Review: A Mate for the King, by @RebelWrites_ and @leona_etc

Title: A Mate for the King (Alpha and Omega #1)
Author: Rebel Carter and Leona McNeely
Rating: 3/5 stars

Magic and shifters do not go together.

Ever.

But what happens when fate brings together a magic-wielding halfling omega and the shifter world’s soon-to-be-king?

Cora has spent every day since dreaming of her escape from the Moonwater Clan.

There’s little hope of a happily ever after if she stays put. Still, she holds on to the hope that things will change for her. And what better occasion than the upcoming coronation of the shifter world’s king to wish for a new beginning? But everything changes when she’s rescued from an aggressive alpha by none other than the soon-to-be king, and she finds herself drawn to him in a way she never imagined for herself.

***

Zehr will become the new shifter king, but self-doubt plagues him at the prospect of taking the throne. Ever heavy on his shoulders is the pressure to choose a mate, something Zehr has avoided for years in hopes of bonding the right one. Fate has other plans when he saves an unknown omega from another alpha’s advances, and he finds himself under her spell.

Literally. Because she’s full of magic.

Zehr isn’t sure what to make of the magic-wielding omega, but he does know one thing: he can’t let her endure her first heat alone.

Alpha and Omega is a novella series with A Mate for the King as its first installment! Fall into a world of intrigue, magic, and scintillating chemistry with an excerpt from our second novella, The Lioness Claims a Mate, a romance featuring a F/F pairing of a runaway omega and the female alpha who shatters expectations. (description from Goodreads)

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I recently got back in the mood for shifter romances. After looking around at what I’ve been missing since the last time this mood struck me, I found the Alpha and Omega series by Rebel Carter and Leona McNeely. Earlier this month I read Auld Lang Syne by Carter, and enjoyed it. Finding this series meant I’d get to see how the author could do pairing up with someone else.

This novella has a lot going for it. It also has some room to grow. But in the end, it was worth my time and will have me going on to the next novella and probably the third, as well.

As far as what I enjoyed, the world building is near the top of my list. There isn’t a big sprawling world in the story, but there’s enough information given about the different shifters, shifter origins, the different societal structures, and more. Some shifter stories don’t dive into this part of the world. I do enjoy when a book does. I also thought that some of this played into character motivations well.

The reason I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I was hoping to, is that there are some loose ends and unanswered questions in what seemed like a story that would be wrapping up, as well as a flaw in a major character which seems to go against their previously stated values (leading to a major plot point taking place). When I thought I knew a character and what they’d do in a situation, the opposite happens. I’m hoping that in the next two novellas some of this is resolved. Though, I’m not sure it’ll be in novella two since it seems to be focused on two other characters, rather than Cora and Zehr from A Mate for the King. If that’s the case, my enjoyment is sure to increase and I’ll be able to recommend this series more confidently.

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You can find this book on:

Amazon

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About the Rebel Carter:

Romance is my way of creating a world that reflects the people and various relationship dynamics that exist around me. I hope that my writing offers a space where love of all shades and expressions are seen as valid, real and embraced. Each love story I write carries a piece of me in it’s pages and I’m proud to share a part of my heart with each and every page you turn.

When I’m not writing romance, I’m probably working my day job as a pretty damn good barista, or obsessing over my ever-growing plant collection. I have a geriatric dog that I coddle and enable to live her best forever puppy life. I currently live in Colorado where every day proves to be a new adventure.

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About the Leona McNeely:

Leona McNeely is a Southern queer gothic fairy. She collects cats, vintage Playboy magazines, and notebooks. Obsessed with football, dragons, magical girl anime, and intersectional feminism, Leona lives by the maxim that she’s under no obligation to make sense to anyone, even herself. She’s written all her life, about all kinds of things ― girls kissing girls, girls kissing boys, high fantasy, contemporary smut, and way too many papers for grad school ― and welcomes you to step inside the funhouse mirror maze of her imagination.

