The power of a lie

The Guy on the Left (Underdogs #2) by Kate Stewart

So, Ms Stewart went there, she really did…. I won’t ruin it by saying more, but she really did and it’s amazing.

It’s the story of a lie. A simple but damaging lie, that means Clarissa feels entitled to hold onto her anger. Troy works hard to be forgiven, for her to see him as the man she needs but she clings onto Troy the teenager.

It’s the perfect amount of angst, heartbreak and redemption. It completely consumed me, I didn’t know who I was cheering the most for. I loved how Ms Stewart had me warring with myself over which character was ‘right’ at every stage.

But ultimately I loved Troy. I loved how he grew into a man and how he fought with everything he had for a future with Clarissa. No matter what that’s love. And who doesn’t want that? We all crave it. Troy made me fall in love with love all over again. He was also super super sexy, so get those ovaries ready to do some overtime!

It is an emotional read but there are many light moments. Dante and Parker made me laugh, Parker really was fierce and such a game player!

Next up in this fantastic series is The Guy in the Middle, I cannot wait!

Grease monkey love

Inside Track by Tracie Delaney (Full Velocity #3)

The Tracie Delaney hallmarks of crisp writing, defined characters and easy dialogue are yet again in evidence. But what stands out (and has with this whole series) is her phenomenal research and knowledge of the subject matter. The research is so good that you don’t need to know a thing about F1. This time round it’s not about racers. I thought it was brave to move away from the glamorous drivers into the world of the grease monkeys.

But what a grease monkey! I’ll hold my hand up and say that my heart (and other bits) are still with Tate (book 2). I’m not sensing that’s going to change anytime soon. But back to Devon and his story. Simply put, he is one of the most interesting characters I’ve come across recently, and his story really pulls those heart strings.

It’s fascinating to understand what this kind of scenario would do to someone. His relationship with Charlotte has so many layers and a fragile history to it. Ms Delaney certainly didn’t take the easy or obvious route. Inside Track is quite a good deal more than a normal romance. In fact the romance and the F1 setting are just added bonuses.

Talking of settings Ms Delaney nails the globe trotting nature of F1 with wonderful descriptive text. She’ll have you dreaming of destinations, so make sure your passport is up to date! Young Greta will not be pleased.

As for Reilley, she’s super smart, successful and has an energy about her. She is such a likeable heroine and a great match for our grease monkey.

Batmen, heroes and the underdog

The Guy on the Right by Kate Stewart

Oh my…

We shouldn’t fit, but we do, and our fit is nothing short of spectacular. There’s no wool in the world thick enough to make me blind to that.

Yep, spectacular. Written with real class and a decent dose of realness.

Ms Stewart serves up a double masterclass. She completely nails the slow burn. And if you love a friends to lovers story, this is so far above the rest that you’ll immediately reread!

It is a true slow burn, I started to wonder if anything was going to happen and then I found I couldn’t put it down. Theo and Laney surprised and totally delighted me.

What a complete read. It was warm, charming, sweet and harsh all at once. Theo/Teddy will resonate a little everyone, even though you know he got it wrong, you can’t help but be sympathetic. Team Theo t-shirts on order!

And Laney killed it. I adored the way she went after her realest life – she really is a role model. Superb.

“I’m done with batman”

Lainey’s description of her Batman superhero boyfriends cracked me up! It was genius. If you or your bestie has a problem with commitment phobes you gotta read the Batman reference at least. You will see the light! Classic!

I guess the truth is we all want the underdog to win, but we don’t really expect it. We also define what a hero is like based on some pretty narrow parameters. Theo seems to be the underdog, not the obvious choice for a romantic hero. But in reality, he’s clearly the hero, it’s just he and we don’t quite realise it, not at first anyway. Thank goodness for Laney.

Ms Stewart is a wonderful writer and she’s on top form here. Totally recommend this one.

A Festive Trio

Joy to the Duke (Love is All Around #3) by Darcy Burke

Christmas beckons, under a month to go now. If you are looking to ignite your Christmas spirit, this cracking series is perfect for you.

