books

Talia Hibbert

Books

Just for Him: Bad for the Boss (2017), Undone by the Ex-Con (2018),Sweet on the Greek (2018), Work for It (2019)

Ravenswood: A Girl Like Her (2018), Damaged Goods (2018), Untouchable (2018), That Kind of Guy (2019)

The Brown Sisters: Get a Life, Chloe Brown (2019), Take a Hint, Dani Brown (2020)

Short Stories: Merry Inkmas (2017), Mating the Huntress (2018)


Ravenswood


A Girl Like Her (2018)

The nice thing about romance series is that it’s really ok to read them out of order, since you know you’re getting a HEA and there are only small details to possibly spoil, not the outcome.

I read the third book, and decided I really wanted to read the first, because the heroine is on the autism spectrum AND is a woman of color.

I’m positive I’ve never come across that combination anywhere before, so I had to read more.

Ruth Kabbah loves comic books and hates dealing with people. So writing a web comic is perfect, since it means she doesn’t have to leave the house if she doesn’t want to.

Which she really doesn’t want to, since she garnered quite a reputation for herself.

Evan left the army and found a job as a metal-smith in Ravenswood. His immediate supervisor is a jackass, but he likes his co-worker Zack, and he is intrigued by his new neighbor.

Here’s the second reason why you should read this book.

It was a lot of fun to write a main character with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, as someone with ASD myself. I hope that my neuroatypical readers find in Ruth the sort of representation we rarely get: an autistic character with a personality and a life, rather than an animated stereotype.

The first is that it’s a good story, full of secrets and reveals but without stupid misunderstandings.

First, I really like Evan.

It made Evan uncomfortable, when people thought they ‘owed’ him. He didn’t do the right thing for credit. He did it because he had to.

Second, Ruth is the only character I’ve read about who is as clumsy as I am.

Now she didn’t know if she should laugh or gasp. She compromised by choking on her own spit.

Done that.

She rolled her eyes and picked up the mugs. He deftly took them from her and carried them into the living room, as if she wasn’t capable of handling it herself. True, she usually spilled tea everywhere. But her balance would never get better if she didn’t practice.

Oh yes. Totally me.

She wasn’t graceful. She was, in fact, the opposite of graceful. He worried for her safety once every five seconds at least. When she poured half of the hot water onto the counter, he was only surprised that she didn’t scald herself in the process.

Also me.

This is a boinking book, just so you know. But the characters are so lovely it didn’t bother me at all. Especially since it talks about consent and periods and how we have fat rolls when we sit and all kinds of stuff.

Publisher: Nixon House
Rating: 8/10

Damaged Goods (2018)

Laura Burne is married to an abusive bastard. So she’s left him, and planning to have her child on her own, to keep The Bump safe, and has returned to the place she felt safe and happy as a teenager: Beesley-On-Sea.

Samir Bianchi has remained where he grew up (even if his twin has joined the military and moved away) and after the timely death of his parents, bought the town’s cafe and is making a good life for himself, around people he can actually trust.

Samir is lovely.

“Just so you know,” Samir said, “I meant that in a good way. You know, like, well done! There’s a baby in there! Sharing your oxygen! You look great.”

She was pregnant, and pregnant people were like the Pope, right? You had to treat them with total respect, even in your own head, just in case God was watching.

No. Seriously. He is awesome. I adored him from the get-go.

Laura I was a little less sure of, because she was kinda terrible in A Girl Like Her, but she got better, and was trying every day to BE better, and I love me a good redemption arc.

Her brain was fuzzy. He pulled her onto her back, and she flopped over like a doll. Kept her eyes closed, too. Overwhelming despair was starting to fade, which allowed room for other emotions, like embarrassment, to creep in. But as long as she closed her eyes, and couldn’t see him, she could pretend that he couldn’t see her. Right? Wasn’t that how things worked?

