Recently in Romance #5 | All the Contemporary & Historical Reviews!

January 6, 2017 / 1 Comment / Feature, Mini-Reviews, Recently in Romance, Review

Recently in Romance banner Recently in Romance is my mini-review feature where I bundle my recent reads and buys for those of you who are fans of X-rated books!

Wow, have I got a whopping Recently in Romance post for you guys! This one is all romance reviews because I haven’t done one of these in awhile, and I have a ton to post. I’m splitting this into a couple of sections in case you want to skip down to your favorite kind of romance.

Just wanted to note that the first two of these are ARC reviews in case you’re looking for new releases! The first is Sarina Bowen’s Hard Hitter (which just came out this week and is really good). The second is Sarina and Elle Kennedy’s Good Boy, which is coming out Jan 31 as part of a new spin-off series from Him and Us.


Sports/Hockey Romances

Recently in Romance #5 | All the Contemporary & Historical Reviews!Hard Hitter

Author: Sarina Bowen
Find the author: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram, Pinterest
Also by this author: , The Fifteenth Minute, 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, 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: Brooklyn Bruisers #2
Also in this series: Rookie Move, Hard Hitter
Publisher: Penguin
Publication date: January 3rd 2017
Source: Edelweiss
Format: ARC
My rating:

From the USA Today bestselling author of Rookie Move comes the second novel in the series that’s hot enough to melt the ice.   He’s a fighter in the rink, but he’s about to learn that playing nice can help you score...   As team captain and enforcer, Patrick O'Doul puts the bruise in the Brooklyn Bruisers. But after years of hard hits, O'Doul is feeling the burn, both physically and mentally. He conceals his pain from his coach and trainers, but when his chronic hip injury becomes too obvious to ignore, they send him for sessions with the team’s massage therapist.   After breaking up with her long-term boyfriend, Ari Bettini is in need of peace of mind. For now, she’s decided to focus on her work: rehabilitating the Bruisers’ MVP. O'Doul is easy on the eyes, but his reaction to her touch is ice cold. Ari is determined to help O'Doul heal, but as the tension between them turns red hot, they both learn that a little TLC does the body good...
From the Paperback edition.

The second in the Brooklyn Bruisers hockey romance series, Hard Hitter focuses on team captain Patrick O’Doul and team masseuse and yogi Ari Bettini. O’Doul is the quiet, mysterious, stalwart team enforcer, taking hit after hit and entertaining the hockey crowds with fights each night. But now the team trainers are forcing O’Doul to get massage therapy because he’s experiencing serious pain during the lead up to the playoffs.

Enter Ari, who has been through a terrible and recent break-up, and is trying to swear off men. Her touch and calm demeanor take a bit to get inside O’Doul’s head, but once it does…their chemistry ends up being off the charts.

But there are some serious skeletons in the closet and Ari and O’Doul need to figure out how and if building a relationship will work… while their pasts threaten to tear them each apart.

I really enjoyed Patrick and Ari’s story. Darker than Georgia and Leo’s from the first book, Hard Hitter focuses on strong characters with a lot of baggage. I appreciated the amount of time Sarina Bowen committed to having them sort out all of their issues. The narrative is in third person, but each chapter alternates between Patrick and Ari’s viewpoints, and they’re both just…really good people who need each other.

Patrick’s story is haunting and frustrating, and I loved how much of a contrast there was between his public persona and his private one. In particular, his views on fighting in hockey, and his opinion of himself just felt so authentic. Ari, meanwhile, is in a really really awful situation with her ex, who’s essentially stalking her. She really questions herself and her opinions throughout the book, and I appreciated that Bowen allowed her to be that cautious and vulnerable.

I also adored the secondary characters – we get to see a lot more of Leo Trevi and Georgia Worthington from the first book, as well as Becca, Nate, Lauren and some of the other players on the team. I loved how naturally they all fit into Ari and Patrick’s world.

Can we talk a little about the love scenes, because they are some of the most…interesting that I’ve read from Sarina. Let’s just say that the characters take full advantage of the benefits of a character’s occupation. It’s creative and sexy.

