A WISH UPON THE STARS by TJ Klune

Nearly a year ago, blinded by grief and betrayal, Sam of Wilds made a desperate decision to follow the Great White into the Dark Woods. Now, he emerges to a world changed.

The City of Lockes is a prison. The King has been locked away in the dungeons. The Kingdom of Verania has fallen, and the Dark wizard Myrin sits on the throne. 

But soon after his return, Sam learns of a resistance fighting in his name led by a courageous knight, a defiant prince, a pissed-off unicorn, and a half-giant who wants to smash everything in sight. If he has any hope of defeating the villains who have taken their home, Sam must face the consequences of his choices—and the friends he left behind.


Title : A Wish Upon the Stars
Author : TJ Klune
Series : Tales from Verania (book four)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 450
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ fantasy romance
Publisher : BOATK Books
Release Date : November 12, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

Welp, it’s done. We made it.

Sorta. Almost. <– because the short story/fairytale collection is out in April and also the series will continue with a different MC in 2022, I think. But for n o w. It’s done.

I’m not really going to have anything new to say about this series, not even for the finale. I joked with my buddies that if the author had cut out all the repetition and rehashing we’d only have had two books to read through instead of four. I stand by that statement. Pretty much nothing happened until 60% (and these are not short books so that was a long 60%), or at least not much we hadn’t already gone over or lived through or had some variation of before, so.. yeah. Says a lot, I think.

There were moments that made me snort. Maybe one particular scene almost had me welling up. But overall? These books are just A Lot. The characters are Too Much. And everything that happens is What The Fuck. So if that sounds like your jam, read on! Dive in! Enjoy!

I definitely did not get out of this what I thought I would, back when I first started, but that’s okay. I am happy to have completed a series (for now) and for the buddy read adventure with said buddies.

THE DEVIL IN HER BED by Kerrigan Byrne

He lives in secret service to the Crown—a man of duty, deception, and an undeniable attraction to a woman who threatens to tear his whole world apart.

They call him the Devil of Dorset. He stands alone, a man of undeniable power. Moving in and out of shadows, back alleys and ballrooms, he is unstoppable and one of the Crown’s most dangerous weapons. However, when he sets his sights on the undeniably beautiful Countess of Mont Claire, Francesca Cavendish, he doesn’t realize that he has met a match like no other.

TRUE LOVE WEARS NO DISGUISE

Francesca is a countess by day and stalks her prey—those responsible for the death of her family—by night. What she does not expect is to be thrown into the path of the devil himself, the Earl of Devlin. She has secrets of her own and he seems determined to lay them bare. Can her heart survive finding the love of her life and losing him when all is revealed?


Title : The Devil in Her Bed
Author : Kerrigan Byrne
Series : Devil You Know (book three)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 419
Genre : historical romance
Publisher : St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date : March 9, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I have to say, on the one hand, it’s refreshing for the male of the pairing to be the drama queen. But on the other hand.. wow, drama queen.

I think I’ve said in all my reviews that the highlight of this series is the strong female characters, and the friendships, and while I think this one didn’t showcase as much of said friendship as the previous installments, we didn’t really need it to. It had been well established. And it was actually sweeter to see the heroes from books one and two step into the limelight to support not only their partners but book three’s heroine, too. We love a supportive friend group.

As for this book’s hero, well. My complaint in book two was that character lacked the dimension of book one but I feel like this time Byrne went too far in giving this hero layers and angst. See aforementioned drama. But my struggle was also the dynamic of this relationship was complicated from the word go, with hidden identities and secrets, and nothing really made sense.. romantically. The sudden shift didn’t make sense and it felt like some revisionist history was shoved down our throats to conveniently make it all work and I’ll admit I didn’t swallow, I choked.

What also didn’t quite work for me was the big reveal of this secret society that was such a driving force behind all of the books leading upto this big confrontation. I appreciate that it’s sort’ve addressed on-page to be pointless and frustratingly simple and or stupid but still.. I struggled with this.

