In the Spotlight, Shona Husk

In the Spotlight,  Shona Husk

In The Spotlight by [Husk, Shona]

Genre: M/M Romance,

Liked the sound of this and it was a read I enjoyed, but…just didn’t love it.

I so felt for Pierce, religious parents who don’t recognise anything other than heterosexuality, and in a profession where men are all supposed to be rabidly conventional when it comes to sex.
We might be able to change the Law, sadly we can’t change peoples perceptions, and the Services are one of those where being different isn’t good, standing out from the crowd, in any way isn’t easy, but to be gay, nope, Peirce is pretty convinced it’ll not go down well. After the experience with his family he’s keeping his sexuality to himself and sticking to anonymous hook-ups every now and then.

Ripley, he’s totally the opposite. He knew he’d be a dancer from very early on in the same way as he knew he was Gay, his family have grown up with it, and his colleagues all know he gay and don’t care.
Its a more liberal profession when it comes to sexuality, so long as you have talent and work all else seems to be fine.
His relationship with his brother isn’t good, but his parents have always been supportive. There’s a dark secret lurking there though, a shadow that hangs over the family and affects them all. When he’s injured it makes him take a harder look at himself and what he’s been running from these past few years.

You’d think they’re total opposites but as it happens they are fiercely attracted, and the one night leads to two, leads to staying over, meeting Ripley’s family and more.
Pierce needs to make a decision though, he can’t keep Ripley as a dark secret if they’re going to be more to each other, but can he bring himself to tell people he’s Gay, having let them think otherwise for so long.

Its a good story, bringing in the fear of how people react to anyone a bit different, how different professions regard homosexuality, what it means to have the support – or not – of family and of course that secret, how hard it is for families faced with issues like that, how it strains them.
Though its got a lot of things to interest me and I enjoyed musing about them, and how in the real world things work, I wasn’t really convinced by the romance between Ripley and Pierce, and I did feel that part didn’t really have the fireworks and drama I need from a romance read.
Its quiet a short book though, so with everything else its difficult to get too much in without overloading and detracting from the rest of the story.
For me if it was longer and the romance developed this would have been a five, as it is its a three and a half.

Stars: Three and a half, lots to think about but a bit lacking from the romance side for me.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

A Sacred Vow, Willa Thorne

A Sacred Vow,  Willa Thorne

Genre:  Sci-fi and fantasy, Romance

I saw this had a slew of 4 and 5 star reviews on Goodreads, and its got Vampires🙂 not had a good vampire read for a while now so I was really hoping I’d like this.

Sadly its perfect for others but not for me. I found that there was a lot of tell not show, we’d get the action, briefly, then pages of what Lia thought about, then pages of what Julian thought about it and…I was tired of it by then, especially as most of this was repeating how beautiful Julian was in Lia’s eyes, how perfect, etc. etc. and then we’d get the same from Julian, Lia’s wonderful, beautiful, such sweet smelling blood etc. etc.
I usually like to get some of the characters inner thoughts, it often shows things in a different light, but this was just too much, and began to get dull.

Then there’s his dilemma, his Vow, he knows he must kill her but…..yada yada. When Lia does find out what he is, in a particularly shocking way, her reaction to me felt very wrong, yes he’s a murderer, killed loads of people, is supposed to kill her – and her brother – but…he’s so beautiful, so kind to her…I’d have expected her to be screasming, traumatised, shocked, thinking about all the people he’s killed just because they are human, not least that many of those are her difrect relatives.

I got almost halfway through and just had to give up. If a book isn’t working for me by then its not going to. I was sad as I’d hoped I’d love this story but…reading tastes are very individual.

