As much as I struggled in March, I did end up reading some EXCELLENT books! There may have been more misses than usual, but the hits were really good.
I loved the playboy and playgirl roommates romance, The No-Judgment Zone, which was another phenomenal read from new author Ellie K. Wilde. The sexual tension and heat was off the charts in this hot slow burn, and I loved the emotional connection this couple formed along the way. While I’m often a sucker for a reformed playboy romance, I’ve never read one where both characters are usually into hookups only – and Wilde did such a great job navigating the complexities.
I also loved The Prodigal, which was just pure entertainment. This (anti)hero is a self-proclaimed villain, and I loved digging beneath the surface. Paired with the right girl who will keep him on his toes, this strangers to frenemies to lovers romance was so much fun. Also pretty sexy too.
On the softer side of things, The Brightest Light of Sunshine was so sweet and swoony, with a strangers to friends to lovers romance that was comforting and warm. I loved the hero in this one too, and the age gap scenario added just the right amount of tension. It’s an emotional and heartfelt read by a debut author, and I’m definitely looking forward to more of her work.
Finally, I tried out Ainsley Booth’s writing, and The Playing Game was spicy, swoony goodness. The hero is a total sweetheart, and his determination was exceedingly refreshing. The whole book is low angst and high heat, which made it such a relaxing read.
In a month where many of my most anticipated romances let me down, I was thrilled to discover several debut and new-to-me authors who delivered great reads. March has traditionally been a month of rocky exploration for me, and this simply continued the trend!
Looking ahead to April, MANY of my favorite authors are releasing new books, so I’m hoping that means it’s going to be a fantastic reading month. I’ve been digging into my April ARCs while this week was slow, and things are already looking good.
If you missed my April 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!
Now that’s what I call a HOT slow burn! This was delicious, every minute of it. After loving Wilde’s debut, I was so excited to check out the followup, featuring a couple we were teased about in the series starter. While I’ve read (and loved) plenty of playboy-tamed romances in the past, I’ve never read a book about two players who meet their match in each other. The way they understood each other made this feel so rich, and the cat-and-mouse game ratcheted the sexual tension up to new levels. Just like in The Sixty/Forty Rule, there are some scenes that will have me fanning myself while thinking about them months later. And I’m not complaining one bit. This was light and playful one minute, serious and sizzling the next, with just enough heartache to keep things interesting. It also shows that Wilde isn’t a one-hit wonder, so I cannot wait to see what she writes next.
The story follows Finn and Jenna, two people who are not interested in relationships. Their friends tried to set them up a year ago, but their first attempt at a hookup did not go as planned. A year later, they’ve both been thinking about that failed hookup more than they should, and Jenna is convinced that they need to finally hit the sheets so she can move on. Except, once Finn comes face-to-face with Jenna again, he realizes that a hookup with her would be anything but. Desperately trying to keep things platonic, Finn suggests that Jenna stay with him while she’s in town… and Finn is not sure what he was thinking. Spending time with a woman who wants nothing more than to hook up with him – while he is trying to avoid that at all costs – is not a recipe for success, and it certainly creates some unwelcome tension with his new roommate. But as the two get to know each other better, it just becomes more difficult to stay away.
We met both Finn and Jenna in The Sixty/Forty Rule, which is not required reading by any means, but does provide some insight into both characters. It’s also equally excellent, so not sure why you’d skip it, lol. So I was already emotionally invested in this relationship before it even got started, and I loved the way it progressed. Finn is such an upbeat, golden retriever of a man, and I loved digging a little deeper into his backstory. Jenna is also a complex character who hides behind her pink hair and brazen personality, so they’re both more than they seem on the surface. Having them understand that about each other added another layer of depth to the story, and made this more interesting from the start. I also adored that they got to know each other on a deeper level before jumping in, though this is definitely not a traditional slow burn. It is SCORCHING hot during several scenes, and that tension made it even more devourable. And devour I did.
This was an unexpected delight! I really wasn’t sure what I was getting into with this debut, but I was willing to give it a try – and I’m so glad that I did. Quiet and heartfelt, this strangers to friends to lovers age gap romance is a stellar slow burn. I loved how Cal and Grace grew their relationship on a foundation of trust and respect, bonding as friends before they explored the possibility of more. I also adored what a sweetheart Cal is – he’s a big, tattooed softie who loves his little sister and falls for his girl quickly, which was so great to read. He is SO gone for his girl, and I loved patience and loyalty. I even liked that they took their time getting together – it made sense for the story, and it was even more impactful when they finally crossed that line. So this was tender, heartwarming, and swoony in the best of ways, with an engaging storyline and endearing, complex characters. A definite win – I loved it.
The story follows Grace (22), a woman in her last year of college. She was sexually assaulted four years ago, and has been slowly piecing herself back together in the time since. So when Grace decides to get a tattoo in honor of her recovery, the last thing she expects is to meet a guy. Cal (30) is covered in tattoos and a giant compared to her, so she probably should find him intimidating. But Cal soon reveals himself to be a kind and gentle man, and the connection Grace feels towards him allows them to form a friendship. Neither of them expects anything more to come out of the relationship, but Grace and Cal form the kind of bond that doesn’t come around often. As the two navigate the changes in their relationship, their friendship slowly simmers into something more.
