Review: Waiting For You by Elle Spencer

50638387._SY475_Title: Waiting For You
Author: Elle Spencer
Release date: May 2020
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Pages: 242
Format: ARC
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Description (from Goodreads): Have you ever met someone and felt like you’ve known them in a thousand different lifetimes?
Lindsay Hall was a high school senior when she and her friend Patty discovered peach schnapps, listened to a past-life hypnosis CD, and got an up-close look at who she once was. And who she used to love. The knowledge of her past life has always haunted Lindsay. As her ex is happy to point out, it’s gotten in the way of her relationships too. Even her teenage daughter has politely suggested that she “get the eff over it.” Except she didn’t say eff.
Ren Christopher just wants a quick break before she starts a new job in Paris. She’s just extracted herself from a not-brief-enough, drama-filled relationship. A few weeks relaxing and hanging with her old college friend Deb is just what the doctor ordered. No pressure, no expectations, and absolutely no drama.
Everything is perfect until Lindsay faints at the sight of Ren.


My Review

Elle Spencer’s books keep getting better and better. While I found Casting Lacey to be just okay, I enjoyed Spencer’s rom-com 30 Dates in 30 Days a lot. There was none of that ~cheap angst I hate in her two latest releases, and I enjoyed Waiting For You even more.

I’m not too sure how to categorize this novel. Is it a paranormal romance? Magical realism? Anyway, when I first read the synopsis, I was a little hesitant, but the cover is gorgeous and it convinced me to give it a shot. Waiting For You has a little bit of everything: humour, drama, a good romance and a bunch of strong women.

The characters in this one are fantastic. Lindsey and Ren have this intense chemistry between them. The supporting cast is the best I’ve read about in a long while. Most side characters are well-fleshed out, and I loved Mrs. Stockely’s backstory and her forbidden love. It had me teared up quite a few times, especially on Millie’s birthday.

My only real complaint, and it’s not really a complaint, is that I found the end to be a little rushed. Everything was wrapped up quickly, and I didn’t find the ending quite satisfying.

*I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!

Review: Back to September

Title: Back to September  43800722
Author: Melissa Brayden
Release date: November 2019
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Pages: 242
Format: ARC
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Description: Hannah Sheppard owns A Likely Story, an independent bookshop in downtown Providence. The shop has seen better days and Hannah is afraid she won’t be able to keep it open for much longer. At this point, she is ready to try anything to bring in more customers, but when Luna suggests they put up a display of Parker Bristow’s new romance novel in the window, Hannah isn’t convinced. But a window display turns into a book signing and pretty much all of Hannah’s dreams come true.


My Review

Melissa Brayden has become one of those authors I can rely on for a good time. She writes well, her characters are usually very likable and her books always give me that happy-cozy feeling. You can never go wrong with Brayden and Back to September doesn’t disappoint.

Hannah and Parker have great chemistry. They hit it off right from the moment they meet and you can’t help but root for them. I usually like 1st person POV, but I would have liked to see the 2 different perspectives or for it to be told in the third person so I could get a little bit more insight into what Parker was thinking/feeling.

With Back to September, Brayden delivers the drama and angst. Her books are usually pretty sweet and formulaic (and I actually don’t mind too much when it comes to her work), but with this one, she seems to have challenged herself to come up with something a little different and it’s definitely worth it. However, I felt at times that the angst was a little bit forced and not really believable.

As with any other Brayden books, I definitely recommend you give this one a try. Especially if you like bookstores, small towns and angsty romances.

Thanks to Bold Strokes Books for providing me with a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review

Review: Heart Trouble by Jae

31546428._SY475_Title: Heart Trouble
Author: Jae
Release date: September 2016
Publisher: Ylva Publishing
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Abigail Rakocy
Length: ~13 hours
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Description: When Laleh Samadi is rushed to the ER by her mother for heart palpitations and she collapses in the waiting room, Doctor Hope Finley takes the lead and saves her life. Soon, however, they realize that Laleh has extended medical knowledge and that Hope can now understand and speak Farsi fluently. What’s weirder is that the more time they spend together, the deeper their psychic connection grows.


My Review

If you’re new to the paranormal romance genre, but you’d like to give it a try, Heart Trouble is the book for you. I know because I went into this book completely blind, not even knowing this was a paranormal romance. Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of the genre, so I was a bit put off at first, but this is Jae and so I had to give it a fair try.

I’m so glad I did!

