Our Stop – my first 1-Star rating of the year

Arc provided by Publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Buy it on: AMAZON

☆ ONE STAR

Unfortunately, this book wasn’t for me. I really, really wanted to like this book. I mean, look at the cover art! It’s bright, gorgeous and paired with the premise seems like the perfect rom-com in a book. Sadly, there were just one too many things in this book that didn’t quite gel for me. I’ve read some reviews that are a complete 180 to mine though, so perhaps it was just me who didn’t get the FEELS with this book.

This story follows always-unorganised Nadia and completely organised Daniel in an opposites-attract romance. When Daniel decides that his unrequited love for Nadia, the breathtakingly beautiful woman on the train, has gone on long enough he posts an ad in the local newspaper’s Missed Connections. To his surprise, Nadia replies! What ensues is a slow-burn (emphasis on sloooooow) romance about two people who connect through Missed Connection posts and a sequence of convenient near-misses, before they finally meet.

So what prompted me to give this seemingly delightful rom-com my first 1-Star rating of the year? It was boringly slow and a bit vulgar. While I adore the idea of writing messages and falling in love without meeting (see my reviews of The Flat Share and Top Secret), this story just didn’t do it for me. The messages seemed a bit contrite and the chemistry just wasn’t there.

Daniel always seemed to be more involved in the relationship (or… their Missed Connection) while Nadia never seemed to make up her mind. Quite frankly, almost nothing had happened at the half-way point in the book and I was sooo close to a DNF. If this wasn’t an ARC read I would have quit. As it was an ARC, I felt obliged to finish but certainly didn’t warm up to the book.

While I didn’t feel the chemistry between Nadia and Daniel, I’ve still enjoyed books in the past that had this problem. I’ll admit, I generally  prefer character-driven stories. Usually an action-driven plot can still make up for this but unfortunately this book was just so slow and hardly got anywhere. Plus, the humour was quite offensive to me and vulgar. I just couldn’t relate and this is what stopped me from rating this book 2-Stars.

“The most memorable bloke was Period Pete, a friend of a friend, who liked performing oral sex on menstruating women, and who the three (of us) collectively decided must have an undiagnosed iron deficiency.” 

CHARACTERS:

Nadia – A perpetually late, unorganised and intelligent woman. This intelligence is surmised from the fact that she worked in a robotics lab. Her emotional intelligence however was a bit stunted. She got petty and jealous over the smallest things and pined for her ex when she still apparently didn’t care for him. She was still a kind, considerate person though.

Daniel – He was a shy, romantic guy that had a secret level of confidence that was quite contradictory to his shy nature. His initial thought to message in the Missed Connections was sweet and that’s probably the adjective that best describes him: sweet.

I have to admit, I feel absolutely awful about writing this review and have been putting it off for a while. I’ve genuinely tried to find something to say about what I enjoyed in this book. Lorenzo was the only character that I actually enjoyed reading about. He was straight-forward, snarky and a total junkie. His advice and comments were actually funny and I enjoyed the chapters that involved him.

 While there were issues with pacing and character development during this book, it was still well-written in the sense that the sentences flowed easily. I would consider reading another book by this author in future, as it could have just been these particular characters that I didn’t enjoy and an odd bout of weird humour.

// have you read this book? what causes you to rate a book 1-Star? //

Jen

The Bride Test – a quirky, sweet and only slightly insane romance.

Buy it here on: AMAZON

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ FIVE STARS

If my squeals of delight and joy while reading this book were any indication, then it’s safe to say I loved it! The Bride Test was a refreshingly honest and quirky read – quite a feat to manage in a genre that’s not always known for unique characters and story lines.

While some aspects of this book are well-known tropes – arranged marriage as well as the haters to lover’s trope – this story featured unconventional, diverse characters with an unusual dynamic between them. I definitely enjoyed getting to know Khai and Esme. As fans of The Kiss Quotient would know, Khai’s autism made dating difficult as the potential for misunderstandings was high. Hoang’s authentic, yet respectful, approach to writing about Khai’s autism and the cultural difficulties associated with immigration gained my approval.

What I really loved about this book was the way Esme and Khai gradually learned to communicate with one another. Khai’s insistence on open lines of communication in concern to his inability to anticipate the emotional needs of others completely won me over. He was such a sweetheart underneath all of his aloofness! He genuinely had a kind heart.

