December Book Reviews
It's December book reviews time! And our #PHSBookReviews team had another corking collection of reads for us to add to our TBR piles.
Would you like your book reviewed by one of our team? Are you an avid romance reader who would be interested in becoming a PHS Reviewer? If so, then we would LOVE to hear from you! Just send us a message via our book reviews page and we will get back to you asap.
The Rancher's Homecoming by Anna J. Stewart
Chance Blackwell’s return could cost her everything!
Ten years after he eloped with Katie Montgomery’s sister, Chance Blackwell’s back in Montana to sell his family ranch. Katie could lose her job and the only home she’s known.
But the loyal cowgirl’s keeping a secret that could jeopardize her future with the widowed musician and her toddler niece…
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Tamara
This is—without a doubt—a 5 pink heart read, and I haven't given a book that rating in a loooooong time!
I feel in love with every page of this book. The characters were normal people with normal problems, making every situation completely relatable. It was clear that Chance and Katie would find a way to each other, but how they got there took me by surprise. Anna J. Stewart certainly told a simple story from the perfect angle and elevated regular life to true romance!!
Usually I read incredibly fast if a book interests me—I read and read until I finish—but with this book I took my time. I made sure to enjoy each and every page.
I like the way that Chance and Kate fought their feelings, putting everything else and everyone else first, and putting themselves to one side. That's the thing about life; we can never escape what others will think when feelings are involved, and this novel did it perfectly.
Every scene in this book is in the right place; making you cry and making you laugh. And I had no trouble whatsoever playing the scenes in my head. If only I could hear Chance sing in real life!!
The other books in this series are now lined up on my Kindle, ready to be enjoyed!
Her Festive Flirtation by Therese Beharrie
The bridesmaid, the best man...
A Christmas wedding they’ll never forget!
A year after being jilted, Ava Keller finds herself forced back up the aisle—as bridesmaid at a beautiful Cape Town wedding. Best man—and Ava’s first crush—Noah Giles is the perfect distraction from her painful memories. Will Ava give their chemistry a second chance?
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
I love a Beharrie romance... They're full of the kind of emotional intensity that makes me oscillate wildly before squeeing over the delight of it all, and sobbing my heart out over the internal conflict!
Her Festive Flirtation is a second chance romance with a twist—namely being that they never really had a true first chance, so I love the fact that their meet cute seems to be the perfect way for them to reconnect. There's a cat and a fire and a delicious volunteer fireman in Noah—all followed up with Ava's brother's wedding.
It's utterly adorable and does what Beharrie does best—that intense emotional connection and then inner conflict that keeps them apart. A perfect read to curl up under the Christmas tree with.
Between the Lines by Sally Malcolm
Theo Wishart has given up on finding love.
Luca Moretti doesn’t want to find it.
A handful of summer days may change their lives forever—if they’re brave enough to look between the lines.
Eyes might be windows to the soul, but for Theo Wishart they’re all shuttered. His dyspraxia makes it hard to read people. He doesn’t do relationships and he certainly doesn’t do the great outdoors. Two weeks spent “embracing beach life” while he tries to close the deal on a once great, now fading seaside hotel is a special kind of hell.
Until Luca. Gorgeous, unreachable Luca.
Luca Moretti travels light, avoiding all romantic entanglements. Estranged from his parents, he vows this will be his last trip home to New Milton. His family’s hotel is on the verge of ruin and there’s nothing Luca can do to save it. He’s given up on the Majestic, he’s given up on his family and he’s given up on his future.
Until Theo. Prickly, captivating Theo.
No mushy feelings, no expectations, and no drama—that’s the deal. A simple summer fling. And it suits them both just fine. But as the summer wanes and their feelings deepen, it’s clear to everyone around them that Theo and Luca are falling in love. What will it take for them to admit it to themselves—and to each other?
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
A small town romance to fall in love with. Luca is home—trying desperately to save his family's hotel—and Theo's the man who's trying to persuade him to sell it. I love a small business owner falling in love with the person trying to buy them out romance, and I loved how this bucked the trend. Luca hasn't lived at home for years, and so there's real complexity to his emotions surrounding the hotel and his family's decision to sell it.
And then there's Theo, whose dyspraxia means that he can't read people very well, and whose reserved temperament seems at odds with Luca's outgoing nature. The two of them make a gorgeous couple—despite their initial conflict—and there's a really delightful quality to some of the scenes that they have together. Who could imagine that something as simple as a dance at a wedding could be so poignant? Utterly enchanting.
Not even in her wildest imaginings did Kumari ever think she'd become a princess. But having fallen for Ben - or rather Prince Benedict, sixth in line to the throne - it looks like nothing will ever go as planned again. And as Christmas rapidly approaches the distinction between family festivities and Royalty becomes ever more apparent.
