05 July 2018

The Kiss Quotient // I Loved It… You Need It

Published: 5th July 2018 (UK Paperback)
Source: Purchased/Readers First
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
My Rating:
A heartwarming and refreshing debut novel that proves one thing: there's not enough data in the world to predict what will make your heart tick.

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases--a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn't help that Stella has Asperger's and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice--with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can't afford to turn down Stella's offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan--from foreplay to more-than-missionary position...

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he's making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic...
I had no doubts that I would love this book but I hadn't realised how much I would adore it. Stella and Michael are my absolute favourites and I need to write a full review to explain why. I mean, I loved this book so much that when I saw the opportunity to get a physical copy on Readers First I knew I needed to give it a shot because I needed a copy to hold in my hands (and lend to all of my friends).

I knew very little about this book going in. To be honest, the most I knew is that Nick couldn't get enough of it and that it had an autistic protagonist which was more than enough for me. From that  alone, I knew I needed this book so I went and preordered. I began reading it as soon as it arrived on my Kindle.

Stella has an amazing job and is happy with her work obsession... until her mom tells her she wants to have grandchildren and suggests maybe Stella needs to start dating. For most this wouldn't be a major problem, but Stella is on the autistic spectrum and she does not so well with others. She can care for herself and function in the world, she has taught herself how to not stand out, but she isn't comfortable with unexpected touches, prolonged eye contact, strong smells, and she isn't great at getting along with people. She simply doesn't know what to do, she has had sex and it was extremely uncomfortable but from what she knows of men to have a successful relationship she needs to be good at sex. How is she to do that? Hire an escort obviously. And boy does she hire a good one. I would want Michael too.

Michael is a sweet cinnamon roll and I adored him. He escorts only on Friday nights and never the same woman twice. He isn't doing it to fund a crazy lifestyle and he only does it because he knows he's good at sex and it's the only way he can make the big bucks he needs. He doesn't expect Stella at all. She isn't the type of woman he is used to. She is nice and sweet and so pretty and he doesn't even register there is something different about her until much later. He is so sweet with her. He never pushes and follows her lead. He doesn't push for sex, or even to do anything beyond cuddling if that's what she wishes. And those sweet moments of just being a couple together are the best moments. In fact, it's what leads to the Pretty Woman proposal of them faking being a couple together.

I adored it when they were together. They were the best couple together bringing out the best sides of each other. Stella learnt there was more to life than her job and although her routine makes her feel comfortable it isn't everything. And she learns she is a person and she is more than her autism. She is fun and interesting and lovable. The same happens for Michael. He continually thought he wasn't good enough and didn't deserve love because he could offer no one anything but he was the most lovable person. he was kind and caring and would put those he loved first and do anything to stand up for them. He deserved everything he wanted in life. He was beautiful and amazing and I adored him completely.

I have to say, one element of this book I liked the most was the portrayal of Stella and her autism. I have a cousin who is on the spectrum so obviously my idea of someone with autism is very much focused upon him and how he deals with things. He isn’t great at family parties (too much noise) and he has a set routine he hates to drift from. He wouldn’t cope with the day to day as Stella does and I hadn’t realised that much of how she acts and tries to normalise herself to other people’s expectations is very much a female element of being on the spectrum and the amount of research Hoang did to portray Stella as she did was amazing. I mean, the research which she did was the reason Helen Hoang even discovered she herself is on the spectrum. It’s amazing and I definitely want to read some of the books recommended in the author’s note. This book is so interesting simply for the character of Stella and how much I truly adored her. She is an eternal favourite and as much as I loved Michael (everyone loves him) Stella is my girl and I will fight you if you didn’t love her too.

So guys, read this book. It's an eternal favourite and I kind of want to hand it out on the streets for folks to read. Everyone should just read it already!

Please tell me you’ve read this and want to flail with me too. What was the last book you adored to the extreme and wanted everyone to read?

28 June 2018

Wicked and the Wallflower // Sarah MacLean Always Writes Good Books So Why Did I Doubt Her?

Published: 19th June 2018

Source: Pure Textuality PR

Genre: Historical Romance

My Rating:
When a man known only as Devil finds his way into her bedchamber and offers her his help in landing a duke, Lady Felicity Faircloth agrees. She might be a spinster, but she’s seen love in action and is willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that her future husband will love her beyond reason—even if it means she must make a deal with a man more dangerous than she could imagine.

