Poppy War Series by R.F. Kuang : The Poppy War, The Dragon Republic and The Burning God (Books 1-3)

Disclosure: This is a longer post than my usual entries since I want to consolidate my review of the series and will make a lot of sense in the end. I would recommend you to check out Read By Tiffany’s Blog post that will give a good background information and extra commentary from the author and scholars, who found inspiration from Chinese history for the series. Nonetheless, this is an absolute awesome read and I kept reverting to this blog as I read through all three books.

Illumicrate special edition spine and book cover

There are many fan art with this series – beautifully done and created but the best ones I’ve seen that will decorate your computer and mobile phone are these amazing works by Midnight Designs for all the three book. Check out her blog for Poppy War and Burning God for her awesome outlook and creations!

The Poppy War

Published on: 01 May 2018
Published by: Harper Voyager
Type: series, trilogy
Genre: Historical Fiction, Asian Fiction, Action and Adventure
Author: R. F. Kuang
Print length ‏ : ‎ 545 pages
Read: 18 September 2021
Shelved: 07 October 2021
Rating: 5 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Synopsis

When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .

Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.


Review

**Before reading the Poppy Wars, I would suggest you check out ReadByTiffany’s entry on a short history of the author’s inspiration for the book and its relation to Chinese history and politics, especially for those who are not familiar to Asian history. It is a very extensive entry and one that I really appreciate her putting it out here for everyone.


It is impossible NOT to think about this correlation with Chinese history and politics of the past and controversies between a few Asian nations taken inspiration for the story as discussed at ReadByTiffany’s blog entry.

There are many characters in this book series – each one has its purpose in shaping a unique warrior and her quest to save her country. 

Photo credits: (L-R, top-bottom): Art by Carina, Art by Scamaine , Art by Parchment Magic, Cike District – Rin, Altan, Chaghan, Qara // Art by Jhoca

The Poppy War is about Fang Runin “Rin,” a fellow peasant orphan who finds a way to pass a nationwide entrance exam that will enable her to attend an infamous military school outside her village to escape being married off. The story has a few parts:

  • Preparation and lead-up to the grueling military exam,
  • Getting and surviving military school, and
  • The outbreak of the war.

Runin learns to find her success, survival, and later civic duty through determination, hard work, and perseverance. She discovers something in her that is valuable in helping her country and its people. 

Midway to school, a war from outside foreigners happened and how they came into Nikan is the even bigger surprise in the end. Believe in “back-door dealings” and the unexpected because I can say that this is only the surface of how complex the saga goes.

PROs:

  • Out-of-the-box thoughts and concepts
  • Raw and poignant perspective about war, spirituality, and humanity
  • Great world-building writing through colorful imagery and humanizing the violence of war
  • Exhilarating fight scenes that will verge towards gruesome and brutal -> the Art of War at its finest!
  • Patriotism as Asians instills in its citizens. Without a country, you lose your identity.

CONs:

  • Sad realities of war depicted:- the good, the bad, and the hideous – no winners, just survivors. Gruesome but true. It got a bit overwhelming, but the ending rounded everything perfectly.

I can relate to the history since it brought back to being a student in a traditional Catholic school learning everything and anything China and Taiwan. Representation in anything is important, and to see such a book recognized and accepted in the world literary stage is epic.

I cannot but feel so awesome the people who make my heritage to higher levels.

Who would have thought that Rin’s journey from an ordinary girl wanting to get out of her village to having her be part of a unique group of warriors defending the country when war struck Nikan. Similarly, this group operates directly from the Empress of Nikan, yet classified, unsanctioned, and is part of an “outliers” group of militia called the Thirteenth Division

In summary, The Poppy War is amazingly addicting! It is a real page-turner, world-building piece of literature that is poignant and eye-opening.

Readers need to approach the series with an open mind and heart to appreciate the many “out-there” concepts Rin will learn in her journey in military school and “enlightenment.” If readers expect a HEA, you can say that, but Runin and the Cike gang have a considerable trade-off and more impossible “missions” ahead.

The ending was a heavy one, and I didn’t expect it any better. There were many new revelations, not sure if it’s strategic motivations and back-door dealings that will make you cringe and make readers push on to Book 2. There are more things at stake, and revenge is upon a few people in the ranks.


The Dragon Republic

Published on: 06 August 2019
Published by: Harper Voyager
Type:
series, trilogy
Genre:
Historical Fiction, Asian Fiction, Action and Adventure
Author:
R. F. Kuang
Print length ‏ : ‎ 675 pages
Read: 07 October 2021
Shelved: 11 October 2021
Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2

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Synopsis

Rin’s story continues in this acclaimed sequel to The Poppy War—an epic fantasy combining the history of twentieth-century China with a gripping world of gods and monsters.

The war is over.

The war has just begun.

Three times throughout its history, Nikan has fought for its survival in the bloody Poppy Wars. Though the third battle has just ended, shaman and warrior Rin cannot forget the atrocity she committed to save her people. Now she is on the run from her guilt, the opium addiction that holds her like a vice, and the murderous commands of the fiery Phoenix—the vengeful god who has blessed Rin with her fearsome power.

Though she does not want to live, she refuses to die until she avenges the traitorous Empress who betrayed Rin’s homeland to its enemies. Her only hope is to join forces with the powerful Dragon Warlord, who plots to conquer Nikan, unseat the Empress, and create a new republic.

But neither the Empress nor the Dragon Warlord are what they seem. The more Rin witnesses, the more she fears her love for Nikan will force her to use the Phoenix’s deadly power once more.

Because there is nothing Rin won’t sacrifice to save her country . . . and exact her vengeance


Review

Photo credits: (L-R, top-bottom): Nezha by David Ardinaryas Lojaya and Daji by Angelika, Kirin – stock photo, Art by HobbyHorse7, Nezha, Venka, Kitay // Art by Jhoca

**Note: there will be spoilers starting now since it is a continuation of Book 1’s saga. The story continues in Rin’s POV (third-person limited) as she discovers more of the Phoenix’s powers, its limitations, and what happens when it falls into the wrong hands. After a foreign invasion that resulted in a massacre of epic proportions, a civil war raged within Nikan with unlikely allies and unexpected visitors that would shock anyone. The story will also extend to show Book 1’s characters, plus new friends and enemies trying to take advantage of the country’s raw instability. 

The Dragon Republic brought about hopelessness in me. It was only through three-fourths of the book that things do change. Why is this? The heroes in Book 1 became useless (quoting the characters in the book). Yes, after all that power shown at the end of Book 1, The Dragon Republic shows readers the most vulnerable and stripped version of Rin when she could not access the Phoenix and is rot with trauma, PTSD, addiction, and despair. This book showcased the darker side of how far a mind can take you – to the brink of suicide. But even after this, I do love Rin’s fighting spirit. She may have given up on getting back her supernatural powers, but she still had a way of pushing herself to fight. She would instead run her physical self to exhaustion and die on the battlefield, then die from it than taking her own life like slashing her throat. I also love how she got used to being shunned, embarrassed, and shamed so severely that nothing seems to deter her from her goal of seeking revenge.

The Dragon Republic left me reeling. For what? I don’t know, but after much character self-deprecation, loss, and angst – it all made me feel shattered. I had to finish the book to feel better or get some resolution, which led to more questions and frustrations on Rin’s complicated predicament.

PROS:

  • More characters join in, and some characters who did not have much “page time” are explored, mentioned, and takes center stage. A few will surprises readers. 
  • Rin shows readers how much broken she is further than expected but comes out and overcomes her guilt, grief, internal and external psychological abuse, and a “righting” a past that kept her from her full potential. 
  • Ending that will surprise and end readers in disbelief.

CONs:

  • Sad story about war and its effects run deeper: civil war coming out with friends/classmates fighting each other.
  • More lives lost – excellent allies of Rin
  • Mad at the ending but don’t know who to blame this anger on Rin, Nezha, Vaisra, Kitay…???
  • Leave readers puzzled – semi-cliffhanger since Rin will be in a precarious position.

The Burning God

Published on: 17 November 2020
Published by: Harper Voyager
Type:
series, trilogy
Genre:
Historical Fiction, Asian Fiction, Action and Adventure
Author:
R. F. Kuang
Published by: Harper Voyager
Type: series
Genre: Historical Fiction, Asian Fiction
Author: Rebecca F. Kuang

Read: 12 October 2021
Shelved: 14 October 2021
Rating: 5 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Synopsis

The exciting end to The Poppy War trilogy, R. F. Kuang’s acclaimed, award-winning epic fantasy that combines the history of twentieth-century China with a gripping world of gods and monsters, to devastating, enthralling effect.

After saving her nation of Nikan from foreign invaders and battling the evil Empress Su Daji in a brutal civil war, Fang Runin was betrayed by allies and left for dead. 

