Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Ten Things I Hate About the Duke (Difficult Dukes #2) by Loretta Chase

Title: Ten Things I Hate About the Duke: A Difficult Dukes Novel
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Difficult Dukes
Format: Hardcover; 336 pages
ISBN-10: 0062952633
ISBN-13: 978-0062952639
Publisher: Avon (December 1, 2020)
Author's Website:  https://lorettachase.com/
Notes: I received an eARC loan from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes need to be checked against the final version as they are subject to change. 

Cassandra Pomfre is not your average Miss. She speaks her mind and does not keep her opinions to herself. Known among the men of the ton as Medusa, deGriffith's Gorgon, and Cassandra Prophet of Doom her marriage prospects are slim, for who wants to marry a shrew? When she interrupts and voices her opinion about an ill-constructed bill which would supposedly "better" the enforcement of the Sabbath (but really doesn't), it's the last straw for her father...

"I had deluded myself that being in Society with other girls would soften you," Papa said. "But Season after Season passed, and you only became more fixed in you ways. I cannot allow you to continue to set set a bad example for your younger sisters. I cannot allow you to continue to distress your mother. (...) I will not give Hyacinth permission to marry until you are wed."(...)"In short, as of this minute Hyacinth's Season is over."

Lucius Wilmot Beckingham, the sixth Duke of Ashmont is one of the three Dukes nicknamed by the ton as Dis-Graces. His ill behavior has gotten him banned from court by the King, banned from Almack's weekly assemblies by its patronesses, and crossed off the invitation lists of all but a very few daring hostesses. His latest disgrace ended with him being left at the alter while his would-be bride ran off with his former best friend. Truth be told, wherever he goes, chaos is sure to follow. So, when he accidentally overturns the carriage Cassandra Pomfre is riding in leaving her stranded overnight at a coaching Inn with no appropriate chaperone, he decides for once in his life to do the right thing...

"Marry Me."

Once upon a time Cassandra would have jumped at the chance to marry Lucius, now, not so much. On the one hand, it could solve both their problems--him needing to marry for heirs and her needing to marry so her sisters will be allowed to find husbands (if they so choose). On the other, it could make her life unbearable. If marriage to her is what he truly wants, he'll have to prove himself to Cassandra, but she's making no promises. One thing is for sure, however, she'll make him work for it because her opinion of him is quite low...

"For this I allot you one point. When you accumulate another five thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine, I shall begin to consider you a tolerable human being."

He takes that to be a challenge and for the first time in his life, Lucius Wilmot Beckingham, the sixth Duke of Ashmont, is willing to attempt to change. Let the games begin for as Lucius sees it, her unintentional challenge is accepted.
This is the second book in the Difficult Duke series by Loretta Chase. If you've never read one of her books, you're in for a treat. You can read this novel as a standalone without feeling you've missed anything vital by not reading the first book of the series, 'A Duke in Shining Armor.' I do, however, recommend you read it later because I truly loved the story. Additionally, we are first introduced to Lucius in that first book, and we see him at one of the lowest moments in his life. It gives the reader a better perspective of what Lucius was like and why Cassandra initially didn't want anything to do with the man.

Cassandra is a strong, smart, and independent woman who comes from a loving and prestigious family. She's the eldest daughter of an Earl, and she has ten siblings. She's also a member of a club which her grandmother helped to found called the Andromeda Society. It's a charitable organization home to a group of progressive like-minded women meant to help women needing rescuing from ‘the dragons of poverty and ignorance.’ Alone they may be somewhat powerless, but together they make a formidable entity. Cassandra, due to skills passed down from her grandmother, is the voice of the group which makes her unpopular among the men of the ton.

Lucius is a mess when Cassandra comes upon him, a fact of which she is well aware. She refuses to accept any less than she deserves and, at this point in time, she knows she deserves much better than what he is offering, despite his being a Duke. Lucius likes that she is not intimidated or frightened by him. He likes the way she handles herself when put in a life threatening position. She stands up to others when needed, she doesn't whimper or melt into a puddle of tears, and she isn't faint of heart. She assesses, adjusts, takes charge, and challenges him to do better and use his brain. In a nutshell, he likes what he sees and quickly becomes determined to win her over and prove himself worthy of her.

