Review: Cheater (Curious Liaisons, #1), by Rachel Van Dyken

Cheater (Curious Liaisons, #1)Cheater by Rachel Van Dyken
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As the title implies, ‘Cheater’ features a hero that is quite the man-whore. Lucas Thorn is the type of guy that you immediately love to hate. He’s handsome, arrogant and used to bedding a different woman every night of the week. In fact, he has a schedule that allows him to do just that!

When Avery Black walks back into his life, his carefully planned out promiscuous life is thrown into a tailspin. The younger sister of his high school sweetheart, Avery is everything he has always wanted…but could never have. She is the epitome of forbidden fruit.

Forced to work for the man was once her best friend, and secret crush, Avery knows that she’s playing a dangerous game. Down on her luck, she needs this job desperately. She has no other options, unless she wants to move back into her parent’s home. That is an option that she’s not even willing to consider. So, she takes the job as Lucas’ assistant and bides her time.

Avery can’t deny the attraction that is still strong between them, but giving in to temptation would be unforgivable in the eyes of her family. After all, Lucas was engaged to her sister when he was caught sneaking out of her other sister’s bedroom right before the wedding. Worse yet, she had allowed herself to think that she was the only sister that Lucas was really in love with.

As Avery comes face to face with Lucas’ many “girlfriends”, she is disgusted. She has to face the fact that the boy she loved has grown into a philandering man that she can’t begin to recognize. At least now he seems to be upfront about his two-timing ways, with each of his women fully aware that they share him with a different woman every night of the week.

The more time these two spend together, the more their old feelings begin to resurface. However, a lack of trust is clearly a big issue. Both try to play off their feelings, denying what is so evident. Gradually, their flirtations lead to something more. Now, they just have to break the news to their families.

This was a quick, entertaining and humorous audiobook selection. It was cute and light-hearted. If you are unable to get past the manwhore ways of the hero, then this is a great choice. Despite all of his antics, I found Lucas growing on me.

Overall, this was a very entertaining story. It isn’t particularly original or unpredictable, but it was a sweet, fun read. If you’re looking for a “good girl reforms the bad boy” type of story, this is a great one. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a deep, emotional read, then keep moving. This was just pure, smutty goodness.

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Review: The Secret Wife, by Gill Paul

The Secret WifeThe Secret Wife by Gill Paul
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

‘The Secret Wife’ was a nice, enjoyable historical fiction/romance. Although it lacked the “wow” factor, I found it to be a good story overall. It was interesting and I enjoyed the details related to the time period. However, given the subject matter, the book lacked the suspense that I would have expected.

The story alternates timeframes, as well as locations. In 2016, Kitty Fisher discovers that her husband is having an affair. She has recently inherited a cabin in the United States from a great-grandfather that she never knew existed. Given the recent revelations about her marriage, she packs her bags and leaves her home in London, setting out for the cabin at Lake Akanabee.

Soon after her arrival, Kitty discovers some old writings in the cabin. She becomes consumed with uncovering the story of her great-grandfather, Dmitri Malama. The more she unearths, the more apparent it becomes that Dmitri’s life was anything but unremarkable.

Through the writings, a new look at Russia in 1914 and the downfall of the Romanov family is offered. Unlike many other stories centered on the Romanov family, which tend to speculate about Anastasia’s fate, this book focuses on Tatiana Romanov. I found this part of the story to be fascinating and highly entertaining. I lavished in every detail of this era in Russian history.

Dmitri was a cavalry officer who meets Tatiana when he is injured. Tatiana volunteers at the hospital where he is sent for treatment. The two fall in love, only to be separated thereafter by the overthrow of the Russian Tsar and the subsequent restrictions placed on the Romanov family.

Even after the reported murder of the Romanovs, Dmitri holds out hope that Tatiana is alive. Eventually, he gives up hope. He goes on to start a family of his own and relocates to America.

However, things aren’t always what they seem. When fate thrusts Tatiana back into his life, Dmitri is forced to make some very hard choices. Can he reconcile his love for Tatiana with the new life that he has made for himself and the wife that has stuck by his side throughout the years?

