Book Review: A Mess of Reason by A. Wilding Wells

It’s the holidays! This isn’t a holiday book, but I’m enjoying the holiday season this year. We’ve been out looking at lights, are almost done with Christmas shopping, and have been up to some shenanigans with my shelf elf, Randall. I don’t have kids, but I apparently don’t need them to act like a major dork. I’m also feeling pretty darn good this year, so I’m preparing to shake a tailfeather at my work holiday party. Overall…good times. Now, on to the review.


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

One-Sentence Synopsis
Though they’re in love with each other, two best friends skirt the issue of their relationship rather than actually talking about it. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Tess and Scout have been besties for 15 years, and yet somehow, in all that time, they’ve never bothered to tell each other how they feel. A lot of this stems from each of them dating and/or sleeping with a wide variety of other people. Tess, however, has reasons that she’s kept a secret. Now, as adults, Tess is getting ready to marry a douchetool, and Scout is trying to deal with it, especially because he’s the one she’s asked to be her “Man of Honor.”

Romantic Build-Up
I love foreplay, and there was so much of it in the constant dance that these two did around each other. It’s so obvious to the reader and the other characters how connected they are, and considering how much they flirt and how familiar they are with each other, you’d think they’d know it too. But they keep finding reasons not to tell the other one and convincing themselves the other one doesn’t feel the same way. They even say “I love you,” but the friendship boundary makes things confusing.


Turning Circles
I can see where some readers might not like the constant merry-go-round of emotions, but I loved it. The longer, the better. My worry at the beginning of the book was that their foreplay was so intense that it was going to burn out before the end of the book. But it didn’t. Somehow it managed to progress while maintaining the angst and emotion that kept me hooked. At one point, I thought things had resolved, yet the book wasn’t close to being done, but then boom…more conflict. So good.

You Talking to Me?
The voice of the novel is fun, too. It’s told in first person point of view, switching back and forth between Scout and Tess. The narration is loose and familiar, as if the characters are actually talking to the reader, using a blend of “I” and “you” to make it feel like they’re connecting through that fourth wall.

A Side of Queso
As much as I enjoyed it, I have to admit that things got a little overdone towards the end. I appreciated the intense feelings Tess and Scout had, but there was a stretch where melodrama snuck in and things got a bit cheesy.

The Romance Factor
Friends-to-lovers is a fave trope of mine, and mixed with the secretly-in-love theme, it makes for a sweet story that kept me hanging on. Tess and Scout’s emotions were powerful and made me melt (mostly). I realize that not all male/female besties are as close as these two are, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility that they can be as affectionate as these two are, nor is it hard to believe that the blurred lines of love and friendship can make things so complicated. 5/5


The Steam Factor
I love me some foreplay, and this book delivers. Tess and Scout’s interactions  are steamy, and when they break out a dirty game of Truth or Dare that leads to everything but intercourse, the heat level is taken up about a hundred degrees. Cold shower time. No joke. 6/5

Final Thoughts
While there were parts that seemed to drag a bit, and Tess and Scout go around in circles at times, I still really liked this book. It was fun and titillating and had some really great feels. A fun read with serious themes that didn’t take away from the enjoyment.

Book Review: The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James

On a recent trip to Omaha over Thanksgiving, my husband and I discovered the joy of Half Priced Books, and I came home with a stack of romance novels, one of them being The Ugly Duchess, a book that had been on my Goodreads list for years. Instead of saving it for when I got caught up on the rest of my “need to read” list, I threw caution to the wind and went for it. Because sometimes you just need to go off course.


One-Sentence Synopsis
A young woman, known to be mannish and ugly to the rest of society, is thrilled when her best friend proposes to her, only to find out a few days later that he only married her for her dowry. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Friends First
Theodora, who prefers to be called Theo, knows that everyone calls her ugly, and though it hurts, she knows that eventually she’ll marry and find contentment and independence. Having been raised with her best friend, James, after her father died when she was young, she never expects that he’ll be the one she marries. But when he proposes after a passionate kiss, she accepts right away, realizing that she’s had feelings for him, she’s just never let herself acknowledge them.


