Satisfaction Guaranteed by Karelia Stetz-Waters.

Book Description

Opposites attract in this playful and laugh-out-loud rom-com from Lambda Award finalist Karelia Stetz-Waters.

Cade Elgin has a life and career in New York City, and she’s determined to get back to both as soon as possible after her aunt’s funeral in Portland. However, when she unexpectedly inherits her aunt’s sex toy store — and has to save it from foreclosure — Cade realizes she’s not going anywhere. But making Share the Love profitable won’t be as easy as Cade had hoped. Her new partner has an infuriating lack of business sense, and an infuriating ability to turn Cade on.

Selena Mathis knows that nothing is more important than saving Share the Love. Not her pride, not her inconvenient attraction toward her new business partner. Cade may be more buttoned-up than Selena usually goes for, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t know how to turn the store around. But the more they work together, the harder it becomes for Selena to ignore her growing feelings for Cade. And she starts to wonder if there is something more important than saving Share the Love.

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The Missing Page by Cat Sebastian

Book Description

England, 1948: Semi-retired spy Leo Page and country doctor James Sommers team up to solve a decades-old mystery.

When James learns that an uncle he hasn’t heard from in ages has left him something in his will, he figures that the least he can do is head down to Cornwall for a weekend to honor the old man’s parting wishes. He finds the family home filled with half-remembered guests and unwanted memories, but more troubling is that his uncle has tasked his heirs with uncovering the truth behind a woman’s disappearance twenty years earlier.

Leo doesn’t like any of it. He’s just returned from one of his less pleasant missions and maybe he’s slightly paranoid about James’s safety, but he’s of the opinion that rich people aren’t to be trusted where wills are concerned. So he does what any sensible spy would do and infiltrates the house party.

Together they unravel a mystery that exposes long-standing family secrets and threatens to involve James more than either of them would like.

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Love & Other Disasters by Anita Kelly

Book Description

Recently divorced and on the verge of bankruptcy, Dahlia Woodson is ready to reinvent herself on the popular reality competition show Chef’s Special. Too bad the first memorable move she makes is falling flat on her face, sending fish tacos flying—not quite the fresh start she was hoping for. Still, she’s focused on winning, until she meets someone she might want a future with more than she needs the prize money. 

After announcing their pronouns on national television, London Parker has enough on their mind without worrying about the klutzy competitor stationed in front of them. They’re there to prove the trolls—including a fellow contestant and their dad—wrong, and falling in love was never part of the plan.

As London and Dahlia get closer, reality starts to fall away. Goodbye, guilt about divorce, anxiety about uncertain futures, and stress from transphobia. Hello, hilarious shenanigans on set, wedding crashing, and spontaneous dips into the Pacific. But as the finale draws near, Dahlia and London’s steamy relationship starts to feel the heat both in and outside the kitchen—and they must figure out if they have the right ingredients for a happily ever after.

My Review

I adored Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake, Alexis Hall’s baking show romance last summer, so I was very excited about another cooking show romance, and TL;DR—this book was everything I could have hoped for and more.  

Dahlia and London’s Odd Couple vibe is so charming, and at the risk of sounding too cliché, their differences are the reason they work so well together. There’s also a forced proximity element at play—they aren’t sharing a room with only one bed, but as contestants on a reality show, their mobility is somewhat limited. Of course, they are allowed out in the “real world” (no pun intended), which leads to some of the best scenes in the book.

With so many reality shows out there, there are plenty of elements to pick and choose and Frankenstein together a unique show, but Kelly really knocks it out of the park with Chef’s Special. The worldbuilding is fresh and fun, from the cooking challenges to the personalities of the judges and other contestants.

Speaking of which, there is an antagonist, but she is not given very much on-page time at all. This was a good decision because more interactions with this person would have been needlessly exhausting and taken away from the feel-good atmosphere of the book.

There is some moderate angst that had me wanting to break the fourth wall, but it was a necessary step in order to achieve the growth and introspection needed to achieve the HEA.

