Tag: Kensington

Sunday Spotlight: (im)Perfectly Happy by Sharina Harris

Posted April 26, 2020 by Rowena in Features | 2 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

Sharina Harris contacted us a couple of months ago and brought her book to my attention. After reading through her email and then checking out her book, I knew that I was going to read it. I’m a big fan of books that feature a strong set of female friendships and (im)Perfectly Happy looks like it fit the bill. This book comes out on Tuesday so you don’t have a long wait but check out an excerpt from the book.

Sunday Spotlight: (im)Perfectly Happy by Sharina HarrisImperfectly Happy by Sharina Harris
Publisher: Davina
Publication Date: April 28, 2020
Format: eARC
Source: Author
Genres: Women's Fiction
Pages: 320
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books

When four college friends formed the Brown Sugarettes Mastermind Group, they had very different goals--but matched each other in ambition. Yet ten years later they can't help wondering what happened to the hopeful, confident, driven women they used to be--and how to get them back . . .

Radio personality Raina, known as "the black Delilah," hates the wholesome persona that's made her a success. Doling out syrupy versions of her grandma's wisdom feels worlds away from the sarcastic, tell-it-like-it-is woman Raina really is.

Kara Jones was sure she'd be a master sommelier by thirty. Life and loss interfered with that plan. Now she has one more chance--but it's taking a toll on her self-esteem and her marriage.

Nikki Grayson hardly recognizes the stay-at-home mom she's become. When her band signed a record deal, she swapped the limelight for a minivan and a sensible 'do. Now she's wishing she had followed her heart. Instead, she's drowning her regret in alcohol.

Public defender Sienna Njeri willingly put her city council aspirations aside to support her fiance's bid for office--and now she's wondering if her loyalty is misplaced.
Longing for the support, advice, and tough love they once shared, all four resolve to start meeting up again. After all, their dreams may still be within reach. But are they worth the price they'll pay to achieve them?

Excerpt

What in the hell have I gotten myself into? My palms were a soupy mess, I wiped them on my shorts, while my heart pounded against my chest. The screechy squawks of packing tape being ripped off cardboard and the sound of occasional grunts coming from Cameron, who was unpacking boxes and shifting furniture, forced tendrils of guilt down my spine.

He was grinding away getting things done while I sat motionless, alternating between Disney Princess happy and trembling like a frightened kitten. My phone buzzed, and I grabbed it from the pocket of my cutoffs. Nikki’s name flashed across the screen. I pressed the answer button, but before I could greet her, she said, “How’s your scary ass doing?”

“I’m good. Just getting things organized.” I lied easily to my best friend from college. And like all best friends, she knew I was full of shit.

“You’re a damn lie.”

“What’s up, Nik?” My annoyance was clear in my tone. “You know I’m busy.”

“The girls and I were talking . . . and anyway, I volunteered as tribute.” The girls she was referring to were my two other best friends from college, Sienna and Kara. We were always up in each other’s business, so I wasn’t surprised they’d gotten together to discuss God knows what.

“Volunteered for what?”

“Volunteered to talk some sense into you. We know you have cold feet about moving in with Cam.”

What did they think I would do—run away from home? I squelched down the flare of irritation that prickled my skin. My friends meant well, but I wasn’t in the mood for the all men aren’t like your daddy lecture. I knew that already. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be doing a bunch of domestic shit like buying mulch and analyzing a dozen gray paint samples with stupid names like Mole’s Breath. A roll of sweat trickled from my neck onto my chest. I used my hand as a fan. I was pretty sure the sweat was from the heat, not anxiety.

“Hellooooo, Raina? You still there?”

“Yes.” I modulated my tone to my late-night radio personality I used for my job. “I’m perfectly fine.”

“Sure you aren’t. And don’t take on that bougie-ass radio therapist tone with me. You’re talking to a friend, not a caller from your show.” She smacked her lips. “Anyway, can you talk?”

I looked at my guy, who was whistling as he drilled studs above the fireplace to mount our big screen TV. “Not right now,” I whispered.