All things considered, I expected this to be a much more emotional read. Instead, it felt sweet and maybe even a little sad. Even with Tatiana’s reappearance, the story failed to elicit the tremendous emotional highs and lows that I expected. Things just fell together too perfectly.

Dmitri’s wife was just too accepting and almost complacent. I even felt the same way about how things worked out for Kitty and her husband. It was like these characters had been given a heavy dose of a sedative. Where was the anger and sense of betrayal?

Overall, it ended up being a good but not great type of story for me. It had a lot of unrealized potential. I needed more emotion and a stronger connection to the characters. It felt kind of “flat” to me, for lack of a better descriptor.

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Review: After Ever Happy (After, #4), by Anna Todd

After Ever Happy (After, #4)After Ever Happy by Anna Todd
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The fourth book in the ‘After’ series, ‘After Ever Happy’ is the first book in the series that had a different “feel” to it. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of dramatic shenanigans between Tessa and Hardin. However, this time around they aren’t the sole focus of the book. The result is a much more somber vibe.

After everything that went down at the end of the third book, Tessa is left markedly changed from the girl she was before. Those tragic events forced her to take a long, hard look at her relationship with Hardin. She finally faces the facts — they’re toxic.

Despite her love for Hardin, she knows that she needs to get away from him. Like the clichéd saying, “sometimes love isn’t enough”. Nothing could be more true for this dysfunctional couple at that point in time.

Even though Hardin comes to his senses and does his best to get Tessa to forgive him, it won’t come easy this time around. Tessa has made up her mind and it will take years for Hardin to prove himself to her. It was long overdue.

With Tessa and Hardin living separate lives for most of this book, the story definitely had a different feel to it than earlier books. As much as it was what the logical me said needed to happen, the illogical part of me couldn’t help but feel like this new direction wasn’t as captivating. After all, this series’ entire guilty pleasure appeal was based on the very same things that made this couple such a train wreck — fighting, angst, jealousy, breaking up and making up. With those elements largely missing from this book, I didn’t feel the same pull to the story.

That being said, I think that the author had used up all of the major angst-ridden story elements that readers could handle. Although the loss of this drama resulted in a slightly less engaging story for me, I don’t think I could’ve handled another book full of Tessa and Hardin’s back and forth fighting. This series has left me emotionally exhausted and I just don’t have it in me.

Luckily, Tessa and Hardin do get the HEA eventually. It was long overdue and I was glad to see it. Finally, they have started to mature and deal with some of the issues in their relationship. As much as I loved to hate this couple, I have to admit that if there was ever a couple that stuck it out, it was them. Talk about hanging in there for better or worse.

Overall, this was still a great read. I have been completely hooked on Tessa and Hardin’s story right from the start. It was one hell of an emotional rollercoaster ride. I feel content, but emotionally drained. I know that there are two remaining books in this series, but I’m stopping with this one for now. I don’t want to upset the balance. I’m feeling content with how this book ended and I’m not sure I could handle it right now if something disrupted that peace.

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Review: Mists of the Serengeti, by Leylah Attar

Mists of the SerengetiMists of the Serengeti by Leylah Attar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Telling the story of two people brought together by an unspeakable act of violence, ‘Mists of the Serengeti’ proves to be a heartfelt and emotional read. Listening to the Audible edition, I found it difficult to motivate myself to get out of my car once my commute was over. I lost myself in this story.

Rodel Emerson and Jack Warden meet in the wake of a terrorist attack. When a shopping mall in Africa is bombed, Jack’s young daughter and Rodel’s sister are among the dead. This prompts Rodel’s trip to Tanzania to collect her sister’s belongings and lay her to rest.

While going through her sister’s things, Rodel stumbles across unexpected information. Always one for an adventure, her sister had agreed to help transport children safely across the country. In honor of her sister’s memory, Rodel commits to complete the work that her sister started.

Soon she realizes that her sister was involved in a dangerous cat and mouse game. She was helping rescue albino children, who are highly sought after because it is believed that they possess special powers. They are often murdered and their body parts sold as key ingredients for witchcraft. These children are even sold by their own families because of the money that they can bring in. It was a horrifying reality that Rodel was not prepared for.

