GOLDEN EAGLE by Lauren Gilley

In 1942, Chekist Captain Nikita Baskin led his elite group of Soviet Secret Police into the wilds of Siberia on a mission to retrieve a “volunteer.” 

Sasha Kashnikov, Tomsk University student and trapper’s son, became a werewolf, an intended weapon against the Nazis. But in truth, he was meant to be the Familiar of the vampire Rasputin. 

In a clearing north of Stalingrad, amid blood-stained snow, Rasputin died, the pack burned, and Nikita and Sasha set off toward eternity together, bound by tragedy, and trust, and a tenderness neither would name. 

In modern day New York, their pack of two has grown to include two detectives, an artist, and the former tsarevich of Russia. And after what occurred in Virginia, Nikita and Sasha have reached a breaking point. Sasha, an unusually strong alpha wolf, remains unbound, and the forces on all sides of the looming war will want a chance to claim him – to make him a weapon again. 

All Nik has ever wanted to do was protect his precious Sashka. 

And all Sasha wants is to be more than a friend and little brother to the man – the vampire – he loves most. 


Title : Golden Eagle
Author : Lauren Gilley
Series : Sons of Rome (book four)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 661
Genre : paranormal / historical fiction
Publisher : HP Press
Release Date : December 23, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

It may have been my own fault for reading books three and four back-to-back, after having put some space between the first three, but this is easily my least favourite of the series. Nothing awful, and certainly not worth giving up on, nor even a reason to not consider the series if you haven’t yet, but.. not my favourite.

In complete contrast to book three, in Golden Eagle we spend all our time in present day and reunite with.. well, pretty much everyone we’ve met across this series. We also got some payoff I was hoping for as far back as book one. But it left me with some pretty mixed feelings because I felt a lot of the characters, or maybe just moments, felt so out of character. Which was frustrating because there are so many characters in this world in general and many that I can pretty definitively say I do not like — or only tolerate. So to be stuck with everyone and to have the ones I do love.. feel strange? Mixed bag.

This was the most romance heavy of the series which I definitely would’ve loved had my precious beans felt a little more like themselves but it wasn’t all bad. Some moments? Pure swoon, pure loveliness, pure steam. But it does give the reader a bit of whiplash going from very different tones in each book. It keeps it interesting, that’s for sure, particularly considering the wordcount. Just something to keep in mind, though.

That said, even with the few typos or missed punctuation marks, something I noticed started to occur in book three and we had a few more of them in this book, considering the aforementioned wordcount, considering all the history and reference points, everything that goes into this, and what the author is listing them for on amazon? Ridiculous. A steal. There is definitely a lot of good in this world, in these books, and I’m keen to still read on — but now that I’ve caught up I am in for a wait as who knows when book five is due to come out! Shucks.

DRAGON SLAYER by Lauren Gilley

n 1931, a golden-haired man in fine clothes appeared to a Siberian boy. An apparition in the snow. 

In 2018, he guided a pack of misfits to his prison. A man made of sharp smiles, and smoke, who they can hear, but can never touch. He calls himself a prince, but how much does anyone really know about Prince Valerian of Wallachia? Is he friend, or foe? Is he real at all? 

Val has spent the past 550 years as a prisoner, venturing where and when he can, dream-walking, using his powers of astral projection to escape the confines of his cell. His jailers call him “brother-killer,” and “traitor” – old rumors of the immortal realm carried forth by the sinister Ingraham Institute, a secret place hidden deep in the forest, bent on using the blood and powers of immortals to fight a gathering threat too terrible to reveal to the mortal world at large. 

Now, Val’s brother, the infamous Vlad Dracula, is awake, hellbent on stopping the boys’ wicked uncle, Romulus, once and for all. But first, the boys will have to come to terms with one another – and perhaps finally come to understand the tragedies that played out almost six centuries ago. 

In Book Three of the Sons of Rome Series, dream-walk to 15th century Romania, to a Wallachia besieged by the Ottoman Empire, and two immortal brothers fighting for their lives. Inspired by the true story of Vlad Dracula, and his family, Dragon Slayer travels from the palace at Tîrgovişte, to the Ottoman court, to the siege of Byzantium. A tale of brothers, and betrayal; of captivity, and revenge. 

The immortals of the world are gathering, and Vlad and Val, the original sons of Rome, stand poised to lead the charge against a timeless evil. If only they can keep from killing one another… 


Title : Dragon Slayer
Author : Lauren Gilley
Series : Sons of Rome (book three)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 791
Genre : paranormal / historical fiction
Publisher : HP Press
Release Date : April 30, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I wish this was an easy, uncomplicated, round-up to four star book but I struggled a bit with this one.

