Recently in Romance #1: Reviews of Tessa Dare, Sarina Bowen & More!

December 14, 2015 / 5 Comments / Feature, Mini-Reviews, Recently in Romance, Review

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Since becoming a romance reader a year and a half ago, I’ve struggled to figure out where romance reviews belong on my site. I don’t usually write full reviews of romance books, and I’m not sure if all of you like the X-rated books! Recently in Romance is my new mini-review feature where I bundle my recent reads and buys for those of you who are fans. 

Recently Read:

Recently in Romance #1: Reviews of Tessa Dare, Sarina Bowen & More!Romancing the Duke (Castles Ever After, #1)

Author: Tessa Dare
Find the author: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Instagram
Also by this author: Do You Want to Start a Scandal, A Night to Surrender, A Night to Surrender, Once Upon a Winter's Eve (Spindle Cove, #1.5), A Week to Be Wicked, A Lady by Midnight
Publisher: Avon
Publication date: January 28th 2014
Source: Gifted
Format: eBook
My rating:

In the first in Tessa Dare's captivating Castles Ever After series, a mysterious fortress is the setting for an unlikely love . . .
As the daughter of a famed author, Isolde Ophelia Goodnight grew up on tales of brave knights and fair maidens. She never doubted romance would be in her future, too. The storybooks offered endless possibilities.
And as she grew older, Izzy crossed them off. One by one by one.
Ugly duckling turned swan? Abducted by handsome highwayman? Rescued from drudgery by charming prince?
No, no, and… Heh.
Now Izzy’s given up yearning for romance. She’ll settle for a roof over her head. What fairy tales are left over for an impoverished twenty-six year-old woman who’s never even been kissed?
This one.

Wow. I think this might be one of my new favourite romances. When Jen from Pop! Goes the Reader found out that I’d never read any Tessa Dare, she immediately gifted me an ebook of this and it was an absolute pleasure to read. Jen read it and got out of a book slump. I did the same – because not only does this have an incredibly sexy romance, but it also celebrates the written word and fandom in a way that is hilarious, charming, and just effervescent. I also loved the fact that the main character, Izzy is bold, brash, and unafraid to speak her mind – as are many of the other women in this novel. Meanwhile, the hero, Ransom, is an alpha-male, but he’s been hurt in an accident that is making him question all of his ways – it’s a classic trope of girl helps boy to redeem himself, but it’s done in a way that didn’t offend me because the change is so honest and real. Also, the snarkiness is great. A really, really good romance. Highly recommended and I’m now officially a fan of Tessa Dare!  

Recently in Romance #1: Reviews of Tessa Dare, Sarina Bowen & More!Say Yes to the Marquess

Author: Tessa Dare
Find the author: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Instagram
Also by this author: Do You Want to Start a Scandal, A Night to Surrender, A Night to Surrender, Once Upon a Winter's Eve (Spindle Cove, #1.5), A Week to Be Wicked, A Lady by Midnight
Publisher: Avon
Publication date: December 30th 2014
Source: Borrowed from library
Format: eBook
My rating:

Your presence is requested at romantic Twill Castle for the wedding of Miss Clio Whitmore and . . . and . . . ?
After eight years of waiting for Piers Brandon, the wandering Marquess of Granville, to set a wedding date, Clio Whitmore has had enough. She's inherited a castle, scraped together some pride, and made plans to break her engagement.
Not if Rafe Brandon can help it. A ruthless prizefighter and notorious rake, Rafe is determined that Clio will marry his brother—even if he has to plan the dratted wedding himself.
So how does a hardened fighter cure a reluctant bride's cold feet?

● He starts with flowers. A wedding can't have too many flowers. Or harps. Or cakes.
● He lets her know she'll make a beautiful, desirable bride—and tries not to picture her as his.
● He doesn't kiss her.
● If he kisses her, he definitely doesn't kiss her again.
● When all else fails, he puts her in a stunning gown. And vows not to be nearby when the gown comes off.
● And no matter what—he doesn't fall in disastrous, hopeless love with the one woman he can never call his own.

