The Complete Reading List by Author

Short Version:

Recommended books are in bold, reviewed books are linked, this is a ruthlessly streamlined recommendations list
So You Want to Read a (Historical) Romanceand here are
Ten Great Romance Novellas to Get You Started

Long Version:

I have some lists  –
Author Commentary & Tallies Shameful 2012 – 2016
Consistent Themes in Authors’ Works.
Things That Occur to Me While Reading Historical Romance Novels
Things That Occur to Me While Reading Contemporary Romance Novels

On reading romance: Emotional Version and Pseudo-Intellectual Version.

I buy everything these writers publish. Click on their name to be taken to a summary of their catalogue: Tessa Dare (on double-secret probation right now, so not an autobuy, but still an autoread)Laura Florand; Lisa Kleypas; Julie Anne Long; Sarah MacLean; Courtney Milan (Milan is The. Very. Best.)

-A-
Alexander, R.G. Ravenous novella (Declan/Trick/Jennifer)
Alexander, Victoria Love with the Proper Husband (Marcus/Gwen)
Alexander, Victoria Lady Amelia’s Secret Lover novella (Robert/Amelia)
Alexander, Victoria The Prince’s Bride (Rand/Jocelyn)
Alexander, Victoria The Importance of Being Wicked (Winfield/Miranda)
Alexander, Victoria Lord Stillwell’s Excellent Engagements novella (Winfield/Felicia&Lucy&Caroline)
Ashe, Katharine In the Arms of a Marquess (Ben)
Ashley, Jennifer The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie (Ian, not surprisingly/Beth) – GENRE OUTLINE
Ashley, Jennifer Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage (Mac/Isabella)
Ashley, Jennifer Many Sins of Lord Cameron (Cameron/Ainsley) – GUILTY PLEASURE
Ashley, Jennifer The Duke’s Perfect Wife (Hart/Eleanor)
Ashley, Jennifer Mackenzie Family Christmas: The Perfect Gift (Ian, Mac, Cam, Hart)
Ashley, Jennifer The Seduction of Elliott McBride (Elliott/Juliana)
Ashley, Jennifer The Untamed Mackenzie novella (Lloyd/Louisa)
Ashley, Jennifer The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie (Daniel/Violet)
Ashley, Jennifer Scandal and the Duchess novella (Steven/Rose)
Ashley, Jennifer Rules for a Proper Governess (Sinclair/Roberta “Bertie”)
Ashley, Jennifer A Mackenzie Clan Gathering (Ian/Beth)
Ashley, Jennifer Bodyguard (Shifters Unbound) novella (Ronan/Elizabeth)

The list has gotten SO VERY LONG, please click on the jump.

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Author Commentary & Tallies Shameful

Shortcuts:    

My Autobuy List (Links That Will Take You to a Summary of the Author’s Catalogue)

Tessa Dare (on double-secret probation right now, so not an autobuy, but still an autoread)
Laura Florand
Lisa Kleypas
Julie Anne Long
Sarah MacLean
Courtney Milan – The. Very. Best.

2016 READING LISTS:

Recommended books are in bold.

The (Shamefree) Tally 2016

Last year, this list had only one book and it was an Outlander graphic novel. I am proud of that, although I do have two glorious historical costume books to read and review.

