Today’s Steals and Deals at AAR…..
Welcome to today’s Steals and Deals. We’ve got a winner by Serena Bell, a great paranormal series based on the Arthurian legends, a steamy HP from Caitlin Crews, and a very funny contemp from the best-seller lists. Enjoy!
I’m so excited this book is on sale. I bought it! In our B+ review we wrote:
Do Over is my favorite kind of second-chance romance. Jack, our hero, was once very dumb but not abusive or monstrous. Maddie, our heroine, had no time for his crap and got outta there, taking their kid with her. She’s been playing the single mom game for a while and Jack has been slowly cleaning up his emotional act. When Maddie needs a place to stay, Jack offers his spare room, and the rest is history. There’s groveling, honest conversations, really hot sex, and gut wrenching vulnerability. Oh, and did I mention it’s also a friends-to-lovers story? I can see so many one-click fingers twitching. Give in, you won’t regret it.
Jack and Maddie grew up together and were quite close. That changed after a kiss during high school, when Jack’s home life was thrown into chaos and Maddie, being youngish as well, didn’t know how to reach out and so didn’t. They drifted, not really communicating, but the narrative makes it clear that their emotional connection didn’t waver.
Fast forward a few years and Maddie comes home from college on a break nursing a broken heart. After a lot of feet dragging, she joins her best friend at a bonfire party and finds Jack there, too. They get to talking, Maddie starts crying over the ex, Jack doesn’t know what to do with crying women, really, so he kisses her, and then….
Not only do they reconnect that night, but Maddie ends up pregnant. Jack makes it clear to her that he is 100% there for her and his son financially, but not emotionally. So for the next five years, he’s ‘Fun Uncle’ – he has his son – Gabe – every weekend, but all the heavy lifting of parenting during those weekends is done by his mother and his sister. He thinks that’s a massive secret by the way, but Maddie is hip to his battle plan and knows what’s going on. Jack is not neglectful by any means – he just never changes diapers or cooks meals or administers discipline. In other words, he does the fun stuff of being a dad but never actually parents his son.
Our story picks up when Maddie discovers her live-in-boyfriend-almost-fiancé screwing her best friend in their house. Gabe is at Jack’s for the evening, and so in a daze she drives there. After some trauma-induced making out, Jack offers his place as her crash pad until she finds a new house, and that’s when I nearly clapped my hands in glee. Forced proximity! Man child trying to grow into a father! Strong woman who can do it alone but doesn’t want to! My trope boxes kept getting ticked, and I was delighted.
This plot could have easily hovered at surface level and been just a second-chance romance full of chemistry-laden sex. Instead, Ms. Bell takes the risk of exploring emotions and the book is all the better for it. I would have enjoyed the novel without it, but I’m so glad it’s included, because she does the work and elevates the story as a result. And by ‘work’, I mean she makes Jack and Maddie excavate their pasts and really talk to each other. They rehash past choices and fears of the future and then, with eyes truly wide open, they walk boldly into that future together. When I closed my Kindle, I knew these three were going to be okay. Additionally, Gabe is not a plot device moppet (a pet peeve), and is very much his own character.
You can get it at Amazon for 1.99 here.
All of the books in Joy Nash’s Druids of Avalon series are on sale today. We gave three of the four B+s. (Here’s our review of Deep Magic.)
Nash’s Druids of Avalon series is neatly ticking off the trappings of the Arthurian legend. The first book – The Grail King – dealt with the Holy Grail, of course, while Deep Magic explores the creation of the sword Exchalybur and how it wound up in that lake anyway. While this new twist on the legend is interesting, the love story remains front and center. And it is a good one.
Gwendolyn is a Druid with powerful magic. She, along with the remaining Druids, has gone into hiding since the Romans all but wiped them out. They live on Avalon, an island surrounded by protective mists designed to keep it hidden. When a party of Roman soldiers arrives to explore a nearby silver mine, the colony’s safety is threatened – especially when Gwen “sees” the dark magic surrounding the commander, Strabo. Romans are not supposed to have magic, but Strabo’s is so strong that it is affecting everyone in the colony, plaguing them with painful memories and weakening the protective mist. Gwen is convinced that it will take more than “Light Magic” to keep them safe; she must delve into the more dangerous “Deep Magic.” She has a vision of The Lady giving her a sword with which Gwen defeats the evil threatening Avalon. Now she must find a blacksmith able to create – with help from her magic – the sword.
Marcus Aquila is such a blacksmith, and a Roman, but an unusual one. He is no stranger to magic, though he deplores it. As a child, he watched it almost kill his father, now a retired Roman commander who married a Celt queen. His half-sister has strong magic and sees visions which are disturbing and physically painful, and he has recently learned that his best friend Rhys, Gwen’s twin brother, is also a Druid. To top it all off, magic also cost him the woman he planned to marry. He would just as soon never hear of magic, or see its results, ever again.
