Tag «Contemporary»

romances set in today’s time

Single Sundays: Love and Kerosene by Winter Renshaw

Single Sundays: Love and Kerosene by Winter Renshaw

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Love and Kerosene (from Goodreads):

For me, family is a curse. My father and brother made my life hell. My mother’s untimely death still keeps me up at night. Now that my brother, Donovan, has been killed in an accident, I can forget the past.

The last remnant is the childhood home I’ve inherited—and which I intend to burn to the ground. The only obstacle? Anneliese Nielsen, Donovan’s fiancée.

Donovan left her destitute, and selling this run-down house is her only chance to recoup her losses. I shouldn’t care, but…maybe it’s her eyes when she sees me. I look strikingly like my brother, a man she loved despite everything.

So we strike a deal. We’ll renovate the house together, but she’ll have to convince me to sell—or up in flames it goes.

But the more time we spend in the house, the more its terrible history threatens to come out.

And even more dangerous, the harder I start to fall for Anneliese.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Author: Winter Renshaw
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: October 11, 2022
Source & Format: Author–eARC

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I love a good slow burn romance, especially when it is between two people who are love-broken. This premise was super unique and I couldn’t wait to see what twists Winter Renshaw had in store.

The Plot:

This book had the right balance between character growth and romance. I loved that we saw both characters learn from their past and face their “demons” so to speak.

The Characters:

Annaliese is hurt by the betrayal of her fiancé and is left in the mess he created. Lachlan is also trying to come to grips with the relationship he had with his estranged brother. Donovan is dead and so these two will never get that big, all will be revealed moment for him and so it brings an interesting dynamic to their individual character stories but also to their budding relationship as they navigate how to reconcile the past but build a new future without getting those answers from Donovan himself.

The Romance:

I thought these two had a lot of chemistry once they started to get to know each other. The romance is sweeter than it is outright passionate but I think that makes the connection seem stronger. It isn’t something that burns hot right away but slowly catches heat as it builds.

My Rating: 4/5

overall

Overall, while the premise seems like an outright soap opera, Winter Renshaw finds a way to ground the story with strong, likeable characters as she shows the power of reconciling the past to create a great future.

Read if You Like: characters learning to love again, character driven romances
Avoid if You: dislike contemporary romance

similarreads

  • Hold on Tight by Abbi Glines (Sea Breeze Series #8)
  • The Dirty Truth by Winter Renshaw
  • Rule by Jay Crownover (Marked Men Series #1)

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Series Review: East Park by Iris Blaire

Series Review: East Park by Iris Blaire

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 Exposure (from Goodreads):

My friends know me as Evan Cosette, a biochemistry major with a flawless GPA.

Everyone else? Well, they know me as Rylan Willow, erotic model for East Park Exposed.

The magazine has kept my tuition paid at East Park University. I just had to keep up the naive school-girl disguise on campus and my secret was safe, my two worlds separate.

Until Dallas. The gorgeous, disgustingly brilliant grad student who’s teaching my bio class this semester.

Oh, yeah… he’s also my new modeling partner.

I swore to myself that I wouldn’t get distracted. Dallas has a girlfriend, and I have to get into grad school.

That was before sales went through the roof.

Before the photographer decided to crank up the heat.

Before every photo shoot left me gasping for breath.

So, who gets Dallas? Me… or Rylan?

breakdown

Series: East Park
Author: Iris Blaire
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order)
Book Order: Direct (#1-2; #2-#3); Connected (#4)
Complete?: Unsure
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, College, Erotica
Heat Rating: Smokin’ (Kink: mild)
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: March 2013 – May 2020
Source & Format: Own–eBook (#1); Public Library–eBook (#2); KoboPlus–eBook (#3-#4)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I picked up Exposure(#1) as a freebie for my Kindle in November 2013 but didn’t actually read it until 2020 when I was looking for a shorter read to get me out of a reading funk. I was drawn to this title for its unique concept (college erotica magazine) and was intrigued by the fact that our “hero” already had a girlfriend.

