My Fair Concubine by Jeannie Lin

My Fair Concubine (Tang Dynasty, #3)My Fair Concubine by Jeannie Lin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was looking for some fluffy brain candy and was surprised by the depth of this historical romance. Yan Ling, a lowly tea house girl, is chosen by Lord Chang to stand in for his sister (she eloped & ran away) in an arranged marriage. She must become a gracious lady in a very short time! Yan submits to a rigorous crash course, learning to speak & hold herself like a princess. Very Eliza Doolittle. Lord Chang Fei Long personally handles the task of teaching Yan Ling to read and write. He’s a harsh critic, but Yan is a dedicated student.

We all know the Pygmillian, My Fair Lady, Pretty Woman story well. This incarnation is beautiful! Side characters were well done. Lord Chang enlists his longtime friend and actor, Bai Shen, to teach Yan the nuances of being a convincing upper class lady. Since only men were allowed to perform on stage, Bai Shen was a favorite ‘female’ actor. Fun ensues. So much fun! Dow (I can’t find the spelling) is Yan’s personal maid & friend. She’s sarcastic and wonderful!

I listened to this book and the narrator was lovely. Apparently, this is the third book in a series about the Tang Dynasty. It read as a stand alone, no holes. There was some steam toward the end, but it wasn’t drawn out or tasteless. This book does NOT read like a typical Harlequin romance, and yes, I realize that sounds book-snobbish. I’m Grateful to my friend Khan for recommending this to me. If you’re interested (READ IT READ IT), Khan’s review is much more detailed. I very highly recommend My Fair Concubine (READ IT READ IT). I’m searching out all the author’s books.

(I’m having trouble providing a link to Khan’s review. I’ll ask her to post it in comments.)

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The Truth about Forever by Sarah Dessen

The Truth about ForeverThe Truth about Forever by Sarah Dessen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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Loved it. I think the narrator really made the story come alive. Macy’s character development was wonderful, taking chances and making friends. In fact, her friends were one of my favorite parts of the story. Delia was just an amazing, disorganized, mess of love.

The romance was fantastic! It was sort of a un-romance. Neither party was really available, so it was a super fun friendship that lets us get to know them and their secrets. I really developed quite a crush on Wes, good book-boyfriend material. Kristy, Monica, & Bert just grew on me, bunch of loyal misfits. Good back story about several families healing from grief, each person in their own way. It wasn’t angst ridden or depressing, I just don’t enjoy those downer type books.

I’m giving it 4.5 stars, rounded up for GR. I was a teensy bit let down at the end. I just wanted a little more after all that waiting & wanting. There was A LOT of taking the lord’s name in vain, a few F-bombs, nothing sexually explicit.

Recommended. YA contemporary romance, well done. Do it audio style if you can!

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To Beguile a Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt

To Beguile a Beast (Legend of the Four Soldiers, #3)To Beguile a Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The word HUMPING was actually used!
When I was in elementary school, the Van Halen song Jump was popular. One day in the lunch room, someone had the song playing on their boom box (yes I’m older than you) and this boy would yell, “HUMP!” every time the song said ‘Jump’. We all exploded into giggles at his comic genius. That’s what the word brings to mind. Certain words, like ‘hump’ or ‘wiener’ are just funny – and don’t belong in romance novels.

I think this ends my Beauty & the Beast jag. 2.5 stars rounded up. The characters & plot were well done, I just don’t like explicit stuff. I think the author’s style is too adult for me, and I’m not talking about the silly humping (!) thing.

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A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught

A Kingdom of Dreams (Westmoreland, #1)A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Surprise Sucka! I’m good!

I’ve been on a Beauty & the Beast retellings kick, and this was on one of the lists. I’d say there’s only a very vague semblance to the fairy tale. The story was wonderful! Warring clans in England and Scotland, spitfire male & female protagonists, and good storytelling.

I was pretty wary after reading the prologue. Jenny was having this silent conversation with God, so I was sure that would dominate the story. While I’m quite spiritual/religious myself, I don’t enjoy Christian Romances. Most are cheesy and the entire plot revolves around the main character’s faith in God. I prefer non-fiction inspirational books.

So. Jenny does pray a few times and is determined to do what is right. It was appropriate for her character (her father sent her to a convent for two years & didn’t speak to her) and seemed to flow naturally with the story. I never felt that it was a main theme, was preachy, or tried to teach a moral. It was nicely done. The story would appeal to a wide audience, as the theme was really about staying true to your personal beliefs and convictions in the face of adversity.

Jenny is wily and determined. She’s brave and reckless, no hint of a Mary Sue. I was saddened by her desperate drive to please her father and regain favor with her clan.
The Wolf, be still my fluttering heart, was brilliant and ruthless. He brings Sun Tzu to mind – master General, strategist, war philosopher. Alpha done right.

