Review: All I Ask by Corinne Michaels

All I Ask by Corinne Michaels
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: March 17th 2020
Links: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Teagan Berkeley is trying her best. A single mom raising a precocious teen, she may have given up on her dreams, but she’s accepted her life in her small beachside hometown. Now the one person who abandoned her when she needed him the most has returned, bringing back memories of what might have been.

Derek Hartz arrives in town with a teenage daughter-and he’s full of guilt over his failed marriage and the way he ended his friendship with Teagan. He’s determined to set things right with her, but first he needs to gain her trust, something he’s not convinced he deserves.

As Teagan and Derek open up to each other-and confess their deepest secrets-it’s impossible for them to deny what’s always been between them. But just when their happily ever after is within reach, their complicated history surfaces again and threatens to keep them apart. Forever.

I was so excited when I got an early copy of All I Ask. First, the cover is STUNNING. Second, two single parents! And third, it’s the (ex) friends to lovers trope. Which means all the angst and all the feels. So I am a bit disappointed that I couldn’t enjoy this book more. It’s not a bad read, just a frustrating one. You can tell Corinne Michaels knows how to write, but the miscommunication in this romance got on my nerves. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves when characters just don’t TALK to each other. The reason why our hero and heroine became estranged for over a decade was because they couldn’t express their feelings towards one another. This book is definitely a “it’s me, not you” kind of read, but if you also don’t enjoy reading about miscommunication, I would pass on it.

While the book is told in alternate POVs (IMO, there weren’t enough chapters from the hero), we also get two timelines: the past, when Teagan and Derek first meet in high school and fall in unrequited love, and the present, when they reunite for the first time in a decade as single parents. I have to say I wasn’t a big fan of the past chapters – they were boring and didn’t add all that much to the story because I could already tell how in love Teagan and Derek were through their present chapters. And, this is when they start keeping their feelings a secret and Derek uses his new fiancée to cope with the fact that he thinks Teagan doesn’t love him back. Did I also mention Teagan is pregnant by her deadbeat ex and Derek gets his fiancée pregnant? I guess no one uses condoms anymore. It just annoyed me to no end that they could’ve saved over ten years worth of hurt and heartache with a simple conversation.

The present day reunion is underwhelming. It starts off with some fantastic angst and I could just FEEL all the emotions and hurt from Teagan. Derek ghosted her, his best friend, like she didn’t mean anything to him. He stopped all communication with her and dropped off the face of the planet. I really wanted her to make him work towards earning back her trust and heart, but after maybe two conversations they start dating already. So that whole thing was anticlimactic. The thing is, I truly don’t believe Derek would’ve ever gone after Teagan, the woman he supposedly loved, if he didn’t become a widower. I never understood why he was okay living married but separated with his wife, a woman he didn’t love. So Teagan comes across as second best, his second choice, and that left a bad taste in my mouth.

The good things I did enjoy? The writing, which is solid, and Teagan’s daughter, who has such a personality. I’m sure I’m in the minority for this book, but I wanted more – more angst, more GROVELING, more chapters from the hero. And sadly, this just didn’t work for me.



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Review: Wild at Heart by K.A. Tucker

Wild at Heart by K.A. Tucker
Series: The Simple Wild #2 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: February 18th 2020
Links: EbookPaperback • Goodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review

​From the internationally best-selling author of The Simple Wild comes the continuation of a woman’s journey to Alaska and a life she never imagined for herself.

Calla Fletcher returns to Toronto a different person, struggling to find direction and still very much in love with the rugged bush pilot she left behind. When Jonah arrives on her doorstep with a proposition she can’t dismiss, she takes the leap and rushes back to Alaska to begin their exciting future together.

But Calla soon learns that even the best intentions can lead to broken promises, and that compromise comes with a hefty price–a log cabin in rural Alaska that feels as isolating as the western tundra.

With Jonah gone more than he’s home, one neighbor who insists on transforming her into a true Alaskan, and another who seems more likely to shoot her than come to her aid, Calla grapples with forging her own path. In a world with roaming wildlife that has her constantly watching over her shoulder and harsh conditions that stretch far beyond the cold, dark, winter months, just stepping outside her front door can be daunting.

This is not the future Calla had in mind, leaving her to fear that perhaps she is doomed to follow in her mother’s fleeing footsteps after all.

I have been SO freaking excited for the sequel to The Simple Wild, one of my favorite books of 2018, ever since K.A. Tucker announced she would be writing more of Calla and Jonah. TSW ended on a bit of an HFN, so it made sense that there would be more of their story to tell. I adored their romance and was a little nervous going into Wild at Heart – obviously, there is the question that goes with any sequel: will I love it as much as the first? While this sequel wasn’t quite the 5-star read that the first book was, I still loved being back with Calla and Jonah again and enjoyed this further glimpse into their lives in Alaska together! If you loved TSW, I highly recommend you give this sequel a try – Calla and Jonah are still very much together and in love, but they have plenty of new struggles to overcome.

