RAZE by Roan Parrish

Sometimes the walls we build to save ourselves have to come tumbling down.

For the last ten years, Huey has built his life around his sobriety. If that means he doesn’t give a damn about finding love or companionship for himself, well, it’s probably better that way. After all, the last thing he wants is to hurt anyone else. Until Felix Rainey walks into his bar, fresh-faced, unbearably sweet–and, for some reason Huey can’t fathom, interested in him.

As the eldest of five kids, Felix Rainey spent his childhood cooking dinner, checking homework, and working after-school jobs. Now in his twenties, he’s still scrambling to make ends meet and wondering what the hell he’s doing with his life. When he meets Huey, he’s intimidated . . . and enamored. Huey’s strong and confident, he owns his own business–hell, he’s friends with rock stars. What could he ever see in Felix?

As Huey and Felix get closer, the spark catches and soon they can’t get enough of each other. But Huey’s worked hard to avoid intimacy, and Felix threatens his carefully constructed defenses. Huey realizes he needs to change if he wants to truly put his past behind him–and build a future with Felix.


Title : Raze
Author: Roan Parrish
Series : Riven (book three)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 316
Genre : contemporary romance, LGBTQIA+
Publisher : Loveswept
Release Date : July 2, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating:★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I forgot you’re not supposed to bring up masturbation at the dinner table on the first date.
Yeah, that’s strictly second-date dinner convo.

Right off the bat, I have to say, this cover does not do Felix justice. I wasn’t really a fan of it to begin with but after seeing how the character was not only described but acted? There’s no match-up here whatsoever. But, having said that, at the end of the day it’s about the content, not the window dressing.

Felix seemed like a map folded up small and perfect that would sprawl when unfurled, and show you everything. And I..fuck, I wanted to see it.

This is easily my favourite series by Parrish and while RAZE didn’t match my love for RIVEN, and nor did REND, each book has been emotional, lovely, heart wrenching, beautiful, tough, real, all the things. Oh and swoony and sexy af. The author devastates with the simplest of things, like a hug, and exposes very real insecurities in her characters that I think everyone can immediately connect with. No matter their size or strength, no matter their fame or success, no matter what they’ve overcome or shouldered, each individual is struggling or hiding or avoiding something. Just like every day humans. And it’s this connection that makes these books, even set as they are around rockstars and the music industry, even only peripherally (at least since book one), so so easy to love. Just as it’s impossible not to love these imminently precious characters who, in some form or another, feel they aren’t worthy or deserving of love; or are just overlooked, maybe even just held back.. by outside forces or themselves. Never seen or pursued by the right person.

The problem with feeling so much pleasure, so much joy, so much contentment — with feeling so much, period — after so long spent feeling very little, was that I instantly craved more of it.

If you’re looking for sweetness and sexiness, with a solid foundation of grit and realness, I would definitely recommend this series.

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

RED, WHITE and ROYAL BLUE by Casey McQuiston 🎧

A big-hearted romantic comedy in which First Son Alex falls in love with Prince Henry of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends…

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?


Title : Red White & Royal Blue
Author : Casey McQuiston
Narrator : Ramon de Ocampo
Format : Audiobook (OverDrive)
Time : 12 hours 15 minutes
Genre : Rom-com m/m
Publisher : Macmillan Audio
Release Date : 14 May 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★.5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

First of all, if you haven’t read Hollis’ review for this book, stop what you’re doing and read that first here. After all, that’s what made me want to read, well that and the constant prodding…I was getting a bit of a bruise.

I went into listening to this book with a dose of ‘help me with the hype’ and a slice of native Brit anti-monarchy (there are many of us, by the way). I didn’t know if I was going to be able to get past the issue of this being an English royal prince. Casey McQuiston gently herded me on board with how she dealt with the issue of the monarchy as an institution and more than anything, by writing Henry, “just as he was” (think Bridget Jones moment).

I challenge anyone not to be blown away by Henry and Alex but for me, most surprisingly, it was the humanity of Henry’s character that sold this story to my big, feeling heart from minute one to hour twelve. Henry was Prince stick-up-his-arse and pretty hilarious in this facet. Alex, the more down to earth of the two, was rude but also funny. These two, building a friendship and then building a relationship, were just about one of the most beautiful love stories I have ever read. My heart expanded with their poignant words and genuine connection.

