✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 4.5 ⭐️ Review: Louise Bay’s Mr. Bloomsbury ✍🏻

Overall Grade: 4.5 ⭐️

To read Louise Bay’s The Mister Series is to be delighted in her complicated heroes. There is no one hero more complicated and mysterious than Andrew Blake in her newest offering, Mr. Bloomsbury. In fact, what does he do before noon? While we find out near the book’s end, the gruff, man of few words, Andrew, dominates the imagination of Bay’s readers. What is most refreshing about her story is its heroine, Sofia, an Italian-bred American who strong-arms her way into his assistant job. From the moment Andrew and Sofia meet, the book explodes even with a rarely speaking Andrew. At the outset of Mr. Bloomsbury, you cannot help but pine for these two to find their stride as their attraction is palpable. Interestingly, it’s difficult to ascertain what that might look like given Sofia’s unwillingness to accept any of Andrew’s chiding, and Andrew’s insistence on maintaining his status quo. As the story progresses, however, Sofia’s challenges ignite something in Andrew that allows him to show her secreted away parts of himself. This allows for them to draw closer, and we earn an Andrew who feels humanized by the end of the book. The messaging of Mr. Bloomsbury is compelling: men supporting women in their chosen fields without reducing them, the economy of speaking and the intentionality of words for their effect, the reconciliation of a parent and a child after decades of hurt and misunderstandings, and most importantly, the flexibility one has to change their personal rules when life changes. 

The best parts of Mr. Bloomsbury?

**Sofia and Andrew’s igniting chemistry

**Andrew’s evolution 

**Sofia’s reconciliation with her biological father

**Sofia’s intelligence offering up solutions to Andrew’s problems

**Andrew’s alter-ego and its play for Sofia

**Andrew and Sofia’s spirited bedroom activities

**Andrew and Sofia’s quick fall into forever

Where did the book fall a bit short?

The ending. Not the last chapter. That is a delight. I love when Louise Bay brings the Mister heroes and their significant others together. It’s a couple of chapters leading up to it, the way that Andrew flips a switch and falls headfirst into forever with Sofia. For me, that felt rushed in a way that the rest of the book wasn’t. 

Over and over again, Louise Bay crafts heroes and heroines that simply fit together and amuse her readers. In Mr. Bloomsbury, the attraction between Sofia and Andrew is off-the-charts fun, as they learn each other in each passing chapter. I’m a fan of grumpy, sullen, heroes of few words. When you partner him with an intelligent, independent woman? The result is incendiary, and I’m here for that. 

In love and romance,

Professor A

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 5 ⭐️ Review: Laurelin Paige’s novella, Slash ✍🏻

Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

I often wonder how writers can say so much in the limited pages of a novella. Take one look at Laurelin Paige’s newest offering, Slash, and you realize it’s a master class in the form, much like the course taught within her story. Page after page, you find the heartrending, complicated story of Camila Fasbender, the sister of Edward Fasbender, Paige’s hero in her Slay series. The profession of truth that litters the pages of Slash overwhelms you in a way that feels both traumatic and essential. If I could give this novella a different title, it would be “The Persistence of Patience.” In that patience, Paige elaborates on some essential truths about life. 

What I know from reading Laurelin Paige’s booklist is her ability to create these alpha men who consume their heroines. Donovan Kincaid is still my FAVORITE alpha hero in all of romancelandia. Yet, her hero in Slash is nuanced. It could be that we aren’t treated to his point of view in Slash. Quite honestly, it doesn’t feel necessary. What you learn quickly from this story is the erotic nature of patience. Hendrix Reid’s capacity for waiting is his romantic superpower. Paige has crafted him with equal amounts of empathy, persistence, and intuition. These qualities might seem to emasculate him; they don’t. Instead, they match brilliantly with her heroine who requires the capacity of these qualities. 

