Free On KU

Free On KU

Free On KU

Free On KU

Free On KU
Free On KU

The Secret Ingredient by KD Fisher




We’ve noticed a trend in romances that disturbs us.

One of the characters behaves in ways that border (or even cross over into) abusiveness. In lesfic, this is mostly emotional and/or verbal abuse. (Ghosting comes under emotional and/or psychological abuse.) The abusive behaviour is justified by portraying the person as an Ice Queen or attributing their behaviour to past baggage. This person is pretty normal in all their relationships – except with the romantic interest. 

Usually the other lead is a beautiful person. Open, loving, giving, accepting, mature, honest, sexy. They overcome their own issues, make themselves vulnerable and go out on the limb for love. 

The disturbing part in the dynamic of these two typical MCs is that the one behaving like an asshole seldom ever takes corrective actions or apologises. The person who is loving and know how to love, care and be in a relationship bends over backwards to have a relationship at all. She becomes all about appeasement and takes on the full emotional burden of the relationship.

When this is how a relationship starts it sets the template for the interaction between the couple for the future. And this kind of template for the future marks an awful partnership.

We find this particularly disturbing because frequent use of this kind of dynamic by multiple authors normalizes this behaviour. It sends subtle messaging and makes emotional, verbal and psychological abuse acceptable. Worse, it makes people believe that if they do not accept such behaviour and make good with the abuser, they fail.

We sincerely hope that authors desist from writing MCs behaving like assholes without facing serious repercussions for such behaviour. Yes, they do deserve a second chance, but only if they realise that their behaviour is unforgivable, they correct and change their behaviour and most importantly, they apologise and make good with the other leading lady.

The Girlfriend Sweater by Jenny Parker



This is a small town romance with two rather sweet MCs.

Eva was involved with a rather flamboyant cheater in the past. She's out of that relationship but not quite looking to get involved again. She's passionate about knitting, watches it and also works in her friend's yarn shop.

Katie is a lawyer. After completing her studies in San Francisco, she moved to St Bridget since a smaller town appealed to her more than a bustling city. She dreamt of practicing family law and making a real difference to people's lives but is stuck with a nightmarish boss aiming to make as much moolah as her can at any cost.

On a whim, Katie joins a just-about-to-start knitting class. The class brings a possible new friend and also possible/ maybe romance into the shy lawyer's life. Except that her boss' new questionable suit may derail Katie's hope of staying in St. Bridget.

This is a sweet, easy, fluffy read with very appealing leading ladies. Minor angst that's quickly resolved, solid supporting cast, realistic incidents and a fairly possible storyline add to the likeablilty factor.


It's in Her Kiss by Rachel Lacey



Sophie Rindell and Julia Vega are struggling Broadway actresses. They meet while auditioning for the same role. The role is of the leading lady, Bianca, a dream for both of them. After the audition, Sophie invites Jules to hang out with her and her friends and Jules accepts.

Sophie is out and undeniably attracted to Jules. Jules is curious but hasn't taken any action on her possible attraction towards woman. 

Both get a call back, but while Jules is cast as Bianca, Sophie is part of the ensemble and an understudy for the two main leads. As the rehearsals progress, Jules and Sophie's relationship also progresses. But both carry their own baggage that interferes with their relationship.

This book is equally story driven and character driven and really scores high on the characters-driven aspect. Jules and Sophie are complete human beings with positives and negatives. With ambitions and fears. With hopes and dreams. With multiple aspects and dimensions. 

Lacey does a brilliant job with keeping all actions of each of them in the perfect trajectory of their character. All their actions are understandable since we get to know their drivers so well.

Jules, with her softness, vulnerability and awareness is a tad higher on the appealing quotient. Even when she messes up due to being in the closet, she is quick to realise it and apologise. Sophie is much more confident, a little more aggressive and explicably (because of past experience) self-protective. Yet she reaches beyond her fears and frustrations, which is so admirable.

We were totally drawn into the story and into the characters. This book was a wonderful read and we wholeheartedly recommend it.


Presidential by Lola Keeley


This is a rather unabashed retelling (fanfic?) of an old movie. The only difference is that the movie had a heterosexual couple and in this one the president is bisexual.

Emily Lawrence is an environmental lobbyist. In an unscheduled TV appearance, she calls out the incumbent president, Constance (Connie) Calvin on her lack of action on environmental issues. Connie, the first woman president, mother of a 12-year-old, is trying hard to juggle the world and keep it steady. 

