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THE BRIDE TEST by Helen Hoang – double review!

Khai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.

As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection.

With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love.


Title : The Bride Test
Author : Helen Hoang
Series : The Kiss Quotient (book two)
Format : eARC / paperback
Page Count : 315
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Berkley / Atlantic
Release Date : May 7, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

She got you a mail-order bride from Vietnam, Khai.
Why do you say it so it sounds so bad? She’s not a ‘mail-order bride’. I met her in person.

Like pretty much everyone else in the world, I loved THE KISS QUOTIENT. I was so excited when Hoang announced a companion to her world that would not only feature a male lead with autism, though would not be quite like what we experienced with Stella, but would be equally diverse, too. And I really did enjoy being inside Khai’s head. When he wasn’t breaking my heart, that is. Esme, too, was a wonderful heroine. Strong and determined but taking chances, and risks, not for personal gain — or, rather, not only for it — but for her family.

She didn’t need a rich man. She just needed someone who was hers.

The conflicts in this story, Khai’s belief that he’s unable to feel emotion (and, conversely, his inability to handle soft touches and how instead he needs to be handled firmly, held tightly), and Esme’s self-worth as an uneducated immigrant, feel genuine and real; and reading the author’s note helps to explain why these characters resonate so strongly. Khai’s brother, Quan, is a character I want to know more about, too, because he all but leapt off the page at me. Plus, yeah, I want more.

It was easier to keep people at arm’s length when it was for their own good instead of his. That way, he got to be a hero instead of a coward.

However, I’ll admit that this read didn’t consume me the way THE KISS QUOTIENT did. While I so loved when these two got together (hell, even the build-up and the way Esme’s presence wreaked havoc on Khai was fabulous), even if they weren’t yet on the same page, even if they had yet to divulge all their secrets, it was something of a slower start, and as much as I loved these characters, I think I still wanted.. more. I did love the epilogue, though, which I thought to be a much more reasonable ending after all the dramatic excitement just before the final chapter. But that’s all I’m saying.

He was strange and tactless and very possibly an assassin, but when she looked at his actions, all she saw was kindness.

Should you read this? Absolutely. Will it overtake your love for the THE KISS QUOTIENT? To each their own. It’s definitely a sweet, funny, swoony, and a totally worthy addition to the author’s little universe.

** I received an ARC from Edelweiss and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


Micky’s 4.5 star review

How do I follow up Hollis’ and many others’ reviews of this rather special book? I don’t know but I’m going to give you a snapshot of my experience. Hold on while I gush because a mail-order bride story with diverse representation, you say. Signed up.

What starts off as an interesting Vietnamese character, My, quickly transports to the US where My renames herself Esme, ready to take on the challenge of being the wife-to-be for Khai. Esme was a ball of self-proclaimed inadequacy, desperate to provide for her family. The slow transformation of a twinkling of Esme’s self-belief and beginning to live for herself was beautiful as it unfolded. I was drawn to her humility, her heart on her sleeve and genuineness.

“Sky and earth, she wanted to taste that smile. And each of those dimples.”

Khai didn’t feel or emote and despairing, his mother went on a special mission to find him a wife, a companion. Khai didn’t know what he wanted or needed, he lived by his routines and the satisfaction in intellectual tasks. However, in little ways, Khai was a stand-up guy for his brother and his mother that gave insight into the caring man he could be. This book brought such believable character development as he navigated the heart connection and sexual attraction.

There wasn’t one thing I didn’t enjoy about this story. It was engaging, it represented topics that we need to read and hear about more, such as, immigration, autism spectrum disorders, poverty and access to education. Helen Hoang wove these issues seamlessly without pontificating, through real lives. Most of all, I adored Khai and Esme, together, apart, awkward and yet natural together, fish sauce and all.

“Her curves fit to his hollows, soft to hard, smooth to rough, the perfect debit to his credit.”

Thank you Atlantic books for the review copy, I feel lucky to have read this early.

LUNA AND THE LIE by Mariana Zapata 🎧

The problem with secrets is that they’re too easy to keep collecting.

Luna Allen has done some things she would rather no one ever know about. She also knows that, if she could go back in time, she wouldn’t change a single thing.

With three sisters she loves, a job she (mostly) adores, and a family built up of friends she’s made over the years, Luna figures everything has worked out the way it was supposed to.

But when one of those secrets involves the man who signs her paycheck, she can’t find it in her to regret it. Despite the fact that he’s not the friendliest man in the world. Or the most patient.

