It's April book reviews time! And our #PHSBookReviews team has another great collection of reads to accompany the beginning of Spring!
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Engaging the Enemy by Reese Ryan
‘That's the deal. Take it…or leave it.’
Parker Abbott will do whatever it takes to be the next CEO of King’s Finest Distillery, even play fake fiancé to his childhood nemesis, Kayleigh Jemison.
Yet as he and the fiery redhead get reacquainted, sparks fly and real passion emerges.
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Gwessie
It's not often I read books from Desire imprint, but something in the blurb told me that I just had to read this book. It grabbed my attention and wouldn't let go, and I'm so glad that it did.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The enemies to lovers trope is one that I really enjoy, especially as it means that the happy ever after is very much earned.
This book is beautifully written. I love that our author gave us just enough information to be intrigued about how and why the hate between the two main characters started, and to drive us mad with wanting to know all the details and I'm glad to say you do find out, thank goodness!
Whilst telling this beautiful story, the author definitely had me seeing all the places visited during our story, from Kayleigh's workshop, to New York and the Caribbean; all of which I've never been to but sound amazing. I also loved the fact that Kayleigh's occupation is actually a hobby that I have—although I won't spoil it of you!
I most definitely highly recommend this book. I'm hooked and will most definitely be collecting the others in this series when I can, as well as stalking Ms Ryan's backlist.
A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole
Nya Jerami fled Thesolo for the glitz and glamour of NYC but discovered that her Prince Charming only exists in her virtual dating games. When Nya returns home for a royal wedding, she accidentally finds herself up close and personal—in bed—with the real-life celebrity prince who she loves to hate.
For Johan von Braustein, the red-headed step-prince of Liechtienbourg, acting as paparazzi bait is a ruse that protects his brother—the heir to the throne—and his own heart. When a royal referendum threatens his brother’s future, a fake engagement is the perfect way to keep the cameras on him.
Nya and Johan both have good reasons to avoid love, but as desires are laid bare behind palace doors, they must decide if their fake romance will lead to a happily-ever-after.
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Imogen
It’s the wedding of the year between Thesolo’s Prince Thabiso and his brilliant, nerdy, bride Naledi. Among the invitees is of course the Prince’s BFF, Johan Von Braustein, step-son to the reigning monarch of Liechtienbourg, Prince of the Paparrazi if not actually technically.
Also invited is the daughter of Thesolo’s #1 jerk-face, who schemed, plotted and poisoned his way into his current prison cell, and worst of all manipulated and gaslit his own daughter into thinking that she was weak and worthless. Nuh uh, our Nya is a new woman. She knows who she is and who she wants to be. The only thing she’s unsure about is if she’s ever going to find her own Prince Charming, or if she should just stick to her romantic fantasy games. There the choices are as easy as A, B, or C. On her way home for the wedding on the royal plane, she discovers that her private plane may not be as private as she thought. On finding Johan fast asleep in the super huge, comfy bed that she wanted to nap in, should she
A: Run Screaming?
B: Join him?
C: Realise that the sexy, handsome man that she’s always loved to hate is currently sleeping with the ugliest, most beat up, raggedy teddy bear that she has ever seen and discover a whole new side to the man she thought she knew?
Most readers have already fallen a little bit in love with both Nya and Johan in the first two Reluctant Royals books. Discovering that Johan deliberately plays the bad boy for the media in order to keep the attention away from his little sibling, teenage heir to an entire country, Nya agrees to a fake engagement to help them have space to grow up. And when Nya decides that it is time for her to explore her sexuality, cold shower alert! As to this fake engagement, will they
A: shake hands and move on?
B: Agree to a fwb arrangement?
C: Fall madly in love and live happily ever after?
C for the win, and now if you could just point the way to the nearest Thesolonian consulate…
The Takeover Effect by Nisha Sharma
Hemdeep Singh knows exactly what he wants. With his intelligence and determination, he has what it takes to build his own legacy away from Bharat, Inc. and the empire his father created. But when his brother calls him home, Hem puts his dreams on hold once again to help save the company he walked away from. That’s when he encounters the devastating Mina Kohli in the Bharat boardroom, and he realizes he’s in for more than he had bargained.
