It's January book reviews time! And our #PHSBookReviews team had another great collection of reads for us to kick off the New Year in true romance style.
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Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole
While her boss the prince was busy wooing his betrothed, Likotsi had her own love affair after swiping right on a dating app. But her romance had ended in heartbreak, and now, back in NYC again, she’s determined to rediscover her joy—so of course she runs into the woman who broke her heart.
When Likotsi and Fabiola meet again on a stalled subway train months later, Fab asks for just one cup of tea. Likotsi, hoping to know why she was unceremoniously dumped, agrees. Tea and food soon leads to them exploring the city together, and their past, with Fab slowly revealing why she let Likotsi go, and both of them wondering if they can turn this second chance into a happily ever after.
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
I couldn’t have started 2019 off with a better book.
I’ve been waiting for Likotsi’s novel since we first met her in the first of Cole’s Reluctant Royals novels, and it was definitely worth the wait. The novella marries two narrative arcs: one set during the action of A Princess in Theory, and one set in the present. We see two women, both fiercely independent and dynamic, neither of whom quite know what happened before, and neither of whom are prepared for what will happen during a chance encounter months later.
Perhaps there’s a little bit of me who sees my own romance in this relationship (I ghosted my own partner for three months after we first talked, due to a nervous breakdown), and so it was really affirming to read a second chance romance with this unique twist.
Both characters are engaging and funny, with their own unique quirks and sensibilities, and I found myself rooting for them from the very moment I met each of them. Couple that with the delightful discovery that the cover models are actually in a relationship, and I couldn’t be more delighted for this queer, sexy love story.
Sent as the Viking's Bride by Michelle Styles
She’s the wife he doesn’t want…
…and the woman he needs!
Desperate to escape her murderous brother-in-law and protect her young sister, Ragnhild agrees to marry an unknown warrior, and arrives penniless at his remote island. Only Gunnar Olafson’s belief in love died with his family—he does not want a bride! But as yuletide approaches Ragnhild transforms his isolated existence. Can she melt her Viking warrior’s frozen heart?
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Shell
In the past I have tried reading Viking romances and they were always a disappointment, either due to weak characterisation, or due to the writing. So what has changed my mind?
Well, for one, Ms Styles is an author I can trust. I have read a number of her historical romances and have thoroughly enjoyed them all, and Sent as the Viking's Bride was no different.
The characters in the novel take you on this wonderful journey, that starts from the first chapter right to the last chapter. What's not to love? A brooding hero with a loving heart, and a heroine who's protecting her sister. Add in a dash of Yuletide and for me, this made the book even more perfect.
So now that the nights are long, all you need to do is have a lovely fire, a blanket to snuggle under, a steaming mug of hot chocolate and this lovely book.
For this reason I give this book 5/5 Pink Hearts and I can highly recommend it.
Wedding Shenanigans by Adite Banerjie
Freshly dumped Rayna Dutt does not feel like flying to her best friend’s big fat Indian wedding. But letting down her friend is not an option. So, she decides to grin and bear it. A mix up with room allocations forces her to share a luxury villa with Neel Arora, the gorgeous owner of the resort and best man at the wedding. Sparks fly and attraction sizzles.
When her ex turns up with a new girl on his arm, scandal comes calling. In desperation, she turns to Neel and proposes a fake engagement. As the attraction between them reaches fever pitch, it seems like Rayna has signed up for more trouble than ever!
Rated: 4.5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Frankie
This is the first book I have read by Adite Banerjie, so I didn’t know what to expect; I liked the sound of the plot and that was enough for me to try it, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The writing is solid, Ms Banerjie’s way with words is fabulous, you get a real sense of the character’s emotions and the setting—which I can tell you is absolutely beautiful—is brilliantly described, it is as though you are there.
After being dumped—by text no less—the last thing that Rayna wants is to attend a wedding which will be full of loved up couples, but being the best friend of the bride she has no choice. She will don her happy-go-lucky mask and face the dreaded wedding. Things start off rocky, nearly missing the plane, she meets the most arrogant and irritating man she has ever met—while wearing fluffy bunny shoes—throwing orange juice over him and then finding out that she must share a villa with said man. Could things get any worse? Oh, yes! An ex turning up forcing her to fake an engagement with her unwanted roomy; gorgeous Neel, which can only result in trouble.
