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Spin-Off Saturdays: The College Years by Monica Murphy

Spin-Off Saturdays: The College Years by Monica Murphy

Spin-off Saturdays: On Saturdays, I will review a series that is a spin-off series. It is recommended that you read the original series first in order to get the most out of the spin-off series. Here is this week’s offering:

The College Years Series is a spin-off of the The Callahans Series

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: The College Years

This is a spinoff of the The Callahans Series.

Author: Monica Murphy
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: No
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: April 2021 – ongoing
Source & Format: Author—eARC

warning
WARNING: If you have not finished the original series, this review may have spoilers!

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**This post was originally published as a Series Review of the first few of the series. It has now been updated to include the newest publications in the series.**

My Expectations?

I was super excited when Monica Murphy announced a spin-off series of her The Callahans Series. While I loved all the Callahan children (because their parents are my fall time favourite), I really got invested in some of their friends throughout the series. I felt like there were a lot of unfinished stories to tell. And the fact that they were going to be New Adult–my favourite of the genres Monica Murphy writes–I was eagerly awaiting their release.

How Does It Compare To The Original?

–More Realistic Approach–

I found The Callahans Series could be melodramatic at times. It’s also very angsty with the leads all being in high school. But there was an air of maturity to this new series that I liked. These stories are as grounded as they can be while still being dramatic. They explore a lot of everyday scenarios like “girl dating younger guy”, “high school romances in college” and “falling for your friend”.

I think part of my “disappointment” with The Freshman (#1) was that I kept waiting for the melodrama to come but it didn’t (there were some pacing issues with the plot as a whole I thought) and looking back, I can appreciate that approach more than I did when I was reading it.

–Focus On Friendship–

One thing I’ve always enjoyed about these characters is their loyalty to their friendships. Your high school relationships change when you go to college/university for a variety of reasons. These novels explore that a bit. But they also highlight what a support group your friends can be throughout your life. Again, it comes with the newfound maturity these characters have but we seem to have left the toxic soap opera friendships in high school and I am all for it.

–Slow Burn Romances–

For the most part, these romances have been a slow burn. Unlike the original series where things seemed to happen quickly (young love and all of that), these relationships take their time to develop and grow. And as a result, the characters evolve as well.

Anything I Didn’t Like?

–Plot Pacing–

As I mentioned above, I struggled with the plot pacing of The Freshman (#1). Part of that is a slightly misleading synopsis but also the fact that they story never really climaxed dramatically. The anticipation was more like an unexpected speed bump that makes you go “oh well” and you carry on. Not really the “forbidden” romance I was craving.

–Uneven Character Development–

I craved more insight into our hero in The Sophomore (#2). I felt he wasn’t as developed as he could have been and I found his character came across as wish-washy in his convictions and actions.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m very excited for the third book, The Junior. While I know who the hero is, I’m not sure how his story will go!

updates

–September 13, 2021– Book #3: The Junior

I’ll admit, this took a while for me to get into. I thought it would be a passionate affair right from the start but instead, like the other books in this series so far, we get a slow burn romance that brews.

And I really liked that because it made this story a little more grounded and made the romance believable. They say a leopard can’t change its spots; and the same can be said about the “player” bad boy who chases after girls constantly. You have to sell the transformation to the reader. These two really work at being friends first, resisting that simmering attraction and getting to know each other a little better. It helps that they are both super similar so it was easy to see why they would work together so well.

Series Rating: 3.5/5

The Freshman 3/5 | The Sophomore 4/5 | The Junior 3/5 | The Senior TBP

overall

With a more mature, grounded approach, fans of The Callahans Series will enjoy watching their favourite characters grow up into adults.

Read if You Like: new adult romances, books that focus on a group of friends
Avoid if You: dislike contemporary romance

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Freshman (from Goodreads):

I started flirting with a guy while waiting for my car to be serviced. Now granted, he wasn’t just any guy. Tall. Dark. Hot. Mysterious. Can you blame me for wanting to talk to him? He’s in town visiting his parents. So am I. He goes to the same college as I do. Such a coincidence. Almost as if our meeting is destined…

But I shouldn’t believe in that sort of thing. I am single as a Pringle and always ready to mingle. Until I keep running into Mr. Tall, Dark and Mysterious everywhere I go. Tony Sorrento. Turns out he’s on the football team. I mean, I’m not one to chase after a sexy jock but, okay. I’m down. And did I mention he’s only a freshman?

