What’s conflict got to do with it? – Trust Me by Laura Florand

Hi.

I know. It’s been a hot minute. What can I say?… I have a bunch of posts in draft, but I got stuck on one of them and… yeah. Stuck. I might finish writing it at some point, but in the meantime… I read a book. (I mean, really… since my last post, I’ve read a few hundred books, but… whatever.) I important bit is that I read a book that I felt like writing about, and I actually managed to make it happen. If you’ve ever had 18 months of writer’s block, like me, you know how momentous this feels.

The blurb, courtesy of Goodreads:

She’s nobody’s damsel in distress…
Top Parisian pastry chef Lina Farah is used to fighting for her success. But when a violent attack shatters her security, she needs a new tactic to battle her dragons. What better way to banish the monsters under her bed than by inviting a sexy SEAL to tangle the sheets?

He’s a professional dragon slayer…
Elite operative Jake Adams has never stayed in one place long enough to form a lasting relationship. Lina’s fire and beauty tempt him to give her the hot affair she craves. But her spirit and courage make him long for more. Can he convince a woman seeking forgetfulness to dream of ever after…with him?

Laura Florand is one of my favorite writers in Romance and the author of a few of my favorite books. (The Chocolate Touch and All for You are my favorites of hers.) So I was really happy to hear that she had a book out this week, and I read it right away. And then I read it again (because that’s how I roll).

Trust Me occurs kind of in the middle of the action of the second book in the Paris Nights series, Chase Me. It brings together coworker/best friends of the main characters from that book, and I really think it would help to have read Chase Me if you’re planning on reading Trust Me. When I say it occurs in the middle of the action, I’m not overstating things. The violent attack referenced in the book’s blurb occurs in that book. (Bonus: Chase Me is really fun, violent attacks notwithstanding.)

Anyway, I was happy to have Lina get a book, because she’s super awesome. And, while his character is a lot slower to build than Lina’s, Jake ends up being a pretty decent match for all that awesome. I loved the freckles. And he’s got a pretty great smolder thing going on.

It used to be that the Kindle app on my phone would display a ticker at the bottom of the page, letting me know my reading progress. And then one day it disappeared, and I haven’t taken the time to figure out how to bring it back. But usually I don’t need it. I don’t mean to brag, but I read enough romance novels that I can usually guess where I am in a given book. Are things going great? It’s probably about 50%. Are things edging towards conflict? Probably about 75-80%. But a strange thing happened while I was reading the book.

I was happily reading Trust Me and guessing that I was about 50% through, and it felt right. Things were going well after a slightly bumpy beginning, and I was just starting to wonder what the conflict was going to end up being (there were hints here and there of possible conflicts, whether about their conflicting professions or their mutual relative inexperience with relationships) when the book ended. Like, Fin. The End.

And now I actually feel bereft.

The thing is, I think conflict is really necessary to support a believable happily ever after. (Also, it keeps things interesting. Just saying.) Any halfway decent love story (whether it’s in a book or from one’s own life) is, in some way, about how that love has overcome some obstacle. In our lives, it’s probably more common for the obstacles to be internal — can so-and-so ever learn to trust, maybe, or can these crazy kids learn how to use their words to communicate — but sometimes they’ll be external, too — anybody got a story about their love overcoming obnoxious family resistance? In a romance novel, the obstacles can be anything from the mundane to the outlandish, but there’s always something. There has to be a conflict!

Trust Me ends with an epilogue-like final chapter, so it’s not like the book doesn’t have an HEA (and it’s definitely happily ever after rather than happily for now. These two are committed by the end.). It’s just not a satisfying ending, because it doesn’t triumph over any odds. Far as I could tell, these characters didn’t slay any dragons (or, more accurately, they didn’t slay them together. More like they both individually realized that their dragons weren’t that big a deal, and then they shrugged and moved on.).

It’s like this story: two people met each other, flirted a bit, started a relationship that had a misunderstanding at its core, pretty quickly resolved the fairly mild misunderstanding, and then decided to make forever out of things. The end.

Is that a satisfying story? (Not to me.) ………………… Am I being too dramatic?

(I feel like the answer to that question is always going to be yes… but whatever.) Anyway… I leave you with a French cat.

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What I’ve been reading lately – books by Charlotte Stein

So do you remember back in March when I said I was on a bit of a Charlotte Stein kick? All told, I read ten of her books over the last few months, and today I’m going to talk about two of them.

Stein writes erotica with a distinctive voice, one I like (obviously). The thing is, erotica doesn’t come naturally to me. My neurosis and overactive sense of humor work against me, and my hyper-awareness of awkward details tends to pull me out of whatever mood an author is trying to create. Further, I’m always 100% aware that I’m reading erotica, that — at some point in the not too distant future — the characters are going to get nekkid and start doing things to one another. Whenever it becomes clear that the nekkid moment is approaching, my mind starts playing a porn soundtrack loop, and nervous giggling is not far off. There is an incompatibility between my brain and most erotica.

Stein’s erotica, on the other hand, doesn’t pose the same difficulty. Even when her characters are engaging in absolutely filthy acts of depravity (says the pearl-clutcher within me), they seem just as surprised by it as I am. By acknowledging the awkwardness of human sexuality and yet embracing (with both hands) the unfettered joy of fantasy, Stein crafts erotica that is funny, touching, poignant, and, finally, beautiful, even when she surprises her characters into a foursome with a side of rimming.

When Alice Evans finds a bona fide movie star on the floor of her living room, she has no idea what to do. Ordinary men are frightening enough, never mind someone as famous and frankly gorgeous as Holden Stark.

However, once she realizes that Holden is suffering behind that famous facade, she knows she has to help. He needs someone like her to give him a taste of sweetness and desire and love. He needs normality. The only problem is—Alice is hiding a secret that is far from normal. In fact, her name isn’t even Alice at all.

And once Holden finds out, the intense connection they are just beginning to build may well be torn apart.

I read Beyond Repair in one sitting, pretty much, and I started reading it all over again the minute I finished it. After the third read, I had to force myself to move on to another book, because all I wanted to do was keep on reading this one until the end of time. Months later, I’m not sure that I can explain my reaction to the book. (Beyond Repair and I have insane chemistry together, maybe?) I mean, it has all my favorite things: neurotic heroine; story told from heroine’s POV; third-person past narrative (a narrative style that is — to me — as comfortable as cotton granny panties. Maybe it’s just me, but a first-person present narrative is about as comfortable as a cheap lace thong; you can’t ever forget it’s there, slightly abrasive, pressing up against your intimate areas. Just saying…); a mysterious back story; epic movie references; a smitten, supplicant hero; a spectacular ending. (Beyond Repair also managed to make butt-licking vaguely sexy — I didn’t think that was possible — and believable as something these characters would actually do and enjoy.) All told, the book is, to me, an exemplar of pitch-perfect erotica. And it made me cry (in a good way).