A Little Communication Would Go a Long Way
James realizes that he’s also in love with her. But it was his father (a complete asshat) needing to get ahold of her dowry that forced his hand in the first place. Instead of being honest from the beginning, he says nothing. Had he read a romance novel, he would have understood that keeping those secrets never leads to anything good. And it doesn’t, because when Theo finds out, she flips and kicks him out of the house. Because he knows he messed up, he doesn’t argue. Instead, he runs off and becomes a pirate.

Awesome People Get Hurt Too
I enjoyed this book so much. Though Theo lacks the ability to believe that James really loves her, the story is more than just their love story. It’s about Theo growing up and rising above the opinions and gossip of her peers to be better than them. She comes into her own and ends up running several businesses on her own while James is at sea. When she returns to society, she comes dressed as a swan to turn her nose up at all of the people who once made fun of her. But as strong as she is, she still hurts and she still feels it when people make fun of her, and I loved her for that. Because being a strong woman doesn’t mean you don’t feel emotions like that.


The Long Road to a Happily Ever After
The story spans several years, most of which Theo and James are apart, and when they come together again, they’ve both changed, which leads to some major conflict. Wrapped in a relationship full of miscommunication and angst is this sweet story of childhood friends who are meant to be together, even if it means compromising who they’ve become to let the other one back into their life.

The Romance Factor
James misses Theo the whole time he’s gone, and even though he tries to embrace the pirate life fully (woman in every port sort of thing), he can’t really do it. Not only that, but while everyone else calls her ugly, he finds her beautiful because he knows who she is, and he never feels ashamed for loving her. 5/5

The Steam Factor
Though not super graphic, the sex in this book was effective at giving off major heat. There was a high level of intensity at the beginning when James and Theo first came together. Later, when they’re getting together again after so many years, there is a lot of buildup and sexual tension, and while Theo tries to avoid passion because she’s made her life so orderly, she fails miserably, which makes for some epic sexy times. 4/5

Final Thoughts
Once I finished this book, I had to go add the rest of the series to my Goodreads list. I loved this take on the classic fairy tale and the fact that the characters weren’t easily given their happily ever after. It’s sensual and sweet and hits all the right spots for me.

Book Review: One Touch More by Mandy Baxter

Because I’ve done a fairly good job of scheduling ahead, it hasn’t been noticeable, but I haven’t written a blog post for about 2 weeks. There was a road trip, a visit from my mom, and some other things that kept me off the computer. However, with Nanowrimo getting ready to happen and my lack of self control when it comes to requesting books on NetGalley, I not only need to get some more posts up, but I also need to start reading more books. November’s theme? Book time management.

One Touch More

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

One Sentence Synopis
An undercover marshal trying to find a big name drug lord becomes involved with local drug dealers and the hotel assistant manager who helps them to keep her brother out of prison. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
Talk about a strong start. I was pulled in right away with this one, intrigued by Tabitha’s situation and excited for the interaction between her and Damien. Though I don’t read a lot of romantic suspense, I do like danger in a novel once in awhile, and this one brought it. I was on the edge of my seat through most of this book, especially towards the end when things got crazy.


Things That Made Me Go Hmmm
I didn’t get a clear picture of Tabitha until the end, and I’m not sure if that was due to lack of description or if I just had an image from the start that didn’t match up with the one later in the boom that described her as edgy.

I never agree with heroine’s who are attacked, but then don’t want their attacker to get hurt. Maybe I’m just a horrible person, but if I were on the verge of getting raped and someone saved me and started punching my attacker, the only reason I’d stop that would be to make sure I got a few kicks in.


The Romance Factor
Though not insta-love, Damien and Tabitha’s relationship seemed to move fast. Yet somehow, the author was able to add enough emotion for it to seem realistic. 4/5

The Steam Factor
The sexy times were not as frequent as I thought they’d be, but they were intense when they did happen. 4/5

Final Thoughts
The intensity kept up through the whole book and ended up being a very entertaining read. There were some gritty themes, but the romance still held its own.