Camila’s characterization is profound. Her being epitomizes trauma. And it feels necessary to read her story. The messages of Paige’s Slash reside in Camila’s portrayal. How do we live an abundant life after surviving it for so long? How do we become vulnerable so that we can be “seen” in our totality? How do we honor both the small and big moments of our life? How do we see our scars as more than their trauma? Over and over again, Paige’s articulation of Camila’s pain resonates and pushes against the scars of her readers, and it makes for a beautifully wrought, intentionally drawn story of healing. In her afterword, Paige explains that parts of Camila’s story didn’t need to be told in the pages of her novella, and I agree because the depth and gravity of Camila in this small space are pained enough that this shortened story form allows you, as the reader, to breathe through the difficulties of her story. Any longer, and I think it would feel like punishment, and her romance might be overpowered. Instead, the way that Hendrix loves Camila through her journey towards becoming vulnerable plays out exactly as it should. I found myself grabbed by Paige’s prose, thrown into Camila’s story, and upended by her truth. This is the art of Laurelin Paige’s Slash.

Paige says it best in her Author’s Note: “When the world feels fragile and broken and unsure, I needed to believe that fragile and broken and unsure is still beautiful.” That is the essence of Camila’s story. It is also the truth that love will see you through your pain. Paige’s Hendrix shows us how to love broken people, how to love humanity. Underscoring this axiom is the art of Paige’s writing. And one can’t help but wonder if Slash isn’t an apt representation of Paige’s own art, rife with anointed words, carefully composed characters, and a story that reminds us that we all bear some hurt and there is a fellowship in that knowledge. That it simply takes someone else “authentically see[ing]” us to be “free.” 

In love and romance, 

Professor A

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 4 ⭐️ Review: Karen Frances’s Collision ✍🏻

Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Karen Frances’s newest book, Collision, a book situated in K. Bromberg’s Driven World, is an insta-love, angsty romance that revs your engine. Frances is a new writer to me, as well as K. Bromberg. Given that I am new to both of these ladies but intrigued by the universe being curated by K. Bromberg, I opted to read this book simply because its qualities piqued my interest: playboy alpha-race car driver (I didn’t realize he was Scottish…SWOON!) hero, self-possessed, intelligent, articulate journalist heroine, and a meet-cute that sizzles. It seemed evident that there would be fireworks in Collision. For the most part, there were. 

One of my favorite aspects of this book is that it is set in the UK. The hero is a playboy-ish, fast-driving hero. Yet, he’s Scottish. You may wonder why that intrigues me. Well, I read books all the time, and most of the time, the setting is the US. Having traveled through Europe last summer, I always enjoy revisiting places where I traversed. Plus it’s always intriguing to gain experiences from other countries. Just seemed like a positive for Collision

Additionally, there is Insta-chemistry between Ellie and Ryan. From their first meeting, as I suspected, these two sizzle. It also creates one of the issues for me with this story. I know that fiction is imaginary. I get it. However, if an author makes the choice for the characters to fall instantly for each other, then I want it to feel believable. Ryan, an admitted playboy as Ellie’s purpose is to rehab his image through her writing piece on him, only has eyes for Ellie, and for most the book, I was curious why. Yes, Karen Frances offers up Ryan’s reasons, but I don’t believe them. Why her? While rehabbing his image, what piqued his interest in her that he wants her over other women? If a hero is promiscuous, I want to know what turns his head to a straight path. 

There’s some forbidden with this relationship. Given that Ellie is reporting on Ryan, that they fall for each other makes for some questionable journalistic ethics. That forbidden, however, ramps up their chemistry even more, making it burn brighter. 

This story is not linear at all. Belying Ryan and Ellie’s journey into a romantic relationship is a bigger story. This bigger story becomes emotional and adds a gravity to Frances’s romance. Ideas about family complicate the romance, and it creates additional fireworks in Collision.

Even more, one of the ancillary characters of the story, Felicity, is your preeminent Mean Girl, and her subterfuge adds another layer of drama to this journey. While we are not meant to like Felicity, without her, the forbidden aspects of this story would not exist, and the tension necessary in storytelling would be lost. 

Obviously, Karen Frances’s crafted connection with K. Bromberg’s Driven series in an overt way through Ryan’s burgeoning relationship with Colton and Rylee hits on feelings of nostalgia for Bromberg readers and illustrates Karen Frances’s ability to write within and outside of Bromberg’s universe in a meaningful way. While I haven’t read the Driven series, at no point did I feel lost when Colton and Rylee join the story. 

Karen Frances’s Collision is a fast-paced romance sure to speed your pulse. From Ryan and Ellie’s banter to their chemistry to their journey while challenged by outside issues, Frances makes it easy for us to turn the page. In the end, Collision finishes first at the finish line. If you love K. Bromberg, you will absolutely want to read this book. 

