Tag «must read author»

Spin-off Saturdays: Retribution Games by Ella Miles

Spin-off Saturdays: Retribution Games by Ella Miles

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:

Retribution Series is a spin-off of the Truth or Lies Series

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breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: Retribution Games

This is a spinoff of the Truth or Lies Series.

Author: Ella Miles
# of Books: 6 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No
Genre: Adult, Dark, Contemporary, Action, Suspense, Romance
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: June 29, 20221 – ongoing
Source & Format: Author—eARC

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

thoughts

My Expectations?

The Truth or Lies Universe is one of my favourites of Ella Miles. She writes very dark contemporary romances but I found this universe of series finds the right balance between action, romance, shock and steam.

The original Truth or Lies Series is a hard one to live up to though I have enjoyed the other spin-off series: Sinful Truths & Lies. With those two series, the characters were ones who had been regularly featured from the inaugural series so I had a lot of preconceived notions and expectations. But this new series featured a hero, Beckett, that we had only encountered a few times throughout the other series. So I was curious to see how this would all go down.

How Does It Compare To The Original?

–Not Knowing Much About Our Leads–

As I said above, I didn’t know much about Beckett going into this and I think that was actually to this story’s advantage. With the other Truth or Lies spinoffs, I had expectations for each of the leads and I had to quickly re-evaluate those once we got into the story. But here, I really had no idea what type of story we were going to get and I loved that.

–Strong Heroine Fighting for Herself–

Ri reminds me a lot of Kai, our heroine from the Truth or Lies Series. She’s a kickass woman in a mainly male dominated world but she can hold her own. She doesn’t see her sex as a weakness and has no problem proving everyone wrong.

–Great Romantic Chemistry–

Beckett and Ri have this whole “will they or won’t they” vibe to them that I love to read about. There is this underlying tension between them as they fight what is so obvious to the reader: that they would be a great pair.

Anything I Didn’t Like?

–Inconsistencies With Plot–

The plot progression seemed a little messy to me at times and not in a great way. I’ve read enough Ella Miles novels to feel that sometimes she omits things for the sake of later twists or shock value, and those omissions challenge my logical brain. I’m of the belief that future twists should go undetected but should always be underlying if you were to ever go back and reread a book knowing what happens.

For example: there is a scene at the very end of Book #1, Mistaken Hero, that I think will have some people going “what?” and I agree. It wouldn’t be the way I would have tried to alleviate that particular bind; and the fallout from it in the other books is wish-washy at best.

And after reading Book #2, Forbidden Princess, I felt like this book lacked some consistency with past events of the previous book which stopped me from being fully immersed in this novel.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

Things are starting to weave together now and I can’t wait to see how this ride will play out in the next few novels.

Series Rating: 4/5

Mistaken Hero 5/5 | Forbidden Princess 3.5/5 | Tempted Hero 4/5 | Fatal Princess TBA | Tortured Hero TBA | Dangerous Princess TBA

overall

Out of all the other spin-offs, this one feels the closed to Truth or Lies in its execution. With strong leads, undeniable chemistry between them and a criminal empire fighting for control, this is a wild ride of a series!

Read if You Like: dark romances, action, mafia reads
Avoid if You: dislike mafia stories, dislike soap operas

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for Mistaken Hero (from Goodreads):

She’s a mafia princess.
I’m an anti-hero.
She’s running from her past.
I’ve put my dark past behind me.
Until she mistakes me for her hero.
I’m no hero.
And I’m definitely not hers.
I already found my happily ever after.
One she decided to ruin.
Now I want revenge.
Let the retribution games begin.

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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.

Series Rating: 3.5/5

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

overall

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

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

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Freshman (from Goodreads):

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

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

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

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

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Spin-Off Saturdays: Lies by Ella Miles

Spin-Off Saturdays: Lies by Ella Miles

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 Lies Series is a spin-off of the Truth or Lies Series

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: Lies

This is a part of the Truth or Lies Series Universe.

