Forbidden – Tracey Cooper-Posey and Julia Templeton

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Welcome back everyone, I’m breaking up my Rach Random Resources tours with this review since I know I won’t be able to bring you another review from my own library until mid-March.

I pulled this one out of my TBR thinking I was being so clever knocking off the last of my Aussie author challenge in 2019. Only to remember ¼ of the way into it that I needed to read a book from a male author, and this one is by two females. One of which is half Australia and half Canadian. Somehow, I don’t think I was ever going to have a chance of using this for an Aussie author challenge!

After realising that, I figured I’d read this as just a book to enjoy. And I did enjoy it. I figured I should share my thoughts with you to give you a break from tours!

Now I’m sitting here trying to think straight after a day of mindless writing (creating feedback and fixing closed captioning on a training session I ran and recorded) looking ahead to a VERY stressful weekend (I need to evaluate data and write it up and submit it within 48 hours 😐 save me now…) so I may need to come back and edit this review later to make it make sense.

Ok! Well. This story is essentially a stepson falling in love with his step-mum and them ending up together. Vaughn is set on revenge against his father while Elisa just wants her son back. Nothing could possibly go wrong right?

Well, as an erotica I found it quite light on until maybe the last third of the book? Before then it was more suggestive, basic quick foreplay kinda stuff to build the tension and need. That last third though took off and it did feel like they were a bit rabbit like. But more because it’s an erotica and so skips some of the storytelling that a you’d expect in a romance.

There is character development, which I think a lot of people miss with erotica’s. That development is tied up in more base emotions than true romances, so I feel like people mistake it for something else.

The struggle that Vaughn and Elisa fight have more to do with their responses to each other and their emotional ties than anything else. You see this in the times Elisa takes control and really shows Vaugh who she is, what she will and won’t accept and stands up to the horrible attitudes of the woman of that time.

I found myself really enjoying this story and wished for more at the end. Yes, a little bit more editing could happen to fix a couple of typos/grammar errors. But overall, I had a really fun time reading this book this week!

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this review, on Friday I’ll be reviving my series review with Chants to Persephone by Jennifer Macaire.

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Perfect Match – Zoe May

Welcome back everyone, after the bit of a slump I got myself into with the previous read I can say I’m back into my normal reading habits.

I’ve taken advantage of a few hot days where I couldn’t really go out and do much (damn that heatstroke!) and stayed inside, where it’s cool to read. I’m not sure if this book should sit at 4.5 or 5 stars since I’m not sure if the previous one had me in enough of a slump that this felt amazing.

Regardless, the themes throughout the book are so positive and speak to experience and learning from mistakes that I loved it. The pacing throughout was consistent, well thought out and gave us a very clear heading when we had quite a jump in the timeline.

It felt like every character in this book had a reason for being there. With the focus of the book being online dating, this tended to revolve around how people meet, how you can get to know someone, how our past shapes our behaviours and so many little things in between.

For those suffering the dating scene of the 21st century I feel like this is something they should read. Love can happen in the most unlikely of places and with the people you least expect. For me, when my step-mum suggested I go on a date with a 30 yr old accountant she works with (I was 21 at the time) my reaction was along the lines of “ewww! I don’t want to date an old, boring accountant!” I ended up meeting him briefly at my dad and step-mum’s housewarming and eight years later we’re going strong!

The main message I felt came through with this story was to give people a chance and take care of yourself first before looking to add someone to that mix. Being happy with yourself is something that’s so important but overlooked so much in our technological age so I’m so happy Zoe was able to include that in such a great way.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this review, next week I will be reviewing Forbidden by Tracy Cooper-Posey and Julia Templeton. Continue to read further down to find out about the author.

Author Bio

Zoe May lives in southeast London and writes romantic comedies. Zoe has dreamt of being a novelist since she was a teenager. She worked in journalism and copywriting before writing her debut novel, Perfect Match. Having experienced the London dating scene first hand, Zoe could not resist writing a novel about dating, since it seems to supply endless amounts of weird and wonderful material!

