Book Review: Glass Ceilings by A.M. Madden

It actually took me some time to confirm my opinion of this book. I liked parts of it, but I think my mood might have affected my perception. While well written with some good sexy parts, I really wasn’t feeling the whole baby thing. Still, just because I was feeling a little off doesn’t mean there weren’t things about it I didn’t appreciate.

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

One-Sentence Synopsis
Two years after an intense night together, an FBI agent and a woman with an abusive ex find each other again when the ex is murdered. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Two Years Prior
When Angela and Nick meet, it takes only the span of a week for them to fall in love. Angela is skittish as a result of a freaky stalker ex, and Nick likes to keep his options open, especially because when they meet, he’s working undercover to take down a mob-led drug ring at the bar he’s “working at. One night of passion leads them to decide they want to be together, and since they’re both going to New York, it seems like everything is falling into place for it to happen.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. A series of events keeps Angela from going to New York, including the death of a family member. But then she receives pictures of Nick’s slashed tires from her ex and finds out she’s pregnant, and instead of telling Nick any of this, she just freaks out and goes into hiding in Ohio, supposedly to keep safe from her ex, who she’s found out has ties with the mafia.

Here and Now
Two years later, Angela is brought in for questioning regarding her ex’s murder, and she and Nick are reunited, though it’s anything but a happy reunion. Nick is bitter and still angry at the way she ended things. His anger only gets worse when she reveals that he’s a father because condoms and hot tubs don’t go together so well. Oops.

Things I’m Grouchy About
Let’s start with the things that didn’t work for me.

First, instalove. Though I liked the passion between Nick and Angela, I kept thinking that maybe they should get to know each other before committing to anything. I mean, they were both going to New York anyway, so sure, they could have planned to date, but other than physical attraction, I wasn’t sure there was much of a basis for a relationship there.

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Second, I realize that Angela was scared, but not telling Nick about the baby? Kind of a dick move. Then later when he does find out, some of the interaction between him and the kid was sweet. Okay, all of it was. But after awhile, I kind of got tired of it. Full disclosure though, I’m kind of heartless when it comes to literary babies. Like I said, it wasn’t that it wasn’t good, it just didn’t push my buttons.

But On the Other Hand…
On the flipside, there were a lot of things I liked about the story. For all my minor complaints, I liked Angela and Nick, and when I didn’t think about the speed in which their original relationship progressed, I wanted to see them get together. I also enjoyed the smaller details and conflicts between them. The touch with Nick’s current girlfriend was great, especially because it wasn’t an easy breakup for Nick. Though his feelings for the GF weren’t as strong as they were for Angela, he cared about her and was torn up about the whole thing.

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I also liked that even when they finally got together (again), he still admitted to feeling bitter about her not telling him that he had a son. Kudos for that detail, because realistically speaking, no matter how much you love someone, it doesn’t erase the stupid crap they did and it doesn’t erase negative feelings one has about that stupid crap. Especially when it involves bebehs.

A Splash of Intrigue
As for the whole murder investigation thing, I thought there was going to be a little more danger to it. In actuality, it took a back seat to the relationship Nick and Angela were trying to rebuild. Which was okay, and there was still a little bit of action, but there wasn’t that edgy, adrenaline rush feeling that sometimes comes with a story where someone might be in peril.

The Romance Factor
Though the instalove diminished it a little bit for me, I still enjoyed the intensity between Angela and Nick and I appreciated how painful it was for them to have ended the way they did. Even though I might not completely buy the “in love” aspect, I do think it’s possible to develop strong feelings for someone in a short amount of time, and it was kind of tragic they didn’t get to explore them under different circumstances. 3/5

The Steam Factor
There’s sexy times at the beginning and sexy times at the end, and the middle of the story is spent catching up with what happened to them in the two years they were apart while also waiting to see how they were going to proceed. Though the sex was fairly sparse, it was hot when it happened. 4/5

Final Thoughts
Overall, I’m going to say that I liked the story. It had some great things about it, and the little realistic details really stood out for me. The unrealistic details can be easily overlooked as part of the genre, so in hindsight, not a deal breaker. As for the baby, I don’t normally mind babies, so we’ll chalk that up to a mood thing. The writing is solid and while I can’t rank it as a favorite, I would still recommend it as a good read.

