Monday, March 27, 2023

Reading Update: Page 1


I'm finishing up the last week in March with some Irish shortbread made with (of course) Kerrygold butter, Irish breakfast tea, and a book that's on sale this week! 

The author spent two months speaking to Australians from all walks of life and asked them one question: 'Can you please tell me a love story?' 

I can't wait to dive into the funny and moving stories he got told ❤️ 

Quickie Review: Bride of the Beast

Bride of the Beast Bride of the Beast by Sue-Ellen Welfonder
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

1.5 stars 

Sorry, but Boring. 

Friend from book one gets asked to to marry heroine from book 1's sister to protect her from an evil Englishman. Friend is an Englishman but lives that Scottish life. Sister wants nothing to do with Englishman or men really because of a past sexual assault but is willing to do a marriage of convenience, no bedroom action. 

Friend shows up and is instantly in love with sister because she reminds him so much of his buddy's wife. Could have been juicy but wasn't. He will not agree to marriage of convenience no bedroom action because wants the real thing. Listen, if Pinterest was around in this guy's time, he'd have a Marriage board, complete with dream dress and ring, just insert any bride. 

The eyes were a glazing but Friend being a good boy (his name was Marmaduke, could think of nothing else but good boy doggie) trying to convince sister to marry him, get her to leave her castle to her step-son and come live at his castle, a traitor lurking around, a Laird's Stone and the friend's first wife's ghost because why not some fun thrown in supernatural. 

Written fine but bored me to tears because the heroine could have been anyone and the hero was going to "love" her and just too much ho-hum diddly-do nothing happening.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Reading Update 50%

Noone would fault her if she took advantage of her attraction to the Sassunach...and let him teach her what it meant to be a woman ruled by passion. So long as she kept her heart out of such intimate explorations, she wouldn't fault herself either.

Review: Second Chance Alaska

Second Chance Alaska Second Chance Alaska by Jennifer Snow
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received this book for free, this does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. 

When had his best friend started stirring these feelings of desire and yearning within him? 

Third in the Wild Coast series, I think I was a little hampered by jumping in here; missing some previous relationship development between our leads Carly and Oliver. These two lead busy lives, Carly runs her own bookstore and museum and Oliver gives tours and maintains the town's historic lighthouse and with tourist season starting, their schedules get packed. The first half, these two barely spent any time together but they were constantly thinking about each other. Oliver lost his wife Alison and eldest daughter Catherine to the sea three years ago, the mystery of why they never came home after sailing has yet to be solved. Alison was Carly's friend, with the tragedy affecting them both, they grew closer to lean on another. That friendship has now had both developing romantic feelings towards each other but both Carly and Oliver are scared to admit it to one another with the fear that it could ruin their friendship. 

If he wasn't careful, he was going to lose the only person besides his daughter who meant anything to him. 

It's when the town hires a new head of tourism, Sebastian, that Oliver wakes up a bit and gets the nudge he needs towards stepping out of the past. Sebastian and Carly have a little flirt relationship bubbling and Oliver realizes that if he doesn't admit his feelings, he could lose his chance. Carly has pretty much just been in a holding pattern, trying to hide her feelings for Oliver but scared to rush him out of his mourning. Around midway through the book, these two realize they share the same feelings and kiss. Then they spend two days apart and then have an open (warehouse, naughty Oliver is wearing overalls with no underwear!) door scene. I can't say I really felt that sweet tension breaking emotions but if you've followed this couple through the previous two books, it might hit better for you. 

It wasn't the kiss of a man afraid of losing his best friend; it was the kiss of a man prepared to fight for what he wanted. 

The second half was a little more generous with time given to the leads together, it was mostly open door scenes. Even though I was new to the world and Oliver's pain of losing his wife and daughter, when answers get revealed, I found myself getting emotional during the scene. I really liked how this author wrote her characters' relationships, especially Oliver with his youngest daughter Tess. I thought they felt natural and enjoyed how they seemed to get through the tragedy of losing such important people in their lives together; I would have liked to see Carly and Tess interact more to see the bonding in their relationship. 