Overall, I gave this one 4 1/2 out of 5 roses. I loved how Cassandra stuck to her guns and kept Lucius on his toes. It was almost as though Lucius had been sleeping for most of his life and Cassandra woke him up to the possibility of what he could be, and gave him the desire to strive to be all he was meant to be. She brings purpose to his life, and challenges him to be a man worthy of her. His metamorphosis is delightful to watch. I confess, however, with such a large family I would have liked to have seen her brothers mess with him a bit and test his mettle. Perhaps the author thought Cassandra was too independent to do so, but I still would have liked to seen it. Still, I highly recommend this novel. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed.          

Order of the Difficult Dukes series:
(The below links will transport you to Amazon. Please note these are affiliate links and any sales made through such links will reward me a small commission – at no extra cost for you.)

Monday, September 28, 2020

Her Night with the Duke (Clandestine Affairs) by Diana Quincy

Title: Her Night with the Duke by Diana Quincy
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Clandestine Affairs
Format: Paperback : 384 pages
ISBN-10: 0062986791
ISBN-13: 978-0062986795
Publisher: Avon (September 29, 2020)
Author's Website: https://www.dianaquincy.com/
Notes: I received an eARC loan from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes need to be checked against the final version as they are subject to change.

Delilah 'Leela'  Chambers, aka Lady Devon, has been widowed and living abroad for several years. She's on her way home, if you can call it that, to Lambert Hall at the request of her stepdaughter, Tori. When the carriage Leela is traveling in throws a wheel, she searches for shelter and a place to stay until her carriage can be fixed. She finds herself on the steps of Black Swan Inn. This was not part of her plan and when she finds there are no rooms at the Inn, things go from bad to worse as a group of men there decide they'd like to take advantage of the situation. Luckily, someone comes to her rescue...
Elliot Townsend, Duke of Huntington, has spent years trying to stay out of trouble and be above reproach, but when he sees men trying to take advantage of a damsel in distress, he can't help but step in... 

Now these two weary travelers find themselves alone in a room with the attraction between them brewing into something undeniable. What could be the harm in one wild reckless night of abandonment?

Well, there's a reason they say no good deed goes unpunished...

"Your Grace... this is my stepmama... Lady Devon." Tori's voice brimmed with buoyant pride as she nervously fumbled through the introduction. "But as you can see...she is hardly ancient. She is more like a sister and one's dearest friend... in a all the world... rolled up into one exceptionally beautiful person."

Elliot stood stock-still, glued to his spot. Escape for either of them was impossible. It was like watching a carriage speeding straight toward he and being unable to leap out of the way. All she (Leela) could do was stand still and brace for disaster.  

Elliot's betrothed is the stepdaughter of the woman he has not been able to get out of his mind...
This is the first book in a brand new series, and the first book Ms.Quincy has written under the Avon label. Excuse me for a moment as I do a little happy dance for I believe I've found another writer to add to my list of favorite authors. *sigh* I will need to search out more of her other books to read. I really enjoyed this one.  

If I had to sum this book up into two words, I would choose devilishly delicious. I absolutely adored this story and the situation that started it all. I was horrified, then mortified, grinning from ear to ear, then shaking my head as I found myself wanting to reason with the main characters, and wishing I could give them advice. The chemistry between Leela and Elliot was so scorchingly hot, I'm surprised my kindle didn't spontaneously combust. This story definitely lived up to the series name of Clandestine Affairs. *grin* 

I couldn't help but give this one 5 out of 5 roses. The characters were multifaceted and relatable. The story kept a pleasant pace, and the plot, in my humble opinion, was fairly genius. There was twist upon twist and turn after turn. Then just when it seemed all happiness was to be lost, the impossible happened--a happy ending. Did I mention I loved this tale?  If you're looking for something to take you away from all the mayhem and chaos the world has been throwing your way, this may be a book for you. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed. This was a lovely escape from reality that I HIGHLY recommend. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Release Day Review of The Empire of Gold (The Daevabad Trilogy #3) by S.A. Chakraborty

Title: The Empire of Gold
Classification: New Adult (between YA and Adult)
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Daevabad Trilogy (Book 3)
Format: Hardcover; 784 pages
Publisher: Harper Voyager (June 30, 2020)
ISBN-10: 0062678167
ISBN-13: 978-0062678164
Author's Website: http://www.sachakraborty.com/
Notes: I received an eARC loan from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes need to be checked against the final version as they are subject to change.

