The Wedding Party

The Wedding Party

The Wedding Date (The Wedding Date #1)

The Proposal (The Wedding Date #2)

The Wedding Party was received as a physical ARC from the publisher at the 2019 AWP Conference Book Fair. Scheduled date of publication is July 16, 2019 and preorders are currently accepted wherever books are sold.

There are four main elements to a Jasmine Guillory novel: an unexpected meeting, an intense physical connection, a miscommunication/makeup resolution, and some form of comfort food.

The Wedding Date had Alexa and Drew and doughnuts. The Proposal had Carlos and Nik and cupcakes. The Wedding Party presents us with Theo and Maddie and pizza.

The formula worked well in the first two books, mostly because the sex scenes were so hot and intense, and there was a pretty clear obstacle to the that the protagonists would need to eventually overcome to get to their happily ever after: Alexa and Drew had distance, and Carlos and Nik had Nik’s issues with safety and commitment. Plus the comfort food, there to give the audience another sense of connection and luxury, was more of a snack or dessert nature, something that we have as a guilty pleasure or as accompaniment to a meal. The cherry on top, as it were.

With the third and final installment of the trilogy, Maddie and Theo already know each other and have been rivals for Alexa’s attention. It’s an enemies to lovers type story that kind of deflates as it goes on. When they spend more meaningful time together and help each other out, it takes the teeth out of the enemies thing and just makes it a relationship. They decide to hide their escapades from Alexa, which seems really disingenuous considering they carry on for something like 8 months (spoiler alert, she notices).

The sex scenes in this book were really lacking. We see the start and the morning after, but none of the creamy center. Kind of ‘he spread her legs and dipped out of sight and she moaned – CUT TO THE NEXT MORNING THEY ARE MAKING COFFEE’ and I was disappointed. There was one scene where he went “in to the hilt” on the first thrust and then the scene ended and we were waking up the next morning. Also, Theo seems to have condoms stashed EVERYWHERE: his car, his desk, his bedside table, the kitchen, his pocket, in his ear, his wallet – I mean I get representing safe sex but this has got to be believable and it was NOT believable that in the middle of the livingroom Theo found a condom between the couch cushions, waggled his eyebrows, and then went to town. I found myself thinking, wait, where could that condom possibly have come from and why would he have had it stashed there? – and that really takes one out of the action.

Not only was the sex lackluster, the frequency with which they order pizza gave me heartburn and I wasn’t even the one eating it. “I’ll pick up a pizza!” “Let’s order a pizza!” “OMG I’m so hungry, let’s have Theo pop over with a pizza!” It was repetitive and only made me feel sorry for all of them. Honestly guys, your body starts to break down in your thirties and there was no way these characters, all in their thirties and gainfully employed, were eating this much pizza.

The ending was pretty formulaic, which was fine, but overall this last book did not wow me for all the reasons I’ve listed. If you’ve already read the first two you should read this one too, it has its enjoyable moments, but honestly if you haven’t read any of them yet you could read the first two and be fine skipping the third.

Red, White & Royal Blue

Red, White, and Royal Blue

Red, White and Royal Blue was provided to me as a digital ARC by St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley in return for an honest review. Red, White and Blue is available for preorder now, and is scheduled for publication release on May 14, 2019.

I started hearing about this book around Valentine’s Day and when I saw some of the early reviews, the word JOY seemed to be in all of them. Casey McQuiston is an author who is new to me, and Red, White & Royal Blue appears to be her debut novel. It is an adult rom-com and honestly McQuiston grabbed me by the heart and the funny bone and refused to let go of either until the very end.

Alex is the first son of the first woman president and he has a long standing grudge against Prince Henry of England. They are about the same age, and he has always felt like they were compared to each other in the news and tabloids. Alex feels as though he could never measure up to Henry’s smooth, distant charisma, and the riches that he has access to don’t help either. So when the first family attends the royal wedding of Henry’s brother Philip and Alex gets drunk and trips into the table holding the $75,000 wedding cake, pulling Henry down with him, it creates a media firestorm that can only be quelled by a staged friendship between the two. The forced interactions become a close friendship, which eventually becomes more as Alex comes to realize that he is bisexual and Henry is definitely gay.

