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Series Review: Beast of Bishop’s Landing by Amelia Wilde

Series Review: Beast of Bishop’s Landing by Amelia Wilde

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 Secret Beast (from Goodreads):

The beast hides a dark secret in his past…

Leo Morelli is known as the Beast of Bishop’s Landing for his cruelty. He’ll get revenge on the Constantine family and make millions of dollars in the process. Even it means using an old man who dreams up wild inventions.

The beauty will sacrifice everything for her family…

Haley Constantine will do anything to protect her father. Even trade her body for his life. The college student must spend thirty days with the ruthless billionaire. He’ll make her earn her freedom in degrading ways, but in the end he needs her to set him free.

breakdown

Series: Beast of Bishop’s Landing | Midnight Dynasty Series
Author: Amelia Wilde
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Dark Romance, Erotica
Heat Rating: Hot to Smokin’ (Kink: Major | BDSM: High)
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: February 2021 – July 2021
Source & Format: Kobo Plus–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

So I deviated from the recommended reading order of the Midnight Dynasty Universe I have listed below because I thought our hero, Leo, was the more intriguing of the two Morelli Brothers we met in the Cinderella Trilogy. I was really wanted to learn more about his character and see who could tame him in this retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

The Concept – Midnight Dynasty:

The Midnight Dynasty Universe is a collection of books (series and standalones) by different authors but feature the characters from a collective world. They’re intended to be read in any order because each series focuses on two characters at a time, but there are chronological events and character interactions throughout the universe that overlap in the different series.

The Plot:

This trilogy was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast and I felt like it was a pretty loose one. There are bits and pieces in the first book; not so much in the second; and then inklings come back for the finale. Or perhaps I’m not overly familiar with the original fairy tale and missed some elements along the way. Regardless, this is a dark romance filled with lots of family drama and an innocent heroine who charms a scorned man — exactly what you expect for a Beauty and the Beast Retelling.

I really struggled to get into the story with Secret Beast (#1). I found it to be terribly dry and I wasn’t immediately won over by the romance. The drama picks up by the end of the book and that’s when things get a little more interesting and grabbed my attention. But I went through a bit of the same disinterest in Book #2, Hidden Beauty.

I thought the finale (#3 – Fallen Rose) struck a better balance between character growth, romance and drama and for me it was the best of the series.

The Characters:

One of the unique elements to this Midnight Dynasty Universe is that different authors write the different series yet all share the same characters as each other.

Most readers will have met Leo in the Cinderella Trilogy where he lives up to the name “beast” in my opinion. He was pretty ruthless in that series so I was curious to see who would tame his heart in this series. Yet I really struggled rectifying who he was in that series with the man we meet here. I had literally just finished that other series so everything was fresh in my mind; but I just felt like there was a disconnect here, so it took me a while to let the past go and focus on him in this series.

Haley lives up to the sweet, virginal expectation of Belle. She was a new character to me so I didn’t have any pre-conceived ideas about her other than what I knew from the original fairy tale.

The Romance:

Beauty and the Beast as a fairy tale is really just the original (or perhaps most well known) close proximity trope. I don’t mind that trope and since Leo isn’t actually an animal, I can get on board with the idea.
However, I truly struggled with the romance here and there are two reasons why:

The first is that I think these two spend more time apart then together. Which is weird because Haley is literally trapped in his house for the entire series. They have a single interaction by the 20% mark of Secret Beast (#1) so I wasn’t feeling that chemistry right away. (I mean, I get why Haley might not be attracted to him given the circumstances, but I missed that underlying sexual tension). Then, I felt like they spent most of Hidden Beauty (#2) apart as well. I just struggled to see that great love between them.

The second reason is that I’m not a huge fan of their kink: dubious consent. I enjoy reading a lot of darker romances so kinky sex seems to come with the territory. However, books featuring heavy BDSM content and scenes of dubious consent aren’t my favourite to read. There’s a fine line for me and this series really straddled that line for me. Haley is a virgin so that tainted the scenes because does she really know she enjoys that type of sex if she’s never really had it any other way? And was she really enjoying it or is it because Leo is constantly telling her she is that is driving her eroticism? For me, I sometimes struggled to find that answer and I will be honest that I skimmed through a lot of their intimate scenes as a result.

Midnight Dynasty’s Reading Order:

I had found a suggested reading order on Redit but I jumped a few books based on the lead for the Beast of Bishop’s Landing. Here is the suggested order based on that post and my own readings:

Series Rating: 2.5/5

Secret Beast 2/5 | Hidden Beauty 2.5/5 | Fallen Rose 3/5

overall

I really struggled with the romance of this one thanks to its sexual content. However, I got to know more about the Morelli family in the Midnight Dynasty Universe and it got me really excited to read their series next!

Read if You Like: erotica, dark romances, Beauty and the Beast
Avoid if You: dislike kink/BDSM, dislike dark romances

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Series Review: Hearts by M O’Keefe

Series Review: Hearts by M O’Keefe

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 Ruined (from Goodreads):

Outside a glittering party, I saw a man in the dark. I didn’t know then that he was an assassin. A hit man. A mercenary. Ronan radiated danger and beauty. Mercy and mystery.

