Domestic Policy – J.A. Armstrong

Rating: 4 out of 5.
I have been resolute in my desire to not read any pandemic related books over these last few months. I have been reading to get away from the realities of everyday life at present, so when one of the series’ I enjoy the most was added to with a book that takes place during a pandemic I was reluctant to read, however, if I could pick characters I’d want to be real and to be in my life, two of them would be Jameson Reid and Alex Toles – both of whom appear in this book, so I broke my rule and picked up the book (metaphorically of course, I downloaded it through KU) and I’m glad I did.

The pandemic is dealt with really well – it’s discussed in terms of a novel virus and is focussed on in terms of the lives of the MCs and their families and the difficult decisions it saddles the fictional president, Candace, with. It isn’t sensationalised, in fact it’s dealt with quite sensitively. I love how Armstrong writes politics and all of their intricacies and the pandemic storyline allows this to flourish.

The pacing of the book is good, and I enjoyed the focus on the relationships in the book, something I always enjoy about Armstrong’s writing in this series, even when these relationships aren’t what we thought they were.

All in all it’s a good book that carries on the series well, progresses the characters and pretty much closes the first year of the family being in the White House. I’m looking forward to the next instalment, and hoping there might be another Alex & Cassidy book in the near future too.

The Kaleidoscope Album Box Set – Bryce Oakley

Rating: 4 out of 5.
I read all of the Kaleidoscope series (so far) in about 36 hours and thought it was probably easier to review as a series rather than individual books, however I have rated them individually:

Undone – 5 stars
Bewilder – 4 stars
Midnight – 5 stars
Bloom – 4 stars

All of the books in the series are written from an alternating point of view between the two MCs in that particular book. I thought this worked really well and gives the opportunity to get to know the thoughts and feelings of the characters quickly.

Each of the books had moments that genuinely had me laughing out loud and the banter between the bandmates, and their extended group of partners and friends really made the series for me. As is typical each book contains some angst, but in general each story is centred around the getting together of the MCs.

Billie and Vero’s story in Undone got me hooked. It served as a really good introduction to The Shrikes, whilst still managing to keep the book focussed on the main relationship. I enjoyed the do they like each other or hate each other, will they/won’t they, push pull throughout the book. The introduction of the ex-girlfriend felt a little old, but it did serve to deepen the understanding of Vero.

Domino and Sabrina are pulled together to clean Domino’s messy house. It’s an interesting concept as from the way you meet Domino in Undone you wouldn’t think these characters could work together. I enjoyed their story but Bewilder didn’t grab me in quite the same way as Undone, which I thought was a shame as I really like Domino. However, both characters popping up in subsequent books helped me see the relationship a bit more and I’ve grown to enjoy this pairing.

Zoey serves as the odd one out in the band in many different ways and the story of her falling for Pia stands out for me. A toaster situation is nearly always a good read for me, I enjoy a well written book that explores new found sexuality, so I’m probably a little biased, but the opening scenes of Midnight are the standout scenes in the series. The MCs are well suited for each other and by this point the group dynamics play really well.

I loved that Meg fell for Collins. I enjoyed how both characters were written – Meg as the ‘glue’ to the band, passionate but often in the background. The hardness of Collins when you are first introduced to her in the series versus the softness that Meg brings out in her is really well done and makes Collins one of my favourite characters. I also really liked how the passion both have for their work is written about.

The sex scenes in all four books are generally short but steamy. I also really appreciated the world building that goes on throughout the series, tying each storyline together nicely and ensuring that in each book you got a glimpse of all of the featured characters.

All in all the series won’t necessarily give you something shiny and new, but it’s full of well-written strong diverse women, funny banter and good storylines. If you’re looking for easy, relatively quick reads this series will do you right.

A Shot at Gold (Sports Series #2) – Nicole Pyland

Rating: 5 out of 5.
I was really happy to see this book scheduled for release. Strangely as someone who loves lesbian sports romances and as a former archer I’d never considered that I needed the combination, but wow, this is a great book that is going to be hitting my to re-read pile. I’m a big Pyland fan anyway, but the books just keeping getting better and better. If I didn’t have so many others to read I’d start it again straight away.

The archery language is spot on, you get just enough to understand the intricacies of the sport, to make it interesting, but not to overwhelm you with jargon. The passion both MCs have for the sport in their own ways really shines through and I was happy to see that it factored heavily into the HEA.

Both characters enter the storyline carrying hurt from their pasts and Pyland writes about both their own individual journeys, and the journey of their relationship beautifully. The portrait of love and loss is balanced so well I found myself relating easily to both MCs and was rooting for them to get together from an early stage.

Whilst the book is the second in a series, it’s a standalone with regards to characters and storyline, so if you haven’t read the first (you should, it’s also fantastic), don’t let it stop you giving this one a read.

In the Black – Luci Dreamer

Rating: 4 out of 5.
This was a really good KU read that I would happily have paid for. I read it all in one sitting.

For a romance book, the characters don’t actually spend much of the book in a relationship – it doesn’t matter though – the feelings and chemistry between the two MCs speak for themselves. I spent most of the book rooting for them to get back together and enjoyed it so much more for the fact they don’t just rush straight back into things. The book acknowledges the past and its associated feelings, whilst somehow managing not to dwell too much.

I really enjoyed the firefighter aspects of the book – you could genuinely feel Mitch’s experiences and the camaraderie between the crew. The secondary characters were funny and interesting, helping to provide perspective on the MCs and how they’ve come to be where they are.

The HEA felt right and I’m really looking forward to the promised epilogue.

One Golden Summer – Clare Lydon, T.B. Markinson

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Strangely considering both authors popularity, I’ve only read one book by Markinson before, and before this hadn’t explored any Lydon work. I will definitely be reading more books by both authors. I think one of the biggest compliments I can pay the book is that you can’t tell it’s written by more than one author – it flows so freely.

I often find I don’t enjoy books set in the UK – they often feel like they’re written for a foreign audience perspective of life here, but I loved this book. The descriptions of British small town life and our coastal towns rings very true. The scenery, town and British life are almost a character in themselves, really helping to make the book in my opinion.

I wanted the MCs to be together from the moment they met, and found myself frustrated with both characters that they couldn’t quite get it right at times. However I think it’s a mark of how well the book and the characters are written that I felt this way. The secondary characters in the book are also well written, relevant and contribute to the story.

If you’re looking for a good summer read in all the current madness you won’t go wrong this with one.