✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 5 ⭐️ Review: Meghan Quinn’s The Change Up ✍🏻

Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

One of my favorite romance genres is sports romance. There is something about these muscley, hardworking athletes that create chemistry and strife in a way that hits me right in my gut. I’ve read some of Meghan Quinn’s other baseball players, but there was something about her Maddox Paige that piqued my curiosity so much that I NEEDED The Change Up. And in true Meghan Quinn form, she did NOT disappoint. 

Now, to be fair, I am working slowly through Quinn’s booklist, so there is still much for me to read. Yet, out of the books I’ve read thus far, I think The Change Up is my favorite. There are so many reasons for this…

  1. Maddox Paige. This hero has so many qualities that I love in romance heroes. For one, he is grumpy. Set in his ways and wanting a more solitary life than most, Maddox gives you butterflies. He’s obviously handsome and $exual in a way that feels different from Quinn’s other heroes. He talks about being a $exual being, and Quinn doesn’t hold back with him. Some of Quinn’s other heroes have felt almost effeminate. That is NOT the case with Maddox Paige. Besides his grumpiness and sensualness, Maddox is complex. He’s layered in his depiction that he hides behind the wall of his grumpiness. Kinsley, Quinn’s heroine, is the key to the lock that is Maddox Paige. And man, do I LOVE heroes with this level of complexity. There is more to him, and as the story evolves, like an onion, Quinn, through her heroine, peels back those layers to find the heart of Maddox Paige. Heroes such as Maddox Paige are my favorite type of heroes. 
  2. Kinsley. Oh my gosh. Kinsley is some of the comic relief of this story. Her heart is huge for the environment and animals and, well, Maddox. You can’t help but love her. As I’ve stated before, she is the key to unlock the best of Maddox. Like him, she too is very $exual, so their chemistry in the bedroom is some of the steamiest I’ve read in a Quinn book. In fact, it’s some of the steamiest I’ve read in a few weeks. These two are kindling to a fire, and their chemistry and burgeoning relationship drive you into their story until you find yourself emotionally entangled in their romance. 
  3. The emotions of this story. The last third of the story found me with tears streaming down my face. There is an emotional gravitas to this romance that you don’t expect. Obviously, with a best friends to lovers trope, there is the potential for it, but Quinn invests us heavily in her characters by making them likable that when the difficulty of their relationship occurs, you can’t help but feel their pain. For me, when you emotionally connect me to your characters, it’s an instant 5-star rating. 

I knew that I wanted to read this book, but I didn’t realize how much I would connect with Maddox and Kinsley’s story. Everything I love in a sports romance is found in The Change Up. It’s a multi-layered story about best friends realizing their feelings and exploring those deeper feelings. It’s about finding “your person” and having the tenacity to move beyond the fear of potentially losing them. So much is wonderful in Meghan Quinn’s The Change Up. If you’re a fan, this should be a must-read, If you’ve never read her books, today’s the perfect time to start with this book. 

In love and romance,

Professor A

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 4 1/2 ⭐️ Review: Max Monroe’s Winning Hollywood’s Goodest Girl ✍🏻

Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 1/2

What the world needs now is love….nope. What you need is Max Monroe’s newest book, Winning Hollywood’s Goodest Girl. Especially in our current climate when escapism seems like an everyday need, this book proffers that escape. One thing you can always count on with a Max Monroe book is the laughs. With a cavalcade of recurring characters (I see you Thatch and Cap) who tickle your funny bone, a book such as Winning Hollywood’s Goodest Girl allows you a respite from the stress of wanting to commit the homicide of your loved ones due to quarantine or the inanity of the talking heads of our media. This book has everything you love about a Max Monroe book with some surprises, so here goes. These are the many reasons WHY this book should be your read tonight:

  1. To date, Kline Brooks has owned my heart as Max Monroe’s perfect reflection of a book boyfriend. In the first book in their first billionaire series, Tapping the Billionaire, Kline sets the bar high for the rest of their heroes. Yes, I love the zaniness of Thatch and the pragmatism and neuroticism of Wes (the OG billionaires). The next series of billionaires are all charming like the OG guys, but the “come from out of nowhere” hero to upend Kline Brooks from his pedestal is the newest hero of WHGG, Harrison Hughes. Talk about a shock. Other than someone who teases Caplin Hawkins and a potential suitor to his sister (c’mon, we knew it was Theo the whole time), Harrison Hughes is a shocking discovery. He was so unassuming UNTIL Winning Hollywood’s Goodest Girl where he wooed the heck out of Raquel “Rocky.” If you love a hero who is self-reflective, insightful, intelligent, socially responsible in his ideologies, and empowering, then you will fall for Harrison. He is probably the one hero in the MM universe who isn’t easily dissuaded from his heroine. I won’t tell you what causes the upending of their burgeoning relationship (we know this happens in MM’s books), but it takes a major plan of deceit for this to occur. Until that point, Harrison shows us a secure, astute, emotionally mature hero. And I. AM. HERE. FOR. THAT. and I suspect you are too. 
  2. Unlike other Max Monroe books, the real focus of this book is Raquel. This is, in my opinion, one of their most layered heroines. Through her evolution, we are treated to the message of this book which I think is finding your own power from within yourself. In other words, self-confidence and self-knowledge are necessary for living an abundant life. While Raquel seems to “have it all,” we find out quickly that her life is very one-note. When Harrison enters her life, he adds in color and depth. He challenges her, and he helps her see that she holds control of her life. As he supports and acknowledges her needs, Raquel is able to bloom and finally realize what she wants from life. And I’ll let you guess what that is. Max Monroe’s characterization of Raquel, their evolution of her character, is the “meat” of their story, and it holds important lessons for their readers. We don’t have to be Hollywood Superstar actresses to be reminded that there is “life” in the word living, and we control how much “life” we put in it. 
  3. I’m pretty sure the “villain” of this story is the worst person in Max Monroe’s world of billionaires. I will NOT divulge this character, as you should read this book, but I can’t think of another character in their books who I hated more than this character. Max Monroe craft her in such a way that you almost love to hate her/him. Thankfully, there is retribution and justice meted out in the story, so all is set right in the end.
  4. A surprise baby story ALWAYS makes for an interesting romance. As Raquel navigates the twisted world of Hollywood complete with a doting baby daddy, you can’t help but laugh and cry in equal part about the challenges and steps of their story. I will say that this story is a) a bit slow to build and b) a serious slow-burn. Obviously, there is an early physical interaction, but it takes AWHILE for Raquel and Harrison to couple up. Max Monroe build the suspense of their relationship so slowly that you almost throw your Kindle at the wall waiting for their hero and heroine to “get their s%it together.” Yet, it’s that chemistry and tension that keeps you chained (this is good) to their story. Additionally, the delineation of their chapters in this story is interesting. I would love to pop into their minds a bit to understand their choices. However, even though those choices seem strange to this reader, they have written a story that feels complete in the end. 

I can never get enough of Max Monroe’s storytelling. I had been looking forward to Winning Hollywood’s Goodest Girl because I needed levity during a time of COVID and racial unrest. It isn’t meant to be used to hide from these challenges; instead, it feels like a respite from the world for just a bit of time. Offering up a hero such as Harrison, you can’t help but wish you had someone like him in your corner right now because you would know that there is someone who can help you through the challenges of your day, someone who sees your needs and offers your help to meet them. This solace coupled with the hilarity of Raquel and Harrison’s story is the perfect read for today…and tomorrow. If you are like me and looking for some levity, Max Monroe’s Winning Hollywood’s Goodest Girl is the perfect medicine. 

In love and romance,

Professor A

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 4 1/2 ⭐️ Review: Winter Renshaw’s The Best Man – LIVE Today! ✍🏻

Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2

When Winter Renshaw’s ARC for The Best Man hit my Kindle, I was salivating for it. Unfortunately, I had other more pressing ARCs to read so as to meet my deadlines for those reviews. Yesterday, when it went LIVE EARLY was the first time I could finally sit back and read it. I was nervous. It’s 50ish chapters. I knew I needed it read by last night, and I worried that I would have to pull an all nighter.

Yet, I needn’t worried BECAUSE in true Winter Renshaw fashion, The Best Man is a book that you simply cannot put down. It’s pacing and story draw you in, and you keep reading until you have gobbled every page.

The story follows Cainan and Brie. Initially, these two meet in a bar where Cainan proceeds to “hit on” Brie, and she spurns his one-night stand intent. He ends their connection with a comment: “Next time we meet, we won’t be strangers.” Unbeknownst to them both, Brie and Cainan meet when she witnesses a horrible crash and saves the life of the man in the crash, not realizing it is Cainan. Worried over him, she stays in the hospital to receive updates on his status and meets Cainan’s best friend, Grant. These two live in the same state and end up engaging in a relationship.