Despite her losses, Rin hasn’t given up on those for whom she has sacrificed so much—the people of the southern provinces and especially Tikany, the village that is her home. Returning to her roots, Rin meets difficult challenges—and unexpected opportunities. While her new allies in the Southern Coalition leadership are sly and untrustworthy, Rin quickly realizes that the real power in Nikan lies with the millions of common people who thirst for vengeance and revere her as a goddess of salvation. 

Backed by the masses and her Southern Army, Rin will use every weapon to defeat the Dragon Republic, the colonizing Hesperians, and all who threaten the shamanic arts and their practitioners. As her power and influence grows, though, will she be strong enough to resist the Phoenix’s intoxicating voice urging her to burn the world and everything in it? 


Review

Photo credits: (L-R, top-bottom): Illumicrate dust jacket art Art by Jhoca, Art of War by Sun Tzu by Tutti books, Trifecta Art by federicocesaris, Phoenix – stock photo

I am mad and fed up with how many people in The Burning God have double, triple, and quadruple crossed Rin. Plus, the worst part is that they are all men! I understand Rin’s options are next to none, but she has been through so darn much, and each time the end happens, she loses something critical. I realized that she’s a massive liability to anyone who harbors or allies with her. I wish the author has given Rin a few more options by Book 3 after going through so much! Rin has been enticed/prepositioned too many times then later taken advantage of by her naivety. It is frustrating and crazy at the same time.

I appreciate the parallels of the Trifecta (Daji, Raga, and Jiang) and the relationship between Rin, Nezha, and Kitay. Readers can see the humor of having “history repeats itself” through these main characters. The author kept drawing the past similarities to forewarn the present Rin of the hard decisions faced by the Trifecta.

PROs:

  • Tides are turning favorably” into Rin’s favor by the middle of the book. We know that this is the final installment to the trilogy, so the ending was wrapped well.
  • Random pieces of advice, sayings/proverbs, and life philosophies from Chinese beliefs and traditions remind me of past Chinese school teachings – all true and prolific to a point.
  • Poetic justice on how Rin took care of the scientist. No, Rin DID NOT kill her, but Rin did a lot better to avenge what this scientist did to her and Nezha.
  • Enlightening comparison of the past and present via Trifecta and the complex friendship/relationship of Rin, Kitay, and Nezha. The ending drives this point further.

CONS:

  • Really sad to see this series end, but the ride with Rin and her group was a rollercoaster of emotions that depicts war and survival at its finest.

Overall review of the series is spectacular!!! All the books in the series are written from a third-person POV, omniscient, but the majority is from Rin’s side. Although this technique enables readers to be distant from the characters, it is impossible not to empathize with them. Everything was felt from the dire situation, hopelessness of war, and the suffering of each character. 

Some thoughts about the series are:

1) Each one surpasses the previous book and rounds out the whole series well. I love the build-up and the growing pains all the characters had to learn at critical moments in the story.

2) There was non-stop action, drama, and surprises. I remember trying my best to keep my eyes open to finish one chapter after another since the suspense and mystery of what will happen lies just on the next page/chapter, etc. It was exhilarating to have a book grab me.

3) All the savior characters – all deemed gifted and with the best intentions of patriotism are still flawed and human. Yet, the path they decide can change so fast, or maybe because I was blind-sighted that I felt utterly disappointed and mad. Rin had to realize how much more she could do versus following others. It did not dawn on her until Book 3.

4) I hate to say this but patriotism is so overrated after reading this book. Many “unfortunate events” that Rin had to go through worked me up to frustration. There was no real break until the very end. She kept getting into one dire situation after another. Her determination to save her people from oppressors is admirable BUT is also a huge flaw that seems to haunt and hinder her from realizing how naïve she could sometimes be. I am glad when she does get the “right people” to help her in the end.

5.) Lastly, as a fair warning:- this book series took me longer to finish because of other pressing books in between but more important to note that the topics are heavy and a lot mimics the impact of war on the people left behind. There is talk of drugs, PTSD, and other types of trauma that survivors go through. The effects of war are long, lamentous, and lingering, even when ashes return to the earth. 


About the Author

R. F. Kuang (also known as “Rebecca F. Kuang) is a Marshall Scholar, Chinese-English translator, and the Astounding Award-winning and the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Award nominated author of the Poppy War trilogy and the forthcoming Babel. Her work has won the Crawford Award and the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel. She has an MPhil in Chinese Studies from Cambridge and an MSc in Contemporary Chinese Studies from Oxford; she is now pursuing a PhD in East Asian Languages and Literatures at Yale.

Connect with Rebecca
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The Boss (Men of Hidden Justice Book 1) by Melanie Moreland

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion. A positive review is not required.

Published on: 14 October 2021
Published by: Moreland Books Inc
Type: series, standalone, interconnected series, no cliffhanger
Genre: Vigilante Justice, Canadian Literature, Romantic Action & Adventure
Author: Melanie Moreland
Read: 04 October 2021
Shelved: 05 October 2021
Rating: 4 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Buy Now!

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Available on Kindle Unlimited beginning October 21

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Synopsis

Terrified and on the run, I was lost. He found me.

I witnessed his crime and he gave me a choice.
Marriage or death.
I never expected to love him.
But the choices were never really mine.
Could this avenging angel of death ever love me back?
His touch consumed me.
Did my heart stand a chance?

Previously published on Book+Main and in Take Me To Bed Collection. New added content for a complete romantic suspense experience.

Start the rest of the series here.


Review

Note from the author: This story was originally published as a short serial at Verve Romance (Book+Main) in November 2019. The Boss found a new home for 2020 in the Take Me To Bed collection with additional words. But readers asked for more of Matteo and Evie’s story. Here we are – with over double the original word count and now two more Men of Hidden Justice with their own stories to tell.
The author suggests readers start with The Boss (this book) to get the best out of the series.

Evelyn “Evie” Harper was in a sticky predicament. She is running away from someone who turned out to be the opposite of whom she thought initially. With no money and on the run, Evie stumbles into a building. She saw some horrible things that would lead her to meet The Boss and get sucked into his dark world.  
Matteo Campari is no saint. He is the “judge, jury, and executioner” – wielding justice as part of a secret group. He follows a specific code but has much leeway in getting the job done.
Meeting Evie was unexpected, and although he believes that he could trust her, as proven by what she did when they first met, something different with her takes over him. 


I like the “force proximity” concept, which made Evie’s growth more evident in the story. There wouldn’t be the tension or attraction to develop if Matteo chose instead to ship Evie off to “disappear” or “taken her out” to keep her silence. Evie’s confidence and bravery started seeping out as soon as she felt safe with Matteo and, amazingly enough, after such traumatic events. Evie’s innocence still shines through even after being tainted so much.

Although The Boss is from Evie and Matteo’s POVs, the story kept most of Matteo’s angst, and internal conflicts behind closed doors, even away from Evie. The book implies these tormented moments through Matteo’s appearance evident when Evie does see him the following day or two. It might have been fascinating to peek into Matteo’s headspace during those times – but readers will get a censored one when Matteo tells Evie all about his issues.

The suspense and urgency of the story engaged me from start to finish, with complex events happening nonstop. Granted that I guessed a few of how the villain turned out, the rest of the story went beyond me as the twists and turns made my jaw drop at the end!

The justice served by Matteo and his group is a dangerous yet honorable one. I was amazed by the sheer determination of everyone to help “the innocent” to the point of risking their lives. It is an even bigger operation at work with many moving parts to make it work. It will show readers how far things to help “right the wrongs” of society from finding the bad guys to helping the victims in the story. 


Overall, The Boss is an excellent start to the series, where it will surely get suspense right at the starting chapter. I love the character development of Evie and Matteo in the book. The ending and epilogue were heartfelt ones that it was amazing to see how the rest of the characters did end up where they are in the end. 

PROs:

  • jam-packed with heart-stopping action, suspense, and drama
  • well-developed characters and plot exploration
  • angst level and internal conflicts were tackled
  • some expected scenes, but also many unexpected surprised at the end
  • a great form of justice portrayed in the storyline
  • an epilogue that will make you gush

CONs:

  • would have appreciated more if readers went into Matteo’s head more, especially during “troubled scenes,” but understood the reasons to add suspense and uncertainty 
  • whether the story is believable is beside the point for me. It was an escapism piece and had an excellent storyline.

Tropes: Forced Proximity, Protector, Tragic Past, Heroine in Danger, Escaping a Killer, On-the-Run, Revenge, Mafia


About the Author

New York Times/USA Today bestselling author Melanie Moreland, lives a happy and content life in a quiet area of Ontario with her beloved husband of twenty-seven-plus years and their rescue cat, Amber. Nothing means more to her than her friends and family, and she cherishes every moment spent with them.
While seriously addicted to coffee, and highly challenged with all things computer-related and technical, she relishes baking, cooking, and trying new recipes for people to sample. She loves to throw dinner parties, and also enjoys traveling, here and abroad, but finds coming home is always the best part of any trip.

