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Currently Browsing: contemporary romance
Aug
21

Review: Misconduct by Samantha Kane

Review: Misconduct by Samantha Kane Misconduct Author: Samantha Kane Reviewer: Jen Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Having survived a roadside bombing in Afghanistan, Carmina moved to Birmingham to be close to her best friend (and only other survivor) and to get away from her overprotective family. Now that she’s gotten on her own two feet, Carmina is ready to try dating, and sex, again. Rebels’ rookie, Tom, is the perfect man for the job, but she also can’t stop thinking about Tom’s best friend and roommate, Danny. Not sure how to proceed, Carmina rely’s on Tom’s help to move forward. After nearly giving up on this series after the second title, I have to say I have rather enjoyed the last two books. Misconduct explores the aspects of a ménage within the confines of a safe and mostly accepting community. While it’s the fourth such book in the series, the story of Carmina, Danny, and Tom’s relationship is its own. With Tom as the only one ready to explore his deepest fantasies, it takes a while for the trio to form.  I like that Ms. Kane allows both Carmina and Danny to express their reluctance and fears over a non-traditional relationship, with Danny agitated and angry over unwanted advances. There is no sudden “flipping the switch,” making everything all good. It takes time. It gives the entire situation a realness that wasn’t present in the first two books of the series. I also appreciate that the focus of Misconduct is the budding relationship and connections between Carmina, Danny, and Tom. Yes, this is a football book, and the author puts her characters in the game. However, while football is the setting for the book, it isn’t a guiding force over the romance, as it was in the first two titles. Sharing the interpersonal impacts of the ménage, rather than the impact to the team, creates a more heartfelt story. I like that the romance and sex scenes are driven by the characters and their desires, rather than the other way around. This is more of a “slow burn” romance, in that it takes some time for the trio to work out. However, it is still smoking hot – just give it time. It could have been just another ménage story with lots of sex, but Misconduct is so much more. The author take time to develop solid characters who dictate the storyline. Outside the fame and football, Danny, Tom, and Carmina are real...
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Aug
21

Review: Dirty Deeds By HelenKay Dimon

Review: Dirty Deeds By HelenKay Dimon Dirty Deeds Author: HelenKay Dimon Reviewer: B. Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Cultivating a reputation for having an unflinching ruthlessness towards his competitors, family, and lovers alike has served Alec Drummond well over the years. Forgoing intimacy in favor of sacrificing himself to the recovery and increasing prosperity of his family’s business has likewise suited him fine. Yet, when a problem from his past resurfaces, dragging an annoyingly capable and sexy complication with it, his hard-won empire isn’t the only thing that’s rattled. Gaige Owens has had his fill of paying for the sins of another. Yet, here he is—again—up to his neck in lies and manipulation. Although he desperately wants his freedom, chasing that particular carrot across a tightrope strung by a covert government agency is wearing more than a little thin. Still, locking horns with the notorious eldest Drummond brother has appeal on several levels, especially in the bedroom. Dirty Deeds is the first story I’ve read by HelenKay Dimon, and, overall, I enjoyed it. As it’s a spinoff of another series I missed, I think that my reading experience might have benefitted from a little more knowledge of the characters’ backgrounds, as well as the author’s writing style, but it stands on its own just fine. I was definitely intrigued by such a unique premise, and I felt that the “whodunit” aspect of the story evolved very nicely. About midway through, Dirty Deeds really picks up its pace, and the remainder of the narrative kept me engaged until the end. Having said that, there were a couple of things that kept me from fully sinking into the story. Although the big, bad government agency blackmailing Alec and Gaige into helping easily dictated where my allegiance lay, I was never comfortable with their (Alec’s, especially) acceptance of the situation. Both are so adamant about their independence and abilities, that I wanted them to break the reins a bit sooner. Additionally, the rapidity of their trust in one another, as well as the three-week relationship incubation mandate at the end of the story, also felt a little off to me, though neither was a deal breaker. While both characters had their strong points, it was Gaige who truly stood out to me. He’s funny, intelligent, extremely capable, and his reasons for essentially recreating himself won me over without much of a fight on my part. That his participation in the events of Dirty Deeds was solely the...
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Aug
14