Mina will do whatever it takes to recover control of her mother’s law firm, even if it means agreeing to an arranged marriage. Her newest case assignment is to assist Bharat in the midst of a potential takeover. It could be the key to finally achieving her goal while preventing her marriage to a man she doesn’t love—as long as her explosive attraction to Hem doesn’t get in the way.
As Mina and Hem work to save Bharat, they not only uncover secrets that could threaten the existence of the company, but they also learn that in a winner-takes-all game, love always comes out on top.
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
I've been looking forward to this romance for months. Nisha Sharma's first adult romance is guaranteed to be a smash hit. With family drama, a smart heroine with drive and sass, and a hero who's sinfully sexy, it's one of the best romances that I've read this year.
One of the things that made it truly standout, is the level of detail that goes into the business narrative—Hemdeep is no generic billionaire tycoon, and Mina is no generic lawyer. This novel proves that the devil is in the details. The fact that we actually get to see the two of them work through the intricacies and legalities of challenging a potential company takeover together only help emphasise that these are the kind of characters that we need to see more of in romance. Seeing them work so damn hard and smash it out of the park professionally only makes them sexier.
Sharma has built a world and introduced us to a family and wider friends whom I'm dying to get to know better. Hem has two other brothers who deserve their own HEAs, and I have a sneaky suspicion that Mina's best friend may feature in a future novel as well.
Absolutely brilliant. One for the keeper shelf.
Keeping a Warrior by Melanie Hansen
Sometimes the only hope for the walking wounded is in each other’s arms.
Devon Lowe is a survivor. A survivor of war. Of combat. And of a betrayal by men she considered her brothers-in-arms. But her trailblazing work as a Cultural Support Team member working alongside the navy SEALs is too important for her to back down now.
Fresh off a painful breakup, air force pararescueman Rhys Halloran recognizes Devon’s trauma for what it is—something that’s left her isolated but far from irreparably damaged.
With Devon’s trust still lying shattered back in Afghanistan, putting her faith in a man who’s nursing a broken heart isn’t easy. But she’s tired of people making her feel weak, and Rhys makes her feel anything but, sparking a heated attraction that was never part of the plan.
With all eyes on Devon to prove herself in a brutal man’s world, having it all will mean putting her heart on the line like never before. But when it comes to Rhys, it’s an uphill battle she’s ready to fight.
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Tamara
A very well written romance, that is easy to read and gives you a lot to think about.
The author doesn't leave anything to the imagination when she describes horrors of a war zone, living there as foreigners or as a citizen... I could almost smell what she described.
This is a lovely love story, I really fell in love with both Devon and Rhys, I love how they connect and finally fall for each other. Devon is fighting her demons, but Rhys can feel her pain and his heart is helping her to heal. Their connection is simple and significant to both of them; they found beauty, love, and happiness in a cruel and dangerous world. Books like this make me wonder for days after I finish it what their life is like after the last page.
But the true focus is on how women are treated differently across the world, including within the US military. The disrespect that women face, and the way that many women are humiliated is eye opening. The facts that I learned about MST broke my heart.
Can't Escape Love by Alyssa Cole
Regina Hobbs is nerdy by nature, businesswoman by nurture. She's finally taking her pop culture-centered media enterprise, Girls with Glasses, to the next level, but the stress is forcing her to face a familiar supervillain: insomnia. The only thing that helps her sleep when things get this bad is the deep, soothing voice of puzzle-obsessed live streamer Gustave Nguyen. The problem? His archive has been deleted.
Gus has been tasked with creating an escape room themed around a romance anime…except he knows nothing about romance or anime. Then mega-nerd and anime expert Reggie comes calling, and they make a trade: his voice for her knowledge. But when their online friendship has IRL chemistry, will they be able to escape love?
