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Lucy Reads Romance (London, United Kingdom)

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Midnight in the Harem: For Duty's Sake / Banished to the Harem / The Tarnished Jewel of Jazaar
Midnight in the Harem: For Duty's Sake / Banished to the Harem / The Tarnished Jewel of Jazaar
by Lucy Monroe
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

3.0 out of 5 stars It was okay., 25 Oct. 2015
I have been known to delve into the world of Mills and Boon on occasion and when I saw this collection at my local library I thought why not. As the title would suggest Midnight in the Harem is three short stories that all revolve around the idea of Harems.

As this is three stories I thought I’d do a mini review of each to give a better overview of the whole collection. Firstly comes For Duty’s Sake by Lucy Monroe, which was possibly my favourite of the three. I really liked the character development of both Angele and Zahir. Engaged since childhood Angele has always admired and loved the man she was arranged to marry. Yet when she discovers that Zahir isn’t the pinnacle of manhood she had believed, Angele feels she has no choice but to let him go.

In contrast Zahir had continued to view Angele as the child he been originally engaged to. He respected her but kept her at a distance. It isn’t until Angele leaves him that he realised he actually wants her. Initially I felt this was more to do with pride and the reputation of the country. Yet as the chase continued Zahir clearly developed feelings for Angele. I felt these two were a good match for each other because Angele wouldn’t put up with any of Zahir’s high-handedness without a fight.

In my opinion the power dynamics between Rakhal and Natasha in Banished To The Harem by Carol Marinelli weren’t equal for the majority of the story. Natasha after one night of passion is whisked unwillingly into a foreign world. Forced to obey traditions that make little sense to her western upbringing Natasha takes her anger out on the only person she does know, Rakhal.

Yet this was a true meeting of minds because through the course of the story Rakhal and Natasha both come to understand each other better. Rakhal sees some his countries traditions through fresh eyes, particularly the use of his Harem. Similarly Natasha starts to appreciate and accept some of Rachel’s ways, the importance of these traditions to the local people. Also the end scene of this story was pretty magical.

Without a doubt The Tarnished Jewel of Jazaar by Susanna Carr had the most tragic back-story; with Zoe being abused by her family after the death of her parents for many years. Her marriage to Nadir rescued her but for obvious reasons Zoe doesn’t want to spend another day in Jazaar. Instead she convinces Nadir to take her with him on his various business trips all in the hope of someday escaping back to America.

Despite that tragedy the romance between Zoe and Nadir was really sweet as they both slowly learnt to trust the other. I liked how protective Nadir was but how Zoe would stand her ground to stop him being over-protective. Throughout the course of the story we watch as Nadir goes from being ashamed of his bride to explicitly trusting her opinion.

Overall I’ve given Midnight in the Harem three stars because although I’d enjoyed reading these three stories I felt all of them lacked depth. I’d have loved to have more character development and perhaps longer time for the couples to develop organically. Unfortunately these are common problems for me across Mills and Boon’s shorter stories.

Dance With Me
Dance With Me
Price: £2.62

4.0 out of 5 stars Mostly great, just a few niggles, 22 Oct. 2015
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This review is from: Dance With Me (Kindle Edition)
Firstly can we talk about the beautiful new cover for Dance With Me by Heidi Cullinan? It is absolutely gorgeous! Secondly I loved the new introduction Heidi Cullinan has given this novel as it put Dance With Me in a historical context. Highlighting how much as changed for the LGBT+ community in the last few years! Still a long way to go but progress is progress.

Dance With Me is about two broken people finding each other and learning to dance to the rhythm of life. Well wasn’t that a corny way to start a review? But it is true. Laurie is mentally and emotionally closed of from life. Scared to dance in public. Scared to move on. Scared to live his life for fear of what other people will say and think. Yet dancing is part of who he is.

Similarly Ed is suffering a severe injury that left him unable to continue his semi-professional football career. I felt this was a story of self-discovery and expression. Both Laurie and Ed are having to learn how express themselves and find passion again. This was a slow romance with Laurie and Ed starting out on less than friendly terms. Yet through dancing they learn to trust one another. Sure they come from different worlds and lead different lives but they understand one another.

I loved the vulnerabilities Heidi Cullinan gave both Ed and Laurie. They don’t have a smooth road to happiness not because they don’t love each other but because they do. Ed, particularly in the second half of the book, has to face the reality of his new life. He's moody, disheartened and borderline depressed. Understandably this puts a strain on their relationship, but they’re able to work through it. Laurie shows Ed that their is hope. He gives him new goals to work towards.

Now your possibly wondering why I’ve given this four instead of five stars. This is because at times I found the pace a little slow, also it would have been nice to see a few more fluffy or happy scenes between Ed and Laurie. It felt like they were always having to overcome one small obstacle after the other. Be it Laurie’s insecurities, Ed’s disability and so on. Also I found one sexual scene at Laurie’s godfathers house unnecessary and a little disturbing. In my opinion it didn’t add to the plot and it didn’t seem in keeping with Laurie and Ed’s relationship.