Stars: Two, one of those perfect for others but which didn’t suit me.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

Blood Bound, Blood Ravagers – Book 1, Traci Douglass

Blood Bound, Blood Ravagers – Book 1,  Traci Douglass

Blood Bound (Blood Ravagers Book 1) by [Douglass, Traci]

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy, Romance

I haven’t read any of Traci’s novels before so didn’t know what to expect.
Its a good read, a decent story, but feels too lightweight for me.
Its really based around lots of hot sex between Dante and Anna, with a bit of supernatural suspense thrown in.
It didn’t feel “real” enough for me to rate higher, I know there’s a massive market for romance reads just like this and I’m sure it’ll do well, but for me I need something with a bit more substance to the story.

Anna, searching for her sister, ends up at a Demon gang base. There’s all sorts of illegal things going on there as you’d expect, and Anna ends up central to all the dangers. Sounded a good start but I found it hard to believe a quiet, submissive teacher with just four days to find her sister, would let things ride as she did.
Granted Dante is sex-on-a-stick, but she falls into his arms, and bed without a backward glance to poor Liz. Sister – what sister? Oh yes, well just let me get a few more orgasms in first. Well, that’s how it felt to me ;-)
I couldn’t believe that having got to where she knows Liz has been, to where people have seen her, she kind of sat back and threw herself into hot sex, rather than seek her out. Then when she should be sitting back and waiting she decides to intervene *roll eyes*
I’m not a fan of the “new powers” stuff either, where new talents and ones we just don’t otherwise know about come into play just in time to save the day….
Its me, not the book, its a story type that dominates the best sellers, and I’m sure will do well and be perfect for many readers – I’m just not one of them though.

Stars: two and a half – I liked the idea, but it didn’t work out for me. Its one that will appeal to many readers though judging by the top ones in bestsellers. If you like those, you’ll probably like this.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and publisher

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Joanna Bolouri

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Joanna Bolouri

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: A warm and wonderful Christmas comedy by [Bolouri, Joanna]

Genre:  women’s fiction, Romance

I was so looking forward to this, I Loved Joanna’s the List, but sadly this one wasn’t a great read for me.
The problem was Emily. When we first meet her she’s a moaner, no…not that way, she’s not like Evan’s ladies😉. She moans about her life, her flatmates bad habits, her family, her boyfriend and most of all she moans about poor Evan, who’s only crime is noisy sex! Why can’t she just ask the guy to keep it down instead of alternately blanking and ranting at him?

From the description she didn’t sound at all like this, and as we got to know her better I kind of understood why she was this way, but still wanted to slap her at times and say “ don’t be so obnoxious.”
She’s pretty rude to many people – especially Evan, and he’s such a nice guy.
He was exactly as I’d imagined from the description, someone with a real joie de vivre, someone who loves life, is kind, happy, helpful. He and Emily are like oil and water at first, and she just rebuffs all and every approach with rudeness. No wonder he doesn’t like her, I didn’t either, and yet when she’s stuck without a boyfriend to fend off her family, and he can see it really troubles her, that she’s quite vulnerable and insecure under that brash front, he helps her. What’s that phrase? “You’re a better man than me Gunga Din”
The way she’s been he couldn’t be blamed if he said tough luck, you reap what you sow. He doesn’t though, the caring guy he is – with what seems to be a hidden crush on Emily – offers to play the part of Robert, the scumbag ex.

The book really gets going from the journey to Scotland onwards, and once they meet the family there’s some real laugh out loud moments, though there’s also many that feel very forced too – a trying too hard vibe, where I felt I was being spoon-fed tired lines and told “laugh, dammit”.
Underneath all that humour though, under the family’s bonhomie there’s some real issues that affect lots of families, and when it all explodes its – well, a real bombshell with so much coming out, so much to show Emily that she’s so wrong about all her thoughts, about how the family see her, how she sees them and their lives. It was pretty emotional.
Then its back home to London, and of course Emily needs to take on board all the events, rethink her life and lifestyle. What about Evan, he had some pretty stupendous news too, but that part of his life seemed to get flashed over.

Oddly apart from a few age jokes from the family, “friendly” taunts about Cougar etc the age gap really doesn’t mean much, and I kept forgetting there was that decade or so between them. As it should, age shouldn’t really come into love, no more than sex, race, religion etc – take love where you find it, its a rare commodity.