Book Review: Spy Fall by Diana Quincy

I read this book on an overnight trip to Kansas City in which I forced myself to catch up on writing and reading while recovering from a nasty cold/allergy thing. I had a hard time getting into it at first, but once it found its feet, it was adorable.

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

One-Sentence Synopsis
An aeronaut spy crash lands into the son of the marquess she’s supposed to be spying on. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Well, Hello There…
One of the best parts of a romance is the meet-cute. It’s why I prefer the first chance romances to the second chance ones, because there’s more of a chance that we’re going to get to see the meet-cute happen. This story gives one of the more unique ones I’ve ever seen. Mari and her brothers are aeronauts who parachute out of hot air balloons (full disclosure: I read to get the feel and point of the story and I got a little lost in the details). During a jump that goes a little awry, Mari falls right into Cosmo (love that name).

Spy Meets Rake
Mari is feisty and independent and quirky (she has no problem jumping out of the sky but she’s afraid of horses). She also has a secret: she’s a spy.  Her main reason for not wanting to be tied down is that she figures a man would make her give up her hobby and she’s not all about that. There’s also that spy thing, but I didn’t really get that that was an issue.

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Cosmo is somewhat of a man-ho who lives a life of excess because he feels guilty about the death of his sister and the fact that had he not been out carousing, he might have been able to save her. His first impression of Mari is that she’s attractive, but mouthy. Her first impression of him is that he’s kind of a jerk. But as happens, they find out quickly that they may want to, you know, get to know each other intimately. Like most rakish heroes, Cosmo doesn’t want a relationship, but he falls in love with Mari despite the fact that her lifestyle scares him.

Quirky Plot Points
I got a kick out of the banter between the two and had some laugh out loud moments. I also thought the side characters and mystery were interesting. I spent most of the book being wrong about who I suspected was the secret villain. I also enjoyed the fact that Cosmo’s house had all sorts of hidden doors and passages. It was a fun detail and of course made for some interesting interactions between him and Mari.

The Romance Factor
Cosmo and Mari have a fun relationship, and though there are definitely some romantic vibes, it doesn’t get too cheesy or sappy. There are a few poignant moments between them, especially when Cosmo freaks out because he thinks Mari is hurt, and I really liked that even though Cosmo is scared of Mari’s sky jumping, he promises not to curtail it since he knows it’s what she loves. 3/5

The Steam Factor
Not only are there some hot scenes, the settings and situations Cosmo and Mari find themselves in lead to the eroticism (and sometimes humor) of the situation. There’s one scene when they’re up in the air in a balloon and another where Cosmo is trying to have a conversation with his father while Mari is under the desk distracting him. That one was kind of awkward, but it also cracked me up. 4/5

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Final Thoughts
I loved the unique premise and I thought the mystery and the romance came together well to create a fun and entertaining story. Though it had some more serious themes, it still managed to feel lighthearted. I’m hoping the other books in the series are just as entertaining and well written.

Book Review: Good Girl by Lauren Layne

I’d been reading a lot of hype about Good Girl since I follow the author on several different venues. I’m always excited for a Lauren Layne novel, and though this one felt a little different from her previous work, it was still enjoyable.

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

One-Sentence Synopsis
While hiding out from the media, a country singer falls for an attractive caretaker, not knowing he’s actually the owner of her hideaway. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

America’s Sweetheart…or Homewrecker
Jenny Dawson enjoys her career as a country singer sweetheart, but when the media starts calling her a homewrecker based on the lies of another country star, she goes into hiding at an old house in Louisiana that she remembered from her childhood as a musical retreat. It’s obvious from the start that Noah, the caretaker, doesn’t like her, but she figures she can avoid him for the time she’s going to be there.

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A Man With Issues
Noah is grumpy and kind of a dick in general. And he’s not just the caretaker, he’s also the owner. His parentage put him in two different worlds, a poorer world where he struggled and then, when his dad found him, the world of the wealthy. He’s hiding out too, from a psycho ex-fiance who doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of “done.” When he meets Jenny, he lets her think he’s just the caretaker.  Also, he’s convinced she’s a diva and decides that other than checking her out, he really doesn’t want to have anything to do with her.