When Madison Morris decides to hire an assistant to help run her naughty bookshop, she gets a lot more than she bargained for. Aggressive Andy doesn’t quite make the grade, but continues to push her buttons in other areas, while uptight and utterly repressed Gabriel can’t quite take Madison’s training techniques. One makes her grasp control, while the other makes her lose it. But the lines are blurring and she’s no longer sure who’s leading and who’s following. In the midst of kinky threesomes and power plays, can Madison work out what she really wants?

Control is the second Stein book I read, after I begged folk on Twitter (thank you @mojitana, @LietoFine7 and @ruthieknox!!!) for recommendations. (I read Doubled first, which is awesome, hilarious, dirty as hell, surprising, and slightly disturbing, all rolled up in a glorious coming-of-age (ish) menage story involving a set of twins and their lady friend. Yeah. You read that right.) Control was completely unexpected — even though the blurb warned me — and wonderfully wrong. I mean, the book opens with a job interview/lurid encounter during which the heroine/narrator marvels — with impressive emotional distance — at its even happening. Later, Madison finds herself stumbling into a relationship with another guy, one whose issues are legion but who better suits her undefined, unexplored and mostly unacknowledged (but still accepted) wants and needs.  Actually, that’s an important point: Madison, like many of Stein’s heroines, “finds herself” doing all manner of things, and I mean that both literally and figuratively.

Madison is a slightly unreliable narrator whose emotional disconnect is explained (her father was “controlling”) but perhaps never quite understood (by me, I mean). But, even though I didn’t fully understand why Madison was so reticent to acknowledge the emotional nature of her relationship(s), I still thoroughly enjoyed the experience of reading Control and have recommended it to a few people. I liked the way it discussed the power dynamics of a nontraditional workplace relationship (lady boss, man employee) and the way Gabe’s relationship with Madison freed him from some of his repression and fear. I wish it had been equally clear what Madison gained from the relationship (and all the nekkid shenanigans) — but perhaps that’s just part of a first-person narrative — and I wish that Andy had not been left swinging in the breeze. The things I loved about the book, however, more than made up for these slight reservations.

For more information on Beyond Repair and Control, click on the cover images above to visit the books’ pages on Goodreads. If you’re interested in Charlotte Stein (and you should be), check out her website and Twitter.

*FTC Disclosure – I received an e-galley of Beyond Repair from the author in exchange for review consideration. I purchased my copy of Control. *

Dual Review: Tasha and I talk about The Chocolate Heart and The Chocolate Temptation by Laura Florand

When I read The Chocolate Thief, I realized Tasha (from Truth, Beauty, Freedom, & Books) just had to read it (and all the books in the Amour et Chocolate series. I mean: Paris, ’nuff said. We decided to talk about The Chocolate Heart and The Chocolate Temptation today.  Check out Tasha’s blog for the first half of our conversation and read on for the second half. (You can totally read the second half first.)

Charles Thévenin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 Happy Bastille Day!

She hated him.

Patrick Chevalier. The charming, laid-back, golden second-in-command of the Paris pastry kitchen where Sarah worked as intern, who made everything she failed at seem so easy, and who could have every woman he winked at falling for him without even trying. She hated him, but she’d risked too much for this dream to give up on it and walk out just so he wouldn’t break her heart.

But he didn’t hate her.

Sarah Lin. Patrick’s serious, dark-haired American intern, who looked at him as if she could see right through him and wasn’t so impressed with what she saw. As her boss, he knew he should leave her alone. The same way he knew better than to risk his heart and gamble on love.

But he was never good at not going after what – or who – he wanted.

He could make magic out of sugar. But could he mold hate into love?

Tasha: I kind of have an issue with this blurb. I mean, it’s a GREAT blurb in that made me really want to read the book, but it’s also totally inaccurate. It’s obvious from page one that Sarah doesn’t “hate” Patrick—totally the opposite. And I think the blurb ignores most, if not all, of the actual themes in the story, like following your dreams and how it’s a Cinderella tale.

Kelly: Except not really a Cinderella tale, because Cinderella stories suck. (That’s my favorite scene in the book, by the way, because I’m with Patrick: Cinderella stories suck.)

Tasha: Aw I like Cinderella stories. But you’re right in that both Patrick and Sarah end up being one another’s “fairy godmother,” so to speak.

Kelly: My antipathy towards Cinderella stories stems from the Disney movie and the number of times I had to watch it with my daughters. (Tangent: my eldest has issues with narrative conflict, so, for a while, we had to avoid all movies that involved any sort of conflict. Guess what that leaves? CINDERELLA. It’s got no conflict at all, really. I mean, at one point the Stepmother locks Cinderella up, sure, but it’s not really a conflict, is it? Cinderella’s such a passive character that it just rates as something that happens, another problem the mice will solve for her. UGH. /tangent) Anyway, I appreciated Patrick’s dismissal of Cinderella stories and his conclusion that his and Sarah’s story, while it might have the outward appearance of a Cinderella tale, differed in its content because he and Sarah were just not as lame as Cinderella and her Prince.

Tasha: lol I honestly don’t even remember that scene. I do agree that Cinderella is pretty passive, though, and that does pose a problem for modern readers. Florand did a good job of keeping the fairy tale elements of the story while making Sarah and Patrick act for their own self-interest in a believable way.

Kelly: Is Luc the evil step-mother?

Tasha: Haha! Obvs. Actually I would say they each have their own evil stepmothers, wouldn’t you? With Sarah it’s her mom and with Patrick it’s Luc. But they’re not straight-up evil.

Kelly: I was going to say that Sarah is her own evil stepmother…I mean, her mom definitely has things she wants for Sarah, but Sarah internalizes so much that I’d guess that most of the stuff that drives her or holds her back is actually from within.

Tasha: By the time she’s an adult, yes. At first Sarah kind of annoyed me with her obsession with perfectionism and her complexes over never being good enough.

