Book Reviews, New Adult, Year of Reviews - 2023

Review – A Dose of Pretty Poison by Kelsey Clayton

A Dose of Pretty Poison; Pretty Poison #1
(#1 within a series)

Publication Date: March 16, 2023

Genre/Tropes: New Adult/Brother’s Best Friend/Sports/Small Town Romance

Author: Kelsey Clayton

Review Rating: 5 Gold Stars


The title is super appropriate, A Dose of Pretty Poison is both angsty, but also summertime sweet. It is filled with all the lovely tropes; small town romance, brother’s best friend, sports romance, new adult, ride or die best friends, OT jealous hero, praise kink, and virgin heroine. It’s the best kind of book to snuggle up and fall in love with.

The thought of losing your best friend, who is more like a brother, is a blow that most people wouldn’t take, especially when you’ve already experienced loss in your life. Hayes Wilder stepped up as the man in his family when his dad left years ago, but the Blanchards became his second family because his mother also had to compensate and work a lot to provide for her two children. Laiken Blanchard kept her crush on Hayes under wraps for years, until one summer the chemistry between them explodes, but the thought of losing the only stable family he has and his best friend, Cam, makes it so their affair is kept in secret, until circumstances tear them apart and Laiken no longer can handle being swept under the rug.

Everyone knows everyone in a small town and without opportunities to escape or chances to get out, how do you grow in a relationship that is stifled from the beginning? How do you choose loving someone when they don’t seem to respect you? While I understand Hayes’ hesitancy in telling Cam that he’s hooking up with Laiken, as Cam is an OT protective brother and could very well murder his best friend, it’s also killer to watch Laiken take the hit to her heart. On the plus side, I loved Laiken and her bestie Mali, they are both super spunky and sassy. I’d want either of them as my ride or die friends too, so at least Laiken has someone on her side and Mali is literally the best.

Like I said above, the title of this book is super appropriate as the book is both angsty, but also summertime sweet. There were moments I felt like singing, “Summer Nights”, because that song seemed to fit the feel of this book. Hayes and Laiken are wrapped up in this summertime bubble, but I knew the small town around them was going to pop it at any moment just like school did for Danny and Sandy in “Grease”.  There is also a sports element with both of them being involved in ice themed sports and I have a feeling that part of the book will come into play even more as this series progresses.

Did I say progresses?  Yes, that’s right. This is just book one and it does end on a cliffy, but I’m ready for more Hayes, Laiken, Cam, Mali, plus everyone else in their small town to return in the next book.

If my parents had it their way, I’d be off at college. Instead, I’m drowning in secrets, every one of them involving my brother’s best friend.

Hayes Wilder is a walking red flag, warning me to stay away. And yet, all I can think about are his calloused hands on my skin. He’s a total player, on and off the ice, but right now, the only playing he wants to do is with me.

Sneaking around isn’t easy, especially when you live in a small town where nothing stays hidden. And when our secret ends up in the wrong hands, decisions and regrets come as a package deal.

I’ve got everything I’ve always wanted right in front of me. All my dreams lying at my feet. But I’m forced to decide if loving him is worth losing myself.

I wish someone would’ve told me that the prettiest of poisons are also the most lethal.

Find more of my reviews on Amazon under Kayreader
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Book Reviews, Dark Romance, Forbidden/Taboo, Mafia/Gang/Secret Society Romance, New Adult, Suspense/Intrigue Romance, Year of Reviews - 2023

Review – The Lies Beneath by Bri Blackwood

The Lies Beneath; The Westwick University #1
(#1 within a series)

Publication Date: March 13, 2023

Genre/Tropes: Book Duet/New Adult/Dark/Age-Gap/Stalker/Secret Society Romance

Author: Bri Blackwood

Review Rating: 3.5 Gold Stars


This is an age gap, stalker romance with a secret society trope wrapped up in lots of darkness all in a twisted little bow.

