March Book Reviews
It's March book reviews time! And our #PHSBookReviews team has another great collection of reads to accompany the beginning of Spring!
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.
Writing Her In by Holley Trent
There’s room in a heart for more than one kind of love.
Dara and Adrien Valliere are soul mates and best friends…but they’re not lovers. Their marriage may be unconventional, but it’s satisfying and loving, and they’ve never needed anything or anyone else.
Until they met writer Stacia Leonard.
Stacia built a career on maintaining close ties with her fictional characters while keeping everyone else at arm’s length. She avoids intimacy, apart from a few one-night stands when the loneliness and need become too much. But when Adrien Valliere, her cover model and long-distance friend, invites her for drinks, she’s too fascinated to refuse.
Dara recognizes the physical attraction between her husband and Stacia and sees it for what it is: an opportunity to help Adrien get what he needs. Dara can breathe easy knowing that both she and her husband are happy.
Before long, though, it’s clear that Stacia’s connection isn’t just with Adrien… She and Dara have something special, and it’s something neither of them can—or want to—deny.
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
I've always been a fan of Holley Trent's paranormal romances, but Writing Her In took me to a new level of adoration. The depth of emotion, and the way in which Trent navigates the complexities of both open and polyamorous relationships, is a testament to her skill as a writer.
We're first introduced to Stacia, a semi-reclusive writer whose cover model Adrien invites her for drinks with his wife. A simple meeting turns into more when she's invited back to sleep with him, and then ends up having an encounter with his wife Dara the next day.
I loved how the dynamics between the characters - Adrien and Dara; Adrien and Stacia; and Stacia and Dara - is fully explored. Relationships can be complicated at the best of times, and this is definitely true when there are more people's emotions to navigate.
With the most emotionally satisfying Happy Ever After I've read this year, this is a touching romance about love and attraction and doing what feels right for you. Utterly brilliant.
Off the Ice by Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn
He’s hot for teacher.
NHL star Tristan Holt may be at the top of his game, but he’s already thinking one play ahead. Hitting the books in the off-season means he’ll have a business degree to fall back on when it’s time to hang up his hockey skates.
But his straightforward plan is complicated by his undeniable attraction to his sexy sociology professor, Sebastian Cruz.
Impressed by Tristan’s brain as well as his brawn, Sebastian can’t help lusting after the gorgeous jock. With tenure on the line, Sebastian won’t break the rules by becoming involved with one of his students—at least, not until the end of term. Once final grades are posted, though, their naughty mutual fantasies can become reality.
Tristan’s not sure he’s up for being the poster boy for openly gay hockey players, but Sebastian’s never been the type of man to keep his sexuality—or his relationships—in the closet. For Tristan, being with Sebastian might mean risking more than just his heart.
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Mercy
Tristan Holt loves playing professional hockey but he understands that hockey careers end and an education is paramount for that transition. What better time to finish his degree than during the off season? Professor Sebastian Cruz is a successful sociology professor working on being offered tenure. When Tristan shows up in Professor Cruz’s class sparks fly. What will Tristan and Professor Cruz do about this crazy chemistry?
The relationship arc in this novel felt real and truly honest. I never once questioned the authenticity of the emotion between Tristan and Sebastian. Every interaction between these two men made complete sense to me and moved the story along in a way that ratcheted up the stakes but didn’t feel forced. Their deepening connection pulled me along and by the middle of the book I was so invested in their success that I found myself thinking about it when I wasn’t even actually reading. The dialogue was genuine and interesting. I found the pacing of the novel to be spot on. The LGBTQ theme was handled in a way that felt thoughtful and sincere rather than as a tool. I’d be remiss to leave out the fact that this book is also amazingly sexy!
Where have hockey romances been all of my life? This book was as fun, at time tense, and rewarding as any hockey game!
Heated Rivalry by Rachel Reid
Nothing interferes with Shane Hollander’s game—definitely not the sexy rival he loves to hate.