Kelly: I loved all of that about her, because my reading crack is an insecure heroine whom the hero appreciates and who learns to appreciate herself. (Seriously. That’s the reason I liked the Twilight books the first time I read them. I was a goner at the bit about Bella just not seeing herself clearly. The books could have been ten times more crazy than they are, and I still would have been like, Gosh, this book is awesome. It’s a problem.) BUT, yes. When I struggle to ignore my madness and be reasonable about the whole thing, it is a trifle annoying that Sarah is actually super awesome at everything but has the self esteem of an utter fuckup.

Tasha: Patrick, on the other hand, I adored, even though I saw some readers complaining that he’s stalkerish. Which is actually pretty valid—he does go all Edward Cullen on Sarah (wait—is this book actually based on Twilight???).

Kelly: Maybe.

Tasha: Vampires do like their food, Kelly. ANYWAY, I agree that Patrick was a little stalkerish, but I think Florand was using that to address the power imbalance between him and Sarah directly instead of just ignoring it, which happens WAY too often in most romance novels. And I also think that the interpretation of him “courting” Sarah as opposed to stalking her was really sweet (and also probably why I have a weakness for stalky Edward Cullen heroes).

Kelly: I was OK with the “courting” bit because we got to view some of Patrick’s POV and were able to see that he was aware of the power imbalance and that he was trying to even it a bit. If the story had been told exclusively from Sarah’s POV, I might have found it creepy. You know, unless there was a bit of dialogue wherein Patrick told Sarah that she just didn’t see herself clearly. Because… *drool*

Tasha: Right. I also liked how Florand showed us the “dark side” of Patrick’s charm, and how he used it to push people away. On the inside he was SO DAMN BROODY. There was a point in the book where he literally did this:

LITERALLY. Except maybe for the signing.

Kelly: Surfer-boy Patrick with the internal brooding is pretty much my favorite thing ever. I’ve got that insane soft spot for insecure heroines, but I’ve got an even bigger one for broody, moody heroes. (If Patrick had been grumpy, to boot, he’d be my version of perfection…)

Tasha: I love me a broody hero, but a SECRETLY broody hero? *swoon*

Kelly: Yes, I’ll join you on that fainting couch. I love secretly broody heroes. (But my favorite heroes are always grumpy, grouchy, moody assholes on the outside and mushy on the inside. Like… sourdough bread.)  That said, Patrick’s internal broodiness is pretty much made of mush, so, YES, I loved him something fierce.

Tasha: If he was grumpy, too, then he would be Luc. Was there anything you didn’t like about the book?

Kelly: Yes, but Luc had that stifling sense of control, and my favorite thing ever is a hero who just can’t control himself (except, to clarify, I don’t include rapey heroes from the 80s, because, NO.). You know, like Edward not being able to control stalking Bella or Patrick not being able to keep away from Sarah.. all those feelings he just couldn’t control. Luc mushed out only in his desserts, and I want a bit more expression and passion from my favorite heroes.  Anyway, your question… I think I loved everything about the book, honestly, but I recognize that it’s because the book hit so many of my favorite buttons. Maybe I can’t be unbiased about it, you know?

Tasha: It hit a lot of my favorite buttons, too, but I also had some major problems with it. It took me a while to get into it because there was SO much internal monologuing in the first few chapters. Like I swear it took Sarah 5 paragraphs to pay for a beer because she kept thinking about why she needed to pay for the beer and not Patrick. I was like, “I get it already!” I think that’s an issue for Florand when she doesn’t have an editor riding her butt about it. I also thought the book was way too long. The ending dragged on and on and on.

Kelly: LOL. I was like a crack addict who didn’t want the high to end. I was like, “Just keep going! Explain all the things! Give me more!” because I have an illness.  But, yeah. You’re totally right.

Tasha: And I think it bothered me that much because it’s a *Laura Florand* novel, and if it had been edited down more it would have seriously been one of the best novels I’d ever read.

Kelly: Yeah, it’s true. For the record (and, also, somewhat obviously), I’m willing to overlook a whole pile of crap if an author delivers me my drug of choice, but… it is probably better if that crap isn’t there to be endured or overlooked. (Especially because we all have a slightly different drug of choice, no?) This is sort of beside the point, but I had some similar thoughts when reading Sun-Kissed recently. I would have loved the holy hell out of that book if it had been edited a little more harshly.

Tasha: Yeah, I felt the same way about Snow-Kissed, actually. So of the two, is there a better one, do you think?

Kelly: Well, I think Temptation is better than Heart, but… well, I was going to say I think that not because of my bias but because Temptation tells a clearer story and doesn’t rely on miscommunication as a plot device, but I just remembered that it totally does. (It’s there in the blurb that isn’t 100% accurate: Sarah “hates” Patrick because she loves him and she’s convinced that he’s just dallying with her. Patrick loves Sarah but has some issues and is unable to let anyone (including Sarah) know what he wants. Shenanigans ensue.) Soo.. I don’t know if one is better than the other, but I know that I’m very glad I read them both.

Tasha: I think Heart is better written than Temptation, so I’d probably recommend that one first; but I agree the story in Temptation is better. Not just clearer and with more likable characters, but more transformative and more fully-realized. I do love Persephone stories, though… In more than one way the novels balance each other out. They’re kind of a paired set of books—not a series so much as companion novels. You really do have to read both if you’re going to read one.

Thanks for recommending these books to me, Kelly!

Kelly: You are welcome. I’m just glad you liked them. 🙂

Remember to head on over to Tasha’s blog to check out our discussion on The Chocolate Heart. Let us know in the comments (or on Twitter) if you’ve read these books — or if you haven’t — and if you’ve ever read a book that you just loved to pieces even though it had some issues.

Kelly & Kim’s dueling review of Once Upon a Billionaire by Jessica Clare

My buddy Kim from Reflections of a Book Addict got me hooked on Jessica Clare’s Billionaire Boys Club series (which, just to interject, does make me think of the Babysitters Club books every single time I see the series name.) Check out our reviews of the other three books here, here, and here.