Cainan wakes up from his coma and believes he is married with two kids. His visions/dreams while sleeping are so vivid that he can’t believe he isn’t. For weeks and months after his surgery, he thinks about this woman in his dreams. Eventually, after healing and therapy, he returns to his life where one night he runs into her again at the same bar, only he doesn’t remember their first meeting, but he knows her face. She ends up leaving him again out of duty to life, and he struggles to move on from her. When his friend, Grant, tells him that he is getting married, Cainan eventually sees a photo of Grant’s fiancee, only to realize it’s the woman of his dream and the woman in the bar. Knowing that she is Grant’s, he resolves to move on from her. However, circumstances conspire to make it difficult.

Above all, this story is a slow-burn romance. If you are looking for $exy bedroom scenes, this isn’t the book. The beauty of this book is its story that keeps you suspended in anticipation because Renshaw designs characters that MUST be together. As the reader, you NEED Brie and Cainan to find their happy ending because Renshaw forms them to complete each other. If you’re worried that Brie cheats on Grant, you need not worry. Even more, this romance doesn’t even read as a romance where she must choose between two men. This isn’t the point of Renshaw’s The Best Man. Her purpose is telling a story of two people completely fated for each other that it takes on almost a paranormal feel. I hate using that word as it instantly reduces this story because that isn’t this story. Brie and Cainan are completely made for each other that their story reminds us that love shouldn’t be an obligation, but a source of power, pleasure, and peace.

Renshaw’s style is such that it almost feels quiet at times. I’ve observed this in her other books. Even when the hero (actually, usually the hero) or heroine is raging in the story, the romance whispers across the page. It’s this quietude that allows for the story to flow, so that a reader like me easily crushes the book. Like I said at the beginning of this review, I began it in the early evening hours and finished it before I went to sleep at midnight. As I also mentioned the number of chapters in this book, you should know that many of them are short, so that you breeze easily through them on your way to the ending. Every chapter seemed necessary as it lays out both Brie and Cainan’s point of views. The structure of this story along with her prose offers up The Best Man as an extravagant read.

Winter Renshaw’s The Best Man is a perfect read for our times. It allows you to fall into Cainan and Brie’s journey as you pass your time at home. It will grab your heart and pull you into its charms, as it reminds us all that we should always choose love first.

In love and romance,

Professor A

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 4 ⭐️ Review: Kim Karr’s The Pretend Prince – Live TODAY! ✍🏻

Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Kim Karr grabbed my attention initially with her Men of Laguna series. She has this way of creating heroes and heroines who find themselves at odds. In that tension, you find them falling dramatically in love and lust. It’s that tension that makes her writing exciting, pulling her reader into her stories. Over the past year or so, Karr has created a royalty series, The Royals. With the first book in the series of standalones, Washed Up Royal, I was hooked. With the second book, Would Be Royal, I fell further under her spell. Wannabe Heir cemented my undying love for this series of standalones. 

Now, Karr has released The Pretend Prince, another standalone story about Julius Monaco, a prince who is a former Bachelor contestant who fell in love with his “perfect” match only to find out that she wasn’t who he thought her to be. Spurning her, they haven’t seen each other in three years, three long years that separated them physically, but never emotionally. They are brought back into each other’s lives, and Julius’s heroine, Ophelia, wants to make amends for her prior choices. Julius, however, still feels angry, so he places his anger on her. Faced with an issue created by Ophelia’s employer, Julius and Ophelia must pretend to fall in love again. These two struggle between their past feelings for each other, their overwhelming chemistry, and Julius’s anger over Ophelia’s betrayal. Will Julius ever forgive Ophelia and find a happily-ever-after with her? Or is Ophelia’s love for Julius doomed?

I have to admit that this story, of the four, is my least favorite. Yet, there is quite a bit of it that I loved:

  1. The idea behind the story. Here’s the thing. Shows such as The Bachelor and Love is Blind are instant reality television gold. People love the competition of these types of shows, and Karr using it as the vehicle for both Julius and Ophelia falling in love and breaking apart makes the story seem relevant and contemporary. It’s a nice little twist to a fairly common “opposites attract, second chance” contemporary romance.
  2. The Queen’s character. Honestly, Julius’s grandmother, the Queen, steals the entire book. She is your wizened, scheming grandmother who knows all when her grandson believes she’s ignorant of his situation. As such, her machinations behind the scenes bring Julius and Ophelia together in a way that allows them to fall back into love. Every moment she was on the page made this reader happy. She is a shot of humor in this story of second chances.
  3. Karr’s incorporation of the larger Royals community into her story reminds us of this great little series. In each of her books, Karr connects us back to her other Royals. It might be a mention or even an insertion of a former character into the present one that builds feelings of nostalgia. There is a little bit of it in The Pretend Prince. It’s enough that we realize Karr can build universes for her characters, a trait that other romance writers might struggle with. 

