional attachment to Tara and I found myself cheering her on as the story progressed, as she slowly began to find her way out of the grief, finding her own personal strength along the way. I was a little less sympathetic towards Walker, as there were times I wanted to slap him and tell him to grow up, but it was more about his manner than it was out of lack of empathy being created for his situation. Overall though, I enjoyed Walker and Tara together.

The supporting cast in this story were really enjoyable too. The author clearly creates the town and the main character’s neighbours, with well rounded descriptions and strong personalities. All of the characters worked in really well together to build an easily imaginable picture of the town and its quirky residents.

All in all, I really enjoyed this story. There were a few points were I found myself skimming a little when the descriptions of how the two main characters were fighting their feelings went on a little too long for me, but that is just my preference – I would rather have regular dialogue than have long sections describing feelings or emotions. But as I said, this is just my preference & it was only in small portions.

Thank you to voraciousreadersonly.com and the author, Jen Gilroy, for a copy of this book, in return for an honest review.

Brimstone Bound by Helen Harper

Series: Book 1 of The Firebrand Series
Publication date: 3 September 2020

“There’s nothing quite as satisfying as curling up on the sofa with a glass of red wine and chatting to your boyfriend about the best way to bring down a snarling six-foot-tall bloke armed with a machete.”

This is the opening paragraph of Helen Harper latest gem, Brimstone Bound, and the reason that she had me laughing out loud within half a page of the start of the book.

Helen Harper has been one of my favourite authors ever since I read my very first urban fantasy, Gifted Thief (book 1 of the Highland Magic Series). By the end of that series I was hooked on urban fantasy as well as books by the author (if you haven’t read the Highland Magic series you’re missing out – funniest characters ever!). And I’m happy to say, Brimstone Bound easily lived up to expectations.

The opening paragraph is our heroine, Emma Bellamy (trainee detective), as she is sitting recounting her day to her boyfriend Jeremy (overly protective accountant). The pair then proceed to reenact the battle, dueling with a butter knife & a rolled up magazine.

One of the best things about Helen Harper’s books, I believe, is her attention to the small details. For me, this is where the magic happens. Such as in the description of Emma and Jeremy, as they ‘battled’. Emma “…gave him the butter knife, which still had crumbs clinging to its dull blade, and stepped back about six paces.” “Jeremy grinned, swishing the butter knife from side to side before letting out what could only be described as a remarkably feeble attempt at a roar.”

If you’re anything like me, by the time I had finished reading that scene I was imagining crumbs flinging around as they battled, and hearing Jeremy and his feeble ‘roar’. All through the book there are vivid descriptions and to me, it really brought the story off the page and into my imagination.

When we first meet Emma, she has two weeks of training to go until she is able to graduate from trainee to detective. Her last rotation has been in the Criminal Investigations Dept, and she believes she will be going to Cyber Crime to complete her last two weeks.

But Emma gets a nasty surprise when is instead sent to ‘Supes’ – Supernatural Squad. Emma talks over the surprise placement with her best friend & fellow trainee Molly, who asks “Isn’t that what we were told in our first week? That the poor sods in Supes are the ones who haven’t quite screwed up badly enough to be fired, or who are already well on their way to retirement.”

This description sets the tone for the Supes department & when she meets her new co-workers, they aren’t really doing much to change her first impression. But when Emma finds herself in trouble and being attacked at the end of her first day, things really heat up.

Next thing you know, Emma wakes up in the morgue after being murdered! But she’s not dead. How is this possible? That’s the big question!

I’ll leave the story from here for you to read. But I will tell you that while investigating, Emma meets Lucas, a vampire, who helps her with her case. I really liked his character. He’s a bit arrogant with a touch of smug, but he’s also gentle, considerate and a little mysterious. Is there a little chemistry there between Lucas and Emma? I’ll leave that for you to decide.

I really enjoyed Emma’s character. She is smart and sassy & I found myself genuinely liking her. And it didn’t hurt that her internal musings could provide some entertaining moments of wit, such as when Emma said she was “… considering going the whole hog, so to speak, and becoming vegan.” (I’m a big fan of a bit of clever humour.)

I have talked a couple of times about the humour in this book, but that’s not to say that this is a comedy. It can be rather dark in tone, which fits the story perfectly, but it still has some fantastic moments of amusement thrown into the mix.