When Rodel ends up at Jack’s home with a young girl in tow, his grandmother offers them sanctuary until the weather clears up. Unbeknownst to them at the time, this is the beginning of a great adventure. Despite his gruff demeanor and all-consuming grief, Jack’s character won’t let him send Rodel and the girl out into the African wild without protection. He knows that this foreigner is in over her head and has no idea of the danger that she’s in.

Gradually, Jack and Rodel’s attraction grows. They help each other through their grief. Each has to face their feelings of survivor’s guilt and the what-ifs that haunt them. Meanwhile, they are on a life or death mission to try and save these hunted children, since they could not save their own loved ones on that tragic day.

‘Mists of the Serengeti’ was a touching and highly emotional story. I listened to the Audible version and it was well-narrated. The imagery was beautiful. I could envision the plains of Africa as if I were right there with Jack and Rodel.

Although there was plenty of tragedy, I was impressed with the author’s ability to address such subject matter without letting it affect the overall mood of the book. It is easy to imagine the dreary, depressing book that this easily could have been. Instead, it was inspiring and heartfelt.

With a slow-burn romance and plenty of action/adventure, this book kept me fully engaged. It was heartbreaking at times, but I fell in love with this story and it’s characters. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone looking for an heartfelt romance with mature characters.

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Review: The Bad Guy, by Celia Aaron

The Bad GuyThe Bad Guy by Celia Aaron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love dark romance and stories with captivity themes are among my favorites. So when I read the blurb for ‘The Bad Guy’, I was sure that it would be right up my alley. I wasn’t wrong. It was just the type of “reformed” bad guy story that I love.

When Sebastian Lindstrom sets eyes on the girlfriend of one of his company’s executives, he is determined to have her by any means necessary. A highly-functional psychopath, he doesn’t conform to the social constraints of polite society. He sets out to possess her. Stalking, kidnapping and manipulation are all on the table.

Camille Briarlane has the “perfect” boyfriend. He’s patient and doting. She knows that he wants to take their relationship to the next level. She only wishes that she felt half as passionate about him as she did for her teaching job. She’s not sure what is holding her back, but something is.

When Camille accepts a job over Christmas break as a researcher in the Amazon, she has no idea that she’s walking into a trap. Instead of being taken to the airport, she is taken prisoner. The sexy man that she once danced with at her boyfriend’s company’s party has stolen her. It is clear that he is unhinged and will go to any length to have her. She only hopes that she can get out alive.

I should be clear that this book is far different from most dark romances with a captivity theme. If you’re looking for a really dark story with whips, chains and an abusive anti-hero, you won’t find it here. It just wasn’t that type of story.

Yes, Sebastian kidnaps Camille. Yes, he holds her captive in his family’s countryside mansion. At times she even fears him.

However, Sebastian has no intention of physically harming her. He comes off as determined to woo her and absolutely clueless about how to make that happen. He knows that Camille is the woman for him, even if he doesn’t understand “normal” emotions. He is sure that given enough time, she will come to realize that they are meant to be together also.

As messed up as the situation was, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Sebastian. There was an underlying vulnerability and even innocence to him that is hard to pinpoint. He didn’t feel things in the same way as others, but Camille brought out his humanity.

Eventually, Sebastian has to face some hard truths. He realizes that he cannot make Camille love him. The harder he tries to force her hand, the more she will slip away. He begins to grow a conscience.

Likewise, Camille has to come to some realizations about her life. Her “perfect” boyfriend is not so perfect after all. Right or wrong, she has feelings for Sebastian that she needs to evaluate.

Overall, this ended up being a great book. It is a standalone and didn’t leave me with any unanswered questions. It was different than other captivity-themed romances, but that only made it stand out from the rest. If you want a taboo love story that toes the line without leaping into “dark” territory, this is a great choice.