My favourite character in this book though was Esme. Which was surprising as I really, really liked Khai. His straightforward nature, politeness and modesty were adorably charming. It was Esme’s inner strength and perseverance throughout the story that truly won my heart over, though. She had come from a life of almost no material assets and laborious work to America. Having put the future of her family first she embarked on a journey that while unconventional, would have been terrifying. Her aplomb and dedication to understand Khai and the foreign land she was in was endearing and you couldn’t help but hope for the best for her. She deserved a happily ever after and some independence for her own dreams!

“How did you change your life when you were trapped like this? Her history didn’t define her. Her origins didn’t define her. At least, they shouldn’t. She could be more, if she had a chance.” 

While this book wasn’t very steamy, there was still a dash of it. The physical connection between Esme and Khai was not an easy venture and I loved that the author had taken the time to express this to the reader. The slow-burn romance made the wait for a physical connection worth- while.

“Warm. Content. Safe in his arms. Him safe in hers. She hugged him tighter. He was bigger and stronger, but she would protect him with everything she had.” 

Overall, this book was very well written, entertaining and highly enjoyable. It surpassed my love for The Kiss Quotient to be my favourite Hoang book as of yet. I’m eagerly awaiting future novels in this series!

// have you read any of Helen Hoang’s books? did you enjoy them? //

Jen

Stealing Her – an achingly honest, emotional and controversial romance.

Arc provided by Publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Release date November 5, 2019. Pre-Order it on Amazon.
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ FOUR STARS

This book had me all over the damn place. From feeling hopeful to uncomfortable to practically swooning with glee, my emotions were put through the wringer in Stealing Her. The reason for this was my simultaneous adoration for the characters as well as slight repulsion at what they were doing. I wanted them to have their happily ever-after and yet I acutely disliked the only means in which they could attain it. Despite the emotional roller-coaster and the fact that I hadn’t read one of her novels in years, Rachel Van Dyken has impressed me again after all of this time.

The story follows Bridge and Julian Tennyson. Twins – brothers -separated by divorce, betrayal and years of anger. When Julian is injured in a car accident and left in a coma, it’s up to Bridge to assume the role as CEO and save the company from the assured stock-market and investor loss that is associated with instability in a multi-billion dollar corporation. What Bridge hadn’t anticipated in his attempt to preserve everything his brother had worked so hard for, was Julian’s fiancé.

Isobel had lost everything she once held dear. Her family, her independence and her love for Julian. As an orphan taken in by the Tennyson’s, Isobel owes her high-fling lifestyle all to their generosity. With the expectation to be the perfect trophy wife, of course. After all, nothing in life comes for free.

Her once soaring love for Julian had long since dwindled and in its place was a woman who hadn’t experienced kindness in a long time. I found myself hoping that she would gain back her youthful confidence that we’d been shown glimpses of at the beginning of the story. While she did, it was done in a co-dependent manner that I wasn’t a complete fan of. She deserved to gain back her career, independence and self-sufficiency. This wasn’t really addressed and it left me feeling disappointed.

When Bridge assumes his façade of being Julian Tennyson, he’s expected to ensure Isobel is kept in the dark. The return of kind, considerate and playful Julian (AKA Bridge) is enough to re-establish Isobel’s feelings however, she’s not aware that they’re for the wrong guy!

What ensued was a daringly honest and controversial story of falling in love with the wrong person. What I adored about this story (and similarly was uncomfortable by) was the way in which the author highlighted the imperfections and flaws in each character. This was not an insta-love. Nor was it a relationship I could wholeheartedly get behind. It was gritty, emotional and a little bit raw. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

Julian’s verbal condescension near the end of his relationship with Isobel had me disliking him at first. However, when his father’s abusive nature and the neglect he suffered was shown in a glimpse of his past, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. In a way, his actions were a result of a severely misguided attempt to gain his father’s approval. While this by no means excuses his actions, it does make him human. His genuine love for Isobel was also shown. Even when they were nearly at breaking point before his accident. He was painted as the bad guy, but he also had a lot of good in him. He was a lost, lonely soul that needed to be shown the error in prioritising his father’s approval over everything else.