There’s a bit of sexual coercion, not actual rape, that would normally earn a NOPE from me. Considering the age of the book and the way things played out, I was able to give it a pass. Some sex, written tastefully – probably PG13.

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When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James

When Beauty Tamed the Beast (Fairy Tales, #2)When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Got this at the library, cuz I’m too cheap to buy it & read it with some dignity on my Kindle.
It’s actually way more bubble-gum-pink and lavender than it looks in the picture. Told the librarian, “um…yeah, one of my Goodreads friends told me this was good.” Silence.
“It’s a Beauty & the Beast retelling.” Nods. Silently shames me.

This was a surprisingly fun book to read! Author’s note at the end said that Piers, the cranky beast of a doctor, was based on Dr. House from the TV series. He’s brilliant, in constant pain, and a total a-hole.

Linette wasn’t a typical, boring Mary Sue. She wasn’t afraid to dish it right back at him, resulting in the the kind of witty banter that I love.

Witty banter maketh the romance novel. Seriously. Think of Elizabeth Bennett. Darcy admired her fine grey eyes, but it was her intelligent wit that he couldn’t resist!

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Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James

Practice Makes PerfectPractice Makes Perfect by Julie James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Payton Kendall & J.D. Jamison have been frenemies for the 8 years they’ve both put in at their law firm. They have this whole ‘I love to hate you’ thing going, which is entertaining. I mean, never in a million years would I suspect that they’re secretly in love or something. As the last two remaining associates in their class, they’ve been assured they’re both going to make partner. But wouldn’t ya know it, the firm decides that only one of them can make partner & the other one will be sent packing. Thus begins a fierce competition between Payton & JD. Nothing really surprising here, but Julie James writes some pretty funny stuff! I read the first book in her FBI series and while it was hilarious, it was a bit too descriptive & the male MC is constantly thinking about sex & getting all hot & bothered. Not my thing. Practice Makes Perfect had a nice amount of sexual tension without overly descriptive scenes & overly horny characters. I decided to try this author after reading Emily May’s reviews. It gave me some good laughs. I’m a little irked about never finding out what J.D. stands for. James Dean? John Denver? John Deere?

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Firefly Hollow by T L Haddix

Firefly Hollow (Firefly Hollow, #1)Firefly Hollow by T.L. Haddix
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was super cheesy. Like, Nicholas Sparks cheesy. I did some serious eye rolling. I’m not gonna lie, I’m slightly ashamed of having given it 4 stars. Maybe I was in just the right mood, maybe I’m losing my edge.

There was a lot more going on besides a slow burn romance that oozed Velveeta. I loved the mother daughter relationship and the other family ties. I liked that the uber bitchy sister actually had hidden depths. The paranormal element wasn’t actually a large part of the story.

Total Gary Stu/Mary Sue thing going on as well. As much as it pains me, I’ve got to be truthful and rate it on how much I enjoyed it. It should be a 3, but help me, it’s a 4.

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The Substitute by Denise Grover Swank

The Substitute (The Wedding Pact #1)The Substitute by Denise Grover Swank
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I love the trope of a fake fiancĂ©, it’s my guilty, cheesy pleasure. It didn’t work so well in this story since only one party agreed to the fake engagement. I forgive a lot of far fetched plot stuff in fluffy romances, but this was pretty forced. I wasn’t in love with either of the MCs, but they were tolerable. I was hoping for more humor as well.

It was okay, but not great. 2.5 stars, rounded up for Goodreads.

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Beyond the Highland Mist by Karen Marie Moning

Beyond the Highland Mist (Highlander, #1)Beyond the Highland Mist by Karen Marie Moning
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Underwhelmed. I didn’t like the MC, Adrienne, & hated the alpha man, Hawk. I can’t believe how many times Hawk, Adrienne, & other characters (even Fairy dudes!) mentioned the size of his wang, comparing it to a horse. Eww. Hawk also wears no undies beneath his kilt and rides horses that way. Sounds uncomfortable. And unsanitary. I did enjoy side characters, plot was predictable. 2 stars.

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The Duke and I by Julia Quinn

The Duke and I (Bridgertons, #1)The Duke and I by Julia Quinn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fluffy fun, but MC makes some seriously bad decisions that are worse than Loverboy’s deceptions. I tend to tolerate more baloney in romance novels. Sexism goes along with the time period, so does the marriage market. Still, it was nice that Daphne could throw a good punch. Love cannot fix a man with a lifetime of Daddy issues. MC lost her zing after falling in love. 2.5 stars rounded up.

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