Iris Bennington picks up a stalker in Soren Grant, a billionaire who turns into her professor. Soren basically begins fulfilling her wishes, although there is a lot that leads into how he fulfills these wishes that lets us know this man is not quite all together upstairs, if you get my drift, but basically it all boils down to he’s just super obsessed. From the moment he sees her he was all in and the question I had was, should he really be obsessing over a college student when he’s a billionaire CEO? The answer to that was…well, I’ll let you decide because I’m sure it’s all part of his unhinged factor.

Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself…but as I read the book and finished the book, I was still left with a lot of unresolved questions. Yes, I realize this is a duet, but the suspenseful plot wasn’t the issue, that part is actually what still kept me reading. It actually was the relationship between Iris and Soren that I was hoping to have more spark and…their chemistry was just off. One moment Iris thought Soren was a total creep and the next she was swooning as they jumped into things at lightning speed…there was no build up and it just threw me, personally.

While this is a big reason for the 3.5 overall star rating I also had a hard time with so much internal dialogue. This isn’t an accurate account by any means, but I swear their internal monologuing took up about 95% of the book and without conversations or characters interacting with other people, my mind started to wander. While this is all personal reading preference and doesn’t reflect on the author’s talent, it did leave my mind time to think about those questions and reflections that had nothing to do with the author’s voice. Please remember this review is my personal opinion and my reading preference on an author’s voice should not sway your reading choices on who to read.

Privilege has its secrets…

Westwick University is known for its prestige and pedigree for hundreds of years.

Many people would die to come here…

And some have come here and died.

There are lies buried within these walls that the world doesn’t know about.

But I do.

It’s what happens when your family has gone to the same college for generations.

Stories and secrets are passed down, making me yearn to know more.

I’m determined to discover if each and every one is true, but I’m distracted.

Because my new professor has taken a particular interest in me.

Or so I think.

I shouldn’t be tempted because anything with him is forbidden.

But the way that he only has eyes for me has set me on edge.

I can’t tell if there is something there or if I’m making it all up in my head.

Why would a billionaire, who is known for his solitary life after the death of his wife, want to teach here?

There’s so much I don’t know.

But I know that lies do nothing but lead to more lies.

And when I uncover the truth, the world will implode.

The Lies Beneath is the first book in a dark forbidden college romance duet that has enemies-to-lovers themes. This book may not be suitable for all readers due to dubious situations that might be triggering. It ends in a cliffhanger.

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Book Reviews, Contemporary Romance, New Adult, Year of Reviews - 2023

Review – Bleeding Chaos by Nikki Ash

Bleeding Chaos; Love and Lyrics #4
(#4 within a series)

Publication Date: March 23, 2023

Genre/Tropes: New Adult/Rockstar/Second Chance/Secret Baby Romance

Author: Nikki Ash

Review Rating: 5 Gold Stars


Every once and while I read a book that touches my soul so hard it leaks out of my eyes for hours and hours. Bleeding Chaos is one of those books. It’s a very emotional, beautifully written, second chance romance that I couldn’t put down.

I knew that going into Gages book that his story would dig into old wounds that might be a little uncomfortable. However, Nikki wrote a story that is both emotionally realistic, but still very touching that even my emotional triggers were wrapped in a warm blanket of soothing calm.

While Gage has his own story of loss and addiction, the FMC, Sadie does as well. While Gage has been digging himself deeper into addiction since he lost his girlfriend six years ago, it’s upon a visit to her tombstone, that he comes across a woman who is lost in her own grief. Sadie is this woman who is drowning in her own grief and Gage notices a familiar soul even through his drug-fog. They are able to comfort one another without really getting close because of this empty feeling inside, but it’s also not helping, if that makes sense. Gage is still an addict and Sadie is still avoiding her life. To say the rest is history is to belittle what happens, because sooooo much happens, but I’ll just say, it’s emotional, and heartbreaking and yet also inspiring.

What I will say is…addiction is hard. Period. But, I loved how Nikki not only tackled the downslide of addiction, as it doesn’t happen instantly and for those stuck in the sycle there is a mental health aspect in both staying in the downward spiral and also involved in getting better, plus it also doesn’t happen overnight. So many books jump the gun in fictionalizing the aspect that love cures you and while I agree that having a strong foundation of loved ones supporting you goes a long way towards recovery, it’s not the cure. Once Gage is getting help he is very aware that he was using for years and his recovery will continue for years to come, if not the rest of his life, but he is also aware that he is the only one who can fix himself and without getting help he is also the one who can falter again. His message was very powerful and so very strong, hence the soulful tears.