I wanted him, but I was already promised to another man. Ronan might be the one who murdered him. But two warring families want my blood. I don’t know where to turn.

In a mad world of luxury and secrets, he’s the only one I can trust.

breakdown

Series: Hearts or Ruined | A Midnight Dynasty Series
Author: M O’Keefe
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Dark Romance, Erotica
Heat Rating: Hot (Kink: mild – Book #3 only)
Point of View: First Person, Single (#1); Alternating (#2-3)
Publication Dates: May 2021 – August 2021
Source & Format: Kobo Plus–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve been binging the Midnight Dynasty Universe books but I have to admit, I wasn’t sure what to think of this series before going into it. Our hero makes a brief appearance in the Beast of Bishop’s Landing Series (which I read before this one though it should have been read after) but it wasn’t long enough for me to form a big opinion of him. So, I went in with zero expectations!

The Concept – Midnight Dynasty:

The Midnight Dynasty Universe is a collection of books (series and standalones) by different authors but feature the characters from a collective world. They’re intended to be read in any order because each series focuses on two characters at a time, but there are some shared chronological events and character interactions throughout the universe that overlap in the different series.

The Plot:

Unlike other series I’ve read to date in the Midnight Dynasty Universe, this story doesn’t seem to be inspired by another classic romance or fairy tale. Or if it is, I didn’t really put it together.

Compared to other series in the universe, I felt like this one was more plot and character driven than erotica driven. Poppy, while not an immediate Constantine family member, does interact with many of the main Constantine cohorts we’ve met in the universe so far. So that makes her story kinda feel like an aside in the sense it is somewhat independent of the other series’ plots. However, I think her story does a good job of showing the power and the characters the Constantine and Morelli families are.

The first book has a great suspense to it that I really enjoyed. And while the danger is always lurking throughout the series, it kind went to a low simmer for me after the first book. The story shifts to Ronan and Poppy’s relationship; which I enjoyed reading, they have great chemistry. But I really missed that element of suspense going forward.

The Characters:

As I said, Ronan was only briefly introduced in Secret Beast (#1 – Beast of Bishop’s Landing Series). So he was a bit of an enigma to me. Add to that, we don’t get his POV in Ruined (#1) either which I really liked. It adds to the mysterious aura his character has. We do get his POV for the rest of the series, which helps to develop his character by getting his inner thoughts.

Poppy is the main lead for most of this series and I loved her character progression as she tried to find herself after years of doing what she was told. She has great growth as she finds her independence.

The Romance:

These two lit the pages on fire anytime they were together. I loved their scenes. I love reading about a male hero who tries his darndest not to let his feelings show but cracks from time to time.

Midnight Dynasty’s Reading Order:

I had found a suggested reading order on Redit but have made some recommendations based on my own readings. Here is the suggested order based on that post and my own readings:

Series Rating: 3.5/5

Ruined 4/5 | Broken 3/5 | Untamed 3/5

overall

While not the darkest or kinkest of all the series in the Midnight Dynasty Universe, fans will enjoy the high risk love affair and the suspense that comes along with it.

Read if You Like: dark romances, forbidden romance, violence
Avoid if You: dislike dark romances

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Series Review: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

Series Review: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

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 Testing (from Goodreads):

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Isn’t that what they say? But how close is too close when they may be one and the same?

The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career.

Cia Vale is honoured to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies—trust no one.

But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every gruelling (and deadly) day of the Testing.

To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust.

breakdown

Series: The Testing
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)

There is a prequel novella: #0.5 The Testing Guide

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction, Post Apocalyptic
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: June 2013 – June 2014
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I actually think The Testing (#1) is the first book I added to my TBR by Charbonneau; I saw it as a freebie on Amazon one day and downloaded it. But I ended up reading (and enjoying) her Dividing Eden Series first. When my library added the audiobooks for this trilogy last year, I was excited to give this series a try! It has been a long time since I read a dystopian novel and I couldn’t wait to dive in!

The Concept / The World:

If the Hunger Games and Divergent had a baby, I feel like it would be this book. It reminded me a little of the construction of the Red Queen where it is a mash-up of everything you expect in the genre (only the Red Queen is high fantasy). Yet at the same time, everything here felt unique and refreshing in a way. It’s a really cool world to explore and it has so many layers to it–but you don’t realize that is the case right away either which I think is a lot of fun.

The Plot:

At the start of The Testing (#1), this book felt really “young teen” or middle age dystopian to me. I think I got that impression thanks to the naïve vibes I was getting from our heroine, Cia. Of course, she’s naïve because society wants her to be that way, not because she is unintelligent. (More on that below!)

Once the true nature of the testing is revealed and the more sinister edge to this world takes center stage. This series doesn’t have a lot of physical action compared to others in the genre. Yes, parts of the testing has physically dangerous elements but I found everything was rooted more in logic and thinking and testing the characters that way. It almost reads like Divergent, only if you focused more on the politics of the world than the physical battle for it.