Review: Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell

Review: Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell Illegal Contact Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: Santino Hassell has been a favorite author of mine for some time now, and, while I fully expected to like Illegal Contact, I wasn’t prepared for how much I completely loved it. Having been raised on college football in the South, I wondered if my own limitations might affect my reading of a story about a pro team in NYC. Turns out, I needn’t have worried. Mr. Hassell made the whole affair feel both technically sound, as well as inviting, allowing the personalities of the characters to take center stage. Punnily-monikered tight end Gavin Brawley could very easily have been a stereotype of every “misunderstood-angry-athlete” ever written, but that wasn’t the case. Despite the technical applicability of all three of those things, Gavin deserves a full retraction of the hyphens and quote marks, his cynicism about the press and the public proving just as well earned in the present as it was in his past. Disinterested in either fame or retribution, however, his true love is simply playing football. He knows how slim the odds are that he was able to find salvation in the sport, and, as long as he has it—and the loyalty of his two best (and only) friends—that’s all he really needs. At least until Noah arrives. After having been recently fired from his job at an LGBT Youth Center in NYC due to his own choices and the bias of those in charge, Noah Monroe is more than a little bitter. Yet, from his first inner snipe about Gavin appearing to be the “ideal candidate for society’s irritating version of masculinity,” it’s clear that Noah has some prejudices of his own. Still, he is fiercely protective of those he cares about—one of several traits he and Gavin share—and, even though he might be preemptively defensive, he’s willing to really listen and open his carefully guarded margins to include others. Though it certainly doesn’t ignore familiar headlines often associated with professional sports—players’ reputations, public opinion, privacy (or the lack thereof), money, etc.—Illegal Contact gets its heart from its attention to the things you don’t normally see. Gavin’s anger over the exploitation he’s not supposed to notice, Noah’s determination to avoid repeating the past, and their mutual aversion to and unwillingness to play “the game” all coalesced into what amounted to a wonderful reading experience. Another element I appreciated about Illegal Contact is...
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Aug
9

Review: Rogue Desire Anthology

Review: Rogue Desire Anthology Rogue Desire Author: Various Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: I didn’t have time to read all the titles in this collection of stories—but those that I did, did something for my perspective. It isn’t a She Persisted thing anymore, folks. It’s a We Persisted thing. I may have had moments of despair for the past nine months, wondering what kind of world my kids were going to have to live in, but if these inspirational—absolutely filthy—stories are any indication, there’s a world of hope out there. Maybe all we have to do is grab on to our own little slice of it. In Adriana Anders’ Grassroots, I may have fallen in love with Zach and Veronica. Zach was a deep character and Veronica was complex and able to navigate turbulent political waters. Dakota Gray’s Deep Throat alludes to the Nixon administration, but is definitely not all about that life as Davis and Hayley navigate dangerous waters to play for the good guys. In Resistance  by Amy Jo Cousins, I fell in love with Kaz and Will as Kaz fought for what he thought he believed in while saving Will from himself…or for himself. Ainsley Booth penned Personal Disaster which happened to be my personal fave of those I read—but it’s definitely a HFN, which I usually don’t enjoy. But, it was a sip that drew me in. Life, Liberty, and Worship by Tamsen Parker is a wonderfully complex story about Paige and Carter and how nothing is as it seems…at least initially. I’m a little sad I didn’t have more time to read the stories by Emma Barry, Stacey Agdern, and Jane Lee Blair. I just plain ran out of time 🙁 But, I think I may go back and read them when I get time. If they’re anything like the other titles in this collection, they’ll be great for a sexy little boost when I feel like everything in the world is totally screwed. My Rating: A+ Personal Favorite About the Book: When all else fails, find love. Eight brand new romances for fans of the West Wing, fired-up #resistance fighters, and everyone who ever had a crush on that guy at a protest… GRASSROOTS by Adriana Anders Veronica Cruz is in the fight of her life for a seat on the city council. Meeting reclusive finance genius Zach Hubler should be a stroke of good luck—he has the power to sway public opinion. But when...
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Aug
1