The adversity these two have to traverse made for a fierce and heart-wrenching story. I have to say how I loved the author’s use of that vile rag, The Daily Mail. It truly is a publication without scruples or heart and was rightly placed to play a role in what happened. My heart and mind rode the roller coaster with Henry and Alex, I mentally wore a supportive T-shirt and waved a flag. I felt a lull as this book reached it’s culmination and the last 10% lost a little traction for me, but overall it was bloody fantastic.

The narration blew me away. Again, as a Brit, I had sceptacism regarding one narrator doing both British and American accents (also Mexican accents) but this guy HAD IT DOWN. He brought the banter, the dialogue and the love to life. Ramon de Ocampo will be on my audio searches now.

I feel a little late to the game on this, six weeks down the line, but I want to recommend the audio for this book. You will be invited in to the intimacy and brought to life by the humour.

FIX HER UP by Tessa Bailey – double review!

Georgette Castle’s family runs the best home renovation business in town, but she picked balloons instead of blueprints and they haven’t taken her seriously since. Frankly, she’s over it. Georgie loves planning children’s birthday parties and making people laugh, just not at her own expense. She’s determined to fix herself up into a Woman of the World… whatever that means.

Phase one: new framework for her business (a website from this decade, perhaps?)
Phase two: a gut-reno on her wardrobe (fyi, leggings are pants.)
Phase three: updates to her exterior (do people still wax?)
Phase four: put herself on the market (and stop crushing on Travis Ford!)

Living her best life means facing the truth: Georgie hasn’t been on a date since, well, ever. Nobody’s asking the town clown out for a night of hot sex, that’s for sure. Maybe if people think she’s having a steamy love affair, they’ll acknowledge she’s not just the “little sister” who paints faces for a living. And who better to help demolish that image than the resident sports star and tabloid favorite?

Travis Ford was major league baseball’s hottest rookie when an injury ended his career. Now he’s flipping houses to keep busy and trying to forget his glory days. But he can’t even cross the street without someone recapping his greatest hits. Or making a joke about his… bat. And then there’s Georgie, his best friend’s sister, who is not a kid anymore. When she proposes a wild scheme—that they pretend to date, to shock her family and help him land a new job—he agrees. What’s the harm? It’s not like it’s real. But the girl Travis used to tease is now a funny, full-of-life woman and there’s nothing fake about how much he wants her..


Title : Fix Her Up
Author : Tessa Bailey
Series : Hot and Hammered (book one)
Format : OverDrive (eBook)
Page Count : 397
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Avon
Release Date : June 11, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis/Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’ve not had the greatest luck with past Bailey reads but this cover was super cute and I was seeing mostly positive buzz so, when my blogging buddy expressed interest in reading it, I thought, why the hell not. I’ll give it a go, too.

Where this story succeeded? Georgie. She’s one hell of a great heroine. Passed over by her family, overlooked in both her social and love life, and a clown. Literally, professionally, a clown. She’s got your trademark quirky girl thing down but it works. It really really does because she’s sweet, she’s genuine, and she eventually starts to stand up for herself. But she doesn’t change a single iota of who she is.

You turned my perfectly innocent backyard into construction worker porn. All we need is some light jazz.”
Yikes. What kind of porn are you watching?
The respectable-lady kind.”

Also a success? The lady friends. Or, as they call themselves, The Just Us League. Cue all the lols. Sure it’s an obvious ploy to write more books, featuring these other two friends, but whatever, it worked, I’m here for it. Based on the characters, I think one will be super angsty and the other could be super hate to love? Just a guess.

Where this book failed? The hero. And, actually, almost all the male characters? Georgie’s brother eventually redeems himself in a way but I was mostly just confused by some of the instances he popped up and when I wasn’t confused I was incredibly annoyed by him. But he served a purpose. Most spectacularly, though, I just.. I don’t get Travis. Sure he’s bruised, he’s battered, he’s got baggage. But other than a few pings of sympathy, I just didn’t care about him. Which made the romance not always my favourite and compounded with how much I did not get on with the sexytimes? Made for a weird mood. But I’ll give him credit (Bailey credit?) because the moments he stood up and supported Georgie? Particularly the early moments when he saw things amiss and wanted to put a stop to it, even if he sometimes resisted the urge For Reasons, those moments were lovely. Because he saw her.

So, yeah, this is a weird one for me. It’s incredibly funny at times, very heartwarming and empowered with female solidarity, but the underlying purpose of the romance just didn’t work for me. Would I read on in the series? Absolutely. So I guess that’s a win.


