Review

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 4.5 ⭐️ Review: Rebecca Jenshak’s Wild Ever After, a Wildcat Hockey romance ✍🏻

Overall Grade: 4.5 ⭐️

Tropes: marriage of convenience; cinnamon roll male character; hockey romance; sports romance

By my estimation, there are several ways to entice one’s readers. For me, formulate a romance with a cinnamon roll main male character to fall for an untrusting, somewhat neurotic main female character using the mechanism of a fake marriage or some type of forced proximity. If you add some sports romance to it, more power to the author. This is precisely the genius of Rebecca Jenshak’s Wild Ever After. For me, Jenshak’s newest story in her Wildcat Hockey series is my favorite thus far because Declan is a dream, an unassuming thoughtful hero who adores his heroine, Jade, beyond a measure she can understand. From their chemistry to the struggles of their marriage of convenience to the community of friends to which they belong, Wild Ever After entices its reader.

Highlights:

Declan’s growing adoration for Jade inspires her to begin to trust a significant other. Honestly, Declan doesn’t have to do much to build this trust other than see Jade and care for her in ways that her mother wasn’t always good at doing. When he makes his home her home, it’s a pure swoon fest.

Declan’s background should have made him “hard”; instead, it allows him to grow an EQ that makes him the perfect cinnamon roll hero.

Jade’s journey from needing status to realizing her favorite “space” is with Declan. Jade begins the story chasing “clout,” a common societal goal; yet, as she researches how people love and she is loved by Declan, she recognizes her true happiness. She moves from cold to hot with Declan as she struggles with finding this truth. In the end, Jenshak places her exactly where she should be, making for a story that makes you sigh with happiness.

The community of Wildcat hockey friends continues to entertain in this book. For one, Jenshak gives us updates, but she also hints at future stories. By the end of Wild Ever After, you know the next book’s main characters. Even more, the support of this community adds layers to Jade and Declan’s romance. 

From start to finish, Rebecca Jenshak’s Wild Ever After reminds her readers of the difficulty of love. Both Declan and Jade must learn to trust and become vulnerable with each other after pasts filled with reasons to avoid these. In the end, these two are fated, and their happy ending is exactly what we expect of romancelandia. 

In love and romance,

Professor A

Review

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 5 ⭐️ Review: Jewel E. Ann’s Before Us ✍🏻

Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

“Love is not good at chasing expectations. It thrives on acceptance.”

Jewel E. Ann’s Before Us is a poignant, heart-rending story about timing and soulmates. As I sit here trying to put this review together, the phrase “hits and misses” keeps running through my mind. Many of Jewel E. Ann’s (who I will refer to as JEA for the duration of this review) play with timing. Her characters oftentimes aren’t “meant to be” during a specific time and place, so she separates them and brings them back together when “the time is right.” But really she isn’t noting a “right” time; she’s simply challenging us to consider the options of life. 

In Before Us, JEA challenges us to consider soulmates. Are we fated for one person for the rest of our lives? Or is it possible to love different people with the same gravity of love at different moments? In fact, she shows us this clearly in this book, and you don’t ever doubt the veracity of it. She is careful in her construction of this, though. Her choices about timing, I think, are why I adore her stories. She knows her readers and intentionally crafts a chronology that allows us to accept tropes such as cheating (that trope isn’t in this story) or her MMC marrying her FMC shortly after the death of his wife. She deftly highlights the difficulty of perception in an incredibly uncomfortable moment in the story. She doesn’t allow her characters to “get away” with their choices; JEA metes out consequences for them. So it creates this lovely balance between reality and fiction.

In Before Us, JEA challenges us with the idea of dreams. What is a dream? Can dreams change as life happens? Should one character usurp another character’s dreams? What about one character supposing they know the dreams of the other character better than they know it for themselves? I found Zach and Emersyn’s journey around this idea most frustrating but necessary. I wanted to scream at Zach to stop sacrificing and take for himself. The tension of his choices compelled me through the story, however. 