That Caretaker is So Hot Right Now
You can definitely see where this is going. The trope is standard, and it’s not a secret that in close proximity, these two are going to get their hook up. But it’s in the details that this book is so enjoyable. Jenny is likable and sweet and not really the diva Noah seems to think she is. Contrary to what the media says, she’s not experienced, but she does have a wild side that she starts to think Noah could help her explore.

Though he redeems himself, Noah isn’t as good of a character. He’s written well, but he’s kind of a jerk, pushing Jenny away, then getting close to her only to push her away again. He’s confused, sure, and he’s dealing with the whole fall out of his cancelled wedding and cheating ex, but he made me so mad at the way he’d get all up in Jenny’s business and then completely ignore her. And he knew he was doing it too.

In the Mind of a Head Case
What redeems the romance is that the story switches between Jenny and Noah’s first person point of view, and so instead of just seeing Noah playing mind games with Jenny, we actually get inside his head to see his reasoning behind acting like a tool. Does it justify it? No, not really, but it does help us sympathize and it makes for more feels when we actually get to see him hurting as well. At least to a small degree.

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The Romance Factor
The romance was there, but it wasn’t as strong as I was expecting. There was an amazing break up scene at the end (before the HEA, of course), and though Jenny and Noah had some really cute moments, and even though I didn’t end up hating Noah, there were a lot of times I really wanted Jenny to just smack him. 3/5

The Steam Factor
There are some really good sexy times in this book. Even if Noah is an emotional mess, the chemistry between him and Jenny was hot and well written. I also liked Jenny’s adventurous nature and her calling Noah out on his slut shaming at one point. While the romance didn’t always mesh perfectly with the sex, it was still a strong point of the novel. Also, innovative use of zip ties gets brownie points. 4/5

Final Thoughts
While an enjoyable read, this wasn’t my favorite LL book. I wasn’t disappointed per se, it just didn’t grab me as much as some of her previous ones. I’ll still be looking forward to her next book in this series though. It was still a good afternoon read with a hot and sultry setting and cute dogs as co-stars. So not a full win…but still a win.

Book Review: Fooling Around by Noelle Adams

I have such love for billionaire stories, but this one struck me as a little bit different. And it was. And it was amazing.

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

One-Sentence Synopsis
A lonely woman is hired by a grumpy billionaire to be his assistant while he heals from a skiing accident. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Looking for Something
Julie has just lost her mother and has no idea what to do with her life. As an adult, she’s spent almost all of her time taking care of her parents, and while this made her happy, now she doesn’t know what to do. Eric is used to being in control, but when he breaks his leg in a skiing accident and knows he’s going to need assistance for a few months, he’s hard pressed to find an assistant that doesn’t annoy him…or walk out because he’s kind of a workaholic douche.

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Mostly Decent Proposal
In a world of coincidental meet cutes (which is almost every romance story ever), Julie and Eric get trapped in an elevator together. Julie automatically helps Eric be more comfortable, a habit from helping her parents out for so long, and he likes the way she does it without being overbearing. He decides he wants her to be his  assistant and offers her a million dollars if she can stick it out for 3 months. She has to think about it because she wasn’t super impressed with his behavior, but a million dollars is hard to ignore, so Julie accepts.

Sweet, No Sass
I loved Julie. She’s sweet and unassuming and shy. She’s an adult who’s never had an intense relationship and seems to blend into the background. She even dresses conservatively, except she has a thing for sexy lingerie (even though she’s pretty sure no one is ever going to see it). Even though Eric drives her nuts, she sticks around to help him, ignoring how mean he is to her and how his other staff seem fairly cold towards her. I also have major soft spots for lonely characters, and Julie is definitely lonely. She has a sister who invites her to live with her, but basically the sister just wants a live-in nanny for her kids and drove me absolutely nuts.