Our fathers are business rivals, and they forbid us from dating. We need to keep this on the low. Can we remain friendly? Sure. Maybe turn our friendship into friends with benefits? Most definitely. Here’s the thing though. I didn’t plan on catching feelings for him so quickly. Seems like he’s falling pretty hard for me too.

Defying our fathers’ wishes is only asking for trouble, but is being with Tony worth the risk?

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Series Review: Twisted by Ana Huang

Series Review: Twisted by Ana Huang

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for Twisted Love (from Goodreads):

He has a heart of ice…but for her, he’d burn the world.

Alex Volkov is a devil blessed with the face of an angel and cursed with a past he can’t escape.

Driven by a tragedy that has haunted him for most of his life, his ruthless pursuits for success and vengeance leave little room for matters of the heart.

But when he’s forced to look after his best friend’s sister, he starts to feel something in his chest:

A crack.
A melt.
A fire that could end his world as he knew it.

***

Ava Chen is a free spirit trapped by nightmares of a childhood she can’t remember.

But despite her broken past, she’s never stopped seeing the beauty in the world…including the heart beneath the icy exterior of a man she shouldn’t want.

Her brother’s best friend.
Her neighbor.
Her savior and her downfall.

Theirs is a love that was never supposed to happen—but when it does, it unleashes secrets that could destroy them both…and everything they hold dear.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: Twisted
Author: Ana Huang
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: No
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: April 2021 – ongoing
Source & Format: Author–eARC

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Last year, I discovered Ana Huang when I read her If Love Series and quickly became a fan. She writes the type of romances I love to read with great chemistry between her leads and addicting plots. I was never bored reading that series and I made sure to keep an eye out for any of her future works.

The Twisted Series was pitched to me as something a little darker than her previous series, but I love dark contemporary romances so I was totally on bored. I loved the premise and couldn’t wait to dive in!

The Plot:

Each book focuses on a different set of leads and their respective stories. I found that Twisted Love (#1) was much darker than Twisted Games (#2) thanks to the characters’ pasts. But both had an air of suspense to them when it came to the plotlines that made them addicting to read. And while I was able to see some plot twists coming, others I did not so I liked that I was kept on my toes.

There is a good balance between the drama of the characters and the romance; though sometimes the pacing felt choppy. However, I was so invested in these characters that I really didn’t mind that when it’s all said and done. The pacing definitely improves as the series progresses.

The Characters:

I love complex characters in my books because that usually means there will be great character development–and that’s the case here. The romance and the drama help contribute to the growth we see in our leads (and their friends as well!) and I couldn’t ask for more.

I thought that all these characters were fresh and unique. They aren’t perfect snowflakes but they also aren’t overly jaded and angsty either. Overall, everyone is just very well rounded and you can’t help but like them.

The Romance:

Both books so far have had a slow burn type of romance which I LOVE! Watching our leads slowly fall into love made the romance that much sweeter. Nothing better than watching two people who aren’t so fond of each other succumb to those deeper feelings!

All the pairs have great chemistry from the start. The underlying attraction is always bubbling up to the surface which makes this story addicting to read in itself. But I also liked how they challenged each other and how their characters grew as a result.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

Gah! We always get a little taste of what is to come at the end of the previous book and I cannot wait for the next book!

Series Rating: 4.5/5

Twisted Love 4/5 | Twisted Games 5/5 | Twisted Hate TBP | Twisted Lies TBP

overall

If you enjoy a darker tone to your romances (without the BSDM or other kinkiness that is often associated with “darker” romances), this is the series you have been waiting for! A great blend of slow-burn romance and suspenseful drama to keep you addicted for more!

Read if You Like: dark romances, hate to love you romances
Avoid if You: dislike contemporary romances, want a lighter read

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Series Review: Nordic Royals by Karina Halle

Series Review: Nordic Royals by Karina Halle

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Swedish Prince (from Goodreads):

A swoon-worthy, sexy & utterly charming STANDALONE romance inspired by the classic film Roman Holiday, from the New York Times bestselling author of Bad at Love and The Pact

I never believed in fairy-tales.

Never held out for Prince Charming.

Growing up poor in small-town California as the oldest of six siblings, I knew I would never ride off into the sunset with anyone. That was even more apparent when a senseless tragedy took the lives of my parents, forcing me to become the sole guardian of our dysfunctional household at the mere age of twenty-three.

Then a fateful encounter literally brought Prince Charming to my doorstep.

At first I thought Viktor was just your average businessman passing through, albeit obscenely handsome, six-foot-five, blue-eyed, and mysteriously rich.

But soon I discovered the truth behind Viktor’s façade.