The Billionaire Boys Club is a secret society of six men who have vowed success—at any cost. Not all of them are old money, but all of them are incredibly wealthy. They’re just not always as successful when it comes to love…
As a member of the royal family in a small European country, Griffin Verdi’s presence is requested at the wedding of the century. The scholarly billionaire feels out of his depth in social situations, so a good assistant is required—especially when dealing with royal etiquette.
Unfortunately for Griffin, he’s stuck with Maylee Meriweather, a pretty, charming, and thoroughly unsuitable woman who doesn’t know a thing about high society—but she sure can kiss. Her lack of polish may sink Griffin, because after all, even his money can’t buy class. But through Maylee’s eyes, he’s starting to appreciate the simple things in life—if simple means the most complicated woman he’s ever met.
Maylee is everything Griffin isn’t—and everything he wants—if he can let down his guard and step outside his sheltered world…

Kelly: Months ago, Kim sent me a link to the blurb for this book, and I was like WHAAA?! Griffin and Maylee?!? And I was so worried that it would be terrible. I probably could have spared myself some of that worry, however, because it was pretty much predetermined that I would love the book (or force myself to love it) because I am clearly delusional and I fucking love stories about make-believe kingdoms (it might be Mr. Rogers’ fault) and rags to royalty stories and the like.

Kim: I shared Kelly’s apprehension about Once Upon A Billionaire mainly because of the heroine. We meet her in Beauty and the Billionaire as Hunter’s “hickish,” deeply Southern secretary. A woman who keeps her notes on Post-Its. Says gee-golly wizz….You get the idea.

Kelly: Don’t knock post-its! I keep my notes on them, too. In fact, I put post-its all over my monitors and desk. (And sometimes post-its end up on my butt. Don’t judge.)

Kim: HAHA I would never judge you. And Post-Its are great and all – I just don’t approve of them as your only way of schedule keeping, etc. (Especially when you’re the secretary for a man as busy as Hunter!)

Kelly: Well, maybe… but I’m an EA, too, and I’m just saying that extreme post-it usage is not necessarily a sign of workplace incompetence. I had no idea I felt so passionate about post-its. Right. Moving on (and butting out).

Kim: HA! Well Post-Its aside, I was nervous about this heroine being paired with Griffin, a Royal Viscount of a made-up country. He’s pretty particular about things and honestly has a stick up his ass most of the time. You can probably understand why Kelly and I felt nervous about reading Once Upon A Billionaire.

Kelly: To an extent, some of our fears about this book were realized. (More on that later.) But you know what? This book is so damn funny that I didn’t even care that there were some plot holes bigger than the state of Montana or that Griffin was kind of an assmunch or that Maylee is magically transformed from a hopeless, incompetent bumpkin with a penchant for informality to a stunningly efficient assistant overnight with seemingly no learning curve. You read that right: those things are all there, but they don’t matter so much once you start reading this book.

Kim: True story. The humor of this book is so strong, that it effectively allowed me as a reader to look past its flaws and just appreciate the story. The rags to riches Cinderella story should have pissed me off (Griffin buying Maylee clothes, telling her that her appearance was horrible, giving her a makeover/new hairstyle), but the humor of those situations (and probably the fact that it all backfires on Griffin) had me laughing through it, rather than raging.

Kelly: Kim and I may have mentioned a time or two that Gretchen (the heroine of Beauty and the Billionaire) is pretty much our favorite character in the history of ever. A significant portion of this book’s humor comes from Gretchen’s role in manipulating Griffin into hiring Maylee; sending vaguely abusive text messages to Griffin to remind him that he’s an asswipe; and yelling at him when he calls Hunter. Here’s a random sampling of Gretchen’s lines in this book:

“Wow, Griff, a pike up your ass and a foot in your  mouth. That’s quite a feat.”

“Hey, I know…Why don’t you take another swig of ‘Shut the Hell Up’ and let me care for my man?”

Kim: While Gretchen does offer up many comedic moments in the book, it was ultimately Malyee that had me cracking up the most. At one point in the novel, while climaxing during sex with Griffin, she yells out “LORDAMERCY.” I guffawed out loud so hard that I spit out my tea and immediately started texting Kelly. Maylee’s southern manners mixed with Griffin’s uptight personality and Gretchen’s snark really helped move the book along.

Kelly mentioned before that there were large plot holes in this book and I have to agree. The main premise of the novel is that Griffin is heading to his (made up) home country for his cousin’s royal wedding. His assistant/dresser/manservant/butler person gets sick before the trip and Griffin therefore needs a new assistant to assist him. Kelly and I are still not sure why it was possibly apocalyptic that his mother find out that his one servant was sick.

Kelly: Oh, come on, Kim. If Griffin’s mother knew that Kip had the chicken pox, she would force Griffin to hire a whole bevy of staff, and Griffin’s just not that into hovering staff. (Never mind that he’s unable to dress himself, doesn’t understand how currency works, can’t drive anywhere because he has no sense of direction and GPS is for weenies, and seemingly lacks any kind of common sense about cause and effect. For example, it doesn’t even occur to him that people who want to eat in private should probably request private dining rooms and people who don’t want to be followed by paparazzi should probably not drive in cars that advertise “ROYAL FAMILY IN THIS CAR.”) Anyway, I’m just saying that Griffin’s need to show up with his own staff totally makes sense. Because, let me tell you, it’s a slippery slope from showing up at a royal event without an assistant to living in a 10,000 room mansion with 400,000 retainers. I’m not kidding. It happens just like that. And Griffin don’t play that.

Kim: Along with all that ridiculousness – can you explain to me how one gets lost in his own hometown? If Griffin lived with 100 servants all the time his inability to care for himself would make sense. But he’s been living with one assistant for several years. A thirty-something in today’s world that can’t figure out GPS? Or ATMs? It all rang a bit unrealistic.

Kelly: I am actually a little impressed that Griffin was able to operate buttons. Those things are fucking hard to use! My three-year-old can tell you all about it. She’s like, velcro and zippers are BOSS.

Kim: HA. Your daughter is smart. Velcro and zippers are BOSS. I guess we should probably discuss something positive about the book besides the humor now.

For me, I was a big fan of how this Cinderella story got turned upside down. Griffin spends so much time and energy attempting to make Maylee his kind of “presentable,” that it’s truly a shock to him when he realizes he’s succeeded and hates the result. He begins to understand that the perfectly quaffed, elegantly dressed, well-mannered woman he turns Maylee into is not at all what he wants. He misses the way she calls him Mr. Griffin instead of Lord Viscount (insert 10 more names here). He misses her outrageously large curls. And yes, he even misses her hand knit clothing.

Kelly: Yes, that was one of the more lovely parts of the story, that Griffin realizes that (1) he’s not nearly as awesome as he thinks he is; (2) wealth and the trappings of it are not always superior to everything and (3) it’s Maylee he loves, and all the things about her that make her special and individual, and those things are diminished when he tries to make her “perfect.” ALSO, he realizes that he’s kind of an asshat for even trying to mess around with her appearance and wardrobe, like she’s not good enough for him. (Gretchen helps with that discovery.)