Now he just needed to figure out a way to prove to Carly that he was all in---and hope that she was too. 

Like I said, these two had a lot going on in their lives, Carly with her business, building a float for the Sealena Festival, and keeping under wraps her very lucrative side hustle and Oliver with the lighthouse, Tess, and deciding if staying in Port Serenity and remaining the guardian of the lighthouse was still for him, all while Sebastian's flirting and business dealings were pushing Oliver to open his eyes to how he really felt about Carly and decide once and for all about how he wants his future in Port Serenity to look. It was a good contemporary story but it honestly felt like Carly and Oliver spent a total of three chapters together (a chunk of that in bedroom scenes) and with that lack of time, I felt the romance genre part of this was the weakest. However, with me missing perhaps some previous relationship development, series readers might not have the same problem I did.

Friday, March 24, 2023

Reading Update: 20%


It's Friday, and spring is finally in the air here! 

I'm hoping I can get outside to read on my deck for this first time since winter started. 

Leaning into the Wild part of the Wild Coast series and starting with book 3. Oliver lost his wife and eldest daughter to the sea and only made it through the pain because of his youngest daughter Tess and his wife's friend Carly. 

It's been 3yrs since she lost her friend, and now the friendship built between Oliver and her has Carly fighting to hide her non-friendship feelings towards Oliver. 

Two people who endured a tragedy hiding new feelings to hold onto a friendship but aching to build a new life together. 

On sale next Tuesday! (March 28th) 

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Review: Wings Once Cursed and Bound

Wings Once Cursed and Bound Wings Once Cursed and Bound by Piper J. Drake
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received this book for free, this does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. 

He was different, like her. Someone who might look human, but was distinctly not. 

Peeraphan has always known she is different, a Thai mythological kinnaree born in a family of humans. Hiding from outsiders what she is, has made her feel that she can never truly be herself and allow herself to shine. Dancing has been an outlet and when her frenemie Sirin offers her a pair of beautiful red shoes, she wonders why Sirin is being so generous but is compelled to try them on. 
Bennett is a centuries old vampire and a member of the Darke Consortium, supernaturals and humans who search out magical items to collect and safe guard them. When he arrives too late to stop the red shoes that make their victims dance to their death from being worn, he deadens any feelings he might have for the dancer he can't take his eyes off of. When the dancer manages to stop dancing, Bennett is shocked and is thrown into a battle against an old enemy vampire, while growing closer to the one he's trying to save. 

“The wearer might be doomed, but at the same time, only the wearer has the chance to break the curse of the red shoes with a true acknowledgment of everything they are, everything they have ever done, everything they have the potential to do. Such honesty would counter pride and vanity and set you free.” 

With a gorgeous cover that centers the female main character, Peeraphan, Wings Once Cursed and Bound begins the Mythwoven series. To me, this was more of an urban fantasy story that had a romantic element in it, integrating a lot of cool mythological, supernatural, paranormal, and folklore. Peeraphan knows she's kinnaree but not all that means, as far as her abilities and origins. At the end of the book, after the story, there was a Field Notes on the Supernatural and Paranormal and while I liked how it summarized all the beings introduced, I wished more of the kinnaree could have been explored in the story; I liked and cared for Peeraphan and wished this important aspect of her had been filled out more. Through Bennett, we learn that vampires can be made and born, he's born, and some other trademarks but, like with an aspect of Peeraphan, I wished we could have explored more of his background. If this is supposed to be romance genre, I want my two main characters to have more of a center stage for their romance, this felt more like a fantasy story with Peeraphan leading us into this newly discovered world. 

She needed help to save her own life. 

