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Currently Browsing: contemporary romance
May
23

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Nothing Serious by Jessica Jarman

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Nothing Serious by Jessica Jarman Welcome to my feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: Nothing Serious Author: Jessica Jarman Narrator: Greg Boudreaux Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Bound #3 Genre: Contemporary Romance, Erotic Romance, LGBTQ m/m Audiobook Source: Purchased Listening to Nothing Serious is a revisit to one of my all-time favorite stories. The narration by Greg Boudreaux added emotional depth to this passionate tale. From my original review: The story unfolds organically and beautifully, giving both Jack and Aaron time to figure out what each wants from the other and for his own life. While the couple has a history of amazing sexual chemistry, the two men are in different places in their lives, creating a tension that causes the story to hum and vibrate rather that sit stagnant. It is evident right from the get go that Jack is deeply emotionally attached to Aaron, while Aaron hasn’t really taken the time to realize what Jack means to him. Jack has always accepted this, enjoying their passionate, yet infrequent rendezvous with everything he has. He is fun and gentle, unwilling to push Aaron into something he’s not ready for, endearing him to me so very much. Their dynamic captured me completely, and I was thoroughly engrossed in their romance. At first, the narration by Mr. Boudreaux threw me because his “neutral” narrator voice is an unaccented English accent, sounding very much like Aaron. So when it was Jack’s point of view, I wanted the narrator to have a similar English accent that Jack had. But I got used to the back and forth after a couple chapters. His accents are convincing to this untrained ear. His female voices are higher-pitched and decisively feminine, many strong and matching the characters’ personas.  In the end, I absolutely love Nothing Serious and the timeless romance between Aaron and Jack. The narrator does wonderful job with intensity and non-verbal sounds and cues, bringing the entire experience up a notch.  My Ratings: Story: A+ Narration: A- About the Book: Aaron Stevens likes his life the way it is. As a surgical resident, he is perfectly content with the fact that the precious hours he has outside the hospital revolve around taking care of his mother and sister. He doesn’t have the time or inclination for a serious relationship. So the fact his lover lives halfway around the world and is fine with jetting off to exotic locales a couple times a year for a few weeks of hot sex is as close...
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May
18

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: 3 Wishes by Peggy Jaeger

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: 3 Wishes by Peggy Jaeger Welcome to our feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: 3 Wishes Author: Peggy Jaeger Narrator:  Nicole Blessing Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Candy Hearts Romance universe Genre: Contemporary Romance, novella Source: Author 3 Wishes is a cute, short story about dreams coming true. Chloe has always believed in wishes ever since a young age when she had an Aladdin-themed birthday. Every year she makes three wishes, hoping for the man of her dreams to come into her life. Suddenly on the eve of her thirtieth birthday, her wishes may come true. Overall, I enjoyed this quick story about falling in love at (near) first sight. It’s cute and cozy like a Hallmark movie, leaving me all warm inside. Chloe is a likable lead, she’s secure on her own, but nostalgic for the wishes and the dream that never came to pass. The side story of her mother and father’s marital issues is a good parallel to Chloe’s own worries about getting involved with Dr. Dreamy, although I felt it also burdened the romance and story, especially since the book is so short. I would have preferred a bit more time spent with the main couple. The story is short and a little over-the-top for me to absolutely love it.  Ms. Blessing has a pleasing, calm narrator voice. It’s confident and energetic, fitting for the self-starter Chloe. However… this story takes place in or near New York City and the author uses stereotype-NY/Italian accents for her dialogue. While it may be authentic (I can’t say since I’m not from the area), it rubbed me the wrong way. I felt like the Godfather should be coming to Chloe’s shop to do some business. The accents are strong and grating. While the attempt to be more authentic is admirable, sometimes it just isn’t necessary. Additionally, several of the narrators dialogue voices for characters were too similar.  My Ratings: Story: B- Narration: C Review copy provided by the author. About the Book: Valentine’s Day is chocolatier Chloe San Valentino’s favorite day of the year. Not only is it the busiest day in her candy shop, Caramelle de Chloe, but it’s also her birthday. Chloe’s got a birthday wish list for the perfect man she pulls out every year: he’d fall in love with her in a heartbeat, he’d be someone who cares about people, and he’d have one blue eye and one green eye, just like her. So far, Chloe’s fantasy man hasn’t...
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May
14

