Review: Queen Move by Kennedy Ryan

Note: I was provided with an advance reader copy by the author. It was my decision to review the novel and receiving a copy in no way influenced my opinion of the novel or this review. 

I am a sucker for a second-chance-at-love story. It’s one of my favourite tropes. Queen Move by Kennedy Ryan definitely fits the bill.

Early on, the reader gets to see how Kimba and Ezra first meet and become best friends as children. Their friendship and their loyalty to one another is intense and a precursor to love. Life separates them as pre-teens, and it’s many years later when they’re reunited. From there, we’re pulled into a very intense and gratifying love story.  

What I loved about Queen Move: Kennedy is a master at creating credible and three-dimensional characters who are so strong, so well-drawn that they seem to have lives of their own. They live, they breathe and you believe in them completely. Whether it’s her protagonists, Kimba and Ezra, or her secondary characters, you believe in them. I also love how she weaves in history in this story — for those of us who were children during the time of Atlanta child murders, we remember the fear and how it left a pall over a part of our childhood. Kennedy weaves this into the beginning of the story, reminding us of how fearful and watchful black parents especially were even in the days following the arrest of Wayne Williams. 

But what I appreciate most is that Queen Move is a very realistic love story. Like real life, Kimba and Ezra’s story is not always smooth sailing. It’s messy, full of twists and turns. It’s two adults dealing with everything that life and love throws at them. 

My rating? 5 stars.


Highly recommended.

Review: The Switch by Beth O’Leary

I really enjoyed reading Beth O’Leary’s The Switch, an entertaining story about a grandmother and granddaughter who decide to “switch” lives for two months with the grandmother moving into the granddaughter’s loft apartment in London while the granddaughter moves into the grandmother’s cottage (and takes over all her grandmother’s activities) in Yorkshire. This is so much more than a simple “changing places” story — it tackles grief and its consequences, losing oneself in work (and other people’s expectations), frustrated dreams, etc.

Loved the multigenerational cast of characters and all the situations they got themselves into. Highly recommended! 

By the way, check out Beth’s other book (which I also enjoyed), The Flatshare.

Review: The Caretakers by Eliza Maxwell

I am a big fan of gothic mysteries and intricate storylines, and The Caretakers delivers in spades. 

I wanted a book I could really get lost in, with plenty of suspense and realistic and compelling characters. I especially loved delving into Tessa’s story. Her guilt and how she struggles to deal with it at the same time as she deals with the loss of her mother and the familial tension that ensues, is riveting. 

The Caretakers is the sort of book that keeps you up at night – you want to know what will happen next, so you keep turning the pages without caring a jot about the time or where you have to be the next day,

One of the things that I loved with The Caretakers was the attention to detail. Maxwell does a fantastic job of describing the setting, of taking her time to pull the reader into the story so that it has an almost cinematic feel. 
And, unlike many other books in this genre, the ending is perfectly paced and satisfying. 

So far, The Caretakers is one of my favorite reads of 2020. Highly recommended!

Disclosure: The links in this post are affiliate links. If you choose to click and purchase from the link, I will receive a small commission which will help with paying for the costs of running this site.

Review: The Winter Companion by Mimi Matthews

Title: The Winter Companion

Author: Mimi Matthews

Publication Date: 11 February

Available for preorder

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Yet again, Mimi Matthews delivers a deliciously addictive and wonderfully written love story with The Winter Companion. This time, we delve into the lives of Neville Cross and Clara Hartwright. If you’ve been following the Parish Orphans of Devon series, then you’ve already had glimpses of Neville. Of all the boys (now men) who’d grown up together in the orphanage, I was always most curious about Neville, especially considering the injury he’d sustained from his fall from the cliffs. We get more insight into his life and how his BTI has affected him and the choices he’s made along the way.

With the coming Christmas holidays as the backdrop, Matthews sets the stage for a very nice slow-burn love story. We have Neville, painfully shy at times and more at home outdoors than in drawing rooms making small talk, and Clara, a paid companion to Mrs. Bainbridge who longs to learn and know more–but held back because of her gender and a secret from her past. Already from their first meeting, thanks to an elderly pug called Bertie, we know that Neville and Clara are meant to be. The question is how will it come to pass. And their path to love is very satisfying.

There are so many things that I loved about The Winter Companion: the richness of the setting, how Matthews weaves in the cast of characters we recognize from previous books in the series, how even the secondary characters come across as fully realized people and not simply as props… I could go on. But the most important factor for me in loving this book was how Matthews writes about Neville and his brain trauma injury. Gaining insight into how it has affected his life and how he’s tried to deal with it…as well as the initial resentment he felt at being the one left behind…made me as a reader feel such empathy for him and gave me a better understanding of why Neville never strayed far from the abbey.

I also enjoyed that Matthews allows us time to get to know Neville and Clara. They’re complex characters and having the chance to find out how life’s experiences made them who they are gave even more depth to their story.

