I’m going to be catching up on January releases for the next several months, because there were SO MANY new romance books released this month! Nearly every one of my favorite authors released a new book in January, so there were tons to choose from – and I ended up reading many excellent books. There were six that rose to the top of the pack, and they were each great in their own way.
My favorite might be The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, the followup to one of the best books I read in 2021. A Deal with the Devil was my introduction to Elizabeth O’Roark’s work, and this forbidden romance made an excellent addition to the series. With a compelling hero and a slow burn, tension-filled romance, this had me hooked.
Another author I tried for the second time was Rachel Lynn Solomon, and her Weather Girl was a definite hit for me. I loved the feel good vibes, the adorable hero, and the focus on mental health. It was a light yet heartfelt read, and I’m certainly looking forward to more from the author.
Things We Never Got Over won me over along the way, and this beefy, slow burn to sizzle romance made an impact. The small town feel and evolution of the relationship kept me turning the pages, and it built into something truly great.
The other beefy romance I read this month was The Resurrection, a 500-page, suspenseful read that started and ended on a cliffhanger. It was an excellent addition to a series I’ve been loving, and it had my emotions all mixed up.
On the lighter side, I read two bingeable, light and sexy sports romances. The first teamup of Kayley Loring and Connor Crais has me ready for more of this duo’s work, and the newest from Teagan Hunter reminded me why she’s one of my one-click authors.
February is looking like an eclectic reading month – since so many of my favorite authors released new books in January, I’ll be reading books by new-to-me authors and others I’m still getting to know. That often yields unpredictable and intriguing results, lol! If you missed my February Release Calendar, you can find it here – there are so many books to look forward to!
I’ve got my review for each of this month’s best books below – you can’t go wrong with any of these!
Easiest 5-star rating I’ve given in awhile – I absolutely loved it! This was nothing like I was expecting and everything I wanted all at once; an unpredictable, bingeable ride that had me turning the pages all day long. I loved the chemistry between these two, and I love peeling back their layers bit by bit to discover the complexity that laid beneath. As with the fantastic A Deal with the Devil, these broken characters fit together perfectly. This easily reads as a standalone, but also fleshes out some of the characters that were introduced in the first book. And if I was a little worried about the brother-swapping element in the blurb (okay, I was definitely worried), my fears were quickly extinguished. This did not feel like a love triangle at all; there’s a clear winner from the start, and the forbidden element just made this more devourable.
The story follows Drew, a pop star who is a bit of a mess. If you read A Deal with the Devil (definitely not required reading), you’ll know that she’s been in a toxic on-again/off-again relationship with a musician, Six. While Drew knows that Six isn’t a knight in shining armor, at least she knows what she’s getting with him – and her complicated past makes that the desirable option. Though the two called it quits months ago, Six has asked for another chance, so Drew agrees to go on vacation with him. Little does she know that it’s a family vacation, one that includes Six’s parents and brother – the buttoned-up doctor who seems to hate Drew. Josh is the complete opposite of his brother, a cold, emotionless guy who sounds perfect on paper. Well, perfect for someone who isn’t a hot mess like Drew. But as the two spend more time together, Drew realizes that Josh might not be an unfeeling robot after all.
So I’ll address the brother-swapping, since you’re probably wondering about it. I was good with it. Drew broke up with Six months ago, and he’s clearly no good for her. Yes, he wants her back, but she isn’t so sure that’s a great idea. They haven’t been together in quite awhile, though they’re stuck in limbo on the trip, and he doesn’t deserve Drew, quite honestly. I’d probably be interested in reading his love story, but he’s going to need to clean up his act first. Josh, on the other hand, I LOVED. The man is no devil, and I loved him more and more as the story progressed. He’s kind and supportive, loving and loyal, and everything that Drew never knew she needed in her life. It was really refreshing to have the heroine be the one who is such a walking disaster, and I also loved her character the more we got to know her. This story unraveled in a way that I wasn’t expecting at all, and the unpredictability paired with the great chemistry had me hooked the whole way through. I devoured it in one sitting, and I was swooning by the end. I was lucky enough to receive an early copy, and am voluntarily leaving a review of this forbidden romance.
This is one of those books that feels entirely too long at the start, just right in the middle, and not long enough by the end. I loved it! While I think the story might be too slow-paced at the beginning and there’s a LOT of focus on the small town feel, it’s those quieter moments that make this sparkle in the back half. Our hero is a growly jerk who pushes our heroine away with his words while holding her close with his actions, and their tense interactions slowly simmer into something sweeter. I loved the subtlety and the transformation of the broken hero – and broken heroine – and the growth in intimacy was so very satisfying. These two opposites attract in the best of ways, and their chemistry was both smokin’ hot and seriously swoony. Yes, it’s really long. Probably too long. But this was such a satisfying read.
