Here they are, our August reviews! And our #PHSBookReviews team had a cornucopia of reads to get through this month!
Running With Lions by Julian Winters
Bloomington High School Lions’ star goalie Sebastian Hughes should be excited about his senior year: His teammates are amazing, and he’s got a coach who doesn’t ask anyone to hide their sexuality. But when his estranged childhood-best-friend Emir Shah shows up at summer training camp, Sebastian realizes the team’s success may end up in the hands of the one guy who hates him.
Determined to reconnect with Emir for the sake of the Lions, he sets out to regain Emir’s trust. But to Sebastian’s surprise, sweaty days on the pitch, wandering the town’s streets, and bonding on the weekends spark more than just friendship between them.
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
Sebastian’s returning to soccer camp for his last summer as a high school student. He’s just broken up with his girlfriend and it seems like the perfect opportunity to let loose and to finally tell his friends that he’s bi. Everything at camp’s the same as it ever was, with one significant difference: Emir Shah. Sebastian hasn’t spoken to Emir in years, and as he starts secretly helping him improve his soccer skills, they become closer and closer.
Running With Lions is also written in the present tense. Now usually, this is a turn off for me, but Winters’ writing is so evocative of that in the moment living that characterised my late teens, that it’s one of the novel’s real strengths. You truly feel and experience everything in the moment, just as Sebastian does, and that makes the coming of age narrative that much more potent.
Additionally, I really liked the way the small details of Emir’s Islamic faith are interwoven with the narrative; the references to his daily prayers as well as ugly realism of one of the other players’ reaction to him.
The romance itself is a slow burner, typical of coming of age stories of this ilk; Sebastian has a lot of self discovery to undertake before he can get that HEA, but when he does, it’s well worth the wait. A highly enjoyable and moving read—even if the football references left out my beloved Brighton and Hove Albion!
The Magic of the Stars by Jackie Ladbury
In a moment of recklessness air stewardess, Sapphire Montrose throws caution and her dress to the wind by propositioning a handsome stranger in a hotel in Florence, only to find herself waking up alone and embarrassed in her hotel room.
Unfortunately for Sapphire, it turns out that her new boss, Marco Cavarelli, is the man she failed to seduce and she is now fighting for her job and her self-respect when he tells her there is no place in his revamped airline for an alcoholic woman with lascivious tendencies. To make matters worse she is increasingly attracted to him and he seems to be giving out the same vibes. Or is he simply testing her?
One wrong move could be the end of her career. But what if he really is offering love—and is he worth the risk?
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Rachel
Sapphire is devastated when she finds her boyfriend in bed with another woman. She recklessly ends up getting drunk. Thankfully, she is rescued by Marcus Carverelli, who turns out to be her new boss and has a bad impression due to this one night. Humiliated, Sapphire is now working hard to prove that she is a dependable worker, all the while trying to fight off her growing attraction to Marcus.
I have to admit that this book did start off slow, but the more I read it the more I couldn’t put it down. I thought that Ladbury did an amazing job writing this. One of the things I really liked about this book was that this pairing didn’t seem to get over their problems in one or two chapters. It actually took them awhile to find their way back to each other.
This pairing had me on the edge of my seat most of the book wondering if they were going to end up together. But all this seemed worth it once they realized how much they meant to each to each other. Overall, great book, I highly recommend it.
The Return of the Queen by Lydia Baker
Emma Dores believes her single life as a London bookshop owner is straight-forward, ordinary. That is until she starts to see strangers in her flat that disappear in front of her eyes, who wake her in the night and try to drown her in her own bathtub. After a fall Emma wakes up in a world she doesn’t know, surrounded by people she doesn’t recognise and in a body that’s not hers. The fate of the kingdom of St. Dores lies in her hands. She is no longer Emma, she is no longer alone; she has a great burden to bear and lives to save.
But who is she really? Who can she trust? Can she save a kingdom from the Rebel King by restoring the Great Willow Tree? If any of it is even real.
And then there’s the man haunting her dreams.
