Friday Favorites: A Flashback – 6/24/22

I’d like to strongly urge you to read my previous post here, where I get into my relationship to the romance genre over the years. There was a lot to unpack when I got to this week’s flashback, where I’ve been going back and reposting my 5-star rated reviews over the years. I’m not going to rehash all that I said there, so let’s get onto this review.

Melissa Foster is a no-brainer for me. It’s very rare that a book of hers gets lower than 4 stars from me. I’ve read the majority of her stories, most of them a part of the larger Love in Bloom series. This story was a bit earlier on in the series. While most of the stories in this series can be read as standalones, the author has created such a rich and deep tapestry with these families, friends, and communities that I recommend you start at the beginning and enjoy. The Love in Bloom series consists of multiple series within that series. For the most part, the first in each of those series are available free in ebook format.

You can find my original post of this review here while my updated version is below. The updated version is only edited for grammar, spelling, and formatting, not content. There is a link in this review that takes you to an old post of mine. It’s the post that prompted my earlier writing about my relationship with the romance genre. I readily admit some of it is a bit problematic. I don’t believe what I wrote back then would hurt anyone so I have left it up as a reminder to myself to always be growing.

Whisper of Love
by Melissa Foster
Release Date:  February 22, 2017
Publisher:  World Literary Press
Book #5 in the Bradens of Peaceful Harbor, MD series
Part of the larger Love in Bloom series
Number of Pages: 300
Kindle Edition
Source: Amazon Pre-Order
Contemporary Romance
Ages 16 and up
Tempest Braden adores her family and her small hometown, but sometimes too much of a good thing can be confining. At almost thirty, having watched most of her siblings find true love, she’s anxious to experience her own happily ever after, and the move to Pleasant Hill, Maryland, is just the change she needs. When she rents a room from ruggedly handsome, and closed-off, artist Nash Morgan and his adorable son, Phillip, she thinks she’s found a little slice of heaven on the outskirts of town, where she can concentrate on building her business. That is, if she can ignore the undeniable heat between her and the sinfully hot single father.

When Nash bought his farmette, he had one goal in mind—to provide a loving, stable home for his son. He never imagined he’d be raising Phillip alone, or renting out a room to keep their heads above water. Then again, he never imagined losing his brother, or spending two years sailing around the world with parents who seemed to forget one son was still alive.

Sparks fly from the moment Tempest moves in, and her positive energy and inquisitive nature brings new life into Nash and Phillip’s quiet, confined world. For the first time in years, Nash wants to let a woman into his world, but while his loss made him stronger, that strength came at a price, leaving him walled off and wary of opening his heart again.

Fair warning for those opposed to insta-romance, this story moves fast!  But I loved it!  Something about Tempe and Nash seems to demand they don’t pussy-foot around.  Even with Nash’s son, Phillip, in the mix it still felt right to me.

The story of Nash and Tempe is one of timing, fate, signs.  They quite possibly would not have been ready for each other 6 months ago.  But now…now is the perfect time in both of their lives to find their happiness.  To allow themselves to take instead of give; although they both do a lot of giving still.

As a mom, I was interested to see the direction this fast paced romance would take with Phillip in the mix.  Melissa Foster did a great job of having Tempe step in and having Nash accept her suggestions.  Mostly because Tempe was never judgmental and always had the child’s best interest in mind.  Plus, everything was put in a way that Nash could see she had a point.  Even when he got touchy about certain things, Tempe understands it’s a natural reaction and Nash understands he’s being over-protective.  The dynamic between the two of them really works well.

Not only is the relationship sweet and tender, but Nash and Tempe also could set the room ablaze with their desire for each other.  The whole chapter that deals with Tempe’s first day moving into Nash’s house had me running between butterflies and hot flashes.  My oh my those two could generate enough electricity to light the town up!

If you can’t tell, I definitely think everyone should read this book.  It’s fun, thoughtful, sexy, heart-breaking, heart-mending, and heart-melting.  I came across this old post of mine from a few years ago about this series as a whole.  It may help you decide if you would read this as a standalone (which can be done) or if you want to read the series from the beginning (which I recommend).  At the time I wrote that post two years ago I had 9 books of this series.  I now have 48!  Most of them I’ve rated in the 4 star range and none have been rated less than 3 stars.  This author knows what she’s doing and she does it well.

