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Currently Browsing: contemporary romance
Oct
23

Review: Hold Her Again by Shannon Stacey

Review: Hold Her Again by Shannon Stacey Hold Her Again Author: Shannon Stacey Reviewer: Jen Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Ava and Jace were a perfect match; young and in love with big dreams of marriage, a family, and a country-music singing career. However, that all ended the night Jace left Ava behind and headed to Nashville with a solo singing contract in hand. Now Ava has spent the past five and a half years trying to make a life for herself and getting over the one man who held and then broke her heart. Meanwhile, Jace has spent the same time becoming a music sensation with only one regret: walking out on Ava. Hold Her Again is another delightful (and probably my favorite) holiday-themed romance novella from Shannon Stacey. The night that Jace walked away to make it big was the night that Ava gave up on all of her dreams. Right from the start of the book, I was all “Team Ava”, and I couldn’t conceive of any situation that would put the pair back together. There is absolutely no doubt that Jace made the wrong choice five and a half years ago, and Ava’s hurt is deep. But Ms. Stacey puts together a genuine reconciliation that had my heart beating faster and brought a few tears to my eyes. It is hard to get over that kind of soul-deep hurt, but it is equally difficult to show honest regret and prove the apologies are sincere. Ms. Stacey won me over with small gestures, while simultaneously moving the couple closer together over a short period of time. And it works because it is obvious this couple never stopped loving one another. “The connection between them was still strong, and she thought of it like an invisible tread that was slowly darning the hole he’d left in her heart.” Ava and Jace have that true love that lasts because they are “meant to be”, and after time, they realize second chances are worth the risk. While Hold Her Again has a Christmas-themed setting, it’s a wonderful gift to give yourself any time of the year. Second-chance, feel-good romances are a weakness of mine, and Hold Her Again is a wonderful fit. My Rating:  A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: Ava Wright isn’t happy to see her high school sweetheart rolling into their hometown a few weeks before Christmas. He’s only come back to bury his estranged father, but there’s no way she’ll be...
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Oct
23

Review: Legs by Kelly Siskind

Review: Legs by Kelly Siskind Legs Author: Kelly Siskind Reviewer: Jen Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Legs is the delightful and heart-felt start to Kelly SIskind’s new One Wild Wish series. Bringing wit, a strong female lead, and a whole lot of heart to this first book, Ms. Siskind has once again created a world and group of friends I would love to be part of. At times I was laughing out loud, while sniffling during others. Set in and around the wine country of Northern California, Rachel and Jimmy meet when she shouts an embarrassing statement just as the music stops at the nightclub where she is celebrating her birthday with her BFFs. Soon the two are vying for the same sommelier position in a silly contest. What starts out as playful flirtation, turns into a intoxicating love affair, one that pushes comfort zones and tests the heart. Jimmy is a powerful man who owns his emotions, even when they get a bit out of control. Having been hurt by his family and the woman he was set to marry, Jimmy is slow to trust and isn’t looking for the sunshine Rachel brings into his life. Meanwhile, Rachel is so scared of disappointing her mother again, that she’s living an unfulfilling life and playing it safe. Jimmy shows her that it’s okay to be who she really is inside, but she often lets her fears keep him at arm’s length. I enjoyed watching the pair come together. I loved how Jimmy realizes what Rachel means to him and works hard to bring her around. Yet when he makes mistakes, it’s bad. However, between Rachel’s kind and forgiving heart and Jimmy’s own insight, the pair can move past hurts towards a better future. The story takes some ups and downs as it progresses to its HEA. One of the lows is near the beginning, after the pair’s initial hookup. *potential spoiler alert* Rachel was so inebriated that doesn’t recall their marathon all-nighter. *end spoiler* This situation is used by Jimmy to taunt and tease Rachel, and I was a little uncomfortable with the entire situation. However, Ms. Siskind spins it in such a way that eventually worked for me as it progressed. Additionally, there is a twist in the later part of the book that at first had me thinking “really?” but as it moved forward, once again worked out. I like that the author could put me in uncomfortable situations and then...
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Oct
4