The first half of this book is why this rating isn’t lower. I felt it to be pretty strong, even if I rolled my eyes at some of the hero’s behaviour and dramatic internal monologuing. Seeing the lengths the heroine was going, had already gone, for revenge, for those she loved; what she had turned herself into, become, and without knowing the how or why (at the time), it was also rather lovely to see how the hero appreciated it. Even if he was suspicious. Additionally I was definitely swept away by some of the chemistry and pull between these two before some of the masks came off. All of that really saved this. And with a weaker heroine it wouldn’t have worked at all.. but she was truly the saving grace for this story and pairing; which is definitely the theme for most of this series. Sisters really are doing it for themselves. We love to see it.

While this wasn’t an all-around win, rarely does Byrne disappoint to the point where I find no enjoyment at all in her stories. And I’m forever here for how she always gives us fierce heroines to champion. And that’s just one reason I will continue to read this author.

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

ACT YOUR AGE, EVE BROWN by Talia Hibbert – double review!

In Act Your Age, Eve Brown the flightiest Brown sister crashes into the life of an uptight B&B owner and has him falling hard—literally.

Eve Brown is a certified hot mess. No matter how hard she strives to do right, her life always goes horribly wrong—so she’s given up trying. But when her personal brand of chaos ruins an expensive wedding (someone had to liberate those poor doves), her parents draw the line. It’s time for Eve to grow up and prove herself—even though she’s not entirely sure how…

Jacob Wayne is in control. Always. The bed and breakfast owner’s on a mission to dominate the hospitality industry—and he expects nothing less than perfection. So when a purple-haired tornado of a woman turns up out of the blue to interview for his open chef position, he tells her the brutal truth: not a chance in hell. Then she hits him with her car—supposedly by accident. Yeah, right.

Now his arm is broken, his B&B is understaffed, and the dangerously unpredictable Eve is fluttering around, trying to help. Before long, she’s infiltrated his work, his kitchen—and his spare bedroom. Jacob hates everything about it. Or rather, he should. Sunny, chaotic Eve is his natural-born nemesis, but the longer these two enemies spend in close quarters, the more their animosity turns into something else. Like Eve, the heat between them is impossible to ignore—and it’s melting Jacob’s frosty exterior. 


Title : Act Your Age, Eve Brown
Author : Talia Hibbert
Series : The Brown Sisters (book three)
Format : eARC/audio
Page Count : 400/10 hours 51 minutes
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Avon / Little Brown UK
Release Date : March 9, 2021

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


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

I mean, is anyone surprised that this was a delight? Nope. Because I don’t think Hibbert can do any wrong. And The Brown Sisters series has been truly wonderful and I’m pretty sad it’s over. But.. might there be hope of a spinoff? With the Montroses? Pretty please?

[..] you’re not even supposed to give them bread.
You aren’t? Oh dear. Why on earth not?
It’s bad for the disgestion! Christ, woman, read a waterfowl blog.”
Which you do because..
Because. Know thine enemy.

This final installment was a grumpy/sunshine delight of a matchup. These are two such very different characters and their first interaction, quickly followed by disaster, certainly set the tone for their wee bicker banter battles. The evolution from that, to friends, to scorching, to more, well.. it was delicious and fun and sweet and also a little heartbreaking. What added to the loveliness of this pairing wasn’t just their differences, though, but also how they fit together almost like two sides of the same coin. Not the same but alike.

Jacob’s attitude was rather like a barbed-wire fence; designed to rip you to shreds if you got too close, but only to protect something special.

While I still think I maintain that book one, Get a Life, Chloe Brown, was my favourite, as much as seeing the sisters and their partners was nice, it didn’t get me as excited as I would’ve thought, as Eve was truly was the star of her own story. And I just wanted more time with her. Jacob, too, was just.. I can’t think of any word but special. But he was.

[..] the world would be a much better place if they stopped congratulating themselves on being normal and started to accept that there were countless different normals, and Jacob’s kind was just as fine as everyone else’s.

My only tiny complaints were the third act drama, though now that I’m outside of the moment I think I’m less bothered by it in hindsight, it’s far from the worst I’ve read!, and the ending. Despite the sweetness of the moment, and how it’s not leading upto what you might think, it did end a tad abruptly and I was left bereft; and not just because it’s over.

This is such a lovely town. I don’t know how you manage to stay so grumpy when you live here.”
Through great force of will.”

