Once a Rebel (Rogues Redeemed #2) by Mary Jo Putney

Once a Rebel is the second book in the “Rogues Redeemed” series, which is also directly connected to Putney’s previous series, “Lost Lords.” This series follows five men who together escaped certain death from Portugal in 1809 (described at the beginning of Once a Soldier, previously reviewed here). This book’s hero is Gordon, first introduced in Not Quite a Wife (previously reviewed here) as Lady Agnes’s only failure at Westerfield Academy. But his real name is Lord George Gordon Richard Audley, third son of the Marquess of Kingston.

Once a Rebel front cover (Zebra/Penguin Random House)

THE PLOT: Richard and Catherine Callista “Callie” Brooke were childhood best friends, a pair of innocent troublemakers completely hated by their horrible noble families. When Callie’s father plots to marry his troublesome daughter off to a West Indies plantation owner, the teenagers run away together to elope in Scotland. But they’re caught, and while Richard’s own father would have no trouble allowing his son to be put to death, Callie makes a deal with her father: she’ll peacefully marry the plantation owner if he allows Richard to live. Richard is therefore transported to Australia instead, but Callie believes he died on the voyage.

Years later, Richard, now calling himself Gordon, is hired to find and save a widow from Washington, DC in August 1814.  The city is about to be attacked by the British, and the family of “Mrs. Audley” wants her brought back to England. It’s not until he’s rescuing her from British soldiers that Richard realizes his charge is actually his childhood friend. But she’s not ready to return to London just yet; she’s sent her surrogate family of former slaves ahead to Baltimore, straight into another battle. Joining them means waiting out the attack of Fort McHenry, and Richard and Callie begin to reconnect and become more than friends. But a few more rounds of danger wait for them. Callie is actually on the run from her stepson, who wants his “stolen” slaves back; and Richard’s family is still hoping they’ve heard the last of him.

MY TWO CENTS: There’s a lot to say about this book. First, it’s mostly a love story about the American national anthem. Francis Scott Key appears as a character (Callie’s lawyer), and he shows Callie and Richard his new poem about the battle of Fort McHenry right after he’s written it. The author even incorporates some of the phrases into Callie and Richard’s own vigil at dawn as they wait for the outcome of the battle…whose flag is flying over the fort? If you’re American and have an iota of patriotism, especially regarding “The Star Spangled Banner,” you will really feel this part. I also enjoyed reading about a piece of history not usually included in historical romance (call me out if I’m wrong here, but I just don’t remember every reading any!)

I also like that Putney continues her trend from other books of discussing the horrors and repercussions of slavery. Callie’s family consists of two children her husband fathered with his slave mistress (now deceased), and the children’s grandparents. Callie’s husband wasn’t actually cruel and horrible (except for the whole owning slaves things, of course); he didn’t abuse them. (Other than, you know, his mistress not really having a true choice about having an affair because he owned her.) He “meant” to free his children before he died; he just didn’t get around to it. So Callie has taken the teenagers and their grandparents to America, but because they’re still technically the property of Callie’s aggressive stepson, they’re all in danger.

Any disappointment I feel toward the novel is focused on the very polite, mannerly love story between the two leads. We were previously introduced to Gordon as something of an anti-hero, and yet here, most of his wildness is behind him as he’s bought a house and all but given up adventuring; this rescue is kind of his last hurrah. He’s presented as pretty much just a victim of his family. Obviously we know he’s going to redeemed by the end of the book, hence “Rogues Redeemed,” but he was pretty redeemed already…and also was apparently never really much of a bad guy to begin with.  Callie, too, starts out as a bit of a free spirit, and yet she’s burdened with adult responsibilities when we meet her as an adult. I was expecting a love story a bit out of the ordinary for author Mary Jo Putney, but these characters are as sensible and mature as her other characters. They rationally discuss their attraction to each other, and reasonably decide marriage is the obvious choice. There’s really not much of the rebel about these two. Oh, Callie has to defend herself, and Richard eventually performs what basically amounts to an execution, but you can’t blame him too much.

Callie doesn’t even react much to finding out that her childhood friend, for whose death she blamed herself, is alive and well. To be fair, at first she’s overwhelmed by the moment as he rescues her in the nick of time from soldiers. But she falls easily enough into playacting that he’s her husband whom she thought dead. She never really loses her mind or shows a lot of stunned emotions later after the danger has passed. It’s almost…stereotypically British. “Oh, I say, what a jolly good time for you to turn up alive. Well done, you.” (I exaggerate, but…I really wanted her to freak out, faint, keep hugging him, something…and she just doesn’t.)

