August Book Reviews
It's time for our August reviews and the #PHSBookReviews team have all had their noses firmly stuck in some really great books this past month!
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Torn between two worlds, desperate to save one love. The Summer Court is nothing like Sebastian remembers. The oppressed lower classes are drained of their magick, and around every corner political intrigues threaten an already unstable regime. Sebastian’s only hope of surviving the Court and bringing home Prince Lyne’s traitorous brother lies with Duine, a magickless Unseelie servant desperate to win his freedom. A servant for whom Sebastian, an estranged Seelie royal himself, is developing a dangerous and deepening affection. But behind the mask Duine wears are secrets as dangerous as what’s smoldering between them. And the more Duine helps Sebastian navigate Court life, the more it becomes clear the servant is not who he appears to be. How he came to be the whipping boy of one of the most powerful and corrupt faeries in the Summer Court is a truth Sebastian is determined to uncover, even if it puts him at odds with the very people who can lead him to the missing Unseelie prince. When a powerful enemy steps from the shadows, it could spell the end not just for the Unseelie, but for both faerie Courts. Sebastian must choose: complete the mission and earn his place among the Unseelie who took him in, or risk his very life to ensure freedom for the man he loves.
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Gwessie
Having loved the first book in the series, I was very much looking forward to book two. But I didn’t realize I would love it even more. We see some of our friends from the first book, Prince Roark, Phineas and Sebastian (who has some secrets, including some he doesn’t even know himself). In an effort to help his friends Sebastian goes to the Summer Court of King Oberon in hopes of finding High Prince Slàine. Though the scenery reminded me of Rivendell, all is most definitely not what it seems, and a High Princess with a vicious streak makes things harder for our heroes, who work together to discover more about themselves and each other on this journey. It is a roller coaster ride from hijinks to tragedy, and a lot of karma is served up along the way. Luckily some new alliances are made which will most definitely help them on their journey.
We learn more may be afoot than thought which leads to our next hero, the Prince's young brother. I’m eagerly wanting to read about him and the first two books have set the benchmark. I highly recommend this book to all who love young adult fantasy in magical lands where love knows no boundaries. Personally, I'm hoping we see the Winter Queen again and that she listens to her sons. I’ll most definitely be rereading these books and am already stalking the author's website in anticipation of the next book in the series.
Brazen and the Beast by Sarah MacLean
The Lady's Plan... When Lady Henrietta Sedley declares her twenty-ninth year her own, she has plans to inherit her father's business, to make her own fortune, and to live her own life. But first, she intends to experience a taste of the pleasure she'll forgo as a confirmed spinster. Everything is going perfectly...until she discovers the most beautiful man she's ever seen tied up in her carriage and threatening to ruin the Year of Hattie before it's even begun. The Bastard's Proposal...
When he wakes in a carriage at Hattie's feet, Whit, a king of Covent Garden known to all the world as Beast, can't help but wonder about the strange woman who frees him--especially when he discovers she's headed for a night of pleasure . . . on his turf. He is more than happy to offer Hattie all she desires...for a price. An Unexpected Passion... Soon, Hattie and Whit find themselves rivals in business and pleasure. She won't give up her plans; he won't give up his power . . . and neither of them sees that if they're not careful, they'll have no choice but to give up everything . . . including their hearts.
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
This was a romance I needed to read. MacLean is, as ever, funny and clever, with beautiful period details, but for me this book’s charm lies in its primary concept: The Year of Hattie.
Lady Henrietta Sedley, or Hattie, has decided she’s going to take charge of her own life, fortune and future – and that means taking charge of her father’s business before her feckless brother ruins them all, and taking care of her virginity before she settles into a life of spinsterhood and business. Of course, then she meets Whit, and everything changes.
