BOOK REVIEW: Ship of Shadows (Stolen Crowns #2) by Tee Harlowe

BOOK REVIEW: Ship of Shadows (Stolen Crowns #2) by Tee HarloweShip of Shadows (Stolen Crowns #2)
by Tee Harlowe
Purchase on: Amazon
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

He broke my heart once. Now working with him might shatter it for good.

I’m chained to my crown. Queen of a court I don’t want. Ever since my brothers and father disappeared, I’ve been forced to rule, to give up the freedom I crave.

It’s all the pirate lord’s fault. Bastian Lore sailed into my life, charmed me completely—then betrayed me. The scoundrel kidnapped my brothers and delivered them straight to the shadow court where they’re trapped, their shadows now under the court’s control.

Worse, Bastian has returned—and his offer to rescue my brothers and find my missing father is too good to be true. All he wants in return? My help finding a cure for his mysterious illness. I don’t trust him, but if anyone can navigate the shadow court and get my family back, it’s him.

He’s as charming as ever. But I can’t fall for him again. If I’m not careful, it won’t just be my heart that I lose—it’ll be my family, my court… and my life.

Ship of Shadows is book two in Stolen Crowns, a series of steamy standalone but interconnected fairytale retellings. This enemies-to-lovers, second-chance romance is perfect for fans of banter, (very) snarky heroines, and slow-burn fantasy romance.

Review:

Ship of Shadows was a beautifully, captivating retelling that was Disney meets romantasy!  It was Peter Pan, yet with Hook as the love interest, and wrapped around the tale was also The Little Mermaid.  I loved this book!  The characters came alive, the story was impossible to put down, and I loved how elements of the original tale played out but also found new light.  The twists and turns were fabulous, and the ending had me closing the book smiling!

“Do not speak to me like that,” I said, stepping forward. “I am the princess of Apolis, and you will address me as such, or you’ll lose your tongue.”
Bastian chuckled darkly. “You won’t cut out my tongue, not when you know firsthand all the things I can do with it.”

While this can easily be read as a standalone, I can’t recommend reading Mirror of Malice first.  There you meet our main heroine, Princess Gabrielle.  Her brothers were taken by the pirate lord, Bastian Lore.  And then her father and his men disappeared too.  She was to become Queen, yet that wasn’t what her heart wanted.  With Bastian back and promising to help get her brothers, in exchange for finding a cure for an illness, Gabrielle’s world was going to get turned upside down. The man had already broken her heart once, how could she trust him?  Yet what unfolded was the most fantastical journey that had me glued to the pages!

Our entire relationship was stolen moments. Secret trysts. A lie.

From those first few words out of Bastian’s mouth, I was a goner.  He was protective, ruthless, and there was nothing he wouldn’t do to protect those he cared for.  He was feared, yet underneath that gruff exterior was a heart of gold, or at least I hoped.  From the moments he seemed to show he cared, like the fireworks, I fell that much more in love with him.  Bastian made me laugh, smile and when he shared little pieces of his past, it made the stars shine brighter!

Second star to the right, he’d said. That’s our star.

Gabrielle tugged at my heart.  She was trapped with a future she didn’t want.  Her brothers were taken by the man she had fallen in love with.  And when she boarded Bastian’s ship, everyone hated her.  Her loneliness pierced deep into me.  Yet through it all, she was resilient.  I loved watching her use her water magic.  I loved her finding a way into those hearts around her.  And I loved watching her use her cunningness to try and stay one step ahead of others.  Yet, Gabrielle also double crossed Bastian.  So there were many shades of gray within the pages!

“I’m trying to be so good,” he whispered, “when all I want is to be so very bad.”
I didn’t move, letting his words, his breath, his scent, wash over me.

Bastian and Gabrielle together were explosive.  The sexual tension could be seen with every look, touch, and word between them.  There was an enemies to lovers vibe there.  And the secrets they both kept were numerous.  Yet through it all, they both acted like they were trying to protect the other.  And while I’m super picky about second chance romance, this one was done fabulously!  So when there were moments between them that were more, the steam was perfect too!

There were a million reasons not to do this. Yet with his voice so soft, so vulnerable, I couldn’t make myself care about a single one.

Along for the ride were Bastian’s crew, Driscoll and Leoni.  I adored the two women on Bastian’s crew and Driscoll.  Driscoll made me laugh numerous times!  Yet Leoni and I never clicked.  I’m hoping that will change with a future book.  Within the story, there were so many moments that had me smiling in joy!  I loved how elements from the original tales played out.  So many of them twisted in ways that were shocking and unique.  I’m not going to say much besides walking the plank part and afterwards, the cabin, and many more were some of my top favorites!