COVER NOTES: If you’ve read my other entries, you know I want series books to all have matching covers. So of course I love that this cover matches the cover of the first book, only Callie is holding a pistol, her own weapon of choice. I’m not sure the dress is entirely accurate to the period, but it’s pretty and covers most of her body parts, so yay. The detail of the fabric is gorgeous.

BOTTOM LINE: I really wanted this book to be wilder, and Gordon to be much edgier. But I very much enjoyed the historical aspect.

TEACUP RATING: Three-and-a-half out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available August 29, 2017, in paperback and eformats.

NEXT UP IN SERIES:  The preview for the next novel in the series, Once a Pirate, focused on the heroine; but I’m assuming this will be Captain Hawkins’s book since he played a role in Once a Rebel. No date yet, but I’d look for it in Fall 2018.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The Pleasures of Passion (Sinful Suitors, #4) by Sabrina Jeffries

I owe author Sabrina Jeffries and readers a huge apology…I started this review over a month ago, got sick, and never finished it. So without further ado…

The Pleasures of Passion front cover (Pocket Books/Simion & Schuster)

THE PLOT: Niall and Bree were young lovers separated when Niall killed a man in a duel and had to leave the country. He couldn’t share with Bree that the duel was fought over the sexual assault of his sister, so she was led to believe it might have been over another romantic partner. When Niall asked Bree to run away with him, she refused because her mother was dying. But Niall’s father managed to poison the young couple against each other by telling Niall that Bree wouldn’t go with him because he wouldn’t be a rich earl once he was in exile. He encouraged Bree to believe that the duel was fought over a woman shared by the men.

When they meet up years later, both are cynical toward the other. Niall believes Bree jumped into marriage immediately after his exile as an opportunist. She was really forced into it by her father’s gambling debts. Now, a spymaster is making them pretend to be engaged to find out if Bree’s father is involved in a counterfeiting ring. Bree agrees in order to protect her father and the reputation of her young son. Niall owes the spymaster for granting his pardon and allowing him to return to England. But of course, throwing this couple together will result in all kinds of romantic shenanigans, AND the opportunity to finally clear the air…if they’re brave enough to take it.

MY TWO CENTS: I can see where some readers might be annoyed by one thing: “If this couple would just TALK to each other honestly, none of the misunderstandings would happen.” But here’s the thing: they were very young when the first break took place. That situation continued to breed distrust. And even after all the secrets are finally out, it still takes some time to re-establish trust. So no, just talking to each other doesn’t solve ALL the problems. I also love romances that emphasize how sex doesn’t just solve everything.

One thing I love about Sabrina Jeffries: she’s great for pointing out all the reasons why a storyline is ludicrous and letting the characters argue them out right on the page. For example, when Bree and Niall are coerced into working together, they hash through all the “couldn’t we just do this instead…” and “no, we can’t do that because…” So Jeffries is well aware of how a plot line may seem stretched AND believable at the same time. I like it.

COVER NOTES: One thing I often note from my Goodreads list is how color schemes seem to go in cycles, especially for romance novels. This gray and red scheme is the same being used on Sarah MacLean’s The Day of the Duchess, also released in June. I honestly wish he wasn’t holding her bare leg, but otherwise, another fun “breaking the fourth wall” cover. Do you prefer it when series covers match? I really, really want them to match because I’m weird that way.

BOTTOM LINE: Another enjoyable entry in this series. I love “young lost love found again” stories.

TEACUP RATING: Four out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available now in paperback and eformats.

NEXT UP IN SERIES:  An e-novella, A Talent for Temptation, is coming October 2, 2017. The final book in the series, The Secrets of Flirting, will be available March 27, 2018.

Note: Review is based on ARCs provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Most Dangerous Duke in London (Decadent Dukes Society #1) by Madeline Hunter

For the first time ever on this blog, I’m reviewing a book by one of my favorite authors, Madeline Hunter! This is the first book in her brand-new series, “The Decadent Dukes Society,” about heirs to dukedoms who became friends.

The Most Dangerous Duke in London front cover (Zebra/Kensington)

THE PLOT: Adam Penrose, Duke of Stratton, has returned to London after a long stay in France with his French mother. He exiled himself when his father killed himself in disgrace for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to Adam. He’s made a name for himself dueling over insults in France, and now he’s returned to London to find out the truth. But first, the family with whom his has a longstanding feud is eager to make peace.