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Review: When It’s Real, by Erin Watt

When It's RealWhen It’s Real by Erin Watt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I picked up ‘When It’s Real’, I wanted something that was sweet and heartwarming. I loved ‘Paper Princess’ by Erin Watt, so when I started seeing this book pop up on friends’ pages, I knew that I’d want to read it. I was not disappointed.

This book was everything that I had wanted. It was the kind of light and fluffy read that puts a smile on your face and leaves you feeling contented. Although it was predictable and not particularly original, it was still a highly entertaining read. After all, who doesn’t love a modern-day, rags-to-riches love story?

The story centers on the “fake” romantic relationship between Vaughn Bennett and Oakley Ford. Essentially, their relationship is a publicity stunt concocted by Oakley’s management team to revamp his bad-boy image. Oakley is a famous singer. Vaughn is the everyday, girl next door teenager.

While Oakley is accustomed to a life surrounded by admirers, he is lonely. He has no doubt that if the fame were to go, so would everyone that claims to care about him. All the booze, drugs and women that fill his time cannot fill the void within him.

Worst of all, Oakley has been in a rut. He hasn’t written anything new in a while and everything is sounding the same to him. It’s like he’s lost his magic.

More than anything, he wants to work with a famous producer that is known for his ability to produce the best hits. However, Oakley’s irresponsible shenanigans have gotten in the way. The producer doesn’t believe that Oakley is a serious artist and is refusing to work with him until he proves himself.

Vaughn needs for their fake relationship to be as believable as Oakley does. Her family is depending on her. She knows that she will never be able to earn this type of money any other way and she desperately needs the money. Her “real” boyfriend will just have to understand.

Along the way there is plenty of humor, as Oakley and Vaughn banter back and forth. They kind of start off on the wrong foot and their relationship begins with a healthy rivalry. Of course, the more time these two spend together, the more they start to develop real feelings for one another.

There are a few bumps along the way, but nothing too surprising. It was pretty predictable, but a sweet and fun read. I listened to the Audible version and the narration was terrific as well. I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone that is looking for a light-hearted, feel good type of love story. It is a standalone, so you won’t be left hanging. Although, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a spin-off featuring Oakley’s bodyguard and Vaughn’s sister. I’ll be looking forward to reading that one also if it comes to light.

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Review: Ruckus (Sinners of Saint, #2), by L. J. Shen

Ruckus (Sinners of Saint, #2)Ruckus by L.J. Shen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second book in the ‘Sinners of Saint’ series, ‘Ruckus’ tells the story of Dean Cole and Rosie LeBlanc. I was a little weary going into this book because of Dean’s history with Rosie’s older sister. I wasn’t sure that was something that I was going to be able to get past. Fortunately, I did.

Dean Cole is a hard-partying, manwhore. He is one of the hotholes and is used to getting everything he wants. If he was a spoiled rich kid in high school, he has only gotten worse as a grown man. His life is one of excess to the extreme.

Yet, the one thing that he wants most is the one thing that continues to allude him — Rosie, aka “little LeBlanc”. Dean knows that he irreparably damaged his chances with Rosie when he dated her sister in high school. He knew all along that he was with the wrong sister, but didn’t do anything about it before it was too late. Now, he’s hell-bent on proving himself to Rosie.

No matter how hard Rosie tries to live a “normal” life, she cannot forget that she is seriously ill. Growing up with Cystic Fibrosis, her entire life revolves around her medical care, as do the lives of everyone in her family. It has been a long time since she felt like she was a real person and not just her diagnosis.

As much as Rosie wants to be “normal”, she is perfectly aware of her prognosis. She will die young and will most likely never bear children. For these reasons, she pushes others away before they get too close. She doesn’t want to begin a relationship that is doomed from the start, leaving heartache in her wake.

Rosie has perfected the art of shutting others out. She tells herself it is for their own good and she’s never regretted it. The only exception is Dean Cole, the guy she has always fantasized about but could never have.

Rosie and Dean have a long history of taboo flirtation and stolen moments. She loves her sister, but she felt like Dean was hers from the first time she laid eyes on him. When he chose her sister, it broke her heart. Even though her sister has moved on, marrying one of Dean’s best friends, Rosie feels like crossing that line would be a betrayal.

