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Currently Browsing: contemporary romance
Nov
20

Review: Most Eligible Bastard by Annika Martin

Review: Most Eligible Bastard by Annika Martin Most Eligible Bastard Author: Annika Martin Reviewer: Jen Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Vicky works hard to provide for her sister and keep their modest life running smoothly, even when it means pretending to be a dog whisperer for the unpleasant and lonely Bernadette Locke. However, when Bernadette passes away leaving her fortune to her dog Smuckers, and Vicky as his regent, Bernadette’s son Henry accuses Vicky of being a con artist. Although Vicky never asked for any of it, she’s not going to let this sexy, rich man push her around. Let the games begin… Although billed as a romantic comedy, Most Eligible Bastard isn’t light and fluffy. Ms. Martin has a dark, wicked sense of humor that I love, but it may not be for everyone. The humor in the book is off beat, silly, sarcastic, and naughty. I love it! And considering Vicky’s past-the issues she’s had to overcome, there is dark in this story as well. While primarily a romance, there is much more going on in the story. I enjoy how the author gives bits and pieces of what happened to Vicky as a teen. Putting together the parts one at a time adds a bit of heightened tension to the read. I know something awful happened, and that history is somehow repeating itself, but without knowing the whole picture, it put me on edge. And honestly, the opening third of the book took me outside my comfort zone. I struggle with stories where a person telling the truth is railroaded into looking like they lied. When the victim becomes the bad guy. The injustice hurts something deep inside me. And this story has it two-fold. First in the back flashes and memories, but also in present day as things are repeating themselves. However, I realized that somewhere along the way, the maddening panic I felt because of the injustice went away because Henry started believing in Vicky. The story was no longer about her fighting for innocence, rather it becomes about Vicky and Henry getting to know each other and finding happiness with one another. Vicky and Henry make the perfect, unlikely couple: kind of like Richard Gere and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Henry and Vicky are different sides of the same coin. Henry doesn’t recognize that he has a gapping hole in his life, while Vicky knows exactly what’s missing from her life. I enjoy how the pair grow and...
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Nov
17

Blog Tour + Review: Citywide by Santino Hassell

Blog Tour + Review: Citywide by Santino Hassell Citywide Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: “For everyone who couldn’t get enough of Jaiden and the Queens Crew. This anthology is for you!” This introduction by the author very neatly sums up everything most fans of the Five Boroughs series need to know about Citywide. Fascinating, complex, and impossible to overlook, these originally supporting characters’ voices resonated so strongly throughout the previous stories that the notion of the series without them has become unimaginable. So, it was with an inordinate fondness and eagerness that I began reading Citywide, and ended up caring even more deeply for each and every one of them by its end. “Rerouted” As previously noted, Chris, Jace, and Aiden have been favorites of mine since they first appeared in the series, and theirs was the story in the collection I was looking forward to the most. Chris has illuminated every scene he’s been in, while Aiden and Jace have always made me crave to learn anything about them that I could. Serving as both introduction and HEA, “Rerouted” exceeded all my expectations, starting Citywide off with as hopeful a beginning as I could have wished for. “Gridlocked” Tough, judicious, and fiercely loyal, Tonya has likewise commanded my interest whenever she’s appeared in the Five Boroughs stories. While she could have been cast solely as the Queens Crew’s walking reality check, it was always evident that she was much more. As the outrageous—though equally devoted—heiress and sidekick, Meredith has evolved quite a bit since her first appearance, and made a more compelling match for Tonya in Citywide than I initially expected. While I imagined I’d enjoy “Gridlocked” primarily for the chance to get to know Tonya better, I was both surprised and very happy that the pair got the new start they did. “Derailed” As the only one of these novellas that focuses exclusively on two of the original members of the Queens Crew, “Derailed” was the most difficult for me to read. The history Stephanie and Angel share is complicated, even taking into account the intimacy of their larger group, and the battleground they’ve taken up residence on for so long is downright brutal. They know each other far too well for their story to be either sweet or pretty, and it occurred to me at the halfway point that a glass of wine or three would have been welcome. Jagged and sometimes devastating, their HEA seemed the most...
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Nov
15

