Romantic Times Rewind: March 2016 Reviews

In this week’s podcast episode, we’re looking at the book reviews for the March 2016 issue of RT Book Reviews.

Thank you to Shannon Stacey for sending me this issue.

You can also find all the RTRW content at our category page for Romantic Times Rewind. 

And, most importantly, if you want to listen and follow along with this entry, we have more detail in the audio, but you can click play and listen and read and absorb all the visual goodness:

Ok, let’s get started!

The cover for March 2016 features Cassandra Clare's Lady Midnight, with the cover art depicting a very thin White woman sinking into some water with her back arched and her hair clouding around her, and there's a sword falling out of her hand

We’ll have more to say about the cover in the Ads & Features episode.

Starting with Historical Romance, Amanda was extremely curious about Reckless Desire by Isabella Bradford:

A RECKLESS DESIRE Isabella Bradford **** HOT SETTING: Georgian & Regency England For those who adore Cinderella and Pygmalion plots, Bradford's third installment of the Breconridge Brothers series is perfection. With its wit and heart-tug-ging emotions, this winning tale steals readers' hearts. SUMMARY: With pressure to marry, Lord Rivers Fitzroy leaves his scholarly pursuits to enjoy his last days of bachelorhood. He finds pleasure in the theater, especially among a troupe of Italian dancers. One evening, he agrees to an outrageous wa-ger: take the beautiful lead dancer's mousy cousin and turn her into a leading lady in six weeks. The bet could be Lucia di Rossi's chance to live her dream. As Rivers plans how to turn the quiet, shy girl into a diva, Lucia falls hopelessly in love with him, but she has no idea how attracted Rivers is to her. Each must learn to appreciate themselves before they can truly give each other the love they deserve. (BALLANTINE, Mar., 384 pp., $7.99)

A reckless desire by isabella bradford shows a woman from the lips down wearing a fuchsia off the shoulder gown. she's reclining in a chaise and holding up the hem of her dress to show her knee

I was very intrigued by Antonía Barclay and her Scottish Claymore:

ANTONIA BARCLAY AND HER SCOTTISH CLAYMORE Jane Carter Barrett **** MILD SETTING: Scotland & England, 1586 Relying heavily on the history surrounding Mary, Queen of Scots, Barrelt adds a mad scientist, his disgusting son and a dashing Highlander to her fascinating story. They're all after the attentions of Antonia, and it's a bitter battle to the HEA. Told with over-the-top anachro-nisms, this humorous novel is a delight to read. SUMMARY: Much to Antonía's dismay, she has outgrown the gangly girl of her youth and into a beautiful woman who is attracting suitors. She is upset, as she is accustomed to such unladylike pursuits as riding the countryside in her twin brother's breeches. Friends of her broth ers are soon discouraged from courting Antonía since she's decided she wants a man, not a boy. Then she is coerced into attending her best friend's ball. Warned away from the Throckmortons by her old nanny, Antonia is accosted by Rex Throckmorton outside her room and is rescued by Breck Claymore, designer of the famed sword. The young beauty takes Breck's breath away, and it is love at first sight. (RIVER GROVE, Feb, 344 po., $16.95)

Antonia Barclay and her Scottish Claymore has the title against a white background in what I call Wine Mom Font, with very thick downstrokes to the letters and the text is fading rom blue to pink. Above the title is an illustration of a woman in a pink gown holding a big ass sword

In Mainstream FictionThe Total Package by Stephanie Evanovich received two stars:

THE TOTAL PACKAGE Stephanie Evanovich ** A story of redemption and love conquering all set in the world of professional football, this novel gives a second chance to first love. Despite an overall light, summer-read nature, readers may take issue with the novel's structure, which lacks sufficient buildup and follow-through for its more crucial components. Readers may be left feeling like there's something missing from this one. SUMMARY: The world of football gave Tyson Palmer everything he ever wanted - until a pill- and alcohol induced spiral took it all away. In secrecy, Tyson climbs from rock bottom back to the spotlight, making an honest comeback. The world applauds Tyson for his effort - everyone except for one critic - sports reporter, Dani Carr. When their professional paths finally cross, sparks fly. No matter how hard they try, Tyson and Dani can't seem to get away from one another. Are these two meant to be, or are they a catastrophic combination? (WILLIAM MORROW, Mar., 256 pp., $26.99)

While Amanda was surprised that The Pastor’s Husband by Tiffany L. Warren wasn’t in inspirational, given the review:

Multicultural THE PASTOR'S HUSBAND Tiffany L. Warren **** When faith, fidelity and favor collide with fame and fortune, friction takes up residence on the pages of The Pastor's Husband. Warren crafts rousing characters who remind us that the church invites believers who are discerning, sanctified, humorous, unwavering and loyal. In this case, the door is also open to gullibility, pretentiousness, lunacy and temptation. Nevertheless, in keeping it real, the author skillfully takes us to the edge, as we eagerly hope and pray that reconciliation and repentance will triumph over drama arrayed in counterfeit kingdom business. SUMMARY: Nya and Gregory Hempstead are co-pastors in their ministry. The one time she yields to pressure to prophesy without hearing from God proves to be catastrophic. She's catapulted to fame due to that "suddenly blessed" proph-ecy. While a financial boon to their ministry, Nya's elevation nationally leads to alienation from her husband and their church. This door of opportunity is ripe for Felicia Caldwell's scheme to commandeer all that's dear to Nya • including Greg - as revenge for that prophecy five years earlier. (DARINA, Mar., 320 pp., S15.00)

The Pastor's Husband shows a man with very short hair wearing a suit facing away from the reader, and beyond the suit dude there's a Black woman with long hair and a red dress posing with one hand on her hip

In Teen Scene we found books that were WAY ahead of their time, like Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky:

KILL THE BOY BAND Goldy Moldavsky **** Macabre mystery collides with snarky teen angst here. Moldavsky illustrates the intense power of peer pressure with a deft hand. Her writing captures the effervescence and (allogic of teen girls brilliantly. The author may have jumped on the unreliable narrator bandwagon, but her writing has an authenticity that makes this a standout. SUMMARY: She and her friends are fans. Actually, that should read FANS. Because being a fan IS their identity, and the members of The Ruperts, the world's biggest boy band, are the object of their intense obsession. In fact, il's what makes their friendship possible. So when they get word that their boys will be staying in a nearby hotel, they book a room. It's the perfect plan - a chance encounter in the elevator will clearly lead the boys to fall madly in love with them. Until it all goes horribly wrong. Before she can blink, one of the Ruperts is tied up in their hotel room. Suddenly, the night is spiraling out of control, and her friends are not the people she thought she knew. As dark secrets come to light in the swanky hotel, the term "crazy fangirl* has never been truer. And no one is more vengeful than a teenage girl with a broken heart. (POINT, Mar, 320 pp., $17.99, ISBN: 9780545867474, HC, 14 & Up)

This GoodReads review from Nicole is true art.

The cover is also delightfully minimalist:

KILL THE BOY BAND written in BIG PINK ALL CAPS LETTERS with the authors name in white against a black background.

Amanda took a close look at Seven Black Diamonds by Melissa Marr:

Fantasy SEVEN BLACK DIAMONDS Melissa Marr ****½ TOP PICK» Marr always sucks you in from the first page and leaves you gasping for more long after the ending, thanks to a mix of suspense, action and romance. The faerie world is wonderfully descriptive and there's a realistic plot. You won't be able to put this twisty tale down. SUMMARY: Lily was never supposed to exist. Her whole life has been a big lie - a necessary one. There is a war going on between humans and faeries, and half-hu-man/half-faerie Lily is stuck in the middle, considered an abomination by some. As she starts a new school, her greatest worry will not be making new friends, but surviv. ing. (HARPERCOLLINS, Mar., 400 pp., $17.99, ISBN: 9780062011176, HC, 13 & Up)

It’s a very short review, and a very short summary, isn’t it?

Seven Black Diamonds has a close up of a blue columbine flower with the title written in what looks like white marker pen in a loopy style

In the Inspirational section, and I could NOT say the name of this series without slowing down, I investigated Dressed for Death by Julianna Deering:

Mystery DRESSED FOR DEATH Julianna Deering **** Christie fans now have Julianna Deering to add to their must-read list. Deering keeps readers on their toes guessing who-done-it in this well-plotted mystery. Don't get too cozy, as any character is unsafe and subject to an untimely demise. SUMMARY: Once again amateur sleuth Drew Farthering and his new bride Madeline find themselves in the thick of a murder mystery. But this time the murders become personal and Drew's faith is shaken and he begins to doubt his calling and usefulness in life. Can Drew, Madeline and their trusted friend Nick solve the mysteries before they become the murderer's next target? (BETHANY HOUSE, Mar., 320 pp., $14.99)

FARTHERING. My gosh my mouth does NOT want to say that.

An illustration of a dour looking white man with short dark hair dressed in Regency clothing, with a large stately home in the background

This book is set in the 1930s, but it’s set AT a Regency costume house party. So that was confusing for me.

But soft! A Goodreads review has revealed unto me a WONDERFUL new term: “God-bothering.” As in, “the god-bothering gets steadily more intrusive with each book.”