Beneath his quiet, enigmatic gaze and cocky charm, is a man who is running away from who he really is. A role he’d rather not fulfill.

He is Viktor of House Nordin, His Royal Highness, The Crown Prince of Sweden.

Yet uncovering Viktor’s secret was only the first step.

I didn’t expect to fall in love with him.

I didn’t expect to have my whole life turned upside down.

When you’re from two different worlds, can your hearts meet somewhere in the middle?

Or do happily-ever-afters only exist in fairy-tales?

WARNING: The Swedish Prince is oh-so sweet, enchanting and funny, but it does contain foul language (lots of the F word) and graphic sexual scenes (lots of dirty talk). Reader discretion is advised for those who are sensitive.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Canadian Author
Series: The Nordic Royals
Author: Karina Halle
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Royalty
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: March 2018 – October 2019
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve read a few of Karina Halle’s books in the past and I’ve enjoyed her approach to the contemporary romance novel. She finds a good balance between humour, heat and angst in her novels.

I love anything to do with royalty so I’ve been dying to start this modern royalty story. And when my library got the audiobooks, I immediately got ready to read this series.

The Plot:

I found each book to be a little predictable and often cliché. But there are some more profound moments when subjects like grief, forgiveness and family are touched upon. It isn’t always happy-go-lucky and I can appreciate that. But I did find the balance was a little off sometimes with the drama and the pacing (like the dramatic twists were introduced too late into the story) so that dampened my overall enjoyment of some of the books.

The Characters:

We get a little taste of the future leads throughout the series (and people make some reappearances) which is always fun. I did like all the characters we met. They were fun and had some layers to them as you get to explore their backstories a little more.

The Romance:

I had a few hits and misses with these. Sometimes, the romances felt rushed other times the pacing was just right. I really did think all the couples had good chemistry together. And there are some really sweet moments along the way.

My Audiobook Experience:

I enjoyed all the audiobooks. It was good way to listen to the stories I think.

Series Rating: 3.5/5

The Swedish Prince 3.5/5 | The Wild Heir 4/5 | A Nordic King 4/5 | The Royal Rogue 3/5

overall

If you love mixing modern royalty with your favourite romance tropes, this is probably the series you should be reading next!

Read if You Like: royalty, contemporary romances
Avoid if You: want a darker series
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Series Review: Sex, Love and Stiletto by Lauren Layne

Series Review: Sex, Love and Stiletto by Lauren Layne

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for After the Kiss (from Goodreads):

Lauren Layne kicks off her Sex, Love & Stiletto series with a delightful short novel! In After the Kiss, the star columnist of Stiletto magazine will do anything for a story. Anything . . . except fall in love.

Julie Greene loves flings. Loves steamy first dates, sizzling first kisses, and every now and then, that first sexy romp between the sheets. Comfy pants, sleepy Sundays, movie nights on the couch? Shudder. But when Julie gets assigned the hardest story of her career—a first-person account of that magical shift between dating and “I do”—she’ll need a man brave enough to give a total commitment-phobe a chance at more.

Normally, Mitchell Forbes would be exactly that man. A devastatingly hot workaholic who tends to stay in relationships for far too long, he should be the perfect subject for Julie’s “research.” But what Julie doesn’t know is that Mitchell is looking to cut loose for once in his life. And the leggy journalist notorious for avoiding love is exactly the type of no-strings fling he’s looking for. In other words, Mitchell is the polar opposite of what Julie needs right now. And, at the same time, he’s exactly what she wants.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: Sex, Love and Stiletto

There is a spin-off series: Oxford Series

Author: Lauren Layne
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: August 2013 – March 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I did things a little backwards with this series. I actually read the first novel after I had read the first novel in the spin-off series, Oxford, not realizing that they were connected. But having that little bit of exposure to the established couples made me excited to get their backstories so I was eager to dive in.

The Plot:

These books feel and read like a Lifetime Movie rom-com. They’re quick, cute and flirty but don’t really delve into the crux of everything. And sometimes, that’s what you want out of a romance read. More often than not though, I gravitated to the darker reads, so this was quite “vanilla” and tame to my usual mix. I found myself getting a little bored (and my ratings reflect that) but that might have been the result of me listening to the audio versions which take me nearly double the amount of time to finish had I read them in print.

The Characters:

I liked everyone we meet enough. I really loved the female comradery that the girls had. It was great to see women support each other throughout the series. For the most part, both leads grew into better people so there was some growth by the end.

The Romance:

Each book explores a different trope or two which is fun. Like I said above, you kinds just graze the surface of what the connection is because things are happening fast. And to go back to the female comradery, I liked that the pursuit of love never put down other girls or forced them to compete along the way.