With the paparazzi hounding her, her job on the line and some rather frustrating royal training, Kumari feels panic set in.
Does loving Prince Charming mean she'll get her fairy tale ending - and on her own terms?
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
This is Charika's first book published under her real name—she also publishes as Rhoda Baxter—and I was delighted to see her own-voices Sri Lankan heroine centred at the heart of this narrative. It's a secretly royal romance—something I absolutely adore—combined with a fantastic exploration of of the pressures of public life and dynamics of the relationships between the royal family and the press.
But, I think my favourite thing about this novel, has got to be our heroine Kumari. She's smart as hell (a doctor), feminist af (whoop whoop!) and she's an active campaigner. She's exactly the kind of heroine that I want to see populating my romances. Kind, and funny and sets the hero's world a-spin.
Love's Inferno by Corrina Lawson
A sub with no pain limits. A Domme who can compel obedience. And the Switch who can knit them together.
On the surface, Lis seems to have a perfect life. Her husband, Hawk, adores her, their baby is happy and healthy, and her bar is an oasis for the psychic superheroes that protect her world.
But all is not well. Hawk’s psychic self-healing ability and fetish for severe pain borders on addiction. Lis yearns to give him what he needs but fears her enhanced power of persuasion will obliterate the careful consent boundaries she has set.
Unwilling to risk going too far, she enlists the help of their best friend, an experienced Dom, for Hawk. Ike, though afraid his crush on Hawk will come to light, decides to help guide Lis through their sessions.
But soon the growing intimacy between the trio strains their relationship. Lis worries Ike is more suited to satisfying Hawk’s masochistic needs. Hawk worries his new relationship with Ike threatens his marriage. Ike fears his role with the friends he’s grown to love will end and he’ll lose the only family he’s ever had.
Somehow, three must become a family.
Rated: 4 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Mercy
Lis and Hawk are deeply in love but have years of baggage weighing them down. Ike may have baggage but he’s also adept at bringing others relief. Can the three of them work together to help one another and create something special?
Wow, these characters really got to me! I found them to be rich, intriguing, and deeply satisfying. I was fascinated by the emotional complexity of their triad relationship dynamic. The interactions and dialogue between Lis, Hawk, and Ike drew me in and I found myself pondering it after I put the book down. The sex scenes were BDSM heavy and beautifully orchestrated. I especially loved the obvious care and thought put into giving the relationships between Lis and Hawk, Ike and Hawk, and Ike and Lis different yet equally meaningful space. I’ll definitely try and second book by this author.
Fortune's Christmas Baby by Tara Taylor Quinn
His Holiday Surprise is a bundle of joy!
When Nolan Forte returns to Austin a year after a Christmas tryst, he is shocked to learn he’s a father. He wants to do right by his beautiful baby girl—and her sweet mum, Lizzie Sullivan. But when he reveals his real name is family background, all bets are off…
Rated: 4.5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Gwessie
Here we have a fantastic story of a second chance romance—thanks to fate and a very good best friend.
Our hero Nolan has never forgot the girl who, a year ago, captured more than just his attention. He has a chance to see her again, but is scared of being burnt again after his life was turned upside down the last time he felt this way, so instead spends his last two weeks avoiding her.
Lizzie, whose family was once destroyed by wealth, has never managed to trust anyone from money. And she's certainly not about to trust easily now, even when her daughter's father returns. Especially when she finds that he's not exactly who she thought he was. Him having money is a huge stop sign for her, and throughout the novel the two of them come closer for their daughter's sake, breaking down the barriers between them.
I must admit that I loved every part of this book and cried with Lizzie, and laughed with the both of them during the closing scenes of this fantastic book. Stereotypes can be misleading and I'm so glad this book shows how different things can be, and especially how it underscores that having money doesn't buy happiness.
Rough Trade by Sidney Bell
Quick-witted hustler Ghost is no stranger to living dangerously; survival has always been the name of the game.
He’s just always gone it alone.
Now he’s got the wrong people breathing down his neck, and the only way out demands placing his trust in the unlikeliest of heroes: Duncan Rook, a gruff cop whose ethics are as solid as his body.
Cozying up to a criminal is hardly what Duncan’s reputation on the force needs—especially when that criminal is temptation personified. Ghost is Duncan’s polar opposite, and the last person he expected to fall for.
So then why does every imaginable scenario for taking down their common enemy end with Ghost in his arms?