Calder Stafford is a gloriously moody and cranky Duke. He does his best to thwart his sisters’ festive plans and ensure the locals are denied any kind of joy. Yep, meet Ebeneezer Scrooge! Ms Burke weaves a great tale to explore the grumpiness of our Duke. It’s easy to see how ‘Chill’ lives upto his nickname. But how can he be defrosted?

Enter old flame Felicity. It wasn’t only the Duke’s heart that sung, so did mine. It was romantic and feisty, and well joyful. Throw in a whole load of Christmas spirit and this is a festive read you’ll return to every December.

This is book three in this festive series, for me it’s the best. Whilst each book is stand alone I recommend you start with The Red Hot Earl, which gets the Rudolph treatment. It will make you feel good all over. Second up is The Gift of the Marquess, Ms Burke takes an already established couple and weaves us some Christmas magic.

A Shattered God

Midnight Blue by L. J. Shen

Once upon a time a mere mortal fell in love with a rock god. You probably know this is not a fairytale by now. Mortals and gods don’t mix.

Midnight Blue is raw, emotive and sparkles with life.

I’m not sure who I’m more in love with British rocker Alex Winslow or L.J. Shen. Maybe Ms Shen, her writing is superlative, truly beautiful. I couldn’t stop highlighting parts of the book. Quote after quote spoke to me.

“…we’re all vases. And you’re the one scattered on the floor, shattered beyond repair. So I’ll let someone else pick you up. It’s really that simple.

Alex is so broken it’s like he can never be put back together. His hurt eeks out of him. I don’t think Indie believes for a moment she can fix him and I loved that. She saw the addict, the cruel bastard who lashes out and the boy the world thinks it owns. It hurt her (and me), but she wasn’t going to fix him. And knowing him, she didn’t intend to fall in love. But best intentions and all that.

Even though there’s not much innocent about Alex, his connection with Indie was child like. He was so curious about her, she inspired him. She seemed so shiny to him, and yet he knew he would ruin her. It was hard knowing he would do it. But that was the point at which I knew they needed each other. This wasn’t just about the broken rock star but also the grief fuelled Stardust.

The author pits the beauty of creating music, of artistically expressing yourself with the price of fame. Alex can no longer trust his life. He can’t trust anyone because they all want something. And so he fails to see love and friendship, even though it’s there. I veered between wanting to shake him or hug him.

Ms Shen’s writing is extraordinary, her characters are complex and the story is so compelling. Even for an angst ridden romance, this is far from your typical fare. I think you will love it. I know I did.

Bleeding, pounding, glowing

Method by Kate Stewart

I’m used to issuing warnings to have a box of Kleenex close to hand. But for this one you’ll also need a cardiologist. Seriously, this book made my heart bleed. And pound. And glow. And squeeze.

Forget Jekyll and Hyde, Lucas is the quintessential villain and hero. And what a divine hero he is.

This is the story of true unconditional love and how disturbing that can be. It makes you realise why people go to such lengths to harden their hearts against such love. Some people are made for an each other, but there’s nothing simple about it.

This isn’t just about romantic love. At the heart of it is the bond between two men, it’s such a pure but tainted love. Again that heart of mine pounded, squeezed and glowed.

It was all encompassing and weirdly life affirming. I might not describe the writing as beautiful, it was messy, complex and draining. Ms Stewart has outdone herself. I would love to know how she wrote such a story.

Love is the best

The Best Thing by Mariana Zapata

Ms. Zapata is queen of the slow slow burn romance. Whilst, I usually yearn for pace in a book I adore her writing style. Its easy to invest time with her characters and their stories, in part because her writing makes me feel safe and kind of exposed at the same time.

As I’ve come to expect Ms Zapata nails the characterisation brilliantly. The cast of extra characters is fantastic. The wider cast are important because whilst this is most definitely a romance, it’s also a book about family love and how we define families. The love that surrounded Lenny was beautiful, it really crystallised the task Jonah had to win her over.

“I still don’t know about that Edward”

Grandpa Gus and his vampire references stole the show! What a character! And his comments in the epilogue are a killer (Kleenex needed). Look out for rugby player Jonah explaining the finer points of the game to Americans!

