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Currently Browsing: contemporary romance
Feb
20

Review: The Instigator by Stephanie Julian

Review: The Instigator by Stephanie Julian The Instigator Author: Stephanie Julian Reviewer: Jen Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Derek “The Instigator” Flaherty loves playing hockey and enjoys his current team, the Redtails. His dream is to play in the NHL, so he works hard and is well respected. And his teammates all love him, even though they don’t necessarily see the real guy behind the laughs and good times. But that’s okay, Derek prefers to keep things casual, never allowing relationships to mess with his head or run his life. As the baby of her family, Sophie is the good girl who does what’s asked of her. She keeps her dreams of traveling abroad to herself, rather than seeing any kind of disappointment or hurt in her family’s eyes. Working to finish her degree and putting in all sorts of hours at her dad’s bar, Sophie doesn’t have time for guys or a social life. However, when she meets Derek, she feels something stir inside of her and thinks maybe a little fun isn’t bad. Although this is the fourth book in the Redtails Hockey series, The Instigator is a standalone romance that can be enjoyed without previous knowledge of the series. Derek and Sophie hit it off right from the start, and I love their chemistry. They are almost always in sync – whether in the bedroom or not. They are the kind of couple who clicks and can have lengthy conversations like two old friends. They also have other “lengthy” activities, and their romantic encounters are pretty smokin’. The story moves fairly smoothly, filled with genuine emotions and conflict. I appreciate that their issues are common and real, and that they move past them together. Both Sophie and Derek each has some growing to do, and they start by admitting to themselves how they really feel. There are a few of hiccups along the way, including a couple of minor inconsistencies that took me out of the story. I also felt like some issues were brought up but not fleshed out enough – like why everyone kind of dumps on Derek being not good boyfriend material and Derek’s ex-girl friend, which is hinted as being a bad breakup. I kept expecting more details to fill in why maybe Derek is the way he is. All in all, I enjoyed The Instigator, and really love Derek and Sophie as a couple. They are genuine and adorable. They are scared, but move forward. They...
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Feb
12

Review: Fire on the Ice by Tamsen Parker

Review: Fire on the Ice by Tamsen Parker Fire on the Ice Author: Tamsen Parker Reviewer: Jen Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Blaze and Maisy shared three days of debauchery at the SIGs four years ago, so good that neither could forget. But it was just for fun, so they never sought each other, until they both arrive in Denver for another round of Snow and Ice Games. Picking up right where they left off, the pair shares a greedy lust, spending almost all their private time together. But each knows it’s only for the duration of the games, and real feelings aren’t an issue… right? Fire on the Ice is the fourth tale to come from the Snow and Ice Games series. This time around, the story features Maisy, the shy, mostly closeted figure skater and Blaze, the loud and proud, polymorous short track speed skater. Blaze and Maisy are polar opposites, yet so much the same. They both work hard for the sport they love; never in the top but always close. They both are sexually insatiable and enjoy being with one another. But whereas Blaze basks in the public eye and loves attention, Maisy shies away, hoping to stay off the radar. I liked the pairing of Blaze and Maisy. Both have to learn to be better versions of themselves to make the relationship work. They both grow and give, and I enjoyed watching how their union developed over the short, but intense time they spent together. They both make missteps, but instead of these mistakes ending things, they help to bring the couple closer together. I also appreciate the author’s focus on the importance of strong and open communication being the key to a solid relationship. The only real negative for me was the shear volume of graphic sex. I didn’t ever think I’d write those words, but honestly, after a while, I just skimmed the scenes because I wanted more of the story outside the bedroom. However, the scenes are not gratuitous because the couple’s sexual nature is important to the story. The sex scenes are used to show the common bond and ultimate trust each woman has with/for the other. They are used to show how the pair grows increasingly closer and intimate. But for me, it got to be too much and overshadowed the rest of the story. Overall, Fire on the Ice is a solid story and sexy romance. I love how strongly Blaze and Maisy support one...
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Feb
8

