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 ‘Alias’ by Cari Hunter.

I have conflicting feelings towards Cari Hunter’s books: sometimes her stories are a bit gruesome for my taste. The problem is she’s a great writer, probably one of the best mystery authors, and her books are engaging, well written and exciting to read. So I always end up reading them. In the case of ‘Alias’ the gruesome scenes were almost absent so I’m really happy to have read it.

A woman wakes up in a car accident next to a dead body. She doesn’t remember her name or how she got there. As she is recovering in hospital from her injuries, she discovers some facts about her identity which leaves her with more questions than answers. She realises that her life is in danger because she knows something that might implicate someone… but has no idea what or whom. The only person she trusts is Browen Pryce, the smart and beautiful detective who rescued her from the car wreck. Will they be able to solve the mystery before it’s too late?

‘Alias’ is written in first person from the point of view of the amnesiac woman (I won’t mention her name to avoid spoilers) which gives us perfect access to her headspace. Amnesia is quite a common occurrence in book plots sometimes to the verge of credibility. This is not the case as the events seem very realistic. Along with the characters, the readers slowly bring the pieces of the puzzle together. We suffer and get frustrated with the slow progress in reconstructing the events, the plot teasing us with incomplete memory flashbacks. Even though we know all that the character learns about herself, and without playing tricks on us, Ms. Hunter manages to deliver a twist at the end. This is mostly a mystery/thriller story, definitely not a romance but as usual in Ms. Hunter’s books there is an intense emotional connection between the main characters. Even though the romance doesn’t take too much space in the plot, it has a strong presence and the chemistry between the mains works very well.

This novel has a definite British feel and Ms. Hunter is unapologetic about her references to British popular culture, food and language. So much so that despite that I’ve been living in the UK for sixteen years, I was clueless about some of the regional words from the north of England and Wales. I’m glad that her latest books are less edited for the American market. It provides an authentic feel and aren’t a burden to understand. For the most obscure words, there’s always Google.

Overall, another excellent book by Ms. Hunter. A real treat for lesfic mystery fans. 5 stars.

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

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Review of ‘Gold’ by EJ Noyes.

‘Gold’ is the third book by Ms. Noyes that won’t disappoint her growing fan base. I think by now lesfic readers can agree that she has evolved from a promising writer to a damn good one.

Pro alpine skier Aspen Archer is retired from competitive skiing due to a serious injury. She prefers to keep a low profile by teaching in ski resorts and hiding her problems. While working in Australia, she meets Cate Tierney, a Physical therapist with relationship issues and a teenage daughter. Their mutual attraction is undeniable but will their emotional baggage get in the way of happiness?

This book is written in first person as it’s this author’s usual style (she affirms that she cannot write in third person). As the story is told from Aspen’s point of view, the reader gets into her headspace enjoying her sarcasm and wit while suffering with her insecurity and anxiety. Aspen lives with constant physical pain in addition to her inability to redeem herself. Her suffering is so raw that we want to shake her out of it though it’s a fight she has to do for herself. On the other hand, we know little about Cate as each layer of her story is peeled excruciatingly slow. We don’t understand many things that she does or says but Ms. Noyes gradually clues us in. Together, their chemistry is spot on, realistic and hot.

All the secondary characters, children and adults, are well defined and have their own distinctive voice. I love the way this author casually drops hints about the characters’ personalities and hides others, unapologetically teasing the reader. She suddenly throws a tidbit of information that ties a loose knot or reveals something that we didn’t know it was missing. These are fantastic ‘penny drops’ moments such as, for example, the reason for Aspen’s agent nickname. Ms. Noyes doesn’t give in to the urge to make us understand or to explain what’s going on. The characters and the story talk for themselves. As a result, the book is a delightful read with a good balance between enjoyment and angst.

Overall, another winner by EJ Noyes. 5 stars.

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

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Review of ‘Blend’ by Georgia Beers.

‘Blend’ is set in Vineyard, a wine bar property of Piper Bradshaw’s mother who decides to take an extended vacation and leave her daughter in charge along with general manager Lindsay Kent. Piper has a full time corporate job and very little interest to liaise with Lindsay as they seem to be completely opposites. Piper is a control freak, distant person while Lindsay is creative and cheerful. Will they be able to manage Vineyard without conflicts? And what if opposites attract?