This one is KINDA a love triangle, with the heroine engaged to the hero’s brother. Think While You Were Sleeping, but without, you know, the coma. Instead, Clio Whitmore is engaged to Piers Brandon, a marquess who has been working abroad for eight years. Fed up with being called “Miss Waitmore” in polite society, and gifted a castle, Clio begs Rafe Brandon, Piers’ brother, to sign dissolution papers for her engagement. But Rafe refuses – if his brother doesn’t marry Clio, Piers will have no ties to England, and may leave again. And Rafe is NOT going to act as marquess again. With the stage set for Rafe to convince Clio to fall in love with the idea of a wedding, plus the belief of their inadequacies to others, I liked this book just as much as the first in the series. Dare has a gift for exploring her characters’ psyches in a way that digs deeper with each encounter, and makes you absolutely certain of the necessity of them coming together. All that, plus some very sexy scenes and a very feminist outlook on Regency England had me cheering at the end.


Recently in Romance #1: Reviews of Tessa Dare, Sarina Bowen & More!Filthy Beautiful Forever

Author: Kendall Ryan
Publication date: January 1st 1970
Source: Purchased from
Format: eBook
My rating:

Collins Drake exercises control over all facets of his life. From his business, to satisfying his physical needs … it all happens on his command.
So when a woman shows up at his door and reminds him of a promise they made each other when they were just ten years old, it shouldn’t have the ability to rock his entire world.
Yet it does.
Because Mia Monroe wasn't just his childhood best friend, she wasn't just the girl he lost his virginity to and hasn't seen since, she's the one exception to his perfect control. And piece by piece, she's about to tear apart his carefully laid plans.

Collins is a wealthy investment banker who is going through the motions in life – even though on the outside, he looks like he’s got it all: tons of money, beautiful house, supermodel girlfriend. But when his childhood best friend (and first love) shows up on his doorstep randomly, he starts questioning everything he believes in.

I read the first three books in this series after getting hooked on an excerpt from Skip to the Good Part. The first two were fantastic, fast, sexy reads involving a rich dude who goes to an “auction” for women and ends up “buying” a girl as a sex slave. It’s dark, but somehow the author managed to make it work – it was sexy and thrilling even if a little unbelievable.  The third was…a bit boring, frankly. But I finally choked and bought the fourth one after reading a sample, and it might – MIGHT be my favorite of the series. I know this one sounds a bit cliche, but trust me when I say that the details in this book? They matter. It’s surprisingly sweet, with a lot of little romantic moments, nicknames, and more that felt unique and gave us a lot of insight into the characters. I also appreciated that the love scenes weren’t entirely predictable. Would definitely be interested in reading more of this author’s work.


Recently in Romance #1: Reviews of Tessa Dare, Sarina Bowen & More!The Fifteenth Minute

Author: Sarina Bowen
Find the author: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram, Pinterest
Also by this author: The Year We Fell Down, The Year We Hid Away, Blonde Date, The Understatement of the Year, The Shameless Hour, The Fifteenth Minute, Rookie Move, Hard Hitter, Bittersweet, Steadfast, Keepsake (True North, #3), Him, Us, Untitled, Hard Hitter, Good Boy, Keepsake (True North, #3), Goodbye Paradise, Pipe Dreams, Stay (WAGs, #2), Pipe Dreams, Temporary, Man Hands (Man Hands, #1), Man Card, Brooklynaire (Brooklyn Bruisers #4), Speakeasy, The Accidentals, Overnight Sensation, Top Secret, Superfan (Brooklyn, #3)
Series: The Ivy Years #5
Also in this series: The Year We Fell Down, The Year We Hid Away, Blonde Date, The Understatement of the Year, The Shameless Hour, The Fifteenth Minute
Publisher: Rennie Road Books
Publication date: October 13th 2015
Source: Purchased from
Format: eBook
My rating:

Freshman Lianne Challice is known to millions of fans as Princess Vindi. But sometimes a silver screen sorceress just wants to hang up her wand, tell her manager to shove it, and become a normal college student. Too bad that’s harder than it looks.
She’s never lived a normal life. She hasn’t been to school since kindergarten. And getting close to anyone is just too risky — the last boy she kissed sold the story to a British tabloid.
But she can’t resist trying to get close to Daniel "DJ" Trevi, the hot, broody guy who spins tunes for hockey games in the arena. Something's haunting his dark eyes, and she needs to know more.
DJ's genius is for expressing the mood of the crowd with a ten second song snippet. With just a click and a fade, he can spread hope, pathos or elation among six thousand screaming fans.
Too bad his college career is about to experience the same quick fade-out as one of his songs. He can't get close to Lianne, and he can't tell her why. And the fact that she seems to like him at all? Incredible.

Lianne Challice is a world-famous actress who is trying to have a normal college experience. Daniel “DJ” Trevi is a fun-loving guy with a past he’s trying to escape. When these two meet, sparks fly, but Lianne is scared of DJ having to deal with paparazzi and her screwed-up family. Meanwhile, DJ isn’t even allowed in college dorms because of a mishap, and he’s depressed. Despite all of the external circumstances, DJ and Lianne try to strike up a relationship and it’s super cute and a bit dorky, because Lianne is a big computer nerd, as well as being the star of a fandom-busting movie series. What I liked most about this novel was how honestly it dealt with a relationship that is very difficult to have – one with not just a movie star, but someone who is maybe not in the best circumstances. I know it’s a cliche for new adult books to have “broken” characters, but like the rest of Bowen’s series (stay tuned for a series review), the characters just soar with the way they relate to each other and Bowen deals with their issues sensitively, smartly, and definitely with a feminist lens.

Also, if you’re a fan of college/university romances, I really like how Bowen really ties in Harkness’ (coughYalecough) traditions and how much you see of their actual university life. If you haven’t read The Ivy Years series, I highly, highly recommend it.  

Recently in Romance #1: Reviews of Tessa Dare, Sarina Bowen & More!Unteachable

Author: Leah Raeder
Publisher: Atria
Publication date: March 24th 2014
Source: Borrowed from library
Format: eBook
My rating:

Maise O’Malley just turned eighteen, but she’s felt like a grown-up her entire life. The summer before senior year, she has plans: get into a great film school, convince her mom to go into rehab, and absolutely do not, under any circumstances, screw up her own future.
But life has a way of throwing her plans into free-fall.
When Maise meets Evan at a carnival one night, their chemistry is immediate, intense, and short-lived. Which is exactly how she likes it: no strings. But afterward, she can’t get Evan out of her head. He’s taught her that a hookup can be something more. It can be an unexpected connection with someone who truly understands her. Someone who sees beyond her bravado to the scared but strong girl inside.
That someone turns out to be her new film class teacher, Mr. Evan Wilke.
Maise and Evan resolve to keep their hands off each other, but the attraction is too much to bear. Together, they’re real and genuine; apart, they’re just actors playing their parts for everyone else. And their masks are slipping. People start to notice. Rumors fly. When the truth comes to light in a shocking way, they may learn they were just playing parts for each other, too.
Smart, sexy, and provocative, Unteachable is about what happens when a love story goes off-script.

Unteachable…and possibly un-reviewable. Alternately frustrating and compelling. Icky and silly. The writing is very strong, almost elegiac, but honestly, it did not fit the characters, especially the MC. Ugh, the characters. I never once believed in Maise’s talent for cinema, or that she actually had the words in her vocab that she narrated. She was dramatic, and brassy and stupid and young, but she embraced it. I appreciated that she was very real, but I also just found her incredibly annoying. Evan, the teacher with a past who rose above it through Maise. Ugh. I seriously couldn’t figure out what anyone saw in him other than his looks. I did like Maise’s friend Wesley and his family. Maise’s own family was so unbelievable, it was hard to get through the sections where she dealt with that.