The Concept / The World:

I didn’t know erotic college magazines were a thing. Amateur video porn, sure, but not photo spreads. You have to be a little more open to read this book because of that aspect (and the fact that Dallas does have a girlfriend already) or else you won’t get into the crux of it all.

The Plot:

The overall theme of these novels is the trials and tribulations of running and/or starring in an erotica magazine in college. There are a lot of pre-conceptions about the type of person who would pose nude or start a magazine like this. It’s not just people who want to have sex all the time (though there is plenty of steam along the way) but it’s people who are comfortable with their bodies (or want to learn to be); who view it as an art form; who need the money or just want to flaunt what they have. I found all the dynamics to be extremely intriguing to read about.

Aside from the magazine, there is the balancing of friendships, planning for the future after college and some complicated romantic entanglements to keep things dramatic.

The Characters:

I found that our lead characters in Exposure (#1) were a little all over the place. Perhaps it is because we see them as their “personas” when they are modeling and then as their everyday selves, but I struggled getting a read on our leads. Dallas in particular was hard to get a grasp on. He was confident one minute than docile the next. Evan was a little self-centered and in her own world but I understand why given the stage she is in at her life. Though I think it is a little naïve of her to think no one will recognize her in person because of the magazine.

I really enjoyed Britain’s character and was glad to see she gets more focus in Call Backs (#2) and Voyeur (#3).

Shiver (#4) sees the return of some of the characters from the first 3 books but focuses on the “next generation” of the East Park Exposed crew. You could definitely read it as a standalone or just not read it if you are satisfied with the way the first 3 books wrap up.

The Romance:

The romance theme of all the books is falling for the slightly forbidden romantic interest. I enjoyed the tension that brings but it was done better in some books than others.

I wasn’t entirely sold on the romance in Exposure (#1). I don’t enjoy books about cheating but I went in with an objective mind-frame. But because I struggled with the characters, I struggled with their romance. So I was glad when I learned that Call Backs (#2) would also focus on another character’s romance.

The best way to describe Call Backs (#2) is as a bridging novel. It ties up the loose ends of Exposure (#1) but gets you ready for the new romance that takes center stage in Voyeur (#3). It also amped up the sexuality in a way I’ve never really read in a romance book before which was intriguing.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

Given the mentions of “this is a story for another time” in the epilogue of Shiver (#4), I suspect that more books may be planned in the future for this series. I’d definitely be interested in reading them depending on the characters.

Series Rating: 3/5

Exposure 3/5 | Call Backs 3/5 | Voyeur 4/5 | Shiver 3/5

overall

If you enjoy unique New Adult stories or characters who are comfortable discussing sex and sexuality, check this quick series out!

Read if You Like: shorter romances reads, unique stories
Avoid if You: dislike erotica

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Series Review: The Collector by Amelia Wilde

Series Review: The Collector 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 Dark Reign (from Goodreads):

Wealthy. Reclusive. Dangerous. Emerson LeBlanc doesn’t enter society much. He only ventures out in pursuit of new art for his collection. It starts with a haunting painting. Then he meets the artist…

Innocent Daphne Morelli is more exquisite than anything he’s ever seen. He becomes obsessed with her. It doesn’t matter that she’s a living, breathing person with her own hopes and dreams.

​​​​​​​She’ll be the perfect addition to his collection.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: 2022 Fave
Series: The Collector Trilogy | Midnight Dynasty Series
Author: Amelia Wilde
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Dark, Erotica
Heat Rating: Hot (Kink: minor (#1,#3) & major (#2))
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: November 2021 – March 2022
Source & Format: Kobo Plus–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

So I went into this book with mixed expectations. For one thing, I was really excited to read Daphne Morelli’s story. It’s alluded to in Secret Beast (Beast of Bishop’s Landing) and I have been curious about it ever since. HOWEVER, I did not enjoy the Beast of Bishop’s Landing Series which is also written by Amelia Wilde so I wasn’t sure what to expect with this novel but I went in with an open mind…

The Concept – Midnight Dynasty:

The Midnight Dynasty Universe is a collection of books (series and standalones) written 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 lead characters at a time, but there are some shared chronological events and character interactions throughout the universe that overlap in the different series.