The (Shameful) Tally 2016

  1. Ashley, Jennifer A Mackenzie Clan Gathering (Ian/Beth)
  2. Balogh, Mary Only a Kiss (Percy/Imogen)
  3. Balogh, Mary Only Beloved (George/Dora)
  4. Blake, Jennifer The Tuscan’s Revenge Wedding (Nico/Amanda)
  5. Bowen, Kelly Duke of My Heart (Max/Ivory)
  6. Bowen, Sarina and Elle Kennedy Us (Wes/Jamie)
  7. Bryce, Megan To Catch a Spinster (Nathaniel/Olivia)
  8. Bryce, Megan To Tame a Dragon (Jameson/Amelia)
  9. Bryce, Megan To Tempt the Saint (George/Honora)
  10. Bryce, Megan  Some Like It Charming (Ethan/Mackenzie)
  11. Charles, K.J. A Seditious Affair (Silas/Dominic)
  12. Chase, Loretta Dukes Prefer Blondes (Oliver “Raven”/Clara)
  13. Dee, Bonnie/Devon, Summer  The Merchant and the Clergyman (James/Declan)
  14. Dee, Cara Noah (Noah/Julian)
  15. Florand, Laura Chase Me (Chase/Violette)
  16. Gray, Juliana The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match (Olympia/Penelope)
  17. Grey, R.S. The Summer Games: Settling the Score (Freddie/Andie)
  18. Heyer, Georgette Venetia (Dameral/Venetia)
  19. Ivy, Alyssa Rose The Hazards of Skinny Dipping (Reed/Juliet)
  20. Kelly, Carla Beau Crusoe (James/Susannah)
  21. Kennedy, Elle The Score (Dean/Allie)
  22. Lauren, Christina Wicked Sexy Liar (Luke/London)
  23. Lauren, Christina A Not-Joe Not-So-Short Short (Not-Joe/Perry)
  24. Lauren, Christina Beautiful Boss (Will/Hanna)
  25. Leigh, Eva Forever Your Earl (Daniel/Eleanor)
  26. Leigh, Eva Scandal Takes the Stage (Cam/Maggie)
  27. Lin, Jeannie My Fair Concubine (Fei Long/Yan Ling)
  28. McQuiston, Jennifer Her Highland Fling (William/Penelope)
  29. Milan, Courtney Her Every Wish (Crash/Daisy)
  30. Novark, Anna Marie The Doctor Wears a Stetson (Cameron/Jessie)
  31. Parker, Lucy Act Like It (Richard/Lainie)
  32. Reid, Penny Ninja at First Sight (Greg/Fiona)
  33. Reid, Penny Happily Ever Ninja (Greg/Fiona)
  34. Richland, Anna His Road Home novella (Rey/Grace)
  35. Riley, Sierra Guardian (Titus/Alex)
  36. Roberts, Holly S. Play: New Adult Sports Romance (Killian/Rebecca)
  37. Schurig, Rachel Ransom (Daltrey/Daisy)
  38. Verge, Lisa Ann Heaven in His Arms (Andre/Genevieve)
  39. Ward, Tracy Rookie Mistake  (Trey/Sloane)

Reviews of Pre-2016 Reads (More to Come)

  1. Lilley, R.K. In Flight (James/Bianca)
  2. Bryce, Megan To Wed the Widow (George/Elinor)

Name Tally June 27, 2015: Simon (9); Alec/Alex (8); James (8); Michael (8); Sebastian (7); William (7); Robert (6); Daniel (5); Jack (5); Benedict, Charles, Colin, Duncan, Edward, Gareth, Harry, Ian, John (4); Andrew, Blake, Gabriel, Jackson, Julian, Lucien, Marcus, Phillip, Phin/Finn, Rhys, Richard, Stephen, Tristan (3); and only one David.

Author Commentary and Reading Lists for 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012 (416 books between February 2012 and January 2, 2016)…

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Rookie Mistake by Tracy Ward

I found Tracy Ward’s new adult contemporary sports romance, Rookie Mistake, in the “multicultural and interracial romance” section on Amazon. Wanting more diversity in my favoured genre, I have been making a point of seeking it out.  Please note that in this same “multicultural and interracial romance” section, Amazon also lists shape-shifter romances such as Alpha Rancher Bear: BWWM Bear Shifter Paranormal Romance which, correct me if I’m wrong, qualifies as neither multicultural nor interracial but may, depending on their retrospective corporeal forms during consummation, qualify as inter-species, so it’s an inaccurate AND offensive category. A for effort there, Amazon.

Trey Domato is finishing up his college football career and gearing up for the Draft and joining the NFL. He knows where he wants to be and is hoping to find an agent to help him get there. Sloane Ashford is the junior agent in her father’s sports management firm and she has been watching Trey’s career for years. She wants to represent him and will do almost anything, including taking a backseat to her selfish and self-interested father, to get Trey signed. Her dad might not be sure about Trey’s potential, but Sloane is.