Also, I have totally done that. If I don’t open my eyes, this isn’t happening, so I’m just going to remain still and perhaps no one will notice me.

This novella was lovely, and you should totally read it. Even if it does have boinking.

Publisher: Nixon House
Rating: 8/10

Untouchable (2018) 

Hannah made a huge mistake several years ago, which cost her a career and child care. Since then she’s been working minimum wage jobs and hating her life. But when a guy she grew up with needs a nanny, his brother recommends Hannah.

“So, just to be clear,” she said slowly, “you are not concerned by my numerous criminal convictions.”

“Nah. I’m used to having a convicted criminal in the house.”

“You… are?”

“Yeah.” He leaned in close, his expression conspiratorial, and she couldn’t help it— she leaned in too. Then he whispered, “It’s me.”

I was extremely reluctant to read this book initially. I really disliked the idea of a guy seducing his nanny, but I was a bit reassured by the fact that the two had gone to elementary and high school together, and each had a crush on the other during their teen years. So the feelings pre-dated her becoming his nanny.

Also, Nate is really really concerned about the power dynamics of any relationship.

“The problem,” Nate said slowly, as if making sure she understood, “is that you work for me.”

“Oh,” she said. “Well, yes. I knew that.” I just somehow didn’t consider it at all, because I was far too preoccupied with pre-teen anxiety about who does and does not like me. Wonderful.

The two characters really are wonderful together, and I am definitely good with their relationship–especially since Hannah is the one who insists on hiding their relationship from her friends.

Another thing I’d like to note is that she did an excellent job with the kids.

“Guys,” Nate sighed, looking up from his coffee. “No arguing before 8 a.m. please.”

Josh apparently took that as a challenge. “But the sun,” he growled, “is yellow!”

“It is not!” Beth snapped. “Because I saw a picture of the sun on the board yesterday, and Mrs. Clarke said astronauts took it, and the sun was on fire and it was orange!”

“I HAVE SEEN THE SUN,” Josh bellowed, “AND IT IS YELLOW!”

First, the siblings act like real kids–arguing one second and then being best friends another. Second, they actually sound like kids, which doesn’t always happen. (I love Faith Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock series, but the kids NEVER sound like the age they are supposed to be.)

ALSO, Hannah suffers from depression, and is quite open about it.

“I had a therapist. I learned things. I force myself to remember those things. It works out okay.”

“So, you don’t struggle? You never slip?”

Although it pained her to admit it, she refused to lie. Not about this. “I do. I do slip.” Even when everything was fine, when she should be great, unease stalked her like a predator. Because she knew that at any moment, things might change. Her own fucking brain chemistry, the traitor, might drag her out of her body again.

Oh yes. That would be how it goes.

Also, the story is just fun.

“You look like— have you ever read those books about Hades and Persephone where Hades is inexplicably hot and… okay, you know what? You have definitely never read one of those books.”

It’s a lovely story, and I highly recommend it.

Publisher: Nixon House
Rating: 8/10

That Kind of Guy (2019)

Zack has lived his life in Ravenswood, and has earned his reputation as a slut. But after his mother’s illness, and his subsequent depression, he’s been reevaluating his life–including why he had so many sexual encounters he didn’t actually want.

(N)ecessity was the mother of every skill Zach had. Growing up poor with a busy single parent and a missing older brother had led him to learn a lot of practical shit at a very young age. The hard way. And those skills had never been allowed to fade, because once someone identified you as useful, they’d always be around to… well, use you.

Rae moved to Ravenswood after her divorce, and has enjoyed becoming someone on her own.

Most of the time, she hated being stared at— but here in Ravenswood, where she had some wild, Cruella de Vil reputation built off rubbish and assumptions? It was hilarious. It felt like a game. It felt like being a protagonist. Here, she enjoyed being outrageous.

Now, Rae has to go to a convention where her ex-husband and his new wife will be.