Author: Ella Miles
# of Books: 6 (Full Reading Order Here)

There is a prequel novella: #0.5 Lies We Share

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Dark, Contemporary, Action
Heat Rating: Smokin’ **mature subject matter*
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: September 2020 – February 2021
Source & Format: Author–eARC

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

thoughts

My Expectations?

I loved the original Truth or Lies Series. It was unlike anything I had ever read before with a great blend of romance, danger and suspense. I was immediately sucked in and really grew attached to the characters. So I was really excited that a few of the characters were going to get their own series.

Langston and Liesel’s story was probably the one I wanted to read the most. After a collective 12 books of watching these two dance back and forth, I couldn’t wait to uncover their mysterious past and see what their future held.

How Does It Compare To The Original?

–Similar Plot Progression As Truth or Lies–

More so than the Sinful Truths Series, this series had more of an overarching plotline as Liesel tries to find her family’s treasure. The secrets and danger lurking in the shades just gave this series an edge to it that kept me hooked. And I really liked how each book built upon the last. I always worry with book series that have more than 3 titles in them that the storylines will get stretched out but this had a good pacing to it.

–Forbidden Love–

Liesel and Langston’s story is complicated–even more complicated than I had originally thought. It took a lot for me to let go of my previous assumptions and just embrace the reveal of their characters. That’s quite the task for someone who has invested as much time in this universe as I have.

Anything I Didn’t Like?

–The Use of Rape in the First Book–

I like dark romances but all the mentioning of rape and being forced-on was just too much for me. I get the importance of it for understanding Liesel’s past but for a few chapters there, the threats of it were constant and that just stopped me from fully embracing the story.

Series Rating: 4/5

[Fated Lies 5/5] | Vicious Lies 3/5 | Desperate Lies 3/5 | Fated Lies 4/5 | Cruel Lies 4/5 | Dangerous Lies 4/5 | Endless Lies 3/5

overall

Overall, I have mixed feelings for this series. I really loved these two as characters but I didn’t always enjoy their story. But it was great to return to this world and these books never failed to surprise me.

Read if You Like: dark romances, adventures
Avoid if You: dislike reading about forced sexual situations

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for Vicious Lies (from Goodreads):

This isn’t a love story. This is a story of all the reasons we can’t be together. Reason number one: we lie.

Liesel Dunn has a secret. One I literally ripped from her hands when we were kids. Her secret was in a letter that I tore in half. I have half the secret. She has the other half. We’ve always refused to share our part of the truth, so we’ve lived separate lives. Until fate brings us back together. She needs a hitman. I answer her call. I’ll do her this favor. But she’ll owe me a debt. And I plan on collecting…

Vicious Lies is book 1 in a dark romance series. It ends on a cliffhanger.

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Single Sundays: The Match by Winter Renshaw

Single Sundays: The Match 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 The Match (from Goodreads):
All I wanted was a baby. No daddy? No problem.

That’s what anonymous donors are for …

But when the fertility clinic accidentally sends me a letter addressed to a man whose ID matches my paperwork, I discover my child’s father is none other than world-renowned tennis champion Fabian Catalano—famous for his gorgeous face, chiseled abs, and broody, wildcard reputation.

Only everything changes when the clinic calls us in for damage control—and Fabian drops the bombshell of the century. Turns out the intense Adonis wants to get to know his daughter.

So I invite him to stay with us—temporarily.

Ground rules and all.

And our arrangement is simple … until it isn’t.

Between 2 AM feedings and stolen kisses, my sweet little simple life has taken a very complicated left turn.

But oh, baby. What happens next—is a game changer.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Author: Winter Renshaw
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Sports
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: March 29, 2021
Source & Format: Author–eARC

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Winter Renshaw writes my kind of contemporary romances: angsty, lots of twists and great chemistry. So the synopsis for this book intrigued me. I’ve never read a “baby daddy donor” romance before–didn’t even know that was a thing! But if anyone could get me interested in one, it would be Winter Renshaw.

The Concept:

I’ve never read a “baby daddy donor” romance before. I’ve read one night stands that have accidental pregnancies but nothing about an anonymous donor. So this was definitely a different take on your typical meet-cute romance. And I think you need to go in with an open mind because it definitely teeters towards a fantastical approach. You gotta remember that fiction is fiction and sometimes things don’t need to mimic life exactly to be successful in a contemporary romance.