Rookie Mistake follows Trey and Sloane as they grapple with the professional worlds they have each chosen. Imprudently, they fall in love along the way and, unrealistically, they think they can fight their attraction The novel struck a good balance between young people finding their way, while also acknowledging that to get to where they are, each of them has also had to be mature and focused. I liked Trey and Sloane, but the writing had some issues and wasn’t compelling enough to get me to continue with Ward’s Offensive Line series. There are occasional awkward word choices (“I watch her swallow. Watch her thin neck constrict under her perfect skin that leads down over her collar-bone, Over her breastplate.”) and things I wasn’t quite sure what to make of, such as this –

I met her last year at a frat party, shared a bottle of Jack with her on the roof of the place, and by morning we were buddies, of each variety. She’s chill. Laidback and always down for a good time, but she’s not easy. She’s not one of these groupies running around in the wake of the team giving it up for anyone with a jersey on their back. I’m the only guy she’s sleeping with on the team, though not the only guy at the school, but the team is what’s important. I share a lot with these guys. Probably too much. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to not dip my wick in the same well.

Where do I start with that paragraph? I feel like it’s going seven directions at once and several of them make me uncomfortable.

New Adult romance recommendations can be found here. Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

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The Hazards of Skinny Dipping by Alyssa Rose Ivy and Ransom by Rachel Schurig

To be clear, I am phoning it in so much with these two that I am putting two unrelated contemporary romances in one review, borrowing plot summaries from Amazon, and giving myself the personal challenge of reacting to both as succinctly as possible. I thought I had purchased new adult romances, but it turned out I had purchased young adult romances. It’s apparently a very fine line and I suspect down to tone as much as anything else. The Hazards of Skinny Dipping and Ransom are more coming of age stories than people starting out in life and finding each other tales.I have learned this is of no interest to me. I will be continuing to avoid of young adult books no matter how highly recommended they are.

The Hazards of Skinny Dipping by Alyssa Rose Ivy (Reed/Juliet)

From Amazon: This isn’t a deep book about first loves or self-discovery. If you want a book like that, I’d be happy to recommend one, but I don’t have that kind of story to tell. Instead my story is about rash decisions and finding out that your dream guy is bad in bed. It’s the story of when I finally went skinny dipping, and how my life was never the same again. Oh, and it’s also the story of my freshman year of college and realizing Mr. Right might have been there all along.

Except that it is a book about those things. A boring one about a young woman, maybe even technically still a  girl, who makes some bad relationship decisions before figuring out how to make good ones. The writing (originally mistyped that as “writhing” which will be the highlight of this review experience for me) was fine, the characters simple, the coming age welcome and necessary. It’s the girl’s story from start to end and I have no interest in characters who aren’t really themselves yet. I have read heroines this young before, just not this immature. I like a little more emotional mileage on my lead characters.

Ransom by Rachel Schurig (Daltrey/Daisy)

From Amazon: Daisy Harris has no reason to suspect that her day will be any different than usual. She’ll get through it the way she always does—alone. She won’t speak or make eye contact. She’ll do her best to go completely unnoticed. That’s what life is like for Daisy now—an endless cycle of loneliness and fear. A life lived hiding behind the walls she so faithfully maintains. It’s been a year since she’s seen Daltrey Ransome. A year since he and his brothers left town to pursue their dreams of rock and roll superstardom. A year since he left Daisy behind—left her to watch as everything she knew crumbled around her. And now that Daltrey has found her—the girl he’s loved his entire life, the girl he’d give up everything for—he’s determined never to let her go again.

First things first, all the boys in this family are named after rock stars and Daltrey is a totally cool moniker. His brothers are Cash, Lennon, and Reed, also funky and nicely justifiable from a “romance novel names are ridonkulous” perspective.

I liked Ransom much better than the naked swimming book, but again the characters were younger than I could relate to. They were sweet and sympathetic, the supporting characters good friends to them. Everything ticked along in their new , crazy-successful and a pretty good coming of age story even if it was more than a might tropey and I can only imagine what that much success at that young an age would do to people.

Daltrey had brothers and each of them has a book, but I’ll be giving them a miss. These darn whippersnappers are going to be staying off my lawn.