Review: In Her Court by Tamsen Parker

Review: In Her Court by Tamsen Parker In Her Court Author: Tamsen Parker Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: This is my first venture into Camp Firefly Falls, and Tamsen Parker totally brings it in the eighteenth story in the multi-author series. I love all things Tamsen Parker—this is no secret. In In Her Court, there was this undercurrent of pop culture that drew me in and kept me riveted. Well, along with Van and Willa—our main characters. Because, hoo-boy, these girls Got. It. On. I have a couple quotes from this book I’ll be sharing, and neither of them are too spoilery! First up, this gem from Van’s point of view: That was competence porn wrapped up in a pretty package, and nothing made Van happier. Or hornier. We’ve got two brainiac chicks in this story. Willa is a geology grad student looking for PhD and tenure track for her career. At the start of the story, she’s bummed because her summer of research got FUBARed by Mother Nature. Fortunately, her brother isn’t graceful and needs her to fill in for him at Camp Firefly Falls where he’s committed to work for the summer with his best friend, Van. Who Willa has been crushing on, like, forever. Van—short for Evangeline—is the epitome of geek. She’s a Star Wars buff and isn’t afraid to show it. I mean, who besides a fellow geek describes getting hot-n-bothered like this? …Willa was clearly enjoying herself. Maybe more than Van, and that was saying something given the pleasantly warm tingle that had set up shop in Van’s chest with satellite locations all along her nervous system. And, while I really, really loved all the 80s references and nostalgia it conjured for me, I have to admit what hooked me on Van as an awesome STEM character was how she would swear on Holtzmann. Get it? Holtzmann from Ghostbusters? Wait, you’re not laughing? It’s only me? **shakes head** Nah. It’s not just me. We got pretty deep into the feels and insecurities both Van and Willa had, too. What I loved the most about these sections is that the feelings were authentic—something we’ve all felt at one time or another. Not sure about relationship status? Check. Will it last or is it a fling? Check. Summer camp relationship? Check (This one time, at band camp…). So, what would have happened if everyone was a grown up and having the time of their lives at summer camp? Bingo. While...
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Oct
3

Review: Cover Up by L.A. Witt

Review: Cover Up by L.A. Witt Cover Up Author: L.A. Witt Reviewer: B. Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Nate Chandler gave ten years to the man who ended up breaking his heart when he cheated on Nate—in their own bed. Never one for random hookups in the first place, Nate was left furious and unsteady when the forever he was counting on disappeared in an instant. Moving on would be so much easier if he could erase Caleb—and that matching tattoo—from his life. And isn’t it lucky that the “cover-up wizard” at the local tattoo shop also happens to be just as gorgeous as the art he creates? Working two part-time jobs in addition to keeping up his apprenticeship at Skin Deep, Inc. doesn’t leave Lucas Brandt much time for anything else. Especially not romance, given his history of bad decisions and more recent pattern of disastrous sexual encounters. Even so, he can’t deny the undeniable heat that the recently separated and still hurting RIO stokes in him from their very first meeting. And, really, if being with Nate feels this good without any strings attached, there’s no way Lucas is going to fight it. Having met Nate and Lucas in the previous story, Pounding Skin, it was fairly easy to jump right into Cover Up without any backtracking. Lucas, in particular, piqued my interest before, so I was very excited to see how his story might play out. For most of the narrative, I stayed connected to what was going on with Lucas and Nate, and was either eager for them to sort things out or worried that the overall surface was too smooth by turns. It wasn’t until the relationship was still predominantly rooted in the bedroom when both men’s feelings had clearly evolved further that I began to hope for more. Although I liked each of the main characters, I definitely have a particular fondness for Lucas. Open about his sexuality, his major worries are about paying off his student loans and getting his confidence back after a mistake on a tattoo leaves him rattled. As for his relationship with Nate, he knows exactly what the situation is, but is just happy to feel good when he can, and makes a conscious choice to let himself keep falling. When he finally realizes that things can’t continue as they had been, I couldn’t help hurting for him. As I have an admitted weakness for returning characters that I like, Cover Up had...
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Sep
26