The physical interactions are good, but I think I enjoyed reading their emails and texts to each other more. The intimacy with which they talk to each other, even with an ocean between them, was just as powerful as their physical bond. If I’m being honest, I felt like I was eavesdropping and as their relationship continued, I became more and more worried about their information pinging around on the internet, given how high the stakes were: Alex’s mom running for re-election and Henry having been told that he would not embarrass the monarchy with his “depraved urges.” If even one text gets out, one email sent to the wrong person, someone overhears them, the world could absolutely explode. (That probably made everything that much hotter though, tbh, no regrets.) I won’t spoil the ending for you but WOW. It’s something.

My heart, you guys. My heart was in love with all the characters from the very first pages. This is one of those books where I don’t want to describe every detail to you, I just want to hold the book out to you until you take it and agree to read it. There is so little light and joy in this world right now and this book is a bright beacon in the darkness and you must let it wash over you and take you to a place that is pure and delightful, if even for the short amount of time that you will be reading this book. It’s a fast read by virtue of the fact that you won’t want to stop reading. Your eyes will race over the page, hungry for just one more chapter of these wonderful men. Go get you some.

 

The Proposal

The Proposal

The Wedding Date

I have been thoroughly charmed by Jasmine Guillory. The Wedding Date was absolutely delightful (if a bit heavy on the sex!) and so I had to get her next book as soon as I could after it was released.

The book starts with Nikole (Nik) watching a Dodgers game with her hippie douchebag boyfriend. She’s not really into it and is looking forward to getting together with her friends later, when suddenly her name comes up on the Jumbotron (spelled incorrectly mind you) asking her to marry someone. The boyfriend sitting next to her suddenly gets down on one knee, pulls out a hideous ring, and waits for her response. She turns him down (of course, they hadn’t even been dating four months and hadn’t talked about getting married) and he storms out of the stadium.

Everything that follows links to the fact that a few rows back Carlos (the best friend and doctor from The Wedding Date) and his sister decide to run up and pretend they know Nik and save her from the oncoming cameras and attention. Sparks fly, Carlos and Nik find reasons to meet up again, and suddenly we have a relationship.

I like the feminist vibes in this particular book. The hippie douchebag sends her threatening texts so she changes her locks and signs herself and her two friends up for self-defense classes at a local gym. She works to get past the social media firestorm surrounding the event. Unlike Alexa she works from home as a freelance writer so she has more flexibility with her time.

Her relationship with Carlos is one of my favorite situations: strangers turned friends turned lovers “with no strings attached” and then one of them falls in love and creates conflict because the other one thinks it was no strings attached…until they discover they fell in love too and didn’t notice. LOVE THIS.

There’s so much more to this book, but that’s the basic info. Guillory’s writing wraps you up in a warm blanket and changes the channel to a slightly less corny than Hallmark/Lifetime channel and brings you a warm beverage to drink while you watch (or a glass of wine if you prefer). She’s even nice enough to include a decadent snack in each of her books: frosted doughnuts in The Wedding Date and cupcakes in The Proposal.

I can’t say enough about her writing. Please go get you some and enjoy.

Her third book (of what I assume is a trilogy) was just announced. The Wedding Party will be out next summer. You better believe I’ll be waiting for its arrival in my mailbox!

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The Wedding Date

The Wedding Date

I don’t read a lot of romance novels. I’m not sure why that is, or why the entirety of my romance experience is Nora Roberts trilogies, but The Wedding Date was a new experience for me which has widened my view on what a romance novel is and can be.

The main characters get trapped in a elevator when the power goes out in their hotel, and in the time they have to meet cute and get to know each other he has nervously asked her to join him at the wedding he is in town for as his plus one. She agrees and pretends to be his girlfriend for both the rehearsal dinner and the reception. They discover that they are very attracted to each other throughout the course of the two outings and when they go back to his hotel room after the reception (that’s where she got ready for the wedding to help add to the girlfriend lie) they have sex.

The rest of the book is them having as much sex as humanly possible while working in two completely different cities that require them to fly to see each other on weekends. I enjoyed how Guillory also incorporated ideas about weight, race, and the tenuous situation of communicating via text. The number of times they almost break up because one of them assumes the worst over an emotionless text (or an intended joke) adds a bit of tension to their love fest.

I appreciated that Guillory gave me what I usually complain about missing in other romance series: the passage of time. Crazy, immediate attraction and constant sexing is a lot easier to believe when it isn’t followed up by being in love and getting married within a three month span. This book was believable. Even their stumbling blocks of texting and the distance were believable. It was a stumbly-bumbly beginning of a relationship that would feel familiar to anyone that’s ever suffered through those first few months.