“Good. You can just listen. Cam is a great guy, and this is a good step. You’ve been together for six years, and he’s been more than patient with your crazy ass. Who else would propose three times, get rejected, and then buy a house with you?”

“First of all—” I stopped myself when I caught Cameron’s attention. His eyebrows crinkled, and his eyes scanned me. I knew he was checking to see if everything was good. I gave him a smile and thumbs-up. “It’s Nikki. She’s just wishing us good luck.”

“No, I’m not. I’m convincing your crazy-ass girlfriend to calm down,” Nikki yelled over the phone line.

Giveaway Alert

We’re giving one lucky winner their choice of one of our Sunday Spotlight books. Use the widget below to enter for one of this month’s features.

Sunday Spotlight: April 2020

Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!

About Sharina Harris

Sharina Harris earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Georgia State University. After college, she pursued a career in digital marketing and public relations. Although her profession required writing, she decided to pursue a career in writing in 2012.

Sharina’s contemporary romance series under the pen name, Rina Gray, was named Book Riot’s 100 Must‑Read Romantic Comedies. When Sharina’s not writing, she can be found with her head stuck in a book, rooting for her favorite NBA teams, and spending time with friends and family.

Sharina resides in Atlanta with her husband and son. Visit her at SharinaHarris.com.


Tagged: , , , , ,

Guest Review: The Temptation of Lady Serena by Ella Quinn

Posted February 10, 2020 by Tracy in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: The Temptation of Lady Serena by Ella QuinnReviewer: Tracy
The Temptation of Lady Serena by Ella Quinn
Series: The Marriage Game #3
Also in this series: A Kiss for Lady Mary
Publisher: Kensington
Publication Date: January 14, 2014
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Point-of-View: Third
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 356
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
two-stars
Series Rating: three-stars

Ella Quinn's bachelors in The Marriage Game series are charming and cunning when it comes to the ways of love--until the right woman captures their unsuspecting hearts. . .

Custom-made gowns. . .nights at the theater. . .and a host of eligible bachelors. Accustomed to living a quiet life in the Scottish Borderlands, Lady Serena Weir has never had any of these luxuries. But when Serena's brother demands she finally have a Season in London, she's thrust into a glamorous world she's only dreamed of. . .

Robert, Viscount Beaumont, remembers all too well what it feels like to be in love. That is why he must keep his distance from Serena. He's only felt his pulse stir the way it does now when he made the mistake of loving the wrong woman once before. Yet the more he strives to resist his feelings, the nearer he is to falling under Serena's seductive spell. . .

Lady Serena gets sent to London from Scotland for a season when she is 26 years old.  Her parents had passed and she’d taken care of the family estate and dependents since she was 14 years old and her brother was off being a soldier.  When he returns with his new wife, the wife gets rid of Serena by sending her off to London.

Serena is not sure how to handle herself as she’s never been in any kind of society.  Luckily she has an aunt and a cousin from her mother’s side of the family who are sponsoring her and getting her ready.  She may not have the social wiles, but her kindness and innocence shine through and make her the talk of the ton.

Robert, Viscount Beaumont, is struck by Serena’s beauty from the moment he sees her.  He had eschewed ton events for years but he now attends as many as possible, just to dance and stare at Serena.  He is charming and soon Serena is in love with him.  He wants her desperately, but has stated that he’ll never love again (after a fiasco when he was a young man).  Robert decides he’ll ask Serena to marry him but before that happens, he compromises her.  Serena is pissed off and says she’ll not marry him because he doesn’t love her.  She then leads him on a chase, but in the end he realizes he loves her.

This would have been a great end to this story and would have happened about 50% of the way through the book.  But no, the book continued on for another 200 pages and gave us another romance, local country children getting kidnapped and the resolution of that, as well as an old bed partner of Robert’s causing trouble.  It was ridiculous.  If we could have just had the story wrap up after Robert told Serena he loved her I probably would have given this book a better rating.  Unfortunately with all of the unnecessary parts that were added into the book, the rating didn’t dip down, it took a huge dive.