Review: Awaken Me by Farrah Rochon

Review: Awaken Me by Farrah Rochon Awaken Me Author: Farrah Rochon Reviewer: Jen Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: None of the Holmes’ siblings take Reid very seriously, and he’s done nothing to try and change their minds about him. But when he wakes next to yet another beautiful woman who’s name he can’t remember, he realizes it’s time for a life change. And when he meets Holmes Construction newest employee, he realizes Brooklyn is someone worth changing for. Brooklyn blames herself for the closing of her dad’s company, and now she’s going to work twice as hard for Holmes Construction to help pay for her dad’s medical bills. But even though she’s the best at what she does, her heart belongs to another passion: drawing and writing comics. Luckily she has a gorgeous workplace crush to keep her mind occupied while on the construction site.  Awaken Me is a wonderful slow-burn romance between two people more alike on the inside than anyone would suspect. Brooklyn and Reid are both afraid to take chances for fear of disappointing their families. Where as Reid allows his family to think he’s shallow and doesn’t take life seriously, Brooklyn strives to do her best to show her parents she’s the dependable, hard worker they know her to be. But both want more from life, and they are posed at the precipice of change when they meet one another, which allows them to grow both individually and mutually. Mutual attraction plays a role in their story. But instead of jumping into bed, both want to take it slow, even when their bodies don’t agree. This is important, because in order for the relationship to have a chance, they need to get to know each other, and both need to take down walls. I love the little moments when each is open and honest, sharing some of the person they are on the inside.  Awaken Me is a solid romance, but it’s the extras that make the book a story; a journey. The overwhelming feelings stirred by the memories of Reid’s deceased mom are touching and heartfelt. I love the family-centric setting, including the fears of letting down loved ones. It’s all relatable.  In the end, I truly enjoyed the slow burn romance of Brooklyn and Reid. They are two peas in a pod: both filled with fears and insecurities. They felt a connection and allowed it to blossom over time, creating a passionate love story. My Rating: B+ Liked It...
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May
9

Review: Lock Nut by JL Merrow

Review: Lock Nut by JL Merrow Lock Nut Author: JL Merrow Reviewer: B. Rating: B What I’m Talking About: As they merge the rest of their lives, working together should be a natural progression of things for recently affianced Tom Paretski and Phil Morrison. And, that seems to be the case, at least, until a favor for a friend of a friend results in yet another dead body. Now, with tensions rising at home as well as in the field, their happily ever after may not be as certain as they thought. In this final addition to The Plumber’s Mate Mysteries, Tom and Co. (i.e. the survivors to date) are all back and gearing up for the wedding we’ve all been waiting for. With his best friend and sister both happily married to the respective loves of their lives, and his own nuptials fast approaching, Lock Nut sets out to be the perfect ending to a series that has been somewhat, if comically, less than kind to its main characters. Not to change a good thing however, the author still has a plenty of torture in mind for Tom after all. As was the case with the previous story, there were a few specifics in Lock Nut that felt incomplete. These were mainly questions raised during the course of the narrative that never seemed to have been fully answered. Although my overly picky sensibilities were incapable of ignoring them, they don’t really impact the outcome in a meaningful way, leaving the mystery itself, along with happenings of all the characters, to carry the plot as they should. The whodunit half of Lock Nut kept me guessing for quite a while, which I enjoyed a great deal, even though I wasn’t entirely convinced of the villains’ cleverness so much as their good fortune via the mistakes of others. There was also an “ick factor” regarding a younger character’s age that I agreed with Tom’s initial reaction about, but it wasn’t anything explicit (or even immediate) and things worked out in the end. Overall, Lock Nut delivers the HEA that the author has been teasing her audience with for a long time. Tom and Phil’s relationship is more comfortable and sincere than ever—which, of course, allows Tom to find even more things to worry about. Though certainly not perfect, there’s an ease to their interactions, and the taunting and poking they aim at one another was among my favorite aspects of the whole story. This no-nonsense sort...
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May
8