There are definitely moments when Hard Hitter gets much darker than you expect it to – there are issues with drugs, addiction, domestic abuse and more that get dealt with. It’s not a super light read. Yet the romance really works, and like the mysterious O’Doul himself, takes a bit to get to know. You’ll be glad you did, though, because there are funny, sweet, kind, and sexy moments that will make you swoon…and make you wish desperately for the next book in the Brooklyn Bruisers series.

Recently in Romance #5 | All the Contemporary & Historical Reviews!Good Boy

Author: Sarina Bowen, Elle Kennedy
Also by this author: , The Fifteenth Minute, 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, 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), The Deal
Publisher: Elle Kennedy Inc.
Publication date: January 31st 2017
Format: eARC
My rating:

Hosting her brother’s wedding for an MVP guest list is the challenge of Jess Canning’s life. Already the family screw-up, she can’t afford to fail. And nobody (nobody!) can learn of the colossal mistake she made with the best man during a weak moment last spring. It was wrong, and there will not be a repeat. Absolutely not. Even if he is the sexiest thing on two legs.
Blake Riley sees the wedding as fate’s gift to him. Jess is the maid of honor and he’s the best man? Let the games begin. So what if he’s facing a little (fine, a lot) of resistance? He just needs to convince the stubborn blonde that he’s really a good boy with a bad rap. Luckily, every professional hockey player knows that you’ve got to make an effort if you want to score.
But Jess has more pressing issues to deal with than sexy-times with a giant man-child. Such as: Will the ceremony start on time, even though someone got grandma drunk? Does glitter ever belong at a wedding? And is it wrong to murder the best man?
Caution: May cause accidental aspiration of tea or coffee. Do not read in a public place where loud laughter is inappropriate. Contains hot but hilarious hockey players, puppy cuddling and a snarky pair of underwea

Like Him and Us, the two books that chronologically precede Good Boy, I found this installment of Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy’s books unputdownable. But Good Boy differs from Him and Us in a lot of ways – mainly because it’s a m/f romance, but also because it stars two kind of goofy characters.

Blake Riley is a jokester of the Toronto hockey team – a big guy who lives life large, on and off the rink. He’s the annoying teammate and building mate of Him and Us’ Ryan Wesley, who marries boyfriend Jamie Canning in this book. Jess, Jamie’s sister, has always been the screw-up of the family, but she’s really trying to move beyond that to become something more. Jess and Blake hooked up in Us, and Jess is trying desperately not to make that mistake again. Meanwhile, Blake is so ready for another hot hook-up, and possibly something more.

Blake and Jess are really fun together. If you’ve read Us, you know that Blake is cheesy, annoying, and says really dumb things…but he also has a heart of gold. It definitely takes a special woman to see past his silliness. I enjoyed seeing their push and pull a lot – and it doesn’t hurt that the sexytimes are fun and steamy.

If I’m honest, though, what I felt was missing in Good Boy was a sense of urgency that usually characterizes Bowen’s work (I’m not as familiar with Kennedy’s books, so I can’t say). I didn’t feel that all-consuming need for Jess and Blake to get together. Part of this is because of their natures – Blake is so goofy, and Jess is a bit unfocused. There are definitely pressures on them – Jess is at nursing school and trying to adult for the first time, whereas Blake has a past that won’t quit him – but I didn’t feel as emotionally connected to their issues as I normally do. Even if there was more to Blake than met the eye, I still felt like his issues were small compared to what I usually read in Bowen novels.

Overall, though, this book made me laugh a lot, and I came around to Bless (ha!) by the end. I’m looking forward to reading more from this series. The WAGS (wives and girlfriends) club seems like a really fun rowdy bunch, and more hot hockey players never hurt anyone.