Wild at Heart picks up fairly soon after the end of The Simple Wild – Calla has agreed to be with and move to Alaska with Jonah, but only if they move to a town that’s closer to a big city. So even though Jonah is ‘home’ in Alaska, they both have to deal with moving to a new town, finding and building a home, and making new friends and connections. Jonah is just as focused on planes as he was in the first book. He’s honestly the sexiest pilot I’ve ever read! Calla is determined to make Alaska her new home, because that’s where Jonah is. But when Jonah spends more time away in order to make enough money to build a life for the two of them, Calla needs to find herself not just a job, but a passion to dedicate her life while in this new environment.

There’s not a lot of drama when it comes to Wild at Heart, and I actually liked that. It’s not as thrilling or exciting as the first book, which felt like “OMG, ALASKA!!” but that doesn’t necessarily make it worse. This sequel is more of a “let’s build a new life here, together” type of story, with Jonah and Calla creating a home for themselves and settling down. I really enjoyed the new people Calla meets in town, though Agnes, Mabel, and Wren will always be my favorites. The story is sweet and heartwarming, with K.A. Tucker’s talented writing that will suck you right back into Alaska and remind you just why you love Jonah and Calla so much. Jonah still has the ability to make me swoon, though I did want to smack him a few times when he got frustrating. So if you’ve been missing these two and/or Alaska, you definitely need to read Wild at Heart.


Reading Order: The Simple Wild series

#1 ~ The Simple Wild: My ReviewEbook • Paperback • Audible • Goodreads
#2 ~ Wild at Heart: EbookPaperback • Goodreads


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Review: Angry God by L.J. Shen

Angry God by L.J. Shen
Series: All Saints High #3 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: February 18th 2020
Links: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review

Vaughn Spencer.
They call him an angry god.
To me, he is nothing but a heartless prince.
His parents rule this town, its police, every citizen and boutique on Main Street.
All I own is a nice, juicy grudge against him for that time he almost killed me.
Between hooking up with a different girl every weekend, breaking hearts, noses and rules, Vaughn also finds the time to bully little ole’ me.
I fight back, tooth and nail, never expecting him to chase me across the ocean after we graduate high school.
But here he is, living with me in a dark, looming castle on the outskirts of London.
A fellow intern. A prodigal sculptor. A bloody genius.
They say this place is haunted, and it is.
Carlisle Castle hides two of our most awful secrets.
Vaughn thinks he can kill the ghosts of his past, but what he doesn’t know? It’s my heart he’s slaying.

I wish I could say this was everything that I’d hoped Vaughn’s book would be, but it was a disappointment more than anything. I genuinely enjoyed the first two books in the All Saints High series, despite not really being into romances set in high school anymore, but I put my trust in LJ Shen knowing she could deliver fantastic writing, characters, angst, and steam. While PR and BK had all of that, Angry God in comparison fell flat. I’d been so hyped from the Vaughn/Lenny scenes we got in BK – their chemistry in that book was on fire! Their banter was so much fun! But sadly, I didn’t feel the romance, didn’t BELIEVE in their romance. It was just a fucked-up sociopath on a warpath for revenge, and he didn’t care who he had to hurt or use in order to do it.

At the end of BK, we knew Lenny and Vaughn had gone to England for an art program. Going into AG, I was expecting it to start off around that time. Instead, we get a good third of the book set during their final year of high school… and it felt like nothing was happening. The story moved so slowly I felt bored along with frustrated. Vaughn would be unbelievably cruel to Lenny (and his classmates) but also follow her around like a lost puppy, Lenny would try to act cool and collected but still get bullied by Vaughn and the mean girls. Rinse and repeat all this drama, until they finally left for England. I actually did like whenever Lenny stood up for herself – I NEED these NA heroines in bully romances to stand up to their bullies if I’m going to enjoy the story. But then any time Vaughn doled out scraps of his affection and attention, Lenny would soak it up like she’d been living in a desert, despite how horribly he treated her the other 90% of the time.

Vaughn’s quest for revenge is a mystery to everyone, but it’s fairly predictable to the reader. Something awful happened to him as a young boy, which is why he’s the sociopath that he is. While I sympathized with his tragic past, I never really grew to care for Vaughn… like, at all. He had SO MUCH POTENTIAL, but it all got squandered away by his endless BJs and melodramatic thoughts. I didn’t hate him, I didn’t like him either. LJ Shen has written some fabulous alpha-holes in the past, but sadly Vaughn is on the lower end of the spectrum. All I could think about was that he really needed to see a therapist.

The parts I did enjoy? The scenes with Vaughn’s parents. I can’t say that I loved Vicious in his own book, but anytime he shows up in any of the author’s other books, he shines. I loved seeing him as a husband and father. I loved his love for his wife and son. It’s hard not to compare father and son but Vaughn didn’t make an impression on me as much as Vicious did. Also, Vicious gave some GOOD grovel, whereas Vaughn did not.