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Gwessie
Lydia Baker is a new author to me and I requested the book purely based on the fact I liked the synopsis. Once I had it in my hands, I was captured very early on, which made it very difficult to put down; in fact anyone disturbing me got glared at with my severest scowl.
I absolutely loved the heroine, Emma and on top of trying to figure out who the hero would be, the adventure was addictive. The story had everything necessary to keep your attention engaged, as well as sending you on a rollercoaster-ride of emotions. I giggled, cried out, wept a few times but all in sympathy with our heroes and heroines. I highly recommend this book.
Irish Shadows by Paula Martin
After a heart-breaking experience, Rose Finlay has vowed never to give another man a chance to hurt her—until Liam McKenna arrives at Mist Na Mara Arts Centre to organise an anniversary celebration event. Liam has his own reasons for not wanting to embark on a new relationship. But both fight the mutual magnetic attraction. Shocks await them when Liam meets the boy his sister gave up for adoption twenty years earlier, and Rose’s ‘ex’ makes contact with her thirteen-year-old son.
Rose then discovers a betrayal which has divided her family since the Irish Civil War in the 1920s. Will Liam and Rose be able to resolve all the shadows from the past in order to find a future together?
Rated: 3 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Frankie
This is the first book I have read by this author, and as much I wanted to love it, I’m afraid I couldn’t. On paper it has everything I look for in a romance, but unfortunately it didn’t live up to expectations.
Rose is heartbroken, she has vowed to herself that no man will ever hurt her in any way again. She is forging herself a career, doing what she loves, and feelings will never get in the way. No matter how much they hurt! That is until Liam, a handsome American, swaggers on to the scene. Like Rose, Liam has reasons of his own to avoid romantic entanglements. He has his own trials going on in his life and has neither the time or inclination for anything to do with the heart.
But as with all romances, there are links that bind them together and make them sit up and take notice of each other. The plot is well thought out throughout, Liam and Rose are very likable and easy to relate to, but I just found it difficult to follow. It was a little slow in areas for my liking and it did take a while for me to settle into it. The romance between the characters is sweet but it didn’t have that sizzle that hooks and draws the reader into the story. I hadn’t read the previous books in the series and I did feel like I was missing something, which has nothing at all to do with the writer’s work. Though this particular book wasn’t for me, I am positive readers of sweet contemporary romance will love it.
You Can't Fight a Royal Attraction by Ruchi Vasudeva
Rihaan would do anything to help his friends Zaheer and Vishakha who helped him find his place in Mumbai after he got estranged from his family. He's detemined to keep Vishakha from worrying about her wild sister. The logical option is to sweep the troublemaker off her feet to a supposedly romantic weekend getaway. But Saira is gorgeous and infuriating in equal measures. What's more, she won't stay slotted under the 'bad girl' label he had for her. Can he handle the real Saira?
Saira knows her reputation has preceded her. She shouldn't care, but Rihaan intrigues her no end. Already, she finds it hard to fight his appeal and maintain a cool distance from the reclusive yet arrestingly attractive scriptwriter. And then she discovers Rihaan has a secret. When the mystery about him unravels, will it tear them apart? Is she destined for yet more heart break...
Rated: 4 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Gwessie
Can love conquer all? Even in the case of two people who are damaged by a past which has left them untrusting of their own hearts and are as stubborn as mules?
Our hero, Rihaan, unknowing of our heroines most recent past, marches in with the intent of helping friends he holds dear by spiriting Saira away under the pretence they are now together. But as things become more complicated, they both find it hard to fight their magnetic attraction, despite the many obstacles in their way.
This is a beautiful and captivating story. Even when I had to take breaks from reading it, I found myself wondering where it would take me next. My only criticism is there are some scenes which could have served the story better if they had focussed on character development or the emotional journey rather than simply describing the beautiful setting. Otherwise, I adored this book and would highly recommend it. It's a lovely read!
Taking Chances by Laura Farr
When Libby Davis loses her best friend in a tragic accident, she can’t find a way through the grief and guilt that consumes her. Desperate to escape the memories that are stopping her from moving on, she visits her Aunt and Uncle on their ranch in Texas.