I did love Serena in this book.  She was kind, generous and all that was good.  You would think that she would have been over the top, but she wasn’t.  She just knew her business when it came to running an estate, and she wasn’t afraid to tell Robert her thoughts.  Robert was a bit of an ass at first, but he settled down and became a good man.  I was happy for the two of them.

The romance was worth reading in this book but the rest…not so much.  I can’t recommend this one unless you plan on just reading the first half of the book.

Rating: 2 out of 5

The Marriage Game

two-stars


Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Review: Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn

Posted January 23, 2020 by Rowena in Reviews | 2 Comments

Review: Love Lettering by Kate ClaybornReviewer: Rowena
Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn
Publisher: Kensington
Publication Date: December 31, 2019
Format: eARC, eBook
Source: NetGalley, Purchased
Point-of-View: First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 320
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2020 Goodreads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
three-half-stars

In this warm and witty romance from acclaimed author Kate Clayborn, one little word puts one woman’s business—and her heart—in jeopardy . . .

Meg Mackworth’s hand-lettering skill has made her famous as the Planner of Park Slope, designing beautiful custom journals for New York City’s elite. She has another skill too: reading signs that other people miss. Like the time she sat across from Reid Sutherland and his gorgeous fiancée, and knew their upcoming marriage was doomed to fail. Weaving a secret word into their wedding program was a little unprofessional, but she was sure no one else would spot it. She hadn’t counted on sharp-eyed, pattern-obsessed Reid . . .

A year later, Reid has tracked Meg down to find out—before he leaves New York for good—how she knew that his meticulously planned future was about to implode. But with a looming deadline, a fractured friendship, and a bad case of creative block, Meg doesn’t have time for Reid’s questions—unless he can help her find her missing inspiration. As they gradually open up to each other about their lives, work, and regrets, both try to ignore the fact that their unlikely connection is growing deeper. But the signs are there—irresistible, indisputable, urging Meg to heed the messages Reid is sending her, before it’s too late . . .

Love Lettering has been on my TBR list for a while now and I’ve been hearing such great things about it so I was really looking forward to reading it. I read the entire thing in one day and while I enjoyed the book as a whole, I thought the beginning really dragged and it took me until chapter 9 before I started warming up to Meg, to Reid, and to everything that was happening in the book.

Our heroine, Meg Mackworth is the Planner of Park Slope. She’s made a name for herself with her custom planner business. She’s a hand-lettering specialist who handwrites party invitations, personal planners and she used to handwrite wedding invitations but her during her last wedding invitations job, she did something she shouldn’t have and so she made sure it wouldn’t happen again by quitting the wedding invitation side of her business. From now on, she’s only doing custom hand-lettering for clients who want custom planners, she’s working on a portfolio of ideas for a stationary line that she’s hoping to get a big sponsorship contract for. She tries not to think about the hidden pattern she wrote into that last wedding invitation and it’s been a year so she thinks she’s moved on from it until the groom shows up, wanting to know why she wrote that hidden code into his invitation.

Meg and Reid spark up a friendship that begins with Meg needing to find inspiration for her stationery line. She invites Reid along with her on walks around New York City so that she can find inspiration for her line and so Reid can discover the beauty of New York for himself. Reid is not happy in New York and Meg wants to show him that if he gave New York a fair shot, he would come to love it just as much as she did. They got to know each other on these walks around New York. They played games while they searched for signs around the city and ultimately, they fell in love on these walks.

Like I said before, it took me quite a while to get into this story. I just wasn’t all that interested in the beginning and that’s weird for me because I LOVE planners. I love all things planning and hand-lettering but I really struggled with this book at the start. I’m really glad that I stuck with this book though because I really came to love Meg, to love Reid, and to love New York. I’m a West Coast girl through and through but while I was reading this book, I could totally see myself moving to New York and falling in love with the city and the signs. This was a slow burn romance and I guess I was too anxious for the romance to pick up but Kate Clayborn has a writing style that flows nicely. This story unrolls slowly and picks up steam with each passing chapter. When I finished the book, I had a big ol’ grin on my face and I loved the heck out of Reid and Meg. I loved seeing Meg come into her own and I really enjoyed seeing Reid and Meg come into their feelings for each other. This was a good romance and I definitely recommend.