Recently in Romance #5 | All the Contemporary & Historical Reviews!The Deal

Author: Elle Kennedy
Find the author: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram
Also by this author: Him, Us, Untitled, The Deal, Stay (WAGs, #2), Top Secret
Publisher: Elle Kennedy Inc.
Publication date: February 24th 2015
Source: Purchased from
Format: eBook
My rating:

She's about to make a deal with the college bad boy...
Hannah Wells has finally found someone who turns her on. But while she might be confident in every other area of her life, she's carting around a full set of baggage when it comes to sex and seduction. If she wants to get her crush's attention, she'll have to step out of her comfort zone and make him take notice...even if it means tutoring the annoying, childish, cocky captain of the hockey team in exchange for a pretend date.
...and it's going to be oh so good
All Garrett Graham has ever wanted is to play professional hockey after graduation, but his plummeting GPA is threatening everything he's worked so hard for. If helping a sarcastic brunette make another guy jealous will help him secure his position on the team, he's all for it. But when one unexpected kiss leads to the wildest sex of both their lives, it doesn't take long for Garrett to realize that pretend isn't going to cut it. Now he just has to convince Hannah that the man she wants looks a lot like him.

Garrett Graham is a cocky Big Man on Campus hockey player, a guy whose name everyone knows, and who has no trouble getting laid. Hannah Wells is a music student with a difficult past, on scholarship at Briar University. When Garrett needs a tutor for a class they both share, he turns to Hannah, who is one of the only people acing the class. What starts as genuine dislike for Garrett turns into a lot more, and Hannah and Garrett need to navigate their issues in order to be together.

Unlike a lot of other people who read and loved this book, I mostly only liked it. I did think that the characters were fantastic – layered and flawed, with baggage, but without that baggage weighing you down. In particular, I really liked that Graham was such a douchenozzle at the beginning – it’s hard to admit, but I totally know people like him who are cocky, but are genuinely good people. I also appreciated how strong and forceful a personality Hannah had.

I also liked that there was a focus on school and Hannah and Graham’s goals as well as romance – that’s what I remember from being in college, being more interested in my goals than anything else. The romance really crept up on you, like it did for Hannah and Graham. They really are an unexpected couple, but as you get to know them, you realize why they work: they’re both looking for something real, something honest in a world full of crappy people. They’re also people who aren’t afraid to dish it out and take it.

What I didn’t love was how easily a lot of the issues were resolved in this book. The front half of the book I found more interesting than the latter half, because the issues were well placed and well thought out. And then they just got resolved, far more easily than I expected them to. It just all seemed too easy.

That said, this is compelling, enjoyable new adult romance. Hate-to-love is one of my favorite romance tropes, and I think Elle Kennedy delivered on that in spades. I’m definitely looking forward to continuing this series because I’ve heard it gets better as it goes on.

Historical Romances

Recently in Romance #5 | All the Contemporary & Historical Reviews!A Night to Surrender

Author: Tessa Dare
Find the author: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Instagram
Also by this author: , Romancing the Duke (Castles Ever After, #1), Say Yes to the Marquess, When a Scot Ties the Knot, Do You Want to Start a Scandal, A Night to Surrender, A Week to Be Wicked, A Lady by Midnight
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication date: August 30th 2011
Format: eBook
My rating:

“An engaging love story with strong, believable characters. I can’t wait to read the sequels!”—Mary Balogh
“Prepare to fall in love.”—Julia Quinn
Presenting the winner of the Avon FanLit contest, the immensely talented Tessa Dare! Tessa’s first Avon historical romance, A Night to Surrender, is a love story to remember—kicking off her wonderfully inventive Spindle Cove series, set in England’s Regency Era in a small seaside resort town that caters specifically to ladies “of good breeding and delicate constitution.” Fans of Lisa Kleypas, Christina Dodd, and Liz Carlyle will delight in the passionate chaos that ensues when a dashing British officer, under orders, “invades” this community of strong-willed “spinsters,” only to discover he’s met his match in Miss Susannah Finch!

I honestly don’t even want to say anything else about this concept because it’s so brilliantly executed. This is classic Tessa Dare – a romance so sexy, so romantic…if your heart isn’t fluttering most of the time, you’re basically not human.

