First Position by Melissa Brayden

So you go about your days reading books, thinking oh yes this one is good, that one over there is so good, and then a Melissa Brayden comes along making everything else seem. . . well just less than. Dancing is an art form, one I was not blessed with. Don’t you snicker now, I have moves, as a matter a fact I can do the can do the Shopping Cart and the Lawnmower like a badass, but that isn’t going to land me on the big stage, there is always hope for America’s Funniest Videos though.  Dancing, real dancing, like in First Position is heart stopping beautiful, a vivacious combination of living breathing art and absolute athleticism. Now throw in a heart stopping, angsty, sexy romance with some pirouettes. What do you get, well I’ll tell you, in my opinion you have Melissa Brayden’s best one yet! Bold statement right?

Anastasia “Ana” Mikhelson is all business, all the time. Ballet, ballet and more ballet, there is nothing else in her life literally. She is the product of two famous Russian ballet superstars, her father arguably being the most famous danseur in the world. For Ana life is about living up to her father’s fame, finding his acceptance through her hard work and flawless technical ability. What she lacks and what is holding her from being the best, passion. Ana for the life of her cannot figure out how to capture that fire that she has been told that she is missing. This all changes when a cocky rival, Natalie Frederico shows up to dance with Ana’s company, the New York City Ballet.

Natalie Frederico was a ballet child prodigy. Out of nowhere she was accepted into one of the world’s most prestigious schools. The thing was ballet was too rigid for this free spirit, so she left and headed out to LA to find her own expression of her art. Barely making it, a chance opportunity arrives year’s later for her to dance as a soloist in a new production for the New York City Ballet. While her fire is there and passion exudes from her very pores as she dances, she needs help refining her technique. Who can she turn to for help? You guessed it, the Ice Queen Ana Mikhelson. Watch out for the sparks!

These two have banter, they are competitive as hell with each other, and the whole time you have that great push-pull that really holds your attention and grabs at those little heartstrings. So many times you just catch yourself smiling through the book, almost wanting to lose your page and start from the beginning all over again. It’s sexy, it’s hot, it’s funny, it’s witty, it’s angsty. . .it’s just damn good reading (I have more adjectives, but I stopped myself). This is arguably Melissa Brayden’s best work. Bold statement yes, but I’m sticking by it. Easily one of the top five books I have read this year, easily.

Eleventy billion stars out of 5

I was given this book by Bold Strokes Books in return for an honest review.

First Position
by Melissa Brayden
Link: https://amzn.com/1626396027

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The Color of Love by Radclyffe

This is by far one of Radclyffe’s best works. The Color of Love is an absolute delight. I literally could not put it down. I’m talking reading into the wee hours into night. Guess what, it was totally worth the exhaustion of the next morning. The characters are delightful, their backgrounds are interesting and the conversations between each other delectable. Radclyffe was firing on all cylinders with this one!

Emily May is a literary agent at one of the big publishing houses in New York owned by the Winfield family. Emily is used to being alone, hard work and a positive attitude have helped her reach success and therefore achieving financial security. While having money is always important in some regards, for Emily it is dire. She needs to be able to pay for her invalid sister’s constant care. For Emily her life changed drastically as a teen. Losing both parents in a plane crash and her sister forever changed has given her a unique outlook on life. Even as her immigrant residency status, Emily is positive, polite and caring. This woman is epitome of class and grace with a killer wit.

Derian Winfield is a rich and powerful playgirl. Derian has spent all of her adult life chasing fast cars and even faster woman. Deep down inside where no one can see Derian is so lonely and sad she pushes the limit on her body and her lifestyle to keep from feeling this despair. The only one in her family that gives her unconditional love and support is her aunt Henrietta, (also Emily’s boss). When Henrietta suffers a sudden heart attack, Derian rushes back to New York to be by her side. This is where she will meet Emily, the woman that changes everything for her.

This book reminded me a lot of Faded Love. No so much in the plot but in how the characters were taken with each other and had chemistry that just sizzled right off the page. The dialogue between Derian and Emily was fantastic. You really felt the power of their connection. These two are opposites in many aspects, but both appreciate each other for who they are. You will love way Radclyffe crafts these characters. You’re sure to fall in love with them while they fall in love with each other.

5 out of 5 stars

I was given this book by Bold Strokes Book in exchange for an honest review.

The Color of Love
by Radclyffe
Link: https://amzn.com/1626397163

A Reluctant Enterprise by Gun Brooke

Aeron DeForest had a childhood void of love. Her mother a rich Manhattan heiress Maeve DeForest spent more time partying and chasing men, than she ever spent with her daughter. Aeron was sent off to boarding school and was basically raised by her mother’s housekeeper and then the school administrator. Now as an adult Aeron has become a reclusive but successful horror novelist. One phone call uproots her comfortable life that she has spent years protecting. Her mother is dead, and her will must be tended to.

