Review: One Hot Italian Summer by Karina Halle

One Hot Italian Summer by Karina Halle
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: July 28th 2020
Links: EbookPaperbackGoodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review

An author finds inspiration in Tuscany in the form of a hot Italian single dad…
This summer is going to be a scorcher.

A writer who’s blocked–I’m a total cliche.

Lucky for me, my agent has a cure that’s an even bigger stereotype–a month at her villa in Tuscany, with nothing to do but find my muse.

When he walks right in the front door, adorable son in tow, it feels like fate has finally done for me what it does for every other cliche’d girl I’ve seen in the movies. Except that he’s completely off-limits. In this case, business and pleasure can never mix.

Because Claudio is my agent’s ex.

Still, he’s smart, charming, and wickedly sexy, plus a great father to Vanni. He’s fast becoming the cure to all my writing woes. And it’s clear he wants me as much as I want him.

As the hot Italian summer wears on, it becomes harder and harder to resist. Succumbing to the heat even just one time could ruin my career.

Or he could be exactly what I need.

Holy. SWOOOON!!! One Hot Italian Summer was pure romance heaven and I loved it! Karina Halle has been killing it with her recent releases and this latest one is now a new favorite of mine. You will 100% get swept off your feet and wish you were in Italy once you read Grace and Claudio’s romance. It’s feel-good, steamy, and so sweet, I couldn’t help but adore every moment I read it.

Grace used to be one half of an author duo, but after the death of her writing partner, she’s feeling adrift and experiencing writer’s block. Her new agent offers a solution: Grace will take a much needed vacation from Scotland and stay in her agent’s villa in the Italian countryside. It’s perfect… until she finds herself naked (so she can take a dip in the pool) in front of a gorgeous stranger and his son. Turns out, Claudio and Vanni are Grace’s agent’s ex-husband and son, and all three of them will be staying in the Tuscany villa together for the time being.

Grace and Claudio have SO much tension between them from the get-go. You can clearly tell how much they want each other but are trying so hard not to act on their lust and chemistry, not just because of Vanni but also his mother. But there’s nothing more romantic than spending time together in the Italian countryside, where the sun is shining, the food is decadent, and the hero is a hunk, a sculptor (there’s a pottery scene a la Ghost), and can speak to you (dirty) in Italian. These two fall and they fall hard. It’s actually Claudio that dives in headfirst regarding the romance, and I loved that so much. He knows Grace is The One for him and will do anything to make her fall in love with him.

This book is the definition of the heart-eyes emoji. Grace is a lovely, relatable heroine, Claudio is swoony and sweet, even Vanni is hilarious and adorable! Karina Halle always writes such incredible romances that take place around the world, and this time she had me wishing I could live in Tuscany… and fall in love with a gorgeous Italian single dad. If you’re looking for the perfect summer romance, look no further than One Hot Italian Summer.


lacey


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Review: From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout

From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Series: Blood and Ash #1 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: March 30th 2020
Links: Ebook • PaperbackAudible • Goodreads
Source: I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review

A Maiden…

Chosen from birth to usher in a new era, Poppy’s life has never been her own. The life of the Maiden is solitary. Never to be touched. Never to be looked upon. Never to be spoken to. Never to experience pleasure. Waiting for the day of her Ascension, she would rather be with the guards, fighting back the evil that took her family, than preparing to be found worthy by the gods. But the choice has never been hers.

A Duty…

The entire kingdom’s future rests on Poppy’s shoulders, something she’s not even quite sure she wants for herself. Because a Maiden has a heart. And a soul. And longing. And when Hawke, a golden-eyed guard honor bound to ensure her Ascension, enters her life, destiny and duty become tangled with desire and need. He incites her anger, makes her question everything she believes in, and tempts her with the forbidden.

A Kingdom…

Forsaken by the gods and feared by mortals, a fallen kingdom is rising once more, determined to take back what they believe is theirs through violence and vengeance. And as the shadow of those cursed draws closer, the line between what is forbidden and what is right becomes blurred. Poppy is not only on the verge of losing her heart and being found unworthy by the gods, but also her life when every blood-soaked thread that holds her world together begins to unravel.

Oh. My. Gosh.

What was that ending????

I need book two STAT.

