*Princess and the Player by Isla Madden-Mills

*Princess and the Player by Isla Madden-Mills
Publisher: Montlake
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

Levelheaded Francesca Lane never thought she’d miss her own wedding. But when her fiancé betrays her, she puts on her wedding dress and ditches the altar for a masquerade ball—at an exclusive lifestyle club.

There, she meets unknown-to-her NFL star Tuck Avery, dressed as a prince and hiding behind a mask—he’s there to celebrate his birthday. For one night, Francesca and Tuck indulge in a wickedly incognito affair. No names. No strings. And the masks don’t come off.

Unfortunately, Francesca realizes quickly that her masked prince is the wealthy jock who lives in the penthouse of her apartment building. His hobbies include parties and supermodels—or so the tabloids say. Getting tangled up with a shallow jerk is the last thing Francesca needs right now, so she vows to keep Tuck from recognizing her (not that she’s his type anyway).

But fate has a teeny-tiny trick up her sleeve…a plus sign on a pregnancy test. Can this tormented prince accept love, or will he push his princess away forever?

I loved reading Tuck and Francesca’s story. When they meet there is an immediate connection, and they have one incredible night together. After that night, neither one of them has any expectations of ever meeting again, but fate has other ideas.

I found Tuck easy to like. He Is successful in football, but unfortunately, his personal life is a mess. At thirty-five he is the oldest wide receiver in football, and he is not sure what he will do when his football career is over. Tuck’s life seems to be going downhill and he isn’t sure what to do about it. When Tuck meets Francesca again, he wants to spend time with her, but he has a hard time convincing her it’s a good idea.

I easily connected with Tuck and Francesca, and I was rooting for them because they both deserve some good in their lives. I felt sorry for them because neither of them has had an easy life, they are both flawed and have baggage from their pasts.

This is a wonderfully written story and it left me with a good feeling. Tuck and Francesca are perfect for each other.

They are interesting, easy to connect with and I enjoyed all of their encounters. I also enjoyed the odd assortment of friends in this story. They add a lot of laughter and entertainment. I highly recommend the Princess and the Player.

*Reckless by Aurora Rose Reynolds

*Reckless by Aurora Rose Reynolds
Publisher: Montlake
Genre: Contemporary, Mainstream Fiction, Romance
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

Jade has always been the reckless type. But after her relationship implodes and her business goes under, she realizes it might be time to change her ways. She decides on a fresh start in a new place: Montana.

But shortly after her arrival in Big Sky Country, she meets headstrong wilderness retreat owner Maverick, whose name, fittingly, means “dissenter.” Jade tries to convince herself he’s not the type of man she needs in her life. The problem is, she wants him in her life. She wants him more than anything.

For Maverick, his attraction to this out-of-towner is undeniable. But he’s sworn off relationships—until he gets to know the fiery-haired, fiery-tempered Jade. He can’t help but wonder if it’s worth opening himself up to her. It’s a gamble, sure. But is it reckless?

Or is love a high-stakes game of risk and reward that just might pay off in the end?

I loved every minute of this intoxicating story. I found myself immediately connected to the two main characters, Maverick and Jade and immersed in their story.

Jade is anything but reckless and after some things happen that are beyond her control, she is afraid to take chances with her heart again. Jade has just moved from Oregon to a small town in Montana to be closer to her best friend and that is where she meets Maverick.

I loved everything about Maverick. Even though he is an alpha male, he is also warm, sensitive and caring. Maverick is reserved and careful with his heart, but he just can’t seem to resist Jade.

Maverick and Jade have a passionate relationship and I enjoyed all of their encounters. They have an immediate connection, and I could feel all the sparks flying whenever they are together, even though they try to resist each other until they just can’t. Maverick and Jade try their best to keep their relationship a secret but that just doesn’t work and it’s entertaining as they try. I loved how Jade grows more trusting and comes out of her shell with Maverick. She has been hurt and moving to Montana is the best decision she has ever made.

