WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING by Charlie Adhara

Agent Cooper Dayton and his partner, Oliver Park, are going undercover—at a retreat for couples who need counselling. They do say the best cover story is one that’s close to the truth…

Agent Cooper Dayton is almost relieved to get a phone call from his former boss at the Bureau of Special Investigations. It means a temporary reprieve from tensions created by house hunting with Oliver Park, his partner both in work and in life. Living together in a forever home is exactly what Cooper wants. He’s just not keen on working out the details.

With a former alpha werewolf missing, Cooper and Park are loaned to the BSI to conduct the search at a secluded mountain retreat. The agents will travel to the resort undercover…as a couple in need of counseling.

The resort is picturesque, the grounds are stunning and the staff members are all suspicious as hell.

With a long list of suspects and danger lurking around every cabin, Cooper should be focusing on the case. But he’s always been anxious about the power dynamics in his relationship with Park, and participating in the couples’ activities at the retreat brings it all to the surface. A storm is brewing, though, and Cooper and Park must rush to solve the case before the weather turns. Or before any more guests—or the agents themselves—end up dead.


Title : Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
Author : Charlie Adhara
Series : Big Bad Wolf (book four)
Format : eARC
Page Count :
Genre : LGBTQIA+ paranormal romance
Publisher : Carina Press
Release Date : March 2, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Ho-ho-how great was this! For reference, I started and finished this on Christmas Eve, so. That’s why this opening line is funny to me right now.. knowing this won’t go live until March.

But back on track!

I am new to this series, having binged the first three back in the summer, but seeing this installment up for request was exciting because a) I wasn’t sure we’d get more and b) the third book was my favourite of the series so I had hoped that momentum, and track record, would continue on the up and up. And this was pretty damn great.

Frankly, Dayton, I don’t know anyone less concerned with pissing off people and wolves alike.
Careful, all this flattery is going straight to my head.”

It’s hard to know what to talk about for a series that’s a few books in but suffice it to say, if you’re a fan, you’ll still be, and if you’re keen to start a m/m werewolf shifter series and this is the first you’re hearing about it? Surprise! Go settle in for a nice binge. This one is much fun.

What the hell about him had Park seen and thought, Oh yes, anxiety-ridden loner with a temper sharper than a serpent’s tongue and a deep-seated fear of change whose longest successful relationship is with an equally judgmental cat? Swoon.

On the emotional/relationship front, this one started to worry me a bit because I thought we had come very far in book three, and some of the issues Cooper was working through felt a little bit two steps back. But. Oh but. There were some great moments to push us even further than we’d gone in book three, and with some very good rationale and reasoning, and a heck of a lot of teasing. In the best way.

It’s not you, it’s me.
Very helpful. How on earth will an evolved couple like us convincingly pretend to need counseling?

Plus? EeeeEeEeEeEe. <– this was my brain during a certain hug. That’s all I’m saying.

What do you think? Would Kyle and Andrew venture out and ask directions?
I don’t know, are Kyle and Andrew auditioning for victims one and two in a horror movie?
Kyle would. Andrew needs to keep the car running and getaway ready. For reasons.
I hate Andrew.”
That’s why we’re here.

The excuse for this particular adventure, going undercover at a couple’s counseling retreat for werewolves, was genius. Who doesn’t love the ‘pretend relationship’ trope except it’s even juicier when they are in a relationship and get forced to work through some things. Delicious. Also, I liked how Adhara introduced another element for the shifters in such a natural way. It seems to happen in each book, the total opposite of an info dump, and always relevant for the moment, not for a ‘maybe in the future you need to know this’, and it’s so perfect. The worldbuilding is so fabulous and so natural, so subtle.

Nice secret passage. Narnia’s keeping well, I assume.

So, yes, this wasn’t Christmassy at all, I’m reading it three months early, but who even cares. I had so much fun, this was sexy as hell, and also hilarious. Sometimes I wonder which I like better, the humour or the swoons (it’s both, but seriously, so funny). I can’t wait for more because with the ending of this one, this series is definitely not over.

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

SHINIGAMI by Xia Xia Lake

A coming-of-age love story between an orphan and the heir of the richest family in the Land of Yamato. The human world meets the yōkai in a power struggle for the fate of Fujiwara no Hirotsugu. 

