Review, TBR Challenge

TBR Challenge: Grumpy

March’s theme prompt for Super Wendy’s #TBRChallenge 2022 was “Grumpy.” Here are the books we chose to tackle our TBRs this month.

Erin Read: Always Only You by Chloe Liese (2020)

Bergman Brothers, Book #2

Why was this book on your TBR?

I really loved the first book in this series, and the protagonists of this one sound super interesting.

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

The back cover copy doesn’t say it’s grumpy sunshine, but I thought it was? Plus it’s sportsy and we’re doing sportsy stuff this month on the blog. 

What are your thoughts on the book?

Wow, I could totally write a whole mostly gushing review about this book. (I mean, I can live without Shakespeare, and I have routinely thanked my husband for never speaking poetry to me, but I guess everybody’s not me.) I had read the first book in the series as an ARC, and I loved it, even though the protagonists were messy college kids who weren’t adulting all that well (which usually I don’t have a ton of patience for). But of course then how could I not be intrigued by the whole Bergman family? Plus my heritage is very Scandinavian, so I always like finding that in a good book. 

Anyway, I loved the pining virgin hero (Ren) who’s been biding his time until the object of his affections (Frankie) would not be off limits so he could ask her out (they work together). He’s the purest hero you can imagine. I liked that Frankie used being grumpy as a mask to protect herself from a world that takes her spoons. I mean, I didn’t like that she had to do that, but I liked that she found a way to protect herself and that the team still adored her and thought she was fierce. The story centers largely on how Frankie’s disability and neurodiversity impact her life and relationships, so it’s nice that Ren is a legit cinnamon roll. I also appreciated that this book was much more low angst than book 1 of the series (because HOLY ANGST, BATMAN!), but there was still plenty of natural tension between Ren and Frankie to keep things moving until the dark moment. It might be too gentle for some, but it was good for me. 

Buy Now: Amazon

Holly Read: Say No to the Duke by Eloisa James (2019)

The Wildes of Lindlow Castle, Book #4

Why was this book on your TBR?

In the before-COVID times, Erin and Ingrid saw Eloisa James give a talk, and snagged me a signed copy. 

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

I was feeling grumpy about saying yes to too much, so I figured I could take some inspiration on saying no. 

What are your thoughts on the book?

Unfortunately for me, my reading experience also aligned with the prompt: this book was making me grumpy.

Some backstory. Eloisa James was, for a while, my number one favorite romance author, but I was kind of “meh” on the numbers series, plus I got distracted by other things, so I had never read any of the Wilde books. So when I started reading this one, my immediate thought was that James’ character work was not as compelling as in her earlier stuff. (Plus it didn’t feel as dense and textured.) I don’t know if that’s my mindset right now and this was not the right time for this book, or if there has actually been a change in her writing.

The point is, I was six chapters in, and I knew a lot of facts about Betsy, but the contradictory mishmosh did not add up to a person yet. I’m DNFing for now, but maybe I’ll come back to this one day. Or maybe, next time I want a Georgian fix, I’ll reread the Desperate Duchesses again.

Sidenote: I reread Erin’s review, and I did not get the sense that Betsy declined the Duke because he was boring, but rather from a weird sense of competition that she would get and decline the most proposals to show the world that she was the awesomest.

Buy Now: Amazon

Ingrid Read: The Bun & the Gun by Vanessa Gray Bartal (2019)

Spies Like Us, Book #1

Why was this book on your TBR?

Someone recommended it online and their awkward, gushing review had me totally curious. 

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

I have serious obsession issues with characters who are grudgingly dragged into their happily ever afters, and this one looked particularly juicy.

What are your thoughts on the book?

HOLY cow. Holy mooing cow. I laughed so hard during this book, and then when I finished it I couldn’t fall asleep because my poor love struck, sighing self couldn’t cope with how adorable this couple was. 

Basically this very witty, smart, and completely bananas reference librarian (Maggie) is recruited by a sexy spy man to go work for a secret government agency and help catch the baddies. Ridge the spy man is the grumpiest boss ever and routinely makes everyone cry, but outside of work Ridge and Maggie are best friends. And what makes this book particularly adorable is that NEITHER OF THEM KNOW THEY’RE MEANT TO BE TOGETHER, but WE READERS DO. 

Maggie is determined to help Ridge connect with his other employees, and Ridge is determined to protect Maggie when a new op that depends on Maggie being in the field surfaces. Meanwhile, they’re cluelessly tripping over themselves with clever words and sexual tension. 

The only tiny thing I thought might dull the shine of this book for some people is that Maggie starts out 20 lbs overweight and loses the weight as she goes through training. But I really didn’t see a problem with it because she says very directly that she eats healthier now so she can run faster—the weight loss is a practical result of the necessary lifestyle changes required by her job and it’s not treated like Ridge didn’t see her until she was at a “hot weight”. Ridge is smitten with her from the jump. It’s treated as a simple fact and is a non issue from my read, but I could see some people feeling a prickly way about it.