The first book in this series, Dark Reign, basically takes place over the span of the entire Beast of Bishop’s Landing Series so I highly recommend that you read that series first if you are trying to read the Midnight Dynasty Universe novels in the chronological order of events and don’t want to have that series be spoiled for you.

The Plot:

There was something so addicting about this series! There’s this edge of danger and suspense that just keeps building and building as the story progresses that I found to be so captivating.

Add to it the character evolution and I was sucked right into this series! I love dark, unconventional romance novels and this really fit that bill to a T.

I also liked that it showed a softer side to the Morelli family and in particular, Leo Morelli who is the hero in The Beast of Bishop’s Landing. While I didn’t love that series, I appreciated the weaving of that story–and Daphne’s perspective of the events–into Dark Reign (#1).

The Characters:

Emerson is a character unlike any other I’ve encountered before. Sure, he has a lot of tendencies of alpha billionaire heroes with tragic pasts you’ve read before, but there is also this unique vulnerability to him that slowly gets revealed to the reader. I could totally see why Daphne would become enthralled by him.

Daphne is the perfect character to compliment and drive Emerson’s character development. But she also has great character development throughout this series. I was captivated by their respective stories.

The Romance:

This isn’t a conventional love story by any means but I’m a sucker for a good dark romance and this is definitely a great one! The connection these two share just blew me away.

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: 5/5

Dark Reign 5/5 | Sweet Mercy 4.5/5 | Last Resort 5/5

overall

One of my favourite installments in the Midnight Dynasty Universe so far! I think some people won’t like the darker, unconventional romance but fans of romantic suspense will enjoy.

Read if You Like: romantic suspense
Avoid if You: dislike unorthodox romances
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Series Review: Hellfire Club by Becker Gray

Series Review: Hellfire Club by Becker Gray

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 Wicked Idol (from Goodreads):

The new girl doesn’t belong here.
So why can’t I stop thinking about her?

The daughter of the headmaster wants to ruin my school year before it’s even begun. Iris Briggs gets under my skin. With her demure skirts and braided hair, she flits around the periphery until she runs right into me, hot coffee soaking me as she looks up with wide, innocent eyes.

We start off scalding.
In the library, we reach lava levels.
And then in the city? She burns me to the ground.

I’m Keaton Constantine. My duty is to my family. At least, it was until I started unbraiding the good girl and realizing there’s more to life than duty.

breakdown

Series: Hellfire Club or Pembroke Prep | Midnight Dynasty Series
Author: Becker Gray
# of Books: 5 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: November 2020 – December 2021
Source & Format: Kobo Plus–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

My intention with this series was just to read Wicked Idol (#1), since it featured a Constantine I had met earlier when reading various books in the Midnight Dynasty Universe, then return to read the rest of the series later. But I absolutely fell in love with this cast of characters and binged the rest of the series shortly after I finished the first book and never looked back.

The Concept – Midnight Dynasty:

The Midnight Dynasty Universe is a collection of books (series and standalones) written 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 lead characters at a time, but there are some shared chronological events and character interactions throughout the universe that overlap in the different series.

This series only briefly crosses into the Constantine vs Morelli battle in the first book, Wicked Idol. From then on, I’d say this series stands on its own though references to the power families are made throughout the series.

The Concept / The World:

This is one of the Young Adult/New Adult hybrid series where 18 year olds get in some heated (sexual) situations. I’d label it as New Adult based on the content even though it takes place at a high school aged boarding school.

The Plot:

This series reminded me of Gossip Girl (more so the TV series) where you follow the drama of the social elite, only its set entirely in a boarding school. The family drama you expect from wealthy families is there but so is the die-hard friendships that form between the youth of that echelon…and their enemies. You’ve got rich boys who can catch any girl but there is just that one girl that they truly want and so ensues a swoon-worthy hate-to-love-you romance.

Most of these books are labeled as the “high school bully trope” and I’d agree for the most part that it fits. It’s basically that idea that if someone pulls your pigtails they like you. I’ve read a lot more intense high school bully romances where the “heroes” do terrible things to there heroines but I’d say that intensity isn’t here. More like disagreements and misunderstandings than actual torture.