In love and romance,

Professor A

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 4 ⭐️ Review: Sara Ney’s Hard Fall ✍🏻

Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

I admire writers who take a character and redeem them in some way. If you can make me adore a character who I formerly felt any number of contrary feelings: anger, annoyance, disdain, etc., then you win me over easily. I guess I’m an easy “lay” in the world of romance. This brings me to Sara Ney’s Hard Fall, her newest book in the Trophy Boyfriends series. If you read the first book of the series of standalones, Hard Pass, you’ve been introduced to Trace “Buzz” Wallace, and he isn’t a character you readily enjoy. He’s a pest, he’s vain, he ingratiates himself into situations, and he’s the kind of guy you love to hate. And Sara Ney decided to write him a romance. To be fair, he began to show readers his “true colors” at the end of Hard Pass when he acted like a matchmaker for her hero and heroine of that book. It piqued my curiosity enough that, once I realized Hard Fall would be Trace’s story, I one-clicked that pre-order fast. 

Thankfully, what you find with Trace’s book is a whole bunch of hilarious witty banter between Trace and Ney’s heroine, Hollis, Trace and his brother, Tripp, the NFL player, and Trace and his mom. All of these relationships conspire to bring you a romance that makes you laugh at the absurdity of one “Buzz” Wallace, swoon when he acts as Hollis’s protector, and leave Hard Fall with a huge smile on your face. 

Yes. I can say it. I love Trace Wallace. I’ll be honest. The Trace of Chapter 1 did not ingratiate himself to me. Not. At. All. Your love for Trace is a slow-burn. It takes a while to warm up to him. However, this occurs when you realize that there is more to this seeming “man-baby.” It also comes about because Ney’s heroine, Hollis, calls him to be more. 

Hollis Westbrooke is the granddaughter of the Chicago Steam owner, the professional baseball team for which Trace plays. She is also the daughter of its General Manager, and she has made choices in her life to distance herself from her father’s choices. This has created some tension between her and her father, but she lives her life on her own terms. When she meets Trace, like many of us, she prejudges him. To be honest, some of that prejudgment is fair based on his initial experiences with her. But here’s the thing. Trace is like a fungus and he grows on you. And he woos Hollis over to him through some traits that are unexpected. 

The crux of this book is that one’s initial impression isn’t always fair, and it oftentimes doesn’t epitomize the totality of that person. Through funny interactions, absurd moments, and some serious situations, Hollis and Trace realize their ability to complement each other. This makes for some serious chemistry, some heartfelt moments, and some laugh out loud experiences. 

Hard Fall is the type of book you read easily. It’s meant to make you laugh and swoon, and it does just that. Sara Ney brings some parts of her Douchebag series into her crafting of Trace, and if you’ve read that series, it reminds you of all the ways you love Sara Ney. If you haven’t preordered Hard Fall (or read its predecessor, Hard Pass), and you need a little funny in your life right now, then grab them now. 

In love and romance,

Professor A

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s More than 5 ⭐️ Review: Ilsa Madden-Mills’s Not My Romeo ✍🏻

Overall Grade: More than 5 ⭐️

“Because the one is supposed to get you, accept you.”

“It is a truth universally acknowledged”, that a single reader of romance in possession of a couple of bucks and a few pennies, must be in want of an Ilsa Madden-Mills’s romance. That’s right. I’ve decided that Jane Austen and Ilsa Madden-Mills are an apt pairing given that the same tenets that drive my love for Jane Austen also drive my adoration for Ilsa Madden-Mills’s brand of romance. What are those tenets? Here goes:

  • One handsomely swoony alpha-hero with a bit of a broken soul requiring a tenacious, headstrong, obstinate heroine to mend those broken parts into wholeness
  • One tenacious headstrong, obstinate heroine with a certain set of quirks and imagination who infuses a certain level of humanity into the handsomely swoony alpha-hero with a bit of a broken soul
  • Some carefully-plotted story with just the right amount of angst, steam, romance, and humor, all of them combining to keep you engaged from page 1 to the very end.
  • A happy ending so carefully wrought that you can’t help but tear up over both the pleasure of the moment and the pain of having to leave characters whose characterizations make them seemingly real, new friends. 