I just want to stop right here. I have too many words to describe why readers should read Jewel E. Ann’s Before Us, and they seem insufficient. Emersyn’s story is the reality of our world. Young people are homeless and have to sacrifice for basic needs…and it’s all here in this book. Zach’s journey illustrates the grief process. How does one process the death of a loved one? Even more, how does one love someone who is terminally ill, having to make choices that feel devastating so they can find peace? It’s all here. All that is lovely and painful and life-affirming is in Before Us. Jewel E. Ann once again shows us why she is a beloved author in the world of romance through her beautiful storytelling in this book. 

In love and romance,

Professor A

Review

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 4.5 ⭐️ Review: CD Reiss’s Fake Crowne, a Crowne Brothers romance ✍🏻

Overall Grade: 4.5 ⭐️

Tropes: fake relationship; work romance; LA romance; contemporary romance; billionaire brothers; band of brothers

Bear with me as I ramble about CD Reiss’s newest Crowne family story, Fake Crowne. There’s so much I want to say, but it’s not organized or probably even insightful; however, I need to say it anyway. 

Reiss is attempting (I actually believe she did it — but I really want to hear from people) to capture a voice in romancelandia that is burgeoning: the voice of the later Millenials or the older Gen Zers. I’ve been thinking about this generation in romancelandia. They live in a different world than the former generations, and they connect in spaces that are visual and muted. They’ve been raised with trauma infused into their systems and parents who have recognized that and created safe spaces to fall. All of that has conspired to build people with mental health struggles. How does this generation fall in love? It’s both the same and different from the past. And CD Reiss builds the space and unspoken words into the relationship between Colton Crowne and Skye. 

As I was reading this book, I was imagining my son’s voice as Skye’s voice. They have very similar mental health struggles, and Reiss elaborated on them in a real way. Both Colton and Skye are overwhelmed by and push against parental expectations. Colton rebels against it, while Skye contends with them within a set of stifling boundaries she sets for herself. Through this struggle, Colton and Skye forge a fake relationship, upend their own set boundaries of that relationship, and fall in love on their own terms. This is CD Reiss imagining correctly, I think, a love forged in the 21st century by people who simply don’t know the depth of their future. They’ve either denied themselves, rebelled against tradition and expectation, or made concessions to avoid failure. 

In fact, that seems to be the battle cry of Fake Crowne: “There’s something comforting about failure. Like I don’t have to be responsible for my work or my choices because…whoops, I failed, color me shocked. Oh well, no big deal. And it’s easy, right? I don’t have to improve. I don’t have to face the next stage. I don’t have to learn. […] I’m weak, but sometimes weak is a choice.” Through Colton and Skye’s journeys, Reiss suggests that we can treat life in one of three ways: play it safe; fail incredibly and stay down; or fail on some level and get up and try again. Each of these has consequences, and Reiss illustrates it beautifully through Colton and Skye’s falling in love. 

Are Reiss’s style and storytelling flair all over this book? Yep. In fact, as I read this book, I felt like it straddled her Crowne Brothers series and her Hollywood A-List/Star-Crossed/Lead Me Back stories. It’s very LA…and freaking Gene Testarossa is back wreaking havoc. Given I’m a So. California girl, I love Reiss’s characterization of LA for her readers. But her knack for wordsmithing and her infusion of spice and steam are encompassed in this book. 

Please…read Fake Crowne and tell me she’s capturing some of Gen Z in it. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not of that generation. I simply need more stories in it so we keep Gen Z readers gobbling books, and they need to find themselves in the books that are served. And I believe CD Reiss has done it with her newest book. 

In love and romance,

Professor A

Sorry for the rambly quality of the review. I just had so many words to say about this book.

Review

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 4.5 ⭐️ Review: Devney Perry’s Jasper Vale, a The Edens romance ✍🏻

Overall Grade: 4.5 ⭐️

Tropes: fake marriage; marriage of convenience; Vegas wedding; opposites attract; grump/sunshine; wealthy MMC; found family; romantic suspense elements

I’ve been sitting on my review for Devney Perry’s newest book in her The Edens series, Jasper Vale. Trying to find the words to express my adoration for this story isn’t easy because it’s a story that feels a bit like a departure for Perry. Yes, this is a Vegas mistaken wedding turned fake marriage. It’s a common trope, but Perry’s books sparkle, by my estimation, from start to finish. And Jasper Vale reads grittier. In fact, I think it’s one of her $exiest books in that her main characters, Jasper and Eloise, simply can’t help themselves around each other. $ex comes first for this couple out of a pure chemical connection. Jasper is bossy and super-alpha, and it’s titillating and $exy in all the best romancelandia ways. And it feels so different from Perry’s usual fare, at least with recent stories. I loved Jasper and Eloise’s struggles. 

