My Passion's Pen

Helping to polish what your passion pens.

Archive for the tag “interracial/multicultural romance”

#ownvoices #weneeddiversebooks Contest

Forever Books (Romance imprint of Grand Central) has a very short submission window for its diverse/own voices Romance and Women’s Fiction contest. You must send your complete full-length, adult novel and a synopsis.

Submissions close mid-April.

Find more information about the “All Love, All Voices” contest HERE:

Good luck!


Sweetheart Pitchfest at Savvy Authors

One of the wonderous and comfort-zone busting parts of my new gig as a freelancer with Carina Press (oh yeah, I am now working with Carina Press to find amazing new voices) is moving from a social media lurker to a participant. Maybe one day I’ll become an influencer, but I won’t get ahead of myself.


Savvy Authors is hosting a pitch event starting today  (2/14/18) and running thru Friday 2/16/18. Check out this terrific list of publishers and agents who are participating. Pitch to your favorites!

Check here for event details

I’m looking for stories by and about people of color and other marginalized groups. Since I’m representing Carina Press at this event, these stories must have strong romantic elements.


Also, until 9pm EST, is hosting #KissPitch 2018 on Twitter. If I like your pitch, please go to and submit your query, synopsis, and first few chapters to my attention via Submittable.




Review: Taste of Lacey

Taste of Lacey
Taste of Lacey by Linden Hughes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book surprised me. After a slow start, “Taste of Lacey” unfolded into a smartly written and realistic dramatic romance. I’d recently read some very cliched books which were driving me toward giving up on the IR sub-genre altogether, but “Taste of Lacey” has somewhat renewed my faith.

First off — I’ve never been much of a romance reader until recently. I always thought heaving bosoms, throbbing members, and ripped bodices were laughable. If I had known stories were written like this — about real people in real situations — then I would have been reading a long, long time ago.

“Taste of Lacey” almost turned me off, though. The book starts with Lacey rightfully being proud of herself after a successful event run by her company, but then she’s making arrangements with her lifelong neighbor for a stress-relieving tryst. Now, I understand that Ryder McKay is her brother’s best friend and therefore would answer the call to support Lacey’s big day. I also understand that they’d have no problems being in close quarters because they’ve grown up together. I even understand that they both may have succumbed to the energy of the moment. What turned me off was that insta-heat “fit like a train to a track” stuff. Perhaps what bothered me most was how coarse the language got when Rye and Lacey got close. Not just in dialogue, but in the narration.

I feel it set a false precedence.

Sure, this book has tons of fire between Rye and Lacey, but this isn’t an endless smut-fest. There’s a real story here (and a lot of smut).

I had read on some discussion boards about what IR readers don’t like. One of them was the constant reference to the differing races/cultures. The story’s subtext is built upon that — how very different Lacey and Rye are on the outside but so alike on the inside. I was worried that it would be redundant to read about how fascinated Ryder was with Lacey’s skin, but it was kind of cute.

The standout in this book is Ryder. His interaction with his family and others is engaging and very real. His thoughts about Lacey are authentic. Sure, he is ruled by his gender, but he is well aware that his addiction to Lacey goes beyond physical. I kept waiting for some confession that he’d been intrigued by her since they were kids. That being with her was a wish fulfilled. I even expected Lacey’s father to say something like that–reveal some childhood declaration Ryder had made and forgotten about that was finally coming true. But those cute but cliched moments never came. However, I would have liked to actually hear from Lacey’s father and not a third or fourth person relaying the message.

There were times where I thought Lacey was being a bit ridiculous with her wildly vacillating emotions, but this was the first time in forever that she truly felt something for someone, and she doesn’t have the first clue on how to manage these feelings in her highly controlled life. There’s a scene where she rips her dress to shreds that left me scratching my head.

