2020 Book #31 – A Royal Kiss and Tell by Julia London

Title: A Royal Kiss and Tell
Author: Julia London
Date finished: 5/24/20
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication Date: May 19, 2020
Pages in book: 384
Stand alone or series: #2 in the Royal Wedding series
Where I got the book from: Edelweiss/ Publisher
NOTE: 
I received this book for free from Edelweiss / the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Every prince has his secrets. And she’s determined to unravel his…

Every young man in London’s ton is vying for Lady Caroline Hawke’s hand—except one. Handsome roué Prince Leopold of Alucia can’t quite remember Caroline’s name, and the insult is not to be tolerated. So Caroline does what any clever, resourceful lady of means would do to make sure Leo never again forgets: sees that scandalous morsels about his reputation are printed in a ladies’ gossip gazette…all while secretly setting her cap for the rakish royal.

Someone has been painting Leo as a blackguard, but who? Socially, it is ruining him. More important, it jeopardizes his investigation into a contemptible scheme that reaches the highest levels of British government. Leo needs Lady Caroline’s help to regain access to society. But this charming prince is about to discover that enlisting the deceptively sweet and sexy Lady Caroline might just cost him his heart, his soul and both their reputations…

My rating:  3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I haven’t read many books by Julia London in the past but I loved the cover on this one so I wanted to try it. I really didn’t like Caroline at first, she was so flighty and inappropriate. And full of herself! Leo too wasn’t my favorite character at first either, he wasn’t all that nice to Caroline at first but I liked him a bit better than Caroline. I was surprised at how much I ended up liking both characters by the end of the book. Both Leo and Caroline grew so much through the book, both characters were generous and loving by the end of the book. I do wish that there had been a little more detail on what happened to the bad guys at the end since they were doing such despicable awful things. And I didn’t like that the king didn’t even get rid of the advisor that was involved. Other than that the book was good, I liked the plot and the characters. It was a sweet love story and I would recommend it.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2020 Book #21 – Outfox by Sandra Brown

Title: Outfox
Author: Sandra Brown
Date finished: 5/15/20
Genre: Romantic suspense
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: August 6, 2019
Pages in book: 448
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Publisher
NOTE: I received this book for free from Grand Central Publishing in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

From the #1 NYT bestselling author: After a thirty-year search for a serial killer, FBI agent Drex Easton becomes a suspect’s next-door neighbor — but can he navigate a shocking series of twists and turns to track down the truth?
 
FBI agent Drex Easton is relentlessly driven by a single goal: to outmaneuver the conman once known as Weston Graham. Over the past thirty years, Weston has assumed many names and countless disguises, enabling him to lure eight wealthy women out of their fortunes before they disappeared without a trace, their families left without answers and the authorities without clues. The only common trait among the victims: a new man in their life who also vanished, leaving behind no evidence of his existence . . . except for one signature custom.
 
Drex is convinced that these women have been murdered, and that the man he knows as Weston Graham is the sociopath responsible. But each time Drex gets close to catching him, Weston trades one persona for another and disappears again. Now, for the first time in their long game of cat and mouse, Drex has a suspect in sight.
 
Attractive and charming, Jasper Ford is recently married to a successful businesswoman many years his junior, Talia Shafer. Drex insinuates himself into their lives, posing as a new neighbor and setting up surveillance on their house. The closer he gets to the couple, the more convinced he becomes that Jasper is the clever, merciless predator he’s sought–and that his own attraction to Talia threatens to compromise his purpose and integrity.
 

This is Drex’s one chance to outfox his cunning nemesis before he murders again and eludes justice forever. But first he must determine if the desirable Talia is a heartless accomplice . . . or the next victim.

My rating:  3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I read this book as part of Bout of Books 28.

