Solahutte, by Steven Donahue

A touching romance with the backdrop of Nazi Germany. Blaz Schaffer, a solider transferred to a death camp, isn’t having the easiest adjustment. Rival guards, unexpected love, and the ever-growing Third Reich throw Blaz’s convictions out of whack.

In terms of WWII, the plot felt generic in many ways. That’s not to say it was a bad plot—because it wasn’t. Blaz was a likeable character and his journey was an interesting one. The author found a nice balance in using conflict to destroy a character and help them grow. Their antagonists had a variety of emotional range—sympathetic to despicable and beyond.

The writing style didn’t exactly suit the tone of the novel. Pacing of it never really changed from beginning to end. It stayed at a kind of neutral, level emotion the whole way. During suspenseful moments, scenes of joy or heartbreak, where the style could have enhanced the scene, it made things feel sort of meh.

The novel was still well-done. The setting complimented the love story and vice-verse. I liked the characters and I liked how it was pulled off. Worth the read.

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Single in Southeast Texas, by Gretchen Johnson

Just when you thought the dating scene could get any worse, along comes a little town called Beaumont: the cringe-worthy dating tales inside are bound to make someone feel a little better about their love life.

Paige was a delightful protagonist—one that had a firm grasp of not only herself, but what was important to her. And she wasn’t afraid to let her gentlemen callers know it, either. Each chapter was a standalone tale of one man dated (with the occasional interlude) and the outcome. They are both hilarious and realistic. The writing style is well-suited to the almost tongue-in-cheek narration of Paige’s love life. There’s a variety of situations to choose from; many of which I think would look familiar to many people, both men and women alike. A knack for excellent back-and-forth dialogue as character exploration let these encounters feel much less tedious than long, winding paragraphs and exposition. A whole story is told, with lots of character development, through each chapter, as disconnected as they might have felt.

My heart goes out to anyone that’s gone on a date like those mentioned in the novel. I cringed. I laughed. I sighed. I swore. It remained lighthearted, something that suited the tone well. This was a good read. A very good read.

Harvest Moon, by Tonya Coffey

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A fantasy spin on a very familiar formula, Harvest Moon was definitely oriented for younger audiences.

The woods draw her, but she can’t figure out why. It all starts with a book that calls to her. Then wolves. From there, Jess finds out that her entire life has been a lie. Now safely sequestered away with fairies, Jess has many decisions to make—and a kingdom to run.

Harvest Moon followed almost every young adult trope to an absolute T. To name a short few: a young girl hidden away only to discover she was a princess from another land. A love triangle quite e in which she must choose between her heart and her duty (I’ll talk more about that in a minute). Unseen magical powers that she managed to harness almost immediately. And, of course, she was super powerful. Once again, a very obvious, very familiar formula. Fans of YA books like that would be delighted, I think.

Now, onto the love story.

I liked the dichotomy the author presented with “follow your heart” and “a queen must do her duty.” Sure, it led to a love triangle, but whatever. Unfortunately, the initial love story was presented in a creepy way that made me cringe and wonder just what Jess was thinking. While I think it was probably crucial to her development, the way things progressed just left me not feeling it. I think it was more of the way that she forced herself to comply, even though she clearly did not want anything to do with him romantically. Platonically, as if he were her sworn bodyguard or something, things would have felt much more natural, I think. The trope might work for some people, but it didn’t work for me.

I liked her relationship with her dad very much. Her origins were from a loving family rather than a broken one, which I feel like is another common theme in many young adult novels. Thankfully, Harvest Moon managed to deviate from that.

The writing style needed a little more help with description. I think there was quite a bit that could be improved with the narrative in general with some extra time spent on editing. Dialogue was clunky and awkward in some places and just didn’t flow the way it needed to. Things felt rushed once she crossed over into the world of fairies. I don’t think that helped my feelings on the love story.

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Grains of Truth, by Elizabeth Ferry-Perata

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4 stars

 

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As promised on the back cover, Grains of Truth nearly moved me to tears.

A novella about love, loss, hope, and ultimately the demons locked inside us, Grains manages to shed light on the negative impact depression can have, and how it affects family and friends.

The characters were certainly relatable. Writing style gave them a “real” voice. I liked their personalities, as well. They were well-suited for their small-town backdrop.

It’s hard to write a plot twist that genuinely surprises me, and this one succeeded. Not prepared for it, but happy that the author took the time to challenge just what constitutes a happy ending.

