Home Forums Let’s Talk Romance The AAR 18 in 2018 Reading Challenge

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    • Maggie Boyd
      Keymaster
      Post count: 66

      Let’s get this party started!

    • Maggie Boyd
      Keymaster
      Post count: 66

      Dance!
      Read 1 8(or 10 or 12) books that match the criteria listed within the challenge to complete it.
      1. Square Dance – Associated with the romantic image of the American Cowboy. Read a Western Romance. (Cowboy, ranchers, you name it -if it’s associated with the American West it works!)
      2. Watermelon Crawl – A country line dance made famous by the Tracy Byrd song. Read a small-town romance or a book that takes place at a fair.
      3. Tango (Chase)– An elegant, stylized dance often associated with danger. Read a romantic suspense novel or romance involving a mystery of some kind.
      4. Waltz – A ballroom dance. Read a Regency or European historical romance
      5. Boogie-Woogie – A form of swing dance popularized in the 30s/40s. Read a novel that takes place in the 30s/40s
      6. Pole Dance – This dance is meant to inspire desire. Read a hot romance.
      7. Quickstep- The movement of the dance is fast and powerfully flowing and sprinkled with unexpected rhythms. Read a romance involving someone doing fancy footwork, like a thief, con-man, ad man, lawyer etc.
      8. The Lindy Hop – A type of swing dance named after Charles Lindbergh who “hopped” across the Atlantic. Read a romance about someone who travels a lot for a living (pilot, war correspondent etc.) or where a trip is central to the story.
      9. Salsa – A Cuban dance whose origins began with Latin Jazz. Read a romance that takes place in the Caribbean or that has an h/h from that area or since the dance is often associated with Miami, read a book that takes place in Florida.
      10. Rumba – There is a famous scene in the I Love Lucy show (Season 1, Episode 3) where Lucy is dressed in a Carmen Miranda outfit. It is typically referred to as Lucy’s Rumba and has inspired everything from Christmas Ornaments to Postcards. In honor of that moment, read a humorous romance.
      11. Jitterbug – a type of swing dance, made popular by Cab Calloway’s 1934 recording of “Call of the Jitter Bug” (Jitterbug) and the film “Cab Calloway’s Jitterbug Party”. It actually refers to someone who is high from alcohol or drugs and has “the jitters” as a result. Read a book about a bar tender or someone who works in a bar, a novel that takes place in a bar or that involves alcohol in some significant way or read a book about a recovered alcoholic/ drug addict or that involves an intervention.
      12. Polka – a popular folk dance from Eastern Europe. Read a book that takes place in Eastern Europe or where the h/h are descended from Eastern Europeans.
      13. March – Marches are associated with soldiers; read a military romance.
      14. Jive – Jive is a type of swing dance associated with jazz music. Jive talking is to speak in an exaggerated, teasing, or misleading way. Read a book with an h/h who is in politics or a profession where the truth is exaggerated.
      15. Tap dance – Children are often taught how to tap at an early age. Read a book where the h/h are single parents or a book that involves a pregnancy in some way.
      16. Ballet – Ballets often tell epic stories. Read an epic romance or a book with high drama.
      17. Break dancing – Athletic style of street dancing. Read a book about an h/h who are into sports.
      18. Electric boogaloo- a funk style of hip hop dance closely related to popping. African American pop culture has given us many, many different dances of which this is just one. Read a book with an h/h who are African American.
      19. Moonwalk – dance move in which the dancer moves backwards while seemingly walking forwards. Read a science fiction or fantasy book.
      20. Rain Dance – many Native American dances involved evoking blessings. Read a novel with a Native American character or a book that significantly involves a weather event (flood, fire etc.)
      21. Hokey Pokey – One of the earliest dances most Americans learn, often used in schools for indoor play or gym class. Read a novel about a teacher or someone who works in education.
      22. Macarena – This fun song/dance deals with a cheating girlfriend. Read a book that has a cheating plot or where the h/h had a cheating previous partner.
      23. Bharatanatyam – a classical dance from the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, practiced predominantly in modern times by women. Read a novel that takes place in India.
      24. Belly dancing – associated with the Middle East. Read a novel set in the Middle East or with Middle Eastern characters.
      25. Charleston – This extremely popular dance type was popularized by famous tune called “The Charleston” by composer and pianist James P. Johnson. Read a book that takes place in the American South, where Charleston is located.
      26. Merengue – a type of lively, joyful music and dance that comes from the Dominican Republic. Merengue means whipped egg whites and sugar in Spanish, similar to the English word meringue. Read a book that involves a baker or cook.
      27. Flash dance – a form of tap dance that evolved in the 1920s–1930s, which combined dance with acrobatics. Read a book that takes place in a short span of time.
      28. Long Dance- Native American Dance celebration held on California’s Central Coast in San Luis Obispo County. Read a book that is 400+ pages or a book that covers a long time period (over a year). Or a book that has two separate time line stories like many S. Brockman novels or Suzanna Kearsley or Simone St. James books.
      29. Monster Mash – The song is narrated by a mad scientist whose monster, late one evening, rises from a slab to perform a new dance. The dance becomes “the hit of the land” when the scientist throws a party for other monsters. Read a paranormal romance.
      30. Highland Fling – a solo Highland dance that gained popularity in the early 19th century. Read a Scottish romance.
      31. Angle Dance – A Robert Plant song/lullaby. Read an Inspirational romance.
      32. Mambo Italiano- In the movie by this name a young Canadian Immigrant struggles to find a way to tell his parents he is gay. Read a LGBTQ romance.
      33. Mambo Number Five – Lou Bega’s song and dance is all about switching partners. Read a book that involves second chance at love or a ménage/multi-partner romance.
      34. Twist – Chuck Berry invited us to twist the night away, a dance that involves the feet grinding back and forth on the floor. Sounds easy but like the hula-hoop this can be hard to master. Read a book which involves a surprising plot twist, such as where the heroine thinks the hero guilty of a crime.
      35. The Chicken (Funky Chicken) – a popular rhythm and blues dance started in America in the 1950s, in which the dancers flapped their arms and kicked back their feet in an imitation of a chicken. Chicken soup is what we give those who are ill. Read a medical romance.
      36. “The Time Warp” – a song featured in the 1973 rock musical The Rocky Horror Show and in its 1975 film adaptation The Rocky Horror Picture Show, as well as a dance performed during the chorus of the song. Read a time travel romance.
      37. River Dance – the dance sensation that swept a nation, this is an Irish folk dance. Read an Irish romance.
      38. Bolero – one of the competition dances in American Rhythm ballroom dance category. Read a book about a bet or some other type of competition (i.e. The Hating Game – two characters vying for the same job).
      39. Cha-Cha (Cha-Cha-Cha) “Optimist: Someone who figures that taking a step backward
      after taking a step forward is not a disaster, it’s a cha-cha.” Robert Brault Read a romance with a Pollyanna type character or read a book where the h/h are forced to return home for some reason.
      40. Read a book with a dance word in the title, such as Pamela Morsi’s Last Dance at Jitterbug Lounge or a book with a dancing couple on the cover.
      41. Free style – Whatever book you want.

    • Maggie Boyd
      Keymaster
      Post count: 66

      The Alphabet Challenge
      R is the 18th letter of the alphabet. Read 10 or 18 books where the title or author’s name begins with the letter R.

      The Alphabet Challenge Variation
      Variation read 18 books where the title/author name begins with the letter A, then B, C, etc. through R.

      The 21st Century Challenge
      Read 18 books, one per year published in 2001, 2002 through 2018

      The 20th Century Challenge
      Read 18 books, one per year published in 2000, 1999 back through 1983

    • Maggie Boyd
      Keymaster
      Post count: 66

      The Jingle Challenge
      If you grew up in the 20th century, there was a song selling just about every product under the sun. Read 10,12 or 18 books that match the criteria within the challenge to complete it.

      1. When You Say Bud You’ve Said It All – (Budweiser) Read a friends to lovers romance or a romance where the h/h have known each other a long time.
      2. The Best Part of Waking Up (Folgers)- Read a book about a coffee barista, café worker/owner, or h/h who are in the food industry in some way.
      3. Like a Good Neighbor – Read a small town romance or a story where the h/h return home.
      4. Libbys, Libbys, Libbys On The Label, Label, Label (Libbys canned goods) Read a book where the h/h are farmers, ranchers or work with groceries in some capacity. British nobles often had home farms with their property, which would count.
      5. I’d Like to Teach The World To Sing (Coke)– Read a romance where the h/h work with music in some capacity or a book with song name/lyrics in the title.
      6. Five Dollar Foot Long (Subway) – Read a hot romance or a romance where the h/h are well endowed.
      7. Meow Meow Meow Meow (Meow Mix) Read a book that involves animals in some way.
      8. Stuck on Bandaid (Bandaid) – Read a book where the h/h work in medicine in some capacity.
      9. Two all beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onions on a sesame seed bun (McDonald’s) McDonald’s is the king of fast food restaurants. Read a book about h/h in a high powered career or a book where the h/h are titled nobility.
      10. Wouldn’t You Like To Be A Pepper Too? (Dr. Pepper) Read a book where the h/h are described as sassy, sarcastic, opinionated etc. or a book where the h/h belong to something (band, motorcycle gang etc.)
      11. I Don’t Want to Grow Up, I’m a Toys R Us Kid – Read a book about single parent(s) or a book that involves children in some way (i.e. h/h are teachers, social workers etc.)
      12. Gimme a Break (Kit-Kat) Read a second chance at love story or a reunion romance
      13. There’s Nothing Like the face (of a kid eating a Hershey Bar, Hershey) – The great American chocolate bar. It all began with a visit to Hershey by Captain Paul P. Logan of the US Army Quartermaster Corps in 1937, as America drifted closer to war. Samuel Hinkle, Hershey’s chief chemist at the time and a future company president, said Logan asked Hershey to develop “a kind of survival ration.” The resulting chocolate bar, with greater nutritional value and a higher melting point than usual, was the beginning of what came to be called a D Ration. Read a romance with a veteran or where the h/h are in the military.
      14. Hot Dogs, Armour Hotdogs (Armour Hotdogs) to be a hotdog is to perform unusual or very intricate maneuvers in a sport or to perform in a reckless or flamboyant manner. Read a sports romance.
      15. (I wish I was an) Oscar Mayer Weiner (Oscar Mayer) – Hopefully most of us have higher aspirations than being a hotdog! Read a book where the h/h are starting a new career or work in their dream job. Or since the lyrics include “so everyone would be in love with me” read a romance where the h/h is popular, famous, or infamous.
      16. My baloney has a first name (Oscar Mayer Bologna) – Read a romance that involves a family name, such as the MacGregor Saga by Nora Roberts or a romance that includes a name in the title such as Searching for Irene, The Charming Lady Charlotte etc.
      17. We love baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Chevrolet (Chevrolet) – Read a romance that involves cars/motorcylces/vehicles in some capacity. Or since this is meant to describe American life, read a romance that takes place in America.
      18. Plop, plop fizz, fizz oh what a relief it is (Alka Seltzer) Alka Seltzer is all about solving a problem. Read a romantic suspense book.
      19. Have a coke and a smile (Coca Cola) – Read a book where the h/h works in a profession where smiles are important such as dentist, model or actor.
      20. Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t (Peter Paul Almond Joy/Mounds) Read a humorous romance or a romance that takes place in a tropical location.
      21. Double, double your refreshment (doublemint gum) These ads involved twins. Read a book where the h/h have a twin or read several connected books about siblings.
      22. Smack dab in the middle (Chewels) Read the second book in a trilogy or any book that is in the middle of a series.
      23. I want my baby back ribs (Chillis) – Read a book that involves a secret baby or unplanned pregnancy.
      24. Mmm, Mmm Good (Campbell’s Soup) Read an award winning romance.
      25. Head for the Mountains (Busch Beer) Read a book where the h/h work in a bar or with alcohol in some way.
      26. I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan (Enjoli) Read a book where the heroine’s independent nature is a definitive aspect of her character. (I.e. suffragette, devoted to her career, refuses to marry because she doesn’t want to give up her independence etc.)
      27. Just one calorie, now you see it, now you don’t (Diet Pepsi) – Read a romance that has ghosts or spirits.
      28. Meet the Swinger, the Polaroid Swinger (Polaroid Cameras) Read a romance with multiple partners or where the h/h have a second chance at love.
      29. Just One Cornetto – Give it to me!’ (British Ice Cream Ad) Read a romance set in England or a romance that involves cold weather in some way.
      30. Snickers satisfies you – Be satisfied with your reading choices. This is a wild card to be used for any type of book.
      31. Fruity Oaty Bar! Commercial (Serenity Movie) – A song that triggers an assassin. Read a sci-fi/fantasy/paranormal romance.
      32. Last beer to have when you’re having more than one (Schafer beer) H/h is recover(ed)ing addict or works with addiction in some way
      33. Tonight is Kind of Special (Lowenbrau) – One night stand romance or cabin/road trip romance.
      34. From the Land of Sky Blue Waters (Hamms) – A book that takes place on or near the water, or has something to do with water on the cover/title.
      35. You can wear a ring around your finger (Ring Pop) – a book revolving around a wedding or with bride/wedding in the title or a book with a fake engagement.
      36. The world looks mighty good to me cause tootsie rolls are all I see (Tootsie Roll) Whatever it is I think I see, becomes a tootsie roll to me: Read a book that involves amnesia, mistaken identity/false identity or witness protection etc.
      37. Fresh goes better (Mentos) Read a book about fresh starts – new career, new location, makeover etc.
      38. Kiss a little longer, Give your breath long lasting freshness (Big Red) Read a long romance (400+ pages) or a romance that takes place over a year or more or a romance that has story lines in two different time periods or where the plot is affected by events of the past.
      39. Thingamabob, gooblygook, what’s it face (Whatchamacallit Candy Bar) – Any type of romance you want.
      40. The taste is gonna move you (Juicy Fruit) Read a book where the h/h has a passion (environment, politics, working with needy) or read an Inspirational romance.

    • Maggie Boyd
      Keymaster
      Post count: 66

      Defining Love
      Mankind has looked for the true meaning of love for centuries. Below are some quotes that offer a glimpse of what it means. Read 10,12 or 18 books that match the criteria within the challenge to complete it.
      1. Love is friendship that has caught fire ( Anne Landers ) Read a friends to lovers romance.
      2. Love is the answer, (John Lennon) Read a mystery/romantic suspense.
      3. Love is a flower, you’ve got to let it grow. (John Lennon) Read a book about a landscaper, florist or farmer. Or about someone who works in the outdoors in some way.
      4. Love is higher than a mountain (Bee Gees) Read a book that takes place in Montana or Colorado or any other area known for their mountains.
      5. Love is deeper than water (Bee Gees) Read a book that takes place on a ship or that involves water in some way. (i.e. body of water in the title such as Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas)
      6. Love is like an hourglass, with the heart filling up as the brain empties. (Jules Renard) Read a time travel romance.
      7. Love is stronger than death (Robert Fulghum) Read a vampire romance or another type of paranormal or read a romance that involves a significant death. (Ie married because it is required in a will such as in Mary Balogh’s Slightly Married)
      8. True love is like ghosts, which everyone talks about and few have seen. (Francois de La Rochefoucauld) Read a story with ghosts or spirits
      9. Life is a game and true love is a trophy. (Rufus Wainwright) Read a sports romance or a book that involves a competition of some kind.
      10. Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope. (Maya Angelou) Read an across the tracks romance or where the h/h overcome a significant barrier (class, religion, etc.)
      11. Love is like a virus. It can happen to anybody at any time. (Maya Angelou) Read a medical romance or a romance that involves someone who works in the medical industry.
      12. Love is a friendship set to music. (Joseph Campbell) Read a book where the h or h are musicians or read a novel with a title based on song lyrics/song title. (Earls Just Wanna Have Fun etc.)
      13. Love is a better teacher than duty. (Albert Einstein) Read a book about a teacher/educator
      14. God is Love (Apostle John) Read an Inspirational romance.
      15. We are born of love; Love is our mother. (Rumi) Read a book about a single mother.
      16. Love is an ice cream sundae, with all the marvelous coverings. Sex is the cherry on top. (Jimmy Dean) Read a book about a sweet maker (baker, candy maker, cook) or with sweet(s) being mentioned in the title in some way.
      17. Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts. (Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. ) Read a small town romance or a book where the h/h are forced to return home for some reason.
      18. Love is the silent saying and saying of a single name. (Mignon McLaughlin) Read a book with someone who works with words for a living (writer, lawyer, reporter, TV host) or with a family name in the title (ie Nora Robert’s The MacGregors) or with a name in the title (ie: Searching for Irene, The Charming Lady Charlotte).
      19. Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs. (William Shakespeare) Read a firefighter romance or a book involving a fire in some way.
      20. Love is not to be purchased, and affection has no price. (St. Jerome) Read a book with a wealthy h/h or where someone needs to marry for money.
      21. Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired. (Robert Frost) Read a “hot” romance.
      22. Mature love is composed and sustaining; a celebration of commitment, companionship, and trust. (H. Jackson Brown, Jr. ) Read a book with an older h/h
      23. Love is a battle, love is a war; (James A Baldwin) Military romance or a book that takes place during a war time period.
      24. Love is a growing up. James A. Baldwin Read a YA romance.
      25. Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.(James A. Baldwin) Read a book that involves a deception or dishonesty in some way.
      26. Love many things (Vincent Van Gogh) Read a second chance at love story.
      27. Love is a canvas furnished by nature and embroidered by imagination. (Voltaire) Read a book about artists or people who use their imagination in some way for a living.
      28. Love is chemical (Lou Reed) Read a book with a scientist or involving science in some way.
      29. Love is an exploding cigar we willingly smoke. (Lynda Barry) Read a lighthearted/comedic romance.
      30. Since love grows within you, so beauty grows. For love is the beauty of the soul. (Saint Augustine) Read a beauty/beast themed romance.
      31. Love is love. Read an LGBTQ romance.
      32. Love is in the Air In the movie Strictly Ballroom the main couple dance to this at the end. Read a book that involves dancing in some way, has the name of a dance on the cover or that has a dancing couple on the cover.
      33. Love is a Song – from the movie Bambi – read a book about a singer or a novel that involves animals in some way.
      34. Love is (comic strip) These comics involved two often naked lovers telling us what love was/is all about. Read a book about a stripper, a writer, or someone who works with comics in some way.
      35. Love is the absence of judgement (Dali Lama) Read a book about a judge or where h/h is involved with law enforcement in some way.
      36. I want to know what love is (Foreigner song) Wildcard – any book you want.
      37. Find your own quote about love that matches the book you are reading and share it with us!

    • Maggie Boyd
      Keymaster
      Post count: 66

      Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler)
      Read any 10 or 18 books from your TBR pile

    • Maggie Boyd
      Keymaster
      Post count: 66

      The Shoe Challenge: Many say it is a woman’s favorite accessory: . Read 10,12 or 18 books that match the criteria within the challenge to complete it
      1. ALMOND TOE A shoe style which features a softly rounded, tapered pointed toe. Read a book where the h/h works with food in some way.
      2. ATHLEISURE Fashion sportswear that is inspired by both athletic and leisure elements. Read a book where the h/h work in the leisure industry (hotel, vacation planner, tour guide etc)
      3. BABY BOOTIES – Quite possibly the sweetest shoe on earth. Read a book about a secret baby or a book involving a pregnancy.
      4. BALLET SLIPPERS – Read a book where the h/h are dancers or where there is a dance word in the title.
      5. BOAT SHOES A flat shoe designed with a rubber sole that offers good traction on slippery boat decks, often made from leather or canvas. Read a book that involves water in some way (h/h are sailors, water in the title, takes place near a lake/river etc.)
      6. BOWLING SHOES – At the start of the 21st century bowling alleys had problems with patrons stealing shoes as they became a fashion trend. Read a novel published in or taking place in the 21st Century.
      7. CHELSEA BOOT A type of pull-on ankle-height boot featuring elastic gussets. America’s most famous Chelsea is the daughter of two politicians. Read a book about a politician, a politician’s child or that involves politics in some way.
      8. CLEATS – An athletic shoe. Read a sports romance.
      9. CLOG -Clogging is the official state dance of Kentucky and North Carolina and was the social dance in the Appalachian Mountains as early as the 18th century. Read a book that takes place in the Appalachian area.
      10. COMBAT BOOTS Lace up multipurpose boots originally designed for the military. Read a military romance.
      11. COWBOY BOOTS -Read a Western romance or a book where the h/h is a farmer/rancher
      12. CROCS- a summer shoe. Read a book that takes place in summer.
      13. DESIGNER SHOES – Read a book where the h/h is wealthy.
      14. ESPADRILLE – A shoe or sandal that has a woven rope or similar material covering the wedge or sole. Espadrilles have been made in Occitania region (France), in the Pyrennean regions of Basque country (France – Spain) and Catalonia (Spain), since the 14th century at least, and there are shops in the Basque country (France – Spain) still in existence that have been making espadrilles for over a century. Read a book that takes place in France or Spain or has French/Spanish characters or a book that uses a French or Spanish word in the title.
      15. FLIP FLOPS -The ultimate casual, contemporary shoe. Read a contemporary romance.
      16. GALOSH -Waterproof footwear designed to be worn over other shoes or boots in wet weather. Read a book that takes place in a location known for their rain, such as India (monsoons), a jungle, England, Washington state in the U.S.
      17. GLADIATOR – Designed to resemble the shoes worn by ancient Roman fighters. Read a book about a boxer or other style of fighter, about a competition or bet, or about ancient Rome.
      18. HIDDEN WEDGE – A wedge-shaped heel hidden inside a boot or shoe. Read a book that revolves around a secret, a mystery or mistaken/hidden identity or read a romantic suspense novel.
      19. HIGH IN THE INSTEP – Read a book about a proud h/h.
      20. HIGH TOPS – Read a book where the h/h has achieved success.
      21. INSOLE Like the soul of a man, this inner part of a shoe that touches the bottom of the foot, is hidden within. Read an Inspirational Romance.
      22. KID SLIPPERS – Regency era shoe. Read a Regency romance. Or read a book involving children in some way.
      23. KITTEN HEEL A low-heeled stiletto shoe, often between 1 and 2 inches in heel height. Read a hot or sexy romance.
      24. MARY JANE – Read a book with a name in the title, that is part of a series based on siblings/family members or that involves young girls in some way.
      25. MOCASSIN – Read a Native American Romance or a romance that takes place in the Colonial/Revolutionary War period of the U.S.
      26. MOTORCYCLE BOOTS – Read a motorcycle club romance or read a romance where the h/h works with vehicles in some way (truck driver, mechanic, etc.)
      27. MULES – A shoe or sandal characterized by a closed, or nearly closed, toe and a backless heel of any height. Read a book involving animals.
      28. OXFORD – An Oxford shoe is characterized by shoelace eyelets tabs that are attached under the vamp,[1] a feature termed “closed lacing. Read a book about a vampire or another paranormal romance. Or read a book that takes place in England, home to Oxford University. Or read a book that takes place in or around a University.
      29. OVER THE KNEE BOOTS Boots featuring high shafts that are designed to hit above the knee. May be flat or heeled. Read a book about an uptight/ conservative hero or heroine.
      30. PEEP TOE – A shoe with a narrow opening in the front that exposes the toes. Read a book where the h/h wear their heart on their sleeve or where they are activists of some kind.
      31. PENNY LOAFER – This wardrobe shoe staple has been around since the early 1930s. Read a book that takes place in the 20th century.
      32. PLATFORMS – A stage is a fancy platform. Read a book where the h/h are actors or performers (singers, magicians, musicians etc.) of some kind.
      33. POINTED TOE PUMPS – An enclosed shoe with a heel of any height. Read a book with an Alpha heel (hero) or read a book with a pointed message.
      34. RETRO – Style paying homage to the past. Read a book where the h/h work with history in some way (historian/archeology/remodeling)
      35. RIDING BOOTS– Horse racing is the sport of kings. Read a book where the h/h is a member of the nobility.
      36. SADDLE SHOE – A low-heeled Oxford-style shoe that is characterized by a saddle-shaped mid-foot panel. Read a book from any era in history where riding horses was the primary means of transportation.
      37. SANDAL – Quite possibly the oldest shoe known to man. Read a historical novel.
      38. SHAFT – The upper portion of a boot that covers the ankle and sometimes the leg. Read a book where the h/h have been “shafted” in some way (cheating former spouse, robbed of an inheritance etc.)
      39. SLING BACK – Read a time travel romance.
      40. SLIPPER – The ultimate comfort shoe. Read a cozy or sweet romance.
      41. SNOW SHOES – Winter wear. Read a romance that takes place primarily in the winter or that has a winter scene on the cover.
      42. SPECTATOR- Read a book with a quiet h/h or an h/h who observe life from the shadows.
      43. STEEL TOE – Read a book where the h/h is known for their strength or has endured a great trial (falsely imprisoned, debilitating sports or other injury) or where they have overcome a challenge of some kind (blindness, deafness, depression, cancer)
      44. STILETTO The ultimate girl shoe. Read a book about a girly girl, a perfect lady or a heroine who is either taller than average or described as shorter than average.
      45. SYNTHETIC – Many shoes are made of manmade materials these days. Read a book that is “fake” in some way, such as a fantasy, sci-fi, or alternate history romance.
      46. TENNIS SHOES – Originally worn while playing tennis but now popular off the courts. Read a fish out of water romance or a romance where the h/h have a barrier between them.
      47. WEDGE – A triangular, wedge-shaped heel that runs along the entire length of the foot. Read a book with a big misunderstanding.
      48. WINGTIP – Read a book about a pilot or stewardess.
      49. WORK BOOTS – Read a blue collar/working class romance.
      50. Did I miss a shoe? Make your own category!