He dipped his head down, a question in his eyes, and I answered, tipping my head up. He brushed his lips against mine.

Ships of Shadows was filled with twists and turns, moments that will make you laugh and fall in love, and the ending was perfect!  This second chance, enemies to lovers vibe romance swept me away!  With found family and forced proximity laced within the pages, it just made me love this book even more!  I’m so excited to see what happens next in this world, and I have a guess about what two fairy tales it will be.  I can’t wait!

He placed his hand over mine. “Then who do you need me to be if not your hero?”
A grin spread across my face. “I need you to be what you’re best at. The pirate lord of the Dark Seas.”

*I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book, provided by the author. All thoughts and opinions are my own.*

BOOK REVIEW: My Dark Beast (Wicked Retellings #1) by Olivia Wildenstein

BOOK REVIEW: My Dark Beast (Wicked Retellings #1) by Olivia WildensteinMy Dark Beast (Wicked Retellings #1)
by Olivia Wildenstein
Purchase on: Amazon
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

SLEEPING BEAUTY x HADES & PERSEPHONE

Tarian Hadez—thirty-three, real estate mogul, mob lord, most eligible bachelor in New England, god. The god-part is an exaggeration. After all, if true deities existed, then the world would be a magical place, and it's really not. At least, my world isn't.

Calanthe Bloom. That's me. Twenty-four, college graduate drowning in debt, true crime addict, florist by default, single by design. Although not living my best life, I'm enthusiastically pursuing it. Especially, in my dreams, which, since a recent flower-delivery snafu, all feature none other than lethally private Tarian.

Oh, the things he does to me when I sleep.

Wickedly surreal.

Except . . . are they?

Enter a world of gods and monsters where dreams are made of flesh. My Dark Beast is a paranormal romance standalone brimming with spice and intrigue.

Review:

My Dark Beast was a Hades x Persephone retelling, with Sleeping Beauty mixed, making this story intoxicating, unique, and impossible to put down.  With Alice in Wonderland vibes, from the dreamscape, I was left questioning what was real at times.  As the story unfolded, it was dark, mesmerizing, and so easy to love.  The characters will capture your heart. And the ending will leave you smiling while you read two beautiful epilogues!  I can’t recommend this book enough to romantasy lovers and those that love retellings too!

I don’t realize I’ve stopped walking until a deep voice rasps right beside my ear, “The first thing that draws most women’s gazes when they step past my threshold is the expensive art on my walls or the breadth of my entry hall, yet you, Calamity, seem enraptured by my floors.”
“I was expecting the fires of Hell, or the stones to runneth over with blood.”

Calanthe Bloom was helping take care of her mom, while also running her parents business.  Not by choice, but by duty since her mom had Alzheimers.  It broke my heart to watch her interact with her mom at times, and I couldn’t help but shed tears.  Yet through it all, I loved the light and fire that burned within Calanthe.  And her thoughts cracked me up at times too.  I loved how sarcastic she could be.

“The beast has a conscience. Who would’ve thought?”

From the moment Tarian Hadez appeared on the pages, I was obsessed.  He was dark, brooding, and had a way of commanding all of your attention.  Yet while he was a mystery, there were so many things to love about him.  Like how he called Calanthe, Calamity.  To how he could make simple words so seductive.  To even getting to see a sweet side of him too, which seemed to contrast with how deadly he was perceived.  So when something happened between Tarian and Calathe, I was grasping for breath trying to figure out what was going on.

“Why do I always dream of you?” I murmur.
He watches me, and I watch him. He looks so real. So…tangible.
He stalks closer to the door.

When Calanthe and Tarian were together, the sexual tension that exploded between them was beautiful.  And when you add that into a dreamscape, it was intoxicating.  With steamy kisses, flirting that will have you sighing out loud, being called a good girl, and more, this book was so seductive.  How Tarian could make just a simple lick panty melting was talented.  Add that with Tarian messing with Calamity, and this book was so much fun!

“I’m sorry to have dragged you into my hell.”
She snakes her arm around my middle and takes a step forward, slotting her body into mine. And then she twists her head and presses her cheek against my chest.
Against my dark, bestial heart.