There she meets Mason Walker, a sexy ranch hand with a mysterious past, and a reputation he wants to leave behind. Despite her reluctance, sparks fly between the two of them, igniting feelings that neither have ever known before.
When someone from Mason’s past starts to cause trouble, will Libby be willing to take a chance on love, or will her already damaged heart not allow her to?
Rated: 4.5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Megan
After surviving a devastating car accident that her best friend doesn't, Libby Davis is so overwhelmed with grief and guilt she can't seem to move on with her own life. In an effort to find peace, Libby decides to travel from her home in England to visit her aunt and uncle’s ranch in Texas. Soon after arriving, she meets the handsome and older Mason Davis. While sparks fly and hearts pound, can Libby open her heart again to risk losing someone and look past Mason's rocky past?
In a familiar tale of loss and love, the author keeps the story engaging and fast paced. You'll share every emotion with Libby and Mason as they work together to overcome their fears and find love. A sweet novel with a lovable characters that you won't want to put down.
The Mistress of Pennington's by Rachel Brimble
Elizabeth Pennington should be the rightful heir of Bath's premier department store through her enterprising schemes and dogged hard work. Her father, Edward Pennington believes his daughter lacks the business acumen to run his empire and is resolute a man will succeed him.
Determined to break from her father's iron-clad hold and prove she is worthy of inheriting the store, Elizabeth forms an unlikely alliance with ambitious and charismatic master glove-maker Joseph Carter. United they forge forward to bring Pennington's into a new decade, embracing woman's equality and progression whilst trying not to mix business and pleasure.
Can this dream team thwart Edward Pennington's plans for the store? Or will Edward prove himself an unshakeable force who will ultimately ruin both Elizabeth and Joseph?
Rated: 4 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Shell
Set in the Edwardian era, when women still struggled to have their voices heard, Elizabeth Pennington, works for her father, but is ambitious. She wants to show him that she can take over the running of the store, but he simply wants her to get married. Joseph Carter has an idea he thinks will help both his father's shop and Pennington's. Joseph is a widower, who like Elizabeth, works with his father, and just like Elizabeth, has ideas his father isn't keen on. With so much in common and a shared goal, you'd think they were ideally matched. But as we all know, the path to love never runs smooth.
Overall this book was an enjoyable read and I could imagine myself shopping at Pennington's from the way the author described it. This was a new author to me and one I will definitely be reading again.
The Bridesmaid's Dilemma by Karen King
Every summer has a story...
Fun-loving travel rep Jess doesn’t want to be chief bridesmaid at her snooty cousin’s wedding, but it will cause a family feud if she refuses. She doesn’t want to fall in love either but when a raucous stag party arrives at her Majorcan hotel, Jess hits it off instantly with best man, Eddie. A summer romance is exactly what commitment-phobe Jess needs and, as the stag-do draws to a close, so does the holiday fling. She has no intentions of carrying on the summer fun but when Eddie turns up again, Jess is faced with a big dilemma.
Will this bridesmaid get the happy-ever-after she never knew she wanted...
Rated: 3 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Sue
Spunky, fun-loving travel rep Jess has a dilemma. She doesn’t want to be chief bridesmaid at her stuck-up cousin’s wedding, but it will cause a family row if she refuses. She doesn’t want to fall in love either, but when a stag party turns up at her Majorcan hotel, Jess hits it off straight away with best man, Eddie. It’s just a holiday fling, until Eddie comes into her life again, presenting Jess with a tough decision. Should she give love a chance?
The author writes with verve and style and The Bridesmaid’s Dilemma crackles with summer fun. From the start, it’s clear Jess and Eddie are made for each other. But can Jess, who is wedded to her freedom, overcome her reluctance to settle down and find her happy-ever-after? And will Eddie, who was jilted at the altar by his ex-fiancé, allow himself to love again?
In a novel take on the conventional romantic boy-meets-girl dilemma, it’s not circumstances or misunderstandings that keep the couple apart, but their mutual fear of commitment. Some of the plot twists and turns are a little predictable—the confrontation with Eddie’s ex, for example—but the fast pace and the author’s confidence as a writer carry the story forward. An upbeat, undemanding summer read, great for a lazy afternoon on the beach.