My only critique is that after the initial anticipation of the rehearsal dinner and reception, there isn’t a lot of build up to the actual sex. The first time they have sex you’ll be like “YES THAT’S RIGHT” and then ever other time it’s just BAM THEY ARE TOGETHER SEX which I get because that’s what the honeymoon phase is but, I mean, romance me a little. They’re supposedly texting constantly, lemme see some of those sexy exchanges. This is a small critique though, because this book was really good.

You learn some things about how the world works AND you get a hot steamy romance. Learning and licking (LOL). Go get you some.

Dance of the Gods (The Circle Trilogy #2)

Dance of the Gods

Morrigan’s Cross (#1)

It’s about this time that I get bored with Nora Roberts. Her books are so predictably formulaic that if you read too many in a row you start to hate them simply because you know what’s coming next like ten pages ahead of time. Dance of the Gods takes our circle of 6 heroes (3 couples) into Moira’s realm of Geall to prepare her citizens to fight Lilith and the vampire army in the Valley of Silence on Samhain.

There are a lot of moments in this book when the group decides to flex their muscles and make a statement by poking at Lilith’s forces that are hidden in the nearby caves in Ireland, which is where they are staying as of the first book. Each time they do this ends predictably – someone learns a lesson about not going it alone and making sure to work together. The person who learns this lesson the hardest in this book is Blair, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer character that was ignored and then abandoned by her father and whose daddy issues cause her to want to always be alone. The “everyone I ever loved has left me” boo hoo pity party really makes her badass character a lot less believable, but you’ll make do I’m sure.

Roberts’s thing being a couple per book, Blair is destined to be with the shape-shifter Larkin, who is from Geall and came with his cousin Moira through the Dance of the Gods (the stone circle) to train with the other four members of Morrigan’s circle of six. He shifts into different kinds of animals and at one point he shifts into a hawk in front of Blair and she says something like “that’s so hot” and she does that a couple of times, enough to make me think she might be into bestiality, but I’m not sure.

He wants to care for her, she believes she’s meant to always be alone, and they fight through that tension to have sex a couple of times, until finally she admits she loves him after they return to his country and get ambushed by a bunch of vampires that are also preparing for the battle. I get the themes that Roberts really wants to touch on here: that you can be a tough woman and a sensitive one too, but in the way of romance novels the story doesn’t get much deeper than what gets them into bed. And that’s okay, if I hadn’t just read four other novels set up exactly the same way just before this.

After returning to Geall the group informs the country that (1) yes, women are in charge here and will be teaching you how to not die, (2) vampires are real, and (3) magic is cool and okay. I liked the way that the women dealing with other women was written here. Some women wanted to hold onto the “women’s work” but were brought to understand that anything is women’s work (small caveat: it takes Glenna asking how they might protect their babies to get them to fight, so I guess it’s not exactly 100% feminist but their lives were on the line so whatever works?).

The book ends with Blair agreeing to marry Larkin (again, I don’t understand why the ending for every couple has to be marriage) and Larkin agreeing that he will leave Geall behind to return to Earth with Blair so she can continue to be a hunter of vampires there, and they streak across the sky with a flame sword and I guess she writes an entire sentence in the air like a plane might? Again, this book is a lot of “LET’S SHOW HER WHAT WE’RE MADE OF” and a lot of it just ended with them getting their noses bent.

This is not my favorite book of the series. It makes a strong woman look weak and needy, and the actions the characters take are stupid and dangerous given the stakes. I’m going to wait a bit before beginning Valley of Silence, because it has my favorite pairing and the battle is cool, but I have to get this Nora Roberts taste out of my mouth so it doesn’t spoil it for me.

Morrigan’s Cross (The Circle Trilogy #1)

Morrigan's Cross

Time travel? Check. Sorcerers and witches? Check. Vampires? I mean, okay. Celtic vibes? FUCK YEAH.

The goddess Morrigan has come to Hoyt McKenna in Ireland after his twin brother Cian has been attacked and turned by the vampire queen Lilith. Hoyt is a sorcerer and Morrigan tells him he must travel through time to gather a circle of six people who will lead an army to take down Lilith. If they do not, Lilith will bring about the apocalypse across worlds and timelines, turning some, murdering others, and enslaving the rest. So Hoyt travels through a stone circle and lands in present day New York. He finds his brother, now about 1,000 years old and ready to help bring his maker down.