Back in London Emily was still kind of abrupt at times but she’d mellowed in Scotland, let Evan see another side to her, the side he’d thought was there,and a bit of that stuck.
She’s still feeling rejected by Robert, confused about her family, wondering whether London is really right for her and muddled about her feelings for Evan.
I did feel after the way the main 80% of the book covered the Christmas holiday that the end part got cut too short, that I wanted a bit more of it and TBH the actual ending felt really, really truncated.

Its a book I’m sure many will love, and if I’d liked Emily more earlier and the ending was a little expanded, it could have been a five star read for me too but its not, for me its a read but forget book, and proof that loving one story by an author doesn’t mean you’ll love everything they write – or conversely disliking one doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try more.
Books are as individual as reading tastes and each one has a different feel even when written by the same author.

Stars: two and a half – I liked the idea, enjoyed some of the humour but overall Emily’s character and that abrupt end made it a no go for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and publisher

The Return of Norah Wells, Virginia Macgregor

The Return of Norah Wells,  Virginia Macgregor

The Astonishing Return of Norah Wells by [Macgregor, Virginia]

Genre:  general Fiction

An amazing story full of the most wonderful and captivating characters, not just the immediate family, but Ella’s boyfriend Sai and his mum, The Mr Manns, the incredible twin sisters Miss Rose and Liss Lily Pegg, and their love of all things purple and their three Chihuahuas, lovely, slobbery, affectionate Louis and of course Mrs Fox. Its one of those stories where every page has something to take your attention.

Its a great premise, mother walks out leaving two small kids with deadbeat, drunken dad. The  kids godmother, the capable Fay, Norah’s long time best friend, steps in. She takes leave from her work as a surgeon, sorts the family out, and they all become a new family.
She and Adam fall in love, Willa who was less than a year old when Norah left calls her mummy and doesn’t remember Norah, Ella though, she’s always seen her as an interloper and has a twitter campaign going to find her mum. She’s convinced she’s been kidnapped and is just waiting for her to escape and return.

The day Norah does come back though things are very very different to how they all imagined. What happens next? Well, its an amazing few days with some huge changes in store, facing them to look at what they have, what they lose, what could be lost now if they don’t get it right.

It could be a very grey, gloomy, sad story but its lightened by the wonderful Willa, 6 going on 60 in many ways, she’s so open and friendly, so accepting of everything and everyone, that somehow what seems impossible at the start of the story happens, these characters find a way through the morass of issues weighing them down and come out better, more rounded people, a united family, instead of the scarcely holding together one the were.

I thought I’d hate Norah, what she did seems so cruel, so cold and though I never got as far as liking her I did understand her more by the end. Fay I just loved, one of those rare people who always want to do what’s right for others regardless of the potential for her own heartbreak. I so wanted everything to end well for her.

An amazing story to get lost into.

Stars: Five, a lovely read

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

Christmas Under a Starlit Sky (A Town Called Christmas Book 2)

Christmas Under a Starlit Sky (A Town Called Christmas Book 2)

Christmas Under a Starlit Sky: A perfect festive romantic read (A Town Called Christmas Book 2) by [Martin, Holly]

Genre: Women’s fiction, Romance

Though this is book two, each is a stand alone story so if like me you haven’t read Cranberry it doesn’t matter, you can still enjoy this read. The series is connected via the town of Christmas and its inhabitants.
I love Holly’s books, ( just wrote Live there instead of Love and both are apt, I do get so into these stories that I live them) I’ve enjoyed several of them now and this was another gem. 100 Proposals is still my all time favourite but this had some real emotional moments and came close.

