Best Selling Romance
Hers From the Start (Multi-Author Anthology)
Hers From The Start*
Collection of Mostly Paranormal/Fantasy Starters of Reverse Harem Series
This is a delightful collection of reverse harem prequels or first in series books. I love anthologies like this that contain work by both authors I’m familiar with and ones who are new to me. Two of the books were by authors whom I know well, but I hadn’t read these particular works, so those were particularly fun finds.
Let me tell you a little about each book. Wolf Blessed follows the adventures of a fae princess who ran away and her wolf honor guard (who recently found her) as they struggle for survival in a post-apocalyptic world. A demi-goddess’s power finally comes to the surface in Winter Princess, but to understand it and get to her mother’s realm, she needs the help of her Guardians. A young woman feels cursed to feel the elements in a book called Cursed, but she finds fellow students with connections to the elements who help her appreciate this gift when she goes to college.
Riley, in the first of the Unseen series, still hasn’t moved beyond the tragedy of losing her spouse and child, in part because she has no answers about how it happened. Suddenly, her life is full of danger after someone claiming to be from the FBI shows up at her doorstep. Who can help her? Tricking the Beasts is a prequel involving a maid and royal princes in the Hybrid trilogy. Finally, the last book in the trilogy is the first book of the contemporary Redline series, which sets up the relationship between Kayla and her hockey-playing harem.
As you can tell, the book is mostly fantasy and paranormal RH. I found it fun to explore new series and some new authors. If you enjoy the RH concept, you might enjoy this starter pack as well.
Authors: Laura Greenwood, Skye McKinnon, Grace White, L. A. Boruff, Aleera Anaya Ceres, T. B. Mann
Friends without Benefits by Marci Bolden
Friends without Benefits*
Care and Support During and After Bitter Divorces
Another amazingly honest book from one of my new favorite authors, Marci Bolden. In this book, she explores the pain and suffering caused by divorce. Dianna, married for over 20 years, finds her husband in flagrante delicto with a young woman. On the day of her divorce proceedings, Dianna finds a stranger on her doorstep with an interesting proposition. The man is her husband’s mistress’s husband! Paul asks Dianna to testify at his divorce proceedings, as his wife is asking for alimony on the grounds that she never had a physical relationship with Dianna’s husband. Though it is difficult for her to relive that moment of seeing her husband’s infidelity, Dianna does this, as she saw it as ironic that she got no alimony after 20 years of raising her family and running their home. She and Paul develop an unusual friendship in which they decide to be supportive of each other as each has great sympathy and empathy for what the other is going through. Although it could be awkward to create circumstances for these two strangers to become involved in each other’s lives, the author did a good job a showing an organic grown of their relationship, including awkwardness and apologies, as well as support. Some scenes are emotionally wrenching, like when she decides to be the one to tell Paul of their soon-to-be ex-spouses’ engagement. Their families don’t know quite what to make of this relationship, her younger son being angry and his family thinking she is his next relationship.
I’ve been divorced myself, so the way she depicted the roller coaster of emotions that causes rings true. I wish I had a Paul during the aftermath of mine; support can be hard to come by during that time, as families don’t want to see you wallow and friends often don’t know what to say. Paul’s and Dianna’s story feels realistic in its hesitancy, but it is lovely to see their sincere care for each other. It was another book that I didn’t want to put down, as I kept wanting to see what would happen next as they both tried to move forward and create new lives. Beautifully done!
The Middle-Aged Virgin by Olivia Spring
The Middle-Aged Virgin*
Death of a Friend Triggers Heroine to Change Her Life Plan
Sophia appears to have it all. She has a thriving public relations business and has been in a long-term relationship with a decent guy. She’s busy all the time, jetting around the world for her clients. After the death of her good friend and mentor, Sophia realizes that she is not living as full of a life as she could. She is a workaholic, and there has been no spark (and no sex) between her and her boyfriend for a very long time. She decides to change this and writes herself a new life plan.
How will Sophia’s business fare when she decides to change things? Will she find passion (one of the items on her list)? Will she be able to fulfill her new plan?