Spindle Cove was basically created by Susanna Finch to help others who are seen as wallflowers or outcasts in society. Nicknamed “Spinster Cove”, these are not your usual damsels. While they may have come to Spindle to be “cured”, in fact, Susanna and her friends are there to encourage girls and woman to be whoever they want to be. But Susanna herself has never dreamed of love…until Lord Victor Bramwell shows up.

Are you into soldiers? Strong men who love strong women? Really great romance? A Night to Surrender is full of complex, feminist characters, with flaws and foibles, and the story of how they get through these issues together. This is a passionate love story is full of hate-to-love, healing, and tenderness.

And oh yeah, there’s a hilarious group of people in Spindle Cove who take care of each other, support each other, and make things happen so that women who are “a little bit different” feel safe.

Basically, if you like historical romance with modern ideals, you will love this. I can barely hold myself back from reading the next book right away.

Recently in Romance #5 | All the Contemporary & Historical Reviews!Once Upon a Winter's Eve (Spindle Cove, #1.5)

Author: Tessa Dare
Find the author: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Instagram
Also by this author: , Romancing the Duke (Castles Ever After, #1), Say Yes to the Marquess, When a Scot Ties the Knot, Do You Want to Start a Scandal, A Night to Surrender, A Week to Be Wicked, A Lady by Midnight
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Publication date: November 15th 2011
Format: eBook
My rating:

Some wallflowers bloom at night...

A Spindle Cove Novella
Violet Winterbottom is a quiet girl. She speaks six languages, but seldom raises her voice. She endured bitter heartbreak in perfect silence. The gentlemen aren't beating down her door.
Until the night of the Spindle Cove Christmas ball, when a mysterious stranger crashes into the ballroom and collapses at Violet's feet. His coarse attire and near-criminal good looks would put any sensible young lady on her guard. He's wet, chilled, bleeding, and speaking in an unfamiliar tongue.
Only Violet understands him. And she knows he's not what he seems.
She has one night to draw forth the secrets of this dangerously handsome rogue. Is he a smuggler? A fugitive? An enemy spy? She needs answers by sunrise, but her captive would rather seduce than confess. To learn his secrets, Violet must reveal hers—and open herself to adventure, passion, and the unthinkable... Love.

Warning: The heroine packs a pistol, the hero curses in multiple languages, and together they steam up a cold winter’s night.

A delightful Christmas reunion tale  – probably one of my favorites of all time. This little gem by one of my faves, Tessa Dare, features Violet Winterbottom, a minor character from A Night to Surrender. A sexy and mysterious stranger collapses at Violet’s feet at the annual winter ball in Spinster–er, Spindle Cove. Unsure what language he’s speaking, he’s taken in and questioned. Violet, meanwhile, is sure that it’s the man she fell for and previously had a very brief physical affair with.

I loved, loved, LOVED how sure of herself Violet was, whether in questioning the man, in handling a gun, or in helping others. You really see how this wallflower became such a strong heroine, and you completely understand why anyone would fall for her. And holy COW, the love interest. Guys, if you are a fan of the movie Before Sunrise, this is a one night story that makes you completely fall in love with the hero and heroine. The things that the dude said…I can’t even. I’ve probably read this one three times since the first time. A perfect introduction to Tessa Dare and a perfect winter romance.

Contemporary Romances

Recently in Romance #5 | All the Contemporary & Historical Reviews!Hold Me

Author: Courtney Milan
Find the author: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Tumblr
Also by this author: , Once Upon a Marquess, The Year of the Crocodile
Publisher: Courtney Milan
Publication date: October 25th 2016
Format: eBook
My rating:

Jay na Thalang is a demanding, driven genius. He doesn’t know how to stop or even slow down. The instant he lays eyes on Maria Lopez, he knows that she is a sexy distraction he can’t afford. He’s done his best to keep her at arm’s length, and he’s succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. 
Maria has always been cautious. Now that her once-tiny, apocalypse-centered blog is hitting the mainstream, she’s even more careful about preserving her online anonymity. She hasn’t sent so much as a picture to the commenter she’s interacted with for eighteen months—not even after emails, hour-long chats, and a friendship that is slowly turning into more. Maybe one day, they’ll meet and see what happens. 
But unbeknownst to them both, Jay is Maria’s commenter. They’ve already met. They already hate each other. And two determined enemies are about to discover that they’ve been secretly falling in love… 
Hold Me is the second book in the Cyclone series. It stands alone, but those who prefer to read in order may want to read Trade Me first. 
The Cyclone Series Reading Order
Trade Me
Hold Me 
Find Me 
What Lies Between Me and You
Keep Me
Show Me