The paranormal element in this book isn’t overtaking the plot which I really appreciated. As it’s usually the case with Jae’s books, the story is mostly character-driven, and the two main characters are super likeable. Hope is pretty closed-off, having lost her mother at 8 and growing up in foster care, she doesn’t like to get attached. Laleh is the complete opposite; having been brought up in a big, loving family, she’s not afraid of being honest about her feelings.

I really loved how patient and supporting Laleh was with Hope when she was struggling with voicing her feelings. And once they started dating, the chemistry between the two MCs was palpable 🔥.

Laleh’s coming-out to her traditional Persian family was done tastefully in my opinion. It wasn’t without its conflict, but it wasn’t overly dramatic either. I was happy to see members of her family supporting her from the start while others took a bit more time to come to terms with it.

The cast of supporting characters was pretty great! I know Laleh’s friend, Jill and her girlfriend Crash have their own book that I have yet to read, but I wonder if Hope’s friend, Jordan is the protagonist in one… I’m going to have to investigate! 🕵️‍♀️

Audiobook review: this was my first time listening to an audiobook by Abigail Rakocy. While nobody can beat Abby Craden, I enjoyed the narration of Heart Trouble. The only thing that bugged me was the inflections the narrator used during the sex scenes. Sometimes there were pauses in weird places.

If this sounds like something you might like, I highly encourage you to pick up Heart Trouble!

Themes: paranormal romances, toaster-oven, medical romances, foodie, coming-out.

Review: A Roll in the Hay

Title: A Roll in the Hay  52698277._SY475_
Author: Lola Keeley
Release date: April 2020
Publisher: Ylva Publishing
Pages: 185
Format: ARC
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Description (from goodreads): The whole “big city, successful career, loyal, hot girlfriend” experiment has been a miserable failure for veterinarian Tess Robinson, so she’s moved back home to a small town in the Scottish countryside. She doesn’t count on a run-in with the stuck-up, maddening, local landowner Lady Susannah Karlson, who tries to boss Tess around as if she owns the whole town…which she sort of does.


My Review

Lola Keeley is one of my favourite wlw authors. Her book, The Music and the Mirror is excellent, and since then, I’ve been eagerly anticipating whatever she publishes next.

When I first heard about Keeley’s upcoming A Roll in the Hay, I was ecstatic. The way the author described it on twitter, it literally checked all of my personal favourite tropes in lesbian fiction:

✔️ Ice Queen    ✔️ Veterinarian ✔️ small-town romance (set in Scotland) ✔️ enemies-to-lovers.

It had everything to be a five-star read for me, but alas. Maybe my expectations were too high, maybe I was a little bit preoccupied with the Covid-19 situation, but although it was an enjoyable read, it wasn’t what I’d hoped.

I didn’t really like Susannah’s character. I mean, she was fine on her own, but I didn’t really like that she’d been married to a gay guy for “convenience”. Unless I missed something, this was set in our time, so it rubbed me off the wrong way. I didn’t like all the drama with her sister-in-law. And most of all, I didn’t really feel the chemistry between the two MCs and I still don’t know why they are together.

As opposed to some other reviewers, I thought it got better in the last third of the book. Things came together and the romance was a little more believable. The setting was by far my favourite thing about this novel. The rural vibe throughout the book really kept me engaged.

Of course, it’s a Keeley book, and that means the writing is excellent. Even though I was a little disappointed with this one, I’m looking forward to her next book!

* I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

Themes: ice queens, small-town romances, veterinarians, enemies-to-lovers

Review: Burn It Down

50100979._SX318_SY475_Title: Bring It Down
Author: K. Aten
Release date: August 2020
Publisher: Regal Crest Enterprises
Pages: 194
Format: Digital
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Description (from goodreads): Ash Hayes was failed by the system at the tender age of sixteen and suffered an addiction. As a result, she lives her life weighed down by the guilt of her past. To atone for childhood misdeeds, Ash trained as a paramedic after high school and eventually became a firefighter with the Detroit fire department. When tragedy strikes on the job, injury and forced leave from the department are the least of her concerns. Suffering from even more guilt and depression after the loss of her two closest friends Ash is set adrift in a sea of pain.​


My Review

Burn It Down is the first contemporary romance I read from this author. I previously discovered K. Aten’s writing through her fantasy series The Arrow of Artemis, and really enjoyed it. Burn It Down was on my list of most anticipated new releases of last summer, but for some reason, I didn’t pick it up until last week.

I predicted this would be a 5-star read for me, and maybe that’s why I wanted to save it, but alas, it wasn’t the case.