Review: The Hookup By Erin McCarthy

Review: The Hookup By Erin McCarthy The Hookup Author: Erin McCarthy Reviewer: Nima Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Erin McCarthy is not an entirely new author to me.  I have read and enjoyed—some more than others, several of her contributions to anthologies.  So I’m not sure why I haven’t read a full length novel from her before given that she’s a solid romance writer with multiple titles and series under her belt.  From what I have read, her writing has a certain intensity about it, but that intensity totally shines in The Hookup, the first installment in the Jordan Brothers Series. In this book, McCarthy uses her intensity to accomplish the seemingly impossible in the romance genre—she writes a completely, brutally honest character who is uniquely likable and a seemingly worthless jerk who is, also, surprisingly likable.  Furthermore, there are no real bad guys as main characters.  The bad guys are peripheral, justifying certain emotions and choices, but almost without dialog.  The consequences of their choices interact with the main characters more than the people themselves. It doesn’t seem possible that an author could maintain tension under these circumstances, but McCarthy pulls it off. Sophie Bigelow is a socially awkward academic.  She loves numbers.  She likes problems she can work and solve and get a definitive “right answer.” It’s not fair to compare her to Sheldon Cooper because she’s more real than that, not just a comedic stereotype or punchline.  People are not so easy to solve.  Sophie is not adverse to relationships, but she has no filter and that much honesty can be off-putting.  As a result, she’s made it to her mid-20’s as a virgin. Sophie makes a good point, “When you reach the age of damn near twenty-five and hadn’t relinquished your V-card, the assumption is you’re waiting for Mr. Right, which basically ruins potential relationships before they even have a shot.  Or men assume you’re a freak.  I wasn’t either.” While at their family beach house in Maine for her sister Bella’s wedding, Sophie meets Cain Jordan. It felt a little obvious at the outset that the “bad one” in a set of gorgeous identical twin brothers was named “Cain.“ Even if everyone in the family has a name that starts with “C” how does “Cain” even get on the list?  His mother doesn’t come off as the brightest bulb in the bunch, but she is sincere.  Cain has just cause to be depressed about the circumstances of his life,...
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Apr
26

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Softhearted by Kim Law

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Softhearted by Kim Law Welcome to our feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Softhearted Author: Kim Law Narrator:  Natalie Ross Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Deep in the Heart #2 Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: Brilliance Audio Heather has a history of falling hard for the wrong man, so she’s been warned to stay clear of the new ranch manager, Waylon, who is “just her type,” a sexy ginger with a shady past. Yet, Heather can’t steer clear and soon the two engage in a flirtatious friendship. Waylon has no interest in correcting the town’s opinions of him being a player who gets around and gambles his earnings away. Keeping his life private, he’s more than ready to find someone special and settle down. He thinks Heather is the one, but can he convince her? Softhearted is a gentle, slow-burn romance that straddles the line between woman’s fiction and romance. While it is the second book in the Deep in the Heart series, I had little trouble picking the book up. I only experienced a bit of confusion at the beginning, trying to figure out what may have happened in the first book and what was just general background information. The book spends equal time between the romance of Heather and Waylon, and establishing their respective lives and individual character development and growth.  What starts out a bit slow, ends up capturing my interest and heart. While Heather and Waylon’s love takes time to develop, it’s sweet and their story interesting. Although at times there is a little bit too much emotional insight that dragged scenes out, I still couldn’t help the sniffles and tears at other points. I really enjoyed watching Heather and Waylon work through and overcome demons from their pasts, learning to love and trust themselves before falling in love with one another. The narration is perfect for the story. Ms. Ross has a large range of voices. I haven’t heard another narrator perform a child so well – and I appreciate that the author wrote an age-appropriate child character. Ms. Ross hits deep masculine tones for the men and soft voices for the the females. I like how the narrator’s voice stays the same regardless of which point-of-view is presented. While some voices may be similar, each was unique and identifiable. The southern charm was quaint and sincere. She strongly portrays male and female characters from 5 to 55.  Although the story started slowly, I ended up enjoying Softhearted as...
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Apr
23