I appreciate that the author didn’t gloss over their races. I’m glad Lacey was aware that not everyone was accepting of their relationship simply because of their skin colors, even though she tried to use that as an excuse to not pursue her feelings. I also liked that the opposition was coming from her mother and brother and not bigoted strangers.

The dialogue was sparse early on — they were in the bed during most of the first third of the book… I would have liked for more diverse interaction, but they both are creatures of habit, so Ryder and Lacey quickly fell into a routine.

With the introduction of the supporting cast, it still took a while for interactions to feel real. Lacey’s cousin and business partner are terrific, but it wasn’t until nearly the end of the book where I felt Lacey’s dialogue loosened up with Monica and felt like real best friends who happened to be related. I’d like to think that Lacey was just that uptight over Ryder that she doesn’t relax in any aspect of her life until she and Ryder declare themselves official…but it doesn’t read that way.

The rest of the players leave a lasting impression, unfortunately, I never really cared all that much for Lacey. I would have given the book another star if Lacey had more growth.

I would love for some of the subplots introduced in this book to be expanded upon but not resolved, particularly Monica and Lisa. I bet Lisa’s got her own secret lover.

“Taste of Lacey” is a solid read. It’s enjoyable from nearly start to finish. I had a tough time getting into it, but after chapter 1, things flowed smoothly for an engaging read.

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Review: Monster

Monster by Francette Phal
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book has a lot of potential, but the storytelling, so far, is disjointed and tell-y (it reads as if it is a very early draft). Instead of building tension with descrpition and dialogue, the reader is told Dom the Dom is “brutal” and has been “horribly cruel” to his wife. Perhaps it’s the author’s chosen narration. I prefer 3rd person POV, but I’ve seen recently where it has not been used effectively. The distance the author has placed between the narrator and the MCs dulls the reception of the images.

There are other issues I have, but those revolve around editing. Primarily, the book starts too soon and quickly becomes repetitive.

For what it’s worth, I think this is an intriguing set up. I’m going to continue reading because I’m anxious to uncover the real story.

I finished the book by listening to it through my screen reading app. My brain cannot not edit what I read, so I had to remove the words from my view in order to absorb the story being told.

Although the actual story was interesting, it took too long to get there. The author began to find her rhythm when Eden makes a decision, but it was still a bit too long to get to the meat of story.

At a little over 50% in is where things got interesting and the author seemed to catch her stride.

Disclaimer:I don’t seek out books like this, it was red’d by a friend, so my expectations were low.

Dom the Dom’s history surprised me. I love a solid, character-driven story with a lot of angst; revealing Dom’s motivations gave the story what it had been missing thus far–heart.

Up until Dom’s back story, I didn’t care about the MCs, and the supporting cast is an assortment of stock characters who do predictable things and don’t really add much (they don’t detract either).

The FMC…I wasn’t feeling her–ever. Her story is spread all over the place, and the reader is given pieces here and there. Her history doesn’t make her endearing, at least not to me. I’m a stickler for realism, even in fantasies, and felt a lot of what happened to her wasn’t entirely plausible. Sure, the crap her mogul husband did could happen, but her ‘rags to riches to rags to upper middle class’ all with a newborn in tow was a little unrealistic.

All the way up to the end I just never saw any real depth to Eden. Dom changed and grew (which is the crux of any story), but much of his journey took place “off camera”. I would have much rather been witness to therapy sessions, his internal battle to be gracious, his growing affection for his son… I didn’t like watching those moments with Eden. I would have much rather the view come from Dom.

This book is all about Dom, yet he’s not the focus. He’s a good character, well developed, but under utilized.

In the end, I felt like I was given half a book. It started late and ended too soon.

Technical execution: Like I said, I could no longer look at the words if I expected to finish reading within a week, so I had the book read to me. It is unnecessarily verbose. I found the excessive use of redundant adverbial phrases and complex words off putting. Having to grab a dictionary in the middle of a heated scene completely threw off the flow. I laughed every time caramel or macchiatto or honey were used. How many different ways are necessary to say brown? That kind of stuff screams fanfiction to me.