Melanie loves stories, especially paired with a good wine, and enjoys skydiving (free falling over a fleck of dust) extreme snowboarding (falling down stairs) and piloting her own helicopter (tripping over her own feet.) She’s learned happily ever afters, even bumpy ones, are all in how you tell the story.

Connect with Melanie
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The Certainty of Chance by Jacquelyn Middleton

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion. All views expressed are only my honest opinion. A positive review is not required.

Published: 14 October 2021
Published by: Kirkwall Books
Type: standalone, HEA
Genre: Contemporary Romance Tropes: Forced Proximity, Opposites Attract, Vacation, Hero With an Accent, Workplace Romance, Slow Burn, Holiday, Older Heroine, Road Trip
Author: Jacquelyn Middleton
Print Pages: 381 pages
Read: 29 September 2021
Shelved: 02 October 2021
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Get it here: Amazon US | UK | CA | AU | FR | ES | IT | DE
Other retailers: Apple Books | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Indigo CA | Bookbub
Add it to your Goodreads TBR list.

Synopsis

THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT DECEMBER…

Madeleine Joy is feeling more meh than merry. When an Icelandic volcano erupts six days before Christmas, hazardous ash congests European airspace, canceling flights indefinitely—including the thirty-something’s connection to Paris. Stranded alone in London, separated from her sister, and with the devastating one-year anniversary of her best friend’s tragic death just days away, Madeleine has never felt less festive. And as if things couldn’t get worse, the cute guy driving the cab to her hotel won’t shut up about carolers and tinsel… 

Julian Halliwell is one of life’s sunny optimists. A former music journalist, he’s embraced his love for London by starting his own black cab business, enthusiastically ferrying passengers from one historic landmark to another. But life hasn’t always been easy for Julian. Having navigated several life-changing setbacks including a cruel betrayal by his former fiancée, Julian remains hopeful that he’ll meet somebody kind, who shares his love of music, a corgi dog named Winnie – and, of course, the magic of Christmas time in London. 

Despite being an unlikely match, fate seems determined to throw them together. But can the grieving American find joy again in a world where the lights have all but dimmed?    

From Jacquelyn Middleton, the award-winning author of UNTIL THE LAST STAR FADES, comes a heartwarming Christmas story of love, loss, serendipity, and the belief that what’s meant for you won’t pass you by.

Content/trigger warnings: coarse language, closed-door sex scenes, disenfranchised grief, unexpected death of a loved one (backstory), cheating partner (backstory), therapy, loved up mentions of Love Actually and The Holiday, zero mentions of any pandemics.


Review

Note: trigger warnings indicated by the author are:- “coarse language, closed-door sex scenes, disenfranchised grief, unexpected death of a loved one (backstory), cheating partner (backstory), therapy, loved up mentions of Love Actually, and The Holiday, zero mentions of any pandemics.”

Madeleine “Maddie” Joy is supposed to be spending the holidays with her sister, Shantelle. Unfortunately, a volcano’s volcanic activity thwarts their plans by not allowing any flights to enter to or fro London until further notice.

On the other hand, Julian “Jules” Halliwell is a taxi driver that picked up Madeleine when she arrived in London. His former job is in the music industry, and coincidentally, Maddie’s idol! 

From the very start, Maddie’s and Jules’s attraction between each other is palpable. The connection between them that follows through serendipitous events is magnetic. What happens next is a whirlwind of taxi rides, fascinating and unique tourist spots, and an undeniable bond between rider and passenger at Christmas in London!


The Certainty of Chance is a wonderful read! Told from both Madeleine and Julian’s POVs, both characters are rich in personality, personal baggage, varying outlooks, and experiences.

From the very beginning, readers will know this is a heavy book. Told from both Maddie and Jules’ POV, the story hints/mentions/states heavy topics: loss, angst, depression, infidelity, healing, redemption, etc. Initially, I was worried about the story’s direction because it is tricky and possibly overwhelming, but my concern was unfounded. The author expertly built up the story with a wanderlust escapism approach and brave characters who were kind and understanding enough to create safe spaces for each other and the readers. I love how the main characters approached each other’s issues with respect and kindness. They understood each other in their way but still acknowledged the difference in their stance. A lot happens in the book, but I expect everything from this author based on her past books – exploring locations, people, and culture. I love how the author creates beautiful characters that make readers want to invest time and emotions against the backdrop of London and during the Christmas season.

I love both characters. Maddie and Jules were the perfect fit for each other. They may not be for their previous partners, but they are each other’s healing and redemption. They are both caring, emphatic, and charismatic. Their connection is infectious that it will be impossible not to be swept by their charm and hilarious banter. I appreciate the “quiet, reflective” moments between both main characters, and their feelings grew organically, even in a short time.

In the true style of the author, the supporting casts were terrific. I love how family and friends were integral in pushing Maddie and Jules to realize how their serendipitous encounter is MEANT-TO-BE and that they needed each other to be “whole.” I also enjoyed seeing past characters mentioned in the author’s previous books who lend a hand or two to the story.


Overall, The Certainty of Chance BLEW ME AWAY! 

For the usual readers of my blog, this statement is HUGE. I do not state this often, most especially because I recently read many excellent books. This book has imprinted itself on my subconsciousness. 

My reaction was very unexpected because initially, my reaction to the summary was only lukewarm, but upon finishing the book’s first chapter, there was no turning back. I felt the pull of the storyline, the escapism, and the characters made the book a real page-turner. This book TOPS the author’s previous book by a considerable margin!!! Floored by the addicting nature that sprang out from me because of this book, I savored each page and made sure I took my time instead of speeding it through. It is an all-encompassing book that dove into the facets of humanity – physically, mentally, and emotionally stimulating! 

PROS: 

  • Great world-building through Madeleine’s and Julian’s eyes: an expert and novice of the area
  • Many excellent musical references from various era
  • Wanderlust effect from exploring London’s tourist spots and a few hidden gems
  • Christmas movies, British eats, and slang galore 
  •  Sensitive and poignant discussion on mental health and grief handling
  • Cute Winnie, the corgi!!! *enough said*

CONS:

  • Absolutely nothing! The book is perfect as it is – an outstanding balance of sweet and sultry scenes.

Tropes: second-chances, soul-mates, friends-to-lovers, tragic past/trauma, Christmas / holiday romance, shared pasts


Meet Jacquelyn

Jacquelyn Middleton is a multi-award-winning author of love stories for hopeful romantics—‘hopeful’ because her novels are always optimistic and she believes ‘happily ever afters’ are more important now than ever before. But life is messy, relationships are messy, and her books aren’t afraid to go there, too. If you enjoy character and relationship-driven stories about people dealing with the triumphs and disasters we all face, Jacquelyn’s books are for you.

In 2019, she was named BEST CANADIAN AUTHOR at the RWA’s Toronto Romance Writers ‘Northern Hearts’ Awards for UNTIL THE LAST STAR FADES. She is also the author of LONDON BELONGS TO ME, LONDON, CAN YOU WAIT? and SAY HELLO, KISS GOODBYE, all published by Kirkwall Books.

An own voices author, Jacquelyn has dealt with anxiety, panic attacks, and depression all her life, and is dedicated to depicting mental health challenges realistically and empathetically in her novels.

Jacquelyn’s books have been featured by The Hollywood Reporter, NBC News, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Daily News, USA Today, Cosmo, Redbook, and the Huffington Post. 

A life-long Maple Leafs fan and Anglophile, Jacquelyn previously worked in television broadcasting and as an award-winning freelance writer. She loves comic cons, London, and theatre, and lives in Toronto with her British husband and her Japanese Spitz.

Connect with Jacquelyn
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Book Tour: The Holiday Switch by Tif Marcelo

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion. A positive review is not required.

Published on: 05 October 2021
Published by: Underlined Paperbacks
Type: standalone, HEA
Genre: Young Adult Holiday Romance
Author: Tif Marcelo
Read: 26 September 2021
Shelved: 28 September 2021
Rating: 4 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Other retailers: Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Google Play

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Synopsis

A paperback original romance about a bookish Filipino-American girl who crosses paths with the innkeeper’s aggravating nephew–but when they accidentally switch phones, their newly discovered secrets draw them together.

Lila Castro is ready to take on her last winter break of high school. The snow is plentiful, the mood is full of holiday cheer, and she’s earning extra cash working at the cozy local inn. But her perfect holiday plans crash to a halt when her boss’s frustratingly cute nephew, Teddy Veracruz, becomes her coworker. When they accidentally switch phones one afternoon, they both realize they’ve been hiding things from each other. Will their secrets–and a dash of holiday spirit–bring them closer to love?

Underlined is a line of totally addictive romance, thriller, and horror paperback original titles coming to you fast and furious each month. Enjoy everything you want to read the way you want to read it.