Review: Chasing Christmas Eve by Jill Shalvis

Review: Chasing Christmas Eve by Jill Shalvis Chasing Christmas Eve Author: Jill Shalvis Reviewer: Jen Rating: A- Colbie Albright is the best-selling author of a hit book series, with a blockbuster movie releasing on Christmas Day. Family and work always come first for Colbie, and she’s hit a wall causing a severe case of writer’s block. Escaping to San Francisco, she finds herself in the arms of a sexy stranger. Spencer Baldwin is a wealthy, intelligent, good-looking entrepreneur who owns the hottest building in a trendy part of San Fransisco. He hides who he really is, trusting only a select few close friends. But when he accidentally knocks a beautiful stranger into a fountain, he is drawn to her in an inexplicable way. With only three weeks to explore this attraction, Spencer finds himself pulled out of his demanding world for the first time in his life. Chasing Christmas Eve is another wonderful, feel good romance in Ms. Shalvis’s Heartbreaker Bay series. Spence and Colbie are two peas-in-a-pod and fit perfectly together. Both are a bit quirky, introverted, and hiding from their larger-than-life personas. I love that they start on even ground, even though they don’t know it. Their mutual attraction is genuine and the friendship that grows so quickly is based on the “real” parts inside each – not the famous or wealthy parts. Their characters feel so true and relatable, even though they have these pieces of themselves that are so extraordinary, and this is what makes the story so enjoyable. While their relationship blossoms easily, both lead complicated lives, and I appreciate that part isn’t glossed over. Both struggle to balance the demands of work and family (for Colbie) with having a personal life, yet because they want to make it work, they find ways to be together. The only negative I found in the story is how easily things fell into place for Colbie once she returned home, but it wasn’t so obnoxious that I took issue with it. I enjoyed seeing all the regulars from the series, and loved the big secret revealed about one in particular. This group of friends is special, and I grow to love them a bit more with each book. Ms. Shalvis has created a wonderful, enjoyable world filled with some of my favorite characters, and I continue to look forward to reading more. My Rating:  A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: Meet cute… Run for the hills—temporarily. That’s Colbie Albright’s plan when she flees...
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Sep
21

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: P.S. from Paris by Marc Levy

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: P.S. from Paris by Marc Levy Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: P.S. From Paris Author: Marc Levy Narrator: Tim Campbell; Translated by Sam Taylor Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Standalone Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: Brilliance Audio Finding fame with his unintentionally written first novel, Paul escapes his life as an architect in San Fransisco, moving to Paris where he spends the next seven years writing in solitude. Worried about their friend and feeling that fate needs a little help, his best friends sign up Paul for an online match-making service. What begins as an awkward misunderstand blossoms into a true and meaningful friendship with Mia. World-renowned actress Mia can’t pretend to be happy with her cheating husband any longer, running to stay with her best friend in Paris. There she struggles with her lingering love and hurt, trying to find meaning for her life, when she strikes up an unlikely friendship with an America author. Soon she and Paul work hard to convince themselves that their bond is nothing more than that between close friends. I absolutely enjoyed listening to the audiobook production of P. S. From Paris. The book opens with two separate stories – the events surrounding Paul and the events surrounding Mia. We learn how lonely Paul is and how he tries to convince himself he’s okay. On the other hand, Mia knows how miserable she is but is frightened to take any risks. They live parallel lives until “fate” (in the form of Lauren and Arthur) push them together. I love how awkward and similar the two are. They seem like a great fit, but they work so hard to convince themselves they are just friends. Yet through this guise, the pair open up and learn to trust and eventually love. What I love most about this story is the movie screen feel of the romance. It truly is a bit over-the-top and larger-than-life. I can see a young Audrey Hepburn playing Mia, so full of hope, not letting circumstances pull her down. She’s charming and silly all at once. Her behaviors mimic those of a pampered movie star, but she’s got a heart of gold. I love that both best friend Daisy and new friend Paul are able to see the internal spark under Mia’s shiny facade. The overall plot is a bit extravagant, but that opens the story up to silly misunderstandings and outrageous mix ups. But these situations aren’t always light, and there is one...
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Sep
18