When Jay first meets Maria, the younger sister of a friend, he’s immediately captivated by her, so much so that he puts up a ton of defence mechanisms and basically treats her like garbage. A lot of this has to do with his snobbery and preconceptions about women. Maria pushes back, and thus begins one of the most tempestuous and angsty romances I’ve ever read by Courtney Milan. Why? Because Maria and Jay are secretly flirt-texting several times a day under internet aliases.

You’ve Got Mail/The Shop Around the Corner? You betcha. But what makes this hate to love romance unique is that a) it’s super diverse, and not in a “hey look here’s a token diverse person way” – nope, it’s just there as part of the book b) it has a trans woman as the heroine c) it deals with male privilege and what to do when you’ve wronged someone so badly that you don’t know if you can be forgiven. Hold Me is like a textbook on “doing better” and changing your attitudes so that you are informed and respectful of others.

So here’s the thing: the beginning of this book had me captivated because hate-to-love is one of my favourite tropes in romance – and boy, does this deliver. The problem is that when you take the hate to this much extreme – when you make a male character this unlikeable, it’s hard to completely commit. I loved Maria, I loved how smart and sassy and funny and honest she was. Jay? I wanted to kill him. And it was hard for me to believe in their romance because how can you be attracted to someone who doesn’t even respect who you are? And even after you get past that, can a person change that quickly?

Hold Me is a hard sell. It’s ambitious, with an unrelenting cast and some really deep issues of abandonment, anxiety, and expectation. I’m not fully convinced that it worked – especially the ending and the characterization of Jay, but I appreciate the attempt so much that I bumped it up to 4 stars.

If you’re looking for a super steamy, cute romance, this isn’t it. But if you’re into nerdy, broken, honest characters and a story that is much more than a romance, this might be your book.

Recently in Romance #5 | All the Contemporary & Historical Reviews!Keepsake (True North, #3)

Author: Sarina Bowen
Find the author: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram, Pinterest
Also by this author: , The Fifteenth Minute, 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, 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: True North #3
Also in this series: Bittersweet, Steadfast, Keepsake (True North, #3)
Publisher: Rennie Road Books
Publication date: October 25, 2016
My rating:

There's a first time for everything. Lark Wainright used to be fearless. Her life was a series of adventures, each one more exhilarating than the last. But her recent overseas adventure was one too many. Now she’s home and in one piece. Mostly. But her nights are filled with terror.
When her best friend offers her a stay at the orchard in exchange for help at the farmers’ markets, Lark jumps at the chance to spend fall in Vermont. But her nightmares don’t stop. Desperate to keep her fragile state a secret, she relies on the most soft-spoken resident of the Shipley Farm to soothe her when her dreams prove too much.
Zachariah is a survivor, too. It’s been four years since he was tossed aside by the polygamist cult where he grew up. He’s found a peaceful existence on the Shipley’s farm, picking apples and fixing machinery. But getting thrown away by your own people at nineteen leaves a mark on a guy. He doesn’t always know what to make of a world where movie quotes are the primary means of communication. Before hitchhiking to Vermont, he’d never watched TV or spoken on the phone.
Actually, there are a lot of things he’s never done.
Zach and Lark slowly grow to trust one another. One night they become even closer than they’d planned. But Lark may still be too broken to trust anyone. When she pushes Zach away, he will have to prove to himself that he's good for much more than farm labor.

