When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole : An ARC Review

Special thanks to Harper Collins for giving me this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:  Sydney Green’s neighborhood is getting gentrified   When she hear a tour guide give a biased history of her neighborhood to potential home buyers. She decides to give her own tour with the entire and true history of her neighborhood, Gifford Place. She is also fighting to keep her mom’s house from being sold.

Theo just bought a home in Gifford Place with his girlfriend with whom he has a failing relationship. His girlfriend is all for the changes happening in the neighborhood, but Theo want to be a part of the community. He volunteers to help Sydney with her research.

Sydney is suspicious of the sudden changes happening in her neighborhood. Neighbors and shops are disappearing overnight. Together, Sydney and Theo uncover what’s really happening in Gifford Place and who is behind it.

My Review: This novel may be a thriller but its borderline non-fiction. Gentrification, micro-aggressions, systematic racism, and police corruption, are issues Black people and other POC have to deal with everyday and Alyssa Cole managed to talk about it all. I was immersed in this story and had to walk away sometimes when there was some situations that came up that were familiar to me. For instance, when Sydney confronts a white woman for cutting in front of her at the convenience store, the white woman accuses Sydney of attacking her. It’s not an easy read, but it portrays the true experience

Furthermore, I liked the strong sense of community in this story and the emphasis on learning from history. There were historical events mentioned in this story, such as the Panic of 1837, that spurred me to do my research. This book also glorifies the strengths of the Black community and its culture. It ended up being a therapeutic read for me in the end.

I rate these book 5 stars. I don’t think there’s anything Alyssa Cole can’t write. When No One is Watching will shock you and have you questioning people and the world around you.  I recommend this book to book clubs because it make a great discussion, fans of Alyssa Cole,   readers who love thriller novels, and readers who love books that talk about social issues.

You Had me at Hola by Alexis Daria: A Review

    Summary:  After a humiliating breakup, Jasmine Lin Rodriguez wants to focus on her acting career and not get distracted by another man. On her first day on set of a new show, she meets the man who will play her love interest: the notorious Telenovela star, Ashton Suarez. Ashton also wants to focus on his acting career and protect his private reviewlife. He knows he can’t do that if he associates himself with a media magnet like Jasmine, What starts off as just a professional relationship with secret pining soon turns into a secret love affair that threatens everything the two have striven for.

    My Review:  I loved learning about the world of telenovelas and the behind the scenes work that goes into making a TV show.  Moreover, I appreciated the diverse supporting characters in the story and I could really see how filming “Carmen in Charge” made them a family. I also loved Jasmine’s and Ashton’s real families and how they interacted with them. Furthermore, I appreciated the interchanging Spanish and English dialogue and the talk of colorism within the entertainment industry.

    I loved the juxtaposition between Jasmine and Ashton and I could see how they bettered each other. The romance between was a very slow burn, but when they finally got together, it felt natural. The characters they played on screen also helped enhance who they are and what they were striving to be. There is great characterization in this book.

    The only downsides are that there was a lot of introspection going on. The budding romance between our main characters didn’t kick off until the thirty percent mark. In addition, the scenes between Carmen and Victor took me out of the story a bit. I wanted to know what Jasmine and Ashton felt as they were playing their characters.

    I give You Had Me at Hola  4.5 stars. The setting for this story was something I had never seen before. I also loved learning about Ashton and Jasmine’s back stories and how they dealt with fame. Moreover, I admired the natural flow of their relationship and the wide range of supporting characters. I recommend this book to those who love celebrities, own voices stories, and are interested in a new twist to the fake dating trope.

Liquor and Laundry by Tasha L. Harrison: A Review

Summary: Hadassah “Haddie” Ibrahim, an aspiring fashion designer spends her days working at her family’s laundromat. When she hears news that her old high school crush, Ahmed Williamson is back in town for his little brother’s graduation, she forgoes seeing him at a pool party and settles in for a night of folding laundry instead, but Ahmed comes to see her and she learns he always had feelings for her too. Can the two download (3)reconnect after almost hooking up a few years ago?

My Review: Liquor and Laundry was such a sweet and dirty story. The beginning chapters felt so intimate when Ahmed came to see Haddie after hours at the Laundromat. The two bared their souls to each other and I was rooting for them to get their happy ending.

