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Currently Browsing: contemporary romance
Mar
29

Review: Royally Roma by Teri Wilson

Review: Royally Roma by Teri Wilson Royally Roma Author: Teri Wilson Reviewer: Ang Rating: C What I’m Talking About: I was super excited to read Royally Roma. It’s advertised as a retelling of the classic romance Roman Holiday – a movie I ADORE!!!!!  It’s clear the author loves Audrey Hepburn as much as I do and that she has a major crush on Prince William, which I can totally respect—I mean he’s a cutie pie. But I felt like rather than work with the romance & chemistry that Roman Holiday offers, Ms. Wilson relies way too much on sexual references. I understand that Julia and Nico have massive chemistry. That is clear from the open scene when he’s lying asleep and naked in her bed, but I felt like much of the story was missed because they were so caught up in the heat that was between them. References to her pert, round bottom and his arousals were plentiful, but I felt like they weren’t necessary. I mean, I understand that we are dealing with a couple hot and horny millennials; however, I feel like a well placed kiss and a side-long glance, at least in a few places would have relaid the same message as him needing to adjust his expensive trousers to hide evidence. I’m sorry, maybe I’m a bit old-fashioned, but I feel like sex in a story should be like sprinkles on a cupcake. They offer, color, texture, maybe a little flavor, but no one wants to bite into a cupcake filled with hard, crunchy, weak-flavored sprinkles that distract from the fun & flavor of the cake and frosting. Royally Roma had some great cake and frosting to offer along side of some seriously beautiful scenery. Ms. Wilson does an AMAZING job describing Rome. The dialogue both inside the main characters’ heads and between the pair is fun and witty and lets us see a side of Nico we’d all like to see of Prince William. But overall, the book relied so heavily on sex that I missed the story for the sprinkles, and that’s a bummer because Roman Holiday really is a wonderful and classic story. My Rating:  C, Finished It – Liked some, didn’t like some   About the Book: In this charming, modern retelling of the classic Audrey Hepburn film Roman Holiday, a royal prince tries to escape his hectic and rigid life and ends up leading a young graduate student on a chase through the Eternal City. Julia Costa...
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Mar
28

Review: The Enforcer by Stephanie Julian

Review: The Enforcer by Stephanie Julian The Enforcer Author: Stephanie Julian Reviewer: Jen Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Jess Gardiner has hockey in her blood. With the best scout in the NHL for a father, Jess learned the game inside and out at a young age. The problem is, women aren’t scouts in the NHL. So she works as the promotion manager for the Redtails, honestly loving her job, and feeds her scouting side by making recommendations to the coach on the side. Will is a veteran player without much time left playing the sport he loves. However, after a recommendation to give him a look, the Redtails pick him up to be a leader for its young team. And from the moment he meets the intriguing Jess, he’s hoping he’ll stay with the Redtails for a while. The Enforcer is a quick, enjoyable story with equal parts romance and hockey. Hockey isn’t just a setting for the book, but rather the story is infused with the ins and outs of the sport. It’s clear that Ms. Julian understands and loves hockey as much as her heroine, Jess. Right from the start, Jess and Will experience a strong pull and mutual attraction, accompanied by the sudden realization that something has been missing in their lives. However, Jess was burned by immature hockey players in the past, and she’s worried about the impacts to her credibility on the job if she dates someone on the team. Yet, she cannot deny herself the joy of being around Will. Similarly, Will recognizes he’s getting older and doesn’t want to play games when meets a woman he really likes. Yet, he is respectful of her concerns and willing just to be friends because he enjoys her company – totally swoon-worthy. Their romance is quick, sexy, and sweet, and I really enjoyed their story. My biggest issue with The Enforcer is the number of apparent continuity errors within the storyline. I can adjust to one or maybe two issues, but I found a handful of situations that seemed in clear conflict with something stated later in the story. For example, in a scene early in the book, Will discusses an upcoming game with teammate Justin and how a player named Mason will cause Will problems. Mason plays for Syracuse. Yet later in the text, we find out that the Redtails are playing Milwaukee. While not important to the overall story, continuity issues like this drive me nuts, and I...
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Mar
27