We really wish we were inspired or even involved enough by the story to write more of a synopsis for this one, but really there's not much there.

Both the MCs are likeable. There are sweet incidents. But really, there seemed to be better chemistry (of the non-sexual variety) between Emily and Connie's son, Zachary. The one thing really going for the book is that it is well written. And that we really liked Emily.

As a book about the first female president, 46 by Lynn Ames was way better. 


The Unexpected Dream by Nicole Pyland


...because we dropped it like a hot potato

  • Mia is someone we really liked immediately 

  • In practically her first scene, Skylar is being self-centred, selfish and mean to her absolutely love girlfriend of two years. She compounds her despicable behaviour with jealousy and uncaring.

  • Existential Question: We like Mia but hate Skylar with a passion...should we waste time reading this one further?

  • Follow-up Question: Do we like Mia enough to tolerate Skylar?

  • Mia does deserve love, romance and happiness, but it will be with Skylar. And we hate the thought of Mia being saddled with her as a partner. Ergo: Abandon asap.

Unforgettable by Rebekah Blackmore


Katie Williamson is an art teacher who takes on painting gigs. She is invited by a local animal shelter to discuss painting murals. At the shelter, Katie runs into Taylor McCullough, her ex. Both realise that the past is not yet over for them.

Katie and Taylor are both likeable women. The relationship between them in the past seems to be deep and develops at a slow, tentative pace in the present. The is a realistic quality to Taylor's fears and Katie's longing for Taylor. 

Katie's decisions in the past may not have been the most mature or even very caring, but you can completely understand her. And that is the most impressive thing in the book: you can understand both the omen perfectly and empathise with their actions totally.

This is a low intensity, low angst book which is a fairly okay read. 


Confessions of a Dreamer by Kenna White


Ros McClure works in the internal audit department of a university. She is a shoo-in for the top position when her boss retires but is bypassed. It doesn't sit well with her, particularly since her new boss is clueless about the work. As she is dealing with this setback in her life, she gets the news that her aunt, Bonnie, has been hospitalised. She flies back home and realises that Bonnie is being taken care of by Stacy Hagen, Ros' erstwhile biology teacher and high school crush.

Bonnie's ill-health, a class reunion and other things align for Ros to return back and be with her aunt for a while. Ros realises that despite twenty-five years having passed, she is still attracted to Stacy. And this time, it looks like her interest is returned.

This book had so much potential which has not been realised. Ros and Stacy, it turns out were always into each other. Because of the whole teacher-student relationship Stacy chose to tamp the attraction. This itself gives an opening for so much delicious burn when they are in each other's orbit after two and a half decades. There was so much possibility for great chemistry. But this is entirely missed -- and that hurts because we could actually read the book as it could've been. 

We also feel that if Ros' diary had been used differently in the narrative -- interspersing it and building the feeling throughout the narrative would probably have made the romance more tingly and butterfly-y. As it is narrated, there doesn't seem enough depth in the relationship for the finale.

We're not sure about Ros' pragmatism with her aunt. Bonnie is the person who gave Ros a home and unconditional support and love. Yet when her health is nosediving, Ros seems to be perfectly fine leaving someone else to take care of her instead of actually making any effort to be there for Bonnie. How?

Stacy, as a person, is unreal. She is constantly looking after endless people on a pro bono basis and yet she doesn't come across as particularly nice or kind -- she just comes across as impossible. And then there is her weird, intrusive behaviour with regards to Ros' old diary. 

This one is a lost opportunity of being a great book.


Starting Over by Carol Wyatt


This one is an age gap, rich girl poor girl, celebrity (more like semi-brity) romance.

The main players of the story:

Alexandria Ryder: a relationship expert, a published author and a closeted lesbian.

Blake: Alex's beard, a soccer player who is also in the closet. 

Payton: a waitress who is also a covert paparazzo 

Payton sees Alex in the bar of the restaurant she works in and is immediately attracted. Alex has a meal with Blake and when they leave, Payton follows them, discovers that Blake seems to be involved with another man. The next day, on one of her covertly clicking celebrities outing at a hiking trail, Payton sees Alex readying for a run, follows her, sprains her ankle and has Alex looking after her. There is attraction and their relationship starts.

Blake wants to come out and even as she encourages him, Alex is in a bad place worrying about the impact on her career. At the same time, her relationship with Payton grows.

Despite all the drama in the events of this book, this is exhaustingly mediocre filled with people without any personality, stilted dialogue, behaviours that don't flow with the characterisations or narrative and most tragically, an utter lack of chemistry. 