5 stars

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Friday Favorites – 6/24/22 – My Thoughts on Romance

I’ve enjoyed revisiting past 5-star reads this year. I started sifting through my reviews posted on the blog and re-posting the rave reviews in order of when they were originally posted, the first being from October 2015. A couple of weeks ago I was going to do another flashback. I have gotten to February 2017 with my 5-star flashbacks, but after reading my review, and following the link to another old post that I had included in that review, I realized I couldn’t post it without getting into a few things here. So this is going to be a Friday Favorites post about how much I love the romance genre and how I wasn’t always so vocal about that fact.

In hindsight, at the ripe old age of 48, I realize I have always been a fan of romance. My theory is that because of the derision the genre receives it never occurred to me that I was already a romance reader at a young age. Most of my immediate family and extended family on my mom’s side are voracious readers. Most of the novels that that part of my family read were sci-fi and westerns. Those stories were never my cup of tea, but there were always other books around. It’s just that those genres were the majority and I don’t recall there being much romance in the available books that fell outside those genres. My grandpa also always had comic books around. All kinds of comic books, from superheroes to Casper to Richie Rich. There was always reading material around my grandparent’s house and at my house. I don’t recall anyone being into reading romance. Unlike a lot of avid romance readers, I cannot remember what my first romance novel was, in the traditional sense. I don’t have memories of reading my mom’s or grandma’s copy of some age-inappropriate book because they didn’t read romance. Or, if they did, I never saw those books laying around. But there were so many indicators of what my true reading passion was.

I believe the first chapter books I read were the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. (I am well aware of the problematic nature of these books and their history now that I’m an adult. In the 1970s this was not on my radar.) My favorite book in that series was, by far, These Happy Golden Years. The story of Almanzo Wilder courting Laura Ingalls. Those comic books I mentioned? My favorite was always the Archie comics, especially if they dealt with Archie and Betty. Hmmm. Like I said, I see a lot more in hindsight.

The first author I proclaimed to be my “favorite” (who is still a favorite) was Stephen King. Of course I realize King is not a romance writer. But if you’ve ever read his stories you know they are steeped in spirituality and love, familial and romantic. Those are the aspect of his stories I like the most. While I was getting into Stephen King, I would binge any Sweet Valley High book I could get my hands on without actually owning one myself. I had a close friend that read them all the time and I would read them after she was done, always a bit on the down-low as if it was shameful. I was introduced to Dean Koontz when I was in my late teens/early 20s. His stories, while not (IMO) as deep and engaging as King’s stories, almost always had a romance brewing. I loved that! Yet I still didn’t realize that I needed romance books in my life.

I honestly don’t know how I came about having this book, but I had owned and read a Janette Oke book in the late 90s or early 2000s. I quickly went through all of her books available at my library. I am not a religious person and didn’t like many aspects of these stories such as “saving” the native population, but I couldn’t get enough of the romance. Yet again, I didn’t realize this was what I was reading. To me, these were historical fiction books. My thoughts were that I adored historical books, and readily admit now that I would have never picked up a romance with a clinch cover back then. I was so naïve! There is a stigma to historical romance so I definitely didn’t feel as though that was what I was reading. There was a copy of The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon on display at my library and it sounded interesting so I went in search of book one, Outlander. Just as with the Janette Oke books, I ended up reading all of the series at that point. While I wouldn’t categorize these books as strictly romance now, they are heavy on romance and the relationship between the FMC and MMC kept me coming back for more. I continued to borrow historical romance from the library, but it was never Golden Age, Regency, or Victorian. The majority of what I was reading was American Western Expansion. I adored mail-order brides and women making their way west on their own. The Mexican vineyard owners in California before California was part of the United States. The early ranchers and cowboys of the wild west. Again, thinking these weren’t classified as historical romance but just historical fiction. After all, the books I was checking out of the library were in the general fiction area, not on the paperback spinning racks where the bodice rippers were on display.

Boy, I was blind. I was swayed by growing up being told the romance genre was less than and poorly written. I’m ashamed to admit that didn’t change much until I got my first e-reader. Partly because of the covers, partly because I got a lot of free e-books that were contemporary romance. I slowly started reading more and more contemporary romance. Without realizing it, once I started reading mostly romance, I still had a lot of defenses up when discussing the stories. That’s what brought on this post today. Looking back at a post from 2014 in which I try to explain how I’m not a reading snob, but then proceed to denigrate romance while simultaneously lauding a particular romance series, really made me realize how far I have come in my acceptance and pride in my choice of reading over the last 10 years.

