Corey Reviews King of Thieves by Shae Godfrey

Cassandra Marinos, world class thief, meets Finnegan Starkweather, ex-Interpol bounty hunter, in San Francisco. That’s the elevator pitch and I expected something along the lines of Finn catching Casey with her ear to the safe, Casey using charm to slip away, Finn intrigued but conflicted, pursuing her And that would have been fine. But that is not this book. Author Shae Godfrey has something else in mind, and oh I loved it.

“San Michele di Serino, Present day” are the book’s opening lines, and the plot does indeed require location and time-stamps to keep you oriented, Even then, I consciously gave myself up to not understanding everything and letting the puzzle of action, family, revenge, justice, humor, and oh-my-god chemistry between these two women wrap me up.

As each bit of backstory fell into place, I wanted to return to previous scenes armed with new knowledge; but my strong need to read what comes next pushed me onward. The mutual seduction of Casey and Finn was equal parts sexy and sweet and urgent and languid. While I did have a moment of full-stop consideration when one sexual/relationship identity was brought forth, in the end I shrugged, decided it does work for Finn and Casey, and kept diving into their story.

Yes, I plan to re-read this book. Yes, I immediately one-click purchased the author’s other two books (knowing nothing except that they are fantasy novels, not of our world). Yes, you should read King of Thieves.

You can download a sample or purchase King of Thieves by clicking here.

Corey Reviews Who’d Have Thought by G Benson

Rarely do I want to write a book review before I’ve completed the first chapter of a book, but I was 2% into Who’d Have Thought by G Benson when I started lining up my squees of delight.

First, this novel includes an actual, living, breathing, “they” pronoun-using non-binary character. Luce isn’t the central character, but they have a life beyond pronouns in the story.

It says something about the strength of the gender binary that I fought my own anxiety until Luce’s sex-assigned-at-birth was revealed; yes, I was disappointed in myself. This book is the first I’ve read in which “they” is written in firmly as a third person singular pronoun. Although I’ve adopted this pronoun myself in real life daily conversations with non-binary friends and people of unknown gender identities, I could practically feel my reading brain recalibrating itself. Success set in, happily.

Second, Hayden is matter-of-fact pansexual. When she answers a Craigslist advert for someone seeking a wife-for-hire, she shrugs away the possible gender of Sam. Spoiler alert: Sam’s a woman.

Third, marriage equality means that the Harlequin romance trope of the fake marriage leading to real love has legitimately come to lesfic. Huzzah! Thank you Supreme Court.

Yes, I did need to suspend disbelief for such a plot device, but I laughed from the start (G Benson has some sharp skills with internal and external dialogue), and also dug how much nurse Hayden loathes the cold surgeon Sam. And, in the end, I read all night and can report back that the deepening of the relationship between Hayden and Sam was full-bodied and the reveal of why Sam needed a wife worth the wait… and something not found in a hetero Harlequin romance. Extra kudos to Frank the cat. Viva la lesfic, dear readers.

p.s. G Benson, can I respectively request a short story or online epilogue from Sam’s point of view? I’d like to give her brain a hug and ruffle affectionately her feelings for Hayden.

You can purchase or download a sample by clicking here.

Corey Reviews the Books of Sophia Kell Hagin

Every year since 2013, I’ve reread the last ten chapters of Whatever Gods May Be, starting with chapter twenty-three, which begins with “The instant she strode into the yard with the rest of the Red Cross team, Jamie noticed her, and noticed that she seemed to be a study in contradictions.”

Marine Jamie Gwynmorgan, a prisoner of war in a not-too-distant future conflict in Southeast Asia, meets Senator Lynn Hillinger. There follows non-stop action and consequences as Jamie leads a prison break and firefight through the jungle. The first twenty-two chapters of this book, by the way, are excellent as we follow Jamie from recruit to training to heart-breaking actions all the way to survival… to meeting Lynn. This novel isn’t a lesfic romance. However, Jamie has an undefined relationship with Lynn that is tender and love-centered and forged in crisis. There’s a moment when they first embrace that holds so much compassion that I cry alongside Jamie. This entire novel rests in my memory, but I seek out the book’s ending annually to re-live Jamie and Lynn meeting and persevering.