“And everyone will look at me like I’m a big, sad, abandoned sack of poop. I’ll feel awkward and defensive and I’ll hate myself for letting him ruin my weekend. I can already see it happening. I’m already pissed in advance.”

So Zack agrees to go as her fake boyfriend.

“I checked the website,” he said calmly.

“You did?”

“I did.” He opened the folder. “And then I printed it out and highlighted all the shit we should go to. There’s a colour-coding system, if you’re into that. Actually, never mind. I know for a fact you’re not into that.” He thrust the folder at her. “Go wild.”

She flicked through the pages and said faintly, “It looks like you already did.”

He’s adorable.

This story is an LGBTQ story–Zack is demisexual (gray ace) and he has been unable to talk to anyone about it, feeling like no one will understand, what with his history of pleasing all the women all the time.

Rae’s story is seemingly straight-forward, since she is divorced because her husband cheated on her, but she has a complicated past with her mother, which shaped her relationship with her ex-husband, and is why she has trouble trusting.

This is not what love feels like. It doesn’t hurt nearly enough.

Another plus for this story: Neither Rae nor Zack wants kids, and both are good with it.

She wrinkled her nose. “You may find this hard to believe, but I am a woman who does not regret being childless.”

This is a lovely story, and although it is the third in the series, and there were undercurrents of things I was missing, it was lovely, and I can recommend it, especially if you are looking for stories with diverse characters.

Publisher: Nixon House
Rating: 8/10


Just for Him


Bad for the Boss (2017)

Jennifer Johnson was orphaned at 11, when both her parents were murdered. She the lived with her grandmother who spent years trying to put Jen back together. Now it’s Jen’s turn and she needs the job at Brown Cow advertising agency to give her grandmother the care she needs.

Theodore Chamberlain is a multi-millionaire and one of the bosses at Brown Cow. An unexpected email from a new employee piques his curiosity and protective instincts–and quickly his lust.

experience taught him that she probably wouldn’t contact HR. Most women were far too anxious about possible repercussions to do that, and considering the way the world worked, Theo understood the reluctance.

I’ll be honest, I really don’t care for relationships with such a large imbalance of power–even if Theo was trying to make things more even between them. It just makes me super uncomfortable. I also generally don’t like books about billionaires and the super rich

That said, I still devoured this book. I believe it was one of Talia Hibbert’s first books, which is pretty amazing.

Also, Theo does manage to not be a creep in other situations, which helped (along with the knowledge that this was one of her first books).

He turned to his right and found a group of sober-ish women. “Excuse me; I don’t know this girl, but I think someone needs to look after her.”

The women blinked at him, then at the girl, and then, as though choreographed, they smiled all at once.

“Hey, honey,” one said, reaching forward to grab the girl’s hand. “You come over here with us. Who are you with? Do you have a phone?”

Somehow, she couldn’t ever see herself needing protection from him. Maybe because of the fact that he’d bothered to offer it.

There were elements of suspense–discovering Jen’s past is a big one–and I was glad that Theo had somewhat resolved the imbalance (with money mind you) before The Thing happened.

I particularly liked that neither character was white, and that diversity was simply part of the story, because it’s part of the world. (Not that you could really tell from the cover of this book, mind you, because even without the top of his head, that male model looks super white.)

So it was a good story, and I’m already devouring the next book.

Publisher: Nixon House
Rating: 6.5/10

Undone by the Ex-Con (2018) 

Isaac Montgomery went to jail for murder, and when he got out wrote a book that made him a millionaire. But something is hinky with his publisher, and he needs to know what it is.

Well. Isaac’s soul could never be washed clean. But he was filthy fucking rich and over the course of the last three years, he’d confirmed what he’d always suspected: money could buy happiness. Or safety, at least, which was close enough.

Lizzie Olusegun-Keynes was a dancer and lived for dancing until her body turned traitor. Her diagnosis of diabetes turned out to be something she couldn’t control through strength of will alone, and so she takes a job as a private dance teacher as she tries to rebuild herself.