Review: In His Hands by Adriana Anders

Review: In His Hands by Adriana Anders In His Hands Author: Adriana Anders Reviewer: VampBard Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: When I was reading In His Hands, I felt like I was transported up a lonely mountain and planted in a vineyard. The feel of the vines and the selection process—which to cut and which to leave—reminded me of working with my grandmother on the concord grapes she had in her back yard. I’d listen to her talk about pruning the canes back and making sure the vines stayed on the fencing she’d made my dad set when he was a kid. As an adult, I lived in her house and tried to reclaim the vines after years of them running amok. It wasn’t an easy job. But, my nostalgia left as soon as I figured out what the heck was going on, on the top of that mountain. It…wasn’t pretty, but Ms. Anders didn’t focus on the abuse Abby suffered at the hands of others. The story focused on trust. Not the cult in which Abby was raised and how twisted and backward their beliefs were. I may have thrown up in my mouth a little during a few memories. Abby is a little spitfire. I’m not sure whether I can fully stomach the  whole cult mentality. I’m pretty sure I would’ve been down off the mountain before I’d been married off to some old geezer. I get the ‘only way out is death’ mentality, though. It’s just super hard for me to connect with. Which brings me to Luc. As a recluse and neighbor to the cult, Luc’s lack of experience with positive relationships in his life played out beautifully in this story. I felt a true connection to him because he listened to everything his grandfather said about growing grapes—and he applied it to the small crop of grapes he cultivated every year to sell to vintners in the area. I could almost hear my grandmother saying some of the same things about her vines. I’m not sure if I missed how long Luc had been on the mountain or if I wasn’t able to retain it due to nostalgia. It felt like he’d been there a few years, though. I even got the whole family thing—but for entirely different reasons. What I adored about Luc even more than the trip he took me on down memory lane was the fact that he was FRENCH. Ugh. My weakness. Even though Abby was...
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Jul
24

Review + Giveaway: When I Need You by Lorelei James

Review + Giveaway: When I Need You by Lorelei James When I Need You Author: Lorelei James Reviewer: Jen Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Life for Rowan Michaels has always been fairly straightforward: first comes her son and second her career. There isn’t room for anything or anyone outside her family. Yet, befriending Jensen Lund makes her realize she is missing something in her life, and he could be the perfect fit. Breaking down walls can be scary, but Jensen may be worth it. Coming off a near-career-ending injury, Viking’s starter Jensen Lund has a new outlook on life, one that involves interests after his football days are over. So even though Rowan Michaels breaks all of his rules for dating, Jensen recognizes she, and her son, are special enough to break the rules. When I Need You is another wonderful love story in the Need You series. Lorelei James knows how to capture my heart; her characters are honest, caring, wonderful people who love with their whole being. Jensen and Rowan may not believe they are the perfect fit for one another because of self-imposed rules and rocky histories, but Ms. James shows readers how they are actually two halves of a whole. While I love pretty much every aspect of When I Need You, it is the fact that Ms. James creates a strong bond of friendship between Rowan and Jensen and then grows the romance slowly, that gives their story a solid foundation. I loved that external factors aren’t used to create conflict. It would have been so easy to use Jensen’s past, his fame, the no fraternization rule, or any number of other issues to drive a wedge between the pair. Yet instead, the author gives her characters inner-strength and integrity to examine their own choices and life decisions, then make the changes necessary to be happy. Both Jensen and Rowan are kind, giving, caring people, and the author uses this to bolster their romance, rather than take advantage of it to cause problems. When I Need You focuses on Rowan and Jensen’s romance. Shared in first person, alternating POVs, there is little room to develop an external plot; however, the author does sew seeds for future couples and books. I found that I enjoyed remaining focused on the couple, seeing all aspects of their fledging romance, understanding their fears and concerns, and applauding their courage to open up with honest, heartfelt dialogue. It drew me in and kept me glued to the pages...
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Jul
18

