Friday Fun Review: "A Lesson in Thorns" by Sierra Simone

A Lesson in Thorns (Thornchapel, #1)A Lesson in Thorns by Sierra Simone
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What can I say about this book? I think this about sums it up.

I’m usually full of emotive adjectives and helpful info, but right now? Nope. My mouth is just hanging open like a kid who just found out they were going to Disneyworld. What the F did I just read? And why do I want to snatch up the next one like right now?

The story/the characters/the sex:
So I went into this wondering how these six people were going to come together. If all six were going to come together. If I was going to be ready for how they all came together. Little did I know there’s a STORY lurking behind the sexy angst that is pulling you in, luring you, causing you to obsess over what this Thornchapel thing is all about.

And these characters’ personalities do the same. These people have history, they have backstory, and they are tortured. Wow, to be so young and so frustratingly messed up. These kids got issues, y’all! And I was sopping up every minute of it.

In fact, the sex is probably the most normal thing in this book (if you call a six-person orgy normal), but trust me on this. It seems like when these people finally give in to their sexual wants and needs, they are who they want to be and with whom they want to be.

But until they do that, this is a slow burn, if that’s even a thing for Sierra Simone, full of angsty torture. You aren’t really sure how these six people will come together in the end, but one thing is for sure, it will be pretty explosive when it happens. And it pretty much was. Yowser

As with most Sierra Simone books I’ve read, I am eager to read the next one. Lady, you really need to have your books everywhere, so when I keep recommending you to friends, I don’t have to feel that separation anxiety when I lend my copy! (I get it back, but still…) xo

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Friday Fun Review: AMERICAN QUEEN by Sierra Simone

American Queen (New Camelot Trilogy, #1)American Queen by Sierra Simone
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I LOVED THIS BOOK! And you will too. Here’s why.

The Premise
From Goodreads: “Warned as a girl to keep her kisses to herself, Greer Galloway disobeys twice–once on her sixteenth birthday as she’s kneeling in a pool of broken glass, and another time after a charming stranger named Embry Moore whisks her into the dazzling Chicago night. Both times she falls in love, and both times her heart is broken beyond repair. And so as an adult, she vows never to kiss—or to love again.

“That’s until the Vice President of the United States shows up at the university where she teaches, and asks for one thing: for her to meet with the hero-turned-President Maxen Colchester. Maxen, the soldier who was her first kiss in that pool of broken glass.

“And the other complication? The Vice President is none other than charming Embry Moore himself.”

This trilogy is inspired by the stories of King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, and Sir Lancelot, but as you’ll see it’s a very original story. AMERICAN QUEEN is the first in the Trilogy, with American Prince and American King following.

The story/The sex/ The characters
The story is intricate and has levels, as I notice most of Sierra Simone’s novels do. So, the progression of the central romance is not the only thing that keeps you turning pages. But the romance was more than enough to keep you turning pages.

Good golly Miss Molly this was scorching! I have learned from experience anything Sierra Simone is NSFW (Not Safe For Work), but this is next level NSFW. I wouldn’t even attempt to read this on my lunch hour and try to come back to work. This is a graphic, open-door, BDSM erotic romance with a non-traditional couple. Basically, what I’ve come to learn is this is Sierra Simone’s thing. This is her niche.

What I thought I looked like after every sex scene (cool while reading explosive sex):

What I actually looked like after every sex scene (a big ole mess):

Of course, as stated there is a lot more here. There are elements of mystery, political intrigue, and there’s one element of social commentary that I am especially proud of. During one scene, Greer points out the obvious difference between a couple in an abusive relationship and her own relationship—consenting and loving. Many people when they don’t understand something, they think negatively about it. A BDSM relationship when done right is not abusive or an excuse to be abusive. I’m glad that Sierra Simone points this out.