The story follows Naomi (36), a runaway bride who finds herself in a small town she’s unfamiliar with while her life falls apart. Naomi is now single, jobless, broke, homeless, and the 11-year-old niece she just found out about is suddenly in her care. It’s a lot to handle all at once, even for someone who has spent most of her life cleaning up everyone else’s messes. As Naomi struggles to make ends meet, there’s one man who becomes her unlikely ally: Knox (43). Everything about the surly man’s words and attitude tell Naomi to stay far away, but the devastatingly sexy jerk keeps coming to her rescue. He wants nothing to do with a needy, high maintenance woman – or her adorable niece – but Knox can’t seem to help himself. And with every interaction, it becomes more difficult to stay away.
I will openly admit that I found the length of this book to be really frustrating at times. It took awhile for me to settle into the laidback, small town feel, and there’s a lot of time devoted to characters other than Naomi and Knox – which is not usually something that I’m looking for in a romance. After awhile, it became clear that all of those quieter moments were necessary, and those other characters will likely have stories of their own down the road. The pacing is also necessary to make Knox’s transformation feel authentic. He’s a major jerk in the first half, and a total teddy bear by the end. It’s his compelling character that makes the slow build worth it; I really wanted to find out what made him tick. Naomi was also an interesting character, and I loved the contrasts between the two. This definitely had more of a slow burn feel than other books I’ve read by Score, even once things started to heat up. It’s not page after page of steam, it’s more page after page of character and world-building. I still think the page count could’ve been trimmed down a bit, but now we have this beautiful foundation for future books in the series – I’m already looking forward to the two other love stories that are hinted at in this.
This was an EASY 5-star rating for me, one of my new favorites from Hunter. It’s a little bit Beauty and the Beast, a little bit Vegas wedding, and a whole lotta light and steamy fun. I loved these two together, and our insecure, vulnerable hero was such a lovable grump. The opposites attract dynamic worked for me, and I always love a fake relationship with a side of forced proximity. While this is second in the series, it easily reads as a standalone – and leaves me wanting more from this group of friends. The story absolutely flew by, and there was never a dull moment for me.
The story follows Ryan (her) and Rhodes (him), two people whose besties are in a relationship. While there might’ve been some attraction between them when they first met, Rhodes’ personality quickly squashed any brewing chemistry. The pro hockey player took a skate to the face years ago, and the scar that remains is both physical and mental. He doesn’t believe he’d ever be worthy of a woman like Ryan, but a drunken night in Vegas leaves them married. While neither is quite sure what their drunken selves were thinking, news of their marriage has already gone public – and ending things now would just cause even more trouble. So the two agree to act like a couple for now… even if things start to feel real rather quickly.
While I enjoyed the first book in the series, it was Rhodes who intrigued me the most. I just knew that I was going to love him – and I definitely did. He’s a sweetheart underneath his grumpy exterior, a man whose personality changed because of his insecurities. I loved that Rhodes was so immediately smitten with Ryan, and the only thing holding him back from wanting more was himself. This was an extremely low angst, lighthearted read, and the fun, sexy vibes kept me smiling throughout. It was easy to feel the chemistry between these two, and there are a few fan-worthy moments. The story touches on some heavy subjects without ever delving too deep, making it such a light and devourable read. There are enough appearances from Rhodes’ teammates to tie the series together (and leaving me wanting more), while also keeping this a standalone romance. I’m definitely looking forward to more from the series, because this was just what I wanted from Hunter. I received an early copy and am voluntarily leaving a review of this steamy sports romance.
Well this was a sweet treat! It’s low angst and laidback, with characters who are easy to like and a storyline that kept me turning the pages. I absolutely loved the cinnamon roll hero, who is unlike any I’ve read before – he’s kind, supportive, and loyal, with a dad bod and the biggest heart. He’s adorably insecure about his body, and neither cool nor suave. Loved him. The multi-faceted heroine makes the perfect complement to him – she’s a woman who lives with depression but always tries to show her sunny side, even when storms are brewing beneath the surface. While this has strong rom com vibes for much of the story, it’s not overtly funny, and there are definitely some heavier, deeper moments. I personally think the second half is stronger; I was leaning towards a 4-star rating for the first half of the book, but the solid back half raised that up. If you’re looking for a light and sexy romance with heart and a layered storyline, then this is sure to satisfy.
The story follows Ari, a woman who always tries to be bright and cheerful, even when she’s not feeling that way on the inside. Growing up with a mother who let depression overtake her life, Ari is determined to handle things differently. There’s a divorced couple at Ari’s workplace whose bickering makes it a tense and hostile work environment, so Ari and her co-worker, Russell, joke about getting them back together. A joke between acquaintances soon turns into an actual plan, and it’s not long before Ari finds herself teaming up with Russell. They’ve always been friendly, but their conversations have been brief and work-related, so seeing Russell out of the office is new for Ari. As the two spend time together, they get closer – and Ari discovers there’s more to Russell than she realized.