Pro hockey star Shane Hollander isn’t just crazy talented, he’s got a spotless reputation. Hockey is his life. Now that he’s captain of the Montreal Voyageurs, he won’t let anything jeopardize that, especially the sexy Russian whose hard body keeps him awake at night.
Boston Bears captain Ilya Rozanov is everything Shane’s not. The self-proclaimed king of the ice, he’s as cocky as he is talented. No one can beat him—except Shane. They’ve made a career on their legendary rivalry, but when the skates come off, the heat between them is undeniable. When Ilya realizes he wants more than a few secret hookups, he knows he must walk away. The risk is too great.
As their attraction intensifies, they struggle to keep their relationship out of the public eye. If the truth comes out, it could ruin them both. But when their need for each other rivals their ambition on the ice, secrecy is no longer an option…
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Tamara
Oh. My. God... The writer made me wait seven years for Shane and Ilya to show their real faces and feelings, not to the world but to the reader.
NHL hockey is probably the epitome of masculinity and definitely one of the most dangerous sports; players are tough, well trained and they do their work on sharp blades with a wooden stick in hand. But hockey players also have big, soft hearts and this story paints a bright picture of their personalities - on and off the ice.
Shane was my favourite from the beginning, whilst Ilya appeared to be just your regular bad boy, but it turns out that all of that front was just a big brick wall holding him and his heart safe...until Shane.
I read with fear, expecting them to be caught at any moment! On edge for about 80% of this book, I even expected Ilya to expose Shane's sexuality at one point. The spin that the media put them through is funny in the end, but it was kinda good cover for years.
But in the end, when feelings hit the surface for both of them, it made me cry. This book entered my top 20 and I'm a huge fan of hockey romance...
Ms Rachel, I will be hoping for another hockey romance from you soon!
Stripped by Zoey Castile
The day Robyn Flores meets Zac Fallon is one of those days. You know, when you’re already late for work. Mostly because you haven’t really slept since your best friend abandoned you for her fiancé and her exponentially better life. The kind of day you drag yourself to the cleaners to pick up your laundry, only to discover you’ve got the wrong bag—Star Spangled sequined thong, anyone? So Robyn is definitely not ready for the ridiculously gorgeous guy at her front door, except that they have each other’s clothes. But then, is any woman ever ready to meet the love of her life?
There’s just one problem: Zac Fallon is not the love of Robyn’s life. Zac knows, despite the all-too-intimate dinner they share, he doesn’t have a shot at her. Because the next time Zac sees Robyn, he’s front and center of the male revue headlining her best friend’s bachelorette party. So much for wooing the pretty schoolteacher, much less impressing her old-fashioned family, with his upstanding lifestyle. Now he’s only got one way to win his dream girl. It’s gonna be the steamiest, most irresistible seduction she’s ever seen. And this time it will be no act …
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
Zoey Castile's story of strippers and schoolteachers, with an adorable park date, a wedding, and bunch of sexy times, is one of the most delightful romances I've read this year. The first in the Happy Endings series, it follows Robyn and Zac as their lives collide after accidentally pick up each other's washing. Zac is only in town for a short while, and Robyn's barely keeping everything together, but their connection is instant, and they decide to give things a go.
I don't think I'd ever read a stripper hero before, and I was hoping to see how Zac's profession would be addressed without judgement. And Castile did a fantastic job. There's nuance in the way that both Zac and Robyn view his job, but it's free of both slut shaming and stigmatisation, which was incredibly refreshing.
Also, I like the fact that the vulnerabilities that both characters feel seemed realistic, as did their HEA. There's something about showing us a character's greatest fears that I find really endearing, and both Zac and Robyn all have you rooting for their happy ending.
A deliciously heartwarming and sexy read.
Once and Again by Lauren Dane
At twenty-eight, Lily Travis never imagined she’d be back living with her mom and dealing with her messed-up little brother. Yet that’s exactly where she finds herself, seven long years after she left Petal, Georgia—and the boy who broke her heart—in the dust. Her first order of business? Getting her ex to help turn her brother’s life around.