The Characters:

I honestly fell in love with this entire crew by the end of Wicked Idol (#1) and truthfully, they played a very small part in that book. But the little tidbits we got about the relationships and pasts intrigued me enough that I had to keep going. The comradery of true friendship was great to read about.

I liked that each character had layers to them and that they evolved as the story progressed. I thought between the romantic pairs that there was a great balance in allowing both characters to grow as the relationship grew. It never felt one-sided which I appreciated.

The Romance:

Normally, I’m not a fan of the alpha male and most of our male characters lean that way. However, I am a sucker for a boy who completely loves a girl, even if he doesn’t know (or show) it yet. Watching those guards fall down had my heart melting!

I also loved that the pairs were all great matches for each other and it was really reflected in their stories. The romances were very well developed and all worked well for me.

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: 4/5

Wicked Idol 5/5 | Callous Prince 4/5 | Brutal Blueblood 4/5 | Ruined Sinner 3/5 | Sweet Devil 5/5

overall

I couldn’t put these books down! I loved the friendships, the drama and the romance!

Read if You Like: high school bully, boarding schools
Avoid if You: dislike erotica
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Series Review: Dark Dream Duet by Giana Darling

Series Review: Dark Dream Duet by Giana Darling

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 Dangerous Temptation (from Goodreads):

He arrives all dressed in black. Diamond cufflinks. A watch on his tanned wrist that cost more than we would ever see in a lifetime of work. He carries a single red rose for my mother.

Months later, Tiernan Morelli lays red roses on my mother’s grave. That same day, he tells me that he is my new guardian.

I should have known from the very start that he had more in common with the thorns than the rose. Now I know the truth: I’m a pawn in his dangerous game of revenge. I was too young and naive. Now it’s too late to save myself from his clutches.

I belong to him.

breakdown

Series: Dark Dream Duet | Midnight Dynasty Series
Author: Giana Darling
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)

There is a prequel novella (#0.5): Bad Dream

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Hot (Kink: minor)
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: October 2021 – January 2022
Source & Format: Kobo Plus–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

After reading what seemed like a lot of Constantine novels from the Midnight Dynasty Universe, I wanted to return to the more dangerous side of the universe and read a Morelli novel. I had also just finished Lessons in Sin, another book in the universe that which also has an age-gap romance trope, but it didn’t really impress me. This sounded like it could right those wrongs for me so I was excited to start this series.

The Concept – Midnight Dynasty:

The Midnight Dynasty Universe is a collection of books (series and standalones) written 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 lead characters at a time, but there are some shared chronological events and character interactions throughout the universe that overlap in the different series.

When to read #0.5 Bad Dream:

Definitely read it before you start Dangerous Temptation (#1). It’s actually included at the start of that novel. But I think it does a good job of setting up the relationship between Bianca and Tiernan and how that connection first starts. And I think it does a better job than the first novel does at emphasizing the struggles Bianca has in her life.

The Plot:

Prior to starting this duet, I had just finished the Hellfire Club and Lessons in Sin. Those books are set in the Midnight Dynasty Universe but aren’t in the center of the family feuds and seem more like aside stories.

This duet brings you right back into the heat of the family drama. I thought it did a good job linking the previous character stories together (particularly the Hearts Trilogy), the family history and set the stage for the next phase of the Midnight Dynasty Universe.

I loved the blend of romance, danger and suspense. These books moved fast (perhaps too fast–I felt like the finale was slightly abrupt) but in a way that kept you reading because you needed to know what happened next.

The Characters:

At first, I felt like there was a bit of a disconnect between the Bianca we meet in the novella and the girl we first meet in Dangerous Temptation (#1). But she quickly won me over with her tenacity to save herself and her brother. She wise beyond her years and I forgot that she was only 17.

Tiernan is the black sheep of the Morelli family so he was a mystery to me. He really only makes a brief appearance in the Hearts Trilogy from what I remember — which is a fact that I kinda forgot about when I picked this book up. But I quickly fell for his backstory and loved how his character evolved as the story did.