The Cheswicks and Penroses had previously argued over ownership of some land, but there may also be some other skeletons in the family closets. To end the feud and avoid Adam’s challenging her grandson, the head of the Cheswick family, the Dowager Countess of Marwood, suggests that Adam marry her granddaughter. The girl offered to him is only 16 and therefore not of interest, but Adam is interested in the oldest Cheswick, 24-year-old Clara, whom her brother dubs a shrew.

Clara’s father allowed her to avoid marriage and granted her some degree of independence along with her inheritance. Adam pursues her, but Clara really isn’t interested in marriage. She’s too involved in publishing a lady’s journal and doesn’t need a man trying to control her. But her attraction to Adam leads to an affair, and then love. Will they ever really be happy if they don’t find out the truth about their families’ true history?

MY TWO CENTS: Madeline Hunter’s writing style has made her one of my favorite authors since I first read By Arrangement, still one of my very favorite romances of all time. (In fact, it may be time for another reread.) I slightly preferred her medievals to her regencies, but I’m very likely to enjoy anything she’s written.

Like the introductory novels in her other series, This one sets up characters we’ll be following in subsequent books. Three friends who are all dukes and have distinctly different personalities are introduced. This book’s hero, Adam, is all about revenge and learning the truth about what brought about his father’ death. Langford is the playboy, while Brentworth seems serious and reliable (but I’m betting still waters run deep there).

To be honest, I was much more interested in the truth of the mystery than the romance. The romance was fine, but will be familiar to Hunter’s regular readers; she’s done the “family history” thing before. But this one has a few unexpected twists that make it well worth the read.

COVER NOTES: Love the color scheme and the beautiful dress….which covers the model! Nice! Between this and the Mary Jo Putney books, Kensington is hitting it out of the park with their “heroine in a historically appropriate dress” covers.

BOTTOM LINE: I love Madeline Hunter’s writing, and the family drama and mystery provide an added component to the romance.

TEACUP RATING: Four out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available now in paperback and eformats.

NEXT UP IN SERIES:  The next book in the series, A Devil of a Duke, will release next year and focus on Adam’s friend Langford.

Note: Review is based on ARCs provided by the publisher via Netgalley and Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.

Never Trust a Pirate (Playful Brides #7) by Valerie Bowman

This seventh entry in Valerie Bowman’s “Playful Brides” series is supposedly based on The Scarlet Pimpernel. The hero is Cade Cavendish, twin of Rafe Cavendish from Book 4, The Irresistible Rogue, previously reviewed here.

Never Trust a Pirate front cover (St. Martin’s Paperbacks)

THE PLOT: Cade has always been the black sheep of the family. For a while, his twin believed he was dead. Now Cade is back in London, staying with Rafe and his wife, Daphne, and involved in some scheme. Rafe is afraid that his brother is up to no good, but is he really?

Danielle LaCrosse is half-English, half-French, and all out for revenge. As a spy, she’s perfectly placed as Daphne’s maid in the Cavendish household. She catches Cade’s attention, though, and sparks fly. There’s danger for everyone along with some twin mix-ups. And who really is the mysterious Black Fox?

TWO CENTS: I really enjoyed the first “Playful Brides” books, and I think my favorite entries in the series are the ones that play more heavily off their source material. I didn’t like Book 6 as much as much, and its connection to Pygmalion was really thin. I’m not terribly fond of this new book, either, and I feel like its basis in The Scarlet Pimpernel is limited to having a mysterious character with a color for a name. It doesn’t help that Pimpernel is one of my favorite stories, so I was really excited about this book, and feel pretty let down by its lack of similarity to Pimpernel. Not that I expect these books to be the same as their sources, but look at my favorite in the series, Book 3, The Unlikely Lady (previously reviewed here). There were just enough elements of Much Ado About Nothing to make the connection clear. If the ad copy hadn’t said Never Trust a Pirate was based on Pimpernel, I’d never know it.

For me, the biggest problem with this book isn’t necessarily with the couple, but with the very light treatment of them as spies. If you’re used to reading, say, Joanna Bourne’s “Spymaster” series, you’ll be a little underwhelmed by the technique and seriousness of these spies. If Joanna Bourne is too dark for you, and you’re more interested in lighter romance, you may really enjoy this book.

