Double-Review: A Duke by Default and Can’t Escape Love, by @AlyssaColeLit

Title: A Duke by Default (Reluctant Royals #2)
Author: Alyssa Cole
Rating: 5/5 stars

“Award-winning author Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals series continues with a woman on a quest to be the heroine of her own story and the duke in shining armor she rescues along the way

New York City socialite and perpetual hot mess Portia Hobbs is tired of disappointing her family, friends, and—most importantly—herself. An apprenticeship with a struggling swordmaker in Scotland is a chance to use her expertise and discover what she’s capable of. Turns out she excels at aggravating her gruff silver fox boss…when she’s not having inappropriate fantasies about his sexy Scottish burr.

Tavish McKenzie doesn’t need a rich, spoiled American telling him how to run his armory…even if she is infuriatingly good at it. Tav tries to rebuff his apprentice, and his attraction to her, but when Portia accidentally discovers that he’s the secret son of a duke, rough-around-the-edges Tav becomes her newest makeover project.

Forging metal into weapons and armor is one thing, but when desire burns out of control and the media spotlight gets too hot to bear, can a commoner turned duke and his posh apprentice find lasting love?” (description from Goodreads)

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In my continued attempts to read more diverse romances I bought a copy of the (at that time) new Alyssa Cole novel, A Duke by Default. With “Duke” in the title, I wasn’t jumping at it right away, but I’d heard great things. I haven’t been big into historical novels, where dukes are normally found. Even though this was contemporary, I was still hesitant. Luckily, I pushed that aside and realized I shouldn’t have held off on starting the book.

As the series title, Reluctant Royals, suggests: This duke doesn’t want to be a duke. He likes making his swords and grumping around. For me, this alone, helped ease me into the high society niceties and formalities that normally annoy me. They weren’t really in this book to begin with due to how the story plays out. I really enjoyed that this duke was a normal person who gives in for the right reasons.

I also thought the slow burning desire between Portia and Tav was expertly carried out. There was great payoff in the end. Another thing that I think made this book great for me was that even if the romance wasn’t anywhere in the book and only friendships and character growth was included, this would still be one of my favorite books. There are so many strengths to Cole’s writing of character, setting, and plot that it’s almost like a bonus that there’s romance in here. The book made me want to continue “living” in this armory in Scotland, seeing how Tav’s newly appointed title helped change things for the better. And also to see Portia continue to grow into the person she wasn’t sure she could become. No all romance books leave me caring as much about the couple as their own people by the end.

Did this book blow me away? Yes. Did it make me go buy the rest of the novels and novellas while reading it? Of course.
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If you’d like to buy a copy of this book, you can find it on:

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Title: Can’t Escape Love (Reluctant Royals #2.5)
Author: Alyssa Cole
Rating: 4/5 stars

“Regina Hobbs is nerdy by nature, businesswoman by nurture. She’s finally taking her pop culture-centered media enterprise, Girls with Glasses, to the next level, but the stress is forcing her to face a familiar supervillain: insomnia. The only thing that helps her sleep when things get this bad is the deep, soothing voice of puzzle-obsessed live streamer Gustave Nguyen. The problem? His archive has been deleted.

Gus has been tasked with creating an escape room themed around a romance anime…except he knows nothing about romance or anime. Then mega-nerd and anime expert Reggie comes calling, and they make a trade: his voice for her knowledge. But when their online friendship has IRL chemistry, will they be able to escape love?” (description from Goodreads)

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Novellas are kind of my thing. My “catnip” as some tend to say in the book world. That’s why it should be no surprise that I read this one from Alyssa Cole after reading A Duke by Default.

In this book, we get to read more about Reggie, Portia’s (from A Duke by Default) twin sister. While it felt like Reggie was more of the “perfect” sister in their parent’s eyes from Portia’s POV, we can see that’s not exactly the case. They’re still trying to control her life, but in different ways.

One of the fun things about this novellas is the fandom and “geeky” references throughout. I also felt that having Gus be mostly ignorant of the references and Reggie teaching him about all things pop-culture was fun to read. Despite both characters being very set in their ways and control over their lives, seeing this relationship form was a must-read experience.

Lastly, while this can be read as a standalone, I would suggest reading it either after or at least just before A Duke by Default. I feel that my reading of A Duke by Default was greatly enhanced with the addition of this novella. Seeing both sides of these twins’ relationship helps shape each one individually in my eyes.

