Source: Edelweiss

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Kill the Queen, Jennifer Estep 5 stars

October 2, 2018 Boookluvr Reads, Edelweiss 0

Kill the Queen, Jennifer Estep 5 starsKill the Queen by Jennifer Estep
Published by HarperCollins on October 2, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Epic, Romantic, Action & Adventure
Pages: 480
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
five-stars

Gladiator meets Game of Thrones: a royal woman becomes a skilled warrior to destroy her murderous cousin, avenge her family, and save her kingdom in this first entry in a dazzling fantasy epic from the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Elemental Assassin series—an enthralling tale that combines magic, murder, intrigue, adventure, and a hint of romance.

In a realm where one’s magical power determines one’s worth, Lady Everleigh’s lack of obvious ability relegates her to the shadows of the royal court of Bellona, a kingdom steeped in gladiator tradition. Seventeenth in line for the throne, Evie is nothing more than a ceremonial fixture, overlooked and mostly forgotten.

But dark forces are at work inside the palace. When her cousin Vasilia, the crown princess, assassinates her mother the queen and takes the throne by force, Evie is also attacked, along with the rest of the royal family. Luckily for Evie, her secret immunity to magic helps her escape the massacre.

Forced into hiding to survive, she falls in with a gladiator troupe. Though they use their talents to entertain and amuse the masses, the gladiators are actually highly trained warriors skilled in the art of war, especially Lucas Sullivan, a powerful magier with secrets of his own. Uncertain of her future—or if she even has one—Evie begins training with the troupe until she can decide her next move.

But as the bloodthirsty Vasilia exerts her power, pushing Bellona to the brink of war, Evie’s fate becomes clear: she must become a fearsome gladiator herself . . . and kill the queen.

I’ve been a fan of Estep’s Elemental Assassin series for years, so when I saw that she had a new fantasy series coming out, I was intrigued.   While I read a lot of PNR/UF series, I hadn’t read much in the Fantasy genre so I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting into with the Crown of Shards series but I am happy to report that I was very pleasantly surprised.

Crown of Shards envelops the reader into a vivid world where politics and power are center stage.  Being a member of a royal family isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be for Everleigh Blair.  Her parents were assassinated, and after being shuffled in and out of various family member’s homes, she has found herself living at court where she’s discovered that anything and everything will be used against her.  As a result she’s hidden not only her emotions but also her true powers from everyone.

I tremendously enjoyed watching Evie discover her own potential after so many years spent living in a shadow.  It was easy to empathize with her desire to maintain the life she had built for herself when events around her were pushing her back into the world she desperately wanted out of.  I will say that Evie came across as more of a teenager vs an adult well into their 20s.  I’m not sure whether that was intentional and a way to reflect the impact of the life that she had lived or whether that was just my interpretation but it took some mental gymnastics for me to reset.  As a romance reader, I would have loved to have loved it if there would have been more romance in this book.  At one point I thought the relationship with Sullivan and Evie was finally going to turn the corner and give me something to swoon over, but alas I have to wait with my fingers crossed for future books.

Kill the Queen is a wonderful read full of characters and powers that will leave readers counting down the days until another installment in the Crown of Shards series is available.

five-stars

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Hot Winter Nights – Jill Shalvis 4 stars

September 25, 2018 Boookluvr Reads 1

Hot Winter Nights – Jill Shalvis 4 starsHot Winter Nights: Heartbreaker Bay by Jill Shalvis
Published by Headline on September 25, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads

Hot Winter Nights is the sixth in New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis's Heartbreaker Bay series, featuring her trademark gift for humour, warmth and romance. Perfect for fans of Jill Mansell, Debbie Macomber, Nora Roberts and Marie Force.

Who needs mistletoe?

Most people wouldn't think of a bad Santa case as the perfect Christmas gift. Then again, Molly Malone, office manager at Hunt Investigations, isn't most people, and she could really use a distraction from the fantasies she's been having since spending the night with her very secret crush, Lucas Knight. Nothing happened, not that Lucas knows that-but Molly just wants to enjoy being a little naughty for once...

Whiskey and pain meds for almost-healed bullet wounds don't mix. Lucas needs to remember that next time he's shot on the job, which may be sooner rather than later if Molly's brother, Joe, finds out about them. Lucas can't believe he's drawing a blank on his (supposedly) passionate tryst with Molly, who's the hottest, smartest, strongest woman he's ever known. Strong enough to kick his butt if she discovers he's been assigned to babysit her on her first case. And hot enough to melt his cold heart this Christmas.

