Friday, October 17, 2014

For Your Must-Read List: Edgy Inspy NA Romance SWAY by Amy Matayo

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SWAY by Amy Matayo at Amazon
What it's about (from the author):
Falling in love is a beautiful thing. Unless you fall for the wrong person.
Finally settled after a tragedy-laden life, 24-year-old Caleb has found security in his faith, his friends, and his career. It's the life he's always wanted — simple, predictable, and safe. Enter Kate Hawkins, the attractive 21-year-old stranger he rescues from a bar fight who has an odd affinity for the color pink and a unique sense of humor.
It doesn't take long to realize their connection is intense, but after only a handful of dates, a shocking revelation surfaces. Lines are drawn, sides are taken, and loyalties are decided as their newfound relationship is brought to a sudden halt.
But unlike most couples who split, avoiding each other is impossible. As daily interactions become unbearable, one realization becomes clear: they've both fallen hard for the absolute wrong person, which leaves both scrambling for a way to make it right.
Why you should read it: With her first foray into the developing NA category of romance fiction, author Amy Matayo's trademark sass and heartfelt realness have hit — no, slammed into — the bull's-eye with a depth of skill that showcases her growth as an author on this, her third published novel.
As dual point-of-view characters, Caleb and Kate have baggage to spare while still grasping their own unique brands of innocence, seasoned with snark. This is my favorite kind of contemporary romance. It's clean with plenty of steam, and the hearts of both characters are flayed and filleted on their way to happy ever after while a subtle faith thread adds depth to the characters ... and the conflict.
Because of the nature of the story conflict, it is really difficult to write a review for this novel without giving away spoilers. But since I don't want to ruin the several big reveals that left me gasping while reading this book (in one sitting, no less) I will simply say that this book is, absolutely, a must-read for fans of contemporary romance.
Sway is a book every lover of NA romance needs to add to her (or his) collection, but consider yourself warned: it will break your heart a little before it lets you expel the sigh of the supremely satisfied reader. Grab it!
(this review originally appeared at USA Today's Happy Ever After blog)
CONTENT: Edgy
STORY: 5 stars

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

New Romantic Suspense DECEIVED by Irene Hannon Deserves Space on Your Shelf!

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Deceived by Irene Hannon at Amazon
What it's about (from publisher Revell):
For three years, Kate Marshall has been grieving the loss of her husband and their 4-year-old son in a boating accident. But when she spots a familiar-looking child on an escalator in the mall, she is convinced it is the son she thought was dead. With police skeptical of her story, she turns to private investigator Connor Sullivan. The former Secret Service agent is dubious but agrees to investigate. Digging into the case he discovers that the incident may have been no accident at all. But if Kate's son is alive, someone is intent on keeping him hidden — and may be willing to go to lethal lengths to protect a sinister secret.
Why you should read it: Each of the titles of the Private Justice series stands fine on its own, but once you read one, I guarantee you're going to want to read the others.
As is common in romantic suspense novels, several scenes in Deceived are shown from the point-of-view of "the bad guy." As it turns out, he is pretty sympathetic character. While the reader is never led to justify his means of securing his own happiness or revenge, Hannon does a fantastic job of using his nurturing personality to build our concern for him — and for the child-in-question — while never allowing us to forget what tragic injustice has allowed him that happiness.
While in Kate or Connor's point of view we are treated to attraction-turning-to-romance, dedication to a cause, and the revelation of two hearts meant to be joined as one. A few brief forays into a fourth point of view, that of a woman scorned who has dared to hope in love again, pull and twist our sympathies to and fro, anew, upping the stakes for everyone involved.
Irene Hannon knows how to pen a romantic suspense that pounds your pulse at the same time it sets your heart a-flutter with a developing romance. If you have not yet tried this series, make sure you put it on your TBR list!
(this review originally appeared at USA Today's Happy Ever After blog)

Story: 4.5 stars
Content: Edgy, for elements of suspense

Monday, October 13, 2014

PRELUDE FOR A LORD by Camille Elliot -- Must Read Regency Romance!

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Prelude for a Lord by Camille Elliot at Amazon 
What it's about (from publisher Zondervan):
At 28, Alethea Sutherton is past her prime for courtship; but social mores have never been her forté. She might be a lady, but she is first and foremost a musician. In Regency England, however, the violin is considered an inappropriate instrument for a lady.
Ostracized by society for her passion, Alethea practices in secret and waits for her chance to flee to the Continent, where she can play without scandal. But when a thief 's interest in her violin endangers her and her family, Alethea is determined to discover the enigmatic origins of her instrument … with the help of the dark, brooding Lord Dommick.
Scarred by war, Dommick finds solace only in playing his violin. He is persuaded to help Alethea, and discovers an entirely new yearning in his soul. Alethea finds her reluctant heart drawn to Dommick in the sweetest of duets . . . just as the thief's desperation builds to a tragic crescendo ...
Why you should read it: I'm a sucker for a good Regency romance, and this first pseudonymous offering from a well-known contemporary inspy author (aka Camy Tang) hit all my happy notes. Like the two parts of a duet, each needing the other to bring a rich melody fully to life, the author contrasts Dommick's need for Alethea's confidence against Alethea's need for Dommick's compassion ... and then flips those needs forward and back again, showing each characters' dimension and individuality. Countered by the timeless dissonance of domestic abuse, sexism, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and damaging gossip, this romance portrays issues which are relevant to contemporary readers without ever losing the charm and societal ambiance of the well-loved Regency period.
With a cast brimming with full color, potential leading men and at least one particular young lady who might benefit from the pursuit of a particular nobleman (yes, I already have my fave "next" couple picked out!). I can hardly wait for the next installment in this series. If you are looking for a great Regency romance to add to your collection, don't miss Prelude for a Lord by Camille Elliot!
(this review originally appeared at USA Today's Happy Ever After blog)
STORY: 5 lovely stars
CONTENT: Edgy for Inspirational, but entirely clean