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Awakening Macbeth, by Carmen Amato


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Much like the title insists, Awakening Macbeth is the story of one woman’s journey of self-discovery. And, of course, the man she chooses to take on said journey. Throw in a few historically manned dreams where souls are literally at stake. 

When I go into romance novels, the biggest thing i analyze is the relationship itself. Is it healthy? Ups and downs, and conflict are one thing. All relationships have minor hiccups. The difference is how they’re addressed. I liked the fact that the narrative created incredibly imperfect relationships and presented healthy solutions. All of those obstacles (and then some) served to really develop Brodie’s character. The level of emotionality that went into the characters was done well. 

Characters themselves were done well. The author took a different route when creating character backstories. I liked the accuracy and the respect shown for types of characters created. I don’t want to spoil the types for other readers, but they’ll know it when it happens. 

The fact that the narrative was a paranormal romance without the romance itself being paranormal was a nice change in a genre over saturated with vampires, shape-shifters, and things like that. The paranormal actually plays a rather huge part of the plot, even though I feel like it sort of took a backseat at times. Because of that, the buildup was alright, but the climax and the mystery were too easy. I took into account that Brodie was smart and sharp, but it still felt too easy for her. 

Actually, to build on Brodie a little bit, I absolutely adored how smart she was. I loved her relationship with other women. There was no petty competition between them; only love and support. Something I wholeheartedly enjoy seeing in any sort of novel. 

Writing style supported the tone of the novel, I think. It was firm, without being overbearing. There was some lightheartedness to it, without being overly comical. I think the description worked well, and the brief historical interludes were a nice change of pace and scenery. 

Easily one of the better romance novels I’ve read. There was a lot of positivity as well as good messages interspersed throughout. While the mystery could use a bit of tweaking, the story itself was solid and consistent. It follows the general genre formula, yet still manages to not be full of stereotypes. It was really an excellent read. 

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Blessedly Bound, by Lucretia Stanhope



A witchy tale of how to not meet family. Gwen Hensley moves to Kansas to find out why her grandmother died. She ends up finding out more than she bargained for, in more than one way.
Being the first novel in a series, it sets up an awful lot for later. Things start intense, then settle down the farther into the narrative the reader gets. Because it spends so much time setting up for the future, there’s a little less time devoted to the present. The reader gets a good grasp of the characters and backstory. However, things feel a little flat. An emotional connection with the characters wasn’t present. On the surface, the reader recognizes that the situation is a tragic one. The style and tone help that. There’s a dark, somber feel to it. The characters even have a dark, somber feel to them. Only, they get overshadowed by the divergent plot lines.
Each of the characters did have their own plot line. Their stories wound up intertwined, yet distinct. I liked that. There was lots of foreshadowing that created a good level of tension. The writing style overall was well suited to the narrative. The dialogue does get clunky in some areas.. It doesn’t flow like natural conversation. It did well to prevent telling the reader too much information at once. Gwen knows only as much as the reader, which helped to develop the mystery and the character interactions.
The unique situations of the character were a huge draw. There’s not a lot I can say without giving spoilers, but the sexual tension was insane. Most of the placement was good. Some of the progression left me scratching my head. Some of it could be the lacking character depth and back story.
I liked the way the magic was set up. A lot of times it’s overpowered and used as a convenience. The magic contained in this novel didn’t feel like that. It falls back on a popular trope, but maintains a different feel than most. I will admit I’m excited to see how the build-up comes to a head.
Not a bad read overall. The narrative is set up for big things to come, and I’m kind of excited to see where it goes. While the main story for this novel gets tied up at the end, there’s so many questions left for the future ones.
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Seven Hours: Challenge Accepted, by Angelina Kerner

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4 stars

This is one of the cuter romances I’ve read.

 

Chanel, a senator’s daughter, got a bodyguard for a gift after an altercation with reporters. I think we all know where this is going. And boy, I’m a sucker for that trope.

 

It was nice to see a novel that featured someone with a disability. Seven Hours: Challenge Accepted made use of the most common trope, but strayed enough to stay interesting. There’s not a whole lot I can critique about it, not having the disability myself. I will go so far as to say I thought Chanel was a well-written character.

 

Character interactions were my second favorite part. Dialogue was clunky and awkward in some places. The meaning got through easy enough, however. Character relationships changed and morphed at a nice pace with the plot. We didn’t learn about them all at once. Instead, we put them together piece by piece as the story unfolded.

 

Best of all, I didn’t mind how the relationship progressed. It didn’t feel like it moved too fast or too slow. It felt like a healthy relationship. That goes right back to how the characters interacted with each other.