If he happens to notice just how much she hasn’t been missing him, all the better.
As a teacher, Nathan Murphy is used to dealing with the unexpected, but nothing prepares him for Lily—looking like a smokin’ hot vintage pinup come to life—strolling through his door and right back into his heart. He always regretted the way things ended between them; this could be his chance to make up for past mistakes.
Lily can’t resist Nathan’s Southern-honey charm, or the way he makes her melt when she’s in his arms. She fell for him once—falling for him again could destroy her. But it could also mean finding love in the last place she ever expected: home.
Rated: 5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Gwessie
I've given this book five Pink Hearts because, not only am I now obsessed with reading it again, I also want to read the series it appears to be a spin off from - The Chase Brothers. I loved the characters already established and will most definitely be reading their stories too.
I loved the sense of community coming together, not only in our hero's quest, but also through our heroine's many plights as well. When something needs doing, it gets done - no questions asked - as well as showing how betrayed families can be reunited once more. It takes the love and support of the right people for them to thrive again, but people can grow and change for the better...it just sometimes takes time.
I'm usually a passive lady but there are most definitely a couple of unruly characters that I'd love to slap for causing unwarranted harm to others, but I cheered on those who needed it. I must admit, I cried also, sometimes in anger, but also in joy. I most definitely, highly recommend this book and will be stalking the booklist of this fantastic author, collecting as many of her books as I can for my TBR pile.
American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera
No one ever said big dreams come easy.
For Nesto Vasquez, moving his Afro-Caribbean food truck from New York City to the wilds of Upstate New York is a huge gamble. If it works? He’ll be a big fish in a little pond. If it doesn’t? He’ll have to give up the hustle and return to the day job he hates. He’s got six months to make it happen—the last thing he needs is a distraction.
Jude Fuller is proud of the life he’s built on the banks of Cayuga Lake. He has a job he loves and good friends. It’s safe. It’s quiet. And it’s damn lonely. Until he tries Ithaca’s most-talked-about new lunch spot and works up the courage to flirt with the handsome owner. Soon he can’t get enough—of Nesto’s food or of Nesto. For the first time in his life, Jude can finally taste the kind of happiness that’s always been just out of reach.
An opportunity too good to pass up could mean a way to stay together and an incredible future for them both…if Nesto can remember happiness isn’t always measured by business success. And if Jude can overcome his past and trust his man will never let him down.
Rated: 4.5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
For a debut, Adriana Herrera has absolutely smashed it out of the park with American Dreamer. She builds up a community of friends around Nesto for whom orientation isn't an issue, and it's that support network that we first fall in love with. As for Nesto himself, I really enjoyed seeing him following his dreams, no matter how many roadblocks were thrown up in his path. Plus, I'm a sucker for a foodie romance, so getting to see his passion for his food was refreshing and made me pretty darn hungry!
I'm also a sucker for a librarian romance, so was delighted to get a two-for-one with Nesto's love interest Jude. Jude is quieter than Nesto, but watching him flirt and get to know the other man was really sweet.
What I was really impressed with though, was the depth of emotion from both characters. It's not always easy to engage with characters' issues or fears without it becoming a heavier read - even in romance - but Herrera manages this skilfully, making me laugh and cry by turns.
A wonderful debut, and I can't wait to read the sequel in May!
The Prince's Cinderella by Andrea Bolter
From event planner to belle of the ball!
Organising a charity gala on the glamorous French Riviera is a dream come true for event planner Marie. And then she realises she’ll be working with single dad – and handsome prince – Zander!
Rated: 4.5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Laura
Marie Paquet is thrown in at the deep end when she is recommended for a job by her current manager. She moves from Toulouse to Cannes and after the Events Manager of the APCF (Alliance for Parentless Children of France) suddenly quits Marie finds herself navigating the waters of glamouress Cannes and the organisation of the APCF's integral Gala. Zander De Nellay, Prince of Charlegrin is navigating some personal waters. After his beloved Sister and her husband are killed in a car accident Zander has to leave his bachelorhood behind and take over the care of his eighteen month old Niece Abella.