Kim: Thank God for Gretchen! She’s helped a lot of the characters in this series realize they’re assholes.

Kelly: I’m a tiny bit ambivalent about one of my favorite things in this book. (How can that be? Don’t worry: I’ll explain.) Maylee seemed to undergo a fairly abrupt shift about a third of the way through the story, and that shift seemed to coincide with the reveal of Griffin’s interest in her (if ya know what I mean). That shift kind of bothers me, but I like SO MUCH what she became (hence the ambivalence). At the beginning of the book, Maylee is super timid, and she’s pretty intimidated by Griffin — especially after their less than auspicious meeting when she’s experiencing a xanax/alcohol interaction, calls him “Mr. Gryffindor” and demands hugs. Then Griffin kisses her, and all of a sudden she’s confident and comfortable with her own sexuality and more than willing to take the initiative with Griffin (if ya know what I mean). And — yes — those characteristics are all wonderful to see in a lady character (especially one in a billionaire romance novel), but it would have been better if she had exhibited those traits all along. I mean, it’s just a little too coincidental that Griffin’s kiss (he used to be a Prince, you know) is the thing that spurs all this character growth. Maybe he’s magic.

Kim: I completely get what you’re talking about. She looses some of her country “bumpkinness” and does in a way become a bit more refined. Her speech isn’t as drawling, her appearance is a bit more put together – yet her confidence level has gone through the roof. So as women shouldn’t we be happy that she’s become confident in herself? BUT at the same time, I’m bothered at what instigates the changes, just like Kelly. A sexual awakening is all well and good for a woman. But a sexual awakening caused by a man who keeps trying to change you? Not so great.

Kelly: Slightly less empowering.

Kim: Exactly where I was going with that.

In conclusion, I’m not sure I see Maylee and Griffin’s relationship “going-the-distance.” Their worlds are so much more than just financially opposite. Griffin’s family (specifically his mother) is so hardened against “commoners” that I don’t see her accepting of Griffin’s choice of Maylee. An interaction with Griffin’s family post their getting together would have helped me probably. But I guess that’s what future books are for, yeah?

Kelly: Yeah, and let’s just talk about the ending for a second. There were things I liked about it… Griffin had clearly been an asshat through much of the book, and it was satisfying that he had to chase Maylee, step out of his comfort zone and get Arkansas dust on his fussy shoes (I’m just guessing he wears fussy shoes… he seems the type). I particularly liked that Maylee doesn’t fully accept his apology right away — because he hurt her, and he damaged her trust in him, and that kind of thing can’t be magically repaired — but it’s a little strange how Clare makes it happen.  I mean, I can imagine a whole host of reasonable responses to a clearly sincere, yet not quite enough, apology: “I need some time,” perhaps, or, “Let’s maybe slow this down a bit and work together to reestablish the trust that’s been lost.” Reasonable, right? Yeah, well, that’s not what happens.

Kim: Instead she agrees to come back and be his assistant, but ONLY until she can trust him. Then she’ll quit and just be with him.

Say wha?

You don’t trust the man….but you want to be financially beholden to him? And live with him? I don’t get it. Also, the way Clare writes the ending, I get the sense that Maylee is totally ok with being a trophy girlfriend/wife. It’s like as soon as her trust is earned again she’s ok with quitting her job and basically being his sex slave for life.

Kelly: And can we talk for just a second about how strange it is to agree to live with someone, to continue having sex with someone, and to insist on being employed by someone whom you don’t really trust? Like, totally strange for both parties. Why in the world would either of them be OK with that situation?  And the thing that finally earns her trust? He throws her a party and invites a newspaperman from his home country. And Maylee’s like, OMG, you’re willing to let your family know about me? I’m not a dirty secret? I LOVE YOU FOREVER AND AM TOTALLY OVER HOW YOU WERE A RIDICULOUS ASSHAT. OBVS. YOU’VE CHANGED. Also, I QUIT.

Kim:YES! Can we speak about the party for a minute also? A huge conflict in this book is Griffin’s mother and her views on his life, commoners, etc. He falls in love with a girl who is basically EVERYTHING his mother hates. He throws the party as a way to introduce her to his friends, but ALSO as a way for his family to find out about her. How is there not a scene with the mother reacting to Maylee as a future daughter-in-law? That conflict builds and builds and builds for the whole book without ever cresting and reaching a conclusion.

Also, if I were Maylee I’d be pretty pissed that my new intended didn’t have the balls to tell his family about me himself.

Kelly: Oh Lordamercy, yes! It was such a strange (and disappointing) ending to what was otherwise a fairly problematic yet incredibly fun book.

Kim’s final thoughts: So in conclusion – What made this series special to me from the beginning was how it chose to not follow the protocol for billionaire romances. They were about strong-willed women who didn’t fall for money. They fell for the men behind the wallets. Once Upon A Billionaire was the complete opposite. Griffin offers Maylee $100,000 a year salary plus another $100,000 severance package and BOOM! They’re together again as employee/boss, girlfriend/boyfriend. What makes the series special was lacking here, and not even Gretchen’s sense of humor could save it.

Kelly’s final thoughts: Kim’s 100% right. I’m not gonna lie: I had a hell of a lot of fun reading this book. I was laughing my ass off left and right, sending Kim gleeful texts, and just enjoying the hell out of it. But when I stopped to think about the book, I realized that it has a lot of problems, and that I’m better off re-reading Beauty and the Billionaire for my much-needed dose of Gretchen awesomeness. I hold out hope for the final two books in the series that they reclaim the subversive glory of the first few books and turn out to be fun, interesting, and much less problematic.

*FTC Disclosure – I received an e-galley via NetGalley from Penguin Group in exchange for an honest review.*

Review – The Last Good Knight by Tiffany Reisz

The Last Good Knight Banner

So, I guess I should first mention that this post is part of the blog tour (I hope that’s obvious.) There’s a tour-wide giveaway here — check it out!

I read and loved the first four books in Tiffany Reisz’s Original Sinners series. (I say the first four books, but it’s kind of like Star Wars... the series started with the fourth (or fifth, if you count the novella) one.) So when I heard about this novella, I was pretty excited about it. Then I heard it was being released as a serial and I worried a little bit.

The Last Good Knight: An Original Sinners novella told in five parts:

Part I: Scars and Stripes

It’s lust at first sight when Mistress Nora encounters a sexy newcomer to The 8th Circle. She’s happy for the distraction, since she left her lover, Søren, but her session with Lance is cut short when her boss, Kingsley Edge, reveals they’re all in danger….