Review: All You Need by Lorelei James

Review: All You Need by Lorelei James All You Need Author: Lorelei James Reviewer: Jen Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Annika Lund has an Ice Queen reputation because she works hard for her family’s company, always doing what is best for the family, even if her personal life takes a back seat. But until she started spending time with Axl, she hadn’t been with a man who was worth the distraction. Now she’s found a guy who matches her word for word and makes her toes curl in the process. If only she could share it with others. Axl Hammerquist is much more than the handsome, rough, playboy hockey player he portrays, but why let anyone see the real man when they don’t expect anything more from him? However, when his agent insists on a public image makeover, it is his attraction to and respect for Annika that gets him to change his mind. So when his agent decides it’s time to publicly end Axl’s PR relationship with Annika, he realizes he’s in way more than he ever planned. All You Need is a wonderful, feel-good romance that hits all the right notes for me. Axl and Annika are equals from the start, and while there is some minor jockeying for position, their relationship isn’t a power play struggle for dominance. I admire that both have serious careers and neither has to compromise his/her work ethic or ambitions, rather, both support the other along the journey. But their story is far from all work and no play! The couple starts off on the wrong foot, as Axl drives to challenge Annika’s PR abilities, causing trouble just to see how she’ll react. He recognizes her intellect and admires her strength, and he has fun creating situations for her just so he can watch her work. Their silly name calling and hockey puns give rise to entertaining conversations. Equally enjoyable is their mutual attraction which creates wonderful sexual tension. While there are several things that worked for me in the title, it’s the fact that once Annika and Axl became a couple, they stayed a couple, that made their story shine. Although these two alphas butted heads at the start, they were upfront not only about their issues with the other, but their mutual attraction as well. Yes, they did try to fight the sex appeal, creating wonderful sexual tension and moments of witty banter, but they both recognized right away that they weren’t going to be...
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Mar
22

Review: His Custody by Tamsen Parker

Review: His Custody by Tamsen Parker His Custody Author: Tamsen Parker Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: I don’t even know where to start. I have to admit I may have had a seriously uneasy feeling at the beginning of this story—until about the halfway mark. But, I trust Tamsen Parker to deliver a deep, thoughtful read that pushes me past my personal limits. And, this title **really** pushed me for a plethora of reasons. There’s a huge age discrepancy between Keyne (pronounced Cain, like Cain & Abel) and Jasper. That isn’t a problem for me, normally. I love me a good May-December romance. This title falls more under the barely legal, though. I deal with teenagers every day, Monday through Friday. I might have gotten a little squicked out. Initially. But I pushed past that and looked at what was really happening in this story. Age took a backseat. Because, really, it doesn’t matter. This. Story. Is. Freakin’. Brilliant. This review, beyond this point, is slightly spoilery. The blurb hints, but doesn’t come right out and say some of the things I’m about to disclose, so if you don’t want any spoilers, go get your one-click on. However, the spoilers aren’t that bad and don’t really reveal a lot you can’t pretty much guess from the blurb. <spoiler> Jasper and Keyne’s parents were life-long friends. Keyne was dating—inseparable from—Jasper’s younger brother. Keyne was the sole survivor of an accident. Yeah. And she was only seventeen, so she needed a legal guardian—and someone to wade through all the emotional stuff something like that would leave behind. My heart literally broke for Keyne. I seriously sobbed a few times. I wondered how Jasper could handle all the crap being thrown at him while wading through his own grief. I wanted to build a blanket fort and snuggle in it with them both. One thing that I thought as I was reading that a tragedy such as this would naturally draw two grieving people together, and I wondered whether that’s what was happening here. Whether something would happen and the spell between Jasper and Keyne would be broken. Because that’s exactly what it seemed like. This magical thing between two people—that when you watch it unfold from the outside, it takes your breath away. <end spoiler> The pacing in His Custody was perfect. I was drawn through every word in the story, and I definitely stayed up reading entirely too late. I was really sad...
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Mar
15