This is the third book in The Adventures in Love series and each story is a stand alone, but all the characters are interconnected. I also enjoyed all the entertaining secondary characters in this story. They are a fun loving, large group of friends. They gossip and get into each other’s business, but always have each other’s backs. This is another wonderful story by Aurora Rose Reynolds.

Something Fabulous by Alexis Hall

Something Fabulous by Alexis Hall
Publisher: Montlake
Genre: Historical, LGBTQ, Erotic Romance
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Valentine Layton, the Duke of Malvern, has twin problems: literally.

It was always his father’s hope that Valentine would marry Miss Arabella Tarleton. But, unfortunately, too many novels at an impressionable age have caused her to grow up…romantic. So romantic that a marriage of convenience will not do and after Valentine’s proposal she flees into the night determined never to set eyes on him again.

Arabella’s twin brother, Mr. Bonaventure “Bonny” Tarleton, has also grown up…romantic. And fully expects Valentine to ride out after Arabella and prove to her that he’s not the cold-hearted cad he seems to be.

Despite copious misgivings, Valentine finds himself on a pell-mell chase to Dover with Bonny by his side. Bonny is unreasonable, overdramatic, annoying, and…beautiful? And being with him makes Valentine question everything he thought he knew. About himself. About love. Even about which Tarleton he should be pursuing.

There’s a twist and a romance, but you’ll never guess how it all works out.

I’ve never read Alexis Hall, but this was highly recommended, so I picked it up. I’m glad I did as there aren’t many historical/regency era MM reads, so it was different. The characters had their good points and I loved Bonny. He’s a trip.

The thing is, the writing, while trying to stay true to the era, came out a bit flowery at times. I knew this would have an erotic edge to it and that was fine but the dancing around saying what they’d do was a little cumbersome. The side characters were a bit over the top and that made the story hard to follow, too. There was just a lot going on. Maybe it didn’t resonate as much as it could’ve with me, but it just might be fantastic for other readers. Might have been for me if I’d have read it on a different day. It’s not a bad book, it just didn’t hit the right notes for me at the time.

Still, if you’re looking for something different and with amusing moments, this might be the book for you. Give it a shot.

* Risky by Aurora Rose Reynolds

* Risky by Aurora Rose Reynolds
Publisher: Montlake Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

Everly never expected to move back in with her parents, and she definitely didn’t expect to do so as a single mother. But with the father of her son suddenly out of the picture, she’s had to make some adjustments to her plans.

Now Everly has one priority: to make a life for herself and her boy. And Blake, her sometimes infuriating but admittedly handsome employer at Live Life Adventures, doesn’t factor into her future as anything more than her boss.

But it seems the guy who’s about as friendly as a grizzly bear has a soft spot for her and her son…and the more time she spends with him, the more difficult it is to remember why giving in to the chemistry between them is a bad idea.

Now, with their future on the line, they’ll have to decide if love is a risk worth taking.

Risky is a heartwarming, small town story with wonderful characters. Aurora Rose Reynolds has a way of writing that makes me feel like I am right there with the two main characters, Blake and Everly. I thought Blake and Everly made a great couple and I found it easy to like and connect with both of them.

I loved everything about Blake. He is a protective alpha male and an all-around good guy. He is the strong silent type and hard to read but he finds it easy to open up to Everly. In fact, Everly is the best thing that has ever happened to Blake. She brings happiness and laughter into his life. Blake isn’t turned off because Everly is a single mom and he is great with her son, Samson.

Everly and Blake are perfect together. Everly can’t believe how lucky she is to have found Blake. Being a single mother isn’t easy for Everly but she works hard at whatever she decides to tackle.

There are a few issues Blake and Everly have to deal with but overall this is a light, and easy read. What I love best about Aurora Rose Reynolds stories are her heroes. They are protective alphas with big hearts and once they fall in love, they are all in. This is a captivating story and I never wanted it to end.

