Review: Forbidden Hearts series by Alisha Rai

51baubxovylHate To Want You (Forbidden Hearts #1) by Alisha Rai

Plot: Every year on her birthday, Livvie Kane and Nico Chandler would hook up for just one night. Nobody else knows, because of the infamous falling out between the Kanes and the Chandlers. So when Livvie returns to their hometown to sort things out with her family, Nico is absolutely thrown for a loop. Can they let go of their history and be together, or has the family feud gone too deep for them to turn things around?

I love a good angst-filled romance, and Alisha Rai delivers that with the first book of the series. The tension between the characters and just from the plot kept me up all night reading this book. Written from perspectives of both the main characters, you can feel their turmoil for each other as well as their families. Livvy is hella feisty and sexy and a talented tattoo artist who’s all heart, Nico is a businessman who is typically calm, collected, loyal, and only Livvy can get under his skin. The flashback scenes of the budding romance between a young Livvy and Nico made me swoon and ache, and just the banter between the two made me cackle; Livvy makes Nico want to both kiss her and kill her at the same time, which I simply adored. Outside of the romance, Alisha skillfully introduces a plethora of secondary characters and we get to see their dynamics with both Livvy and Nico. These characters and relationships were also extremely well-developed and multi-layered, which gave this book so much depth along with being a smoking hot romance. Totally fits the brief of a forbidden romance with a family rivalry trope.

wrongtoneedyouWrong To Need You (Forbidden Hearts #2) by Alisha Rai

Plot: Sadia Ahmed is the owner of Kane’s Café, which she inherited when her husband Paul died in a tragic accident. When her former brother-in-law Jackson Kane returns to town ten years after he ran away when accused of a crime he didn’t commit, she’s unable to shake her feelings for him. On his part, Jackson realizes he’s still helpless to stay away from the one woman he’s always loved. When she agrees to let him help her out at the café, Sadia realizes that her childhood best friend has grown up into an irresistible man. Will they, won’t they?

Oh. My. GOD. After HATE TO WANT YOU, I was sure Alisha was setting herself up for failure, because there was no way a follow-up was ever going to be as good. She proved me wrong by writing a second book that was somehow even better than the first one. This one is hands-down my favorite of the series. I was a little hesitant about the brother’s ex trope, but she handled it perfectly. Also, allow me to gush about Jackson for just one minute. Seriously, give me all the broody introverts always and forever. He’s shy, he cooks, he doesn’t talk a lot, and he’s downright sexy- sheer perfection. I loved their chemistry, I loved the angst and turmoil Sadia was going through about having feelings for her former best-friend-turned-brother-in-law, and her son Kareem was just pure joy and comfort on the page. Sadia’s character is beautifully developed- as a sex positive bisexual woman, as a daughter in a large family with conservative parents and delightful, caring siblings, as a mother, and as a lover. She and Jackson are a perfect match. In addition to all of this, we learn more about the Kanes and the Chandlers, so it’s not like the family drama is a one-and-done thing in book one. This book is all about second chances, and by god, it delivers that, with a gigantic helping of consensual, sex-positive, and super hot romance. 

91rkk2z2sul-__bg0000_fmpng_ac_ul320_sr202320_Hurts To Love You (Forbidden Hearts #3) by Alisha Rai

Thanks so much to Avon Books and Edelweiss for an advanced reader’s copy of this book.

Plot: In the final installment of this series, we meet Evangeline Chandler and Gabriel Hunter. She’s the heiress to the Chandler fortune and sibling of the overprotective Nicholas Chandler, he’s the tattoo artist boss of Livvy Kane, and son of the Kane family’s former housekeeper. He’s not supposed to be attracted to his friend’s sister, and she’s not supposed to nurse a lifelong crush for the help. However, will respectability and responsibility stand a chance when they’re forced to spend time together and sparks fly?

This book is a fitting ending to the series. She’s a good girl gone bad, he’s thrown caution to the wind in spite of his deep, dark secret. The chemistry is palpable and tender between these two. Eve clearly has a lot of issues and complexes thanks to the men in her family, and I absolutely love how she’s come into her own in this book, going from someone who strictly toes the line to a confident, outspoken person who can stand up to the men in her life, even the ones that have her best interests at heart. Gabe is clearly going through a lot of pain, but is still a wonderful human all-around. They’re also in the middle of a wedding, which means you get to see a lot of our favorite characters from our first two books. And just when you thought you’d discovered everything you needed to about the Kanes and the Chandlers, more secrets are revealed that absolutely shake up both families. 

Alisha Rai delivers again. In just one series she’s managed to deliver three completely different types of forbidden romances, with such diverse characters. Also, hurray for POC romances. The Kanes are Hawaiian-Japanese, Sadia is a bisexual Muslim, Livvy and Jackson’s aunt Maile is a queer WOC, and Gabe is multiracial with an adoptive Black mom and sister (who is a badass billionaire boss, and I hope Alisha writes a spin-off book about Rhiannon sometime in the future). The books all prioritize consent. are super sex-positive, and especially don’t fetishize WOC and/or queer women. Let’s be real: Alisha knows how to write hot books. The sex scenes left me weak at the knees, and I was especially glad that none of the male protagonists had moments of being insecure about their masculinity or whatever when they were with assertive women. All in all, a fantastic series, and definitely her best one yet. I’m so ready to keep reading her work.