My Audiobook Experience:

The audiobooks were good. For the most part the female narrator did a good job with the male voices (though sometimes they were annoying). I can read a 250 page novel in 3-4 hours whereas the audiobook is 6-7 hours; so I did get bored or found my mind wandering away while listening. I often sped the speed up to 2X (I usually listen at 1.5X for reference) just so I could get through them faster and keep my focus.

Series Rating: 3/5

After the Kiss 4/5 | Love the one You’re With 3/5 | Just One Night 3/5 | The Trouble With Love 2/5

overall

Looking for something light and quick? These would be great!

Read if You Like: rom-coms, quick reads
Avoid if You: want erotica, darker romances

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Series Review: Ten Tiny Breaths by K.A. Tucker

Series Review: Ten Tiny Breaths by K.A. Tucker

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for Ten Tiny Breaths (from Goodreads):
Kacey Cleary’s whole life imploded four years ago in a drunk-driving accident. Now she’s working hard to bury the pieces left behind—all but one. Her little sister, Livie. Kacey can swallow the constant disapproval from her born-again aunt Darla over her self-destructive lifestyle; she can stop herself from going kick-boxer crazy on Uncle Raymond when he loses the girls’ college funds at a blackjack table. She just needs to keep it together until Livie is no longer a minor, and then they can get the hell out of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

But when Uncle Raymond slides into bed next to Livie one night, Kacey decides it’s time to run. Armed with two bus tickets and dreams of living near the coast, Kacey and Livie start their new lives in a Miami apartment complex, complete with a grumpy landlord, a pervert upstairs, and a neighbor with a stage name perfectly matched to her chosen “profession.” But Kacey’s not worried. She can handle all of them. What she can’t handle is Trent Emerson in apartment 1D.

Kacey doesn’t want to feel. She doesn’t. It’s safer that way. For everyone. But sexy Trent finds a way into her numb heart, reigniting her ability to love again. She starts to believe that maybe she can leave the past where it belongs and start over. Maybe she’s not beyond repair.

But Kacey isn’t the only one who’s broken. Seemingly perfect Trent has an unforgiveable past of his own; one that, when discovered, will shatter Kacey’s newly constructed life and send her back into suffocating darkness.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Book Series: Canadian Author
Series: Ten Tiny Breaths
Author: K.A. Tucker
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)

There is a prequel novella, #0.5 In Her Wake

Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Tragedy, Drama
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Single (#1-2); Alternating (#3-4)
Publication Dates: December 2012 – June 2014
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook (#1-2); Scribd–Audiobook (#3-4)

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I first started reading the New Adult genre, this popped up all the time on my recommended reads list. Like many books, I didn’t get around to reading it until e-copies became available at my library.

The Concept:

The whole premise of this series is that love can be messy. These aren’t your typical boy meets girl stories. These characters have tragic pasts or have made different life choices than your regular romantic leads. That means the stories here aren’t always cut and dry. I thought a lot of these relationships straddled a line between what society would expect and want versus the human condition.

The Plot:

I think the best way to describe the plots in all these stories is that our leads are running from something and suddenly, they find themselves in a place that accepts them and they start to think maybe I can call this place home. What they are running from differs from book to book but that’s the overall vibe these books give.

Some are more suspenseful than others because of the characters. But they all have this angst and some sexual tension with their romantic leads.

The Characters:

If you enjoy flawed characters learning to embrace who they are as people, even if they make a few mistakes along the way, you’ll enjoy this cast. Again, you might not love everyone you meet but I feel like K A Tucker does a good job of developing her characters so at the very least, you can understand their motives.

The Romance:

While there is plenty of steam when it comes to the romance, you aren’t just reading sex scene after sex scene. In some ways, there is a bit of a slow burn to all these romances as they take their time to grow.

However: I definitely thought the romantic connections were stronger at the start of the series. As we got to the end, I just thought the romances seemed a little tired and not as rich in their connections as they were at the start.

When to Read the Novella #0.5 In Her Wake:

DO NOT READ THIS UNTIL AFTER YOU FINISH TEN TINY BREATHS! Or else it will ruin the amazing suspense of Ten Tiny Breaths! It is a perfect companion for Ten Tiny Breaths and that is all I am going to say about that!

My Audiobook Experience:

I enjoyed the audiobooks. I only made the format switch because I read the first two books YEARS ago and they were available when I needed new audio reads.