Hattie is the kind of heroine we need to see more of in Romancelandia; one who’s not afraid to go after what she wants and what she needs, and for whom love is something that enhances her life, not fixes it. This is a woman who is determined to sort things out for herself, and it’s a delight to read. Much of MacLean’s merchandising for this book has been centred around the phrase The Year of You, and it’s a mantra I want to take on for myself. I want to try and fill my life with the passion Hattie has for hers.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention that chapter. Chapter Ten. I shan’t go into detail, for fear of spoiling it for you, but let’s just say I was glad I had a fan in my bag…
Three Part Harmony by Holley Trent
Sometimes three is deliciously better than two Raleigh McKean has borne witness to every conceivable way one person can take advantage of another. He sees it all the time in his job as a book publicist, especially working alongside his boss’s daughter. Everley Shannon would be amazing if she wasn’t such a pain in his ass. All Raleigh wants is something real. But when the captivating stranger he agrees to go home with turns out to be Bruce Engle, the elusive rock star, it’s a harsh reminder that users are everywhere. Raleigh’s his route to a book deal, nothing more. What Raleigh doesn’t realize is that the brooding musician is also searching for something real—and it’s possible he’s already found it in Everley’s arms. But is there room in those arms for one more? With Everley’s own dream of getting out from under her father’s shadow crumbling into chaos, it feels like the perfect time to embrace something new. But when Raleigh’s insatiable attraction to both Everley and Bruce makes it impossible to keep his distance, there’s only one obvious solution…assuming they can learn how to share.
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Mercy
Goodness, Holley Trent served up something spectacular with this one! I can’t stop thinking about it, talking about it…I may be obsessed.
I’ve read quite a few books involving polyamorous relationships and this one is now at the top of the list. Let’s start with the three main characters, Raleigh, Bruce, and Everley. They may be three of the most unique and fully formed characters I’ve ever seen sharing a page. Each one of them had a quality of realness, as if the author physically blew life into them. I can hear their voices, see their faces, and predict their reactions. It’s interesting, they are literal fictitious creations, and yet I miss them as I would a friend who’ll be gone awhile. Honestly, I procrastinated finishing the book because I didn’t want to say goodbye. The depth of emotion each character brought to the story is a thing of beauty.
Bruce’s neurodiversity is approached in a way I’ve not seen. It was authentic and honest. It felt deliberate and full of love. Raleigh and Everley’s (Bruce had this as well) shared experience with privilege and living with the pressure of expectation played beautifully within the storyline. Honestly, every detail of this book sang! I can’t forget to mention that Holley Trent’s dialogue is some of the best I’ve read.
I will NEVER forget this book. It is one of those ones we think back on and know we were forever changed because of it. Three Part Harmony is truly a masterpiece in my eyes!
Too Sweet to Be Good by K.M. Jackson
Between the bustling local bakery, helpful neighbors, and down-home wisdom, Sugar Lake is a delicious place to call home—and love is the sweetest risk . . .
Alexandrea Gale put her acting career on hold to help keep her family’s bakery in business—and gave it a few eye-catching updates while she was at it. To earn money to return to New York, she puts her design skills to work with a job renovating a once thriving local vintage theater. But Alexandrea didn’t bargain on the owner’s business-minded grandson fighting her every step of the way—or proving so unexpectedly irresistible . . .
As the new head of his family’s real estate business, Kellen Kilborn feels that selling the theater is the only way to do right by the grandmother who helped raise him. He just can’t take a risk on Alexandrea’s inventive ideas—but he also can’t walk away from her warm-hearted free spirit. As troubling decisions threaten to tear them apart, can they create a way to turn their dreams into the sweetest of futures together?
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
I’m finally back in Sugar Lake! I read the first book in the series last year, and couldn’t be more delighted to be back with Jackson’s creations, finally getting to see Alex get her HEA!
Jackson is so very adept at creating a full and well-rounded world, and the community of Sugar Lake shines through in this novel, as it did in the last, with our hero’s grandmother deserving a very special shout out.
Alex and Kellen find themselves butting heads over the local theatre – to sell or not to sell, that is the question – and end up falling in love along the way. It’s a charming romance that takes place in the kind of diverse small town we love to see at PHS, and proves once again what a skillful and moving writer Jackson is.
Settle in for laughter, frustration and some very happy tears over the most perfect of endings.