WOW. What an incredible read. I’ve been a fan of JLA since Obsidian, but From Blood and Ash without a doubt is her best work to date. This new adult fantasy romance was absolutely incredible. The world-building is fantastic and not at all too much info dumping. I loved our main characters Poppy and Hawke. To be honest, about 80% of the book was a solid 4 star read for me, until the last 20% blew everything out of the water. The last hundred pages is truly EPIC. I could not put this book down and would highly recommend it for anyone who loves fantasy romance or wants to get in to the subgenre!

Poppy is known as the Maiden. She’s basically the “chosen one,” waiting for the day of her Ascension, where humans ascend to become immortal and powerful. Since losing her parents, she’s been kept under lock and key, unable to communicate with anyone other than her guardians and bodyguards. Her life is… not her own. But when she gets a new bodyguard after the tragic death of her last one, her life starts to get turned upside down, no thanks to Hawke.

I won’t get too much into the details of this book, because I truly believe it’s so much better to experience the story if you go into it blind. The twists and turns that happen in the last 100 pages are jaw-dropping. I’m in awe of how JLA was able to blow my mind away! Poppy made a kickass heroine, so headstrong, intelligent, and caring. I loved how she knew how to defend herself and would kill to protect those she loved. Hawke is a bit of a mystery, gorgeous and alpha and so intrigued by Poppy. They made a fantastic couple together with lots of great banter.

I am now currently dying to get my hands on the sequel. JLA really did us dirty with that cliffhanger. Just kidding, I still love her. FBAA is now one of my favorite reads of 2020 and I can’t wait to see what else JLA has in store for us in this world!


lacey


Reading Order: Blood and Ash series

#1 ~ From Blood and Ash: Ebook • PaperbackAudible • Goodreads
#2 ~ A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire: EbookPaperbackGoodreads (Sept. 1, 2020)


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Early Review: Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai

Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai
Series: Modern Love #2 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: April 21st 2020
Links: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

In Alisha Rai’s second novel in her Modern Love series, a reclusive investor goes viral, shoving her into the world’s spotlight—and into the arms of the bodyguard she’s been pining for…

OMG! Wouldn’t it be adorable if he’s her soulmate???

I don’t see any wedding rings <eyes emoji>

Breaking: #CafeBae and #CuteCafeGirl went to the bathroom AT THE SAME TIME!!!

One minute, Katrina King’s enjoying an innocent conversation with a random guy at a coffee shop; the next, a stranger has live-tweeted the entire encounter with a romantic meet-cute spin and #CafeBae has the world swooning. Going viral isn’t easy for anyone, but Katrina has painstakingly built a private world for herself, far from her traumatic past. Besides, everyone has it all wrong…that #CafeBae bro? He isn’t the man she’s hungry for.

He’s got a <peach emoji> to die for.

With the internet on the hunt for the identity of #CuteCafeGirl, Jas Singh, bodyguard and possessor of the most beautiful eyebrows Katrina’s ever seen, offers his family’s farm as a refuge. Alone with her unrequited crush feels like a recipe for hopeless longing, but Katrina craves the escape. She’s resigned to being just friends with Jas–until they share a single electrifying kiss. Now she can’t help but wonder if her crush may not be so unrequited after all…

I have been so excited for Girl Gone Viral – for Katrina’s story – ever since reading and enjoying The Right Swipe. And after having finished GGV, I can say this is another success in the Modern Love series! But what else did I expect from Alisha Rai? I loved this story. Jas and Katrina are the sweetest cinnamon rolls and I adored their slow burn romance! If you’re in the mood for something fluffy that will make you feel all the bubbly feelings, you need to read this book.

In case you didn’t know, this is a BODYGUARD ROMANCE! A trope I don’t read that often, but love all the same. Jas has been Katrina’s bodyguard and protecting her for years, and both have been pining for each other for almost as long as they’ve known each other. There is plenty of longing and unrequited (but actually requited) loved between the two of them. Then Katrina goes viral on Twitter against her will, terrified of losing her privacy, and Jas sweeps her away to his secluded farm out in the California countryside. FINALLY, things start to heat up now that they’re in such close proximity together (and Katrina gets to accidentally see Jas shirtless a time or two).

