A stolen family recipe has all the ingredients to turn a rivalry into romance…
For Tansy Hill, nothing is sweeter than honey from her farm—except maybe revenge on the man who broke her heart and humiliated her all those years ago. Dane “The Viking” Knudson has been Tansy’s rival since childhood, and though he’s grown into a frustratingly handsome charmer, he’s also standing between her and the best honey award at the Honey Bee Festival, which Honey Hill Farms desperately needs to stay afloat.
Fanning the sparks that have forever flown between them, the competition is on. Sure, Tansy and Dane have plenty in common—more than they’ll admit—but Dane’s plans to expand Viking Honey are also on the line. When buried family secrets come to light, they’ll have to decide whether taking a chance on each other is worth risking the happiness they’ve been longing for.
I read 15% of this before putting it down. Enemies-to-lovers is one of my favorite tropes, but when the characters involved are petty, hateful, and just rude and unpleasant, it’s a hard no for me. I don’t actually care if they fall in love because I can’t stand reading about them.
Sasha Summers lives in Texas. The Sweetest Thing is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin in exchange for an honest review.)
Lee Stone is a twenty-first-century woman: she kicks butt at her job as a communications director at a women-run electric car company (that’s better than Tesla, thank you) and after work she is “Stoner,” drinking guys under the table and never letting any of them get too comfortable in her bed…
That’s because Lee’s learned one big lesson: never trust men. After four major heartbreaks set her straight, from her father cheating on her mom all the way to Ben Laderman in grad school—who wasn’t actually cheating, but she could have sworn he was, so she reciprocated in kind.
Then Ben shows up five years later, working as a policy expert for the most liberal governor in Texas history, just as Lee is trying to get a clean energy bill rolling. Things get complicated—and competitive as Lee and Ben are forced to work together. Tension builds just as old sparks reignite, fanning the flames for a romantic dustup the size of Texas.
I read less than 10% of this before stopping. Lee might have learned never to trust men, but she sure hasn’t learned anything from her own bad behavior, and I just can’t stand to read any characters that are horrible people. And Lee qualifies. So no, thank you. I prefer characters that are decent human beings, not caricatures of a “twenty-first century woman” which, in this case, seems to be code for “selfish, hurtful, and completely frivolous”—and showing no sign of redemption.
Ashley Winstead lives in Texas. Fool Me Once is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Graydon House in exchange for an honest review.)
Savvy Sheldon spends a lot of time tiptoeing around the cracks in her life: her high-stress and low-thanks job, her clueless boyfriend and the falling-apart kitchen she inherited from her beloved grandma—who taught her how to cook and how to love people by feeding them. But when Savvy’s world starts to crash down around her, she knows it’s time for some renovations.
Starting from the outside in, Savvy tackles her crumbling kitchen, her relationship with her body, her work–life balance (or lack thereof) and, last but not least, her love life. The only thing that doesn’t seem to require effort is her ride-or-die squad of friends. But as any home-reno-show junkie can tell you, something always falls apart during renovations. First, Savvy passes out during hot yoga. Then it turns out that the contractor she hires is the same sexy stranger she unintentionally offended by judging based on appearances. Worst of all, Savvy can’t seem to go anywhere without tripping over her ex and his latest “upgrade.” Savvy begins to realize that maybe she should’ve started her renovations the other way around: beginning with how she sees herself before building a love that lasts.
I thought this was going to be more of a learning-to-embrace-yourself-warts-and-all type of book, but the 15% I read made it clear that wasn’t the case. Savvy’s boyfriend was a total jerk, but she just let him act like a selfish pratt and make her feel bad about herself, and she still let him have that power over her. I was hoping she grew past that, but I was too annoyed to keep reading and find out. This is a me problem, not a problem with the actual book, though, so your mileage may vary.
Taj McCoy is from Oakland. Savvy Sheldon Feels Good as Hell is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA in exchange for an honest review.)
Born into the House of Romanov to the all-powerful Peter the Great and his wife, Catherine, a former serf, beautiful Tsarevna Elizabeth is the envy of the Russian empire. She is insulated by luxury and spoiled by her father, who dreams for her to marry King Louis XV of France and rule in Versailles. But when a woodland creature gives her a Delphic prophecy, her life is turned upside down. Her volatile father suddenly dies, her only brother has been executed and her mother takes the throne of Russia.
