Book

In a Holidaze

In a Holidaze

By: Christina Lauren

Blurb:

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but not for Maelyn Jones. She’s living with her parents, hates her going-nowhere job, and has just made a romantic error of epic proportions.

But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world—the snowy Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born, along with two other beloved families. Mentally melting down as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple plea to the universe: Please. Show me what will make me happy.

The next thing she knows, tires screech and metal collides, everything goes black. But when Mae gasps awake…she’s on an airplane bound for Utah, where she begins the same holiday all over again. With one hilarious disaster after another sending her back to the plane, Mae must figure out how to break free of the strange time loop—and finally get her true love under the mistletoe.

Jam-packed with yuletide cheer, an unforgettable cast of characters, and Christina Lauren’s trademark “downright hilarious” (Helen Hoang, author of The Bride Test) hijinks, this swoon-worthy romantic read will make you believe in the power of wishes and the magic of the holidays.

Review:

In a Holidaze is a Christmas Groundhogs day story, two things that I love, so I was particularly excited to read it. I was hoping for a bit more Groundhogs day than I got, unfortunately.

Maelyn does her best not to make waves. She wants to make sure everyone else is comfortable, sometimes at her own expense. She’s also a stickler for tradition. When everything seems to go wrong at her usual family Christmas vacation, she finds herself reliving the entire trip. It wasn’t until she decided to say f-it, I’m going to do what I want when things started to go right. I was actually a bit disappointed by that. I wanted more times through, but at the same time, I was annoyed at how obvious what she needed to do was.

Andrew, Maelyn’s love interest, seemed like a good guy. She’d had a crush on him for half of her life, but he had her firmly in the little sister category. Things, of course, changed in that department. Their intimate scenes were closer to fade to black than explicit, which was fine.

In a Holidaze was a fine book. It just needed to be punched up in a couple of plot areas. There was a large cast of characters, and they didn’t all get the time they deserved. They seemed interesting and were fleshed out, but several didn’t contribute much to the story. I was also disappointed in the handling of Andrew’s brother, Theo.

It was a cute holiday book and, with the right expectations, enjoyable.

3/5

Witchmark

Witchmark (The Kingston Cycle #1)

By: C.L. Polk

Blurb:

In an original world reminiscent of Edwardian England in the shadow of a World War, cabals of noble families use their unique magical gifts to control the fates of nations, while one young man seeks only to live a life of his own.

Magic marked Miles Singer for suffering the day he was born, doomed either to be enslaved to his family’s interest or to be committed to a witches’ asylum. He went to war to escape his destiny and came home a different man, but he couldn’t leave his past behind. The war between Aeland and Laneer leaves men changed, strangers to their friends and family, but even after faking his own death and reinventing himself as a doctor at a cash-strapped veterans’ hospital, Miles can’t hide what he truly is.

When a fatally poisoned patient exposes Miles’ healing gift and his witchmark, he must put his anonymity and freedom at risk to investigate his patient’s murder. To find the truth he’ll need to rely on the family he despises, and on the kindness of the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen.

Review:

It took me a couple of weeks to get into Witchmark. Not because there’s anything wrong with the book; I just wasn’t in a reading mood. Once I did, though I was all in, telling my kids to leave mommy alone so she can read.

Miles Singer was born with the ability to heal. The only power valued in his country is the ability to control storms. Since he doesn’t have that power and is part of one of the country’s wealthiest families, his choice is to forever bond with a storm mage so that they can basically use him as a battery. For obvious reasons, he’s not a fan of that, however if the general public find out that he’s a witch he’ll be locked away in an asylum. So he runs away as a young man.

We meet him years later after he’s served in a war and become a shadow of himself. His desire to heal is constantly warring with his desire not to be found and brought back to his family. Things change, and I’m reminded why life as a kind person who cares about others above all is filled with constant disappointment.

Anyway, Miles is pulled into a mystery that has implications across his entire country. He’s also dealing with the mystery of what’s happening to the men coming back from war. It’s a tangled web that I wasn’t able to figure out until the end. Bits and pieces were obvious, and I still don’t trust his sister, but the big reveal wasn’t what I thought it would be.

