I’m truly so grateful this year brought Harlequin Desires into my life the way that it has. I’d read a couple prior to this year, but now I’m like all in. And this month I got to try a Harlequin Intrigue too! After Hours Redemption is by Kianna Alexander and has an absolutely fantastic cover. Untamed Passion is by Cat Shield and is the sixth book in the Seven Sins series, which I’ve been really enjoying! And finally, High Priority Asset is by Juno Rushdan and was my first Harlequin Intrigue. Unfortunately none of these books worked perfectly for me, but I’m optimistic they might for you! I think all three of these are already available so you could pick up any of them. As usual, thanks so much to Harlequin and Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review these books.
After Hours Redemption by Kianna Alexander
I think this book is a perfect example of why second chance romances so often do not work for me. Blaine Woodson prioritized his career over Eden Voss like almost a decade ago and now he’s back offering her a job as a songwriter for a new solo star he’s signed. First of all, I didn’t love that this book just glosses over the power dynamics at play in the fact that Blaine was the record label president of the label Eden’s group was part of, but I set that aside. What I couldn’t get past or set aside was that Blaine TRULY had no concept of what exactly he’d done wrong. Like, he knew enough to know that he had hurt Eden, but he didn’t get it and I just really struggled to support him as our hero.
Eden, though, I adored. Eden is a fantastic aunt and sister and I love her and want the best for her. I wish that I thought the best for her was Blaine because they had great chemistry, but honestly, a man should really have a bit more emotional intelligence than Blaine seemed capable of expressing. I loved how Eden worked with Naiya and the only thing I really would change about that is that I would have loved to see the lyrics for the songs they worked on. I did appreciate that we got closure with Naiya’s album and the label situation and I’m excited to see where this overall series is going to go. I have a feeling our next hero is Blaine’s brother Gage and I’m very excited about that.
Untamed Passion by Cat Shield
Since I knew going in that this book was not a favorite trope, I mentally adjusted my expectations because I really want to complete this entire series. And I was excited to read about Oliver! I’ve been intrigued by the other Lowell brothers this entire series. But unfortunately for me, this installment just didn’t work for me for reasons aside from the accidental pregnancy after a one night stand. Also unfortunately, a lot of what doesn’t work for me is the end.
Oliver is a recovering addict who has been sober for eight years but still doesn’t quite trust himself, especially as his dad is found and put in prison for his financial crimes of many years ago. Arguably, this is not the time to find out that the woman, Sammi, he slept with as a one-night stand is pregnant with his child. But he does. Sammi wants Oliver to do whatever he wants, but also if he keeps saying what he wants is her, he needs to pull it together and be emotionally available. For Sammi, that means he needs to forgive his father. And that… is about where things started breaking down for me. I should also mention that Sammi’s mother is verbally abusive but has a redemption narrative, which was also discomfiting.
Without spoilers, what I can tell you is that the emphasis on forgiveness of bad actors in this book just rubbed me the wrong way. If you want spoilers, please check my Goodreads review.
Also, so far I’ve focused on Oliver, so let’s talk about Sammi. She’s a model, who had been considering how to leave the profession and the pregnancy has rapidly accelerated that plan. She likes making lists and at one point sits down to make a list of things she loves and struggles to come up with things. This could be a super compelling storyline about her reconnecting to who she is away from her toxic mother, but the book doesn’t take the space to do that. I think both of these characters had really compelling back stories that would have made this book better suited for a full length novel as opposed to category length because there needed to be more development of each character’s ARC than what was allotted. Regardless, I think this was a good installment in the series and I’m really looking forward to the final one!
High-Priority Asset by Juno Rushdan
I made it 45% of the way through this book before I realized how bad of an idea it was to push my way through. I love Juno Rushdan’s writing and if the domestic violence aspect had been dialed down significantly, I probably would have loved it. The goodreads blurb for this book is: The safety of every person in California’s Witness Protection Program rests in US marshal Dutch Haas’s capable hands. So inserting himself into Isabel Vargas’s life to get the drop on her criminal uncle is a no-brainer. Except his target is fiery and intelligent—and she quickly becomes his partner instead of his mark. With threats stacking up, will Isabel and Dutch be able to stop Isabel’s past from catching up with her before it is too late?
I’m not sure if I was supposed to know this book was going to have domestic violence as a huge plotline in it from that blurb or not, but I definitely didn’t. Most of the time, I can still handle that, but this time there were entire scenes from the point of view of Isabel’s ex, Chad Ellis. Excellent choice to name him Chad, tbh, but very bad news for me that his POV was included because I couldn’t handle that and the fact that there wasn’t really legal recourse for Isabel for all the creepy/dangerous/deranged things he was doing.
Setting aside the domestic violence issue because I really do think this book was going well otherwise, I really love that we get to see Isabel’s friendship with Bonnie. And all of the things she has done to make herself feel safer and stronger. I think the chemistry between Isabel and Dutch was already feeling pretty electric and I imagine that was only going to build. There’s obviously a deception plot baked into this book, but I think Dutch seemed very aware of that so hopefully it would have unfolded neatly. If you do pick this book up, I hope you’re able to finish it and then you can let me know how things unfold!
Have you read any of these already? Are you looking forward to any of them? Let me know! (And don’t forget to register to vote/confirm your registration/request your absentee ballot/mail or drop it off/vote early or on time in a mask, etc. if you live in the U.S. and are eligible!)