There were a few inconsistencies like her hair was one color then another in an early chapter, or maybe the varying ways the author used to say brown confused me. I’m a simple woman. Toward the end, I noticed a few dropped words and typos, but no book is without those.

Pacing is inconsistent, but maybe I felt that way because I was unsympathetic toward the FMC and the view focused mainly on her. As I said in the first part of my review: I prefer 3rd person, but here it’s underutilized. Where the view could get tight and evoke a lot of emotion, it stays just out of reach, filling the moment with descriptions of clothing and tingling flesh.

Ms. Phal has created a compelling character in Dom, but his story feels unfinished. This is the first book of Ms Phal’s that I’ve read. Her talent is evident; I think I’ll give her Bet series a try.

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Review: Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & Park
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve wanted to read this book ever since my kids’ junior high school library committee had a debate about adding it to our shelves. I live in an urban community with a diverse racial and socio-economic population, so the arguments against the book by a scant few parents were laughable to me. The students my kids go to school with live Eleanor’s and Park’s story in some way or another every day–hell, I was Eleanor AND Park at one time.

“Eleanor & Park” is music; it is art. Rowell tells the story with a fresh rhythm that evokes nostalgia, fear, and optimism. Set in the late ’80s, I “got” all the pop culture references–that’s my generation. I wonder if the book has been classified as YA simply because it stars teens. “Eleanor & Park” is technically historical fiction (I feel ancient), but as I read more, I felt Rowell wrote the book for herself and others of our generation. I am grateful that she did. “Eleanor & Park” is a stellar read.

Everything about this book is familiar, but not. Eleanor could be my mother. Park could be my father. I was both Eleanor and Park at one time or another during my adolescence…so was my husband. Everything about this book tells a story so familiar yet completely different.

The cast of characters are richly developed, and the care taken with each one is evident regardless of how small their role may be.

Eleanor is a troubled teen who miraculously doesn’t let her problems at home completely consume her. She’s new in school. Not only that, everything about her sticks out like a sore thumb. She’s got bright red hair and freckles. She wears clothes that, according to Park, make her look like a gypsy hobo. Add to that, she’s a full-figured girl. Happenstance places her on a bus seat beside Park–his initial greeting is less than warm, but Eleanor knows how to move through the sea of cliques with minor damage. She keeps her head down and speaks only when she has to.

One of my favorite parts is when Eleanor laments that Park chose a different comic to read during their bus ride when she hadn’t finished “eaves-reading” the last one. At the same time, Park realizes that Eleanor has been “eye-hustling” his comics, but instead of cuffing them, he opens the pages wider so she can see. Aww. All the while their internal narration argues that they dislike the weird other. When Park silently hands Eleanor a stack of comics, I melted. They still haven’t said but a few words to one another, yet there is this connection–this unspoken conversation between the two. Park isn’t fully aware of what he’s doing or why, but he can’t get Eleanor out of his mind. Eleanor is just as taken with the “stupid, perfect, Asian kid”.

Park’s life is less than perfect. He lives in the shadow of his little brother, and his father seems to dislike that he is more Asian than Caucasian despite the fact that he adores Mindy (his Korean bride and mother of his children).

Told in third person POV, “Eleanor & Park” uses a deep perspective that draws the reader in to the POV character. Time is spent almost exclusively in Eleanor’s and Park’s mind.

To me, this book tells three stories: Eleanor and Park’s budding friendship and eventual romance, Eleanor’s story of her tormented home and school life, and unveiling Park’s less than picture-perfect existence. Each facet works together like pieces of an orchestra, to create a richly layered song.