Want more warm, funny romance? Check out the other Heartbreaker Bay novels starting with Sweet Little Lies, visit stunning Wildstone, gorgeous Cedar Ridge, spellbinding Lucky Harbor or experience some Animal Magnetism in Sunshine, Idaho in Jill's other unforgettable series.

The Heartbreaker Bay series is one of my favorite contemporary series.  Yes, part of that is because Jill Shalvis always delivers an HEA that makes me sigh happily at the end but perhaps even more than that is the role that friendship plays in every book.  Heartbreaker Bay goes one step beyond just friendship and straight into a chosen family.  While that doesn’t always make life easier for the characters, it is tremendously satisfying as a reader.

In prior installments of Heartbreaker Bay, we got glimpses of Molly and Lucas that had me hopeful they would get their own book so I was excited when I saw that Hot Winter Nights was centered on them.  While we had learned a lot about Molly’s history About That Kiss, I didn’t remember reading much about Lucas so I wasn’t sure what hurdles they would have to climb to find their HEA.

I loved the ways that Molly found to torment Lucas after he discovered they spent the night together the first time.  She is merciless in letting him believe more happened that night than her taking care of them and when his primary focus is how Joe and Archer will react I was right there with her in continuing that torment.  God save the women from Heartbreaker Bay from alpha men no matter how hot they are.

It was satisfying watching Lucas realize how amazing Molly was in her own right and to see him fight against Joe and Archer  keeping her wrapped in bubble wrap.  About the only thing that could have been more satisfying would have been seeing Lucas in that elf costume ;-).

But perhaps my following thing from this entire story is what Lucas’s mom said to Molly about love:

“I used to think that love was all about red roses and expensive dinners. But the truth is, love is letting your mate steal a piece of bread off your plate. It’s being awoken by snoring and refraining from shoving him out of bed. It’s talking in code and trying to embarrass one another in public. It’s going on adventures and making fun of each other. It’s stupid fights and memorable make-ups.” She squeezed Molly’s hand. “Love isn’t pretty and romantic. You know that, right? Love is just stumbling through life with your best friend.”

I couldn’t agree more!

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Hurts to Love You – Alisha Rai – 3.5 stars

March 26, 2018 Avon, Edelweiss, Read in 2018, Steph 1

I received this book for free from Edelweiss . This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Hurts to Love You – Alisha Rai – 3.5 starsHurts to Love You by Alisha Rai
Published by HarperCollins on March 27th 2018
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Multicultural & Interracial, Contemporary Women
Pages: 384
Source: Edelweiss
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
three-half-stars
four-flames

Being bad never felt so good, in the third novel in Alisha Rai’s sexy Forbidden Hearts series!

Well-behaved women don’t lust after men who love to misbehave.

Heiress Evangeline Chandler knows how to keep a secret . . . like her life-long crush on the tattooed hottie who just happens to be her big brother’s friend. She’s a Chandler, after all, and Chandlers don’t hook up with the help. Then again, they also don’t disobey their fathers and quit their respectable jobs, so good-girl rules may no longer apply.

Gabriel Hunter hides the pain of his past behind a smile, but he can’t hide his sudden attraction to his friend’s sheltered little sister. Eve is far too sweet to accept anything less than forever and there’s no chance of a future between the son of a housekeeper and the town’s resident princess.

When a wedding party forces Eve and Gabe into tight quarters, keeping their hands off each other will be as hard as keeping their clothes on. The need that draws them together is stronger than the forces that should shove them apart . . . but their sparks may not survive the explosion when long-buried secrets are finally unearthed.

I had such high hopes for this one but it just didn’t completely make me happy.  I liked it but compared to Jackson’s story…  yeah… just not as good as I’d hoped.  I loved seeing the wrap-up but I wanted something bigger from the main pair, Eve and Gabe.  Still was a good read but Jackson just has my heart.

Eve is finally making some strides to stand on her own two feet by quitting the job she hated and starting to avoid her abusive father.  She also is head-over-heels obsessed with Gabe.  She knows he’s not in to her but she can’t help but try to be around him any way she can.  I felt for her as we go thru this book because what she was subjected to as a child was horrible and the damage that was done to her psyche because of her father made me feel for her.  She makes some moves to get Gabe to notice her and boy does it work.  They do take their time getting there but there is no mistaking what she means to him and what he means to her when it finally comes to a head.  I liked how she finally found her voice but also appreciated how much she understood the undercurrents and implications of the major secret that has been under everyone’s noses for decades.  Her open acceptance of the secret made me smile as Gabe needed someone to be there for him.

