Review: The One That Got Away by Karina Halle

The One That Got Away by Karina Halle
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: September 20th 2020
Links: EbookPaperbackGoodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review

Ruby Turner was never meant to be mine.

When I first met her she was a fresh, young American sports journalist trying to find her footing in a new life abroad. She was the one interviewing me for an article, yet I wanted to know more about her. She captivated me.

But she went home with Marco that night.
My agent.
My brother.

And I did what I could to pretend I was fine with it. After all, I’m Luciano Ribeiro. As the captain of Real Madrid, and Portugal’s National Team, it’s my job to be cool, calm, and collected, not easily rattled.

Only what I felt for Ruby over time, shook me to my very core. It made me do things I never imagined I would do.
It started with a stolen kiss in the middle of the night.
It led to a passionate tryst.
It created a burden of guilt that I had to carry, as Ruby came in and out of my life until she left for good, leaving her mark on me.

Now, seven years later, she’s back.
She was the one that got away.
I don’t think I’ll let her go this time.
But I might not have a choice.
Because my heart still belongs to her.
And her heart might belong to my brother.

I’ve been wanting a book for Luciano since he was first introduced in The Forbidden Man. We knew he’d loved and lost, and now we finally get his second chance romance in The One That Got Away. And even though he’s a spinoff character, this book still holds perfectly fine as a standalone, so if you’re in the mood for an angsty, second chance, soccer romance, you’ll want to give Luciano and Ruby’s book a try!

Seven years ago, Ruby and Luciano first met when Ruby arrived in Europe to create a new life for herself, starting with interviewing soccer players for her fledgling blog. With her luck, she gets five minutes with rising star Luciano Ribeiro, and they feel a connection from the moment they meet. Unfortunately, Ruby has already accepted a date with Luciano’s brother/agent Marco right before their meeting. So Luciano steps aside, even though he knows that Ruby should be with him, and their angsty, years-long romance begins.

Going into this, I expected a second chance romance that starts during the present day. So I was surprised when we start the book seven years ago and when our main characters first meet and fall in (forbidden) love. This did change up the dynamics for me and made it feel less like a second chance romance and more like any normal romance, albeit still a little forbidden and soccer related. Ruby is an interesting heroine – she begins the book doing something I would never have the guts to do, which is leave everything and everyone behind to start a new life in a completely different country. For that, I admired her, but I do have to say I grew frustrated with her reasons for not being with Luciano. I was hurting for these two but also wanted them to get over themselves and get back together.

It’s very much an up and down kind of emotional roller coaster with The One That Got Away. I COULD NOT put this book down – I finished it in a day, needing to know how the romance finally works out. If you love romances with a ton of push and pull, you’ll enjoy Ruby and Luciano. And if you loved some of Karina Halle’s past romance like Love, in English and The Forbidden Man, we get some lovely cameos with our favorite couples!


lacey


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Early Review: Her Night with the Duke by Diana Quincy

Her Night with the Duke by Diana Quincy
Series: Clandestine Affairs #1 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: September 29th 2020
Links: EbookPaperbackAudible • Goodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Desire knows no reason…

When Lady Delilah Chambers finds herself stranded at a country inn on a rain-swept evening, she’s forced to fend off a group of ruffians with the help of a handsome gentleman. Irresistibly drawn to each other, Leela and the stranger spend one reckless night in each others’ arms—and then go their separate ways. But the very next day Leela receives the shock of her life when she meets the duke who is set on wedding her beloved stepdaughter.

When it finds two destined hearts…

One night isn’t enough with a woman as fierce, fiery, and brilliant as Leela. Elliot Townsend, Duke of Huntington, cannot believe his good fortune when their chance encounter leads to an unforgettable evening of passion. Yet Hunt’s luck runs out when he is introduced to his prospective mother-in-law. Dowagers aren’t supposed to look like this…

Leela and Hunt are determined to keep each other at arm’s length, which should be easy enough for two intelligent adults with reputations to uphold. The problem is all logic is lost when it comes to a passion that refuses to be ignored.

I hadn’t read a new-to-me author in a while, so when Avon pitched Diana Quincy to me and I saw a friend of mine love Her Night with the Duke, I had to give it a try. And I’m so glad I did – I loved this forbidden historical romance! I honestly haven’t read enough forbidden romances that are also historical, so this was a great change of pace. The Duke hero, Elliot, has a woman in mind to marry for duty, but he ends up falling for her stepmother instead. SPICY!

Elliot and Leela meet one night rainy night at an inn and feel a connection right from the start. They share a passionate night together before they find out who they are to each other when Elliot shows up at Leela’s home, and that a relationship between them would be impossible. Elliot wants to throw everything away to be with Leela, but Leela, who is dear friends with her stepdaughter, refuses to hurt Victoria. There is so much push and pull, with a good dose of angst – all of it was so well-written. I was hurting for Elliot and Leela and wishing for a way for them to be together.