Burn It Down is an angsty romance told in the first person from Ash’s POV. Most of the storytelling is through flashbacks, and for that reason, it felt a bit repetitive at times. Often, she had a flashback in the presence of her therapist or Mia (the love interest), and then she would talk it through with them, reiterating what happened during her episode.

That being said, the story really kept me engaged and I loved the characters. I was curious about Ash’s past and was eager to see how things would turn out for her.

The writing was good, though I didn’t find it as good as the authors’ previous books. I felt like some of the dialogues in this one lacked authenticity.

This is a romance where the main characters start out as friends because Ash isn’t in a good place mentally to start a relationship and Mia is very supportive, but It’s not that much of a slow-burn. There was definitely chemistry between the two MCs, and I appreciated Ash’s emotional growth throughout the novel.

This book also deals with struggling with an addiction that isn’t common. I found that very interesting and would’ve loved to see this aspect of the book expanded on.

Overall, Burn It Down is a good dramatic romance and a quick read. I haven’t seen a lot of firefighters in the lesfic genre, so this was a nice change. Definitely give it a try if you like characters with a dark past and spunky old ladies.

Note: The ~sexy times are all fade to black.

Review: Flavor of the Month

Title:48999544._SY475_ Flavor of the Month
Author: Georgia Beers
Release date: April 2020
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Pages: 254
Format: ARC
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Description (from GoodReads): Charlie Stetko had a life to envy. A penthouse in Manhattan, a beautiful girlfriend, and a circle of perfect friends. Or so she thought. When her girlfriend sends her packing, Charlie ends up unemployed. Without a place to live or money of her own, she’s forced to do the one thing she vowed she never would: go back to Shaker Falls, Vermont. Back to her parents, back to the bakery where she worked as a teen, back to the small-town life―and the people―she left behind.

Emma Grier thought Charlie was the love of her life until that uppity Manhattan entrepreneur swept Charlie off her feet and made her a trophy wife. Charlie left everything in Shaker Falls behind, including Emma’s shattered heart. But Emma picked herself back up and now owns a popular restaurant in Shaker Falls. As for her love life? She doesn’t need one. Something else she doesn’t need? Charlie waltzing into her restaurant to sell her the bakery’s pie.

What happens when Charlie and Emma realize their different paths have led them right back to each other?


My Review

So in all honesty, when I saw this was a second chance novel, I wasn’t totally convinced. I haven’t read a lot of them, but it’s not really my thing and the summary wasn’t really talking to me. Then I saw some meh reviews and I was even more put off. But, it’s Beers and I’ve loved pretty much everything I’ve read by her so far, so I went for it without too much expectation and…

I really enjoyed it!

Charlie and Emma were each other’s first love. They started as friends, discovered their sexuality together and their friendship naturally levelled up to a relationship in high school. Once they graduated, they ended up in different colleges and that took its toll on their relationship. Lured by an older successful woman and New York City, Charlie made the decision to end things with Emma, leaving her heartbroken.

Of course, a couple of years later, after she’s lost everything, Charlie has to come back to their small town where they meet again.

The one thing I absolutely love about Beers’ writing is how real her characters feel. They’re flawed, they fuck up, they learn and they grow. Whenever I read her books, there’s always a point where I forget these are fictional characters.

I don’t know if it’s an unpopular opinion or not, but I freaking love Charlie. She’s aware of her actions and their consequences and she accepts it. I love how she’s questioning her past choices and pretty much takes her life back.

I can see how it’d be easy to get back into a relationship with that one person. Once the ice melted between the two, Charlie and Emma pretty much picked up where they left off and it was the sweetest. It’s a very slow burn romance (obviously, they have issues to work through…do they though?) which I’m particularly fond of.

I totally recommend you pick up this book. Great writing, great characters, great food and a tiny little bit of drama to keep you entertained! Can’t wait for Beers’ next book!

* I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

Review: Finding Love Down Under

33792162Title: Finding Love Down Under
Author: Donna Jay
Release date: November 2016
Publisher: Self-published
Pages: 181
Format: Digital
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Description: Finding Love Down Under by Donna Jay is about Zoe, a 22-year-old Canadian backpacker, who went to New Zealand with her partner, Sam. The two of them hadn’t really known each other that long before leaving Canada, and Zoe quickly realized that Sam wasn’t who she thought she was. Now on her own in a foreign country, Zoe doesn’t have a lot of money, doesn’t know anybody and she has nowhere to stay.