Review: Escaping Indigo by Eli Lang

Review: Escaping Indigo by Eli Lang Escaping Indigo Author: Eli Lang Reviewer: B. Rating: C+ What I’m Talking About: Escaping Indigo is a fairly brief, emotional study of the pitfalls of love, loss, anxiety, and misunderstanding. Micah is living a fan’s dream when he’s hired as a roadie for a band he’s loved for quite some time. But, being with them all long-term on a tour bus alters things, and his perspective of the individual members—Bellamy, in particular—begins to change. Unfortunately, both Micah and Bellamy have too many wounds that are still raw and aching to find an easy path to one another, and trying to hold onto something so fragile could cost them everything. As much as I loved the premise of Escaping Indigo, there were a few things that I had a little trouble with. Micah’s constant worry over Bellamy leads to several moments of repetitive inquiry that made Bellamy seem more fragile than he was in other scenarios within the narrative. I also had some difficulties with Micah’s somewhat contradictory stance on Bellamy’s anxiety. While he claims to acknowledge and accept Bellamy’s determination to deal with his issues on his own, he frequently pushes the idea of therapy (including medicinal treatments, to which Bellamy is adamantly opposed). There were other small issues, as well, but they didn’t stop me from wanting the best for these two characters. Romantically, I generally enjoyed the slow build between Micah and Bellamy. There were moments throughout the beginning and into the central part of the narrative where I wasn’t sure about Micha’s stance on the situation as a whole, but things did fall into place later on. Micha’s awareness of Bellamy outside of their roles as lead singer and roadie was very sweet at times, however, and when they truly connected with each other, the story came alive. Aside from these issues, Escaping Indigo makes several important points about relationships. For starters, people aren’t always what they appear to be. Getting to know someone’s truths can be precarious business, and trying to manipulate the outcome is seldom advisable. Another thing that I appreciated was that it’s made abundantly clear that one person cannot “fix” another. There are myriad problems just waiting for anyone who tries, and Micah treads that line a little too closely more than once. In the end, I’m somewhat conflicted when it comes to Escaping Indigo. On the one hand, there were several things that could have been addressed that would have made...
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Jul
12

Review + Blog Tour: All Wheel Drive by Z.A. Maxfield

Review + Blog Tour: All Wheel Drive by Z.A. Maxfield All Wheel Drive Author: Z.A. Maxfield Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Diego Luz had a plan of his own before an accident caused a spinal injury that cost him the use of his legs. Losing his vibrant, wild, beautiful mother shortly afterward was too much for him to take. Relocating to Bluewater Bay was the perfect way for him to start over—and hide from his mother’s legacy. At least, until a haggard, broken survivor shows up on his doorstep looking for some shelter of his own. Born a genius who always knew the direction his life would likely take, Healey Holly wasn’t prepared for the day that script would be utterly destroyed. Now, hurt and lost, he’s struggling to get back to a place where things make sense, even though his “home” belongs to someone else. But, some families are just as good without a permanent zip code, and even a heart that’s been shattered can love again. As should be expected from this series by now, All Wheel Drive left me with a lot to think about. Having first been introduced to Healey in Hell on Wheels, I couldn’t help but be extremely curious about Nash Holly’s intriguing twin brother. Officially meeting Healey as he is in the beginning of this story was a shock, and I felt off balance (in a good way) for the duration. There was nothing easy about Healey’s experience, but I think the story wouldn’t have meant as much any other way. Diego Luz is just as complex, if not more so, but in vastly different ways. Between his heritage and upbringing, his pride and independence, and the obligations he struggles with, he’s a complicated character, and I liked him a great deal for it. He’s unapologetically cynical for much of the story, making his grudging willingness to open his heart and life to another even more remarkable. As has been the case with many of the Bluewater Bay stories, All Wheel Drive tackles some exceptionally difficult topics that most series wouldn’t attempt. As a paraplegic, Diego’s sexuality could have been approached in ways that might have been more “delicate,” but wouldn’t have made nearly the impact as it did here. Healey is absolutely the perfect match for Diego in that respect, but the candid nature of the discussions and mechanics involved felt both necessary and right. Despite the importance of the message of this story, All Wheel Drive still...
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Jul
6