Last things last, the family/band name of Ransom sounded too much like Hanson and I had that damn MMMBop song stuck in my head while reading. Maybe you do now as well. You’re welcome.

New Adult romance recommendations can be found here. Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

 

 

The Survivors’ Club: Only Beloved by Mary Balogh

The last book in Mary Balogh’s excellent seven book historical romance Survivors’ Club series features the kindest man in the world and a happy spinster. About a decade ago, George, Duke of Stanhope, turned his estate into a hospital and took wounded Napoleonic War veterans into his home. Six of the patients, a woman and five men, stayed behind when the others left and over three years of healing formed an intense bond. Each of them has now had a love story and embarked on a new life, so it is their host’s turn to find companionship and a fulfilling homelife. George lost his young son in the War and his wife, unable to bear her grief, took her own life. Opening his ancestral home allowed him to help others, heal himself, and deflect the world’s attempts to see beyond the comfort he gives others and into his own pain.

The Survivors’ Club holds annual reunions and during one of these George was introduced to and delighted by Miss Dora Debbins. She was flattered by the attention and enjoyed his company as well. The sister of the heroine of Only Enchanting, Dora is forty, to George’s forty-eight, and lives and works quite pleasantly as a musician and teacher in a country town. When George reappears out of the blue to ask for her hand in marriage, Dora is stunned, but her instincts tell her to say yes. She sees in his gesture her chance to seek out a new kind of life as a a wife and – who knows – maybe a mother as well. They may be older than usual characters, but George and Dora are both young enough and old enough to make the relationship work despite the difference in their stations.

George and Dora are strongly attracted to and hold great affection for each other, but agree that they are marrying for companionship rather than a grand passion. Life and romance novels being what they are, the gods laugh at their plans and they fall quietly and deeply in love. Romance novels and life being what they are, and Mary Balogh’s common theme of broken people fitting their pieces together, George and Dora find much more in their relationship than they had ever expected. It is not a Dramatic Relationship, Balogh characters are always too sensible and wonderfully grown up for such things, but the writing successfully conveys the profound bond and joy the two share. As with all strong romances, the team they are together is stronger than the separate individuals they are apart.

It’s hard to go wrong with a Mary Balogh novel. She’s such a reliable writer. Only Beloved is not the best entry in the Survivors’ Club series, Only Enchanting and Only a Promise share that honour, but as a wrap up to this very strong series it works well. As with her other larger series, Balogh needs to repeat a lot of identifying information and quickly encapsulate the previous stories when characters reappear. It both helps sort out my confusion and drags the story down a bit. As a reader, I enjoy visiting old friends, but I don’t want them to take over the current reading experience.

The Survivors’ Club:
The Proposal  (Hugo/Gwen) – pleasant
The Arrangement  (Vincent/Sophia) – very sweet, understated
The Escape (Benedict/Samantha) – meh
Only Enchanting (Flavian/Agnes) – Wonderful, read this one. Read it twice.
Only a Promise  (Ralph/Chloe) – very good
Only a Kiss (Percy/Imogen) – nothing special
Only Beloved – please see above

Balogh has another popular series, all titled with “Slightly”, and Slightly Dangerous is a classic of the genre.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author orAuthor Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

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A Princess in Hiding Series: The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match

Despite the wonderful writing and Juliana Gray’s consistent ability to create interesting characters and throw in some excitement, I couldn’t fully enjoy the Victorian romance novella The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match, but I didn’t mind. I paid a reasonable sum for the book, and since I borrowed all of her other novels from the library, I am happy to have contributed to Gray’s coffers. May she enjoy my shekels in good health and continue to devise the complex, dovetailed series plots and wonderful characterizations at which she excels.

From Amazon: Aboard the luxuriously appointed SS Majestic, the duke is on a mission to retrieve a most important portfolio of papers and thwart a known anarchist. As the ship steams across the Atlantic, the duke’s search for the notorious master of disguise forces him into close quarters with an American heiress and her widowed governess, Mrs. Penelope Schuyler. While Olympia has known his fair share of intriguing women, Mrs. Schuyler seems to have a way of challenging his expectations at every turn. But as their clandestine meetings lead them down an unexpected path, the duke must determine if Penelope is a woman to be trusted.