A Once Upon a Time Tale: Reawakened
A Once Upon a Time Tale: Reawakened
by Odette Beane
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nothing new. Nothing special., 13 Oct. 2015
Before spying this at the library I had no idea that one of my favourite TV series even had accompanying books. I’ve been a fan of Once Upon A Time since discovering it on Amazon Instant during my last year of university, so I borrowed this from the library without reading the blurb. Would I have still borrowed this if I had?

In all honesty I probably would have because I love these characters, I love both Fairy Tale Land and Storybrooke and most of all I love how the show twists these well-known fairytales. Yet by reading the blurb I would realised that Reawakened isn’t an expansive of the Once Upon A Time universe. Instead its a written version of Season One.

Although most of the characters backstories have been condensed, and are mainly told to Emma and the reader through Henry, the main plot is identical. Like in Season One of the show, the book by Odette Beane mainly revolves around Emma’s relationship with Henry, Mary Margaret and Regina. Even after I realised Reawakened would follow the some plot as the show I was hoping for more character development behind some of Emma’s actions. What where are thought processes in certain scenes? Why did she choose to trust Mr. Gold when she did?

To a limited extended this was offered. Generally though events would happen, and the reader would watch as the characters reacted to them. Also certain aspects of the book felt extremely rushed, for example Emma’s election to Town Sheriff. This is where I believed the show to book adaptation just didn’t work. The episodic nature of the show, which usually has one big event providing the structure, just didn’t work in book form.

If I hadn’t watched the show I think I’d have easily become confused due to the fast pace, the amount of important moments and the instant connection between some characters. Also the only characters to retain their full backstory where Snow White, Charming and Ruby. If I hadn’t known the backstory of the characters from the show I would have had problems connecting with them and understanding their place in both Storybrooke and Fairy Tale Land. Overall I’ve given Reawakened three stars because it was a quick, easy read and I did enjoy revisiting Season One. I wouldn’t say it was a fantastic read, however, or that it added anything to the Once Upon A Time universe.

Like a Lover (Housemates Book 2)
Like a Lover (Housemates Book 2)
Price: £2.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Happy feels, 10 Oct. 2015
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It wasn’t until about three chapters in that I realised Like A Lover is part of a series that I have actually been reading in order. For me this is miracle. I never read series order and it isn’t for a lack of trying. Like A Lover is book two in Jay Northcote’s Housemates series, which as the series name would suggest revolves around a group of housemates.

Maybe I’m developing a problem because I can’t seem to stop reading m/m books. Like A Lover caught my eye because it revolves around an escort falling in love with one of his clients, and vice versa. This is one of my all time favourite tropes and I’ve been reading it in one form or another since I first discovered mistresses in historical romance books. Also I’m pretty sure this series is based in the UK, which always makes for a nice change!

Josh isn’t ashamed of being an escort, but at the same time he doesn’t advertise it and has only told one his housemates about his job. He meets Rupert when a regular client doesn’t show up for an appointment and although Josh doesn’t need extra cash at that moment he is feeling a little bit horny. Josh and Rupert are almost immediately attracted to each other, but straight away Rupert wants more. Although he accepts that Josh needs his job as an escort he can’t help wanting more from the man who is quickly claiming his heart.

Even though Josh knows he should stop seeing Rupert he can’t help himself. Over time the boundaries between escort and client get more and more blurred. Soon Josh is agreeing to see Rupert more than any of his other clients, bending and even breaking his self-imposed rules.

I loved the fact that Like A Lover focused solely on Josh and Rupert’s growing feeling for each other. Although the book arguably falls into the New Adult genre given Josh’s age and the connection to university it isn’t angst ridden. This isn’t story about whether Josh and Rupert like, or potentially even love, one another. Instead it focuses on whether Rupert can accept Josh’s past and if Josh is willing to give up the financial independence that escorting gives him. The main conflict revolves around Rupert and Josh’s ability to look past their mutual past and see each other as lovers first, rather than client and escort.

The DUFF: Movie Tie-in
The DUFF: Movie Tie-in
by Kody Keplinger
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting if irritating read, 25 Sept. 2015
This review is from: The DUFF: Movie Tie-in (Paperback)
I found The Duff an interesting if at times irritating read. The reason for this conflict was mainly down to the main character, Bianca Piper. In many ways I loved her independence, her loyalty to her friends and family and her honesty. She wasn’t afraid to be different than those around her, to form her own opinion rather than trusting the word of others.

Unfortunately at times being inside her head was also an incredibly painful process. The amount of thinking and over-analysing meant I became disinterested in certain parts, particularly as there was a lot of repetition in her thought process. I know this is meant to show Bianca’s internal struggle over her feeling for Wesley, being the Duff, her relationship with her friends and so forth, but I would argue it could have been done in a more engaging way.

