Journey to Cash – Ashley Bartlett

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Great ending to a great series. I read this whole series in week or so, so whilst this is a review of the final book, it’s also of the series as a whole (so there may be some spoilers prior instalments). I’m considering this a five star book due to it being the closing part and how I feel about the series, but from a writing point of view I preferred Cash and the Sorority Girl slightly.

There isn’t really anything else like this out there in queer fiction at the moment that I’m aware of and I love how much it stands out. It hit me whilst I was reading the third book in the series – Cash and the Sorority Girl – that one of the reasons I love this series so much is its inherent queerness. The discussions of the patriarchy and heteronormativity in an everyday manner and how it flows through the whole series are fantastic.

The narrative of this final part neatly closes up the issues Cash is facing due to her drug dealing past and her former supplier Henry who previously tried to kill her and her ex-girlfriend Laurel. The situation throws them both back together to work with law enforcement to both hide from and find Henry.

All of the characters are great, Cash and her sarcasm, knowledge, values and the way she lives her life are obviously the thing everything revolves around, but the other characters are well written and bring out all of the sides of Cash.

Laurel as an ex-cop has a lot to work through and convince Cash of in this book after she walked away to find herself. The romance between Laurel and Cash isn’t the most important part of the book to me, but it is a huge part of the narrative. The power dynamics, the second/third chance to make it work and both of their reluctance to address their own emotional feelings make for compelling exchanges and portrayal.

I really enjoy the roommate relationship that Cash has with Lane. Her being Laurel’s sister adds a dimension to it, but at its heart this relationship shows Cash at her best, just as her relationship with Andy as a teenager does too. Andy’s teenage moral beliefs are very black and white and I love how Cash responds to this and how Andy has grown throughout the series.

Of course, it would be remiss of me not to mention Nickels the cat, who has her own unique personality and provides some amusement.

I highly recommend this series – it stands out in wlw fiction, but it’s important to begin at the beginning with Cash Braddock. Despite the hard topics the whole series is easy to read, and all of the books are page turners. This was my 300th book this year and it was the perfect book to end the year on.

I received an e-ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Home Ice Advantage – K.R. Collins

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
Yet another great instalment in this series. I find myself both loving the idea that this series is going to continue for some time as I enjoy the books so much, but also equally worried that we’re going to be kept waiting even longer for the thing I most want to happen!

I enjoyed that the narrative of this book takes place both in the main hockey league and at the winter games, breaking things up a little and ensuring that we aren’t revisiting the same thing over and over. The hockey scenes are always written well and this hasn’t changed in this book. There’s plenty of action off the ice in this book too, which provides a nice interlude.

I find Sophie’s feelings about her career, her family and Elsa both immensely frustrating and completely relatable. I love that whilst Sophie is an adult, with a high pressure career, she’s experiencing the feelings that many feel when discovering their sexuality as teenagers and it’s here where I most love Collins as a writer. Her writing about hockey is fantastic and also shines, but her ability to bring out Sophie’s feelings without making her appear as a whiny child are great.

I love that Collins doesn’t write all of the characters to be the same, just because they are hockey players. She teases out parts of each of the women in the league so they are both great friends and foes for each other. I also really liked that this book explores the relationship Sophie has with her coach in more depth.

I enjoyed the discussions about ensuring the locker room was inclusive and the addition of some bi representation as well as a gay male character.

If you’re a fan of the series you’ll enjoy this instalment, and if you haven’t started this series yet – pick up Breaking the Ice as you’ll need to start at the beginning.

I received an e-ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

A Matter of Blood – Catherine Maiorisi

Rating: 4 out of 5.
In anticipation of part 3 in this series coming out in January I wanted to read this series as it seemed like it would be right in my wheelhouse and I’m really happy to say it is.

When I first started reading I thought I’d started the wrong book, and that I was actually reading the second one, because you’re dropped into a storyline that feels like the middle of something, but once it gets going it all starts to make sense and whether intentional or not really gives you the same discombobulated feeling the main character – Chiara Corelli – would have been feeling at the same point.