Mother would be horrified at the appearance of stretch marks on her daughter’s once-tiny hips— but Lizzie found her plumpness… Satisfying. At least she liked something about herself these days, even if it was shallow. How refreshing it felt to let her body exist without conforming to anyone else’s standards— functional or aesthetic.

I started reading this series because I read and loved Work for It, which is Lizzy’s brother’s story. Because the events that lead Olu to that story occurred in this book.

The three girls are the lynchpin for making me like the main characters. Lizzie is rude to Isaac out of the box, and Isaac isn’t a whole lot nicer to her, but both are kind to and protective of the three teens, so we can see through their actions what we miss in their words.

What I liked best was just how much Olu loved Lizzy.

He came to sit beside her, scratching the back of his neck awkwardly. “I did Google— you know. Diabetes, and what have you. I’m just not sure I’ve wrapped my head around it yet. But I will!”

“You don’t need to,” she said quietly. “I have everything under control.”

“And I’m your brother,” he said, his voice censorious. “We’re in this together. You know as well as I do that control can be a heavy burden. So you’ll share it, and I’ll help. Okay?”

Not that I didn’t like Isaac, because I did. He is presented as a thug, but the more you learn about him, the more clear it becomes he’s anything but a thug. He has a reputation to keep up, because that’s how he survived where he grew up, but he isn’t a thug–and wasn’t truly ever one.

One thing I especially liked was when Isaac was telling Lizzy about growing up, about how he got into crime in the first place. That’s not the first or even second time I’ve heard those reasons, and they break my heart every time.

The other scene that broke my heard was when Olu and Lizzy went to talk to their parents. It was hard not to cry.

It’s a lovely story.

Publisher: Nixon House
Rating: 8.5/10

Sweet on the Greek (2018)

Aria has spend several months working with Keynes to make their best friends’ wedding absolutely perfect. After all, Aria’s boyfriend tried to kill Jennifer.

Nikolas Christou’s knee injury means he has to quit one of the only things he’s ever been good at–football. He wants to do something with himself other than be a playboy, but he doesn’t know what to do–until he sets eyes on Aria.

First, this book is very much a kissing book and Aria’s first meeting with Nik sets the tone for the rest of the book.

Nik’s solution, which was to lock eyes with the tattooed woman and say, “Can I kiss you?”

Her brows shot up. “Me?”

“Yes.”

“Now?”

“Yes.” When she didn’t answer, he turned to Keynes. “Or you. If you’re into that.” He knew very well that Keynes was into that, but the woman beside him might not.

Keynes gave him a slow, catlike smile. “I certainly am.” He stepped forward, hooked an arm around Nik’s shoulders, and kissed him.

The thing that’s important to keep in mind here is that Aria was really fucked up by Jen’s kidnapping.

“I felt like every guy was hiding some dangerous side to their personality, and I was too desperate for affection to figure it out—”

She was also messed up from her parents, but watching while Jen could have been killed led her to doubt everything about herself.

Although there was a lot of sex here, but was still a sweet story, and very positive and also very much about made family and accepting those you love for who they are.

Publisher: Nixon House
Rating: 8/10

Work for It (2019)

The story begins with Olu, who is pretty clearly damaged, and doesn’t know how to fix himself. After a failed pick-up, he decides to run off for awhile.

I can’t remember what it’s like to be happy.

It’s not as though I didn’t see this coming. I have been slightly… distant all my life, so these recent changes are a natural escalation. I don’t feel the things I used to, can’t catch the cold echoes of emotion I was raised on or the flashes of intensity I used to hunt down and leech like a vampire. Which means it’s finally happened; after thirty-eight years of fighting it, I have become an alien species.

Then we meet Griff, who manages the local farm and helps create the cordials that have put the farm on the map in recent years. Griff has always been seen as an outcast–first for not having a father and then for growing into a giant, and finally for the death of his mother.