Yes. Each tome of the Ilsa Madden-Mills’s booklist brings these set of qualities that inspire one-clicks in Amazon at the announcement of a new book, impatient waiting for said book, constant visits to IMM’s Facebook page for nuggets of the forthcoming book, and, on receiving said book, a careful, but expedited read of her newest romance. Around and around the merry-go-round that is Ilsa Madden-Mills’s romances go because she writes romance that makes you pine for entry into her romance worlds. That’s right. If I had my way, I would jump feet first into the worlds she creates because they captivate her readers with characters, story, and the promise of love. And, once again, Madden-Mills has crafted a story that brings all of these qualities together in her newest book, Not My Romeo

Am I being overly effusive? Possibly, but it’s simply the way I am with IMM’s stories. I’ve only been reading romance over the course of 2 ½ years, and I read mostly indie authors such as IMM. I’ve read only one of the traditionally more “popular” romance writers, missing the others. Ilsa Madden-Mills was, I believe, the third romance writer whom I read her entire booklist, at the time, in one sitting. Her stories captivate me as a reader because they portend to be innocent and light at first glance, but deeper into the story, we are met with deeper, more troubled issues. This is definitely the case with Not My Romeo (of which, I could not put down once I began reading it). Her hero, Jack, is complicated. According to his surface, his life seems perfect, as he’s a wealthy NFL player. Yet, we find out quickly that, underlying that handsome facade lies hurts, and those hurts have caused his life to be upended based on public scrutiny grounded in conjecture and gossip. I believe the saying “never judge a book by its cover” resounds in Jack’s story. And, as a staple of Madden-Mills’s romance, Jack needs some mending. He’s complicated, and IMM, as she does so often, brilliantly crafts a heroine who brings light to his life. 

“He watched you like you were the sun to his moon.”

Enter Elena. You learn very quickly that this woman who bears her own wounds offers a soft place for Jack’s hardness (both literal and figurative) to land. She is the IMM heroine: tenacious, headstrong, obstinate as a protection for her own heart. I think my favorite moments between Jack and Elena in Not My Romeo happen as a result of Elena setting boundaries for herself and instituting them. There are several times in this story when it would be easy for Elena to take Jack’s offerings even though they are limited. However, in doing so, she could never be his heroine because he requires someone who can break down his heavily-fortified walls. In denying him, she causes him to question himself. This is the romantic gold of IMM’s stories. If you want an easy read from her, you will find it interwoven with some hard truths about life through the actualization of her characters. It’s why I love her romances. She aptly combines the difficult with the effortless. This is what keeps you reading until the very end. 

I think when you look at a story such as Not My Romeo you have to understand that our pasts impact our future selves. This is very clear in Ilsa Madden-Mills’s story. Whether it’s abusive behavior, whether it’s poor choices we’ve made, or whether it’s how other’s have treated us, they leave behind excisions that eventually scab over and scar, but they can never be new skin again. As such, these scars create a weakness that influences our choices in the present and the future. For both Madden-Mills’s characters, those scars impact their ability to be present and make choices that bring about their happiness. And this is the story’s biggest truth. We have to allow ourselves to move beyond those weaknesses, to not let the scars of our past influence how we live abundantly in the present. Even in Jane Austen’s time, this particular “truth was self-evident,” as she wrote it into her novels. Even now, in the midst of a pandemic, political upheaval, and racial tensions, we could focus on the weaknesses of the time as Jack does for much of Not My Romeo. However, as Ilsa Madden-Mills carefully walks us through his journey with Elena, we realize that making better choices in the spirit of love will leave us with a happiness beyond our imaginations. I loved Not My Romeo. It wasn’t a story that I wanted to leave, and I imagine you will feel the same. So grab this one quick.

In love and romance,

Professor A

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s More than 5 ⭐️ Review: Ashley Jade’s ARC for Wicked Princess ✍🏻

Overall Grade: More than 5 Stars

I want to preface this review with three actions, you the reader, need to take before reading Ashley Jade’s newest Royal Hearts Academy book, Wicked Princess:

  1. You must, under no circumstances, go into this book with any expectations. None at all. If you’ve read Ashley Jade, then you should trust her ability to bring her characters’ stories to life. If you have never read Ashley Jade’s books before, well, why are you starting with Wicked Princess? You should definitely download it, but you should be binge-reading Cruel Prince and Ruthless Knight before reading Wicked Princess because you won’t understand the genius of these stories unless you’ve read them in succession even though they are truly standalones. So…reminder, no expectations.
  2. You must read the story from the first page to the last page. You should know this if you’re an Ashley Jade reader. She LOVES to leave surprises from the first page to the last. So…#2, read the entire book from front to back.
  3. Do not share any details of the story. Don’t do it. You will ruin the reading experience for anyone who has yet to read the book. And…that’s unfair. It’s also mean. Don’t be the Mean Girl of the Ashley Jade fan/GoodReads/FaceBook/BookBub/Amazon spaces. We won’t like that, and we won’t like you. 

