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  • 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!
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