While he battles to find his own path, Hirotsugu finds solace in a boy who will become his secret friend, then his salvation, and then as they become adults together, the love of his life.


Title : Shinigami
Author : Xia Xia Lake
Series : Takamagahara Monogatari (book two)
Format : paperback
Page Count : 352
Genre : LGBTQIA+ historical fiction/fantasy
Publisher : indie
Release Date : October 1, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3.75 (rounded up) star review

I’m going to be honest. I have very different feelings for the first half of this book vs the latter half. The first half details the life and experiences of Hirotsugu as he grows up as the heir to one of the wealthiest, and respected, families. In contrast to those around him, particularly his family, he’s very aware, and almost ashamed, of the divide that separates him from the poor, and this is reinforced by a chance encounter with a young beggar. A chance encounter that happens not just a second time, but a third, thus sparking a friendship that would turn into a great love.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The first half of this journey is very heavy on the historical elements, the traditions, the myths; if you love world-building, if you love losing yourself in cultural descriptions, you will be overjoyed with the author’s research and attention to detail. I’ll admit that while I did follow along (and had a handy glossary, along with chapter header definitions to help out), I wasn’t as engrossed by the history as I was the characters. So while I wasn’t bored, I wasn’t fully immersed or on the edge of my seat in the early chapters. It was easy to put down, even with the magical elements and the mystery surrounding this presence that ran parallel to the narrative.

Also I made the mistake of speculating a theory or two to a friend who had read this already and boy was I wrong. But hey, I’m owning up to it. I recommend you try and throw some guesses around, too! Ahem, anyway..

And then the second half of the story happened and it was sweet and lovely and all of a sudden I was punched in the gut with feels and this time I was putting down the book so I could finish crying. Which I did.. twice. I definitely felt the strength of these characters near the end, the events felt more high stakes, with the added element of some melodrama to really get those emotions flowing. As a bonus, much is revealed that is only teased throughout, and while some subsequent actions felt rushed or maybe a little unrealistic, you still feel it. It still hurts. And you’re still blown away.

Readers who pick up the book one, KOGITSUNE, might be surprised, and confused, when they follow it up with SHINIGAMI only to realize it isn’t a direct continuation. And does, in fact, happen long after the events of book two. But by the time you get to the end of this book, you’ll understand why it’s important, and necessary, to read first. So go do that now.

Overall, this is an experience unlike one I’ve read before. It’s detailed, rich in history, magic and myth and folklore, it’s about a forever love between two young men, and so much more. And it’s not over! There’s more to come. I cannot wait to see how these stories progress in book three.

KOGITSUNE by Xia Xia Lake

A coming of age story set in medieval Japan. A friendship between a young fox god and his human childhood friend is built on deception, but grows stronger and purer as it’s driven by common purpose. However, the vast differences of the worlds they live in can’t be ignored, as their relationship is frowned upon by both humans and spirits.

As Kogitsune’s feelings for his human friend turn from friendship to something deeper, he will learn that love can be all consuming and heartbreaking. 

‘Kogitsune’ is a retelling of the famous Noh theater play ‘Kokaji’, a story about a swordsmith who requests the help of the Inari god to build a sword for emperor Ichijo (980-1011).


Title : Kogitsune
Author : Xia Xia Lake
Series : Takamagahara Monogatari (book 1)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 62
Genre : LGBTQIA+ historical fiction/fantasy
Publisher : indie
Release Date : September 10, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3.5 (rounded up) star review

This is such a sweet, magical, little story of the birth, and early years, of a kitsune; a fox god. As he discovers the world around him, he also meets a human boy, and they develop a sweet friendship that, over time and after reuniting after a separation where they each grow into their own, becomes a romance.

Despite how short this story is, Lake nonetheless manages to perfectly set the scene, delving into Japanese folklore and myth, all through the eyes of a curious and adorable protagonist, who is both naive and wise and, like mortals, just as susceptible to heartbreak, remorse, and love.

This is the first in a series and I can’t wait to read on.

HOUSE OF EARTH AND BLOOD by Sarah J. Maas — excerpt review!

Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.

Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.

As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.

With unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom—and the power of love.