For one, they are opposites. Jasper’s life is one big secret for everyone. It’s not healthy in the least, and it informs how he responds to Eloise’s family in the face of their surprising marriage. This is unlike the other partners of the Edens who fit so seamlessly into the Eden family. And I liked the trepidation and discomfort of his first meeting because he responds to them out of a protectiveness and compassion for Eloise as well as the experiences of his past. Jasper is one of the darkest Perry characters, I believe. 

Eloise is the sunshine to Jasper’s grump. She is his light. Perry puts her through her paces in this story as she must mine for Jasper’s secret gold, surrounded by an almost impenetrable wall. For every step forward, Eloise finds herself taking a step back. This tango both wrings out the heart of the readers and sets up the anticipation of the eventuality of their relationship: pure love. It takes much of Jasper Vale to get to this point with quite a bit of heartache woven into the story. 

So Jasper Vale reads like this: surprise, $ex, silence, separation, $ex, a building of a nugget of vulnerability, confusion, more $ex, silence, $ex, secrets revealed, deeper involvement, $ex, drama, reconciliation, healing, abiding love. Or at least something like this with more $ex added in. 

Perry’s Jasper Vale is a revelation to me. I still think she needs to work on the last 10% of her stories because she deftly develops her plot but the endings always seem rushed, at least until the epilogue and bonus epilogue. Those are always pure gold; however, the falling action and resolution of the inciting incident(s) of her plot points always read underdeveloped to me. Or maybe I want to sit longer with characters like Eloise and Jasper. Bottom line: Devney Perry’s Jasper Vale is MY favorite The Edens romance.

In love and romance,


Professor A

Review

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 5 ⭐️ Review: Catherine Cowles’s Whispers of You, book 1 of The Lost & Found series ✍🏻

Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Tropes: small-town romance; second chance romance; romantic suspense; forced proximity; found family; band of brothers

Have you ever seen that episode of Grey’s Anatomy where the active shooter invades the hospital? The one that incites terror in you as you watch it. I will never forget that episode of television. Catherine Cowles’s Whispers of You has shades of that episode with its compelling, terror-inducing hook, incremental slow-burn second chance journey, and the story twist that you don’t quite see coming. For me, Whispers of You is my favorite Catherine Cowles story of her recent stories. In simple terms, this book is the rib-eye of books to her former porterhouse stories. Whispers of You held me in its thrall and engaged me to the very last page of her bonus epilogue.

Here’s the why:

  1. The hook of this book is terrifying and heartbreaking. Don’t let that dissuade you from reading it. Like I said earlier, it felt inspired by that emotional and anxiety-inducing episode of Grey’s Anatomy. I originally read this book’s beginning in one of last year’s books, and I couldn’t WAIT to read Whispers of You because of it. 
  2. I adore a resilient character. Wren is the embodiment of it. Instead of becoming a victim who lives in the shadow of her trauma, she becomes an advocate, instead. Holt is lucky to earn her heart because, honestly, she is too good for him given his choices. Cowles grants Colt grace for these choices due to his age. But had this been real life, he might not have won over his love. 
  3. The balance, however, of this story is Holt’s capacity to love and cherish Wren. Once he recognizes his former short-sightedness, he’s a delicious male character: all alpha-hero with a protective streak. Cowles deftly balances Wren’s strength and resilience with Holt’s adoration and compassion. So incredibly good!
  4. I didn’t see the depth of Cowles’s revelation coming. Yep. I’m usually attuned to the story, but I gasped at the story’s twist. I love that Cowles doesn’t take it easy on her reader.