This book follows the well-trodden path of certain chick lit novels. A woman, whether by choice or circumstance, decides to strike out on a new and potentially frightening course to see what more life has to offer her. The book had interesting secondary characters, and Sophia’s new life had all sorts of twists and turns that I enjoyed reading about. Her thoughts and reactions were a little off-kilter at times, which seemed to point up that, while she may be approaching 40, she isn’t as sophisticated or knowledgeable as she’d like to believe.
There were some odd tense and voice shifts in the section where she is writing her plan for her new life. The book is written in the past tense, and this part shifted into the present. In this section, too, it felt like the wall between reader and character was knocked down unintentionally by using *you* or making it seem as if Sophia was speaking directly to us, the readers. I found these two things a bit jarring in an otherwise enjoyable book.
Marrying Mars by Shay Quin
The Bachelor: Mars Edition
We meet Billie after her friend convinces her to do a call-in show that use subterfuge to figure out if someone’s partner is cheating on them. We watch her devastation and public humiliation as she finds out that her friend is right; her boyfriend has been cheating on her., She moves out and retreats into herself, her only enjoyment being watching the reality TV show about the in-progress colonization of Mars. At the start of the new season, her celebrity crush on this show, Marsden, announces a spin-off show in which women will compete to be his bride; Earth citizens can pick the final 5, but Marsden gets the ultimate yeah or nay. Billie decides to enter. What does she have to lose?
How will Billie do in all the tests and competitions that are a part of the show? Can she make him notice her? Will she be able to develop real feelings for this man while he’s on Mars and she’s on Earth? Will she win?
The author did an excellent job of showing the state of Billie’s life before it all went downhill. It was a gripping scene to watch her go through that call-in show where she finds out about her boyfriend’s infidelity. I love that Billie is an unapologetically normal sized woman in a world where tinier is better. She is an empathetic character, and I love her humor, which is often self-deprecating. I actually did laugh out loud a few times. I found to be such an enjoyable, guilty-pleasure read with just that little bit different, but fascinating spin on something that we’re already familiar with. Fans of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette will enjoy this for sure!
The Road Leads Back by Marci Bolden
The Road Leads Back*
Breathtakingly Beautifully Written Tale of Coming Home To Love
Forty-something hippie chick artist, Kara, is blown away when she is touched on the shoulder by a man she hasn’t seen since their one-night stand nearly thirty years ago. They had each had a secret crush on each other during high school, and after a graduation party, acted on it. This resulted in a pregnancy that, through no fault of either of them, Harry never knew about. Their son, Phil, is a father of a young daughter with Down syndrome.
How will this play out for this long-fractured family unit? Can Kara give up her resentment and anger and allow Harry to get to know his son and granddaughter? How will Harry react to finding out that he is not only the father of a grown son but also a grandfather to a special needs girl? Will Phil accept Harry and allow him to know his daughter?
What an emotional ride! This author hit all the right buttons showing the varied and varying emotional responses of the primary characters. The pain expressed by them is raw and real. She deftly reveals the past slowly so the various parties can understand the impact of decisions made by others that affected this family unit. The author writes with an emotional honesty that is breathtaking to read. I tend to move quickly through books, as I am an avid and fast reader, but this book had me slowing down and immersing myself in the thoughts and feelings of these good people who had been kept apart. It is a real pageturner, though not in the action-filled sense we usually think of one.
On the book review site where I downloaded this book from, it was listed as both Contemporary Romance and Women’s Literature. I agree with these labels; categories at both review sites and online retailers are often inaccurate. If you read romance, you’ve read the second chance at romance and the secret child tropes before a gazillion times. But in this book, these themes are explored with emotional and psychological depth, which is more common in women’s literature. Kudos to the author for creating such three-dimensional characters and an in-depth backstory. For instance, it was beautiful to read Harry’s reaction as he was thumbing through Phil’s baby pictures.
Goddess of Love by Fallyn Briggs
Goddess of Love*
What If You Shared Body and Consciousness with Aphrodite?