About the characters: I don’t know why, but for some reason, I wanted to hate everybody. These are people who on the outside have it all—money, power, fame. But I couldn’t hate Embry, Ash, and Greer. I didn’t really get a book boyfriend here or a favorite couple, I was more fascinated by them. It’s kind of like when I’m watching a where-are-they-now kind of show about a celebrity. Or a 20/20 episode where they go behind the scenes of famous people. It’s intriguing and fascinating, and you appreciate whatever they went through. In the end, the hatred went to the right people, I think. I need to keep reading to make sure.

The story will leave you like this and wanting to get part 2 ASAP:

So, just read it already.

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Friday Fun Review of “The Awakening of Ivy Leavold”

The Awakening of Ivy Leavold (Markham Hall, #1)To see spoiler content, head over to this review on Goodreads.

The Awakening of Ivy Leavold by Sierra Simone
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How did I get here? Researching romance author websites for inspiration on what to do with my own led me to Sierra Simone’s site, and to her limited-time giveaway of this book.
This took me two days to read only because I had to put it down for adulting time. I usually don’t read historicals, and I’ve lately been turned off by the virginal woman/rich older guy pairing. But I 5-starred the first book I read by Sierra Simone, Misadventures of a Curvy Girl, so I thought this was a safe bet. Turned out to be an entertaining historical romantic suspense. Now of course, I have to have all 4 books.
The Premise: Nineteen-year old Ivy Leavold is now alone in the world, homeless, and being sent to live with her late cousin Violet’s widower, Julian Markham. Pretty, young girl; rich, handsome dude living in a dark, shadowy mansion? No need to read further; we know how this is going to go, right? Wrong.

The Setting: I usually read contemporary, so I don’t mention the setting, but here I feel I should. This is a historical novel set in England in 1879. The women are wearing gowns and chemises and corsets, people are riding in open-faced horse-drawn carriages or walking, and the mention of the Prince of Wales is NOT Princes William and Harry’s dad. This plays a part in my review.

The characters: This is told from Ivy’s POV, and her POV is a refreshing one. She’s down-to-earth, a mixture of high-society and sassiness, virginal, but somewhat knowledgeable about sex. And this is where the time period comes into play. What made this character believable was that it’s 1879. A virgin who hasn’t been taught about sex except for the unholy lesson or two from her worldly cousin makes sense. In a contemporary novel, I would find this eye-rolling and fake. Here, it works. Plus, her out-of-line sassiness, her constant mentions of her church teachings (v. what she’s actually doing), her upbringing/genes v. others, and her station in life—if she doesn’t stay with Markham, she’s going to have to work *gasp*–are all believable and don’t come off as overdone or hokey. If she were acting like that in 2019, I would have been like “Get a Life, girl!” and put this book down. But I appreciate her more for this mix of personality traits in 1879.

Mr. Markham is in his 30s, not a settle-down type but not really a playboy (that’s his friend Silas—who I’d love to see get his own book! I like to see a charmer get knocked off his feet by a self-assured woman). He’s a bottled-up guy with a tendency to be rough. My first thought was, this guy’s a Dom, or at least a bit kinky. But I pulled back a little on that because again it’s 1879, and men treated women like helpless pets who need to be cared for and scolded when misbehaving. It gives the novel that edge that keeps you wondering. And then there’s the mysterious death (or more??) surrounding him. It will be interesting to see what others thought about him.

There are a lot of other characters that I loved and loved to hate. I can’t wait to see how some of them figure into the story in books 2-4. They are the ones that make you feel like this could totally be a movie.
The story/The sex/Overall: Confirmation that Curvy Girl wasn’t a fluke: Sierra Simone knows how to write a sex scene! She has the right mix of sensation, emotion, and physical description to keep you reading and interested. I never once had to go back and wonder if I missed something. Even in the (view spoiler). This is how a romance novel should read.

And again like Curvy Girl, there’s real story outside of the sex scenes. This is definitely a romantic suspense. There’s shadowy Markham, mysterious death, lots of gossip, police investigations. And not just thrown together with a predictable ending, either. I am still trying to figure out some things that I know will not reveal themselves until Book 4. And while you get an HFN—which is a must for a romance novel—you know there’s more to the story and you want to read on. All of the series is on my TBR list.