The Romance:

I think some people will struggle with the age gap between Tiernan (age 30) and Bianca (age 17). I know I did. Sure, Bianca is an old soul at heart but I felt like she was a little too young. I get why she is that age for the sake of the dramatic plot but I think her being 20 would have helped a lot to remove some of that ick factor to me. I started to think of her as older anyways because I really did love the connection the two shared. It was easy for me to see why these two would love each other despite the forbidding elements keeping them apart.

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: 4/5

[Bad Dream 4/5] | Dangerous Temptation 4.5/5 | Beautiful Nightmare 4/5

overall

I loved my return to the darker side of the Midnight Dynasty Universe. I enjoyed the forbidden romance (some people certainly won’t) and the dangerous drama of the Constantine-Morelli feud.

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

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Spin-off Saturdays: Promises We Meant to Keep by Monica Murphy

Spin-off Saturdays: Promises We Meant to Keep 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:

Promises We Meant to Keep is a spin-off of Things I Wanted to Say but Never Did

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author

Series: Lancaster Universe

This is a spinoff of the standalone Things I Wanted to Say (But Never Did).

Author: Monica Murphy
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Second Chance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: September 22, 2022
Source & Format: Author—ARC

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

thoughts

My Expectations?

I always enjoy a good redemption story and I was eager to get inside the head of the complex Sylvie Lancaster we met in Things I Wanted to Say but Never Did. I honestly don’t remember if Spencer was mentioned much in that book because I was totally consumed with Whit and Summer’s angsty love, but I do remember finishing it and wanting Sylvie’s story one day. We ended up getting A Million Kisses in Your Lifetime before this one (no complaints!) so I was really excited to dive into this one when it was officially announced.

How Does It Compare To The Original?

–Not As Angsty–

I missed the angst though there is plenty of steam between the two leads. I just craved a little more drama to their second chance romance. While I always enjoy romances where the characters actually chat about their issues, everything here just felt too easy. Perhaps I put this expectation of their romance being a little more forbidden than it actually is given the fact that Spencer is Sylvie’s brother’s best friend?

–More A Redemption Story–

While I enjoyed the arrogance that is Whit Lancaster, this story is really about Sylvie’s redemption story. In that way, it definitely succeeds. It was great to understand her character and her motives. And it was also great to watch her grow and become her own person as she learned from her past.

Anything I Didn’t Like?

–Need a Little More Plot in the Middle–

The course of true love never did run smooth but I think in this case, it might have. Since it lacked the angst of the romance, it just needed a little something more to keep the story going. Some more obstacles or tension would have helped to move the story’s pacing.

Series Rating: 3/5

overall

It wasn’t nearly as addicting to read as Whit’s book though I think fans will still enjoy this one! Especially those who wanted to know more about the infamous Sylvie!

Read if You Like: redemption stories, second chance romances
Avoid if You: want more angst
similarreads

  • Always Been You by Beverley Kendall (Unforgettable You Series #3)
  • PS I Miss You by Winter Renshaw (P.S. Series #2)
  • Twisted Love by Ana Huang (Twisted Series #1)

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Promises We Meant to Keep (from Goodreads):

Spencer Donato.

My brother’s best friend.

My dirty little secret.

We fell for each other at Lancaster Prep. Sneaking around. Not wanting anyone to find out. He was my first love, my protector, my knight in shining armor. We were made for each other, and I truly believed he was my forever.

But then I did the unthinkable, and betrayed him in the worst possible way. I thought I lost him for good…

Until I saw him at my brother’s wedding. Now he’s older. Crueler. Unbearably handsome. We’re drawn to each other still, but will Spencer be there for me when I need him the most? Or did I ruin us once again?

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Spin-Off Saturdays: Forbidden by Stella Gray

Spin-Off Saturdays: Forbidden by Stella Gray

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 Forbidden Series is a spin-off of the Broken Series

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: To Watch Author
Series: Forbidden, The Bellantis

This is a spinoff of the Broken Series.

Author: Stella Gray
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama, Dark
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: May 2022 – August 2022
Source & Format: Author–eARC

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

thoughts

My Expectations?