Micky’s 3.5 star review

FIX HER UP is a fun and sometimes delightful romance, not exactly rom-com but definitely served with a slice of quips and clever banter. The couple in this story are reunited in adulthood where before they were arrogant brother’s friend and annoying little sister. In the now, Travis was a washed-up baseball star with a less than stellar reputation and Georgie was a clown (yes, really).

Georgie was actually rather endearing from the start and I appreciated her individual journey in this book from innocence to empowerment. However, I also really appreciated the feminist undertones and message of the threesome friendship of women who Georgie was part of.

Travis I have to say, was pretty unlikeable initially. I wanted him to be less uncertain, have more balls generally and eventually he came through. BUT and there’s a bit but…I wanted to choke him on his constant use of the phrase ‘baby girl’. That phrase just goes through me and I don’t think I am alone in this. I seriously had to reduce half a star for this aspect because it was so overused and it plucked me out of the story everytime.

These two together had quite a lovely story, kind of fakey dating but not. I loved their chemistry together even if I didn’t always appreciate how the intimacy played out.

I am really excited about the next couple. They’re married and it’s not working and I am all grabby hands.

PROMISE ME NOTHING by Jillian Liota

I didn’t pick up my life and move to this urban beach city to spend my days swooning over a rich bad boy who rides a motorcycle and seems to always get his way with just a flash of that smile.

I’m here to get to know the brother I’ve never met. Try and create a family when I’ve gone so long without one. Maybe find a place where I belong.

But I can’t seem to get him off my mind.

Hannah Morrison isn’t a good idea.

I’m back in town just for the summer, and my priorities are to spend time with my little sister, check in with my family, and make sure things aren’t really as bad as they seem.

But somehow, the new girl becomes my focus. She’s got a ton of baggage, and she doesn’t understand why she’s really here. But I’ll do anything to make her feel like she belongs.

Even give her promises I’m not sure I can keep.

Welcome to Hermosa Beach


Title : Promise Me Nothing
Author Jillian Liota
Series : Hermosa Beach #1
Format : eARC
Page Count : 339
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Indie
Release Date : 17 June 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Hello new series by Jillian Liota, I’m happy to see you! Hermosa Beach #1 was a contemporary romance with something of a NA feel. By the end, I still wasn’t sure which genre I would categorise it as, but that didn’t really bother me because I enjoyed the vibe of the story and characters.

PROMISE ME NOTHING was unexpected in a few ways. Firstly, the lead protagonist, Hannah is a closed-off young woman with a rough life in her past. She was flung into the lifestyle of the rich and occasionally famous as she was reunited with a previously unknown family member. Hannah was endearing from the start, with little trust to bestow and yet a heart with a small crack open to those around her; she drew me in. Secondly, this story had unexpected twists, twists I’m going to tell you nothing about, so that you can find it all out for yourself.

Family was central to this tale and I really enjoyed Hannah opening herself slowly and carefully to family, friends and just a little bit of fun. The’just a little bit of fun’ came in the shape of Wyatt, ‘Pier Boy’. He was kind of scrumptious, a little moody, a lot entitled but with a down-to-earth nature (think The OC). There’s nothing simple about the connection between these two but the chemistry. I can say that of all Jillian Liota’s books I’ve read, this was the hottest and she wrote that aspect really well.

This read is a little bit angsty, a little bit twisty and a whole lot unputdownable. I’m looking forward to more from this context and characters. I highly recommend this read and considering it’s set in a beach town, this would be perfect as a beach or holiday read. Go get!

I voluntarily read an early copy from the author.

FIELD NOTES ON LOVE by Jennifer E Smith

A delicious meet-cute romance about luck, love and serendipity from Jennifer E. Smith, author of Windfall and The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight.

It’s the perfect idea for a romantic week together: travelling across America by train.

But then Hugo’s girlfriend dumps him. Her parting gift: the tickets for their long-planned last-hurrah-before-uni trip. Only, it’s been booked under her name. Non-transferable, no exceptions.

Mae is still reeling from being rejected from USC’s film school. When she stumbles across Hugo’s ad for a replacement Margaret Campbell (her full name!), she’s certain it’s exactly the adventure she needs to shake off her disappointment and jump-start her next film.

A cross-country train trip with a complete stranger might not seem like the best idea. But to Mae and Hugo, both eager to escape their regular lives, it makes perfect sense. What starts as a convenient arrangement soon turns into something more. But when life outside the train catches up with them, can they find a way to keep their feelings for each other from getting derailed?

