Recommended Read, Review Revisited

Review Revisited: Erin’s Take on By a Thread by Lucy Score (2020)

In addition to her review, Ingrid has recommended this book in four other discussion posts or listicles. And also she tells us to read it in the group chat even more than that. And so, finally, I did. I actually listened to the audiobook, and Dominic’s POV is voiced by Sebastian York, who has what I consider this perfect, er, asshole voice (Sorry, Sebastian! You’re really fun to listen to!), so when Dominic is all up in his feelings but still going through with his, er, bad behavior anyway, it’s just perfection. Erin Mallon voices Ally’s chapters, and she’s also a great narrator. So easy to listen to. Great audio. 

Okay but the book.

My primary takeaway from this book is that it addresses the power dynamics of an employer/employee relationship better than any such romance I have ever read. And that is a trope I enjoy, even if it’s problematic. Fiction is great, right? Anyway, Ingrid definitely touches on this, too, in her review, but I think it should be said again. 

Because he’s lived through the repercussions of his father’s actions, Dominic is so fully against a workplace romance – for all the right reasons! – that he actually fails to see the difference between what his father did to the women in his employ and Dominic’s own relationship with Ally. There were actually times when I was frustrated with Ally, who got mad at Dominic for his refusal to engage with her even though she was very clearly consenting, because Dominic was so utterly clear that consent doesn’t work the same way when their workplace power dynamics were in play. And yet, because Score included the component of Dominic’s dad’s sexual assault and harassment, the reader is still able to see the difference between what Dominic’s going through and what his dad was doing. As the numerous harassment trainings I’ve attended have told me: sexual harassment is not about sex; it’s about power. And that’s exactly what Dominic’s dad very clearly illustrates, but what Dominic fails to see in his own feelings about Ally. 

(Also, once things pull together, they go straight to HR, which is great, although HR really shouldn’t have allowed Dominic in the room with Ally while they were discussing the relationship, because if she were being pressured, she couldn’t say so in front of Dominic – but hey, FICTION! There’s a beautiful hand-holding moment that we would have otherwise missed out on.)

The other thing I really liked was that Dominic knows he’s being so bad but just can’t help himself. I like a self-aware protagonist. Makes the naughty behavior less gross. But also Dominic is a big softie. He wants Ally to eat, but he knows it’s not appropriate to buy her food, so he buys food for the whole department. Still not entirely appropriate, and not very sustainable, but definitely shows his soft underbelly while he’s being a, um, little stinker. 

Anyway, it’s a long one, but very well thought out. Read on for Ingrid’s original glowing review.

Continue reading “Review Revisited: Erin’s Take on By a Thread by Lucy Score (2020)”
TBR Challenge

TBR Challenge: Flirting with Danger

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

Holly Read: Wired by Julie Garwood (2017)

Buchanan/Renard/McKenna, Book #13

Why was this book on your TBR?

I saw it in a Little Free Library (remember, this is the story of my reading life), and went “Oh hey, I didn’t know that Julie Garwood was still writing books! Or that she writes…romantic suspense now? OK!”

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

A suspense book about a hacker and an FBI agent seemed like a solid choice for “flirting with danger.” 

What are your thoughts on the book?

Look, this book was not good. I admit that part of my lack of enjoyment was comparing this book to Garwood’s old highlander books—after all, a domineering Hottie McScottie with a sword in the 12th century is vastly entertaining, whereas a domineering Hottie McScottie (based on his name and his size) with a cell phone in the 21st century is…kinda offputting. I will say one thing: Garwood’s heroes are pretty consistent. But even setting aside my personal preference for bossy heroes to stay in the Middle Ages, this book was just not well-executed.

It’s info-dumpy and repetitive. There are several long passages in the first hundred pages where Allison thinks about her relationship with her cousin, Bill, who she has helped bail out of trouble multiple times. Like, multiple pages of her thinking about how he needs to take control of his life and stop thinking of himself as a victim but also thinking about how sorry she is for him because his parents (who also raised her) are the literal worst. You might think that Bill might become central to the plot in some way, but he doesn’t; you might also think that this would teach us something about Allison’s character, but it doesn’t. I guess it teaches us that she’s a conflicted pushover, but one scene would suffice to convey that information. 