Grumpy McGrumpypants
Eric took a little getting used to. He was a jerk through most of the book. Even when he started softening towards Julie, he was still a jerk. His emotions and the way he treated her were constantly going hot and cold. When he was a good guy, he was super good, but he wasn’t always a good guy. The one thing I did like about Eric was how much he cared for his daughter, the product of a one night stand with a woman he didn’t love. He only gets to see her once in awhile, but it’s heartbreaking how much he worries about her, since she’s sick and the doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong. Moppet warning: the daughter is adorable and sweet and not at all bratty. I know this bugs some readers. I found her to be pretty adorable, but also conveniently awesome.

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The Romance Factor
The romance unfolds over a couple months. Julie doesn’t like Eric at first. Even when she realizes she’s attracted to him, she doesn’t find him to be a particularly pleasant person. But the development is part of what makes the romance so good, and seeing how they change each other was super sweet. Also, the conflict when Eric goes from being nice to a complete jerkhole and then realizes what a jerkhole he was is so full of feels. 5/5

The Steam Factor
Sweet and spicy, most of the sexy times involve Julie’s lingerie (which she thought no one would ever see) and Eric being on his back because his leg is in a cast. There’s also that “forbidden” aspect because Julie is Eric’s employee, though I felt that could easily be overlooked considering the situation and the consensual nature of things. 4/5

Final Thoughts
This was one of those books I had a really hard time putting down. There was definitely some sadness and conflict, but the complete adorableness of the romance hooked me, as did the fact that the characters seemed to learn about themselves along the way and came out of it better people.

Book Review: Heart Breaker by Erin McCarthy

I’m not entirely sure if this can be completely considered a second chance novel. I mean, it is, but it’s even different from most of the ones I’ve read recently. Which isn’t to say it was bad, just different. Also, the couple in this book seriously win the Hot Mess Award of the week.

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

One-Sentence Synopsis
A songwriter duo who had a volatile relationship is forced to work together in seclusion in order to get their next album written. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Epic Breakup
Jolene and Chance are huge in the media spotlight, one because they’re a top Nashville singing duo, and two because they were sweethearts who ended with a messy breakup. When they come together in the beginning of the story, they outwardly can’t stand each other, even though underneath the surface they still have feelings for one another. Their breakup involved Chance being seen with another woman, guitar being thrown in a pool, and a lot of yelling, so yeah, there’s some bitterness on both sides. But per their contract, they have to make another album together. Sucks to be them.

Rough Starts
I was a little skeptical at first. It was a second chance story with a pre-existing relationship, and I normally like my stories to be about that first exploration and relationship of a couple. Also, I wasn’t crazy about how the book started. It was a lot of them thinking of how hot the other one is and fighting the fact that they wanted to get going on that horizontal two-step even though they both know it’s probably a bad idea.

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Finding the Story Mojo
But the second part of the book picked up, and I realized by the end just how much I enjoyed this story. First of all, there’s a major opposites attract thing going on. Jolene wants the fame and the glamour of Nashville. Having come from a poor family, she now enjoys the excess her fame gets her. Except when she’s half naked and without makeup, she likes the perks of the paparazzi as well. Her career comes first, at least at the beginning.

Chance sees her as something of a fame whore. He wants quiet fame. After being the son of a drunk father who was country music royalty, he wants to stay behind the scenes and write the music, not be in the spotlight. Jolene sees him as contrary and unbending, another factor that lead to their breakup.

Sex Cabin in the Woods
Being put in a secluded cabin to write country songs together isn’t necessarily a great thing if you’re trying to reign in your hormones, so of course they start rekindling their relationship, which means some sexy times first, and later the realization of how much they care for each other. Once things got past the constant ogling, I loved how these two evolved together. At the beginning, they’re young and hot headed and all sorts of diva, but getting back together helps them realize a lot of the mistakes they made and to see things from a different perspective. They actually grow up, and I thought this story had some awesome character development.