Perfect Match was one of Apple's top-selling books of 2018. It was also shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists' Association's Joan Hessayon Award, with judges describing it as 'a laugh out loud look at love and self-discovery - fresh and very funny'.

As well as writing, Zoe enjoys walking her dog, painting and, of course, reading! She adores animals and if she's not taking a photo of a vegan meal, she's probably tweeting about the dairy industry. She is half Greek and half Irish and can make a mean baklava. Zoe has a thing for horror films, India, swimming, hip hop and Radiohead. She has an encyclopaedic knowledge of handbags having spent several years working in fashion copywriting and could probably win Mastermind if this was her specialist subject!

The Cake Fairies – Isabella May

Welcome back everyone, you’re in for a wild ride of Rach Random Resource tours over the next couple of months! Think 13 reviews over 2 months! How crazy am I?

I start off this crazy two months with a story about love, second chances, family and screen addictions. Together this sounded like it was going to be a great story with lots of positive messages and a chance for me to reflect.

Instead, I found the first half of the book to be very slow paced with every conversation and thought fully played out. While the second half you were lucky to get half the conversation explained let alone all the thoughts. I think if there had have been a happy pacing medium found throughout it would have felt more engaging.

With the slow pace that suddenly turned to a fast pace it felt like either the Isabella didn’t want to cut anything out, but also didn’t want to give us a mammoth sized book. Or, she was reminded to hurry up, or maybe she got bored writing so in depth. I mean, I can’t imagine how much time and effort that would have taken so I totally get it if she got bored or tired with writing in such detail!

Yet I think the main reason I found myself in a bit of a slump with this book is because the characters core personalities seemed to change at the drop of a hat. I get that under pressure and unknown circumstances people can react weirdly. But that’s usually out of fear or panic. Although these feelings were there when you read Polly and Annabelle’s thoughts, there seemed to be a larger shift that felt weird, unnatural and inconsistent.

Although I didn’t find the writing style suited me, I loved the messages Isabella spoke about throughout the book. Using cake to get people to connect, explore their emotions, realise their screen addictions and generally make changes for the better is genius. I don’t believe the effects would be so apparent with all the gluten free, dairy free, nut free, vegan friendly etc etc etc requirements in todays day and age. I mean, they didn’t even leave a little card out with the cakes letting people know what they contained.

But one can wish the effects would’ve been as popular as they were in the book!

I’m not one to comment on this normally, but I feel like a little LGBTQ+ (I honestly don’t know how many letters and in what order they are meant to go so I’m sorry if I’ve forgotten anything) rep would have worked in this story. Annabelle or Ivy were prime candidates for this rep to be woven in in a way that added value to the story, so I really wish that had have been explored. It would’ve made total sense and I kept expecting it.

Overall, the messages and story were great. It was just those little inconsistencies that I struggled to connect with. I’m the type of reader who really needs consistency, so I do struggle when it’s missing.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this review; on Friday I’ll be reviewing Perfect Match by Zoe May. Continue to read further down to find out about the author.

Author Bio

Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalusia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the mountains and the sea. Having grown up on Glastonbury’s ley lines however, she’s unable to completely shake off her spiritual inner child, and is a Law of Attraction fanatic.

Cake, cocktail, churros, ice cream and travel obsessed, she also loves nothing more than to (quietly) break life’s rules.

The Cake Fairies is her fifth novel.

Death Takes a Holiday at Pemberley – Kelly Miller

Welcome back everyone, I’m continuing this week with another regency novel. This one is less of a romance than the Miss Amelia’s Mistletoe Marquis and more of a reflection on what’s important in life.

At the beginning of the book Kelly gives a brief introduction to the language she’s chosen to use for the book, great idea! By setting me up with the expectation that the language is going to be different to what I’m used to hearing every day I wasn’t shocked and the transition to comfortably reading it wasn’t too long.