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Imogen
If, like me, you have fallen in love with the brilliant POC women that Alyssa Cole writes, you have been waiting impatiently for this novella. This is a group of women that I want to be friends with. Smart, sex-positive scientists, former party girls who have realised that other people’s expectations of them do not need to define their self-worth, and savvy business women who have said to h*** with disability and taken their love of all things nerdy and geeky and turned it into a thriving online business. Forget the wheelchair, forget her parents always trying to coddle her, forget all of that, the only problem that Regina Hobbs has is that she just can't sleep!
Taking her online business Girls With Glasses to the next level means that she needs to be on her A game. Right now she’s so desperate that she’s willing to do anything, and there just might be an answer. There used to be this puzzle live stream whose creator had the most soothing voice ever. Only it’s been deleted! Now if only she can bring herself to ask…
Gustave Nguyen is having his own problems at the moment. This puzzle obsessed, neuro-diverse Vietnamese American man has just gotten the job of his dreams, creating an escape room based on a hugely popular anime series. Only, he knows nothing about anime. He’s just not getting to the heart of it, and he can’t figure this out, then this job is going to go sideways. If only he knew a pop-culture expert that he could ask….
Imagine his surprise when he gets an email from an old internet contact asking him for a recording of his voice. Strange right? However, perhaps they can make a trade, his voice for her anime expertise. Simple. Riiiiiiiight…
Alyssa Cole is always amazing, but with this novella she has hit Fish Fingers and Custard status. Running concurrently to Reggie’s twin sister Portia’s story in A Duke by Default, Can’t Escape Love manages to up the nerd factor, the representation, and the sexual tension. I’m sorry, but a man who announces that he’s seducing you with his cooking is hot. Plus, my gosh how sexy is consent! “Can I kiss you?” Allons y!
Hired by Zoey Castile
Faith Abigail Charles has always done the right thing. So when her mother runs for mayor of New Orleans, Faith puts her law career on hold to help her win. But when tensions run high, Faith trades one kind of heat for another--in the arms of a hard-bodied stranger. He's everything a woman dreams of in a lover. So much so that her one-night stand turns into two, then three, then four...
For Aiden Rios, meeting smart, sexy Faith feels like fate. After being ditched by his client in the Big Easy, the high-paid male escort needs a little company himself. Aiden knows he'll have to come clean about his line of work, and he plans to--right after another taste of Faith's sweetness--and another and another... Until a chance meeting with his client leaves Aiden exposed--and Faith shocked and hurt. Now the hired hottie must show Faith that the love they share is bigger than the scandal threatening to destroy them...
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
The second in Zoey Castile's Happy Ending series had me laughing, smiling and on the edge of my seat! Our heroine Faith has dedicated a huge chunk of her working life to her family, and to her mother's political career, and so when she decides to take a break for the first time ever, and comes across Aiden, she really lets go. But she doesn't know that Aiden's been working as an escort, and that lie could be the thing that keeps the two of them apart.
This novel is as smart and sexy as its characters, and I was completely drawn in to the world that Castile sketches out for us. It's no small feat to take a controversial topic like sex work, and make the hero an escort, but she does it with intelligence and without judgement - a refreshing take. Both characters worked hard for an HEA that felt honest and more than well deserved. Put to the top of your TBR asap.
Mrs Martin's Incomparable Adventure by Courtney Milan
Mrs. Bertrice Martin—a widow, some seventy-three years young—has kept her youthful-ish appearance with the most powerful of home remedies: daily doses of spite, regular baths in man-tears, and refusing to give so much as a single damn about her Terrible Nephew.
Then proper, correct Miss Violetta Beauchamps, a sprightly young thing of nine and sixty, crashes into her life. The Terrible Nephew is living in her rooming house, and Violetta wants him gone.
Mrs. Martin isn’t about to start giving damns, not even for someone as intriguing as Miss Violetta. But she hatches another plan—to make her nephew sorry, to make Miss Violetta smile, and to have the finest adventure of all time.