Despite its lightness, part of me felt that I never quite caught up with what was happening in this story, and I think it’s because the waters are deliberately muddied so the reader doesn’t really understand what’s going on. I get that there’s supposed to be a big surprise reveal, and you’re not really supposed to know who is sharking who until the last minute, but that part just didn’t build for me. Also, I feel like the huge reveal was built on a cheat, so at the end I was all like, “Wait a minute…but didn’t it say…” I get it, the author wanted the reader to be surprised. But I was just mostly confused. Maybe it’s just me?

COVER NOTES: The cover in and of itself is very attractive. Its look is similar to the new tone set by Book 6, The Legendary Lord. One color scheme, couple in an embrace. The deep blue is very pleasing. However, I AM going to call the publisher, St. Martin’s, out on one thing: this book essentially shares a cover with two other books! If you want to see what I mean, check out the covers for Amelia Grey’s Last Night with the Duke and Kerrigan Byrne’s forthcoming The Scot Beds His Wife. All three have the same blue shade, the same font for author name, the same font for book title, clinch couples, and even similar backgrounds on Pirate and Scot. Back in the day, I knew of people who didn’t necessarily recognize authors or book titles; they just picked up romances based on their covers. If these sort of customers still exist, I can see them passing over two of the other books after buying one, believing they’re all the same book. This would just seem to be a business mistake. Make these books stand out from one another!

BOTTOM LINE: Again, I would not recommend this as an intro to Valerie Bowman, or to the “Playful Brides” series. Yes, it can stand on its own as a story, but a lot of the earlier entries are much stronger, in my opinion. Read it if you’re already in the series, but otherwise, start with Book 1.

TEACUP RATING: Three out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available May 2, 2017, in paperback and eformats.

NEXT UP IN THE SERIES: Book 8, The Right Kind of Rogue, will release October 31, 2017, and feature Hart and Meg, who we met in The Legendary Lord, and will be based (somewhat?) on Romeo and Juliet. It’s a romance, so I very much doubt the couple will die.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Duke (Victorian Rebels #4) by Kerrigan Byrne

Kerrigan Byrne’s fourth Victorian romance is my favorite so far (yes, even more so than The Highwayman, reviewed here).

The Duke front cover (St. Martin's Paperbacks)

The Duke front cover (St. Martin’s Paperbacks)

THE PLOT: By day, Imogen Pritchard is a nurse struggling to support her mother and younger sister. By night, she becomes Ginny, a barmaid working to pay off her dead father’s gambling debts. Imogen refuses to prostitute herself like the other barmaids until the night a young duke stops in the tavern on the way to his family’s estate. Cole Talmage, a younger son, never wanted to be the duke, but now he’s all that’s left of his family. When the duke shows interest in Ginny, her boss insists she spend the night with him (convincing her by threatening her young sister). Their subsequent encounter leaves a lasting effect on both of them.

Fast forward to three years later. Cole and Imogen have had one additional encounter when Cole, a spy, was brought home from enemy territory with one hand cut off. Imogen was his nurse at the hospital, but between “Ginny’s” wig and makeup and his own fevered delirium, he didn’t recognize her. Now, though, Cole is obsessed with finding Ginny while crossing verbal swords with his neighbor, a widowed countess. The countess (also Imogen) is running a social rehabilitation program out of her mansion that sets Cole’s teeth on edge. He can’t convince the exasperatingly independent woman how dangerous her plans are…until it becomes apparent that a serial killer’s attacks have all revolved around her.

MY TWO CENTS: My summary may sound pretty convoluted, but the twists and turns are what made this book so very enjoyable to me. Plus I love that dramatic irony…the reader knows the whole time exactly where “Ginny” is, and Cole turns himself inside out trying to find her, all the while falling in love with her alter ego.  Whom he dislikes intensely. But doesn’t really.

I really rooted for Imogen. You’ve got to hand it to her; she gets out of one scrape after another. Sometimes it’s through her own intelligence and willpower, and sometimes it’s because she’s shown kindness to people who then help her when she needs it.

My only real disappointment with this book is that I figured out almost immediately who the killer was. I would have rather have been shocked at the end, but then, there are some characters who I think deserve their own books and therefore couldn’t serve as the killer. (That’s all I’m going to say to avoid spoilers.)

All of the couples from the previous three books play strong supporting roles. We also get a bit more on Morely, whose book is coming next (see below).

COVER NOTES: Very nice color scheme, otherwise matching up fairly well with the other books in this series. I like how the pose completely hides his left hand, making sure there’s no inconsistency with the story.