Review

Lila works as an employee at the Bookwork Inn’s gift shop. Her focus is earning enough money to prepare for college next year but with so many part-time employees vying for extra work hours during the holidays, plus a new employee coming, Lila has limited options.
In comes Teddy, the nephew of Bookwork Inn’s owner, Lou Velasco. Lila was curious about her boss’ nephew, and it would have been awesome to have a new friend to work with, right? When Teddy and Lila meet for the first time, their first impressions of each other are not good. Lila would have wanted to limit her contact with Teddy. But when Lila is tasked to train Teddy at the gift shop, Lila’s nerves and patience are tested further as they clash in so many ways. From how to organize the souvenir display to rearranging Lila’s prize location – the Free Library, Lila’s Type A personality clashes with Teddy’s “out-of-the-box” ideas/suggestions. The result is a boatload of frustrations, misunderstanding, extra banter, and much later completing the list of Mission: Holly*.
*You have to read the book to know what’s it is all about!

Top 5 Reasons to Read The Holiday Switch

1.) Filipino cultures represented!

Filipino culture, respect, family, and love are peppered throughout this small-town story, which echos the spread and importance Filipinos place these elements on their daily lives. The type of business and occupation is honest to Filipino migrants, like the health care, customer service, and hospitality industries. Filipino communities are formed and grow to connect with other Filipinos in the area and take them further on as “family” – blood-related or otherwise. By instilling many familial bonding moments in the book, the author makes readers appreciate the sense of belonging that is impossible to miss in Filipinos. There were many, but some examples are: Christmas decors come out at the start of the “ber” months (i.e., September, October, November), titles to elders or older people (related or unrelated) for respect, parental summons are taken “drop-everything-and-come-home), the food preparation for “Noche Buena,” etc.

2.) Women empowerment exemplified.

Women empowerment, especially Lila’s boss, Ms. Velasco, a Filipino-American, turned small businesses into success stories. 

Where do readers get woman inspired replies like “Do you mind doing the honors of opening, and I’ll woman the registers?” and

I love how the author portrayed the Filipino women in the book in a positive and empowering light. Some of them become the family’s breadwinner on certain occasions, like Lila’s mom – a nightshift nurse. These are also the “new heroes” (“mga Bagong Bayani“) of the new generation – in the Filipino culture.

3.) Simple yet complicated characters slowly leaving their “safe space” to grow.

I love how the author created characters that make us want to know and understand where each is coming from. Lila and Teddy act like how traditional and conservative teens would act – they are caring, respectful and knows a lot of karaoke songs. The growth is slow and starts as an enemies-to-friends approach with forced proximity but later becomes more like opposites helping each other with attraction flourishing. All this was cohesively well since both Lila and Teddy understood their families and cultures. 

Lila’s secret is more conflicted between being true to herself and wanting to please her parents. In Filipino culture, elders are treated with the utmost respect and their rules and taken as “law.” Anything condoned or forewarned by parents are to be taken like the commandments. I relate to Lila’s dilemma of wanting to be independent in preparation for college and balancing to be a good daughter and role model for her family. Most Filipino parents highly regard a professional career as the pinnacle achievement for guiding their children. Lila thought that her path was clear – towards a professional career, without realizing that maybe things have/had change. Lila’s angst and internal struggles are front-and-center. As the story progresses, more “signs” start showing her an unexpected alternative career path. 

Teddy’s secret is another story. He makes it seem so much complicated than if he was truthful from Lila’s eyes. Lila (and the readers) does not see the messy things behind why Teddy’s reaction to coming to help his aunt’s Christmas shop was not as joyous as the season. At first, when I found out Teddy’s secret, I was okay with it. BUT what happened was the more he spilled his SECRETS (yes, there is more than one or two!), a snowball of many things that heightened my anxiety because some are pretty dangerous and a massive deception! I was so confused about how to feel about Teddy’s secrets – I stand more that he should be true to himself and face the truth early on before digging him in a big hole in the end. These secrets implode at the end, but it would have been nice, maybe a quick POV switch on what happens to Teddy’s side after everything like a bonus epilogue – even if it’s to wrap things up, but the author did not dive into any discussion.  

4.) The chemistry between Lila and Teddy grew true and organically.

Note: Filipinos are very conservative. How they handle relationships and attraction verge to the traditional side, wherein parental approval and permission is need before technically any courtship (wooing) can happen. Some readers outside the culture will find this very archaic and foreign. Thus, when everyone discovered Lila and Teddy’s relationship, things got a bit hairy from the elders’ POV.  

Also, the relationship’s pace is a slow build, given the initial impression and reaction. The characters are given more time and ample space to grow and learn about each other deeper. I have to keep remembering that this book is a YA book, written from a Filipino culture’s perspective, so a more conservative and respectful approach.

5.) Supporting characters are all loveable, genuine, and very supportive! 

From the family to friends, they all help Lila realize that maybe her talent and passion is something entirely different from what she first thought of or what she thinks others want for her.

Lila’s sister, Irene, is the typical annoying younger sister but she balances being the snooping sister – spilling Lila’s secrets to their parents but also the enabler in the end. Irene provides entertainment and comic relief while keeping Lila on her toes with her many antics. 

Lila’s friend, Carm, is the “best friend” who pushes Lila out of her comfort zone. She also started Mission: Holly, an incredible adventure to strengthened their friendship before heading out to college – kind of a “last Christmas to remember” before “growing up.”

Before I wrap things up (get it? holiday gift wrapping), Catherine “Cath,” Lila’s mom, is the best! Although she and Lila have their miscommunication/ misunderstandings, Tita Cath had an open mind and heart to listen to her daughter(s) to see how best she could help. She sealed the deal for me in turning the story around, and with Tita Cath, Lila’s dad was “on board” with their new strategy.

“I don’t want you to live in fear, or in doubt. We want for you to have the life you want, to study the things you love, and to be the person who you need to be. And…we don’t want you to think it’s your job alone to get you where you want to go.”

– The Holiday Switch, Tif Marcelo

Final Word

Overall, I highly recommend The Holiday Switch as an early holiday read for YA enemies-to-lovers, forced proximity, coming of age, accidental switches, and second chances tropes. 

Although this book is from Lila’s POV, the story worked very well! I like the book’s pacing – giving enough time for character introductions/background, world-building, and personality development.  

I connect to many of the elements in this book, especially the dilemma of adhering to family beliefs while still being true to one’s ambitions and passion. The Christmas festivities mirror how my family celebrates the holidays, which made me smile so many times. It will let other readers better understand Filipino culture and tradition. 

Shoutout to Filipino writers! I always look forward to books that bring out representation. I don’t always get books that represent my complex background, but I would always jump at the chance when it does. Everything in this book genuinely represents the Philippines and makes me giddy to read it. I cannot wait to see more works from the author!

Question Time: How would you have handled your secret in the end if you were Lila or Teddy? Write it in the comments if you can, and let me know. 


** GIVEAWAY ALERT **

In celebration of the release of The Holiday Switch, a giveaway is being run!
Up for grabs is a copy of The Holiday Switch!
This giveaway is open US residents only. The giveaway starts on October 4th and ends on October 11th.

Join now ➟➟➟ Head-on to Rafflecopter here.

Good luck!


Book Tour

Please see below for the book tour schedule and participants!
For more details on the Instagram tour, click here.

October 4th
Jen Jen Reviews – Review
Books and Ladders – Review
Books Are Magic Too – Review

October 5th
SubtleBookish – Interview
Nine Bookish Lives – Promo Post

October 6th
Wandering Through Lit – Top 5 Reasons to Read The Holiday Switch
Sometimes Leelynn Reads – Book Tag
Read with Serena – Review

October 7th
Kait Plus Books – Interview & Journal spread
Stuck in Fiction – Promo Post
Currant7 Recommends – Review & Top 5 Reasons to Read The Holiday Switch

October 8th
Kerch Books – Review& Playlist
Bookish Soul Chronicles – Top 5 Reasons to Read The Holiday Switch
popthebutterfly reads – Review

October 9th
Melancholic Blithe – Interview
The Caffeinated Raredee – Review & Favorite Quotes

October 10th
The Book Dutchesses – Promo Post
Yna the Mood Reader – Top 5 Reasons to Read The Holiday Switch
Book Lover’s Book Reviews – Review


About the Author

Tif Marcelo is a veteran US Army nurse and holds a BS in Nursing and a Master’s in public administration. She believes and writes about the strength of families, the endurance of friendship, heartfelt romances, and is inspired daily by her own military hero husband and four children. She hosts The Stories to Love Podcast, and is the USA Today bestselling author of In a Book Club Far AwayOnce Upon a SunsetThe Key to Happily Ever After, and the Journey to the Heart series.

Connect with Tif:- Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub


This tour is hosted by TBR and Beyond Tours.

Cover Reveal: And Hell Followed by Beckett Riley

Today we have the gorgeous cover reveal for Beckett Riley’s And Hell Followed!
Check it out and be sure to pre-order your copy today!