If somehow you’ve managed to resist picking up this series, or even a single Hibbert, I’m here to yell at you until you change your mind. This is a much beloved author for a reason and you will be better for reading her books. I can’t wait to see where she goes from here and, surprising no one, will pick up whatever she releases next.

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


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Neurodivergent rep
Steam
Bad driving
Sisterhood
Did I mention steam?

There’s something just so easy about sinking into a series where you know something about the characters and The Brown Sisters is a series that has really floated my boat from the start. As with the other Brown sisters, Eve was wholly individual but also quirky, confident and yet not.

The story started with a blow-up, an escape and a bang as Eve found herself in the Lake District which was pretty fun but <enter side left> came Jake. Abrupt, grumpy, perfectionist and with a hard shell, Jake’s character had to be unravelled and Eve was certainly up to the task.

This story had elements of the ridiculous (just as life is sometimes) and the combination of Eve and Jake interacting and at odds with each other brought much humour, me sniggering and dialogue that you just couldn’t make up. I can’t deny that when the family came together in the story I had moments of cosily settling in, seeing these sisters and their partners together.

The representation in this book felt genuine, not forced. The story repped neurodivergent characteristic and body positive behaviour with sloganed T-shirts. All these things for the win. I would be interested in finding some neurodivergent #ownvoices reviews to check how this felt on reading.

Overall, Act Your Age, Eve Brown was a pleasurable read with intense heat and the wit I’ve come to know Talia Hibbert for. These books go on the re-read pile.

I did a combination of physical and audiobook and the narration (dual POV) was excellent and fitted the mood and characters really well.

Thank you Piatkus, Little Brown and LibroFM for the early review copies.

PERFECT ON PAPER by Sophie Gonzales – double review!

In Sophie Gonzales’ Perfect on Paper, Leah on the Offbeat meets To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: a bisexual girl who gives anonymous love advice to her classmates is hired by the hot guy to help him get his ex back

Her advice, spot on. Her love life, way off.

Darcy Phillips:
• Can give you the solution to any of your relationship woes―for a fee.
• Uses her power for good. Most of the time.
• Really cannot stand Alexander Brougham.
• Has maybe not the best judgement when it comes to her best friend, Brooke…who is in love with someone else.
• Does not appreciate being blackmailed.

However, when Brougham catches her in the act of collecting letters from locker 89―out of which she’s been running her questionably legal, anonymous relationship advice service―that’s exactly what happens. In exchange for keeping her secret, Darcy begrudgingly agrees to become his personal dating coach―at a generous hourly rate, at least. The goal? To help him win his ex-girlfriend back.

Darcy has a good reason to keep her identity secret. If word gets out that she’s behind the locker, some things she’s not proud of will come to light, and there’s a good chance Brooke will never speak to her again.

Okay, so all she has to do is help an entitled, bratty, (annoyingly hot) guy win over a girl who’s already fallen for him once? What could go wrong?


Title : Perfect on Paper
Author : Sophie Gonzales
Format : eARC
Page Count : 304
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ contemporary romance
Publisher : Wenesday Books/Hachette Kids-TeamBKMK
Release Date : March 9, 2021

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

It’s always strange to like something but have complicated thoughts or feelings about aspects of it.. and yet still can’t help but rate it highly. That’s really where I’m at. I don’t think this is going to be a particularly informative or cohesive review, just warning you now.

Overall I just want to say how happy I am that, conflicted confusedness aside, it is easier to like to this vs how I felt about Only Mostly Devastated, which just didn’t settle with me very well. The abovementioned was so messy and while we do have some mess, some misguided elements in Perfect on Paper, it was.. a more acceptable mess, if that makes sense. Or maybe I was just more forgiving of it.

You do realize I’m agreeing with you here?
I guess I’ve never had agreement feel so much like an argument.”

I can definitely suspend some of my disbelief at how competent a sixteen year old was at dispensing sage and well researched romantic advice to her peers but the narrative is pushed that said advise is well researched, well intentioned, so I can probably eat that one. And what helps to sell it is that while she’s being paid, she’s doing it to help others, as a passion project, and that goes a long way vs just doing it just for cash or to collect secrets on her peers. The motivation changes everything.

