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Currently Browsing: contemporary romance
Jan
24

Review: Stud by Kelly Siskind

Review: Stud by Kelly Siskind Stud Author: Kelly Siskind Reviewer: Jen Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Ainsley made a wish on her birthday to change her life for the better and to stop helping powerful, adulterous men cheat on their lovely wives. However, she needs the money she earns from her personal shopping business to help her parents with their bills since her dad lost his job. So in order to balance the “ick” factor, she decides to start volunteering at Habitat for Humanity. Owen moved back to San Fransisco from D.C. to get back to his roots. He’s volunteering his time and starting his own woodworking business, leaving the hustle and bustle of D.C. behind. In the middle of an ugly divorce, his ex accuses him of cheating on her and has turned all of their friends against him. He’s had no interest in women for over a year, until he meets Ainsley. Stud is the second heart-warming romance in Ms. Siskind’s One Wild Wish series, which features three best friends trying to make their birthday wishes for a better life come true. The book takes place after the first title, Legs, but is a standalone story. Ainsley and Owen both have been out of the dating scene for a while, and their combination of awkward starts and eagerness make for some funny and cute moments. The best is that Ainsley assumes Owen is gay (for good reasons), so she decides to make the most of her crush by treating him as her “gay BFF,” which includes frank sexual discussions. But when the pair finally gives into their mutual attraction, the heat level goes through the roof! While I love, love, love Ainsley and Owen, unfortunately, Stud uses two “tropes/situations” that I just don’t like. First, I hate stories that use “false accusations” as a means for causing conflicts. I found myself frustrated with Owen’s ex accusing him of cheating, and the helplessness he feels over the situation. Second, Owen continually keeps the truth of his situation from Ainsley, which causes a number of issues. It made me mad because she tells him point blank her trust issues, yet he still thinks hiding the truth is better. Unfortunately for this book, this is one trope I detest. It’s not bad writing or a bad story, it’s just I don’t really care for the trope. In fact, Ms. Siskind does a very good job working around and out of the corners Owen works...
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Jan
23

Review: About That Kiss by Jill Shalvis

Review: About That Kiss by Jill Shalvis About That Kiss Author: Jill Shalvis Reviewer: Jen Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Kylie and Joe have been flirtatious friends, but when the pair share a passionate kiss, neither can forget the sparks it ignited. But Kylie won’t go after “the wrong guy,” and Joe doesn’t “do relationships.” So they dance around one another, that is until Kylie needs Joe’s help to find a stolen toy her late grandfather made for her. As the pair chase down lead after lead, they find it difficult to contain their passion. It’s hard for me to find much fault with any of Ms. Shalvis’s titles, and for the most part the Heartbreaker Bay series has been a huge joy to read. This definitely holds true for the fifth novel, About That Kiss. While I found the first half of the book a bit slow and lacking the emotional grab I was looking for, the second half of the book came with all the usual features I adore about this series. As Kylie and Joe work on the case, they grow closer and share more passionate kisses, as well as personal secrets… Which creates an intimacy that the unsuspecting pair is trying to avoid. In fact, seeing several of their friends pair up and find love over the past few years makes both Kylie and Joe cautious. Which is why I think I struggled a bit with the first half. They were actively working to avoid emotional attachments, leaving the romance flat. I liked Joe and Kylie together, but I wasn’t overwhelmed by their passion. However, I was interested in the mystery and trying to discover what was happening. Once the pair gives into their desires fully, the emotion ratchets up and it gets real. This is the stuff I look for in Ms. Shalvis’s stories: the give and pull of the heart. As Joe and Kylie each try to figure out what they feel and, of course, overthink everything, each discovers that they are more when together. And in the end, I appreciate that they own up to their feelings and fight for what they want. About That Kiss is another delightful romance in the Heartbreaker Bay series. Filled with affable characters whom I’d love to hang out with, the stories bring me joy. My Rating:  B, Liked It About the Book: When sexy Joe Malone never calls after their explosive kiss, Kylie shoves him out of her mind. Until she...
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Jan
16