The Plot:

The weakest aspect to this story for me was the pacing of the plot. I liked the characters, their development and the eventual romance. My problem was more with the way the drama unfolded. Things move really fast–which is why I said a reader should go in with an open mind–but at the expense of some logic. Considering how resistant the two leads were to having each other in their lives, I just thought the progression of that element happened wayyy to fast. And that affected the pacing of the other plot elements as well. I think just adding 2 more months to the timeline would have helped smooth those inconsistencies over a bit.

The Characters:

Because things move fast, and I would have loved to have dived deeper into some of the character developments. I felt like we just scratched a surface. But for the purposes of this story (ie this isn’t some realistic fiction novel about falling for your baby’s anonymous donor), I felt like I knew enough about each of them to get a good feel for them.

The Romance:

One thing I really loved is that the chemistry between Rossi and Fabian is there from the moment they meet. I liked that I could see a great connection anytime they talked and that translated over to the physical side of the relationship.

My Rating: 4/5

overall

But I enjoyed reading about this couple and watching their story unfold. It was refreshing for me because I’ve never read anything quite like it. And I think if you go in knowing it’s a quick and steamy read that focuses on the happier side of things, you’ll enjoy it for what it is.

Read if You Like: contemporary romance, reuniting parents
Avoid if You: want more of a “sports” novel

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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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Spin-Off Saturdays: Wallflower by Cookie O’Gorman

Spin-Off Saturdays: Wallflower by Cookie O’Gorman

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:

Wallflower is a spin-off of the book Adorkable

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author

This is a spinoff of Adorkable.

Author: Cookie O’Gorman
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: March 25, 2021
Source & Format: Author–eARC

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

thoughts

My Expectations?

I wouldn’t call myself a fan of YA contemporary per say, but I am a fan of Cookie O’Gorman’s YA contemporaries. They are just SO FREAKING GOOD. They never fail to bring a smile to my face and the romances always give me butterflies. And Adorkable–Cookie’s debut–was the book that made me a fan of her work. This spin-off was the novel I didn’t know I needed but am oh-so-happy to get.

How Does It Compare To The Original?

Sweet As Can Be!

This book was just as sweet and adorable as its predecessor! I smiled my whole way through it. There are a few tropes at play so the story reads like a rom-com (which is great) but there is also a simplicity to it that reminds you that love doesn’t need to be laced in complex layers or traumatic pasts.

Swoon-Worthy Hero

Dare–what a charmer he is! He was just plain swoon-worthy. We don’t get his POV so I liked that he was a bit of a mystery.

Great Banter

These two are so much fun to watch! I loved their scenes together.

Anything I Didn’t Like?

Slight Disconnect

There was just something that stopped me from giving this a full 5/5. Maybe the pacing? I’m not even sure what it was honestly. Maybe I was just in a funk when I finished it?

Viola is an Only Child

I just want more books, that’s my only complaint…I would love to see more of Sally and Becks as parents.

My Rating: 4/5

overall

I you want a book you can get lost in and finish in one sitting, this is it! The flow of the writing will suck you as you read this sweet rom-com!

Read if You Like: sweet romances, YA contemporary
Avoid if You: dislike YA contemporary similarreads

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Wallflower (from Goodreads):

Wallflower (wohl-flou-erh): Identifier for someone who is shy and/or awkward. For reference, see Viola Kent.

Seventeen-year-old Viola Kent likes being invisible. Well, not literally, but she’s content being a loner, reading her books, and hanging out with the animals at the shelter. She just wants to keep her head down and get through her senior year at Durham High.

Driving Dare Frost to school every day wasn’t part of the plan.

And when Viola finds out her dad recruited Dare, his number one player, to be her friend?

Her inner Slytherin demands revenge.

The solution: Get Dare to be her fake boyfriend.

Convincing the star athlete to pretend is easier than she’d thought it would be. The hard part is protecting her heart. With every word, touch, and kiss, Viola’s feelings become more real.

