Review, TBR Challenge

TBR Challenge: Starting Over

January’s theme prompt for Super Wendy’s #TBRChallenge 2023 was “Starting Over.” Here are the books we chose to tackle our TBRs this month.

Erin Read: Got Me Thinking by Casey Cox

Vet Shop Boys, Book #4

Why was this book on your TBR?

I read the first three books in the series but the rest weren’t available in audio yet.

Why did you choose this book for this month’s challenge?

Both of the MCs are starting over after long term relationships ending. Also it’s available in audio now.

What are your thoughts on the book?

This is very much in the middle of a series. The veterinarian, Chase, has been experiencing the end of his marriage until this point, and all the other protagonists and their partners show up immediately and with great regularity, and not just because they all work together. Could it be a standalone? Sure. But it’s definitely going to be a more robust read if you have Chase’s background and care about the secondary characters. 

This whole series is really soft. It centers on self-exploration and vulnerability, overcoming deep-rooted fears to embrace love. The protagonists in this book in particular have very few personal struggles to overcome—Chase is trying to figure out who he is after trying to be who everyone else wanted him to be his whole life, and Fischer is figuring out how to adjust to his life as a single parent of twins after moving back to his hometown when his ex walked out. They’re not wealthy, but they don’t have to worry about money, or their jobs, or their families, or past trauma… You get the idea. It’s just really soft. 

At first, Fischer and Chase simply befriend each other because neither has revealed he’s gay and both are doing the work of dealing with life. It’s a lot of charming, playing house relationship building. When their mutual attraction boils over, their relationship becomes a bit more rocky, since neither knows where he stands with the other, but their charming togetherness is never far away. 

This book (and the series) is a comfort read to me. I don’t get the high highs and low lows of a really gripping story that makes your stomach flip-flop, but I was charmed by the care Fischer and Chase took with each other as they tried to figure out what they wanted as individuals and together. I appreciated that Fischer considered how his choices would affect his family, even though the girls were still babies. Also, Chase felt a lot of guilt over his divorce, but his ex was happier not being married to a man who wasn’t attracted to her, so here’s another one for the amicable divorce column. It was just a nice, feel-good romance.

Buy Now: Amazon

Holly Read: An Unconditional Freedom by Alyssa Cole (2018)

The Loyal League, Book 3

Why was this book on your TBR? 

I read the first two books in the series a few years ago and thought they were fabulous (reviews of Book 1 and Book 2), but I hadn’t gotten around to this one. 

Why did you choose this book for this month’s challenge? 

I had named this book as the one book I definitely wanted to read in both 2021 and 2022, so in the interest of starting over, I am actually working to meet my goals this year. 

What are your thoughts on the book?

It actually worked quite well as a story of starting over—both Daniel and Janeta are coming to terms with their new identities in light of what they experience and learn. I’m talking a serious reevaluation, based on the discovery that the freedom they enjoy is conditional because of the color of their skin. As you might imagine, there is significant trauma involved in this realization.

The basic premise of the story is that Daniel is working through his PTSD of being kidnapped and sold into slavery as an adult by being a spy for the Union and occasionally killing Confederate agents; he is assigned to work with Janeta, who is a new member of the spy ring. However, Janeta is actually a double agent, who plans on passing information on to her Confederate boyfriend in a bid to free her father from prison. They go on a road trip together into the Deep South to crash a dinner party between an English agent and Jefferson Davis.

There’s a lot of angst (Janeta) and brooding (Daniel) and pining (mutual), and the end result is a fabulous slow burn romance that hits on every level. I really enjoyed it, and can’t believe it took me so long to read. Holy shit is it a winner.

Buy Now: Amazon | Bookshop

Want to join us in tackling your TBR? February’s theme is “Getaway.”

Review, TBR Challenge

TBR Challenge: Quickie

In an attempt to get our collective bookstacks under control, we’re participating in SuperWendy’s #TBRChallenge. January’s theme prompt was “Quickie.” Here are the books we chose to tackle our TBRs this month.

Erin Read: Agnes Moor’s Wild Knight by Alyssa Cole (2014)

Why was this book on your TBR?

I picked this one up because it’s a medieval historical romance by Alyssa Cole. I’ve since seen some others in Romancelandia talk about it, but I think I mostly have Amazon’s algorithm to thank for this one.

Why did you choose this book for this month’s challenge?

According to Goodreads, it’s 38 pages.

What are your thoughts on the book?

This story is really short, so I honestly can’t tell you why it’s taken me until this challenge to read it, but, as usual with Alyssa Cole, I’m glad I did! 

