Reading Challenge: Holly's 2020 Goodreads Challenge

Review: Magical Midlife Madness by K.F. Breene

Posted February 24, 2021 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Magical Midlife Madness by K.F. BreeneReviewer: Holly
Magical Midlife Madness by K.F. Breene
Series: Leveling Up #1
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: February 16, 2020
Format: eBook
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Point-of-View: Alternating First and Third Person
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Pages: 376
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Holly's 2020 Goodreads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

"Happily Ever After" wasn't supposed to come with a do-over option. But when my husband of twenty years packs up and heads for greener pastures and my son leaves for college, that's exactly what my life becomes. Do-over.

This time, though, I plan to do things differently. Age is just a number, after all, and at forty I'm ready to carve my own path. Eager for a fresh start, I make a somewhat unorthodox decision and move to a tiny town in the Sierra foothills. I'll be taking care of a centuries-old house that called to me when I was a kid. It's just temporary, I tell myself. It'll just be for a while. That is until I learn what the house really is, something I never could've imagined.

Thankfully forty isn't too old to start an adventure, because that's exactly what I do. A very dangerous adventure that will change my life forever. I have a chance to start again, and this time, I make the rules.

Magical Midlife Madness is the first book in K.F. Breene’s Leveling Up series, which is women’s fiction rather than her traditional romance. I’m not sure why I haven’t picked this series up before now. I like KF Breene’s writing and always enjoy her stories. I think this one just wasn’t on my radar until recently.

Jacinta recently turned 40 and her whole life changed. Her son went away to college and her husband asked for a divorce – something she felt only relief about. She ends up moving in with her parents, but a single day there makes her realize that isn’t going to work. Lucky for her, her best friend’s aunt is looking for a caretaker for the family mansion, Ivy House. Everyone else finds it creepy and weird, but the one time Jacinta visited as a child she fell in love with it.

Now she’s surrounded by grumpy old people – the strange butler, gardener, and ancient neighbor who can drink her under the table – and trying to deal with some strange goings-on in the town and the house. Most shocking of all? Jacinta learns the house is actually magical and so are the townsfolk..and the house has chosen her as its new Mistress. She’ll have to decide if she’s willing to accept the house’s magic, or if it’s all too much for her.

“I am not going to call you by your full name, I’ll tell you that right now. The lot of you are crazy. I’m not climbing aboard that train.”

“And yet, you just debated on the merits of slitting a perfect stranger from neck to navel versus navel to neck, and decided on stabbing and ripping any way you chose.”

“Yeah. That’s just logic.”

It started a bit slow, but about 1/4 of the way through it picked up. I was really cracking up at some of the antics of Jessie (Jacinta). She was a strong woman who had fully accepted where she was at in her life and I loved that. I also loved how she managed her new life. She accepted that she wasn’t perfect and made mistakes, but she was comfortable with where she was now. She also wasn’t afraid to speak her mind or call out others when needed. I really enjoyed the mature conversations she had with Austin Steele, the undeclared alpha. She makes him think, and he does the same for her. I appreciated that.

“I hear you,” he said softly. “I never put stock in any of that—the taunting about being ladies—but I didn’t see the bigger picture, either. Just like earlier tonight—no one has ever spelled out the dangers women face when a man asserts himself as I did. That blindsided me. So much of tonight has blindsided me. In my life, when it comes to this, I feel like I’ve been…blindfolded in a way. Not blind, because if I would’ve looked, I would’ve seen, but…” He shook his head. “I’m gobsmacked. Thank you. I’ll be more conscious of this going forward.”

There isn’t a romance in this book, which worked well for where Jessie is at in her life. She needs time to figure out other things, and I liked that Breene is giving us that. There could be something here for later books, but right now friendship is at the forefront.

I did think it got a little preachy for a minute with the whole ‘love yourself as you are’ and ‘middle-age is okay’ stuff. I don’t disagree with the sentiment at all, and in fact, love the message, but it came across a little heavy-handed at times. Not so much that I didn’t enjoy the book, but just enough that I noticed it.

“Raise your voice until you are heard. Look however you want, be whoever you want, and demand people pay attention to you. Stop taking what you’re given, and demand the space in life you want.”