Katrina and Jas are such pure characters. They are kindhearted and selfless people, which is the main reason why neither of them ever brought up their feelings to the other until now. Their romance is just so… SOFT. I loved the dynamic between these two characters who have known each other for YEARS, so they know all about the other person’s quirks, likes, and dislikes. There is also plenty going on outside of their adorable slow burn romance, with the tweets and the people behind them showing up all over the media, and Jas’ family conflicts, particularly with his grandfather, who wants Jas to inherit his farm.

I think I liked this even more than The Right Swipe. I know I’ve seen some reviews say that the romance was overshadowed (which I felt in TRS) but in GGV it never really felt that way to me! I didn’t mind at all that we get a ton about the viral tweet and Jas’s issues with his family, mainly because Jas and Katrina are always dealing with everything TOGETHER. They are such soft, lovely, complex characters and if you love the bodyguard trope, I can’t recommend this book enough!


lacey


Reading Order: Modern Love series

#1 ~ The Right Swipe: My ReviewEbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#2 ~ Girl Gone Viral: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads (April 21, 2020)


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Review: A Heart of Blood and Ashes by Milla Vane

A Heart of Blood and Ashes by Milla Vane
Series: A Gathering of Dragons #1 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: February 4th 2020
Links: EbookPaperback • Goodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

​A generation past, the western realms were embroiled in endless war. Then the Destroyer came. From the blood and ashes he left behind, a tenuous alliance rose between the barbarian riders of Parsathe and the walled kingdoms of the south. That alliance is all that stands against the return of an ancient evil—until the barbarian king and queen are slain in an act of bloody betrayal.

Though forbidden by the alliance council to kill the corrupt king responsible for his parents’ murders, Maddek vows to avenge them, even if it costs him the Parsathean crown. But when he learns it was the king’s daughter who lured his parents to their deaths, the barbarian warrior is determined to make her pay.

Yet the woman Maddek captures is not what he expected. Though the last in a line of legendary warrior-queens, Yvenne is small and weak, and the sharpest weapons she wields are her mind and her tongue. Even more surprising is the marriage she proposes to unite them in their goals and to claim their thrones—because her desire for vengeance against her father burns even hotter than his own…​

I’ve had so much hype ever since A Heart of Blood and Ashes got on my radar. I’m always on the looking for an epic fantasy romance, and this one sounded so promising. Plus, I’d read Milla Vane years ago not just under her pseudonym Meljean Brook (The Iron Duke is still one of my favorite fantasy romances!), but also when she published a novella under MV in an anthology. So I knew she could write incredible fantasy worlds – and she didn’t disappoint with this first A Gathering of Dragons book. It was a fantastic start to a new series that I already need more of!

An enemies to lovers romance, slow burn, political intrigue, spilled blood, and barbarian warriors – this fantasy romance has it all. AHoBaA kicks off with the murder of our hero Maddek’s parents, who were king and queen of their barbarian kingdom and part of an alliance council that formed out of a truce between all five kingdoms. Now Maddek is next in line for the throne, but first he wants revenge against the rival king he believed killed his parents… starting with their daughter. But Yvenne offers herself up as his bride instead, because the one thing she wants most in the world is her corrupt father’s death. Neither of them expects the insane amount of chemistry to build between them or that they would start falling for one another.

This book was SO FREAKING GOOD! It was a little slow to get into in the beginning, with all the world-building and info dumping we’re getting hit with straight off. There are a ton of characters and kingdoms to keep track of. But once I hit my reading stride I couldn’t put this book down. I’ve been wanting a new, epic fantasy (romance) to get obsessed with, and AHoBaA hit all the right buttons for me. Alpha, barbarian warrior; heroine who uses her words and brain to kick ass; a delicious, sexy slow burn in a marriage of convenience; and some epic world-building. The pacing is fairly slow but it’s never boring. I loved the amount of steam we got as well as a good dose of angst between our main characters. I was HOOKED onto the romance – I was so glad that despite everything going on, Milla Vane made the romance the main focus of the story.

I do have to say, sadly, there are no actual dragons in this book (they used to exist, but not anymore), but there are Dragons! They are basically Maddek’s bodyguard/friends. Other than that, I can’t wait to read more of this fantasy world. I’m so glad we don’t have to wait too long for the next book (only five months!). Even though this first book concludes Maddek and Yvenne’s romance and revenge subplot, there is still an over-arcing plot that deals with a dangerous, powerful being that’s about to wreak havoc. I’m so looking forward to where Milla Vane will take us next.