Neve is lovely, working with her family, she’s got lots of friends and if she’s not doing the job that was her dream, after her ex put paid to that – well, she still loves and gets satisfaction from what she’s doing.
She’s trying hard to cover how broken hearted she is. Over the summer while she was working at the London hotel she fell in love with Oakley, an actor a little younger whose just found his career soaring. she feels she’s in the wrong position for him, too far away, not up to the Hollywood standard, just not good enough and she broke things off with him when he had to return to the US for filming.
Oakley was shocked, devastated at the break but couldn’t do anything, he had to return to Hollywood, but now its Xmas break and he’s chasing her out, determined to make her see that she’s It  for him.
I adored him, so wonderfully in love and determined to win over Neve, cast aside all her fears.
When That line comes up though he’s thrown, and his reaction is bad. Put yourself in his shoes though and I could understand why, and of course fence sitting I could feel for Neve and why she did what she did. I know – very mysterious but without giving things away its hard to write what I want to say. I understood both reactions, empathised with them even though they are totally opposite.

Its not just Neve and Oakley here though, but Piper and Gabe from Cranberry, Adam and Ivy and a host of supporting cast.
Its a great read, satisfying, light enough to relax with but with enough depth and emotion to really get lost in the story. Perfect holiday reading and Cranberry is going on my TBR pile so I can get the earlier story too…

Stars: Four and a half, a lovely satisfying read.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

Beast of All, (Carus 5), J.C. McKenzie.

Beast of All, (Carus 5),  J.C. McKenzie.

Beast of All (A Carus Novel Book 5) by [McKenzie, J. C.]

Genre:  Romance, Sci-fi and Fantasy

I got a bit puzzled when I started this, thought I’d missed something from the end of the last book, but went back and checked and no, this really does leap forward over a massive event that changes Andy’s life.

Something huge happened, she got caught by the SRD, and now she’s down with the others, supes always rumoured to be kept by the SRD for experiments. Andy heard the rumours, but like others was unable to find out if they’re real. Now she knows they are, in the worst way and its her favourite(!) ATF man who’s taunting her from outside the shifter proof bars.

Andy’s determined to get free but they’ve somehow managed to detach her feras and Beast and she needs them. She’s lost without them, furious at being captured, grieving, worried about her witch friends, the lads taken  by the Elders for breaking the rules. She’d promised to fetch them if they weren’t returned within a reasonable time. Now she’s trapped, no-one knows where she is, she can’t help anyone, and with the Pharaoh jousting for  domination of not only the vampires, but all Supernaturals her help is needed badly.

It seems like rock and hard place doesn’t it – but its Andy, we know somehow she’ll get out, and she does, and gets help from a most unexpected source.  Look out bad guys – Andy’s out for vengeance and justice.
She needs help though, its too big to do alone and this dilemma, the need to stop the Pharaoh from his evil plans takes all supes working together. That’s not easy, they don’t trust each other, there are past issues between some of them and of course with more people involved the chance for leaks is high.

It’s really hard to say too much about this book without giving anything major away. I loved it – I can say that, am really happy at the way it ended, and loved being along with Andy and co for this final battle. I enjoyed the usual banter, the snark, the jealousies, all the things that make these characters seem so real. I care about them, want things to work out, and was gripped all the way through by the way this one played out.
Its a really climatic finish, things sorted so that they make sense, no loose ends, just a really satisfying finish to Andy’s struggle to find out more about herself, to the puzzle of her being a Carus, and to the plots and machinations that have dogged her for so long.

Stars: Five, a cracking finale, a really satisfying finish. Now I need the time to read it all the way through – books 1-5, back to back to really get the full Andy experience.

ARC supplied by publisher

The Untold Tale, The Accidental Turn Series: Book 1, J.M. Frey

The Untold Tale, The Accidental Turn Series: Book 1,  J.M. Frey

The Untold Tale (The Accidental Turn Series Book 1) by [Frey, J.M.]

Genre:  LGBTQIA, Sci-fi and Fantasy

Sometimes a book comes along that transcends age criteria, and for me this is one. On the face of it its very much a YA type read with sex thrown in, but get into it and there’s so much more to it.

