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Connected: A series that has books featuring different leads but is set in the same universe

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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.

[collapse]

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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Spin-off Saturdays: The Renaldis by Karen Erickson

Spin-off Saturdays: The Renaldis by Karen Erickson

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 Renaldis Series is a spin-off of the Worth It Series

breakdown

Series: The Renaldis

This is a spinoff of the Worth It Series.

Author: Karen Erickson (aka Monica Murphy)
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)

There is a prequel novella: #0.5 Temporary Arrangement

Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: July 2013 – July 2014
Source & Format: Own—eBook

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

thoughts

My Expectations?

When Anastasia’s true paternity is revealed in the Worth It Series, we get introduced to a different side of The Renaldis Family. I was really excited to learn more about this family when I finished the inaugural series — I even pre-ordered the first book! But life got in the way and unfortunately, I never managed to read the series until years later when the finer details of the Worth It Series were forgotten.

How Does It Compare To The Original?

–Has the Family Drama–

Just like its predecessor, The Renaldis Series packs in lots of family drama along the way. While I found that the siblings weren’t as involved in each story as the Worth brothers were in their series, you still have family members meddling (or helping) along the way to fuel the drama. I did miss the more overarching plot that the previous series had (drama with the family business); the drama in this series is more about the emotional obstacles stopping these couples from being together. But the drama we do get is definitely melodramatic.

–Passionate, Forbidden Romances–

Things move quickly in all these books (maybe a little too quickly sometimes) but there is definitely chemistry with all the romantic pairs–even if they are quick to deny it themselves. I would have liked to have seen things worked out a little more, but melodramatics is the goal here and that is certainly achieved with the romances.

Anything I Didn’t Like?

–Kidnapping His Bride–

I had really mixed feelings about Book #2, Kidnapping His Bride. I love reading about arranged matches in modern romances; it’s an interesting dynamic to explore. But I really struggled with Rafe’s approach to his “promised to Cat since they were children” dilemma.

He claims Cat has been the only one for him yet he slept around with other girls despite knowing their arrangement. Then he gets upset when she wants to break it off because she didn’t think it was a serious arrangement…just like he did. It’s hypocritical and I don’t like that trait in an alpha male. His approach is something that would work more in a historical romance when society was different, but it just felt icky in a modern romance. I almost stopped reading it when that was brought up early on in the book.

Series Rating: 3/5

[Temporary Arrangement 4/5 ] | Tempted by Her Boss 4/5 | Kidnapping His Bride 2/5 | Falling for Her Husband 3/5

overall

If you want some quick, passionate romances these fit the bill. But if you want deeper romantic connections, look elsewhere. I think my reading tastes have evolved since I read the inaugural series and I think I would have enjoyed these more if I read them closer together.

Read if You Like: quick reads, soap operas
Avoid if You: dislike melodramatics

similarreads

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Tempted by Her Boss (from Goodreads):

Paige Stewart has committed the ultimate nanny sin—she’s fallen in love with her boss. She adores Matteo Renaldi’s sweet, precocious son. Who wouldn’t? But it’s torture going about her day-to-day tasks, catching fleeting glimpses of the boy’s enigmatic father. Chastising herself for fantasizing she’s in the Renaldi master bed…

It’s ridiculous, pointless. After all, soon little Matty won’t need her anymore and she’ll move on.

Matteo has no interest in dating. He’s consumed by work, his son…and his son’s nanny. She’s everything he’s not: young, carefree, trusting, maybe a little naïve. She deserves better than an embittered widower. Yet when she accidentally falls into his arms, he can’t resist drawing her in for a kiss that quickly spirals out of control.

As they travel to his family’s home in Italy and slowly fall in love, the whispers start. And when one particularly ugly story blows up in their faces, their reputations might escape unscathed, but their hearts may not…

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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!

thoughts

**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.

–November 11, 2021– Book #4: The Senior

I was never the biggest fan of our hero in this book. I seem to be in the minority for that when it comes to this series but I am always down for a good redemption story.

It took me awhile to get into this thanks to the constant back and forth between our couple at the start. I get that it’s their “thing” so to speak (it’s their main trope) and it provides plenty of steamy scenes, but I could have done with a little less and still gotten the point. There are a lot of big impact moments that happen in the last 25-30% of the book that help shape up his character; I would have liked to have seen more of that character evolution earlier on.

Overall, it’s a solid way to end the series. I think fans will enjoy the return of this fan-favourite couple especially.

