Review of ‘Love at last call’ by M. Ullrich.

Lauren Daly is unsatisfied with her life. She’s bullied by her boss, her housemates are irritating and her love life is a mess. Almost every evening she goes to a lesbian bar to escape her reality. Berit Matthews is the owner of a successful lesbian bar and has the reputation of a player. When she meets Lauren she wants to casually date her but Lauren is fed up of players. Slowly they become friends and support each other with their issues but is it friendship their only way forward?

This is a slow-burn romance with the interesting setting of a lesbian bar. Both main characters are created skillfully, Lauren with her low self esteem and Berit with her family and relationship issues. It took me some time to warm to Lauren’s personality but once I realised the reasons behind her dismissive behaviour, it’s easy to like her. Berit, cheerful and sociable, is apparently her opposite but the reader also slowly discovers her fears and conflicts. Together they have great chemistry and Ms. Ullrich makes the most of their flirting and attraction. The lesbian bar is an ideal setting for this romance and the secondary characters have their own voices and stories to tell as well. The intimate scenes are hot and sizzling but the main conflict seemed to me a little forced. However, it’s a great entertaining read with a group of lovable characters.

Overall, a very well written slow-burn romance. Another great book by M. Ullrich. 4 stars.

ARC provided by Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘Under your skin’ by Lee Winter.

Lee Winter’s ‘On the record’ series consists of ‘The red files’ (book 1), ‘Flashbang’ (a short story, part 1.5) and the sequel ‘Under your skin’. I highly recommend to read them in order. You could do without ‘Flashbang’ as it’s a bonus erotica story based on the series main characters but I still suggest to read it to have a better glimpse of their relationship.

Lauren King and Catherine Ayers are both journalists who met while investigating a news story in ‘The red files’. In this book we get a better view of their relationship and even though there is investigative journalism involved, the plot mainly revolves around their personal relationship and with their respective families.

Lauren and Catherine couldn’t be any different. Lauren is in her thirties, with a middle class upbringing and a loving – though sometimes overzealous – family. Catherine is in her mid forties, with an absent upper class family. Lauren wears her heart on her sleeve and Catherine is well renowned as the Caustic Queen, distant and sarcastic. This might be the most at odds lesfic couple ever but, boy, how opposites attract.

While ‘The red files’ was written in third person from the point of view of Lauren to showcase Catherine’s distant personality, this novel alternates both characters’ perspectives. As we get into Catherine’s headspace we start to tie loose knots from the previous book. Catherine is a complex and multi layered character and the author slowly brings her out in a different light, making her more human and realistic. It’s interesting to see a sweet, vulnerable side of her and funny to realise that she is also sarcastic in her thoughts. Lauren’s extended family is loving, hilarious and each character of the numerous relatives have a distinctive voice. The plot presents them in Lauren’s Iowa homeplace which comes to life through the beautiful descriptions of Ms. Winter. All in all, this is a very well written and entertaining series for both intrigue and romance fans.

Overall, another very good book in this series. Hopefully it won’t be the last one. 5 stars.

ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘The London of us’ by Clare Lydon.

This is book 4 in the ‘London romance’ series. It can be read as a standalone novel though I recommend to read them all if you like lesbian romances with a British feel. As in the previous books, London is at the background of a beautiful love story.

Alice Di Santo has a comfortable life. A job that she enjoys, great friends, supportive family and a lovely boyfriend. Even her social media life is thriving as a co-star in an increasingly popular YouTube channel. But lately she feels that something is missing in her life soon discovering her growing attraction for her friend Rachel, a sexy and very lesbian chef. Surely this is a passing crush, or is it?

‘The London of us’ is as much a romance as a coming out story. Ms. Lydon wisely chose to write it in first person from Alice point of view getting us into her headspace as she deals with her first ever attraction to a woman. The book starts with a bang and keeps the momentum with humour and wittiness that puts a smile on your face. Those of us who have experienced the coming out process know that it’s not an easy path and Ms. Lydon showcases this but the angst, while realistic, never takes the lightness of her writing style. As a matter of fact, Alice’s coming out scene with her parents is the funniest I’ve read in lesfic. All the characters – mains and secondary – are well portrayed and the intimate scenes are hot, highlighting the chemistry between the main leads.

Overall, a very good addition to this successful series. Great read for romance fans. 4 stars.

ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘Take a chance’ by D. Jackson Leigh.

This book is part of the ‘Pine Cone romance’ series by three different authors: ‘Take my hand’ by Missouri Vaun, ‘Take a chance’ by D. Jackson Leigh and ‘Take your time’ by V.K. Powell. This series follows the lives of three friends: Clay, Trip and Grace in the small town of Pine Cone, Georgia.

There are series written by an author that usually need to be read in chronological order, series of standalone novels by different authors under a common theme, and the ‘Pine Cone romance’ series which is a bit peculiar. In this series the three different authors decided to create three romances (one in each book) but with the three stories overlapping. For example, if the three friends share a scene, it will appear in all three books but with a different point of view. D. Jackson Leigh says in her acknowledgements that it was arduous to write. Well, sometimes it’s also arduous to read. I personally found some issues, one is that after reading the first book (whichever the order) the reader has sometimes a sense of deja vu, a feeling of having read that before because… they read it in the previous book. It works fine in some scenes as it gives other characters’ perspectives but in other cases it is tedious. Also, some events that overlap in the books give information that act as spoilers for the other books’ stories which is a bit annoying. Finally, I found that there are a number of unresolved secondary plots which are main plots in the other books, so in order to grasp the full story, you need to read all the series. So I guess readers can rate each book separately but also the series as a whole. Due to these problems appear throughout the series, you’ll see some of my comments repeated in the other reviews.

Trip Beaumont is Pine Cone’s veterinarian and a well known player. Officer Jamie Grant is the new police officer in town, owner of a drug sniffing dog called Petunia. Trip is intrigued by the elusive officer who frequently writes her parking tickets but when they finally cross paths they realise that they have a conflicted past in common. Will they be able to leave the past behind to build a future together?

‘Take a chance’ is a slow burn romance with a dog as a cute secondary character. Animals play a big part in this book with Petunia at the forefront, a variety of big and small animals and in horses’ metaphors used by Trip. There are a few flashbacks to the main characters’ shared past but most of the story ocurrs in the present. The secondary characters are a bit flat, specially for the ex girlfriend. The main conflict seems a bit irrelevant and Jamie’s PTSD is treated lightly. The subplot involving Petunia is not completely resolved considering that she’s such an important secondary character. But, most importantly, the subplot regarding Trip’s veterinarian colleague is left unresolved, surely to be covered in ‘Take your time’.

Overall, an ok romance read that might interest animal lovers. 3.5 stars.

ARC provided by Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘Take my hand’ by Missouri Vaun.

This book is part of the ‘Pine Cone romance’ series by three different authors: ‘Take my hand’ by Missouri Vaun, ‘Take a chance’ by D. Jackson Leigh and ‘Take your time’ by V.K. Powell. This series follows the lives of three friends: Clay, Trip and Grace in the small town of Pine Cone, Georgia.

There are series written by an author that usually need to be read in chronological order, series of standalone novels by different authors under a common theme, and the ‘Pine Cone romance’ series which is a bit peculiar. In this series the three different authors decided to create three romances (one in each book) but with the three stories overlapping. For example, if the three friends share a scene, it will appear in all three books but with a different point of view. D. Jackson Leigh says in her acknowledgements that it was arduous to write. Well, sometimes it’s also arduous to read. I personally found some issues, one is that after reading the first book (whichever the order) the reader has sometimes a sense of deja vu, a feeling of having read that before because… they read it in the previous book. It works fine in some scenes as it gives other characters’ perspectives but in other cases it is tedious. Also, some events that overlap in the books give information that act as spoilers for the other books’ stories which is a bit annoying. Finally, I found that there are a number of unresolved secondary plots which are main plots in the other books, so in order to grasp the full story, you need to read all the series. So I guess readers can rate each book separately but also the series as a whole. Due to these problems appear throughout the series, you’ll see some of my comments repeated in the other reviews.

‘Take my hand’ is the story of Clay Cahill, a gifted painter who escaped success and a cheating girlfriend in New York. She goes back to her hometown of Pine Cone, Georgia working as a tow truck driver for her grandfather. River Hemsworth is a gallery owner in New York who inherited a local gallery and a house in Pine Cone. Her plan is to sell the property fast and go back to NY but when she meets Clay after a minor car accident she cannot deny her attraction. But Clay holds too many secrets and River is settled in NY. Will they have their happily ever after?