Did a fight lead to the breakup?
More or less. I guess I gave her an ultimatum.
You didn’t.”
I wish that were true.
Why didn’t you just throw a fucking grenade between you while you were at it?

So many elements of this felt strong; the mention but lack of focus, or harping, on her sister’s transition. The discussion around queerness, specifically internalized and externalized biphobia. The ego checks our lead received throughout regarding missteps in advice, in realizing some people didn’t want her help, and more.

Where I think this was a bit weak, even though it played a big role, was her relationship with her best friend and, initially, the characterization of a love interest. Eventually the latter smoothed out but I do wonder if I missed something to explain why he behaved the way he did in the beginning. I’m not quite complaining as I found the interactions totally delightful because of how frustrating they found each other, but I still wish maybe something had been offered up as a why. But for the best friend, well.. I don’t know. Something never really sat right about that dynamic. And I don’t want to touch on too much for risk of spoilers — and a few other niggles are maybe too specific to mention for that same reason — so.. insert vague vagueries here.

I don’t know if this review is coming across as positive as a four star would warrant but I’ll refer you back to my opening paragraph. Something about this just confuses me even though I enjoyed it so so much. Was it perfect? No. But it did just enough right. And I was just so happy about the ending, particularly one little interaction that shouldn’t be so momentous, and may not even be remarked by many, but just.. wrecked me a bit. Left me so soft. And that combined with the fact that I couldn’t tear myself away from this, well.. here we are.

After my (albeit, strange) success with this sophomore release, I’m even more excited for what is to come for this author.

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


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Page turner
LGBTQIA+ rep for days
Incredibly cute

A clever story was contained in these pages, all centred around Locker 89 and Darcy. Darcy was bi-sexual, crushing on her friend and seemed to limit her life options and expectations. She also ran an advice service through locker 89 (you’d have to read to understand). Now I’ve got that out of the way, I can talk about my own expectations – I had no idea where the romance of this story was going to go for the first part; I loved the lack of expectation.

Friendships were on the menu, a smattering of drama, lots of secrets and lies and problematic parents. I liked Brooke but only a bit, Ray definintely grew on me, Ainsley was fab and Brougham delivered on the slow building chemistry. Brougham slowly defrosted in this story and I enjoyed the reveal of his character.

There was something special about being seen the way that Brougham seemed to see me.

There was something flawed and cocky about Darcy but also plenty of self-realisation and awareness to mitigate the cockiness. The bi context delved into the some really important experiences, which only enhanced the story even more. This book had a lovely pitch of light with the odd casting of darkness across the page. I loved that circle back around to the ‘job’ towards the end.

Perfect on Paper confirmed that Only Mostly Devastated was not a one-off piece of goodness, Sophie Gonzales followed that up with another superb offering. I still need to visit her back catalogue of titles.

Thank you to Hachette Kids & TeamBKMK for the early review copy.

ENLIGHTENED by Joanna Chambers

David Lauriston has been recuperating at Lord Murdo Balfour’s Laverock estate for the last five months. At Laverock, he has regained his health and confidence and has found—with Murdo—more happiness and contentment than he has never known before.

David is all too aware that some day soon he will have to leave Laverock—and Murdo—and return to his legal practice in Edinburgh, just as Murdo will have to return to his life in London. But when David’s mentor, Patrick Chalmers, asks David to return to Edinburgh to visit him on his deathbed, it seems that day has come sooner than either David or Murdo would have wished.

Chalmers begs David to undertake one last piece of business for him: to secure the future of Chalmers’s daughter Elizabeth. But to carry out his old mentor’s wishes, David must travel to London, with Murdo.

No sooner have the two men arrived in the capital than they encounter Murdo’s ruthlessly manipulative father, who reveals a shocking secret that rocks David to his foundations. What’s more, when David discovers Elizabeth is facing far greater danger than even her father feared, he is determined to help her, no matter the cost to his own safety.

As the stakes rise, it is Murdo who must choose what he is prepared to sacrifice to keep David at his side, and ask whether there is any possibility of lasting happiness for men like them.


Title : Enlightened
Author : Joanna Chambers
Series : Enlightenment (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 279
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ historical romance
Publisher : indie
Release Date : January 8, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

And so concludes the main trilogy of this series following David and Murdo. I’m quite pleased by their ending, as well as the endings of a few other characters that followed them throughout these three books, and honestly I was the least irked by either of their behaviour in the telling of this particular installment.