As far as world-building, I thought this focused on the right part, all the different supernatural characters and their characteristics. Like I said, I considered this urban fantasy, so the world is as we the reader know it, the fantasy component is through all the different beings existing in the reader's world. We learn that the Darke Consortium is actually one of many groups around the world, they're the good guys with trying to protect humankind by collecting the intentionally dangerous magical artifacts. Bennett's enemy, Francesco is the bad guy and as the story goes on, we learn that he's also tied to a “Babel”, a single or group trying to cause havoc or gain for evil purposes from the artifacts. When Bennett brings back Peeraphan to the sanctuary of the Darke Consortium , we see they have an attraction to each other that could grow and the world gets filled out as we're introduced to all the Darke members, one including a distant cousin of Peeraphan. 

“I am kinnaree.” 

There were two really great scenes that stuck out to me, Peeraphan and Bennett dancing in the air and then the sponsor of the Darke turns out to be a dragon and when Peerphan first meets the dragon, it will suck you right in. The dragon informs Peeraphan and Bennett that there is a way to save Peeraphan's life and get the red shoes off, a cave of truth and around the mid-way point, we get a journey to the cave. It was after the cave and Peeraphan doing what needed to be done to save herself, that I thought the story slowed some for me. This was mostly told in Peeraphan and Bennett's pov but we get some from Thomas (Peeraphan's cousin) and a witch named Marie that works for the Darke and while I liked those characters, I did think it slowed some of the momentum as it stole away from Peeraphan and Bennett's romance; first in a series issues. 

For the first time in not just days, but years— maybe the majority of her life— she had something she wanted to do that was bigger than just herself and the expectations of her immediate family. This felt like a purpose. 

The last 30% gives a climax scene between Peeraphan, the Darke members, Francesco, and “Babel”. It was after the battle that I thought even more steam was lost, unfortunately, it's when we get back to the romance. Bennett deals with his feelings of possibly outliving Peeraphan (there was some filling out of his character with having loved and lost before), each declaring their love, and then two bedroom scenes. I thought the fully intimate scenes felt both tagged on the end and since their romance didn't have the depth I was looking for, they didn't hit me they way they were supposed to, that tagged on feeling. This is an adult fantasy, Peeraphan is early thirties, but it also had a tone of YA to me at times, the way her learning about herself journey was relayed and most of the romance tone between her and Bennett. To me, this was a good urban fantasy story that just happened to have a little romance in it. I did like how the writing style had a leading me into the story, instead of pushing, feel and with all the cool different supernatural and mythology incorporated, I can see these elements and plot sustaining a series.

Monday, March 20, 2023


It was all well and good to want to stand out from the crowd, shine a little, be unique. But in a lot of ways, that wasn’t safe.

I'm liking the pace on this one, feeling organically brought into this world. An urban fantasy feel where the female main character, Peeraphan, knows she's not human and what she is but has never met another supernatural being, until opening scene of book. 
Bennet is a vampire who works for a supernatural group, so readers are kind of along with Peeraphan's learning journey, with some extra insight from Bennet's pov. 
One of my favorite ways to be brought through a story :)

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Reading Update: Page 1


Sundays are for a large blob of food on my plate and Fantasy romance! 

Bennet works for a secret organization of supernatural beings dedicated to finding and getting mythical objects. He meets Peeraphan too late, as she's already stepped into The Red Shoes and now cursed to dance to her death. 

But wait! The shoes aren't harming Peeraphan, but other supernaturals searching for the deadly artifacts might. 

Vampires, magic, mythical beings, and romance! 

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Review: Tell Me No Lies

Tell Me No Lies Tell Me No Lies by Elizabeth Lowell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*This is a TBRChallenge review, there will be spoilers, I don't spoil everything but enough, because I treat these reviews as a bookclub discussion. 