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Friday Fun Review of “Misadventures of a Curvy Girl”

To view the spoiler content, head to Goodreads. 


Misadventures of a Curvy GirlMisadventures of a Curvy Girl by Sierra Simone
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, can it be I just starred this and went on my merry way? I was all in my feelings about this one!

The premise: Ireland heads out from the city to rural Kansas to take some photos for a KS Chamber of Commerce promo campaign. She meets Caleb and Ben, roommates who are attracted to her and want more than just to help her get some photos… Oh, and did I mention that Ireland is plus-sized?

The characters: I love Ireland! She is multifaceted, emotional, spontaneous, loves who she is (even while she is insecure about how others feel), and isn’t afraid to flaunt. As a plus-sized woman myself, she speaks to me as a woman who is comfortable in her own skin, but super aware of how she thinks others perceive her. Not all curvy women are either super-accepting, or super-insecure about their bodies. For 90% of us it’s a journey, and it’s constantly being affected by what we are taught, our environments, and our own self-acceptance. I like that we’re catching her kind of in the middle of that and that (view spoiler).

The first hero we meet is Caleb, all-American nice guy farmer with an emotional side. I absolutely loved him at first. I also kind of didn’t like Ben at first, either.

Ben’s ex-military, PTSD, somewhat of a Dom attitude (this is NOT BDSM, his tendencies just remind me of some Dom tendencies). But then Sierra Simone gave Ben his first chapter in his voice. And I fell in love with Ben more than Caleb. So even though this is not a triangle, I was #TeamBen. He’s messy and commanding, and messed up, and loveable all at the same time. That’s attractive to me. Caleb’s more of a puppy dog–cute and cuddly, and understanding. Put them together and you’ve got the perfect guy.

The Plot (aka The Sex): So, I came to this title (or was reminded about this title) after I went to a writing workshop where the presenter (author Naima Simone) mentioned that “Sierra Simone knows how to write a sex scene!” I’m always looking for someone who really knows what they’re doing when it comes to a sex scene, because I always feel like I need help in this area of my writing (I do a lot of fade-to-black, and that’s part of the reason). When I found out Sierra wrote this book, I remembered it was on my TBR list. Fate. I had to read it.
After a few chapters where I was seriously uncomfy at my desk at the office (in a very public place with a lot of dudes), I posted on Insta, “Do Not attempt to read this at work. You will burst into flames and catch your desk on fire.” It is that hot. Some people were disappointed there was no M/M sex, but I’m glad there wasn’t. I wanted everything–especially the sex–to be about affirming Ireland. And they did. A lot. Um yeah.

What I wasn’t expecting was the rest of the story being so wonderful. It wasn’t just a pause between moments of sex, it was a full story. And not just for Ireland and her weight concerns. We saw an arc for Ben, we saw the town characters, we saw how people deal with intolerance. It made you cry and laugh and feel sexy and satisfied. And I had high expectations going in. This surpassed them.

Preferences/Reservations/Overall: My one sticking point is the “throuple” but I want to make it clear, this is MY issue NOT the author or the story (hence the 5 stars). If you read the blurb, it is clear this romance is a threesome and not a love triangle. I knew that going in. I guess because I immediately identified with Ireland, I was disappointed in the fact that this is the relationship she ended up with. Why? Because it’s not a conventional coupling. I’m okay with a throuple in general, but here, I wanted to show that yes, even a plus-sized woman can have the relationship that the magazines and the TV shows talk about: the rich tall buff guy doesn’t always have to get the skinny, movie-star gorgeous girl. Sometimes that guy wants the voluptuous chick with the streak of purple hair. I got over myself for Ireland, Caleb, and Ben, because this works here. But I still think even more envelope-pushing in our society would be to have a Rebel Wilson-type end up with a Chris Hemsworth-type in a penthouse in Manhattan. A throuple would be reasoned away “as something weird, anyway.” Again, just me.
Overall– this was a scorcher romance that spoke to me on so many levels! It checks all the boxes. Made me sing some Drake afterwards.

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