Sometimes there are things you’re better off keeping to yourself.


Title : Luna And The Lie
Author : Mariana Zapata
Format : Audiobook
Narrators : Callie Dalton & Gomez Pugh
Length : 17 hours
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Indie (Audible)
Release Date : 20 April 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

I waited to read LUNA AND THE LIE until the audio book became available because Mariana Zapata’s audios are something special to behold, if you are fan of the author. This one was a little different in terms of narration but more on that later.

Luna herself was a quiet, strong, hurt woman. Mother to her sisters who were now grown and daughter to someone unmentionable with a whole can of worms that shouldn’t be opened. Years ago, when she needed it most, Mr C, one of her bosses gave her an opportunity and Luna ran with it to become head painter in a car body shop.

There was another boss, Rip (Ripley) and he was a fierce, monosyllabic, big man with a temper problem at work. Rip was shrouded in mystery, his past, his present, his family. The deep tenor of his grunts and words certainly helped paint the picture of the man he wanted people to perceive, a hard, hard man.

This story was full of family and work family and I really enjoyed the vibe this brought. Luna’s sisters were something but more than that Luna’s love for them and others, was something bright and vibrant. The story between Luna and Rip was slow, slow burning as those who’ve read Mariana Zapata might guess and whilst this was an everyday story, I just lived it alongside them.

Callie Dalton is MZ’s usual female narrator and she rocked the game, I’d say her proportion of the book is 90% and Gomez Pugh’s contribution was mainly in dialogue. I cannot tell you how well this worked. Overall this was a superb narration experience.

A solid and enjoyable listening experience with a memorable story to tell.

THE AUSTEN PLAYBOOK by Lucy Parker – double review!


A double review today and we are very in tune over the greatness of this book. In fact, we recommend all of Lucy Parker’s books.

Freddy Carlton knows she should be focusing on her lines for The Austen Playbook, a live-action TV event where viewers choose the outcome of each scene, but her concentration’s been blown. The palatial estate housing the endeavor is now run by the rude (brilliant) critic who’s consistently slammed her performances of late. James “Griff” Ford-Griffin has a penchant for sarcasm, a majestic nose and all the sensitivity of a sledgehammer.

She can’t take her eyes off him.

Griff can hardly focus with a contagious joy fairy flitting about near him, especially when Freddy looks at him like that. His only concern right now should be on shutting down his younger brother’s well-intentioned (disastrous) schemes—or at the very least on the production (not this one) that might save his family home from the banks.

Instead all he can think of is soft skin and vibrant curls.

As he’s reluctantly dragged into her quest to rediscover her passion for the stage and Freddy is drawn into his research on a legendary theater star, the adage about appearances being deceiving proves abundantly true. It’s the unlikely start of something enormous…but a single revelation about the past could derail it all.


Title : The Austen Playbook
Author
: Lucy Parker
Format : eBook / eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Carina Press
Release Date : April 22, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating
: ★ ★ ★ ★ .25 / ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4.25 star review

The man looked like an assassin in a war film, and would be temperamentally suited to the part. He probably even orgasmed with a frosty stare into the middle distance.

I finished THE AUSTEN PLAYBOOK with happy tears in my eyes. This book gave me all the feels. And all the lols, too. As usual I highlighted the crap out of this book.

She wanted to do productions that she wholeheartedly enjoyed, she wanted a passion outside of theatre, and really — she just wanted to be happy. She also wanted other people to be happy, and it often seemed to be an either/or choice.

Parker’s grumpy heroes are some of my favourite, and Griff is no exception, but we need to talk more about her real and charming heroines, too. Freddy was forking fabulous. But the added element of reality to the author’s romances (stretch marks, bad shower sex, just to name a few delightful examples) are what keep this grounded and balanced considering the London West End-style hijinks and drama that tend to ensue.

According to London Celebrity, control freaks are at much greater risk for arthritis, impotence, and pattern baldness. Just so you know.
As long as you have a reliable source.

This couple was so beautifully, wonderfully, honest. Their openness, their communication, the acceptance of their feelings.. it was just gorgeous. It made me happy, and fuzzy, and very swoony.

His tone conjured images of empty chocolate boxes, and the aftermath of a party, and missing the bus by thirty seconds, and all of life’s fleeing moments of gloom.

