It's June book reviews time and the #PHSBookReviews team had another fabulous collection of reads to devour.
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Stable Hill by Jodi Payne
Can three men from very different backgrounds find a home and a future together?
After losing his husband to cancer, Oscar Kennedy has his hands full with their four girls, the house, his job, and his mother-in-law. When he loses his father too, keeping Stable Hill, the old horse farm where he grew up, becomes impossible. Oscar hires Jeffrey Stokes, a slick-looking real estate broker with a roll-up-his-sleeves work ethic, to get it on the market.
Russell White manages the day-to-day at Stable Hill. Russ had loved Oscar’s dad like a father, and took on even more responsibility when the old man fell ill. He is shocked and saddened by Oscar’s decision to sell.
All three men have a stake in Stable Hill, and it’s not long before they start to invest in one another too. But their complicated relationship doesn’t make having to sell Stable Hill any easier. Will the fragile triad they’re building last when the farm that brought them together is gone?
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Mercy
I am writing this review with a puddle where my heart once sat. In other words, this book melted it. I love a good polyamorous romance, and this one has jumped straight to the top of my favorites list.
Oscar, Russ, and Jeffrey are all interesting, genuinely good, sexy, and totally unique characters. It’s hard enough to write one character with those traits and yet Jodi Payne managed to write three. I was instantly pulled into the story through the pain and loss Oscar suffered and his love for Emmett and his daughters was beautifully expressed. I could feel how conflicted he was when he began having feelings for someone else; lonely but still loyal to Emmett. But I was most impressed with all the individual characters' arcs and how they were woven into the central relationship. The pacing was spot-on and gave the story a nice rhythm and flow and the 'steamy bits' were juicy and perfectly placed. They really ratchetted up the stakes and helped move the character development forward.
This book truly impressed me. I like when the sexy bits knock my socks off and when the emotional bits squeeze my heart. This book did both and in a rather special way. Stable Hill is a definite keeper!
The Lady's Guide To Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite
As Lucy Muchelney watches her ex-lover’s sham of a wedding, she wishes herself anywhere else. It isn’t until she finds a letter from the Countess of Moth, looking for someone to translate a groundbreaking French astronomy text, that she knows where to go. Showing up at the Countess’ London home, she hoped to find a challenge, not a woman who takes her breath away.
Catherine St Day looks forward to a quiet widowhood once her late husband’s scientific legacy is fulfilled. She expected to hand off the translation and wash her hands of the project—instead, she is intrigued by the young woman who turns up at her door, begging to be allowed to do the work, and she agrees to let Lucy stay. But as Catherine finds herself longing for Lucy, everything she believes about herself and her life is tested.
While Lucy spends her days interpreting the complicated French text, she spends her nights falling in love with the alluring Catherine. But sabotage and old wounds threaten to sever the threads that bind them. Can Lucy and Catherine find the strength to stay together or are they doomed to be star-crossed lovers?
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
Women taking on the patriarchy and the heavens? Yes please! Olivia Waite’s debut with Avon is a delicious f/f historical romance that took my breath away. Our two heroines, Lucy and Catherine, come from different backgrounds, and yet their experiences as women in a patriarchal society have colored the way they look at the world. Facing the ghost of an oppressive and bad tempered husband, a brother who doesn’t understand, and a society of male scientists who refuse to acknowledge women’s contributions to the science, our two heroines have their work cut out for them.
I’ve always been a bit of a nerd for astrophysics and astronomy, so the details about Catherine’s work fascinated me, but I was even more taken with Waite’s characterization of her heroines. These are strong women who have had to adapt the situations they’ve found themselves in, and though their HEA is hard won, it is no less deserved.
With its beautiful prose, heartwarming HEA and relatable characters, I feel that this would be the perfect window into LGBTQIA+ historical romances for the uninitiated. It seems appropriate I’ve reviewed this during PRIDE month, and with more LGBTQIA+ historical romances being published by bigger publishers, as well as getting to see them on screen (why hello there Gentleman Jack), the future is looking that much brighter for this bifurious reviewer. Thank you, Olivia Waite.
Forbidden To Taste by J.C. Harroway
The sweetest pleasures……are the most dangerous!
