Review: After Dark with the Duke by Julie Anne Long

After Dark with the Duke by Julie Anne Long
Series: The Palace of Rogues #4 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: November 30th 2021
Links: EbookPaperback • AudibleGoodreads
Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Sparks fly when a daring diva clashes with an ice-cold war hero in the newest thrilling romance in USA Today bestselling author Julie Anne Long’s Palace of Rogues series.

She arrives in the dead of night, a mob out for blood at her heels: Mariana Wylde, the “Harlot of Haywood Street,” an opera diva brought low by a duel fought for her favors. But the ladies of the Grand Palace on the Thames think they can make a silk purse from scandal: They’ll restore her reputation and share in her triumph…provided they can keep her apart from that other guest.

Coldly brilliant, fiercely honorable, General James Duncan Blackmore, the Duke of Valkirk, is revered, feared, desired…but nobody truly knows him. Until a clash with a fiery, vulnerable beauty who stands for everything he scorns lays him bare. It’s too clear the only cure for consuming desire is conquest, but their only chance at happiness could lead to their destruction.

The legendary duke never dreamed love would be his last battleground. Valkirk would lay down his life for Mariana, but his choice is stark: risk losing her forever, or do the one thing he vowed he never would…surrender.

After Dark with the Duke was fabulous! I haven’t read too many Julie Anne Long books but this is easily my favorite one so far. I’m a sucker for a stoic, older hero!

Mariana Wylde is an opera singer known as the “Harlot of Haywood Street.” She needs some help in restoring her reputation, and the ladies at the Grand Palace on the Thames are determined to do just that. There’s just one little chink in this plan, and that takes place in the form of General James Duncan Blackmore. He’s 18 years older than her and very straight-laced. He doesn’t approve of Mariana because of her supposed reputation. There’s wit, banter, and plenty of chemistry between them. I loved the push and pull and the way the romance slowly developed.

If you love opposites attract and forced proximity in your historical romances, I highly recommend this book. Even though they get off on the wrong foot in the beginning, James and Mariana have this fantastic connection that draws them in. They’re both hiding at the Grand Palace in their own ways and manage to find love and solace with each other. It was just a very swoony romance and I really want to read more JAL books now!


lacey


Reading Order: The Palace of Rogues series

#1 ~ Lady Derring Takes a Lover: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#2 ~ Angel in a Devil’s Arms: EbookPaperback • AudibleGoodreads
#3 ~ I’m Only Wicked with You: EbookPaperback • AudibleGoodreads
#4 ~ After Dark with the Duke: EbookPaperback • AudibleGoodreads
#5 ~ You Were Made to Be Mine: EbookPaperback • AudibleGoodreads (June 28, 2022)


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Review: Count Your Lucky Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur

Count Your Lucky Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur
Series: Written in the Stars #3 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: February 1st 2022
Links: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Following Written in the Stars and Hang the Moon, Lambda Literary Award winner and national bestselling author Alexandria Bellefleur pens another steamy queer rom-com about former best friends who might be each other’s second chance at love…

Margot Cooper doesn’t do relationships. She tried and it blew up in her face, so she’ll stick with casual hookups, thank you very much. But now her entire crew has found “the one” and she’s beginning to feel like a fifth wheel. And then fate (the heartless bitch) intervenes. While touring a wedding venue with her engaged friends, Margot comes face-to-face with Olivia Grant—her childhood friend, her first love, her first… well, everything. It’s been ten years, but the moment they lock eyes, Margot’s cold, dead heart thumps in her chest.

Olivia must be hallucinating. In the decade since she last saw Margot, her life hasn’t gone exactly as planned. At almost thirty, she’s been married… and divorced. However, a wedding planner job in Seattle means a fresh start and a chance to follow her dreams. Never in a million years did she expect her important new client’s Best Woman would be the one that got away.

When a series of unfortunate events leaves Olivia without a place to stay, Margot offers up her spare room because she’s a Very Good Person. Obviously. It has nothing to do with the fact that Olivia is as beautiful as ever and the sparks between them still make Margot tingle. As they spend time in close quarters, Margot starts to question her no-strings stance. Olivia is everything she’s ever wanted, but Margot let her in once and it ended in disaster. Will history repeat itself or should she count her lucky stars that she gets a second chance with her first love?

Count Your Lucky Stars is the third standalone in the Written in the Stars series and I’ve been looking forward to it! The series has been great so far and I ended up enjoying it so much. In this third book, we’ve got an F/F romance between former childhood best friends who were in love and now they get their second chance 10 years later.