Series Rating: 3.5/5

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

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

similarreads

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:

book4

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

thoughts

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: Love in Quarantine by Bella d’Amour

Series Review: Love in Quarantine by Bella d’Amour

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 Love in the Age of Covid (from Goodreads):

When Covid-19 forces a lockdown, Sherry’s roommate creates online dating profiles for both of them, “hoping for some fantastic phone sex…” Sherry has never participated in phone sex and doesn’t intend to start with men she’s never met. Before she can delete her profile, Sherry gets a message from “Frederic.” Something about his profile and sweet, simple message calls to her, and she decides to take a chance. She soon learns phone sex can most certainly be fantastic! When he asks to meet in person, dare she take a chance and risk learning he’s too good to be true?

From the author of The Freedom Series (Free to Play, Free to Live, and Free to Risk), comes another steamy romance with lovable characters.

breakdown

Series: Love in Quarantine
Author: Bella D’Amour
# of Books: 2
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: October – December 2020
Source & Format: Author–eARC

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

The last year has been rough for the vast majority of the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I work in healthcare so it seems like my life has been about this virus 24/7 for a very long time. By the time Bella asked me if I would be interested in reviewing her novelettes about finding love in a time of Covid, I had stopped reading the news and tried my best to avoid anything COVID related outside of work.

But I really enjoyed Bella’s Freedom Series and these really aren’t long novels (they average less than 100 pages each) so I wanted to give them a try.

The Concept / The World:

As I said above, in times like these when COVID is discussed 24/7, it was nice to read something somewhat positive that deals with our current pandemic but not overwhelming focused on it. It was a nice reminder that even when times are tough, love prevails and as a hopeless romantic, I loved that idea.

The Plot:

Things move fast in these novels but when characters are in a bubble and the focus is on the task or romance at hand, things naturally progress fast. When you have the time to dedicate to something specific, like getting to know someone else, what you would have learned about someone in 3 weeks can be learned in 1.

Also, it’s fiction so there is always the artistic license.

The Characters:

Considering we only had a reduced number of pages to get to know these characters, I felt like I had a good grasp on them. Bella d’Amour has never had a problem creating complex, layered characters in her books and that talent is shown in these novellas.

I liked everyone and I liked the heroes were a little bit of a mystery because we didn’t get their POVs.

The Romance:

When your romantic leads can’t touch for the majority of their relationship, it really amps up the emotional connection. Which in turn cranks up the sexual tension between them. I liked that these couples got those deeper connections established beforehand. I loved it when I can see why my romantic leads would fall in love and I definitely got that in these novellas.

Series Rating: 4/5

Love in the Age of Covid 4/5 | Looking For Love 4/5

overall

If you want some get one-shots to read at the beach this summer or just need some optimism in these darker times, these are some great novellas to pick up!

Read if You Like: novellas, quick romances, contemporary
Avoid if You: want erotica
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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

thoughts

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: Never by Winter Renshaw

Series Review: Never by Winter Renshaw

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 Never Kiss a Stranger (from Goodreads):

It was an innocent mistake…

All workaholic real estate broker Addison Andrews wanted was one night of pleasure, and picking the right guy was no different than shopping from a catalog thanks to the dating app on her phone. His name was Wilder, and his profile was blank – just a sexy picture of a man who promised every wicked intention of a one-night stand.

The agreement was simple. One night. No last names. But the second their bodies melded together in the sheets of their posh Manhattan hotel room, there was no denying they fit together like two pieces of a broken puzzle.

There’s just one problem…

Addison unknowingly swiped right on the one man she wasn’t supposed to be with – her new stepbrother. All it takes is one bite of forbidden fruit to become addicted, but being with him has major consequences for their entire family. And if anyone found out about them, the career she worked so hard to build would crumble to the ground.

But Wilder Van Cleef doesn’t care about the possibility of a scandal. He wants her, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: Never
Author: Winter Renshaw
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order)

There is a spin-off novella: Bitter Rivals

Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty (Kink: mild)
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: March – June 2015
Source & Format: Own–eBook; Kindle Unlimited

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Winter Renshaw is an author I read no matter what. Her books are usually packed with great chemistry, some of my favourite romance tropes and some unexpected twists or spins that keep me on my toes.

I think I picked up a freebie copy of Never Kiss a Stranger before I even read a Winter Renshaw novel–or maybe I picked it up after I read my first? Regardless, I was excited to dive into a new romance series with some of my favourite tropes from an author I had enjoyed in the past.