I felt for Haddie. She was insecure and felt like she was only seen as the cute loud-mouthed fat friend in her group. She also pushed men away because she felt like they were only using her and she wanted to be loved. Ahmed was a sweet hero who was patient with Haddie and her internal struggle. He was also misunderstood by his friends, but the two found understanding in each other. This story does a good job of showing people aren’t always who we perceive them to be.

   The dialogue made me feel like I was home. I loved the casual way the characters talked to each other and I felt the love between Haddie and her friends. I also love it when characters from different books come together and this book has that.

  I rate Liquor and Laundry 5 stars. I loved how the story started and I love the characters. I even cried halfway through.  I definitely recommend it if you like sweet and erotic stories.

One Hot Italian Summer by Karina Halle : A Review

    Summary: Grace Harper is in mourning after losing her co-writer Robyn. Together they were Robyn-Grace and wrote a successful mystery series. Grace is losing her confidence as a writer and is finding it hard to write her first solo book. When her literary agent, Jana offers her a writing retreat at her villa in Italy, Grace jumps on the chance to get away from it all, but what she doesn’t expect is sharing the villa with her download (2)agent’s ex-husband, Claudio  and their ten year old son, Vanni.

    My Review: This book was steamy and full of tender moments between Grace and Claudio. I was invested in the stakes since their love story could have been awkward for Grace’s work relationship. There was a lot of talk of finding one’s confidence and creativity as an artist which I appreciated, since I’m a writer myself. I also commiserated with Grace’s lack of faith in herself when it comes to her craft. The pacing was slow and was more about Grace’s character development and budding relationship with Claudio.

Claudio was hot, passionate, and fun and I’m sure readers will love him too. I also liked Vanni who was a precocious child. I liked how he and his father differed when it came to interests. Claudio was more creative, while Vanni was more in the side of logic. it was interested seeing how they interacted with each other. Another thing I enjoyed about this book is that the ex-wife isn’t considered the bad guy. Usually when you read stories about single dads, the mother is dead, or she is just a horrible person. Jana wanted to be a part of her son’s life and Claudio spoke up for her when his sisters talked bad about her. Jana may have her faults and may not be mother of the year, but she loves her son. Moreover, I also appreciated how it gave a realistic view of what it is like to date a man with kids and having to co-exist with the kid’s mother.

Overall, I rate this book  3.5 stars. The intimate scenes between Claudio and Grace were hot and I enjoyed the talk of the artist life, but I found my attention leaving the story. This could be more on me than the story since I am a mood reader. I recommend this book to those who want a complicated love story and who need a mental escape to the Mediterranean with a hot and passionate Italian man.

Would I lie to the Duke by Eva Leigh: A Review

   Summary: Jess McGale is working as a Lady’s Maid to raise money torebuild her family’s business after a fire. She tries to get local businesses to invest in her family’s soap making company, but they refuse, believing McGale and McGale will not  profit them since half the company is  burnt down. Fearing losing the family business and being separated from her download (1)siblings, she poses as a widowed socialite at an business bazaar.

Noah Rotherby is a duke used to people clamoring to please him and take advantage of his status, but he doesn’t expect to run into quick-witted and confident Jess at the Bazaar. She isn’t easily impressed by his title and has no problem teaching him a listen in humility. Noah is smitten with Jess, but he only knows her as the socialite she is pretending to be. As the two fall in love with Jesse find the courage to tell Noah the truth?

    My Review: I loved how ambitious and smart Jess was; she was a woman owning a business which is something one doesn’t see much in Victorian romances, so it was quite refreshing. I was immersed in her predicament and cheered for her to find a way to save her family’s company. Noah was very seductive and fun-loving.  I also enjoyed the banter between  the two of them.  However, this story was predictable.  When a romance starts  with one person lying to the other, no good can come of it.  Moreover,  this book  advertised Noah as being  subservient to Jess in the bedroom–which he was—but I wanted to see more of that.

I rate these story 3 stars. I like smart and confident heroines and I appreciate Jess’s drive, but I wish she didn’t stall when it came to telling Noah the truth. I leave whether to read this book up to you. The Union of the Rakes series is inspired by 80’s rom-coms if that sparks your interest. So far the formula has been followed almost to a T.

Engagement and Espionage by Penny Reid : A Review

   Summary: Cletus and Jennifer are engaged and  want nothing more than to spend quality time together, but outside forces are constantly pulling them away from each other. When Jennifer and Cletus find out someone is trying to sabotage her family’s bakery, the two decide to investigate the case together. Can they solve the case and fix their relationship problems?