Title : House of Blood and Earth
Author : Sarah J. Maas
Series : Crescent City (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : five chapter excerpt
Genre : NA fantasy
Publisher : Bloomsbury Publishing
Release Date : March 3, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

I’ll be honest, I don’t know why I clicked on this excerpt. I’m certainly not shy about not being much of a fan of this author and her work. But it seemed like a low-investment peek into what this book, the first of Maas’ new adult series, would be like. And overwhelmingly, I feel mostly ambivalence with a side of confusion. There’s a lot of world-building, which is helped a bit by a glossary of terms near the beginning so, thank you for that, and a set-up which I won’t say completely lost me but I definitely know I was just kind of reading along even if I wasn’t 100% sure of references or meaning to things.

As for the characters, there was a lot of time spent setting up an existing friend group and dynamic, even a possible romance, before things go sideways right at the end of this teaser. Having not refamiliarized myself with the synopsis before diving in, I’m not sure where things might go after this point (beyond the obvious vengeance questing), but I also find myself curious enough to.. maybe.. pick this up and read on. Which I guess means the tease was a success. My expectations are pretty low, and certain things felt very in line with the Maas-elements I don’t normally like (specifically in her characters), and I actually felt the writing of this far less pretty and compulsive than her other works, but.. I guess we’ll see.

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

THE GRAVITY OF US by Phil Stamper – double review!

As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus.

Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another “Astrokid,” and finds himself falling head over heels—fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.

Expertly capturing the thrill of first love and the self-doubt all teens feel, debut author Phil Stamper is a new talent to watch.


Title : The Gravity of Us
Author : Phil Stamper
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : LGBTQIA+ YA romance/contemporary
Publisher : Bloomsbury YA
Release Date : February 4, 2020/May 14, 2020

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


Hollis’ 2 star review

I wish I could say this was everything sweet and lovely and as interesting that I hoped it would be.. but it wasn’t.

This is a story about a space mission, social media, and first love. But the space mission never really felt real until near the end, there was so much streaming or reality tv that I felt like shaking my fist and yelling at kids to get off my non-existent lawn, and the first love was hella insta-love-y and took off at the speed of light.

Additionally this ARC was brutally formatted and the little chapter break sessions with the company running the reality tv show were unreadable. So if there was an added element that might’ve explained something.. I missed it. It was just not comprehensible and my brain bled trying to make sense of it.

That said, there is a dramatic element that results in a cool viral campaign to save NASA and I did like how that was done. It gave me the feelings of watching similar movements unfold on twitter and all the traction it gets and all the positive and, unfortunately rare, good things that happen as a result. But it was pretty late in the game to redeem the story on a whole, or even the characters — the one who spearheads the videos is the MC who is, almost in every other situation, a grade A knob.

But maybe this isn’t as bad as it seemed to me. Maybe some of my technical issues contributed to what should’ve been only minor disappointments. But I didn’t enjoy the writing or the characters and any of the good, the diversity and the mental health rep, it was all overshadowed by the unbelievable romance, the self-centered MC, and the boring everything else.

Sadly this debut didn’t wow me and I probably wouldn’t pick up anything by the author again. But I’m glad we’re getting more queer stories (particularly #ownvoices ones) and the effort was made to be inclusive, so, that is why I’ve rounded up just enough to not drop this into one-star territory.

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


Micky’s 2 star review

Gutted is how I feel if I compare my excitement at the beginning and my feelings over this by the end. I feel like THE GRAVITY OF US had all the potential but none of the execution. I couldn’t have been more excited for this context of two NASA teens finding a connection, I couldn’t have felt more let down by the characterisation and plot lines, sadly.

What didn’t work then, you might ask? The protagonist Cal didn’t work for me at all. I was actually invested for the first 25% of this book, overlooking some of the egocentric side of Cal but this all fell flat once the family had moved to Texas. Cal’s character was a lot to handle, the ego, the selfishness; he was bold to the point of being obnoxious to me.

Sadly the story went down the route of insta-touchiness, insta-feelings and insta-love with none of the narrative to make this even slightly tangible. Added to this, I found the handling of mental health issues to be problematic. Depression and anxiety were factors for some of the characters and the lack of time to work on these topics within the story really let that representation down.

I don’t want to flog this horse any more, it’s a painful review to write when I wanted this to be such a different experience. I guess it could work for readers if they are happy to read at the surface only, but really I’m only guessing.