Catherine Cowles knows herself as a writer as well as the interests of her fans. Whispers of You was an unputdownable read. It was impossible to walk away from Wren and Holt because their story is just that compelling. Fans of small-town romantic suspense – this story is for you! Oh, and there’s an impressive husky to boot!

In love and romance,

Professor A

Review

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 4.5 ⭐️ Review: L.B. Dunbar’s Letting Go at 40 ✍🏻

Overall Grade: 4.5 ⭐️

Tropes: small town romance; husband’s best friend; second chances; band of brothers; single dad; widow

If you’ve read any of L.B. Dunbar’s first three books of her Lakeside Cottage series, you grabbed Letting Go at 40 with two emotions: elation and trepidation. How do you write a story about two characters falling in love in the specter of one of the character’s beloved husbands? Seemingly a challenge, I entered Letting Go at 40 figuratively holding my breath. Ben was beloved. He was the perfect husband for Anna. How would Dunbar successfully craft a story for Anna and the forever-pining Mason, the playboy of the guys’ friend group? With aplomb. 

If you’ve been reticent to read this story, don’t be. Dunbar has written the heck out of Mason and Anna’s story. I will say that it isn’t for the faint of heart. If you’re not a fan of a slow burn, this story isn’t for you. But the slow burn is necessary for this story. Dunbar has carefully plotted Mason and Anna’s journey with the premise of “two steps forward, one step back.” This was necessary. In doing so, Anna could grieve and begin to understand herself beyond Ben. And Mason could face his own challenges: becoming a better father and realizing that he can be good for Anna. It takes much of Letting Go at 40 to achieve this, but honestly, Anna and Mason had to learn to “let go” of expectations, other dreams, and guilt. While it could sometimes be frustrating for Anna to push Mason away, it was completely necessary to Dunbar’s story. 

What you earn at the end of this book is a journey of a thousand miles and the acceptance of Anna with Mason. Dunbar also deftly highlights the complications of friends’ and children’s perceptions in this story, and she rewards her readers with a gorgeous happy ending for these long-suffering characters. 

Please don’t miss this book. I believe it’s the best of the four Lakeside Cottage series, and here’s to hoping she will write the next generation of love stories for this group.

In love and romance,

Professor A

new release, Review

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 4 ⭐️ Review: Corinne Michaels’s Keep This Promise✍🏻

Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Tropes: one-night stand; surprise baby; second chance romance; band of brothers; small-town romance; romantic suspense

Corinne Michaels’s Keep This Promise is quite the whirlwind of a story. Michaels forces her readers to run the gamut of emotions: surprise, grief, anticipation, shock, and adoration, to name a few. There is a LOT to this final story in her Rose Canyon series, and she puts her readers through the paces as she reaches its finale. 

What should you know?

  1. Holden is a surprise. He begins the story as an inveterate singleton, completely expecting to live his life married to his job. When Sophie and Eden enter his life, it’s all over for him. In fact, he doesn’t really put up much of a fight. One might say that his characterization is a bit uneven regarding how quickly he changes, but he is gone for Sophie and Eden immediately. He is as swoony as his friends in this series, Emmett and Spencer. 
  2. Sophie is the hold-up. For good reason, to be fair. In this series, Michaels asks a lot of her heroines/FMCs. They are entangled in some serious problems, and at one time or another, their lives are in danger. As such, Sophie’s boundaries are firmly in place until Holden weaves his magic and wins her over. It takes some time, but when it happens, it makes sense for Michaels’s story. 
  3. There are a lot of plot points to this story. Many of them are surprises, so I don’t want to reveal anything in this review. Once it seems that Holden and Sophie are beginning to find their groove and settle into each other, Michaels pulls the rug out from under them, and they find themselves embroiled in chaos. This leaves the reader of Keep This Promise sitting at the edge of their seat, waiting for the resolution to each situation. One of these plot points relates to the arc of the series. If I had to be disappointed by anything, it would be that resolution. For me, it came from out of nowhere; the villain isn’t someone you’d suspect. I still have questions about a couple of characters who acted suspiciously, and I don’t think Michaels wrapped up those questions. Additionally, I have never seen Jackson’s team be so inept as it is in this story, and that goes against character for his team of security professionals.
  4. However, even though this arc seemed like Michaels” jumped the shark,” the long-lasting, protective community grounded in friendship is this book and the series’ glue. Beyond the different romances in this series of books, Michaels’s ability to draw a friendship between life-long pals adds another depth to Keep This Promise and its predecessors. It’s one of the main reasons I continued reading this series. The ways the guys care for and protect each other and their loved ones is my favorite aspect of this series. 