If she makes Terrible Men angry and wins the hand of a lovely lady in the process? Those are just added bonuses.
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
The moment I finished this book, I burst into tears. There was something about seeing two women completely flout conventions, go after the man and (literally) burn the patriarchy to the ground that was unbelievably freeing. Bertrice and Violetta might seem like unlikely heroines, being in their 70s and 60s respectively, but it's refreshing to see seasoned romance makes its way into historicals.
The two characters, one desperate after she has lost everything, and the other bitter and tired at a world that does not value her, end up fighting against Bertrice's Terrible Nephew together. Throw in a scene of making cheesy toast together, a couple more of absolute anarchy, and a slow burn romance that made my heart melt.
I needed this book more than I knew. Romance isn't just for the proper and the prim; it's for those of us who wish we could burn outmoded prejudice to the ground. Romance is political, and it's through reading romances like this, that we remember it.
Play It Again by Aidan Wayne
The videos are fun.
But it’s the host who has him coming back for more…
When Seattle-based blind YouTuber Dovid Rosenstein finds Sam Doyle’s Let’s Play channel, playitagainsam, he’s instantly captivated by the Irish gamer. Everything about Sam is adorable, from his accent to his personality, and Dovid can’t get enough of his content.
Dovid’s glowing shout-out on Don’t Look Now, his own successful channel, sends Sam’s subscriber numbers skyrocketing overnight. He has more comments than he can read. And while the sudden surge in popularity is anxiety inducing, Sam decides it’s only right to dedicate his next episode to Dovid…which soon leads to a heart-pounding exchange of DMs.
They may have never met in person, but Dovid’s never felt this close to anyone before. What they have feels worth exploring—no matter the distance. But is it possible to already be in love with someone who’s half a world away?
Rated: 4.5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
Aidan Wayne's Play It Again was an utterly charming romance that stole my heart. We need to see more representations of asexual characters in romance, and I felt that this was shown with sensitivity and truth, as was Dovid's blindness. Wayne engages with these characters and shows them, and critiques the way that society perceives them, without ever falling into the trap of becoming "preachy". What they go through in the book seems like a natural progression of their lived experiences.
I also felt that the way in which Wayne engaged with the idea of internet celebrity, and the pros and cons of such an experience, was really nuanced. The overwhelming-ness of having such a large spotlight suddenly shone on you must be quite scary, and I loved how Dovid tried to help Sam navigate it.
This isn't a fast-phased romance, and there was something quite lovely about being able to see everything unfold slowly, as the characters do. Dovid and Sam's friendship, and how it slowly blossoms into more was incredibly sweet. The stars of this romance are the characters, and that satisfying HEA.
Law & Disorder by Liv Arnold
Lawyer Juliet Jackson has come head to head with Sergeant Jesse Burns on numerous occasions in court. He is provoking. Pigheaded. Punch-worthy. They don't get along. Not one little bit. The unfortunate fact he's also her next-door neighbor brings her loathing off the charts.
But when Juliet's caught locked outside her home in nothing but a skimpy towel, she must swallow her pride and turn to Jesse for help. She doesn't expect the explosive chemistry between them and can't help but wonder if Jesse's as demanding in the bedroom as he is in the courtroom.
Rated: 4 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Rachel
Law and Disorder by Liv Arnold is short novella that left me wanting more. Both Juliet and Jesse are on the right side of the law. Juliet Jackson is a lawyer and Jessie Burns is a police officer. Both happen to be neighbors and often clash with one another in their professional lives. Juliet ends up getting herself locked out of her house. Even worse than that she is only wearing a towel. Jesse ends up coming to her rescue, and he is the last person that she wants helping her.
Even though I knew that this was a novella I was still disappointed that the story was so short. I thought the plot of this story was really fun; I like the love/hate relationship between Jesse/Juliet. I could immediately see the chemistry between these two characters regardless if they were loving each other, or having a huge row about something. One of my favorite scenes was towards the end of the story when Juliet realized that there was more to Jesse then she thought there was.