The pacing of this book kept my interest from the first line to the last. Although I figured out the true source of Eleanor’s torment rather early on, it was still a surprise at how things played out. That ending… This one ended by allowing the reader to insert their own vision for Eleanor and Park, but don’t forget the preface…

I was lost in this book, and I mean that in the best way. Rowell pulled me in to Eleanor’s and Park’s world right away. It didn’t matter to me that these kids don’t look like me or the kids in my neighborhood–they speak a language most teens (and former teens) can understand. The cover art spotlights the couple’s connection to music, but because music (except for oldies and classical) was never really my thing, I glommed on to their shared love of comics as what drew them together. Although their exchanges and her holding onto double-A batteries like she’s Gollum is deeply touching, the comics built the bridge, though.

They’re geeks and they’re in love. They’re best friends and they’re in love. They’re set apart from the masses and they’re in love. Their banter is hilarious and sweet and nerdy and sad and hopeful.

“Eleanor & Park” isn’t perfect (I can’t find anything to complain about except maybe I’d like more time with Park and didn’t care for stating whose POV we were in), but it is an excellent book. I highly recommend this one. Rainbow Rowell is deserving of all the success this book what wrought her.

I love when I find an author whose words strike something within me that I want to read everything they’ve ever written or will write. I’ll be reading Rainbow Rowell for a long, long time.

The quote “She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.” is great–brilliant even, but I offer this one as my favorite: “You can be Han Solo,” he said, kissing her throat. “And I’ll be Boba Fett. I’ll cross the sky for you.” *Swoon* That kid is smooth!

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Review: The Space Between

The Space Between
The Space Between by Victoria H. Smith
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Space Between is about two star-crossed lovers who find a course to their forever. Sound familiar? This Romeo and Juliet retelling has a different energy than most stories I’ve read with similar themes. Perhaps it’s the tone of the writing. Maybe it’s the age of the characters. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but this book is different…refreshing…for an NA novel.

Truman Drake, who goes by Drake, is your typical bored rich kid who is itching for a thrill. New in town, he stumbles upon a game of chance which takes him places he’d never imagined.

Lacey is an aspiring diva (and I mean that in the operatic way) from the rough side of town who works on a small production as she muddles through life with the weight world on her shoulders unable to take a step toward her dreams.

Through an accidental encounter, their lives are changed.
Early in the book, the women appealed to me. It is rare that I connect with a female character in the NA books I’ve read, so to find so many similarities in Lacey was a nice surprise. Her sensibilities defy her age. At 18 she speaks and behaves as a woman much, much older; however, I did not like her need to “teach Drake a lesson” during their first real encounter. I found that whole scene unbelievable. If she called the cops over someone buying drugs on the West Side of Chicago I doubt they’d be so quick to arrive (I’m from Chicago), much less stop some kid on the street without trying to find out where he got the dope from. Cops can’t raid the house without a warrant (although we wrote the book on misconduct), but Lacey called in a complaint, so there’s due cause . All of them might have gone to jail for the night, but I digress…

Lacey has a fairy godmother of sorts in the form of her bestie, Margot (a drug dealer with a heart of gold). What starts as an underhanded but sweet gesture to get Lacey on the stage for the last performance quickly turns into a predictable routine for the two. Lacey complains she’s broke. Margot asks about her application at the nanny agency. Lacey gets a dream job, and so on. Whatever Margot speaks becomes reality for Lacey. Maybe I took issue there because I don’t have close girlfriends to kick me in the pants when I lack motivation.

Drake isn’t your typical snob, either. Turns out he’s adopted–although it was mentioned briefly just once at the very beginning and not again until halfway into the book–(I also had a difficult time envisioning him as a Korean kid from the descriptions) into a wealthy and high-profile family.

Here’s where the book gets preachy:
Drake’s adopted father is apparently a bigot and has been distant Drake’s entire life. I didn’t find anything outright hateful–he read more like a self-serving, career-focused man of means–that would make me agree with this assessment. What drove the point home was when Drake spoke of his sister’s birth and subsequent change in his father. I could relate to his differences suddenly being on display and feeling like an outsider in his own home. Thankfully, Drake’s father didn’t appear much in the book, but when he does, I feel as if the author went out of her way to make him villainous.