* Beauty and the Baller by Isla Madden-Mills

* Beauty and the Baller by Isla Madden-Mills
Publisher: Montlake
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

Gorgeous, talented, and brilliant, NFL quarterback Ronan Smith has the world in his hands. But after losing his career and his fiancée in a car accident, he falls into a pit of grief and bad choices. When a mysterious girl shows up to his party, he feels drawn to her and makes her his…for one night.

Former beauty queen Nova Morgan is on a mission. Scantily clad as a princess from a galaxy far, far away, she sneaks into a high-profile party to capture the attention of her favorite quarterback. But her hopes crash after an awful one-night stand.

Fast-forward two years. Broke and desperate, Nova returns home to Blue Belle, Texas, where, by a cosmic twist of fate, her broody neighbor is none other than Ronan, the shiny new football coach everyone adores. But he has no idea who she is.

The booster club keeps shoving women at Ronan to keep him in town. His solution? He proposes fake dating to Nova. But things heat up for real under these Friday-night lights when he realizes she’s the one who slipped away.

Has this jaded beauty found her forever baller, or will his past keep them apart?

Beauty and the Baller is a poignant and funny, small town romance filled with layered characters and sparkling dialogue. It answers the question of whether it is possible to have more than one soulmate in your life.

Ronan is a retired quarterback whose career was cut short when he was injured. He now works as a highschool head coach in the small town of Blue Belle, Texas. All his life, Ronan has been the golden boy with a perfect life and when tragedy strikes, he doesn’t know how to handle it. He becomes closed off and fearful of relationships, until he meets Nova. He doesn’t want to get involved with Nova but somehow, he just can’t seem to help himself.

Nova is the perfect heroine. She is brave, optimistic, enthusiastic and fun loving. Life has knocked her down a few times, but she always gets back up and doesn’t let anything or anyone get her down. Nova is loyal and protective to those she cares about. She is willing to give her heart to Ronan, even though there is a huge chance he will break it. I loved how sarcastic and funny Nova is and how she isn’t afraid to give Ronan her opinion when everyone else in town holds him on a pedestal.

I loved Ronan and Nova together and I love the way they play off of each other. Their encounters are filled with a lot of entertaining banter. The dialogue is what made this story. Their verbal sparring kept me laughing and kept them both on their toes. Whenever they are together, their chemistry jumps off the page. They try to fight their feelings for each other and that is what makes this story so delightful. Nova enters Ronan’s life just when he needs her. Although it takes him a while to figure out what is important in life.

I thoroughly enjoyed this spicey, emotional and optimistic story. It is beautifully written with characters that are flawed and vulnerable. As the story unfolds, Nova teaches Ronan how to live and love again. Nova never gives up on Ronan and that is exactly what he needs.

The townspeople of Blue Belle are an odd mix of colorful characters which add more laugh out loud moments to this intoxicating story. In Blue Bell people take football very seriously and will do just about anything to have a winning team.

Isla Madden-Mills knows how to paint a picture and she does a wonderful job in this witty, smartly written story. I never wanted to leave Blue Belle and Ronan and Nova’s world.

The After Party by A. C. Arthur

The After Party by A. C. Arthur
Publisher: Montlake
Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQ, Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Three women form an unbreakable bond in a sexy, suspenseful, and adventurous novel about empowerment and sisterhood through thick and thin.

Venus McGee, Draya Carter, and Jackie Benson are coworkers with a lot in common. They’re smart, independent, driven, and deserving of recognition—certainly more than they’ve been handed by a demoralizing boss. He’s the topic of conversation at their impromptu get-together after the company holiday party, where the threesome fantasizes about a life without him. There has to be an alternative to taking a deep breath and sucking it up. There is. It’s just not the one they expected.

When morning comes, Venus, Draya, and Jackie are blindsided by murder—a twist of fate that brings a startling new challenge to the table and forces them to navigate a hair-raising detour they never saw coming. For better and (unless they can help it) for worse, it’s going to turn their world upside down. What starts as a necessary bond of mutual trust soon morphs into an empowering and galvanizing friendship that Venus, Draya, and Jackie need now more than ever.