Rated: 4.5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
Sometimes, what we need from a romance is a slow-burn, as opposed to a lot of hot sex from the get go—though I'm not exactly adverse to the latter—and that's exactly what we get from Bell's Rough Trade. The focus on Ghost and his heartbreaking backstory, I couldn't be more delighted for him when he gets gruff Duncan.
At first glance, these two characters couldn't be more different—especially with Duncan being a cop, and Ghost's past—but seeing understanding blossom between the two makes the eventual HEA so much more satisfying. Also, Ghost grovels like no one else, and I do love a good grovel in a romance.
There's an intensity to the backstory and much of the narrative is focused on the suspense aspect of the plot, but for me this just underscored the compatibility between two seemingly incompatible characters. A charming read.
Christmas with Her Secret Prince by Nina Singh
Her last-minute plus one…
Waitress Melina Osmon is dreading attending her work Christmas ball alone for the first time since her ex took everything from her. But a little Christmas magic brings her a saviour in the form of mysterious, gorgeous Ray…who has a secret of his own!
Rated: 4.5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Gwessie
An absolutely a beautiful book, captivating from the start, and with a perfect Christmas miracle? Because who doesn't love a Christmas miracle—I most definitely do and this book gave me what I was craving!
Ray is a prince who needs to escape from the palace and the pressures of choosing a bride, and our heroine Melina is a down-to-earth and hardworking waitress. This Cinderella story is enchanting and even features a couple of sassy and feisty fairy godmothers!
I often say love is the best medicine (well it is in more ways than one), and in this beautiful story we see this illustrated perfectly though a frustrated prince who's not ready to conform, and our beautiful yet wounded heroine.
We have a fairy tale beginning and a fairy tale ending, but their journey along the way is far from easy. However, helped by the aforementioned sassy fairy godmothers we definitely get our wonderful Happy Ever After.
The Dark Horse by Liz Flaherty
Widowed Chloe Brewton has made a life for herself in Christmas Town, Maine, teaching literature and being the drama coach at the high school. Although she’d loved her husband and their life in the army, she doesn’t really want to start over with someone else, but when she meets Major Row Welcome, in Christmas Town to spend the holiday month with relatives and decide about his future, she feels stirrings of old wishes for happily-ever-after.
The attraction is mutual, although the last thing Row wants is to try marriage again, plus he’s about as interested in having a family as…well, he isn’t. But then there’s Connor Michaud and his three younger siblings. Oh, no. What now in Christmas Town?
Rated: 4.5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Laura
Christmas Town sees widowed schoolteacher Chloe Brewton attempt to continue healing her broken heart as old wounds surface during her direction of the drama clubs most recent production. As Chloe battles with her past grief she meets Major Rowan Welcome, a military man with his own demons to battle, as he takes some well-earned leave in Christmas Town.
Neither of them were prepared to fall in love with each other, or a family of four siblings in dire need of some love and direction in life, but Christmas Town is magical.
The story, which begins just before Thanksgiving and leads right up to Christmas Day, is quite simply beautifully heartwarming. The town and the characters are brought to life in such a way that as you read you can almost imagine yourself transported there. The characters are very likeable and its hard not to become emotionally involved in their storyline. The fairytale-esque link with the Carousel Horses is a lovely little touch that really makes you think.
The Dark Horse is definitely a feel-good seasonal story, perfect for curling up in fluffy socks with a hot chocolate and some traditional Christmas snacks. Maybe have some tissues to hand if you become as emotionally absorbed in books as I do. This would have been a 5 Pink Heart rating, but the beginning of the romance between the hero and heroine seemed a little rushed, although it was definitely worth reading as it made me feel warm and very festive.
The Price to be Paid by Alice J. Miller
Kyle Lawson needs a wife, and he needs one now. With his ailing business on the line the only women who can rescue him is the step-daughter of the man who put him in this precarious position in the first place. Can he trust her to come through for him, and save his business?
When given the chance to marry the man of her dreams, while atoning for the sins of her family, Molly Wilson doesn’t hesitate. Propelled into a bogus marriage, she vows to make up for the mistakes of the past, even if it means breaking her own heart.
Can Kyle and Molly put aside their differences and united, fight for a better future? When their plan is threatened by a secret from Kyle’s past, will it ruin the deal and destroy any hope of a life together?
Amidst the searing heat of Florida, will Molly and Kyle resist their inner desires? Or, despite their troubled past, can love, forgiveness and redemption find a way to shape their future?
Rated: 4 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Rachel
The first book in the Upland Village series, it tells the story of Molly who's known and been in love with Kyle since she was sixteen years old. Her stepfather was Kyle’s business accountant and Kyle is the owner of theme park that was handed down to him by his own father.