Series Rating: 4/5

Ten Tiny Breaths 4/5 | One Tiny Lie 4/5 | Four Seconds to Lose 3/5 | Five Ways to Fall 3/5

overall

I think if you enjoy angsty, realistic reads about people finding their “home” in life a heavy dash of romance and suspense, this is a great series to explore!

Read if You Like: angsty reads, darker stories
Avoid if You: dislike romance

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DNF Series Review: The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh

DNF Series Review: The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

book4

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Beautiful (from Goodreads):

In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans provides her a refuge after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent along with six other girls, Celine quickly becomes enamored with the vibrant city from the music to the food to the soirées and—especially—to the danger. She soon becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as Le Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s leader, the enigmatic Sèbastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of Le Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sèbastien’s guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.

When more bodies are discovered, each crime more gruesome than the last, Celine and New Orleans become gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose—one Celine is sure has set her in his sights . . . and who may even be the young man who has stolen her heart. As the murders continue to go unsolved, Celine takes matters into her own hands and soon uncovers something even more shocking: an age-old feud from the darkest creatures of the underworld reveals a truth about Celine she always suspected simmered just beneath the surface.

At once a sultry romance and a thrilling murder mystery, master storyteller Renée Ahdieh embarks on her most potent fantasy series yet: The Beautiful.

breakdown

Series: The Beautiful
Author: Renée Ahdieh
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Historical Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First & Third Person
Publication Dates: October 2019 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I only read the first book of the series, The Beautiful, and have opted not to pick up the sequels. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m 50/50 for Renée’s book series so far. I loved The Wrath and The Dawn (so much that I bought the hardcovers which I rarely do) but was left a little underwhelmed by The Flame in the Mist. So this series was going to be the tiebreaker. And boy, was I excited to try it! I miss the YA paranormal (ie vampire) reads of my younger days and this seemed like the perfect gothic read to remind me why that genre was such a trend 10 years ago.

What I Liked:

–The Setting–

I’ve never been to New Orleans and this book just made me want to go there right away. The gothic setting is so lush and captivating. Renée writes great worlds without dumping so much info on you. I wish we spent more time in it though.

–The Mysterious Narrator–

I really loved the mystery of who this second narrator (the murderer) was. That mystery kept me going honestly. It kept the story moving and my mind racing with theories when I would zone out from Celine’s narration.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Celine–

I had flashbacks to Bella Swan with this lead–and that isn’t a compliment. She was so, so dry and dull. I got so bored of her lamenting about this “dangerous” side lurking inside of her (which wasn’t all that dangerous if you ask me. Perhaps it was just a strong case of curiosity?). Honestly, as I write this I struggle to write anything about her because she was so forgettable to me.

–Nothing Happens–

A lot of this book felt like filler to me. As in some chapters contributed nothing to the plot and could be omitted without alarm. The last few chapters when everything comes into place were exciting but I was so over this story by then (I just wanted to find out who the narrator was!) I didn’t bring myself to care.

–The Romance–

The chemistry between Bastain and Celine was non-existent for me. I didn’t get where on Earth those deep feelings came from. I think they talked maybe 3 times before they are declaring love?

I think some people might disagree with this part but I thought Celine had much stronger chemistry with the police detective Mathew. At least she interacted with him enough times that I could believe they would develop romantic feelings.

My Audiobook Experience:

I enjoyed the audio production. The accents were great and I never struggled with listening to it…it was the writing that I had a hard time with.

Will I Finish It?

No. Despite an intriguing ending I really don’t care about Celine enough to pick up the sequels. Especially when I learned it was going to be a 4 book series. No thanks!

My Series Rating: DNF

The Beautiful 2/5 | The Damned N/A | The Righteous N/A
|Book 4 N/A

overall

For those who really love gothic settings with a slow building plot line, this might be a good one for you. But if you want something faster paced, look elsewhere!

Read if You Like: gothic reads, slow story building
Avoid if You: dislike vampires, dislike paranormal

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Series Review: Girl Meets Duke by Tessa Dare

Series Review: Girl Meets Duke by Tessa Dare

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Duchess Deal (from Goodreads):

When girl meets Duke, their marriage breaks all the rules…

Since his return from war, the Duke of Ashbury’s to-do list has been short and anything but sweet: brooding, glowering, menacing London ne’er-do-wells by night. Now there’s a new item on the list. He needs an heir—which means he needs a wife. When Emma Gladstone, a vicar’s daughter turned seamstress, appears in his library wearing a wedding gown, he decides on the spot that she’ll do.