It’s said that a harrowing experience can bring people closer. That’s exactly what happens to three co-workers – Venus, Draya, and Jackie – on the night of their company Christmas party. None of them expected what was to come in the morning, but when they’re all implicated in a murder, they decide to band together instead of leaving each woman to herself. Will they be able to find the real killer before one of them goes to jail?

Although coming from very different backgrounds, the three women share a lot of common qualities. They’re hard workers, smart, driven, and loyal to a fault. These things, as well as a mutual dislike of their boss, Rufus, are what bond the women together initially, but as the investigation progresses, they find love and support from each other as well as from surprising sources.

Of the three, Jackie was my favorite. I wanted to take her home and feed her and let her know that she had a safe place to hang out. She also felt to me like the best developed character, although the other two were complete, too. Venus was relatable to me in the way that she felt she always had to act in a way that wouldn’t harm her father’s political careers. Although neither of my parents were ever politicians, I do understand the whole ‘don’t embarrass me’ environment that she grew up in, and felt she had to adhere to as an adult. Draya was the one I had the hardest time relating to; however, I loved her spirit. There wasn’t anything that was going to stop her from getting whatever she wanted, and I can admire that.

At times, the murder mystery took a back seat to the budding friendship between the women, which was okay with me. As much as I love a good mystery, these three were a riot when they were together. The author does a good job of dropping little breadcrumbs here and there about the murder. Watching the girls make the connections, find the information, and figure out the truth was well worth the wait. I would even enjoy a follow up book about the three and where they are a year or two after all this ended, simply because they were so much fun to be around.

The Casanova by T L Swan

* The Casanova by T L Swan
Publisher: Montlake
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

My favorite hobby is infuriating Elliot Miles. Just the sight of my boss’s handsome face triggers my sarcasm. God knows how he earns his Casanova reputation—if a million women want him with his personality, what the heck am I doing wrong?

Disgusted with my love life, I join a dating app under a fake name. I start chatting to a man named Edgar. He’s not my type and lives on the other side of the world, but we hit off a friendship, laugh and confide in each other.

But lately things are getting weird at work. Elliot’s being…attentive. His eyes linger a little longer than they should, and there’s a heat behind them that I haven’t felt before. And then, in the shock of all shocks, he tells me that my vulnerability is appealing. But when was I vulnerable?

Horror dawns…Has my boss been reading my emails to Edgar?

Damn it, why did I use my work email?

Oh no, does he know what I really think of him? I’d rather die than ever admit it.

Or, even worse: is it possible that the man I loathe in real life is the man I’m falling for online?

At first, Elliott and Kathryn love to hate each other. Elliott and Kathryn work together and there is a lot of animosity flowing between them but over time, their hatred turns into sizzling hot chemistry.

Elliott Miles and his brothers are rich and successful and own Miles Media, the company Kathryn works for as head of the IT department.

I easily connected with Elliott and Kathryn and I liked both of them, but I loved them together. They are layered characters and each of them is carrying baggage from their pasts. Together they have explosive chemistry and when they finally decide to give into their desires, they burn up the sheets. I was fanning myself with all the heat these two created when they were together. I enjoyed all of the scorching looks Elliott and Kathryn shared when they thought no one was looking.

This captivating story takes place in London and it has intricate plot weaving and perfect pacing. The characters and the story drew me in and I quickly turned the pages because I needed to know what would happen next. The ending has a twist I was not expecting and I love it when I think I have the plot figured out and I am surprised.

Elliott isn’t perfect and he can be grouchy and controlling but he has a soft romantic side too and once he falls in love, he is all in. Kathryn has never met anyone like Elliott. He scares her and enthralled her and she is hesitant to give him her heart. It is entertaining as these two fall in love and make mistakes and the wrong assumptions about each other. There is also an interesting cast of secondary characters added to the mix. The beginning of this story is a little slow but don’t let that stop you from reading this gem. This beautiful and romantic story held me spellbound.