~**MY TOP READS OF 2020**~

A Happy New Year wish!

It has certainly been a challenging year for us all across the globe and I do not think I just speak for myself when I say that the I am eternally grateful to the authors who create the wonderful stories and worlds I can escape into. In this post I thought I would highlight my favourite book of the year and then list what I consider my other top reads (in no particular order). As I read a number of different genres I have found it impossible to create a shorter list! 🙂

~**My Top Read of 2020**~

Steel Rose (The Cardinal Winds #1), by Kathryn Ann Kingsley

Must read enemies-to-lovers Steampunk Romance

Enemies-to- lovers romances are my favourite bookish trope and the fact that the story takes place in a dystopian steampunk world just added to my enjoyment of this quirky and hot read which contains moments of humour and some darker themes. I loved the author’s world building – Viktor, aka the East Wind, presides over a communist style society where each gives according to their abilities, for the good of all, contrasting with the society inhabited by Rose and her fellow rebels.

The romance is a slow burn, but when it does ignite it does so in stellar fashion and continues to deliver in terms of hotness! I absolutely adored Viktor the anti-hero/villain – at first he comes over as an unlikeable, albeit fascinating figure – cold, manipulative and controlling, but slowly we learn, as Rose does, that there is a lot more to him…  Rose’s character is a delightful contrast to Viktor – freedom loving and chaotic, wearing her heart very much on her sleeve. Viktor is determined to solve the mystery of this captive rebel pilot. #enemiestolovers #scifi #steampunk #dystopian #villainromance My Review

The Flame and the Blade, by Meredith Hart 

Superb Start to Fantasy Series

I literally inhaled this fantasy debut from author Meredith Wild – I was riveted from beginning to end. It contains adventure, romance, a quest (what fantasy novel would be complete without one?), magic and monsters . Once more the world building is just sublime.

Not only that but the main couple rock!  – Lyria is a woman who knows how to look after herself and wield a sword, and Vethe has  abilities far and above your average spoiled aristocrat, which Lyria initially thinks he is. Although the couple are just made for each other it is not immediately obvious to them. Indeed, their romance is a slow burn and so much the better for it. There are plenty of scenes of danger and suspense which afford the couple numerous opportunites  to get to know each other better and also some humorous moments – the repartee between the couple and their inner dialogues are  superb. #Fantasy #Adventure #Romance My Review

A Wanton Indiscretion (Wild, Wicked and Wanton Book #5), by Natasha Blackthorne

Moving, sensual & erotic – beautifully done

A Wanton Indiscretion, by Natasha Blackthorne, is a thoroughly emotional, sensual and erotic read. It is the 5th instalment in the author’s Wild, Wicked and Wanton series, but can be read as a standalone.

I  adored that Isaac and Abigail are such opposites when it comes to their characters: Isaac is a handsome philanderer, notorious for his affairs and reviled by many in society despite his wealth. Abigail is a respectable governess who has eschewed marriage and her own children, to instead support her brothers through her job as a governess, their own parents long gone. The scene where Isaac and Abigail first met is pure perfection. I enjoyed reading how single minded Isaac was in his pursuit of Abigail as he slowly breaks down her defences. Will he win this game of seduction and if he does what next for them both? Society’s expectations weigh heavily on them and I was eager for them to find a satisfactory resolution. Abigail is unlike any other woman Isaac has met and his obsession grows to an extent that he must have her, whatever the repercussions… #HistoricalRomance #EroticRomance #AmericanHistoricalRomance My Review

Salvation: Paranormal Angel Romance (Realm of Flame and Shadow, book 3), Christina Phillips

Captivating Enemies to Lovers Romance

I make no secret that the enemies to lovers trope is one of my favourites when it comes to romance and Christina Phillips delivers in spades with Salvation, book 3 in the Realm of Flame and Shadow series. This super read has a plot containing secrets, danger and deception and a hero and heroine who kept me entertained throughout with their lively  banter and sizzling lovemaking scenes. Although the book includes characters who feature in the earlier books (whom I loved meeting again), it works perfectly well as a standalone, Nate and Isabella’s relationship being at its core. #ParanormalRomance #Angels #Demons #SciFi My Review

Bright Lies, by AA Abbott

Gritty and realistic 

Well done AA Abbott for penning this thoroughly engaging read. It is both gritty and realistic, not only in how it portrays the sensitive issues of abuse, but also the difficulties faced by those who are compelled through one reason or another to live on the streets.