Review: Seduction on the Slopes by Tamsen Parker

Review: Seduction on the Slopes by Tamsen Parker Seduction on the Slopes Author: Tamsen Parker Reviewer: Jen Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Miles is veteran skier on the U.S. downhill team. In the sport longer than some of his competitors have been alive, it’s his last year participating in the prestigious Snow and Ice Games (SIGs), and he plans on taking home two more gold medals. However, after that, Miles isn’t really sure where his life will lead. Crash is the up-and-coming newest downhill sensation, and after Miles mentions to the U.S. coach the potential he sees in Crash, coach gets Crash on the SIG team and assigns Miles with mentoring duties. Crash loves to ski, but doesn’t love the endless press events and media time required at the SIGs. When his childhood idol, and long-time crush, Miles takes the time to help Crash, he will do whatever Miles says. Seduction on the Slopes is the standalone sophomore title from Ms. Parker’s Snow and Ice Game series. This time around, romance blossoms between two men on the U.S. downhill team, and wow! is it hot. I like that both Miles and Crash are secure and confirmed gay men – albeit not entirely out of the closet. There is no confusion over preference, allowing for other conflicts to cause hesitation. The primary being that the pair are teammates and competitors. Yet, when Miles discovers why Crash struggles with the media, he genuinely wants to help him, even if that means helping him off in a sexual way. As the pair spend time together, the mentor/mentee line blurs and a true bond of friendship develops. Their similarities and ability to relate so easily go a long way in closing any age gap that may make things awkward. And while Crash may be younger, he can be wiser at times. The two are competitors first, but because they are both truly good people, they can coexist as friends and lovers. The romance moves quickly and the story comes with an HEA. I love how they come together and love the simplicity of the title. Sexy athletes falling in love? Sign me up for more! My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot About the Book: Welcome to the Snow and Ice Games where competition is not the only thing that is heating up! The second book in bestselling Tamsen Parker’s romance series continues with two competitive teammates. Miles Palmer has dominated the downhill slalom in every Snow and Ice Games...
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Jan
15

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Man Hands by Sarina Bowen and Tanya Eby

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Man Hands by Sarina Bowen and Tanya Eby Today we have a special #audiobook review. It’s time to… Audiobook Reviews: Man Hands series Author:  Sarina Bowen and Tanya Eby Narrator:  Luke Daniels and Erin Mallon Audio Listening Speed: 1.25x and 1.5x Series: Man Hands #1 Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: Blunder Woman Productions Brynn’s life sucks. Recently divorced, she left her husband and loveless marriage. The moment the papers where signed, she lost her job as a writing professor, where her former father-in-law was her boss. Stuck in a rut, her BFFs tell her she needs to go for a man that is the complete opposite of her normal type for a single night of fun. And after a couple drinks… she does. Tom is working hard to keep a low profile after his very public break up six months ago. Star of his own home repair show, he’s working on renovating his place in Michigan while the network decides if he’ll get another season. However, he tosses his plans for a year of celibacy out the window when a beautiful stranger throws herself at him at a party. Now he can’t stop thinking about her, hoping for a repeat experience. Man Hands is an absolute joy to experience! Not only is a sweet and sexy romance, but the humor is laugh-out-loud funny. Brynn and Tom are adorable together. Stemming from bad breakups, each has lost confidence in love and relationships. Yet in order to move forward, they must pretend to be in one – which isn’t a hardship for either since they are extremely attracted to one another. It also helps that both are genuinely good people who don’t want to hurt the other. And of course, they have friends pushing them together, which makes for some fun times. The supporting cast is equally as intriguing as the main couple, and I look forward to their stories with anticipation. The authors do a fabulous job of breaking convention and typical romance conflicts with their storytelling. I admire and appreciate the direction they took the story as I listened to it. More than once I was thinking I knew what would happen next – how a character would react to a situation, but the authors pleasantly surprised me each time. What could have been typical is instead sublime! The story is brought to life by the narrators. I enjoyed both tremendously. Ms. Mallon brings just the right amount of perkiness to Brynn. She is able to convey a wide...
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Jan
9

