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Currently Browsing: contemporary romance
Sep
20

Review: Too Wild to Tame by Tessa Bailey

Review: Too Wild to Tame by Tessa Bailey Too Wild to Tame Author: Tessa Bailey Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: Please don’t tell Mr. VampBard. Seriously. My one-click finger is getting a serious workout as I find more and more authors with an awesome backlist to meander my way through. Tessa Bailey is on the short list. Not kidding here, folks. I really wish I could provide you with some wonderful excerpts from Too Wild to Tame, but all the poignant ones are revelations during sexytime. They’re laced with innuendo and dirty-talking. Definitely my cuppa. I’m pretty sure some of the text in this title were flame-thrower status. Even if you haven’t read Too Hot to Handle, the first title in the Romancing the Clarksons series, you won’t be lost (I did read Rita and Jasper’s story, but I haven’t written a review… yet). While there’s a common thread—four siblings wending their way across the country from California to New York—each sib gets their own story. And their own HEA. They may not be pretty, and they may not be perfect, but the road to happiness is seldom an easy path to travel. These sibs have found their dearly departed mother’s diary—or a series of dialogues she has with herself on paper—about each of her kids. As a parent of grown (and nearly-grown) children, I often think about how they perceive me as well as themselves. I’d love to think I’ve raised them to be self-assured and confident in themselves—that their persona isn’t merely a façade to cover up a shortcoming of mine. I think that’s a fear all parents have, to be honest. One of the best gifts a parent can give their child is the gift of their words. Letting them know how we really saw them. What we caught when they didn’t think we were looking… Enough mushy stuff. We need to talk politics for a minute. No, I’m not going to endorse a presidential candidate, although that’s exactly what Aaron Clarkson does. He’s this supremely drool-worthy guy that has a silver tongue (pulling my mind out of the gutter…) and he uses it to endorse political candidates, assessing which demographic need his special brand of attention, and then launching an attack the populous never sees coming. He’s a love-’em-and-leave-’em kinda guy. Until…he falls from GRACE and has to fight his way back to the top. After all, with his powers of persuasion, this should be an easy task, right? There’s...
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Sep
20

Review + Excerpt: Strung Up by Lorelei James

Review + Excerpt: Strung Up by Lorelei James Strung Up Author: Lorelei James Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: A-/B+ What I’m Talking About: Creston “Cres”, the youngest Grant brother, and until recently, a closeted gay rancher, is still coping with the sudden death of the love of his life over two years ago. In an effort to get him out of his funk, Cres’s brothers and sisters-in-law take him out to a big party where he runs into Breck Christianson, a sexy hookup from Cres’s past. Breck has spent the last two years of his life riding a crushing wave that ended his successful career and left him with few friends. Seeing Cres Grant serves to remind him of the “one that got away,” yet gives him hope for the future. I have to admit, the opening prologue of Strung Up both surprised and crushed me. I am not one to read book blurbs before I dive into a story, so it came as quite a shock that Cres’s hero is Breck, and not someone else. For those who’ve read the previous two 1,001 Dark Nights/Blacktop Cowboys tales, I think the prologue will hit you equally as hard. However difficult and shocking the opener was, it effectively drew me into this wonderful story and created a deeply emotional connection to Cres. I immediately grew to care about him and his future. Cres and Breck made for a wonderful pair. Right from their initial encounter, the couple shared an intense sexual attraction, something stemming from their brief history and made even stronger over time. I liked how the pair opened up to each other about the pain in his past, and how it impacted his life in the now. Yet no matter how honest they were with one another, each continued to hide his true feelings towards the other. This duality of honesty created delicious tension and drew out the romance just until the point where it could have become tedious. Ms. James created a perfect match with these two pained souls. Overall, Strung Up is a sexy love story about second chances. I liked the emotional intensity of the tale. It never felt rushed because the characters have been around and have an established backstory. The couple had electric chemistry both in and out of the bedroom, adding to the heightened emotional content. My Rating: A-/B+ Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: Rancher Creston Grant retreats from the world after he loses the love of his life… Can his...
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Sep
14

Review: The Claiming by Tara Sue Me

Review: The Claiming by Tara Sue Me The Claiming Author: Tara Sue Me Reviewer: VampBard Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Before I even start, readers need to be warned that the last thirty-ish minutes of reading on this story is a preview of The Exposure, releasing October 4, 2016. I did NOT read the preview, folks. I resist the urge to do that—especially since you can come back on release day to read my thoughts on Meagan and Luke’s story. I was really geeked to get back to Cole and Sasha. I mean, Sasha has had such a difficult row to hoe after all that stuff… Anyway, it seems we finally get to see her HEA here…even though it seems as though we may have already seen it. Learning more about the super hot and super British Cole Johnson’s roots made this read for me, to be honest. Catching a deeper glimpse of his past was a bit telling for me, to be honest. My first thought was, “Is this type of thing what makes a good Dom?” But naturally, I debunked my posed question. Totally not required. It does, however, make for a good story, and naturally readers always want backstory. Maybe that’s just a me thing… I was intrigued by the scenarios Cole set forth for Sasha in The Claiming, book 7.5 in Tara Sue Me’s Submissive series. With Sasha’s baggage, we got to see some of her internal thought processes that brought her full-circle for me. I think the fact that she implicitly trusts Cole to know her needs—even after a horrific experience at the hands of another Dom—is very telling, and a perfect example of an appropriate D/s relationship. This is something that keeps me coming back to this series—the realistic view the author brings to BDSM. While The Claiming is just a 92-ish page novella, it’s a great way to reconnect with Cole and Sasha—and see where they are now. We get some reconnection with Nathaniel and Abby, as well as Daniel and Julie which makes my over-arching plot heart happy. Readers of the Submissive series will definitely want to pick up this title, as it’s a great glimpse at how far Sasha has come. And, if you can’t wait for The Exposure to release in like a month, there’s a taste at the end. My Rating: B+ Liked It A Lot About the Book: Submitting is just the beginning… Sasha Blake never thought her emotional wounds would heal—that they...
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Sep
9

Review: Sunset in Central Park by Sarah Morgan

Review: Sunset in Central Park by Sarah Morgan Sunset in Central Park Author: Sarah Morgan Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Sunset in Central Park is the second book in Ms. Morgan’s From Manhattan with Love series. The contemporary romances share the lives of three best friends: Paige, Frankie, and Eva, who are making their way in Manhattan after growing up on a small island off the coast of Maine. After recently losing their jobs, the friends started their own event-and-concierge business. Frankie’s expertise lies in gardens and flowers, so she spends much of her time creating masterpieces for bridal showers and weddings, which is extremely unfortunate for the anti-relationship Frankie. Paige’s big brother Matt, who also happens to be the girls’ landlord, just lost his best employee and needs help with a challenging rooftop garden. It’s a job he knows will be perfect for Frankie, the woman he’s been in love with for years. He’s given Frankie all sorts of space, knowing her rocky history and fear of romance, but Matt’s done waiting for Frankie to come to him. Sunset in Central Park is an enjoyable, light-hearted romantic read. Its best features are the three best friends and their deep and true bonds. Each woman felt genuine to me and treated each other with the utmost love and care. It was their connections that drew me into the story and kept me reading. And although this is standalone romance and I didn’t need to read the first book, I found that I wish I had read it. I wanted to get to know the girls better, and I felt like I would have known more about them if I’d read the first title. Matt is the perfect guy… not just for Frankie, but in general. Good looking, successful, caring, generous… need I go on? And as much as Frankie tries to push Matt away, he is understanding of her reasons, not letting her “get away” with her behavior. He pushes just enough, confusing Frankie, as her mind, body, and emotions don’t know how to process Matt’s actions. Watching Frankie get flustered and turned on by Matt was entertaining. But also heartbreaking, as she slowly revealed her insecurities. Each layer pulled back brings with it pain for Frankie. Memories she needs to get past in order to learn to love. Matt is just so incredibly sweet, that when he finally hits his limit, my heart broke for him (and Frankie). I was ready to...
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Sep
5

Review: Fast Connection by Megan Erickson & Santino Hassell

Review: Fast Connection by Megan Erickson & Santino Hassell Fast Connection Author: Megan Erickson & Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Unwilling to remain stagnant like the majority of his peers, and lacking other options, Dominic Costigan joined the Army straight out of high school, any “growing up” he had to do being done with a gun in his hands on the front lines of war. Now that he’s back, he’s quickly discovering that the home he knew, and most of those in it, is more foreign and ill-fitting than ever. Lonely and eager to explore his newfound sexual interest in men, he decides that a no-strings, internet-spawned hookup would be a fine place to start over again—especially if it means protecting his already battle-worn heart. Luke Rawlings is done with relationships. Out of the two he’s had that mattered, one ended with two amazing kids and an incredible ex-wife, while the other resulted in his being discharged from the Army and his former boyfriend briefly kidnapping his children. All he wants, or needs, now is to make sure his landscaping business stays profitable, to take care of his teenagers, and keep his sexual engagements as impersonal as possible. Lucky for him, Grindr was made for exactly that. After eagerly anticipating the release of Fast Connection, the second story in the Cyberlove series by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell, I was both pleased and unsurprised to find that it was as fun and thoughtfully written as I imagined it would be. Whereas Strong Signal, the first in the series, didn’t explore the mingling of the virtual world with the “real” one until later in the narrative, Fast Connection takes place amid the interchange of one with the other throughout, handily reaffirming the validity of online relationships along the way. In a testament to the authors’ writing abilities, Dominic transformed from an abrasive, insecure bully with a serious control problem into a thoughtful, insecure survivor who wants a better future for himself and his family. In Fast Connection, that earlier façade is given a degree of substance I hadn’t expected, and appreciated all the more for it. Dominic doesn’t make excuses, which I was glad to see, instead waving his mistakes ahead of him, almost as a warning, lest anyone see too much potential in him. Rather than wallowing, he seemed to want to hope very badly, but couldn’t quite find his way there on his own. Luke, as it happens, is the perfect person...
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Aug
30

Review: Lessons in Gravity by Jessica Peterson

Review: Lessons in Gravity by Jessica Peterson Lessons in Gravity Author: Jessica Peterson Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Everyone deserves love. Everyone. No one can make you feel anything unless you let them. This feeling of empowerment was my take-away from Lessons in Gravity. The second title in Jessica Petersons’s Study Abroad series is packed with even more of the feels than the first. Although reading the first book isn’t necessary to become immersed in this storyline, it’s recommended only because the backstory of the secondary characters in the title make it that much more poignant. While we get to see more of Viv & Rafa, as well as Laura and her hot futballer, I think my favorite supporting cast member was Leo. This Spanish guitar player comes up with some of the funniest stuff, yet, has this insightful down-to-earth side that drew me in. Seriously, I’d like to see a book about Leo in the future. He needs a HEA! The secondary characters definitely take a back seat to the main couple in the story, however. We met Maddie in Ms. Peterson’s first title in this series, Spanish Lessons. The sullen bestie of Vivian, she doesn’t feel she is deserving of love because she feels her parents’ divorce is her fault. Which is BS. But let’s be honest. Many of shoulder responsibility for baggage that really isn’t ours to bear. Some of us more than others. Lessons in Gravity was a great read for me because I am one of those people. I used to worry that everything was my fault—with age and experience, that’s lessened. Watching Maddie’s growth through the title was definitely an experience worth reading, one I could connect with. I’d recommend it to my (grown) daughters, but they’re not smut readers like their mom. 🙂 Which brings me to this: the chemistry and sexytimes with Javi and Maddie. Super. Hot. Like, did my Kindle melt?!? Sometimes, really hot and generic, but when Javier gets his way? Oh. Myyyy. Uncle Pervy. Yup. That’s Maddie’s nickname for Javier—he’s Rafa’s uncle. And I really fell for him mid-way through the title. He’s a smidge older than Maddie and he’s ready, after being a freakin’ rock star, to settle down. Javi has some growth in the title as well, though. It’s not all Maddie. Sometimes, we think we know what’s best for ourselves and don’t simply let life happen. I mean, it’s kind of cheesy, but there are definite benefits (in my...
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Aug
29

Review + Excerpt: Homecoming by Shannon Stacey

Review + Excerpt: Homecoming by Shannon Stacey Homecoming Author: Shannon Stacey Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Homecoming begins immediately following the conclusion of the previous book, where we find several of the Stewart Mills residents in the hospital following the aftermath of Coach McDonnell’s apparent heart attack on the football field. While recovering, Coach wants Sam Leavitt, former Eagles championship quarterback, to come home from Texas and coach the team. Even though Sam agrees, he does so knowing it is temporary because he will never move back to Stewart Mills, the place of his nightmarish childhood. Jen Cooper grew up in Stewart Mills and loves her job as the high school guidance counselor. After her amazing one-time hookup with Sam back in the summer when he was home (for the first time in over a decade) for the football team fundraiser, Jen never wanted to see bad boy Sam again. Yet when he shows up in Stewart Mills to stay for a while, Jen isn’t sure she can deny their strong attraction. Homecoming is the third (and presumably final) chapter in the Boys of Fall series, which features the goings-on of small-town Stewart Mills, NH. The town fell on hard times a while back, and I love how the town finds joy and regains hope through their high school football team. I like that while each book is a standalone, each builds upon the previous as far as character development. By the time we get to this third book, I care about each of the characters. I also like that we see the town mend and grow. The tone of the books progressively become more positive and hopeful because of the changing circumstances. Overall, I loved Jen and Sam individually and as a couple. Both have their heads on straight and don’t tend to do ridiculous things or make silly relationship mistakes. Jen rocks and has her life together, which I appreciate. I love that she’s smart and caring, which is perfect since she is a respected guidance counselor. What I admire most about her character is that she THINKS like a counselor. She isn’t making stupid decisions or letting Sam get away with crap. Ms. Stacey carried her personality through every action and decision. And Sam is also a good, smart guy. While he does have a rocky past, he’s learned to deal with it like an adult. He takes into consideration others and how his actions will impact those closest...
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Aug
24

Review: Spanish Lessons by Jessica Peterson

Review: Spanish Lessons by Jessica Peterson Spanish Lessons Author: Jessica Peterson Reviewer: VampBard Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Spanish Lessons was good read. I finished the other night and needed to let it marinate. Ms. Peterson’s voice was authentic and engaging. Overall, I enjoyed the characters—especially at the end. Part of the reason I didn’t give this title an A rating is because there’s probably a generational gap or a regional difference, and I was confused by some of the usage. For example, ‘hookup’. Darlings, I graduated from high school in 1986. When we said ‘hook up’, we meant having sexy time. I understood, by context clues and world-building this was not the case. But it bugged me a little. Probably a ‘me’ thing. Because I’m old and set in my ways. Don’t let this little thing discourage you from picking up this title, though! There was a TON I adored about Spanish Lessons, the first title in the Study Abroad series. All the art made me want to die—or visit Spain. I actually used Google Images to peruse paintings by artists mentioned in the story. I’m a geek like that. It was pretty spectacular to read about a character that is almost like the late-80s me, in some ways. Ms. Peterson’s description was vivid—which is important to me, as I’ve never had the opportunity to travel abroad. Even though I really want to, and now Spain is on my list. I liked Vivian well enough, I suppose. She vacillated on her decisions entirely too much; the inner conflict was a little overdone for my taste—but if you like your characters to work for their Happily for Now, then pick up this title. I get the whole inner conflict and the romance formula. It was really nice, however, to see Vivian grow as a person. Which is why, by the end, I felt more connected to her and was much less irritated by her waffling. Maddie, as Viv’s bestie, was distant for a chunk of the story, but we get to read about her next—Lessons in Gravity was released in April! Come back next week for my review. This brings us to Rafa. I was really glad he was depicted as a graduate student and not anything older. Then again, I might be slightly squicked out by the teacher-student relationship thing. There wasn’t as much of an age disparity, and that seemed to work for Viv and Rafa. Also, if I ever travel to...
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Aug
18

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Still the One by Jill Shalvis

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Still the One by Jill Shalvis Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Still the One Author: Jill Shalvis Narrator: Karen White Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Animal Magnetism #6 Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: Purchased Picking up the characters and stories started in the previous title, Still the One shares the story and romance of Darcy and AJ. Darcy is the sister of Wyatt (Then Came You), still recovering from a near-fatal car wreck. Darcy is able to walk and mostly get around on her own thanks to her Wyatt’s best friend, physical therapist AJ. Over the months of P/T, which we first witness in Then Came You, AJ and Darcy have developed a dangerous attraction, but they cannot get along whatsoever. With funding for AJ’s programs on the line, Darcy agrees to a weekend away to help secure additional monies. Now will either be able to survive a weekend together, alone? Darcy and AJ are, in one word, HOT. I loved their chemistry, which was evident in both their sizzling attraction, as well as their tit-for-tat bantering. Both have huge hearts and a lot of baggage, so opening up and letting someone in is very difficult. This is what makes their connection very rewarding as the reader (listener) witnesses the bonds growing stronger with each chapter. Equally enjoyable was the emotionally fulfilling backstories and both Darcy and AJ learn to get past their individual issues. Darcy had a crappy childhood, with parents that don’t really care. AJ got burned by someone he loved more than anything. These are issues each has struggled with for years, and I’m grateful they don’t just magically disappear. Ms. Shalvis rewards readers by having both AJ and Darcy work through the baggage, only to come out stronger in the end. Listening again at 1.5x speed, I throughly enjoyed Karen White’s performance. She instills strong personality into each character, giving everyone his or her own voice. Additionally, she masters the emotional state of each character, providing an enriching listening experience. Overall, I completely enjoyed listening to Still the One. I find that this series seems to get better and better with each story. I especially loved that the book went a little beyond the “HFN moment” and let the reader see the couple together for a bit. While the Darcy and AJ’s romance is standalone, I feel that the reader should at least start with the prior book, Then Came You, to get a good feel for both Darcy and AJ’s...
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Aug
15

Review: Can I See You Again? by Allison Morgan

Review: Can I See You Again? by Allison Morgan Can I See You Again? Author: Allison Morgan Reviewer: Nima Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: Can I See You Again? is a good book, but it fell short of the potential to be more. Bree Caxton is a matchmaker based in La Jolla, California.  Her expertise is in reading body language and a wistful love of falling in love. I can identify.  This is why I like contemporary romance.  Bree is good at her job, so good that she has a 98% success rate.  Business is steady and she has a debut book ready to hit the stands.  Life is good.  Her boyfriend of four years, attorney Sean Thomas, is even going to propose—until he doesn’t.  In a Legally Blonde moment, Sean dumps her at their favorite restaurant.  It would appear that author Allison Morgan is inspired by popular movies as many more such moments creep into her writing.  Inspiration is fine, but her repetition of the Pretty Woman line “take care of you” was distracting for me.  There was even the save grandma’s house subplot right out of Happy Gilmore.  I found myself looking for similar comparisons instead of relaxing into what might have been a sweet and moving love story. Morgan’s most grievous sin was the conscious choice to end nearly every chapter with a “moment,” a cliff-hanger of sorts.  It was jarring to me, like I kept running into locked doors with my arms full.  Unfortunately, there was little relief.  The next chapter, more often than not, began hours or days later.  If there was resolution, we didn’t get to experience it, only hear about it after-the-fact as Bree processed it.  How do you drop a major bomb on a character and not have the rest of that scene? The other literary tactic that bothered me was just the opposite.  Rather than dropping bombs and holding back the explosion, Morgan just didn’t drop the bomb.  She repeatedly withheld significant information by interrupting dialog with some emergency in the same moment the words would have left a character’s mouth.  Writers of teen books often do this, and an adult writer should know better.  It didn’t build tension, it built annoyance. My final grievance was the use of clichéd characters.  How many snappy dressing gay assistants are there out there?  Bree’s new love interest, Nixon, had the potential to be really interesting.  He was even surprising on occasion, but we had so little of him, it felt...
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