Witchmark was a great story, and I’m so glad that The Midnight Bargain wasn’t a fluke. I really like C.L. Polk, and I’m excited to read the next books in the Kingston Cycle.

4.5/5

Snapped (Playbook #4)

Snapped (Playbook #4)

By: Alexa Martin

Blurb:

With the stakes this high, it’s no longer just a game for the quarterback in this romance by the author of Blitzed.

Elliot Reed is living her best life—or pretending to. She owes it to her dad’s memory to be happy and make the most of her new job as Strategic Communications Manager for the Denver Mustangs. Things are going well until star quarterback Quinton Howard Jr. decides to use the field as his stage and becomes the first player to take a knee during the national anthem.

As the son of a former professional athlete, Quinton knows the good, the bad, and the ugly about football. He’s worked his entire life to gain recognition in the sport, and now that he has it, he’s not about to waste his chance to change the league for better. Not even the brilliant but infuriating Elliot, who the Mustangs assign to manage him, will get Quinton back in line.

A rocky initial meeting only leads to more tension between Quinton and Elliot. But as her new job forces them to spend time together, she realizes they may have more in common than she could’ve ever imagined. With her job and his integrity on the line, this is one coin toss that nobody can win.

Review:

I seriously thought I’d already written and posted this review. The holiday season has me all messed up.

Snapped was the book I most expected from a series based on football players, but also the one I feared the most. There is so much going on in the real world, and it could have so easily been done poorly. I think that Martin did the best job a romance book could accomplish. I was impressed.

Elliot has suffered a significant loss with the death of her only parent. She struggles to cope with that almost a year later and has buried herself in her job. She is biracial and has felt torn in two her entire life. One of her defenses is ignoring certain things.

Quinton is living his own nightmare but refuses to back down. He’s got a platform, and he’s going to use it to the best of his ability. He’s a pretty great hero. He’s not pushy, he knows his own mind, and he doesn’t want Elliot to change. He just needs her to stop ignoring certain things.

They worked well together. Their romance was subtle at first, considering Elliot didn’t think he liked her. Once it got going, it was full-on because, at that point, they’d become friends. I like friends to lovers, so I enjoyed that a lot.

I’m not sure if there’s going to be a book after this one. There isn’t any unmarried person in the book that stood out as a possibility for another story. However, one couple is experiencing issues that I would love to see a story about. A short story, at least. If that doesn’t happen, Snapped was an excellent book to go out on.

4/5

Love is a Rogue (Wallflowers vs. Rogues #1)

Love is a Rogue (Wallflowers vs. Rogues #1)

By: Lenora Bell

Blurb:

They call her Beastly Beatrice.

Wallflower Lady Beatrice Bentley longs to remain in the wilds of Cornwall to complete her etymological dictionary. Too bad her brother’s Gothic mansion is under renovation. How can she work with an annoyingly arrogant and too-handsome rogue swinging a hammer nearby?

Rogue. Scoundrel. Call him anything you like as long as you pay him.

Navy man Stamford Wright is leaving England soon, and renovating Thornhill House is just a job. It’s not about the duke’s bookish sister or her fiery copper hair. Or the etymology lessons the prim-yet-alluring lady insists on giving him. Or the forbidden things he’d love to teach her.

They say never mix business with pleasure. But when Beatrice and Ford aren’t arguing, they’re kissing.

Sometimes, temptation proves too strong to resist…even if the cost is a heart.

Review:

For some reason, I was hesitant to read Love is a Rogue once I’d checked it out from the library. It’s got a premise I like. I think my concern was that Beatrice would end up being too passive. I don’t need my heroines to be strong and stubborn, but I don’t like them to be doormats. I don’t like it when an alpha hero comes in and steamrolls over her. Thankfully, none of that happened, and once I got into the story, I had fun.

Beatrice doesn’t want to get married. She wants to live in the country and work on her dictionary. Sadly, a perfect manly specimen is remodeling her brother’s house and makes it impossible for her. This whole part of the story is over pretty fast, and they’ve quickly moved to London, where the fun begins.