That being said, here goes…

If you are looking for any spoilery, tidbits of this story in this review. You won’t find them. My lips are sealed. I will absolutely admonish you to run and buy this book immediately. And as I said above, if you have not read the first two books in this series, do not pass Go. Do not college $200 UNTIL you have read the first two books. Again, they are standalones, but they are interconnected. Also, if you have never heard of this series, to acknowledge genre, think YA/NA romance with various tropes spattered throughout it.

For me, Wicked Princess actualizes Ashley Jade’s persistence as a writer. If you’ve been reading romance any length of time, and you’ve read consecutive books from an author, and you’ve read them from the beginning of their publishing experience, then you know that writers evolve. The ones who don’t evolve grow tired, and I imagine readers (at least that is the case with this reader) stop being rabid for their books. You want change; you want variation; and you want fresh as a romance reader. Lord knows, tropes and genres rarely change. However, when a writer, one such as Ashley Jade, keeps pushing her boundaries, keeps wanting more, keeps listening to her intuition about her stories, what you find is a writer who constantly reinvents themselves, and it makes their book list and the romance genre as a whole better for it. 

Wicked Princess pushes Ashley Jade’s scope out. That is the big revelation here. She shows her writing chops in her choices for this book. She trusts her instinct about these characters, and she’s unapologetic about it. Just visit her Angry Girls group for that. And she shouldn’t be contrite for her ability to write a story that does many things to you as the reader. 

For one, Wicked Princess culls together the history of the Royal Hearts Academy reminding us that there are bigger stories sitting in the background of this series. Secondly, it shows us that Jade writes a book within itself. Yes, she’s brought back history, but she’s also given Bianca’s story to its own space. Cruel Prince, Ruthless Knight, and Wicked Princess are all interconnected. Yet, they are each so different, the only carryover from one to the next is the characters and their stories. Period. As I was reading Wicked Princess, I was astounded at its difference to the other books. It reads as its own space in the series even though its proximity is close. If you don’t see the genius of that, then you do not understand “good” writing. Thirdly, the literary and plot devices of this book illustrate the gravity and depth of Ashley Jade’s writing prowess. I was 40% through this book, and I was compelled to comment out to her about her brilliance. Because this book is a writing treasure. And again, it’s its own book. 

If there are any reviews for Ashley Jade’s Wicked Princess lower than a 4 star, then you need to know that they (1) did not finish it (DNF) or (2) went into this book wanting specific plot points to occur. That isn’t fair to this book, this series, or its author. When you enter a series of books, you need to remember that you’ve placed yourself in the hands of a beloved author. You must trust that they will craft the story that their readers need and expect. Ashley Jade’s Wicked Princess is the story you need right now, and it marks a defining moment in Jade’s journey as a writer, in my honest opinion. If you don’t read it (and its predecessors), then you’ve missed your chance to stretch yourself as a romance reader. The feelings this story elicits are bar none.

In love and romance,

Professor A

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 5++ ⭐️ Review: Jessica Peterson’s Southern Seducer ✍🏻

Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️++

I was only a short way through Jessica Peterson’s Southern Seducer when I realized how much I had missed reading her brand of romance while she was away on maternity leave. If you’ve read any of my reviews for her books, you’ll realize quickly how excited she makes me over her intent in making romance MORE. Yes, the romantic relationships are key elements of her books, but she always gives us MORE to consider, and Southern Seducer is no different. As you read chapter after chapter of this new book, I think what you realize quickly is that Jessica Peterson, more than any of her other books, is bleeding herself onto the pages, and she’s grafted a romance that tackles some of life’s most difficult times. 