At first glance, Nahir appears to be an average girl. Take a second glance, and you will probably notice her eyes--they're unnaturally black. If you take the time to take a closer look, however, and really see her, you'll notice there is nothing average or ordinary about her.

Nahir lived on the streets of Cairo from the age of five speaking a language no one else knew or had ever heard. She didn't remember much about her parents or where they hailed from. Living on the streets, she survived anyway she could. She could smell a con from a mile away because she'd used most of them. Six years ago, however, everything changed. While attempting to hold a zar, a traditional ceremony meant to deal with djinn possession, she decided to sing one of the songs in her native tongue (thinking it would sound unusual and eerie) when a disembodied voice responded to  her in that same language--the one no one else had ever known. 

Since that fateful day, her life has been caught up in a series of twists and turns, ups and downs, and life altering decisions. She'd been whisked away to a magical hidden world and discovered djinn, magic, and wonderfully terrifying magical creatures she could never have conceived of were real. She also learned she was somehow a part of it all.

Now, just as Daevabad, the magical city Nahir had been spirited away to, finds itself in the middle of civil unrest, she finds herself back in Cairo faced with another life altering decision--should she stay or should she go back? Yet, the decision is not entirely hers alone. Somehow she and Ali, the djinn prince, were transported to Cairo together, and Ali is not doing all that well.

"Do you know how many times I've had to do this? Forget healing; my specialty should be having my life destroyed and then being forced to rebuild from nothing." (...)

"I'm so tired," she said, her voice cracking. 

"Everything I build gets broken. My life in Cairo. My dreams for Daevabad. I give everything--everything--I have. Only for someone to come along and smash it. It's all for nothing. Nothing."
This is the third and final book in the Daevabad Trilogy, and I am very sad to see this tale end. If you haven't read any of the previous books do not start with this one.  It begins where the last book left off, and the events in each book build upon those in the last. If you don't read the previous books, you'll find yourself utterly lost and won't enjoy the tale as much as you should. That said, I always worry that when the last book in a series comes out that it won't keep up with the momentum and bookish goodness of the previous books before it. I am happy to say this one passed the test and delivered a wonderful and magically delicious ending. I absolutely loved it. While I tried to devour this one in one sitting, it boasts nearly 800 pages, sadly I had to take some time to sleep before continuing through to the end of the saga. If you can manage to hold out to the end, however, your sacrifice will be well worth it.

It's been six years since Nahri was whisked away to Daevabad, and a lot has happened. Her skills as a healer have become stronger, she's gained friends and family, but could it be her forever home? Orphaned at an early age and living off the streets in Cairo she'd never truly felt she fit in anywhere, but Daevabad has been the closest she's ever come. Not all she's experienced in Daevabad has been pleasant. She's been lied to, betrayed, used as a pawn, but she's also grown in so many ways. She's stronger and wiser than when she first arrived, and now, she finally has the chance to decide her own fate. She'll have to do it, however, without her magical healing abilities. For whatever reason, magic is gone, and she and Ali will have to survive using nothing but their wits and resourcefulness. If they decide to return to Daevabad, they'll have to travel halfway around the world just as regular humans would. There will be no shortcuts. 

There is no doubt that the kingdom of Daevabad is in trouble with Manizheh vying to be the kingdom's next ruler. Nahri and Ali have been granted a reprieve from the chaos, but eventually Ali, if not both of them, will need to return. What I liked about the situation in Daevabad is that it mimics life. Someone can seem like they'd be the perfect leader, but until they come into power you truly don't know how they'll handle things. They may have a hidden agenda that will be revealed only after they take control. Promises may be broken. Still, people will follow them because they won't believe the person they believed in is capable of doing whatever it is they do. Some will never be able to wrap their head around it. The story also captures the complex emotions that motivate people to do things they'd never think themselves capable of doing whether that be for the better good or bad. I must say I enjoyed the contrast between Nahri and Manizheh. They found themselves in somewhat similar situations, but handled themselves in very different ways. In many ways I felt they were two halves of the same coin, but, oh, how their perceptions on things varied.