I have always really loved Sandra Brown’s books, though some I’ve liked more than others. This was a fairly solid suspense but I thought there would be more to the plot twists. I didn’t especially love the big plot twist at the end, I thought it was a little bit of a let down. I still overall liked the story though and, for most of the book, I didn’t want to put it down. There were a couple of parts where the pacing grew a bit slow but overall it didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the book. I read this book with a couple work girlfriends and we read and discussed the book. Overall I liked the book but I can’t say it was my favorite, definitely not my favorite of Brown’s (which is of course Deadline in case you didn’t already know). I think it’s still worth the read but if you’re going to only read one of Brown’s books in life, read Deadline.

Link to author’s website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

 

2020 Book #30 – Salvation Station by Kathryn Schleich

Title: Salvation Station
Author: Katrhyn Schleich
Date finished: 5/19/20
Genre: Fiction, mystery
Publisher: She Writes Press
Publication Date: April 14, 2020
Pages in book: 328
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Library Thing
NOTE: I received this book for free from  Library Thing in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Despite her years of experience investigating homicides for the force, Captain Linda Turner is haunted by the murders of the Hansen family. The two small children, clothed in tattered Disney pajamas, were buried with their father, a pastor, in the flower garden behind a church parsonage in Lincoln, Nebraska. But Mrs. Hansen is nowhere to be found—and neither is the killer.

In St. Louis, the televangelist Ray Williams is about to lose his show—until one of his regular attendees approaches him with an idea that will help him save it. Despite his initial misgivings, Ray agrees to give it a try. He can’t deny his attraction to this woman, and besides, she’d assured him the plan is just—God gave her the instructions in a dream.

Multiple story lines entwine throughout this compelling mystery, delving into the topics of murder, religious faith, and the inherent dangers in blindly accepting faith as truth. While Reverend Williams is swept up in his newfound success and plans for his wedding, Captain Turner can only hope that she and her team will catch the Hansens’ cunning killer—before more bodies surface.

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I haven’t read anything by this author before but I was intrigued by the cover on this book and by the description. I am really glad I requested it because I really enjoyed it. The plot line of this book was really interesting and I enjoyed the suspense of the story. The characters I thought could’ve been developed a tad more but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story. I really liked getting Susannah’s point of view at the end of the story and I just thought that the “creepiness factor” could’ve been a little higher if we had gotten her POV more throughout the book. I overall really liked that the book featured a woman serial killer since that is seen less in media and it was a really interesting story. I liked how the author tied in all the different pieces of the story also – I didn’t see at first how Ruth & Emma’s story fit into the grand plan but by the end it was all connected and made sense. Overall I really liked this book and I would recommend it!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2020 Book #29 – The Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson

Title: The Accidental Beauty Queen
Author: Teri Wilson
Date finished: 5/17/20
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: December 4, 2018
Pages in book: 305
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

In this charming romantic comedy perfect for fans of Meg Cabot and Sophie Kinsella, critically acclaimed author Teri Wilson shows us that sometimes being pushed out of your comfort zone leads you to the ultimate prize.

Charlotte Gorman loves her job as an elementary school librarian, and is content to experience life through the pages of her books. Which couldn’t be more opposite from her identical twin sister. Ginny, an Instagram-famous beauty pageant contestant, has been chasing a crown since she was old enough to enunciate the words world peace, and she’s not giving up until she gets the title of Miss American Treasure. And Ginny’s refusing to do it alone this time.

She drags Charlotte to the pageant as a good luck charm, but the winning plan quickly goes awry when Ginny has a terrible, face-altering allergic reaction the night before the pageant, and Charlotte suddenly finds herself in a switcheroo the twins haven’t successfully pulled off in decades.

Woefully unprepared for the glittery world of hair extensions, false eyelashes, and push-up bras, Charlotte is mortified at every unstable step in her sky-high stilettos. But as she discovers there’s more to her fellow contestants than just wanting a sparkly crown, Charlotte realizes she has a whole new motivation for winning.

My rating:  4.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I read this book as part of Bout of Books 28.