Thank you to Bloomsbury YA for the early review copy.

THE WORST BEST MAN by Mia Sosa

A wedding planner left at the altar. Yeah, the irony isn’t lost on Carolina Santos, either. But despite that embarrassing blip from her past, Lina’s managed to make other people’s dreams come true as a top-tier wedding coordinator in DC. After impressing an influential guest, she’s offered an opportunity that could change her life. There’s just one hitch… she has to collaborate with the best (make that worst) man from her own failed nuptials. 

Tired of living in his older brother’s shadow, marketing expert Max Hartley is determined to make his mark with a coveted hotel client looking to expand its brand. Then he learns he’ll be working with his brother’s whip-smart, stunning—absolutely off-limits—ex-fiancée. And she loathes him. 

If they can survive the next few weeks and nail their presentation without killing each other, they’ll both come out ahead. Except Max has been public enemy number one ever since he encouraged his brother to jilt the bride, and Lina’s ready to dish out a little payback of her own. 

But even the best laid plans can go awry, and soon Lina and Max discover animosity may not be the only emotion creating sparks between them. Still, this star-crossed couple can never be more than temporary playmates because Lina isn’t interested in falling in love and Max refuses to play runner-up to his brother ever again…


Title : The Worst Best Man
Author : Mia Sosa
Format : eARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Avon
Release Date : February 4, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ .5


Hollis’ 1.5 star review

On paper (hah), there’s nothing wrong with this story. It’s diverse, there’s communication, it’s sorta-enemies-to-lovers, or reluctant-rivals-y-to-lovers, whatever, there is friction, and there’s other good things. But I was bored pretty much from 8% right on through to the end. Suffice it to say, my Wheel of Fortune app got a lot of attention the last day or so.

But anyway.

Yes, points for diversity, points of tackling sensitive and relevant topics such as “acceptable” behaviours for people — specifically women — of colour. Except.. I didn’t feel anything. The playful almost-hate banter in the beginning? Odd or juvenile and sometimes both. The sudden attraction? Not a single zing. The touching warming-up-to-each-other moments? Yawn. The sexy times? They felt.. I don’t know, awkward. Too much talking. Too much.. something. I don’t know. The weird transitions? Weird.

Also, this is a weird criticism, and one I’m making again that I made in another review just recently, but this whole going hard to be socially savvy or relevant, by having all this dialogue around certain topics is.. I don’t know, overkill. I’m sure there’s a way to touch on all these hot button issues without making the reader feel like they are being condescended to, or preached at, but maybe some readers aren’t as dialed in or don’t mind? I don’t know what it is. And I doubt I’ll ever be able to articulate my feelings on this properly. But. It’s just a lot.

Anyway, this never really got better, but nor did it deep dive into anything terrible, and yet here we are. This was my first Sosa and while the concept appealed enough for me to request it, there was no feeling in the writing or the story. Or at least nothing that made me feel anything. So I doubt I’ll pick up this author again.

I think other readers will like this, particular those who enjoy Sosa’s writing. So don’t take my word for it. Try a sample and see how it goes.

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

IN RESTLESS DREAMS by Wren Handman

Sylvia is a normal girl with huge, normal problems–her mother’s attempted suicide; trying to make friends in a rich prep school where she doesn’t belong; whether or not to trust the cute boy with the dangerous eyes. She thinks that’s more than she can handle, but she tests the limits of her endurance when she learns that she is the long-awaited Phantasmer, a human who can change the fabric of Fairy simply by believing in a new story. Sylvia’s life is thrown off course as two warring Courts, the Seelie and Unseelie, both attempt to co-opt her gift to attack the other Court. All while she’s trying not to get kicked out of school for fighting. And it doesn’t help matters that the fairies begging for her help are both attractive young men–with their own agendas.


Title : In Restless Dreams
Author : Wren Handman
Series : The Phantasmer Cycle (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 293
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : The Parliament House
Release Date : January 28, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

If you read A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES and wanted the same magical discovery of Fae, not to mention the exploration of a fantasy world that abuts our own, but wanted content that actually stayed YA? This might just be the book for you — or the book you should buy for your teens and/or young people.