That said, while I was very happy, and occasionally moved by the emotional revelations, it was one particular bit of plot featuring a good friend of David’s that got me the most emotional. I may have teared up.

While — for whatever reason — this series hasn’t become a new favourite, it can’t be denied that I really got on well with Chambers’ writing and really enjoyed the characters. I have two novellas still to read that feature these two leads (so I guess I’m not quite done..) and while I look forward to seeing what else they get upto (though you likely won’t see those reviews here, maybe check GR if you’re curious), I am keen to see what this author does with a different pair. That said, if you’re a fan of KJC or Cat Sebastian and you want another queer historical series to sink your teeth into, and you haven’t yet tried these, I would recommend! They aren’t too long and they are smartly written. And I still hope to discover a Chambers I’ll love in her other series — or maybe even in the books within this world. Fingers crossed!

THE CONSUMPTION OF MAGIC by TJ Klune

Sam of Wilds faced the Dark wizard Myrin and lived to tell the tale. Granted, the battle left him scarred, but things could be a hell of a lot worse.

It’s not until he reunites with Morgan of Shadows and Randall that he realizes just how much worse things could be.

Because the scars have meaning and hint at Myrin’s true plans for Sam and the Kingdom of Verania.

With time running out, Sam and his band of merry misfits—the unicorn Gary, the half-giant Tiggy, Knight Commander Ryan Foxheart, and the dragon known as Kevin—must travel to the snowy mountains in the North and the heart of the Dark Woods to convince the remaining dragons to stand against Myrin. Along the way, Sam learns secrets of the past that will forever change the course of the future.

A reckoning is coming for Sam of Wilds, and there is nothing he can do to stop it.


Title : The Consumption of Magic
Author : TJ Klune
Series : Tales from Verania (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 397
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ fantasy romance
Publisher : BOATK Books
Release Date : November 12, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

I realize I have been far from effusive over my feelings about this series but this might’ve been the first one in the series I actively disliked. I can’t even blame it on the “too much, too soon” binge situation because this is not a series we’re bingeing. It’s been a few weeks since I read book two. And yet..

As mentioned in one of my previous reviews, though it bears repeating, everything from the first two books is back again, from the oversharing and crude ridiculousness, to the almost parody-like fantasy plot, and if things were thought to be dramatic before? It gets better/worse/more (pick your preference).

There might’ve been a moment or two that seemed sweet or funny or even sad and heartbreaking. But overwhelmingly I just.. can’t. I’m frustrated or annoyed or bored by so much of this; but only to a mild extent. I don’t really feel any kind of extreme about this world. I might’ve considered actually ditching this one if not for my buddies; I was definitely kind of wishing I wouldn’t need to continue after this installment. But the ending did things and I admit my perverse curiosity wouldn’t let me stop either way, buddies or no.

Weirdly I think the only character I actually got on with this time was Justin. Because he is just so over everything and everyone; he is all of us (me). I seriously appreciated him in this book. More page time in the next books, please! Also, do we know how much further there is to go in this world? Just.. curious. No reason why.

Despite the fact that I already reused part of a review for this one, I am going to reiterate the following : I am definitely not recommending these books. They just exist; and I’m spending time with them. Nothing more. But if it sounds like your thing, I hope you have the best time. I can definitely see the appeal but it’s just not my jam.

AN UNEXPECTED PERIL by Deanna Raybourn

A princess is missing, and a peace treaty is on the verge of collapse in this new Veronica Speedwell adventure from the New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award-nominated author Deanna Raybourn.

January 1889. As the newest member of the Curiosity Club—an elite society of brilliant, intrepid women—Veronica Speedwell is excited to put her many skills to good use. As she assembles a memorial exhibition for pioneering mountain climber Alice Baker-Greene, Veronica discovers evidence that the recent death was not a tragic climbing accident but murder. Veronica and her natural historian beau, Stoker, tell the patron of the exhibit, Princess Gisela of Alpenwald, of their findings. With Europe on the verge of war, Gisela’s chancellor, Count von Rechstein, does not want to make waves—and before Veronica and Stoker can figure out their next move, the princess disappears.