Honestly, the only reason I kept going with this was to find out what would happen at the end because I heard there was some crazy sh*t that went down. Crazy? Not so much. Just completely implausible. I wanted to throw this book out the window at the end, but also felt glad that the MC got what she wanted even if she deserved better. Am I supposed to feel this conflicted AND this annoyed? 2 stars because I got through it, but I just didn’t get it.

Recently Borrowed:

Recently in Romance #1: Reviews of Tessa Dare, Sarina Bowen & More!When a Scot Ties the Knot

Author: Tessa Dare
Find the author: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Instagram
Also by this author: Do You Want to Start a Scandal, A Night to Surrender, A Night to Surrender, Once Upon a Winter's Eve (Spindle Cove, #1.5), A Week to Be Wicked, A Lady by Midnight
Publisher: Avon
Publication date: August 25th 2015
Source: Borrowed from library
Format: eBook

On the cusp of her first London season, Miss Madeline Gracechurch was shyly pretty and talented with a drawing pencil, but hopelessly awkward with gentlemen. She was certain to be a dismal failure on the London marriage mart. So Maddie did what generations of shy, awkward young ladies have done: she invented a sweetheart.
A Scottish sweetheart. One who was handsome and honorable and devoted to her, but conveniently never around. Maddie poured her heart into writing the imaginary Captain MacKenzie letter after letter … and by pretending to be devastated when he was (not really) killed in battle, she managed to avoid the pressures of London society entirely.
Until years later, when this kilted Highland lover of her imaginings shows up in the flesh. The real Captain Logan MacKenzie arrives on her doorstep—handsome as anything, but not entirely honorable. He’s wounded, jaded, in possession of her letters… and ready to make good on every promise Maddie never expected to keep.

You knew I had to get the next book in Tessa Dare’s Castles Ever After series right away, right?


Recently Bought:

Recently in Romance #1: Reviews of Tessa Dare, Sarina Bowen & More!Now and Again

Author: Jennifer Ellision
Publication date: October 26th 2015
Source: Purchased from
Format: eBook

Unemployed. Broke. Maid of Honor.
All (unfortunately) words that describe Em Hayes.
Without any job leads in San Francisco, Em caves to her mother’s promise of free rent and returns home. Her best friend, Nikki, couldn’t be more thrilled. Em’s degree in Event Management is gathering dust, and what better way to put it to use than planning Nikki’s wedding?
There’s just one flaw in that plan: Cole Connors. The girls’ former roommate. And part of the reason Em hasn’t been back since college graduation.
Em’s never been able to forget Cole—or how close they were before she pushed him aside and ran for the hills. Cole’s never forgotten Em either— but in the past two years, she hasn’t given him much choice but to try.
And, according to Nikki, there’s no better pair to plan the wedding of her dreams.
Em’s usually good at squashing messy feelings, but being around Cole again brings them all rushing to the surface.
And this time, she’s not sure she wants to run.

Jen is a friend and I’ve been meaning to read her fantasy series, Threats of Sea and Sky, for ages. And then this was announced, and I was like, “this is TOTALLY up my alley” – can’t wait to dig into her writing and this NA-ish story. Look out for a review soon.

Recently in Romance #1: Reviews of Tessa Dare, Sarina Bowen & More!Christmas With a Palace Thief

Author: Nicole Burnham
Publication date: October 27th 2015
Source: Purchased from
Format: eBook

Security chief Umberto Niro has dedicated his life to a single mission: defending the Barrali royal family from all threats, both internal and external. When he detects an intruder deep inside the palace, capture is swift and certain. Then he discovers the thief is his former co-worker—and ex-girlfriend—Sara Angeletti, and he suspects there’s more to the Christmas break-in than meets the eye.

Umberto turned his back on Sara years ago, but she hasn’t forgotten the depth of passion they once shared. When he hauls her into his office in handcuffs, she uses that attraction to her advantage. She’s playing with fire, but Sara’s on a mission of her own….

