TBR Challenge

TBR Challenge: Lies

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


Holly Read: Deception by Selena Montgomery (2009)

Faraday, Book #2

Why was this book on your TBR?

As with Reckless, which I read last month, I bought this in November of 2020 in a burst of good feelings about Stacy Abrams. 

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

Well, it’s called Deception. And I read the first book in the series last month and it ended on a total cliffhanger, so I figured I’d might as well. I was hoping it would be a celebratory read for Georgia, but alas.

What are your thoughts on the book?

I am working on aggressively DNFing books if they aren’t speaking to me, so this was a DNF. Hey, the goal was to get books off my TBR one way or another. 

So, when the first book ends, we know that there’s some mysterious conspiracy going on in rural Georgia run by an ominous group called Stark, and that’s why that guy was killed. But by the first third of Deception, most of the information about this group—what they do, what their goals are, why they killed the guy—have been revealed. There are still pieces to figure out, like who exactly pulled the trigger and why they want to control this big plot of land, but I felt like the wind was taken out of the sails of the mystery a bit. (I might have also flipped to the end and the bit I read was very anticlimactic and not a big reversal from what we’d already learned.)

I hated the hero. Specifically, I hated that he did that thing where he touched the heroine, could tell that his touch made her uncomfortable, and then doubled down by doing something like grabbing her wrist. Or her chin. This is the second time this very specific dynamic has shown up in a TBR challenge book this year, and yikes, do I hate it.

I did like the heroine. Fin is a professional gambler, which means she’s lived a…colorful…life. But even though she lies and bluffs her way through the world, I would hope that, as a reader, I would have a sense of her as a character after spending a hundred pages with her, and she still felt vague to me. So though I thought the pieces I saw were interesting, there wasn’t enough there to make her truly compelling and hold my attention.

Buy Now: Amazon


Ingrid Read: His Reluctant Lady by Aydra Richards (2020)

Why was this book on your TBR?

It honestly just looked cute? It had that classic, historical feel to it and I figured it might be fun.

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

Well, there are just LAYERS of lies here–Poppy is secretly a gothic novelist, her sisters secretly try to get her caught in flagrante delicto, and David and Poppy are BOTH recovering from years of deceiving themselves (in a way) because they’ve never really tried to get to know themselves as they really are.

What are your thoughts on the book?

It’s definitely cute! It’s traditional/old school though–she’s dowdy and transforms, he’s the one who “shows” her she’s beautiful, etc. If you’re looking for an enlightened read, it’s kind of a middle ground–he’s incredibly respectful of his intelligent wife and values her deeply for her mind and her abilities. But it’s strongly a “she don’t know she’s beautiful” type book.

Essentially, Poppy’s gambling addict father almost beggars them after his death, when she fortuitously sells a gothic manuscript–then another. The money from the sales is enough to get her two sisters launched into the Season, and pay for a chaperone. Poppy’s an innocent though, and needs material for the progression of her plot. So she follows David and a lover at a party and eavesdrops on their tryst, and uses all the material for her next installment.

David is livid, but also a little thrilled when he catches Poppy watching him. They have a big make out session, he releases her, and then learns that his tryst was published in a book and is titillating the Ton. Why at this point he didn’t connect the dots, but whatever–he does eventually figure it out and blackmails Poppy into spending more time with him, essentially.

Then stuff happens, they end up married against their will, and they have to figure out how to make it work.

I will say it’s a bit of a slow burn–they spend a lot of time kissing before anything of magnitude happens. But it’s an uncomplicated, sweet read with a lot of sizzle. 

Buy Now: Amazon


Erin Read: If You Deceive by Kresley Cole (2007)

MacCarrick Brothers, Book #3

Why was this book on your TBR? I’d read a couple IAD books and The Game Maker trilogy and this one came up for sale, and really, why would I even try to resist histrom with a Scottie MacHottie?

Why did you choose this book for this month’s challenge? The title says it all, right?

What are your thoughts on the book?

Okay, so I hit a slump and didn’t finish because this book has a very Kresley Cole vibe, and I needed some soft and gentle romance, but in the right mood I know I’d have fun reading it, so I’ll finish it eventually. 

Here’s the deal: there’s a double deception. As a young man, Ethan would sleep with married women, and the last time he followed one home, he decided to pull the plug on the encounter, she got mad at the rejection, the husband showed up, accusations were made, and Ethan was ruthlessly scarred, only for the husband to realize who he was. There’s a ten-year interval between the prologue and the first chapter, and we learn that Ethan is a cold, hard man, a ruthless spy, and a willingness to take justice into his own hands. Case in point: he ruined the family that ruined him. Now, the daughter of the family is an adult, and growing up in poverty in France for the past ten years has not only made her immune to the more shocking aspects of life, it’s also made her into a pickpocket and opportunistic criminal. Her hope for getting out of that life is marriage. 

The whole tone of this book is, as I said, very Kresley Cole, so I know it’s going to be drama and angst central that will keep stressing me out more and more (even when there’s a little plateau for us readers to catch our breaths, we just KNOW there’s the other shoe about to drop) until it’s resolved at the very end. So if you like that kind of tension in your reads, and you’ve been avoiding Kresley Cole because you’re not into paranormal romance, this might be a fun book for you. If you’re looking for soft stuff, probably steer clear of this one. 

Buy Now: Amazon


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

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?

Sooooo…. 

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.

But…

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.