The Plot:

While these books had a lot of my favourite tropes at play, I felt like they were underutilized or portrayed falsely by the synopsis. For example, in Never Kiss a Stranger (#1), there is the forbidden “new stepbrother” angle listed in the synopsis but it isn’t something that is revealed until after the 50% mark. And I honestly think if it had been omitted from the synopsis, it would have amped the book up a bit. By having it a known secret, its eventual “reveal” halfway through the book was a bit of a let down.

I just felt like things were underdeveloped when it came to the plot for all the books. I craved more. The pacing was a little off or things felt forced or logic was glossed over for the sake of drama and I just felt like we got the bare minimum out of these stories when there was potential for more.

The Characters:

Again, I think development was glossed over at times when it comes to the characters.

I found all the characters were a little anti-hero in a way, highlighting their flaws more so than anything else. But that can be a double-edged sword because you risk the reader not liking them either. I think I really struggled with that in Never is a Promise (#2) because these two just really had some strong anti-logic going on and I couldn’t get behind their resistance to be together.

The Romance:

I felt like all the leads had great physical chemistry but, once again, we glossed over the deeper stuff. Every connection seems to be this innate, inexplicable draw that just left me wanting a little more.

When to Read Bitter Rivals:

If you use Goodreads, you’ll notice that Bitter Rivals isn’t always listed as a part of the Never Series. I had no clue it was either when I grabbed the novella for free off of Amazon one day. I had started to read it and there was just something about the way some of the side characters were dropped that got me thinking it was a spin-off of something else.

I totally forgot about that fact until I picked it up again a couple of months later because I needed a quicker read. This time, I just went with it. Moral of the story: you can read it as a standalone but I think you will get more out of it if you read it after you read the other books in the series even though the leads of the novella aren’t mentioned at all in the previous books.

Series Rating: 3.5/5

Never Kiss a Stranger 3.5/5 | Never Say Never 3/5 | Never is a Promise 3.5/5 | [Bitter Rivals 3/5]

overall

This is not my favourite Winter Renshaw series. They are quicker reads that you can easily get through in a sitting when you need a good distraction but there are better ones out there if you want more twists.

Read if You Like: quick romances, second chances
Avoid if You: want deeper character stories

similarreads

  • Forbidden by Lauren Smith (Her British Stepbrother Series #1)
  • Bedwrecker by Kim Karr (Men of Laguna Series #2)
  • Rumor Has It by Magan Vernon (Friendship, Texas Series #2)

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Series Review: An Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund

Series Review: An Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund

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 An Uncertain Choice (from Goodreads):

Due to her parents’ promise at her birth, Lady Rosemarie has been prepared to become a nun on the day she turns eighteen. Then, a month before her birthday, a friend of her father’s enters the kingdom and proclaims her parents’ will left a second choice. If Rosemarie can marry before the eve of her eighteenth year, she will be exempt from the ancient vow.

Before long, Rosemarie is presented with the three most handsome and brave knights in the land. But when the competition for her heart seemingly results in a knight playing foul, she begins to wonder if the cloister is the best place after all. If only one of the knights the one who appears the most guilty had not already captured her heart.

breakdown

Series: An Uncertain Choice
Author: Jody Hedlund
# of Books: 5 (Full Reading Order)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Teen, Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction, Romance, Adventure
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: March 2015 – September 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I only read the first 3 book of the series and have opted not to pick up the sequels (#4, #5).

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I had had An Uncertain Choice on my library’s wishlist for a long time. I think it was a “judged by the cover” situation because I don’t recall hearing about it anyway. Fast forward a few years when I’m super into audiobooks and I decide that this would make a great series to read!

The Concept / The World:

All the stories are connected initially (Books #1 to #3) through a group of three boys who are training to be knights and the ladies they meet along the way who steal their hearts. The final two books focus on some side characters we meet throughout the series.

Some people bill this as a Christian Fiction; it isn’t the first label would slap on this series. Perhaps my unfamiliarity with the genre doesn’t have me fully convinced. There is nothing overtly religious about anything here (Book #3 is as close as it gets but I think you could argue historical events also explain its tone) so don’t let that turn you away. But the ideals of treating people with respect, helping others and chivalry are themes throughout. I also think the sweet and chaste romances perpetuate that idea as well.

The Plot:

Some of the books had a stronger plot than others. For example, Daring Sacrifice had a loose Robin Hood retelling to it that was fun. I found every book to be predictable but the stories flow well enough (despite some repetitive scenes) that I didn’t mind too much.

The Characters:

Most of the characters have a naivety and innocence to them that is somewhat charming. Their hearts are in the right place so I let some of their mistakes go by with a grain of salt.