Sylvie Thorn is a Swedish business mogul that resides in in New York. Her childhood was equally as horrible. Her father’s commands must be followed at all times. Her dyslexia has always made him think less of her and she has been subjected to years of ridicule at her father’s hand. Sylvie escaped to the States to be out from under his constant control. By doing so she became Maeve DeForest’s business partner, starting up a chain of high-end boutique spas. Sylvie had come to respect Maeve, and for all her faults as a mother she was a great friend to Sylvie. Now her company is in the hands of Sylvie’s only child Aeron. These two must find a way to work together.

While both Sylvie and Aeron grew up with the proverbial silver spoon in their mouths, they both endured harshness by parents who lacked the emotional capacity to give unconditional love. Their childhoods would be a feast for a team of psychologists. In terms of the book, this angst took up the most of story. While interesting, it left very little in the way of romance. These ladies gravitate towards each other with the understanding of the how badly the past has hurt them, and that becomes the foundation of their relationship. I had trouble with grasping the love story. It just didn’t come off that natural to me. At one point these two have a breakup and quite honestly one of the characters was so harsh I am surprised the other even gave her the time of day after that. So all in all the book is good, it’s just too angst filled in the non-romance kind of way.

3 out of 5 stars

ARC provided by Netgalley & Bold Strokes books in return for an honest review

A Reluctant Enterprise
by Gun Brooke
Link: https://amzn.com/B01FTGM8KO

 

 

 

Personal Foul by Lucy J. Madison

I tend to be a sucker for romance novels that have a sports influence. While I love to run, I really don’t watch much in the way in sports. I definitely do not watch basketball, but I love athletics and the inner drive for success. So when I came across Personal Foul by Lucy J. Madison I was intrigued.

Kat Schaefer is a WNBA referee. This former college basketball player has spent her whole life dedicated to the game. It was literally her refuge from a terrible childhood. While basketball gave her a future and an escape from her small Midwest hometown it has also caused her personal struggles. Her girlfriend has just left her. The reason she left Kat for another woman, Kat spends too much time on the road for her job and she just can’t stand to be alone anymore.

Enter our other leading lady WNBA rookie Julie Stevens. Julie is hot right now, her shots are on fire and she is playing like the absolute superstar she was destined to be. The only problem she has is that she is terribly attracted to a ref. Yep, Kat Schaefer.

So, the book has a great premise. You definitely have the set up for a push- pull angsty relationship. I mean it’s never a good idea for a player to date a referee right. This has to be a big no-no. The only problem is while Kat’s personal strife is set-up. You never really feel a strong connection between the two leads. There is attraction, sex, conflict and then resolution. You never feel the love you just hover around.  In Personal Foul there is way too much telling, not enough showing and not nearly enough dialogue between Kat and Julie.

2 out of 5 stars

I was given a copy of this book by Netgalley in return for an honest review.

  • Publisher: Sapphire Books Publishing
  • www.sapphirebooks.com

Personal Foul
by Lucy J. Madison
Link: http://amzn.com/1943353255

Flight SQA016 by A.E. Radley

Flight SQA016 by A.E. Radley is a curious story of two women who meet on a transatlantic flight. These two women couldn’t be more different, I am talking polar opposites. Opposites attract in a big way!

Emily White is living the American dream. Just kidding this young mother is in debt up to her eyeballs. Her credit card’s credit card is maxed out. Every penny is accounted for and there are just not enough of them to live on. So, Emily starts working for Crown Airlines as a flight attendant in first class. Her weekly schedule is packed full of flights from London to New York. Her grueling schedule will hopefully generate enough income to start to put a dent in the debt she has accumulated. She has no other choice, her five year old son has a heart condition, and she has to do what she has to do to get him the help he needs.

Olivia Lewis is the other main character in this tale. She is very different from most characters you have read before. She is abrupt, she has no filter, and she has zero concept of how to be subtle. With that being said she has an enormous heart and exudes kindness if you can get past her sometimes daunting behavior. Olivia is the owner of a major corporate finance company. She has more funds in her bank account than some small countries. Every week she takes two transatlantic flights. Her home is New York but her company is in London. This is how Olivia and Emily become acquainted.