Drake Faulkner would have given anything to marry Kenzie Porter, but his Army buddy best friend Sam got there first. Drake’s avoided Kenzie in the years since Sam was killed in action—he doesn’t trust himself around her. But when she turns up begging for a job at his hotel, Drake struggles to resist temptation. Their powerful chemistry feels risky, but that only makes it harder to stay away…
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Frankie
As soon as I read the blurb, I knew that this was going to be an emotional roller-coaster ride and I wasn’t wrong. Yes, it is a Mills and Boon Dare, so obviously there is lusty sex, but there is far more than just rolling around, getting tangled in sweat drenched sheets. There is a real sensitive and tender second chance love story beneath, which will make the reader see this M&B line in a whole new light.
Drake – my, gawd - he is a gorgeous, fragile and flawed man. I just want to jump into the book and hug the living daylights out of him. He has returned from war and come face to face with the one woman he has always loved, the woman he wanted to marry. It practically broke his heart when she married his best friend, Sam, and now that Sam has died, Kenzie turns to Drake for help and a job. Drake is a good man, he will help her, after all they are both grieving for Sam, but can Drake really trust his own, baser urges and emotions around her?
Kenzi and Drake are a lovely couple who are both still reeling from Sam’s death and trying to move on with their lives and though the storyline is one that has been done many times before, what I really like about this version is that the author has taken a well loved plot and given it a sexy and earthy twist which makes the reader go; woah!
I adore the real and fresh feel to it. It is written in first person – but with a twist, and that is that you are reading both the lead characters point of view, something which I haven't come across before and it really works. This is supremely sexy and sassy book, deep in emotion.
The Talon And The Blade by Jasmine Silvera
Azrael's Black Blade meets his match...
Over two hundred years, Gregor Schwarz earned his brutal notoriety. As the necromancer Azrael's pitiless enforcer, few--living or dead--dare to cross him. But when he's sent to Los Angeles to satisfy one of his boss's debts, Gregor encounters a powerful and intriguing woman who is utterly unimpressed by his fearsome reputation.
... in the Nightfeather's Talons.
Trained by samurai, her skills honed to perfection through a quest for vengeance, Ana Gozen serves as judge, jury, and executioner for Raymond Nightfeather, the necromancer of North America. Ana is exquisitely proficient and certainly needs no help from an outsider--especially a trigger-happy immortal with a reputation for lunacy. But when a plot to overthrow Raymond comes to light, Ana is ordered to work with Gregor to hunt down and destroy a grace-blooded monster responsible for a series of vicious attacks. If these two solitary warriors can surmount the pain of their separate pasts, they just might prevent total chaos--and capture a future together.
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
I love Jasmine Silvera’s writing. The Grace Bloods series (of which The Talon & the Blade is the third) manages to meld paranormal romance with urban fantasy and the end result is what I consider to be romantic urban fantasy, and a subgenre I long to read more of in the future.
Silvera’s worldbuilding is exquisite, and this continues in the first in the series to not focus on Azrael and Isela. Instead, we follow Gregor, who works for Azrael, out of Europe and across to North America for the first time. Here we meet, Ana Gozen, the kind of kickarse, no-nonsense heroine I love to read. But what made this book really standout for me, is the way in which both solitary characters coped with working with each other. Seeing each of them assess the other, and eventually begin to drop their walls, was heartwarming and showed a new side to Gregor we hadn’t seen before.
And I can’t forget to mention the action. Worldbuilding only goes so far, and Silvera elevates her world through the action, mystery and monsters that run through it. Prepare to be on the edge of your seat for a rollicking, romantic, riveting ride.
A Runaway Bride For The Highlander by Elisabeth Hobbes
Lost in the Highlands. Found by the Scottish Earl!
Far from her home in France, Marguerite Vallon escapes her arranged marriage to a man she despises. Stowing away in a stranger’s cart, she finds herself headed deep into the Highlands with Ewan Lochmore, new Earl of Glenarris!
Ewan vows to protect her. But maybe the freedom Marguerite has been searching for can be found with this rugged warrior…
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Megan
Ewan and Marguerite have a few chance meetings while in Sterling that seem to connect them far deeper than either want to admit but as Marguerite puts her escape plan in action Ewan cannot resist but help get her to safety.