His terms are simple:
– They will be husband and wife by night only.
– No lights, no kissing.
– No questions about his battle scars.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s pregnant with his heir, they need never share a bed again.

But Emma is no pushover. She has a few rules of her own:
– They will have dinner together every evening.
– With conversation.
– And unlimited teasing.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s seen the man beneath the scars, he can’t stop her from falling in love…

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author
Series: Girl Meets Duke
Author: Tessa Dare
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Book 4 to be released in February 2021
Genre: Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: August 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I was in a historical romance phase, I discovered Tessa Dare and I’ve never looked back. Even though I don’t go out of my way to read much of the genre anymore (there are a few exceptions like Anna Harrington and Kelly Bowen), I make it a point to read anything Tessa Dare writes.

The Plot:

I’d read 14 other books by Tessa Dare by the time I started this series and you know what is shocking to me? That all her series and novels feel fresh and unique. Certainly, there are aspects to her novels that are her trademark–like the unconventional-to-society heroine or a scared hero or the way she can convey humour throughout–but I never truly feel like I’m reading a regurgitation of her previous novels or that they follow a set, formula.

I had a blast meeting all these new characters and watching all the hi-jinx they get into as they fall in love and challenge societal norms.

The Characters:

I immediately fell in love with ALL our leads in The Duchess Deal. When our heroine meets the future heroines in the series, I was so excited to see who was getting their story next that I definitely peeked at the synopsis for the rest of the series.

Everyone is just delightful. And I love how their individual struggles and growth are highlighted in their novels through the plot and romance.

The Romance:

The tension is so delicious in each novel! I couldn’t get enough of our couples–it made the books so addicting to read! But I really loved how the romances had a bit of a slow burn to them where they take their time to truly fall in love with the person and not just because they have insane physical chemistry.

My Audiobook Experience:

Humour doesn’t always come across in written novels for me–though that has never been a problem with Tessa’s novels–so audiobooks are a great way for me to get the humour because you hear the tone the author wants the dialogue to be delivered in. Now that I’ve started listening to her books in audio, I think that’s the only way I can enjoy them! They are just so easy and fun to listen to!

Series Rating: 5/5

The Duchess Deal 5/5 | The Governess Game 5/5 | The Wallflower Wager 4/5 | The Bride Bet TBD

overall

Honestly, this series reminded me why Tessa Dare has become an automatic must read author for me. She never fails to disappoint when it comes to characters, romance, plot and humour!

Read if You Like: historical fiction
Avoid if You: dislike historical fiction romances

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Series Review: Wright Series by K A Linde

Series Review: Wright Series by K A Linde

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Wright Brother (from Goodreads):

I’d dated his brother.

He didn’t remember and I wish I could forget.

I may have sworn off the Wright family a long time ago. But when I returned home, Jensen Wright crashed into my life with the confidence of a billionaire CEO and the sex appeal of a god. Even I couldn’t resist our charged chemistry, or the way he fit into my life like a missing puzzle piece.

Too bad he’d forgotten the one thing that could destroy us.

Because Jensen Wright doesn’t share. Not with anyone. And if his brother finds out, this could all go down in flames.

When it all was said and done, was he the Wright brother?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: Wright Series

There is a spin-off: Wright Love Duet

Author: K A Linde
# of Books: 4  (Full Reading Order)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: February 2017 – January 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve become a fan of K A Linde’s work over the years. She writes some great drama into her romances and isn’t afraid to write unlikable characters as her leads. That draws me in as a reader because it gives the stories a unique flare and allows for some great character moments.

This series seemed more like your average contemporary romance and I loved that it followed a group of siblings, so I was curious to see what it would be like.

The Concept/Reading Order:

While you could definitely read each book as a standalone and in any order, I think you will get more out of it if you follow the publication order. Because it follows a group of siblings, you get little tidbits about the next set of leads in each book and I find that helps to build up the tension and anticipation of the sequels.

The Plot:

I wasn’t overly impressed with the plots in most of the books. They were all pretty melodramatic–maybe that was the point since it follows a wealthy family of siblings in Texas? It feels very Dallas or Dynasty-esque (the TV shows that is).

I felt the vast majority of the books spent most of their time reiterating the physical attraction between the leads and steamy moments where they appreciated that attraction. Throw in some horrible communication tactics (like you can’t reach someone by calling? Just send them a quick text instead!) and there’s your drama. The only somewhat realistic drama was the events that transpire in the 4th book, The Wright Secret. But if you’re into that type of drama–go for it!

The Characters:

As the series progressed, I thought the leads got to be a little more complex and layered. They all make silly decisions sometimes so that was frustrating to read about at times. But for the most part, they are all likeable or become redeemable by the end.