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Dating You / Hating You by Christina Lauren

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Dating You / Hating You by Christina Lauren Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Reviews Dating You / Hating You Author: Christina Lauren Narrator:  Shayna Thibodeaux and Deacon Lee Audio Listening Speed: 1.25x Series: Standalone Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: Simon & Schuster Audio What to say about Dating You / Hating You? I really, really wanted to love this book, but I didn’t. Christina Lauren authors some of my favorite titles, but this unfortunately isn’t one of them. And rather than continue to listen to it, I decided to call it quits at the 57% mark (through Chapter 15). Let me tell you why… Carter and Evie are wonderful characters who have a beautiful initial chemistry. They are adorable together, both a bit shy and unaware of how sexy they are. And while their jobs as talent agents in LA have kept each from relationships in the past, the instant connection the pair feels compels them to make a go of things. They have one great date and a hot make out session until everything falls apart. When Evie’s firm buys out Carter’s firm, the pair is forced to compete to keep a job in the LA offices. While it isn’t certain either would be let go or asked to relocate to New York, their asshole boss, Brad, along with their individual competitive natures creates bitterness and conflict, setting up the need to vie for the job. And things fall apart quickly from this point. Carter and Evie are both underhanded, doing things to make themselves look better while potentially sabotaging the other. It’s not horrible at first, but a poke here and a poke there creates such animosity that I cannot stand to listen to it. I finally gave up after a rather silly, yet cruel exchange of pranks involving coffee and hand lotion. It was a tough decision for me to stop listening. The narration is actually part of the reason I went as long as I did. Both Ms. Thibodeaux and Mr. Lee are fantastic! Both have very clear, sharp voices that are simultaneously relaxing. Ms. Thibodeaux gives weight and maturity to Evie, while Mr. Lee brings manages to get adorkable for Carter. Both narrators have excellent narrative voices and a range to fit a variety of both male and female rolls. In the end, Dating You / Hating You had too much Hating You and not enough Dating You. I’m guessing at some point, the couple works out...
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Jul
5

Review: Pounding Skin by L.A. Witt

Review: Pounding Skin by L.A. Witt Pounding Skin Author: L.A. Witt Reviewer: B. Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Picking up shortly after Back Piece, the first story in the Skin Deep, Inc. series, Pounding Skin introduces readers to jet pilot Jon Russell and inker Matt Huffman, whom we briefly met before. Although the pairing of a member of the military and a civilian employee of the tattoo shop is the same, the characters are so different that there’s very little repetition. While familiar within those parameters, this sequel feels brand new in plenty of other ways, making the entire series better overall. Even more than the first story in this series, Pounding Skin is a tale in which “opposites attract.” Jon throws his candor, which was downright abrasive on occasion, before him as if it were a shield he can hunker down behind, while still feeling blameless for anyone else’s hurt feelings. Matt, on the other hand, seems so genuine—even when he’s clueless—that I worried for him for the duration of the novel. Of the two, I couldn’t help the fondness I felt for Matt from the start, nor the protective irritation that was repeatedly inspired by Jon’s behavior. Nearly all of the emotional ballast is on Matt’s side, but it ended up working out well that way. Although I enjoyed Pounding Skin as a whole a great deal, there were some instances that I found distracting (but not particularly troubling). The sudden reversal of Matt’s old, alcohol-induced amnesia about an important moment with his college roommate; certain phrasing that’s repeated nearly verbatim; the suggestion that women are more easily “charmed” than men when it comes to sex, etc., did pull me out of the narrative on occasion. These moments are few, however, and are nicely balanced out by the more positive aspects of the story. Pounding Skin is a well-crafted second in the Skin Deep, Inc. series, and one I feel certain I’ll revisit soon. While I was never able to fully sympathize with Jon, I felt that Matt was a truly wonderful character. More than a romance, however, Pounding Skin examines the ways we are shaped by our experiences, sculpted by many other hands in addition to our own. I was also very glad to see more of Colin and Daniel from Back Piece, and every bit of the affection I have for them both was not only remembered, but magnified. The tattoo shop seemed like a real family this time around,...
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