I was so excited to have more historical storytelling in this world, because it’s been some of the bits I’ve loved the most, and Gilley gave me that.. and then more. And more. And more. Do you see that page count? This book is hella long. And I definitely feel like it did not need to be as long as it was. There is no doubt that history is one of this author’s passions, or she’s just incredibly committed to her plot, and her research alone and dedication to that time period? Definitely deserves recognition. I just wish it had all felt necessary to the plot, you know? Most, sure. All? For me, no.

I liked the beginning, I even like the reason for how and why we got thrown into the past, and for a while it was working for me. But there was a lot of information and time to slog through before we shifted gears back to the present, which I didn’t think I would have anticipated as much as I did, but that’s where this book really felt solid.

I think what surprised me was how.. soft some of these characters were. Val, in particular. I mean, if you’ve read the book, you know what I mean. I just want to hug him. Even Vlad the bloody Impaler had his moments. Though I’m not quite sure I bought some of the rationale regarding the latter’s behaviour.. even with all (and I mean all) that backstory. It felt a little flimsy. Likewise, I feel like Val had the ability to do certain things to connect with his family during a specific and critical time and didn’t and.. I also don’t quite know why. So I feel like part of this was a little tough to get behind. Which is what adds to my mixed feelings, particularly considering the word count and everything we had to get through to circle back to where we ended up in book two.

So I’m happy this ended on a strong note otherwise I would be sad. We had quite a few surprises in the last 20% or so; things didn’t go quite how I expected, and one of those surprises had me sitting straight up with what I’m sure was a dumfounded !!! look on my face. I caught the foreshadowing literally the paragraph before but I was still unprepared. And then we get that last chapter which leaves us hanging after another surprise kick to the face and boy oh boy if I didn’t have book four already on my kindle.. that said, if we don’t get some rewind time with the New York crew? Imma be mad.

So, yes, for all my whining about wanting more “in days gone by..”, Gilley definitely heaped far too many helpings onto my plate. I am definitely soft over all these characters (honestly, it’s kind of ridiculous how precious they all are..), and though it is obviously not a quick read, it’s still worth it. I’m hoping book four knocks it out of the park, though!

SPOILER ALERT by Olivia Dade – double review!

Marcus Caster-Rupp has a secret. While the world knows him as Aeneas, the star of the biggest show on TV, he’s known to fanfiction readers as Book!AeneasWouldNever, an anonymous and popular poster. Through his stories, Marcus is able to get out his own frustrations with his character, especially the ones that feature the internet’s favourite couple to ship, Aeneas and Lavinia. But if anyone ever found out about his online persona, he’d be fired. Immediately.

April Whittier has secrets of her own. A hardcore Lavinia fan, she’s hidden her fanfiction and cosplay hobby from her ‘real life’ for years – but not anymore. When she decides to post her latest Lavinia creation on Twitter, her photo goes viral. Trolls and supporters alike are commenting on her plus-size take, but when Marcus sees her pic and asks her out on a date to spite her critics, she realises life is really stranger than fanfiction.

Even though their first date is a disaster, Marcus quickly realises that he wants much more from April than a one-time publicity stunt. And when he discovers she’s actually Unapologetic Lavinia Stan, his closest fandom friend, he has one more huge secret to hide from her.

With love and Marcus’s career on the line, can the two of them stop hiding once and for all, or will a match made in fandom end up prematurely cancelled?


Title : Spoiler Alert
Author : Olivia Dade
Format : eARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Piatkus/Little Brown UK / Avon
Release Date : October 6, 2020

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


Micky’s 5 star review

Rounded up to 5 stars!

I lived for this book for 4 days of a work week, I couldn’t wait to get back to the characters. SPOILER ALERT was a contemporary romance with heart and some heat. It focused on fandom and fan-fic life and this couple’s story was something that most readers would cheer for.

April and Marcus met under unconventional circumstances, and for April it was an almost dream-like situation. I was completely on board and gripped from that moment. The chemistry between these two ended up being so believable because it took time to find its footing.

Both Marcus and April had trust issues and I really enjoyed the foundations of those back stories, they were real and identifiable. I did struggle somewhat with the secret between them. When this book turned serious and the peak of the inevitable crash happened…the emotion was raw and dialogue was fantastic. I highlighted and highlighted because it just hit me in the gut and made me feel.

At long last, he was letting her see him without any barriers, any artifice, any deception between them.

Basically, Marcus was my favourite character. He had such hidden depths and evolving character development, I couldn’t help but love him. April was his worthy opponent.

If you want a fun, flirty story that turns out to run deep with feelings, then SPOILER ALERT is for you. It’s one of the best contemporary romances I’ve read this year.