The Romance:

Some romances were better than others for me. Again, it depended on the drama of the plot and how it was written into the novel. I could have used a little more oomph to take them to the next levels though because they seemed to be slightly on the superficial side of things.

My Audiobook Experience:

I actually own the first book (and maybe the second?) but opted to read the audio versions instead simply for convenience (I’m slowly running out of audiobook series to listen to at my library and they have this whole series available). The audiobook production is solid (with the exception of #3, The Wright Mistake. I did not enjoy the Southern drawls the narrators attempted). I really appreciated that they had a new set of narrators for each book because it can be tiring listening to the same two narrators be 6+ different leads in an audio series.

Will I Read the Spin-off?:

YES! I’m really curious to see what happens with this character because of the events that transpired in the series.

>> My Review of The Wright Love Duet

Series Rating: 3/5

The Wright Brother 3/5 | The Wright Boss 3/5 | The Wright Mistake 3/5 | The Wright Secret 4/5

overall

While this isn’t my favourite contemporary series that follows a group of siblings, they are entertaining reads that make for a quick read when you need it!

Read if You Like: contemporary romances, follow siblings
Avoid if You: want deeper romances/connections

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Series Review: If Love by Ana Huang

Fresh Fridays: If We Ever Meet Again (If Love Duet #1) by Ana Huang

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

If Love Duet

booksynopsis

Synopsis for If We Ever Meet Again (from Goodreads):

One year, two opposites, and a love that will blindside and, ultimately, shatter them.

She’s an aspiring interior designer who dreams of falling in love.
He’s an ex-football star who thinks love is a con.

She’s a virgin, and he doesn’t do virgins.
He’s cocky, infuriating, and not her type.

She wants the fairytale.
He wants freedom.

Blake and Farrah shouldn’t have fallen for each other the way they did: totally, completely, and irrevocably.

Because they’re studying abroad in Shanghai, and they only have one year.

Because forces at home threaten to rip them apart, even if they don’t know it yet.

And because, eventually, they must face the most heartbreaking lesson they’ll ever learn: sometimes, even the greatest love can’t conquer all.

breakdown

Series: If Love
Author: Ana Huang
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: June 30, 2020 — December 2020
Source & Format: Author–eARC | Thank you Ana Huang!

Copies Provided for Books #1-3

thoughts

**This post was originally published as a Fresh Friday review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to include the newest publications in the series.**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When Ana asked me to review her newest novel, I easily accepted for a few reasons. First, I loved the premise of a year abroad in Shanghai. Second, I liked that this is a duet of books about the same couple. I find we rarely get those series about the same couple anymore. We tend to get a single book and then the next book is about a different couple. But this one has somewhat doomed start so I was eager to see what she had in store for us!

What I Liked:

–The Setting of Shanghai–

A lot of novels that have the year abroad or the expat premise to it tend to take place in European countries (or at least the ones I’ve come across are). So I was excited to explore this new setting. I’ve always wanted to go to Shanghai but this has me really dying to explore it!

–The Bittersweet Tone of the Romance–

The story starts with a bang by showing the relationship’s eventual demise. Knowing that things aren’t going to end well for these two gives this story a bittersweet tone when we start to see their relationship from the start. But the “sweet” outweighs the “bitter” if you ask me and I was totally in love with these two.

–The Struggle With Intimacy–

I just loved how real their romance was. They struggle a little with their intimacy and I really appreciated how that was all handled. I thought that was a real approach for a character like Farah who really hasn’t had that stronger physical intimacy before. I find a lot of romances portray the virginal heroine as some one who is immediately great in bed in all aspects so it was refreshing to watch these two explore that deeper connection together and talk about it.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Almost Too “Hot and Cold” At the Start–

The first few chapters were a little bumpy for me. I thought their hot and cold attraction was a little too cold on Farah’s end; I didn’t really see how she would be attracted to Blake besides his physical appearance. But once those deeper feelings started to come to the surface as they spend more time together, I was really onboard with their romance. It kinda went from 0 to 100 though and I would have liked another chapter of them hanging out as friends to really cement their connection.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I will admit, I shed a tear or two near the end even knowing how it would end early on still didn’t prepare me for how much I would feel for their inevitable breakup. I can’t wait to see their second chance!

updates

–July 14, 2020– Book #2: If the Sun Never Sets (*copy provided*)

This was SO good! The chemistry these two have–even when they try not to–is so palpable. I really loved the character growth here and how they not only evolved in the 5 years since they broke up, but how they grew once they reunited. Yes, there were a few frustrating moments but I think that’s because as the reader, you see how obvious it is that these two belong together. It’s a solid sequel and conclusion to this second chance duet.

