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Currently Browsing: contemporary romance
Jun
25

Listen Up! #Audiobook Reviews: Kowalski Family Series 8-9

Listen Up! #Audiobook Reviews: Kowalski Family Series 8-9 Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Kowalski Family Series Author: Shannon Stacey Narrator: Lauren Fortgang Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Kowalski Family #8-9 Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: purchased Taken with You Although I wasn’t won over by the opening scenes, Taken with You is definitely one of the best in the Kowalski Family series. While still set in Whitford, Maine, the series shifts to a non-Kowalski pairing between town librarian Hailey Genest and new-comer Matt Barnett, the “hot game warden” assigned to Whitford. The story hits all the right notes for me, and I adore how Hailey and Matt learn to love despite their differences. Hailey has watched all of her friends fall in love while she remains single and alone. Feeling like she really doesn’t have time to fool around, Hailey is determined to find the “9-to-5” man who will sweep her off her feet and be the father of her children. And although she’s got chemistry with her new neighbor, with his love of the outdoors and unpredictable job, Hailey feels Matt is all wrong for her. Meanwhile, Matt has been burned in a previous relationship by a woman who didn’t appreciate his outdoorsy nature and wanted to change him into something he’s not. He carries that baggage with him into every new potential relationship, setting himself up for failure before there is any chance of being hurt. I completely adored Matt and Hailey’s romance as they try to convince themselves that they are only friends with benefits. The pair have amazing chemistry, even when they are pushing each other into potentially disastrous situations (like a 4:30 AM outdoor date or a dinner at a fancy bistro). What I love most is the genuine feel of the romance, which doesn’t tarnish the happy ending. Their love comes from sexual chemistry and true friendship, but they do have to compromise, and their path isn’t easy. I laughed and cried during the book, which I found emotionally fulfilling and ultimately rewarding. Narration by Lauren Fortgang is once again superb. However, I noticed that (to me) Hailey’s voice had changed from earlier books. It’s not a huge thing, but it sort of bugged me, especially in the beginning scene involving Tori and Hailey. Eventually as the story moved forward, I forgot about it. Overall, Taken with You is a sweet, fun, sincere romance that swept me off my feet. A must read! Rating: A Narration: A- Falling For Max Falling for Max is the final tale from...
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Jun
19

Review: One Night with a Billionaire by Jessica Clare

Review: One Night with a Billionaire by Jessica Clare One Night with a Billionaire Author: Jessica Clare Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: FINALLY! Cade Archer has been so entirely screwed over in this series. I couldn’t wait until he got his own happily-ever-after. Could. Not. Wait. But when I realized Daphne didn’t get clean—and I want to state, for the record I’m okay with that—I got a bit giddy. Okay. Maybe that was a little spoilerish. But…but…the blurb talks about Kylie. So I didn’t *really* spill the beans, right? So, throughout the entire series, Cade has been in love with Daphne, rock star diva. If you’ve read the Billionaire Boys Club series, you know all about the whole thing going on with Cade and Daphne. His pining for her, and that totally unhealthy relationship. In Reese and Audrey’s book, I thought I’d go nuts with how things played out (also, if you HAVEN’T read Reese & Audrey’s book, you should). This book was full of awesome. Seriously. By the time I reached the end, I had a silly grin on my face, and all the feels. It felt like the end of the series—all the Brothers have their HEA. I am content. Enough of my gushing…on to why! Cade. I loved seeing him lose control. I loved watching him fall for Kylie. It was a reckless, all-encompassing free-fall for him. With the whole Daphne thing, it was beautiful watching him ‘wake up’. The way he was so immediately enraptured, yet taking care of business. He preoccupation with Kylie. It was refreshing, and not at all stalker-ish. Billionaire stories can get that way. One scene, however, made me absolutely joyful. Cade’s never been the typical alpha. Initially, this *specific* scene made me wary, but as it went on, Ms. Clare was artfully depicting Cade’s drive to possess Kylie. It was raw, it was alpha, and I had goosebumps. With all Cade endured to be with Kylie, I was so glad when the end came. Each turn of events, each element that drove them apart only served to steel Cade’s resolve to be with Kylie. That, ladies and gentlemen, is one thing I truly love about this man. He Never. Gave. Up. Kylie had a rough upbringing. She is paying for a nursing home for her grandmother with dementia. Her parents died when she was young. Raised by a resentful grandmother, she has serious self-esteem issues. She is hired to be Daphne’s makeup artist on tour, because...
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Jun
10

