Love Kills Twice – Rien Gray

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
I was really surprised as to just how much I enjoyed this storyline. At first glance from the blurb I thought I’d enjoy another character on the outskirts of right and wrong (in this case, very wrong) but I was genuinely surprised just how much Gray hooked me into liking this premise.

The story centres on an assassin – Campbell – who has been hired by both a husband and wife to kill each other. The point of view in the book alternates between Campbell and Justine – the wife.

Whilst Justine is an interesting character, and the reasons for the hiring are explored in depth, Campbell is the interesting and intriguing part of the whole narrative for me. I’m keen for more non-binary characters and whilst Campbell is clearly deliberately kept a bit of a mystery to add to the intrigue there was enough here to make things really compelling.

The chemistry between the two of them is very hot, including some light BDSM and breath play.

I liked the addition of the lawyer character so Campbell doesn’t seem so completely out there, and the small glimpses into their past help with seeing why Justine could fall for them. I’m definitely hoping that we get to past more of the mystery surrounding Campbell in the second book.

The storyline does end quite abruptly, but the length of the novella/novel kept the writing really tight and I think it would have felt quite strange to have gone from where we end to the next step. The next part is due later in the year and I’m definitely looking forward to it.

If you’re fond of characters on the moral edge there’s a lot here to enjoy.

As you’d expect from the topic there are some potential triggers and the publisher has these labelled really well, including some past military trauma and some off page domestic abuse.

This does appear to be the first main published work from Gray, but there is mention of other work which I’m definitely eager to find now!

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

Finding Forever (Your Way #3) – Jamey Moody

Rating: 4 out of 5.
I’m not sure how Moody does it, but yet again I seem to have really connected with and love one of her books! This is the third instalment in the Your Way Series, about a group of friends who opened their own fitness centre together.

This book focusses on Stella, the third of the friends. She thought she had her forever when she met her wife Danielle, but after twenty years of marriage she passed away. Six years have now passed and Stella is quite happy by herself, spending time with her friends and surrogate niece and nephew, or so she things.

We’ve met Sofia before in previous instalments, she’s friends with Olivia, who falls for Frankie in book one of the series – Finding Home. She’s a teacher, and has a bit of a reputation from moving on from one woman to the other.

I really liked that Moody didn’t feel the need to introduce another character to the group in order to find forever for Stella. The growth of both main characters for this instalment is one of the fun parts of the book, seeing both of them come to their own conclusions about how they’ve changed and how that fits with each other.

I’m not normally one for crying at books, but this one had me. This is an age gap romance, with a significant age difference, something I have some experience in. Because of this I enjoy age gap romances, but often find myself frustrated at the typical depictions of immaturity, or ageism and the like. Whilst these briefly appear here through their friends, I felt Moody has managed a really respectful and honest depiction of what it feels like to be in that kind of relationship.

As always with the last book of this kind of series it’s nice to catch up with the rest of the friends and see how their romances have moved on. There are some great friend moments in the narrative that I don’t want to give away.

I would highly recommend this series for anyone looking for some easy to read, sweet but realistic wlw romance. You could read this as a standalone, but I think you’ll enjoy it more if you start at the beginning.

I received an e-ARC directly from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Path Forward (Celebrities #4) – Nicole Pyland

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Whilst I enjoyed the third instalment of the celebrities series – Midnight Tradition – I felt this was back to the best of the series we experienced with the first two books. The last two books of this series were published after the sports series and they are quite different. I found this to be more lighthearted than the sports series, but I did appreciate what felt like a little more depth in this one than Midnight Tradition.

Jessica is a model turned actress who is experiencing the first time a movie is going big for her. She made mistakes in her previously relationship that caused her to lose both her girlfriend and her friends. This books serves as Jessica’s attempt at redemption.

Venice Valentine – Val to her friends – isn’t famous like the rest of the group she has somehow found herself amongst. She works at a pack and ship store and strives to own her own business one day.

A chance meeting at Val’s work brings them both together. I loved how the relationship built organically but didn’t feel like a traditional slow burn either. There’s a lot of depth in how Jessica attempts to make amends with their friends, and her honesty in why her relationship didn’t work. At the same time Val exploring her feelings as to why she feels it wouldn’t work with Jessica and what she wants to do with her life is also done really well.