Review: Hot Response by Shannon Stacey

Review: Hot Response by Shannon Stacey Hot Response Author: Shannon Stacey Reviewer: Jen Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Working as an EMT in Boston keeps Cait busy. Couple that with the time spent taking care of her grieving mom and teenage half-brother, she has no time for a social life. And while she is attracted to Gavin Boudreau, he’s always gotten under her skin, especially after he referred to her as “ma’am”. But when she implies he doesn’t take his job seriously, Cait recognizes the need to make amends, offering him an olive branch in the form of breakfast. Gavin isn’t sure what he did to tick off Cait, but he’ll gladly accept a breakfast out, and then treat her to lunch. He finds Cait attractive and after spending some quality time talking, he realizes he genuinely likes her.  Hot Response is the fourth, standalone romance in the awesome Boston Fire series by Shannon Stacey. The story is a lovely mix of romance, family time, and hanging with the firefighters. The love between Gavin and Cait grows organically; it is sweet, sexy, and well-paced. There is an initial attraction that leads to physical intimacy and spending time together. The more time they spend together, the more they like each other.  Even though they have chemistry, there is room for conflict. Gavin is in a place to want more from Cait as their relationship grows. He’s frustrated with the amount of time she spends helping her family; but only because he feels she’s a crutch for her mom and brother. Meanwhile, Cait isn’t emotionally available after a certain extent. She is afraid of rocking the boat, and for good reasons, but it clouds her heart and causes problems. I like that this couple is great together, but has real problems and deals with them to get to their HEA. The story is well written and simply enjoyable.  Once again, Ms. Stacey makes big city Boston feel like small town family in Hot Response. She has created a tight-knit neighborhood filled with friends and romance. The stories are light but real, giving readers a solid love story complete with all the feels. My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot About the Book: Gavin Boudreau lives for the job, but he also believes in “work hard, play harder.” As the youngest guy in Ladder 37, he figures he’s got plenty of time before settling down becomes a priority. Soft, pretty women who aren’t looking for promises are...
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Apr
23

Review: Loving the Secret Billionaire by Adriana Anders

Review: Loving the Secret Billionaire by Adriana Anders Loving the Secret Billionaire Author: Adriana Anders Reviewer: B. Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Loving the Secret Billionaire is actually a retelling of the same novella previously published as “Grassroots” in the Rogue Desire anthology earlier this year. Per the author’s notes, after its initial release, she realized that there was more to Zack than was originally apparent, thereby opening the door to a richer, more thorough version of Veronica’s story. While I wasn’t able to finish the original prior to this review myself, I think that the addition of Zack’s perspective did enhance the part of Loving the Secret Billionaire that I read.  The nature of the novella typically requires the abbreviation of various aspects of the story, and Loving the Secret Billionaire is likewise subject to those constraints. Though expected, yet certainly not a deal breaker, I’d have liked to see more of Veronica and Zack’s connection outside of the “Oh, my God” sex they have. I similarly wanted to know more about Veronica’s interactions with her students and their parents amid the political turmoil that fuels her desire to run for City Council. Still, the issues presented are undeniably relevant and thought-provoking, which is a considerable success on its own. With regards to the two main characters, Loving the Secret Billionaire takes a different approach than most romances I’ve read. Veronica is a preschool teacher of Guatemalan descent, who has no political experience (nor access to the huge donations that seem to perpetuate the gross monetary imbalances that cause so many problems every election cycle), but is running for city council with the intention of representing those who would otherwise have no voice. Zack is a twenty-three-year-old financial genius who lost his sight in a car crash when he was a child, is afraid to leave his house, and is a virgin. There’s more to him than that, but more details here would take too much away from the narrative. It’s a unique pairing, which I was glad to see, and one that worked out very well in the end. In a world filled with uncertainty as well as a much-needed demand for change, Loving the Secret Billionaire is a nice addition to a genre that means so much to so many readers. While unavoidably abbreviated in places, and despite the occasionally awkward dialog during some of the most explicit scenes, I found Loving the Secret Billionaire to be a hopeful, sweet narrative that won...
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Apr
20