If you like historical romance, then I think you’ll love the Winter Companion. For me, reading this book was pure pleasure. Highly recommended!

Review: Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Such a Fun AgeSuch a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s not often that I get to read a novel set in my hometown of Philadelphia, so I was pretty excited to read Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age.

So what’s the premise? Emira is a young African-American woman who, at the age of 25, doesn’t really know what she wants to do with her life. She’s graduated from Temple University with a so-so GPA, and she’s babysitting for the Chamberlains, who’ve recently moved to downtown Philadelphia from New York. All of her friends are getting “real” jobs or have them already and Emira is feeling like a failure compared to them. Alix Chamberlain, her boss, is a successful blogger/influencer with a publishing deal, a husband who’s a news anchor on a local TV channel, and two picture-perfect daughters–even if Briar, the oldest, tries her nerves. Two unexpected events lead to both women examining their identities, race, friendship, love, and trust.

As much as I enjoyed reading the story, I felt like the alternating points of view were a bit unbalanced. I wanted more of Emira’s side of the story. Too often, it felt like Alix’s actions and worries were more in focus. Emira sometimes felt like an enigma whereas Alix was an open book.

Still, I really enjoyed reading Such a Fun Age and I am looking forward to reading Kiley Reid’s next novel.

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Review: The Wicked Sister by Mary Lancaster

Another winner from Mary Lancaster! I’ve truly enjoyed the Blackhaven Brides series, and the Wicked Sister is a worthy finale to the series. 

When Maria, returns from London with a scandal (stemming from a misunderstanding) behind her, she expects to be punished by her mama and scolded by her older brother, Gervaise, Lord Braithwaite. She doesn’t expect to cross paths with Michael Hanson, who happens to be Gervaise’s personal secretary and something of a radical. He’s highly unsuitable – but when did that ever stop a flirt…or the possibility of love?

Add to it political intrigue as news of an impending battle with Napoleon Bonaparte threatens to tear Europe apart again…well, you’ve got yourself one hell of a fun page turner.

Great characters whom you instantly empathise with and the setting of Blackhaven is as wonderfully described in Book 13 as it was in the earlier books in the series. I feel as though I have been there many times. 🙂 

Loved it from start to finish. Highly recommended!

Review: In Black & White by Nia Forrester

Nia Forrester never fails to create realistic portrayals of love that I always find so beautifully written. She never disappoints. And this is definitely true in her latest, In Black & White

Set in a leafy suburb of Philadelphia, we’re immediate dropped into what is every parent’s nightmare–the disappearance of a child. In this case, it’s the disappearance of 18-month-old Samara, the daughter of interracial couple Noah and Dana. Samara’s abduction and the subsequent fallout around it mark the beginning of a fascinating story that is in parts mystery and a thoroughly modern story of a love on the rocks. 

Forrester is a master at crafting three-dimensional characters. Dana and Noah are no different. From the first chapter when we learn the status of their marriage, we are given a very realistic, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes frustrating portrayal of a couple who come from different worlds. Noah is the product of privileged, old Pennsylvania money. Dana is his polar opposite–raised in a working-class neighbourhood in Baltimore by her grandmother and her older sister, she has struggled to get used to the life of privilege being Noah’s wife affords, especially since her skin color will always mark her as out of place in the world that Noah comes from. One of the aspects I loved about In Black & White is how Forrester deftly takes us through the couple’s history and its relevance to their separation. These snippets of their shared past help the reader understand who Dana and Noah were when they first met and what attracted them to one another as well as what has driven them apart. 

This is not a sugar-coated, fantasy-laden love story, so if that’s what you’re looking for, then this isn’t going to be the book for you. But if you’re in the mood for a very realistic look at a modern love and marriage, racial and socioeconomic differences (and how it can make or break a couple), and how the disappearance of a child can unveil secrets, then you’re going to love In Black & White.

Highly recommended! 5 stars.

Review: The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that I’ll receive a commission–at no additional cost to you–if you click on them and make a purchase. 

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The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

Release Date: 9 May 2017

Synopsis

He was the first person to inspire her, to move her, to truly understand her. Was he meant to be the last?

Lucy is faced with a life-altering choice. But before she can make her decision, she must start her story–their story–at the very beginning.

Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes both of their lives forever. Together, they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated–perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a thirteen-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love. Was it fate that brought them together? Is it choice that has kept them away? Their journey takes Lucy and Gabe continents apart, but never out of each other’s hearts.

This devastatingly romantic debut novel about the enduring power of first love, with a shocking, unforgettable ending, is Love Story for a new generation.

Review

Some books tell stories that are bound to make you a little (or, okay, extremely) emotional. And you have to simply accept that it will happen. You’ll re-read passages, feel completely immersed in the scenes and wonder if everyone else who’s read it experienced the same thing. For me, this was the case with Jill Santopolo’s The Light We Lost. I’d heard a lot about the book, I’d even 1-clicked it for my Kindle but never got around to reading it until last week.