Review: Sweet Tea and Sympathy by Molly Harper

Review: Sweet Tea and Sympathy by Molly Harper Sweet Tea and Sympathy Author: Molly Harper Reviewer: Jen Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Margot Cary’s life just fell apart. Hoping for a partnership with the elite event planning firm she’s given ten years of her life to, Margot finds herself fired and blackballed after an event for the upper crust of Chicago implodes with dramatic flare. Her only option for help is her estranged birth father’s family back in Lake Sackett, Georgia. Margot’s mom left Lake Sackett and her first husband behind when Margot was three. She remarried and her step-dad adopted Margot when she was four. Margot knows nothing about her biological father’s family. Sweet Tea and Sympathy is everything I hoped for in Ms. Harper’s new Southern Eclectic series. On the “woman’s fiction” side of contemporary romance, the book is first and foremost the coming-of-age tale of Margot. Having lived under the constraints of her mother and step-father for years, Margot doesn’t know how to relate to her southern relatives. Moving to Georgia allows Margot to blossom and grow in ways she never would have expected. The story works because Margot doesn’t show up in Lake Sackett looking down her nose at her southern relatives. She has questions and harbors hurts, but she doesn’t let those prevent her from swallowing her pride and taking up Aunt Tootie’s offer for help. She doesn’t let stereotypes and small town politics keep her from getting to know her family, and realizing she genuinely enjoys being around them. While she’s used to upper-crust, she doesn’t complain about her living quarters or jobs. It all works because deep down, Margot is a beautiful, caring person, with a bit of an edge and a lot of snark. She takes each day as it comes, and although she’s working hard to get out of Sackett, she doesn’t resent the need to be there. Sweet Tea and Sympathy is also a slow burn, sweet romance. She does find a hot widowed dad, which raises some eyebrows when she’s seen in Kyle’s presence. While the lovin’ is not the major focus of the book, the romance is a huge part of who Margot becomes. I love their sweet walks and sexy kisses, but mostly it’s their honest friendship that makes it all work. In the end, I found myself utterly engrossed in Sweet Tea and Sympathy. The story is a gentle romance, but also Margot’s story of finding herself. I laughed out loud in...
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Nov
13

Review: Cherish Hard by Nalini Singh

Review: Cherish Hard by Nalini Singh Cherish Hard Author: Nalini Singh Reviewer: Jen Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: Seven years ago, Sailor witnessed a beautiful girl being dumped by her jerk boyfriend, but she ran out before he could get her name. He was enchanted by her beauty right then. Present day… Sailor works hard to get his fledgling landscaping company off the ground. He’s taken by surprise when he sees the woman who has been haunting his dreams for seven years. He’s even more shocked when he discovers they will be working together, closely. Ísa is working to provide a stable home base for her siblings because her “Dragon” mother spends her focus and energy on her business empire. Ísa’s mother manipulates her into working for the family company for the summer where she is to oversee the development of a new business venture, and the sexy landscaper who is integral to the designs. Overall, I liked Cherish Hard. I found the second half of the book highly entertaining and enjoyed Sailor and Ísa’s romance. However, the first half of the book didn’t flow smoothly for me. There were starts and stops. The pace was slow, and I didn’t feel a strong connection to the characters or storyline. I felt the story was going in too many directions – with Ísa’s own life (which is crazy), her best friend, the ex, her teaching job, her mom… It was hard to keep it straight. Plus Ísa was SOOOO wishy washy about her desires and feelings. It was hard to get behind her when I never was certain which direction she was going. The second half was MUCH better than the first half. It almost felt like two different books.  Overall, the story worked much better – Ísa and Sailor spent time talking to one another, time together. We got to see their friendship blossom. There was genuine emotion and a much streamlined story. I loved the pair together and how they wanted to fight for each other. In the end, I enjoyed reading Cherish Hard and continue to look forward to more books set in this wonderful world. I’m guessing the next books will take place several years ahead, as at this point, Sailor’s brothers are too young for their own HEAs. (This book should be considered a prequel to Rock Hard, Rock Kiss series #2). Now that the world is set, I have a feeling the series will only get better from here....
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Nov
13