Review: Madly by Ruthie Knox

Review: Madly by Ruthie Knox Madly Author: Ruthie Knox Reviewer: Nima Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: I’ve been anxiously awaiting this book. I loved, loved, loved About Last Night.  While it’s not directly attached to the New York Trilogy, main character Winston Chamberlain is the brother of About Last Night’s Nev Chamberlain.  Winston’s love interest Allie Fredericks is the sister of May Fredericks, from Truly, the first book in this trilogy. Madly is an odd little read. It can be a stand-alone, but is complimented by About Last Night and Truly. Don’t get me wrong, I read it beginning to end in a day because it was compelling.  It just didn’t fall neatly into a typical category.  It’s definitely a romance, but unlike other offerings by Knox that I’ve read, it could almost be called “women’s fiction” as the characters work through significant emotional baggage.  I like Knox too much to stick her with that label though. The characters are completely mismatched by age and temperament—but they work.  Winston is British and old enough to have a college-aged daughter, goes through as much self-discovery as Allie does.  Allie is in her mid-twenties, an insecure mid-westerner, who’s as impulsive as Winston is restrained.  That these two hook up and help each other through significant personal crises, is as unlikely as their continued relationship.  But they do. I adored Winston.  He was Rupert Penry-Jones in every Hallmark and period BBC movie you’ve ever seen.  Allie is likable because she always means well and is more perceptive than she thinks.  Many parts of the book are introspective and Allie comes off as a bit of an old soul when she reassures Winston about his age, “You know you’re just whatever age you are, right?  It doesn’t mean anything except that it’s taken you this many years to be the you who you are right now.”  Think about it for a while.  I liked the thought.  Allie’s father was also an unexpected gem. A lot of the book dealt with the idea of being authentic with yourself and others.  Knox was inspired by an essay by Glendon Doyle Melton which you can READ HERE. It would never work as a movie, I think the self-examination that made it work in print wouldn’t translate to the screen, but I loved the movie in my head. True to form, Knox comes up with a big ending.  It wasn’t as surprising as some of her previous novels since we had a...
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Mar
13

Review: Truly by Ruthie Knox

Review: Truly by Ruthie Knox Truly Author: Ruthie Knox Reviewer: Nima Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: “May Fredericks hates New York.  Which is fair enough, since New York seems to hate her back.” May doesn’t just hate New York in Truly, the first book in Ruth Knox’ New York Trilogy.  May hates her body, her life, her indecision, and all the choices that have landed this Wisconsin girl in New York in the first place.  What she hates the most, however, is herself for all the things she imagined it would be when reality turned out to be so much less.  In some cases, just awful.  Every girl wants the love of her life to propose by telling her and the world in the most public way possible that she’s utterly forgettable, right? *eye roll* Still, New York doesn’t seem to break her of the fantasy habit.  May was in crisis mode so she complained a bit much, but I have to say, I liked her anyway because I’m a chronic fantasizer.  Without conscious thought we mentally adjust to the way we think things are going to go every time we’re presented with a choice, or new variable, or opportunity.  We think we’re doing it to be prepared, but more often than not, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment.  Reality slapped me in the face this week when even though my youngest son applied to four colleges and got in to three, he didn’t get into my alma mater. I was angry and disappointed about something I didn’t even realize mattered to me.  Without even being conscious of it, I had imagined visiting him on campus, setting up his dorm room, and hearing all about my favorite haunts as he lived around the campus that I had enjoyed as a student. As I stewed in my anger, I was truly surprised that my fantasy was so detailed.  Needless to say, I wholly identified with May who did this repeatedly. Enter Matt Hausman, chronic grump.  Picture an angry Daniele Liotti or Luca Calvani in a hoodie, jeans, and an expression that says “go away.”  Being from Wisconsin also, Matt should be a kindred spirit.  He is not.  Matt couldn’t wait to get out of the Midwest and has built a life in New York.  In a first for me, our leading man is an urban bee keeper and gardener—a refreshing change from billionaires, lawyers, ex-military, FBI, and cowboys.  More than that, he’s a talent...
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Feb
28