One night, on her way home, Claire, 27, stops at a fast-food place where she meets Zoe. Seeing how miserable the other woman looks, Claire starts a conversation. Recently divorced, Claire makes the quick decision that she could use some help around the estate she just acquired. Sympathetic to Zoe’s plight, Claire offers her free boarding and meals in exchange for some cleaning, cooking and work in the vineyard. A little wary, but desperate, Zoe agrees, grateful for the opportunity.

Having both experienced betrayals at the hands of loved ones, their relationship starts a bit on the rocky side. They gradually learn to trust each other and develop a friendship, until Claire brings her to a friend’s party. From there, a romance slowly builds between the two women.


My Review

The story pulls you in from the start, the pacing is good and there is a good balance of angst, fluff and romance. Each chapter begins with the date, so we know exactly how much time has passed which I appreciate in this context. It’s not an insta-love romance, but it’s not exactly a slow burn either. The characters are well developed and believable. Their actions and thoughts correlate with their past experience, and I haven’t found myself questioning their actions. I really appreciated that Zoe’s anxiety and PTSD weren’t used as a plot device or to create drama. The chemistry between the two leads was also really great.

The writing was good, for the most part, but I found some of the expressions used at times to be very cliché-ed. I know this book was released a few years ago, and I’ve heard that Jay’s novels are getting better and better, so I don’t want to judge the writing too harshly. It flows well enough that I was never pulled out of the story because of it.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and I am looking forward to reading more from Donna Jay. I would recommend it if you’re looking for a solid FF romance. If you’re looking for (BDSM) erotica, this isn’t it. Although there are some hot sex scenes, it isn’t the main focus of the book.

Themes: PTSD/recovering from a traumatic past relationship, past abuse of trust, light BDSM undertones (role-playing and spanking).

Trigger warnings: Past sexual abuse/non-con, emotional abuse, panic attacks.

Queer Lit Readathon – TBR

I’m so excited to finally be able to participate in the Queer Lit Readathon! This is the 5th round… and my 5th attempt at participating, but the timing was never right. I was either busy with school, work or was in the biggest reading slump of all times™.

But this year, with the pandemic situation, I’ve been finding myself with a lot of free time. I spent most of my time self-isolating learning how to sew and now I’m ready to spend an entire week reading nothing but queer books! 🤩

3

So, briefly, the Queer Lit Readathon is happening from May 31st through June 6th, and it is created and hosted by Rogan and Kathy. The co-host for this round is Rebecca from The Tea Hags.

I don’t think I can manage to get a full blackout board, but I’m going to try!

Here’s my ~offical TBR for next week:

This Is What It Feels Like (HarperTeen) by Rebecca Barrow: it’s a YA contemporary / ff romance about friendship and a rockband. I can’t wait to finally read this one!

✔️group read
✔️ 5-star prediction
✔️ summer vibes
✔️ disabled mc (?)

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body (HarperCollins) by Roxane Gay: I think it’s pretty much what it says on the tin.

✔️ non-fiction
✔️ non-coming out
✔️ ??? → audiobook

Bingo Love (Image Comics) by Tee Franklin: this is a second chance romance graphic novel set in a church bingo. From what I understand, it alternates between the past and present.

✔️ backlist
✔️ female over 40
✔️ graphic novel

Wild Embers (Trapeze) by Nikita Gill: the themes of this poetry collection are: rebellion, fire and beauty. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Gill and I can’t wait to finally read it!

✔️ poetry

Her Royal Highness (Penguin Books) by Rachel Hawkins: This is the sequel or companion novel of Prince Charming. I don’t know if it can be read as a standalone or not, but I’m here for the ff romance. And I really love the cover ✌️

✔️ rainbow cover
✔️ bi-pan MC

36039320  26074156  40653004  34253376  48822620

Though my selection covers most of the challenges, I have nothing that fits the queer sports, host rec and queer friends prompts. At least not that I know of.

If I manage to get through this entire pile (which I honestly doubt I will), I’ll try to figure out something. I’m pretty sure I could find a graphic novel that fits the remaining challenges…

You can follow my Instagram and Twitter accounts if you want to keep up with my progress throughout the week!

Are you guys participating in the Queer Lit Readathon? What are your reading plans? Let me know!

#queerlitread #queerlitreadathon

Review: New Ink on Life

Title: New Ink on Life (Thorn & Thistle, #1)
Author: Jennie Davids
Release date: May 2019
Publisher: Carina Press
Pages: 315
Format: Digital
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Description: New Ink on Life by Jennie Davids is about Cassie, a breast cancer survivor who decided to quit her corporate job in order to focus on her art and become a tattoo artist. Now cancer-free, she’s ready to break out of her shell and learn how to live for herself. Still, she won’t let herself truly live until her 5-year post-cancer scans come back.

