Review: Love Hard by Nalini Singh

Format: ebook
Publisher: Self published via TKA Distribution
Pub Date: March 9, 2020
Length: 320 pages
FTC: Purchased myself
CW: death of a partner (backstory), some violence

I'm not really impartial when it comes to Nalini Singh's writing. I'm predisposed to love it. That being said, this series is a bit different from her paranormal ones. Set in New Zealand and featuring lots of rugby.

Despite the grim backstory of this book, it's relatively low angst, which was just what I needed. I'm not normally a fan of children in romances, either, since 99% of the time they're either cardboard cutouts or way too old for their supposed ages. I think Nalini gets it right and limits the amount of page time Jacob's daughter gets. And what's there doesn't seem weird.

The only complaint I had was that callbacks to other books in this series sometimes took over the story. There's so many secondary characters who make an appearance from the other books that it feels crowded. And I think it makes this book a little less satisfying for people who haven't read the others in the series.

My Grade: B+

The Blurb:

Jacob Esera, star rugby player and young single father, has worked hard to create a joyous life for his six-year-old daughter. After the death of his childhood sweetheart soon after their daughter’s birth, all Jake wants is safety and stability. No risks. No wild chances. And especially no Juliet Nelisi, former classmate, scandal magnet, and a woman who is a thorn in his side.

As a lonely teenager, Juliet embraced her bad-girl reputation as a shield against loneliness and rejection. Years later, having kicked a cheating sports-star ex to the curb, she has a prestigious job and loyal friends—and wants nothing to do with sportsmen. The last thing she expects is the fire that ignites between her and the stuffed-shirt golden boy who once loved her best friend.

Straitlaced Jacob Esera versus wild-at-heart Juliet Nelisi? Place your bets.


Review: Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow

Format: ebook
Pub Date: October 2019
Publisher: Hachette
Length: 464 pages
POV: Mostly first person past, some 3rd person
FTC: borrowed from the library
Content Warning: this book details patterns of abuse, rape, sexual assault and harassment including a few graphic descriptions. 

While the blog was on "hiatus" due to my broken laptop, I decided I needed to try reading more nonfiction and other genres besides romance. Because I was in a rut. Most of the books everyone was squeeing about were written in first person present, a tense POV combo I cannot stand, and many of the books being lauded just weren't my cup of tea. So I asked for recommendations and placed several holds through my rural library. It took months, but this one finally became available last week. It feels like forever ago, but Harvey Weinstein was sentenced on March 11. So it's been 12 days. I'm incredibly glad I waited to read this post-conviction, because it reads like a true crime novel with an element of justice now. I'm not sure it would have felt the same without the real life conclusion.


Review: Not the Girl You Marry by Andie J. Christopher

Format: trade paperback
Pub Date; November 12, 2019
Publisher: Berkley
Length: 313 pages
FTC: Review copy courtesy of the publisher
POV: 3rd, past

I read this book way back in April after receiving it at Apollycon. It’s been a long 7 months, because not talking about this book felt like torture. It’s one of my favorite books of the last few years. Fake relationships or secret agendas really aren’t my usual thing since they often involve so much dishonesty, but Christopher’s strong voice just draws you in. The whole book is delightful.

Knowing my well publicized distaste for cartoon covers might make you a little leery, but I assure you: this book is a ROMANCE. It’s not chick lit. It’s not women’s fiction. It’s not mainstream fiction. It’s a romance. I promise.


Review: Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews (Hidden Legacy)

Format: mass market
Pub Date: August 2019
Publisher: Avon
Length: 400 pages
POV: 1st, past
FTC: Review copy courtesy of the publisher

I've been a BIG fan of Ilona Andrews for years. They started solidly in Urban Fantasy, and the Hidden Legacy series is still mostly in that genre, with strong romantic elements.  The original trilogy featuring Nevada Baylor ended with Wildfire, with the novella Diamond Fire acting as a bridge between that trilogy and this book. If you haven't read any of the previous books, I think you could enjoy this one, but there is a distinct chronology, and you'll definitely get more out of it if you've read the other books.

Unlike the previous trilogy, this one is told from Catalina's POV, which is a bit jarring at first if you're used to Nevada. Quite a lot has happened in the three years since Wildfire. Nevada is no longer Head of House Baylor. Catalina has taken over that role, which is a bit of a struggle for her. Rogan's mother has taken her under her wing, and helped train her...which is a good thing for someone whose magic is not combat oriented. She's also primarily responsible for running Baylor Investigations, and it's that role that once again gets her, and her family, into trouble when an old acquaintance asks her for help.


Review: Bark of the Night by David Rosenfelt

Format: Hardcover
Pub Date: July 16, 2019
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Length: 291 pages
POV: First, present
FTC: Review copy courtesy of the publisher

I've read Rosenfelt's Doug Brock series, but hadn't tried his Andy Carpenter series. It is even more sarcastic than the Brock books, which given that the other series is about a police detective seems unlikely, but it's the truth. Apparently, nothing is more sarcastic than an almost retired defense attorney.

The cover, featuring a very cute French Bulldog, might mislead readers into thinking that this book is a cozy mystery: it's not. It's a thriller about organized crime, with a lots of brutal murders.

The dog angle IS delightful, though. Truman, the bulldog in question, is taken to a vet to be put down, but the vet has suspicions. So he scans the dog, finds out that the person who brought the dog in wasn't the owner, and contacts the one person involved in the criminal justice system he knows who also loves dogs: Andy Carpenter. The dog is the key to the entire mystery, and not just a prop.

This is the most sarcastic protagonist I've read in years, and I really enjoyed it despite the present tense. It hits that sweet spot between cozy and hard boiled that so few seem to get right. Recommended.

My Grade: B

The Blurb: 

When defense lawyer Andy Carpenter’s veterinarian asks to speak to him privately at the checkup of his golden retriever, Tara, the last thing Andy expects is Truman. Tiny, healthy, French bulldog Truman was dropped off days ago with instructions to be euthanized by a man everyone thought was his owner. But now the owner is nowhere to be found. 
Andy is furious. Who would want to euthanize a perfectly healthy dog with no explanation? He is willing to whisk Truman away to the Tara Foundation, the dog-rescue organization which is Andy’s true passion. They will find a home for Truman. But that’s not all the vet tells Andy. Thanks to Truman’s chip, it’s discovered that the man wasn’t Truman’s owner at all . . . Truman's real owner has been murdered.
It’s now up to Andy – with help from his loyal sidekick Tara, Truman and the rest of the gang – to solve this case. In the latest in the popular Andy Carpenter mystery series, David Rosenfelt’s charmingly clever wit and love of dogs are back and better than ever.