If you’re looking for a fun read full of humor, with mature characters who are figuring out the next stage of their lives amidst unforeseen craziness, I highly recommend this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Leveling Up

four-stars


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Review: Shadow of Doubt by Hailey Edwards

Posted February 15, 2021 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Shadow of Doubt by Hailey EdwardsReviewer: Holly
Shadow of Doubt by Hailey Edwards
Series: The Potentate of Atlanta #1
Publisher: Black Dog Books LLC
Publication Date: August 7, 2019
Format: eBook
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Point-of-View: Alternating First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 259
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Holly's 2020 Goodreads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
three-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Hadley Whitaker is a liar, a killer, and a chocoholic, but she’s getting better about the first two. Or maybe she’s just getting better at them.

Some days it’s hard for her to tell fact from fiction, but only one truth matters. Goddess willing, she’s going to be the next Potentate of Atlanta. Even if it means playing nice with Midas Kinase, a shifter whose mysterious past might just be grimmer than her own.

When a bloodthirsty rogue begins hunting the city’s paranormals, Hadley ropes Midas into letting her work the case. But that rope starts to feel more like a noose as they come closer to discovering not only the rogue’s identity, but each other’s darkest secrets.

Hadley Whitaker has been given a second chance at life. She’s hoping to earn her place as the new Potentate of Atlanta. Her mentor, Linus, is staying with his fiancé in Savannah, so Hadley is working her first case alone. The case puts her in the path of Midas Kinase, someone connected to her old life – though he doesn’t realize it. Hadley is determined to keep Midas in the dark, and embrace this new chance at life she’s been given. But between Midas and the watch-dog he put on her, Hadley has a hard time keeping all her secrets safe.

Bent, not broken. That was me. I hoped it was me. I wanted it to be.

We first met Hadley in the previous series, The Beginners Guide to Necromancy. I don’t want to spoil things, so I won’t go into detail about her actions there. I will say, I didn’t love Hadley in the previous series, but I’m coming around. She accepts the mistakes she made and is working to atone. She’s suspicious of the actions of those who know how she came to be in the position she is, and I sympathized with her there. Not knowing if someone is genuinely offering friendship, or just doing so to keep you close and keep an eye on you must weigh on a person.

“You’ve got friends here,” he called to my back. “I’m not as pretty as Ford, but I care.” I didn’t slow to answer, because I wasn’t sure about Bishop either. The POA had stuck us together, much the same as Midas had volunteered Ford. Neither of them had chosen to work with me. They were both doing a job, and I was a part of that.

I really loved Midas here and I can’t wait to learn more about him. There were hints of his backstory that left me wanting more. I enjoyed his protectiveness toward his pack, but he was also a bit of a loner.

Neither Midas nor Hadley are interested in starting anything. Midas has accepted the beta position in his pack after his sister decided to form her own pack and left the city. He never wanted to be Beta and he’s struggling with the role. Hadley is trying to find her feet and get out from under the weight of her past, plus secure the position of Potentate. But they form a sort of friendship here that was touching. I enjoyed how neither of them willingly came to the friendship, but it sort of happened anyway.

Although there are some darker themes here, there was quite a bit of humor. I can’t say this was my favorite novel by Edwards, but I enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to seeing where the series goes.

“Life isn’t black and white, Lee. There’s a whole spectrum. You can’t go through life colorblind.”

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

The Potentate of Atlanta

three-half-stars


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Review: The Earl Takes a Fancy by Lorraine Heath

Posted January 20, 2021 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: The Earl Takes a Fancy by Lorraine HeathReviewer: Holly
The Earl Takes a Fancy by Lorraine Heath
Narrator: Kate Reading
Series: Sins for All Seasons #5
Also in this series: Beyond Scandal and Desire, Beyond Scandal and Desire, When a Duke Loves a Woman, When a Duke Loves a Woman (Sins for All Seasons, #2), The Scoundrel in Her Bed (Sins for All Seasons, #3), The Duchess in His Bed, The Earl Takes a Fancy, Beauty Tempts the Beast, Beauty Tempts the Beast , The Duchess in His Bed , The Scoundrel in Her Bed
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: March 31, 2020
Format: eBook, Audiobook
Source: Purchased, Library
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 403
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Goodreads Challenge, Historical Challenge, Holly's 2020 Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 Historical Challenge, Holly's 2020 Reading Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

New York Times bestselling author Lorraine Heath pens another richly satisfying romance in her Sins for all Seasons series.