When a man makes his living by his looks, he can forget that love—and lust—are more than skin deep. But the right woman can remind him …
A former soccer player, stripper, and model, legendary party boy Patrick Halloran finally gets his big break starring in the summer blockbuster. But when an accident leaves him changed forever, he hides away in his secluded Montana ranch. Only his new housekeeper is allowed inside—with one rule: she’s not allowed to see him. But Pat sees her, and she’s the most stunning woman he’s ever laid eyes on. Even her voice is beautiful. Still, Pat can’t allow himself to get close to anyone. Not without a fight at least … Magdalena “Lena” Martel is a long way from Queens, New York. After a rough patch, the aspiring artist is working her way through college—even if it means keeping house for a man whose gruff voice she can only hear through a closed door. Still, Lena senses Pat’s got a good heart, maybe even a lovable one. She’s intrigued—until his anger sends her running into the freezing woods. Now Pat will have to find her—and when he does he may have found the one woman who can thaw his heart—not to mention the rest of him. But can their new bond survive the paparazzi—and their personal demons?
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
Flashed is the final book in Castile’s Happy Endings trilogy, and as much as I loved the other two books (and believe me, I did), this has come out as my favourite.
A twist on the Beauty and the Beast fairytale, with a student artist working as a housekeeper for a reclusive and agoraphobic ex-actor/model/stripper, this is no timid romance. It delivers on its emotional promise, as well as being witty and clever. And there is a scene where they overhear the other masturbating that blew me away. Their connection before they ever meet in person is palpable. I think what I love most about it, is how full my heart felt after reading it. It’s a beautiful story and bright, singing Lena and her quiet grumpy Pat really work for their HEA.
It’s also important to note this is not a romance with a fix – partly because neither of these characters are broken. They have issues to work through, yes, but Castile describes their experiences and emotions with a deft hand that never ‘others’ them or their romance.
Along for the Ride by Mimi Grace
This road to love may have a few speed bumps…
Former hot mess Jolene Baxter is committed to doing better. It’s why she offered to help her sister and brother-in-law move across the country. However, her goodwill is tested when last minute changes—mainly her father ditching her for an all-expenses paid vacation—forces her to make the journey with a man who is the human version of a pebble in her shoe.
Jason Akana operates on lists and bitter coffee, but none of those things will help him on a sixteen-hour trip with the most infuriating woman. Maybe they can get along and forget their heated confrontation five years ago at his best friend’s wedding…when pigs fly.
But the addition of vehicle problems, an unplanned pit stop in a small town, and chemistry that inconveniently tags along, shifts their perspectives. And once the dust settles after their trip, a tentative friendship emerges. Will these two stubborn people successfully navigate the unexpected feelings that follow close behind? Or will they hit a roadblock before reaching happily ever after?
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
Even though I love a forced proximity romance, I’ve never been overly keen on road trip romances. I blame Kerouac (someone has to). However, Grace’s debut, Along for the Ride captivated me and I must declare myself a convert.
Jolene and Jason don’t like each other. As in, they actively really seriously dislike each other, but when they’re willing to put that to one side to help her sister and his best friend move across the country, they’re forced into close proximity (hurrah!) for the journey.
This novel is charming, very funny, and also a refreshing take on the enemies-to-friends trope. I really like the fact that their first proper meeting (set before the book opens) is fraught with emotion and embarrassment on both sides, and the fact that Jolene in particular is determined to show growth.
The characters are incredibly likeable, though deliciously flawed, and I found myself willing them together from the outset. An utterly charming read with a very satisfying HEA.
Dalliances & Devotion by Felicia Grossman
After two disastrous marriages, beauty columnist Amalia Truitt’s life is finally her own—well, it will be if she can get herself back to Delaware and demand access to her share of the Truitt family fortune. After all, the charity she’s organized for women who can’t afford their own divorces won’t fund itself.
However, not everyone wants her to reach her destination. When her family learns she’s been receiving anonymous death threats, a solo journey is out of the question.
Enter David Zisskind, the ragtag-peddler-turned-soldier whose heart Amalia broke years ago. He’s a Pinkerton now, and the promotion he craves depends on protecting his long-lost love on the unexpectedly treacherous journey across Pennsylvania.
That their physical connection has endured the test of time (and then some) is problematic, to say the least.
In very close quarters, with danger lurking around every curve, with each kiss and illicit touch, the wrongs of the past are righted. But David can’t weather another rejection, especially with his career in jeopardy. And Amalia can’t possibly take a lover, never mind another husband…not with so much depending on her repaired reputation. Not when she’s hurt David—her David—so badly before.
Rated: 4.5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Dani
Yes, yes, yes. This was just what I wanted to read. A newspaper columnist and two-time divorcee is the target of harassment and needs a bodyguard in the form of her first love? YES. And let’s also mention they are both Jewish, plus he’s an immigrant. And it’s all set a few years after the end of the American Civil War.