I love how unique the heroine’s character is. Leela is a Dowager countess who married an older count when she was very young, young enough to be closer in age to her stepdaughter and stepson than her late husband. She’s half Arab, half English, and feels like she’s never really belonged to either part of her family. She does explore more of her mother’s roots as she travels around the world to gain experience for her writing.

I’m now a big fan of Diana Quincy – the author wrote such a swoony hero in Elliot, who falls deep and hard for Leela. The forbidden aspect was set up and executed well. I can’t wait to read more in the Clandestine Affairs series and am so looking forward to Elliot’s Viscount friend, Griffin’s story next!


lacey


Reading Order: Clandestine Affairs series

#1 ~ Her Night with the Duke: EbookPaperbackAudible • Goodreads (Sept. 29, 2020)
#2 ~ The Viscount Made Me Do It: Goodreads


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Early Review: Tools of Engagement by Tessa Bailey

Tools of Engagement by Tessa Bailey
Series: Hot & Hammered #3 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: September 22nd 2020
Links: EbookPaperbackAudible • Goodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

In Tessa Bailey’s latest rom-com, two enemies team up to flip a house… and the sparks between them might burn the place down or ignite a passion that neither can ignore!

Hair, makeup, clothing, decor… everything in Bethany Castle’s world is organized, planned, and styled to perfection. Which is why the homes she designs for her family’s real estate business are the most coveted in town. The only thing not perfect? Her track record with men. She’s on a dating hiatus and after helping her friends achieve their dreams, Bethany finally has time to focus on her own: flip a house, from framework to furnishings, all by herself. Except her older brother runs the company and refuses to take her seriously.

When a television producer gets wind of the Castle sibling rivalry, they’re invited on Flip Off, a competition to see who can do the best renovation. Bethany wants bragging rights, but she needs a crew and the only member of her brother’s construction team willing to jump ship is Wes Daniels, the new guy in town. His Texas drawl and handsome face got under Bethany’s skin on day one, but the last thing she needs is some cocky young cowboy in her way.

As the race to renovate heats up, Wes and Bethany are forced into close quarters, trading barbs and biting banter as they remodel the ugliest house on the block. It’s a labor of love, hate, and everything in between, and soon sparks are flying. But Bethany’s perfectly structured life is one kiss away from going up in smoke and she knows falling for a guy like Wes would be a flipping disaster.

I’d been so excited for Bethany’s story since the first Hot and Hammered book, and I became even more excited when Wes was introduced in Love Her or Lose Her. As soon as I read about them together and their clashing vibes, I knew I needed to read it. If you love enemies to lovers meets HGTV, with an older heroine/younger hero, you need to read this latest rom-com from Tessa Bailey!

Bethany is the last of the golden trio to get her romance. She’s always come across as self-assured and on top of her life, but the reality couldn’t be farther from the truth. She’s a perfectionist with anxiety, which makes for a terrible combination that constantly has her second guessing herself and her decisions. Which is why it’s taken so long for her to finally leave her family’s construction company to go out on her own. And all of a sudden, she’s swept up in a reality show facing off with her brother to see who can do the best home renovation. To her surprise, alongside her is her nemesis Wes, a man that’s far too young for her who riles her up like no one else.

When I read Tessa Bailey, I always know I’m in for a fun and hot time. She writes the best dirty talking heroes, and though Wes is a bit younger than her typical hero, he can still dish it out like the best of them. I loved seeing Wes with his niece, who he currently has guardianship over. They were too adorable together! And I really enjoyed the way Bethany and Wes had so much fun banter together but also had plenty of meaningful, emotional moments. Their romance was entertaining from the get-go and I’m glad we finally get their story! This is a great finale to the Hot and Hammered series and I’m so sad to be saying goodbye to these characters.


lacey


Reading Order: Hot & Hammered series

#1 ~ Fix Her Up: Ebook • PaperbackAudible • Goodreads
#2 ~ Love Her or Lose Her: My ReviewEbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#3 ~ Tools of Engagement: EbookPaperbackAudible • Goodreads


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Review: Playing With Fire by L.J. Shen

Playing With Fire by L.J. Shen
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: September 15th 2020
Links: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
Source: I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review

A broken boy on the path to destruction.
A scarred girl without direction.
A love story carved in secrets, inked with pain and sealed with a lie.

Grace Shaw and West St. Claire are arctic opposites.
She is the strange girl from the food truck.
He is the mysterious underground fighter who stormed into her sleepy Texan college town on his motorcycle one day, and has been wreaking havoc since.
She is invisible to the world.
He is the town’s beloved bad boy.
She is a reject.
He is trouble.
When West thrusts himself into Grace’s quiet life, she scrambles to figure out if he is her happily-ever-after or tragic ending.
But the harder she pushes him away, the more he pulls her out of her shell.
Grace doesn’t know much about anything beyond her town’s limits, but she does know this:
She is falling in love with the hottest guy in Sheridan U.
And when you play with fire—you ought to get burned.