Now, Rosie and Dean are both grown and living in New York City. To make matters more complicated, Rosie lives in Dean’s building and witnesses his sexual exploits first-hand. Of course, he plans to use his position as her landlord to bend Rosie to his will.

When the two travel home for Vicious and Emilia’s wedding, the sexual frustration is at an all-time high between these two. Over the course of a few weeks, their relationship grows far more intimate and they become inseparable. Despite everything working against them, they decide to give a relationship a shot.

However, their relationship is anything but smooth sailing. Dean has some major demons that he’s fighting. Rosie’s health poses it’s own set of risks. Both of them have a lot of work to do on themselves before they can make a relationship work.

All in all, I thought that this was a great read. Rosie and Dean were perfect for one another, despite his past with her sister. I expected it to be a much bigger deal in this book than it ended up being. Although that seemed to be a little inconsistent with his reaction to Emilia and Vicious’ relationship in the first book, I just went with it. This story was hot and with just enough angst to keep me emotionally engaged.

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Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3), by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3)A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m not sure that I can say much about this book that hasn’t been said already, so I’ll keep this short and sweet. ‘A Court of Wings and Ruin’ was a great finale to the series. I have loved watching Feyre evolve over the course of this series and this book did a wonderful job of bringing everything full circle. If you’re a fan of the series, then this book is a must-read.

That being said, I honestly didn’t think that this book was as spectacular as the second book. This is probably a reflection of my personal tastes more than anything. I am primarily a romance reader. I like a little fantasy and adventure, but I need a healthy dose of romance thrown in.

While this third book definitely continued the love story, it wasn’t as smutty as I would’ve liked. There, I said it. I wanted more steamy, hot times with Feyre and Rhysand. The second book definitely provided more to work with in that regard, but I understand that this book is not marketed for adult romance readers, like me. Again, it is just a matter of personal preferences.

On the other hand, this book was action-packed. From start to finish, there was always something adventurous and deadly brewing. There was never a dull moment. It definitely kept me on the edge of my seat right to the very end.

I won’t say much about the storyline, because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. There are a lot of changes that occur during this book. Some are heartbreaking, others will make you melt. I was left with a feeling of contentment, resolute that everything was “right” in this make believe world that I grew to love so much.

While this series has drawn to a close, I am left wondering if Ms. Maas has any plans to create a spin-off series. There were so many characters introduced in this series that have grown dear to me. I feel like their stories want to be told and she certainly planted the seeds to do this. I guess I’ll have to wait and see.

Overall, this was a fantastic book and series. I would definitely recommend this series to others. ‘A Court of Mist and Fury’ is still my favorite by far, but this one was great in and of it’s own right also.

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Review: Tailspin, by Jaimie Roberts

TailspinTailspin by Jaimie Roberts
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**I received an ARC from the author.**

It has been a week since I finished ‘Tailspin’ and it is still consuming my thoughts. Even though my emotions are still all over the place with this one, I’m going to try and capture my thoughts in this review. Who knows, maybe it will prove to be therapeutic!

This book completely and totally wrecked me — in the best of ways. I absolutely devoured it. If I had started it early in the day, I would have read it in one sitting. As it was, I started it in the evening and read well into the night. Eventually, pure exhaustion overtook me and I fell asleep with my iPad propped up on my chest. When it finally fell over and hit me in my face, all I could think about was getting right back to the story. It was that kind of book for me. The kind that consumes your every thought until you finish it…then continues to haunt you for days or weeks afterward.

Although this book has fast become my latest favorite, I will be honest about the fact that it will not appeal to many readers. In fact, I know that many of my friends will downright hate this book. Why? Well, it deals will some difficult and controversial subject matter. This book tackles topics like abuse, rape, addiction, mental illness, etc. If you require your books to be a “unicorns and rainbows” picture of perfection, then you should run far, far away from this one.

If you are like me though, and love it when a book can make you “feel” things that you may not even be comfortable feeling, then this book is exactly what you are looking for. This book made me feel conflicted, sad, angry, joyful, devastated. You name it and I felt it while reading this one. It has been a long time since I’ve read something that took me on that kind of an emotional rollercoaster ride. It blew me away!

