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Now that I’m all caught up reviewing my historical reads, here’s what else I’ve been reading. An assortment of contemporaries, with a little suspense, erotica, a sweet, and even a romantic threesome.

Tell Me No Lies, Kathryn Shay, Harlequin Super Romance, 2006
Cease Fire, Janie Crouch, Harlequin Intrigue, 2018
Mystery Date, Crystal Green, Harlequin Blaze, 2013
Mr. Unforgettable, Karina Bliss, 2018
Mine: MMF Bisexual Menage Romance, Chloe Lynn Ellis, 2018
Concealed in my Heart, Regina Puckett, 2013
Sweet Spot, Amy Knupp, 2016
Sweet Nothings, Natasha Lake, 2016


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Tell Me No Lies, Kathryn Shay, Harlequin Super Romance, 2006

I’m not sure what to make of this one. Tessa and Dan are happily married, with children, but there are a few hints of something amiss. Then a figure from Tessa’s criminal past shows up. She’s kept her past a secret from Dan, and tries to continue to hide it, leading to complications in their relationship. The story is like a second chance romance, only it begins with the disintegration of the initial relationship, instead of revealing that in flashbacks. Foregrounding the break up takes away from the romance, and I had trouble accepting the premise. Yes, people may keep secrets, but the story makes clear that Tessa’s arrest and conviction was newsworthy at the time it happened. Apparently Dan never checked his wife’s name online – and he’s a District Attorney. Dan’s also less than heroic when her past is revealed. Although I did not find this a satisfying romance, once I suspended disbelief about the premise, and stopped expecting a more conventional story, it was a well-written family drama that had elements of Cape Fear.

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Cease Fire, Janie Crouch, Harlequin Intrigue, 2018

This is one in a series of stories about a bad guy killing members of an elite police agency. The characters have been introduced earlier, and I felt I was missing something by not having read the earlier books. The core plot is one-night stand leads to pregnancy. The relationship is complicated by the heroine’s past.

Keira is a successful businesswoman, who also runs a private shelter and career training facility for abused women, but she used to be a stripper, and endured an abusive marriage to the son of a wealthy and powerful family. Her status as a strong heroine is diminished by her delayed inheritance, which allows her character to have both the sordid past and the respectable present.

Roman is a member of the agency, but his status as an alpha hero is diminished by his initial acceptance of his mother’s concern for the reputation of his powerful and wealthy family. A few months later, Roman learns that Keira may be a target of the mysterious killer, and that she is pregnant, so they reconnect. There’s lots of action, which means less room for romance, and the surprise baby plot tends to push characters together.

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Mystery Date, Crystal Green, Harlequin Blaze, 2013

Leigh is a TV cook, who has auctioned off a home-cooked meal as part of a fund-raiser for a sorority. A mysterious but obviously wealthy person has purchased it, and when she arrives at his mansion, he communicates only by phone. Several dates follow, with escalating sexual activity revolving around voyeurism, blindfolds, and so on. Silly steamy fun.

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Mr. Unforgettable, Karina Bliss, 2018

Luke is a former competitive swimmer and shy billionaire property developer, wounded by his divorce. Liz is a small town mayor. Her husband, the former mayor, died two years ago, and her public and private life is dedicated to preserving his memory. They meet when his company wants to build a widely opposed children’s camp, and spend discreet time together when she needs to secretly learn how to swim. He gives lessons in exchange for chess games. They become friends (with flirting and sexual tension both in the pool and over the chess board), then friends with benefits…  I’m not keen on billionaire stories, but Luke is relatively ordinary, and Liz doesn’t need money. A couple in their thirties, uninterested in having children, and the challenges of romance for a politician, are less common and enjoyable aspects of this relaxed and well-told romance.

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Mine: MMF Bisexual Menage Romance, Chloe Lynn Ellis, 2018

Yes, that really is the title. Three childhood friends, Jack, Dylan, and Cate, are reunited when Kate’s grandfather dies and leaves his Boston townhouse to them. When I read Menage on 34th Street, I complained about the sex. There is lots here as well, but it’s slightly tamer, and considerably more contextual. Who’s doing what to whom illustrates the progress of the relationship, which has a realistic time frame. The characters react in slightly different ways to embracing their sexuality, but everyone is open-minded. For all the detailed steamy sex scenes, this is essentially a friends to lovers story, with three people instead of two. There’s an HEA ending, and a coda that would be cliche in a more conventional relationship, but here it is heartwarming.

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Concealed in my Heart, Regina Puckett, 2013

Like Tell Me No Lies, this is a less conventional romance. It’s set in the late 1960s, though I was not sure why. It has the simpler time appeal of no internet and no cell phones, but the plot may have worked better in the 1930s or 1940s, given the plot’s reliance on movies and film publicity as major social events. Charity is a young, naive, recently married actor who has luckily landed the lead role in a football romance movie. She becomes close friends with her supportive co-star David and his wife. Charity’s husband leaves, and David’s wife dies in childbirth. David flees in grief, leaving Charity to look after the baby for eight months (though she stays in his house, and he pays all the bills). When he returns, they need to sort out their relationship, if any. It’s a sweet and sentimental story of friends to lovers, though some of the relationship timing and plot points are odd.

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Sweet Spot, Amy Knupp, 2016

Sweet Spot is the second in a multi-author series of stories set at new or renovated businesses on Hale street, in Nashville. Hunter comes home to take over the family business, a money-losing bar. The one bright spot is a smart and attractive bartender, Kennedy. Kennedy used to work in marketing, but two years ago she caught her boyfriend cheating on her…with her friend…at her office. She lost her job, her boyfriend, her friend,  hurt her career, and ended up with  large debts, thanks to a house she and her boyfriend were renovating. Now she has new friends, who have just opened a bakery and want her marketing skills, as well as a hot new boss. Things heat up fairly quickly, but she’s having trouble trusting again. A few steamy scenes, lots of light banter between her and her friends, and many mentions of mouth-watering munchies.

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Sweet Nothings, Natasha Lake, 2016

This is another Hale street story. Free-spirited Ivy promised to work at the bakery for a year, and the year is nearly up. She wants to find a replacement baker, and decides the best way to discreetly find one is to attend catered events.  Burke, the staid owner of a hotel under renovation, is trying to project an image of respectability for the re-opening, after being left at the altar by his fiance, a local scandal. He decides the best way to do this is to attend charity events and fundraisers, but has neither the time nor the inclination to date. So it’s a relationship of convenience that becomes real, and both hero and heroine need to overcome the past relationship failures. The plot works better than it sounds in my summary, and the characters are more solid than in Sweet Spot. As in Sweet Spot, supporting and continuing characters add interest.