To Have and to Hoax by Martha Waters

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A common source of conflict in the plot of a romance novel is a Big Misunderstanding that drives the couple apart. What makes this book rather unique in that regard is that the misunderstanding has already taken place years before the story begins—and the two protagonists never reconciled.

Despite this acrimony, when Violet finds out that her husband James has been injured, she rushes to the country house to be by his side—only to run into him at an inn, in perfect health and annoyed by her concern for his well-being. Read more

Game Changer by Rachel Reid

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This is the first book in the Game Changers series, but it’s the second book I read—I started with an ARC of Tough Guy, the third book in the series, and I enjoyed it so much that I immediately bought books 1 and 2.

Kip makes dozens of smoothies during a typical work shift, but when the blueberry smoothie he makes for New York Admirals superstar Scott Hunter appears to pull the hockey player out of weeks-long slump, it becomes part of a new ritual for the two of them. Sure, Hunter is super hot, but it doesn’t mean anything… does it? Read more

American Sweethearts by Adriana Herrera

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Oh my gosh, I can’t tell you how long I’ve been waiting for JuanPa’s book. Okay, it’s only been a year since American Dreamer, the first book in the Dreamers series, but needless to say, current events have made the twelve months between March 2019 and March 2020 feel like a decade. Anyway, when I saw the excerpt for this book at the end of American Love Story, it made me even more excited for this book.

JuanPa and Pris have been on-again-off-again for YEARS, like since they were teens. They have a lot of history, and now they’re both headed to a super posh wedding in the Dominican Republic. Both of them are determined to be cordial to each other while keeping their distance, but neither of them factored in that their scorching chemistry never waned.

So OF COURSE they hook up in the DR, and now they have to go back to NYC and figure out where they stand with each other. Read more

The Author’s Checklist: An Agent’s Guide to Developing and Editing Your Manuscript by Elizabeth K. Kracht

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As an aspiring author, I am well aware that there are plenty of guidebooks available on the writing process, not to mention articles and websites devoted to this subject matter. What I appreciate about this book is that it has condensed this information into a series of convenient chunks.

I should point out that this book has slightly more guidance for fiction manuscripts, but there is useful information for nonfiction authors as well. The material is organized alphabetically and covers everything from “dreams” to “punctuation” to “query letter” and even dealing with “rejection”

Each entry is relatively short; Kracht summarizes the point quickly, uses concrete examples, and then concludes with a checklist for authors to use when evaluating whether their manuscript is ready for the next step.

The two appendices at the end contain examples of query letters for fiction and nonfiction and a synopsis for a fiction book.

I would recommend The Author’s Checklist. This is a very useful guide. I enjoyed reading it and I know that as I get a little further in the process of preparing my manuscript for querying, I will go through the book to make sure everything is in order. I received a digital copy of this book, and perhaps a paper copy would have been easier to thumb through, but I do want to point out that I can use the “Go To” feature on my Kindle to access each of the different entries without having to flip through the alphabetical list.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Fire & Water by Alexis Hall

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This is the third book in Hall’s Kate Kane: Paranormal Investigator series of contemporary urban fantasy novels. There are plenty of series where the books function as standalones, but this is not the case with the Kate Kane books. Readers need to start with Iron & Velvet in order to understand what’s going on.

Frankly, I’ve read the first two books and I still don’t know what’s going on. I don’t mean this as an insult—the book is wonderful, but the plot moves along quickly and there are so many factors to consider that it’s hard to explain to others. But I’m willing to give it the old college try.

As the series title suggests, Kate investigates matters that conventional sleuths wouldn’t be able to handle. Her work has landed her in the middle of an otherworldly turf war and the stakes couldn’t be higher—if the wrong faction wins, the entire world would be doomed. Read more

Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales

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I have been excited about this book since I first heard about it, so needless to say, I was thrilled to pieces when I finally got my (digital) hands on a copy.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda meets Clueless in this boy-meets-boy spin on Grease”

Um, yes please!