First and foremost, this is a love story, but it’s also a great book about overcoming obstacles. Grace has come to terms with the fact that her recovery won’t happen in an instant, but she now feels ready to move forward. Cal has family issues that have shaped his experiences as well, which means they both come into the friendship with some inner conflicts. I loved watching them lift each other up and offer nothing but love and patience, which was navigated deftly by this debut author. I’ll admit to being a little hesitant about the age gap (since Grace is still in college), but she is so mature that it really wasn’t an issue. And these two truly do start as friends, which made it a lot more palatable. It was easy to see Cal falling hard and fast, but he took his time before moving forward. As much as I loved Grace, it’s Cal who steals the show here. He is SUCH a great guy, and his love for Grace leapt off the page. He’s this gentle giant with an intensity that comes out at the perfect moments, and I loved the combination of the gruff possessiveness paired with the understanding tenderness. That made for a truly memorable read – one that will stay with me for awhile.
Wildly entertaining, this strangers to frenemies to lovers romance held my attention with ease. It kept me on my toes, and the chemistry just built and built with every scene, until it pulled me in like a magnet. I generally consider “boring” books to be the worst ones, because I’m reading to be entertained. And this was anything but that. I loved the (anti)hero at the heart of this, a man who claims to be the villain of his own story. He’s a liar, a chainsmoker, an unfeeling jerk. We met Remington back in The Potter, and I could not wait to get inside his head. He’s the kind of sweet a-hole who steals your heart without even trying, and I loved that he met his match in Eden. The playfulness, banter, and chemistry between them was so engaging, as was the unpredictable, unexpected plot. It was unhinged and over-the-top in the best of ways, and I found myself devouring the pages. I loved it!
The story follows Remington, a man who is out for revenge. He had a complicated (not so great) childhood, and he blames that on one man in particular. Hoping to pay the man back for his sins, Remington has plans for his daughter. Rem is sure that Eden is the kind of entitled, privileged girl who has it coming, so he feels no remorse. But Eden isn’t at all what Rem expected, and spending time with her has him reevaluating his plans. Eden doesn’t back down from a challenge, she pushes all of his buttons, she seems to genuinely enjoy his dark moods, and she laughs at his threats. The girl might just be as messed up as him. As the two grow closer, Rem quickly realizes that he made a critical error in underestimating Eden.
Full disclosure, this series has been super uneven for me. I loved The Potter, but the messy backstories in the second and third book did not resonate with me. So I’m familiar with the characters, but not all caught up on the details. Still, I remembered loving Remington in The Potter, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on his story. He’s the kind of guy who exudes this bad boy persona, but it’s clear that his bark is worse than his bite. His actions show a softer side to him, even though his words never do. And that was true in this story as well – I loved that Eden fell for that side of him, and she didn’t ask him to change. Marie managed to walk the line between jerk and swoon perfectly, and that’s a major part of what makes the story work. Eden and Rem’s connection is SO clear, and their chemistry evolves into something absolutely electric. It was definitely never boring, and I binged it faster than anything else I’ve read in a long time. And that’s saying something.
All sugar and SPICE (and everything nice), this low angst/high heat romance is a feel good treat. Our hero was gone for his girl from the moment they met, and he has no intention of letting her get away this time around. It’s rare to find a hero who is so ALL IN from the start, and I loved that there was no question as to how much he wanted her. It was undeniable. He’s also a sweetheart of a man – a leader on his hockey team, but so soft and loving everywhere else. And he’s got no qualms about showing his girl some affection, if you know what I mean. Which means there was tons of spice and fan-worthy moments, paired with soft and swoony situations that will melt your heart. In fact, if I have one complaint it’s that it was TOO easygoing – is that a thing? Not sure that it is, lol. Because this was low drama and lighthearted in the best of ways, with a hero who falls first and is not afraid to CHASE his girl.
The story follows Kieran, a pro hockey player who is starting the season with a new team. He’s cautiously optimistic about his new city and situation, willing to look on the brightside. So when Kieran catches a glimpse of the girl who got away during one of his games, he wastes no time in pursuing her. Kieran and Harper shared one steamy night together two years ago, and he hasn’t been able to stop thinking about her since. While the two are still near-strangers, he’s confident in the connection he felt that night, and that means Kieran is unwilling to let Harper slip away a second time. But Harper has her reasons for staying away, and she knows there’s a big difference between giving in for one night and letting herself fall completely.
I love a good fling to more romance, but I’m always a little hesitant when there’s been an extended separation, as that moves the story into second chance territory… and we all know how I feel about that, lol. But it was apparent from the first few chapters that Kieran had never stopped thinking about Harper, and hadn’t moved on. Zero OW/OM drama. Which immediately eased my worries, and let me sit back and enjoy this low angst romance. I loved just how smitten Kieran was with Harper, and I loved that he was willing to put in the work. He knew that expecting them to pick up where they left off was unrealistic, and he never tried to put them into hookup territory. That was incredibly refreshing. I also loved Harper and how her reasons to stay away did not prevent her from seeing what was in front of her. The tension between “want” and “need” was delicious, sparking the chemistry in a big way. And when they give in? Yeah, pretty sexy. There’s a LOT of spice in this one, and I didn’t mind it. There’s a part of me that wanted this to get a little grittier, but it definitely makes for a refreshingly easy treat – and that is a great thing.
*Completionists: there is a prequel novella that I was unaware of when I started reading that shows their original hookup. Definitely not required reading, as I gave this 5 stars without it, lol. But if you want to start with that, you certainly can. I’m not going to go back and read it now – I’m happy with how this played out!
Did you see my April Release Calendar?
It includes the April releases I’m excited about AND 200+ upcoming books that are available for preorder! Check it out here.
Check out this week’s new releases here.
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