Review: If You’re Not the One by Jemma Forte

Review: If You’re Not the One by Jemma Forte If You’re Not the One Author: Jemma Forte Reviewer: Nima Rating: D What I’m Talking About: If You’re Not the One had an intriguing premise.  It piqued my interest and I was excited to start the book.  Unfortunately, what began with great promise did not deliver.  Main character Jennifer Wright is dissatisfied with a life that has all the appearances of something good—two healthy kids, slim figure, nice house, two cars, financially able to stay home, with good friends.  Jennifer feels guilty that she’s unhappy and like many depressed people, tries to will herself into gratitude and good spirits.  I was really rooting for her when she got proactive, seeing a therapist, working part-time to get some adult interaction, and even dressing up in some tarty lingerie to entice her husband back into some of the excitement they shared as a younger couple.  She wasn’t waiting for change to just happen, successfully or not, she was doing something about it.  Although Jennifer’s frustration is off-putting for the beginning of a book, I respected that she was working on it. Following a severe car accident, Jennifer lapses into a deep coma where, in a Sliding Doors (which I loved) style of “what if’s,” she visits three alternative lives she might have had if she’d made different choices at pivotal points in her past.  This is where the book falls down.  Author Jemma Forte lobs us back and forth in time and between alternative lives and the present day.  It’s confusing and distracts from the flow of the overall story.  I even had to go back and reread some pages to reorient myself from chapter to chapter.  Each of the alternative timelines pivoted around a different relationship.  The new characters proved to be shallow and one-dimensional.  Even though she enjoyed her career before marriage, none of the new storylines explored the idea of her never marrying at all. The most egregious offense, however, is that Forte doesn’t actually finish the book.  She even goes out of her way to label the final section as an epilogue, which, by definition, should tie up loose ends.  Instead, she leads us toward a conclusion and just stops.  It’s like she walked away from her computer and never came back.  While readers bring their own lives to the story, even agreeing or disagreeing with the ending, there’s no justification in not providing one at all.  Following the not-an-epilogue, Forte includes several pages of discussion questions...
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Jun
4

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Love a Little Sideways

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Love a Little Sideways Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Love a Little Sideways Author: Shannon Stacey Narrator: Lauren Fortgang Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Kowalski Family #7 Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: purchased What I’m Talking About I am binge listening to this series, and although each book is unique, I have to admit, they are all starting to blend into one big Kowalski-story-of-doom, and it’s hard to distinguish each of the individual pieces to write a comprehensive and distinctive review. With that said, Love a Little Sideways marks a change in the Kowalski Family series, moving from a focus on saving the Northern Star Lodge, which reached its peak in the previous book All He Ever Dreamed. This time around, the story centers on the return of sister Liz, who ended a long-term relationship and moved back home after a 15 year absence. Back a couple books ago, Liz was home for her eldest brother, Mitch’s wedding, and had a quick hook-up with Mitch’s best friend, Drew Miller. Drew had also recently ended his relationship, a marriage to his high school sweetheart. Telling themselves that it was only a one-time thing, the pair skirt around their mutual attraction for the sake of Mitch and because they wanted different things in life. But when the pair is forced to spend a lot of time together at the Kowalski Family camping trip, they can no longer deny their feelings. Overall, Love a Little Sideways is a good story, but not nearly my favorite of the Kowalski Family series. As a stand alone, it works, but Drew and Liz’s story really starts way back with Drew’s split in the fourth title of the series. While I liked the pair together, they didn’t seem to have the spark that the previous couples exuded. Possibly because both Drew and Liz have baggage, or because they are convinced it won’t work, but I found myself not as connected to the couple as I would want. And while I loved that the book went back to the campground where the entire series started, I actually missed Whitford and its residents. I also missed the side stories that have always accompanied each book in the series; Love a Little Sideways only had two POVs – Drew and Liz. Having an additional POV and side story would have helped diffuse the monotony of the constant baby discussion, which grew tiresome after a while. It wasn’t until about the 90% mark of the...
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Jun
3