I hadn’t had a chance to read this when it came out back in 2018 but I had originally requested it because it sounded very interesting and the cover is so cute. I’ve never read anything by this author before but this book was great! This book was a perfect blend of Miss Congeniality, The Parent Trap, and Pride and Prejudice. There were so many great bookish references – lots of Harry Potter and Pride and Prejudice references. This is a great read for a book lover! Overall it was a really sweet story and the plot line was well constructed and implemented. I thought that the ending all wrapped up a little quickly though. There was a lot of emotional growing that Charlotte went through during the book and I would’ve liked to witness more of the confrontation / result with Charlotte and her parents and also Ginny. This book was just so fun and entertaining, I really enjoyed it and I would recommend reading it!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2020 Book #28 – Strike Me Down by Mindy Mejia

Title: Strike Me Down
Author: Mindy Mejia
Date finished: 5/15/20
Genre: Thriller/suspense
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Publication Date: April 7, 2020
Pages in book: 348
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley / Publisher
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley / Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

From the critically acclaimed author of Leave No Trace, the “nail-biting page-turner that grabs you early and never lets go” (The Real Book Spy), comes a visceral thriller where a high stakes crime triggers a woman’s complicated and potentially deadly search for the truth.

Nora Trier catches thieves. As a forensic accountant and partner in her downtown Minneapolis firm, she’s unearthed millions in every corner of the world. She prides herself on her independence, the most essential currency of accounting, until her firm is hired by Strike.

An anti-corporate, feminist athletic empire, Strike is owned by Logan Russo, a brash and legendary kickboxer, and her marketing genius husband, Gregg Abbott. They’re about to host a major kickboxing tournament with twenty million dollars in prize money, and the chance for the champion to become the new face of the company. Gregg suspects his wife already has a new face in mind—a young trainer named Aaden, for whom Logan feels an unexpected connection.

Days before the tournament begins, it’s discovered that the prize money is missing. Gregg hires Nora’s firm to find both the thief and the money but Nora has a secret connection to Strike that threatens her independence. Her partner pressures her into taking the case anyway, hinting he has information about Strike that could change the course of the investigation in a shocking and deadly way.

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My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I read this as part of Bout of Books 28.

I have read other books by this author in the past and have always enjoyed them. And I have to say – this book was pretty perfect for me since it’s about a CPA! And there are a couple funny anecdotes included that made me giggle (included below).  This was a solid mystery, it had me guessing pretty much right up to the end. I thought there was going to be more of a “reveal” so there was a small disappointment when the plot twist wasn’t quite as twisty as I’d expected. Overall though the whole plot was good and I thought it was well paced, I was interested throughout the book. I didn’t understand the vagueness on why her team was crying about Corbett, and it said they knew something she didn’t, but I can’t remember if we ever found out what that thing is. Also the ending was a little too vague for me. Was there something romantic going on between Nora and Logan? It was a little unclear to me and left it up a little to the reader but I wouldn’t liked it to be a little more definitive. Other than those couple things though it was a really good book and I really enjoyed it. Especially being an accountant myself (and being the dorky kind where I actually like accounting) it was exciting to see an accountant as the main character and topic of the story! And I didn’t even realize that the author is a CPA herself, how fun. I would definitely recommend!!

FUN Quotes from the book

“Among accountants, there was no judgment like spreadsheet judgment.” (This is 100% true)

(This is a long one but so funny) “A business owner was looking to hire a manager and he interviewed each candidate with a simple question: ‘How much is 2+2?’ The engineer pulled out his slide rule and shuffled it back and forth, finally announcing, ‘It lies between 3.98 and 4.02.’ The mathematician said, ‘In two hours I can demonstrate it equals 4 with the following short proof.’ The psychologist said, ‘It’s not for me to answer, but we should spend some time exploring the question.’ The attorney stated, ‘In the case of Swenson v. the State, 2+2 was declared to be 4.’ The accountant looked at the business owner, got out of his chair, and closed the office door. Then he leaned across the desk and said in a low voice, ‘How much would you like it to be?'”