Having noted Veronica’s resemblance to the princess, von Rechstein begs her to pose as Gisela for the sake of the peace treaty that brought the princess to England. Veronica reluctantly agrees to the scheme. She and Stoker must work together to keep the treaty intact while navigating unwelcome advances, assassination attempts, and Veronica’s own family—the royalty who has never claimed her


Title : An Unexpected Peril
Author : Deanna Raybourn
Series : Veronica Speedwell (book six)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : historical romance/mystery
Publisher : Berkley
Release Date : March 2, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

Easily the best part of this book was that it wasn’t the previous installment. As in, it was better. Not that it counts for much as I felt book five just so overwhelmingly.. well, not good. But anyway, yes, this was likely the closest to being what I loved from these books in the early installments. For which I’m grateful, even as I continue to believe I have just lost the love for this world. Or maybe the magic just isn’t there anymore. One or the other.

While I won’t say that this mystery was compelling or edge of your seat, I do think the diversion of the politics of this little country, and the involvement of the princess to the murder victim, was well done. I even appreciated that despite how things are now going for our investigative duo, there are still moments of friction and disagreements and yet it doesn’t become a big moment of drama. They work through their clashes, resolve them, and I appreciate that adult behaviour. I do think my love for Veronica will never quite return and it’s definitely Stoker that is keeping me in this game but she does have her moments.

Overall, even though we had some near death/disaster moments, the stakes never really feel high or even remotely tense. I think the series has just become somewhat.. fluffy? Lighthearted? I think I saw another reviewer say cozy and I don’t disagree with that actually. They are a little silly, while balancing real moments of history, and maybe I just have to stop taking them as seriously as I have during the last few installments. I don’t know. Time will tell. Because I still don’t think we know how many more books are to come. I wish we did.

Ultimately this wasn’t a bad addition to the series and I am happy to not have been disappointed yet again.

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

MARRIAGE AND MURDER by Penny Reid – double review!

The Devil is in the details . . .

Cletus Byron Winston wishes to marry Jennifer Anne Donner-Sylvester (aka The Banana Cake Queen) posthaste! He’s spent the last year wanting nothing more than for the celebrations to be brief, libations flowing, and BYOB (bring your own blueberries). His future mother-in-law has other plans, plans his intended has been willing to indulge, much to Cletus’s chagrin. Therefore, so must he. To a point. But truth be told, he wouldn’t mind if the meddlesome matriarch disappeared, at least until the nuptials are over.

On the night of Cletus and Jenn’s long-awaited engagement party, just when the surly schemer is of a mind to take matters into his own hands, a shocking event upends everyone’s best laid plans and sends the small hamlet of Green Valley into complete disarray. The final months leading up to Cletus and Jenn’s matrimonial bliss are plagued with chaos and uncertainty. Will Cletus and Jenn finally make it to the altar? Or will murder and mayhem derail their happily-ever-after?
And most importantly, who done it?

‘Marriage and Murder’ is the second book in the cozy mystery series Solving for Pie: Cletus and Jenn Mysteries. It is best read after Winston Brothers #3, ‘Beard Science’ (which can be read as a standalone) and Solving for Pie: Cletus and Jenn Mysteries #1, ‘Engagement and Espionage.’


Title : Marriage and Murder
Author : Penny Reid
Series : Solving for Pie : Cletus and Jenn Mysteries (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 347
Genre : romance/contemporary mystery
Publisher : Cipher-Naught
Release Date : March 2, 2021

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

I snuck a peek at my review for book one of this series just to see if my feelings about this follow-up were on par and.. you know, mostly? Yes. Also it’s funny to see I had spent a sunday afternoon reading book one and here I spent a sunday morning reading this one. Sundays are for mysteries?

But to reiterate from my previous review, seriously, what is in the water in this town? I realize this is a “mystery” series spinoff from the main books but honestly. Town o’lunatics. Having said that, though, there were fewer characters who irritated me this time around (we love to see growth!) but the drama level is high. Even though I think this one was tamer.. in a few ways. Vague comments are vague.