I would absolutely recommend Love & Other Disasters. It’s so refreshing to have a non-binary love interest in a romance novel, and having them come out on a cooking reality show validates their gender identity, not just for themselves but for the entire country. There is so much more I could write in this review, like London’s relationship with their father, or how all the cooking made me hungry, or Dahlia’s need for change on the heels of a divorce, but I’m going to end by repeating that this book was everything I could hope for and more.

I received a digital ARC of this book from Forever/NetGalley.

Proper Scoundrels by Allie Therin

Book Description

Their scandalous pasts have left them wounded and unworthy—and hopelessly perfect together.

London, 1925

Sebastian de Leon is adjusting to life after three years spent enthralled by blood magic. The atrocities he committed under its control still weigh heavily on his conscience, but when he’s asked to investigate a series of mysterious murders, it feels like an opportunity to make amends. Until he realizes the killer’s next likely target is a man who witnessed Sebastian at his worst—the Viscount Fine.

Lord Fine—known as Wesley to his friends, if he had any—is haunted by ghosts of his own after serving as a British army captain during the Great War. Jaded and untrusting, he’s tempted to turn Sebastian in, but there’s something undeniably captivating about the reformed paranormal, and after Sebastian risks his own life to save Wesley’s, they find common ground.

Seeking sanctuary together at Wesley’s country estate in Yorkshire, the unlikely pair begins to unravel a mystery steeped in legend and folklore, the close quarters emboldening them to see past the other’s trauma to the person worth loving beneath. But with growing targets on their backs, they’ll have to move quickly if they want to catch a killer—and discover whether two wounded souls can help each other heal.

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If You Love Something by Jayce Ellis: Review and Exclusive Excerpt

Book Description

If You Love Something by Jayce Ellis is available in trade paperback and eBook on December 28th!

A marriage lost is found again in this cheeky new romantic comedy from acclaimed author Jayce Ellis. 

As executive chef at one of the hottest restaurants in DC, DeShawn Franklin has almost everything he’s ever wanted. He’s well-known, his restaurant is Michelin starred and he can write his own ticket anywhere he wants. Until his grandmother calls him home and drops two bombshells:

1) She has cancer and she’s not seeking treatment.

2) She’s willing half her estate to DeShawn’s ex-husband, Malik.

Make that three bombshells. 

3) That whole divorce thing? It didn’t quite go through. DeShawn and Malik are still married.

And when DeShawn’s shady uncle contests Grandma’s will, there’s only one path back to justice: play it like he and Malik have reconciled. They need to act like a married couple just long enough to dispense with the lawsuit.

Once DeShawn is back in Malik’s orbit, it’s not hard to remember why they parted. All the reasons he walked away remain—but so do all the reasons he fell in love in the first place.

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If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich

Book Description

Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich’s “If This Gets Out is an absolute showstopper! Equal parts edgy and adorable, this bright, joyful book has everything I look for in a queer YA romance.” —Phil Stamper, bestselling author of The Gravity of Us

Eighteen-year-olds Ruben Montez and Zach Knight are two members of the boy-band Saturday, one of the biggest acts in America. Along with their bandmates, Angel Phan and Jon Braxton, the four are teen heartthrobs in front of the cameras and best friends backstage.

But privately, the pressure to stay in the closet has Ruben confiding in Zach.

On a whirlwind tour through Europe with an unrelenting schedule and minimal supervision, the two come to rely on each other more and more, and their already close friendship evolves into a romance. But when they decide they’re ready to tell their fans and live freely, Zach and Ruben realize they will never truly have the support they need.

How can they hold tight to each other when their whole world is coming apart?