Major Misconduct by Kelly Jamieson

Netgalley seems to understand my love for hockey novels, so it’s hard to resist when they suggest ones they think I’ll like. This one by Kelly Jamieson is the first in the Aces Hockey series. I spent most of the book being conflicted between the things I loved and the things I didn’t care for, and it’s rare for a book to do that to me.

Major Misconduct

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

One-Sentence Synopsis
A young woman moves in with her hockey player brother and his teammate and starts a fling with the teammate, despite her brother’s warnings. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
Overall, I liked this book. I thought the writing itself flowed well, and there were parts about the characters that I really adored. I thought at the beginning that I was going to hate Lovey, but she ended up being fairly charming, though some of her decisions were questionable. Sex in her brother’s bathroom? Has the girl never read a book or seen a romantic comedy?


The fact that the fling between Lovey and Marc is supposed to be a secret actually gave me, as the reader, a great sense of tension and danger every time they were hooking up because of the chance that her brother was going to come home early and catch them. It was way more fun than I expected.

I really like that Lovey is the commitment-phobe who wants a fling and maintains that through most of the book. I was also a fan of her character’s bitchy moments that didn’t just end with her feeling bad about treating someone else poorly. There’s a scene where she’s in a bad mood and snaps at her brother (who deserves it), and even though he chastises her, she doesn’t back down. It’s rare to find a heroine have a complete unapologetic bitch moment.


Things That Made Me Go Hmmm
One of the things I didn’t care for was the minor details that didn’t add anything for me. There’s extraneous information about the clients she’s trying to get for her business and way too much about the groceries she buys. These things slowed the story down for me. However, this is a reader preference, as I know other readers who love that level of detail.

I also thought the ending stretched a bit too long. There were parts of this story that were really boring for me, but then there were other parts that I was really invested in.

Another thing I question in general is the use of popular music and references in a novel. Even though it’s a contemporary novel, pop culture doesn’t always stay pop culture, and I’m not sure how long music references last before they’re no longer relevant to the reader. As opposed to my feelings on the first issue, I really enjoy the popular references. It gives me a better background for the scenes I picture in my mind.

The Romance Factor
I definitely enjoyed the fling-to-relationship aspect of this book and how the relationship developed without any insta-love. It was solid and believable, and the angst was almost perfect. 4/5.

The Steam Factor
That whole not wanting to get caught factor really added something to the sexy times, which were already pretty steamy. Because it was so fun, I’m giving the SF a 5/5.

Final Thoughts
The things I disliked were all reader preference items. I thought the writing was good and the story and characters felt realistic. Also…hockey. I definitely plan on reading more books in this series.

The Name of the Game by Jennifer Dawson

The “enemies to lovers” trope is so good when it’s done right. In this case, I think Jennifer Dawson not only does the trope right, but she gets some of the more genuine aspects of the couple’s relationship right as well.


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

One-Sentence Synopsis
A baker and a professor used to fighting with and insulting each other start to realize that beneath the animosity, there’s a mutual attraction…even if they know they’re wrong for each other. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
I enjoyed the fact that the story highlighted the different ways men and women communicate and played on the cliche that they don’t understand each other. While miscommunication in a book can be annoying if not handled well, I could relate to it in the context of this story and completely understood the thought processes behind it.

I liked the change in dynamic between Gracie and her friends who are newly in relationships. Once her best friends are in committed relationships, Gracie gets jealous, as she’s the single one who doesn’t have that in common with the attached ones. I think it’s a situation most women can relate to, so it feels real, and the reader doesn’t have to stretch the imagination to empathize.


There is a subtle submissive/dominant vibe through the story, and when it culminates, there is a lot of emotion that goes with it. I’ve read books that had this dynamic, and the emotion is either downplayed or doesn’t feel genuine. I loved that this felt real, that the repercussions of an encounter had both sexual and emotional effects that the author explored through James and Gracie.