    • Maggie Boyd
      Keymaster
      Post count: 66

      Catchphrase Challenge based on famous TV catchphrases:Read 10,12 or 18 books that match the criteria within the challenge to complete it

      1. “Heeeere’s…Johnny!” Ed McMahon (the Tonight Show) Read a romance with a name in the title or read a series book about a family (such as Mary Balogh’s Huxtable series or Bedwyn saga).
      2. “Yada, yada, yada.” Seinfeld TV series (used by Elaine and George’s felonious girlfriend.) Read a book about anything – or nothing. This is a wildcard.
      3. “How you doin’?” Joey Tribbiani (Friends) Read a friends to lovers romance or a book(s) from a series based around a group of friends such as Jo Beverley’s Rogues
      4. “What’choo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?” Gary Coleman (Arnold Jackson Diff’rent Strokes) This show was all about making a major change in life. Read a rags to riches story, a makeover story or a fish out of water type story.
      5. “The tribe has spoken.” (Survivor) Read a book that is part of a series or where the h/h live in a tribal community.
      6. “And that’s the way it is.” (Walter Cronkite) This is a blast from the past. Read a historical novel.
      7. “Who are you wearing?” (Joan Rivers Golden Globes red carpet) Read a book that involves fashion in some way or a Regency romance that takes place during the Season (where all the fashionable people went).
      8. “Come on down!” (The Price Is Right) Only people who have to count their pennies count the cost. Read a book about a working class hero or heroine.
      9. “It’s gonna be legen — wait for it — dary.” Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris How I Met Your Mother) Mr. Harris is out and proud. Read a LGBTQ romance or a romance based on a legend, fairy tale, classic novel or common romance trope.
      10. “Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman!” — (Adventures of Superman) Read a romance about a pilot/stewardess/travel agent or someone who travels a lot for their job. Or read a book about a hero or someone who performs a heroic job.
      11. “One of these days.” — Ralph, (The Honeymooners) Read a time travel romance.
      12. “The thrill of victory and the agony of ­defeat.” — Jim McKay, (Wide World of Sports) Read a sports romance.
      13. “Danger, Will Robinson!” — Robot, (Lost in Space) Read an action/adventure romance or romantic suspense novel.
      14. “To the Batmobile!” — Batman(Batman) Read a romance about someone who works with cars: mechanic, race car driver etc.
      15. “This tape will self-destruct in five seconds.” — (Mission: Impossible) Read a romance where the characters work for a clandestine agency or private security firm/PI .
      16. “Live long and prosper.” — Spock, (Star Trek) Read a sci-fi romance or a romance where the characters are wealthy or a book with an elderly matchmaker.
      17. “Book ’em, Danno.” — McGarrett, (Hawaii Five-0) Read a romance with h/h who work in law enforcement.
      18. “Just one more thing…” — Columbo, (Columbo) The exceptionally smart and quirky detective, read a romance where the h/h is known for their intellect or originality.
      19. “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!” — Jan, (The Brady Bunch) Read a romance about a middle sibling, where the h/h come from a large family or where jealousy plays a role or where the h/h play second fiddle to a more popular sibling/friend or a story about a wingman/ best man/bridesmaid.
      20. “Heigh Ho, Silver, Away!” The Lone Ranger (The Lone Ranger) Read a Western romance or a book with a cowboy, rancher or farmer.
      21. “Rolling Rolling Rolling Keep them doggies rolling, Rawhide!” (Rawhide) Read a book where the h/h have pets or an animal(s) is/are involved in some significant way.
      22. “Who loves ya, baby?” — Kojak (Kojak) Read a secret baby or pregnancy romance or a romance that refers to pregnancy/baby in the title such as Having the Billionaire’s Baby.
      23. “Dy-no-mite!” — J.J.,( Good Times) Read a romance with African American h/h or a romance that takes place in an urban locale.
      24. “Kiss my grits!” — Flo (Alice) Read a romance that takes place in the American south or a book about a waitress/cook/restaurant owner or restaurant worker.
      25. “Good night, John Boy.” — The Walton family (The Waltons) Read a romance that takes place in the 30s-50s or a small town romance, or a book where the h/h works in the news industry or is a writer.
      26. “Aaay!” — Fonzie (Happy Days) Read a motorcycle romance or a book where the h/h is in a gang. Since Happy Days presented an idealized version of the 50s, read an idealistic romance or since Fonzie dropped out of high school read a book about a high school dropout.
      27. “Up your nose with a rubber hose!” (Welcome Back, Kotter) Read a book with a teacher or where the h/h work in a school or work with kids in some way or read a book where the h/h has to go home.
      28. “What’s up, Doc?” Bugs Bunny (Looney Tunes) Read a romance where the h/h work in the medical industry in some capacity.
      29. “De plane, de plane!” — Tattoo,(Fantasy Island) Read a fantasy romance.
      30. “Oh, Goody!” Herman Munster, (Munsters) Read a paranormal romance.
      31. “Well, isn’t that special?” — The Church Lady, (SNL) Read an Inspirational romance.
      32. “That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more!” – Popeye (Popeye the Sailor) Read a book where the h/h are at rock bottom or in a desperate situation or a novel where the h/h is recouping from a lost job, lost career, major scandal etc.
      33. “Good grief.” – Charlie Brown, (Peanuts) Read a sad romance or a romance where the h/h is wrestling with grief.
      34. “And now, here’s something we hope you’ll really like.” – Rocky,(The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle) Read a book from your favorite sub-genre or with your favorite trope.
      35. “Make it so.” — Picard, (Star Trek: The Next Generation) Read a book where the h/h make something for a living.
      36. “Resistance is futile.” — The Borg, (Star Trek: The Next Generation) Read a novel that’s received a lot of press, buzz etc. such as Fifty Shades of Grey or Outlander or that made one of the AAR Top 100 lists.
      37. “Oh, my God! They killed Kenny!” — Stan and Kyle, (South Park) Read a romance that revolves around a murder.
      38. “Will you accept this rose?” — (The Bachelor/The Bachelorette) Read a book with a meet-cute or meet-quirky premise or an arranged marriage book.
      39. “Everybody lies.” — House, (House) Read a book where deception plays a key role, such as a mistaken identity, girl dressed as boy book etc.
      40. “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.” — Coach Taylor, (Friday Night Lights) Read a sweet/heart string tugging type romance.
      41. “Bazinga!” — Sheldon, (The Big Bang Theory) Read a book with a genius or a humorous romance.
      42. “We’ve got a situation.” — Mike “the Situation” Sorrentino, (Jersey Shore) Read a book set around an unusual situation/with a unique plot point.
      43. “Missed me by that much.” Maxwell Smart (Get Smart) Have a book that comes close to one of these categories but doesn’t quite make the cut? Read that book.
      44. “Did I do that?” — Urkel, (Family Matters) Read a romance told from first person point of view.
      45. “Would have got away if it wasn’t for those meddling kids!” (Most Scooby-Doo villains, Scooby-Doo) Read a book where the h/h help catch a villain or bring about justice.
      46. “Th-th-th-that’s all folks!” Porky Pig, (Looney Tunes) Read the last book in a series
      47. “Is that your final answer?” — Regis Philbin, (Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?) Read that last book that finishes off the challenge.

    • Maggie Boyd
      Keymaster
      Post count: 66

      Turning 18 years old affords one rights and responsibilities in many societies – some of which you would never think. Buy spray paint? Really? Anyway, for 2018, this is the:

      Rights and Responsibilities Challenge or The R&R Challenge for short! Read 10,12 or 18 books that match the criteria for the challenge.

      1) Ditch your curfew and drive all night.
      Read a romance that involves a road trip, or in which the first meeting or date between the protagonists involves a “one night stand,” or a romance set during a vacation.
      2) Get a tattoo or a piercing.
      Read a romance where one or both protagonists manipulates their body in an unusual way; for instance, is a changeling, a witch, a spirit guide, a time traveler or any other paranormal or fantastical character.
      3) Donate blood.
      Read a romance involving characters in the medical field in which one protagonist or both are doctors, nurses, EMTs, physical therapists, or work in some capacity for a hospital, clinic, or veterinary practice. Or read a romance in which one or both of our protagonists is suffering from an illness or is living with a disability.
      4) Get into extreme sports.
      Read a romance in which one or both of our leads works in any sports field, whether extreme or not. They can be athletes, trainers, managers, agents, coaches, sports medicine practitioners, etc.
      5) Buy fireworks.
      Read a romance involving either love at first sight or immediate dislike. Instant fireworks either way! Or, more prosaically, read a romance involving someone in the firefighting field.
      6) Buy spray paint.
      Read a romance involving a hero and/or heroine who works in the creative arts in some capacity – whether on the stage, the screen, the studio, the printed page, or the canvas.
      7) Buy cigarettes or tobacco.
      Read a romance where a character is saddled with an addiction or is overcoming or has overcome an addiction. Or, read a romance involving someone who lives on a farm, a ranch, or works in any type of agriculture … hopefully growing something healthier than tobacco!
      8) Sue someone.
      Read a romance involving characters in the legal field: lawyers, judges, police officers, detectives. Or read a romance in which one major character is suing another or threatening a law suit or legal action.
      9) Go to adult jail.
      Read a romance where either or both protagonists are being held against their will for some portion of the story, either in a physical sense, i.e., a jail, institution, or house arrest, or in a restrictive relationship, i.e., an abusive, demanding relative or employer.
      10) Be on a jury.
      A jury is a group of people who have to work together. In that spirit, read as many books as you want in a related series of romances involving a group of friends, associates, or family members.
      11) Enlist or be drafted.
      Read a romance in which one or more of the lead characters is in the military. Or read a romance set during a war at any time in history or in any fantastical world, either on the homefront or in battle.
      12) Be a stripper or go to a strip club.
      Read a romance in which one or both of the protagonists is considered to have an “unsavory” profession, pursuit, or lifestyle for their time … or any time. For instance, an actress in the 1800’s, a bootlegger in the 1920’s, a mistress or gigolo, a jewel thief or con artist, a muckraker or gossip columnist. It’s all relative!
      13) Try your luck at the lottery.
      Read a romance in which one or both protagonists works in the gambling industry or is a gambler. Or read a romance in which the hero or heroine has won a prize or has inherited something substantial – like land, a house, or a share of a business.
      14) Work more hours.
      Read a romance set at the work place, whether in an office or other place of business. The protagonists can be co-workers or have a less equal relationship.
      15) Open a bank account. Write a check. Get a credit card.
      Read a romance involving someone of extreme wealth, an heir or heiress or someone with a self-made fortune.
      16) Buy a car.
      Read a romance involving someone who works with vehicles of any type – pilots, racecar drivers, mechanics, chauffeurs, or someone who works with their hands, is in a blue collar profession, or works in tech (IT).
      17) Find your independence.
      Read a new adult romance. Or read a romance where one or both of the protagonists has just broken an engagement, gotten a divorce, or ended a live-in relationship with a significant other.
      18) Adopt a child.
      Read a young adult romance. Or read a romance in which one or both of the protagonists find themselves responsible for a child or children. If you’re into secret babies, here’s your chance to read that book! If you’re into pregnant heroines, feel free to take that book off your TBR pile!
      19) Pawn something.
      Read a romance in which one or both of the lead characters has little money or is in financial difficulties for a portion of the story. This can be an historical in which a titled person must marry for money or a chick lit novel where the heroine is eating ramen noodles every day.
      20) Change your name.
      Read a romance in which a lead character is in disguise, is pretending to be someone they are not, or is just not fully revealing who they are in order to maintain a relationship. Or, in the spirit of Romeo and Juliet, read a romance involving a relationship between two characters who are on opposite sides of feuding/warring families, groups, nationalities, or businesses.
      21) Vote.
      Read a romance involving one or more protagonists who are politicians at any level of government or who work for a cause — like the environment, homelessness, child welfare, abolition, prohibition, or suffrage.
      22) Get married.
      Read a romance set at a wedding or during activities surrounding a wedding. Or read a romance where the hero and heroine get married abruptly, for any reason or for any length of time.
      23) Buy porn.
      Read an erotic romance.
      24) Drink alcohol in most European countries and Canada.
      Read a romance set in Europe or in Canada. Or read a romance in which one or both protagonists works at or owns a bar, pub, brewery, distillery, or vineyard. Or, read a romance in which alcohol fuels the lead characters’ first encounter.
      25) Sign a lease. Sign a contract.
      Read a romance in which at least a portion of the story is told in the style of an epistolary novel. Or read a romance in which one or both lead characters is a reporter, editor, author or works in the publishing field. Or read a romance in which the two lead protagonists enter into any type of contract with each other, including a marriage contract or some other “understanding”.
      26) Get a passport — for 10 years!
      Read a romance involving travel to another country or to multiple countries or worlds by one or both protagonists, whether permanently or not, whether willingly or not.

    • Maggie Boyd
      Keymaster
      Post count: 66

      The Series Killer Challenge- Read 10, 12 or 18 books that are part of a series. They don’t have to be part of the same series but can include books from different series.

    • Maggie Boyd
      Keymaster
      Post count: 66

      I tried many times to paste in the Phonics challenge and the site would not let me. If anyone else can cut and paste it that would be great!

    • Sandlynn
      Participant
      Post count: 92

      I’ve tried to post it a number of times. No dice. It may have to be typed word for word, instead of cut and paste.

    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge
      Read 10 or 18 books which fit the following categories:

      • E for entertainment – Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero works in the entertainment industry, e.g. actor, musician, director, make-up artist, producer, etc.
      • I for interconnected – Read a romance that is part of a series.
      • G for goal – Read a romance in which the heroine and/or hero is involved with sports, e.g. athlete, coach, team owner, etc.
      • H for health – Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero is involved with the health services industry, e.g. doctor, nurse, paramedic, physical therapist, etc.
      • T for transfigure – Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero has the ability to shift into an animal.
      • E for education – Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero is involved with education, e.g. teacher, principal, school counselor, etc.
      • E for Europe – Read a romance set in Europe.
      • N for name – Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero’s name begins with the letter R (the 18th letter of the alphabet).
      • I for inspirational – Read an inspirational romance.
      • N for new – Read a romance by a debut author or a romance by any author you haven’t read before. Or read a New Adult romance.
      • E for everyman – Read a romance with a blue-collar heroine and/or hero.
      • I for ignite – Read a “hot” or erotic romance. Or read a romance where the heroine and/or hero is a fireman.
      • G for gourmet – Read a romance in which the heroine and/or hero is a chef, baker, caterer, etc, or owns a restaurant, diner, bakery, etc.
      • H for holiday – Read a romance set during Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas time, or any other holiday.
      • T for time – Read a futuristic or time-travel romance.
      • E for East Asia – Read a romance set in Japan, China, Hong Kong, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, or Mongolia.
      • E for epic – Read a fantasy romance.
      • N for news – Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero is involved with the news industry, e.g. reporter, anchor, newspaper editor, etc.
      • C for critter – Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero have a pet.
      • H for historical – Read an historical romance.
      • A for Australasia – Read a romance set in Australia, New Zealand, or the neighboring islands.
      • L for laughter – Read a humorous romance.
      • L for law – Read a romance in which the heroine and/or hero is involved with the law, e.g. lawyer, judge, police, politician, etc.
      • E for equestrian – Read a romance that features horses.
      • N for neighbor – Read a romance where the heroine and hero are neighbors or a romance where they grew up together.
      • G for guardian – Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero is on active duty with a military, naval, police, or fire-fighting organization. Or read a romance where the heroine and/or hero is a parent.
      • E for enigma – Read a mystery romance or romantic suspense.
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      I guess it didn’t like the emdashes ???

    • Maggie Boyd
      Keymaster
      Post count: 66

      *Shakes head baffled* Dunno. But I tried numerous times and even imported to word, stripped of encoding, copied and tried re-entering and nothing worked. We have it now so we can start fresh on Monday!

    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas
      The Snows of Windroven by Jeffe Kennedy:
      This was an angst-filled sequel to The Tears of the Rose (the second book of the earlier series) which tied up the lingering question of how the h/h’s relationship could work given their different statuses. Though the h/h were no doubt in love, the lack of effective communication and the fact he was an ex-convict and she a queen meant there were issues which needed to be dealt with on page. It was also nice to finally get the hero’s POV. The author did a good job of making both characters sympathetic even when they were frustratingly miscommunicating. A lovely story to start the new year.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 1 down, 17 to go…
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge
      E for enigma — Read a mystery romance or romantic suspense.
      Promise Not to Tell by Jayne Ann Krentz:
      The h/h both suffered from insomnia and other PTSD-related symptoms from a traumatic incident in their childhood. I liked that these issues were treated as just a part of each of their characters. They had good days and bad days, there was progress and set-backs but it never defined them. The mystery meandered and the romance sometimes took a backseat to the suspense, but overall it worked for the plot. The romance was solid. There was the usual dash of the family drama as well as plenty of humor and a nice cast of secondary characters. Hopefully we won’t have to wait over a year for the conclusion of the trilogy as we did for this second installment. Another enjoyable example of why JAK remains an autobuy author for me.

      E for epic — Read a fantasy romance
      Heart of Fire by Amanda Bouchet:
      I was disappointed in this final book in the Kingmaker Trilogy. I liked both the h/h and their romance in the earlier books, but the hero was given shockingly little to do this time around. Also too many of the world’s rules seemed to shift as needed to move the plot along. The changes were explained on page but still felt like a copout. There were a few parts I enjoyed but overall a very uneven read that seemed to go around in circles. The ending was blandly anti-climactic (can’t say more without major spoilers). I am sad we will apparently not get the hero’s sisters’ stories, particularly Jocasta’s, as well as his brother Carver’s.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 1 down, 17 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 2 down, 16 to go…
    • Sandlynn
      Participant
      Post count: 92

      Starting with The Alphabet Challenge Variation (read 18 books where the title/author name begins with the letter A, then B, C, etc. through R).

      Letter “R” for Alisha Rai

      During last year’s challenge, I read Alisha Rai’s first book in this series, Hate to Want You. This time, I delved into the second book, Wrong to Need You, also published in 2017. And, I have to say, this one is an improvement.

      The plot to Wrong to Need You picks up right after the first book, although I don’t think you need to read the first to appreciate this sequel. The story revolves around Sadia Ahmed and Jackson Kane. Sadia is the widowed sister-in-law of the heroine from Hate to Want You and Jackson is the twin brother of that heroine. So, obviously, Sadia is also Jackson’s sister-in-law. Sadia is from a Pakistani-American family of over achievers. However, she rebelled, left school, married young, and had a child. She now runs her deceased husband’s café, although her heart’s not in it, and she also bartends at night to supplement her income. Fortunately, she has a big enough family – including her former in laws – to help take care of her young son. Jackson – who is part Hawaiian, part Japanese — is the prodigal son of the Kane family, having run off after being accused of arson, even though that accusation was later retracted. He’s back in town to connect with his sister, but he’s never been comfortable at home and is looking for a fast exit. What stops Jackson from hitting the road is Sadia. They were friends when they were children and he always had a thing for her, although he never made that obvious and stepped out of the way when Sadia and his brother, Paul, started dating. He discovers that Sadia’s café is in need of a chef, and it just so happens that he *is* a chef – a very successful one who runs pop-up restaurants around the globe. Before you know it, Jackson is volunteering at Sadia’s café, living over her garage, and finally connecting with his young nephew. Although trying to keep a low profile, his presence stirs up the ghosts of the past in both his own family and that of his deceased father’s former business partner, bringing to light unsavory facts that were buried and feelings he’s had for Sadia. Conveniently – or not – Sadia’s libido is also being stirred by Jackson’s presence. The question is, could there be more between them and can their families accept that?

      While many of the basic details of this story were revealed to us in Rai’s first book, this one does a much better job of laying out the facts in a show, not tell, fashion. The story of the Kane family, their former partners, the Chandlers, and Sadia’s family, the Ahmeds, is laid out much better and is more engrossing here. Plus the protagonists are more sympathetic and vulnerable – especially Jackson. This book is full of relationships and not just sexual ones. Although sexy, the story spends a lot more time on building up the tension, which makes it more meaningful to the reader when Sadia and Jackson finally connect. The story also does a great job with other relationships, especially between Sadia and her four sisters. All in all, I liked this second book better than the first. I’d give it an A-, with a slight subtraction for some unnecessary character traits that made no sense to me, e.g., Sadia is bi-sexual? Why, when that never really factored in the story?

      *****
      The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 1 down, 17 to go

    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The Alphabet Challenge Variation
      A =About That Kiss by Jill Shalvis:
      I had mixed reactions to this book. On the one hand, I liked the h/h and enjoyed their bantering and romance. On the other, I was never sure if were meant to treat the “suspense” elements seriously or not. The hero and his coworkers seemed to have an 80s TV action star affliction where they were injured on one page and then magically healed by the next chapter. The resolution to the mystery subplot felt disappointing (won’t say more to avoid spoilers). There was only one conflict keeping the h/h apart so their internal monologues often felt repetitive. Plus the conflict seemed dragged out with both characters making decisions seemingly more for plot purposes. There was a lot of humor and surprisingly little angst despite some heavy baggage. The h/h had a nice chemistry. Overall a fun read, but with plot issues.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 1 down, 17 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 2 down, 16 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 1 down, 17 to go…
    • Sandlynn
      Participant
      Post count: 92

      Continuing with The Alphabet Challenge Variation (read 18 books where the title/author name begins with the letter A, then B, C, etc. through R).

      Letter “D” for Dating-ish

      For letter “D,” I decided to see what many were raving about and pulled out Penny Reid’s Dating-ish published in 2017. (I previously read her book, Neanderthal Seeks Human, which I gave a B+. I liked it enough to seek Reid’s other work out.)

      This book has been ably described in the AAR review posted here: https://allaboutromance.com/book-review/dating-ish-by-penny-reid/. However, I didn’t enjoy it quite as much. I can see what the reviewer sees in the story. It’s certainly very different and I appreciated all of that. In fact, I will list the things I liked about it first and then mention what made this less enjoyable for me.

      What I liked: I really enjoyed the two main characters and their courtship story. Matt, the hero, was adorable and Marie, the heroine, was smart enough to fall for him pretty quickly. Neither of these people were stupid, they just didn’t reveal enough to eliminate all doubts about each other … and of course if they did, the story would be very short. I loved their banter and I understood their insecurities. Another thing I loved was the opening of each chapter, which featured a little abstract about a real — I think — AI development that was fascinating. I was also interested in Matt’s research, which we only really hear about rather than “see.”

      What I didn’t like as much: I wasn’t as thrilled about something which I probably should’ve expected, i.e., the tired trotting out of a group of couples who are all beautiful, accomplished, terribly in love and protective of their women. The couples who are all friends. In regencies, these are the “secretive spy club,” “the devilish dukes,” “the penniless sisters,” “the wallflower duchesses.” I am not a fan of those series of books, nor am I of the contemporary version. I don’t mind stories about the different couples, but bringing them all together and having them interact was insufferably cutesy and confusing. They are all so similar — to me — that I had difficulty telling them apart. Can’t they have friends who are not all the same? Different ages, shapes, sizes, sex preferences, and ethnic backgrounds? You know, like real life in the city of Chicago. As for my second turn off — I guess this is more personal — but I found some of those practices Marie was trying out for her article to be downright creepy! Cuddling? Okay. That’s nice. But dry humping (isn’t that basically lap dancing?) and orgasm meditation?! Geez! I don’t know. And, to tell you the truth, the fact that the author did not have the characters actually go through with either of the latter in the story should tell us something, huh?

      In any event, I don’t know. The book clearly is very different. I liked much of it, but I didn’t love it. “B-“?

      *****
      The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 2 down, 16 to go (R, D…)

    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The Alphabet Challenge Variation
      D = Dark in Death by JD Robb:
      Even after well over twenty years this series remains a read on release day must for me. The case wasn’t all that compelling, but the personal interactions between Eve and Roarke and Eve and the rest of the supporting cast made this one of the more enjoyable books of late. There were some unexpected developments for Nadine who has always been one of my favorite characters and it will be interesting to see where things go from here. While not quite an instant favorite, definitely in the top half of the series.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 1 down, 17 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 2 down, 16 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 2 down, 16 to go…
    • Sandlynn
      Participant
      Post count: 92

      Onward with The Alphabet Challenge Variation (read 18 books where the title/author name begins with the letter A, then B, C, etc. through R).

      Letter “L” for Christina Lauren

      For letter “L,” I’m reading a story that my book group chose for this month, Christina Lauren’s “Dating You, Hating You,” published in 2017. Fortunately, I really enjoyed it.

      This is basically a work romance. It’s set in Los Angeles — Tinseltown specifically — although there’s not much glamour or star power here. The hero and heroine are rival talent agents, each attached to a prominent company in the business. We see them — unglamorously — doing their jobs as they navigate the office and gender politics of this cutthroat business. I have to say, I really felt like we were there in Southern California, in their world and I even tried checking to see if the authors are from there, they did it so well. Although our protagonists meet off-site, at a friend’s party, they soon learn they are in the same biz and, before long, actually working in the same company competing for the same position. This leads to comic moments, as they try to sabotage each other, but it also leads to some real life angst that grounded this story. The supporting characters are also well-drawn. Their evil boss is a little over the top. But their friends and colleagues were so distinct that I was rooting for many of them as well, especially the hero’s brother, a rock photographer with an artist’s heart. (Will he have his own story?)

      I’ve had this prejudice against authors who write together under one name, feeling like what they gain in collaboration, they lose in a distinctive voice. But, I was wrong here. I would never have been able to tell two authors are behind this work, it read so seamlessly — although they did shift chapters from hero to heroine which probably helped.

      Finally, this story has been compared to 2016’s breakout hit, The Hating Game, but to be honest with you, I like this one better. Because of some of the serious issues it tackled — in this time when women are finding their voice — it just seemed more au courant while also being humorous. I’d give it an “A.”

      *****
      The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 3 down, 15 to go (R, D, L …)

    • Sandlynn
      Participant
      Post count: 92

      Continuing with The Alphabet Challenge Variation (read 18 books where the title/author name begins with the letter A, then B, C, etc. through R).

      Letter “J” for Eloisa James

      For letter “J,” I decided to read Eloisa James’ latest book, Wilde in Love, published in 2017.

      This story focuses on Lord Alaric Wilde who has been traveling the world, having daring adventures and writing about them which has made him a celebrity in his home country of England. Alaric’s travels, however, are not solely about adventure. He appears to be escaping a sad event in his life — the unfortunate death of a beloved older brother. Upon Alaric’s return to England and his rather large family, he unexpectedly meets a young woman who is a part of his society and is unique — she, Miss Willa Ffynche — has no interest in his fame and, in fact, is put off by it as she treasures her privacy and her more normal, quiet life. Of course, Willa is a part of the house party Alaric’s father throws, and Alaric and Willa are thrown together. Will Alaric be able to convince Willa that he also craves the normalcy that she prefers? Will Alaric’s legion of admirers undermine his goal, especially a particular woman who has made it her business to highlight his “infamy” and put herself foremost in the picture?

      Anyway, Eloisa James’ books have always been hit or miss with me. In this case, the book is more a miss than a hit. The problems I had were that the villainess started out to be quite interesting, but eventually ended up being the usual over-the-top, crazy other woman. The fact that she kept coming back, like The Terminator, really made me wonder about the intelligence of the people trying to keep her restrained. Take a woman scorned seriously, people!

      The other thing that was less enjoyable was the fact that almost all the activity occurred at one house party. Literally the setting never varied and I was disappointed that we never got a full feel for Alaric’s fame because he was, almost entirely, on his father’s estate. It just seemed that the plot was just stalled on that damn estate, with the cutesy animals, and somewhat claustrophobic. I would give this a B-, maybe even a C. What started out being a very interesting premise just boiled down to the same old, same old.

      *****


      The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 4 down, 14 to go (R, D, L, J …)

    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge
      G for guardian — Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero is on active duty with a military, naval, police, or fire-fighting organization. Or read a romance where the heroine and/or hero is a parent.
      Kansas City Cop by Julie Miller – heroine is a police officer:
      I had issues with the fact the hero was the heroine’s physical therapist as them becoming involved goes against the code of ethics. The mystery subplot was intriguing, but the fact the heroine was investigating her and her partner’s shooting while on medical leave and the hero was helping her kept throwing me out of the story. Especially because the cops in charge of the investigation did not mind. The heroine’s family problems too often felt forced, but I liked them even if they weren’t fully developed characters. I wish we’d seen more of the secondary romance with the hero’s business partner. I enjoyed parts of the mystery, but overall a disappointing read.