Bastard son of a duke, and king of London’s darkest corners, Devil has made a lifetime of wielding power and seizing opportunity, and Felicity Faircloth is everything he needs to exact a perfect revenge. All he has to do is turn the plain little mouse into an irresistible temptress, set his trap, and destroy his enemy. If the girl is ruined in the process, so be it. 

Except there’s nothing plain about Felicity Faircloth, and soon it’s Devil who is trapped...along with his heart.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Bareknuckle Bastards was a series from Sarah MacLean I was uncertain of on first of it. I mean, I adore her historical romance books, but for me, the charm in most historical romance is the appeal of the aristocracy and the way that social graces lead to these secret liaisons between couples and the whole sneaking around to save reputations. It’s ridiculous and absurd the roles women are forced into, but there’s also something charming about it. I thought that the tale of these criminals, rulers of Covent Garden, would lead her books to be different and appeal to me a little less. After all, even the rogues in her books are still a part of the aristocracy.

Sarah MacLean likes to prove me wrong because I adored this book.

Wicked and the Wallflower is an amazing book I probably would have appreciated even more if I wasn’t four releases behind on MacLean’s books (I know, guys, what have I been doing?) but even without knowledge of who Felicity was before I began reading (I gather she had her own little role previously) she still won me over. I think we can all relate to a woman who has been deemed on the shelf by those around her and who has been rejected by a world she thought accepted her. We’ve all experienced a time of realising someone who was close to us was not in fact as good a friend as we had hoped. And poor Felicity is facing life as a spinster, which she was totally fine with because she has seen what real love looks like and is hoping for more. She wants it all and she is willing to make a deal with the Devil to get it. Quite literally, she makes a deal with Devil to try and win herself a Duke and prove all those naysayers and bullies that she is worth something, Felicity Faircloth, and they don’t know what they’re missing. The only problem is Devil is way more fun some boring old Duke.

Boy is Devil an interesting character. I was all set for eye rolling and needing some serious encouragement to get behind Devil and his role as a romantic lead because seriously, Devil? Could he be any more ridiculous? Like I said, Sarah MacLean likes to prove me wrong and I was falling head over heels for good old Devil and his charming ways. No man can refer to himself in such a way without having a little charm, it would be ridiculous and someone would have talked him out of the idea far sooner otherwise. He was charming, but that’s not to say he wasn’t serious and scary when he needed to be. He was a man who had fought to make himself a king in Covent Garden and create his very own criminal empire, he was not a man to cross, which made it all the more rewarding seeing his gooey centre (which I could totally phrase better but I am sun tired here people!) and seeing how Felicity slowly brought out another side he barely even recognised in himself.

Both Felicity and Devil were surprising characters. There was way more than meets the eye to both. Felicity appears to be a plain old wallflower, but she is fiery and fun and the girl can pick a lock! I am jealous of her mad skills which leave her family in despair for her because she isn’t proper and she is a scandal! And then Devil is not all scary, criminal, he has this soft side which is obvious as you learn his history and those of his siblings. He cares for those who live within his realm (because he is a lord of a criminal underworld here people!) and he makes sure that even the lowest people are cared for because he came from nothing.

I know this book is about revenge and other such eye-rolling stuff, there are secret schemes and the usual romance misunderstandings, but I don’t even care about that because I am just too in love with Felicity and Devil together and this book was such a good and wonderful romance. The pairing had me smiling and wanting to hug my Kindle close whilst sat on the bus. I was willing to stay up late in the sweltering English heatwave to read more of their story together. You won’t be reading this book for the revenge plot, you’ll be reading it because you want to knock Felicity and Devil’s heads together so they will just get over themselves and get together already. It is utterly wonderful and I need to go back and catch up on some Sarah MacLean reads, I think.

Have you read this, wasn’t it awesome? Have you ever gone into a book from an author you love not expecting to enjoy it as much but instead end up being blown away? Just me? I know, I’m special.

19 June 2018

Barbed Wire Heart // A Surprising Read That Was Filled With Women Kicking Some Ass

Barbed Wire Heart
Published: 6th March 2018

Source: Netgalley

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

My Rating:
Never cut the drugs-leave them pure.
Guns are meant to be shot-keep them loaded.
Family is everything-betray them and die.