Thank you to Piatkus, Little Brown UK for the early review copy.


Hollis’ 4 star review

I feel there like there was no real downside to this book. In any way. What a fun ride.

SPOILER ALERT tackled so many things — particularly emotional things, like body shaming, like learning disorders, like being accepted for who you are and how you look — and yet never lacked in fun. I think this is partially because of the fandom aspect and how our leading man’s starring role was a Game of Thrones-esque phenomenon, complete with all the final season nonsense that we as fans (and they as actors) experienced, and also because not only did we get fanfic snippets between chapters but, my favourite? We got mini scenes and dialogue from the protagonist’s previous acting gigs.. and they were almost unanimously.. terrible. Hilariously bad.

While I do question the ease in which this relationship developed, with little to no celebrity + non-celebrity drama (not a bad thing, really, maybe it’s just that I’m used to that particular drama?), I loved the catalyst for it (we love a twitter connection!). And while I really liked the characters, I’ll admit they didn’t quite jump off the page for me. They both felt pretty real, and each had both baggage and hangups that never felt contrived or unrealistic, and even better they were on the not-twenty-five end of the age spectrum, I didn’t quite lose myself in them. But I did lose myself in the story; I couldn’t tear myself away all night. I’ve only just looked up to realize I’m hours past a reasonable time to eat dinner, haha, whoops.

This hit so many of the right notes and I’m so relieved because just before starting this I worried I was teetering on a slump or just general book ennui. Not so! Do yourself a favour and pick this one up. It’s hot, it’s got some heavy, but it’s also got heart. 

ALL SCOT AND BOTHERED by Kerrigan Byrne – double review!

They are a dangerous duke, a fierce lord, and an infamous earl—dark, bold, brave men who know exactly what they want. And there is only one woman who can bring them to their knees…

He is first and foremost—at everything. A man who’s made his own way in the world through ruthless cunning and sheer force of will. A strong and imposing Scot who can turn on the charm but does not suffer fools. His title: Lord Chief Justice of the High Court. His name: Cassius Gerard Ramsay. His mission: To investigate the goings-on at London’s most notorious gaming hell, owned and operated by one of the most intriguing and desirable women he’s ever met.

IN THIS GAME OF LOVE, THE RULES DO NOT APPLY

Cecelia Teague was an orphan facing a rather dire future—until a secret benefactor from her mother’s scandalous past swept into her life. Sent to prestigious boarding school and later to university, Cecelia believed high society was at her fingertips…Then, from out of nowhere, she became the inheritor of a gambling establishment. Now Cecelia must live two lives: one as a proper lady who finds herself undeniably drawn to Lord Ramsay and the other as a savvy gaming hell owner trying to save her business from the very same man. He has no idea she is both women…and Cecelia would like to keep it that way. But what happens when consuming passion and escalating danger threaten to reveal the truth?


Title : All Scot and Bothered
Author : Kerrigan Byrne
Series : Devil You Know (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : historical romance
Publisher : St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date : September 29, 2020

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


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I was pretty close to rounding up on this one but couldn’t quite tip it over the edge. But this was still a fun read.

He said he and I were similar souls. It was though he could see parts of himself in me.
I can guess which parts.”

I found I got off to a bit of a rough start with this because we’re thrown into a weird situation out of nowhere, alongside one of our MCs, but while she got some answers along the way, I still felt it took too long to settle into the goings on. Likewise, I felt it dragged just as things started to really settle. But then near the end? I was crying. I was moved. And then wham bam we had lots of action and reveals, ma’am. Things wrap up pretty quick, in fairly predictable ways — though we had a delightful tease and set-up for book three — but I was still feeling those earlier lovelier feels.

I am a woman, Ramsay, I am used to pain.”

Jean-Yves is the star of this show, yes he is. I want a devoted French butler, please.

Are you all willing to resort to violence?
No.”
Yes.”
Only if strictly necessary.

This series is definitely a highlight when it comes to strong female characters but also fantastic female friendships. The depths the author gives these Red Rogues is just delightful. I was really happy with the dimension Byrne had given to book one’s hero but found this one a bit less memorable and a little more typical and/or standard for HR. That said, I think we’re going to get a change-up when it comes to the next man in this round up (or at least I hope so!). And with that said..

Looking forward to book three.

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


Micky’s 3.5 star review

I definitely like the vibe that Kerrigan Byrne brings to these stories and her character creations. ALL SCOT AND BOTHERED was a good second instalment in the Devil You Know series but I liked it a little less than book one.