Y'all, how am I picking these insane books for the TBRChallenge every year??? What kind of a gold mine tbr am I sitting on?!? Anyway, this review is a couple days late because this turned out to be 570ish pages of an HBO limited series. I feel wrung-out but less because of emotional wreckage, as I was with The Lotus Palace, and more just my god that was A STORY. I'm not sure how I'm going to talk about this so, long story short, twist and turns spy romance about possible stolen Chinese bronze statues that is a sticky web with multiple parts made by multiple spiders as the People's Republic of China is newish Communists with some liking that and others not and, of course, the United States wanting to stick their noses in there. A museum curator gets thrown in the mix with only a former CIA spy to help her out. Mind games of is it real or not. If you liked something along the lines of HBO's Chernobyl but with Romance!, and want to take reading slower and get immersed in the world, find this and pick it up. 

Grab a glass of wine, thank your lucky stars you're not in a book club with me, and let the rambling begin... 

"Is there really a possibility that relations between the U.S. and China could be destroyed over the Qin bronzes?" 

The story opens with Catlin as he's presented with half an ancient Chinese coin. He's a retired CIA spy who deep undercover went by the name Jacques-Pierre Rousseau. Some think Rousseau is dead and others think he's now involved in a Pacific Rim Foundation. Catlin, real name Jacob MacArthur, is not happy to have the half a coin presented to him. It's a debt he owes for when his life was saved when the woman he thought he loved and loved him almost murdered him on the orders from Tran, a pimp and smuggler in IndoChina. Chen Yi is the one calling in the favor from Catlin, and Comrade Minister of Archaeology, Province of Shaanxi, People's Republic of China. It's come to the attention of the new government that rumors of a charioteer, chariot, and horses inlaid in gold and silver from the, supposed to be reburied, ancient Emperor Qin's grave are going to be up for sale in America. 

Look, this was published in 1986, so I'll forgive people if they're not up on their history of the political atmosphere at this time (I had to go brush up myself after I read about 30% of this). Suffice to say that not all Chinese are a fan of the Western capitalism or communism turn their country is taking, so we have a pit of Mao purists and Deng progressives, with Chinese Nationalists from Taiwan and the United States wanting to keep an eye on communist China thrown into the overreaching arch of the story. (in case it needs to be said, this is Fiction, so yeah, grain of salt) It all boils down to does the bronze charioteer exist to be sold, who is selling it, and what is the network that got it to the United States. Chen ropes Catlin into this because of his undercover persona and familiarity of the culture. Chen wants Catlin to be a bodyguard for a Lindsay Danner. 

There were parts of her childhood she had forgotten how to remember. There were other parts that she remembered only in dreams and woke up screaming and wondering why. 

Lindsay was born in China and raised there until twelve years old by Christian missionary parents. With the recent death of her mother (her father already died years ago) her nightmares of an incident when she was seven are keeping her up at night. She thinks her uncle was killed but she can't really remember anything. As the curator of Ancient Chinese Bronzes for the Museum of the Asias and an uncanny ability to tell real bronze from frauds, her reputation is spotless. It's obvious to the reader that Chen is maneuvering things to have Lindsay picked, by the FBI that is allowing and working with Chen to conduct a mission to find out if there are Qin bronzes for sale and if they're real, but the reader doesn't know why, just that he wants Catlin to prepare and protect her for the quagmire she's about to get involved with. Catlin meets Lindsay and instantly thinks she's too innocent to get involved in having to do what needs to be done for the mission and their connection definitely tells romance readers something could flare up between the two. Lindsay sees the mission as a way to keep relations between China and the US good, so even though she's going to have to ruin her reputation as an honest bronze dealer, pretending to fall so in love with Catlin that she'll buy smuggled bronzes for him, thus getting the possible smugglers to contact them so everyone can find out the truth of who and how of a possible smuggling operation. 

"If she is hurt, most honorable Chen Yi, you will wish that you had not gone fishing with a dragon." 