A witch named Glenna (I know, right?) also lives in the city, and is connected to Hoyt in her dreams. She follows her intuition and clues to Cian’s club and find the twins collaborating in the apartment upstairs. They all agree that returning to Ireland via Cian’s private plane is the best course of action, and along with Cian’s giant, black bodyman King, fly to Cian and Hoyt’s childhood home to train and wait for the remaining two members of the circle. Moira and Larkin do arrive through the same stone circle, but from a different realm of Geall, and then they all begin to train.

Nora Roberts’s books have a formula, and it’s a coupling per book, no more, no less. Our first couple is Hoyt and Glenna and what I find hilariously inconvenient is that every time they have sex all the candles and fireplaces in the giant old Irish house get REALLY BRIGHT AND DANGEROUS and instead of letting the sex scenes get me excited I laugh because I imagine the other characters reading or listening to music somewhere else in the house and then suddenly their candle blowtorches to the ceiling and they’re just like “really painted the ceiling with that one, huh Hoyt?” omg I can’t stand it, it’s too funny.

I love this trilogy because of the magic and the honest to god creepy and scary villain. I believe Lilith is terrifying. I believe that having drunk the blood of hundreds of sorcerers and witches she has gained their power and more and can reach between timelines and realms. This is a problem that must be solved or else all worlds will end. And I’m here with my popcorn, ready for it.

My problem with any Nora Roberts novel is the timeline of romance. Hoyt and Glenna know each other for like 6 days and he proposes to her after having sex twice. It’s just difficult for me to really invest in the love story when in a week and under duress characters are pledging their lives to each other. This book was written in 2006 so I don’t feel like it would be completely wild to just have them be together without bringing marriage into it.

I can accept that they have a deep connection, and that magic brings them closer together, and that the end of the world creates a sense of urgency – all of that is believable and I am with you when they are just suddenly attracted and having sex. What I’m not here for is for some reason throwing in marriage proposals like us ladies can’t handle Hoyt getting it in without making an honest woman of Glenna. It’s the end of the world. Get it in when you can, don’t worry about planning a ceremony or anything.

By the end of this book the circle is complete, if not in the way you expect, and plans are in place to return to Moira’s land so she can take up the mantle of queen and lead her people as the circle’s army to take down Lilith in a battle of the ages. It’s really a fun trilogy, one of her best. Go get you some.

 

Face the Fire (Three Sisters Island #3)

Face the Fire

Dance Upon the Air (#1)
Heaven and Earth (#2)

(Spoilers abound.)

This is easily the weakest book in the trilogy. Mia Devlin is the red-headed, older, wiser witch. She’s helped both Nell and Ripley through their magical awakenings – Nell discovering that she has power, and Ripley with controlling hers. But the third test still remains, and with the darkness exorcised from Jonathan Harding, there’s a gross evil shadow wolf lurking about the island, working to drive Mia to her ancestor’s fate of jumping to her death in despair.

That premise alone is shaky. Bolstered by the prior success of her two “sisters,” it stands to reason that Mia would be confident about facing her demons. She’s been presented to us as nothing but the confident leader, and with a complete circle and full support, we would expect her to just absolutely flatten anything that comes her way. Her thoughts of suicide just don’t add up with everything we’ve seen so far in the serious.

I also don’t like how Sam Logan, her former lover, just comes back to the island and barges into her world, and she gives into him almost instantly. Their first kiss is him grabbing her and forcing himself on her – not totally down with that – and then she just grabs him for more kissing. Honestly their “romantic” entanglement isn’t hot because I don’t believe it. I don’t believe that a strong, smart, 30-year-old woman who is a powerful and knowledgeable witch who teaches and leads others would act like this. It’s like Nora Roberts just guessed at what a suicidal person might have running through their heads and had her think it – and it doesn’t add up.

I hate the ending. I hate it so much. I already have to suspend belief about the previous two books, but having it end with a shower of stars and her being a starry eyed babe wanting marriage and children ASAP and that’s how the curse is broken…I don’t know man, I know it’s a romance novel and ending it with an independent woman who don’t need no man isn’t how these things go, but could we at least have had a second love interest? Like, new love versus old love, and she has to choose? But no, we end right where we expected to, with marriage and babies for everyone! Yuck. Just a complete 180, out of character resolution to the trilogy. Okay, I guess.

It’s still one of my favorite trilogies of hers, because the first two books are so strong and I love the magic and the curse. But this last book always makes me mad that Mia, the best of them, couldn’t have been more than this. I wanted more for her.