Thank you to the author and Booksprout, for giving me a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Endeared by J.S. Scott

ARC Review

Series: The Accidental Billionaires #5
Warnings: Suicide
Publication date: 6 October 2020

J.S. Scott is one of my favourite authors, and once again she hasn’t left me disappointed. Endeared is book #5 of The Accidental Billionaires series, but it can easily be read as a stand-alone. (I’m tipping though that if you start here, you’ll be going back and reading the others.)

I was lucky enough to be given an advanced reader copy of this book by the author, in exchange for an honest review.

The story begins with us looking back ten years at Layla and Owen, best friends, preparing to graduate and go off to college. Owen will be leaving to study in a different city, while Layla will be going to the local college. They are both nervous about what the future holds for them, as well as what the future will hold for their friendship. And both are worried, as they each face as uncertain financial future.

When we move forward to today, we are gradually shown that their friendship didn’t last. Layla is angry over a betrayal by Owen, but we don’t find out at first what he did. Owen, on the other hand, isn’t angry – he’s just baffled about what happened and what has made Layla feel this way.

There have been significant changes in both their lives in the last ten years, as well. Layla has gone from a difficult home life and having no money, to having a good job, enough money to “splurge”occasionally and her dream in sight of one day owning her own home. While Owen has graduated medical school and is a doctor with his own practice, as well as having inherited a fortune and now being a bonafide billionaire.

And to make things harder on them both, Owen is now also Layla’s boss! Layla is a nurse practitioner and Owen, coincidentally, is the doctor who bought the clinic that Layla works for. They have been managing to work together well enough for a few months now, but that’s not enough for Owen – he wants to know what went wrong.

After some effort on Owen’s part, Layla finally explains what happened all those years ago, and why she has remained mad. And once the truth is out in the open, they find that they can finally move forward and start to rebuild their friendship.

Owen comes up with a plan for Layla to ‘help’ him, which involves them spending a lot of time together, under the guise of friendship. (Its a ruse – Owen is hoping it will become more.) Layla accepts, as she wants to rebuild their friendship. (Plus, she also is hoping it will become more.)

So begins the building of their romance. The two characters are both relatable as well as likeable and I found myself cheering for both of them.

Owen is a strong man, but I liked that we also saw his insecurities. And Layla’s internal dialogue also gave us a glimpse into her softer side as well.

I liked how the book made use of the opportunity to have the main characters take turns at leading the reader, each from their own perspectives, as they took turns at giving us the story from their point of view. I enjoyed the insights into the motivations of each characters.

And there is one other character in this book that I can’t conclude my review without mentioning. And that is Brutus, the flatulent bulldog. He may not have done much (he’s a tad lazy), but if you’re anything like me, your nose will be twitching as you read about him! Good boy, Brutus.

Player: A Thrilling Action Adventure Romance by Tia Louise

Publication date: 17 May 2016
Series: Dirty Players Book 2
Warnings: Violence, suggestions of abuse

I’m going to start this one off by saying if you’re not a fan of violence in your books, or if you prefer to stay away from references to (albeit unconfirmed) sexual abuse, then perhaps this isn’t the book for you.

There were multiple suggestions of possible abuse, as well as one scene (that I really didn’t see coming) that was very short, but quite gruesome. It was only a very small portion of the book overall, but I think it deserves mentioning upfront.

Having said that, I quite enjoyed this book by Tia Louise. This was a case of the second instalment in the series being better than the first.

We first met Cal and Zelda in Prince, book 1 of the Dirty Players series (click here to see my review), where I thought Cal stole the show. This time the story began with Zelda on the run from danger, and Cal on a mission to find and protect her.

I still love Cal’s character – he’s a lovable rogue prince with a cheeky side. As for Zelda, she’s a con artist, card shark and a thief. It makes for an interesting combo.

Zelda escaped danger at the end of book 1, and believes running is the best way to protect those she loves. But Cal isn’t buying this, and chases straight after her. And it doesn’t it take him long to find her.

But with Zelda standing firm in her belief that she can’t go back with Cal to (the fictional European country of) Monagasco, Cal must begin his campaign to win Zelda’s trust.

Unfortunately for the couple though, just when things look like they might finally be going their way, danger comes between the pair and the fight for Zelda’s life begins in earnest.

This story has some heavy duty intrigue undertones, and in more parts than not, it set a really good pace that kept me quickly flipping the pages to find out what would happen next. But hen in other parts, where the action really could have picked up, I thought the tension was a little light. Overall though, there was plenty going on, to hold my interest and attention.

