#SnowInLoveBingo Wrap Up, The First Time

So, as y’all know, I had some really grand plans for my #SnowInLoveBingo TBR. And then December hit and I just really didn’t feel like reading. That is, I didn’t feel like reading until I realized it was because I only wanted to read Nalini Singh, and specifically I wanted to re-read Guild Hunters. So I figured I might as well take advantage of that and since it was more or less the only thing I wanted to read, I leaned into it. Eventually I read some holiday novellas and filled a few more squares with that and then I remembered I was supposed to buddy read The Chocolate Kiss by Laura Florand with Aarya and that sounded good. So the next thing I knew, even though Aarya wasn’t yet up for The Chocolate Kiss, she created a group DM with me, Charlotte, Jess, and her and I just went on a bit of a Laura Florand dive and didn’t emerge for a bit. And finally to round out my re-reading and my reading in general, I decided I wanted to re-read Alisha Rai’s Forbidden Hearts series, which is one of my favorites. So, here we are and I’m really pleased to tell you about the 25 books I read for Round One (for me) of #SnowInLoveBingo. I am already hard at work on Round Two so that I can actually hopefully tackle some of these TBR books, but we’ll see how it goes. I’m still half in the mood to throw all of my rules out the window and keep rereading or reading only novellas. But for now, the wrap up of Round One!

#SnowInLoveBingo Board for #SnowInLoveBingo running from December 1, 2020 to February 28, 2021.
Row One: Set Outside the US/Europe: Archangel’s Enigma, Family Drama, Archangel’s Storm, Hot Beverage: The Chocolate Kiss, Meta: Crazy, Stupid Bromance, and Fluffy: Wrapped.
Row Two: Childfree HEA: Wrapped Up in You, Into the Woods: Archangel’s Viper, Black Historical: Love’s Serenade, Feels Like Home: Archangel’s Blade, Fake Relationship: A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong
Row Three: Reread: Angels’ Blood, Cover/Title You Love: Hate to Want You, Happy Holidays: Noelle the First, Last Book Acquired: The Chocolate Thief, Audiobook or HEA: Archangels’ Shadows
Row Four: Blogger Rec: Snow-Kissed, Brown Eyes: Santa’s Helper, Small Town by AOC: Hurts to Love You, Snow: Archangel’s Legion, F/F Contemporary: Party Favors
Row Five: Messy Characters: Wrong to Need You, Specific/Unusual Profession: The Chocolate Touch, Rules/Lists/Resolutions: Missing Christmas, Music: Archangel’s Heart, Retelling/Mythology: A Rose in Winter
Created by: @danis_bookshelf, @ardentlyaarya, @graciouslyjen
Artwork By: @sarbethart (Instagram)

Row One

Prompt: Set Outside of the US/Europe
Book: Archangel’s Enigma by Nalini Singh

In Archangel’s Enigma, Nassir and Andromeda wind up journeying to a host of places. The book does start in NYC, but quickly moves to the Refuge, then China, somewhere near Japan, somewhere in the Middle East, northern Africa, and Antarctica. As I said, a whole host of places, not all of which are named. It’s also an absolute delight. During this re-read of Guild Hunters I realized how much I love the books that are focused on one of Raphael’s Seven because although still advancing the overall plot, they feel more like a romance novel and less like a fantasy novel. Not that I don’t also appreciate the books about Raphael and Elena!

Prompt: Family Drama
Book: Archangel’s Storm by Nalini Singh

Archangel’s Storm follows Jason and Mahiya as Jason attempts to uncover who has killed Neha’s Consort and also Mahiya’s father. There is a lot of family drama happening here, like… A lot. But much of it gets into spoiler territory so I’ll leave it at that. I absolutely loved re-reading this one and I really am so attached to Jason and Mahiya. They’re so brilliant together.