Review: What it Takes by Shannon Stacey

Review: What it Takes by Shannon Stacey What it Takes Author: Shannon Stacey Reviewer: Jen Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: If you haven’t read any of Shannon Stacey’s Kowalski Family series, stop right now and go pick up the first book, Exclusively Yours, pronto. Any format will suffice, but just grab it and start it soon! I recommend the Kowalski Family series to first-time and veteran romance readers more than any other series, and for good reasons – it is a wonderfully written, joyful, small-town romance series that gives all the feels. So with that said, if you haven’t read the series, I really don’t recommend starting with What it Takes for a couple of reasons. First, this is a “reunion” book, bringing back all of the couples and characters from the previous nine titles. Their stories will be lost on someone who’s not read the series. Second, I feel this story is the weakest of the ten books, and therefore, not a great example of how wonderful this series truly is. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, on to my review… What it Takes is a combination between the love story of Laney Caswell and Ben Rivers and reunion tour of the Kowalski family and friends from the first nine books in the series. Unfortunately, the book tries too hard to cover both storylines, leaving me not quite satisfied with either. I did enjoy my time back in Whitford, ME; however, I felt I had to work too hard to follow along all the going-ons, and frankly, I would have preferred a stronger romantic storyline instead of the reunion. The book opens and closes strong, following the budding romance between Ben and Laney. Ben grew up in Whitford, and is friends with the gang. Now that Northern Star Lodge has become so popular with the 4-wheelers, Josh got the town to offer his friend a job as a paramedic helping on the trails when riders get injured. Laney recently finalized a drawn-out divorce. Now she’s starting over in a camper at the Northern Star Lodge where she’s spending the summer helping out the growing business. Once the pair meets, there are sparks flying right from the start. I adore the couple’s awkwardness, especially their initial meeting when Laney takes care of Ben’s cuts. The humor is spot on and exactly what I have come to expect from Ms. Stacey. Just as the couple show signs of a romance, the Northern Star...
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Feb
23

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Any Time, Any Place by Jennifer Probst

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Any Time, Any Place by Jennifer Probst Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: Any Time, Any Place Author: Jennifer Probst Narrators: Madeleine Maby and Sebastian York Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Billionaire Builders #2 Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: Simon & Schuster Audio When Raven’s only parent, her loving father, was killed with his mistress in a car accident as they fled to Paris, she was left confused and alone. While Diane Pierce died a martyr of sorts, Raven’s dad was cast as the villain, and Raven vowed revenge on the Pierce family for muddying her father’s good name. It wasn’t until eight months ago that Raven realized the handsome trio of brothers that came into her bar were those dreadful Pierce brothers. Dalton Pierce was devastated upon finding out that his mother was leaving the family when she died suddenly in a horrific car wreck. Years later, he still feels a huge emptiness in his life. He’s glad to be reunited with his brothers and helping to run Pierce Construction, but he feels like something of his own is missing. And the more time he spends with Raven, the more he thinks she may be what is missing. Any Time, Any Place picks up the story of the three Pierce brothers reuniting and taking over the family construction business after the death of their father. As the youngest, he was most impacted by the loss of their mother years ago. He rebelled in his own ways, swearing never to settle down, but now finds something he wants in Raven. He senses a deeper connection and he wants to explore it, but she keeps him at arm’s length because of the secret she holds. However, Raven has let go of her need for revenge, instead moving on with her life and looking for someone special to share it with. I love how she denies herself the pleasure of Dalton, not letting her guard down because she views it as a betrayal to her father. Both Dalton and Raven are fantastic characters. Each is strong and independent, yet sensitive and willing to anything for friends and family. Their strong wills make for excellent banter and even better sexual tension. I’ll admit that as much as I loved Dalton’s sly grin and mischievous flirting, I had a major girl-crush on Raven. She’s the owner of her own bar/restaurant, skilled boxer, talented mixologist, and she teaches the local women how to count cards so they can beat the guys in...
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Feb
22