Once Upon a (Stolen) Time by Samreen Ashan
All her life, Myra Farrow has been obsessed with medieval castles—and the kings and princes who once inhabited them. Now, wealthy videogame designer Steve Bernard wants her to model for a princess character in his new game. Myra can’t resist his offer, especially when she learns that Steve plans to film inside the mysterious Hue Castle—a cursed, barren, colorless place forbidden to visitors for centuries. But unknown to Myra, her soul is bound to Hue Castle by blood and sorcery. When she enters its doors, she awakens dark powers that will reach through time—stealing her past, torturing her present, and rewriting her future.
Edward Hue, the last of the Hue royal bloodline, has never stood in the sunshine or held a living flower. Cursed from birth to live in darkness and bring death to all he touches, he is at the mercy of his cruel, tyrannical father, who will not rest until he shatters Edward’s soul and makes his son into a diabolical copy of himself. Edward’s one hope is the mysterious woman who haunts his dreams—who will either break his curse and bring him out of the darkness, or destroy him utterly.
For Myra and Edward, past and future collide in a tale of love, obsession, betrayal, and the hope for redemption.
Rated: 4 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Rachel
Once Upon a (Stolen) Time is a fairy tale come to life as two souls, born centuries apart, manage to find each other, but still lack their own place in time. Myra Farrow always felt like she was from a different time period. After a bad relationship, she prefers to visit old castles and work on her history blog. Worried, her parents set her up with Steve, who offers her a chance to visit Hue Castle which has been banned from the public for unexplained reasons. Myra eagerly agrees not knowing how much her life will change. Back in time, we meet Prince Edward Hue, who longs for love and a woman who is out of his reach.
I really enjoyed this story and all its twists and turns. I just wish there had been a few more explanations to make the plot clearer. Overall a good read and I am looking forward to the next book in this series.
A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole
New York City socialite and perpetual hot mess Portia Hobbs is tired of disappointing her family, friends, and—most importantly—herself. An apprenticeship with a struggling swordmaker in Scotland is a chance to use her expertise and discover what she’s capable of. Turns out she excels at aggravating her gruff silver fox boss… When she’s not having inappropriate fantasies about his sexy Scottish burr.
Tavish McKenzie doesn’t need a rich, spoiled American telling him how to run his armory… Even if she is infuriatingly good at it. Tav tries to rebuff his apprentice—and his attraction to her—but when Portia accidentally discovers that he’s the secret son of a duke, rough-around-the-edges Tav becomes her newest makeover project.
Forging metal into weapons and armor is one thing, but when desire burns out of control and the media spotlight gets too hot to bear, can a commoner turned duke and his posh apprentice find lasting love?
Rated: 4 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
Portia comes to Scotland as part of Project: New Portia, an attempt to take stock of her bad habits and make some changes in her life. Her apprenticeship with the gruff Tavish starts off badly. She pepper sprays him when she thinks he's attacking a woman—spoiler: he isn't; he's practicing sword play—but soon he begins to realise what an asset she is.
There are a couple of things that I really loved about this book. The first is Portia herself, and the fact she begins to realise, as the book develops, that she may have ADHD. It's a nuanced portrayal of a person with ADHD, and I loved the way we got to see her work on her strengths as the narrative unfolded. The second is Tavish. I love me a silver fox, and when you have a silver fox who's referred to as #swordbae... Well... That pretty much says everything. A highly entertaining read.
Love at First Sit by Ysa Arcangel
Roxanne Mabini, a twenty-five-year-old single mother of twins, joined a speed-dating event just for fun and to get "speed-dating" checked off her bucket list. She wasn't looking for anything.
...Until the devastatingly handsome bartender, Aloysius "Wish" Gregorio, stepped up to fill in for the lack of male participants, mesmerizing Roxanne. Literally, he was every girl's wish.
Finally, she's met a man who shares her interests. But will a girl whose heart has been shred to pieces learn to trust and love again?
When Roxanne's first love and the father of her children, Chris, drops back into her life, old flames reignite. Chris has been waiting for the right time ever since he was forced to leave her, and now he aims to win her back.