I’ll admit, I still have my moments. I almost never recommend a romance book for my book club. I’ve chosen Outlander and Throne of Glass and other books such as those throughout the years, but nothing that would be a blatant romance. My sister recently told me I should pick what I want to pick when it’s my turn since they all pick things I’m not necessarily into. I read all genres, but the last few years my reading is majority romance. I want that guaranteed HEA. I know our country is going to hell in a handbasket so I don’t want to read books that rehash the terrible things happening with non-fiction. I can still get those stories in my fictional romance but know it’ll all end well. Not everyone feels that way, and that’s okay. I just have to be better at being okay with having a differing reading appetite than the others in my book club.

I love that there are multiple sub-genres for romance. If I want action or adventure, I can have that. If I want sci-fi or paranormal, I can have that, too. There are sports romance, military romances, small towns and big cities, mysteries and everyday life. I can read whatever I’m in the mood to read, but also be guaranteed an HEA. And these days, an HEA doesn’t have to mean marriage and a baby. But it does mean the main couple (or throuple, or more!) end up happily in a relationship with each other. I can read about physically strong women, mentally strong women, or women who are both. I can read about people sticking to their morals and demanding respect from those around them. These stories can take place present day, in the past, or in the future. I can get lost in the fantasy of an alpha male and swoon over his domineering ways when in reality I’d probably be annoyed by such posturing. Yet, when I’m reading, I can enjoy so many different things that may not work out for me in real life. That’s what makes reading so much fun. It’s always an adventure. I love reading about an alpha-male finding his soft center for “the one”. I love reading about people who had hard lives finding joy and safety and enjoyment in life and love, in the bedroom and out. I can read about love that doesn’t take the reader into the bedroom and read about love that gives the reader intimate details of what body part goes where, depending on my mood.

Reading romance, and learning to read romance proudly, has made me more aware of my own wants and needs. There are plenty of people in this world that don’t think that’s a good thing. In fact, they go so far as to say romance gives unrealistic expectations. I beg to differ. It can never be a bad thing to give people the tools to find their confidence and speak up for themselves in any aspect of life. In no way has my husband ever felt my expectations of him have been unrealistic. Not for any reason, let alone from reading romance and learning new things about myself.

As I said when I began this post, my next Flashback Friday 5-star read is what brought this all on. So this Friday I’m doing this Friday Favorites post, and doing a second post for that flashback. You can find that particular flashback here.

I’m constantly growing and learning as a reader and as a human being. I’m sure I’ll still make some missteps in the language I use, among other things. I’m always open to constructive criticism and hearing other points of view, but I’ll never go back to being ashamed of loving the books I love and sharing that love with those who care to listen.

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Her Fake Boyfriend (Bro Code) – ARC review

Her Fake Boyfriend
by Shelli Stevens
Release Date: June 23, 2022
Publisher: Tule Publishing
Book #2 in the Bro Code series
Number of pages:  212
Kindle Edition
Source:  ARC from publisher
Contemporary Romance
Ages 15 and up
CW: stalker, abduction, gun use
Thou shalt not sleep with thy friend’s ex…

Eric Nordland has been in love with his best friend’s girl since he met her. And now that she’s single, the temptation to make a move is killing him. Especially since their paths keep crossing. Dating your friend’s ex is a big bro code violation, but when Hannah comes to him in trouble, there’s no way he’ll leave her to fend for herself.

Coming out of the only romantic relationship she’s ever known, Hannah Jeong isn’t really looking for a rebound. But when the creepy parent of one of her students starts to stalk her, she jumps at Eric’s offer to pose as her fake boyfriend. What she didn’t expect was to start having feelings for a man she’d always seen as just a friend.

The line between right and wrong becomes fuzzier by the day as the attraction between them grows. Keeping Hannah safe from an obsessive man is just as much Eric’s mission as not giving his heart to a woman he can never have.

This is a super quick read. I enjoyed the story a lot, although the writing was not up to what I was expecting after reading the first story in this series. In some ways, I liked this storyline more. Yet, with the inconsistencies I just got taken out of the story over and over.