Prompt: Hot Beverage
Book: The Chocolate Kiss by Laura Florand

My favorite Florand, at least so far, The Chocolate Kiss features Magalie and Philippe who disagree about the good/bad outcome of Philippe opening a new chocolate shop down the street from Magalie’s aunts. I have never wanted hot chocolate so badly in my life as when I read this book and I absolutely delighted over it. I have a number of highlights and it was incredibly to be able to DM all of my reactions to Jess, Charlotte, and Aarya. I’m so grateful for them enhancing this experience.

Prompt: Meta
Book: Crazy Stupid Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams

I really don’t love this ableist title, but I did really wind up enjoying this friends to lovers romance. There’s a lot going on with this plot because there’s family drama happening on both sides, Alexis and Noah’s, and then there’s just the general romance unfolding with a rude woman thrown in for funsies. It was miles better than Undercover Bromance though so that was nice to see. The bromance book club was once more one of the best parts of the book and I really liked them. I am looking forward to getting more of The Russian’s story in the next installment and am hoping that Adams will lay off the potty humor with his character.

Prompt: Fluffy
Book: Wrapped by Rebekah Weatherspoon

I just want someone to take me on a date to Target. What a dream. Aidan and Shae had such a sweet start, or maybe I should say such a sexy start? I loved the idea of reconnecting with someone you were intrigued by in the past on a dating app because it’s such a modern and realistic sounding start to a romance. Anyway, this book is fun and sexy, while still having a thread of angst to it, which is the perfect fluffy read for me.

Row Two

Prompt: Childfree HEA
Book: Wrapped Up in You by Talia Hibbert

I absolutely adored this childhood friends to lovers novella from Talia Hibbert, which should come as no surprise as I always love Talia’s books. She does mental health representation so well and I really love, too, how well she does the recovery from abusive relationships, which she’s done in Damaged Goods and Get a Life, Chloe Brown as well. Abbie and Will are both very in their own heads with their feelings and some people may not go for that, but I was all for it. It was an absolutely brilliant novella and is competing with Damaged Goods for my favorite novella ever. And that’s with me not liking the audiobook narration style.

Prompt: Into the Woods
Book: Archangel’s Viper by Nalini Singh

One of the reasons I think people may struggle with the Guild Hunters series is that there’s a lot more violence in character’s backstories and that is definitely true for Holly Chang. We’re first introduced to Holly in Angels’ Blood as a victim of the murderous archangel tormenting NYC and her backstory is exceptionally tragic. Nalini walks a really fine line here of showing that Holly, a few years past that horror, has mostly managed to come back into her own. She’s fierce and has a role to play for the Tower and we’re not as mired in her trauma as we would have been if this had picked up even a year after the events of Angels’ Blood. So as she and Venom develop this relationship, this hate to love relationship no less, it feels real in a way that I don’t think it could have without that distance. So, yeah, I really loved this one. I forgot how much I like Venom too.

Prompt: Black Historical
Book: Love’s Serenade by Sheryl Lister

I’ve been wanting to read this historical novella for ages and just kept not picking it up, but I’m really glad I finally did. This was an ambitious novella, plot wise, though it is a second chance story, which always helps as far as the romance goes. But there was a lot going on. So my favorite part of it was probably the setting. The NYC jazz club scene during Prohibition is such a fascinating setting and I was so glad to see it from the perspective of Black love. This doesn’t shy away from the racist elements of 1920s New York, but it shows two Black people falling in love anyway and it’s really lovely. I just wish there had been slightly less plot overshadowing the romance.

Prompt: Feels Like Home
Book: Archangel’s Blade by Nalini Singh

I listened to the audiobook of Archangel’s Blade, again, because my library didn’t have the ebook and so I know there is a line about how Dimitri thinks Honor feels like home, but I couldn’t tell you what it actually is. Regardless, I’m so glad I re-read this book because I had actually forgotten that I do, in fact, like Dimitri. For some reason, I always just think of him antagonizing Elena and since I like her, I don’t like him? But that was just silly. So I’m glad to have rectified that.