Sadie is a fierce powerhouse. Her life is torn apart over and over again, but she continually pulls up her bootstraps and puts herself back together. Her ability to forgive, love, and pick up the pieces of her life is amazing and I never once thought bad of her for the decisions she made regarding how she had to guard her feelings. It takes a good foundation to keep moving forward and without her huge heart I’m not sure Gage could have done as well as he did, especially with his job, so I did like her.

This whole book brought me to tears over and over, as Gage reminds me of someone very special and Nikki did his story justice. As much as it shocks me, considering this entire series has been fantastic, I do believe this is my favorite story of the series.

I lost my first love. This time, I’m going to win the second girl who owns my heart—no matter the stakes.
Being the drummer for Raging Chaos is the only thing that’s kept me going for the past six years. Even the music isn’t enough to drown out the guilt that’s been suffocating me since what happened to Tori.
When Sadie storms into my life, ripping through my trepidations, sorrows, and bitterness, I can’t help but wonder if she could be my second chance.
I could love her, but in order to do that, I have to stop hating myself first.
Easier said than done. Before I have the chance to mend this broken heart, I push Sadie away and hit rock bottom.
The next time I see her, she has a baby. And if that’s not hurtful enough, it’s not just any baby.
It’s my baby.

Bleeding hearts can still beat. I’m living proof of that.
At first, Gage was just someone to take away the pain—until I realized he was battling demons of his own.
I never meant to get too close to the devil with the drumsticks, but once I did, he shoved me out of his life with a force.
My heart might be cracked, but his is completely broken. And trying to save him would destroy us both.
So, I do the right thing and I walk away—not only to protect me but also our unborn baby.
I had no idea who Gage was to the world when I slipped into his bed. Now that I’m out of it, it’s clear he’ll have to clean up his act before he’s father material.
But then we meet again, and I’m reminded of the man he could be.
The man he was born to be, before tragedy struck and the chaos left his heart barely beating.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Like real life, the characters are far from perfect, make morally gray decisions, and deal with subjects that may be sensitive for some readers. If you are looking for a safe romance, this series is not for you. Trigger warnings (which contain spoilers) can be found on my website.

Find more of my reviews on Amazon under Kayreader
on Goodreads under Kay Daniels Romance
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or you can follow me on Facebook at Kay Daniels Romance

Blog Tour - 2023, Contemporary Romance, Year of Releases - 2023, Year of Reviews - 2023

Blog Tour – Dear Grumpy Boss by Julia Wolf

Dear Grumpy Boss by Julia Wolf is now live! 

I’ve spent the better part of the last few years successfully avoiding my brother’s best friend, Weston Aldrich.

As CEO of Andes, Inc, the infuriatingly handsome and incessantly grumpy Weston also happens to be my new boss.

It shouldn’t have been hard to continue avoiding him. After all, he’s on the executive floor and I’m one of many copywriters.

Weston has his own ideas about how things should go between us. He’s in my emails, leaving notes on my desk, and as if that’s not enough, he arranges for me to accompany him on a business trip.

That leads to stolen touches, frenzied kisses, and the undeniable need to work each other out of our systems.

That always works, right?

Except now that I know what it feels like to have Weston Aldrich appreciate every inch of my abundant curves, avoiding him is impossible.

But he’s my brother’s best friend.

And a workaholic.

We have to stop.

And we will. Soon.

Just…not yet.

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Meet Julia

Julia Wolf writes sexy rockers, broken bad boys, snarky heroines, and bad ass women. She’s a firm believer in happily ever afters, no matter how rocky the road is to get there.

Julia lives in Maryland with her husband and three crazy, beautiful children. When she’s not writing romance, she’s reading it. Some of her favorite things are, in no particular order: goats, books, coffee, and Target.

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