Jennifer E. Smith’s YA novel Field Notes on Love is a heart-warming love story about grabbing opportunities and trusting your instincts.


Title : Field Notes on Love
Author Jennifer E. Smith
Format : eARC
Page Count : 262
Genre : YA Contemporary
Publisher : Macmillan Children’s Books
Release Date : 30 May 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Micky’s 3 star review

FIELD NOTES ON LOVE was a sweet read. It was pleasant, easy to get into, with interesting characters. The premise for this storyline takes a bit of setting up before Hugo and Margaret make their epic train journey across the USA.

Hugo is a sextuplet (its relevant) from the UK and he needs a Margaret Campbell to use two tickets for his journey. Enters the perfect-aged Margaret Campbell. Both Margaret and Hugo had interesting families and they were cute to watch getting to know one another.

I didn’t make an emotional connection with the story or the characters particularly which left me feeling like an outside observer. I found the exes issue an irritation and perhaps a little bit of a predictable story arc. However, it was overall satisfying book.

This is an easy, appealing read with likeable characters. I would recommend for a day’s or weekend’s escapism reading.

I voluntarily read an early copy of this book. Thank you Macmillan and netgalley!

AYESHA AT LAST by Uzma Jalaluddin – double review!

Pride and Prejudice with a modern twist 

AYESHA SHAMSI has a lot going on.  Her dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and is always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her one hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn’t want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices and dresses like he belongs in the seventh century. 

When a surprise engagement between Khalid and Hafsa is announced, Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and his family; and the truth she realizes about herself. But Khalid is also wrestling with what he believes and what he wants. And he just can’t get this beautiful, outspoken woman out of his mind. 


Title : Ayesha At Last
Author : Uzma Jalaluddin
Format : eARC
Page Count : 343
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : HarperCollins
Release Date : June 4 (US & Can), June 12, 2019 (UK)

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


Micky’s 5 star review

4.5 stars that I am rounding up.

I am buzzing finishing this book, I have devoured it in 36 hours as life made me put it down a few times. This was a loose pride and prejudice take set in the Muslim community in Toronto. Most importantly it is own voices written (and a debut).

Khalid is a beta-male character with little to paint an admirable picture of his personality. Khalid was a bit of a jerk, he lacked a verbal filter, judged too quickly but he was definitely misunderstood. Khalid grew on me, he was pretty endearing at times and he was a man with integrity and kindness. He didn’t know how he was perceived but awareness did begin to creep in.

Ayesha was a vibrant character, headstrong, a feminist, bucking some traditions that seemed unnecessary to her. I liked her immediately and her quirky ways. Khalid and Ayesha met through friends initially and later at the mosque organising a conference. Misunderstanding and chemistry seemed to be the nature of their relationship.

“Because while it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single Muslim man must be in want of a wife, there’s an even greater truth: To his Indian mother, his own inclinations are of secondary importance.”

This was a strong story, with amazing side characters, mostly family and community, that painted a rich depth. I was glued to this book and I thought about it when I wasn’t. The connection between Khalid and Ayesha was slow developing but full of feeling. This was a clean read along the lines of pride and prejudice but it didn’t need anything more. I could have done with a little more about Khalid and Ayesha in the end, however.

This is an amazing debut from Uzma Jalaluddin. Her writing flowed beautifully and I was hooked so easily; I am eager to read more from her and this context.

Thank you to Readers First for my review copy.


Hollis’ 2 star review

It pains me to rate this so low considering all the excitement I had surrounding this title, not to mention the brilliant diversity in this particular retelling, but..

If this story had been just about Ayesha and Khalid, with the former’s delightful grandparents thrown into the mix, I probably would’ve rated this much higher. But then it also wouldn’t have been as true to the PRIDE & PREJUDICE retelling. Or.. maybe it could’ve been! All I know is there were so many villains, so many unpleasant characters, and I was just bothered and frustrated by it all.

But even some of the non-villains were just.. annoying. The drama was really turned up and I know this is fictional but I was really uncomfortable, not to mention fairly rage-y, over the discrimination in the workplace plot line. Like.. no, I’m sorry. I just can’t see that going as far as it did; and maybe I’m extra sensitive about it because this took place in my hometown? I’m not saying I’m naive enough to believe things like this don’t happen in some form or another, as much as we think we’re all above it, but it just went too far.