    My Review: This story is a spin-off of Penny Reid’s Winston Brothers series and picks up right after the third book, Beard Science. This new series is slightly different in genre because it is a cozy mystery.  This was one of my most anticipated books of 2020 and it almost lives up to the hype.

This couple was my favorite in the Winston Brothers series Jennifer is a sweet and caring heroine and Cletus is a lovable, mischievous hero. I swooned at their stolen moments together (although they were far in between). I also liked seeing them work through their relationship. It’s nice seeing what happens after the happily ever after.

Moreover, this story had great character development. Jennifer may have claimed her independence in Beard Science, but she is still struggling with her work-life balance. I also liked seeing Diane Donner’s gradual change, even though she irritated me at times.

This book is sweet, sexy,  and hilarious. I also enjoyed the innuendo, but what threw me off was the time line and the pacing. Since this book happens in the middle of the Winston Brother series and that series is already complete, it felt weird going back to the middle of it all. Of course,  if the reader hasn’t read the series completely yet, then this should be no problem for them, but they should still keep it in mind as this new spin-off goes on. Moreover, I was disappointed by the lack of alone time Jennifer and Cletus had. Can you say sexual frustration? Not only were the characters feeling it, but I also felt frustrated for them as they were constantly interrupted by friends, family, and town folk. Even though these characters are fictional, I found myself yelling at them because I was so fed up with it. At least I was immersed, right? Furthermore, the culprit of the crime is obvious, so it wasn’t much of a mystery.

Overall, I rate Engagement and Espionage 4.5 stars. I loved seeing Cletus and Jennifer again and although the story wasn’t completely what I wanted it to be, I enjoyed it all the same. I’m dying to read more about this quirky couple and will definitely read Marriage and Murder when it releases next year. I recommend this series if you liked The Winston Brother series, or enjoy cozy mysteries with lovable characters. If you haven’t read the Winston Brothers series, I recommend you do that too.

The Marriage Game by Sara Desai (A Review)

Summary:  Layla Patel just moved back home to San Francisco after breaking up with her boyfriend and getting fired from her job in New York. Her father offers her his office building to start her own  recruitment business and offers to sign her up on a matchmaking service and vet her dates. Layla is happy to be back at her family’s 50439173._SY475_restaurant and be around her doting relatives, until her father gets sick.

Later, Layla learns her father already leased the office to Sam Mehta, a serious business person whose job it is to fire employees from companies. Although they are attracted to each other , they each want the office for themselves. That’s when they strike a deal: He will chaperon her dates for her and if she finds a man to marry, she’ll move out.

My Review: This book was a fun  and easy read. Layla’s family were entertaining and  I loved the scenes with them. I also loved the descriptions of food and it made me hungry. Moreover I also enjoyed Layla’s personality. She was imaginative, daring, and fun and I can see how Sam and she could complement each other. However, there was some things about Sam that bothered me. He was a good guy, but his friends made him look bad. He also couldn’t be more assertive with them when it came to Layla.

Furthermore, when it came to the dates, I couldn’t enjoy the bachelors because they were overshadowed by Layla and Sam arguing with each other the entire time.  Moreover, the funny scenes in the story felt forced and the book followed the plot of what you would see in an early 2000’s rom-com movie.

Overall, I rated this story 3 stars. I liked it, but nothing about it stood out. However, if you are a fan of the enemies-to-lovers trope, own voices stories, and want a light-hearted story, I recommend this book to you.

Harbor(Beards and Bondage #3)-An ARC Review

    Special thanks to Rebekah Weatherspoon for giving me an advanced copy of  Harbor. The book is out now on Amazon 

    Summary: Brooklyn Lewis has found out her fiancé has been 51bxHgGjprLmurdered while in bed with another woman. Not only that, but the woman her fiancé has cheated on her with, already in a relationship with two men, named Vaughn and Shaw. Hurt and confused, Brooke, Vaughn, and Shaw turn to each other for understanding and solace.

    Review:  I really enjoyed Harbor and the relationship between Brooke, Shaw and Vaughn. Brooke felt like a real person and I believe all Black women can relate to her. She’s cheerful and fun-loving, but her friends and even her ex- fiancé’s family don’t see that she has her own vulnerability. They expect that she’s strong all the time, but that’s not the truth. She’s sensitive and has her own self-doubts. All she wants is to be loved.