Prompt: Fake Relationship
Book: A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong by Cecilia Grant

This novella frustrated me immensely because (a) everyone loves it and (b) it could have been a five star for me, but it dragged after the first chapter until the fake relationship started. If you’ve read this, you’re probably like, “So for 30ish pages?” but YES. I picked this up and read the first third and then sat it down for DAYS. I don’t tend to do that with novellas because they usually, bless them, move you quickly through the entire book. But regardless, I so enjoyed the fake relationship part that I did give the book four stars. I’m just a little sad it was not my new favorite thing like it is so many other people’s.

Row Three

Prompt: Reread
Book: Angels’ Blood by Nalini Singh

Ah, the book that started this deep dive into rereading. What a trip it gave me. Raphael is terrible and yet, I still love him and Elena. I can’t help my bad taste. (Raphael does get better though, okay?)

Prompt: Cover/Title You Love
Book: Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai

I love the cover of this book, but I also just love this book. It’s one of my favorite romances of all time and apparently I hadn’t reread it since 2018 so it was past due. Nico and Livvy are probably the first second chance couple I really fell in love with and I think a lot of that is just due to the mental health representation in this book. Alisha Rai does mental health rep so well and I fell in love with her writing in A Gentleman in the Streets, but this book really cemented that love for me. I still adore her writing and this book, this series, has such a soft spot in my heart. I love it desperately.

Prompt: Happy Holidays
Book: Noelle the First by Nicole Falls

This was a cute holiday novella about estranged friends becoming more when Jay conspires with Noelle’s sisters to help her get her holiday spirit back. Noelle’s dad passed away in the recent past and Noelle hasn’t really felt the Christmas spirit since then, but she used to love the holiday. I thought this was really cute and I wanted more from it. It also made me laugh out loud so that’s always a good sign.

Prompt: Last Book Acquired
Book: The Chocolate Thief by Laura Florand

When my Laura Florand deep dive got a little intense after downloading The Chocolate Kiss, I then moved on to every other Florand book my library had and made sure to borrow book one in the series last so I could count this as my last book acquired. I’m just a little sneaky sometimes. Anyway, although this wasn’t my favorite because I do not understand the concept of committing a crime in the name of chocolate, or love for that matter, I did overall really enjoy this book. I just love Florand’s writing. She does this instant connection thing really well, so it’s a theme you see over and over again in her work.

Prompt: Audiobook or HEA
Book: Archangel’s Shadows by Nalini Singh

I listened to Archangel’s Shadows because my library didn’t have access to the ebook and, also, I like the Guild Hunters audiobooks. They are the reason I can’t listen to any other Justine Eyre narrated books because I just keep hearing Elena and Raphael in them. Anyway, this was, prior to Archangel’s Sun, my favorite book in the series and I definitely still loved it. Following Ashwini and Janvier, this book is so incredibly emotional. It’s beautiful. I love Ash and Janvier so much. They’re two of my favorite characters in this world, both in their own book and every time they appear in other books.

Row Four

Prompt: Blogger Recommendation
Book: Snow-Kissed by Laura Florand

So, arguably, this is cheating, but Smart Bitches Trashy Books is a blog and Aarya reviews for them sometimes, so I decided to count Snow-Kissed as my blogger recommended book and I feel good about it. This marriage in trouble story is really beautiful and also heartbreaking. Kai’s miscarriages have left her with depression and grief and Kurt just loves her so much and he’s trying so hard to understand. This novella is so gut wrenching and also so brilliant and I loved it a whole bunch. Highly recommend if you can handle the content.

Prompt: Brown Eyes
Book: Santa’s Helper by Shae Sanders

I really enjoyed this quick novella, although it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. It’s a second chance and based on both the cover and what I know of Sanders, I was expecting it to be a lot steamier than it was. Instead, it’s a really sweetly set up story about a second chance romance between Julian and Felina who went on one date in high school that didn’t work out. Now they’re adults and Felina is taking her kids to a far away mall so they can have their picture taken with Black Santa (Julian). It does get steamy, but it’s a pretty slow build up and I was definitely cheering for Felina and Julian to get back together!