Also, a nerdy hero who convinces the heroine to watch Doctor Who? Winning!

Things That Made Me Go Hmmm
There’s a part where Gracie says that James has always used a condom. But previous to that, there was a scene in which I noticed he didn’t. I guess the condom use doesn’t have to be stated implicitly, but because it usually is, I sort of expect it. And the scene in question was detailed and intense, so unless he wrapped it earlier, I’m not even sure when he had the chance.


The Romance Factor
Even though the characters are trying to convince themselves that they’d never work together, the things they do for each other are sweet. While it starts out as sex, it evolves into much more, and the progression was well paced, angsty, and gave me some of those awww moments I love so much. 4/5

The Steam Factor
The sexy times are hot and frequent, but my favorite part was that role play was introduced in a way that made it feel natural and normal. Also, the roleplay scenes were so fun, especially the cheerleader/horror movie one, which had a sweet element to it as well. 5/5

Final Thoughts
At the beginning of the book, I thought there was potential for it to drag on, especially because the first quarter of the book is really a lot of James and Gracie looking at each other from across various rooms. But those scenes really just built the anticipation until they finally got their groove on, and the story moved well and felt real. I have to go back and read the first two books in this series, but I’m  already looking forward to the next in this series.

The Heat of the Moment by Katie Rose

Admittedly, I’m not a huge baseball fan, but I’m being sucked into sports romances and I’m loving it. They’re just fun! This is the third in a series by Katie Rose.

Heat of the Moment

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

One-Sentence Synopsis
A power hitter with an injured knee is miserable when he’s traded to a lower ranking team, but his misery is cut short by his physical therapist who he’s totally into, even though she claims she won’t date baseball players after a bad experience. To see a full synopsis, check out this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
Even though it had nothing to do with the romance, I really loved the camaraderie of the team in this book, the New Jersey Sonics. They’re a lower ranked team and even though they train and want to win, they don’t take themselves so seriously that they can’t have a good time. I love the brotherhood of the whole thing, including the pranks and the encouragement.

baseball bromance

I also liked the theme of inner confidence versus outer confidence. Jessica, the heroine, is an attractive, outgoing tomboy. Though she seems comfortable with herself at the beginning, and confident enough to engage with others, as the story progresses we find that she definitely has a fear of putting herself out there and putting her heart on the line (why, yes, I did just use a cheesy cliche…)

Things That Made Me Go Hmmm
While a good portion of the dialog flowed, and the banter was normal, the lack of contractions was distracting. For me, contractions make the dialog sound natural to the reader’s ear, and when I come across a line that isn’t contracted, it reads unnaturally to me.

The Romance Factor
The story is cute, but the conflict is minimal. Jessica and Gavin have chemistry, but there were times I thought the story was kind of boring. I like my angst, and it was missing through most of the book. On the other hand, Gavin is adorably beta male, and I kind of dig that. 3/5.

The Steam Factor
There are a few hot scenes, but nothing that really caused any blushing. Their first encounter was pretty awesome, though, mostly due to location. 3/5

Final Thoughts
This can be read as a standalone, though there are characters from the other books in the series that kind of intrigued me. Though the romance wasn’t as strong as I like, I wouldn’t mind reading more of this series just to get more of this baseball team and their shenanigans.

Once Upon a Billionaire by Jessica Claire

I hit another one of my goals, which meant I got to reward myself with the 4th book in the Billionaire Boys Club series. Sadly, I don’t get to see it sitting on my shelf, since it’s not in print. However, I could still read the digital version, which I bought right away. Besides treating myself to the book, I also treated myself to a night of putting the other books I’m reading aside and diving into this one.


One-Sentence Synopsis
A stuffy member of a small country’s royal family is appalled when the the temporary assistant hired to accompany him to his cousin’s wedding turns out to be a southern girl with no knowledge of proper etiquette or decor. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
This one currently stands as my 2nd favorite of the series. Griffin is a complete douche while Maylee (who we met in a previous book) is one of the sweetest people ever, as evidenced by the fact that people are drawn to her and seem to like to be around her. Except for Griffin, who can only focus on the fact that she has a southern accent and seemingly, no filter.