Then there’s the ghetto thug Tyrone who briefly terrorizes them, and the hood with the conscious (Lacey’s cousin Derrick). Between Margot and Derrick Lacey and Drake have their very own Friar Laurence and Mercutio. All the Romeo and Juliet players make an appearance in one way or another.

After the couple’s failed first meeting, they believe they’re out of each other’s lives for good. If that were true, then the book would be super short. Anyway, that dream job I spoke of is with Drake’s family as a personal assistant. She is to babysit Drake and his sister, Adele, who at the beginning of the book reads much older than her 15 years.
The middle of the book is filled with their comings and goings around the North Shore and Chicago’s West Side, and Lacey’s attempts to endear herself to the family. I truly wish Chicago had more of a role in the book. I felt no authenticity in the settings (yes, I’m from Chicago, and I even live on the North Shore. I also have a freshman at Northwestern).

These two give up on keeping away from each other after Adele tells Drake their father made Lacey feel less than welcome with his snobbery just as she was warming up to the young woman. Drake, of course, goes to make it right and gets beat down by Ty (I see what she did there–he’s her Tybalt, except he doesn’t die). Lacey nurses Drake back to health and they do the deed.

Up to this point, I was wondering what genre this book was because it lacked the grit common in most Urban fiction I’ve read, and it certainly lacked the smut of New Adult/Contemporary fiction I’ve come across. This book could pass as a Young Adult novel it’s so tame in the sexy-times and the language is mild. I am not complaining. I actually appreciate Ms. Smith’s presentation.

There’s not a lot to say about the second act of the book. I do like the characters, a lot. I see myself and my experiences in them. I can relate, particularly when Lacey’s mom passes and she’s on her own. However, if not for the chapter headers, I was hard-pressed to determine who was narrating. Their voices blended together and everyone sounded the same–even in the dialogue.

Speaking of dialogue: these kids, even down to the youngest ones, spoke much too mature. I work in a well-to-do high school district and kids don’t talk like that. I understand that Lacey and Drake have had their childhoods stolen from them in one way or another, so they were wiser than their years (preaching to the choir here), but there’s this formal-ness to their speech that didn’t feel natural.

What follow Lacey’s mom’s passing is another over-the-top attempt at villainy by Mr. Drake which causes Mrs. Drake’s blatantly foreshadowed ‘misunderstanding’ between Lacey and Drake to come true.

The third act whizzes by with forlorn prose of the stubborn and heartbroken. There’s a bit more preaching by the supporting cast. There was just a lot going on throughout the entire book which has a decent-sized cast. Margot and Lacey’s mom (by-proxy of a lawyer) sprinkle fairy dust around and Lacey is able to follow her dreams at the 11th hour. At the same time Drake gets his head out of his bum and goes to get his woman. He drops out of school before it even starts, empties his savings and moves to Paris for Lacey.

In a really cute scene, Margot strikes again, and sets Lacey up for her to have everything she’s ever wanted in one fell swoop. On a busy Parisian sidewalk, Drake waits for his love with Adele fawning over the whole scene while their parents have no real idea of their whereabouts. And they live happily ever after. But there’s a sequel.

I really had high hopes for this book, but after the opening few chapters, it quickly became an After School Special. I felt talked at a lot and bludgeoned by the lesson the author felt compelled to teach instead of truly experiencing–feeling–what Drake and Lacey were going through.

I really wanted to love this book, but overall the book was just okay.
The writing needs a bit more refinement and a finer hand during the editing process. The characters’ descriptions didn’t give me much to go on, but that’s okay, however the continued use of certain words such as porcelain, mahogany, caramel, etc., became distracting. There were also times when people were described as caucasian, black, or Asian. Those tell me something, but don’t show me much. There was more time spent describing clothing, cars, and furnishings than the people. I didn’t see for myself that Drake was handsome or Lacey was beautiful, that both were desirable except by other characters’ reactions to them. Despite the nondescript characterizations and setting, I still like these characters. I found something in these guys that I could relate to, that made me want to keep reading. Kudos to the author for that because I might have given up and skimmed the book had she not created people worth rooting for.