BOTTOM LINE: I really enjoyed this story-driven romance. It was my favorite of all the “Victorian Rebels” so far. (But I have high hopes for Morely!)

TEACUP RATING: Four-and-a-half out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available now in paperback and eformats.

NEXT UP IN SERIES (UPDATE/CORRECTION):  The next book, releasing in October, will be The Scot Beds His Wife, about Gavin St. James from The Highlander. Hopefully we will see Inspector Morley’s book, The Rogue Takes a Wife, after that.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Dangers of Desire (Sinful Suitors #3) by Sabrina Jeffries

I can’t believe we’re already on to Book 3 of Sabrina Jeffries’ “Scandalous Suitors” series. I’m starting to lose track of who’s related to whom at this point, so I’ll try to step it out in “My Two Cents” down below. You know, in case that’s the kind of thing that boggles your mind, too.

The Danger of Desire front cover (Pocket Books/Simon and Schuster)

The Danger of Desire front cover (Pocket Books/Simon and Schuster)

THE PLOT: Miss Delia Trevor is trying to find the man who cheated her brother out of all the family’s money, causing her brother to kill himself and leave his wife and infant son behind. All she has to go on is that the other gambler was a nobleman with a tattoo of the sun on his wrist. Disguised as a young man, Delia has been roaming the gambling hells of London, searching for this man. And her gambling winnings are helping to hold off foreclosure of the family estate.

Warren Corry, Marquess of Knightford, is still feeling guilty over what happened to his cousin Clarissa before her marriage. So when Clarissa asks him to find out if any scoundrel is hounding her friend Delia, he agrees, although he’s afraid Clarissa is also trying to push an unmarried friend into his path. And Warren is determined to remain a carefree bachelor for as long as possible. More importantly, he doesn’t want a wife who would realize he suffers from recurring night terrors, which makes him feel like a coward.

When Warren discovers what Delia is really up to, he’s both horrified and intrigued. She would be ruined in an instant if she were discovered masquerading as a male, and he knows she’s still keeping some crucial piece of the puzzle from him. Together, they might be able to find out the truth about what happened to Delia’s brother…but they might be sorry they did.

MY TWO CENTS: All right, here’s where we’re at with this series. Book 1, The Art of Sinning (reviewed here), was about Jeremy Keane (who was related to the author’s previous series) and Yvette Barlow. Then there was a short story, “The Heiress and the Hothead” (reviewed here), which featured Jeremy’s sister Amanda Keane and Lord Stephen Corry, Warren’s brother. Book 2, The Study of Seduction (reviewed here), was about Yvette’s brother Edwin and Clarissa, cousin of Warren and Stephen. Got all that?

This tone of this book was a little bit lighter than that of Book 2. Granted, there is still a man who drowned himself, but it wasn’t one of the main characters (obviously). Delia isn’t a perfectly gorgeous heroine with the figure of a model, which is always nice. And if Warren is a typical “I’m not getting married, no way…until I meet this particular woman” hero, at least there’s another layer in his avoidance of marriage. Layers are good.

I think the romance came together pretty well. Delia and Warren seem well matched. And once she finds out his secret, they can overcome the “he married me, but he’ll never love me” nonsense that sometimes seems required in romance. (WHY aren’t there more romances where the man professes undying love the whole time, but the woman is standoffish? Who cares about realism?)

What interested me the most was the “man with the tattoo” mystery, and that didn’t disappoint. It also helped set up at least the next book in the series, if not more.

COVER NOTES: Carrying on with the theme of the hero staring directly at the fourth wall, this one isn’t as entertaining as Book 1’s cover. The colors are pleasing pastel, and the fabric of her dress is awesome. The hero is pretty darn attractive.

BOTTOM LINE: Lighter in tone than the last book, with an ending I didn’t see coming from the beginning. (Well, except for the part where the couple ends up together!) Totally enjoyable.

TEACUP RATING: Four plus out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available November 22, 2016, in paperback and eformats.

NEXT UP IN THE SERIES: The Pleasures of Passion, about Delia’s sister-in-law Brilliana and Clarissa’s brother Niall, will release June 20, 2017. Then, I’d be surprised if we didn’t see a book on Warren’s brother Hart, but that hasn’t actually been announced to my knowledge.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Hold Me (Cyclone #2) by Courtney Milan

I apologize to readers and the author for the delay in this review; I was a little distracted with the WORLD CHAMPION CHICAGO CUBS!!! (Sorry, I’ve waited all my life to say that and I’m going to use every opportunity to get it out there. WORLD CHAMPIONS! CUBS! THESE WORDS GO TOGETHER AT LAST!