 

ARC Review: The Queen of Dauphine Street (NOLA Nights #2) by Thea de Salle

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The Queen of Dauphine Street (NOLA Nights #2)

Pub. date: May 15th, 2017
Publisher: Pocket Star
Format: E-galley
ISBN: 9781501156090
Source: Netgalley

Thanks so much to Netgalley and Pocket Star for providing me this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

 

Plot: Madeline Roussoux screams extravagance: she’s got money, houses, a private jet, a cruise ship, and a pet tiger; not to mention she’s gorgeous and hella sexy. Everyone in the social scene knows who she is. None of this takes away from the fact that she’s got some demons to deal with- growing up a lonely child in a noveau riche family, watching her father commit suicide and her mother subsequently having breakdowns, drugs, rehabs, failed marriages- and is wrecked on the inside. Darren Sanders is a stunning looking man, oozing Texan charm and a giant heart. While trying to get away from his stalker ex-girlfriend, he meets Maddy in New Orleans through a mutual friend, who offers to take him on her boat when there’s an attempt made on his life. 

Trigger warnings: Stalking, attempted murder, PTSD

Thea de Salle has given us another hella entertaining and hella sexy book, balanced with a story centering trauma survivors. The PTSD content is not in a savior complex way, in that nobody is getting cured of their traumatic experiences by virtue of being in a romantic relationship. Instead, Maddy is able to harness her experiences and coping mechanisms to help Darren out when he is struggling. I love that the author took the time to detail what Darren’s panic attack looks like and include a conversation about it after. Of course, it’s never the same for everybody, but the book doesn’t shy away from the fact that the characters are trauma survivors. The story isn’t morbid, and offers hope to readers in the end. 

Maddy and Darren are just so wonderfully fleshed out in this book.We were introduced to Maddy in the first book in the series, and she’s such a vivacious, flirty, fun, and kind person. She’s well-versed in kink as a Dom, and absolutely owns her sexiness and sexuality. I love a woman who knows what she likes and how she likes it and has no qualms about owning it. She’s also super aware of her privilege and how people perceive her, but that doesn’t stop her from living her life. She has a friggin’ tiger for a pet, for crying out loud. It’s hard not to love her. And then there’s Darren. Oh my god, Darren with the dad jokes. I AM DEAD. Ugh I’m such a sucker for dad jokes you guys, and even though I didn’t ship these two in the beginning of the book the dad jokes pushed me over the edge. They’re hard to resist. Oof. He’s just…such a dork. I love it.

It was also great to see some of my favorite characters from book one make an appearance in this one. Sol and Rain (my loves), Vaughn, Alex, Cylan (still mercilessly teased by Sol all day everyday), and Tempy (she’s just so badass I want her book  so much). Sol and Rain are still so in love, and I also love that Darren and Maddy are so appreciative of that couple in their own way. 

This book is a great mix of adorable and goofy and sexy, and such a great sequel to the first. I love all of these characters from this series so much and I would love for each of them to have their book. The next book in the series is going to be Alex DuMont’s, and he’s such a curmudgeonly bastard it’s going to be such a delight to see pages and pages of that, it is going to be a testament to my patience.

-J

 

 

Review: The King of Bourbon Street (NOLA Nights #1) by Thea de Salle

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The King of Bourbon Street (NOLA Nights #1)

Pub. date: Feb 13th, 2017
Publisher: Pocket Star
Format: Ebook
ISBN: 9781501156076
Source: Owned

 

 

Plot: Sol DuMont is a recently divorced, gorgeous, hotel chain owner, whose interest in partying and drugs and booze and sex is at an all time low. Arianna “Rain” Barrington is a wealthy heiress who is vacationing in New Orleans with her brother to escape her godawful mother and her incessant matchmaking. Rain and her brother Vaughn are of course, staying at The Seaside, Sol’s hotel. When Sol and Rain encounter each other, there are sparks, and a whirlwind romance ensues.

HOT. DAMN.

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Okay, okay, I’m getting way ahead of myself. First of all, this is the FIRST fat-positive romance I’ve ever read. I know the cover is deceiving (the author went over this in detail on Twitter a while ago; publishing needs to evolve), but Rain is fat. The word “fat” is used to describe her, more than once, and not in a derogatory manner at all. No fetishizing or negativity, which is amazing, especially since a lot of the descriptions are from Sol’s POV. This is a D/s relationship, and Sol looks at her a lot as a Dom, but all of his trains of thoughts about her are nothing but positive throughout the book. It’s great. Sol himself is a fucking delight- his banter with his best friend Cylan, especially all the one-sided flirting and the general snark, had me in splits. It’s hilarious. He’s bi and has no qualms about it. It was also great to read the book from the Dom’s POV during play, which again, I haven’t read a lot. Rain’s the less experienced of the two, but all the play is super consensual- there’s pain play, orgasm control, objectification- and the kink is ridiculously hot.

Outside of the kinky stuff, I really did love both characters. Rain is a ray of sunshine, wicked smart, adorable, and extremely kind. Sol is all snark and flirty and protective, but not the slightest bit overbearing. Their relationship is very well fleshed out, as are all the side characters. What I liked most is that the book avoids the trope of the partners having some sort of blow out that results in a separation and then another incident causes them to get back together. I’ve read it a lot in several other romances (that I’ve enjoyed) but it was a breath of fresh air not to have that story arc for once. I also love that there’s multiple queer characters in the book, and not in a sensationalized manner, so there’s no token representation going on.

This book is entertaining and endearing and laugh-out-loud funny, so if you’re a romance/kink fan, you should definitely pick this up. If you’re not an avid romance reader this is still a great book to try out the genre. It’s very well-written, and just a damn delight.

-J