I couldn't help but give this one 5 out of 5 roses. The story started out slow and steady, but consistently gained momentum like a wave until it crested then everything came crashing down. The world building was phenomenal. I felt like I'd stepped into another world that I didn't want to leave. The characters were relatable, complex, and multidimensional. Twists and turns were thrown at you from all directions keeping things interesting and ensnaring the reader under the tale's beguiling spell. If you're looking for a story to escape reality for just a little while, this may just be the trilogy for you. I absolutely loved it, and HIGHLY recommend it. While there is a little romance in this novel, it is not the focus of the story, therefore, I'm forgoing my romance rating on this one. Did I mention I loved this one? lol Definitely in my top 10, maybe even 5 trilogies/series. If you're wondering--Yes, I ended up buying this one. I couldn't help myself. The Daevabad Trilogy is definitely a keeper that would make for an excellent book club discussion.

Order of the Daevabad trilogy:

Monday, February 24, 2020

Early Review of The Bachelor (Duke Dynasty #2) by Sabrina Jeffries

Title: The Bachelor (Duke Dynasty Book 2)
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Duke Dynasty (Book 2)
Format: Paperback; 288 pages
Publisher: Zebra (February 25, 2020)
ISBN-10: 1420148567
ISBN-13: 978-1420148565
Author's Website: http://www.sabrinajeffries.com/
Notes: I received an eARC loan from the publisher for review purposes. This in no way affected by review or rating.

Lady Gwyn Drake is about to have her first season at age thirty. It could all be ruined, however, by a former suitor who's decided to blackmail her. What transpired between the two is partly to blame for why Gwyn doesn't wish to wed. If the secret gets out she, and her entire family by association, could be ruined.

Major Joshua Wolfe is a retired soldier who is currently acting as the gamekeeper for the Armitage estate. As he's seeing to his duties, he comes across Lady Gwyn Drake being threatened by her former suitor. When Joshua informs Gwyn's brother about the incident, Thorn hires him to be her body guard. Joshua, however, soon finds he may be in over his head as he realizes his feelings for Gwyn may be the one thing he can't protect her from...
This is the second book of the Duke Dynasty series. It can be read as a standalone, but I don't recommend that. The series centers around Lydia, the Dowager Duchess of Armitage and her family. She's been married three times, each time given birth to a future heir of a dukedom. With the untimely passing of her third husband, her sons are now wondering if someone is targeting their family or, more specifically, their mother. Perhaps someone with a grudge, like a former suitor, is trying to inflict pain on her. The first novel of the series goes into this more deeply which is why I suggest you read it first. All three of Lydia's former husbands died untimely deaths and now her sons are calling all of them into question. Whether or not foul play is involved remains to be seen, but with each new book the question seems to become more and more relevant.

Gwyn is not like other women of the ton. Once she dreamed of marriage and a family, but that dream was shattered long ago. Something happened years ago that she's still not completely come to terms with. She's smart with no aspirations of marrying, or at least not to any of the men she's met thus far. If she marries she wants it to be for love, but love doesn't seem to be in the cards for her. There is one man, however, she's got a tendre for, Major Wolfe, but every time she tries to flirt with the man he seems to think she's mocking him. She just can't seem to win where he's concerned.

Joshua is handsome former soldier, but has no idea just how appealing he is to the opposite sex. He feels his lame leg paired with his PTSD makes him undesirable thereby making him believe that any dreams he may harbor of love and a family are out of the question. As a coping mechanism, he's distanced himself from others. If Gwyn wants to make a go of it with him, she'll need to break through the thick prickly barrier he's erected.

I gave this book 3 1/2 out of 5 roses. It was an entertaining read with moments of brilliance like when Gwyn caught Joshua telling a tall tale full of lies. To me it seemed the only thing truly standing between this couple and a HEA were themselves. I guess that's true to life, and another reason why the phrase, 'sometimes our own worst enemy is our self' rings so true. I confess, however, that I would have liked it a little more if a few additional hurdles had been thrown between this couple. While I thought the blackmail added a nice dash of drama, I kind of wished there had been some additional twists and turns to keep us guessing. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed.