I think what it comes down to, more than anything, is while I’m aware that most of these caricatures existed in the original, I’m honestly starting to wonder if I just can’t get behind the book anymore; if maybe I wouldn’t even like the original if I tried to read it today. Maybe I should just stick to movie or TV adaptations from now on.

I love that this book exists for the representation it brings, I did enjoy the changes to the family structures the author made, could appreciate the Toronto setting (even if it only amounted to random references to Timbits and a fairly loose, though accurate, description of Scarborough..), but.. lots of buts.

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

MY FAVORITE HALF-NIGHT STAND by Christina Lauren

From the New York Times bestselling author that “hilariously depicts modern dating” (Us Weekly) comes a sexy romantic comedy about online dating, and its many, many fails.

With a world-famous speaker at their university, Mille Morris and her four woefully single male colleagues make a pact that they’ll all find dates. Unfortunately, Millie has more success helping them make matches online than she does navigating the onslaught of lewd pics in her own feed. But when she creates a fictional name for a new account, Millie finds herself vying for the online attention of a man she sees every day in the flesh.


Title : My Favorite Half-Night Stand
Author Christina Lauren
Format : Paperback
Pages : 371
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Little Brown Piatkus
Release Date : November 21, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

I can’t rationalise why but MY FAVORITE HALF-NIGHT STAND wasn’t high on my tbr agenda on release, I think the blurb didn’t capture my attention quite as much as Christina Lauren’s books normally do. Therefore, I ambled into this book just ambling, looking around…and wow, sneak attack, I got all wrapped, up all very quickly.

The story centres on a friendship circle that I found endearing but I wanted in on this circle myself. I think the setting of a bunch of academics reeled me in, as one myself, it was realistic and I thought, ‘why isn’t my faculty like this at lunchtime?’ Reid and Millie were the central characters and they had such a great, fun and platonic connection. But see that title up there? Yeah, it becomes something more, briefly.

As the story moves on, there’s a dating app all the friends engage in and there are messages and secrets. I found the whole story line appealing, a wee bit angsty and a whole lot of fun. The messaging was brilliant and some of that was definitely enhanced by the audio, more on that in a bit. I loved the role reversal on characteristics, Millie was the one lacking in emotional connection and Reid wanted that.

I loved the dual POV chapter approach and the characters were captured perfectly. The messaging was brought to life with quips and banter. I am definitely adding it to my bookshelf as a favourite for this year.

THE LOVELY AND THE LOST by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Kira Bennett’s earliest memories are of living alone and wild in the woods. She has no idea how long she was on her own or what she had to do to survive, but she remembers the moment that Cady Bennett and one of her search-and-rescue dogs found her perfectly. Adopted into the Bennett family, Kira still struggles with human interaction years later, but she excels at the family business: search-and-rescue. Along with Cady’s son, Jude, and their neighbor, Free, Kira works alongside Cady to train the world’s most elite search-and-rescue dogs. Someday, all three teenagers hope to put their skills to use, finding the lost and bringing them home.

But when Cady’s estranged father, the enigmatic Bales Bennett, tracks his daughter down and asks for her help in locating a missing child—one of several visitors who has disappeared in the Sierra Glades National Park in the past twelve months—the teens find themselves on the frontlines sooner than they could have ever expected. As the search through 750,000 acres of unbridled wilderness intensifies, Kira becomes obsessed with finding the missing child. She knows all too well what it’s like to be lost in the wilderness, fighting for survival, alone.

But this case isn’t simple. There is more afoot than a single, missing girl, and Kira’s memories threaten to overwhelm her at every turn. As the danger mounts and long-held family secrets come to light, Kira is forced to question everything she thought she knew about her adopted family, her true nature, and her past.


Title : The Lovely and the Lost
Author Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Format : ARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : YA contemporary thriller
Publisher : Disney Hyperion
Release Date : May 7, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating
: ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I’m a little conflicted about THE LOVELY AND THE LOST.

This book centers on Kira who, as a young girl, was found in the woods after surviving weeks on her own. She’s later adopted by one of the people who made up the Search and Rescue team and, now sixteen, Kira helps her foster mother, and her foster brother, train dogs for SAR work. There’s a lot of dogs. This made me very happy.

Part of me would never leave the forest. Part of me would always be wild and half-dying in that ravine.