Cecelia and the Red Rogues found themselves a little more separate in this story but Cecelia and Ramsey took up that space nicely. Cecelia’s character felt a little ellusive to me throughout this read but I did like her, I just wanted to feel a little more immersed in how she thought rather than just how she acted. She was a feminist, a carer for others, but also naive. Ramsey, the stubborn, hard-headed and arrogant hero was also strangely likeable despite his thick skull.

But he knew that if he relented, her flames could prove to be hellfire, consuming everything good about the life he’d built from nothing.

The story wandered from London to the lowlands of Scotland but I didn’t get the feels for Scotland in this one and I longed for that a bit. Nevertheless, Scotland did bring an impasse of understanding between these two, a place to be on the same page. Jean-Yves and Phoebe were sweet side characters who enriched the narrative.

What would a lifetime of her smiles do?

I really liked the story in the background for the first three quarters but that lost a little traction for me in the last quarter. All that said, it was a very satisfying story and I’ll definitely be here for the next book in the series. It was easy to read over a weekend and brought some welcome escapism.

Thank you to St Martins Press for the early review copy.

WELL PLAYED by Jen DeLuca

Stacey is jolted when her friends Simon and Emily get engaged. She knew she was putting her life on hold when she stayed in Willow Creek to care for her sick mother, but it’s been years now, and even though Stacey loves spending her summers pouring drinks and flirting with patrons at the local Renaissance Faire, she wants more out of life. Stacey vows to have her life figured out by the time her friends get hitched at Faire next summer. Maybe she’ll even find The One.
 
When Stacey imagined “The One,” it never occurred to her that her summertime Faire fling, Dex MacLean, might fit the bill. While Dex is easy on the eyes onstage with his band The Dueling Kilts, Stacey has never felt an emotional connection with him. So when she receives a tender email from the typically monosyllabic hunk, she’s not sure what to make of it.
 
Faire returns to Willow Creek, and Stacey comes face-to-face with the man with whom she’s exchanged hundreds of online messages over the past nine months. To Stacey’s shock, it isn’t Dex—she’s been falling in love with a man she barely knows.


Title : Well Played
Author : Jen DeLuca
Series : Well Met (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Berkley
Release Date : September 22, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I have to be honest, I’m a little disappointed about this one. It’s not remotely a bad book but I expected more of the delight of book one’s banter and chemistry to show up here and, due to circumstances of the meet/genesis of the relationship, we don’t quite get it.

Stacey was really relateable character in a lot of ways; stuck in a small town, post-college plans derailed, days spent looking at the lives of others through social media or her phone and feeling like she’s missed opportunities for more. And equally, I felt a lot of things about love interest, who was quite soft and sweet; even though in critical moments he just completely left Stacey hanging out to dry. Neither were perfect, of course — I found Stacey randomly being annoyed by people sometimes jarring because it seemed to come out of nowhere — but I think this is going to be a situation where we all might be wishing for a bit more groveling on the side of the guy. I know I did.

What the hell is wrong with you two? You’re both nerds, you know that? In this century we don’t go straight for a Cyrano reference. We all it catfishing.”

Overall though I think that’s maybe what’s missing and letting this one fall a little short. It’s just missing that edge, that extra bit of something something. I also wonder if maybe Emily and Simon, book one’s couple, were just a little too centre stage in some of the plot. I suppose to fits with the theme of Stacey feeling like she’s just stuck in place, watching life happen around her, but.. maybe without them being so present it would’ve just been a sadder book?

Also, if you wanted higher heat levels in the wake of book one? Well, you’ll get them.

It was nice being reunited with everyone, we get to see all the familiar faces, and I’m excited at some of the breadcrumbs laid in preparation for book three, but while there were some sweet moments.. it won’t be anywhere near as memorable as WELL MET.

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

TOOLS OF ENGAGEMENT by Tessa Bailey – double review!

In Tessa Bailey’s latest rom-com, two enemies team up to flip a house… and the sparks between them might burn the place down or ignite a passion that neither can ignore!

Hair, makeup, clothing, decor… everything in Bethany Castle’s world is organized, planned, and styled to perfection. Which is why the homes she designs for her family’s real estate business are the most coveted in town. The only thing not perfect? Her track record with men. She’s on a dating hiatus and after helping her friends achieve their dreams, Bethany finally has time to focus on her own: flip a house, from framework to furnishings, all by herself. Except her older brother runs the company and refuses to take her seriously.

When a television producer gets wind of the Castle sibling rivalry, they’re invited on Flip Off, a competition to see who can do the best renovation. Bethany wants bragging rights, but she needs a crew and the only member of her brother’s construction team willing to jump ship is Wes Daniels, the new guy in town. His Texas drawl and handsome face got under Bethany’s skin on day one, but the last thing she needs is some cocky young cowboy in her way.