As soon as I read the blurb for Playing with Fire and realized that L.J. Shen was releasing a new adult college romance, I was intrigued. I love college romances and I was so curious to see her write one! I’m happy to say I ended up enjoying Playing With Fire so much – it’s fun, sexy, and emotional. It’s a frenemies to lovers romance between two broken, lonely people who find love and solace in each other.

Grace has scars on her face and body from a terrible fire. She became an outcast after her accident and in college she is still antisocial. She comes across the bad boy of the school while at work at a taco food truck, and they do NOT get along. When they become coworkers, the banter and chemistry ignites. They reluctantly become somewhat friends (which is why I have to say their relationship is a frenemies kind) and I really enjoyed all the quips and teasing – it was a light-heartedness that was very much necessary with all the pain and heartbreak the main characters also experience. The romance is a bit slow but I loved how the relationship developed between Grace and West. Theirs is not an easy romance, but it’s one that’s worth the wait!

It took me a bit to get into this book in the beginning, but West and Grace grew on me soon enough. I really liked their connection, the banter, and the push/pull of the romance. These two frenemies are forced into close proximity while working together at a taco food truck, which I thought was so fun. There are emotional and heartfelt moments as they connect over their traumatic pasts and current loneliness. (I almost cried when we find out West’s tragic past. It. Is. Heartbreaking.) This was an emotional ride with plenty of ups and downs. I’m glad we got a college romance from L.J. Shen, and if you’re a fan of hers, you’re sure to enjoy this newest standalone of hers.


lacey


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Review: Heart Bones by Colleen Hoover

Heart Bones by Colleen Hoover
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: August 19th 2020
Links: EbookPaperback • Goodreads
Source: I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review

Life and a dismal last name are the only two things Beyah Grim’s parents ever gave her. After carving her path all on her own, Beyah is well on her way to bigger and better things, thanks to no one but herself.

With only two short months separating her from the future she’s built and the past she desperately wants to leave behind, an unexpected death leaves Beyah with no place to go during the interim. Forced to reach out to her last resort, Beyah has to spend the remainder of her summer on a peninsula in Texas with a father she barely knows. Beyah’s plan is to keep her head down and let the summer slip by seamlessly, but her new neighbor Samson throws a wrench in that plan.

Samson and Beyah have nothing in common on the surface.

She comes from a life of poverty and neglect; he comes from a family of wealth and privilege. But one thing they do have in common is that they’re both drawn to sad things. Which means they’re drawn to each other. With an almost immediate connection too intense for them to continue denying, Beyah and Samson agree to stay in the shallow end of a summer fling. What Beyah doesn’t realize is that a rip current is coming, and it’s about to drag her heart out to sea.

Heart Bones is essentially a beach read, Colleen Hoover style, which means it’s heartbreaking and intense. And since the only requirement I have for beach reads is that it takes place on the beach, this book worked for me! And even though I just said it was heartbreaking, Heart Bones was surprisingly an easy, enjoyable read. It didn’t hit quite as emotional as I’m used to from this author but it does have a twist towards the end in classic CoHo style. I wish it could’ve been longer because there was so much to explore near the end but I did like the unique storyline and the heroine’s journey in discovering love and family.

Beyah grew up in poverty with her single, drug-addicted mother. Food was never a guarantee for her and she was left to fend for herself way too young. Now, at 19, she has a volleyball scholarship waiting for her in Pennsylvania, but with her mother dying of an overdose and nowhere to go, she’s forced to live with her estranged father. So she joins her father and her new stepmother and stepsister to a beach house on a Texas peninsula. Her next door neighbor is rich boy Samson, who hides behind his camera with his secrets and mysteries. And it’s on the beach that Beyah learns what it’s like to trust, to love, and be loved, not just with Samson, but with a family she never expected.

As with all of Colleen Hoover’s books, the writing is solid. I always enjoy the way she builds her characters. Beyah is broken from her traumatic past but has an inner strength I admired. Her new family is wonderful – I genuinely loved that she forms a friendship with her stepsister, who is so kind and endearing. Samson’s character wasn’t as compelling as I hoped it would be. I was curious about his secrets and absolutely didn’t expect the twist towards the end with his character, but he’s definitely not a new favorite Colleen Hoover hero for me.

Still, I really enjoyed the story overall, though I wish it was longer. What Beyah and Samson go through will have your heart hurting. It’s almost a tragic kind of love between two broken souls (but there is an HEA, I promise!) with their romance having an end date once summer ends, though you can’t help but root for them anyway. If you love your beach reads on the sad, more emotional side, Heart Bones is pretty much perfect for you!


lacey


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