I’m not going to comment on Jonah and Lenny, who are a fab couple, simply because you need to go into this book cold. There are too many spoilers about! But I will say Ms Zapata delivers so much more than just a romance. She gives us real love, the horrendous pain and the self sacrificing nature of love. It’s so powerful.

PS I’ve been off colour for some time so I’m slowly catching up with blogs on my favourite summer reading. Please bear with me.

Start your engines

Friction by Tracie Delaney (High Velocity #1)

Formula 1 – the glamour, the adrenaline, the competition, the cars, the teams – Ms Delaney nails it all. What a fabulous starter for her new Full Velocity series. It’s high octane, fast paced and hot. Yep Jared and Paisley heat up the sheets and a few other places!

Jared and Paisley are a challenging couple, not an obvious match but ultimately well-matched. They test each other quite a bit. So there’s fireworks, passion and real tenderness. You get to see them both grow a bit.

Clearly the author knows F1 well, the book benefits from some real insights into the sport and business. But if you’re not a fan, you might not realise how hot an F1 driver can be. Let Ms Delaney enlighten you!

This is a feel good, fun read. Whatever ails you put it aside for an hour or two and enjoy!

PS I’ve been off colour for some time so I’m slowly catching up with blogs on my favourite summer reading. Please bear with me.

Trinity on fire

Wolf Rain by Nalini Singh (Trinity #3 Psy Changeling #18)

Eighteen books, yet this series is as fresh and glorious as when Sasha first met Lucas. What an achievement. I can only say if you are not reading Ms Singh you are seriously missing out.

For anyone who can’t face eighteen books, this is book three in a second arc. If you start with the Trinity series you will have no trouble following it.

The story is set back with our snow dancers. Having spent the past few books with bears (gorgeous bears!) and underwater, it feels like I’m coming home. And my absolute fave Clay makes an appearance. Whoop whoop!

Ms Singh puts the new couple centre stage, yet develops the Trinity story arc with passion and ingenuity. It’s so so clever. The introduction of a new Psy talent just upped my curiosity ten fold! The Trinity storyline is super fascinating and driving me crazy, I can’t stop thinking about what will happen next!

As for our couple, this is a story about loss. Alexei is dealing with the loss of his brother in a tragic manner with the anniversary hitting him hard. He’s adorable. Memory too has suffered such loss, I connected with her big time. I loved how Memory discovered herself almost in real time and this meant I got to know her as Alexei did. It strengthened my bond with them, and their bond was so tangible.

This series is beautifully written, gloriously diverse, intelligently crafted and smoking hot. It should be an auto buy!

Spitfires and Dukes

Never Have I Ever with a Duke by Darcy Burke (Spitfire Society #1)

Yet again, Ms Burke demonstrates why she’s everyone’s favourite historical romance author.

As I’ve come to expect Ms Burke delivers an historically accurate and detailed story. The story itself is just that bit different.

We are reacquainted with Graham, who was the Duke of Ives secretary, managing all the betting and games. Now, however he has inherited a Dukedom. Sadly, it’s not an easy transition from Duke’s secretary to being a Duke.

To be the Duke he wants to be, Graham needs to make some tough choices. Along the way he meets Arabella who also faces some tough choices. It’s clear that under different circumstances they would both opt to choose each other, but it won’t solve their issues.

I thought the issue of debt contrasted alongside the marriage mart was well handled and interesting. It just shows us how far society has come, of course there’s so far to go but what progress we’ve made.

I especially appreciated that there wasn’t an easy resolution, in fact it seems that only half the work is done. Wrapping everything up simply at the end, grates on me, sometimes it’s so hard to believe.

As for the Spitfire Society – oh my! This is going to be a fascinating series. Spirited and interesting ladies who aren’t hanging off the Duke’s every word! Along with their heroes there’s going to be some baggage and some great stories to tell! Can’t wait!

Thank you to the author for an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

PS I’ve been off colour for a while, I’m only now organised enough to draft blogs for my summer reading. Please bear with me whilst I catch up. Thank you.