As the race to renovate heats up, Wes and Bethany are forced into close quarters, trading barbs and biting banter as they remodel the ugliest house on the block. It’s a labor of love, hate, and everything in between, and soon sparks are flying. But Bethany’s perfectly structured life is one kiss away from going up in smoke and she knows falling for a guy like Wes would be a flipping disaster.


Title : Tools of Engagement
Author : Tessa Bailey
Series : Hot & Hammered (book three)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Avon
Release Date : September 22, 2020

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

Possibly my favourite of the series?

We love a hate-to-love in this house, or at least a somewhat antagonistic dynamic hiding attraction, particularly when the pair are opposites, but throw in an age gap and a single dad-situation, too? I mean, c’mon. Catnip.

I like being referred to as your foreman. It’s got a nice ring.”
Especially compared to what I usually call you.”
Truth. It’s a definite improvement from dickhead.”

The build-up for this match up has been bubbling away in the background of this series for a while and, for this reader, it was definitely worth the wait. Pretty much everything about this just worked for me (maybe also helped by a bit of a dry spell in the contemporary romance genre?). Besides the delightful tease and torment, the peeling back of layers, I just really appreciated all the situations navigated. Bethany’s insecurities, Wes’ impermanence, and the fact that as they tear down a structure to rebuild, and do it together, they realize how well the fit. How one has a house — though it isn’t a home — much less one filled with joy, while the other is only ever a guest, never asked to stay. Never needed or wanted.

Can you tell this book made me cry?

Don’t worry, though, it’s also sexy and hot af, as one expects from a Bailey.

I’m not interested in a fling — and even if I was, you’ve wisely removed sex from the equation–
Deepest regret of my life.”
Yeah, pretty shortsighted of you.

I’ll admit the introduction of the reality show element wasn’t my favourite, though it worked as the spark to kick things off and ramp up the intensity and the stakes. And I didn’t love the big reconciliation moment (I think I said the same about book one? I’m just not always into these big showy expressions, I think). But I appreciated that things ended happily though not with every bit tied off in a bow; and but that I mean with the characters and their journeys, too. It helps shave off a bit of cheese from the whole HEA and makes it much more palateable.

That was poetic.
Your epitagh is going to be poetic once I strangle you.”
Having your hands on me is the ideal way to go.”

If you’ve enjoyed the books in this series, I think you’ll definitely like this one, too.

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


Micky’s 3.5 star review

This was another fun instalment in the series and what I’ve loved about the series, are the characters Tessa Bailey creates. Bethany and Wes were no exception and probably the most endearing characters so far. Bethany was a perfectionist with sometimes crippling anxiety and Wes was an ex-bullrider, trying to parent his niece. Said niece was funny and adorable. I love flawed (normal) characters so I found this set up appealing.

This was a bit of an age-gap romance (7 years) however at 23 and 30, it didn’t feel that much of an issue to me, but it was to Bethany. I was glad to see Bethany in close focus in this book and she was much more than the perfect house and event stylist I’d seen from other books. The tension between her and Wes was pretty hot-banterish with a side of snarky fake-hate. The dialogue was extremely fun.

Wes was adorable, parenting his niece, making it up as he went along but he was such a good guy despite the innuendo towards Bethany. He was protective to them both without being overly alpha-ish , which I really appreciated. The story was predictable but fun.

I don’t exactly know why this book didn’t hit the 4 stars having said all the above but I did keep putting the book down and it didn’t hold my attention on holiday, with no outside stressors. By 70% I wanted to get to the end, the predictability had won over and I knew there would be a hurdle then smooth. However, it left me with all the good feels with a strong ending.

This was a good instalment in the series, but book 2 remains my favourite.

Thank you to Avon for the early review copy.

COMMON GOAL by Rachel Reid

New York Admirals goalie Eric never thought his friends-with-benefits arrangement with much-younger Kyle would leave them both wanting more…

Veteran goaltender Eric Bennett has faced down some of the toughest shooters on the ice, but nothing prepared him for his latest challenge—life after hockey. It’s time to make some big changes, starting with finally dating men for the first time.

Graduate student Kyle Swift moved to New York nursing a broken heart. He’d sworn to find someone his own age to crush on (for once). Until he meets a gorgeous, distinguished silver fox hockey player. Despite their intense physical attraction, Kyle has no intention of getting emotionally involved. He’ll teach Eric a few tricks, have some mutually consensual fun, then walk away.

Eric is more than happy to learn anything Kyle brings to the table. And Kyle never expected their friends-with-benefits arrangement to leave him wanting more. Happily-ever-after might be staring them in the face, but it won’t happen if they’re too stubborn to come clean about their feelings.