 

I wasn’t sure what to expect coming into this novel. I’m always overly-critical of romance, but this one surprised me enough that I really enjoyed it. I was only left with a few questions when everything was said and done, but I liked the way the ending played out. It really suited the narrative.

 

Buy it here!

 

Related: Deity’s Soulmate

Wife for a While, by Lorna Baldwin

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4 stars

 

I always have low expectations going into romance novels. To be honest, if you’ve read one romance novel, you’ve read them all. There’s few instances that they deviate from their given formula.
It was nice to find one that did.
Wife for a While is a book about a wedding planner planning a wedding with no bride. The groom-to-be is Benton, a millionaire (of course) that has rules to follow if he’s to remain a millionaire. Jolene is a wedding planner about to lose her business. They enter into an arranged marriage of sorts, contract and all.
While it follows lots of common tropes, it differentiated right where it needed to. It showed that opposites can attract without being petty and difficult. Jolene and Benton are very different, but they take interest each others’ hobbies. Boundaries are set and respected. Or broken, but within respectable parameters.
What I liked most about the characterization was that they were different. Without the “I’m not like other X” spiel. Jolene’s different in that she’s a girl who “refuses to accept charity,” except that she kind of does. All for believable reasons that fall within her personality. Benton does everything he can to respect Jolene as a person. And he never expects congratulations for being a decent human being.
The sex was well-written and realistic. Benton makes sure that Jolene takes precedence over his own needs. It’s not tacky, and he respects her boundaries.
Their nonsexual interactions were also well done. Together they suffer a lot of external conflicts, like mother-in-laws. The internal conflict suffered as a result was the right amount of drama. Things got heated between them sometimes. It happens. Despite that, neither person went overboard in their negative reaction to the other. For the most part, they were super-supportive of each other. A healthy couple. This is what I love to see in romance novels. There’s no spouse treating the other like dirt.
My second favorite part was the fact that the “L” word wasn’t thrown around. Oftentimes within a painfully short period, the characters are confessing love. Or throwing around “true love” as a theme, but characters can hardly stand each other. This plays a huge part in how much I liked the ending.
Writing style was pretty good. I wasn’t wowed by the first person alternating perspectives, but it held up. Character voices fit their personalities and differences were notable. Description lacked a little, but not where it counted ;).
One of the better romances out there, hands down. I liked the premise of the story, the characters, and their interactions. Marks that many fall short of.
Buy it here!

Deity’s Soulmate, by Angelina Kerner

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Deity’s Soulmate is an interesting amalgamation of Greek mythos and modern storytelling. Modern in that it takes place with current amenities, so to speak. While the deity’s can go anywhere and to any time, the story itself feels like it takes place in the year 2017. Gardenia, Apollo and Athena’s daughter, starts her journey creating her very first universe. Like all her relatives before her. She is in fierce competition with Harvest, daughter of Hera and Zeus. Both women are always trying to one up each other. As a result, it pushes Gardenia to make the most important decision of her life.

 

I can say without a doubt that I don’t like Gardenia’s character. Based on her familial background, I know the readers are supposed to sympathize with her. I can’t. The more the story progresses, the more we see that she’s the same as everyone else. Demanding, rude, self-centered, and petty. Read: everything a Greek deity’s described as. So, while her personality is canon, I don’t find her likable. Or relatable. Negative traits in a character are good things, usually. Not very many people seem to grasp that fact that they’re needed for a full personality. Unfortunately, Gardenia’s outweighs her good traits. And it feels so over the top it’s like she’s trying to show off. Trying too hard.

 

There isn’t much in the way of character development. Gardenia does everything with relative ease. Magic is what she relies on. It does everything for her. No limits in sight. This gives her an unnatural advantage during her quest. Cheapens her victories, if you will. There’s a vague idea that somewhere, somehow, she’s struggling to fulfill her task. I have yet to see it.

 

The writing style was very fast-paced. It suited the story…for the most part. There was a lot more telling than showing. Telling can be useful. This case was very overdone.

 

The pacing of the story itself felt off. Every so often Gardenia would do something, only to have years pass. Except it doesn’t feel like years have passed. It feels like Gardenia is vomiting her story out. That everything is happening one right after another. The fact that her character stays the same from beginning to end doesn’t help. Generally, with the passage of time, people change. Gardenia didn’t.

 

Deity’s Soulmate has potential. It’s hard to find Greek mythology that hasn’t been overdone, and this novel can do it. It would take some work. Still, it’s a step in the right direction.

 

Buy it here!