Review: Down by Contact by Santino Hassell

Review: Down by Contact by Santino Hassell Down By Contact Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Down by Contact has been on my personal “long-awaited” list since it was first announced that it would be Simeon’s book. Flirty and charming, with a huge personality, Simeon was an instant favorite in Illegal Contact, the introductory story in The Barons series, and I had high expectations for the outcome this title. While this story had a significantly different feel to it than its predecessor—which I viewed as a strength—I believe it holds its own just fine. Simeon’s situation seemed to be improving by the end of Illegal Contact, with both he and Gavin Brawley coming out on their own terms in order to thwart an imminent blackmailing and involuntary outing. There’s much more to what he’s going through, however, and, although it’s not easy or “fun” to see, I appreciated the significance of the more painful reality that he was still living everyday. I started Down by Contact firmly on Simeon’s side, and that feeling was reinforced over and over as the story progressed. New to The Barons series is Simeon’s arch enemy, and former friend on rival team, the Predators, Adrián Bravo. While I didn’t love him as much as I did Simeon, he had an extremely powerful effect on the story in other ways. At the beginning, Adrián has no idea that he’s even closeted, just that he’s never been able to forgive Simeon for joining the Barons. That denial costs them both quite a lot as they strive to work together, falling hard for one another in the process. One thing I discovered about Down by Contact is that there’s so much to pay attention to, I couldn’t distill it to a few easy-to-dismiss notions in a review. This story has a lot of important themes, such as, trust is both dangerous and necessary. Or, until you live through something, you can’t really know what it’s like. Pretending a truth doesn’t exist isn’t the same as real acceptance. And, wanting someone to experience the same hurts you have so they’ll understand won’t work if you care about them so deeply you’d do anything to keep them from feeling that pain at all. Another consistency in nearly every one of Santino Hassell’s stories I’ve read has been his ability to create stunning secondary characters. Down by Contact is no exception, with the return of Jasmine and Marcus, Gavin and Noah, agent...
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Jan
2

Review + Excerpt: Fake Wife by Stacey Lynn

Review + Excerpt: Fake Wife by Stacey Lynn Fake Wife Author: Stacey Lynn Reviewer: Jen Rating: A What I’m Talking About: NOTE: I found out after my review was posted that the name of the hero was changed from Sterling to Corbin after the ARCs went out for review. Sorry for any confusion. For seven years, Teagan has followed her boyfriend around the country while he finished medical school and worked on his internship. She gave up college and her own dreams to follow their dreams. Except… she was the only one all in. After losing her job due to budget cuts, she comes home to find her boyfriend in the middle of sexing up another woman. Knowing things were over well before this moment, Teagan doesn’t even want apologizes or excuses and just leaves. Sterling comes from money and has been named Most Eligible Bachelor three years running. He just laid to rest his grandmother Eleanor, the one family member he loved and trusted. However, at the reading of her will, Sterling finds out his grandmother set him up – placing a significant condition on inheriting the land and home he loves (and subsequently saving it from his father who will tear it down in the name of progress). He must fall in love and get married within six months… and stay married for two years. Fake Wife is a wonderful story about two lonely souls finding a perfect match. I absolutely love the fake-relationship genre. There is just something about playing love that always leads to finding true happiness, warming my heart in the process. Sterling needs a wife and while he isn’t looking for a someone to share his life with, he knows he can’t rely on the women in his social circle who will want more from him than two years wearing his last name. Meanwhile, Teagan is at the lowest point in her life, having nowhere to go and no one to help her. Fate truly does bring them together, and Sterling recognizes the win-win situation. I like how Teagan is weary, but also just this side of desperate to listen to Sterling’s proposal to marry him for two years, providing for her and giving her $250,000. But she also recognizes right away that it’s going to be very hard to put her life on hold for two more years to stay in a love-less, sex-less relationship. And what’s not to adore about Sterling? He’s hot and cold, but he’s a kind...
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Dec
27