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

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Down by Contact by Santino Hassell Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: Down by Contact Author:  Santino Hassell Narrators: Alexander Cendese + Eric London Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Barons #2 Genre: Contemporary Sports Romance, LBGTQ, m/m romance Source: Tantor Audio 3/10/2018 Edited to Add: Please note, this review was written and posted prior to the occurrences brought to light in recent days (https://goo.gl/Y7WB7F). The book was read and reviewed in good faith and as presented at the time. The posting of this review in no way condones the actions of author. ======== Simeon and Adrián have been rivals for four years, ever since Simeon was traded from the Predators to the Barons. When the pair match up in a preseason game, the summer after Simeon came out of the closet, Adrián can’t stop himself from making jokes at the expense of Simeon’s sexual preferences. This leads to an all-out brawl, leaving both suspended for six games and forced into joint community service. Can the pair back away from their rivalry long enough to become friends? or more? I have to admit, I struggled a quiet a bit when I first started Down by Contact. I was disappointed the story once again relied on an NFL suspension to make it work (which is what happened in the first book of the series). Additionally, both main characters come off juvenile and immature mostly because of their speech. The characters weren’t clicking for me, and I didn’t feel any sexual tension or connections between the pair like I did in the first book. But mostly, the narration didn’t work for me. I did not care for Mr. London’s voice for Adrián, nor his interpretation of Simeon, and at times couldn’t tell the difference between who was speaking. After taking a short break away from the story and then coming back to it, I found things turning around. As the story progresses, the characters develop and their interactions become more meaningful. I liked the play between Adrián and Simeon when they’re just being themselves. And although everything starts off as a dare and a game, real emotions surface, and I liked that the pair is accepting of what is happening. What shines in the story is Adrián’s self-reflection and analysis of his actions and ideals. And not just about being queer. But on being a better person. About thinking before speaking. About caring for others. His constant contemplation is thought-provoking. I enjoyed seeing him change...
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Feb
7

Review: Rewritten by Bronwyn Green

Review: Rewritten by Bronwyn Green Rewritten Author: Bronwyn Green Reviewer: Jen Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Forced to work together, Eliza and Angus soon become friends and realize the value in a partnership. Angus needs inspiration and motivation to finish the final and highly anticipated book in his hit sci-fi series, and Eliza is just the one to help bring it all together. It’s a good thing he realizes this within the first week of working together. However, the sexual chemistry only builds as the pair grows closer, and not only is engaging in a relationship bad business practice, but Eliza is hiding a secret so big, it is bound to tear them apart and ruin Angus’s career if word got out. Rewritten is a wonderful romance that hits all of my emotional buttons. I love Eliza and Angus as a couple and found Angus simply amazing and too good to be true; a real dream man. I love Eliza’s strength and how she is stronger with Angus because he believes in her and helps her. The couple has incredible sexual chemistry that boils off the pages; yet the situation warrants much caution, giving their romance an incredibly hot slow-burn. However, once they get to it… *fans self* Ms. Green not only writes characters I care about, but also ones whom I would want to call friends in real life. They come alive in my heart and mind, keeping me connected and engaged in the outcome. She also writes beautiful imagery that brings the story to life. One of my favorites: “With precious little encouragement, it [her submissive nature] was unfurling within her and reaching for him like a vine growing toward the sunlight.” Eliza is the victim of abuse, which shades her actions and reactions. I appreciate that the author doesn’t sugar coat it, or have problems go away once Eliza finds herself in love with a good man. And while I didn’t love how much of a martyr she is a times, it is real. She would feel that way after everything she’s been through. In the end, Rewritten is a steamy, hot, emotional love story. I found myself lost in Eliza and Angus’s story, caught up in their journey. I love that Ms. Green writes books about couples who are perfect matches and people I’d want to befriend. I highly recommend Rewritten. My Rating:  A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: Betrayed and completely exposed, she’d sworn off kink. Hell,...
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Feb
5