Everything they both want is within reach… They just have to be brave enough to grab it.


Title : Common Goal
Author : Rachel Reid
Series : Game Changers (book four)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 282
Genre : LGBTQIA+ sports romance
Publisher : CarinaPress
Release Date : September 21, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Do you continue to pick up books in the Game Changers series because you want Ilya cameos? Because hi, it me.

Ilya Rozanov wants to hang out with you tonight? At a gar bar?
Apparently.”
That guy is so weird.

Just kidding. I’m also here for the hockey and the romance. And surprising no one, in a series of hockey romances, we had both here.

Dating a much younger man would pretty much make him a walking midlife crisis, and Eric really didn’t want that kind of attention. He couldn’t stomach the idea of being a recently divorced man rebounding with a pretty young thing. And then there was the fact that Kyle was a man.

This was definitely the strongest in this series post, and pre, HEATED RIVALRY, and I’m so relieved about that. The dynamic of this couple, the age gap and the fact that it’s the older man needing guidance as he explores his hitherto unexplored attraction to men, was so sweet without ever getting into book one levels of sucrose. I think what really helped this romance for me was that I believed in the friendship that was the foundation for what later bloomed. And, honestly, the first kiss? Heart eyes. Pure heart eyes. This is actually one of those romances where I was less into the hot and heavy scenes and more into the burgeoning affection between the leads.

Not that I’m not happy for Scott, but I’ve been thinking about my own wedding, I guess.”
You can remember back that far?
Shut it.”
I forget. Was Holly a war bride? Was she your nurse after the Germans shot you?
All right, I’m going home.

As I’m forever saying, I’m a sucker for an ensemble, particularly when it’s a sports team ensemble. These players? I adore them. There were so many hilarious little moments and yes, as I teased above, Ilya was at the center of a lot of those funnies. Getting those moments with him, particularly when sharing page time with Hollander, and knowing we’re finally getting a sequel? I’m trying to cram my expectations into a small box but it’s hard, yo.

Who knew Rozanov had such a big heart?
I had a hunch. I think he might secretly be a big softy.”
He does a damn good job of hiding it.

Back to COMMON GOAL, I want to mention how awesome it was to see dialogue about consent and expectations about intimacy between two men because even in m/m romances I don’t think that’s really talked about. Safety, protection? Sure. But feeling obligated to put out, or return the favour, especially if you aren’t comfortable or as enthusiastic as you might have been? We love to see that. Also the discourse around the validity of bisexuality even if you haven’t explored part of that spectrum? Fabulous.

Toronto was a team of weirdos. <– this quote isn’t included for any context, it just made me laugh

Overall, I had a really good time with this read and would definitely recommend fans of this series who may (or may not) have been a little less enthusiastic about book three, particularly in the wake of Ilya and Hollander, to give it a go. I was also about to suggest those missing hockey to dive face first into this to get your fix but hockey is, like, back now? But weird? In August? 2020 man, it keeps on keepin’ on.

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

YOU HAD ME AT HOLA by Alexis Daria

After a messy public breakup, soap opera darling Jasmine Lin Rodriguez finds her face splashed across the tabloids. When she returns to her hometown of New York City to film the starring role in a bilingual romantic comedy for the number one streaming service in the country, Jasmine figures her new “Leading Lady Plan” should be easy enough to follow—until a casting shake-up pairs her with telenovela hunk Ashton Suárez. 

Leading Ladies don’t need a man to be happy

After his last telenovela character was killed off, Ashton is worried his career is dead as well. Joining this new cast as a last-minute addition will give him the chance to show off his acting chops to American audiences and ping the radar of Hollywood casting agents. To make it work, he’ll need to generate smoking-hot on-screen chemistry with Jasmine. Easier said than done, especially when a disastrous first impression smothers the embers of whatever sexual heat they might have had. 

Leading Ladies do not rebound with their new costars.

With their careers on the line, Jasmine and Ashton agree to rehearse in private. But rehearsal leads to kissing, and kissing leads to a behind-the-scenes romance worthy of a soap opera. While their on-screen performance improves, the media spotlight on Jasmine soon threatens to destroy her new image and expose Ashton’s most closely guarded secret.


Title : You Had Me at Hola
Author : Alexis Daria
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 283
Genre : romance
Publisher : Avon
Release Date : August 4, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2.5 (rounded up) star review

Show of hands, who thought this was YA? Oh, just me? Elle oh elle.