First of all, Hannah and Eric have great chemistry. That was obvious when we saw them briefly in the last book, Losing It. This story starts off with Hannah having dinner with her ex-boyfriend’s sister and, to me, that was a smart move. Through their interaction we are shown that Hannah is in no way the “bad guy” in the break up. In fact, her ex was the cheater and she dumped him. Problem is, the two had been dating since middle school and it’s hard for everyone to see them as separate entities. They’d grown apart over the last few years but neither had wanted to do anything about that until him kissing another woman prompted Hannah to do what needed to be done. Her ex, James, thinks he’s still in love with her. She knows, his friends know, everyone knows, it’s more of her being comfortable for him. The don’t know anything different. It’s hard for James to give up the plan he’s had for most of his life.

Hannah and Eric don’t set out to hook up. In fact, it’s been over 6 months since they’ve seen each other when they run into each other a few times in one week. One of those times, Hannah is in an uncomfortable situation with one of the dads of a student of hers and Eric quickly catches on and plays her boyfriends to get the guy to back off. This sets things in motion for the two of them to start seeing more of each other and falling in love. It also sets in motion that creepy dad’s obsession and Hannah being stalked.

All of these things about the story are great. The thoughts and doubts Eric has while falling hard for his best-friend’s ex. Hannah’s determination to move on. But there are many holes or things that just don’t make sense. It occurred in the first story but didn’t seem quite so odd, but I just don’t see how this group of friends doesn’t all know each other. It became even stranger in this story. Right off the bat Kristen (the FMC from the 1st book) doesn’t get the MMC’s name right even though he’s best friends with both her brother and her boyfriend. Hannah doesn’t seem to know or have ever truly met the women her ex kissed even though she’s Kirsten’s best friend. It just doesn’t make sense. She was dating James for over half of her life and she somehow never met his sister’s best friend? But the worst one was Eric saying he was from Ohio and moved to Seattle for college, then later saying he’s had the same Taekwondo master since he was 10??? It annoys me when nobody is paying enough attention in the process of publishing the book to make sure the facts are correct throughout the story. Accidents happen, things are missed, I get that. But when it happens over and over I feel it’s more about being sloppy than an accident.

One last thing that put the nail in the coffin for me. There is gun use and mention of firearms in this story. I myself am a responsible gun owner so don’t come at me about me not understanding. I’m not going to get into a lecture here, although I could. But I will say that I find it extremely irresponsible that, in the year 2022, there is a character that has a secret gun. Not only does he bring a gun into someone else’s home without their knowledge, he has also been living with roommates for years who had no idea he had a gun in their home. I cannot express to you how much that ticked me off. (And did not fit the character’s personality.) This should not be written as though this was okay. There should have been repercussions and discussions once it was discovered. Regardless of his reasons, there is no excuse for that behavior and I hate to see it in a contemporary story and not addressed at all.

While there was a lot I liked about this story and I’m sure I’ll even read the next in this series (I really need to see the HEA that comes from the enemies to lovers story going on in this series), I had to knock my rating down due to the irresponsible gun handling and the inconsistencies in the story.

3 stars

**I received an ARC of this book courtesy of the publisher. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and given freely**

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Ice Planet Barbarians (Ice Planet Barbarians) – book review

Ice Planet Barbarians
by Ruby Dixon
Release Date: April 3, 2015
Publisher: Berkley Books
Book #1 in the Ice Planet Barbarians series
Number of Pages:  248
Source:  Warren Public Library
Sci-Fi Romance
Ages 16 and up
CW: mentions of rape, abduction
You’d think being abducted by aliens would be the worst thing that could happen to me. And you’d be wrong. Because now, the aliens are having ship trouble, and they’ve left their cargo of human women – including me – on an ice planet.

And the only native inhabitant I’ve met? He’s big, horned, blue, and really, really has a thing for me…

Well, I’ve finally given in and decided to start this series. Like many people in the romance reading community, I’ve heard about this book a lot. Like, a lot a lot. It seemed to me that it would be a great palate cleanser when needed now and again. And it was!

The version of the book I got from the library was labeled as a “special edition” and included what was called a bonus epilogue so I’m not sure if that was in the original story. (It doesn’t change the story in any way so no worries if you don’t have an edition with this epilogue. It truly is just bonus material.) The edition also includes the novella Ice Planet Honeymoon, which has a note stating their may be spoilers if you haven’t yet read book 2 yet, so I’m holding off on reading that because I really HATE spoilers.

