You Know I’d Never – Kara Lowndes

Rating: 3 out of 5.
This is another similar book to quite a few I’ve read recently – a interesting premise and full of promise, but it doesn’t quite put all the parts together to connect for me.

Janey has been stuck in Clitheroe all her life. She has a job in the local grocery store, is firmly stuck in the closet and lost the only love of her life when she made the choice to stay in their small town when her girlfriend went on tour with her band.

Elise, the aforementioned ex-girlfriend has been absent for years but is now returning to town for some benefit concerts and appears to want to do everything she can to reconnect with Janey.

It will probably sound a little silly to say this, especially as an English person, but this novella is very English in it’s attitude. I’d like to think this version of homophobia doesn’t ring true anymore but it’s still pretty common, especially in small towns and from my own personal experiences, it felt quite authentic in that regard. The descriptions of things are also very fitting for an English setting and almost had a feel of nostalgia to them for me personally.

The writing holds up pretty well but the novella length doesn’t give this story the full chance to grown in my opinion and I think I’d have liked it more with a full length and the chance to see them fall in love at the beginning. I’d be interested in more of this kind of work from Lowndes though.

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

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.

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.

Make The Yuletide Gay – Ivy L. James

Rating: 3 out of 5.
This was a sweet easy to read novella.

Grace is a book editor acting as Nicola’s temporary assistant at their company. Nicola ends up having to cover a book conference at short notice, when of course there are no other methods of transportation available to them than sharing hours in a car.

The story is somewhat predictable to begin with. They end up in a B&B because the weather gets too bad for them to continue their journey. There’s only one room available.

The things I liked about the story was their connection about their backgrounds. Whilst they had an inevitable split during the narrative due to inability to communicate, it was due to the past and not a hurt one or the other had inflicted and it was resolved relatively quickly.

I found the epilogue to be a nice sweet way to sign the story off and I did find myself wishing this had been a longer story, as I feel it would have been less predictable with more to help with the tropes.

Whilst it contains the usual kinds of things, it was still a sweet, easy page turner that I enjoyed reading. I think Christmas romance fans find this an enjoyable way to pass an hour or so.

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

And Then They Were Four – Elna Holst

Rating: 4 out of 5.
This is both a sweet and steamy coming together of all of the characters we have met so far in this series. You could read this independently from the rest of the other novellas, but you’d miss a lot so I recommend reading the other three first.

Set in Malmo, Sweden, the novella takes place over four days of advent, with each day focussing on a different person or couple. I really liked all of the stories that appear, but obviously with it being a novella we don’t spend much time with the characters and there were some I really wanted to know more about.

There are some open ends left for characters that weren’t main characters in the previous novellas and I’m glad Holst didn’t feel the need to close these.

I’d recommend reading this series, I read them all in an evening and it made for a nice story when read like this.

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