      The Catchphrase Challenge
      “Live long and prosper.” Spock, (Star Trek) – Read a sci-fi romance or a romance where the characters are wealthy or a book with an elderly matchmaker.
      Mateer by Veronica Scott – sci-fi Romance:
      The heroine woke up on an unknown planet horrified to find herself considered nothing but a lab rat to be experimented on by alien “scientists.” The hero was the second-in-command to the previous book’s hero. He broke into the facility where the heroine was being held and was none too happy about becoming a prisoner again after a few brief weeks of freedom. Once he met the heroine he decided she was his mate, but was understanding that she wasn’t too keen on the idea. The alien bad guys were the usual proverbial mustache-twirling evil, but that actually worked for the plot. There was more emphasis on the romance than in the previous book. I liked the h/h both individually and as a couple. Sections of the story seemed too contrived and there wasn’t much forward progress to the ongoing story arc but overall an enjoyable read.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 1 down, 17 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 3 down, 15 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 2 down, 16 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 1 down, 17 to go…
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The 21st Century Challenge
      2001 = Harmless Error by Kate Donovan (published Oct 2001):
      It took me weeks to finish this book. I started it thinking it would be a romantic comedy but it opened with the trial of a child’s murder. The hero was overbearing. I realize this was an older book, but the way the hero’s mentor and others talked about the heroine was off putting. The heroine was judgmental and constantly jumped to conclusions. It didn’t help matters that the plot was so convoluted and eye roll inducing. I should have DNF’d but despite not buying into the romance I wanted to see how the “mystery” plot resolved. There were a few parts where I had hoped the book would get better, but they never lasted. Overall I wanted my time back and am mad at myself for having kept reading instead of just flipping to the end. Very disappointing.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 1 down, 17 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 3 down, 15 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 2 down, 16 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 1 down, 17 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge : 1 down, 17 to go…
    • Sandlynn
      Participant
      Post count: 92

      Continuing with The Alphabet Challenge Variation (read 18 books where the title/author name begins with the letter A, then B, C, etc. through R).

      Letter “A” for Acting on Impulse

      For letter “A,” I decided to read Mia Sosa’s, Acting on Impulse, published in 2017. Sosa is a new author to me and I have to say, I’m looking forward to picking up another of her stories in the future.

      Acting on Impulse begins on an airplane, making its way from Philadelphia to Aruba. Our heroine, Tori Alvarez, is a Philly fitness trainer who – on impulse – decides to take a short vacation after a public break-up with a boyfriend who is a former Olympian and a city councilman. To say the least, having any future relationship in the public eye is not for her. Our hero, unfortunately, is in the public eye, in a much bigger way than boyfriend #1. Carter Stone is a romantic comedy, sit-com actor who recently lost a lot of weight for a “serious” role and is hiding out in Philly trying to get his health back, maintain a low profile, and prepare for a press junket. Carter’s decision to take a time-out in Aruba also involved escaping recent unwanted publicity, after a doctor who had been monitoring his health sold the photos to a tabloid causing Carter to go ballistic. Tori and Carter “meet” on the plane and later in Aruba. Because he’s using his real name (Carter Williamson) and looks a bit like an emaciated drug addict, she doesn’t recognize him and he, enjoying the company of a woman who isn’t into him for his fame, delays relaying the truth. Of course, that bites him on the butt as Tori eventually realizes he’s been lying. Back in Philadelphia, Tori wants to have nothing to do with Carter, but Carter uses his need to get back into peak physical condition to pursue Tori as a trainer via her two bosses who own the gym she works from and are thrilled to have a celebrity as a client. Thus begins Tori and Carter’s burgeoning relationship.

      This story is about two people who have been burned in the past and are not as confident in their own skin as one might expect. Tori, who is also dealing with some estrangement from her Puerto Rican roots and her family’s reluctance to compromise their ways in order to move forward, is gun shy over a relationship that might swallow her whole and be more about PR than honest feelings. Carter – although seemingly more assured about Tori’s genuineness – is also skittish, since he’s been used in the past. Also, he’s dealing with a crisis of confidence in his work, as he’d like to take on more serious roles and get the respect he thinks he doesn’t have, but is having difficulty getting critical acceptance. So, this story does a good job of presenting these two as fully realized characters who don’t waste too much time doubting each other. The unlikely coincidences in the beginning of the story – him being in Philly and them both going to Aruba – are fortunately left behind. I also was surprised that the Philly entertainment media wasn’t as intrusive as I would’ve expected. But, I did love that the story was set in Philly – my hometown (or close enough) – and appreciated the diversity that being in a big city provided, from Tori’s Puerto Rican family to her African American boss. It was refreshing. I would give this story a B+.

      *****


      The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 5 down, 13 to go (R, D, L, J, A …)

    • Sandlynn
      Participant
      Post count: 92

      Onward with The Alphabet Challenge Variation (read 18 books where the title/author name begins with the letter A, then B, C, etc. through R).

      Letter “G” for Jasmine Guillory

      For letter “G,” I read a book that was chosen by my book group, Jasmine Guillory’s The Wedding Date, published in 2018.

      This book has received a lot of advance attention and AAR even reviewed it twice, giving it rather average ratings. You can find the reviews here:
      https://allaboutromance.com/book-review/the-wedding-date-by-jasmine-guillory/
      https://allaboutromance.com/book-review/the-wedding-date-by-jasmine-guillory-2/

      Since both reviewers did an excellent job of describing the plot, I will skip that part of my comments and go right into my own views on the story.

      For me, I’m closer to the AAR reviewers’ grades of “C” and “C+” then I am to my book group members’ opinions which seemed much more positive. I just felt that Guillory’s overall story was kind of pedestrian. While our heroine, Alexa Monroe, was more fully realized, the hero had very little depth. We know nothing about his family and we know nothing about why he had such a fear of commitment. He just appears to be a serial monogamist, whose relationships, by design, only last a couple of months, period. It was hard, for me, to root for this couple when I just didn’t feel that the hero was written with enough substance to deserve her.

      The second thing that puzzled me was that this book focuses a good deal on this couple conducting a long distance relationship — with an emphasis on booty calls — without actually being very explicit about the booty. Now, I don’t need my sex scenes to be explicit and, in fact, I’ve become bored with many of these scenes in other books that are added “just because.” However, this story literally brushes over almost every single engagement, and there are a number of them! Others in my book group agreed with this observation and someone brought up that, in an interview, the author commented that her story was originally much sexier. However, her publisher asked her to tone it down. We surmised that the reasoning behind this was that the publisher wanted this book to appeal to a wider audience — a woman’s fiction as well as romance audience — and so the typical sexier elements you might find in a romance novel of this type were missing. I wonder if they’ve succeeded? For me, I’m not likely to be interested enough to read another book by this author unless she either builds up the plot/characters outside of the bedroom, makes the bedroom scenes more interesting, or ideally both. The Wedding Date has its moments, building up the heroine’s backstory and work issues and introducing the hero’s emotional connection to his patients, but they were not developed enough to override the lack of interest elsewhere.

      Maybe the author has to decide what type of book she wants to write and fight for it. I’d give this a B-/C.

      *******
      

The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 5 down, 13 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G …)

    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The 21st Century Challenge
      2002 = A Noble Pursuit by Meg Lacey (published Feb 2002): The h/h had a one-night stand before he knew she was related to the man he was investigating. The heroine continued to lie when they met again. When she learned he was an undercover cop, she took umbrage that he was using her conveniently forgetting all of her own lies and the fact she had been using him to have an adventure. The plot was paint-by-numbers and the heroine’s brother got off way too easy. The wrong person did the groveling at the end. A very frustrating read.

      2003 = The Street Where She Lives by Jill Shalvis (published Oct 2003): I wanted to like this book, but couldn’t. The heroine had told the hero she didn’t love him and asked him to leave and was mad because he did. Fast forward thirteen years and he came back to town at their daughter’s request to care for the heroine as she recovered from a hit-and-run. There were major issues with the heroine’s unrealistic recovery. The plot had everything and the kitchen sink. The suspense plot had a horribly anticlimactic ending. I can’t list other complaints without major spoilers. I would have thrown the book at the wall if I had been reading a print edition and not digital. The characters and story had so much potential and ended up being such a disappointment.

      2004 = Storm of Seduction by Cindy Gerard (published May 2004): The hero started off as a condescending jerk. Thankfully he eventually got over himself. The heroine was a wildlife photographer. The hero was the CEO of a publishing empire. There were issues with the quasi-bear sanctuary plot, but I liked the heroine. I also had a few qualms with the compromise at the end of the story as I thought one of the characters conceded much more than the other. Some enjoyable parts and a lot of humor, but overall an average read.

      2005 = Her Good Fortune by Marie Ferrarella (published Feb 2005): The heroine was supposedly very close to her family, yet her mother didn’t know she was an alcoholic. The hero’s fiancée had died nearly twenty years ago while driving drunk, so he’d closed himself off emotionally. He and the heroine started on the wrong foot. I know we were supposed to find his attitude amusing at times, but he had a tendency to be very condescending and made a lot of assumptions which weren’t funny. The author did a good job of making me dislike each of them on the other’s behalf so the idea it was all really love at first sight just didn’t wash. The plot had them often trapped together to force them to interact, everything from a car accident to a blackout which caused the elevator to conveniently stop working. All of which made me doubt they would have a conversation if left to their own devices. But ultimately my main issue with this book was the behavior of the heroine’s mother and the hero’s father. Again we were supposed to find their matchmaking efforts amusing, but I really wanted the h/h to announce they were leaving the country with no forwarding address to get away from their horrible meddling.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 1 down, 17 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 3 down, 15 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 2 down, 16 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 1 down, 17 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge : 5 down, 13to go…
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The Alphabet Challenge Variation
      C = Covert Game by Christine Feehan:
      The GhostWalkers remain my favorite series of Feehan’s even though I am not as invested in the later teams as the first two. After some much needed story advancement in the previous book, this book had a silly plot without any movement in the overall story arc. I liked the heroine, but the hero’s attitude that other women were all just gold diggers he used for sex reflected poorly on him. There were numerous sections with graphic violence that went on for entirely too long without contributing much to the plot. I would be interested in reading the leader of team four’s story, but I am pretty much over the rest of his team. The h/h’s romance felt like a repeat of others in the series. I enjoyed parts, but overall an uneven read.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 1 down, 17 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 3 down, 15 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 3 down, 15 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 1 down, 17 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge : 5 down, 13to go…
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The 21st Century Challenge
      2006 = Eternal Nights by Patti O’Shea (published Aug 2006):
      I read the first book in this series for the 15 in 2015 challenge. Not sure why I let this one languish in my TBR for so long. The secondary couple from book one appeared again to resolve their storyline. There was also a small glimpse of the main couple from the previous book. The hero remembered his past life on the alien planet, but the heroine did not. The story bounced back and forth between the various characters which caused some pacing issues. Often the resolution to one of the jams the h/h found themselves in felt a bit deus ex machina, but that was a minor quibble. I enjoyed the main romance more than the dream flashbacks of their previous life, but I appreciated the emphasis that they were now very different people. I was very happy to get more of the secondary romance even with the OTT angst.

      Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas
      The Troll Bridge by Patti O’Shea:
      This short novella read more like an excerpt than a complete story. The h/h spent an afternoon together so the quasi-HFN was more appropriate than a HEA. The previous books involved psychic abilities and reincarnations so the time-travel element didn’t bother me. It was the fact the author made absolutely no attempt to resolve unanswered questions, simply had the hero tell the heroine they’d figure something out (trying not to be too spoilery, but sheesh!). A very dissatisfying conclusion to the series.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 2 down, 16 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 3 down, 15 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 3 down, 15 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 1 down, 17 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge : 6 down, 12 to go…
    • Sandlynn
      Participant
      Post count: 92

      Continuing with The Alphabet Challenge Variation (read 18 books where the title/author name begins with the letter A, then B, C, etc. through R).

      Letter “N” for “Not a Mistake”

      For letter “N,” I read a book that was unusual on a couple of levels — at least for me. The book I chose was Amber Belldene’s Not a Mistake (Hot Under Her Collar – Book One) published in 2016.

      What’s unusual about this book is that both the hero and heroine are Episcopal priests. Oh, and its author is also an Episcopal priest! Now, that doesn’t mean the story is an inspirational or even deals with spiritual issues, per se. In fact it’s main focus are moral issues both personal and professional. Also, it has very sexy moments.

      This book has a mini-review here on AAR. So, I don’t know that I really need to provide a lot of details about the plot. Basically, however, the heroine has had a crush on one of her professors from seminary school. He’s a handsome man, a priest himself, and somewhat rigid in this beliefs. He also investigates ethical infractions by other priests. After graduation, our heroine, Jordan, is celebrating with her classmates and they invite Professor Dominic Lawrence along. Later that evening, Jordan and Dominic have a romantic hook-up that ends up producing an unexpected consequence — a pregnancy. This pregnancy could torpedo both their careers. Jordan has just gotten a job as a priest to a small congregation in Santa Cruz, California, and Dominic is up for a promotion in the church. How can they reveal their relationship? Should they? Each face their own moral and ethical dilemmas which are impacted by Jordan’s congregants as well as Dominic’s troubled past and his current investigations.

      This story feels very genuine. The people here are not morally pristine. But they are good people facing problems. The characters’ professions and situations made this a unique read, but the underlying plot would be recognizable to any romance reader. I have to admit, even though I am not a very religious person, it felt a little weird, at first, reading about the sex lives of two priests written by a priest, but it just reinforced that people who hold such positions also have personal lives and desires and may not always do the right thing. I enjoyed it, would give it a B+, and look forward to Belldene’s other books. (I did want to know exactly what Dominic was doing professionally at the end of story. It wasn’t quite clear to me.)

      *******
      
The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 7 down, 11 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N …)

    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The 21st Century Challenge
      2007 = Don’t Let Go by Sydney Somers (published May 2007):
      The h/h were both after the same guy: the hero as a private investigator hired to prove he was cheating on his wife, the heroine because he’d bilked her mother-in-law out of her life savings. The suspense plot was dull and used as a flimsy excuse to force the h/h to spend time together. It was odd that their families had a centuries-old feud yet neither knew who the other was, but at least the issue was addressed on page. The heroine jumped to a number of conclusions and it was difficult to buy into her justification for lying. I also had issues with the hero, particularly for a plot point that was played for laughs, but wasn’t funny. Some nice moments but overall a lackluster read.

      The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge
      I for interconnected — Read a romance that is part of a series.
      Whatever It Takes by Sydney Somers – book 3 in Spellbound series:
      The h/h had eloped after a whirlwind romance four years earlier and the heroine was justifiably irate that the hero had then disappeared with only a note asking for a divorce. That didn’t stop the sparks from flying when they met again and she was dragged into his world of shadowy espionage. The hero had always regretted leaving. The author did a good job of making the h/h each sympathetic, demonstrating how they’d changed and why things would be different this time around, all essential elements for a believable reunion romance. There was also a fun secondary romance with the heroine’s brother and their company’s receptionist. I wanted more of both couples. By far my favorite of the series.

      The Alphabet Challenge Variation
      M = Must Be Magic by Sydney Somers:
      This was another reunion romance. I liked the h/h, but their only issue was a lack of communication so too much of the conflict in the second half felt manufactured. The author seemed to adjust the rules of her magic worldbuilding to prevent the secondary characters from finding the h/h after their plane crashed which felt like a cheat and added to the sense of contrived drama. It didn’t help that the h/h took so long to have a heart-to-heart conversation. An uneven but still likable read.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 2 down, 16 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 4 down, 14 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 4 down, 14 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 1 down, 17 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge : 7 down, 11 to go…
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The Shoe Challenge
      Athleisure – Fashion sportswear that is inspired by both athletic and leisure elements. Read a book where the h/h work in the leisure industry (hotel, vacation planner, tour guide etc)
      The River House by Carla Neggers – heroine runs a party planning business:
      The h/h had been BFFs until a falling out three years prior to the start of the story. The hero had always wanted out of their small town but was at loose ends after selling his latest start-up company. The characters from the previous books in the series either put in an appearance or they were all mentioned—complete with a mini-synopsis of how they met—which led to too much info-dumping, but at least the hero acknowledged it. Even though this series is set in a small town I have always liked that the big city is not treated as bad. The heroine had moved back simply because it was a more affordable place to live. I liked the h/h as a couple, but the book was not one of my instant favorites.

      Riding boots – Horse racing is the sport of kings. Read a book where the h/h is a member of the nobility.
      Ivan by Kit Rocha – heroine is a princess:
      Though set in a post-apocalyptic world, much of this story took place in what amounted to a Regency-like house party: mothers and chaperones vying to grasp the most advantageous marriage for their children and not above using them as political pawns. I did get lost trying to keep the extended family connections straight. I read the earlier books in this series, but I was never quite sure what was supposed to be common knowledge vs newly revealed information since I did not read the original series. The romance between the h/h, filled with a balance of angst, humor, and joy, made the book for me. An enjoyable read.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 2 down, 16 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 4 down, 14 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 4 down, 14 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 1 down, 17 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge : 7 down, 11 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 2 down, 16 to go…
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The 21st Century Challenge
      2008 = Par for the Course by Jenna Bayley-Burke (published July 2008):
      The heroine had a crush on the hero while he was in college and she was in grad school. They’d shared one kiss at a party. Years later she had bleached her hair and wore colored contacts to disguise herself when she set up an interview at his golf resort to write a magazine article on how golf courses were the hot new singles scene. The set-up made little sense other than to give the heroine a reason to dress in disguise at the start (though it was explained in more detail late in the story). The h/h each repeatedly jumped to erroneous conclusions. The subplot involving the hero’s brother and father was meant to give the hero other issues to deal with but bored me. The hero was a passive-aggressive creep right up to the end. The h/h needed professional counseling, both individually and as a couple. The female owner of the neighboring golf resort was by far my favorite character. A very disappointing read.

      2009 = Love Me Tomorrow by Dee Tenorio (published Feb 2009): The hero started as a self-centered jerk who had broken up with the heroine years before. When she’d started dating his bff he guilted them both until they broke up. The bff was killed in a fire and the town blamed the heroine. There were too many scenes from the villain’s POV and his identity was obvious. It was frustrating that the h/h refused to have an honest conversation at the start. I liked the heroine. Thankfully the story vastly improved in the second half.

      2010 = Doctoring the Single Dad by Marie Ferrarella (published Mar 2010): The pediatrician heroine repeatedly thought how most fathers were inept at taking care of infants. She also talked a lot about her other patients. All of which we were meant to find amusing, but kept throwing me out of the story. Several of the circumstances that caused the h/h to spend time together felt manufactured as did their breakup near the end. The heroine’s matchmaking mother was annoying. Despite the numerous plot issues I liked the h/h.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 2 down, 16 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 4 down, 14 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 4 down, 14 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 1 down, 17 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge : 10 down, 8 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 2 down, 16 to go…
    • Sandlynn
      Participant
      Post count: 92

      Next up in The Alphabet Challenge Variation (read 18 books where the title/author name begins with the letter A, then B, C, etc. through R).

      Letter “B” for “Louise Bay”

      For letter “B,” I picked up Louise Bay’s The British Knight, published in 2017. Apparently, this book had at least two previous sequels as I was reading about this author’s other work, I recognized some of the supporting characters in The British Knight. That being said, you definitely don’t need to read those books to appreciate this one.

      This book was reviewed by AAR and was given an A. So, I was really looking forward to it. You can find the review here: https://allaboutromance.com/book-review/the-british-knight-by-louise-bay/

      Mostly, I agree with the review. This book features two interesting characters who are compelling separately and who challenge each other together. The heroine is an American, living in NYC, who had studied at MIT and was starting a software business with her boyfriend when the jerk, not only cheated on her, but literally stole the company from beneath her (which actually made me wonder about her intelligence, but I guess that’s love). She’s been licking her wounds and floundering ever since, when she’s offered an opportunity by her sister’s sister-in-law to work and spend time in London. She arrives and begins a job as an Administrative Assistant in the chambers of a prestigious law office. In particular, she’s assigned to work for a brilliant, rising barrister who is also a workaholic who will let no one near his cases. Soon, she is using her aggressive persistence to not only whittle down the hero’s lone wolf defenses, but to get under his skin personally. But, of course, our heroine has defenses too and those are being whittled away as well.

      I enjoyed this story very much and am interested, now, in going back and reading the previous stories involving the supporting characters. The only reason I would not give the book an A is 1) I couldn’t figure out why the heroine (Violet) had been so stupid in the first place — that was just never explained here since she seemed to be such a savvy woman. Maybe we needed a chapter on that — and 2) I thought the ending of this book was a little too convenient. A colleague just happened to know of a position at Columbia University for our hero? The hero and heroine are going to have a bi-continental life? If they have children, that definitely wouldn’t work out. I would give this story a B+/A-.



      ******


      The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 8 down, 10 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B …)

    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The 21st Century Challenge
      2011 = Deadly Dreams by Kylie Brant (published Apr 2011):
      Each year I pick one author from my TBR I am woefully behind on and this year I chose Kylie Brant. I read the previous book in this series way back in 2010 (eek!). There were a number of plot elements introduced that didn’t really go anywhere and there were issues with some of the secondary characters being more caricatures than fully formed characters. The romance felt rushed, but that fact was addressed on page so the HEA was believable. There were significant developments in the overarching storyline regarding the heroine’s boss. But the focus of the book was very much the serial killer case the h/h were investigating. The heroine and her journey back to trusting herself made the book for me.

      2012 = Holiday Affair by Annie Seaton (published Mar 2012) : The h/h met while she was on vacation and had a one-night stand. When she returned home she discovered that not only was he the brother of one of her guy friends who suddenly wanted to discuss marriage, but also a new professor in the history department where she was a professor, and her new neighbor. The hero was a condescending jerk and treated the heroine terribly through most of the story. There wasn’t nearly enough groveling or effort on his part to change his behavior, he just suddenly decided it was true love and…blah! Even though the plot and hero did not work at all for me, I enjoyed the settings and liked some of the supporting characters so I would try this author again.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 2 down, 16 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 4 down, 14 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 4 down, 14 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 1 down, 17 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge : 12 down, 6 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 2 down, 16 to go…
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas
      Long Ride Home by Elizabeth Hunter:
      Many characters were mentioned and there were more questions than answers, but this novella was a nice introduction for the series. I really liked the deceased husband.

      The 21st Century Challenge
      2013 = Shifting Dreams by Elizabeth Hunter (published Aug 2013) :
      Three years in book time had passed since the introductory novella. The heroine was reluctant to get involved. The hero had been hired as chief of police and quickly realized the townspeople were all keeping secrets. I knew from the blurb there would be a murder, but the victim took me by surprise. I understood why the town wanted the hero kept in the dark, but I sympathized more with his POV. The romance took time to develop. I loved the relationships the hero built with the heroine’s sons. I had quibbles with the way some events were glossed over but overall a very enjoyable read.

      Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas
      Five Mornings by Elizabeth Hunter:
      This novella gave more background on characters we met in book one who will be the h/h of book two. It made it clear that their break-up was a result of communication issues and they were each equally responsible. It would not work as a stand-alone, but I appreciated the extra insights.

      The Catchphrase Challenge
      “What’s up, Doc?” Bugs Bunny (Looney Tunes) – Read a romance where the h/h work in the medical industry in some capacity.
      Desert Bound by Elizabeth Hunter – heroine is doctor:
      This book delved into the complicated relationships between the various families in town. The conflict between the h/h felt forced as it was one-dimensional. I had issues with the way the h/h were both derisive toward certain characters. Even though we didn’t get to know him well, I really liked the murder victim and was sad he was killed. The mystery was intriguing and I enjoyed the exploration of the h/h’s differing family dynamics as well as the set-up for the next book.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 4 down, 14 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 4 down, 14 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 4 down, 14 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 2 down, 16 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge : 13 down, 5 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 2 down, 16 to go…
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge
      T for transfigure — Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero has the ability to shift into an animal.
      Waking Hearts by Elizabeth Hunter – heroine is a fox shifter, hero a bear shifter:
      This couple intrigued me from the moment they were hinted at in book one. The heroine was reluctant to get involved as she was going through a divorce after her husband had abandoned her and their children, working two jobs, and felt she had nothing to give. The hero had been in love with her since high school. They took things slow which was frustrating at times but fit their characters. There was the usual dose of humor. I found it odd that the revelation from the previous book was not addressed at least by the heroine in an internal monologue or something (trying not to be spoilerish). We were left with numerous loose ends in the overarching plot so I’m hoping the author eventually returns to this series (it’s currently on hold according to her website). My favorite of the series.

      The 21st Century Challenge
      2014 = His Taste of Temptation by Cathryn Fox (published Nov 2014):
      The hero was attracted to the heroine but erroneously thought she was involved with his younger brother who was her bff and roommate. This misconception took too long to clear up. The way they got together the first time was improbable and silly. I wished they’d simply had an honest conversation. The heroine had self-confidence issues so repeatedly reminded the hero their relationship was only temporary. The hero felt unworthy to be with her. I found it odd there were apparently no zoning restrictions in the town. I liked the h/h, but the characters deserved a better plot.

      2015 = Alec’s Royal Assignment by Amelia Autin (published Aug 2015): The hero started off as a jerk who thought he was enlightened but his thoughts and actions made it clear he thought of women as lesser. The heroine was a royal bodyguard trying to prove women belonged in the royal family’s personal guard. When she foiled an assignation attempt the hero inserted himself into the situation despite not being part of the protection detail. When it finally seemed he would step up he then changed his mind because his job was the most important thing to him. Of course things worked out that he didn’t have to actually sacrifice anything. The hero was exceedingly annoying, but I liked the heroine. She deserved so much better. An extremely disappointing read.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 4 down, 14 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 5 down, 13 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 4 down, 14 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 2 down, 16 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge : 15 down, 3 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 2 down, 16 to go…
    • Sandlynn
      Participant
      Post count: 92

      Continuing with The Alphabet Challenge Variation (read 18 books where the title/author name begins with the letter A, then B, C, etc. through R).

      Letter “C” for Alyssa Cole

      As our April selection, my book group decided to read Alyssa Cole’s A Princess in Theory, published in 2018. So, that fit perfectly within the parameters of this challenge.

      I was very interested in reading this book since I heard the author speak at an event, and the AAR reviewer gave the story a solid “A”. Since it was reviewed here – see the following link, https://allaboutromance.com/book-review/a-princess-in-theory-by-alyssa-cole/ — I don’t think I need to go into too much detail in describing the story’s set-up. The plot bears some similarity to the movie Coming to America starring Eddie Murphy, and I’m sure having the book released at the same time the blockbuster, Black Panther, is also in theaters has got to be fortuitous!

