Friday, September 21, 2018

Review: A Nordic King

I feel like royal stories are becoming a dime or dozen these days (thanks, Harry and Meghan) but when they're as well told and as engrossing as Karina Halle's are, I don't mind one bit. A Nordic King is Halle's latest book in a sort-of-but-not-really-at-all series she's been writing about Scandinavian princes and kings. The new book (just published today) is all about King Aksel, who we met briefly in her two previous books, The Swedish Prince (review here) and The Wild Heir (review here). The books have been getting better and better (to me, personally) and this last one totally swept me off my feet.

Here's the synopsis:
When I first applied for the job I thought it would be like all the others: working as a nanny for an aristocratic family.
Then I got the job and found out how wrong I was.
Now I’m the new nanny for two adorable little girls who happen to be princesses.
Their father is the widowed King of Denmark.
And my new home? The royal palace in Copenhagen.
Adjusting to my new life isn't easy but the hardest part hasn’t been the girls who still grieve over the loss of their mother.
It’s their father.
Cold, mysterious and moody, with an icy stare that seems to penetrate your soul, King Aksel may have hired me to take care of his daughters but he wants as little to do with me as possible.
Yet the longer I share these palace walls with this man, the more that I’m drawn to him. His chiseled face and sexual swagger are only part of the package. It’s in the long, intense glances at the dinner table, the way we’ll brush up against each other in the halls, the rare glimpses of the man deep inside, like the sun passing through clouds.
But no matter how I feel about him, we can never be together.
You think it's bad enough being in love with your boss?
Try falling in love with a king.
I hadn't realized I have a problem with romances involving a couple with one person in a position of power over the other. That is, until I read a really, really good one. Obviously King Aksel has all of the power in this novel. Not just over Aurora but over the whole of Denmark. But he doesn't use that power for evil (sorry, lapsing into fairy tale speak here). Sure, he and Aurora joke about it in the bedroom but they're doing so in a safe space. Plus, Halle makes it extremely clear that Aurora wouldn't put up with any of that nonsense - and Aksel knows that. A strong heroine makes all the difference (plus having a man who's, you know, not an asshole. Though she does call him King Asshole on occasion!).

On a personal note, I loved that Aurora was Australian. I've been to that marvelous country twice (her hometown, Windorah, is just a mere 14 hour drive from where I stayed) and I love when contemporary stories feature Aussie characters.

As I mentioned, this is the third book in Halle's royal sort-of series. You can read any of these books in any order. Trust me! Aksel only flits through the first two and readers of those books likely got the same first impression Aurora did - that Aksel was unhappy, cold, stand-offish, grieving. But unlike Viktor and Magnus, the princes featured in the other books, Aurora actually tries to figure out what makes Aksel tick and she truly wants to help the family, Aksel and his two adorable daughters, heal after their loss. (To be fair to the princes, they had their own issues to deal with that didn't involve figuring out what was happening with the king in a neighbouring country.) Even though this isn't a series, you'll probably still want to read the other two for a great dose of royals and romance.

Halle's books are always super emotional and will always deliver a few gut punches and heartbreaks. But there's always a Happily Ever After waiting at the end and it's never cheesy. Her books are real (even with the whole "falling in love with a royal" thing) and that means there are highs (lots of laughs and sexy times) and lows (lies and sorrow). She strikes such a good balance and I know when I dive into her books I'll be feeling all the feels. I can't think of another author who does that so well.

I experienced a major book hangover when I finished Karina Halle's A Nordic King. The story - and  characters - burrowed right into my heart and soul and I fell in love with it. I can't wait for everyone else to read it too. It's one to pick up (immediately!) if you love love and really well told stories.

Download A Nordic King today! 
FREE in Kindle Unlimited * Amazon US * Amazon UK * Amazon CA * Add to Goodreads

Meet Karina
Karina Halle is a former travel writer and music journalist and The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today Bestselling author of The Pact, Love, in English, The Artists Trilogy, Dirty Angels and over 20 other wild and romantic reads. She lives on an island off the coast of British Columbia with her husband and her rescue pup, where she drinks a lot of wine, hikes a lot of trails and devours a lot of books.
Halle is represented by the Root Literary and is both self-published and published by Simon & Schuster and Hachette in North America and in the UK.

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*An eARC was provided by the author via Social Butterfly PR in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Review: How to Keep a Secret

I've been reading Sarah Morgan's romances for a long time now and they're always so enjoyable. Like many romance authors in recent years, Morgan has just published a women's fiction novel, How to Keep a Secret. Personally, I think there's a lot of cross-over between the genres and the different marketing sometimes really frustrates me because they (publishers) really only do it because some idiots people turn their noses up at romance novels. *breathes* But that's a rant for another day. Today I will gush about the loveliness that is Morgan's latest book!