I’ll be honest, I’m a little wary of anything else LJ Shen has in store for us now. I gave her latest two book 2 stars, which is so disappointing when I used to give her 4’s and 5’s. I’m not giving up on her just yet, but I’m reaaally hoping we get back that spark that made me love her books.

I also gotta give a trigger warning despite it being slightly spoilery, or at least it makes it easier to connect the dots: child rape/abuse


lacey

Reading Order: All Saints High series

#1 ~ Pretty Reckless: Ebook • PaperbackAudible • Goodreads
#2 ~ Broken Knight: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#3 ~ Angry God: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads


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Early Review: Chasing Cassandra by Lisa Kleypas

Chasing Cassandra by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Ravenels #6 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: February 18th 2020
Links: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

​Everything has a price . . .

Railway magnate Tom Severin is wealthy and powerful enough to satisfy any desire as soon as it arises. Anything—or anyone—is his for the asking. It should be simple to find the perfect wife—and from his first glimpse of Lady Cassandra Ravenel, he’s determined to have her. But the beautiful and quick-witted Cassandra is equally determined to marry for love—the one thing he can’t give.

Everything except her . . .

Severin is the most compelling and attractive man Cassandra has ever met, even if his heart is frozen. But she has no interest in living in the fast-paced world of a ruthless man who always plays to win.

When a newfound enemy nearly destroys Cassandra’s reputation, Severin seizes the opportunity he’s been waiting for. As always, he gets what he wants—or does he? There’s one lesson Tom Severin has yet to learn from his new bride:

Never underestimate a Ravenel.

The chase for Cassandra’s hand may be over. But the chase for her heart has only just begun . . .

I’ve been on such a Lisa Kleypas roll lately. First, I read Again the Magic and it blew my mind. Then, of course, after I read that I HAD to read Marcus’ book, It Happened One Autumn. Next I ended up rereading Devil in Winter and then finally read the final Wallflowers book for the first time. I made it halfway through before the ARC of Chasing Cassandra landed on my kindle and I had to drop everything to start it.

I absolutely adore the Ravenels series – not quite as much as the Hathaways when it comes to family sagas from LK, but I love it nonetheless. With Chasing Cassandra we get the last and final Ravenel family member getting her HEA with a man who will do anything to have her. Tom Severin has been mentioned in a few previous books as the friend of West and Winterborne. He’s made a fortune for himself as a railroad mogul – in this case, he reminded me so much of Winterborne with his rags to riches story, and also Harry Rutledge from Tempt Me At Twilight. Both Tom and Harry are obsessed with their heroines right from the get-go, worshipping them and willing to do anything to have them. Tom also does not believe in love, thinking that he’s incapable of feeling it or of receiving it. But meeting Cassandra changes everything for him. Not only does he desperately want her for his wife, he’s feeling new emotions like *gasp* love for the very first time.

“Perfection is impossible. Most mathematical truths can’t be proved. The vast majority of mathematical relations can’t be known. But you… standing here in your bare feet in that dress… you’re perfect.””

I LOVED getting to know Tom and Cassandra. Tom first comes across as very robotic – logical, cold, ruthless, and unemotional. But with each tender interaction he has with Cassandra, we see him opening his heart to not just her but the whole Ravenel family, which made MY heart so incredibly happy. I loved seeing his character develop in such a lovely way. Cassandra is the Ravenel that we honestly saw the least of. I didn’t know much about her other than the fact that she was Pandora’s twin. But the more I read of her, the more I loved her character too. She’s such a sweet and headstrong young woman. All she wants is to find love and have a family of her own, basically the complete opposite of her sister, but that’s okay too. She knows she’s found a once-in-a-lifetime with Tom and she’s not willing to accept anything but his whole heart.

“Nothing has been exciting or satisfying for years. With you, though, everything is new. All I want is to be with you.”

The blurb hints that this is a marriage of convenience, and while there is one, the story doesn’t really revolve around that and it doesn’t happen until much later in the book. Mostly, it’s Tom being ridiculously loving and tender to Cassandra without him even realizing it. I was SWOONING over all the heart-stopping things he says. Their chemistry is fantastic. I just loved their developing relationship so, so much!

When I finished this book, I honestly didn’t even realize it was the final book until I started writing this review. Now I’m feeling bittersweet. While I would’ve loved an epilogue to wrap up the Ravenel family, I still was happy with how CC ended. It’s an emotional, heartwarming book that you don’t want to miss if you love Lisa Kleypas. All I can say now is PLEASE give us a new family series to obsess over (like the Marsden children)!


Reading Order: Ravenel series


#1 ~ Cold-Hearted Rake: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#2 ~ Marrying Winterborne: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#3 ~ Devil in Spring: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#4 ~ Hello Stranger: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#5 ~ Devil’s Daughter: My ReviewEbook • PaperbackAudible • Goodreads
#6 ~ Chasing Cassandra: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads (Feb. 18, 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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