Ollie had an amazing summer fling with Will, but their relationship came to a natural end because Ollie was supposed to go back home at the end of the summer. But circumstances changed, and his family ends up moving to the area to support his aunt while she battles cancer. Ollie texted Will, of course, but he didn’t text back—no big deal, Ollie has enough to deal with.

But then Ollie *sees* Will at his school, and he realizes that Summer Will is a completely different boy. School Year Will is a jock, a bit of a jerk, and most definitely not out of the closet.

So Ollie is left trying to start over at a brand new school and babysitting his cousins to help his aunt. He doesn’t have time for a boy who says one thing when they’re alone, and acts completely different when they’re in public. Read more

The Lord I Left by Scarlett Peckham

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This is the third book in the Secrets of Charlotte Street series of Georgian-era historical romance novels.  I was eagerly awaiting its release since I enjoyed the first two books in the series.

Alice has been working as an apprentice at an exclusive London whipping house, but she aspires to a more active role at the establishment. She’s already sending all of her money home, and would not turn down any opportunity that would provide her with more income to her widowed mother and sisters- who have no idea what she is actually doing in London.

Speaking of which: Alice receives a letter that says her mother is very ill. It will take days for her to get home via coach, but fortunately, Lord Lieutenant Henry Evesham is going to be traveling in the same direction, and Alice agrees to travel with him- only because she is desperate to see her mother before she dies.

Henry is an evangelical former, who is supposed to be ridding the city of vice. He’s more interested in helping sinners reform than punishing them through legal channels, and so he is familiar with the establishment where Alice works.

And now they’re traveling in a curricle together, trying to reach Alice’s house in the middle of winter. Read more

Apple Boy by Isobel Starling

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I don’t remember where I heard about Apple Boy, but I immediately told my friend Andie about it, and a couple days later, she pointed out that the narrator of the audiobook was giving away codes for free audiobooks- including Apple Boy!

I don’t read very much fantasy at all, but the premise of this book sounded interesting: a secret prince and a farmer’s son? What’s not to like?

Win is a prince, but he’s so filthy that you wouldn’t believe him if he told you- which he wouldn’t, because the last time he told someone he was a prince, they robbed him. Desperate for money to afford the coach fare to the city, Win takes a job picking apples for a cruel farmer.

But the cruel farmer has a hot son named Adam, who takes pity on Win. Read more

House Rules by Ruby Lang Blog Tour: Excerpt and Review

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Title: House Rules

Author: Ruby Lang

Series: Uptown, #3 *easily read as a standalone

Length: approx. 47,000 words

Genre: Contemporary Romance; Romantic Comedy

Imprint: Carina Press

On-Sale: February 10, 2020

Format & Price: eBook $3.99

ISBN: 9781488055164

Book Description

ROOMMATE WANTED to share a gorgeous sun-filled apartment in Central Harlem. Must love cats. No ex-husbands or wives need apply.

Seventeen years ago, different dreams pulled Simon Mizrahi and Lana Kai apart. But when Lana takes a position as a chef back in Manhattan, her apartment search puts her right in her ex-husband’s path. Music teacher Simon is also hunting for a new place to live, and when Lana proposes they be platonic roomies, well…it’s not the worst idea he’s ever heard.

A sunny uptown two-bedroom sounds far more appealing than the cramped, noisy space where he’s currently struggling to work. Still, Simon has seen firsthand that Lana’s a flight risk, so he agrees on a trial basis.

Three months. With strict boundaries.

Living together again feels wonderfully nostalgic, but when the ex-couple’s lingering feelings rise to the surface, the rules go out the window.

Of course, chemistry was never their problem. But while Simon’s career feels back on solid footing, Lana is still sorting out what she wants. With their trial period soon coming to an end, they’ll have to decide if their living arrangement was merely a sexy trip down memory lane or a reunion meant to last.

 

My Review

So, this is a second chance romance, but most of the other second chance romances that I’ve read involve a redemptive arc. That isn’t the case with this book; there was no Big Reason that led to Lana and Simon’s divorce; they just drifted apart. There was no angsty pining for each other over the subsequent years, but neither of them remarried either. Nevertheless, Simon and Lana have been granted a second chance with each other, and their reconnecting is both familiar and new.