Review: The Right Kind of Reckless by Heather Van Fleet

Review: The Right Kind of Reckless by Heather Van Fleet The Right Kind of Reckless Author: Heather Van Fleet  Reviewer: Nima Rating: B What I’m Talking About: The Right Kind of Reckless is book two in the Reckless Hearts series about best friends and ex-Marines Max, Collin, and Gavin. The first book focused on Collin. The Right Kind of Reckless is the love story of Max and Collin’s little sister Lia.  Max and Lia are star-crossed lovers, in love with each other, but unable and unwilling to tell the other because of extenuating circumstances. Did I buy the extenuating circumstances?  Mostly.  I have a habit of expecting adults to behave like adults, but the truth is they often don’t—especially when they’re carrying around emotional baggage.  Max and Lia are also on the younger, post college side of their mid-20’s. I didn’t especially like Lia.  She used to be the definition of a “good girl.”  There was some kind of serious incident in college which we can guess at, but no specific label was given, and we don’t get much detail around those years of her life. (I did not read the first book so I don’t know if the detail was there.) From what I can tell, she still is a good girl at heart, but she’s found new confidence to deal with her baggage by completely changing her persona and the way she dresses.  It never seemed to fit her no matter how hot Max thought it was.  To me, it felt like she was playing dress up. Max, tries to do the right thing by not acting on his feelings for Lia, out of respect for his relationship with Collin.  But his method for doing this is to become a manwhore.  Numbing? Yes.  Respectful? Not especially.  Max is a little lost and has some maturing to do. Still, we admire his willingness to come to Lia’s aid at the drop of a hat. What I actually liked best about the story was that most of the book was not spent trying to get them together, but how to make it work. From immature beginnings, it’s a mature place to end up. There were a few clichés along the way and rubbed me the wrong way, but not enough to put the book down. Overall, I liked it. My Rating:  B, Liked It About the Book: Maxwell Martinez I’m in love with a woman I can’t have, and there’s absolutely nothing I can do to stop myself from...
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Nov
9

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Shooting for the Stars by Sarina Bowen

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Shooting for the Stars by Sarina Bowen Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: Shooting for the Stars Author: Sarina Bowen Narrators: Tanya Eby, Aiden Snow Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Gravity #3 Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: Blunder Woman Productions Stella Lazarus has loved her big brother’s best friend ever since she can remember. Stella tried to show Bear how she felt years ago, but he brushed her off. So she has to be satisfied with just being good friends. Bear thinks Stella is the sexiest woman alive, but she’s his best friend’s little sister, which means she’s off limits, and it has taken every ounce of will power to keep her at arms length. But when the pair find themselves alone in an upscale hotel room after a few drinks and good food, neither Stella nor Bear can say no to the years of denied attraction. Stella and Bear share an amazing, fantasy-fulfilling night together, but it all comes to a quick end when Bear freaks out about breaking the bro-code and not being good enough for Stella, coupled with Stella’s brother’s career-ending accident. Shooting for the Stars opens just before the start of the second Gravity book, Falling From the Sky and Hank’s horrific accident. The book then jumps ten months, keeping it on pace with the timing of Falling from the Sky. Although there is a lot of overlap in the timing of books #2 and #3, the story is completely different, with Hank playing a minor roll in this title. Stella and Bear are best friends who are perfect for one another, but something always prevents it from happening. Mostly it’s on Bear – he’s afraid to open up and face his feelings head on. When they are together – whether as friends, potential lovers, or awkward and unsure companions – they capture my attention. Both carry around so much baggage and pain, love and hope; their interactions are emotionally fulfilling. However, much of the first half of the book is spent in lengthy flashbacks, and the dynamic of the budding romance stumbles during these interludes. I appreciate knowing more of their history, but at the same time, the author established their deep connection early (starting some in the second book), so jumping to the past pulled me out of the present. Additionally, during much of the middle of the book, the pair avoids each another. But then, Bear starts making his movie and the couple are forced to spend time...
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Nov
8