After reading The Ex Talk, I knew that I wanted to check out more from the author, so I was excited to get my hands on this. It’s both lighter and heavier than The Ex Talk, if that makes sense. A lot of the storyline is super light and low angst, with an easy, fun feel and such a swoony hero. But there are also moments that make this a heavier book, and it’s those contrasts that make this shine. This slow burn romance has plenty of sizzle, and I loved Ari and Russell together. I also loved getting to know Russell better – we only get Ari’s perspective, so there are lots of things to discover about Russell along the way. I’ve never read a romance featuring a plus size hero, and that gave this such a unique feel. Russell is such a big teddy bear, and his single dad status just enhanced that. He’s everything that Ari needed in her life, and that’s always fulfilling to read. So, while this took a little while to find its footing, I sincerely enjoyed the vast majority of the book. I was lucky enough to receive an early copy, and am voluntarily leaving a review of this lighthearted office romance.
The Brit AND The Enigma are 100% required reading prior to this book. And if you want to go into The Resurrection *truly* blind, then this isn’t the review for you.
Phew. What a WILD ride! Malpas clearly left plenty of breadcrumbs in the first two books, because this masterfully sews two different love stories together and advances the suspenseful element in a big way. Full disclosure: I struggled with this story for at least 100 pages at the beginning. It felt like all of the progress these couples made in their respective books was just GONE, and everything felt pretty bleak and desolate. Which… yeah, was an intentional choice for the story. But it certainly wasn’t what I wanted. I’m really not a trilogy kinda girl, and – since there was no mention of this being an ongoing series when I started reading – I’m going into this one kicking and screaming. Because that’s really what this is; it’s ESSENTIAL that you read The Brit and The Enigma prior to starting The Resurrection… and the series ain’t over yet.
I’m going to try to avoid offering spoilers, but I suggest skipping this review and jumping right into the book if you want to go in completely blind. This story picks up right where The Enigma left off, with both of our couples dealing with the fallout of recent events. James and Beau thought they had found happiness, only to have it torn away. And Danny is forced to upend his life in paradise to get back in the game. No one is happy about the situation, and it threatens to tear both couples apart – especially because Danny is breaking Rose’s trust by coming back from the dead. Forced to team up, these two brutal killers discover that they’ve met their match in each other… and that could either be their biggest advantage or the thing that finally takes one of these powerful men down.
If you made it through The Brit and The Enigma, then neither the violence nor the steam will surprise you. There is plenty of both, with a SIGNIFICANT focus on the suspense. With two established couples at the start of the book, this wastes no time heating up in a variety of ways. It’s INTENSE and violent, with complex characters and developed relationships that are full of intimacy. I loved how this tied everything together and then had its own vibe, which kept me on the edge of my seat in the back half. What I struggled with the most was how these characters buckled under the pressure, showing the worst sides of themselves in ways that I thought we’d moved past. It’s not always enjoyable reading, but it IS excellent writing from Malpas, and I started fully connecting once things took a turn. It was the back half that shined for me – once these couples work out their differences, I loved how they became stronger together. And the suspenseful element? Had my full attention by the end. Yes, this ends on another CLIFFHANGER, and I would love it if another couple were at the center of the next book (maybe Brad and a mystery woman?), but there’s definitely more story to tell. All in all, this ended up being another fantastic addition to a stellar series, and it certainly won me over along the way.
Preorder book 4 on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3o0B8dr
Sign me up for more from this writing duo – this was a great series starter. I’ve been a longtime fan of Loring’s writing and Crais’ voice, so I couldn’t wait to see what their first book together was like. And it was good! This definitely felt like it had a little more male influence, with a LOT of focus on football (perhaps too much), and a hero who felt complex and well developed. The vibe is similar to Loring’s other work (low angst and sexy), though with less humor and more heart. I really liked all of the characters that were introduced, and I’m excited for more from the series. It has that classic sports romance feel, and I’m already envisioning some of the other players’ love stories. I didn’t necessarily enjoy this as much as Loring’s other books, but I have the feeling this duo will settle into something really good soon.
The story follows Decker, the aging quarterback (36) of a pro football team. He’s a former playboy who has settled down over the years, but no woman has ever been a match to his love of football. So when the team’s owner passes away and his daughter takes over, it’s a huge shock to Decker’s system. Not only does he have a new boss, but Hannah (29) is also incredibly sexy and tempting enough to distract him from the game. Hannah also knows nothing about football, so the veteran player finds himself spending a lot of time with her… both on and off the field.
I can always count on Loring for low angst romances with big feels, and that vibe remains with this. It’s light and easy to devour in one sitting, with plenty of steam and compelling characters. For me, there was too much football talk. It made the banter feel a little less playful than usual, and I didn’t fully feel the spark between these two – even though they do heat up the sheets. That could also be because Decker kept bringing up his playboy past, but I liked him overall. This felt very much like other sports romances I’ve read over the years (let’s be honest, hot girl inheriting a sports team is basically its own trope), but there was just enough playfulness and heat to separate this from the pack. It was a strong 4/low 5-star read for me, and I’m absolutely looking forward to checking out more from the series. Don’t judge this book by its (terrible) cover – this was a very solid read. I received an early copy and am voluntarily leaving a review of this steamy sports romance.
Did you see my February Release Calendar?
It includes the 30+ February releases I’m excited about AND 200+ upcoming books that are available for preorder! Check it out here.
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