This dichotomy was part of the reason why Lana and Simon had such great chemistry. They spent years together, but it’s been awhile and their bodies are not entirely the same over the years, so this makes for some really hot scenes together.

I liked that the protagonists were “older” than the average. They are 42 and 44, but in the romance genre, that’s practically ancient. They’re closer to my age than the 20-somethings who pop up frequently as protagonists, so it was a refreshing change of pace.

Simon and Lana were great, but Muffin the cat absolutely stole the show. This furry little ball of trouble chewed the scenery (literally!) at every opportunity, and was the catalyst for bringing Simon and Lana back together.

I would absolutely recommend House Rules. I loved the NYC setting and the diverse cast. I loved how realistic their situation was: Manhattan apartments are expensive and splitting the costs of a spacious apartment is a necessity rather than a manufactured conceit. I thoroughly enjoyed everything about this book. This is my first experience reading Lang, but I have already added her other books to my TBR queue.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review, and I’m thrilled to be participating in the House Rules blog tour!


Buy Links

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07WN6KWC3

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/house-rules-ruby-lang/1133009437

iTunes: https://books.apple.com/us/book/house-rules/id1476929013

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/house-rules-45

Google: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Ruby_Lang_House_Rules?id=3tOpDwAAQBAJ

 

Author Bio 

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Ruby Lang is the author of the acclaimed Practice Perfect series. She is pint-sized, prim, and bespectacled. Her alter ego, Mindy Hung, wrote about romance novels (among other things) for The Toast. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Walrus, Bitch, and other fine venues. She enjoys running (slowly), reading (quickly), and ice cream (at any speed). She lives in New York with a small child and a medium-sized husband. 

 

Social Media Links

Website: http://rubylangwrites.com 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RubeLang 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RubyLangWrites/ 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ruby.lang/ 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13495728.Ruby_Lang 

And now, here’s an excerpt from the book: 

She kissed him as they traveled uptown, under the too-bright lights of the rattling, rumbling 2 train, her hands stealing up past the thick collar of this coat, to his warm neck, to his hair.

“We’re disgracing ourselves,” Simon murmured, even as he nipped her earlobe and his fingers found the zip of her jacket and pulled it down. “Making out on the train, like teenagers.”

He watched the progress of the zipper avidly, as if it would reveal more than her scarf, her sweater, more layers and layers of clothing, as if he could see down to her skin. Then he tipped his tongue up to catch her again in a lush kiss.

She pushed her breast, or the area of her clothing that covered it, shamelessly into his hand, and he gave a muffled gasp that only made her wilder. The train seat felt too smooth and unsatisfying against her restless thighs.

Every stop on the walk home was marked by where they paused to kiss, where Simon pushed her up against a wall, and she ground her hips against his. A car slowed once and honked while they were pressed on the brick beside a beauty salon. Its headlights illuminated their desperate bodies, causing Lana to bury her head in the front of Simon’s coat. Simon laughed softly, an edge of incredulity in the sound.

“We should get back.”

“Yes.”

They hurried now, swinging around the corner and down the block, through the gate and up, up the stairs, the thumping of their footsteps loud and urgent. Lana couldn’t help blushing at how impatient their running sounded. She and Simon burst in the door and into their dark hallway. Before the door fully closed, they’d fallen on each other, tripping in their haste to kick off shoes and unzip and unbutton each other, to unwind. It was as if they expected someone would stop them, someone wise and mature who’d tell them to think this through. But of course, they were the adults here, they were the ones in charge.

The fact that this was a bad idea only made Lana want it more.

Copyright © 2020 by Mindy Hung

 

The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

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Life is pretty good for Brooklyn teen Cal; he has an impressive follower count on the FlashFame app and he’s about to start an internship at BuzzFeed. But then Cal’s father announces that he has been selected for NASA’s upcoming mission to Mars, and the whole family is moving to Houston.

Cal thinks this is terrible: not only is his NY-based internship delayed indefinitely, but then he learns that he can’t even parlay his streaming journalism into providing content for his father’s new opportunity because StarWatch, a reality television production company has exclusive rights and they’re filming everything for their Shooting Stars show. Read more