There is nothing that I love more than an uber-a$$hole that may, or may not, be redeemable. I have a personal weakness for leading males that make you love them in spite of all reason. Devon Jackson is exactly that type of guy.

In real life, this is a guy that you should run from at all costs. However, for me, his character was fictional perfection. I could not get enough of this complex, damaged, guy. Oh, how I loved him…even as he broke my heart.

The heroine, Andi Bellingham, was Devon’s polar opposite. She was naïve, sweet and strictly off-limits. The younger sister of Devon’s best friend, Charlie, she is hired as Devon’s personal assistant as a favor to her brother. Of course, she has spent years lusting after her older brother’s best friend, but she knows that he’s out of her league. If Andi ever had doubts, the weekly condom runs that he sends her on and his mid-day office trysts drive the message home.

When I started this book, I thought it would play out like a million other romantic comedy types. Devon was an ass, but I couldn’t help but laugh at his outrageous antics. I was sure that I knew exactly how things would play out as he began to lose his internal struggle to hide his attraction to Andi. I kept thinking, “This is great, but I know where it’s headed.” I was wrong.

Then, about half-way through, there is a shift in the story. It took on a different tone. Again, I thought I had it pegged. Nope. I was still clueless. Nonetheless, I cruised along blissfully unaware of what Ms. Roberts had in store for me.

Suddenly, big things are happening. Huge, plot twists and revelations seem to spring up out of nowhere. My world was turned upside down as I looked back at all of the subtle warning signs and clues that were there all along. Ms. Roberts left a trail of crumbs, but I didn’t want to see them. I was blinded by my own hopes and expectations. Then, she came along and pulled the rug out from under my feet.

It was absolutely brilliant! I don’t want to give too much away, because this is a story that needs to be experienced. It is a story about obsession, love and forgiveness. It was painful, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have no doubt that this book is one that I will re-read, time and time again. I absolutely LOVED this book!

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Review: Royally Screwed (Royally, #1), by Emma Chase

Royally Screwed (Royally, #1)Royally Screwed by Emma Chase
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

‘Royally Screwed’ is a book that has been on my radar for quite a long time. After finishing a couple of mediocre books and being in a bit of a reading rut, I thought that it might be the time to change it up with something sweet and “fluffy”. It ended up being exactly what I needed to lighten the mood.

Nicholas Pembrook is the Prince of Wessco. His sex appeal is only rivaled by his arrogance. He seems to have it all – money, admiration, power, looks.

However, Nicholas knows that beyond the glamour and glitz there are drawbacks to being a prince. For such a young man, he carries a heavy burden. He is expected to do what is demanded of a man in his position, regardless of his personal desires. Prince to a country in turmoil, he is expected to marry a woman “fitting of a prince”.

With only a few months of freedom left before he will have to choose a bride, Nicholas sets out for New York City to track down his rebellious younger brother. Stopping into a coffee shop to escape a downpour, he is immediately attracted to Olilvia. She is everything that he longs for, but is forbidden. The more she resists his advances, the more determined he is to have her.

Olivia Hammond has her own set of stressors to live with. Following the death of her mother, she has had to step up to keep her family’s business afloat. As her father tries to drown his sorrows, Olivia is forced to assume the role of the “responsible adult” in her household, a role that she feels like she is failing at.

There is no denying the attraction between these two. Their connection is strong, but social conventions and global expectations work to keep them apart. They know from the start that there can be no happily ever after in their future. What starts as a short-term fling, soon becomes more.

This serves to provide plenty of angst and conflict along the way. Knowing where this story was bound to lead, I still couldn’t help but fall in love with this couple. Nicholas had his fair share of jerky moments, but they were easily forgiven.

If you’re in the mood for a sweet, feel-good type of love story with a touch of angst, then ‘Royally Screwed’ is a great choice. Was it predictable? Yes. Did that negatively impact my reading experience? Absolutely not. ‘Royally Screwed’ was a fresh take on a familiar storyline.

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