My reason for only giving Stealing her four stars was the fact that I couldn’t get over Bridge and Isobel’s actions without yelling CHEATER in my head – even though I wanted them to have a happy ending. I’m also a sucker for being a fan of the underdog. While Julian was the underdog in this case, he was painted a bit too harshly in my opinion. He was condoned for cheating and yet Bridge and Isobel were doing exactly that. They were all cheaters. They were all a result of shitty childhoods and troubled pasts. I felt like Julian should have been given a bit more empathy and slack in his portrayal. I hope the next book follows him and we get to see his story turn in to a happier one!

// have you ever read a book that’s caused you emotional turmoil? do you side with the underdog? //

Jen

Author of September: Madeline Ash

It’s that time again! A new month and a fresh spotlight on an author we are currently gaga over – Madeline Ash.

With the release of Her Cowboy King in July, as well as the up-coming release of His Billionaire Bride, out September 3rd, we couldn’t think of a better author to spotlight than Madeline Ash.

We adore her books and think they deserve more attention! She also just so happens to be a lovely human being that’s been so kind to us during the start of our bookish blogging journey.

Author Spotlight: Madeline Ash

Madeline is a contemporary romance author who has always lived in Melbourne. She is a two-time RITA Award finalist and winner of Australia’s Romantic Book of the Year award (RUBY). She is a proud member of Romance Writers of Australia and meets with her critique group once a month.

Madeline is emotionally allergic to spontaneity, and yet doesn’t mind the weather that drags her into rain when she’s planned for sunshine. She likes to call this her wild side. She’s a Virgo, vegan, and once had a romantic suspense-style dream in which the hero was a shredded lettuce sandwich and the villain was a cherry tomato. The tomato got away. She took the dream as a sign that she’d better stick to writing contemporary romance.

Her stories have strong heroines, compassionate heroes, and as much dialogue as she can cram in. As for why she writes romance, she’s in a long-term relationship with the genre and writing such stories makes it happy.

HER COWBOY KING

THIS BOOK. The Jaroka brothers gave us the FEELS. Honestly, this was such an unexpected read. We ADORED it and read it practically in one sitting. We were so pleasantly surprised. The combination of likeable characters, witty banter and an abundance of tropes that we can’t resist left us with no response other than: YES YES YES.

THE MORGAN SISTERS

The Wedding Obsession – If you’re looking for a book that’s emotional, beautifully written and thought-provoking then this is for you. This made us consider the unexpected emotional impact of organ transplantation and the stigmatism associated with survivor’s guilt. A truly memorable read.

His Billionaire Bride – One of our favourite opposites-attract romances of the year featuring a savvy, independent businesswoman and delightfully charming artist. We couldn’t put this book down and fell completely head-over-heels for the creative Edwin Prince. His hair, his charm, his kindness. His everything. This is a story you don’t want to miss!

Read our Review on His Billionaire Bride

RAGS TO RICHES

The Playboy – A Byron-Bay opposites-attract romance featuring a sexy, playboy surfer and wealthy actress. When Parker and Alexia reconnect the sparks fly in an off-the-charts sweet and steamy novella read. This is the perfect summer beach read that not only showcases believable characters but the quintessential Aussie lifestyle.

The Playboy is currently FREE on a promotional sale on Amazon. If you’ve been unsure about giving Rags to Riches a try, this is the perfect opportunity. You genuinely cannot go wrong with a free read! Especially with this author. Enjoy!

Her Secret Prince – What happens when your long-lost love turns up ten years too late? This charming, delightful read quickly captured our attention and hearts. A royal-romance trope, this novella ticked all of the right boxes and was the perfect blend of loveable characters and royal drama in a second-chance romance.

You For Christmas – A charming Christmastime story about a hardened woman seeking refuge in a town she once turned her back on. Having faced the harsh realities of life and trauma at a young age, Regan finds refuge in Felix, the man who she helped all of those years ago. Opposites attract in this sweet, swoon-worthy novella.

Breaking Good – A sweet second-chance romance about lost love, the battle against mental illness and the painful consequences of lost time. This story melted our hearts and won us over with its honest, imperfect characters. An emotional, truly beautiful story about reconnecting with your past and fighting for a future.

Purchase the Rags to Riches Series on Amazon

CONNECT WITH MADELINE ASH

Amazon

Goodreads

Bookbub

Faceboook

Twitter

Instagram

Newsletter

Tule Publishing

// have you read any books by Madeline Ash? what are your opinions on them? //

Nen and Jen

WWW Wednesday!

Hello lovelies!