Final Grade

Grade: 3.75 out of 5

three-half-stars


Tagged: , , , , ,

Guest Review: The Blacksmith Queen by G.A. Aiken

Posted August 30, 2019 by Tracy in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: The Blacksmith Queen by G.A. AikenReviewer: Tracy
The Blacksmith Queen by G.A. Aiken
Series: The Scarred Earth Saga #1
Also in this series: The Blacksmith Queen
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
Publication Date: August 27, 2019
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Point-of-View: Third
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 304
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
three-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

When a prophesy brings war to the Land of the Black Hills, Keeley Smythe must join forces with a clan of mountain warriors who are really centaurs in a thrilling new fantasy romance series from New York Times bestselling author G.A. Aiken. The Old King Is Dead With the demise of the Old King, there's a prophesy that a queen will ascend to the throne of the Black Hills. Bad news for the king's sons, who are prepared to defend their birthright against all comers. But for blacksmith Keeley Smythe, war is great for business. Until it looks like the chosen queen will be Beatrix, her younger sister. Now it's all Keeley can do to protect her family from the enraged royals.

Luckily, Keeley doesn't have to fight alone. Because thundering to her aid comes a clan of kilt-wearing mountain warriors called the Amichai. Not the most socially adept group, but soldiers have never bothered Keeley, and rough, gruff Caid, actually seems to respect her. A good thing because the fierce warrior will be by her side for a much longer ride than any prophesy ever envisioned ...

Keeley is a blacksmith and loves what she does.  She comes from a long line of female blacksmiths and doesn’t plan on ever doing anything else. She has a large loving family and loves taking care of them as well.  When she finds out that her bookish (and she feels, not too smart) younger sister, Beatrix, is prophesied to be the next Queen, Keeley is a little skeptical, but totally supports her sister.  When one of the sons of the recently deceased king shows up to execute Beatrix (they want no one on the throne but themselves), Keeley protects the family, along with her War Monk sister, Gemma, and four Centaurs called the Amichai that show up to protect Beatrix as well.

Keeley and Gemma get their family to safety after being attacked, and then make their way to the Witches of Amhuinn to verify with their seer that Beatrix is in fact the true prophesied queen.  When their Seer stands before Beatrix she states that yes, Beatrix will be queen, but then she points to Keeley and states, and so will she.   Beatrix isn’t happy about this additional prophesy at all.  She takes off and no one knows where she goes after trying to take matters with Keeley into her own hands.  After the witches stronghold is attacked, an injured Keeley is taken to the Amichai’s homeland to heal.

Keeley doesn’t want to be queen but after much deliberation and arguing she finally resigns herself to the fact that this is what needs to happen to save their lands.  She then heads out to drum up an army.

This book was a good one.  Set in Aiken’s Dragon Kin world yet far removed from the dragons.  In fact Keeley had only heard rumors about dragons being real.  I liked the characters and the beginning of what I hope will end up being a fantastic series.

I liked Keeley a lot despite the fact that she was rude at times and completely vicious when it came to fighting.  Besides that she was a pretty darned happy person and liked to smile.  People would underestimate her because she was a blacksmith and a fighter, and happy, thinking she was dumb, but she was actually quite brilliant.

During the course of the book Keeley starts falling for one of the centaurs named Caid.  He falls for her too and endures endless teasing from his siblings.  It’s hilarious.  While they “get together” in this book there’s only a tad bit of what would be considered romance.  Neither Caid nor Keeley are the romantic type so take that into consideration.