It is to Marcus that Gwen goes when she needs someone to fashion the sword of her dream. They met a year earlier when Marcus helped to save her life and during the process saw her change her form from a wolf to a woman. It frightened – and excited – him so much that he has been dreaming of Gwen ever since. Gwen’s thoughts have often turned to Marcus as well, but her attraction is tinged with the fear that he is repulsed by her. Nothing could be further from the truth. Marcus and Gwen fight their attraction as they work together to create Exchalybur in time to thwart the evil facing Avalon.
I’ve always been a fan of the Arthurian legends, and this series is a nice addition to the canon, but one whose primary focus is on the romance – perfect for the romance fan who appreciates folklore. Gwen and Marcus are both appealing characters, with some hefty emotional baggage – Gwen more so than Marcus – whose HEA seems unattainable, but also, when it occurs, inevitable. It’s a HEA that I believed in.
You can get all four for 1.49 each here at Amazon.
AAR loves lots of Caitlin Crews’ books–the woman can write any kind of romance and make it work. This one is great fun. (Here’s our B+ review.)
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just want a really good Harlequin Presents read. I want the tropes to be laid on thick, I want to laugh at the outrageousness of most of it, and I want to lose myself in a world of pure imagination. When I don’t want that itch scratched, HPs are annoying and so I read them selectively. I’m so glad that Bride by Royal Decree is a fab example of the line and that my Christmas break provided an excellent opportunity to enjoy it.
Maggy is an orphan who survived the foster care system to land in Vermont, and now works at a café. Her PoV is busy telling us how hard her life has been, how much she’s struggled, and how proud she is of herself for getting this far when the door of the cafe opens and in walks a chiseled god of a man. Maggy, not one to suffer fools, is annoyed. She informs him that the café is closed, and he informs her that she’s coming with him.
She barks out a laugh and goes back to mopping and telling him to get the hell out of there, when he tells her she’s actually the long-lost princess of Santa Domini and she’s betrothed to him, Reza Argos, the king of The Constantines. Both countries are neighbors and nestled in the European Alps. They make their money in banking and skiing and generally sound too good to be true (because they are).
Maggy is skeptical at best and furious at worst. She agrees to meet Reza later that evening to get a blood test so that the matter can be put to bed. Of course, the blood test confirms (instantaneously! Because that’s how DNA works!) that she is Princess Magdalena Santa Domini and they must depart the U.S. immediately so she can assume her duties quickly.
Their chemistry, in case you were wondering, is instantly smoldering. They are well on their way to true love before they even board the plane. The PoV switches frequently, so we get inside both of their heads, which adds to the sense that this story just wraps itself around your brain. This fantasy world is sumptuous.
First of all, Maggy has to go to princess school so that she can get made over both inside and out. She has to learn diplomacy, royal history, and posture, alongside proper care of one’s nailbeds if one is going to be photographed constantly. She also has to learn how to not be the scrappy orphan she’s been for most of her life and go back to being the princess she was for her first ten years. That was when her parents were killed in a car accident and everyone thought she was with them. Instead, she was secreted off to the U.S. and put up for adoption. So, the accident was no accident and was instead a hit! She was supposed to die, but was spared instead. In this, Bride by Royal Decree borrows a lot from both Anastasia and Pygmalion.
Reza, for his part, has been king since he was twenty-three. He has learned to ruthlessly suppress his humanity and focus entirely on being a proper ruler. When his attraction and love for Maggy threatens to force his humanity to overrule his royalty, he panics completely. Can they overcome his panic and find the true love that will unite both their countries into a peaceful harmony? (Of course they can. It’s a HP novel.)
It’s on sale at Amazon for 1.99 here.
Looking to laugh? Romantic Comedy is for you! Here’s our DIK review.
In Romantic Comedy, Sally Milz is a writer for The Night Owls (TNO) a fictional version of Saturday Night Live (SNL). We get a peek behind the scenes as the cast members put together a show full of comedy sketches. This is a very funny book; I found myself laughing along as Sally and the TNO cast are working together on the sketches and as they open their hearts and take chances on love.
Sally is someone I want to be friends with. She’s in her mid-thirties, clever, divorced, a little cynical, and writes some really funny skits for the show. She sees her friend and fellow writer, Danny, an average looking guy, start to date a famous and incredibly hot actress, and he’s not the only one. There have been at least two other average guys at the show who have dated and even married famous, beautiful women (which the author said was inspired by Pete Davidson). Sally pokes fun by writing a skit that she calls “The Danny Horst Rule” where men date women out of their league but the same does not hold true for the women.
But then, much to Sally’s surprise, she feels sparks of chemistry between her and this week’s TNO host, the handsome Noah Brewster, a pop star in his late-thirties who had his first big hit when he was a teen. She senses a connection while they work on one of his sketches. He is impressed by Sally’s writing and her intelligence and she is impressed by how down to earth he is. But Sally is insecure and has a hard time believing someone like Noah could fall for someone like her. (On a side note, I had fun trying to guess who some of the characters are based on, for example, Sally reminded me of Tina Fey.)
It’s on sale here for 1.99.
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