Set against a live-action whodunit Austen performance, there are reveals and betrayals and all sorts of excitement to be had. There was really nothing I didn’t love about this one but, as always, Parker includes some nastier characters in amongst the lovelier ones.. though I just about died when one of said nasties got a wooden phallus in the eye. Trust me, not only is it on brand for the story, it’s just what she deserves.

For a man who grew up in a house with blowjob carvings on the library mantle, you’re very judgmental of other people’s decor.

With each new addition to the London Celebrities series, it’s getting harder and harder to have a favourite couple because they are all so wonderful. Freddy and Griff are a great addition to this world and I hope to see them in some of Parker’s famous extras and, maybe, even in the background of book five? Hmm? Maybe?

Calls me a contagious joy fairy when we’re alone in a dusty backroom. Compares me to a stagnant pond in a London newspaper. Timing, my friend. It’s a beautiful thing.

Highly recommend.


Micky’s 4 star review

Delightful and witty with a great story to keep the reader fully engaged, THE AUSTEN PLAYBOOK continued the series with the same quality of writing and development of characters that I have come to expect from Lucy Parker.

Book four took the setting outside of London to Grumpy Griff’s (Ford-Griffen) country seat. Griff was a TV/stage critic whilst managing the failing finances of his family’s home. Griff had thrown a few review punches at Freddy, the quirky heroine, in the past. Freddy was a breath of positive fresh air with some vulnerabilities hidden behind the ‘everything will be okay’ facade. I took to her immediately.

“He was frequently rude, definitely a Slytherin, and clearly viewed her as a sort of irritating insect who kept buzzing around his space, but there was something very reassuring about his solid warmth when she hurt.”

There was an interwoven backstory behind the main story of a play in the country. Freddy and Griff were thrown into each other’s paths and there was a persistent, bubbling chemistry between them. I had all the feelings when they were interacting, either with looks or banter.

“It was more than physical; it was a building and layering of a bond that went much deeper than that.”

As well as the clever backstory (which Parker conveys with ease), there were a literal cast of side characters, brothers, mean girls, fathers, colleagues and sisters. There is something about the acting world on stage that Lucy Parker translates so well to the reader. The English setting was spot on as always with dialogue, colloquialisms and contexts. The banter and dialogue were engaging. My only little niggle was the unstated dual POV, I loved the dual POV but had ‘who is this’ moments, however I did settle into it.

I can’t recommend this series enough and the best thing is they standalone, you can dip your toe into any of them and read out of order if that’s how you roll. Go discover Lucy Parker and you won’t regret it.

I voluntarily read an early copy of this book. Thank you Carina Press and Netgalley.

HEATED RIVALRY by Rachel Reid


Nothing interferes with Shane Hollander’s game—definitely not the sexy rival he loves to hate.

Pro hockey star Shane Hollander isn’t just crazy talented, he’s got a spotless reputation. Hockey is his life. Now that he’s captain of the Montreal Voyageurs, he won’t let anything jeopardize that, especially the sexy Russian whose hard body keeps him awake at night.

Boston Bears captain Ilya Rozanov is everything Shane’s not. The self-proclaimed king of the ice, he’s as cocky as he is talented. No one can beat him—except Shane. They’ve made a career on their legendary rivalry, but when the skates come off, the heat between them is undeniable. When Ilya realizes he wants more than a few secret hookups, he knows he must walk away. The risk is too great.

As their attraction intensifies, they struggle to keep their relationship out of the public eye. If the truth comes out, it could ruin them both. But when their need for each other rivals their ambition on the ice, secrecy is no longer an option…


Title : Heated Rivalry
Author
: Rachel Reid
Format : eBook
Page Count : 310
Genre : adult sports romance, LGBTQIA+
Publisher : Carina Press
Release Date : March 25, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating
: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 5 star review

You are very beautiful.
Hottest Man in the NHL, according to Cosmopolitan.”
They are idiots. They put me at number five. Five!
It does seem generous.

I’m pretty stingy with ratings. I know it, you know it, it’s just how it is. However.. today is not that day.

I like girls.
Yeah, no shit.
But I also like you.
Well, lucky me.
Not as a person, of course. But you have a good mouth.

This is an easy five because of the total and utter joy that is this book. I had such a good time reading it, sending screenshots to buddies, and just being completely bowled over by hilarity and feels.. often at the same time. This is my favourite kind of romance — not exactly enemies to lovers but enemies while lovers? grudgingly boning? not quite hate to love but like.. oh whatever fuck it. I give up — but throw in some hockey and opposites attract, not to mention the fantasy surrounding the real people this story is based off of, and I’m just as happy as a pig in shit.