The Duke of Olympia appears in both of Gray’s published trilogies and I have described him previously as “a conniving old son of a bitch thoroughly experienced in shenanigans”. A compelling character, there is just one problem with giving him his own book and a love interest. He may be 6′ 5″ tall, hale and hearty, broad of chest and deep of voice, but he is seventy-four years old. It’s a perfectly reasonable age to fall in love in the real world, but for a romance novel he falls beyond the line for me. I could have lived with sixty. The heroine, Penelope, a delightful character, is just about fifty. Age differences, of course, grow less important in relationships the older we get, but Olympia is SEVENTY-FOUR years old and Penelope is young enough to be his daughter. I am a Woman of a Certain Age and The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match has the character equivalent of me becoming romantically involved with my father-in-law. I couldn’t get past it. If Penelope had been a decade older, or the Duke younger, I would have been delighted to read their story, but the combination of the vast age difference and his septuagenarian status became an insurmountable combination.

For a historical romance with large age difference that works, I recommend Julie Anne Long’s genre classic What I Did for a Duke. He’s pushing forty, she’s twenty and Long absolutely pulls it off.

Also by Juliana Gray:

The Affairs by Moonlight Trilogy
A Lady Never Lies
A Gentleman Never Tells
A Duke Never Yields – most recommended of the three

A Princess in Hiding Trilogy
How to Tame Your Duke
How to Master Your Marquis – most recommended of the three
How to School Your Scoundrel
The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

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Noah by Cara Dee

Another Kindle Unlimited book, another M/M romance, and one of two romances I have read recently in which there was a large age difference between the main characters.

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From Amazon: In 48 hours, I lost everything. I came home to find my girlfriend of four years with another man. The next day a plane crash ripped my family away from me, shattering me in the process. In many ways, I died that day, too. The fun-loving man who’d lived in the fast lane and loved his career in the film industry was gone. Left was a forty-year-old shell that dwelled at the bottom of a bottle.

Only one person knew what I was going through. My sister’s stepson, who hadn’t been on the plane. Julian knew what it was like to lose everyone he loved, too. He’d stopped showing up at reunions when he was a teenager, so I didn’t know him very well. But I told him at the memorial service he could come out and visit me in LA whenever. One day he did, and I guessed it was as good a day as any to start picking up the pieces and see what was left of us.

Got that? Noah, a forty-year-old bisexual man, loses everything and is thrown into first a friendship and then struggles against and surrenders to a relationship with a much younger man, Julian, who is his nephew my marriage. Judging by other couples in the story, Cara Dee sometimes writes contemporary romances for people who are interested in major age differences and relationships that tread on, but do not technically cross, the taboo lines of appropriateness or legality.

Look, Julian is an adult. He’s 23 years old. Yes, he has known Noah for a long time, but the two aren’t blood related and have had a minimal relationship. They come together to rebuild their lives because they each need someone who understands what the other person is going through. Noah is appalled by his feelings at first, horrified. They know what they are doing might be seen as wrong by others, but their connection is too intense and they ultimately yield to it. I COULDN’T GET PAST IT, especially since some of their bedroom antics involved power dynamics in which Noah was the dominating participant. It was gross with a grossness that was gross and I only kept reading to see if Dee could find a way to make me okay with the taboo. She couldn’t and I should have stopped reading, just like I should stop wri

 

 

 

Venetia by Georgette Heyer

Venetia was my first Georgette Heyer novel which seems odd given my love of the genre and the author’s lauded status in it. I did try to read it once before, but didn’t get very far. This time, I kept going and was well rewarded for my determination. Venetia, as much as almost any romance I’ve read, is about the heroine’s effort and insistence on choosing her own life. Much of the tension in the novel comes from Venetia saying, “I want this,” repeatedly and dealing with virtually everyone else in her life, including the man she loves, trying to tell her no. She is determined to choose her own freedom.

 “So far from being content, she had never imagined that this could be her ultimate destiny. She wanted to see what the rest of the world as like: marriage only interested her as the sole means of escape for a gently born maiden.”