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This meme was originally hosted by A Daily Rhythm but was revived by Sam from Taking on a World of Words. It’s a place to talk about the books you’ve been reading, plan to read and have read. Sounds fun, right? This is my first WWW Wednesday and I’m excited to give it a try!

To take part all you have to do is answer the following questions:

What are you currently reading?

What have you recently finished reading?

What are you going to read next?

Currently Reading

I hadn’t realised until I put the book covers together but there’s a lot of yellow! I think I subconsciously go through phases of being attracted to certain cover types and colours. Regardless, these books have all been really interesting so far. Our Stop is an ARC read for the week, Reaper Man is my current book club read and The Sun is also a Star was apart of my library haul for this week. Reviews to come soon!

You can buy Our stop here, Reaper Man here and The Sun is also a Star here.

Recently Finished

This has been a week of really good books. My two ARC reads were The Love Solution (see my review here) and Vengeful Prince (review here). I also managed to read some books from my library haul last week and these were Her Secret Prince, Scythe and The Art of Taxidermy. These were all really enjoyable and will certainly be re-read in the future. Reviews to come soon!

You can buy The Art of Taxidermy here, Vengeful Prince here, The Love Solution here, Her Secret Prince here and lastly Scythe here.

Reading Next

The next reads on my list are a mix of fantasy and romance. My two ARC reads are Wicked Prince (pre-order here) and Stealing Her (pre-order here), so the reviews for these should be up sometime next week. My library book haul reads include Catwoman (buy here), even though I’m not a big DC fan I’m giving it a try because it’s written by Maas, and Strange the Dreamer (buy here) which I never got around to reading but have heard so many good things about. I’m excited to see how these turn out!

// what books are you currently reading? have you read any of the books on my list? do you ever read books for the colour of their cover? //

Jen

The Love Solution – a story of unrequited love and a chemical potion to fix it all.

Arc provided by Publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Buy it here: AMAZON KOBO B&N

☆ ☆ ☆ THREE STARS

The Love Solution is the story of two sisters fighting the memory of unimaginable loss with the present day’s complexities of unrequited love. The first third of this story really captured my attention. It’s not often women in science are primarily featured in a book and I felt a kinship with Molly. Her career in biochemistry and pheromones brought back fond memories of my own time at uni studying biochemistry and neuroscience. The enthusiasm she had for her ‘Love Bug’ science project, the reason for the aptly chosen title, was endearing. I couldn’t help but support her attempts to gain the attention and affection of the man she secretly loved!

Despite my love of Molly, this book was hard for me to rate. There were a lot of things I liked and equally disliked about this that left my overall rating somewhere in the middle. I adored the science representation in the book, as well as the premise of two nerdy characters (Molly and Ewan) slowly falling in love. What brought this book down though, was Molly’s sister Sarah. Her story-line, which was half of the book, was very annoying to read. Her constant indecisiveness became frustrating half-way through the book. If this book had been solely about Molly and Ewan I would have rated it much higher. Regardless of this, it was still a sweet book that I think many readers would enjoy.

CHARACTERS

Molly – Easily my favourite character. She was kind, independent and career-driven. Her unrequited love for Ewan pulled at my heart-strings. While unrequited love is never easy, the constant mixed signals form Ewan really toyed with her emotions. She deserved someone willing to be proud of her on their arm, not neglecting their emotions due to the opinions of others. The unrequited affection in their personal lives played an interesting parallel to the nature of their research in to a chemical compound that would effectively create the illusion of love. The temptation of using it would be hard for some people to ignore, when in a similar predicament. In addition to this, Molly put a lot of effort in to being a good sister and helping Sarah out of her latest dramas. She definitely deserved a good HEA after all of that emotional turmoil.

Ewan – was a character I never fully understood. His actions were so hot and cold toward Molly and were quite confusing throughout the book. That poor woman! She didn’t know which way was up in their relationship (or lack thereof). Despite this, he was a genuinely nice and unexpectedly hilarious guy when he finally started opening up.

Sarah –  The most indecisive woman on earth. Her inability to make any decision for the entire second half of the book really took away my patience. I really felt for her in the beginning. She had been dealt an awful hand in life and had really gone above and beyond to look after her sister. Her compromising nature to put others before herself was moving to read about. I couldn’t help but want her to finally have everything she had missed out on. When presented with these opportunities though… she refused them. And then complained about it. It just… frustrated me. To say the least. In spite of this, I still have respect for all that she sacrificed in her life. Perhaps a life of constantly compromising would lend itself to a future of indecision and guilt at the idea of finally putting herself first.