Wow. I didn’t think there was a way to match the last two installments of Sarina Bowen’s True North series, but I was wrong. Sarina has gifted us with an amazing, gentlemanly hero who is loyal, generous and stalwart, but also still dealing with the aftermath of a loveless, cruel childhood where he was isolated from the rest of the world. Zachariah Holtz is rock-solid, in both body (yum!) and mind, and yet, he’s real. He’s had a powerful attraction to Lark Wainright, one of his employers’ best friends, since he first met her.

Lark is a vivacious, adventurous woman just coming back from a work trip in a dangerous part of Guatemala, where she was kidnapped and held hostage for several weeks. Yeah, it’s not pretty. Lark is dealing with severe PTSD, including terrifying nightmares. Her best friend, May Shipley, invites her up to the family farm for the apple harvesting season, in the hopes that Lark will be able to deal with her issues more there.

I won’t give away much more than this, because the way that Zack and Lark get together is just as complex as their characters. Lark is such a beautiful contrast of strong and broken, sassy but scared. There’s a reason that Griffin Shipley nicknames her “Wild Child”, but there’s also a lot of a different person in there after what happened in Guatemala. Bowen paints her and her trauma so realistically. It’s just such an honest and thoughtful portrayal of two people dealing with their demons and how all kinds of love can heal – but sometimes it’s not the only thing that’s needed.

Bowen has said that this book took her a long time to write and perfect, and it was the first book written in the True North series – but one that was stewing in her head for three years. I think the time and rumination did it so much good, because it’s definitely the most deftly written book in her oeuvre, and the most carefully plotted. You feel the care Bowen takes with the characters, to do right by them and ensure we get the best possible story.

Aside from the romance and characters, Keepsake offers more looks at gorgeous Vermont, the Shipleys and Jude and Sophie from the first and second book, and just a feeling of the wonders of harvest season. Like the first two books, Keepsake made me desperately want to go apple-picking, eat a cider donut, and go to the farmers’ market. It’s definitely a book for foodies and nature lovers, but more, it’s a book for anyone who loves realistic and flawed characters and seriously steamy love scenes.

Just go read it. Now. =p

Recently in Romance #5 | All the Contemporary & Historical Reviews!Wallbanger

Author: Alice Clayton
Find the author: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication date: February 14th 2013
Format: eBook
My rating:

A bestselling hot, hilarious eBook by USA TODAY indie author Alice Clayton, the freshest voice to hit publishing in years. “An instant classic…highly recommended!” (New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Jennifer Probst).
Caroline Reynolds has a fantastic new apartment in San Francisco, a Kitchen Aid mixer to die for, and no O (and we’re not talking Oprah here, folks). She has a flourishing design career, an office overlooking the bay, a killer zucchini bread recipe, and no O. She has Clive (the best cat ever), great friends, a great rack, and no O. Adding insult to O-less, she also has an oversexed neighbor with the loudest late-night wallbanging she’s ever heard. Every moan, spank, and—was that a meow?—punctuates the fact that not only is she losing sleep, she still has—yep, you guessed it—no O. Enter Simon Parker. When the wallbanging threatens to literally bounce her out of bed, Caroline, clad in sexual frustration and a pink baby-doll nightie, confronts her heard-but-never-seen neighbor. Their late-night hallway encounter has…well…mixed results. Because with walls this thin, the tension’s gonna be thick. A delicious mix of silly and steamy, this is an irresistible tale of exasperation at first sight.

Wallbanger started out great, with a really funny and lovable cast. Caroline Reynolds is an up-and-coming interior designer who has just moved into a new building. But she finds out that night (and for several nights afterwards) that her neighbour is extremely noisy. Specifically, he and his ladies (there are three) are having plaster-cracking, passionate sex, leaving Caroline hilariously unslept and frustrated. Hijinks ensue, with Caroline’s friends and Simon the Wallbanger’s friends playing a big role.

What worked really well was how well-characterized and developed the characters and their voices were. Caroline is a bit kooky, a confident woman who is not afraid to speak her mind, loves travel, baking and her cat, Clive. She’s someone I would love to be friends with. Simon is a successful commercial photographer, and a really great guy who also loves food and travel, but isn’t great on commitment since he has to travel a lot. On paper, I feel like they sound like anyone else, but rest assured that Alice Clayton really rounds the characters with a lot of details.