However, I felt a little let down in how everything progresses. I kept waiting for a big reveal to take things to the next level. And while there are some great twists that I really didn’t see until they were just about to be revealed, they were just a little underwhelming for me.

The Characters:

Perhaps I am in the minority for this: but I loved how Cia’s character evolved as the series progressed. One thing that I thought was interesting about her character is that she really isn’t emotionally driven like some heroines we meet in this genre, but more moral based. Although she has a strong moral compass, she definitely isn’t devoid of feelings. She’s an intelligent, logical girl who really tackles everything that comes her way by thinking things through. I appreciated that she was always thinking 3 steps ahead when she made decisions and could see the bigger picture.

To a certain extent, Cia is a bit of a special snowflake heroine and I know that irks others who have read this series. For some reason she is singled out during the Testing when really, there isn’t anything extremely remarkable about her. But I think she works really hard to apply herself when challenges are brought her way rather than things just falling into place for her.

The Romance:

I liked that this kept me guessing a bit. It’s an interesting element to the story, particularly in the first book during the Testing. It isn’t a huge driving element to the story but another factor to consider as the plot moves on. Could it have been played upon more?–Definitely. I really thought there was a missed opportunity to have this element take things to the next level and add a more dramatic flare to Cia’s life than the dull flare it brings.

My Audiobook Experience:

It took me a bit to get into but once I got into the story, the audiobook was addicting to listen to throughout the series. I thought the narrator did a good job bringing Cia’s character to life.

When to Read The Testing Guide (#0.5):

I didn’t read this prequel but you can likely read it at any time since the events take place years before the trilogy. If you want to read it in chronological order, then read it before The Testing (#1).

Series Rating: 3/5

[The Testing Guide N/A| The Testing 3.5/5 | Independent Study 3.5/5 | Graduation Day 3/5

overall

Fans of dystopian YA fiction will see a lot of similarities to other books but I enjoyed the weaving of classic dystopian elements. However, I kept waiting for something amazing to happen so the conclusion felt a little lackluster to me. And I when I finished, I kinda struggled with “what was the purpose of this whole series” which isn’t the best way to end a series if you ask me.

Read if You Like: dystopian fiction, books dealing with politics
Avoid if You: want more physical action

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Series Review: Cinderella by K Webster

Series Review: Cinderella by K Webster

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 Stroke of Midnight (from Goodreads):

Money can buy anything. And anyone.
As the head of the Constantine family, I’m used to people bowing to my will. Cruel, rigid, unyielding—I’m all those things.
When I discover the one woman who doesn’t wither under my gaze, but instead smiles right back at me, I’m intrigued. Ash Elliott needs cash, and I make her trade in crudeness and degradation for it.
I crave her tears, her moans, her submission. I pay for each one. And every time, she comes back for more.
When she challenges me with an offer of her own, I have to decide if I’m willing to give her far more than cold hard cash. But love can have deadly consequences when it comes from a Constantine. At the stroke of midnight, that choice may be lost for both of us.

breakdown

Series: Cinderella Trilogy | Midnight Dynasty Series

There is a direct spin-off: Deception Duet

Author: K Webster
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Dark, Romance, Erotica
Heat Rating: Smokin’ (Kink: Mild | BDSM: Mild)
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: October 2020 – April 2021
Source & Format: Kobo Plus–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I stumbled upon this series when I was browsing Kobo Plus Series I could read with my trial subscription. Only when I tried to read another book (Triple Threat) that sounded a little more interesting did I discover that this series was the first in the Midnight Dynasty Universe. So, I stopped reading that book so I could start from the very beginning of this universe with this trilogy.

The Concept – Midnight Dynasty:

The Midnight Dynasty Universe is a collection of books (series and standalones) by different authors but feature the characters from a collective world. They’re intended to be read in any order because each series focuses on two characters at a time but there are chronological events and character interactions throughout the universe.

The Plot:

This series is a modern, dark retelling of Cinderella. Ash has found herself on the outs of her family now that her father has married a wealthy, prominent doctor who has 3 sons herself. In a bid to escape to college, she winds up working and catching the attention of Winston Constantine. The rest of the trilogy ties in lose adaptations of the classic fairy tale but things are a little darker and twisted.

Part of the appeal of the Midnight Dynasty Universe is that there are major families dueling to rule New York City. The Constantines are one powerful family so as soon as Ash and Winston enter their bargain, the drama ensues. It reminded me a lot of the soap operas of Dynasty or Dallas — only there is a lot more (kinky) sex and violence.

The Characters:

I liked Ash and her need for independence. She isn’t afraid to go after what she wants, whether that’s Winston or going to college. She isn’t a total damsel in distress which I can appreciate, even if she needs the help of others along the way.

Winston is like a kinkier Christian Gray to me. He comes across gruff and distant but he actually has a heart under there once you peel back those layers.