Harley McKenna is the only child of North County's biggest criminal. Duke McKenna's run more guns, cooked more meth, and killed more men than anyone around. Harley's been working for him since she was sixteen-collecting debts, sweet-talking her way out of trouble, and dreading the day he'd deem her ready to rule the rural drug empire he's built.

Her time's run out. The Springfields, her family's biggest rivals, are moving in. Years ago, they were responsible for her mother's death, and now they're coming for Duke's only weak spot: his daughter.
With a bloody turf war threatening to consume North County, Harley is forced to confront the truth: that her father's violent world will destroy her. Duke's raised her to be deadly-he never counted on her being disloyal. But if Harley wants to survive and protect the people she loves, she's got to take out Duke's operation and the Springfields.

Blowing up meth labs is dangerous business, and getting caught will be the end of her, but Harley has one advantage: She is her father's daughter. And McKennas always win.

From a powerful new voice in suspense fiction comes the unforgettable story of a young woman facing the most difficult choice of her life: family or freedom.
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Wow. Just wow. I did not expect what I got from this book. I was expecting a thriller which seemed set to take a dark turn but instead got given an awesome feminist read. It was a book filled with strong female characters and was realistic in showing women’s struggles in society both getting respect from one another when they aren’t from the right background but also getting respect from the men in their lives too. It was an amazing read which was wholly realistic of society today but also happened to have a really good mystery/thriller element to it too.

I admit I wasn't completely certain about this book when I first started reading. The characters weren't exactly the most likeable and I was questioning the actions of a lot of people and why I should care for their story. But this book was written with flashbacks to past events interspersed throughout the current day storyline and those small snippets really drew me in and made me care for the characters, especially as it was told from Harley’s perspective and so the characters she cared about (even if she grew to understand they weren’t good people) were also the people I cared about in a twisted way.

Harley is a girl who has been raised to be suspicious of everyone, trust no one and expect to forge a brutal path through life. Very few are truly close to her and she prefers it that way because too many people close to her just means she has more weaknesses. Like I said, it's kind of brutal. Her dad is Duke McKenna and he rules North County with an iron fist. He's fought dirty to get that power and control the area and he is not a man to cross. But that's exactly what Harley is doing; she is slowly dismantling his power base. I will reveal no more than that to avoid spoilers but hot damn did I cheer Harley on, especially as you see more and more flashbacks to the past seeing the way he raised her. He was in no way a soft and caring parent, but you can tell there was love there but as you see the extremes of her childhood you begin to understand why Harley has been driven to the extremes and forced to betray a man she both loves and hates.

Tess Sharpe skilfully crafts a story filled with characters you really shouldn't like but as you see Harley's own memories of her past and upbringing I found myself feeling for Duke. Even though the man raised his daughter in questionable ways (testing her by kidnapping her and forcing her to shoot a deer? He's kind of a dick) but Duke did it because he loved Harley in his own messed up way and she loved him all the same. Despite him being a villain in many people's stories he also had some vaguely good points, he'd just twisted himself up a bit. And then there were good people interspersed throughout who proved that North County wasn't a truly awful place to be and helped explain why Harley loved it there.

More than crafting likeable flawed characters, though, Tess Sharpe crafts plenty of strong female characters which make this such an amazing feminist read. These women have struggled and they don’t have life easy, but it’s realistic, especially in a struggling small town. Some of the women were on Harley's side and others weren't but they were all strong and, despite having men in their lives bringing them down or holding them back, they were powerful. From Mo, the woman Harley trusted to keep the Rubies (the girls who get safe haven in a motel owned by Harley. A refuge for women from abusive homes or for those who are addicted and struggling to get clean) safe. Mo was trusted to keep these vulnerable women safe and help them move forward and she was amazing at it. There was Harley's best friend, Brooke, who went through some awful things but same out of it strong with a friend she would do anything for and would do anything for her. She was from the good side of town who looked down on the rubies but she didn't. She was awesome. It was amazing to read a see women fighting and holding positions of power in a county overrun with men who thought they knew what was best and what was best was brutality and power and women were weak and to stay at home. This is especially obvious towards the end of the book where you will be cheering the women on because damn are they amazing. Just trust me on this one.

It was such a good book and it went in a direction I did not expect. I enjoyed every page and only wish I'd gotten around to reading it sooner.

Have you read this book? What were your thoughts? Have you read anything else by Tess Sharpe?