The order of the Duke Dynasty series:

Sunday, February 2, 2020

The Corner of Holly and Ivy (Harmony Harbor #7) by Debbie Mason

Title: The Corner of Holly and Ivy: A feel-good Christmas romance (Harmony Harbor)
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Harmony Harbor (Book 7)
Format: Paperback; 400 pages
Publisher: Forever (October 30, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1538744244
ISBN-13: 978-1538744246
Author's Website: https://authordebbiemason.com/
Notes: I received an ARC from the publisher for review purposes. This in no way affected my review or rating.

Arianna Bell was on the fast track to living her dream of becoming the next Vera Wang and having her bridal store, Tie the Knot, become the next Kleinfeld Bridal when tragedy struck. The night she would forever more dub as 'The Nightmare on Main Street' was the night her bridal shop and all her dreams had gone, literally, up in smoke. Her right hand, which she had used to do intricate needle work, had been burned and injured that night to the point she could no longer use it. While the doctor's and therapists have said they believe she may regain use of it, so far that hasn't happened. Since the fire, Aianna has spent most days self confined to her grandmother's house suffering from depression and pain. She's lost her way and is desperately in need of a new one.

Connor Gallagher fell in love with Arianna years ago, and when she'd broken off the relationship she'd broken his heart. He's since gotten over her, but she still holds a soft spot in his heart. Seeing how much she's suffered how she's been struggling since the fire along with feeling more than a little guilty for being the lawyer to represent her ex during her divorce, he feels a compelled to help her get back on her feet. When he finds out the insurance company still has paid for the claim Arianna filed, he offers to help. He feels it's the least he can do. That decision will change everything.
This is the seventh book of the Harmony Harbor series and, I have to confess, I felt a little lost.The world, as Arianna and her sisters knew it, exploded into utter chaos and mayhem seven months ago. It all revolved around an ex-fiance, a princess, a kidnapping, and a fire which resulted in Arianna losing almost everything. Her business is gone. Her ability to work is also gone. Her spirit is in need of a major overhaul as she's pretty much lost her purpose. Something the previously vibrant, smart, young woman had always had and known before. The contrast between who she was and is now is startling. I HIGHLY recommend you read 'Sandpiper Shore,' the sixth book in the Harmony Harbor series, before you read this one. It reveals a lot of family secrets and delves into the the inner workings and family dynamics of both the Bells and Gallaghers which you'll find useful. Without that knowledge, I felt a bit disengaged from the story. I ended up reading 'Sandpiper Shore' and then rereading 'The Corner of Holly and Ivy.' I enjoyed the novel a lot more when I read it for the second time. So make sure to read 'Sandpiper Shore' first!

I waffled a bit in my feelings for and opinion of Connor. It was obvious he had strong feelings for Arianna, but a little more than half way through something he does didn't sit well with me. Granted, things were complicated by his family pushing him into something, but I felt he handled the situation incorrectly and that irritated me to no end. I could totally understand Arianna's conflicting feelings for him. Some of the sparks and sexual tension flying between the two was reminiscent of those found in Sally Thorne's novel 'The Hating Game.' I loved seeing Arianna regain her spirit and get that spark of life back in her eyes that had previously been missing. It's why I and Arianna were ultimately won over by Connor. He had a lot to do with her finding herself again, and coming out of the depression she found herself immersed in. He knew how to push her buttons and infuriate her in a way to coax her out of the dark place she found herself in.

Overall, I gave this one 4 1/2 out of 5 roses. I love a story where when a character crawls out from what appears to be the depths of despair and comes out stronger for it. While Connor had a hand in helping Arianna find herself again, he made sure he wasn't the center of her world. He wanted the strong, vibrant, and self sufficient woman he once knew back. She just needed a little push in the right direction. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a FAN rating--the temperature in the room seems to have suddenly gone up a couple of degrees and a fan would be nice. I definitely recommend this one, but I cannot stress enough that you need to read 'Sandpiper Shore (Harmony Harbor Book 6)' first.

Order of the Harmony Harbor series:

Monday, January 27, 2020

Forever Strong (True Heroes, #6) by Piper J. Drake

Title: Forever Strong (True Heroes Book 6)
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: True Heroes (6) (Book 6)
Format: Paperback; 304 pages
Publisher: Forever (January 28, 2020)
ISBN-10: 1538759608
ISBN-13: 978-1538759608
Author's Website: http://piperjdrake.com/
Notes: I received an ARC of the book from the publisher for review purposes. This is no way affected or compromised my review or rating.