After her first mentor, Zan, passes away, Cassie seeks out MJ, the shop owner of Thorns and Thistle, to continue her apprenticeship.

MJ doesn’t have time to take on an apprentice. She wouldn’t want to disappoint Zan, but her shop isn’t doing well, she’s stressed out and honestly, she doesn’t think Cassie has what it takes to be a tattoo artist. She’s too quiet and too eager to please everyone.

Reluctantly, MJ agrees to mentor Cassie but realizes the benefices can be mutual. Not only does MJ agree to take her on as her tattooer apprentice (it’s what Zan had wanted), but she also makes a deal with her. She’ll help Cassie grow a backbone, care less about what people think and help her get her confidence back in exchange for Cassie to use her expertise and come up with marketing ideas and solutions to get more paying clients through the door and save her shop.


My Review

I didn’t have any expectations as it’s the author’s debut, and I know sometimes they can be a little shaky, but I’m really impressed! The writing is very good and fluid. It’s written in first-person POV and alternates between MJ and Cassie’s perspectives. This can be hit or miss for me, but their voices are very distinct, and so, it’s not confusing. The pacing is good and well balanced. The story flows without excessive drama, and the relationship between Cassie and MJ develops gradually. I really enjoyed how in the beginning, Cassie sees MJ has this unshakable, indestructible, almost cold person, but as they get closer, MJ reveals more of her personality and lets herself be vulnerable. I have a major crush on her.

Here’s a little bit of info about the characters:

Cassie – I really like her as a character, and I find her easy to relate to. Like myself, not only is Cassie shy and introverted, but she’s extremely self-conscious and is always afraid of what people will think to the point where it’s debilitating. This quest to perfection has led her to make choices to please and gain the respect of others at the expense of her own happiness. I really love her mom!

MJ – I really, really didn’t like her at first, but it’s the kind of character you can’t help but secretly love and that grows on you as the story progresses. She’s impatient, no-nonsense, doesn’t give a crap what people think of her and quite honestly rude at times, but she can also be gentle and soft. She has been betrayed by people she loved and doesn’t trust easily, but slowly she opens up to Cassie and to the possibility of finding love again.

I really enjoy my reading experience of New Ink on Life. The prose pulled me in from the start, and I quickly connected and cared for the main characters. Their chemistry is undeniable, and it had me rooting for them. There are some hot scenes, and the passion is always layered with tenderness, and to me, that’s really sexy. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good, traditional romance!

Themes: tattoo shop/tattoo artist, cancer

 

Review: The Pleasure Den

Title: The Pleasure Denpleasure den
Author: Patricia Ray
Release date: March 2020
Publisher: Self-published
Pages: 29
Format: ARC
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐1/2

Description (from goodreads): Jacky has a special room she calls the Pleasure Den. Here she can act out her exhibitionism and sex cravings. Tonight she’s promised Miss Bojangles to put up a special webcam-show. It involves her remote-controlled bullet vibrator which she will allow Miss Bojangles to control through an app on her smartphone. But who is Miss Bojangles? Is Jacky taking a risk she might regret?


My Review

The Pleasure Den is an erotic F/F short story about a woman who spends some of her time in sex chat rooms, and who finds empowerment through exhibitionism.

Jacky and Miss Bojangles have been talking in The Box for quite some time now and have developed a friendship that goes a little beyond them just being friends. Enjoying putting on a little show, Jacky turns on her webcam and strips for Miss Bo.

What I enjoyed about this short story is that it isn’t just trashy sex. The author takes her time setting up the scene, and for such a short piece, the characters are surprisingly well-developed.

The writing is also pretty sophisticated for an erotic short story, and I truly appreciated it. What I mean is, sometimes I feel like some writers use the fact that their work is in the erotic/smutty genre as an excuse for bad writing. If you publish any kind of literary work and expect people to pay for it, you should make some editing efforts. Patricia Ray respects her craft and her prose is excellent.

Personally, I would’ve liked a little more steam, but overall, it was a really nice piece. I’ll definitely be checking out the other short stories in this series.

This short story is about 30 pages long, and the ~action starts well past the 50% mark, so if you’re looking for pure smut, this isn’t it.

There’s a mention of M/F sex and cocks so if that’s not your thing, you’ve been warned!

⚡This is book 4 in the series but can be read as a standalone.

**I’ve received a free copy of this book via BookSirens in exchange for an honest review**