I enjoyed the dynamics between all the characters, especially the friend group, who were funny, crass, and smart. I definitely laughed out loud several times. And Caroline’s cat, Clive, steals the show in several scenes. Clayton employs a lot of different techniques, including texts and stream of consciousness, to show what the characters are thinking and feeling. It’s a fun, and funny approach to romance.

The tension between Simon and Caroline was really flirty and sexy, and I enjoyed it a ton. This is hate-to-love, slow burn romance for sure. For me, though, the slow burn lasted a bit too long, and didn’t feel entirely real. There were a lot of moments when I felt like the author was throwing in convenient and unrealistic reasons for the two characters not to be together. Was the goal of the book to get you as frustrated as Caroline was? Maybe. It slowed down the middle of the book considerably, though.

I also felt like Caroline did a lot of slut-shaming of Simon, with his “harem” of girls. I don’t want to spoil anything, but even though Caroline admits that she shouldn’t judge Simon, and as a reader, you understand that she’s frustrated with herself, she still continues to judge Simone throughout the whole book, and it made me like her less.

All in all, even though this isn’t my favorite romance, it’s still a really fun read, and I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel because the characters worked so well. I’ve also heard that book 2 is better, so bring it on, Rusty Nailed!

Recently in Romance #5 | All the Contemporary & Historical Reviews!Gift Wrapped

Author: Karla Doyle
Find the author: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram, Pinterest
Publication date: November 14th 2014
Format: eBook
My rating:

After catching her boyfriend cheating two weeks before Christmas, Brinn is seriously lacking in holiday spirit. So when she looks into the eyes of a last-minute shopper after closing on Christmas Eve, she’s sarcastic rather than sympathetic. But Brinn is ever the good girl and her conscience wins out. She offers the handsome stranger ten minutes to select a gift and ends up with a present of her own—a date. On Christmas Eve.
Davis hates Christmas. Especially this year, since a neighborhood heist liberated him of his hard-earned belongings and the few gifts he’d purchased. But the robbery led him to a cute store manager with a sense of humor, smokin’ body and no plans for the evening. Mistletoe might be in order after all.
Their Christmas Eve date is like gift-wrapped, sexy satisfaction. But the best gifts keep on giving, and one naughty night may not be enough—for either of them.

Gift Wrapped was a spur-of-the-moment holiday romance inspired by one of my go-to romance recommenders, Ginger @ GReads. I’m really glad I picked it up, because it was steamy, swoony, and charming – with a lot more to it than just Christmas.

Brinn is having a terrible Christmas Eve – not only is she working at her store during the holiday rush, but her ex-boyfriend just cheated on her and she’s about to spend Christmas alone. Enter Davis, a last-minute shopper desperate for help – and for someone to spend Christmas with.

It’s the perfect set-up for a hot hook-up, but I love that new-to-me author Karla Doyle gives us subtle hints as to why this might end up being more than just a one night stand. Yes, the romantic parts are steamy, but I really liked the banter between Brinn and Davis, too. It’s those details – like the fact that Brinn puts on an action movie instead of a rom-com, and Davis tries to teach her how to make pudding – that made me see what great partners Brinn and Davis could be.

I really don’t want to give much more away, but I appreciated that this was more than just a holiday book. I feel like it could be read any day of the year because the relationship was so well-developed, the family dynamics were great, and the whole thing emphasized compromise and making things work. This is a solid read by a Canadian romance author – I’m looking forward to reading more of Doyle’s work.


Are you into the romance genre? What have you read recently? And let me know if you’ve read and loved any of these! 


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One response to “Recently in Romance #5 | All the Contemporary & Historical Reviews!

  1. So many romances! I love it 😉 I haven’t ever read any Sarina Bowen yet. But I’m thinking I should remedy that, particularly after seeing how much you liked her books. I’m particularly intrigued by the True North book, so I guess I’ll start with that series if I do get around to reading her stuff!

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