This series also lays down the foundation for the other characters that will be featured in the Midnight Dynasty Universe so it was great to start to see how deep the family feuds run and who the key players are.

The Romance:

You have to know what you are getting into with this story or you won’t enjoy it. It’s dark, twisted and sits on the edge of being taboo sometimes. It’s like Fifty Shades amped up to the next level; so if you don’t enjoy alpha leads or kinky novels, stay away!

It took me a while to warm up to Winston and Ash’s relationship. It’s bordered on the creepy for me at the start with the difference in their ages and with how strong Winston comes on. But as the series goes on, I really started to like these two together. They start to peel back each other’s layers and I can see how they would work together.

Midnight Dynasty’s Reading Order:

I had found a suggested reading order on Redit but I jumped a few books after reading the Cinderella Trilogy based on the lead for the Beast of Bishop’s Landing. Here is the suggested order based on that post and my own readings since:

Series Rating: 3/5

Stroke of Midnight 3.5/5 | Prince Charming 3/5 | The Glass Slipper 3/5

overall

You need to be a fan of darker contemporary romances or erotica to enjoy this. Otherwise, I would say to stay away. But fans of darker contemporary romances with plenty of steam will enjoy this first foray into the Midnight Dynasty Universe and the many other books that take place within it.

Read if You Like: alpha males, kinky/dark erotica
Avoid if You: dislike erotica, dislike age gap romances

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Series Review: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

Series Review: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

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

book3

booksynopsis

Synopsis for A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder (from Goodreads):

The case is closed. Five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell was murdered by Sal Singh. The police know he did it. Everyone in town knows he did it.

But having grown up in the same small town that was consumed by the murder, Pippa Fitz-Amobi isn’t so sure. When she chooses the case as the topic for her final year project, she starts to uncover secrets that someone in town desperately wants to stay hidden. And if the real killer is still out there, how far will they go to keep Pip from the truth?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fav of 2020
Series: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder
Author: Holly Jackson
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)

There is a prequel novella called: Kill Joy

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller, Crime
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Dates: May 2019 – September 2021
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I think it was the title that drew me into reading the synopsis for this book. I had noticed it as an audiobook addition at my library and once I read the synopsis, I immediately put a hold on it. I love a good murder mystery and we don’t often encounter them a lot in the YA genre (I suppose that’s a good thing) so that always catches my attention. And while I don’t listen to podcasts, they seem to be all the rage–especially true crime–so I was interested to see how it would all play out.

The Concept:

I really loved how this series was formatted! It’s a blend of notes, interviews and reports from Pip’s projects interspersed with a narrated story. I’ve only read a few novels that use this approach of documents–The Illuminae Files being the most notable for me–but it works so well with a mystery novel. You almost feel like you are building the case yourself as all these pieces of evidence come in. It just gives this great suspense to the story.

The Plot:

The key to any good mystery is making it not too obvious but still making it within the realm of possibility. I took a detective fiction course in university so I really judge mystery novels hard because I’ve studied the bones of the genre. This series had enough red herrings along the way to keep you guessing but the solutions were always within reason.

At times, I feel like Books #1 & #2 wane a little bit in the middle; but I had such a blast listening to the audiobooks (thanks to the different mediums the information is delivered in) I didn’t notice all that much.

I did struggle with the direction of As Good As Dead (#3) however. This book has a completely different tone to it thanks to the outcomes of the first two books. There were a lot of options to reach the same conclusion and I think some readers won’t like the options that were chosen. I know I didn’t love a lot of the choices. However, when I take a step back and see how this book fits in with the overall series, I understand why things unfold the way they do.

The Characters:

I liked Pippa a lot. Not every “detective” is Sherlock Holmes (though he is fab) with their aloof intelligence. Pippa is kinda like the everyday girl, and I think that appeals to a reader: because if she can solve the mystery, surely you can as well.

Like any good mystery in a small town, you get to know all the other characters (or suspects?) throughout the series. It’s a solid cast of characters.

The Romance:

It’s not a huge part of the story but the little inklings warmed my heart. It brings home the fact that Pip is a regular girl in the midst of her own coming of age story and grounds the story when she gets those romantic moments throughout the series.

My Audiobook Experience:

Honestly, I think this is the whole reason why I rated this series so high: I LOVED the audio versions. Having a whole cast to bring the interview scenes to life and all the other documents (complete with sound effects) just gave me so much joy as I listened. It isn’t often I just lay around listening to an audiobook (usually I’m driving/walking or doing chores) but I was so addicted to this, I made time to listen. I guess I get the appeal now of true crime podcasts!

When to Read the Novella:

I didn’t read the prequel novella Kill Joy. My library didn’t have a copy and I wasn’t interested enough in it to buy it for myself. However, my research shows that you can read it at any time as it takes place before the first book but doesn’t spoil anything.

Series Rating: 4/5

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder 5/5 | Good Girl, Bad Blood 4/5 | As Good As Dead 3.5/5

overall

A thrilling, suspenseful murder mystery that keeps things grounded in reality. A fabulous series–and one I highly recommend you listen to as an audiobook!