Our wonderful couple consist of Amalia and David, former young lovers who have a misunderstanding and part ways, with Amalia going as far as to get married to another man in reaction. Yes, really. Amalia comes across as initially frivolous and superficial on the surface, until you realize you’re being very judgmental and she’s actually a clever, useful, and fun person to have around. She’s also incredibly resourceful and caring, dedicating herself to helping women escape bad marriages. David, on the flip side, comes across as more serious, though Amalia does bring out the teasing side of him. Swoon. He’s rather stubborn though and holds a lot of beliefs that are quite frankly just silly about who he is and what people think of him. And they are perfect for each other. Who doesn’t like a second chance romance?
The book is on the longer side, but don’t let that put you off. In fact, I just wanted to keep reading, stay in this narrative with two characters that clearly wanted each other but hadn’t been clear in the past and made themselves unhappy in doing so. They had such great chemistry, with this back-and-forth thinking they weren’t suited but still not being able to resist each other. There were some excellent sexy scenes, I must say.
It wasn’t just the heatwave in London that had me fanning myself!
I learned so much from this book, further proving how awesome romance novels can be. For example, I learned about the Pinkertons, the first detective agency in the US, which David was in. I learned immigrants to the US, like David, volunteered to fight in the civil war. I learned about the difficulties of getting a divorce and how you had to go about it in the 1870s.
I also realized just how little I'd actually read from the perspective of Jewish people. I’ve read non-fiction accounts from the Holocaust, but novels? And set in other time periods? Not so much. Earlier this year, I read my first YA historical novel, the absolutely brilliant In the Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton, all about a Jewish teenager who has to move to Atlanta, Georgia to live with her Christian grandparents and see the effects of the KKK’s presence on her community in 1958. Then came this book. I have a feeling I may have read one or two books in the past, but I can’t recall them. But it’s still such a low number of Jewish main characters. And Dalliances & Devotion went a step further by showing the diversity even within the Jewish population.
But you’re not just reading this book for the history and cultural lessons. What you’re really reading it for is the electric connection between the characters, as well as their personal growth. The action, excitement, and funny supporting cast also keep things engaging. Dalliances & Devotion is a delightfully different historical romance that has converted me into a Felicia Grossman fan!
All Hours by Andie J. Christopher
A Restless Romantic
Felix Pascual misses being someone’s boyfriend, which is why he’s willing to get set up by the only Hernandez he'll admit to liking (out loud)—Lola. But when he gets to the restaurant he finds that Lola has matched him up with none other than Joaquin Delgado, a man who has never shown one iota of interest in him.. And Joaquin doesn't seem any more open to Felix's unique charms this time around... A Skeptical Suitor
Joaquin will do anything for his grandmother. Even give a foul-mouthed, flashy Puerto Rican caterer who gets on his nerves—and makes him thirsty all at once—a chance to run his kitchen after he’s injured. After all, it's just a few weeks. And he won’t be tempted since he’s given up on dating anyway... A Match Made in South Beach
But Felix won't give up without the satisfaction of getting Joaquin to admit that he wants him. Felix is stubborn, and his growing desire for Joaquin is about proving a point. After all, it can't possibly turn into something real...
Rated: 4.5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
This was an absolute delight. Firstly, it’s a foodie romance, with two gorgeous Latinx heroes (Cuban-American and Puerto Rican respectively) falling in love despite themselves. Secondly, Christopher can really, really write. She captures the emotion and the tension between Joaquin and Felix brilliantly, making us will them towards a HEA.
This is a romance about second chances, and allowing yourself to see past first impressions, to revisit and question your assumptions about other people, and it’s all the more satisfying for it.
But I’d like to come back to the foodie aspect of the romance. Too often we see rival kitchens, or a chef who wants to feed their paramour (not complaining, just pointing out), but here we have an established chef who has to let someone help run his kitchen after he’s injured. There’s something about starting the book off with one of the characters made vulnerable in this way that makes it very satisfying when Felix reveals his vulnerable side as well.
Playing House by Ruby Lang
The last thing Oliver Huang expects to see on the historic Mount Morris home tour is longtime acquaintance Fay Liu bustling up and kissing him hello. He’s happy to playact being a couple to save her from a pushy admirer. Fay’s beautiful, successful and smart, and if he’s being honest, Oliver has always had a bit of a thing for her.