Regardless, this book was brimming with witty banter and Maggie was fantastic. Five stars, take my money, next book in the series, please.

Buy Now: Amazon

Want to join us in tackling your TBR? April’s prompt is Location, Location, Location.


Saturday Smutty Six: Women Athletes

Our Smashdown can’t be limited to only 8 duels and a few other reviews! In order to showcase some more lovely sports romance, we need listicles! 

They might not all play sportsball, but they’re all definitely athletes. This week, let’s talk about some professionally athletic women:

The Brightest Star in Paris by Diana Biller

Don’t you even dare say that ballerinas aren’t athletes. As the Prima Ballerina of the Palais Garnier in 1870s Paris, Amelie works her butt off—and there are the requisite sports romance scenes of training and injury, as well as some really wonderful scenes of the chaos of backstage during a performance. The main story arc, however, centers on Amelie’s sudden ability to communicate with ghosts, and the healing from collective trauma that she and her ghostly companions work through. Benedict is mainly along for the ride and supports Amelie every step of the way.

Love. Set. Match. by Taylor Lunsford

Hey, it’s tennis! Emerson is out to win a Grand Slam, but there are so many distractions! She’s had a knee injury, she’s still grieving the death of her grandfather, her tennis all-star ex has cast her as the villain of their relationship, and photos of her wearing sexy lingerie are all over the internet. She does not need the man who dumped her seven years ago distracting her on top of everything. But then Rob becomes her staunch supporter. And he’s realized he was foolish for listening to his dad all those years ago. There’s a lot of personal growth in this book.

Only When It’s Us by Chloe Liese

Sometimes people say they want a grumpy/grumpy book instead of a grumpy/sunshine book, and this probably fits the bill. Willa and Ryder are college juniors (and they act like it) who are managing a lot of baggage as they figure out how to adult. Willa’s only family is her mother, who is dying of cancer, which is more than enough for a college junior to manage, except that she’s also worried about making the grades to stay on the soccer team so she can have a shot at playing pro soccer. She’s absolutely terrible at managing stress and communicating, which makes her first interactions with Ryder extremely negative, but eventually they befriend each other, grump to grump, in that playful antagonism way that people do. Be warned: this story will probably make you cry.

Kulti by Mariana Zapata

It had to make an appearance on at least one sports romance list, right? The title is the name of the hero soccer superstar, but fear not: this is all about Sal Casillas as she enters a new soccer season with her childhood crush as a coach. Awkward. On top of that, Kulti broke Sal’s brother’s leg during a game and he’s just a surly jerk. At first. Then they become friends, which puts Sal’s position on the team in jeopardy. It’s a really slow burn but YOWZA, when everything comes to the point, it knocks me right down every time.

From Lukov with Love by Mariana Zapata

Mariana Zapata has written several sports romances, but for hard-working women athletes, I couldn’t miss Jasmine Santos. Competitive figure skating is the only thing she’s wanted since she first touched the ice at 9, but after her last partner dumped her she’s facing a forced retirement. Until her childhood nemesis and best friend’s older brother (and an Olympic medalist) offers her the position of his partner – but only for one year. If you liked The Cutting Edge and want more pairs skating slow burn romance energy, this is a solid pick.

Roller Girl by Vanessa North

Tina’s a retired wakeboarder turned personal trainer who feels like a bad adult after her divorce. How do you even find a plumber? Enter Joe, who inherited her dad’s plumbing business and coaches roller derby on the side. Tina has her old wakeboarding friends, but since she’s transitioned and divorced and is kind of in a funk, she really wants to make new friends in a welcoming space for women. Luckily, the wild world of roller derby is just the community Tina needed. If only she doesn’t jeopardize it all by fooling around with the coach in secret.

Bonus Points: Fire on the Ice by Tamsen Parker

While we were researching for this month, I found this F/F romance featuring a demure Canadian figure skater and a brash American speed skater. Sounds lit!


Review: Ever After Always by Chloe Liese (2021)

Bergman Brothers, Book #3

Review of Bergman Brothers, Book 1

Heat Factor: There’s some pining and petting in the middle and some sex at the end

Character Chemistry: These guys love each other so much they lie by omission to protect the other party. Like, a lot. 

Plot: Aiden and Freya are having a tough time. But they also really want to fix what’s going on, so they put in the hard work to make their marriage stronger. 

Overall: I really wanted to like this book. Everything sounds great on paper. But I didn’t get that serotonin boost that I’m looking for when I got to the HEA.

Continue reading “Review: Ever After Always by Chloe Liese (2021)”

Review: Only When It’s Us by Chloe Liese (2020)

Bergman Brothers, Book 1

Heat Factor: They’re not virgins but it’s pretty first love type stuff

Character Chemistry: Solidly “I’m going to antagonize you because that’s how we demonstrate our affection instead of being vulnerable”

Plot: A pair of 21-year-olds with baggage try to figure out how to adult

Overall: Heart eyes

Continue reading “Review: Only When It’s Us by Chloe Liese (2020)”