Review: On the Edge of Scandal by Tamsen Parker

Review: On the Edge of Scandal by Tamsen Parker On the Edge of Scandal Author: Tamsen Parker Reviewer: Jen Rating: B/B- What I’m Talking About: Bronwyn is on the U.S. woman’s hockey team at the Snow and Ice Games (SIGs). She’s earned her spot as one of the best college players. Her boyfriend since age of 14, Brody, didn’t make the men’s squad, but he’s there to support his girl… Or is he? The guy’s a jerk, always making things about himself, and Bronwyn wishes he wasn’t in Denver. Being asked to coach the U.S. woman’s team is an honor for Ash, who loves the finesse of the women’s game. Everything is going well, except he HATES Bronwyn’s boyfriend, who makes a nuisance of himself. Ash would like to tell him to take a hike, but he doesn’t want to upset his star player, who, by the way, Ash feels deserves so much better than Brody. On the Edge of Scandal is the third love story of the SIG games from Ms. Parker. Once again she finds a great pairing that is just a bit on the outside of the norm. It’s also the third story with a significant age difference between the two main characters. While I don’t necessarily mind it, I am getting a bit tired of reading that particular theme. I blazed through the story, which captured me right from the start. Because Bronwyn has a boyfriend, and since Ash is her coach, the romance takes some time to develop, which is a good thing. Each genuinely cares for and about the other, with Bronwyn’s attraction falling into place after she breaks up with her boyfriend. Their story is compelling, which made for quick reading. So here’s the thing… Ash is her coach, and even though their relationship is completely consensual, there is still a huge power dynamic in play, no matter what Ash and Bronwyn think. I struggled with their relationship, just as Ash experiences the same concerns and doubts, driving home the taboo nature of their attraction. Then there are times that Bronwyn shows some immaturity, which really strikes home the age difference and the whole coach-student/athlete concern, amping up the ick factor for me. And honestly, timing is probably part of the issue, because I read On the Edge of Scandal as the Larry Nassar trial was going on, and it really poisoned me to the impacts of a person in power abusing his athletes. In the end, I enjoyed On the...
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Feb
2

Review: Royal Ruin by Jessica Peterson

Review: Royal Ruin by Jessica Peterson Royal Ruin Author: Jessica Peterson Reviewer: Jen Rating: C+ What I’m Talking About: Ten years ago, Emily was an honor student at big economic school in London. Her TA was none other than a prince – and a big one, as in the Queen’s grandson. Kit is enamored with Emily, but stays away because she’s his student and she has a boyfriend. However, when Emily comes to his office, a mess after finding out her boyfriend back home was cheating on her, he gives in to temptation. Flash forward to present day and Emily has a trendy interior design firm, that is losing money. She’s going on one last interview for none other than the Royal family. While she ends up with the design contract, she also receives a proposal from Kit to be his fake fiancée for a few months. In exchange, he’ll save her failing company. Royal Ruin was a mixed bag for me. There were parts that I absolutely enjoyed, but there were parts with which I struggled. First the good: I loved how much Kit admires Emily right from the start. He falls head over heels not just because of a physical attraction, but he appreciates her brilliant mind and wit. They make a good team when they gel. And when the pair get real with their feelings and passion, the story is wonderful. However… I had an issue early on with Emily and it never really went away. First, ten years ago, her world falls apart because the love of her life cheats on her… so what does she do? Uses her TA, and he still has the condom on when she talks to her BF and decides they want to work it out. My thoughts went to Rachel and Ross’s “We were on a break” – one of the worst storylines in the sitcom’s (Friends) long life. Then when time moves to present day, I felt Emily continued to make some poor decisions. For example, why hasn’t she blocked her ex from the ability to call or text her? They went through a horrible divorce, yet she still has his number in her cell. And don’t get me started on the ex storyline, which felt forced and contrived. Then there is the Royal family. In one breath we learn how important appearances are, and in the next, they are having obnoxious family squabbles in front of strangers. And when the Queen just says...
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Jan
31

