The Varlet and the Voyeur by L.H. Cosway & Penny Reid
June 14, 2018
When William Moore, a sweet and quiet pro rugby player from America, is discovered to be a voyeur, the tabloids have a field day with him. Labeled a pervert and worse, the team decides some PR is needed and Willam agrees to a live-in companion to help him break his need to watch (consensual) couples having sex. Josey Kavanaugh has just learned her parents have lost their life savings in an investment scheme and have to move…and they don’t want her moving with them. Currently enrolled in school with no job, she goes to live temporarily with her bestie though her natural exuberance leaves a lot to be desired. When she agrees to act as a varlet for Willam, the sparks fly though it will take more than that to convince this couple they are each worth loving.
Humor and sex go hand in hand as Cosway and Reid’s latest adventure in their best-selling Rugby series pits a quiet clean cut rugby player with an obnoxious young woman who is homeless. Awkwardly charming with some intense sexual tension, this delightful no strings sex to romance blends a comedy of errors theme with the serious undertones of kink shaming, fear of commitment, and feelings of inadequacy. A familiar cast of characters offers more laughter and some much-needed advice when this relationship seeps beyond the agreed upon boundaries and each have trouble believing in the other’s intentions.
I absolutely adored William. Quiet and shy, he flies his freak flag high and proud in the bedroom. A bad relationship when he was younger left him unwilling to entertain dating unless he is sure it will lead to something serious. Josey was funny but annoying at the same time. I liked her better in her own story because we were able to see the “why” behind some of her actions. Lack of impulse control is a huge problem of hers. Regardless, she is a good match for him. Loud and socially awkward, she more than learned her lesson about judging people and finds William’s need to watch more a control issue. He sees her social awkwardness as charming and she loves how deeply he feels. My only qualm was Josey’s lack of redemption. Fans may remember Josey from book four when she took it upon herself to make some decisions for her bestie, causing even more problems. Though Eli forgave Josey in book 4, I felt her behavior was glossed over in here.
Speakeasy by Sarina Bowen
True North, #5
June 14, 2018
This chemistry ladened friends to lovers romance reveals a funny, smart, and sexy story that builds around a bisexual woman and a commitment-phobic man who find their friendship developing into something more when May’s girlfriend cheats on her and Alec offers to help her move out and settle back into her childhood home. Well written with a strong storyline bolstered by various plotlines that are tailored to show May and Alec’s blossoming romance and individual issues. Delightful narrative and vibrant characterization enchant as you watch this couple slowly and unknowingly fall head over heels in love.
I loved seeing the Shipleys and Rossis again. The mild antagonism between them (well. really just Griff and the Rossi boys) only makes you laugh harder when they interact. May and Alec’s position in their families as “screw ups” is a problem plus, middle child syndrome is a thing and both families are guilty of it. The second romance of sports develops in the background and I loved seeing how May and her bestie are able to navigate through May’s crush while keeping their friendship in tack. Though the atmosphere is quite jovial overall, there is a serious undercurrent as Bowen divulges into such topics as addiction, unrequited love, toxic childhoods, and redemption. I did take some issue with May’s sexuality. Why couldn’t May fall in love with another woman? Why did she have to love a Rossi? They weren’t besties. Rather they were acquaintances who forged a bond due to a situation. While I enjoyed the story overall and felt it revealed organically; I also felt like Bowen changed May’s orientation to suit the story and that made me sad.
Heart of Malice by Lisa Edmonds
Alice Worth, #1
June 13, 2017
Alice Worth is a mage in hiding. Having escaped her grandfather’s powerful cabel after years of abuse, Alice is now a PI who takes on private cases while keeping a very low profile. When a young lady comes to her to help discover whose trying to kill her, Alice suddenly finds her world turned upside down as she acquires a ghostly sidekick, a werewolf boyfriend, and a vampire who wants more than friendship.
I picked up this story on a whim and am so glad I did. This classic UF tale offers readers the basics; a strong heroine whose dark past keeps her alone and always on the defensive, interesting magical powers, easy to follow modern world building, and an action-packed mystery fueled storyline with multiple plotlines designed to expand the world and main arc. Alice is the type of heroine I enjoy in UF. She’s stubborn, weary, fights for the underdog regardless of her own safety, and loves far too easy for all the betrayal she has suffered. There is a vulnerability to her that appeals to the fighter in all of us. Engaging narrative (though repetitive at times) and bold writing effortlessly incorporate Alice’s backstory into the main conflict as it reveals. The romance is more developed then one might see in UF though I had no issues there. I look forward to reading more of this world in the future. I hope Edmunds reveals more of Alice’s past and the events that shaped who she is today.