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Currently Browsing: contemporary romance
Mar
15

Review: Madly by Ruthie Knox

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

Review: Truly by Ruthie Knox

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

Review: What it Takes by Shannon Stacey

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

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

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

Review: Just Once by Addison Fox

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

Review: Daily Grind by Anna Zabo

Review: Daily Grind by Anna Zabo Daily Grind Author: Anna Zabo Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Running an independent, neighborhood coffee shop has been slowly breaking Brian Keppler for years. After a key employee is hired away by the consulting firm upstairs, he’s been taking on more and more of the work himself, spending less time on the other important parts of his life—and exorcising his frustrations on his remaining employees and anyone who tries to love him. Being bisexual and closeted isn’t helping things, either. “Miserable” sums Brian up pretty tidily these days, and having his world turned upside down by the arrival of the sexy CEO of a successful robotics company wasn’t at all on his to-do list. So, why does the idea of losing him seem like too high a price to pay? Robert Ancroft fought long and hard to make his company a success. And nearly lost himself in the process. Fortunately, he was able to find a balance that didn’t drain him to the marrow day in and day out. Watching the man who has started to mean so much to him sink into the same, endless exhaustion is heartbreaking, but Robert is trying his best to help Brian see what life could be like for them if he were willing to devote even a small part of himself to the relationship they could have. Still, everyone has their limits, and this fight may be one he just can’t win. Written in the third-person from both Brian and Rob’s perspectives, Daily Grind was a highly enjoyable read that I think definitely has a place on my “keeper” list. Both main characters are complex and I appreciated that they were able to get a chance to pursue an authentic kind of happiness after the age of thirty-five. Although the trials Robert and Brian face are the primary force driving the narrative, there are many wonderful scenes written against the backdrop of Pittsburgh (and the surrounding area) that have me itching to visit there myself. Some of my favorites are seen through the lens of Robert’s camera, and I thought it was especially sweet that their connection deepened most profoundly during these moments. Their relationship is an intensely sexual one, but the added depth provided by the other parts of the story, particularly Robert’s own complicated history and his introduction to Brian’s family, made Daily Grind all the more enjoyable for me. While Daily Grind works well as a...
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Feb
15

Review: Under Her Skin by Adriana Anders

Review: Under Her Skin by Adriana Anders Under Her Skin Author: Adriana Anders Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Here’s what I know after reading Under Her Skin by Adriana Anders. Gimme. More. Thoughtful, well-developed characters with a wonderfully paced arc drove me through the entire book. I loved Uma. For reasons. Um. And this one needs a trigger warning for domestic abuse—mostly the verbal/emotional kind, but there’s physical too. And that b@stard was twisted. But…she is fierce, feisty, and is going to be a difficult character to forget. I loved Ivan because he’s not the typical alpha male we traditionally see in contemporary romance. As his story unraveled, I was increasingly drawn into the story. I’m leaving this super vague because I think readers need to experience the reveal of each detail about Ivan. Together, Uma and Ivan are hot. Even with their baggage, they’re real. They have real baggage. They have real issues. They have real situations. I definitely want to see more of them—even if it’s a novella or glimpses in other books in the series. The second Blank Canvas title will release April 4, 2017 and is up for preorder. The third is slated for an August 2017 release. My Rating: A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: Her Body is His Canvas  A darkly possessive relationship has left Uma alone and on the run. Beneath her drab clothing, she hides a terrible secret—proof of her abuse, tattooed onto her skin in a lurid reminder of everything she’s survived. Caught between a brutal past and an uncertain future, Uma’s reluctant to bare herself to anyone…much less a rough ex-con whose rage drives him in ways she will never understand. But beneath his frightening exterior, Ivan is gentle. Warm. Compassionate. And just as determined to heal Uma’s broken heart as he is to destroy the monster who left his mark scrawled across the delicate tapestry of her skin. Release Date: February 7, 2017 Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca Series: Blank Canvas #1 ISBN: 1492633844 Genre: Contemporary Romance Format(s): paperback (352 pages), e-book Book Source: Publisher/NetGalley Purchase Info:...
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Feb
13

Review: Hard Wired by Megan Erickson & Santino Hassell

Review: Hard Wired by Megan Erickson & Santino Hassell Hard Wired Author: Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: How often are words our greatest enemy? The ones we ought to say, but don’t. The ones we shouldn’t say that come screaming out of us, unfiltered and angry, when silence would be better. And, the ones that might make all the difference in the world, if only we could be brave enough to speak. Jesse Garvy and Ian Larsen, the two main characters in Hard Wired, by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell, seem to run the gamut. As has been the case with the previous titles in the Cyberlove series, I absolutely loved this story. Jesse and Ian have been fixtures from the very beginning as Kai Bannon’s chat mods, “Garvy” and “Cherry,” and seeing them get their own book is a gift. As a fan, I appreciated the overlap between the varying perspectives, which served as a reminder that every “secondary character” in real life is living their own narrative in parallel to my own. While it is another exploration of internet-generated connections, Hard Wired still manages to be unique in both tone and substance. Despite being friends for years, Ian and Jesse are strangers in many ways until they are placed in a position to relearn one another, their relationship bisected when “real life” doesn’t go according to plan. My heart hurt for both of them as things began to unravel, but I enjoyed their journey back to each other very, very much. Another thing I liked about Hard Wired was that the writing, in general, has gotten even better—although there was nothing lacking in the previous stories. Filled with vivid descriptions of colors, scents, tastes, and sensations, this story came to life for me in a way that a lot of others haven’t. There were also more than a few passages that I found to be particularly on point, many involving Ian’s difficulties with personal interactions. The addition of just the right amount of humor and snark makes Hard Wired a new favorite. In the end, I think the entire Cyberlove series is both timely and relevant, and Hard Wired is an especially welcome part of the world these two authors have created. Seeing some of the characters from previous stories was a lot of fun, Kai and Garrett, most notably, and it was good to know that certain other members of Kai’s chat crew are still very much...
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Feb
8