When Zander and Marie meet there is instant chemistry, although Marie is unaware of his royal status, but they both have to fight their different pasts and the feelings that come with their experiences to give their love a chance. But can love conquer all?
I absolutely adored this story. The characters and the attention to detail given to the setting is wonderful - I could almost taste the bubbly. The characters' different internal conflicts set the pace of their love story beautifully and ensure the external conflict is navigated in a considerate way. The setting of the glamouress Cannes is breathtaking and definitely made me feel like I wanted to hop onto a plane and soak up the atmosphere.
The pace of the story is the reason for my 4.5 Pink Hearts rating. In some places the story feels rushed and a little hard to process some details.
However, overall this rags to riches love story left me with a warm glow and I'm definitely going to seek out more of Andrea Bolter's work.
The Inside Track by Tamsen Parker
Love might mean coming as you are, but staying is a different matter.
Nick Fischer is a screw-up; everyone knows it and they’re not afraid to tell him so. The only thing he’s got going for him is that he plays a reliable rhythm guitar for License to Game, and his big fat bulldog, Princess Fiona, is so ugly she’s cute.
Dempsey Lawrence is a former child star turned financial advisor, and while she’s curious about the hot mess of a man who’s her co-panelist for a presentation on financial literacy, she has no intention of pursuing anything with him. Too loud, too crass, too wild, Nick is altogether too much. Plus, he’s famous, and she is so over stardom and everything that comes with it.
Except that when Dempsey gives Nick an inch, he takes a mile, and she finds that she doesn’t mind so much. Until Nick brings the pitfalls of stardom to Dempsey’s doorstep, then all the attraction in the world might not be enough to promise a happily ever after.
Rated: 4.5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
So I really love the fact that Tamsin Parker often gives us characters who are little outside of the norm, and this book is no different. We have an ADHD rock star hero and an agoraphobic heroine, both of whom are fully rounded out characters that deserve their HEA.
I was rooting so damn hard for Nick; he's the kind of character who's a bad boy without meaning to be, plays rhythm guitar (swoon) and likes nothing more than engaging with people in a way that puts them at ease. He's the perfect hero to bring Dempsey out of her shell, and Parker is clever in how she allows them to come together.
The anxiety rep that we see through Dempsey's character hits home for me, and her fears and concerns are dealt with carefully - especially when Nick's character thrives on the fame that cause our introverted heroine stress and occasionally panic attacks. These are two characters that have to really work for that HEA, and it's made all the more satisfying as a result. Gorgeous read.
The One I Love to Hate by Amanda Weaver
Don’t hate the player…
Achieve lifelong dream of becoming a reporter? Check.
Land dream job working with her idol at the Brooklyn Daily Post? Check.
Navigate working across the street from her college nemesis?
Okay, yes, hate the player.
But Jessica Romano doesn’t have time to be bothered by the likes of Alex Drake. She’s struck up a fiery online flirtation with a mystery man and—thanks to Alex’s family’s gossip website, competitor Click News—she also has a newspaper to save.
But she is bothered by Alex. She’s bothered by the fact that Click News keeps scooping the Daily Post’s stories. And by how Alex always gets what he wants.And she’s really bothered by how she can’t seem to stop staring at his stupid, sexy face.
Or how their competitive banter is starting to sound like familiar foreplay.
Suddenly Jess isn’t just bothered by Alex; she’s hot and bothered. Hot sex and swoony romance are almost enough to make her forget the vast divide between old media and new…and the Romanos from Brooklyn and the Drakes of Manhattan.
Rated: 4 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Frankie
The One I Love to Hate is Book One in the Romano Sisters series, I was fascinated by the premise of this as soon as I saw it. I love an Enemies-to-Lovers trope, I adore stories set in the Big Apple and even though this may not be the best I have read, it is definitely a fun and enjoyable read.