The problem: Viola knows she’s falling for Dare—but he doesn’t believe in love.

This book features two sets of soulmates, one happy pooch named Hermione, so many sizzling kisses and answers the question:

Can a dork and a jock fake their way to true love?

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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: Sex, Love and Stiletto by Lauren Layne

Series Review: Sex, Love and Stiletto by Lauren Layne

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for After the Kiss (from Goodreads):

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

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

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

breakdown

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

There is a spin-off series: Oxford Series

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

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

The Plot:

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

The Characters:

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

The Romance:

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

My Audiobook Experience:

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

Series Rating: 3/5

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

overall

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

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

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Series Review: Sexy Jerk World by Kim Karr

Series Review:  Sexy Jerk World by Kim Karr

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 Sexy Jerk (from Goodreads):

My best friend is married.
Everyone I know is married. It doesn’t bother me. I like my life the way it is.

Since I’m single though, when my best friend and her husband finally decide to go on their dream honeymoon, she asks me to watch their three-year-old son.

Of course I say yes.

What my best friend neglects to tell me is that I won’t be babysitting alone.

Feeling Max might be too much for me to handle, her husband asks his only single friend to help.

Nick Carrington and I have met a couple of dozen times. I’ve never really given him a second thought—other than to say he’s kind of a jerk. Out loud. So he can hear. Sure, he’s tall, dark, and handsome. And yes, he has the best ass I’ve ever seen, and I mean ever seen quite literally. You see he mooned me at last year’s Fourth of July barbecue because, like I said, he’s a jerk.

He always has to be the life of the party.
He’s also arrogant.
Imposing.
Rich.
And a playboy.
I’d even go as far as to say he’s a manwhore.

Yet somehow before I know it, this manwhore and I are co-parenting. Living under the same roof. Eating meals together and yes, talking.

Don’t look at me like that—it’s not like I had a choice. Even though I knew every minute would be hell, I had to say yes.

But after two weeks what I didn’t expect is that I’d been wrong about him.
That under his smart-ass exterior, he’s quite charming.
That his arrogance is actually confidence.
And that the sight of his naked body would do really bad things to me.

So yes, I’ve misjudged him. And yes, I like him. Really like him. Although there are times I still think he’s a jerk…I now think he’s a sexy jerk.

And I want more of him.

The question is—does he want more of me?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: Sexy Jerk World
Author: Kim Karr
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order)

There is a prequel novella: #0.5 Uptown Girl

Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama
Heat Rating: Toasty (Kink: mild in Big Shot)
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: May 2017 – September 2017
Source & Format: Own–eBook (Kindle); Audiobook (#2, #3)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

After I read Kim’s No Pants Required (and loved it!) she quickly became a staple on my contemporary romance TBR lists. But I haven’t been the best about actually reading her books. That’s why I added Sexy Jerk to my 2019 5 Year 5 Books Challenge as a pick for the year 2017 and the last two books to my 2020 5Y5BC.

The Plot:

Compared to Kim Karr’s Men of Laguna Series, I didn’t think this series was as rom-com-esque. There’s a dose of real life thrown along the way as you watch these characters struggle with finding themselves.

I think the drama gets a little top heavy near the end. Things reach their climax at the end and seem a little rushed as the majority of the books are dedicated to sexy times and character moments.

One thing I really loved how open all the characters were about sex and exploring sexuality in their relationships. That’s not something that you get all the time in contemporary romance.

The Characters:

Besides the first book, I kinda struggled to connect with these characters. I’m not really sure why because they did have layers to them so they had some depth. I think I just didn’t understand some of their struggles or hesitations? My other theory is that the pacing and flow of the novels just didn’t work for me and I found my mind wandering.

The Romance:

All of these romances felt fast to me because of their quick plot timelines. I could see the connections though for the most parts so I tried to overlook it.

The one I really struggled with was in Big Shot (#2). Given the nature of that relationship and the second chance mentality, I just craved more from that story and its characters.