Review: Just Once by Addison Fox

Review: Just Once by Addison Fox Just Once Author: Addison Fox Reviewer: Nima Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Just Once is a slightly darker, definitely more serious book than the first one in the Brooklyn Brotherhood series. I liked that it was different because main character Landon McGee is very different from his professional football star turned bar owner brother Nick. Landon is quiet, a bit of a loner, and lives mostly inside his own head. Sharing anything with anyone is tough.  He’s learned to trust his adopted mother Lusia Mills and his adopted brothers, but Daphne Rossi, is going to have to work hard to earn the level of trust she wants.  Landon is going to have to learn to trust if he’s going to keep her or any woman. There was a rush to date and sex, the two becoming romantically involved shortly after a break-in at his business. No matter how self-aware she were, I think a determined police officer like Daphne would have waited longer to act on any feelings she had for Landon during an open case.  That part felt a little contrived, although it did allow for the support of being in a relationship while these two excised their demons and tried to solve the crime committed against Landon.  It wasn’t a huge mental stretch to figure out the key players, but it wasn’t an open and shut case either.  This allowed the focus to be on Daphne and Landon rather than what happened to Landon. Unfortunately, the case which brought the two lovers together didn’t get enough attention, in my opinion. I wanted a more dramatic conclusion, but it was handled as an after-thought in the epilogue. I thought Fox could have even dragged it into the next book with an even more explosive result.  Instead she kept the focus on her lovers.  I can’t fault her for that, it was a choice, but I feel that there was space to do both by making the manuscript a little longer.  Coming in at under 300 pages, I don’t think some additional length would have put anyone off reading the book—especially because Fox is a solid writer. I’m looking forward to the third installment, presumably Fender’s book since we met the target of his affection in Just Once.  That should be an interesting book with key players from completely opposite backgrounds. My Rating: A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: Landon McGee has a past he’d rather stayed buried...
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Feb
21

Review: Daily Grind by Anna Zabo

Review: Daily Grind by Anna Zabo Daily Grind Author: Anna Zabo Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Running an independent, neighborhood coffee shop has been slowly breaking Brian Keppler for years. After a key employee is hired away by the consulting firm upstairs, he’s been taking on more and more of the work himself, spending less time on the other important parts of his life—and exorcising his frustrations on his remaining employees and anyone who tries to love him. Being bisexual and closeted isn’t helping things, either. “Miserable” sums Brian up pretty tidily these days, and having his world turned upside down by the arrival of the sexy CEO of a successful robotics company wasn’t at all on his to-do list. So, why does the idea of losing him seem like too high a price to pay? Robert Ancroft fought long and hard to make his company a success. And nearly lost himself in the process. Fortunately, he was able to find a balance that didn’t drain him to the marrow day in and day out. Watching the man who has started to mean so much to him sink into the same, endless exhaustion is heartbreaking, but Robert is trying his best to help Brian see what life could be like for them if he were willing to devote even a small part of himself to the relationship they could have. Still, everyone has their limits, and this fight may be one he just can’t win. Written in the third-person from both Brian and Rob’s perspectives, Daily Grind was a highly enjoyable read that I think definitely has a place on my “keeper” list. Both main characters are complex and I appreciated that they were able to get a chance to pursue an authentic kind of happiness after the age of thirty-five. Although the trials Robert and Brian face are the primary force driving the narrative, there are many wonderful scenes written against the backdrop of Pittsburgh (and the surrounding area) that have me itching to visit there myself. Some of my favorites are seen through the lens of Robert’s camera, and I thought it was especially sweet that their connection deepened most profoundly during these moments. Their relationship is an intensely sexual one, but the added depth provided by the other parts of the story, particularly Robert’s own complicated history and his introduction to Brian’s family, made Daily Grind all the more enjoyable for me. While Daily Grind works well as a...
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