When Andra was a young girl, she loved the stories her mother told her about the ancient Greek gods and goddesses. Little did she know that those stories were real and would become her nightmare. According to the legends her mother shared, the Olympian gods were cursed to continue existing but only through human hosts, generation after generation. Andra’s family had often been host to these gods and goddesses. On her 18th birthday, Andra becomes host to the goddess Aphrodite. Being a goddess, Aphrodite wants to completely take over Andra’s life, which she very nearly does. Andra lives where Aphrodite wants, has the job the goddess wants her to have, and interacts with others as Aphrodite wants her to do (even, at times, making Andra black out so she won’t remember). She’s married to the host of Hephaestus; the god is kind, but his host is not. Her being the host of Aphrodite has strained other relationships in her life, particularly with her sister.
Will Andra ever be able to take control of her life from Aphrodite? Can she improve her relationship with her human husband, Kal? Is there any hope for her love life . . . and the rest of the problems created by her unique situation?
I liked the way the author introduced the mythical part of the book, having Andra’s mother relate the myths to the 8-year-old girl. The author does an excellent job of showing the mental battles between Andra and Aphrodite. She was able to show how Andra felt continually put upon by Aphrodite’s thoughts and actions. The author presented other gods and goddesses in ways that rang true to Greek mythology.
This is a very unusual book, but one that I found interesting to read. I like it when authors play around with fairytales and mythology, especially when they bring it into contemporary times. The author pulled that off very well.
I received a free copy of this book, but this did not affect my review.
One Last First Date by Kate O’Keefe
One Last First Date*
Literally Made Me Laugh Out Loud!
Cassie and her two best girlfriends make a pact on the beach. Whomever they go on a date with next will be the man they marry, their “last first date.” It took three months for one of them to finally make that move after some heavy-duty vetting and research of the man, Parker, a doctor. Cassie is working on a big project at work at this time as well, partnering with the number one sales agent in the office whom she considers to be a bit of a jerk, Will. The last first date starts off as a bit of a disaster when she accidentally punches her own nose trying to get her skirt uncaught. But the rest of the dinner goes well.
Will Parker, that hopeful last first date, truly be that? Does he have any old girlfriends lurking around in the past? What about Will? Will their project be successful without coming to blows or oneupsmanship?
This book was a very fun, light-hearted read. It is based in Australia. It’s written with a great deal of humor. I actually did laugh out loud at times! Sometimes at the situation Cassie had gotten herself into or her reaction to it. In a fun way that I love in good sitcoms, the author would occasionally create what would become an in-joke, as in she would set up fact early on and then used it to create a humorous situation. It is rare to see such a comedic device in a fluffy romance, so it was a delight.
Truth and Solace by Jana Richards
Truth and Solace*
Compelling Third Installment of Excellent Series
After Lies and Secrets (books 1 and 2), we finally have Truth in the Love at Solace Lake series. Maggie, the youngest of the Lindquist daughters, is the heroine of this second-chance-at-romance story. When she was a young teenager, she fell in love was a young man named Luke who was a few years older than she was. After dumping her in a most dramatic and painful fashion, he went to California for schooling and ultimately got a job there. He comes back to the Minnewasta area because his mother is terminally ill with lung cancer. He works in hotel and restaurant management and has agreed to do that temporarily at the lodge so he can be with his mother in Minnesota. Because of their respective jobs in the lodge, Luke and Maggie often work together, which is not always easy for Maggie. They have so much shared history and still-existent feelings for each other, but there are also hurt and abandonment issues.
Will Maggie be able to look beyond the past hurts? Can Maggie and Luke find love again as adults? How will Luke deal with his mother’s illness? What truths will be revealed?
Yet again, the author has written a fantastic book. The past backstory and the current plotlines weave together and mirror each other in a complex way that was beautifully done.
I was wondering how she was going to handle the first chapter, which in the other two books of the series showed the sisters’ parents’ deaths from that book’s heroine’s perspective. But I knew that Maggie was just a baby when her parents died. In this book instead, Maggie gets into a fight with her grandmother about Luke just before her grandmother dies, causing Maggie to feel guilty that she may have caused her heart attack.
In this book, you will finally learn the truth about the death of the girls’ parents as well as the truth about Maggie’s parentage, which was hinted at in the prior book. Another truth revealed in the book is the reason why Luke left back when they were younger.