When to Read the Novella, #0.5 Uptown Girl:

Some sites list this book as #4 in the series but I think that’s only because of its publication date (it was released after the 3 full novels). But I think you will get the most out of it by reading it first. It just fills in some of the little holes that are alluded to in Sexy Jerk. However, you can definitely skip it and not miss much either.

My Audiobook Experience:

Despite owning all the books in the series, I listened to the last two as audiobooks from my library simply because I’m running out of audio titles to read! The productions are great and do a wonderful job of bringing the characters to life.

Series Rating: 3/5

[Uptown Girl 3/5] | Sexy Jerk 4/5 | Big Shot 3/5 | Hot Stuff 3/5

overall

This wasn’t my favourite Kim Karr series ever but if you are looking for a refreshing lighter romance, these standalones are great.

Read if You Like: contemporary romance, sex positive stories
Avoid if You: dislike drama, dislike contemporary

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Series Review: Love Unexpectedly by Lauren Layne

Series Review: Love Unexpectedly by Lauren Layne

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Blurred Lines (from Goodreads):

In a novel that’s perfect for fans of Alice Clayton and Emma Chase, Lauren Layne delivers a sexy take on the timeless question: Can a guy and a girl really be “just friends”?

When Parker Blanton meets Ben Olsen during her freshman year of college, the connection is immediate—and platonic. Six years later, they’re still best friends, sharing an apartment in Portland’s trendy Northwest District as they happily settle into adult life. But when Parker’s boyfriend dumps her out of the blue, she starts to wonder about Ben’s no-strings-attached approach to dating. The trouble is, even with Ben as her wingman, Parker can’t seem to get the hang of casual sex—until she tries it with him.

The arrangement works perfectly . . . at first. The sex is mind-blowing, and their friendship remains as solid as ever, without any of the usual messy romantic entanglements. But when Parker’s ex decides he wants her back, Ben is shocked by a fierce stab of possessiveness. And when Ben starts seeing a girl from work, Parker finds herself plagued by unfamiliar jealousy. With their friendship on the rocks for the first time, Parker and Ben face an alarming truth: Maybe they can’t go back. And maybe, deep down, they never want to.

breakdown

Series: Love Unexpectedly
Author: Lauren Layne
# of Books: 5 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Standalones
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: August 2015 – November 2017
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook (#1-#3); eBook (#4)

thoughts

**Please Note: This review excludes Book #5, An Ex for Christmas, simply because my library doesn’t have the book!**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Lauren Layne quickly became a must-read author for me after I read her Redemption Series a few years ago. She just writes great stories with great characters and so I keep an eye out for any books of hers. Which is why they were on my 2019 5 Year 5 Book Reading Challenge as a pick for 2015. I actually own the first 3 books of this series for my Kobo but opted to read the audiobook versions instead because I needed more audiobooks to listen to in my life.

The Concept:

There is really no connection between all the stories in terms of characters. Instead, it’s more about the idea that love can happen in the most unlikely of places. Therefore, you can truly read this series in any order or skip novels that aren’t of interest to you.

I didn’t read Book #5 simply because my library didn’t have it. But if it ever becomes available there, or can find it somewhere else, I would definitely read it.

The Plot:

When I compare this series to Layne’s other ones, this is a bit more on the lighter side of things. I didn’t think we reached the same depths of character growth or plot but everything is there to keep the story moving and evolving. In some ways, they read more like a realistic love story of the friends you already know in your friend circle but with some more dramatic moments along the way.

The Characters:

All the characters are likeable–but Lauren Layne always manages to make her characters likeable even when you don’t expect it. I would have liked to have scratched the surface more with them but what we got worked for the story.

The Romance:

Simply put: they’re all sweet romances. She knows how to write great chemistry.

My Audiobook Experience:

I really enjoyed the audiobooks. It was great to have both a male and female narrator bring the characters to life.

Series Rating: 3.5/5

Blurred Lines 3/5 | Good Girl 4/5 | Love Story 3/5 | Walk of Shame 4/5 | An Ex for Christmas N/A

overall

If you want a quick, lighter romance read with some of your favourite romance tropes: pick this series up or even just grab one of its titles!

Read if You Like: lighter romances, true standalones in a series
Avoid if You: want darker romances

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