I can’t keep pretending I don’t like you.
You don’t like me.
I do. I.. I maybe like you too much.

HEATED RIVALRY is a joy. There’s really not much more to say. But it’s hot af and also sweet but not in the way book one was; this was gooey, yes, but way more realistically so. I loved the overlap from GAME CHANGER, loved the time jumps, the little flashes of interactions over the course of almost a decade, loved how things came together without ever having to dissolve into angst, loved the ending, loved everything about it, really.

I just don’t understand. How could this have even happened between you? Weren’t there any nice men in Montreal, Shane?
Probably.

Surprising no one I have more highlights than I have words to gush with, and I’m just a pile of soggy grinning goo right now, so, just.. read this.

ps, I want more Game Changers kthanxbai.

UNDER THE NORTHERN LIGHTS by SC Stephens

From the number one New York Times bestselling author of the Thoughtless series comes a sweet, thoughtful romance set high in the Alaskan wilderness.

Mallory Reynolds is a driven woman fueled by her passion for photographing wild animals in remote locations. Every year she makes a trek deep into Alaska, but this time the unthinkable happens: she crash-lands after her plane stalls out in a storm. Injured, vulnerable, and threatened by the very creatures she loves, Mallory fears the worst—until she’s rescued by Michael Bradley, a mysterious mountain man living in self-imposed exile.

Mallory is grateful for Michael’s help but desperate to return home to let her family know she’s alive. Unfortunately, neither of them can leave Michael’s secluded cabin until spring. Mallory’s stuck with a stranger for months.

As Mallory recovers, a deep bond begins to form between the pair. Mallory is convinced that fate brought them together, but Michael is buried in his past, unable to move forward. Undaunted, Mallory tends to Michael’s heart as tenderly as he cared for her wounds—but will her love be enough to heal him?


Title : Under the Northern Lights
Author : SC Stephens
Format : eARC
Page Count : 253
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Montlake Romance
Release Date : April 30, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

UNDER THE NORTHERN LIGHTS was an intense story that didn’t just centre on two characters, there was virtually no-one but them. This made for a surprisingly deep story with all the feels.

Mallory was a independent type of woman, flying off into the wilderness once a year to take photographs which she’d made a career out of. Mallory got into serious trouble and Michael was the quiet saviour. Michael was a complex character but a really good guy, which is my hero-kryptonite. The interplay between these two characters was important and was well written as they went through the business of survival. I found their whole story quietly compelling.

There was enough going on in the story to make me not want to put this down which seems curious considering their isolation. The slowly building friendship and chemistry made me feel their emotions and I wanted everything for these two.

This was a beautiful standalone romance that captured my heart and mind. I could read more like this any day.

I voluntarily read an early copy of this book. Thank you Montlake Romance and Netgalley.

THE TAKEOVER EFFECT by Nisha Sharma – double review!

Hemdeep Singh knows exactly what he wants. With his intelligence and determination, he has what it takes to build his own legacy away from Bharat, Inc. and the empire his father created. But when his brother calls him home, Hem puts his dreams on hold once again to help save the company he walked away from. That’s when he encounters the devastating Mina Kohli in the Bharat boardroom, and he realizes he’s in for more than he had bargained.

Mina will do whatever it takes to regain control of her mother’s law firm, even if it means agreeing to an arranged marriage. Her newest case assignment is to assist Bharat in the midst of a potential takeover. It could be the key to finally achieving her goal while preventing her marriage to a man she doesn’t love—as long as her explosive attraction to Hem doesn’t get in the way.

As Mina and Hem work to save Bharat, they not only uncover secrets that could threaten the existence of the company, but they also learn that in a winner-takes-all game, love always comes out on top.


Title : The Takeover Effect
Author : Nisha Sharma
Series : The Singh Family (book one)
Format : eARC / OverDrive (ebook)
Page Count : 384
Publisher : Avon Impulse
Release Date : April 2, 2019

Reviewer : Micky / Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ / ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

I had high hopes for THE TAKEOVER EFFECT and my hopes were realised. I have really enjoyed previous desi contemporary romantic reads so I knew this was a book worth taking a chance on. THE TAKEOVER EFFECT was about equality in the workplace, legacy and it had an office setting with a whole spaghetti of problems because the mix of family and work is complicated.