Review: Seeking Mr. Wrong by Natalie Charles

Review: Seeking Mr. Wrong by Natalie Charles Seeking Mr. Wrong Author: Natalie Charles Reviewer: Nima Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Seeking Mr. Wrong is a book for anyone who reads a lot (too much) contemporary romance.  Readers will be able to identify all the markers they expect, but will love the acknowledgement of everything that annoys them.  Cute and sweet Lettie Osbourne writes children’s books about manners.  Her publisher gets sold to an outfit that specializes in erotica while she still has one book left on her contract and the advance is long gone.  To fulfill her obligation, she takes on the challenge of writing in the new-to-her genre. Lettie admits, “I never understood the appeal of the angry alpha male.  If I were to make a list of qualities that I want in a mate, it wouldn’t include stomping.  Maybe a willingness to make dinner every now and then and a basic understanding of laundry.”  As she struggles to embrace her inner vixen, she meets the mostly vanilla, non-alpha male that is the love of her life.  Yes, he looks like Superman, but this is a guy who doesn’t own a red tie.  This is a love story about some pretty nice, normal people.  While they meet, fall in love, break up, and hopefully make-up, Lettie has a smutty running commentary in her head à la James Thurber’s 1939 The Secret Lives of Walter Mitty.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P332De250mE She also does mental interviews with Oprah.  One word: hilarious.  Through the process she learns a lot about herself both painful and funny.  Lettie’s inner voice is wonderfully sarcastic, but her editor stole the best line.  In a conversation about the manuscript Lettie submits, “…I despise the word moist, so I’m going to strike it from the manuscript and ask you to come up with something else.  Same with panties.  Can’t stand it.  Makes me think of my childhood.  Give her a lace thong instead.”  I was on the elliptical at the gym.  I stopped and cheered.  Yes, people stared.  Worth it.  Buying this book?  Totally worth it. My Rating: A, Loved It About the Book: Lettie Osbourne has lived her whole life by the book. Sweet, predictable, and certainly not living life on the edge, she’s always been content to make a living as a kindergarten teacher who writes adorable children’s books on the side. After her fiancé leaves her, Lettie decides she is perfectly content to accept her fate as mother to her beloved dog Odin...
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Feb
7

Review: Dare to Lie by Jen McLaughlin

Review: Dare to Lie by Jen McLaughlin Dare to Lie Author: Jen McLaughlin Reviewer: Jen Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: Scotty, a Fed for the DEA, is deep undercover and a member of the ruthless Sons of Steel Row gang. Scotty is pulled aside by head of gang, Tate, and told a huge secret… Tate has a sister who knows NOTHING about his gang life. He wants Scotty to attend a charity bachelor auction his sister Skylar is hosting, but if he touches her, his life is forfeit. Skylar, a hard-working, independent 23-year old medical school student, is holding a charity bachelor auction. When she meets Scotty, she knows it’s a destined-to-be arrangement and bids on Scotty for herself. Even though he tells her he’s no good, Sky cannot stay away. Dare to Lie was a mixed bag for me. Honestly, the first quarter of the book irritated me. There were too many issues and eyerolling moments. Yet, I stuck with it, and after the halfway mark, I couldn’t put down the book. Scotty and Sky do make a good couple, despite their dishonest start. The couple keeps secrets within secrets, neither being 100 percent upfront, so of course, there are major issues once the truth slowly works its way into the light. I didn’t mind the secret-keeping parts because it was all part of the bigger story, but I did have issues with other aspects of the book. First of all, Sky is portrayed as a woman who has an amazing gift of seeing people for exactly who they are on the inside. Yet, she supposedly has no clue her brother is the head of a ruthless gang. While this is eventually addressed, it comes of as an inconsistency in the character development and bothered me more than once. Also, this… “because even though I hadn’t looked at him yet… Something about him brought me to life.” Sky literally bumps into Scotty for the first time, and without even looking at him or hearing his voice, they have a connection? Just no. This did not work for me at all. One other thing that bothered me up front was the humanizing of Tate, the head of SoSR. This is a Southie (Boston) gang known for utter violence. Yet here is Tate, suddenly a softy in many ways. It didn’t sit well with me. One cannot be the leader of a gang like this without being cutthroat and amoral. I need my bad guys to be...
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