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

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About the Author:

Alyssa Cole is an award-winning author of historical, contemporary, and sci-fi romance. Her Civil War-set espionage romance An Extraordinary Union was the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award’s Best Book of 2017 and the American Library Association’s RUSA Best Romance for 2018, and A Princess in Theory was one of the New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2018. She’s contributed to publications including Bustle, Shondaland, The Toast, Vulture, RT Book Reviews, and Heroes and Heartbreakers, and her books have received critical acclaim from The New York Times, Library Journal, BuzzFeed, Kirkus, Booklist, Jezebel, Vulture, Book Riot, Entertainment Weekly, and various other outlets. When she’s not working, she can usually be found watching anime or wrangling her pets.

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Review: The Summer of Sunshine and Margot, by @SusanMallery

Title: The Summer of Sunshine and Margot
Author: Susan Mallery
Rating: 5/5 stars

“The Baxter sisters come from a long line of women with disastrous luck in love. But this summer, Sunshine and Margot will turn disasters into destiny…

As an etiquette coach, Margot teaches her clients to fit in. But she’s never faced a client like Bianca, an aging movie star who gained fame—and notoriety—through a campaign of shock and awe. Schooling Bianca on the fine art of behaving like a proper diplomat’s wife requires intensive lessons, forcing Margot to move into the monastery turned mansion owned by the actress’s intensely private son. Like his incredible home, Alec’s stony exterior hides secret depths Margot would love to explore. But will he trust her enough to let her in?

Sunshine has always been the good-time sister, abandoning jobs to chase after guys who used her, then threw her away. No more. She refuses to be “that girl” again. This time, she’ll finish college, dedicate herself to her job as a nanny, and she 100 percent will not screw up her life again by falling for the wrong guy. Especially not the tempting single dad who also happens to be her boss.

Master storyteller Susan Mallery weaves threads of family drama, humor, romance and a wish-you-were-there setting into one of the most satisfying books of the year!” (description from Goodreads)

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The Summer of Sunshine and Margot was a first for me. I’ve read/listened to most of Mallery’s titles after they’ve been released. Weeks to months after. I have so many of hers to still get to that the new releases get bought, but not devoured right away. Well, for this brand new book I didn’t let myself wait. I pre-ordered the audiobook and downloaded it as soon as it was available. Two days later I had finished it and new what all the hype around it was while the hype is still going on. It’s a great feeling.

I’ve yet to be disappointed with a book from Susan Mallery. I’ve enjoyed some more than others, but they’re all great. That hasn’t changed with Sunshine and Margot’s book. These twins are great characters to read about. While Mallery writes many books revolving around sisters (and close friend relationships), she’s yet to over do it. As seen in this book, the way the relationship works between these sisters differs greatly from other ones I’ve read so far. It’s still a fresh theme.

I also enjoyed all the side characters. There weren’t really any that was pushed in the background or underdeveloped. I especially liked Alec and seeing his changes overtime. Another cool thing was Alec’s house, an old Spanish monastery. It may be partly because I recently finished reading Northanger Abbey, but some of the scenes added a bit of a Gothic atmosphere to this book. Just a hint and that was fun.

It’s a good thing I have a pile of Mallery’s backlist titles to read now that I sped through this one. I’m left wanting to read more and more now, and a new book doesn’t release until later this year.

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

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About the Author:

With more than 25 million books sold worldwide, #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery is known for creating characters who feel as real as the folks next door, and for putting them into emotional, often funny situations readers recognize from their own lives. Susan’s books have made Booklist’s Top 10 Romances list in four out of five consecutive years. RT Book Reviews says, “When it comes to heartfelt contemporary romance, Mallery is in a class by herself.” With her popular, ongoing Fool’s Gold series, Susan has reached new heights on the bestsellers lists and has won the hearts of countless new fans.

Susan grew up in southern California, moved so many times that her friends stopped writing her address in pen, and now has settled in Seattle with her husband and the most delightfully spoiled little dog who ever lived.

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New Release: The Friend Zone, by @AuthorAbbyJim

Fall in love with this “deliciously hot, sweet” (L.J. Shen, USA Today bestselling author) romantic comedy perfect for fans of Christina Lauren and Helen Hoang.

Kristen Petersen doesn’t do drama, will fight to the death for her friends, and has no room in her life for guys who just don’t get her. She’s also keeping a big secret: facing a medically necessary procedure that will make it impossible for her to have children.

Planning her best friend’s wedding is bittersweet for Kristen — especially when she meets the best man, Josh Copeland. He’s funny, sexy, never offended by her mile-wide streak of sarcasm, and always one chicken enchilada ahead of her hangry. Even her dog, Stuntman Mike, adores him. The only catch: Josh wants a big family someday. Kristen knows he’d be better off with someone else, but as their attraction grows, it’s harder and harder to keep him at arm’s length.