Olivia Grant is divorced and has just gotten a new job in Seattle working as a wedding planner. Her new client’s best woman is none other than her old best friend Margot Cooper, who she had a falling out with a decade ago when they were young and in love. When Olivia needs a place to stay, the two end up becoming roommates, which means the two are forced to reconcile over what went wrong all those years ago and see if it’s possible to have a second chance at love.

I love second chance romances! Add in the roommates trope, and I’m even happier. There’s a lot of good forced proximity here, but even without that, there are still a lot of sparks between Margot and Olivia because of their unfinished business. The romance is sweet and emotional and I loved seeing the characters from the previous books here too. The whole series has such a great friend group! I thought it was adorable how Brendon turned into such a matchmaker. Count Your Lucky Stars is a bit slower paced than the first two books and there’s a lot of back and forth between the main characters, but I did really like the story and second chance.


Reading Order: Written in the Stars series

#1 ~ Written in the Stars: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#2 ~ Hang the Moon: EbookPaperback • AudibleGoodreads
#3 ~ Count Your Lucky Stars: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads


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Review: Gentleman Seeks Bride by Megan Frampton

Gentleman Seeks Bride by Megan Frampton
Series: Hazards of Dukes #4 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: November 30th 2021
Links: EbookPaperback • AudibleGoodreads
Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

In this delightful flip of a classic romance trope, Megan Frampton creates a handsome, witty, hero in need of a wealthy bride who meets his match in Lady Jane Capel, from A Wicked Bargain with the Duke. Perfect for fans of Sarah McLean, Tessa Dare, and Eloisa James.

It’s a well-known fact that when a man is in search of a bride, a good dowry is never a hindrance.

Thomas Sharpe is handsome, well-bred, and desperately in need of a wealthy bride. His father has lost their income, his sister needs looking after, and so to save them all from a life of poverty he travels to London in search of an heiress.

Enter Lady Jane Capel. After her fiancé ended their engagement two years ago, Jane boldly left her parents’ home and moved in with her half-brother Percy. What does one more scandal matter to a family with such a curious reputation? Jane is independent, but not as well versed in life—and love—as she wants.

The two of them strike a deal: Thomas will show her all there is to know about the world —and intimacy—and Jane will help him find a bride. But the more time they spend together and the closer they get, the two of them soon realize that things aren’t so simple when it comes to men and women…

My main reason for wanting to read Gentleman Seeks Bride was the cover. Yes, I totally judged this book by its gorgeous cover. It was also my first read by Megan Frampton! I’d been wanting to read her for the longest time and I’m glad I read this one. I’m looking forward to reading the series from the start now!

Thomas is in need of a wealthy bride to save his family after a bad investment that cost his family fortune. Jane is a scandalized lady who’s living with her half-brother and in need of lessons in intimacy. The two strike a deal: she’ll help him land an heiress and he’ll teach her all the ways of the world and bedroom. I love reading these kinds of historical romances and I thought Megan Frampton did a great job at writing it!

Even though this is book 4 in a series, it read totally fine as a standalone. I wasn’t lost about anything and did enjoy the characters. The steam is great – Jane and Thomas share a lot of chemistry and they definitely act on it. The only reason why this isn’t quite a 4 star read, even though it was close, is because the second half of the book fell flat and wasn’t as engaging as the first half.

Still, for my first Megan Frampton read, it was solid! I can’t wait to read more historical romances by her and would love more covers like this one.


lacey


Reading Order: Hazards of Dukes series

 

#1 ~ Never Kiss a Duke: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#2 ~ Tall, Duke, and Dangerous: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#3 ~ A Wicked Bargain for a Duke: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#4 ~ Gentleman Seeks Bride: EbookPaperback • AudibleGoodreads
#5 ~ Four Weeks of Scandal: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads (June 28, 2022)


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Review: Love, Comment, Subscribe by Cathy Yardley

Love, Comment, Subscribe by Cathy Yardley
Series: Ponto Beach Reunion #1 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: October 1st 2021
Links: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

From award-winning author Cathy Yardley comes Love, Comment, Subscribe, a fun, feisty romance about high school frenemies turned unlikely collaborators.

Back in high school, Lily Wang wanted to be popular, but she considered herself lucky to be part of a tight group of oddballs and honors students called the Nerd Herd. Now, at twenty-eight, she feels like she’s finally on the cusp of succeeding as a beauty influencer—if she can hit five million subscribers, brands will take notice and she could get her own makeup line.