Live now, Griff, not in the past or future. It’s no use being a phantom citizen of the present.

Griff and Olu meet and things go badly, and then it’s worse when Olu shows up at the farm.

If the story didn’t open with Olu, I probably would have abandoned it. Because Olu is pretty harsh to Griff, who already has enough problems of his own. But then Griff at least has Bex, who looks out for him when no one else does.

Olu has a sister he does his best to protect, so he fears letting her know what is happening in his life.

and yes, I have a pregnancy journal, and no, I don’t think I’m overdoing it. My sister is diabetic. I am keeping an eye on this.

That protectiveness makes it absolutely clear that Olu isn’t bad, he’s just very broken.

There is a LOT of angst in this story. And a lot of terrible history that has hurt both Griff and Olu, which meant I was really rooting for BOTH of them to start to put their demons in the past and live for themselves and stand up for themselves.

It also means that once they start to get past their pasts, it’s beautiful and lovely and really damned happy.

Publisher: Nixon House
Rating: 8.5/10

Re-Read: March 2020
Rating: 8.5/10


The Brown Sisters


Get a Life, Chloe Brown (2019)

Get a Life Chloe BrownChloe Brown has been all but a recluse because of her chronic illness. But a near-death experience convinces her she needs to change things up: so she makes a list.

“Excuse me, universe,” she whispered to the kitchen floor. “When you almost murdered me today— which was rather brutal, by the way, but I can respect that— were you trying to tell me something?”

The universe, very enigmatically, did not respond.

The first item she checks off her list is to move out of her family home, and it’s there she finds Red Morgan, supe of her flat, and the immediately… rub each other the wrong way.

Chloe didn’t do well around people like him; confident people, beautiful people, those who smiled easily and were liked by everyone and felt comfortable in their own skin. They reminded her of all the things she wasn’t and all the loved ones who’d left her behind.

But when Chloe decides to rescue a cat, they decide maybe they were wrong about each other.

“You like to research everything,” he guessed. “No; you like to know everything. You’re one of those ‘knowledge is power’ people.”

“Knowledge is power,” she shot back.

“I bet you were a massive teacher’s pet at school.” He was grinning. Hard.

“I bet you were an aimless slacker,” she said archly.

“I bet you always file your taxes on time.”

She was clearly scandalized. “Who doesn’t file their taxes on time?”

Maybe.

What did I love about this story? Chloe’s family, for starters.

“You sound,” Gigi murmured, “as though you are telling fibs.”

How could she tell? She could always tell. It must be a grandmotherly superpower. “We’ll talk about this later,” Chloe squeaked. “Got to dash love you bye!”

“Who does all this food prep?” he asked, popping up from the fridge door with far too many boxes balanced in his arms…

“Eve.”

“The rainbow girl? Really? She’s  .  .  .” He put the boxes down and waved his hand in a way that conveyed Eve’s chaotic vibe perfectly.

Also, I loved that Red had supportive friends (even though he’d walked away from most of the people he knew when he was trying to make it as an artist).

I didn’t love all the boinking, but that’s a given, really.

The only other thing I took some issue with was the final Big Misunderstanding. Not that they had a Big Misunderstanding (after all, both had issues they need to deal with) but that Red was the one who had to make it up to Chloe. To me, it felt like they both had things to apologize for, and it felt any groveling should have been mutual, rather than one-sided.

But that’s a pretty small part considering how quickly I tore through the book.

Also: This cover. THIS COVER!

Chloe was not petite. She was on the taller side, big boned, and well insulated for the winter.

It’s AMAZING! The woman on the front LOOKS LIKE CHLOE IS DESCRIBED.

Publisher: Avon
Rating: 8/10

Take a Hint, Dani Brown (2020)

Take a Hint, Dani BrownTwo books in a row that were very much Not My Thing.