And the boys are chivalrous but without being condescending! I thought these books were pretty “pro-girl-power” and it was nice to see these girls take charge when they had to.

The Romance:

The romances are sweet and very chaste to my normal reading choices. They happen a little quickly but it worked for the story.

My Audiobook Experience:

While I think the sole female narrator did a good job overall with two POVs, I really wish we had two narrators. I had the hardest time catching the change in POV throughout this series! There wasn’t much of a tone change between our female lead and our male lead–or at least not one that was noticeable immediately if you picked up where you left off. It was very frustrating.

Why I Stopped Reading After Book #3:

It’s simply because my library lacks the books and that I didn’t enjoy the series enough to purchase them for myself.

Series Rating: 3/5

An Uncertain Choice 3/5 | A Daring Sacrifice 3/5 | For Love and Honour 3/5 | A Loyal Heart N/A | A Worthy Rebel N/A

overall

If you like quick, sweet historical romances, this is great series for you to try.

Read if You Like: sweet romance, more teen oriented reads
Avoid if You: want more romance, want more action

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Series Review: Neverland by Gina L Maxwell

Series Review: Neverland by Gina L Maxwell

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 Pan (from Goodreads):

Once upon a time, in Neverland, North Carolina–I fell in love.

I was twelve when Peter first climbed up to my balcony.
Thirteen when I sneaked out to see him at the School for Lost Boys.
Seventeen when his touch made me fly,
And eighteen when his words made me cry.

We were magnetic, drawn to each other from that very first night, and what I thought would be forever. But when it came time for me to leave, he wouldn’t come with, so I left town with a map for my future and a shattered heart.

Ten years later, I’ve returned to Neverland, hoping to find a man in place of the boy.

Peter was partially right, growing up is no fun. After quitting my fancy career that sucked the magic out of life, I’m now organizing the fundraiser of the year. In a move that could make or break the event and my new company, I’ve hired Peter, master mechanic and owner of LB Automotive, to help me pull this off–trusting him to rebuild a classic car for the auction that could help hundreds of foster kids in need.

I thought I was prepared, but the boy who refused to leave is now a man hell-bent on getting me to stay, and as sparks fly between us, that undeniable fire flares back to life, deeper and hotter than ever.

But that ripped body doesn’t mean Peter’s matured enough to make us or this event work, and not everyone in Neverland is happy about my return.

Not every wound heals.
Not every heart can be fixed.
Not every boy grows up.

And after all this time, the love we found might be lost to us again…this time, forever.

breakdown

Series: Neverland
Author: Gina L Maxwell
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: No, Tink, is to be published
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Retelling, Dark
Heat Rating: Smokin’ (Kink: Mild | BDSM: Mild)
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: January 2019 – ongoing
Source & Format: Kindle Unlimited–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I really liked Maxwell’s Playboys in Love Series for its unique spin on a contemporary romance and when she announced this series, was so on board!

The Concept / The World:

I loved the idea of a modern Peter Pan and one that was grounded in realism, not fantasy. You can clearly see all the allusions to the classic story but with a contemporary spin. It’s angsty in a grown-up way that will appeal to readers.

The Plot:

While the world is Peter Pan, I liked that the plot wasn’t. Each novel focuses on a different standalone plotline, but it’s all woven together throughout the novels to keep you invested in these characters.

The Characters:

Wendy Darling in the original story is basically the gold standard for annoying Mary Sue characters. But not here! All the characters are layered with interesting pasts (which is highlighted with flashbacks) and I loved how they evolved from that past by the end of their respective novels.

That being said, these characters have the prototypes of Peter Pan and company but it isn’t as light as the source material. There is a lot of tragedy and I think some people will find their stories hard to read.

The Romance:

Passionate! I loved all the chemistry between the leads. And we get just enough of a taste of their prospective partners in the other books that you are super invested in their stories by the time their novels come around.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

Very excited to see this love story unfold!

Series Rating: 4/5

Pan 4/5 | Hook 4/5 | Tink N/A

overall

If you are looking for a light and fluffy, modern Peter Pan retelling, you will have to look elsewhere. These characters have major baggage but that makes the romance worth a read because everyone wants a HEA!

Read if You Like: modern retellings, dark reads
Avoid if You: dislike tragic pasts
similarreads

  • Shameless by Gina L Maxwell (Playboys in Love Series #1)
  • Beauty of the Beast by Rachel L. Demeter (Fairy Tale Retellings Series #1)

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