The Friend Zone will have you laughing one moment and grabbing for tissues the next as it tackles the realities of infertility and loss with wit, heart, and a lot of sass.

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

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About the Author:

Abby Jimenez is a Food Network champion, motivational speaker, and contemporary romance novelist living in Minnesota. Abby founded Nadia Cakes out of her home kitchen back in 2007. The bakery has since gone on to win numerous Food Network competitions and has amassed an international cult following. Abby’s wry literary wit was spotlighted as the admin behind the hilarious viral comments on the now famous Nadia Cakes Vageode™ cake.

Abby loves a good romance, coffee, doglets, and not leaving the house. Her debut novel, The Friend Zone, is scheduled for release July 2019.

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New Release: Teach Me, by @OliviaWrites

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Their lesson plans didn’t include love. But that’s about to change…

When Martin Krause arrives at Rose Owens’s high school, she’s determined to remain chilly with her new colleague. Unfriendly? Maybe. Understandable? Yes, since a loathsome administrator gave Rose’s beloved world history classes to Martin, knowing it would hurt her.

But keeping her distance from a man as warm and kind as Martin will prove challenging, even for a stubborn, guarded ice queen. Especially when she begins to see him for what he truly is: a man who’s never been taught his own value. Martin could use a good teacher–and luckily, Rose is the best.

Rose has her own lessons–about trust, about vulnerability, about her past–to learn. And over the course of a single school year, the two of them will find out just how hot it can get when an ice queen melts.

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You can grab this story from:

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About the Author:

While I was growing up, my mother kept a stack of books hidden in her closet. She told me I couldn’t read them. So, naturally, whenever she left me alone for any length of time, I took them out and flipped through them. Those books raised quite a few questions in my prepubescent brain. Namely: 1) Why were there so many pirates? 2) Where did all the throbbing come from? 3) What was a “manhood”? 4) And why did the hero and heroine seem overcome by images of waves and fireworks every few pages, especially after an episode of mysterious throbbing in the hero’s manhood?

Thirty or so years later, I have a few answers. 1) Because my mom apparently fancied pirates at that time. Now she hoards romances involving cowboys and babies. If a book cover features a shirtless man in a Stetson cradling an infant, her ovaries basically explode and her credit card emerges. I have a similar reaction to romances involving spinsters, governesses, and librarians. 2) His manhood. Also, her womanhood. 3) It’s his “hard length,” sometimes compared in terms of rigidity to iron. I prefer to use other names for it in my own writing. However, I am not picky when it comes to descriptions of iron-hard lengths. 4) Because explaining how an orgasm feels can prove difficult. Or maybe the couples all had sex on New Year’s Eve at Cancun.

During those thirty years, I accomplished a few things. I graduated from Wake Forest University and earned my M.A. in American History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I worked at a variety of jobs that required me to bury my bawdiness and potty mouth under a demure exterior: costumed interpreter at Colonial Williamsburg, high school teacher, and librarian. But I always, always read romances. Funny, filthy, sweet–it didn’t matter. I loved them all.

Now I’m writing my own romances with the encouragement of my husband and daughter. I have my own stack of books in my closet that I’d rather my daughter not read, at least not for a few years. I can swear whenever I want, except around said daughter. And I get to spend all day writing about love and iron-hard lengths.

So thank you, Mom, for perving so hard on pirates during my childhood. I owe you.

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New Release: Just One of the Groomsmen, by @CindiMadsen

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Kate ships tons of fictional couples, but IRL her OTP is her and Mick, the hot quarterback she’s crushed on since, like, forever. With only one semester left of senior year, it’s now or never if she wants to land him in time Addison Murphy is the funny friend, the girl you grab a beer with—the girl voted most likely to start her own sweatshirt line. And now that one of her best guy friends is getting married, she’ll add “groomsman” to that list, too. She’ll get through this wedding if it’s the last thing she does. Just don’t ask her to dive for any bouquet.

When Tucker Crawford returns to his small hometown, he expects to see the same old people, feel comfort in the same old things. He certainly doesn’t expect to see the nice pair of bare legs sticking out from under the hood of a broken-down car. Certainly doesn’t expect to feel his heart beat faster when he realizes they belong to one of his best friends.

If he convinces Addie to give him a chance, they could be electric…or their break-up could split their tight-knit group in two.

Hiding the way he feels from the guys through bachelor parties, cake tastings, and rehearsals is one thing. But just as Tucker realizes that Addie truly could be the perfect woman for him—he was just too stupid to realize it—now she’s leaving to follow her own dreams. He’s going to need to do a lot of compromising if he’s going to convince her to take a shot at forever with him—on her terms this time.