All-in-all, the delivery is just a bit off, but time spent in The Space Between is not wasted. I’m off to start the sequel.

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Review: Sunday

Sunday by Kaia Bennett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I surprised myself by really liking this book despite it being heavily erotic. Every chapter has a detailed sexual encounter; it got boring, BUT the author writes in an evocative manner that weaves emotions and thoughts into the scenes so it’s more than thrusts and groans. I would have liked to skim past many of the sexcapades, but there were some poignant exchanges tied in (once they stop grunting). I read every word.

The last book I read struck a sore nerve with me, so I was a bit nervous to continue reading “Sunday” after Flynn showed some of the same type of so-called “Alpha Male” behavior that wavered very closely to sexual assault early in the book. I kept reading because Flynn recognized what he was doing and so did Gia. They toed the line dangerously close. Shortly after their first tryst, both Gia and Flynn laid awake worried about if they had gone too far and what the consequences were.

Gia and Flynn are college students, stuck together to work on a project. At first, I thought Flynn was working a little psychology experiment on Gia with his behavior. The narration quickly revealed he felt more for Gia than frustration and lust, and Gia felt the same about Flynn. It was a bit repetitive, though, the constant internal narative questioning why the felt the way they did and acted on it. The remorse on Gia’s part got a little stale, and I was left wondering why she felt so strongly for Flynn and was willing to move so quickly with him. I don’t feel like that was ever truly resolved. Although, there are just some people who ‘do it’ for you. I guess Flynn made her feel EVERYTHING. I can understand that.

Flynn’s a real jerk to Gia and most women, but the author does not make excuses for his behavior. His backstory isn’t revealed until well into the book, and Flynn more or less shrugs and says it doesn’t matter.

Gia tried so hard to be perfect. Although Gia suspects her long-time boyfriend, Lucca, has been cheating, she has no real proof. She doesn’t seek any either. So when Flynn breaks down all her walls, she’s rubbed raw. Everything is surface-level, but she tries hard to maintain her ‘good girl’ facade. Flynn knocks her mask off whenever they share the same air space. She essentially becomes split in two: Lucca’s woman and Flynn’s woman. Both men think they have her pegged, but Gia kind of surprises them both and herself.

“Sunday” has some well-nuanced characters and a deeper story than miss-matched study partners and their weekly, forbidden trysts. I would have LOVED to have more of the actual story and a whole lot less sex.

This book would have held my attention without the 30 chapters of almost nonstop sex. However, this book is labeled as erotic romance, and it does it’s job well.

I appreciate Ms. Bennett not making Flynn and Gia instantly become a couple. When they finally say their ILYs, it is after a near fatal blow to their already fragile ‘relationship’ (if continual boots-knocking is a relationship). They are sweet together, though, despite the rocky start. There’s a fire between them that is genuine, like the song says, “It’s a thin line between love and hate.”

There’s the standard scorned ex-boyfriend, bitter bestie, and wacky free-spirits who make appearances and offer tension or wisdom at appropriate times to move the story along. They all were fairly forgettable, though. That’s okay. This is Gia and Flynn’s story.

Okay, ladies, I now see what the fuss is about with the Alpha Male talk. Flynn is hot! He’s self-assured and unapologetic about going after what he wants. He’s a bit of a brute, but he’s not an animal (unless the situation calls for it). Accustomed to going at life alone, he has little use for people, so he is short and to the point in most of his dealings. He knows the power he wields and uses it expertly to get what he wants with minimal repercussions. All of which infuriate Gia who tries to be accommodating to everyone she deems worthy, and in the beginning, Flynn’s not worthy.