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Review: Twist of Fate, by @JillShalvis

Title: Twist of Fate (Heartbreaker Bay #8.5)
Author: Jill Shalvis
Rating: 3.5/5 stars

“When the one you want …

Daisy doesn’t believe love is ever-lasting, so it’s ironic as hell that she parlayed a business degree into a wedding planning business. More ironic still is her latest job bringing her back into contact with the man who’d taught her that love can’t last.

Is the one you can’t have…

To say Diego has been taught the hard way to bury emotions is an understatement. But when he’s called home to help the brother he hasn’t seen or spoken to in years, that’s one thing. It’s another entirely to also come face to face with the first woman he ever loved. First and only…

Can love conquer all?

Daisy’s learned to depend only on herself, and Diego is and always has been an island of one. And yet when they’re together, even when they’re bickering, still wary and haunted by memories of what was … it’s magic. The question is, how to find their way back to each other…?” (description from Goodreads)

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Jill Shalvis’ Heartbreaker Bay series is one of my favorite romance series out there. I keep coming back to each book and enjoying everything about it. Like the rest of the book, Twist of Fate takes place in San Francisco and includes some ties to the main series novels. It’s always great to get a novella in the series to see some of the lesser characters have their story. While the hero and heroine debuted in this novella, there were some side characters who had bigger roles in previous novels. I love having the cast of characters expand with each new release.

While I enjoyed the story, as well as Diego and Daisy, it didn’t quite get me the way the rest of the series did. I know that Shalvis can write great novellas. I’ve read others from her. This one could have just used a little more depth and could have wrapped up a little different. It felt a little too quick, coming together in the final handful of pages. I was satisfied, but I know Shalvis could have done even more.

For a quick, enjoyable read, Twist of Fate did what it set out to do. And I’m still glad I read it. This is a great supplement to the Heartbreaker Bay series that will hold me over until I can get to one of the few novels I have yet to read.

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If you’d like a copy of this book, you can find it on:

Amazon | B&N | KoboiBooks

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About the Author:

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s sexy contemporary and award-winning books wherever romances are sold and click on the blog button above for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.

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Review: Auld Lang Syne, by @RebelWrites_

Title: Auld Lang Syne (Highlands Holiday #1)
Author: Rebel Carter
Rating: 3/5 stars

It’s the holidays, and Delilah Solis has had enough.

For years she has dedicated herself to the well-being of her loved ones, working her fingers to the bone at the family business, all at the price of putting her own dreams on hold. But when Del overhears a conversation detailing how much her family takes her for granted she decides she’s had enough, and runs away for the New Year.

Del’s adventure takes her to the Highlands of Scotland, where she meets Agnes, her new boss, a woman sure about two things: the fey folk, and her talent at matchmaking. Agnes has set her sights on making a match between Del and Callum, a rugged Scotsman and the owner of the town’s printing press.

It wouldn’t be so bad if Del wasn’t so drawn to the prickly Scotsman. It’d be even better if Del could rule out fairy intervention. Are the feelings springing up between Del and Callum real, or is it all just magic?

Read on for a fun and sexy contemporary Highland romance replete with Scottish brogues, heroines who love big, and a happily ever after perfect for the New Year. (description from Goodreads)

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It’s not easy to find New Year’s romances. Not as easy as books set around Christmas at least. Luckily I’m stumbling upon more. And that’s how I ended up buying Auld Lang Syne by Rebel Carter. It sounded really good and I’m starting to realize I enjoy stories set in Scotland.

I enjoyed this novella for the characters the most. Del is a woman pushed to be the best due to her family knowing she’ll pick up their slack in the family business. She’s the best at her job, but it takes a toll. I was happy to see her finally be pushed over the edge and decide that she needed a change. The spontaneous change (heading to Scotland to follow another one of her passions) is just what she needed. Agnes, her new boss was also a great character to read. She believes in the fey while not many others still do. It leads to some issues, but that doesn’t stop her. Callum, the other character who plays a big part, while I didn’t feel I knew him a lot (1st person, one narrator POV is a little limiting at times), was also a great guy in the end.