Amanda looked at From Bags to Riches by Sandra D. Bricker:

FROM BAGS TO RICHES Sandra D. Bricker ** The concluding book in Bricker's Jessie Stanton series is great for wrapping up some loose ends, but overall not much happens. Some plot points that should have taken just a few pages are dragged out, whereas others namely the reality series story-line) are mentioned and then completely forgotten. The scenes with the baby are grating because they are so out landishly unbelievable. SUMMARY: Danny Callahan wants to make Jessie Hart his wife now that her legal troubles and all of the Jack Stanton business is behind them. Jessie isn't sure, and when Jack keeps show. ing up, she's even less convinced that she wants to travel the marriage road again. As her grampy's cancer seems to be worsening, Jessie and Danny travel to Louisiana to spend some time with him. Can Jessie sort out her love life while trying to say goodbye to the most important person in her life? (ABINGDON, Mar., 304 pp., $14.99)

The scenes with the baby are grating! Baby bothering AND God bothering: this episode has it all.

A set of four-strand pearls on a black necklace stand against a green fabric background with the title in white abve the necklace

In Mystery, Suspense, and Thriller, there were many series names, and the book Amanda chose is a perfect pun title:

Mystery, Amateur Sleuth AND THEN THERE WERE NUNS Kylie Logan ****½ TOP This highly addictive series continues with a clever PICK® storyline, quity characters and an ideal island location. As the mystery evolves and the main character realizes the parallels to Agatha Christie's famous novel, the suspense intensifies, and the twists and turns keep on coming. SUMMARY: Bed and breakfast owner Bea Cartwright has agreed to provide meals for 10 nuns who are attending a retreat at the reclusive Water's Edge Center. When the retreat's host is a no-show, Bea becomes a little suspicious. And just when the retreat starts, a nun is found dead in the water. Is it a drowning or murder? When a second nun goes missing, everyone is on high alert. Bea delves into the mystery with the help of the chief of police and the League of Literary Ladies. Will Bea catch the vengeful murderer before more nuns are picked off one by one? (BERKLEY, Mar., 304 pp., $7.99)

And Then There were Nuns -a colorful illustration of a cat with a kerchief around its neck perched on a stack of books with a church in the background and a lake in the distance

AND THEN. THERE WERE NUNS. 10/10, no notes.

In Romantic Suspense, I didn’t understand why a book with a SWAT team made up of shifters was NOT in paranormal romance, but what do I know:

Paranormal HER FIERCE WARRIOR Paige Tyler **** HOT As another hybrid shifter is discovered, the action takes a backseat to the romance. It's a fine balance, but the characters are written with such compassion that readers will continue to be charmed by the X-Ops series. SUMMARY: Finding a lone hybrid in the mountains of Tajikistan is definitely not part of Angelo Rios' mission. To ensure her safety, he has to get her to headquarters and under the care of their doctor, Zarina. Fortunately, Minka's inner self is calmed by her contact with Angelo, and the two are instant soulmates. As she learns to control her abilities, their emotions take over. There are members in the DCO who only see Minka as a tool, and Angelo is afraid of what will happen to her when he returns to his unit. Also, the organization must stop two doctors from using stolen DNA to create new hybrids. (SOURCEBOOKS, Mar., 352 pp., $7.99)

Shifters says paranormal more than suspense, but again, not in charge. Just confused!

Amanda thought this review was just word salad:

MIM THE SECRET OF HUNTER'S BOG Ally Blue **** HOT Blue is back with another thrilling tale of love in unlikely places and with unexpected twists. This new story not only pairs new love with past intrigue, but with a dash of mystery and some sexy romance. Fans will love this new tale and new characters.

New love! Past intrigue! Dash of mystery and some sexy romance! That’s literally why I’m here but this doesn’t say anything specific about this book?

In Sci-Fi and Fantasy, a book I had just read for a podcast that will air in September (Plot Trysts is going to do a Vorkosigan re-read! Stay tuned!) was reviewed, leading me to feel like the book is following me around. Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen is terrific, but the review is spoilery so I won’t include it here.

Amanda is really confused as to why she hasn’t read this book yet because it is entirely her jam, coulis, and fruit preserve.

Fantasyy A GATHERING OF SHADOWS V.E. Schwab ****½ TOP PICK® Schwab wastes no time diving into the action with a corker of an opening scene in this sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic. She delves deeper into her vision of four Londons, complicating the politics within and across worlds without ever slipping into convolution. The glimpses of White London and Black London are as chilling as ever, the introduction of Emery is a delight and Schwab hits all the right notes as she explores the fallout of Kell and Rhy's life bond. But the real shining jewel of this novel is the unexpected yet completely organic character evolution she's crafted for Lila Bard. No cookie-cutter heroine, Lila isn't just bold and brave - she'll slit a throat as easily as she'll pick a pocket. Outside of television's Jessica Jones, I can't remember encountering an anti-heroine this ruthless - and this engaging.

Note the typo at the top there – eep!

This review might as well have said, “Amanda, you should read this.”

A gathering of shadows is a drawing of a woman with light skin and a dark bob wearing a black mask with horns and a black cloak against a red background

In Paranormal, we have a book about gargoyles. In fact, Elyse reviewed Rocked by Love by Christine Warren.