This is a rather formulaic romance between stoic butch Clay and damsel in distress femme River. There’s no doubt where the plot takes us with exception of a small twist near the end. Ms. Vaun knows how to build the main characters’ chemistry and the intimate scenes are hot. The secondary characters are a bit flat but the clash of cultures between North and South USA is well written. However, the resolution of the conflict seems rushed and the story could have done with a few more chapters to wrap it up better.

Overall, an ok butch-femme romance read set in a small town in Georgia. 3.5 stars.

ARC provided by Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘Code of conduct’ by Cheyenne Blue.

Top ten tennis player Viva Jones had a heated disagreement with lineswoman Gabriela Mendaro about a contentious fault that allegedly cost her US Open title defence. Fifteen months later, they meet by chance on a deserted road and eventually the initial argument turns into attraction. The problem is that under the tennis association code of conduct, players and officials shouldn’t fraternise, let alone date. Will their budding relationship have any future?

I have read a couple of books by this author which, in my opinion, were average. So I didn’t have great expectations about this one but, as I love tennis I decided to read it. I’m so glad I did because I think she surpassed her previous books. Surely it helped that her editor was Sandra Gerth, better known as her pen name Jae. I hope they keep this association in the future.

There are two apparently contradictory paces of the plot. The romance is slow burn while the tennis scenes are fast paced. The main characters’ relationship evolve from antagonists to love interests in an exquisite slow discovery of their attraction and even slower decision to act on it. Their conflict, a strict code of conduct that keeps players and officials in separate worlds, is believable and original. As a matter of fact, the ITF Code of conduct is real and very strict with respect of the behaviour of the officials. The relationship between the main characters is spot on, the ‘will she, won’t she’ is realistic, their chemistry is sizzling and the sex scenes are hot.

In my opinion, what really makes this book so original is how tennis is in the plot’s driving seat. This is a sports’ book as much as a romance. I’d go as far as calling it a ‘tennis thriller’. The descriptions of the matches are accurate, in a way it’s like watching a tennis game in which we support one of the players and we suffer point by point. Tennis is a mental game as much as physical and the author captures this fact perfectly. The mantra ‘this point matters, only this one’ repeated tirelessly by Viva showcases the tension, the competitiveness and the demands of playing tennis at top level. My only doubt about this book is if a person who isn’t a tennis aficionado will enjoy it as much as I did.

The character building is another great aspect of this book. Both leads are very well conceived with their different personalities, their strengths and failures. Fictional and real tennis players mix in the plot providing more realism. It’s interesting to find out more about the umpires’ job, less glamorous than the players but essential to the game. Gabriela is a charming character and I wonder if it’s an homage to former world number three Gabriela Sabatini, my namesake and compatriot, a worldwide beloved and respected tennis player. On the other hand, Alina, the arrogant and distant nemesis of Viva is described perfectly in her cut throat, competitive attitude but with an unexpected final twist.

Overall, a very good read that mixes a slow burn romance with a fast paced tennis environment. A must read for tennis fans. 4.5 stars.

ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘Worth the wait’ by Karelia Stetz-Waters.

This is book 3 of the ‘Out in Portland’ series by this author that can be read as a standalone novel. In a high school reunion, television presenter Avery Crown meets Merritt Lessing, her former best friend and teenage crush. After fifteen years, their mutual attraction is still alive but past and present get in the way as Merritt cannot forget an old betrayal and Avery is a closeted lesbian who cannot build a relationship without putting her career in jeopardy. Do they have any hope of having their happily ever after?

I have to admit that I’m not into high school reunion romances or stories about decades-long grudges held from teenage years. Normally my theme preferences don’t influence a book rating or critique. But beyond the subject I’m afraid that I have a few issues with this book, starting with the plot which seems a bit unrealistic and over the top dramatic. Additionally, I couldn’t warm up to the main characters, Avery with her low self-esteem, stuck in her mother issues and self-pity while Merritt… well, much the same. Some of their behaviour or conversations felt childish and immature for a thirty something. On the other hand, the secondary characters were much more interesting, specially DX and the couple of Iliana and Lei-Ling. I would read a book about them as they are quirky and multi faceted.

Overall, an ok read if you are into school reunions and drama. 3 stars.

ARC provided by Netgalley and the author in exchange for an honest review.

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