This story held me in the palm of its hands.  I tried my best to put together the clues, but it was challenging since we were taken on such a wild ride with a million and one questions swirling around.  I wasn’t sure who I could trust, but I went with my gut and hoped that would pan out correctly!  So while I’m not saying much, because it’s definitely best to learn on your own, just know that I can’t recommend this book enough!

“You’re not some means to an end. You’re my fucking salvation, Calamity.”

My Dark Beast ended with a beautiful happily ever after, yet it was a journey to get there.  With death bleeding from the pages, and moments that made me shed tears, this book consumed me.  So I was grateful for Tarian’s ability to make me laugh, during moments where I just wanted to cry.  And I adored that we learned this world with Calanthe as the story progressed.  So I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that some of the side characters will get their own stories down the road!  I am not ready to say goodbye to these characters!

“What’ll it be, Calanthe darling?”
“Fuck me,” I breathe out.

*I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book, provided by the author. All thoughts and opinions are my own.*

BOOK REVIEW: Crown of Wings and Thorns by Mary Ting

BOOK REVIEW: Crown of Wings and Thorns by Mary TingCrown of Wings and Thorns by Mary Ting
Purchase on: Amazon
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

A fight for a throne that will rewrite history

The demon King Asmodeus has taken over the mortal world. The Order of Angel warriors have a mission to take him down, but many have died or joined the enemy. When Evangeline’s team is ensnared in a web of deception, she has no choice but to form an alliance with King Victus, a vampire ruler with a reputation for killing angels. Can the two set aside the past and take down Asmodeus? Or will they turn on each other first?

Michael is a half-breed angel who wants no part of the nonhuman world. However, his immense power makes him a target. King Asmodeus wants him to join his army, and so does Order of Angels, but Michael dreams of settling down, not going to war. He may not have a choice. When his family’s lives are at stake, he’ll have to pick a side or lose everything.

Review:

Crown of Wings and Thorns was a fast paced romantasy, that swirled together angels, demons and vampires.  Within the pages there was a lot of mystery, we got introduced to a new world, and the story was told from multiple points of view.  With characters that were unique, and an ending that left us at a great stopping point till the next book releases, this story was such a quick read!

“I loathe your kind,” he hissed, baring his teeth.
“And I despise everything about you.” I clenched my jaw.

My favorite character in this story was the demon, King Victus.  He was fair, yet could be ruthless. And I loved how multifaceted he was!  The secrets he kept were intriguing, and as the story went by I guessed everything correctly about him.  I loved seeing how he reacted to things, and the decisions he made.  He was someone that was so easy to fall for.

“And I’m debating if I should snap your neck or rip out your heart.”
“What kind of angel are you?”

The story was also told from Evangeline’s view, who was an angel.  She seemed like a true warrior that was destined for greatness.  She was smart, kind, and fought for what was right.  Plus she loved her friends.  Yet I could never connect to her.  I thought it was because she was with Zander.  I never swooned over him, even when they were intimate together.  So when King Victus stepped on the pages, I hoped that was a path Evangeline took.  Because he intrigued me, and made my heart race!

My job is to either bring in or kill Asmodeus. I prefer the latter … We’re stronger together. Eva’s words filtered through his mind.
Victus might regret his decision, but a deal was a deal. And he needed the feather being to recover fast.
“Take the cuffs off her, now.”

We also got the story in Michael’s POV.  He was a fighter who would go to the ends of the world to protect you.  I can see readers falling in love with Michael, and wanting to read more about him!  I haven’t read it yet, but he was from the Crossroads SagaI again wasn’t able to connect to him, but I enjoyed listening to his journey to save those he loved!

Bite me harder. Take me. Break me. I was all his, and at this moment, he was mine.
As my pulse drummed faster, my world turned. My present faded and my past came crashing through.

There were more characters we got to hear from, yet these three were who we spent the most time with.  And I loved how all of the different stories wove in and out together, it was masterfully done.  While there was heartbreak, death, and betrayal, there was also hope, love and watching those work together for the greater good.  I definitely don’t want to touch on the story here, because it’s better for you to discover it on your own.   If you have fallen for any of Mary Ting’s previous books, I think you’ll fall head over heels in love with this one too!

*I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book, provided by the author. All thoughts and opinions are my own.*

BOOK REVIEW: In a Not So Perfect World by Neely Tubati Alexander

BOOK REVIEW: In a Not So Perfect World by Neely Tubati AlexanderIn a Not So Perfect World by Neely Tubati Alexander
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

Sloane Cooper is up for her dream job as a designer for a top video game company. During the interview, though, she somehow promises the all-male panel that she’ll remain single and fully dedicated to the work. It’s actually fine—after her last boyfriend cheated on her, she vowed to focus on her career anyway.