Unlike Reese in the previous book, Griffin has a reason for the way he is. Having been brought up to be proper in a royal family, he can’t quite let go of those teachings, even though he’s made an effort to get as far away from his family as possible. Also, he’s not a social person. He doesn’t like people and he doesn’t understand them. There were so many times that he said or did something he thought was nice, and yet didn’t realize how much it hurt Maylee.


Maylee was so adorable. I loved her as the heroine, including her quirky ability to use folk healing to take away pain. It was a strange, magical element that fit into the story as a believable element. She was emotional, but it was nice to have an emotional heroine who was okay with crying when she was upset. She’s also hilarious. I couldn’t tell if she knew that Griffin was correcting her English and didn’t care or if she really didn’t know, but their dialog cracked me up.

Also, we get to see Gretchen and Hunter again, and though Gretchen comes off as a little obnoxious in this book, she’s also the one who calls Griffin out on being a dick, which maintains her likability quotient.

The Romance Factor
Maylee and Griffin take awhile to figure things out, but their journey there is so delightful and angsty. Every time Griffin messes up and Maylee gets sad, the feels just about about killed me. The thing is, Griffin messes up through pretty much the whole book, so while he learns, he learns very slowly. But he does learn, and by the end of the story, I was rooting for him, even if he was a major ass at the beginning. 5/5


The Steam Factor
Interesting fact about this story…compared to the other books, there’s almost no sex. The previous books in this series were pretty hot and heavy, but in this one, besides a few moments of sexual tension, nothing even happens between the two of them until about three quarters of the way through. Actual intercourse only happens once. But because Clare can right sex scenes like a boss, she managed to put so much eroticism into those few scenes, that it still maintained high steam factor. 4/5

Final Thoughts
It’s so hard to finish one of these novels and then go back to other ones. This is another one I could have turned around and read again. I own the next one in the series, so once I get some of my list pared down, I think I’ll “treat” myself to reading that one so I’m ready to buy the last one in the series when I meet my next goal.

Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare

This is the second book in the Castles Ever After series, which started with Romance the Duke. I enjoyed the first one, but this one blew it out of the water. Just to be on the safe side, I want to give a trigger warning. There are topics of disordered eating and weight loss pressure. Though I thought this was handled well in the context of the story, it might possibly be a trigger for anyone dealing with related issues.


One-Sentence Synopsis
A man who has turned his back on society to be a fighter has to convince his brother’s fiance to stay engaged so that he can continue fighting while his brother takes over lordly duties. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
Clio is awesome as a lady who has decided she wants her independence after the man she agreed to marry has left her alone for 8 years. Now that she’s inherited a castle, she has the means to do so…as long as her fiance’s brother will sign the papers needed to make it so. I loved her determination and the fact that she never once thought she needed to be married to be successful. Oh, and she wants to run a brewery! How awesome is that?

Leslie Knope - Winning

There were some great scenes with her and Rafe, including a wedding cake food fight that cracked me up. I liked the playfulness of Clio’s character against the hard ass nature of Rafe’s.

I loved Clio’s younger sister, and I thought that her having Aspberger’s (not named in the book, but described as such) added an interesting element to story. There was definitely a theme of self acceptance and loving people for who they are, and this tied into a strong message of body positivity.

The Romance Factor
I had all the feels for Rafe, who knew he couldn’t take his brother’s fiance. It was like a story of impossible love, even though I knew it would end well for the couple. Still…feels. 5/5

The Steam Factor
There is a scene where Rafe barely touches Clio, knowing he can’t, and instead stands close to her and tells her all the things he fantasizes about doing with her. For a scene that had no actual sex, it was very erotic and very sensual. The other steamy scenes were just as good, but that scene alone boosts this factor to a 6/5.