Review: Moonlight On Nightingale Way by Samantha Young

Review: Moonlight On Nightingale Way by Samantha Young Moonlight On Nightingale Way Author: Samantha Young Reviewer: Luisa (Guest Review) Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: This final installment of the On Dublin Street series might be the last, but the story will stay forever in my heart. Being this the last book of one of my favorite series, my expectations were really high, however Samantha Young did not disappoint. As I was reading this book, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic and a little apprehensive as I read about a brand new characters. My fears were quickly at ease, as I was quickly consumed by the story. Our heroine Grace Farquhar (formerly Gracelyn Bentley) is a young self-employed editor who works from home. At first, Grace seems to be lonely and unfriendly, especially to her new noisy neighbor, who has no problem having company –mostly of the female kind–at any time of the day. Logan McLeod is a young bachelor that’s had his share of trials in life. But Logan has learned from his mistakes, and he knows that there’s no time to waste. Just as Logan feels like he finally has a hold of his life, he learns that a person from his past has been hiding something from him for years, something that could potentially change his life yet again. Living across the hall from Logan, is as close as Grace wants to get to her very attractive yet arrogant neighbor, but after witnessing the shock in Logan’s eyes as he learns of a truth that has been hidden from him, she can’t help but to offer help. Logan welcomes Grace’s offer as he finds himself perplexed with the news. As Grace learns about Logan’s past, she can relate to him. Family drama is something Grace is familiar with and she understands the challenges that are ahead of them. As the the story unfolds, Grace and Logan become closer than they ever thought possible, which inevitably will force them to admit that the heart  sometimes can’t be forced into reason. The story sets a perfect balance of the themes that we are accustomed to seeing in this series. Samantha Young’s character development is flawless as usual. Her story telling is always captivating, and as we close the last chapter in this series, the flow of the plot and the background story intertwine beautifully. As per usual, fans and new readers alike will enjoy  this story and the new characters just as much as all the...
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May
27

Review: Suddenly One Summer by Julie James

Review: Suddenly One Summer by Julie James Suddenly One Summer Author: Julie James Reviewer: Nima Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Suddenly One Summer will be released just in time for your summer vacation.  It’s definitely one you want to earmark for poolside enjoyment.  It is a light, romantic story without a lot of conflict.  It’s the kind of no-stress read with a happy ending that you want when the sun is hot and you don’t want to concentrate that hard.  Let’s be real, no one reads Tolstoy at the beach.  That doesn’t mean, however, that Suddenly One Summer isn’t well written.  The fact that it only follows a single plot requires it to be tight, and James totally delivers. My favorite part of the book was actually the set-up.  When Victoria Slade moves out of her home, her new residence isn’t ready so she sub-lets a loft next door to investigative journalist Ford Dixon for the summer.  I liked Ford.  He’s incredibly handsome, single, and as journalist, he’s curious.  He likes to ask questions rather than focusing on himself.  Further, he genuinely likes his family.  He’s such a good guy that it’s more than amusing when a series of innocent events makes it look, from his new neighbor’s casual perspective, as though he’s a self-centered womanizer.  From the circumstantial evidence, she’s totally justified in her assumptions so watching these two come together over the course of the story, and not just because of sexual chemistry, was fun. If I had one criticism, it would be regarding the intimate scenes.  They are probably the most “sudden” part of this story.  Ford and Victoria circle each other for some time and then suddenly are going at it on the kitchen table.  My criticism though isn’t the exhibition of their passion, it’s their language.  We have two characters who make their living, day in and day out, with words.  They select vocabulary, craft sentences and paragraphs, and convey specific meaning.  It’s how their brains work.  I didn’t buy that either of them would start speaking like another person in the heat of passion.  It halted the flow of the book for me. Victoria Slade was entirely believable for me as a single attorney running her own practice.  James pulls from her personal background here and it works.  It gives Slade some authenticity.  He wasn’t a main character, but Will, Victoria’s assistant, was probably my favorite character.  His ethnicity was never disclosed, but my mental casting saw him as...
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May
22