Wow. I loved following Lucy and Gabe’s story. Theirs is not a conventional love story. There is no HEA. I’m putting it out there for you now. If that’s what you want, this is not the story for you, but it is a heart wrenching portrayal of love found, love lost and what happens in between as these two lovers find themselves separated by distance, by principles and sometimes by other people.

What I especially liked with The Light We Lost was how flawed both Lucy and Gabe are as characters. Yes, they are both selfish sometimes and they will do things that will often leave you wondering why you even empathise with them, but ultimately they stand by the choices they make and, for me as a reader, I could completely understand their reactions and decisions, even when I could not imagine myself doing the same.

I just read that The Light We Lost is in development to be a movie. It will be interesting to see who they cast to play Lucy and Gabe.

Anyway, I loved The Light We Lost. I will probably re-read it in a few weeks just because. Do I recommend it? Absolutely. But bear in mind that, even those this is a romance, it’s more in the lines of One Day or Me Before You. And if you’ve read either of those, you know exactly what I mean.

My rating?

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Review: Royal Heir by Ruth Cardello

Royal Heir (Westerly Billionaire, #3)Royal Heir by Ruth Cardello

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love royal romances. Always have. When I had the opportunity to read and review Royal Heir by Ruth Cardello, I jumped at it.

What did I love? It’s a fast-paced story with just enough of the royal fairytale to keep me going until Harry and Megan tie the knot in a few weeks. The story of the American commoner (who just happens to be an heiress in her own right, even if she doesn’t have access to her fortune yet) and the arrogant prince with a heart of gold is charming and has enough sexy moments to keep you wanting to turn the pages. I enjoyed the build up of Rachelle and Prince Magnus’s love story and the subplot of Rachelle trying to reunite family ties with her brother. It worked well and made for good tension throughout the story.

What was missing for me? I didn’t feel like I could get a sense of place when it came to the settings. There weren’t enough details to give me the feel of London or, once they were in Vandorra, I couldn’t picture it since the descriptions didn’t evoke the look or feel of the place. It also felt like the pacing was off as we closed in on the story’s denouement. The suspense subplot came off as a bit rushed and tied up a little too quickly for me.

But, all in all, I thought Royal Heir was an enjoyable read. It’s romantic, exciting and has enough spice to keep the story from being too sweet. Rachelle and Magnus had good chemistry and their sexual tension was fun to follow. So if you want a little royal romance for a weekend read, add Royal Heir to your TBR list.

NOTE: I received an ARC from Net Galley, which I chose to read and review.
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Review: Vienna Waltz by Mary Lancaster

Screen Shot 2018-03-20 at 17.03.03Synopsis:

Intrigue, suspicion and true love at the Congress of Vienna…

In 1814, with Napoleon finally defeated, the great and the good of Europe descend on Vienna to plan a lasting peace – and to dance.

Ejected from her home on the death of her father, Lizzie Gaunt – along with her gaggle of siblings and a large, unruly dog – finds herself in Vienna with her diplomat uncle. But Lizzie is determined not to remain dependent upon her aunt and uncle for long. After witnessing a daring theft, she recruits the unusual thief to carry out her plan – which should hurt no one except her father’s heir, the vile Russian cousin she’s dubbed Ivan the Terrible.

However, Lizzie’s simple scheme is soon complicated by a wounded Austrian spy, a formidable English matron, a masked Russian rakehell from the Emperor’s masquerade ball, and a mysterious villain selling information that could ruin the Congress before it properly begins. And then there’s Cousin Minerva’s romantic difficulties, and Cousin James’ gambling debts to sort out.

While Vienna dances, Lizzie tries to solve everyone’s problems, and ends by falling disastrously and dangerously in love.

 

Review:

I stumbled upon Mary Lancaster’s Vienna Waltz while doing research for a historical romance I would like to write. Since I love Vienna (it’s one of my favorite places to visit) and I’ve always been fascinated by the Austro-Hungarian empire, this was the perfect historical romance for me to read.

Vienna Waltz starts with a theft. Our heroine, Lizzie, is at the opera with her aunt and cousins when she witnesses a thief snatch a woman’s necklace. This act leads to a case of mistaken identities and romantic intrigues that in the heart of the Austrian capital.

This lighthearted and romantic novel does a fantastic job of capturing the grandeur and the intrigues around the Congress of Vienna, when heads of state gathered to negotiate long-term peace following the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars. Lancaster does a wonderful job of weaving fact with fiction, peppering her story with historical figures and a charming Russian hero, Vanya, who is not at all what he appears to be. In Lizzie, we get a headstrong heroine who is determined to do what she can for her orphaned sisters and brothers, even if it means putting her own life on a shelf.

If you love reading historical romances set during the regency era, but would love to read something other than stories set in England, then give Mary Lancaster’s Vienna Waltz, the first book in her Imperial Season series, a try. It’s exciting, well written and such a delight to read. I fell in love with Vanya and Lizzie and I think you will too.

My rating?

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