This book opens up with very traditional YA elements, like starting at a new highschool, navigating rocky social waters, and all that drama that ensues with both, then some not-so-traditional (and a might heavier) elements, like how to process your mother’s mental health issues and connecting with an absent father. And then, halfway through, tosses you into a whole new ocean; a purple one!

Sylvia isn’t perfect; she struggles like all sixteen year olds do, like all humans do, and that’s compounded by discovering she has a magical heritage that is dangerous and seems impossible, and meeting a boy (or two!) from that magical world — a boy (or two!) she isn’t sure she can trust. Because that dashing knight might not be the hero, and maybe that stranger made of shadows and darkness is as kind as his eyes; maybe they are trapped in archetypes that should mean one thing, but are in fact something else. Or maybe not. But aside from the romance, there’s also wonder and magic and Handman’s unique and brilliant way of describing.. well, magic and wonder and emotion.

The high point of this story, for me, is just experiencing said magic, the unusual, the very interesting take on a Chosen One trope (in every generation a Phantasmer is born.. or, in this case, every few centuries..) and, more than that, what this Chosen One can do and how they are woven into the very fabric of something so much bigger than them. And what it means to choose for others and what it means to make decisions with the best of intentions. Where she starts out, lashing out at bullies, arguing with her younger brother, is not quite where she ends up, burdened not only with power and responsibility, and coming out the other side intact. Mostly.

IN RESTLESS DREAMS will give you a new perspective on imagination, creativity, emotion, fear and loneliness, the burden of memory, and of the longing to change who you are. This is a solid series opener and I think it’s only going to get better from here.

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

HEADLINERS by Lucy Parker – double review!

Sparks fly when two feuding TV presenters are thrown together to host a live morning show in Lucy Parker’s latest enemies-to-lovers contemporary romance.

He might be the sexiest man in London, according to his fan site (which he definitely writes himself), but he’s also the most arrogant man she’s ever met.

She might have the longest legs he’s ever seen, but she also has the sharpest tongue.

For years, rival TV presenters Sabrina Carlton and Nick Davenport have traded barbs on their respective shows. The public can’t get enough of their feud, but after Nick airs Sabrina’s family scandals to all of Britain, the gloves are off. They can barely be in the same room together—but these longtime enemies are about to become the unlikeliest of cohosts.

With their reputations on the rocks, Sabrina and Nick have one last chance to save their careers. If they can resurrect a sinking morning show, they’ll still have a future in television. But with ratings at an all-time low and a Christmas Eve deadline to win back the nation’s favor, the clock is ticking—and someone on their staff doesn’t want them to succeed.

Small mishaps on set start adding up, and Sabrina and Nick find themselves—quelle horreur—working together to hunt down the saboteur…and discovering they might have more in common than they thought. When a fiery encounter is caught on camera, the public is convinced that the reluctant cohosts are secretly lusting after one another.

The public might not be wrong.

Their chemistry has always been explosive, but with hate turning to love, the stakes are rising and everything is on the line. Neither is sure if they can trust these new feelings…or if they’ll still have a job in the New Year. 


Title : Headliners
Author : Lucy Parker
Series : London Celebrities (book five)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : CarinaPress
Release Date : January 20, 2020

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


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

This will likely come as no surprise to readers who have experienced, and loved, Parker’s previous London Celebrities books but HEADLINERS just made me so happy. This book was like a warm, funny, sweet hug and it was everything I wanted it to be and everything I needed right now.

This was Nick Davenport. He was Nick. She kept silently repeating that as a sort of protective mantra. But it was starting to — it was starting to mean something different.

I’m a huge fan of Parker’s opposites attract stories, her grumpy heroes, her lovely heroines, but this particular match up was a real hate-to-love. Or maybe extremely dislike, not quite hate. In book four, Nick did something truly terrible that impacted Sabrina and her family. I couldn’t wait to see how their dynamic would shift into something a lot less murdery and a whole lot swoonier. And the author, and her characters, did not disappoint. Every little bit of common ground won was hard earned, every brush of the shoulders, every touch of the hand, every single interaction was.. palpable. It was such a great build-up and I loved every second of it.

Nick’s no longer the one dimensional comic-book foe, then?
No. It’s very upsetting.”

Not only did this match-up work for me, but individually so did the characters. The cherry ontop of this sundae was also seeing almost all of the familiar faces from the previous books and, with this particular story set around the holidays, it really reinforced that feeling of warmth and loveliness that I almost always get from the author’s writing.