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2020 Book #27 – Buzz Books Romance sampler

Title: BuzzBooks 2020 Romance Sampler
Author: Various – see below
Date finished: 5/13/20
Genre: Romance
Publisher: Various
Publication Date: May 14, 2020
Pages in book: 275

Where I got the book from: Edelweiss
NOTE: I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

These are the samples that are included in the BuzzBooks 2020 Romance collection – I can’t say I loved most of them, but there was a good variety of stories included. Just seemed like most of them weren’t ones that grabbed out at me personally. Anyways, here’s the books with samples included:

Romeantically Challenged by Marina Adair

The Ballad of Hattie Taylor by Susan Andersen – LOVE the cover on this one

Searching for Rose by Dana Becker

The Roommate by Rosie Danan

Meet You in the Middle by Devon Daniels – I couldn’t find this one on Amazon but I think this one was my favorite in the sampler. I really loved the dynamic between the two main characters and the story line had me interested right from the start. I’ll have to see if I can find this for review on NetGalley or Edelweiss

The Cul-De-Sac War by Melissa Ferguson

Follow Your Heart by Brenda Jackson

Paris is Always a Good Idea by Jenn McKinley

Better Than People by Roan Parrish

A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby by Vanessa Riley

Then There Was You by Mona Shroff

How to Fail at Flirting by Denise Williams

Scandalous Secrets by Synthia Williams

The Way You Tempt Me by Elle Wright

Overall I was really excited by the diversity included in this sampler. There were so many different genres and types of characters that I think there would be something that everyone would love! I was surprised by the number of stories included featuring politicians (three!) since I haven’t seen as many of those featured up until about a year ago.

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2020 Book # 26 – Close Up by Amanda Quick

Title: Close Up
Author: Amanda Quick
Date finished: 5/12/20
Genre: Romantic suspense
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: May 5, 2020
Pages in book: 302
Stand alone or series: #4 in the Burning Cove series
Where I got the book from: Edelweiss
NOTE: 
I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Welcome to Burning Cove, California where 1930s Hollywood glamour conceals a ruthless killer…

Vivian Brazier never thought life as an art photographer would include nightly wake-up calls to snap photos of grisly crime scenes or headshots for aspiring male actors. Although she is set on a career of transforming photography into a new art form, she knows her current work is what’s paying the bills.

After shooting crime scene photos of a famous actress, the latest victim of the murderer the press has dubbed the “Dagger Killer,” Vivian notices eerie similarities to the crime scenes of previous victims—details that only another photographer would have noticed—details that put Vivian at the top of the killer’s target list.

Nick Sundridge has always been able to “see” things that others don’t, coping with disturbing dreams and visions. His talent, or as he puts it—his curse—along with his dark past makes him a recluse, but a brilliant investigator. As the only one with the ability to help, Nick is sent to protect Vivian. Together, they discover the Dagger Killer has ties to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood royalty and high society. It is a cutthroat world of allure and deception that Vivian and Nick must traverse—all in order to uncover the killer who will stop at nothing to add them to their gallery of murders.

My rating:  3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I read this book as part of Bout of Books 28!

It’s been awhile since I’ve read an Amanda Quick book, but this one was a great one to pick back up on! The author did an awesome job of transporting the reader right into Old Hollywood. I felt like I was on the scene of one of those noir films, everything classic drama and black and white. And while that was one of my favorite parts of the novel, overall I can’t say that this book was one of my favorites. It was good and I loved the atmosphere and ambience that the author infused into the novel. But I thought the pacing could’ve been improved a bit, it felt a tad slow to me. And there wasn’t all that much chemistry between Nick and Vivian, nor was there all that much tension through the suspenseful parts of the story. There was enough of it to keep the story interesting but there wasn’t enough to really keep me on the edge of my seat. I still really enjoyed the novel and the world it transported me into and I would recommend it, especially if you love old noir films!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page