This was a good, short read to start out the new year with. It took me a little longer to read in spots and might benefit from another quick edit/polishing up due to a few hang ups. But it was still a great first read from a new-to-me author. I’ve since bought the second Highlands Holiday book, A Viscount for Valentine’sand the entire Alpha and Omega series. I’m curious to see what Carter can do with the variety of subgenres she writes in. From here, I’ll have to check out her mail-order bride books.

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You can find this book on:

Amazon

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About the Author:

Romance is my way of creating a world that reflects the people and various relationship dynamics that exist around me. I hope that my writing offers a space where love of all shades and expressions are seen as valid, real and embraced. Each love story I write carries a piece of me in it’s pages and I’m proud to share a part of my heart with each and every page you turn.

When I’m not writing romance, I’m probably working my day job as a pretty damn good barista, or obsessing over my ever-growing plant collection. I have a geriatric dog that I coddle and enable to live her best forever puppy life. I currently live in Colorado where every day proves to be a new adventure.

For more:

Review: Red, White and Royal Blue, by @casey_mcquiston

Title: Red, White & Royal Blue
Author: Casey McQuiston
Rating: 5/5 stars

A big-hearted romantic comedy in which the First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends…

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you? (description from Goodreads)

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I have to be honest, I almost didn’t read this book. Despite knowing how many readers I know and trust loving it, I almost didn’t get past the first few pages. But I changed my reading medium and ended up thanking myself for doing so.

What was that odd opening paragraph about? It all boils down to the point of view being 3rd person, present tense. Nothing huge? I’ve read present tense books in the past. They’re not very common, but they’re out there. Something just doesn’t really connect with my brain when reading them, especially in the 3rd person. Luckily I switched from my paperback to the audiobook. I got over my hang-up quickly! With the narration, the tense didn’t really hit me after awhile. So first piece of advice: Try it out, if that’s not a writing style you enjoy, try the audio. The book’s worth reading in any form.

Despite the impression I may have first given you, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I’m not someone obsessed about celebrities, or royalty, or politics. The characters and plot of this book were filled with it all. That’s unavoidable when having a romance between the First Son of the United States and a Prince of England. But it was done well. It was light in areas it needed to be light in. It was funny and sweet. It was also serious about issues that should be taken seriously. This book has a lost going for it and it has a lot inside. (It is just over 400 pages after all.) And in the end, it was a great read for me going into this year 2020. No matter the politics you believe in, it’s going to be a stressful year. Election years normally are. For me, this book was a good way to start easing into some of that, while sending a message that everyone deserves love. Doesn’t matter if they’re straight, gay, bisexual (which isn’t ignored in this book!), or anything else. Love is what matters. And if the Prince of England loves the First Son of the US, and he loves the Prince of England back, why should anyone stop them?

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If you’d like to buy a copy of this book, you can find it on:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks

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About the Author:

I’m a writer—books, essays, books, articles, books. I live at the intersection of fun, escapist romantic adventure and smart-mouthed characters with bad manners and big hearts. I was born and raised in the Deep South, which taught me how to love a good story and a great biscuit, and now I live and work in northern Colorado with my dog, Pepper. I’m represented by Sara Megibow at KT Literary.

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Review: Mangos and Mistletoe, by @ladrianaherrera

Title: Mangos & Mistletoe
Author: Adriana Herrera
Rating: 4/5 stars

Kiskeya Burgos left the tropical beaches of the Dominican Republic with a lot to prove. As a pastry chef on the come up, when she arrives in Scotland, she has one goal in mind: win the Holiday Baking Challenge. Winning is her opportunity to prove to her family, her former boss, and most importantly herself, she can make it in the culinary world. Kiskeya will stop at nothing to win , that is, if she can keep her eyes on the prize and off her infuriating teammate’s perfect lips.