Liam – The most patient man in the world. He really had to put up with a lot of hot and cold action from Sarah. In spite of Sarah’s hormonal tendencies, he was such a sweetheart. Maybe this was the reason I disliked Sarah so much. She had an absolute gem of a guy waiting around for her and she kept being obsessed with her cheating ex! He really deserved better, in my opinion.

Overall, this book had some highly enjoyable moments mixed in with a few lacklustre ones. The writing was done well and I particularly enjoyed the colloquial English terms used in this. It really painted a vivid image of the characters and their backgrounds. If you’re a reader that is sympathetic for indecisive, introspective characters then I think you’d really enjoy this book.

// what’s a character trait that instantly puts you off despite how good a book is? //

Jen

Evvie Drake Starts Over – an Unpopular Review

Buy it here: AMAZON KOBO B&N

☆ ☆ TWO STARS

I was so excited to read this book. It was being heralded as one of the best romances of the summer and with an adorable cover there was no way I could resist giving it a try. While this book was alright, it sadly missed the mark for me. The premise of the book was so good and it really captured my attention when I first read it. Even though I disliked this book, many others have loved it so perhaps it’s just me.

While this story was well written, it just felt too slow for me. I’m not one to avoid character-driven stories as opposed to action-led (in fact, I generally prefer character-driven) but I found myself disliking Evvie and this was reflected in my lacklustre opinion of the book. What started out as interesting ( I adored the first chapter) soon fell downhill. This was a book with so much potential and I’m disappointed that it just didn’t resonate with me.

CHARACTERS

Evvie – The beginning of the book saw Evvie as a strong-willed woman who was finally making a move to gain back her independence and life after an unhappy marriage. With the shocking and sudden death of her husband, all of her efforts were suddenly made in vain. The shut-down of Evvie’s emotions following this event, in the guise of feigned mourning, was completely expected and I enjoyed reading about her attempts to grapple with the sudden chaos in her life. As the story progressed though, I soon found myself getting frustrated with Evvie and this really brought down my enjoyment of the book.

The independence Evvie had been fighting for was gone. In its place (for majority of the book) was a seamless list of lacklustre events and responses to everything. It was like the life had been sucked out of her personality. Perhaps I’m being too harsh in my assessment as everyone grieves differently and experiences guilt differently but Evvie’s constant efforts to ignore her emotions and push everyone away, while going through the motions in her life, frustrated me. She refused to confide in anyone, even her best friend, or make any changes in her life for majority of the book. It just kept dragging on and I would have loved to see her take charge a bit sooner.

Dean – was a tolerably nice character. I’m a huge fan of sports romances so his baseball career had me really excited for this book. While the budding relationship with Evvie was interesting at first it soon became apparent that the two would never really communicate with one another. Oh, they’d share secrets but it felt like they didn’t really know each other that well. It seemed like they were just strangers confiding in one another. The story felt muted. I didn’t really get a feel for there being much chemistry between the two of them. They just seemed lost in the book and naturally gravitating to each other because there was no one else.

I know that my opinion is an unpopular one, but it’s one I’m entitled to. I think other people may have interpreted this book a different way or related better to Evvie and Dean. Perhaps others saw a chemistry that I missed. Either way, it was a miss for me.

// what book was a miss for you this year that everyone else loved? //

Jen

What if it’s Us – a cute coming-of-age love story with unexpected depth.

Buy it here: AMAZON KOBO B&N

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ FIVE STARS

This story kinda broke me. Without sharing too many spoilers, it’s safe to say that I’m not a resilient reader and the ending of this story completely blindsided me. Maybe in a good way. I haven’t quite come to terms with it yet. Or perhaps I’m just too much of a sap. Either way, this is one story I think I’ll read again. If only to re-write the ending in a way that makes my heart beat a bit better!

As an avid fan of romance and YA novels, this was a must read for me. If anything, it felt like my most anticipated book of the year. With that hype to live up to, it’s surprising that I enjoyed it as much as I did. Usually I tend to be in the 1% of people who don’t get the lovey-dovey feels for a fan-favourite read. What really drew me in with this novel was the contrast between a budding teen romance (with ALL of its awkward quirks and small moments of LIKE-AT-FIRST-SIGHT) and yet a surprisingly deep emotional journey. The disparity between this was startling at first, I hadn’t expected so much from a book aimed to younger readers, and yet I absolutely adored it for this very reason.