As for the story, I love both main characters. Georgie is so much stronger than I expected her to be and really has buckets of grit and determination. Where Georgie has a hidden strength, Vektal has a hidden softness. Especially when it comes to Georgie, his resonance, his mate. You would think it would be difficult to follow a story when the couple don’t speak the same language and, in fact, aren’t even familiar with the other’s species and customs. The author does an amazing job of keeping the story moving finding ways for the two to communicate. They may not understand all the other is saying, but they are on the same wavelength and it works. Eventually there is something that happens that makes it so they can understand each other, and the way that happens has me really excited about the possibilities of what is to come in the future books.

I have to say, I absolutely agree with many of the readers of this series. These two have amazing chemistry and the petite MFC fits perfectly with the huge blue alien. There are so many ways this series can go and so much more I can’t wait to learn about Vektal’s descendants. The intimate scenes between Vektal and Georgie are fun and hot. I couldn’t get enough of these two together. Sometimes it’s good to give into peer pressure.

4 stars

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On His Knees (Blasphemy) – book review

On His Knees
by Laura Kaye
Release Date:  February 13, 2018
Book #4 in the Blasphemy series
Number of Pages:  168
Kindle edition
Source:  Amazon Purchase
Erotic Romance
Ages 17 and up
Getting on his knees makes him question everything…and want even more…

Another failed relationship has lawyer Jamie Fielding confronting the truth—he’ll never be satisfied with any woman until he admits what he needs…to submit and to be used—hard. When a friend invites him to the exclusive Blasphemy club, Jamie is stunned to find everything he ever wanted—in the fierce, ruthless hands of a man.

Psychiatrist Alex McGarry will play with anyone who craves his rough brand of domination, but what he really wants is to settle down. Which makes the submissive male he meets at his club a bad idea—the man might be hot as hell but he’s also new to everything Alex has to offer. Except that doesn’t keep them from coming together again and again, sating every one of their darkest desires.

Master Alex sets Jamie’s whole world on fire and makes him question everything—and that’s good. Because Alex won’t tolerate hiding what they have for long and he wants much more than just having Jamie on his knees…

I’m really enjoying the quick reads in this series. Even the full-length books aren’t too long, yet somehow the author always manages to pack a ton of feeling into each story. I’m actually a fan of the insta-love trope and that’s what these books are for sure. But the characters are in intense situations due to their BDSM lifestyle so, for me, it makes a lot of sense. You have to trust your partner in a BDSM situation or it’s not enjoyable, it’s scary.

The author calls on fan favorite Jeremy from her Hard Ink series to introduce Jamie to Blasphemy. Not that Jeremy is a member, but he’s friends with a member and wants to help Jamie out. Especially once he understands that Jamie never even realized he may be a masochist. Jamie hasn’t ever had a great relationship. They’re not bad, but he’s missing something. When Jeremy assumes things about Jamie, it instantly clicks in Jamie’s mind that there’s nothing wrong with him, he just never really looked into this whole other world. He didn’t really understand or know what it was about. Once he starts exploring, he knows he’s found that missing piece he’s been searching for.

For his part, Alex has been active in the community for many years. He’s part owner of Blasphemy and is well known for his sadistic proclivities. Yet, Alex has been feeling as though there’s something missing for him lately, too. Seeing many of his friends and business partners not only find submissives, but life partners, has him feeling ready for the next phase in his life. Good thing Alex’s friends are meddlesome. It’s so obvious Alex and Jamie would be perfect for one another, so Master Kyler forces the issue and throws the two together.

I’ve had a hit or miss relationship with sado-masochism stories. It’s definitely not my thing when an author is extremely graphic. I’m sure there are readers out there that want all the details. I am not one of them. In this story, I felt the author gave enough details to make the story sexy and intriguing without giving minute details that would have possibly pushed things too far. We all have our limits. And I find it very interesting what my own limits are. They don’t need to make sense, you just have know what you like to read and what is too much for you. (For example, I love aggressive consensual non-con but am uncomfortable with electricity play.) Like I said, some may want more detail. For me, the author did a wonderful job of detailing the emotions and feelings in this story. Some of the BDSM scenes were detailed and sexy, others weren’t as detailed but still very sexy.

All that to say, this was a wonderful story. Jamie had a lot to deal with in finding out who he really is and what that means. Not only what he likes in bed, but other aspects of his sexuality he never really considered. Alex had to learn to open up in a different way in order to share his life. Like I said, these two are perfect together.

5 stars

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