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Currently Browsing: contemporary romance
May
17

Review: Wedding Girl by Stacey Ballis

Review: Wedding Girl by Stacey Ballis Wedding Girl Author: Stacey Ballis Reviewer: Nima Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Wedding Girl is a delightfully indulgent book. All in one, it’s an ode to comfort food, old black and white movies, specifically The Little Shop Around the Corner, and family. The Little Shop Around the Corner (1940) was remade into the 1998 blockbuster You’ve Got Mail and Wedding Girl gives nods to them both. It was a slow seduction, but Ballis totally won me over. The story begins with a personal disaster.  Sophie Bernstein, the child of nurturing, successful hippies (think of Sandra Bullock’s parents in Two Weeks Notice,) has her perfect life mapped out with the perfect man.  The reader arrives on the day of her perfect wedding when Mr. Perfect not only leaves her, and all of the bills, at the altar, but elopes with their business partner to St. Barts. Feeling hurt and embarrassed is not a good combination.  Sophie goes into a depression and lashes out at people who’ve been good to her.  It results in getting herself fired.  With massive debt to pay-off, Sophie sells her condo and moves in with her grandmother.  Her behavior has gotten her black-balled so her only shot at some income is the forty year old neighborhood corner bakery.  Her talents are sorely wasted on two kinds of cake, butter cookies and rye bread. But it’s a job.  Sophie sums it up when she says, “I think maybe after everything that happened last year, after everything that was leading up to what I always thought was my dream fell apart—my dream job and my dream guy and my dream life—I just don’t know if I have it in me to dream that big again.”  From there Sophie begins to rebuild her life and her skills, finding love along the way. Unlike petite Margaret Sullavan and Meg Ryan, our heroine is a size sixteen.  I loved that it was not an issue for anyone, including her love interest.  In fact, she’s an emotional eater and actually gains some weight while she goes through life-changing stress. Sophie describes herself as, “…officially beyond voluptuous and well into lumpy.” She finds it inconvenient, but it’s blissfully not a major story point.  It was a pleasure to read about someone talented and normal who wasn’t obsessed with her weight.  Furthermore, long sections are devoted to menus, ingredients, cooking, and eating.  I felt like I gained a couple pounds just from the...
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May
16

Review: Winning Her Over by Alexa Rowan

Review: Winning Her Over by Alexa Rowan Winning Her Over Author: Alexa Rowan Reviewer: Nima Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Although Winning Her Over is the first in Alexa Rowan’s new BigLaw Series, it is a stand-alone book. The story is a sweet tale of girl meets boy, boy screws up, boy wins girl back, and everyone lives happily ever after.  It is a quick, uncomplicated read.  Unfortunately, that is a criticism as well as a compliment. Cal Wilcox is unrealistically hot, as most romance heroes are, and probably more so when you consider the hours that are involved with making partner at a major law firm.  His ambition doesn’t leave time for lengthy workouts and meal planning, yet he is physically a calendar-worthy specimen of man meat.  His sexiest feature to me, however, is his confidence.  Using charm, not force, he doesn’t take “no” for an answer when he sets his sights on Brenna Nakamura.  That, more than anything, made him appealing to me. Brenna is to be commended for making her dreams come true and walking away from a lucrative career to do it.  She works hard to fight negative stereotypes about massage therapists and make her small business successful.  I liked that Brenna was smart, but made the time when someone came along who was worth the effort.  She stood up for herself when circumstances necessitated it rather than adopting a victim mentality. She was equally ready to forgive when confronted with a man who was truly repentant.  Sadly, all these adults behaving like actual adults, while being a refreshing change from the standard romance fare, doesn’t sustain much in the way of drama or conflict.  This is the one to read by the pool this summer when you’re sun-drowsy because there aren’t many plot points to hold on to and it can be finished in a single afternoon. Rowan has invited us to expect a series, “where smart, ambitious heroes and heroines struggle with realistic conflicts as they seek love, success, and that elusive work-life balance.”  She’s a good writer and I’m eager to see her explore this “elusive” problem in future books, hopefully with more dialog and more conflict, and without relying on typical stereotypes. My Rating: B, Liked It About the Book: Massage therapist Brenna Nakamura is struggling to keep her small business afloat, and she has no time for dating. Besides, the only guys she meets are her clients, and they’re off-limits. But her newest client—a devastatingly gorgeous...
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May
13

Review: The Brick Wall by Stephanie Julian

Review: The Brick Wall by Stephanie Julian The Brick Wall Author: Stephanie Julian Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B/B- What I’m Talking About: Shane “The Brick Wall” Conrad plays goalie for the Reading Redtails hockey club. He’s going though a rough spot and decides to stay in Reading for the Christmas holiday rather than head home to Minnesota to see his family. Even though he didn’t want to go out, he decides to take up assistant captain Cary Lenville’s offer to join his family and friends for dinner. Although once he arrives, he realizes he can’t leave soon enough, as long as Bliss is at his side. Bliss Vescovi loves her life in Reading, close to her job and family. She watches over her special needs adult brother and helps her aunt run a popular bridal boutique. Even though her own wedding fell apart two years ago, she still loves helping brides-to-be find the perfect dress. Bored and restless at friend Lori Lenville’s party, she’s ready to go until the gorgeous Shane Conrad enters the room. Bliss wants some one-night action, and when she sees Shane enter the party, she decides he’s the one for the job. The Brick Wall is the first book in Ms. Julian’s new Redtails Hockey contemporary romance series. The book does a great job creating the setting and filling in the world with likable, interesting characters. Individually, and as a couple, I liked Shane and Bliss. They are both strong people who aren’t afraid to go after what they want. Yet both are slightly vulnerable and worried about getting hurt. Each is very kind and sweet, with just enough naughty, providing for some extremely steamy scenes. I did feel that their initial encounter was a bit over the top with respect to Shane’s insta-lust reaction to Bliss and her voice, but once that first night was over, I found the reactions more even-keeled and less hokey. As much as I enjoyed the characters and their romance, I wanted more. I don’t know if this book is indicative of the series to come, but it was short. Too short. The author uses elapsed-time sections, with several weeks passing by with just the proverbial turn-of-the-page. I wanted more time getting to know Shane and Bliss and seeing them together outside the bedroom. Additionally, I was frustrated with the jump in time towards the end of the book, when I think there was no communication between Shane and Bliss (I was a little confused at...
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May
10

Review: Fly with Me by Chanel Cleeton

Review: Fly with Me by Chanel Cleeton Fly with Me Author: Chanel Cleeton Reviewer: Nima Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Fly With Me, book one in the Wild Aces series, is a lot of what you expect just looking at the cover:  super-hot, confident, smart, fighter pilot finds the love of his life and asks her to risk her heart so they can fly away happily ever after.  Indeed, this is how the story starts.  U.S. Air Force fighter pilot and weapons specialist Noah Miller is blowing off steam with his squad members at a Las Vegas night club.  Florida native and successful clothing boutique owner, which means she has the right outfit for every occasion, Jordan Callahan happens to be in the same nightclub celebrating her little sister’s bachelorette party.  They see each other across a crowded room, she plays hard to get, she’s unlike anyone he’s ever known, their chemistry is combustible… *cue the sappy music* I love me some sexy inguinal creases, but what you might not expect at first glance is that Cleeton writes about some significant and serious issues that go with loving someone committed to military life.  The book almost feels like it was written by two people, one who was writing a cheesy romance novel full of sex and clichés and the other who was writing a serious love story that evoked genuine emotion. I also wasn’t expecting a love story that moved from its impulsive beginning straight through to its conclusion.  The book maintains a certain intensity because of that, but there is no subplot even though we were set up for one.  The groom for Jordan’s little sister’s wedding?  Jordan’s ex.  That had drama written all over it, but it was never pursued. Finally, I found it unfortunate that while there was explicit sexuality all over the book, it didn’t necessarily breed the intimacy that was being suddenly taken for granted as a matter of chemistry.  A great physical relationship doesn’t guarantee an emotional one.  Cleeton made an attempt at suggesting the growing emotional bond between her characters by having Noah and Jordan speak on the phone nearly every day from their separate parts of the country, but the reader wasn’t privy to most of those conversations—unless, of course, it was phone sex.  We didn’t get to build emotional intimacy until crisis hit. Then, finally, we get something meaningful.  I wish the story had more of that. I think I would have given it a higher...
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May
5

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Rescue My Heart by Jill Shalvis

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Rescue My Heart by Jill Shalvis Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Rescue My Heart Author: Jill Shalvis Narrator: Karen White Audio Speed: 1.25x + 1.5x Series: Animal Magnetism #3 Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: Purchased Rescue My Heart follows Adam Connelly, a veteran suffering from PTSD who works as Sunshine’s search and rescue specialist but hasn’t been on an active rescue since leaving the military. When the one woman he’s ever cared about works her way back into Adam’s life, he has to work extra hard to keep his defenses up and emotional walls in place. After giving up her New York life to move to Sunshine and manage her father’s ranch, Holly is finally finding some happiness. Yet seeing Adam around town is a harsh reminder of the love she once thought they shared only to have him break her heart. However, when her father goes missing, Holly turns to the one man she knows can find him. Rescue My Heart is the third story in the Animal Magnetism series, which centers the Connelly brothers at their Sunshine, Idaho, animal clinic. After absolutely loving the second book in the series, I had a tough time getting into Adam and Holly’s story. First, I was a bit put off by some slight changes in the narrative voices for Adam, his brother Dell, and receptionist Jade. Dell and Jade were the primary couple of book two, with Adam a side character. It sounded like the narrator kept the same voices for the hero/heroine, transferring Dell’s voice to Adam and Jade’s voice to Holly, which gave Dell and Jade new voices. After a while, I didn’t notice the change, but listening to the books back-to-back, it did bug me for a while. Secondly, I struggled with some possible inconsistencies. In the second book, Dell teased Adam, telling him he should sleep with Holly. However, at the beginning of Rescue My Heart, we find out that Holly is married. Additionally, Holly and Adam share a past, and it’s confusing why others aren’t aware of their past. Fortunately, these issues work themselves out, but it frustrated me for a while. Luckily, after these issues worked themselves out, the story gathers a lot of momentum. Once Holly and Adam start their search for Holly’s father, I became engrossed with the book, especially Holly and Adam’s romance. I loved Holly’s determination to make herself happy and how she goes after Adam knowing he may break her heart again....
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May
4

Review: Wish upon a Wedding by LuAnn McLane

Review: Wish upon a Wedding by LuAnn McLane Wish upon a Wedding Author: LuAnn McLane Reviewer: Ang Rating: A What I’m Talking About: The premises with Wish upon a Wedding is not new. If you’ve watched the 1987 movie Can’t Buy Me Love or 2003’s Love Don’t Cost A Thing, you know the basic storyline: girl poses as boy’s girlfriend to get solve whatever the issue is. In those movies, the fake girlfriend was supposed to help with the boys’ popularity, while in this case it is Sophia who posses as the girlfriend to try to get Avery’s sister to stop trying to get him back together with his ex-fiance, who is a southern piece of work. OY!! Perfume and pearls on the outside, nettles and nastiness on the inside. There were numerous times I wanted to knock the perfectly placed smile right off Miss Ashley’s spoiled face. But then I guess that’s a trait of a good writer, to illicit strong feelings, and as usual Ms. McLane does a wonderful job of that throughout the novel. I read Wish upon a Wedding while being very distracted, and as usual Cricket Creek was a perfect escape from a rather stressful situation. The dialogue was fun and fast paced. The humor spot on and the emotion perfect; not too heavy but not so light as to not be taken seriously. The settings were as memorable as the characters, and the chemistry between both couples kept me turning pages. I thoroughly enjoyed walking down main street, visiting with locals, and taking in the scenery as I joined Avery and Sophia on their adventure. I was also thrilled that the secondary story about Carrie Ann and Easton’s storyline wasn’t neglected as tended to happened in earlier Cricket Creek novels. Ms. McLane has also become a pro at giving the reader just enough information about the town and its menagerie of characters that you don’t feel lost if you haven’t indulged in other Cricket Creek novels, but peaks your interest enough that you want to go find their stories and get to know them better. Plus, who wouldn’t love spending more time in a sweet southern town filled with people who take you in as their own regardless of where you’re from? And really I think that, coming home is the theme of the novel. Home. Sometimes it’s a place and sometime it’s a person. In Cricket Creek, it is often both, and I think that’s the beauty of the Cricket Creek novels,...
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May
2

Review: The Trouble with Temptation by Shiloh Walker

Review: The Trouble with Temptation by Shiloh Walker The Trouble with Temptation Author: Shiloh Walker Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: I have been waiting for this book. I needed to know what was going to happen with Brannan and Hannah. If you haven’t read the first title in the series, Headed for Trouble, you should get on that. The Trouble with Temptation picks up where the first title in The McKays series leaves off. Ms. Walker’s writing is engaging and drew me in from the start. We’re immediately dropped back in the world of the McKays, with our focus on Hannah and Brannan—who were introduced in the previous title. There are innumerable examples, but one of my favorite passages was Hannah’s description of Brannan at the beginning of Chapter Six: “He was too big. He was too beautiful. Even after the past few days, Hannah was hard-pressed to come up with any other summation of Brannon McKay. She wasn’t talking about his physical appearance, either, although he sure as hell didn’t lack for that, either. Everything about him was larger than life.” What we learn through the course of this title is that Hannah has amnesia and doesn’t remember the stuff at the end of the previous title. Even when she doesn’t trust herself, as a reader, I find myself rooting for her. She’s not the whiny, take-a-backseat-to-a-powerful-man woman. Nope. She knows she’s got this on her own—even pregnant. She keeps her independence through times that are *ahem* less than fun, and maintains a sense of self even when things are going well. She’s frustrated at all the right things, and while I’ve never experienced amnesia (lucky…there’s times I’d *like* to forget things…), but I hope I’d be the same. I really adore Hannah and the way her character develops and grows through this part of the series arc. Now. Brannan. If ever there were a rich Alpha male, Brannan is probably the poster child. He doesn’t throw his money around, but he doesn’t deny he’s got it, either. It’s just a part of who he is. While there’s some skeletons hanging in his closet, regarding Hannah, he really is the perfect person for her. He just isn’t secure enough in himself to ‘come clean’ with some details. I think a BIG part of what drives the plot of The Trouble with Temptation is the suspense aspect of the plot. Introduced in the first title of the series, there’s some trouble afoot, dear reader....
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Apr
28

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Animal Attraction by Jill Shalvis

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Animal Attraction by Jill Shalvis Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Animal Attraction Author: Jill Shalvis Narrator: Karen White Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Animal Magnetism #2 Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: Purchased Animal Attraction is the second story in Jill Shavis’s enjoyable Animal Magnetism series. Set in the small town of Sunshine, Idaho, the series focuses on the veterinary practice owned by Dell and Adam Connelly. Dell had a rough childhood, going from foster home to foster home, and to this day, hides himself behind humor and one-night stands. Yet from the moment his big-city receptionist blew into his life 18 months ago, Dell finds he cannot stop thinking about her. Meanwhile, Jade ran from her Chicago life all those months ago, finding refuge in Sunshine. Promising her family she’d return, Jade isn’t sure she can afford to indulge in her feelings for Dell. I really enjoyed my second visit to Sunshine, Idaho. Jade and Dell make for a perfect pair. Both are working through past issues and trying to come to terms with growing feelings that they’d rather ignore. Becoming good friends during her stay, the pair realize time is running out and neither wants to say goodbye. Jade’s leaving was a constant weight hanging over the pair, and it was probably brought up one too many times; however I like how the author worked it into the story and around the problem it posed. While Dell’s past is generally known by the reader, Jade’s is not. As her history is slowly revealed to the reader, it could have easily turned into a contrived, stereotypical storyline. Yet, the author doesn’t take the easy path, instead creating a more interesting and well-developed storyline. I enjoyed how Jade and Dell work through their issues together (mostly). Although, for two very intelligent and in-tune individuals, they got pretty stupid with each other there for a while. The narration by Karen White was enjoyable and easy to listen to. I enjoyed her voices, especially Jade’s. Her performance of the males were more spot on this time around, and I liked that she altered her vocalizations enough to give each character his or her own unique sounds. My only complaint comes with previous heroine, Lilah, who seemed to grow a bit stupid and shallow at times, and her voice was equally annoying during those moments. Overall, I really enjoyed Animal Attraction. Although both characters are introduced in the first book, Animal Attraction could easily be enjoyed as a...
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Apr
27

Review: First and First by Santino Hassell

Review: First and First by Santino Hassell First and First Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: No matter how hard he tries, Caleb Stone always manages to disappoint those around him: his parents, his former work associates, his ex-boyfriend… Spending an alcohol-soaked New Year’s Eve observing the happiness of others only highlights the fact that nothing in his life has gone the way he wanted it to. It all makes the idea of giving up on romance entirely seem like a pretty good one. Of course, waking up next to a gorgeous acquaintance might not have been what he had in mind, either, but things have certainly been worse. Going from riches to rags after his parents threw him out when he was eighteen taught Oliver Buckley a lot about being independent. Being cast aside by a man who only wanted to use him for the status he no longer possessed taught him to never give his heart away again. Now, he’s got money of his own, no attachments weighing him down, and a standing invitation to the most exclusive scene parties in NYC. Everything is perfect. At least, until a one-night stand with Caleb flips his entire world inside out. Having primarily seen the worst of Caleb in Sunset Park, the previous story in this series, I was relieved to find that spark of “something else” I saw in him given a chance to take over in First and First. Caleb’s acceptance of his need for control, for things to fit what he sees as a logical order, is so absolute that it’s strangling him, as well as infecting every other relationship he has. He isn’t tyrannical (that’s his father’s job), just very, very stuck. He’s been emotionally isolated for so long that trusting others and letting go is impossible for him. Until his drunken night with Oli, anyway (which he can only remember in sporadic flashbacks). Yet, even with Oli, he initially thinks salvation might be found in following the other’s lead, only to learn that trying to shove himself into someone else’s mold won’t do him any good, either. Oli, on the other hand, has custom-built his world just the way he likes it. Happily rough around the edges, Oli could easily be dismissed as the blithely hedonistic party boy, except he’s most assuredly more than that. He and Caleb actually have quite a lot in common, but Oli’s version of control is expressed much differently. Adept at...
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Apr
21

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Love So Hot by Marquita Valentine

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Love So Hot by Marquita Valentine Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Book: Love So Hot Author: Marquita Valentine Narrator: Piper Goodeve Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Lawson Brothers #1 Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: purchased What I’m Talking About Love So Hot is a sweet romance and enjoyable listen. Sydney McKnight and Brody Lawson have been best friends for 23 years, but lately both have been feeling a bit more for the other. Unfortunately, neither wants to ruin their friendship, assuming that if they spill their true feelings and other other doesn’t reciprocate, they’d lose a friend. So instead, they play games, hoping to make the other realize how much more they could have. At first I didn’t care for Brody, a ladies man with a girlfriend. It bothered me that he was in love with one person… his best friend, but sleeping with another. However, this resolved itself quickly and actually played out well in the long run. I loved the idea of Brody and Sydney together and found their romance sweet, as well as sexy. It was so painfully obvious to everyone that the pair was in love, yet neither Sydney nor Brody would allow themselves to believe it. This best-friends-to-lovers story is a bit predictable, yet still managed to hit me in the heart. While I was frustrated with lack of communication, I ended up enjoying the book overall. However, there was more than one time that the pair was in the perfect position to share their true feelings, and either one or the other copped out. But I guess the story would have been over quickly without the contrived misunderstandings. I was even more frustrated with how things went down after the truth was finally revealed. I felt that there was no need to continue the couple’s problems once the truth was out, however, the author kept the pair apart, dragging on the hard feelings. The narration by Piper Goodeve is enjoyable at a 1.25x speed. I found her performance of Sydney spot on, giving her a tentative and shy voice with a spark when called for. Ms. Goodeve was able to adequately convey the male characters with a bit deeper tone, however, I didn’t love Brody’s voice as much as Sydney’s. Overall, Love So Hot made for an entertaining listen. A short, small town romance, the story has heart, and even with the frustrating parts, I still enjoyed the book. My Rating: B- Narration:...
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