I vacillated back on forth on what impression this book left me with. First let me say the concept of the book is interesting and I loved that it was an original plot for this genre. Even more than that, is the fact that the writing is outstanding. The story flows perfectly and the transitions are smooth and seamless. I loved the main characters! I thought their interactions were stimulating and I was awestruck by their unlikely friendship. Even the secondary characters have a noticeable voice in the story and bring dimension to Olivia and Emily and their relationship.

So, for 90-plus percent of the book I love it, and then I realized wait there is only a handful of pages left. Perplexing! This is where I find myself frustrated and uncertain of my feelings. Upon finishing, Flight SQA016 leaves you with a giant cliffhanger. That’s it see you in a couple months kind of cliffhanger, season finale TV kind of ending.  My guess is the book was a rather large one and they decided to cut it into two parts. I have to say I am not a huge fan of this concept. The book and the reader deserved to finish the story. I must say I think it would have been an awesome one. The last chapter made no sense. The characters and their reactions to one another completely deviated off course. I had a little bit of whiplash, where is my neck brace?

Overall, this book is great. I will undeniably read the sequel, Grounded. I am perturbed that I have to though. So read this book, it will hands down be worth it, you just need to gear yourself up for the conclusion and then the wait. Patience is a virtue!

4 out of 5 stars

Flight SQA016 (The Flight Series)
by A.E. Radley
Link: http://amzn.com/B01D0AEM8M

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Dian’s Ghost by Justine Saracen

Dian’s Ghost is a captivating tale that takes place in the heart of the Virunga Mountains in Rwanda. Everything about this book is unique. I must say I have never read anything quite like it. This book is very well done, and amazingly well written. It will make you ask yourself the question would you kill a human to save an animal?
This book is centered around the story of Dian Fossey and her efforts of gorilla conservation. Personally, until reading this book I only knew bits and pieces of Fossey’s story, and mostly it came from snippets of the Sigourney Weaver movie adaptation. Dian’s Ghost will weave you into Fossey’s legacy while introducing you to fictional characters, Dana Norland and Dr. Kristen Wolfe.

We first meet Dana as she has just murdered two men in a basement in New York City. Whoa nelly! She has her reasons, I assure you, but you have to read it to find out why. Dana on the lamb from NYPD runs into Dr. Wolfe giving a presentation at Columbia University. Kristen is trying to get students to volunteer/work for the Karisoke Institute. What better place to escape the police than Africa?

While this book is a romance, it is so much more than than just a love story of two women. This book beautifully describes the harshness of Rwanda, and the struggles the people as well as the gorillas endured. Dian’s Ghost is set in the early 1990s and Rwanda is on the precipice of a civil war and in turn a mass human genocide. The lives of of so many were lost during that time, and you will be thrown right into the center of chaos.

This book is devastatingly wonderful. It’s tragic but it is hopeful, and it has characters that are strong, intelligent and so kind. It makes us ponder hard questions, and see that there is a grey area in terms of moral rights and wrongs. So, don’t judge this book by it’s cover. The pages between it are so, so good.

4.5  out of 5 stars

Fortunate Sum by M. Ullrich

M. Ullrich has written one book. That one book is the Fortunate Sum. For this to be Ullrich’s first book, well that is just stunning. Stunning in the fact that this book is so very good, it was a fantastic read. My proverbial hat is off to you M. Ullrich (I would take a real hat off but I don’t wear them).

Catherine Carter is the epitome of all work and very little play. She has climbed the corporate ladder and her success has paid off career wise. She the youngest member and first female to make it to the top of her company, Maracati & Stevens. Dedication and drive fuel Catherine. Her life is her work. One the flip side she has very little personal life to speak of. She has goals mind you, to be married by 30, just a few months away, and to raise a family, but there are no prospects on the horizon. This all changes one evening when attending her best friend’s birthday party she is approached by a beautiful young woman and a psychic.

Imogene Harris is quirky, fun and successful in her own right. She has also suffered great losses in her life. The book begins as Imogene has just lost her grandfather, and guiding force in her life. Her grandfather mentored her, and took over the role of her father, after her dad was killed in the collapse of Tower Two on 9/11. Imogene relies heavily on her best friend, psychic, Sophia. Sophia comforts Imogene in her time of need, and talks her into going to a friend’s house for the upcoming party. This is where her life suddenly collides with Catherine Carter.

Both characters are chock-full of personality. They are relatable, interesting and have chemistry. Hallelujah! What makes it even better is these characters have flaws, perfect in many ways but deeply flawed in others, Catherine especially. I liked Catherine and Imogene tremendously, I liked them so much that when Catherine makes an epic mistake, total bonehead jackass move, I felt anger and disappointment in her. What’s great about that is that Ullrich made me feel an emotion towards this character, I was invested enough to actually care. That’s great writing y’all! My only point of contention with this book was I felt it needed another chapter or two finish it out. Overall fantastic read by an author that is very talented.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Fortunate Sum

Across the Pond by Cheri Crystal

Across the Pond by Cheri Crystal has a great premise, and front cover. Unfortunately this is where the greatness ends. Don’t get me wrong this book isn’t terrible, its just lacking that spark that really makes makes me want to invest in the characters and their story.