Overall I find a lot of the conflicts in Reid’s books are a wee bit OTT but I think it feels manageable because her characters are also full of personality. So it all kind of feels on-par.. until you stop and think about it.

Cletus, one of the characters with the absolute most personality, however? He was really off his game in this one. There were reasons (excuses) given of course but it was interesting to see Reid put him through being.. well, fallible. Not quite the smartest in the room. I’m not sure I had many thoughts about Jenn, or about her realizations or the things she came to terms with, which may not be a good thing but neither was it bad. And, I mean, even though this is their series, overall it’s the ensemble that really sells this for me. As always.

Somewhat bonkers plot and conflict aside, even if my feelings overall are becoming bit muted about these books as time goes on, I still had a pretty good time being back in this world. And after all this time, and after all these books and spinoffs, it would take something pretty big to get me to stop reading at this point.

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


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Shenanigans upon shenanigans
Family crises
Cue Barry White music

Marriage and Murder took me by surpise in a few ways. Things happened fast and I did not expect that to happen. Another thing I didn’t expect in this book was the pace change in terms of the intimacy between Jenn & Cletus. Book one was a desert and book two was a flood. All the mayhem was wrapped up in the usual tone of the Winstons, Cletus especially bringing that sanguine, dry wit.

I didn’t always love the story in this one but I will always love the Winstons per se and we got lots of side servings. I particularly loved the Ash side storyline in this one, it was pretty special and I have missed Ashley a little. I could have done with a bit more Drew, though. The Iron Wraiths are a necessary evil in this book but they always discomfort me and I think they’re supposed to.

I liked seeing Jenn’s self confidence rise but I also didn’t feel like I got enough of Jenn’s psyche in this book, especially considering how all the events would have had such an impact on her.

The pacing was fast to lull, then it picked up again. Sometimes I had to push a little reading but the culmination was a doozy (a good one). This series is definitely one for the fans and Penny Reid pulls off the suspense alongside keeping the wit and romance of the Winstons.

Thank you to the author for the early review copy.

BEST LAID PLANS by Roan Parrish

A man who’s been moving his whole life finally finds a reason to stay put.

Charlie Matheson has spent his life taking care of things. When his parents died two days before his eighteenth birthday, he took care of his younger brother, even though that meant putting his own dreams on hold. He took care of his father’s hardware store, building it into something known several towns over. He took care of the cat he found in the woods…so now he has a cat.

When a stranger with epic tattoos and a glare to match starts coming into Matheson’s Hardware, buying things seemingly at random and lugging them off in a car so beat-up Charlie feels bad for it, his instinct is to help. When the man comes in for the fifth time in a week, Charlie can’t resist intervening.

Rye Janssen has spent his life breaking things. Promises. His parents’ hearts. Leases. He isn’t used to people wanting to put things back together—not the crumbling house he just inherited, not his future and certainly not him. But the longer he stays in Garnet Run, the more he can see himself belonging there. And the more time he spends with Charlie, the more he can see himself falling asleep in Charlie’s arms…and waking up in them.

Is this what it feels like to have a home—and someone to share it with? 


Title : Best Laid Plans
Author : Roan Parrish
Series : Garnet Run (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 304
Genre : LGBTQIA+ romance
Publisher : Carina Adores
Release Date : February 23, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I definitely went into this read with slightly lower expectations than I did going into book one; and while this isn’t going to be a favourite it definitely worked better for me. Mostly because of Charlie.

Characters (people) like Charlie just break my heart. And I thought Parrish did such a good job of making him big, tough, and caring but also giving him complex feelings and layers and a good chunk of angst. He felt so beautifully dimensional and the few parts that got me close to choking up were all for him.

Charlie Matheson wasn’t a Boy Scout. He wasn’t Mr. Perfect. And he wasn’t a goody-goody. Charlie Matheson was an adult who’d never gotten to be a child, and Charlie Matheson was finally mad about it.

As for Rye, I liked him, too, prickly little man that he was but sadly he definitely didn’t stand out in comparison to Charlie. Not that many people would! While he is definitely his own person, I liked him best as Charlie’s champion. Those moments are definitely my kind of catnip.