Wesley was another character that I really liked. Once you looked past his play-boy persona he was caring, thoughtful, funny and kind of wonderful. Like Bianca he refused to apologise for who he was, he was protective of those he loved and valued honesty both all things. Although on the surface Bianca and Wesley have nothing in common, deep down they were remarkably similar.

et for me to have truly loved The Duff I needed more depth from the novel as a whole. Certain major issues felt brushed over and ignored, perhaps because Bianca was unwilling to face these issues. Also for a feminist she was fairly happy to judge all the women around her based on their attractiveness to and for men. Just saying it would have been nice if some off the secondary characters her age had been defined by someone other than the boys they were attracted to or dating.

Overall this was a solid three star read for me. I can understand why this is such a popular book because the relationship between Bianca and Wesley was wonderful. It had some great dialogue between Wesley and Bianca, but the writing style and some of Bianca’s thought processes let it down for me.

Just a Bit Wrong (Straight Guys Book 4)
Just a Bit Wrong (Straight Guys Book 4)
Price: £3.19

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intense, over-the-top and completely unrealistic, 19 Sept. 2015
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I really disliked Tristan in Gabriel and Jared book Just a Bit Unhealthy so when I heard the next book was going to be about him I was intrigued but hesitant. I mean the guy had been a manipulative arse to his brother throughout the previous book so I questioned whether he had any redeeming qualities. Luckily Alessandra Hazard did it again and made me fall in love with a flawed, selfish, manipulative character.

This in part is because the reader is shown why Tristan is so manipulative, almost demanding the love and adoration of everyone around him. Yet as typical of this series Zach is perhaps the only person who can see past Tristan’s manipulation and still find him attractive and worthy of love. Now if you’re coming into this author blind their are few things you should know about this series. The characters are not always good people, they don’t always make the right decisions and the love between the two heroes nearly always borders on unhealthy.

Tristan and Zach are no different. Firstly Zach is engaged, to a women, for the majority of the book with a wedding fast approaching. Secondly I felt the D/s elements present in the others book where more pronounced in Just A Bit Wrong. I know some people have asked is this book contains BDSM and in my opinion it doesn’t, but there are two scenes of semi-sexual spanking between the two heroes.

Since discovering Alessandra Hazard a few years ago she has become an auto-buy author for me. I know that the relationships portrayed are unhealthy and that most of the books contain infidelity or inappropriate relationships. Yet I can’t read them fast enough (I may have re-read the whole series after finishing Just A Bit Wrong) for these books are pure crack. They’re intense, over-the-top and completely unrealistic but I love them.

Almost Like Being in Love
Almost Like Being in Love
by Steve Kluger
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Zany, funny and heartfelt, 13 Sept. 2015
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For roughly the first 100 pages I was a little confused and a lot intrigued. This was mainly down to the writing style of the book as rather than being told through description and dialogue Steve Kluger as told the story of Travis and Craig through letters, attorney notes, diary entries, emails and more. Yet although it was confusing to start with, in the end it became part the books charm. Overall I think it made the reader closer to the characters and the struggles they were facing.

The other key feature of this book I had to mention was the humour. Its wacky, zany and seeps into every aspect of the novel. Travis in particular is over-the-top, a tiny bit crazy, a lot neurotic and also completely loveable, but much like the writing style of the book the humour is another aspect people will either love or hate. I personally loved it, although at times it would have been nice for more emotion and less humour.

Although this book revolves around the romance between Travis and Craig this isn’t your typical m-m romance. The reader follow Travis and Craig from initial meeting, to first kiss, university, separation and beyond. After all no one falls in love when they’re eighteen, do they? This is the question Travis suddenly asks himself at the age of 39 after another failed relationship. Even after all these years he can’t forget what he had with Craig and the connection they shared.

It this thought that begins Travis mad-cap journey across America to track down the love of his life. A person he hasn’t seen in twenty years. Someone who could be married, dead or worse not the Craig he remembers. I loved Travis as a character because he takes the leaps no person would in real life. He’s willing to put it all on the getting arrested isn’t going to stop him from finding Craig.

While Travis is travelling across the country Craig is busy making decision of his own. Huge life-changing decisions that could put him out of Travis’s reach forever, but that is a journey your just going to have to experience for yourself!

Apple Polisher (Rear Entrance Video Book 1)
Apple Polisher (Rear Entrance Video Book 1)
Price: £4.19

4.0 out of 5 stars I liked it!, 26 Jun. 2015
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For me this book was about discovery. Both Christian personal journey of self-discovery and his discovery into those around him. In the beginning Christian does come across as a little judgemental; he assumes one of his new housemates is a drug dealer with very little evidence. He's also completely paranoid about the image he projects to the outside world, partly due to his relationship with his mother.