Its like there’s two stories, the top one where Pip gets pulled into Forsyth’s world, and then the underlying one where the flaws in conventional fantasy are pointed out, how Pip’s Quest can be worked out via a mock-up Excel, using formulas from classic fantasy reads. Where we see the “hero” is often just a misogynistic characters, where females are deemed as “girls” and sent off to cook and clean…and its all accepted because “its fiction”.
I have to say until I read this book much of that had escaped me, but I found myself looking back at other reads (especially those by male authors!!) and nodding my head, working out how they fit into this criteria Pip has worked out. Even Watership Down, a book I loved, had the males rabbits doing all the exiting bits, danger and rescues while the few does were there for nest building and breeding😦 and at the time that totally escaped me…

The actual story is fabulous, full of surprises, full of mysteries and some wonderful secondary characters, from the Viceroy and his evil henchman Bootknife, to Mother Mouth, the silver Sheriff Pointe, Forsyth’s brother Kintyre Turn and his loyal knight Bevel, and of course Forsyth and Pip.

It takes a short while to work out what’s going on, and how and where Pip has sprung from, and I did find the way she was so accepting of it was hard to take – but she was living it, and unlike the reader who’s just begun the story Pip has had some weeks, possibly months, with which to accept where she is.

As well as the light and fun stuff there’s some really dark times, Pip’s experiences with Bootknife and the Viceroy, and that and the underlying themes bring this into much more than a light fantasy read.
I loved Forsyth, so intelligent, so commanding in his secret role as the King’s Shadow Hand, and yet to everyone else he’s bumbling, stuttering, good-natured, book-loving Forsyth – well, that’s how he sees himself. He doesn’t see what the locals do, the intelligent and kind man, the visionary who started schools for the children, who arranged a proper jail and protection for his people, the man who’s looked up to by the villagers and much respected. He just compares himself all the while to his swaggering, bullying, adventuring knight brother Kintyre. The man who joined his father in ridiculing Forsyth from when he was a young child, and who swanned off to go adventuring, leaving Forsyth to take up what should have been Kintyre’s role looking after Turn House, and the area and its inhabitants.
When Pip drops into his life Forsyth is instantly attracted by her mind, by her intelligence, but immediately thinks she’s meant for his brother, as the eldest its traditionally Kintyre’s Right to her. Pip had a few words to say about that🙂 and loud and often, when she sees more sexism in action.

Its a quandary too – can she blame people for acting as they’ve been brought up? Is it right to assume this role of superiority she has, thinking she’s come from the “better” society without knowing more about this world? She shows a different way when she talks about Kintyre and they way he wades in with his sword (Foesmiter!!), rather than asking questions first and looking for another way to solve an issue. She makes us look closer and we see that what he does and gets applauded for, often leads to unfairness and more issues later.
I love the way its explained, loved the idea ( and was a little scared by it too) of what may lie beyond an authors words. I love the way she describes her world to Forsyth as having been created too, with the Bible being the book we’ve sprung from, God as the Writer.

Its a fabulous read, pure escapism, lots of dramas and some heart-breaking incidents that stop it being just some jolly Boys Own Adventures jaunt, and turn it into a gripping read that’s full of depth. It has lots of content that made me stop and think, about my reactions, about the characters reactions, and overall wondering just how on earth they were going to come out of this story without someone’s heart breaking.

Stars: Five, a fabulous escape that made me think and question what’s written and accepted so often in Fantasy, and yet wasn’t a hectoring tome but a story that let me get lost in another world. A perfect ending too.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and publisher

Never Too Late (Appleby Series Book 1) Alyssia Leon

Never Too Late (Appleby Series Book 1) Alyssia Leon 

Never Too Late (Appleby Series Book 1) by [Leon, Alyssia]

Genre:  Romance, General Fiction (Adult)

I loved the start, where poor Molly expects her boyfriend to return home and he brings with him his new fiancée….I thought after that it would be a book full of fireworks , with the new fiancée being one of those love-to-hate ladies, and lots of b itchy interludes but…it wasn’t😦

I did like Molly, but at times I wanted to shake her, tell her to get mad, she’s such a Nice girl, doesn’t want to upset anyone. Still, that’s the kind of person she was.
Her ex, Brian, was a real sleaze and it made me wonder what on earth she’d ever seen in him.
Then there’s Jake, and he was in insta-lust when he saw Molly. I got that attraction, and hers to him, very in the physical, but for me it never really felt more than that. I didn’t feel the actual romance, that they were more in love than just sensually attracted.