Jess landed her dream working as a journalist at the historic and prestigious ‘Brooklyn Daily Post’ this is everything she has wanted, the only issue is the once hugely loved newspaper is having troubles thanks to the online news website; Click News. Which is run by the family of her arch enemy Alex. Jess and Alex go way back and have been at each other’s throats since day one, but as with all Enemies to Lovers there is a spark between them – a spark which Jess hates to admit. With Alex working literally across the street from her, and his own paper seemingly stealing all of her papers stories she soon finds herself far closer to charming, sinfully handsome Alex. Allow for fireworks and sizzling chemistry! Sizzling is the word too and that’s just Alex – oh, lordy, lordy he is hot! If Kryptonite was Superman’s weakness, then green eyed New Yorkers are mine – sigh!
This is a luscious, easy to read, and playful romance that has a real Lyndsey Kelk/Sophie Kinsella feel to it. With it’s fun plot, scene stealing hero, great setting – oh, I do have a love of New York! My only flaw with it was; I did feel it was more a young adult then a full on adult romance, it would be perfect for those just starting out reading romance. I saw it as a fun holiday read, then you come home and dive into the adult romances – sorry!
Six people and three love stories all in one bakery.
Jen goes to work, agonizes over college, and looks forward to the stolen moments in the kitchen. There she can watch Emilie bake love into every morsel. Their delicate friendship takes a step towards a budding romance, but will Jen’s anxiety help them survive their first hurdle?
James has never been kissed but he wants to be. Especially by his co-worker Sam, who he can’t talk to without turning into a little jerk. Sam is made of all the good stuff, but will James’ deepest insecurities allow him to kiss the boy?
Alex won’t let some foodie with a video camera bash their beloved bakery, even if it means to be petty. Except they’re nowhere ready for Yujin, the one who got away and is now romancing them. Will Alex’s pride let them see the gold heart the bashful king hides?
Rated: 4 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Ali
Em Ali has been one of favourite discoveries in the last couple of months, with her high-fluff low-angst romances. It's also been exciting to see a writer negotiate a queer non-binary space within the genre romance. Each of the novellas in this delightful collection follow different members of staff at a cafe, as they fall in love.
I really loved the way in which Ali manages to balance the fluffiness of her narratives with some really sexy scenes, and the way in which she manages to make each of these characters - from the grumpy to the shy - really come alive on the page. She really manages to capture the complexities of insecurity and anxiety very well.
Utterly charming, and I can't wait to read their next book.
Her Cadillac Cowboy by Rue Allyn
A rich cowboy with a classic Cadillac—sounds like the stuff of dreams for a small-town Texas girl, right? Wrong! Josh McKinley and his classic car have been Sara Carson’s nightmare since Josh left ten years ago.
Now the cowboy and his Caddy are back. Sara must choose between loyalty to her family and love for the one man she shouldn’t want.
Is the key to Sara Carson’s heart the Cadillac that their families have been feuding over for ten years? Or will Josh McKinley have to give up the car he treasures in order to win the woman he loves?
Rated: 3.5 Pink Hearts Reviewed by: Megan
Sara Carson and Josh McKinley were never meant to be...or were they? With an undeniable attraction and rocky past can these two find a peace between them for the best of both worlds? Sara comes home due her cranky, cantankerous father's health issues only to find her “perfect” brother haphazardly running the family business while trying to run away from their father. Sara ignores her father's wishes and busts into the family car dealership to set things straight and help settle the financial issues. Except at every turn and right out the door is Josh, looking sexy and distracting her from her duties. And then there are the vandals that are causes the dealership trouble too. As Sara figures out how to put her family's past with Josh behind her she realizes he is what she wants and that she the Cadillac doesn't matter she allows herself to move on with life...
Josh and Sara's relationship is predictable and fun. It's the perfect second chance romance. The vandalism and financial issues take a an unexpected path that leaves you surprised. However, the story ends quite quickly with little epilogue, so it leaves you wanting more. Her Cadillac Cowboy is a cute read with some good mystery to keep you guessing.
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.