Monday, July 26, 2021

Reading Update: 20%


Y’all got me with the Christmas in July 🎄❤️☃️ 

It’s early morning here so I’m reading this with some oatmeal bars but I have a feeling soup is in my future because of all the yummy shout-outs it’s getting in this book. 

What are you all reading to start the week?

Went great with morning tea!

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Review: Heartless

Heartless Heartless by Gena Showalter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars 

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. 

 Kaysar realized he had a choice. Save the girl and his conscience, perhaps condemning himself and Viori in the process, or walk away and condemn the girl and his conscience. 

With his parents having died of the plague, teenager Kaysar is responsible for his stopped speaking traumatized five year sister Viori. When he comes upon the Frostlines, the royal family of the Winter Court, in the woods, they capture him and he spends a year of torture at the hands of King Hador and his brother Lark. When he finally comes into his own power, using his healing song and glamara power of compulsion, he is able to escape his chains. He kills Lark but feels that wasn't punishment enough, so he decides to routinely make war on the Frostlines because of how Hador and Lark tortured and raped him and how he is still searching for his beloved sister Viori and what happened to her after he was captured. 

In the aftermath, he'd discovered only the hatred remained. 

After Kaysar escapes, the story then jumps centuries and we find out that Kaysar is now King of the Dusklands and his own created Midnight Court. He's earned the nickname The Unhinged One and he has jars of the Frostlines' tongues as his war trophies. Everyone in the land fears him but he still doesn't know what happened to Viori. When he is exacting a new plan of revenge on King Hador's son, Jareth, which involves kidnapping Jareth's new wife Lulundria, getting her to desire him, and then sending her back to Jareth pregnant and forced to have a child of Kaysar's in the Frostline royal court, a mortally injured Lulundria escapes to the human realm. Kaysar can't follow her because he isn't a doormaker but he did manage to sing a song of compulsion and order her to return to him. 

“Return to me, princess. Return to me by any means necessary.” 

Chantel “Cookie” Bardot is twenty-six years old but with a heavily damaged heart, if she doesn't get a heart transplant, she doesn't have long to live. She makes her living being paid to stream and play an enchanted forest video game and lives with a hypochondriac geriatric and an extremely picky cat. When she receives a call that a heart is ready for her, she can't believe it and a few months later when her hair starts to turn pink, she's seeing pixies buzzing around her, and vines are growing from her finger tips, she really can't believe it. As her and her roommate are finally confronting these changes in her, Chantel's vines create a doorway and she is pulled through. 

An angel merged with a devil, both haunting and haunted. 

The start to a new series, Heartless was amazing on the world building. The fae realm called Astaria and it's five royal courts, Summer, Winter, Autumn, Spring, Dusklands, and Kaysar's created Midnight court and the mysterious Forgotten court were engaging and fascinating. The creatures, magic, and land described by the author really placed me in this land and had me excited for the series on a whole. The author's choice to have Chantel be a professional gamer who just so happens to play a game that very closely resembled and copied the fae realm, allowing her to more readily accept her changed circumstances, felt a little too easy in the beginning but as the story went on, I thought it fit perfectly, especially since I think it was a clue to what happened to Viori. 

Use her. Protect her. Use. Protect. 

In order to be more accepting of Kaysar's consuming mindset of revenge, with a little feeling of childishness swings of emotions, you'll have to remember his young age when he suffered his horrific abuse; he's stuck in that age, time and place. His map making on himself, slicing his arms with the metal claws he wears on his hands, is obviously a coping mechanism to release the emotions and pain he never has learned to deal to with. This made it a little hard to fully come on board when he has insta-attraction and lust for Chantel, he felt too emotionally young for me to enjoy that dynamic he instantly had with her. As the story went on, he does grow and change as Chantel explains and is patient with him and I was able to go along with their sexual connection more. 

Kaysar de Aoibheall did not beg for anything. Ever. But he had promised to be better for her, and he always kept his word. 

The constant battle between these two is all about Kaysar choosing Chantel over his vengeance. Chantel is the child of divorce and with her two parents starting other families they forgot about her, she wants to be number one is someone's life for once, making Kaysar's one true love of constantly battling the Frostlines a problem for them. Along with that emotional battle, there was also physical battles that didn't skimp on some gory details. Towards the latter half, when Chantel and Kaysar hit the sheets, you could just call this the fighting and the fucking book because both are singeing the pages. 