As friends turn to foe in the dangerous atmosphere of the Court, the princess must fear for her freedom and her life. Fate deals her blow after blow, and even loving her becomes a crime that warrants cruel torture and capital punishment: Elizabeth matures from suffering victim to strong and savvy survivor. But only her true love and their burning passion finally help her become who she is. When the Imperial Crown is left to an infant Tsarevich, Elizabeth finds herself in mortal danger and must confront a terrible dilemma – seize the reins of power and harm an innocent child, or find herself following in the footsteps of her murdered brother.
Hidden behind a gorgeous, wildly decadent façade, the Russian Imperial Court is a viper’s den of intrigue and ambition. Only a woman possessed of boundless courage and cunning can prove herself worthy to sit on the throne of Peter the Great.
I love well-done historical fiction. And this was well-written. I just could not get into it. Elizabeth came across as superficial and spoiled, and this started off so slowly that it lost my interest. Not a bad book, just not a good fit for me at this time.
Ellen Alpsten was born and raised in Kenya and now lives in London. The Tsarina’s Daughter is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)
Title: Killing Time Author: Brenna Ehrlich Genre: Mystery/thriller, YA Rating: DNF
Summer in Ferry, Connecticut, has always meant long, lazy days at the beach and wild nights partying in the abandoned mansions on the edge of town. Until now, that is.
Natalie Temple, who’s never been one for beaches or parties in the first place, is reeling from the murder of her favorite teacher, and there’s no way this true-crime-obsessed girl is going to sit back and let the rumor mill churn out lie after lie—even if she has to hide her investigation from her disapproving mom and team up with the new boy in town…
But the more Natalie uncovers, the more she realizes some secrets were never meant to be told.
Natalie acts like she’s about 12, not a person who just graduated high school. I read about 15% of this—I think—but I was just bored. Natalie’s mom comes across as a tyrant who wants to control every aspect of her daughter’s life without an explanation for why, but Natalie is just pointlessly rebellious in response, and again, childish. The “new boy” in town was borderline creepy. In the end, I just didn’t care enough about these characters to continue reading.
Brenna Ehrlich lives in New Jersey. Killing Time is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Inkyard Press in exchange for an honest review.)
Grand Duchess Olga Romanov comes of age amid a shifting tide for the great dynasties of Europe. But even as unrest simmers in the capital, Olga is content to live within the confines of the sheltered life her parents have built for and her three sisters: hiding from the world on account of their mother’s ill health, their brother Alexei’s secret affliction, and rising controversy over Father Grigori Rasputin, the priest on whom the Tsarina has come to rely. Olga’s only escape from the seclusion of Alexander Palace comes from her aunt, who takes pity on her and her sister Tatiana, inviting them to grand tea parties amid the shadow court of Saint Petersburg. Finally, she glimpses a world beyond her mother’s Victorian sensibilities—a world of opulent ballrooms, scandalous flirtation, and whispered conversation.
But as war approaches, the palaces of Russia are transformed. Olga and her sisters trade their gowns for nursing habits, assisting in surgeries and tending to the wounded bodies and minds of Russia’s military officers. As troubling rumours about her parents trickle in from the Front, Olga dares to hope that a budding romance might survive whatever the future may hold. But when tensions run high and supplies run low, the controversy over Rasputin grows into fiery protest, and calls for revolution threaten to end 300 years of Romanov rule.
I tried. I really did. I loved Turnbull’s previous book, The Woman Before Wallis, but this one felt so much slower. I made it about 50% of the way through before giving up because every page felt like it was in slow motion. Historical novels about the Romanov family usually fascinate me, so I kept on reading longer than I probably should, but in the end, this just wasn’t a good fit for me right now. The glimpses of the cluelessness of Olga’s parents drove me crazy, and her own naivete about reality combined with the slow pace were just too much for me.
Bryn Turnbull is a bestselling author. The Last Grand Duchess is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin in exchange for an honest review.)
Title: Clean Air Author: Sarah Blake Genre: Scifi Rating: DNF
The climate apocalypse has come and gone, and in the end it wasn’t the temperature climbing or the waters rising. It was the trees. The world became overgrown, creating enough pollen to render the air unbreathable.