The romance of Southern Seducer is a combination of sweet, soulful, and seductive. Her hero and heroine, Beau and Annabel “Bel,” inhabit one of my favorite but confusing tropes: best friends to lovers. Peterson has crafted a friendship that can withstand anything. At the core of their journey, though, is the overwhelming nature of expectations when they aren’t balanced with the reality of life. Both Beau and Bel struggle with a sense of expectation that is a creation of their own minds. As such, their lives feel messy as they fail to meet those pristine expectations. Each has their own story which highlights their difficulties. It is their deep abiding friendship that sees them through that mess and leads them into a relationship that truly sits in the divide between expectation and reality. Peterson composes these reverent moments between the two, as they grow deeper in their friendship and love. From Beau’s first words of solace to Bel on her diagnosis of postpartum depression, I wanted more. My favorite moments in this book aren’t the steamy ones. They rarely are. They are the moments where humanity is spoken and it brings a sense of peace for the characters. Each of those moments leads you deeper into Beau and Bel’s exemplification of love. There is a tenderness with this couple, even while there are moments of hilarity and sensuality too. Peterson’s ability to construct these layers for her characters is an additional reason I’ve missed her romances. I’m thankful that Beau and Bel have brought us back to Peterson’s brand of Southern romance. 

Life is messy. I think this is the ultimate truth of Jessica Peterson’s Southern Seducer. I think we live in a time when that message is screaming at us. So many people are holding tight to their control when, quite frankly, it feels more important to live in each moment. To be messy. To acknowledge that we aren’t “okay” right now. Even more, that we can ask people to walk us through the difficulties of our lives. This is the truth that both Beau and Bel have to learn in Jessica Peterson’s carefully drawn story of two friends finding a depth of love beyond their imaginations. Reading this truth as it’s revealed in this impassioned story was important, just as I imagine it was important for Jessica Peterson to write it on the page. Beau and Bel are us; they are striving to meet their carefully constructed intentions for their lives. Yet, when their lives don’t meet those ideologies, through their love for each other as friends, they allow themselves to accept the now and to accept their messiness. If we don’t need a book like this right now, then I don’t know what we need. Beau and Bel’s story is perfect in its imperfection. Grab this one fast because it is ALL the stars.

In love and romance, 

Professor A

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 4 ⭐️ Review: Alex Grayson’s Lead Player ✍🏻

Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Who doesn’t love the idea of going to a bar one night, meeting the eyes of an incredibly handsome man, deciding that you want to spend one night with him, finding out quickly that the two of you have instant chemistry, and taking that beautifully built, $exy man home to a night of ecstasy? That is the start to Alex Grayson’s newest book, Lead Player. What her heroine, Alaina, doesn’t realize is that she has spent the night with the lead guitarist for Phenix AND he’s the best friend to her best friend’s fiance. Thinking they would never meet again, Alaina realizes quickly that she cannot escape Enzo’s force field of hunkiness so easily. However, she struggles with the fact that he has lived a fast life of music and women. She is looking for a partner, a man to share her life, not a man who will disappoint her when he leaves her easily. Grayson’s Lead Player asks the questions: can Enzo give Alaina her “happily ever after” and will Alaina trust him enough to allow him into her life? Those questions become the breeding ground of fiery chemistry, a side story of an obsessed young woman, and a big secret that threatens any final happiness for Enzo and Alaina. 

What did I love about Lead Player:

  1. Obviously, Enzo and Alaina’s coupleship is everything you love in a romance. These two have chemistry for days, and it’s apparent from the first chapter of this book. I think Enzo is initially attracted to Alaina physically; however, her personality and way of rejecting him piques his interest in her because she is different from the myriad of women prior to her. That’s catnip for romance readers. When a formerly promiscuous hero becomes enamoured to the point of changing his lifestyle, you can’t help but LOVE that type of romance. And Grayson writes this well for her readers in Lead Player. Add in the type of heroine able to take this “playboy” hero to his knees, and you find yourself “all in” to this type of romance. You’ll find this in Lead Player.
  2. The cavalcade of supporting characters. Grayson juggles the friendship group between Enzo and Alaina nicely. She teases their stories without letting them overpower Enzo and Alaina’s, which is no easy feat. I’ve read stories where authors have attempted to introduce a group of characters, and they become mired and confused in providing parallel stories through them. That isn’t the case in Lead Player. Even more, these other characters, namely Alaina’s best friends, Juliet and Nikki, are her strength. When the romance unravels, as it does in all romance books, they provide her with the support to endure it. They also offer her wisdom and promises of physical harm to the hero, which is what you hope your best friends would do for you. The characterizations feel real and grounded, and this is definitely Grayson’s strength as a writer.
  3. The plot. I enjoyed Enzo and Alaina’s journey. It feels seamless, although I really want to question Enzo a bit more. I mean…why Alaina? We know he wants a deeper connection with women beyond the one-nigh stand, but he also isn’t interested in relationship “things” yet. I’m not sure that there is a specific moment when he makes this different choice for himself, and I would love to understand his “why” more beyond his growing deeper interest in Alaina. 