Why was she holding on to her hurt, letting fear rule her life? 

Overall, this story was entertaining in it's, at times, wilding out elements and components. I thought both Chantel and Kaysar stayed too stubborn at moments towards the end that hurt the pace of the story and kept it longer than it needed to be and I'm not sure the whole thread of whatever outfit or costume Chantel wears changes her personality was needed, there was already a lot of magical components to keep track of and absorb in this story. Kaysar's slow growing might take too long for some readers but I thought his gesture at the end was good for a traumatized man learning to change a centuries long learned behavior and coping mechanism. As I mentioned, I'm into this world Showalter has created because it was at turns entertaining, wilding, gory, emotional, and sexy. I can't wait to see if I did catch a clue about Viori, if our redeemed Prince Jareth will find a new love, what King Micah of the Forgottenlands is going to get up too, and if Pearl Jean's sciatica will go away enough for her to bag a fae realm hottie. Immortal Enemies has the world building to be entertaining for awhile.

Friday, July 23, 2021


The world building in this is really fun, all the courts in the fae realm. Although, I can't decide if it is genius or too wilding to make the human heroine transported there readily accept the realm because it so closely matches a video game she was paid to play. 

"Don't expect cuddles," she warned. "I hate cuddling, snuggling, canoodling, and everything in between."
"I would rather die," he replied with a shudder.
"Good." Right?
"Good," he echoed.
Minutes passed, neither of them moving. Outside, a great wind blustered and a shutter slammed.
Remembering how amazing she'd felt in his arms, she inched toward him. Not to cuddle, just to...touch. Connecting with another. At the last second, she thought better of it and rolled to her back. But the desire only magnified, until she tossed and turned, miserable.
When she could stand it no longer, she whispered, "Kaysar?" Was he still awake?
"Yes, Chantel?" The rough rumble caressed her ears.
"Try to survive this, okay?" She draped her body over his. He hissed in a breath as she rested her cheek over his heart. His racing heart. He wasn't immune to her nearness. She burrowed closer.
"Chantel?" he said, the tightness of his voice rousing dread.
Ugh. Was he about to order her to move?
"Do your best to endure this, all right?" He tentatively wrapped his arms around her, holding her close.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Reading Update: 10%

It’s muggy af here, I’m melting and my burritos that look like tacos are melting 😭 

But we persevere with a fae realm romance fantasy that is wilding out from page one. This is going to be a heck of a ride!

I don't think you can go wrong with Old Bay seasoning!

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Review: Not the Kind of Earl You Marry

Not the Kind of Earl You Marry
Not the Kind of Earl You Marry by Kate Pembrooke
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

2.5 stars 

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

It was the announcement of her betrothal to the Earl of Norwood. 

With a storming morning visit that has William, the Earl of Norwood, interrupting their breakfast, Charlotte Hurst and her brother Philip are accused of trying to trap William into marriage. When it becomes clear that Charlotte and her brother are just as shocked as him, William apologizes and realizes a political opponent is probably at fault. To save Charlotte's reputation and William's chance at gaining a political appointment to a committee Liverpool is forming, they agree to enter into a temporary engagement. 

This betrothal was only a means to an end---a political appointment for him, an intact reputation for her. 

Not the Kind of Earl You Marry, struggled with providing the emotions for a character driven story as it felt pretty plotless. Charlotte and William had never met before they are engaged and they didn't get enough time together to develop and provide a relationship that could carry the story for three hundred plus pages. When they were together, it's an amiable time but Charlotte considers herself a homebody and prefers reading books to the social whirl. She continuously holds the feeling that she would never be good enough or be able to support William enough in his political career. We don't get a lot of insight from William but you can tell he likes spending time with her. 

She'd briefly let herself imagine what it might be like if things between them were real. 