Corelli is a Detective for the NYPD, but has also served in the Army. When she came back from her latest tour in Afghanistan training Afghani policemen, she was asked to undertake an undercover operation to route out cops in the NYPD who were ‘on the take’. Her actions and discoveries have left her extremely unpopular with the rest of the force, with her facing the ‘blue wall’, and it is at this point we meet her.

Newly promoted Detective P.J. Parker is asked to be Corelli’s bodyguard. She has her own history with the force, with her father being a senator. She has to decide whether to team up with the most hated person on the force.

This is an interesting murder mystery, with a victim that inspires many emotions. The long list of suspects keeps things interesting and gives a lot of opportunities to learn about both Corelli and Parker. The family dynamics of both MCs and the victim are also really interesting.

I really enjoyed this book. Maiorsisi doesn’t try to pretend law enforcement is perfect and she certainly hasn’t written Corelli as the perfect character that can do no wrong. I would definitely recommend to anyone who likes this kind of thing.

Liberty Bay – Karis Walsh

Rating: 3 out of 5.
This one didn’t quite work for me unfortunately.

Wren lives a quiet life on her farm, training horses and free from technology. She’s experiencing money difficulties and prefers to live by a barter system. Her accountant encourages her to find new avenues for income to ensure that she gets to keep the farm she enjoys so much.

Gina is a social media influencer. When she experiences a cyber threat and her identity and residence are leaked to the general public she begins the search for a new place to live and alternate sources of income. She answers the advert to help Wren with her publicity.

I really liked both characters – separately. Both are written really well, and their respective careers and feelings are explored in depth. I just couldn’t see them together. Whilst we’re told they have this instant connection and feelings for each other – I didn’t feel it. The reasons why they couldn’t be together also felt very repetitive as we hear it from both of them, repeatedly. When they do get together there’s very little discussion of them being a couple outside of the bedroom.

This had so much potential and I’m sad I didn’t enjoy it more. The setting is depicted really well – both Seattle itself and Wren’s farm. There’s also plenty of animals providing amusement which I really enjoyed.

I think romance fans will probably find something to enjoy in this book, but if you’re new to Walsh’s work I’d probably recommend starting elsewhere.

I received an e-ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Last Christmas Ball – Lily Seabrooke

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
A sweet second chance romance about family meddling, strange Christmas traditions and chosen families.

This is the second book in the series after The Christmas Ball. Alice and Lisette are from two close families who have a Christmas ball every 10 years to ‘pair off’ everyone in the traditional debutante ball kind of manner, something I find hard to comprehend and certainly have no experience of, so I’m fascinated by the concept and the group of characters this brings together.

I’ve liked Seabrooke’s work in the past and I enjoyed her writing again. The setting means things can feel a little repetitive at times, especially if you read both books in quick succession, but I think Seabrooke does a good job of not making it too repetitive. This second book is more character focussed and diverse as she draws out the strangeness of the arrangement and how to modern the families.

I’m not really in the Christmas mood, I’m more in the it’s been a long 18 months and I just want to sleep mood, so at first I wanted to put this book down because I couldn’t connect with the Christmas theme, however I’m glad I persevered as I liked both of these characters in the first instalment and was happy to find out the resolution to their story.

There are a lot of secondary characters, all with their own issues and reasons for wanting things to either stay stuck in their ways or for things to move in a new direction. I was impressed that I was never lost as to who anyone was, even with two large families involved.

It’s a little on the long side, so you’ll need to make time for this book, but the storyline is worth it in the end. I’d also recommend reading the first in the series The Christmas Ball as whilst this could be read as a standalone, I don’t think it would be particularly enjoyable, as all of the characters appear in the first instalment and it sets up the romance of Lisette and Alice falling in love and all of the family dynamics that are so important in this narrative.

Also, whilst this is set at Christmastime, I don’t think you have to read it at Christmas, should you be considering this at a different time of year. There are some inherently Christmas elements of it, but at its heart it’s really about chosen families and love.

I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.