This is the second story about the Brown sisters, and we do briefly see Chloe, but mostly it’s Dani and Zaf.

Dani is focused on getting her doctorate, and isn’t interested in any other kind of work–especially the work of a relationship.

Zaf is a security guard who was once a rugby player, but he quite after his father and brother were killed in an automobile accident and his grief spiraled out of control.

Yes, he was paranoid about safety, and no, he didn’t give a fuck. Maybe if everyone was paranoid about safety, his dad and big brother wouldn’t have died in a car accident seven years ago.

Now he dedicates himself to Tackle It, the youth rugby group he founded that helps young men learn to deal with their feelings and emotions and fight toxic masculinity.

Also, he reads and listens to romance novels.

No spoilers.”

“Except for the happy ending.”

He laughed. “That’s not a spoiler. That’s a safety net.”

I adore Zaf.

The thing about mental health was, you couldn’t take a course of antibiotics and be magically healed. Some people’s brains just thought too much or felt too much or hurt too much, and you had to stay on top of that.

It’s not that I dislike Dani, it’s just that I am not built to understand the way she looks at sex, and she spent a LOT of time talking and thinking about sex.

So it was an another frustrating read for me, from an author I adore.

And again, the issue lies with me, not with the story.

Publisher: Avon


Short Stories


Merry Inkmas (2017)

Merry InkmasBailey Cooper is working her way through school as a barrista, and the highlight of recent weeks has been the hot guy who comes in to order coffee and flirt with her.

Cash Evans has been watching Bailey for months–wanting what he can’t have and doesn’t deserve.

And now she was here, and her dickhead boss was giving her that smug Got you look, and John was getting up to leave with utter embarrassment on his face, and she was not fucking having it.

“Fine,” she spat. “I’ll go, then. Wait for me, John.”

He looked over at her, something warm dawning in his eyes like the sunrise.

“What?!” Michael spluttered. “Do you understand what I’m saying, Bailey? I will sack you!”

“No you won’t,” Bailey said confidently, throwing off her little half-apron. “Because I quit.”

But once he gets close–he’s not sure he can keep his hands off her.

Not only is Bailey adorably geeky and smart, but Cash is seriously damaged goods, which: catnip!

But did I mention geeky?

He turned it over to skim the blurb. “What’s it about?”

“Demi-God twins. One of them has magic, the other one doesn’t. The one without magic is being chased by a murderous spirit. And her sister is dating Jimi Hendrix’s guitar.” Jay didn’t bat an eyelid. “It’s set in Canada,” she added.

“It’s set in Canada” totally cracks me up.

I’m working my way through Talia Hibber’s backlist, but I think she may now be an autobuy, because, MAN an she write characters, and scenes that stick in my brain.

I mean, one of the early scenes in Sweet on the Greek–where Aria first meets Nik–remains stuck in my mind lo these months later.

But her stories also tend to be about people rebuilding themselves, which is always a favorite.

Her mother had always said that one thing everyone could do to ease another’s pain was to acknowledge it.

So, I heartily recommend.

Publisher: Nixon House
Rating: 8/10

Mating the Huntress (2018)

Mating the HuntressLuke Anthony is a werewolf.

Chastity Adofo comes from a family of Huntresses, although she herself is forbidden to hunt.

twenty-five years ago, on the day of Chastity’s birth, some batty old oracle had rocked up to the delivery room and told her parents— in typically dramatic fashion— that if Chastity ever became a huntress, her first kill would rip out her own heart.

But when a werewolf keeps visiting her family’s coffeeshop, she decides she’ll take care of him herself.

Unfortunately, Luke is also hunting for her–as his mate.

Just the other day, he’d Googled How to ask a woman out without making her fear for her life— but the results hadn’t been particularly helpful.

This is a cute story, but it wasn’t really my jam. The characters were good, the story was interesting, but it was very much about boinking, first and foremost.

Publisher: Nixon House
Rating: 7/10