Read if You Like: true crime podcasts, thrillers, mysteries
Avoid if You: want a romance-based story

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DNF Series Review: Something in the Way by Jessica Hawkins

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 Something in the Way (from Goodreads):

It was a hot summer day when I met him on the construction site next to my parents’ house. Under the sweat and dirt, Manning Sutter was as handsome as the sun was bright. He was older, darker, experienced. I wore a smiley-face t-shirt and had never even been kissed. Yet we saw something in each other that would link us in ways that couldn’t be broken…no matter how hard we tried.

I loved Manning before I knew the meaning of the word. I was too young, he said. I would wait. Through all the carefully-chosen words hiding what we knew to be true, through his struggle to keep me innocent, and through infinitely-starry nights—I would wait. But I’d learn that life isn’t always fair. That no matter how much you achieve, none of it matters if you suffer the heartbreak that comes with falling for someone you can never have. Because even though I saw Manning first, that didn’t matter. My older sister saw him next.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Worst Reads 2021
Series: Something in the Way
Author: Jessica Hawkins
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: unsure
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: February 2017 – February 2018
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading Something in the Way at 13% (Start of Chapter 4). Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I love a good forbidden romance, which is why I probably picked this up when it was a freebie one day on Amazon. Like many books I add to my personal collection, it was a few years before I got around to it. But I was excited to start this last fall when I wanted some juicy drama.

What I Liked:

–The Book Starts in 1993–
I thought it was super cool that this story starts in 1993. There’s a nuance to setting the story in that year that I think we forget about as modern readers. Like cellphones and social media. It almost added a nostalgia factor to the story (even if I was a baby that year!)

What I Didn’t Like:

–Lake Was Extremely Dull–
Lake (our heroine) is about as exciting as paste drying. I don’t know how one girl could be so out of touch with reality and popular culture. I think that is supposed to be her calling-card though–the naive good girl who falls for the bad boy–but it was taking too long for me to get interested enough in her.
She felt like the basic prototype of what a contemporary romance heroine should be but with no extra embellishments.
–Manning is Irresistible?–
I didn’t even make it to Manning’s (our hero?) first POV chapter but his dialogue with Lake in the chapter before did nothing for me. I have a hard time believing he gets 2 girls to fall for him honestly.
–The Age Difference–
I don’t mind reading “taboo” or forbidden romances that explore age gaps and other aspects between their leads. But the age difference between Lake and Manning–especially with how their characters are initially presented–just came across as pure creepy to me and not at all romantic.

Will I Finish It?

I honestly contemplated reading more chapters to give this book more of a chance (it is really long for a contemporary romance and nothing had really happened by that point so I was willing to see if it would improve in a few chapters). But, I read a lot of reader reviews on Goodreads for the first book, as well as the sequels and gathered that I would not enjoy this series at all given the direction it goes in. So I decided to end my adventure before I got too far.

My Rating: DNF

Something in the Way DNF | Somebody Else’s Sky N/A | Move the Stars TBP | Lake + Manning TBP

overall

I think if you enjoy family drama and love triangles, this is probably a good series for you to pick up. But if you like more complex characters in your romantic leads, look elsewhere.

Read if You Like: love triangles, drama, angst, stubborn characters
Avoid if You: dislike love triangles
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Spin-off Saturdays: Shifter Royals by Leigh Walker

Spin-off Saturdays: Shifter Royals by Leigh Walker

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 Shifter Royals Trilogy is a spin-off of the Vampire Royals Series

breakdown

Series: Shifter Royals, Vampire Royals

This is a spinoff of the Vampire Royals Series.

Author: Leigh Walker
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Paranormal, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: January 2020 – March 2020
Source & Format: KoboPlus—eBook

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

thoughts

My Expectations?

I’ll be honest, I didn’t really remember much of Tamara from the first three books of the Vampire Royals Series. I can’t remember if I liked her or not but I was intrigued by her when she makes a cameo in Books #4 & #5 of the series. Rhys on the other hand has a pretty big role in those same books and one that doesn’t start in the most positive light either. So I was really interested to see what would happen when these two were matched together!

How Does It Compare To The Original?

–Return of the Dating Competition–

I love this paranormal Bachelor dating show aspect that these books have. I think it’s a lot of fun to read about. It was something I really missed in the previous two books of the Vampire Royals Series that take place just before this trilogy. So its return was welcomed to say the least. But I also think it was a little more well done here as well. Perhaps the fewer girls competing for Rhys heart helped to really establish his connection with Tamara (plus it helped they met before the competition as well).

–Stronger World Politics–

When we weren’t focused on the dating show, we got to delve into the world of politics. Rhys is the new king of a new kingdom and not everyone is a fan of that. So I liked the suspense that came along with that. I thought this series did a great job balancing the back and forth between the dating show and the drama outside of it. All the books just had a great flow to it.

Anything I Didn’t Like?