Based on my limited knowledge of the original Pride and Prejudice, which this is meant to be a continuation of, I’m assuming the choice of language was deliberate to ensure it remained as true to the original story as possible.

Given the blurb I was expecting Darcy to have a kind of three ghosts of Christmas experience. Yet Kelly surprised me by having the angel of death be surprisingly human and compassionate. By bringing more characters than just Darcy and Elizabeth into the fold Kelly was able to weave a story that reminded me of so many life lessons. The type that most people can only learn through experience.

By incorporating a raft of characters into this story Kelly was able to include more life lessons and considerations than would’ve been possible with just Darcy and Elizabeth. It felt so well done without being over the top that it really worked.

The key themes I felt expressed throughout were those of love, acceptance, forgiveness, thinking before acting and their impacts on others when either displayed, or not displayed. The little twist at the end was such a sweet touch that left me feeling really happy with how everything was left.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this review; on Monday I’ll be reviewing The Cake Fairies by Isabella May. Continue to read further down to find out about the author.

Author Bio

Historical fiction author Kelly Miller discovered writing late in life, but it has quickly become a favorite pastime. When not pondering a plot point or a turn of phrase, she may be found playing the piano, singing, reading, or walking. Kelly Miller resides in Silicon Valley with her husband, daughter, and their many pets.

Miss Amelia’s Mistletoe Marquess – Jenni Fletcher

Welcome back everyone, I hope you all had a great Christmas and New Year break. I know I’ve released a few posts, but this is my first review in TWO WEEKS!

You might have seen that I read this as part of the Reindeer Readathon, that’s because I like to try and read books at least 4 weeks in advance of the review date so I don’t have to stress. Because we all have too much stress in our lives to begin with.

I read this entirely at home (except for the day I finished it, I will admit I took it to work with me that day) because it was a physical ARC (thank you Jenni Fletcher for shipping this to me!) and I hate bringing books to work with me because I inevitably damage them. Yet when I got to the last portion of the book (and I’d just finished another book on my Kindle) I knew I had to bring it in with me.

Whenever I was away from this book, I was thinking about what was happening between Amelia and Cassius. How were they reacting to each other, what were they going to do next, what could happen now since they’re married, and I’ve got a good portion of the book to go? Etc etc etc.

Given it was set at Christmas time I was obviously going to love that aspect of the book. Yet there were some very modern issues of depression and self-worth that were openly discussed and explored. Not only did the characters discuss these issues (maybe not in those terms, but they did) they also coloured all their actions and interactions.

It was fascinating to me seeing such a “modern” thing as mental health be addressed headfirst in a setting where I wasn’t expecting it. Because of this I got the sense that Jenni was trying to say that mental health has always been an issue. Just maybe not talked about in the same was that we talk about it now.

I read this as a standalone, and it can be read as a standalone, but I’ve just (as I’m writing this review) discovered that it’s part of a trilogy that’s been written by 3 different authors! I know I keep coming back to Jenni’s work, but I might consider getting the others to see how their stories play out!

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this review, on Friday I’m reviewing Death Takes a Holiday at Pemberley by Kelly Miller.

Against All Odds – Craig Challen and Richard Harris

Welcome back everyone, this is my last review for the year! OMG! And I’m leaving you with a review that (I hope) will having you running for the bookstore!

Like most people in the world I was following the rescue of 13 Thais from a flooded gave in June/July of 2018. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at following the news and got side-tracked by a whole lot of stuff happening in the Banking Royal Commission in Australia at the time. Other than knowing they got them out I didn’t know what ended up happening.

When I heard Dr Harry (Aussie’s, not to be confused with Dr Harry from Harry’s Practice) talking about his book on The Project it sounded fascinating. Hearing him talk about a couple of his experiences had me going “I have to read that!” The next day when I realised that’d be a great book to use as my final review for the year, the slot I had reserved for a male Aussie author, I just went ahead and bought it.

I’m gonna say it. Best decision ever!