      The story involves a New York City graduate student in epidemiology who was orphaned as a child and can’t remember much about her past. Naledi’s been mostly making it on her own with only her best friend, a waitressing gig, and a research internship as her support system. Little does she know, a country in Africa has been long seeking her whereabouts, as she is the long lost betrothed of the country’s prince. Once Prince Thabiso and his assistant track Naledi down, they try and suss her out without telling her who they are. The first part of the book involves them trying to figure out what she knows, while Naledi grows increasingly intrigued by this stranger who doesn’t quite fit into the starving student lifestyle. As the pair get closer, the question becomes when will Thabiso tell Naledi the truth and will she agree to return to her native country, Thesolo.

      I would have to say that I mostly agree with the “A” rating. This book is pretty solid. I thought Naledi was a great heroine and loved that she was a woman of color in a STEM field. The author does a credible job making Naledi believable – so much so, I checked out Cole’s bio to see if she also has a background in science. (She was a science editor, apparently.) I enjoyed many of the supporting characters and – for once – wouldn’t mind reading a sequel or two focusing on them – especially since a few loose ends in the story are left unexplained. So, I’d be interested in seeing if they are answered in follow-up books. The only downside was that I thought the conclusion was a bit rushed, with some key confrontations accomplished “off stage.” I also felt the villain was a bit obvious, making the latter part of story not as strong as the beginning. I would give this book an A-/A. And, I’m definitely looking forward to the next one in the series.

      ******


      The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 9 down, 9 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B, C …)

    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The 21st Century Challenge
      2016 = Lonen’s War by Jeffe Kennedy (published July 2016) :
      Many of the rules of this fantasy world weren’t fully explained. The h/h were both thrust into ruling via a war between their peoples and the fact their fathers and older brothers were soon killed. The heroine had grown up isolated and clueless to the atrocities committed against the hero’s kingdom. The story definitely benefited from having both the h/h’s POVs. This book was mainly set-up with the eventual romance hinted at but far from the focus. There was a set of cartoonishly evil villains as well as a multitude of other opportunistic characters out for power. An intriguing start to this series.

      The Shoe Challenge
      Mary Jane – Read a book with a name in the title, that is part of a series based on siblings/family members or that involves young girls in some way.
      Oria’s Gambit by Jeffe Kennedy – heroine’s name part of the title:
      The h/h agreed to enter into a marriage in name only so the heroine could ascend the throne and protect both their kingdoms. Their burgeoning relationship was complicated by the fact the heroine could not be touched by anyone except her mother. The hero was determined to somehow make their marriage real. They each started mistrustful of the other but they made an effort to really talk and worked on becoming a team. I appreciated that the plot didn’t rely on any big misunderstandings. The villains were still somewhat one-dimensional. Overall an engaging read with some interesting plot twists.

      Synthetic – Many shoes are made of manmade materials these days. Read a book that is “fake” in some way, such as a fantasy, sci-fi, or alternate history romance.
      The Tides of Bára by Jeffe Kennedy – fantasy:
      Picking up where the cliffhanger ending in the last book ended, the h/h went on the run. The heroine’s dragon familiar continued to provide both wise counsel and comic relief. The hero’s horse was a welcome addition. Unlike the previous book, several misunderstandings were allowed to fester simply to provide conflict between the h/h. Thankfully that didn’t last too long. While there were a few surprising twists mostly this was a bridge book to set up the next phase of the overall storyarc.

      The Catchphrase Challenge
      “De plane, de plane!” Tattoo,(Fantasy Island) – Read a fantasy romance.
      The Forests of Dru by Jeffe Kennedy:
      The hero’s people, particularly one of his brothers, were reluctant to trust the heroine with some believing she’d cast a spell on him. So more political intrigue, this time set in the hero’s kingdom. The h/h were back to working as a team and discussed their problems. My favorite of the series so far. Hopefully the author will soon write more as there were many plot threads left dangling.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 4 down, 14 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 5 down, 13 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 4 down, 14 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 3 down, 15 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge : 16 down, 2 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 4 down, 14 to go…
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The 21st Century Challenge
      2017 = A Marriage Worth Saving by Therese Beharrie (published June 2017) :
      The hero’s father had died and left his share of the winery equally to his son and daughter-in-law if they agreed to work together to plan a party, otherwise it would be auctioned off and the proceeds split. The hero was the one who had initiated their divorce but placed the emotional blame on the heroine since she’d agreed to it. They each had communication issues, but he continued to act like a jerk so I had more sympathy for her character. They both could have benefitted so I wish the idea of couples counselling would have at least been mentioned at some point. Despite these issues this was a likable reunion romance. The heroine made the story work for me.

      2018 = Bride for Keeps by Nicole Helm (published Apr 2018): This h/h had been featured in several of the author’s earlier books (each part of different, multi-author series). Their marriage issues were a major subplot in one, so I was happy they finally got a story of their own. They each started out with unconstructive ways of handling their problems. The beginning of the book took place concurrently with the earlier books, so some events were already known. The book could work as a stand-alone, but I would recommend reading the earlier books first. The h/h’s actions and inactions would have been more frustrating to read if I hadn’t known about them from the earlier books. Each felt unworthy of the other. They both had to learn to truly trust and talk about their problems. Overall, a wonderful marriage in trouble story with a good balance of angst and humor.

      The Catchphrase Challenge
      “Kiss my grits!” Flo (Alice) – Read a romance that takes place in the American south or a book about a waitress/cook/restaurant owner or restaurant worker.
      A Passionate Business by Stephanie James – heroine owns a restaurant:
      The heroine’s desire to be taken seriously in business could have been written today rather than 1981. The hero believed she was good at business, but we’re supposed to overlook “quirks” like her coming home to discover he’d broken into her house so they could talk, his high-handed announcement that she would marry him as if she had no say in the matter, or the multiple incidences of saying he should beat her. (/sarcasm.) On the plus side the heroine made it clear she wouldn’t put up with such behavior. Most of the conflict would have been avoided if the hero had been more forthcoming. Lots of humor, but very much an old skool romance.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 4 down, 14 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 5 down, 13 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 4 down, 14 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 4 down, 14 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 4 down, 14 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge : completed!
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge
      H for health — Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero is involved with the health services industry, e.g. doctor, nurse, paramedic, physical therapist, etc.
      Hot Response by Shannon Stacey – heroine is an EMT:
      The h/h started off on the wrong foot so the romance was slow to begin. Family and work dynamics played a significant part in the story. There were glimpses of the earlier characters, but the focus was very much on this h/h. A few scenes took place off-page that I wished we’d gotten to actually read. While I could see the hero’s point, not that much time had actually passed since they’d started dating so his quasi-ultimatum to the heroine was uncalled for (trying not to be too spoilerish) and the ending seemed rushed. Still I liked the h/h both individually and as a couple, there was a lot of humor, and overall I liked their romance as well as the interactions with their families and co-workers. An enjoyable read.

      C for critter — Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero have a pet.
      Total Bravery by Piper J Drake – hero has a dog:
      A nice twist on the traditional ‘hero and his bff’s younger sister’ trope as the heroine’s elder sibling/hero’s bff was a woman. The hero was on his first day at his new job when he received a call from the heroine who was on the run from two men. Despite being bff’s with her elder sister during their military days, the h/h had never previously met. The mystery plot was intriguing. I understood the logistical reasons behind a decision the hero made toward the end, but I had issues with what happened (trying not to be spoilerish and the situation was later addressed). The hero appeared in the previous book and his bff was mentioned, but this book introduced a new group of characters and their working dogs as well as a new setting (Hawaii). Looking forward to more books in this series. Most of the book took place over a few days so the romance felt rushed. However this was also addressed and I found the HEA believable.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 4 down, 14 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 7 down, 11 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 4 down, 14 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 4 down, 14 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 4 down, 14 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge : completed!
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge
      N for new — Read a romance by a debut author or a romance by any author you haven’t read before. Or read a New Adult romance.
      The Emperor’s Arrow by Lauren DM Smith – author’s debut nook + new to me author:
      The heroine was a warrior from an isolated island required to travel to the city as one of the bride candidates for the emperor. Honor dictated she do her best, but she figured she would soon be dismissed. She didn’t count on falling for the hero or foiling several assassination attempts. While the romance was central to the story, the focus was much more on the heroine’s journey, including her efforts to navigate the palace intrigue, than on the hero’s. At times I had trouble keeping the various noble houses straight. There were a few plot quibbles, but I loved the heroine so overall a very enjoyable read.

      The Alphabet Challenge Variation
      F = Cavanaugh Vanguard by Marie Ferrarella:
      Early on the hero was thinking about how he worked on behalf of victims to avenge their deaths. Okay… except he was a major crimes detective, it was the heroine who worked homicide. There were timeline inconsistencies which kept throwing me out of the story. The banter was stilted in spots, but I ended up liking the h/h overall. The mystery started with multiple bodies discovered in the wall of a hotel being demolished. It should have been intriguing but was rather meh (and one plot point was introduced and then disappointingly was never mentioned again so felt unresolved). There were parts I enjoyed but overall an uneven read.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 4 down, 14 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 8 down, 10 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 5 down, 13 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 4 down, 14 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 4 down, 14 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge : completed!
    • Sandlynn
      Participant
      Post count: 92

      Continuing with The Alphabet Challenge Variation (read 18 books where the title/author name begins with the letter A, then B, C, etc. through R).

      Letter “E” for Eversea

      For this letter of the alphabet, I chose to read Natasha Boyd’s Eversea, published in 2013. I met this author at the RT Convention in Atlanta when I sat at her table at one of their various fan events. During the conversation with those at her table we learned that the author’s not native to the U.S., has lived around the world, but now resides on Hilton Head, South Carolina. I mention all this because I want to say that for a non-native of that region, she did a wonderful job portraying that part of the country. I really felt like I was right there. So, good job.

      This story is about a young woman, Keri Ann Butler, who lives in the low country of South Carolina, alone in an old, historical home, which needs a lot of work and is important to her small, tourism-dependent community. Unfortunately, Keri and her brother, who is in medical school, don’t have the resources to fix it up. Keri works as a waitress, creates some art on the side, and is waiting for her brother to finish school so she can pursue her own education. While waiting for her life to begin, Jack Eversea comes crashing into it. Jack is a Hollywood A-list actor who stars in a popular movie franchise based on a series of books Keri has long loved. His presence in South Carolina is on the down-low. Jack’s staying at the beach front home of a friend, who’s a movie producer, while he escapes from the paparazzi after it goes public that his long time girlfriend and co-star is caught cheating on him. Even though Jack’s relationship with his girlfriend had been running on fumes and was growing more businesslike, than passionate, Jack was still blindsided by her faithlessness — especially when it becomes the talk of the town. Needing to clear his head, Jack decides to secretly flee to the east coast. Of course, it takes no time before Jack meets Keri and, although she’s initially skittish as well as starstruck, they soon find they have a mutual attraction that, despite the obstacles and their differences, might be something they’d like to pursue.

      First off, I have to say, this book is not a standalone. It ends on a bit of a cliffhanger which is continued in a second book, featuring the same heroine and hero, titled Forever Jack. If that is not the type of thing you like, be warned. But, to be frank, I liked it. I liked the cliffhanger and am looking forward to diving into part two of Keri Ann and Jack’s story. Not only do I think their romance is believable and done with care, but I also enjoyed all the supporting characters, especially Keri Ann’s friend and her brother, about whom I believe a later book is about. (I think there are five books devoted to these group of characters, one of which is a shorter e-book.) Finally, Jack’s backstory is very interesting and unexpected. In fact, I had to chuckle over one tiny bit of info that might delight historical romance fans.

      I also have to say that I love the art on the book covers, which is neither here nor there, except it always makes me happy to open a book that is also so attractive.

      On the downside, I thought the ending — because it was a cliffhanger — was a little, bit confusing, since I wasn’t expecting that at all. At the end, we learn, via word of mouth, about one set of events, and then a further chapter goes back and shows us what happened. At first, I didn’t know that was happening and had to read it over. But, now that I’ve figured it out, I really liked it. But, it was confusing. Secondly, I thought Jack’s relationship with his girlfriend seemed to mean a bit more to him than was stated. Maybe it was just male ego, but he seemed more emotional about it than I would’ve expected if he was truly done with it all.

      All this being said, I have to say, I am very pleased and am going to order some of Ms. Boyd’s other books. This one I’d give an A.

      ******


      The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 10 down, 8 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B, C, E …)

    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The Shoe Challenge
      Wingtip – Read a book about a pilot or stewardess.
      Marry Me, Major by Merline Lovelace – hero is a pilot:
      The h/h agreed to a temporary marriage in-name-only to aid her efforts to get custody of her step-niece. Their plans went awry when the hero was injured before his deployment. They ended up actually living together and soon decided to give their marriage a real chance. For the most part the h/h talked through their issues (except for the big misunderstanding toward the end). There was a great deal about “places to go” while in New Mexico. Some was well-incorporated into the plot, but some came across as info-dumping. The “villain” crossed into mustache-twirling territory. The wrong character apologized in the end or there should have at least been joint groveling. Despite these quibbles, overall a fun read.

      The Alphabet Challenge Variation
      Q = The Other Lady Vanishes by Amanda Quick:
      There was a large cast of dubious characters, many lying about their identity, and most double- or triple-crossing their various partners in crime. The h/h were each keeping secrets as well. They made a fun couple. I enjoyed the romance even though it felt overshadowed by the mystery elements at times. The mystery had lots of fun twist and turns even if some were obvious. There was also the hint of a secondary romance with two characters introduced in the first book. I hope we see more of them if this series continues. Overall a charming read filled with the author’s customary humor and found family themes.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 4 down, 14 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 8 down, 10 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 6 down, 12 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 4 down, 14 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 5 down, 13 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge : completed!
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The Alphabet Challenge Variation
      N = Cowboy SEAL Homecoming by Nicole Helm:
      The h/h were step-siblings, but had only met on a handful of occasions as the hero had been off serving in the Navy and had only come home twice in the ten years the heroine’s mother was married to his father. The now twenty-five year old heroine considered his father hers as well. They both kept telling themselves they couldn’t be attracted to one other for that reason. I found it odd there was no mention if the hero had kept in touch with his father while gone (phone calls? email? did they not speak to one another?) The heroine had been sick as a child so I understood why she had no close friends as isolated as she was, but it was also odd that she didn’t have any online friends or at least acquaintances. The heroine’s mother defined overprotective so it was nice to see the heroine finally take her own advice and stand up for herself. The guys had supposedly been through mandatory counseling, but their therapist(s) must have been extremely inept as they each had such a dim and distorted view of therapy. The first half of the book focused more on the heroine’s issues, the second half more on the hero’s, so at times it felt uneven. The book started very slow and there was sequel bait for the next two books. A lot of subplots were packed into the story some of which I wished had gotten more page time. The heroine was a bit too perfect, but I liked her. Despite all of this I really enjoyed the book overall. I adored the h/h both individually and as a couple. A good blend of angst and humor.

      Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas
      Midnight Kiss by Jenny Schwartz:
      The heiress heroine managed her father’s estate, but played ghost hunter by night. The hero was the “spare” who had retired from the navy after his older brother’s death. They met when she snuck into his castle to sketch the rumored ghost. The hero’s behaved poorly at their first meeting, but redeemed himself. After the heroine ran away the story morphed into more of a traditional Regency-lite. Despite the blurb, the ghost barely appeared in the story. A fun premise, but overall an uneven read.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 5 down, 13 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 8 down, 10 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 7 down, 11 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 4 down, 14 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 5 down, 13 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge : completed!
    • Sandlynn
      Participant
      Post count: 92

      Hallelujah! The board’s back!

      Starting, for a change, with The Rights and Responsibilities Challenge:

      8) Sue someone: Read a romance involving characters in the legal field: lawyers, judges, police officers, detectives. Or read a romance in which one major character is suing another or threatening a law suit or legal action.

       
      For this particular right that a newly-minted 18 year old earns, I read a book that was selected by my book group: Mary Burton’s The Last Move, published in 2017. This story was reviewed last year by AAR. It is well described here: https://allaboutromance.com/book-review/last-move-mary-burton/, and I pretty much agree with the reviewer’s grade of B.

      I have to say, straight off, that I’m not the biggest fan of romantic suspense, mostly because so many of them focus on the torture and killing of women, children or animals. So, I don’t find that particularly pleasurable to read about. This book includes some of that, but at least it also includes a bad-ass heroine who is realistically capable at her job, but is also vulnerable. The heroine, Kate Hayden, is an FBI agent who is known for her ability to track down serial killers using her particular knowledge of language and communication. Ironically, though, because of a horrific incident during her teenage years, she isn’t very good at communicating with her family or with anyone outside of her job. Of course, her current case, brings her very close to home and allows her to make familial connections she’s been avoiding. She also teams up with a San Antonio detective, who, unlike Kate, is trying desperately to keep communications open with his young daughter who has been moved to the area from Chicago, by her mother. On top of these personal issues, Kate and Theo are tasked with tracking down a killer who appears to be mimicking the various cases Kate has solved in the past, while also keeping abreast of another case Kate had been trying to solve before being pulled off that job.

      I have to say Burton did a very good job of making something that seemed very straight-forward, at first, into an interesting thriller. I was genuinely surprised at a couple of the twists (although I wondered whether my inability to put two and two together was more because, I just wanted to speed through the uncomfortable bits, rather than think about them more in order to figure out who was responsible for what! Ha!) For those of us, who are more into romance than suspense, the story is pretty light on the former. Kate and Theo are definitely attracted to each other, but it seemed more of a meeting of the minds rather than something romantic or even physical. They do share “some time” together, but it’s not a big part of the story. Still, I’m not sorry I read it, since it was definitely well done, and I get the impression Burton’s other novels might be more romantic than this – or at least that’s what the AAR reviewer implied. Maybe I’ll try out another one … maybe.

      ******



      The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 10 down, 8 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B, C, E …)

      Rights & Responsibilities Challenge – 1 down, 17 to go

    • Sandlynn
      Participant
      Post count: 92

      Continuing with The Rights and Responsibilities Challenge:

      25) Sign a lease. Sign a contract: Read a romance in which at least a portion of the story is told in the style of an epistolary novel. Or read a romance in which one or both lead characters is a reporter, editor, author or works in the publishing field. Or read a romance in which the two lead protagonists enter into any type of contract with each other, including a marriage contract or some other “understanding”.

      For this part of the challenge, I’ve read a book I’ve had for a while that I bought secondhand: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, published in 2008.

      Happily, this book was also reviewed by AAR in 2009. (https://allaboutromance.com/book-review/the-guernsey-literary-and-potato-peel-pie-society/) The reviewer gave it an A- and, frankly, I’d do away with the minus and just give it an A! Granted, the romance is very, very low key, as the review points out, but the story is so charming and, at times, harrowing and heartbreaking, that I didn’t care. Just be assured, there is an HEA to be had.

      What’s not mentioned in the review — and was wonderful for my purposes — is that the entire story is told through letters, telegrams, and personal notes. And it works, especially since some of the topics discussed are the books being read by the characters.

      As the AAR reviewer describes, the plot involves a 30 to 32 year old woman who has lived through WWII in London, writing a humorous news paper column that kept up the spirits of her readers. At the end of the war, the columns were compiled into a successful book and now the writer is looking for a new subject — one not so light and humorous. Just at that time, she receives a letter from Guernsey, apart of the Channel Islands off of France that is actually a part of the U.K. and which was under occupation by the Germans during the war. Through those letters, Juliet, our heroine, learns not only how the islanders coped, but she learns of the horrors that befell them, especially to a young woman who seems very similar to Juliet in spirit. Eventually, Juliet travels to the island and becomes very close to the inhabitants, including a little girl, whose mother was arrested by the Germans, and a local farmer, who initially wrote to her.

      This book is a fast read — only 274 pages. On the surface, it’s charming and delightful, but underneath is the sad and harrowing subplot of the German occupation and the repercussions of that experience. I have to admit, I knew nothing of the story of Guernsey and the war, which I believe is real, and I was fascinated by it. I definitely wanted to learn more and will make the effort. I’m grateful to this story for teaching me something new, while entertaining me with these wonderful, touching fictional characters.

      ******


      The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 10 down, 8 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B, C, E …)

      Rights & Responsibilities Challenge – 2 down, 16 to go

    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The Alphabet Challenge Variation
      E = Enveloping Shadows by Lauren DM Smith:
      The heroine was a knight and head bodyguard for a princess. When the princess was kidnapped she set off to rescue her. The hero was after the man who had kidnapped the princess. He had the ability to communicate with and manipulate shadows. The world building was intriguing. The romance was slow to develop and the ending felt rushed, but overall an entertaining read.

      J = Jadrian by Veronica Scott: The heroine had severe PTSD after being held captive in an alien lab. The fact she remembered her name but not much else about herself complicated matters. She trusted only the hero. He could be overbearing, but wanted to help her learn to cope since he’d been extensively tortured himself as a teenager. The h/h were both new characters and the plot had a them-against-everyone-else vibe that was at odds with what we’ve come to know of the various other characters in the two previous books of this spin-off series. The book improved once the heroine regained her memories, but overall an uneven read.

      R = Shelter in Place by Nora Roberts: The h/h and many of the secondary characters were present for a mass shooting at a mall. The hero, in college at the time, decided to become a cop. The heroine, who was in high school, eventually became an artist. The book started with the shooting and the immediate aftermath. After a time jump, the story then focused on each of their lives separately for a long while before the h/h finally actually met. Since we knew the identity of the villain early on, this fell more on the psychological thriller/procedural end of the romantic suspense spectrum rather than the mystery end. Lots of twists and turns in the middle, though the ending seemed anticlimactic. I loved the focus on the various friendships and other relationships in addition to the romance and wish the heroine’s family and BFF had had more page time. The relationship between the hero and policewoman who was first on scene was actually my favorite part of the book.

      The Catchphrase Challenge
      “Up your nose with a rubber hose!” (Welcome Back, Kotter) – Read a book with a teacher or where the h/h work in a school or work with kids in some way or read a book where the h/h has to go home.
      The Captain’s Baby Bargain by Merline Lovelace – hero is a history teacher/heroine returns home:
      The h/h had been childhood sweethearts, married straight after college, and joined the USAF together, but divorced after six years when the hero had issued an ultimatum forcing the heroine to choose between him and her career. They’d each made mistakes and regretted that their relationship had ended. After what they each briefly thought could be a reunion, they went their separate ways again until she discovered she was pregnant (not a spoiler as in the blurb). The hero had left the Air Force and was now a high school teacher and their hometown’s mayor. Though they reconciled quickly, it took some time for them to work through their issues as they each knew how to press the other’s buttons. The hero tended to overreact, but I ended up liking him. It was the heroine who made the book shine. I had a few quibbles with part of the ending, but overall an enjoyable reunion romance.

      Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas
      The Good Luck Sister by Jill Shalvis:
      Though the first book in this series was released in June of last year, in book time an entire decade had passed. Eight multi-page flashbacks in this novella were word-for-word repeats directly from the first book, but could just as easily have been summed up with internal monologues or in dialogue. The hero had left the heroine right after graduating from high school and didn’t speak to her for eight years. The heroine was justifiably angry and hurt at the start. It was ridiculous that he never called, texted, or emailed, but of course it was for her own good. I wish the page time taken up with the repeated flashbacks had been spent with them talking. I liked both characters, but didn’t care for the plot. They deserved better.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 6 down, 12 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 8 down, 10 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 10 down, 8 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 5 down, 13 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 5 down, 13 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge : completed!
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The Alphabet Challenge Variation
      K = The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang:
      The ‘heroine hired a male escort to teach her about sex’ plot was not something I usually read, but I really enjoyed this author’s debut book. The h/h each had baggage and felt the other couldn’t possibly see them as worthy. Conflicts which could be easily solved with an honest conversation are almost impossible to pull off convincingly, but worked well in the context of this story. The h/h each made mistakes but quickly owned up to them. I wish we’d had more page time with the heroine’s parents. Overall there was a wonderful balance of angst, family drama, self-discovery, humor, and joy. A delightful read.

      The Shoe Challenge
      Crocs – a summer shoe. Read a book that takes place in summer.
      Jilted by Kelly Jamieson – set in June:
      I’d started this book over a dozen times since it was released in 2013 and could never get past the first few chapters. I had a hard time believing the hero would have agreed to marry the heroine’s best friend for his family’s sake or that the bff/fiancée would really expect the heroine to be happy about the wedding seeing that the heroine had only recently broken up with the hero. Then the fiancée jilted the hero at the altar to run off with her ex-boyfriend. The author had the heroine agree to help the hero look for her, but only because of a hidden motive. So no one came off looking good at the beginning of this series set-up. She could have just been honest about her ulterior motive as it did not make a very believable conflict. Once the h/h finally started talking to each other the book improved. I just wished it hadn’t taken so long. There was a big-city-equals-bad/small-town-equals-good vibe I could have done without. The hero’s attitude problem was ridiculous, especially since he’s been the one prepared to marry someone else. He needed to do more groveling as his apology was half-hearted at best. I wished the heroine had been able to keep her big city dreams, I didn’t buy it wasn’t what she truly wanted. Overall a disappointing read.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 6 down, 12 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 8 down, 10 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 11 down, 7 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 5 down, 13 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 6 down, 12 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge : completed!
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge
      G for gourmet — Read a romance in which the heroine and/or hero is a chef, baker, caterer, etc, or owns a restaurant, diner, bakery, etc.
      Bolted by Meg Benjamin – heroine is a chef:
      Through a bizarre set of circumstances the heroine took a job as chef at a dilapidated hotel after rescuing the archeologist hero. She’d always felt she was the family screw-up so was hiding out from her mother temporarily. Though her mother knew herself to be overly judgmental, she didn’t actually apologize to her daughter. The romance was rushed, but the h/h discussed that fact on page. Overall a fun romance filled with quirky supporting characters.

      The Catchphrase Challenge
      “That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more!” – Popeye (Popeye the Sailor) – Read a book where the h/h are at rock bottom or in a desperate situation or a novel where the h/h is recouping from a lost job, lost career, major scandal etc.
      Busted by Sydney Somers – hero can no longer play professional hockey due to an injury:
      The ex-hockey star hero was upset the heroine didn’t immediately forgive him when he not only didn’t remember her at first but assumed he’d taken her on a date in high school when she was actually one of his friend’s twin sister. His sense of entitlement was annoying. Thankfully he realized he was being self-absorbed and made an effort to change, but sadly kept having relapses into jerksville. The heroine had been branded a trouble-maker in high school, but was now a police detective. They agreed to attend his bff’s wedding together so he could avoid questions and she could avoid her ex. They then kept extending their temporary relationship, each wanting more but reluctant to say so. There were a number of subplots, some of which needed more page time, some less. An uneven but still likable read.

      The Alphabet Challenge Variation
      H = Hitched by Erin Nicholas:
      The final book in this multi-author series focused on the bride who had jilted her fiancé at the altar in book one. The heroine had been living her life to please her father and trying to live up to her mother’s memory, She enjoyed being a martyr. The hero interrupted the wedding and he and the heroine took off for Alaska. The abysmal way the heroine had treated her bff was too easily glossed over (They came back to town temporarily, laughed about how crazy the situation was, and presto everything was forgiven). The hero had left town to turn his life around. He was now a veterinarian and additionally worked with polar bears so moving back to their small town wasn’t really in the cards. There were a few parts I liked, but overall a frustrating and disappointing read.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 6 down, 12 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 9 down, 9 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 12 down, 6 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 6 down, 12 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 6 down, 12 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge : completed!
    • Sandlynn
      Participant
      Post count: 92

      Continuing with The Rights and Responsibilities Challenge:

      12) Be a stripper or go to a strip club.
      Read a romance in which one or both of the protagonists is considered to have an “unsavory” profession, pursuit, or lifestyle for their time … or any time. For instance, an actress in the 1800’s, a bootlegger in the 1920’s, a mistress or gigolo, a jewel thief or con artist, a muckraker or gossip columnist. It’s all relative!