–“Snogging” and Wine–

Honestly, this is just being nit-picky but I thought it was weird that they would use the term “snogging” but no other terms that were really British. I also thought there was a lot of wine usage to get through difficult social situations…which just seemed odd in a book that was very toned down in terms of sexual content and language.

Series Rating: 4/5

The Realm 4/5 | The Uprising 4/5 | The Crown 4/5

overall

I would say that I enjoyed this series a lot more than its original predecessor! I loved the balance between the politics of the world and the reality dating competition and it was simply a fun series to get lost in for a few days!

Read if You Like: vampires and/or werewolves, love dating competitions
Avoid if You: want more action, want erotica

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Realm (from Goodreads):

He wants to make me his queen. The problem? I’m an heiress. And he’s…a beast.
I mean he is really a beast, a werewolf to be precise. I’m the first to admit that I’m born to be royalty, but this wasn’t exactly how I’d pictured it!

Rhys is about to be crowned king of the Realm, and he wants me to rule by his side. He said if I refuse, he’ll have the prince “gift” me to him. The nerve! One thing the new king needs to learn? I don’t take orders—not from him, not from anyone. But when Rhys makes it a contest and invites other women to audition to be his bride, he gets my ire up. I don’t know if I’m meant to marry a werewolf, but I do know that I was born to win. I’ll show that beast what I’m made of—I’ll make him sit, beg and heel. So may the best woman win.

And since I’m already certain that’s me, I’m all for it… Let the games begin!

*This is a brand-new series that is part of the Vampire Royals world. You do not need to read Vampire Royals in order to read this book.

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Series Review: The Rite of the Vampire Saga by Juliana Haygert

Series Review: The Rite of the Vampire Saga by Juliana Haygert

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 Vampire Heir (from Goodreads):

A young woman with a secret. A man with a death sentence. And a terrible fate that threatens to destroy them both …
When I was invited to the secretive castle DuMoir, I knew I’d end up dead. The guests might be excited by the exclusive tour around the estate, and the ending ball that concludes it, but I know better.

The castle’s inhabitants are vampires. And they want our blood.

I must find a way to survive their feast, because I’m not here as a clueless visitor. I’m here for a reason. Undercover work can be hard, but I’ve been through worse. That is until I unwillingly become a blood slave to Drake, a mysterious, brooding vampire prince.

Tragedy strikes the castle and chaos arise. Despite the new dangers surrounding us, I soon find out there’s more to Drake than he lets on, and feelings I’m not supposed to have stir in my chest.

But I can’t afford any distractions or everything will be lost. After all, I’m hiding a secret-a dark secret that might save us all … or doom us forever.

breakdown

Series: Rite of the Vampire Saga

Part of the Rite World collection

Author: Juliana Haygert
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance, Magic, Non-Contemporary
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: March – May 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Non-contemporary New Adult reads are hard to find — or maybe I just look for them in the wrong places? Regardless, ever since I binged Blood Type and Vampire Royals last year, I’ve kept my eye out for anything remotely similar. That’s how I stumbled upon Rite of the Vampire when browsing my library’s audiobook collection.

I had read Haygert’s Playing Pretend years ago and enjoyed the straightforward story. The synopsis for The Vampire Heir was intriguing and the audiobook time was just over 5 hours so it seemed like it would be worth a shot!

The Concept / The World:

At first I thought this story was going to be strictly vampires but we meet Drake, our hero, after he returns from a battle with a werewolf pact. I thought the world here was a cool blend of all paranormal creatures. It kind of reminded my of Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld Series for its blending of modern and paranormal.

The series itself is set in a universe that has other books published within it. So each series follows a specific set of leads but they all intermingle and crossover since it is set in the same world. That’s always fun, especially if you like to read series like I do. It’s nice to return sometimes to a familiar world and after completing this series, I’m really interested in the next one, The Rite of the Warlock!

The Plot:

Given the many paranormal creatures and the various hierarchies within their groups, I thought this story would be harder to follow but it wasn’t. However, I think it’s important for readers to know that it isn’t going to be a straightforward, only vampires story. Look elsewhere if you only want to read about vampires.

The Rite of the Vampire (#1) is pretty mellow, focusing more on the suspense for the first 3/4 of the book and then things change. It has a very different vibe than the rest of the series which is more action packed and lots of twists and turns. The overarching series plot is simple to follow but nevertheless entertaining.

The Characters:

I found both Thea and Drake to be super dry at the start of the series. They just seemed like cookie-cutter molds of lead characters but I think that was intentional given the setup of the first book and it’s suspenseful, mystery approach. As the series progresses, their characters evolve a bit more and break away from those stiff shells.

I also enjoyed the rest of the cast as well. Despite the many characters we meet, it was easy to remember everyone and get attached to some and hate others.

The Romance:

So I didn’t really like the romance in the first book; well, I should say that I didn’t like the way it materialized. It would have liked a little more tension, more “I hate you but I’m attracted to you” chemistry between Drake and Thea. It just seemed like they never interacted and then BAM, love. I just craved a little more from it especially when it’s a “I shouldn’t love you” type of relationship.