The book begins introducing Janalyn Jacobs as she prepares a romantic dinner for her partner Faith on their 13th anniversary. Janalyn is head over heals for her workaholic, always away on business partner, Faith. Janalyn goes on and on about how Faith turns her into mush with her sexiness, how they have great sex . . . you get my drift. A few chapters later, it’s all gone to hell in a hand basket. Breakup, and cue the heartbreak.

The problem with the story is the over abundance of details that have no pertinence to the story. One case in particular is our main goes on a tirade on empty calorie foods while eating at TGI Fridays. Do health nuts really eat at TGI Fridays? Janalyn is bothered by the size of her salad and we literally have paragraphs about this issue, and it’s societal effects of obesity in America. I felt as if the author was speaking her mind through her character, it just wasn’t necessary. Also, the constant need to tell the reader that Janalyn was going to the gym with her coworker Deb. Why is this here, stop distracting me. Janalyn is basically that friend on Facebook that updates her status each time she goes for a run, followed by a selfie in neon spanex. Ugh!

While there were glimmers of hope throughout the book that would pull me back in, I would find myself right back to driving the struggle bus. By the time the across the pond love interest, Robin showed up I was fading fast. I was quite surprised the two almost the hookup with in an hour of meeting each other. Whiplash much. The romance was too little too late, and the sexy talk wasn’t sexy at all. Fire up the Uhaul and story’s over.

Too much telling, not enough showing. The main character left me cold and uninterested in her overall outcome. This book could have been so much more, if it would have had better pacing and less unnecessary details.

2 out of 5 stars

Across the Pond
by Cheri Crystal
Link: http://amzn.com/B0195HQTOY

The Bureau of Holiday Affairs by Andi Marquette

Turkey day has come and gone. We trotted, we over indulged, the Cowboys lost again, we are all in need of stretchy pants and someone to come an untangle last year’s Christmas lights. Why are they always so tangled? Well forget the lights, and the shopping, you need to read this book. Andi Marquette’s, The Bureau of Holiday Affairs is the perfect way to get into the Christmas spirit.

Robin Preston is a first rate ass, and this is putting it nicely. She a a clog in the corporate machine, where the bottom line is the most important thing. She gives no thoughts to others needs or feelings. She will do whatever it takes to rise in the ranks of Frost Enterprises. That is until she runs into the crew of the Bureau of Holiday Affairs.

This book a lose adaptation of the Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Robin is by all accounts a female version of Ebenezer Scrooge. Yes, she is visited by three spirits that show her the errors of her wicked ways and how she needs to right her ship to live a fruitful and fulfilling life.

This book is heartwarming, and Robin Preston is a great character who evolves over the course of the book from a total dick to a lovable, honest woman. The secondary characters, including Jill Chen are great as well. Andi Marquette is a fantastic writer, who always gives you a first rate book. This is no exception. Even though you know the story, this book will not let you down.

4 out of 5 stars

The Bureau of Holiday Affairs (Twice Told Tales. Lesbian Retellings Book 3)
by Andi Marquette
Link: http://amzn.com/B0181FV6BM

Ready or Not by Melissa Brayden

POW! BOOM! SMASH! Melissa Brayden strikes again. The women is a superhero with a pen. She literally can write dialogue like no one else. “Ready or Not” was unbelievable. The final book in the Soho Series may actually be its best, and that says a lot.

Mallory Spencer, I could not be more excited to see her journey. In the past two novels she was a character that I always thought was fascinating. All business, high society and a heart of gold. Mallory puts the needs of her friends and the needs of Savvy above everything. She is very much the backbone of her the company.

Hope Sanders is the Hot Bartender. We were briefly introduced to her in “Just Three Words”, sending free cocktails Mallory’s way. Hope is the proprietor of Showplace, the Savvy ladies go to after hours bar. She has not had anything handed to her, and has to work her tail off for every one of her successes in life. Hope is nothing like Mallory, but everything she needs.

The chemistry is off the charts. The swoon factor is high. I promise you this book will make you smile. I had such high hopes for this book, and Melissa Brayden leapt right over them.

5 out of 5 stars

Ready or Not (Soho Loft Romances)
by Melissa Brayden
Link: http://amzn.com/B01784KM08