From the moment I started reading the book I could feel both Harry’s and Craig’s personalities in every word I was reading. I could imagine the looks and the tones of voices being used. All of these came together to make me feel like I was right there in the cave with them.

A few times (ok, maybe more than a few times) I forgot that they all made it out alive, so when Harry was describing the issues they were facing (especially when diving them out) I honestly started worrying that they wouldn’t make it. Then I had that realisation that I’d had a blonde moment since this happened in real life and they actually did all make it out alive.

I take that as a testament to the writing and editing skills of all involved that in moments, I was so completely lost in what was happening I forgot the final outcome.

I also found myself pissing myself laughing at some of their antics and Harry’s thoughts. His sense of humour totally aligns with mine and I loved it. Then I’d have this moment where I go “I’m laughing while reading a book about an event that could have ended tragically, have some respect for what they all went through.” Then I’d remember what I’d just read and laugh again.

Some other points that I think really made this book was the way Harry and Craig gave us the truth compared to the media stories. How Elon Musk was brought up and scoffed at. And the inclusions of little facts about every boy, and Ekk, as they were getting them out made them real to me as I was reading about them getting out.

I’m not a crier, yet I found myself tearing up in happiness, sadness and in empathy of what they all went through so much. Whenever this happened, I had to take a moment and remind myself that it was a happy ending and it was ok.

Before finishing this book, I’d recommended it to two people and had been telling my partner what was happening as I went. One of the people I told bought it straight away and the other one said they’d buy it coz them and their husband would probably love it.

SO GO AND BUY IT, AND READ IT NOW!!!

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this review, next week I will be doing my December Wrap Up, but I might do a Christmas post as well… Undecided at the moment. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, whatever greeting is appropriate for you I’m sending that your way!

A Stolen Christmas Kiss – a collection of short stories

I was asked to review this book as part of Zoe Ann Wood's collection of book bloggers. I decided to give it a read because I do love a Christmas romance, so having 8 short ones sounded pretty cool.

I'm going to review Zoe's short story first, and in more depth because I wouldn't have read it if it wasn't for her. But that doesn't mean I didn't love the others! I'll also add, I had a hard time trying to pick a favourite. So hard in fact, I never ended up picking one!

Give me Snow and Mistletoe

I think the first thing we need to acknowledge with this story is that cyber stalking is very much a thing we’re all guilty of having done at some point. So it’s no surprise that both Eva and Noah participated in some light cyber stalking before a meddling grandmother conspired to get them on a date before Christmas comes.

I found myself laughing at some of the antics that happened while also feeling like the openness of the characters would never happen in real like. But hey, that shouldn’t get in the way of a sweet, short Christmas romance story! You know it’s going to be a bit faster than normal coz it’s a short story. It just wouldn’t work otherwise.

My only disappointment was the epilogue not giving me a description of the final local. That’s probably because I love reading those kinds of descriptions and love it when it can be described vividly. But that’s nothing compared to the rest of the book and purely a personal thing, nothing against the story.

Melting Mr Grinch's Heart

I was a little hesitant about this story, but I ended up quite liked it. I’m with Amelia that Grinch’s should be made to love Christmas, so her battle to get Samuel to love Christmas is something I can totally relate to. This goes into my top 4 short stories for this collection.

Christmas of Second Chances

Sandra and Nick are more mature than most romances but at the same time, so sweet! It’s even a second chance romance! How many of those do you see? This goes into my top 4 short stories for this collection.

Christmas Chicken Ballad

Who falls in love with their best friends’ brother? Well, in this case it’s a big issue and the younger brother is pursuing his older sisters’ best friend. The fact that he’s a hot, bass guitarist for a successful band makes things a bit easier doesn’t it? This goes into my top 4 short stories for this collection.

Cruise Ship Christmas

When you go on a singles cruise you probably think you’re gonna hook up with some other cruiser’s yea? You don’t expect to fall for the staff and see a whole different side to a cruise while avoiding your family. This goes into my top 4 short stories for this collection.