As with her other books, I enjoyed Corinne Michaels’s Keep This Promise. It has her signature angst and community wrapped with a bow of romance. It’s a quick read that keeps you engrossed through to the sweetness of her bonus epilogue. Any fan of small-town, romantic suspense will surely enjoy this book and the rest of the series.

In love and romance,

Professor A

Review

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 5 ⭐️ Review: Ashley Jade’s The Choice ✍🏻

Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Tropes: childhood friends; love triangle; impossible love; instalove; star-crossed lovers; rock star; scars; blackmail

“It won’t be cloudy forever, Memphis. Eventually we’ll see the stars.”

Every writer leaves a piece of themselves in their stories. Even if the story is nowhere close to their experience, an author leaves something behind. What happens, though, when a writer bleeds all over their story, their passion for their characters imprinted indelibly on the page? Emotional, explosive, engaging stories. I’ve been trying to determine why I adore Ashley Jade’s romances. To be fair, I’m older than her average reader and her characters’ ages. Their young adult struggles are well in my past. But, after reading The Choice, I recognize I can feel her within her stories. There are very few authors I’ve read (someone like Kennedy Ryan comes to mind) where I feel them written all over the pages of their books in an urgent, impassioned way. And I believe this is why I adore Ashley Jade’s stories. When I enter them, I will be expected to feel feelings and be uncomfortable in doing so. Ashley Jade compels her readers into a rabid fandom, and it’s the ardor of her storytelling that lights this fire. There is no mistake: Ashley Jade cares deeply for her characters and the ideas that infuse her stories. The Choice? It’s no different. 

You won’t find story details in this review. To do so would be to ruin this story. Instead, I’ll offer my feelings on reading The Choice.

For one, TikTok became my friend while reading this book. I needed small breaks because the “choices” of the characters will overwhelm you. At least, it did for me. Here’s the thing, though. They make their choices informed by their individual traumas. And all of her main characters have endured much. Ashley Jade warns her readers at the beginning of The Choice to avoid judging her characters, one in particular. And that’s an apt warning because hurt people make decisions informed by their past and pain. What Jade does well in this story is show the power of one’s trauma to inform the present. Even more, she shows the spectrum of people’s reactions to a trauma-filled past. And it’s so darn REAL. For me, this is the most impactful part of The Choice, and it’s the reason that readers should avoid making judgments until the conclusion of this book…and maybe even this duet.

Two, my heart broke for Skylar, Memphis, and Josh. Their lives are wrought at the hands of others. This changes them forever. However, as they move forward, putting their pain behind them, they encounter people who want more for them. Mrs. Landrum and Archie and Valerie attempt to provide more for these three. Infusing these characters into the story, Jade ameliorates the drama of her characters; she provides respite from the intensity of the story. Archie, for one, becomes beloved in The Choice as he shows a zeal for food and becomes the wizened guide for stubborn teens, a difficult task.

Thirdly, The Choice titillates as much as it delivers drama. Ashley Jade writes eroticism into her stories that always makes you stop for a moment and think, “did I just read that?” And she makes no apology for it. There is $ex all over this story, but don’t miss it. Jade uses its administration to underscore the emotional connections of her characters. It’s also crafted to express the tether of the past to the present, showcasing the destructive power of abuse on one’s understanding of $ex. It becomes a conduit of control and a mechanism of healing in The Choice.

Ashley Jade’s book will steal your breath and a piece of your soul. The Choice is not for the faint of heart, but I wouldn’t miss this book. To do so would be to miss out on the experience of reading passion infused on every page. In a book world such as romance, where some authors produce a book a month oftentimes leaving out the emotion necessary for a romantic story, Ashley Jade offers a place in her stories to feel your feelings because she’s already left her’s on the page.