When I say there wasn't much plot, I mean there wasn't enough there to keep me engaged or following along. The political rival setting-up William to cause a scandal with the betrothal in the newspaper is largely forgotten until around seventy-five percent and then William just confronts the guy and goes to Liverpool with the whole story. Why was William spending three-hundred pages avoiding this? The same with Charlotte's refusal to consider it a real engagement, she doesn't think she'll make a good politician's wife, so much so, she feels this way up to only twenty pages left in the book. However, when William proposes, she just says yes, leaving me to feel like the previous three-hundred pages I read didn't matter because of the lack of development. 

Miss Hurst might claim that kiss hadn't changed anything, but he begged to differ. 

The majority of the story was dedicated to following the characters around to the hotspots of the romance Regency sub-genre (Gunter's and the like). It seemed to want to be like a traditional Regency and more quiet like a Grace Burrowes (it lacked the emotional heft of a Burrowes). Regency is such an oversaturated sub-genre and perhaps I've read too many, but oof, was there nothing new or fresh here. What was a surprise because of how it felt more towards traditional Regency, was how good I found the late second half sex scene, it gave me the emotion I was looking for between these two and took it's time exploring. 

This is a debut and while the technicalities seem to be nailed down, the emotion and heart I look for in romance was missing for me. There was some letter writing between the two that played well, giving us some sweet byplay between them. The political rival plot was mostly forgotten and Charlotte's motivation for not accepting a real engagement between her and William was bemoaned for three-hundred pages to only be up and forgotten at the end. There simply wasn't enough story or emotion for me in this book.

Reading Update: 50%

She did not want to be found until she'd learned what she'd come to know.

The series buddy read continues!

More quotes and comments - Ways to Be Wicked buddy read

Review: Secrets of a Heart

Secrets of a Heart Secrets of a Heart by Samantha Garman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

“Thomas Charles Whitmore, Earl of Grisham, you are hereby declared guilty of high treason against the British Crown. You have been found guilty of selling English secrets to Napoleon Bonaparte. Your title is hereby stripped from you, and your wealth and lands forfeit to the Crown.” 

Starting in Neville Prison in 1815 and having the main character watch as his father is hung for treason, gave Secrets of the Heart a gripping beginning. He's a young nineteen year old pampered son of an Earl who suddenly has his title and wealth stripped, along with the death of his father. His fiancee shuns him and he has nowhere to turn to. Readers get a pov of a mysterious man who let's us in on a conspiracy that framed his father and sets up the son for death. However, while his family dagger is stolen, the son gets rescued by a sea captain named Griff and off sailing he goes to the West Indies and America. Just call him the unluckiest, luckiest guy in town! 

Blaine Sebastian Grayson Whitmore. That man is dead. “My name is Sebastian Grayson. You can call me Gray.” 

Our newly monikered Gray, learns to dagger fight among his seasickness and then is introduced to the fact he is on a pirate ship. It's all quite gentlemanly though, they do their best not to kill. Alas, we do not get a lot of sweet high seas pirate action as the next chapter jumps us ten years and Gray is now the pirate captain. This will be a trend in this story, jumping from points to points without developing or showing the reader the journey. Gray now decides that he must avenge his father! So off to England where he plans on posing as a wealthy merchant to uncover who and why his father was set-up. 

Gray’s eyes were hard. “Felicity knows nothing. She will never know I was a pirate. She believes she is marrying a man of business, and when this is all over that is exactly what I will be.” 

Enter our heroine Felicity Canton and her three sisters who have been left destitute due to their gambling father. He died a while ago, shot in the back for cheating at cards, and have now found out that they must have a fire sale, everything must go! As the oldest, Felicity knows it's on her shoulders to save the family but she's not totally a martyr. Winterbourne has been trying to court her for a while but with plenty of fat-shaming, the author and Felicity let us know that she ain't having him. How fortuitous that a wealthy merchant has just moved into town! Felicity says something sassy and Gray can't believe how different from all the other misses she is. They kiss at around 20%, Felicity visits him in hopes of becoming his housekeeper for money but he suggests they get engaged, marry a week later at around 40%, and are off to sail to visit Gray's retired mentor Griff. Remember how I said things just kind of jump from from point A, to B, to C, to etc.? 

“I love you. It is time you let me. You trusted me with the secret of your life, now trust me with the secret of your heart.” 