Enter Charlie, aka Hot Neighbor Guy, a near-stranger who shocks her with the offer of an all-inclusive trip to a Turks and Caicos resort. The catch? Charlie originally planned the trip with his ex, and asks Sloane to pose as his new girlfriend to make his old flame come running back. Against her better judgment, Sloane says yes; she can use the time away to develop a game design that will dazzle the Catapult team and get her a job offer.

Despite sparks flying in paradise, the trip can’t lead to more. As their connection deepens, Sloane is reminded that she can’t fall for Charlie and get knocked off her professional path. Besides, he’s trying to win back his true love.

Can Sloane figure out a way to move past heartbreak, land the job of her dreams, and avoid catching feelings? The zombie apocalypse would be easier to solve—at least she’s prepared for that.

Review:

In a Not So Perfect World was a forced proximity, slow burn, set in a beautiful tropical destination.  With forging a friendship and low angst mixed together, this book was so easy to read.  I adored how short the chapters were and that I was able to sneak in a few pages here and there.  In a Not So Perfect World definitely checks all the boxes for what you would want to bring as a beach read! 

“Wait, you want me to go on this trip with you so you can make your ex-girlfriend jealous?”
“Yes.”

Sloane and Charlie’s meet cute in the bar was absolutely adorable!  And when she found out he was her hot neighbor, I couldn’t stop smiling.  So when Charlie propositioned Sloane to go on an inclusive trip to Turks and Caicos, I was shouting at her to say yes.  He was in desperate need to make his ex jealous.  And she needed to work on a project for her dream job.  Yet paradise has a way of painting what could be just friendship, into something so much more.

I think he will respond with something like, You need help. It’s what Zane would have said.
But instead, he nods his head ever so slightly and stares at me when he says, “I get it.”
Who are you? I want to ask. I squint as if that might help me see his insides.

I loved Charlie, he was someone who was so easy to like.  Even while he was struggling and hurt from his past breakup.  I just loved how he made things effortlessly fun and seemed to have this light that radiated happiness outwards.    Plus he had the best t-shirts!  We only got this story in Sloane’s voice, yet I had no problem piecing together exactly who Charlie was.  He was kind, heartfelt, and seemed like someone you could easily be friends with. With Sloane and her high walls, I was cheering for Charlie to knock them down every step of the way.

I press my eyelids together so tightly they hurt. I am not here to play house with my heartbroken neighbor who’s using me to make his ex jealous.

Charlie tried his best to earn Sloane’s trust.  She kept so much of herself hidden.  Not only her childhood trauma, but that she was still struggling from a breakup too.  So Sloane was definitely a multifaceted character.  I loved her drive and that she was reaching for the stars to accomplish her dream, to work at the video game company.  Even if the work space seemed as though it could be toxic.  Yet I did struggle with her, since she got in the way of her happiness with Charlie.  From time to time.  I just wanted to smoosh them together, tell Sloane it would all be okay, and have them kiss and be together forever please!

There’s no scenario where this ends well for me.

Sloane and Charlie had this slow burn romance simmering between them.  Charlie was getting over his heartache, Sloane too.  And Sloane’s whole focus was on the path to her dream job.  Yet feelings kept creeping in from time to time.  Especially when alcohol was involved.  So what felt like friendship formed, and then more came tumbling in too.  Also, while there were side characters that were easy to like, the shining star was definitely Finn!  He was Sloane’s dog.  He was so adorable, and I wish he could have gone on the vacation with them.  He stole the show every single time that he was on the page!

I hear him shuffle closer. “As you wish,” he whispers into my ear as his hands make contact with my neck.

So with water balloon fights, scavenger hunts, Kix and Fruity Pebbles, and more, this book took us on an adventure.  While there was some steam on the pages, I’d categorize it as lower on the heat scale.  And that happily for now ending will leave readers smiling.  So if you’re looking for a book to bring to the beach this summer, this may just be your book!

*I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book, provided by the author. All thoughts and opinions are my own.*

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Friend Zone (The Friend Zone #1) by Abby Jimenez

BOOK REVIEW: The Friend Zone (The Friend Zone #1) by Abby JimenezThe Friend Zone (The Friend Zone #1)
by Abby Jimenez
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

A slow burn, hilarious and heartwarming romantic comedy that Tessa Bailey calls "a romance for the ages!" from the New York Times bestselling author of Yours Truly.