There are a few missteps in “Sunday,” but this book shows the author has a promising future. I found minimal errors early on, towards the end, however, things got a little sloppy with some dropped words. No book is perfect, though.

I would have liked to see more evolution of the characters and their relationship and less sexytimes, which quickly became repetitive and dull. I’d like to believe there’s more to Flynn and Gia than sexual compatibility.

“Sunday” is a good read. The author has solid writing chops. I look forward to what comes next from Ms. Bennett.

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Review: Natural Beauty

Natural Beauty
Natural Beauty by Leslie DuBois
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What do I think… ?

First: I LOVE the cover art. It reminds me of something my dad used to have hanging on the wall back in the 70s. Truly is beautiful.

Second: I truly enjoyed the theme of the book — a young woman is forced to make a HUGE change in her life and journals it through her hair. I’m not sure how many of us are consciously aware of what we do to ourselves and how it correlates to the state of our heart. Mahogany Brown’s journey from rocking weaves to afro puffs was emotional (I’ve been transitioning for a few years and have yet to do a Big Chop despite a strong desire to). Although the moment of the BC wasn’t a surprise, and the appearance of the sagely, bohemian sister-in-law a bit trope (I have one of those, too), I found these women 100% relatable.

Third: Mahogany’s romantic situation was believable. I can see how she was with Vinny. How they managed to stay in a relationship as long as they had. It actually kind of made me scared for my daughter who is a college freshman (not that I’m trying to marry her off); I don’t want her to be with someone by default to look up in ten years and realize the truth about them. That’s what happened to Mahogany (ugh. That name grated on me until she explained the reasoning behind it towards the end of the book).

Fourth: This is what didn’t earn the book more stars for me. Trent. Mahogany goes through this huge break up, and rightfully, she’s worried about her cubicle-mate who has the reputation of being a bit of an a-hole. Maybe I nodded off or something, but aside from her internal narration about her struggle to keep it together in front of Trent, I felt nothing pass between them. Sure, he was aloof, but the whole tension between them felt forced. I understand it was the result of a misunderstanding, but it needed a little more finessing. When Trent’s actions reveal his feelings to the reader (a little too quickly, IMO), he’s more of a sad sack than hardened man.

Yes, Mahogany lets her defenses down with Trent a little bit, then he’s all in love, but she’s hung up on Vinny. And then Vinny’s sister shows up. Then Vinny shows up beating on his chest. Yeah… I could live without love triangles.

I wish there was more time getting to know Trent. He’s not a major player in the book–her hair is. The haircare tips are cool. I want to try some of the styles suggested, but I wanted a little more connection with Trent. His family was great, but all of that was so rushed. That’s saying something for me, the non-romantic romance reader.

Perhaps my issues with the book lie in that it is a first person POV and I prefer third. Trent is an interesting character. Mahogany is too, but out of them all, I’d rather spend more time with Trent and the sister-in-law.

Fifth: The author sets scenes nicely. There was minimal time wasted on clothing details, although I rolled my eyes at some brand name dropping. Ms. DuBois did an excellent job painting a clear picture of the people and places in Mahogany’s life.

All-in-all: I liked the book. It isn’t a bad use of time or three bucks. It is cleanly written with minimal grammatical errors. Above all, it’s a cute, fun read, but I only ‘liked it.’ I really wanted to ‘love it.’

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Review: Dangerous Beauty: Part One: Destiny

Dangerous Beauty: Part One: Destiny
Dangerous Beauty: Part One: Destiny by Michelle Hardin
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Based on the buzz around this book, “Dangerous Beauty” has everything I would want in a story: kick-ass female lead who is neither a shrinking violet nor wishy-washy; a male lead who is tough and tender but majorly flawed; a supporting cast who causes all sorts of mayhem; and violence, lots of violence.

“Dangerous Beauty” is the story of a mafia prince who falls in love with a hitman’s daughter. Sounds pretty awesome, plus it’s written in 3rd person!