      For this requirement of the challenge, my romance book group helped out by choosing to read Cat Sebastian’s The Ruin of a Rake, published in 2017. This book features a M/M romance set in the regency period.

      Ruin of a Rake is a book that’s part of a series, which becomes somewhat obvious to the reader as there are characters that clearly have an interesting backstory which we don’t learn a lot about in this novel. In any event, this book focuses on a business-minded, financially successful member of the ton, who grew up in India but who has returned to England with his sister. Neither of the pair seems entirely happy with the decision. Julian’s sister Eleanor is escaping what appears to be an unsuccessful marriage and Julian is hoping the weather in England will cure him of his debilitating, chronic illness. While both of these reasons are real, they are only partially true, That being said, Julian does find something else that interests him upon his return. For one, he has become an expert at working British society, ingratiating himself into it despite his business background and lack of title and, for another, his sister introduces him to the notorious rake, Lord Courtenay, who needs Julian’s help. Courtenay, an equal opportunity seducer, wants to gain the respect of his peers in order to allow him the company of his young nephew — the son of the sister he loved and lost — who is under the guardianship of his sister’s widowed husband. With Julian’s knowledge of the ton and his business smarts, Courtenay hopes to seek his help in gaining back enough of the respect of his circle, as well as some of his inheritance, to once again be a part of his nephew’s life. As for Julian, Courtenay is not totally unknown to him. The man has fascinated him from afar, and now, with their conspiring to help Courtenay, Julian is getting to know him in a way he never dreamed.

      As I mentioned, this story has a number of supporting characters that, to the author’s credit, are equally interesting. Although the relationship between Julian and Courtenay is certainly worthy, we are given only hints of the one between Julian’s sister and her husband, which teases the reader. Plus, it’s pretty clear that some of the other characters have stories which probably have been told in other books, and are only suggested at here — which is fine, but honestly it seemed like the author could’ve filled in the blanks a little bit more, especially since the book is only 295 pages. In any event, I would’ve appreciated knowing more about Julian’s sister’s story, at least. Furthermore, although Courtenay reveals himself to be a fundamentally decent person who eventually gets control of his life with the help of Julian, it annoyed me how passive he was in righting his situation, and how much he relied on Julian. It seemed a little strange that he was a titled man, with property, and a seat in Parliament and yet he let people just walk all over him. I enjoyed this story, but I think I wanted a bit more context regarding some of the other characters and a bit more backbone from one of our heroes. I would give this story a B/B+.

      ******
      The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 10 down, 8 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B, C, E …)
      Rights & Responsibilities Challenge – 3 down, 15 to go

    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The Alphabet Challenge Variation
      O = Ocean Light by Nalini Singh:
      I’ve wanted this hero’s story since he was introduced in book 6 of the original series. His fate was left in dire straits in the previous book. Things started slowly and meandered a lot with most of the action packed into the final quarter of the book, but this pacing worked well for the story. There were a number of fun twists and a few genuine surprises. We were introduced to a bunch of new characters. Appearances by previous characters not directly related to the plot were limited to a select few. The quibbles I had with the story were more about what was left out than the plot or characters. Most of the book was set with the water changelings which I enjoyed, but I wanted to read more about the Human Alliance and learn about the hero’s friends. I also wished we’d had more page time with the heroine’s cousin and her mate (I’m hoping for a later novella!). There were some major advances in the overall story arc, but the heart of this book was the romance. The h/h had wonderful chemistry together. A very enjoyable read and another compelling entry in the series.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 6 down, 12 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 9 down, 9 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 13 down, 5 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 6 down, 12 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 6 down, 12 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge : completed!
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The Alphabet Challenge Variation
      B = Deadly Sins by Kylie Brant:
      The hero was a former FBI agent and founder of the company that serves as the basis for this series. He’d been tortured before the start of the series so walked with a limp and was missing one eye. Originally this book was to be the last in the series (though the author self-published additional books a few years later). It was nice to finally learn more of the hero’s background. He had broken up with the heroine years before for her “own good.” He regretted it, but was convinced he’d done the right thing. The heroine had secrets of her own. I loved the fact she’d come into her own in the intervening years. I also loved that we got more page time with the hero’s second-in-command and to explore their friendship somewhat. The main villain was regrettably obvious. The case was intriguing, but the villain setting the hero up as a suspect relied on a multitude of coincidences. This was the point, but often felt too convoluted. I enjoyed the glimpses of humor. I loved the h/h, but wish there had been more focus on their romance as the suspense plot far outweighed the romance.

      The Catchphrase Challenge
      “Oh, my God! They killed Kenny!” Stan and Kyle, (South Park) – Read a romance that revolves around a murder.
      Chasing Evil by Kylie Brant – h/h are investigating a serial killer:

      “Danger, Will Robinson!” Robot, (Lost in Space) – Read an action/adventure romance or romantic suspense novel.
      Touching Evil by Kylie Brant – romantic suspense:

      “Would have got away if it wasn’t for those meddling kids!” (Most Scooby-Doo villains, Scooby-Doo) – Read a book where the h/h help catch a villain or bring about justice.
      Facing Evil by Kylie Brant – conclusion of the Circle of Evil trilogy featuring a forensic psychologist heroine and a DCI agent hero:

      Since the serial killers case plot spanned the entire trilogy, I decided to read these books back-to-back and combine my comments. The h/h’s working relationship started off strained due to their breakup after a brief affair. We learned the details in flashbacks throughout the first book. Despite feeling they had nothing in common outside of work, the hero wanted more. The plot of each book was a behind-the-scenes look at a methodical task-force investigation, including how the characters dealt with the office politics involved with multiple law enforcement agencies and bosses more interested in positive press than anything else. Each book had a logical ending and neither of the first two books ended on a cliffhanger, but the overarching mystery plot and lack of resolution between the h/h meant these books would not work well as stand-alones. The subplot regarding a former undercover op of the hero’s seemed out of place in the first book. It served a purpose through each book but the resolution was off page so felt unnecessary. I suspected the main baddie from book three when the character was introduced in book one, so it seemed very odd the über-observant heroine didn’t. The romance in the first book was limited to the flashback scenes so I was happy the h/h were the main protagonists of all three books as their relationship definitely needed more page time. I had issues with two of the main plot points in book two (can’t say more without major spoilers). One of the supporting characters seemed to have magical healing abilities given how fast he recovered from being shot multiple times. I liked the hero’s partner and wish we’d seen more of her. The cases were dark, but balanced with humor. Overall, I enjoyed the main romance as well as both secondary romances, though each was underdeveloped.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 6 down, 12 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 9 down, 9 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 14 down, 4 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 9 down, 9 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 6 down, 12 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge : completed!
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The Catchphrase Challenge
      “Oh, Goody!” Herman Munster, (Munsters) – Read a paranormal romance.
      Heart of Crystal by Lauren DM Smith:
      The heroine had the ability to manipulate crystal. She had searched for years for her enslaved family. The hero was the emperor’s chief magus. They reluctantly teamed up to continue her search. Posing as married tea merchants they journeyed to the neighboring kingdom. While not precisely enemies-to-lovers, the story was about them learning to trust each other and combine their divergent but complimentary skillsets. The plot bogged down in details at times—such as descriptions of the clothing, etc—and I had issues with some aspects (trying not to be spoilery). But I liked the h/h, both individually and as a couple. Their slow-burn romance was sweet and filled with humor despite the often dark tones of the plot.

      The Alphabet Challenge Variation
      L = Killing Me Softly by Leisl Leighton:
      The rock star hero didn’t care about the producer heroine’s wants or needs and insisted she had to work with his band. She’d guarded her anonymity as she had a stalker (even if she kept that a secret from her friends and staff at least she’d told police). She’d also just brought her catatonic twin sister home after a decade in a mental institution. I understood the heroine had to make enough funds to purchase the isolated property and then fix it up to create a suitable place for her sister, but a lot of the timing of the sister’s medical status seemed odd (like why wasn’t she given more help in the eleven years between her attack and when the heroine took her out of the asylum?). The hero had an evil ex-wife who had sold him out to the tabloids and this supposedly excused him from treating his bandmates and others like crap as well as invading the heroine’s privacy (I miss the eye-rolling smilie). He was such a selfish prick. He knew he was acting like a jerk, but blamed the heroine for his behavior. Once he’d had her secretly investigated he decided it was okay to give into their attraction. Ugh! His behavior improved somewhat in the latter half of the book and he admitted to being in the wrong but he continued to think he knew best. The hero did not grovel anywhere close to enough. The villain was too obvious. While the romance did not work at all for me, I liked the relationship between the sisters and most of the supporting characters despite the fact the plot called on them to behave too foolish for words at times. Despite the numerous issues with this particular book I would try this author again.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 6 down, 12 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 9 down, 9 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 15 down, 3 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 10 down, 8 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 6 down, 12 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge : completed!
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge
      G for goal — Read a romance in which the heroine and/or hero is involved with sports, e.g. athlete, coach, team owner, etc.
      All the Right Moves by Linda Raye – heroine is a referee, hero is a basketball coach:
      This book was published in 1986. Despite the often dated ‘battle of the sexes’ vibes, the 80s/90s were the heyday of category romances to me. The h/h both taught high school and worked part-time as referees. In addition, the hero coached the school’s women’s team. He wanted to coach professionally and believed there was no reason that woman’s professional basketball would not soon reach the same levels of popularity as men’s. The heroine was still dealing with the emotional wounds from her divorce years earlier and had just moved to the area. Their whirlwind romance was only complicated by miscommunications which were usually quickly cleared up until they found themselves on opposite sides of a strict “no pass/no play” law. They actually agreed about the situation more than disagreed and each had valuable points about the drawbacks and benefits. The actions causing their big break up toward the end seemed more plot-driven than character-driven. A few plot quibbles, but overall a fun read.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 6 down, 12 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 10 down, 8 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 15 down, 3 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 10 down, 8 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 6 down, 12 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge : completed!
    • Sandlynn
      Participant
      Post count: 92

      Back with the Alphabet Variation Challenge:

      Letter “H” for The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

      Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient, published in 2018, has been getting a lot of attention in romance reader circles. And, mostly, it lives up to its advance notices.

      The story focuses on the relationship between a heroine who is autistic and a very successful econometrician, and a hero who works in his family’s dry cleaning business by day, while, once a week, he sells his services as an escort who’s available for a lot more than escorting. An unusual pair, the hero and heroine switch up the “Pretty Woman” dynamic, as our heroine, Stella Lane, hires, our hero, Michael Phan Larsen to be her practice sex partner, and then “boyfriend”. Stella, who’s been pushed by her parents to be more open to dating and potential marriage, has had a number of unsatisfying and unpleasant encounters with dates, which Stella blames on herself because of her autism. With the help of Michael — who has his own issues, as well as talents as a fashion designer that he’s been putting on hold — Stella hopes to overcome her sexual issues in order to pursue a colleague who her family finds to be an acceptable partner. But, what happens when Stella and Michael come to find each other more appealing than they find their individual goals? Stella needs sexual practice and confidence, but Michael needs money, desperately, to help his mother. Can those issues be overcome?

      I found Hoang’s book to be a fresh and interesting romance, especially the gender switch up. The only downside for me was that I found Michael’s constant focus on his father and his father’s influence on his character to be overdone. Michael keeps mentioning his father’s horrific actions without spelling them out until very late in the game. At that point, when Michael reveals his father’s behavior, I was less than horrified and more annoyed that this smart, talented man let his bad egg of a father control him so much. I also thought the ending was a little over the top in terms of the characters’ individual achievements. Only four months after Michael resumes his career, he is going to open three shops?! Really? Oh, and Stella gives up her entire trust fund to help Michael’s mother. Her *entire* trust fund, which certainly wasn’t necessary. I think that I’d give this book a B+ to an A-. Good book, but some things were a little unnecessarily dramatic.

      ******

      The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 12 down, 6 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B, C, E, F, H …)

      Rights & Responsibilities Challenge – 3 down, 15 to go

    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas
      Slip Point by Karalynn Lee:
      We first met the h/h as children. They grew up on a homesteader planet each longing to become pilots and explore. The heroine discovered her long-thought-dead father was really a notorious space pirate when her application to join the Space Corps was denied. Flash forward ten years and she was now a notorious pirate herself. I thought it was ridiculous that she was angry and upset upon meeting the hero again because he was angry she’d abandoned him without a word. Their secret mission paired them temporarily. The world building was intriguing, but none of the multiple subplots were developed enough even though this was a long novella. I wanted to like the story more than I ultimately did. Each subplot felt glossed over as did the romance.

      The Shoe Challenge
      Flip flops – The ultimate casual, contemporary shoe. Read a contemporary romance.
      Love Me Not by Reese Ryan:
      This was the second book in this series, though chronologically it takes place earlier. We knew a few of the plot points from the previous book. The heroine was a bartender and artist. The hero was an ad exec who’d just relocated to Cleveland. The heroine had thankfully had professional counseling, but still had self-esteem issues. She was reluctant to trust and only dated guys she knew were losers. So though their attraction was immediate, the romance between the h/h was very slow to develop. Some of the television shows the characters talked about made the book feel dated even though it was just published in 2013. The hero had POV scenes, but the emphasis was much more on the heroine’s journey. I had issues with the subplot regarding the heroine’s biological mother. (Not the fact she needed closure, but with the idea people were advising her that she must allow the woman back into her life.). A lot of angst, but overall an enjoyable romance.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 7 down, 11 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 10 down, 8 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 15 down, 3 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 10 down, 8 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 7 down, 11 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge : completed!
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge
      N for news — Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero is involved with the news industry, e.g. reporter, anchor, newspaper editor, etc.
      Medium Rare by Meg Benjamin – hero is an investigative journalist:
      The heroine was a research librarian. She’d discovered she was from a family of mediums when she inherited her maternal grandmother’s house and resident ghost. The hero was an investigative journalist famous for debunking fake psychics. He hired her as his temporary research assistant while he investigated a TV medium. The hero was a cynic and I wished he’d groveled more for his actions when he discovered the truth. Several plot threads were left dangling at the end and the heroine’s mother’s subplot needed more page time. I was meh on the mystery, but overall a likeable romance. And I loved the heroine’s dog.

      The Catchphrase Challenge
      “Missed me by that much.” Maxwell Smart (Get Smart) – Have a book that comes close to one of these categories but doesn’t quite make the cut? Read that book.
      Raven’s Prey by Stephanie James – hero is deceived by his clients (almost fit House, but not quite) :
      The heroine was hiding in Mexico after witnessing a crime. The hero was hired to retrieve her after being told she was neurotic and spoiled and just after attention. Like in many early 80s romances, the casual way the hero thought and talked about beating her and the way the townspeople just accepted that he would have every right to do so was disturbing. To give JAK credit, the love scenes all made the heroine’s consent clear, but the hero behaved like an entitled jerk too often. Every time I started to think the hero could be redeemed, he returned to jerksville and usually blamed the heroine for him losing his temper. The heroine stood up for herself but would then capitulate. There was some of the author’s trademark humor, but even though the hero came to understand how wrong he was and apologized for his behavior, the fact that the heroine made so many excuses for him was irksome. A very disappointing read.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 7 down, 11 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 11 down, 7 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 15 down, 3 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 11 down, 7 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 7 down, 11 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge : completed!
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The Shoe Challenge
      Platforms – A stage is a fancy platform. Read a book where the h/h are actors or performers (singers, magicians, musicians etc.) of some kind.
      Cut and Run by Carla Neggers – heroine is a concert pianist:
      The heroine was tired of her touring and recording schedule as a classical pianist so “moonlighted” in disguise at a jazz club. The hero was an award-winning journalist and Vietnam vet now working for a DC tabloid. The mystery involved a four-hundred-year-old uncut diamond, a corrupt senator, his blackmailer, murder, and secrets from the heroine’s family’s past during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. My favorite relationship was the reluctant friendship between the hero and his editor. I wish she’d had more page time. I also liked the heroine’s aunt. The romance took place mostly in the background with the mystery as the focus. The idea that so many villains would believe in the existence of the diamond with no proof seemed far-fetched. There were parts I enjoyed, but overall a middle-of-the-road read.

      The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge
      T for time — Read a futuristic or time-travel romance.
      Darik by Veronica Scott – futuristic:
      The overarching plot of this series took an even darker turn with the introduction of a different, secret lab and the cruel scientist in charge. The multiple sets of alien bad guys were the usual proverbial mustache-twirling evil, but there were some interesting twists and turns and we learned quite a bit about them. The resolution to one of the major subplots occurred off page (we’re literally only told about it). The h/h were well-matched though their romance felt rushed. But overall a solid entry in the series.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 7 down, 11 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 12 down, 6 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 15 down, 3 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 11 down, 7 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 8 down, 10 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge : completed!
    • Sandlynn
      Participant
      Post count: 92

      Continuing with the Alphabet Variation Challenge:

      Letter “Q” for A Queen from the North by Erin McRae and Racheline Maltese

      A Queen from the North by Erin McRae and Racheline Maltese, published in 2017, is an interesting take on a contemporary romance featuring royals.

      In this book, set in the present day, everything in the United Kingdom seems mostly recognizable, except the Kingdom is not as united as one might think. In this alternate universe story, England’s War of the Roses never quite ended. Mind you, Richard III, the last York king, was still defeated on Bosworth Field by Henry Tudor’s forces. However, instead of wiping out all sentiment for rebellion through the marriage of Elizabeth of York and Henry Tudor, there had not been a marriage and there’s been simmering resentment against the resulting Lancaster kings and queens that has lasted for centuries. In this situation, the royal family is a bit unsettled. The reigning King Henry XII is ill and Arthur, Prince of Wales, is destined to secede him in this unsettled time. Arthur, a thirty-nine year old widower, has no children and the next in line to the throne after him are his two teenage nieces, the older of whom believes she’s a witch — an actual being who’s a seer and is in touch with the natural world. It’s this young woman who begs her uncle to please marry again and ensure that there will be additional heirs other than herself. Enter twenty-two year old Lady Amelia Brockett. Amelia is finishing up her college work in one of the sciences, with hopes of attending graduate school. She is also the daughter of a prominent, titled York family from the north of England and is engaged to be married. But, immediately into our story, we learn that Amelia’s engagement is off and her applications to graduate school are uncertain. At loose ends, she accepts her older brother’s invitation to attend a horse racing event which is also being attended by his old school mate, the Prince of Wales. It’s here that Arthur meets Amelia and they find they have a camaraderie which grows into an understanding that might change the future of the country they both love. Is it possible that Arthur, descendant of the Lancaster royal line, can marry Amelia, a daughter of York, and finally end the War of the Roses forever?

      Being a fan of Shakespeare’s history plays, the premise of this story really appealed to me. I thought it was a marvelous way of writing a modern royalty romance that uses real history, but doesn’t fall back on creating William and Harry-type clones or making up some other European-like playboy prince or princess. I also thought the interjection of a bit of mysticism and superstition was a good way of maintaining that other-worldly, alternate feel. My only problem with this story is that I wanted even more mystical happenings, as well as more examples of the estrangement of North and South. If you’re going to go this route, you should really commit, and I found this story to be a little too light on giving us the problems between the different halves of England as well as only hints of the supernatural elements that prophesied the fate of the nation and of our potential royal couple. This story could’ve been better if the authors had taken it to the next level. But, I still think they deserve applause for a very, original premise. I’d give it a strong B+.


      ******
      The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 13 down, 5 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B, C, E, F, H, Q …)

      Rights & Responsibilities Challenge – 3 down, 15 to go

    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The Catchphrase Challenge
      “Come on down!” (The Price is Right) – Only people who have to count their pennies count the cost. Read a book about a working class hero or heroine.
      Dating for Keeps by Coleen Kwan – hero is a contractor:
      The hero had been a complete jerk to his sister and bff in the first book of this series, but also quickly owned up to his poor behavior and apologized. The accountant heroine was used to others thinking of her as weird. She had a bearded dragon for a pet and an offbeat sense of fashion. She was trying to get back into the dating scene after several disastrous dates. The hero wanted to find more work in his hometown to be closer to his father who’d recently suffered a stroke. They agreed to exchange favors with her giving him an introduction to her father who was on the lookout for a new business partner and him helping her out as a dating coach. Of course they each ended up wanting more but were leery of telling the other. Toss in more bad dates for the heroine and some family drama for the hero and voilà. I liked the hero and enjoyed their romance, but it was the heroine who really made the story shine. A fun read.

      The Shoe Challenge
      Designer shoes – Read a book where the h/h is wealthy.
      Betrayals by Carla Neggers – heroine is rich:
      We’re first introduced to the h/h in 1959, when she’s four and he’s nine. Flash forward thirty years (the book was published in 1990) and we learn her family had moved away but they’d dated when she started college. We also learn they’d broken up under mysterious circumstances (not as spoiler as in the blurb). The heroine and her roommate created a worldwide best-selling board game in college which they’d sold the rights to making them both very wealthy. She now worked as a graphic designer. The hero was raising his daughter as a single parent after the death of her Vietnamese mother during the fall of Saigon. The villain seemed really obvious as the thief from the moment they appeared, though the true scope of their treachery was revealed slowly. The reasons one of the characters remained quiet for so many years felt inadequate. The hero should have been honest with the heroine as it seemed he’d only lied to her for plot purposes and never really apologized. The story unfolded both in the present and as flashbacks from various pivotal moments in the characters’ lives. This format worked well overall, but could also be frustrating. With a large cast of characters there were multiple layers of deceit and betrayal—both real and presumed—family drama, foolish choices, and secrets, I loved the heroine and the hero’s daughter and wanted to see more of their relationship. Some issues with the plot and certain characters, but I mostly enjoyed the story.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 7 down, 11 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 12 down, 6 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 15 down, 3 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 12 down, 6 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 9 down, 9 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The Catchphrase Challenge
      “This tape will self-destruct in five seconds.” (Mission: Impossible) – Read a romance where the characters work for a clandestine agency or private security firm/PI .
      Liam’s Witness Protection by Amelia Autin – hero works with a clandestine agency:
      The heroine was set to testify against a human trafficking kingpin who’d held her prisoner when she was sixteen. The hero thought of himself as open-minded, but since his first thought about the heroine was that “she didn’t look like a prostitute” he had a ways to go. They were attacked outside the courtroom. As both of the US Marshals on her protective detail were injured, the DSS agent hero took the heroine on the run with the help of his siblings and others who worked for a clandestine agency. Though she felt unworthy of love after everything she’d been through, the heroine was angry at first about the snap judgment the hero had made about her. Sadly, she later thought it wasn’t something to fault him for. The hero’s attitude was irksome. Even once he acknowledged he’d been wrong, there was a lack of self-awareness and circular logic in his thoughts and actions. I had sympathy for the heroine but wish there’d been at least some consideration of professional counseling. Despite having been held prisoner, raped, and tortured for two years and then spending seven years on the run, the heroine was magically cured after spending a few days with the hero. There was too much info-dumping about characters from the previous books. I enjoyed their actual appearances, but could have done without the abbreviated life stories disguised as conversation. The downfall of the big villain was a long-time coming even if he was a cartoonish caricature. There were parts I liked, but the romance didn’t work for me. Overall a disappointing read.

      The Shoe Challenge
      Stiletto – The ultimate girl shoe. Read a book about a girly girl, a perfect lady or a heroine who is either taller than average or described as shorter than average.
      Sexy/Dangerous by Beverly Jenkins – heroine is 5’11”:
      After a kidnapping attempt, the heroine was assigned to be the hero’s bodyguard. The hero was a scientist on the verge of perfecting an alternate energy source for heating homes and didn’t want to be bothered. The hero started as a jerk. It was annoying when he wouldn’t listen to the heroine in regards to his safety. I loved the heroine and her two dogs. The adventure plot was OTT, but there was such a great sense of fun that it worked. I wish the hero had apologized and that they’d been able to reach an alternate compromise regarding the heroine’s career. But overall an entertaining read.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 7 down, 11 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 12 down, 6 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 15 down, 3 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 13 down, 5 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 10 down, 8 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The Shoe Challenge
      Sandal – Quite possibly the oldest shoe known to man. Read a historical novel.
      Outrageous Desire by Carla Neggers:
      This book was published in 1982 so there were no scenes from the hero’s POV. The heroine was a suffragette and supporter of workers’ rights. There were numerous rumors about the hero, but of course neither he nor her father bothered to tell the heroine the truth so it was easy to see why she wrongly believed some things. The hero acted like an arrogant jerk for the entire book. He treated the heroine poorly mostly for plot purposes, so that she would doubt his character, but at several points I wished she’d told him off and found someone else. He deliberately withheld information from her multiple times, yet expected her to answer all of his questions and simply trust him because he said so. I liked the heroine. She was confident and clever. The hero did not grovel anywhere near enough for his behavior. There were parts I enjoyed, but too often a frustrating read.

      Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas
      Husband for Hire by Carla Neggers:
      The war-correspondent heroine was being harassed. She thought by her mentor so, convinced he just needed help, she didn’t report him to their network. Instead she hired the hero to be her fake fiancé believing him to be a handyman and unaware he was an ex-reporter himself. The hero had secrets of his own and was convinced he knew better than the heroine. An uneven read, but I liked the heroine and that they both compromised in the end.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 8 down, 10 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 12 down, 6 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 15 down, 3 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 13 down, 5 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 11 down, 7 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    • Sandlynn
      Participant
      Post count: 92

      Back to thethe Rights & Responsibilities Challenge:

      15) Open a bank account. Write a check. Get a credit card.
 Read a romance involving someone of extreme wealth, an heir or heiress or someone with a self-made fortune.

      Simona Ahrnstedt’s All In was originally published in Sweden in 2014 and was later translated into English.

      Seeing as I had never read this author or read a romance originally written in Swedish, I didn’t know what to expect. But, based on this novel, I would say that Simona Ahrnstedt might possibly be Sweden’s answer to Judith McNaught. I can’t speak for her other work, but All In reminds me very much of McNaught’s popular novel, Paradise, in that it deals with the clash between old money and new — the well established vs. the corporate raider — all entwined with past wrongs, infidelities, secret relationships, and plenty of soapy drama.