The Lochmore series involves many secrets and questions, and Hobbes is able to answer some of the questions but also alludes to others. Her descriptions are brilliant, she paints such a beautiful picture of the scenery and weather you can imagine yourself there and cold. She ties into the previous Lochmore books giving you the same images and more details of the castle itself helping to tie it all together. The details and unfolding love of Ewan and Marguerite do not disappoint. You cannot help but cheer them on as they hide from McCrieff on their travels and cherish all the tender moments they share. Hobbes makes their feelings so real and raw you become fully invested in the ups and downs of their time together, whether you want to yell at them or cry with them, you'll keep turning the page.
However, as good as the story is, my favorite part has to be the epilogue! Hobbes is one of the few authors who can finalize a book in a way that leaves you crying happy tears. You'll know exactly what happened and how Ewan and Marguerite overcame some of their biggest fears together while living a life they thought could only be a dream. A delightful book for true romantics!
Rebel by Beverly Jenkins
Valinda Lacy’s mission in the steamy heart of New Orleans is to help the newly emancipated community survive and flourish. But soon she discovers that here, freedom can also mean danger. When thugs destroy the school she has set up and then target her, Valinda runs for her life—and straight into the arms of Captain Drake LeVeq.
As an architect from an old New Orleans family, Drake has a deeply personal interest in rebuilding the city. Raised by strong women, he recognizes Valinda’s determination. And he can’t stop admiring—or wanting—her. But when Valinda’s father demands she return home to marry a man she doesn’t love, her daring rebellion draws Drake into an irresistible intrigue.
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
Ms Bev does it again.
It actually came as somewhat of a surprise to me how many historical romances I’ve loved this month, especially when I don’t read them all that often. But when they are of such high quality, one can’t help but be utterly charmed.
Rebel is set in New Orleans after the Civil War, with Captain Drake and teacher Valinda meeting in less than auspicious circumstances when she is attacked outside her makeshift schoolroom. Valinda and Drake are from different backgrounds, with different experiences of life and of being black, but this doesn’t change the attraction between them. There’s a spark from the moment they meet, despite Valinda’s engagement to another man, and it characterizes their interactions. In fact, this book has one of my favorite exchanges of all time, as a clearly besotted Drake (even if he doesn’t quite know it yet) is put quite firmly in his place by a bemused Valinda:
“I think I’m in love.”
“No, you aren’t. Eat your food.”
This is a book of passion and heartache and true love, and Valinda and Drake’s Happy Ever After is more than deserved by characters who have gone through and seen so much. Though there is sadness in this book, there is such joy in their union and in their finding each other that I was totally overwhelmed by the book’s close.
Also, make sure to read Ms Bev’s Author’s Note; it is full of interesting information about the Reconstruction era, and has some great historical non-fiction recommendations for further reading.
Proper English by KJ Charles
A shooting party at the Earl of Witton’s remote country house is a high treat for champion shot Patricia Merton—until unexpected guests turn the social atmosphere dangerously sour.
That’s not Pat’s biggest problem. She’s visiting her old friend, the Earl’s heir Jimmy Yoxall—but she wants to spend a lot more time with Jimmy’s fiancée. The irrepressible Miss Fenella Carruth, with her laughing eyes and lush curves, is the most glorious woman Pat’s ever met, and it quickly becomes impossible to remember why she needs to stay at arm’s length.
But while the women’s attraction grows, the tensions at Rodington Court get worse. Affairs, secrets, betrayals, and blackmail come to light. And when a body is discovered with a knife between the shoulderblades, it’s going to take Pat and Fen’s combined talents to prevent the murderer destroying all their lives.
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
In some ways I feel like I need to preface this review with a disclaimer: I love KJ Charles’ books. She’s funny and smart and her characters more than deserve the Happy Ever Afters they get. So it wasn’t exactly a surprise to me that I loved her latest offering. But what an offering it is.
Patricia – Pat – is one of the lads. Just another member of the shooting party at her friend Jimmy’s country estate. But when she arrives, there are more guests than just those attending the shooting party. There’s Jimmy’s odious brother-in-law, the vegetarian Miss Victoria Singh, and of course Miss Fenella Carruth, newly engaged to Jimmy. Now, it wouldn’t really be a Charles novel without a dead body, and Proper English gives us a perfect murder mystery, everyone trapped inside Rodington Court whilst suspicion mounts on all sides as tempers fray and secrets threaten to spill out into the light.