Cole based the story on a tournament that occurred in 1507/8 in the Scottish court, but the imagined version was much more romantic than the original sounds (considering that the Knight in question in the original was the King himself). A kiss from Agnes, a Black woman living in James’s court, is the prize of the tournament, and the Wild Knight, a mysterious but extremely skilled figure, is taking no prisoners in what is revealed as his quest to win Agnes. But who is he? There are moments when Agnes feels the Knight is familiar, but how could that man she’d met be present at the tournament?

It’s short. It’s hot. It touches on Scottish clan politics and the politics of race in medieval Scotland. It’s a bit fanciful, but grounded in reality. It was definitely worth 99 cents. 

Buy Now: Amazon

Holly Read: Unsolicited Duke Pic by Nico Rosso (2019)

Why was this book on your TBR?

Honestly, I probably picked this up because of the novelty title.

Why did you choose this book for this month’s challenge?

It’s on the long end for a novella, but it’s still novella length. Besides, what screams quickie more than dick pics? Don’t answer that. 

What are your thoughts on the book?

We have here a case of Woke Duke. Honestly, I get it. Because the premise is that Thomas commissions a portrait of his member from Sofia, there has to be a good reason for it, otherwise Thomas is just another gross guy. I personally find dukes who are very concerned with the plight of the poor but spend their time saving wealthy widows a bit tiring, but your mileage may vary. 

I thought the first third of the book, while Thomas is sitting for his portrait, was delightful. Sofia and Thomas have great conversations and witty banter—with the added, uh, excitement, of a portrait subject that doesn’t always cooperate. 

While the black moment was definitely earned, the fact that Thomas didn’t see the fact that painting a penis picture would end with negative repercussions for Sofia says something about how thoughtful his activism is (read: not very). Furthermore, the solution to Sofia’s stained reputation was both unrealistic and unsatisfying—in that I don’t think it would work AND even if it did, I didn’t find the climactic showdown all that interesting.

Buy Now: Amazon

Ingrid Read: Riley Thorne and the Corpse in the Closet by Lucy Score (2021)

Why was this book on your TBR?

The first Riley Thorn was a wild ride and I was so curious about how the second would go.

Why did you choose this book for this month’s challenge?

I had read the first one, and I knew I’d be able to knock out the second pretty quickly (but also, that it would keep getting put off with everything else I’m reading).

What are your thoughts on the book?

It was funny and cute. We get the same crew of geriatric room mates, plus Riley’s rude and judgmental grandmother. Basically, Riley’s still resisting her gifts and her now boyfriend is overprotective and not keen on her helping the police with a murder case. Her grandmother basically puts Riley into psychic boot camp while also sucking the joy out of every possible experience, and Nick is hovering and smothering. 

This one was high on mystery and shenanigans, and lower on romance—to the point where I’d classify it as smut adjacent. The love story was back burner to most of the rest of the book, and that’s ok! It was funny and good. But it just wasn’t the primary focus and plot driver.

Buy Now: Amazon

Want to join us in tackling your TBR? February’s theme is “Fairy Tale.”


Review: How to Find a Princess by Alyssa Cole (2021)

Runaway Royals, Book #2

Heat Factor: Low heat

Character Chemistry: Sparkling

Plot: A Royal Investigator who follows the letter of the law but not the spirit + A Long-Lost Princess who has no interest in claiming the throne + A Transatlantic Voyage = Hijinks on the High Seas

Overall: It wrapped up abruptly, leaving me feeling vaguely dissatisfied

Continue reading “Review: How to Find a Princess by Alyssa Cole (2021)”
Recommended Read, Review

Review: Be Not Afraid by Alyssa Cole (2016)

Originally published in the anthology For Love and Liberty: Untold Love Stories of the American Revolution.

Heat Factor: Just a little bit warm

Character Chemistry: Surprisingly believable emotional connection considering the length

Plot: Two enslaved Black people choose opposite sides in the Revolution and find themselves thrown together in a British encampment

Overall: The depth in this short story was marvelous

Continue reading “Review: Be Not Afraid by Alyssa Cole (2016)”
Recommended Read, Review

Anthology Review: The Brightest Day: A Juneteenth Historical Romance Anthology (2015)

Heat Factor: Hot, tender, touching, strong, hopeful

Character Chemistry: All four couples have undeniable and complicated chemistry.

Plot: Four stories of love and hope entwined with Juneteenth–each story set in a slightly different time period, each story SO historically and emotionally vivid.

Overall: This is an absolutely phenomenal MUST read — it’s going to hit you right in the “feels” and stay there.

Continue reading “Anthology Review: The Brightest Day: A Juneteenth Historical Romance Anthology (2015)”