There were still a few lingering plotlines from the Broken Series that I wanted to see resolved so I was really excited to spend more time with the Bellanti family. While I really thought Armani’s story would be next, I was excited to see what was in store for Marco, the brother who kinda took a backseat in the first series but was still a captivating character to read about.

Can you Read the Forbidden Trilogy Without Reading the Broken Trilogy?:

Yes, you could but I really think you get more out of it by reading the Broken Series first. There are a lot of overarching dramatic plotlines from that first series that become the main focus of this series so it helps to know what is going on and why. Plus: I feel like you really need that context (why the families hate each other) to amplify the forbidden romance as well.

How Does It Compare To The Original?

–Great Character Growth–

I’m uber impressed with the character depth Stella Gray packs into her stories! I really enjoyed watching both Marco and Karina grow and evolve as characters. Marco was one heck of a playboy in the previous series and seemed a little one-dimensional as a result. So I loved getting deeper into his character.

When I first started this series, I really worried that Karina would fall into the stereotypical sheltered virgin trope; but she also has a fantastic character story! To me, she is the star of this series. Her character development was one of my favourite aspects of this series.

–Romeo & Juliet Inspiration–

I’m a Shakespeare nerd so anything to do with the Bard gets bonus points. I loved all the allusions to the classic play but with a modern flare. It highlighted the forbidden element perfectly and pumped up the family drama perfectly!

Anything I Didn’t Like?

Not really. I always found myself compelled to read more. I can’t really pinpoint what is missing for me to make it a 5 star read. Maybe the pacing could have been a little better at the start of each novel? But I never struggled to finish these books.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

While this trilogy is somewhat self-contained, I am really excited for Marco’s brother, Armani’s story!

Series Rating: 4/5

Forbidden Bride 4/5 | Forbidden War 4/5 | Forbidden Love 4/5

overall

These star-crossed lovers have me rooting for them all the way! Who doesn’t love a suspenseful family saga filled with love and danger?

Read if You Like: Romeo & Juliet inspired; forbidden love
Avoid if You: darker romances
similarreads

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Forbidden Bride (from Goodreads):

I was promised to a man my uncle chose… but I ran away with the enemy.

In this valley, my family name means something.
To some, protection. To others, destruction.
When a Bellanti stole my heart, he started a war.

A ring on my finger put a target on his back.

I hardly know the man I threw my life away for.
He looked like I imagined Mr. Darcy would.
He wrote me poetry.

But he’s locked me away exactly the way my uncle had.
Choosing him was my last taste of freedom.
Out of the frying pan and into the fire…

He will burn me alive either way.

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Series Review: Broken by Stella Gray

Series Review: Broken by Stella Gray

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 Broken Bride (from Goodreads):

I was sold to him to settle a debt… but Dante Bellanti never settles.

My father was always a gambling man.
Unfortunately, he never could pick winners.
When the wolves closed in, he chose himself, like always.

He traded his freedom… for mine.

He forced me to marry.
Now Dante Bellanti owns my body.
I’m just another possession for a man who already has too much.
So I won’t let him have my heart.

But you know what they say about gambling.

The house always wins.

And I’m at the mercy of the Bellantis…

breakdown

Series: Broken, The Bellantis

There is a Spin-off Series: Forbidden

Author: Stella Gray
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama, Dark
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: September 2021 – November 2021
Source & Format: Author–eARC

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

After bingeing what I could get my hands on in the Midnight Dynasty Series, I was craving my next big romance world and this series stumbled into my inbox. I love a good family drama saga and this one promised to be a great one as each Bellanti brother got their own series.

First Up is Dante – the heir of the empire.

The Concept / The World:

I thought this might be more Mafia romance in its approach. Lots of action and violence but that is not what this series is. Yes, there are some shady business deals and violence but it doesn’t litter every page. It’s very sophisticated and more a romance than anything else.

The Plot:

I love a good family drama with lingering family secrets and an edge of danger to it. And it’s not just Dante’s family who has the complicated family business. Frankie’s family and even Frankie herself has this mysterious aura about her that kept me hooked.