Now, if you're like me, you start thinking some of that sweet pirate action is going to happen on the honeymoon cruise, and it you'd sort of be right. We get one high seas battle that was pretty fun to read and at least propped me up from the by rote without the emotional and depth filling out of the details format this story had. Felicity learns about Gray's pirate past, they have a good visit with old Griff and back to England they go. On the sail back, they have a boarding by the Royal Navy and learn that they are searching for the famous pirate named Morpheus, who lets his victims live. Oh, noes! Hopefully, Gray can keep his identity a secret. 

“This proves Carrington is a traitor, but this will do nothing for my father.” 

At this point, I mean we're into the second half of the story, you're probably saying “Didn't he go back to England to avenge his father?”. I didn't didn't forget about that, but the author kind of does. Gray completely outsources his avenging and uses two of his trusty shipmates to do the heavy lifting. Sinclair, he uses as a butler and all around hangout in the background until you randomly have something to say, which by the way will be written in a cant that makes deciphering what you're saying extremely difficult, but I digress. He sends his other shipmate Chester to London, and I quote, Also, I would like you to locate the scar-faced man. The scar-faced man is the one who tried to kill Gray, he hopes that man will lead him to some answers. He sent poor Chester to London to search for a “scar-faced man”???? Surprise, surprise, though, good man Chester comes through, against all odds, and coherent storytelling. 

My wife has been kidnapped! 

With Felicity on board, Gray decides to take the fam to London and, at least, appear to be helping in the avenging by going to parties and clubs to drudge up some hot gos about what happened to his father. If I'm Sinclair and especially Chester, I'm questioning the division of labor. Around the 70% mark, we get some actual movement on his father's case and learn that his father was set-up by a man named Carrington. With a Scooby-Doo villain info-dump to Felicity, who was kidnapped(!) by Carrington, we learn he loved Gray's mother and blamed Gray's father for taking her away from him and “letting” her die. At around 80% the whole father avenging story is wrapped up (Felicity got a dagger to the belly but she fine) and the Royal Navy comes sniffing around. How or why they think Gray is Morpheus? Don't worry about it, the author sure didn't. We get Gray confiding to his three series bait handsome titled friends and a truly wtf and intelligence insulted plan that worked, scene that has Gray in the clear of ever being found out as Morpheus. 

“I am the Marquess of Hardwick and you are my marchioness,” 

Bland is probably what I used to describe this story with occasional flashes of wtf. Felicity and Gray's relationship happens out of nowhere, they like each other, Gray gets scared to admit he loves Felicity, and they love each other. The father gets avenged, mainly thanks to Chester but Gray gets rewards with titles restored and an upgrade to marquess. This was written in 2013 and clearly was setting-up one of Gray's friends, Duke of Stafford with Felicity's sister Abby but doesn't look like this series was ever finished. Now, I saved the best for last, Alexandre Dumas makes a late appearance and in truly the best wtf, it's alluded to that he is going to artistically license Gray's life. So, if you ever wondered what inspired Dumas to write the Count of Monte Cristo, now you know!

View all my reviews

Monday, July 19, 2021

Reading Update: 60%


Starting the week how I mean to go, sweet and spicy! A temporary, don’t call it fake!, engagement for the soul and chipotle honey flavoring for the body. 

Have a fantastic Monday, everyone ❤️

Added some more chipotle chili powder and a little less honey, nice sweet, spicy combo

Saturday, July 17, 2021

#TBRChallenge: July - Secrets and Lies


This #TBRChallenge is set-up by @SuperWendy (blog). Besides the theme months, this is a pretty relaxing challenge. On the third day of every month participants are encouraged to use the hashtag TBRChallenge and discuss the book they plucked from obscurity. I decided to make a personal rule that a book had to be in my TBR for at least 5 years.