Speaking of character, neither Allison nor Liam is well-developed. Allison is beautiful and good at computers (she’s coded as neurodivergent in some ways, but that’s not really fleshed out) and believes in giving people second chances. But there’s not much…there. I think the moment that really highlighted this for me was the point, two-thirds of the way into the book where Allison decides that she wants to live life, not just read about it on her computer. And…this was news to me. It seemed like she *was* living her life—finishing college, living in a group house with some friends, doing modeling gigs, and working on her computer because she enjoyed it and it helped her decompress. The setup of her being sad or discontent (except about her family situation) is not there, so the payoff of her changing to going out and doing things (read: falling in love) was not there. Liam, as mentioned above, is a standard Garwood hero, but, like, a cardboard cutout version.

The plot is not that engaging. When I read a romantic suspense novel, I want to feel like there are stakes! There are no stakes here. There are three subplots (FBI leaker, Bill’s trouble with the law, and some dudebro stealing Allison’s code) that Allison and Liam deal with, but they don’t turn out to be interrelated or part of a larger conspiracy. And when the danger thing happens at the very end, it’s obvious who is behind it, and that particular villain had barely been introduced or even teased as dangerous (one sentence about “mob connections” does not an ominous villain make). 

And finally, the romance is lackluster. There’s a bit of forbidden workplace testing the waters that’s fine, but then Allison finds the FBI leak, which means that Liam is no longer her supervisor, and they go to bonetown. And then he goes to Berlin for a mission. And doesn’t call for eight weeks. While this isn’t a single-POV narrative (it’s mostly dual-third with a bit of headhopping), the romance is almost entirely seen from Allison’s perspective. This is a problem when Liam is wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am-ing her and then disappearing for weeks on end—only for the reader to get one sentence about how hard it was for him to stay away from her (after we learn he was back in town and didn’t call her). Like. What? Do these kids like or even know each other? 

I’ll stick with the highlanders, thanks. (Luckily for me, I recently grabbed a copy of The Wedding from a used book store.) 

Buy Now: Amazon

Erin Read: Dark Mafia Prince by Annika Martin (2016)

Dangerous Royals, Book #1

Why was this book on your TBR?

It’s been a while, but I’m pretty sure it’s because it showed up as a bookbub deal shortly after I’d read one of the rom-coms in her billionaire series.

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

I typed “danger” into my kindle search, and this was the only fiction romance book that showed up. (Because of the series name)

What are your thoughts on the book?


This is a dark romance. I knew that going in. My first clue was that the title includes “dark.” My second clue was that the title includes “mafia.” Have you ever read a mafia romance that isn’t dark? I haven’t. Not that I’ve read a lot of them. But still. So, I understood this was the situation going in. 

Did not expect the threat of sexual violence (Aleksio orders Mira to take off her panties while holding her father at gunpoint) in the first interaction. So there’s that.


This book ends up being like a quasi-morality chain. It’s very mafia. I was extremely stressed out about Aleksio and his brother’s plan to cut off Mira’s finger to make her father fall in line (I couldn’t stop reading!) but Aleksio simply can’t be bad—because of Mira. She makes him want to be better. It’s still very murdery, and Mira does enter Aleksio’s world (at least to the extent that she wants to help find the third brother—which will increase an already substantial body count—and get the brothers’ whole revenge thing sorted out), but also Aleksio taps into his own buried sense of decency, which is why I say quasi-morality chain. He pulls her down into his world, but she also pulls him back up. 

Was this a favorite book? No. But it periodically had some nuggets that really tickled me—

He pulls away, panting. “You’re mine,” he says suddenly. A feral man’s way of saying I love you.

—like, WUT, but also if that doesn’t just capture the whole notion of a certain type of hero… Or:

He finds the elastic of my panties and presses his fingers to my dripping wet pussy. 

“Aleksio, we’re in a car chase. Be reasonable.”

Yes, Aleksio, be reasonable, this is no time for danger bangs. (Or is it?) 

Plus, there’s humiliation kink. It’s just OTT. So, in short, I was definitely entertained, and maybe if I’m not looking for the emotional balm of athletes who are totally soft for each other, I’ll read the next two books, because I kind of want to know what happens with the whole finding-the-third-brother and taking-back-their-birthright situation.

Buy Now: Amazon

Ingrid Read: Riley Thorn and the Blast from the Past by Lucy Score (2022)

Riley Thorn, Book #3

Why was this book on your TBR?

I read the first two and I don’t like abandoning my series babies.

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

This whole series is all about flirting and danger. It’s kind of the entire plot.

What are your thoughts on the book?

