Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Contemporary Romance Review: The Knockout Rule by Kelly Siskind

The Knockout Rule (Showmen #4) by Kelly Siskind
Published: February 24th, 2021

Publisher: CD Books

Genre: Contemporary romance

Tropes: Forced proximity, friends to lovers, sports romance, opposites attract

Heat level: 🔥🔥🔥

# of pages: 340

Acquired this book: From the author in exchange for honest consideration

Add to Goodreads

Buy on Amazon Canada || Amazon US || Indigo

Growing up with an adoring father for a boxing legend isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It looks more like hospital visits, bloody noses, and cracked ribs.

Isla Slade now works as a physiotherapist, helping athletes heal their bodies. Except for boxers. She has no interest in reliving the stress of her teen years. Dating someone in the boxing world? She’d rather snort wasabi powder.

Until she meets Preston Church.

Preston manages heavyweight boxing darling Brick Kramarov. A brute who’s built tougher than his name, with a cocky attitude to boot. She wants nothing to do with either man, but her father begs her to help them prepare for a huge Vegas fight.

She doesn’t expect Preston to recite romantic poems and slowly break her resolve. His fascinating mind gets under her skin, even if his star athlete reminds her how much she hates boxing.

Too bad it’s Brick coaching Preston how to woo Isla, falling for her from the sidelines. Once she finds out, she’ll have to decide if she can risk loving another man who puts it all on the line for the knockout.

Kelly Siskind’s Showmen standalone series have quickly become favourites of mine. They feature unique characters, lots of heart and humour, and swoony romances. The Knockout Rule was quite different from the other three books - it was slower paced, more intense, and didn’t feature the quirkiness I’ve come to expect from Kelly’s characters - but it was a beautiful story about life, family, and love, and I know Isla and Eric will stick with me right along with all the other characters from this series.

Isla and Eric are such passionate characters who did things with their whole hearts. Their relationship started out with each of them assuming certain personas and making assumptions about each other. I loved that Eric was this big brute of a guy whose boxing persona was all brawn and no brains, but he was incredibly intelligent, sensitive, thoughtful, and loved his family more than anything. Everything he did was for them, and that made me love him so much. Isla was strong and resilient because she’d had to be; with a professional boxer for a father and a mother who found it too easy to walk away, she’d had to learn to take care of herself and do what was right for her. That meant not allowing boxers into her life because she knew how damaging the sport was and she refused to let herself get close to anyone who was willing to do that to themselves. And then Eric came along…their chemistry was undeniable (and so hot!), and I loved the connection and friendship they formed before they took things further.

There was just so much to love about this book. The characters were so deep and real, and we got to know them slowly and thoroughly. I knew next to nothing about professional boxing, so I found that interesting, along with the physiotherapy aspect from Isla’s job. The Vegas setting was fun, and I absolutely loved Eric’s dog, Whit. He had so much personality and by the end, I was as in love with him as I was with Eric and Isla. I also really appreciated the mental health rep; as someone with anxiety, I thought it was handled compassionately and realistically, and added even more depth to Isla’s character that made me connect to her on a deep level.

If you want to take a deep dive into a slow-burn romance with a ton of heart, The Knockout Rule is perfect for you. These characters are sure to leave an imprint on your heart.

Have you read The Knockout Rule or any of the other Showmen books? Do you enjoy sports romances? Have a favourite?

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Regency Romance Review: The Duke Heist by Erica Ridley

The Duke Heist (The Wild Wynchesters #1) by Erica Ridley
Published: February 9th, 2021

Publisher: Forever

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency Romance)

Heat level: 🔥🔥

# of pages: 352 

My rating: 4 stars

Acquired this book: From the publisher in exchange for honest consideration

Add to Goodreads

Buy: Amazon Canada || Amazon US || Indigo

Chloe Wynchester is completely forgettable—a curse that gives her the ability to blend into any crowd. When the only father she's ever known makes a dying wish for his adopted family of orphans to recover a missing painting, she's the first one her siblings turn to for stealing it back. No one expects that in doing so, she'll also abduct a handsome duke.

Lawrence Gosling, the Duke of Faircliffe, is tortured by his father's mistakes. To repair his estate's ruined reputation, he must wed a highborn heiress. Yet when he finds himself in a carriage being driven hell-for-leather down the cobblestone streets of London by a beautiful woman who refuses to heed his commands, he fears his heart is hers. But how can he sacrifice his family's legacy to follow true love?