However, I did enjoy the romance as the series progressed. I thought there was a good balance between it, the plot and the character development we get from it.

My Audiobook Experience:

The audiobooks were a lot of fun. I liked that the annoying characters that you weren’t supposed to like had nasally voices and tones that suited their delivery. It was an easy series to listen to and I think I finished them super quickly because they weren’t very long. I felt like I was listening to a TV show which is always fun.

Series Rating: 3/5

The Vampire Heir 3/5 | The Witch Queen 3/5 | The Immortal Vow 3/5

overall

If you are looking for a quick but satisfying non-contemporary romance in the new adult genre, this is a great one for you to pick up!

Read if You Like: blending of paranormal creatures, non-contemporary new adult
Avoid if You: dislike paranormal
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Series Review: All-Stars by Katie McCoy

Series Review: All-Stars by Katie McCoy

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 Royal Player (from Goodreads):

Charlie Davenport is the bad boy of British sports – and third in line to the throne. He’s a beast on the courts, and a wild animal in bed (according to all the tabloids). Girls are lining up for chance at his crown jewels, and when I stumble into the wrong Wimbledon dressing room and catch a glimpse of his game, set, AND match, I can see why.

So what’s a little good luck kiss between f̶r̶i̶e̶n̶d̶s̶ strangers?

I know better than to get involved with a bad boy like Charlie. But now he’s on a winning streak, he thinks I’m his lucky charm – and you know what’s luckier than a kiss?

Everything.

Suddenly, I’ve got paparazzi on my trail, exes coming out of the woodwork — and you don’t know ‘cutthroat’ until you’ve seen a pack of hungry socialites set loose near the Royal Family.

I’m in way over my head, and even worse – I’m falling in love. Can this American girl win her Prince Charming? Or will we both crash out of the championships in flames?

breakdown

Series: All-Stars
Author: Katie McCoy
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: April 2017 – February 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I read a few of Katie’s earlier novels and really enjoyed them. I did start her Rascals Series but the first book didn’t do much for me. So when I saw that my library had the audiobook version of her All-Stars Series, I thought I would given them a try.

The Plot:

If you like romances that read like Romantic-Comedy movies or you love the trope of an every-day girl falling for a hottie celebrity, this is the series for you! These books are simple in their execution, where we don’t delve too deep into the characters’ pasts but instead focus on the chemistry between the leads. It read like a Hallmark movie: fast romance and soapy drama.

The Characters:

Like I said, we don’t delve too deep into the character pasts. We just get enough surface to keep the story moving and to prove that even celebrity heroes have some baggage.

The Romance:

I liked all the pairings. You could see the chemistry even if the romances occurred only over a couple of weeks.

My Audiobook Experience:

I did NOT enough the male narrator for Royal Player at all. He just made everything Uber cheesy. I think they were going for a Westley from Princess Bride approach with his style but it didn’t work for me.
The rest of the series had great audio productions though.

Series Rating: 3.5/5

Royal Player 3/5 | Hot Bachelor 4/5 | Heartthrob 3/5 | Sex God 4/5

overall

If you want quick, rom-com reads, this is a great series to pick up!

Read if You Like: rom-coms, contemporary romance, celebrity romances
Avoid if You: want deeper character development

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Series Review: The Bridgertons by Julia Quinn

Series Review: The Bridgertons by Julia Quinn

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 Duke and I (from Goodreads):

In the ballrooms and drawing rooms of Regency London, rules abound. From their earliest days, children of aristocrats learn how to address an earl and curtsey before a prince—while other dictates of the ton are unspoken yet universally understood. A proper duke should be imperious and aloof. A young, marriageable lady should be amiable… but not too amiable.

Daphne Bridgerton has always failed at the latter. The fourth of eight siblings in her close-knit family, she has formed friendships with the most eligible young men in London. Everyone likes Daphne for her kindness and wit. But no one truly desires her. She is simply too deuced honest for that, too unwilling to play the romantic games that captivate gentlemen.

Amiability is not a characteristic shared by Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings. Recently returned to England from abroad, he intends to shun both marriage and society—just as his callous father shunned Simon throughout his painful childhood. Yet an encounter with his best friend’s sister offers another option. If Daphne agrees to a fake courtship, Simon can deter the mamas who parade their daughters before him. Daphne, meanwhile, will see her prospects and her reputation soar.

The plan works like a charm—at first. But amid the glittering, gossipy, cut-throat world of London’s elite, there is only one certainty: love ignores every rule…

breakdown

Series: The Bridgertons

There is a prequel Series: The Rokesbys & a series of Lady Whistledown Stories

Author: Julia Quinn
# of Books: 8 (Full Reading Order Here)

There are also 2nd epilogue novellas for each novel.

Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Regency, Historical Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: January 2000 – June 2006
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Although I am a huge regency romance fan, I had never read the Bridgerton Series. Truthfully, like many people, it never crossed my radar until Netflix made the TV series. I nearly binged all the episodes in one sitting but controlled myself (and finished it within a reasonable 2 days). I loved watching these siblings on the TV series and just couldn’t get enough! And thanks to its massive popularity, my library soon got all the audiobooks and I quickly found my next audio series to read. Plus, I was impatient to see where these character stories would go.