Title: And Hell Followed
Author: Beckett Riley
Genre: Dark Western Romance
Release Date: October 26th

Synopsis:

We all have our demons

My parents thought emigrating from Germany to the American frontier was going to be a good thing for everyone. But it seems that a darkness is doomed to follow us wherever we go.

Life can be harsh and unforgiving in this world, especially for a woman. Luckily, I have my brother, Thomas, to watch out for me and protect me. He can only do so much, though, and after that vile attack, I find myself in need of protection more than ever. It was then I realized that festering darkness came from within.

Although society won’t take kindly to it, we have forsaken God and embarked on an unholy life, but just as things finally began to calm down, the past reared its ugly head and came back to tear us apart and destroy and everything we’ve built. 

But as Thomas once told me, I would ride my steed through the fires of hell to salvage the only thing worth living for, and if the devil himself gets in my way, he will beg to God for mercy. 

We will be free.

Pre-Order Your Copy Today!

Exclusive Excerpt:

Thomas released her face and stood up, ordering Ma to go down to the root cellar and get the gunny sack. He watched her descend the ladder, her sniffling turning to quiet sobs when she cradled the direct result of her actions. The leaves crunched under their feet as they made their way through the apple orchard in the dark, with nothing but a lantern to guide the way. She ironically felt safer holding the sack against her chest as she was ahead. They stopped near one of the trees and Thomas broke ground. Ma cradled the sack and stared into the black void enveloping them. An animal must’ve fallen prey to something not far in the distance as it’s desperate wails echoed across the land. The horrible sound made Ma focus on the shovel hitting the earth mixed with Thomas’ heavy breathing and grunts. After what felt like hours, the grave was dug and he looked up at her.

“Give me my child.”

Overcome with the most emotion he had ever witnessed his mother show, she fell to her knees and held the sack against her chest, sobbing. Thomas took the sack and placed it at the bottom of the hole and climbed out, sitting on the ground with Ma next to him, her head buried in her hands. He thought of what could’ve been for a moment before getting up.

“You did this, you finish it.” He pointed to the shovel and looked in the cabin’s direction. As he walked into the darkness, led by the dim light coming from Kate’s room, tears stained his cheeks.

About Beckett Riley:

Beckett resides in the sunshine state where she writes in between taking care of a four-year-old daughter, three dogs, four chickens, two grumpy barn cats, and a husband (sometimes in that order according to him). She loves writing erotic stories as much as she enjoys reading them. Dark romance and happily ever afters with hot, possessive, guys bring tears of joy to her eyes so please excuse the alpha males roaming her pages, they know not what they do.

Connect with Beckett: Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Bookbub

Gentle Scars (To Be Claimed Saga Book 2) by Willow Winters

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion. A positive review is not required.

Published on: 05 Oct 2021
Type: series, interconnected
Genre: Werewolf & Shifter, Paranormal Romance, Contemporary Romance
Author: Willow Winters
Pages Length: 153 pages
Read: 02 October 2021
Shelved: 02 October 2021
Rating: 4 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Get it here: Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Google Play | Bookbub | Goodreads

Synopsis

There was never a question of whether or not I would be his. It’s simply what fate demanded.

There’s a knowing when the werewolves find their mates. It’s an aching need, a desperation… one they would die for. But for their mates, it’s a trance, a pull, a submissive desire that’s at odds with the shadows of my past and how I’ve learned to survive.

I didn’t know how hard I’d fall. I didn’t know what destiny would bring.
I didn’t know it then that I would die for him as he would me.

This is book 2 of the To Be Claimed Saga. Wounded Kiss is book 1 and should be read first.


Review

Note: I highly recommend readers to start with Wounded Kiss (Book 1) before starting Gentle Scars to set up everything with the events and characters. 

Gentle Scars is Book 2 of To Be Claimed Saga and continues with the Shadow Falls werewolf pack as they find their mates and navigate into establishing their pack. It is a decently shorter read than Book 1 (153 vs. 220 pages), but the length does not discount the book’s importance to the series. It is far steamier than its predecessor. I appreciate the author’s format in this series. Each character’s story is given importance through segregated sections, so everything is laid out clearly, even though the book has multi-POVs.  

Part 1: Lost Puppy – Vince and Veronica

The story picks up at “the offering” event in Book One, but it is from Vince’s POV this time. It talks about what happened to Vince when he left his pack to search for his mate during the chaos. There is an incredible fight scene (4 against 1) and #BossLady moments that readers should not miss. Vince’s mate’s unexpected, “out-of-the-blue” appearance leads the saga into a bigger story that makes this series a suspenseful one.

Part 2: Wolf in Pain – Dom, Caleb, and Lizzie

I am glad the author dived into this ménage group since I have been curious about everything about Lizzie in Book 1. Lizzie slowly grows into trusting her mates in this story but still withholds more than what she is willing to share. Her fear and mental state are hindering her in finding her full potential. But this segment talks a lot about cleansing and finding her “normal” as her mates start to break through her walls towards more positive self-esteem. I love how this relationship turned out because not only is Lizzie getting the help she needs, but another one of them is also finding his confidence.

Part 3: Broken Heart – pack story converging

This story is NOT how I expected the ending to be. Note that this is a saga. Although many secrets unearth within the pack and their mates, more “open-ended” questions sprung up within the pack and things happening outside the confines of their pack territory. 

In summary, Gentle Scars is a book full of steamy, suspenseful, dominant, strong characters. The writing is easy to follow even with the many voices of the characters. I enjoyed the various stories that shed further light on what is going on with the supernatural beings of Shadow Falls. The mates/women in this book were A-M-A-Z-I-N-G, and I love how the author rounded them out to be braver than before and learning more about themselves. I didn’t realize that the story is more extensive than I first expected with the saga.

PROS:

  • quick and easy read
  • Multi-POV but very easy to relate, and understand as each POV is indicated clearly
  • lots of steam, so be prepared with extra underwear

CONS:

  • “To-be-continued” ending, BUT I know the next book will be fantastic!

Tropes: paranormal romance, dark romance, ménage, suspense romance, werewolf & shifter tropes


About the Author

Willow Winters is so happy to be a USA Today, Wall Street Journal and #1 Contemporary Best Selling Author!

Willow started writing after having her little girl, Evie, December 2015. All during her pregnancy with Evie she continued to read and she only wanted to read romance. She was reading a book a day — sometimes two.

In January 2016 Willow was staying up late with Evie and just thinking of all these stories. They came to her constantly so she finally sat down and just started writing. She always wanted to do it so she figured, why not? Today Willow cannot be happier for making that decision!

Connect with Willow
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Amazon | Goodreads | Bookbub | Book+Main 

Sign up to Willow’s newsletter and receive EXCLUSIVE content, sneak peeks, and FREE books monthly:http://eepurl.com/b98e3D

Knot My Type (All Access Book 1) by Evie Mitchell

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion. A positive review is not required.

Cover : Eileen Widjaja (Instagram)

Published on: 4 October 2021
Published by: Thunder Thighs Publishing
Type: HEA, standalone, series
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Contemporary Romance, Second Chances
Author: Evie Mitchell
Read: 17 September 2021
Shelved: 18 September 2021
Rating: 5 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Get it here: Amazon | Global link | Goodreads

Synopsis

He doesn’t do relationships.
She doesn’t do flings.
Everything they thought is about to unravel…

Frankie


When you say you’re a sexologist, people imagine Marilyn Monroe. They don’t expect a woman who uses a wheelchair. As the host of the All Access Podcast, I’m breaking barriers, crushing stigmas, and creating sexual connections that are fulfilling for my fans. I’m like cupid, but with pink hair and fewer diapers.

Only, I’ve hit a snag. A lovely listener wants some advice about accessible rope play and I’m drawing a big fat blank. Which leaves me with no option but to get out there and give it a go.
Which is how I meet Jay Wood—rigger, carpenter, and all-round hottie.

I’d be open to letting him wine and dine me—only Jay isn’t my type. He’s not a one-girl kind of guy. Monogamy isn’t even in his vocab, and I’m not a woman who’ll settle for being second choice.

But the closer we get, the more Jay has me tied up in knots.
And it’s making me think, maybe I could compromise and accept a little Wood in my life. Even if it’s only temporary.

Jay
Frankie’s funny, intelligent, and ridiculously sexy. This should be a no-brainer. A little fun in the sheets, and a little romp with some ropes—simple.

Only the infuriating woman is asking for more. I’m not that kind of guy. I wouldn’t even know how to be that kind of guy. I’m the definition of easy.
It’ll be fine. We’ll be friends. Just friends.

So, why does my heart feel frayed? And why is it I can’t help but consider taking the ultimate leap of faith—tying myself to Frankie. Permanently.