Emily’s relationship with her step-father David is toxic almost from the off, and finally his inappropriate actions cause her to flee from her wealthy home, finding herself on the streets in the heart of Birmingham. It is here  she meets Jack, who has his own difficult past to cope with. #pstchologicalthriller My Review

Moth (Dragon Triad Duet #1), Lana Sky

Twisty and Suspenseful Perfection 

Lana Sky has penned yet another addictive read in Moth, the first of her Dragon Triad duet. This Romantic Suspense has a deliciously dark and sexy as f*** anti-hero in the form of Rafe, a Triad enforcer and broken bookish Hannah, the heroine, who hides from the world. When their paths cross, something starts to give in both of them, their lives becoming ever more entwined despite their differences: Rafe seeks to torment Hannah and Hannah finds herself drawn to him despite the danger he represents. I found the title of the book perfect, conjuring up the image of the proverbial moth circling the flame, knowing that it may get hurt but powerless to resist the attraction. #RomanticSuspense #New Adult #Interracial My Review

Search and Rescue, A Contemporary Reverse Harem Romance (The Dreadnoughts #1), by Lucy Felthouse

Fabulous start to series 

This action packed Reverse Harem by Lucy Felthouse is a fab start to her new series The Dreadnoughts. It contains Kim, a confident and feisty heroine, four gorgeous ex Special Ops –Jason, Aiden, Taylor and Joshua and an astonishing discovery that took me, the reader, completely by surprise!

The read kicks off when the four guys embark on a retrieval mission to a remote Scottish island. They soon encounter a lot more than they bargained for after being engulfed by a very special energy, and find it difficult to walk away from their mission once it is accomplished. Kim is a woman who is not used to relying on others and I loved how she slowly grows to trust her rescuers as the plot unravels. #reverseharem #adventure #romance #superpowers My Review

A Governess should never…. Tempt a Prizefighter (The Governess Chronicles #1), by Emily Windsor

A beautifully crafted and uplifting romance 

I  loved this uplifting Regency Romance, the first book in Emily Windsor’s new series, The Governess Chronicles. It’s warm, witty and sensual and the hero and heroine, are just so perfect for each other, despite initially appearing to have so very little in common.

The ex-prizefighter Seth, a single parent, is finding it extraordinarily difficult to find a suitable governess for his daughter. In steps Matilda, a member of the ton who is masquerading as a governess to escape the nefarious plans of her guardian. Despite appearing to be his opposite in every way and having no experience for the post, he employs her nonetheless. I was smitten with him from this moment on! #Sensual #Regency #Romance My Review

Sin of Silence (Sinner’s Empire #1), Nikita Slater

Amazing mafia romance 

Sin of Silence, the new Romantic Suspense from Nikita Slater  is a super start to a new series. I was hooked on the premise of the book as soon as I had read the blurb and glued to my Kindle throughout. Mafia romances are amongst my favourite reads and this is a powerful read, containing a strong, principled heroine and a brute of an anti-hero.

After her abduction by mafia enforcer Josef, the heroine Shaun is catapulted into a world of wealth and excess funded by organised crime. The author does an excellent job of describing the brutality of the kidnap and how Shaun and Josef respond to the evolving attraction between them.  There is plenty of tension between Shaun and Josef, as well as other members of the Koba family and the lovemaking scenes between the main couple sizzle. #MafiaRomance #EnemiestoLovers #RomanticSuspense My Review

Dream Reaper, Alistair Cross

A battle between good and evil in another modern Gothic masterpiece 

Alistair Cross once again excels himself with another of his modern Gothic masterpieces, this time set in the seemingly sleepy town of Prominence in California. I am a real sucker for books pitting angels against demons, as I just love tales of good versus evil. I therefore jumped at the chance to review the author’s latest novel Dream Reaper, which blurs the lines between paranormal romance, urban fantasy and horror and is an absolute delight for fans of these genres. 