Also, if you want to see the map of this world, Milla Vane has one! Sadly it didn’t make it into the book.


Reading Order: A Gathering of Dragons series

 

#1 ~ A Heart of Blood and Ashes: EbookPaperback • Goodreads (Feb. 4, 2020)
#2 ~ A Touch of Stone and Snow: EbookPaperbackGoodreads (July 7, 2020)


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Review: Beard Necessities by Penny Reid

Beard Necessities by Penny Reid
Series: Winston Brothers #7 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: November 4th 2019
Links: EbookPaperbackGoodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review

Billy Winston’s family is going to see him happy and in love if it’s the last thing they do.

No one deserves a happily-ever-after quite as much as the second oldest Winston brother and his lady love, Claire McClure (aka Scarlet St. Claire). Cruelty and circumstance tore them apart almost twenty years ago. Secrecy and bitterness kept them separated.

But you know who’s tired of their separation and stubbornness? Everyone. Especially Billy Winston’s family. And now they’re going to do something about it.

Well-meaning interference means the star-crossed lovers can’t stop tripping over each other in the hills of Tuscany, the catacombs of Rome, and the waterways of Venice. Billy and Claire find themselves thrown together and at the mercy of the Winston siblings’ shenanigans.

But will their forced proximity bring them together? Or push them even further apart?

This second-chance romance brings back the entire Winston gang, playing cupid in one last story of love, hi-jinks, and family collusion.

Oh, my heart. I couldn’t be happier for Billy and Claire (aka Scarlet) getting their second chance at an HEA. I loooved all the Winston family shenanigans (hello, Cletus!) and that epilogue made me SO damn happy, my heart was bursting. As bittersweet as this finale is, I couldn’t think of a lovelier ending for the Winston Brothers series, but I am also so thankful we’re getting a Cletus and Jenn series later on!

“But Scarlet,” he said my name reverently, gently, like it was a prayer he repeated often, “I didn’t need to see or touch or taste paradise to know how deeply and irrevocably I am in love with you. That hasn’t changed. That is as constant as my soul, which has been, and will always be, forever yours.”

Billy and Claire’s story has been YEARS in the making, which means years of torturous anticipation for their second chance. Penny Reid wrecked my heart in the best of ways with Beard with Me, so when this final Winston Brothers book landed on my kindle, I dove right in with no hesitation. The beginning was slow and a bit frustrating, I’m not going to lie. I was expecting Billy to be full-on pursing the love of his life, but he chose not to. I felt exactly how the rest of the Winstons did, which was wanting to smoosh Billy and Claire and force them to get back together, because we ALL know how meant to be they are.

Thankfully neither Billy nor Claire spend too much time resisting each other or the love that has always burned between them. It takes a lot communication and patience between them, but once the romance picks back up, I couldn’t put the book down! There’s decades-long worth of tension and longing, and when it explodes, it EXPLODES.

“Make no mistake, what just happened between us was momentous for me. My life and heart have been forever transformed. You are the architect and artist of my own personal paradise. Now, when I close my eyes, I won’t need to imagine what heaven feels like. I’ll know.”

Penny Reid takes us on a gorgeous journey around Italy with all of the Winstons. I loved how determined they were (particularly Cletus) to bring Billy and Claire back together, no matter what scenarios they had to come up with. Having this family all together in the Italian countryside is a total RIOT, and I’m a little devastated that their stories are over for now. But Beard Necessities was absolutely worth the wait, not just for this long-awaited couple, but for the Winston family as a whole. Each one has a love and family of their own, and I’ll be forever grateful to Penny for giving us such a lovely, unforgettable cast of characters!


lacey


Reading Order: Winston Brothers series

Truth or Beard by Penny Reid Grin and Beard It by Penny Reid Beard Science by Penny Reid
   

#1 ~ Truth or Beard: My Review • Ebook • PaperbackAudible • Goodreads
#2 ~ Grin and Beard It: My Review • EbookPaperback • Audible • Goodreads
#3 ~ Beard Science: My Review • EbookPaperbackAudible • Goodreads
#4 ~ Beard in Mind: My Review • EbookPaperbackAudible • Goodreads
#5 ~ Dr. Strange Beard: My ReviewEbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#6 ~ Beard With Me: My ReviewEbookPaperbackGoodreads
#7 ~ Beard Necessities: EbookPaperbackGoodreads


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