Really, for someone so worried about her career, we cannot imagine why Alex would spill her life story and confide her sexuality to a woman (Payton), a complete stranger who she literally picked up on a hiking trail, in their very first interaction.

This is a book that makes us want to demand our time spent on it back.


Blind Date by Christine L'Amour


...because there is nothing to it

  • Shallow characterisations

  • Unconvincing relationship 

  • Mediocre writing

  • Savannah, a model, is set up on a date by her brother. The date turns out to be with a woman. Kayla, her brother's colleague. Savannah has a great time with Kayla and they meet again. Before she knows it, Savannah is in the midst of a highly sexual relationship with Kayla and then of course, they're I love. A brief conflict, quick resolution; Savannah's career taking off and happily ever after.

  • Honestly, why do we even bother reading these formulistic, poorly written books? The only thing going for it is that it is a pocket packet -- so it is short.

Let the Beat Drop by Cheri Ritz


Sadie DuChamp's fledgling rock career comes to. Grinding halt when the bank breaks up in a flurry of bad blood. In the aftermath of an awful relationship and the band going bust, Sadie returns home. She is assailed with guilt that she's not been home more or taken care of her mom after her father passed away a few months back. Sadie's mother is in the grip of depression and Sadie decides to spend a year with her before embarking on anything new. 

A group of Sadie's mother's friends drop by for a regular coupon-exchange and chat session and led when Sadie starts playing her drums, led by one of the women Marley Moran, the group ends up having an impromptu jam session. Sadie is delighted to see her mother joining in and thinks that music is the way to help her mom back. She floats the idea of the group performing and Marley is happy to create an opportunity at her annual party.

Marley is in the business of manufacturing vodka. Her daughter, Jessica, a couple of years older than Sadie is studying business and keen on joining her mother's business as soon as she finishes studies. Home for the holidays, Jess is a little discomfited by the new development viz. her mom performing in public with a band and she is also madly attracted to the woman creating this turbulence, viz. Sadie.

This is a very well written book. While the romance is front and centre the relationships of both the girls with their mothers also are important threads. Characterisations of every single person, including those making very brief appearances, are so well done that you can practically see everyone.

Sadie and Jess are very likeable. This is a new adult book, which means both the women are in a transitory phase between teen and adult. So they have the teen ability to love and forgive. Despite Jess' blow-hot-blow-cold behaviour, Sadie is able to be totally into her. Both of them want to be responsible and take care of their mothers but are a little clueless, a little too young and a little ham-handed in how they do it. All this just makes it all so real and both of them endearing. Kudos to Ritz for the way she's written Sadie and Jess keeping them so perfectly in character. 

We really enjoyed this one.


The Year Shakespeare Ruined My Life by Dani Jansen

A very well written and engaging teen story.

Alison Green dreams of being the valedictorian. Nerdy, socially awkward, a little emotionally clueless, gay (out to her parents, sister and best friend), Alison is really every girl. She harbours a secret crush on Charlotte, a super cool girl but cannot imagine doing anything about it. Her best friend, Becca, has a crush on Alison's friend, Jack, and is always tongue-tied in his presence. 

Without meaning to, Alison finds herself the producer of the school play -- a role she's wildly incapable of handling. 

The story is about Alison's action packed school year.

The writing is just so easy, funny and engaging that reading this is so much fun. Twitterpated -- its been a decade since we've seen an author use this delightful word.

Alison is a real person who makes mistakes, creates messes, hurts people, apologises, has some level of self-awareness -- just a complete human being. We love the whole show-not-tell way the characters, their strengths and failings and their growth is written. 

There is not a single character that we didn't like -- Becca, Annie (Alison's sister), and one really tertiary character, Jenny -- particularly stand out. The romance between Alison and Charlotte has some cute moments, but it's not like there is any major focus on it. 

This is a super-light, breezy, extremely entertaining read.


Lix 2: New York Underground by Emily Hayes


This is the second instalment of the story of How Lauren Became a Submissive. Considering that this and the previous book are mostly erotica, it is not exactly necessary to have read the first book to read this one.

Lauren, the gorgeous femme, and her girlfriend, Quinn, the butch stud owner of an erotic club for ladies in LA, Lix; decide to go on a holiday to New York. So they have sex. They research erotic clubs in NY. Have sex. Go to NY. Have sex. Go to a club, get a joint lap dance, have sex. Go to a party for ladies. Have exhibitionist sex. Go shopping for fetish clothes. Have sex. Go to an erotic club. Have a threesome. 