Review: New Hand by L.A. Witt

Review: New Hand by L.A. Witt New Hand Author: L.A. Witt Reviewer: B. Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Having read nearly every Bluewater Bay story since the beginning, I’ve been increasingly anxious lately about the series’ end. Many of the characters introduced in these titles have meant a great deal to me, the glimpses into lives that might be led making me think about how I view the world on the other side of my own door. New Hand, the final book in the series by inaugural author L.A. Witt, brings everything to a close in some very familiar ways: with heartache, laughter, hope, and a lot of love. Though every character in the Bluewater Bay universe has had significant conflict to work through, Jesse and Garrett face an uphill battle from minute one. Garret’s (ongoing) grieving, Jesse’s (also ongoing) experiences with regards to his status, their age difference, lingering wariness from previous relationships, and—of course—the opinions of others all contribute to an intimidating assemblage of obstacles that tests both men throughout the narrative. One of the longer titles in the series, New Hand covers a lot of territory as Jesse and Garrett navigate the beginning of their relationship. The loss of Garrett’s husband illustrates the very personal nature of grief, and the ease with which those around us can affect that process. How soon is too soon to love again? And who gets to decide? Another complication which I’d originally thought applied more to Garrett—that some burdens simply aren’t transferrable nor shareable—actually applies to both men. As does the fact that similarities between two people doesn’t make one a replacement for another. Even though all these issues and questions are extremely important, the “informative” feel of some of these passages did seem to weigh the story down in places. While I liked Garrett—and adored Jesse—my favorite part of New Hand was the return of the main characters of the previous title, Outside the Lines. I knew they’d be back, but I was thrilled with how often they appeared in Jesse and Garrett’s story. Simon and Ian were a welcome sight, but Lydia is still just about the best thing ever. In truth, I don’t think the story would have worked nearly as well without her being there as much as she was. The Bluewater Bay series has always been unique among many of the other long-running series I’ve read. The thoughtful, and generally respectful, approach the authors tried to take with regards to...
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Dec
20

Review: Only You by Addison Fox

Review: Only You by Addison Fox Only You Author: Addison Fox Reviewer: Nima Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Only You ties up the love stories of the Brooklyn Brotherhood, three boys from troubled homes adopted by “Mama Lou.”  Each of them has grown up to be respectable, hardworking men.  Each is on a course as different as their personalities, but together, they make a close, if unlikely family. This last story is for Fender Blackstone, the poor boy who’s father was not only alcoholic and abusive, but criminal. Fender has learned to be defensive, careful, and to keep his world very small. Fender finds himself in love with a girl from the right side of the tracks, Manhattan’s elite Harlow Reynolds.  Harlow curates a gallery, she’s well educated and elegant—and the daughter of the man Mama Lou had an affair with decades before.  The books should definitely be read in order as many parts of previous books weave together in this last installment to make the idea of Harlow and Fender being together more than just inconvenient. It may have started in simple chemistry, but as these two get to know each other, the impediments grow larger.  I appreciated that they handled their differences primarily in adult ways.  There was no immature pouting or walking off before someone could explain  relevant circumstances.  There were, however, significant circumstances to work through.  It’s disingenuous to suggest people should just go be with anyone they want to be with.  The reality is that when someone loves their family too, you can’t live in a love bubble and just expect everything to be alright.  You have to deal with the hard stuff.  Most of Only You deals with the hard stuff and does it pretty well. Note: the following paragraph contains a ***SPOILER ALERT*** which is included because it impacted my rating of the book In an effort to conclude the story quickly, there was a sexual innuendo made between Fender and Harlow, cementing their new relationship as a real thing.  There was nothing wrong with the comment, just the placement.  At that point, they were still standing over Fender’s dead father, well near it.  No matter how relieved Fender was to have Trent out of his life and Harlow in it in that moment, the sexual comment was just really out of place.  It tweaked my enjoyment of the story and was still lingering even though Fox pulled the mood back up in her epilogue. ********END SPOILER...
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Dec
19