Review: Love Game by Maggie Wells

Review: Love Game by Maggie Wells Love Game Author: Maggie Wells Reviewer: Nima Rating: A What I’m Talking About: I am so the target audience for the this book, I feel like I need to issue a disclaimer upfront.  Love Game, the first book in Maggie Well’s Love Games series takes on love, women’s sports, and broadcasting.  I was a journalism major, played not one, but two sports in the NCAA at a D-1 school, and coached professionally for over fifteen years.  As far as I’m concerned, Wells wrote this one for me. That being said, any woman who loves a smart, driven, dedicated, take-no-prisoners heroine, will love Kate Snyder.  She puts the “hero” in heroine as she fights for her job, her players, women’s sports, and the love of her life. Kate, openly inspired by Pat Summitt, is a four time NCAA national women’s basketball champion coach.  She’s a former Olympian in her own right, but there’s that caveat that rankles all female athletes the world over, “women’s” fill-in-the-sport.  Billie Jean King may have proved our point when she beat Bobby Riggs, but ultimately that didn’t have much effect on funding, did it?  Even in 2017, the big bucks still go to men’s sports.  I can’t tell you how many times I heard about how the men’s sports, especially football, fund the women’s sport programs. But I digress… Even women who aren’t in the athletic industry will appreciate and relate to the fight women have in male dominated work places. Kate’s love story with Danny McMillan was hot and steamy, but almost secondary.  Wells could have left out the explicit scenes and still had a solid story. What they add is a demonstration of the intensity of these two characters, consistent in all parts of their lives.  In that way it makes them more authentic. As indicated in the description, Love Game has alternating points of view.  It is my preferred format in the contemporary romance genre as we get let into the what each character thinks about the other and when. Maggie Wells is a new author for me and her writing style is tight. She has intentionally inserted a fun sportscaster-like lingo and zingers into her characters’ dialog. Their banter is as competitive as their personalities and it creates heat.  Blessedly, they know when enough is enough.  It’s not about always having the last word or the harshest barb.  Wells never crosses the line over into mean.  By the end I was...
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Jan
30

Review: Scratch Track by Eli Lang

Review: Scratch Track by Eli Lang Scratch Track Author: Eli Lang Reviewer: B. Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Though it wasn’t a path he’d actively chosen, Quinn has been taking care of others for most of his life. First by looking after his mother and younger brother, then as a roadie/semi-parental unit for the members of Escaping Indigo, he’s always tried to be the dependable one, the son/brother/friend that had everyone’s back. Even after experiencing an earth-shattering loss, he couldn’t allow himself to rely on someone else for a change—even if it cost him the only man he’d dared to want for himself. But, an unexpected reunion convinces Quinn that he can’t pretend forever, and that he’s loved far more than he ever realized. In Scratch Track, the third in the Escaping Indigo series by Eli Lang, we finally get to know more about Quinn, who, in a sense, started everything off by bringing Micah into the band’s company. Though he was a significant presence in the first story, and an absent sort of anchor in the second, I was very much interested in learning more about him. To say that Quinn is “complicated” is an understatement. As Escaping Indigo’s roadie and manager, Quinn’s role has always the one of the caretaker. It’s such an ingrained part of his personality that he has no sense of purpose without it, even when his younger brother died unexpectedly of an overdose. But, that loss causes him question his ability to care for everyone, which, in turn, makes him feel like an outsider to the “family” he’s nurtured within the band. While grief is absolutely a serious matter, most of Scratch Track circles around Quinn’s doubts with little progress sometimes, although I was glad to see him take steps to try and work through his own. The remainder of Scratch Track involves the interrupted relationship Quinn has with Nicky, the drummer for another band (delightfully named Rest in Peach) who are sharing the recording studio with Escaping Indigo. Despite the somewhat implausible idea that Nicky has successfully kept his two-year-old son a secret from Quinn when the two bands are all friends and former tour-mates, I liked Nicky very much. Within the parameters of their reconnection, however, his passion, honesty, patience, and even justifiable hesitancy about starting over with Quinn made him one of the most relatable characters in the story. As was the case with both previous stories in the Escaping Indigo series, Scratch Track leaves...
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Jan
29