The journey to get their HEA is full of hilarious moments and conflict which test our couple to the limit. They are not only battling with the wedding party but also with themselves and their feelings for one and other, there is real depth to their relationship which I really liked. They are two people who you wouldn’t initially put together, yet once Rayna has despatched with her super model mask and you get to know Neel's charming, wickedly seductive, sense of humour, you couldn't separate them!
The plot was a little predictable, but overall a very enjoyable love story.
Forbidden by Faith by Negeen Papehn
Sara knows her life would be easier if she married a man of her faith, but when has love ever been easy?
Raised by her immigrant Iranian parents, Sara has been taught that a good daughter makes decisions based on her family’s approval, and she’s spent most of her life in their good graces. Until she meets Maziar, and her world is turned upside down.
An instant electricity ignites between them, and it seems like fate when she discovers he’s also Iranian. Just as her mind begins to soar with the possibilities, he shatters her hopes.
Sara is Muslim. Maziar is Jewish. Will faith tear them apart?
Despite centuries of unrest behind them, Sara and Maziar embark on a forbidden love affair, attempting to navigate through cultural and religious prejudices.
Deep within the trenches of their battle, Sara finds herself more empowered and careless than ever before, but will her love and newfound life be worth the ultimate cost—her family?
Rated: 4.5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Gwessie
With a Jewish hero and a Muslim heroine across two Iranian families, this story is definitely about celebrating differences. Can love win? I'd say yes, thankfully. We have many twists and turns along their years' long journey to their happy ever after which is most definitely earned after much heartbreak and tragedies. They fight, not only themselves, but also their families and faith. This is definitely a case of love finding a way to heal rifts.
I loved this book and could not put it down, though I think it could've done without their time apart being years long. I enjoyed learning more about the cultures of Muslim and Jewish faith and family hierarchy, the main characters' fight and determination in wanting to be together and make a family of their own regardless of faith.
This book is a story of true love conquering all; I hope to read many more books by this author and definitely recommend this fantastic book.
Hearts Unleashed by Paris Wynters
After an IED ends his military career, Major John Rathborne struggles to re-adjust to civilian life. Haunted by the death of his brother-in-arms, John's determined to find his canine partner, Koda, now retired and re-homed. The last place he expects to find her is on a ranch in Absarokee, Montana, where he lands a foreman job and a chance at a new start.
Unfortunately, ranch manager Katie Locke just wants the new guy gone. She can't shake the trauma from the night she was attacked, and God knows she doesn't need some stranger invading her safe haven. She can't ignore John's brooding presence, and even her dog shares an uncanny bond with him. But when her father suffers a heart attack, Katie has no option but to put her differences with John aside to save the future of Three Keys Ranch.
As they slowly find a common bond and their attraction heats up, both realize they must heal from their past wounds if they want to explore a relationship. But John hasn't told Katie about certain parts of his past--including that he and Koda had been partners in Afghanistan. Then he learns someone is out to destroy the ranch, and Katie is in their crosshairs. Has John opened his heart too late?
Rated: 4.5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Tamara
I loved this book! The writing was flawless, with interesting and complex characters, even before we learn about their pasts. The novel is full of romance, hope, regrets and at long last, love. There were moments that made me laugh and made cry, and great action scenes.
Katie and John are two wounded souls, and I cried for them both in different scenes. They also made me smile, especially when Katie calls John "old man".
There's never a dull moment in this book, with a good narrative pace, and I liked the fact that one of the main characters is a dog, Koda. The connection between Katie and Koda, and Koda and John, is special and completely unique.
The Seventh of December by Garrick Jones
Even in wartime, London can still be glamorous, but for Tommy and his handsome American a secret mission for a Royal Duke puts life, love, freedom and the future of the world in desperate danger...
As bombs rain down over London during the Blitz, Major Tommy Haupner negotiates the rubble-filled streets of Bloomsbury on his way to perform at a socialite party. The explosive event of the evening is not his virtuosic violin playing, but the 'almost-blond' American who not only insults him, but then steals his heart.