Well just incase there’s any lingering confusion from my fellow #TeamNoBlurb’ers? This is adult. In fact, the romance happens between a thirty year old and a love interest pushing forty, so, yeah. Definitely not YA. But also extra points for raising the age bracket a little higher for those of us who are no longer twenty five!

That said, I do have sorta mixed feelings on this. I mostly liked Jasmine; both because she was very self-aware of her failings (not really failings, actually, but her tendencies) in the romance department but also because even when vulnerable, even when she didn’t feel totally supported by family, she was still pretty focused without letting in any self-doubt. Not that she was totally on her own; she has a hype squad made up of her two closest cousins and I absolutely loved their dynamic and how each of the women were very clearly their own person. Where she fell short for me was in her behaviour during a pretty critical conflict moment and her total short-sightedness and self-centered behaviour.. which I won’t detail any further as it spoils things.

In the positives column, I did really adore the unabashed representation. Daria didn’t just give her characters mixed heritage, throw them onto a Latinx telenovela reboot and call it a day, no. Between the Spanish on page, sometimes even without a direct translation, but helped along by context cues, and all the different backgrounds for characters, even the mix within Jasmine’s family alone, it felt full and rich and wonderful. Even better, I loved that the author didn’t include any kind of outsider (or white) character into the story who would then need explanations or to insert themselves into anything or, heaven forbid, rescue our lead or be the voice of reason. And I say that as a white person.

That said, another area where this didn’t quite win for me was the love interest. I could understand and even respect a lot of his choices, his omissions, his behaviours but.. I don’t know. I liked the build-up between our leads, I liked that we started with something like a friendship first, albeit a friendship with a heavy dose of immediate attraction, and while reading about their chemistry I could kinda see where the author was trying to make things happen.. I just didn’t believe it, if that makes sense. That said, the chapters that pulled scenes of their acting onto the page? I thought I would hate that, because I’ve disliked similar things in the past, but during those moments, the fiction within the fiction? I felt the chemistry there for sure. And I liked the behind the scenes staging and choreography of it all. Not sure I’ve seen that done in a book featuring actors before.

So, yeah, a bunch of this I was pretty into. Other bits, not so much. But this is a pretty quick read, with a lot of representation, though there was definitely some stupid drama for the sake of drama which frustrated me, particularly when being created by thirty to forty year successful adults.. eye roll, and a healthy dose of steam. While it won’t make a favourites list for me, I would definitely still recommend it.

BROTHERSONG by TJ Klune

In the ruins of Caswell, Maine, Carter Bennett learned the truth of what had been right in front of him the entire time. And then it—he—was gone. 

Desperate for answers, Carter takes to the road, leaving family and the safety of his pack behind, all in the name of a man he only knows as a feral wolf. But therein lies the danger: wolves are pack animals, and the longer Carter is on his own, the more his mind slips toward the endless void of Omega insanity. 

But he pushes on, following the trail left by Gavin. 

Gavin, the son of Robert Livingstone. The half-brother of Gordo Livingstone. 

What Carter finds will change the course of the wolves forever. Because Gavin’s history with the Bennett pack goes back further than anyone knows, a secret kept hidden by Carter’s father, Thomas Bennett. 

And with this knowledge comes a price: the sins of the fathers now rest upon the shoulders of their sons. 


Title : Brothersong
Author : TJ Klune
Series : Green Creek (book four)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 522
Genre : LGBTQIA+ fantasy/paranormal
Publisher : BOATK Books
Release Date : October 13, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 5 star review

When I tell you this book made me cry a lot.. I don’t think that is going to come across in a way that you’ll understand until you read this book. I shed tears, I wept, I held back sobs. Over and over again. I don’t know what it is about this author and his ability to wreck me (us) with his words but oh god. Prepare youself for devastation, for beauty, for heartbreak, for healing, for sadness, for quiet moments.. everything.

We weren’t Ox and Joe. Or Kelly and Robbie. Or even Gordo and Mark, though the fuck you vibe was apparently a family trait.

I can’t really say anything about this beyond that. Not only is BROTHERSONG a sequel but it’s an end. For us. Whether something new might begin? Who is to say. So many songs have been sung along the way; from wolves, to ravens, to hearts, and brothers. This series is about bonds, formed out of blood or built out of friendship, connection, and the fact that I’m tearing up as I write this, when I should long have run out of tears, says it all.

Three years. One month. Twenty-six days. I lived through that. I lived through the thirteen months it took for us to get [spoiler for book three] back. I saw firsthand what happened with Mark and Gordo. And then you decided to.. what? Be wholly original and leave, too?
Whoa. That was a bitchy thing to say. Go Ox.”