I’m all in on the absurd, bananas books are my favorite, but I think it’s possible we’ve reached max bonkers in this series. 

Essentially, the third book is meant to wrap up Riley’s struggle with her psychic gifts (she kind of doesn’t though? She loses her powers from sheer exhaustion and it’s not really resolved in a satisfying way), figure out what happened to Beth (who explodes onto the scene from left field with a totally different personality than I expected, but I kind of liked it), and solidify Riley’s relationship with Nick (who I didn’t like as much in this book, honestly).

I clearly disagree with most reviews here—I thought the first book was an absolute powerhouse and that they became less engaging as they went on. The last book was toeing the line on being romance adjacent, which is completely fine, but it also slid a little too far into the “let’s just add as much ridiculosity as possible and see what we can get away with” territory. There’s way too many plot lines and none of them end up being developed quite enough, and they don’t tie together as beautifully as they do in the first one. 

I’m pretty confident that there’s an eager audience for this though, and not just because Goodreads told me so—I just liked the first one better.

Buy Now: Amazon

Holly Also Read: Reckless by Selena Montgomery (2008)

Faraday, Book #1

Why was this book on your TBR? 

I bought it in November 2020 in a burst of gratitude to Stacy Abrams for just being awesome. And since she’s currently running for office, now seemed like a good time to plug how awesome she is.

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

Look, the first book I read for this month’s TBR Challenge was SUCH a dud that I was mad, and I wanted to read something good! This seemed like a good fit because a defense attorney flirting with the sheriff who is investigating crimes that implicate both her and her client is, like, textbook flirting with danger.

What are your thoughts on this book?

This is a well-crafted romantic suspense book. The tension between the characters ratchets up to mirror the tension in their situation. It’s a very slow burn—the sex happens quite late, the “I love yous” happen even later, and you have to wait until the sequel to solve the mystery. (AHHHHH!!!!!!!) The pacing is very deliberate; this is not a book that I whipped through in a day, but rather one that I put down and picked up on and off over the course of more than a week. That rarely happens with romances—I usually just read a book straight through and if I put a book down, I hardly ever return to it. But in this case, I needed some breathing room.

I also want to talk about Kell, the heroine. She is a defense attorney who unabashedly works to get rich, guilty people off. She is good at her job. She likes getting paid well. And she is unwilling to feel ashamed for doing the work she does—because her job is not exactly as crass as I (and the book) initially made it sound. Rather, her work is about creating reasonable doubt, which is another way to ensure that justice is served. Is this a source of conflict between her and Luke, the hot sheriff? Of course it is. But the push and pull between them and their conflicting perspectives on justice, the law, and their work effectively moves the plot forward, as Kell and Luke clash over their personal moral codes as well as their (probably not entirely ethical) collaboration to try and solve the murder of a local drug dealer. (Which is, of course, part of a much bigger conspiracy, hence the need for a second book. AHHHHHHH!!!!!!)

(Luckily I also bought the sequel. And since it’s called Deception, I figure it’ll be *perfect* for November’s TBR challenge.) 

Buy Now: Amazon

Want to join us in tackling your TBR? Next month’s theme is Lies.

Saturday Smutty Six: We Really Did LOL featuring covers for I Think I Love You by Christina C. Jones, Frat Wars: King of Thieves by Saxon James, Heidi's Guide to Four Letter Words by Tara Sivec and Andi Arndt, Undead and Unwed by MaryJanice Davidson, Mrs. Martin's Incomparable Adventure by Courtney Milan, and Riley Thorne and the Dead Guy Next Door by Lucy Score

Saturday Smutty Six: We Really Did LOL

We’re wrapping up Rom-Com week here at The Smut Report, so we thought we’d leave you with some comedies that really did make us laugh out loud. And to help us narrow down our options, we chose some books that might be well known in their own distribution circles, but don’t necessarily have the broader distribution of larger publishing house. 

If you’re looking for some laughs with your reading this weekend, might we recommend…

I Think I Might Love You by Christina C. Jones

Look, she meets him when she’s completely wasted after destroying her surprise-married ex’s car and she’s trying to crash at her sister’s apartment, only to discover that her sister has sublet the apartment to someone else. After she’s already let herself in. And the new renter is super naked. And super mad that she just punched him in the eye. Things can only go up from there, right? 

While this book is chock full of situational humor, it’s all about the protagonists being true to themselves. 