Kristen Peterson doesn't do drama, will fight to the death for her friends, and has no room in her life for guys who just don't get her. She's also keeping a big secret: facing a medically necessary procedure that will make it impossible for her to have children.

Planning her best friend's wedding is bittersweet for Kristen -- especially when she meets the best man, Josh Copeland. He's funny, sexy, never offended by her mile-wide streak of sarcasm, and always one chicken enchilada ahead of her hangry. Even her dog, Stuntman Mike, adores him. The only catch: Josh wants a big family someday. Kristen knows he'd be better off with someone else, but as their attraction grows, it's harder and harder to keep him at arm's length.

The Friend Zone will have you laughing one moment and grabbing for tissues the next as it tackles the realities of infertility and loss with wit, heart, and a lot of sass.

Review:

The Friend Zone absolutely destroyed me.  This was a freezer read, and I was definitely not prepared *hiccup sobs*.  Yet, I adored this story.  Even though it had the miscommunication trope in spades.  And that’s because these characters shined so brightly.  They felt so real to me and the story played out like I was watching a movie in my head.

“What? I haven’t gotten laid since last year. And this shirt smells incredible.” I dipped my nose back inside the neckline. “Like testosterone and cedar. And did you see him washing those dishes? He looked like Mr. February in a sexy firemen calendar. Guys like that are the exact reason why my grandmother always told me to wear clean underwear in case you get into a car accident.”
She shook her head. “I swear to God you’re a man.”

Josh and Kristen’s meet cute was absolutely memorable.  And then the next time they ran into each other I was laughing hysterically.  Both of their best friends were getting married, and their chemistry was instantaneous.  Josh was the best man, and Kristen was the maid of honor.  Yet Kristen had a boyfriend.  They had to play nice and keep the drama low.  Even while sparks kept igniting between them.

I reminded myself that she was taken. The good ones always were.

I loved Josh, he was my favorite character in this book!  He was a firefighter who was previously a Marine.  So his smart mouth, huge heart, and seductive ways definitely put a spell on me.  And I loved how he had no problem helping Kristen out.  He had 6 older sisters and they trained him well haha.  Plus the fact that Kristen’s dog, Stuntman Mike, loved him just sealed the deal.  Dogs are always the best judge of character!

I thought about how he’d given me his French toast earlier, and I had to clutch my heart through my dress.
“You okay?” he asked, watching me squeeze my chest.
I nodded. “Yeah.”
It’s just that you’re perfect, and my heart hurts.

Kristen, was the queen of sarcasm and I loved the relationship she had with her best friend Sloan.  So it made me happy that she made another connection.  To Josh.  Their friendship formed so easily.  And while Kristen had a boyfriend, she couldn’t deny the attraction she felt towards him.  How much she liked to hang out with him.  But, there was a huge but.  Josh wanted to have a huge family.  And Kristen’s future didn’t allow her to have children.  So she knew she couldn’t have a future with Josh.

“You know what I like about you, Josh?”
“My way with small, vicious dogs?”
I snorted.

As someone who suffered from something very similar to Kristen, I still got upset with her.  She wouldn’t even give Josh the choice of them.  And that’s because she kept her medical issues a secret from him.  So that made Josh create explanations in his head, for why she treated him the way she did.  And it made me so upset.  I got her struggle.  On such a deep soul shattering level.  But keeping those secrets and playing hot and cold with Josh made me want to shake her.  Hard.  Especially when Josh’s heart was being ripped to shreds!  This book was filled with the ultimate miscommunication trope.

I’m in love with you.
The impulse hit me so hard and fast, I didn’t even see it coming.
I’m so in love with you.

The emotions in this book choked me.  There was a part of this story that made me sob, multiple times.  There were pages that went by, and I couldn’t stop the tears.  My heart was ripped to shreds and was then shattered into a million pieces.  I was so mad and hurt with how something played out.  Yes it was real life.  But ugh.  It was so hard. So be prepared and keep tissues nearby.

“I promise to love Stuntman Mike and slay your spiders, and keep you from getting hangry.”
Now I was laughing through tears.

While my heart was elated for the ending of this story, it was also bittersweet.  And I still found myself crying tears of pain.  So while I closed this book with a smile on my face, it hurt to get there.  And I’m still thinking about what happened long after I closed the book.  It’s been a long time since a book has wrecked me this badly.  While I plan on reading every single book by Abby Jimenez, I can’t binge all of her books in a row.  My heart has to heal from this story first.

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