Review: Skin Hunger by Eli Lang

Review: Skin Hunger by Eli Lang Skin Hunger Author: Eli Lang Reviewer: B. Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: I liked Ava a lot in the first novel in the series, Escaping Indigo, so I was eager to find out more about her in Skin Hunger. At twenty-eight, Ava’s finally shaped her life into something she truly loves—for the most part. She’s the drummer in a successful band with her best friend and owns a house she’s proud of in a city she enjoys. It would be perfect if only she weren’t in love with said best friend (and completely unavailable bandmate), Tuck. The beginning of Skin Hunger held a great deal of promise overall, and I stopped to reread one or two specific passages on the spot so I could hold on to them as the story progressed. There were several moments that were simple and pretty, and which suggested a stronger foundation for the narrative as a whole. “But it was someone’s life, or it had been, even if it was only junk now. Maybe it had been loved. Maybe it had decorated someone’s windowsill or bookcase. Maybe someone had run their fingers over it every day. Maybe it had reminded someone of something, a memory or a person or something good.” These were, by far, some of my favorite scenes in Skin Hunger, and I’d have liked to have seen more of this kind of awareness from Ava throughout. There were also several secondary characters in Skin Hunger that I enjoyed a great deal, Ava’s grandmother and cousin Zevi, in particular. Though we don’t see nearly enough of him, Zevi is warm, supportive, and strong, and I couldn’t help but be intrigued by him, even with what little we’re shown. Ava’s grandmother is just as memorable, with her guarded resilience, and it was a pleasure to witness her tentative invitation to Ava to be a part of her world. One problem I kept having while reading Skin Hunger, however, was that the single-person narration placed high expectations on Ava’s handling of her own internal conflicts. Rather than following a solid trajectory to its conclusion, they seemed centripetal, circling without a definitive attempt on Ava’s part at any sort of resolution until the very end. That’s not to diminish the importance of what Ava is going through—as Cara says, two peoples’ experiences “can’t be measured against each other. They just can’t.” But, I still couldn’t help but feel that Ava’s POV might have...
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Nov
7

Review: Lies Jane Austen Told Me by Julie Wright

Review: Lies Jane Austen Told Me by Julie Wright Lies Jane Austen Told Me Author: Julie Wright Reviewer: Nima Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: *stands up with a little wave*  Hello, my name is Nima and I am a Hallmark romance movie addict.  I did a little jig and set my DVR when Hallmark announced thirty-three new Christmas movies for the 2017 season.  Clearly, I am not alone.  What does that have to do with a book review? I’ve always contended that romance readers love relationships and Hallmark has proved that modern consumers are not put off by a lack of steamy sex scenes.  Shadow Mountain Publishing has a series of stand alone “proper romances” which banks on this niche group’s desire, which I surmise isn’t so niche, to soak up the actual romance and all the emotion that can be extracted from a glance and holding hands. We enjoy the butterflies. Up until now Shadow Mountain’s stand-alone romances have been historical, some even based on actual couples like Henry Longfellow and Fanny Appleton (Forever and Forever by Josi S. Kilpack.) Lies Jane Austen Told Me* by Julie Wright is their first foray into contemporary romance.  It reminds me in many ways of my guilty pleasure Hallmark movies as it follows Emma Pierce, who has grown up using Jane Austen’s classics as an outline for falling in love, while she waits for the wealthy and handsome Blake Hampton to propose.  Thankfully, Wright does not try to do what other authors have done by mimicking Austen’s storylines. Instead Austen is revered, but this is Wright’s original work. Wright was smart in making her love interests into work colleagues.  That’s a relationship which requires distinct boundaries, but lots of time in each other’s company.  It also keeps it from feeling intentionally prudish. He’d come impossibly closer, yet the only contact between us was my hands on his chest and his hands on mine.  How had he done that?  How had he crossed so much distance and still made no contact anywhere else? Not to put too fine a point on it, but the lack of sexual gratification equals enhanced tension that’s delicious.  It means there is a greater focus on the actual relationship—how they communicate and interact.  Without the need for “insta-love” to justify jumping in to bed, the depth of the relationship has the time to develop in a way that’s normal in the real world. When Blake does not propose, Emma is introduced to Blake’s brother Lucas...
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Nov
6