“I don’t know if we’re in a love story or a story about love.” 

This quote, in my opinion, completely sums up my thoughts on this book. It was an almost unconventional read in its exploration of love and the meaning behind people coming in to our lives when they do. This book certainly had me thinking about my own experiences in this. Which is a sign of a good book, in my opinion. I love books that subtly attack your mind and make you think. When you sit down expecting a light and fluffy read and instead get a trip down memory lane with a dash of inner turmoil attached.

While this book was deep in some ways, the budding and awkward experience of first love made for a great contrast. Who doesn’t love LOVE? It’s impossible to dislike reading about the slow-burn, cute encounters that slowly sum up to a full-blown teen romance. The build-up was the best part of this book. As the character’s experienced mishaps (which are almost impossible to avoid at that age) it was endearingly sweet how they went on multiple first dates to make up for their blunders. Within the first chapter, and especially after their second first date, this book had completely stolen my heart.

“He laces our fingers and shrugs. And I’m dead. I am actually dead. There’s no other way to explain it. I’m sitting in fucking Herald Square, holding hands with the cutest boy I’ve ever met, and I’m dead.”

Even though the ending of this story was not the cookie-cutter one I was after, I still thoroughly enjoyed this book and am eagerly awaiting future novels by this author duo. At least I can binge-read older novels by this duo to tide me over until the next is out!

// what is your most unexpectedly deep young-adult read? //

Jen

Vengeful Prince: a heart-warming reverse harem paranormal romance.

Arc provided by LibraryThing Early Reviewers in exchange for an honest review. Buy it here on: AMAZON

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ FOUR STARS

I ADORED the slow-burn love that happened in this story. The friendships between the fae, shifter and vampire princes immediately drew me in. Who can resist a bromance of that calibre? Certainly not me. Add in a lively, moral and considerate kick-ass female lead and I was highly enjoying the story from the beginning.

What really separated this book from many others in its genre, of which I would classify as reverse harem romance, was the slow nature of the relationships building between the characters. Especially the romantic relations. In a story that’s openly classified as a harem I was expecting insta-love, alpha males, jealousy and steamy scenes. A lot of steamy scenes. This book did not have that and I was unexpectedly pleased with it. The budding affection that each character had for each other was so sweet. It melted my heart and was the main reason for my rating.

I was conflicted when having to review this book. Partly because when you’re reviewing you have to keep in mind that not everyone loves the same things as you do. So, full disclaimer: this rating is purely concerning my personal enjoyment factor of the book and hasn’t taken in to account some of the issues that the book has, which weren’t too big of a deal for me but can be for others. I couldn’t help but feel the need to justify my rating, as I’m aware that a book that pulls on my sappy heart strings will always be rated higher

Things to note about this book: it’s relatively short, has multiple points of view and the steam level was much lower than expected.

Characters:

Lilya – A lively, kick-ass heroine that displayed a strong moral compass as well as the compassion for those in need. The contradiction between the strong and more vulnerable sides of her personality made her an interesting character to read. At times, her naivete was frustrating but she genuinely meant well which made up for a lot of my frustration at times. Considering her troubled past she was unexpectedly kind to people, yet this did not mean she was unable to stand up for herself. She wasn’t a hardened, cynical character that I had been expecting from the book blurb. Rather, she came across as genuine in her assessment of others and reactions to them.

Alexavier – Prince of the Fae. My second favourite character. Partly because so much about him is still unknown after reading the first book. He’s loyal, responsible, considerate and protective. His quiet support of Lilya and his friends in this story captured my heart. I can’t wait to learn more about him and his culture in the sequel!

Destino – Prince of the Vampires. A laid-back, witty guy Destino was a guy that could charm just about everyone. He was instantly likeable and his consideration of others gained my respect.

Salem – Prince of the Shifters. A contradiction between a strong, experienced warrior and an incredibly protective, shy man desperately in love. He was by far my favourite character. I can’t wait to see where the next story takes him!