Mina was a feminist to the core and I delighted in her character. This was a woman who knew herself, had drive and was a realistic beacon for readers. Mina’s work as a lawyer found her in an unbiased role assessing an attempt to buy out a multi-million dollar company. Here she met Hem, eldest brother and ex-CEO of the organisation. Hem was a strong Sikh man with feminist sensibilities (hooray) and what ensued between these two was a slow-burn of sizzling chemistry set in a great plot. I loved watching the connection between these two grow.

The story was interesting from the start with some fast-paced excitement towards the end. I really enjoyed the other characters, they gave depth to the read and I am envisaging future stories for a number of them; I want books with Raj and the other brothers. I have found a new author to keep watch for and I am delighted. More of these desi diverse reads please, the book world needs them.

I voluntarily read an early copy of this book. Thank you Avon Impulse and Edelweiss.


Hollis’ 2 star review

If you strip away the romance, and left this story as a tense corporate espionage and family feud-y business takeover thriller, I think I would’ve loved THE TAKEOVER EFFECT. But the romance was very prominent and gross characters (who are supposed to be gross) were extra awful by toying with the heroine and threatening arranged marriages if she didn’t comply with their shady nonsense. Which, I mean, I think I could’ve been okay with just that as a blackmail tactic when, again, paired with the tense business politics and schemes. But the actual romance plot just dragged it all down for me.

I didn’t love the romance, obviously, and didn’t love the characters together. Infact, maybe didn’t love the hero at all? Mina was strong, feminine, feminist, but I also feel like she got railroaded by the hero a bit. She stood up to him but she also let herself be convinced, consumed, and let him distract her beyond sense and logic despite how hard she tried to stay professional. Add to the that the fact that the hero went alpha at every given moment? No me gusta. The fact that we also had constant comparisons, or references or throwaway lines, in association with the hero’s “evil ex” was too much. It was to the romance’s detriment that so much time was spent tripping over this character that didn’t even have her own page time and it felt a little like the author was trying so hard to compare the two women in order to sell us on Mina. Did it work? No. Because I was too distracted by Lisa’s ghostly presence in these situations that had nothing to do with her.

Also, the sex scenes? Can’t say they did anything for me. They felt very abrupt, often shoehorned into important dialogue or emotional scenes, and they were too out of place, over too quickly, for any connection to be given to them. I like sexy times as much as the next person but I like them better when they have a purpose or build the relationship. These didn’t.

I will likely read on in the series because the writing wasn’t bad, even if some moments felt a little cheese, and because maybe it was just these characters that failed to sell me on the swoonytimes; other brothers and/or family members, who I assume will get their own stories, might appeal more (the one I most want is the cousin & PA m/m romance because yes hi I want that hate banter please).

COLLISION by Victor Dixen


The third book in a heartstopping, high-octane new space series. Perfect for fans of Veronica Roth, Suzanne Collins, Amie Kaufman and Lauren Oliver.

The Genesis Programme reality TV show has brought twelve young astronauts to Mars, to face unprecedented hostility. An even greater danger is now threatening Earth, but the viewers are too glued to their screens and the rescue mission to see what is really happening.

Leonor is ready to risk everything to bring out the truth and warn the world. She can never admit defeat – but can she fight her last fight alone?


Title : Collision
Author : Victor Dixen
Format : eARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : YA sci-fi
Publisher : Hot Key Books
Release Date : April 18, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

If you’ve been listening to me the last 18 months, I’ve been enjoying Victor Dixen’s series immensely and highly anticipating COLLISION. I feel satisfied with the culmination but it was one crazy ride! I have felt angst, suspense and desperation for answers.

So many unexpected events occurred in COLLISION despite the cliff that DISTORTION left us with. I felt pretty shocked in particular, at the turns in some of the characters’ behaviours. Everything you think you knew about the couples and individuals were thrown up in the air and came down in a different way; I gasped. I didn’t care for the Marcus storyline as much as the others.

Leonor remained the most solid, reliable character and protagonist. Mozart grew on me more. Serena McBee, well she surpassed the scale of devious and evil with some revelations no one could see coming. I felt frustrated with Earth politics at times, wanting to get back to Mars. Andrew and Harmonie were in the forefront a lot which brought some exciting developments.

Victor Dixon knows how to keep readers on the edge of their seats and in some ways, I still am left in suspense with some elements left unanswered but acknowledged as such. This is a series that is memorable and I do hope he will write more in the world of sci-fi. Thank you, it’s been a ride!

I voluntarily read an early copy of this book. thank you Hot Key Books and Netgalley!