The Road Home (Christina Berry)

The Road Home is the second novel in the Lost in Austin series by Christina Berry.
Finished on: 26.9.2021
[I won this book in a LibraryThing Early Reviewer Give Away.]
[Here’s my review of the first novel in the series.]

Content Note: rape (mentioned), miscarriage (mentioned)

Plot:
Jake has always been a ladies’ man, never the type to settle with anyone. It fits his lifestyle as the singer of a rock band, and it fits him, personally. But when his best friend Ari gets into an accident and ends up in the hospital, Jake is jolted from his non-committed life and has to confront the time another accident took his home away from him. Is it any wonder that he tries to find a bit of a distraction with Nicole, aka Arson Nic, abrasive roller derby queen? Before Jake can really decide whether Nicole is more than a distraction, he gets the once in a lifetime chance to go on tour, though – and that tour not only makes him think long and hard about where his home is, but also brings him to the Cherokee reservation where he grew up.

I was very pleasantly surprised by Up for Air, the first novel in the series, so I was really looking forward to The Road Home – and I was not disappointed. It’s a thoughtful book that lets Jake grow beautifully, and it’s also a sweet romance that I very much enjoyed.

The book cover showing a shirtless Native Americam man with long braids holding a microphone.
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Last Guard (Nalini Singh)

Last Guard is the fifth novel of the Psy-Changeling Trinity Series (or the 20th novel of the Psy-Changeling Series) by Nalini Singh.
Finished on: 1.8.2021
[Here are my reviews of the other books in the Psy-Changeling series.]

Content Note: child abuse, (critical treatment of) ableism

Plot:
As part of the Mercant family, Canto is well-connected and has always been protected by them – meaning that despite the fact that he doesn’t conform to Psy ideas of perfection as he’s a wheelchair user, he could still rise in the family ranks and is now in the unique positions to bring together a Psy designation that has been mostly forgotten: the anchors like him. One of those anchors is Payal Rao, tough CEO of the Rao family conglomerate and Canto know that he needs her cooperation to make his plan of an anchor union work. What he didn’t expect when they finally meet in person, was that he actually knows Payal from when they were children – and their old connection immediately comes back to life again.

Last Guard gives us quite a few new perspectives in a world that has been firmly established – not an easy thing to pull off without feeling shoehorned in, but Singh manages it. And I liked Payal and Canto, making the book a full success for me.

[Let me just take a quick moment to say that I can’t believe that I read 20 books in this series, not counting the short story collections, within well over a decade and I am still having fun with the series as a whole.]

The book cover showing an Indian palace with palm trees, overlayed with a woman standing, overlayed yet again with a man's face, all in pink and black.
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Radio Silence (Alyssa Cole)

Radio Silence is the first novel in the Off the Grid Trilogy by Alyssa Cole.
Finished on: 16.7.2021

Content Note: threat of rape

Plot:
Arden and John were roommates in Rochester, New York when something happened that turned the whole world upside down – no more electricity, no more internet, no information on what is going on. It has been a few weeks and things have gone from bad to worse, so the two decide to hike to the Canadian border where John’s family has a cabin. John hopes to meet them there and that life in the countryside is still a bit safer than in the city. But just before they reach the cabin, they are attacked. Fortunately, John’s gorgeous brother Gabriel comes to the rescue. Navigating this new life isn’t easy, and definitely not made easier by Arden’s attraction to Gabriel, or Gabriel’s controling tendencies.

Radio Silence was a really good read – I practically read it in one sitting and enjoyed it all the while. Good characters, nice setting and a main pairing that has excellent chemistry – nothing more I could ask for.

The book cover showing a young Black woman looking at the camera.
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A Kiss for Midwinter (Courtney Milan)

A Kiss for Midwinter is a novella in the Brothers Sinister series by Courtney Milan (set between the first and second novel).
Finished on: 15.7.2021
[Here are my reviews of the other Brothers Sinister books.]

Plot:
Lydia Charingford has left her past far behind her with the help of her family and her best friend Minnie. The only person who still reminds her of that most difficult time and who still could ruin her, is Doctor Jonas Grantham. Despite knowing about her past, Jonas has no such inclination, though – he would much rather win Lydia over for himself. If only she’d give him half a chance to do so. When he sees an opening to spend more time with her, he proposes a wager – and Lydia accepts.

A Kiss for Midwinter is a sweet read that explores its characters’ vulnerabilities in a really wonderful way, but the romance didn’t quite get off the ground for me in this one. I still enjoyed it, but it didn’t make me squee as it should have.

The book cover showing a dark-haired woman in a white 19th century dress with mistletoe in her hair.
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Fat Chance, Charlie Vega (Crystal Maldonado)

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega is the first novel by Crystal Maldonado.
Finished on: 8.7.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) fatmisia, diet culture, racism

Plot:
Charlie and her parents used to be a good team, but since her dad died, her mom has gotten obsessed with her own weight – and with Charlie’s. Constantly leaving her diet suggestions, Charlie feels that her mother is never happy with her. It feels like the only person who is firmly in her corner is Amelia – who is everything that Charlie is not: beautiful. Athletic. Popular. In a relationship with a cute boy. When Brian takes an interest in Charlie, instead of easier, things get even more complicated for her.