After Molly’s slimy stepfather robs Kyle blind and cleans out his accounts, Kyle goes to Molly wanting her to right the wrong caused by her stepfather. In order to save his business and keep his employees from losing their jobs, he is hoping to buy new rides for his park, which will bring in more business and save his park. The only problem is that the seller will only sell to buyers who are married. Kyle convinces Molly to marry him temporarily until they get the contract and afterwards they will divorce. Neither of them count on the emotions that will come along with this kind of deal.
I really enjoyed this story. I thought the writing was charming, and the plot clear. Alice Miller clearly has a way with words! The pacing of the story was just right, not too slow or fast, perfect for allowing the romance to develop. I love the pairing of Kyle and Molly. I have to admit that Kyle had to grow on me as I didn't really like how he treated Molly at first. I think he was taking his anger out on the wrong person. But aside from this minor glitch, I thought that they had great chemistry. I love how Molly was the first person that Kyle could really depend on and feel safe around. Overall, a great story.
I Should Be So Lucky by Liam Livings
Julian is a flamboyant backing dancer for Australian pop princess, Sallie. He loves touring with Sallie as it means he has gentlemen friends for the night in every European city. Backrooms in Berlin, cruisy bars in Barcelona, Julian’s enjoyed it all. And if he doesn’t pull while he’s on tour, he ends up in bed with best friend and fellow dancer, Bjorn.
Troy, a quiet, gruff St John Ambulance volunteer, and gardener at a stately home in Essex, has just split up from his third supposedly serious girlfriend in the last few years. He doesn’t understand why he can’t make relationships last. A failed serial monogamist, he’s obviously doing something wrong.
One night, at a Sallie concert, an enormous glitter ball falls and concusses Julian. In the recovery room, as Troy is seeing to Julian’s vital signs, the dancer feels a spark. Julian doesn't do relationships so he dismisses it as simply lust. Troy finds himself drawn to the confident chatty performer, wanting to get to know him better…
Can Troy put aside his preconceptions to discover who he really is and how he feels about Julian? Can Julian face his biggest fear of being emotionally vulnerable with a man; with Troy?
And can Julian and Troy, who’ve never had a relationship with a man, find out if they were lucky enough to have met the only man they should be with? I should be so lucky—they both think…
Rated: 3.5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
I appreciate a good meet cute, and falling scenery at a pop concert seems as good a meet cute as any, and there's something quite charming about the way in which it brings together two completely different men. One of the real strengths of this novel, is the way in which it leans on authenticity in romance, and how he makes this unlikely pairing seem realistic.
In some ways, I wish Livings delved deeper into the inner conflicts of these characters—I wanted to know more about how and why they'd got to where they were, and not just see them get their HEA, but it has a satisfying romantic arc and I loved how the title of the novel tied directly to Julian's job!
Campaign for Her Heart by Patricia Sargeant
True love calls for bipartisan commitment...
Gwendolyn Taylor has campaigned for President Barack Obama and is committed to working for his reelection. After that, the librarian and activist plans on taking an early retirement—or so she thinks. One of Gwen’s volunteer organizations wants her to help unseat the incumbent state senator—by running for his office. Gwen has her doubts until she meets the senator’s distractingly sexy—and socially unconscious—campaign manager.
Noah Barrow sees his candidate as the best choice for their community. He believes in the senator’s integrity, commitment and platform. Gwen is a very attractive woman—distractingly so—but she is also a policy novice with dreams of political grandeur – or so he thinks. Gwen’s ideas are fresh and different enough that they just might work, but it takes more than promising proposals to run a successful campaign.
With such conflicting ideologies, could Noah and Gwen find a way to merge their platforms for the sake of their community—and their hearts?
Rated: 3 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ange
The final book in the Decades: A Journey of African American Romance series, Campaign for Her Heart follows two very distinctly different characters from - originally - different sides of a political campaign, to a Happy Ever After. The heroine, Gwen, is a librarian and activist, planning on retiring soon; as an activist, she has issues with the current state senator whom is running for reelection. Since the senator is only interested in his own pocket, and not the community, they ask Gwen to run against him. Our hero is the campaign manager of the current senator, until he realises that Mr Senator is open for running a dirty campaign. He quits, and when opportunity presents itself to run for someone with more integrity, he jumps on it.
The campaign won't be only for the senate, but also for love.
I had a little difficulty reading this book. While the story was good and the characters believable, the story started slow for me and it took (for me) a long while to pick up. I was hoping for more. I wanted much much more. So, for that reason, I did not fully embrace the book.
However, I would give the author another try because the story was definitely not bad, it just didn't delve deep enough for me. I hope her next book fulfils my needs more.