Here's the synopsis:
When three generations of women are brought together by crisis, they learn over the course of one hot summer the power of family to support, nourish and surprise
Lauren has the perfect life...if she ignores the fact it's a fragile house of cards, and that her daughter Mack has just had a teenage personality transplant.
Jenna is desperate to start a family with her husband, but it's... Just. Not. Happening. Her heart is breaking, but she's determined to keep her trademark smile on her face.
Nancy knows she hasn't been the best mother, but how can she ever tell Lauren and Jenna the reason why?
Then life changes in an instant, and Lauren, Mack, Jenna and Nancy are thrown together for a summer on Martha's Vineyard. Somehow, these very different women must relearn how to be a family. And while unraveling their secrets might be their biggest challenge, the rewards could be infinite...
Heartwarming and fresh, Sarah Morgan's brilliant new novel is a witty and deeply uplifting look at the power of a family of women. 
I do have to talk about the difference between this book and Morgan's usual romances (not rant-y, I promise). How to Keep a Secret isn't so much about the love stories (there are three of them) but more about the four Stewart women and their relationships with each other. The familial relationships are way more complicated and problematic than the romantic ones and I appreciated the balance between the two. It was actually quite refreshing because I haven't read a book like this in a little while and it was so well done.

The only thing I didn't really like was, funnily enough, the secrets that were being kept. I had a feeling I knew what Lauren and Jenna were keeping from their mother, and vice versa, but the girls' reasoning just didn't sit well with me. It was a sound reason at 11 and 8 ish but once they grew older? Not so much. I guess I just didn't understand why they wouldn't try to work past it. Maybe they thought the relationships were too damaged to try and repair them. This secret also caused a blow-up between Jenna and her husband that didn't seem very realistic but I think it was more a "last straw" than the actual problem. (Yeah, that's vague but spoilers must be avoided!)

I was worried that the story might get a bit confusing with all the points of view but Morgan managed to keep everything together well. I do think I wanted more time with/background of/interactions between the characters but it's hard to do in a story like this sometimes. I liked all the different viewpoints and how you could see as the story went on how the women were starting to trust each other more and become closer.

Oh my gosh. And the setting? I could totally picture The Captain's House and the lovely scenery Morgan painted for the reader. Made me crave a beach vacation or perhaps a visit to my hometown on Georgian Bay.

Finally, I have to share how exciting it was to see a character with the same name as me! She was minor (so minor she's only mentioned in passing) but I've only encountered this in two other books and twice in real life (the actress doesn't count).

How to Keep a Secret may not be a traditional Sarah Morgan romance but it has all the things readers look for when picking up one of her books - and more. Someone looking for a really light-hearted story would be disappointed (my recommendation is change your viewpoint/expectation and read it anyway) but anyone who wants a great story about family and love will be so pleased with Morgan's latest book.

*A copy of this novel was provided by the publisher, Harlequin, in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Review: One More Moment

One More Moment is the latest book in Samantha Chase's "Band on the Run" series. I haven't read any of the other books featuring the guys from the band Shaughnessy but I knew this was one of those series where I could hop in anywhere and enjoy the ride. This romance was fun and sweet and I enjoyed it.

Here's the synopsis:
Julian Grayson is taking a break
...from his cheating fiancée
...from his band
...from his life in the spotlight
Charlotte Clark is devoted to her work save the world help the homeless get a broken man back on his feet
When Charlotte Clark offers to pay for Julian Grayson's coffee, the world-famous drummer assumes she wants something from him. But Charlotte has no idea who he is, and Julian can't resist keeping up the charade—being incognito is a novelty and a relief. He'll have to tell her...eventually. But as Charlotte cheerfully undertakes to transform his life, Julian realizes there's something about her that gives him what he hasn't felt in years: hope.
I have to admit that, even though I really enjoyed the romance between Julian and Charlotte, I wasn't feeling at all swoony towards Julian - and I think that really impacted my overall feelings with this book. Warranted? Who knows, but that's what I think. I found him to be somewhat arrogant, completely clueless, and unwilling to accept his part in his predicament (terrible last relationship, blow out at the wedding that wasn't, everything with the band). What saved this story for me was Charlotte. She was having none of that nonsense and was trying to get him to see that he needed to fix himself and his life and everything else would sort of fall into place.

I think my favourite thing about this book was actually Julian realizing how great it felt to give back to the community. Sure, he started doing it for Charlotte but you could tell he was eventually doing it for himself. He realized how he could take all the money and fame he'd worked hard for and use it for something good. I think a lot of people need to realize that they have a lot of themselves to give to causes (something I need to remember myself). A small amount of your time or money can go so far in the right place.

While this book is mostly a romance, there's a lot more to it. In fact, Julian (especially) and Charlotte both had to work on themselves before a relationship could move forward. Charlotte needed to realize that, as noble as it is, she can't save the world. Not on her own and especially not when she's not looking after herself. I liked that Julian helped her realize she needed to slow down a little bit and relinquish some control (even if I felt that he was being an asshat about it sometimes. Charlotte's not going to quit working just because you have a lot of money, you knob. Hm. I think I have more problems with Julian than I realized.) Julian, for all his faults, did eventually realize them and tried to work on himself.

One More Moment was a romance with a lot of heart and characters who will draw you in (for better or for worse). Samantha Chase will be going on my list of authors to keep an eye on - especially when I need a fun and sweet romance to get lost in.

*An eARC of this novel was provided by InkSlinger PR via NetGalley in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*