I really hope we get to see some of these characters again!

–October 26, 2020– Book #3: If Love Had a Price (*copy provided*)

This was great and unexpected in a lot of ways. Ana has managed to blend genuine characters and drama together in a way that seems like this could happen to anyone, anywhere. And this is a book packed with a lot of aspects to it in terms of the characters and their drama.

I really loved Kris when we first met her in the series, so it was nice to uncover her character a little more.

–July 9, 2021– Book #4: If Love We Were Perfect

I’ve wanted this book since the first one in the series…and I couldn’t imagine a better way to wrap up this great series.

I loved how these two talked to each other. Yes, they were reactive but they always took a breath and looked at it rationally. It helped stop some of the useless drama other contemporary romances seem to thrive on.

But it was a second chance romance where you knew how they felt and why. I fell in love with their story all over again.

My Rating: 4/5

If We Ever Meet Again 4/5 | If the Sun Never Sets 4.5/5 | If Love Had a Price 4/5 | If We Were Perfect 5/5

overall

This was a great read! As I read more and more about their story, I was super invested and addicted to finding out what happens next. I’m definitely keeping an eye out for future releases by Ana.

Read if You Like: love stories, set aboard, New Adult Romance
Avoid if You: want erotica, dislike romance

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Fresh Fridays: Pretending Not to Love You (Hazel Pathway #1) by M S Larson

Fresh Fridays: Pretending Not to Love You (Hazel Pathway #1) by M S Larson

Fresh Fridays: On Friday, I review a brand new series (ie. only has one book released so far) to see if the series is worth keeping up with. Here is this week’s offering:

Hazel Pathway Series

Other books planned to be in the series:
book3

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Pretending Not to Love You (from Goodreads):

Raine
It’s my first day at a new high school and I inadvertently become one of the most popular girls at Glass Hill High. The girls want to be my best friend, and the guys want to date me. The only guy I have eyes for is Alex Williams, but he’s determined to set me up with his best friend and star wide receiver, Chase.

Alex
I’ve been spurned by my ex-girlfriend. She dated me to get to my best friend, Chase, who most of the girls are in love with at Glass Hill High. Now I’m gun shy about dating any girl because I’m afraid they’d just want me to get to Chase. Raine is no exception. When she claps eyes on him on the first day of school, she’s going to fall madly in love, so it’s better that I protect my heart. I’m going to hook Raine up with Chase and pretend that I’m happy for the both of them. Only the more time I spend with her, I can’t help but fall deeply in love with her. And the situation is affecting my relationship with everyone around me, including Raine and Chase.

Will Alex let go of his past and pursue Raine?

breakdown

Series: Hazel Pathway
Author: M S Larson
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: No, more books are planned
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: April 2020 – ongoing
Source & Format: Author–eARC | Thank you M S Larson!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I was asked if I wanted to read and review Pretending Not to Love You I thought the premise was super charming. I’m a sucker for “forbidden” love in whatever form it comes in so the idea of falling for your BFF’s (maybe) girlfriend had me intrigued.

What I Liked:

–Instant Chemistry–

I enjoyed the tension between Raine and Alex because it was so obvious they had instant chemistry from the moment they met but neither was sure what to do about it. I could really see why these two would fall for each other.

–Positive Parental Relationships–

I find we don’t see a lot of positive parental influences in YA so it always notable for me when I came across that.

Both Alex and Raine talked to their parents about their problems and feelings. And their parents were in positive, healthy relationships as well.

–Girls Supporting Girls–

While Raine does have a rival of sorts in Mary I liked that they were never overly petty about it. And Raine was great about helping out other girls to find their inner confidence in themselves.

What I Didn’t Like:

–A Little Too Much Dialogue–

The flow seemed to be dampened for me because there seemed to be an excess amount of dialogue. Don’t get me wrong: it was great to see these two talk things out, but most of the chapters were dialogue. More inner monologues or summary paragraphs would help keep things moving smoothly I think.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I am really excited for the next book! I liked the little hints we got here about what could happen next.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Pretending Not to Love You 3.5/5 | Want You to Love Me TBP | Book 3 TBP | Book 4 TBP

overall

I think with a little more polish (which will come with writing more books) this would be a fantastic read. I’m excited to see what will happen next in this series!

Read if You Like: sweet romances, first loves
Avoid if You: want a darker story, want more angst

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