Part II: Sore Spots

With a potential stalker on the loose, Kingsley hires Lance as Nora’s bodyguard, but stipulates no sex while he’s on duty. Frustrated by the ex-SEAL’s noble chivalry, Nora is driven to seek release with the one man she’s trying to forget….

Part III: The Games Destiny Plays

Shocked to see Nora’s bruises, Lance is furious that she put herself in danger and demands to know where she got them. As Nora confesses her true nature, she’s equally shocked to learn that Lance has some secrets of his own, drawing them together despite Kingsley’s orders….

Part IV: Fit to Be Tied

With her feelings for Lance warring with her recent encounter with Søren, Nora returns to Lance’s bed and finds herself toying with the idea of…toying with him on a permanent basis. But after she gets a glimpse into his personal angst, Nora realizes she has the power to rescue this white knight….

Part V: The Last Good Night

Now that the perpetrator has been apprehended, Nora sadly acknowledges she doesn’t need a bodyguard anymore. She adores Lance and wants to keep him but is faced with a dilemma. If she uses her connections to help Lance, she’ll have to give him up forever…

The bottom line is that I liked this novella, but I have a few reservations about leaving it at that. I’ll put ’em in a list. I know you’ve been missing my lists.

  1. It’s a serial novella. That means that each $0.99 installment gives you about 25-30 pages of reading, with the expectation that you’ll purchase the other 4 installments to continue the story. Novellas are fast-paced little bites of stories anyway, and it’s slightly irritating to receive the story in this incremental format. I read them as ARCs — meaning that I had all five to start with (and I didn’t pay for them), and I was still slightly annoyed every time I had to find the next installment in my library and try to get back into the story. If you’re worried about the cost, I’ll be fair and put it in perspective… the total price for this approx. 120-page story is $4.95… the average Harlequin Presents story is about 180 pages long and costs $4.99. It’s up to you to decide whether a bit of Tiffany Reisz erotica is worth slightly more per-page than an HP.  My main irritation stems from the (admittedly ridiculous) inconvenience of having to open up five different books during one rather short reading experience. I know — I’m nit-picking — but novellas are already bite sized… do we really need to break them down further than that?
  2. Read those blurbs again… The thing is, the villain that drives most of the plot — that brings Nora and Lance together in a no-touching-allowed way — is an entirely off-page thing that never seems to be as big a deal as the characters believe. It’s like all the characters have these huge reactions to an invisible monster that turns out to be a nuisance rather than a danger.
  3. This one’s possibly just me, but it was a little weird reading a book about Nora and the other OS crew that takes place before The Siren, because OS books 2-4 so completely changed my views on Nora and Søren. It wasn’t a bad thing, but it was a little difficult for me to get into the right brain space to read this story. I suspect i’ll have the same problem with the other OS books (the prequels. Here’s hoping there aren’t any droid armies, Yoda fights or epic NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO moments in those books. I don’t think I could take it.)

So, yeah, those things were kind of strange or irritating, but I did like the novella. Once I got over the weirdness of going back in time with Nora and Søren, I loved how their dynamic played out. It’s also fantastic how you can read The Siren again after reading this novella and get another perspective on the Nora/Søren interactions. And I loved how the interludes between Nora and Lance, while necessarily short-lived, manage to be emotionally true and compelling. While the ending was a little bit heartbreaking, it was a really good kind of heartbreak.

While I’m not completely sure why this story needed to be told (maybe just to introduce Lance to the world?… Actually, that’s enough of a reason for me), I enjoyed reading it.

Amazon: (US Links)<br>Part I: http://amzn.to/1fVdUvP<br>Barnes & Noble:<br>Part I: http://bit.ly/RM6jI5

If you’re interested in more information about the author, check her out in the usual places: Twitter: @TiffanyReisz  https://twitter.com/tiffanyreisz, Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/littleredridingcrop, and Website: http://www.tiffanyreisz.com/.

Author PictureTiffany Reisz lives with her boyfriend (a reformed book reviewer) and two cats (one good, one evil). She graduated with a B.A. in English from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky and is making both her parents and her professors proud by writing BDSM erotica under her real name. She has five piercings, one tattoo, and has been arrested twice.

When not under arrest, Tiffany enjoys Latin Dance, Latin Men, and Latin Verbs. She dropped out of a conservative southern seminary in order to pursue her dream of becoming a smut peddler. Johnny Depp’s aunt was her fourth grade teacher. Her first full-length novel THE SIREN was inspired by a desire to tie up actor Jason Isaacs (on paper). She hopes someday life will imitate art (in bed).

If she couldn’t write, she would die.

*FTC Disclosure – I received e-galleys of all 5 installments from Harlequin via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

What I’ve been reading lately – books by people named Penny

You know how humans are apt to generalize out of the particular? Well, I recently read books by two people named Penny (Penny Reid and Penny Watson, to be specific), and now my brain thinks that all books by people named Penny are likely to be awesome. I try to remind my brain that an author’s name does not have direct bearing on a given book’s chances of being awesome, but my brain does not listen.

First up is Penny Watson’s Apples Should be Red. 

Recipe for Thanksgiving Dinner:

Start with sixty-two year old politically incorrect, chain-smoking, hard-cussing curmudgeon.
Add fifty-nine year old sexually-repressed know-it-all in pearls.
Throw in a beer can-turkey, a battle for horticultural supremacy, and nudist next-door neighbor.
Serve on paper plates, garnished with garden gnome.
Tastes like happily ever after.

The romance genre has a diversity problem, and it isn’t just one of race and class. While there has definitely been a shift over the past fifteen years or so to allow a wider age range of heroines (used to be they were all 17-21, give or take, and now they’re closer to 24-34, give or take), it would be easy, looking exclusively at romance fiction, to assume that heroes need to be in their 30s and that there’s no such thing as romance after 40. That really is a pile of malarkey, and I’m thrilled that Penny Watson decided to tell the story of these two characters in their golden years.