Sully Morales, home cooking hustler, and self-proclaimed baking brujita lands in Scotland on a quest to find her purpose after spending years as her family’s caregiver. But now, with her home life back on track, it’s time for Sully to get reacquainted with her greatest love, baking. Winning the Holiday Baking Challenge is a no brainer if she can convince her grumpy AF baking partner that they make a great team both in and out of the kitchen before an unexpected betrayal ends their chance to attain culinary competition glory.” (description from Goodreads)

fancy lineresizeThis new story from Adriana Herrera ticked off many boxes for me. 1) Holiday themed, 2) novella that’s holiday themed, 3) FF Romance that includes both 1 and 2…and the list could go on and on. Last year, I enjoyed Herrera’s debut American Dreamer, the MM Romance with a food truck owner trying out his business in Central New York. Mangos and Mistletoe was a nice way to really test out this author’s versatility. She goes from a MM series to this FF novella and sets it in Scotland. That made me want to read it right away.

I really enjoyed the dynamic the two main characters, Kiskeya and Sully, had. In many ways they’re two totally different people despite the link of them both being Dominican. They both have different relationships with being Dominican and different motivations in their baking professions. Putting them together could have spelled disaster, but it didn’t. They worked so well together (not just in the ways of romance).

Herrera was able to develop great characters, not just in the two heroines, but also with the side characters. And even though I don’t know most of the baking terms used in the creations during the competition, it makes me want to learn more about it all. And maybe I’ll go watch some baking shows to add to my reading.

It was great to see how Herrera can write a great romance again. I think she did a great job jumping into FF Romance and showed that love is love. Doesn’t matter who’s in love. Just matters that it’s well written. I can’t wait to see what else is planned from this author. I know I’ll need more from her after I finish the other Dreamers novels. I hope to see another novella like this one. It was just what I needed to finish off last year and begin this new one.

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You can find this book on:

Amazon

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About the Author:

Adriana was born and raised in the Caribbean, but for the last 15 years has let her job (and her spouse) take her all over the world. She loves writing stories about people who look and sound like her people, getting unapologetic happy endings.

When she’s not dreaming up love stories, planning logistically complex vacations with her family or hunting for discount Broadway tickets, she’s a social worker in New York City, working with survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

She’s one of the co-creators of the Queer Romance PoC Collective and serves as the VP of Programs for the Romance Writers of America New York City Chapter.

Find out more:

Review: Blitzed, by @AlexaMBooks

Title: Blitzed (The Playbook #3)
Author: Alexa Martin
Rating: 5/5 stars

Maxwell has finally met an opponent that he can’t best in this new football romance from the author of Fumbled.

According to Brynn Larson, Maxwell Lewis is more trouble than he’s worth. She doesn’t care if he’s a football god with a rock-hard body that brings most women to their knees. After an encounter that ends poorly, she’s not interested in giving him a second chance. The last thing Brynn expects is for him to turn up at her bar months later, hat in hand. It doesn’t matter if he brings more customers to her business–she’s still not going on a date with him.

Maxwell knows he made a mistake. He’d been waiting to make his move on Brynn since the day he laid eyes on her and he was finally ready to go for it until he screwed up. He wishes he could tell her the truth about what happened that night, but he just can’t. He can’t tell anyone, so he’ll make amends and hope she’ll forgive him.

Brynn’s not like other women, though. Playing for the Mustangs doesn’t impress her and gifts make her scoff. Max will have to bring his A game if he hopes to win her over.(description from Goodreads)

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For those who follow my reviews, you know that I’ve really enjoyed the first two books of the Playbook series. The same is the case with Blitzed. I’ve been waiting months for this one to come out, and the wait was worth it.