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You can grab a copy of this book from

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About the Author:

Cindi Madsen is a USA Today Bestselling author of contemporary romance and young adult novels. She sits at her computer every chance she gets, plotting revising, and falling in love with her characters. Sometimes it makes her a crazy person. Without it, she’d be even crazier. She has way too many shoes, but can always find a reason to buy a new pretty pair, especially if they’re sparkly, colorful, or super tall. She loves music, dancing, and wishes summer lasted all year long. She lives in Colorado (where summer is most definitely NOT all year long) with her husband and three children.

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Review: American Dreamer, by @ladrianaherrera

Title: American Dreamer (Dreamers #1)
Author: Adriana Herrera
Rating: 5/5 stars

“No one ever said big dreams come easy

For Nesto Vasquez, moving his Afro-Caribbean food truck from New York City to the wilds of Upstate New York is a huge gamble. If it works? He’ll be a big fish in a little pond. If it doesn’t? He’ll have to give up the hustle and return to the day job he hates. He’s got six months to make it happen—the last thing he needs is a distraction.

Jude Fuller is proud of the life he’s built on the banks of Cayuga Lake. He has a job he loves and good friends. It’s safe. It’s quiet. And it’s damn lonely. Until he tries Ithaca’s most-talked-about new lunch spot and works up the courage to flirt with the handsome owner. Soon he can’t get enough—of Nesto’s food orof Nesto. For the first time in his life, Jude can finally taste the kind of happiness that’s always been just out of reach.

An opportunity too good to pass up could mean a way to stay together and an incredible future for them both…if Nesto can remember happiness isn’t always measured by business success. And if Jude can overcome his past and trust his man will never let him down.

One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise : all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!

This book is approximately 94,000 words” (description from Goodreads)

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American Dreamer was my return to New York. And no, not the part in the beginning that takes place in The Bronx. No, this book returned me to Upstate New York, even if it was in Central NY a few hours west of where I grew up. That’s just one of the things that grabbed me with this book, the setting. Setting description wasn’t a huge part of the book, but there was a still an atmosphere of familiarity  throughout.

It also helped that Herrera can write characters that you can’t help but want to befriend. Nesto, along with his friends and family, made me want to join in with them, eat their food, and help out when things got hard. And they’re fictional characters. But I still wanted to jump in and help out. And Jude was amazing too. A small-town librarian who just wants to make sure kids had access to books. Who can’t get behind that? (This small-town library worker definitely felt for this character and his struggles to get a project off the ground.)

While there definitely wasn’t an easy romance between the characters, I also felt that the level of angst was just right. Meaning there really wasn’t any. After reading through the whole thing and understanding where the characters came from in their respective pasts, I think that other authors may have taken these details and focused on them more. Made the book darker than necessary. But Herrera put just the right amount of it all in there to build her characters and drive the tensions.

And now I’m going to go back to the food for a second. Where can I find a food truck like Nesto’s OuNYe? I was craving the food from the descriptions the entire time I was reading. So remember, don’t go into this one hungry. Not that it’ll matter. I think anyone would find room in their stomach to get hungry no matter what.

I devoured this book in a day, barely hitting pause on my audiobook app once. I could not put this down. There are major struggles with bigots and the things life generally throws at us. But also great food, great characters, and two characters who need something right to happen to them. It’s all in here and I can’t recommend this book enough.

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You can find this book on:

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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.

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New Release: American Fairytale, by @ladrianaherrera

Fairy-tale endings don’t just happen; they have to be fought for.

New York City social worker Camilo Santiago Briggs grew up surrounded by survivors who taught him to never rely on anything you didn’t earn yourself. He’s always dreamed of his own happily-ever-after, but he lives in the real world. Men who seem too good to be true…usually are. And Milo never ever mixes business with pleasure…until the mysterious man he had an unforgettable hookup with turns out to be the wealthy donor behind his agency’s new, next-level funding.

Thomas Hughes built a billion-dollar business from nothing: he knows what he wants and isn’t shy about going after it. When the enthralling stranger who blew his mind at a black-tie gala reappears, Tom’s more than ready to be his Prince Charming. Showering Milo with the very best of everything is how Tom shows his affection.

Trouble is, Milo’s not interested in any of it. The only thing Milo wants is Tom.

Fairy-tale endings take work as well as love. For Milo, that means learning to let someone take care of him, for a change. And for Tom, it’s figuring out that real love is the one thing you can’t buy.

One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise : all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!

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You can find this book on:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks

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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: