Review: How to Catch a Queen by Alyssa Cole

How to Catch a Queen by Alyssa Cole
Series: Runaway Royals #1
Publication Date: December 1st 2020
Links: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

An arranged marriage leads to unexpected desire, in the first book of Alyssa Cole’s Runaway Royals series…

When Shanti Mohapi weds the king of Njaza, her dream of becoming a queen finally comes true. But it’s nothing like she imagined. Shanti and her husband may share an immediate and powerful attraction, but her subjects see her as an outsider, and everything she was taught about being the perfect wife goes disastrously wrong.

A king must rule with an iron fist, and newly crowned King Sanyu was born perfectly fitted for the gauntlet, even if he wishes he weren’t. He agrees to take a wife as is required of him, though he doesn’t expect to actually fall in love. Even more vexing? His beguiling new queen seems to have the answers to his country’s problems—except no one will listen to her.

By day, they lead separate lives. By night, she wears the crown, and he bows to her demands in matters of politics and passion. When turmoil erupts in their kingdom and their marriage, Shanti goes on the run, and Sanyu must learn whether he has what it takes both to lead his people and to catch his queen.

I have been SO excited to read this book ever since I 1) saw the cover, 2) read the blurb, and 3) saw that it was a marriage of convenience! I especially loved reading the line that says “By night, she wears the crown, and he bows to her demands in matters of politics and passion.” I sadly didn’t quite love this new Alyssa Cole as much as I was hoping to – it’s a sloooow burn romance and very heavy on the royal politics. I wanted the story to focus more on our main couple, which was why How to Catch a Queen was a bit of a struggle for me to read.

Shanti and Sanyu enter a marriage of convenience when Shanti is chosen to be Sanyu’s queen. Shanti gets to live out her dream of being a queen so she can help others and Sanyu fulfills his father’s final request to marry, despite never wanting to inherit the throne. Love is not involved in the least, and it takes quite a long time for it to develop in this romance. We focus more on Shanti’s struggles with her awful treatment from Sanyu and his subjects and Sanyu torn between tradition and what he wants for his and his country’s future.

Alyssa Cole did a fantastic job bringing this fictional country of Njaza to life, with its rich, nuanced history. But after a while, the story did feel like it was dragging, especially the romance. There wasn’t enough of the romance between Shanti and Sanyu to satisfy me, which is why I have to give this 3.5 stars instead of the 4 it easily could’ve been. Still, it was a good start to this spinoff series of the Reluctant Royals, and I can’t wait to see where Alyssa Cole takes us next!


lacey


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Review: A Princess for Christmas by Jenny Holiday

A Princess for Christmas by Jenny Holiday
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: October 13th 2020
Links: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

From USA Today bestselling author Jenny Holiday comes a modern fairy tale just in time for Christmas about a tough New Yorker from the other side of the tracks who falls for a princess from the other side of the world.

Leo Ricci’s already handling all he can, between taking care of his little sister Gabby, driving a cab, and being the super of his apartment building in the Bronx. But when Gabby spots a “princess” in a gown outside of the UN trying to hail a cab, she begs her brother to stop and help. Before he knows it, he’s got a real-life damsel in distress in the backseat of his car.

Princess Marie of Eldovia shouldn’t be hailing a cab, or even be out and about. But after her mother’s death, her father has plunged into a devastating depression and the fate of her small Alpine country has fallen on Marie’s shoulders. She’s taken aback by the gruff but devastatingly handsome driver who shows her more kindness than she’s seen in a long time.

When Marie asks Leo to be her driver for the rest of her trip, he agrees, thinking he’ll squire a rich miss around for a while and make more money than he has in months. He doesn’t expect to like and start longing for the unpredictable Marie. And when he and Gabby end up in Eldovia for Christmas, he discovers the princess who is all wrong for him is also the woman who is his perfect match.

I was SO excited about Jenny Holiday’s Christmas romance – I’ve enjoyed Jenny’s books in the past and I always look forward to holiday books during the Christmas season. A Princess for Christmas is literally Hallmark movie level, except much more steamy, which I will never complain about. This Christmas romance between a European princess who’s trying to save her country from financial downfall and a New York City taxi cab driver who’s taking care of his orphaned younger sister is sweet, fun, and flirty. It wasn’t PERFECT for me, but I still enjoyed my time reading it. If you’re looking for a romance to pick up this holiday season, definitely give this one a try!

Leo Ricci is trying to make ends meet providing for his sister and himself after the tragic death of their parents. He drives his cab all around NYC, and as luck would have it, while driving his sister back home, the Princess Marie of Eldovia asks for a ride to an urgent meeting. Leo doesn’t have time to drive an uppity princess across the city, but he can’t resist a damsel in distress. And he can’t resist the job or the money Marie offers him in exchange for taking her around the city to meetings she needs to save her country.

The first half of this book is adorable. Leo, his sister Gabby, and Marie go on little NYC touristy adventures so that Marie can experience what the city is all about. They are the cutest little group and I really enjoyed all the banter between them. Leo is grumpy but joins in on the fun, Gabby is a pure delight, and Marie is a little awkward but once her frost has thawed out she embraces everything.

The second half of the book takes place in Eldovia, where Marie’s family reigns. I found this second half to be a bit slow and dragged out – this is the main reason I can’t quite give this four stars, even though it’s close. The book felt too long because of this drag and I wanted to fast forward through all the politics and get to the romance. But other than that, this book was still entertaining and gave me all the cozy winter vibes I was looking for. If you’ve ever imagined what a Hallmark Christmas movie would be like as a romance book, A Princess for Christmas is literally it. It almost made me wish Eldovia was a real place that I could go to during Christmas!


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: You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria

You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: August 4th 2020
Links: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

RITA® Award Winning author Alexis Daria brings readers an unforgettable, hilarious rom-com set in the drama-filled world of telenovelas—perfect for fans of Jane the Virgin and The Kiss Quotient.

Leading Ladies do not end up on tabloid covers.

After a messy public breakup, soap opera darling Jasmine Lin Rodriguez finds her face splashed across the tabloids. When she returns to her hometown of New York City to film the starring role in a bilingual romantic comedy for the number one streaming service in the country, Jasmine figures her new “Leading Lady Plan” should be easy enough to follow—until a casting shake-up pairs her with telenovela hunk Ashton Suárez.

Leading Ladies don’t need a man to be happy.

After his last telenovela character was killed off, Ashton is worried his career is dead as well. Joining this new cast as a last-minute addition will give him the chance to show off his acting chops to American audiences and ping the radar of Hollywood casting agents. To make it work, he’ll need to generate smoking-hot on-screen chemistry with Jasmine. Easier said than done, especially when a disastrous first impression smothers the embers of whatever sexual heat they might have had.

Leading Ladies do not rebound with their new costars.

With their careers on the line, Jasmine and Ashton agree to rehearse in private. But rehearsal leads to kissing, and kissing leads to a behind-the-scenes romance worthy of a soap opera. While their on-screen performance improves, the media spotlight on Jasmine soon threatens to destroy her new image and expose Ashton’s most closely guarded secret.

If you’re a fan of the show Jane the Virgin, you’re gonna want to try You Had Me at Hola! There’s Latinx rep, telenovelas, actor main characters, and a ton of on- and off-screen steam. It was my first book from Alexis Daria and I really liked her writing. I loved the telenovela aspect and that we actually get to read the script (which is a dramatic second chance romance I was super into) and see how the actor characters play it out. While I did have my issues with parts of the book, I still would recommend it if you’re looking for a romance with great Latinx characters who are making their way into Hollywood.

Soap opera actress Jasmine Lin Rodriguez has just landed the lead role on a Latinx romantic comedy show, to be streamed on a Netflix lookalike, so you know it’s a big deal. She’s paired up with a famous telenovela star in his own right, Ashton Suárez. They get off on a bumpy start after he accidentally spills coffee on her during their first meeting, and try as they might to create some chemistry between them while filming, something seems to be missing. So they agree to work on their lines behind the scenes, and that’s when things really heat up.

Jasmine and Ashton’s romance was sweet. I liked the fact that the hero is the one who is awkward and a bit shy when it comes to the romance. Ashton has his reasons for being very wary and closed off from relationships. He doesn’t want to be in the limelight because of a secret he’s keeping that he wants to be kept hidden. Unfortunately, I think Ashton took this a bit too far for too long. I got frustrated with how hot and cold he was with Jasmine and wasn’t a fan of the way he didn’t understand that his pursuit of Hollywood came with the cost of his privacy. He sadly took too long for my taste to realize he had something good with the heroine.

Luckily, Jasmine wasn’t as frustrating for me. I loved her character! I enjoyed her ambition and how much she loved being a lead role on a Latinx rom-com. I adored her relationship with her family and close cousins – the female friendship in this book was lovely and family plays a huge and important part to both Jasmine and Ashton’s lives. And one of my favorite aspects of this book was actually the show, Carmen in Charge! I’ll admit, at times I was more invested in the show’s romance than the off-screen romance. It’s a second chance romance with a ton of angst and I 100% would not mind if it turned into a real book or show. I do wish I could’ve loved You Had Me at Hola more but I would still highly recommend it if you want some fantastic Latinx characters!


lacey


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