      In All In, David Hammar is a self-made billionaire, a corporate raider taking down the well-connected who had brought a great deal of harm to him and his family in the past. At the top of his list is the De la Grip family who are not only a part of Sweden’s nobility but are also the owners of its most prominent company, Investum. The final move in his plan involves trying to get a member of the family on board to help him. He decides to reach out to Natalia De la Grip, the smart, talented bank executive whose father has kept out of Investum’s management, believing that women don’t belong in those positions. Based upon her father’s misogyny and other “traditional” views, David thinks Natalia might be open to persuasion. Of course, he doesn’t plan to tell her that, once under his control, his true aim is to not only take apart the company, but the massive estate that’s been in her family for centuries. But, Natalia is not what David expects. She’s not only quite attractive, unlike her father and elder brother, she doesn’t hold his working class roots against him. Suddenly David’s long held plans might be running up against new desires and possibly love.

      As I mentioned, this story has it all — horrible wrongs, incredible wealth, secrets, lies, love, sex — you name it. In fact, at times, I thought it might be over-the-top, but I gobbled it up like a big bag of delicious buttered popcorn. Besides the two main characters, the author introduces a host of family members, friends, and colleagues, all with their own secrets and hidden agendas and mostly, they work, building on the main story line without taking anything away from it. I noticed that the author has written a sequel to this book, featuring Natalia’s brother. That one doesn’t seem as highly rated, but as for this one, I’d give it an old-fashioned A.

      ******

      The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 13 down, 5 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B, C, E, F, H, Q …)

      Rights & Responsibilities Challenge – 4 down, 14 to go

    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The Shoe Challenge
      Baby booties – Quite possibly the sweetest shoe on earth. Read a book about a secret baby or a book involving a pregnancy.
      Cavanaugh’s Secret Delivery by Marie Ferrarella – heroine pregnant at start:
      The h/h met when he found her in her car and ended up delivering her baby. He was then called away on a case and when he went to the hospital as promised discovered she’d already checked out. They met again a few months later when his boss assigned the investigative journalist heroine to shadow the vice detective hero. Many of the mystery plots in this series have stretched credulity, but this one was more ridiculous than usual. The heroine repeatedly put herself in unnecessary danger and even shot someone during a sting operation then blithely carried on while neither the hero nor any of the other cops batted an eye. Her daughter conveniently had a nanny to watch her so as not to interfere with the case or their alone time. Some fun moments few and far between, but generally a very disappointing read.

      Penny loafer – This wardrobe shoe staple has been around since the early 1930s. Read a book that takes place in the 20th century.
      Tangled Promises by Amalia James – published in 1982:
      The heroine was a reporter for a literary magazine. She pretended to be a secretary to obtain a job with a reclusive author in order to interview him. The author’s son was screening prospective applicants. The heroine felt guilty for lying and told her boss the story would be an invasion of privacy. She went ahead with the ruse despite her reluctance as she knew they’d only publish the article with the author’s permission. The hero knew she wasn’t being entirely honest, but hired her anyway. The heroine referring to her complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica for information was oddly sweet (I’m old enough to remember pre-internet days, YMMV). The hero had a big secret of his own, but it was revealed fairly early on. As typical for the era, there were no POV scenes for the hero. His motivations were kept opaque as part of the plot. The ways the heroine’s reason for being there became known to various supporting characters played out unpredictably. There was a lot of ‘one step forward, two steps back’ with the romance, but it worked. The likeable heroine, an engaging romance, a fun cast of secondary characters, the Scottish setting, and an overall sense of charm made for an enjoyable read.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 8 down, 10 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 12 down, 6 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 15 down, 3 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 13 down, 5 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 13 down, 5 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The Shoe Challenge
      Steel toe – Read a book where the h/h is known for their strength or has endured a great trial (falsely imprisoned, debilitating sports or other injury) or where they have overcome a challenge of some kind (blindness, deafness, depression, cancer)
      11 by Kylie Brant – heroine was held prisoner for three years, but no one believes her:
      The heroine was considered a flighty, rich party girl who craved media attention. She’d disappeared for three years, but money had been regularly withdrawn from her accounts until her father cut them off. So when she reappeared claiming she’d been tortured, raped, and held prisoner with a group of other women none of her friends or family believed her. The police investigated, but when none of their leads panned out everyone chalked it up to a wild story. The hero had been hired to provide security after her return, but her behavior was erratic. The hero had then helped her disappear though he also did not believe her. We’re told all of this in passing at the beginning of chapter one. When mummified remains were found, the hero of the previous book in the series believed there was a connection to the heroine’s case. While I could understand why the hero doubted parts of her story, the fact that he continued to distrust her in the beginning of the book was a big hole for his character to have to climb out of in order to be able to consider the romance credible. It’s clear from his later POV scenes he regretted his behavior. But although there was a semi-grovel scene, he never actually apologized. It was easy to have sympathy for the heroine and her quest to help the other women left behind justified her ‘nothing left to lose’ attitude. I appreciated that the fact she’d had professional counselling was mentioned. Overall I liked the h/h and most of the secondary characters but had issues with the plot, including the way the Vietnamese characters were portrayed. The HEA was convincing, but I wish the excessive page time given to the villain’s POV and dedicated to his various methods of torture had been used to further develop the relationship between the h/h instead.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 8 down, 10 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 12 down, 6 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 15 down, 3 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 13 down, 5 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 14 down, 4 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    • Sandlynn
      Participant
      Post count: 92

      Continuing with the Rights & Responsibilities Challenge:

      26) Get a passport — for 10 years!

      Read a romance involving travel to another country or to multiple countries or worlds by one or both protagonists, whether permanently or not, whether willingly or not.

      Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, published in 2014, was nominated for a number of science fiction awards. On the cover, it’s labeled as a space opera, which according to Wikipedia, is a subgenre of science fiction that emphasizes space warfare, melodramatic adventure, interplanetary battles, chivalric romance, and risk-taking (which, I assume includes stories, like Star Wars and Star Trek as well). Since I picked this book up for free at a romance book conference, I guess I can legitimately include it in this challenge.

      As with Star Wars/Star Trek, I have no trouble imagining Chambers’ story becoming a serialized TV show or movie franchise (and, in fact, the author has written a couple of sequels, although I don’t think they center on this particular group of characters). In this first book, she creates a well-developed world, full of rich characterization and backstory. Our main focus is on a smallish, civilian space ship called the Wayfarer. The Wayfarer is a tunneler. The crew on board are hired to bore holes or punch through hyperspace to create tunnels from one part of space to another for quick and easy travel. This is a specialty job that takes an expert crew, who we come to know in Chambers’ story. The crew on this rather ramshackle, but well run ship, are a mixed bag of beings from all over the universe. The Captain, his two technicians (one of whom is a little person) and their new clerk are humans, although they don’t all have direct links to Earth. The pilot is a female Aandrisk, who looks to humans like a reptile with feathers and scales, the doctor/chef is a male Grum, who looks like a huge caterpillar, the navigator is a Sianat which is a thin, four-legged being with fur and an odd disease that directs their lives, the fuel specialist is also a human, but with a different background than his crew mates, and the ship’s computer also has a vivid personality. Through over 400 pages, we learn enough about all of these characters to greatly appreciate the rich and interesting societies from which they evolved, how they interact and overcome differences, and what their dreams and goals are. In fact, I would say that this book is more a character study than anything else. The plot is not terribly complicated. Basically, a new female, human clerk, who has never worked on a spaceship, comes aboard under false pretenses, running away from a scandal on her home planet, Mars. Through her, we become acquainted with everyone else.

      After one of the ship’s routine “punches” or tunnel bores, the Captain decides to accept a more challenging job from the Galactic Commons – sort of a world(s) governmental body — in a very politically sensitive and unstable area of space, involving a society of beings who have been at war. In preparation for that risky job, the ship’s crew has to travel a long distance, stop at planets to stock up on food and parts, and on the way, have a number of challenging adventures that test them, including romantic ones.

      I have to say, I didn’t know what to expect from this book as I am not a science fiction reader and have never heard of this author, but I was really taken by how rich her world-building is and how thorough her descriptions are of the many types of beings that populate this story. Each crew member gets their turn at having their home cultures fleshed out, to some extent. The plot, itself, is kind of flimsy as the book is more of a serialization of the crews’ trip across the universe to its next job and whether that challenging task is ultimately worth the danger in which it puts them. There’s a bit of moralizing and theorizing on all kinds of things like intermingling of species, discrimination, war, militarization, corruption, love, responsibility, friendship and the imposition of one’s morality on others. The actual job which compels the action and its consequences takes up only the last fifth of the book. So, it might have been nice to have that part fleshed out more. Still, at the end of the day, we find that it’s the journey that’s more important. I’d give this a B+ and would happily read the sequels.

      ******

      The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 13 down, 5 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B, C, E, F, H, Q …)

      Rights & Responsibilities Challenge – 5 down, 13 to go

    • Sandlynn
      Participant
      Post count: 92

      Continuing with the Rights & Responsibilities Challenge:

      9) Go to adult jail.
Read a romance where either or both protagonists are being held against their will for some portion of the story, either in a physical sense, i.e., a jail, institution, or house arrest, or in a restrictive relationship, i.e., an abusive, demanding relative or employer.

      For this part of the challenge, I read Joanna Bourne’s Forbidden Rose, published in 2010. This is one of a series of novels set around the French Revolution and during the rise of Napoleon, which focuses on English and French spies.

      In Forbidden Rose, Marguerite, the daughter of a French Marquis, has been secretly an important part of an underground network which has been spiriting away potential victims of Robespierre’s guillotine. Afraid she has been compromised when her family’s country chateau is attacked, she’s been living in the mansion’s ruins when she meets a traveling bookseller and his young companion. The merchant, who calls himself Guilliame LeBreton, is really an Englishman in the British spy network that’s been working to find out who has been targeting and assassinating promising British scholars in an attempt to eliminate them before they can use their knowledge to help England. Marguerite decides to join Guilliame and his young charge to Paris in the hope of reconnecting with her spy network, while also finding her father to tell him about the attack on their home and warn him. “Guilliame” is also interested in finding Marguerite’s father as Guilliame suspects he may be the one preparing the list of promising British scholars and handing them over to Robespierre.

      Bourne is very good at writing this particular sub-genre of romance — the brotherhood and sisterhood of spies and their love interests. The characters are believable and the plots against and by our protagonists are intricate. The parts of the book that fall down for me are when the hero and heroine inexplicably get an opportunity to be intimate and have longish periods of time together when you know they’re under extreme pressure and risk capture. I especially found the prison scenes a little unbelievable, but that’s the nature of the beast, I guess. Also, I found the villain — other than Robespierre — to be a little obvious.

      That being said, the ending was nicely done and I had a little tear in my eye and lump in my throat over the fate of a minor character and am looking forward to reading the story involving two side characters we come to know in this novel. I’d give this story a B+.

      ******


      The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 13 down, 5 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B, C, E, F, H, Q …)

      Rights & Responsibilities Challenge – 6 down, 12 to go

    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The Catchphrase Challenge
      “Everybody lies.” House, (House) – Read a book where deception plays a key role, such as a mistaken identity, girl dressed as boy book etc.
      Souvenirs by Mia Kay – the h/h both start out lying about their identity:
      The h/h were each accompanying their mothers on a two-week European train tour and met in the airport. The heroine was an American author who’d just finished a screenplay adaptation for one of her books. The hero was a British actor. They were both traveling under variations of their legal names to avoid the paparazzi (in his case), overzealous fans (her case), and to simply have a vacation. There was a bit of ‘not like other girls’ from the hero as well as his mother early on since the heroine actually ate meals and dressed “to sightsee not to be seen.” Their mothers hit it off instantly and they found themselves often dining and taking in the sights together. Their mothers were determined to play matchmakers. Though they were each recognized by various other characters, the h/h both made excuses to not tell the other the complete truth about who they were during the trip. They each knew the other had a secret, but after determining neither was involved with anyone else or a criminal they’d agreed to not allow it to affect their affair. At the end of the trip they made vague plans to see one another again when their schedules permitted, each justifying not coming clean by thinking they were sparing the other the media circus of their life. I enjoyed the vacation part of the book, but the story really took off once they were each back to their real lives. After months of text messages and skype calls they were finally confronted with the truth. The hero tended to jump to negative conclusions. On the one hand, I could sympathize as he’d had a few run-ins with the tabloid press. But on the other, not so much! He certainly needed to grovel, which thankfully he did. I loved the heroine. While I had a few quibbles with parts, overall a very fun read with an enjoyable romance.

      The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge
      E for entertainment — Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero works in the entertainment industry, e.g. actor, musician, director, make-up artist, producer, etc.
      A Father’s Desperate Rescue by Amelia Autin – hero is an actor:
      The hero’s first wife was by far my favorite character in the fourth book of this series and I was mad and sad when the author killed her off. The hero started off very judgmental thinking the heroine (the first woman he’d been attracted to since his wife’s death) was having an affair with the older gentleman he sees her with. The man turned out to be his married director, which resulted in more judgment, albeit only his internal monologue. Of course, the director turned out to be the heroine’s father. Thankfully the hero at least felt chagrined he’d jumped to conclusions. This was all in chapter one. Fortunately his attitude greatly improved after that. His twin daughters were kidnapped just as a typhoon passed near to Hong Kong. The heroine was a kidnap-and-ransom negotiator/private investigator. Though we had the main villain’s POV from the very start and the final resolution for his character was anti-climactic, the suspense aspect of the story still worked well for the most part. Overall I enjoyed the romance. But ultimately it was the heroine who truly made the book work.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 8 down, 10 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 13 down, 5 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 15 down, 3 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 14 down, 4 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 14 down, 4 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The Shoe Challenge
      Hidden wedge – A wedge-shaped heel hidden inside a boot or shoe. Read a book that revolves around a secret, a mystery or mistaken/hidden identity or read a romantic suspense novel.
      Savannah’s Secrets by Reese Ryan – heroine is hiding her identity:
      The heroine went to work as the events manager at a family distillery in the hopes of proving the founder of the company had stolen his original bourbon recipe from her grandfather. The hero and his family weren’t what she expected. The hero was attracted to her, but his family had a ‘no dating employees’ rule. The heroine was determined and clever. I loved the relationship she had with her sister, who was more pragmatic about their family’s situation. The romance was on the angsty side, but it worked for the plot (though the groveling at the end wasn’t as balanced as it should have been). I am looking forward to future books about the hero’s siblings and hope the heroine’s sister also gets a book. Overall a fun and delightful read.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 8 down, 10 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 13 down, 5 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 15 down, 3 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 14 down, 4 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 15 down, 3 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler)
      Serpent in Paradise by Stephanie James:
      Like many of JAK’s heroines, this one marched to the beat of her own drummer. It took time for the reveal of why she’d come to an off the beaten path island and wound up at the bar owned by the hero. First published in 1983, the sexual politics were the only thing that made the book feel dated. While the hero’s arrogance was played mostly for comicality and didn’t faze the heroine, there were too many instances of him threatening to beat her and “I know best” attitude. But the heroine made the book work. It also benefitted from having the hero’s POV so at least the reader knew the hero didn’t mean his threats and his attitude improved. Overall a middle-of-the-road read elevated by humor and a delightful heroine.

      The Alphabet Challenge Variation
      I = Impostor’s Lure by Carla Neggers:
      I guessed the villain’s identity very early on, but that didn’t detract from enjoying the meandering suspense plot. Most of the characters wanting to believe one person left for vacation early and another accidentally overdosed seemed forced, but since not truly believing it was an aspect of the mystery it wasn’t as bothersome as it could have been. There was a bit too much page time for the secondary couple from the last book. But overall it was fun catching up with the large cast of characters, particularly Lucy and Yank. There was a surprising, yet not altogether unexpected development that will no doubt have repercussions in future books (trying not to be spoilery). As usual, the heart of the book revolved around the main h/h. An enjoyable read and I’m looking forward to more books in this series.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 8 down, 10 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 13 down, 5 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 16 down, 2 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 14 down, 4 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 15 down, 3 to go…
      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler): 1 down, 17 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler)
      Heart of the Dragon’s Realm by Karalynn Lee:
      The princess heroine was “traded” to the king of a neighboring realm to ensure peace. The heroine was angry at her brother for making the trade, not knowing that the hero had an alternate motivation. While the romance was central to this story, most of the narrative focused on the heroine and her journey. She did something late in the story without thinking things through at all which seemed to be done solely to advance the plot. The ending felt rushed. Despite the issues, overall an enjoyable book.

      Cowboy SEAL Redemption by Nicole Helm: We first met the heroine in the previous trilogy. She owned a local bar. She was attracted to the hero, but believed women like her didn’t deserve a happy ending. The hero had been medically discharged from the Navy. His mother announced his family was coming to town uninvited. When she assumed the heroine was his girlfriend, he didn’t correct her in an effort to convince her he was over his fiancée having cheated on him with his brother. When he asked the heroine to pretend to be his girlfriend she agreed for a favor in return. Each had emotional baggage to work through, given the severity of which I was glad the hero was already getting professional counselling and the heroine agreed to do so. Their problems didn’t magically disappear. It was perfectly understandable why the heroine did not trust men, but frustrating that she also did not trust her sisters. It took time for the h/h to turn their pretend romance into a real one. The subplot regarding his family ended up playing only a small part in the story. Some quibbles, but more with the plot than the characters. Overall an enjoyable read with a good mix of humor, angst, and found family.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 8 down, 10 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 13 down, 5 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 16 down, 2 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 14 down, 4 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 15 down, 3 to go…
      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler): 3 down, 15 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas
      Mistletoe Maverick by Shannon Curtis:
      The heroine’s bff had recently died giving her guardianship of the bff’s two kids. The heroine had sold the children’s home to pay off bills and moved from California to a small town in Texas where the hero was sheriff. A lot of the limited page time was spent with the h/h each contemplating how attractive they found the other, which worked in the beginning chapter but seemed woefully out of place while they were fighting for their lives. The children were more caricatures than characters. The villains were the same. The h/h were each likeable characters and their romance had potential but needed more page time to develop. A disappointing read.

      The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge
      I for ignite — Read a “hot” or erotic romance. Or read a romance where the heroine and/or hero is a fireman.
      Under Control by Shannon Stacey – hero is a firefighter:
      The h/h met when they were trapped in an elevator for a short time. The hero was a firefighter; the heroine owned a productivity systems consulting firm. Neither was looking for a relationship, but when they crossed paths again at a charity board meeting they soon began dating. The hero was divorced with two kids. He was still friends with his ex-wife and tended to take things as they came. The heroine was very much a planner and needed structure to her days. They had some issues getting their lives to mesh, but each worked at their relationship. I loved the fact the story focused on their friendships and relationships with their co-workers and families as well as the joy and uncertainty of their developing romance. A wonderful slice-of-life story filled with humor about two nice characters falling in love. I’m looking forward to the next book in this series.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 9 down, 9 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 14 down, 4 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 16 down, 2 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 14 down, 4 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 15 down, 3 to go…
      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler): 3 down, 15 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The Shoe Challenge
      Cowboy boots – Read a Western romance or a book where the h/h is a farmer/rancher
      A Nice Day for a Cowboy Wedding by Nicole Helm – hero is a rancher:
      The heroine had been hired by the hero’s mother to plan her dream wedding. The hero and his siblings thought their mother’s fiancé was a lying scoundrel and vowed to stop the wedding. The heroine’s desire to convince the hero and his siblings to support their mom in order to give the client what she wanted was understandable. But it was irksome that the mother refused to have an honest conversation with her adult children simply to provide plot conflict. I found the entire subplot frustrating and set the book aside multiple times. The hero’s “I’m head of the family” act was a bit much given that his mother and grandmother both lived at the ranch, but the attitude was thankfully explained later in the book. The romance between the h/h worked much better. Even when they each jumped to conclusions about the other they clicked. I also liked the relationship the hero developed with the heroine’s son. Despite my issues with the plot, overall an entertaining read.

      The Alphabet Challenge Variation
      P = Prisoner of the Crown by Jeffe Kennedy:
      Though this prequel trilogy will have a HEA, this book was not a romance. I appreciated that the author was clear about that, but still waited to read it. The heroine was the sister of the hero from The Talon of the Hawk. He’s one of my favorite characters so reading about him as a young teen was one of the highlights of this story. The plot revolved around the heroine’s betrothal and nightmarish marriage arranged by her mother to gain political power. The discrepancy in The Edge of the Blade (where in one paragraph we were told Hestor was the eldest with Jenna born a month later, then later told she was firstborn) was cleared up with Jenna being the eldest of the ten siblings. The story focused on the heroine’s realization that many in her family viewed her as a disposable pawn and her journey to value herself. I am looking forward to the remaining books.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 9 down, 9 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 14 down, 4 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 17 down, 1 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 14 down, 4 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 16 down, 2 to go…
      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler): 3 down, 15 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas
      The Valentine Challenge by Marisa Cleveland:
      The heroine overheard the hero acting as a jerk discussing how he did not want to hire her as his assistant since she was pretty which obviously meant she dated a lot and would undoubtedly fall in love with him. Believing the hero planned to vote to close her bff’s flower shop days before Valentine’s Day she pointed out that was a very lucrative day for flower shops. Rather than explain there was no plan to close the shop, he decided he liked it when she was angry so told her that he accepted her challenge to prove love existed before Valentine’s Day. His condescending attitude lasted for much too long. The heroine had a crush on him despite his treatment. In less than a day they went on date that turned into a one-night stand. He conveniently forgot to tell the heroine he’d had her transferred to a different department. He didn’t grovel nearly enough and only apologized about his lies when confronted. While the romance ultimately didn’t work for me I would try this new-to-me author again.

      Her Royal Rendezvous by Natasha Moore: The heroine was related to the royal family, but considered a commoner and served as the palace doctor. The hero was the head of security. They’d been engaged, but broke up when he continually put his job first so she’d quit to work at a hospital. Two years later they met again at her cousin’s wedding. They agreed to spend one last night together. The ending would have been more believable if they’d actually discussed their problems instead of simply deciding to get engaged again. Overall a disappointing read.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 11 down, 7 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 14 down, 4 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 17 down, 1 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 14 down, 4 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 16 down, 2 to go…
      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler): 3 down, 15 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler)
      Rescued by the Marine by Julie Miller:
      The hero was a former Marine who now worked search and rescue. His reporter girlfriend had been killed after being abducted. He suffered from PTSD and had become a recluse. The heroine had multiple college degrees and was content to remain out of the limelight much to the disappointment of the rest of her family. The heroine’s mother had been killed during a kidnapping when she was seven. So when the heroine was kidnapped, her father refused to pay the ransom. Instead he hired the hero to find her. The h/h each had reasons to not want to become involved and acknowledged that the circumstances of their meeting meant their attraction to one another was problematic. The main villain was obvious despite a number of viable suspects. There was more emphasis on the action plot than the romance, but I liked the fact the h/h took turns saving each other. I liked the hero, but it was the heroine who made the book work. Despite the rushed ending, overall an engaging read.

      The Billionaire’s Legacy by Reese Ryan: The hero had always had a crush on his older sister’s bff. He’d recently sold his Seattle-based tech company for a few billion and was off to Japan for six months. The heroine now lived in Nashville. They hadn’t seen one another for ten years when both returned to their Tennessee hometown for his cousin’s wedding. They agreed to a one-night and to go their separate ways. Flash-forward six months. Despite the hero’s attitude, I had a major issue with the fact the heroine had kept her pregnancy a secret. Thankfully this issue was addressed early on. The hero had grown up rich so he could be flippant about money. He could also be overbearing. The h/h often didn’t listen and each jumped to conclusions about the other’s motivations based on their own insecurities. Neither wanted to be the first to admit they’d fallen in love. I liked the subplot with the heroine’s mother and grandfather. I wish we’d seen more of the heroine and hero’s sister’s relationship on page rather than being told about it. Most of the conflict between the h/h at the end seemed forced. Overall an uneven but likeable read.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 11 down, 7 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 14 down, 4 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 17 down, 1 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 14 down, 4 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 16 down, 2 to go…
      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler): 5 down, 13 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge
      N for name — Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero’s name begins with the letter R (the 18th letter of the alphabet).
      Leverage in Death by JD Robb – hero is named Roarke:
      This book fell near the midway point on the scale between character driven vs procedural plot. It was a whodunit with the villains not appearing until late in the story. We didn’t get to know the main victims as well as we have in past books, so the impact of their deaths didn’t resonate as strongly as it could have. As usual there were some wonderful personal interactions between Eve and Roarke as well as Eve and many of the secondary characters. No spoilers, but while I loved one of the developments in the epilogue, others felt over the top. Overall another solid, but middle-of-the-road entry in this long-running series.

      Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler)
      Exile of the Seas by Jeffe Kennedy:
      The book picked up where the previous left off with the heroine having escaped her homeland. I loved the first part of the book set on the ship. The heroine understood just how much she didn’t know and set about learning as much as she could. We met the hero of the trilogy. There was a glimmer of the possibility of a future romance, but the story remained centered around the heroine’s journey and efforts to heal from her recent trauma. We met a character who had only been mentioned in the earlier books (which are set much later time-wise) so that was a pleasant surprise. The heroine needed time to come to terms with everything and to learn to rely on herself, so I was glad the romance was not a focus. I loved the way in which her childhood dream came true. Some parts of the overarching story were fittingly wrapped up. I am now anxiously awaiting the final book in this trilogy.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 11 down, 7 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 15 down, 3 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 17 down, 1 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 14 down, 4 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 16 down, 2 to go…
      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler): 6 down, 12 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    • Sandlynn
      Participant
      Post count: 92

      Continuing with the Rights & Responsibilities Challenge:

      18) Adopt a child.

      Read a young adult romance. Or read a romance in which one or both of the protagonists find themselves responsible for a child or children. If you’re into secret babies, here’s your chance to read that book! If you’re into pregnant heroines, feel free to take that book off your TBR pile!


      For this part of the challenge, I was scrambling to read Sandhya Menon’s When Dimple Met Rishi, published in 2017, before the author’s appearance at the National Book Festival which I was also attending. Fortunately, I completed enough of it at that point, enjoyed it generally, but I did have some issues with it.

      First off, this is a young adult romance featuring an American hero and heroine, of Indian descent, who have both just graduated from high school. They are each going to be incoming college students on opposite sides of the country. However, for the summer, they are attending an exclusive tech camp, that focuses on producing an app which will be in contention for possible further development by a well-known tech superstar, who also happens to be a graduate of this camp.

      What Dimple Shah, the heroine of our pair, doesn’t know is that Rishi Patel, our hero, is not terribly interested in developing an app, but is more interested in meeting her. Apparently, despite moving in different economic circles, their parents are friends and would like Rishi and Dimple to meet in the hope that they might one day marry. Rishi is all on board with this, since he remembers meeting Dimple in the past and finds her attractive. Plus, despite being raised as a modern American youth, he has deep respect for this parents, celebrates his culture, and looks on their traditions in a positive way, unlike his younger brother who is a complete rebel. Dimple, on the other hand, lives for coding, wants to be a career woman, and is not interested in meeting up with a good Indian boy anytime soon. So what exactly happens when Dimple meets Rishi?