Continuing on with my new-found interest in regency romance, my second foray into the genre was The Duke Heist. In this book, we’re introduced to the eclectic and eccentric Wynchester siblings - a group of orphans who were adopted by a baron. I love stories about found families and strong bonds, and the Wynchesters quickly became one of my new favourite groups of siblings. This book was highly entertaining - it was laugh-out-loud funny, had a swoonworthy romance, and a lot of heart.

Chloe Wynchester is completely forgettable - or at least that's what she thinks. This comes in handy when she needs to slip in and out of situations that require her to become a certain character - like while infiltrating a reading group to steal a painting that once belonged to her family. She’s used to being invisible and even prefers it because it means people can’t get close and she can’t get hurt. But when she accidentally kidnaps a duke, she soon finds herself in a situation she’s never been in before: Lawrence, the Duke of Faircliffe, sees her. Truly sees her. She’s no longer invisible and forgettable, and she finds herself falling for the man she once assumed was a stuck-up, pompous jerk.

This book was so much fun. I spent a good portion of it with a smile on my face and I laughed out loud often. I really felt for and identified with Chloe - feeling invisible and forgettable, longing for connection. It was so heartwarming seeing her with her siblings and watching as she learned just how much they loved, supported, and saw her in ways she never realized. Just like I love books about found families, I also love stories where people find a sense of belonging, and Chloe and Lawrence both found that from each other and from the people already in their lives. As for the romance, I loved Chloe and Lawrence’s chemistry and banter, and found it easy to root for them.

I did find the pacing of this book a bit off at times. What I assumed was the climax happened about three-quarters of the way through and wasn’t actually the climax. Also, for some reason I can’t quite pinpoint, this book often felt like a young adult novel. As I was reading, I’d frequently forget Chloe, her siblings, and Lawrence were in their twenties and thirties rather than in their teens. It’s not a bad thing, but it was a bit strange at times, especially as the romance heated up.

The Duke Heist was a delight. It was exactly the type of fun, entertaining, light-hearted yet pull-at-your-heart-strings romance I’m after these days. I can’t wait for more of the Wynchester siblings (I’m particularly excited for the second book), and I’d love to see this made into a TV series.

Have you read The Duke Heist? Do you have any recommendations for a regency romance newbie like me? Do you enjoy books about found families too and do you have any recs?

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Trusting the Magic of New Beginnings

*A shorter version of this post was originally shared on Instagram here

When I think about 2020, so much of it is a blur. I had high hopes at the beginning of the year - I wanted to take my writing career to the next level, travel, and so many other things. Then the pandemic hit and I spent most of the rest of the year in a really negative headspace. Between the news, doomscrolling on Twitter, seeing and reading stories about how people were suffering in so many ways, plus my own anxiety and depression, it felt like a never-ending rollercoaster. I knew I had a lot to be grateful for: a home and a job I could do from home, enough to eat, amazing friends who shopped for us, online friends who showed so much love and support, my health and the health of my family. But no matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to get out of the muck and mire of negativity. And if I’m perfectly honest, I didn’t try all that hard.

Fast-forward to 2021. I knew not much would change with my circumstances for a while. I knew my mum and I would remain in isolation (she’s 80, so in the high-risk group), unable to see our family or do normal things. But I also knew if I wanted things to change, it had to start with me. So I started doing mindset work again - affirmations, meditation, journaling, redirecting negative thoughts. I started Kathrin Zenkina’s Manifestation Babe Academy from the beginning; I invested in the course in the spring of 2019, right before I ended up in the hospital for a week and a half, and then I never finished the course. Students are given lifetime access, so I figured when the time was right and I felt called to it again, I’d do the course in its entirety.

Well, I felt called to it around the middle of January this year, and I started the course from the beginning. Right around that time, Kathrin announced the new incarnation of MBA - a brand new, extensive, 16-week course that alumni could join for a tiny fraction of the full cost to new members. It felt like a massive sign I was finally back on the right path. Since I’d already recently started the original Manifestation Babe Academy, I decided to complete the four weeks anyway before the new version started. The last four weeks have been amazing and I know it’s only the beginning. I’m so excited and grateful to embark on a new 16-week transformational journey starting today.

The last four weeks have been a constant reminder that your mindset really is everything. If you want to see changes in your life, those changes start with you - your outlook, your actions, your responses and reactions.

Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks!

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