Review: Outside the Lines by Anna Zabo

Review: Outside the Lines by Anna Zabo Outside The Lines Author: Anna Zabo Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Finding romance—or even the occasional hookup—in a little town like Bluewater Bay has been far more complicated than miniature set designer Ian Meyers would have liked. Meeting a gay man not involved with Wolf’s Landing isn’t all that easy, plus there’s always a chance that they’ll try to use him to be closer to the show. Going home with someone from work is just begging for a lot of awkward afterwards, and is a bad idea all around. Giving up on the whole thing seems like his only option, at least until a collision between his finished model and a stuntman leads him to the local hobby shop—and Simon Derry. Sweet, geeky, and completely adorable, Simon is exactly the kind of guy Ian’s been looking for. As if the ideal mix between shy and flirty wasn’t enough to make Ian want him, Simon is also a highly skilled miniature painter himself, and is willing to work by Ian’s side to get his set repaired on time. Add to that Simon’s obvious (and welcome) interest, and the situation would be absolutely perfect—if it weren’t for Simon’s wife. Having enjoyed another title I’ve read by this author, I was very excited to see what they might bring to the Bluewater Bay universe. After reading Outside the Lines, I can say that it’s easily one of my favorites of the entire series. Somehow capturing the ZING! of Simon and Ian’s new relationship energy and combining it with the comfort, support, and irrefutable trust that anchors Simon’s marriage to Lydia, Anna Zabo has crafted a truly beautiful love story. Without a doubt, there is a lot going on in this story. Outside the Lines examines the distinction between polyamory and open relationships, bisexuality and acceptance, romantic versus sexual attraction, a couple of different kinds of kink, and more. That said, not once did I get the impression that the author was ticking boxes on a list, nor did the tone ever shift to preachy. On the contrary, while fundamental to the makeup of the main characters, those things seemed almost tertiary to the larger, and more basic, feeling of warmth and wanting between people in love. Though we only see the events of the narrative from Simon and Ian’s POVs, I was most taken with Simon’s wife, Lydia. She is rock solid all the way through, only needing support...
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Dec
14

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: Illegal Contact Author:  Santino Hassell Narrators: Alexander Cendese + Eric London Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Barons #1 Genre: Contemporary Sports Romance, LBGTQ, m/m romance Source: Tantor Audio Star football player Gavin Brawley has a temper which has branded him as the bad boy of the NFL. It’s also what landed him under house arrest for six months, benched for the entire season. Recognizing he’ll need help, his manager pushes the solitary Gavin to hire a personal assistant to run the household and help with day-to-day tasks. Noah Monroe was forced out of his last job after he tried to out his boss for inappropriate behavior. Now he’s desperate to find work, and acting as a PA for a self absorbed jock will have to do. Determined to keep his job, Noah does what it takes to impress Gavin and make the arrangement work. However, when Noah learns Gavin’s secret – that he’s bisexual – Noah wonders if he can fight the constant flirting, or if he’s doomed to repeat past mistakes. I’ve been wanting to read Santino Hassell for a while now, so I jumped at the chance to review Illegal Contact. Overall, it is an engrossing story with a heartwarming, sexy romance. Gavin and Noah are like two rough-edged pieces that fit together perfectly, once you work to find how they mesh. Both slow to trust, they find common ground because they truly like and respect the other. They want to do things to make the other happy. The story starts rough. I mean, Gavin has issues. He’s angry. But every time Noah challenges him, Gavin comes back stronger and better. And Noah sees the real person in Gavin-not just some pro-athlete. He stands up for Gavin. Slowly each realizes there are real feelings forming. The characters are given time to work out feelings and issues, creating a stronger bond in the end. Additionally, I appreciate that the author doesn’t blow off the employee-boss relationship and its impact on power exchange. The pair discuss the issues and try to ensure that it’s not part of their relationship, yet it never really goes away – just gets fluffed over by their lust. Each narrator is great for his given character. Gavin’s narrator is very aggressive and rough around the edges, just like Gavin’s persona. He’s got a strong accent and can be abrasive at times. Conversely, Noah’s narrator is...
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