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Man Card by Tanya Eby + Sarina Bowen

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Man Card by Tanya Eby + Sarina Bowen Welcome to our feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: Man Card Authors:  Sarina Bowen and Tanya Eby Narrators:  Luke Daniels and Erin Mallon Audio Listening Speed: 1.25x and 1.5x Series: Man Hands #2 Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: Blunder Woman Productions Ash and Braht, frenemy coworkers competing for sales, have been partnered to sell their friend, Tom’s huge home. This sets off a series of pranks and sabotages to give one the upper hand over the other. Yet what it really does is put the pair in a position to spend more time together, something Braht wants and Ash avoids. Man Card is the delightfully entertaining follow up to Man Hands. The story features the romance of Ash and Braht, the two best friends of book one’s couple, Brynn and Tom. We witnessed their sparks and clashing chemistry in Man Hands, and it only gets more explosive in Man Card. Ash and Braht are perfect for one another. After first getting to see the prickly pair in Man Hands, I wondered how the authors would pull off the enemies-to-lovers story. It works because Braht has had a thing for Ash from the moment the pair met, even though Ash doesn’t have a clue. I love how adoring and attentive Braht is. He’s smart and recognizes the need to play his cards right to make Ash his. He plies pressure when it’s called for, is just a friend when she needs it, and teases her to bring about her sass. He gets that she’s been hurt and knows time is what is needed to win her over. He knows Ash and worships her. His constant presence ends up being just what Ash needs. “On most people you should check their pulse, but with Ash, I check for sass. If she can’t tell me to f-off, then it’s time to call the paramedics.” Ash is a work in progress. She’s mostly got her act together, but with the news of her ex’s parole, she flips a little. She’s confident to the core, but starts second guessing herself at times. Braht gives her the boost she needs to keep her head up, even if she doesn’t recognize it at first. While Braht knows his path, Ash has to find her way. She has to learn to trust her judgement again, and in doing so, we see her grow and develop.  While the book is foremost a romance, I also love...
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Apr
4

Review: Blow Down by JL Merrow

Review: Blow Down by JL Merrow Blow Down Author: JL Merrow Reviewer: B. Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Several months have passed since Tom Paretski got engaged, saw his best friend married, found out his “Dad” wasn’t really his biological father, and became the resident hero by saving a barmaid from dying in a fire. Now something of a minor celebrity thanks to news coverage exposing his psychic “gift,” he’s in demand for more than his plumbing skills—this time finding himself obligated to unearth a stolen necklace for a recently-wed, high-ranking member of the local diocese (who nobody seems to like very much). At least his life’s not boring. As was the case with the previous titles in the series, Blow Down begins with the discovery of a corpse. Poor Tom’s knack for finding dead bodies hasn’t subsided at all, and has once again placed him in the crosshairs of a murderer. With multiple suspects all capable of rampant greed, hatred of the deceased, or both, this was an interesting crime for Tom and Phil to crack. Although, in truth, I had more fun waiting to see what they, and the other returning characters would do than I did trying to puzzle out the mystery itself. One aspect of the earlier stories I wasn’t sure about, but which I thought was among the most enjoyable parts of Blow Down was Tom and Phil’s relationship. While they’re still learning about each other outside of their shared past, I found the teasing, protectiveness, and fondness that’s so evident between them to be endearing. In fact, the entire narrative is more affectionate than its predecessors, yet it maintains the familiar and comforting level of snark that has so strongly contributed to the personality of the series as a whole so far. Though I wasn’t able to get quite as wrapped up in the mystery of Blow Down as I was in the previous stories, it moved things along just fine. Despite the entirely new group of characters introduced for the purpose, there were somewhat limited options when it came to the sinister narcissism that seemed most indicative of the killer. While there’d be no story without the whodunit, it felt more like a vehicle for everything else that’s going on with Tom, rather than the objective of the narrative. Having missed the original publication of The Plumber’s Mate Mysteries, I admit that it has been nice to read them so closely together. As someone who is unfamiliar...
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