Can they survive the holiday…and each other?

Anyone who knows me knows I love royalty and “princess for a day” type books, so Nicole’s Barrali family/friends series is definitely my boat. I love the lush seascape of Sarccacia and the passionate royal family, and how they deal with modern royal politics and pressures. This one features a palace guard, and I’m excited because it’s a Christmas read – my favourite kind at this time of year.

Recently in Romance #1: Reviews of Tessa Dare, Sarina Bowen & More!Once Upon a Marquess

Author: Courtney Milan
Find the author: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Tumblr
Also by this author: The Year of the Crocodile, Hold Me
Publisher: Courtney Milan
Publication date: December 6th 2015
Source: Purchased from
Format: eBook

The last man Judith Worth wants to see again is Charles Trent, the Marquess of Ashford—the man who spent summers at her family home, who kissed her one magical night…and then heartlessly ruined her father. But when a tricky business matter arises, he’s the only one she can ask for help. With any luck, he’ll engage a servant to take care of the matter, and she won’t even have to talk with him.
But Ashford has never forgotten Judith. He knows she will never forgive him for what he’s done, but when offered the chance to assist her, he arrives in person. His memory of Judith may have haunted him, but it pales in comparison to the reality of the vivacious, beautiful woman he rediscovers. Throughout his life, he has always done what is correct. But now, he finds himself doing something utterly wrong…falling in love with the one woman he can never have.

I’m a huge Courtney Milan fan and this – the start of a new series from her, and something she calls “vaguely Christmas-ish” is definitely queued up in my Kindle.


Are you into the romance genre? What have you read recently? Who are your favorite authors – give me recs, especially holiday ones! 

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5 responses to “Recently in Romance #1: Reviews of Tessa Dare, Sarina Bowen & More!

  1. YAY FOR ROMANCE READS! I love reading a good romance every now and then. I still have to check out this particular Tessa Dare series, BUT I have read and enjoyed some of her Spindle Cove books. There’s also Sarah MacLean’s Love by Numbers series, Julie Garwood’s Highland Lairds (an all-time favorite for me), Julie Garwood’s Crown’s Spies (another all-time favorite), Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series (also an all-time favorite), the Travis Family series by Lisa Kleypas (all-time favorite as well.), Wallflowers series by Lisa Kleypas (also an all-time favorite)… and I could probably go on and on about this… Haha.

    • Lisa Kleypas is very high on my list because you guys keep pushing them. I’ll probably get to Sugar Daddy when I’m in Florida? Seems like a pool read. For some reason I have a block on Julia Quinn – but I feel like I need to get out of it and just read her stuff.

      This Tessa Dare series is quite…bookish? And feminist? I don’t know about her others, but it’s funny and sexy and romantic all at the same time. And the characters are just gold. Really like it!

      Putting the rest of these on my TBR on GR – thanks for all the recs – really appreciate it, Alexa.

  2. YES to Lisa Kleypas – but I much prefer her historicals to her contemporaries. Sarah MacLean also needs to be on your list if it isn’t already. I cannot believe you hadn’t read Tessa Dare before this – she’s magical. You might also want to look at Eloisa James … I’ve loved her books for years, and when I met her at BEA (in the food court!) we talked about Shakespeare as her “real life” job is an English professor at Columbia – totally your catnip!

  3. Omg I completely agree with everything you said about Unteachable. Pretty much every review was positive, but when I tried to read it, I just couldn’t push through. Not even the fact that crazy stuff is going to go down is enough to make me stick around which is kinda bad! I love all your romance reviews, I haven’t heard of a lot of these so thank you for introducing me to them.

  4. BerkeleyHapa

    I’m currently reading Jo Beverley’s Company of Rogues series, which I’m enjoying a lot. Like Tessa Dare, she writes about women who have passion and personality! Courtney Milan is another favorite of mine, looking forward to the new one!

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