Then I re-read Shadows of Something Real cover-to-cover (or as we say these days, 0% to 100% on my kindle). In this middle book of the trilogy, I am flummoxed by how many women I love in this novel. Lynn and her wife Rebecca, their daughters Robin and Dana and Dana’s partner Lily, and Rebecca’s mother Mary. They all live together at Great Hill, a compound of very strong, smart, fierce women who are waiting for Jamie to realize she is family, too.

Shadows of Something Real is about the aftermath of war on 19-year-old 1st Lieutenant Jamie, the powerful corporations who underwrote the conflicts Jamie survived physically if not emotionally, and the battle for information intelligence and privacy that seems more true-to-life every year that I reread the book. What once seemed like paranoid future fantasy now seems like today’s almost reality, as if “near future” might be next week.

This novel is a thriller, but also a romance, so much the sweeter for Jamie after all she’s survived. Adele (Lily’s sister and just as bad-ass as the rest of the family) is the emotionally open woman Jamie needs. Thankfully, all these women are humanized by their flaws. Lynn admits to her own overconfidence and sometimes manipulations, Dana is briskly single-minded as she addresses security issues, and Jamie romanticizes Adele always being right in their relationship, when Adele is just as mistake-prone as us all.

This book is chock-full of evil politicians and corporations, high-tech gadgetry and life-and-death struggles. Highly recommended, even to folks who don’t tend toward massive woman crushes like me.

Which brings us to Omnipotence Enough, which has a killer of a set-up: 15 years after the events of Shadows of Something Real, Jamie wakes up in an unknown prison, subject to solitary confinement and at the mercy of armed custodian robots who use pharma and force to control her. Jamie’s been abducted off the street, and she has no idea how long she’s been imprisoned and if Adele and her family are close to rescuing her.

The point of view also switches in this last book to first person, as Jamie records her imprisonment into an audiostick. This ramps up the uncertainty and claustrophobia. I was equally delighted to return to Jamie’s world and fearful I’d not get to meet again Adele and Lynn and their family.

I don’t want to spoil the plot, but let’s just say that the themes of political evils-doers and powerful corporations continue from the previous books. What has changed is Jamie, a more mature and self-possessed woman navigating physical and mental recovery that’s all the more courageous for her shakiness.

Jamie survived so much over her life, and I so want her to find stable happiness. I think any lover of thrillers will enjoy Omnipotence Enough, but readers of the earlier books will feel a special investment in this last journey.

Well done, Sophia Kell Hagin. I look forward to your future novels, for the adrenaline and compassion and all the future woman crushes sure to come.

You can purchase or download samples of all of the books by clicking here.

Cheri Reviews Eyes Like Those by Melissa Brayden

After a long spell of avoiding Melissa Brayden romance novels, I was so pleasantly surprised by Strawberry Summer that I took the plunge with her new one, Eyes Like Those. I was still wary, though, because it sounded an awful lot like the basic theme of the Soho Loft series, which is what pushed me over the edge in the first place.

Here’s the blurb:

When it comes to love, no one is in charge.

Isabel Chase is reeling. She’s just been offered her dream job as a staff writer on one of the hottest shows on television and quickly trades in the comfort of New England for sun, sand, and everything Hollywood. While stoked for what could be her big break, the show’s stunning executive producer has her head spinning and her feelings swirling.

Taylor Andrews is at the top of her career. Everything she touches turns to gold and the studios know it. Just when she’s on track for total television domination, Isabel Chase arrives in her office and slowly turns her world upside down. Isabel is intelligent, sarcastic, and dammit, downright beautiful. Unfortunately, she’s the one person that can take away all Taylor has worked for.

Will Isabel’s success lead to Taylor’s downfall? Or perhaps Isabel is all she needs…

The feel of the book is very much like the first book in the Soho Loft series with some exceptions. This is set in California and Isabel is a new addition to the group. The biggest exception, for me anyway, is that the group of friends don’t all speak with the same voice. What I mean by that is that they all have their own speech patterns and voice. Kiss the Girl was mostly killed for me because, without dialogue tags, I couldn’t tell who was speaking. The entire group of friends sounded exactly the same. That’s not the case here and it made me very happy.