Apples Should Be Red is the story of a Martha Stewartesque woman thrown together with a grumpy, garden-savvy Jeff Bridgesish guy, except that the story is way more wonderful than that sounds. For starters, Tom and Bev are more well-rounded than their summaries might imply. Bev is not just a post-menopausal widow who can decorate the hell out of anything; she’s also a woman healing from several decades of bad marriage, a woman whose motherhood and wifehood has eclipsed her sense of self for so long that she’s a little lost. Tom is not just an antisocial old coot with a flourishing vegetable garden and a disdain for the trappings of femininity; he’s also an incredibly smart dude who prefers making things with his hands to theorizing, an independent man who is able to learn the value of flowers and neighbors. These two characters come alive through strong writing, snappy dialogue, and masterful plotting. The result is both laugh out loud funny and poignant; and it’s sexy as hell. I highly recommend this book, and I can’t wait to read more books by Penny Watson (especially Lumberjack in Love, which sounds right up my alley.)

I participated in DABWAHA this year, and was intrigued by a number of the books included in the original 64, including Penny Reid’s Neanderthal Seeks Human (Knitting in the City #1). 

There are three things you need to know about Janie Morris: 1) She is incapable of engaging in a conversation without
volunteering TMTI (Too Much Trivial Information), especially when she is unnerved, 2) No one unnerves her more than Quinn Sullivan, and 3) She doesn’t know how to knit.


After losing her boyfriend, apartment, and job in the same day, Janie Morris can’t help wondering what new torment fate has in store. To her utter mortification, Quinn Sullivan- aka Sir McHotpants- witnesses it all then keeps turning up like a pair of shoes you lust after but can’t afford. The last thing she expects is for Quinn — the focus of her slightly, albeit harmless, stalkerish tendencies — to make her an offer she can’t refuse.

I fucking loved this book, you guys. There’s a pretty good chance that Penny Reid actually wrote it for me. I mean, she hasn’t met me (yet), but… whatever, it’s possible. Neanderthal Seeks Human had me from page one (which takes place in a bathroom stall without toilet paper, by the way). It is a delightfully quirky romance novel that takes full advantage of its slightly unreliable narrator and manages to be a little bit mysterious and a lot funny without downplaying any of the romantic elements. Oh, and it’s a nerd romance.

I may have mentioned from time to time that I am in favor of accurate depictions of friendship in books, so it’s kind of a given that my favorite thing about the book is the knitting group, this group of women who get together weekly to knit, drink, and tell stories about their lives. In Neanderthal Seeks Human, the group sort of plays the role of Janie’s inner monologue, interpreting the events in Janie’s life and suggesting appropriate actions. And the knitting group brings a lot of the comedy to the book’s party (including one very nearly ridiculous scene wherein the knitters take down a couple of gunmen with knitting needles, skeins of outrageously expensive yarn, and sheer moxie).

I’m not saying the book is perfect. There are some random editing issues in the edition I purchased, and I could have handled a little bit less external drama (the gangsters were a trifle OTT), and, while those elements were incredibly entertaining, they distracted just a little bit from the Janie/Sir Handsome McHotpants story. But a book doesn’t have to be perfect to be perfectly enjoyable. I have been recommending Neanderthal Seeks Human left and right, to strangers, to friends, to readers of romance, to people who would rather not ever read a romance novel. Honestly, I think anyone with a sense of humor will enjoy this book.

I wanted to move right on and read the second book in the series, but — so far — it’s available only on Kindle, and I’m pretty much a Nook girl. So I skipped to the third book, Love Hacked. Unsurprisingly, I loved it, too.

There are three things you need to know about Sandra Fielding: 1) She makes all her first dates cry, 2) She hasn’t been kissed in over two years, and 3) She knows how to knit. 

Sandra has difficulty removing her psychotherapist hat. Of her last 30 dates, 29 have ended the same way: the man sobbing uncontrollably. After one such disaster, Sandra–near desperation and maybe a little tipsy–gives in to a seemingly harmless encounter with her hot waiter, Alex. Argumentative, secretive, and hostile Alex may be the opposite of everything Sandra knows is right for her. But now, the girl who has spent all her life helping others change for the better, must find a way to cope with falling for someone who refuses to change at all. 

So I was a little worried when I picked up Love Hacked that it wouldn’t live up to the hype my brain built. I needn’t have worried. This book is, like Janie’s book before it, told in the first person past narrative from Sandra’s perspective, and it is awesome. And Alex? OM NOM NOM NOM. (Wait, is that creepy?) Further, it’s just as funny as Neanderthal, but it’s utterly distinct. And it makes me want to have occasion t-shirts (except I don’t like wearing t-shirts).

Love Hacked is slightly less recommendable to non-romance readers because it’s got significantly more sexy sexy times, but I still want to recommend it to all the people (all of them). It’s funny and touching and enjoyable and interesting. (And, again — I’m not saying that it’s perfect… editing errors and external sources of drama annoy me.)  But let’s just put this into perspective for those of you who know me well: this book has editing errors and I loved it anyway, and I want you to read it. I don’t know that there’s a better way to communicate how very much I liked it.

So there you have it: books by people named Penny are fucking awesome.

*FTC Disclosure – I received a copy of Apples Should Be Red from the author in exchange for an honest review. I purchased the other two books.*

What I’ve been reading lately — a little historical romance fiction

I’m not really a goal-oriented person.  Goals — and I’m using a fairly broad definition that comprises resolutions of the New Year’s and less formal variety, vague life goals, reading goals, dreams I used to have when I was a kid, etc. — often seem like a waste of time and emotional energy.  The thing is, I’m terrible at goal setting.  Either I pick a goal so easy to achieve that attaining it means nothing or I pick a difficult goal and it becomes just another way for me to fail. That is such an Eeyore sentence, right?

This year when setting my arbitrary reading challenge ‘goal’ on Goodreads, I decided to try to be intentional about it rather than just guessing how many books I might read in 2014. I set a low goal — 100 books — because I want to slow down and think about all the books I read — even the ones that don’t seem to deserve it — and live out the purpose of this blog.  I want to analyze, and I can’t do that when I start a new book the instant I finish one. So far, I don’t think this is a goal I will achieve this year, but I have plenty of time left to surprise myself.

I shared all of this as an introduction to a series of mini-review posts and as a public declaration both of my goal to think more (and perhaps think better, but that’s less certain) and of my less-than-stellar track record with goals.  Because I know you care. Obviously.

First up on the mini-review train is A Kiss of Lies by Bronwen Evans.

Desperate to escape her abusive past, Sarah Cooper disguises herself as a governess in the employ of Christian Trent, Earl of Markham, the man who, long ago, she fantasized about marrying. Despite the battle scars that mar his face, Sarah finds being near Christian rekindles her infatuation. A governess, however, has no business in the arms of an earl, and as she accompanies Christian on his voyage home, Sarah must resist her intense desires—or risk revealing her dangerous secrets.