She’s looking for a nobleman to wed…

Though born out of wedlock, Fancy Trewlove is determined to fulfill her mother’s wish that she marry into nobility. Fancy’s keen intellect and finishing school manners make her the perfect wife for any gentleman—if he’s willing to overlook her scandalous lineage. But Fancy’s plans are thrown into chaos when an intriguing commoner begins visiting her bookshop—and she finds herself unable to stop thinking about him.

He’s looking to escape his title…

Widowed just a year ago, the reclusive Matthew Sommersby, Earl of Rosemont, has been besieged by women hoping to become his next wife. Desperate for anonymity, he sheds Society life to search for the peace that eludes him. Fancy’s shop is his one refuge, until the night their passion erupts into a kiss that nearly leads to her ruin—and leaves both longing for much more.

Together, they discover an unlikely love…

As Fancy finds herself torn between her family’s expectations and her growing feelings for Matthew, secrets are exposed—secrets that force Fancy to question if she can trust her heart’s desire...

I was looking for a new audiobook when Tracy suggested this one. I haven’t been reading a lot of historicals lately, so I’m behind in this series. I remember enjoying Fancy in the previous books and I was happy to fall into her story.

Fancy Trewlove is about to have her come-out in society. Her siblings have all raised themselves above their station, and as the youngest they have very high expectations for her. She’d rather run her bookshop and focus on teaching reading to both children and adults, but she doesn’t wish to disappoint them. When she meets Matthew Sommersby, they have an instant rapport. This is the type of gentleman she wishes she could marry – one who sees her for who she is, and wants her for more than her dowry.

Matthew was tricked into marrying a woman once, and now he has little respect for women who chase after a title. His late wife is even tormenting him from the grave, by having a letter published a year after her death begging the ladies of the ton to help him find love again. Love. Please. They barely tolerated each other in life…she’s only ensuring he feels misery long after her death, since now he can’t show his face in public without all the marriage-minded mamas and debutantes mobbing him. Fancy seems different. She’s well read and intelligent, kind and thoughtful, and….searching for a titled husband? Of course she is. His disappointment that she’s like all the other deceitful ladies out there is crushing, but he can’t seem to stay away from her.

I loved Fancy. She was willing to sacrifice her dreams for her family, but was determined to do it on her own terms. I liked the two sides to her – independent and loyal. I liked Fancy and Matthew together. They had wonderful chemistry and their banter was well done. I really liked the care he took with her, and how sweet he was despite his frustration over her hunt for a titled husband. Naturally I was annoyed at his poor assumptions about her later in the book, but even then I couldn’t help but root for them.

Beast is up next. I cannot wait!

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

Sins for All Seasons

four-stars


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Review: The Scoundrel in Her Bed by Lorraine Heath

Posted January 15, 2021 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: The Scoundrel in Her Bed by Lorraine HeathReviewer: Holly
The Scoundrel in Her Bed by Lorraine Heath
Narrator: Kate Reading
Series: Sins for All Seasons #3
Also in this series: Beyond Scandal and Desire, Beyond Scandal and Desire, When a Duke Loves a Woman, When a Duke Loves a Woman (Sins for All Seasons, #2), The Scoundrel in Her Bed (Sins for All Seasons, #3), The Duchess in His Bed, The Earl Takes a Fancy, Beauty Tempts the Beast, Beauty Tempts the Beast , The Duchess in His Bed , The Earl Takes a Fancy
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: February 26, 2019
Format: eBook, Audiobook
Source: Purchased, Library
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 400
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Goodreads Challenge, Historical Challenge, Holly's 2020 Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 Historical Challenge, Holly's 2020 Reading Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

The bastard son of a nobleman, Finn Trewlove was a shameful secret raised by a stranger. As Finn came of age, he had secrets, too—the clandestine nights spent with an earl’s daughter. But her promise of forever ended in betrayal.

Driven by a past that haunts her, Lady Lavinia Kent seeks redemption in London’s underworld, engaged in a daring cause inspired by the young man to whom she gave her innocence, and who then proved himself a scoundrel by abandoning her.

When their paths cross again, they can’t deny the yearning and desire that still burns. As they discover the truth behind the deceptions that tore them apart, Finn and Lavinia must fight to reclaim what they’ve lost, no matter how dangerous—because love is worth the risk . . .

The early part of this novel switches back and forth between the present and 8 years prior, when Finn Trewlove and Lady Lavinia Kent met and fell in love. Something went horribly wrong between them, and we are slowly shown how events unfolded.