Like Kiss the Girls, there were some very obvious clues about which pair of friends would be the subject of the next novel. And if not the next, definitely one of them. I believe I also caught foreshadowing for another member of the group in the epilogue. We’ll have to see how that shakes out.

So, what did I think of the story and protagonists? Mostly I enjoyed the book a lot. I never connected or loved Isabel but I did Taylor. Taylor felt very real to me and I saw parts of myself in her. I wanted to hug her and hoped for her to be happy. The journey of the romance was fun to be a part of and there are some very funny bits throughout the book. And there’s even a bad guy you’ll love to hate.

I think that anyone who enjoyed the Soho Loft series will love this one. It’s a pretty light read but still gets you in the heart parts.

Thanks to Bold Strokes Books and NetGalley for providing the ebook.

You can download a sample or purchase Eyes Like Those by clicking here.

CAB Reviews Vagabond Heart by Ann Roberts

Let’s start with the blurb:

Contractor Quinn O’Sullivan has traveling in her blood. Her aunt is a famous travel writer while Quinn herself moves from one apartment complex to the next as her team remodels them.

When dear Aunt Maura kicks the bucket on her beloved Route 66, she leaves a dying request for Quinn—to take her on one last adventure.

Suda Singh is the total opposite of risk-taker Quinn. As an emergency room doctor, Suda is calm, methodical, and intuitive. But most of all, Suda is safe.

When the two women are thrown together by Quinn’s latest injury, Suda offers to accompany Quinn on the adventure of a lifetime.

Can Quinn and Suda find love, three cats, and the mysterious woman named Rain, all on America’s fabled highway—Route 66? Join Ann Roberts on this adventure of a lifetime in Vagabond Heart.

I’m going to admit that I am pretty negative when it comes to the “Romance” genre. Maybe it’s because I’m old and lately they all seem to be cut from the same cloth. The author looks up Romance Formula #127 and follows it. The character names change but, otherwise, it is what it is. So you’re asking yourself why did I even attempt to read this one? It was the sentence in the blurb: “When dear Aunt Maura kicks the bucket on her beloved Route 66, she leaves a dying request for Quinn—to take her on one last adventure.” Yeah that one; it grabbed my attention so I threw caution to the wind and said I’d read it.

I am so very glad that I did.

The story starts off with a bang and kept my interest all the way through. It’s been forever since I picked up a book that I had trouble putting down. This one could easily make it into my read again pile.

Reasons why:

Both Quinn and Suda are interesting characters and their interactions didn’t feel scripted or overplayed.

The author managed to weave in several real life xenophobic /bigotry issues which just made the characters feel like they were operating in real life without detracting from the story. In fact, I’d say it enhanced the story because we need to call more attention to these things.

I’ve never been on Route 66 but based on the descriptions and the adventure it’s on my bucket list moving forward.

I’d easily give this story 4.5 out of 5 stars. I could have given it 5 but I hated the character Rain.

This book was read in exchange for an honest review.

You can download a sample or purchase Vagabond Heart by clicking here.

Corey and Sequella Review Outcaste by Fletcher DeLancey

Sequella: Hi Corey! Is Kitty going to join us for this one or is she still trying to get an appointment at the pleasure house?

Corey: I heard some mumbling from Kitty about curling up with a comfort giver and some deep purrs. I know the pleasure houses aren’t the main point of Outcaste, but maybe they are. This is the novel that fills in many questions readers of the series may pose about Alsean society, as we follow Rahel from her rebellion against the caste system as a youth (she wants to be a Warrior but her father wants her to be a Merchant) to her life as a caste-less worker on the docks (echos of exploited undocumented workers, taking work where available and defenseless against authorities), to survival sex and the dangers of living on the fringes of society.

Sequella: I always wondered what would happen to those that do not fit into a specific caste.

Corey: Me too! The first half of the novel also went deep into the families we create. I love me some Mouse. And also, librarian alert! We can all benefit from a librarian being on our side. What did you think about the pacing of the book?