I had such high hopes…

Sometimes books have tremendous potential, but a series of little missteps derail the entire thing. That is my experience with “Dangerous Beauty.”

There’s so much I couldn’t look past in order to rate higher, but I don’t want to come across as bashing the book or the author, so I’ll omit my crit.

I suppose most readers pick up this book for the romance, and there’s plenty of it. Well there’s plenty of sex. It isn’t graphic or anything. It’s actually quite tame in comparison to the language in the book.

The supporting cast is fun.

I understand this is the author’s first book, so I have hope her future works will be more pulled together.

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Review: The Dividing Line

The Dividing Line
The Dividing Line by Victoria H. Smith
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

**Reviewer was given this book in exchange for an honest review**
Dividing Line is a very different book than The Space Between. The “against all odds” romance has given way to real life challenges for Drake and Lacey.
Living in Paris together but not cohabitating (which I thought was just weird considering Drake moved and was virtually penniless), Drake and Lacey find refuge in one another as they adjust to life abroad. Lacey’s show is successful and she’s developed a bit of celebrity, but she tries to remain humble. Drake is muddling through life in Paris. He works a menial job and plays the role of supportive boyfriend to Lacey. The book’s synopsis plays up that Drake is eclipsed by Lacey’s rising star, but I didn’t get that feeling. What I felt more was that things were out of order for Drake, and that boiled down to him not being the primary breadwinner (his chest beating is minor, he’s actually gracious about it all). Throughout their time together in Paris, their youth and inexperience took center stage in their relationship. From the outside, Lacey and Drake look like a balanced team, but they’re not. Why they don’t live together, even after almost a year in Paris was difficult for me to grasp. Neither of them professed to follow any dogma, and they certainly had no problem being sexually active, yet they took issue (Drake took issue) with them living together before marriage. And Lacey became a knowitall mother hen-type.
I have to say, I wasn’t feeling Lacey in this book. There was a change in her that I don’t think had much to do with character growth. This is, without a doubt, Drake’s book. Things kind of “happen” to Lacey and are swiftly resolved. I don’t feel she’s much of an active player; her presence was not missed by me when the story focused on Drake.
In a series of way too coincidental events, Drake finally admits that he’s unfulfilled in Paris and wants to go home. Lacey is obligated to her show and lets him go.
I enjoyed reading about Drake’s adjustments to inner-city living. What I didn’t like was that this book was much more overtly smutty than the last, the language more coarse. Ms. Smith’s delivery in the first book as a welcome change of pace. Sure, their relationship matured, but I got tired of hearing about how horny they were.
Although I liked spending time with Drake, the middle of the book dragged. Especially when Lacey was again the focus. Insert a suave and handsome new costar for Lacey, and a quirky cutie for Drake. There was one misunderstanding and missed connection after another; I wondered when these guys would just call it quits altogether. The pacing of the events that went on during their separation read like months, not a few weeks.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved the theme of the book–Drake’s self-discovery, learning his identity, coming to terms with who he was. I would have truly enjoyed reading more. Lacey just didn’t help the story. She became a set piece.
During their welcome home party, there was reference to a mystery visitor that Derrick and Drake were to keep Lacey away from. I figured out who that was right away, and was left waiting quite a while for him to finally catch up to her. This was supposed to be suspenseful and emotional, but it read like a standard trope to me. I have to give it to Ms. Smith, though, what begins as predictable has a few twists; however, the expected end still is reached, it just takes a little bit longer to get there.
After all is said and done, tears shed, losses counted, victories tallied, and truths told, everything wrapped up too tidily for me.
This book has MASSIVE potential to be thought provoking and moving, but I had a difficult time staying with it. The writing quality ebbed and flowed. The Space Between was a much better executed book, but Dividing Line had a better story, although the plotting and pacing were off.
I want more story. I want more character growth. I just want more.

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