If you’re a fan of a book with plenty of spicy moments, and don’t mind when the topic delve into some heavier moments, then this story will suit you.

Prince: A thrilling, action-adventure romance by Tia Louise

Publication date: 17 May 2016
Series: Dirty Players Book 1
Warnings: Vague references to past abuse

Tia Louise begins the story with a flash back to six years ago. This is where we first meet Zelda and her little sister Ava, as well as Crown Prince Rowan of Monagasco. This is where we see the significant, long-term battles that they each face. All, in their own ways, are battling for their lives.

Fast forward six years.

We now see that life is different for them all, and although the challenges have changed, the fact that they are each still facing battles has not. And add into the mix Rowan’s brother, Cal.

Rowan is in line to be king of Monagasco, but his enemies are plotting to usurp his position. As part of this plan, Zelda finds herself being blackmailed into trying to seduce Rowan, in order to make him look bad enough that he will lose power.

Zelda has been looking after Ava since they were young. She is a fierce protector of her little sister. She’ll do anything to keep her safe, so she doesn’t hesitate to agree to the plan.

But nobody factored into the plans that Rowan would prefer Zelda’s sister Ava, or that Zelda would prefer Rowan’s brother Cal! Talk about a tangled web.

For the first half of this story I felt as if it was all a bit superficial. It kept my attention and the story moved along well enough, but I really was enjoying the character of Rowan’s brother Cal far more than I was that of either of the lead characters. We got to know Rowan somewhat, but Ava never really got the opportunity to develop a personality and stayed rather one dimensional.

I remember thinking to myself, about midway through the book, that I probably wouldn’t be coming back for the second instalment in the series. But then it all seemed to pick up speed a bit, and I found myself being drawn in, rather than just a spectator at the side of the story.

There was a hefty element of political intrigue in the story and when that really started to get more focus was when it felt to me like the characters started to come into their own, and for me, when the ‘good’ part really started.

By the end of the book, I was totally sucked in. There’s no doubt I’ll be going back for part 2 at this point, as I’ve already downloaded it!

Although to be honest, part of that is because Cal (still my favourite character in this story) is getting is own turn at being the lead in book 2…Player: A thrilling, action-adventure romance. (Click here to see my review.)

The Winter Witch By Karpov Kinrade and Heather Hildenbrand

Publication date: 11 December 2019
Series: Season of the Witch, Book 1
Warnings: Mild violence

I’m struggling a little with how to describe how I felt about The Winter Witch. I was both enthralled and annoyed by it, in somewhat equal parts.

The novella began with a ritual – The Festival of Lights – taking place amongst the villagers of Willowdale. The mood was somber, as the ceremony was taking place to mark the eve of Adana leaving on a dangerous quest.

The story centres around the village of Willowdale. For more than a thousand years they have been terrorised by an evil prince, who once each year demands a human sacrifice. And this year, Adara is the chosen one.

One thing I really enjoyed about this story were the emotive descriptions. All through, the story maintained a constant mood of intensity, which I felt heightened my anticipation of what would come next. And as we saw the whole story through Adara’s eyes, coloured by her internal struggles, many times I felt as if the scenes were being brought more to life by her sometimes picturesque way of seeing things.

But on the other hand, this was also part of what I found to be annoying. As we were seeing it all happen through her eyes, at times I wanted her to consider things a little more deeply. However, as this is a novella, perhaps more depth would have been inappropriate.

I also never really managed to become particularly empathetic to the male lead, Alaric. While I didn’t get to the point of actually disliking him, I felt removed from his issues and rather apathetic about him. He just never really grabbed me, apart from somewhat superficially.

We follow Adara as she starts out with the task of defeating the evil prince, but we are drawn along as she is exposed to an unexpectedly compassionate side to the him. She must decide whether to follow the path that she was raised to believe was the only way, or to trust her heart and give the prince a chance to prove her wrong.

The story is written in the style of a fable/fairytale, & it works really well. Overall, I enjoyed this story. And I think the short length of the story is perfect for it.

And so it begins…

Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com

Well hi there! 

Thank you for taking the time to stop by and check out my blog. I’m new to this, so please bare with me while I learn.

I will be writing reviews about all of the books that I read from now on. And I read a lot of books. 

I’m a lover of romance novels, but as far as I’m concerned, a good romance can come in many forms. You can expect to find me reading paranormal, historical, military or modern romances – and just about anything else I can find. And once I’ve read it, I’ll be writing about it.

Please come back to visit again! And if you find something here that you like, I’d love to hear about it.