Will the chemistry and powerful connection between Roxanne and Wish be strong enough to fight the old flame that is once again burning bright?Roxanne must make a big decision: provide a complete family to her children, or share her life with her heart's desire. Will she find love, lose it, or know when to walk away?
Rated: 1 Pink Heart Reviewed by: Jill
Roxanne is a single mother of twins in the Philippines who is ready to start dating. She decides to try speed dating but ends up choosing the bartender, Wish. While most men seem to get scared off by Roxanne being a mother, Wish ties it to his own childhood and repeatedly assures her that being a good mother is part of why he likes her. The twins' father then unexpectedly shows up and Roxanne must choose between a familiar complicated past or a hopeful new future.
This story had a fun premise and I enjoyed the exotic nature of the setting in the Philippines with its associated culture and native language. However, the book felt more like a first draft than a polished manuscript, with stilted dialogue, random tidbits thrown in about characters we barely meet on the page, and everything told and stated as fact for the reader's information, rather than allowing them to see what is happening as the hero and heroine's relationship progresses.
Ruby Slips and Poker Chips by Heather Kindt
Second-grade teacher Dottie Gale lives in the tiny town of Quandary, Kansas, which is pretty much smack dab in the middle of nowhere. No mountains. No ocean. No life. Her ex-boyfriend and current school board member, Corbin Lane, cheated on her, making school functions more than a little awkward. But worst of all, a tornado named Maxine Westward rips through Dottie’s school as the new principal and has made her life at work a living hell.
When Dottie is chosen to go to a teacher’s conference in Las Vegas, she knows her life is going to change. Driving from Quandary to Vegas, three strangers enter her life. Through a string of situations involving poppies, flying monkeys, and a life-size sculpture of an iconic rock star the four soon become inseparable. So, when Westward arrives on her broom in Vegas, Dottie is ready for battle. Her boss blackmails her with stories of incarceration, thievery, and a steamy relationship with her travel companion, but Dottie knows that those who hurl insults shouldn’t hold secrets of their own.
Rated: 3 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Megan
Born and raised in rural Kansas, Dottie Gale, currently the town's second grade teacher, is waiting for her big chance to get out. Wanting to leave behind her cheating ex boyfriend, Corbin Lane, who is also on the school board and newly hired principal, the wicked Maxine Westward; Dottie's escape can't come soon enough. As it happens a teacher's conference is coming up in Las Vegas and Dottie is the lucky name that is drawn to attend with none other than Corbin and Westward.
In effort to the save the school money Westward forces Dottie to drive to Vegas picking up two other teachers along the way. While Dottie complies she also adds a few planned stops and unforeseen adventures. By the time they reach Vegas they are no longer strangers but friends which gives Dottie the courage to battle Westward for all she's worth. With threats of blackmail about jail, drugs, and one night stands Dottie is determined to press forward to find what Westward is hiding and who her own heart desires.
This is a quick and easy read, the author finding ways to weave the story together so it flows from one page to the next. The snap decisions Dottie makes, while not always the wisest, show off her quirks and make her relatable in many ways. A fresh, light hearted spin on an old tale that's worth a read, even if it may be a little lacking in emotional depth for some readers.
Keeping You by Mollie Blake
His past haunts him. Revenge drives him. Can her love save him?After a chance meeting in a bookshop, young Suzy Harper is engaged by multi-multimillionaire, Lawrence Bane, to work on translating a French document. They embark on an intense relationship, but he is surrounded by mystery and shame as demons from his past threaten to destroy everything he has worked for, including her love for him.
This exciting erotic romantic thriller traces the increasingly intense and tender relationship between the inexperienced Suzy and her wealthy, troubled lover, Lawrence. There are two obsessions in Lawrence’s life—his passion for Suzy and his drive for revenge against the gangland boss who murdered his best friend.
Will Suzy be strong enough to accept Lawrence for the man he is? Will Lawrence trust the woman he loves enough to reveal his darkest secrets to her? Will their love survive the challenges that lie ahead?
