Delayed Penalty by Sophia Henry

The Chicago Blackhawks took the Stanley Cup this year. And yes, I realize that was several months ago, but I thought mentioning it would be appropriate for a book that centers around a hockey player. I’m kind of ambivalent towards the Blackhawks. My team is the Detroit Red Wings, and even when they have a rough season, they’re still my favorite. For this reason, I was happy to see that the author of this book, Sophia Henry, is a fellow Wings fan.

Delayed Penalty

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

One-Sentence Synopsis
A college student takes a job tutoring and translating for a Russian hockey player, and though she finds herself insanely attracted to him, she’s held back by her fear of abandonment. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
I will pretty much give any hockey book a chance, because hockey. I enjoyed that the heroine, Auden, was a hockey fan. There was a lot of college nostalgia for me in this book, including Canadian bar trips and all Michigan mentions (since Michigan will always be my first home).

I thought the writing flowed well, and Auden’s voice as a 20-something felt genuine, as did the dialogue and banter between her and Alexsandr. Alexsandr’s Russian dialect and accent came across to my reader’s ear, and not every author can do that well. Also, and this is going to sound like a really silly thing to like, but it’s mentioned that Alexsandr has false teeth, and while that’s not necessarily a sexy thing to talk about, it’s a great detail considering that hockey is a rough sport and most players have lost teeth to the ice.

ice hockey falling

Things That Made Me Go Hmmm
I wanted to like Auden, I really did. Even though she sometimes had a selfish, “all about me” attitude, I wanted to give her a chance, especially because I remember my own “all about me” phases in college. Unfortunately, she just didn’t do it for me, and there were a few reasons. Sure, she was angsty about things, all of which her understandable, but there were aspects of her life that didn’t jive for me.

For instance, she’d been cut from the soccer team, but she talks in a few sections about how good she is at soccer. When someone is cut from a team, I automatically think it was because they weren’t good enough, so when she talked about being good, it left me wondering what the story behind that was. Because not knowing just made me think she was too full of herself to understand that she wasn’t as great as she thought she was.

There was also a lot of things going for Auden, and while it’s fine for a character to have several aspects, talents, hobbies, etc.,it’s hard to keep track when they all come to the forefront. Besides the soccer thing, Auden was also asked to join a band who heard her singing karaoke (though there’s a whole section where the band isn’t even talked about, and I sort of forgot about them until they showed up later). Then you find out that she started a foundation to help underprivileged kids. Then you find out a weird secret about her family. Multiple guys want her. She treads the line of “all about me” so much that at points, I forgot she even had a tragic backstory.

ice hockey reaction

The Romance Factor
This one gets an RF of 3/5. While there were some parts that were sweet, and I liked the parallel angst Alexsandr and Auden had going for them, I felt the leap from antagonizing each other to suddenly adoring each other was too quick. I wanted more conflict between them, hence more foreplay. There was a heavy dose of conflict that showed up later that brought about some delicious angst, but it also gave Alexsandr a hint of douche.

The Steam Factor
This book was tame. There was a lot of sweet kissing and the hint of some heavy petting, but there was very little sex. And in the sex there was, I’m not sure if I was reading too quickly or what, but I’m not entirely sure Auden finished. Kudos for the portrayal of first time sex as awkward and uncomfortable, but the SF was only at about a 1/5 for me.

Final Thoughts
Though I can’t list this book on my favorites, I don’t think it’s a bad novel. I would have liked to see some tighter, more focused characterization of Auden, but even with the douchie bits, I really liked Alexsandr. I believe that had I read this when I was in college, I would have had the opposite opinion. Also, I like a little more sex in my romance, but I know that’s not for everyone, so tamer readers will likely love the sweet relationship between Auden and Alexsandr.

Escaping Reality by Lisa Renee Jones

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I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

One sentence Synopsis
A young woman with a mysterious past finds herself having to run and hide again, but this time she runs right into the path of a billionaire who wants to keep her…and keep her safe. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
I thought that Liam’s backstory was interesting. He was a prodigy who apprenticed for a well known architect, which was a good way to explain why he was rich at such a young age. A tad unbelievable? Maybe. I don’t know if that can happen with architects, but I appreciate there being a fairly creative reason for his wealth.

There were parts about the mystery that ended up being intriguing, like Amy’s past and Liam’s role in whatever was going on.

Things That Made Me Go Hmmm
The first part of the book was slow. Halfway through the book, the only things I’d established (repeatedly), was that she hated running and she needed to never see Liam again, of course for his own safety.

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Also, Liam used the term “baby.” A lot. I can glaze over the word if it’s used sparingly, but it bugs me when it’s standard. I realize this is a personal thing, but I generally hate that term.