In Broken Bride (#1), I thought we were going to get alternating chapters between Dante and Frankie, but I liked that Frankie told the bulk of the story, leaving Dante as this mysterious enigma. It added to the suspense of the story and kept you from fully trusting Dante. Dante’s character gets more chapters in the later books which helps his character grow.

The rest of the series keeps adding layers to the story and I really love how some aspects carry over into the next Bellanti brother’s trilogy!

The Characters:

I really loved Frankie and Dante and the rest of their families. It was crazy how quickly I got attached to everyone! I love a good family saga and this has that!

The Romance:

I loved their banter and the slow burn, do they love or hate each other vibes. Lots of tension!

Series Rating: 4/5

Broken Bride 4/5 | Broken Vow 4/5 | Broken Trust 4/5

overall

Great for people who want a whole romantic universe to get invested in!

Read if You Like: overarching plotlines, family sagas, dark romances
Avoid if You: dislike dark romances

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Single Sundays: The Bad Boy’s Good Girl by Cookie O’Gorman & Michelle Pennington

Single Sundays: The Bad Boy’s Good Girl by Cookie O’Gorman & Michelle Pennington

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for The Bad Boy’s Good Girl (from Goodreads):
Logan King was trouble.

I knew it from the moment I laid eyes on him. But when I challenged him, I had no idea he’d take his revenge so far.

To make up for his inexcusable behavior, his parents gave me a scholarship to King’s Prep Academy. My mom insisted that I accept. Now, I’m the poor, public school girl attending an elite academy for the rich.

Even worse, Logan is here. He rules the school, and he wants me gone.

But I have a dream to chase, and no one, not even a King, will stop me.

*previously published on Kindle Vella as The Boys of King’s Prep Academy*

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author (O’Gorman)
Author: Cookie O’Gorman and Michelle Pennington
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Multiple
Publication Date: June 4, 2022
Source & Format: ARC–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

The Boy’s of King’s Prep Academy is the only Cookie O’Gorman novel I haven’t read by her. I love her sweet YA romances; they never fail to put a smile on my face. So I was excited to read the revised version of the original Kindle Vella Series.

I’ve had some hits and missed with the high-school-bully trope with their over the top antics and the shock factor but knowing Cookie’s other reads, I knew this would be a sweet yet angsty read.

The Concept:

Originally written as a series of individual episodes (like a serial), it shows a little in this new version. Most chapters end on a cliffhanger of sorts to keep you reading. I also felt like chapters were more robust in order to give readers a solid episode to read.

The Plot:

After a not-so-meet-cute between our leads that was filled with drama, the next 50% or so seems a little tame and slow in comparison. I struggled with the pacing as a result. Perhaps if we had more stolen looks and brimming sexual tension between Ava and Logan in that first half, I wouldn’t have minded the slow burn as much. But they rarely seem to interact at all or at least enough to convince me that Logan was falling for her so hard and fast.

The Characters:

Logan has great character development throughout the book. It was nice to see him let some of his angst go and become a stronger person.

Ava is a strong match for him but she also shows some vulnerability that I appreciated.
I’ll be honest, I’m not sure why Chris has some POV chapters. I’m not sure if it was to introduce a potential rival to the romance or to plant the seeds for a future sequel.

The Romance:

I’ve read a few “high-school-bully” trope romances over the last year and this one was refreshing in the sense that it didn’t try to shock you with crazy sexscapades or violence. Instead, it’s a sweet romance between two people who realize that there is more to the other person than they first assumed.

concSLOW

My Rating: 3/5

overall

Perfect for fans who want to partake in the hate to love you prep school YA romance genre but don’t want all the grit and sex that usually comes with it. It’s sweet but angsty and has a lot of depth to it!

Read if You Like: slow burn romances, sweet romances
Avoid if You: want a grittier high-school-bully romance

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Series Review: Starcrossed Lovers by Jade West

Series Review: Starcrossed Lovers by Jade West

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):

In a single moment, she becomes my obsession…

Elaine Constantine will be mine.
And her destruction is only my beginning.