Rated: 2 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Shell
If you're a fan of Fifty Shades you will most likely enjoy this book. Unfortunately, for me, this story wasn't a winner. The characters seemed distant and unapproachable with no real sense of a growing emotional connection between them that would have made their relationship about more than just sex. The hero, Lawrence Bane, is handsome and very sexy, there's no arguing that. But erotica is about more than a sexy hero and good chemistry these days. Even the addition of the revenge plot and the hero's demons wasn't enough to make up for the lack of a slow-building, genuinely emotional depth of feeling that would translate as a happily ever after in the end. So while I really wanted to enjoy this book, no matter how open-minded I tried to be, it was tough to finish.
Lipstick on the Strawberry by Margaret Ann Spence
Estranged from her English family, Camilla Fetherwell now lives in the United States and owns a successful catering business. Returning home for her father's funeral, she reunites with her first love, Billy, whom she hasn't seen since her father broke up their teenage romance. Billy seems eager to resume their love affair. But after one blissful night together, things take a turn.
Camilla suspects her father may have led a secret life, and when Billy reveals something he, too, has discovered, her apprehension grows. Billy holds her heart, but their relationship might be tainted by what her father hid. A reunion seems impossible.
Her life feels as splattered as her catering apron. As she watches her food stylist make a strawberry look luscious with a swipe of lipstick, Camilla wonders if a gloss has been put over a family secret? Can she and Billy survive what's underneath?
Rated: 4.5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Tamara JK
This book kept me awake for 4 nights in a row, and I needed 2 days afterwards to recover. The story develops slowly but never gets boring, with enough detail to prevent you from speeding through the pages in order to savor every word. Camilla is poignantly sad, the events which marked her teenage years leaving an indelible imprint on her adult life. She measures everything by past standards, worrying what the people around her might think of her actions and accomplishments. Then along comes Billy. Years have passed, lots of things have happened, and suddenly they find themselves at a crossroad again. The connection between this lovable couple is very deep and passionate, you feel that they are two parts of one soul. But Camilla has to find the strength to choose her own happiness instead of considering what would everyone else think and as a reader, you soon end up cheering her on.
This was an eye-opening story for me, one that touched me on a personal level, and I will definitely be recommending it to all my reader friends.
Ripped by Tania Joyce
Gemma Lonsdale sings lead alongside her two best friends, Kyle McIntyre and Hunter Collins, in world-famous rock band, Everhide. Life in the public eye can be humiliating with the paparazzi tracking their every move. Having a boyfriend is not an option. But everything changes when Gemma develops feelings for one of her fellow band members.
One impetuous decision alters their lives forever. True love is hidden behind lies. Friendships are tested. Careers are at risk. What lengths will Gemma go to, to protect the band? Will more than music, loyalty and hearts be ripped apart?
Rated: 3 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Tamara F
Gemma, Kyle and Hunter are best friends and members of the rock band, Everhide. They try to bring their own music to their album instead of singing other people's lyrics and amongst the drama of them pushing for this to happen, Gemma starts to develop feelings for Hunter while at the same time Kyle is trying to come to terms with the feelings he has for her.
It was impossible not to feel for the characters in this story. As a reader, you felt the same pain, happiness and sadness they did. The love triangle between the main characters was a little different then most and had twists and turns along the way to keep you wanting to know what happens next. I particularly enjoyed the role reversal element, which somehow made the situation more heartfelt. This was a quick, enjoyable read, and though not one for my personal keeper shelf, I didn't regret the time I spent with these characters.
Love, Lies and Weight Loss by Jax Burrows
Being dumped is painful. Being dumped because your ex-boyfriend thinks you’re too fat is heartbreaking.
Rosie Hayes wants to lose weight in order to win back her ex-boyfriend, Phil, who told her she "didn't do it for him anymore" as she'd put on a few pounds.
She joins a gym owned by Jake Matthias, millionaire and entrepreneur. Commitment-phobe, Jake, wants to stay single, but every woman he meets seems to be looking for a Happy Ever After. Jake assigns personal trainer, Samantha, to help Rosie lose the weight and get fit. Samantha, who wants Jake for herself, only trains athletes and is disdainful of Rosie, especially when