Frat Wars: King of Thieves by Saxon James

The tag line for this book is: We’re basically Romeo and Juliet. But dudes. And without all the dying.

And if that’s not the energy of this book in a nutshell, I don’t know what to tell you. Chad and Bailey are in rival frats and, because of Reasons, can’t consort with the enemy. It’s very college-level maturity and shenanigans, but that’s in no small part because Chad is hell-bent on embracing the final throes of his youth. James intentionally wrote Chad to be “such a Chad” who still gets his own HEA with a guy who loves him, pranks and all, so it’s all meant to be fun.

Heidi’s Guide to Four Letter Words by Tara Sivec and Andi Arndt

When Heidi’s mom found out she was working at a studio that records erotic romance and then started taking sex tips from the erotic romance she was reading, I started choking on my own laughter. This book is Minnesota AF, and it’s hilarious. Heidi’s journey to be brave enough to ask out her neighbor—who’s totally into her, she just can’t see it—is full of embarrassing twists and turns that make Heidi want to crawl in a hole and also ultimately gives her a greater sense of community.

Undead and Unwed by MaryJanice Davidson

If unlikable heroines are your jam, I would like to introduce you to Betsy, Vampire Queen. She is selfish, vain, and very very unimpressed with her new role as ruler of the undead—especially since all the other vampires have such bad fashion sense. Think the Shopaholic books, but with vampires. Don’t go in expecting the full HEA here, as this is the first book in a long series about Betsy’s adventures. 

Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure by Courtney Milan

There’s a scene where Mrs. Martin and Ms. Beauchamps hire some carol singers to follow Mrs. Martin’s Terrible Nephew down the street singing “Robby Bobkins” over and over again to the tune of the Halleleuia chorus from Handel’s “Messiah.” (You’re welcome for the earworm.) There are also shenanigans involving livestock, and a bit where the neighborhood prostitutes collectively agree to no longer service that same Terrible Nephew. Everything about this book is delightful.

Riley Thorn and the Dead Guy Next Door by Lucy Score

This is a duo so far (book 3 is in the works) about a crime fighting couple consisting of a reluctant psychic who lives with a bunch of eccentric old people and her private investigator boyfriend. It’s pretty nuts, like all of Lucy Score’s books, but it’s just a totally fresh and unique situation full of hijinks and absurdity, and if you’re looking for something with a very immersive setting and very little stress, this is just the ticket.

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.”


Saturday Smutty Six: More Bosses Being Bedded

Happy Saturday, smut fans! If reading about all of these delicious (and…not so delicious) workplace romances has you hankering for more, here are six of our favorites.

A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole

This book is a delight. Portia does not have her life all figured out, but she does go intern at a Scottish swordmaker. There she meets Tavish McKenzie, irresistible silver fox swordsmith and also her boss. All that attraction has no outlet, though, because they definitely need to maintain that professional boundary. Right?

Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt

Val is 100% villainous, and this is his love story, if not exactly the story of his redemption. Bridget is his housekeeper, mainly so she can foil his blackmail plots. Val notices Bridget because she doesn’t cower before him—and since we’re talking about alpha bosses, you know that someone standing up to him who really shouldn’t be is something that Val just can’t resist. (Yes, Holly recommended this book last month as well. Just read it, ok?)

A Taste of Honey by Rose Lerner

Robert (baker of fancy Regency treats) and Betsy (his shopgirl) both desperately want to get married (to each other), but of course neither has told the other. When Betsy steps in to help Robert fill a huge order for an important client, she decides that this is finally her opportunity to seduce her boss—and seduce him she does! This sweet erotic romance has plenty of kitchen sexytimes, but also provides a meditation on desire, self-sacrifice, and equal partnership. 

Swing Batter Swing by Zaida Polanco

If you’re looking for a traditional office billionaire/assistant romance that really leans into interrogating the power differential in believable but still sexy ways, then this is the book for you. Bonus points for airplane sex. 

By a Thread by Lucy Score

Look, you guys, it’s a grumpy/sunshine office romance…at Vogue. Ingrid will basically take every opportunity to recommend this book, it’s that good

Cherish Hard by Nalini Singh

In her contemporary series, Singh has some delightful bedding the boss trope action, but Sailor and Isa are just darling. Seeing Sailor landscaping at her school, Isa loses her sense and jumps his bones, only to discover that her mother has contracted him for a project. Oh, and Isa’s responsible for the project, since she’s technically still a shareholder. But professional boundaries? Never heard of ‘em.