Just know, my quick simplifying of political webs and relations is actually covered in the 500 pages of intricate character relations and building that slowly gets covered and revealed with new players and layers. Catlin does his best to prepare Lindsay for the ramifications of ruining her reputation while trying to keep his eyes on all the players, moves, and getting pulled in with his feelings for Lindsay. The FBI is represented by the head of counterintelligence, Stone, and his Special Agent O'Donnell. They have their own long scenes, especially towards the end where they are trying to keep shadows on Catlin and Lindsay as they are being driven to the ultimate moment to discover if the bronzes are real and who the players are. It's a scene that did heighten the stress and danger but also made me want to skim read. Which is what I battled sometimes in this book. Newer published contemporary, vast majority, just doesn't have this slower meticulous overreaching plot. At times I was celebrating the completeness, adding in and at others I felt like I was warring against the newer genre tone and beat I have been trained in as I thought the story had some bloat. This is a story you're going to have to want to invest in and take slower, it just is. I enjoyed the hell out of that at times and others, yeah, bloat. 

From now on she would know that she could touch Catlin all the time-and believe him none of the time. 

Lindsay and Catlin had full backstories but as they're more doled out and almost to the background, sometimes chapters later my mind would be like, oh yeah, they've both been married and divorced, Catlin was involved in the fall of Saigon, and more front and center, Lindsay's incomplete memory of how her uncle died. It's more slow reveals, Lindsay's incomplete memory is one of the strands to the web and Catlin's background, namely his emotional Baggage (and you didn't think I was going to get the TBRChallenge monthly theme in there, shame on you), plays into the romance aspect as they spend all the time together and are slowly falling for each other for real as they pretend. I loved the touching these two had between each other and their bedroom scenes. So much now seems to be slamming to get to the orgasm, the destination, the touching between these two was all about the journey. To Catch a Raven by Beverly Jenkins is a newer publication that I enjoyed the intimacy between leads but because the characters are more slowly developed throughout the story, I would say these two don't start off with intimacy but it builds and their last sex scene was incredibly hot because of this building (thank you for that previous work because otherwise the snap crotch thingy Lindsay was wearing and the why did you have to remind me mustache of Catlin would have been a personal buzzkill). 

"Christ, Lindsay," he grated, "we'll burn down the night." 

Around 70% Lindsay remembers the full story of her nightmares and more is learned about some characters, I feel like romance genre readers will have an idea about what's really going on with one of them. The ending brings everyone together, Chen, FBI, a father figure of Lindsay's, and the truth of the bronzes. It's a scene that, after a dangerous decision Lindsay comes to, kind of ends somewhat air out of balloon feeling as Catlin is too good at his job. Catlin then gives into his emotional baggage (ha, again!) and we get a “How could this possibly end in a HEA???” Just kidding, even with only 5% romance readers can't be fooled and I actually loved how this ended. 

As Lindsay looked down at the small, ancient coin, her breath caught and she went very still. The halves had been welded together, revealing the complete outline of a flying bird. 

But yeah, I'm wrung-out from all the layers, players, and just general full story, I'm stuffed! The political intrigue, who's lying and maneuvering, the romance, trying to discern the truth behind Catlin's motivations and feelings, and just general tv limited series feel of it all. If you're in for a 1986 published fictional book about political relations with China, told in cover with spies and ancient bronzes in a romance genre world, this book was an experience. 

*Did Sam Wang ever get his own story??? I Need it.

Friday, March 17, 2023


"My parents were missionaries, not revolutionaries. They didn't want to rule. All they cared about was God and their converts." 
"The Communists viewed religion as dangerous political competition," pointed out Catlin, smiling crookedly. "Which it was, so long as politics were pursued with religious fervor. Mao didn't permit moral competition from anyone, even Christ. Since Mao's death, things have changed. Politics is slowly becoming a profession again, rather than a holy calling. That could change, though," Catlin admitted. "It could change in an instant. The balance is very precarious."

That it is Catlin, that it is.

I'm getting immersed into this world but I should have the #TBRChallenge up some time tomorrow.

And, Sláinte! Beannacht Lá Fhéile Pádraig!