Lately I’ve been a bit disappointed with Georgia Beers’s novels, I rated her previous one ‘Right here, right now’ 3.5 stars and I’ve never got invested in her Puppy love series either. Fortunately for her many fans, Ms. Beers is back! ‘Blend’ is a fantastic book with lovable but realistic characters, slow build-up sizzling romance and an expertly crafted plot. The book is a perfect blend (pun intended) of wit, humour, romance and conflict that keeps the reader turning pages and wanting more. The dog character is superb with his own personality and ‘voice’. The landscape descriptions are picturesque and the wine metaphors are strong and well rounded, like a good Malbec. This is an easy 5 stars book for me and will be in my list of best lesfic books of this year.

Overall, a very entertaining and beautiful novel for all lesfic romance fans. Georgia Beers at her best. 5 stars.

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

Review of ‘Chasing stars’ by Alex K. Thorne.

This is the third book in Ylva Publishing’s The Superheroine Collection series of stand alone novels by different authors. The bar was set up very high with the previous books by Lee Winter and Fiona Zedde but ‘Chasing stars’ didn’t disappoint me. The plot follows Ava Eisenberg, PA to Hollywood ice queen Gwen Knight. Ava is an alien from a far away galaxy gifted with flying and strenght superpowers who patrols LA streets under the secret identity of Swiftwing to help people in need. Ava’s life is turned upside down when her boss asks her to pose as her girlfriend to win Gwen’s son custody. Will Ava be a good fake girlfriend and, at the same time, keep her secret life as Swiftwing? Will she be able to hide her growing feelings for Gwen?

‘Chasing stars’ is a brilliant debut novel by South African author Alex K. Thorne. There’s been a few lesfic books about fake relationships lately with different degrees of success but this one is original by presenting it as a sci-fi, action packed story with main characters of a superheroine and a Hollywood star ice queen. Written in third person from the point of view of Ava, she is a well rounded character in her contradictions: shy and insecure as Ava, confident and outgoing as Swiftwing. Gwen is very well characterised as an ice queen slowly giving away hidden parts of her personality. Despite their age gap, their chemistry is sizzling hot and the intimate scenes are very well written. The story itself has some twists and turns that balance romance and action perfectly.

Overall, another excellent addition to the series. A solid debut novel. 5 stars.

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

Review of ‘Love at Cooper’s Creek’ by Missouri Vaun.

When Shaw Daily escapes San Francisco to her grandparents’ town of Cooper’s Creek to decompress from the stress of her corporate career, she finds there more than she bargained for. In the rural town she meets Kate Elkins, a beautiful school teacher in a sabbatical year to care for her aging mother. Along with love, Shaw discovers unexpected family secrets. Will Shaw be able to make peace with her past and take her budding relationship with Kate to the next level?

This book goes beyond the typical sweet romance and explores difficult subjects such as life choices, bereavement, aging and dementia. The author touches all these issues with tact and, at the same time, keeps our focus on the beautiful love story. The chemistry between the mains, the multi layered secondary characters and the well structured plot contribute towards a very pleasant read.

Overall, a very well written and sweet romance. 5 stars.

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

Review of ‘The Lily and the Crown’ by Roslyn Sinclair.

‘The Lily and the Crown’ is a sci-fi story in which the universe is ruled by a human empire under attack of both pirates and extraterrestrials. In this context, Ariana is a recluse botanist, daughter of a space station commander. Her world is turned upside down when she is given a slave to assist her. The nameless slave is beautiful, intelligent and sexy and will change Ariana’s life forever.

This book is mainly a romance with the sci-fi story in the background. Written from the point of view of Ariana, the story mainly focuses on her relationship with ‘Assistant’ – as she calls her slave – and is set mostly on the botanist’s garden. Ariana is 20 years old, an innocent believer in human virtue, while ‘Assistant’ is beyond 40, a streetwise and conflicted character. They couldn’t have been any different though somehow they complement each other perfectly. It is interesting to see how the dynamic mistress-slave changes as their bond grows closer. Ms. Sinclair presents the characters in all their imperfect, contradictory layers, with an intense chemistry and deep humanity. A pleasure to read.

Overall, a very entertaining read by a debut author. 5 stars.

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