If you’ve loved prior books in this series, I have no doubt you’ll love this one, too.

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

Micky’s 4 star review

How damn adorable is that cover? It gave me vibes before I started the book, but it gives me serious heart eyes on finishing. HEADLINERS took me a little while to get into, but once I did (about 20%), I was hook, line and sinker for this story and these characters.

This interconnected standalone in the London Celebrities series was a enemies to more trope but I want to impress that this gave so much more than that phrasing suggests. There was a longish standing dislike between Nick and Sabrina but events in the previous book led to an all-out hatred between these two that was not comedic at all, it was real. This was no fakey-hate. No, I believed their lines in the sand when they were thrust together to present a new show.

All that said, there was total tangibility in Lucy Parker’s ability to move this pair from presenting couple to real-life couple. As co-presenters, they spent a lot of time together having to seem to be on the same team. It was amusing, almost slapstick at times and I loved reading about them. What I loved even more was the trickle of real connection and feelings that evolved. The chemistry went from non-existent, to subtle to sizzle and I was glued to my kindle.

She was beautiful – she was fucking gorgeous, but he couldn’t even objectively see her physical features anymore. He just saw her, which was something that only happened with the people he cared about the most.

There was a bit of banter, some fun dialogue but generally, I think this might have been a tad more serious than some of Lucy Parker’s others in the series. I didn’t enjoy it any the less for this fact. Not all couples are super funny, some are just who they are and these two captured your attention and kept it.

This was another fabulous read in one of the most consistently good contemporary romance series I’ve enjoyed in years. You can’t go wrong with a bit of Lucy Parker.

Thank you to Carina Press and Netgalley for this early review copy.

DARK AND DEEPEST RED by Anna-Marie McLemore

Summer, 1518. A strange sickness sweeps through Strasbourg: women dance in the streets, some until they fall down dead. As rumors of witchcraft spread, suspicion turns toward Lavinia and her family, and Lavinia may have to do the unimaginable to save herself and everyone she loves.

Five centuries later, a pair of red shoes seal to Rosella Oliva’s feet, making her dance uncontrollably. They draw her toward a boy who knows the dancing fever’s history better than anyone: Emil, whose family was blamed for the fever five hundred years ago. But there’s more to what happened in 1518 than even Emil knows, and discovering the truth may decide whether Rosella survives the red shoes.

With McLemore’s signature lush prose, Dark and Deepest Red pairs the forbidding magic of a fairy tale with a modern story of passion and betrayal. 


Title : Dark and Deepest Red
Author : Anna-Marie McLemore
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Feiwel & Friends
Release Date : January 14, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

I’ve had a few reasons to not rate books over the years. But sometimes the reason is simply because I honestly don’t know what the book deserves. This here is one of those times.

This is my first McLemore despite hearing nothing but wonderful magical things about their writing for.. years. And I can admit, this was magical and at times wonderful. But did I enjoy the experience? I’m not sure. There is so much to be gained by this story, the message within, the truths, the history.. some moments really did wow me. But, again, was this ever actually enjoyable? Not really? So I’m not rating it.

Would I recommend? Maybe. If you’ve read and loved this author before, I think this is going to be another winner for your shelf. With the added bonus of it being a queer retelling. For someone new to this author? I don’t know if this is one to rush out and read. But if you’re curious, feed the beast. Borrow it from your library.

I still have every intention on working through some of McLemore’s backlist.. so maybe that, right there, says it all. Or at least enough.

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

LOVE HER OR LOSE HER by Tessa Bailey – double review!

Rosie and Dominic Vega are the perfect couple: high school sweethearts, best friends, madly in love. Well, they used to be anyway. Now Rosie’s lucky to get a caveman grunt from the ex-soldier every time she walks in the door. Dom is faithful and a great provider, but the man she fell in love with ten years ago is nowhere to be found. When her girlfriends encourage Rosie to demand more out of life and pursue her dream of opening a restaurant, she decides to demand more out of love, too. Three words: marriage boot camp.