I’ve known all my life that the Constantines deserved to be wiped from the face of the earth, only a smoking crater left where their mansion once stood. That’s my plan until I see her, the woman in gold with the sinful curves and the blonde curls. My will to dominate her runs as deep as the hate I have for her last name.

No matter how beautifully she bends beneath my hands, I’ll leave her shattered, a broken toy for her cruel family.

I’m a sadist, and she’s the object of my obsession.

breakdown

Series: Starcrossed Lovers | Midnight Dynasty Series
Author: Jade West
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Dark Romance, Erotica
Heat Rating: Smokin’ (Kink: Major | BDSM: High)
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: September 2020 – March 2021
Source & Format: Kobo Plus–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

As I mentioned in my review of the Beast of Bishop’s Landing review, I deviated from the readers’ recommended reading order of the Midnight Dynasty Universe and read Leo’s book before Lucian’s.

Lucian was such a blip in the Cinderella Trilogy compared to Leo–who had a bigger role as a villain–that I wasn’t interested Lucian’s story as much. But in Book #3 of the Beast of Bishop’s Landing, Fallen Rose, Lucian’s heroine is revealed and I became obsessed with reading their story!

Needless to say, I immediately picked up this Romeo and Juliet inspired tale when I finished the other series!

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:

This trilogy is inspired by Romeo and Juliet but I’d say it is loosely so. Lucian and Elaine are from feuding families; have lots of cousins and there is quite a bit of death that follows in their wake. It isn’t a straight up modern retelling by any means but if you know the classic play, I’m sure you will see some similarities.

This story is super dark though and I think a lot of people will be uncomfortable with the subject matter. There’s a lot of sex (and high BDSM sex at that as Lucian is a sadist lover), lots of violence and some content that might be triggering to readers (abuse, self-harm). I think you really have to be a fan of darker romances to enjoy this and I wouldn’t recommend this book as the series to start with if you want to get into the dark romance genre.

I am a fan of dark contemporary romances and it took even me a while to get used to the obsessive nature of our two leads. However, I quickly became consumed with their story. I enjoyed the pursuit of the first book and watching them slowly realize how they were perfect for each other in the subsequent novel.

I really enjoyed Soulless (#2) which is why Relentless (#3) was such a letdown. It was really great until (I felt) it abruptly ended. It didn’t really resolve any of the major dramatic plotlines with the exception of their final relationship status. I kinda thought there would be a fourth book with the way it ended but there isn’t which makes its ending super open-ended. Having read the next recommended series (Beast of Bishop’s Landing) in the Midnight Dynasty Universe series, I know that there really isn’t much of a resolution there either. So I ended the series on a bitter note after enjoying it so much.

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.

Lucian makes a brief appearance in the Cinderella Trilogy but he takes a backseat to his brother Leo (Beast of Bishop’s Landing). He’s a super intense person and will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Normally, I don’t enjoy super alpha male heroes and Lucian is definitely an alpha–and a sadist at that. However, I feel like he is the first one to break when it comes to his feelings for Elaine and I love when the hero is the first to crack. As you start to know him and his past, you start to understand his character and appreciate why he is the way he is.

Elaine is also a complicated character and one that you don’t really see the true side of until you keep reading and start to peel back those layers. She’s feisty and strong in her own way which I always like in my heroines.

The Romance:

The tension between these two is down-right palpable the minute they set eyes on each other! They’ve got the forbidden romance of Romeo and Juliet fueling that flame which is always great. But they also have this great connection of understanding between them. They’re the perfect match for each other–even if they don’t realize that right away. They balance each other out and I could see why they are “starcrossed lovers”.

That being said, the romance is definitely dark and twisted. If you don’t enjoy high level BDSM–heavy emphasis on the SM part of that–then don’t pick this up!

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: 4/5

Heartless 4/5 | Soulless 5/5 | Relentless 3/5

overall

Those who enjoy dark and twisted romances will devour this. But those who don’t enjoy BDSM in their novels or violence should stay away. Out of all the series in the Midnight Dynasty Universe, I’d say this is the darkest.

Read if You Like: erotica, dark romances, forbidden romance, violence
Avoid if You: dislike kink/BDSM, dislike dark romances

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