And just when it seemed like there would be nothing more to this book than sex, post the threesome, Lauren has conflicting emotions including sadness and the two have something of a fight. Then they go to a workshop for Kinky Lesbian Relationships and get educated on a concept called sub drop. 

Then, of course, they have some more sex before going back to LA.

Lauren is altogether too bouncy and excited about sex, Quinn, kink and being a sub. We understand that Hayes probably wrote Lauren's over excitement about being a sub to ensure that no one has any doubts about her willingness (eagerness, more like it) to be in this role. To drive home the point that Lauren is doing it because she wants to do it. But really, it smacked too false. Also, isn't Lauren in her thirties or something? (We know Quinn is almost fifty.) So all that bouncing and squealing?

Most dialogues are stilted. Some of the sex is hot. On the sex level, there is vanilla sex, dildo, exhibitionism, voyeurism, mild spanking and a threesome.

Quinn remains not particularly likeable despite Hayes' best efforts.

The most real and engaging moments in the book are when Lauren struggles to reconcile the fact that she is a strong, independent woman with the fact she is Quinn's willing sub. When Lauren worries about how this dynamic during sex will impact her personality. Lauren after the threesome and her feelings about Quinn at that point were what made this book a notch above just plain erotica and earned its stars.

In the hyper-local niche of lesbian erotica, this is one of the better ones.


Something Far Away and Happy by Bryce Oakley

College romance; heartbreak; a decade thence. 

Julia Evans was completely swept away by the dashing Remington Van Der Meer when they were both studying in McManus College. Julia was pre-med and Remington was on her way to join MIT for MBA. Remington asks Julia to go to Boston with her and Julia agrees. As she is packing, Julia receives an email ostensibly from Remington with a link to an article about Remington's engagement to a woman who is definitely not Julia.

Ten years later, Julia is an interior decorator and has been offered a meeting with a hermit-like fresh divorcee living hidden in the mountains to redo their entire house. The meeting was set up by the hermit's assistant, but it is still a big enough job for Julia to make the trip. 

What Julia doesn't expect is that the new divorcee will be her Remington, still as attractive as ever. Or that their chemistry will still be bubbling like a decade back. Or that Remington feels that Julia had cheated on her all those years back.

Julia and Remington are both nice enough. We liked Julia more between the two, though there's a lot of sweetness in Remington too. The whole past break up was a tad too convoluted. We were rather disappointed with the lack of any real moving angst about the past in both when they first re-meet. The fact they don't address the past immediately was also surprising.

We always want to like Bryce Oakley's books more than we actually do. We're usually let down and left feeling that the relationships she writes don't have depth and that emotions are not fully developed. Everything falls just a little short for us.

This is a middling book with a couple of fun dialogues, a couple of fairly good sex scenes, fairly likeable MCs and maybe a couple of good supporting characters.


The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson


The context: Multiverse, a way to hop between the different Earths and world walkers.

Cara is a world traverser. She is one of the few people on Earth Zero who goes from one Earth to another collecting information and data. There are 382 Earths and a person can be a traverser if they do not exist on most of the other Earths. Cara exists on only seven other Earths. 

Each Earth is populated by the same people as Cara's and have the same past but a different present. 

Cara is a little bit reckless. A little bit of a rebel. And a whole lot attracted to and interested in her watcher, Dell. Cold, distant, indifferent Dell. Cara's been flirting with Dell for five years but is constantly met by the same wall.

The other people in Cara's life are her sister, Esther; her mentor, Jean; the man who invented the technology to traverse, Adam; the emperor of the rough land beyond the rich Wiley City, Nik Nik and a clutch of other minor (but not unimportant) characters.

Each Earth is in the same band of miserable with slight differences in the degree of miserableness, yet the book is not depressing. It is an action and emotion packed story with unexpected twists and turns.

Though there is a brief mention of the Middle East, all action remains contained in the world created by the writer consisting of the rich Wiley City, the rough Ashtown and the Rurals beyond Ashtown.

The world building is good and the character-across-Earths creation with regard to Cara and Adam is incredible. The writing is beautiful.

Cara is a strong, well rounded character. She is a great protagonist. However, Esther, in a much smaller appearance captured our admiration. And Dell, in an even smaller page presence, stole our heart. She is incredible in her strength, intelligence and above all in her loving. Major character crush on Dell happening here.

The ending is a little open ended but we believe that it is a HEA for Cara and Dell.

Definitely recommended.


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