The Seventh of December follows a few months in the lives of two Intelligence agents in the early part of World War Two. Set against the backdrop of war-torn occupied Europe, Tommy and his American lover, Henry Reiter, forge a committed relationship that is intertwined with intrigues that threaten the integrity of the British Royal Family and the stability of a Nation at war.
Neither bombs nor bullets manage to break the bond that these men form in their struggle against Nazism and the powers of evil.
Rated: 4.5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
One of the things that I really appreciate about Manifold Press, is the fact that they get period detail so very very right. That’s not to say that historical romance should be all about the history—of course not, it’s a romance first and foremost—but I personally love it when an author manages to capture an authentic tone or voice for the period.
Jones does just that with a World War Two-set romantic suspense, told through the eyes of Major Tommy Haupner. I’m not always a fan of first person POV in romance; there’s got to be real strength in the main voice, to make up for the fact that you don’t get to see both main characters’ points of view, but here it really works. We really engage with Tommy and his distinctive voice shines through what is a moving and warmly welcomed novel.
A Perfect Picture of Us by Rachelle Paige Campbell
Chicago lifestyle blogger, Jess Edwards, built a successful brand based on the pursuit of perfection. From throwing a party to decorating a home, every post is magazine spread worthy. Leo Martinelli, the law school study partner she never mustered the nerve to kiss, shows up in the middle of a photo shoot, and she's thrilled for the reunion—until he serves her with a lawsuit.
Attorney Leo never thought he'd see Jess again, not after she disappeared halfway through the first semester. For the past ten years, he's measured every woman who's crossed his path against her. This meeting is his chance to say good-bye and finally move on from his unrequited crush—before relocating overseas.
To salvage her reputation, Jess has no intention of settling. To obtain the future he's worked hard for, Leo can't lose.
Rated: 4 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Megan
Jess Edwards is strong, determined, and hiding. Jess is hiding from her past, her emotions, and possibly the love of her life. While she is determined to put the past behind her, move on from her mistakes, and start her life over, she has so many worries that it's tough to push them all aside. Her emotions and actions embody everyone at some point in their life, making Jess so relatable that you're drawn into the book in no time.
Leo Martinelli is talented, hard working, and running away. Leo runs from his past, wanting to make sure it never repeats itself and that he never lets another woman affect him like Jess did all those years ago in law school before she broke his heart.
Jess and Leo are both relatable on so many levels that you want to keep reading and see how their second chance romance comes together. However, it seems the amount of baggage that they each carry, gets excessive at times, muddling the story a little, but not enough to put the book down. Their lives are intertwined so that you can't help but cheer them on as they grow their relationship a second time. When they do you're as excited as they are, however I'd love even more details of their happily ever after, to match the details in the rest of the book. However, you'll enjoy it anyway. It's a book to make you believe in second chances and leaving fear behind.
A Grave Peril by Wendy Roberts
Sometimes at night, she can hear the dead calling.
Julie Hall’s job is to find bodies. For the sake of her sanity, she’s taking a much-needed break—but the dead don’t wait. With bodies piling up alongside her guilt, she knows she has to dive back in, despite pushback from her FBI boyfriend, Garrett Pierce. But Garrett is working a troubling case of his own and no longer seems like the man she fell in love with.
Despite his warnings—or maybe because of them—when Garrett goes missing, Julie has no choice but to use her skills to find where the cartel buries their victims… Before he becomes part of the body count.
Rated: 4 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
The third book in the Bodies of Evidence series, A Grave Peril follows Julie and Garrett’s relationship as it develops. Following on from the previous two books, Julie is currently having a break from work, but is beginning to feel guilty about the fact that she’s not helping the people around her when they ask. Because—in case you don’t know—she can find the dead by using dowsing rods.
There’s a lot to unpack in this novel, and much of it is bound up in the main character’s narrative arc. Garrett goes missing during the novel, and so we spend a lot of time with just Julie, who’s clearly working through some issues from her childhood. And then there’s the fact that she’s a recovering alcoholic. I love the fact that Roberts doesn’t shy away from displaying the blunt nature of addiction, and I felt like her journey to recovery was dealt with sensitively and with depth.