When a handsome and mysterious stranger saves Madison O’Riley from a fatal fall, little does she realise that her life and that of the inhabitants of the town of Prominence will soon descend into the depths of the Twilight Zone. It is not long before Madison and others start to realise that the amnesiac who calls himself Alejandro, has powers which defy comprehension…  Horror, Fantasy, Thriller, Romance My Review

Verik’s Price, Alpha Barbarians #3, Leann Ryans

Sinfully hot but sweet Omegaverse romance 

Verik’s Price is a sinfully hot but sweet contribution to the author’s Alpha Barbarians series which is set in an Omegaverse world. It is essentially a captor-captive romance featuring Verik, a passionate and powerful Alpha and Iris, a strong-minded Omega who has been torn from her village and gifted to him.

I was entertained by the interplay between the two – sparks fly and although Verik, as Alpha and leader of the Andtay clan has all the power, I respected that although Iris he gives Iris no option but to submit, he chooses not to totally go overboard on how he goes about taming her. That is not to say he is not dominant – indeed there is no absence of extremely intimate moments, but Verik is tortuously devious when it comes to seducing Iris to admit she desires him too – after all he wants her willing. #fantasy #omegaverse #erotic #romance My Review

Summer Warrior The Clan Donald Saga, Book 1, Regan Walker

A Spellbinding Tale 

In Summer Warrior, the first book in the Clan Donald Saga, Walker weaves a spellbinding tale of heroism and adventure coupled with a touching love story.

The backdrop to the tale, encompassing Scottish, Irish, Norse and English history, is an expansive one, worthy of the title saga. For me the writing conjured up vivid images of royal courts, battles and the ever present windswept coast and sea that surrounds the isles.

As with the author’s previous works, the novel is meticulously researched, breathing life into characters and events from history. In this instance it is the little known Somerled, the Summer Warrior of the title, who, through his valiant actions, comes to be crowned Lord of the Isles, a Kingdom independent of his Scottish allies and from the Norse he vanquishes. #HistoricalFiction #Histfic #ScottishFiction #NorseFiction My Review

Omega Awakening, The Controllers #0.5, by L V Lane

Loved this read so much!

 A prequel to the author’s Controllers series, it is a twist on the Cinderella trope but set in a dystopian Omegaverse, where the anti-hero Woodrow bears little resemblance to a Disney Prince! This alpha male is one who is utterly single-handed in his pursuit of the heroine Verity – he will make her his whatever it takes and he does not play fair. Having served his time in the military, he is now a Special Ops Director, who wants an Omega of his own and Verity becomes his obsession. #Omegaverse #Dystopian #Fantasy #Romance My Review

Not Just My Heart, Em Taylor

Sexy and heartfelt romance

This second chance romance is a heartfelt read with oodles of heat. It Is a story about finding yourself and your soulmate but also a tale of the importance of friends and family. Lacey and Rory have a lot of baggage to sort out and I enjoyed how they resolved their personal challenges and those they had as a couple, before they could contemplate their HEA.

The read, which is set in Scotland, contains some extremely sexy adult themes plus  emotional and sometimes humorous scenes and dialogue. The couple’s physical chemistry is assured but Rory soon realises just how hard he broke Lacey’s heart with his abrupt departure from her life six year’s previously. He knows he will have an uphill struggle to win over the girl he so carelessly discarded but what he doesn’t initially realise is that his actions had ramifications which went far beyond Lacey… Can he put things right and can he win the girl?#contemporary #secondchanceromance My Review

 

*NEW RELEASE & REVIEW* ~ A Governess Should Never…Tempt a Prizefighter (The Governess Chronicles #1), by Emily Windsor

#Sensual #Regency #Romance

The lady and the prizefighter. With scandalous kisses in midnight carriages, tavern visits and dressing as a nefarious footpad, the vocation of governess has never been so exciting… 

Release Date: Monday 9th November 2020

Tropes: A lady governess. A rugged prizefighter. Classes collide.

Tone: Romantic. Humorous. Warm. Poignant.

Blurb

“So tell me, Miss Griffin, why should I employ you as governess?”

A question to rouse fear within the breast of any prospective governess but for Matilda, a lady without references, appropriate brown clothing or any experience with children whatsoever, doubly so.

Yet alone in the world except for a brutish guardian and a malodorous betrothed, Matilda must seek her own future, even if that means employment in the household of a rugged ex-prizefighter with sizeable muscles and doubtless minuscule intellect.

 “Please continue to enlighten me, Miss Griffin.”

Mr Seth Hawkins, owner of famed Boxing Academy, has reached the point of desperation in his search for a governess.

Yet with no other suitable candidates, could this yellow-clad, bespectacled female who seemed to think him a witless dolt with calloused knuckles and no books, teach his daughter the ways of a lady?