Final Thoughts
The 3rd one in this series just came out, and I’m 4th on the waiting list at the library. I can’t wait to read it. If the rest of the books are as good as this one, it might be another series I try to collect.

Ryker by Sawyer Bennett

Since I discovered the Cold Fury series a few months back with my introduction to Zack, I’ve been eagerly awaiting Ryker’s story. I mean…he’s the goalie! I love the goalie! And his intro in the previous book was definitely enough to rev me up for his romance.


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

One-Sentence Synopsis
A seasoned goalie and his team’s first female general manager give in to their mutual lust, determined to keep it a secret in order to keep their jobs and their integrity. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
This book had a lot of great stuff, and I had a hard time putting it down. Ryker is a nice guy trying to do right by his daughter, be nice to his cheating ex, and making sure that Gray knows she has his full support. He’s a strong hero that doesn’t go overboard with the alpha.

The element of Gray being the team’s first woman general manager gave the story something deeper to mull over than just the relationship. She’s a strong, smart woman, given a position that is usually given to men, and there is a wide range of opinions from the other players. This, in turn, flows into the question of career vs. love for both of them, but how it’s slightly different for men and women.

Leslie Knope - Make out

I ended up enjoying Gray and loving that even though she was strong, she still allowed herself some vulnerability and acknowledged that there was more to her than her education and professional position.

The Romance Factor
It was hard for the romance in this to beat the one in Zack, at least for me. Still, it definitely gave it a try with the developing relationship between Gray and Ryker and how they navigated their relationship around professional constraints. It does get a bonus for a damsel-in-distress moment and a heavy dose of angst. 4/5

The Steam Factor
Bennett continues to bring the hotness. While this one wasn’t as risque as some of her others, it was definitely enough to make a reader blush. 5/5

Hot Hiddleston

Final Thoughts
I’m guessing this is the last book in the series (though I’d be okay with being wrong), and I loved the high hockey note it went out on. It was also fun to see cameos from past characters. This is the series that introduced me to hockey romance and is thus far, the best that I’ve read.

Notorious Pleasures by Elizabeth Hoyt

I realized recently that I’m reading faster than I can kick my reviews out, but I’m thinking that things might slow down with fall getting ready to happen. And let me tell you, I’m super excited about fall. Pumpkin spice, cooler weather, and a holiday season that I’m actually looking forward to this year (which doesn’t happen every year because I’m moody).


One-Sentence Synopsis
A well raised lady tries to fight her attraction to her fiance’s brother, a known scoundrel. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
Hero was committed to being the well bred lady she was raised to be, which made her unladylike descent into lust that much better. It’s a little painful to watch her inner conflict, but it feels genuine.


I like the references to future books and I liked seeing Phoebe as a younger woman, though seeing the progression of her sight loss was a little sad. There were also cameos of the Ghost of St. Giles, who becomes a pretty big part of several future books.

Things That Made Me Go Hmmm
I wasn’t sure if I could get onboard with this duo after their first meeting involved Hero catching Griffin mounting up on another woman. Not my favorite meet-cute ever, but it worked out okay.


I really do not like Hero’s brother Maximus. I didn’t like him in Phoebe’s story either, which makes me kind of apathetic about reading the book where he’s the hero. Nothing about him says hero to me. He’s definitely more of a douche.

The Romance Factor
The historical version of the reformed bad boy and the good girl may be even better than the contemporary version of the trope. So much angst! 4/5

The Steam Factor
The steamy scenes were enhanced by the possibility they were going to get found out. I thought it might be difficult to read about a woman having an affair when she was engaged to be married, but since it was arranged and her fiance was awful, it worked for the story. 5/5

Final Thoughts
Besides not knowing how Maximus and Charming Mickey are going to make likeable heroes, I’m totally invested in the Maiden Lane world. In fact, I had to stop myself from grabbing the rest of the series at the library, partially because I have a huge reading list right now and partially because I don’t want to be that jerk who keeps others from enjoying the series.