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The Romance Factor
It was hard to find the romance at the beginning, but it eventually came together and it came on strong. I went all sorts of girly when Chance told Jolene he loved her. But even that didn’t resolve everything, and there was more conflict to get through, which you’d think would detract from the romance. Nope. It just made it stronger. 4/5

The Steam Factor
Sex is the first thing that brings them together and the doorway through which they let all the other feelings through. It was steamy, though not overly frequent so as to take away from the story. 4/5

Final Thoughts
Happy endings are satisfying, and this one felt really satisfying because Chance and Jolene had to work for it. The character development nailed it for me. I really want to see Jolene’s sister (who’s a snarky pistol of a character) be featured in a future Nashville Nights book, so here’s to hoping that happens. Either way, I’ll definitely snatch up the next one when it comes out.

Book Review: A Most Delicate Pursuit by Pamela Labud

I enjoyed the first book in the series and was thrilled when the second one came available to request. I tend to get more contemporary novels through NetGalley, so it’s kind of a treat when a good historical romance comes along to change things up.

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

One-Sentence Synopsis
A woman determined to never marry becomes the subject of a courtship meant to save her from a dangerous arrangement. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Other Sister
Beatrice is the sister of Caro from the first one (the one who was originally supposed to be pawned off as a bride). Now she lives with her sister and brother-in-law, and though she’s had many offers of marriage, she hasn’t accepted any of them. A few years before, she let someone she thought was going to marry her take her virtue, and she doesn’t want to bring shame to her family when her husband finds out she’s not pure. So she’s decided to just nix the idea of marriage altogether and serve as a governess to a family going to America.

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Hunters Without Women
The one man she might have considered, Michael, has also made it clear he has no plans to marry. Like his other hunting buddies, he wants to stay single and live a life free of a woman curtailing his good time. Sure he’s attracted to Bea, but she’s made it clear she doesn’t want to marry, which works out for him too.

Until he realizes he actually does want to marry her, a decision he reaches after agreeing to try to save her from a gross old man who her cousin sold her to and is rumored to have killed his previous wives. Considering the legalities, it seems the only way to get her out of the situation is for her to marry someone else, and Michael seems to be the perfect candidate.

Stronger Than She Seemed
I liked both characters. Beatrice doesn’t necessarily like hunting, nor is she adept at outdoor survival, but when push comes to shove and she has to tend to Michael after he’s injured, she steps up like a boss. At the beginning of the first book, she seemed to be one of those delicate flower heroines, but she’s not. Later, when things with the old gross guy get dangerous, she proves she’s a fighter.

Reputations to Maintain
As for Michael, he’s a rebel who doesn’t care what society thinks (typical for a romance hero). He has a reputation with the ladies and he’s also known for dueling and being a sharpshooter, something that led to him to losing the use of one eye. When Bea tells me him that she’s not a virgin, his reaction is pretty much “So what?” Not really the standard reaction for the time, but definitely what you’d expect of this character who seems to have no effs to give.

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Danger Plots
The evil guy trying to take Beatrice gave the story some suspense and action. After Michael saves Beatrice, he has to go to court because of the method he used and the fact that people are crying “murderer.” My first reaction was that the justice system was broken (as it sometimes is). Though at one point I felt like that part dragged the story out, I also thought it gave some great emotion between the characters who were facing the chance that Michael was going to be put to death.

The Romance Factor
There was some great romantic foreplay between these two, and I loved that part of the reason they weren’t pursuing each other was because they were convinced the other one wasn’t into it. There was a lot of good tension and passion between them. 4/5

The Steam Factor
Not as spicy as some, but the sexy times were enough to get some heat on. There’s also forest/outdoor sex, and though it’s fun and all, I hoped there weren’t bugs getting into uncomfortable places. 4/5

Final Thoughts
There’s a bit of a friends-to-lovers thing going on here, which made it that much better. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, even with the bugs and the stupid court system. I’ll be watching for the 3rd book in the series to drop.

Book Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

I don’t often read YA, not because I have an issue with it, but because I usually prefer things on the sexier side. And I don’t read a lot of fantasy because…I just don’t. But I don’t care about genre or age when it comes to Beauty and the Beast tropes and retellings, so I checked this one out on audiobook. Get ready. I might gush a bit.