What also made me happy was Jude, Kira’s brother. He was.. I don’t even have words to describe him. Hilarious. Precious. Relentlessly kind and understanding. The comic relief, the breaker of tension, first of his name. Barnes has written characters like him before in her other series and I’ve always loved them for all the reasons listed above. Jude is no exception. Kira, though.. this is maybe where things kind of stretch the limits of my disbelief.

Men like the park rangers looked at a picture of a lost little girl and saw an innocent, a victim, someone helpless and fragile and small. They had no idea what a child was capable of — really capable of — when the civilized world melted away and nothing but instinct remained.

Kira is just barely sociable. Her instincts are much like an animal. Her time alone, as a young child, has marked her. I don’t dismiss that those weeks, that experience, would have changed her or haunted her. I don’t doubt that she’d have flashbacks or nightmares. I just wonder.. after fourteen odd years, wouldn’t she have left some of that animal, some of that fear, behind? Particularly considering the socialized years far outweigh the others? How long does it take for a person to change so drastically, to be so altered by social norms? I don’t know. For all I know her behaviour is totally accurate to her circumstances. And if I accept that, I can love it. Well, more to the point, I can understand it. Hurt for her. Either way I do. That kind of trauma is horrifying. But, again, the not knowing.. I wasn’t sure sometimes about her lack of understanding sarcasm or jokes or facial expressions. After all that time, particularly after all that time spent with Jude and their other friend Free, it didn’t make me more likely to believe it, I guess. 

I understand now. The three of you share a single iota of common sense. I’m just a little unclear on which one of you has custody of it now.”

But anyway. That aside, this was a rather tense whodunnit, complete with a missing child, lots of dogs, family secrets, and a total lack of a shoe-horned-in romance (ten points). There’s angst and tragic backstory and family reunions of a few kinds.. and also dogs. I loved the dogs. Can you tell? There was also.. something.. at the end. It makes me wonder : is there more to come? Is this just open ended? Or will I get more dogs? This reader wants to know.

I’ve enjoyed, and outright loved, quite a few of Barnes’ books (forever crying about the lack of more Fixer books; woe is me). I so enjoy her writing and her characters. So if the plot intrigues you, THE LOVELY AND THE LOST, despite some of my uncertainties, is definitely worth picking up. 

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

CRASH by Harper Dallas

JJ Schneider has it all.

A high-octane career as a pro snowboarder. A ride-or-die crew. A seven-figure sponsorship deal.

None of it makes up for losing the love of his life.

It’s been a year since Raquel Sfeir walked away. From the man she loved. From the job of her dreams. She’s done with enabling extreme athletes to risk their lives for the next thrill… especially the one who chose his career—and its dangers—over her.

But when a life-threatening accident shatters JJ’s dreams as well as his spine, Raquel finds herself drawn back to the man who broke her heart.

This time, she’s not going to give him the chance. She’s going to get him whole and out of the house they bought together—and then she’s moving on for good.

Raquel won’t be anyone’s consolation prize. But JJ’s had a lifetime of pursuing impossible goals, and he’s determined to show the woman of his dreams that even hearts can heal.


Title : Crash
Author : Harper Dallas
Series : The Wild Sequence #2
Format : eBook
Page Count : 414
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Indie
Release Date : April 15, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

“I take a deep breath. Is it falling, if you decide to jump?”

First Harper Dallas gave us RIDE and then CRASH landed on my kindle. This book sucked me into it’s vortex and gave me that wonderful experience of devouring words that RIDE also delivered on. CRASH was a second chance romance but it wasn’t beautiful, it was painful, raw and hard fought for.

CRASH is set in the world of elite sports, with top athletes in the snowboarding world. I was already familiar with the protagonists from book one, particularly JJ. The laid-back JJ we saw in RIDE was not present here. JJ was a broken man both physically and psychologically and it was difficult to witness his struggle and circumstances. Raquel, his ex, found herself intertwined with his life again and it wasn’t a comfortable fit. The hurt between these two just rippled through the pages; I felt it all.

What was different about this second chance romance was that their love for one another was not the issue, I’ll leave the pages to tell you what was. I felt churned up and in turmoil with these two as they navigated the present, considered the future and remembered their shared past.

“Hope. It’s painful. It’s beautiful. It’s so much and God knows, it’s never enough. Because you always want more. Want to know what’s going to happen.”

If you loved Chase, Brooke, Hanne and Hunter from book one, there’s plenty of these characters to satisfy your need for more but it was Chase and JJ’s relationship that made this book extra special. Chase’s character development continued in CRASH and I soaked up these moments; this friendship was everything.