Published in 1958, I wondered if Heyer was writing as much about the women of her own generation who had been given unprecedented independence and responsibility during World War II while the men in their lives were away and then compressed back into their old roles when peacetime returned, as she was about Venetia herself. With deceased parents, an absent and completely disinterested older brother off on The Continent, and a younger brother at home, Venetia has been running her family estate successfully for years. Beautiful, practical, and very bright, she meets the neighbouring estate’s own prodigal son when Lord Dameral returns after many years abroad. Significantly older than her and of leaden reputation, Venetia and her brother become fast friends with Dameral and he is soon a fixture on their lives.

A rake with profligate tendencies, Dameral enjoys his neighbours and is, of course, drawn to the wry and clever Venetia, but feels her social standing could not survive a deeper association. He’s not made of stone. He’s madly in love with her, but they remain friends and settle into that relationship; however, when her absentee brother sends home a shy wife and her harridan of a mother, Venetia’s life is turned upside-down and she is forced to find her own way. The book is largely her story, but Dameral appears regularly to be kindred and delightful. He’s a charming rogue, but a thoughtful and polite one. In him, Venetia sees a future she can embrace even as she knows there may be financial and social challenges. This is her life and her choice to make and she is the one who will make it, damn it!

“Well, my usurper is not very young, and not handsome, and certainly not virtuous: quite the reverse in fact. On the other hand, he is not a bore.”

Precisely and deftly written, just like Venetia herself, the novel felt as though I was reading something that was actually written in 1820 instead of set there. I have a degree in English literature and I mention that at this juncture because I was chagrined to discover that I found the prose style, so witty, so elegant, so historically appropriate, a bit formal and challenging when I started reading; for example, there was one short passage alone contained five new-to-me idioms for intoxication. Clearly, I was able to sort them out and, to my tremendous relief, fall into the flow of the prose, though never quite completely. Since this issue can only be helped by exposure and practice, please let me know which Georgette Heyer novel I should try next. As is often the case, I suspect I have tried a new author starting with her greatest work, but I am certainly willing to give her other books a try.

Venetia has been added to my list of classic romances on my shortened recommendations list. Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

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Guardian by Sierra Riley

 

Set in Queens, New York, the contemporary romance Guardian is the story of Alex and Titus, called Ty, although Titus is way cooler, if you ask me, which Sierra Riley did not. Opposites attracting, Alex is an attorney for a family law practice, Ty runs an auto repair shop and is raising his young niece, Phoebe. They meet when Alex’s car breaks down and Ty’s business is the closest to hand. They are brought together again when Ty is drawn into a custody battle for Phoebe. The case is resolved with minimum drama, but heretofore straight Ty finds himself inexplicably drawn to Alex.

I would really like to read a M/M romance in which neither of the men involved are questioning their sexuality.Ty comes to terms with his interest in Alex reasonably calmly, but I have read scores (and scores) of M/F genre novels and those folks are all written as simply straight and without the “I’M WHAT?!” element in their plotting. It’s often a major issue in LGBT romances and there are enough other tropes to provide story-lines. Either way, Guardian was a middling, sweetish romance, but I  didn’t really cotton on to either of the leads, so I don’t think I’m going to try any other Sierra Riley novels. I borrowed this one using Amazon Unlimited and I’m pleased I didn’t pay for it.

Review completed, there is one more element in the book I want to mention. Ty is a common hero type – a protector, heck, it’s right there in the title – and, as much as I enjoy a big lug, he’s also 6’5″ and got an only-he-if-lives-at-the-gym-and-drinks-17-protein-shakes-a-day physique and is heavily tattooed, none of which appeals to me. To be clear, it’s one tattoo that covers part of his chest, his arms to the wrists, his entire back, and most of his tushie. Seeing just the feather patterns on Ty’s arms, Alex finds them incredibly sexy. I found the feathers intriguing  until the image was described as a “vast bald eagle” starting at the center of his back. I could but giggle. Wings I could live with, in a over-the-top but endearing way; however,  once I started reading about its eyes, talons, and beak, humour was my only response.

Lastly, the cover art is truly awful. The hair colours are accurate, I’ll give them that.

 

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LGBT romance recommendations can be found here.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author orAuthor Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

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