Mere days ago, Jing Ying Yue had been plucked off the streets of Sinapore and kidnapped. She'd been knocked unconscious and woke up to find herself being held prisoner in a tiny cabin on a cargo ship crossing the Pacific Ocean. She doesn't know why she was kidnapped or who specifically did it. Yesterday she'd been rescued from her kidnappers. After spending the night in the hospital, she is going to be reunited with her father who has been doing business on the island of Oahu. She is being accompanied to the hotel where her father is staying by the man who rescued her, and she was eager to get back to her life. Only as they are pulling up to the hotel, the unthinkable happens...

He followed her gaze and took in the very obvious contingent of private security waiting at the top of the drive, a handful of men, all dressed in suits, each projecting an air of fit intimidation. Very impressive to most, Zu guessed. "Your father's security detail, I assume?"

She nodded in a jerky way, then shook her head side to side too fast. "He's one of them. One of my kidnappers. He's here."

They need to figure out who kidnapped Ying Yue and why or she will never be safe..

This is the sixth book of the True Heroes series by Piper J. Drake. You could probably get away with reading this one as a standalone, but I don't entirely recommend it. At the very least I recommend reading Chapter Twenty-Three of 'Fierce Justice,' the fifth book in the True Heroes series, first. It includes the moment Zu finds Ying Yue on the cargo ship. I wish the author had included it in a prologue for 'Forever Strong,'  but alas, she didn't. If, however, you want to learn how Search and Protect became intertwined with the Hawaiian government then I recommend you read 'Total Bravery,' the fourth True Heroes novel, followed by 'Fierce Justice' before reading 'Forever Strong.' The series centers around the Search and Protect organization--a privately owned contract organization with a specialized skill set. They are not mercenaries for hire, although they have the skill set to be ones if they wanted to be, but they don't. They work with canines trained for a specific type of search and rescue. They specialize in infiltrating difficult areas and extracting high-value hostages.

Azubuike Anyanwu, Zu to his friends, is the head of the Search and Protect. He and his team had been in charge of searching the Cargo ship which Ying Yue found herself on. They'd been hired by the Hawaiian government to spearhead a search for victims of human trafficking. The mission had been initiated by a task force sponsored by the Hawaiian government and was part of a larger campaign to stop human trafficking on the islands. From the moment he'd found Ying Yue he knew she was different. He found himself instantly attracted to the beautiful courageous young woman who showed strength and resourcefulness where others would have fallen apart. As the two are thrust together in an effort to protect Ying Yue from her kidnappers, the attraction that's been simmering between them comes to full boil. Zu, however, never gets involved with clients, especially not one he feels may be emotionally compromised after experiencing something as traumatic as a kidnapping. Ying Yue will have her work cut out for her in order to convince him she's not as vulnerable as he thinks.

Jing Ying Yue has a background in nonprofit capacity building and has a PhD in international tax law and policy. She'd been in Singapore for the past two years working with a few nonprofit organizations building their nonprofit capacity. Capacity building is an investment in the effectiveness and future sustainability of a nonprofit. When capacity building is successful, it strengthens and increases a nonprofit's ability to fulfill its mission over time, thereby increasing the nonprofit's ability to have a positive impact on lives and communities. While there may be a connection between her chosen profession and the kidnapping, her father is much more likely to be the reason. Her father is a wealthy and successful businessman and her kidnappers may have taken her to gain a ransom (although thus far no ransom demand had been made) for her or in an effort to gain some sort of leverage over her father. At this point, there are a lot of unknowns and it was anyone's guess as to why Ying Yue has been targeted. The fact that someone had gone to the trouble of infiltrating her father's security team, however, suggests they are serious in their attempts and not likely to give up any time soon. As it becomes clear the kidnappers are determined to get their hands on Ying Yue, she finds herself becoming more and more attracted to the man who's trying to save her. That's when things start getting interesting.