Owned by Fate by Sean Michael
The Beteferoce brothers: five dragon shifters, each with a strong elemental power and a destiny that will not be denied.
Dr. Mike Beteferoce turned his back on magic long ago. His heart broke and his desire for a soul mate disappeared. When he sees his family crest branded above Corryn’s heart, his first instinct is to flee. The last thing he wants now is a Fae interfering in his life—especially one who has already rejected him.
But fate has other plans.
Corryn knows Mike is his soul mate, has known since the sigil was branded on his skin centuries ago. Long before Mike came to him as a studly young dragon just entering his prime. It was far too early for them to be together then, but now their time has come.
But despite their draw to each other, Corryn doesn’t believe Mike can accept him for who—and what—he is. Mike must breathe life into their bond—loving Corryn as both soul mate and Fae—if they are to fulfill their destiny.
Rated: 2.5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Imogene
Unfortunately I come to this review with a heavy heart. I try to never be too negative about a book review, as I know that the effort of many, many people have gone into it. I know that someone has laboured like Hercules over a laptop for me. However...
So, the premise is that an immortal fae fella has been gifted with the task of watching over an immortal litter/clutch/ pack of dragonlings who are destined to protect/ save the world. When he (quite rightly) turns down the advances of the emotionally and psychologically (if not physically) immature dragonling who is “destined” to be his soulmate, said dragonling proceeds to hook up with the next fae and gay man he meets. Who happens to be a sociopath. Meaning that he spends the next hundred plus years hating all fae (and especially his fae) and I spend ten chapters wanting to knock their heads together. Fae-Bae decides to give up how immortality—this is not a spoiler btw, it’s literally within the first twenty minutes of reading—so that he can be reborn for his soulmate, only suddenly (dun dun) all is forgiven and they hook up and the soulmate bond will re-immortalise him so it’s all fine. Then all five dragon brothers have to kinda have sex at the same time in order to become Earth's mightiest warriors, and I’m officially out.
I have some questions. If all dragons are gay, where do dragon eggs come from?
Also, why not just have a @&$”ing conversation guys! Seriously!
“Our hooking up right now would not only be a form of paedophilia but may put the world in danger.”
“Okay, let’s put it off for now”
In defence of the author, I have jumped in at a late book in the series, so I have missed what world building and internal history that has been put in place. Plus the m/m romances and sex scenes are well done. Double plus, I am probably not the audience that is intended for this book. With a heavy sigh, 2.5 pink magically tattooed hearts out of five.
Kinksters at Play by Sonni de Soto
Kinksters call it play for a reason. Come have some fun!
Life can make love hard, especially in the kink community. Follow an eclectic, kinky ensemble, through a series of interwoven stories, as they struggle to put a little more play into their lives.
Especially when the marriage between Kat and Peter Richards starts to fall apart. It’ll take this community of kinksters to bring them back together again. After four years of marriage, Kat and her husband’s relationship seems so… Nice. Not bad. Just average, ordinary. Nice. They haven’t played in forever and she desperately misses it. She wonders if they’ve lost their spark and worries her happily ever after came at the cost of her sex life.
Peter will need the help of their friends—from an exhibitionist learning to reconnect with her body and appreciate being looked at again, to an exhausted, off-duty cop having a rough night with an unexpected partner, to a Little struggling to keep her role-play fantasy fresh against the toll of reality’s ticking clock—to remember that, with trust, communication, and the right partners, play can make life and love so much better.
Rated: 2 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Mercy
Donovan’s, a successful kink club, brings together many different couples who find friendship, love, and chosen family within its safe walls. How will these vastly different couples fit together and influence each other’s lives?
This anthology has an interesting premise, an open window into the inner lives of couples who all belong to the same kink club. There are some beautiful moments of vulnerability and intimacy throughout the book, and I find the interactions between couples in moments of insecurity and self-doubt to be rich. The scenes involving kink and BDSM feel natural for the story-line and are unique. Unfortunately, things go off the rails a bit when it comes to cohesion.
Each of the first four stories/chapters center around a different couple in the Donovan’s world, but the final five are all about the same couple, Kat and Peter. This feels a bit inconsistent and throws the rhythm off. There are moments where characters from the first four stories make an appearance, but they mostly feel unnecessary. The final scene has the makings of a memorable moment but felt rushed. It would have been immensely more powerful if it had some breathing room. Kat and Peter’s storyline is intriguing enough to carry an entire novel itself… And I could get on board with that.
What are you reading this month? Have you recently read a book you think everyone should hunt down? Let us know in the comments or join the PHS community on Social Media using #amreading And authors, if you want us to review your book, we are now open for October submissions! You can check out the guidelines here.