Yet again, this author is not afraid to address difficult and taboo topics, which are not common in contemporary romance. In this book, she looks at sexual harassment, parental abandonment, cancer, and marital infidelity as well as continuing to address alcoholism. Even though there are many hard topics she explores, she does so with sensitivity and compassion.
If you enjoyed either of the first two books of the series, you will find answers to the questions raised in them, told in the compelling way you have come to expect from this author. If you haven’t read the other books and enjoyed heartfelt contemporary romance, I suggest you start with Book 1 and make it to this one because the journey of the characters in these novels is amazing to watch unfold.
Scarred by Meghyn King
Heroine Confronts Her Past
Scarlett, who left her hometown as soon as she could, comes back for her twin sister’s wedding. Scarlett hasn’t been back because she was bullied severely in high school for her weight and her crush on one of the football stars. Her treatment back then destroyed her, and she acts out sexually because of it. She has no desire for a permanent relationship, and she has a string of one-night stands. She decides that a good way to get back at least one person in her hometown is to have a one-night stand with one of the perpetrators, Ethan, the one she had a crush on, to show him what he missed. Of course, it isn’t that simple. She has rules for her one-night stands, and she ends up breaking them with him.
What motivates Scarlett to act differently than she usually does? What exactly is the dynamic between her and Ethan? Will Scarlett finally be able to sort out her thoughts and feelings about what she suffered when she was younger?
This book is very unusual for contemporary romance in that it looks at not just one but two difficult topics, bullying and domestic abuse. It’s easy to see how the teenage bullying changed Scarlett, altering not only her perceptions of herself but how she reacted to those around her (not just men). In an ironic twist, one of Scarlett’s main tormentors became the victim of domestic abuse. The author did a good job of showing how and why these two women were at odds but were able to come around to a better understanding in part based on the pain of their pasts.
Note: This book has highly graphic descriptions of sexual acts with many sexual scenes described in slang terms for body parts and actions. There is a lot of profanity both in the sexual scenes and outside them.
Secrets and Solace by Jana Richards
Secrets and Solace*
Taboo Topic Explored in Second Installment of Love at Lake Solace Series
The second book of the Love at Solace Lake series features Harper’s sister Scarlet and Ethan’s brother, Cam. If you enjoyed the love story between Harper and Ethan, you get to see their wedding from Scarlet’s perspective before they leave on their honeymoon to Paris. Scarlet and Cam must work together in several circumstances, and they have an almost immediate mutual dislike even though they are also somewhat drawn to each other. Scarlet doesn’t appreciate that Cam seems to think Harper is just after Ethan for his money. Ethan doesn’t like this either, and after a particularly rude statement during the wedding brunch, Ethan tells Cam that he will not put up with this treatment of his wife. Cam has a young daughter, Tessa, born out of wedlock and is an alcoholic who has been dry for three years.
Alcoholism is not a typical backdrop or source of conflict in a romance, but the author has done a good job showing how this has impacted Cam in the past and affects him in the present, decreasing his feelings of self-worth, which causes problems in his relationships with women. He’s a good father to Tessa despite his alcohol issues and problems with women.
Both Cam and Scarlet have secrets, Scarlet’s having to do with her parents’ death. She witnessed an argument that occurred between them just before their accident, and she believes she is responsible for what happened. I love how these first two stories in the series start with each girl’s memory of the day their parents died; we are privy to the same sentinel moment from different perspectives.
What will happen as Scarlet, who’s working on publicity for the lodge, works with Cam as he is renovating the lodge? Will they continue to butt heads? Will they come to a greater understanding of each other? And will that lead to more? Will secrets cause more distance between them?
I love the complex world the author has woven for this series. So far, each sister is totally unique in her fears, goals, and motivations. Their men, too, are unique–a lottery millionaire and an alcoholic contractor. Yet, overarching these stories is the underpinning mystery about the girls’ parents’ relationship and deaths as well as the modern story of renovating the lodge that pulls all these people together in a satisfying way.
If you enjoy the first book of the series, which I thought was a well-written book, you will enjoy this love story of the siblings of the first couple. If you like steamy romance that isn’t afraid to embrace difficult topic, you might enjoy this book.
I received a free copy of this book, but this did not affect my review.