How it Compares to the TV Series:

I’m sure most people who will be reading this series are doing so because of the Netflix TV Series. Since the first season is based on the first book, The Duke and I, I was a little worried the book would be a regurgitation of the TV show.

And while some scenes are very similar, they’ve also added a lot more plotlines to the TV show (like the whole meeting the Queen bit and anything to do with the Queen really) to make it, well, a show. But I’d say the TV series has captured the essence of the books and that’s all you can ask for really. Time will tell what the second season will be like but I think they did a great job with the adaption so far.

The Plot:

The first 3 books are your classic Regency reads, with a few loose retellings of some classic tales like The Taming of the Shrew (Book #2) and Cinderella (Book #3), thrown in for inspiration. They’re a little lighter and have a few laughs along the way. Lady Whistledown’s character (and her anonymity) helps to keep that dramatic flare of the ton alive while also maintaining an overarching plot line to thread the individual books together. I just thought they were a lot of fun to read.

I think Book #4, Romancing Mister Bridgerton, is the book that the entire series has been leading up to. We’re on the cusp of revealing who Lady Whistledown is and I think the romance that everyone (or maybe just me) has been anticipating since the first novel/episode is the focus. It’s probably my favourite of the series.

But once the identity of Lady Whistledown is revealed, I find the remaining books in the series lose that lighter side to them. To Sir Philip, With Love (#5) has a darker, somber edge to it. And while it is a touching book to read, I missed the rest of the meddling Bridgerton Brood and the always watching Lady Whistledown. I also think this was the book where my experience with the TV show dampened my reading experience. I find Eloise’s character to be very different between the two mediums, so I think I was expecting a different type of story here.

That somber tone continues on in When He Was Wicked (#6) and I felt like that was when my interest in the series started to wane. I really struggled with this story for a few reason. One: is that timeline jumps around a bit between books #4 and #5 so I got a little lost there. Two: is that the lead is a Bridgerton we don’t really know much about other than a few key pieces (so I didn’t really know what to expect). Three–and perhaps the biggest reason–is that I really struggled with the romance. I just found it to be a little off-putting because it is a complicated situation and I didn’t really enjoy that aspect (more below). It also has that somber tone to it that I don’t enjoy but on Goodreads, people seem to adore this book so maybe I’m just a minority here.

The last two books in the series I enjoyed a little more, but again, I think I wanted slightly different stories. I actually think the plots should be switched for the last two novels in some ways.

The Characters:

I love all the Bridgertons. I just think they are so much fun and I love how much they love their family. It’s touching to see. You really get invested in all their lives.

The Romance:

I would say most of these books have a slow burn romance. These characters really take their time to fall in love and fight the inevitable. But I thought all the pairs were great matches.

However, I did struggle with the romance in When He was Wicked (#5). For those who don’t know who the lead is in this book I’ve put my thoughts in as spoilers:

When He was Wicked (Book #5) Spoilers

I honestly was excited for Francesca’s story because she is the enigma of the Bridgertons. All we know is that she was a young widow. I’m not one of those people who believes you can’t find love after the death of a beloved spouse/partner so I was looking forward to her finding love again. However, while I liked Michael objectively as a character, I didn’t like the idea that he has always been in love with Frannie. And I felt like Frannie was having an emotional affair with Michael while she was married to John by asking him about all his wicked encounters with women–I dunno, the whole thing just felt icky to me. Maybe if they both fell in love after John’s death I wouldn’t have struggled with that as much.

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The Second Epilogues:

What a fun treat these were! They were great ways to wrap up each character arc and gives a glimpse into the very far future in some instances. I love a good, wrapped up conclusion!

My Audiobook Experience:

We have the same narrator throughout the series and I thought she did a great job. She has a great way of injecting humour and emotion into her reading. She really brought the characters to life for me.

Series Rating: 4/5

The Duke and I 4/5 | The Viscount Who Loved Me 5/5 | An Offer from a Gentleman 5/5  | Romancing Mr. Bridgerton 5/5  | To Sir Philip, With Love 4/5  | When He Was Wicked 2/5  | It’s in His Kiss 3/5  | On the Way to the Wedding 3/5 

overall

Fans of the show will like spending extra time with their favourite family. Fans of regency reads will enjoy this classic delivery. I do think the series loses some of its original charm as it concludes but all the stories are entertaining nonetheless.

Read if You Like: historical romances, books featuring siblings
Avoid if You: dislike historical romances

similarreads

  • The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare (Girl Meets Duke Series #1)
  • Slightly Married by Mary Balogh (Bedwyn Saga #1)
  • A Duke in the Night by Kelly Bowen (The Devils of Dover Series #1)
  • Never Seduce a Scot by Maya Banks (The Montgomerys and The Armstrongs Series #1)

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