In the decade since the event known as the Turning, humanity has rebuilt, and Izabel has gotten used to the airtight domes that now contain her life. She raises her young daughter, Cami, and attempts to make peace with her mother’s death. She tries hard to be satisfied with this safe, prosperous new world, but instead she just feels stuck.
And then the peace of her town is shattered. Someone starts slashing through the domes at night, exposing people to the deadly pollen—a serial killer. Almost simultaneously, Cami begins sleep-talking, having whole conversations about the murders that she doesn’t remember after she wakes. Izabel becomes fixated on the killer, on both tracking him down and understanding him. What could compel someone to take so many lives after years dedicated to sheer survival, with humanity finally flourishing again?
I read about 15% of this, but it just didn’t hold my interest. I don’t read much scifi, and that’s probably why, as the POV and the action just felt too distant for me to enjoy.
Sarah Blake lives in the U.K. Clean Air is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Algonquin Books in exchange for an honest review.)
Every family has issues. Most can’t blame them on extraterrestrials.
Fifteen years ago while on a family camping trip, Jakob Shao and his father vanished. His father turned up a few days later, dehydrated and confused, but convinced that they’d been abducted by aliens. Jakob remained missing.
The Shao sisters, Kass and Evie, dealt with the disappearance end ensuing fallout in very different ways. Kass over the years stepped up to be the rock of the family: carving a successful path for herself, looking after the family home, and becoming her mother’s caregiver when she starts to suffer from dementia. Evie took her father’s side, going all in on UFO conspiracy theories, and giving up her other passions to pursue the possible truth of life outside our planet. And always looking for Jakob.
When atmospheric readings from Evie’s network of contacts indicate a disturbance event just like the night of the abduction, she heads back home. Because Jakob is back. He’s changed, and the sisters aren’t sure what to think. But one thing is certain — the tensions between the siblings haven’t changed at all. Jakob, Kass and Evie are going to have to grow up and sort out their differences, and fast. Because the FBI is after Jakob, and possibly an entire alien armada, too.
I liked the premise of this story, but the writing style and characters just weren’t for me. I read about 10% and didn’t feel any sort of connection to any of the characters, so I stopped reading. This isn’t a reflection on the story itself or the quality of the writing, it just wasn’t a good fit for me.
Mike Chen lives in the Bay Area. Light Years from Home is his newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA in exchange for an honest review.)
Title: Cry Wolf Author: Hans Rosenfeldt Genre: Mystery/thriller Rating: DNF
Hannah Wester, a policewoman in the remote northern town of Haparanda, Sweden, finds herself on the precipice of chaos.
When human remains are found in the stomach of a dead wolf, Hannah knows that this summer won’t be like any other. The remains are linked to a bloody drug deal across the border in Finland. But how did the victim end up in the woods outside of Haparanda? And where have the drugs and money gone?
Hannah and her colleagues leave no stone unturned. But time is scarce and they aren’t the only ones looking. When the secretive and deadly Katja arrives, unexpected and brutal events start to pile up. In just a few days, life in Haparanda is turned upside down. Not least for Hannah, who is finally forced to confront her own past.
I read almost 20% of this, but the POV was too distant for me and the whole thing just felt kind of bleak. Just not a good fit me. The writing was solid and the plot wasn’t lacking, I just didn’t feel a connection with any of the characters, so it didn’t hold my attention.
Hans Rosenfeldt was born in Sweden. Cry Wolf is his newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin Trade Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)
When Tartelin answers an ad for a personal assistant, she doesn’t know what to expect from her new employer, Marianne, an eccentric elderly woman. Marianne lives on a remote island that her family has owned for generations, and for decades her only companions have been butterflies and tightly held memories of her family.
But there are some memories Marianne would rather forget, such as when the island was commandeered by the British government during WWII. Now, if Marianne can trust Tartelin with her family’s story, she might finally be able to face the long-buried secrets of her past that have kept her isolated for far too long.
I read about 25% of this but just couldn’t connect with any of the characters, so I had to stop reading. The writing is good, it just wasn’t a good fit for me right now.
Polly Crosby lives in Norfolk. The Women of Pearl Island is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Park Row in exchange for an honest review.)