One of the renowned Libertine Scholars, Christian Trent once enjoyed the company of any woman he chose. But that was before the horrors of Waterloo, his wrongful conviction of a hideous crime, and his forcible removal from England. Far from home and the resources he once had, Christian believes the life he knew—and any chance of happiness—is over . . . until his ward’s governess sparks his heart back to life, and makes him remember the man he used to be. Now Christian is determined to return to England, regain his honor, and win the heart of the woman he has come to love.

You know how sometimes you’re reading a book, and you’re enjoying it, but these niggling little thoughts keep intruding on your enjoyment, poking you and causing you to doubt whether you really should be enjoying yourself, all things considered?  Well, I felt that way when I read A Kiss of Lies. The story is sweeping, covers a lot of geography (York, Canada to Kingston, Jamaica, to London), uses some of my favorite tropes (injured/damaged hero, governess heroine, characters with issues, and secret childhood infatuation), and is well-paced and emotionally satisfying.  So what was the problem?

A Kiss of Lies is pretty damn bold (not a bad thing), and part of its story involves a plantation, an abusive slave owner, and the white woman who’s caught in the crossfire. And part of me wants to praise the book for not shying away from such a loaded topic. But another part of me wonders what is the point of bringing up slavery if the story is going to be told from the perspective of the white woman who’s harmed by it.  Maybe my reading approach was too nervous (or too American, maybe), but it felt like this giant, festering, definitely not resolved issue was used — was appropriated, perhaps — as a narrative crutch to demonstrate just how much the heroine suffered in her marriage. There are other ways to achieve that end without marginalizing people whose experiences were fifty thousand times worse than the heroine’s because she was, eventually, able to escape and hide because she’s white.  I dunno… I liked so many things about the book, but all the parts that related to Sarah’s back story made me feel deeply uncomfortable.

Then there is Portrait of a Scandal by Annie Burrows.

HE HAS TAKEN HER TO HEAVEN, HELL AND BACK AGAIN… 

Her heart and hope long since shattered, Amethyst Dalby is content with her life as an independent woman. With wealth of her own, and no one to answer to, she is free to live as she pleases.

Until a trip to Paris throws her into contact with the one man who still has a hold over her—the bitter but still devastatingly sensual Nathan Harcourt! Living as an artist, this highborn gentleman has been brought low by scandal—and he is determined to show Amethyst that life is much more fun if you walk on the dark side….

I read this book in January, and I just didn’t know what to say about it. There were quite a few things that I liked about it, particularly that the heroine (sort of) recovers from a difficult family situation and achieves a (sort of) independence and that the hero escapes from the stifling expectations of his family to live out his passions (art) on his own terms.  But there were also a lot of things I didn’t like, particularly that the heroine’s recovery from her difficult family situation involves an extreme pendulum swing from naively trusting young lady to hardened and crotchety pensioner in the body of a young woman.  Further, I wanted a lot more sucking up from the hero, who was the cause of all the heroine’s difficulties.  Portrait of a Scandal is pretty typical for its genre, which will be comforting to some readers and frustrating to others.  You know who you are.

Finally, I want to talk about Fall of a Saint by Christine Merrill.  Nearly a year ago, I reviewed The Greatest of Sinsand anticipated the continuation of The Sinner and the Saint story line.

Honorable—and handsome to boot! — Michael Poole, Duke of St. Aldric, has earned his nickname “The Saint.” But the ton would shudder if they knew the truth. Because, thrust into a world of debauchery, this saint has turned sinner!

With the appearance of fallen governess Madeline Cranston—carrying his heir—St. Aldric looks for redemption through a marriage of convenience. But the intriguing Madeline is far from a dutiful duchess, and soon this saint is indulging in the most sinful of thoughts…while his new wife vows to make him pay for his past.

I cannot believe I liked this book, you guys. In fact, I think there might be something wrong with me. You see, it goes against one of my hardest of hard limits: it gives an HEA to a hero who raped the heroine. I know. I KNOW! But here’s the thing… it was interesting because it stayed resolutely mired in the gray area that is real life; it was believable because it allowed the hero and heroine each to feel a whole range of emotions, regrets, hopes, and fears; and it was subversive as hell because it took a number of tropes — the rapey hero, the victimized heroine, the marriage of convenience, the secret baby… — twisted them around, and hinted at a dialogue I just never expected to find in a Harlequin Historical.

There are some things about rape that you just know, right? (And if you don’t… well, I don’t want to hear about it.)  For example, in a scenario wherein an intoxicated man stumbles upon a sleeping woman and proceeds to have sex with her, is it rape? You probably answered, YES.  And you’re right, because the sleeping woman did not give consent.  Here’s a harder question, though: take that same intoxicated man and tell me if he’s an evil person, a person who deserves to be punished forever for what he did.  Tell me what that punishment looks like. These questions do not have simple answers. To get near the neighborhood of those answers, you have to answer a whole slew of other questions: what is good, and what is evil? what is right, and what is wrong? what is justice? what do we mean when we say “deserve,” and who could decide such a thing?

I am certain — indeed, there is proof in the Goodreads reviews — that not everyone will agree with me that the HEA in The Fall of a Saint is just. I liked it because it pushed the envelope and made me think beyond the failed logic of my oversimplified views vis-à-vis rape and rapists.  I know you want to see my diagram.

Diagram 032614

The truth is, it’s just not that simple, and I liked The Fall of a Saint because it didn’t try to keep things simple. Merrill allowed her hero to feel devastation and condemnation and hopelessness and self-hatred; she allowed him to act with contrition; but she also allowed him to develop hope and to find happiness.  If it were just about him, maybe that would be problematic, but she also allowed her heroine to feel anger and grief and shame and righteousness; she allowed her to act out her anger; but she also allowed her to develop strength and forgiveness. And together they found love, and I thought that was pretty cool, all things considered.

Kiss of Lies was released on January 14, 2014 as an e-book by Loveswept. Portrait of a Scandal was released on January 21, 2014 as an e-book and mass-market paperback by Harlequin Historical. The Fall of a Saint was released on February 18, 2014 as an e-book and mass-market paperback by Harlequin Historical.  For more information about any of these books, click on the cover images above to visit their page on Goodreads.  Check out the authors’ websites: Bronwen Evans, Annie Burrows, Christine Merrill.

*FTC Disclosure – I received e-galleys of all three books from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*