Nipping at your Nose

I think this was my actual favourite story out of all of them. If I could have had this in a novel length story, I would totally read it. The way Austen and Zach immediately connect, but not necessarily on a sexual level is great. The way it develops was so sweet and so on point that I wanted more.

Santa Beastly

As sweet as this story is, I just didn’t buy into it at any point. I was left disconnected and left thinking that it was completely implausible. I find I can’t connect with a story if it’s not plausible. For me, it just didn’t quite make it.

On the Christmas Market

After losing her parents, it’s probably not the best idea to be jetting off to Slovenia. Especially at Christmas time with a group of seniors. The instant attraction and appreciation between Evie and Keller is amazing. But it’s their intellectual conversations that challenge each other that really makes this story. Although there’s some good lessons that can be learned from this short story.

A Deal With Her Rebel Viking – Michelle Styles

Welcome back everyone, I’m back into the historical romances (thank you Michelle Styles for asking me to review this for you!) and this one I do need to say is the last one for the year.

You could probably tell by my rating, but I really loved this one!

Although I don’t know how accurate the interactions were between characters for the time it’s set in, I still loved the banter between Ansithe and Moir. It had me chuckling quite a few times, especially when the other characters got involved.

With both Ansithe’s sisters, some of Moir’s felag and the extras, that joined the story a little later on, worked and schemed to get them together it seemed pretty obvious that everything would work out. Yet, without the trust that Moir worked hard to earn the end would never have happened as it did.

In terms of character development, we had Ansithe gain some self-confidence, both her sisters seemed to grow emotionally, Moir learnt how to plan for and enjoy the future and Bajtr grew in maturity from an adolescent into a man. Ansithe and Moir were the central focus of the book, yet Michelle still had time to let us experience the development of other characters while still adding value to the story.

Throughout the book there was a good balance of drama, romance, strategy, espionage and action that it felt like there was almost always something to pay attention to. By changing up what that focus was, Michelle was able to give me a break, so I didn’t get bored without losing my attention.

When I got to the last chapter (or was it second last chapter?) I hated having to put the book down to have to go to work. While also practically jumping up and down in nervous excitement to see how Ansithe’s and Moir’s relationship had developed over the course of the book. To say I loved the Moir’s final actions is an understatement.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this review, next week I will be reviewing my last book for the year, Against All Odds by Craig Challen and Dr Richard Harris.

Give Me a Christmas – Zoe Ann Wood

Welcome back everyone, after Monday’s sad story that didn’t end as I was expecting I’ve gone back to a sweet romance.

I wasn’t expecting was for Iris to be so normal. By that I mean, she has a regular teaching job, she gets by but isn’t making millions and she’s working towards her career dreams. This type of character just didn’t add up to me when the blurb said she had a billionaire ex-boyfriend.

Normally in romances if billionaires are involved, they are dating each other, or the whole point of the story is that they unexpectedly get to know someone regular and end up together. You don’t normally find stories where there’s already history with the ex!

The fact that Finn seems to have grown up since they were together feels like a good thing. Iris is constantly surprised by it and struggles to accept that he’s being genuine. Which is totally understandable.

Zoe does an amazing job of drip feeding us bits and pieces of their past which kept me hooked. I wanted to know what happened between them, why did they break up, how long were they together for, is the dispute with the parents really as bad as it’s made out to be, how will Finn react when he finds out etc etc etc.

I was left hanging to the end to get all my questions answered. Although Zoe kept you on the line by answering one or two questions at a time, while raising more. I wasn’t left feeling like it was a rush to answer all the questions at the end, but I was still kept hooked.

I’d say this is one of her better sweet romances, and I think that comes down to her maturity as a writer developing now that she’s got a few books published in this genre. I feel like (and I’m not a writer so I don’t know for sure) it’s easier to create the right kind of drama in a paranormal romance compared to a sweet romance. So I can understand why it took Zoe a few books to find that groove and settle into it.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this review, next week I will be reviewing A Deal with her Rebel King by Michelle Styles. Continue to read further down to find out about the author.