Sequella: For me, the book consists of two parts. The first part is very slow and relaxed, in the second part everything is much more rushed and full of action. Personally, I liked the first part better and it could have gone on like that forever. What really fascinated me, though, was how this book fits into the Alsea universe we have read about so far. This book is both a prequel and sequel to Without a Front. I was very happy to see Tal and the Bondlancer again.

Corey: Yes, Outcaste gives you this deep backstory of a minor character in Without a Front, then skims over the action in the first three Alsean novels from Rahal’s perspective, then delivers new plot and insights with the core cast of characters. I loved getting deeper inside the Bondlancer’s mind and heart.

Sequella: When I got to the part that connects Outcaste to Without a Front, I wanted to go back and reread those since I did not remember the specific details. But of course I could not put Outcaste down and ended up with this unsatisfying feeling of missing connecting points. I can only recommend to everyone to prepare for Outcaste and reread Without a Front.

Corey: Yes, Outcaste is a book for readers of the series. If you are new to the Chronicles of Alsea, start with The Caphenon or maybe check out the novella Vellmar the Blade.

Sequella: *sigh* Vellmar!

Corey: Indeed. I want to make sure we mention another aspect of Rahel: She is “sansara,” which translates as “focused one” or not distracted by the need to join. Basically what we might term asexual, or not driven by sexual desire.

Sequella: Which also means that there is only very little romance in this book. Instead Rahel finds a lot of friends in unexpected places that help her along the way.

Corey: But her relationship with one mentor is really, really intense and, to me, satisfying, reminding me that sexual desire does not need to be the framing of a meaningful relationship. I still got all the feels. Finally, the end of this novel sets up new directions and developments for Alsean society and new books out in Protectorate space. Fletcher DeLancey, you are an unending source of new ideas. Keep writing, please please please.

Sequella: Yes! More! Now! Soon? Please?

Corey: Kitty just rolled over and purred in agreement. If she smoked, she’d be lighting up right now. Outcaste was THAT satisfying, despite my book hangover at work the next day from staying up all night reading. It’s worth it.

You can pre-order now by clicking here: http://amzn.to/2yuIy0a

Cheri Reviews Perfect Rhythm by Jae

Jae is the author of one of my very favorite lesbian romances, Backwards to Oregon, but I’ve not read several of her newer books. When the cover was revealed, I thought it was great and decided to keep it on my radar. Then when I had the opportunity to read an advanced copy, I jumped at it. One of the main characters in a lesbian romance being asexual definitely piqued my interest. Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

Pop star Leontyne Blake might sing about love, but she stopped believing in it a long time ago. What women want is her image, not the real her. When her father has a stroke, she flees the spotlight and returns to her tiny Missouri hometown.

In her childhood home, she meets small-town nurse Holly Drummond, who isn’t impressed by Leo’s fame at all. That isn’t the only thing that makes Holly different from other women. She’s also asexual. For her, dating is a minefield of expectations that she has decided to avoid.

Can the tentative friendship between a burned-out pop star and a woman not interested in sex develop into something more despite their diverse expectations?

A lesbian romance about seeking the perfect rhythm between two very different people—and finding happiness where they least expect it.

I knew the bare bones about asexuality so it was nice to get to know Holly and get a better understanding of some of the relationship hurdles she and other ace folks deal with. Besides the issues dealing specifically with asexuality, this is a pretty standard lesfic romance. Not too much angst but lots of relationship building and outside things going on that help to move our leading ladies toward finding love with each other.

Jae is a master at the slow building romance while giving the reader plenty of time to get to know the characters. The best part is that the reader isn’t beaten over the head with info dumps or flashbacks; everything happens organically and feels like we’re learning about our new best friends. There were a few times when I felt that some of the information about asexuality felt a bit too educational. But now I do feel like I understand the issues that asexual people and their non-asexual partners must go through.

One of the biggest reasons I wanted to do this review is that I know that many of my friends haven’t read Jae in a while and I think they’ll like this book. Besides, more visibility and inclusion of the B,T, and A aspects of LGBTQA spectrum are needed. I think Perfect Rhythm is a great addition.

You can download a sample or purchase Perfect Rhythm by clicking here.