Review

Frankie Kenton is a sexologist with a podcast show called All Access that discusses sex, access, and everything in between. Her revolutionary show is breaking barriers, crushing stigmas, and creating sexual connections. One of those reader requests is to know more about accessible rope play.

Jay Wood is the owner of a lumber business, Dogg Wood Lumber. He is also a teacher and a rigger for a local kink club. Given the latter, he became Frankie’s resource person for her podcast research for the rope play or shibari.

At first glance, Frankie and Jay come together because of a listener’s querybut things start shifting more than professional to personal as their lesson goes – almost instantly! 

Things I enjoyed with Knot My Type:-

1) Inclusivity for everything and anything with the characters represented.

This book gives inclusivity and access to a whole new level – from body size, shape, access, abilities, etc. – you can think it, it’s most likely here. I can see the series already because other characters piqued my interest already. I liked that these characters live the best times of their lives, going through everything and letting nothing stop them, even their sexualities. 

2) Uplifting storytelling themes.

I was excited to read through a book that doesn’t let these items/topics be a “downer.” Instead, it turned out uplifting to see how the author maneuvered it to be an objective “how-to” exploration on options for this niche market. I love how the storyline approached scientifically, appropriately, and respectfully to readers. There is a lot of sensitivity in the details and descriptions during Frankie’s research. It also gives readers know the hurdles that come in such situations.

Though most of the book showcases the hilarious, high moments of the characters, the author does not shy away from lows and darker challenges/experiences faced in the past and present. Everything was humbly humanizing for these characters, making them easy to empathize with and relatable. These people all go through mental health issues, trauma, and fears as other people.

3) Main characters pining over each other from the start.

The story is from Jay and Frankie’s POV, so readers can indeed read through the many emotions running through the main characters. I enjoy stories like this when characters yearn for each other without knowing how deep their feelings are until they are consumed by it. But between you or me, I firmly believed that Jay loved Frankie a lot more with the actions he showed her. Don’t let his relaxed, calm demeanor throw you off – he has his brand of romantic gestures that will surely make anyone swoon for sure. What he did to help Frankie feel welcome to his home was a huge one! (FYI – it’s not only one thing in the one event.)

4) Characters are imperfectly flawed.

Although most of the story is full of positivity, Frankie and Jay have hidden flaws/trauma. How these characters handle these flaws are different. 

We have Frankie as the talker who approaches problems scientifically, while Jay was more of an “out-of-sight, out-of-mind,” so healing did not happen. I am not surprised how Frankie handled many awkward situations very well, especially when Jay’s returns with a vengeance. She even gave him the space and tried to talk to him right at that “eventful moment,” but of course, Jay was rattled and not ready yet to tackle on and acted irrationally. 

Note: Jay is so lucky to have met (later hooked up) Frankie because she is the winner in all this while getting over her issues for both of them.

5) Steamy moments that balance out the relationship-building moments.

I felt better educated with this book regarding all access. It blew me away on the hurdles couples go through, but heck, the steamy part of the book rocked! There is enough intimacy that is wholesome yet raunchy good! I was grinning throughout these intense scenes without realizing how creative couples have to be to make things work!

6) Tight-knit supporting characters.

I love Frankie’s band of gals – Flo, Annie, and Mai. They are stellar in their performances as a soundboard, cheering squad, and reality-check groupie for Frankie and even Jay. These girls pulled all the stops to knocked the main characters to face what they have. and saved the ending! 

7) The ending was cheesy but cute and fitted the character’s personalities!

Without giving away too much, past secrets came out at a critical moment to disturb their relationship’s “honeymoon” stage. It was too predictable, but it was good that Jay faced his trauma, and Frankie learned this. She handled everything like a champ, which was why the ending worked – she is the strongest protagonist I have encountered. I am thrilled with how the author resolved everything. 


Overall, I love everything about Knot My Type!

I could not get more excited. It may be a short enough read, but it also has essential points mentioned that will not overwhelm. This book is for romance readers who love stories with lovely rational characters and readers who love learning more about sex, relationships, and everything in between through a sexologist’s POV. Frankie should be one of the benchmarks of beating and rising above everything. 

I am excited to see how this series comes about after this awesomely enlightening book!


About the Author

FIERCE ROMANCE

Evie Mitchell is a thirty-something woman (she/her) living with Crohn’s Disease. She loves dirty books, sassy heroines, and heroes who know how to treat their partner’s right. She lives with her husband, their sausage dog, and an ever-growing collection of book-related mugs.

When she’s not writing, Evie loves curling up in the sun with an excellent book and a cup of tea.

Evie specializes in fiercely inclusive happily ever afters.

Connect with Evie
Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads | Pinterest | Amazon | BookBub


Fix Your Crown by Callie Rae, Alexi Ferreira, Amanda Shelley, Amaya Black, Angela Sanders, Barb Shuler, Brittany Tarkington, E.K. Woodcock, Jade Bay, Jami Denise, Jo Richardson, Khloe Summers, Ruby Wolff, Sofia Aves, Tanya Nellestein

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion. A positive review is not required.

Published on: 28 September 2021
Type: Short Stories, Anthology
Genre: Fiction Anthologies, Literary Anthologies & Collections
Author(s): Alexi Ferreira, Amanda Shelley, Amaya Black, Angela Sanders, Barb Shuler, Brittany Tarkington, Callie Rae, E.K. Woodcock, Jade Bay, Jami Denise, Jo Richardson, Khloe Summers, Ruby Wolff, Sofia Aves, Tanya Nellestein
Read: 22 September 2021
Shelved: 25 September 2021
Rating: 4 / 5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Support Independent Bookstores! Indigo CA

Other retailers: Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Global Link

Add to your Bookbub | Goodreads TBR!

Synopsis

13 Authors. 13 Women. 13 FIERCE Heroines.

Fix Your Crown is a collection of 13 stories about bold Heroines who will not be stopped.

With each purchase, we are donating 100% of the royalty to a charity that will empower women to fix their crowns.

Official Website: Fix Your Crown


Review

Reign by Alexie Ferreira

Mafia romance. Arranged marriage. Alpha main characters. 

I enjoyed the story, which talks about family, respect, sacrifice, and love – a union formed for protection and later morphs into more. The attraction is magnetic, and chemistry is sizzling that it was impossible not to believe in “perfect matches.” This story is a prologue to a bigger story, as hinted by the author.

Hoops & Scoops by Amanda Shelley

Basketball star. Met early on. Sports Romance. Second chance romance. 

A lovely story about revisiting the past and realizing how much better DeShawn and Chloe are together versus apart. The story is sweet and sassy but also with mature and characters who grew up.

Moon Magic by Angela Sanders

Paranormal romance. Witches and werewolves. Second chance romance. Chants and curses. True love. Third-person omniscient POV. 

I noted POV since it is rare for me to encounter this POV. It’s an interesting take and gives readers the all-seeing and all-knowing power. There is occasional access to the other character’s inner thoughts, which is fascinating. 

Reinventing Amber Jaymes by Barb Shuler

Motorcycle romance. Grit and drama. Band of Brothers. Dark, abusive past. Suspense and Danger. Survivor.

Note: Some violence happens.

I love how the story is all about fighting to survive and heal. The protagonist does not let her past (anymore) define her. With so many people behind her recovery, her confidence shines through spectacularly in the end.

Gabby by Brittany Tarkington

College romance. Dark high school past. Second chance. Coming out a new. New place, new phase.

Note: Mental health discussion. 

I like this sweet romance that deals with attraction from afar. The characters were sweet and cautious at the same time since both have their share of life’s disappointments and coming-of-age discoveries. There is a bit more in this story, so I will not talk a lot about it, but it’s a simple enough story with a lot of “meat” in the exchanges between two unlikely yet likely characters.

McCatherine by Callie Rae

Shady business dealings. Trophy wife. Finally, ready to fight and outwit everyone to be free. Romantic suspense.

Note: Mental and emotional manipulation described.

This story is a gut-wrenching piece from the very beginning. The story tells us the lengths people would go to bring others down with them; even the kids become pawns in this hateful game of deceit. 

Sugar and Spice by E.K. Woodcock

Coming of age. High school setting. Repressed emotions. Misunderstanding and miscommunication. Young love. Enemies-to-lovers romance. Baking and cooking experts. Second chances.

Note: Self-loathing. Self-infliction. Anxiety issues discussed. Very happy with how this story progressed.

I am in no way a fan of this trope, and it takes a lot to make me fall for this theme since things can get complicated and hurtful at some point. Instead, this story impressed and won me over. Sugar and Spice have the right amount of angst and appropriate banter for the age and time. I enjoyed this story quite a bit! It goes to show that love and attraction can find you at any age and time. Also, with proper help, anything is solvable. 

Queen Things by Jade Bay

Royal romance with elements of suspense. Commoner-Royalty connection. Marriage of convenience. Second chance. Boss lady. 