I ended up giving this one 4 out 5 roses. It was a fast paced, intriguing, suspenseful, and an engaging read. I liked the chemistry between Ying Yue and Zu and the mystery surrounding her kidnapping. I also liked how Ms. Drake put a spotlight on a topic that until recently was not often breached--human trafficking. The only thing I wish the author had incorporated into the story was the fact that often times the people who are trafficked are not from elsewhere. Sometimes they're kidnapped, manipulated, and/or lured into the trade right here in the US. The statistics aren't pretty, especially here in Florida. A friend of mine was once approached by someone who tried to pose as a security guard from a store and wanted to separate her from her child not really explaining why. She absolutely refused and called her husband who was a police officer. While we'll never know for sure if the man was a sex trafficker, we do know he wasn't who he said he was. Sometimes traffickers can be subtle sometimes not so much. One things for sure, if you're a parent you should know some of the things to look for, and if something doesn't feel right go with your gut. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed.

Notes to keep you in the know:
The following is a link to a blog article that I found it very informative. It is entitled 'Your child has already been targeted: 7 things you didn't know about human trafficking.'  Feel free to check it out:

Order of the True Heroes series:

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Almost Just Friends (Wildstone #4) by Jill Shalvis Blog Tour/Giveaway/Excerpt

Coming to a bookstore near you January 21, 2020:
Almost Just Friends by Jill Shalvis

Piper Manning’s about as tough as they come, she’s had to be. She raised her siblings and they’ve thankfully flown the coop. All she has to do is finish fixing up the lake house her grandparents left her, sell it, and then she’s free.

When a massive storm hits, she runs into a tall, dark and brooding stranger, Camden Reid. There’s a spark there, one that shocks her. Surprising her further, her sister and brother return, each of them holding their own secrets. The smart move would be for Piper to ignore them all but Cam unleashes emotions deep inside of her that she can’t deny, making her yearn for something she doesn’t understand. And her siblings…well, they need each other.

Only when the secrets come out, it changes everything Piper thinks she knows about her family, herself…and Cam. Can she find a way to outrun the demons? The answer is closer than she thinks—just as the new life she craves may have already begun.

The last time a woman had ordered Cam to strip had been a very different scene altogether, and it’d been a while. Generally speaking, he liked to be behind the wheel in most situations, but he’d never had any complaints about a woman driving in his bed. “Interesting bedside manner.”

“Okay,” she said. “How about strip, please.”

He laughed, and he realized that until tonight, it’d been a damn long time for that too. “Well, since you asked so nicely . . .” But still he hesitated.

“Trust me, I’ve seen it all before.”

He pulled off his shirt, wincing when the cotton stuck to the deepest slice across his chest.

Piper blinked, and for the first time all night, appeared short of words.

It was pretty damn cute, especially with the mud on her nose. “Thought you’ve seen it all before.” She bit her lower lip, eyes suddenly hooded, and he couldn’t resist teasing her. “So, how do I stack up?”

That got her, and she rolled her eyes. “Like you don’t know. Sit.”

The couch seemed too . . . personal, so he sat on her coffee table. She dropped to her knees at his side and doctored up first the cut on his left palm from where he’d nicked himself in his dad’s kitchen, and then the two slices on his left biceps, and then the biggest one across his chest, during which time he did his best to ignore the feel of her soft breath on his skin and failed.

When she’d finished, she looked down at his cargoes and saw the blood seeping through from his thigh. Rising to her feet, she stepped back, gesturing for him to lose the pants too.

“Seriously,” he said. “Doesn’t even have to be dinner. An appetizer would work.”

“If you’re real good, I’ll give you a sticker.”

“How about letting me look at your secret secret bucket list instead?”

Her eyes narrowed. “How about we stop talking now?”

“Wait.” He cocked his head. “Does this mean you also have a secret bucket list? And possibly a not-so- secret bucket list?”

She had hands on hips; a fresh, clean gauze in one hand, antibiotic ointment in the other, her expression dialed to Not Feeling Playful.

With a rough laugh, he stood and took the gauze and ointment from her. “I got this one, Doc.” And then he gestured for her to turn around.

She did with a smirk, and then spoke over her shoulder. “Didn’t peg you for the shy type.”

“Oh, I’m not shy.” He shoved his icy, muddy, wet cargoes to his thighs, and yeah, the cat had come within two inches of de-manning him. “Just didn’t want to have to fight you off.”

“Don’t worry,” she said. “I always get verbal consent first. And I bet you didn’t want me to see your tighty-whities.”

He gritted his teeth as he cleaned out the cut. Son of a bitch, that cat had gone deep. “They’re not tight and they’re not white.”

