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: 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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Review: Triple Threat by K. Webster

Triple Threat by K. Webster
Series: Deception Duet #1 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: January 11th 2022
Links: EbookPaperbackGoodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review

I’m a prisoner in a prestigious world.

A perfect princess locked in a tower.

My father will never let me go.

Not that I could leave. I would never abandon my little sister. Hope comes in the form of a devilishly handsome man with dark eyes and darker secrets.

With each encounter, I’m lured deeper into the labyrinth. The danger lurking beneath his surface calls to me, even as it warns me away.

Except there’s a new side of him every time we meet. A different danger each time we touch. It’s as if three different men want to devour me.

He’s not just one villain. He’s three.

I couldn’t believe when K. Webster announced she would be writing a romance for the Terror Triplets from the Cinderella Trilogy. They were nasty, spoiled bullies – but was I still going to read their book? Absolutely.

I shouldn’t have doubted K. Webster because Triple Threat was so good! It’s a reverse harem romance with a heroine and three identical triplet heroes. The Mannford boys have grown up now and they’re not as spoiled and bratty. Sparrow, Scout, and Sully kind of work for the mafia but all they want to do is escape so they can live their own lives. Their uncle gives them one last assignment before they can be free – dupe the daughter of a tech billionaire into believing they’re one man and get close to her so they can find out her father’s secrets.

Landry may come from a rich family, but she lives in terror because of her abusive father. She wants to escape but she stays for her younger, deaf sister to protect her. Landry has never gotten close to anyone but she finds solace in a new, gorgeous classmate named Ford… who at times seems like he has a split personality.

I enjoyed this reverse harem romance so much! Each triplet clearly has his own personality and way of being with Landry, but I still fell for all 3, though I’m going to need more when it comes to the craziest brother, Scout. Landry was a strong heroine who I really felt for. I was on the edge of my seat reading this, just waiting for the moment when Landry would find out the truth about the brothers.

This is the first book in a duet and I am dying for Death Wish already. You can see the cliffhanger coming but it still killed me. Triple Threat is hot but not as steamy as I would expect from this author so hopefully we get more in the sequel!


lacey


Reading Order: Deception Duet

#1 ~ Triple Threat: EbookPaperbackGoodreads
#2 ~ Death Wish: Ebook • AudibleGoodreads (March 29, 2022)


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Review: Hook, Line, and Sinker by Tessa Bailey

Hook, Line, and Sinker by Tessa Bailey
Series: Bellinger Sisters #2 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: March 1st 2022
Links: EbookPaperbackHardcoverAudibleGoodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

In the follow-up to It Happened One Summer, Tessa Bailey delivers another deliciously fun rom-com about a former player who accidentally falls for his best friend while trying to help her land a different man…

King crab fisherman Fox Thornton has a reputation as a sexy, carefree flirt. Everyone knows he’s a guaranteed good time—in bed and out—and that’s exactly how he prefers it. Until he meets Hannah Bellinger. She’s immune to his charm and looks, but she seems to enjoy his… personality? And wants to be friends? Bizarre. But he likes her too much to risk a fling, so platonic pals it is.

Now, Hannah’s in town for work, crashing in Fox’s spare bedroom. She knows he’s a notorious ladies’ man, but they’re definitely just friends. In fact, she’s nursing a hopeless crush on a colleague and Fox is just the person to help with her lackluster love life. Armed with a few tips from Westport’s resident Casanova, Hannah sets out to catch her coworker’s eye… yet the more time she spends with Fox, the more she wants him instead. As the line between friendship and flirtation begins to blur, Hannah can’t deny she loves everything about Fox, but she refuses to be another notch on his bedpost.

Living with his best friend should have been easy. Except now she’s walking around in a towel, sleeping right across the hall, and Fox is fantasizing about waking up next to her for the rest of his life and… and… man overboard! He’s fallen for her, hook, line, and sinker. Helping her flirt with another guy is pure torture, but maybe if Fox can tackle his inner demons and show Hannah he’s all in, she’ll choose him instead?

I had such high hopes for Hook, Line, and Sinker after loving book one, It Happened One Summer. This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2022 and it was actually my first 2022 release that I read! I enjoyed this one a lot – it was REALLY good, but I will say, Fox and Hannah didn’t draw me in like Piper and Brendan did in the previous book. It’s surprisingly slow for a Tessa Bailey romance and this is the first time I’m going to say I wanted more steam in a book by her. Still, if you loved the first Bellinger Sisters series, you won’t want to miss this second one. It’s a fun, breezy, flirty friends-to-lovers romance!

Fox and Hannah were first introduced as Brendan’s best friend and Piper’s sister, respectively. We felt some fantastic chemistry between them and now we finally get their romance! Fox is a (former) playboy hero who unexpectedly becomes best friends with the last person he expected to become BFFs with, Hannah. He’s usually known as a ladies’ man, but she’s the one woman immune to his charms. They grow a beautiful friendship, and he even offers her a room to stay at his place while she’s in town for work. But soon enough, Fox realizes he’s fallen for his new best friend, though he’s terrified of his reputation ruining things so he keeps her in the friend zone.

I had a wonderful time reading this book. It’s a really sweet friends-to-lovers romance and I enjoyed Fox and Hannah’s characters. I especially loved revisiting Westport, Piper, and Brendan. I just didn’t love it quite as much as the previous book – it was missing that charm from book 1 for me. Still, I always have so much fun reading Tessa Bailey and this was no different!


lacey


Reading Order: Bellinger Sisters series

#1 ~ It Happened One Summer: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#2 ~ Hook, Line, and Sinker: EbookPaperbackHardcoverAudibleGoodreads


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