Overall, Lead Player engaged me in Enzo and Alaina’s story. I haven’t read K. Bromberg’s books yet, so I know I’m missing out on her Everyday Hero world. I know that it makes these “universe” books more profound when the reader is a devoted fan of the original author. However, Alex Grayson has crafted a story that captures your heart. It’s enough without the K. Bromberg sentimental influence. Enzo and Alaina’s story is the type of romance that readers like me end with a smile and feeling of contentment when the last page turns. 

In love and romance,

Professor A

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 5 ⭐️ Review: Helena Hunting’s Kiss My Cupcake – releasing TOMORROW ✍🏻

Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

“‘God, you’re beautiful.’ He squeezes both of my hands. ‘You look like you were made for me.’ I squeeze back. ‘That’s because I am.'”

There are times in your life when you just need to laugh. Maybe it’s the stress of the day-to-day or maybe it’s something far more onerous. No matter the reason, laughing is INDEED the best medicine. I didn’t realize until Chapter 1 of Helena Hunting’s newest romance, Kiss My Cupcake, that I needed a good laugh. And every chapter after that chapter reminded me again why I adore her stories, why they make me swoon and chuckle and become awestruck by her ability to weave contemporary romance tropes with the type of humor that feels absurd at times but natural to real life. Since I stepped into her Pucked world, I have never turned back, and Kiss My Cupcake is more of the same type of humor you love from Helena Hunting. 

This story follows two business owners. Blaire is opening a cupcake/Instagram-ready cocktails business. This woman is 1950s-inspired, driven, organized, and creative. Unbeknownst to Blaire, her business neighbor, the hipster-looking, Brawny man-inspired, Ronan, is in the process of reimagining and renovating his grandfather’s bar, The Knight Cap. From the moment these two meet, the sparks fly. Over time, these two enemies realize a partnership will save their businesses from a corporate, cookie-cutter bar. As they work together, those initial sparks are grounded more in chemistry than anything. However, these two are also competing for the title of Best Bar in the Pacific Northwest. Who will win? Even so, will Blaire and Ronan’s burgeoning romantic relationship survive?

From the start, I was all in with Blaire and Ronan. While seemingly opposites, these two are actually more alike than different. One is the yin to the other’s yang, and the initial disdain they feel for each other is simply kindling for a growing blaze of chemistry. And to be clear, this fire is a slow burn. A real slow burn. I think what I love about Hunting’s characterizations here is her need to build a story before that chemistry builds to a bonfire. It’s what I think makes her an exceptional writer. She recognizes that romance is built through a careful plodding of that chemistry-build, and it allows the reader to believe the relationship, even when some of the circumstances seem unbelievable. If you’re a fan of a steadily growing relationship, not a quick jump in the sack, then you WANT this book. 

It’s so hard to say what I love most about this book because it all conspires to grab your heart. Blaire and Ronan’s characterizations and chemistry are obviously the best part. However, the families of both Blaire and Ronan add an additional layer of color. Gramps is my FAVORITE character of this story. With his Scottish accent and life lessons, you will fall madly for him. With Blaire’s family, Hunting illustrates how she’s set apart from other romance writers: the ludicrous finds its reality. When I read a Hunting romance, I belly-laugh. Kiss My Cupcake is no different. Yet, even between laughs, I’m caught up in the story of this book. Blaire and Ronan’s need to prove themselves, their burgeoning coupleship, and their eventual happy ending make this book the perfect afternoon (or evening or morning) read. This is the type of book you can sit outside with your favorite alcoholic beverage while the sun is high in the sky (or setting) and get lost. It’s really easy to do with Kiss My Cupcake