We previously met both Jessica and Val briefly in Midnight Tradition but you don’t technically need to have read it to read Path Forward. I’d suggest reading the whole series as the characters flow through the instalments, but it does still work as a standalone.

It was nice to have lots of involvement from all of the characters in the previous books. I especially liked that we got to see more growth from Maddox and more of her relationship with Avery. With Midnight Tradition only being set over a few days it was hard to have that growth so the follow up here made me very happy, especially in how it related to Jessica. The scenes with all of the friends made me smile and it was nice to think of them all in family situations.

If you’re a Pyland fan you’ll enjoy this – and if you’ve not read Pyland but are a fan of wlw romances you’ll definitely find this an enjoyable read.

I received an e-ARC directly from the author in exchange for an honest review.

A Message in Blood – Catherine Maiorisi

Rating: 5 out of 5.
This is the latest part in the Chiara Corelli Mystery series and as far as I’m concerned the best one yet. I should say upfront, this book won’t be for everyone, it deals with the very difficult topic of child sex-trafficking and discusses this in graphic detail at times, however the uncomfortable nature of the topic is outweighed by the underlying relationships that thrive in this book.

Chiara is now beginning to gain public awareness for her work in a good light again after her previous battles due to her undercover work. Chiara is more aware of her own issues, especially with her PTSD and is more open to confronting her feelings and behaviours towards others. This growth from book one is one of my favourite parts of this book.

There is a general awareness throughout the book of how people interact with each other in all of the horrible ways. It discusses racism, cops, politicians, the military, family and many other things with an honesty that I found refreshing and at times profound. The way Maiorisi weaves these concepts through the narrative, giving each its moment and relevance to the overall narrative is masterfully done.

The complicated elements of love and loss and moving on are looked from many different perspectives. Chiara is opening her heart to the possibility of a relationship with Brett, and I especially love how Brett approaches this with her. P.J. has her own battles to fight with her past, and I love how she has grown and fits together with Chiara and her family.

Family is at the heart of much of the narrative, both in positive and negative ways. Chiara’s sister and her story arc in this book actually made me cry.

The mystery element of the book was done really well. As I mentioned it revolves around the very difficult topic of child sex trafficking and is graphic at times, so I had to take a break at times, but I think it’s done in a realistic and non-gratuitous manner. We’re kept in suspense until the very end as to the perpetrator and I enjoyed the twists that came with this storyline.

Whilst the book covers many hard topics, I find that upon reflection the feeling I was left with when I finished reading was warmth. Maiorisi finishes this book in a way that would neatly tie up the series should this be her choice, but I have to say I would love for her to continue to tell Chiara and P.J’s stories, especially at this high standard.

If you haven’t started this series yet, do.

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

The Clinch – Nicole Disney

Rating: 5 out of 5.
I’m not an MMA fan, but I loved this book. It’s the perfect mix of action and romance with some family drama thrown in for good measure.

Eden is the undefeated MMA champion in her weight class. She runs a Taekwondo dojang in a difficult neighbourhood and is dedicated to her training and the local kids.

Brooklyn is an up and coming fighter from a long line of jiu-jitsu specialists. As the only woman and the youngest one in her family she’s under a lot of pressure to take Eden’s belt and be the first Shaw to claim a world title.

I love so many things about both characters. The inclusion of Taekwondo and Jin as her Eden’s martial arts master allows us to see a different side to MMA than you might presume, with honour and discipline shown through Eden and her approach to life.

Brooklyn is passionate and out to achieve everything she can as quickly as possible, but underneath the bravado and brashness she’s soft, loving and conflicted. Her family are extremely homophobic and her love for Eden is something she struggles to reconcile with her desire to fight and make her family happy.

The chemistry between the two of them is really steamy and I loved how there is balance between tension, desire and love throughout the storyline.
The descriptions of the MMA action really make you feel like you’re in the heat of the moment with them, somehow without feeling too violent, which really impressed me.

Disney has created something special here, and even if you don’t love sport, or martial arts, I highly recommend you try this, it’s a definite re-read for me.

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