Review: The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

Review: The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory The Wedding Date Author: Jasmine Guillory Reviewer: Jen Rating: C+ What I’m Talking About: Alexa is on her way to visit her out-of-town sister. Drew is in town for a wedding. The pair get trapped for a short time in an elevator, and they hit if off immediately. While there is definitely mutual desire, both enjoy the easy banter more than anything. So when Drew asks Alexa to be his date for the wedding, she agrees. What happens next is an intense attraction that neither is prepared for. The Wedding Date is a cute story about two successful individuals trying to find their way through life and love. While the premise is adorable and totally up my alley, I really struggled with the characters and overall execution. For the most part, I loved Alexa. She’s real. She works hard, loves her job, has fun, and lives life. She’s smart and successful – both main characters are – so that’s why I was frustrated with the fact that both Drew and Alexa have the emotional maturity of teenagers. They have no self-confidence when it comes to relationships, and they are constantly second guessing and looking for hidden meanings in actions and words (or the absence of either). It’s exhausting. They don’t communicate at all, which I get happens in real life, but I don’t read romances to see an accurate reflection of real life. The conflict in the story was driven by the insecurities of the characters. I was also frustrated with the amount of off-page action. And I’m not just referring to sex. Although, I have to admit, sometimes it was so behind-closed-doors that I missed the fact they even had sex. But In general, there are too many scenes like this one: On the way back to his apartment, they drove by the Santa Monica Pier.  “I haven’t been there since I was a kid,” she said. “It was always so fun.”  An SUV pulled out of a parking spot ahead of him, and he made a snap decision.  “No time like the present.” He reversed into the spot and grabbed her hand. “Let’s go.”  When they got back to his apartment, they were both giddy, sunburned, and exhausted. If it was such a great getting-to-know you experience that helped the couple grow closer, why not share it with the reader? Scenes like this did nothing but aggravate me after a while. Then comes the last 10% of...
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Jan
25

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Cherish Hard by Nalini Singh

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Cherish Hard by Nalini Singh Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Reviews: Hard Play series Cherish Hard Author:  Nalini Singh Narrator:  Justine O’Keef Audio Listening Speed: 1.5x Series: Hard Play #1 Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: Tantor Audio Cherish Hard is the first book in a new contemporary romance series that spins off from Ms. Singh’s Rock Kiss series.  Sailor and Isa’s romantic journey is actually a prequel to the second book in the that series, Rock Hard, which featured Sailor’s older brother Gabriel.  I enjoyed this fairly simple and straightforward romance. If you are expecting the more suspenseful and dangerous edginess of the Rock Kiss series, you will be disappointed.  However, if you are looking for a heart-felt love story of two people overcoming their own internal conflicts – this is it.  I started this novel thinking it would be something different from the previous series, and I was satisfied by the overall story-arc.  We have two characters with seemingly opposing goals with their romance being either an obstacle or a doomed distraction.  Through their fairly slow burning (but mega hot) romance, they fall in love, but worry that the long haul may not be possible.  I found it odd that for all their stubborn determination they both felt that love and a dream/ambition were two opposing goals. The do communicate and come together; however, Sailor and Isa neglect to discuss the foundational point of a long-term relationship once they realized that this was more than just a fling (which I find funny since it was never going to be a fling as neither have that personality).  I understand with Isa’s past history she has this scarred and fragile self-image – but considering where she is in life, I would think that it would have healed, and she would have gotten stronger.  The courage and determination that Isa funneled into her education and career propelled her into great success.  It’s a shame that she doesn’t realize what a strong and caring woman she is.  However Isa’s character is completely shadowed by Sailor.  He is the star of the book, stealing the spotlight with his determination, wit, and animal-magnetism. Though their relationship started slow, once they truly started to connect, the novel flew by.  I also really enjoyed the interactions of Isa’s friend who crossed paths with Sailor’s friend.  I hope we are able to experience their journey as the snippets afforded us are fabulous teasers.  Overall the several mini-plots...
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