      As Ms. Menon confirmed, the title of her book is a homage to the romantic comedy, When Harry Met Sally, and that other books in her series will also be titled similarly. She also mentioned that this particular book will have a sequel. As such, I’ll be interested in seeing what she does with these characters. In terms of this first book, I was surprised by its emphasis more on Rishi’s journey than Dimple’s. Dimple has no doubt who she wants to be and is pushing back forcibly. It’s Rishi who has made all the compromises and buried his dreams for his parents. It takes Dimple’s help to make Rishi face this. Granted, in terms of their romance, Rishi is all in immediately and must convince Dimple to give him a chance. But, to my mind, it didn’t take much convincing. So, the struggle for them seemed more about their professional dreams than their romance. We also get a subplot involving Dimple’s roommate — which was all over the place and not too deep — and later developed into a secret relationship with Rishi’s brother, that came out of left field. Not sure I bought all of that. So, for me, I can’t say that this story was totally successful. I would give it a B-/B.

      ******


      The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 13 down, 5 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B, C, E, F, H, Q …)

      Rights & Responsibilities Challenge – 7 down, 11 to go

    • Sandlynn
      Participant
      Post count: 92

      Continuing with the Rights & Responsibilities Challenge:

      14) Work more hours.
Read a romance set at the work place, whether in an office or other place of business. The protagonists can be co-workers or have a less equal relationship.


      For this part of the challenge, I picked up Julie James’ The Thing About Love, published in 2017.

      Anyone familiar with James’ work knows that many of her characters usually work in law enforcement, either lawyers, detectives, FBI agents, etc. However she also interjects a lot of fun and romance as well.

      Chicagoans John Shepherd and Jessica Harlow were both in the same class at Quantico training to be FBI agents. Jessica came to the FBI via the practice of law and John came via the military as a former Army Ranger. As such their strengths and approaches couldn’t be more different and they clashed repeatedly, masking an underlying attraction. Fortunately, they went in different directions upon graduation — John to an organized crime squad in the East and Jessica to white collar crime in the West.

      However, coincidences have brought them together again in their hometown of Chicago — Jessica’s L.A. marriage ends in divorce and John’s latest undercover case ends, allowing him to return to his “long suffering” family and girlfriend — except John’s return comes a little too late. He finds his girlfriend and one of his best friends in bed together. Both suffering from recent heartache but glad for the distraction, John and Jessica are teamed up for an undercover assignment, involving travel to Florida to catch a corrupt, popular mayor. Working together for the first time since FBI training at Quantico, will their clash of personalities rear its head again? Or, will their attraction take the forefront? And, if the latter, how will John’s longtime goal of entering the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team program, taking him around the world, affect a budding romance when his job already ruined one relationship.

      This story is a fun, enjoyable enemies to lovers romance. Initially, you get a good he-said, she-said type backstory covering the characters’ conflict as young FBI recruits, as well as their later, separate relationship problems — both related to their jobs. This sets up their ongoing tension but also allows for some sympathetic bonding. The undercover assignment brings our couple together, not only working toward the same goal but allowing for flirtation and romance. Of course, the big elephant in the room is John’s prestige assignment to a high-powered FBI job that would take him away again and make even a relationship with another FBI agent hard to maintain. Although I could’ve predicted what ultimately happened with that, it wasn’t entirely clear. More than that, I thought the resolution of the undercover work they did together was a bigger twist and kept me guessing. Furthermore, I thought all the supporting characters were used well. This was a satisfying read. I’d give it an A.

      ******


      The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 13 down, 5 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B, C, E, F, H, Q …)

      Rights & Responsibilities Challenge – 8 down, 10 to go

    • Sandlynn
      Participant
      Post count: 92

      Continuing with the Rights & Responsibilities Challenge:

      23) Buy porn.
 Read an erotic romance.


      For this part of the challenge, I decided to read Audrey Carlan’s Calendar Girl: Volume One, which is the first book in a four volume series. Published in 2015, this first book covers the months of January, February, and March.

      Mia Saunders is a mid twenties, aspiring actress, who puts her own ambitions aside in order to, once again, save her family from themselves. Mia’s mother left home when Mia was only 10 and her sister 5. At that young age, Mia becomes a surrogate parent to her sister, since their father is a compulsive gambler and alcoholic. Granted, he didn’t abandon his children, but he’s basically of little use to them since Mia has to take care of the family. This time, he ends up owing a loan shark who has him beaten to within an inch of his life, putting him in a coma. The responsibility for the loan then falls on Mia’s shoulders. Not only that, but Mia has been contributing money to her sister’s education, wanting to ensure that at least one of them will escape the hopelessness of their upbringing. In order to earn the money owed to the shark, Mia turns to her aunt who runs a high class escort service. Aunt Millie suggests that her niece become an escort for the next year, which should get her the money she needs. Each month, she will spend time with a wealthy client. Sex is not required, but if she does sleep with the client, she will earn $20,000 more than the fee she collects each month.

      This story is the start of an erotic series, but there’s more here than just titillation. Each month is written like a novella, where Mia becomes involved in the ups and downs of her clients’ lives. Each one also teaches Mia something about herself or about life in general. In addition, her friends, family members, and even past clients pop back in and out of her life as the year progresses.

      Although I was certainly drawn into each story, there were parts of it that really bothered, if not puzzled me. For instance, Mia’s aunt owns Exquisite Escorts, so why can’t she help Mia out financially, instead of putting Mia to work? That just seemed rather cold and callous. Also, although Mia certainly goes into this with her eyes open, she didn’t plan on or want to do it initially. It bugged me that she had to put her body on the line to pay for a man’s bad decisions, even though I recognize that her family was under threat. In fact, it’s admirable that Mia shoulders this responsibility, but it’s clearly a cross she insists upon bearing, martyr-like, as some of her clients offer their financial help to get her out of it and she refuses to take it. At times, I didn’t quite get Mia. She seems to look on her year as an escort as an unwanted burden but then talks about how she looks forward to the next month so she can continue to learn about herself and meet new people. So, is she just making lemonade out of lemons or is she into this, despite herself? I don’t know. In any event, I’m curious enough to continue reading, but the story still gets mixed reviews from me. I’d give it a B-.

      ******


      The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 13 down, 5 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B, C, E, F, H, Q …)

      Rights & Responsibilities Challenge – 9 down, 9 to go

    • Sandlynn
      Participant
      Post count: 92

      Continuing with the Rights & Responsibilities Challenge:

      23) Buy spray paint.
 Read a romance involving a hero and/or heroine who works in the creative arts in some capacity – whether on the stage, the screen, the studio, the printed page, or the canvas..


      For this part of the challenge, I chose to read an author who is new to me, and boy am I ever glad I did. Sarina Bowen’s The Accidentals, published in 2018, is a young adult novel which older teenagers and any adult would enjoy.

      This story centers on Rachel Kress, a 17 year old, who has just lost her mother to cancer. Since her mother was a single parent and there are no other relatives who will take her in, Rachel is sent to a group home, which she will be discharged from in a few months, when she comes of age. Unbeknownst to Rachel, her caseworker reaches out to Rachel’s absent father, a famous singer-songwriter who Rachel has known about, but who has never been a part of her life, other than sending checks for her upkeep. Rachel has always wanted to meet Frederick Richards, or Freddy Ricks as he is known to the world, but her mother’s bitterness towards the man had kept Rachel from asking questions. Secretly, she has stored away any info she could find on him. Outwardly, she shares his passion for music, singing in choral groups at her school. In fact, she had hoped to continue to pursue her music at a prestigious, New England prep school during her senior year, where her mother attended and met Rachel’s father, a student at a local college.

      Rachel is shocked when Freddy Ricks shows up at the group home and proceeds to try and gain custody. The development both delights her and yet leaves her with countless questions and a lot of anger. She is further dismayed when her new-found father decides to remain a bigger part of her life by moving from L.A. to New England in order to spend more time with the child he didn’t raise. Will this be Rachel’s opportunity to find out what really happened between her parents? Can she leave behind her old friend, who has feelings for her, or will the young man she’s been texting with at the prep school help her to finally trust in the opposite sex?

      Since Bowen is new to me, I didn’t know what to expect, but I was very pleasantly surprised by this warm and touching novel. The story is grounded in Rachel’s point of view. You feel her sorrow, her pain, and her loneliness. But, you also share her excitement and curiosity at learning about a parent she only knew through the press and celebrity blogs. However, rather than placing this young woman in an over-the-top, fantasy world of glitz and glamour, Bowen creates a believable environment of real, flawed, but well-meaning people who are trying to make the best of it. No one’s a saint in this book but no one’s a villain either. Furthermore, the supporting characters – Rachel’s two beaux and her new friends and family – are not props, but fully realized characters who don’t necessarily mean harm but have their own needs as well. All the while reading this book, I kept saying to myself how much I was loving it. I’d give it an A and will definitely look for more by this author.

      ******


      The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 13 down, 5 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B, C, E, F, H, Q …)

      Rights & Responsibilities Challenge – 10 down, 8 to go

    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      [Thought I had originally posted this Sunday, but it seems to be lost in cyberspace]

      The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge
      E for education — Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero is involved with education, e.g. teacher, principal, school counselor, etc.
      One Perfect Kiss by Jaci Burton – h/h are both teachers:
      The h/h were high school teachers: she taught English, he taught history and coached the football team. They were friends for a while before getting involved romantically. The descriptions of food and clothes were excessive at times. I wished the heroine had at least considered the idea of professional counseling. I didn’t care for the double-standard regarding their relationships with their parents (can’t say more without spoilers). While I understood the heroine’s reluctance to become involved, her internal monologues could be repetitive. I liked the h/h individually and as a couple. I also liked the secondary romance and wished they’d had more actual page time. There were parts I enjoyed, but parts felt paint-by-numbers. Overall an uneven read.

      The Shoe Challenge
      Snow shoes – Winter wear. Read a romance that takes place primarily in the winter or that has a winter scene on the cover.
      Cowboy SEAL Christmas by Nicole Helm – cover has winter scene:
      The heroine’s USAF husband had been killed in a helicopter accident when their son was an infant. She’d relocated to Montana with her now ten-year-old son in the first book of this trilogy. She was a therapist who specialized in treating PTSD. It took time for me to warm up to the hero as he could be a jerk, but I did grow to like him. I also liked the relationship he developed with the heroine’s son. But it was the heroine who made the book work. The hero had a lot of baggage, but even though she helped him it was clear she was never operating as his therapist. I appreciated that she had multiple conversations with him and others about the ethical obligations of therapists. Overall a nice blend of angst and humor and found family dynamics.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 11 down, 7 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 16 down, 2 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 17 down, 1 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 14 down, 4 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 17 down, 1 to go…
      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler): 6 down, 12 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler)
      Secrets of the Dead by Kylie Brant:
      The author originally planned to end this series after six books, so when I read that “last” book earlier this year I was glad to know the loose plot thread left dangling would be addressed (and that I didn’t have to wait four years to read it). The h/h were tasked with tracking down who was behind the attempted kidnapping of their boss’ son which involved them going undercover as a married couple. The heroine was a hyperpolyglot with plenty of secrets. The hero was a former detective and computer expert. One of the main villains was an intriguing albeit totally malicious character who was too easily caught. The main villain and his sidekicks were cartoonishly evil. The convoluted suspense plot took some interesting twists and turns, but the conclusion was very clichéd. The romance took a backseat to the mystery for most of the story. I wish there would have been a bit more focus on their relationship or an epilogue. But overall I really liked the h/h and they made the book work.

      The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge
      A for Australasia — Read a romance set in Australia, New Zealand, or the neighboring islands.
      Rebel Hard by Nalini Singh – set in New Zealand:
      We originally met this h/h in the first book of this spin-off series. The series was supposed to be about T-Rex’s brothers, but I am so glad the author decided to give this couple their own book. Their first introduction at a party ended abruptly. They met again through their parents though each had independently decided to withdraw from considering an arranged marriage. Much of the story ran concurrently with Cherish Hard so there were some “repeated” scenes from the POV of this heroine or hero, plus plenty of surprises. They had a few misunderstandings and each made mistakes, but once they met again the h/h both made an effort to discuss their issues. They each had a complicated relationship with their families who featured prominently. I enjoyed the exploration of their various relationships and friendships in addition to the romance. I also enjoyed the nods to Pride and Prejudice. Overall a delightful read filled with humor, affection, angst, and joy

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 11 down, 7 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 17 down, 1 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 17 down, 1 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 14 down, 4 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 17 down, 1 to go…
      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler): 7 down, 11 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The Catchphrase Challenge
      “The thrill of victory and the agony of ­defeat.” Jim McKay, (Wide World of Sports) – Read a sports romance.
      Defending Hearts by Rebecca Crowley – hero is a professional soccer player:
      It took me a while to get into this book. The heroine was dismissive of soccer in general and the hero in particular in the opening scene with no reason given. I didn’t like the way she sniped and got in petty digs regarding his devotion to his religion and/or his lack of it in the first part of the story even if she didn’t mean them that way. The hero had been born in Sweden and lived in America for over a decade. He was forced by the team manager to have security installed in his home after his address was published on an anti-Muslim website. The heroine was tired of always being treated as one of the guys but didn’t want to date as she felt she needed to figure out who she was now that she was no longer in the Army. The hero didn’t want to date as he had a life plan-with-a-capital-P he was determined to follow and wanted to settle down. Their romance took time to develop and there was a lot of back and forth before it did, but I ended up really liking them as a couple. I also liked the hero’s relationship with his bff. I wish we had seen more of his brother and sister-in-law on page and less of the heroine’s sister. The h/h each had their own issues to work through, but did so as grown-ups. They made an effort to communicate so there were no big misunderstandings. Add a touch of suspense plus plenty of humor—particularly about the hero’s house and his admiration of minimalist design—and overall a very enjoyable read.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 11 down, 7 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 17 down, 1 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 17 down, 1 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 15 down, 3 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: 17 down, 1 to go…
      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler): 7 down, 11 to go…
      • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    • Sandlynn
      Participant
      Post count: 92

      Continuing with the Rights & Responsibilities Challenge:

      3) Donate blood.
 Read a romance involving characters in the medical field in which one protagonist or both are doctors, nurses, EMTs, physical therapists, or work in some capacity for a hospital, clinic, or veterinary practice. Or read a romance in which one or both of our protagonists is suffering from an illness or is living with a disability.


      For this part of the challenge, I turned to Jana Aston’s Wrong, published in 2015.

      At 268 pages long, Wrong is a pretty quick read. The action is set in Philadelphia. Our heroine, Sophie, is a 21 year old University of Pennsylvania senior, studying business accounting, who also works part-time, off campus, as a barista. For the past few weeks, a new customer has been picking up his coffee every Tuesday morning and Sophie makes a point of waiting on him. Luke has to be 10 to 15 years older and he appears to be a professional man, but Sophie enjoys fantasizing about this drop dead handsome man. Her friend and co-worker, however, thinks Sophie should take the plunge and have sex with the college guy she’s been dating, especially since Sophie is still a virgin. Sophie agrees — sort of — and makes an appointment at the campus clinic to get a prescription for the pill. Still, she’s nervous about this move since she’s the daughter of a young college girl who got pregnant at 18 and she doesn’t want history to repeat itself.

      At the clinic, Sophie learns that a doctor who is the head of the Obstetrics Dept. at Baldwin Hospital will be seeing her since he volunteers his time once a week at the clinic. Lo and behold, when he steps in the examination room, Sophie discovers that the doctor is her fantasy man who buys coffee from her every Tuesday. Luke recognizes Sophie as well, which leads to an embarrassing but interesting examination. This turns out to be the first of a few accidental meetings, which finally leads to Sophie doing something she never dreamed — hooking up with her now *former* doctor, a suave, wealthy, sophisticated man who teaches her more than just how to use contraceptives.

      I had mixed feelings about this book. On the plus side, it definitely was a fast read and the heroine is very likable and her thoughts are often amusing. She was bound and determined to enjoy Luke and not expect anything, especially considering the disparity in their age and positions in life. I also enjoyed the book’s setting since I grew up around Philadelphia and was also a student at University of Pennsylvania. I could picture everything and although the author didn’t get into too much detail, she generally got the lay of the land right.

      On the downside, this story gave me a Fifty Shades of Grey vibe. The imbalance between Sophie and Luke is pretty clear — in age, income, background, etc. — and, because Sophie is a virgin, Luke is definitely more dominant, both in bed and out of it. There’s some light BDSM — no where near what was in the Fifty Shades book — but I’m not really into that so I found the light smacks and some of the so-called “sexy” talk, not to my liking. I just don’t get off on a man calling a woman a “filthy, little b*t*h,” or any type of a b*t*h. There are also a couple of subplots — one involving the usual, evil former girlfriend and another involving someone from Sophie’s past, that were introduced but not really explored to my satisfaction. Since the book was comparatively short, there certainly was room to expand on these characters and make the story richer. I think I’ll give this a B-.

      ******


      The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 13 down, 5 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B, C, E, F, H, Q …)

      Rights & Responsibilities Challenge – 11 down, 7 to go

    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The Shoe Challenge
      Shaft – The upper portion of a boot that covers the ankle and sometimes the leg. Read a book where the h/h have been “shafted” in some way (cheating former spouse, robbed of an inheritance etc.)
      Rainy Day Friends by Jill Shalvis – heroine discovers her husband was a bigamist after he’s died:
      The widowed heroine was starting a new temporary job at a California winery. The hero was a deputy sheriff and happy to not be working at his family’s winery. He was divorced with twin daughters and determined not to fall in love again since his marriage had ended badly. She felt she couldn’t trust her own judgment after discovering her husband had been married to multiple other women when he died. I liked the secondary romance but their relationship had a more paint-by-numbers feel. The switching back and forth between the two romances often felt jarring as the separate story arcs didn’t always flow together. There was plenty of humor, but much of it missed the mark for me. The main hero’s family had no sense of personal boundaries which was addressed in the text somewhat. I liked his twins, but they were too often used to precociously move the plot forward. I wish we’d seen more of the dog. I liked the friendship that developed between the main and secondary heroines. Despite the numerous issues the main h/h and their romance made this an enjoyable read.

      Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler)
      Wyoming Cowboy Justice by Nicole Helm:
      The detective heroine viewed the on-going hundred-year-old feud between her family and the hero’s family as stuff and nonsense. She was a police detective with a murder to solve. The hero owned a saloon and was the de facto leader of his family. I quite liked the heroine, but the hero was too often an arrogant jerk. Though he admitted to himself he was being a jerk and eventually apologized to the heroine for one incident, his attitude and continued interference in her investigation was extremely irksome. The mystery was mostly an excuse to throw the h/h together which sadly had the heroine looking inept at her job solely for plot purposes so the hero could be the one to come to the rescue. Despite my issues with the hero I mostly liked their romance and the HEA worked. I also liked some of the secondary characters so I am looking forward to further books in this new series.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 11 down, 7 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 17 down, 1 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 17 down, 1 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 15 down, 3 to go…
      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler): 8 down, 10 to go…
      • The Shoe Challenge: completed!
      • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The Alphabet Challenge Variation
      G = Temptation from the Past by Cindy Gerard:
      The reporter hero did not remember the heroine even though eighteen years earlier he’d written a series of exploitative articles about her and her mother. The heroine was a lawyer and children’s advocate. He wanted to interview her after seeing her deliver the keynote speech at a conference on child abuse. This book was first published in 1991, but the hero’s sense of entitlement at thinking he wouldn’t settle for her icy reception was off putting. He knew she was leery of him yet continued to not take no for an answer just because he was attracted to her. We knew from his POV scenes that he truly admired her and felt she had a sense of conviction and purpose. The fact her secretary knew about her past and kept hounding on her to go out with the hero was also irksome. Knowing he’d given up the idea for an article, but that he was still pursuing her for a date the heroine decided to go out with him figuring he’d soon lose interest. But of course things didn’t go according to either of their plans. The hero knew he’d led a life of privilege. Yet even when he was inspired to help a young boy who had vandalized the heroine’s office, it was his sister and brother-in-law who became foster parents since he wasn’t married so not considered a viable candidate by the court. Things improved somewhat in the middle when the hero finally stopped pushing to have everything his way. Sadly when he found out the truth he was angry with her rather than himself. Then she was the one who ended up apologizing which was ridiculous. Some good moments, but more disappointing than not.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 11 down, 7 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 17 down, 1 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 15 down, 3 to go…
      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler): 8 down, 10 to go…
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: completed!
      • The Shoe Challenge: completed!
      • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge
      N for neighbor — Read a romance where the heroine and hero are neighbors or a romance where they grew up together.
      Hidden by Rebecca Zanetti – hero moves in next door to heroine:
      The hero was a detective who’d quit after his last undercover assignment. He’d bought a small house unaware he’d been set up to purchase that particular house by a man starting a clandestine government agency. The heroine lived next door and was in hiding. The mystery surrounding her lured the hero into accepting the new job. Plots that require one character to lie to the other for an extended time can be difficult to implement. It helped that the h/h were each keeping secrets and both had reasonable justifications as to why. So the sense of betrayal was believable yet their reunion was also convincing. It also helped that they were a well-balanced couple and she refused to put up with his attempts to shelter her. I adored the quirky dog. The villain was run-of-the-mill, but overall a nice blend of suspense and humor. Plenty of sequel bait characters were introduced and I am looking forward to more of this series, particularly the unit’s leader and the psychiatrist’s story.

      Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler)
      Hot Winter Nights by Jill Shalvis:
      The heroine worked as the office manager for a security company, but wanted to be an investigator. She’d broken her back as a teenager and had leftover nerve damage in her leg. The hero was an ex-DEA agent turned security specialist. Neither wanted to get involved to start. The hero quickly changed his mind once he started helping her with an “off the books” case investigating a man who was stealing all the profits from a local Christmas village and bingo hall and not paying the senior citizens who worked there. He was keeping secret the fact her brother as well as their boss knew about the case and had asked him to keep an eye on her. And keeping secret from her brother and boss that he was in love with her. He saw her as perfectly capable and disagreed with their decision to wait before promoting her. They each had emotional baggage which complicated their relationship, but there was plenty of humor as well. Overall a charming romance between two stubborn and well-matched characters.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 11 down, 7 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 15 down, 3 to go…
      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler): 9 down, 9 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: completed!
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: completed!
      • The Shoe Challenge: completed!
      • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas
      A Cowboy Wedding for Christmas by Nicole Helm:
      The h/h had been high school sweethearts but she’d felt the need to escape their small town so had left for college. She had issues with the fact her family had always treated her as the flighty baby of the family. The hero had abandonment issues from his mother’s leaving as well as the fact his father was a belligerent alcoholic. His father had recently emptied their savings account and raided his younger sister’s college fund to pay for a world cruise for his third wife. The h/h met again when she returned for her eldest brother’s wedding. I liked that they’d each tried to move on with their lives and neither had spent the previous six years pining away. He was the first person she told about her decision to move back. While he claimed to now hate her, he was never cruel, simply caught up in his own grief and anger. The heroine knew leaving had been the right thing to do so couldn’t regret it, but did regret the way she’d handled things. Her mother was too treacly and I wish there had been more time to explore a few of the plot threads. There was a lot of angst, but overall a wonderful reunion romance.

      The Mate by Abigail Owen: This introductory novella was set in an alternate reality with dragon shifters. The h/h had met before, but he’d believed she was human. When it’s discovered she had the dragon mark, she was asked to pick a mate from a select group. The fire inspector heroine was dealing with reality being turned upside down. She wondered why the hero had cut off contact if he was truly supposed to be her destiny. He knew he’d screwed up but took a while to get a clue and talk with her rather than making assumptions. I enjoyed the romance even though it felt pushed aside for the political intrigue in the second half. The world building was intriguing but not as well developed as it could have been.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 13 down, 5 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 15 down, 3 to go…
      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler): 9 down, 9 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: completed!
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: completed!
      • The Shoe Challenge: completed!
      • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    • Sandlynn
      Participant
      Post count: 92

      Continuing with the Rights & Responsibilities Challenge:

      13) Try your luck at the lottery.

      Read a romance in which one or both protagonists works in the gambling industry or is a gambler. Or read a romance in which the hero or heroine has won a prize or has inherited something substantial – like land, a house, or a share of a business.


      Even though I must have about six or seven books by Jill Shalvis in my TBR pile, I have never actually read any of them. So, this challenge afforded me the opportunity to crack open one of her newer stories, Lost and Found Sisters, published in 2017.

      Lost and Found Sisters is centered on 30 year old Quinn Weller who lives in L.A., works as a sous chef in a posh restaurant, and most importantly to this story, was adopted by loving parents as an infant. When we meet Quinn, she is still mourning the accidental death of her younger sister, who was the biological child of her parents. The difference in their origins meant nothing to either of the siblings. They loved each other completely.

      Into this mix enters the news that Quinn’s biological mother, who lived in a small California town some hours north of L.A. and who she never knew, has recently died of cancer leaving a dubious bequest to her daughter. Quinn’s inheritance is not really the house her mother lived in or the cafe she owned, but a 15 year old, biological sister who needs a guardian.

      Quinn travels to the Wildstone, California, to meet the sister who is not too keen to be managed by anyone and finds herself sucked in by the needs of not only her sister, but the business and the inhabitants of the struggling town. In addition, she meets a handsome former citizen, who has been traveling down from San Francisco to help out his widowed mother and who secretly is fighting to save what is left of Wildstone from a greedy local politician.

      This is more of ensemble story than a straight romance. If anything, the primary relationship is between Quinn and her newly discovered 15 year old sister, Tilly. And each has their own separate plot line. Mick Hennessey, our hero, also has a separate story, but it’s secondary to Quinn and Tilly’s. Furthermore, we are introduced to a slew of town characters, as well as characters from Quinn’s other life in L.A. There is definitely a lot going on here, although the small town setting makes it seem less overwhelming. However, jumping around from character to character does mean we don’t get to know any one person very well, other than maybe Quinn herself. As such, I didn’t feel as great a connection to the hero or to anyone else. It’s too bad, because I would have liked to have delved more into Quinn and Tilly, Quinn and Mick, as well as their deceased mother Carolyn, Quinn’s deceased sister (who we get to meet in an odd way), and Quinn’s adoptive parents. Less is more, I think. I would give this story a B-/B.

      ******
      


The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 13 down, 5 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B, C, E, F, H, Q …)

      Rights & Responsibilities Challenge – 12 down, 6 to go

    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler)
      The Boss by Abigail Owen:
      The heroine was tied to a set of mysterious fires. She’d recently moved across the country to get away from a stalker. The hero was a dragon shapeshifter. He still felt guilty as a few hundred years before he’d been chosen in the mating ceremony, but since both he and his prospective mate had been wrong his fire had killed her. The world building was clarified with more details, but there were still plenty of unanswered questions. I hope the disparity in the way the dragon society treats women will be more thoroughly addressed in later books. I would like to see the hero’s brother from the introductory novella return. There were too many scenes from a supposed bad guy’s POV as well as the POV of a traitor within the hero’s group. I hope the subplot with the traitor will be answered sooner rather than later, but I’m guessing it will be part of the overarching plot for a while. The issues I had were with the world building rather than the characters. So an uneven read, but one I enjoyed overall.