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Rake I’d Like to F*** by Sierra Simone, Eva Leigh, Nicola Davidson, Adriana Herrera, and Joanna Shupe

Book Description

The Last Crimes of Peregrine Hind – Sierra Simone

Peregrine Hind, known to all as the bloodiest highwayman ever to bedevil the road, seeks only one thing—revenge against the Dartham family. And so when a robbery sends the second Dartham son and notorious rakehell Alexander Dartham tumbling to Peregrine’s feet, it seems like fate has given Peregrine his vengeance at last. Except then Alexander offers him a desperate bargain: to kidnap him instead, so Peregrine can harvest a generous ransom from Alexander’s family first. Peregrine agrees, but he’s in no way prepared for a captive like Alexander, who insists only on the softest beds and the finest wines…and who enjoys being tied up a little too much…

Two Rakes for Mrs. Sparkwell – Eva Leigh

The last thing Mrs. Vivian Sparkwell wants is to tie her life to another stifling husband. But thanks to the surprise terms of her last marriage contract, if she refuses any reasonable offer to wed again, she loses her widow’s portion. What she needs is a thorough and public ruining to make her would-be suitors cry off. Who better to provide the necessary scandal than notorious rake Rushton Cantley? Yet when Rush proposes that his friend, gaming hell bruiser Jack Morgan, join in on the ruination, Vivian can’t decide if she’s shocked—or aroused. How far is too far when infamy is on the line?

A Rake, His Patron, & Their Muse – Nicola Davidson

London playwright and notorious rake Lennox Townsend is renowned for bold melodrama and bolder pleasures. When he loses interest in both, his shy yet devoted patron Lord Jonathan Grant escorts him to a country boarding house managed by repressed widow, Mrs. Viola Prescott. The trio soon surrender to sizzling—and forbidden—passion, made sweeter as each share their deepest secrets and find acceptance of their true self. Yet cold reality is ever ready to intrude, and they know happiness is fleeting. Or is it?

Monsieur X – Adriana Herrera

Joseph Cantor Marshall never imagined reaching the pinnacle of artistic success would be so… uninspiring. Desperate for a spark of excitement he attends the notorious masked soirée at the most exclusive sex club in Paris. The moment he walks in he’s entranced by the mysterious X, the embodiment of the painter’s darkest fantasies. But X is as slippery as he is tempting, and soon Marshall’s days and nights are consumed by growing desire for his elusive lover. Will falling for X prove to be Marshall’s undoing or his greatest masterpiece?

Sold to the Duke – Joanna Shupe

Though she once lived a life of privilege, Lady Eliza is now destitute and desperate to care for her ill sister. She decides to sell the one thing of value she has left: her virginity. At the auction, a shocked Duke of Blackwood recognizes Eliza and refuses to allow her to fall into the clutches of a depraved bidder. But his role of noble rescuer is upended when the proud beauty insists on giving him his money’s worth…

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The Life Revamp by Kris Ripper: Review and Exclusive Excerpt

About the Book

The Life Revamp by Kris Ripper is available in trade paperback and eBook on November 30th!

All Mason wants to do is fall in love, get married and live happily ever after.

The hunt is beginning to wear him down…until he meets (slightly) famous fashion designer Diego. Everything sparks between them—the banter, the sex, the fiery eye contact across a crowded room.

There’s just one thing: Diego is already married and living his happily-ever-after, which luckily (or not) for Mason includes outside courtships.

But not quite in the way he’d always imagined.

Mason thought he knew what would make him happy, but it turns out the traditional life he’d expected has some surprises in store.

The Love Study

Book 1: The Love Study

Book 2: The Hate ProjectBook 3: The Life Revamp

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Unwritten Rules by KD Casey

Book Description

What does it mean to get a second chance in a game that offers few?

Zach Glasser has put up with a lot for the sport he loves. Endless days on the road, playing half-decent baseball in front of half-full stadiums and endless nights alone, pretending this is the life he’s always wanted.

The thing is, it could have been everything he ever wanted—if only he’d had the guts to tell his family, tell the club, that he was in love with his teammate Eugenio Morales. Well, ex-teammate now. When Zach wouldn’t—couldn’t—come out, Eugenio made the devastating choice to move on, demanding a trade away from Oakland. Away from Zach.