I love the book’s writing style. The author did it justice with the way she worded and presented everything in the moments where the emphasis was needed. The suspense injected in the book adds a nice touch to the story.

A few things were going on in the story, which makes it exciting. One was the happenstance meeting of the two main characters: “instant chemistry” but had to be apart, then later met up in the most unlikely places and positions. Another is the lurking danger and possible mutiny coming out to oust the upcoming reigning royalty.

It was cute to see the characters’ internal battles on sorting out their feelings for the other. This story is all about a relationship/love meant to be.

Storm Surge by Jami Denise

Women helping women. MC romance. Protector/protectee. Dark and traumatic past. Inner strength unlocked. 

This touching story is about love, healing, and redemption. The revelations that came out support the motivation on why the protagonist tries to help another. She finds parallels a troubled woman faced in the past. A life cycle repeats itself that pushes the main character to face her past – coming back and take on a bigger purpose.

A Word of Advice by Jo Richardson

A woman’s worst nightmare. A public mess exposed. Advising the advisor – from an unexpected source.

Sometimes not the person who doles out pieces of advice does not take hers. The main character had to learn from hard life lessons. One public meltdown knocked one famous blogger advice columnist down her pedestal, then later meets someone unexpectedly who might know what she is going through.

Remember Us by Ruby Wolff

Young, selfish BUT meant to be. Second chances. Making up for past mistakes. A secret unlocked. Lots of groveling involved.

This one was a challenging read because of what the female main character went through. She did show how strong she is and had the best support system. The one person that she thought would be her biggest cheerleader left her broken. The story fast forwards to about a year after, and as expected, the male protagonist comes back to tries to win the “love of his life.” Does he succeed? Will past feelings be buried? 

A Knight to Guard by Sofia Aves

Dystopian fantasy. Romantic suspense. Operation to protect. 

This story has one of the hottest intimacy scenes for a short story! This story already includes the element of mystery and suspense going on behind the scenes. I admit that I got lost in a few scenes/conversations until the revelations happened at the very end. I appreciate the ending, but I got lost on the how’s and why’s, even after re-reading the chapters. I would need to find the rest of the book/story/series to understand this particular story better because this story only shows part of the main character’s importance. It would have been awesome to find out if there’s a continuation, but the author has not hinted at it.

Once Betrayed by Tanya Nellestein

Detective drama. Romantic suspense. MC gang. Undercover cops. Disclosure: some violent scenes

What an ender! The plot was exciting, and the female lead on this was perfection. It is a first-person POV – the female character, Taya. She is not your perfect cop but a broken one trying to prove herself worthy of being where she is. I love how the story built up from Taya’s experiences internally to being assigned the case, which brought back how capable she is in her job after a tragedy. The scenes were well orchestrated and fast enough to solve all of the loose ends for the time being. The story continues further with finding the missing persons in the case both main characters were working on. This story is a prologue to a bigger story.


Overall Review:-

Overall, this anthology is a series of short stories that provides a great taste of the author’s works. Some readers may find the “ending” of that particular short or abruptly ended. While I may agree with this, I realized that I had to approach this anthology differently than regular stories. I treat some of the stories as prequels to an even bigger story. The author may have already written the next story or maybe is already in the works for the story. Nonetheless, it will surely pique your interest – believe me, that there are quite a few I am going to be looking into to find out more.

Given my comments above, this book already rocks with various stories for all readers, as discussed above. But the best part – 100% of the book sale proceeds will be donated to a charity that will empower women with breast cancer to fix their crowns. Given this beautiful cause, there is no question about this fantastic deal?!?! You’ve got the charity side and memorable stories, so as you enjoy the books, you can feel good knowing that each sale will empower women fighting to eradicate cancer.

In no particular order, my three favorite stories among the thirteen stories are Sugar & Spice by E.K. Woodcock, Gabby by Brittany Tarkington, and Once Betrayed by Tanya Nellestein.


About the Author(s)

Alexi Ferreira

Alexi Ferreira was born in Mozambique, but lived most of her life in South Africa, finally moving to England where she has lived for the last three years. Alexi is a Romantic at heart, with a passion for motorcycles and everything Paranormal. She writes Addictive, Adventurous, Romance with happy ever afters. Author of the Elementals MC, Wolverine MC, Bratva Fury and the Capella Crime Famiglia Series. 

Connect with Alexi
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Amanda Shelley 

Amanda Shelley writes romantic stories you can escape into. Some are steamy, others are sweet but all have strong characters with a little bit of sass.

When not writing, Amanda enjoys time with her family, playing chauffeur, chef and being an enthusiastic fan for her children. Keeping up with them keeps her alert and grounded in reality. She enjoys long car rides, chai lattes and popping her SUV into four-wheel drive for adventures anywhere.

Amanda loves hearing from readers. Be sure to sign up for her newsletter and follow her on social media. Join her reader’s group Amanda’s Army of Readers to stay up to date on her latest information.  

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Amaya Black

Amaya Black is southern girl currently living in the Carolinas. She is a fiance and mommy to a bouncy boy and gentle pitbull. She’s been writing since she was in fourth grade and went on to major in Creative Writing at a great southern and all women’s institute.

Her motto of the moment is: “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

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Angela Sanders

Angela Sanders is an International Bestselling author of Epic Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, and Urban Fantasy. She’s a multi-genre author who also writes psychological thrillers, supernatural thrillers, murder mysteries, and soon, Contemporary Romance (the sky’s the limit!). As a retired Navy Chief, wife, and mother, Angela lives in Kentucky where she enjoys writing, editing, reading, or all three.
Her son is the key to her heart; he has the writing bug, wanting to be like his mommy when he grows up. She began her writing journey, first in the political world, and then left it all behind to explore the more fantastical world of fiction. With the help and support of several authors pushing her along, she published her first book in June 2017 and has been writing since.

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Barb Shuler

Barb is a Carolina girl by right and a Texan by birth. By day she’s a desk jockey for a rural transportation company and a book lover, reading through as many books as she can. At night, though, she turns into her alter ego: a writer—cape optional, depending on her mood.

Her stories are a mix of real-life events, personal experiences, and the craziness of her own imagination and those of her best friends. And when their imaginations blend together, it can be crazy. Barb writes in multiple genres, encounters new adventures, creates new worlds, and has a fantastic time breathing life into new stories, creating something she hopes inspires anyone who reads to fall in love with them as she has.
Barb lives by one little rule: tomorrow is never guaranteed, so make sure you live each day to its fullest.

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Brittany Tarkington

Hi! I’m Brittany! I’m from East Texas where I live with my husband, son, and two dogs. I have a degree in Criminal Justice, and I used to work as a legal assistant for a criminal defense firm. These days I’m a writer and co-owner of Magnolia and Pine. I have a love-hate relationship with both CrossFit and wine. I have my days and nights mixed up, and I spend most of my time doing everything I can to avoid being productive.
I’ve always had a crazy imagination and I love writing. So, I started writing Forever Careless at the age of 21 to see if I had it in me. It was too much fluff for me, however my friends loved it. So, I wrote another; this time I pushed to boundaries of fluff.
One day, while in a very bad mood, I thought of a story without a happy ending. One with real problems and real people. A story that was very close to my heart. It nagged me constantly. Months later, I sat down and started Hazed. At first, he was going to be apart of the Forever Series. Just come in and wreck their lives. Instead, I went another route. Only weeks later, Hazed was finished. I was obsessed with it.
It took me over a year to finish my first novel and weeks to finish this one. I knew what that meant. I liked to write about bad people who do bad things. I like to get inside their minds and feel their crazy. So, if you’re looking for hearts and flowers, you won’t find them here. My stories are real and they aren’t pretty.

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Callie Rae

Callie Rae writes romantic suspense novels. She lives in southern Louisiana with a daughter, two furry pups, and one fat rabbit named Josie. You can find Callie in her garden pretending her thumb is green. Otherwise, she is mommin’ with the best.

Join her readers group here
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E.K. Woodcock

Ebru Kartal is a book blogger turned into an author. She currently has a couple of books out in the wild and is working on many others.
When she isn’t writing, you can find her reading, blogging, or running after her gang of hooligans at home. Ebru lives in Cochrane, Alberta with her two lovely children and husband.
She was born in a land called “Turkey” and became Canadian in May 2015. She loves to travel and hopes to travel the world one day.

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Jade Bay

Jade Bay is the author of short and steamy HEAs that’ll make you blush! When she’s not reading or writing all of the words you can find her hanging with her two favorite humans, her husband and son. She loves her readers fiercely, and is always looking to connect and talk all things hot and steamy.

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Jami Denise⁣

Jami Denise is an author of gritty Contemporary and Romantic Suspense, including the best selling Jayne Series.
When she isn’t working on her next novel, she is watching old movies, or swooning over her son and her gorgeous grandsons.
She lives in her hometown in Southern California with a gang of wild cats.