“Batman undies?”

“Commando,” he said, and that shut her up. When he’d finished and pulled his pants back up, he lifted his head and found her facing him. His brows went up. “See anything you like?”

Instead of answering, she blushed. And he grinned because, yeah. She’d definitely seen something she liked.

From Almost Just Friends by Jill Shalvis, published by William Morrow. Copyright © 2020 by Jill Shalvis. Reprinted courtesy of HarperCollinsPublishers https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062897800/almost-just-friends/

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New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold and visit her website, www.jillshalvis.com, for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.

Title: Almost Just Friends: A Novel
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Format: Paperback; 384 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (January 21, 2020)
ISBN-10: 0062897802
ISBN-13: 978-0062897800
Author's Website: https://www.jillshalvis.com/
Notes:  I received an eARC loan from the publisher for review purposes. This in no way affected by review or rating.

"You're the one always fixing everyone's life, everyone's but your own, of course. But even the Fixer needs help sometimes."

Piper Manning has just turned thirty and she isn't anywhere near where she wanted to be at this time of her life. She's had to put everything on hold--her hopes and dreams--to keep her family together. Her parents followed by her grandparents had passed away, and it was left up to her to keep what was left of her family together. Now, with both her siblings out of the house, she plans to make her dream of becoming a physician's assistant a reality. She just needs to sell the family lake house to make it happen. When her siblings come home unexpectedly, however, she'll find things may be more complicated than she imagined...

It's been three months since Camden 'Cam' Reid lost his brother, Rowan, in a car accident. He is suffering from a bad case of survivor's guilt. His plan was to come to Wildstone to check up on his father and then get back to his work on the East coast, but when he arrives he finds his father isn't in the best of conditions. He starts to wonder if an extended stay may be necessary...

As both Piper and Camden know, life doesn't always go as planned, and as they shall soon find out plans are sometimes meant to be broken. Sometimes for the better, and sometimes someone who could almost just be a friend can turn out to be something more...
This is the fourth book of the Wildstone series and it was written to be a standalone book. Each book in the series is a separate entity from the others with only an occasional character or two loosely overlapping in the stories. The town of Wildstone is the glue that binds of this series together. It's the place where each novel in the series takes place. If you haven't read one of these novels you're in for real a treat. The novels tackle some serious issues with heart, love, and compassion. The books leave you with the feeling that love, family, and good friends can conquer all or at least lighten the sting life can have.

At thirty, Piper is the family Matriarch. She has always appeared strong and tough on the outside because she's had to, but even she has her soft spots. For years she's put her own needs on hold. She's an EMT who is quick thinking and used to being the first to take charge of a bad situation. She's a little anal about keeping lists because they'd saved her neck more than once. One of the things on her list of 'Life Rules' is to 'never, ever, EVER, under any circumstances fall in love.' She's loved and she's lost a lot in her short life and that admission reveals a lot about her.

Cam is DEA agent and is on the reserve list for the Coast Guard. His relationship with his dad isn't what he'd like it to be, but he was raised by his mother after his parents divorced while his brother had been raised by his father. Cam lived with his mother on the East coast while Rowan and his dad had lived on the West. The two brothers had only recently established a close bond when Rowan had died.

Cam hasn't been in many romantic relationships over the years because most women can't handle his not being able to talk specifics about his job. It's literally his job, at times, to keep certain things secret. As he gets to know Piper he realizes she's not like other women. Being that she's an EMT she understands and gets what his job requires. In her he starts to see something he's never let himself see before--a future.

If I had to sum this story up in one sentence it would be the following: This is a story about two perfectly imperfect families who come together to form one perfectly perfect family. The quote which I feel exemplifies the story is:

"It's okay to be broken. Broken can be fixed."

I couldn't help but give this one 5 out of 5 roses. The story was engaging from the very first page. The heat between Cam and Piper was sizzling hot from the moment they met. I adored seeing these two people who thought they would never find love find it with each other. I also loved that the vibe 'we're family and family sticks together and supports each other no matter what' permeated the story even though it wasn't ever stated. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed.This is a story I HIGHLY recommend. I loved it.

Order of the Wildstone series:

Novella associated with the series:
(Should be read after 'Lost and Found Sisters' but before 'Rainy Day Friends')

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