We were introduced to Lady Lavinia Kent in When a Duke Loves a Woman, where she left her affianced duke at the alter. She’s been hiding out in Whitechapel ever since, on a quest to rescue children from Baby Farmers – women who take in by-blows for a fee. She’s staying with the Sisters of Mercy, who are keeping the children she rescues, but they’re running out of bed space. Her ultimate dream is to find work so she can have her own foundling home, but her brother, the Earl of Collinsworth, has put out a reward for anyone who finds her and brings her home, and she isn’t able to move about freely. 8 years ago she was in love with a man, a commoner, who abandoned her. Since then her life has been pretty awful, and she’s determined to give these children better than she had. No matter the cost.

Finn was devastated when Vivi betrayed him. Because of her he spent 5 years in prison, nursing his need for revenge. But now that she’s in Whitechapel, he can’t hold onto his anger. Things take a devastating turn for them both when they realize neither was at fault for their separation. Finn would love to pick up where they left off, but Lavinia knows they’re both different people…and if Finn finds out all her secrets, he’ll probably hate her…

I enjoyed this story quite a bit. I liked seeing a younger Finn and Lavinia come to know each other and fall in love. I liked even more seeing the older, more mature versions of themselves doing the same. They both come to realize they would have had many more challenges had they married 8 years ago, and I liked that though they were committed then and now, they recognized their growth and appreciated the relationship more for it.

I was frustrated with how long it took Vivi to share her secrets with Finn, though I loved how supportive he was of her in the meantime. This was a sweet, second-chance romance and I was here for it.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

Sins for All Seasons

four-stars


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Review: Aurora Blazing by Jessie Mihalik

Posted January 13, 2021 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Aurora Blazing by Jessie MihalikReviewer: Holly
Aurora Blazing by Jessie Mihalik
Series: Consortium Rebellion #2
Also in this series: Polaris Rising
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 400
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 Reading Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Bianca von Hasenberg did her duty for High House von Hasenberg and ended up trapped in a terrible marriage. When her husband dies unexpectedly and leaves her a happy widow, she vows never to marry again. Instead, she uses her connections to save other young women. Information is power and Bianca has a network that would be the envy of the ’verse—if anyone knew about it.

After an attack, Bianca’s oldest brother, the House von Hasenberg heir, disappears from Earth without a trace. Determined to find him, Bianca leaves against orders. When she refuses to return, her father sends Ian Bishop, the director of House von Hasenberg security, to haul her home like a recalcitrant child.

Bianca leads Ian on a merry chase across the universe, but when their paths finally collide, she persuades him that they would be far more successful at finding her brother if they worked together. She will do anything to save her sibling, even if it means spending time alone on a small ship with the handsome, infuriating man who once broke her heart.

As clues lead them deep into rival House Rockhurst territory, Bianca must decide if she can trust Ian with the one piece of information that could destroy her completely. . .

Bianca von Hasenberg was sold off by her father into marriage to a monster. He slowly separated her from her support group, tore her down, then experimented on her without her consent. Now she’s a happy widow, but she’s still dealing with the pain of his betrayal and the consequences of his genetic modifications. She’s healing, but it’s slow going. When her eldest brother is kidnapped, she knows she has the skills to find him and bring him home….The head of house security, and her long time crush, disagrees. She ends up running from him and the planet. When he catches up with her, they decide (grudgingly on his part) to work together. Bianca knows how Ian feels about her her – he’s made it clear on multiple occasions he finds her to be nothing more than a spoiled Princess. That doesn’t stop her heart from wanting him. When she uncovers some of his secrets, she realizes there’s more to Ian than she ever knew….She can only hope he realizes the same about her.

We met Bianca in the previous book. She was publicly in mourning from the death of her husband, but it was obvious there was no love lost and something was going on with her. I enjoyed her strength and determination, her loyalty to her family and her overall smarts. She was an excellent character. I didn’t love the romance, however. They spent years sniping at each other, and their transition from adversaries to being IN LOVE didn’t work for me. It didn’t help that despite Ian constantly tearing her down (usually unintentionally – she had hidden emotional scars he wasn’t aware of), she still pined for him. For years. I think I’d rather have seen her walk away from him, which would force him to work harder for her affection.

Still, I enjoyed the story and the nonstop action enough that I’m rating this higher than the first book.

3.75/4 out of 5

Consortium Rebellion

four-stars


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