Prompt: Small Town by an Author of Color
Book: Hurts to Love You by Alisha Rai

Again, I love the Forbidden Hearts series and I love this installment. I think overall, this is the least well received of the series and I can’t say I understand why. Eve is really coming into her own and there’s a bit of an age gap between her and Gabe, who is kind of doing the opposite of coming into his own. Gabe has a secret and it’s getting really hard for him to cope with that. I will say that I do think Alisha could have developed his issues a little more because I’m not sure we get quite as much of a resolution of a sort with him, but I really love Gabe. I adore Eve though. I think she’s so fierce because standing up to your family can be so hard and yet, she does it. She’s a great character.

Prompt: Snow
Book: Archangel’s Legion by Nalini Singh

Another brilliantly done installment in the Guild Hunters series. This one is set during the winter and there’s a whole scene about the Legion sitting so still they get a dusting of snow on them. It was really nice to see Elena really come into her own as Consort in this one. I love the end of this book.

Prompt: F/F Contemporary
Book: Party Favors by Erin McLellan

This sex positive novella between online friends turned real life friends turned lovers is delightful. It’s very kinky by way of sex toys and the novella is pretty long for a novella. The underlying fear of one of the women is that she’s only ever seen as a good time, not as a permanent partner, and it’s beautifully done. I thought the emotional beats were all well done actually and the characters felt real. Plus, they both have really fun jobs.

Row Five

Prompt: Messy Characters
Book: Wrong to Need You by Alisha Rai

Sadia really thinks she’s a mess, which I thought was especially poignant because Sadia is a single mom running a business and working part time as a bartender. She’s juggling a lot. Her husband died and left behind a lot of bills and now her former best friend and brother-in-law is back in town and she’s so mad at him, but he’s offering to be her cook at the restaurant she owns. So Sadia accepts him back into her life and y’all!!! This book is so steamy. The anxiety representation is great. The family dynamics are immaculate. What a great book. Also, can Jackson please make me a fancy grilled cheese? Thanks.

Prompt: Specific/Unusual Profession
Book: The Chocolate Touch by Laura Florand

Is it cheating to use a book that’s part of a series where basically all of the leading men are chocolatiers? Probably. But I did it anyway. I really, really loved Jaime’s character. Like, so much. She’s been through something horrific, which we don’t really see or learn too terribly much about on page, which was nice. Anyway, so she’s in Paris sort of recovering and winds up striking up a friendship with a chocolatier, Dominique, who thinks that he’s like, really bad and damaged. But, listen, he’s actually not and I love him. I really liked their whirlwind romance, but I could have done with more time at the end so I could have spent more time watching Jaime come fully into who she is after the horrific events she survived.

Prompt: Rules/Lists/Resolutions
Book: Missing Christmas by Kate Clayborn

I love Kate Clayborn’s writing and I love Jasper’s rule that he obviously can’t be with Kristen because they’re partners at work. And what I mean when I say I love Jasper’s rule is that I LOVE watching him break it because he just can’t help himself. This is a snowed in romance that is heart-wrenchingly sweet and I just love all of the character development here. This caps off the Chance of a Lifetime series perfectly and is absolutely brilliant.

Prompt: Music
Book: Archangel’s Heart by Nalini Singh

Another prompt that I sort of stretched to incorporate another Guild Hunter reread, but Caliane sings in this installment and there are another couple mentions of music throughout the book as well. I have a love/hate relationship with this book, in that the beginning is so incredibly slow moving, but the end of this book is absolutely MAGNIFICENT. I love it so much. It’s such an important book to the overall plot and I just wish the beginning moved the tiniest bit quicker. But mostly, as usual, I loved it.

Prompt: Retelling/Mythology
Book: A Rose in Winter by Laura Florand

This is a Red Riding Hood retelling, which is a fascinating story to choose to retell as a romance novella and I enjoyed it, but I didn’t love it as much as I’ve loved most Florand writings.

Okay, so there you have my #SnowInLoveBingo wrap up! As I mentioned, I am working on Round Two of this already so please send me all of your best wishes that I will actually tackle some/many of those books I put on my TBR! I really want to read them, I swear.

xx

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