 The Lady and the Prizefighter.

One should never judge a man by his well-defined muscles or a lady by her yellow-silk slippers, for beneath both façades lay yearning hearts, shared dreams and a taste for adventure.

With scandalous kisses in midnight carriages, tavern excursions, whifflers, nobblers and dressing as a nefarious footpad on the prowl, the vocation of governess has never been so exciting…

A fun, heart-warming Regency romance, this is the first book in a companion series to the Games of Gentlemen.

This tale contains sensual scenes.

Buy Links

US: Available on pre-order

UK: Available on pre-order

My Review

A beautifully crafted and uplifting romance ~ 5 stars

I  loved this uplifting Regency Romance, the first book in Emily Windsor’s new series, The Governess Chronicles. It’s warm, witty and sensual and the hero and heroine, are just so perfect for each other, despite initially appearing to have so very little in common.

The ex-prizefighter Seth, a single parent, is finding it extraordinarily difficult to find a suitable governess for his daughter. In steps Matilda, a member of the ton who is masquerading as a governess to escape the nefarious plans of her guardian. Despite appearing to be his opposite in every way and having no experience for the post, he employs her nonetheless. I was smitten with him from this moment on!

Seth has no airs and graces and welcomes Matilda into his small and unconventional household and she soon develops a sense of belonging which has eluded her for so long. As she gets to know her employer she discovers that there is far more to him that she initially thought and she develops a strong sense of admiration for and attraction to him. I particularly enjoyed the dialogue between the couple, which is full of wit, humour and increasing sexual tension as the romance heats up. Seth is a man who will do anything to protect those he cares for and he is beginning to care for Matilda…

As for Matilda, I really felt for her and enjoyed how Seth encouraged her to come out of her shell, have fun and experience life to the full. Both characters are changed for the better by being together, yet can they have a future together when they are from different classes and what of Matilda’s evil guardian who is still hell-bent on marrying her off to another?

There are some highly amusing scenes throughout the book, as the couple go on a series of riotous adventures in London, and I was hugely entertained throughout. The banter between the characters, replete with boxing slang, also added a lot of colour to the read.

This standalone romance is a fabulous start to this series and I recommend it to romance lovers who are looking for a warm, romantic and humorous read.

Reviewed by Tina Williams

Please note that a copy of this book was given to me by the author and I am voluntarily leaving a fair and honest review.

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*NEW RELEASE* ~ THE BOSS UPSTAIRS, BY ROYA CARMEN (INCLUDES EXCERPT & REVIEW)

Title: The Boss Upstairs

Series: Orchard Heights

Author: Roya Carmen

Genre: Steamy Contemporary Romance

Release Date: October 27, 2020

Cover Design: Calico Images

Goodreads

Blurb

For fans of The Ground Rules trilogy, Weston is back, and naughtier than ever, in this sweet and steamy boss secretary romance.

Gretchen Morris is barely thirty, yet she’s already a widow. Ethan, her two-year old boy, is the light of her life. This is it for her. She will never love anyone like she loved her late husband, Donovan. Every hour, he’s in her thoughts, in her heart, not letting go. She’s completely shattered because he’s gone, and every single day, she must live with the knowledge that she’s the one to blame.

She’s nothing but a hollow shell, going through her life on auto pilot, trying to be strong for Ethan, but failing miserably. She’s looking to become self-sufficient again, to head back into the job market and start a new chapter.

Surprisingly, all it takes is one jolt to bring her back to life; an opportunity to work with the reclusive wealthy man in the penthouse upstairs.

Weston Hanson is odd, beautiful, sweet, playful, and unlike anyone she’s ever met before. And he’s as broken as she is. He’s lived a man’s worst nightmare, gone through a divorce, and let go of a woman he loved dearly. He’s still obsessed with this woman and cannot move past the regrets in his life.

Can two people fall in love if their souls are full of broken memories, and their hearts are still held captive by others?

Buy Links (Kindle Unlimited):

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Excerpt:

He rakes a hand through his hair. “Please don’t interrupt me,” he says softly, and I shut the hell up.

“Let me explain this to you thoroughly, and then you can voice in. You can speak when I give you the go-ahead.”

Wow. Is he for real? “Okay, Sir.”