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Jo Richardson

Jo Richardson
-> FanAddict
-> Superhero geek
-> Sarcasm academy
-> Mystery aficionado
-> Paranormally fascinated
-> Twisted sense of humor
-> Broken in oh, so many ways
-> Believer that love is perfectly imperfect
-> Sometimes, I like to write stories about any and/or all of the above.

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Khloe Summers

Khloe Summers is the best-selling author of over fifty short and steamy romance titles. Her work has been called gritty, heartfelt, and real.
​Khloe lives in sunny Florida, with her own alpha hero of over twenty years. When she isn’t writing, Khloe enjoys playing the ukulele, walking the beach, baking and hiking.​

Happily Ever After Guaranteed. 

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Ruby Wolff is an author of sexy romance and some dark romance.
​She writes sexy novels, with strong alpha men, that fight for the women they want.
​When Ruby is not writing her next book, she is spending time with her husband and two boys.

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Sofia Aves

Sofia Aves writes fast-paced police romances, suspenseful mysteries, steamy cowboys with a Montana backdrop and the occasional cheeky god. She loves reading Indie authors and hides her collection of college romance books beneath an ever-growing TBR pile.

Sofia is a mum of three crazies and an overly large fur baby who thinks she’s a teacup puppy. She loves orchids but can’t always keep them alive. Sofia lives near Brisbane, Australia.

Join Sofia’s newsletter & get a free Blue Blooded Brothers short story.

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Tanya Nellestein

Tanya Nellestein has been recreating the fruits of her overactive imagination on paper since she was a child. She is an avid reader, writer, experience enthusiast, outstanding car vocalist, and Queen of fancy dress. Tanya writes gut-churning Viking romance, romantic suspense and crime/mystery with a romantic angle that always includes good sex and a happily ever after – eventually. She is a finalist in the Australian Romance Readers Awards in two categories including Debut Author of the Year 2020.

Tanya has always dreamed of being a writer but only recently realized she could manifest her inner fantasies well after Vikings and Sons of Anarchy had finished filming, by creating her own bad boys and feisty heroines.

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Big thanks to Literary Designs for this opportunity.

The Lawyer (The Dalton Brothers Book 1) by Marni Mann

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion. A positive review is not required.

Published on: 28 September 2021
Published by:
Type: HEA, standalone, series
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Billionaire Romance
Author: Marni Mann
Read: 15 September 2021
Shelved: 16 September 2021
Rating: 4 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Get it here: Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Bookbub | Goodreads

Synopsis

A sexy, billionaire, Hollywood, stand-alone romance from USA Today best-selling author Marni Mann …

I’m not the type of girl who picks up a man on a rooftop bar.
Not the kind of girl who lets a man’s hands roam my body, discovering I have no panties on.
Never the girl who has hours’ worth of o’s from a smoking-hot one-night stand.

But Dominick makes it so easy to say yes.
His body, his moves, and his oh-so-wicked tongue have me saying it over and over again.
Yes, please.
Yes, more.
Yes, right there.

He worships every inch of my body, and I’m still sore the next morning when I meet him again.

This time, he’s Mr. Dalton, my sister’s cutthroat entertainment lawyer.
And he has a proposition for me.

He wants to make me famous.

Of course, that means sharing a screen with my wildly jealous sister.
It means giving up my career.
It means the whole world will suddenly know everything about me.

Which presents one catastrophic problem—Dominick doesn’t date famous people.

So, do I take a chance at becoming a Hollywood star, or do I pass up the opportunity to be with the man who gave me a taste of forever?


Review

Kendall Roy is a transplant from the East Coast to help her celebrity sister in Los Angeles. She is sweet, caring, and humble but a wild thing behind closed doors. She is not afraid to speak up to others but sacrifices a lot for her family, especially Daisy.

A chance encounter with Dominick Dalton, a hot-shot lawyer to the stars, inevitably lands her a starring role of the century. What happens next is a truckload of hot bumping/grinding, jealousy, suspense, and intrigue that will make readers blush and shock. 

The Lawyer is from Kendall and Dominick’s POVs. I am not new to the author’s works, but the series is new. Readers must note that this series is different from the author’s Moments in Boston series, which is more angst and heart-wrenching. The Dalton Brother’s series is focused on relationship/commitment building and many steamy interactions and will get any reader down for some more sexy time!

This book arrived at a perfect time – when I wanted an easy and contemporary read, compared to the angst books I have recently finished. Readers are to approach this book in the same manner – easy, fun, and light expectations. It is not something to overthink because the themes and conflicts flow well. This book talks about love, family, siblings, and celebrity fame. The conflict is from outside of Kendall and Dominick’s relationship. The story does not shrug the main characters’ relationship-building moments; on the contrary, the author shows readers the beauty of their relationship – honesty, trust, and support – through intimacy. Their time together is spent comforting and providing numerous intimate scenes, which is what I wanted!

Kendall and Dominick are portrayed well in the book. I love when the main characters learn to communicate well and are honest with each other. They pour out their feelings or can read each other because of their connection, in this case – instant connection. The relationship may be quick, but with their professional connection – they have to connect also in different levels. They listen and support each other. There is fluff but not overly problematic between them. The author shows the ugly side of fame and huge adjustments Kendall has to go through with her newfound success as she threaded the shark-infested waters of stardom. Both characters are in the state of “ride & die” for each other to make everything work out – which I ship!

When something happens that turns both their worlds “upside-down,” Kendall and Dominick are mature enough to find out how to resolve the problem. I love books with interlacing themes but do overshadow each other. The romance was in one lane that worked while the suspense stood out on its own at the right time. Family love and support are injected in proper amounts and moments in the book that levels up the book’s quality and genre.

The essential conflicts were outside the couple. Yes, some minor details in Dominick’s head needed ironing out, but that all got “sorted out” when Kendall decided to make things known early on, which immediately followed the resolution (within a chapter or two). I like the juxtaposition of Kendall and Dominick’s siblings in the story, in which they all took a more active role in driving the story. Many scenes would not work if they didn’t cause the problem or provided immeasurable support to the protagonists. They help drove the story as a whole. 

I have a side comment: I was not happy with Daisy’s stereotypical reaction to everything. I believe it was extreme that was too sinister and too vindictive expected with bratty celebrities. I understand the author’s purpose of having everyone abhor and “turn their backs” from Daisy, which is redundant. I love how Kendall saw things with Daisy and started to stand up for herself. Kendall called out a lot of Daisy’s reactions and motives, which was good. I am happy that after much talk, advice, and self-reflection, Daisy redeemed herself.  

Overall, if you want hot, steamy, and feverish interaction between two incomplete yet genuine and fantastic characters, look no further than The Lawyer. I love seeing Dominick’s wall crumble and succumb to being in a committed relationship. I do want to mention that although a lot were predictable, I did not foresee the ending. It made things a lot interesting in the end. 


About Marni Mann

Marni Mann, USA Today Bestselling author, knew she was going to be a writer since middle school. While other girls her age were daydreaming about teenage pop stars, Marni was fantasizing about penning her first novel. She crafts sexy, titillating stories that weave together her love of darkness, mystery, passion, and human emotions. A New Englander at heart, she now lives in Sarasota, Florida, with her husband and their two dogs, who have been characters in her books. When she’s not nose deep in her laptop, working on her next novel, she’s scouring for chocolate, sipping wine, traveling, or devouring fabulous books.

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Release Promotion: Tempting Fate by Gwen Kleist

Can they mix business and pleasure, or are they just tempting fate? 

Tempting Fate by Author Gwen Kleist is AVAILABLE NOW!

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Carrie Thomas arrives in Las Vegas with one goal in mind: land The Grand Portofino Casino account. So getting stuck, twice in one day, with the hottest man alive puts more than a little crimp in her plans. Especially when she learns the man she’s craved since their tryst in the elevator is her new client.

Jack Dillon is at the top of his game. Burned by women in the past and consumed with building his empire, falling in love is the last thing on his agenda. But when Carrie walks into his life, all bets are off. Too bad she’s determined to keep their relationship strictly business.

But Jack is used to getting what he wants. And he wants Carrie. Two weeks of giving in to their desires and fun in Sin City. It’s an offer she can’t refuse. Can they mix business and pleasure, or are they just tempting fate?

Buy Now: https://books2read.com/TemptingFateGwenKleist

Add to your GOODREADS TBR here

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 About the Author

Gwen Kleist writes contemporary romance novels set in some of the world’s most glamorous destinations. 

Author, travel writer, and PR professional, Gwen has been writing for as long as she can remember. An avid traveler, she loves weaving amazing destinations into her novels. In addition to writing romance, she runs the family travel website www.CaliforniaFamilyTravel.com. Her work has also appeared in numerous publications, and she was a contributing author to Explorer Publishing’s guidebook, Los Angeles: The Complete Resident’s Guide.

Gwen lives with her husband and son in Southern California. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.

Connect with Gwen:

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