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Ahem. Okay, I will get focused—at least for a bit.

Hold Me is the second full-length book in Courtney Milan’s contemporary “Cyclone” series. We met Tina’s roommate Maria Lopez in Book 1, Trade Me (previously reviewed here).

Hold Me front cover

Hold Me front cover

THE PLOT: Maria Lopez leads a double life. By day, she’s a college student with a rough family history. By night, she runs a popular website discussing statistical data of theoretical apocalyptic events. She keeps this identity hidden, but a lot of professors and really smart people love her blog and beg to meet her and possibly hire her astonishingly smart self for projects. (Although they assume she’s probably a guy.) One fan she comes to know as Actual Physicist has, only through texting and email, become a best friend and maybe even more. But they’ve agreed to keep their identities secret and not meet, so the relationship hasn’t progressed to the next level.

When Maria and her brother’s friend, Professor Jay Thalang, meet for the first time, they immediately hate each other. Jay assumes he knows everything about Maria just from her appearance and dismisses her. Maria understandably bristles at this and doesn’t hesitate to tear him apart. There’s a physical attraction, but so much animosity that they’d probably never get past it…if they weren’t already in love as Em and Actual Physicist. Of course, they don’t know this yet.

What follows is a complex love story between two people with a lot of baggage between them. Even if they find out who the other is, is there any way to work through A) the way they met; B) Jay’s issues with his past, and C) Maria’s abandonment issues?

MY TWO CENTS: I should just talk about how much I LOVE THIS BOOK and leave it at that, but I have to say something else first. I’ll try to keep it brief.

This is the first romance I’ve read with a transgender person as one of the leads. When I realized we were getting a book about Maria, I had a split second of, “Do I want to read this?” I’m sorry for even that split second. I consider myself an LGBTQ ally, but it took Courtney Milan writing this book to make me understand that claiming that title takes more than just accepting that all people have human rights. People also deserve representation and inclusion. They don’t deserve me wondering if should dare read a book about them, like they’re some sort of forbidden element, or the mysterious “other.” Am I afraid that reading book will change my gender identity or sexual orientation? No. Do I enjoy books that represent the extreme complexities of human emotions in relationships? Yes. Do I believe that all people everywhere, regardless of gender, orientation, race, size, ethnicity, or religion, experience these emotions? Yes. Therefore, it would be ridiculous to turn away from a book from a favorite author when she’s representing a group of people that doesn’t include me.

And here’s the thing: this is a romance with problems you would find in any other romance. The conflict in the story doesn’t come from Maria being transgender or Jay being bisexual. Those things help create the characters, but they’re not the point. It’s more like the transitive process in interfering with the relationship development. For example, Maria is terribly skittish of love because her parents threw her out when she was 12. This tends to throw a roadblock into believing others can love and accept you unconditionally. There are no roadblocks involving her gender identity specifically.

As far as the story goes: it’s not just that I didn’t want to put it down; I didn’t even want to be bothered with going to work if I could be reading this instead. It’s enthralling. The reader is caught up in, “WHEN will they figure out who the other is? Will Maria and Jay make up in person before they find out they’re already in an online relationship? Who figures it out first? How will they react?” And then, actually making a relationship work is like a whole other (equally complicated) story.

One more thing: I love how the world of the Cyclone series was getting more fleshed out in this book. Adam and Blake Reynolds only make brief appearances, but Tina has a meatier role. So does Angela Choi, who will be a main character in the upcoming book Show Me.

COVER NOTES: Once again, the author had photos taken to represent the characters accurately. So we see representations that are the correct ethnicities (imagine that!) plus Jay and his tattoos, and Maria being gorgeous. Too bad her awesome shoes aren’t on the cover, too, but one can’t demand everything.

BOTTOM LINE: Are you hesitating in reading this book? Please don’t. It’s a fantastic love story. You will love it, you will love the characters, and you will learn something—about statistics, or human nature, or both.

TEACUP RATING: Five plus out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available now in paperback and eformats.

NEXT UP IN THE SERIES: Find Me, about Tina and Blake (again), should be out sometime in 2017. The description is on Courtney Milan’s website now. Also coming soonish is After the Wedding, the next book in Milan’s historical Worth saga.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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