Friday, October 10, 2014

Recommended YA: FEUDS by Avery Hastings

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Feuds by Avery Hastings at Amazon
What it's about (from publisher St. Martin's Griffin):
For Davis Morrow, perfection is a daily reality. Like all Priors, Davis has spent her whole life primed to be smarter, stronger, and more graceful than the lowly Imperfects, or "Imps." A fiercely ambitious ballerina, Davis is only a few weeks away from qualifying for the Olympiads and finally living up to her mother's legacy when she meets Cole, a mysterious boy who leaves her with more questions each time he disappears.
Davis has no idea that Cole has his own agenda, or that he's a rising star in the FEUDS, an underground fighting ring where Priors gamble on Imps. Cole has every reason to hate Davis — her father's campaign hinges on the total segregation of the Imps and Priors — but despite his best efforts, Cole finds himself as drawn to Davis as she is to him.
Then Narxis, a deadly virus, takes its hold — and Davis's friends start dying. When the Priors refuse to acknowledge the epidemic, Davis has no one to turn to but Cole. Falling in love was never part of their plan, but their love may be the only thing that can save her world.
Why you should read it: Hope for a better future forces hero Cole to play the part of a villain and a thug. But if he dies — a very real threat in the FEUDS — his loved ones will never escape the poverty and prejudice society has assigned them. It is easy to understand and identify with Cole, but it is almost counterintuitive to sympathize with a character like Davis, whose world view is steeped prejudice and beliefs in the rightness of a completely segregated society. And yet ... you can't help it. Davis is, indeed, likable.
Davis thinks her future rests on one test, but even if she fails she knows she'll have a good, safe life because of the part of society to which she belongs. Although she has a bit of tragedy in her backstory, Davis is, for the most part, floating through the perfection of her life until she meets handsome, mysterious Cole at a party and they share a world-altering kiss.
The romance between Cole and Davis is infiltrated by a sense of destiny—and a few H-O-T kisses—that will resonate in readers' minds until the release of the next book in this series. Fans of dystopian romance will love the viral twist and historical metaphor that differentiates this series-starter from so many of its shelf mates. Highly recommended!
(This review originally appeared at USA Today's Happy Ever After blog)

RATING: 4 STARS
CONTENT: EDGIEST -- due to course teen language, graphic images of illness and death, violence, heated make-out scenes, teen drug and alcohol use

Monday, October 06, 2014

Serena Reviews YA romance: DESTINED FOR DOON by Carey Corp & Lorie Langdon

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Destined for Doon at Amazon
What it's about (from publisher Blink):
In this sequel to Doon, Mackenna Reid realizes she made a horrible mistake in choosing to follow her dreams of Broadway instead of staying in the enchanted land of Doon. To make everything worse, she's received her Calling — proof she and Duncan are each other's one true love — and it's pure torment, especially when visions of the very alluring Scottish prince appear right before she goes on stage. So when Duncan tells her an ancient curse threatens to overtake Doon and the new queen and Kenna's best friend, Veronica, needs her to return, Kenna doesn't have to think twice. With darkness closing in on all sides, Kenna and Vee must battle a world of nightmares in order to protect the kingdom. But it will take the ultimate test of courage for Kenna to salvage her happily ever after.
Why you should read it: Alternating between Mackenna's and Veronica's first-person accounts of the happenings in Doon, readers are treated to two distinct voices. Veronica, now Queen of Doon, is smart, thoughtful and likens life to literature, whereas Mackenna is loud, sarcastic and often speaks in show tunes. Each has a hot Scottish prince holding her heart — but that hold is, perhaps, a bit too tight or tad too loose, depending on which of the MacCrae princes you happen to be talking about at the moment. Unfortunately, the two princes' manly hotness is not enough to save Doon from, ahem, doom. But could a spunky ginger with Broadway dreams be the answer they seek — or will she leave Duncan to be devoured by his brokenness — and Doon to be consumed by evil?
This installment ends on a pretty sudden cliffhanger that will draw people back to learn the fate of Doon and her American imports in the next book of the series, so be prepared for that ledge! But don't let the wait for book 3 keep you from crossing the Brig o' Doon with Duncan and Mackenna in this snarky and entertaining YA romance.
(this review originally appeared at USA Today's Happy Ever After blog)
STORY: 4 STARS
CONTENT: Edgier for Inspy YA due to violence and heated kissing/make-out scenes

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