ROCKED BY LOVE Christine Warren **** HOT Warren does an excellent job making each of her Gargoyles books unique in voice and central relationship, while still building a strong central premise and keeping the stakes sky-high. This fourth book features a heroine whose personal journey and discovery of her own strength is as fascinating as her involvement in her stoic hero's mission and their joint quest. Though there is an inevitable bit of exposition that slows the early part of this story, longtime fans will find this book a fun and significant addition to this series.

Amanda was kind of bummed to find out that this is a prequel to a series that takes place in the present day, but the review for The Deepest Well by Juliette Cross has a TERRIFIC first line.

THE DEEPEST WELL Juliette Cross ****½ HOT TOP Demons are a natural fit for the Regency era, and PICK» Katherine's shining soul attracts them like magnets. Luckily, she has a protector in George, who is more than he seems. Dark and opulent, drawing on rumors of the infamous "Hellfire Clubs" of the 18th century, Cross' worldbuilding tantalizes and seduces the reader, much as events unfold between characters in the book. This series starter is full of surprises and never takes the easy way out: Katherine and George's struggle to be together is grand in scale. Period details and diction feel spot on, and the climactic battle scene is positively cinematic.

Demons are a natural fit for the Regency era? Really? Ok, sure.

In the Urban Fantasy section, we have a new grade, Five Star Gold, with no explanation, though it is for a book that is part of a series that I know is very good:

MARKED IN FLESH Anne Bishop ***** FIVE STAR GOLD As the fourth book in there is an extinction threat hanging over the entire human population of Thaisia. The only thing preventing it at this point is the Elders' curiosity about the effect blood prophet Meg Corbyn is having on the Lakeside terra indigene ("Others"). Without doubt this is one of the best UF series on the market, and in this newest chapfer, the peril and terror factors are completely off the charts! Bishop is one hell of a storyteller!

Marked in Flesh - an image of a very pale White woman with dark red hair looking concerned. She's wearing a purple hoodie and there is lightning in the sky behind her

The covers were all pretty great, too.

In Series, Amanda found a review for a book that sounds wild, and a cover with a hero hairstyle that evokes George Michael, of blessed memory.

Forbidden Temptation by Anne Mathers has the Harlequin Presents red banner at the top, and an image in a circle of a white woman with auburn hair in asilver gown, and a white man leaning over her. he has floppy golden brown hair falling in a curtain behind his head

Look at that floppy hair!

A FORBIDDEN TEMPTATION (44) by Anne Mather: TOP PICK After widowed architect Jack Connolly moves to England, he meets lawyer-turned-real estate agent Grace Spencer when she comes to his home with her boyfriend Sean, an old friend of Jack's from school. Initially, Jack fights his attraction to Grace, but when he learns she and Sean are broken up and Grace has moved home to help her parents, he decides to pursue her. Grace tries to resist him, but she soon falls prey to their mutual attraction. The addition of Jack's wife's ghost in the story makes for a fun, engaging read. Additionally, Mather's talent for dialogue is a real treat.

And in Erotica, Amanda was very curious about Julian’s Sins by Robin L. Rotham, especially as the review thinks male/male sex and electrical play are both kinks?

Erotic Romance, Ménage, M/M JULIAN'S SINS Robin L. Rotham Rotham's novel includes all sorts of intense, dark play that will titillate some and offend others. Kilmartin's end goal is shocking to the extreme - the excess sexual kink is minor by comparison.Those with tastes that include electrical play and various ménage combina-tions, as well as m/m sex, will find this well-written tale satisfying. The bizarre pretense will leave others disappointed.

But you are NOT prepared for the summary:

SUMMARY: After Dr. Rachel McBride is offered an exciting contract to explore her skills as a vascular surgeon, she's offered something even more thrilling. When former lover Dr. Colin Carter approaches her with the prospect of working with Julian Kilmartin's research project, she is stunned. Both have been the object of her submissive fantasies for years. Given little time to make up her mind, Rachel makes a snap decision to travel to Eastern Europe, where the Castle Bangenschloss is located. All goes well until Julian discovers Rachel did not read her contracts before signing them. He sends her to bed without her supper, which seems like a childish punishment, but it's only the beginning of many. (SAM-HAIN,

Castle. Bangenschloss. Again, 10/10, no notes, chef’s kiss, perfection.

Julian's Sins features a photograph of three nude people embracing above a path through the woods , and the entire image is washed in hues of orange and red

The series is called FRANKENDOM.

Ah, romance, I love you so much.

Our next episode will examine the advertisements and features in this issue, and that’ll air on March 22.

And remember, if you join the Patreon, you’ll get access to the entire issue as a PDF. So! Many! Reviews! And strange ads, too!

What do you think? Have you read any of these? Which would you recommend? 

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