To Free a Captured Heart by R. L. Naquin
Hidden Government chaser Kam's luck might finally be changing. Her team of reapers is sent to a riverboat casino to investigate a suspicious increase in missing souls--a job that sounds more like a vacation than an assignment. A little drinking, a little gambling and maybe a little romance with Tahm, the fiancé she's not sure she wants to run from anymore.
Plans for fun and games are canceled, though, when they find the pesky Leprechaun Mafia is behind the mischief. Of course they are.
Before Kam and her team can spring into action, the leprechauns make good on their threat to capture Tahm.
How far will Kam go to break her true love out of confinement? Working in the casino to pay off some of his debt is one thing, but it could mean Kam spends another hundred years locked up in his stead...
Rated: 3.5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Imogene
Awkward is being a 16 year old Djinn crazy in love with your older brothers best friend. Then discovering that your parents are arranging a betrothal between you even though he couldn’t possibly be interested in you at all.
Awkward-er is running away from home due to the arranged marriage, getting captured and enslaved for a century and being rescued by your sort of fiancé.
Awkward-est is now working as a Reaper / soul bounty hunter with your sort of fiancé who still doesn’t know why you ran away or that you’re madly in love with him.
Capturing runaway souls is hard enough! Poor Kam has to do it towing a handsome Djinn man with her!
R. L. Naquin’s To Free a Captured Heart is the third book in her Djinn Haven series, spun off from her quirky, charming Monster Haven series. Kam was quite possibly the best part of Monster Haven, and deserves her own series. She also definitely deserves a happy ever after, and her Tahm does have his charm.
Naquin is heavy on quirky, colourful, and eccentric, which can sometimes be a little too heavy for some. Her romances are slow burn. You do need to be in for the long haul to get to the naughty parts, but if you’re up for the possible sugar coma from the super sweetness, then Kam and her sort of fiancé get 3.5 red popsicles out of 5.
Dirty Bad Boy by Mira Lyn Kelly
I'm not a total dick…
Most days, I'm a damned decent guy. Just not around my buddy's sister. She's sexy as sin, sharp as hell, and she's also the lush little harpy who's been rubbing me wrong since we were kids.
I don't want to do her a favor…
If it had been any other damsel in distress looking to shake some unwanted attention, I'd have been the perfect fake boyfriend for all of five minutes. But Laurel brings out the bastard in me, and five minutes hardly seemed enough time to make her squirm. She wants to one-up me...
And I want to win. But maybe I need a favor too.
Rated: 3.5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Mercy
Laurel and Jack have known one another their whole lives and have done nothing but fight and bicker for most of that time. To Jack, Laurel is his best friends little sister who’s a master at getting under his skin. To Laurel, Jack is her brother’s arrogant Jackass of a best friend who leaves a head and heart ache wherever he goes. Now they are all grown up and actually need one another, but for it to work they have to let old wounds be opened in order for them to heal.
As far as romance tropes go, fake engagement is a fun one, and this book was definitely fun! There were some adorably funny little moments peppered throughout this book that worked nicely when paired with the handful of heavier moments. The author did a good job of giving Jack and Laurel complementary yet unique voices as well. I especially enjoyed the not-quite slow burn effect in the first half of the book. I do wish the storyline involving Laurel’s family would have been developed a bit more. Overall, I found this book to be enjoyable and an entertaining take on the fake engagement trope.
His Until Midnight by Reese Ryan
A friendship with benefits?
When Tessa Noble takes the stage at a charity auction after a sexy makeover, her best friend Ryan Bateman must place the winning bid. It’s definitely not because he’s jealous. Their weekend getaway is a ploy for positive press
…or so the rancher tells himself.
Rated: 3 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Jill
A charity auction sets the stage for a romantic weekend date between two best friends. Posing as a romantic item for an article, they end up taking the charade too far, until they both realize it's not a charade at all.
This book had an adorable premise. I loved the idea of a charity auction finally moving these lifelong friends into action. The book moved a little too fast for me though, skipping over built up scenes like their actual dates. The back and forth about 'will they, won't they' over arbitrary reasons lasts a little too long in contrast and really needed another circumstance to keep them apart until the end. Because of this, some of the story dragged and I wanted to see more exciting, fun scenes to build up what they'd be in a relationship.
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.