Review: Under the Lights by Shannon Stacey

Review: Under the Lights by Shannon Stacey Under the Lights Author: Shannon Stacey Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Chase Sanders has hit a bump in the road. His business partner drained the accounts, took the money, and ran, and his (now ex) girlfriend left him for another guy and is moving out. So when Kelly McDonnell called asking for his help to save her father’s job as coach of the Stewart Mills High School football team, Chase decided to take a couple weeks and heads to his home town. As Coach’s only child, Kelly McDonell is determined to help her dad and the town she loves by saving the high school football program. She’s rounding up the players from the Eagle’s first state championship to come home and help with fundraising. Seeing Chase brings back old crushes and hurt feelings, as well as new adult temptations. Under the Lights is the first in a new contemporary romance series from Shannon Stacey. I absolutely adore her Kowalski family series and was excited to read this new endeavor. While on the surface, the small-town New Hampshire setting is similar to that of the Kowalskis, Stewart Mills is nowhere as idyllic. The town and its citizens have fallen on some hard times, and this permeates through and shapes the characters and tone of the book. While the book is by no means a downer, it deals with real-life hard times and lacks the happy-go-lucky feel of the Kowalski series. With that said, I enjoyed getting to know the residents of this small town. There are the eccentric and the down-to-earth, and all in between, who are looking to regain hope after the closure of the mills and furniture plant. Ms. Stacey pens more than poignant one scene depicting the disheartened conditions, one of which touched me so much that made tear up. Watching the town, and especially the high school kids, regain hope through the fundraising process is rewarding. The romance between Kelly and Chase is slow moving. Both individuals come from broken relationships where the significant other cheated on them. Neither is looking for anything long term, and both have mental roadblocks and reasons for not even hooking up. The reasons are valid, making both Kelly and Chase squirm with desire while mentally trying to remind him/herself of why they cannot have an affair. Luckily, they eventually cave into their lust, but even after that initial hookup, things move slowly. And while I enjoyed...
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May
18

Review: Walking on Sunshine by LuAnn McLane

Review: Walking on Sunshine by LuAnn McLane Walking on Sunshine Author: LuAnn McLane Reviewer: Ang Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: If I had to describe Walking on Sunshine in one phrase, I would say it is “Country Charm meets British Class with just a touch of Southern Sass.” Per McLane’s usual style we have two lovely couples looking for love, or at least two couples who find love when neither is really looking for it. Garrett and Mattie are our young twenty-somethings. Garret is a British boy who has come to Cricket Creek to help his dad at My Way Records. He stumbles into Mattie’s restaurant for breakfast as she is chasing Rusty the Ham-stealing dog and the sparks fly. Their chemistry is seen right from the start, and I love that despite Garrett’s worldly experience, he appreciates Mattie for the simply complex southern tom-boy that she is. Their conversations are honest and heartfelt and allow us to see each of them without pretense, which is something I always appreciate in Ms. McLane’s novels. Laura Lee and Shane are our over forty couple, looking for second chances and redemption, mostly from themselves. Both feel like love has likely passed them by, only to find that love really doesn’t know age or timetable. I enjoyed Shane’s candor and Laura Lee’s vulnerability and internal struggle after dealing with an abusive ex-husband; allowing herself to love Shane is a huge step. Meanwhile, Shane realizes just how much he has given up in order to be a country music star. Both couples are struggling with how to deal with fame, the world and it’s expectations, and how to maneuver a relationship in context to that fame. And although the storyline feels a bit contrived and definitely rushed in spots, overall it was a lovely diversion, peppered with people we have come to know and love in Cricket Creek. Ms. McLane does a beautiful job of updating us on many of those characters without allowing their stories to over shadow the ones playing out before us. The banter was fun, the descriptions picturesque and the people delightfully southern. Walking on Sunshine is a perfect throw-in-your-bag and take to the beach read, and I don’t doubt I will see it near a variety of pools and beaches this summer. If you’ve never visited Cricket Creek, come on over, you’ll love it and won’t feel the least bit lost if you haven’t read the other books. If you’ve visited before, Walking On...
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May
14

