I’m still buzzing a little from reading one of my favorite books of the year at the final hour. Pamela Clare’s HARD JUSTICE took me on a wild ride/hijacked my attention/made me fall in love with a giant, Scottish ginger (and if I imagined him as looking like Tormund from GOT that’s no one’s business but mine).
This book is fantastic, with killer steam and sweet, caring moments, too; it’s an adrenaline-fueled murder investigation and a love story with two long-time coworkers finally succumbing to the attraction they’ve held for years...again and again and again 😉. (I told you, it’s very steamy.)
Quinn McManus’s experience as a private security operative comes in handy when he travels to Scotland to figure out who killed his best friend. Elizabeth Shields or Lilibet, as he calls her, his coworker & the woman he’s long had a crush on, unexpectedly joins him, and they’re soon embroiled in a dangerous investigation that could cost them everything.
There’s a little bit of forbidden romance here, and also just reluctance on Quinn’s part because he’s dealing with things in his past. But Quinn shouldn’t worry, because—I’m going to put it all on the table here—he’s such a delicious hero and he and Elizabeth together are 10/10, fireworks in a summer night sky kind of magic.
Check this book out for phenomenal romantic suspense. In case you can’t tell, I loved it. 4.5 ⭐️.
Thanks to Netgalley for my complimentary copy; all opinions provided are my own.
I received a complimentary ARC of this book from Netgalley but all opinions provided are my own.
This is one of those books that I want all of my friends to read, because it’s so wonderful and I know you all will love it. (Please do what I ask; it’s for your own good.)
Okay, now that that’s out of the way.
I’ve loved Lucy Parker’s books since I first read the sensational opposites-attract romance Act Like It, and I think that Headliners is my favorite of a truly special series. Featuring long-standing professional rivals whose relationship has recently turned even more nasty, Headliners sucked me in with its glares and insults and caustic chemistry and then it slowly turned as sweet (and necessary to my happiness) as sugar. For much of the book I was a pile of goo.
In the previous book in the series, The Austen Playbook, journalist Nick Davenport reveals a huge scoop that just so happens to drag his reporter-nemesis Sabrina Carlton’s family through the mud and casts aspersions on her character. It’s the lowest moment for him personally, even if it does temporarily give him the career boost he wanted.
Now, in Headliners, Nick’s career’s in trouble, and the only way he can save it is by teaming up with Sabrina, who, thanks to Nick’s earlier scoop, needs her own success story. The struggling morning show they’re tasked with running is the only thing keeping them both professionally afloat, which is really unfortunate since they can’t stand each other and there’s quite a lot of bad blood between them (and not in a cute Taylor Swift song kind of way).
There’s so much about Parker’s writing, and Headliners in particular, that stands out to me—even in the sea of really well-written contemporaries I’ve read this year—but I think what it really comes down to is that Parker’s romances feel believable. The pacing is marvelously done: each moment of vulnerability feels like it’s leading convincingly to a future HEA, even if the protagonists started out as the most bitter of enemies at the beginning of the book. Even if one of them, *cough Nick cough* did something pretty bad that he’s now ashamed of.
It feels like Parker's characters make genuine connections through touch, potentially awkward situations, and difficult conversations, and you can see them fall in love as it happens (even if the characters themselves are less than aware). There’s no moment of doubt for me—no wondering if the characters actually know each other even as they proclaim their love. Just the sense that two flawed and yet lovely people have found their person and they’re fantastically well-matched.
I love Sabrina and Nick together--and also Freddy and Griff, the protagonists of The Austen Playbook who return in Headliners and are as cute as ever *bops them all on the nose*.
Headliners is all so good: warm and witty and told in Parker’s distinctive fashion, and I loved every word of it.
Thanks to Netgalley and HarperCollins Publishers for my complimentary ARC; all opinions provided are my own.
Before having Josephine I’d forgotten that breastfeeding—especially in the middle of the night—offers the opportunity to binge read (and eat lots of bad things in the name of staying awake, but that’s another matter altogether and best not explored at the moment because #survivalmode).
The facts are that Josephine has been a greedy little nighttime piglet and since having her on the 10th I’ve read at least four books. The first of them was Jill Shalvis’s Almost Just Friends, a magnetic women’s fic book that I couldn’t wait to keep reading despite the fact that I was running on probably three hours of sleep or less for three days in a row.