Maybe more than a bit.
Geeking out over architectural details is Oliver and Fay’s shared love language, and soon they’re touring pricey real estate across Upper Manhattan as the terribly faux but terribly charming couple Darling and Olly.
For the first time since being laid off from the job he loved, Oliver has something to look forward to. And for the first time since her divorce, Fay’s having fun.
Somewhere between the light-filled living rooms and spacious closets they’ve explored, this faux relationship just may have sparked some very real feelings. For Oliver and Fay, home truly is where their hearts are.
Rated: 4 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Cailin
Playing House follows Fay and Oliver, two urban planners who reconnect during a neighborhood architectural tour, while they pretend to be romantically involved to help Fay avoid unwanted attention from a persistent man. They have fun! Which isn’t something either of them are used to at this point. They start scheduling more apartment tours as a fake couple, Olly and Darling. As they fake date, they begin to realize they aren’t just attracted to each other but might have feelings!?
This book hits all of my favorite tropes; fake-relationship, acquaintances-to-friends-to-lovers, characters with goals and dreams, and characters who have strong relationships outside of the one they are building. The story was cute and fast-paced, and the characters shared history really helped with that. We weren’t starting from “hello,” we were starting from “it’s been a while,” which is always very enjoyable. But at times the dialogue felt a little stilted, as if it was meant to be narration.
Nevertheless, the whole afternoon I was cheering for Oliver and Fay to recognize their connection was real, and to become their best selves individually so they could come together with no regrets
Seduced by Second Chances by Reese Ryan
Gideon Johns inspired singer Jessie Humphrey to write her first hit about unrequited love. So when a star-studded event brings Jessie face-to-face with her former crush, sparks fly. But the handsome-as-ever real estate billionaire is still her sister's ex. Still off-limits. Still impossible to resist. Is she setting herself up for more heartache, or for her wildest fantasy come true?
Rated: 4 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Tamara
This was a page turner! There wasn’t a dull page in this book.
Jesse and Gideon have been secretly pining for each other for the last 15 years. There are a lot of "what ifs" considering Gideon is Jesse’s sister's ex. What would have happened if they shared their feelings all those years ago? What about the time they’ve missed out on? Unfortunately, the main characters were often overshadowed by the secondary couple, Teresa and Liam. Their story, at times, had much more heat and drama.
Having said that, I like the way this book was written; the writer has a distinct way with words. This was my first book from Reese Ryan, but having now checked how many books she has written, I'd say this will be long summer of catch-up reading.
Forbidden to Touch by JC Harroway
One contract for work...
Another contract for play.
Confident, controlled, and thigh-clenchingly hot, Reid Faulkner was the object of my naughtiest teenaged desires. Now I have a contract to redesign his family's flagship hotel. Only I want more. Like a second contract - one that allows Reid to fulfil my filthiest fantasies. But lust at first touch quickly turns into something much more...might Reid protect his heart at all costs - even if it means breaking mine?
Rated: 4 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Rachel
Forbidden to Touch is the third book in JC Harroway’s Billionaire Bachelors series.
Reid Faulkner takes over the family business, a successful hotel chain, when his father Graham is diagnosed with dementia. After being burned by his ex-wife in a nasty divorce, Reid is determined to make Faulkner as successful as possible, in order to payback his father for paying Reid’s divorce settlement.
Then, surprisingly, Blaire Cameron walks into Reid’s office, telling him that Graham has hired her to redecorate Faulkner. Reid is immediately suspicious Blaire is trying to take advantage of his father, but despite this finds he is sexually attracted to her. The pair soon start a no strings attached affair, but things get complicated as they start to develop feelings for one another.
Despite this book being the third book in the series, I don’t think you necessarily have to read them in order. I have not read the two previous books and was able to pick up quickly on who’s who. If you're looking for the steam factor, then look no further. I thought this story was very spicy. Which I don’t mind, but I think the author could have cut out a few sex scenes. I would have liked to see more interaction between Blair and Reid outside the bedroom. I did like that they bonded over his father’s illness. Having personal experience with a loved one suffering from dementia, I was glad to see some awareness being shed on this terrible disease.
Overall, I really liked this story, and am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
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