When I began reading Helena Hunting’s newest book, I intended to use it as a shield of protection for my heart. I was reading another ARC with quite a bit of angst (something very different from Hunting’s stories), and I was going to read a couple of chapters of Kiss My Cupcake and a couple of chapters of the other book, alternating between the two. My hope was that Hunting’s book would save me from the anxious feelings that you feel when reading an angsty book. What happened was typical for me while reading one of Hunting’s romances: I couldn’t stop reading it. While the other book could hold my attention, I didn’t want to leave Blaire and Ronan because the hilarity, the storytelling, the characters, and the plot drew me in and suspended me. I found myself negotiating: “just a couple of more chapters” and I will take a break. After two hours, I finally resolved myself to keep reading until the end because Blaire and Ronan are quite magical. From unicorn martini glasses to va-jay-jay cupcakes to axe-throwing, plaid-wearing bartenders, Kiss My Cupcake is the perfect savior from the most horrible of days. Grab this one QUICK and fall in deep.

In love and romance, 

Professor A

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 5 ⭐️ Review: Tia Louise’s Reckless Kiss ✍🏻

Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

“Being in Deacon’s arms means being supported by a partner who will fight for me, who will hold my hand when I have to fight, who will wait for me when I need some space, and who won’t give up until I’ve slain my monsters.

Together, our love is healing. Our love is creative and pure. Our kisses are reckless, but they’re not irresponsible. We’re wild and free, like the horse in my painting. Our spirit is groundbreaking and revolutionary, brave enough to heal the wounds of the past and forge a future of unity.”

If I had to use one word to describe Tia Louise’s Reckless Kiss, it would be stunning. By my estimation, this book, this glorious romance of two people so fated for each other, so connected through their souls, is Louise’s most cerebral, most eloquent, and most viscerally romantic and sensual to date. Every page reveals truths that feel important to today. If you think you’ve come to Reckless Kiss expecting a re-telling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet or a modern-day Hatfields and McCoys, then you will be disappointed. Instead, Louise invites us into a world of romance where the underlying message is deeper than the love between her characters, Deacon and Angelica.

To be honest, the blurb for Reckless Kiss does not truly envision the beautiful essence of this story. Throughout the first twenty percent of the story, I breathlessly waited for Angelica and Deacon to fall apart given their families’ differences. Without revealing anything, that isn’t this story. Louise’s last two books revealed a Deacon who seems incredibly self-possessed that he feels like the rock for characters such as Noel and Mindy. Financially, he inspires them, but we don’t really see the true qualities of Deacon’s character until he’s coupled with Angelica. Together, these two are romance perfection. Seriously. Every moment you find them on the page, your heart melts for them because they complete each other. In Wait for Me and Here with Me, there was the allusion of Deacon with Noel and Mindy, but it’s clear in Reckless Kiss that Angelica would always be his. He feels alpha in those former books, but Angelica wields a power over Deacon that makes it clear she was always fated for him. Like Romeo and Juliet, this makes their coupling otherworldly. They feel ethereal in their coupledom, which makes Deacon’s name for Angelica (“Angel) even more profound. Louise has written an erotic, exquisite story for these two, and you will fall madly for them.

What is more provocative about this story, though, is its significance. Of the Tia Louise books I’ve read to date, for me, this is the most intelligent, the one with an intellectualism that underscores Deacon and Angelica’s fated love. This book is about promises kept, culture, prejudice, familial bonds, and identity. In Reckless Kiss, Tia Louise provides an answer to prejudice by crafting a beautiful abiding love between two intelligent, strong individuals, intertwining cultures, bridging gaps. Louise allows promises to be kept; she speaks to the need to control actions and ideologies; she doesn’t point fingers to one side of the debate on prejudice. Instead, she wisely shows her readers that the same thinking resides on both sides, and she challenges us to do better. Her book’s elements feel important and insightful, and quite frankly, it was nothing like I thought it would be, which made it a profound read for me. From highlighting microaggressions to illustrating how different characters co-opted parts of Angelica’s identity, the judiciousness of Reckless Kiss is its best part, even when Deacon and Angelica’s love is elemental to the story. 

This book has many secrets, but like Deacon, it holds and keeps its promises too. It instructs us that change can happen, that people can be better, and that love will win if it’s unselfish and unconditional. Tia Louise’s title might be Reckless Kiss, but it is anything but reckless in its truth.

In love and romance, 

Professor A