Three years and countless regrets later, Zach still can’t get Eugenio out of his head. Or his heart. And when they both get selected to play in the league’s All-Star Classic, those feelings and that chemistry come roaring back.

Zach wants a second chance. Eugenio wants a relationship he doesn’t have to hide. Maybe it’s finally time they both get what they want.

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Murder Most Actual by Alexis Hall

Book Description

From the author of Boyfriend Material and Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake comes a cozy mystery that revisits the Golden Age of detective fiction, starring a heroine who’s more podcaster than private eye and topped with a lethal dose of parody — perfect for fans of Clue, Knives Out, and Only Murders in the Building!

When up-and-coming true crime podcaster Liza and her corporate financier wife Hanna head to a luxurious hotel in the Scottish Highlands, they’re hoping for a chance to rekindle their marriage – not to find themselves trapped in the middle of an Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery with no way home. But who better to take on the case than someone whose entire profession relies on an obsession with all things mysterious and macabre? Though some of her fellow guests may consider her an interfering new media hack, Liza knows a thing or two about crime and – despite Hanna’s preference for waiting out the chaos behind a locked door – might be the only one capable of discovering the killer. As the bodies rack up and the stakes rise, can they save their marriage — and their lives?

My Review

A common refrain when examining classic entertainment is, “This would never happen in the modern age because we have smartphones and the internet!”

WELL, Alexis Hall proves that phones and the internet won’t always help you if you happen to be dropped into the plot of a Golden Age mystery. As protagonists Liza and Hanna prove, sleuthing and wits are paramount to survival when trapped with a killer on the loose.

The core of every good mystery is a well-rounded cast of victims—er, characters. Hall delivers here: in addition to our main duo, there’s a vicar, a retired colonel, a professor, a dowager, a femme fatale, and several others. There isn’t a lot of character development with the secondaries, but that’s kind of the point: these characters need to stick to their assigned roles as a part of the bigger picture.

Liza and Hanna, however, do experience growth over the course of the mystery. They were supposed to have a relaxing getaway, and being thrust into the middle of a MURDER is the opposite of relaxing. So, on top of trying to work through their personal issues, they also have to avoid being murdered whilst snowed in, with no way to escape.

The narrative unfolds from Liza’s perspective, which makes sense because she’s the true crime podcaster. I loved Liza’s determination to solve the case, as well as her refusal to be dismissed by others for being an amateur. There’s a bit early in the book about Liza feeling a bit adrift with her degree in art history—compared to Hanna’s maths degree—until finding her niche with the podcast. That resonated with me personally as an English major married to a computer science major, so it was great to see Liza take on the challenge of solving the mystery.

The murder mystery is at the forefront of the plot, but the simmering tension of Liza and Hanna’s failing marriage is a constant presence in the background. This added an additional layer of depth to the narrative, and I found myself just as concerned about whether their marriage would survive the weekend as I was with both of them avoiding being murdered.

I would absolutely recommend Murder Most Actual. This book is a delightful mashup of Agatha Christie and board Cluedo/Clue. Some of the references are subtle, and some are more overt, but they both had me laughing out loud as I nodded in recognition.

Please note, this is a Kobo Original title, and there are multiple ways to access Kobo books via desktops, smartphones, and tablets.

I received a digital ARC of this book from Kobo Original/NetGalley.

About the Author

Alexis Hall is an English author of urban fantasy, science fiction, and m/m romance. His novels include Murder Most Actual, Boyfriend Material, Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake, For Real, Glitterland, Iron & Velvet, Looking for Group, and Pansies.

His work has been nominated for to the 26th Lambda Literary Awards, 28th Lambda Literary Awards, and 29th Lambda Literary Awards in the category of Gay Romance.

Connect with Alexis Hall online at https://quicunquevult.com/