Harper Dallas has shown that her debut in RIDE was no fluke, this woman has talent and she can capture emotion, spinning it beautifully onto the page. I rarely cry at happy endings but I did with this one (that’s not a spoiler, this is romance, you guys, HEA guaranteed). Go click book one, if you’ve not read it and if you have, don’t hold back on CRASH.

TOP SECRET by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

Bestselling authors Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy return with their first Male / Male romance in 3 years.

LobsterShorts, 21 Jock. Secretly a science geek. Hot AF.

LobsterShorts: So. Here goes. For her birthday, my girlfriend wants…a threesome.
SinnerThree: Then you’ve come to the right hookup app.
LobsterShorts: Have you done this sort of thing before? With another guy?
SinnerThree: All the time. I’m an equal opportunity player. You?
LobsterShorts: [crickets!]

SinnerThree, 21 Finance major. Secretly a male dancer. Hot AF.

SinnerThree: Well, I’m down if you are. My life is kind of a mess right now. School, work, family stress. Oh, and I live next door to the most annoying dude in the world. I need the distraction. Are you sure you want this?
LobsterShorts: I might want it a little more than I’m willing to admit. SinnerThree: Hey, nothing wrong with pushing your boundaries… LobsterShorts: Tell that to my control-freak father. Anyway. What if this threesome is awkward?
SinnerThree: Then it’s awkward. It’s not like we’ll ever have to see each other again. Right? Just promise you won’t fall in love with me. LobsterShorts: Now wouldn’t that be life-changing..


Title : Top Secret
Author Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy
Format : eBook
Page Count : 319
Genre : NA contemporary, LGBTQIA+
Publisher : Tuxbury Publishing LLC and Elle Kennedy Inc
Release Date : May 7, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

I’m honestly just as surprised as you are by this rating.

I’m a big fan of this duo, as individual authors and also for their co-authorered HIM and US duology, so the news that this top secret m/m — a return to the genre AND to writing together after three years — was dropping had me super super hype. And thankfully there wasn’t a huge build up between the announcement and release. But this didn’t live up to their previous works and definitely didn’t feel as strong as many of their solo offerings have in the past.

I’m single, a little depressed, and I’m very horny, with a side of sexual confusion, too.

The plot is full of, like, click baity excellence. I mean that in a good way. It’s a sexual awakening story, with a texting element, and a connection that develops via aliases that completely contradicts their pre-existing relationship. So, all that and basically a hate to love to boot? Hell to the yes. And for the first.. I want to say forty percent? I was clicking that bait, I was riding that train, I was all about that bass. Or something.

I dreamt about sex with men once. Or twice. I never mentioned that to [my girlfriend]. But why would I? I’ve also dreamt of meeting a dragon who smoked clove cigarettes. The things my brain invents while I’m sleeping aren’t newsworthy.

Except there was an added drama element that should’ve made me sympathetic towards one of the characters but instead just irritated me. On the other side of the pairing, there was a different conflict element that made up so much of the lead’s indecision and stress and then, poof, said element literally became a non-issue at a convenient time and place in the novel. What? The transition from realizing who was on the other side of the phone just.. I don’t know, I feel like I missed it? Things both escalated very quickly and yet there was no sense of time passing, no sense of anything meaningful between them beyond boning, and I honestly think it’s because everyone was so underdeveloped. It felt very plot driven, with pitstops for drama, and that was definitely at the expense of the characters’ emotional growth and evolution. Honestly if half the background noise had been cut out it would’ve been far more enjoyable. And there would’ve been much more time for the snarky banter that I liked. Because it was those moments that really did highlight the leads’ chemistry, the sexual tension, the connection.

You’re a yellow lab.” 
I’m.. what?”
A dog. A big, happy dog chasing Frisbees on the beach with his pals. You’re a pack animal.
And you’re.. a pit bull?'”
Not even. I’m a tom cat in the alley. Just passing through.”

So, while TOP SECRET is full of delicious tropes, and an excellent early build, it does fizzle well before the climax. This lacked the fun that I had with THE DEAL, it could’ve done with some of the gravitas demonstrated in STEADFAST, and ultimately I wanted a connection like we had in HIM. These authors are so talented and can handle a range of topics and genres with humour and cleverness and consideration and still drown you in swoons. But I just didn’t get much of any of that with this one.