This is definitely a more wholesome feel-good kind of series than Parrish’s rockstar reads, though there are tie-ins!, but still with a good portion of steam, and plenty of four-legged characters running around for even more sweetness. All that and a gorgeous cover, too? I enjoyed this read and think you will, too!

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

LOVE AT FIRST by Kate Clayborn

From Kate Clayborn, the acclaimed author of Love Lettering, comes a sparkling, tender novel about bickering neighbors, surprise reunions, and the mysterious power of love . . .

Sixteen years ago, a teenaged Will Sterling saw–or rather, heard–the girl of his dreams. Standing beneath an apartment building balcony, he shared a perfect moment with a lovely, warm-voiced stranger. It’s a memory that’s never faded, though he’s put so much of his past behind him. Now an unexpected inheritance has brought Will back to that same address, where he plans to offload his new property and get back to his regular life as an overworked doctor. Instead, he encounters a woman, two balconies above, who’s uncannily familiar . . .

No matter how surprised Nora Clarke is by her reaction to handsome, curious Will, or the whispered pre-dawn conversations they share, she won’t let his plans ruin her quirky, close-knit building. Bound by her loyalty to her adored grandmother, she sets out to foil his efforts with a little light sabotage. But beneath the surface of their feud is an undeniable connection. A balcony, a star-crossed couple, a fateful meeting–maybe it’s the kind of story that can’t work out in the end. Or maybe, it’s the perfect second chance . . . 


Title : Love at First
Author : Kate Clayborn
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : romance
Publisher : Kensington Books
Release Date : February 23, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

I want to say that if you loved LOVE LETTERING you will also love this but it’s not something that I would even compare one to the other. Unless you consider all the emotions I felt for both. In which case yes. Just.. yes.

[..] he couldn’t really explain it, the relief he felt. Out of all his visitors today, she was the enemy he should be dreading the most; she was the most dangerous to him. Frankly, she was probably here to finish him off. But he didn’t think any of that, at first. He looked up and saw her there and all he could think was : finally. Finally she came.

What I love so much about Clayborn is how quiet her books are even as they yell in your face, in your heart, in your soul. I might even have to call it the Quincy effect. You might end up a mess from the experience but you love it anyway (I swear this’ll make sense to people who’ve read this book, haha, except in this case the mess is tears). But back to my point, few authors I’ve read have successfully and consistently translated tenderness into text. And I don’t mean tender moments.. but she’s fully capable of those, too, pure tenderness into a moment between characters, but also in a turn of phrase, an inner thought, the touch of a hand, the desire to suddenly use a term of endearment. There were so many moments in this book (in so many of this author’s books, in fact) where I just died quiet little deaths because of how much I was made to feel.

You don’t have to love people the way you learned to love at first.

What sets this apart from LOVE LETTERING, too, is that we get a dual POV this time. And I just.. it was perfect? But the characters are not; they have baggage, flaws, and there is some angst. But it’s not big blow ups, dark secrets, epic tragic pasts, huge breakups. It’s real slights, tiny devastations, waves of grief, it’s learning to let go when you’re holding on too tight while at the same time it’s also letting yourself hold on instead of drifting away and remaining impermanent.

On a maybe more cheerful note, there’s also a wonderfully wholesome element in the secondary cast of characters that bring so much joy and fun to the lives of our leads. I absolutely wanted to jump into these pages and take up residence in one of the units (sorry Nora!) and take part in the hijinks and gossip and community. In the less wholesome category, if you’re looking for a solid romance? Attraction, chemistry, push and pull, and steam? There’s also that. Because that first kiss? Hoo boy. Might’ve fogged up the glasses. This also have one of my all-time favourite tropes but I don’t even want to mention it and spoil it. That’s how good it is. And how much you will enjoy watching it unfold.

I absolutely want everyone to read this and as I write this review it’s October twenty-third, which means it’s four months to the day before this is even released into the world, which means I’m shouting at my fellow Clayborn lovers to request and read this now. Because I am so alone in my feels and want everyone to experience this. I want everyone to laugh where and when I laughed. Cry where and when I cried. Do the kindle-clutch-to-the-chest during every tender scene (I’m not the only one who does this, I know I’m not!). And just bask in these feelings I feel.

Also, there are kittens. Just incase you needed one more reason to convince you to read it. Kittens.

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