On another note:

There were quite a few aspects of this book that would have decreased my rating considerably if I hadn’t caught all the FEELS for their slow-burn romance. These included the lack of action or events. This story was mainly character driven and slow. There was not a lot of action or plot to keep readers on the edge of their seats. If you’re more of an emotional reader though (like me) then this probably won’t bother you much. Also, there was not a lot of world-building despite the unique potential the author had in this book. There was a lot of potential there for this to be a focal point of the book. With the exception of stating the hatred between the races, there was no explanation of how this came to be or much interaction with each race.

Additionally, the reason this story wasn’t five stars is that I was expecting a misunderstanding (I’m trying to avoid spoilers as much as possible) between Prince Salem of the shifters and Lilya to be addressed before the ending. I kept getting closer to the end and was waiting and waiting for a scene between them. When none came I was disappointed. I’m sure it will be covered in the sequel but I would have liked it to be addressed even remotely in the ending of Vengeful Prince.

// which do you prefer: character-driven or action-filled reads? //

Jen

Against the Rules: A story of taking a chance at love and rolling the dice to risk it all.

Arc provided by Kensington Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

As one of the people who fell in love with board games when I was young, I expected to have all sorts of sentimental feels with this book. Against the Rules certainly met my high challenge. Holly’s enthusiasm for games and the unbridled excitement when you play for the first time pulled on my heart strings. It reminded me of when I was younger and the most exciting part of my week would be playing board games with friends. Yes, I was one of those kids. You know the type – the ones who barely ever leave the house.  I related with Holly a lot and found myself unexpectedly absorbed in this story.

CHARACTERS

HOLLY – As I’ve mentioned, Holly was my favourite character in this story. She displayed a goodness and youthful enthusiasm that was contagious. I found myself contacting my friends in the hope of forming a game club (no luck! It seems that my excitement for starting a weekly game night wasn’t for everyone). What also made Holly endearing to me was her crush on Nathan – the ruggedly handsome older gamer in her club. Oh, and also her best friends dad. Awkward. I love a good dose of conflict and awkwardness in a story. Plus, I’m a sucker for the age difference trope. Love is love and age shouldn’t matter in my opinion, so to see this explored in this story was a definite point in the pro column for me!

NATHAN – I loved Nathan. He was charming, considerate and strong-willed. As a father and hardcore gamer, he had nailed down the responsibility aspect of his life while still being hopeful for finding love. How can you resist a man willing to risk it all for true love? I’m a sap, so Nathan’s strength in standing up to his disapproving daughter gained my affection and respect. He stood up for his feelings for Holly and this was a refreshing surprise. In many novels (even though I still love them) the relationship crumbles under familial disapproval so I adored the fact that he was willing to risk it all. I couldn’t help but find myself supportive of the way they fought for love.

THE GAMERS – Laura Heffernan has done something that all authors hope to do. She’s created a story that has not only coveted my attention but has also invested my interest in the supporting characters. I can’t wait to read more about them and see what direction the series takes. While I found myself often annoyed by Glen, I became intrigued in the prospect of a relationship between Shannon and Tyler. I loved the unrequited attraction trope that was budding between those two. I’m eager to see where their story takes them in the third instalment Make Your Move. Hopefully I love it as much as I adored this one!

Book Blurb:

RISK EVERYTHING . . . Holly has taken herself out of the dating game since breaking up with her cheating, thieving ex. She barely notices Marc, who comes into the game store every week, hoping to get her attention. Her friends insist it’s time to take on a new role, to leave Quiet Holly behind and embrace her inner flirt. And on paper, Marc’s great: cute, funny, and a hardcore gamer just like Holly is. Then there’s Nathan. He’s everything twenty-eight-year-old Holly wants…except he’s also her friend’s father. Absolutely off-limits. But as she and Nathan play-test a new legacy game together, they’re growing closer. The game is complex and intriguing, and there’s no way to know how choices will pan out. What seems like a good idea could lead to disaster…or sweet victory. But in gaming, as in love, sometimes you have to roll the dice and take your chance . . .

This book had the perfect amount of conflict and steamy romance. The prospect of dating your friend’s Dad could be seen as too taboo for some readers, but this author managed to write a heartfelt story of two people separated by time but no less in love for it. It was respectful to the nature of this relationship and shared character perspective that showcased the internal conflict of love and guilt that is often associated with these relationships. I loved it and cannot wait for more!

// have you read any romance books with a big age difference? which are your favourite? //

Jen