A hint of a smile traces his lips. He clicks his pen again. He’s still not looking at me. I really wish he would. “There clearly is a mutual attraction between us. That much can’t be denied,” he says and finally lifts his gaze to mine, and a frenzy of butterflies flood my insides.

He rubs the back of his neck. “I… I’ve always thought you were attractive, and when Rosetta insisted on you, I was a little hesitant but then I rationalized that you and I wouldn’t really be working together and would have minimal contact. Yet, I won’t deny that I looked forward to seeing you in my office for the next six months, if only to look.”

His words are arousing me, despite the fact that he’s being very matter-of-fact about it all. Everything about him is alluring; his soft spoken words, his long fingers toying with that silver pen, the curves of his shoulders in his dress shirt, and most of all, his intoxicating eyes.

“But… then circumstances changed, and we found ourselves drawn together. I knew it was wrong to ask you to join me for lunch, but I couldn’t help myself. I wanted to be near you.”

I remain silent. Not only because he’s ordered me to, but also because I am at a complete loss for words.

“Yes, you and I can take the next step, but given the social climate these days, and the Me Too movement in the workplace, which I fully support, one can never be too careful.”

I nod obediently.

He finally puts down his pen, and flattens his hands on his desk, on either side of a conspicuous red folder. “I need your full written consent before we can proceed.”

What?

“I really don’t think that is necessary—”

“I didn’t give you the go-ahead to speak yet.” He shifts uncomfortably in his seat. “I’m not done.”

I sit back, not believing the way he’s behaving, what he’s suggesting. I watch him intently as he flips open the red folder. I glance quickly at the heading on the sheet. It’s upside down, but I can still make it out. It reads: WORK PLAY AGREEMENT

I stifle a smile. He can’t be serious.

“I’ve pondered this incessantly and worked on this agreement all weekend,” he tells me, and I can’t believe what I’m hearing.

I notice the staple in the corner. It’s not just a simple one-page affair, it’s multiple pages.

Damn.

While I was getting my nails done with my friends, he was busy whipping this plan up. While I played with Ethan at the park, he was working on this. While I binge watched old episodes of Sex and the City, he was typing this report up. This is so hot.

He hands me a copy of the arrangement, all business. My fingers are trembling when I take it from him, still speechless. My heart is threatening to burst out of my chest.

He reaches for an extra pen and hands it to me. He then picks up his pen again, and stares down at his copy of the agreement. “I thought we could go through it together, and then you could give me your thoughts. I look forward to hearing them.”

“Do I…” I hesitate to talk. “Do I have the go-ahead to speak now?” I ask, half-submissive, half-snarky.

He smiles. “Yes… I’m sorry. I just wanted you to hear me out.”

“Okay… well, let’s look at this, shall we?”

My Review:

Steamy and heart warming ~ 5 stars

Gretchen finds that there is a lot more to her new boss than she ever imagined in this delightful boss/secretary romance… Indeed, I found The Boss Upstairs to be a wonderfully uplifting read with plenty of steam and captivating characters. Gretchen and Weston’s romance is sweet but it is also oozes sexual tension and plenty of hot scenes.

Both characters are mourning what they have lost and I liked how the author doesn’t shy away from exploring these issues in the book and how the characters confront their past full on, although this was difficult at times. I hugely enjoyed how the relationship between the couple develops and was as blindsided as Gretchen when Weston makes his move – his methods are so very naughty and there are some very funny moments! I loved that Gretchen is more than a match for him and I loved the games that ensue between them – it is such a sexy read.

Gretchen is a character I immediately warmed to – quirky, talented and devoted to her young son. I enjoyed how her new job and Weston give her a new lease of life. Weston likes control and Gretchen is only too pleased to play along. However, what happens when Weston tires of their games? Can Weston or Gretchen move on from their troubled past and forge a future together? I was invested in their relationship as they were just so right for each other.

The book is part of the Orchard Heights series, (a series that after reading this I am intrigued to read), but worked perfectly well as a standalone.

Recommended to readers of contemporary romance who like steamy reads with well rounded characters.

Reviewed by Tina Williams

Please note that I was given an ARC of this book by the author and I am voluntarily leaving a review.

Also Available:

The Girl He Loves

The Man Next Door

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Author Bio:

Roya Carmen is a busy mom, romance writer, designer, bookworm, chocoholic, and hopeless romantic. There’s nothing she enjoys more than making up stories about love, and sharing them with her readers.

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