Romance Factor
There was very little romance. Liam started out as concerned, but by the end was scarily possessive. Amy, though attracted to him, was too busy being afraid of whatever she was afraid of. Also, Amy seemed to be having a small dose of lust over her neighbor, and that detracted from any romance as well. 2/5

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Steam Factor
At 50% of the book, there had been one sex scene, and it wasn’t anything memorable. Luckily, the sexy times in the second half of the book perked things up. 4/5

Final Thoughts
I’m kind of torn because I wasn’t completely sold on the story, but the end had me curious as to what was going on. Cliffhangers are so frustrating! We’ll see if I still have the urge to know what’s going on later when I’m in the right head space to try to get through more of this story.

Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare

This was my first time reading Tessa Dare, and this is the first book in her Castles Ever After series, which centers around women who inherit castles. Who do I have to talk to about inheriting a castle? Seriously…I love that premise. Also, the first book kicks it off with the best trope ever.

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One-Sentence Synopsis
A woman inherits a castle already owned and inhabited by a gorgeous but grumpy recluse. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
Though this was another B&tB story, it felt different and more whimsical. The main character is Izzy Goodnight, the inspiration for a character in the books her father wrote before he died. The character is one that has a following of fans who dress up as people in the books…cosplayers, essentially. Be still, my happy little geek heart!

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I love a plain heroine, and Izzy knows she’s not beautiful, but she’s funny and sweet, and of course she eventually brings Ransom (yes, the hero’s name is Ransom) around.

There were a few twists on the trope. Ransom is mostly blind due to an incident regarding the woman he was supposed to marry. There’s also a side story in which Ransom is trying to figure out how his castle was sold without him knowing it.

Things That Made Me Go Hmmm
Ransom held on to his douchiness a little longer than some of the other beastly heroes I’ve read. He’s so up and down that Izzy had to be strong just to deal with him.

The Romance Factor
For the type of story this was, I thought the angst was fairly low, but the romance was definitely out of a fairy tale. Izzy finally getting her first kiss and finding a man who made her feel beautiful was full of feels. There’s also a scene where Ransom puts candles in her room to help her cope with her fear of the dark, and even though it’s so simple, it’s also very adorable. 5/5

The Steam Factor
The foreplay is hot and heavy in this one, but the sexy times deliver on the promise. The sex scenes are detailed, yet sensual in the best possible way. 5/5

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Final Thoughts
While some of the elements were a little silly, I was charmed by the heroine and loved the world this was set in. Sex and whimsy seems to be an entertaining combination.

The Leopard Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

I was browsing my library’s catalog for novels and inadvertently checked out the digital copy of this one. I took it as a sign that I needed to read it, despite the several other books I have to read.

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One-Sentence Synopsis
A well bred lady employs a steward who she’s attracted to, despite the fact that everyone else in the town thinks he’s a sheep killer. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
Historical class differences were a thing, and I enjoyed how Georgina had very few effs to give about her relationship with her steward, at least not as far as the town and her family was concerned. Sure, she had some concerns at the end, mostly around the standard “The other person doesn’t love me” trope, but I loved that when her brother tried to tell her to stay away from him, she pretty much ignored him.

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I also enjoyed the backstory and family dynamic of Harry, tragic as it was, because it added another element of drama.

Things That Made Me Go Hmmm
George’s sister Violet was a royal pain. She was whiny and selfish and immature. I mean, she was only 15. However, she also represents another point I liked about the book – a supportive family. When she reveals she had relations with someone older than her, her family doesn’t force her into marriage. And even though they give George a hard time at first, when all is said and done, her brothers truly seem to want her happiness over anything else. So yay for supportive families!

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Also, the heroine went by George and the hero’s name was Harry, and it took me awhile to not think of George as the man in the story.

The Romance Factor
There was definitely some angst here, which added to the romance factor. Also, I enjoyed the tradition switch to the woman being the employer, and bonus points for the sweet carved animals he made for her. 4/5

The Steam Factor
Standardly steamy for this author. 4/5

Final Thoughts
This book is part of a trilogy and was definitely enjoyable. Also, ginger heroine with wild hair is full of win.

Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt

I wrote about the most recent book published in Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane Series several weeks ago. I liked it so much, I decided I needed to explore this world more, so I went back and started with the first in the series.

One-Sentence Synopsis
An infamous lord asks a young woman to be his guide around the area where his mistress was murdered. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
Can we talk about Lazarus’ hair? A youngish lord with silver hair was kind of amazing. I was also intrigued by the rumors of his “sexual proclivities.” And his weird physical/psychological issues with pain when he gets touched. Basically, I found Lazarus to be one of the most interesting heroes ever.

hair flip

I also had fun picking out the characters for future stories in this series. And the names were fairly ridiculous but also awesome. The Makepeace siblings are named Temperance, Silence, Winter and Asa. Love it.

Things That Made Me Go Hmmm
I was a little disappointed at the tameness of the aforementioned proclivities. To be fair, the story was set in a different time, but I was hoping for something a little more risque.