In love and romance,

Professor A

Review

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 5 ⭐️ Review: Vi Keeland’s The Game, a Playing for Keeps novel ✍🏻

Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Tropes: insta-attraction; boss/player; found family; wealthy hero; sports romance

I was reading another book, and I needed a break from it. It was moving too slowly, and I was curious about Vi Keeland’s The Game. What I found was a one-day read that was engrossing and entertaining. I love how Vi Keeland throws “curve balls” in her stories. You begin her romances, and the MMC and FMC find their harmony fairly easily. But looks are deceiving, and before you know it, life has handed them lemons. How they turn that into the best of lemonade is Keeland’s superpower. 

What did I love about this story?

  1. I’m a fiend for MMCs who are tenacious in pursuing the reticent FMC. Christian Knox talks dirty and doesn’t hold back his interest in Bella Keating. It doesn’t matter that she’s his boss (although Keeland handles this plot detail easily). It doesn’t matter that she tells him “no” several times. He simply wants her, and he recognizes she’s exactly what he’s looking for in a relationship. He’s protective, flirty, and swoony.
  2. Bella Keating makes Christian work for her adoration. It doesn’t take much to be honest. He shows up for her over and over again. However, it’s her character development that draws you to her. She’s ambitious, intelligent (this is my favorite part of her character), and integrous. You cannot help but fall for her as Christian does. It’s natural for Christian and Bella to connect, as he is protective of her compassionate soul.
  3. The curveball of Keeland’s plot, I think, is foreshadowed, but still takes you by surprise. This is my favorite part of a Vi Keeland romance. She gifts you a story that you don’t expect. And this one is good. In fact, it was the story development that left me engrossed in The Game. 
  4. The ancillary characters of this romance simply add a bit more dimension to the story. From Miller to Talia to Jake, Christian’s twin, Christian and Bella are surrounded by interesting characters who help guide their journey. Even her evil half-sisters add some necessary tension to the story arc.

I simply loved Vi Keeland’s The Game. From the moment I jumped into Chapter 1, I hated to step away from the story, even to go back to the one I was reading as I started Keeland’s. In fact, I finished this one before returning to the former. The Game is a top January read for me.

In love and romance,

Professor A

Review

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 4 ⭐️ Review: Tia Louise’s Forbidden, book 4 of the Hamilton Heat series ✍🏻

Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Tropes: romantic suspense; insta-attraction; professor/student; forbidden relationship; band of brothers; found family

Tia Louise’s Forbidden, the final book of her Hamilton Heat series, brings a complete and compelling end to the saga covering its four books. Wrapped in that favorite forbidden professor/student trope, Louise does what she does best: infuses an interesting, albeit predictable story into the steam of her characters, Dirk (Hutch from book 1’s little brother) and Reanna (his student with a secret). What readers love about Tia Louise’s storytelling is her capacity to draw up eroticism into her stories that provide titillating entertainment. Dirk and Reanna are instantly attracted to each other, and Dirk’s fight to stay away from Reanna is absolutely futile. Here’s the thing…if you love $ex with a side of story, this book and its predecessors are your reads. I have to admit, though. I found the predominance of Reanna and Dirk “hitting it” distracting. Don’t get me wrong. I love Tia Louise. Her Fight for Love series still echoes in my mind. But I’ve struggled with the Hamilton Heat series because it seems it is intended to infuse as much eroticism into its books, forgoing, at times, character development. This has been difficult for this reader because decisive and intentional character development is important. Louise can plot a story well, and she can draw on eroticism to increase the chemistry of her characters, but I needed more from Forbidden to believe that Dirk and Reanna wanted more than $ex. And believability is necessary for a forbidden, age-gap romance. 

Tia Louise’s Forbidden provides a lovely ending to the threaded plotline of this series’s books. It entertains you while steaming your glasses…and other things. What it won’t do is tell you the “why” behind her characters’ choices. It will, however, underscore one of my favorite tropes: the found family. These qualities conspire to create a story that will entice but might not sustain your attention if you are looking for a bit more emotional development between its characters.

In love and romance,

Professor A