Gabe is convinced that he’s a love them a few times and leave them kind of guy.  He’s also convinced he’s too old for Eve but man oh man does he want her.  He’s also hiding a huge secret that finally comes to light on the build-up to Livvy and Nico’s wedding.  He also finally lets himself have Eve but isn’t completely honest with her on what he wants from her.  There is a lot of angst with these two but the final bits of the family secrets overshadow the relationship that is being built between he and Eve.  I did adore them together but would have liked more time with them.  He’s so good at making sure people around him are taken care of but seeing him finally get some major answers made me happy.  I appreciated how much he saw of Eve and what he did to help her find her voice.  Having someone silently stand by and provide support without judgement or taking over is what most of us need when fighting the demons of our past.

The story arc wraps up nicely with some twists that I didn’t completely expect but that weren’t completely surprising.  I know that might not make sense but some of what comes out was hinted at previously you just have to have not been distracted by the wonderfulness that is Jackson…  LOL  I am sad to see this series end but hopefully she’ll give us a way to see *HINT* Jackson again in some other story that conveniently needs a chef… *HINT HINT HINT HINT*

three-half-stars

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A Princess in Theory – Alyssa Cole – 4.5 stars

February 28, 2018 Avon, Edelweiss, Read in 2018 1

I received this book for free from Edelweiss . This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

A Princess in Theory – Alyssa Cole – 4.5 starsA Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole
Published by HarperCollins on February 27th 2018
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Multicultural & Interracial, Romantic Comedy
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
four-half-stars
four-flames

From acclaimed author Alyssa Cole comes the tale of a city Cinderella and her Prince Charming in disguise . . .

Between grad school and multiple jobs, Naledi Smith doesn’t have time for fairy tales…or patience for the constant e-mails claiming she’s betrothed to an African prince. Sure. Right. Delete! As a former foster kid, she’s learned that the only things she can depend on are herself and the scientific method, and a silly e-mail won’t convince her otherwise.

Prince Thabiso is the sole heir to the throne of Thesolo, shouldering the hopes of his parents and his people. At the top of their list? His marriage. Ever dutiful, he tracks down his missing betrothed. When Naledi mistakes the prince for a pauper, Thabiso can’t resist the chance to experience life—and love—without the burden of his crown.

The chemistry between them is instant and irresistible, and flirty friendship quickly evolves into passionate nights. But when the truth is revealed, can a princess in theory become a princess ever after?

I am sorry I didn’t request this one earlier but I did and was so happy to get approval from Avon!  I adored this book and am ready for book 2.. like now…  I mean really it can hit my Kindle any time now… *checks Kindle* darn!  I thought I could wish it in to existence but hey let’s chat about this one…

What if you’ve never had a true family? Or you can’t remember what it was like because you ended up in foster care due to the death of your family?  You might end up like Ledi and feel like something is wrong with you so you just do the best you can do standing on your own.  She’s such a strong character with a heart of gold who really at her core just wants to feel like she matters.  She has her degree program that means everything to her and a friend who isn’t a bad person but honestly is a mess.  Oh…  she has her lab mice but I mean she really is lonely but strong enough where she doesn’t need a man in her life.  And she especially doesn’t need the stupid spam emails that keep cropping up in her account but… In comes…

Thabiso….  he’s a Prince.  Yes, a Prince.  So you have this image of a man who is used to getting anything and everything he wants, when he wants it, and how he wants it.  Yeah, he’s this in so many ways but there is a deeper core to him that wants to find out why the girl who he was betrothed to abandoned his country.  Yes, he knows it wasn’t her since she was young and it was her family but let’s not get caught in that detail.  He’s driven to do what is best for his country but he’s at a bit of lost ends because he doesn’t agree with some of the things his advisors are trying to tell him to do.  He meets Ledi under interesting circumstances and we get to see the two of them find something that ends up meaning everything.

I’m being careful because I truly enjoyed the story and want others to get a chance to see how they find one another even when things aren’t perfect.  I loved seeing this build and the way they pushed to figure out if this was real made me smile.  Go for it and grab this one for a nice story about two souls who really fit each other in surprising ways.

four-half-stars

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