July's theme is Secrets and Lies. Oooooh, the secrecy and angsty drama that could come from this theme! This theme was a little more challenging (ha!) to pick for. I glance over reviews sometimes but don't like to spoil myself. So, I had to go by synopsis and hope I judged correctly that secrets and lies will be a big theme in the story. On my tbr since 2014, Secrets of a Heart by Samantha Garman jumped out at me, because you guessed it, the word "secrets" in the title. I'm about 20% in and man, can I spot the secrets and lies vibe. The hero watched his father hang for treason and with their title and wealth stripped, he ends up jumping ship, literally! He gets saved by a captain, who stopped some men from murdering him and finds himself on a pirate ship. There's a pov from a mysterious villain who let us in on the fact that he set-up the hero's father (Lies!). The next chapter jumps us 10 years later and the hero is now the captain of the ship and heading back to England undercover to restore his good name by ferreting out the secrets (!) of his father's past. There hasn't been much about the heroine so far, but she's recently been made penniless. Come save her undercover pirate captain!


Friday, July 16, 2021

Review: The Wrong Marquess

The Wrong Marquess The Wrong Marquess by Vivienne Lorret
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

2.5 stars

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. 

Even though they had never been formally introduced, there wasn’t a woman in society who didn’t know of London’s most elusive bachelor, the Marquess of Hullworth. 

When their friend Prudence gets outcast to the country because of a labeled scandalous moment with a man she'll only identify as Lord F., Winnie, Jane, and Ellie decide to write a book to warn other debutantes of the dangers of men. With Winnie and Jane married, it's up to Ellie to take over writing the marriage habits of the native aristocrat, but Ellie hopes to very soon have her own wedding to look forward too. As neighbors, Ellie and George grew-up together and with them both orphans, at age seven, George promises to marry her so they both can have a family. However, at age twenty-five, Ellie is still waiting for George to sow his wild oats. 

But surely, considering the parasol came from London’s most elusive bachelor— a man who was neither interested in marriage nor willing to trust his sister’s newfound friend— it meant nothing at all. 

The Wrong Marquess was a story that started off with very common elements that readers enjoy in the Regency sub-genre, began to highlight the skill Lorret has with chemistry and dialogue between her leads, and gave a latter second half that left me frustrated with the heroine. Ellie was a character that grew up with her two loving aunts but had several fears and phobias because of losing her parents so young; she feared death around every corner. This explained why she found comfort in the steady presence of George in her life and latter it's revealed that she knew she didn't fully love George, because how can a woman love a man-child, but that was what made him safe. Still, the whole plot hinged on Ellie wanting to marry George and just waiting for him to propose, instead of diving at the more mature Marquess of Hullworth. There just wasn't enough there for me to support a full novel, I got a little bored and restless for Ellie to wise up. 

She was his. The only problem was, she didn’t know it yet. But Brandon was willing to do whatever it took to have her fall in love with him. 

Our wrong marquess Brandon comes on the scene in all his odious and grumpy glory. He's had a lifetime of marriage minded misses contriving to be his wife and had his heart broken over a woman who refused him when he was younger because she wanted to marry up, so he has instant distrust of Ellie. His distrust attitude went on a bit long, again, not enough to support it for so long for me, but when he decides that he wants/loves Ellie, around the half-way point, Brandon gives us a pretty sweet hero. He gives Ellie gifts that show how much he pays attention to her wants and needs and knows that he has to gently ease his way into her heart. 

“This is all your fault. Every time I’m near you, I feel like I’m coming apart at the seams.” “I’ll hold you together,” he rasped, even as he tugged her spencer from her shoulder. 

I thought the beginning was slow and especially in the latter second half, you'll want to take Ellie aside and give her a shake. Lorret wrote George so obviously uncaring and man-child, that it's no competition between him and Brandon, unless you're dragging things out for page count. The only plot is really the attraction between Brandon and Ellie and Ellie eventually getting over her revealed fear to truly love someone. This simpler plot can work and, like I said, Lorret has skill with chemistry but this easily could have been a novella. 

“Well, for starters. No more calling me sweetheart and no more mentions of inevitability.” He nodded, but in the back of his mind he was already planning an I told you so on their tenth anniversary. 

In terms of connecting to the series, we get a few appearances by prior series heroines, Winnie and Jane, and finally a look and reveal regarding shunned Prudence. There was also an epilogue giving a Devil in Winter vibe between Prudence and a Lord Savage that more than peaked my interest. If you read a lot of Regency romance, you'll like some elements here, but the overall effect left it feeling uninspired to me. The hero has some heartfelt and sweet moments but when the heroine declares her love around eighty percent, I couldn't help feeling it should and could have happened around forty percent.