Wright is a Navy carpenter that has no desire to spend his life taking orders from the gentry. His father has worked as a duke’s carpenter (cause apparently that’s a thing), and Wright has no desire to do that. Unfortunately for him, the woman of his dreams keeps watching him build, and he can’t stop himself from trying to impress her.

Their relationship is cute with lots of verbal foreplay. It was fun to read them together. The weakest part of Love is a Rogue, for me, was the ending. I thought that her mother needed a really good telling off, and so did his grandfather. Instead, they went the route of forgiving everyone for being superficial, arrogant, disgusting assholes. I’m not forgiving. Of either of them, though the grandfather is a bigger ass.

The way the book referenced other characters, I think there’s probably another series that this is a spin-off of, but it didn’t impact my ability to understand the story. I don’t usually read regency romances where there isn’t a form of nobility involved, so that was nice. All of that being said, I still have this feeling like I don’t want to continue with the series. Ultimately, it will depend on the story that follows, and if I enjoy any other novels by Bell.

3/5

The Midnight Bargain

The Midnight Bargain

By: C.J. Polk

Blurb:

Beatrice Clayborn is a sorceress who practices magic in secret, terrified of the day she will be locked into a marital collar that will cut off her powers to protect her unborn children. She dreams of becoming a full-fledged Magus and pursuing magic as her calling as men do, but her family has staked everything to equip her for Bargaining Season, when young men and women of means descend upon the city to negotiate the best marriages. The Clayborns are in severe debt, and only she can save them, by securing an advantageous match before their creditors come calling.

In a stroke of luck, Beatrice finds a grimoire that contains the key to becoming a Magus, but before she can purchase it, a rival sorceress swindles the book right out of her hands. Beatrice summons a spirit to help her get it back, but her new ally exacts a price: Beatrice’s first kiss . . . with her adversary’s brother, the handsome, compassionate, and fabulously wealthy Ianthe Lavan.

The more Beatrice is entangled with the Lavan siblings, the harder her decision becomes: If she casts the spell to become a Magus, she will devastate her family and lose the only man to ever see her for who she is; but if she marries—even for love—she will sacrifice her magic, her identity, and her dreams. But how can she choose just one, knowing she will forever regret the path not taken?

Review:

I’ve never read anything by Polk before, but I’m going to start. I don’t remember what list I got this book off of or what made me pick it up. I’m so glad I did, though.

The Midnight Bargain has a magic system that involves summoning spirits and carrying them within the sorcerer or sorceress. You have to maintain control over them because they can be like children. The way you progress up their hierarchy involves calling more powerful spirits until you pass a final test. Because spirits are residing within you, women are barred from carrying one during their fertile years because the spirit would take over the unborn child.

Beatrice is a strong sorceress, but her only value is to make an alliance with another family through marriage because of her social station. Her father married up the social ladder and has a complex because of it. Unknown to him, Beatrice has sought magical knowledge using hidden means meant for oppressed women to find. She plans to take the final test so that she can be an asset to him that way. It means that she can never be married, and she’s okay with that decision until she meets Ianthe.

The allegory to birth control in the real world was obvious. Women had to wear collars that suppressed their magic as soon as they were married, and their husbands had complete control over those collars. The ending was exactly what plays out in the real world. It’s frustrating but realistic, and I’m glad Polk went that way. I was on edge through the last half of the book, wondering if Beatrice would find a way to have her cake and eat it too. It was very well done.

Beatrice and Ianthe were great characters. It was easy to see why she would fall in love with him, but he wasn’t so perfect that it was eye-roll worthy. He had a hard time grasping what her issues were, but he tried, which set him apart from others.

I was less of a fan of the two’s sisters. Harriet acted younger than her fifteen years, and Ysbeta was selfish. They weren’t truly horrible, so I didn’t hate them, but they both needed a good slap.

The more I think about this book, the more I love it. It’s not listed as the first in a series, and I’m okay with that. It has a very satisfying ending and, while the world was interesting, I don’t need to read more. However, I will look into the rest of Polk’s catalog, and I hope I enjoy her other books as much as I did this one.

5/5