One of the messages that I caught from this story is that maybe we shouldn’t judge people on preconceived notions that we have of them because we might just be wrong. The encounter that Jesse and Juliet have with Mr. Mendes only backs up this theory. They assumed that Mr. Mendes was stuck up because he always turned down dinner invitations from another neighbor of theirs. Only to learn that he lost his daughter and tended to be a recluse.
Overall, a great story. I highly recommend it.
One Summer in Paris by Sarah Morgan
One charming bookshop, two unlikely friends, and a summer in Paris that will change their lives forever…
Grace can’t believe it when her husband of twenty-five years announces he doesn’t want to join her on their anniversary trip to Paris – instead, he wants a divorce. Reeling from the shock, Grace makes the bold decision to go on this holiday of a lifetime alone.
Audrey leaves behind heartache of her own when she arrives in Paris. A job in a bookshop is her ticket to freedom, but with no knowledge of the French language, her summer adventure seems doomed to fail. Until she meets Grace, and everything changes…
Living in neighbouring apartments above the bookshop, Grace and Audrey form an unlikely friendship. They came to Paris to find themselves, but finding each other might be the best thing that's ever happened to them.
Rated: 4 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
Bookshops. Paris. A summer of finding yourself. What could be more perfect? Grace and Audrey couldn't be more different. When Grace's husband announces on their anniversary that he wants a divorce, she takes the tickets to Paris and heads off on her own. Once there, she falls in love with the city all over again, and falls across teenage Audrey, whose own life has fallen apart. The two of them form a bond of friendship that sustains them throughout the novel; and I loved the way that it's a bond that lasts beyond their summer in Paris.
As ever, Morgan's prose captures the heart and soul of both the setting, and its protagonists, and though a departure in tone from her latest single title romances, it is no less romantic or heartwarming. Perhaps I wished for a slightly different ending, but the HEA is still solid, even if it did go in a direction that I didn't quite expect.
A perfect read for summer.
Inked Music by Sean Michael
Can a wealthy but bored businessman rescue a tortured musician from his self-imposed purgatory with a scorching kinky romance?
When Rene Conette attends an intimate performance at a local bar, the guitarist moves him enough that he attempts to go backstage but is stymied by the man’s bodyguard. Putting it down as not meant to be, he goes on with his life only to run into the man again, late at night at a bookstore.
Gavin Turner used to be a famous musician until an obsessed fan kidnapped and tortured him. Then it came out that he was into the BDSM lifestyle, and the court of public opinion ravaged him. He lost his Master and his self-confidence. Now he hides behind his ink and his bodyguards, who make sure he doesn’t come into contact with anyone or anything he doesn’t want to. Though it’s been years since he satisfied his needs, he doesn’t think he can trust again.
If Rene can work his way past Gavin’s defenses, they might find they complement each other perfectly.
Rated: 3 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Mercy
There were moments in Inked Music where my heart broke open. Most of those moments were of Gavin’s trauma and recovery. While the actual traumatic event felt underdeveloped the effects of the experience bled into the story like a freshly opened wound. These moments of vulnerability and honesty around trauma were by far the high points of the book for me.
I also liked how the author incorporated consent and positive BDSM practices within the story. This story embraces trauma head-on. With that said, this novel has some issues. The biggest is lack of conflict. Perhaps Gavin’s trauma, which takes place prior to the book’s beginning, is meant to be the main conflict but it didn’t translate that way. Frankly, Gavin and Rene have it too easy. My other major complaint is about the novel’s pacing. The story line often felt like one long sex scene with small breaks for a few lines of dialogue and a meal. Those sex scenes were spectacular but perhaps a bit long. I also wish there had been more of an opportunity to get to the know the twins, Dev and Silas more.
That’s the thing really, with more development this book could really take my breath away. It’s all there, trauma, survivorship, connection, redemption, passion, vulnerability…but there just wasn’t enough space allotted for these things to take root.
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 2019 submissions! You can check out the guidelines here.