      The Catchphrase Challenge
      “Heigh Ho, Silver, Away!” The Lone Ranger (The Lone Ranger) – Read a Western romance or a book with a cowboy, rancher or farmer.
      Wyoming Cowboy Protection by Nicole Helm – hero is a rancher:
      The heroine was on the run and had turned to a distant cousin for help. She worked as the housekeeper for the hero. Her decision to not tell her cousin, who was a cop, or the hero anything about who or why she was on the run was extremely irksome. Supposedly she was protecting them, but it came across as her acting foolishly just to provide conflict in the story. The suspense plot had some interesting twists, but was also all over the map so ultimately did not work for me. The bad guys were capable and clever up until they were easily captured or killed. The main villain was a one-dimensional mustache-twirling caricature, but even he managed to outsmart the good guys when needed for the plot. The h/h each thought the other was too good for them. The baby was often conveniently out of the way. The characters had potential, but a disappointing read.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 13 down, 5 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 16 down, 2 to go…
      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler): 10 down, 8 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: completed!
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: completed!
      • The Shoe Challenge: completed!
      • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    • Sandlynn
      Participant
      Post count: 92

      Continuing with the Rights & Responsibilities Challenge:

      11) Enlist or be drafted.
      Read a romance in which one or more of the lead characters is in the military. Or read a romance set during a war at any time in history or in any fantastical world, either on the homefront or in battle.

      I picked up Chanel Cleeton’s Next Year in Havana, published in 2018, having heard many good things about it. And, I must say, it lives up to its promise.

      This story switches back and forth between two time lines. The first is present day Cuba, where Marisol Ferrera, a 30 year old American woman of Cuban descent is visiting her grandmother’s place of birth for the first time. On the surface, Marisol is a travel and lifestyle writer who is planning an article on the sights and sounds of Cuba for potential tourists who may visit as relations with the United States evolve. But, surreptitiously, she is carrying her recently deceased grandmother’s ashes, hoping to spread them somewhere meaningful in Cuba, according to her grandmother’s wishes. Upon arriving, Marisol is met by Luis Rodriguez, the 36 year old grandson of Ana – the childhood friend of Marisol’s grandmother, Elisa. Luis is a history professor at the University of Havana who also helps Ana run a restaurant that she opened in a small part of her once palatial home in the hopes of making much needed money from the tourists. She, her daughter, and Luis started the business years ago, but only recently was this officially sanctioned by the Castro regime. Further on the down low, Luis also has been blogging, under an assumed identity, arguing against the regime’s tyranny. As you can tell, there are multiple layers to everyone’s identity and activities, contrasting with what seems to be a simple, tired, ramshackle island paradise.

      The second timeline is set in 1959 Cuba, in the tumultuous years, months, and days leading up to the overthrow of Batista, the authoritarian ruler backed by the U.S. Elisa Perez is one of four daughters of a wealthy sugar planter and his socialite wife. The family’s roots go back to the founding of the country and they have led a very privileged life, while poverty and injustice rain around them. In fact, the one son of the family, disassociated himself from his kin and is off conspiring with one of the rebel groups trying to rid Cuba of Batista. Amidst this percolating violence, Elisa and her sisters meet friends, shop, attend parties, and every once in a while come face to face with the fringes of the burgeoning revolution. It’s at one of these gatherings that 19 year old Elisa meets and instantly sparks with 30 year old Pablo Garcia, a lawyer, who hasn’t been practicing much law lately. But, instead, he’s been working and fighting with Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.

      During these separate — but connected — time periods, we follow the relationships of the two sets of lovers, especially as they are impacted, on the one hand, by revolution and on the other by the everyday strictures, fears, and indignities of living under a tyrant.

      No one in this story is exactly who they appear to be at first. Although I could guess some of the revelations, that didn’t make the story less enjoyable or interesting. I really grew to care about and root for characters, even though I knew they all couldn’t end up happy. And, in fact, I teared up over and wondered about the fates of a few people towards the end – not just our main characters but even supporting players. Going into this book, I didn’t know much about the Cuban Revolution or its aftermath, so I did learn a few things. However, this book is definitely not heavy on history. The main focus is on the effects the Revolution had on these characters, where they stood – both literally and morally — how they coped, how they loved, and what compromises they made. The only downside I would note, is that I found the ending a little rushed, a little less compelling, leaving a number of plot lines feeling unfinished, but I’d still give the story a heartfelt A.

      ******
      The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 13 down, 5 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B, C, E, F, H, Q …)

      Rights & Responsibilities Challenge – 13 down, 5 to go

    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas
      Star Cruise: Mystery Dancer by Veronica Scott:
      The heroine was an imperial princess on the run from assassins. She took a job as a backup dancer on a luxury cruise liner. The hero worked in security on the ship. Their romance happened quickly but didn’t feel rushed. I wish there had been more emphasis on their relationship as the story mainly focused on her efforts to escape from the planet where we met her and get to her great aunt who had a court-in-exile. The story’s blurb was somewhat misleading, but I was glad that the conflict was not what was implied. Overall this was a fun story with a likeable h/h and a mischievous “pet cat.” As always, it was nice to see the crew of the ship again.

      The Catchphrase Challenge
      “Did I do that?” Urkel, (Family Matters) – Read a romance told from first person point of view.
      The Arrows of the Heart by Jeffe Kennedy:
      In previous books the supposedly charming hero came off as more of a jerk, so I was relieved he owned up to his poor behavior early on. The h/h were sent on a secret mission. The heroine was struggling to find herself after having escaped from Dasnaria. The hero had his own baggage to deal with, but this was very much the heroine’s story. There was a nice blend of humor, adventure, and angst. This book answered several questions for the overarching plot and opened others. While I liked the romance overall it was the heroine and her journey of self-discovery and self-reliance which made the book work. Another solid entry in this series.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 14 down, 4 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 17 down, 1 to go…
      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler): 10 down, 8 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: completed!
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: completed!
      • The Shoe Challenge: completed!
      • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler)
      Saving Hearts by Rebecca Crowley:
      The h/h were college acquaintances who’d had a one-night stand on New Year’s Eve. They met again months later at a Gambler’s Anonymous meeting. The heroine had recently been appointed the first Director of Ethics and Advocacy for the Championship Soccer League. The hero was a goalie warming the bench to ride out his contract after his gambling habits were exposed along with several other high-profile athletes when an online betting site was hacked. As a gold-medal winning former player she wanted to expand opportunities for women at the professional level in soccer. The hero used statistics and analysis to calm his anxiety. Though he’d already served a three-month suspension, her new boss wanted to make an example of the hero to show they were tough on gambling. The h/h each threatened the other with no intention of following through, but called a truce when teammates’ injuries suddenly meant he was back on the starting lineup. She didn’t do serious relationships. He didn’t want to become involved with someone so entrenched in the sport he was being forced to leave behind. A very enjoyable book filled with humor and a touch of angst as well as unexpected twists and surprises. After a contentious start the romance ended up being an endearing exploration of two strong-willed, complex characters learning to be vulnerable and trust each other.

      What the Dead Know by Kylie Brant: The sheriff heroine had been a homicide cop in Chicago, so the hero’s insistence on treating her as a damsel in distress multiple times got on my last nerve. The hero was a medical examiner turned investigator. Their romance took a definite backseat to the mystery plot. The main villain was obvious and the red herrings made the otherwise very competent h/h look foolish at times. I wished the page time given to the villain’s POV and his joy of torture had instead been used to further develop the relationship between the h/h. I liked the heroine and her bff. I also liked what there was of the romance. But overall a middle-of-the-road read.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 14 down, 4 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 17 down, 1 to go…
      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler): 12 down, 6 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: completed!
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: completed!
      • The Shoe Challenge: completed!
      • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler)
      Timtur: The Teacher’s Alien Healer by Veronica Scott:
      This story was set earlier in the series than the previous few books. The alien bad guy was the usual proverbial mustache-twirling evil scientist. There was an additional baddie as well as a few misguided packmates. The hero had put off declaring his feelings for fear they would interfere with his duties. When the heroine was kidnapped he spent a lot of page time regretting his inaction. Thankfully he also actually apologized to the heroine once they were reunited. I liked the h/h both individually and as a couple and wished this story had worked better for me overall. After a slow start the book improved in the middle, but the ending felt rushed. The issues I had were plot-related not character-related. I enjoyed parts, but it was missing something.

      Happy Medium by Meg Benjamin: The heroine was a production assistant for a cable show with a fake medium. The hero was a carpenter and owned a restoration business. He agreed to allow the show to film at the house he was currently renovating. During a rehearsal, the fake medium unknowingly summoned a real ghost who was a succubus. Neither the hero nor heroine believed in ghosts so were each reluctant to admit what they’d seen. It was nice to see the hero’s sister and her dog again but then she conveniently had to leave. The heroine worked for an overly demanding boss but it was never explained why she put up with the boss’ behavior. The characters did not communicate with each other and the hero acted foolishly solely to move the plot along. It took them entirely too long to spot the really obvious clue. Once the villain was defeated the ending felt rushed. A likeable h/h, but overall an uneven read.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 14 down, 4 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 17 down, 1 to go…
      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler): 14 down, 4 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: completed!
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: completed!
      • The Shoe Challenge: completed!
      • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    • Sandlynn
      Participant
      Post count: 92

      Continuing with the Rights & Responsibilities Challenge:

      16) Buy a car.

      Read a romance involving someone who works with vehicles of any type – pilots, racecar drivers, mechanics, chauffeurs, or someone who works with their hands, is in a blue collar profession, or works in tech (IT).

      Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, published in 2017, is general fiction rather than romance, but it definitely has romantic elements. I came across this book while browsing at my local bookstore last year, but I have since noticed that it’s now become one of Reese Witherspoon’s picks, and she has optioned it to be adapted for the screen.

      At first blush, this story puts me in mind of those that focus on a lead character who has autism or some other developmental disability. However, our main character, Eleanor, has issues that clearly resulted from a traumatic childhood which have stunted her ability to interact with others in what we would define as an “acceptable” manner. Eleanor is a 30 year old single woman, living in Scotland who works in accounting and payments for a design company. She lives by herself, keeps to herself, has an ironclad, regular routine, and tends to be judgmental about those around her.

      One day, things change for Eleanor in what appear to be small ways, but they begin to have huge impacts, making her take baby steps towards changing her outlook and finally face her internal demons. The first is that a new co-worker, Raymond Gibbons, who works in IT, comes to help Eleanor with a computer problem and begins to slowly draw her out, overlooking some of her hostile comments. The second is, upon grudgingly accompanying her co-workers to a work-related event, she sees an up and coming musician who captures her fancy, and the third is that she and Raymond reach out to help an elderly man, who has an accident, and are drawn into his life.

      I really enjoyed this debut novel. Although I came to guess some of Eleanor’s secrets, I wasn’t 100% sure if I was correct. This novel does manage to keep you cheering Eleanor on and wondering how far she’ll get towards healing herself. I like how the story took its time and didn’t make huge leaps, even at the end. The story does have a HEA, but it’s not a sure thing that everything you hope for her will work out. It’s just nice to know that Eleanor definitely won’t return to being a damaged loner, who longs to be loved, and that she will have friends who will be there for her. I’d give this book an A. It’s a keeper.

      ******

      The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 13 down, 5 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B, C, E, F, H, Q …)
      

Rights & Responsibilities Challenge – 14 down, 4 to go

    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas
      Hearts in Extra Time by Rebecca Crowley:
      This story was set at Christmas time, but the holidays were not a focus. After being dumped a few months before her wedding, the heroine went on her non-refundable honeymoon cruise by herself. Winter weather caused the delay and eventual cancellation of her flight home. She met the hero in the airport. She was a workaholic lawyer. He was a professional soccer player, self-described as “one of the lesser lights on a team packed with stars.” He didn’t do committed relationships. They agreed to a one-night stand which then stretched into a few days when they rented a car to drive to Atlanta. The romance was rushed time-wise but felt fully explored. They each had reasons for their outlook on life yet knew they needed to make changes. A nice blend of humor and angst with two complex characters with seemingly opposite approaches to life. A very enjoyable read.

      Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler)
      Wyoming Christmas Ransom by Nicole Helm:
      The hero was convinced his estranged wife’s death two years earlier had been murder. The heroine was the county coroner. She’d enabled the hero’s search for justice but was determined to cut off her help since he was seemingly not moving on. When the hero’s car was tampered with she and her deputy sheriff cousin realized he’d been right all along. The mystery was intriguing, but the reasons the h/h had for insisting on investigating things themselves was weak at best and resulted in them each making a number of foolish decisions simply to further the plot. The book improved in the second half though the resolution to the mystery plot was both rushed and jumbled. Despite these issues, I liked the h/h. Their romance was charming and made the story work.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 15 down, 3 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: 17 down, 1 to go…
      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler): 15 down, 3 to go…
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: completed!
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: completed!
      • The Shoe Challenge: completed!
      • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler)
      Act Like It by Lucy Parker:
      The premise of the stage manager and agents setting up a fake romance to help the hero’s public image was fanciful. I liked that neither the h/h wanted to go along with it at first and that the heroine stood her ground to get what she wanted. Even though his actions had been exaggerated by the press and we learned his reasons, it was disconcerting that so many of the supporting characters continued to give the hero a free pass for his behavior simply because he was such a talented actor. Even though the story was primarily set behind the scenes at the theatre it came off as superficial much of the time as the details were off and unrealistic. Despite these issues, I enjoyed the h/h. I liked that they became friends somewhat before becoming involved. I also liked that she wouldn’t put with his attitude and that he both acknowledged his privilege and made an effort to, if not change, at least be more aware. There was a lot of humor, a touch of angst, and overall just a sense of fun. A charming romance.

      The Catchphrase Challenge
      “Book ’em, Danno.” McGarrett, (Hawaii Five-0) – Read a romance with h/h who work in law enforcement.
      Deep as the Dead by Kylie Brant – hero is a RCMP Sgt:
      The h/h had been married twenty years earlier. Reunion romance plots can be tricky but it worked here as their reasons for splitting up even though they were still in love were believable and they’d each moved on with their lives in the intervening years. The focus was very much on the serial killer which left little room to explore their romance. Too much page time was spent in the villain’s POV. The mystery was uneven and the ending very rushed. Since the emphasis was on the case I wish we’d had an epilogue or more time spent with the h/h actually together. I liked the h/h, both individually and as a couple, so wanted more for them.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 15 down, 3 to go…
      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler): 16 down, 2 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: completed!
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: completed!
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: completed!
      • The Shoe Challenge: completed!
      • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    • Sandlynn
      Participant
      Post count: 92

      Returning to the Alphabet Variation Challenge:

      Letter I

      My book group decided to read Alexa Martin’s Intercepted, published in 2018, this month. And, happily, that choice ticks off the letter “I” from the alphabet variation challenge.

      Intercepted follows a year or so in the life of a woman who’s the live-in girlfriend of a professional American football player. The two of them have been dating since high school and have been together – off and on – for almost a decade. Marlee and her boyfriend, Chris, live in Denver, and he is a wide receiver for the Denver Mustangs. As a girlfriend, rather than a wife, Marlee often deals with the rancor, bitchiness, and lack of acceptance of the wives of her boyfriend’s teammates, as Marlee tries to participate in charity events or even just attend games as a “family member.” However, she’s been persevering at the insistence of her boyfriend. In fact, even though Marlee is attempting to build a career in marketing and maintain her own pursuits – outside of sports — her life and work tends to take a backseat to her boyfriend’s. Entering into this mix is the new team quarterback Gavin Pope, who is a huge talent. Four years previously – when Marlee and Chris were on one of their relationship breaks – Marlee met Gavin during a trip to Chicago and ended up in bed with him, having unforgettable sex. Now, here he is and she wonders whether he’ll remember her.

      Very soon after Gavin joins the Mustangs, Chris and Marlee have another serious falling out, partially witnessed by Gavin, who proceeds to help Marlee gather her things and leave Chris. Although Marlee immediately decides to swear off athletes and concentrate on her career and her new job at a restaurant, it’s only a matter of time before Marlee’s back on the arm of a football player – this time Gavin’s, which starts the rollercoaster ride again.

      What’s interesting about this book is that the author is actually the wife of a former professional football player, who was in the NFL for eight years, so I was definitely curious as to the realism of what Marlee experienced. While I appreciated that Martin knew the sport and what went on behind the scenes, most of the story deals with the heroine making, what I felt were, poor decisions – from staying too long with a man who clearly was bad news to jumping into another relationship so soon. My exasperation with her lasted late into the book until she’s confronted – again – with a boyfriend who is trying to make decisions for her even if, this time, he meant well. At that point, she finally stands up for herself, but it feels like too little, too late. The story definitely needed to give the heroine more space to become her own person, with the help of family and friends. Instead, we get a too-quick resolution and only hear about the interactions with others that we needed to see. As a new writer, this author shows promise. Her writing is breezy and very conversational, with the constant use of hashtags (for some reason) but I think her plotting needs work. I give it a B-/C.

      ******

      The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 14 down, 4 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B, C, E, F, H, Q, I …)
      Rights & Responsibilities Challenge – 14 down, 4 to go

    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas
      The Dragons of Summer by Jeffe Kennedy:
      This story featured my favorite couple of this series. While they were firmly together at the end of their full-length book and their HEA never in doubt as they were totally devoted to one another, there were lingering questions due to the political upheaval in the overarching story. I was very happy to finally have the hero’s POV. A lovely blend of angst, humor, and longing with a side trip down memory lane, this novella not only encompassed the wonderful romance, but gave another glimpse into the story of his eldest sister as well as showcased the hero’s complicated relationship with one of his older brothers. We briefly caught up with a few other favorite characters as well but the relationship between the h/h was very much center stage. A delightful read.

      A Second Shot by Shannon Stacey: This novella read like it should be a sequel to the hero’s sister story. (I’ve read everything by this author and it’s not. However, there is one book listed in the “also by” page that I cannot find for sale anywhere and is not mentioned on her website, so maybe it was delayed or something). The hero was a hockey player who found a small dog just before Christmas. The heroine was his ex-girlfriend who happened to be the veterinarian on duty at the animal clinic he took the dog to. The hero regretted having let the heroine go and took their unexpected reunion as a sign to show her he’d changed. I just wish he’d done more actual demonstrating so on page rather than simply thinking about it a lot. There were several subplots which felt underdeveloped. The h/h were both likeable and I enjoyed it overall, but I wish the story had been longer.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 17 down, 1 to go…
      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler): 16 down, 2 to go…
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: completed!
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: completed!
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: completed!
      • The Shoe Challenge: completed!
      • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
      • library addict
        Participant
        Post count: 221

        Shannon Stacey added a note on her website now that the sister’s story will be published later this month.

    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas
      A Curse for Spring by Amanda Bouchet:
      We first met the h/h when they were ten, then quickly flashed-forward fifteen years. The now adult hero’s attitude toward the start was selfish and hypocritical. Thankfully he soon acknowledged this fact and admitted he was acting out of line. The misunderstandings and perfectly timed interruptions frayed a bit in the middle, but thankfully the h/h both made an effort to communicate with each other. Overall an imaginative, angst-filled adventure with a likeable couple on a quest to save a kingdom.

      Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler)
      Gabe by Veronica Scott:
      We originally met this hero in the first book of the series. The author initially listed that his book would be third, but it was repeatedly pushed back, so I was glad to finally get his story. Most of the book was set in an isolated area of the planet with all new characters. The alien baddies were the usual proverbial mustache-twirling evil, casually cruel and effectual yet inept. There was a major twist in the overarching series plot. A few other subplots just skimmed the surface rather than exploring their actual ramifications so I hope things will be addressed in future books. The romance was of the insta-love variety, but that worked well with the plot. As with others in the series, it read like an old Saturday matinee with the intrepid h/h getting into one scrape after another. The way they worked themselves out of these various jams was contrived at times, but overall a fun story.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler): 17 down, 1 to go…
      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: completed!
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: completed!
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: completed!
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: completed!
      • The Shoe Challenge: completed!
      • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    • Sandlynn
      Participant
      Post count: 92

      Returning to the Alphabet Variation Challenge:

      Letter O

      For this next part of the challenge, I decided to read a book from another new author to me, The Opposite of You by Rachel Higginson, published in 2017.

      In The Opposite of You, we have a story focusing on very talented chefs. Our heroine, Vera Delane, while attending culinary school in North Carolina, meets star chef, Derrek Hanover, who immediately captures her interest both professionally and personally. After graduation, this talented woman moves in with Derrek and, before long, he has managed to convince Vera to put herself in second place while he builds his own stardom with the promise that he will help her once his career is made. This relationship not only proves stifling but isolating and physically abusive for Vera and, one day, she secretly leaves Derrek, running off to Europe to work in various kitchens, building her skills. After a year abroad, Vera is notified that her father is ill with cancer. She returns to Durham, North Carolina and decides to use her limited resources to open a food truck, which she can park for free in the parking lot of her big brother’s bike shop. But, unfortunately, this parking spot is in a popular square also occupied by the illustrious restaurant, Lilou, headed by star chef and damn attractive man, Killian Quinn. This food truck sitting across from his restaurant both sparks Quinn’s curiosity and irritates him. Before long, he’s secretly testing Vera’s food and giving uninvited advice. Then, he’s doing it not so secretly while Vera defiantly confronts him, vowing not to be intimidated by or attracted to another star chef who might eat her alive again.

      If you’re a foodie, this book is for you, as there’s a great deal of talk about recipes and food combinations from these characters who are manning their own kitchens. I did enjoy that. For the first 30 or so pages of the book; however, I couldn’t get into the story because the heroine was such a Debbie Downer and so fearful about pursuing her ambitions. Finally, she gets her act together and the action picks up. Once that happens and Killian Quinn begins interacting with Vera, getting her back up, and sparking her personality, things take off. There’s a little hiccup towards the end as Vera faces Derrek again, but the middle part is good and Killian’s backstory is very interesting, and, in fact, I can see a sequel emerging based on Killian’s suave partner — and perhaps — Vera’s friend. I would give this book a B, maybe a B+.

      ******
      

The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 15 down, 3 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B, C, E, F, H, Q, I, O …)

      Rights & Responsibilities Challenge – 14 down, 4 to go

    • library addict
      Participant
      Post count: 221

      Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler)
      Deceiving Dante by Kate Davies:
      The heroine was a high school teacher. The hero was a police detective with the juvenile crimes division. They met when a stolen car showed up on her front lawn. He suspected one of her at risk students. The excuses used to throw them repeatedly together were flimsy at best. The subplot about the hero’s teen daughter becoming conveniently involved with the suspected student took up too much page time. The teenagers came off more as caricatures than three-dimensional characters. It was extremely vexing that the hero wouldn’t have an actual conversation with his daughter and all too often ignored her simply to further the plot. The real culprit was obvious from the moment they were first mentioned. I liked the heroine and there were a few enjoyable moments. However, the teenagers’ antics, the fact the hero acted like a jerk too often, and the anticlimactic resolution made for a very disappointing read overall.

      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler): completed!
      • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: completed!
      • The Catchphrase Challenge: completed!
      • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: completed!
      • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: completed!
      • The Shoe Challenge: completed!
      • The 21st Century Challenge: completed!
    • Sandlynn
      Participant
      Post count: 92

      Continuing with the Alphabet Variation Challenge:

      Letter P

      For letter “P,” I read Ibi Zoboi’s Pride, which was published in 2018 and was chosen by my book group.

      Pride is a young adult novel which is loosely based on the Pride and Prejudice story. The setting is modern day Brooklyn in an area of the borough that is populated by African American, Hispanic, and Caribbean ethnicities. There are five daughters in the Benitez family who share an apartment with their parents in what seems like a rather large brownstone. Our heroine is Zuri Benitez who is an 18 year old high school senior, applying to colleges, and torn about leaving her neighborhood and all she knows. She is also a talented poet with a pride in her family and her culture. Into this setting arrives a new, wealthy family by the name of Darcy that has completely renovated a building across the street and made it into a single family home. When the girls see that the family is also African American, they speculate about the family’s background – are they in sports? Are they in entertainment? But, they soon learn that the father is an investor, interested in real estate, and the mother has a posh British accent. The oldest boy, Ainsley, is in college, just like the oldest Benitez sister, Janae. The second eldest boy, Darius, is a high school senior applying to colleges, like Zuri, and the boys’ little sister, Georgia, is in boarding school. Considering the similarities in ages, soon the Benitez’ landlady begins to speculate on whether the young people might become romantically involved. While it looks like Ainsley and Janae are initially very compatible, Zuri and Darius butt heads from the beginning, each misconstruing the others’ true motivations and outlooks on life.

      I enjoyed this story when it explored the culture of the Benitez family and their neighborhood or when it briefly touched on the experiences of the Darcy family as wealthy African Americans facing prejudice from their white cohort. But, it wasn’t quite as successful when the author tried to fit the Pride and Prejudice plot into the story. Even though the romantic elements were nice, I just didn’t feel the attraction between Zuri and Darius beyond two people becoming friends, who might one day become romantic … but not now. If the author had just written a story unentangled with P&P, it probably could’ve explored the more interesting aspects of the story like gentrification, like Caribbean/Haitian culture, like wealthy African Americans facing the same bigotry as those less well off, etc. So much to explore. Since I think this missed the mark, I’ll give it a C+/B-.

      ******

      The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 16 down, 2 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B, C, E, F, H, Q, I, O, P …)

      Rights & Responsibilities Challenge – 14 down, 4 to go

    • Sandlynn
      Participant
      Post count: 92

      Continuing with the Alphabet Variation Challenge:

      Letter K

      For letter “K,” I read Elle Kennedy’s The Deal, published in 2015.

      This book is the first in Kennedy’s Off-Campus series, and I really enjoyed it. The story focuses on Hannah Wells and Garrett Graham, both juniors (if memory serves) at Briar University. Graham is the captain of the University’s winning hockey team and the son of a hockey legend. Hannah is a music/vocal major, the daughter of working class parents, and is also recovering from a tragic event from her teen years. Although Hannah has eyes for a football player in her philosophy class, Garrett tracks her down and begins pestering her to tutor him in philosophy as she was one of the few students to receive an “A” on the mid-term and his “D” grade could potentially hurt his eligibility to play on the hockey team. After Garrett discovers Hannah’s interest in the football player, he offers to help her attract him if she will tutor him for a make-up exam that could save his place on the team.

      The premise of this story seems pretty pedestrian, but the actual telling of it is anything but. Kennedy’s characters are fully realized and multi-layered. Hannah is recovering from an assault when she was 15 that almost destroyed her and her family, but she doesn’t wallow in the past. She is also competing for a music scholarship that will relieve the tuition burden from her financially strapped parents. Garrett, although the son of a wealthy, former hockey star, is desperately trying to get out from under both his father’s shadow and his ironclad control. The story takes the time to have Garrett and Hannah get to know each other. Although there is definitely plenty of sexy elements, Garrett and Hannah don’t immediately jump into bed, which makes their eventual intimacy so much more meaningful. I really appreciated the time the author took developing the relationship, as well as building the world around the characters and making us care about their friends and their future. I would give this a B+ and look forward to the rest of the series.

      ******
      

The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 17 down, 1 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B, C, E, F, H, Q, I, O, P, K …)

      Rights & Responsibilities Challenge – 14 down, 4 to go

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