There’s some great secondary characters here, the current owner of Barrowdene Francine, Molly’s boss Martin and his awful wife, her Nan, a wonderful lady, and Nate the gardener cum caretaker.
Nate and I are in agreement about goats “ Barbed wire’s too good for them Satan spawns”. Dad used to keep goats, they’d eat and and everything they shouldn’t, and turn there nose up at goat food, and were like four legged Houdini’s. I was always haven’t to chase down the road after one escapee goat, trailing a stake and 12 ft chain. As for goats milk…the smell nauseates me still.

There were some oddities that spoiled the story for me, didn’t feel genuine, the speed at which Barrowdene was transformed, the way the Molly has self taught herself about old properties from magazines, and was then able to suggest and oversee all the renovations, and get more work in that field, all while holding down her job for Martin AND helping her nan look after the house. Superwoman!
On the subject of the house, how on earth did this elderly lady with a duff leg manage to keep everything looking good with only the aid of Nate for outdoors, and a couple of giggling girls for inside? A house and grounds that size would take a team of full time staff I’d have though.

Overall its a fun story, cutesy romance with a little spice but nothing really exiting, no dark dramas or secrets, just a few little things soon over. Sweet-n-light, easy read.

Stars: Three, a sweet romance, but not an emotional or exciting one for me.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

Wolf in League, A.F. Henley

Wolf in League,  A.F. Henley  

Wolf in League by [Henley, A.F.]

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

I jumped in to this series having only read samples of books one and two, but that gave me enough info to follow this story and get engrossed in it. At some point I’d like to read those first two books, its always a balance of time and money. 🙂 They never seem to come both at the same time!

So I met Matthew and Gavin, posing as husbands in the home next to the O’Connell family. The Committee are worried as they’ve not heard from them.
Here of course I had to read between the lines as to what part the Committee played, as that was covered in earlier reads.
Matthew is new to the whole supernatural world, a bit scared of Gavin even as he’s attracted to him, and desperate to know more about the wolves. A few weeks back he knew nothing, was a simple research doctor and now he’s had his eyes opened he’s got the research devotee’s enthusiasm for all things new, for information about how and why, and if he’s not careful its going to lead him into danger.
Gavin is trying to keep him reined in and safe, but they don’t know each other, and while Matthew comes over as full of enthusiasm for Wolves he’s not so keen on Vampires, and doesn’t trust Gavin.
Gavin reacts by being a bit sneering, mixed in with doing things deliberately to scare Matthew. Despite that they soon embark on some steamy encounters – why not, says Gavin, they both want each other, want the sex and what’s stopping them? And they are seriously hot together.

When things go a bit further,and we meet the wolves it doesn’t quite go as planned, and soon he and Gavin are in real danger, things aren’t as they’d thought, information comes out that shocks Matthew even further, and an old adversary comes forward.
Its difficult to know who to trust, to know what’s really going on, why they are really placed to contact the O’Connells, and  Matthew finds there’s much more going on that he realised, with everyone seeming to hold secrets. He’s got a crash course in the supernatural along with some tough decisions to make.

I really enjoyed this, its a good mix of characters, reasons, ideas and the reality that if this could happen, then things may well play out as in this novel. That makes a good read for me, that sense of possible reality, and I think if I’d read books one and two this would be a five star read.
I maybe missed some of the more subtle issues, didn’t fully understand how deep corruption could go, which part each character played and what it could lead to.
They are definaely on my want-to-read list and I look forward to the next book.

Stars: Four, a great fun read, with a great mix of characters and suspense.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

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