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: About Last Night by Ruthie Knox

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: About Last Night by Ruthie Knox Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: About Last Night Author: Ruthie Knox Narrator: Coleen Marlo Audio Speed: 1x Series: stand alone Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: audible  About Last Night is the emotionally rich love story between perennial screw up, American Cath Talarico, and high-bred British banker, Nev Chamberlain. The unlikely pair have an intense and immediate chemistry that they indulge in over and over, but only under a set of strict rules. Cath doesn’t want to fall in love, so she keeps Nev at a distance. Nev isn’t happy under his mother’s rules and expectations for his life, but plays her game. What develops between the pair is magical and perfect, yet messy. Their road to happiness is filled with both beautiful and ugly moments, but it’s the journey of survivors. The story is shared from both Cath and Nev’s POVs. At first I felt that split between the two was unbalanced, and I wanted more from Nev’s POV. However, that apparent discrepancy fell away as I grew into the story – whether there was a better balance later in the book, or not noticeable because the story was so engrossing, I don’t know. While it is obvious right from the start that all of their issues would come to a head eventually, I was pleasantly surprised with how it all came to be. I felt that Nev’s mother did act a bit out of character, but in the end, it didn’t matter because I thoroughly enjoyed the outcome. Their Happily-Ever-After is picture perfect and well-deserved. The narration by Coleen Marlo is pretty good. I found her narrator voice soothing and enjoyed her performance of Cath quite a lot. At times I found that she reminded me of Renee Raudman, most especially her performance of Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews. Ms. Marlo’s British male voices were okay – with Nev’s being the best of the bunch and his brother’s most annoying. Sometimes the narration felt a little slow, but I didn’t like the sound at 1.25x (I listened at 1x speed). Overall an enjoyable audiobook and lovely romance. Story Rating: B+ Narration:...
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May
12

Review: A Midsummer Night’s Romp by Katie MacAlister

Review: A Midsummer Night’s Romp by Katie MacAlister A Midsummer Night’s Romp Author: Katie MacAlister Reviewer: Nima Rating: C- What I’m Talking About: A Midsummer Night’s Romp is the second installment in the Ainsley Brothers series.  The Ainsley brothers are part of a large crew that have been adopted by Lord and Lady Ainsley.  Set in modern day England, there is no real money left in this unusual aristocratic family and each of the children must find their own way in the world.  Still, they are a close family and enjoy being in each other’s business.  A Midsummer Night’s Romp focuses on the second eldest Ainsley brother, Gunner, who still lives at the family castle. Although this is not my first Katie Macalister book, it is my first read in the Ainsley Brothers series. I wanted to like this book more than I did. I did not read the first book. To me, A Midsummer Night’s Romp had a few gaps that might have been filled by the first book, but still, it is a complete story without it.  Be that as it may, I had issues with the premise of the story that I never got around.  I felt it had too many inconsistencies to allow me to fully enjoy the story. The adventure has a morbid opening with protagonist Lorina Liddel saying goodbye to her best friend and roommate, Sandy, who has contracted HIV and is going to live with a cloister of nuns for treatment.  She will be out of contact with the outside world for a full two months. This is not a promising way to start a romantic comedy. Before leaving Sandy encourages Lorina, a community college French professor, to use her summer vacation to do something fun.  She specifically mentions an archeological dig going on at the Ainsley castle where her foster sister Alice, has recently married the eldest Ainsley brother (The Importance of Being Alice.)  Dejected by the loss of her best friend’s company and prognosis, Lorina does some research and discovers that the man Sandy believes infected her is leading the dig at Ainsley Castle.  This is where the story goes right off the rails for me.  Lorina, someone presented to me as an academic, plans to represent herself as a freelance photographer, reasoning how hard can it be to point a camera, who’s doing a behind the scenes book to get on the dig site.  There, she plans to get close to the director, drug him, and get...
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