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One-Sentence Synopsis
A young woman is sent to marry and destroy the demon that was responsible for her mother’s death, thereby freeing her people from his reign. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Slow Pace
Let me say first that this book wasn’t perfect. There were a lot of side stories and parts that seemed to drag on. But I tend to be more forgiving with audiobooks, as it’s a different way of reading and tends to go slow anyway. Also, when I thought of this as a movie, I’m pretty sure Tim Burton would have to direct it. I would totally pay to see it though.

Unwanted Responsibilities
Nyx has been raised with the knowledge that when of age, she’ll be sent to the home of the Gentle Lord, a demon who rules over her world and makes shady bargains with people, to be his wife. This is the result of a bargain her father made with him years ago, a bargain that got him what he wanted but also caused the death of their mother (which her father hadn’t foreseen). What her family hopes will happen is that Nyx will actually defeat the Gentle Lord by killing him. Nyx plans to try to do just that, though she assumes she’ll simply end up dead. Though resigned to her fate, unlike the “Beauty” in other stories, Nyx isn’t a kind and gentle girl. She’s actually bitter and angry that her father has put this on her. She hates her father and to an extent, her twin sister, who is coddled and loved by her father in a way she never was.

Supernatural Threesome
Ignifex, her new husband, isn’t what she expected. At first she hates him because that’s what she’s been raised to do (and also he’s a demon, so there’s that). But the more time she spends with him, the more her hate turns to something else. Ignifex is sarcastic and unapologetic for being the lord of bargains, but Nyx starts to find that she’s drawn to him. Matters are made more complicated by Ignifex’s shadow servant, Shade, who has the same face as Ignifex, though minus the demon eyes and with more of a death palor. Between Shade and Ignifex, Nyx finds her self in a strange situation where her affections are torn.

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Sunderings Never Turn Out Well
This world is so interesting. It blends stories of Greek mythology with demon lore. Nyx’s world is one that was sundered from the real world 900 years ago, so they don’t have a real sky, only a sky of white parchment. Part of the reason they want Nyx to defeat the Gentle Lord is because they hope it will undo the sundering. The way the author weaves this bit of world history in with Ignifex’s story is expert, and though I guessed a few of the secrets just based on the trope, there were some interesting twists that made this story unique.

Pretty Names
Nyx got my nerves a little bit, but no more than most young characters do. She’s torn between her eventual love for Ignifex and fulfilling the purpose for which she was raised (destroying him). There were so many times when as a reader, I was like “No! Don’t do that! You’re such a jerk….what are doing?” But the thing was, she didn’t know what I knew, so it was frustrating (and yes, I did get into this book that much). Ignifex was amazing. I loved his whole personality and the slow way in which Nyx fell in love with him. As for Shade, I guessed that he and Ignifex were part of the same whole, but it wasn’t entirely clear if I was right or not, so it kept me guessing.

A Touch of Creepiness
I said before that Tim Burton would have to direct this, and I wasn’t kidding, especially with regards to some of the creepier parts of the story. Nyx comes across fairly unsettling things, like the Gentle Lord’s previous wives (all dead now), and weird ghosty demon children who sing creepy songs at her. The way this was narrated made these parts unsettling and I loved it. It’s not often you get a blend of romance and subtle horror in one novel.

The Romance Factor
I swooned a bit over Ignifex and loved the slow build of emotion between him and Nyx. The romance in the little details, like her saving him from the darkness even though she hated him at the time and him cuddling her were sweet. There are also some great lines in this story, and dialogue which is beautifully written. Even though I know the outcome of every BatB story ever, I wasn’t sure how things were going to resolve, and the conflict towards the end had me in tears. 5/5

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The Steam Factor
This is a YA novel, and while some YAs have some sexy times, this one didn’t have any details. While Nyx and Ignifex were fairly sensual with each other in general, and it was made known when they finally “consummated” the marriage, the reader doesn’t see it happen. 1/5

Final Thoughts
The great story and good narration came together into an audiobook I had a really hard time stopping. This story is set in a beautiful world with flawed characters and puts a great twist on a classic fairy tale. While BatB is my favorite trope, I’m pretty much a fan of all fairy tale retellings, so my mission will be to acquire the other books by this author. I bought a novella and put a hold on another one of the author’s books through my digital library. I want to immerse myself in this world and I definitely plan on reading this one again.