Review: Holiday Wishes by Jill Shalvis

Review: Holiday Wishes by Jill Shalvis Holiday Wishes Author: Jill Shalvis Reviewer: Jen Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: At first, B&B owner Lotti Harford tries to pretend she doesn’t remember her high school sweetheart Sean O’Riley. Aware of the fact she couldn’t keep up the pretense, the pair strike up an easy truce, leading to a renewal of their childhood friendship. Sean, already realizing he’s looking for a meaningful relationship in his life, regrets the way he left things with Lotti. Lotti, burned by Sean’s actions from youth, is scared to open her heart. Holiday Wishes is a wonderful standalone story centering on Sean O’Riley, brother of Finn, the series’ first book hero. The story’s setting is Finn and Pru’s wedding, which, as a regular of the Heartbreaker Bay series, I love. I so enjoy when a novella takes us back to previous couples so we can see how they are doing. Stuck at a small B&B because of the weather, the gang makes the most of their time, and even puts on a memorable wedding ceremony. The time of the romance and story is compressed, but Ms. Shalvis develops a solid shared history that rings true, and the pair reignites their still smoldering flames. It’s sweet and sexy all rolled into a fun novella. I appreciate the apprehension of Lotti, and like that the author ends with an HFN rather than HEA because of the time factor. It’s a quick, easy read, made more enjoyable because of the connections with Finn, Pru, and the entire Heartbreaker Bay gang. My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot About the Book: When Sean O’Riley shows up at the Hartford Bed & Breakfast for his older brother’s bachelor weekend, he’s just hoping to make it through the weekend. What he’s not expecting is to come face to face with the woman he lost his virginity to a decade ago—a woman he’s never really forgotten. The last time Lotti Hartford saw Sean, she told him she loved him while he said nothing. Now, ten years later, she’s just looking for a good time. For once, she wants to be the wild and free one, and Sean – the good time guy – is the perfect candidate. But as the weekend continues, Sean realizes that after a lifetime of being the hook-up king, he’s ready to find happily-ever-after, and he wants it with Lotti. But will she open her heart to him again? As Christmas sweeps through the little...
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Oct
31

Review: Save a Truck, Ride a Redneck by Molly Harper

Review: Save a Truck, Ride a Redneck by Molly Harper Save a Truck, Ride a Redneck Author: Molly Harper Reviewer: Jen Rating: B/B- What I’m Talking About: Heading back home to spend the summer before going to law school, Marianne begins to question her life goals and dreams. She’s always feared being stuck in small-town Sackett, Georgia, but now the idea has a little more appeal, as long as she can maintain some distance between herself and her large family. Carl and Marianne were high school sweethearts, but when Marianne thought Carl might propose before Marianne headed off to college, she panicked and left him. After four years, the sparks are still there, but can they move forward instead of looking back? Save a Truck, Ride a Redneck is a short novella that kicks off the new Southern Eclectic series by Molly Harper. While not full of Ms. Harper’s usual snark and wit, the story is sweet and charming. However, I’m a bit curious as to its place in the series. I say this because there is a HUGE spoiler in the beginning of the book: a family tree which shows Marianne and Carl married with kids, as well as the death a major character who is still alive in this story. I really wish the family tree had been left out of the novella, and added once the series had progressed to match what the graphic displays. Other than that little issue, Carl and Marianne share a sweet romance. The novella sets the stage for the upcoming series by developing the basic framework of the world. Save a Truck, Ride a Redneck was entertaining and engrossing enough that it got me interested and invested in the characters, and I want to know more about the McCready family. My Rating: B/B- Liked It, but I had a small issue About the Book: Carl and Marianne were high school sweethearts, loving the way only teenagers can—with no thought to logic or pride, just a bone-headed, optimistic frenzy of unicorns and hormones. That was all they needed. Or so Carl thought. Scared of being stuck in Lake Sackett, Georgia, like so many of her friends—without a real shot at a future or achieving her own dreams—Marianne panicked and bolted to college after stomping Carl’s heart into the high grass. But when she returns to Lake Sackett for the summer with her family after years away, she and Carl are drawn together like moths to a flame. As they rekindle their old...
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