The Romance Factor
Temperance and Lazarus were a great pairing. I liked their chemistry and I enjoyed that she continued to push at his pain until she could touch him without him hurting. And I appreciated that she had to work for it, that she didn’t have the magic touch that told him they were destined to be together. 4/5

The Steam Factor
Even though Lazarus wasn’t as debauched as people thought, he was still pretty sexy, as were the scenes with him and Temperance getting their groove on. Definitely blush inducing. 5/5

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Final Thoughts
Full disclosure: the blurb on this book didn’t seem like something I’d like, but I loved this story and now have to read the full series…even though I’m not entirely sure how I feel about some of the future characters.

The Wrong Billionaire’s Bed by Jessica Clare

I’m currently using books as rewards for meeting certain goals I’ve set for myself, so buying this one was exciting on a few levels. As someone who doesn’t keep many physical books, it says something that I want to own this whole series.

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One-Sentence Synopsis
Always the good girl, a woman plans to rehab her sister and connect with the guy she’s always had a thing for, but her plans go askew when her crush’s sexy friend starts seducing her. To see a full synopsis, visit this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
Audrey showed up in the first 2 books, and her crush on Cade had been strongly hinted at. She’s made it her life’s goal to be a good girl in opposition to her twin’s wild lifestyle, but her evolution in this book is good. Not only does she find that she’d rather be with someone who pushed her buttons rather than a nice guy, but she learns a few things about her relationship with her sister.

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Speaking of Daphne, she’s the featured twin who showed up in the previous book and was a complete and annoying mess. Based on her previous antics and her state at the beginning of this book, I was prepared to hate her. But by the end, I thought she was okay. I’m not sure what she’ll do later in the series, but I didn’t end the book with mad hate for her.

Things That Made Me Go Hmmm
It was hard for me to like Reese. Sure, I had a few feels for him at times, but as a character, he wasn’t really likable. He makes no secret that he uses women for business and that he’s a major player. I wanted there to be a reason for this, like family history or a bad breakup, but there was little detail other than he’d grown up poor and was working hard to make his billion like the others in the club.

I also wanted more angry foreplay, because the little that was there was delightful. I was surprised at how quickly Audrey decided to give in to him and thought she should have made him work a little more for it.

The Romance Factor
For all his faults, Reese was genuine in his love for Audrey, even though she wasn’t his usual type and even though he’d previously been happy to be a playboy. Though Audrey also gave the feels, I definitely felt the love more through Reese, even if I didn’t feel it for him. 4/5

The Steam Factor
Clare usually delivers nothing less than a 5/5 and this is no exception. In fact, the all night orgasm fest in the woods was so hot I didn’t even think about how uncomfortable the ground would be.

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Final Thoughts
While it didn’t beat Beauty and the Billionaire for me, it was still a fun read and a solid part of this series. I’m bummed the next one isn’t available in paperback, but I’ll be grabbing that eBook once I hit my next goal.

After the Kiss by Lauren Layne

When I started my love affair with Lauren Layne’s books, I had the chance to read the last two in her Stiletto series thanks to NetGalley. I liked them so much, I went back and bought the whole series, but then got sidetracked and left them on my digital shelf. I finally decided to read the first one, which kicks off this contemporary series that I imagine has a Sex and the City vibe (though I can’t say for sure, as I never watched Sex and the City).

After the Kiss

One-Sentence Synopsis
A columnist is given an assignment that leads her to pick a guy and reluctantly take their relationship to the “next level,” not knowing that the guy she’s picked is betting that she can be his quick fling. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
Glamorous characters, such as the stars of this book, take me a little while to warm up to.. But once I get my reading groove, I have a ton of fun in this world. Julie is a commitment phobe who is completely fine with dating a guy but stopping before anything gets serious. Mitch tends to get too serious, so when a co-worker bets him he can’t just hit it and quit it, he’s determined to prove himself.

There was a lot of shades of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, but that’s what made it so fun. Julie and Mitch are good together, establishing early that neither is what the other expected and falling into an ease that they don’t normally experience with other people.

10 Days

I especially like that Julie willingly embraces her own private nightmare, the boring at-home movie night, when it comes to Mitch. Though it seems like such a silly thing to fear, it’s all part of Julie not wanting to fall into that boring couple relationship that she’s watched her friend fall into.

The Romance Factor
There is some delicious angst here, and the point of view change is always so good in a Layne novel because the hero has just as many emotions as the heroine, and the reader gets to experience them all. So many feels! 4/5

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The Steam Factor
Julie and Mitch definitely have some sexy times, and while they’re not written in extreme detail, they’re fast and steamy and left me a bit warmish. 4/5

Final Thoughts
This series is fun, and I intend on not only reading the other one I haven’t yet read, but doing a re-read of the other two as well.