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega is an absolutely lovely, wonderful and cute book that I wished I could have read when I was a (fat) teenager. But better now than never!

The book cover showing a fat, Brown girl with glasses in front of a few flowers.
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Felix Ever After (Kacen Callender)

Felix Ever After is a novel by Kacen Callender.
Finished on: 25.6.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) transmisia, queermisia

Plot:
Felix is a student at an art school, hoping to get into a good college to pursue his art further. He therefore attends summer school with his best friend Ezra. He is also Black, trans, queer and desperate to fall in love for the first time, but secretly afraid that he has one marginalized identity too many. And maybe he is not all that sure about his identities anyway. Before he figures anything out, though, Felix arrives in school one morning to find pre-transitions photos of himself and his deadname plastered all over the school gallery. Suspecting his classmate and rival Declan, Felix hatches a plan to make him pay. But that plan leads him somewhere else entirely.

Felix Ever After is wonderful. Simply wonderful. It’s the kind of novel that queer people everywhere should grow up with, really. It made my heart swell in the best of ways.

The book cover showing an illustration of a Black guy in a tank top. His arms are covered in small tattoos, he is wearing a flower crown and underneath the tank top, we can just make out scars from top surgery.
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The Duchess War (Courtney Milan)

The Duchess War is the first novel in the Brothers Sinister series by Courtney Milan.
Finished on: 23.5.2021
[Here’s my review of the prequel novella.]

Plot:
Minnie has perfected the art of going unnoticed. After a scandal forced her to change her name, she had no other choice. Now all she needs is a husband to find some security in her life. Impoverished and with her secret, she doesn’t have much choice. That is why she really can’t have it that none other than the Duke of Clermont, Robert Blaisdell, seems to actually notice her. His curiosity about her is a threat, and Minnie is determined to uncover his secrets first to protect herself. This decision leads both of them down unexpected paths.

The Duchess War is a really sweet book with wonderful protagonists and a good plot that makes good use of the period it is set in. More importantly, it’s easy to root for Millie and Robert and to enjoy their falling in love.

The book cover showing a woman from behind, in a red dress with a huge skirt. She has flowers in her hair.
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Rafe (Rebekah Weatherspoon)

Rafe is the first novel in the Loose Ends series by Rebekah Weatherspoon.
Finished on: 11.5.2021

Plot:
After a hard divorce and a move across the country, Dr. Sloan Copeland has built a new life for herself and her twin daughters. But that life is seriously threatened when she returns home one day from work to find her live-in nanny just up and left. Sloan has to figure something out quickly, and after the last catastrophic nanny, it has to be a very good solution. That’s when a friend recommends Rafe Whitcomb. Rafe has been working as a nanny for a few families and comes highly recommended, even though he – tall, bearded, tattooed – doesn’t necessarily look the part. Rafe was thinking of leaving the nanny life behind, but can’t leave Sloan in a lurch, and the kids take a liking to him fast. That both Sloan and Rafe find each other very attractive could make things more difficult though.

Rafe is a sweet, quick read that I could fall into very well. It may not become an absolute favorite, but I definitely enjoyed the hell out of it.

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Up For Air (Christina Berry)

Up For Air is the first novel in the Lost in Austin series by Christina Berry.
Finished on: 6.5.2021
[I won this book in a LibraryThing Early Reviewer Give Away.]

Plot:
Ari met Greg and Jake when they were just teenagers. Jake became her best friend, and Greg her husband soon after. Ari has left a very shelterd life that way for 12 years, but a funeral causes her to take stock of her life, and the bottom line is that Ari isn’t happy anymore. She feels limited and suffocated by her lack of experiences. So she asks Greg whether they could open their marriage to try new things. To her surprise, Greg agrees and their decision pushes them both on new paths. But where those paths lead, they could not have foreseen.

Up For Air is a really good read with nice characters and a good understanding of what its story is actually writing about. There were a couple of moments where I wanted to get my own editing pen out, to polish things a little more, but other than that, I really enjoyed it.

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Cherish Hard (Nalini Singh)

Cherish Hard is the first novel in the Hard Play series by Nalini Singh.
Finished on: 11.4.2021
[Here’s my review of Rock Hard that is the last of this series, but also second of her Rock Kiss series.]

Plot:
Ísa dreams of having the kind of stable family she never had growing up. But for that she first needs to find a partner who is just as ready to settle down as she is. The hot gardener working at her school, Sailor, does not fit that bill. Running his own business with ambitious plans for his future and a few years younger than her, he is certainly not the kind of guy she is looking for. And yet, Ísa can’t keep her eyes off him. When fate, or rather Ísa’s CEO mother, forces them to work together, it’s the possibility for Sailor to convince Ísa that he is in it for the long haul – because he is head over heels for her.

Cherish Hard is a fun read, but not one of Singh’s best novels, I’d say. I liked both Ísa and Sailor, but I wasn’t as invested in their story as I would have liked – or even expected to be.

The book cover showing a shirtless man with a shovel in his hand.
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