Fellow Nerd Herd alum Tobin Bui has had a lot of success as a YouTube gamer. But the road to online stardom has been rocky. First, he disappointed his parents by dropping out of college, and now, after years of pranks, skits, and playthroughs, he’s struggling to come up with new content to satisfy his ever-growing fan base. His agents say he needs cross-audience appeal, a new twist.

When Nerd Herd frenemy Lily approaches Tobin about teaming up to do a video to bolster her brand and reinvigorate his, he agrees. But when their first collab video goes viral, their relationship heats up too. With the whole internet watching, will these two former misfits finally realize they’re perfect together?

An Asian romance between YOUTUBERS!!! I LOVED the premise of this one: she’s a beauty guru, he’s a vlogger, and they were part of a nerdy group of friends back in high school. He also had a crush on her back then! They collaborate on YouTube to try to revive their channels and end up falling for each other.

Love, Comment, Subscribe was so fun and adorable. It was my first time reading Cathy Yardley and I already can’t wait to read more of her, especially from this series. I really enjoyed the main characters Lily and Tobin, with their silly and sweet banter. They knew each other back in high school but were never really that close, and now they’re feeling each other out as adults. They’re very opposite people – she’s rigid and he’s laid-back, which is also how they approach their YouTube channels. They somehow make it work between their channels and people are eating their videos together up. But how much of their relationship is real and how much of it is for the camera?

I had an amazing time reading Lily and Tobin’s romance. It’s the perfect combination of sweet and sexy. I also appreciated the more emotional aspect the story, with both Tobin and Lily struggling in their careers, dealing with anxiety and burnout. It’s not as easy as it looks to be a YouTuber. Overall, this was a fantastic start to a new contemporary romance series. Their friend group is also great and I can’t wait to read more of them, especially the second chance romance!


lacey


Reading Order: Ponto Beach Reunion series

#1 ~ Love, Comment, Subscribe: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#2 ~ Gouda Friends: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads (March 22, 2022)


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Review: Homecoming King by Penny Reid

Homecoming King by Penny Reid
Series: Three Kings #1
Publication Date: December 14th 2021
Links: EbookPaperback • Goodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review

Rex “TW” McMurtry’s perpetual single-hood wouldn’t bother him so much if all his ex-girlfriends didn’t keep marrying the very next person they dated, especially when so many of those grooms are his closest friends. He may be a pro-football defensive end for the Chicago Squalls, but the press only wants to talk about how he’s always a groomsman and never a groom. Rex is sick of being the guy before the husband, and he’s most definitely sick of being the best man at all their weddings.

Bartender Abigail McNerny is the gal-pal, the wing-woman, the she-BFF. She’s dated. Once. And once was more than enough. Privy to all the sad stories of her customers, ‘contentment over commitment’ is her motto, and Abby is convinced no one on earth could ever entice her into a romantic relationship . . . except that one guy she’s loved since preschool.

The guy who just walked into her bar.

The guy who doesn’t recognize her.

The guy who is drunk and needs a ride home.

The guy who has a proposition she should definitely refuse.

This was ADORABLE! If you’re in the mood for a romance that’s sweet, feel-good, and fun, you need to read Homecoming King. It’s got a grumpy football player hero, a bartender heroine who used to crush on him back in school, and a marriage of convenience. I legit could not stop smiling while I read this book.

Abby is a bartender who’s sworn off romantic relationships after the mess that was her previous marriage. Then in walks the boy she used to love all throughout school, except Rex is all grown up now. He’s a professional football player who’s had some terrible luck with his own romantic relationships. Every woman he’s ever dated ended up marrying the man she met after dating Rex. He’s sick and tired of being known as “training wheels” for the women he dates so he concocts the perfect plan to stop the moniker: enter a marriage of convenience with Abby.

I loved Abby and Rex’s relationship! Abby is a lovable dork who’s still got a her schoolgirl crush on Rex but is trying to be professional/the best fake wife she can be for him. Even though we don’t get the hero’s POV, you can clearly see Rex slowly fall for Abby and simply adore everything about her, even as she’s a little oblivious to his feelings. Both are endearing, lovely characters I enjoyed reading about so much.

Also, I should’ve realized this was a holiday romance from the cover. I wish I read this a month earlier, but still, it was so good!


lacey


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