Review: Too Beautiful to Break by Tessa Bailey

Review: Too Beautiful to Break by Tessa Bailey Too Beautiful to Break Author: Tessa Bailey Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: I’m not crying, you’re crying. That sniffle? Gotta be my allergies. Maybe it’s my present state of mind, but Belmont and Sage’s book got to me. I mean, all of the previous titles in the Romancing the Clarksons saga got to me a little, but there’s been a build-up through the series to Bel’s book—and not just because it’s the end of the journey the sibs’ mother charged them to take as her dying wish. AKA, read this series in order. It is SO worth it. It’s probably because I closely identify with the characters. Oh, not because of how I was raised or some freak accident when I was a child. Because of how Bel & Sage are as people. “You didn’t even have to tell me that,” she whispered. “I already knew Because you’re a man who values everyone’s happiness above himself. And that’s what makes you the greatest man any of us will ever know. There’s never been anyone like you, Belmont. There never will be again. How lucky am I that I get to love you?” Let that sink in for a minute. The above passage is a little spoilery, but not really—we know from reading Rita, Aaron, and Peggy’s books that Bel & Sage have it bad for one another. Seeing it on the page though? That floored me. Like a lot of things did as I read Too Beautiful to Break. His black coat blew out behind him in the cold wind, but he seemed untouched by the weather. He was the weather…he was everything. And his arms were wide open for her. I guess I never really saw Bel like this before. Looking at him through Sage’s eyes really made me see him. He reminds me of a gunslinger from the old west, strolling into town and ready to take on anyone and anything for a good reason. Learning about why Belmont is rather closed off from his siblings floored me, and I honestly cried for Bel as a child. It explains how he is, and the presentation was well done after such a stupendous lead-up. Her hazel eyes were wide on his. “No more waiting to touch now. Everything about us is…right.” She laughed and shook her head, a tear sliding down her cheek. “Isn’t it?” Belmont pressed his mouth to her forehead. “More than right,...
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Sep
14

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Falling From the Sky by Sarina Bowen

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Falling From the Sky by Sarina Bowen Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: Falling From the Sky Author: Sarina Bowen Narrators: Tanya Eby, Aiden Snow Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Gravity #2 Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: Blunder Woman Productions The second story in Ms. Bowen’s Gravity series opens about a year after the conclusion of  Coming in From the Cold, with Dane, Willow and their new baby living out West, thus leaving behind best friend Willow. During one of the couple’s visits back to Vermont to sell Willow’s farm, they introduce Callie to snowboarder Hank, who proceeds to have a career-ending accident on the slopes. Fast forward nine months: Callie is the director of a rehabilitation study at her hospital and Hank is one of its participants. Hank is drawn to Callie and looking to be more than friends, but Callie is ready to start a new life and move to California. I absolutely adored Callie and Hank’s story. What could have been predictable and ordinary is exciting and romantic. Right from the start, their mutual attraction causes both to toss caution to the wind and give something “more” a try. However, due to certain “issues” Hank experiences, things go south quickly. Luckily both are able to move past their insecurities and fears to open up a genuine dialogue and develop a true friendship. I like that both the male and female narrators are different in book 2 than in the first title, especially since the story focuses on two new feature characters. I found both narrators to be a bit better suited to the characters and enjoyed them more than the first go around. I noticed I prefered the female narrator at 1.25x and male narrator at 1.5x but kept the playback speed at 1.5x. The male’s voice is deliciously deep with a rich timbre. It’s a great voice for Hank, who is a huge man with intense emotions. Similarly, the female narrator is a good fit for the intelligent, yet worrisome Callie. I did find Ms. Eby’s male voices are a bit on the feminine side, but not bad. Falling From the Sky is a delightful romance that warmed my heart. Ms. Bowen gives Callie and Hank a HEA without the need to fix all their issues. The story brings humor and heart, taking me on an emotional journey from highs to lows. My Rating: A- Male Narration: B+ Female Narration: B+ Review copy provided by Blunder Woman Productions About the Book:...
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Sep
13