Moreover, I also liked Vaughn and Shaw. I liked their complementary relationship with each other. Vaughn wears his heart on his sleeve and is a nurturer, while Shaw is protective and aloof. However, I enjoyed Shaw’s character arc. They both provide Brooke with the love she needs and Brooke is also able to make them better.

Furthermore, I also enjoyed their communication with each other. There was always the talk of consent and discussing one’s feelings, which shows what a healthy relationship looks like. I was invested in these characters’ internal conflict. Their relationship was so complex because of what people might assume of them being together, yet so simple because they knew what they wanted from each other and how they felt for each other.

The story provides a bit of escapism with the three enjoying time together on a beautiful beach, but it also shows how problems are not always far from our minds. Weatherspoon shows a nice balance of escapism and realism and how we deal with our issues even if they are not always conventional.

I rate Harbor 5 stars. I felt for Brooke, Vaughn, and Shaw in their grief and how they tried to build themselves up again. The intimate scenes between them were hot and this book was unlike anything else I’ve read. I recommend this book if you like risqué stories, reading about MMF relationships, and character-driven narratives. I also recommend the first two books in the Beard and Bondage series. All of them can be read as a standalone.

Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon: A Review

    Summary: Naomi May’s family is moving out West and have hired John Lowry, a half51UBhI0TbwL Native American and half white man to escort them there. Along their tumultuous journey, Naomi and John fall in love. Will their traveling party make it to California? Can their love stand against the events and people who try to tear them apart?

   Review: Where the Lost Wander gave me a lot to think about when it comes to dealing with grief and hard times. I highlighted plenty of  passages in this book, One of my favorites is on page forty-three when Naomi’s mother told her,

“Put your energy into rising above the things you can’t change, Naomi, Keep your mind right and everything will work out for the best.”

“Even if there’s a lot of pain along the way?”

“Especially if there is a lot of pain along the way.”- Where the Lost Wander (p.43)

I loved the theme of searching for one’s identity and a place to belong. Often than not, we create our own family, or are blessed enough to find those who accept us the way we are.

Moreover, I appreciated Naomi’s emotional strength because it shows a woman doesn’t always have to be strong physically to be admired. I also loved John’s humility and sense of duty. The love between Naomi and him was so pure and their moments together warmed my heart.I enjoyed the rest of Naomi;s family and  I was hooked to this book from the beginning because I needed to know what become of these characters.

In conclusion, I rate this book five stars. Amy Harmon always has a beautiful way with words and her stories are often contemplative and will bring tears to your eyes. If you’re into Historical fiction, wholesome love stories and stories that change you in the end, I definitely recommend reading Where the Lost Wander.

The Rakess by Scarlett Peckham (Society of Sirens Volume 1): A Review

    Summary: Seraphine is a rakess  ( a female rake)nd an advocate for women’s rights. She is infamous in her small town for writing articles that express her ideals and download (2)bedding whatever men she wants. She has returned to her hometown to write her memoire, so she might get more support or her cause.

    Here, she meets Adam Anderson, a widowed architect and father of two kids. He is trying to build his architect business and get noticed for his work by a lord. Seraphine wants Adam in her bed, and even though Adam wants to be with her, he knows he risks his livelihood if it is known he associates himself with her.

    My Review: This story was a nice change from the usual Regency romance where  the young innocent girl who falls for the reformed rake. Here, we get a role reversal. I admired Seraphine for her outspokenness and confidence. She was a woman before her time, opposing marriage and wanting woman to take up  a male trade. However, her emotional unavailability held her back.  I found myself frustrated with her at times, but I knew she had her reasons.

    Moreover, I adored Adam. He was a complete cinnamon roll  and I love reading stories about single dad love interests. His interactions with Seraphine in the beginning were amusing and I’m sure other readers will love him too.

    The plot kept me intrigued because the stakes were high for Adam and I wondered how he would balance his time with Seraphine and his professional life. The story also seemed to put the reader in the middle of an urgent side story where one of Seraphine’s friends were  in danger. However, I didn’t expect the story to take such a serious turn. I should have expected because of the trigger warnings before the start of the story. The story also  does a great job handling the topics of addiction and child loss.

    Overall, I rate this book five stars. It was something new  and it kept me hooked  throughout. This book is the first in a series and  I will definitely be reading the next which follows Seraphine’s friend, Cornelia. I recommend this book if you’re into Regency romances and want something new with female empowerment. I also recommend this story if you like reading about cinnamon roll love interests.