I reread the books leading up to this, thinking I needed it all fresh in my mind, needed to once again be close to these characters before I could say goodbye, and while I’m sure many Klunatics are doing so? It’s not needed. So much of this book hashes out previous events, prior wrongs, in an attempt to come together, to finally do more than just apply bandages on still lingering wounds, so they can let go and face this big conflict that might be the end of them. This family, this pack (packpack), has so much baggage and Klune makes them work through it. It can be agonizing at times, to go through it over and over again, to see the same choices lead to the same mistakes, but it’s utterly human; for all that these characters are mostly not.

Will, sit your ass down and leave my customers alone.”
I’m his constituent. I have a right to know what’s going on in my local government, especially when it involves shape-shifters. Huh. Of all the sentences that have ever come out of my mouth, that one was the strangest.”

Is it perfect? If I were to reread it, would I award it full marks, or would I downgrade like I did on my WOLFSONG revisit? Hard to say. But right now? It gets everything. Not just because I cried an ocean but because I couldn’t tear myself away. In a time when even when I’m loving a book I’m still occasionally distracted, reaching for my phone, I didn’t do that once. The only moments I stepped away were to blow my nose (seriously, the crying, it was ridiculous) so, I mean, there were a lot of those moments. But it was impossible to look away for anything else.

Don’t take the chance that he’ll always be there. We must remember to say what’s in our hearts aloud because we can never know if it’ll be the last time we’ll ever get the chance.

I can’t wait for this book to be out in the world, I can’t wait for all the longtime fans to get their paws on it, I feel so lucky to have read this early, particularly as I’m rather new to this world, but I promise you it’s worth the wait. You know the drill by now; you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll do both at the same time, you’ll break apart only to be stitched back together. Again and again. Because that’s how it goes.

Packpackpack 4ever.

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

BETTER THAN PEOPLE by Roan Parrish

It’s not long before their pet-centric arrangement sparks a person-centric desire…

Simon Burke has always preferred animals to people. When the countdown to adopting his own dog is unexpectedly put on hold, Simon turns to the PetShare app to find the fluffy TLC he’s been missing. Meeting a grumpy children’s book illustrator who needs a dog walker isn’t easy for the man whose persistent anxiety has colored his whole life, but Jack Matheson’s menagerie is just what Simon needs.

Four dogs, three cats and counting. Jack’s pack of rescue pets is the only company he needs. But when a bad fall leaves him with a broken leg, Jack is forced to admit he needs help. That the help comes in the form of the most beautiful man he’s ever seen is a complicated, glorious surprise.

Being with Jack—talking, walking, making out—is a game changer for Simon. And Simon’s company certainly…eases the pain of recovery for Jack. But making a real relationship work once Jack’s cast comes off will mean compromise, understanding and lots of love.


Title : Better Than People
Author : Roan Parrish
Format : eARC
Page Count : 256
Genre : LGBTQIA+ romance
Publisher : Carina Adores
Release Date : August 25, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

I wish I had loved this one because pretty much everything about it should’ve worked. It’s a sweet m/m contemporary, features a lot of pets, and is authored by Parrish. But right from the get-go this was giving me some vague THE REMAKING OF CORBIN VALE vibes (and, spoiler, it’s set in the same ‘world’ I guess? as the self-titled character of said book is mentioned) and while I was utterly wowed by the writing in that book, it wasn’t my favourite by this author, either. I think I just prefer this author’s darker or angstier work? I don’t know what that says about me.

Not much really happens in BETTER THAN PEOPLE. One of our MCs breaks his leg, necessitating the need for a dog walker for his many dogs (and cats), and in walks the love interest. Simon is more than just shy, he has crippling anxiety, and yet somehow, and actually miraculously, considering Jack’s near constant grumpiness, they connect. I found the progression of that very sweet but it also transitions from tender and tentative to like.. (fire emoji fire emoji) very quick. Jack is seriously into Simon and he lets him know. Which, great! But, I don’t know, it almost didn’t fit the vibe?

Characterization-wise, I found Jack a little all over the place but he’s dealing with some setbacks, has stuff to navigate, however the dynamic with his brother just kind of baffled me. I felt like we saw his true colours when dealing with Charlie and it would sort take the sweetness out of the moments with Simon. I don’t know. In some ways this is very soft, with some real meat to some of the topics and issues needing to be navigated, but.. it wasn’t a book I could really lose myself in and maybe that was because of the characters. I could feel for them both but didn’t think they were a good fit, I guess? Mostly I was just wishing for better for Charlie. I hope he gets a book.

If you are a fan of THE REMAKING OF CORBIN WALE, I think you’ll love this (in fact, I think I actually liked that one more? the rating is definitely higher..). I think a lot of readers will love this. But it’s just not going to be a favourite.

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