Overall I liked the story.  There was quite a bit of action in the book (read: fight scenes) but it worked for what the characters were trying to accomplish.  The Dragon Kin series books were definitely romance, with each book having its own hero and heroine – which was what I was expecting with this book.  Despite my disappointment in not getting a true romance, I thought it was good.  This book ended without a conclusion, so we’ll have to wait until the series continues before I can find out what happens to Keeley as queen and with her and Caid.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

three-half-stars


Tagged: , , , , , ,

Guest Review: In a Badger Way by Shelly Laurenston

Posted April 24, 2019 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: In a Badger Way by Shelly LaurenstonReviewer: Jen
In a Badger Way by Shelly Laurenston, Charlotte Kane
Series: Honey Badger Chronicles #2
Also in this series: Hot and Badgered (Honey Badgers Chronicles #1), Hot and Badgered (Honey Badger Chronicles, #1)
Publisher: Kensington
Publication Date: March 26, 2019
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Pages: 410
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
three-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Petite, kind, brilliant, and young, Stevie is nothing like the usual women bodyguard Shen Li is interested in. Even more surprising, the youngest of the lethal, ball-busting, and beautiful MacKilligan sisters is terrified of bears. But she’s not terrified of pandas. She loves pandas.

Which means that whether Shen wants her to or not, she simply won’t stop cuddling him. He isn’t some stuffed Giant Panda, ya know! He is a Giant Panda shifter. He deserves respect and personal space. Something that little hybrid is completely ignoring.

But Stevie has a way of finding trouble. Like going undercover to take down a scientist experimenting on other shifters. For what, Shen doesn’t want to know, but they’d better find out. And fast. Stevie might be the least violent of the honey badger sisters, but she’s the most dangerous to Shen’s peace of mind. Because she has absolutely no idea how much trouble they’re in . . . or just how damn adorable she is.

More honey badgers! That should honestly be the tag line for this book, because anyone who glimpsed the MacKilligan sisters in Hot and Badgered should pretty much know what that means: lots of fighting and violent but devoted sisterly love.

This book is about Stevie MacKilligan. Stevie is the genius in the family, the one who is both a world-class scientist and a world-class musician (so far). She also has some pretty severe anxiety problems and turns into a giant raving hybrid monster when provoked. You know, as you do. There are some more fishy things happening to hybrid shifters in the world, and Stevie has to help put a stop to it. Luckily, she has Shen to help her. Shen is a panda shifter who likes his life filled with quiet and all the bamboo he can eat. The more time he spends with Stevie, though, the more he realizes he may be ok with a little disruption.

Stevie isn’t my favorite MacKilligan sister. I wasn’t that interested in her in the first book, and I still wasn’t that interested in her after her own book. It’s not that I didn’t like her, but I did think she was a bit immature. Her romance with Shen didn’t have much substance to it either. Laurenston’s books do share focus between plot and romance in largely equal measures, and this book follows that pattern. The problem was, I didn’t really see a huge connection between Stevie and Shen. Shen seemed too old, too mature for Stevie, and I didn’t really see where they could go by the end.

The plot, though, was fun. The villain is pretty cartoon evil, and it’s always fun to see Laurenston’s villains get their comeuppance. I really enjoyed Stevie’s friendship with Kyle, too. He’s another prodigy, and a very obnoxious one at that, but he actually had some personal growth in this book. He and Stevie were odd friends but they somehow worked, and it was fun to read about. I also loved seeing more of the MacKilligan sisters and glimpses of past couples from Laurenston’s other series.

There is a lot of talk about mental health because Stevie has some serious issues. The book makes a big deal about how she gets treatment, both therapy, and medication. Even her sisters seek some treatment in this book, and that’s not something you normally see in a wacky paranormal romance. It normalizes seeking help, which I like. If those topics are triggering for you, though, you may want to steer clear of the Honey Badger books.

Even my least favorite Laurenston books are always a good time. I’ll just keep waiting anxiously for the next book.

Grade: 3.5 out of 5

Honey Badger Chronicles

three-half-stars


Tagged: , , , , , , , ,