Now, where did I find challenges with this story?

  1. Julius and Ophelia’s relationship. I love a second chance romance. There is more tension built into these stories that create moments of angst and a resolution that usually feels overwhelmingly satisfying. This same tension belies Julius and Ophelia’s relationship; however, Karr carries it for too long in the story. I began to lose respect for Julius as he figuratively flagellated Ophelia for her supposed deception. He’s inconsiderate and temperamental in ways that feel immature. This is a man who has taken on the mantle of his grandfather’s company and made it better. Yet, he doesn’t give Ophelia the consideration of an explanation and holds it against her for much of the story. Even more, he uses physicality to his own ends and it becomes a penance for Ophelia which felt unhealthy. Ophelia accepts this as her plight towards redemption. However, it felt icky in ways to approve of Julius’s behavior. Honestly, I wanted to punch him at times because he’s stubborn and dogmatic. For someone who thought Ophelia was his soulmate, it takes him most of the story to accept her truth. That didn’t sit right with me. 
  2. The story at times felt very one-note. There were parts of the story that never were resolved or they were resolved too easily, namely the ire between Ophelia’s boss, Raquel, and Julius. She was the impetus for Ophelia and Julius reconnecting, and her ministrations of it were purely self-serving. I would have liked a better resolution to her part of the story than Karr provided. 

All of this aside, The Pretend Prince is more of what Karr serves up well. Once again, her readers find the hero and heroine at odds, chemistry flowing off the page. It’s clear from the beginning of this story that Julius and Ophelia are destined for each other. However, Karr never makes it easy for them. Whether it’s her ReWined series or her Men of Laguna or any of her princes, the journey towards love is a battlefield, and her characters either run or strategically place themselves among her mines. In the end, it makes for an explosive, compelling reading experience and her readers feel like the happy ending is well worth the battle. The Pretend Prince is no different and a great afternoon read during our troubled times. 

In love and romance,

Professor A

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 5 ⭐️ Review: Fiona Cole’s Surrender – Live early! ✍🏻

Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

At the end of Fiona Cole’s Lovers, there was indeed an opportunity for more Jake and Jackson. Together, these two are $exy, swoony, and sweet. And Lovers was the “tip of the iceberg” for them. Fiona Cole surprised us all with more of Jake and Jackson’s story in the Love is Love is Love anthology. For this reader, I was sad that I didn’t get my hands on it. Yet, Cole surprised us in deciding to release that story as a novella entitled Surrender. The only disappointment about Surrender is the need for MORE Jake and Jackson.

In this novella, Jake wants to marry Jackson, but Jackson seems reticent to “tie the knot.” Unbeknownst to Jake, Jackson is overwhelmed by the cost of the wedding that Jake’s mom wants to plan. Once Jake realizes the issue, he is determined to get Jackson to the altar. Will it happen before the end of the book? Read Surrender to find out.

Fiona Cole’s Surrender is the type of quick read you can do in a couple of hours. It’s a nugget of fun and sultriness. Just like Lovers, Jake and Jackson are hot in the bedroom. There is one scene, in particular, that is fire on the page. This is the Fiona Cole that we have all come to love.

The only complaint I have about Surrender is I want more. I love Jake and Jackson together: they love each other deeply, they support each other, and they are $exual magic. However, I want to see them beyond their wedding, considering babies. If I was Cole, I would continue Jake and Jackson’s story until their end because these two steam up the page and cause you to swoon. If you loved Lovers, then you definitely want Surrender. It’s a great deal, a quick read, and a place to distract you from the troubles of our world. Jake and Jackson are everything you want them to be.