Yet he did slowly grow on me, partly because he starts to think about those around him and decides to put their needs before his own. A large part of this transformation is due to Max, a character I wish we'd been given more information about, his backstory, his job, his motives. Max challenges Christian conceptions and actions, pushing him to be a better person.

At times I felt the pace was a little fast, especially with everything happening in Christian and Max's life. Plus as a reader we are introduced to a whole cast of new characters, that I imagine we'll here more about in the following books. I felt like some plot lines where introduced but not really embellished to full potential, one in particular towards the end just happened with little explantation or follow through.

Overall though I really enjoyed Apple Polisher and as Heidi Belleau is becoming one of my favourite authors I'm definitely going to continue with the Rear Entrance Video series.

The Worst Best Luck
The Worst Best Luck
Price: £3.53

4.0 out of 5 stars LOTR was referenced people!!, 4 Jun. 2015
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I started reading this book without absolutely no clue what is was about, beyond it being a contemporary m/m. I actually thought it a New Adult based on the cover... So that’s not awkward at all. Yet The Worst Best Luck packed a serious punch, it tackled issues left, right and centre without neglecting the core romance between Peter and Matt.

“He had a date with Matt for Friday night. And then, he’d have to tell him about the lottery, about the... FOUR HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS. An amount of money that screamed, that deafened him, that made him want to clamp his hands over his ears and run away”.

I have never read a romance book that featured a lottery winner before and I actually loved this aspect of the book. Brad Vance delve into the psychological implications, the financial implications and the relationship implications of suddenly becoming a multimillionaire over-night. Winning the lottery is fantastic, until it isn’t. Until you’re suddenly headline news and all those people who didn’t care about claim to be your best-friend. This is especially difficult for someone with so little self-esteem as Peter.

As a character I wanted to wrap Peter in a blanket, hand him a hot chocolate and tell him that everything will be okay. His backstory is tragic and could have easily been too melodramatic for my liking, but it was saved because it wasn’t the focus of the story but instead just a part of Peter’s journey to eventual happiness. The author does use lengthy flash-backs to give the reader an insight into Peter and Matt’s childhood. I thought this worked really well, although I was little thrown the first time a flash-back happened.

“I’ll be your Samwise, Mr. Frodo, Matt said... no, swore to himself, and to Peter. You won’t carry the burden alone.”.

But enough about Peter lets talk about the cutie-pie that his Matt. Anyone who references Lord of the Rings in their thought-process is my kind of hero, and this quote in its context just gave me warm-tingles. I loved how protective Matt was of Peter. He supported him without controlling him. He was also able to dominate Peter sexually without making him feel worthless. This is a huge moment for Peter, being with someone who views him as a person rather than just a sexual object.

Now The Worst Best Luck wasn’t a perfect book and it won’t suit everyone. It has kinky sex, the writing although engaging isn’t beautiful prose and it a little unbelievable in moment. Having said all that I really enjoyed reading The Worst Best Luck.

The Hourglass Factory
The Hourglass Factory
by Lucy Ribchester
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brillant!, 11 May 2015
This review is from: The Hourglass Factory (Paperback)
Due the mysterious nature of this book I will endeavour to keep my review spoiler free because part of the joy of The Hourglass Factory are all the twists and turns in the plot. I loved the way we, the readers, discover what was really happening to Ebony Diamond alongside Frankie and her band of misfits.

Since study the suffragette movement (do you capitalise suffragette?!) at school I already had an interest in the period, yet reading Lucy Ribchester’s book brought the movement to life. Following Frankie around London while she investigated the disappearance and possible death of Ebony Diamond.

Alongside the political riots, criminal intrigue and commentary on women’s rights, The Hourglass Factory is full of beautiful descriptive writing. Both from Frankie and Inspector Primrose who has recently been assigned to the suffragette division. The contrast between Frankie’s experience and knowledge of the suffragette compared to Primrose’s provided an interesting contrast. The changes in perspective kept me engaged in the plot, as it allowed the momentum to move forward. Also despite this book being a piece of fiction I was fascinated by how the suffragette’s were treated by the police in this book. Both while they are being investigated and also during their various imprisonments. I’d love to know how historically accurate some of these scenes where!

I loved reading about Primrose’s conflict over his new job; his struggle to view the suffragette’s as insane criminals like the rest of the police force. Ultimately Primrose is one of the few police men still managing to investigate crimes rather than automatically blaming the suffragette’s. Another one of my favourite characters was Milly. Her mysterious past was fascinating and by the end of the book I still had questions remaining about her. In my opinion she was more free and independent than either Frankie or Ebony, but of course that is just a personal opinion!

Overall I really enjoyed reading The Hourglass Factory, although I have to admit at times I did have to stop reading just to digest what was happening.

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