Never in a million years did Rosie believe her stoic, too-manly-to-emote husband would actually agree to relationship rehab with a weed-smoking hippy. Dom talking about feelings? Sitting on pillows? Communing with nature? Learning love languages? Nope. But to her surprise, he’s all in, and it forces her to admit her own role in their cracked foundation. As they complete one ridiculous—yet surprisingly helpful—assignment after another, their remodeled relationship gets stronger than ever. Except just as they’re getting back on track, Rosie discovers Dom has a secret… and it could demolish everything.


Title : Love Her or Lose Her
Author : Tessa Bailey
Series : Hot & Hammered (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Avon
Release Date : January 14, 2020

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

After reading FIX HER UP, I knew I wanted to read on in this series, even though the only thing that saved that first book for me was Georgie. Oh, and her friend group. I’ve had a rocky reading experience with Bailey, not going to lie. However, knowing book two would be about a pre-existing couple trying to save their marriage? I was hooked on the potential for angst but I did worry a bit as second chance romances aren’t always my jam.

But wow did this work.

This was such a slower burn for the sexytimes compared to book one, even stranger considering there’s not only a relationship but a marriage already existing, but it actually worked so damn well. I think this choice actually is what saved this book. Honestly, I can’t really think of anything I didn’t love?

Look, if you two assholes wouldn’t mind? I’d like to go knock some walls down.”
What you should have done is knocked your own walls down and let her in
Oh, for fucks sake. You’ve been in a relationship for one minute and you think you’re an expert?
Yes.”

The hero, Dom, was alpha-y but nowhere near the extremes we’ve seen. He was very deliberately the way he was and it was explained; he was a doer, not a shower, not a talker, and he’d learned to be that way. Sure, sometimes this got a bit repetitive but honestly it just reinforced how much this was the way he thought things should be. Despite the fact that it contributed to his marriage.. not failing but almost breaking.

Every day, going through the motions and being so angry at him. How could she not have realized she was doing the exact same thing?

As for Rosie, she was just wonderful. Honestly. She wasn’t without her own epiphanies about her relationship, as nor was she faultless in the breakdown of life as she knew it, and I loved that. These two loved each other so hard but along the way life happened, insecurities festered, and boom, there it is. The journey back felt so genuine, organic, and not without frustrations. It felt real.

“.. they’re designed to put impure thoughts in a man’s head.”
Any inanimate object puts impure thoughts in a man’s head. Box of cereal. Boner. Ice-cube tray. Boner.

As for the sexies, well. The build up was great, the climax of it all was hot, and actually my only complaint is that while “honey girl” was far from as offensive as “baby girl”, I still could’ve had less of it. But that’s a personal choice, I guess. Additionally, this book got me right in the feels more than once and I can’t even blame my period for it, so. It’s pretty much the whole package.

There’s a brilliant set up for the third (final?) book and I’m excited for it. This time it looks to be a younger and single dad trope matched up with something of a hate to love or opposites attract and heyyooo just call me weak but I want it.

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


Micky’s 4 star review

LOVE HER OR LOSE HER delivered on that bit more that I wanted from FIX HER UP but stayed in this small world of characters that I am beginning to get rather attached to. I was incredibly excited about Rosie and Dominic’s story because I love stories about married couples. This was a great example of a story with that trope.

The story started with an almighty crumble in Rosie and Dominic’s marriage. It was difficult to observe and my heart ached for them both. It was also an interesting context for marriage difficulties, a communication breakdown over time and I think that’s probably a common issue. It was written tangibly and with such heart and feeling.

The character growth in this story is full. It seemed like Dominic was the difficult party to the marriage demise but they both had some realisations, courtesty of their rather hilarious marriage therapist. The passion between these two was fiery and my kindle sometimes steamed of its own accord and passion was all these two were left with.

I loved the fun injected into this read that had such serious and heart breaking undertones. The balance between comedy and renovating this marriage was pretty perfect. It was mostly the side characters providing the comedy elements and I thoroughly enjoyed bits of Travis and Georgie from book one, but I am especially a fan of Bethany and I can’t wait for her book.

LOVE HER OR LOSE HER was a book with the feels, I didn’t cry until I read the last page and went gooey with happiness. I loved how involved I got with this couple and I especially loved not having ‘baby girl’ as the nickname in this one, I could live with ‘honey girl’ a little easier. This series is turning out to be a great one to invest in and I recommend the first two books.

Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss for the early review copy.

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