What I enjoyed the most about this one was seeing more of Brynn. She’s always been a great character, as the owner of the bar Hers, and a force to be reckoned with. But now we know more about her and what makes her tick. This is something I enjoy the most about reading a series; seeing the secondary characters developed more as main characters. Along with that we get many characters from previous books showing up. This helps make it easy to dive back into the series, while expanding on those storylines.

One thing that’s amazed me with the Martin’s books is that while I care nothing about football, the way it’s portrayed in this series doesn’t make me run away. I’m drawn in, even to the more football heavy scenes. I can feel the energy of the crowds of fans. And the author doesn’t shy away from the dangers of the sport, including in concerns of getting seriously injured or a career after retirement. While some of the more serious issues were touched on in the previous book, Fumbled, it wasn’t ignored in Blitzed. And Martin’s able to include it in her books without it feeling forced or heavy handed.

I really hope there are more Playbook releases in store. I’m not ready to leave this series. Whatever’s next from Alexa Martin, even if it’s a new series, I’m looking forward to it.

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If you’d like to buy a copy of this book, you can find it on:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo  | iBooks

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About the Author:

Alexa Martin is a writer and stay at home mom. She lives in Colorado with her husband, a former NFL player who now coaches at the high school where they met, their four children, and a German Shepherd. When she’s not telling her kids to put their shoes on…again, you can find her catching up with her latest book boyfriend or on Pinterest pinning meals she’ll probably never make. Her first book, Intercepted, was inspired by the eight years she spent as an NFL wife.

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HRM – Review: Royal Holiday, by @thebestjasmine

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Title: Royal Holiday (The Wedding Date #4)
Author: Jasmine Guillory
Rating: 5/5 stars

Vivian Forest has been out of the country a grand total of one time, so when she gets the chance to tag along on her daughter Maddie’s work trip to England to style a royal family member, she can’t refuse. She’s excited to spend the holidays taking in the magnificent British sights, but what she doesn’t expect is to become instantly attracted to a certain private secretary, his charming accent, and unyielding formality.

Malcolm Hudson has worked for the Queen for years and has never given a personal, private tour—until now. He is intrigued by Vivian the moment he meets her and finds himself making excuses just to spend time with her. When flirtatious banter turns into a kiss under the mistletoe, things snowball into a full-on fling.

Despite a ticking timer on their holiday romance, they are completely fine with ending their short, steamy affair come New Year’s Day. . .or are they? (description from Goodreads)

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Jasmine Guillory has four books out now, and I’ve read them all. While it’s hard to choose a favorite from them, I can say with confidence that they keep getting better. Royal Holiday is no exception to that. And what I like about it most is that it’s a bit different than Guillory’s first three without being too different.

This book features Maddie’s (from The Wedding Party) mother Vivian on a trip to England for Christmas. What I really enjoyed is that it’s a romance with an older heroine/hero relationship. Most of my reading involves characters in their 20s to 30s and doesn’t stray far from that range. While Royal Holiday isn’t unique in featuring an older couple, it’s still something that’s not easy to find out there. And while the ages of the characters were not the norm for me, it didn’t matter. It didn’t change anything. People of all ages can and should have romances.

If you’ve read any of Guillory’s other books, you know what to expect. The book draws you in from the beginning from the characters to the settings to the food that is eaten (I’ve never wanted to try a scone before as much as I do now). Whatever this author comes out with in the future will be getting pre-ordered as soon as I can find it. There’s no reason to hesitate judging from what she’s written so far. Guillory has definitely been added to my favorite author list. And Royal Holiday has been added to my favorite holiday romance list, as well.

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If you’d like to buy a copy of this book, you can find it on:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks

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About the Author:

Jasmine Guillory is the New York Times bestselling author of The Wedding DateThe Proposal, and the forthcoming The Wedding Party. Her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Real Simple, Oprah Magazine.com, and Shondaland.com. She lives in Oakland, California.

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