EMT Piper has spent her life taking care of people: the injured people she encounters at her job and her two younger siblings whom she basically raised after their parents died. Now’s her chance to leave Wildstone and pursue her own dreams…until her siblings show back up with a boatload of secrets between them and a sexy stranger named Camden moves in next door (relatively speaking).
As a person who isn’t too keen on confrontation, family drama plots sometimes stress me out. But Shalvis handles it deftly here: I love how she sketches the complicated dynamics between family members, showing how even the most well-intentioned person can make mistakes and also keep trying to be better. There’s room for both squabbles and forgiveness in families and Shalvis’s portrayal of that in Almost Just Friends moves me.
Those family secrets are also balanced by the relationship between Piper and Camden, which is all things lovely despite/because of the baggage each of them is dragging. It’s a relationship that’s based on mutual respect and attraction and fear-that-turns-into-bravery, all things that I find really sexy in real life and in romance novels. The banter between them and the other characters shines, offering another source of levity and warmth for the (extremely tired and maybe a little grumpy) reader.
And a big hurray! to Shalvis for increasingly including diverse characters and themes in her books, something that I think sets her apart from a lot of white “mainstream” romance novelists. Almost Just Friends features a gay secondary romance that’s maybe as heart-stirring as the primary.
On a basic level, I really enjoyed Almost Just Friends. I also felt grateful that this was the first book I reached for after Josephine: it satisfied me, touched me, and offered me some respite from the more immediate physical realities of newborn life, and none of those things are to be taken lightly.
I received a complimentary ARC of this book from Edelweiss+ but all opinions provided are my own.
*Wheezes Good Lord* but does Tessa Bailey know how to write a romance that will all but slap you in the face with pheromones. I should be used to this effect considering how many books of hers I’ve read, but she still never fails to surprise, and I love it.
Love Her or Lose Her releases January 2020, and in addition to the all of the other Bailey signatures I figured I’d see—sexual magnetism, uber devotion between leads, drama and heart—I also knew that I’d encounter a trope that I don’t see too often, particularly in my contemporary romance reading: a husband and wife whose marriage is struggling.
In LHoLH, high school sweethearts Dominic (*mouth fills with saliva) and Rosie have been married for close to a decade. For a few years Dominic was in the military, and then he returned seemingly a different person. The last five years, Dominic and Rosie have increasingly lived in their home like strangers, only reconnecting one night a week when the pulsating attraction between them explodes like water gushing from a severely tested dam. (Lots of questionable metaphors in this review, huh?)
One night Rosie’s finally had enough, and she ultimately gives Dominic an ultimatum: go to therapy—the most unconventional kind she can find, because spite—or their marriage is over.
I’m going to be totally honest here: I’m more than a little in love with Dominic. It’s easy to see how and why Rosie’s saddened and frustrated by the state of things between them, but Bailey also writes Dominic sympathetically and hotly (?), and there’s so much good about him that you kind of want to hug him (kiss him?) even as you want to shake him into actually talking to Rosie. If you’re a fan of Bailey’s heroes, Dominic is likely everything you love condensed into one.
And Rosie sparkles as she makes a new life for herself, one in which she isn’t willing to settle for anything, and she’s determined to chase the dreams that she’s let slide over the last decade.
The state of their marriage is painful and raw at times, but it’s also obvious that they still love each other, and I thank Bailey for being fairly gentle with my heart. She skillfully portrays the dynamic between them, and thanks to the idea of love languages, I could understand how things got skewed despite their obvious feeling & attraction for each other. I did feel like 5 years of marital difficulty/strain seemed like an excessively long time plot-wise—and I also wanted some more overt discussion between Dominic and Rosie about what his military life was like—but both of those things are pretty easy for me to get past, all things considered.
Because this couple belongs together, and you can see that even through the pathos of the opening scenes.
A big part of the reason—at least in the beginning of the book—is sex, and spoiler alert, it’s as athletic and consuming as ever in a Bailey book. The sexual pacing and tension between the characters is *chef’s kiss, and in addition to being titillating, it also keeps the story from veering into too dark territory. Honorable mentions in the Thank You for Not Ripping my Heart Out category go to the hilarious therapist Rosie hires, the banter between Travis and Stephen, and the sense of community and fierce support of the Just Us League.
For me, LHorLH is second chance romance done right: some angst and pain but constant indirect assurance that the couple belongs together—and will find their way back to each other—so don’t you worry too much.
About the Author
When my toddler and infant sleep--or are otherwise engaged--I write, read, and eat lots of chocolate.