In love and romance,

Professor A

✍🏻 Professor Romance’s 5 ⭐️ Review: Skye Warren’s Mating Theory – live TODAY! ✍🏻

Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I’m going to put this right here, right now: I think Skye Warren is a writing genius. There, I’ve said it. Now, I can move on. Warren is one of the first authors I read who took on the mantle of crafting universes for her characters. In past reviews for her other books, I’ve noted my excitement at her ability to weave in characters from prior books, so that you feel connected to this larger community. When a former character pops up, you know that Warren has taken care to drop us back into a community such as Tanglewood. For all of its darkness, Tanglewood is one of my favorite places BECAUSE Warren makes us want to live there. We want to meet Damon and Penny and Gabriel and Avery and Harlow and Christopher and Hugo and Bea and Blue and Hannah…and on and on. Warren makes us feel like we are life-long friends with her characters, and we hate to leave them. So…thankfully, Warren doesn’t make us. 

Enter Sutton Mayfair, one of the devastated heroes in Warren’s Trust Fund series. When we left him, Sutton had been spurned by the loves of his life, Harlow and Christopher. Rudderless and grieving the end of his love affairs with these two, Sutton has fallen into despair, anesthetizing himself and his grief in alcohol. Having agreed to act as Christopher’s best man, Sutton feels overwhelmed and unprepared for that folly. One night, he meets Ashleigh, a prostitute, and he feels a connection with her. As Sutton engages in the wedding festivities for Harlow and Christopher, Ashleigh becomes his lifeline, and she awakens something in him that helps repair his broken heart. However, is it possible for these two to have a future given her occupation and his trepidation about relationships, given his broken heart? Is it possible for the bastard son of an abusive man to find a happy ending?

From its first pages, Warren makes herself known as a poet. There is a lyricism in her words. Since poetry seems to be one of the connections between Sutton and Ashleigh, it makes you wonder if Warren’s own prose becomes poetry as an inspiration for her characters. There were these moments of heavy prose that stirred my little lit student heart. With words like this: “[u]fortunately. Unfortunately, I’ll always be his friend. Unfortunately, there are knives carving the inside of me, writing patterns of loss on the slick side of my skin. ‘Yes,’” you fall deeply into this world of loss and restoration. Every page that turns, Warren’s prose lays bare Sutton’s fractured soul and offers up Ashleigh as his balm. Warren’s words become the catalyst for redemption in her story. 

Even in its beginning, there is a tension in Sutton’s story. My heart hurt for him which made traveling through his story at times difficult. Even in the Trust Fund series, you vacillate between the emotion of his eventual rejection and the defenses he raises to protect himself from this rejection. There were times in the duet when I both despised him and hurt for him. Entering Mating Theory, I knew his journey would be a difficult one. I was curious how Warren would transfer our acceptance of Sutton with someone other than Christopher and Harlow. Interestingly enough, she does this with the act of empathy through the character of Ashleigh and the use of repetition to help us better understand his relationship with his past loves. First of all, Warren crafts Ashleigh in such a way that, while she is the youngest character, she reads as the wisest. She sees Sutton’s soul in ways that Harlow and Christopher failed. There is a moment on the day of Harlow and Christopher’s wedding that brilliantly exemplifies her care and compassion for him. It’s here where we begin to understand their connection to each other and its superiority over his relationships with Harlow and Christopher. Even more, Warren, through her use of repetition, illustrates his disconnect from the two. We realize that Sutton has idealized his bond with Harlow. Warren elucidates for us that Sutton doesn’t “know” Harlow as he supposed. Yet, Sutton recognizes Ashleigh’s pain and seems to see into her soul, into the essence of who she is. Warren imagines them as soul-mated, and it allows the reader to accept Sutton’s journey to love Ashleigh. This is necessary because we need to accept a love interest for Sutton beyond Christopher and Harlow, who have chosen each other before him. 

For me, this story is Sutton’s story. Ashleigh is a wonderful heroine who is the catalyst for Sutton’s restoration, and she has a clear story in this book. But this is more about a happy ending for Sutton. Don’t get me wrong. I love Ashleigh as the heroine. Again, for me, she’s wiser than the older, more mature adults, and her story is a heartbreaking one. However, I showed up for Sutton. Skye Warren ameliorated Sutton’s life in such a way that the message of second chances is clear. Even after heartbreak, we can find a better path, a richer life, and a deeper love. Moving beyond his past, Sutton finds a brighter future, one he truly deserves. Honestly, I loved Mating Theory a bit more than Warren’s Trust Fund duet because Sutton and Ashleigh’s story could be any of our own.  

In love and romance,

Professor A