This was an utterly charming read, with the balance between mystery and romance perfected, and Pat falling head-over-heels for the lovely Fen. And I really appreciated the acknowledgement of the complexity of negotiating relationships during the era. Also, Charles does a great job of showing us that Maurice Haworth is racist, without quoting exactly what he says to Miss Singh. Pat’s disgust is more than enough. A brilliant book that makes me so happy to see positive f/f historical rep.
Ice Cream Lover by Jackie Lau
I hate ice cream. Ever since my fiancée left me at the altar and skewered me in her bestseller “Embrace Your Inner Ice Cream Sandwich: Finding the Positive You in a World of Negativity,” I haven’t been able to stomach the stuff.
Unfortunately, my five-year-old niece is a budding foodie and her favorite place in the world is Ginger Scoops, a cutesy Asian ice cream shop. Since I’ve been looking after my niece a lot lately, I’ve spent too much time there, sipping black coffee, refusing to eat ice cream, and trying not to look at the owner, Chloe Jenkins. Chloe is obnoxiously cheerful, and I can’t stand her.
Naturally, I end up kissing her.
But I’ve sworn off women after the fiasco with my ex-fiancée, and I’m convinced I’m no good at relationships. Still, with Chloe I’m tempted to do the impossible: give love and ice cream another chance…
Rated: 4.5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
I love Jackie Lau’s books. She manages to capture complex emotions and assign them to characters you can’t help but fall in love with. Ice Cream Lover is no different. Drew and Chloe are funny and kind protagonists whose relationships with their ex-fiance (his) and family (hers) form a crucial element of their internal conflict. It’s really difficult to get that “left at the altar so bitter at life” character right – too often we end up with a heroine who’s “not like other women” and that just grates me, but Lau moves beyond that.
Instead, we have two characters whose introspection allows us and them to read and analysis why they are the way they are. These are characters who are self-aware and who know what they need to do to move on in life – and they don’t blame everyone else around them for it, either. It’s refreshing, as is Chloe’s father’s response after she talks to him about experiences as a biracial Chinese-Canadian woman. Chloe is also bisexual (YAY! Nuanced bi rep for this bifurious reviewer!)
But I can’t talk about this book without mentioning the food. In the first book in the series, The Ultimate Pi Day Party, we got pie. In this book? Ice cream. And dear lord it sounds good… Macha cheesecake and black sesame and strawberry-lychee… Good food always makes a book that much more special for me, and I just want to spend my life in Ginger Scoops, eating Chloe’s ice cream. Preferably fed to me by Drew. Delicious book.
The Love Song Of Sawyer Bell by Avon Gale
Victoria “Vix” Vincent has only two weeks to find a replacement fiddle player for her band’s summer tour. When classically trained violinist Sawyer Bell shows up for an audition, Vix is thrilled. Sawyer is talented, gorgeous, funny, and excited about playing indie rock instead of Beethoven. Their friendship soon blossoms into romance, even though Vix tries to remember that Sawyer’s presence is only temporary.
Sawyer’s parents think she’s spending the summer months touring Europe with a chamber ensemble. But Sawyer is in dire need of a break from the competitiveness of Juilliard, and desperately wants to rediscover her love of music. Going on tour with her secret high school crush is just an added bonus. Especially when Vix kisses her one night after a show, and they discover that the stage isn’t the only place they have chemistry.
But the tour won’t last forever, and as the summer winds down, Sawyer has to make a tough decision about her future—and what it means to follow her heart.
Rated: 4 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Cailin
Victoria “Vix” Vincent is about to take her band on a cross country tour, but their fiddle player has adopted a child with his partner, and nobody wants to tour with an infant. Sawyer Bell is home for the summer before her senior year at Julliard and isn’t sure she wants to go back.
Sawyer auditions for the sport of fiddle player, and blows Victoria and the rest of the band away. The pair bonds over long nights driving across the country, dirty truck stops, and playing music together.
This book is perfect for a quiet afternoon in, I lost track of time while reading, and couldn’t help but cheer for Vix and Sawyer as they figured out their relationship and how it would affect both of their music careers. I especially loved how Avon Gale approached Vix’s bisexuality and how unapologetic she was for who she is. The characters felt real, and I loved how supportive the friends around Vix and Sawyer were from the beginning. I recommend picking up this book ASAP if you’re looking for a fun and cute F/F read!
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