Review: Tripped Out by Lorelei James

Review: Tripped Out by Lorelei James Tripped Out Author: Lorelei James Reviewer: Jen Rating: C- What I’m Talking About: After leaving her well-paying corporate job, Stirling Gradsky took a chance and went into business with her brother. Now they own and operate High Society, a medicinal and recreational marijuana facility. Liam Argent has dedicated his life to understanding the chemical properties of marijuana and loves all the perks of working for High Society. But the constant head-butting and pranking with Stirling needs to end so they can grow the company. While I have enjoyed the other 1,001 Dark Night / Blacktop Cowboy stories, I felt Tripped Out was not on par with its predecessors. First, I felt like I was dropped into the story with no idea what’s going on. It’s written as if I know these characters, but I don’t remember them at all, even though Stirling is sister to London, the heroine in the first novella, and we meet Stirling and Liam in the third book. I felt like I started off kilter and I never found a good balance. It is evident that the author did her homework with respect to the subject matter, and I found the information on the emerging medicinal and recreational marijuana markets interesting. However, I felt that there was way too much information about marijuana use and production, making it feel like a technical report, rather than developing the characters and focusing on the romance. This leads to another issue I had with the story. The characters are big proponents of the use of marijuana, but at times, I felt that they were lecturing me, the reader, taking a holier-than-thou attitude. The two main characters have huge chips on their shoulders and their attitudes are almost condescending. Yet, then the author uses ridiculous stoner stereotypes and actions. And the way they use marijuana to “take the edge off”… needing it at the end (or even during) a stressful day, is reminiscent of an alcoholic needing a drink. As I stated, I don’t feel the author put enough into the development of the characters. While there are some funny moments and sexy situations, overall I found myself annoyed with Liam and Stirling. Their bantering, even when for fun, grated on me most times. Unfortunately, I never felt a strong romantic connection between the pair, making the story okay, but not one I’d read again. My Rating: C- Finished It – Liked a little, didn’t like a lot About...
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Sep
7

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Coming in From the Cold by Sarina Bowen

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Coming in From the Cold by Sarina Bowen Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: Coming in From the Cold Author: Sarina Bowen Narrators: Joe Arden, Maxine Mitchell Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Gravity #1 Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: Blunder Woman Productions Willow is stuck in a dream life that was never her dream. Following her then boyfriend to raise chickens on a farm in Vermont, Willow was dumped and left in debt when he found a pretty face with a trust fund, moving to California. Trying to get home one night before the blizzard gets any worse, Willow swerves off the road and is left with a sexy stranger. Dane loves being an Olympic skier, but he’s lonely and hiding a huge secret which keeps him from forming any attachments. Running off the road during a blizzard, Dane finds himself trapped with a beautiful woman who is willing to share one night of passion. But when a freak accident takes him out of competition for the season, he’s forced to face his nightmares head on. Coming in From the Cold is a cute contemporary romance that makes the hero and heroine work for their HEA. The opening scene, with the pair stuck in a jeep during a blizzard, is a wonderful way for the couple to very quickly get to know one another. They trade complaints while stuck, waiting for the plows. The situation creates a false sense of intimacy, allowing both to share secrets and do things (*cough* jeepsex *cough*) they normally wouldn’t do. One thing leads to another and soon the pair take things further than planned. Dane has a HUGE chip on his shoulder, which leads to some MAJOR asshat behavior and an unintentional spill on the slopes. Being laid up and unable to compete adds to his destructive mood, and I honestly wasn’t sure he’d be able to redeem himself. But because Willow is a psychology doctoral student, she has insight as to Dane’s behavior. While she’s not ready to jump back into bed with him, she’s able to put the situation into perspective with a bit of emotional detachment, allowing me to travel her journey to forgiveness with her. She’s not unemotional and still hurts, but understands. The dual POV story has both a male and female narrator for the two POVs. Both narrators are pretty good: not great, but solid. At first, I listened to the book at 1.25x speed, and I did have an issue with Ms. Mitchell...
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